Every Day Is Special
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
The Fed, the Y, and the Holidays
Thursday, Dec. 23 -- Federal Reserve Day
The Federal Reserve System was established on this day in 1913. "The Fed" serves as America's
central bank. By influencing the lending and investing activities of commercial banks and the cost and
availability of money and credit, its purpose is to keep America's currency strong and its economy
vigorous and secure.
For many years, the Fed is part of the reason why America has been able to weather many financial
storms and emerge with the dollar as the world's absolutely dominant currency (regardless of
fluctuations in its value relative to other currencies).
However, this past year the Fed, in collusion with or under the influence of the Obama administration
(something that is never supposed to happen), has tried to deal with our depressed economy by
injecting it with a dose of fantasy money -- half a trillion dollars invented out of thin air.
Supposedly this is a "stimulus," but it really amounts to a debasement of our currency. Just as new
stock issues dilute the value of existing stock, and putting a few gallons of water into a stew makes each
serving more watery and less nutritious, so the printing of fantasy money dilutes the value of existing
Everyone who has bought U.S. dollars was, in effect, robbed of a certain portion of that investment.
The reason this is bad is that except for agriculture and the arts, we are no longer much of a producing
economy -- we're a "service economy," which means that we're actually living off the money that
savers in other nations have invested in our currency.
If they refuse to fund our debt by investing in dollars, our credit will dry up and the crash of 2008 will
look like a bout of acne compared to the cancer that will attack our economy. Inflating our currency is
the dumbest, most dangerous move that the Fed could possibly take at a time when world financial
markets are still reeling from the shock of 2008.
Though it might paste a momentary bandaid on our economic wounds (though I doubt it will even do
that), in the long run it will eat us alive. Better to produce our way out of our economic woes than to
try to cheat our way out of them.
Our cohabitators in the global economy are not deceived. They know now that they're married to an
unfaithful master of the global economic house, and they are already looking for another place to put
their trust. When they find it, we are toast, unless we reverse course by renouncing this action and
pledging to honor everyone's investment in the dollar by keeping it real.
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the
Mormons), was born on this day in 1805, in the town of Sharon, Vermont. His followers believe he
translated the Book of Mormon from ancient records by divine aid, and received many other doctrines
and instructions by revelation.
While all his teachings revolved around the divine redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, they also entirely
removed all of the neo-Platonic philosophy that replaced original Christian beliefs in the second century
a.d. (Most historians of religion recognize both the neo-Platonic influence on Christianity and the
Mormon rejection of it; this is the basis of the often-heard claim that Mormons are not Christians. In
fact, they -- we, for I am a Mormon -- are merely non-neo-Platonists.)
For this and other obnoxious beliefs and practices, in 1844 he was assassinated by an armed mob,
which consisted partly of the Illinois militiamen assigned to protect him. His murderers assumed that his
religious movement would die with him; instead, it has become one of the strongest and fastest-growing
religious movements in modern history.
Today in 1947, John Bardeen, Walter Barttain, and William Shockley of Bell Labratories unveiled the
transistor, which replaced the much larger, more fragile, and hotter-running vacuum tube. They shared
the 1956 Nobel prize in recognition of the way the transistor made the miniaturization of electronics
Because of transistors, home and office computers today have so much memory that there aren't
buildings enough in all the world to hold the equivalent in vacuum tubes.
Friday, Dec. 24 -- Christmas Eve
Twenty years ago, on Christmas Eve in 1990, the bells of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow rang for the
first time since the death of Lenin in 1924. Since that day of the restoration of religious freedom in
Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Church has conspired with the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin in a
corrupt bargain in which the Church doesn't criticize or resist the government, and the Russian
government cooperates in suppressing non-Russian Orthodox churches.
It's so easy to forget that when you allow government to oppress other religions, it's only a matter of
time until they either oppress or control your own. Whether it's Putin or a later successor to his
dictatorial power, we will see the dictator of Russia controlling the selection of patriarchs and priests in
a state religion that has becoming an instrument of secular power.
