2013 Will Go Down As A Very Weird Year

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The other one was 1975. At least in my lifetime.

1975 was weird for good reasons and bad. Saturday Night Live debuted with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players: Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, and Garrett Morris. President Gerald Ford tried to stop inflation with WIN buttons (seriously). New York City faced bankruptcy, but, after initially saying ‘drop dead,’ Gerry Ford ended up bailing it out with $2.3 billion loan. Inflation was 9.2 percent, but gasoline was only (ready for it?) $0.44 a gallon. And I got a magic set for Christmas.

Oh, and the Vietnam War ended.

Yeah, 1975 was that kind of year, where the story that dominated life and politics for a decade was number 42 on the list of the most remarkable things that happened.

2013 was somehow weirder.

The economy went sideways, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average went through the roof.

Americans, forced to decide between the US president and a Syrian dictator, chose Putin.

The President’s single most important achievement, Obamacare, failed every test it was given. It’s on double secret probation.

The IRS admitted to using NSA domestic spying data to harass and disrupt conservative grassroots organizations. Because that’s what tyrants to, dammit.

A guy named Edward Snowden released a bunch of documents detailing how the NSA has infiltrated the most personal communications of all Americans. Several members of Congress, like Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY) shamelessly defended the NSA’s Orwellian spying, but others, like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are fighting domestic spying.

Weirdest part of all the NSA revelations was the news that the NSA Director spent millions remodeling the spy headquarters to look like the control room of the Starship Enterprise.

In January, Ed Martin became chairman of the Missouri GOP thanks to a grassroots takeover of Republican townships and committees. Also in January 2013, House Republicans in Washington capitulated on taxes. Then, they did it again in December. They’re getting really good caving. For example, the Sequester came and went and almost no one noticed, as I predicted last February. But the GOP, led by career insider Paul Ryan, gave back the sequester cuts in December in exchange for . . . nothing.

I spent a lot of 2013 making a case for conservatives to get out in front on ending the war on marijuana. Apparently, I have more readers in Uruguay than in Missouri. Still, most Americans now support legalization, and Democrats will get all the credit when it happens.

The 5th anniversary of the new Tea Party movement came and went with little notice, but tea partiers began realizing, in big numbers, that our fight is with political elitists. That includes a lot of big businesses that use government to keep down competition from small business. Have you seen how many small banks have failed? Companies like McDonald’s and Walmart uses the federal food stamp program to avoid paying market rates for employees. By encouraging their workers to apply for food stamps and other redistributive programs, Walmart workers are content with the money the make.

Global Warming took a break in March, as the St. Louis area received almost a foot of snow on Palm Sunday.

I did a lot of travelling in 2Q, so my political eye rested. I did have an opportunity to examine what liberalism does to people out in San Francisco: it ruins them.

From August to December, tried to bolster House and Senate Republicans to do the right thing. We succeeded–and failed. A dire prediction in this post came true:

Boehner doesn’t want to [block passage of continuing resolution]. He’s afraid that shutting down the government will hurt Republicans in the 2014 election.

Boehner could be right. If the House blocked the continuing resolution and later caved, voters would likely punish the GOP. But by committing now to defunding Obamacare, and following through on their commitment, the House would force Obama and the Democrats to negotiate.

Luckily, the launch of Obamacare on October 1 proved we were right all along.

And that brings us to the end of a very weird year. Let’s hope that 2014 brings a power shift–from central planners to the people.

That’s all we’ve been asking for all along.

I Hope You Got a Christmas Present As Good As This One

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You know the old saying: it’s better to give than to receive?

It’s almost always true. Almost. Sometimes, gifts you receive are better than the ones you give.

First, the benefits of giving. A large 5-year study shows that giving to others extends life, while receiving help (like welfare) shortens life:

“As the title of our study indicates,” Poulin says, “we tested the hypothesis that providing help to others would predict a reduced association between stress and mortality for the helpers. Specifically, over the five years of the study, we found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not helped others,” he says.

“These findings go beyond past analyses to indicate that the health benefits of helping behavior derive specifically from stress-buffering processes,” Poulin says, “and provide important guidance for understanding why helping behavior specifically may promote health and, potentially, for how social processes in general may influence health.”

That makes sense. Many other studies over many years have shown that giving benefits the giver more than it does the the receiver. I’ll try not to use these data to vilify the evil of welfare, because I’m writing about something more important: a very special Christmas gift.

I’m grateful for all the loving gifts I received from my wife, my step-mom, and others. I appreciate them. Especially the book on love from my wife and the touching note inscribed on the inside cover. But something happened that touched me even more deeply.

Christmas was a hectic day for us. We live on the very western edge of St. Louis County, far away from all our relatives. We have multiple places to visit every year, because we can’t ask a bunch of people drive all the way out to our house through narrow, winding country roads. We’ve learned that the surest way to bring a white Christmas is trying to host the Christmas party at our place.

