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December 21, 2010


I feel another Altered States moment coming on and an extreme need for some good peyote. But really, what does this have to do with Russky tanks massed at the Warsaw Gap (not the store btw)?

Yes, everything goes back to a long time ago.

Russky tanks massed at the Warsaw Gap

It's the Fulda Gap, I thought, being in fact a native of Fulda.

Anyway this post is terrific if for no other reason than I learned that there is someone who calls herself the Velveteen Rabbi.

It's funny though, Dr Science, that the family, food and gifts festival also works here in the southern hemisphere, where it is the start of summer holidays, beach weather, and mango season. In my city, cherries, prawns and mango are just as traditional as ham, turkey and Christmas pudding. People are very adaptable.

Velveteen Rabbi

my jaw literally dropped (off, completely off!) when i read that. easily the best blog name of the year.

Thanks for the correction, Bernard. A happy solstice to all.


First, a minor correction: it's not the "Eastern Orthodox" who celebrate Christmas in January. It's a minority sect within Eastern Orthodoxy -- the sect which never accepted the Gregorian calendar when it replaced the Julian one. As you may know, conversion to the new calendar was accompanied by skipping ahead a couple of weeks in order to eliminate the mismatch, built up over centuries, between the calendar and the actual seasons. The "old calendar Christians", as my Greek Orthodox friends and relatives call them, refused to make the skip (for it manifestly robbed them of two weeks of life!) and have thus remained a couple of weeks behind everybody else since then. They don't celebrate Christmas "in early January", they celebrate it on December 25th. It's just that their December 25th comes around a couple of weeks later than ours.

Second, consider the "mismatch" between the calendar and "the seasons". What the hell could that mean? The calendar is an artificial construct; the seasons are a physical thing; why should it matter which day we call the start of "the year"?

Well, Western humanity got used to certain fiducial marks over the centuries: the equinoxes in late March and late September, the solstices in late December and late June. The equinoxes and the solstices are real events; people got used to calling the months in which they occur by certain names; and habit is habit.

As you point out, old habits die hard. Our ancestors knew the sky -- especially the night sky, which they actually got to see -- very well. Quite aside from any correspondence to Earthly weather, they attached great significance to the "four corners" of the sun's annual progress through the Zodiac. As new-fangled religions like Christianity came along, the fiducial points retained their importance. It is no accident that Easter is timed to fall near the vernal equinox just as Christmas is timed to mark the winter solstice.

An old professor of mine claimed that every human culture finds some excuse for major festivals to mark the solstices and the equinoxes. Religious, patriotic, commercial -- it doesn't matter: if we did not have a winter solstice celebration already, we would damn well invent one!


Do you know where the tradition of placing an angel atop the Christmas tree originated?

Once when God had had a particularly hectic day, an angel asked Him, "What do you want me to do with this Christmas tree?"

"Rachel Barenblat"

You know Rachel, too? Cool.

"easily the best blog name of the year."

Or of 2003 maybe, when we started corresponding. :-)

We just missed meeting when she came through Boulder, back in January of 2005.

Nice you guys have finally found Rachel, though. She's got 7 years of posts for you to catch up on, now. :-)

"Russky tanks massed at the Warsaw Gap"

This may have arisen from the words "Warsaw Pact."

Or not.

A friendly atheist has something to say about the War on Christmas

Old Jeremiah also had something to say on the topic of Christmas trees ;-)

Jer. 10:1-5.
“ Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;
Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the peoples are futile;
For one cuts a tree from the forest,
The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.
They are upright, like a palm tree,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot go by themselves.
Do not be afraid of them,
For they cannot do evil,
Nor can they do any good.”

Christmas, to me: family, food and presents (in that order).

I like the tree. I like the time off work.

But then I'm not religious, so what do I care about the justification for it all? I don't need any. It's cold, it's dark, and hey let's have a party.

Merry Christmas, all. :)

Great catch Harmut, but I prefer some Roy Zimmerman channeling Bob Dylan:

There's a crowd on the hillside with hatchets and saws.
With a keen disregard for the forestry laws
And they happily hum while the stumps slowly bleed in the rain
Christmas is pain

You make a good point about the difficulty for non-Christians in resisting the Christmas tree. My college roommate's family had a solution: they didn't have a Christmas tree (being Jewish). They had, according to him, a "Hanukkah bush".

It does seem like a sensible work-around. Especially given that the tree is one of those "borrow something from the pagans' practices, so it will be easier for them to convert" bits of northern European Christianity.

"easily the best blog name of the year"

especially the subtitle

Apart from its name, "Velveteen Rabbi" looks like a pretty interesting blog, based on the quick reading I just did of some of the articles. Darn it--yet another reason to spend time on the internet when I'm trying to cut back.

On a related note:


I liked Christmas right up until the part where I had to buy everyone presents every year. I'm not so keen on that. Presents are for children, or for adults if and when something truly strikes you as right.

When Christmas was fun, it was because it was cosy and relaxing and happy. Not numinous, though I'm glad for anyone who finds it that way. You do need something to cheer you up in the depths of winter darkness.

No tree for us this year. Maybe next year. What I like about it - and the lights, which we do have up - is just the marking of time with cyclical changes in home life. It's easy to have either no change at home or just random change. I'd rather have change that is meaningful even if it's arbitrary.

I don't object to the nativity story either, as a story. I like stories. That some people believe they're the literal truth doesn't make me like them less.

I have no idea where "Happy Holidays!" originated from (I'm sure I could find out, or find out 5 competing theories, in 5 seconds on Google) but it's not used in Britain that I'm aware of, and so I can have my reaction honestly, which is that I find it one of those pointless, denatured, yes-politically-correct-sorry expressions that I have a hard time imagining anyone meaning when they say it. But maybe it has some other history and character I'm too irritable to find out right now. In the meantime I'll say, when the time comes, Happy Christmas, as we do in Britain.

Calling the use of a denatured phrase a "war", though, is like calling "Have a nice day!" the WAR ON SINCERITY. The war on Christmas lacks tanks and bombs and, well, an army. Not much of a war.

I have no idea where "Happy Holidays!" originated from

It goes back at least to Irving Berlin circa 1942, since it's the title of a song in Holiday Inn. (A gentleman of the Hebrew persuasion .)

I suspect it originated as a more manageable version of "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

When Christmas was fun, it was because it was cosy and relaxing and happy.

That's why I like Thanksgiving. It's sort of (I mean sort of - don't argue) like Christmas without presents.

if "Happy Holidays" is a PC-ism for last three weeks of Demember, it's not a very good one, since it callously excludes all of us who don't find anything holy about any of it (or anything else, in fact).

i propose "Happy Vacation Time" as a replacement.

What I find most amusing about the whole War on Christmas is how much of it amounts to a bunch of the usual-suspect busybodies (the AFA, the Catholic League, etc.) pestering retailers about whether or not they're using the word "Christmas" in stores, in advertising, and at the point of purchase.

In other words, it consists of religious people complaining that Christmas isn't being commercialized and trivialized quite enough.

The mind boggles.

It also baffles me why these people expect to be wished Merry Christmas on any day that is not Dec. 25th. Do you wish people Happy Valentine's Day for the month prior to Feb. 14th? Or Happy Easter? Or, well, anything, with the possible exception of "happy birthday" if the month actually contains that person's birthday?

I suspect [Happy Holidays] originated as a more manageable version of "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."


Can we call it "Happy Furry Vacation Time" in honor of The Left?

Re: Phil's comment - Maybe they should call it the War on the War to Impose Christmas on People Who Don't Want It. It's really oppressive, the way people try to oppose those who try to impose their views on them (if I can so lack clarity through the abuse of pronouns).

You make a good point about the difficulty for non-Christians in resisting the Christmas tree.
How's that?

I'm a non-Christian. Never had a problem.

On a related note:


Posted by: Eric Martin | December 22, 2010 at 02:05 PM

Eric, could you perhaps add a word or two that's non-generic, so we, or at least I, can know that a trojan didn't post this?

I'm sure everyone is more trusting than I am, but I've never gotten a computer virus, and not touching links that I can't verify is a key part.

Not a problem if you're too busy; if further discussion arises, whatever it is will become clear, and others will verify that it's a safe link.

I have no idea where "Happy Holidays!" originated from [...]
Courtesy. This isn't a Christian nation.

Piss off enough non-Christians after there are enough, and the culture changes to some degree.

Non-Christians vary in response to religiously-based greetings, just as Christians vary in response to greetings based upon non-Christian religious traditions.

