Peace on Earth

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I heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
    “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
        “For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” 

Longfellow’s words written during the American Civil War could well have been written today. The priorities of our Christmas thoughts have pushed peace well on down the list. It’s not for us to fulfill the ideals of the season. That’s left for others, those in power and position. Those for whom peace is not profitable.

We fail as a country, as a world. We outnumber the haters, the murderers, the thieves a million to one but still they rule the day with their fear and intimidation. Peace is just a word without meaning, mumbled in a prayer that fails to motivate those who think they are doing service to their God.

I see the trends in the features on the local news. Helping the homeless, the poor, the hungry; saluting the soldiers who can’t be home for Christmas as they occupy foreign lands, giving to the families of the fallen; the increasing activities of those who rob and steal from others. There’s a connection. War drains the morality of a people. The lack of jobs creates situations of desperation. Folks do help the best the can on one level but still so many dismiss the concept of peace as a weakness, bought on by the continuous deceptions of dividing us into opposing groups, creating the distortion of  only the strongest survive.

But peace is not weakness. It is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas to everyone. May you have a safe and happy holiday.


"Santa needed to pay his elves."

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The latest in a string of Nashville bank robberies since Thanksgiving personified the season as a clumsy but jovial  Santa ‘madoff’ with some cash, supposedly to pay his ‘elves.’  Unconfirmed reports are that Santa had already hocked his sleigh and was heard yelling “Take that Goldman Sachs” as he rode out of sight in a car.

In another local ‘Grinch that stole Christmas’ tale, thieves broke into a business and took all the stockings that were to be given to a women and children homeless shelter. Desperate times indeed.

Ah, but the universal balancing act kicks in to counter the ‘bad Santas’ and their compadres in crime as what was described as an ‘angel’ passed out Christmas cards with $100 bills in a Kmart and 2 men left a $400 tip for 2 Waffle House waitresses.

The give and take of Christmas in America …..

Peace On Earth (1939) Christmas Anti-War Cartoon

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I doubt these cartoons will be shown on very many TV stations this year at Christmas … they’re not ‘kosher’ for the little soldiers in training who are now being indoctrinated in the concepts of ‘just wars’ and service to the state.

Peace On Earth (1939) Christmas Classic MGM War Cartoon. Academy Award Nominee for Best Short Subject (Cartoon), 1940. Originally Released on December 09, 1939.

In 1955 Hanna-Barbera remade the classic, “Peace On Earth.” Done in Cinemascope widescreen format, and updated with even more sophisticated methods of killing each other since 1939 (such as nukes).

Good Will To Men (1955)

A Modern Day Christmas Carol

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by Arial C. Engrey

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the land, all the people worried about 401K plans. The stock market volatile, the rogues still in charge, the congress in session, the consequence large. Giveaways to banking had been tied to no string. The unionized workers would enjoy no such thing.

“They’re evil I tell you,” Corker of Tennessee exclaimed, “those unionized workers are the source of this pain. We’ll give them no comfort in this hour of their need unless they agree to work for birdseed.”

“Retirement package for those who have worked, I smell bacon cooking, this is nothing but pork. What nonsense is this,” said Corker with glee, “that unionized workers have health care for free? Look at me,” he said with delight, “I work for my free health care all through the night.”

Corker was not alone in those feelings, I’m afraid there are others who conspire in these dealings.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a right to work state, there the people earn less than the going union rate. Kentucky, where Toyota received a big slice of tax pie, $371 Million in the blink of an eye.

Mitch McConnell is married to Labor Queen Chao a dubious match for those yoked to plow.

Richard Shelby of Alabama added to the refrain, “Those unionized workers, they carry the blame. The ills of the country squarely be laid at the feet of the workers in the land of the brave.”

Alabama, another right to work state, bribed Honda to make their cars there of late. The workers of Alabama know how to behave; they take what they’re given and go to their grave.

All was lost on that bleak winter night, the senators held their fists nice and tight. As the senators talked, yes those birdbrains did squawk, the workers were left with no choice but to walk – Away from the table, away from the room, out in the night, into the gloom.

As they left the room on that late winter night, the air it was chilly, hard feelings were rife. “Breaking unions is what we do, if you stand in our way, we’ll do the same to you. How dare those unions back Democrats? Can’t you see the monkeys on OUR backs? We have bills to pay and lobbyists to please, we have corporations who’ve come to depend on our greed. Get out our way you lowly union workers we can use the media to convince the world you’re all simply shirkers.”

