Why Doesn't the US Just Buy out North Korea?

We were sold on Trump as being a commander and CEO, to run the country like a successful business.

The US once had a monopoly on nuclear weapons and we want it back. So, Since Trump was supposed to bring the deal-making business acumen from the boardroom into the oval office, why not try to get nuclear dominance back the way companies used to gain market share… by buying out the competition? Apple didn’t rain hell fury like the world has never seen down upon Dr. Dre when they acquired Beats. Jeff Bezos didn’t send in infantry to shoot up Whole Foods and drag its spoils back to Amazon. That’s not how business gets done. So why doesn’t Mr. deal maker make a deal and buy out, not just the North Korean nuclear program, but North Korea altogether? 

How much could it possibly cost? Their GDP is only 12 Billion, just 0.07% of that of the US and the entire country is not much bigger than the state of Tennessee. Though people are starving, I have heard that Kim Jong Un personally has a net worth of about 5 billion USD. I don’t have a source for that so let’s just assume that’s correct. Feel free to correct me in the comments if you have actual data. But let’s go with the 5 billion for now. I'm sure we can do way better than that, so let's buy him out. 

It seems to me that the Kim dynasty really has only two real desires. 
1. Unify Korea.
2. Keep the Kim family rich and fat.

 

A buyout fills both of these goals. 

Let's give him say… 20 billion dollars to personally buy out his stake in North Korea. Then we buy out their investment in the nuclear program plus a little markup. It’s kind of hard to get the numbers of what they have invested in it but let’s guess it by the rumors that they spent about 1.3 billion USD on the program last year. Let’s assume they’ve been doing that for 10 years and say they have about 13 billion invested in the program. 30% is a pretty respectable markup for just about any product, so let’s do a bit better than that and offer them 18 billion for the nuke program. Next, we need to buy out the land. It doesn't seem like there are hardly any good structures outside of Pyongyang, so it would kinda be a lot like buying Detroit or Juarez, as most of what is there is would need to be knocked down if you wanted to make anything worth a damn. I think $20,000 per square mile is way more than fair, considering the condition. So that’s just under a billion dollars, which brings us to a rough total of 39 billion dollars.  

Kim Jong Un can take his 39 billion dollars and go move to an island somewhere in the Caribbean or buy a chateau in the south of France or whatever. Just let him go there and live his life rich, sleeping on thousand thread count sheets, eating the most delicious foods, hanging out with famous basketball players, snorting blow, and banging the highest caliber call girls... whatever he wants to do, EXCEPT be in charge of a nuclear power (or any country for that matter). 

 

A war with North Korea would be a horrible, bloody nightmare.

They have a strong army for a country of that size, but let's be honest, if nukes were out of the picture we could level it in no time. They’d have to go nuclear. They would have no other option. Who knows what the human cost would be? I hate to be so obtuse, but I don’t even know how to begin to quantify it so, let’s let our Commander in CEO think of it only in terms of dollars. I saw it estimated that war with North Korea would cost the somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 billion dollars. I can’t imagine it would be so low, and I don't think that factors in long term radiation effects, but let’s go with it. By buying them out, we get regime change, all of their nukes, any technology they’ve developed, lots and lots of developable land, and a population of people literally starving for change, and we get it all for less than a tenth of the cost of a very messy war. Oh, and we also get a unified Korea. Think of all the iPhones we can sell! Can't you just imagine the Pyongyang Apple Store? I can already smell the Cinnabon!

311 billion dollars in cost avoidance is fantastic but there’s no reason why the United States buying out North Korea should not also be a profitable venture for us. 

We could turn the day to day operations of the northern portion of Korea over to the government that currently manages the South, integrating it into that capitalist society with no violence. When that happens a lot of new production will take place. Companies from the South will expand north. Companies from offshore will flood in. North Korean farmers and other industrious folks can start up new ventures. Revenues will grow, production will increase, profits will soar, and taxation can become possible. There will be revenue streams for the livelihoods of the people, for the organizations, as well as for the government. The relief will be felt immediately and the standard of living of the average North Korean citizen will increase dramatically over the subsequent years. 


But not for free, mind you.

