Archive for November, 2012

Regardless of political beliefs, why does anyone watch Bill O’Reilly?

by David McElroy

Is anyone else on American television as rude as Bill O’Reilly? I don’t watch TV, so I can’t be sure, but I can’t imagine why anybody watches this rude and pompous guy.

In was in a restaurant last night that was turned to Fox News and O’Reilly’s show was on. Both televisions in the place were on the same channel and it was loud, so I didn’t have much choice but to hear it. I heard O’Reilly start interviewing Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists. The group is suing to stop some activity or other that it considers an illegal government involvement in a religious holiday. Actually, it wasn’t as much an interview as it was a patronizing attack.

The guest tried to be polite and civil from the beginning, but O’Reilly wasn’t interested. He quickly cut off any polite talk and went on the offensive. He asked the man why his group was suing and the man replied that the atheists believe the case is about government involvement in religion.

O’Reilly asked what religion is involved. The atheist looked a bit puzzled before answering that it’s Christianity. O’Reilly cut him off quickly.

“[Christianity] is not a religion,” he said. “That’s a philosophy.”

I couldn’t tell whether O’Reilly was stupid enough to believe what he was saying or if he knew he was being disingenuous. I have to assume he was being intentionally dishonest, because I can’t believe anyone is that stupid. O’Reilly was rude and intellectually dishonest for the rest of the interview parts that I saw. At one point, he referred to the atheist as “You and your merry band of fascists.”

I eventually had to put my earbuds in and turn Laura Veirs on as loud as I could stand the music.

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What if non-taxpayers had no say in government taxing or spending?

by David McElroy

Note: I don’t edit old articles such as this one, because they were what I believed to be accurate when I wrote them, but I have finally discovered almost four years later that the source of this graphic was actually a Buzzfeed article about what the results would have been if only white people had voted. The article will remain as it is, but please do not use this to make a political point about voting, because that might or might not be accurate. (I suspect if non-taxpayers were excluded from voting, the results would have been what I said here, but the data isn’t there to say so.) If you’d like to know why I don’t think it matters to argue these points, you’re welcome to read this article from July 2016 explaining how my priorities have changed in the past few years.

As long as you’re 18 years old and can fog a mirror, any U.S. citizen can vote. But what if we made one simple rule change? What if you had to have paid income taxes to be eligible to vote?

According to a graphic which has been attributed to CNN, the network looked at exit poll data from the election and told us what would have happened in the recent presidential election. After subtracting voters who pay no income taxes, Barack Obama would have won only 11 states. Instead of 332 electoral votes, he would have had only 97 electoral votes. (Click the map for a bigger copy.) Mitt Romney would have beaten him by a margin of 4.5 to 1 in electoral votes. It would have been a blowout win for the Republicans.

I was surprised to see CNN even point this out, because the suggestion that this is even a legitimate way to look at the data isn’t something that is typically brought up in polite company. The idea that people who don’t pay taxes are “second-class citizens” in some way is enough to get you declared racist and any other pejorative that some folks can think of.

But let’s think about it. Why is it that people who don’t pay taxes — which is about half the population — get to decide who pays taxes and how much money the actual taxpayers have to pay? What right do they have to have anything to say on such matters? If they’re not contributing to the money — and have nothing to lose from demanding higher taxes — why should they be allowed to have a say about what money is raised and how it’s spent?

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What makes you think Democrats, GOP are really on opposite sides?

by David McElroy

Since the election, I’ve heard a lot of talk from otherwise-reasonable people about how much the Democrats and Republicans hate each other and how they stand for entirely different things. I keep wanting to check and see whether these folks are really paying attention. Isn’t it obvious that Democrats and Republicans are really just two different wings of the Bipartisan Party?

Almost everybody talks wistfully these days about how great it would be if the two parties could just work together in a “bipartisan way.” Those naive folks don’t seem to understand the truth that George Carlin spoke when he said, “Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

When the two parties come to some big budget deal which lets them borrow billions and billions more dollars without cutting any spending, it’s hailed as bipartisan. The alleged combatants stand together smiling about the great deal they’ve come to, but it never seems to be a great deal for anyone except those who like bigger government and more spending.

I can’t remember the last time that actual spending was cut overall in the federal budget. Do you? When politicians talk about cuts, they generally just means cuts to the rate of growth of spending. In the real world, we don’t call those cuts. Instead, we look at it as an already-way-too-big government getting even bigger while politicians lie to us. Again.

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Everything sounded fair at the time, so why’d I end up paying for it all?

by David McElroy

I was out getting my mail one day not long ago when I noticed several of my neighbors in the street talking. I stepped across the street to be neighborly and see what the neighborhood gossip might be.

“Hey, let me tell you about the new idea we’ve been talking about,” said Karl. He’s sort of the intellectual in our neighborhood. I’m not sure what he does, but he spends a lot of time at the library working on a book. “We’ve decided that we need a neighborhood swimming pool for our street. I figure we can have it ready to go by the time it’s warm enough in the spring.”

“Sounds great, Karl,” I said, “but wouldn’t that be pretty expensive?”

“None of us can afford it alone,” Karl said, “but if we put our resources together, it shouldn’t be so bad.”

The other folks all seemed to think it was a good idea, so I told him I might be interested if the price was right. They told me they’d let me know what they figured out, and I went back home.

A few days later, there was a knock at my door. It was Karl and a couple of his friends.

“I have great news,” Karl said. “We took a vote and decided to move ahead with the community swimming pool project. We’ll be letting you know how much you owe as soon as we have the figures all put together. Isn’t that great?”

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Some people are so desperate to feel alive that they’ll hurt themselves

by David McElroy

“I need to show you something.”

That’s what I heard as a friend came to sit down where I was eating. She sounded serious, but I didn’t know what might be going on.

