Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Thank God It's Over!

   2008 has been one hell of a year, has it not? For some of you, 2008 was a good year as far as family, finances, and health is concerned. For many of you, 2008 sucked as far as family, finances, and health is concerned.

    I fall into the latter group. You and I have had our share of shit in this year, which is only a few more hours away from becoming history, thank God!

   You know what's really cool? Only 19 more days until Republican criminal George Bush leaves office! That makes the new year better already!

   2009 is upon you, and so are the ingredients to make the new year a better one than the one that we leave behind. Many people are expecting our President-elect Obama to fix many of their problems so far as America in general is concerned. That he may be able to do.

   But keep in mind something else that he once said to you and I. I have to paraphrase because I'm not sure of his exact words. You'll remember then though.

  He said something like: We are the change we have been waiting for.

   Only you can make real change in your lives in 2009.

   Be safe tonight people. If you're going out to ring in the New Year and you're drinking, let someone sober drive.    We'll see you next year!



TVA Covering Up...

   or so it would seem when it comes to getting any information on what kind of chemicals and/or other toxic agents are in the coal ash which spilled out into Roane country,Tennessee, damaging homes and possibly polluting water wells.

  The TVA is at this point refusing to disclose test results from water samples taken after the flood of ash, saying that the agency is focusing on the cleanup.

   So what might some of those toxic pollutants be?

"We know they have that data," said SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith. "Yet here we are eight days into this event and we still don't have it."

It's important for local residents, cleanup workers and others who come in contact with the spilled coal ash to have some sense of what's in it so they can adequately protect themselves. It's especially critical for the rural dwellers near the spill who rely on private wells for their drinking water.

In order to get some sense of what's in the ash, the Institute for Southern Studies examined the facility's Toxics Release Inventories filed with the Environmental Protection Agency from 2006, the most recent available on EPA's TRI website, back to 1998, the first year that coal-fired power plants reported their emissions under TRI. We also factored in the 2007 TRI emissions data posted on the TVA's own website. Here is what we found:

For a year-by-year breakdown of the releases, click here.

  Read more here, and here.

  For even more details, go to Southern Studies.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blago's Appointment of Roland Burris: Obama Condemns The Move

Statement from President-Elect Barack Obama, released by his transition team:

Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat.  I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it.  I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place.  While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.

Obama's Duty To Prosecute Bush For War Crimes

by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse  Mon Dec 29, 2008

Obama promised that he would investigate and prosecute Bush team for "genuine crimes"  because no one is above the law, but he would not prosecute "really dumb policies." Obama plans to have his AG review the available information to determine if investigations are needed.   Well, AG nominee Eric Holder knows that many crimes have been committed:

Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution.... We owe the American people a reckoning.

Indeed, the rule of law is the "strongbox that keeps all our other values safe." We can write laws that say we have certain freedoms and rights, and we can build courts and elect lawmakers, but if there is no rule of law, then we lose our rights bit by bit until they are no longer recognizable.  This is one reason why budhydharma and Docudharma have drafted a petition asking Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute any government official who has participated in War Crimes.

While the goppies will cry "partisan witch hunt," even the Bush State Dept. recognizes that no democratic society can tolerate abuses when people are tortured or kidnapped under rendition in violation of our rule of law or tolerate the failure to prosecute in compliance with our Constitution.

Signing the petition is not in defiance of our President-Elect Obama, but rather a sign of support for the difficult times that he and Holder will face when performing their clear constitutional duties.

As President, Obama will have the constitutional duty to faithfully execute our laws.

The constitutional oath of office requires that our President faithfully execute the office of President and preserve, protect and defend our Constitution. Our constitution also requires that our presidents "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."  The principle of the rule of law is partially based on this Faithfully Execute clause which requires our President to comply with laws, our Constitution and treaties because our Constitution established a government of laws, not of men and women.

The Geneva Convention is one of the laws which must be faithfully executed.

Our constitution mandates that treaties are one of the laws that the President must faithfully execute.  Moreover, treaties are recognized as one of our supreme laws of the land alongside our Constitution and federal laws.  For over 200 years, the federal courts have reaffirmed that our President is bound by the laws of war, which include conventions. In fact, both Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) addressed the issue of whether the US government was violating the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention.  Yet, some will whine that it is partisan to not exempt Bush from 200 years of precedent that governed presidents from both parties.

The Geneva Convention imposes a duty to prosecute former presidents who committed war crimes.

The Geneva Convention mandates that the US "search" for persons "alleged" to have committed or ordered the commission of "torture or inhuman treatment" and then prosecute in our courts or extradite to another country for prosecution. The "grave breaches" protected by the Convention also include the rendition or  "unlawful transfer of a non-prisoner of war from occupied territory."

Rounding up the suspects is easy.

There is an overloaded plate of issues awaiting the leadership of President Obama. Fortunately, neither AG Holder nor an independent commission will have to spend a lot of time searching for alleged perps of war crimes.  This diary has pictures of some of the "persons of interest," as Bush likes to say, who either have admitted their complicity in war crimes or may be percipient witnesses with useful information.

Bush and Cheney have already essentially publicly admitted their roles in authorizing and ordering torture. In Spring 2008, Bush admitted in an ABC interview that he approved "enhanced interrogation" techniques, including waterboarding:

"As a matter of fact," Bush added, "I told the country we did that. And I told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it." The president added, "I didn’t have any problems at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheik Mohammed knew."

In 2006, Cheney stated that dunking terrorism suspects in water was a "no-brainer" method of interrogation.  After a public outcry, Cheney denied that dunking was equivalent to waterboarding, but merely referenced a literal "dunk in the water." Either way, Cheney is screwed because both waterboarding and water dunking is illegal under US and international law.  

In 2008, Cheney went even further by essentially admitting that he personally authorized the use of waterboarding and thus a war crime.  As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley states, Bush and Cheney are banking that the public will not have the stomach to prosecute them.

We also know that high-level officials participated in approving interrogation methods at National Security Principals Committee meetings in the WH over the span of at least 2 years in which the CIA wanted approvals before conducting interrogation in individual cases.   Thus, we can add Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet and Ashcroft to the list of "persons of interest."

Tenet and Bush have both stated that waterboarding was legal based on a memorandum, known as the "Golden Shield," because it was designed to shield CIA officers from liability.   The Golden Shield memo was written by John Yoo and approved by then-chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee.   In 2004, the Golden Shield legal memo which authorized the interrogation program was withdrawn by Jack Goldsmith, who called the memo "slapdash" and "deeply flawed."

More "persons of interest" can be found if Obama’s team reads the Senate Armed Services Committee report which concluded that high-level officials approved torture as an interrogation method.

Holder could also have a chat with Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a former prosecutor, who testified on behalf of a prisoner at Guantánamo that Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann "insisted that prosecutors proceed with evidence they had obtained through waterboarding and other methods of torture."

The other benefit of war crimes prosecutions is that the Geneva Convention seems pretty clear that Bush can not whip out an executive order or pardon to immunize himself or his cronies from liability.  Article 51 of the Convention states that "[n]o High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article," which is a reference to Article 50 that defines grave breaches. 