Basically, what we'd have done is to have loaned South Korea the money to buy out the North. We pay the upfront cost and the new, unified Korea pays us the current rate of 3.92 % in a monthly fixed rate mortgage payment of $184,397,745 for 30 years, totaling up to $66,383,188,200 over that time. That leaves the US with a profit of over 27 billion dollars. 

So we’ve avoided nuclear war, liberated 25 million people from starvation level communism, better secured our nuclear position, made the world safer, made ourselves some money, increased the standard of living for nearly everyone on the peninsula, and we haven’t fired a shot. We didn’t lose one American life, nor one Korean life. We caused no collateral damage, only collateral improvements. 

The only thing it costs us is the opportunity to exact vengeance on Kim Jong Un.

The American war hawks and likely a lot of the North Korean proletariat would like rip him limb from limb or stab him in the ass to death like Gaddafi, and frankly, I can’t say that I blame them, but is it worth the deaths of millions of people in flames of a nuclear furnace and all of the fallout (both literal and figurative) that goes with it to get your vengeance? Is it worth that to look tough on the world stage? C’mon, Mr. President… Let’s make a deal. I hear it’s an art.

Puerto Pobre - How Government has Guaranteed Puerto Rico's Economic Failure.

With Puerto Rican statehood showing up again as a trending topic, many news sources are outlining the economic state of the Island. I find it refreshing that the issues in Puerto Rico are getting some press, but find it concerning that a close examination of why the island's economic situation is so dire, and what policies have not only led to that outcome but ensured it. But first some background:

Though Puerto Rico has been held as a US territory since 1889, it wasn’t until 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson needed to find a way to force Puerto Ricans to fight in WWI that they were granted a pseudo-citizenship that came with many caveats and limitations…  sort of a 'friends without benefits' arrangement. Hence, the Jones-Shafroth Act was born and granted the status of US Citizen to all Puerto Ricans, which granted them the privilege of dying in their oppressors’ wars.

Since then, Puerto Rico has never really flourished under US control, though it has certainly seen much better days. Government regulations have always stifled their little economy, but it just seems to keep getting worse. Local policies aren’t the only ones to blame either. Several US federal policies are among the largest contributors to the hardships felt by everyday residents of the small, Caribbean island. I want to call these policies antiquated, but that word implies that there was ever a time when the policies were fair or appropriate, and it would be impossible to make that case.

 

MINIMUM WAGE LAWS

Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. The dollar is their currency and they are bound by US laws, including the federal minimum wage. But how is that a bad thing? Don’t people in Puerto Rico deserve a living wage? I would argue that certainly, they do and it is exactly the minimum wage requirement that prevents them from earning one.

Though only 46 percent of the 3.7 million population of Puerto Rico participates in the workforce, as compared to about 60% in the mainland US, their median household income is just under $20,000 per year. Compare that to the almost $52,000 US median, which is slightly lower in my home state of Indiana's at $50,532. Yet, a person making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would make $14,500 per year based on a 40-hour workweek for 50 weeks per year. That sounds like nothing and, even compared to a very modest $50k per year. But consider that minimum wage in Puerto Rico is 74.3% of the median, things start to come into perspective. Since prices are generally higher in Puerto Rico, it’s kind of like if we were to have an $18.50 per hour minimum wage here on the mainland, except that $18.50 would only buy you $10 worth of goods and services.

So, Puerto Rico has an idle workforce that can't go to work because it's illegal for them to work for less than minimum wage. Yes, people who make minimum wage are poor, especially in a place where everything costs more, but in an effort to make it illegal to pay people below a living wage, minimum wage laws have forced many Puerto Ricans into living on no wage at all. In its attempts to outlaw poverty, the government has created more poverty and made it more severe.

 

THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT OF 1920 (The Jones Act)  

This federal statute is intended to ensure that maritime commerce between US ports be conducted using US ships, which also must be constructed in America and owned by Americans. This protectionism keeps Puerto Rico from being able to import or export anything unless they use the US Merchant Marine, which means US ships, constructed in the US, and crewed by US personnel. This makes imports cost twice as much as they do in neighboring Caribbean nations. Their incentive to export is likewise reduced as Puerto Rico's goods are more expensive and less competitive than mainland consumers and wholesalers can get elsewhere.

