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November 20, 2008

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I must say, the War On Christmas starts earlier every year ...

And as a non-Christian, all snark aside, I thoroughly approve of the drift that gets misrepresented as being a "War On Christmas". I still remember the bitterness of excusing myself from the classroom to wait in the hall while my classmates practiced their Christmas carols in elementary school, in a public school in nice liberal Seattle. No fun at all. The Government should not be in the business of promoting religion, even civic desanctified religion.

Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

This had to be my favorite line. See, this is only partially about irreligion vs. religion; it's equally about them damnfool Yankees destroying all that's good about the CS US of A...

And the best part is that it comes completely out of nowhere; there's not a hint in the first thirteen paragraphs that we're going to be treated to this assertion...

I feel a need to back to reading Max Weber . . . Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism . . .

If I understand Weber, he felt that it was a quirk of fate that Western Europe (the West) gravitated to a religious view that was essential to the elevation of capitalism to its preeminent place; this did not occur in other cultures without the protestant ethic (e.g. India, China). He also seemed to think that once bureaucratic capitalism prevailed, the religious cultural elements receded in importance in its continuation.

In any case, Wall Street is hurting . . .and I for one am not crying for them. Because they were greedy, and I, as a compassionate secular Jew care for those who deserve care. Don't know if such a heathen sentiment would be shared by the author of the WSJ editorial.

But rational choice economic models would take NONE of the forgoing into account . . . Maximize Maximize, Maximize.

Has anyone noticed we have had an awful lot of nominations for "stupidest-ever editorial"?

"Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas.""

Amoral capitalism-uber-allesism, both cases. (Remember, one of the main bloody shirts for the Christmas Warriors to wave around are store clerks and displays who wish one "Happy Holiday" mostly in the interest of maximizing not prophets but profit. (At least that's the real reason, although that WSJ fellow may imagine it's part of the insistent effort on dereligionating America.)). No, no, it's not the whole story, of course, but . . .

"This had to be my favorite line."

This goes back to a core belief I keep seeing amongst Christian proselytizers: the notion that absent the Bible, there is no guide to morality, virtue, good behavior. Without the Bible, we all go to hell, figuratively, as well as literally.

"Has anyone noticed we have had an awful lot of nominations for 'stupidest-ever editorial'?"

For the record, it's not an editorial; it's a columnist, Daniel Henninger.

OT - You Betcha'

I'm still having turkey next Thursday though.

Stupidity is so stupid these days, I can't even summon the strength to mock it.

It seems to me I've been told "Merry Christmas" at least once over the past years by each of the following: a mortgage banker trying to get me to empty the equity in my house, a car salesman with the red, white, and blue flapping largely over his head, by a stock broker trying to get me to buy a piece of worthless shit, and by my neighborhood banker/credit card purveyor trying to get me to put myself in debt to buy presents, not to mention by every merchant in the world trying to convince me to charge more than I can bear.

What they mean by Merry Christmas is: Gimme all of your money.

The Wall Street Journal use to be a rotten fish head (the editorial page) wrapped in a decent newspaper. Now its a rotting carp wrapped in an even larger rotting bottom-feeder.

When the FOX business channel, CNBC, and the Wall Street Journal go dark and shut up, I'll know we've reached bottom in the market.

The country is vomiting up all the happy talk shoved down its throat since Ronald Reagan ran for President.

We're only part way there.

I feel sorry for Barack Obama.

I feel sorry for all of the people who are going to starve to death in this country over the next couple of years.

There's a Blackhedd post on the stock and bond markets over at Redstate (he's pretty good).

But the Republicans in the comments are talking about getting very armed and ready.

How come when their beloved free market goes belly-up, THEY are the ones who want to start the butchering?

Assholes.

"Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of 'Merry Christmas.'"

Because if you're not Christian -- if you're Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Shinto, pagan, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, etc -- you have no conscience or morals.

Dereligioning? Isn't that supposed to be dereligionalization? Wouldn't it be more specific to say that they have been Northernly Atheistized?

