Mid-Winter Follies

The last time I visited Milan, among other delights, in the Sforza Castle museum I discovered a facsimile of a 17th-Century story board depicting a world gone haywire. In my listener’s ear, the singsong notes of the story teller’s refrain echoed over the centuries, and, just for a moment, my eyes followed the teller’s pointing stick as one by one he chanted each image’s cautionary rhyme. Here a pig roughly barbers a client, there a horse kicks a stable boy in the ribs. To the left, a pair of sheep force two humans to crop grass, and central to it all is Folly’s Castle where all those who are invisible and voiceless get to have their say.

In the recent 6-hour-long screening of the directors cut of Fanny and Alexander I viewed this week, Christmas dinner is served in the kitchen where the Ekdahl family sits together with their many servants, a custom harking back to Roman times, when for a day, masters waited on their slaves, and slaves drank and gambled to excess. In the days of that Empire, the Saturnalia was celebrated at this time of year, from December 17 to 23rd.

Temple of Saturn, Roman Forum

But the Saturnalia was not all fun and games. Following a ritual sacrifice, a King of the Saturnalia was appointed by lot, a Lord of Misrule (a role favored by Nero) who issued orders intended to bend all his subjects out of shape: people were ordered to wear a red cap; or to be tossed in ice-cold water, and public servants were ordered to serve without pay. Dissipation ran rampant.

Image of Saturn as Father Death

Saturn’s consort, Lua, known as the Mother of Destruction, presided over gladiatorial contests, wherein the bodies of dead gladiators were offered to Saturn, a nasty custom first identified by Christian apologists as a form of human sacrifice. Later, Saturn was placated by offerings of human heads, a custom marked during the later Saturnalia by gift-giving of oscillum or wind chimes, depicting effigies of decapitated human heads.

The off-button of the Roman Saturnalia was December 23rd.

The Roman Empire ended in 476 A.D. when the good barbarians from the north put an end to it.

Today’s Raw Story headlines: Making the Court Jester King: New Report Shows How #45 Went from Reality TV to ‘Fake’ President

And Common Dreams reports: IRS Cuts Audits of the Rich and Steps Up Audits of Poor After Budget Cuts

and Truthout writes: Pentagon Rings in New Year With Joke About Dropping Massive Bombs on People


Ted Lieu (D — Santa Monica) Defies Congressional Protocol

Please check out this video:


Then please forward it to everyone on your lists. And call Ted Lieu’s office to thank him for his courage, or to commend him for his intransigence depending on which color of the political spectrum you favor.

He has a direct line and functioning voice mail system which actually wants to hear from any U.S. citizen who might care to contact him (what a concept!):

1 (202) 225–3976

Demand congressional investigation of the recent deaths of two children in immigration custody at


Demand that Customs and Border Patrol Kevin McAleenan resign at


Demand that Alex Azar and Kirstjen Nielsen cease helping ICE target immigrants seeking to reunite with their children held in custody at


Sign petition to respect the human right to migrate, and end militarization at the border at



Plummeting solar prices signal the death of dirty energy in India

After more than two million Amazon Reef defenders all around the world resisted plans by French Total to drill for oil ,near the mouth of the Amazon Reef, the Brazilian Government Agency, Ibama refused to grant Total permission to drill.

Ecuador’s Workers Unity Front and other social movements have announced plans to protest against new measures announced by Lenin Moreno’s government, including a reduction in gasoline subsidies.

Watertown becomes first New England Town to require solar panels on new commercial construction.

First Nations activists set up second camp to block construction of Coastal GasLink Pipeline in British Columbia.

Rainforest Connection develops an innovative way to protect rainforests using discarded cell phones.

Spain shuts down all coal mines this month.

Respecting saying of native Guarani people not to accept anything that harms Mother Earth, the citizens of Peruibe, Brazil, defeat massive thermoelectric power pant and pipelines project.

HSBC divests from Israeli weapons and wall-building corporation Elbit Systems


The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, worth over $1000 billion excludes companies involved in producing nuclear weapons from investment.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank expands its policy to exclude companies involved with controversial weaponry, including those involved in nuclear weapon manufacture.

KBC, a major Belgian bank commits to excluding all nuclear weapons producers from investment.

Ojai, California resolves not to engage in any investments related to nuclear weapons.

ABP, fifth largest pension fund in the world, ends its investments in producers of nuclear weapons.


Five million workers will see higher pay in 20 states starting January 1st.

More than 3.2 million New Yorkers get raise as the state’s minimum wage increases to $15/hr January 1st.

Trade union mass demonstrations are organized around the Hungarian Parliament to oppose changes to the labor law.

The Courts

Journalist Mumia Abi-Jamal wins chance to reargue his appeal in 1981 police killing.

Louisiana Court rules that sheriff must release all documents about employees’ travel activities at Standing Rock.


Lauren Underwood beats four-term GOP Representative to become first black woman in her district.

The homeless

Bergen County, N. J. ends chronic homelessness.



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