Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas


"White Christmas"

Full screen recommended.
"White Christmas"

"It's A Wonderful Life - The Ending"

Full screen recommended.
"It's A Wonderful Life - The Ending"

Il Divo, "O Holy Night"

Full screen recommended.
Il Divo, "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night"

Full screen recommended.
David Lanz and Kristin Amarie, "O Holy Night"

Josh Groban, "Noel"

Full screen recommended.
Josh Groban, "Noel"

1 Silent Night 
2 Little Drummer Boy (Ft. Andy McKee) 
3 I'll Be Home For Christmas 
4 Ave Maria
5 Angels We Have Heard on High (Ft. Brian McKnight) 
6 Thankful 
7 The Christmas Song 
8 What Child Is This? 
9 The First Noël (Ft. Faith Hill) 
10 Petit Papa Noël 
11 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear 
12 Panis Angelicus 
13 O Come All Ye Faithful (Ft. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square) 

"Christmas With Placido Domingo"


Placido Domingo, "La Virgen Lava Pañales"
Plácido Domingo, Wiener Sängerknaben, 
"Ave Maria" (Franz Schubert)

Merry Christmas


“The Christmas Truce of 1914”

“The Christmas Truce of 1914”
by Simon Rees

The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other - 
instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”
- Edward Abbey

“You are standing up to your knees in the slime of a waterlogged trench. It is the evening of 24 December 1914 and you are on the dreaded Western Front. Stooped over, you wade across to the firing step and take over the watch. Having exchanged pleasantries, your bleary-eyed and mud-spattered colleague shuffles off towards his dug out. Despite the horrors and the hardships, your morale is high and you believe that in the New Year the nation’s army march towards a glorious victory.
But for now you stamp your feet in a vain attempt to keep warm. All is quiet when jovial voices call out from both friendly and enemy trenches. Then the men from both sides start singing carols and songs. Next come requests not to fire, and soon the unthinkable happens: you start to see the shadowy shapes of soldiers gathering together in no-man’s land laughing, joking and sharing gifts. Many have exchanged cigarettes, the lit ends of which burn brightly in the inky darkness. Plucking up your courage, you haul yourself up and out of the trench and walk towards the foe…
The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man’s land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. Today, 106 years after it occurred, the event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One – a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.
The reality of the Christmas Truce, however, is a slightly less romantic and a more down to earth story. It was an organic affair that in some spots hardly registered a mention and in others left a profound impact upon those who took part. Many accounts were rushed, confused or contradictory. Others, written long after the event, are weighed down by hindsight. These difficulties aside, the true story is still striking precisely because of its rag-tagged nature: it is more ‘human’ and therefore all the more potent.

Months beforehand, millions of servicemen, reservists and volunteers from all over the continent had rushed enthusiastically to the banners of war: the atmosphere was one of holiday rather than conflict. But it was not long before the jovial façade was torn away. Armies equipped with repeating rifles, machine guns and a vast array of artillery tore chunks out of each other, and thousands upon thousands of men perished. To protect against the threat of this vast firepower, the soldiers were ordered to dig in and prepare for next year’s offensives, which most men believed would break the deadlock and deliver victory. The early trenches were often hasty creations and poorly constructed; if the trench was badly sighted it could become a sniping hot spot. In bad weather (the winter of 1914 was a dire one) the positions could flood and fall in. The soldiers – unequipped to face the rigors of the cold and rain – found themselves wallowing in a freezing mire of mud and the decaying bodies of the fallen.

The man at the Front could not help but have a degree of sympathy for his opponents who were having just as miserable a time as they were. Another factor that broke down the animosity between the opposing armies were the surroundings. In 1914 the men at the front could still see the vestiges of civilization. Villages, although badly smashed up, were still standing. Fields, although pitted with shell-holes, had not been turned into muddy lunarscapes. Thus the other world – the civilian world – and the social mores and manners that went with it was still present at the front. Also lacking was the pain, misery and hatred that years of bloody war build up. Then there was the desire, on all sides, to see the enemy up close – was he really as bad as the politicians, papers and priests were saying? It was a combination of these factors, and many more minor ones, that made the Christmas Truce of 1914 possible.

On the eve of the Truce, the British Army (still a relatively small presence on the Western Front) was manning a stretch of the line running south from the infamous Ypres salient for 27 miles to the La Bassee Canal. Along the front the enemy was sometimes no more than 70, 50 or even 30 yards away. Both Tommy and Fritz could quite easily hurl greetings and insults to one another, and, importantly, come to tacit agreements not to fire. Incidents of temporary truces and outright fraternization were more common at this stage in the war than many people today realize – even units that had just taken part in a series of futile and costly assaults, were still willing to talk and come to arrangements with their opponents.

