Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As we end 2008...

...let's look towards the trends and issues that we'll be dealing with in 2009. I think there's a pretty long list. Let's see:

Nobody was talking about Rod Blagojevich in 2008. Rather, everyone was talking about Barack Obama. But it's clear now--indeed, there's more evidence of this today-- that this Blagojevich scandal, and the question of who will be appointed to Obama's old senate seat that helped inspire it, will be dogging Obama for some time to come.
Who would have thought that Rod Blagojevich would hog headlines going into the new year.
Will Roland Burris actually ever be a voting member of the U.S. Senate? My prediction? No, he won't.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley will likely stay in the news. Over the past couple of years, he's been in the news for his gambling problems, for his NBA analysis on the TNT cable network, and for blasting Auburn, his alma mater, for racism in refusing to hire a black head football coach.
Last night he was arrested for suspicion of DUI.

The Detroit Red Wings figure to be in the hunt for the Stanley Cup again in 2009.
Yesterday they edged the Chicago Black Hawks, a team which just finished winning 9 straight games, 4-0. The Wings extended their Central Division lead to 6 points.

And the Notre Dame women's hoops team might just go deep into the postseason this year, too. Last night they, for the first time in their history, overcame an 18 point deficit on the road to beat #20 Vanderbilt, 59-57. Muffet McGraw's club seems to have a new toughness this year.

In 2009, Islamic militants will continue to make outrageous statements--as the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress does today, comparing Israel's attacks on Hamas to Nazi Germany's creation of Auschwitz.

There will likely be tons more written in 2009 concerning what conservatives must do to make a political comeback. Here's one published just today, by Peter Ferrara--and he makes an excellent point: conservatives must return to, and energize, their grassroots followers.
They'll have a chance to do it--there's no doubt the Obama administration, when it actually has to begin to govern, will take liberal actions that will anger people and stir them to action. So let's get ready now. Read the whole thing...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wow--big Blago news

Apparently still-Illinois-Governor Rod Blagojevich is about to name long-time Illinois politico Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat--and, furthermore, already Democrats in the Senate have announced publicly that they won't seat Burris.

Senate Democrats of course had to go that route--they came out publicly 3 weeks ago and said they wouldn't seat any Blagojevich appointee. Still, it's now incumbent on conservatives and Republicans to watch closely for any Dem backsliding on this, and to point out any weakening in their position. Any Blagojevich appointee would be horribly tainted at this point, and cannot be seated. Let's see what happens...

UPDATE: African-American Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush, meanwhile, backed Burris as Blagojevich's appointment, and basically is telling Democrats in the senate that they'd better not block it, or they'll be labeled racists--note he used the "lynch" word.

Democrats better get used to this, I fear--some of its more radical African-American members are feeling their oats right now, and obviously won't be afraid to pull out the race card. I'm not sure the American people will enjoy the spectacle. Republicans might benefit from it, though.

Why Israel had to act

From a piece by Jeff Robbins in today's Boston Globe:

"This year alone, Hamas, which expressly calls for the obliteration of Israel, has launched approximately 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli civilian centers, always for the purpose of killing and maiming Israelis if possible, and terrifying those who are not actually hit. In the last week or so, Hamas has fired some 200 rockets and bombs into Israeli communities....In direct contravention of international law, Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, utilizing homes, schools and community centers as launching pads, content in the knowledge that if innocent Palestinian civilians are caught in the cross-fire, it will be Israel that is criticized. This amounts to a sort of Daily Double of human rights violations: the use of innocent Palestinians as human shields for the infliction of violence upon innocent Israelis."

Remember this when many "peace" activists around the world speak as if the violence in the Middle East is Israel's fault, or that it is equally the fault of both sides.

The historical record: the Soviet Union's hydrogen bomb

Guess how the Soviet Union got the H-bomb back in 1955, it appears:

"A defining moment of the cold war came in 1955 when Moscow detonated its first hydrogen bomb — a weapon roughly a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs and ideal for obliterating large cities. The bomb ended the American monopoly and posed a lethal danger. So Washington dealt far more gingerly with Moscow, beginning a tense era dominated by fear of mutual annihilation. Now, a new book says Moscow acquired the secret of the hydrogen bomb not from its own scientists but from an atomic spy at the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico. Historians call its case sketchy but worthy of investigation, saying the book, “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation,” by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman, adds to a growing number of riddles about who invented the Soviet H-bomb a half century ago. “It’s quite intriguing,” Robert S. Norris, a nuclear historian, said of the book. “We’ve learned a lot about atomic spies. Now, we find out that a spy may be at the center of the H-bomb story, too.”

For so long, our progressive friends tried to tell us that the Soviet Union wasn't ever that big of a threat to us, that there really weren't many Soviet spies here, that conservatives and anti-communists exaggerated all of that. Yet another liberal talking point that now seems to be, well, shaky...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Pistons defeated the Orlando Magic last night, 88-82.
That's a good win for the Pistons, given that the Magic came in on a 7 game winning streak.
The Pistons seems to be on an upswing now, winning with defense.

Meanwhile the University of Michigan men's hoops team won again, beating North Carolina Central 77-57. It was a game Dick Vitale would call a "cupcake" game--a game against a lesser opponent that of course Michigan should win. Still, it was U-M's 10th win of the season already. Last year, it took them an entire season just to win 10. And they seem to be playing consistently. Could an NCAA tourney bid be in Michigan's future?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Poor Paul Krugman

Our oft-noted and oft-wrong op-edmeister of the NY Times' editorial page once again is spectacularly wrong, as he again peddles the old falsehood that Herbert Hoover was some kind of budget-slashing conservative at the height of the Great Depression.

The truth, of course, is that Hoover was a progressive activist who in his final two years as president raised taxes, created a number of new government programs, and ran a budget deficit--for which he was attacked in the 1932 electoral campaign by Franklin Roosevelt!

Krugman should read Paul Johnson or Amity Shlaes--they both expose the Hoover myth for what it is.

At the sports desk: updating my favorite teams...

The Notre Dame women's hoops team won on the road at North Carolina-Charlotte, 68-61.
The good news for the Irish--in a physical battle on the road, ND kept its poise and held its own, despite a lack of preparation time.

The Indianapolis Colts played well and efficiently in their final regular season game, a tune-up 23-0 victory over Tennessee's backups. But as Bob Kravitz points out, maybe the team's current 9 game winning streak is bad luck--it seems like the Colts do better in the playoffs when things don't appear to look so good. Beware--the playoff game coming up this Saturday in San Diego will be a tough one for Indy. Beating the same team twice in one year is difficult--and remember the Colts' first win over the Chargers back in November was on a last-second field goal.

The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, by most accounts, played hard, but...they're a bad team, and thus lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 to finish 0-16 this season, the first NFL team to do that.
There's not much left to say. Oh, well, there is this--as expected, the Lions fired Coach Rod Marinelli today. After losing 23 of his last 24 games, he expected nothing less.
It's too bad the team can't fire its owner.

Striking back

So the Palestinian radical organization Hamas engages in terrorism against Israeli civilians--firing rockets into Israeli towns--and Israel shows these past days that it will strike back.
No one rejoices at seeing all this violence and casualties, especially at this time of year.
But how long is Israel supposed to stand for its civilians being attacked?
Sometimes a response is necessary. Let's hope President-elect Obama remembers this.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

At the sports desk: NFL weekly picks

I was only 6-9-1 last week; but I remain 121-110-6 for the year.
This week's picks:

ATLANTA 12 over St. Louis. PICK: RAMS. To keep it close; not to win. Atlanta tends to play conservatively; St. Louis' defense has played decently at times (see last week).

New England 3 over BUFFALO. PICK: PATRIOTS. The Pats have too much to play for, too much experience to let this one slip away. Matt Cassel has certainly improved as the year has gone on.

CINCINNATI 2 over Kansas City. PICK: BENGALS. Both of these bottom-feeders have improved slightly in the past weeks. But Ryan Fitzpatrick has been able to secure wins; Tyler Thigpen hasn't.

GREEN BAY 3.5 over Detroit. PICK: PACKERS. There's just no sign that anything is going to change for the Lions this year. At least their nightmare will soon end.

INDIANAPOLIS 2 over Tennessee. PICK: COLTS. It all depends on which coach chooses to play his starters longer...and I have a hunch that will be Dungy and the Colts here. They'd really like to beat the Titans once, and keep their momentum.

