Solstice 2012 Morning Reads

Winter_Solstice_Mistletoe_300Good morning and happy solstice!

Today is the shortest day of the year!!

In Washington, D.C., the winter solstice sun reaches a maximum angle of only 27.7º above the horizon at solar noon. In the more northern city of London, the sun takes an even shorter path, climbing only 15.1º in the sky. And just south of the Arctic Circle, the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik sees the midday sun climb no higher than 2.1º above the horizon.

Here’s some other ways that humanity has celebrated the day in the past from National Geographic.  

Throughout history, humans have celebrated the winter solstice, often with an appreciative eye toward the return of summer sunlight.

Massive prehistoric monuments such as Ireland’s mysterious Newgrange tomb (video) are aligned to capture the light at the moment of the winter solstice sunrise.

(Related: “Ancient Irish Tomb Big Draw at Winter Solstice.”)

Germanic peoples of Northern Europe honored the winter solstice with Yule festivals—the origin of the still-standing tradition of the long-burning Yule log.

The Roman feast of Saturnalia, honoring the God Saturn, was a weeklong December feast that included the observance of the winter solsticewinter solstice. Romans also celebrated the lengthening of days following the solstice by paying homage to Mithra—an ancient Persian god of light.

Many modern pagans attempt to observe the winter solstice in the traditional manner of the ancients.

“There is a resurgent interest in more traditional religious groups that is often driven by ecological motives,” said Harry Yeide, a professor of religion at George Washington University. “These people do celebrate the solstice itself.”

I like to remind people that Mithra is the real reason for the season.  Despite what Fox News says, the original happy holiday for the Romans on December 25th was the birthday of the virgin born Mithra.  Vatican City was built on his huge temple.  Too bad we might never get to excavate it.

Mithra, legend says, was incarnated into human form (as prophesized by Zarathustra) in 272 bc. He was born of a virgin, who was called the Mother of God. Mithra’s birthday was celebrated December 25 and he was called “the light of the world.”  After teaching for 36 years, he ascended into heaven in 208 bc.

There were many similarities with Christianity:  Mithraists believed in heaven and hell, judgement and resurrection. They had baptism and communion of bread and wine.  They believed in service to God and others.

In the Roman Empire, Mithra became associated with the sun, and was referred to as the Sol Invictus, or unconquerable sun.  The first day of the week — Sunday — was devoted to prayer to him.  Mithraism became the official religion of Rome for some 300 years.  The early Christian church later adopted Sunday as their holy day, and December 25 as the birthday of Jesus.

Mithra became the patron of soldiers.  Soldiers in the Roman legions believed they should fight for the good, the light. They believed in self-discipline and chastity and brotherhood. Note that the custom of shaking hands comes from the Mithraic greeting of Roman soldiers.

It was operated like a secret society, with rites of passage in the form of physical challenges.  Like in the gnostic sects (described below), there were seven grades, each protected by a planet.

Since Mithraism was restricted to men, the wives of the soldiers often belonged to clubs of Great Mother (Cybele) worshippers.  One of the women’s rituals involved baptism in blood by having an animal- preferably a bull – slaughtered over the initiate in a pit below.  This combined with the myth of Mithra killing the first living creature, a bull, and forming the world from the bull’s body, and was adopted by the Mithraists as well.

When Constantine converted to Christianity, he outlawed Mithraism. But a few Zoroastrians still exist today in India, and the Mithraic holidays were celebrated in Iran until the Ayatollah came into power.  And, of course, Mithraism survives more subtly in various European — even Christian — traditions.

So, somebody needs to remind Fox News that Constantine was the one that stole December 25th from the Mithraists.  They should direct their outrage at him.

Speaking of Fox News,  there’s something you should read on the Dread Pirate Murdoch and his attempt to install a US President.  The story gets some column space from Carl Bernstein writing for The Guardian. It’s about said dread pirate’s attempt to waylay the US presidential election by trying to get Petraeus to run. Bernstein’s big question is why weren’t the press all over this?

The Murdoch story – his corruption of essential democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – is one of the most important and far-reaching political/cultural stories of the past 30 years, an ongoing tale without equal. Like Richard Nixon and his tapes, much attention has been focused on the necessity of finding the smoking gun to confirm what other evidence had already established beyond a doubt: that the elemental instruments of democracy, ie the presidency in Nixon’s case, and the privileges of free press in Murdoch’s, were grievously misused and abused for their own ends by those entrusted to use great power for the common good.

In Nixon’s case, the system worked. His actions were investigated by Congress, the judicial system held that even the president of the United States was not above the law, and he was forced to resign or face certain impeachment and conviction. American and British democracy has not been so fortunate with Murdoch, whose power and corruption went unchecked for a third of a century.

