Mayor Laura MillerEvent of the Year for Dallas occurred twice and both times voters said "no" to a strong and stronger Mayor. This was a personal rebuke for Mayor Miller and probably presages her defeat for re-election in 2007. It also means no one remains in charge in Dallas.
The Event of the Year for Texas came late when the Texas Supreme Court handed down its ruling that the state’s method of funding public education amounted to an unconstitutional statewide property tax. That forces the legislature to do what it has lacked the courage to do for years: kill Robin Hood and change the way public schools are funding. However, the Court did not seem to require substantial additional funding for public education – at least for now.
The national event of the year was the death of the Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the elevation of John Roberts to the top judicial spot. We are decades from knowing what the consequence of Robert’s selection will be but we can be confident it will be substantial. Most likely he will help solidify a conservative court for a long time to come – but with justices you never know till the cases are read.
The global Even of the Year was the December election in Iraq. This may have been a real turning point. The road from Stalinism to democracy cannot be quick and easy but it appears the Iraqis may have at least started down that road. If they have, history, and US voters, will remember George W. Bush favorably.
New Years Fireworks DisplayOld times and ‘the good old days’ of one’s youth, etc., is what is meant by the Scottish phrase auld lang syne. It has been a custom, probably as long as the years have changed, to run over in one’s mind the things of the past and to consider one’s hopes for the upcoming year. The custom of auld lang syne involves fond sharing of memories with friends, usually around a table with some convivial drinking—and as the New Year rings in at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve, to lift a toast to the future and wish each other well, and the very best part, to share a memorable kiss with the one you love. It’s a good and healthy custom if you have your designated driver and adhere to moderation, or celebrate at home. The purpose isn’t a drunken stupor or blackout after all! Instead, the occasion—as the old year wanes and the new one starts, as Father Time figuratively leaves the scene and a baby takes his place—is all about fellowship, about sharing laughter, about enjoying a little levity. Which is ironic, because memories sometime involve pain and regret, if nothing else because ‘time stands still for no man’ and every succeeding year brings changes—including the change of getting older. But Father Time doesn’t just drop off a cliff. Like an old soldier, so to speak, he doesn’t die—he just fades away. The sound of the song "Auld Lang Syne" is sad, but the customary indulgence of those notes is not a long cry in your beer! Rather, it is to quickly dry your tears if you have any, and to accept the inevitable moving on from the past. The rationale is this, no matter what your situation: life ain’t over til it’s over—and I ain’t given up yet! The American is a boxer by nature and by choice, a scrapper in the field of dreams. Hence, the American custom of auld lang syne is ultimately an accentuation on the positive, an appraisal but an optimistic one: taking stock good and bad, but making every plan for progress and doing better next year. The goal is around the next bend; we’ll have it someday for sure, and we’ll understand every single pothole in the sweet bye and bye.
When I was a youngster, I recall the adults on one occasion shortly after Christmas looking at the coins in their pockets. They would read the date off a penny or nickel or dime and try to recall what that year had meant to them—where they had been, what they had accomplished. "I remember the man whose head is on this dime—FDR led us so well and gave us renewed hope—I always think of him like a man on horseback riding at the front of a column, bringing us out from the desert of despair and Great Depression into the Promised Land!" "Kennedy’s half-dollar is so beautiful—I wish he’d been able to accomplish all he wanted—oh God, I remember where I was November 22nd, 1963 like it were yesterday, don’t you?" "Oh this was the year we attended the World’s Fair in New York City and had so much fun." On and on, I heard the grown-ups talk about years fifteen and twenty years removed, dates before my birth—times for which I had very little understanding, times for which the backs of pennies and nickels were sometimes different. Their descriptions helped me build my mental impressions of the olden days. But the reality of time before one’s own experience is always a leap of faith. I mean you know it must have been, but you weren’t there. Likewise, the future is a leap of faith. The sun will come up tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar. I reckon you could lose that bet, however, and millions of years from now somebody will, but what the hey! Auld lang syne is about taking those leaps of faith, backwards and forwards, and reminding ourselves there’s continuity in this universe and in our lives. Continuity implies purpose and design, and there’s a comfort knowing as we look behind and yonder, the pathway lies forever. Possibilities are endless and crooked paths made plain. A line from horizon to horizon curves to form a cosmic smile in the distance, with all the colors of a Rainbow. Happy New Year, and Godspeed.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary.