 

EXCESSIVE TAXATION

As it is not officially a state and therefore does not have representation in US Congress, they are not subject to the federal income tax. This often plants the notion that Puerto Rico is some kind of tax haven in the minds of typical mainlanders. This is not the case. Puerto Rico imposes its own income tax and sales tax. Still, the biggest blow to Puerto Rican prosperity came in the form of Section 936 of US Internal Revenue Code, which removed tax exemptions for US companies with subsidiaries located in Puerto Rico. Former President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1996 that scaled back these exemptions over a 10 year period. This effective tax hike went into full effect in 2006 and has since led to massive job losses and Puerto Rico has endured 12 consecutive years of economic depression across the island. 

 

ENORMOUS GOVERNMENT AND SOCIAL FUNDING

One-third of Puerto Rico’s workforce are employed by the government. One-third of Puerto Ricans are on food stamps, not to mention other forms of assistance. Let’s assume that there’s no convergence between those groups for the sake of this article, though I suppose it is entirely possible that government employees may also be on some forms of assistance.

The largest employer on the Island is the government, due to the fact that there is so much assistance that needs to be distributed. More assistance means less incentive to work, and the less people work, the more they require assistance. The more assistance they require, the more government programs and employees are needed yet, with the decrease in jobs, the less money there is flowing into the government to pay those government salaries and cover the program budgets, creating a massively unsustainable situation that will lead to a crash.

Yet, like much of the world, they will most likely see the failures of government as a pressing need for more and more government and they will suffer more and more unintended consequences. I’m rooting for Puerto Rican statehood if that’s what they really want. They deserve proper representation, but I fear that the United States and its own twenty billion dollar debt and thousands of unsustainable public programs could never save them from the consequences of the US’s poor decision making and underhanded dealings that put Puerto Rico in this situation in the first place. If they could resist the call of socialism, they’d be much better off pursuing independence. 

 

REFERENCES:

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-17.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_government-debt_crisis
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode46a/usc_sup_05_46_10_24.html
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/936
https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/chronpr.html
https://taxfoundation.org/tax-policy-helped-create-puerto-rico-s-fiscal-crisis/

An American President in Paris

 
Trump doesn't get much right, but he's right on the Paris Accord. Before you all grab your pitchforks and light your torches, I want to stress that people who don't support the Paris Climate Accord specifically aren't anti-environment shills for billionaires and don’t support grabbing any pussies without consent. There are many reasons why Liberals of both the classical and modern varieties should join forces to work towards environmental policies that would truly benefit the poor of our nation and those around the globe. If we do not, the poorest Americans will bear the costs, I guarantee you. 


The requirements in the Paris Accord would have a direct negative impact on poor people in the United States in the forms of fewer jobs and increased costs of living on nearly every level. 400,000 job losses could be expected in the oil, gas and coal mining, manufacturing, and construction industries. If that weren’t bad enough, an average family could expect to pay $3000 more per year for electricity.

 
I’m sure that this analysis doesn’t account for any jobs that would be created when opportunistic entrepreneurs rush to fill the void created by artificially high energy prices, however any new innovations would be subject to higher fixed costs, such as research, development, facilities, licensure, etc, as those businesses got off the ground and as already established green energy firms pushed to expand quickly. Traditional energy companies that have already undergone these expenses would be subject to mostly marginal costs and would have an easier time providing lower prices to customers.


Additionally, considering the billions of dollars that would be paid by the US to energy contractors, plenty of the 1%, both inside and outside of the US, would stand to make enormous gains if the current plan stays in place. 
 
Denial of Economics is Science Denial.
 
By now we’ve had time to watch all of the computer generated climate simulations turn out to be very wrong. We’ve had time to see many of the climate predictions turn out to be just as misguided. That doesn’t mean that the climate isn’t changing and that doesn’t mean that mankind and specifically mankind’s pollution isn’t contributing to that phenomenon.
 
You don’t need computer models to think that pumping gigatons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere might result in a greenhouse effect. 
 
Quite the opposite, actually. You would be quite negligent in your thinking were you to ignore this possibility. Certainly, there are adamant climate change deniers out there, but I think it’s far too convenient just to jump to the conclusion that the majority of people who don’t support committing the United States to aggressive and potentially unrealistic carbon emission output targets fall into this camp. 
 