She looked around to be sure nobody was watching. Then she held her arm close to her body to shield it from other people and then turned the arm over. I saw several small cut marks. It was shocking to see, even though there weren’t nearly as many cuts as shown in the picture above.

I knew that my friend had been having problems and needed counseling. I knew she had done minor cutting earlier in her teen-age years. I even knew she had been having more problems lately. But I didn’t know she was feeling like doing this again. I asked her why she was doing it.

“I wanted to feel something,” she said.

I’ve read a lot about cutting in an effort to understand it. I’ve encountered it before — all in teen-age girls — and everyone I’ve seen it affect has seemed to get over it in time, usually with good counseling. From everything I’ve read and the few I’ve talked with who’ve been affected by it, it seems that the people who go through this have been experiencing intense, out-of-control emotions. They seem to have repressed the intensity of the hurtful emotions they feel so much that they end up numb.

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Let’s quit trying to force others to choose our shopping preferences

by David McElroy

I wasn’t out shopping when stores opened for “Black Friday” sales Thursday evening, and I won’t be shopping Friday. I’m uncomfortable with the out-of-control consumerism of our culture — which I’ve written about before — but I don’t care if that’s what you want. The choices you make about material things reflect your values, not mine.

There seem to be increasingly sharp battle lines between those who want to tell you when you should be allowed to shop and those who are eager to get the best deals available. Many people have been angry for a long time that so many people turn the day after Thanksgiving into an orgy of commercialism, but they’re really upset now that stores are opening earlier and earlier — bringing opening times all the way up to 8 p.m. Thursday at Walmart and 9 p.m. at Target. Other stores are opening at similarly early times.

For millions of people, this is a good thing. They wouldn’t line up as they do if they didn’t want to shop. And the random Thanksgiving night shoppers I talked to were thrilled. They said they had long been accustomed to getting up very early Friday morning, and they appreciated being able to do the same shopping Thursday night instead. The folks I talked with at the Target near my house Thursday night seemed like very happy customers.

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The truth about first Thanksgiving has lessons for today’s economy

by Richard J. Maybury

Each year at this time, school children all over America are taught the official Thanksgiving story, and newspapers, radio, TV and magazines devote vast amounts of time and space to it. It is all very colorful and fascinating.

It is also very deceiving. This official story is nothing like what really happened. It is a fairy tale, a whitewashed and sanitized collection of half-truths which divert attention away from Thanksgiving’s real meaning.

The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

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Some Ohio State football fans believe a U.S. president has superpowers

by David McElroy

One of the key story points in “The Wizard of Oz” is that a magical man with all powers ruled the entire land from the Emerald City and could grant whatever he chose to give out of the goodness of his heart. Some people believe the same of the U.S. president.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are 11-0 right now, with just one game to go. Ohio State’s group of football fans is as rabid as any of the other top 15 or 20 college football programs, and they would normally be excited about a possible chance to play for the national championship. There’s just one problem. The Buckeyes are on probation this year and are ineligible to play a post-season game. That was part of the punishment they suffered because of a cheating scandal a few years back.

Now, I understand that a sane person would wonder how these two stories are going to tie together. But even though the ruling body of college football — the NCAA — has judged Ohio State guilty and handed down the sanctions, some of the school’s fans are unhappy. They don’t think it’s fair. So they actually started a petition on the White House website asking Barack Obama to intervene — and somehow declare that Ohio State must be allowed to play for the national title. Here’s what the petition said:

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Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be reduced to story of heroes, villains

by David McElroy

Most people seem to have very strong feelings about who’s right in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, despite knowing remarkably little about the history surrounding it. Do the details of the Middle East conflicts make your eyes glaze over, because you’ve heard the same stories over and over again? The Onion had a classic article five years ago making the point that these news articles are basically interchangeable as far as Americans are concerned.

As the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians flares up yet again, so are tensions between supporters of the two sides. On Facebook, it’s been pretty heated. When I read the comments from partisans on both sides, you’d think that each side was reading only half of the news and facts from the Middle East — and the other side was reading only the other half of the news and facts.

You can almost take much of their rhetoric (from both sides) and switch it to the other side by changing the names. The cheerleaders for the two sides don’t seem to understand that it’s a complex dispute with fault on both sides, not something that can easily be reduced to a tale of heroes and villains.

I’ve been surprised in the last few days to get questions from people who really don’t know that much about the dispute, people who hear both sides screaming at each other and don’t know what to believe. As a result, I’d like to take a quick look at some of the basic facts of the conflict and show you why I don’t see either side as “good.”

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Hostess shutdown shows strength of market, not reason to bash unions

by David McElroy

I found out Sunday night that the Hostess Brownie Bits — and a few other Hostess products — are still on the shelves of the Target near me. But the shelves for Hostess products was mostly empty. I couldn’t find a Twinkie anywhere. What’s really going on as these iconic brands disappear from our store shelves?

Since the company best known for making products such as Twinkies and Wonder Bread announced it was shutting down, I’ve heard two consistent narratives about it. One comes from conservatives and one comes from progressives on the left. I’d like to suggest that both narratives are overly simplistic.

For conservatives, the story of Hostess Brands is a narrative of evil unions destroying an otherwise-healthy company. For progressives, the story of the shutdown is valiant workers standing up against evil bosses in the name of fairness. I don’t think either side has the facts to really back up the story in just those terms.

Let me admit my bias right up front. I can’t stand unions. I wouldn’t be a member of a union. I think they tend to make companies function poorly, because they tend to infect the workers’ attitude with an us vs. them mentality. I still remember when my father worked for a coal mining company when I was in high school, and the miners would go on “wildcat strikes” on the first day of deer-hunting season or when they wanted a day off. They were lazy and had lousy attitudes, from what I could tell.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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