Courtesy suggests accepting such wishes in the spirit meant, and often suggests giving wishes in a spirit wishing to avoid possible offense, irritation, or worse, which is hardly unusual, though not praiseworthy.

Happy Holidays.

When I was young, I didn't know many Jews who enjoyed being given a greeting that once again seemed to indicate they should adopt the majority religion, a message received otherwise constantly throughout one's week, if not day.

Thirty years ago, I was one of those people. I got over it somewhere around age 25 or so, a good 27 years ago.

Since then I do my best to accept wishes as intended, whether in the context of thousands of years of Christians slaughtering Jews in endless pogroms, or otherwise, expelling us from numerous countries, including 1290, 1492, and on backwards and forwards though an endless series of dates, slaughters, and expulsions, or, in other words, Jewish history of the past 3000 years, which it's difficult to avoid knowing a least a little about if one is Jewish and identifies as such, though, again, mileage varies completely.


[...] In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of conflict on the matters of usury. [...]

Between the expulsion of Jews in 1290 and their formal return in 1655, there is no official trace of Jews as such on English soil except in connection with the Domus Conversorum, which kept a number of them within its precincts up to 1551 and even later. An attempt was made to obtain a revocation of the edict of expulsion as early as 1310, but in vain. Notwithstanding, a certain number of them appear to have come back; for complaints were made to the king in 1376 that some of those trading as Lombards were Jews ("Rot. Parl." ii. 332a).

Occasionally permits were given to individuals to visit England, as in the case of Dr. Elyas Sabot in 1410, but it was not until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 that any considerable number of Sephardic Jews found refuge in England.[citation needed] One of these as early as 1493 attempted to recover no less a sum than 428,000 maravedis which the refugees from Spain had entrusted to Diego de Soria.[citation needed] In 1542 many were arrested on the suspicion of being Jews, and throughout the sixteenth century a number of persons named Lopez, possibly all of the same family, took refuge in England, the best known of them being Rodrigo Lopez, physician to Queen Elizabeth, and who is said to have been the origin of Shylock.[citation needed] Besides certain distinguished converts like Immanuel Tremellius and Philip Ferdinand, the most remarkable visitor was Joachim Gaunse, who introduced new methods of mining into England.[citation needed] Occasional visitors, like Alonzo de Herrera and Simon Palache in 1614, are recorded.[citation needed] The writings of John Weemes provided a positive view in favor of the resettlement of the Jews in England.

But, hey, in 1656, we were let back in again by Cromwell. Technically. You wouldn't be killed if found, and someone had heard about this, and cared.

In between, lots of hiding.

Of course, as always, the Jewish Problem remained:

[...] The commercial policy that led to the Navigation Acts in October 1651, made Oliver Cromwell want to attract the rich Jews of Amsterdam to London so that they might transfer their important trade interests with the Spanish Main from Holland to England. The mission of Oliver St John to Amsterdam, though failing to establish a coalition between English and Dutch commercial interests as an alternative to the Navigation Act, had negotiated with Menasseh Ben Israel and the Amsterdam community. A pass was granted to Menasseh to enter England, but he was unable to use it because of the war between England and Holland, which lasted from 1652 to 1654.
[edit] Menasseh Ben Israel's petition

As soon as the war ceased, Menasseh Ben Israel sent his brother-in-law, David Abravanel Dormido, to London to present to the council a petition for the readmission of Jews. The council, however, refused to act. Cromwell therefore induced Menasseh himself to come over to London, which he did at the end of September 1655, and there he printed his "humble address" to Cromwell. As a consequence, a national conference was summoned at Whitehall in the early part of December, which included some of the most eminent lawyers, clergymen, and merchants in the kingdom. The lawyers declared no opposition to the Jews' residing in England, but both the clergymen and merchants were opposed to readmission, leading Cromwell to stop the discussion to prevent an adverse decision.

Early in the following year (1656), the question came to a practical issue through the declaration of war against Spain, which resulted in the arrest of Antonio Rodrigues Robles, and forced the Maranos of London to avow their Judaism as a means of avoiding arrest as Spaniards and the confiscation of their goods. As a final result, Cromwell appears to have given informal permission to the Jews to reside and trade in England on condition that they did not obtrude their worship on public notice and that they refrained from making proselytes. Using this permission, Antonio Fernandez Carvajal and Simon de Caceres purchased a piece of land for a Jewish cemetery in 1657, and Solomon Dormido, a nephew of Menasseh Ben Israel, was admitted to the Royal Exchange as a duly licensed broker of the City of London, without taking the usual oath involving a statement of faith in Christianity. Carvajal had previously been granted letters of denization for himself and his son.
[edit] Debating the return of the Jews

This method of finding a solution to the Jewish question in England had the advantage of not raising anti-Semitic feeling too strongly; and it likewise enabled Charles II, on his return, to avoid taking any action on the petition of the merchants of London asking him to revoke Cromwell's concession. He had been assisted by several Jews of royalist sympathies, such as Mendes da Costa and Augustine Coronel-Chacon, during his exile. In 1664 a further attempt was made by the Earl of Berkshire and Mr. Ricaut to bring about the expulsion of the Jews, but the king in council assured the latter of the continuance of former favour. Similar appeals to prejudice were made in 1673, when Jews, for meeting in Duke's Place for a religious service, were indicted on a charge of rioting, and in 1685, when thirty-seven were arrested on the Royal Exchange; but the proceedings in both cases were put a stop to by direction of the Privy Council. The status of the Jews was still very indeterminate. In 1684, in a case connected with the East India Company, it was contended that they were alien infidels, and perpetual enemies to the English crown. Even the Attorney-General declared that they resided in England only under an implied license. As a matter of fact, the majority of them were still aliens and liable to all the disabilities that condition carried with it.

Then came the Jew Bill of 1753.
The Jewish Naturalization Act 1753 was an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of Great Britain, which received royal assent on 7 July 1753 but was repealed in 1754 due to widespread opposition to its provisions.[1]
Oh, darn.

Jump ahead another century: "Emancipation":

[...] When in 1829 the Roman Catholics of England were freed from all their civil disabilities, the hopes of the Jews rose high; and the first step toward a similar alleviation in their case was taken in 1830 when William Huskisson presented a petition signed by 2,000 merchants and others of Liverpool. This was immediately followed by a bill presented by Robert Grant on April 15 of that year which was destined to engage the English legislature in one form or another for the next thirty years. Thomas Macaulay, later a well-known and influential historian, was elected to Parliament in 1830 and - among other issues he took up - distinguished himself by attacking the exclusion of Jews[1].

At first the bill failed even to get through the House of Commons, though it is true that, against the opposition of Sir Robert Inglis, the first reading was passed by 115 to 97 votes. But the second reading, on May 17, notwithstanding a sizable petition in its favour from 14,000 citizens of London, was rejected by 265 to 228 votes. The next year (1833), however, it passed its third reading in the Commons, July 22, by the large majority of 189 to 52, and was even read for the first time in the Lords. But on the second reading (August 1) it was rejected by 104 to 54, though the Duke of Sussex, a constant friend to the Jews, presented a petition in its favour signed by 1,000 distinguished citizens of Westminster. In 1834 the bill underwent the same experience, being lost in the House of Lords by a majority of 92 votes. The whole force of the Tory Party was against the bill, which had, besides, the personal antagonism of the bluff sailor king, William IV. In the following year it was deemed inadvisable to make the annual appeal to Parliament, as the battle for religious liberty was going on in another part of the field; but by the passing of the Sheriffs' Declaration Bill, August 21, 1835, Jews were allowed to hold the ancient and important office of sheriff. In the following year the Jew Bill was introduced late in the session, and succeeded so far as to pass the first reading in the Lords on August 19. It was then dropped owing to the lateness of the session.


For a time the advocates of Jewish emancipation seem to have lost heart. The chief supporters of the bill, R. Grant in the Commons, and Lord Holland in the Lords, died within a few months of each other in 1840, and during the next four years the political activity of the English Jews was concentrated on the attempt to obtain admission to municipal office. A bill to that effect got as far as a first reading in the Lords by one vote, in 1841, but was lost on a second reading. It was not until July 31, 1845, that the bill was carried. In the following year (August 18, 1846) the Religious Opinions Relief Act removed a certain number of minor disabilities which affected the Jews of England as well as other dissenters from the Established Church, and the only portal which still remained closed to the Jews was that of Parliament.

The success with which the Jews of England had induced Parliament to admit them to the shrievalty and to municipal offices had been because Jews had been actual candidates, and had been elected to those offices before any parliamentary relief was asked. It was now decided to adopt the same policy in regard to a seat in Parliament itself.

