Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

Hawks and pigeons

Posted by Richard on December 11, 2014

On several occasions over the past few months, I’ve seen a hawk hanging around my neighborhood, circling overhead or sitting on a telephone pole. I don’t know if it’s the same hawk each time or various hawks just passing through. If the former, I hope it’s established permanent residence in the area and likes the taste of pigeon. We have far too many pigeons in the neighborhood.

“Too many,” in the case of pigeons, can best be defined as “more than zero.” I hate the little bastards. If Denver laws permitted it, I’d invest in an air rifle with which to dispatch them.

People sometimes refer to pigeons as “rats with wings.” It’s worse than that. They’re rats with wings and diarrhea.

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The real Thanksgiving story

Posted by Richard on November 27, 2014

Way back in 2006, I posted “The real Thanksgiving story.” Back then, this blog was hosted by Blog City, which seemed to have some kind of SEO magic. For a long time, my post came up at the top of Google searches for the title phrase, and it got a fair amount of traffic every Thanksgiving for the next several years. Ah, those were the days. This year, like last, I’m reprising that post (with a new link to the Bradford book; the old one no longer worked). I hope you like it. At the end, I’ve added links to some other Thanksgiving posts you might enjoy. 

First Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! May you enjoy lots of food, lots of football, and lots of fun with family and friends on this day. But before you push away from the PC and belly up to the banquet table, please take a few minutes to read this story about the Pilgrims — it’s probably not the one you’ve heard.

Two competing Thanksgiving stories are commonly told these days. The first is the traditional one I was taught as a child: The Pilgrims suffered through a terrible first winter at Plymouth, but with hard work and the help of the friendly Massasoit Indians, they had a bountiful harvest in 1621 and held a thanksgiving celebration with their Indian friends. Happy celebrations of sharing and giving thanks for God’s bounty came to be repeated every year and throughout the colonies.

The second version, apparently widely taught for the past 30 years or so, differs a bit. In it, the wisdom, kindness, and generosity of the Indigenous Peoples is the only reason that any of the stupid white Europeans survived and had food with which to celebrate. The Pilgrims soon repaid their benefactors by slaughtering them. Barbarous treatment of gentle natives and gleeful celebrations of their genocide came to be repeated frequently and throughout the colonies.

Both versions are false, of course. The real story is available straight from the horse’s mouth. Colony Governor William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation provides a complete history. You can download it in several ebook formats from Project Gutenberg. The Mises Institute’s Gary Galles used quotes from Bradford to put together a good summary. The first two Thanksgivings were rather grim, and for two and a half years, the colony endured not only hardship and hunger, but also conflict and strife:

The Pilgrims’ unhappiness was caused by their system of common property (not adopted, as often asserted, from their religious convictions, but required against their will by the colony’s sponsors). The fruits of each person’s efforts went to the community, and each received a share from the common wealth. This caused severe strains among the members, as Colony Governor William Bradford recorded:

” . . . the young men . . . did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong . . . had not more in division . . . than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes, etc . . . thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And the men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.”

Bradford summarized the effects of their common property system:

“For this community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontentment and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort . . . all being to have alike, and all to do alike . . . if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them.”

How did the Pilgrims move from this dysfunctional system to the situation we try to emulate in our family gatherings? In the spring of 1623, they decided to let people produce for their own benefit:

“All their victuals were spent . . . no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length . . . the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. . . . And so assigned to every family a parcel of land . . . “

The results were dramatic:

“This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

That was quite a change from their previous situation, where severe whippings had been resorted to as an inducement to more labor effort, with little success other than in creating discontent.

The Mises Institute also has a Richard Maybury version of the story that’s worth reading. Maybury quoted Bradford acknowledging another terrible consequence of the communal system — it encouraged dishonesty as well as indolence:

In his ‘History of Plymouth Plantation,’ the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.”

The Hoover Institution has a much longer account (with more of an economic historian’s perspective) by Tom Bethell, with details of how “the communal experiment” came to be and how it worked (or didn’t). And the Independent Institute’s Ben Powell wrote a good short article that nicely summarized the lesson of Plymouth Plantation:

We are direct beneficiaries of the economics lesson the pilgrims learned in 1623. Today we have a much better developed and well-defined set of property rights. Our economic system offers incentives for us—in the form of prices and profits—to coordinate our individual behavior for the mutual benefit of all; even those we may not personally know.

It is customary in many families to “give thanks to the hands that prepared this feast” during the Thanksgiving dinner blessing. Perhaps we should also be thankful for the millions of other hands that helped get the dinner to the table: the grocer who sold us the turkey, the truck driver who delivered it to the store, and the farmer who raised it all contributed to our Thanksgiving dinner because our economic system rewards them. That’s the real lesson of Thanksgiving. The economic incentives provided by private competitive markets where people are left free to make their own choices make bountiful feasts possible.

And for that, I’m extremely thankful. Now, when’s that turkey going to be ready?

