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Stop Signs are Forever


The honey-do tax

Take a moment and step into my time machine, dear reader, and let us travel back to Babylon, 1772 BC. Here on the banks of the Euphrates River, we’ll first make a quick stop at the temple of Esagila to tip our caps at the shrine of Nabu. I’m told he’s the Assyrian god of writing, and certain columnists could use all the help they can get.

The fruits of impeachment

There’s an old political truism, used semi-exclusively by whichever party finds itself currently in the minority, that serves as three simple words of bitter reminder: “Elections have consequences.”

‘Supreme’ for a reason

I don’t know about you, but my social media exploded in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to permit Hobby Lobby’s moral objections to federal contraceptive mandates. Facebook became a stream of hyperbolic screaming and metaphoric eye gouging and smarmy, snarky, eye-roll-inducing attempts to be clever. Twitter fed me line after line of politicians and celebrities waxing philosophic, each more eager than the next to jump on the pro- or anti-SCOTUS bandwagon.

The preacher’s rules

Today is a big day for my family, but Sunday’s always are when your dad is a pastor. I suppose, “was” a pastor is more technically correct, but then, that gets to the reason today is special. Today marks the last day behind the pulpit for my dear ol’ pops, as he’s retiring from his church in small-town Colorado after more than 20 years.

The elusive loophole in ‘inclusive’ capitalism

A few weeks ago, a few hundred filthy-rich people from around the world gathered in London for the inaugural Conference on Inclusive Capitalism, which billed itself as seeking to “to define concrete steps that all of modern capitalism’s stakeholders can take to renew trust and deliver better social and economic outcomes for all.”

Open-carry protests unlikely to sway undecideds

Among those who own guns and consider the Second Amendment just as vital today as it was in 1776 — I count myself a member of both those groups — there is a small segment of people who are passionate about open carry laws. Groups of said individuals have taken to congregating at various stores and eateries armed to the teeth in order to remind society that there’s nothing stopping them from ordering a breakfast burrito with an AR-15 slung ‘round their neck.

Freedom* of speech

There are two essential ingredients to any argument: a disagreement, of course, but a topic of ambiguity, as well. If an argument lacks that latter element, it’s not really an argument anymore, as who can disagree with a certainty? For instance, if my wife says the trash is full and I say it’s not, we can pop the top and have a look-see inside the receptacle, thereby removing any ambiguity. But if my wife says the trash needs to be taken out and I don’t concur, well, then we’ve got a good ol’ fashioned spat on our hands. The timeliness of chores is a matter of personal preference and therefore fair-game for debate, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell that to anyone who’s ever tied the knot.

A plea for restraint(s)

At the risk of being too controversial, let me stipulate something off the bat: Wearing a seat belt is a good idea. Each person in a moving vehicle should wear one because, hey, being alive is pretty alright.

The NCAA as diversion

It has become pretty popular these days to bag on the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and it’s not hard to see why. An organization that exploits the labor of its employees — 60 percent of whom are black — while paying its executives millions of dollars ranks just above a plantation in terms of ethical business practices.

Slings and Aereos

A plucky little start-up called Aereo has the entertainment-lawyer complex in a tizzy. What the company does, in essence, is allow you to rent a small television antenna and corresponding hard drive, located off-site at an office in your city. Aereo subscribers can log on to the company’s website and watch broadcast television at their convenience instead of whatever timeslot the network bosses think best. It’s like a DVR, but Aereo doesn’t pay the networks anything for capturing and storing the free broadcasts, and therein lies the rub.

STOP SIGNS ARE FOREVER: The plush middle class

Not a week goes by, it seems, without another national headline about the (relatively) poor middle class. “Income equality higher than ever!” the pundits crow. Or maybe this week, it’s a talking-head blathering on about how the “Middle class is worse-off now than it was 40 years ago!” Either way, the invariable grist of the story contains some statistics produced by some think tank or university explaining how the little guy just keeps getting an ever-rawer deal.

