A Philosopher's Blog

War on Christmas

Posted in Politics, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on November 30, 2012
Christmas in the post-War United States

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States has numerous Christmas traditions, ranging from elaborate decorations to re-gifting lame gifts like fruitcakes. While these are broad traditions, embraced by millions of Americans, there are also narrower traditions. One such tradition is the Fox & friends holiday ritual of claiming that there is a war on Christmas.

Gretchen Carlson and State Representative Doreen Carlson lit the ritual hyperbole log (not to be confused with the Yule log) near the end of November 2012. After discussing what she took as the latest evidence in the existence of the war, Carlson closed with “a lot of people, for whatever reason, will look at this interview today and say, Gretchen Carlson and Doreen Costa are nuts. They’re so nuts because they think there’s this made up war on Christmas. We’re not nuts, are we? There is a war on Christmas!”

While it is very tempting to dismiss Carlson and her fellows on the grounds of some sort of insanity, I will not do this. I do not think that she is insane. However, I do think that the war on Christmas is made up, in the same way that Santa is made up—only with a rather less pleasant intention behind the fiction.

While the term “war” gets thrown around so excessively by Americans (we have wars on everything, including actual wars on actual people) that is has become worn and shoddy, I will endeavor to present a rough account of what would be required for there to be a war on Christmas.

Roughly put, a war would seem to indicate a conflict with breadth and intensity. In terms of breadth, a true war typically would require a reasonable broad front, either literally or metaphorically. After all, a few sporadic episodes of violence that take place far from each other would hardly count as a war.  In the case of the alleged war on Christmas, there would need to be battles occurring across adequately broad areas of the country as opposed to extremely limited numbers of isolated incidents. Not surprisingly fine folks at Fox traditionally make use of the hasty generalization (a fallacy in which a person draws a general conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not adequate in size) to create the impression that the few examples of what they claim are incidents in the war are actually general occurrences. Naturally, one should not take my word for this. If it really matters, a person can create a war map and plot out the locations of the alleged incidents to determine if they constitute a large enough number to count as a war. This can be done my imaging each incident as a fight proportional to the incident.

In terms of intensity, a true war (as opposed to a cold or false war) would seem to require a level of conflict that would intuitively match what is expected in war. If, for example, soldiers on opposing sides exchange taunts and occasionally throw rocks at each other, that would hardly seem to be a war. In the case of an actual war on Christmas, what would be needed would be attacks on Christmas of sufficient intensity to be considered warlike aggression against the holiday.

In general, Fox tends to point to incidents of the “intensity” discussed by Carlson and Costa. In Rhode Island, where Costa is a representative, the governor held a holiday tree lighting, rather than a Christmas tree lighting. Fox also points to cases in which Nativity scenes are not allowed to be displayed on state property, such as in front of or in government buildings. Incidents in which people say “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” are also taken as evidence of the war. On the face of it, these incidents do not seem intense enough to count as warfare.

There is also the fact that is blindingly obvious that Christmas itself is not under attack (other than the usual commercialism that corrupts the very heart of the holiday). After all, Christmas is not only completely legal, the overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate it and almost all Americans participate in some way (my atheist and non-Christian friends have never turned down a Christmas gift nor a Christmas dinner). Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas goose, Christmas lights, Christmas carols, Christmas services and so on are also completely legal and unhindered. It would take a strange epistemology indeed to believe that there is a war on this beloved and almost universally practiced (in America) holiday.

But, one might say, what about the fact that state officials, like the governor of Rhode Island, have “holiday tree” lightings. What about public schools having “winter breaks” rather than “Christmas breaks”? What about Nativity scenes not being set up in federal court houses? Are these not evidence of a most vile war on Christmas?

The obvious answer is “not at all.” One should be careful to note that what is occurring is that the state is simply not giving special treatment to the holiday of a specific faith (although Christmas seems to have extended way beyond Christianity) with the main focus being on the religious trappings. So, for example, trees, snowmen, Santa Claus and so on seem to be fine on state grounds. Baby Jesus, not so much. However, this is no more a war on Christmas than changing “chairman” to “chairperson” is a war on men. It just means that one specific faith is not getting special treatment denied to other faiths. Not always getting what one wants and not having one’s faith enshrined by the state is hardly the same thing as a war on Christmas.

What would an actual war on Christmas look like in America? That is easy enough to answer. From 1659-1681 the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston. This was not the work of anti-Christians, but due to the Puritan opposition to Christmas on religious grounds. While New England is now famous as a Christmas place, the celebration of the holiday did not come into vogue until around the mid-19th century, at least around Boston. So, Fox, until people start banning Christmas across regions of the country again (or worse), talk of the war on Christmas is just annoying and divisive hyperbole. Worse, it gets people who have weak critical thinking skills upset, worried and angry and that is not the sort of holiday spirit that is right for the season. So, for the sake of the Christmas spirit, stop engaging in this foolishness.

My books make excellent gifts, especially for the fine folks at Fox.

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105 Responses

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  1. What war on Christmas? | Civil Commotion said, on November 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

    [...] LaBossiere dissects Fox News’ breathless reporting about the “War on Christmas” and concludes they [...]

  2. [...] War on Christmas (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) [...]