There may be some in DC who wish to avoid any investigations for fear of putative complicity, but this simply illustrates the bipartisan nature of any investigation. It’s not just the goppies:  For whatever reason, Senator Leahy declared that the Bush team would not face prosecution for war crimes in the US.   And, any investigation could reach some in the new Obama administration, like Robert Gates, for his role in Guantánamo and Iraqi prisons, "which the Washington Post described in a headline as ‘a Prison Full of Innocent Men,’ without even a procedure for determining their guilt or innocence--unquestionably a violation of the Geneva Conventions in and of itself." 

If nothing else, our votes should have sent the message loud and clear to DC that Americans repudiate the past 8 lawless years and want a return to the rule of law.  For some, the way to return to the rule of law is to move forward without investigating crimes committed by Bushie and his sycophants who viewed the rule of law as malleable chunk of clay. However, political expediency as a reason to avoid prosecutions is also a violation of the rule of law that is based upon blind, nonpartisan justice.

Cross posted at Docudharma.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel Planned Attack 6 Months Ago...

  which is kind of pathetic seeing as they were in the process of working out a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

   Haaretz      By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.
The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.

Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

The plan of action that was implemented in Operation Cast Lead remained only a blueprint until a month ago, when tensions soared after the IDF carried out an incursion into Gaza during the ceasefire to take out a tunnel which the army said was intended to facilitate an attack by Palestinian militants on IDF troops.     ( My emphasis )

   This attack on the bridge is where Israel broke the ceasefire which was in effect. I know that most of the media ( U.S.) and the White House have twisted this attack around in order to place the blame on Hamas. Israel is the aggressor here!

   And talk about disinformation! Israel really set Hamas and the rest of the citizens up to be slaughtered.

While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas.
In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday - one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.
"Hamas evacuated all its headquarter personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."

   I, for one, do not care to have my tax dollars supporting a terrorist state such as Israel. Israel is one of those countries who brings the majority of their problems upon themselves.

Lehman Wiped Out Billions In Bankruptcy Filing...

     ... according to the Wall Street Journal in a report on Monday, via Biz Journals.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc's emergency bankruptcy filing wiped out as much as $75 billion of potential value for creditors based on an analysis by the bank's restructuring advisers.

Had Lehman Brothers been able to pursue a more orderly filing – including the sale of assets prior to filing for bankruptcy protection—the bank might have had time to sort out its derivatives portfolio and a maintained some value, the Journal reported from an analysis by Alvarez & Marsal, the bankruptcy advisers.

Losses through derivatives alone could cost creditors up to $50 billion, the Journal reported.

The Journal reported it is too soon to know how much money the company’s creditors will recover through bankruptcy proceedings. Unsecured creditors of the failed brokerage have said in court filings they are owed $200 billion.

The Journal reported that creditors might only recover 10 cents on the dollar – or about $20 billion – given the current bond market.

The disorderly bankruptcy filing also pushed down the value of other Lehman Brothers assets, hurting recovery efforts, the analysts told the paper.

  And yet, the government forces us taxpayers to give Lehman, and others, our tax dollars in a massive Wall Street bailout, but none of the CEO's get punished or prosecuted, or not even a pay cut for fucking up many retiree's 401k plans or other retirement plans in this " ponzi scheme ". It's fucking amazing!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

George Bush: #1 In Disasters...

   and he still has a little time left to add to his record of negligence.

Most Disastrous President

by smokeymonkey   Sat Dec 27, 2008

Crossposted from

George W. Bush is the worst and most disastrous president ever.

I am loathe to publish this article before his term has actually, finally, ended, because there is still time to be attacked by nuclear missiles from Russia or something. 

The Bush administration has presided over the worst disasters in our nation's history, from terrorist attacks to both natural and manmade disasters of epic proportions.  And through it all, this wannabe president showed more than just incompetence; the administration was criminally negligent.

Worst Terrorist Attack

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 were the most destructive attacks on our nation's soil since Pearl Harbor.  In fact, 9/11 is the deadliest terrorist strike ever. The Bush administration ignored warnings that this attack would happen, and as a result thousands were killed, our air traffic was grounded for days, our markets closed, a recession deepened, and an iconic cityscape was forever altered. 

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," Richard Clarke told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview ... "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."

There is no excuse that any can give that it was not the responsibility of the Bush administration to prevent such an attack.  And because it was the worst attack ever, Bush deserves full credit for having not prevented it.  Further, despite protestations to the contrary, our allies have been attacked repeatedly since 9/11, dispelling any notion that the Bush administration has kept us, or anyone else for that matter, safe.

Worst Foreign Policy Blunder

The so-called 'war on terror' is nothing but an ideology wrapped in military action.  Neither the invasion of Afghanistan nor the invasion and occupation of Iraq have achieved any geopolitical success whatsoever.  In fact, both have resulted in declining world opinion of the United States and an increase in the recruitment of radicals to do violence against us.  So far, only one has spawned a civil war, but Afghanistan is far from stable.

The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere. Particularly in the most economically developed countries, people blame America for the financial crisis. Opposition to key elements of American foreign policy is widespread in Western Europe, and positive views of the U.S. have declined steeply among many of America's longtime European allies. In Muslim nations, the wars in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq have driven negative ratings nearly off the charts. The United States earns positive ratings in several Asian and Latin American nations, but usually by declining margins. And while the most recent Pew Global Attitudes survey finds that favorable views of America edged up in 2008, only in sub-Saharan Africa does America score uniformly favorable marks.

The execution of illegal means of surveillance and interrogation by the Bush administration also makes them guilty of both unconstitutional action and crimes against humanity.

Worst Natural Disaster

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined in the summer of 2005 to annihilate a large United States city, New Orleans.  Thousands were killed in the initial storm, and thousands more died of neglect from the inaction of the Bush administration.  The city, and indeed much of the coastal region, have yet to recover to any significant degree.

Rehabilitating the city's devastated neighborhoods is expected to take years. Rebuilding the confidence of many of New Orleans' residents could take even longer.

Yes, the disaster was unprecedented in some ways, but there is no excuse for the whining about unforeseen disasters when FEMA, the very federal agency under the administration's charge responsible for reacting to that kind of disaster, had conducted an exercize simulating a major hurricane strike to New Orleans just a year before.  Again, these warnings were ignored, and a historic city nearly died.  A clear case of criminal negligence.

Worst Economic Disaster

It is yet to be seen if this disastrous economy will impact our way of life in the same dramatic way that the Great Depression did our grandparents, but I think it is indisputable that the collapse of the housing and credit markets represents the worst financial crisis in two generations.  As it is happening at the end of the Bush administration, there is absolutely no debate that they could have done something to prevent it.

Two limited federal housing policy interventions could avoid hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, help to stabilize home prices at a post-bubble lower level, and preclude more drastic intervention in the future, including direct government ownership of troubled assets.

We've seen a continuation of this disaster precisely because the Bush administration is still in charge and still neglecting the country's needs.  By taking affirmative steps to make the situation worse, or at the least, to ignore it, the Bush administration is, again, guilty of willful and negligent behavior.