NY Giants 1.5 over MINNESOTA. PICK: VIKINGS. The Giants have home field etc etc clinched. They have little on the line in this game. I can't believe nicked-up starters like Jacobs, or even Manning, will play the whole way, therefore. The Vikings most likely have everything--the playoffs, division title. I think that will help the Vikes.

Carolina 2.5 over NEW ORLEANS. PICK: PANTHERS. Because of that defense, and because playoff positioning and home-field advantage may be on the line for them in this game.

PITTSBURGH 8.5 over Cleveland. PICK: STEELERS. The Browns got shut out last week by the Bengals. Can you imagine what the Steelers will do to them?

TAMPA BAY 4.5 over Oakland. PICK: BUCCANEERS. The playoffs are on the line for the Bucs. And they're at home. Meanwhile, the Raiders have played a bit better lately but are still far too inconsistent, especially on the road, to pick them in a game like this.

Chicago 4 over HOUSTON. PICK: TEXANS. Yes, the Bears were able to steal a couple up in Soldier Field in the last few weeks, thanks to cold weather, blocked kicks, etc etc. But they haven't been a great road team, and they'll have no icy winds and frozen limbs helping them out this week in Houston. And the Texans are an improved club.

Washington 2 over SAN FRANCISCO. PICK: 49ERS. Yes, the Redskins won last week. But their offense continues to struggle to put points on the board. Meanwhile, the Niners have some momentum under Singletary, are at home, and seem to be motivated to finish strong.

BALTIMORE 5.5 over Jacksonville. PICK: RAVENS. I think that Ravens D, at home, will again puts its offense in position to get the job done. They've been doing it most of the season. The Jags meanwhile may have little left after their big effort last week vs the Colts.

Miami 2 over NY JETS. PICK: JETS. The Jets struggled in the snow and ice last week. But I still like Brett Favre, at home, in a big game like this.

PHILADELPHIA 1.5 over Dallas. PICK: EAGLES. They're at home, and they still have things to play for. Meanwhile, you just have the feeling that the Cowboys' offense remains a bit off, out of sync. It's the last regular season game, and they still haven't fixed it. It's doubtful one more week will do it.

ARIZONA 2 over Seattle. PICK: CARDINALS. Yes, I know, the Cards have looked horrible lately. But, if you look at the entire season, they've played better at home, and remember--Seattle hasn't been too hot this year, either. I look for the Cards to be motivated to get well in this game, and I think they will, away from the snow, ice, and wind of the frozen north.

SAN DIEGO 5.5 over Denver. PICK: BRONCOS. Well, so it's come down to this between two of the most schizophrenic, hard-to-figure, and--let's face it--disappointing teams in the AFC. Winner here get the division title. Both teams have been up and down; just when you think either one of them has things figured out, they fall on their face. I look for that to continue here. It seems the Chargers have things all their way now--they looked to be out of it, but now they have Denver at and they're in. Denver meanwhile merely had to win, at home, last week vs a Buffalo team that's out of the playoffs, and they're in. But they didn't. Which explains why, given this season, it looks to me like Jay Cutler will come up big and lead Denver to the division win on the road. Why? Because it looks like they have no shot. And in this division this year, the team that appears to have no the team to bet on. Happy holidays...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dick Cheney on history

He makes an excellent point regarding the Bush administration's use of executive power during the war on terror:

"He staunchly defended the Bush administration's use of executive power in the fight against terrorism and disagreed with calls to limit presidential authority. "If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II. They went far beyond anything we've done in a global war on terror," the vice president contended."

Yes--I mean, President Roosevelt put people in detention camps in World War II mainly because they were of Japanese ancestry. President Truman, during the cold war, forced hundreds of people to resign from governmental positions because they were communists. People need to keep things in perspective. Too often, Bush administration critics have failed to do that.

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 7)

So, in sum, World War II, and the problems, the sadness, the sacrifices it brought…it meant that Christmas could be, well, problematic at times (much less so than today).

Due to rationing, for example, one of the favorite toys of American children in the 1940s-Lionel’s electric trains-were hard to find. The metals needed to make the train cars were not available. So, in 1943 Lionel put out a substitute—with the train cars made of cardboard! The cost? $0.79 cents a car.

Pajamas, cribs, playpens, cologne, handbags, and gloves filled out the hard-to-find list. (Thread and cloth were rationed, too.)

There was a shortage of alcoholic beverages in the United States during the war. Those who produced alcohol quit making the stuff needed for whiskey or bourbon, and instead concentrated on producing industrial alcohol, needed for war materials. So, when in 1943 a Washington DC liquor store advertised that it had come into a shipment of 8000 bottles of rye, bourbon, and Scotch in time for the holidays, a large crowd gathered outside the store late at night, and waited for 10 hours in the cold for its opening in the morning.

In Montgomery, Alabama, booze was so scarce that citizens there were allowed to buy only 1 pint of liquor per week, or two bottles of wine.

With sugar and some fruits rationed, jellied cranberries, a great favorite for Christmas dinners at that time, was almost impossible to make.

Just in time for Christmas 1942, the Office of Price Administration announced that the 30 million pairs of nylon pantyhose, about to be released in time for holiday sales, would be the last release until the end of the war.

And yet, as we have shown, Americans were determined to rejoice in the holiday, and celebrate it, anyway. And they did. A war wasn’t going to stop them. A writer for TIME magazine reported in late December 1942 that the singing of traditional Christmas carols, the hugs, the handshakes, had been more fervent that year than usual. “It would take more than a year of global war,” he wrote, “to dim out American good will.”

Some farming communities had plenty of food. Farmers, after all, could grow and raise as much food as possible, and the government encouraged them to do so. One mother, writing to her son overseas at Christmas, described a holiday dinner at church as “lovely…Baked chicken, fried chicken, country ham, dressing, salads, cakes, everything you could think of and want. Pretty tree and gifts for everyone.” Nor had she and the community forgotten him—she noted that the local Jaycees were about to send him a Christmas box full of candy.

In New York City at Christmas 1943, the store at Saks Fifth Avenue stayed open late into the evening three nights in a row in order to fill the customer demand. Macy’s had to hire 11,000 extra employees to keep up with the rush. In Chicago, shoppers waited in line for 25 minutes just to get in the door of Carson Pirie Scott’s. In Dallas, sales were up nearly 150% over the previous year. An America-watcher for the British embassy reported to London that America was now a wartime land of higher wages and “general boom atmosphere. Volume of sales (almost 60% above 1923-29 levels) of consumer goods to vast mobs of eager purchasers this Christmas has broken all records.”

And still…there were those magical moments, when the Christmas spirit, as always, shone through. Take for example a bus depot in Albert Lea, Minnesota, on Christmas Eve 1941. This was a little over two weeks after Pearl Harbor. The war had just begun, but most knew it would be a long one. The depot was full of servicemen and women, with holiday passes, all eager to get home to northern Minnesota. Many knew it would be their last Christmas together with their families for some time.

When the bus finally arrived, though, there were problems. All the seats appeared to be taken. The bus driver told all those waiting that there was no room. They would have to wait for the next bus, which might mean they wouldn’t make it home in time for Christmas. But wait—suddenly voices from the passengers on the bus became audible. Let them get on, they said. We’ll make room. If nothing else, they can sit on our laps.

And so they did. Everyone waiting in that depot was able to board the bus. Soon all were heading towards their homes, singing Christmas carols, sharing candy and cookies, and wishing a Merry Christmas to each person getting off at his stop. A rider on that bus recalled later that she could never remember feeling a greater sense of peace, fellowship, and contentment.

Many wartime couples chose Christmas time to get married. It was often the only time a man in the service could get any leave. One young couple made a quick decision to get married; and so they would do so in Long Beach, California at 1:30 a.m. in a church, before a surprised congregation full of strangers which had just finished midnight mass. It was the only church they could get on such short notice; it was the only time they could get. The bride’s wedding gown was a bridesmaid’s dress she’d worn to another wedding some months before; her flower was a gardenia purchased minutes before from a street vendor.

They were married for over 40 years.