  3. T. J. Babson said, on November 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Would it be plagiarism if I reproduce this article word for word except replace “Fox” with “Democrats” and “war on Christmas” with “war on women”?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 30, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Yes. A vastly better case can be made that the Republican Party was involved in a war on women, though. However, I would not classify the systematic efforts that certainly seemed hostile to women as well as the various incidents of the “legitimate rape” variety as a war. More like a series of skirmishes and incidents well short of war.

      But, to compare Fox’s make-believe war on Christmas with things like opposition to equal pay is to trivialize what is actually a serious matter.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on November 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Actually, one can make a case that the real “war on Christmas” is the Obama economy. Someone needs to make a Photoshop mash-up of Obama as the Grinch.

    • biomass2 said, on November 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      I knew Bush was the War Guy.
      Starting two wars during his time in office. But now that you mention it, we can probably count the war on Christmas as the Third Bush War.
      Anyone want to discuss whether we’re better off now than we were in the recession aftermath of GWB leaving office?.

      http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/rick-newman/2012/08/22/whos-better-off-under-president-obama

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/157382/key-indicators-better-obama-took-office.aspx

      http://factcheck.org/2012/10/obamas-numbers/

      http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/22/news/economy/obama-spending/index.htm

      • T.J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on November 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm

        We are 6 trillion dollars in debt worse off. Our banking system has not been fixed. Health care reform did not do anything to reduce costs. And we are heading into another recession.

        I do indeed wish we could have a do-over.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

          I was thinking that in 2008 after 8 years of George. Obama is doing a much better job.

          • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on November 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm

            We are all doomed.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

              I’ve been hearing that for a long time and it is only occasionally true.

            • magus71 said, on December 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm

              Yup. We’re doomed. Mike can sluff it off by saying he’s heard it before, but I can point to that great demon called math.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

              Show me some of that demon math.

            • magus71 said, on December 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

              It would take a book. I suggest Mark Steyn’s, After America. You’re a fast reader; you could probably burn through it in three days, if you can stand the fact that Steyn is a conservative.

              Specifically, however, let’s take a look at the testimony of CBO (Congressional Budget Office) chief Douglas Elmendorof before the House Budget Committee in 2010:

              “I think most observers expect that the government will act (on debt)…if literally nothing is done, then eventually something very, very bad happens.” [Steyn, After America, pg 8]
              2 years later, we’re even worse off. The CBO looked at the possibilities for the future and came up with two scenarios, both of them apocalyptic. In the “good scenario”, American debt will increase from 44% of the GDP to 280% of the GDP by 2080. In the “bad scenario”, debt from 2008 to 2080 will increase from 44% of GDP to 780% of GDP. [Steyn, After America, pg 9] It really doesn’t matter which figure is correct-_America will be devastated long before we reach the lower number.

            • biomass2 said, on December 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm

              In the Spielberg movie, Lincoln tells an interesting story about a parrot that each day proclaimed that the end of the world was at hand. . .

              It applies here.

              Here’s an ‘intriguing’ (to say the least) movie review:

              http://www.dove.org/reviewpopup.asp?Unique_ID=9600

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 2, 2012 at 7:25 am

              Lincoln could certainly tell a story. Also, he did not yield to the cries of doom, even though the union was broken and Americans were killing Americans. If our predecessors managed the civil war, surely we can muster up what it takes now?

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

              We are like the Titanic heading for the iceberg.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 2, 2012 at 7:26 am

              If we know we are, then we are not.

            • biomass2 said, on December 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

              TJ: Flesh out all parts of the simile for us.Do you believe the result of going over the “fiscal cliff” will result in the equivalent of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)? Will common sense prevail after the fact, resulting in the implementation of new approaches to taxing and spending that seem to be lost in partisan nattering? Was the iceberg foreseen, or was it unexpected? I’ll give you fact that the the crew of the Titanic and the officers tasked with evacuating the passengers did not seem to know what the hell they were doing and that the same seems to be true with our legislative branch. That part of the comparison works.
              A captain of a ship gives the orders and his crew carries them out. Can you foresee a circumstance where the captain (Obama)could ask those in a position to carry out his order (or implement his requests/ideas) and they would do as he asks because it’s their job to do so?

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 2, 2012 at 12:26 am

              Letter to the editor of Barron’s:

              A Warm Thank You

              To the Editor:

              This 50-something, white, conservative Republican wishes to thank America’s youth for sacrificing their financial futures and standard of living so that boomers, such as my wife and I, can look forward to a long and comfy retirement, which we could easily have afforded on our own. Now we have the youth as our guarantors and providers of a little something extra.

              As reported by the national exit poll conducted by Edison Research, Americans aged 18 to 29 voted 60% to 36% for Barack Obama. Prior to Obama’s re-election, I believed that it was morally wrong for my generation to pass a crushing national debt on to the next one.

              The debt will top $20 trillion before Obama moves out of the White House, and it will include spiraling retirement-related costs that the administration has shown zero interest in bringing under control, largely driven by baby boomers piling into the Social Security and Medicare systems.

              With the president’s electoral crushing of Mitt Romney, my overriding sense of morality and guilt have vanished. Thank you, kids!

              Edwin D. Schindler

              Woodbury, N.Y.

            • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

              Note the second chart down on the right:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

              And some support of that:

              http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

              ^The DEBT^ started its frightening upward trend in the early Eighties. Early Reagan.

