Thursday Reads: the Winter Solstice, the Mayan Calendar, “the Kamikazes,” and More

Newsstand in Copley Square, Boston

Good Morning!!

I have a mix of news links for you this morning, but nothing too terribly depressing. As I told you Tuesday, I’ve got a bit of Christmas overload, plus I’ve had a flu bug for a few days. So lets’ start out on a positive note.

Today at 12:30AM ET was the Winter Solstice, and therefore today is the shortest day of the year. That means in a few weeks, it will get dark in the Boston area around 4:30PM instead of 4:00. Right now, twilight begins about 3:30PM. I am so looking forward to longer days. From the WaPo:

If you pay attention to these things, you’ll notice a lag of a few weeks between the time the sun begins to set later in the day and the time it rises earlier. But the 22nd is, nonetheless, in the northern hemisphere, our shortest day, and the one in which the sun hoists itself the most miserly distance above the horizon. To top it off, the daily rate at which the sun sinks lower in the sky has been slowing, until it stops. Hence the word solstice, which means that the sun “stands still.”

It’s only for a theoretical instant, of course, but it can often seem, during these days of dark and cold, as if life itself has ground to a halt. Gardening can take place in the jewel boxes of our cold frames and greenhouses, but with growth so slow that there is little for you to do. The hibernation practiced by some creatures starts to seem like a great idea, and the southern migration of others a possible plan.

Not surprisingly, the human celebrations held in this season are full of light, whether it’s from Hanukkah candles, bonfires or sparkly tinsel draped over trees. You can almost understand why people light up their lawns with electrified reindeer. The longer the nights and the greater the inactivity they foster, the more we need our spirits lifted.

The LA Times has a story about Wiccan celebrations of the Soltice.

“People are celebrating the solstice more than ever in recent memory,” said Selena Fox, who isn’t just any Wiccan priestess. She’s a psychotherapist and the founder of Wisconsin’s Circle Sanctuary, a nonprofit Wiccan church and, according to its website, a 200-acre nature preserve….

Solstice is “widely celebrated today by Wiccans, druids, heathens and other pagans; by indigenous peoples practicing traditional ways in Africa, Asia, Polynesia, Australia, Europe and the Americas; by environmentalists and astronomers; by secular humanists and Freethinkers; by eco-Christians and those of other religions and philosophies,” Fox told The Times in an interview Wednesday….

Humankind has been “observing solstices for thousands of years,” Fox said, but the celestial events have become even more of the moment. Why? Because this is an “age of climate change and a need to have sustainability on the planet,” she said, so it makes sense that a holiday that has “connecting with the cycles of nature” at its core would become popular.

And of course that is why the mythic birth of Jesus was set on December 25, to symbolize rebirth and light coming back to the world. In pagan terms, the birth of the new sun. Here’s a video of the Solstice celebration at Stonehenge in 2009.

One year from now, the 2012 Winter Solstice will mark the end of the Mayan calendar, and we’ll probably have to deal with all kinds of apocalyptic prediction about what is going to happen next. NASA has a page debunking the idea that the end of the world is coming on December 22, 2012. Of course the maniacs in Washington DC might do something that would cause the end of the world as we know it. Let’s hope not.

Yesterday, Dakinikat had a post on John Boehner’s payroll tax fiasco. First Boehner said the House would agree to a 2-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, as passed by the Senate. Then suddenly Boehner announced that Republicans wouldn’t vote for the compromise bill–now they wanted a year’s extension or nothing. WTF?!

At the Daily Beast, Patricia Murphy claims to provide the inside story on what happened.

What happened between Boehner’s agreement to follow the Senate’s lead and his tacit admission that his own caucus had overruled him? Aides and House members describe a now-infamous caucus conference call Saturday morning, when rank-and-file members blasted the Boehner-blessed deal, which they felt gave in on too many of their demands and delivered too little in return.

A closed door meeting Monday night revealed more doubts from conservatives over whether Boehner had pushed for the best deal they could have gotten and fueled Democratic frustration that Boehner, who they believe negotiated in good faith, simply cannot speak for his caucus anymore. The debacle capped a tumultuous year for the speaker, reigniting questions about how much longer he can lead the unwieldy GOP coalition, many of whose members clearly have no interest in following him where he wants to go.