The stain of big money controls Media Land too, they’ll tell a big lie and convince you it’s true.

Workers in Alabama can be taught to hate the workers of Ohio who share their same fate.

North can hate South and East can hate West. Women are nags and men are the best. Gay versus straight is another divide “you stay on your street or risk losing your hide”. A whole list of deceptions to separate me from you, we share the same genes we’re all used as tools.

If they keep us from thinking we all are the same ,THEY can be heroes and we are to blame. Poverty, pollution, war waged in our name, offenses against everything hallowed, that’s insane!

Who is this THEY, this illustrious group, read on, my sweet, and I’ll give you the scoop. Why they’re me and they’re you this is sad but so true, they’ve been warped in their thinking trained to believe a grand ruse. The truth is so simple, there’s no difference in fact, those who think they are better, it’s all just an act. Like slight of hand they’ve pulled wool o’r their own eyes, they say they know best, we see that’s a lie.

Hire the students straight out of the schools, buy them or ply them, you see they’re no fools. Train them to think, with nary a thought for the pain that is caused, by the laws that are bought. If they play well they’re given a room with a view, expense account, a car, other benefits too.

Have them work corporate for a day or a year, send them to DC with hardy good cheer. They’ll write the laws that determine the fate of just how fast the Treasury is raped. Their loyalties lie with their sponsors you see, their loyalties are not to you and to me. Public servants they’re not, they’re all only the tools. Let us damn with faint praise, those who play by these rules.

Our problems stem not from fair union wage, instead these are problems as old as the age.

Capital crimes and faults also named, greed, envy, lust and hubris are the rules in this game. “Indulge all you want, enjoy and imbibe, don’t worry my dear, there’s nothing to hide. Play the game as we tell you, play the game as you must or we’ll bend you and break you and leave you to rust.”

Words all these words, oh what do they mean? If we look underneath what can be seen?

Free trade is not about freedom at all, in another day, slaves we were called. Free trade kills off culture, robs labor and land, it makes rust of cities that were once grand. Profit as always, the name of the game, it’s those unions, they tell you who are always to blame. “If we pay less in wages, if we pay less in fees, we can make more money,” say those Simon Legrees.

World bank steps in “I have a loan up my sleeve, the terms they are bad I think you’ll agree. We’ll build you a perfect capitalist paradise, no taxes, no unions, lots of government vice. You take your cut, and we’ll take the pie, no one will notice when poor people die.”

Green zones and brown zones, there’s really no difference. One delivered with bombs the other with fences.

Export our factories, import all our goods, sell natural resources, kill neighborhoods.

Take away education, destroy our health care, strip out the tax base to improve market share. “We’re important” say moguls to their pawns in congress, “Pass laws to protect us, you’ll enjoy our largess. “

“Campaign contributions? A job for your wife? Well certainly, surely that’s the joy of our life.”

Suits talks to suits, they conspire in the night, forgetting their pledges, their course and our plight.

Toxic mimics of culture sold each night on TV, keep all of us frightened, make none of us free. Where, oh where, do our priorities lie, that we subsidize rich folks and let poor folks die.

Question the reasons if only you dare, all this talk about terror abroad in the air. Hide in your bedroom, hide under the covers, use duct tape on the windows, on doors and on shutters.

Terror oh terror what message it sends, be afraid of your neighbor and question your friends. What weapon could possibly stop all this strain a nuclear option is a right wing refrain.

Think for a moment, forget what you’re told. Think for yourself, an act that is bold.

Follow the money, follow the plan, use common sense be aware of the scam. Who profits? Who gains? Are the clues of this game, pay attention, my children, to see who’s to blame.

Privatize, privatize water and rain, privatize, privatize war for their gain.
Privatize the genome for all of the seeds, Privatize even the air that you breathe.
Destroy the land and make taxpayers pay. “Thank you so much you’ve just made our day.”
Internalize profit; externalize cost, politicians for hire. You guessed it; greed’s boss.

Deregulate power, deregulate banks, deregulate everything, they give you their thanks.
They’ll take all the wealth, take the fruits of the labor, All carried away, there’s really no savior. A nation of laws, bought and paid for, of course. A people stripped of their history there’s no need for force.

Why kill off a soul and cause all that pain? Are you anxious and sad? It’s all done for gain. Take a small pill, wash it down with a drink, there now my dear, you don’t have to think. Buy this and buy that, put it all in a drawer, look in the mirror, isn’t there more?

