The winter solstice begins tonight at 6:03 pm ET.
Missed this the other day. Tim Egan on "Obama Unbound": "... the president who has nothing to lose has discovered that his best friend is the future."
CW: I wonder why Obama didn't make the final cut. He & Stephen Colbert rehearse "We'll Meet Again" (audio only):
Max Fisher of Vox has a helpful post on the history of U.S.-Cuba relations, going back to the days when Southern politicians wanted to annex the island as a slave state. Thanks to James S. for the link.
** Steve Watt of the ACLU, in Slate: "As bad as the stories in the Senate torture report are, there is a whole class of victims who aren’t even mentioned...: the 'extraordinary rendition' of prisoners to foreign custody for 'interrogation' by those countries’ intelligence services — with the full knowledge that the men would be tortured.... There is still no official accounting of what happened to these men and others like them, forcibly disappeared and handed over to foreign governments for torture. We don’t even know whether the practice was authorized — and if so, by whom — and who was subject to it." ...
... In Salon, Paul Rosenberg makes the case for trying Bush, Cheney, et al., for war crimes. "Through reflexivity, Bush and Cheney’s unhinged panic drove the entire [political] process off the rails. Yet, even today they and their defenders continue to pretend that they were the tough guys, the realists, the ones who protected us. They need to stand trial in part simply so that this lie can be publicly put to rest." Rosenberg argues that not just Bush & Cheney, but "America's entire elite infrastructure" is responsible for the public's ignorance of facts re: the Bush-Cheney wars & torture. ...
... CW: While Rosenberg gets his facts right, he seems naive about the effects a Nuremberg-type series of trials would have on "public education." It is unreasonable to think that the winner of the "War on Christmas" (see God News below) & his minions would learn during the course of a trial that torture doesn't work & Cheney is a lying, evil bastard. A trial would not "educate" the followers of Bill O'Reilly & Bill Kristol; rather, it would further harden them in their false beliefs. Not only do these people discount facts, Americans in general don't want to face their own complicity in electing -- & re-electing -- the Bush administration. Patriotism is pernicious.
Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "... in an era of hyperpartisan gerrymandering..., Ohio took a step in the opposite direction last week. With the support of both parties, the Ohio House gave final approval Wednesday to a plan to draw voting districts for the General Assembly using a bipartisan process, intended to make elections more competitive."
Josh Lederman of the AP: "The United States is asking China for help as it weighs potential responses to a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment that the U.S. has blamed on North Korea. A senior Obama administration official says the U.S. and China have shared information about the attack and that the U.S. has asked for China's cooperation. The official also says China agrees with the U.S. that destructive cyberattacks violate the norms of appropriate behavior in cyberspace." ...
... AP: "The GOP is calling on supporters to buy a ticket to the movie 'The Interview' if theater owners reverse their decision not to show the film amid threats of retaliation for its comedic take on assassinating North Korea's leader. The Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, says in a letter to theater chain executives that he's concerned that a foreign regime would be allowed to dictate the movies Americans can and cannot watch." CW: As I said several days ago, wingers will see the movie because Freeeedom. Now it's a party platform!
Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. David Bernstein in Boston Magazine: "What the hell happened to Boston.com?... In Saturday’s Globe, [Boston Globe editor Brian] McGrory said that despite the multiple errors committed by Boston.com staffers, 'the standards and values of the Globe apply across all our sites.' That seems increasingly difficult to defend."
CW: No doubt many Reality Chex readers will be celebrating Yule today. I will be thanking Mithras for pushing back the darkness.
Phil Zuckerman in Salon, "... for the many millions of Americans who have joined the ranks of the nonreligious, the causes are most likely to be political and sociological in nature." The rise of the religious right as a political force has alienated "a lot of left-leaning or politically moderate Americans from Christianity.... A second factor ... is the ... Catholic Church’s pedophile priest scandal.... A very important third possible factor ... is ... the dramatic increase of women in the paid labor force.... As women grew less religious, their husbands and children followed suit." Excerpted from Living the Secular Life. ...
... CW: Weirdly, Zuckerman doesn't mention formal education as a secularizing factor. Surely the percentage of Americans who believe in the literal truths of religious myths has plummeted in the past 50 years. In fact, major religions -- including the Roman Catholic Church -- no longer insist, for instance, on the historiocity of the Christmas story. It's pretty darned hard to get through a standard liberal arts education & come out buying the Adam & Eve & Noah & Moses stories.
Take 'er Easy There, Pilgrim. Bruce Feiler of the New York Times: "Pilgrimage ... is more popular than ever. At the First International Congress on Tourism and Pilgrimages in September, the United Nations released a study finding that of every three tourists worldwide, one is a pilgrim, a total of 330 million people a year. These figures include 30 million to Tirupati in India, 20 million to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, 15 million to Karbala in Iraq, and four million to Lourdes."
"Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?" Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches: Christian Americans are more supportive of torture than non-religious Americans.
Jesus Is the Reason for -- Hanukkah. Sarah Larimer of the Washington Post: "Bud Williams, city councilor in Springfield, Mass., stood in the court square earlier this week and participated in a holiday tradition. 'Jesus is the reason for the season,' Williams said at a Tuesday ceremony, according to MassLive.com. His remarks wouldn’t really be notable, except that Williams was speaking at a menorah lighting ceremony, to mark the beginning of Hanukkah." In defense of his remark, Williams noted later to a reporter, "Jesus was Jewish." Via Steve Benen.
Patrick O'Donnell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Gov. John Kasich's $10 million plan to bring mentors into Ohio's schools for students now has a surprise religious requirement – one that goes beyond what is spelled out in the legislation authorizing it. Any school district that wants a piece of that state money must partner with both a church and a business – or a faith-based organization and a non-profit set up by a business to do community service." CW: As Steve Benen remarks, "... sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen."
Onward, Christmas Soldiers. Bill O'Reilly agrees he "single-handedly" won the "War on Christmas." Thanks, Bill-O.