Whither hence?

Sadie strikes again (thank you Sadie!) with another excellent topic suggestion, asking each of us as the new year begins to look back to the best and worst moments of last year and forward to predict the best and the worst of the year to come.

I’ll start.  On a personal level, the worst moment was when I found out my Dad has lung cancer and the best is when I got to visit with him and he was (and is) doing better than we had any reason to expect.  On a public level, the best is election day and the worst is, gosh, I don’t know, my beloved Pirates losing for the millionth consecutive season, proving once again their management is not the least bit interested in winning.  Seriously, I suppose the national debt ballooning even more out of control than ever.

Who knows what will happen next year.  My guess is that prices will start to rise sharply, but not be seen as out of control just yet and that the Republicans will not do at all what they have been elected to do.  If that happens, I don’t know how the Tea Party members will react and I’d be especially interested in hearing from Tea Party members on that subject.

Okay, your turn.  What’s your best and worst from last year and what do you expect from the new year.  And, by the way:

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

So where is the inflation?

Sadie has another good suggestion:

“Need another topic..here’s one.  Anyone else notice the cost of gas and food lately. The food doesn’t get to the shelves by magic wand or windmills. The rise in the cost of a barrel effects everything and everyone.

“Five dollars per gallon of gas by 2012! A former president of Shell Oil considers this likely.
The average price on Christmas Day for a gallon of regular gas reached $3.28 in Los Angeles County, the highest price since October 2008. In one month, the price rose 13 cents, up 35 cents year to year.

“Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/2010/12/larry-elder-whos-blaming-obama-high-gas-prices#ixzz19dIns9RJ

When the stimulus bill passed several conservatives I know predicted massive inflation before 2009 ended.  Here we are at the end of 2010 and we haven’t seen much of it, except in food and energy.  Even there, the price of oil has increased 2 1/2 times over its lows and the price of gas has not (I don’t believe; I haven’t looked it up) kept pace.  So, where is the inflation aside from in oil and oil-reliant produced and services?  When will it get here and, when (and if) it does, what will it look like and what effects will it have?

What can you tell me about Social Security and Medicare?

In response to my question about what you would like to talk about, Sadie made this suggestion:

“How about a PSA to ‘welcome the new and old/er’. I think many of us have taken care of aging parents with love and kindness, but we’re also taking care of current and retiring representatives, who pay only a fourth of the cost of medical insurance compared to the graduating class of 2011 will have to. The House had no problem enacting health careless for the rest of us, but never touched their own perks.

“I hear that the first wave of baby boomers, at the pace of 10,000 daily for the next 19 years, will begin January 1, 2011. I think a nice cover letter welcoming them to the world of Social Security and Medicare is in order with the caveat…  

“Welcome to the ‘golden years’ and remember all that glitters is not gold and not always covered, unless you’ve been elected to the 112th House of Reps. or served in any other.”

Sounds like a great topic and, as a 58-year-old, a topic that I’m interested in.  Problem is, I am profoundly ignorant in all things Social Security and Medicare.  I’m especially ignorant about what changes are being made to Medicare to save have a trillion dollars (at least that’s what I think I heard was happening).  Can anyone please enlighten me?

Also, as to Sadie’s last comment, I doubt there is a reader in the Bookwormroom who doesn’t think the Congress should be bound by the rules they impose on the rest of us.  But does anyone think that is ever going to happen?

So, if not one world, how do we keep from blowing ourselves up?

This really is a continuation of yesterday’s post and a new topic in one.  The comments to that post indicate a concensus that “one world government” is a Utopian pipe dream.  Some commenters even suggested that it was desirable to have many smaller countries.  Okay, but we do have the capacity to blow humanity off of the face of the earth.  The more nations we have, the more people who will have that capacity.  Assuming that we don’t want to blow humanity off of the facce of the earth (and, gee, I hope that’s a safe assumption) what do we do to prevent that from happening?

And, in that is really two questions.  What do we do in the short term?  And what do we do in the long term?  For the second question, what will the world look like in 100 years, or 250 years, or a thousand?  If Wells’ dream is false and we are not moving toward a united world, what are we moving toward?  As always, I’m eager to see your ideas.

One world?

I’ve been reading with great interest the 1949 edition of The Outline of History, written mostly (except for the WWII part) by H.G. Wells.  The book provides a nice perspective of the socialist mind in the first half of the last century.  To his credit, Wells makes no pretense of objectivity, and the closer to current times he gets the more opinionated and subjective he becomes.