And I think you can only desacralize Holy Days, not holidays. Or has New Year's and Labor Day been sacramentally sacralized?

And I'm unclear on one other thing, are we using the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions to erase the chalk lines and if that's true, then wouldn't we be washing them away rather than erasing?

Just wondering

So, do you think he's consciously pointing to that old standby, the International Conspiracy of Jewish Bankers, or is it just the zeitgeist or the weltschmertz or something?

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees.

Unless they're . . . Christmas trees!

like a patient atheistized upon a table . . . .

One rootless cosmopolitan, and other for the lady . . .

hilzoy,

I think you have missed the point of Henninger's screed (I like that word).

He writes:

Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth. In this instance, the system has been badly used -- by mere people. Nonetheless, the dimensions of the fall and devastation that originated in subprime mortgages are breathtaking.

It seems to me that this is an attempt to argue that if and when the glorious free market runs into trouble, it's not because it has been allowed to run a bit too free. Rather, it's because the participants abandoned basic religious morality in their pursuit of profits.

In other words, the failure of one ideology - uber-libertarian markets - is not due to any inherent flaw, but rather to the lack of adherence to its companion - religion-based restraint, etc.

To call this incoherent is a compliment.

"His narrative runs through borrowers making misrepresentations on loan applications (fraud), "

I have to hand it to him that in his wild unhinged screed he even manages a shout-out to the evil minorities who intimidated countrywide CEOs in to giving them bad loans.

How can something like this get printed in a newspaper that is supposed to be dedicated to business and financial news? What does any of that have to do with Christianity?

Capitalism and Christianity don't seem to have much to do with each other, and I doubt that the biggest proponents of capitalism are also the most devout Christians.

"responsibility, restraint and remorse"--I suppose it would have been nice if those bundling mortgages together and slicing and dicing them and pronouncing the results grade-A investments had practiced the first two, or were practicing the third one currently. The only remorse they feel is over their own loss of income, not what they did to everyone else.

"But then it launches itself off into the great empyrean of stupid:"

Word.

It reads as if Mr. Henninger accidentally clicked on the "War on Christmas" and "Blame for the Meltdown" tabs on the WSJ's Trite-o-Matic simultaneously, and the copy editor simply assumed that he meant to conflate his cliches, and printed the Op-Ed as is.

Nice, too, how he manages to ascribe the lion's share of the blame for the recent financial crisis principally on irresponsible borrowers and lenders, and neatly elides the role of our financial industry in "securitizing" and leveraging said shaky mortgages into trillions upon trillions of dollars of hot-air "debt"; the suddenly-revealed worthlessness of which has sparked the current global meltdown.

One has to wonder just how many editorials or Op-Eds stressing "restraint, responsibility and remorse" the Journal ran during the boom times?

" In this instance, the system has been badly used -- by mere people."

I'm waiting for how it's "never been tried." Although the argument that it's not the system's that failed the people, but the people who failed the system is pretty good, too.

"In other words, the failure of one ideology - uber-libertarian markets - is not due to any inherent flaw, but rather to the lack of adherence to its companion - religion-based restraint, etc."

It's like a really odd bizarro-world text-based version of There Will Be Blood.

The Government should not be in the business of promoting religion, even civic desanctified religion.

As an atheist, I'd like to point out that there are two Christmases. There is the secular Christmas, with Christmas trees, yule logs, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Reindeer, and Santa Claus.

There is also the religious Christmas, with midnight Mass, nativity scenes, Silent Night, and Advent calendars.

I'm happy celebrating Christmas, and even having it as a public holiday, because I celebrate the secular Christmas.

It's actually a neat polite fiction, like China and Taiwan both agreeing to the "one China" solution.

As an atheist, I'd like to point out that there are two Christmases. There is the secular Christmas, with Christmas trees, yule logs, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Reindeer, and Santa Claus.

Which, actually, returns the celebration to the pagan, non-Christian roots of holiday, right?