A Jewish candidate, Lionel de Rothschild, was elected as one of the four members of Parliament for the City of London in 1847, and the bill that was introduced on December 16 of that year was intended to carry out the wishes of a definite English constituency. This passed its third reading in the Commons on May 4, 1848, by a majority of 62 votes, but was rejected in the Lords by 163 non-contents to 128 contents. The same thing happened in 1849 when Lionel de Rothschild was again elected, but in the following year the struggle took on another and more dramatic form.


n 1858 when the Oath Bill reached the Lords they eliminated the clause relating to Jews; but when the bill was referred again to the Commons, the lower house refused to accept it as amended, and appointed a committee to formulate its reasons, upon which committee, as if to show the absurdity of the situation, the member for the city of London, Baron Lionel de Rothschild, was appointed to serve, something which he could legally do, even though he had not taken his seat. A conference was appointed between the two houses, and ultimately a compromise was reached by which either house might admit Jews by resolution, allowing them to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian."

As a consequence, on Monday, July 26, 1858, Lionel de Rothschild took the oath with covered head, substituting "so help me, Jehovah" for the ordinary form of oath, and thereupon took his seat as the first Jewish member of Parliament; David Salomons was re-elected for Greenwich in a by-election and took his seat in early 1859. Two years later a more general form of oath for all members of Parliament was introduced, which freed the Jews from all cause of exclusion.
[edit] Reforms and political freedoms

The Reform Act 1867 granted every adult male householder the right to vote. Before this legislation only very few men in Britain could vote. In 1871, the Universities Tests Act removed the difficulties in the way of a Jew becoming a scholar or a fellow in an English university. In 1885, Sir Nathaniel de Rothschild was raised to the upper house as Lord Rothschild, the first Jewish Lord. In 1876 Disraeli was made Earl of Beaconsfield. They were followed within a few years by Henry de Worms as Lord Pirbright and Sydney Stern as Lord Wandsworth; while in 1890 all restrictions for every position in the British Empire, except that of monarch, were removed, the offices of Lord High Chancellor and of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland being thrown open to every British subject without distinction of creed.

That probably brings us up to times many will be familiar with, having skipped over endless slaughters and pogroms in Britain in all those years, for the sake of not overwhelming a reader.

Of course, pogroms in London still took place as recently as 1917:

Fighting anti-semitism

By Sylvia Pankhurst

The following account by Sylvia Pankhurst is of a police-sponsored pogrom against Jewish immigrants in London’s East End is taken from an issue of Women’s Dreadnought from 26 May 1917.

The great Whitechapel and Commercial Roads run through the heart of the London Jewish and immigrant quarter. Russians, Romanians, Armenians, peoples of all oppressed nationalities live here, Jews forming the majority, for Jews, the people who have no country, are always most cruelly oppressed by tyrannical Governments.

Under the grey skies of this northern [European] city the people of the East still cling to the gay, rich colours they knew in lands where the sun pours from the cloudless blue sky unhindered by smoke or mist.

In the shops of the Whitechapel Road are vivid magenta and emerald coloured blouses in a style quite other than that which British workers obtain where they go shopping in Poplar or Bow. On the stalls of the open markets are gorgeous pine patter stuffs, exceedingly low in price. A man passes by with a silk embroidered bed-quilt over his shoulder: its brilliant magenta-pink and ultra marine blue flash down the dingy street.

Old women fruit-sellers, who might have stepped from a picture of the Rialto by Carpaccio or Bellini, or who might have sat with their wares by the roadside watching Jesus on his way to work in Joseph’s shop. One sees old ladies with wigs of stiff brown hair, relics of the head coverings which were once de rigueur for Jewish matrons.

It is a hive of industry. Almost every house has its tailoring, cap-making, fur-dressing, watching-making, millinery or other business. Behind the houses, erected in what were once their gardens, are further workrooms, where girls are bending over sewing machines, and tailors with long beards and black skull caps are sitting cross-legged at their work.

The teeming human population is packed away in any spaces not occupied by the industries from which they live. They are huddled closely together in block dwellings where trades also are carried on; in houses built for a single family which now shelter several families and branches of industry: in tiny hovels built in back courts and alleys with high walls barring out the sunlight and passages between the buildings sometimes barely three feet wide.

Everywhere is careful thrift and busy labour. Behind the tobacconist’s counter the mother and daughter are making cigarettes: the daughter, with the pile of fragrant golden shreds before her, rolls them, the mother cuts the ends with a pair of curved clippers. In the tailor’s shop the husband and wife leave their work to serve the customer, and the wife finds time also to prepare appetising dishes from cheap ingredients, according to the elaborate rites of the Jewish faith.

To the smoke and squalor and devitalising atmosphere of this commercial city, on whose ground landlords exploit alike the native and the immigrant population, these Eastern peoples have brought with them the stores of energy possessed by those whose forefathers have lived a simple life. This energy may ebb from their city-bred descendants, but it is present.

One sees evidence of it in that most miserable of alleys which is built close up to the high wall of the railway, so that the rooms of the houses there never see the full light of day. The street borders upon the foreign quarter: its inhabitants are mainly British and deeply sunk in poverty, unfortunate people who can afford to live in no better place. All is drab and hopeless; cracked windows with dingy rags for curtains, weary, ill-clad women, pale and thin-legged children. One house stands out from the all-prevailing squalor: on its window skills are wooden tubs painted bright green in which flowers are growing. Jewish immigrants live there; they earn perhaps no more money than their British neighbours, but they have health and energy; whilst the fathers and mothers of the British families in the street are casual workers in poor health, people who are breaking down in the ruthless struggle for existence. But such contrasts one also sees amongst our native population: contrasts springing from similar causes.

For the most part the Eastern immigrants are skilled in many handicrafts, not spoiled by long contact with highly sub-divided modern industrial processes in which the workers are merely feeders of machines and they have taught their children to be tradesmen.

“They take your work”, politicians with special ends to serve cry to the British people, and the despairing toilers in times of unemployment take up the tale: “They take our work!”


The British people long read with horror of the Russian anti-semitic pogroms, but now, alas, we have had a pogrom of our own, and as in Russia under the Tsar’s dominion, our British pogrom was carried out by the police.

On Friday night strange things took place in Whitechapel. Two young milliners, Misses R and A C, who had been to the Imperial Cinema at the King’s Hall, Commercial Road, came out to find themselves in the midst of a throng of people, who were being hustled and pushed this way and that by masses of police and some Australian soldiers. A number of motor lorries filled with men and boys were drawn up in the road.

The girls saw a lad pause, as if in surprise, to look into one of the lorries, and then saw him seized by police and bundled in. The police were catching at any men they saw and pushing them roughly into a billiard club next door to the picture palace. The girls walked on: police seemed to be everywhere, and just past New Road they saw the police dragging men out of a restaurant. A police inspector roughly pushed Miss R C. “Oh don’t push!” she protested, whereat he struck her on the face, bruising her at the side of the eye.

“You swine, to hit my sister!” cried Miss A C, whereat the Inspector struck her to the ground. “Charge them!” he called out to a constable. The girls were dragged off to Lemon Street Police Station, which was thronged with men and boys. There the girls were searched and put in a cell lighted only by grating.

At 11.45 pm they begged the woman searcher to tell their parents where they were, and again when they were charged at 12.15 or 12.30 they pleaded with the officer who received the charge to send a message to their home. One of them called to an inspector who was passing the cell, “Do my parents know?” whereupon he shut the grating and left them in the dark.

The distracted father went from place to place, from police station to hospital, searching for them. On arriving he was at first told they were not there and only learnt of their presence on a second visit at four am. At six am they were released to him and ordered to appear in court next day, where they were fined £2 each for insulting behaviour. “Four pounds out of the family! Two puns were all I earned last week! To strike me, and then make me pay for it!” protested Miss C.

But all over Whitechapel similar things were h
appening. Miss B—, a girl of 20, coming home with her father, aged 46, and her brother, aged 16, to their tobacconist’s shop in the Commercial Road, suddenly found her father dragged away from her. “Why are you taking my father?” she protested. The policeman twisted her arm, and flung her aside. Then she saw that her brother had disappeared. Her father was kept till twelve pm; her brother till 4pm.

A man ran out of his house in his shirt-sleeves on hearing a noise of shouting. He was bundled into a motor lorry.

Miss C, of Elder Street, Norton Folgate, on her way home, was held up by the crowd which had gathered outside Commercial Road Section House. Quite suddenly and without warning she was pushed off the pavement by a policeman who used foul language and in endeavouring to get out of the crowd she was again assaulted and insulted by a man whom she took to be a policeman in plain clothes.