The most important thing we journalists do is make judgments about what is news. Perhaps no story has eluded us on a daily basis (for lack of trying) for so many years as the story of Murdoch’s destructive march across our democratic landscape. Only the Guardian vigorously pursued the leads of the hacking story and methodically stuck with it for months and years, never ignoring the underlying context of how Rupert Murdoch conducted his take-no-prisoners business and journalism without regard for the most elemental standards of fairness, accuracy or balance, or even lawful conduct.

When the Guardian’s hacking coverage reached critical mass last year, I quoted a former top Murdoch deputy as follows: “This scandal and all its implications could not have happened anywhere else. Only in Murdoch’s orbit. The hacking at News of the World was done on an industrial scale. More than anyone, Murdoch invented and established this culture in the newsroom, where you do whatever it takes to get the story, take no prisoners, destroy the competition, and the end will justify the means.”

The tape that Bob Woodward obtained, and which the Washington Post ran in the style section, should be the denouement of the Murdoch story on both sides of the Atlantic, making clear that no institution, not even the presidency of the United States, was beyond the object of his subversion. If Murdoch had bankrolled a successful Petraeus presidential campaign and – as his emissary McFarland promised – “the rest of us [at Fox] are going to be your in-house” – Murdoch arguably might have sewn up the institutions of American democracy even more securely than his British tailoring.

An interesting  little survey result of university students  put a smile on my face for a variety of reasons.  It’s actually a few months old and I some how missed it.  That’s to BB for letting me know why my students always looked so sleepy on the way into the lectures for all those years.   I was an economics major so ….

In a survey of several thousand English undergraduates by, economics majors are more likely to have more sexual partners than their peers other fields. A budding Ben Bernanke had an average of 4.88 sex partners since college started. Compare this to the struggling Comparative Religion major who has had an average or 2.13 partners, or the mournful Environmental Science major who has slept with only 1.71 people. It is not even a contest.

Maybe it’s just be cause we’re great at data gathering and we keep count.  Or maybe not.

 Congressman Barney Frank in his last days in office and is giving many interviews.  He talks openly about a lot of interesting things.barney

Later, after recounting a controversy over an attempt by a male prostitute to blackmail him, he said, “I always have thought prostitution should be legal” and said that ultimately women were “worse off” without legalized prostitution.

Frank also believes that those who vote against gay and lesbian rights but who are in the closet deserve to be outed, explaining, “Yes, I believe the policy should be that people have a right to privacy but not to hypocrisy.”

Frank discussed recent comments made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when asked by a Princeton student about his writing on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian issues. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia told the student.

“I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot,” said Frank, going on to call the explanation “quite stupid.”

This has to be the biggest taxpayer supported boondoggle in the history of boondoogles:  “The Cost of Romney’s Government-Assisted Transition: $8.9 Million”.

One of the less scintillating milestones of the 2012 election was marked by the General Services Administration, when Mitt Romney became the first candidate to take advantage of the Presidential Transition Act of 2010. The Act, spearheaded by former Sen. Ted Kaufman, provides resources for major candidates to start planning for their presidency long before Election Day. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, TIME acquired documents from the GSA that show the scope–and cost–of this unprecedented government-assisted transition.

In 2010, legislators said the main goal of the Act was to bolster national security by ensuring that candidates are prepared to take office, and that they don’t shy away from transition planning for fear that they’ll look presumptuous. To that end, the law stipulates that the federal government will provide certain resources to non-incumbent candidates after their nominating convention. The GSA says final costs are still being tabulated, but the initial estimated cost for Romney’s pre-transition phase is around $8.9 million.

 It seems the Romney campaign also seriously overbilled their press pool for the privilege of covering the Romney/Ryan Dismal Circuit.

Last week, the Romney press corp wrote a formal complaint regarding the charges that they say far exceed any other campaign. Today, after getting no response from on high, some of the press corp alerted American Express that they are contesting the charges.

Citing examples of “exorbitant charges” for food and holding costs, the press corp detail in their letter to the Romney campaign, “Some examples: $745 per person charged for a vice presidential debate viewing party on Oct. 11; $812 charged for a meal and a hold on Oct. 18; $461 for a meal and hold the next day; $345 for food and hold Oct. 30.”

These are no small outlets fighting back against the Romney campaign; signing the letter are the higher ups from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Agence France-Presse, Washington Post, Yahoo, Buzzfeed, and Financial Times. This isn’t their first rodeo.

They also have questions about food ostensibly provided for them but eaten by the campaign staff. “These costs far exceed typical expenses on the campaign trail. Also, it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media. Were any of the costs of these events charged to the campaign itself, to cover the care and feeding of its staff?”

