Monday, December 21, 2015

"Christmas and Christianity"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day

“Christmas and Christianity”

December 21, 2015

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

                                                                                                         How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957

                                                                                                         Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel (1904-1991)

Christmas is special – perhaps the most special of all holidays, at least for the world’s children, its Christians and, I would guess, millions more. In its pervasiveness, it has become ecumenical. It is as much a feeling as a season. Could the spontaneous truce that for a few moments interrupted fighting in the trenches on the Western Front in December 1914 have occurred at any time other than Christmas Eve? It is a magical time for children. The power to believe is granted to those whose faith runs deep, but is inherent in all children. To them, Santa Claus is not an abstraction; he is real. Charles Dickens, in A Christmas Carol, taught us, through the characters of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the sin of greed and the grace of benevolence. When Theodore Roosevelt, in the interest of conservation, announced that the White House would go without a Christmas tree in 1902, he was denied by his two youngest sons, Archibald and Quentin. 

Growing up in rural New Hampshire, Christmases were special. On its Eve my father would hitch ‘Judy’ to a sledge. We children would climb aboard. With dogs eagerly following, we headed through the gate leading to the ‘next field’ and the rutted road that lay beyond, into the woods. A previously located spruce or a fir would be cut down, placed aboard the sledge and returned to the house. That evening my parents would decorate it, the best part being when real candles, scattered among the branches, were lit – a bucket of water placed prudently nearby. We would then hang-up our stockings. ‘Mitzi,’ our Shetland, would come into the living room and hang-up her “shoe”. Later, we would gather around our mother, as she read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Though we knew the story by heart, we all laughed as we heard for the umpteenth time how Santa’s belly, when he laughed, “shook like a bowlful of jelly.”

Neither of my parents were religious in the traditional sense. My mother had been raised in New Haven as a Congregationalist; my father as a Unitarian in Wellesley, MA. While there was a time, in the 1950s, when my father attended church regularly, that was due to his regard for the minister, David B. Parke. Caroline and I raised our children in the Episcopal faith, the church in which my wife was baptized. When our children were young, we attended services regularly. In fact, at one point I was a member of the vestry and our children were acolytes. But as we have grown older we have become irregular communicants. Nevertheless, I take comfort in a familiarity of the liturgy and hymns. I enjoy the wisdom of our rector, revealed in his sermons. And I love the pageantry of Christmas services.

The magic of Christmas still exists for my youngest grandchildren. And even for the older ones, who are hesitant to deny the existence of Santa Claus…just in case. But there are politically-correct Scrooges and Grinches who minify the significance of Christmas by claiming that words like ‘stars’ and ‘angels,’ and displays like crèches and Christmas trees, and hymns like “Away in a Manger” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” may make non-Christians uncomfortable; so should be avoided. The implication being that Christianity is exclusive, in a world clamoring for inclusivity – a place where multiculturalism is preferred to pluralism. That attitude is wrong and in fact goes against the essence of religious freedom. We are a nation that welcomes people of all faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and scores of others, including atheists or agnostics. Our Constitution (and common decency) require we respect one another’s religions and places of worship, as long as they are peaceful.   

While the commercialization of Christmas is a reality, it remains a religious holiday. There are about 2.3 billion Christians in the world – the most ubiquitous religion on the planet. According to PEW Research, 71% of Americans identify as Christian. There was a time, however, when intolerance was essentially synonymous with Christianity. Consider: The Crusades – the first began in 1095 and the last in 1248; A time when Popes led armies – Pope Julius II (1443-1513), one of the last to lead an army, named himself after Julius Caesar; The Spanish Inquisition, which began in 1478 and was finally disbanded in 1834. Think of Pilgrims like William Bradford who escaped religious persecution in the early 17th Century by coming to America; Keep in mind, Puritans in New England who, later in the same century, hung Sarah Good and eighteen other women for witchcraft and ostracized the fictional Hester Prynne for adultery. But that era passed. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Christian missionaries may have been exuberant in spreading the Gospel, but they did so peacefully. They were more likely to be killed than to kill.