Worst Environmental Disaster

Most recently, the legacy of the Bush administration's deregulation of the coal mining industry has resulted in the worst environmental disaster this nation has ever experienced.  In eastern Tennessee, a coal-ash pond spilled 5.4 million tons of toxic coal soup into the neighboring area, not only destroying homes but polluting the entire region for decades to come.  Their response to this disaster has been as effectively incompetent as any of the disasters I've described above.

Neither the [Tennessee Valley A]uthority nor the E.P.A. has released the results of tests of soil or the ash itself. Authority officials have said that the ash is not harmful, and the authority has not warned residents of potential dangers, though federal studies show that coal ash can contain dangerous levels of heavy metals and carcinogens.

While this is clearly the worst of his environmental disasters, the Bush administration has presided over several, including the worst oil spill on the north slope of Alaska ever.  These are not accidents, they are a direct result of the negligent policies of the Bush administration.


I will update this list if something comes up in the next few weeks, but I don't think anything even needs to be added to conclude this was not only the worst president ever, he has set the bar so high for that title that none may ever surpass him.

Heckuva job, Bushie!                   Original

It seems that the Republican Party in general just has a massive case of stupidity and ignorance. I say this because it seems that Bush's brother, Jeb, is getting set to run for a Senate seat in Florida, and the GOP is having a party about that one! If another Bush, in any form, is the best that the GOP has to offer, I look forward to the party being in the minority for a very long time.


Obama Advisor David Axelrod Says That Middle Class Tax Cut Will Still Happen

   Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, and as expected, the economy and Obama's plans to fix it came up.

   On middle-class tax cuts:

   MR. GREGORY:  As the economy quickly deteriorates and continues to move in the wrong direction almost on a daily basis, has the president-elect changed his view about taxes?  And by that I mean has he made a decision to put off any tax increases or even a middle-class tax cut, as he talked about for the, for the short term?

MR. AXELROD:  No.  Look, we feel it's important that, that middle-class people get some relief now.  He's promised a middle-class tax cut.  This package will include a, a portion of that tax cut that will become part of the permanent tax cut he'll have in his, his upcoming budget.  It's, it's, it's vital people are, are--need money in their pockets to, to spend.  That'll help get our economy going again.

  People, we are in for some interesting times the next few years. I'm waiting to see how the Republicans manage to bog those tax-cuts down and out of existence.

   A deal will be made so that Obama will get some of his tax package for the middle class and the Republicans will get to keep some of the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthy instead of letting them expire as they should.

" Grandpa " Fred Thompson Gets Radio Show...

   and that will be something to listen to.

      You remember Thompson, don't you? He had a very tiring run for the Republican presidential nomination, which went no-where fast.

   Westwood One has said that Thompson's radio show will be the replacement for the departing  "The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly," ending on February 27th. Good bye and good riddance Billy-boy.

   So, what will Thompson's show be about? It won't be anything about Law & Order!

   According to News Daily:

In his show, Thompson will share his conservative views on politics, topical issues and pop culture stories as well as conduct guest interviews and take listener calls. The two-hour show, broadcast from the Westwood One studios in Washington, will air live from noon-2 p.m. weekdays.

  So this show will basically be O'Reilly with a toned-down host. Same old GOP/Conservative bullshit. I am wondering who they have picked to make sure that Thompson's Geritol feed does not run dry.

Sarah Palin: 2009 Hockey-Mom Calendar

   I kid you not! Sarah Palin has an 2009 calendar featuring photo's of her and the rest of the family. I wonder if there is a photo of her field-dressing a moose or shooting wolves from out of helicopters?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Memorandum To Conservative Republican's

The Original


by Jed L  Sat Dec 27, 2008

TO: Republican spinners, flacks, and concern trolls
FR: Jed Lewison

Real Time With Bill Maher is currently on hiatus until February, so I hope it's okay that I borrow his "new rules" concept for a brief second. Here goes:

New rule. If you're a Republican media operative, and you want to see the Obama administration fail, don't say while you think that Obama had nothing to do with Blago's corruption, that you think it's "unfortunate" that Obama will be tainted nonetheless.

First of all, you're wrong. Obama won't be tainted. People have seen your stupid GOP tricks before, and they won't fall for them again. While you were busy talking about how "unfortunate" it is that the Blago mess drags on and on, President-elect Obama was busy dealing with the nation's real problems -- and racking up an 82% approval rating for having done so.

While you were disengenously prattling forth about transparency in the wake of the most secretive administration in American history, Barack Obama was putting all the cards on the table, holding nothing back.

While you were dreaming of another Whitewater, Obama was becoming the most admired man in America. (And by the way, Hillary Clinton -- not Sarah Palin -- is the most admired woman in America.)

And most importantly of all, while you were busy doing everything possible to avoid discussing the fundamental economic challenges that we face, Barack Obama and his administration were busy working on a plan to start the recovery from the Bush Recession.

If you learned one thing from the last election -- and you apparently haven't -- it's that people are sick and tired of the typical partisan Republican games and distractions, especially when we're facing such enormous problems.

This is a big moment in our nation's history. You have an opportunity to do the right thing and get on board and help us fix the disaster that eight years of highly ideological conservative governance have brought to the United States of America.

Or you can cement your irrelevancy by standing on the sidelines and throwing partisan potshots and imagining fires where there isn't even any smoke.

It's your choice. Choose wisely.

Socialist Healthcare: A Horror Story

   If you listen to the Republicans, some Democrats, and our healthcare providers,  government funded healthcare ( in any form ) is an evil entity which should not be allowed in the United States. You also hear on occasion that " socialized healthcare " does not work so well in many of the countries which have it.

   We all know that any form of government programs will have its own set of problems and healthcare will be no different. But let's face it. Anything would be better than the shit that you and I have to go through for treatment at this time. Hospitals give you lackluster treatment if you can't pay them. Insurance? They don't want to pay for your treatment, exams, whatever, either.

   So, let us read the following " socialized medicine " horror story, shall we?

by Jerome a Paris  Thu Dec 25, 2008

I first wrote this almost two years ago, and reposted it last Christmas as Nataline Sarkisyan was sentenced to death by her heathcare insurance provider. I suppose that, as nyceve keeps on posting yet more healthcare horror stories, it is worth reposting to underline that things can really be different and need not be as broken as they seem to be in the US healthcare system, to the utter incomprehension of the rest of the so-called civilised world.

My (then 4 years old) son was diagnosed 4 and a half years ago with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery, then chemiotherapy for a year and a half. In 2006, he appeared to have been cured, but the tumor reappeared in September that year, and he underwent radiotherapy for several weeks the following winter. Since that, his tumor has not reappeared in the quarterly (now semestrial) check ups.

As a consequence of the initial surgery on the tumor, which was in a very delicate location, he is handicapped and has only very partial use of his right arm.

:: ::

He was first diagnosed by our pediatrician, a private sector doctor, who sent us to the (public) specialised pediatric hospital in Paris for additional exams. We did a scan and a MRI the same day, and that brought the diagnosis we know. He was hospitalised the same day, with surgery immediately scheduled for two days later. At that point, we only had to provide our social security number.

