2:00PM Water Cooler Christmas Day 2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I have happy childhood memories of Christmas, but today’s watered-down Saturnalia leaves me unenthused; I think I turned off when (loathesome, secular, treacly) Christmas carols started playing in the stores right after Halloween. So I guess I’m a bit of a Grinch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that:

Be that as it may, today’s post is a collection of stocking stuffers, mostly gathered from the Twitter (the stockings being the usual categories).

I’m also leaving comments on, just because it seems a shame to turn them off entirely, but I must ask or rather tell you: Behave excellently to each other. Our comment moderation crew is lighter than usual, and nobody wants to return from the joys of the holiday to some sort of blazing inferno. Thank you!

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The “War on Christmas”



Without spellcheck, we made stupid mistakes. With spellcheck, we make mistakes that are stupid only after a second look.

“A History of the War on Christmas” [Snopes].

Realignment and Legitimacy

“After Going from Church to Church Seeking Help, A Mexican Family Finds Sanctuary in Philadelphia” [The Intercept]. Room at the inn….

Stats Watch


Imperial Collapse Watch

“The incredible true story of when WWI stopped for enemy armies to celebrate Christmas together” [Business Insider]. “Huddled in their trenches on Christmas Eve, soldiers on both sides across the entire Western frontline celebrated the holiday as best as they could. Soon, all along the frontline combatants began to leave their trenches without their weapons, and meet enemy soldiers in no man’s land…. What followed was an amazing episode for humanity; enemies who were just hours ago slaughtering each other at a level unseen in human history, were talking, singing, dancing, and eating together as if they were friends.” The better angels of our nature…

Dear Old Blighty



Black Injustice Tipping Point

You can follow the Erica Garner account for updates on her condition:

Last word is that she had a heart attack, and is in a coma. I’m a believer in Matthew 6:5-6, so I’m not a “Pray for ____” enthusiast on social media. But if you are a believer, do consider sending your private thoughts and prayers Erica’s way.

“Christmas and Resistance to Slavery in the Americas” [Black Perspectives]. “Yet, [Frederick] Douglass rightfully criticized the double-edged purpose of this seeming autonomy, arguing that the holidays were ‘among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection…These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity…The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery.””

Class Warfare

“Capitalism is losing support. It is time for a new deal” [Zac Tate, World Economic Forum].

News of the Wired

Pantry Clearout of Silly Jokes (1):

Pantry Clearout of Silly Jokes (2):

Pantry Clearout of Silly Jokes (3), for the techies:

* * *

RIP James Brown, May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, pleas s e place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (via):

I’m declaring Portland, Maine’s lobster trap tree an honorary plant. (Rockland has one, too.)

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Tertium Squid


    I think you mean Santanalia.

    Last night Momma tried to sit the kids down and read the nativity verses from the New Testament, but their attention did not last more than a few seconds. No one gets excited for Jesus like they do for Santa. In our home we try to talk about Jesus in every season, but in some ways it’s actually harder to do so around Christmas.

    Presents, presents everywhere but nary a gift worth having.

    Happy Christmas to you all. Here’s to better gifts.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      I’m taking a break from the mayhem right now. Yes, that’s tough and it is dispiriting to see such greed in your children. But my guys are playing outside with their new sports equipment and games. They even worked on some of the craft projects they got (yes we’ve been up since 5AM). No TV yet today!

      The only thing that gets to them is that Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place for their family to sleep – that scares them. I suppose they can’t begin to comprehend the complexity of what goes into the extravaganza they get to experience. They love having family and friends coming around, the big lunches and dinners, decorations and of course the mountains of gifts they get. My husband loves the production too. LOL I am the only one in this house that gets it!

  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I’m declaring Portland, Maine’s lobster trap tree an honorary plant.

    That looks like a high-rise apartment???

    Merry Christmas to all.

    (That two-feet of snow photo is cool.)

  3. Ancient1

    Thank you, Lambert for posting LINKS today and may the New Year be filled with good health and joy for us all. I appreciate all that is done here. It has made my life better in these sorid times that we live in now.