I rather like seeing nativity scenes around. Although as Mrs. S. pointed out you want to be careful with placement and coverage if there's a risk of heavy snowfall, or otherwise you can end up with a set of half-buried three wise men peering down at the snow as if to say ,"um . . . where's the baby Jesus? I know he's down there somewhere . . ."

If Jesus had run the stock market, this never would've happened!

While I'd readily concede that the kind of Christmas celebration you find in shopping malls has little to do with theology or religion and could be construed even as an insult to the believing Christian, I deny that its commercialization erases the importance of its Christian roots, and I really don't appreciate having it forced down my atheist Jewish throat. Private entities doing so as a marketing decision is one thing, but not the Government. Christmas is fundamentally different from other federal holidays in that it supports the traditions of one part of the people and ignores the rest (similar cases could be made for Columbus Day or even Thanksgiving, but not as markedly so). Given that my kin were slaughtered for their ancestors' not having assimilated into civic Christianity, I'm not overly fond of even a debased form. And the nonsense about pagan roots should only endear the practice to those people who otherwise claim a personal connection to pagan ritual; it doesn't otherwise make Christmas more inclusive.

I knew something was wrong when total morons were getting rich investing in real estate. That isnt how things are supposed to work. Anyway Happy Thanksgiving.

My favourite part of the Bible is the bit where Jesus drives the moneylenders into the Temple and forces them to issue subprime loans.

This editorial, of course, explains why there has been no banking crisis in the UK (contrary to any reality based publication you may have read), because there is no war on Christmas here. (As I speak, my small daughter is probably practising her Christmas carols at her state school, to add to a range that also includes Hanukkah, Eid and Diwali songs, as well as non-specific deity or possibly no deity at all songs).

Warren Terra: Yeah, Christmas is a colonialist, Christianist, sentimentalist, capitalist festival. The main reason I want to move to New Zealand is that they celebrate Christmas in the middle of their summer holidays, a time of year when I'm in a much better mood.

Bah, humbug.

I blame Galileo Galilei for the Great Tulip Bubble of 1637.

Well, one observer of the Galilei trial wrote that all mathematicians should be burned because mathematics was the root of ALL heresy. Closer to our time (in the 1980ies) a high ranking guy in the Vatican with a very similar name (Carafa and Cafara, can't remember which was which) deplored that burning women for abortions on the stake was no option anymore. Let's wait for the first burning cross on the White House lawn (OK, that's not a RCC tradition).

If we are going to invoke religion to explain economics, then I'd say it has to be the fault of these people.

IIRC it didn't work out so well the last time people set up a golden idol in the shape of a calf...

Thullen,

You've been far too reticent these days. More please.


I rather like seeing nativity scenes around. Although as Mrs. S. pointed out you want to be careful with placement and coverage if there's a risk of heavy snowfall, or otherwise you can end up with a set of half-buried three wise men peering down at the snow as if to say ,"um . . . where's the baby Jesus? I know he's down there somewhere . . ."

Speaking of nativity scenes, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life as the first time I read Dave Barry's story about the Miracle of the Christmas Goat.

they highlight their greatest fear, that their children are being stolen from them by a culture which is more powerful than they are.

The irony is that the culture war aspect of this is incidental; underneath, it’s the human condition. There will always be forces pulling some children away from some parents, for many and varied reasons -- and not just in the families from the demographic that is for the moment and as far as we can tell "losing the culture war."

Kids leave home, kids rebel, kids go off to find out what’s over the horizon -- or at least, many do. The attempt to shut down/out all possible influences pulling them out into the big wide world is as doomed now as it has always been.

I left the family/culture in which I was raised, left the religion, left the vague anti-intellectualism -- and the entire time my kids were growing up I was fighting an internal battle: hoping they would spread their wings and fly, as I had tried to do myself, and dreading that they would fly so far away that I would lose them (not physically or geographically speaking, but "culturally" and psychologically). Superficially and self-servingly, I might say that conquering the dread in favor of a willingness to let them feel free to go was the best way I could think of to encourage them to also feel free to come "home" sometimes, and to stay in touch in the meantime. Deeper down, I know that there's no guarantee even then. I watched a friend in college drop out of school at the drop of a hat and join “The Children of God” -- never to be heard from by any of us again. I watched his dad’s sadness and longing when he came to get his son’s stuff out of his dorm room....

