It wasn’t an agenda, dammit. It was information.

trump-rope-tree-journalist

Welcome to the post-fact world.

It is a place where your opinion is as good as empirical proof. You’re ‘feels’ count as much as peer-reviewed Scientific Evidence. And if what you don’t like is on tape ? Wave your hands and repeat this magic charm: “Lib-rul Mee-Dia, Lib-rul Mee-Dia, Lib-rul Mee-Dia” and suddenly proof of your candidate boasting “Grab Them By The Pussy!!” isn’t sexual assault anymore.

Don’t like those pesky ‘facts’ the Lügenpresse has inconveniently dug up? Vilify them and threaten them with murder! Why not? The GOP Presidential candidate is openly encouraging physical violence against the Press, saying they have too much freedom and should be jailed. It’s bad enough this bloviating Fascist (with a capital F) is saying it, but he’s doing so to the cheers of tens of millions of Americans rabid to destroy our First Amendment rights – and all with the endorsement and monetary backing of the Republican Party.

Now we are asked to indulgently chuckle when Deplorables wear shirts advocating murdering the Press, and the overthrow of our Constitution.

I know several journalists who are near the breaking point: Burnout, depression, disgust and hopelessness now have a new colleague: FEAR. They are all are asking if it is worth it to be constantly vilified and have your motives questioned or be outright disbelieved, all while being terrifically underpaid and having to face a shitstorm when they print actual facts.

At the same time I know dozens of out of work journalists who are dying a million deaths at this election’s coverage and the propaganda churning out 24/7. We feel helpless and wish we could use our expertise to bring some context to stories that are either ignored or blown out of proportion. We long to put a halt to the continual indignation cycle the News has become.

When corporations pulled the plug on Newspapers and quit funding Television and Radio Newsrooms adequately, and when they decided clicks were more important than truth they fired tens of thousands of people whose job it was to research and write about facts. Most folks don’t realize the skill it takes for a producer to research any given subject, and put together pieces and write questions for their anchors. It is a lost art.

People don’t realize it, but all of those unemployed people were the screen that separated the facts from the bullshit. We gave you a baseline from which to start the discussion about social and economic issues, as well as local and international events. It wasn’t an agenda, dammit. It was information.

But, you fired us – and they fired us. They couldn’t make enough profit by employing an adequate number of educated professionals to ensure accuracy and excellence. You couldn’t be arsed to pay for a quality product. Do you pay $10 a month for Netflix but won’t pony up $5 to subscribe to a news site like the New York Times? Congratulations – you’re part of the problem.

The collapse of Traditional News has left a void that blogs have filled, which has given rise and fed the needs of modern Conspiracy Theorists.

I used to deal with Conspiracy Theorists when I was a Talk Radio Host in the 80s and 90s, before Talk was all taken over by screeching hatred, thanks to the Mays brothers of Cheap Channel fame. People like this were a novelty and a hoot to put on the air. The longer they talked the more they just showed how bug-nuts crazy they were. FWIW: Just like today, the Conspiracy Theorists then glommed onto the New World Order, The Illuminati, The Jews and the UN taking over the US. I’ve been hearing that any day now the Dems are coming for your guns. Any. Day. Now. Oh, and Chemtrails are REAL, man (and fluoride and vaccines). None of that has changed in 30 years.

What has changed is that AM radio was taken over by the Alt-Right a quarter of a century ago, when the Mays Brothers shit canned anyone who wasn’t Frog Marching to their ultra-conservative tune. Liberal, Progressive, Middle-of-the-Road and Soft Republicans (those who believed in compromise) were no longer welcome in their 500 station cross-country monopoly that had a stranglehold on the industry.

Soon AM radio became a vacuum of hate speech and lies. Rush Limbaugh defended his pathological lying by saying he was an entertainer, not a news person. Glenn Beck simultaneously cheated thousands of old people out of their life savings in a bogus gold investment scheme, while managing to poison them with convoluted non-sensical conspiracies about Obama’s secret S.S. Civilian Army and the Boston Bombing ‘Cover-Up’. Anti-Journalist and Supreme Radio Hack Sean Hannity was rewarded for years of lying on behalf of the GOP with a plum job at Fox, where it appears Trump’s hand is up his puppet ass this very moment.

AM Talk Radio encouraged sick, gullible, uneducated and mentally unstable people to plumb the depths of their paranoia. No conspiracy was too obscure or far-fetched, and for these lost souls that conspiracy made them feel smarter than everyone else and in control.

The saturation of the AM dial with non-stop conspiracies is what tilled the ground for this current Conspiracy Theory movement.

