Links 12/25/18

Merry Christmas! And if this isn’t your holiday per se, hope you are enjoying a festive alternative. It does not feel very Christmas-y here in Alabama, not just due to the lack of snow but also to having managed to miss musical Christmas staples this year. However, during a run to the local grocery store (a Publix) before it closed early for Christmas eve, one of the employees placed an enormous poinsettia in my cart. They were giving the unsold ones away.

Friends send 533 gift bags to ‘lonely’ US elderly BBC

These Magnified Frost Crystal Images Are Totally Enchanting Wired (David L)

Using data to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie Stephen Follows

Alaska husky racing threatened by receding ice BBC

Ancient Antarctic ice sheet collapse could happen again, triggering a new global flood PhysOrg (Chuck L)

As anti-plastic movements sweep the globe, change doesn’t always come easy Grist. I am mystified as to why Coles and Wollies didn’t “offer” (which could mean charge for) paper bags.

Sustainable ‘plastics’ are on the horizon PhysOrg (David L)

Artificial Intelligence Is Starting To Smart Forbes (David L)

Russia: Hole drilled from inside Int’l Space Station capsule Fox (David L)


How would a second referendum on Brexit happen? Institute for Government

UserFriendly: “JK Rowling really is worse than the Tories on Twitter.”

New Cold War

If Truth Cannot Prevail Over Material Agendas We Are Doomed Paul Craig Roberts (Chuck L)

Mexican Governor Martha Erika Alonso, 45, and her senator husband are killed in a helicopter crash, less than two weeks after she became her state’s first female leader Daily Mail

US Embassy Shopping List Wikileaks (Chuck L). You can search by location. A lot of it mundane stuff.

Trump Transition

Shutdown Grinds On With Democrats Venting and Trump ‘All Alone’ Bloomberg

US stocks slide as Trump adds to unease from Mnuchin comments Financial Times

The Dow’s Worst Christmas Eve Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Reacts to Trump and Mnuchin’s ‘Unforced Errors’ Bloomberg

Trump’s Fed feud roils markets, alarms Republicans The Hill

Tokyo stocks plunge in Christmas rout amid fears over US economy Guardian

In Defense of the Fed Project Syndicate (David L)

The Late Cycle Lament: The Dual Economy, Minsky Moments, and Other Concerns GMO. Lambert flagged this yesterday. Important not to miss.

Stock-Market Volatility Can Be Good for the Economy Wall Street Journal

Dems push for increased scrutiny of Trump’s court picks The Hill. Not the most informative headline.

Congress Approves Act that Opens US Government Data To the Public; Requires Federal Agencies To Publish ‘Non-Sensitive’ Info in ‘Machine-Readable’ Format engadget

Senators Sneak Illegalization of Israel Boycott into Budget Bill Real News (Chuck L)

This Little-Known Libertarian Training School Is Making Federal Judges More Conservative In These Times (MC). If you read ECONNED, you will know this name well! It featured prominently in our Chapter 5, “How ‘Free Markets’ Was Sold.”

Mississippi’s Republican governor quietly considering Medicaid expansion Politico (UserFriendly)

We’re checking our list! We’re checking it twice! Has Navient been naughty? Chinnock v. Navient Corporation Condemned to DEBT

Share Buybacks and the Contradictions of “Shareholder Capitalism” American Affairs Journal (UserFriendly)

Class Warfare

In the Valley of Fear London Review of Books

The Dollar Store Backlash Has Begun

The Chart That Broke Our Brains Data for Progress (UserFriendly)

Heal Talk: A Rational Discussion about Race, Imposed Identities and Social Constructs Ghion Journal (UserFriendly)

Antidote du jour:

And a bonus video, which I remember fondly from when it first aired (flora):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Mark Gisleson

    Snow came late last night, enough for a white Christmas but not much and fluffy, so it broomed right off the drive and sidewalk.

    It was nice to come back in the house to find fresh links to go with my morning tea. Thank you for your posts and have an enjoyable week (light on links and heavy on fellowship).

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Merci, Yves et toute la communauté NC. Joyeux Noël. Joyeuse fête de fin d’année. Amusez-vous bien. Bons baisers de l’île Maurice.

    1. Redlife2017

      Yes indeed! Happy Christmas to Yves, Lambert, the crew at NC, Colonel Smithers and the rest of the commentariat!!!

    2. clarky90

      Agni Parthene – Valaam Brethren Choir

      Hymn for Mother of God of St.Nectarius of Aegina in church-slavonic.
      St.Sergius & Herman of Valaam church.
      Valaam. Russia. 1998.

      Theotokos (Greek: Θεοτόκος Greek pronunciation: [θeoˈtokos]) is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara (approximately “parent (fem.) of God”), are “Mother of God” or “God-bearer”

  3. jackiebass

    The people preparing gift bags for the elderly is a nice gesture. My experience with nursing homes is a better gesture would be for these people to visit and spend a short time with someone in a nursing home. The staff would know which people don’t get family or other visitors so they could spend a little time with one or more of these people. It need only be 15 to 20 minuets. Many of these people long to have someone other than staff to talk and visit them. My mother was in a nursing home for 7 years. I frequently visited her. Upon arriving in the nursing home I was always confronted by a lonely person that wanted to talk and share a little time. It was impossible for me to ignore them, so I would usually spend a few minuets with them. I hope I continue to stay healthy and not have to go into a nursing home. It would be like sending me to prison for life.

    1. katiebird

      That is a good thought. My mom just moved into assisted living and I will try to be more aware of the residents who would like to talk for a bit.

    2. kareninca

      I have a friend in an assisted living facility; I don’t visit her all that often but it is okay since she has three attentive kids. But she has a friend in there (a new friend; they met each other upon moving in) who is her age (mid nineties) who never married and never had kids. She had a sister who predeceased her, and even worse, her sister’s daughter predeceased her. She truly has no relatives. However, she was a member of a small Presbyterian church for many years. People from her church show up every week to take her places. I met one of them; she was a smart and thoughtful person.

