So it was with the arrival of Johnathan Keegan Laws, who like his older sister and brother, promises to bring a lot of smiles to members of a generation like mine who wonders if we have much left to laugh about.

Johnathan’s brother, Benjamin, was born in 2000, the first year of a new century that seemed to be filled with promise. (Their older sister, Shelby, who was born in 1998, must also be mentioned because she might read this someday and wonder why she was left out.)

Ben was barely a year old when Sept. 11 struck, followed by the wars on terror, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. And a century that seemed to offer nothing but exciting possibilities now seems filled with peril in many parts of the world.

Before Sept. 11, the economy settled into a nosedive that has proven doggedly difficult to reverse. Political divisions have led to stalemate in Congress. A recent Time magazine article noted the acrimonious debate now occurring in this country. Republicans and Democrats and a shrinking number of independents appear equally divided in whether they love or loath George W. Bush.

The bitterness between the two camps has spilled over into the debate over legislation like the National Energy Policy Act of 2003 stalled in the Senate for the lack of two votes to bring an end to debate.

Democrats cited a provision for exempting manufacturers of MTBE, a gasoline additive, from product liability lawsuits as reason to send the bill back to conference. But there was also an element of not wanting to give the president victories on Medicare and energy going into the 2004 elections.

For now, farmers in many areas of the country are enjoying a run of good crops and good prices – so much so that they may gladly receive more income from the marketplace than from government programs this year.

USDA is saying 2003 farm income could set a record with net cash farm income reaching $65 billion or a third higher than in 2002 due to higher cattle prices and improved cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans returns. That prediction will be of little comfort to Midwest corn and soybean farmers who produced half a crop this year.

The crop losses and lower incomes in states like Iowa and Minnesota will put even more pressure on senators to find a way to break the deadlock on the energy legislation when it comes back on the floor sometime in January.

I confess to mixed feelings about the bill. I want it passed, but I want it done right. It and so much other pending legislation is too important for my three grandchildren to be left to presidential politics.

e-mail:flaws@primediabusiness.com