A Christmas Tale


Don't get me wrong.

It's not a bad book.

I am talking about the New Testament. The one that contains the four narratives of the life and death of Jesus. You know, Jesus, the guy who put "Christ" into Christian, the guy who was crucified for speaking against the authorities. Not that we care much about the New Testament here in America.

Televangelists have always been more at ease quoting the Old Testament than they have any of the four gospels. And who can blame them? Jesus can be such a troublesome figure---if one really, really must talk about Jesus, much better to talk about "baby Jesus," isn't it? Not the discommodious grown-up who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (mocking the entrance of Caesars and military generals), touched lepers, ate with social outcasts, talked to women during the daytime, and disrupted business activities at the temple (which most bible scholars agree is what got him killed). How much more comfortable a figure "Baby Jesus" is, who has not yet spoken.

But let's not throw out baby Jesus with the bathwater. The Nativity has been known to inspire the best in Man. It's not a bad story and it's not a bad book by half. It's just that on the fourth or fifth reading, knowing the ending, kind of ruins it a bit---like already knowing who's done it at the beginning of an Agatha Christie novel. Don't you just hate it when that happens?


  1. Arianna Huffington's Sunday Roundup:

    Christmas came a day early this year for health insurance and drug companies when the Senate passed a health care bill crammed with more industry-friendly gifts than Santa's sleigh. "I'll be rolling up my sleeves," said President Obama, pledging to take a hands-on role in merging the House and Senate bills. Before he dives in, the president should spend some time reacquainting himself with his campaign promises to "break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on the health care market," "let Medicare negotiate for lower prices," and "allow the safe re-importation of low cost drugs." Back then, Obama said, "I'll have the insurance and drug companies at the table. They just won't be able to buy every chair." Turns out they did. Here's hoping that, at the 11th hour, the president changes the seating arrangement to include the people who elected him.

  2. Alas, that appears to be true.

    The conundrum though remains.

    Has this been a step forward?

    A step back? Fixing the private healthcare sector's roll in concrete?

    If so, then to change that, will it require a basic change in American attitudes? Does the desired progressive change already exist? Will Blue Dogs in conservative districts be replaced by true blue conservatives? It's beginning to look that way, with the backlash against "big government," spending, deficits, and the like. (So called conservatives, I think we should remember, have very lively imaginations, and are always at work.)

    Or is there a built-in majority by over representation in the Senate of small, conservative states? So that a senator representing a mere million people has as much power as a senator representing twenty million? With the filibuster to boot?

    The filibuster. The filibuster killed the public option. There are more than fifty Democrats in the Senate who would vote for it.

    A prominent maxim in American political discourse still remains: "Government is the problem."

    Well, Joe Lieberman probably doesn't see it that way. Joe Lieberman sees government as a bulwark of power, his own power. He knows how to play the game and is a master at it. He didn't even back Obama in the election but is needed enough by the Democrats to keep his Senate chairmanship. Nothing there has changed. The Demos need him.

    In the house there are more 40 "pro life" Democrats, enough to kill any legislation. Of course they will take advantage of that. They're doing "God's work" after all. That's how they see it. They will go down in flames before giving that up. God said so.

    Are the American people basically screwed? My answer to that one is - Yes! Even the Palinistas, in all their simplicity, deserve our pity. They're too damned dumb to know they are screwed and are being exploited and used by Palin. But that's another story.

    It ain't over until it's over. And it sure as hell ain't simple. Let's try to remember that.

  3. Joe Lieberman is a convenient scapegoat. The perfect fall guy.

  4. Simple it is not. And it gets even more complicated. As noted by Glenn Greenwald (The underlying divisions in the healthcare debate), the growing opposition to corporatism -- to the virtually absolute domination of our political process by large corporations -- is one of the many issues that transcend the trite left/right drama endlessly used as a distraction. The anger among both the left and right towards the bank bailout, and towards lobbyist influence in general, illustrates that.

  5. But a most willing "fall guy" for he and the conservative Democrats control the votes in the Senate. And, if they put their mind to it, can upset any apple cart in the House too. What will Stupak and his “pro-life” Democrats do during reconciliation?