  4. jackiebass

    I used to read Paul Craig Roberts until I realized he would never own up to his role in pushing neoliberal economics during the Reagan administration. He criticizes government officials but never apologies for the harm he and the Reagan administration inflicted on our country and the world. We are still suffering because of things he helped happen when he worked in government. At least he should be man enough to admit to his failures. Then he in my mind would deserve to be critical of others.

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      I’m impressed by the fact that PCR is one of Michael Hudson’s greatest boosters. As Keynes once said (quoting from a sometimes dodgy memory), “When the facts change I reconsider my views. What do you do, sir?”

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        PCR also has been consistent with his changed views for a long time. His efforts don’t reek of the same desperation of Samantha Powers recent statements on Yemen. The evolution of PCR might be interesting, but I see a consistent advocate of his views which don’t seem to be tied to currying favor with the elites or attempts at misdirection.

        1. Big Tap

          Also Paul Craig Roberts like Naked Capitalism was targeted by the McCarthyite group Prop or Not. He must be doing something right.

      2. paulmeli

        PCR may be a huge booster of Michael Hudson, but the operational mechanics of MMT appear to be lost on him.

        I’ve also seen Hudson on the Keiser Report…Max “Bitcoin’s going to be worth a trillion dollars soon” Keiser doesn’t seem to be MMT aware either.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      The concerns Paul Craig Roberts expressed in today’s link are entirely consistent with those Ellsberg, expressed in his series of talks at the RealNews. As for Reagan and Roberts part in that administration I am growing more charitable toward Reagan the man. I can believe Roberts assertions that “Reagan’s first priority was to end the Cold War” — [though I’m not sure how to fit in Reagan’s little joke with himself about nuking the USSR, pattered into what Reagan thought was a dead mic].
      I am not a fan of Reaganomics or his Neoliberalization of the US economy and efforts to share that boon with the rest of the world. I have come to view Reagan as a talking head, a useful tool, oblivious to much of the work of CIA director George H.W. Bush, later Vice President and President, and just as oblivious to the work of other dark forces of the blob in his administration.

      Anyway, I am ready to read and regard what Paul Craig Roberts writes and presumably feels and believes now — no matter what he may have felt and believed or done in his past. Remember the spirit Church doctrine assigns to this season.

      1. pretzelattack

        reagan also supplied death squads all over the world, starting wars, and made his political reputation bashing student protestors and claiming they were commies. i think his first priority was winning the cold war by doing everything in his power to topple russia, and if that wasn’t possible encircling them and propping up some of the worst dictators in the world to do it. that doesn’t mean roberts hasn’t changed, but reagan never did till the alzheimer’s kicked in.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          All you say is true, and not forgotten. As a former resident of California I will never forget or forgive the changes there to the University of California system, the schools, or the tax base. I have more trouble attributing all the horrors, both those you point out about national policy as well as the horrors in California State politics to Ronald Reagan. As I reconsider Reagan and look more questioningly at the blob I am inclined to think of Ronald Reagan as a very much smaller person, even before the onset of his Alzheimer’s. I view Reagan as a slogan, a useful tool, a cover for a much darker force acting behind the scenes. I know that sounds like some kind of vague “conspiracy theory”. That may be. I believe there have been and are conspiracies which we are unwise to ignore solely based on the mass media’s common deprecation of conspiracy. Yes terrible things were done during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. I am reluctant to believe in Reagan’s stature and status as adequate to explain their occurrence. I think Ronald Reagan was a very small person who receives more than adequate celebration as a ‘B’-actor in second-rate movies and television. I increasingly believe he was little more than a billboard for his Presidencies — not that it grants him any absolution for his many sins and those committed in his name … and ours.

          1. pretzelattack

            small people can do terrible things. did reagan think out any of his policies? doubt it, but he supported them and did his mouthpiece duties with fervor and dedication. i think any of our presidents these days are billboards–trump possibly not because he simply isn’t a reliable billboard–it changes from an ad for cigarettes to porn to odd glowing colors in the blink of an eye, and that’s why the elites are trying to undermine him. i think bill, obama and hillary are all small grifters at heart, too, who made out like (as) bandits because they fit the specs for the role required. look, obama’s black! hillary is a woman! bill is a small town guy with a single mother who will represent the rest of us because he knows what’s it like to struggle! they were all reliable partners in the long con, unlike trump (perhaps). i idly wonder why he hasn’t been assassinated yet; i think there are deep conspiracies, with various factions fighting for power.

          2. Acacia

            I will always remember Reagan in The Killers, his last film role as a nasty, small time criminal hanging around a race track whilst planning the robbery of a US postal truck. The film is worth watching for Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, and Angie Dickinson, not really Reagan.

        1. timbers

          This is what Marcon needs to do in France, on behalf of his Ultra Rich backers. Why hasn’t Marcon called Obama about how to crush Yellow Jackets?

      2. JTMcPhee

        “the work of COA director George H. W. Bush..”

        An interesting word choice. In physics, as I recall, “work” is defined as “force applied through a distance. “ The CIA does a lot of that.

        And those who are cheering the removal
        of some ground forces from Syria ought to recall the drone warfare and aerial bombardment generally are still “on the table.” Still, if the Borgblob still takes orders, it’s a wonderful move in the correct direction.

        I almost typed “the right direction, the Right, having lucked into that identitarian moniker that in most people’s minds, I think, conjures the notion of “good” and “adroit” and “fitting and proper.” Needed: an agreed pejorative for the NeoNeos that sticks, and has not been drenched in the Bernays sauce of the Narrative…

        May we all have less war and more peace in our lives in the coming years.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “As anti-plastic movements sweep the globe, change doesn’t always come easy”

    Last night they had a year in review TV program and the plastic bag issue came up. A guy jokingly said that for the first time in his life he had to go out and buy bin-liners and had grown up thinking that that was what shopping bags were for. He had a point. It took a while before plastic bags for all sorts of shopping became a standard thing. Decades in fact. So trying an outright ban in a very short amount of time was bound to cause a lot of push-back as it is a right pain to remember to take your own bags with you. It will happen but will take time. Paper bags seem logical but how long before the same crowd that pushed for banning plastic bags start saying how using paper bags cause deforestation?