The price of state support for a church has always been and will always be state control of that church,
and amen to the legitimacy of such a religion as an expression of the faith of the people.
Saturday, Dec. 25 -- Christmas
That's right. I said it. "Christmas," not "the holidays."
But let's keep focused here. The problem is not with people who say "Happy holidays." There are, in
fact, several holidays in rapid succession: Chanukah, Kwaanza, Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany.
If you want, you can add in Sinterklaas Day, Boxing Day, and Islamic Ashura, and maybe even Pearl
Harbor Day, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Islamic New Year, and the Winter Solstice.
Wish me happy holidays, and I'll take it as it's intended -- a generous, all-encompassing wish.
It's only a problem when corporate or school policy declares that one may speak only of "the holidays"
and not of "Christmas," lest some non-Christian be offended.
December 25th is Christmas whether you are Christian or not. And there is simply no reason at all why
Christians -- or Americans who celebrate the festival whether they believe in Christ or not -- should
tiptoe around about what holiday they're celebrating.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend was standing in a checkout line at Target. A woman wearing a
Muslim-style headscarf finished with her purchase at the front of the line -- then stalked to the female
employee checking people out two counters over, and tore into her with a stream of verbal abuse.
"I've had all of this I'm going to take! I put up with my husband, but I don't have to take it from you!"
The rage was shocking to the other people in line. No one said anything as she stormed out of the
No one could imagine what had set this woman off. Her reference to her own husband was
incomprehensible -- was she so narcissistic she thought that everyone knew her and her family? She
had had no earlier interaction with the checker she attacked.
And then it dawned on them all that this particular checker had been singing little snatches of Christmas
carols to people as she checked them out.
The best anyone could figure was that this presumably Muslim woman had taken umbrage at a store
employee daring to express any kind of personal enjoyment of a Christian holiday by "afflicting" people
with the obnoxious sound of Christmas carols as they stood in a checkout line.
One could simply take this is another manifestation of the double standard of some outspoken Muslims
-- they demand that everyone treat their beliefs and practices with absolute respect, while showing no
respect to anyone else's customs or beliefs in return.
America isn't a "Christian nation" -- our Constitution goes to some pains to forbid the establishment of
any religion. But it also forbids government to interfere with the free exercise of religion. And no one
can argue that American is not a Christmas nation.
We took the British and Dutch customs surrounding Christmas and made them into a holiday so
important that our entire retail year revolves around the gift-giving that celebrates it.
You don't have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas. But if you're living in America at
Christmastime, have respect for a holiday celebrated by several hundred million Americans, at least!
Enjoy the songs and the symbols, even if the religious ones are not from your own religion. Be tolerant,
even indulgent: "Oh, those Americans and their Christmas!"
But don't you dare take any kind of personal or generic offense at any individual or group that
celebrates any part of this vast, all-encompassing national holiday. We are a Christmas country, and
you can keep your Bah! Humbug! to yourself, thank you very much.
Few things are more irritating than having your birthday fall on Christmas. Careful friends and family
go to great pains to keep that birthday from getting swallowed up in Christmas.
For instance, never wrap a birthday gift in Christmas paper unless you're actually giving it to someone
named Jesus or Santa.
Many families celebrate a Christmas child's half-birthday in June, so that their day of festivity is
completely separate from all the Christmas rituals, with a smaller remembrance on the day itself.
And this often applies to children with birthdays in the days just before or after Christmas.
One Christmas birthday is that of Clara Barton, born in 1821 (when Christmas was not quite such a
national obsession). This American nurse and philanthropist was founder of the American Red Cross.
Actor Humphrey Bogart was also born on Christmas day, in 1899. Among his best-remembered
films are The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Sabrina, and Key Largo.
George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River on Christmas morning in 1776. After
a string of defeats and retreats, American morale was at a low ebb when Washington led 2400 soldiers
in a surprise attack on an encampment of Hessian mercenary troops at Trenton, New Jersey.