If we look at climate change as a negative force, as of course, we should, we have to examine what makes it so, and why exactly we need to combat it. That may seem obvious, but have you actually ever taken the time to articulate it into words? Humor me just a bit while we break it down. Shouldn’t the reason that it’s in our best interest to combat both climate and climate change be the impact these things have on human life? All life should be considered to a degree, certainly, and it would be in our own best interest to consider the entirety of the ecosystem, but really... should human life not be the metric by which we decide what is and what is not a threat? Would it not also be fair to say that in most, if not all, cases that the poorest among us would be the most vulnerable and susceptible to nearly any threat?
 
As a species and a society, we are interested in continuing to exist and rightly so. If we accept that as a fact, we have to critically examine what the most significant environmental threats are to human life, especially poor people. Throughout history, the bulk of those big threats has simply been cold winters, hot summers, storms, etc. People need to have resources and energy to warm them up when they're cold, cool them down when it's hot, and structures to keep them safe. They need food to nourish their bodies and that same food needs to be within their economic means to obtain. 
 
In a column in center-left leaning website “The Hill” appeared these words: 
 
“In the decade from 2004 to 2013, worldwide climate-related deaths (including droughts, floods, extreme temperatures, wildfires, and storms) plummeted to a level 88.6 percent below that of the peak decade, 1930 to 1939.2 The year 2013, with 29,404 reported deaths, had 99.4 percent fewer climate-related deaths than the historic record year of 1932, which had 5,073,283 reported deaths for the same category.”
 
Additionally, deaths related to climate factors have decreased 98% over the last 80 years, which was when major C02 emissions began. The climate is changing. But the reason that fewer people than ever are suffering or dying due to climate is that there is a supply chain of readily available, inexpensive, energy to keep people warm, build safe housing, grow food, etc. It not a good thing that climate change may be a side effect of this, but we've never been more prepared to combat weather events and it isn't fair to pull the rug out from under poor people and tell them that we’ve signed an agreement that lets Germany, France, and other nations get to dictate to them how much energy they can use at 3 times the price. That would have a much more significant impact on poor people than the projected atmospheric conditions and I think that could be quantified in actual deaths of actual people.
 
The fair-minded, and scientifically literate among us already know this. 
 
But because we are fair minded and scientifically literate, we look at the big picture and see that the effects on human life (especially poor people) due to climate change are real, the effects on human life (especially poor people) due to economic factors are also real. Then we ask ourselves which one presents the most significant threat to human life, especially poor people? 
 
When we examine this question with a fair-minded, scientifically literate approach, we see that the pre-industrial climate was a killer. Extreme heat, extreme cold, tornadoes, hurricanes, malnutrition, etc. And, as previously stated, we also see that deaths due to climate have dropped dramatically since industrialization. That's not because the emissions are good, certainly, they are not. It is simply due to the fact that more people than ever, even poor people, have greater access to inexpensive, abundant and reliable energy sources. The emissions are a problem, but a less critical one than would be created by removing access to inexpensive and abundant energy from people, especially poor people. 
 
Personally, I believe that if the US government would butt out of the marketplace, stop subsidizing BOTH fossil files AND green energy, and let the two Duke it out in the marketplace, green energy would quickly become the cheapest, most reliable source. 
 
I am not arguing that we should not take environmental protection measures, just that the Paris Accord in its current form is not a good deal for the US. President Trump, however, is a climate change denier and an egotistical showboat.. but a broken clock is right twice a day, as they say.
 
All the best,

-Clyde -

When Arts Funding Gets Trumped

The internet has been abuzz.. dare I say aghast today at President Trump's budget completely eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Faced with the prospect of zero federal funding for the NEA people have been losing their minds on social media once again calling for the head of the Orange Nazi, lighting their torches to go after the oompa loompa (their words, not mine), etc. In a much more productive style of engagement, one friend of mine on FaceBook simply and elegantly challenged anyone to defend the President’s action. “Someone defend this, I dare you, try me.”

So, let me just play Devil's Advocate for a minute.... 

Let me preface this by saying that I am not now nor have I ever been a Trump supporter. I personally think that the Arts are important, even integral to the very core of our society. Without them what’s the purpose of a society at all? People should absolutely support the Arts. 

But those are my values. They are not everyone's values. 