Go to a church, a synagogue or a mosque; kneel before another, but non-earthly boss.
Pray for yourself, pray for forgiveness, get up on Monday and get back to business.

The greed’s been so great, the crimes are so large, the question at present, who’s really in charge?

What will it take to mend this excess?
Common sense from the many restraint on the rest?

The workers, of course, as always to blame.
Happy holidays an affront to God’s holy name.
Gays and straight called into a familiar old fight.
Guns, let’s have guns, you know it’s our right.
Children we love them until they are born.
Build prisons not schools this is the norm.

There’ll be pardons aplenty, pardons anew, pardons granted as always to those who have ruled. Class is the only divide that we know. Class is the line through which people go, to learn how to think naught of the world as whole but only as parts to be bought and be sold.

The world is watching, the world wants to know –
– oh my God, think about it, what do we owe?

Guns for Christmas

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Guns for Christmas
by Jennifer Freeman

Santa baby, slip a shotgun under the tree, for me
I’ve been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Guns for Christmas! Oops! I think I just said a bad word, but I’m not sure what it was.

But seriously, firearms and firearm accessories are very nice gifts for Christmas or any other occassion. It’s the kind of gift that most people don’t think about largely because the firearm industry does not advertise on television or in the mainstream media. So while everyone is being bombarded with ads from Target and Radio Shack selling mostly useless junk made in China, you can give a gift that will be really appreciated and will last a lifetime.

Giving the gift of guns is more meaningful that most of the commercial schlock that’s being pushed on us. A gun gift tells the receiver that she has value. That you want her to be able to protect herself, her loved ones, and her country. That goes for guys as well, of course.

Firearms are an essential part of American culture. Personal gun ownership was instrumental in settling this country and ensuring liberty for over two hundred years. There is no other country on earth that recognizes its people as citizens, rather than subject, and it’s the firearm that makes such a recognition possible.

Firearms can be instrumental in bringing us closer to our families and friends as we pursue various hobbies including defense training, target shooting, or hunting. It helps us to pass on and share traditions. And it reinforces our roots as Americans.

Personal firearm ownership is under attack as is Christmas. We encourage you to celebrate both.

Jennifer Freeman is Executive Director and co-founder of Liberty Belles, a grass-roots organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the Second Amendment.

When 10-year-old Austin Smith heard Barack Obama had been elected president, he had one question: Does this mean I won’t get a new gun for Christmas?

Hanukkah – "The Jewish Answer to Christmas."

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Chanukah: Festival of Lights

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) is probably the Jewish holiday with which non-Jews are most familiar, due to its proximity to Christmas. It is not, however, the “Jewish Christmas” – it historically predates Christmas and is a very different celebration.

History of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is one of the few Jewish holidays that is not instituted in the Torah. It commemorates a post-biblical event: the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek rulers of Jerusalem and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in 164 BCE. It also celebrates a miracle that accompanied this event: When the temple was rededicated, God miraculously made the one day’s worth of oil burn brightly for eight days.

By the time of the Talmud (c. 500 CE), the political situation had changed and the tale of the Maccabees was no longer as popular. It seems the victorious Maccabees had become almost as oppressive as the previous regime and, even worse, their descendents allied themselves with the Romans. So in their discussion of Hanukkah the rabbis focused more on the legend of the miraculous oil than on the victory of the Maccabees.

For most of its history, Hanukkah has been a rather minor holiday. But in the late 19th century it began to gain popularity and today it is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays (neck-and-neck with Passover, according to one source {1}).

This change seems to be due in part to the increasing popularity of Christmas gift-giving in the late 19th century, and the corresponding wish to offer an alternative, especially for children, that maintains Jewish identity and avoids assimilation. In addition, the Zionist movement, which arose in the late 19th century, found inspiration in the story of the Maccabees.

Hanukkah Observance

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days beginning on the 25th of Kislev (mid- to late-December). Since Hanukkah falls four days before the new moon (the darkest night of the month) and close to the winter solstice (the longest night of the year), it seems only natural that a key element of this holiday is light. In fact, one of its other names is the “Feast of Lights” (along with “Feast of Dedication” and “Feast of the Maccabees”).

The only essential ritual of Hanukkah is the lighting of candles. The Hanukkah candles are held in a chanukkiah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. (The chanukkiah is different from a menorah, which is a candelabra that holds seven candles and is pictured on the official emblem of the State of Israel.) The candle (shammash) in the middle of the chanukkiah is used to light the others.