              Shindler, in the letter you provide, says “Prior to Obama’s re-election, I believed that it was morally wrong for my generation to pass a crushing national debt on to the next one.” Look at the trajectory of that graph, TJ. Shindler’s generation, if we’re to believe he can speak for an entire generation (Republicans and Democrats, I assume must have had their heads in a deep hot hole until, when, just a month ago? C’mon…

              That’s like assuming the people who eventually became the Tea Party, were on a slow simmer, but didn’t feel the heat until Jan-Feb 2009. Something, miraculously made them aware enough of what they think is a major problem to coalesce into a political force at just that time, just after Obama’s took office. Before his election, not so much.

            • magus71 said, on December 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

              Mike says,

              “If we know we are, then we are not.” (Iceberg, Titanic)

              That’s what makes it so bad. This is not a black swan. Many people agree that we’re headed for a disaster, but we still won’t swing the bow around. Because we can keep coming up with philosophical reasons for spending more. Math beats philosophy.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

              Math, by itself, is not enough for decision making. That requires a theory of value-which falls under philosophy. Economics, for example, is a subset of moral philosophy.

            • magus71 said, on December 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

              Philosophy is not enough either. There are multiple philosophies, all proposed by men considered geniuses. Yet most agree that continually spending more than you have will eventually result in very bad things. Few argue about the simple math. Why is the fact that fiscal responsibility is one of the central tenets of conservatism ignored?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm

              Sure, overspending is bad. But it being bad is not shown by math, but by a theory of value. The math just gives the numbers which must be assessed.

            • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

              magus:
              “This is not a black swan.”
              Well, if you accept what you see in the charts I present in my Dec. 2 12:39 pm, it almost seems like this is most definitely not a black swan. An important question, it seems, should be, what did we know and when should we have known it? When should the first real action have been taken? When the lines on the chart seemed to be climbing steeply or just within the last 4 years?

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

              biomass, do you remember Ross Perot? Do you remember what his big issue was? People have been concerned about the national debt for a long time.

            • magus71 said, on December 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

              Yes, TJ. They’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s just that unfer Obama the problem became so evident that it has shocked some of us awake. And yet Obama ran, partially, on the accusation that Romney had no plan. What’s Obama’s? His offerings to Congress are laughable.

            • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

              Cassie:
              The short guy with the big ears? Who could forget. :) So, still, you leave my question unanswered: What was the magic tipping point that caused this real concern that Perot was campaigning on 12 years after the steep climb began in the early Reagan years?

            • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm

              magus @4:18
              Look at the charts. “. . .unfer Obama the problem became so evident that it has shocked some of us awake.” Look at the charts. It had to be more than that. Just had to be .

            • biomass2 said, on December 3, 2012 at 11:03 am

              Take heart Cassie:

              http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/when-the-world-ends/?hp

              Read it in its entirety. Then linger on the concluding sentence:
              ” In the meantime, it’s a sad, amazing little place you inhabit, and the world hasn’t ended yet. We’re here, you’re here, and tomorrow might be good, tomorrow can be good, tomorrow has to be good, because otherwise, what are you doing here?”

            • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

              “I’ve been hearing that for a long time and it is only occasionally true.”

              I’m no philosopher. But I know that’s a fallacy of some sort. At least the message it implies.

          • magus71 said, on December 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

            “Obama is doing a much better job”

            Mike, the unemployment rate under Obama has been higher than the day before he was elected in 2008, every single day of his presidency. The debt tripled under Obama.

            While there may be reasons to believe Obama’s doing as well as Bush, only a dye-in-the-wool Democrat could believe that he is doing “much better.” How are we stronger than under Bush? If another 9-11 happened today, what would Obama do that would be so much better? ignore the problem?

            And the world likes us less under Obama, not more. Liberals are very worried about how the world perceives America. Our enemies are more energized, because he’s reminded them repeatedly that America needs to feel ashamed of itself.

          • WTP said, on December 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm

            Why do you guys let mike get away with this $#*+? Economics is NOT a “moral” philosophy! Look the word up ferchrisesakes.

            • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

              Why bother with the symbols and the funny spellings? Why not revert to the old-fashioned “Oh, Bull fucking shit”? Remember, I (erik, at the time)quoted you saying that in my 10:17pm “SOTU Draft” (the one with Glenn Beck’s mug at a the top).
              Be yourself, man. That’s what we love you for.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

              The numbers speak volumes:

              Obama’s economic report shows that the average deficit-to-GDP ratio during the entire Bush administration — 2001 to 2009 — was 2%, which is well below the 50-year average of 3%.

              During the Obama years, in contrast, the same deficit ratio has averaged 9.1%.

              The Bush tax cuts did not “cost” the Treasury revenues. Nor did they increase income inequality.

              When fully implemented, they increased the portion of the income tax burden that fell on the wealthiest Americans.

              The top 1% of taxpayers went from paying 38.4% of overall taxes to 39.1%, while the bottom 50% saw their share drop from 3.4% to 3.1%.