The double-edged sword called evidence

Climate change evangelists and climate change atheists — me, I’m climate change agnostic — are locked in a bitter struggle over whether global warming is occurring and what, if anything, we should do about it. You’ll note that I’ve painted the two camps in religious terms instead of the more jounalistically-correct categories “supporters” and “detractors.” And that’s intentional. Religion seems like a pretty good analogy for the climate change battle, as each side is fighting for or against something that can’t be seen and can’t be proven or disproven, and each side is certain they’re correct.

Smoke, mirrors, and taxes

The Internal Revenue Service sent me a bill late last year saying I owed them $800 for not paying enough taxes in 2011. They were, unfortunately, correct in their calculations, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that one really starts to analyze federal tax policy on a different level when staring down the barrel of an audit.

A “Month” to forget

A decade ago in another job in another state, I was hired to write gubernatorial proclamations. By the nature of a proclamation, it was the least-important job in the office by quite a stretch, which explains why it was entrusted to a barely-out-of-college kid.

Putting the ‘compromise’ in comprehensive

One of my wife’s favorite books is a short story published by Leo Rosten in 1937 entitled “The Education of Hyman Kaplan.” It’s the tale of a particularly enthusiastic Yiddish immigrant who struggles to learn English during a night school class in New York City. The book humorously plays on a few of the more absurd aspects of our native tongue as well as the Old World tensions among the class’ various European constituencies.

Markets never die

We all have our issues with “other people.” Each of us has a list of things we find objectionable or morally questionable or downright reprehensible that we wish other people just would not do. I, for example, find veganism to be an insult to the farmers and ranchers of the Heartland. I think smoking cigarettes is a narcissistic habit with no upside for society. And I’m pretty sure the music of U2 is playing on loop in some circle of Hades.

Political certainty certainly isn’t

When the whole Western world was mourning the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman a few weeks ago, blogs and obituaries all mentioned films like “Boogie Nights” and “Capote” and “The Master,” but very few mentioned my personal favorite among the actor’s roles: cantankerous CIA operative Gust Avrakotos in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” He’s self-loathing and foul-mouthed and a joy to behold — a master class in acting, really, especially compared to Julia Roberts’ sleep-walking performance and Tom Hanks’ Texas accent that sounds more like Transylvanian.

The invisible hand-up

The world is a messed-up place. Let’s get that out of the way up front. Atrocities of unimaginable consequence are inflicted upon innocent people every day — by nature, by governments and by religious leaders. There are not enough soldiers or enough money to make it all go away.

Razzing Arizona

All the hubbub this week was over a controversial Arizona law that would have declared it was OK for private businesses to deny service to homosexuals on the grounds of religious freedom. The bill eventually was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, but the acrimony on both sides of the argument reached ridiculous levels in the build-up to that decision. For a few days last week, Facebook resembled the transcript of a no-holds-barred cage match between the ACLU and Focus on the Family, and the vitriol was exhausting.

Fore! more years!

Golf is great. It’s outdoors, it’s conducive to beverage consumption, and it’s just athletic enough to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something. Golf has been called “a good walk spoiled,” but since the proliferation of carts, it’s not really even that anymore. It’s more like a five-hour search for lost balls, punctuated with intermittent cursing.

About the size of it

Why in the name of Michael Bloomberg’s forehead is a plurality of television shows based in New York City? Are there no “Special Victims” in Chicago? No “Person of Interest” in Las Vegas? Could producers not find “2 Broke Girls” in Dallas? Could “Mindy” not work on her “Project” in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico?

Justice is just…

What is justice? Its own reward? Sure, I suppose, but “Its own reward” is an answer to “What is the reward for justice?” not the more fundamental “What is justice?”

Minimum logic in wage war

Much attention was paid to this year’s presidential State of the Union address, as is the tradition. The annual speech means less today than it has at perhaps any other point in the nation’s history, but at least it gives all those aged Senators a chance for some good exercise, what with their incessant standing ovations. The television networks treat it as though it’s a good bit more important than it is — just an hour of political tripe sewed together with applause lines.