    Perhaps folks expected Obama to be a miracle worker. After all, the contrast with Bush ineptitude, duplicity, and overall ideological foolishness was quite clear. And obvious. Returning simple common sense and intelligence, wrapped within a great deal of charisma, to the White House would surely, it was assumed, turn things around. Perhaps immediately. That may be what some voters thought, or hoped for.

    But it ain't that way. Washington is a seething heap of special interests. There are more than five hundred Congressional representatives representing many different geographical regions and points of view. Thousands of lobbyists. No matter how well meaning Obama may be (and that, as least so far as I'm concerned, is still in question) he does not simply rule from a pinnacle on high where he can direct and control all things.

    Reality has hit us in the eye. Is Obama inept, too inexperienced to deal with such forces? Is he owned by the corporations? Has he actually pulled off a political miracle by getting as far as he has? Which, to one progressive constituency, clearly isn’t far enough?

    What are the realities here?

    This may all sound like an irrelevant quibble. But what I am trying to do - however successfully or unsuccessfully - is to see and understand what is actually going on. That, after all, has to be a beginning.

    I don’t know where the notion came from that those who support the current healthcare reform efforts supported the Iraq War. I for one was out on the streets of San Francisco in October 2002 with tens of thousands of others protesting the upcoming war. (Incongruously, a most festive occasion, as I recall.) And I was there for each ensuing march until the war began in the spring of 2003. Do I support the current bill?

    Well, it’s not single payer, Medicare for all, which I think would be the best and most sensible option. So even viewed within the best light it strikes me as far from ideal. How far does it succeed or fail? I don’t yet know. I am truly troubled by the mandates, which, because they may be unfair (the Demos claim they worked that out), may lead to a hostile public reaction against “government run” healthcare. Unlike many progressives I think the failure of this overall program will strengthen so-called conservatives. That there will not be a progressive backlash.

  6. Cont'd.....

    There has always been an element of the left which believes that if only the common folk out there (most Republicans) knew what we know they would all agree with us. That the media and corporate interests keep them ignorant and deluded. I used to know doctrinaire leftists in the Bay Area who thought that way. Very insular, they were, living in their own world.

    For one, a quick look at the Christian right should illustrate that there is nothing rational about much political thought. After all, the term “PC” was invented by a leftist to describe other leftists.

    Political “reasoning,” such as it is, often simply reflects an egoistic attitude, a desire, having little to do with fairness or a societal need. Why have tax cuts and deregulation become the holy tenets of the Republican Party? Look backward, that history isn’t very pretty.

    It reflects back, to take just one example, on how factory owners didn’t wish to be financially burdened by environmental concerns, cleaning up after themselves when they polluted streams and the air. Now it has become part of the Republican orthodoxy that “excessive” regulation is “unfriendly” to business, hurting society as a whole. The term “tree huggers” arising way back then to describe environmentalists. On and on. As a consequence today they even deny global warming.

    Notions of political purity cut many ways. Such as the far right battling to drive “moderates” out of the Republican Party, who are not “pure” enough for them. Hopefully, the far right will self destruct with such carryings on. Assuming Lieberman and Obama were in some kind of plot to kill real reform vastly oversimplifies what happened. And accusing those who are not convinced the healthcare legislation is a White House/Corporate plot of likely backing the Iraq war enforces PC conformity. Feeding into a fiction.

    If we want to move ahead we have to at least see the reality on the ground, whatever it is. Does a Capitalist orthodoxy rule here in the US? Of course it does, and as has been predicted for more than a century greed may eventually destroy our country. But let’s not get carried away with narrow doctrinaire illusions creating enemies where there are none.

  7. I thought our distinguished members would be talking about little Jesus and big Jesus here. Hopefully this thread won't drift into the Obama the Messiah controversy.

    Indeed the social justice Jesus remains a troublesome character. Central to his teaching is care of widows and orphans. Single moms. Any progress along these lines in 2000 years? How is foster care in your neighborhood?

    But I imagine Jesus began causing trouble even at home. How did he react when Mary told him he couldn't go down to that synagogue again today because he needed to help clean the house? Aunt Esther and Uncle Ephraim are coming to dinner.

    Ben's got a good point: we like our Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes...just like our religion. We prefer restricted movement in prophets. Do have a Happy New Year---within prescribed limits of course.