On Christmas Eve 1942, in Gary, Indiana, a young woman named Anne and her aunt attended Christmas Eve services at their local church, as usual. It was snowing, and cold, but there was no bus service that night. So they walked home. As they approached a street corner, they saw two marines in uniform, obviously with no place to go. The marines politely wished them a Merry Christmas. They talked. And so Anne invited the two marines to their home for Christmas Eve dinner. They stayed until 4 a.m. A good time was had by all, and two men serving Uncle Sam didn’t have to spend the holidays alone.

But then, why wouldn’t these two women engage in this act of kindness? It was Christmas.

As the big guy in the red suit and white beard, who specializes after all in acts of kindness at Christmas, would say: happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Obama tries even harder to tie himself to Lincoln

The latest:

"President-elect Barack Obama will use the same Bible at his inauguration that Abraham Lincoln used for his swearing in....Obama is also tracing the train route that Lincoln took and holding a welcome event at the Lincoln Memorial ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration."

But as I showed a few days ago, Mr. Obama--you're no Abe Lincoln.
One thing we'll be doing in this space in the months to come is to show just HOW Mr. Obama will fail to live up to Mr. Lincoln's legacy. Watch for it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Bush nobody knows

President Bush has written--personally--to the family over U.S. soldier who has died in Iraq.
I'm sure, however, that our liberal/progressive friends will ignore this.
And continue to shout their hatred for him from the rooftops.

But have they, as they reflect on things this Christmas Day, shown this kind of human kindness and compassion?

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 6)

Don’t get the wrong idea. Christmases in the days of World War II were not always weighted down with gloom and doom. Americans still wanted to deck the halls, to “make rather merry”, as Dickens’ Bob Cratchit put it, to celebrate the holiday. And they would. What would the holidays be, for instance, without a cup of Christmas cheer? A magazine advertisement for Schenley whiskey asked, amidst colorful drawings of elegantly dressed men and women laughing and flirting around a punch bowl: what does every woman want to know about a man? “That Christmas and New Year’s symbolize more to him now than ever before…that even with his war duties, he still keeps the holiday tradition, sending flowers to her and gifts of Old Schenley to his friends!”

At Christmas 1942, newspapers reported crowded stores and ringing cash registers. Sales easily topped 1941’s totals. In Cleveland, Ohio, business at one ompany were so brisk that employees received a $3000 holiday bonus.

In many ways in World War II, Americans were prosperous. Unemployment by war’s end plummeted to less than 2%. The Great Depression was finally over. Most everyone had a job and a steady income. Thus, in Phoenix, Arizona in 1942, authorities called off the annual Christmas party for poor children. They couldn’t find any to invite. In Fairview Village, Ohio, town residents got a welcome Christmas gift—a garbage collection. They’d gone without trash pickup for 6 weeks, due to a lack of manpower. Most men were either in the service or had other, war-related jobs.

But there remained many sacrifices to be made, too. A young boy growing up in Los Altos, New Mexico during the war was told by his parents that due to rationing and the war, many toys wouldn’t be available. He should not expect there to be much under the tree. He often only received one Christmas present..

One couldn’t necessarily expect the usual Christmas sweets, either. Remember that sugar and butter were rationed. Often Christmas cooks had to make do with substitutes. Sometimes, mothers and grandmothers trying to make their usual Christmas cookies had to use “oleo” as a substitute for butter (“oleo” is short for “oleomargarine.”) But all agreed, then and later, that the cookies weren’t nearly as good.

It could be hard to find your usual Christmas turkey, or ham. For one thing, buying them used up a lot of meat ration stamps. What would you do for meat once the holidays were over, if you had no ration coupons left? Families would try anything to get by. For example, one thing you could do during the war was to save bacon grease. You could turn the grease in to a government office, and get extra meat ration stamps in return. Why? Because war munitions factories used bacon grease to make bombs and other forms of ammunition. Many a family secured a turkey at Christmas time by having someone haul containers of bacon grease down snow-covered sidewalks, to get the coupons needed.

Often, all of the families and friends in a neighborhood were short on some kind of food they needed for the holidays. Nobody ever had enough ration stamps. So, during the war, families would gather around kitchen tables, with their evergreen centerpieces and mistletoe hanging nearby, place their ration stamps in front of them, and trade with each other for things they needed. Maybe you had plenty of coffee ration coupons, but no sugar stamps; and another family somehow had the opposite situation. Thus would come the trading; and thus was made many a holiday, with families gathering, and sharing, and helping each other through the tough times.

A woman growing up in Detroit during World War II remembered that, one year, her family simply couldn’t afford to get a Christmas tree. So they instead made a “Christmas table.” “We festooned the top and legs of a card table with white pine and hemlock branches we’d collected,” she recalled, “and arranged our presents under the table. Christmas morning, as we opened our presents, we were proud of our sacrifice.”

With gasoline rationing, it could be very difficult to travel and see family at the holidays. One young married couple, from Kansas City, Missouri, at Christmas 1943 wanted to go see the wife’s mother and father in Wichita, Kansas. They literally had to save 3-gallon gas ration stamps for nearly 6 months in order to be able to get the gas they’d need for the trip. But they got there. Yet then, they could only get home again because the wife’s father was a farmer and could give them spare gas (farmers were entitled to extra gas ration coupons). Otherwise they would have been stranded.

Montgomery, Alabama had a long-time Christmas tradition--the city would set off fireworks on Christmas Eve or Christmas night. But during the war, all firecrackers were silenced. City fathers agreed, according to the local paper, that it was not right to celebrate in that way “with Uncle Sam and his allies at grips with the Axis to preserve freedom.”

But, as always, somewhere, somehow, the Christmas spirit always shone through. Take what happened in rural Oklahoma at Christmas 1943. There, a young man originally from Virginia served his country at the Naval Air Station in Clinton, Oklahoma. He was depressed. Here it was the holiday season, and he was stuck in a rural, desolate area, far from home. But a buddy of his, who fortunately was originally from Oklahoma, took him along as he went home for Christmas, and so our lonely Virginian found himself playing the piano in the parlor of his friend’s home that Christmas Eve.

But then suddenly came news from the local Catholic church. The nun who usually played the organ at church, and who was scheduled to play at that evening’s Midnight Mass, was very sick. She wouldn’t be able to play. They needed a substitute. Well—all eyes quickly turned to our friend. He could play the piano; surely he could play the organ too?

And so at midnight that night, on Christmas Eve in another small town in Oklahoma, he found himself playing an unfamiliar organ at a convent church. But it went well. He accompanied the children’s choir smoothly and without incident, and later even did an impromptu riff off of “The Hallelujah Chorus.” The entire congregation thanked him effusively; and the nuns were so pleased that they gave him a special Christmas gift---a magnum of champagne from the convent’s cellar. It turned into a special memory for him.

But then, why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t he come up with the performance of his life? It was Christmas…

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 5)

As World War II continued, it demanded even more sacrifices from the American people—even at Christmas time.

As Christmas 1943 approached, bad news continued to arrive. The casualty toll for U.S. troops on Tarawa rose to over 3700 killed or seriously wounded. People on America’s east coast were briefly panicked by the military’s warning of possible German U-boat attacks on the coastline. 17 Allied ships, meanwhile, sank off the coast of Italy as a result of a surprise German air attack.

The government instituted rationing for many food items, in order to avoid hoarding, shortages, and inflation. It led to problems. The city of Detroit, Michigan faced a meat shortage at Christmas. Its allotment of meat had been set, in a fair manner (or so the government believed), according to its population level of January 1941. But in the months since then, Detroit’s population had skyrocketed, inflated by the arrival of over 300,000 new workers, due to the immense number of war-related factory jobs available there. So now there were too many people, and not nearly enough turkey and ham for their Christmas meals. Many had to do without their usual holiday fare.

Many localities during World War II banned outdoor Christmas lights, thanks to wartime blackout requirements (outdoor lights shining brightly at night, authorities feared, could draw enemy bombers). “Christmas,” said one newspaper, “has moved indoors.”

In other towns, Christmas trees were scarce; lumber was needed for the war effort.

Gasoline was of course strictly rationed. But problems still came up. In the New York City area, there was a temporary gasoline shortage at Christmas 1942. For three days, the federal Office of Price Administration banned all gas sales in the area, save to those who were doing the most essential war work. Holiday travel became even more difficult.

By then, coffee rationing was in full effect. Most were limited to around one cup of coffee a day. It went into full effect just in time for Christmas.

