Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Myth of Christmas

Reprinted from 12.24.06

This would be the time, if ever there was one, to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, but before we can do that to any purpose we need to clear away some of the dead wood by exploding a couple of the myths that have built up around it since the holiday became popular in the late 19th century. Chief among these is the legend that Christmas is Christian, or even religious.

Myth #1: That Christmas used to be a religious holiday but has been turned into a consumer carnival

It may seem obvious that Christmas is a Christian holiday. The very name of the day suggests a celebration of Christ, and certainly many have bemoaned the fact that Xmas seems to have lost its religious meaning under a barrage of commercialism. Back in the 1950’s the satirist Stan Freberg released a classic record called “$Green Christmas$” which savagely criticized what Christmas had become even then; its chief sound effect was the ringing of a cash register. Behind all the criticism was then – and is now – a belief that Christmas had once meant something it no longer means, that what was originally the celebration of a religious figure has been twisted into a callous, materialist frenzy of buying stuff.

The truth is somewhat different.

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I Never Thought of It Like That

Jon Swift, as usual, brings me an entirely new perspective. Perhaps I’ve been too hard on conservative pundits and hacks. They’re having a hard time, too.

In the 2008 election a number of conservatives with families to feed who thought their jobs would be safe for years to come got laid off by callous voters. And on January 20, more hard-working conservatives will find themselves on the unemployment line. Barack “Scrooge” Obama has already signaled that he will be pink slipping a huge number of government workers when he takes office, which will flood the economy with unemployed job seekers.


[I]t is not only government workers who find themselves in economic dire straits. Conservatives throughout the country are losing their jobs as conservative institutions try to save themselves through belt-tightening. The staff of The National Review returned from its luxury cruise in the Caribbean to discover that it is surprisingly not actually making a profit and is now on its knees pleading for money, unfortunately, without much success. “It takes a lot of bucks to run NRO. Of course, each and every dollar we have is stretched to the max — we don’t have the luxury of, well, having luxuries. Cabs? Ha! Subway fare? Think again! How do I get to the press conference then? By foot! That’s how we operate. Calluses, fallen arches, and vibrant conservatism are the consequences” writes Jack Fowler, before losing what’s left of his dignity and concluding, “Come on, I’m begging.”

Federal Court Hears Arguments for New Davis Trial

After a long, drawn-out battle with a state that was dead set against even considering the possibility that it had made a mistake, Troy Davis and his supporters won a major victory when they convinced a Federal court to hear arguments over whether there was enough evidence of a botched prosecution to justify a new trial. Today, that court heard those arguments.

Federal judges weighed Tuesday whether condemned inmate Troy Davis has presented enough evidence to stop his execution.Last month, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta halted Davis’s scheduled execution — the third time his life was spared shortly before he was to be put to death. The judges called their stay “conditional” and scheduled arguments on the appeal.

One judge, Joel Dubina of Montgomery, indicated Tuesday he did not think Davis’s claims are compelling enough to warrant a new court hearing. Another judge, Rosemary Barkett of Miami, said she would like to see Davis’s innocence claims fleshed out in court.

The third judge, Stanley Marcus of Miami, closely questioned lawyers as to whether Davis had cleared the enormously difficult legal thresholds needed to allow his appeal to go any further.

Sounds like a split court. Dubina, a Bush I appointee, thinks not. Barkett, a Clinton appointee, thinks yes. And nobody knows what Marcus, another Clintonite, thinks. He seems to be keying on technical aspects and they can go either way in a case like this.

Still, Troy Davis is still alive and his lawyers have a strong case to present to a Federal court that for once isn’t loaded down with W’s ultraconservative ideologues.

Davis deserves a new trial. The first one was a travesty that Georgia should be ashamed of.

Simple Socialism

Johnny and I were standing outside the tennis courts in Forsythe Park watching some of the regulars try to revive their backhands and discussing Obama’s win. I asked him if he was excited.

“Why? Because a black man is president?”

“Um, yeah.” Duh.

He shook his head. “Just because I’m black don’t mean I’m impressed.” Then he leaned in as if he was fearful of being overheard even though there was no one around except the players who had enough on their hands discovering top spin. “I’m a socialist,” he said in a near-whisper. “You know what that is?”

We’d been talking politics all summer but he’d never said the word before. “I’ve heard of it,” I said non-commitally. “What is it?”

“It means taking care of people. Socialism is people first.”

Over at Slouching Toward Organia, Organian began a discussion of socialism by very sensibly defining her terms. “What I Mean by ‘Socialism’” lays out the classic, fundamental economic definition very well but I must say I like Johnny’s definition better. In a comment I said:

[T]he definition above is the commonly accepted depiction of Communism, while the commonly accepted definition of socialism has come to resemble what you call “European Democratic Socialism”. Might there be some good reason to accept these definitions rather than go back to Square One?

I was thinking of Johnny when I wrote that.

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