    1. Synoia

      Trump has blamed the UN, by cutting the US payments to the UN, because 128 sovereign countries avoted against the US’ unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

      Mr Trump, blame the innocent much? Please explain why the UN is to blame for the actions of its Sovereign members?

      That is so in keeping with the Tradition of Christ’s Mass:

      Merry Christmas and goodwill to all.

      1. ambrit

        Just as a client state autocrat was blamed for a questionable “Massacre of the Innocents,” so the Neos of the West blame the representatives of todays’ innocents for being free. I must admit the suspicion that this is just a pretext for carrying out step one in the long cherished John Birchers dream of eliminating the UN.
        Something from last year about the Birchers: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/11/a-view-from-the-fringe

      2. Edward E

        Because post WWII multilateral organizations over time had become merely instruments of US foreign policies and he’s not going to pretend different. But hey, China will certainly welcome everyone.

        Merry Christmas, love and happiness to all!

  4. gonzomarx

    merry christmas
    love and peace to you all.

    Scotland united in curiosity as councils trial universal basic income

    Christmas sounds a clanging chime of doom

    The refugees who brought hope to a Scottish island

    1. paul

      I’m not sure scotland is united in curiosity about this.
      250k between 32 councils means 8k each, not that much research can be done with that.
      The idea that 5.2k (2/3 of one of the lowest pensions in developed europe) is an adequate floor to eliminate the payments that span rather complex needs is right wing wishful thinking (which explains why it comes from a glaswegian red tory).
      That the article throws in Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, Caroline Lucas and Richard Branson and Ed Miliband plus the conservative who holds a full 3% of council seats in Fife tells me this neo speenhamland bullshit.
      Comments are off on this article in the guardian

      1. JBird

        Maybe if the Masters of the Universe actually proposed hiring people to do all the work that is not being done (Even a WPA type program), or invest out all that unused money they have in something other than latest techno-bubble, this latest idea of a mass universal dole would just die?

        If someone truly cannot work, or there is truly no work, okay, but most people can and want to do something, and there is plenty of work. People just have to be paid at least enough to live on, which is a problem when too many employers think that the current national minimum wage is too high. Said wage being over 30% less than it was fifty years ago adjusted for inflation

  5. audrey jr

    Merry Christmas to all here at Naked Capitalism. Hope you have a Joyeux Noel, too. Many thanks to Lambert Jerri-Lynn and to Yves Smith, who made NC an absolutely indispensable site.

  6. Richard

    Merry Happy everyone. Question for discussion: does Santa really own slaves?
    First of all, wouldn’t it just be easier to employ seasonal “associates” with government subsidized sky high deductable useless healthcare, with no obligation whatsoever Jan thru October? Couldn’t Santa just call it good with that?
    Is this elf colony supposed to be like some big “Family” or cult? Is that why they stick to Santa? I don’t really get why they’re there year round. I don’t see the advantage to anyone, unless it’s like some sort of cult thing.
    Anyway, my 2 cents.

    1. XXYY

      Little known is that Santa’s workshop serves as an offshore contract manufacturer for Apple during the Jan through October period. Every night at midnight, the elves are awakened, given a muffin and a cup of tea, then sent to work in squalid under-the-ice factories building the latest iWhatever, which consists of minor cosmetic changes to last year’s iWhatever.

      Interestingly, Apple’s traditional white color motif was originally proposed by Santa himself to make it harder for satellites to detect the immense outdoor stockpiles of Apple stuff waiting to be shipped south.

      Now that global weirding in has threatened the integrity of the polar ice, Santa is negotiating with Turkmenistan to build a new Workshop there. At that point, all Apple products will adopt a Desert Camo motif.

  7. Bugs Bunny

    Re the World Economic Forum commentary, this makes no sense:

    By asserting state ownership over Norway’s oil reserves in 1960, Norway’s prime minister, Einar Gerhardsen, made the single most important decision that led to his country’s becoming one of the world’s richest, happiest and most stable states. It shows that capitalism can work – if people have capital.

    How in the name of Pete does Norway making pension distributions from oil profits mean that its people have capital? They have retirement money and decent public services. The state has the capital.