Wives, separated from their husbands by the war, felt their loss especially at holiday time. “Last Christmas I worried if my husband would come home from the office sober enough to trim the tree,” a Navy wife told a reporter. “This year I wonder if he’ll come home from the Solomons—anytime.”

It could be difficult to find all the Christmas decorations and trinkets you needed, too. “We have Christmas trees for all the wards,” wrote a nurse working in a military hospital stateside to her boyfriend overseas in December 1942. “I don’t know where they will get decorations for them tho.”

But again, as always, the Christmas spirit shone through, and people found their special holiday moments, and took them, wherever they could find them. Sometimes, soldiers could do things for their loved ones back home. One woman, who endured the war as a young teenager living in Long Beach, California, remembered the act of kindness of a close friend of the family who was in the military overseas. “One Christmas, he sent us a huge box of Milky Ways,” she recalled.. “So much chocolate when there was no chocolate at all. I sat and cried. It took up the better part of the refrigerator, just like a turkey. We didn’t even want to eat it. Because we knew when it was gone, there wasn’t gonna be any more…It was a big treat just to open the refrigerator and see this chocolate.”

In cities, some people had no car during the war (Detroit suspended automobile manufacturing in early 1942); or, if they had one, they had no gas to put in it. How then could you get your Christmas tree home? A number of plucky families in Gary, Indiana solved the problem. They toted their trees home on city streetcars.

In Glenwood, Illinois, in December 1943, school children in all of the local schools filled no less than 206 stockings full of gifts---candy, fruit, gum, comics, popcorn balls and other goodies. The stockings were taken to the closest military bases around—to Fort Sheridan, or to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. There they would be distributed on Christmas Day to any soldier or sailor who had not yet received a gift from home.

Why? It was Christmas.

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 4)

Everyone was missing somebody. And so there were Christmas gifts to help you cope. Best-selling books at Macy’s in 1943, perfect for the wives with husbands away from home at war, included titles such as YOUR HUSBAND’S GONE TO WAR and THE NAVY WIFE.

You couldn’t necessarily just pick up the phone and call someone to ease your loneliness. Bell Telephone repeatedly placed ads in newspapers and magazines at holiday time, reminding people that there was a war on. “War needs the wires this Christmas,” said one. “War can’t wait--not even for Christmas. So please don’t make long distance calls to war-busy centers this Christmas unless they’re vital.”

There were many sacrifices to make, no matter how small. During the war, sugar was rationed. So in early December 1942, the War Production Board ruled that there was to be no production of chocolate St. Nicholas figures that year.

Yes, at times, things could be grim. And yet, and yet...the Christmas spirit, the spirit of giving and sharing, would still shine through. Montgomery, Alabama, for example, at Christmas 1943 found itself with not one but two major military bases nearby, Gunter Air Force Base and Maxwell Air Force Base. Its downtown stores were open long hours during the Christmas season, their clerks and sales people worked to the bone. Yet on December 17th and 18th, 1943, cadets from both bases were given the run of the downtown to do all their Christmas shopping. Stores stayed open an extra hour or two to accommodate them. Then, on Christmas Day, the Montgomery Red Cross and Jaycees teamed up to open a special canteen, from which free bags of gum, fruit, games, and comic books were handed out to each serviceman who came by. Why go to all this trouble?, asked one reporter.

“It’s Christmas!,” came the reply.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 3)

Sometimes, when the Christmas season arrived during World War II, good news didn't always come with it. The war sometimes brought painful news, news of the deaths of brave Americans in battle, which meant sons and loved ones were gone forever. It brought the strains and stresses of combat. At home, the war brought new and divisive issues to the forefront, which often led to social political strain, and the pain of sacrifice.

Read the rest...

Thus, as the Christmas season of 1943 approached, Americans learned troubling news. By December 1st, news outlets were reporting that nearly 3,000 Americans had died in the capturing of the island of Tarawa from the Japanese. In North Africa, the popular American military hero, General George Patton, was in trouble, facing heavy media criticism. While visiting wounded soldiers in a hospital, he slapped an American serviceman suffering from shell shock. Some wanted him removed from the service. In Washington D.C., a spokesman for war veterans threatened violent demonstrations after the war if returning servicemen did not receive their fair share of government benefits. In a rancorous, angry debate in the United States Denate, senators Alben Barkley of Kentucky and Willaim Langer of North Dakota exchanged insults, each implying that the other was an elitist, lying fool.

But in the meantime, the holidays went on. If you were a shopper in 1943, seeking that perfect gift for a loved one, here were some of your choices: you could buy a Motorola Cabinet Radio for $120. A typical record player retailed for $69. A small 22-inch bicycle came relatively cheaply, for $3.98. A child’s wagon went for $5.98. Stuffed animals could be had for prices ranging from $3.25 to $8.98.

The theme of the necessity of Americans making sacrifices for the war was never far away. Typical American family photos taken at Christmastime during the war years almost always show family members arranged around large pictures, on the mantle or on a table, of a brother or a dad, in uniform, who could not be home for Christmas. He was away, often overseas, serving in the military, far from home.

Their families yearned to be closer to them, somehow, some way. Of course there was one obvious way to achieve this--send a package! You could send your loved one fighting for Uncle Sam non-perishable food items, clothes, and other Christmas gifts. And during the war, millions of Americans did it. They sent so many packages overseas and to military bases that post offices in some locations warned people to send their packages by October 15th. Otherwise it might not arrive on time. “It would be a Christmas unlike any the U.S. people had ever seen, and one they would long remember,” reported TIME magazine in 1942. “There was hardly a person who had not sent a package, or at least a letter, to a man in uniform; hardly a thoughtful man or woman who would not wonder what it might be like to spend Christmas in a tank on the road to Bizerte or perched in a palm tree in New Guinea.”

In Portland, Oregon, there were 20 railroad cars backed up at the local train stations, filled with parcel post Christmas boxes sent to soldiers at a nearby base.

The local postmaster had to somehow scare up more more manpower in order to deliver them all. But he did.

The history of Christmas--World War II (part 2)

The U.S. government used holiday poetry to urge consumers to buy U.S. Savings Bonds at Christmas: “Someday Yuletide bells will ring merrily again/and once more there will be laughter, joy, and mirth,” said one government public service ad. “Someday Christmas carolers will sing again/those songs we love that tell of ‘peace on earth’/ someday hearts will beat as they return again/ the husband father son…the neighbor’s boy/someday Christmas lights will brightly burn again/ illuminating those filled with joy.” It concluded: “Americans will observe this wartime ‘Holiday Season’ with but a single thought and purpose: the determination to focus all our energies and efforts on final victory.”

An ad for Chesterfield cigarettes showed Santa Claus, with a big bag full of smokes to distribute to American soldiers at the front, with a typical GI helmet clamped on his head.

And speaking of Santa, the coming of the war provoked questions about him, too.

For example, courtesy of the federal government, there now was a bureaucratic monstrosity called the War Labor Board, which, despite its flaws, nevertheless had an important job: controlling wages and employment, in order to prevent runaway inflation and strikes from crippling wartime production. It issued a wage-freeze order in the fall of 1942, setting most workers’ wages for the duration of the war at their January 1941 levels, plus fifteen percent. Apparently with Christmas coming, someone had to ask: what about the wages of those playing Santa Claus? Thus came the perhaps-only-half-serious WLB order of December 4, 1942: “Bona fide Santa Clauses shall be construed to be only such persons as wear a red robe, white whiskers, and other well-recognized accoutrements befitting their station in life, and provided that they have a kindly and jovial disposition and use their high office of juvenile trust to spread the Christmas spirit.” And—they were exempt from the wage-freeze order!

And who would play Santa during the war? Soon many cities faced a manpower shortage due to military service. By January 1945 there were no fewer than 16 million men (and some women) in uniform. To fill the vacuum, women increasingly entered the workplace. Munitions factories all had their "Rosie the Riveters" working the heavy machinery, a huge change from the past. By 1945, women made up 35% of all those in the workplace. Thus, in Chicago at one point during the war,, there were stories that stores would employ female Santas. But in response, in Poughkeepsie, New York, city officials made clear this would not be the case. there. "Santa will be Santa and there will be no bearded lady this Yuletide, as usual," harrumphed the local paper. "Of course, there are arguments in favor of a lady Santa during wartime. Women have been doing just about everything else that a man had done and probably there is little argument against why they couldn't help out St. Nick. But it would be quite a blow to the kids to climb aboard her lap and hear a staccato 'What would you like me to bring you, sonny?' in place of the customary voice of pleasant gruffness...there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And Santa Claus seems to be it."