    1. Cal2

      Friends ordered some furniture from Modway. It arrived in large cardboard boxes. Instead of folded layers of cardboard, most of the airspace, about four cubic feet, was filled by blocks of unrecyclable, straight to the landfill styrofoam. Never order anything without determining if it’s packed in this earth polluting garbage. Return any merchandise so accompanied for a refund to punish any vendor selfish and short sighted enough to use it.

      1. Chris51

        Um, styrofoam is recyclable. Our local recycling centre melts it down into blocks to be sent off for re-use (stinks something awful while it’s melting).

      1. lordkoos

        Just make sure they are real cloth — a lot of the bags I see with store logos on them are made with artificial fiber. They are reusable, but not recyclable.

      2. Chris51

        Some time ago Coles used to sell (real) cloth supermarket bags. They stopped as soon as they realised that the bags never wore out. We’re still using ours 20+ years later.

    2. Copeland

      We haven’t used any”bin liner” bags for eleven years. Nobody in the household has taken ill, or died.

    3. Oregoncharles

      My town has banned plastic shopping bags, and even paper ones cost 5 cents. Restaurants can still use them, though. More and more people are learning to bring in their own bags – something we’ve done at the Co-op for decades. It also brings used boxes to the cash registers to use for groceries. I carefully collect the ones that are ideal for storing fruit.

      At least one thrift store has a bin where people can donate bags, to be fished out and used by customers.

  6. Wukchumni

    Should old valuations be forgot
    And never brought to mind?
    Would corporate stock buybacks be for naught
    In an Auld Lang Slide?

  7. SimonGirty

    I try to balance out the expense of the Oxmoor Rd/ 149 Publix, by hitting Aldi’s and Big Lots. Empty out all the Indian MREs & head for Red Onion for gyros & falafel ? B’Ham’s friendly folks are such a welcome relief, at least till they get into their trucks?

    Almost, like somebody’s crashing it, so his buddies can buy back their shares at pennies on the dollar?

  8. katiebird

    Aldi and Big Lot’s That’s exactly where we went yesterday!! Aldi got us though our kid’s childhood, especially when they began the expansion of products.

    1. SimonGirty

      Well, Aldi’s & Big Lots are COOL in B’Ham, since lots of the locals my age are TERRIFIED of anything foreign, vegan, organic (I believe they think they’ll instantaneously become quir, commie, jihadists?) I used to load up my dorky station wagon and schlep half the store back to NYC, fully realizing I could do the same in Harrisburg and save gas? Ollie’s is apparently eating Little Rock, now and Lidl is moving around us, here. But, total strangers don’t strike up conversations, hit on you or argue politics, race or religion here… stuck up Yankees!

    2. SimonGirty

      The CitiLab article about metastasis of “Dollar Stores” is something we’ve discussed, here? How they’re way they’re bleeding po’ folks, way more than WholeFoods & Trader Joe’s with the 9.9% Q7/ X5 demo-derby. Mmmm nitrosamine flavored Smak Ramen! We’d noticed Dollar General was ripping off Bay Saint Lewis after Katrina, since folks were trapped with their trucks in the broken trees. Two years later, we’d noticed their prices in Pennsylvania were higher than NYC’s Zabars or Fairways… aside from it all being shelf-stable, brominated, HFCS-packed, sodium & glutemate enriched.

      1. Wukchumni

        Dollar General is kind of a 7-11 version of a Wal*Mart, albeit 6x as large in layout on the ground, and no slurpees.

        1. SimonGirty

          Sorry ’bout the typos/ mispelling, all my Nazi lll% (sic) coworkers are “writing” simultaneously! In preponderance, everybody’s awaiting the EZ Credit/ CheckCashing/ BailBonds/ Party Store/ pill-mill-doc-in-a-box/ recruiting center/’ Bacci store malls Dollar’s General control to be set alight, as diesel hits $9 (so patriots can no longer outrun the repo-man, skip tracker, deputy, PO, ex-wife… One difference from les gilets jaunes has to do with weapons, mobility, girth, blood sugar, ability to use signal whilst driving a F450, eating pork rind crusted KFC, smoking crank and, YES, imbibing Blue flavored Slurpees in a MossyOak Snuggie?)

    3. lordkoos

      We favor Grocery Outlet (commonly referred to as “gross-out”) which in our little college town routinely has upscale (often organic) quality brands at 1/3 or 1/2 the original price. Above average quality packaged meats, chips, ice cream, yogurt, milk etc. Occasionally they will get stuff like a gallon of high quality organic EVOO for $25 and we stock up. Avoid the produce.

      1. SimonGirty

        I’d tried to answer Wukchumni, to apologize for my typos as well as to commiserate. I’d wondered about the Kroger/ VitaCost/ Trader Joe/ Target/ Aldi/ Costco type “organic” stuff, as we’d finally heard oats, barley, wheat, rye…basically everything was being dessicated with Glyphosate and other herbicides (to facilitate harvest). Berries, peanuts, hops, greens, pretty much anything grown in rotation with cotton, soya, BT or stacked traits maize (not to mention the animals eating them), the list gets ever longer. And it seemed that lots of folks were shocked that much organic produce is irrigated with return water or contaminated with air pollinated GE crops…

        Merry Christmas!

      2. Duck1

        In PNW the bags of organic apples and onions are good. Got to watch the dates and condition on some items. Understand that they are franchise so management may vary. Have some reasonably good coffee (worked in coffee industry). Packaged and canned goods seem to be some value.

  9. bassmule

    “This is a picture of a lost and damaged soul,” said Peter Wehner, who served in the prior three Republican administrations and is a Trump critic. “There’s something sad and poignant about a president isolated and alone. He’s like King Lear, raging against the winds.”