The internet, which tends to make smart people smarter and dumb people dumber, has given these Conspiracy Theorists an echo chamber that validates them and gives their insane theories credibility. They are no longer at the margins of media, where people point out just how mentally unstable they sound. They don’t have to wait on hold to get on the air and be crazy – they can go online 24/7 and get their biases confirmed and their paranoia stoked. Now, people like Alex Jones are revered, instead of being revealed for the whack-job charlatan he really is.

30 years of encouraging the worst in people and stoking paranoia leads in a direct line to Candidate Trump, and the flaming Porta-Potty of his campaign this election cycle.

Sure, Trump may not get elected tomorrow, but the Conspiracy Theorists won’t be going away any time soon. They’ve been emboldened by a misogynistic, bigoted, racist, homophobic candidate. Their nuttery has been sanctioned by the GOP, and their hypocrisy encouraged by Evangelical Christians who apparently think the Commandments are actually the 10 Suggestions.

If Trump loses expect to see these people lose it mentally, because people in positions of power (I’m looking at you Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell and John McCain) haven’t insisted on the Facts being recited any time in recent memory. They chose, instead, to endure the repeated lies for the sake of political expedience.

There’s a smorgasbord of conspiracies to choose from. Would you like a Truther, Birther or Vaxxer conspiracy? Can I interest you in some Jadehelm? Or, would you like something from Secretary Clinton? She is, after all, a dead, sick, Manchurian Candidate who murders political opponents.

Or, would you like the total bullshit conspiracy being screamed by Trump in full-throated rage that the election system is rigged if he doesn’t win– and that it’s being rigged by the Press? You know – the conspiracy that has called for the open murder by hanging of the Fourth Estate, while simultaneously choking the shit out of the Constitution until it dies.

Is it any wonder my friends still left working in the Press are disillusion and scared shitless?

If you’re not concerned you should be, because they’re just getting warmed up,  and no matter who wins it’s going to be a very long 4 years. I’ve a feeling they’re equally as poor at winning as they are at losing.

Oh, and don’t bother arguing the facts with these folks, it’s a waste of time.

Lack of evidence is proof of conspiracy.

It’s a Post Fact World, baby. Strap in.

Infant Mortality & Immoral Cash Cows

Infant Mortality Rate Black Denver

Colorado is a healthy state, with the fewest obese people and the fifth lowest infant mortality rate in the nation; but the odds of making it to your first birthday are better if you are born in rural Cuba. Even more shocking: A black child born to a middle class family in Denver faces an 18% greater risk of infant death than a child born in Libya – ground zero for ISIS.

Child ISIS

 

The US has the largest GDP in the world, but the shameful truth is that 57 countries and the entire European Union have a lower infant mortality rate than us.  What they all have in common is Universal Health Care – the desire to provide all citizens with basic health insurance, and protect them financially from the burdens of illness or accidents.

 

Amendment 69

 

This November Coloradans will get to vote on Amendment 69. I’m hoping we choose to show the United States how Universal Health Care works. Colorado has successfully implemented the country’s most progressive ideas and, in some cases, even made them profitable. Our quality of life is unparalleled due to forward thinking and planning, and the willingness to pay a bit more to ensure it stays that way.

 

Light Rail

 

Denver’s Rapid Transit system of commuter trains, light rail, bike highways and paths, buses, HOV and HOT lanes has been named the finest in North America. Our State Parks, Natural and Wildlife areas are the envy of the world, providing access to millions of acres of spectacular wilderness. Decades ago Colorado’s cities and counties set aside funds to buy hundreds of thousands of acres of open space, as well as money to develop and maintain City Parks and Recreation Districts. By 2025 our ‘Colorado the Beautiful’ project will ensure that every resident will live no more than a 10 minute walk from a park, a trail or open space. Proposition 64 has been a model for how to intelligently implement legalization, and has brought the state $135 million in direct taxes and fees in 2015 alone, and helped increase tourism to 72 million visitors who spent more than $20 billion dollars.

It is natural that Colorado embrace Universal Healthcare so that we can further secure our superior quality of life. We wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel – rather, we can implement the kind of health care delivery system that works all over the world, and costs less than our current system.

Unfortunately, Amendment 69 getting on the ballot means Colorado is getting pummeled with astroturf movements: the fake political groups which are made to look like grass roots activism. They look local, but are entirely invented and well-funded by the Big 5 health insurance companies (United Healthcare, Anthem, CIGNA, Humana, & Aetna). The Big 5 *need* single payer not to work here, because that would be the end of them.

