Here’s A Great Way To Connect to America’s Founding: 1776

Get into the spirit of ‘76 with a great live musical

You probably didn’t know that I was a theatre guy in high school and college. In fact, I was a theatre 1776-postermajor for a couple of years. I think the right’s neglect of the arts is one of our biggest failings. The arts reach people at an emotional level. Intellectual arguments cannot change emotional attachments.

So here’s a chance to rev up your American patriotic spirits while connecting with the arts. It’s 1776, the musical, and a great St. Louis teacher and leader, Jim Leibrecht, is part of the show.  Here’s his summary of this play:


I just wanted to let you know that the production of 1776 opens at Insight Theatre a week from Wednesday, June 26.  It runs for 10 of the next 12 days, dark on July 1 and 4.  Curtain is at 8:00, 2:00 on Sunday’s.  Theatre is on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School.


I think you all know that I am now one to “enthuse” without justification.  Well, I am about to “ENTHUSE” enthusiastically.

I have to tell you that this is going to be an extraordinary production.  The cast of 20+ is wonderfully talented as actors and as vocalists, and experienced and professional all.  From the leads through the delegates to the entire company, the vocal quality is “awesome”.  Voices are very rich and full, and the characters created are engrossing.  (I portray Scottish delegate of Delaware, Thomas McKean, he of the robust and florid personality and voice).  This is definitely one of the most exhilarating casts I have ever had the privilege and joy of being part of.  Each one’s abilities help one to enrich and flesh out one’s own performance, which means it is a total company and ensemble presentation—doesn’t get any better than that.   But all that is so much more wonderful because the libretto and music of the show are just great.  The book is great writing; the music fully reflective of the characters, the situation.  It is just a wonderful musical.  AND the miraculous birth of our Declaration and birth is both confounding and inspiring.  The show makes one appreciate what July 4 is really about all the more.

I invite you to come; I encourage you to come.  You will find the production of a level of expertise to match any other you may enjoy in St. Louis this summer.  You will be very glad you took the time and effort to share this theatrical magic with the cast and the production.

You may check on ticket availability, and purchase tickets at the Insight Theatre website.  Just Google it.  The tickets are $25 and $30, depending on reserved seat location.  I guarantee you will get much MORE than your money’s worth.  There is a fee charge for purchase online.

I will make at least one of the performances. If you see the show, please review it in the comments of this blog post.

1776 : TICKETS

Nerinx Hall High School

June 26, 27, 28, 29 & 30, July 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7

Maybe It’s the New Season of Mad Men

This post is a bit unusual for me. Strange and disturbing thoughts crowded my mind tonight—Sunday, March 7.

These thoughts interrupted my television viewing. I couldn’t really focus. Then, I couldn’t sleep. The thoughts won’t rest, and they won’t give me rest. So I write.

I’m bewildered by the world’s stock markets. Someone told the Wall Street Journal that, sure, the US economy seems to be tanking, manufacturing’s falling, the labor rate’s in the toilet. But the Fed will keep printing money, so why not buy stocks?

That’s right. People are borrowing money to buy stocks in companies they expect to fail. Or, at least, disappoint.

The people buying these overpriced stocks in weak companies with borrowed money don’t appear to be yahoos. They appear to be MBAs in finance working in the finance world. In other words, these are the people who think they run our economy, the people who think they understand this stuff better than we do.

Some of these Masters of Finance work for the government. This sub-species spent the last four years herding the lazy onto Social Security disability programs. Those programs will be unable to write checks in 2016—to the goldbricks or to the seriously disabled. In other words, the Social Security disability system is crashing, yet the Masters of Finance prod people into that plummeting vessel by tens of thousands every month.

Over in Europe—the continent from which most of our families fled—the Masters of Finance told Portugal to ignore its Constitutional Court and implement the troika’s austerity plan. Essentially, the EU ordered Portugal to dissolve the last vestiges of democracy. At least they’ve stopped pretending democracy still exists.