              And as a percentage of the economy, deficits shrank to historically low levels.

              http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/113012-635352-bush-tax-cuts-did-not-cause-deficits.htm

            • WTP said, on December 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

              So, TJ if this is true, did you really think Kerry was the answer? You either didn’t get or still don’t get the economics. Bush was not good, Kerry was closer to Obama than bush.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm

              My problem with Bush was his massive overreaction to 9/11. In my view we need to disengage from the Middle East and let Islam go its own way.

            • WTP said, on December 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

              Interesting…We’re pretty far off topic as is, but such is the nature of wars…So do you think Roosevelt’s engagement in Europe was a massive overreaction to 12/7?

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 3, 2012 at 8:35 am

              No, Axis vs. Allies was clearly shaping up to be a total, all-out war.

              Best way to fight the war against extremist Islam is to separate our civilizations. No travel from Muslim nations to the U.S. and no Muslim immigration to the U.S. Let them go their own way.

          • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 11:45 pm

            Bush’s domestic agenda was a liberal’s dream. Too bad he liked the military, killed terrorists, and had an (R) behind his name. Otherwise, they should have loved him.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_policy_of_the_George_W._Bush_administration

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 4, 2012 at 12:05 am

              Agreed. Bush was not really very conservative. And I hate to see our guys dying in Afghanistan for no reason. We should just leave. There is nothing we can accomplish there.

            • magus71 said, on December 4, 2012 at 12:11 am

              By the way, I received a response from the White House regarding the letter I wrote. here it is:

              November 30, 2012

              Dear Douglas:

              Thank you for writing, and for your service and sacrifice. Because of our courageous service members and civilians serving in harm’s way, we have a clear path to fulfilling our mission in Afghanistan, delivering justice to al-Qa’ida, and ending the war responsibly.

              A decade ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al-Qa’ida could never again use Afghanistan as a base from which to launch attacks against us. This war has gone on longer than most anticipated, and al-Qa’ida’s extremist allies within the Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency. But the tide has turned over the last 3 years. Our troops broke the Taliban’s momentum. We built strong Afghan security forces and devastated al-Qa’ida’s leadership—taking out more than 20 of their top 30 leaders. And in 2011, our Armed Forces launched an operation from a base in Afghanistan that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal I set—to defeat al-Qa’ida and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.

              To complete our mission and end the war, I have laid out a strategy that has five elements: transitioning to an Afghan security lead by the end of 2014, training sufficient and sustainable Afghan Security Forces, building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, supporting Afghan-led reconciliation, and promoting regional stability. Thanks to our extraordinary service members, our civilian personnel, and our coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.

              On May 2, 2012, I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries. It heralds a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation and in which we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; it is a future in which war ends and a new chapter begins.

              We have already begun the transition to Afghan responsibility for security, which means our troops will be coming home. In 2011, we removed 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan, and another 23,000 of our men and women returned home by the end of summer 2012. Steady reductions will continue and, as our NATO alliance has agreed, the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country by the end of 2014. To find additional resources for service members, veterans, and military families, please visit http://www.MilitaryHomefront.DOD.mil.

              To protect America, we are also investing in our homeland security, improving and better coordinating our intelligence, working with our allies and partners to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, using diplomacy to strengthen our alliances, and drawing on the strength of our values. For more information on my Administration’s strategies in Afghanistan and around the world, please visit http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/Issues/Foreign-Policy.

              Thank you, again, for writing.

              Sincerely,

              Barack Obama

            • magus71 said, on December 4, 2012 at 12:17 am

              This was my original letter:

              Sir,

              I am a Staff Sergeant in the 1st Brigade, 2-22 Battalion, 10th Mountain Division of the US Army. I am an intelligence analyst by trade and was deployed to Afghanistan 2010-2011. It is my job to keep up with events and to make assessments based on facts and data. Sir, the last decade proves a fact better than the hundreds of pie charts and link diagrams you’ve likely been briefed on during your time in the White House: We are not accomplishing our desired goals in Afghanistan. We have not degraded the Taliban insurgency significantly enough to allow an ANSF takeover in 2014. There are several reasons for this. First, our generals have massively underestimated the difficulty in building a democracy in a society that holds few democratic ideals. Secondly, the counterinsurgency strategy employed in Afghanistan fails to meet the military’s own doctrinal standards of 1 security force member to 50 civilians. Actually, our numbers aren’t even close to the required personnel. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the cross-border safe haven in the Pakistani FATA presents an insurmountable stronghold for insurgent training, rest and recruitment. There are other factors, such as the probability that the Taliban holds the moral high ground over the government in Kabul, even by Western standards.
              The insurgency has employed every gambit of Sun Tzu, while we have sought to fight a war Galahad would be proud of. Our troops patrol with vague or unknown directives, because current counterinsurgency doctrine says this will connect them with the people. Little consideration is given to the enemy, who is also trying in every manner to influence the people. They are doing a much better job at it then are we. Our Soldiers are targets for snipers and bomb makers who do not fear retribution because retribution rarely comes.
              Now, because of insider threats, the meager relationship we’d forged with the ANSF is gone. We are trapped in our bases. The enemy is now free to move about and mass for attack. And why is the Taliban able to penetrate the ANSF with such frequency? Because the Taliban’s creed is almost indistinguishable from the average Pashtun male’s. Xenophobic, jealous, quick to anger, Pashtuns love a good fight. And unlike our Soldiers in Afghanistan, they can go back to their houses and families every night after they kill our service members.