The book is interesting on a number of levels but one thing that particularly catches my eye is that Wells views all of history as a struggle toward a single, unified society.  Here, let him tell it:  “Sooner or later mankind must come to one universal peace, unless our race is to be destroyed by the increasing power of its own destructive inventions; and that universal peace must needs take the form of a government, that is to say, a law-sustaining organization, in the best sense of the word religious — a government ruling men through the educated co-ordination of their minds in a common conception of human history and human destiny.”  He favored what he called a “world-wide educational government.” 

The questions fairly burst out.  Is such a state possible?  Is it desirable?  Is it, in fact, the only way for mankind to survive the ever-increasing destructive power of its own invention?  If it is desirable, how do we get there from here?  If it is not desirable, how do we prevent folks like Wells from taking us there? I look forward to your ideas and opinions.

“Progressives” are really against progress and “conservatives” are for it

This article caught my eye.  The view of the future it presents does sound like science fiction, but, of course, most of our current technology was science fiction 50 years ago.  This is interesting in it’s own right, but it also got me thinking about the conservative and progressive reaction to progress.  Conservatives welcome it, and believe in richly rewarding successful innovators (with the marketplace determining who is successful).  Progressives aren’t exactly against progress, but they are suspicious of it.  Consider their dislike/distrust of the drug companies despite the amazing drug breakthroughs those companies have produced.  And, rather than letting the market dictate what innovations the innovators work on, they want to control the research.  For example, they are quite happy to throw tons of the people’s money at “green” innovation, hoping for progress in electric cars, wind energy and the like. 

I submit that the conservatives have it right.  The marketplace provides much better incentives to the innovators and much greater rewards to those who succeed.  And, the marketplace is a much better judge of which innovations have true value than any government bureaucrat is.

Please share your Christmas stories

It’s Christmas morning as I write this and I hope you all are having a lovely Christmas.  Perhaps the way to celebrate in the Bookwormroom is to share Christmas stories.  I don’t have much to share myself, but I do have one and my wife has a better one, so I’ll share them both.

When I was about 6 years old, I was allowed to stay up to watch for Santa Claus.  I feel asleep, of course, and, eventually, my Dad picked me up to carry me off to bed.  When he did so, I woke up and caught a peek at the presents the adults had already placed under the tree.  This confused me terribly.  Not only had Santa been there and I’d missed him, but he apparently came when the adults were still up.  I think that was the beginning of my suspicions about Santa.

My wife’s story is really cute.  She was about 8 years old.  The night before Christmas, her Dad took her aside and whispered to her that he had a present for her Mom out in the car.  He asked her to sneek out and get it and sneek it back in.  Mom was in the kitchen, so my wife snuck out the dining room door and out to the car.  She got the gift and snuck back, not fully closing the door because she didn’t want to make any noise.  She  made her way quietly and successfully up stairs and hid the present under her bed.  The door blew open and her Mom asked who left it open but never realized what had happened.  The next morning, Dad whispered to my wife to wait while the presents were opened.  Finally, he nodded to her that it was time.  She went up stairs and got the present. When she came back down Mom had her back turned.  She held the present out in front of her and exclaimed Merry Christmas, surprising and delighting her Mom.  My wife says she’s never forgotten the joy of sharing this secret surprise with her Dad.  You might guess (and you would be correct) that my wife had a nearly perfect childhood until the car accident that blinded her and took her parents when she was 15.  I suspect it’s that foundation that allowed her to turn out to be the extraordinarily wonderful person she is today.

I’m sure most of us have stories.  Please share with us all your favorite Christmas (or other holiday, if you do not celebrate Christmas) story.  I look forward to hearing them and thanks in advance.

The toughest problem of all

I echo Danny’s Merry Christmas to you all! 

Perhaps because it is Christmas Eve, I don’t feel like blogging on anything serious today.  Still, there is one problem President Obama promised during his campaign that he would fix that he has made no progress on at all. Indeed, I fear he has given up.  Maybe the Bookwormroom readers will have a solution to this toughest of all problems, though.  What can we do to get rid of the BCS and get a playoff in the top division of college football, for crying out loud?

Peace, or pieces?

As we approach Christmas, which celebrates of the birth of the Prince of Peace, I am visiting family deep in the mountains of Colorado with only intermittent access to the web.  I appreciate that this “season of peace” is a time of great tension for many (witness the shopping malls), but I also like to think that it is a time when many people do take time to reflect on the meaning of “peace”, within themselves and their community, and to exhibit generosity and kindness to others.

While discussing the nature and meaning of “peace” with my family, my sister-in-law (a former human resources specialist, very wise, and an excellent reader of people), drops this insight: “Aggression is in our nature: all people have a well of aggression that exhibits itself in different ways”.

