Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is just around the corner. In the spirit of the season, it is always a good thing to review the blessings in our lives…and perhaps to also vent a little about some of the not-so-good things.
It is a peculiar truth that the small things are often those that give us the greatest happiness (and also the utmost exasperation). So, as is my year-end tradition, here is my list for 2004.
Blessing Number #1: Australia never instituted prohibition
Back in the early part of the 20th Century, the United States government decided to engage in a misguided spasm of intrusive hectoring called "prohibition." Numerous wonderful things sprung from this policy, including organized crime, government corruption, overbearing federal law enforcement agencies, and the bankruptcy of numerous alcohol-related industries.
But far and away the most destructive and imbecilic consequence of prohibition was the destruction of America’s wineries…and I’m not talking about just the buildings. I’m referring to the actual destruction of the vines. In one of the most outrageous episodes of barbarism since the Visigoths sacked Rome, America’s vineyards were forced to uproot their ancient grape vines or let them be overrun with weeds. These vines often take decades to reach their peak production, and some could never really be replaced. This legalized vandalism set back America’s wine industry for a generation.
Australia, on the other hand, had the good sense to ignore this fad and continued to allow the production and sale of adult beverages. They have been nurturing their fields Down Under for almost 200 years. Some wineries have Shiraz vines that are well over a century old. As a result, that wonderful land is rapidly becoming one of the premier wine producers in the world.
So as I relax and have a few magnificent glasses of fine Australian Merlot this season, I will say a silent prayer for the wisdom of the Aussies and their principled resistance to government nanny-statism.
Outrage #1: The feds have rigged our laser printers:
While browsing the web, I came across this little beauty by Jason Tuohey:
According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.
Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company’s laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the “serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots” in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.
God forbid someone should be able to print a document in the Land of the Free without the government being able to trace it back to the exact printer on which it was produced. I’m wondering if they can’t figure out a way to do this with pencils and pens too. After all, the Feds can’t afford to have folks out there writing things without the G-men being able to finger the author. Don’t you know there’s a war on?
Blessing #2: Speaking of printers…at least the dollar hasn’t collapsed yet.
While the government has bullied printer manufacturers into using that little tracking device for reasons related to counterfeiting (or so they claim), one can’t help but wonder if the government is paying as close attention to its own printers. If they took a quick glance at the numbers, they would quickly see that the past several years’ worth of reckless monetary policies have sent a flood of dollars out over the known world.
As a result of this unrestrained currency expansion, the dollar has hit an all-time low against the euro, and has been plummeting relative to a variety of other currencies as well. The "easy money" policy of the fed has resulted in uncontrolled indebtedness of both public and private institutions. Americans are living way beyond our means, which is at the root of our horrific trade deficits.
Alan Greenspan, the prime architect of this policy, says that he is OK with the dollar’s value spiraling downward. Luckily, it has been orderly thus far. God help us if it becomes a tad "chaotic." I’m curious if the average American understands the ramifications of these events and the effects that they will have on his future wealth.
But that is for another day. As for now, we can enjoy the season and know that our dollar is still worth something more than confetti.
Outrage #2: The Clintons are back…again
Like a Biblical plague of boll weevils or a particularly virulent strain of head lice, every time I get to thinking that we’ve finally heard the last of these two characters, they pop up again in the most unexpected places.
Last month, the news was full of stories about the opening of the Clinton presidential library. Bill Clinton appeared on TV, spouting his usual rationalizations and legalistic prevarications about his various scandals The Peter Jennings interview was an especially cruel flashback for those of us who had finally been able to put the past to rest.
Not to be outdone, Hillary made a few trips into the limelight as well. As she is obviously repositioning herself for a presidential run in four years, she decided to test market her new, improved political persona. She spoke at an Arkansas Pentecostal church, claiming that she is a "conservative Christian," and then gave several interviews in which she stated her vigorous opposition to illegal immigration.
Will people swallow this malarkey?
I certainly hope not.
But either way, having to endure America’s most persistently annoying political couple surely rates as an outrage.