As Christmas approached the festive mood and the desire for a lull in the fighting increased as parcels packed with goodies from home started to arrive. On top of this came gifts care of the state. Tommy received plum puddings and ‘Princess Mary boxes’; a metal case engraved with an outline of George V’s daughter and filled with chocolates and butterscotch, cigarettes and tobacco, a picture card of Princess Mary and a facsimile of George V’s greeting to the troops. ‘May God protect you and bring you safe home,’ it said. Not to be outdone, Fritz received a present from the Kaiser, the Kaiserliche, a large meerschaum pipe for the troops and a box of cigars for NCOs and officers. Towns, villages and cities, and numerous support associations on both sides also flooded the front with gifts of food, warm clothes and letters of thanks.

The Belgians and French also received goods, although not in such an organized fashion as the British or Germans. For these nations the Christmas of 1914 was tinged with sadness – their countries were occupied. It is no wonder that the Truce, although it sprung up in some spots on French and Belgian lines, never really caught hold as it did in the British sector.
With their morale boosted by messages of thanks and their bellies fuller than normal, and with still so much Christmas booty to hand, the season of goodwill entered the trenches. A British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches. Even more amazingly, it was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the festive season and their Captain’s birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches. The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing. Each number ended with a round of applause from both sides. The Germans then asked the British to join in. At this point, one very mean-spirited Tommy shouted: ‘We’d rather die than sing German.’ To which a German joked aloud: ‘It would kill us if you did’.

December 24 was a good day weather-wise: the rain had given way to clear skies. On many stretches of the Front the crack of rifles and the dull thud of shells ploughing into the ground continued, but at a far lighter level than normal. In other sectors there was an unnerving silence that was broken by the singing and shouting drifting over, in the main, from the German trenches. Along many parts of the line the Truce was spurred on with the arrival in the German trenches of miniature Christmas trees – Tannenbaum. The sight these small pines, decorated with candles and strung along the German parapets, captured the Tommies’ imagination, as well as the men of the Indian corps who were reminded of the sacred Hindu festival of light. It was the perfect excuse for the opponents to start shouting to one another, to start singing and, in some areas, to pluck up the courage to meet one another in no-man’s land.

By now, the British high command – comfortably ‘entrenched’ in a luxurious châteaux 27 miles behind the front – was beginning to hear of the fraternization. Stern orders were issued by the commander of the BEF, Sir John French against such behavior. Other ‘brass-hats’ (as the Tommies nick-named their high-ranking officers and generals), also made grave pronouncements on the dangers and consequences of parleying with the Germans. However, there were many high-ranking officers who took a surprisingly relaxed view of the situation. If anything, they believed it would at least offer their men an opportunity to strengthen their trenches. This mixed stance meant that very few officers and men involved in the Christmas Truce were disciplined. Interestingly, the German High Command’s ambivalent attitude towards the Truce mirrored that of the British.
Christmas day began quietly but once the sun was up the fraternization began. Again songs were sung and rations thrown to one another. It was not long before troops and officers started to take matters into their own hands and ventured forth. No-man’s land became something of a playground. Men exchanged gifts and buttons. In one or two places soldiers who had been barbers in civilian times gave free haircuts. One German, a juggler and a showman, gave an impromptu, and given the circumstances, somewhat surreal performance of his routine in the centre of no-man’s land.

Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account, remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his ensigns. ‘Their spokesmen,’ Hulse wrote, ‘started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce. He came from Suffolk where he had left his best girl and a 3 h.p. motor-bike!’ Having raced off to file a report at headquarters, Hulse returned at 10.00 to find crowds of British soldiers and Germans out together chatting and larking about in no-man’s land, in direct contradiction to his orders. Not that Hulse seemed to care about the fraternization in itself – the need to be seen to follow orders was his concern. Thus he sought out a German officer and arranged for both sides to return to their lines.

While this was going on he still managed to keep his ears and eyes open to the fantastic events that were unfolding. ‘Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!” It gave us all a good laugh.’ Hulse’s account was in part a letter to his mother, who in turn sent it on to the newspapers for publication, as was the custom at the time. Tragically, Hulse was killed in March 1915.

On many parts of the line the Christmas Day truce was initiated through sadder means. Both sides saw the lull as a chance to get into no-man’s land and seek out the bodies of their compatriots and give them a decent burial. Once this was done the opponents would inevitably begin talking to one another. The 6th Gordon Highlanders, for example, organized a burial truce with the enemy. After the gruesome task of laying friends and comrades to rest was complete, the fraternization began.