But at least Santa, making his list and checking it twice, came to America—even during tough times.

At the sports desk: my favorite teams...

The ND men's hoops team ground out an 81-49 win last night over Savannah State.
The Irish are now 9-2 on the year. Best and most encouraging stat--the Irish picked up their rebounding, grabbing 44 caroms to their opponent's 21.

The Michigan men's hoops team similarly ground out a win over Florida Gulf Coast, 76-59.
The Wolverines continue to shoot the 3-ball well, hitting 12 of them.
Best news for Michigan--for the first time in 3 years, they're ranked! They're now at #24.
Quite a rise for the Maize and Blue under John Beilein--last year the team finished with 10 wins and 22 losses.

Gee--what a surprise

Word is that Hillary Clinton plans to build a bigger, more powerful State Department:

"Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to build a more muscular US State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys dispatched to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with the global economic crisis, the New York Times reported Tuesday."

And one that will give HER plenty of visibility and power.
More than likely, this is one of the concessions she demanded from Obama in order to secure her agreement to take the job.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Tis the season: celebrating Christmas, and remembering the past heroes of World War II

You know, I like Christmas time. I enjoy the decorations, the pretty, colorful lights, the evergreen, the holly, the mistletoe. It makes me feel good. I even like the cartoons: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the other corny holiday TV specials. The presents, the excitement, the talk of peace on earth and good will towards men…how can it not give you a warm feeling?

Of course, it’s not this way for everybody. Sometimes tragedies mar the holiday season.

Christmas can lead some people, unable to feel the good cheer, down the road to depression. Yet, somehow, the Christmas spirit, to me anyway, always seems to shine through. And it does so even in difficult times such as these, late in 2008, as our soldiers continue to face danger in Iraq, the threat of terrorism hangs heavy over the world, and we face serious economic difficulties.

My enjoyment of Christmas naturally led me, as an historian, to ponder its history. How did we celebrate the holidays in previous decades? I especially became curious about the celebration of Christmas in wartime—both because today we face tough times, though different ones from the past, and because I frequently teach about wars—the Civil War, World Wars I and II. So I decided to investigate what was it like in America to celebrate Christmas, the holiday so associated with peace on earth, during perhaps the most total war this country has ever seen—World War II.

I did some research. And one aspect of Christmas in wartime that quickly becomes clear is this: everything was connected to the war, was part of it, was seen through its prism.

Take holiday advertising during the war. If you examine ads in America’s favorite magazines back then, Christmas and World War II could not be separated. Companies urged consumers to buy expensive Parker ball-point pen sets to give to soldiers at the front, a present “for your favorite patriot.” Or, buy it for yourself—“it brings a new ease to writing those morale-building letters between home and the front.” An ad for Elgin watches similarly featured an illustration of U.S. marines, sweating in the sun on a Pacific island front, taking a break from fighting the Japanese and happily opening a gift box containing an expensive watch from home.

Railroad trains were the most common form of long-distance transportation for Americans during the war. Countless memoirs detail the jammed train stations, and the difficulty of finding tickets or available seats. Many rode the Southern Railway System, and so during the war, at Christmas, the company grimly reminded Americans what it was about—as well as why its trains were so crowded. “The church, to the enemies of America, is a monstrosity to be destroyed,” ran one solemn advertisement. “They would padlock its doors and send our children goose-stepping in search of new gods. They would substitute pagan rites for the simple, sustaining beauty of our commemoration of the birth of Christ. So today, America is at war—a war we’re going to win…That is the solemn pledge of Americans on the war front…To its fulfillment we have allocated all of our transportation services and facilities, gratefully putting war transportation needs ahead of every other transportation need.”

Salesmen writing their pitches knew how hard wartime was on people; how Americans missed their loved ones serving in the military overseas, how they worried about them, how they yearned for them to be home, and how this made holiday feelings more intense. Christmas this year means “more than ever”, said a promotion for Whitman’s Chocolates in 1943. It was a time when “fondly-remembered things mean more,” and hence what could be better than a gift of candy to a serviceman? But Whitman also hastened to add that, if those at home couldn’t necessarily find their favorite chocolates in stores, it was because so many were going to our boys at the front. Indeed, companies touted just how much they were doing for former employees now in the military. Kroger trumpeted how their employees in the service each got a free fruitcake at Christmas.

We'll continue this trip down memory lane, remembering the joy of Christmas from seasons past, even when times were tough, in the coming days.

More good news from Iraq

The number of attacks daily from the terrorists on American/Iraqi forces is down 95% from what they were a year ago. And the murder rate there is now lower than it was during Saddam's time.

We are winning in Iraq. But will our progressive friends acknowledge any of these successes?

More here.

"We are all Americans, whether you are legalized or not"

So says Hilda Solis, Barack Obama's nominee for Labor Secretary in his cabinet.
You just knew Mr. Obama would put someone who had, ahem, made some questionable statements in the past into his cabinet.
At her confirmation hearing, conservatives should push Republican senators to question her on this, and GOPers doing the questioning should do as they ask.

Rick Warren tries appeasement

He tries to appease gay activists, and those opposed to his invitation to Obama's inaugural:

"Under fire for opposing gay marriage, influential evangelical pastor Warren said Saturday that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, and he also loves "gays and straights."

Beware, Pastor Warren. It won't work. You can't appease those people.
If anything, it will just increase their contempt for you, and they'll redouble their efforts to get you disinvited. Just watch...

At the sports desk: an update on some of my favorite teams...

The Notre Dame women's hoops team remains ranked in the top 10, and best Loyola by over 40 points on Saturday. Their defense remains a key--they forced over 30 turnovers.

The Detroit Pistons lose to Atlanta, 85-78, yesterday, and continue their march towards becoming an average team. Their record right now is only 14-11. You can't fall behind by 18 on the road and expect to win against a rising Hawks team.

The Detroit Lions lose, 42-7, to New Orleans and get ripped even more lustily by the local Detroit media for appearing not to try too hard.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some Saturday stuff

Planned Parenthood in trouble in Indiana--a college student visits two PP offices, poses as a 13 year old girl, claims to have been made pregnant by a 31 year old man.
PP workers are bound by state law to report such incidents. Yet two different workers are caught on video saying they don't care about the male's age, and don't want to know it. Too eager to perform the abortion, perhaps?

Some good news--remember our discussion of Michigan's proposed smoking ban? It didn't pass for this year.

We find out today that, in a number of recent elections, Carolina Kennedy didn't even cast a vote.
Can you imagine the screaming from the left if Sarah Palin, for example, had been found not to have voted????

The not-so-bright Joe Biden babbles that the economy is now in danger of "absolutely tanking."
Does that fool not understand that such public statements will further dampen consumer confidence, further depress consumer spending, and thus harm the economy even more?

California Attorney General Jerry Brown says to heck with democracy.
He urges the California Supreme Court to overturn the legally adopted (in an election) Prop 8, claims gay marriage is a fundamental constitutional right. Hmmm--so why isn't it a fundamental right for a brother and sister to get married, too, if they want to?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday tidbits

A party of corruption? Note that, in the past few months, no less than 6 different Democrats have either been convicted of, or face serious charges of, corruption.

Victor Davis Hanson notes that, already, President-elect Obama has moderated his foreign policy vision for America, now that the campaign has ended:
" Obama has not assumed office yet, and already Iran has mocked the president-elect’s campaign suggestions for unconditional diplomacy. Already, old-new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has indicated a desire to stabilize Iraq before withdrawing combat forces. Already, commanders have told the president-elect that a simple surge of more troops into Afghanistan offers no magical solution. Already, we are learning that whether we try more aid or ultimatums, Pakistan will remain Pakistan — a radical Islamic, nuclear, failed state that is deeply anti-American rather than merely anti-George Bush."

Gay rights advocates are furious that President-elect Obama chose Pastor Rick Warren, a moderately-conservative evangelical, to give an invocation at his inaugural. Jim Geraghty sums it up well, and makes a good case for not laughing at our progressive friends, but rather for feeling saddened for them--they shouldn't have put such faith in Obama in the first place.

An important figure in the advancement of conservatism in America in the 1970s and beyond has died. His name was Paul Weyrich, and he helped popularize many ideas on the Right and mobilize people behind them. You can read about him and his accomplishments here.