    Lear? Really? No! Really?

    “I Am All Alone”: An Isolated Trump (WaPo)

  10. Xquacy

    Something to add as a must read for putting US troop withdrawal from Syria into perspective, among other things.

    Traces the intellectual foundations of the Kurdish project in Bookchins ideas as an anti-patriarchal (anti-heirarchical in general) ecologically centered movement. Also talks about important departures from Marxism and the insistence of western states and media to portray and demonize the PKK through absolute identification as Maxist-Leninist and thereby terrorist militia. Honorary mention : Bookchins involvement in Vermont’s activist scene.

    1. Randy G

      @ Xquach

      I read Bookchin’s ‘Our Synthetic Environment’ (written under the pseudonym Lewis Herber) while in high school.

      Inspired by his ideas, I hitchhiked across the country to ‘study’ at Bookchin’s Social Ecology program at Goddard College in Vermont. As I had no money to pay tuition, I simply sat in on all the classes and slept in the woods. Eventually, legitimate students were kind enough to let me sleep on their dorm room floors and I was treated as if I were a ‘paying’ student.

      Bookchin was fascinating, and I was introduced to many novel perspectives including forays into Aristotle and causation, the classical Greek ecclesia and proto-democracies, the Frankfort school of Marxism, and of course libertarian anarchism and social ecology.

      After the program ended, Bookchin was generous enough to let me sleep on his couch for a couple days in New Jersey while I arranged a ‘low-cost’ ride from NYC back to California.

      Many of my own views on society, politics and ecology remain indebted to Bookchin’s writings although I am deeply pessimistic of seeing any of it come to fruition. In the neoliberal cauldron, Mad Max seems the likelier vision of our future. (Of course, hoping to be proven wrong.)

  11. The Rev Kev

    “This Little-Known Libertarian Training School Is Making Federal Judges More Conservative”

    That Libertarian Training School that Yves mentioned must be what was called the Law and Economics Center in her book based out of George Mason University and established by Henry Manne. George Mason University has featured several times on NC and never in a good way. It was also the home of the neoliberal economist James Buchanan. Notice how the University of Chicago manages to put in an appearance too.
    The whole idea seems to recruit conservative judges and in that way do an end run around the laws of the land by having them give conservative interpretations to legal judgements. When you hear of how today North Korea has been ordered to pay half a billion dollars to Otto Warmbier’s parents for his death, you do wonder if this is a secondary effect of this corruption of the law and corruption it is. The fools may be playing with fire here although they probably celebrate in private their successes. Perhaps they should listen to ‘The Devil Speech’ from the 1966 film “A Man for All Seasons” –

    1. Carla

      Re: Henry Manne & his ilk, I highly recommend to any of the NC Commentariat who have not yet read it, Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains.” If you don’t have ready access to it at a public library or your local independent bookstore, it’s available on in paperback for $15.84 — free shipping.

  12. polecat

    About half of my gifting will be of nice-n-functional second-hand items.
    Waste not, want not ..

    Cheers ! and a Merry Festivus to all.

  13. Wukchumni

    In the Valley of Fear London Review of Books
    I like to watch, and being cheek by jowl near Big Orchard, it becomes obvious there are no gringo field workers whatsoever.

    I’m still on the prowl with my eyes in search of the chosen one, and you’ll know it’s him, as he’ll be the only WASP named Jesus. (ok, why is it no big deal for a Spanish speaking male to be named that?)

    A lot of the work they do is similar in pay and activity to a Amazon employee @ Big Warehouse, essentially step and fetch it all day long, although there are some side benefits to working for Bezos, in that he hasn’t resorted to using pesticides to boost his harvest, and neither are workers subject to being outside in 109 degree summer days or the bone chilling Tule Fog that lingers low lying to curse the Sun out in the winter.

    The 2 types of employment couldn’t be any different though, the field worker is completely hands on and does everything, whereas the Amazon worker’s tasks are completely automated for them, largely hands-off, except for the last 1/1024th of a mile.

    The fear of being Hispanic in the Central Valley is oh so obvious to me just watching their actions, they’re like sitting ducks for ICE, and many small towns around here are almost completely Hispanic in terms of playing spot the sign in English as you drive by, and you’ll see a few-but not many in these pueblos, cities such as Ivanhoe, Cutler or Orosi.

    1. lordkoos

      Eastern WA also now has small towns that are majority Hispanic. Things are similar here, since ICE has been on the scene many Hispanic workers have vanished. A pal of mine has some acreage in timothy hay and last summer for the first time he had to hire an Anglo to cut it. He’d been working with the same Mexican guy for years, splitting the profits with him 50/50 (he owns the land, Hispanic guy does the work).

        1. polecat

          Yesterday, I finally racked into bottles, a batch of beer that was started in November —
          3 12-packs of a luscious, glorious .. dare I say — ‘heavenly’ brew ! ‘:] ! .. medium bodied, lightly hoppy, dark amber … with hints of toasted coconut and coriander (both of which were added to the wort), at 4.5% alcohol by vol.

          I’ve deemed it : polecat’s Alaskan Coconut Amber Ale
          Thus our new year will be tasty .. hope everyone’s is too, whatever your inbibination !

  14. knowbuddhau

    Seasons greetings, happy holidays, and Merry Christmas, NC! May you become the joy you seek.

    Your Xmas Exegesis is interesting, Lambert. You’re right about the syncretism. In early mangers, the bull is Osiris and the ass is his brother Set. The wise men wear the caps of priests of Mithra.

    And speaking of cheeky replies to angels, here’s my favorite: “Of what use, Gabriel, your message to Marie, if thou canst not deliver the same message to me?”

    Ontological breaks can be seen through.