With the Truce in full swing up and down the line there were a number of recorded games of soccer, although these were really just ‘kick-abouts’ rather than a structured match. On January 1, 1915, the London Times published a letter from a major in the Medical Corps reporting that in his sector the British played a game against the Germans opposite and were beaten 3-2. Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxons recorded in his diary: ‘The English brought a soccer ball from the trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.’
The Truce lasted all day; in places it ended that night, but on other sections of the line it held over Boxing Day and in some areas, a few days more. In fact, there were parts on the front where the absence of aggressive behavior was conspicuous well into 1915.

Captain J C Dunn, the Medical Officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, whose unit had fraternized and received two barrels of beer from the Saxon troops opposite, recorded how hostilities re-started on his section of the front. Dunn wrote: ‘At 8.30 I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with “Merry Christmas” on it, and I climbed on the parapet. He [the Germans] put up a sheet with “Thank you” on it, and the German Captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the War was on again.’ The war was indeed on again, for the Truce had no hope of being maintained. Despite being wildly reported in Britain and to a lesser extent in Germany, the troops and the populations of both countries were still keen to prosecute the conflict.

Today, pragmatists read the Truce as nothing more than a ‘blip’ – a temporary lull induced by the season of goodwill, but willingly exploited by both sides to better their defenses and eye out one another’s positions. Romantics assert that the Truce was an effort by normal men to bring about an end to the slaughter. In the public’s mind the facts have become irrevocably mythologized, and perhaps this is the most important legacy of the Christmas Truce today. In our age of uncertainty, it comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer. The Irish poet, Thomas Kettle, who was killed in the War in September 1916, captured that spirit in a poem he wrote to his little daughter, Betty, shortly before he died:
“So, here while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor –
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret scripture of the poor.”

"O Holy Night," (Looped Album) • Instrumental Christmas Music

Full screen recommended.
Soothing Relaxation,
"O Holy Night," (Looped Album) • Instrumental Christmas Music


"A Charlie Brown Christmas - True Meaning"

Full screen recommended.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas - True Meaning"

"Traditional Christmas Classics🎄 Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby"

Full screen recommended.
"Traditional Christmas Classics🎄 
Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby"

Peder B. Helland, "O Holy Night"

Full screen recommended.
Peder B. Helland, "O Holy Night"

André Rieu, "Home for Christmas"

Full screen recommended.
André Rieu, "Home for Christmas"

"Relaxing Fireplace & The Best Instrumental Christmas Music"

Full screen recommended.
"Relaxing Fireplace & The Best Instrumental Christmas Music"

Friday, December 23, 2022

"20 Facts About The Great U.S. Retail Apocalypse That Will Blow Your Mind"

Full screen recommended.
"20 Facts About The Great U.S. Retail 
Apocalypse That Will Blow Your Mind"
by Epic Economist

"The U.S. retail apocalypse is a slow-motion disaster that never seems to end. While several brands spent decades building their businesses, attracting their base of customers, investing in real estate space, and perfecting their products to become respected household names, the advent of e-commerce changed the entire game in just a few years, and everything businesses thought they knew was put into question as they rushed to adapt to a new market that moved much faster and where shoppers had significantly more choices. The after-effects of the financial crisis led to several waves of mass layoffs and store closings that left many companies standing on very thin ice, and the stock market volatility that followed ended the journey of many retailers that were on our landscape for over a century. In 2017, the period commonly known as the start of this whole process, over 9,000 stores were permanently shut down as foot traffic at shopping malls drastically declined. But the truth is that this crisis had been developing for nearly fifteen years before the industry finally reached its breaking point.

Since then, thousands of popular brands have filed for bankruptcy and gone out of business, and for the first time in history, shopping malls actually faced the threat of extinction. One thing all retail experts note is the fact that neither the rise of online shopping platforms nor the financial turbulence that marked this period can completely explain why so many successful businesses failed almost overnight. One of the most notable trends driving the downfall of retailers is the steady decline of the U.S. middle class. Since the year 2000, it is estimated that U.S. middle-class Americans lost 35% of their purchasing power, with 5% of that loss happening over the last two years. From that period to this day, almost 22 million workers have fallen out of the middle class given that wages stagnated but the cost of living has increased by almost 4.5 times only in the past decade.

Of course, the advent of the pandemic caused even more damage to the retail industry and this income group. In fact, this holiday season is the first in nearly 14 years where businesses in all categories saw sales contracting instead of rising. The troubles faced by retailers were exposed and aggravated by the effects of the health-crisis-induced downturn, and after things started falling apart, one problem led to another and another and another, creating a downward spiral that companies are making this scenario even scarier for many businesses up until this day.

