Category Archives: Holiday Cheer

The Giving Season

Over at Popehat, in the spirit of the Christmas, Ken White has suggested three charities you could donate to this season. Although I have no problem with donating to any of them, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions of my own.

To start with, I’m a regular donor to the Reason Foundation. This is the parent organization of Reason magazine, which is the flagship libertarian outreach publication, spreading ideas about free markets and free minds. Donating to them could help nudge us toward a world that is vibrant, prosperous, and free.

(I’m pathetically trying to draw their attention to my tiny little libertarian blog, so if you donate, tell them Windypundit sent you. Or don’t. It’s up to you. I am a libertarian, after all.)

If you’d prefer a charity that helps people directly, one of the most effective is probably the Against Malaria Foundation. They are consistently near the top of GiveWell’s list of best charities, and they have one single, simple mission: Giving out mosquito nets by the tens of millions to people in malaria-plagued regions. The nets cost only $2 each and will protect a pair of sleeping people from malaria-spreading mosquitoes for three or four years. Statistically, it takes fewer than 1000 nets to prevent a fatal malaria infection, so if you make regular annual donations, there is a good chance you will save someone’s life. Donating to AMF (or one of the anti-parasitic worms charities) will put you in the fight against humanity’s deadliest enemies.

If you’re looking for something in the middle ground between the philosophical Reason Foundation and the direct efficiency of AMF, check out GiveDirectly. Their approach is to carefully identify extremely poor people…and then give them money. It won’t be a lot by American standards, maybe $500 to $1000, but with it they’ll be able to replace their home’s thatched roof with a lightweight steel one, or buy a farm animal they can raise and sell, or…whatever they want. The idea — a very libertarian idea — is that the recipients will know their specific needs better than any aid worker ever could, so we should just give them money and let them figure out how to spend it.

I also donate to the Sex Workers Outreach Project, which advocates for the rights of sex workers and provides street-level outreach that, unlike so many “rescue” operations, does not involve law enforcement. Instead, it supplies help that sex workers actually need.

Yet another place your donations can make a big difference is your local charitable bail fund. (Here in Chicagoland, that’s the Chicago Community Bond Fund.) Many poor people are stuck in jail because they’ve been charged with crimes and can’t put together enough money to post even a small bond. Charitable bail funds post bond to get them out of jail, allowing them to return to their families, friends, jobs, and communities. Studies show that people out on bail are better able go fight the charges, and get better deals if they plea bargain. So donate to your local bail fund and help someone get home for the holidays, and maybe stay home. As a bonus, after their case is over, the government releases the bail funds back to the charity, where they can be used to bail out someone else.

Finally, helping people doesn’t have to be a big operation. If the opportunity arises, one of the most effective forms of charity is helping someone directly. Find someone in your community who needs help, and help them. Depending on your resources, you can let them move in with you for a while, give them a job, or just quietly put an envelope of money in their mail box.

It’s all good.

Thanks For Shopping

Today I’m thankful so many stores have chosen to be open on Thanksgiving. I’ve always found those holidays where everything in the world is closed to be more than a little creepy.

Not everybody is happy about the new retailing plans for Thanksgiving. I got a link in the mail to this marginally coherent petition asking Kohl’s department stores not to open on Thanksgiving, and Ellen Galinsky has an opinion piece in Time complaining that Macy’s will be open on Thanksgiving and linking to petitions about Target and others. At least Galinsky has the right approach:

You don’t have to sign a petition or go out and protest in front of stores. All you have to do is do something else on Thanksgiving Day other than opening your wallet.

Exactly. Stores are open on Thanksgiving day because people show up to shop on Thanksgiving day.

And really, I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. For police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other emergency workers, today is a workday like any other. They never get the holiday off. Neither do hospital emergency department workers and nursing staff. Utility workers are still standing by to repair broken water pipes and fix electrical distribution equipment. Soldiers and prison guards still patrol the walls.

The caring institutions are still running: Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, and homeless shelters. Zoo workers still show up to care for the animals, as do workers at pet stores and animal hospitals.

