December 24, 2011

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 10:01 pm

SantaAndSleighMerry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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This post is a BizzyBlog Christmas Eve tradition.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes–how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Wesley Pruden’s Christmas Classic: The amazing grace on Christmas morn

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 4:00 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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This post is a BizzyBlog Christmas Eve tradition. The video (“Amazing Grace and Taps – For Veterans”) is a new addition this year (HT to Dan Bloom).

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The malls and the Main Streets will soon fall silent. The ringing cash registers, the happy cries of children, the hearty greetings of a thousand fraudulent Santas will soon be ghostly echoes in shuttered shops and across silent streets.

But the Christ born in a manger 2,000 years ago yet lives. The story of Christmas continues to quicken the hearts of sinners and transform the lives of the wicked, and nothing illustrates the redeeming power of the authentic message of Christmas with greater clarity than the story of a wastrel English slaver named John Newton.

Newton was born 300 years ago into a seafaring family in England. His mother was a godly woman whose faith gave her life meaning, and he recalled as the sweetest remembrance of childhood the soft and tender voice of his mother at prayer. She died when John was 7.

His father soon married again, and John left school four years later to go to sea with him. He easily adopted the vulgar life of common seamen, though the memory of his mother’s faith remained. “I saw the necessity of religion as a means of escaping hell,” he would recall many years later, “but I loved sin.”

On shore leave, he was kidnaped by a press gang and taken aboard HMS Harwich. Life grew coarser. He ran away, was captured and taken back to the Harwich and put in chains, stripped before the mast, and flogged. “The Lord had by all appearances given me up to judicial hardness,” he recalled. “I was capable of anything. I had not the least fear of God, nor the least sensibility of conscience.”

The captain of the Harwich traded him to the skipper of a slaving ship, bound for West Africa to take aboard wretched cargo. “At this period of my life,” he later reflected, “I was big with mischief and, like one afflicted with a pestilence, was capable of spreading a taint wherever I went.” John’s new captain favored him, however, and invited him to his island plantation off the African coast, where he had taken as his wife a beautiful but cruel African princess. She grew jealous of John, and was pleased when it was time for them to sail. But John fell ill and was left in the care of the captain’s wife.

The ship was hardly over the horizon when she ordered him from her house and thrown into a pigsty. She gave him a board for a bed and a log for a pillow. He was left in delirium to die. Miraculously, he did not die. He was blinded, kept in chains in a cage like an animal, and fed swill from her table. Word spread through the district that a black woman was keeping a white slave, and many came to taunt him. They threw limes and stones at him, mocking his misery. He would have starved if other slaves, waiting for a ship to take them to the Americas, had not shared their meager scraps of food. Five years passed, and the captain returned. When John told him how he had been treated, he branded John a thief and a liar. When they sailed again, John was treated ever more harshly.

“The voyage quite broke my constitution,” he would recall, “and the effects would always remain with me as a needful memento of the service of wages and sin.”

Like Job, he became a magnet for adversity. He was shipwrecked in a storm, and despaired that God had mercy left for him after his life of hostile indifference to the Gospel. “During the time I was engaged in the slave trade, I never had the least scruple to its lawfulness.” Yet the wanton sinner, the arrogant blasphemer, the mocker of the faith of others, was finally driven to his knees: “My prayer was like the cry of ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear.”

Rescued, he made his way back to England, to reflect on the mercies God had shown him in his awful life. He fell under the influence of George Whitefield and John Wesley, and was wondrously born again into a new life in Jesus Christ. He spent the rest of his life preaching of God’s mercies.

Two days short of Christmas 1807, he died at the age of 82, and left a dazzling testimony to the amazing grace of the Christmas story. “I commit my soul to my gracious God and Savior, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer and an infidel, and delivered me from that state on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me.” Set to music, his testimony became the most beloved hymn of Christendom.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
and grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
and grace will lead me home.

Positivity: A Soldier’s Christmas, and a Call to Action

Filed under: National Security,Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 11:30 am

Note: This post is a BizzyBlog Christmas Eve morning tradition.

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Posted by kmunchausen at YouTube (also at his National Institute of Prevarication), narrated by Bill Osborne (Merry Christmas, Bill):

Full text:

The embers glowed softly and in their dim light,
I gazed ’round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
transforming the yard to a wintry delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment or so it would seem,
So I slumbered. Perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near.
But it opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know.
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood his faith weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some 20 years old.
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and he smiled,
Standing watch over me and wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear.
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve.”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with the warm fire’s light.
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right.”

“I’m out here by choice, I’m here every night,
It’s my duty to stand in the front of the line
That separates you from the darkest of times.”