Restaurants and clubs were raided; men were seized by the road side, and dragged from trams and buses. Some were dragged either by policemen or driven in motor lorries to Lemon Street Police Station or to the Section House in Commercial Street. Some were hustled into clubs and restaurants, either for examination or detention until they could be removed to the Police Station or Section House. Some men who showed papers were allowed to go free, but in what seems to have been by far the larger number of cases those who arrested them refused to look at their papers until several hours later.

In Whitechapel the number of men and boys detained is estimated to be from 1,200 to 1,500 or 2,000. Some put the number as high as three or four thousand. Yet only nine men were charged in Court as absentees, and only four were handed over the Military Authorities.

Middle-aged men and boys under sixteen years were taken. Some of the lads were young enough to cry, and one bald-headed man who said he was a grandfather was beaten by several policemen and was bleeding at the mouth. In the Section House especially, men and boys were crowded together in dark rooms scarcely capable of containing the numbers that were forced into them, and treated with wanton violence.

Mr S G, a discharged soldier, of Kingsland Road, was at the St Mary’s Temperance Club in the Whitechapel Road when the police entered at 10.30pm. He at once went up to the inspector, telling him that he was a discharged soldier, and offered to show his papers. The inspector brushed him aside with a threat that something would be done to him if he were not quiet, and handed him over to two constables who put the “arm-lock” on him and took him to the Section House. At 11.45 his papers were examined by an officer, and he was allowed to go at 12.45.

Mr J G, another discharged soldier, of Shoreditch, was taken at the same place. He also volunteered to show his papers, but the police refused to look at them. He was taken to the Section House, and put into a crowded room. He was told by an Australian soldier who was at the door to “push back”. Mr G said: “It is impossible; there is such a crowd behind me.” The soldier hit him in the stomach. A policeman standing by the soldier took out his truncheon, and hit Mr G on the shoulder; he was then dragged from the crowd, and handed over to a police-sergeant. The sergeant threw him into a cell. Mr G was discharged two hours later.

An Australian soldier took off his coat, and offered to fight anyone in the room. A discharged soldier, who was there under arrest, said, “You are a disgrace to the uniform you are wearing.” Whereat the soldier knocked him senseless.

And so on.

Just one country, just a bare few highlights.

Given the accumulation of over 3000 years of this history, many Jews tend to be, yes, touchy about such things.

Then there are all the other non-Christian religions, and how all the people in their tradition, with their history of relations with Christiandom, feel. Muslims, Hindus, etc.

Mileage varies. Culture by culture, country by country, decade by decade, year by year, century by century, region by region by neighborhood by family by individual, and maybe by the minute.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, and a good holiday in all of their religious traditions, or non-religious traditions, whatever they might be.

Meanwhile, Happy Yom Kippur.

Whoops, first food delivery in two weeks is here, from Safeway, and with it first new food in my life in two weeks, is here. Later, after expedition downstairs, and eventually upstairs again.

Sorry Gary. It's a safe link to Abu Muquwama using the same painting of Washington crossing the Delaware - with the same regards toward Christmas.

Kind of chuckle-worthy.

Hanukkah bush.

Hanukkah bush.

"About 1,220,000 results"

Wikipedia's entry is worth reading if you're interested.

A moment's glance at Google's first page above might be worth a second for a sense of things. Or not.

But the history of the "Hanukkah bush" can tell a reader something about the history and contemporary situation of Jews in America, in a nutshell, if squinted at from the right angle.

I should have edited down my comment on Britain and the Jews, but as it was, I barely touched on the subject, let alone the history of anti-semitism, let alone the relations of Christiandom and people of other religions, but since I already went long, done is done.

It's hard -- for me, at least, if I don't have more time to edit -- to get across the point of just how much depth and meaning, today, to millions of Jews, there is to this history, while doing so in very few words.

But it kinda affects that whole I/P thing, among other issues related to the Jewish people and the rest of the world, so it's not, in my view, trivial or not worth knowing, although I'm sure few will even plough through my comment, let alone click on links, let alone go read some books on the topic.

Give me 20 minutes, instead of 10, and I'll do a better job. But no excuses.

Apologies that I don't have more time in front of the computer these days: that I'll give.

I'm hoping to get to a New Year's Day party of some old friends, not far from here (i.e, tax cab won't cost a fortune); it'll be nice to see faces of people who might know my name, again, who aren't shopkeepers or aren't one of four neighbors in Boulder, or briefly a housemate of mine in 2002.

The last time I was saw such peoplem before Oakland, was 3 times in 2009-10, and before that was three experiences in the early months of the year 2000.

I didn't get out all that much between 1991 and then, either, though there were some significant exceptions, most particularly the month in Britain, but that was exceptional in almost every way.

Apologies for my resulting lack of practice of social skills, and TMI on context.

Oakland is an adjustment in many ways.

Including learning how to get by in a two-story house when one can't walk very much.

Thus little time on computer, relatively speaking, almost no reading time, and even less writing time.

Trying to fit in more soon, as priorities allow.

I'm down to 205 lbs, though, which is great, since I was 265 not many months ago, and was well over 235 lbs before I left Raleigh. Endless good and great things. I wish you all joy. Even when not on an open thread, but god knows when I'm going to catch up to anything.

The cats say hi.

Eric, thanks muchly for making clear it was you who posted the shortened link.

I'll click on one if I'm reasonably sure it's actually from someone I trust, but that requires words that are identifiable as coming from an individual; using generics is how Trojans work and people fall for them.

Ah, yes, amusing. I saw a not entirely dissimilar tee-shirt in what appeared at a quick glance when it was closed to be a Native American wares store, on College Avenue, back in November, on my only expedition Northwards on College as yet, or, for that matter, fifth walk of over a block since getting to California.

Abu Muqawama always interesting reading.

I'm afraid America joined in WWI a bit late for this.

There are an immense number of things I admire about so many Christians, and in the Christian religion. As in almost all religions.

None require belief in the supernatural to appreciate the tremendous body of great literature, wisdom, art, and good done by Christians, Christianity, and the Christian religion.

This is why I'm an atheist who is appalled at fellow atheists who condemn all religion. Baby and bathwater.

And now I stop again until the next time I ramble by the upstairs in my peregrinations.

Must resist urge to write about Terry Pratchet's current doings, in knee-jerk response to Doctor Science dropping his name.

I hope there's a cure for Alzheimer's... sometime while I get to see it. Or at least more hope for people with it.

I'm with Terry on the assisted suicide in such a case. No one should be trapped beyond a certain point in a body without enough mind left to know you're there.

And on that cheery thought, later. Mazel tov. Kenen oyf di finger.

Az me redt a sach, redt men fun zich.

Es shtait dokh geshribn: khokhme—shtikeh.

Es tut zich nit azoi gut vi es redt zich.

Okay, I'll give everyone the easy way.

Posadas Navidena. Merry Yule. Happy Yuletide, Yulefest, Yules, Jul, Juletid, Julfest, Jül, Jól, Joul, Joulu, Jõulud, Joelfeest, Géol, Feailley Geul.

May you have a Joyous Kwanzaa in four days, if you celebrate it.

Sorry I missed Bodhi Day on the 8th, but I was meeting the Buddha on the road.

May your fast of Ashura have gone well on your day of grief, if appropriate, and may Muharram pass peacefully.

If you observe Zarthost No Deeso, or the death of the Prophet on December 26th CE, may you have peace.

If Qaid-i-Azam's birthday is one of your observations, peace be upon you on the 25th.

If you observe Dōngzhì Festival, have a happy one!

Merry Koleda and happy Kolyada.

Have a fine Boxing Day, Day of Goodwill, Feast of St Stephen, and/or Proclamation Day. (Gosh I sure know a lot of Britons, Aussies, and others from the traditions of Empire and Commonwealth.)

Have some fine single malt for me on Hogmanay.

May my friend (or friends, aside from those who send me invitations to marry them) in the Phillipines have an excellent Rizal Day.

May Holy Innocents day pass well for you.

I didn't fast for Asarah b’Tevet, but I know you would have wished me a good fast if I did, and you thought I did.

May all enjoy Global Minute of Peace Day.

And may all enjoy Doctor Science's post without further prolixity from me without a request.

Thanks for posting the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. I remember standing in front of it at the Metropolitan years ago. Pretty awesome scale when seen up close and in person.

Legend has it that the guys rowing that boat came from the town I live in now.

Legend in the town I live in now, anyway.

And every year guys dressed up like the guys rowing that boat row a boat just like that one from one side of our dinky little harbor to the other, shoot a bunch of blanks at some other guys dressed up in red coats, declare victory, row back, and drink beer.

