#254 December 31, 2002

COLUMBUS: The year is coming to a close, and there’s lots of folks kinda glad to see it go. It was especially not a good year for Enron investors, Martha Stewart, United Airlines, the New York Yankees, St. Louis Rams, Democrats or Trent Lott.

The Dow-Jones is off 17 percent. Nasdaq has lost 75 percent in 3 years. (Does that mean if it loses another 25% next year it’ll be down to nothing?) By the time we all figured out the best thing to do with our money was to bury it, it ain’t worth the bother of digging the hole. We don’t have enough left to fill an empty soup can.

Who knows what 2003 will bring. Prognosticators are saying that after Bush takes care of Iraq this winter, and North Korea gets whatever they want from us, and Venezuela starts pumping oil again, why things will look up.

I hope they’re right. But before you accept what anyone says is going to happen in 2003, make ’em show you what they predicted for ’00, ’01 and ’02. If they got those years right then they got maybe a 50-50 chance of hitting it for 2003.

One man that don’t need to worry about next year is that fellow Whitaker who won the lottery in West Virginia. He’s giving ten percent to various churches and still has a hundred million after taxes. He sure seems to be a nice man, owns a construction company, and says he’s gonna put back on the payroll some workers he had laid off. You know, I hope those workers, and the churches, appreciate the gesture and don’t slack off a bit from the tough job in front of ’em.

I keep waiting for some farmer to win the lottery. But it won’t happen… farming is such a gamble they feel no need to buy Powerball tickets or fly off to Las Vegas for the weekend. But if one ever does buy a ticket and win, I know just what he’ll say when the announcer asks, “What are you going to do with the hundred million?” He’ll ponder a second or two, and finally utter, “Well, I reckon I’ll keep on farming, as long as it lasts.”

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“We are obliged to read the usual New Year’s prosperity applesauce by our same prominent men who are always rich enough to see a great year coming up. And to show you they don’t know any more about it than Clara Bow, last year they had their usual hokum predictions, and in October we lost half as much as it cost to put on the war, and yet not a one of these predicted it. …. We know that the new year will look fairly rosy to Mr. Rockefeller, …. but how is it going to look to just plain old Joe Doakes?” DT #1070, Dec. 30, 1929.

“I have read New Year predictions till I am blue in the face about the great future…, but I have yet to see one word on what 1930 holds in store for the Democrats. And that’s the very thing that makes me believe us Democrats may get a break in the coming year. I base my faith on the fact that 98 per cent of all predictions are wrong, and on the fact that it’s an off year in politics and all off years are Democratic years.” DT #1071, Dec. 31, 1929.

“Well, the old year is leaving us flat, plenty flat. But in reality it’s been our most beneficial year. It’s took some of the conceit out of us. We had enjoyed special blessings over other nations, and we couldn’t see why they shouldn’t be permanent. We was a mighty cocky nation… We had begun to believe that the height of civilization was a good road, bath tub, radio and automobile. I don’t think Hoover, the Republicans, or even Russia, is responsible for this. I think the Lord just looked us over, and decided to set us back where we belonged.” DT #1384, Dec. 30, 1930.

“Mr. Roosevelt proposed in his speech that a lot of these government_regulated business ethics would be made permanent. Well, that was a terrible blow to some business men. They had figured they would only be required to be honest by the government till the emergency was over.” DT #2316, Jan. 4, 1934

#253 December 22, 2002

COLUMBUS: I’m a few days late. I was waiting to see what the Republicans would do with Trent Lott.

While I was procrastinating, the Pope dumped Cardinal Law and Al Gore traded his “Gore for ’04” bandwagon for a hot tub on Saturday Night Live. This Christmas season has turned into a cleansing season.

Now Venezuela is looking at our Senate for ideas on how to get rid of Chavez.

On Thursday Senator Lott decided to give up being Majority Leader, mainly so the networks and newspapers could get back to Iraq and bin Ladin. Tomorrow he will turn the job over to Senator Bill Frist. So it seems we have traded a Mississippi share cropper for a Tennessee heart surgeon, which is a pretty good deal because we’re paying him the same amount of money.

You know, if Mr. Frist could convince ALL our health professionals to work for share cropper wages it would pretty much solve the Medicare budget problem.

You might be wondering if Trent Lott is the first public man to ever say or do anything that showed his prejudices and shortcomings. No, there have been a few, and not just Republicans.

(Rather than try to properly chastise Trent Lott myself, let me refer you to the Historic quotes below. Will Rogers was not shy about sharing his feelings about bigots. Remember, there has been more than one minority that has felt discrimination in America.)