    There are a bunch of other odd assumptions and assertions as well as the usual Davos buzzwords (“Maintenance as a Service”, kill me now…) but the overall impression I get is that the Davos men want to figure out an easy way to get the middle class into a somewhat comfortable hospice.

    An Airbnb hospice, probably.

    Oh and Merry Christmas to you all! I’m off to have my glass of carrot juice and then bed.

    1. Paul Cardan

      An amusing read. especially this part:

      “The problem, however, is not capitalism itself. Instead, the issue lies with policies that extended the role of the free market beyond sensible limits. These have undermined the essential bargain between labour and capital, and pushed those with few assets into precarious working lives.”

      Funny, I thought the essential bargain was nicely captured by that line from There Will Be Blood: “I drink your milkshake.” Its also well-expressed by that graph in Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, the one showing an inverse relationship between wages and the rate of profit (p. 25). Seems to me that the terms of the essential bargain have been honored.

      The article’s time frame is also interesting, considering only the period from the 1970s to the present, neglecting similar phases from the early to mid-19th century and between the world wars. I would hope that if the author had considered these other phases, he’d have been less inclined to explain neoliberal policies as well-intentioned mistakes, things of the sort for which one says, apologetically, “oops.”

  8. nihil obstet

    Merry Christmas to all. Lambert, I hope you can get into the spirit by December 32 so you can have a merry Hogswatchnight.

  9. Jean

    Kamala Harris is the only Democrat that got a political donation from Steven Mnuchin, the guy that got a box of horseshit for Christmas. :-)

    Maybe he’s hedging his bets in case she is nominated for president by the Democrats, should they decide to shoot them self in the foot again by not nominating Bernie.

  10. petal

    I just want to say thank you for the NYT’s Estrangement article that was in Links this morning. Reading through the comments there helped. December is always so hard to get through-especially being alone today. However, sometimes the best thing one can do is walk away. Toxic people aren’t worth it-whether they’re a relative or not.
    Best wishes to everyone.

    1. JeffC

      We many who have also walked away from toxic people are with you. You and we are alone, at least for a time, but we are also all together. Enjoy your peace.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Yeah, because it sounds like the kind of church that *I* would go to. And that’s saying something.

  11. ewmayer

    The night before Christmas in the IoT house

    Twas the night before Christmas, through the connected house
    Not a creature was stirring, except the SmartMouse™.
    The TOSes were hung by the chimney with care,
    In hopes that users might actually read them if there.

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    While visions of IT toys danced in their heads.
    And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
    Had just logged out of Facebook for a long winter’s nap.

    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
    Away to my webcam I flew like a flash,
    And prayed that my Windows would not have a crash.

    The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
    Gave the pixels of mid-day to objects below.
    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    But a quad-copter sleigh, and eight crypto reindeer.

    With a remote operater, so lively and quick,
    I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
    More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

    “Now, Dashes! now, Bitcoin! Ethereum, and Ripple!
    On, Litecoin! on PlexCoin! oh, wait, you’ve been crippled!
    To the top of the sky! to the top of the moon!
    And pray I can sell you before the big swoon!”

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
    So up to the house-top the cryptos they flew,
    With the China-made Toys, and the Prime logo too.

    And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
    The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
    As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
    Down the chimney came drone with a loud whirring sound.

    It was dressed all in plastic, from its top to its foot,
    And its rotors, still spinning, were all tarnished with soot.
    A small cardboard box it carried beneath,
    ‘Twas my last-minute order it was here to bequeath.

    Its LEDs-how they twinkled! its rotors how merry!
    Its main optical sensors were red like a cherry!
    Its droll payload bay was filled with my box,
    It dropped it, I opened to see my new pair of Crocs.

    The stump of a e-stylus held tight in its teeth,
    And chimney soot encircled its head like a wreath.
    It had a camera array in a bulletproof housing,
    And a proximity alarm, whose blaring was rousing!

    It was like a huge insect, a right creepy mosquito,
    And it gave me the willies, from my head to my feet, oh!
    A blink of its sensors and a synthesized voice,
    Said “give me your housekeys, you haven’t a choice!”

