So long Paul Simon

— Bumper sticker of the week: Bush/Cheney 2004: Compassionate Imperialism

— Quote of the week: "The health-care crisis is now a middle-class phenomenon. The entire health-care system is being robbed blind by hospital chains, HMO’s, insurance companies, and drug companies. In March, 2003, researchers for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights reported in the Los Angeles Times that in 2002 the cost of health care increased 250 percent more than the rate of medical inflation." Bushwacked, Molly Ivins & Lou Dubose

— The Eagle has crash landed: As the only union grocery in town, I’m wondering what the city might have done to help keep Eagles open. I have a pretty good hunch I know.

— Compassion, understanding, acceptance, peace: The spirit of Christmas. A time when I look for compassion, understanding, acceptance and peace. I’m still looking.

— Paul Simon: I think Paul Simon was the most honest, most thoughtful, and all-around best politician Illinois has ever seen — bar none. I had the privilege of meeting him on about 4 or 5 occasions, the last being at a town meeting in Abingdon. Paul Simon built his political career on fighting illegal gambling in Madison County, Illinois. I asked him what he thought about the current acceptance of gambling as a way to subsidize government. He looked me dead in the eye and all he said was, "We’re kidding ourselves." That was Paul Simon. So long.

— It’s Christmas: Well, not technically. We made a slight adjustment to help year end sales, but what the heck. The exact day is not so important as the occasion: The birth of Christ. Today’s Christians seem more into the old testament Jewish hierarchical laws than they are into following the example of Christ’s life. They like the eye-for-an eye stuff. By all accounts, Christ’s life demonstrated that he wasn’t particularly interested in unjust laws. His life was led simply, nonviolently, dedicated to helping the poor and suffering, and I don’t get the impression he would put up with Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, or Rumsfeld for much longer than 2 or 3 minutes. I got a notion he would be at the White House raising all kinds of holly hell. And the outcome would probably be pretty much the same, they’d crucify him. Another thing that I think about at Christmas is how Christians ever came to believe that Christ is the only representative ever sent to earth by God. I have never thought that, even as a seminary student. It seems awkward and odd. The only "true way," sent exclusively to Christians. I don’t buy it. I think there have been numerous signs, or examples, or reminders, of how we should live our lives on earth. Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Confucius, Mother Teresa, Satya Sai Baba, the Dali Lama, to name but a few who might qualify. I like Christmas because I think Christ was one of the best examples of how to live your life here on earth. I think he demonstrated compassion, understanding, acceptance, and how to live peacefully. I think he deserves a birthday celebration. He’s the kind of person you would have felt blessed to have met.

— Galesburg goes nowhere, and yet the powers that be hand out awards to one another declaring how well they have done. I don’t get it?

— I like J.C. Penney’s. You talk about sales. They have more sales than any five stores combined. The problem is, you never know if it’s the best sale. Maybe the next one is going to be the really big one. Some things get marked down so low you wonder if they’re making a profit? I think the proper answer is retailers mark things up so high to begin with they can have super-duper, once-in-a-lifetime, fantastically unbelievable sales, mainly to fool us into buying something that is now marked at the price it should have been to begin with. And I always fall for it.

— Merry Christmas. God bless each and every one of you, especially those of you who send me nice e-mails and cookies. Have as happy a holiday season as you can, given your circumstances.