By the way, do you know which state has one of the highest income and sales tax rates in the nation? Answer: California. Next question--which state has one of the worst budget deficits in the nation? Answer: California.

At the sports desk: college football bowl picks

Let's see if we can pick ALL of the winners! Here we go...

EAGLEBANK BOWL--Wake Forest vs Navy: the Middies beat Wake Forest earlier this year; my guess is they won't sneak up on them this time. PICK: WAKE FOREST.

NEW MEXICO BOWL--Colorado State vs Fresno State: FSU has a good program and good tradition. PICK: FRESNO STATE.

MAGICJACK ST. PETERSBURG BOWL--Memphis vs South Florida: I like the Bulls, with their experience and their relative success in a pretty tough conference. PICK: SOUTH FLORIDA.

PIONEER LAS VEGAS BOWL--BYU vs Arizona. The Cougars have lots of firepower. PICK: BYU.

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL--Southern Miss vs Troy. The Trojans have an up and coming program. PICK: TROY.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL--TCU vs Boise State. The Horned Frogs have a terrific defense, and could have easily cracked into the BCS. PICK: TCU.

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL--Hawaii vs Notre Dame. The Irish have struggled late. But here's a chance at a tiny bit of redemption, which I think they'll take. Hawaii has struggled without departed coach June Jones.

MOTOR CITY BOWL--Florida Atlantic vs Central Michigan. The Chippewas tend to play well in this one, being so close to home. PICK: Central Michigan.

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL--West Virginia vs North Carolina. I like WVU's experience here, and the fact that Pat White at QB can make plays. North Carolina is coming on but is still young. PICK: WEST VIRGINIA.

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL--Wisconsin vs Florida State. The Badgers have been wildly inconsistent this year, and FSU has played better as the season has gone on. It's been a down year for the Big 10. PICK: FLORIDA STATE.

EMERALD BOWL--Miami (FLA) vs California. Expect Jeff Teadford to have some new offensive wrinkles for this game. Remember that Cal gave USC a tough battle earlier this season. PICK: CALIFORNIA.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL--Northern Illinois vs Louisiana Tech. Tech to benefit from home cooking. PICK: LA TECH.

PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL--North Carolina State vs Rutgers. Rutgers is one of the hottest teams around late this season; they hung over 60 points on Louisville in their last game. PICK: RUTGERS.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL--Missouri vs Northwestern. I doubt NU is going to be able to slow down Chase Daniel and that Mizzou attack, much less outscore them. PICK: MISSOURI.

ROADY'S HUMANITARIAN BOWL--Maryland vs Nevada. The Terrapins come from a stronger conference, and knocked off some good teams this year. PICK: MARYLAND.

TEXAS BOWL--Western Michigan vs Rice. The Owls throw the ball all over the lot, can move it well and score points, and will play close to home. PICK: RICE.

PACIFIC LIFE HOLIDAY BOWL--Oklahoma State vs Oregon. The Ducks were playing well towards the end of the year--did you see the 65 points they hung on Oregon State? Meanwhile, I have a hunch OSU will be feeling a post-Oklahoma hangover, and might lose focus. UPSET PICK: OREGON.

BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL--Houston vs Air Force. Air Force, with its option attack, can be real hard to prepare for. PICK: AIR FORCE.

BRUT SUN BOWL--Oregon State vs Pittsburgh. The Beavers lost out on the Rose Bowl in their final game, a loss to their arch-rival. Meanwhile, Pitt seemed to gain strength as the year went on, and they have momentum. PICK: PITTSBURGH.

GAYLORD HOTELS MUSIC CITY BOWL--Boston College vs Vanderbilt. I know Vandy will be close to home, but I like that BC defense. PICK: BOSTON COLLEGE.

INSIGHT.COM BOWL--Kansas vs Minnesota. Kansas has an excellent quarterback in Todd Riesing, and an offense that can really move. Meanwhile it looked to me like the Golden Gophers faded towards the end of the season. PICK: KANSAS.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL--LSU vs Georgia Tech. Again, an option offense is tough to prepare for, and that's what the Rambling Wreck run. Meanwhile, LSU lost its last game at Arkansas, and this is not the bowl in which they expected to be when the season began. Will they be focused? PICK: GEORGIA TECH.

OUTBACK BOWL--South Carolina vs Iowa. Iowa really made strides--see for example their late-season win over Penn State. I didn't sense the same improvement in the Gamecocks. PICK: IOWA.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL--Georgia vs Michigan State. UGA has an impressive QB in Matthew Stafford. But that defense has holes, and I can see Javon Ringer having a day in a high-scoring affair. PICK: MICHIGAN STATE.

KONICA MINOLTA GATOR BOWL--Nebraska vs Clemson. Kudos to Bo Pelini for bringing the Cornhuskers along to an 8-4 year in a tough league. Their QB Ganz has come on strong. PICK: NEBRASKA.

ROSE BOWL--Penn State vs USC. This will be a tough, defensive battle. But...Pete Carroll's bunch has an awfully good bowl record over the years, and there's just so much talent on this USC roster. PICK: USC.

FEDEX ORANGE BOWL--Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech. I think the Bearcats will be sky-high for this game, and very focused. PICK: CINCINNATI.

AT&T COTTON BOWL--Ole Miss vs Texas Tech. Tech and that offense will put up a lot of points. PICK: TEXAS TECH.

AUTO ZONE LIBERTY BOWL--Kentucky vs East Carolina. UK has a solid defense, and gave teams such as Alabama and Georgia a real tough time earlier this year. PICK: KENTUCKY.

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL--Utah vs Alabama. Question here: will Alabama be focused and ready to play, having lost out on a national championship? My guess is yes, though Utah will give them a battle. PICK: ALABAMA.

INTERNATIONAL BOWL--Buffalo vs Connecticut. Buffalo is on a roll, and will be playing not far from home in this one. PICK: BUFFALO.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL--Ohio State vs Texas. Colt McCoy to get the job done in this one, generating enough offense to keep the Horns in the lead vs Terrelle Pryor (who is young, and will make at least one big mistake in this game). PICK: TEXAS.

GMAC BOWL--Ball State vs Tulsa. Ball State has lost their coach, Brady Hoke (he's off to San Diego State). They lost out on a perfect season in the MAC Championship game. Tulsa meanwhile can really score. PICK: TULSA.

FED EX BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME--Florida vs Oklahoma. It's simple--both teams can score. And will. But I see Oklahoma playing at just a tinier higher level right now offensively than is Florida; Sam Bradford will just barely outgun Tim Tebow. PICK: OKLAHOMA.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At the sports desk: NFL weekly picks

Last week--another winning week, going 9-7.
For the season, I am 115-101-5.

Indianapolis 7 over JACKSONVILLE. PICK: JAGUARS. Not to win, but to keep it close. The Colts really haven't blown anyone out on the road for a good while, and the Jags have a history of playing the Colts tough.

DALLAS 3 over Baltimore. PICK: COWBOYS. Mainly because Dallas' defense is playing real well right now; look for them to shut down the Ravens and Joe Flacco. Tony Romo meanwhile will generate just enough offense to win comfortably; I wouldn't be surprised if the score of this game is similar to the Cowboys-Giants score of last week.

CLEVELAND 1 over Cincinnati. PICK: BENGALS. Because, in this battle of bottom-feeders and backup QBs. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bengals look a bit advanced over Ken Dorsey and the Browns.

New Orleans 6.5 over DETROIT. PICK: SAINTS. I just don't see the Lions' tissue-paper defense as being able to contain Drew Brees and the high-octane Saint attack. Don't forget too that Daunte Culpepper is out for Detroit.

Pittsburgh 5 over TENNESSEE. PICK: TITANS. I know Tennessee has injuries, especially on defense. But they're at home, they've still got a very tough defense they can put on the field, and their ball-control, conservative attack might just be more effective against the Steelers than people think.

Miami 6 over KANSAS CITY. PICK: CHIEFS. Not to win. But I can see the Chiefs keeping this one close. Miami's offense is competent but not explosive. And the Chiefs have been very competitive in a number of games this year. Look for this one to be decided only by a field goal.

San Francisco 4.5 over ST. LOUIS. PICK: 49ERS. Because Mike Singletary seems to be building something there--the Niners seem to have momentum and to be playing well on defense.

