Sunday, January 1, 2017

Looking back on '16. . . 2016 and 1916

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
sin' auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
sin' auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

Robert Burns

As anyone who has the occasional misfortune to stop in here knows, I've been detailing the events of 1916, at least since March when Pancho Villa crossed the border near Columbus New Mexico and shot the town up.

And, I always tend to track current events, but this I've bee tracking them in greater detail due to the election.

And what I can say is that 1916 and 2016 are both years that go down as, well. . . messed up.

Let's start with 2016.

The big news this past year was the General Election in  which 150 of the pundits, including myself (a pundit-lite) got everything wrong.

I started predicting long ago, maybe as far back as 2015 here (and certainly orally) that this election would be a coronation of the pantsuit princess, Hillary Clinton.

I was way wrong.

And I never in a million years thought that Donald Trump would be nominated.  I didn't take him seriously, and then I convinced myself it just wouldn't happen.

Well it sure did.

I've spilled a fair amount of electrons already doing election post mortems, but  at the end of the day what I think is the case is that the country experienced a massive populist revolt in both parties and acted to crush them.  The GOP is cautiously waiting to see what that's going to mean for it. The Democrats are pretending, Black Knight style, that it just didn't happen.  But it sure did.  Overall, the country took a big step towards a populist idea that isn't really a fully conservative one and which is one that the liberal left can't even recognize and therefore refuses to do so.  If this continues to play out in the direction that it started to the country will truly be headed in a new direction, although as with all such things the direction always takes you to a place somewhat different from where you figured it would.

Nobody really knows where this will end, but it is both scary and, perhaps in an odd way, reassuring. For the longest time the Democrats have gleefully been pretending that a revived highly left wing future was inevitable.  It isn't, and we should be relieved.  Progress, that is true progress, of every type should be welcome to everyone.  But the progress that the Democrats have been backing isn't progress but a vision of the world deeply hostile to nature.  They deserved to be whacked as a result.  That doesn't mean the GOP doesn't, it has its own deeply hostile views.  But its whacking, I suspect, is just about to commence.  A lot of that is going to be, I suspect, economic.

George F. Will recently ran an article in which he claimed that the world that Trump promises to return us to, when "America was Great", is the world of 1953.  He based that argument on the correct notation that 1953 was really the last time that the US had a "make everything" economy such as Trump is promising.  And that world of 1953 was based on a glitch.  Europe had engaged in two world wars the first half of the 20th Century that had destroyed its economy, and in the end much of Europe itself, and Asian economies were really a nonentity until the mid 1950s.  No wonder we were the world's economic engine. That world isn't returning, so we're really not going back to that, no matter where we are really going.

The Wyoming legislature, along with Utah's, once to actually go back to the economy of 1916.  1916 was the year that the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 was passed, the World War One oil boom was on, and coal was king.  And they seemingly believe that they can make this occur by legislative fiat over the wishes of the people of Wyoming combined with Trump being President.

One thing that the recent Wyoming efforts to grab the Federal domain have pointed out is how close Wyoming came to being something like Texas where all the land is privately owned and getting access to anything is based upon paying for it, or knowing somebody.  We were really lucky.  The Stock Raising Homestead Act was a good thing, to be sure, but it was already creating problems by the late 1920s and when Franklin Roosevelt acted to bring about the repeal of all three homestead acts in the 1930s he did the entire nation, and the West in particular, a huge favor.  Indeed, it was an economic and environmental favor.  We really dodged a bullet but the legislature seems intent on loading the gun and shooting us again.  The legislative effort to grab the land that has been going on against the wishes of the state's residents is shameful.  Here, however, the fact that Trump was elected probably operates against this trend as he and his appointments have not been in favor of it.

The state legislature will have a bunch of new faces in it this session.  Quite a few of the old hands left for one reason or another and this has actually continued after the general election as at least one member resigned post election.  It appears that the legislature will be even more conservative than the norm, which is pretty conservative, but also somewhat green. As this session is a general, not a budget, session, that could be interesting.

Not that it wouldn't be interesting if it was a budget session.  The price of oil seems to have more or less stabilized and the oilfields are a bit more active than they were six months ago. But anyway you look at it the boom is definitely over and if the bust isn't, something like a bust is.  The state has been struggling for months to deal with the decrease in funds and that's likely to be a major topic in the general session.

Globally the strategy of emphasizing local forces in the war on ISIL with western air support, which I was critical of, has proven fairly effective and ISIL is clearly on the decline as a quasi state force. At the same time, however, its guerilla arm, loosely made up, to say the least, is as active as ever.  2017, I fear, is likely to not be much different than 2016 in those regards.  The year closed out with one such attack in Berlin.  But it was far from the only one.  Included now in this equation are those who claim adherence to ISIL without any real ties directly to it.

All in all, therefore, we can say that 2016, while it wasn't the worst year ever, surely wasn't the best in quite a few ways.

So what about 1916?  If we were living a century ago how would we have found that year?

Well, probably not great either.

I didn't start to track day by day events in 1916 until March, when the anniversary of the Punitive Expedition and the raid on Columbus, New Mexico, occurred.   I have since then, however, and its clear that 1916 was not a great year.  Our intervention in Mexico put us in a state of near combatant in the Mexican Revolution and seemed to achieve fairly little by the year's end.  The year saw its own Presidential Election in which Wilson was able to campaign on "he kept us out of war" only to get elected and then seemingly start to contemplate entering that war more and more.  In Wyoming a series of devastating fires had terrible consequences right up until the end of the year.  The bright spot seemed to be the aforementioned Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 here, combined with a boom in agriculture and petroleum caused by World War One.  All in all, while there were some positive things about the year, a lot of people were likely glad to see 1916 go.

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