With mass layoffs being announced on a weekly basis, businesses facing the tighter credit conditions in decades, and consumers rolling back their spending amid rising living expenses, it's safe to say that a series of disappointing corporate earings results is coming next, and with it more announcements of store shutdowns and bankruptcy fillings are likely to arise. A lot is at stake still, and we will watch many more developments in 2023 as we head towards another economic recession, but today, we decided to gather 20 surprising facts about the U.S. retail apocalypse that many of you out there may not know yet."

"Stop Fighting The Truth: The Economy Is Crashing; November Home Sales Crushed 35%, Debt Is A Killer"

Full screen recommended.
Jeremiah Babe, 12/23/22:
"Stop Fighting The Truth: The Economy Is Crashing; 
November Home Sales Crushed 35%, Debt Is A Killer"
Comments here:

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Where The Stars And Moon Play”

Full screen recommended.
2002, “Where The Stars And Moon Play”
“Pamela and Randy Copus are the duo known as 2002. Randy Copus plays piano, electric cello, guitar, bass and keyboards. Pamela Copus plays flutes, harp, keyboards and a wind instrument called a WX5. Both musicians also provide all of the vocals on their albums, recording their voices many, many times and layering them to create a "virtual choir" with a celestial, angelic quality.”

"A Look to the Heavens"

Also known as the Cigar Galaxy for its elongated visual appearance, M82 is a starburst galaxy with a superwind. In fact, through ensuing supernova explosions and powerful winds from massive stars, the burst of star formation in M82 is driving the prodigious outflow of material. Evidence for the superwind from the galaxy’s central regions is clear in this sharp composite image, based on data from small telescopes on planet Earth.
The composite highlights emission from filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in reddish hues. The filaments extend for over 10,000 light-years. Some of the gas in the superwind, enriched in heavy elements forged in the massive stars, will eventually escape into intergalactic space. Triggered by a close encounter with nearby large galaxy M81, the furious burst of star formation in M82 should last about 100 million years or so. M82 is 12 million light-years distant, near the northern boundary of Ursa Major.”

"Life Comes at You Fast, So You Better Be Ready"

"Life Comes at You Fast, So You Better Be Ready"
by Ryan Holiday

"In 1880, Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his brother, “My happiness is so great that it makes me almost afraid.” In October of that year, life got even better. As he wrote in his diary the night of his wedding to Alice Hathaway Lee, “Our intense happiness is too sacred to be written about.” He would consider it to be one of the best years of his life: he got married, wrote a book, attended law school, and won his first election for public office.

The streak continued. In 1883, he wrote “I can imagine nothing more happy in life than an evening spent in the cozy little sitting room, before a bright fire of soft coal, my books all around me, and playing backgammon with my own dainty mistress.” And that’s how he and Alice spent that cold winter as it crawled into the new year. He wrote in late January that he felt he was fully coming into his own. “I feel now as though I have the reins in my hand.” On February 12th, 1884 his first daughter was born.

Two days later, his wife would be dead of Bright’s disease (now known as kidney failure). His mother had died only hours earlier in the same house, of typhoid fever. Roosevelt marked the day in his diary with a large “X.” Next to it, he wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.”

Life comes at us fast, don’t it?  It can change in an instant. Everything you built, everyone you hold dear, can be taken from you. For absolutely no reason. Just as easily, you can be taken from them. This is why the Stoics say we need to be prepared, constantly, for the twists and turns of Fortune. It’s why Seneca said that nothing happens to the wise man contrary to his expectation, because the wise man has considered every possibility—even the cruel and heartbreaking ones.

And yet even Seneca was blindsided by a health scare in his early twenties that forced him to spend nearly a decade in Egypt to recover. He lost his father less than a year before he lost his first-born son, and twenty days after burying his son he was exiled by the emperor Caligula. He lived through the destruction of one city by a fire and another by an earthquake, before being exiled two more times.

One needs only to read his letters and essays, written on a rock off the coast of Italy, to get a sense that even a philosopher can get knocked on their ass and feel sorry for themselves from time to time.

What do we do? Well, first, knowing that life comes at us fast, we should be always prepared. Seneca wrote that the fighter who has “seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fist… who has been downed in body but not in spirit…” - only they can go into the ring confident of their chances of winning. They know they can take getting bloodied and bruised. They know what the darkness before the proverbial dawn feels like. They have a true and accurate sense for the rhythms of a fight and what winning requires. That sense only comes from getting knocked around. That sense is only possible because of their training.

