Laissez les bons temps rouler

Let the good times roll…

Jerry Seinfeld coined the term Festivus, Festival for the rest of us.

It is hard for atheists and non-Christians to escape the suck of the Christo-Fascist’s oppressive peddling of Christmas, that bloated corporate excess of crap pushing, as some sort of religious holiday.  It isn’t.  The reason for the season is selling crap, not Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what the Bible thumpers say, that is reality.

Christmas is basically a solstice celebration taken from a multitude of “pagan” customs and festivals.

Happy holidays starting with the harvest festival known in the USA as Thanksgiving is the most generous of greetings as it celebrates all those end of the year festivals and customs including the 12 days of Yule, Chanukah, Christmas, the Solstice etc.

As an secular humanist and an atheist, who suffers from feeling low energy due to the lack of day light at this time of year I can use the cheer of celebrations of the coming new year.  After the solstice the days start getting longer and I have  fanciful hopes that the new year will be better, that humanity will suddenly discover kindness instead of cruelty.  That I will find a sense of security.

So for a few days we suspend skepticism, feast and party.

As for me I try to put aside the message of the “reason for the season” knowing that the already cheap crap will be on sale in January at a fraction of what it is now as they gear up for the next big selling occasion.

From The Root:

By: Jamila Bey
Posted: December 1, 2011

Ah, Christmastime again. It’s the season for decking the halls and jingling the bells, but for those of us not so faithful, we aren’t moved by offers to come and adore the manger baby. This is a season for everyone to gather, share great food and hang out in groups while singing about stars and sleighs and nipping at noses. I think it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

As an atheist, I’m often asked why I celebrate this Christian holiday. More often I’m quizzed about how I plan to explain the blessed season to my toddler. It’s simple. The “Heathen Holidays” — that period after Turkey Day in which we celebrate the generic “Christmas Season” — are here and in full swing.

Sorry folks, but Christmas is a mishmash of Roman, pagan and other celebrations and traditions — some of which are even verboten by the Bible. (Trees and yule logs, anyone?) The winter solstice is the real reason for the season. On the shortest day of the year, the sun — that celestial burning ball of gas — is born and the days become longer. Break out your tinsel and gingerbread! But rather than focus on the historical rationale for why Christmas celebrations are being merely co-opted by some, I just relax and enjoy the good times.

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The Winter Solstice: Welcome Back, Light!

From Belief Net:

Therese J. Borchard 
December 19, 2007

Since Saturday is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, I thought I’d include this very informative article just forwarded to me by Deb Caldwell, one of the Beliefnet brains behind Beyond Blue. (If I haven’t mentioned her before, I should have).

It’s written by Richard A. Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.
I meant to write more on the solstice because it is an important day for all of us who suffer from depression: Starting on Saturday, the days get longer! Yahoo!! Beyond Blue reader Lapatosu marks the solstice with a celebration. I thought this was a wonderful idea (for next year) … a party or tradition welcoming the light back. Or something like that. Here’s the article ….

In a few days, the winter solstice will plunge us into the longest and darkest night of the year. Is it any surprise that we humans respond with a holiday season of relentless cheer and partying?
It doesn’t work for everyone, though. As daylight wanes, millions begin to feel depressed, sluggish and socially withdrawn. They also tend to sleep more, eat more and have less sex. By spring or summer the symptoms abate, only to return the next autumn.

Once regarded skeptically by the experts, seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short, is now well established. Epidemiological studies estimate that its prevalence in the adult population ranges from 1.4 percent (Florida) to 9.7 percent (New Hampshire).

Researchers have noted a similarity between SAD symptoms and seasonal changes in other mammals, particularly those that sensibly pass the dark winter hibernating in a warm hole. Animals have brain circuits that sense day length and control the timing of seasonal behavior. Do humans do the same?

In 2001, Dr. Thomas A. Wehr and Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, psychiatrists at the National Institute of Mental Health, ran an intriguing experiment. They studied two patient groups for 24 hours in winter and summer, one group with seasonal depression and one without.

A major biological signal tracking seasonal sunlight changes is melatonin, a brain chemical turned on by darkness and off by light. Dr. Wehr and Dr. Rosenthal found that the patients with seasonal depression had a longer duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion in the winter than in the summer, just as with other mammals with seasonal behavior.

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Americans: Undecided About God?

