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Stop Signs are Forever


Stop signs are forever: Checkpointless

It’s Labor Day Weekend across this great nation, which means a three-day weekend of barbecues, trips to the lake, and, of course, the temporary suspension of the Fourth Amendment. It’s one of those rare occasions when we can reconnect with old friends, provide the kids with some life-long memories, and be subjected to search and seizure methods on par with a third-world country.

Buckets of misplaced charity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks — and even then, I imagine the icy images would have found their way under your slab — you’ve likely heard of the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” If you haven’t — maybe you’re an Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer , I’m not here to judge — it’s a bunch of people ostensibly trying to bring attention to Lou Gehrig’s disease by dumping freezing water over their heads. For all its faults, at least that step in logic makes sense.

The pain game

Finding yourself in a predicament whereby you’re forced to come into contact with the American health care system is the very definition of a lose-lose. You already have a serious problem, or you wouldn’t be at the hospital in the first place. Very likely, you’re in pain. And you know there exits all these tremendous substances of chemical amelioration that could make you feel better. But in order to possess and ingest one of those substances, you have deal with a bureaucratic system that seems purposefully designed to prolong your suffering.

The need for speed … limits

So begins the Wikipedia article on inertia: “Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed.” Simply put, things don’t change on their own. It takes force. It takes friction.

The cold, cold heart of the anti-capitalists

So there’s this movie called “Snowpiercer,” and it has quietly become the darling of the Internet over the past few months. It was created by South Korean director Joon-ho Bong, stars “Captain America” Chris Evans, and exists in that B-level, indie mezzanine between blockbuster and straight-to-video.

‘Fair’ pay for fair play?

Big 12 athletic conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby made headlines recently when he took the opportunity to blast the National Collegiate Athletic Association as an exploitative sham organization that turns a blind-eye to schools who win by cheating. Both of those accusations are of course true, bordering on undeniably so.

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.

‘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.