Publicly, Boehner and House Republicans presented a united front this week, blaming President Obama for shortening a tax cut they say they have wanted to pass all along. But Democrats blamed a group of Republicans they’ve dubbed “the kamikazes,” the GOP freshmen who arrived in January on a wave of Tea Party anger and have shown time and again that they are willing to blow up their careers and everything around them in service to their cause.

The kamikazes’ casualty list this year is long. They blew up the debt-ceiling vote this summer, sparking a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating. They blew up the appropriations process so thoroughly that routine spending votes morphed into philosophical standoffs that nearly locked down the federal government three times and required seven temporary funding patches just to keep the lights on. And this week, they managed to blow up not just a tax cut that nearly everyone in Washington agrees is a good idea, but also their party’s hard-earned reputation for cutting taxes and, quite possibly, their chances at a long-term majority in the House and future control of the Senate.

Talk about self-immolation! In the meantime, questions are being asked about Boehner’s leadership.

At ABC’s The Note, Jonathan Karl is predicting the Republicans will fold. We’ll see. President Obama is really good at finding ways to give in to the Congressional terrorists. Maybe someone can distract him long enough to let this play out without his intervention.

Also at the the Daily Beast, there’s a creepy, yet semi-humorous story about local cops being militarized by the Department of Homeland Security, this time in my birthplace, the quiet little city of Fargo, North Dakota.

Nestled amid plains so flat the locals joke you can watch your dog run away for miles, Fargo treasures its placid lifestyle, seldom pierced by the mayhem and violence common in other urban communities. North Dakota’s largest city has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there’s not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.

But that hasn’t stopped authorities in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying spree to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.

Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. For now, though, the menacing truck is used mostly for training and appearances at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house.

“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”

Read it and weep. If Fargo has that much military hardware, imagine what they’ve got in NYC, Chicago, and LA! Police State Amerika is here.

At the NYT, Charlie Savage reports on the Justice Department settlement with Bank of America over discrimination in mortgage lending by Countrywide.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

A department investigation concluded that Countrywide loan officers and brokers charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. Countrywide also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received regular loans, it found.

Now how about putting some banksters in jail for bringing down the economy? Not holding my breath, but at least BOA has to cough up some bucks.

Newt Gingrich has been accused of illegally profiting from his presidential campaign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became the target on Monday of a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint filed by the non-profit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which accused the Georgia Republican of illegally profiting off his campaign.

The complaint is based on a revelation by The Washington Post‘s Dan Eggen, who discovered that Gingrich had personally sold a mailing list to his campaign and profited to the tune of $47,005, then failed to report the transaction on a key FEC document. That’s count one, according to CREW.

That mailing list did not belong to Gingrich personally, CREW said. It instead belonged to Gingrich Productions, Inc., a private business that sells Gingrich’s books. Since he paid himself instead of Gingrich Productions, CREW alleged that a second count of using campaign money for personal expenses is called for as well. The treasurer who signed off on the deal is also accused of violating campaign finance laws.

CREW explained in their complaint (PDF) that Gingrich Productions often stages events at the same time as Newt 2012, Inc., his non-profit group and principal campaign committee, which could constitute improper corporate contributions to a political campaign in that the campaign directly benefits from Gingrich Productions’ events.

It goes on to note that the mailing list Gingrich moved from his book company to his campaign was actually a list of people who were waiting at Gingrich events to have their books signed, showing even further how Gingrich Productions and Newt 2012 work in tandem to help each other.

Whoopsie! Everybody’s out to get Newt these days. I’d love to see him end up in jail along with some banksters, but again–not holding my breath.

As you’ve all heard, Ron Paul stalked off the set of an interview at CNN yesterday after he was asked about some racist passages in newsletters he published years ago. But USA today has caught Paul in a serious contradiction about those writings.

Rep. Ron Paul has tried since 2001 to disavow racist and incendiary language published in Texas newsletters that bore his name, denying he wrote them and even walking out of an interview on CNN Wednesday. But he vouched for the accuracy of the writings and admitted writing at least some of the passages when first asked about them in an interview in 1996.

Some issues of the newsletters included racist, anti-Israel or anti-gay comments, including a 1992 newsletter in which he said 95% of black men in Washington “are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

Paul told TheDallas Morning News in 1996 that the contents of his newsletters were accurate but needed to be taken in context. Wednesday, he told CNN he didn’t write the newsletters and didn’t know what was in them.