From The New York Times:

Published: December 10, 2011

THE holidays are upon us again — it sounds vaguely aggressive, as if the holidays were some sort of mugger, or overly enthusiastic lover — and so it’s time to stick a thermometer deep in our souls and take our spiritual temperature (between trips to the mall, of course).

For some of us, the season affords an opportunity to reconnect with our religious heritage. For others, myself included, it’s a time to shake our heads over the sad state of our national conversation about God, and wish there were another way.

For a nation of talkers and self-confessors, we are terrible when it comes to talking about God. The discourse has been co-opted by the True Believers, on one hand, and Angry Atheists on the other. What about the rest of us?

The rest of us, it turns out, constitute the nation’s fastest-growing religious demographic. We are the Nones, the roughly 12 percent of people who say they have no religious affiliation at all. The percentage is even higher among young people; at least a quarter are Nones.

Apparently, a growing number of Americans are running from organized religion, but by no means running from God. On average 93 percent of those surveyed say they believe in God or a higher power; this holds true for most Nones — just 7 percent of whom describe themselves as atheists, according to a survey by Trinity College.

Nones are the undecided of the religious world. We drift spiritually and dabble in everything from Sufism to Kabbalah to, yes, Catholicism and Judaism.

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Christianity Scares Captian Picard

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1.6 million reasons why Banksters don’t deserve a nickel

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Why Are We Forced to Worship at the Feet of ‘Mythical’ Financial Markets Controlled by the Elite?

From Alternet:

We are told to appease the market gods or face eternal financial damnation.

By Les Leopold
December 20, 2011


The markets are “jittery,” “upset,” “skittish” and “unnerved.” They are “confident” or “unsure.” They are “demanding” that political leaders “put up or shut up.” And they are “reacting unfavorably” to Obama’s newfound populism.


These are just a few of the many ways financial markets are described each and every day by the media, financial players and public officials. At first it seems as if these markets are humanoids onto which we project our feelings. Yet, on closer inspection, it’s more like we have ascribed to them god-like powers. We are told to appease the market gods or face eternal financial damnation. As President Obama warned Europe recently, they must “muster the political will” to “settle markets down.”


Why do we worship these angry market gods?


Trading has been around for as long as humans. We, no doubt, increased our chances of survival through trading what we had more of for what we needed or wanted. The more complex our societies became the more markets grew. At some point during the Renaissance, markets emerged that traded money as well as goods, as city-states and nations sought ways to fund wars. But these markets were far from god-like. Sovereign nations ruled supreme and money-lenders had to do their bidding if they hoped to be repaid or in some cases, if they hoped to avoid execution. Even Adam Smith didn’t suggest that financial markets had god-like powers. In fact, these markets seemed more like petulant children throwing tantrums as they puffed up tulip bubbles, South Sea bubbles, railroad bubbles and periodic financial panics.

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Rich people less empathetic than the poor: study

They needed a study to show this?

Some times I think the highly educated lack the common sense to listen to what poor people and those in the working class actually say.  It has been common folk wisdom from time  from ancient times.  Rich people are cold blooded and heartless.

The more money the less heart and the more greed.

Even their god-man whom they so loudly claim to believe in supposedly said “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”

So we know this “discovery” dates at least from the time they put together the Bible and codified it early in the Common Era.

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The depiction of the rich and cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” is backed up with scientific evidence, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

The researchers found that people in lower socio-economic classes are more physiologically attuned to the suffering of others than their middle- and upper-class counterparts.

“It’s not that the upper-classes are coldhearted,” UC Berkeley social psychologist Jennifer Stellar, lead author of the study published the journal Emotion, explained. “They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives.”

The study was based on three experiments conducted on more than 300 ethnically diverse young adults.

Participants from lower-classes reported feeling greater levels of compassion than their more affluent counterparts. But they reported feeling the same amount of joy, contentment, pride, love, amusement and awe.

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Dennis Kucinich on the NDAA and ‘War Without End’

From Truth Dig:

By Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Posted on Dec 20, 2011

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, perhaps the most consistent advocate of peace in the U.S. Congress, has been forced by gerrymandering into a primary battle. Last week Kucinich made the following statement on the National Defense Authorization Act to the House of Representatives.

Our children deserve a world without end, not war without end.

