Archive for September, 2013

Who’s afraid of a federal shutdown? Many of us hope for the real thing

by David McElroy


Unless some last-second deal emerges, the U.S. government will be shut down until squabbling Democrats and Republicans can reach a budget agreement. The media is filled with stories about how terrible this is. The Boston Globe even had an online headline that read, “US bracing for government shutdown no one wants.”

Are you scared of this terrible thing called a shutdown yet?

I’m ignoring my better judgment to comment on this, simply because almost anything you say about it is used as fodder by partisans of one side or the other as evidence that they’re right. But I’m not “with” either side on this.

I’m certainly not with the Democrats, who want to grow the size of government bigger and bigger and bigger, including funding the ObamaCare monster. But why would I support the Republicans, who are happy to vote for a monstrously huge government that’s almost as big, just as long as ObamaCare is delayed for a bit?

For years, Republicans have shown that they don’t oppose Big Government. They simply oppose making government quite as big as what Democrats want. And they certainly favor ever-increasing funding for the military-industrial complex that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about? (But who can trust Eisenhower? Those five-star generals are notorious peaceniks who don’t want to fund the military. Right?)

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Where did my younger self go? Where can I go to get him back?

by David McElroy

David at RidgecrestIf you met your child self from years ago, how well would you like him or her? I’ve been thinking with surprise lately that I’d like my younger self quite a bit. The big question in my mind is how I stopped being him.

A few weeks ago, someone reminded me in a vivid way of certain things from my childhood. Those images have stayed in my mind and I’ve been thinking a lot about who I was back then. Thursday afternoon, I started thinking about some of the funny and unusual things I did as a child and teen. The more I thought, the more I smiled. My way of “playing” wasn’t normal. Here are the things I thought of.

I remembered starting a bank for neighborhood children when I was about 11 years old. We hadn’t been living in this community near Birmingham for very long, but I decided I would take deposits from kids around me. I had a box with a lock, and I typed tiny slips of paper noting how much each was worth. I don’t remember exactly what the business plan was, so I’m unclear how I intended to make money, but I remember kids trading those little pieces of paper instead of money for a few weeks. (The whole bank went bust when my sisters demanded all of their money back. I guess it was a run on the bank.)

I thought about a radio relay service that I was going to set up when I was about 9 years old between Anniston, Ala., and Meridian, Miss. I lived in Anniston and I had a friend in Meridian, where I had lived for about a year and a half before. I knew that it was expensive to make long distance calls, so I had found a cheap radio with a limited range. My scheme was to set up repeating relays between the cities to deal with the limited range of the signal. And somehow, I was going to sell cheap communication time between the cities so that people could avoid expensive long distance charges. Yes, it made sense when I was 9.

I remembered my plan to set up an inexpensive telephone service for an area of several blocks between my house and the house of a friend who lived adjacent to the junior high school in Jasper, Ala., where I lived at the time. A tornado had come through town and destroyed a lot of office buildings. That meant that a lot of telephone equipment was being thrown away. I collected all of it that I could and figured out how it worked. I didn’t have central office switching equipment, but I figured out crude workarounds to make a simple system work. My friend and I started laying wire between our houses, but we were stymied by the little matter of how to run our wires over streets without climbing the utility poles. I gave up and just wired my own house with extra extensions everywhere. (I also rigged a bugging device to record all calls on the line. I didn’t really want to hear anything in particular; I just wanted to see if I could do it.)

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NOTEBOOK: The forest is burning, so quit arguing about single trees

by David McElroy

Reporter's notebookCleaning out the notebook again…

Watching the bloody and useless battles over the funding of ObamaCare confirms for me once again that getting out of the system is the best choice for sanity and long-term logic. The forest is burning and it’s too late to put out the fire. The smart thing is to figure out how to escape the doomed forest, not fight over who gets to control certain trees. The whole thing is going to burn.

I’m frustrated by the utter lack of regard for the truth that I see in so many posts on Facebook and Twitter these days. Just because someone posted something and you’re reposting it doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for spreading lies. Show respect for the truth and your own credibility. Use some basic common sense before spreading obvious idiocy that can be debunked in 30 seconds. You’re making yourself look foolish when you do that. It seems that people are willing to post anything that appears to support their viewpoint, whether it’s credible or not.