The Hessians were used because of the reluctance of some British troops to fire on Americans, whom
they saw as fellow Englishmen. Since George III was of the house of Hanover, a German principality,
he trusted in the loyalty of the Hessian troops.
But by then they had too much contempt for the "Continental Army" of George Washington to worry
about keeping watch on such a bitterly cold and snowy Christmas Eve and morning. (Remember that
1776 was still in the midst of the "Little Ice Age" -- before a natural global warming cycle commenced
in 1850, winters were much more bitter.)
Washington took them by complete strategic and tactical surprise; his victory made the continuation of
the war possible, as American rebel hopes were revived.
Sunday, Dec. 26 -- Thank You Note Day
It's still nice to send actual thank-you notes, written by hand on paper and sent through the U.S. mail.
For wedding gifts, there is simply no substitute -- the recent custom of including thank-you notes with
the invitation or handing out generic "thank you for your gift" notes to anyone who brings a wedding gift
to the actual reception is so barbaric that people who employ it must send individual apology notes,
written by hand on paper, before they can be accepted again into polite society.
For birthday and Christmas gifts, however, the requirement of handwriting and paper is giving way to
emails. But if you're using email to thank someone, it must be a real, personal, chatty email, not a
spam-like generic mass mailing. "Dearest One, I, an exiled Ugandan prince, thank you for your
gift/cash/certificate" just doesn't cut it.
Christmas gifts, alas, are so taken for granted that many people postpone sending thank-you notes
indefinitely, or simply never think of sending them at all.
And I speak, not as a good example, but as a particularly horrible one. I always mean to send
thank-you notes. I really am grateful. But I postpone and postpone until now I simply accept the fact
that I am a vile barbarian unworthy of civilized company.
I owe so many unsent thank-you notes now that it will take me a few hundred years in hell before even
the devil will deign to give me a glass of water.
No one should ever give me any kind of Christmas gift. I don't deserve it. The fact that there are
millions of other non-thankers like me does not make me feel less shame. Being the equal of others
with loathsome manners does not make me any more deserving of forgiveness.
On Christmas day in 1898, French scientists Pierre and Marie Curie discovered the element radium,
for which they later won the Nobel Prize for Physics. Before the ill effects of radiation poisoning were
understood, radium cost the lives of many who painted the numbers on wristwatches, using glow-in-the-dark radium-laced paint. But, as if to make up for this, radium has since saved many lives in its use
as a cancer-killing and diagnostic agent.
Monday, Dec. 27 -- World Science Day
The Howdy Doody Show premiered on TV on this day in 1947. The first popular children's show,
brought to TV by Bob Smith, was one of the first regular NBC shows to be broadcast in color.
It was set in the circus town of "Doodyville." Children sat in the bleachers in the "Peanut Gallery."
Human characters included Buffalo Bob (Bob Smith), the silent clown Clarabell (Bob Keeshan,
Bobby Nicholson, and Lew Anderson), storekeeper Cornelius Cobb (Nicholson again), Chief
Thunderthud (Bill LeCornec), Princess Summerfall Winterspring (Judy Tyler and Linda Marsh),
Bison Bill (Ted Brown), and wrestler Ugly Sam (Dayton Allen).
Puppet costars included Howdy Doody, Phineas T. Bluster, Dilly Dally, Fub-a-Dub, Captain
Scuttlebutt, Double Doody and Heidi Doody. The filmed adventures of Gumby were also
featured. In the final episode, Clarabell broke his long silence to say, "Goodbye, kids." Then he shot
No, no, that was a terrible joke. I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me. I guess it's just that
as a child I found the show disturbing. The human "characters" were less believable than the puppets,
and the puppets were frightening. Clarabell was downright terrifying -- an unspeaking monster. I
watched in horrified fascination, wondering what torments awaited the poor children trapped in the
When Bob Keeshan graduated from the Clarabell suit to become Captain Kangaroo, I found him
almost as scary. I confused him with Frank Morgan, who played the wizard and the flim-flam man in
The Wizard of Oz. Whenever I saw him as a child, something in my mind warned me: Don't trust this
man. Don't take his candy. Don't get in his car.
