By John Ruberry

“So listen, there’s still a little bit of it to go,” the host of NPR’s witty Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, Peter Sagal said as he opened his New Year’s Eve show, “but all the pundits and the pollsters have already called it: 2016 will go down as the worst year ever.” Which led moderator Bill Kurtis, the longtime journalist and Chicago news anchor to reply, “Sure, 1346 had the plague, but at least Black Death was a cool name.”

I’m here to explain, at least for me and people who visit Da Tech Guy and my own blog, Marathon Pundit, that 2016 was a darn good year, and absolutely a better one than 1346.

Defying the “pundits and pollsters,” but perhaps not the same ones Sagal was talking about yesterday, Donald J. Trump was elected president–he’ll be sworn into office in nineteen days. Although not as historic as being the first African-American elected to America’s highest office, Trump will be the first president who was not a prior public office holder or a general. That’s yuge.

Like Bob Dylan in 1964 keeping his love for the Beatles to himself and not, initially, telling his folk-music pals, I secretly hopped on the Trump Train in the autumn of 2015, but I was a vocal passenger well before the Iowa Caucuses. Like Sean Hannity, I saw Trump’s, yes, historic candidacy as the last chance to save America from collectivism and socialism, mediocrity, malaise, globalism, cronyism; and in what would have sealed the unpleasant deal, a runaway leftist Supreme Court. I am not an aberration, there are tens-of-millions of Americans who look at the rise of Trump in a similar manner.

A Hillary Clinton victory could have possibly hobbled America as much as the 19th century Opium Wars did to China. A large and populous nation does not necessarily mean that it will be a prosperous and powerful one, as India and Indonesia show us. And Russia is not prosperous.

I look at Trump’s win as the best news of the decade. But even as blogs and new media continue to prosper–my blog’s readership soared last year–the old guard media, which is dominated by leftists, for the most part despises Trump. Their bad news needs to be your bad news.

My daughter at the old
M*A*S*H set

The old year of course will forever be remembered as the year of so many celebrity deaths, which included Leonard Nimoy, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Dick Van Patten, Omar Sharif, Yogi Berra, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, Wayne Rogers, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Wait…wait…don’t tell me! Yes, those are deaths from 2015. Celebrities die every year. Trust me, they really do.

Okay, second verse almost as same as the first: In 2016 the celebrity departures included David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, William Christopher, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

[Editorial note: The WordPress blogging platform does not like words with asterisks within them.]

Admittedly, some of these celebs are a bit different from the Class of 2015. Although enigmatic, Bowie, Prince and Michael meticulously cultivated their public images, they became familiar presences on MTV; so people, even if they weren’t fans, believed they “knew” these performers, and their 1980s videos enjoy eternal life on VH1 and on YouTube.

Fisher played Princess Leia in Star Wars, which was arguably the most influential movie, both artistically and in the business-sense, since The Jazz Singer. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, then you probably haven’t seen many films. Florence Henderson’s TV show, The Brady Bunch, was not a first-run success, but it achieved legendary status on the re-run circuit. Like Bowie’s “Modern Love” video on MTV, sometimes you need to watch something every day instead of once-a-week for it to be properly digested.

Oh, I mentioned earlier that Dick Van Patten of Eight Is Enough died in 2015. And few cared because I’m pretty sure you have to buy DVDs of his show to watch it.

As members of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation pass on, there are proportionately more self-absorbed people remaining, those of course being the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Snowflake Generation, many of whom view every event, whether it is a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, an election, and of course, a celebrity death, as being about themselves. When Ish Kabibble, a kind of proto-Jerry Lewis, died in 1994, my parents didn’t take it as a personal loss.

John “Lee” Ruberry of
the Magnificent Seven

Here is some more good news from 2016: Third quarter growth in the United States was a robust 3.5 percent, perhaps because the end of the Obama era was in sight. And since Trump’s win, the stock market has been soaring, clearly many people, smart ones, are confident that 2017 will be a year of strong economic growth.

Now if we can only convince the self-absorbed ones to stop thinking about themselves so much, then 2017 will certainly be a great year.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

John Adams: I must study politics and war so my sons will have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy and my sons must study navigation, commerce and agriculture so their children will have the right to study painting poetry and music.

John Adams Episode 3 Don’t Thread on me 2008

Over the last few days it seems nothing has been on the MSM other than the death of pop star Prince at the age of 58. In fact when I turned on CNN’s the Lead with Jake Thursday it was all about Prince. When I tweeted about this Jake Replied thus:

Now I will happily concede that with his Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky quip Jake won Twitter with that reply and I’ll also concede that as it was breaking news concerning the unexpected death of a public figure its something that would naturally demand attention.