The National Endowment for the Arts is not money that came from thin air. It was collected by force from the population, whether or not those people even value the arts. Additionally, there are people who loathe the Arts. Hard to imagine, right? But still those people do exist and who are we to impose our values on them and take THEIR money from them by force to support the things that WE have decided have value and merit. Defunding the Arts means that money that the government forcefully appropriated from the populace will no longer be used for the arts. It does not mean that people who do value those Arts cannot support them on their own. It would actually give us all a much more accurate picture of how much we as a nation actually do value the Arts when the support thereof is strictly voluntary and we have to opt in with our own money and have to consciously make the choice to spend those dollars on art or donate it to arts foundations and initiatives above all of the other things in our lives that contend for our hard earned dollars. The forced compliance model we have now gives you a distorted view of how much people actually care about the arts and I think that is what people are afraid of. That this thing they love will go away when other people are no longer forced to support it because they themselves don't value it enough to support it with their own money. 

Now, again, I do highly value the Arts and think that they are a cornerstone of our culture. But, I would support ending Arts funding that comes from collected taxes. 

It's just not fair for me to expect everyone else to pay for this thing that I love.

Now... my opinion in that regard is predicated on two things:

1. If the Arts funding were to be halted, those taxes would cease to be collected and people would be able to keep that portion of their own money to support the Arts or whatever else voluntarily. However, I think that we know this government and every one that has come before it and all that will come after it well enough to know that we are NEVER getting that money back and if it stops going to the Arts, it will just be allocated to some other thing, probably an already over bloated military or more drug war bullshit.  

2. There are way bigger fish to fry that are eating up people's hard earned tax dollars already. Again, let’s go back to our INSANE military budget, a costly and failing drug war and everything else eating up trillions and trillions of dollars per year and which are currently being expanded. If it were up to me (it’s not), I personally wouldn't support any reductions in Arts funding until these WAY more pressing matters had been addressed and by the time you actually did address them, there would very likely be no need to cut arts funding at all. I would imagine that at that point the tax rates would be so low that the public outcry to defund the arts would no longer exist, or at the very least would be far less enthusiastic.  

In an era such as this where we are caught in a storm on the high seas of wasteful spending, it’s really not that hard to see why some people would support cutting off Government funding of the Arts.

It’s just a drop in the bucket and certainly, most of the people who actively support defunding the arts aren’t taking the big picture into account, but I don’t think that they’re bad people for wanting to dial in the spending. I think it's easy to just label them as bad people and dismiss their concerns out of hand but that doesn't help the situation at all.

The National Endowment for the Arts is about 138 million dollars out of 3.8 trillion. Military spending that has displaced millions of people and killed hundreds of thousands in the Middle East, allowed our government to detain and put to death our own citizens without due process of law and has served to do nothing but stoke more and more anti-American sentiment abroad, breed terrorism and make us all less safe, accounts for 530 billion dollars per year and is growing. 

Someone defend this, I dare you, try me.

All the best,

Clyde

Why Isn't Trans called Gender Appropriation?

Because we allow other people to decide what we’re going to be mad about, that’s why.

Whether one leans politically left or right, it seems put upon us to be angry about the issues someone else has decided we should be angry about, almost as if it is our responsibility. The anger bullet points are being handed down from who knows where and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for why we should or should not get all up in arms about a particular topic. There seems to be no set of guiding principles that would keep our arguments cohesive and stop us from contradicting ourselves and our own values. Yet, our arguments do fail the cohesion test; we do contradict ourselves, but why? Because we are unsure of our own ethics and we are getting our orders from somewhere else.

The point isn't for us to get mad and let the anger motivate us to change the world, the point is for us to get angry and stay angry, so long as we stay angry at one another. 

They want us to be mad about other people's religion. We have to be angry with Christians and vilify them for having bigoted views on homosexuality and outdated views on family structure and gender roles, but we have to also be angry with society for marginalizing Muslims and not respecting their culture and values, when those values are the same bigoted views on LGBT and the same family and gender values we have deemed to be obsolete and oppressive. 

We have to be angry that there's a gender pay gap but we’re not allowed to be angry at the conditions that contribute to it, such as many women choosing to be caregivers and many others choosing lower paying social service roles. We have to be angry at those who would not give women a choice but we also have to be angry at the outcome of the choices they ultimately make, but we can’t be angry with the women who’ve made those choices.   

