While Christmas is officially a celebration of the birth of Jesus, for much of the Western world December 25 has come to be a celebration of family and community. No other time of the year is so thoroughly saturated with images pointing to our highest hopes for such relationships - and no other time of the year so effectively highlights the difference between our ideals and the world as it really is. Jesus came to Earth to bridge not only the chasm between humanity and God, but also that rift that separates people from each other. Christmas reminds us that we live in a broken world, and it seeks to encourage us by showing us through religious and even many secular trappings how that brokenness can be fixed.
(Roiters) He makes a list, checks it twice. Five billion names - the entire world population, minus children under the age of three, and observers of Festivus. And now it's on the Internet for all to see.
From London's Wandsworth prison, Julian Assange stated that the list was acquired just prior to his arrest. He refused to disclose his source, but Santa Claus identified the culprit - an elf named Lenny, who expressed dissatisfaction with the overtime rules and the health plan.
After passing the data to WikiLeaks, Lenny attempted to flee the North Pole by drifting away in an ice floe, but he was discovered by a film crew scouting locations for CBS's upcoming Arctic Survivor.
Santa placed Lenny under cottage arrest, relieving the disgruntled elf of all duties and reducing his eggnog and gingerbread rations.
North Pole computers have also been hit by a Stuxnet-like virus, but the cyber-attack was defeated. Santa won't say anything about his data security measures. MIT computer science professor Morton Case speculates that Santa outsources to computer-savvy juveniles on the "nice" list. "I bet a few teenage computer geeks are getting extra gift certificates to Fry's and Best Buy in their stocking this year."
Parents and those with relationship problems complain about one lacking feature in the "naughty" list: the reason for the individual's inclusion. "I discovered that my little Johnny is on the 'naughty' list," says Laura McDermott of Rochester, New York, "but the list doesn't say why, and I can't get Johnny to talk. I'm going to have to shell out for one of those Home Enhanced Interrogation kits from Sharper Image."
Many school officials around the country are proposing the use of Santa's list to identify students with high-risk discipline issues. Shermer, Illinois school board member Philip Brubeck's rationale is typical: "Kids don't act up in the home or the neighborhood and check their attitude at the door when they go to school." The American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil rights groups have already threatened lawsuits.
The Internet has already birthed three humor websites where viewers can make gift suggestions outside the legendary lump of coal for those on the "naughty" list. "I've got to hand it to them, those sites are funny," said Santa in a phone interview. "By the way, nobody gets a lump of coal anymore, except for naughty environmentalist - and Al Gore gets two. And to all of you who want me to give Michael Mann a hockey stick...been doing that for years."
Some express puzzlement that Muslim names are included on the naughty-and-nice list. Harvard theologian James Kopf explains. "Except for Festivus participants, communities that do not celebrate Christmas do not turn away Santa - they simply devise some other celebration to revolve around his arrival. Pakistanis don't need to do much inventing - they already have a big holiday on December 25. Hindus and various other faiths observe the Winter Solstice. When in doubt, the Christmas-averse pick some celebrity's birthday for an excuse to party and open presents. I know a few policy wonks who drink a toast to Karl Rove."
No individual name on the "naughty" list has attracted much attention, save one: Osama bin Laden. This revelation that the al-Qaeda mastermind is still alive has prompted many to petition Santa's assistance in either apprehending bin Laden or lobbing a few grenades down his chimney - or at least disclose his whereabouts. "Sure, bin Laden deserves to be taken out of circulation, but I have to remain neutral when it comes to wars and law enforcement actions. No exceptions. I'm Santa Claus, not the A-Team."
United States Attorney General Eric Holder expressed concerns that some of those outed through the publication of the "naughty" list might seek some sort of retribution, carefully avoiding mention of his own presence on that list. The US Postal Service has already intercepted 50,000 death threats, a third of them written in crayon.
Santa shows no worry over the threats. "Children have been trying to catch a glimpse of me for centuries. If nobody can even get in the same room with me, nobody can hurt me. I'm the one who taught that trick to Chuck Norris."
"What worries me is that some nutcase will take it out on a department store Santa, or on whoever was involved with the reason he or she made the 'naughty' list. Malls are stepping up their security, and Chuck is out there. We'll work together to make this Christmas as safe as possible."
Santa added one final comment: "Oh, and anyone in mall security who so much as puts on a pair of blue latex gloves is going on next year's 'naughty' list faster than Julian Assange."
Earlier today (on my way to jury duty) I heard the ABC Radio News announcer state that Congress had established a compromise that will annoy "everybody except taxpayers." An interesting choice of words, considering that taxpayers (outside of our ruling class) vastly outnumber those annoyed folks.
[Assange] told the global media that new leaks would expose more secrets not only about the U.S. military but about other "repressive regimes," such as Russia and China. The signals coming from Moscow, however, suggest that the Russian reaction will not be as reserved as America's. So is WikiLeaks really ready to take on the world's more callous states?
If he goes after the British, this could turn into a James Bond movie.
The Russian Prime Minister takes issue with DefSec Robert Gates' characterization of Russia as an "oligarchy."
If Putin were really clever, he would have called Obama on the red phone and said, "Hey pal, nobody in an administration crawling with czars like yours is in any position to criticize Russia's record on representative government."
I haven't paid that much attention to Wikileaks - which probably explains this random thought - but does Julian Assange have access to classified data from countries that aren't especially all that friendly with Western democracies?