    It took control of my door lock, I was locked in to stay,
    So I inserted my keys into its payload bay.
    The door locks clicked open, the payload bay closed,
    Rotors whirred to life, up the chimney it rose!

    I sprang to my webcam, and gave a low whistle,
    On seeing it fly away like the down of a thistle.
    And I heard it announce, as it flew out of sight,
    “Happy Christmas, Jeff Bezos, on to my next flight!”

    1. B. Hunt

      That gave me a laugh! Did you concoct this verbal elixer yourself? I did a quick search online and didn’t get any hits, except for this page.

      1. ewmayer

        Glad to spread a few giggles around the room – as to provenance, I have no one to blame but myself. ;)

    2. artiste-de-decrottage

      May I share the poem, with attribution to your commenter alias and NC?

      Please give us more like that again!

      Merry Christmas.

  12. ewmayer

    Lambert, happy Chistmas, thanks for allowing comments, and I hope the mod-queue crew consists of at least 1 person, because my Xmas epistle “The night before Christmas in the IoT House” got just shunted there.

    A relaxing holiday week to my fellow NC readers!

  13. ewmayer

    A couple comments on Links-items via the ‘back door’ of 2pmwc:

    o “Sanders Slams Trump for ‘Bragging’ About Millions of Americans Losing Healthcare | Common Dreams” — Agree that undermining ACA without offering anything in the way of what is really needed is crass, but Bernie seems to be conflating health *care* with crapified health “unsurance”.

    o “North Carolina GOP Official Resigns After He’s Accused of Dragging Lobbyist Around His Office by Her Ponytail Alternet” — Hmm, given how destructive the Lobbyist Class has been to the American Democarcy project and the fortunes of the 90%, I’m thinking more lobbyist-dragging might be just what is needed – just make it equal-opportunity! Male lobbyists could be dragged by their silk ties, for instance.

  14. SpringTexan

    On Jeremy Corbyn’s message, I liked that he remembered people in distress, and then stated “None of this is inevitable.” Like Labour’s campaign message: “A better world is possible.”

    It really is. I don’t know how we get there, but acceptance of our shitty status quo is the friend of our current world rulers. Yes, none of this is inevitable.

  15. Freddie

    re WWI Xmas truce. I’ve always loved this story. A good movie about it is Joyeux Noel. More so than articles I’ve read about the Christmas truce, the movie delves into the political side, with the high command of all countries’ stepping in to stop soldiers from interacting with each other as human beings. A story worth telling–not sure why it didn’t get more publicity when it was released. Good Xmas movie.

  16. Pavel

    I don’t do “Christmas” but if I did it would be as done by that @JeremyCorbyn video linked to above… very moving and meaningful and highly recommended +++++.

    Thanks Lambert and Yves et al for all your work.

  17. John

    The English poodle’s simian grimace is just following the Nancy Reagan wrinklefree fake smile routine. There is not one bit of smile in his dead fish eyes. Tony boy is just looking for more grift under the tree..

  18. tommy strange

    The prophets stuff is really good for left propaganda music, which I’ve always had a yearn for. From Tom Robinson Band to present. Rage, was a bit too metal for me back then. As was Nirvana. Funny, how that seems absurd to say now.
    I would love to do a 15 song youtube link of good left wing punk/alt from 76 to present, but don’t want to make you check links/do more work. Heh, perhaps you can give me a ‘music corner’?…..Have you seen those Algiers videos (on Matador)? whooaaa……..

  19. Pat

    Happy Boxing Day to Lambert, Yves and Jeri-Lynn!

    May the new year bring you less stress, better health and minimal technical problems with the blog we all depend on! I would wish you better behaved commenters, but I think that is beyond the control of the Universe, including all the good intentions of those of us who hang out here.

    I feel no concern in speaking for others when I say we appreciate so much what you do for us here even when we don’t show it.

    Thank you.

  20. CitizenSissy

    Happy Boxing Day, all! Just catching up Post-Christmas. I’m an Episcopalian, and took a double take at the hymn featured “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent,” an exquisitely beautiful meditation on, among other things, humility and the transience of earthly existence. I never fail to get goosebumps hearing it. Quite the Holiday surprise!

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