Surgery - an act that the doctor that performed it (one of the world's top specialists in his field) told us he would not have done it five years before - actually took place the next week, because emergency cases came up in the meantime. After a few days at the hospital, we went home. At that point, we had spent no money, and done little more than filling up a simple form with name and social security number.

Meetings with the doctor in charge of his long term treatment, and with a specialised re-education hospital, were immediately set up, and chemiotherapy and physical therapy were scheduled for the next full year.

Physical therapy included a few hours each day in a specialised hospital, with a varied team of specialists (kinesitherapy, ergotherapy, psychologist, orthophonist) and, had we needed it, schooling. As we lived not too far away, we tried to keep our son at his pre-school for half the day, and at the hospital the other half. Again, apart from filling up a few forms, we had nothing to do.

My wife pretty much stopped working to take my son to the hospital every day (either for reeducation or treatment) - and was allocated a stipend by the government as caregiver, for a full year (equal to just under the minimum wage). Had we needed it, transport by ambulance would have been taken care of, free of charge for us (as it were, car commutes to the hospital could also be reimbursed).

During the chemiotherapy, if he had any side effects (his immune system being weakened, any normal children's disease basically required him to be hospitalised to be given full anti-biotic treatment), we'd call up the hospital and just come around. Either of us could spend the night with him as needed. We never spent a dime when we did so.

After a year at the specialised hospital, ongoing re-education was moved to another institution specialised in home and school interventions. In practice, a full team of 5 doctors or specialists come to see him over the week, either at home or at school, to continue his treatment (such follow up, possibly less intense than at the beginning, will be needed until he reaches his adult size). Of course, they manufacture braces and other specialised equipment for him and provide it free of charge to us. This has now been going on for 3 years and pretty much the same team has been taking care of him throughout.

Check up exams take place every 3 months, with all the appropriate exams (usually including a MRI), and we've never had to wait for the appointments. Again, no cost for us, no funds to be fronted.

When he relapsed, our doctors considered all available options. In the end, the most promising technology was in another Paris hospital. Such technology, linked to nuclear research, exists only in 3 places in the world, one in Boston and one in Switzerland, so the "socialist" French system itself was able to provide a cutting edge option. But had we needed to go to Germany, the UK or even the USA for treatment because that's where the best hope was, the costs of that would have been covered fully by French social security.

Since our son has been in first grade (he is now in third grade), he has the right to special help for handicapped children at school, thanks to a fairly recent national law, and he now benefits from part time help - a person who is around about 20 hours per week to help him do his work and catch up when he is absent for his therapy. This is paid by the city of Paris and the ministry of education.

Oh, and as he is officially handicapped, we also benefit from an additional tax break (in France, the taxes you pay are roughly divided by the number of people in the family; the handicap counts as an additional person for that purpose).

So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care. You can get substitute basic income if you have to abandon your job for any duration, and lodging near the hospital if required.

An interesting twist to that story is that we do have private healthcare insurance in France. Basic healthcare is covered by social security, but only partly: except for the poor (under a certain income level), there are co-payments for most expenses like medecine and doctor visits, and doctors are also allowed to charge you more than the official tariff (and you have to pay the difference, in addition to the co-payment on the official price, if you go to such doctors). Thus many people buy private (or mutual) insurance to cover that difference partly or fully. Such insurance is often provided by employers. But whenever you have "major" expenses, you switch to 100% coverage of expenses by the public system - except that, if you had a private insurer, it has to pay to the public entity a portion of the costs. In my case, as I had a good insurance via my bank, this is what's happening, and thus the private sector bears a portion of "catastrophic risk." (And they have no say in what care is provided. They just pay an agreed fraction of it.)

Thus there is solidarity across the sytem.

:: ::

This is not to say, of course, that all is well in French healthcare. As in other countries, costs are barely under control, spending increases every year, and there are many ways the system could be improved for doctors, nurses and patients. But the fact remains that if you are badly ill, you will be taken care of; you will not need to give up your job (or if you do, you're helped); you will not need to sell your house; and you will never be denied healthcare.

It's been tough enough to deal with a sick child; I simply do not want to imagine what it would have been like if I had to beg for care or to scurry around for money in addition. It's just inconceivable. And thus, I was happy to pay taxes before, and I'm really, really happy to pay taxes now to provide that level of care for those that really need it.

                         Original Article

Starbucks Guilty Of Union-Busting

    This was reported in the New York Times on December 24th.

The IWW Scores Big Victory Over Global Coffee Chain
New York, NY (Dec. 23, 2008)—Following a lengthy trial here last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge has found Starbucks guilty of extensive violations of federal labor law in its bid to counter the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. In an 88-page decision, Judge Mindy E. Landow found, among other things, that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers' right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters. The decision comes despite a 2006 New York settlement in which Starbucks pledged to stop illegal anti-union activities and mirrors federal government action against the company for its conduct toward baristas in Minnesota and Michigan.
"The judge's decision coupled with previous government findings expose Starbucks for what it is—a union-busting corporation that will go to staggering lengths to interfere with the right to freedom of association," said Daniel Gross, a barista and member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union found to have been unlawfully terminated by the coffee giant. "In these trying economic times of mass layoffs and slashed work hours, it's more important than ever that Starbucks and every corporation is confronted with a social movement that insists on the right to an independent voice on the job."
The Board decision is the latest blow against a company that has experienced a stunning fall from grace. From a precipitous decrease in customer demand to its increasingly tattered socially responsible image, the myriad of challenges facing Starbucks has resulted in the company losing over half its value from just a year ago. The decision also represents a significant victory for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union which continues to grow across the country with baristas taking creative and determined actions to improve the security of work hours and win respect on the job. Starbucks faces another Labor Board trial next month in Grand Rapids, Michigan over illegal union-busting.
"For the first time, a judge has confirmed the existence of a nationally coordinated anti-union operation at Starbucks," said Stuart Lichten, the attorney for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union in the case. "This decision conclusively establishes Starbucks' animosity toward labor organizing."
The union is confident that Judge Landow's copiously documented and well-reasoned 88-page decision will be upheld by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. should Starbucks appeal. The victory is sure to be gratifying for the union's international supporters who conducted spirited global days of action in defense of Isis Saenz, Joe Agins, Jr., and Daniel Gross after their terminations which the Board has now found to be unlawful.
The National Labor Relations Board attorneys on the case were Burt Pearlstone and Audrey Eveillard. The union's attorney Stuart Lichten is a partner at Schwartz, Lichten & Bright, a prominent New York City labor law firm. Starbucks was represented by union-avoidance lawyers Daniel Nash, Stacey Eisenstein, and Nicole Morgan at corporate firm Akin Gump.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of almost 300 current and former Starbucks employees united for a living wage, secure work hours, and respect on the job. Founded in 2004, the union uses direct action, litigation, and advocacy to both make systemic improvements at Starbucks and take on the company over unfair treatment of individual baristas.
The Industrial Workers of the World ( is a rank and file labor union dedicated to democracy in the workplace and global solidarity.