Earlier Buzzfeed reported that the campaign went all out at the viewing party, providing massage tables and lavish food and booze. Unfortunately, these perks weren’t discussed with all of the media that are now being charged for them.

That certainly sounds like the way an enterprising CEO screws their projects to me.  Good thing he didn’t get his hands on the national treasury.

So, that’s it for me this morning … Carry on!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?

36 Comments on “Solstice 2012 Morning Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    There is some pleasure in watching the GOP implode. They wanted these ignoramuses and they got them. Better yet, those morons in 2010 who voted in these idiots as a means of “sending a message” are stuck with these “lawmakers” who place their ideology above the common good. How’s that working out for you now?

    Boehen is fighting for his Speakership and has no control over his conference. I wish I could shed a tear.

    This is the guy who prepared a working schedule that saw 126 days or so of being in session that would accommodate his time on the golf links while the nation at large had to wait for any measure of action to take place as they struggled along.

    The GOP and the nation at large is in the grip of lunkheads who refuse to budge for either side. The “cake is baked” as long as they remain in a position to obstruct.

    Too bad we have to wait another two years to “throw the bums” out.

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    Sheer speculation here, so feel free to shoot down my theory in progress. Bear in mind it was developed this AM while I was getting ready for work. I’ve been listening to NPR & read a couple of pieces in WaPo & the NYT this AM. What if:
    -the prez & Boehner knowing that the ultra right/Tea Partiers in the House would refuse to approve ANY so-called tax hikes, hatched a plan to call them out, make them show their cards?
    -going in Boehner knew Plan B would fail?
    -knowing the Bush tax cuts will auto expire should no deal be reached, BO & JB decided to let that happen?
    -Result – Repubs could “save face” by voting FOR tax cuts up to an agreed upon limit, negotiated between the Senate & House?

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents for whatever they are worth. Question for me was whether or not Cantor was in on the game. He had a VERY weird smile on his face as he left that meeting last night. It was “haunting” to me as I saw it played over & over again on MSNBC last night. He is such a devious schmuck.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was giddy about the debacle last night. Anything leaving the Repugs with egg (or worse) on their faces always makes me smile.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      You could be on to something but if so, then this game of “chicken” comes at the expense of the public as we sit back and watch the fast approach of the “fiscal cliff”.

      There are people out there whose unemployment benefits could be cut as of Dec 31st. What kind of a Christmas do these people have to look forward to? There are other dire consequences involved as well as these idiots from both sides, and this includes Obama to some degree, willing to make cuts on the backs of the most vulnerable while Boehner and Cantor “play games”.

      And for what? A handful of millionaires? Boehner’s job? A Grover Norquist pledge of allegiance?

      This is a nation that is no longer governing but being held hostage for dastardly reasons that are senseless.

      This is what you get when you have no clue in the first place to what you are “buying” during an election.

  3. bluelady says:

    Happy Mithra Day, coming up next week. The tunes become a little unwieldy with the change to Mithra though. Great to know where the holiday came from.

  4. Fannie says:

    NRA is up at the launching pad………….

  5. Fannie says:

    “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”…………..

    • ANonOMouse says:

      LaPiere is a lunatic. He thinks that deploying an contingent of Armed teachers will protect our children and does not understand that if we follow his model that we would need an Army around every playground, at every Mall, at every skating rinks=, at every movie theater, at every Amusement park, literally EVERYWHERE our children gather. The man is a certifible fucking NUT who is nothing more than a water carrier for the Gun Industry. MORE GUNS = MORE MONEY TO THE GUN INDUSTRY. What a MORON!!!

    • Fannie says:

      I can’t agree with you more Mouse……………..there is no freakin way I want the NRA to lead the way, and have a presence on school grounds, or school administration decisions.

  6. ANonOMouse says:

    LaPiere needs to get off the damn stage, he’s made a complete fool of himself with this new conference.

    • Fannie says:

      Dig this, “We won’t be taking questions today”, not tomorrow, and not in 2013, and there after.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Unbelievable. We plan to turn your country into a police state and there won’t be any questions.

  7. Fannie says:

    They are pushing back on Obama’s plans – and their contribution is a guard in every yard, well, let’s get them in the hood, where millions of kids are gunned down, and more than not in the cross fire. What about the churches, they gonna make sure they have guards in the pew?

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Ezra Klein ‏@ezraklein
    So tracking private gun sales is an unconscionable assault on liberty but we can have a national database of the mentally ill.