One man you gotta feel for is old Strom. Here’s a man who has spent the last 25 years of his life trying to right the wrongs of the first 75, then along comes a birthday celebration that digs up ancient history and spreads it out where everyone is obliged to look at again.

In other news, West Virginia decided to let the 4-H kids learn about Indians after all. (see Weekly Comments #223, March 25) At their summer camps they will divide up into the usual four tribes (Cherokees, Mingos, Delawares and Senecas) for purposes of friendly competition, the same as they have been doing for 80 years. You see, the officials dug into history and discovered that, from time to time, there has been competition among our various tribes. Of course, not all of it was friendly.

These young folks will have to accept some restrictions out of respect for Indian culture. They cannot wear a feathered headdress, or put on war paint. They can’t say “Ugh Ugh”, or other terms learned from reruns of the Lone Ranger.

They will be allowed to hold Council Circle, light a camp fire, and use the traditional cheer of “How How”.

No word on one of the hotter Indian issues, whether they can own and operate a casino.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Senator Heflin of Alabama held up all Senate business yesterday for five hours. That’s a record for narrow views.

Tonight in his home capital (Montgomery) I am pleading with Alabama to please not exterminate all Catholics, Republicans, Jews, Negroes, Jim Reed, Al Smith, Wadsworth, Mellon and Coolidge and the Pope.

Of course, my plea will do no good, for Tom knows the intelligence of his constituency better than we do.” DT #174, Feb. 18. 1927

“…Jefferson sitting up there on his hill believed in equality for all. But he dident divide up the hill with any poor deserving Democrats. For Democrats were poor in those days, as they are today, and they were deserving then, as they are today. It just seems like they are the Lord’s unfortunate people.

That old Andrew Jackson… all he ever did was pounce on the Indians. He had to be tough to think up all the things he had done to the Cherokees.” WA #313, Dec. 23, 1928

“The Jacksonian Democracy consisted of inventing the plan of giving everybody jobs according to how many votes they delivered to Jackson. “If he ain’t of your Party, give him nothing. Charity begins at the polls.” Then he would go back home, if he had happened to have been defeated, and pounce on the Indians and take it out on them. An Indian had no more right to live, according to old Andrew, than a Republican to hold a job during a Democratic Administration.” Saturday Evening Post, March 30, 1929

“Say, with all this argument we have had about what Mr. Taft said when he swore in President Hoover, why not bring out what Vice President Curtis said when he swore in the first six Senators? Instead of saying “with no mental reservations” he got his English and his Kaw mixed and really said “with no mental obligations.”

Being in the Senate as long as he has and seeing the type, why the chances are that he was honest with this government and swore ’em in that way purposely. After all, it don’t make much difference to the country how they get in there. How to get ’em out, that’s our problem.” DT #826, March 20, 1929.

“Mr. Coolidge administered last rites for his alma mater, the Republican party. To offset him, I have been asked to give a word of cheer to the party of Jefferson, Raskob, Heflin, and Borah….

My advice is, keep the Republicans in power. Otherwise you will add to the unemployment, for if you throw a Republican out there is nothing else he can do, while a Democrat must be able to making a living out of office. Otherwise he would not be living.” DT #1335, Nov. 3, 1932

#252 December 11, 2002

COLUMBUS: The headline reads, “Post Office Found $28 Billion.” Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot of money to lose track of, even in Washington?

Well, the Post Office has been putting money aside for pensions for years, and some accountant finally added it all up and discovered they had stashed away $28 Billion more than necessary.

You would think Congress would be outraged. And they were. One Congressman yelled, “For all that money, just think how many new post offices I could have built in my District.”

I guess it was an honest mistake. You might remember back when whoever won the election got to hire all the Postmasters and mail carriers. If the country changed hands every four years, it can add up to a lot of employees, and all of them expecting a pension. Well, we finally wised up and told ’em, “We’re not gonna let you quit work after four years just because we boot your brother-in-law out of office.” But the Post Office kept on squirreling away the pension money, like they were expecting these millions and millions of retirees.

Now you might think the Post Office would find a way to give some of that $28 Billion back to us. Maybe sell stamps for 25% off through Christmas. Or give us one day a week when all letters can be mailed free. At the very least give us penny post cards for a month, just for old times sake.

But no, there’s no rebate, no roll back, no sale on stamps for the holidays. All they promise is they won’t raise prices for 3 or 4 years, or until the $28 Billion runs out. They happily announced they expect with steady postal rates businesses will be mailing more advertising flyers, catalogs and solicitations.