One of the most profound changes in the global religious landscape has been the decline of Christianity in the region of its birth – the Middle East. By 2010, the percent of the population that was Christian had declined by two-thirds from a hundred years earlier. In the past five years, in Iraq and Syria, the number of Christians has declined by 60% to 75%. “Religious cleansing,” a euphemism for genocide, is being practiced on Christians in ISIS-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq. In our comfortable homes, keeping warm before blazing yule logs, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is hard to imagine (but we should not forget) that Christians are being killed – some crucified – simply for being Christian.

The word ‘Christmas’ stems from the old English Cristes Moesse. It means a celebration of the Eucharist in honor of the Messiah, or Christ – Jesus the Christ. Today we celebrate the holiday as the time of His birth, in a stable in Bethlehem. That city now has a population of 50,000 (50 times larger than 2000 years ago). Bethlehem is located five miles south of Jerusalem in Palestinian-controlled territories, land turned over to the Palestinian Authority in 1995 as part of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Roughly 53% of the population is Muslim, with the bulk of the rest being Christian.

In most families, Christmas is a cherished tradition. It provides children a sense of place – something to look forward to each year. For adults, it brings back memories of childhood, of the way holidays were once celebrated. But there is nothing wrong with developing new customs or amending old ones. My children were raised differently than was I. It is likely that their children, as they marry and have children, will develop their own habits. Change can be good and is, in fact, necessary. In his essay “The Custom House,” Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, in the same worn-out soil.” His words speak to the pluralism of America’s society – E Pluribus Unum. It reminds us that immigrants who come to America should adapt to our values and culture. Over time, their influences will affect our culture. But it is they who must adapt. Segregated communities, whether by religion or race, divide; they do not unite.

During this season it is worth reminding ourselves that the word holiday has religious antecedents. The word is derived from the Old English, haligdaeg, meaning ‘holy day.’ In that spirit, I wish you joy, peace, goodwill and good health. Caroline and I will spend Christmas with our family – our three children, their spouses and our ten grandchildren. Whatever your religion or whatever code you live by, may it bring peace and good cheer to you and to all you encounter. The Grinch was right. Christmas does not come from the store. It comes from the heart.

                                                   Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


Monday, December 14, 2015

"Evil, Islamic Terorism, Guns & the Left"

Sydney M. Williams

                                                                  Thought of the Day

                                             “Evil, Islamic Terrorism, Guns & the Left”

December 14, 2015

The juxtaposition of two headlines on the front page of a recent New York Times suggested ideology supersedes facts. The first: “Arms Stockpile is Found in Home of Two Suspects.” The second: “A Couple Who Lived Quietly, Motives Unknown.” Both headlines, it need hardly be said, dealt with the recent Islamist terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. It has been a failure to connect the dots that characterizes not only the liberal press, but more importantly the Administration. Most egregious was the failure of both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to detect the couple who had been radicalized since at least 2013 – before they met – and who left overt traces of their jihad-extremist sympathies on social media.

While Donald Trump’s remarks about temporarily banning Muslims immigrants from entering the country were reprehensible, they were understandable given the willfulness of the Administration as to the enemy we face. A week ago, Mr. Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office. While he mentioned terrorism, he did not use the modifier, Islamist. Mr. Trump’s reaction is a negation of Mr. Obama’s thesis – that his policies are working. When the pendulum swings to the left, it is propelled back an equal distance to the right. It has been the failure of the Obama Administration’s policies regarding immigration and Islamic terrorism that has given rise to the demagoguery of Mr. Trump.

We are in a war against Islamist extremism. It has manifested itself in dozens of incidents over more than three decades, most notably in the U.S. on 9/11, and most recently in San Bernardino. But the war began earlier. To mention just a few incidents: In 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed, killing 63. The explosion on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 killed 270. The bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 killed 6 and wounded 1000. The 2000 bombing of the USS Cole killed 6 and wounded 39. The Fort Hood (2009) and Boston Marathon (2013) massacres happened on Mr. Obama’s watch. In all cases, the perpetrators were Islamist militants. We (by which I mean all civilized people, including moderate Muslims) are not only in a war against ISIS and al Qaeda. we are at war with dozens of Islamist terrorist organizations whose goal is to kill infidels – those whose religious views do not conform to the terrorist’s interpretation of the Quran. It is not Mr. Trump who is xenophobic; it is Islamists who hate those of other faiths, especially Israel and the Jewish people. That is where bigotry truly lies.

