Tag Archives: Christmas

California governor sends out Christmas pardons, retracts one

California Gov. Jerry Brown has upheld his Christmas Eve tradition by issuing 105 pardons for criminals being held in the California prison system, but one of these pardons was retracted shortly afterwards.

Many of the people who have received pardons have been convicted more than a decade ago of nonviolent drug offenses or charges similar to burglary, according to CBS San Francisco.  Brown and his office have said those who were granted a pardon had been previously released without committing additional crimes, and had demonstrated “exemplary behavior” by being productive in their civilian lives.

However, according to the AP, the one pardon which was retracted was supposed to be granted to Glen Carnes.  Carnes had been convicted of a drug-related crime in 1998  when he was a teenager, but in 2013, records show he underwent disciplinary actions for providing false statements to investment regulators.

Carnes did not admit guilt to these allegations, rather he signed a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, agreeing to be barred from further financial investment.  While celebrating the holidays with his family, Carnes said he learned about his pardon retraction, and was in disbelief.

“Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Carnes said in a phone interview.  “I cannot believe this is happening, I’ve waited 20 years for this… This is wrong.”

The pardons do not erase the conviction, rather they restore certain rights to the person.  Some of these rights include the ability to further serve on a jury and allowing a person to legally own a firearm if they were not previously convicted of a crime involving a weapon.  A previously convicted person also has the chance to work as a probation officer or a parole agent for the state.

Two Robins Wish You a Very Happy Christmas

I arrived in England yesterday from my home in the States and the jet-lag had the better of me this morning by 4.45 am.

Dad, whom I have traveled across the Atlantic to spend Christmas with, is still in bed as I write this, and I am sitting alone on his couch in a silent house.

Nevertheless, I have already received my biggest Christmas greeting of the day. A little bird came to give it to me.

Creeping around Dad’s house with my first cup of tea in hand, so as not to wake anyone, I wondered over to the living room window to see the dawn – something my body clock prevents me from doing when I am not jet-lagged. Peering out, I saw in the little garden below me a rather stereotypical bird house. Perched on top of it, right there on the front of the roof of the box, was a robin – the very symbol of an English Christmas.

I smiled at the coincidence of it; the simplicity of it; the Christmassyness of it. It was as if the universe had just conspired to make me a Christmas card in the three dimensions of reality.

Of course, the little robin wasn’t there to deliver to me a Christmas greeting. After all, he didn’t know I was going to look out of the window right then. And he couldn’t – because he’s a robin.

People often say that we “come into the world”. But we don’t: we come out of it. As the wonderful Alan Watts used to say, just as an apple tree “apples”, so the universe “peoples”. It also “robins” and, I’m pleased to note, it also “Robins”, for Robin happens to be my name.

Since Isaac Newton, it has been fashionable to believe that consciousness is an “emergent property” of physical stuff, which might fancifully be expressed as the idea that consciousness is fundamentally a very complicated rock. But that idea is a noetic and cultural fashion: it’s not scientific as much as it is scientistic.

As much as I love the intellectual sincerity and commitment to empiricism of people like Richard Dawkins, who would essentially agree with that view, I don’t hold to it. More like most people throughout most of history and most of the world, I suspect the opposite is closer to the truth: that a rock is a very simple form of consciousness – which enables me to wonder if the two robins of my story – the big Robin (me), and the little Robin (my Yuletide avian acquaintance) – are expressions of the Divine, or in Christian terms, beings “made in God’s image”. It also allows me to conceive of Love as fundamentally real, and fundamentally meaningful, rather than just a sensation that arises from a cosmic accident involving lots of particles.

But why? Why would the Divine express Itself in Robins and robins and everything else in the world? Because – and here’s another one of my working hypotheses – that is the only way It can experience what It knows Itself to be. And the most important aspect of Its nature is Love. There’s more to it than that, of course, but on a Christmas Day spent with family and with thoughts of loved ones elsewhere, that seems the aspect of All That Is that is worth focusing on.

Whatever your metaphysical disposition may be, this is for sure: you cannot fully understand one part of our universe without knowing all of it. To explain completely everything there is to know about a single grain of sand would take in all the laws of nature and “initial conditions” of the universe, if there are any. And to specify them would be (with allowances for the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics,) to explain the whole universe. William Blake wasn’t being fanciful when he wrote of seeing “a world in a grain of sand”.

Whether you prefer rock-as-crude-consciousness or universe-in-a-grain-of-sand, you’re still left with We Are All One, and little robin and big Robin as just two fluctuations of the same ultimate reality –what All-That-Is is doing and here and now. Little robin and I are fundamentally united.

I have bookshelves full of New Testament history and biblical exegesis. I was rather preoccupied with it for years as a young adult. And the traditional Christmas story that has been handed down in Christmas sermons in institutions of organized religion is, in my humble opinion (and to be as kind as I can possibly be), extremely incomplete and misrepresented. But the bigger story – indeed, the universe-sized story – that Love is ultimate reality and manifests in physical form, has to my mind, a lot more going for it. And for what it’s worth, I type that as someone academically trained in the physical sciences and a philosophy of science.