Meanwhile, the Japanese stock market skyrockets at 3 percent a day while Japan’s economy remains in something just a few clicks north of depression.

So what makes so many smart people so willing to mortgage everything to buy stocks they expect to go to zero?

Hell if I know.

But I wonder if Too Big To Fail has infiltrated everyone’s mind like an ear-worm tune that we just can’t shake.

The Visit

I read a play ages ago, The Visit, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. A small town mired in depression awaits the return of native woman, Claire Zachanassian, who left and became a billionaire. Well, she married one who died, leaving her loaded. The town invests its last pennies to put on a huge welcome for her hoping she’ll bail them out. She was sort of like Hank Paulson, Congress, Bush, and Bernanke rolled into one.

The town selects Claire’s old beau, Alfred Ill (as in sick), to petition her help. They were lovers, after all.

After a few days, Claire gathers the townsfolk together to make her announcement. She will give one billion to the town—half to the government, half to be split among the families. On one condition. The town would have to murder her old flame, Alfred.

Now, Alfred is the most popular man in town. He runs the general store. He solves problems. Until Claire’s return, Alfred is Güllen’s leading citizen.

The townspeople are flabbergasted. From the mayor on down, they assail Claire’s immoral offer and assure Alfred his life is safe with them. They would never carry out her wish.

But something happens. Alfred begins to notice that the impoverished people of Güllen have new things. Nothing big, at first, but noticeable after years of privation.

There’s new shoes on girls’ feet, new bicycles for little boys. The mayor wears fashionable new clothes and a fresh hat.

In his general store, Alfred notices that his friends and neighbors are buying a lot of expensive goods on credit.

They expect a windfall.

Alfred, of course, had done Claire wrong. Very wrong. She used the power of her money to destroy Güllen’s economy. She returned, not to save her town, but to destroy Alfred. Alfred confesses his sin to the mayor and several town leaders. The leaders admit that they intend to kill him. They have to, they reason. Alfred brought on their plague, and they seriously need the money.

Alfred, seeing no way out, acquiesces.

There’s a big town hall meeting, full of reporters. The people vote to accept Claire’s offer. Then the reporters are ushered out, the townspeople murder Alfred, and his death is reported as a heart attack.

And they all lived guiltily ever after. Except Alfred.

Are We the People of Güllen?

The savings rate in America, which mounted a strong comeback in the wake of the 2008 crash, has fallen back to 2 percent in recent months. The labor rate is lower than anytime since 1979, when many women still stayed at home raising children. The real unemployment rate is over 11 percent.

But home prices are soaring. Everybody’s buying cars. All on credit. Just like the people of Güllen.

All of this gives me the creeps. I feel like I’m living out The Visit, only the sacrificial lamb hasn’t been identified.

Warming Up The Guns of August

Legendary investor Art Cashin told King World News that the present time reminds him of the days leading up to World War I.

There seems to be an almost palpable belief around the world that cooler heads will prevail.  Someone will step in and stop this from happening.  And while it happened even before I began my 50 year career, I’ve long been a student of history, both financial and geopolitical, and I think back to World War I when everyone on both sides knew that such a war would be unwinnable, would be distasteful, but managed to walk into it believing that logic would prevent the guy on the other side from making a fatal mistake.

So whether it is exercises in Korea or economic changes in Europe, the idea that rational men will prevent irrational crises doesn’t live up to world history.

Maybe this is why I can’t sleep. Something tells me that 2008 was just a rehearsal for the crash that’s coming. And after this next crash, no one alive will trust the markets, paper money, or government ever again.

That could mean we have something close to anarchy. Or it could mean we have dictatorships. Or maybe something completely different. Black swans appeared though we never conceived of them.

Which, finally, reminds me of something my friend Lee Presser told me the first time we met four years ago.