Some other Thanksgiving posts you might enjoy:

  • 2007: This Thanksgiving, celebrate the producers — Features Debi Ghates’ wonderful explanation of what you should be thankful for and who you should thank.
  • 2008: Happy Thanksgiving  — A funny/sad story about kindergarten kids celebrating Thanksgiving. It features cops and accusations of genocide.
  • 2009: Thanking the producers again  — This time with lots of help from Jim Woods. Also, remembering the anniversary of the Jihadist attacks on Mumbai.
  • 2010: Best wishes for Thanksgiving  — Features John Stossel’s and Fouad Ajami’s thoughts on the holiday. You might enjoy Ajami’s thoughts on our Thanksgiving cuisine.

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Celebrate! It’s above zero!

Posted by Richard on November 12, 2014

It’s 12:45 PM in Denver, and we’re no longer below zero! Woohoo?

denver1degree

I don’t think we’re going to make it to that forecast high of 9°.

Hey, Jimmy Buffet, here’s a new verse for that song of yours. You’re welcome.

Boat drinks. I think the cold makes your brain shrink
I don’t really care what Al Gore thinks
Somebody make it get warm!

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Bring back the global warming!

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2014

Today was the coldest November 11th on record in Denver, with a high temperature of 16°. That eclipses the previous record of 19° set on this date in 1916. And the worst of the cold is yet to come!

At 10:30 tonight, it’s 6° (wind chill of -7°). Tomorrow’s high may be only two or three degrees warmer than that.

I’m not leaving the house, except maybe to go to the liquor store. The only adult beverages I have on hand are beer. This isn’t beer-drinking weather. It’s hot toddy or hot buttered rum weather.

Or maybe I should get out of town. Head to St. Somewhere…


[YouTube link]

Boat drinks. Boys in the band ordered boat drinks.
Visitors just scored on the home rink.
Everything seems to be wrong.

Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap airfare.
I’ve got to fly to Saint Somewhere.
I’m close to bodily harm.

I know I should be leaving this climate.
I got a verse but can’t rhyme it.
I gotta go where it’s warm.

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A Veterans Day salute

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2014

Salute

To those who have served, and to those who serve today:

Thank you.


It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005

http://www.pattonhq.com/koreamemorial.html

Thanks, Papa, for your many years of service. I love you and miss you.

On this Veterans Day, please make a contribution to an organization (or two or three!) that supports veterans or active-duty military personnel.

The Signaleer has a nice history of Remembrance Day, which begat Armistice Day, which begat Veterans Day, and he includes the classic World War I poem, In Flanders Fields. Worth a visit.

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Polar vortex update

Posted by Richard on November 10, 2014

11 AM: Mid-fifties, calm. About 15° cooler than the weekend, but a sweater or light jacket is plenty.

11:30 AM: Sudden strong northerly wind, temperature starts to drop sharply.

12:30 PM: 30°, windy, spitting snow. Bone-chilling.

2:15 PM: 23°, wind chill is 12°, steady light-to-moderate snowfall.

It’s expected to get no warmer than this for several days, with lows in single digits. I guess it’s safe to say Denver’s mild fall is over. I’m going to miss it.

UPDATE (9 PM): 14°, with a wind chill of 3°, and it’s still dropping. About 12 hours ago, it was 62° (CORRECTION: officially 64° at 9 AM).

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Our delusional narcissist-in-chief

Posted by Richard on November 6, 2014

Judging from yesterday’s press conference, it’s pretty clear what President Obama, our delusional narcissist-in-chief, believes caused the Democrats’ cataclysmic collapse on Tuesday: tens of millions of Americans are dispirited, disheartened, and disillusioned because he hasn’t been able to fundamentally transform America faster, so they stayed home.

Go with that, Democrats.

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Creepy calls

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2014

The award for creepiest caller of the election season goes to whoever is spoofing the Caller ID to display MY name and number.

“They’re inside the house!!!!”

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Happy National Cat Day!

Posted by Richard on October 29, 2014

Yes, there is indeed a National Cat Day, and rightly so. There are countless ways to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Many involve wasting time on the Internet.

A lot of people, guys in particular, prefer dogs. They consider cats aloof, standoffish, too independent, and not loving and affectionate. They’re wrong. But here’s the thing: it takes more effort to bond with and gain the affection of a cat than a dog.

Dogs are easy. They’re the pet equivalent of the woman who’ll sleep with anybody (except you won’t need shots after being licked by a dog).

You have to earn the affection of a cat. You have to work at the relationship. They play hard to get (except they’re not playing). Once you’ve built that bond, though, you can expect the cat to curl up in your lap, follow you around, cuddle next to you in bed, groom you (my Coco likes to lick my beard), etc. And you’ll feel good about yourself for being worthy of that trust and affection. Isn’t that better than the cheap encounter with that tramp cockapoo from down the street?

Well, enough praise of cats. Coco and I are going to go take a nap together.

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Rick Wilson’s possibly prescient Ebola story

Posted by Richard on October 15, 2014

Three months ago, Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) posted a series of tweets about what might happen if someone who unknowingly has Ebola flies to the United States. Given the news of the past few days, I thought it was a good time to recall Rick’s “thought experiment,” which Michelle Ray (@GaltsGirl) had wisely storified. Read it. Then pour yourself a nice stiff drink.

