As I get older I fear sounding like Ebeneezer Scrooge - particularly at this time of year - but a number of recent events have made me look askance at the behavior of the children (with an apology to those under 20.)
WikiLeaks. A definitive article by George Friedman in STRATFOR on the three rounds of disclosures points out that none have provided "new news" for those who have been paying attention, that the first two on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq put some of those who have helped us at risk, and that the State Department cables reveal no duplicity or illegality. One striking point ignored by the site's founder, the naive anarchists on the Berkeley City Council, and the Russian call for a Nobel Peace Prize is that conflicts between countries can be solved by armed conflicts or by diplomacy, and diplomacy requires frank discussions and exploration of alternatives with confidence that such conversations will be handled discreetly. The press focuses on the gossip and the anti-Americans have a brief high, but American diplomacy is the real casualty.
The end of the party. Not to be confused with the $858 billion bill to extend tax rates, prolong unemployment insurance, and reduce Social Security tax rates (plus some help for ethanol and other stuff), on December 14 the Senate Democrats sprung a 1,924 page $1.1 trillion "omnibus spending bill" for 2011 (with over 6500 earmarks) which must be approved by December 18 to avert a government shutdown. (Concurrence with the House's proposition to punt to the new Congress had been expected.) Congress has been operating on "continuing resolutions" (spend at current levels) since the fiscal year began on October 1 rather than go through the messy hearings and trade-offs of doing a real budget and passing targeted appropriation bills. This last suck at the punch bowl may be defeated in the Senate or House, but many lame duck members are deaf and it may actually pass. (Update: After publication Senate Majority Leader Reid, recognizing unified Republican opposition, withdrew the bill while citing the legitimacy of earmarks and the independence of the Senate from the White House.) Circle January 3 on your calendar for when the adults arrive.
Playing with trains. Out here in California we are thankful to Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood (and the newly elected governors of Ohio and Wisconsin who rejected the gift) for the recent $3.5 billion of Stimulus funds to lay track (without electrification or trains) between two small towns in the Central Valley. This is a bit hard to explain to folks east of the Sierras, but in 2008 we passed an initiative for a $40 to 50 billion high speed rail network, with a first $10 billion to pay for the consultants, lobbyists, designers, and prototype folks with the expectation that the feds (you) would pay for the rest. Meanwhile we are stalled on a $13 billion project to supply water for one fifth of our population, the farmers in the Central Valley, and the delta smelt ... oh, and we are broke. I have visions of the grandkids some day going to visit this quaint "short line" partially covered by sand dunes.
But that's not the way that Bob Cratchit would see it. Next week I'll try to find something in the spirit of the original Tiny Tim.
Actually, regular reader Herb McClannan has submitted this video which strikingly shows the health and wealth progress of mankind over the past couple of centuries. Spectacular. Perhaps we just need a long enough perspective and a good statistician.
bill bowen - 12/17/2010