Blessing # 3: Fidel Castro is under the weather
Under normal circumstances, it is not appropriate to wish anyone ill health during the Christmas season, but I think that an exception can be made for murderous dictators. The old tyrant took a spill a few weeks ago and may not be bouncing back as well as the leftists might hope.
Given that he has spent the last several decades destroying the Cuban economy, tossing political prisoners into detention camps, and terrorizing his political opponents, I can’t help but harbor a little schadenfreude.
One hopes that his passing will result in the collapse of his awful system and usher in a society that is more respectful of individual liberties and free market principles. If and when the system does collapse, Cuba is poised to become the economic miracle of the century. The Cuban exiles in Florida have enormous talent and considerable capital, and they will undoubtedly stream back to their homeland to rebuild. That wonderful island has an exotic culture, beautiful women, a delightful cuisine, and gorgeous beaches…all within miles of Florida.
Savvy investors will make the killing of a generation if they hurry in at the onset and purchase a little real estate before the trickle becomes a flood. I can’t wait to travel to the interior mountains or sip rum and have a cigar while watching the senoritas stroll along the sea wall next to Havana harbor. Perhaps I’ll even have a bar fight or two at The Floridita.
As a Hemmingway wannabe, that will truly be a blessing.
Outrage #3: The name of the holiday is "Christmas," for crying out loud.
I went to the grocery store the other day and purchased some snacks, only to later notice that the package was labeled "holiday tree cookies."
What the heck is a "holiday tree"?
Is there some other festival in December, of which I am blithely unaware, that utilizes decorated evergreen trees?
Earlier, I had been driving past a local public school when I noticed the following sign at the school’s front door:
After rolling my eyes at the cheesy political correctness, I started to ponder the irony. I am forced to conclude that either someone at the school is unaware that "Feliz Navidad" means "Merry Christmas" in Spanish, or that this school believes that it is OK to wish someone a "Merry Christmas" on a public school sign — so long as it is done in some other language than English.
What the heck is going on here?
Did I miss a new Supreme Court ruling that labeled the use of the word "Christmas" as a hate crime? What’s next… confiscating toys?
Liberalism is morphing into the Burgermeister Meisterburger (…and they wonder why they can’t win an election).
How did this happen?
I am continually fascinated by political correctness and the massive power it has accumulated in our culture. I am even more amazed at the simpering acquiescence that the American public has demonstrated by going along with these outrages.
My childhood was filled with wonderful memories of Christmas. It was a magical time which was unblemished by the ugly realities of contemporary American social politics. What is it with the PC mavens that they have an almost psychotic need to hector and control the thought processes of the public? Has there ever been a society filled with a group of people who are so obsessed with molding every thought and tradition of its population?
I can tolerate their constant diatribes against capitalism. I can stomach their weird educational propaganda disguised as "curriculum reform." I can even learn to live with their constant trashing of American history…but they need to keep their hands off of Christmas. This fixation they have with turning the most wonderful time of the year into a bossy political football is where I draw the line.
And it certainly qualifies as an outrage.
Blessing #4: The Internet
Without doubt, the invention and popularization of the Internet will go down in history as one of the most profound events in world history, right up there with the printing press and electricity.
Before the web came along, media was the province of governments, powerful corporations, and the shadowy figures that controlled them. But while television made man great and small, the Internet made us all equal. Our culture is only beginning to comprehend the massive changes that his technology will create.
The net allows the citizenry to communicate ideas directly to each other without passing through the filter of government-regulated mass media. Almost weekly, an event occurs which reminds me of the breathtaking power of the web. Political campaigns are now organized and financed here. Issues that would go unexamined by the "court journalists" of the national press corps are exposed and debated. Opinions which are unacceptable to the powers-that-be are enunciated and popularized.
Without the web, I would just be some frustrated libertarian in Ohio screaming at my TV set. Now, I’m a frustrated libertarian in Ohio who has access to a forum with thousands of readers.
To some people, that may qualify as an outrage…but to me, it is most definitely a blessing.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.