The holidays are a big occasion for travel, so travel industry workers are having a busy day. Flight crews are still flying and airports are fully staffed. Bus drivers and train operators are doing their jobs, and the stations are bustling with activity. Cab drivers are still looking for fares. Hotels are still staffed and caring for travelers.

With so many people cooking big dinners, grocery stores are still open to provide last-minute items. Some of them also provide fully-cooked meals for people who don’t have the time, energy, or skills to prepare their own. Many restaurants and caterers are still operating for the same reason.

With all these people out and at work, gas stations are still open, as are all the 24/7 convenience marts, and even more restaurants are open to provide meals for everyone who’s working.

My wife works in the benefit enrollment industry, and this is the busiest time of year for her. Hundreds of thousands of people are enrolling for next year’s benefits, and deadlines are fast approaching. We’re technically on vacation this week, but she’s had to do some work every day. (As did I, when I worked in that industry.) She was answering emails on her phone this morning on the way to visit some friends for Thanksgiving, and while I was writing this, she had to borrow the laptop to handle a problem at work.

Given all these folks who already work on Thanksgiving, I really have trouble understanding why people are protesting because a few thousand retail employees have to work. My guess is that it has less to do with genuine concerns about employees’ family time and more to with the imagined demons of “rampant consumerism.” Because giving it a nasty name makes it seem like you’re worked up for reasons other than your personal distaste.

And what about all the people for whom spending Thanksgiving with family is only a myth? Those living alone and far from their family, or those who have no family? My wife’s parents died when she was young, and she had no other close relatives, so for years before we were married, the holidays were not a time for family for her. Until we got together, Thanksgiving was a good time for her to go to the movies (another business that stays open on holidays) since everything else was closed.

Since we don’t have children, and now that my parents have passed on, my wife and I are the only close family either of us has. Today some friends were kind enough to invite us over for Thanksgiving dinner with their wonderful family, for which we are thankful, but if it hadn’t been for them, we’d probably be going out for dinner and a movie. The way I see it, the two of us constitute a compact portable family, and anything we do on Thanksgiving is a family activity. And that includes stopping in at Best Buy on the way home to check out the sales on big-screen televisions.

Thanks For All That Food

Just had a gigantic Thanksgiving dinner at some friends’ house. Filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and ice cream. Feeling sleepy…trying to stay awake by doing stuff on the computer…not going…to…make…it…

Thanks For My Friends

The last few years have been a bit difficult. Between my parents getting sick and dying, my consulting work drying up, and the ongoing recession, by this time last year things were looking precarious and about to get worse. But now my life is settling back into order and things are starting to look up again.

So on this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for all my friends who stuck with me through a difficult time, and all the new friends I made along the way. You made a difficult time much, much easier.

Thank you.

Not Feeling That Easter Spirit

No, I’m not having a Happy Easter. My wife has major surgery tomorrow, and my cat is dying. I’m not exactly feeling God’s love right now.

I don’t want to go into too much detail out of respect for her privacy, but my wife’s medical problem is not at all life threatening. She’s just got a body part that is starting to cause her some pain, and tomorrow a surgeon will go in and fix it. Then she’ll recover from the surgery and not be in pain any more. Our biggest concern is whether the procedure can be done without the need to open a large wound, which will affect her recovery time.

The relative ease with which my wife will get through this, however, is due to her good fortune at having been born at this point in human history. A hundred years ago, this would have been very dangerous surgery, probably not worth doing. And for the 250,000 or so years of human existence prior to that, anyone who had this condition would simply have to endure years of pain until they died.

The cat is a different story. When we came home on Friday night, we found our Ragdoll cat, Dozer, having some kind of seizure. When it was over, he seemed pretty beat up, so we took him to an emergency vet. They checked him out a bit and came up with three possible diagnoses: brain tumor, heart problem throwing clots to the brain, or a metabolic problem like renal failure. It would cost $1000 to $1500 to find out what the problem was, and only the last of the problems might be curable, and even then it wouldn’t last long in a 17-year-old cat.

The other option they offered us was euthanasia, with different pricing options for disposal of the remains.

My wife and I agreed that a ton of pointless medical care was not the answer, but we weren’t about to euthanize Dozer either, not without a chance to say goodbye. So we told them we weren’t going to take either of their options, and we took him home.