Their big cry is the cost: By focusing on what will surely be at least 8 figures for Colorado alone, they are ignoring that we’re ALREADY paying more than any other industrialized country in the world for health care – and not everyone is covered. In fact, we’re the only developed nation in the world without universal health insurance. Moreover, the Big 5’s stock values have quadrupled in last 5 years, making them $14+ BILLION in profits in the last year – and an average projected 5-year growth rate of 12% annually. The resistance is them seeing their obscene profits and stock values dry up. These are the same companies that used to cancel the policies of the sick and those who would *dare* to use their benefits. Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Obamacare forcing them to cover pre-existing conditions would destroy profits? Tell me how that worked out as they generate $45 *per second* in profit.

I find it unscrupulous and ethically repugnant that these businesses have a model based on squeezing as much as they can from sick and dying people. It’s immoral – and I think our way of providing health care should be viewed as profiteering and should be made illegal.

In an effort to hold on to their cash cows, the Big 5 insurance companies will misdirect attention from their obscene profits by invoking the politics of envy, and trotting out the Red Herring of the ‘Zero Sum Game’ fallacy. That’s the despicable practice of telling one group they will get less if another group gets something more. It is a contemptible lie that economic systems are incapable of growth, but too often it is an effective one.

 

With Universal Health Care some will pay more, of course. Some will pay less. But, all will be covered. Doesn’t a just and civilized society take care of the least among us? Who wants to live in a country where we let the poor die from easily treatable diseases – or those not so easily treated? Who yearns to live in a country where the wealthiest among us is at greater risk of dying in our first year than children born in countries synonymous with genocide?

Our GDP is $1.5 trillion bigger than the entire European Union’s combined. That gap represents more than the current GDP of Australia, yet the EU manages to fund universal health care and paid parental leave for more than half-a-billion people (compared to our 318 million) – and their infant mortality rate is 47% lower than ours. Hell, even Australia has universal health care and paid family leave – and their infant mortality rate is 34% lower than ours!

Healthcare is a right for all, and not one that is based on a tax bracket – just like the right to clean water and air, and the right to free speech. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t recognize that right, and Colorado is working to change that with Amendment 69.

Amendment 69 3

In an effort to sew fear the Big 5 lobby is flogging the idea of ‘Rationed Care’. Care is already rationed: It is entirely rationed AWAY from the uninsured. It is rationed from people who face paperwork designed to discourage them, multi-hour telephone wait times, and web sites with outdated information and broken links. Care is rationed with the automatic rejection of a doctor’s order for a procedure or expensive medication; when a perfectly valid medical directive is over-ridden by a policy written by an accountant and the appeal is handled by an uncompassionate desk jockey who never went to med school. Care is rationed at most doctors’ offices where hour-plus wait times to get into the exam room are common. It already takes months to see a specialist, and days to get an appointment with a GP for a serious issue. If you need help urgently you are encouraged to go to the ER, which generates a multi-thousand dollar bill the moment you walk in the door. Make no mistake – we *do* ration our health care, and not very well.

Will it have problems? Of course it will. Any new business, cabinet or venture has rough patches. But, Good is not the enemy of Perfect. We should not forgo making things better because we cannot attain absolute perfection. I see this as an attempt to move forward, and a way to take the Big 5 insurance companies and their unethical profits out of our Right to Life.

As for those who call this Unconstitutional? Please go back and read your Preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

It’s right there in black and white: In order to protect our Inalienable Right to Life the Government (notice the capital G) may create institutions through the will of the people to secure our Right to Health.

Amendment 69 means my inalienable Right to Life supersedes any insurance company’s Right to Profit, and Coloradans can finally take medical profiteering away from the Big Insurance.

The question is will Coloradans embrace universal health care as a right if it benefits the poor?

Too many people would rather cut off their nose to spite their face, in that even though it would be cheaper and it would lower our infant mortality rate they would reject universal coverage because it would mean the poor might get something ‘they didn’t pay for’.

If we pool our resources we can cover everyone for less than the majority of us are paying now. Sadly, there are many Americans who don’t want equality and just want to punish the poor – or, at the very least have the poor ‘know their place’.

Ultimately, the question Americans need to answer is: Are we OK with the fact that a child born in Beirut has a better chance of seeing its first birthday than a child born in Washington, D.C.?

 

Dick Move, Sony

The_Interview_2014_poster“If you’re thinking of going to see or download “The Interview”, Don’t. Just, don’t. After seeing it, I wanted to take a shower. It’s the kind of movie that, if you were on a plane watching it (where I see most movies these days), you’d want to be sure that nobody nearby could see that you were watching it. It’s like 22 Jump Street, but without the complex plot. It’s like Dumb and Dumber, but without the production values. The movie makes you wish that you were of another species. It also wasn’t all that funny. Amazing that the worlds first Cyberwar was waged because of this POS.”