In his own life, Seneca bloodied and bruised himself through a practice called premeditatio malorum (“the premeditation of evils”). Rehearsing his plans, say to take a trip, he would go over the things that could go wrong or prevent the trip from happening - a storm could spring up, the captain could fall ill, the ship could be attacked by pirates, he could be banished to the island of Corsica the morning of the trip. By doing what he called a premeditatio malorum, Seneca was always prepared for disruption and always working that disruption into his plans. He was fitted for defeat or victory. He stepped into the ring confident he could take any blow. Nothing happened contrary to his expectations.

Second, we should always be careful not to tempt fate. Life comes at us fast… but that doesn’t mean we should be stupid. We also shouldn’t be arrogant.

Third, we have to hang on. Remember, that in the depths of both of Seneca’s darkest moments, he was unexpectedly saved. From exile, he was suddenly recalled to be the emperor’s tutor. In the words of the historian Richard M. Gummere, “Fortune, whom Seneca as a Stoic often ridicules, came to his rescue.” But Churchill, as always, put it better: “Sometimes when Fortune scowls most spitefully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts.”

Life is like this. It gives us bad breaks - heartbreakingly bad breaks - and it also gives us incredible lucky breaks. Sometimes the ball that should have gone in, bounces out. Sometimes the ball that had no business going in surprises both the athlete and the crowd when it eventually, after several bounces, somehow manages to pass through the net.

When we’re going through a bad break, we should never forget Fortune’s power to redeem us. When we’re walking through the roses, we should never forget how easily the thorns can tear us upon, how quickly we can be humbled. Sometimes life goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.

This is what Theodore Roosevelt learned, too. Despite what he wrote in his diary that day in 1884, the light did not completely go out of Roosevelt’s life. Sure, it flickered. It looked like the flame might have been cruelly extinguished. But with time and incredible energy and force of will, he came back from those tragedies. He became a great father, a great husband, and a great leader. He came back and the world was better for it. He was better for it.

Life comes at us fast. Today. Tomorrow. When we least expect it. Be ready. Be strong. Don’t let your light be snuffed out.

Kahlil Gibran, "A Poet's Voice Xv"

“You are my brother, but why are you quarreling with me? Why do you invade my country and try to subjugate me for the sake of pleasing those who are seeking glory and authority?

Why do you leave your wife and children and follow Death to the distant land for the sake of those who buy glory with your blood, and high honor with your mother's tears?

Is it an honor for a man to kill his brother man? If you deem it an honor, let it be an act of worship, and erect a temple to Cain who slew his brother Abel.

Is self-preservation the first law of Nature? Why, then, does Greed urge you to self-sacrifice in order only to achieve his aim in hurting your brothers? Beware, my brother, of the leader who says, "Love of existence obliges us to deprive the people of their rights!" I say unto you but this: protecting others' rights is the noblest and most beautiful human act; if my existence requires that I kill others, then death is more honorable to me, and if I cannot find someone to kill me for the protection of my honor, I will not hesitate to take my life by my own hands for the sake of Eternity before Eternity comes.

Selfishness, my brother, is the cause of blind superiority, and superiority creates clanship, and clanship creates authority which leads to discord and subjugation.

The soul believes in the power of knowledge and justice over dark ignorance; it denies the authority that supplies the swords to defend and strengthen ignorance and oppression - that authority which destroyed Babylon and shook the foundation of Jerusalem and left Rome in ruins. It is that which made people call criminals great men; made writers respect their names; made historians relate the stories of their inhumanity in manner of praise.

The only authority I obey is the knowledge of guarding and acquiescing in the Natural Law of Justice.

What justice does authority display when it kills the killer? When it imprisons the robber? When it descends on a neighborhood country and slays its people? What does justice think of the authority under which a killer punishes the one who kills, and a thief sentences the one who steals?

You are my brother, and I love you; and Love is justice with its full intensity and dignity. If justice did not support my love for you, regardless of your tribe and community, I would be a deceiver concealing the ugliness of selfishness behind the outer garment of pure love.”
- Kahlil Gibran
View online the complete "A Poet's Voice Xv" here:


"We know they are lying, they know they are lying,
 they know we know they are lying,
 we know they know we know they are lying, 
but, they are still lying."
- Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

THe Daily "Near You?"

Bloomfield, New Mexico, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"No Special Hurry..."

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."
- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell To Arms"

The Poet: J.R.R. Tolkien, "I Sit And Think"

"I Sit And Think"

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen,
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been.
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were,
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things
That I have never seen,
In every wood, in every spring,
There is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago,
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door.”