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Christmas Sales Take A Plunge

   If you shopped for Christmas presents, then you are aware that the stores which you shopped in had some pretty steep discounts on many items. In spite of sales with as much as up to 70% off in many retailers, holiday sales still took a plunge of at least 2% to 4% this season.


If early December half-price sales aren't enough, what can retailers do early in the new year when consumers spending slows even in a good economy?

Dan Butler, the National Retail Federation's VP of merchandising and retail operations, says many retailers will reassess their pricing to charge closer to what consumers think products are really worth. He says shoppers got savvier and asked "is it really worth it?" even when prices are drastically discounted.

  I guess that they do not figure that those job losses and layoffs that we've had this year might have something to do with a decrease in spending for the holiday.

  SpendingPulse data shows sales of women's clothing dropped nearly 23% while men's clothing sales slipped more than 14% in November and December compared with a year ago. Sales of electronics and appliances fell even more drastically, dropping almost 27%. SpendingPulse tracks total sales paid for by credit card and estimates those paid with checks and cash.

  Did anyone do well this year? Of course, you know that Wal-Mart did well as did online retailer who says that this season was its best ever.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Power Of One

     Hey you! Yes you! The one reading this right now. See that colorful button off to the right? Have you clicked it yet? Have you signed the petition yet? Come on now. What are you waiting for, Christmas?  Do you want both George Bush and Dick Cheney to get off for the war crimes that they have committed?  Cheney has pretty much dared the citizens of the United States to do anything about. Are you going to let that asshat get away with this? Sign the petition, and then pass it along.


The Power of One

by: Nightprowlkitty   Fri Dec 26, 2008

Petition Badge
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Give Bush and Cheney a fair trial -- something they have not bothered with since they stole office.

It's funny how the powers that be in the media and government are running around with their big fat excuses as to why we can't hold these criminals accountable for their crimes.  It all boils down to "It's too hard!!!"

It's too hard.  It would affect too many people.  It would interfere with the crucial work of restoring our economy.  Blah blah blah.  Not one of these folks say, however, that no crime has been committed, no law has been broken.  No one says that.

I find that stunning.  We all know, at least those of us who have been paying attention, that Bush and his crew of crooks have broken the law over and over again.

And Cheney says "What you gonna do about it?"  And Cheney says "oh, the Dems knew about this and approved it, hell they wanted us to be even tougher than we were!"

And we should believe Cheney ... why?

I don't want speculation any more.  I want the truth, the facts, what really happened.  Only a special prosecutor can get that information, someone who is inured to the politics of Washington D.C. by being given the independent power to investigate.

What I like about this petition is that it shows the power of the individual citizen.  This is not a grassroots effort decided by committee.  A couple of folks got together and came up with the text and others jumped in to work further on it and spread it around.

The power of the individual citizen.

I am extremely annoyed at the argument that we citizens are somehow childlike creatures who don't know all the real problems of our country and so we shouldn't cry and whine about our "pet issues" when the government knows so much more about what is important and should be made a priority.


We ARE the government.  The only people who will take back power as citizens, are citizens!  That's us.

To me, Obama's election is a signal that we can now start taking back that individual power, our individual rights.  It's not for Obama or any elected representative to tell me what I should make a priority.  I get to decide that for myself.  They'll do their jobs, and I'll do mine.

The measure of our success with this petititon will be the resistance from the powers that be, the Dems, the Repubs, Obama, the media.  The more we read about how this is not a good idea, getting a special prosecutor, the more we'll know we have them on the run.

Many of us have sent this petition to friends and family, whether they be politically agreeable to us or not.  One by one people will sign.  This isn't "organized" grassroots and it's netroots only insofar as the structure.

To me, this is about the power of each indviidual citizen, not resting happy with the decisions of our elected representatives but standing up for what we feel is right and making our voices heard.

We need to know the truth about the crimes committed in our names.  We need to have every American citizen aware of what has been done so there can be no denials or excuses.

At this time, the only line between tyranny and freedom is an informed citizenry.  By signing this petition and working to make it known we will not accept anything less than full accountability for torture being done in our name, we are exercising our power, not the power one step removed of the three branches of government.

We have power collectively and we also have power individually.  I think the citizenry of this country are going to be tested enormously as we have to let our representatives know we are not asking for favors on our "pet causes" but taking our government back, of, by and for the people.

Tennessee Coal Ash Spill Bigger Than Thought

   From NYTimes

A coal ash spill that blanketed residential neighborhoods and contaminated nearby rivers in Roane County, Tenn., earlier this week is more than three times larger than initially estimated, the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Thursday.

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead and selenium that can cause cancer and neurological problems.

Authority officials initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond breached, but on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep. The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the Authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards...

The spill occurred at the Kingston Fossil Plant, one of the authority's largest electrical generating sites, located on the banks of the Emory River about 40 miles west of Knoxville.

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Obama Is Most Admired Man In America

   First he gets selected as  " Person of the year " by Time, and now, according to a new USAToday/Gallup Poll, Americans have selected President-elect Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world. Is Obama not on one hell of a roll, or what? 


It is the second most admired man by Americans that gets my ass, though. George Bush comes in second. WTF? This just goes to show you that, even after 8 years of crime and treason by this administration, we still have some pretty stupid folks who support this asshole.

President Bush falls to a distant second after seven years as the most-admired man.

Hillary Rodham Clinton leads the list of most-admired woman, a spot she's held for 13 of the past 16 years — as first lady, then New York senator and now Obama's designate for secretary of State. A newcomer is second: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who wasn't well-known nationally until Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate in August.

  Palin in second place behind Clinton? If that is the best that we can do, we are in some serious trouble in the future.

Sarah Palin Shoots Reindeer

  Oh, the horror of it all!

by kwolfman  Thu Dec 25, 2008

Caught up in post-election efforts to bolster her public image and set the stage for a 2012 presidential run of her own, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin forgot to pick up the family's Christmas turkey dinner from Costco.  So, like all hard-working hockey moms, she made the best of a potentially bad situation.

Palin picked off one of Santa Claus's reindeer in mid-flight early Thursday morning with her prized double barrel mahogany-handled shotgun, as the jolly giver of gifts skirted the outskirts of midtown Wasilla in his shiny red sleigh on the way to Anchorage.  The reindeer in question, later identified as Prancer, began bleeding profusely from its midsection, and Santa was forced to cut it loose from the sleigh to avoid a crash and allow the annual worldwide toy delivery to continue.  Prancer fell "at least 600 feet" through the air before slamming into the frozen Alaskan tundra, whereupon he expired.

"I ain't never seen nothin' like it," said Todd Palin, who arrived at the carcass ahead of his wife on a new racing-quality snowmobile.  "I mean, how many chicks you know can cap a doe at 200 yards in the dark?  That s*** was HOT.  God, I love my wife.  And I need a cold shower."

Mrs. Palin reached the dead reindeer a few minutes later on snowshoes, and proceeded to skin it, remove its organs, cut its throat, and hang it upside-down from a nearby tree to drain the blood.  She and her husband then dismembered the carcass, packed the various parts into two full-size garbage bags, and carried it all back to their house.