If it is the case that the little robin and I are ultimately the same thing – fluctuations of an underlying All That Is – then I have to wonder if there is any way I could have been standing at my Dad’s window a few hours ago without the little robin’s looking back at me from that bird house.

Now I am being more fanciful than Blake, perhaps, but whatever the truth of all that, I saw a robin on Christmas morning and he jolted me into the here and now and a direct of experience of peacefulness and oneness and Love. And I am pretty sure if it weren’t Christmas day, and it wasn’t a robin, the symbol of Christmas, he wouldn’t have done that.

So whether he intended it or not, the little robin brought me, in a very deep sense, my Christmas greeting this morning.

And since it’s Christmas Day, which is a rather good day for dwelling on things Divine and fanciful (for some of you, they will be the same thing, and for others they certainly won’t be), I’ll allow myself the thought that just because the little robin didn’t know he was bringing me a Christmas message of peace of Love doesn’t necessarily mean that All That Is didn’t put him there for that very purpose.

So from that robin, through this Robin, to all of you, my readers – whether you believe yourself to be a very complicated machine or a rather limited expression of the Divine – I wish you very much Love and a truly happy Christmas.Robin Card

Pope Francis Uses Christmas Address To Shake Up Vatican Bureaucrats

Pope Francis used his annual Christmas address to attack Vatican bureaucrats… who he was giving the speech to.

He called them “hypocritical” with a “lust for power” and guilty of “careerism and opportunism.”

The cardinals, bishops and priests that run the Holy See weren’t so entertained or moved.

“The cardinals were not amused. The speech was met with tepid applause, and few were smiling as Francis completed his list of sins,” reported Britain’s The Independent.

In his message, Pope Francis listed the 15 biggest ailments afflicting those running the Catholic Church.

Click here to read the entire message.

An Ohio homeowner has been told to remove his unconventional Nativity scene

A man in Sycamore, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, has been told to remove his zombie-themed Nativity scene from his front yard after complaints were filed against him.

Jasen Dixon is the owner of the zombie Nativity scene as well as a haunted house, called 13 Rooms of Doom, in Indiana.  Rather than go out and buy a whole new Nativity scene, Dixon told FOX 19 he wanted to work with what he had available.  The end result is a manger complete with a pale baby Jesus and skeletal Mary, Joseph, and wise men.

After receiving the complaints, Dixon was told by the local town administration office he is facing a $1,000 fine if he does not remove the Nativity scene by Friday.  However, the office has said the content of the Nativity scene is not what the fine is for, rather how much space the scene occupies is in violation of township zoning codes.

Greg Bickford, who works for the Sycamore Township Administration Office, said, according to Talking Points Memo, the office does “regulate displays for content.”

Dixon told Reuters though that many people seem to approve of his homemade nativity scene after seeing people take selfies with the nativity scene.  A Facebook page has also been erected for the nativity scene which has attracted about 200 likes.

On the average we probably get 30 or 40 cars stop and taking pictures, getting out with their camera,” said Dixon according to the Raw Story.  I know if it was a real pretty Nativity scene they wouldn’t be saying anything.”

Dixon has said he is still unsure how he is going to respond to the fine.

U.S. Army Tells Soldiers Not To Say “Christmas”

Soldiers at Camp Shelby, Mississippi were told not to say “Christmas,” as to not offend people who do not celebrate the holiday.

Two weeks ago, a meeting was held at the Mississippi base to discuss an upcoming Christmas football tournament. At that meeting, the equal opportunity officer insisted that soldiers not use the word “Christmas.” They were instructed to use the word “holiday” instead

One soldier, who remains unnamed, spoke to Todd Starnes regarding the issue. He said, “Our equal opportunity representative stopped the briefing and told us that we can’t say Christmas. Almost the entire room blew up. Everybody was frustrated. The equal opportunity rep told our commander that not everyone celebrates Christmas and we couldn’t say Christmas celebration. It had to be holiday celebration.”

The soldier claimed that the equal opportunity officer said the rule was not her’s — it was the army’s.

But when asked about the statements, Army representative Amanda Glenn said, “There is no policy at the 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East or First Army that forbids using the word ‘Christmas.’ The Equal Opportunity adviser simply stated that it would be more appropriate to call it a holiday football event.”

The soldier who spoke to Starnes, however, made it clear that those in the room were very clearly instructed not to say “Christmas.”

The attorney representing the soldier, Michael Berry, said, “She stated that the word Christmas had to be replaced with the word holiday… It’s unbelievable that the Army would ban ‘Christmas’ like it’s a bad word.”