NEW ENGLAND 4 over Arizona. PICK: PATRIOTS. Remember--for the most part, Arizona just hasn't been a good road team, especially against quality opposition.

TAMPA BAY 3.5 over San Diego. PICK: BUCCANEERS. That Buc defense really seems to rise up at home. And the Bucs need this win, they should have plenty of motivation. Meanwhile, the Chargers have been especially inconsistent on the road, with last week being another good example--they had to rally in the last 2 minutes to beat the lowly Chiefs.

NY Jets 2.5 over SEATTLE. PICK: JETS. The Seahawks can be tough at home, but they haven't beaten a quality opponent yet this year, really. Brett Favre will find a way this time.

Houston 5 over OAKLAND. PICK: TEXANS. The Texans are rising, and are coming off a big road win at Green Bay. They have momentum. The Raiders seem stuck where they've been for a while now.

Denver 2.5 over BUFFALO. PICK: BRONCOS. It's always a risk picking the schizo-Broncos. But the Bills are fading and, with QB injury issues, can't score. The Broncos should get the job done at home.

Philadelphia 5.5 over WASHINGTON. PICK: EAGLES. They're on a roll; have you seen Donovan McNabb lately? He's moving well, throwing well. Meanwhile the Redskins have faded badly; their offense especially seems stuck in the mud. Look for it to get deeper.

MINNESOTA 2 over Atlanta. PICK: VIKINGS. Mainly I think the home-dome advantage will spell the difference for Adrian Peterson and the Vikes. That crowd revs up the Vikings' D and makes it hard for an opposing offense to hear.

Carolina 2.5 over NY GIANTS. PICK: GIANTS. I just think the Giants will suck it up and get back to playing their brand of football at home, in a big game.

CHICAGO 7 over Green Bay. PICK: PACKERS. This is a rivalry game, a division game. Aaron Rodgers can still throw and move the team, even the Packers haven't won lately. I look for this to be a close game, for the Bears to perhaps pull this one out at the end...but 7 points is too much to give here.

The continuing problem with the Hillary Clinton nomination

It's the millions foreign governments donated to her husband's foundations:

"Former President Bill Clinton's foundation has raised at least $46 million from Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments that his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton may end up negotiating with as the next secretary of state. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by the former president to finance his library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts to reduce poverty and treat AIDS. Other foreign government givers include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Italy and Jamaica. The Dutch national lottery gave $5 million to $10 million....The list also underscores ties between the Clintons and India, a connection that could complicate diplomatic perceptions of whether Hillary Clinton can be a neutral broker between India and neighbor Pakistan in a region where President-elect Barack Obama will face an early test of his foreign policy leadership."

Now of course, some will say that there's no problem here, Hillary Clinton will not be thinking of any of this when carrying out her duties, we can trust her to be honest (HA!), etc etc etc.

My question, though, is: why does Barack Obama need any of this? Why go through it? Why even let there be a possibility that these questions will be raised? Why does he need this drama at all?

If he had named someone else as secretary of state, he wouldn't have to be worrying about any of this. I suspect that some day, he'll be telling himself frustration.

"It is too late to now to regret the big and ugly act that I perpetrated."

The Iraqi shoe-tosser expresses his regrets to the Iraqi court.

Like I said before, let the guy go. He's been punished enough, and as it turned out, no one was hurt.

At the sports desk: Detroit Pistons--a win, but still not playing their best

They let the Washington Wizards, a very poor team right now, hang around until the fourth quarter before dispatching them with a late run, 88-74.

Clearly the Pistons aren't playing their best ball yet, though they've been able to win their last couple of games.

Who are the best teams in the NBA? Right now it's clear--the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, the LA Lakers in the West. Right now, they seem destined again to meet in the finals. But the NBA is truly a long, marathon of a season, with the playoffs still literally 4 months away and the Finals nearly 6 months away. A lot can happen between now and then. But I watched the Celtics last night, on the road against a young, rising Atlanta Hawks team, a team hungry to break the Celts' 15 game winning streak...and despite the Celtics trailing in the fourth quarter, their obvious confidence and execution down the stretch was impressive. The Celtics eventually rallied to win by 3. They'll be tough to beat. The Pistons have a long way to go to even be able to challenge them...

Health nazi alert

In Michigan, the health nazis are seeking to pass a complete smoking ban in bars, restaurants, etc--though time is almost up, as the legislative session is about to end:

"Wrangling among lawmakers resumes this morning in an eleventh-hour effort to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other workplaces -- one of several key pieces of legislation dangling by a thread on the final day of the 2008 legislative session....The Senate continues to insist on a no-exceptions smoking ban in all Michigan workplaces. The House initiated the legislation but wants to exempt horse racing tracks, cigar bars and Detroit's three casinos. It has sought a compromise plan -- without success -- since last June."

Again--if in fact there's this overwhelming public sentiment for public places to go smoke-free, why not let individual businesses make the decision for themselves? If a business doesn't go smoke-free, and a lot of people don't like it, they're free to not do business with that entity, and thus encourage it to go smoke-free, too. On the other hand, if a business doesn't go smoke-free, and enough people are OK with it, then that business will continue to make money and keep going. And yet those desiring smoke-free environments can avoid it.

That's the way to handle this--a way consistent with freedom and liberty. It's too bad no one wants to consider those principles anymore...

UPDATE: and the numbers of people wishing to consider those principles grow smaller and smaller. Another example today: the NY Times' Nick Kristof praises Governor Paterson's proposed tax on soda pop. Why? He says Americans are too obese and so such taxes are the best way to "change social behavior."

He tries to suggest that this is about convincing Americans to change their behavior.
Of course, that's not true. By using taxation, he wishes to FORCE Americans to change their behavior. He's right--soda companies will fight this tax and others like it. Know what? If you care about freedom, you should support their fight.

Some encouraging news

The spirit of voluntary giving at Christmastime remains alive in some areas:

" When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And giving, apparently. That's been the situation in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana as far as this Christmas season's kettle donations for The Salvation Army. Officials with various Salvation Army organizations in the area reported Wednesday donations have been steady and at least on pace with last year's contributions, despite the economic downturn."

And as Adam Smith and others taught us down through the years, voluntarily choosing to give to help others in need is a truly moral act. It makes you feel good, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama and Lincoln

So there's been a lot of talk concerning Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln lately---
as the article above makes clear, Obama has publicly tried to link himself in various ways to Lincoln; some say Obama tried to follow Lincoln's lead in the way he drew up his cabinet; and others look at Obama coming up from poverty and entering the presidency facing a crisis and see a tie between he and Lincoln.

Many of the historians quoted in the article are skeptical of Obama trying to make himself another Lincoln. They're right. But there are many reasons why they're right to be skeptical that haven't been aired yet. Let's rattle off a quick list:

1] Lincoln was a Republican. Obama is a Democrat.
2] As mentioned in the article, Lincoln did not deliberately create a cabinet "team of rivals" as some kind of presidential/executive branch management tool. He didn't do it deliberately. He HAD to do it, he believed, in order to unify his party and the country.
3] Lincoln is the greatest president of all time because he entered the presidency forced to deal with the greatest CRISIS of all time--nearly half the country having seceded from the Union and the country facing Civil War. Obama faces difficulties, sure--and yet, the crisis he faces today is nothing like that facing Lincoln. Lincoln knew that the very future of the country was at stake. Such isn't the case for Obama.
4] Remember that, in the end, Lincoln proved himself to be a great president. He made mistakes; but he came through them and ultimately saw the country through war. Mr. Obama hasn't in any way proven himself yet.

Hands off Mr. Lincoln, Obama-ites. He's in a league of his own.

News flash

Poll finds that over 60% of Americans say they've been hurt by the recession.

Hmmm. Well, that IS why we call them recessions, after all.
Interesting that this is of course trumpeted on the front page of the Washington Post.
There was a poll yesterday indicating a far more interesting (and surprising) finding: that a majority of Americans--including many union members--oppose the proposed government bailout of the auto companies. But that got buried in section D of the Post. Interesting and, ahem, biased choice...

New York state: a coming tax laboratory

Gov. David Paterson of New York is taking extreme measures in his proposed new budget to deal with a budget shortfall:

"The proposal, which needs legislative approval, did not include broad-based income tax increases, but relied on smaller ones to raise $4.1 billion from cash-strapped New Yorkers. Movie tickets, taxi rides, soda, beer, wine, cigars and massages would be taxed under Paterson's proposal. It also extends sales taxes to cable and satellite TV services and removes the tax exemption for clothes costing less than $110."