Somehow most holidays seem to devolve into pretexts for drinking. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And not that all that much of a pretext is needed in the first place.

Mammals like to catch a buzz. Lots of birds, too. Don't know about amphibians.

I think it just comes with having a nervous system sophisticated enough to have a rudimentary level of self-awareness, such that you can notice the difference between "sober" and "not sober", and find that difference amusing enough that you want to try it on and play with it.

Amoebas would probably find a way to catch a buzz of some kind if they had the equipment to recognize that it was happening.

Regarding Christmas and its pagan roots, I always thought the kind of natural syncretism at work there was one of the loveliest things about the season.

You have a narrative of death and rebirth, we have a narrative of death and rebirth. Those folks over there, they have one, too. Those other folks, the ones you've never even met yet, they have one, too.

A deep human assonance, an alignment of profound impulses, a resonant symphony of hope in darkness.

Winter solstice, Yule, Diwali, Christmas, Chanukah, Yalda, Sol Invictus. Everyplace you look, it's there. Everyplace you don't look, it's there. It's baked into being a human.

I would drink to that. In fact, I'm done for the day, maybe I will.

"War on Christmas". Some people will pick a fight over anything.

Russell, amphibians can be intoxicated from any number of chemicals, as can anything on earth with a nervous system.

You don't need self-awareness to be intoxicated, and in fact the idea is slightly oxymoronic. (Smart! Just a bit self-contradictory.)

Though since your point as regards liking intoxication, sure, self-awareness is tautologically required.

The five days of Diwali started on November 5th, this year, which is easy for me to notice, because Guy Fawkes Day is my birthday (and sometimes election day in the U.S.). It's also hard not to notice in London, much of Britain, and anywhere many Hindus are, what with all the lights and fireworks.

Of course, as a lunar holiday, the date and month shift around on the Christian calendar, as do all religious holidays that don't use any of the Christian calendars, or are lunar-based.

But it's easy for me to remember Diwali when it coincides with Guy Fawkes Day.

Have a virtual drink on me. I have lots of lovely tea, and as it's past my caffeine time, I shall lift an herbal tea to you and all.

Er, after I make an expedition downstairs to fill the thermos. And come back again. Time to do that, anyway, along with the next set of rounds and chores.

You have a narrative of death and rebirth, we have a narrative of death and rebirth. Those folks over there, they have one, too. Those other folks, the ones you've never even met yet, they have one, too.

A deep human assonance, an alignment of profound impulses, a resonant symphony of hope in darkness.

Winter solstice, Yule, Diwali, Christmas, Chanukah, Yalda, Sol Invictus. Everyplace you look, it's there. Everyplace you don't look, it's there. It's baked into being a human.

It's beautiful, and truly joyous to recognize.

And isn't that what it's supposed to be about?

And then: every day, not just a month or a week or a day.

"Some people will pick a fight over anything."

While there are some who deliberately pick the fight for various political reasons, my observance is that most of the people sore about "the War On Christmas" are simply people who live in communities that are overwhelmingly Christian, and like all us humans, have some trouble imagining a life different than our own, or those right in front of us.

It's almost all simply parochialism.

And we're all parochial. We all live in our own provinces, visiting only others, even if we do naught but travel unendingly: it's all but a slice, and a brief glimpse of The Other.

“When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.”

-- Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

In other words, it consists of religious people complaining that Christmas isn't being commercialized and trivialized quite enough.


Demanding that store employees who may or may not be Christian verbally acknowledge a Christian holiday to customers who, in turn, may or may not be Christian...the only possible conclusion is that it has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It's just hollow verbiage, not unlike "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal," as one Christian famously put it. Is that really where they want to go?

The inability to think things through to their logical conclusion -- or the willful refusal to do so -- seems to be a prerequisite for any right-thinking cultural warrior. It amazes me.

I'm a jewish atheist married to a recovering catholic for almost 35 years.

I was forced to "celebrate" Xmas as a kid, because in the places where my dad was stationed (in the army) we were the only Jewish family. In fact, we were stationed in Germany in the early-to-mid-1950s - less than ten years after the end of WW2. I was too young really to understand, then, but still... There was a circuit Jewish chaplain who came around to our small post once a month, I think, and always had dinner at our house, along with a few Jewish GIs, because where else? (BTW there was also a pair of Jesuit chaplains who rode the circuit. I wish I had been old enough to understand the dinner conversation!)A few years later, in Aberdeen MD, my parents had to get me private bar mitvah lessons because there was no synagogue close enough that they could get me there after school.

Even when we moved back to Brookline MA - a town with a very large Jewish population then and now - in 1959, we had the Lord's Prayer and a bible verse, usually the new testament, every day before school.

And yet, I came to love the season. As a musician and a brass player, how could I not? For a couple of years in high school I organized a group of brass players to go to Louisburg Square in Boston on Xmas eve. Every year in high school and college, I would take every opportunity to play seasonal stuff that I could. When I hosted all-night classical music radio, I loved programming the early (midnight to 6am) Xmas day show. I always ended with the great recording of Dylan Thomas reading Child's Christmas in Wales. It mad me cry then, and it still does.

Meanwhile I married said recovering catholic (and now episcopal) singer - more music. And we have a tree, every single year - its decorated with porcelain six-pointed stars (I'd like to find some more, y'all - any help?) and musical things, mostly around horns. The music is a constant, as are festive foods, good company, and the now-grown child and her husband. I posted this from her a couple weeks ago:

So I lit the menorah and put it in the window on Wednesday night, and delightedly exclaimed to my husband, "THERE! Now it looks like Christmas."

I didn't mean to write so much. Sorry, but thanks to anyone with the patience to read down this far.

All if it was by way of saying: I want to chain all these War on Xmas charlatans down, and prop their eyes open, Clockwork Orange style, and force them to read the bleeping constituion, over and over and over, and leave the rest of us the bleep alone!!

Oh, and BTW: Our tree topper is a blue and white six-pointed star, hand made by my wife more than 25 years ago.

Though since your point as regards liking intoxication, sure, self-awareness is tautologically required.

Yes, what I was after was the active seeking after intoxication. Lots of critters, including us, deliberately ingest stuff to tweak their consciousness.

And not for nothing, but that includes caffeine and chamomile, too!

When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.

Hear, hear.

every day, not just a month or a week or a day.

What Gary said.

Our tree topper is a blue and white six-pointed star, hand made by my wife more than 25 years ago.

Ours is a gold lame and red satin parrot with rhinestones, spangles, and big bright button eyes. It was a gift from my wife's choral director. It's got kind of a Cage Aux Folles vibe, we like it quite a lot. It's festive.


I didn't mean to write so much. Sorry, but thanks to anyone with the patience to read down this far.
Oh, dear.

I really liked your comment, as always, aside from that.

I enjoy Christmas lights on houses, and trees on car roofs, and people being happy.

I've been seeing some of that from the front porch, and took a couple of pictures, in the past couple of weeks.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to go for a walk for a couple of blocks, or more, and see more. Or on Friday or Saturday.

If anyone in the Bay area is interested in visiting, I don't appear to have any pressing social engagements between now and the 1st, other than with the cats and the computer, or the big screen downstairs of this house I'm house/cat-sitting in.

This is not an invitation to anyone who is busy with holiday plans, which is to say, almost everyone. I know how jammed up people get at this time of year, even beyond how busy most people tend to be all the time.

Although Shackleton the cat is supervising this typing, and asking for attention, so meow.

Just so you know someone is reading your comments, Gary, I feel obliged to point out that the correct spelling is Philippines: one L, two P's. Or Filipinas (in Espanol or Pilipino) or Pilipinas (in Tagalog).

Otherwise: what you said, pretty much.

FWIW, although Rizal Day commemorates an outstanding individual, it's the anniversary of his death (execution, martyrdom), not his birth. Which makes it harder to combine reflection on the meaning of the event with general rejoicing. Besides Good Friday (overshadowed by Easter), what other "death days" do we celebrate? My recollection falters.

And that's it for now. The Inimitable Anarch (and his S.O., the Lovely Jen) arrived here in NC yesterday, and we all went out to a brilliant Asian restaurant tonight (Lantern, in Chapel Hill) - best spring rolls I've ever had, and I've had a lot! - and I can almost ignore the pinched nerve in my neck/arm that's been troubling me of late . . .

All is calm. All is bright.


In case of doubt go for Cephalopodmas and sing carols to the Great Old Ones (also available on two excellent CDs from the HPLHS). For the misers among you, many can be found on youtube too.