    Thus, the Virgin Birth, as the reader will learn, does not refer to the biological condition of Mary, the mother of Jesus, but to a rebirth of the spirit that everyone can experience. The Promised Land refers not to a geographical location but to the territory of the human heart that anyone can enter. Yet sheaves of condemnations have been issued and never-ending wars have been fought over basic misapplications of these very metaphors, which should enable us to cross the boundaries of time and space, rather than to remain frustrated and forever in place on the dusty stage set of their concrete historical period.

    Denotations are singular, time bound, and non-spiritual; the connotations of religious metaphor are rich, timeless, and refer not to somebody else in the outer world of another era but to us and our inner spiritual experience right now.

    “Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor”

    Read this book on Scribd:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I barely went to church as a kid, but one of the times we attended (this a Presbyterian church in a small town in Oregon) the only bit I recalled from the sermons was one on mistranslations in the Bible. The pastor said that Mary was described in Greek (the Hebrew bible was translated into Greek) as a maid, which meant “young woman,” as opposed specifically to “virgin”.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Yes, an excellent point. The comment I just submitted begins with an allusion to the immensely tragic confusion arising from the difference between two articles: a vs. the. It’s my understanding that the Greek refers to Jesus as *a son of god, like someone might be an sob, but no one is *The S of *The B.

        1. polecat

          So do we blame the Greeks … those at least, who lived contemporaneously with their southern neighbors … who shouldv’e demanded that THEIR interpretation be adhered to, OR the Hebrews, who took these ‘findings’ and incorporate them into their own theological leanings, thus changing the whole character of such ontology, to the pain … and demise of many ‘souls’ ??

          1. knowbuddhau

            I vote for neither. They don’t call it the King James bible for nothing, right? Neither of them created Western Christendom’s narrative, nor had they the power to impose it if they had.

            The first rule of interpretation should be, Authors & Audience, to include cui bono and to what social contol ends.

            In the background, I’m listening to a local news presenter relate straightforwardly the official Kashoggi narrative, with a brief “although widely seen” right through at the end, because #Resistance, I suppose, before repeating the Saudi prosecutor’s characterizations. From way “over there,” they’re forming that woman’s thoughts, speech, even flesh. That’s power. But she’s going along with it, when she could be denouncing it like others have. That, too, is power, if she’d stop delegating it to Higher Ups.

            Who’s to blame here, and what good does that do us (no offense)? More important to understand the power of narrative in shaping our worlds, and to realize that we have it, too. IMNSHO, of course.

      2. Rudolf

        While your point is correct and I accept this is just petty-fogging, I believe it’s now ‘generally’ accepted that Greek – and highly proficient Greek at that – was the original language in which the New Testament was written.

        However if there was no earlier Hebrew Bible from which Luke and Matthew ‘translated’ the nativity story and they were writing at least 60 years after the event, and given the unreliability of eye-witness accounts after such a length of time, I would suggest that many of the more unusual events related by the story should be taken with a pinch of salt, not merely the state of Mary’s hymen.

        1. juliania

          Also, Matthew does give the description ‘of child by the Holy Spirit”, so whilst the claim of nonvirginity is often raised, even the word ‘maiden’ can have the sense of ‘having not known man’, so it is not in opposition to the word ‘virgin’. The word used is ‘parthenos’, and is quoted by the angel from Isaiah’s prophecy, so it would seem that prophecy was stating something unusual – “Behold a girl will give birth, etc.” would seem rather ordinary to state as prophecy. And as the angel is giving us ‘parthenos’, we can dispense with other possible Hebrew translations.

          After all, ‘parthenos’ had been used for the goddess Athene (how we get the Parthenon) so I think the term ‘virgin’ is appropriate also in this case. We don’t have to assume what Joseph assumes. [Sorry, Lambert; I’m not reading your piece, I freely admit.]

          Then too, would Elizabeth be so overjoyed at her cousin’s news? I guess you have to leave out whole chunks of text, so better not believe any of it than do that. Either it happened or it didn’t, and if it did, this would be the beautiful way of telling that it did.

  15. marym


    More than 200 migrants were released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at an El Paso, Texas, bus station Sunday night….

    The practice is routine, as ICE processes those crossing the border to seek asylum and outfits them with an ankle bracelet and court date before releasing them at the bus station. This time, however, the number of immigrants being released is unusually great, and likely because of the government shutdown, they were dropped off without warning.

    Annunciation House usually receives daily bulletins from ICE that detail how many migrants will be dropped off at a Greyhound Bus station in El Paso, and is able to plan housing and charity work around them. But a recent lack of notification has left the organization scrambling as it attempts to deal with an unusually large group of migrants around the Christmas holiday.

    Beto has been soliciting donations to Annunciation House and volunteer efforts. (Informational, not an endorsement of Beto)

    1. JTMcPhee

      Is Beto a Catholic? Maybe he understands the concept of “cheap grace” and the related “indulgences…” Or one of his handlers does…

  16. knowbuddhau

    More on the background of the motif of a virgin birth. There’s a big difference between *the VB of *the *Son of *the god (establishing an exclusive and patriarchal historical claim to power) and *a etc. The latter allows for no such BS.

    Once upon a time, it was said, God had only one mask; it was Yahweh, or the highway. There was one and only one view through it, *or else. Talk about TINA lol. Today, as I’ve said, everybody is god in a gilet jaune. See through that.

    Lambert is right to note that Jesus was an ordinary person, just like all of us. There are many myths like that. Exclusive claims to access to Power are so last millennium.

    The Virgin Birth

    The first motif is the Virgin Birth. This myth occurs not only in the lives of great persons but in those of many far less important figures as well. The Greek deities propagate sons on nymphs; the begettings, since the parents are deities, are really Virgin Births. In legend, this miraculous birth becomes reduced to the father’s being dead. In the Celtic tradition many stories tell of the warrior or hero who goes off to battle but, before leaving, begets a son. The hero dies and so the son is born with no father and this is regarded as a Virgin Birth. Typical among the American Indians are stories of young women who conceive from rays of the sun. When the boy grows to young boyhood, he asks, “Who is my father? Where is my father?” And the mother says, “I don’t know, you can’t go to find your father. He is the Sun.” Nevertheless, the boy sets forth to find his father. This search for the unknown father, this father quest, is a theme closely associated with the Virgin Birth motif.