December 27th was an amazingly fruitful day in the world of science.
It was the birthday in 1822 of Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and bacteriologist who proved the
"germ theory" of disease -- the idea, which now seems obvious, that many diseases are caused by
tiny animals that invade the human body. If you think about it, that was an astonishing claim that no one
in their right mind could possibly believe -- but until he made them believe it, curing most diseases
American child psychologist Lee Salk was born on this day in 1927. He became well known for
proving the calming effects of a mother's heartbeat on a newborn infant. His warning during the 1970s
that women should not abandon fill-time child rearing was met with wide opposition from believers in
the religion of Feminism, which persists in propounding dogmas (like the social-influence theory of the
origin of all behavioral sex differences) that are repeatedly disproven by scientific evidence as well as
Scientists today who come up against political correct dogmas quickly discover that the persecution of
science didn't end with the Catholic church's attempts to silence Copernican and Galilean astronomy.
Just ask Freeman Dyson, already known to be one of our most brilliant scientists, what happened to
him when he openly stated that there was no convincing evidence of a human cause for whatever global
warming might or might not be happening.
Johannes Kepler was born near Stuttgart, Germany, on this day in 1571. The father of modern
astronomy, Kepler observed the Great Comet of 1577 at the age of six, and then, at age nine, a lunar
eclipse. But because of childhood smallpox that left him with weak vision and crippled hands,
astronomical observation became very difficult for him.
Kepler became a defender and champion of the Copernican model of the solar system, in which the
Earth and all the planets rotate around the Sun, with only the Moon revolving around the Earth.
Throughout his life, he remained convinced that by discovering the true workings of the solar system, he
was uncovering God's design of the universe. He supported Galileo's work in an era when it was
unsafe to do so.
Though he was skeptical of astrology as a means of foretelling the future, it was part of an astronomer's
job in those days. Because of the precision of his astronomical work, he was trusted by kings and
politicians who sought his astrological advice. That may have been why he always had the support of
governments and was never personally persecuted for his then-unorthodox views.
His mother, however, was tried (which included torture) for witchcraft, partly because Kepler wrote a
science fiction novel in which his first-person narrator travels through space via potions brewed by
the character's mother. Unable to comprehend that fiction is not reality (still a common problem in
literary criticism), rumors of this since-lost manuscript were applied to the real woman. Kepler's
detailed defense helped save her life.
Real scientists have been rejected and persecuted in every age. But rejection and persecution are
not proof that someone is a real scientist. Nor are petitions or votes or endorsements. The only proof
of scientific ability is the publication and replication of experiments, and successful prediction of future
findings, and there is no such thing in science as a final answer or absolute truth.
Those "scientists" who claim that theirs is the final answer, that "discussion is over," are the enemies of
science as surely as anyone who ever threatened to burn a scientist as a heretic.
Tuesday, Dec. 28 -- Poor Richard Day
The Pledge of Allegiance, composed in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, was nationally
recognized on this day in 1945. The U.S. Congress urged that it be recited frequently in America's
schools. In 1954, the Catholic Knights of Columbus persuaded Congress to add the words "under
God" to the pledge. The Supreme Court rejected a lower court's attempt to declare this wording to be
unconstitutional in 2002.
As a child, I found the words to be incomprehensible, and by the time I comprehended them I found it
to be ridiculous for children to be compelled to recite them. A pledge to a flag?
That's like religious fervor about the cross instead of devotion to Christ -- confusing the emblem with
the thing itself is a mischievous mistake. I far prefer the oath our soldiers take -- as adults who know
what they're saying:
"I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic,
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental
reservations or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office
upon which I am about to enter."
This is a pledge that places the loyalty and obligation of the soldier, not to his superior officers, not to
the President, and not to the flag -- it's the Constitution itself, the founding document of a way of
organizing a government of, by, and for the people, that he will uphold.