Somehow most holidays seem to devolve into pretexts for drinking.

As do many sporting events, graduations, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, beginnings and ends of college semesters (regardless of proximate holidays), cultural events, big meals with friends for the hell of it, Bar/Bat Mitvahs, Christenings, retirements, ends of work weeks, etc., etc., etc. We humans, at least some of us, probably many, loves us some social lubrication when we get together for voluntary fun.

So, for those of you who tend towards beer, Hoppy Holidays! (I recommend Sierra Nevada's Celebration Fresh Hop Ale for this year's festivities.)

dr ngo:

The Inimitable Anarch (and his S.O., the Lovely Jen) arrived here in NC yesterday [....]
I very much regret that I never was able to be in the same place and time to meet Anarch (and Jen, and, of course, R.), but perhaps some day.

Do feel free to let Anarch know that his presence is sorely missed on ObWi. Would love to see his wise words around again.

I miss so many long-time commenters that have vanished from ObWi over the past two and three years; it seems like almost the majority, sometimes, although I've hardly done a count, so that's just a purely subjective feeling, and listing names would seem like a poor idea as then I'd forget so many.

But Anarch is most certainly one.

Of course, with his changed circumstances in life, as inevitably happens to all of us, and may it be for the better as often as possible, as seems to be the case with Anarch, his promotions and moves upwards in management (I trust this isn't too great an invastion of privcy to mention), it's entirely understandable to have other priorities than hanging out on a blog where many of the folks you knew have gone.

Hope the R******** H******* of Southeast Asian History is coming along nicely.

Why, yes, this is substituting for an email response to your emailed .doc. :-) (Sorry!)

Pinched nerves suck; hope it's better and you have relief soon. And great news about senior R's book being accepted!

And great news about senior R's book being accepted!
s/b younger other R, but you know what/who I mean, dr ngo.

A fine irony about the "War on Christmas" nonsense is that some of the original Calvinist Protestants, the theological forebears of many contemporary conservative Christians, dismissed Christmas as an unscriptural Roman Catholic invention and did not wish to observe it. It was John Calvin and his ilk who invented the first war on Christmas.

Bradley Manning describes his confinement conditions--


Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions at "MY FDL."

There have been a lot of articles about him of late, none of which I've had a moment to blog. Thanks, Donald. Love to see you here more frequently again.

Must go bug Nell when I have a chance, and all the other folks who are MIA.

Apparently That Left Turn In Albequrque was a front pager here at some point in 2009? Was TLTIA on the sidebar? When did this start and stop?

Were there other front pagers here in 2009 that have come and gone?

Aside from Lindsay Beyerstein, I mean.

Cripes, I was going to paste in "By: David House Thursday December 23, 2010 6:08 am."

This is what comes of having to rush. :-(

Thanks Gary. I'm here a fair amount, but not always commenting. I'll be offline for a few days for the obvious seasonal reasons.

And I also miss Nell. I've seen her make very rare appearances here and at the comment section in "A Tiny Revolution", but that's been about it.

I'd just finished linking to Glenn G.'s latest on Manning in the earlier thread on that topic, only to come here and see my name. Happy holidays or happy furry fun times to all.

When does the Airing of Grievances begin? Don't want to miss that...

Roasting my first goose Saturday -- wish me luck, advice from experience welcome. Tree has been up, undecorated, since solstice, getting decked out tonight. It'll stay up until Twelfth Night. We have more than enough to eat, and the sun is up longer each day.


Bradley Manning describes his confinement conditions--


Wait, it turns out we have a whole thread with two pages of comments about this from last week.

I'll try to catch up when I can to that.

Nell, grand to see you. I'd love to tell you something about geese or Christmas trees, but I got nothing unless I go google, which seems rather besides the point. :-)

Say, want to discuss what's a proper or offensive or inoffensive greeting for this month? :-)

See above, and let us know which is your preference! :-)

Then I'll give you your preferred holiday greeting!

Meanwhile: happy merry, and grand to know that it sounds like you'll have some nice times in the next week.

I hope everyone does.

I'd love to see more chat here between now and the 1st -- and beyond -- but I suppose that's unlikely unless one of us posts about something that will outrage everyone, and invokes xckd 386.

Is there anyone left at ObWi these days who also comments at Balloon Juice, or has everyone fled to BJ over the past couple of years?

What other blogs have the longtime regulars fled to?

I'm not expecting many direct answers, obviously, but perhaps some of those left know the whereabouts of others, such as ral mentioning being in contact with rilkefan.

Hey, ral, you out there? You never did get a chance to say anything about what's up with rilkefan, other than that he might be coming with you, but didn't, to the meet-up.

This all seems perhaps more appropriate to the most recent open thread, but one never knows who will see what where, and we seem to have drifted quite some time back, which is probably all my fault.

And, in any case, it's not as if there are lots of posts per day, as there used to be, although with luck and effort, that will improve Real Soon Now, one way or another.

@ Gary Farber
Is there anyone left at ObWi these days who also comments at Balloon Juice, or has everyone fled to BJ over the past couple of years?

Me. I read and comment to both. With respect for the current management, what brought me to ObWi was hilzoy, whom I miss a great deal. I don't go to Yglesias any more - he's too wonky (for me) and his comment threads much too trolly. Sully was who brought me into politics/social issue blogging in the first place, and I can't give him up. I spend more and more time with TNC. First, he's turning into a really great writer; plus he has brought me to stuff, mostly civil war and civil rights history, that I either never explored or had long forgotten. And with all due respect to present company, his midday open threads are some of the most interesting and eclectic discussions out there.

Since so many of the front pagers have left ObWi, postings are much less frequent. Poor Eric, I understand he's got a baby and a real job, which is enough responsibility for anyone. So I adopted Balloon Juice as an alternative, especially on weekends when there's not a lot of new content in other places, including here. I enjoy angry ranty posts (though not as a steady diet) which generally agree with me; the argument is usually reasonably civil, and the trolling is minimal. Plus they post on a whole variety of non-political subjects, many of which I'm interested in.

But I feel a lot of loyalty to ObWi. It was, after all, the first place that invited me to comment, and the first place in which I received a civil answer and had a real conversation on line. So its possible to go over there and not be lost to here.

Hi, Gary. Yes, I'm here. rilkefan was sick and couldn't make it. Maybe next time.

Ahh, xkcd. A favorite of mine, with many quotable episodes. I'm a security nut, so here's an oldie but goodie.


[...] Hi, Gary. Yes, I'm here. rilkefan was sick and couldn't make it. Maybe next time.
I figure January 15th; will wait until at least the 2nd to do an announcement.

Was kinda thinking of extending the invite to Balloon Juicers and Unfogged types, but:
a) don't know if any of them would be interested;
b) don't know how many might be, which means:
c) not sure whether we should go with that larger alternative, or stick with Crepevine, which couldn't handle too many more of us, but for all I know, only three people will show up this time.

Will have to work it out sometime by or not long after New Year's, though.

Clearly we're not apt to talk much unless it's one on one, so if you're ever interested enough and able, do email me to make arrangements, but no obligation, and no expectation.

I still get startled at times at how famous Bruce has become since we were all young sf fans in the Seventies. I forgot he was in an xkcd. And I read them all, going back to #1, in order, after discovering it however many years ago.

But, then, I never claimed to have *memorized* them all. :-)

Oh, wait, now that I look at it, the memory floats back in. :-)

I'm crashing; later.

"I don't go to Yglesias any more - he's too wonky (for me) and his comment threads much too trolly."

On my timescale, it seems like not at all long ago that Matt was still doing his blog from Harvard, and asking me and others advice about how to blog, and then, again in email, about how professional publishing worked. Etc.

I suppose eight years ago is a while, but it doesn't seem terribly long ago to me, in many ways, though, of course, quite a bit in others.

He's certainly come along.

I'm still a bit cranky at the way he booted everyone off his blogroll and started over, though, after so many of us helped him out. It seemed a bit ungracious, but, what the hell, I've never stopped reading him. Smart guy, interesting stuff, and almost certainly likely to continue upwards and onwards, and good for him.

Never read the commenters after he went pro; I've never read comments at unmoderated sites where there are more comments than one could keep up with. What would be the point?

There's always YouTube, or newspaper comments, or Craigslist, or, well, infinite number of places to find unmoderated people babbling away without knowing each other, and talking past each other, and not reading each other. That's what most of the world consists of.

I do grok that others find points in that sort of thing. Obviously. More folks than don't.

I'm just not one of them yet. Life is too short.

(This after visiting BJ again yesterday a bit more than in a while, and finding the style there nowadays to be... different than it used to be. As happens with linear time, and so quickly on the internet.)