    James Joyce dealt with this theme very interestingly in Ulysses. Stephen Dedalus is in quest of his spiritual father. He knows who his earthly father is, but he must find who his spiritual father is. Who is the giver to him of his character? Who is the symbol of that ground or source of his being with which his conscious ego-system has to put itself in relation? This spiritual father is not necessarily the same as one’s physical father.

    There is then a whole tradition of mythologies involving the spiritual begetter and the son who must go in quest of this father. This is not always a Virgin Birth in a physical sense. The birth of the Buddha is not exactly a Virgin Birth, although Queen Māyā is often referred to as a virgin. The Buddha is born from his mother’s side so, again, it is not a physical birth but a spiritual birth that is represented. This Virgin Birth, as we have often noted, is a spiritual rebirth that is internal, at the level of the heart. This birth is achieved by youngsters in the puberty rites through which they die as little boys and are born again as young men. In our own tradition we have a tendency to concretize things, so that this Virgin Birth becomes a problem on many levels, including the biological. Can a child be born of a virgin? If that is not possible, we conclude that Jesus was not born of a virgin. The Catholic Church emphasizes the historical, physical character of Virgin Birth, saying that Mary’s virginity was restored after the birth of Jesus, and making this an article of faith.

    There is something that happens in many stories in India. The wonderful saint, Vyasa, who has been called the Homer of that land,

    and was more even than that, was said to have been born of a virgin. But she was a very unusual kind of a virgin who according to the story was herself born of a fish in extraordinary circumstances. (It is significant to note that Christ, born of a virgin, was also associated with the fish image.)

    Excerpt From: “Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor”

    Read this book on Scribd:

    1. juliania

      Sorry to be late here, but Lambert is not correct. Indeed there are many different mythological stories that are very beautiful and give us aspects of what Christians believe to have happened and to have been recorded in evangelical texts. In a way, those earlier tellings are considered to have been prophetic, not actual events, with the actual event being the birth of Christ. Just as the Old Testament tales prefigure in some way his life on earth, so do many pagan myths or even folk tales, because they are dimly perceived visions of what was to come. But they are not complete. Who is singing pagan songs today? The Christian music, both eastern and western is very beautiful, and even a lot of great classical music is based upon these themes. Because it is a fully human, uplifting and beautiful message that God is like us and loves mankind and wants us to have peace on earth. These are good things!

      I feel I have to say these things here, because if you look carefully you will see that what Christianity expresses is a full human experience in connection with divine things that are very good and worthy of emulation. So it makes me sad that people seize on old insults at a time of year that is holy for good reasons to many of us who share your very human qualities. Still, that did happen when Jesus was born also, and we can overcome it in ourselves and be kinder and gentler to one another.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Thanks for replying, juliania. Still think Lambert’s point stands, tho. And I think you help prove it.

        You point to the fact that people just like Jesus are known all over the world, and throughout time. Exactly. The role Jesus played, the Christ, is a role we can all play. It’s a very human way of being in the world.

        Christ comes from Χριστός (Christos), meaning “anointed one”. In the Greek Septuagint, christos was used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed.”, a title allegedly adopted from the term for the tradition of anointing the Egyptian pharaoh during coronation or marriage with oil drawn from the fat of messeh, who was the sacred crocodile or crocodile star in the spells and the same anointing ritual may be traced to earlier Mesopotamian Mušḫuššu.[19][20][21] In coffins of Egyptian mummies the word krst is found as a blessing and anointing from Horus and Osiris, hence the word Christos is thought as loaned.[22][23] Krst denoted the process of preparation of the mummy by embalming, purifying and anointing, and can mean anointed, buried or covered in oil.[24][25][26][27].

        In the Old Testament, anointing was reserved to the Kings of Israel[28], to the High Priest (Exodus 29:7, Leviticus 4:3–16[29]), and to the prophets (1 Kings 19:16)[30].

        If Lambert, I, and every account from comparative mythology I know of, are right, and Jesus was a mundane human, just like us, then we can all do as he did, which I’m pretty sure was his point: we are not to follow, not to idolize, but to be as he was. If you and the orthodox view are right, then we have no real power; we are not the authors of our fate, it’s all been foreordained, all we can do is wait and hope to be judged worthy.

        In the gospel of Thomas, unearthed in the middle of the 20th century, it says Jesus said, “Split the stick, and there you’ll find me.” Whatever was special about Jesus can be found within split kindling. It’s everywhere, freely available to all.

        Why wait? Why not be *a (singular; unique even, but not necessarily supernatural) world-redeeming heroine yourself? From what I hear, now is the time for all good heroines and heroes to step right up.

  17. Richard

    re “dems push for increased scrutiny of trump’s court pics” not the most informative headline. nor article either. It’s main purpose seems to be to reassure liberals that the dems are trying to protect our judiciary from fascists.but the repubs are wily and crafty and nearly unbeatable with their committee shenanigans, and selective enforcement of “rules”.
    Of course, the phrasing “dems push for increased scrutiny of Trump’s court pics” is maddening. Push for it? They are the scrutiny, and pretending some selectivly used tradition, or “courtesy” as these oligarchs like to say, is standing in the way is ludicrous. Isn’t it funny how all these supposedly neutral “rules” only seem to get employed successfully by one side of the duopoly?
    Anyway, someone should let The Hill know that our disbelief has ceased to be in a suspended form, and lies broken around them if they care to look.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I think the purpose of the article was distraction…an intent to distract people from the lack of scrutiny given by Democrats to Republican nominees in general, and to let them know that the status quo will continue, because it’s just the way of things with these Democrats.

  18. Susan the Other

    Merry Christmas Yves, Lambert and JeriLynn; and commenters too. NC is a feast all year long for me. Thank you so very much.