We have to be angry about how much money other people work for. That guy doesn’t make enough per hour, that guy makes too much per year, and on and on. We’re required to be angry that there isn’t opportunity for immigrants or for single parents with erratic schedules but we also have to be angry at companies like Uber for providing them opportunities to work at their own pace and set their own hours because WE, a party completely outside of the transaction, don’t care for the terms of an agreement we didn’t make, to which we are not obligated and that ultimately doesn’t affect us. 

We have to be furious and call it racist and unacceptable for someone born an american to adopt the mode of dress, language or manner of a foreign people, or when the dominant culture adopts aspects of a marginalized or sub culture, yet simultaneously we must be furious at people who refuse to accept that a person of one gender who appropriates the mode of dress, language, and manner of the other gender should be celebrated for doing so. 

Personally, I understand the gender gradient and that even something that would seem to be binary is more nuanced than that, but it’s as though we see culture, which is a logical construct that isn’t predicated on any real, physical attributes as rigid boundaries that cannot be crossed, while simultaneously making the claim that gender, with its physically and biologically observable attributes as a fabricated construct that’s all in our minds. 

Now, don’t get the torches and pitchforks just yet… I’m an open minded guy. I believe in individual freedom. 

If you want to wear make up and cut your dick off, then godspeed, wear makeup and cut your dick off. 

I wish you all the happiness in the world. Though it does come with some delicate care instructions, I am personally of the opinion that owning a penis is a net win, but that should have no bearing on whether you decide to add or subtract one from your body nor influence any other decision you make in your own life. Furthermore I’m happy to call you whatever pronoun you like because you’re my friend and I love you and your happiness is important to me. Still, I hope you’ll let it slide if I fuck up from time to time and forgive me if I momentarily forget that Ze is a word. Is it? 

But again, it’s as though we are obligated to be angry either way. Whether you perceive a gender line as a rigid boundary between binary sexes of male and female or you see a wide spectrum of people who can range from agender, gender fluid, gender flux, gender queer, demi-girl/boy all the way to boring old sis gendered assigned at birth… it doesn’t matter. You both think you’re right. You both think there is a “truth” out there that with just the right awareness, acceptance, prayer or whatever, that this “truth” could prevail and that your truth, your Yin side of the argument would defeat the evil Yang and justice would reign. But there is no truth. Truth is as abstract as justice... it's usually just perspective. Even so, it doesn't matter. Getting to the truth for it to set you free is not the goal.

There is no truth but there’s a lot of money to be made in selling the cause. 

The goal is to keep us divided, fighting among ourselves to make it easier for those who seek to separate us from our money and exert power over us to do just that. As long as you’re angry you’ll keep clicking, keep linking, keep subscribing, keep tuning in, and keep the money flowing. 

I personally think we should be left the hell alone to live our own lives. If I want to live my life as a coke snorting, tranny stripper (seriously, I’d be like so hot), I feel like I should be allowed to do that so long as none of my behaviors injure you or damage your property. Likewise, if I want to dedicate my life to being a conservative christian and president of the AR-15 fanclub, then why shouldn’t I? In either case, one shouldn’t be able to force a lifestyle or acceptance of that lifestyle on another person. 

We all just need to act like adults and have enough self respect to treat other people with dignity, recognize that their cause is our cause, and realize that any laws we put in place to manage the lifestyles of others is a framework for others to be able to manage our own. 

If we actually did that, actually unified in the belief that our lifestyles were solely and completely our own business, and the trannies and bible thumpers joined forces to fight those in power that would infringe either of those lifestyles, or any other for that matter, as well as assumed the personal responsibility that our choices may have consequences that are no one else's burden, I believe we would stand a united and powerful people.  

All the best,

Clyde 

Oh Christmas Chi, Oh Christmas Chi!

 

I'M NOT REALLY A CHRISTIAN, I'M NOT REALLY AN ATHEIST.