              Please consider an early withdrawal. We are the hunted, not the hunters.

              SSG Douglas Moore

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

              Well, George was very free with money. But, I wouldn’t consider him a liberal’s dream.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm

              Question for Mike.

              Mike, how do you think Democrats view the huge deficits we are running and the growing national debt? Do they worry at all about repaying it? Do they plan on inflating it away? If you look at budget projections they have us running trillion dollar deficits in perpetuity. How do Democrats square that with responsible governance?

              This is a serious question. I am trying to understand how something that terrifies me doesn’t seem to trouble half of the country. How does the reasoning work?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

              Depends on the Democrat. In general, most folks claim they are not fond of deficits or debts and worry about it. But in practice, most folks spend like mad. Spending was huge under Reagan and under Bush, so you should ask some Republicans as well.

              While I am a Democrat mainly because it is the lesser evil and I want to be able to vote in primaries, I don’t speak for the Democrats. I prefer to avoid deficits and debts. I undertake spending reductions to match my reduced income. I would prefer that the state spent wiser and more effectively.

            • biomass2 said, on December 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

              TJ: In an earlier reply you said something to the effect that “the numbers speak volumes.”

              http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/documents/20120229_essentialecon.pdf

              Whose numbers speak volumes?
              Look at the charts on deficits contained in this document. The other charts are informative, too, I would assume, depending on the angle you view them from. I look at some of these charts, and some of what I see there terrifies me. I doubt those are the same things that terrify you. :)

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 4, 2012 at 9:06 pm

              I just want my kids to inherit a viable country. What do you want, bio?

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm

              In my opinion the Dems are incredibly selfish, borrowing from future generations to pay off present day voters.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

              “In my opinion the Republicans are incredibly selfish, borrowing from future generations to pay off present day voters.”

              Seems to apply to most politicians of both parties. After all, the Republicans have been spending fools to a degree that matches or exceeds the Democrats.

              Where was the talk of fiscal responsibility in the Reagan and Bush years? Interesting how politicians start talking about cutting spending when the other party holds the White House.

              Now, they are right to say we should curb our spending. However, they are hardly doing so out of a moral commitment to reducing spending. The proof lies in what they do when they get to run the show. And what they always do is…spend.

              Interestingly, Democrats have done the best in terms of handling deficits. Look at Clinton, for example. So, bashing Dems is but a game.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

              Tu quoque. You should know better, having written the book.

              In the last year of Republican control of Congress the deficit was $170 billion. It is now $1,200 billion. That extra trillion is significant.

              Do the math. $1.2 trillion deficit spending divided by 300 million people = $4,000 per person per year we are borrowing

              Since only half the people pay taxes that means 150 million are borrowing $8,000 per year.

              Can we raise taxes by $8,000/yr on 50% the country? No.

              Can we raise taxes by $16,000 per year on 25% of the country? No.

              Can we raise taxes by $32,000 on 12.5% of the country? No.

              There is no way out of this mess by raising taxes.

            • magus71 said, on December 5, 2012 at 6:57 am

              Yup. Math. The thing is people can look at the math and think it doesn’t mean disaster, but several people I trust say it does.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm

              Not at all. My point is not that the Republicans do it too, thus making the Democrats innocent. Rather my point is that one cannot single out the Democrats for blame in regards to the deficit and spending, since the Republicans contributed to the deficit and also spend like mad when they are in power.

              To use an analogy, if someone says “darn Democrat Bill stuck us with the check-he is to blame for our woes” and I say “well, partially. You’ll note that Republican Rick also stuck us with the check, so the whole story is that they both ripped us off.”

              Half the people pay federal income tax, but more than half pay taxes (such as payroll tax). Also, I’ve gone over the 47% deal before.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 5, 2012 at 9:44 am

              From the GAO. Dems are not interested in addressing the fundamental issue facing country.

              GAO’s simulations continue to illustrate that the federal government is on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.

              http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-148SP

        • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

          The Titanic sunk from hubris, not ignorance:

          By 7pm, the outside air temperature was a mere 43 degrees, and even the hardiest passengers had left the cold decks above for the sanctuary of the warmth and conviviality to be found below-decks. Still the ice warnings continued to come, logged and delivered to the bridge, where they were posted for the attention of the officers. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch ordered the forward forecastle hatch to be closed, so that the glow from it would not hinder the view of the lookouts stationed high above.

          By 9.00pm, the air temperature had dropped to 33 degrees, and at about this time, Captain Edward John Smith, who had been the guest of honour at a dinner party in the First Class Dining Room, arrived on the bridge. Second Officer Lightoller informed Smith of the change in the weather, and the precautions the officers had taken. Smith absorbed the information, and by 9.30pm, he retired to his cabin which was located immediately behind the bridge.