- J.R.R. Tolkien

"What Is The Joy About?"

“There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy. But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive; you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?”
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"From Bad to Worse in Real Time"

Full screen recommended.
Dan, iAllegedly 12/23/22:
"From Bad to Worse in Real Time"
"Nothing is real in the economy. The FTX debacle is made worse because the founder was let out on bail. Things are going from bad to worse in real time."
Comments here:

"How It Really Is"


"Clowns and Jokers"

"Clowns and Jokers"
by Bill Bonner

"Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right..."
~ Jerry Rafferty, Joe Egan

Youghal, Ireland - "More hilarity for the Christmas season! We all know that the US owes $31 trillion. We all know too that it can’t pay it. Imagine what it would take. Instead of running a $2 trillion deficit, the pols and hacks in Congress would have to cut $3 trillion from the budget to get a $1 trillion surplus – and do it for the next 31 years! Not going to happen.

Instead, the plan is to spend, spend, spend…until daddy takes the credit card away. What will actually happens is this: The feds will continue to spend, irresponsibly…wantonly…and stupidly. Bloomberg has the latest: "US Senate Passes Giant $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill With Ukraine Aid, Election Change." "The Senate easily passed a more than $1.7 trillion government funding bill that includes more aid for Ukraine and changes to the way presidential elections are counted. Passage of the bill funneling $47 billion toward the effort to help Ukraine’s defense against Russia came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the US Congress in his first trip outside his war-torn homeland since the invasion began."

Out the Wazoo! This spending will shift more and more of the nation’s resources towards unproductive, or anti-productive, uses – such as buying weapons for the Ukrainians…. or simply giving them money to put in their Swiss bank accounts. The effect will be to reduce the real wealth of the USA…while also increasing the amount of dollars flushing through the system.

The dollars will multiply when the Fed finally abandons its inflation fighting and ‘pivots’ back towards more money printing. It will do that when the coming recession softens inflation numbers while it sharpens the pain felt by ordinary well as by the elite.

Already, the middle class has seen its real wages fall for 20 months in a row. And soon, its houses – where it stores its wealth – will fall in value. As for the rich, they’ve lost about 20% on their investments so far. By our estimate, they’ve got another 20% to go to get down to reasonable prices…and then 20% more on top of that as investors inevitably give up and prices ‘over-shoot.’ Then, amid the gnashing of teeth and wailing of widows the feds can go back to what they do best – destroying the economy with fake money and foolish spending.

The Fed will also be happily destroying the value of US bonds…which just happen to be the instruments in which US debt is calibrated. Yes, the common people, with their common sense, know that you can’t spend more than you earn forever. But the elite know how to make a buck off of it. Thus, will the debt be reduced…and eventually eliminated, as Americans also see their savings and living standards greatly reduced. But the stock market will be reflated…and the deciders will find ways to profit.

But stepping back to the present, we note that the pain and suffering of America’s future bankruptcy could be averted…or at least partly assuaged. The trick would be to get control of US finances now and not spend so damned much money.

We, The Mute: On that note, the House of Representatives has just swung over to the Republicans, who are supposed to be the people who care about such things. The House of Representatives is also supposed to have the ‘power of the purse;’ it is supposed to represent ‘The People’ and make sure their money isn’t wasted.

You’d think the current Republicans would insist on waiting, rather than going along with another huge spendapalooza. After all, The People have spoken; shouldn’t Congress listen to them before spending more money? Dream on!

Instead, with the support of the Republicans, Congress has come up with the aforementioned $1.7 trillion spending extravaganza, Politico: "The year-end spending package that Congress is rushing to pass this week does more than fund the government through September. It’s also chock full of policy provisions that affect everything from the lobster industry to TikTok to professional sports.

The $1.7 trillion government funding measure is the last major must-pass bill on the legislative docket before the start of the 118th Congress in January, when divided government and a looming 2024 presidential election will make legislating even harder than it currently is. That makes the spending bill a magnet for members trying to cram in their priorities just before the holidays."

Christmas Wishlist: On 4,155 slimy pages you will find their ‘priorities’; Representative Dan Bishop highlighted a few of them:

● $410 million to protect the borders – of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Oman and Lebanon. Protect them from what? We don’t know.
● $65 million to “restore Pacific salmon populations.’ Heck, why not?
● $3.6 million to make a hiking trail named after Michelle Obama. Who could be against that?
● $200 million to promote ‘gender equity and equality’ with some of the funds ‘made available for programs to promote democracy and for gender equality in Pakistan.
● $3 million for an LGBTQ museum in New York…another essential project for a bankrupt government.