This bill authorizes permanent warfare anywhere in the world. It gives the president unchecked power to pursue war. It diminishes the role of this Congress. The founders saw Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which places in the hands of Congress the war power, as essential to a check and balance against the executive abuse of power. This legislation diminishes Congress’ role in that regard.

This legislation authorizes the military to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or trial, including the detention of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. In short, what this bill does is it takes a wrecking ball to the United States Constitution and gives enormous
power to the government or the state. I want friends on both sides of the aisle to understand this; we are giving the state more power over individuals with this bill. It’s the wrong direction.

Our children deserve a world without end, not war without end. Our children deserve a world where they know the government will protect them, that it is not going to rule over them by invading their very thoughts and going, as the Patriot Act does, going into their banking records or into their educational records. We have to keep the government out of people’s personal lives and stop the government from getting more into war—which gives the government more control over people. This is the time we take a stand for the Constitution and a stand for a government which is smaller—when it comes to matters of war.

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Cindy Jacobs Warns of Satan’s Grip in ‘Ungodly’ Education System

From Right Wing Watch:

by Brian Tashman
December 20, 2011

Self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs told participants of the Prophetic Marketplace Conference that the public education system has Satanic origins because John Dewey, who led the development of progressive education, was a signatory of the Humanist Manifesto. Jacobs said that God told her to “go look up the Humanist Manifesto” to learn about who is instructing the people of America and the entire world. “I began to study this and I began to see that there was something desperately wrong because since 1933 the educational systems of the world had been totally diluted, deceived, coopted and taken over by this ungodly system,” Jacobs explained. She concluded that Satan “founded humanism” in the Garden of Eden, which now, because of John Dewey, has taken over public education.

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So long, George Whitman: Legendary Shakespeare and Company owner dies at 98

I have rarely found a place quite so wonderful as a good used bookstore.  Preferably with overflowing shelves that line the walls from basement to roof.

Some of the best are memorable indeed.  The Strand in New York, Moe’s Books and Shakespeare and Co on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Powell’s in Portland and the old Book City in Hollywood that may be no more.

Some bookstores are extra special like City Lights in North Beach San Francisco, a city graced with several special bookstores.

Some like the Shakespeare and Company in Paris are the stuff of romance and dreams for people like me who never made it to Europe, who never carried a backpack around France sleeping in Youth Hostels.  Yet I knew of Shakespeare and Co even before I read the memoir of a man who spent several months there living among the stacks.

From The New York Daily News:

BY Alexander Nazaryan
December 14, 2011

In the summer of 2001, I spent two miserable weeks in Paris, having gone there to find a city – the city of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein – that had long ceased to exist. I spent the majority of that time at Shakespeare and Company, the Left Bank bookstore/hostel/library/museum/bar/hovel whose proprietor, George Whitman, died at 98 on Wednesday.

I hated Shakespeare. I should not have hated it, but I did.

I hated the lack of a bathroom, and how the waiters at La Fourmi Ailée lowered their eyes when you came in, since they knew you were only there to use their toilet. I hated that we slept between shelves, on old wooden doors on which thin blankets had been laid. The blankets were dirty because someone else had slept on them before – any expatriate could stay at George’s store, provided he or she agreed to “work” for him, which usually meant jerking a thumb at tourists looking for A Farewell to Arms.

George didn’t much care who you were or what you were doing in Paris. If you wanted to hang around in the shadows of the Notre Dame, drinking wine with expatriates, reading inscrutable poetry and occasionally sweeping the dusty floors, you could be both his tenant and employee.

I hated that it wasn’t the same Shakespeare and Company that Sylvia Beach opened in 1919, and which published James Joyce’ Ulysses three years later – I felt cheated, somehow. I hated the evocations of Henry Miller and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who lived lives of more daring that I could summon. I hated, too, the older expats who spoke of heartbreak with slightly melancholy boredom, who quoted Paul Celan as if he were an old friend, who smoked Lucky Strikes – and they all smoked Lucky Strikes, I have no idea why – without coughing.

And lording over all this was George: ancient, inscrutable, beatific.

There were rumors he was related to Walt Whitman; that he slept with at least a few of his female “employees” in his more virile years; that what we might call the literary canon he might have one day long ago called a Saturday night. He was about 90 when I met him, but other than the heavy wrinkles that made him look somewhat like a morosely pensive basset hound, he had the general youthfulness of  a 19 year-old.  He had his endless poetry readings and bottles of wine and the bookstore, all while straddling an uneasy divide between running an artists’ warren and a tourist attraction.