No, wait … pour yourself that stiff drink now. This will take a while, and you may need it.

Note: If you prefer scrolling to clicking through a slideshow, you can read it at Storify.com.

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Denver Post endorsed Gardner for Senate; Mike Littwin and I discussed

Posted by Richard on October 11, 2014

Surprising almost everyone, the Denver Post endorsed Republican Cory Gardner over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall in Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race. And they did so with some surprisingly kind words for Gardner and harsh words for Udall (emphasis added):

In every position the Yuma Republican has held over the years — from the state legislature to U.S. House of Representatives — he has quickly become someone to be reckoned with and whose words carry weight. …

Udall is a fine man with good intentions, and on some issues our views are closer to his than to Gardner’s. But he is not perceived as a leader in Washington …

Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives. Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.

As David Harsanyi and The Original SPQR noted, Udall’s meeting with the Denver Post editorial board must not have gone well:

The Denver Post endorsement news led to a fun exchange on Twitter between Mike Littwin and me. Littwin was formerly a columnist for the Denver Post, and before that for the late, lamented Rocky Mountain News. He now writes for the online Colorado Independent. The conversation started with this Littwin tweet:

My response:

Littwin didn’t appreciate — or understand — that:

My response was a bit mean and unfair. Littwin is really very funny at times — for a rabid left-winger. His reply was gracious:

Littwin has been on Twitter for five years, so I’m surprised he didn’t know what FIFY means. It’s a pretty common humorous shorthand for “What you said isn’t quite accurate; here’s what you should have said” (with a 140-character limit, you need a very short version of that). It’s usually followed by a rewrite that’s worthy of a rimshot (at least the person using it hopes so).

I guess his failure to have encountered that acronym before speaks to the kinds of people he follows (not many, and mostly politicians, political consultants, and left-wing journalists). I see FIFY used all the time.

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Happy National Coffee Day!

Posted by Richard on September 29, 2014

Good morning! Today is National Coffee Day. So have a few cups. The health benefits are enormous.

I should note that Doug Mataconis is exactly right:

You can get a free coffee at various places today. But unless you cruise from one of those to another, you’ll have to brew your own to get a decent dose. Since I’m no longer working, I’ve cut back — to just six or eight cups a day.

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Mug shot of the week

Posted by Richard on September 26, 2014

michael-whitingtonMichael Whitington, the charming fellow to the right, robbed a bank on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver on Tuesday. He attempted to get away by boarding the nearby light rail train. Which leads me to my…

PRO TIP of the week: If your getaway plan involves the light rail, make sure no one sees you board the train.

Cops stopped the train a few blocks away and arrested this criminal genius.

Something tells me we taxpayers are going to be on the hook for some dental bills.

UPDATED (9/27/14) to add link to CBS4Denver that I forgot last night (yes, adult beverages were involved).

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Russians enter “Crappy American Beer” market

Posted by Richard on September 26, 2014

The Russian beer and soft drink company Oasis Beverages has bought Pabst Brewing Company, makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, Lone Star, and Colt 45, among others. The Washington Free Beacon’s Sonny Bunch is OK with that:

If we’re being honest, though, we would note that the Russians are getting into the “Crappy American Beer” market much too late. The time of bland suds has passed. The future is craft beer:

Craft beer makers have experienced huge jumps in market share while the overall beer market size has shrunk. The Census Bureau announced yesterday that the number of breweries in the in the U.S. doubled in five years–an increase largely due to craft beer. On average over the past two years, 1.2 craft breweries opened each day, contributing to a total of 15.6 million barrels of beer last year.

Now, granted, 15.6 million barrels is only a modest portion of the overall beer market. According to the Wall Street Journal article quoted above, craft beers account for just eight percent of the market—an increase of more than 300 percent in 15 years, but a distinct minority of the beer population nevertheless. Still, one can’t help but feel that the future is bright for the craft beer community.

The mass-produced American beers of years gone by have their place, of course, and hey: to each his own. A lot of people still like Bud and Miller, and they should drink what they like. But their time has passed. A new day dawns. A day of tasty craft brews with complex flavor profiles that you can match with a variety of dishes. I for one welcome our craft beer overlords—and am more than happy to let the Russians have our dregs.

I’ll drink to that!

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Acoustic Yes

Posted by Richard on September 24, 2014

My old friend John shared this with me. In 2004, Yes performed an all-too-brief (38 min.) acoustic concert that was shown live via satellite in theaters across the US after the premier of the documentary Yesspeak. This is the 1972-73 lineup (arguably the best): John Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitar), Rick Wakeman (piano), Chris Squire (bass), and Alan White (drums). Enjoy!

Let’s start with a wonderful version of “Roundabout” that gives Steve Howe a chance to show off a bit.


[YouTube link]

“Southside of the Sky” ends with a fine Rick Wakeman solo.


[YouTube link]

Everyone’s sounding fine on “Long Distance Runaround,” but pay particular attention to Chris Squire’s fine bass work.


[YouTube link]

 I’ll finish as the concert did, with this simply amazing version of “I’ve Seen All Good People.”


[YouTube link]

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