This is the oath that guarantees that no one -- neither a President nor any officer -- can issue an
unconstitutional order to American troops and have any reason to hope that it will be obeyed. The
people who take that oath know that their lives are their collateral to fulfil it. If anyone wants to pledge
allegiance, take that oath.
As for making children recite a foolish pledge to a flag, which makes less sense to them than a nursery
rhyme, I'm against it, precisely because it shows young Americans that loyalty to their country is an
empty ritual which they will outgrow. Ditto with state-mandated "prayers."
In my opinion, such affliction of children does the opposite of what well-meaning adults intend. Forcing
children to recite does not have anything to do with what they will eventually believe or do. It's merely
a tool for the tawdriest of demagogues, who seek their own political advantage at the expense of young
Poor Richard's Almanack was first advertised in The Pennsylvania Gazette on this day in 1732.
The first annual issue of the Almanack, which was written by Benjamin Franklin under the pen name of
Richard Saunders, appeared in 1733. The advertisement promised "many pleasant and witty verses,
jests and sayings . . . new fashions, games for kisses . . . means and melons . . . breakfast in bed, &c."
It was published through the year 1758 and has been imitated many times since. Most imitators have
discovered that imitating the form of great writing does not make writing great.
Most people think Spiro Agnew was the first American Vice President to resign his office, but John C.
Calhoun, who had served as Vice President of the United States under two different presidents (John
Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson), resigned the office in 1832 because of his growing
disagreements with President Jackson.
A former Secretary of War, he spent most of his subsequent political life as a U.S. senator from South
Carolina, championing the right of states to permit white people to own black people as their personal
property. Calhoun was the author of the infamous "gag rule," which automatically tabled any anti-slavery resolution proposed in the Senate, thus forbidding discussion of the issue.
After all, people who think slavery is all right are hardly going to balk at preventing others from
speaking freely. Fervent purveyors of idiotic ideas today follow the same practice, of doing all they can
to prevent their opponents from speaking out. In my opinion, any effort to silence your opposition
should be taken as a confession that the person knows his arguments are so feeble they cannot
withstand public examination.
Wednesday, Dec. 29
Andrew Johnson, the first President to be impeached, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on this
day in 1808. Lincoln chose him as his Vice President in the election of 1864 because he was a
southerner loyal to the union -- he was the U.S. Senator from Tennessee when the state was
kidnapped by secessionists.
When he succeeded to the presidency after Lincoln's death, Johnson tried to pursue a reasonable and
conciliatory attitude toward the defeated South, as Lincoln himself would have done. His attempt to
organize a National Union Party failed.
The radical Republicans that ruled Congress, who wanted to punish the secessionists and protect the
interests of newly-freed blacks, had other ideas, and when Johnson stood in their way, they impeached
him. He was acquitted by a single vote and served out his term. On Christmas Day 1868, as he was
about to leave office, he issued an unconditional amnesty to all Confederates.
Afterward, Johnson was vindicated to some degree by his election to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee
in 1874. He died of a stroke less than four months into his term.
The first U.S. branch of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was organized in Boston
in 1851. It was modeled on an organization begun in London in 1844.
While the organization's name and early practices definitely excluded Jews and other non-Christians,
the evangelical Christian founders made sure that by the standards of the day it was extraordinarily
liberal and egalitarian, with membership open to men of every social class.
As founder George Williams said, when someone asked him how he would respond to a young man
who said that he had lost his belief in Jesus, "My first act would be to see that the young man had
In 1853, the first YMCA for African-Americans was founded in Washington, D.C. -- where
slavery was still legal. Over the years, YMCAs ran missionary operations, helped support troops in
wartime, operated boys' camps and other character-building and welfare projects.
As political correctness became the state religion of America, government support for YMCAs dried
up. But the YMCA persisted in supporting "character building" rather than "values clarification," with a
commitment to specific pro-social virtues. The organization remains committed to promoting individual
health and family and community strength.