Whilst digging out from under bedraggled Christmas wrap, bows, boxes, and assorted other holiday detritus, these odds and ends:

  • As you stumble over all those toys you showered on your children and grandchildren, you will doubtless be elated to know that some 80 percent of all the toys sold in the U.S. are now manufactured in China (by workers often paid 25 cents an hour or less, with few or no benefits).

    Add those lost jobs to the hundreds of thousands of textile worker jobs that have gone to China and other low-wage countries and the thousands of furniture industry jobs exported to the Far East and Eastern Europe, and a substantial chunk of this country's once-bedrock manufacturing sector has been shipped overseas.

    Which industry will be next? (There are those, of course, who would like to see agriculture moved offshore.)

  • An extended warm autumn resulted in some trees retaining their leaves longer than usual and their peak color being delayed until mid-December. Thus, the ginkgo trees in these parts provided a dazzling display of gold in an otherwise dreary, wintry landscape. The gingko, with its unique fan-shaped leaves, traces back to prehistoric China, and is to my way of thinking one of the finest trees on the planet.

    Also providing unexpected splashes of color almost until Christmas were the Bradford pear trees, which in a normal autumn would've shed their leaves much earlier. I still consider them the weeds of the tree kingdom — messy, brittle, sending up suckers everywhere — but this year they redeemed themselves by brightening dull days with their splotches of crimson and gold.

  • Granted that Saddam Hussein is a megalomaniac of the highest order, one can only wonder at the thought processes that led him, a year or so ago, to snub the U.S.' offer for him to leave Iraq. He could've now been living in the lap of luxury as an exile somewhere, spending his plundered millions, instead of facing a war crimes trial after being ignominiously dragged from his underground hidey-hole and held up to the world's ridicule. Oh well, nobody ever said dictators were smart.

  • The Bush re-election team couldn't have dreamed of a better Christmas present than the worldwide publicity generated by Saddam's capture (they were probably still high-fiving the days-earlier endorsement by Al Gore of Howard Dean to be the Democrat Party nominee for president in 2004 — which, should it come to pass, would result in a contest they see as pretty much no contest).

    Osama Bin Laden's capture would've made a nice stocking stuffer, though.

  • No presidential candidate in history has raised more money for a campaign war chest than President Bush, who helped rake in more than $100 million this year alone. TV station owners throughout the country are already licking their chops at the prospects of all the money that's going to come their way next year.

  • It would be curmudgeonly, I suppose, to note that spending by the administration and Congress, and debt, also exceeded all previous records.