The Governor emphasized that no part of Prancer's body would go to waste.

"Well, you know, we're gonna barbecue the ribs and the front legs for dinner later today," she said, "and we'll be throwin' the hindquarters into the woods out back so the wolves have somethin' to eat too.  We're tryin' to fatten 'em up so they make bigger targets come aerial hunting season."  Mrs. Palin threw in one of her customary winks to add a dose of levity to the situation.

When asked about the fate of Prancer's head, Mrs. Palin replied that she is "thinkin' of usin' it for the mask on Trig's Halloween costume next year.  That little guy, he loves watching 'Rudolph' before bedtime."

Santa Claus managed to complete his circuit and make it back to the North Pole without losing another reindeer, but expressed sadness at the loss of Prancer while staying upbeat about the overall health of his fleet.

"Obviously, we're all devastated here that Prancer's gone," Claus said via cell phone interview.  "But we finished up just fine with only seven 'deer, and we're confident that next year we'll get by again with seven just fine.  To be honest, old Prance'd been slipping a bit in recent years.  He was getting to be a liability.  Maybe it's better this way."

A majority of the remaining reindeer openly wept when asked to describe their feelings, but a few were noticeably ambivalent.

"Prancer was a loafer," spat Donner.  "I was always having to pick up his slack.  He put on about fifty pounds this summer and never even tried to work it off in time for the big flight.  I was puffing like a smoke stack 'till that b**** took his a** down.  Palin 2012!"

Added Dancer, "Half the time we went up, Prancer was drunk.  I mean flat-out, balls-to-the-wall wasted.  We tried an intervention a few years back, but he just fled and hid in a snowbank for a month, chain-smoking and swigging whiskey by the bottle with some pissed-off union elves who were on strike."

After dinner, Mrs. Palin was asked if she planned to hunt and cook any more of Santa's reindeer for Christmas in the years to come. 

"Oh, this one was mighty tasty, so you betcha!"
"How many?"
"Um ... all of 'em!"                     Original Article

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Political Humor

Conan O'Brien:

  "Barack Obama is on vacation in Hawaii right now. And today many newspapers carried pictures of a shirtless Obama playing in the ocean. Did you see that? Yeah. So as you're thinking of things to be thankful for this holiday, remember, that could have been a shirtless John McCain."

  "The White House staff has been briefing Barack Obama's team on a series of worst-case scenarios that could face the country after President Bush leaves office. That's the latest. Yeah. Apparently, the absolute worst case scenario is that Bush doesn't leave office."


David Letterman:

  "The nice thing about the holidays is the holiday spirit. Let me give you an example of how the holiday spirit affects people. You know that guy that threw the shoes at President Bush? Well, today, he was throwing fruit cakes."

  "We're talking about Sarah Palin, who has a brand new Christmas album. It's entitled 'I Can See Bethlehem From My House.'"


Jay Leno:

  "President-elect Barack Obama and his family are in Hawaii this week. To which President Bush said, 'You know, I prefer spending my Christmases right here in the United States.'"

  "Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview on '60 Minutes' on Sunday that, if the Constitution allowed it, he would like to run for president. Yeah. Yeah. There's a switch, a Republican being stopped by the Constitution, when does that ever happen?"

  "Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he will not fill Barack Obama's seat any time soon. He says he's going to wait until next summer when prices improve."

" Santa " Shoots And Kills 3... Or Maybe More

    What kind of a world do we live in when even Santa Claus takes a pistol and then goes " postal " with it?

   It looks as if this Santa was having a few problem in his marriage so he decided to take his frustrations out on guest at a Christmas party in a house which happened to burn down some time afterward. Police did not know of the shooting until after the fire was put out and the bodies were found.

   The suspect in the shooting, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, was found hours later at his brothers house, dead.  The police aren't saying how he killed himself.

   It is being reported that the police had found more bodies at the house after sifting through the ashes but they aren't saying how many more and thus far they haven't determined if the others were killed by the shooter or by the fire.

Police initally said three people were dead in the shootings and fire late Wednesday. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Thursday that investigators sifting through the ashes of the house found more bodies, but would not say how many.

The bodies were too badly burned to immediately determine whether they died in the shootings or the fire, Winter said. "We have multiple bodies inside," Winter said. "They're extremely charred and burned."

Jan Gregory, a neighbor, said about 25 people were at the party when the gunshots rang out and people started running by the house.

She said she saw a teenage boy run from the house screaming, "They shot my family."

Telling The Christmas Story Correctly

   Since it is Christmas day, I'm changing the usual subjects so that we can take a look at our " tradition " of Christmas.

   So much of our Christianity is these days is based more on tradition than actual biblical fact. The Christmas story is no exception. Let us take a look at a different re-telling of the Christmas story.

Tradition Develops

An old and familiar part of the Christmas story goes like this: Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem shortly before the birth of Jesus. [1] The night they arrived in Bethlehem there were no rooms available in the local inns, and so Joseph and Mary had to make a place for themselves in a local stable, where Mary gave birth to Jesus and then laid him in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals.

The picture painted by the above part of the Christmas story is not a pretty one. It paints a cold and selfish picture of the people of Bethlehem. Most people of every age and culture go out of their way to help women in need, but somehow the people of Bethlehem closed their doors to this young woman about to give birth. Is that really the picture of the birth of Christ that the Word of God paints for us? We will see that there is a joyful picture of giving in the Christmas story that has been hidden from the eyes of many Christians, but which shows the true heart of Christmas: giving to others from a joyful heart.

The modern Christian understanding of the birth of Jesus comes largely from extra-biblical works and traditions imported into the Gospels, rather than the biblical record itself. Much misinformation came from a document that was widely circulated in the early centuries of the Christian era. It is referred to by scholars as the Protevangelium of James, and was likely written in the third century A.D. [2] The Protevangelium is the first document scholars are aware of that refers to Jesus being born close to Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem, though it says Jesus was born in a cave before Joseph and Mary even reached Bethlehem. Sadly, in ancient times as well as today, people seem to pay more attention to what people say about the Bible than what the Bible itself says.

We do not know how large a part the Protevangelium played in developing the tradition that Mary gave birth to Jesus the night she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. However, we do know that the traditional belief became easier to sustain as the center of Christian culture moved to Europe, where day-to-day life was quite different from life in Palestine.

Arrival in Bethlehem

When we read the Bible carefully, even in most English versions, we see that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for an unspecified number of days before Mary gave birth.

Luke 2:6 (KJV)
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

It is clear from Luke 2:6 that Joseph and Mary did not arrive in Bethlehem the night she gave birth, but days earlier. Mary gave birth “while they [she and Joseph] were there [in Bethlehem],” and the verse specifically says “days.” When the word “days” is used in the plural in the New Testament, it always refers to “days” literally or a period of time. Had Joseph and Mary arrived the day Mary gave birth, the text would have used “day” or “hours,” not the plural “days.” New Testament scholars know this. For example, R. C. H. Lenski writes: “This [the day Jesus was born] was not the day of Joseph’s and Mary’s arrival….” [3] Nevertheless, as usual, scholarship does not often have the power to overturn tradition, with its well-entrenched stories, songs, and paintings.

