Archive for August, 2013

Economic and moral ignorance is at root of fast food worker walkout

by David McElroy


None of the fast food places near me are shut down because of a growing series of strikes, as far as I know. But if the walkout extends to a McDonald’s or Wendy’s or something similar near here, I might have to eat there — just out of principle — because these misguided workers are wrong.

They’re being led astray by union bosses who want to increase their own power — by bringing more workers under their control — not caring that their actions are likely to destroy the jobs of the people they claim to want to help.

Guided by the union bosses of the Service Employees International Union, these employees are demanding that fast food chains increase their minimum starting pay to $15 an hour. Their pitch to the public: “We can’t survive on $7.25.”

I have no special love for the people who own and operate most fast food joints. With few exceptions, they’re poorly managed and the companies don’t care much about the customer experience or the employees. They tend to sell a sub-par product (which never looks like the product in the commercials). The employees tend to be rude and poorly trained. Management tends to be surly and unprepared. So what’s there to like about them? Simply that they give us quick access to generic, reasonably predictable food at pretty cheap prices (compared to traditional restaurants).

So why are the employees and their union bosses wrong? I could list a number of reasons why they’re wrong, but it all boils down to economics and morality.

The union campaign claims, “We are worth more,” but anyone who understands economics can tell you that’s wrong, for the simple fact that the labor market determines the worth of someone.

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Best years of our lives? For me, teen years were start of feeling like alien

by David McElroy

We are strangers, we are aliens
We are not of this world
— “Not of This World,” Petra

Every time I observe groups of teen-agers interact, I’m reminded of why I disliked that period of my life so much. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like an alien on this planet, but there was something about those years that made it seem more acute and more painful. It was the start of realizing just how different I am.

For some teens, there’s a casualness to their social interaction that I never felt. I eventually learned to fake it well, but I never quit feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

By high school, I had leadership roles at church and at school, but I never lost the feeling that I was an actor playing a part when I was with others — like some kind of alien wearing a disguise as a human. It was then that I realized I never felt as alone as I did in crowds.

I was thinking about this again recently because of sitting in a restaurant watching a group of teens interact. There’s a part of me that wants to say that they made me uncomfortable with the forced casualness of their time together, but there’s another part of me that wonders if they really are casual and natural together — and it’s the fact that they can do that so easily with random people that makes me uncomfortable — because I can’t.

Maybe it makes me feel this way because it reminds me of just how different I felt as a teen — and how I’ve continued to feel like the alien who’s pretending to fit in here.

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Want to feel happier and healthier? Try cutting back on your deception

by David McElroy

I’m a really, really good liar. Seriously, I am. When I was growing up, I learned at home how to do it right, even though the same person who taught me how to do it so well would punish me for lying to him.

From a very early age, I learned to answer the phone when my father was dodging certain phone calls. I was coached in exactly what to say to which people, completely without regard to the truth, of course. I was frequently told casually of which lies had been told so I could be sure to back up one of my father’s deceptions if it came up in conversation.

For instance, we were one time on the way to visit my father’s boss when he told me to say that my foot was fine if I was asked about it. He had needed an excuse to leave work one day, so he claimed that I had been injured by having a lawnmower blade hit my foot. (He had read a tiny news item about it happening to another boy, so he just transferred the story to me when it was convenient.) Things such as this were common for me.

As I said, though, lying to him was strictly forbidden. If I was caught doing it — and I was, from time to time — I was severely punished.

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If you’ll quit worshiping celebrities, their antics will quit shocking you

by David McElroy

Miley Cyrus

Remember when Madonna was shocking and outrageous? Back in the early ’80s, she combined sexuality with religious imagery in ways that shocked and angered many people. (Personally, I thought Weird Al did it better in his parody than she did.)

Who else has shocked you? Lady Gaga and her meat dress or her recent nude video? Or maybe you’re old enough to remember when John Lennon shocked people by proclaiming that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

When I got online Monday morning, it seemed as though the whole world was talking about something scandalous that Miley Cyrus did on an MTV awards show Sunday night. On Facebook, it seemed for awhile that half the posts I saw were about her — some outraged, some disgusted and a few defending her.

I honestly don’t know the specifics of what Cyrus did to get everybody upset — and I don’t care to know. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch television, but this isn’t something I’d have been watching even if I did still watch TV. It’s apparently popular with millions of people, but it’s beyond my comprehension to understand why. It’s not that I think I’m too good for a pedestrian medium such as television or something like that. I just don’t think that participating in most of pop culture is very good for me — and I don’t think the culture that’s emerged is a healthy one for anyone.

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Which side should we take in Syria? Let’s just mind our own business

by David McElroy

Dead bodies-Syria

The United States and Great Britain seem poised to launch a military attack on Syria later this week, if we’re to believe various news accounts. Is this a victory for humanitarian action to save people from their dictator? Or is it yet another mistake by politicians and bureaucrats who seem determined to make even more people around the world hate us?

The situation in Syria is being presented to us — once again — in a simplistic fashion. According to this narrative, this is a simple story of a terrible dictator facing off against rebels who seek their freedom. The evil dictator is using chemical weapons to kill innocent people as the rebels gain strength in fighting for truth and justice. Or something like that.

The “evil dictator” part of the narrative is the truth. The part about chemical weapons is probably true is well. (And a UN official said it was actually the rebels who used the chemical weapons, so there’s even a question about that.) The rest of it is pure fiction.

The United States has no business getting involved in Syria. The first reason is that there aren’t any “good guys” in this conflict. The second is that the war is none of our business and all we’re going to do is create new enemies and intensify the hatred that certain older enemies already have for us.