And this is not an “overseas contingency operation” or a “conflict.” It is war. Wars are brutal and should not be entered into lightly. This war should require an Act of Congress. It should require a ‘no-fly’ zone and increased bombings, but more importantly “boots on the ground.” It will demand a far greater use of intelligence. The object is to win. Admiral Jacky Fisher, the man credited with reforming and modernizing the British navy prior to World War I, once said: “The essence of war is violence, and moderation in war is imbecility.” Political correctness, sensitivity training and trigger warnings have no place in this war. It is the ideology of our enemy we must combat. To defeat them, we must first acknowledge who they are and then take the fight to them, otherwise we risk the gradual but certain loss of our values and freedoms.

Too often moderate Muslims have failed to exorcise the evil of jihadism and have not condemned the radicalism inherent in shariah law. When Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR (Council on Islamic-American Relations) said Donald Trump sounds “more like the leader of a lynch mob than a leader of a nation,” his words would have carried more weight if he had been equally hyperbolic in condemning the atrocities of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. While there are exceptions, the silence regarding jihadism from most moderate Muslims has been deafening.

The Left’s claim that terrorism is a consequence of lax gun laws is a non sequitur. Paris has been hit twice this year, yet France has stricter gun laws than the U.S. Israel gets attacked regularly. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S., yet Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik had no trouble getting weapons. One of the sillier responses to the attack in San Bernardino was from Dan Malloy, Governor of Connecticut: “We must be the most violent society at this point, at least with respect to our own citizenry.” Perhaps he would prefer life in Africa, the Middle East, North Korea, China, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia or Honduras?

As readers of my essays know, I am not a fan of guns. The last time I fired a weapon was fifty-three years ago, in Army basic training. I would be happy if no guns existed. But they do. They are not going away. There are 300 million guns in the U.S. and 100 million gun owners. Bad guys, including terrorists, know how to get them. Will they voluntarily register or turn in their weapons? Of course not. Chicago, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, has among the most murders by shooting. The most successful means of confiscating weapons in New York City was ‘stop and frisk.’ Liberals killed the program because they claimed it targeted African-Americans. Keep in mind, two terrorists were stopped in May of this year when an off-duty policeman shot and killed them in Garland, Texas. They were wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles. Had the armed off-duty cop not been there who knows how many people would have been killed. I favor gun registration, checking names against lists provided by the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies. I see no reason for civilians to own assault weapons. Mental health histories should be shared, as today’s anniversary of the Newtown school shooting reminds us. But I have no illusions that such laws will prevent criminals and terrorists from obtaining weapons. Metadata, profiling and stop and frisk are the best means we have to prevent terrorists and criminals, yet they are an anathema to the Left.

The day after the killings in San Bernardino, the New York Times did something it rarely does. It ran a front page editorial calling for stricter gun control. They did not condemn Islamist terrorists for the massacre in San Bernardino. There was no mention of Jihadism. They did not write of the bigotry endemic to shariah law. They did not mention the Muslim targeting and killing of Christians and Jews in the Middle East. They did not mention that of the top twenty cities in terms of crime in the U.S., sixteen are run by Democrats. Apart from the NRA, the Koch brothers and certain Republicans, the Left has difficulty recognizing the existence of evil. In March 1981, when President Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire,’ he was chastised for harsh language. The fact is, there are evil people, and they should be called out.

It is evil we face and it is a war we are in. Islamist jihadism bears a hatred similar to Nazis in Germany, Japanese under Hirohito, and Communists in Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea. They want to wipe Israel off the map. They practice genocide against Christians. These people have no interest in assimilation, cooperation or collegiality. If we fail to recognize this enemy, if we won’t stand up to and defeat them, we will be transformed into Eloi, those fragile, passive creatures that emerged from the imaginative mind of H.G. Welles.