But my broader point still stands.  On every network every single person talked about Prince, his music, the various songs and that kind of thing and how admirable and important it was but in the end what he did was sing songs and provide entertainment.

Or to put it another way the AP has a photo list up of notable deaths of 2016 you can see it here:

The list is dominated by musicians and actors.  To be sure Antonin Scalia made the cut but where on the list is Ray Tomlinson?

What you’ve never heard of him, let me help:

Raymond Tomlinson, widely credited as the inventor of modern email, died Saturday.

Raytheon Co., his employer, on Sunday confirmed his death.

Email existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson in that electronic messages could be shared amid multiple people within a limited framework. But until his invention in 1971 of the first network person-to-person email there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

With the possible exception of Antonin Scalia there is nobody on that list who can even pretend to have made an equal contribution to the world we live in than contribution to than Tomlinson.  Hundreds of millions of people if not billions would not be able to function today without his contributions yet who remembers him?

Or consider Joe Medicine Crow who died earlier this month at the age of 102.

Joseph Medicine Crow, a Native American historian and the last war chief of the Crow Tribe in Montana, died Sunday in a hospice, the Billings Gazette reported. He was 102.

Medicine Crow, or “High Bird” in the Crow language, was known for his works on Native American history, including his own documentation of his tribe’s firsthand accounts of reservation life. The National Park Service also credited Medicine Crow as the last surviving person to have heard oral accounts of the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn, including stories from his grandmother’s brother, White Man Runs Him, who served as a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

“I always told people, when you meet Joe Medicine Crow, you’re shaking hands with the 19th century,” Herman Viola, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, once said of Medicine Crow.

I suspect a year from now people will talk about the anniversary of Prince’s death and what his life meant, but in January did we talk about the anniversary of the death of Charles Townsend, the inventor of the Laser? Did you even know he died or that he even lived?

What’s the point, simply this.

There was a time when are heroes where people who actually did things of consequence or led great causes, George Washington, Eli Whitney, Clara Barton, Henry Ford, US Grant, George Washington Carver, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Frederick Douglas To be sure we celebrated cultural celebrities as well, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Joe DiMaggio but we kept it in perspective. Today do we celebrate the great inventors, the great thinkers, the great DOers or do we only celebrate the great celebrities?

A closing thought, I stated this piece, as I do many others with a quote. But I didn’t use the actual quote from John Adams which come from his letter to Abigail Adams dated May 12th 1780 from Paris that I quote from the Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/:

To take a Walk in the Gardens of the Palace of the Tuilleries, and describe the Statues there, all in marble, in which the ancient Divinities and Heroes are represented with exquisite Art, would be a very pleasant Amusement, and instructive Entertainment, improving in History, Mythology, Poetry, as well as in Statuary. Another Walk in the Gardens of Versailles, would be usefull and agreable. But to observe these Objects with Taste and describe them so as to be understood, would require more time and thought than I can possibly Spare. It is not indeed the fine Arts, which our Country requires. The Usefull, the mechanic Arts, are those which We have occasion for in a young Country, as yet simple and not far advanced in Luxury, altho perhaps much too far for her Age and Character.

I could fill Volumes with Descriptions of Temples and Palaces, Paintings, Sculptures, Tapestry, Porcelaine, &c. &c. &c. — if I could have time. But I could not do this without neglecting my duty. The Science of Government it is my Duty to study, more than all other Studies Sciences: the Art of Legislation and Administration and Negotiation, ought to take Place, indeed to exclude in a manner all other Arts. I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

Adams warning is apt, it’s good that we have reached the point that we as a nation and culture are rich and secure enough to produce “Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine” and arts (like filmmaking) that Adams couldn’t have dreamed of and it’s right that we celebrate them. After all it’s no coincidence that I used the HBO quote at the top. It’s fair to say that thanks to the HBO series millions more people know about John Adams contributions that would have known otherwise, just as we know the story of Chief Joe Medicine Crow thanks to Ken Burns documentary and we celebrate Richard Winters and the men who served with him as the heroes because of HBO’s Band of Brothers.

But it’s also true that if we celebrate and make heroic arts and those who produce them to the exclusion of those who study as Adams mentioned Mathematics, Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, Agriculture Politics, War and a host of new sciences that actually produce the practical matter that allows our country to function we will fall to the point where all of these other diversions are a luxury that we can’t afford and our culture, like Prince, will die before it’s time due to the bad choices we made.

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