Yesterday, we found out we had to alter our plans at the last minute. We had to be in Granite City by noon, then South St. Louis. So we put off opening presents until after the day’s travels. No big deal.

So we all made it back home and got into comfortable winter clothes about 9:30 to continue the celebration. The last to arrive was my son, Patrick. He’s twenty.

Now, I don’t expect any Christmas gifts from my kids. They’ll work their whole lives to pay taxes to fund my late-life extravagance. We have, after all, created a real-life Hunger Games in which the affluent adults feed off the impoverished youth.

But Patrick didn’t want to wait for the Social Security Administration to take its skim and pass along his earnings to us.

Patrick bought gifts for everyone in the house. He was so pleased to pass them out. He got me a Leatherman Wave multi-tool survival kit. For his step brother, who loves beef jerky, he got a half pound of homemade jerky from a local butcher shop. He gave something to everyone, and he put thought into every gift.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of this Christmas, because every Christmas might be your last chance to make it truly special. That was about the joy of people and the joy of giving.

Last night, I learned about the joy of getting. It made me realize that I’m still learning.

Here’s what I think I learned: when your kids are grown, you’ll be tempted to think Christmas’s magic has diminished. Just then, God and your kids will conspire to make you see how wrong you can be.

Merry Christmas.

Images: Featured–Willow the German Shepherd Moose, by Bill Hennessy. Some rights reserved. Leatherman Wave Tool, by Bill Hennessy. 

Why Progressives and New Yorkers Should Fear Bill de Blasio

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have you ever wondered why moments end?

I wrote about the Irish Moment and the Jewish Moment and the Gay Moment on Saturday. Three Moments enjoyed by identifiable groups of Americans. Moments that ended when the groups joined the main plot of the American story, leaving the artistic sub-plot to the next in line.

Demographics offer only one kind of Moment, though. There are cultural moments and fashion moments and, of course, political moments.

These Moments of the Mind cycle much faster than demographics. And political moments ebb and flow repeatedly. Progressives. Conservatives. Populists. Conservatives. Progressives. In 1996, Pat Buchanan was a viable candidate for President, but the Republicans countered Clinton’s populism with an old 1970s-style Establishment candidate in Bob Dole. (The GOP has never had a good ear for the music of Moments.)

Another difference between demographics and politics: demographic Moments end when the people experience the Moment succeed. Political Moments, on the other hand, end when the people associated with the moment fail.

Like a rampaging bull market in stocks, the dominant political ideology finally reaches maximum strength–then falls back like cresting wave.

A lot of people thought that Barack Obama represented that peak and that Obamacare was the failure that broke it. I’m not so sure. But I do think the progressive wave is cresting. The fallback–the crash–is coming.

And its name is Bill de Blasio.

To explain my feelings, I’ll have to go back to my childhood when I first became aware of the world beyond St. Louis and Epiphany and the Hennessys of Scanlan Avenue.

New York City: The Seventies

Once upon a time, New Yorkers elected a “progressive” Republican mayor named John Lindsay. As William F. Buckley once said [paraphrasing], Lindsay and Lowell Weicker were Young Republicans together back when the destruction of New York City was just a gleam in Lindsay’s eye.

William Buckley was so fearful of what a Lindsay administration would do to New York, he ran as a Conservative Party candidate to throw the election to the Democrat. (Take THAT you GOP establishment hacks!) Buckley failed, alas. Lindsay won. New York nearly died. Many New Yorkers did.

Lindsay served two terms as mayor of New York–one as a progressive Republican, one as a plain old progressive. In those eight years, New York became a laughing stock. Trash piled in streets, traffic snarled everywhere, constant strikes, and massive debt symbolized the Lindsay era. Lindsay more than tripled New York City’s spending between 1967 and 1974.

Lindsay left an unmanageable city with unmanageable finances. Abe Beam, who followed Lindsay in Gracie Mansion, asked the US government for a bailout in 1975. President Gerald Ford’s response: “Drop dead.” According to Paul Rahe on Ricochet:

By that time, of course, Lindsay had skipped out, and he had left Abraham Beame, who was elected Mayor in 1973, holding the bag. There was some justice to this, given that Beame had been City Comptroller during Lindsay’s second term, when the spending was completely out of control. Everyone knew, however, that it was Lindsay who had spent the city into the ground. In 1967, the city budget was $4.6 billion; in 1971, it was $7.8 billion. By 1974, the year Beame took over, it was $10 billion. Lindsay introduced the city’s first income tax and commuter tax, but the revenues he raised were never enough. By 1974, the annual budget deficit had climbed to $1.5 billion. Fred Siegel got it right when he described Lindsay as the worst Mayor New York had in the twentieth century and went on to remark that he “wasn’t incompetent or foolish or corrupt, but he was actively destructive.”