Monday, December 7, 2015

"Climate and the Perfunctory Left"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day

“Climate and the Perfunctory Left”

December 7, 2015

The caption under the lead photo in last Monday’s New York Times spoke volumes: “Worldwide rallies on Sunday, demanding a halt to climate change…” As if any person or group of people can halt the climate from changing! Were it so simple!

Despite words that will be uttered and proclamations that will be issued by those attending the UN Climate talks in Paris, they will have little lasting effect. There are myriad reasons: This is the 22nd conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, yet little, if anything, has been accomplished. Thousands of UN employees and tens of thousands of others in government have a vested interest in the perpetuation of these conferences, which incur huge costs. There are, for example, 40,000 people from 190 countries attending this conference. (President Obama had 500 in his retinue.) Bjorn Lomborg (author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”) recently noted in the Financial Times, that if one ran all the pledges through the UN climate model, one would find that by 2100 temperatures would be cut by just 0.05 degrees centigrade. On a cost/benefit analysis, does this make sense? China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, does not have to comply with standards until 2030. Developing nations see an opportunity for an enormous wealth transfer – in their favor. Despite allegations by those on the Left, man’s exact contribution to climate change is unknown. We do not even know if he is the principal cause. This would not be a treaty in the usual sense. Mr. Obama may unilaterally sign an agreement, but it could be nullified by his successor. He will not seek the advice and consent of the Senate. Apart from the $20 billion R&D fund announced by Bill Gates, the talks are heavy on talk and demands and light on action and innovation.

Yet, it has been innovation, a consequence of entrepreneurship and free-market capitalism, that has reduced poverty, cleansed water, increased food supplies, improved septic systems, enhanced trade and made the world a better, cleaner place. Over the past century and a half, fossil fuels have been the main ingredient allowing that to happen. And it will be innovation – not mandates – that will ultimately wean us from fossil fuels. The most needed invention today are batteries of small size that can store large amounts of energy for extended periods. We could then harness the energy from tides, currents and hurricanes. We should look forward, not backward. We should promote, not inhibit, advancement.

Keep in mind, the biggest driver in reductions to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions has not been solar or wind (or Kyoto or Copenhagen); it has been horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing which have opened up vast fields of natural gas. It was private, not public, investment. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted per dollar of GDP in the United States is one third lower than it was in 1990.

If those who see man as the principal (if not the sole) cause of climate change were less self-righteous, an intelligent dialogue could be had. But they have become religious zealots on a single-focused mission. The New York Times is a willing co-conspirator. They tell of our coming doom…if we fail to drive a Prius, install solar panels, or populate our fields, bays and sounds with windmills. We are made to feel guilty, when in fact we should take pride in the advances cheap and abundant energy have brought to our lives. A couple of weeks ago the Times ran an article headlined: “600,000 Deaths Laid to Weather.” They were quoting from data prepared by the United Nations, which claims an increase in the frequency and impact of storms, an allegation itself without basis. It was only in the body of the article that the reader realized they were writing of deaths over two decades, or 30,000 a year. They failed to put those deaths in perspective: that each year more than fifty million people die. Last Wednesday, the lead article on the front page of the Times was of the Pacific-based Republic of the Marshall Islands, an equator-based nation of 72,000 people: “Rising Seas Are Claiming a Vulnerable Nation.” The capital city of Majuro is an atoll consisting of 64 small islands. The average elevation is ten feet above sea level. Of course they are at risk from rising seas and storms. The surge from Hurricane Sandy took sea levels fourteen feet above normal, according to the National Weather Service. Wikipedia lists sixteen significant islands and continents that have disappeared over the millennia. Would my purchase of a Tesla help?