Hmmmm…. I guess Mitt Romney isn’t the only flip-flopper in the Republican presidential race.

Speaking of Romney, that guy has really gone off the deep end in his efforts to court Iowa Tea Party voters. Steve Benen suggests that Romney has “lost his mind.”

Mitt Romney unveiled a brand-new stump speech in New Hampshire last night, reading a carefully-crafted, poll-tested text from two teleprompters. Confident that his Republican primarily rivals simply won’t (or can’t) catch him, the former one-term governor ignored the other GOP candidates in his speech, and focused exclusively on attacking President Obama.

Wow! Two telepromters? Now why does that sound familiar? Anyway, the point is that Romney has been reduced to following the Tea Party meme that Obama is a commie socialist. From the speech:

“Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.

“In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.

“The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.”

ROFLOL! Benen writes:

It stands to reason that Romney, who’s completed the transition from “progressive” views to far-right hysterics, would present a worldview different from the center-left president’s. But this speech was written in a twisted fantasy land, and it ascribes views to Obama that are simply made up. It’s just madness.

And get this: Romney wants Obama’s uncle deported!

ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a Boston talk radio host on Wednesday that he supports the deportation of President Obama’s Kenyan-born uncle who was arrested this fall on drunken driving charges in Massachusetts.

When asked by Boston radio personality Howie Carr whether the president’s relative, Onyango Obama, should be deported, Romney said, “the answer is ‘yes.’”

“Well, if the laws of the United States say he should be deported, and I presume they do, then of course we should follow those laws,” Romney said. “And the answer is ‘yes.’”

And last week, Romney told Sean Hannity that Obama is deliberately and knowingly hurting America for political reasons.

Hannity: The president has been using class warfare as we know. He says Republicans want dirty air, dirty water. Says Republicans want old people, kids with autism and Down’s syndrome to fend for themselves. Pretty outrageous charges.

Romney: Shameful. It’s really shameful.

Hannity: Explain, and how do you counter that if you get this nomination?

Romney: You know, I think the president has gone from being a failed presidency, a guy over his head, to someone who is now so desperate to get re-election that he’s doing things that are very much counter to the interest of the country and he knows it. In the past I think he was just misguided. Now I think he really knows that his decision in Afghanistan to pull the troops out a couple of months earlier than commanders suggested. That was not a wise, not a wise thing for the country. The Keystone pipeline, he knows we need that oil, he knows the consequences.

If Romney is this nuts now, imagine what he’ll be like in the thick of the primaries. Folks, Romney is not the “reasonable” candidate. There is no reasonable candidate on the Republican side. It’s going to be a completely insane candidate vs. a fascist pretending to be a Democrat. Followed by the end of the Mayan calendar. If we’re lucky, the world will end before the next president is inaugurated. Just kidding, I think.

I’ll end with this embarrassing for him, amusing for us, bit of gossip about Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), known for his cantankerous ways and for not speaking to media unless it’s his idea, was overheard at the Delta Crown lounge at Reagan National Airport today talking on his cellphone about an incident he said occurred three weeks ago while at an Episcopal church auction. Please note, a church auction.

Our source, a Democratic operative who heard the whole thing, said he was “very loud”. Sensenbrenner was overheard saying that after buying all their “crap” (his word) a woman approached him and praised first lady Michelle Obama. He told the woman that Michelle should practice what she preaches — “she lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

The operative said it sounded like he was on the phone with a staffer who was telling him that someone in the media would likely write about his comments (concerning something) to which he said it was heresy and just liberal media bias to print gossip. But “he stands by his remarks.”

Sensenbrenner is on the pudgy side. Someone should tell him that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?

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35 Comments on “Thursday Reads: the Winter Solstice, the Mayan Calendar, “the Kamikazes,” and More”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    The GOP is operating under one issue only: making Obama a one term president. That’s it. Period. End of story.

    If that means shutting down the government. refusing to pass even as small a concession as extending unemployment benefits for 2 months, or holding up every piece of legislation that comes before them including nominations to obscure postings, so be it.

    Boehner may not “be able to control them” but he is onboard with the original purpose that McConnell so clearly pointed out. “A one term president” no matter the cost.

