Dec 252013
 

Yes, Merry Christmas to all, even if for some it is really “Merry Wednesday.” I’m going to wish you well anyway, whatever you’re doing today.

It’s the repeated battle in the “War on Christmas:” Should people say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? The “Holidays” greeting arose out of a need not to offend (usually, potential customers). After all, you never know when somebody will get offended and snap, returning your “Merry Christmas” with a stab in the eye. Bah humbug, indeed.

Now, it seems the number of people who would be offended by “Happy Holidays” is greater than those offended by “Merry Christmas.” A “Happy Holidays” will get you scolded by a loyal Fox News viewer.

Perhaps it’s time businesses just resorted to “Good morning/afternoon. Welcome to our store. How can I help you (empty your wallet) today? When we come into a store after spending 20 minutes trying to find a parking space, do we really need to be reminded that it is Christmastime?

It makes sense to use a neutral greeting when addressing strangers or large groups. On the receiving end, if you get either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” just take it as it was intended. The person saying it is just trying to be nice (or is required by their employer to say it to get you to make a purchase.) They are wishing you well, not picking a fight.

Look: getting more offended doesn’t make you a more hardcore atheist and it doesn’t prove you love Jesus more than everyone else (as if that gets you into an express lane to heaven). It just proves that sometimes you are an oversensitive jerk.

As for that “Happy Christmas” stuff, you can shove it! This is Murica! Our founding fathers fought King George to get away from that British crap. [yes, sarcasm alert! One has to be careful with that stuff during Wartime]

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Jun 142013
 

A reposted classic:
Today is June 14th, Flag Day, here in the great United States. It is a day to commemorate the official adoption of our flag back in 1777. It’s also a day for flag worshipers to pop up, those who care more about the symbol than the nation and people it represents.

If you can believe it, some people still get their panties in a bunch over “flag etiquette.” This guy goes beyond reminding us to not let the flag touch the ground:

The Flag Code clearly states that “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”

A living thing!

Are you kidding me? You won’t convince me the flag is a living thing until I see a bunch of hunters out in the woods trying to kill it.

Now, I’m against people abusing the flag in order to intentionally inflict emotional distress on other people. For instance, I don’t think it is a good idea to go streaking naked through a VFW meeting, stopping in the middle to wipe yourself with Old Glory. Using a blank T-Shirt would be bad; the flag makes it worse.

The difference is I’m concerned about the damage to the person-victim than the symbol-object “victim.” Defiling the fabric doesn’t harm the nation, but many in the audience would find such behavior so outrageous and offensive that it risks causing heart attacks.

If you want to see some real desecration, look for those trying to redefine the flag’s symbolic value to fit their own political ideology. Check out this gem from the Washington Times: “In other words, the flag was understood to be a symbol of the unity of people and not simply a representation of the government of the United States because at the time, there was no official government.”

So you want the anti-government crowd to co-opt the flag. Just paint a giant teabag on there and call it a day. I’m going to say, “Hell, no, Bozo!” Patriotism belongs to anyone who loves their country, but especially those who want to make it the best it can be.

Today, we’ll probable hear another call for a flag burning amendment. I’ve always found this idea amusing for its astounding level of cognitive dissonance. They want to protect a symbol of our freedoms by placing an arbitrary limit on one of our most important freedoms (First Amendment expression).

I think such an amendment would do more damage to the flag than burning millions of them. (Similarly, any legislation that bans display of the flag should be tossed for similar reasons) A call for a flag desecration amendment would probably appeal to some of the same folks also put more emphasis on a few isolated phrases in a perpetually re-translated bible over the core principles of their own savior.

Flag worshipers want to prove their patriotism by treating the flag like a holy relic. Ask them if they know whether that flag was made in China.

On Flag Day, take a more reasonable level of reverence. Respect the flag as a symbol, but don’t worship it. Doing so will distract you from continuing attempts to ruin the nation that it stands for.

Flag

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Mar 112013
 

An excellent video about income inequality went viral last week.  It is worth a watch and a re-watch.  