So I adopted Balloon Juice as an alternative
You're hardly the only one; that's why I'm looking to try to encourage that majority of people who have disappeared over the last three years or so to come back. Critical mass collapses rapidly into a positive feedback loop that can kill a blog very quickly, and will, if trends continue down, rather than up.

But the best way for me to help that is to get back to front page posting myself.

[...] So its possible to go over there and not be lost to here.
For you, but notice that no one else showed here to respond to my query.

Meanwhile, BJ has had how many dozens of posts today, and most days, and how many hundreds of comments per day? Thousands?

ObWi used to have more commenters than BJ. Not all that long ago.

Numbers can be made to lie, but not ones as simple as these.

So: more posting when I can.

Still trying to figure out how to blog, or more to the point, read enough to know what I'm talking about, while under present, revised, circumstances.

Beyond very very very slowly. Which won't work. I'm used to spending 16-18 hours or so a day -- not every day, of course, but most days, more than not -- reading online, ever since 1995 -- with various times off, of course -- and have always been a stone news junkie who did as close to the equivalent as possible before the internet.

I know how unusual this is, but nonetheless, it's been my life for fifteen years, and, well, I'll figure it out soon or or later. Or not.

Meanwhile, sleep, and up by 7 to do cats, etc.

A friend came over for a couple of hours earlier, and concluded that indeed I now no longer have a drawer. Oh, well, who needs drawers? I have five more!

It was nice having six while it lasted. :-)

G'night, unless insomnia strikes.

Gary, FWIW when I comment at all I've mostly migrated over to Balloon Juice myself, and that has more to do with the relative posting frequency--when I decide I have something to say, I'm just more likely to be reading about it over there, and the commentariat reminds me a bit of what I like about ObWi minus the posting rules.

But for the most part I try not to comment on political blogs too much anymore, for the simple reason that I have lost all remaining tolerance for damnfools and conservatives, and combinations thereof--and am flat-out unable to be civil towards them. The Republican party and right-wing conservatism are malignant cancers that are destroying this country, and I have no compassion to spare for coddling the feelings of anyone who is still ignorant or dishonest enough to support the Republican Party as it exists now.

Combine that with a Lego hobby that occupies most of my online-community time, a job that has increasingly cut into that time, and a need to keep politics out of both, and I've mostly just had to take a leave from commenting on politics online.

With that said, I'm glad that things seem to be stabilizing for you. I believe we still have the monthly subscription set up, so hopefully it will be helpful to know that that won't be changing anytime soon--it has yet to impact our budget.

Is there anyone left at ObWi these days who also comments at Balloon Juice, or has everyone fled to BJ over the past couple of years?

i do both.

russell comments @ BJ. Hilzoy, too.

ditto what Catsy said about "posting frequency".

Nell, thanks for your kind note on the other thread.

I've roasted goose several times, but most recently used this recipe.

It was simple and delicious - maybe too boring for a first try with goose, but nice not doing pre-boiling and drying, which in my kitchen is messy and, I think, unnecessary.

I usually cook one goose a year. The rendered fat is so versatile and delicious, and lasts for a very long time. I'm not a big meat eater, so it's a holiday luxury. I hope you enjoy all enjoy the season.

I suppose since folks are coming by to explain why they aren't at ObWi any longer, it might be worthwhile to explain why I'm still here.

One thing about BJ and some other sites I like is that the pace is often really fast, and it's tied to the 4 US time zones. As much as I would like to participate, there's not much chance of doing that where I am.

Though the number has dropped, ObWi still seems to have more people who are overseas or who have had significant overseas experience. We've lost a number of them, but when I look thru other blogs that talk about US politics to some degree, ObWi looks positively diverse in comparison.

Crooked Timber boasts a greater number of commentors who are overseas, and is perhaps more international in outlook, but I get a vibe there that you need to have all your references ready to cite in APA form, while at ObWi, the vibe is less academic. I don't think that I have ever seen a regular non-native speaker at CT, but we've had several here. I attribute that to both the pace of threads unfolding, which can be positively stately, and to the example that Hilzoy set, which still awes and astonishes me long after her departure. I generally only go in the comments at BJ for the occasional post where I think the commentariat will be in full throat, which is precisely the threads where I won't find the ObWi diaspora, so I'll have to make a point to look a little more frequently.

I enjoy Balloon Juice and occasionally comment there. I also read Steve Benen's blog at Washington Monthly, and respect his views. I still like the commenting format at ObWi, in that comment threads seem more of a discussion than a series of one-off rants. Since I usually only comment when I disagree with something, I should probably expect the vitriolic response that I often receive here, but I'm usually surprised by it. Anyway, I find that lengthier comments and exchange promote more careful reading, and I usually learn something from having participated in a discussion here.

Nell, grand to see you.

Heartily seconded.

I'm with Catsy above--I don't comment much any more because i don't feel like being civil to uncivilized people. Truth is I don't read political blogs much any more either.

But I do hope you all have a wonderful holiday season clelbrating what ever you celebrate!

LJ, I prefer quality over quantity. Always have, and hope I always will.

On the other hand, I know a positive feedback loop when I see one.

It's trivial to simply, oh, look at the blog four years ago this week and compare and contrast the number of posts and comments, if you don't remember, or do the same for any month from 2004-07, contrasted with 2010.

It's not a death spiral that can't be arrested, but it will be if it isn't arrested.

Gotta go do cats and chores. Later.

ObWi isn't in any kind of "death spiral". it still easily gets 100+ comments on a thread, and most threads get at least 30 comments. that's more than you typically find at Yglesias or Kevin Drum.

(though i haven't been to Yglesias much lately. i can only take so much "econ 101 says...")

Yeah, that George Washington, what a Christmas hater.

Religion played a part in the observance of the holiday at Mount
Vernon, for the Washingtons occasionally attended church on Christmas day. In 1770, Christmas was a Tuesday and after going to nearby Pohick Church in the morning, the family returned to Mount Vernon for dinner. Similar patterns were followed in 1771 and 1772, when December 25th fell on a Wednesday and Friday, respectively. During his first year as president, Washington attended St. Paul's Church in New York City on Christmas day, a Friday, and later a number of "respectable" visitors came to see Martha Washington at her regular weekly levee.
I've heard from some liberals that GW was a terrorist, too. Seems to me like there's a difference between Combat on Christmas (the kind that GW engaged in), and a War on Christmas (the kind that Bill O'Reilly et al allege). But kudos to you, Doc, for the clever conflation. Oh, and Doc, your comment that "American colonists didn't celebrate the holiday" is factually false. The Puritans and Quakers didn't celebrate it, because they were Puritans and Quakers. The Presbyterians gave in to the pressure, like Presbyterians do. Etc. But whatever it takes to make atheists feel better, I guess. But we do agree one thing, there are people who know even less about Christian history than they do about American history.

Lastly, to all of you good liberals (and in the spirit of the season, the bad liberals, too), Merry Christmas!

I've heard from some liberals that GW was a terrorist, too.

i don't think any "conservative" has any grounds to complain about misapplication of the word "terrorist".

ObWi isn't in any kind of "death spiral". it still easily gets 100+ comments on a thread, and most threads get at least 30 comments. that's more than you typically find at Yglesias or Kevin Drum.

These aren't well comparable because those are single-person blogs where the draw is the blogger. (This is a generalization; you don't want or need one of my usual essays on context, changing times, evolution of blogging in the past decade, and on.)

Blog communities over the past five years have evolved into silos. Used to be that there were a couple of hundred us polibloggers (who have always had eclectic interests and blogged about other stuff, as well, for the most part, of course).

Only those around in 2002 remember that "warblogger" did not being pro-war, and neither was it a political statement; it was just the term used for political blogs of all persuasions, and in late 2001, there weren't many divisions that seemed very important, for the most part, given how few of us there were, and how everyone who blogged had at least seen frequent links to everyone else.

2003 was when the divisions opened, although there were divisions emerging more strongly towards the end of 2002, with the electing driving it, as the Republicans really started turning September 11th into a far more egregiously political matter of divisive, well, you know what happened after that.

But it was a process that took place over a couple of years.