One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two are lit on the second, and so on, until all eight are lit on the eighth night. The candles are added from the right, but lit beginning with the first one on the left (representing the current night). During or after the lighting of the candles, these blessings are recited:

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who sanctifies us with the mitzvot and gives us this path of kindling the light of Hanukkah.

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who worked miracles for our ancestors in ancient days at this time.

On the first night of Hanukkah, a special blessing is added:

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who keeps us in Life always, Who supports the unfolding of our uniqueness, and Who brings us to this very moment for blessing.

Once they are lit, the candles may not be used for any other purpose, such as lighting other candles or reading by, and they must burn for at least a half an hour. The chanukkiah should be placed in a window to proclaim the miracle it represents (except in times of persecution, when to do so could endanger the family’s lives).

In addition to the lighting of the candles, many other Hanukkah traditions have developed over the years. One favorite is eating fried foods in recognition of the miraculous oil. A customary Hanukkah treat that developed in Eastern Europe is the latke, a potato pancake fried in oil and served with applesauce or sour cream. Jews in Israel enjoy a sufganiot, a kind of jelly donut.

Another popular Hanukkah tradition is the game of “spin the dreidel.” A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hay, and shin drawn on each side. These letters stand for the Hebrew phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “A great miracle happened there,” and they also stand for Yiddish words that represent the rules of the game: nit (nothing), gantz (all), halb (half) and shtell (put).

Each player begins with an equal amount of nuts, pennies, M&Ms, or other small pieces, then the players take turns spinning the dreidel. Before each spin, each person puts one piece into the pot. If the spin lands on nun, nothing happens. If it lands on gimel (one Jewish author knows this as “gimme!”), the player collects all the pieces and everyone antes up again. A result of hay means the player takes half the pieces in the pot, and shin requires the player to put one more piece in the pot.

The origin of the dreidel game is not clear. One theory is that it was used as as protection in times of persecution: to avoid being caught studying the Torah, Jews would quickly pull out the dreidels and pretend they were gambling.

A more recent tradition associated with Hanukkah is gift-giving, which by all accounts derives directly from Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas. Many Jewish families have adopted the tradition of giving small gifts to their children to alleviate jealousy of non-Jewish friends who celebrate Christmas. Gifts are not exchanged with anyone else, however, and Hanukkah gifts generally tend to be smaller than their Christmas counterparts.


  1. Ted Falcon, Judaism for Dummies, p. 258.
  2. Chanukah – Judaism 101



Roman soldiers carrying the menorah from the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 ce; detail of a relief on the Arch of Titus, Rome, 81 ce. Alinari/Art Resource, New York

Festival of Light or Nationalist Triumph?

I’ve always felt ambivalent about Hanukah. American Jews seem to have elevated Hanukah far out of all proportion considering its role as a minor holiday in the traditional Jewish calendar. I’ve always thought this was because Jews felt left out of the Christmas holiday. They used Hanukah as a sort of consolation prize.

On the other hand, Hanukah is a graceful and lovely holiday. Lighting candles and watching them burn brightly in the dark while the cold winter rages outside always struck me as a brave and beautiful ritual. The eating of hot, sizzling potato latkes, the spinning of the dreidel and the sharing of golden Hanukah gelt (chocolate money) is also great fun, especially for children.

Last night, I heard an especially convincing rabbinic drash given by Rabbi Ted Falcon, which put Hanukah into even deeper perspective for me. The holiday’s history goes something like this: after Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided. The Greek Selucids took over the region of ancient Israel. Unlike Alexander, they did not believe in allowing subject peoples to practice their ethnic and religious heritage. The Holy Temple was defiled and Jewish practice was suppressed.

The Jewish priestly class, led by Matathias and his family, began what turned out to be a highly successful guerilla war against the Selucids and their tyrannical king, Antiochus. But the Maccabean warriors killed not only Greeks, they also killed Jews who they viewed as collaborators (or “Hellenizers”) with the enemy. It was a long, bloody conflict.

The irony of history is that these Jewish warriors founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which in time did all the evil, rotten things that they accused the Hellenizers of doing. The corruption and decadence of the Hasmoneans later led to Israel’s fall into the hands of the Romans.