 

The animated graph in the second half is fantastic and could be an amazing tool for helping people see and understand how outrageous the wealth gap has become in America.   When you do watch, share, and discuss this video and the issue, do not fall into the trap of using the term “inequality.”  Here’s why.

I know it is easier and quicker just to say “inequality.”  But in this case brevity is doing a disservice to your argument.  It leaves you open to the charge that since you are against inequality, therefore you want equality.  This flawed rebuttal is quite catchy and is used by the right to easily tie any critique of inequality to Communism, Socialism, Nazism, and general puppy-kickingism.  It could go something like this.

Plutocrat Toady:  I keep hearing people complaining about “inequality.” I don’t like the sound of that.  It’s like they want us all to be equal, to have the same amount of money.  I do OK, but I don’t want the government to force me to give some of my money so they can redistribute it to some lazy poor people. Do you?

Innocent, yet simple working class person:  Not really.

Plutocrat Toady:  It sounds like socialism to me, and do you know who used to call themselves “socialist”?

Innocent, yet simple working class person:  Who?

Plutocrat Toady:  The USSR communist Russians and Hitler’s Nazis.  I don’t want America to be taken over by those guys.  Do you?

Innocent, yet simple working class person:  No way, man!

Plutocrat Toady:  Next, they’ll force your daughter to go out with one of those poor people that took your money.  What do you think about that redistribution?

Innocent, yet simple working class person:  Starting to really piss me off.

Plutocrat Toady:  And since we’re all equal together now, they are going to make us all start speaking Spanish, right?

Innocent, yet simple working class person:  Ay Dios Mio!  … uh, I mean, screw those guys.  I’ll keep my inequality thank you very much.  Keep your government hands off my Medicare!

 

“You want to force everybody to be equal.”  The claim is absurd, but it plays on someone’s fear of government tyranny and fear of people that are different.  Anything that taps into those fears is a great tool to divide the majority (i.e. everyone who is not Crazy Rich) and generate support for the status quo.  

If you want to save capitalism from itself, one should pre-emptively rebut this argument by choosing to add one extra word in front of every reference to inequality.  You could use “extreme,” or “massive,” or “ridiculous,” or even “ungodly.”  Those that are appalled by the implication of forcing everyone to be equal may agree that it is possible for inequality to go too far.  Many can understand that sometimes freedom needs limits.  They won’t say that the Second Amendment give individuals the right to own nuclear weapons.

 The trap has been set that if you complain about “inequality,” the reactionaries on the right (yet not everybody on the right) will regurgitate an oversimplified and intentionally misleading spin that at “you are trying to force us all to be equal.  You are a communist/socialist.  You want the government to redistribute wealth.  You want the government to take money from people and give it to poorer people.”  They want to scare you into thinking all efforts to remedy this extreme inequality — a form of rabid capitalism not healthy rational capitalism — involves taking money from everyday “working class” Americans and giving it to the poor.  They want to recast it as a black-and-white issue, that the choice is equality or inequality.

Letting those at the top grab as much of the pie as they want and can is killing the American dream.  It’s already reached the point where you are much more likely to achieve the American dream outside of America.

 

The American Dream has Left the Country: Extreme Inequality Kills Social Mobility

 

Social mobility is the core of the American Dream. Note that having high mobility does not require perfect equality. That would actually be silly. In fact, social mobility requires inequality and it goes beyond just the idea of keeping up with the Joneses. I hope to be unequal with myself, doing better in the future than I am today. People want to be able to improve their status over time.

For today, know this. I don’t care about inequality; I’m outraged at extreme inequality. Simplify this debate and we all lose.

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Oct 232012
 

The final 2012 presidential debate was held last night.  Again, the winner is not the American people.  Here are some thoughts and clips from the transcript at The Washington Post.

First up, Governor Romney:

ROMNEY: … also help the Muslim world.

And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this:

One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education.
Number three, gender equality.
Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.

Sounds great, Mitt.  I only wish you would support those things in America, too.

 

OBAMA: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.

That would have been a great line, but he stumbled over it.  I know, I know:  He’s the president, not a stand-up comedian.  Continue reading »

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