Ralph ReedRalph Reed long ago proved that he is no conservative. After Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary in 1996, Buchanan had a legitimate chance to overtake Bob Dole and emerge as the Republican presidential nominee. One of the major reasons he did not was the active (though largely behind-the-scenes) opposition of the Christian Coalition, its founder, Pat Robertson, and its executive director, Ralph Reed. Crucial to the eventual nomination of the Senator From Viagra was his victory in the South Carolina primary, a win that owed a great deal to Reed. Given that Buchanan was as viable a candidate as Dole at the time, Reed’s support for Dole cannot be explained as a mere recognition of political reality. Instead, Reed’s rejection of Buchanan clearly showed his preference for the type of temporizing, equivocal politics that had long characterized Dole, notwithstanding Reed’s public support for the type of strong social conservatism long championed by Buchanan. Indeed, the disconnect was so great between the policies espoused by the Christian Coalition and the record of Dole that some wondered whether Buchanan’s Catholicism played a role in the decision to support Dole over Buchanan.
More recently, others have begun to see through Ralph Reed. In June 2005, the Weekly Standard ran a devastating portrait of Reed by Matthew Continetti. According to Continetti, Reed spent his time under Robertson "draining the Christian Coalition of much of its explicitly Christian, or even religious, content," going so far as to suggest, in 1996, that "social conservatives ought to seek compromise on the abortion issue." Continetti also documented how Reed’s lobbying firm has earned millions urging evangelical Christians to support such diverse interests as Puerto Rican statehood, the Channel One "educational" television network, and most favored nation (MFN) trading status for Communist China.
Reed is not the only former Robertson lieutenant who has attempted to cash in on his political connections. In November 2005, the Legal Times ran an unfavorable article on Jay Sekulow, who has parlayed his leadership of the American Center for Law and Justice into "a lavish lifestyle—complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet." But at least the nonprofit organizations that paid out $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife are also spending some money to advance recognizably conservative goals. Reed, by contrast, is using the money from corporate clients to bamboozle conservative Christians and make himself rich.
According to a November 17, 2005, article in World Magazine, Reed raised millions from corporate interests to support permanent MFN status for Communist China and used that money to fund advertisements claiming that "A nation open to trade is a nation open to ministry" and that "an ill-advised and counterproductive trade war with China . . . would close the door to the Gospel." One of Reed’s ads touting MFN for China went so far as to claim that "The progress of democracy and the salvation of millions of souls depends [sic] on it."
But Reed is gaining the most notoriety for his association with ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom Reed met when both worked at the national office of the College Republicans in 1981. Abramoff is now under a wide-ranging investigation by Congress and a criminal probe by several federal agencies stemming from his raising some $82 million from six Indian tribes over three years to support their gambling interests. At least $4.2 million of this money was directed to Reed’s lobbying firm, which used the money to campaign against gambling in Alabama. What Reed never disclosed was that his campaign was being funded by the Mississippi Choctaws, who did not want their Mississippi casinos to face any competition from next door.
Many Alabamians opposed to gambling were shocked when they learned who had been bankrolling Reed’s campaign. Dan Ireland, executive director of the antigambling Alabama Citizens Action Program, told World that "I think anyone who is against gambling wouldn’t take the money if they thought it had anything to do with gambling." Mr. Ireland is right, just as one doubts that any right-to-life organization would take money from one group of abortionists as part of a campaign to shut down a rival group of abortionists. But, sadly, many of those who have sought to turn conservative activism into personal profit apparently have no such qualms, so long as the checks keep coming.
This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Chronicles Magazine.
Fed Chairman Ben BernankeThe new FED chairman, Ben Bernanke, aka Helicopter Ben, will have to EARN the trust and faith of Wall Street. My opinion is that academicians do not fare well in the real world; but, we will see how well the successor to Alan Greenspan does. All eyes and trigger fingers are awaiting his first response to weak data.
Banking liquidity will continue to decline as loan demand outstrips deposit growth. The Banks will bid up the CD rate and the FED will follow. The 10 year – 2year spread is expected to have its first major stop at –30 basis points.
The Federal Budget Deficit will increase each quarter as the year progresses. Remember that the revenue from remitting offshore earnings back to the U.S. expires in 2005. The hurricane relief spending will finally be on stream; and well, it is an election year!!!
Pensions, pensions, unfunded pensions – we will hear about this topic all too much and none of the facts are pleasant to deal with. We all know about GM’s $31B in unfunded pension liabilities, but did you think about the consequences of State & Local governments unfunded liabilities. For example, the Michigan Public School Employees retirement System has unfunded pension and retiree medical liabilities of $22B. Shall I list more? The decision on the accounting treatment for pension liability reporting will hopefully be completed.
Foreclosure.com reports that, as of December 26th, that there are 122,842 houses in foreclosure, 164,483 in pre foreclosure procedures, 500,695 with tax liens outstanding, and 43,221 FSBO (for sale by owner). My forecast is that on December 26, 2006 these numbers will have doubled or tripled. Is Colorado typical? Denver is expected to have 14,461 foreclosures this year, up about 2,000 from 2004 and the most since the 17,122 of 1988. Or is Dallas-Ft. Worth typical? Here, Dallas county experienced, in October, 1 foreclosure for every 226 households; in Tarrant county, the number was 1 for every 217 households
The U.S. economy will experience ‘Stagflation’ for at least the last 3 quarters of the year. What is Stagflation? My definition is when at least 50-66% of revenue gains come from price changes. For one thing, the level of inventory profits in October was $65B, on a base of $1286B of inventories, and these are not reported as inflation by the federal bean counters until realized. Money supply growth, higher imported goods prices, excessive credit growth, and inventory accumulation are the necessary and sufficient ingredients for the expected stagflation.