For the last three months, I’ve waited through various delays for the person who had agreed to do the special effects makeup for my next short film. The continued delays in getting certain supplies were frustrating, but I thought everything would be on track once she finally got those supplies. She told me about two weeks ago that she would be ready to go in two weeks, but she sent me an email out of the blue last Thursday to say she was quitting because of “work and personal matters.” So I’ve wasted three months on this project and now I have to find someone else who can do the same effects or else switch to a different project. I’m frustrated, because I thought we’d have a finished film by now. I’m trying to find someone who can do the same effects, because I really want to make this film.

I have a Facebook friend who just had to endure a criminal trial in which his brother was prosecuted for killing their parents. The brother was convicted earlier this week and sentenced to life without parole Wednesday. Sometimes when I look at his situation — and the situations of others who’ve endured very difficult circumstances — it makes me feel as though I have less to complain about than I sometimes feel that I do. I know that you can’t really compare people’s heartaches, but I do feel fortunate that I haven’t had to endure what some others have had to endure. I don’t know how well I could deal with some of what I see friends deal with. In many respects, I have it pretty good.

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My city jacked up my sales tax and all I’m getting is a football stadium

by David McElroy

Hewitt-Trussville stadium rendering

Two years ago, the City Council of the suburb where I live jacked up the local portion of our sales tax by 50 percent. Many people loudly protested, but the tax went forward. The president of the council lost his seat in the next election, but the rest who ran were re-elected. The public has a short memory.

Later today, the city is breaking ground for a new football stadium for Hewitt-Trussville High School. The cost of building the stadium and a bridge along a road to reach the property is expected to cost about $18 million. And this is what my local sales tax is paying for.

The school already has a stadium, but it needs repairs. What’s more, it’s located next to the building that was the high school for many years, but it’s miles from the current high school. When the new high school was built six years ago — at a cost of $70 million — it was the most expensive school ever built in the state. The school will now have a fancy stadium that matches the fancy school.

The year before the sales tax was passed, 72 percent of people in Trussville voted against a property tax that would have funded this project and unspecified other things. But because a sales tax can be imposed without a vote of the people, the council was able to ram it through without a vote — even though it was clear that most people didn’t want higher taxes.

The excuse used at the time was that the city needed to buy a broken-down shopping center for $5.5 million to avoid the “horror” of a thrift store moving into the city. Yes, there were a few hysterical people who were terrified of a thrift store coming to town, because it would have brought “the wrong sort of people” to spend their money here. (Was their motivation racist or just class-based? I’ll never know.)

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I’m not sure what’s left to say about politics, so here’s a picture of a cat

by David McElroy

Charlotte in the blinds

Most of what I read about politics lately is blatantly dishonest or at least badly misleading. There’s been a trend toward this — especially among True Believers of every side — for a long time, but it’s getting worse. Most people like to read this dishonest or misleading material, and they eagerly spread the graphic “memes” demonizing those who disagree with them. They love for someone to make them angry.

As a result, I’m not entirely sure what I have left to say about politics right now.

I moved away from an exclusive focus on politics almost from the beginning here. I started out talking about politics because I had worked in the field for so long. I had some things to say that were different from what the mainstream was saying (and different in focus from what was being said by other libertarians or anarchists). But my heart quickly led me to talk more and more about what I considered “real life” and less and less about partisan politics.

Although the numbers I see for readers has held up rather nicely, I’m not sure that it’s worth the investment of time for the small impact it might have. I don’t want to waste my time writing what becomes the equivalent of room noise in a world where social media and blogs are filled with angry voices catering to the worst in human nature — with lies and disinformation in the service of partisan propaganda.

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ObamaCare must fail in long term, but conservatives can’t stop it now

by David McElroy

Cruz to filibuster ObamaCare

Conservatives have been fighting ObamaCare in one way or another since 2009. Republicans in Congress lost the battle and Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The battle didn’t end there. With the law’s key provisions going into effect in slightly more than 90 days, some Republicans still haven’t given up on the fantasy that they can stop it.

The best chance to stop the law was when the Supreme Court heard a challenge to its constitutionality. Because of Chief Justice John Roberts’ bizarre defection from the conservative bloc of the court, most of ObamaCare was upheld on a 5-4 vote. The only other real chance to stop the law from being implemented was the 2012 presidential election. Even though Mitt Romney had championed a similar plan when he was governor of Massachusetts, he campaigned against the law because … well … that’s what conservatives wanted him to do.