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Rand Paul shows you can fight the system or join it — but not both

by David McElroy

Rand Paul

If Rand Paul weren’t the son of his famous father, how many libertarians would be enthusiastic about him? He would be one of the less-offensive members of Congress, but he would ultimately be just another politician who’s defending the fundamentals of the status quo.

When Rand Paul ran for the U.S. Senate and his father, Ron Paul, retired from politics, many long-time Paul supporters saw the son as the natural successor to the man they had idolized for years. As much as I admire certain things about Ron Paul, I couldn’t support his candidacy, as I explained two years ago. What’s worse, no outsider candidate of the Ron Paul sort has any chance of being elected president running with libertarian principles.

Ron Paul was the ultimate outsider as a member of Congress. His fellow congressmen called him “Dr. No” because he voted against anything that wasn’t specifically authorized by the Constitution. He didn’t compromise and he didn’t play political games. He spoke the truth as he understood it and people thought he was a nut. And he left with a bang, asking a series of questions that statists are still ignoring.

His son is taking a very different path. Anyone who expected a principled libertarian has to be badly disappointed by Sen. Rand Paul.

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‘I don’t want Mommy to leave, Amber, but that’s her choice’

by David McElroy

Young girl alone

It was about 10 p.m. Wednesday. I was taking my nightly walk through my quiet suburban neighborhood when I realized that something seemed wrong at a house just ahead.

I couldn’t tell what was going on, but I heard the low murmur of voices that didn’t sound happy. There was a car that seemed to be about half packed. The trunk and the doors were open. It was dark, so I couldn’t see much, but I knew there were people in the driveway.

I heard the low sound of a child sobbing. Then I heard a man’s voice. He wasn’t shouting or angry, but the voice was firm.

I don’t want Mommy to leave, Amber, but that’s her choice.”

The soft, muffled sobbing continued. Then I was far enough past that I couldn’t hear what else might have been said.

And with that, I was a child again — just for a few minutes — reliving similar scenes from my own dysfunctional family’s past. Even though it’s been decades since I experienced those things, I could feel the feelings as if they were fresh. Hurt. Fear. Anger. Betrayal. Confusion. Mostly fear that I was being abandoned, although the child-size version of me didn’t have had the words to call it that.

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Alabama GOP votes Friday on plan to silence ‘heretic’ on gay marriage

by David McElroy

Stephanie_PetelosIt’s no longer fashionable to burn witches at the stake or banish sinners who violate the rules handed down from priests and kings. But some people in the Alabama Republican Party haven’t gotten the message.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws banning gay marriage, the chairwoman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, Stephanie Petelos, told a local newspaper that harsh comments from Republicans about gays were the party among young people and that allowing gays to marry was “not going to ruin America.”

Because of this unforgivable heresy, the state GOP will vote Friday on a new rule that would banish anyone from the party’s Steering Committee who dares to disagree with anything in the national Republican platform. Petelos is a member of the Steering Committee by virtue of her position as head of the state College Republicans.

In other words, some people in the Alabama GOP believe that nobody should be allowed to express any opinion that conflicts with whatever the most recent Republican National Convention agreed on. Heretics and dissenters will be burned — or at least stripped of their leadership positions.

So what did Petelos say that was so offensive to the Old Guard that seeks to banish her?

“The majority of students don’t derive the premise of their argument for or against gay marriage from religion, because we’re governed by the constitution and not the Bible,” Petelos told The Birmingham News. “I think a lot of people would be actively for [gay marriage] if they didn’t live in fear of backlash from party leaders. We don’t want to go against the party. We love the party. We’re just passionate about a whole list of other issues. That’s why we’re involved.”

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Librarian wants random winners after boy ‘hogs’ reading contest

by David McElroy

Tyler Weaver-Hudson Falls Public Library

Tyler Weaver loves to read. The 9-year-old in Hudson Falls, N.Y., has been entering his local library’s summer reading contest for years. In fact, he’s been the winner of the reading contest for five years now, reading 373 books along the way.

In any rational universe, Tyler would be celebrated and encouraged. Instead, the director of the local library wants to change the rules of the contest. She wants to draw a random name out of a hat instead of allowing a child’s work and merit to determine the winner.

Tyler comes from a reading family. His 7-year-old brother, Jonathan, has taken second place for two years running now. Their mother, Katie, is proud of Tyler and Jonathan.

“I’ve told them God makes all of us different. There are some things that are hard and some that are easy, but they should excel at what they enjoy doing and Tyler just loves to read,” she told the local newspaper. “Everybody he tells, he gets high-fives. Everybody’s so proud of him.”

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Muslims protecting Christian church remind us there’s good in all groups

by David McElroy

Muslims protecting church in Egypt

Unless you’re just determined to ignore facts, this story makes it hard to keep believing that all Muslims are terrorists who are out to kill everyone who doesn’t share their faith. I suspect it will be ignored or discredited by those for whom it causes serious cognitive dissonance.

Late last week, the picture above was posted on the Facebook page of the Sohag governorate in Egypt. According to the caption, it’s local Muslims protecting a Christian church as marchers of the Muslim Brotherhood went through the city. In the political violence in the country, Christians have sometimes been targets of the pro-Morsi faction, so local people seemed determined not to let it happen in their city.

I’ve written before that it’s misguided and evil to hate everybody of any particular religion, whatever it is. I see a lot of people online who seem determined to believe that all Muslims are evil terrorists out to destroy this country. It’s certainly true that there’s a serious strain of hate and violence among certain radicalized Muslims, but it’s factually wrong to believe that reflects on every Muslim.

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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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