“No one had to ask or beg or implore me.
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My gramps died at Pearl on then day in December.
Then sighed, “That’s a Christmas gra’m always remembers.”

“My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam.
And now it’s my turn. And so here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while.
But my wife send me pictures. He’s sure got her smile.”

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white and blue, the American flag.

“I can live through the cold and being alone,
Away from my family, my house, and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet.
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother,
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said. “Harbor no fright.
Your family is waiting, and I’ll be all right.”

“But isn’t there something I can do?
At the least give you money?” I asked.
“Or prepare you a feast.
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done.
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret.
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for your rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch no matter how long.”

“And when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough. And with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

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Since the founding of our country, brave soldiers have always left their homes and families to fight and to protect the freedom that we enjoy.

All too many have willingly given their very lives to ensure that their families and their posterity will be able to enjoy peace and prosperity.

Wherever our soldiers have fought, they have established freedom. No lands were conquered, no people subjugated. After every conflict, each soldier quietly returned home, leaving behind only freedom in place of the conflict which cost so many of their lives.

Wherever there is freedom, it has always won by the shedding of blood.

Can we at home do any less than fight for our freedom? Can we stand idly by as our Constitution is being trampled on by those who seek power over us?

We owe it to our Founding Fathers to stand up, take notice, and take action. We must ensure that our rights and freedom are preserved for future generations.

To arms, to arms! The war cry sounds again. Now is the time for each of us to do our part.

It is time for a new generation to rise, to recognize the gifts of freedom, and to fight for freedom now at home.

‘Super Dupers’ Ignore the ‘Tea Party Budget’ — And Reality

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:59 am

A dysfunctional political class is uninterested in real solutions.

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Note: This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Thursday. Update: Thanks to Stacy McCain for naming the column his “must-read post of the day” on December 23.

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The following graphic, taken from the home page of the PJ Institute’s National Economic Rescue Initiative (NERI), represents the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) best estimate of our national government’s annual tax collections, spending, and budget deficits in the coming 75 years if nothing is done to change its fiscal trajectory:

NERIscenarioHomePageNov11

Unfortunately because of scale, it’s a bit hard to tell, but this is really a picture of certain financial doom that is unsustainable, really even in the short-term. As I’ve written several times before, though everyone in Washington acts as if it can’t happen, I am quite a bit less than totally confident that the country can make it to Election Day or January 21, 2013 without hitting the financial wall.

Barack Obama, the House, and the Senate were sent to Washington to deal with this. Rather than do so directly, the President and majorities in each legislative chamber punted their responsibilities under the Constitution to a so-called Supercommittee of six Democrats and six Republicans, henceforth referred to as the Super Dupers.

The Super Dupers were tasked with finding the absurdly small sum of $1.2 trillion in federal budget “savings” over the next nine years (2013-2021). Democrats are said to have wanted $1 trillion in tax increases. Republicans, though willing to increase collections by several hundred billion by lowering rates, phasing out certain deductions, and selling assets, also wanted to see tangible action on spending. The Super Dupers ended up agreeing on absolutely nothing.

As of when this column was written, because there was no deal, “automatic cuts” spread equally between defense and other spending were supposedly on track to take effect beginning in calendar 2013.

President Obama exhibited no leadership during the deliberations, and from all appearances didn’t even try to push his party’s Dupers into anything resembling an achievable deal. Though disappointing, Obama’s virtual apathy is utterly unsurprising. On November 21, as the hopes of any kind of deal were dying, Bill Plante at CBS News, in a rare and stunning display of actual journalism, reported that “The administration couldn’t be happier that this is failing.” In their fevered minds, failure gives Obama a club to use on Republicans during next year’s presidential campaign. Once again, we have proof that the president and his administration, even as the country approaches a Grecian formula financial abyss, sees his reelection as far more important than America’s well-being.

Here are two important but little-known and underappreciated points about the Super Dupers’ failure which cannot be emphasized enough:

  • None of the alleged “savings” under discussion (really reductions in projected spending increases) would have kicked in until the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year almost ten months from now. According to an Associated Press report, the “automatic” cuts noted earlier (if anyone believes they’re really going to happen) won’t begin taking effect until January 2013. In other words, contrary to the expectations of most, everyone involved apparently agreed during August’s debt-ceiling debacle that fiscal 2012 would be off-limits. Now, apparently, so is the first quarter of fiscal 2013.
  • Even if they had met their definition of super success, the $1.2 trillion involved would have reduced projected 2013-2021 spending of $40 trillion (Page XI at link) by only 3%. Spending for fiscal 2011 was $3.6 trillion. According to the CBO, if spending runs on autopilot for the next ten years — who’s to say it won’t, given that the government has already gone without a budget since April 27, 2009? — fiscal 2021 spending will be $5.4 trillion. Given the tendency to push most savings to further-off years, a “successful” Duper deal might have trimmed that to $5.2 trillion. Big duping deal.