Lee was talking about the long cycles of history. He was urging me to read The Fourth Turning, still the most amazing history book I’ve ever read. Lee pointed out that civilizations don’t last forever.

“Roman citizens,” he told me, “had a very high literacy rate. Ridiculously high compared to any civilization before the modern west.”

“Yet in the period of only about one hundred years, that literacy rate fell almost to zero. Only kings and some clergy could read in the course of four generations. And it stayed that way, pretty much, until the twentieth century.”

I just looked at him, no idea what to say.

“And it could happen again,” he added.

Tonight I’m thinking maybe the sacrificial lamb is modern civilization itself.

Happy Birthday, Jack Hennessy

  I don’t get into town to visit my dad often enough. That’s my loss.

JackHennessySTLPDJack Hennessy, my dad, epitomizes what we call The Greatest Generation.

He helped raise his younger brothers and sister after their mother passed away. Jack was ten. His youngest sibling, my uncle Jim, was a newborn.

Jack Hennessy answered the call of World War II. He was a Machinist’s Mate in the Navy. He answered, again, when North Korea crossed the 34th Parallel.

After service in two wars, Jack continued his life of service and protection on the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department.  Later, he retired from Sunnen Products Company in Maplewood.

My dad is one of the wittiest men I’ve ever known. Of course, I didn’t always appreciate that wit. Like many  young men, I often wondered what all the other people found so funny. When my college buddies started asking if my dad could come out to the bars with us, I began to worry about my friends’ mental health.

On leave from my own stint in the Navy, though, I began to see what I’d been missing. God gave me the great privilege of living the first 21 years of my life in the home of a great man, one who devoted his life to his kids and their happiness. He’d served community and country proudly, selflessly, and honorably. He’s a devoted grandfather and husband surrounded by loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren, still in St. Louis City where he’s lived his whole life.

Today, Jack Hennessy does what he can to service the country and community he loves. He has his yard signs and bumper stickers, and he’s itching to vote “that bum” out of office.

I wish him a very happy birthday, and hope you will to. He doesn’t ask for much, but I know something he would love: a big win for Romney, Akin, and, especially, his friend Ed Martin Jr. And your No vote on Proposition A wouldn’t hurt, either.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


How Herbert Hoover Launched Cardinal Nation

The St. Louis Cardinals were the major league team farthest west and farthest south until the 1950s.  But that’s not the only reason the Redbirds built a massive flock of fans from the Alleghenies to the Rockies, and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The St. Louis Cardinals owe big government statism and technological innovation a big thanks, in addition to geography and great teams.  The technology was radio.  The big government statist?  None other than Herbert Hoover.

This was just one of the amazing facts I put together reading Michael Patrick Leahy’s magnificent book, Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.  (Buy it today.)

Bill Hennessy Reading Covenant of Liberty

No, Mike didn’t devote page space to the Cardinals. Instead, he traces the ideological roots of the Tea Party—and the government-loving hatchet men who’ve been chopping at those roots since the Constitution was signed.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Hoover addresses a large crowd in his 1932 cam...

Hoover used his power as cabinet secretary under Woodrow Wilson, and later Republicans Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, to grab the radio airwaves as the exclusive property of the US Government.  A champion of “associationalism” and public-private partnerships, Hoover granted mega-station power to a handful of lucky radio corporations.  These stations got 50,000 watt, clear channel licenses, allowing them to blast their signals around the continent.  And, thanks to geography, one station could broadcast around the world.

That station, KMOX in St. Louis, began broadcasting the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926. KMOX carried the Cardinals to farms, small towns, and cities throughout the Midwest and South Central states. In fact, by 1928, KMOX could be heard as far away as New Zealand, making it the first truly global radio station.The closest team to baseball fans in Missouri, Southern Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Nebraska, Kentucky, and even Georgia was now available at 1120 AM.