Romney was an uninspiring candidate and lost badly. The chief sponsor of ObamaCare was re-elected. The battle was over.

But some conservatives are obsessed with the fantasy that they can stop the law by withholding the funding for it. The U.S. House passed a bill last week that would keep the government operating past the end of September, but Republicans didn’t include money to fund ObamaCare in their bill. The Democratic-controlled Senate obviously won’t pass the bill, so there’s something of a deadlock.

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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 next 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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Freedom of the press is for everyone, not just those recognized by feds

by David McElroy


Do journalists have more rights than you do? Do you even know for sure what makes someone a journalist? And does the U.S. government have any business defining who’s a journalist and who’s not?

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has just inserted language into a bill that would limit who gets privileges as a journalist under the First Amendment. It would declare that those who get paid to report on the news are journalists, but those who don’t get paid for it aren’t journalists. She thinks that being a journalist is a special privilege (video). Under her rules, bloggers and “citizen journalists” aren’t journalists at all. This is wrong for journalism. It’s wrong for the law. But most importantly, it’s wrong for the average American.

How did we get to this point? Is Feinstein just an evil fascist, as Matt Drudge suggested about her on this issue? I don’t think so. She’s wrong, but it helps to understand what the underlying issues are.

In this country, we have freedom of the press because it’s mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution. (I’m not even going to get into the fact that we should have the right even without it being mentioned, because the government is given no power to taken that freedom away. I’m ignoring that because dealing with what the Constitution originally meant has nothing to do with how the law currently works here.) Because the First Amendment specifically says that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…,” the media in this country have traditionally enjoyed a wide degree of freedom.

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Both sides of gun debate see what they want to see in D.C. shooting

by David McElroy

Navy Yard shooting-hands up

Is there anything more predictable than people using a hot news story to promote whatever political agenda they wanted to push anyway?

The tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard Monday is the latest example of this ugly partisan tendency. The bodies weren’t even cold before progressives started calling for more gun control. I started seeing calls for gun control on Facebook from progressives while the story was still being sorted out. Nobody knew whether there was one shooter or up to three of them, but lack of facts about what happened didn’t stop people from turning to their political agendas.

The news media can almost always be counted on to get something egregiously wrong in a story about guns. CNN provided the shocking moment of ignorance Monday when it referred to the weapon used as an “AR15 shotgun.” The AR-15 is one of the “assault weapons” that media frequently use to demonize guns of all sort, but it wasn’t even used in this shooting. It’s a specific type of weapon — and it’s not a shotgun — but that mention is enough to subtly embed fear of such a weapon into those who might have seen the graphic on the screen. Was it an accident? Yes. Was it inexcusable ignorance by people who don’t have a clue about guns? Yes.

For his part, Barack Obama quickly launched into a call for more gun control. (Oddly, he didn’t say anything about how this black shooter might look something like his son, if he had a son.) The gunman used a shotgun that he bought legally, because there was nothing about him that would have flagged him for the sort of background checks that progressives keep claiming will stop shootings. That didn’t stop Obama from pretending that his existing agenda would have stopped the shooting.

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Ethnic Indian wins Miss America? Who cares? The bigots seem upset

by David McElroy

Nina Davuluri

If it weren’t for hateful bigots, I wouldn’t have any idea who the new Miss America is.

It’s hard for me to care one way or the other about who wins beauty pageants. (Excuse me. “Scholarship pageants.”) But the level of ignorance and bigotry involved in some people complaining because a woman of Indian ancestry won is disturbing.

After Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America Sunday night, racist bigots took to Twitter to denounce an “Arab” — yes, seriously — winning the title. The sorts of people who would attack her for having Indian ancestry are the sorts who wouldn’t understand that India isn’t home to Arabs.

After Vanessa Williams was crowned the first black Miss America in 1983, some people grumbled, but they didn’t have the Internet to spread their bigotry for the whole world to see. I didn’t care one way or the other at the time, but some people did. They just didn’t like the idea of a black woman being held up as our ideal woman. (Don’t we all have a different idea of who the ideal woman is?)

The pageant isn’t “Miss White Girl Who Looks Like Me,” so it’s natural that people from different backgrounds are going to win. I assume that Davuluri was the best contestant this year. I don’t have a clue, but I also don’t have an opinion about who should have won last year or the year before that or pretty much any other year.

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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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