          Now it was 9.40pm, and still the ice warnings came. At no time had Captain Smith or the senior officers ordered a cautionary reduction in speed, or had gone to the trouble of having extra lookouts posted, something which Captain Lord of the Californian had already performed before he called it a day and brought his own vessel to a halt in the ice. When you put-together the ice warnings Titanic had received that day, it revealed that there was an ice-field 80 miles long directly in her path, and only two hours away if the current speed were maintained. Surely somebody in the next couple of hours must realise that Titanic is steaming at full-speed into an ice-field which has already made other vessels to heave-to for the night?

          http://www.titanic-titanic.com/collision.shtml

          • biomass2 said, on December 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

            TJ: . . .”The Titanic sunk from hubris, not ignorance”

            Not quite that simple. Same source you provided—next paragraph:

            “John Phillips. . . was busy in the Marconi room dispatching commercial traffic between the liner, and Cape Race land station in North America. . . which was now in range of the Titanic’s powerful transmitters. Now, under the immense pressure of sending commercial traffic, and at the same time having to cope with incoming warnings and messages, he snapped, as the nearby Californian sent an ice warning to the Titanic. “Shut up. Shut up. I am busy. I am working Cape Race.” Phillips’ now infamous snub highlighted how the commercial traffic had priority over the warnings. Perhaps if the Marconi men had not been so busy sending messages, the Titanic would never have foundered. But all the previous warnings didn’t stop that either, so a last minute aversion was unlikely.”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      But Santa gives gifts and one Republican narrative has been that Obama won by giving gifts. Socialist or Santaist?

      • T.J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on November 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

        I guess one man’s socialist is another man’s Santa.

  5. magus71 said, on November 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Mike,

    Every year you blog about the war on Christmas. A war you say does not exist. Why does it bother you so?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Because I dislike systematic attempts to distort reality. Fox also does a public disservice by trying to convince people that they are being oppressed and victimized when they are not.

      Not a big fan of MSNBC for similar reasons. But I’ll let you blog about them.

      • WTP said, on December 1, 2012 at 11:06 am

        Because I dislike systematic attempts to distort reality

        And then Mike disappeared into a puff of smoke never to be heard form again.

  6. ajmacdonaldjr said, on December 1, 2012 at 9:26 am

    See: THE PROTECTION OF CHRISTMAS: http://www.fatherfeeney.org/point/58-dec.html

  7. unsolicitedtidbits said, on December 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for this analysis. This “war on Christmas” non-sense drives me insane. I’m so glad you’ve thoughtfully dissected the problem here.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      Consider it an early Christmas present. :)

      Better than a dusty old fruit cake or an Acme Coffee Weasel.

    • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      Actually, Mike didn’t prove there is no War on Christmas. He just believes the war is justified.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:05 pm

        In this case, the burden of proof rests on those who claim there is such a war. If there was such a war, the evidence should be abundant and readily available.

        I rather like Christmas. However, I accept that one specific religion should not be endorsed by the state.

        • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm

          So no more Christmas parties at school? I don’t want my kids going to schools that don’t celebrate Christmas. Our founding fathers didn’t either.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

            Schools can party all they want. However, public schools would have holiday parties to acknowledge the fact that not everyone is a Christian.

            Fairness would require that all faiths get their holidays celebrated in public schools. Atheists, of course, would also need to get their due.

            One way to think about the matter, is to try to imagine that either you were a devout member of another faith or to imagine an alternative world in which Christianity was a minor religion in the United States. Imagine, for example, that the United States was a moslem or Buddhist nation. From such a perspective, would you favor having one faith given special treatment in the public area when that faith was not your own?

            I think that religion can do just fine even when it is not supported by the state. As such, I have no problem with the state not getting behind Christmas. That certainly has no impact on my Christmas. Naturally, I would oppose laws banning Christmas, but I doubt we will be flashing back to the colonial days when it was banned in Boston.

            • biomass2 said, on December 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

              “Atheists, of course, would also need to get their due”
              .We agnostics wouldn’t know when not to party.

            • magus71 said, on December 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

              The best times in school were at Christmas parties. I’m not for a theocracy. I also don’t believe Islam is the equal of Christianity. It’s fine if schools choose not to have Christmas parties. I’ll just send them to to private schools or home school. They’ll be better off as the statistics support.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm

              Schools still have holiday parties. And, of course, we actually know they really are Christmas parties renamed to avoid us seeming to be a theocracy.

            • magus71 said, on December 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

              As I said, you believe the war is justified, not that it does not exist.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm

              No, there is no war on Christmas. I went on at length about that. At most, there are occurrences every once in a while involving the state and Christmas that Fox latches onto and takes as evidence of a vast war.

  8. biomass2 said, on December 5, 2012 at 12:13 am

    TJ (cassie): You want a viable future for your kids. Guess what? I want the same for my two sons and my grandson. You and I and 118 million Americans just showed last month that we have different views of where we are, how we got here, and where we’re going. I look back at this country’s history and see two political parties , that, nearly from the very beginning, took opposing views of the way forward. The poisonous atmosphere is nothing new. We’ve been a country that, unless it’s fighting a common foreign enemy, seems to split itself into two camps: hope or fear, . . .compassion or hate . . . openness or obstruction and its people manage to conveniently fit themselves into one camp or the other, even if doing so presents illogical contradictions.

    I’ve written before that we are not the same country we were in 1789. Our boundaries have grown, our population has exploded, why, we’ve even begun to live up to the basic promise of our founding document by passing some amendments (#13,#14) to the Constitution that ^still^ render some ‘citizens’ of this republic apoplectic. Some argue that the major changes we’ve undergone do not justify looking at our basic document in a different light (Scalia?) I believe Scalia’s approach is wrong. He believes otherwise. But, I ‘m pretty certain even AS understands that disagreement is what we’ve been about from the beginning. Some argue that we must move ever forward in our industrial and corporate progress, damn the consequences, but remain in the 19th and 20th centuries in other areas. Small government, large country. No, in my opinion. For example, a minor language change to “A more efficient government for a large country”, would be a much better, more defensible position to take.