If Joseph and Mary had been staying in Bethlehem before Jesus was born, how is it that they had not found adequate lodging? Why give birth in a stable and lay Jesus in a manger? Oops, the Bible never says the birth was in a stable—that is tradition. If for some reason Bethlehem was so totally filled with guests and visitors that no one would open their homes to Joseph and Mary, their relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth lived only a short distance away, in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39 - NASB) [4], and Joseph and Mary could have gone there with only a little effort. In fact, Mary had visited Elizabeth early in her pregnancy (Luke 1:40). So Joseph and Mary could have found adequate housing and care if they needed it.

Getting the Story Straight

The story of the night of Christ’s birth needs to be retaught and relearned in Christian circles, not only because truth matters and what actually happened is important, but because it shows the love and sacrifice that people make to help each other, and the true joy of giving so that others may be blessed. That is a much more redemptive rendition of the Christmas story than townspeople closing their hearts and shutting their doors to a pregnant woman in need.

In order to see what really happened around the season of the birth of Christ we will need to glean facts from both the Greek text and the culture of the ancient Near East (which, by the way, existed in many parts there until quite recently). Too often the Greek text alone has been used to try to reveal biblical truth. The Greek text alone is not enough to rebuild the truth of the biblical events for a very simple reason: when something in a culture is usual, well known, normal, or “standard operating procedure,” it is not written about in detail. For example, if I write a letter to a friend about my months of being with my son as he recovered from being wounded in battle, I might say, “I drove to the hospital every day.” I would never write: “I went to the hospital in my car, which is a large metal and plastic mobility device on wheels, with a gasoline engine that starts when an ignition key is turned, and I made it move by pedals on the floor, (etc).” It would be ridiculous to write that. Why? Because everyone in today’s culture knows exactly what I mean when I say “I drove to the hospital.” Perhaps 2000 years from now, if culture has changed so much that only a few historians know what a car is, they might wish we described our driving in more detail, but that is not necessary today. In the same way, things that were part of the everyday culture of the Bible times were not described in detail in their writings. We have to learn about the ordinary things of ancient life by piecing together details from many texts and writings, by using archaeology to study the material culture left to us, and by studying any cultures that still live the same way.

What we will see as we examine the biblical record from both the Greek text and the culture of the times is that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem some time before she gave birth and were taken into the home of a local resident, likely a relative who was also of the family of David, in whose home Mary gave birth. Although most English versions have the phrase, “there was no room for them in the inn,” we will see that phrase has been both mistranslated and misinterpreted.

Welcomed into a Private Home

Before we look at the mistranslations of “room” and “inn,” however, let us look at some reasons Joseph and Mary could have found a place to stay. [5] First, Joseph was returning to his town of origin. Historical memories are long in the Middle East, and family support is very strong. For example, Paul knew he was a descendant of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5), even though Benjamin lived more than 1500 years earlier than he did. Given the long family memories in Hebrew culture, once Joseph told people that both he and Mary were descendants of families from Bethlehem, many homes would be open to them. In fact, it is likely that Joseph and Mary already knew of relatives in Bethlehem and may well have gone to those homes first to find lodging. As we see the true story of Christ’s birth develop, that seems like a very strong possibility.

Second, not just one, but both Joseph and Mary were “royals,” because they were both from the royal line of David. David is so famous in Bethlehem that it is called, “the city of David” (Luke 2:4 - KJV). Being from that famous family would have meant that most homes would open their doors to them if only for that fact alone. Being able to host a couple that were direct descendants of David would have been an honor and privilege.

Third, in every culture women about to give birth are given special help, and the village of Bethlehem would be no different. The New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey, who has spent his life living in the East and teaching in Universities in Egypt and Lebanon, properly understands the heart of village life in Palestine and points out that Joseph and Mary would never have been turned away in their hour of need. He says: “Was there no sense of honor in Bethlehem? Surely the community would have sensed its responsibility to help Joseph find adequate shelter for Mary and provide the care she needed. To turn away a descendent of David in the city of David would be an unspeakable shame to the entire village.” [6]

It is important that we properly understand the record of the birth of Christ. The night that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem they were not rejected by a local hotel that had its “No Vacancy” sign turned on. Instead, they were taken into the private home of a caring family, who let them stay in the family living quarters. This type of giving and joy of service demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas.

There was No Space in the Guestroom

Let’s read, properly translate, and correctly understand what happened when Jesus was born.

Luke 2:7
and she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The phrase “no room for them in the inn” is a mistranslation that continues to support the misunderstanding about the birth of Christ. Two words we must understand to properly interpret the biblical account are topos, which most versions translate as “room,” and kataluma, which most versions translate as “inn.” The word topos occurs more than ninety times in the New Testament. It does not refer to “a room,” like we think of a hotel room, or a bedroom, but simply to a place, or a space in a given area. The text is not saying there was no “room” for Joseph and Mary as in the sense of a hotel room, but rather that there was no “space” for them. Space where? Not in the “inn,” but in the kataluma. What is a kataluma? In the Gospel record it is a “lodging place” or “guestroom,” not a commercial lodge, or inn. There was no space for Joseph and Mary in the guestroom because it was already full. It is noteworthy that even Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon notes that if Luke 2:7 had meant to say “inn” in the sense of a hotel, there is a better Greek word that is used elsewhere in Luke. [7]

The normal Greek word for “inn” is pandocheion, and it refers to a public house for the reception of strangers (caravansary, khan, inn; we would say hotel or motel). The word pandocheion was used not only by the Greeks, but also as a loan-word for “inn” or a commercial lodging place in Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, and Turkish. Luke uses the word pandocheion in the parable of the Good Samaritan when the Samaritan took the man who was mugged to a public inn (Luke 10:34).

In contrast to the public inn (pandocheion), both Mark and Luke use kataluma in their Gospels as a “guest room” in someone’s house (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11). When finding a place to eat the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus tells them to say to the owner of the house, “…The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room [kataluma], where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” (Luke 22:11). So in both Mark and Luke, the kataluma is a guest room in a house, not an inn or hotel.

The gospel of Luke also uses the verb form of kataluma, which is kataluo, “to find rest or lodging.” When Zacchaeus the tax collector brings Jesus home for a meal, the Bible says that Jesus goes “to be the guest” [kataluo] at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:7). So Luke uses both the noun kataluma and the verb kataluo to refer to a room in someone’s house. [8] The fact that pandocheion is a better word for “inn” than kataluma, along with the fact that Luke used pandocheion for an “inn” and kataluma for a guest room, is very solid evidence that Luke is telling us the family who took in Joseph and Mary had “no space” in their “guestroom.” Thus the Bible should not be translated to say there was no room for them in the inn, but rather there was “no space for them in the guestroom.” It is noteworthy that Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, done by Robert Young, the same man who produced Young’s Concordance to the Bible, translates Luke 2:7 as follows: “…there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.”