Those that recognize it within themselves can learn to channel it in constructive ways, such as sports, martial arts, or business pursuits. Others expend it in destructive ways, such as gossip, politicking, undermining of others or open violence. The people who are most dangerous and the most vicious, to me, are those that don’t recognize it in themselves, because then the aggression is left to exhibit itself in uncontrolled manners. It is one reason that I have never trusted “pacifists”: they don’t know themselves and the evil of which they are capable.

I am struck by this because it seems to explain so much about the absolute venom we find in political discourse today, especially on the web. Perhaps anonymity allows this well of aggression to be expressed without perceived consequences. There are people who need to hate, for whom hatred is as orgasmic as sex.

What do you think? Is she on to something?

TheReligionOfPeace.com

For months, I’ve noticed the growing number in the box to the side that counts Islamist terrorist attacks.  However, I’ve never before checked out the site that counter comes from — TheReligionOfPeace.com.  It is an awesome site, which I recommend you check out.

I was especially taken by the following comment I found there:  “Muslims are individuals.  We passionately believe that no Muslim should be harmed, harassed, stereotyped or treated any differently anywhere in the world solely on account of their status as a Muslim.  As an ideology, Islam is not entitled to equal respect and acceptance, because ideas do not carry equal moral weight.”   What a simply and elegant statement — “ideas do not carry equal moral weight.”  So much for cultural relativism and I couldn’t agree more.

How do Christians and Jews view each other today?

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been reading up on Judaism.  The history of that religion is filled to the brim with prejudice and persecution.  I think it would be hard being Jewish and coming to trust even that my Gentile friends were free of that prejudice.  This history may explain why, years ago, as we were becoming friends, Bookworm tried to explain why she liked me mostly by saying what I was not, starting with not anti-Semitic. 

She’s right; I’m not anti-Semitic.  I suppose that’s because there was not a trace of anti-Semitism in my home or church as I was growing up.  According to my father and grandfather and Sunday School teachers and pastors, the Jews were very much like us Christians.  They worshipped the same God.  They believed in a large part of the same Bible.  It was sad, though, that they would not be going to Heaven, because they had not accepted Christ as their Savior.  Some even said that the Jews might get a second change to accept Christ on Judgment Day, so they might be saved anyway.  But they were not portrayed as in any fundamental way different from me or from my teachers.  In history class, I was taught that the Holocaust was more about Hitler’s need to rally his people around him by defining and persecuting an “out-group.”  The history books sort of implied it could have been anybody; the Jews were just a convenient scapegoat.  The books were oddly silent on how a whole “civilized” nation was persuaded to support the mass killing of any group of innocent people (more on that tomorrow, I think).  But they did not portray the Jews in a negative light.

As the song in South Pacific goes, prejudice has to be careful taught and I was never taught prejudice against Jews.  (Racial prejudice was another matter; my Dad and Granddad were racists.  Fortunately, that teaching did not stick.)  But my reading got me wondering (reading is dangerous that way!).  Today, how do Jews and Christians perceive each other?  It’s not something we talk about much, even here in the Bookwormroom.  So,of course, I just have to ask.  If you are Jewish, how do you view Christians?  To what extent do you feel you can trust them, engage in their society, yet retain your Jewish identity?  To what extent do you even want to engage in the larger society?  To what extent do you want to maintain your separate identity?  If you are Christian, how do you view Jews?  Were you taught, as I was, that they are decent people, but that they will not be saved?  If so, does that disturb you, such that you wish to convert them?  Does it even matter to you whether your friends, neighbor or co-workers are Jewish?  Do you even think about their religion?

Taking it a step further, the vast majority of American Jews hew to the left, perhaps because liberals have historically been more tolerant of Jews and supportive of Jewish rights.  But a growing number of American Jews are making common cause with the Christian right, recognize that the right is actually more supportive of Israel and perhaps even more supportive of Jews generally.  After all, as I mentioned in a post last night, the Christian right is now looked down upon by the intellectual leftist elite as ignorant followers of superstitions in a manner not altogether dissimilar to the way Jews have often been viewed over the years.  To what extent does our view of each other’s religion affect our view of each other’s politics?  And vice versa?  As always, I look forward to your comments.

The more things change . . .

I’ve been reading a book on Judaism (on which more later) when I came across a paragraph I found particularly interesting for its parallel to today:

“As Moses Mendelsson achieved fame, he acquired the admiring acceptance of many of the leading intellectuals of Germany.  They were ready to befriend this extraordinary person despite his Jewishness, but it bothered them that he clung to his Jewish ways and would not become a Christian like them.  In 1769, the philosopher Lavater published an open letter to Mendelsson, stating that now that Mendelsson had been accepted in Christian society, it would only be proper for him to return that acceptance and be baptized.  Lavater implied what many ‘enlightened’ Christian intellectuals were to say, that in a modern society Jews should not stick to the ‘medieval superstition’ that was Judaism.  In other words, the spread of Enlightment ideas was to be accompanied by the assimilation of the Jews into general society.  The Jews were expected to prefer a modern enlightened Christianity over their own traditional religion.” 

