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Happy Halloween

There’s a lot of intriguing news out there, but we’ll take some time off today to enjoy Halloween, as none of the ghosts and goblins and monsters who arrive on our porch this evening will be nearly so scary as what’s going on in the real world.
Way back when we were young Halloween was for the young, and it was a favorite night of the year. Dressing up in costumes never had much appeal to us, but the free candy made it worth the trouble. Now that we’re old Halloween seems to be more of a grown-up thing, but at our age we find it rather undignified to go out in public in wearing some weird garb, and we’ve lost our sweet tooth, so we’ll enjoy handing out candy and watching the kids have their fun.
Among other advantages of not dressing up as anything, we’re unlikely to give offense to anyone. Halloween is fraught with political peril these days, given how touchy almost everyone has become. There are a few religious conservatives who consider Halloween a Satanic right, and Sean Hannity thinks it teaches socialism to children, and the left is even crazier.
Way back when we were young it was common for children to dress up as hobos, which we did on at least one Halloween, but these days those free-spirited kings of the road who rode the rails and lived job-and-tax-free lives have largely disappeared, and the very word “hobo” is now exceedingly rare, so a hobo costume probably would seem to be mocking the homeless. There was never a time we can recall when black-face wasn’t considered rude, and we wonder what the heck that Megyn Kelly woman was thinking when she said on a nationally televised network that it isn’t rude, and we still roll our eyes recalling a usually sensible friend who thought it was acceptable for her to show up at an adult Halloween party dressed as Adolph Hitler. Another friend went to a Halloween party as the “Flo” woman from the Progressive Insurance ads, with a name tag identifying herself as “Flow” and her white pants stained by menstrual blood, and we have to agree with pretty much all of our other women friends that it was tasteless.
Other than that sort of thing, though, people should just lighten up and let their fellow young and old Americans act harmlessly foolish for a night. In recent years we’ve noticed that the kids who arrive at our door favor comic book superhero costumes and princess or angel outfits, rather than the ghosts and goblins and monsters that predominated in our childhood, and we suppose that might well be a hopeful trend, and they look darn cute. Our friends’ adult costumes tend to have some twisted sense of humor or attempt to be erotic, which strikes us a damn silly, but we’ll indulge their once-a-year silliness just as they indulge us the other 364 days of the year.
So enjoy the cute kids and the childlike behavior of your adult friends, and take a brief respite from all the scary stuff that will resume tomorrow.

— Bud Norman

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A Cautionary Christmas Story

You might have heard the heart-warming story about the New York City policeman who bought a pair of boots for a homeless man who had been wandering the frigid streets on bare feet. A tourist happened to witness the act of kindness, the inevitable video wound up going “viral” on the internet, and countless human interest stories followed.
The denouement of this tale has not been as widely reported, but then again, it’s not nearly so heart-warming. Apparently the homeless man is still wandering the frigid streets on bare feet, preferring to keep the new boots hidden in some secret location, and has lately been babbling to reporters about the unnamed people who want to kill him for his famous footwear. We’d love to tell a happier ending to the story, especially during the holiday season, but we are stuck with the facts.
This unpleasant plot twist is not, alas, at all surprising. Although the popular press typically portrays the homeless as innocent victims of impersonal economic forces, at least when there’s a Republican in the White House, our experience suggests that most of them are on the streets because they suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or a mental illness such as seems to afflict the barefoot vagrant. Which is not to say that the homeless are any less worthy of the public’s concern, even when there’s a Democrat in the White House, only that solutions other than hand-outs are required.
The officer in the story deserves all the praise he’s received for his generosity, as his act was clearly well intended, but we hope he now realizes that the $100 he reportedly spent on the boots would have been better spent elsewhere. Although it’s not clear what he could have done to provide more meaningful help for the homeless man, a question that has vexed more sophisticated policy-makers throughout the millennia in which there have been homeless people, it seems likely that officer would have done better by arresting the homeless man on a vagrancy charge and thereby at least providing him with a few days and nights of nourishment and warm shelter.
Good intentions wreak untold damage on society. A high-minded desire to provide homes for those with low credit scores created the subprime mortgage fiasco, the Great Society programs that waged war on poverty wrecked families and created long-term welfare dependence, and Rachel Carson’s altruistic environmentalism caused millions of malaria deaths. The kindly cop’s act of generosity did no harm, except for the loss of $100 to some charity that might have actually done some good with it, but it still provides an example of the road that is paved with good intentions.

— Bud Norman