  19. Summer

    Re: Artificial Intelligence Is Starting To Smart

    I don’t see any “smarts” from what was desrcibed in the article. I essentially read about yet more data collection (that is assembled in some kind of report without the context from which the data was collected) that humans will use their “smarts” (as well as all other socially developed preconceptions) to form an opinion about.
    The data still has zero meaning to software.
    There are no results reported as to how this type of use of data has been effective or exactly what it has effected over time.

    More of a sales pitch than science.

    In the meantime:
    Merry Everything to you all.

  20. Geo

    Merry Christmas to all here as well! Hope you’re all having a lovely day and a break from the rat race to enjoy the finer things in life.

    My one Christmas tradition is watching a childhood favorite – the almost forgotten and hard to find Jim Henson created “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas”. The music is amazing, the puppetry and set design are beautiful, and the message is heartbreaking yet poignant.

    Few shows showcase the experience of Christmas time for the poor as sincerely and intelligently as this one does. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it before – or haven’t seen it since Disney buried it after buying Henson Studios years ago.

    As a kid I just loved the characters and the music. As an adult the message reall hit me. It’s about a family that can’t celebrate because they have no money for presents. They try to pawn off their most valued possessions to buy gifts for each other and it doesn’t go as planned and they end up with nothing. Of course, a happy ending is found at the very end (it’s a kids show after all!) but It’s amazing the way Henson weaves this little story into such a charming and sweet tale with a profound message about the forgotten poor.

    The line that sums it up is when Emmet describes his mother’s business model as: “Now you can knit more socks to make more pies to knit more socks to make more pies…”

  21. BoyDownTheLane

    R. O. Blechman says, in his personal note as illustrator of the compilation by Jennifer Berne entitled “God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God” [ ] [ ] that he is not a believer. He goes on to suggest that cashing in on his non-belief is a form of spiritual art.

    I think Berne might have added Therese of Lisieux who said, in “The Path of Merciful Love” (page 13) [ ] that she thought it more valuable to speak to God than about him. “for there is so much self-love intermingled with spiritual conversations”.

  22. Oregoncharles

    From “Late Cycle Lament:” “. We have an increasingly
    fissured economy with low growth, lower productivity, and even lower real wage growth. ”

    Diminishing returns; in this case, I think, because we’re up against real resource limits (yes, I banged on about that yesterday – it’s important.) Our social resources are degrading, too.

    Still not remembering just what a Minsky Moment is, so I kept reading to find out.

  23. carte

    UserFriendly: “JK Rowling really is worse than the Tories on Twitter.”

    Is that so? Well, ok, but the following is certainly not evidence of that.

    I started on twitter as a Remain campaigner

    But the shit that people like @JamesMelville @acgrayling @mrjamesob @Femi_Sorry @jk_rowling are throwing at the Labour Party, means that I can no longer support Remain.

    That person is a moron. There are valid reasons against the second referendum but those stand in no relation with the above rationale.

    1. witters

      You ever tried to argue on twitter? So go look at JK’s “really excellent work.” Also, “In the Valley of Fear” is the NEW YORK Review of Books.

  24. Oregoncharles

    Just got to Minsky, so yes, now I get it. Although I wouldn’t have thought the illusion of stability would be all that strong. More like “animal spirits.”

  25. BenX

    RE: Dollar Stores – many of the old department store buildings are now occupied by Goodwill thrift stores. What were once a solid middle class shopping malls are being replaced by thrift and dollar stores. This shift has been happening for the past 20 years but really kicked into gear after 2008.

    1. Geo

      I remember back in 2009 I was on a job in Michigan. Saw a huge box store building with the name “Pawn America” on it. Thought that was the most fitting name for a store at the time. Kind of sums up our current state of affairs.

      1. polecat

        Maybe some enterprising cable interest could develope a TV-reality series devoted to the Pawn Industry ….

        They could entitle it – “American Pawn Stars” ..

  26. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: “The Chart That Broke Our Brains” —
    These items stood out for me in the discussions of data related to who voted for Trump why:
    “Instead, the trend is much better explained by more well off (and likely resentful) residents of those counties.”
    “Since so many people at the bottom of the income scale are not voting at all, this complicates narratives about transfer recipients preferring Republicans.”
    That makes a plausible explanation for the voting patterns … except for one demographic:
    “…elderly white people, who turn out in huge numbers and overwhelmingly support the party that wants to cut Medicare and Social Security”. As an elderly white person I have no clue why this should be true, although its seems consistent with opinions I’ve heard or overhead many elderly white persons express.

    1. neo-realist

      Are these elderly white people able to explain their logic behind voting, primarily, for a party that seek tod deprive them of the senior safety net?

      1. pretzelattack

        that describes both parties. the repubs are just more obvious about it. whether these voters know that i don’t know.

        1. neo-realist

          A much larger majority on the republican side, which doesn’t mean I don’t recognize or defend the dems who do push for cuts. But that doesn’t explain why a senior would vote for somebody who would plain as day support cuts to medicare and social security? Are they naive and selfish enough to believe that the younger folks will get cut while the older one go unscathed?

          1. Pat

            I don’t see a lot of transparency about this issue on the part of either side. A whole lot of the planned destruction is cloaked in terms of reform and saving a failing system – similar to the equally bipartisan attacks on public education.

            I don’t think you can discount the effectiveness of decades long propaganda regarding the impending failure of both Social Security and Medicare. Which has been helped immensely by the neoliberal pushed policies which have destroyed the effectiveness of most of our public systems – also bipartisan and counter to most voters wishes, when finally checked.

  27. lyman alpha blob

    Merry Xmas Yves, Lambert, Jerri Lynn, Outis and NC commentariat. Thanks to everyone for all you do and for being an oasis of sanity in this crazy world.