If the Super Dupers had “succeeded,” the graph seen at the beginning of this column would have budged almost imperceptibly, as seen here. Even that graphic is overly generous, as I had to assume that savings would begin in 2012. In a recent column, Mark Steyn described this as the fiscal equivalent of “Bailing Out The Titanic With A Thimble.”

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, because the go-along, get-along establishment shut them out and played the double-standard game (while the media either ignored or ridiculed them), there was a proposal available which would make meaningful and immediate progress towards solving our debt and deficit problems. Commissioned by Freedom Works, it was the result of “a months-long crowd-sourced effort to develop a budget proposal that balances the budget, reduces the debt and gets America’s fiscal house back in order.”

The Freedom Works “Tea Party Budget” promises to reduce projected 2012 spending by $562 billion, making it the only credible plan available with the common sense to deal with bloated spending this year. Over 10 years, the plan cuts projected spending by $9.7 trillion.

After some study and reallocation between the Tea Party Budget’s spending categories and those found in the PJ Institute’s NERI model, I estimated that the current annual value of the ten-year savings achieved in the Tea Party budget would be $800 billion, broken down and slightly rounded as follows: Military – $170 billion, Medicare – $110 billion, Medicaid – $50 billion, Social Security – $20 billion, and Other – $450 billion. Plugging those reductions into the NERI model shows that the Tea Party Budget, while still not enough, actually makes decent progress:

NERIfreeWorksNov11

The Tea Party Budget also projects $5.5 trillion in reduced tax collections compared to CBO projections, arising primarily from maintaining the current federal income tax rate structure (in current flawed parlance, this is usually referred to as making the “Bush tax cuts,” which really represent the tax system under which we’ve been living for the past eight years, permanent). On this score, the Tea Party budget is far too pessimistic. Past experience would indicate that most if not all of the projected reductions in collections wouldn’t really occur. Under the current rate structure, assuming Social Security tax rates go back to their original level, a genuinely recovering and ultimately prospering economy would generate far more in tax collections than the Tea Party Budget projects. The Bush economy generated over $2.6 trillion in gross collections in fiscal 2008 — over $400 billion more than during fiscal 2010. A robust post-Obama recovery could and should get us to $3 trillion in annual collection much more quickly than Freedom Works suggests. Then the biggest “problem” would be making sure that Washington’s revenue gusher doesn’t cause the spending spigots to come back on.

Unfortunately, we’re mired in the muck of a political class with almost no will to address the certain train wreck which awaits if nothing is done. A German reporter’s assessment of Washington’s legislative inertia at a White House press conference a few days before Thanksgiving pretty much said it all: “[I]t’s not really a time where the U.S. is in a position to give advice to Europe.” No kidding. Come to think of it, most in the Beltway establishment have been dupers — most definitely not super — for way too many years.

But I guess we can create all kinds of money out of thin air to bail them out. When will the madness end?

Saturday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (122411)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:15 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game. I may update with a couple of items below later today, but other than that, this will be today’s only not-prescheduled post.

The post on Christmas shopping and layoff searches will come after Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!

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Drudge picked up the AP item on housing I pointed to yesterday containing the sentence “2011 will likely end up as the worst year for sales in history.” That sentence needs a word change: from “likely” to “definitely,” or at least “virtually certain.” With sales of 281,000 through November, December will have to come it at 43,000, basically doubling November as well as December a year ago. No way.

Donald Trump, who just changed his registration from GOP to indie, may become 2012′s Ross Perot. The last time that happened, a second-term president was impeached. Just sayin’.

Victor Davis Hanson notes the relative non-existence of Obama Derangement Syndrome — at least in terms of lacking the defining characteristics of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Update: If you’re going to run a “Game On, Santa!” TV ad campaign and risk offending potential customers by taking shots at an icon, you’d better be able to back it up, and not be forced to admit that you can’t “deliver by Christmas the merchandise they (customers) ordered online on Thanksgiving weekend,” as BestBuy has had to do. Additionally, “the company also flubbed a pre-Black Friday special for its (BestBuy) Reward Zone Premier Silver loyalty program participants, angering some of its best customers, who were unable to check out and complete their Web purchases.” A little humility would be in order next time out. This time (as usual), Santa wins.