The proposed budget includes 88 increases in fees, and a number of other tax increases besides.
Now, here's the interesting part: a number of progressive acquaintances of mine have said that they believe the ideological beliefs of Americans are changing; that Americans are no longer so anti-government or anti-tax, and that Barack Obama's election is one proof of this. Well--if this is really true, then New York is one good place to test the proposition. It's a fairly liberal, Democratic state. Surely New Yorkers will be able to accept these supposedly necessary tax increases? Surely they can be a bellweather of the new liberalism--right?

But what if they don't? Heh heh. Stay tuned...

Memo from the left dept

Never mind the removal of Saddam Hussein, the elections held in Iraq, the new constitution established, the stability being established in numerous areas, the countless examples of average Iraqis showing gratitude to the hard left, none of it matters:

"The harsh reality is that [the Iraq war] was not a noble undertaking done
for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered
on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it's seen as such by virtually
everyone all around the world -- including but by no means limited to the
Arab world."

If there's ever a leftist lynch mob, this guy will be at the head of it...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The terrorists are still out there

Apparently those who stuck old dynamite underneath a big Paris department store want French troops pulled out of Afghanistan.

Proving once again that what one could call "concessions"--Barack Obama to replace George Bush, Obama's talk about pulling American troops out of Iraq and of giving a speech in a Muslim nation, France's rather obvious anti-Bush stance...none of it impresses radical Islamic terrorists (as I am assuming these latest attackers are).

They want victory. Let's never forget that. Let's hope President-elect Obama doesn't, especially.

More evidence of the liberal academy

So a conservative student wants to get a degree from a Rhode Island school of social work.
A progressive professor doesn't think the student will fit in:

"Felkner said his problems with his professors began in his first semester, in the fall of 2004, when he objected in an e-mail to one of his professors that the school was showing and promoting Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" on campus. He said he objected because no opposing point of view was presented. He said Professor James Ryczek wrote to him on Oct. 15, 2004, saying he was proud of his bias and questioning Felkner's ability to "fit with the profession." "I think the biases and predilections I hold toward how I see the world and how it should be are why I am a social worker. In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases," he wrote."

I think many liberals "revel" in their biases. They just won't admit it.
Read the whole story; it sounds all too believable.

What to do with the shoe-thrower

The man who threw his shoes at President Bush could be facing jail time:

"Leading criminal lawyer Ali Ahmed Mansour said Iraqi law allows for up to two years in prison for anyone who publicly insults a foreign state, an international organization or a foreign country's head of state."

Here's the thing: I think what this man did was wrong--it was rude and insulting, and of course President Bush didn't deserve to be subjected to such behavior.

But I also don't think this foolish shoe-tosser should go to jail for this. I suspect what he did arose from his political opinions (objectionable as those may be). Let him be publicly condemned, but I don't want him going to jail for a political act that in the end didn't hurt anyone.

Update: I note that President Bush's view seems to be somewhat similar.

At the sports desk: Red Wings--slow starts dooms them to a loss

The Wings lose to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2.
Two worrisome trends for the Wings right now--slow starts by the entire team, and especially in goal. Key stat: Wings goalies have given up goals on the very first shot of the game 4 out of the last 8 games.

Changing times in these United States dept

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press announce plans to have home delivery of the paper only 3 times a week.

However, the paper will be available online in an expanded format.
This reflects both tough economic times, and the fact that print editions, especially of newspapers, are disappearing in favor of the online format.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Kennedy

So it certainly seems confirmed: Caroline Kennedy is interested in Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, should Mrs. Clinton be confirmed as secretary of state.

To me the most important question to ask is this: what exactly are Ms. Kennedy's qualifications for the position? I'm not worried about a continuation of the Kennedy dynasty or that this was Bobby Kennedy's old seat...

But what conservatives should press is: how is she qualified?
The Senate isn't a celebrities club.

The media question Republican tactics

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, who almost surely would privately admit he's a progressive/liberal and an Obama supporter, says Republican attempts to link Obama to disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich could backfire on them.

He suggests that, instead, because polls show the country to be rather pro-Obama right now, that the GOP should just seek to work with him.

Does it surprise you that those critical of Republicans and conservatives oppose our aggressive tactics? I think mainly what Republicans are doing is asking Obama to live up to his stated principles of being honest and forthcoming. They're holding him accountable. Nothing wrong with that. If there's truly nothing to this story, then Blagojevich will soon go away and so will the story. Meanwhile, we thank our progressive friends for being so concerned that Republican tactics might be too harsh, but relax. We'll be fine.

Many Arabs take to the street...

...why? To hail the Arab journalist who threw shoes at President Bush yesterday as a way to insult him during his visit to Baghdad:

"Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across many parts of the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular U.S. president."

To put this in perspective: let's think of some important events that have occurred having to do with the Arab, Muslim world recently. You thinking? Think of India, Mumbai, nearly 200 dead, and radical Muslims once again responsible.

Were our Arab Muslim friends taking to the streets protesting that, as once again fanatical killers drag their religion even deeper into the mud? No.

Instead, the only thing that can drag them out into the streets is an insult to an outgoing U.S. president who removed an evil dictator from their midst. Pathetic.

At the sports desk: Indy Colts--a win, but a sloppy win

They beat the Lions 31-21, but have two major turnovers leading the Lions points.
The game was actually tied with 13 minutes to go.
But then the Colts made plays and, as always, the Lions couldn't.

The Colts still need to get better. At the same time, one should note they played without 4 defensive starters.
I suppose Lions fans can just be glad their team was competitive.

Starting to feel the pressure

Governor Blagojevich loosens his grip on Obama's senate seat, specifically does not rule out calling a special election to fill the slot.

Republicans in Illinois are doing what they should do--pressuring the majority Democrats to move to impeach Blago.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some weekend gleanings

Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars is a great goalie--he helped the last-place Stars upset the Detroit Red Wings last night.

Keep an eye on Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He's been an effective critic of the auto bailout, and has been so on conservative grounds.

A liberal NY Times columnist is shocked to find out that "hooking up" is replacing dating:
"It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date."
One reason for this, says a researcher, is declining "values."
Imagine that.

Memo from the left: now some liberal bloggers are claiming that Republicans in congress are blocking the auto bailout bill because they want the country to go into depression (which they can then blame on Obama).

And by the way, I'm amazed this non-story has gotten so much coverage.
Yes, the Obamas wished to use Blair House.
Well, guess what---it was already booked. They were too late.
If Obama is this man of the people his backers claim he is, then I'm
sure he must be fine with this--he wouldn't want to displace other
guests, who got their reservations in before he did, apparently.
He and his family will still be able to move in there in plenty of
time for the inauguration, and in the meantime will no doubt have very
comfy living quarters elsewhere in the 2 weeks or so before Jan. 15th.
Why on earth is this a story?
Is there anyone out there who thinks there was wrongdoing here, or
that the Obamas were being stiffed or something??? Good grief.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Some Friday tidbits

It appears Paula Abdul may be leaving "American Idol."
Too bad--despite her goofiness, if she leaves the show will lose some chemistry.

As I predicted, the pressure on Rod Blagojevich to quit continues to build--now the Illinois AG seeks to have him declared "unfit."
Yet, as I also predicted, so far there's little sign that Blago will willingly go.

Jim Geraghty at NRO makes a good point--why isn't there more coverage of the fact that the American public seems HIGHLY dubious of this auto bailout legislation?
Many in the news media say Republicans are taking a "risk" by opposing it. But I doubt it.
Many opposed the financial bailout back in October, too.

Colin Powell not only stupidly attacked Sarah Palin recently--he also attacked Rush Limbaugh:
"Powell says: "Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh? Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?" Powell helpfully added that “There is nothing wrong with being conservative” (how gracious of him) and cautioned against just trying to appealing to African-Americans, Hispanic, and Asian voters based on “the principles and dogma.”
(Wow. Say, let's do a comparison: how many people has Rush Limbaugh attracted to conservatism and the Republican Party? Millions. Meaning--he's attracted a helluva lot more than has Colin Powell. And to just dismiss "principles" and lump them in with "dogma"--pathetic.)