The Definitive Hitchens Article On Christmas

The Text: Bah, Humbug by Christopher Hitchens in Slate.

The Article: I used to harbor the quiet but fierce ambition to write just one definitive, annihilating anti-Christmas column and then find an editor sufficiently indulgent to run it every December. My model was the Thanksgiving pastiche knocked off by Art Buchwald several decades ago and recycled annually in a serious ongoing test of reader tolerance. But I have slowly come to appreciate that this hope was in vain. The thing must be done annually and afresh. Partly this is because the whole business becomes more vile and insufferable—and in new and worse ways—every 12 months. It also starts to kick in earlier each year: It was at Thanksgiving this year that, making my way through an airport, I was confronted by the leering and antlered visage of what to my disordered senses appeared to be a bloody great moose. Only as reason regained her throne did I realize that the reindeer—that plague species—were back.

Not long after I’d swallowed this bitter pill, I was invited onto Scarborough Country on MSNBC to debate the proposition that reindeer were an ancient symbol of Christianity and thus deserving of First Amendment protection, if not indeed of mandatory display at every mall in the land. I am told that nobody watches that show anymore—certainly I heard from almost nobody who had seen it—so I must tell you that the view taken by the host was that coniferous trees were also a symbol of Christianity, and that the Founding Fathers had endorsed this proposition. From his cue cards, he even quoted a few vaguely deistic sentences from Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, neither of them remotely Christian in tone. When I pointed out the latter, and added that Christmas trees, yule logs, and all the rest were symbols of the winter solstice “holidays” before any birth had been registered in the greater Bethlehem area, I was greeted by a storm of abuse, as if I had broken into the studio instead of having been entreated to come by Scarborough’s increasingly desperate staff. And when I added that it wasn’t very Tiny Tim-like to invite a seasonal guest and then tell him to shut up, I was told that I was henceforth stricken from the Scarborough Rolodex. The ultimate threat: no room at the Bigmouth Inn.

This was a useful demonstration of what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy. Time wasted on foolishness at one’s children’s schools. Vapid ecumenical messages from the president, who has more pressing things to do and who is constitutionally required to avoid any religious endorsements.

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We Probably Done It All

On My Block by Scarface off of The Fix.

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The Socialist Lens Of Lincoln In The Era Of Marx

The Article: Reading Karl Marx with Abraham Lincoln by John Nichols in International Socialist Review.

The Text:

These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.
—Abraham Lincoln, from his first speech as an Illinois state legislator, 1837

Everyone now is more or less a Socialist.
—Charles Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, and Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, 1848

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
—Karl Marx and the First International Workingmen’s Association to Lincoln, 1864

On December 3, 1861, a former one-term congressman, who had spent most of the past dozen years studying dissident economic theories, mounting challenges to the existing political order and proposing ever more radical responses to the American crisis, delivered his first State of the Union address as the sixteenth president of the United States.

Since assuming office eight months earlier, this new president had struggled, without success, first to restore the severed bonds of the Union and then to avert a wrenching civil war. Now, eleven southern slave states were in open and violent rebellion against the government he led.

His inaugural address of the previous spring had closed with a poignant reflection on the prospect of eventual peace, imagining a day when the Union might again be touched “by the better angels of our nature.” But, now, in the last month of what Walt Whitman would recall as America’s “sad, distracted year”—“Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp’d cannons”—the better angels seemed to have deserted the continent. Every effort to restore the republic had been thwarted. There was no room for accommodation with the Confederate States of America. Fort Sumter had been fired upon and the flag of southern rebellion now flew above Charleston Harbor. Virginia, the cradle of presidents, the state of Washington, Jefferson and Madison, had joined the revolt and assembled a capital of the Confederacy less than 100 miles from Washington. Hundreds of Union and Confederate soldiers had died, with thousands more wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run. Armies had been reorganized and generals replaced with the recognition that this was no skirmish. This was a protracted war that would eventually force all Americans to “[throw] off the costumes of peace with [an] indifferent hand.”

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Keep Your Old And Wasted Words

Lights Out, Words Gone by Bombay Bicycle Club off of A Different Kind Of Fix.

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The Flat Tax Visualized

The Flat Tax Comic

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