Essentially, we’ve chosen home hospice care for our cat. We’re going to take care of him and make him comfortable. And when we think he’s gone on as far as he can without suffering, we’ll take him back to the vet one last time.

All of this is buzzing around in my head this weekend, along with the lyrics to “Born This Way,” which I’ve been listening to thanks to the Weird Al v.s. Lady Gaga kerfuffle. And since Weird Al pointed out that it’s “an earnest human rights anthem,” I actually paid attention to the lyrics. Here are a few lines:

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars

She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far,
listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was Born This Way

In these lines, Lady Gaga is making the argument that if you believe in God — at least the Christian version of God — then you shouldn’t worry that there’s something wrong with you just because you are different from other people. Whether it’s your skin color or your sexual identity, you were born that that way because God made you that way. As a creation of God, you are as worthy and good as any other person. Because God made us, we are all superstars.

It’s an uplifting message, and if you’re a minority child in an all-white school, or a young man who’s worried about they way he feels when he looks at other men, it’s a message you may benefit from hearing. God made you too, and you’re every bit the equal of every other person.

But, I began to wonder in my dark mood, what if the thing that makes you different is somewhat less benign than skin color or sexual identity. What if it’s something that is rather more physiological and objectively undesireable? What if what makes you different is that you have Huntington’s disease? Or congenital heart problems? Or cystic fibrosis?

I’m not saying you can’t hold your head up and be proud of who you are. Of course you can. You may still be on the right track, and you may still go far. However, contra Lady Gaga, God did not make you perfect. And if God makes no mistakes, then what the hell kind of sadistic fuck of a God gives cystic fibrosis to babies?

I used cystic fibrosis as an example for a reason. It’s a congenital defect, something you’re born with, so even in the cosmic sense, you can’t have done anything to deserve it. Also, when cystic fibrosis was first diagnosed, and for all of human history before that, it killed most babies before their first birthday. Nowadays, medical science extends the life of cystic fibrosis patients a little bit further every year, with the current predicted age somewhere in the mid-30s. God was killing babies for thousands of generations. It took humans to save them.

Truth be told, I’m also pretty angry about the cat. Dozer is a big, lovable, loving bundle of fluff, and he’s seen me through some tough times, including the deaths of my parents. And all he wants in return is food, sleep, and petting. At the end of the day, when I sit down to watch some television, he hops up on the couch and snuggles up next to me. I pet him, and he purrs. We have a system that works.

I’ve always known he wouldn’t be around forever, but I was kind of hoping he’d just go peacefully in his sleep. Instead, I’m supposed to believe that our loving, omnipotent God has decided to torture him with convulsions.

What kind of God kills babies and tortures kitties? No wonder I’m not a very religious person.

Happy Easter, motherfuckers.

Update: I’m a bit less angry at the world.

Merry Christmas, Joel

I just wanted to take a moment to wish Joel Rosenberg a Merry Christmas!

Yeah, Joel, you heard me. I know you’re Jewish, so I suppose it’s just Chinese food on Saturday to you, but I’m glad you’re home with your family today. For a while there, that was not a sure thing, so I think it’s cause for a bit of merriment.

Merry Bloggy Christmas

In the spirit of a holiday named after a wise Jew from the (middle) east, I think it’s only fair to direct you to Simple Justice, where Scott Greenfield has posted a heartfelt thanks for all his fellow blawgers:

Blawgers give of their time, their thoughts, their talents to write.  In return, they are told how ignorant and stupid they are by people they don’t know.  They are stalked and threatened with physical harm by actual psychotics with keyboards.  Why would anyone put up with such abuse?  Yet they do, and continue to write.

Aw, Scott, it’s not that bad. I’ve never met most of the people I blog about, and I call them ignorant and stupid all the time. It’s only fair that people say the same thing about me.

Besides, it’s not like they’re going to get a way with it. I’m making a list and checking it twice, if you know what I mean. Someday, everyone’s gonna get theirs who’s got it coming.

But not today, because, you know,


Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men.


The vitriol and derision will return tomorrow.