But Beame, and successor Ed Koch, managed to save the city the old fashioned way: they cut spending, reduced the government’s regulatory footprint, and began an assault on crime.

Lindsay employed an all-out liberal experiment on New York City and it failed. It took a long time for New Yorkers to admit defeat, but they did in 1993. Twenty years later, they have decided to roll the dice with progressive liberalism again, this time with Bill de Blasio. He comes to office with hard left agenda, not unlike Lindsay’s:

De Blasio, who will take over from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will be the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, won a resounding victory in November after campaigning to confront economic inequality, improve police and community relations and expand access to city services like pre-kindergarten.

And New Yorkers are confident in their bet:

Two-thirds of city voters say they are hopeful about de Blasio, while nearly six in 10 voters think he will change New York for the better, the poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on a repeat of the Lindsay fiasco. New York City will be a worse place to live, visit, and do business after de Blasio’s administration.

To back up my prediction of New York’s downfall, I’ll also schedule a blog linking to this one. It will post on December 26, 2017.

 

Why Christmas 2013 Is The Most Important Christmas Ever

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The only Christmas I remember getting everything I wanted was in 1975.

First, I was finally old enough (12) to not be so shallow and needy and get pissed off if I didn’t exactly what I wanted. Santa Claus and my parents and sisters were really good to me, but until 1975 I could still get worked up if the Erector Set I got wasn’t the 118-piece set with real electric motor. It was a relief to everyone, I’m sure, when I outgrew that crap.

Second, everybody came to our house that Christmas. My parents threw a big, all-day party every Christmas, but mostly neighbors and a few nearby relatives stopped in. Uncle Jim and Aunt Eileen Hennessy, the Nahers, Schepkers, and Gibbonses, Uncle Patrick Mahon. But in 1975, everyone came. The Rustiges, the Nagels, Uncle Gerry and Aunt Peggy. It was a party and a half.

Third, I got the magic kit I wanted. It had a book containing hundreds of magic tricks, dozens of props, and practice cards to teach you how to “own the stage.”  I wanted that magic kit because I wanted to be Johnny Carson, and Johnny’s first stage act was The Great Carsoni, a magician. He performed at kids’ birthdays and stuff in Omaha, Nebraska. If magic could help Johnny overcome his shyness and master stage presence, then it could help me. And I got it.

But I got sick, too. I woke up Christmas morning knowing I was coming down with something. But I kept it to myself. As cool as it was that everyone was coming to the party and I got my magic set, my maximum happiness level was about 5 or 6 on a 10 scale.

About six o’clock, I went to my room without saying anything. I just wanted to lie down for a few minutes. I didn’t want my mom to know I felt sick, because I was afraid she’d make me stay in bed or send everybody home. So sneaked to my room and climbed in bed.

When I woke, my mom was sitting on the edge of my bed. Beverly Rustige was standing behind her. They both looked concerned.

“Are you alright?” my mom asked.

“Too much Christmas?” said Bev.

“I’m just tired,” I said.

My mom’s hand felt like ice when she put it on my forehead. “I better take your temperature,” she said.

Bev stared at me, smiling, while my mom went to find the thermometer. I didn’t care. If the whole party had stood around my bed and grinned, I wouldn’t have cared. Just so they don’t make me get up.

My temperature was 103. I wouldn’t return to the party, and that made me happy. Even though I was missing the party I’d looked forward to for weeks, even though half the people showed up after I went to bed, even though I couldn’t start learning magic tricks, I didn’t care. I was in bed. I could sleep. That’s all that mattered.

That was Christmas 1975.

In 2002, my boys were with me on Christmas morning. I got them an X-Box and bunch of other stuff. Usually, they were with their mom Christmas Eve and didn’t get home until noon or so. This year, they stayed with me on Christmas Eve, so I got one last shot at a big deal Christmas morning before Jack was too old to act like a kid.

I also got to decorate the house the way I wanted. The tree, the lights–everything. I got to spoil my boys that year because I had a great job and no one to tell me “no.”

That was a great Christmas, too, mostly because I spent the whole Christmas season making something special for my kids. And that Christmas in 1975 was so great, not because of the magic set, but because of the magic of people. I never regretted missing most of the party.

And that’s why Christmas 2013 is so important. The kids aren’t really kids anymore at our house. Some of them are practically my age. They grow up fast, which is a useless thing to say. No one understands what “they grow up fast” means until the youngest one would rather hang out with his friends than open Christmas presents at home. That happens about thirteen.

Then you suddenly realize that the best Christmas your kids will remember from their childhood already happened.

Don’t miss it.

 

 

This I know to be true

Reading Time: 1

The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.

Thus G.K. Chesterton explains all the trouble in the modern world. The virtues have gone mad.