    These wild eye Tea Partiers, those who were voted in to “send a message” have succeeded to a large extent. They have shown the American public that the power, even within the confines of a very few, can be exercised by holding us all hostage regardless of the consequences.

    A hateful system manipulated by a hateful group with hateful intent. That is to bring the country to its knees in submission to whatever it is they propose.

    We can only hope that come 2012 they are deprived of this power but to be honest, I don’t see it happening.

    • dakinikat says:

      I think a lot of them won’t be returned because the turn out will favor dems. I am not sure there is enough obama derangement to offset the lack of enthusiasm over a Romney candidacy for evangelicals. Maybe I am just wishful thinking.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Possibly but you have to factor in the “short attention span syndrome” that effects so many.

        A year from now these roadblocks may have all been but forgotten. Aside from the WH, the most serious challenge is congress itself.

        I’m hoping that they begin to cover more of the congressional races as a means of contrast rather then spending hours of time covering an umprimaried incumbent and whoever the GOP throws out there in opposition.

        The “power” is in who controls congress not who gets to light the yearly WH Christmas tree.

      • madamab says:

        I actually think that Romney will sew up the evangelicals because they hate Obama so much. They would rather have a “real Christian” in the White House than a radical pro-abortion Socialist who was born in Kenya!!!1111!!!!

        I have to say that I don’t see a strong coalition for re-electing Obama in 2012. Independents and women left a long time ago, and they’re not coming back. If Romney can stir up the hate and fear in the Repub base, they will carry him to victory.

        It’s a close call, but right now I’m seeing too much anti-Obama fervor to think he can pull off another term. He’s not going to get anything done before November 2012 anyway – just more lecturing and vacationing, and continuing to be Bush’s third term. He’s even lost people like Matt Damon.

        I’m calling it for Romney, with the caveat that I can change my mind any time I want! ;-).

        • dakinikat says:

          Well, I dunno … evangelicals really hate mormons too. Guess we’ll see which hate plays out. I’m still appalled by the number of former hillary supporters that are willing to throw over everything she stands for and cares about in their hatred of Obama, so, you’re probably more right than I want to really believe.

      • ralphb says:

        madamab, I don’t know about that. Off the blogs, Obama’s chances look better now than at any time in the last two years. We tend to be self reinforcing and are often somewhat off in predictions.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I’ll go so far to “give you” Romney for the nomination. But I am not willing to see him as the victor in November.

      Remember, the campaign itself has not officially begun. Things can change for the better even if we are only looking at small victories.

      Romney has all the charisma of a coat rack. HIs ability to debate has been on display and much of it involves spin and defending his prior statements which swing from one side to the other with the ease of paint on velvet. His opponents so far have been far Right fools and like it or not, Obama is a better debater hands down.

      It may be a squeaker but in the end that stiffness and aloofness inherent in Mitt will drive most voters away. That and ever changing opinions on issues even he has trouble keeping straight.

      But I too reserve my right to change my mind. But as of this moment, Obama just may pull it off owing to the ineptness of Romney to fashion an issue, offer a resolution, and say anything of substance that he has difficulty to express even at this date.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    The insanity just continues to pour in.

    Fox News has made contact with Quitterella for commentary about the Obama Christmas card!

    I know they are paying her a salary to secure her “analysis” – or whatever the latest gobbledy gook they call it – but the White House Christmas card?

    Naturally she did not “approve” since it did not contain any reference to Christmas or the Baby Jesus forgetting of course, in her all too limited genius, that so far this is still a secular nation inhabited by many others who practice a different faith, but who cares.

    Just another example of a daily course of trashing no matter how small or insignificant the topic. Or just another way of validating their reasoning for utilizing her “talents” since they are paying for the privilege.

    Stupid.

    • dakinikat says:

      Well you know a half term governor of a state with few people is bound to have insight on these pressing matters of state.

    • ralphb says:

      Rachel Maddow was funny last night about that. Showing W and Reagan’s WH cards and there wasn’t a Baby Jesus among them. There were dogs in them though. 🙂

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    I posted this link on last nights thread, but since BB mentions Ron Paul’s walkoff: Ron Paul Newsletter | 1995 C-SPAN Video | Mediaite

    Political video wiz kid Andrew Kaczynksi has dug up archival video of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul in 1995, discussing his controversial newsletters at length in a C-SPAN interview, despite his assertion yesterday to Gloria Borger that, “I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it ten years after it was written.”