The Talmudic rabbis, for one, felt even more uncomfortable about Hanukah than I do. When they met in Yavneh around 80 CE (that’s AD to the rest of you) to codify the books of the Bible, there were NO votes to include the Books of the Maccabees (the books which tell the Hanukah story). They are now included in the Apocrypha. Not only did the rabbis feel extraordinarily uncomfortable with the gore and mayhem described in these works; but the development of the rabbinate itself was an act of rebellion against the corrupt Hasmonean rulers. Rabbis were a learned class who earned their positions not through heredity or privilege, but through learning and a type of democratic elective choice.

The rabbis tried to turn the Hanukah holiday inside out in terms of expressing its meaning to the Jewish people: instead of a holiday marking bloodthirsty deeds of nationalist fury, the rabbis created the mythical miracle of the Holy Temple’s perpetually-burning lamp which only had a single day’s worth of oil remaining; but which somehow managed to burn for eight days until new oil could be found. Thus, Hanukah became a purely spiritual holiday focusing on the lights instead of Maccabean glory.

After the founding of the State of Israel, when Zionism came to dominate the thinking of world Jewry, Zionists turned Hanukah back into a holiday which highlighted the Maccabean struggle against tyranny and oppression. Hanukah for them became the prototype of Jewish nationalist struggle against those who would destroy our people. They were, of course, thinking of the Hitler (as Antiochus the tyrant), the Holocaust and the creation of Israel as the modern successors to the Hanukah holiday.

While this Hanukah mythmaking might have been helpful to those who survived a Nazi Holocaust and given them great consolation, it leaves some Jews today uncomfortable with an Israel which is no longer merely a champion of Jewish liberty; but rather an oppressor of Palestinian rights and all in the name of Jewish nationalism. Some of us do not believe that Jewish nationalism in and of itself must deny Palestinian nationalism in order for the State of Israel to survive and thrive.

I’ve often heard people say the only solution to the conflict is force (e.g. “those Arabs only understand force” or “You peaceniks don’t understand that there’s no one on the other side who wants to make peace with you”). At moments like this it is instructive to remember God’s clarion call in Isaiah: “Not by might, not by power; but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” The original Hebrew states this much more sonorously: לא בכוח ולא בחיל כי אם ברוחי אמר יי צבאות . Note the three words (choach ‘power’ or ‘might’, chayil ‘valor’ or ‘power’ and ruchi ‘my spirit’ or ‘my breath’) in rapid succession with the “ch” sound. This is not the harsh ‘ch’ sound of western languages (especially German). Rather, it is the fluid, propulsive sound of the Middle Eastern ‘ch’ which (unlike in western languages) requires the speaker to exhale a breath as he/she forms the sound. The final word, ruchi is the climactic word in the passage and as such it trumps the earlier words “choach” and “chayil” as if to say that spirit trumps power in Jewish tradition. That breath of air in pronouncing the final ruchi reinforces in sound the deeper meaning of the quotation.

So, let us think of lights burning brightly against the winter cold. Let us remember in this coldest and darkest time of year, that the candles of Hanukah give us hope for brightness and warmth and the return of life in the coming Spring.

For another interesting take on the holiday, I recommend Head Heeb’s Ocho Kandelikas. Jonathan is running one of the more interesting blogs around that encompasses (like mine) a Jewish sensibility.



A Nonsensical Talmudic Holiday

Hannukah is a typical rabbinic charade. It takes the Biblical story of the Maccabees and embroiders it with fantasy. After their victory in 165 B.C., the Jews retook control of the remains of the temple, but it had been defiled. They wanted to rekindle its eternal flame, but they found only one small flask of consecrated oil. According to the Talmud, that small supply, enough for only one day, miraculously lasted for eight, which gave the Jews time to prepare new oil. And which gave the world Hanukkah, meaning “dedication” or “consecration” in Hebrew.

There is no oil that lasted eight days in the Biblical text. This story first appeared in the Talmud, which was concocted by rabbis who lived in Babylon after the destruction of the Temple.

The nonsensical miracle of the oil hoax has led to the rabbinic custom of eating foods fried in oil for Hanukkah. In the United States, the most popular is latkes, (potato pancakes).

The pagan/Babylonian root of Hannukah can be glimpsed in the fact that during Hannukah Talmudic children play a gambling game with a dreidel, a spinning top. Each side has a Hebrew letter. In most places, the letters spell “A Great Miracle Happened There.”

In San Francisco for several years a huge Hannukah menorah was displayed in Union Square while the square had no Christian Nativity scene.

Traditionally in Judaism, Hannukah was a very minor observance. The contemporary emphasis on Hannukah was created as a rival to Christmas observances.