Holiday Cheer

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

For the last twenty years or so, my wife and I have spent every Thanksgiving with my parents. However, my parents both passed away this year. Everyone says the holidays are hard times after a loss, and I’ve had two of them, so I’ve been a bit concerned about how this Thanksgiving would go. Fortunately, some good friends have invited us to join them for dinner.

This year, my friends have helped me through a lot, and they’re still helping. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my friends.

The only posts I’ve got in the pipeline are an announcement about a nasty little web site I’m building and a followup to my series on prositution. Somehow, neither of those feels right for Thanksgiving Day.

So today I’m posting about how thankful I am for the legal blogosphere (or, if we must, blawgosphere).

Windypundit‘s been around for over six years. Clearly, I’m not on the fast track to blogospheric superstardom. Really, I’m not on any track to superstardom. But somehow in the last year I seem to have found my place in the blogosphere, and it’s kind of a surprising experience.

For one thing, I’m a little surprised at where I fit in. When I started Windypundit, I wanted it to be about libertarian stuff: The war on drugs, free speech, the right to bear arms, and free markets. And more or less, it is. I write about those things a lot, and I get links from other libertarian bloggers now and then.

However, it turns out that those subjects have a common thread running through them, and this thread also runs through some of the newer subjects I write about, such as police misconduct and politics. Almost everything I write about eventually concerns the law and the legal system. I’ve become an honorary legal blogger.

I’m not a lawyer, and the law is a complicated and confusing subject, so it’s been surprising to me that the legal community has put up with me and my half-assed opinions. I didn’t expect that.

I didn’t expect the American Bar Association to include me in their list of blogs. I didn’t expect publishers to send me books to review. I didn’t expect to receive compliments from prickly New York criminal defense lawyers. It’s all very cool.

So, thank you Scott, Mark, and Gideon. Thank you Marc, Mike, and Jon (even though you seem to have trouble with that Thanksgiving Day spirit). Thank you Ken, wherever you are.

Thank you Tom and Serena for making the rest of these people necessary. Thank you David for taking the time to comment on my blog, even if you’ve gone Hollywood. Thank you Blondie for being our mystery woman, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, Jamie.

(Thanks to everyone I’ve missed. Sorry about that. Be sure to lambast me in the comments.)

Don’t expect to hear this ever again, but thank you all for your acceptance, your warm welcome, and of course for the vast amount of fascinating material you post every single day.

I guess you like me. You really like me.

Thank you.

Today’s online Chicago Tribune has a blurb that reads:

Aliens or romance?

John Kass wants to know what you think is the Best Valentine’s Day Date Movie.

John, if you choose your woman wisely, aliens are romance.

Update: My wife just called me from the road. She wants to know the name of the spaceship from Alien. She knows the one in Aliens is the Sulaco, but she’s blanked on the first movie. I remind her it’s Nostromo. She thanks me and hangs up.

I’m debating whether to go out and take photos of the fireworks like I did last year.

Apparently, a lot of the illegal fireworks shows at the parks and schools are run by cops and firemen who live in the neighborhood. If a patrol car shows up, they just flash their badges and the show goes on.

The district police commander has announced a get-tough policy on fireworks this year. He’s threatened to arrest people. He’s even rumored to be driving around himself, looking to file disciplinary actions against police officers who live in the district if he catches them setting off fireworks.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll go out later with my camera. From the sound of explosions rattling the windows, his plan isn’t working.

After enduring a full month of insane shopping frenzy at the malls, I usually find that Christmas Day itself feels like the end-of-the-world.

I’m not a big fan of black and white photos from a digital camera because it seems like faking—the digital sensor always captures a color image—but I think it works for this spread. That last photo was the hardest to get because two or three cars a minute were rolling past the front of the grocery to see if it was open.

I can’t remember the first time I picked up Reason magazine. It was probably in the mid 1990’s. I was going through a phase where I was looking for magazines about the important issues of the day. I was reading Time or Newsweek regularly—I can’t remember which. Somebody had told me that that the two best magazines for learning about the big issues were Atlantic and Harper’s, so I read those. I can also remember reading American Enterprise, National Review, The Economist, Mother Jones, and Ms. There were lots of others that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Most of them were a disappointment in one way or another. The conservative magazines were big advocates of personal responsibility but still wanted to punish people for behavior that hurt only themselves. And too often they seemed to equate “free market” with big business and “small government” with low taxes, ignoring the much larger implications of both these admirable ideals. Also, a lot of them seemed to think their religious beliefs should be the law of the land.

Strangely, the liberal magazines also seemed to equate “free market” with big business, but they used the excesses of bad businesses as the basis for an attack on the free market. They wanted big government to be compassionate toward the victims of the world and toward the otherwise less-fortunate, but they always seemed to forget that they were spending other people’s money, and that those people deserved compassion too. And while they were in favor of some personal freedoms, they became moral scolds every bit as bad as the religious right when it came to saying or showing things that might demean other people.

(This last situation made for some strange bedfellows. The religious right opposed pornography because they thought it was immoral, and the feminist left opposed pornography because they thought it demeaned women. Thus you had televangelists and radical lesbians teaming up to outlaw porn.)

Reason magazine was different. Reason magazine saw a lot of things the same way I did. They advocated personal freedom in all things. One of the earliest example I read of this was Virgina Postrel’s 1996 editorial about breast implants. Conservatives thought the issue was frivolous and a sign of our culture’s unhealthy obsession with sex. Liberals thought it was part of the how our culture objectified women. Lots of people felt the risks didn’t justify the benefits.

Virginia Postrel, however, framed the issue in a way that made sense to me. The issue was not what was good for us and why. The issue was who gets to make the decisions. Should it be politicians and public health doctors? Or should it be the person who has the most to gain or lose by the decision?

The debate over breast implants is only incidentally about the venality of lawyers or the benefits of a C cup. It is about who we are and who we may become. It is about the future of what it means to be human.

That sort of thinking is one of Reason‘s greatest strengths. Its writers are consistently good at looking at how small and intimate personal decisions—from health to finance to culture—relate to the grand issues of the day. And they explain why everyone is better off when people have the freedom to make their own choices.

Reason‘s motto is “Free Markets and Free Minds.” And they really, really mean it, with all its details and implications.

If you’ve read this far, you may be interested in reading Reason yourself. Check out their web site, and if you like what you see, you can subscribe here.

In fact, it being the yule season and all, I’ll give a free subscription to the first four people who ask me for one [Hurry! Only three left!]. Just send your name and address to me at [email protected] and I’ll sign you up. (Free stuff. Now I’ll really get to see if anyone reads my blog.)

(The deadline for requests is this coming Sunday at midnight in Chicago. I reserve the right to reject frivolous requests, incomplete requests, or any other requests for any reason or no reason. All judgements about request arrival times and who gets a subscription are mine, and all my decisions are final. I may modify or cancel this offer at any time.)