    Paul appears to be knowledgeable of the contents of the newsletters as seen below:

    So, I was always very active in both politics and my profession. When I came back, I resumed my medical practice, and I’ve been doing that ever since, but I’ve also stayed active in education. Long term, I don’t think political action is worth very much if you don’t have education, and so I’ve continued with my economic education foundation, Free Foundation, which I started in 1976. So that’s been very active. Actually, in the last several years, we’ve been doing some video work, in an educational manner. We did 14 different 30-minute programs on video.
    But along with that, I also put out a political type of business investment newsletter that sort of covered all these areas. And it covered a lot about what was going on in Washington, and financial events, and especially some of the monetary events. Since I had been especially interested in monetary policy, had been on the banking committee, and still very interested in, in that subject, that this newsletter dealt with it. This had to do with the value of the dollar, the pros and cons of the gold standard, and of course the disadvantages of all the high taxes and spending that our government seems to continue to do.

  4. quixote says:

    The irony is that this

    “have shown time and again that they are willing to blow up their careers and everything around them in service to their cause”

    is what Congresscritters are actually supposed to do. Unflinchingly vote their consciences and all that. What’s that famous quote about evil and bad people thundering around full of conviction while good people stand there sucking their thumbs? (It’s better in the original.)

    • ralphb says:

      Just as long as they blow themselves up, I’m OK with their obstinence.

      • quixote says:

        Yeah.

        Imagine if it was the people on the side of the angels (not that there are any in Congress right now that I can think of) who had the conviction, and the corporate stooges and Christian Taliban who couldn’t figure out how to do anything.

  5. Pat JohnsonP says:

    Judging from the latest news coming from the mIdeast, the Sunni/Shiite civil war has just begun with 14 car bombings going off across the capital.

    Oh joy! This could only mean we are in for the likes of both Liz and Dick Cheney saying “I told you so!” regarding the pull out.

    Just a reminder that when Bush the Moron made the decision to “invade” he had no idea of the history of these two sects who have been killing each other for centuries. First time he had ever heard of it!

    At least Saddam could be credited for tamping down the two sects by force. Appears that as of today they have once again been “unleashed”.

    So “hello Iran, welcome Taliban” to an area of the mideast we had at least contained prior to the invasion.

    Got another feeling that all GOP candidates will be calling for another national buildup to attack before long.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    We are finally having a nice day here. Is it nice where you are, Pat? We have sun, and it feels like the temp’s in the 60s.

  7. ralphb says:

    Gay community apologizes to Amy Koch for ruining her marriage

    The gay and lesbian community of Minnesota has issued a letter of apology to recently resigned Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch for ruining the institution of marriage and causing her to stray from her husband and engage in an “inappropriate relationship.”

    “On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community’s successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage,” reads the letter from John Medeiros. “We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry.”

    Bitingly funny.

  8. foxyladi14 says:

    The “power” is in who controls congress not who gets to golf 😆

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    Okay, now for some levity.

    I am sitting here reading the headlines and a UPS truck drew up to the end of my driveway. The driver emerged and – I KID YOU NOT!- flung a box towards my backdoor from at least 150 feet away!

    Never mind the You Tube that is making the rounds about this same thing, he aimed for the door and scored!

    Thank god I know what the box contained and it was non breakable. Or at least I think so. But I got to give this guy credit: a perfect aim that hit the target head on from a distance of 150 feet!

    I should be that “talented”! I realize they are busy but come on!

  10. ralphb says:

    I borrowed this from a Lorac post at Uppitys’s. It’s too good not to share …

  11. dakinikat says:

    Looks like Boehner just blinked …

    House GOP reportedly agrees to two-month payroll tax cut extension
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/22/payroll-tax-cut-house-gop_n_1166056.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008

  12. joanelle says:

    Hi, guys – I’ve been popping in each night to see what you all have been up to but just haven’t had the energy or time to write anything – I did have dinner with a gal who is pretty high up on the Dem party here in our state who said the Biden and Hill are going to be switching roles – She said that Biden really wants to be Sec of State. And from what she’s heard they think O really needs Hill more visible here at home.

    Well we’ll see how on top of things my “source” really is.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s interesting. It would be nice if its true, but Hillary has sounded pretty definite about not running. Anyway, it’s great to see you Joanelle.