I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, created the universe. I do not know what, if anything, happens after we die, or which ethnic groups God favors and which lifestyles he hates. I just don't know. Furthermore, I live on planet Earth. There is no more information about God, Jesus, Heaven, Vishnu or Mohammed available today than there was a thousand years ago. I've been to church, studied Torah, raised my hands in the air at Christian rock concerts, let the Mormon kids that rang the bell come into my house and take their best shot at convincing me and still... nothing. I'm no closer to understanding all of the mysteries of humanity and the heavens than I was before. I'm still just a little lost lamb, no closer to anything that looks like a particular truth. So, it occurs to me that, not only do I not know any of the answers to the great mysteries, there is an exactly 0% chance of my ever finding any of those answers. I will never KNOW the truth. There is no way for me to know the truth. There is no path for a mortal to move from here to actual enlightenment. With this understanding, I have stopped any attempt to find it. No more church, no more Torah class, no more missionaries. Thank you, but no. Call me an agnostic, call me a Diest, call me a dumbass, I don't care. It has no affect on my life how you label my religious beliefs or lack thereof, and honestly... anything I believe today is subject to change tomorrow.

CERTAINLY MOST OF RELIGION IS MADE UP, SO FUCK YOU. I'LL MAKE IT UP TOO IF I WANT.

Stepping outside of one's religious upbringing and looking at it with a newly found objectivity, one can certainly see its absurdity and contradiction, but not necessarily in a negative way. Take the concept of an Easter egg hunt for example. There is one type of Christian for whom the kids simply MUST dress up in their pretty little Easter dresses and hunt for eggs. There's another camp that have actually read the bible and know this to be a pagan ritual, the likes of which Jehovah explicitly forbade and therefore the kids must have absolutely no part in it. Then there's me, who doesn't really give a shit. I like the Easter egg hunt. It's cute and it's fun... BUT... I certainly do see the arbitrary absurdity of it. Though I have small kids, I no longer feel culturally obligated to provide them an Easter egg hunt, but nor do I feel religiously opposed to it. I don't give a shit about your religious zeal. I don't give a shit about your altruistic atheism.

I HAVE EMBRACED A NEW doctrine... APATHY. I FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN SAVED...

...saved from the pit of religious and cultural obligations, while simultaneously saved from smug, self righteous atheism. You are entitled to whichever belief system to which you choose to ascribe, but I hereby declare myself a non participant in either of these games of tail chasing. It's wonderful, my friends. I have seen the light. Not giving a shit has changed my life, pulled me back from the brink of despair. I can see the glory of the coming of apathetic half-assery... and it is good.

I have begun carrying this into pretty much every aspect of my daily life. When the herd goes left, I go right. When it goes back, I go forward. When everyone goes to Church from 10:00 am - Noon on Sunday I go grocery shopping and gloriously have the store all to myself. When everyone goes to lunch at noon, I go at 1:15. There's usually no waiting at restaurants and the lunch special prices are still valid. You'll never catch me taking the kids to an amusement park on a weekend, but we'll be there first thing Monday morning. There will be no lines and we'll get a good parking space. Most importantly, while everyone is Christmas shopping on Black Friday, I avoid stores at all costs. I gas up the day before and make sure we have a stocked refrigerator. I don't drive a car, I don't answer the phone... it's sort of like my own little Shabbos. Furthermore, I haven't just stopped shopping on black Friday, I've mostly stopped Christmas shopping altogether.

So here are my thoughts on Christmas. It's stupid. not only is it stupid, it's an expensive racket designed to separate us suckers from our money.

JESUS WASN'T BORN IN DECEMBER AND HE HIMSELF OBSERVED HANUKKAH, SO CUT THE SHIT.

HE is not the reason for the season. Quarter 4 sales results are. But just because it's stupid and petty doesn't mean I don't want to play. I actually like Christmas. I love the soft warm glow of off-white lights twinkling on the tree, I love stirring my hot chocolate with a peppermint candy cane, I love the piny aroma of my pagan Christmas tree hanging in the air of the living room. I love having all of my closest loved ones in my home and the ambient buzz their voices and laughter make as it reverberates through the house, accompanied by Dean Martin's Christmas classics. You will pry my Leviticus 11-4 forbidden Christmas Ham from my cold, dead, unclean fingers. But most of all, I love the look on my kids' faces on Christmas morning when they tear into their gifts. Maybe that's petty commercialism, but their genuine happiness and beautiful smiles elate me like nothing else.