When the Left focuses exclusively on man-caused reasons for climate change, they leave us vulnerable to changes from natural forces. They leave unaddressed the possibility of other, existential factors that could be far more dangerous. While they discuss the concept of “geo-engineering,” they ignore the fact that species adapt to changing conditions. Additionally, in their determination to shut down fossil-fueled power generation, they penalize developing countries, while raising the costs for Americans.

The Left employs a simple, syllogistic argument: Greenhouse gasses effect climate; since the Industrial Revolution, man has been emitting greenhouse gasses; therefore, industrialized man is the cause of climate change. But how does that argument explain changes in climate that preceded the industrial age? Scientists recognize the existence of ice ages and preternatural warm periods. We know that tectonic shifts in the earth’s crust and the eruption of volcanoes have affected the earth and its climate. Their arguments ignore theories such as the Milankovitch cycle that holds that inconstancy in temperatures are in part due to the dynamic nature of the planet’s elliptical orbit, the tilt of the axis and its changing direction.

A far better use of time and money for the UN would be to encourage the spread of democracy and free-market capitalism. Keep in mind, it was the industrial revolution that did more to bring the world out of poverty than any other single event. The English historian and economist, T.S. Ashton, wrote in 1948: “The industrial revolution meant the difference between grinding poverty that had characterized human history and the affluence of the modern industrial state.”  Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of The Conservative Heart, pointed out that the greatest unsung achievement of the last forty-five years has been the reduction in poverty (described as those living on less than a dollar a day), from 27% in 1970 to 5% today. Much of that reduction came in Asia, a consequence of freedom, entrepreneurship and free market capitalism. Compare Eastern Europe today to twenty-five years ago. With wealth comes the desire to live as environmentally clean as possible. Government plays a crucial role in setting guidelines, but it has been competitive businesses practices, such as hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling, that have allowed the U.S. to reduce emissions without having been a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, or the Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009.

I used the word perfunctory in the title of this essay, because it describes the careless and superficial (and supercilious) attitude of many of those who support the Left’s position in this critical debate. The caption quoted in the first paragraph is telling, in that it indicates ignorance. It suggests man alone is responsible for changes in the climate, and that if we just do what this elite group of bureaucrats tell us to do “the waters will recede and the planet will heal.” While Mr. Obama and the rest who have led this charge surely know better, the ignorance of their acolytes reflects the manner in which those like Mr. Obama have couched their arguments. It is chilling, for there is nothing riskier to a democracy than an ignorant citizenry.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Month That Was - November 2015

 Sydney M. Williams

The Month That Was

November 2015

                                                                                                                                     December 1, 2015

“My sorrow, when she’s here with me

Thinks these dark days of Autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walks the sodden pasture lane.”

                                                                                                                        Robert Frost (1874-1963)

                                                                                                                        “My November Guest”

                                                                                                                        A Boy’s Will, 1915

Paris may not have burned, but it came under attack again by ruthless, Godless Islamic radicals. One hundred and thirty – mostly young – people were murdered in six incidents on Friday, the 13th of November. This was only the latest in a series of killings by terrorists invoking Islam as reason and cause. Earlier they had downed a Russian airliner and a few days later 41 Shiite Muslims were killed by two suicide Islamic terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon. Religion is a great comfort for those in need of spiritual uplift. It does far more good than harm.  But religion, throughout the centuries, has also been a cause of wars, something we should not forget. The horror the world is now experiencing will not end until peace-loving Muslims assert leadership. And it will not end as long as the West fails to connect Islam with the terror and the desire for a caliphate that some of its members’ advocate.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacres, Western leaders traveled to Paris to march in solidarity. Millions of people wore signs, “I am Charlie.” In April, 2014, 200 school girls in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Like the “I am Charlie” signs, millions of people, including Michelle Obama, posted the hashtag, “save our girls.” That was the extent of the West’s involvement – feel-good symbols that made the wearer feel sanctimonious, but did nothing for the victims. This time there have been neither marches nor signs

