After lugging a sleigh full of Wiis and Hannah Montana dolls across the sky, the reindeer are due for their annual checkup. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen--otherwise known as Discover, Diners Club, PayPal and Visa--have been pulling increasingly huge loads in recent years, and this year was no exception. On Tuesday MasterCard Advisors reported that US holiday sales were up 3.6 percent from 2006. That our plastic reindeer carried such a heavy load through the blizzard of a mortgage crisis is a testament to the power of Rudolph and his nose of red. But is the Red-Nosed Reindeer running his team into the ground?
What's clear is that consumer debt is taking a red nose dive. This week the AP reviewed financial data from the nation's largest card issuers and found a steep rise in delinquencies among accounts more than 90 days in arrears. Some of the nation's biggest lenders reported the accounts have ballooned more than 50 percent compared to a year ago. Overall, defaults jumped by 18 percent.
Rudolph (and Santa) really are to blame for a lot of this. For most of this year consumers seemed to be coming to their senses. The national savings rate was positive for most of 2007, for the first time in years, but then it jumped back to negative leading up to the holidays. For the time being we're once more following Rudolph back to 1929. His flashing red nose is certainly comforting, but it's also why people used to call him names, and wouldn't let him play in any reindeer games.
If you are a soldier in Iraq, is it alright to wish people a merry Christmas, or would "happy holidays" be better? Like, whatever dude. As Ann Coulter says on a poster hanging on the door of the military police office in Fort Riley, Kansas: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." It's Jesus time!
That, at least, appears to be the way the military is heading according to a bevy of findings released by the of Military Religious Freedom Foundation this week, just in time for the holidays. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein (see our recent profile) believes the military has been colonized at all levels by evangelical Christians bent on converting it into an army of God. The group's recent findings certainly support the idea:
Because Baylor University is not doing enough to plumb the seas for Noah's Ark, an advisory committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has recommended that the Institute for Creation Research be given the authority to grant Master's degrees in science education. Perhaps the training will help graduates stay employed in the Lone Star State, rather than getting fired like the state's former director of science curricula, a shameless Darwin booster.
Is Texas devolving? Not at all. According to the Institute's mission statement, it will only enroll the self-motivated, responsible student who "is more self-disciplined ('whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God;' I Cor. 10:31) and takes education seriously ('And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;' Colossians 3:23)."
The Texas Observer reports that the same guys brought us the Creation Museum in Kentucky (see Adam frolic with the dinosaurs!), and are at work stumping for Mike Huckabee in Iowa.
Once Ron Paul is knocked out of the GOP contest, what will become of his supporters? Will they dissipate, gravitate towards someone else, or reemerge with a third party bid? Whichever way the Paulites go, other candidates would be smart to study their movement's trajectory. Like the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, or the McCarthy campaign in 1968, the Paul campaign could be most important for its ability awaken and define a new generation of political citizens.
1690: The state "cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent," writes John Locke. His The Second Treatise of Civil Government will inform the Declaration of Independence and the eminent-domain schemes of generations of shopping-mall developers.
1792: German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, in The Sphere and Duties of Government, argues that providing security is the only proper role of the state. Citizens must be granted freedom to live as they choose, he writes, because "the absolute and essential importance of human development [is] in its richest diversity."