Anyhow, at the bottom of my attitude about all this is just another culture war value that I realize is not universally shared, to say the least: no matter how much we long to, and emotionally react as though we do, we don’t own our kids. They own themselves.

Speaking of nativity scenes, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life as the first time I read Dave Barry's story about the Miracle of the Christmas Goat.

oooh. and David Sedaris' Six to Eight Black Men and Santaland Diaries.

As Cleek linked to a text version of Sedaris's Dutch Christmas story, let me provide http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=901>this link to the audio version.


The irony is that the culture war aspect of this is incidental; underneath, it’s the human condition.
..
Anyhow, at the bottom of my attitude about all this is just another culture war value that I realize is not universally shared, to say the least: no matter how much we long to, and emotionally react as though we do, we don’t own our kids. They own themselves.

Beautifully said. Thank you.

The way I think of it is, my job as a parent isn’t “to teach my kids my values”. It is to teach them the skills they will need so as to use both their reason and their empathy to choose their own values, and while they may use my values as a starting point for that journey, it is theirs to make and not mine, and there is no guarantee that it will end in the same place. If their path loops back over some of the places which I’ve been to in my life, so much the better. It will make for some interesting conversations.

If there is a deficit of responsibility, restraint and remorse in this country, the example set by President Bush couldn't possibly have anything to do with it. Consider the record:

Responsibility: According to Bush, "the president's most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people," and we know that he takes this responsibility seriously indeed because after 9/11 he worked tirelessly to capture or kill bin Laden, not losing interest until a full six months after the attacks.

Restraint: After seeing intelligence indicating that Iraq has WMD, most people in Bush's position would have ordered an immediate invasion of Iraq. But exercising almost superhuman restraint, Bush instead arranged for inspectors to go to Iraq to see if the intelligence reports reflected the reality on the ground. Bush waited until the inspectors had determined that to the extent the intelligence could be checked, it was bogus, and only then ordered the invasion.

Remorse: This one isn't really applicable to Bush, but if Bush ever did make a mistake, I'm sure he would be suitably remorseful.

The key here, of course, is Bush's Christian faith. Because Bush belongs to a religion which calls for wishing people a "merry Christmas" every December, he has been vigilent about protecting human life, whether it comes to avoiding mining disasters or dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

So when some liberal says you should respect the worth and dignity of every human being, don't believe it, for that way lies ruin. It starts, of course, when you no longer take delight in subtly putting down your Jewish "friends" by wishing them a merry Christmas, but it won't stop there. Pretty soon you'll start thinking of your Jewish "friends" as friends, without the scare quotes. And then you'll leverage your company up to 30 to 1, and invest everything in paper backed by subprime mortgages.

Kenneth Almquist,

That was a thing of beauty.
Thank you.

I wish I could write that well.

As for Bush and remorse, I like to think that he was experiencing something distantly related to remorse when he said "If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker's going down".

But maybe it was just gas. Something for the historians to sort out, I suppose.

Isn't there a silver lining to this argument:

"The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines."

Isn't this an endorsement by religious conservatives of the efforts by liberals to regulate markets to prevent these kinds of excesses, rather than an unregulated "free market" as promoted by the right? Do I see more than a sliver of daylight here by which we might gain allies in the effort to impose regulation on these markets? Is the GOP coming apart at the seams?

Jesus saves; Buddha recycles.

That was a thing of beauty.

Thanks. I'm never really sure whether my attempts at satire will work or not, so I'm glad you appreciated this effort.

As for Bush and remorse, I think that when Bush starts to think that he screwed up, his response is to push the thought away. So I doubt that he feels remorse for any specific thing that he has done. The price he pays for this is (1) he's not good at learning from experience, and (2) there are probably times when he has to work very hard to push away the sense that his whole life has been an unending series of failures.

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