The value of the Chinese currency will overshadow the old line currencies as the year progresses as the important number to watch. China‘s plan for their economy in 2006 is to stimulate domestic consumption. The value of the Renminbi, now at 8.0759, down from to 8.11 in August, is expected to break 7.90 in 2006. Ask Walmart if they think they will be able to pass on their increased cost of goods sold to their customer profile.
Commodity inflation will continue at a slower place than in 2005 but all you have to do is watch the growth of industrial production in China, India, and Eastern Europe and you know that these 1950 type economies want GOODS FIRST and services second (excluding cell phone service of course)
The trade deficit in 2006 will worsen sharply as the up leg of the inventory cycle results in the expected goods imports. The U.S. economy does not have the physical or labor capacity to meet its final demand for goods and services. Sad to say, the situation of the oil industry’s lack of refining capacity can be repeated over and over. Just look at the list of imported items each month.
Saving the best for last, quality spreads in the bond market could well increase by 50%. On 12-23-03, BAA - 10 year spreads were 344 basis points versus 184 basis points now.
Charles DarwinWill the federal courts, and the people who rely on the federal courts to enforce secular ideals, ever get it? The anti-school prayer decisions of the past 40 years – not unlike the pro-choice-in-abortion decisions starting with Roe vs. Wade – haven’t driven pro-school prayer, anti-choice Americans from the marketplace of ideas and activity.
Neither will U. S. District Judge John Jones' anti-intelligent design ruling in Dover, Pa., just before Christmas choke off challenges to the public schools' Darwinian monopoly.
Jones' contempt for the "breathtaking inanity" of school board members who wanted 9th grade biology students to hear a brief statement regarding Darwinism's "gaps/problems" is unlikely to intimidate the millions who find evolution only partly persuasive – at best.
Millions? Scores of millions might be more like it. A 2004 Gallup Poll found that just 13 percent of Americans believe in evolution unaided by God. A Kansas newspaper poll last summer found 55 percent support for exposing public school students to critiques of Darwinism.
This accounts for the widespread desire that children be able to factor in some alternatives to the notion that "natural selection" has brought us, humanly speaking, where we are. Well, maybe it has. But what if it hasn't? The science classroom can't take cognizance of such a possibility? Under the Jones ruling it can't. Judge Jones discerns a plot to establish a religious view of the question, though the religion he worries about exists only in the possibility that God, per Genesis 1, might intrude celestially into the discussion. (Intelligent-designers, for the record, say the power of a Creator God is just one of various possible counter-explanations.)
Not that Darwinism, as Judge Jones acknowledges, is perfect. Still, "the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent scientific propositions."
Ah. We see now: Federal judges are the final word on good science. Who gave them the power to exclude even whispers of divinity from the classroom? Supposedly the First Amendment to the Constitution: the odd part here being the assumption that the "free speech" amendment shuts down discussion of alternatives to an establishment-approved concept of Truth.
With energy and undisguised contempt for the critics of Darwinism, Jones thrusts out the back door of his courthouse the very possibility that any sustained critique of Darwinism should be admitted to public classrooms.
However, the writ of almighty federal judges runs only so far, as witness their ongoing failure to convince Americans that the Constitution requires almost unobstructed access to abortion. Pro-life voters and activists, who number in the millions, clearly aren't buying it. We're to suppose efforts to smother intelligent design will bear larger, lusher fruit?
The meeting place of faith and reason is proverbially darkish and unstable – a place to which the discussants bring sometimes violently different assumptions about truth and where to find it. Yet the recent remarks of the philosopher-theologian Michael Novak make great sense: "I don't understand why in the public schools we cannot have a day or two of discussion about the relative roles of science and religion." A discussion isn't a sermon or an altar call, is it?
Equally to the point, what does secular intolerance achieve in terms of revitalizing public schools, rendering them intellectually catalytic? As many religious folk see it, witch-hunts for Christian influences are an engrained part of present public school curricula. Is this where they want the kids? Might private schools – not necessarily religious ones – offer a better alternative? Might not home schooling?
Alienating bright, energized, intellectually alert customers is normally accounted bad business, but that's the direction in which Darwinian dogmatists point. Thanks to them and other such foes of free speech in the science classroom – federal judges included – we seem likely to hear less and less about survival of the fittest and more and more about survival of the least curious, the least motivated, the most gullible.