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Edward Bernays & “Womens Liberation”

This bastardised libertarianism makes ‘freedom’ an instrument of oppression

From The Guardian UK:

It’s the disguise used by those who wish to exploit without restraint, denying the need for the state to protect the 99%
, Monday 19 December 2011

Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. Throughout the rightwing press and blogosphere, among thinktanks and governments, the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?

In the name of freedom – freedom from regulation – the banks were permitted to wreck the economy. In the name of freedom, taxes for the super-rich are cut. In the name of freedom, companies lobby to drop the minimum wage and raise working hours. In the same cause, US insurers lobby Congress to thwart effective public healthcare; the government rips up our planning laws; big business trashes the biosphere. This is the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor.

Rightwing libertarianism recognises few legitimate constraints on the power to act, regardless of the impact on the lives of others. In the UK it is forcefully promoted by groups like the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Policy Exchange. Their concept of freedom looks to me like nothing but a justification for greed.

So why have we been been so slow to challenge this concept of liberty? I believe that one of the reasons is as follows. The great political conflict of our age – between neocons and the millionaires and corporations they support on one side, and social justice campaigners and environmentalists on the other – has been mischaracterised as a clash between negative and positive freedoms. These freedoms were most clearly defined by Isaiah Berlin in his essay of 1958, Two Concepts of Liberty. It is a work of beauty: reading it is like listening to a gloriously crafted piece of music. I will try not to mangle it too badly.

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Disgraced bishop apologizes for child porn, cites ‘powerful’ addiction

From The Ottawa Citizen:

By Andrew Seymour, Ottawa Citizen
December 20, 2011

OTTAWA — Disgraced Catholic bishop Raymond Lahey apologized in court Tuesday for possessing child pornography and urged others who may have similar addictions to online pornography to seek help.

“I have always believed that people should take full responsibility for their actions, and I certainly want to take full responsibility for my own,” Lahey told Ontario Court Justice Kent Kirkland.

“I know I’ve done wrong, not only something illegal, but something that goes against the moral principles I believe in,” he continued.

“During the past 26 months, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I have done. I can say I have come to recognize that I became addicted to Internet pornography on a very indiscriminate basis. This was an addiction powerful enough that despite my own distaste for it and my own internal convulsions I could not break it.”

Lahey said he believes he wanted to be found out but his addiction, coupled with his high-ranking position in the church, kept him from seeking the help he needed. Lahey said he believes he has tried to deal with it now.

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Edward Bernays Assassin of Democracy

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Even Canada doesn’t believe its own spin on tar sands

From The Guardian UK:

In public, Canada’s environment minister says tar sands are “sustainable”, in private the government says there is no “credible scientific information” to support this

Posted by
Tuesday 20 December 2011

It’s time to pitch back into the controversy over Canada’s lobbying offensive against proposed European penalties on fuels from tar sands. But this time we’re going through the looking glass, with Canada secretly admitting it has no “credible scientific information on [the tar sands industry’s] environmental performance” and the British government, which has bent over backwards to help Canada protect its highly polluting fuels, giving funding to anti-tar sands campaigners.

In addition, we have further confirmation that statements made by Canadian diplomats to UK counterparts are contradicted by reality, and that in promoting tar sands, the Canadians are keeping some pretty unpleasant company.

In the midst of all this, the Canadian lobbying effort to block European Union rules that would discriminate against fuels derived from tar sands continues unabated. A key vote in Europe was postponed until early next year, but the issue remains very much on the agenda, and was discussed on Monday by the European Commission’s environment committee.

To recap, the EU argues that fuels from tar sands – also known as oil sands – should be designated as producing 22% more greenhouse gas emissions than regular crude oil. Canada, whose vast tars sands are the second largest reserve of carbon in the world after Saudi Arabia, don’t like this for two reasons. Firstly, it will make the fuels less attractive for European importers and secondly, it will be an official labelling of tar sands fuels as dirty in terms of driving global warming, as well as destroying forests and causing air and water pollution.