Equally disturbing, though less deadly, have been the obsequious Uriah Heep’s that pass for college administrators and professors in many of our colleges and universities. Protests have risen supporting the concept of “safe places,” places where students can be assured of never hearing words that make them uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable. Yale president Peter Salovey sent an e-mail to his university’s community, which captured today’s campuses fawning, liberal orthodoxy. In the e-mail he apologized for the university, and said the he is committed “to a campus where hatred and discrimination are never tolerated.” In fact, he was yielding to a subtler, but equally insidious form of intolerance – toward those whose ideas do not conform with the liberal perspective that dominates his university. He wants a place where the prejudices of “victims” are never challenged – an institution that prefers the comfort of a student’s psyche to the confrontation of ideas. In doing so, he encourages fragility among his students. Whatever happened to the nursery rhyme my mother used to recite: “sticks and stones will break my bones…” Is Yale preparing its young women and men for the world outside its college gates?

Elsewhere overseas there was both good and bad news. Jihadi John, the Islamic British swordsman, died in a U.S. Drone strike in Syria. The leaders of China and Taiwan met in Singapore, the first such meeting since the Chinese Communists took over mainland China in 1949. As well, China ended its one-child policy, but too late to prevent what will become an aging and shrinking Chinese population. Argentina discarded what Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal calls Kirchnerismo in favor of the center-right, Mauricio Macri. Mr. Macri has promised to lift all capital controls and have his country join the democratic forces in the region. In Myanmar (formerly Burma), Aung San Suu Kyi led her party, National League for Democracy, (NLD) to a landslide win, defeating the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP). Apparently the constitution prevents Ms. Suu Kyi from becoming president, but the win will give her a greater say in whatever government is formed.

A century’s-old enmity between two former empires was aroused when a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24. While the Russians claimed the plane had been in Turkish airspace for only seventeen seconds, the Turks said they had warned the Russian fighter five times over ten minutes. Turkey’s parliamentary elections gave more control to President Erdogan who has become increasingly autocratic. Erdogan is a man who once said “there is no Islamic terror,” while claiming Zionism is a crime against humanity.  Despite falling energy prices, a weak Euro and further quantitative easing by the ECB, Europe’s economy slowed in the third quarter to 0.3%. (Growth was 0.5% in the first quarter and 0.4% in the second.) As the month ended, the mischief makers who pass themselves off as protectors of our climate met in Paris.

Domestically, apart from the servile response to the childish tantrums of our university students, most of the media’s attention was given to what passes as our democratic process for selecting the next President. Bobby Jindal dropped out during the month. Hillary Clinton appears to be cruising toward the Democrat nomination, despite the baggage she carries. On the 28th of the month Reuters reported that Trump’s poll numbers dropped 12%, but that he still leads. A recent PEW poll showed that only 19% of Americans trust government “always, or most of the time,” which helps explain the rise of non-politicians, like Trump, Carson and Fiorina. Republicans held two debates during the month, the first hosted by CNBC. In that debate, the biggest loser, according to Jeff Jacoby writing in the Boston Herald, was the media, particularly CNBC for their “snarky” questions. Democrats held their second, with no surprises.

The Affordable Care Act looks less affordable, with rates rising on average 7.5% on government exchanges. Healthy young Americans are choosing to pay a fine rather than signing up, depriving insurance companies of premiums to help support the sick and the elderly. After all, if the young and healthy need medical care they can sign up at the last minute without penalty. Speaking of Obama Care, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. In other news, Eric Schneiderman, the populist New York Attorney General and one-man hit-squad, claimed Exxon Mobil lied to investors and the public about the risks to climate change. The allegation appears to be a political stunt, as Exxon’s climate research has been done in public view for decades. They employ 16,000 scientists and engineers studying the effects of carbon fuels on the environment. The company, which recently pulled out of the Clinton Global Initiative, was, unsurprisingly, pilloried by Mrs. Clinton. In off-year elections, Republicans picked up a governorship in Kentucky, while Democrats added one in Louisiana. Adding to dyspeptic race relations, thirteen months ago a white Chicago policeman shot and killed a black teenager sixteen times. The cop was charged with first degree murder and demonstrators took to the streets. One would have thought the “Black Lives Matter” crowd would have been pleased with the indictment and angry at the delay in the release of the video. Was last fall’s reelection bid of Mayor Rahm Emanuel a factor in the delay?