Then, mostly starting 2003, but particularly 2004-5, people started giving up the ghost on individual blogs, and taking on co-bloggers, while a few blogs had started as group blogs, which was entirely different that changing an individual blog into a group one. (ObWi, of course, was one of the rare early starters as a group blog, along with Crooked Timber; then I got this hit from what turned out to be an experimental blog template no one was supposed to see, but they'd put one blog on the blogroll, me, and Ogged asked for advice about how to do this blogging thing before he and his friend Unf got started, and in any case, that was when silofication started, but didn't really become a big deal until 2005-6, when communities around specific blogs had grown large enough, and people familiar enough with each other, and blogdom had become so large that blogging became less and less about bloggers talking with each other, and more and more about blogs with commenters talking amongst themselves, and ever since then,it's just gotten more and more siloed, to verb a term I wouldn't if I had more time.

Things change.

It's good to see that some regulars here are still around.


ditto what Catsy said about "posting frequency".
Yes. (I prefer not to make any predictions about what I might do beyond the next couple of hours, and there's no point in mentioning my hopes; either you'll see more posts from me, or you won't; life is also uncertain in many ways, or at least, mine is.)


[...] The Republican party and right-wing conservatism are malignant cancers that are destroying this country, and I have no compassion to spare for coddling the feelings of anyone who is still ignorant or dishonest enough to support the Republican Party as it exists now.
Are we doing a lot of coddling at ObWi? Keeping in mind that every blogger is, of course, and individual, and doesn't run posts by another, or... there may be less communication behind the scenes that you might imagine.

There are a lot of things about ObWi that just stopped happening when Moe quit, because he was the one who actually did the work on the blog, and after he left... things changed again, or rather, mostly didn't, aside from bloggers coming and going.

Note that ObWi's template hasn't changed since, and more or less nothing faint rearrangements of the blogroll (and, of course, the links about Andy) has ever changed.

I would contemplate giving up a foot -- and then dismiss the idea, but I'd think about it for a bit -- to get Hilzoy to return for even one post every three months (ideally, a single post per month, but even 2 posts a year, or one, would be nifty), but I completely understand why her priorities needed to shift -- but the trade-off with Hilzoy "in charge" was that we had one of the world's most brilliant thinkers, explicators, and writers, but who kinda, so far as I was ever aware, never knew much about Wordpress, or anything technical, and obviously had insufficient time to invest beyond what she did, which was a vast amount of her time, in the boring yet necessary tedium of stuff like keeping up the HTML, template, and other grunt work.

Things haven't noticeably changed significantly on this front since Moe quit, so far as I can tell, but, of course, Sebastian or von would be endlessly better equipped to tell me how wrong I have it. :-)

(I really really miss Katherine, too, but, again, it's a thousand percent clear and understandable why she's moved on. As have the other former front pagers, all of whom have been crucial in making ObWi what it was/is, at one time or another.)

But I haven't seen any coddling of Republicans by Eric, or myself, and without going through all the names, if there's coddling going on, by all means, point it out, please.

Myself, I've felt that the slogan "This is the Voice of Moderation. I wouldn't go so far as to say we've actually SEIZED the radio station . . ." bore re-examination circa 2006, but didn't see any point to bringing it up at the time, and neither has timing been good since, but since it's been four years without good timing, I still probably shouldn't mention it without another hundred or at least several dozen front page posts here, so I'll stop this sentence now.

But I've had severe doubts about the wisdom of keeping that slogan since 2006. More bluntly, I think it's extremely questionable as a good idea. I think that since 2006, and increasingly so, ever since, it's more of a repellent than an attractor, and ceased having much to do with the reality of ObWi years ago.

"Moderation" sounded nice in 2003, but the entire blog was different then, and so was the world around us. This isn't, as folks will notice, 2003, Tacitus hasn't been the inspiration for the blog since then, the folks running it haven't been a collective that extruded from Tacitus since then, and on and on with things not being terribly much like the end of 2003, or 2004, or 2005, or 2006, since those years.

I'd prefer to have a discussion of this privately, among the co-bloggers, but it's clear that that may never happen.

Although maybe now I'll have pissed off everyone enough to tell me my blogging is best directed elsewhere. I have various ways of uniting people. :-)


With that said, I'm glad that things seem to be stabilizing for you. I believe we still have the monthly subscription set up, so hopefully it will be helpful to know that that won't be changing anytime soon--it has yet to impact our budget.
Thanks muchly muchly.

I do have to confess that I don't always remember whose posting handle is associated with their PayPal account name. In fact, mostly I don't. When reminded, I often do, but... another thing I need to do is update and clarify all those financial records, in my copious spare time.

Thanks hugely again, and to all who have helped me. Now I just have to find a way to blog again, which means finding enough time to read more, which probably means I should comment less, but:
a) it's part of the job, too
b) I've been being chatty at length in ObWi comments since December 16th, 2003, about two years after I started blogging (oh, those ObWi kids seem nice and interesting, and Katherine started doing great work), so it's a bit of a habit.

And if one wants to discuss stability, the only things in my life that have been stable over the past 8 years have been keeping up Amygdala when I can, reading, writing, hanging at ObWi until January of 2009, when I concluded that my energies were based placed elsewhere, which obviously changed in January of 2010, and staring at a computer screen, and doing a few other things of interest to no one but myself.

There have been some negative stable things, but no point in repeating or elaborating on those.

And so the axis tilts again.

I have a friend coming over to hang out tomorrow, if plans don't change, and had another friend over for a couple of hours last night, and a New Year's day party to go to, and a possible social engagement on Monday, so my life has tilted here, but will change dramatically again on Feburary 1st, when the home-owner here will be living here again through the end of March, and how that will work out remains to be seen.

Then I need to find a new place to live by August.

So that's how far my own stability possibly goes, and that's absent the unknown between now and then, of which there's plenty.

But I'm happy to be here. And here. And here.

Merry all your various celebrations.

"...you don't want or need one of my usual essays on context, changing times, evolution of blogging in the past decade, and on...."

But, of course, you got one anyway. (Not in my book, or it would be a post, rather than a wandering comment, but mine is not the relevant view.)

"I've heard from some liberals that GW was a terrorist, too."

Charles, anyone here? If not, who are you addressing? Could you be specific, please?

Should we respond by mentioning something debatable or silly that we've "heard from conservatives"? Or would you prefer not to have such a response?

"But whatever it takes to make atheists feel better, I guess."

Charles, if someone wrote "[b]ut whatever it takes to make Christians feel better, I guess," how would that make you feel?

Nice to see your words again, and may you have a merry Christmas, and superb 2011.

"i don't think any "conservative" has any grounds to complain about misapplication of the word "terrorist".
Is there some point to people generalizing in these ways beyond feeling angry and wanting to make someone feel angry in return?

If so, could someone explain it to me, perhaps?

What sort of useful information did Charles and cleek just exchange here, exactly?

(Happy chitchat is useful because it makes people feel good; exchanges that are simply anger-exchanges don't really tend to make many people happier, by my observation, although, of course, almost all of us mouth off somewhere when we're mad, and I'm not on a crusade to stomp out all anger on ObWi: far from it. But some exchanges do seem more productive than others.)

Sorry, I'm staying up late on Christmas Eve after getting all the presents under the tree and have gotten confused as I put this in the other thread

LJ, I prefer quality over quantity. Always have, and hope I always will.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make an implicit slam against ObWi, or suggest that it would be better to adopt a BJ pace, which is pretty frenetic. In fact, I was trying to underline how the slower pace here allows some folks to participate who might not be able to do so under other circumstances. A little faster, sure, but the pace of the comments and the space between them allows people to participate.

Charles, nice to see you here, but if you read Doc Science's statement, she said
I recall being taught that one reason Washington attacked on Christmas was specifically because (English) American colonists didn't celebrate the holiday. The German Hessian mercenaries did, though, and so would be hung over and vulnerable when Washington and his army made their surprise attack.

That New York (with its Dutch roots) and Virginia (which was settled by Anglicans) celebrated Christmas still doesn't negate the fact that the Continental Army was primarily composed of soldiers from the Northeast (the first incarnation of the army, in 1775, was called 'The New England Army' and the 1776 recruitment had the same geographic bias. So I would be careful about the deployment of 'factually false'.

I've heard from some liberals that GW was a terrorist, too.

Of course he's a terrorist. Every President in my lifetime has been a terrorist. Terrorism boils down to using violence or threats of violence against civilian populations to coerce them into making political change. When GWB told the Iraqi people words to the effect of 'overthrow Hussein or we're going to start a war against you', that's terrorism: you have a threat of violence (start a war) against a civilian population (Iraqis) unless they effect the political change you want (get rid of their government).

I mean, this isn't hard. Surely we can all agree that GWB, like a great many Presidents was a terrorist.

I've heard some people who may or may not be liberals confuse George Washington with George W. Bush. And not in a nice way.

Doh. Reading fail. Thanks for pointing out the obvious Hogan.

Please ignore my previous comment.

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