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Friday, March 24, 2017

On making better use of the freedom to ignore stuff.

One mark of a really good writer is that s/he is entertaining even when completely missing the point.

Today's example: Cotton Boll Conspiracy was having a slow news day recently, and so pulled out their Uncle Grumpy mask:
We in the West are drowning in a cornucopia of ill-conceived special celebrations. 
From National Bike to Work Day (May 19) to Global Forgiveness Day (Aug. 27) to International Peace Day (Sept. 21), there are a rash of events that the self-righteous have concocted in order to make themselves feel good, if not morally superior, to those around them. 
These events are largely limited to the Western world because the rest of the globe is too busy trying to stay alive to be bothered with such claptrap. 
This Saturday (8:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. for those of you keeping score at home),  the annual self-congratulatory activity known as Earth Hour will be held under the guise of “United People to Save the Planet.” 
Rather than list my many objections to this bit of imbecility, I’ll let you read the words of Canadian economist Ross McKitrick, who, in 2009, was asked by a journalist for his thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour...
Canadian cranks are always the best to cite for such arguments. They have a finely-tuned sense of frustration arising from a native sense that conservative nostrums always work better in theory, and would work better in practice, too, if Canada wasn't such an annoyingly successful lab for treating its residents like humans worthy of respect, equality, good education, and universal health care.

Holidays and commemorative events, of course, don't do a whit of harm to anyone, and silly arguments like, "Gee, I sure hope Terry Schiavo's nursing home doesn't turn off the power for an hour" are just that: silly. They reinforce and revalidate the free-floating sense of anger many have that things aren't going the way they prefer, and someone must be to blame that absolutely nothing bad has come of it.

I bookmark a holidays site to remind me of things I, too, can make jokes about when news is slow.

It reminds me today, for example, that yesterday- while I was aware of National Puppy Day because friends posted photos of theirs on social media- I missed National Chip and Dip Day, Chia Day, Near Miss Day, and Melba Toast Day.

Today I will observe National Goof Off Day, but I will pass on Bavarian Crepes Day.

Tomorrow, my choices for observance include National Fragrance Day, Common Courtesy Day, California Strawberry Day, Single Parent Day, French Bread Day, and Ag Day.

I note with interest, as I do most days I look at my National Day site, that nearly all the holidays are promotional gimmicks dreamed up by commercial interests, which makes them OK, I reckon.

Cotton Boll's day job interests, last I heard, tend to the conservative, which, I guess, explains why their Poster Day for Imbecility (and all the other ones cited above) is a lefty, do-gooder event to remind people just because they can afford to waste electricity, they don't have to all the damn time. Thrift was a biblical virtue before it prideful waste supplanted it in the age of Jesus the Republican. As Vice President Cheney snarked in 2007, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Now that they control government nearly everywhere, you'd think conservatives would be all over enacting holidays to celebrate the thought leaders who made their ascendancy possible.

It has been tried in the past, but the timing was just off. For example, a 2011 effort to declare Fenruary 2 Ayn Rand Day in Massachusetts went nowhere. I bet Republican Governor Charlie Baker would sign that in a heartbeat today.

In April 2000, Texas Governor George W. Bush- who held the quaint notion that public protestations of faith would get him closer to winning 90% of the evangelical vote for president than talk of pussy grabbing and serial adultery- declared Jesus Day in the Lone Star State, encouraging all Texans "to follow Christ's example by performing good works in their communities and neighborhoods."

In 1958, Congress declared May 1 to be Loyalty Day, "a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom." An interesting test of historical literacy among the senior White House staff this year will whether this excuse to spy on and rat out others will get amped up, or be the subject of presidential repeal demands on grounds the last president to proclaim it was Barack Obama in 2011, which makes it a Muslim Stealth Holiday. QED.

Tax Freedom Day is an existing event but insufficiently celebrated because it moves around, like Easter. It's the day some DC think tank figures Americans stop working for government and get to keep their hard-earned money and start not giving it to all the charities that are supposed to care for all social needs in the New Age.

Tax Freedom Day was invented by a Florida businessman with an ax to grind in 1948. It's as rigged as the tax code:
In America, while Tax Freedom Day presents an "average American" tax burden, it is not a tax burden typical for an American. That is, the tax burdens of most Americans are substantially overstated by Tax Freedom Day. The larger tax bills associated with higher incomes increases the average tax burden above that of most Americans. 
The Tax Foundation defends its methodology by pointing out that Tax Freedom Day is the U.S. economy's overall average tax burden—not the tax burden of the "average" American, which is how it is often misinterpreted by members of the media. Tax Foundation materials do not use the phrase "tax burden of the average American", although members of the media often make this mistake. 
Another criticism is that the calculation includes capital gains taxes but not capital gains income, thus overstating the tax burden. For example, in the late 1990s the US Tax Freedom Day moved later, reaching its latest date ever in 2000, but this was largely due to capital gains taxes on the bull market of that era rather than an increase in tax rates. In other words, variations in capital gains income and their associated taxes cause changes in the amount of taxes, but not in the income used in the calculation of Tax Freedom Day. 
The Tax Foundation argues that the Tax Freedom Day calculation does not include capital gains as income because it uses income and tax data directly from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). BEA has never counted capital gains as income since they don't represent current production available to pay taxes, and so the Tax Foundation excludes them as well. Additionally, the Tax Foundation argues that the exclusion of capital gains income is irrelevant in most years since including capital gains would only shift Tax Freedom Day by 1 percent in either direction in most years.
As a result, "From 1968 to 2009 the date has never left the 21-day range of April 13 to May 3."

That static element, of course, fuels the rage and rhetoric of the ressentiment rentier class, now baying for their latest $600 billion donative from the federal government they blame for having to ask for it.

Another existing but neglected holiday observed throughout the Republican-controlled South is General Robert E. Lee Day. King Day took nearly two decades to become a federal holiday (NC Senator Jesse Helms ran a 16-day filiburster, calling King "an action-oriented Marxist") and three to be recognized in all the states. A number resorted to a variety of passive-aggressive expedients like King/Lee Day; Utah called it Human Rights Day after a legislator objected to holidays honoring individuals; New Hampshire conceded, partially, in 1993, with Civil Rights Day, before caving in 1999.

As one writer has noted, among other states, "Mississippi has attempted to thread the needle on this one, by proclaiming the third Monday of January a day of commemoration of both [Dr Martin Luther King Jr] and Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee, thus celebrating the legacies of two men whose aims were completely and diametrically opposed."

Lee's actual birthday is January 19 (Florida still recognizes it legally, and Floridians ignore it, on that date).

I call that fair and balanced.

In any event, Earth Hour is purely voluntary, not even rising to the level of conservative ire over federal holidays clipping worker productivity.

It's a lot like TV. You don't like a show, change the channel. Or go puzzle out now many anti-Earth Hour curmudgeons it takes to change a light bulb back to the old design God gave us.

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