Canada’s environment minister Peter Kent said at the UN climate change summit in Durban, where Canada won the “colossal fossil” accolade from outraged campaigners, that: “There is a disproportionate amount of criticism of the oil sands which is a responsibly and sustainably developed resource, of which we are proud.” In that light, the recent revelation by Canada’s Postmedia News of briefing notes prepared in June for Kent and his team is particularly embarrassing. They stated:

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Do Not Donate to the Salvation Army’s Anti Gay Agenda

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List of Active Occupy Encampments Across the Country – Now at 61

From FireDogLake:

By: Jane Hamsher
Tuesday December 20, 2011

Although the media has grown bored with the Occupy movement and are declaring it over, OccupySupply has verified the existence of 61 encampments across the country. We are listing them below, along with links to photos and videos that demonstrate what they look like today.

The FDL Membership Program now has 110 liaisons at over 70 occupations across the country who report back to us on the status of their occupations twice each week. That’s how we determine which occupations OccupySupply will send cold weather gear to every day.

OccupySuply shipped more stuff out last week alone than we did in the entire first month, and the demand is only increasing.

So we thought we’d try to drive a stake through the heart of the “Occupy is Dead” narrative by publishing our working list, which is consistently more up-to-date than any I’ve seen. These are occupations with encampments only — there are many, many more vibrant occupations that are doing tremendous community activism despite the lack of an encampment.

Instead of donating money to the anti-LGBT/T Salvation Army, I suggest you go to Fire Dog Lake and Donate to help the Occupy Movement.


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DHS: Using Cash Not Credit Cards Is Highly Suspicious & Weird

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OWS marks 3 months, defies critics & gains momentum

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In Gilded City, Living Wage Proposal Still Stirs Fears

From The New York Times:

Published: December 19, 2011

Let’s slip into our Louis Vuitton shoes and take a gilded stroll through Manhattan.

We begin downtown, where Goldman Sachs, that exemplar of 0.001 percent America, reaps a multimillion-dollar tax break for its office tower, a deal accompanied by a multimillion-dollar landscaping clause. (You expected Lloyd C. Blankfein to yank weeds, maybe?)

In Midtown, we can draw money from an A.T.M. in the richly subsidized Bank of America tower, and skip over to Ernst & Young, where public tax dollars have underwritten a smashing skyscraper.

Now off to Yankee Stadium, where parking, seats, grossly overpriced hot dogs and pitchers all owe a debt to hundreds of millions in tax subsidies.

Our tour complete, we loop back to City Hall, where with luck, we may hear our billionaire mayor declaim on a ruinous proposal that several thousand low-wage workers could receive a wage of $10 an hour if they labor in developments irrigated with city tax subsidies.

“I think,” Michael R. Bloomberg said a few weeks back, “that when the government tries to too much interfere with the marketplace, it doesn’t turn out well.”

There is an indefinable something about a so-called living wage bill that puts New York’s leaders at risk of breaking out in socialist hives. Advocates have amended, sanded down and liposuctioned their bill in hopes of pleasing the mayor and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn.

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The Last Thing Medicare Needs is More Privatization

From New Deal 2.0

by Richard Kirsch
Tuesday, 12/20/2011

By enlarging the role of private insurers, the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan would drive up costs and undermine effective reforms.

Americans United for Change said it best in a recent e-mail: “You can’t put lipstick on a pig,” even if a Republican and Democrat are applying the red gloss together. The big hype in federal health care politics last week was the announcement of a joint proposal to mostly-privatize Medicare from Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. But all the hubbub about bipartisanship won’t mask the truth: the plan takes Medicare in the wrong direction, building on the program’s failures and undercutting its most promising reforms.

The Ryan-Wyden plan is the latest variation on plans, known as “premium support,” that dramatically increase the role private insurers play in providing Medicare coverage. The ostensible motivation for the premium support proposals is to control Medicare costs, but all the evidence is that Medicare delivered by private insurance is more costly than traditional Medicare delivered by the government. The real motivation is to control the government’s costs, as opposed to health care costs, and to reduce the role of government in the health care system.

The Ryan-Wyden plan would give Medicare enrollees a fixed amount of money to buy an insurance policy from private insurance plans or the traditional Medicare program. It would limit the growth of the premiums to the grown rate of GDP plus 1 percent, less than the traditional growth rate of Medicare and much less than the growth of overall medical costs. Yes, that’s right: Medicare does a better job of controlling health care costs than private insurance.

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