Yes, the bill was all “christmas treed up.” Good, bad…Santa didn’t care. Here are some other gems from the Heritage Foundation:

$477,000 for the Equity Institute in Rhode Island to indoctrinate teachers with “antiracism virtual labs.”
● $1 million for Zora’s House in Ohio, a “coworking and community space” for “women and gender-expansive people of color.”
● $750,000 for “LGBT and Gender Non-Conforming housing” in Albany, N.Y.
● $2 million for the “Great Blacks in Wax” museum in Baltimore.
● $750,000 for the “TransLatin@ Coalition” to provide “workforce development programs and supportive services for Transgender and Gender nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles.”

The bill affects all manner of commerce and social life in the USA. But not a single member of Congress will read it. Were we a member of Congress, we wouldn’t bother to read it either. What’s the point? It’s all giveaways, disguised as claptrap.

But since we are enjoying a Fezziwigian glow of holiday cheer…and since this will be our last contact with you until after Christmas…rather than criticize, we will offer some constructive suggestions. How could the budget be cut and disaster avoided? (You may want to send this to your member of Congress to give him an opportunity to thank you, before tossing our recommendations into the wastebasket.)

Modest Suggestions: Were we, by some act of madness or imprudence, suddenly in charge of the US government, we would proceed quickly to eliminate our major problems, foreign and domestic. In less than 24 hours, inflation would disappear…the budget would be balanced, the Russians and Chinese would no longer be our mortal enemies…and Americans could go about their lives without the heavy hands of the feds holding them back.

As for the ‘foreign policy’ issues – Russia, Ukraine, China…and other bugaboos – what business of ours is it whether Russia’s frontier with the Ukraine runs along the Dnipro or the Sea of Azov? Ditto Taiwan. Not our problem. The US has spent billions of dollars promoting ‘democracy,’ or…sometimes…‘dictatorship’, depending on which way the wind is blowing. And what good has it done us? A lot of smart people have made their careers, their reputations and their fortunes meddling overseas, but ‘The People’ have gotten nothing from it…other than lost money, PTSDs and lost lives.

We would simply announce that we have no further interest in the matter, cut off all foreign aid, and bring back all US troops now dawdling in far-flung, godforsaken outposts.

We might, just for theatrical flourish and clarification, also send out a little note to foreign governments letting them know that we have renounced the whole ‘empire’ misadventure. No more sanctions. No more assassinations or coups. No more undeclared war. Our spooks would be recalled…tried for their crimes…fired or hung, as their cases warrant.

Most of our long-range airplanes and warships, having no further use, would be scrapped. The Pentagon budget would be reduced from $855 billion to an amount actually needed to defend the country from attack…perhaps $100 billion, maybe less.

Turning to the homefront, the Fed would be immediately disbanded. Henceforth, if banks get into trouble – too bad for them. And buyers and sellers would figure out interest rates for themselves. Rates may be higher; they may be lower. But they would finally be honest.

We would also return to a gold standard, fixing the price of the dollar at 1/1800th of an ounce. This would not be a perfect money system, nothing is. But it is the best we can think of. There would be no further fear of inflation…and no further instability caused by fake money or fake interest rates.

So too, approximately 1,950 government agencies would be terminated. They come…but they don’t go. This is our chance to ‘drain the swamp,’ and get rid of them. Only those performing vital functions would remain, if there are any. All “welfare” would cease. All grants for this or that…giveaways…subsidies…payoffs....bribes… would end. Social security and medical care would have to continue; we get a generous check each month. But they would be cut back, curtailed…and gradually eliminated.

In short, we would go back to the form of government foreseen and prescribed by the founding fathers – a small government with limited power and limited resources. The savings, from cuts in military and domestic spending, would give the feds a surplus of at least $2 trillion + annually…which could be applied to paying off the national debt. Problem solved.

Of course, we don’t want to make light of the difficulty of going from here to there. The adjustments would be brutal for some – those accustomed to living off the hard work of others. For others, it would be seamless. And for all, it would be quick. All of a sudden, millions of people would have to get up off their fat duffs and get to work. The US economy would flower and bloom…driven by people who needed to provide goods or services to others. Almost everyone would be happier, as new inventions, new services, rediscovered freedom and cheaper products graced their lives.

What are the odds that this could happen? Zero. But as Hemingway put it, ‘wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.’ Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Enjoy the ‘Dark Passage.’ Or whatever."