One thing that is left out of the biblical record is why the guest room was full. Although we will never know for sure, there are a couple possibilities. First, if Jesus was born when we of Spirit & Truth Fellowship think he was, the first day of Tishri, it is possible that Jerusalem and the surrounding region was already experiencing a large influx of people for the season of the year, because it had the largest number of sacred days and feasts. The month of Tishri (usually around our September) had the Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1), the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15-22), and anyone who was traveling a very long distance to be at Jerusalem for any of them might have wanted to be there for the entire festival season. Also, Luke tells us the reason that Joseph traveled to Bethlehem was due to Caesar’s tax registration (Luke 2:1-4), and it is possible that other family members besides Joseph had decided to travel to Bethlehem at that time, when they could both register for the tax and be part of the celebrations at Jerusalem. [9]

Common Features of an Eastern Life

There are a few things about ordinary houses and ordinary life in first century Palestine that we must know in order to understand the birth of Jesus. One is that it was quite common for houses in the Middle East to have a guest room where guests, and even strangers, could stay. Showing hospitality to strangers has always been a huge part of Eastern life, and is written about in the Bible and in many books on the customs of the Bible. Several biblical records show strangers being given hospitality, including the record of Lot (Gen. 19:1-4), the man in Gibeah (Judg. 19:19-21), and the Shunamite woman, who showed hospitality to Elisha by building a guest room just for him (2 Kings 4:10). Giving hospitality is a command for Christian leaders as well (1 Tim. 3:2).

Even poor people could have a guest room because it did not have to be furnished or have an adjoining bathroom and shower. People did not generally sleep on beds, but traveled with their own blankets that they slept on at night, so sleeping arrangements were no problem. Tables and chairs were not used in the common homes of first century Palestinians, and the bathroom was a pot, or a place outside. So the average guest room was simply a small, empty room, offering shelter and a place of safety. The guest room provided privacy for the guests as well as the family, because one-room homes were common. Our modern houses with many rooms were simply not the norm in a village of the first century. Quite often a family lived in a one-room house, in which all family activities occurred. They pulled their bedrolls out at night and slept on the floor, and simply rolled them up again in the morning.

Another thing we must understand about houses in the East is that it was common for people to bring their animals (the family donkey or a couple of milk goats, for example) into them at night. Such animals were very valuable, and the people brought them into the home at night to keep them from being stolen and to protect them from harm. Of course, if the family were shepherds or herdsmen, they would not bring the whole flock or herd into the house, but would have a family member or hired guard watch them in the field.

It was a common practice to raise the floor of the part of the house where the family lived, and keep the animals in an area that was a little lower. [10] Knowing this helps us understand Luke 2:6 and also where that idea that Jesus was born in a stable came from. Jesus was laid in a manger, which is an open trough, box, or bin, where the animal food was placed so the animals could feed easily. In Western society, mangers are in barns or stables, so if Jesus was laid in a manger it made sense he was born in a stable. However, in Eastern society, where the animals grazed outside during the day and were brought into the house at night, the manger was in the house. Thus when the Bible says that Jesus was laid in a manger “because” there was no space in the guest room, any Easterner would understand perfectly that the guest room was full so Jesus was born in the main part of the house where the family and animals were, and then safely placed in the manger, which would have been filled with clean hay or straw and would have been the perfect size for him. This was not to demean him in any way, but to care for him. The protective walls of the manger kept him safely guarded and away from busy feet and a bustling household, as well as warm and protected from any drafts or cold air in the home.

Another thing that helps us understand the Christmas story is understanding Eastern hospitality. In the East, guests were given special treatment of all kinds, including behavior that seems very extreme to us. For example, in the record of Lot and the two strangers, Lot would have handed over his own daughters to the mob before surrendering his guests (Gen. 19:8). Similarly, the people with whom Joseph and Mary stayed would never displace their guests from the guest room, but instead would inconvenience themselves, graciously bringing the couple into their living space.

Another thing we need to know is that Mary and Joseph would not have been alone when Jesus was born. The women of the household, along with the women of the family staying in the guestroom, most likely the village midwife, and perhaps even wise and experienced women from the neighborhood, would have been present, and would have shooed Joseph and the rest of the men out of the house some time during Mary’s labor (actually, the men would have graciously left on their own, which was also standard procedure in that culture). The husband and any sons (along with Joseph), would have left their own house, spending their late evening and night hours with other families or just resting out under the stars, so that Mary would have the privacy she needed during the birth of Jesus. [11] Of course they would be allowed back in the house after the baby was born and there had been adequate time to get things in the house back in proper order and make sure Jesus and Mary were comfortable.

Baby Jesus would have been born in normal circumstances, with Mary being helped and cared for by the women around her. Although the Bible does not mention that there was a midwife and other women present with Mary, it would be quite unthinkable that they would not be there to help. No details of the birth would be given in the Bible because births were a “normal” part of life, and no first-century reader in Palestine would expect anything different than what usually happens with a village birth. In fact, if the women of the household had not been there to help, that would have been so unusual (and seemingly coldhearted) that it would probably be written about in the Bible. Also, the shepherds who came to see Jesus knew that he was the promised Messiah. When they found Joseph, Mary, and their Savior, if they in any way felt that he was not being treated well, they would have been scandalized and outraged, and immediately taken them home to their own houses. The fact that they did no such thing, but rather left the new family where they were and went to tell the good news to the whole area, indicates they felt Joseph, Mary, and the baby were being well cared for. [For further study read Family Life in the Bible.]

The Christmas Story

So we see that the way the birth of Jesus actually happened is considerably different than what is commonly taught. It is not that Bethlehem was full of cold-hearted townspeople who would not take special care of a young woman about to have her first child.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem at least a few days before Mary gave birth, and were taken in by one of the local homes, most likely that of a relative. The host family already had guests in the kataluma, the guest room, so there was no space (topos) for them there. Therefore, the homeowners graciously made room for Joseph and Mary in their own living quarters, treating them like family. When Mary went into labor, the men left their own home to give her privacy, and the women of the household, likely along with the village midwife, came to Mary’s side for help and support. Shortly after Mary gave birth to our Lord and Savior late in the evening (after sunset) or at night, Joseph and the men would have been called back into the house to see the new baby boy, and there would have been much jubilation and revelry, which was always a traditional part of the birth of a baby boy, particularly if it was a first child. [12]

Not too long after Jesus was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, dedicated to God, and placed in a perfect spot, the manger in the family home, which would have been cleaned and made up with fresh straw. No doubt the news soon spread around the village that a baby boy had been born (the music and shouting would have helped that happen), and that both the mother and baby were doing well, but soon there was to be news of a different kind. Shepherds showed up from a nearby field and told the village that a great light had shined around them, that they had seen an army of angels on the hillsides, and that an angel had told them that this baby was no ordinary baby, but the Messiah, the Savior. Their report caused great wonder all over the region, and resulted in glory and praise to God.

Thus the story of the birth of Christ reveals something that demonstrates the true spirit of Christmas: people opening their homes and their hearts, joyfully giving to others in need, and helping where they can.