Substitute Christian for Jew and humanism/athism for Christian and that paragraph reads like something out of today’s op-ed page.  Can’t you just hear it — “in a modern society, Christians shoud not stick to the ‘medieval superstition’ that is Christianity. . . The Christians were expected to prefer a modern enlightened humanism over their own traditional religion.”  The more things change . . .

Is it just me or is the clarification more confusing than the original?

Haley Barbour has gotten himself into some hot water the last few days.  According to the linked-to AP article, Barbour originally said, “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town.” 

Even though it appears that statement was entirely true, when challenged Barbour tried to explain,”"When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the `Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation.”

So, the city leaders did the right thing but their “vehicle” was totally indefensible because it was called a Citizens Council and that’s a bad choice of names?  What, exactly, is he accusing his town leadership of?  I know I’m a little slow sometimes, but that reads like political double-talk to me.  Anyone else have a better understanding of what Barbour is saying?

Oh, and this ran on the Comcast.net web site with a subheading “GOP favorite for 2012?”  What, if any, effect will this have on Barbour’s chances, and what are his chances anyway?  And what do you make of the subheading?  Is it a MSM effort to link perceived racist comments with the whole Republican party or merely an acknowledgement that the story is important because of of Barbour’s place in the party?  Okay, that last may be a bit paranoid, but still . . .

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me….”

Remember that Rockwell song from the 1980s?  “I always feel like somebody’s watching me….“  It turns out that, if you’re having any dealings with the FCC, that feeling is right on the money.  I just received the following email from a friend:

I just called the FCC and asked for info on how to make my comment on net neutrality.

I didn’t give my name.

I immediately got an email back from them regarding how to make consumer comments.

I hadn’t given them my email.

I called them back and it turns out that the FCC complies a dossier, record of every call you make to them. The operator read out my entire history of communications to the FCC over the years. I told her that I didn’t volunteer my name nor my email during today’s call call and I said this is the conduct of a police state. She was tying in my comments to add to my dossier. She made it seem like it was just some emotional concern I had and that there was no substance to it. I asked her who was responsible for this. She said Congress.

This terrifies me.

How did you first find out about the Bookwormroom and what keeps you coming back?

Every time I visit the Bookwormroom I check the little section that shows where the last ten or so visitors are from.  I’m amazed to find people from all over the world are visiting here.  That, in turn, got me to wondering who these people were who visit and how they found out about Book’s little Internet home. 

I’ll bet there are some quite interesting stories out there.  So, this is for everyone, but especially for those from outside of the United States, how did you first come to visit here and what brings you back? 

P.S.  I don’t really have a story myself.  Book has been a close friend since before she started this blog.  I was just honored that she trusted me enough to tell me about it when she was still deeply protective of her identity.  And, I’ve just enjoyed her friendship and her blog ever since.   What’s your story?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I’m heading for two weeks in Incommunicado-ville, a land with sunshine and restaurant food (yay, no cooking!), but no internet access.  Barring wandering in an internet cafe somewhere, which is unlikely, I won’t be blogging at all.

Fortunately, the wonderful Don Quixote and the equally wonderful Danny Lemieux are both going to post.  I won’t take it personally that, with them on board, you won’t miss me at all!

I’ll be back in the New Year.  Until then, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Watcher’s Council Winners

I’ll be missing the next two weeks of Watcher’s Council votes (more on that in another post), but I can make sure that you get last week’s Watcher’s Council winners:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

It takes a bureaucracy to kill a bureaucracy

Years ago, NPR did a story about the disgraceful way in which President Bush used executive orders to circumvent Congress.  Shame on him!  Sadly, I can’t find that story (although, maybe, if I had the time and patience to weed through 8 years of NPR archives I could.)  I just remember the anger about those executive orders.

New president, new rules.  The Left, in order to reverse the effect of Obama’s “shellacking” (a description that became hackneyed within seconds of its first use), is touting the President’s ability to use executive orders to pursue his agenda.  Of course, since this is a super president, they’re touting a super-use of those same executive powers, in a way never before conceived in American politics.

Ed Lasky spells out specific ways that the new Congress — and, more specifically, the new House — can use its own bureaucratic powers to stop the onrushing regulatory nightmare.