    Not much of a Xmas reveler myself and never cared for the music much, but this one has become my new favorite holiday song over the last few years. The Aussie atheist anti-capitalist holiday song that will bring a tear to your eye –

    White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin

  28. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: Color Conversations: A Rational Discussion about Race, Imposed Identities and Social Constructs —
    The insights made in this link echo the assessment in Kavanaugh’s article linked yesterday [“The Yellow Vests and the Left by Jim Kavanagh + Yellow Vests Shift to the Left”].
    “…he [Martin Luther King] became a clear and present threat to the status quo when he started to talk about human rights and put the spotlight on economic inequalities instead of just talking about racial injustice.”
    “The Yellow Vest protesters in France put the fear of God in Marcon and the French government because they galvanized around a common cause instead of protesting along individual grievances.”
    Kavanagh: The divisions of the left wrought by the question below.
    “Critical interrogation will come from within an assumed position of solidarity, and it will usually be in terms of those categories: Does your racial justice movement x have the right attitude and/or demographics in terms of gender?”
    I hope these observations are noticed and acted upon by the Left. The patterns of counter-insurgency are growing more clear.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Kavanaugh made another observation that leaves me pondering its meanings — “(Ecology is a little trickier, but they have some workarounds for that.)” …

      This observation triggered some concerns I felt when I was poking around the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting webpages for 2018 []. The AGU Fall Meeting — a Centenary meeting — included some “Diversity and Inclusion Events at Fall Meeting”. The Mission Statement on the second page of the “Program Book” [] included the following language: “THE CELEBRATION OF DIVERSE IDEAS AND INDIVIDUALS, …”
      There was also a very prominent “DIVERSITY & INCLUSION PLENARY Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine”

      Two of the three keynote speakers [pp. 29 and 30] were women. The most prominent of the three judging from the size of her photo, the PRESIDENTIAL FORUM LECTURER, a woman of mixed blood (covering African American, Caucasian, and probably AmerIndian possibly Oriental?) has the title “Vice President of Environment, Policy & Social Initiatives, Apple Inc.
      The Data Keynote speaker, also a woman has the title Head of Sustainability,, Inc. And the last Keynote speaker the FRONTIERS OF GEOPHYSICS LECTURER, was the only speaker whose topic seemed directly related to geophysics … and he was a photographer, Founder and Director, Earth Vision Institute and Extreme Ice Survey, and maker of Emmy award–winning documentary
      Chasing Ice and the PBS/NOVA special Extreme Ice. It seemed that a lot of “free $peech” had come to the podium at what I had thought was an important scientific meeting, that and more than a little lip-service to “diversity”.

      I have no objection to “diversity” if it means diversity since I always thought there were far too few coeds in the sciences and in the engineering classes I attended. I also believe I am often an outlier in terms of my thoughts and opinions so I more than welcome diversity — but these superficial clues in the AGU appear like evidence suggesting some larger meaning to Kavanaugh’s off-hand observation.

      1. JBird4049

        I have no objection to “diversity” if it means diversity since I always thought there were far too few coeds in the sciences and in the engineering classes I attended. I also believe I am often an outlier in terms of my thoughts and opinions so I more than welcome diversity — but these superficial clues in the AGU appear like evidence suggesting some larger meaning to Kavanaugh’s off-hand observation.

        Politics and propaganda with bonus Neoliberal crapification. Just as NGOs like the American Red Cross have become grift organizations (read about the Red Cross’ relief failures in Haiti’s earthquake and New York’s Hurricane Sandy) so too does it become more important to put up a facade of being diverse, and the right kind of diversity at that, rather than doing the organization’s function whatever it was previously.

        Just as commenters here have noted the disconnect between what the political parties say their goals are and what their actions do, so too with institutions throughout our countries and societies, and throughout Western Civilization. I would say that making a living by stripping an increasing number of people of their wealth and giving it to an increasingly smaller and wealthier group of elites under the pretense of doing one’s outward position’s responsibilities, whatever that might be, is now almost more common than doing those responsibilities. A political economy devoted increasingly to parasitism and the camouflage required for it.

    1. Geo

      A very American Christmas movie. Like Santa, John McClane cape down through the ventilation shaft bearing gifts in the form of guns and punches. :)

  29. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: “These Magnified Frost Crystal Images Are Totally Enchanting” — I believe the world has great beauty at many scales. That photo of frost is indeed very beautiful. I highly recommend visiting Elizabeth Root Blackmer home website: []. She has a most gifted eye for the wonders wrought by the god of small things.

  30. Jeremy Grimm

    I might wish Happy Holidays or a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year … but I would rather wish that all your days will be Happy and Merry in large and small and even ordinary ways. Some of this may depend on luck and circumstance and some of it depends on us and the ways we respond to others and to events we cannot control. Be Wise and Cheerful!

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I am at home, and will be doing no driving … but I much appreciate your well wishes and thank you for others who may be on the road or in the air.

  31. Conrad

    Welcome from the future. I’ve already done the recycling from yesterday’s Christmas lunch and am snoozing in front of the Boxing Day test.

  32. Bandit

    As anti-plastic movements sweep the globe, change doesn’t always come easy

    The most obvious solution is hemp fiber. For centuries it was used world wide before the so called War on Drugs spread like a cancer, thanks to the US. There are so many things that can be fashioned from hemp that its only limitation is one’s imagination. Hemp for disposable shopping bags? A mere trifle, but one with such profound consequences in a world drowning in plastic. However, the DEA will fight tooth and nail to keep it on their schedule, and the plastics industry will throw billions of dollar in plastic’s defense. Trump just proposed industrial-use hemp farming which was widespread in the US. That is a start to some ecological sanity, but not a guarantee.

  33. pretzelattack

    i don’t know if it is significant, but i’ve noticed there are far fewer christmas decorations locally (at least in the neighborhoods i frequent).

    1. JBird4049

      As more and more of us are broke, depressed, and fearful, I am not surprised to hear that fewer of us are bringing out the Christmas decorations.

      1. ambrit

        Some of us are so bad off that we didn’t take down the small artificial tree in the living room front window last year. All we had to do was plug the lights back in.

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