So here’s what we get out of the deal. We overpaid $28 Billion, and in return, instead of receiving five pieces of junk mail every day, we can expect ten.

I think the Post Office owes the American people an apology as much as Trent Lott does.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“Say, you talk about a prosperous town (Beverly Hills). We can’t find a Republican poor enough to be Postmaster here. Even Democrats got money in this town and won’t take the job.” DT #126, Dec. 30, 1926

#251 Dec 3, 2002

PLAIN CITY, Ohio: Some folks might have considered this place “plain” when there was nothing but German-speaking Amish farmers here, but today this town is as up-to-date as any city. The farmers are still here, at least some of their off-spring are, but this place is growing.

They’re building a new grocery store, high school, township hall, and new houses everywhere. It’s good for the town, but they are covering up some of the best farm land in the state.

I’m out here for an all day conference of no-till farmers at the Der Dutchman restaurant. Even the restaurant is expanding. They had to. There’s men around this state that keep an eye out for meetings scheduled here, and no matter the topic they’ll pay the fifteen or twenty dollar registration, and sit there all day, just for the privilege of eating the dinner at noon. (You notice I call it dinner… the food they serve is so good, and so much of it, it would be an insult to call it lunch.)

These farmers get together to learn from each other. For example, there was four of them that in an hour spouted out about 50 good ideas on how to grow more corn and soybeans for less money. Why if everybody in attendance went back home and put into practice what they heard, (at least the part that suits their situation), it would bring more prosperity to the countryside than the Farm Bill.

One man told me how surprised he was that these farmers shared all their best ideas with their competitors, “Can you imagine the car companies doing the same thing?”

He’s right of course. And besides, these farmers don’t have any books or tapes to sell. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Last month I mentioned a new book, “The One-Minute Millionaire”, by my friend Mark Victor Hansen and Bob Allen. It is already a best seller. But don’t expect to ever see a book called “The One-Minute Millionaire Farmer”. If ever such a book is written it would be classified as Fiction. And you would find it in the section of the bookstore marked Comedy.

Last week America celebrated one of our greatest of holiday traditions… shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Folks in other parts of the world don’t understand why we act this way. I think it’s the turkey. See, there’s something in the meat that when it reaches the lower digestive track it triggers a hormonal reaction in the human body, mainly female. It’s the hormone that says, “get into the car, go forth and shop.”

For us men, the third helping of breast meat kinda bumps up against a different hormone, the one that says, “go lay on the couch and watch football for four days”.

I been reading about these folks getting sick on cruise ships. For those affected it is nothing to sneeze at, but these reporters seem to forget that boat rides have been known to make people ill. (see Historic Quotes)

When you crowd 3000 on board, usually paired up in a compartment no bigger than a walk-in closet at home, it should be no surprise if by the end of a week a couple hundred have visited the ship’s doctor. But this news won’t slow down the vacationers. When it’s 10 degrees F at home, the Carribean is mighty appealing.

P.S. Happy 100th Birthday this week to Senator Strom Thurmond. I’ve been telling everyone “we” were born in the same year (1879), so they’ll be surprised to find out you’re so young.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Well I landed after eight long days of heaving forth everything I looked at. We left New York at ten o’clock; I ate a hearty dinner and then the thing came off… After that dinner on Wednesday I could not eat a thing until Monday. Then after various attempts, got a lemon and an orange that never managed to find the way back.”(from a letter to his sisters, sent from England, April 4, 1902)

“I was supposed to make a one night trip by a small boat from down the coast (in New Zealand, February 1904). Well the train I was on pulled up beside the Boat, and I knowing that I was going to be sick, rushed aboard right away, and I says to myself I will get in the bunk and maby that will help me from being too sick. Well it’s the paint, and that smell of varnish that does it. Well I got a whiff of it going down, and I crawled right into my bunk, which was in among a lot of other men’s bunks. Now I was under the impression that the Boat was going to pull right out. But this old sniff of paint had got me, and sure enough I started in being sick. I had the old Lunch Basket tied right on to the edge of the bed. (They have lovely little Cuspidors of a thing for Birds like me.) I sure was going strong. I thought well I havent got long to be sick, for we will be in there before long, and finally some fellow come in and asked another fellow, ‘What’s the matter with this Boat, ain’t it ever going to pull out?’
Here I was practically dying and the boat tied to the dock, we hadent moved a peg. But the old imagination had done some working along with the old Stomacher, and here I was dying and still tied to the dock.”
 WA #472, Jan. 10, 1932