    If this fiscal crisis indeed marks the end of the Republic, I don’t believe the cause will be fiscal decisions we make. It’ll be the failure to understand that disagreement is the nature of the US way of things, but that eventually we get it settled (through politics and compromise, and common freakin’ sense) and move on. And if one side or the other fails to understand that, there’s always the Gettysburg way. We know how that went. . I imagine the process would be a bit bloodier in the 21st century.

    • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      biomass, I still have not heard how the Dems are going to address the long term unsustainable fiscal path. Have you? Do they think they can get there simply with tax increases? If so, where is the math?

      Here is my understanding of the Democratic position. The Dems have no plan, but they know they don’t like the Republican plan:

      Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking on behalf of the Obama White House, to Rep. Paul Ryan:

      “You are right to say we’re not coming before you today to say ‘we have a definitive solution to that long term problem.’ What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

      GAO’s simulations continue to illustrate that the federal government is on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.

      http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-148SP

      • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        Maybe if we close our eyes and wish real hard the “unsustainable fiscal path” will fix itself?

        I think this approach can be sold to those all-important “low information” voters, don’t you?

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 6, 2012 at 6:59 pm

        The Republican narrative seems to be that they will cut the deficit by cutting social programs while defending the the wealthiest 2% from the removal of the Bush era tax cuts.

        The Democrats narrative seems to be that they will cut the deficit by cutting some spending and letting the Bush era cuts expire for the top 2%.

        • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

          “The Democrats narrative seems to be that they will cut the deficit by cutting some spending and letting the Bush era cuts expire for the top 2%.”

          Except the math doesn’t add up. The amount of revenue from the tax increases doesn’t even come close to covering the deficit.

          This is pointed out in the GAO report. Even if we go back to Clinton-era tax rates for everyone the math still doesn’t work.

          GAO’s simulations continue to illustrate that the federal government is on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.

          http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-148SP

          • biomass2 said, on December 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm

            TJC/// (I called my ’84 Toyota Corolla TC. He didn’t have a middle name. No bumper stickers, either. Very reliable car.)

            Has anything the Republicans have thus far proposed —doable revenue and tax cuts, for example– “come close to covering the deficit”? If not, does that mean that all their tax/revenue proposals ^suck the big one^ and should be rejected out of hand?
            Anyway,I wasn’t aware that one tax increase or two or three loophole closings or 5 or 10 spending cuts alone are supposed to “cover the deficit” Wham. Bam. Deficit solved.
            I was assuming that by getting two parties together to hammer out a deal they might be able to produce a comprehensive (that’s comprehensive, as in far-reaching, encompassing) answer to a big part of our deficit problem. Nothing overnight. No easy solutions. I never thought that killing Big Bird , as an isolated act, would do much. Do you honestly think closing loopholes or crafting any kind of comprehensive tax reform will “com[e] close to covering the debt”?

      • biomass2 said, on December 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm

        “Do they think they can get there simply with tax increases?”
        TJ(C): I’ve heard Obama say over and over that a balanced approach, revenues and cuts, is needed. So, obviously, the answer to your Q is “No”.
        Dems have asked for tax increases, and they’ve offered spending cuts (which Republicans claim are not specified and not significant enough).
        Republicans, on the other hand, have refused tax increases and offered unspecified “revenues”.,
        Both, it would seem, are offering something on revenue and spending cuts. Republican revenues are vague and they claim Obama’s spending cuts won’t materialize.
        I don’t recall a time when Democrats said or acted as if they “can get there simply with tax increases”.
        Please note: There is a difference between “we’re not coming before you today to say ‘ we have a definitive solution to that long term problem.’” and “The Dems have no plan.”
        The Republicans might not get that difference. Geithner , I believe, was saying he didn’t have a “definitive solution”. That kind of honesty baffles the opposition, because Republicans are convinced ^they are correct^. No compromise. Period. End of thinking. Oh. Except for DeMint. He’s going to head a “think tank” and make $900,000 more. Now that’s thinking.

        • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm

          A balanced approach is fine with me. What spending cuts have they offered?

          • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm

            Actually, Obama is proposing $250B more spending for next year. Congressional Dems have nixed reforming entitlements.

          • biomass2 said, on December 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm

            What revenue, specifically, have Boehner &Co. offered?

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 7, 2012 at 12:33 am

              So you think even though the Dems won the presidency and control the Senate the Republicans should be taking the lead on this issue?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 7:41 am

              One third of the lead. Also, they can block almost anything in the senate. Like some Republicans did because of their irrational fear that the UN will occupy American homes.

            • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 9:48 am

              The lead? Didn’t say that. No. But, they should accept some responsibility in the negotiating process. They must see how useless it is to whine and complain that they’re not getting everything they want while, at the same time, offering no specifics on what they’re offering to raise revenue.

  9. T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I used to go to the Maine Mall all the time circa 1986 when I lived in Old Orchard Beach.