Leahy points out the economic value of a clear channel license:

A clear channel license was, in essence, a license to print money because each clear channel station could, in the evenings, reach up to half of the geographical territory of the United States. Each station, then, could reach well over 50 million listeners, and advertisers were more than willing to pay top dollar to reach those listeners, provided of course that the programming was half way decent.

Hoover’s intention was to draw more power into the central government. In 1926,the Supreme Court struck down Hoover’s directives as Commerce Secretary. Those directives had given the government exclusive power to operate radio stations in the United States. The Navy was, for a time, America’s only radio network. It created the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to manage its stations.

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Matt Holliday #7...

After the Supreme Court decisions, Hoover was ordered to issue radio licenses. Unwilling to surrender control to the free market, which he despised, Hoover managed to get Congress to adopt the Federal Radio Act of 1927—and Cardinal Nation was born.

One of the first things Hoover did was create a spectrum that allocated sixteen gigantic 50,000 watt stations across the country. He licensed these stations to General Electric, Westinghouse, and a few other powerful manufacturing interests.

Earlier, as Agriculture Secretary under Woodrow Wilson, Hoover was the first to win broad government control of food production and distribution. (President Obama’s Executive Order of March 16 extends the White House’s power to take over food and other industries, augmenting the damage Hoover’s statism as done.)

Hoover’s public policy legacy, according to Leahy, was, indeed, the Great Depression, but not for the laissez-faire we learned about in school.  Instead, Hoover and his Republican Congress micromanaged the U.S. economy from the moment of his inauguration in 1929. Just as the economy began healing from the stock market crash, Hoover clobbered it with high tariffs, stifling regulations, tax increases, and soaring federal debt. (Sound familiar?)

Hoover’s autocratic control of radio helped make General Electric the government-dependent, tax-free behemoth it remains today. And it continued a precedent of broken Constitutional principles that extends back to the first hours of our republic.

By moving economic decisions from people to government, and by coopting corporations, Hoover laid the foundation for the financial disaster that struck during his administration. But he also helped make my Cardinals one of the most storied franchises in baseball.

Just one example of the way progressives have used passion to steal liberty from people.  Leahy presents more.

In Covenant of Liberty, you’ll meet the first Tea Partier, John Lilburn of London, who spent years in prison in the 1640s for his insane desire to escape the arbitrary rule of other men.  You’ll learn the underhanded tactics that Alexander Hamilton employed to circumvent Congress and the states in extending the reach of the federal government.

You’ll also be introduced to Leahy’s 4-Promises theory. That theory holds that the Constitution is a covenant in which the government makes four promises in exchange for its existence, granted by the states and the people. Those four promises are:

  • to abide by a written constitution and its “plain meaning”
  • to refrain from interfering in private economic matters
  • to honor the “fiscal constitution”
  • to exercise thoughtful deliberation in Congress

Every Tea Partier knows that the fourth principle fell in 2008 and 2009, with dynamic duo of TARP and the Bailouts. And if the principle somehow survived Bush and Paulson, it certainly died with the passage of ObamaCare and Nancy Pelosi’s frightening assertion that we’ll have to pass the bill in order to know what’s in it.  “I’ll take whatever’s behind Door Number Four, Monty.”

You will gain some remarkable insights into American history, how we got where we are, and maybe even sports when you read Covenant of Liberty—the most important book about the Tea Party by a true Tea Party founder to date. It’s the best history book I’ve read in years, and you’ll be saying the same thing after you read it.

Peering Into the Future from the Past

Check this out:

As far as the market drop and the comeback of the market, I'd just like to pass along the following information. I stand in the Ten-Year Treasury-Note pit in the Chicago Board of Trade. The name of the room I trade in is the Financial Room. We trade the commodities that represent most of our national debt. When the gov., sells debt, the buyers of that debt have to hedge somewhere. They hedge with us.