What I don't like are the long lines, violent outbursts from overwhelmed shoppers, acts of actual violence, grumpy faces, people bitching about people saying happy holidays versus Merry Christmas and what stupid cup Starbucks is using or whatever molehill the hyper Christians and the social justice warriors have collectively conspired to make into a mountain. I hate everything about black Friday. I hate the buying of a ton of pointless gifts that individually are pretty cheap but collectively become excessively expensive. Gift giving makes sense for kids. They have no means of income for themselves and rely on us entirely. Go ahead and get them gifts, that makes sense. But it doesn't make sense for us adults to make one another feel obligated to get each other some $10-$50 thing we each think the other might like. There's at least a medium to high likelihood that we could be wrong and we both end up hating the gifts and we've both wasted our money. We feel obligated to extend cultural niceties and claim that we love the gift from the other and the only one that wins is some faceless retailer. Furthermore, when any $10-$50 trinket is well within both of our financial means to acquire for ourselves, giving these items as gifts to one another makes even less sense.  

As it turns out, all of these complaints I have about Christmas were all things that were in my own power to avoid or change. All I had to do was be honest with myself and (gulp) honest with my family that I just didn't want to play.... or more accurately, that I wanted to cherry pick the parts of the Christmas rain dance in which I did want to participate. 

THIS YEAR, MY WIFE AND I DECIDED THAT WE WOULD NOT BE BUYING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 17.

We bought our kids one big gift each and several minor gifts to extend the Christmas morning gift wrap shredding session. We bought a couple of gift cards for some nieces and nephews and that was it. Instead, we hosted a Christmas dinner at our house as our gift. Below is a slightly embellished version of the excerpt from our Facebook invitation:

We will be hosting a Christmas evening get together at our house. We will roast a Christmas Ham and a Turkey. We will have beans and taters and some form of bread. We'll have some nice snacks, gourmet desserts, rich coffee, artisan teas, adult libations (beer and booze), etc. Just a heads up, we will not be buying any gifts for adult people, none whatsoever. We'll have gifts for our kids on Christmas morning and for nieces and nephews but no one over the age of 17 will be on our shopping list. We'd much rather that Christmas be for the kids. Please don't bring us any gifts either. If you do, we will kindly accept them as social graces require, but please know that this is not our preference. Thank you, but we'd honestly rather see you save your money or donate it to charity. We just don't need anything. We certainly don't mean any offense by this, so please know that we really do appreciate the thought. The gift of your company would be wonderful and would enrich our lives much more than any trinket or token ever could and would make Christmas 2016 a very special holiday indeed. This event is our gift to you, dear family and friends. Skipping the pretense, skipping the stores, skipping the hassle, skipping the frustration and getting straight to the fellowship and joy (and pie) sounds to us like a much better way to spend this holiday. Feel free to start coming by and hanging out around 4:00 PM. Dinner will be served at approximately 6:00. It is my sincere hope to see you there. Please, only bring us your Christmas Presence.😃

We originally met with some resistance in the weeks before Christmas day. But, when it came down to it, we had a huge turnout and only one person brought us a gift. The other adults brought gifts only for the kids and we all enjoyed the smiles and laughter watching them open each one. We ended up saving a little money but ended up spending nearly as much as we had last Christmas, but the difference was that this time everyone actually liked the gift. Everyone really enjoyed the food (they went back for seconds and there wasn't much in the way of leftovers), and moreover enjoyed the gathering of souls.

OUR GOAL WASN'T TO BE ALL BAH HUMBUG ABOUT IT, JUST TO SHOW THAT IF YOU SImply REFRAIN FROM TRAMPLING OTHER PEOPLE TO DEATH over $5 off of A PLAYSTATION THE DAY AFTER GIVING THANKS FOR THE BLESSINGS IN LIFE, IF YOU JUST ENJOY THE PRETTY LIGHTS AND FAMILY TIME, CHRISTMAS IS AN ENRICHING, BEAUTIFUL, AND EVEN RELAXING TIMe.

I think that this approach really appealed to the spirit of Christmas that the more devout family members carry. Interestingly, it seemed to appeal to everyone else as well. So even in my crazy mixed bag family of Methodists, Anglicans, Jews, atheists, agnostics, hippies and hillbillies, ultimately all understood that we weren't saying we didn't want to play at all, just that we wanted to distill Christmas back down to its good stuff, and that it was possible to recognize that our cultural rituals are indeed absurd but that we can allow ourselves to enjoy them nonetheless.

What mattered was that we were all enjoying our absurdities together.