    Maine Mall to have a new Santa after complaints from a mother and her young child

    South Portland — The Maine Mall will have a new Santa, after a parent complained that he was rude and prevented her daughter from sitting on his lap.

    The mother of 6-year-old Chantel Mailhiot says the Santa Claus at the Maine Mall says Santa wouldn’t let Chantel sit on his lap after she decided not to buy a photo package, worth $20.

    Chantel also says when she asked Santa for an “American Girl doll”, he replied “American football”.

    The story received hundreds of comments when it was posted on Facebook, with others sharing similar experiences in other places.

    News 13 reached out to the Santa at the Maine Mall, but he chose not to comment. The Maine Mall hopes to have a new Santa in place on Thursday.

    http://www.wgme.com/news/top-stories/stories/wgme_vid_14589.shtml

  10. biomass2 said, on December 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    TJ )C): I can’t identify when similar problems between parents and children began. . I’m certain someone out there thinks he/she can. I’d bet the problem goes waaay back.

    But, in addition to the considerations about impending doom that I mentioned at 12:13, let’s now add the fact that, for some, this ‘story’ is worthy of any news space whatsoever. Does it really prove any point about the advancing amorality of society? How? What are some possible background factors? Perhaps the 24/7 news cycle? Has any serious news source covered this subject? Why? Perhaps the rapid pace of developments in communication are to blame? Perhaps we should go back to the quill pen. Or the Gutenberg press. Or before. More recently, perhaps we shouldn’t have taken the Christ out of Christmas, if indeed we have? Perhaps we shouldn’t have added the prepositional phrase ‘under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1953?

    What to do? What to do? I need an antacid.

  11. magus71 said, on December 6, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    What do you think, Mike? Ban Christmas trees, too?

    http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22133907/seniors-decry-ban-christmas-tree-their-complex-newhall

    See, I do believe there is a war on Christmas. It may not be that well coordinated, but neither is the insurgency in Afghanistan. It’s being conducted by a loosely affiliated group of like-minded people.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      One private company removing Menorahs and Christmas trees from their property hardly constitutes a war. You’ll need a lot more examples to establish an actual war.

      Private companies do, of course, have property rights over such things-do you want the state to intervene and compel them to allow the trees and Menorahs?

      But, I’d say that this sort of move by a private company is mean-spirited and a bad business decision. After all, no good press ever comes from denying old people their Menorahs and Christmas trees.

      • magus71 said, on December 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        You are right; no single incident denotes a war. The totality of the circumstances do, however.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 7:33 am

          The totality amounts to marginally more than nothing. It is almost a mark of insanity to believe that the massive holiday juggernaut of Christmas is engaged in a war. It is rather like saying that an Ogre Mark V is in danger because some kids are shooting BB guns at it.

          • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:26 am

            Things can be changed one event at a time. This has been going on for a couple of decades and things have changed considerable from when I was a kid. It’s just like the difference between conventional war and an insurgency: In case both sides seek decisive battle. In the other, insurgents hope to grind down the stronger side by avoiding decisive battle. The is an insurgency against Christmas.

            But like I said, maybe you think it’s justified. All of this matters, because like it or not, we are a Christian culture. Start chipping away at these things that remind people of the heritage the made this great country and you get the country we have today: One that is weaker than it was after it fought WWII.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

              I don’t think there is even an insurgency against Christmas. While there are legitimate concerns about state sanctioned religion, the actual attacks on Christmas seem to be from a very small number of people who have rather limited influence. They are up against the vast and overwhelming majority of Americans (of all faiths) who celebrate Christmas. They are also up against the retail juggernaut of the holiday.

              I’m actually impressed by Fox’s ability to get people to believe that a few minor incidents here and there count as evidence of some sort of vast and significant war on Christmas.

              If you want to go historical, read Ben Franklin’s autobiography and his assessment of the faith of the people of his times. Also, note that Christmas was actually banned in the Boston region by Christians on the grounds that it went against their faith. If you want to get back to our heritage, then a ban on Christmas would be just the thing.

      • magus71 said, on December 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        Would this have happened in 1950?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

          Probably not. But a lot of things happen now that would not have happened in the 1950s. Like people playing Xbox 360 and people having civil rights.

          • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

            The nuclear power plant in Fukushima couldn’t have been threatened by tsunamis.
            You couldn’t book a flight to the International Space Station.
            I couldn’t carry a library of books on my Nook.
            In 1950 I couldn’t read yet. How about you?

          • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

            Ok. So was there a war on discrimination? I think there was.

            • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:19 am

              The proper term is “Lawfare”.

            • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

              Still is, I hope. But too many people have withdrawn from that war too soon. They’ve entered the so-called “post-racial” era. They think the bigots have been beaten back into their caves once and for all.

  12. Sharanga said, on December 8, 2012 at 2:23 am

    The real problem here is that people try to squeeze in lot of things associated with the word war when they say things like “there is a war on Christmas”, when lot of those things do not actually apply to that particular case. When someone says war, we think about violence, torture, gun-shots, starvation, poverty etc. and none of those things actually apply to this war on Christmas

    If you say “there is a boombakajambo on Christmas”, instead of war on Christmas, and define boombakajambo as what you really mean (that there’s a trend to replace the word Christmas with the word holiday), people won’t get excited about it.


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