This room is the center of the universe as far as our national debt is concerned and it will become increasingly more visible as the crisis approaches. (If you’ve ever seen CNBC during the day, they cut to the CBOT floor with a reporter named, Rick Santelli. Behind Rick, you can see a trading floor; that’s the Financial Floor of the CBOT.)

That’s from James Goulding’s blog from August 2003. (The blog has been reduced to a static web page. Scroll down to see this entry in its entirety.)

I love reading people’s predictions years later. Most prognosticators miss by a mile. A few land in the ball park.  A handful scare the begeezes out of me.

Do you find it peculiar that Mr. Goulding mentioned the significance of national debt and introduced Rick Santelli so long before the two converged to inspire the Tea Party? I do.

James Goulding is a big fan of two other prognosticators who freak me out: William Strauss and Neil Howe who wrote The Fourth Turning among other works. 

Here’s a quote from that book:

A spark will ignite a new mood. Today, the same spark would flame briefly but then extinguish, its last flicker merely confirming and deepening the Unraveling-era mind-set. This time, though, it will catalyze a Crisis. In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party [bold mine].

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny

fourth-turning0001Of course, Howe and Strauss did not predict the emergence of the Tea Party movement when they wrote in 1997. Did they? 

It’s eerie, nonetheless. Why that term? Why in that syntax?

We can’t really predict the future, but we can arm ourselves with a lot of information about the possible courses history might take and the dangers and trade-offs we face.

Strauss and Howe believe that we live though a 20-year period of Crisis every 80 to 100 years.  The last such period ended in 1945 with the end of WWII. It had begun in 1929 with the stock market crash.  The next one was between about 2005 and 2013.

And here we are.

Back to Goulding:

The point is this; the market (the DOW) is behaving [in August 2003] like the market of the 20s. However, I noticed something recently. When I advance the chart of the twenties in time, by 14 months, the similarities of this latest rally we are having (August 2003) are startling. 9/11 may have escalated the pace of the impending Spark. (The Spark wasn’t expected until 2009) It may have advanced to 2007.

Or 2008.

In this crisis, I try to make myself useful.  I am guided by these words, again from The Fourth Turning:

“Now once more the belt is tight and we summon the proper expression of horror as we look back at our wasted youth,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said after the crash that hit his peers at the cusp of what should have been their highest-earning years. “A generation with no second acts,” he called his Lost peers—but they proved him wrong. They ended their frenzy and settled down, thus helping to unjangle the American mood. Where their Missionary predecessors had entered midlife believing in vast crusades, the post-Crash Lost skipped the moralisms and returned directly to the basics of life. “What is moral is what you feel good after,” declared Ernest Hemingway, “what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” “Everything depends on the use to which it is put,” explained Reinhold Niebuhr on behalf of a generation that did useful things regardless of faith—a role the Missionaries chose not to play.

Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (2009-01-16). The Fourth Turning (Kindle Locations 5978-5984). Three Rivers Press. Kindle Edition.

The modern day Lost we call Gen X, the Missionary, Boomers.  Next up were the GI whose modern version we call Millennial.

I hope I’ve learned well the lessons of history. We have a tough row to hoe. We can whine and complain, or we can shoulder the work.

Given a choice, I’d prefer more income, better markets, and a quiet life. But the cycles of history have decided otherwise.

What do you think?

So Much for the Experts

Rule by the cleverest brute dominated most of human history. Then came the bizarre notion – in Greece and Rome to degrees, but mostly in the USA – of rule by the governed. Rule by the governed gave way in 20th century to rule by experts.

Many so called “conservatives” warned against the expert thing. Eventually, conservatives believed, the experts would either fall prey to the clever brutes or to a world too complex for a small group to manage.

We avoided, up to now, the clever brutes. But that complex world, manageable by individuals working together voluntarily, has proven too much for the geniuses like Barack Obama and Ben Bernanke.

The world will change a lot over the next 15 years.  The experts having been discredited, we will choose to trust ourselves and each other—or we will submit a clever brute.

Choose wisely.