  9. ANonOMouse says:

    The only people who will think this idea is plausible are people who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. Making garrisons out of schools will do nothing but invite these Assault Rifle attacks in other places. It’s obvious to me that the only reason he’d push such an absurd, whack-a-doodle solution, is that the NRA stands to make a buck out of it and he understands that the IQ of his most ardent devotees is 3. FUCK THE NRA!!!

    • RalphB says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! FUCK THE NRA!!!

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Like you Ralph I havea few little people in my life, 8 to be exact.
        A 10 yr old grandson, a 6 yr old granddaughter, a 5 yr old grandson, a 6 yr old great grandaughter, a 5 yr old great granddaughter, a 5 yr old great grandson, a 4 year old great granddaughter and a 2 yr old great grandson. This NRA solution is infuriating, not to mention it invites more acts of domestic terrorism by proliferating firearms and arming more people. The NRA is morally bankrupt and a totally shameless shill front group for the GUN Manufacturing industry.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        BTW….My little people don’t know my NYM is Mouse, they call me Grammy

      • RalphB says:

        Mouse, Like you I have 8 little people in my life and there will be 9 of them in late Spring. The NRA should crawl into a hole and die!!!!

        By the way, Columbine High School had armed guards.

        • dakinikat says:

          The shooter at Fort Hood was surrounded by armed folks and that didn’t stop him … most populous military installation in the world too.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I’m with you Ralph and as soon as they crawl into the hole, you and I will start shoveling. Also, thanks for that info on Columbine, I had no idea there were armed guards there. And a big congrats on the kids and the one on the way, they are a joy and handful all at the same time. 🙂

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I forgot about that Dak….Wayne LaPiere is an instigator. That fool had the nerve to say during his press conference that the POTUS has armed guards, why not schools. And he’s selling that shit to the wood warriors of the world. Apparently they haven’t figured out that he’s a total hack and opportunist. The more he talks the more he reveals himself to be nothing more, nothing less than an overpaid slick talking gun salesman. He doesn’t give a damn about anything but how thick his wallet is.

  10. Beata says:

    Happy Solstice, Sky Dancers! I’m avoiding the news as much as possible, yet it happens with or without me! Amazing!

  11. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce. Fuck Yeah, over the bump!

    John Boehner’s Career Sank Last Night

    To hell with it. Over the cliff. It’s a terrible idea, but it’s also the only damned thing that makes sense now. (And can I mention right here how alarming it was last night to see Democrats like Elijah Cummings and John Garamendi and the absolutely hopeless Steny Hoyer pleading with Boehner to accept that Social-Security-gutting dog’s breakfast of a “compromise” that the president put on the table the other day before Boehner’s caucus lost its tiny mind again? That’s the new compromise? That’s the new “middle ground” on which “we” can come together? Are they trying to make me nostalgic for the domestic agenda of R. Milhous Nixon?) There is no deal the president can offer that Boehner can sell. If he stays, he’s impotent. If he goes, he will be replaced by someone infinitely worse. Boehner at least makes a pretense of wanting to help govern the country. That will not be the case for whoever it is that comes out of the primeval political ooze into which Boehner’s career sank last night. It will be somebody whose primary loyalty — and therefore, whose primary duty — will be to a loose universe of inchoate hatreds, or a sprawling confederation of collected resentments, or an unwieldy conglomeration of self-negating orthodoxies, or an atonal choir of rabid complaint, or a cargo cult of quasi-religious politics and quasi-political religion, or simply the deafening abandoned YAWP of our bitter national Id. All of these will command power among conservatives. Many of them will be lavishly financed, and all of them will be entirely sufficient unto themselves, beyond anyone’s ability to command or control. This is empowered incoherence, and, at this point. we are all in its hands, if we choose to be. We should choose not to be.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      What a great rant from Pierce. He’s fabulous

    • bostonboomer says:

      Obama seems to be leaving his previous offer on the table. He may very well try to bail Boehner out as Krugman suggests. My only hope is that the Tea nuts will refuse to vote for anything Obama wants–even Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamp cuts.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I’m with you BB. I hope the GOP rejects this bill. I’ve thought for awhile that Obama may be working with Boehner to get him out of tough spot.

        Right now Obama is putting Kerry up for SOS job on TV. I hope he is asked questions concerning what happened with the GOP Plan B debacle last night.

      • RalphB says:

        It appears that no legislation will pass the House without a lot of Democratic votes. I hope they won’t vote for SS and the other cuts.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Nancy Pelosi already gave her seal of approval to the Social Security cuts.

  12. NW Luna says:

    Happy 1st of Winter, all!

    It’s a miraculous Solstice Day here … Sun! (that bright yellow thing in the sky!) is out today. I’m hoping for luck and a sunset view at Solstice Park.

    Happy Yule to all — warmth, light, good company, mulled wine, and good health!