He pointed out that the silly rule would be nearly impossible to actually enforce. He asked, “Are they going to have the ‘Merry Christmas’ police going around issuing citations to an soldier who slips and says the word? They’re treating Christmas like it’s pornography. As a matter of fact, the Army actually treats pornography better than it does Christmas.”

Is this an example of the so-called “war on Christmas” — or a mere misunderstanding? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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School Sanitizes “Silent Night” By Removing All Religious Lyrics

Parents were shocked on December 12 when their children sang a very unusual version of “Silent Night” during a school holiday concert.

At Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School in Long Island, New York, religious lines were removed from the Christmas carol. A few of the axed lyrics were “Christ the Savior is born,” “Holy infant so, tender and mild,” “round yon virgin, mother and child” and “Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”

The deleted lines were not replaced with alternative wording.

The altered Christmas carol caused a stir among parents who attended the concert. Kevin McDonald, a father who was in attendance, said during a school board meeting, “‘Silent Night’ at its core is a religious song. It’s a sacred Christian hymn that tells the story about the birth of Jesus. What was performed was inappropriate and disrespectful to the Christian faith.”

Dan Gallo, another parent, said, “There is so many Christmas songs. Why would you change the lyrics to something that is very near and dear to so many people?”

Many others in the district were also disturbed by the sanitized Christmas carol.

In response to the angry parents, the school district eventually offered “sincerest apologies.”

An official statement said, “The Board of Education sincerely apologizes to our community members who were offended by the change of lyrics to the song Silent Night and we share in your sentiment. This action was not approved by the Board of Education or district administration, nor is it their role to approve the songs chosen for our concerts.”

The school claimed the lyrics were removed to avoid offending people. It seems that the decision had the opposite effect.

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SC Airforce Base Swiftly Removes Baby Jesus after phone call


Controversy has erupted at Shaw Airforce base located in Sumter, SC over the removal of a nativity scene. A group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, called the base stating that this scene was in direct violation of the “Department of Defense Directives, Instructions, and Regulations, the United States Constitution, and Air Force Instruction 1-1, specifically, section 2.11.”


American Atheists Military Director Paul Loebe writes:

“To the Air Force’s credit it agreed with MRFF’s arguments to remove the nativity scene swiftly and apparently found this scene to be as much a violation of all the pertinent regulations and the United States Constitution as MRFF did. Within 2 hours and 15 minutes of initially being contacted by MRFF, the nativity scene had been promptly removed. MRFF wants to congratulate the Air Force on acting so swiftly to reverse this egregious violation and hopes that in the future they will ensure that no such violations continue to occur.”

Fox News contributor Sarah Palin told Todd Starnes, “what happened at Shaw Airforce base is not surprising.”

“The War on Christmas is just the top of the spear in a larger battle to marginalize expressions of faith and make true religious freedom a thing of the past,” said Palin.

Activists across the state are now planning to protest the base’s decision on December 15.


Please comment below. Do you think the Air Force base made the right decision? Do you feel that base is attacking religious freedom?



School Bans Christmas Trees, Kids From Wearing “Christmas Colors” & Saying Merry Christmas

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) signed the “Merry Christmas Bill” last June. The bill was designed to nullify legal risks of saying “Merry Christmas” and protect Christmas iconography in public schools.

Regardless of the new state law, an elementary school in  Frisco, Texas has recently banned students from wearing green and red colors, making references to the Christian holiday, and Christmas trees from an upcoming “winter party”.

One parent forwarded the email from the school planner to Texas Rep. Pat Fallon. Rep. Fallow says the rules violate the new state law. Rep. Fallon contacted the school district and was informed that it was not a district wide policy. He was then informed by the PTA that children were allowed to say Merry Christmas.

The school district released the following statement:

“The school was unaware of this and it was not an official PTA correspondence either. There have never been any limitations on what students wear, what they bring to share with their classmates on party days … what greetings people exchange with each other.”

However, he later received a follow up email from a PTA member that stated organizers decided to keep everything in place, as originally planned, in an attempt to not offend anyone.

Regardless of the school district’s statement, “It’s my understanding that nothing has changed,” responded Rep. Fallon to Fox News investigators.

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Mayor Steals $60k In Christmas Toy Money Intended For Children


Yesterday, Billy E. Wilson, the mayor of Greenbrier, TN, was arrested after an extensive investigation, which proved he had been stealing money from the local “Toys For Tots” charity. Every year individuals flood the streets and grocery stores in the small Tennessee town asking for donations, which are supposed to be used to purchase Christmas toys for young children who cannot afford them.

Greenbrier residents say they have been suspecting Mayor Wilson of misconduct for years. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Mayor Wilson has been placing the donated money in to his personal account since 2005.

Mayor Wilson has been booked into the local county jail on $5k bond with one count of official misconduct and one count of theft over $60k.

Tennessee was recently ranked as the “most corrupt” state in the country. A title, which Mayor Wilson, has helped to secure. The TBI is currently continuing their investigation.

Follow Michael Lotfi on Twitter: @MichaelLotfi