"Breaking: Moscow Missile Defense Activated; Apocalyptic Winter Storm And Power Grid"

Full screen recommended.
Canadian Prepper, AM 12/23/22:
"Breaking: Moscow Missile Defense Activated;
 Apocalyptic Winter Storm And Power Grid"
"Moscow has deployed mobile air defenses around the city
 as a record breaking winter storm paralyzes North America."
Comments here:
Full screen recommended.
Times Now, AM 12/23/22
"Ukraine - Russia War Live Updates"

Jim Kunstler, "Santa and Satan"

"Santa and Satan"
by Jim Kunstler

“Amidst the general call to happiness, the bustle of the spirits, and stir of the affections, which prevail at this period, what bosom can remain insensible?” 
- Washington Irving (1783–1859) on Christmas

"Santa… Satan…? Notice, they’re spelled similarly. Weird, a little bit….The Santa we know came from a mashup of ancient pre-Christian Teutonic and Norse folk figures (Wotan, Odin) with the 4th century Greek bishop, St. Nicholas, a humble giver of gifts to children. That evolved in 19th century Anglo-America, with help from Washington Iriving, Charles Dickens, and Clement Moore, into the jolly fat man in a fur-lined cloak, chortling merrily amid the platters of roast goose and baskets of sugarplums.

And then, of course, the Santa character was retooled and stylized by the big advertising mills of mid-20th century Madison Avenue into the red-suited icon who functioned as a cosmic delivery-man to suburban houses where the little ones dwell, efficiently distributing Red Ryder BB guns and Barbie Dolls from sea to shining sea out of his reindeer-powered express vehicle, circling the entire globe in a single breathless night of glittering snow and shining stars, plangent with countless wishes from little hearts.

Strange to relate, in some corners of Europe, St. Nick acquired a traveling companion named Krampus. The two went from house-to-house in the dark hours of St. Nick’s name-day (Dec. 6) interrogating children as to their conduct. Dark and hirsuit, with horns, cloven hooves, and a darting red tongue, this monster acted the “bad cop” of the roving pair, badgering the little ones about their naughty or nice doings, and whacking them with a birch rod if he didn’t like their answers. If especially displeased, he stuffed kids into a basket for transport to Hell.
A Krampus-like character reemerged in America this pre-Christmas week in the figure of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, who flew halfway around the world in a US government-issue magic sled to meet up with his chum, the new Santa Claus, “Joe Biden,” alleged current president of our land. Mr. Z, still tricked-out in his wartime olive-green togs and scrufty beard, was here to lecture the boys and girls of Congress about being naughty or nice vis-à-vis “democracy” in his distant land, lately under a siege of angry bears. Ukraine did nothing to make the bears angry, you understand. They just lumbered in from the forest one day and started busting stuff up, as bears will.

Ukraine has already received many gifts from Santa’s workshop, formerly known as the USA, toys much more impressive than any Red Ryder BB gun, for sure: howitzers, Javelin missiles, Stinger missiles, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Phoenix Ghost tactical drones, Switchblade tactical drones, Puma surveillance drones, Vampire anti-drone systems, Mi-17 helicopters, Harpoon coastal defense systems, and much more. (How did Santa fit it all in his sack?)

Mr. Z and fellow officials of the bear-besieged country have also received plenty of “walking-around money,” much of which has walked-around so far and wide in the world as to park itself in sundry obscure bank accounts, real estate investments, or just plumb vanish into thin air. It wasn’t enough, Mr. Z complained upon arrival here. You must pony-up more… or else! And you must punish the bears harder!
“Joe Biden” promised another fifty-billions of dollars to Mr. Z’s bear-extermination project, with the further objective of dethroning the king of all bears, the wicked Putin, who glowers at the world from the mouth of his faraway Kremlin Cave. Then, in Congress Wednesday night, before a coast-to-coast TV audience, Mr. Z tuned-up our elected boys and girls in the great House chamber, forked tongue darting, to tell heart-wrenching tales of bear-provoked terror. He played them like the very keys of a harpsichord - a trick he has performed before with an interesting twist on Ukrainian television. The elect of our land stood and cheered, ready to proclaim Ukraine the fifty-first state. Mr. Z stole a smooch from the ruler of Congress, the winsome Ms. Pelosi, and then disappeared in a puff of smoke that left a tang of sulfur wafting on the stale air.

To underscore his seriousness, and using his secret powers, Mr. Z arranged for a bomb-cyclone storm to roar out of the North Pole a few days after his departure to give Americans a little taste of what it’s like to sit in the cold and dark at Christmas time - because the USA is such a blessed land as to have no problems of its own, and needs to be reminded about the sufferings of the less fortunate. And so it goes this Yuletide of 2022 in our charmed and exceptional country. The elves at Clusterf**k Nation wish you all a merry little Christmas!"