The boards of Pfizer and Allergan agreed to merge in what would be a $160 billion corporate inversion. That raised the ire of those on the left who claim that companies should pay their “fair share” of taxes. The words “fair share” are used to incite the faithful. Never mind that the money saved in reduced taxes could be put to use hiring more people or to make investments. The fact that companies revert to inversions is testament of the need to reform the tax code: high nominal corporate rates, in a competitive global market place, drive businesses to protect their franchises. Equally silly and unproductive, Eric Schneiderman concluded that fantasy sports constitute illegal gambling. One would think that in a time of rampant corruption throughout state government that the New York Attorney General would find better ways of occupying his time and spending taxpayers’ money. Despite an anemic economy and record low labor-force-participation rates, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise the Fed Funds and Discount rates in December. If it does, it will be the first time since June 2006 that rates will have been raised. Since December 2008, the Fed Funds rate has been 0-0.25 basis points and the Discount rate at 0.75 basis points. On the day after Thanksgiving, a lone gunman invaded a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs. By the time he surrendered five hours later three people including a policeman were dead and four wounded. Given reports, the man was nuts, indicating the issue is the mental health of the shooter, not the gun carried.

Weighing 1,111 carats, the largest diamond in 100 years was discovered in Botswana. A study by Nobel prize winner Angus Deaton and his wife Anne Case showed a rise in mortality rates for white, middle-aged, American men. The FDA approved a genetically modified salmon – known as an AquAdvantage salmon! And my daughter-in-law had her fourth novel published, Along the Infinite Sea, a compelling historical novel set in 1935-38 Germany and 1966 Florida.

Death took Helmut Schmidt who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1982. He died at age 96. Henry Kissinger once described him as a man who saw politics as “pragmatic action for moral objectives.” Ahmed Chalabi, a former exiled Iraqi and longtime U.S. ally, died at age 71. His influence waned when “weapons of mass destruction” were not uncovered by U.S. forces. Fred Thompson, Republican Senator from Tennessee, former Presidential candidate and actor, died at age 73. On a personal level, I lost two good friends: Beth Curry and Bob Dall. Both died too early and will be missed.

It was a hundred years ago – November 25, 1915 – that Albert Einstein set down the equation for his general theory of relativity. In doing so, he transformed our understanding of space and time. At the time, he was at the Max Planck Institute for gravitational Physics in Berlin. Eighteen years later, following the naming of Adolph Hitler as Germany’s chancellor, he left for the United States. Interestingly (at least to me), he spent the summer of 1935 in Old Lyme. Seventy-seven years ago, Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) made it clear as to the Nazi’s intentions regarding Jews. On November 14, 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry in England’s West Midlands – a city then of about 200,000. When the raid was over, more than 500 citizens were dead, with perhaps a thousand wounded. Keeping on this German theme, it was seventy years ago, November 19, 1945 that the trials in Nuremburg began. When it was over, 12 of the 24 indicted were sentenced to death; three were acquitted.

Thousands of college and university students from around the country have had an epiphany. They have discovered – as though a revelation – that some of the benefactors of their institutions were once slave owners, or racists. The only reason such divinations could come as a surprise is because of a lack of knowledge of U.S. history. Would Harvard have been better served had Isaac Royall, a slave owner who died in 1781, not left funds to establish the college’s first professorship of Law? Would Yale have been better off without the gifts of John Calhoun? Would Princeton (and the U.S.) have been better served without Woodrow Wilson as teacher and president? Of the first dozen U.S. Presidents, only John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams never owned slaves. Should we abolish all monuments associated with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk and Taylor? Or should we admit that, while slavery was evil it did exist through much of the world at that time? Should we not, instead, focus our energies on helping to remove slavery where it exists today – ironically, in many Muslim nations?

Food for thought as we say goodbye to November. Thanksgiving is behind us. Christmas and Hanukkah are before us…and then a new year. Tempus Fugit. Will someone please ask it to slow down.