The instant I saw the trailer for ‘The Interview’ starring James Franco and Seth Rogen I knew it was the type of movie I would avoid at all possible costs. Watching the trailer for it one October afternoon in a local movie theater was painful. Right about the time the conceit of the movie is revealed – assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jung-un – my husband and I looked at each other in distaste and mild shock. We leaned together, I whispered furiously, “This will go over well…” “Who greenlit that?” my husband wondered. It looked stupid, vapid, tasteless, offensive, juvenile and unfunny. In short: a waste of time and film. I expected it to bomb the weekend it opened and die a quiet death.

Fast forward a month to the 24th of November and the Sony hack that some are calling the first Cyberwar. Others, however, myself included, have reservations about calling it a Cyberwar, and see this as corporate espionage happening to a foreign company.

When it started the hackers did a series of data dumps over several weeks that encompassed everything from personal health information to salaries; there was credit card information, passport and social security numbers, music, movies and emails. Lots and lots of emails. News organizations like CNN and sites like Gawker read and disseminated what was in those emails, unable to resist being the first to report the contents of stolen information.

Each day brought new salacious gossip about major Hollywood players. Of particular interest were the emails of Amy Pascal, the head of Sony Pictures. The tone of her emails paint her as a less than compassionate figure.

Unless you were hiding in a bunker or steered clear of the news completely there was no avoiding the intense coverage of the hack and the information released.

I don’t think anyone believed the damage those stolen emails could do – not even Pascal, and she knew what was in them. It briefly raised the questions about the expectation of privacy of things said in personal emails, but in a larger way served to illustrate the reality that there is no such thing as privacy.

Sony has been desperately trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube and has been threatening legal action against everyone from private citizens to Twitter and ABC. Sony is trying to get them to stop publishing their corporate secrets, and the general consensus is, “We didn’t steal it so it’s not unethical for us to report on what we found. Up yours.”

There really are no good guys in this situation. Everyone from the hackers to the awful Sony executives to the bottom feeding media printing information gotten through corporate espionage – they all suck.

One interesting thing about the Sony hack is that ‘The Interview’ was never mentioned when it first happened. On November 24, 2014 when the hack happened no Sony employees could access their company computers or email. There was an image of a skull with these words: “Hacked by #GOP. Warning: We’ve already warned you, and this is just the beginning. We have obtained all your internal data including secrets and top secrets. If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown below to the world. Determine what you will do till November 24, 11 pm (GMT).”

That’s it. No mention of the dog of a movie, ‘The Interview’. No initial outrage or demands about halting the release of it. In fact, it wasn’t until December 9, 2014, that the hackers demanded halting the release of ‘The Interview’ – 16 days after the initial hack.

At first Sony pictures was resolute about releasing the film. As they held steady more stolen information was released.

Some unnamed members of the FBI hinted that they’d been able to link the attack to North Korea, but the government didn’t come down definitively and say the insular country was behind the attacks.

Finally, an ill-defined ‘9/11-type’ threat against theater-goers hit the internet, and that made theater owners back away from the film. In short order the top 5 theater chains in the country had dropped the film and would not be showing it on its Christmas day opening.

On December 17th Sony pulled the plug on the theatrical release of ‘The Interview’.

If major players in Hollywood were angry at Sony before they were furious now. The proverbial wrath of the heavens opened up against the entertainment juggernaut.

Sony executives were called cowards, traitors and much, much worse. It was said that North Korea was calling the shots. Having a movie pulled because of threats meant that there would be a chilling effect on future controversial projects. Hollywood rightly asked itself what kind of projects might get passed up or put a stop to because of cyber-threats?

The usual partisan types somehow managed to make this a failing on the President’s part, and in a display of breathtaking cognitive dissonance they demanded a fast government reaction to the corporate hacking of a Japanese company. Never underestimate partisan hackery.

Suddenly, the country was indignant that they wouldn’t be able to see a film most wouldn’t have gone to see with a gun to their head.

The backlash got stronger by the day. There were questions about what would happen to the movie? Would it ever be released? What about the first amendment? Why would Sony let itself be censored? What kind of message does it send? And most important: If you cave in on this movie where does it stop?

The hue and cry reached its zenith on December 23, and Sony finally caved in about caving in. It decided to release ‘The Interview’ on Christmas day after all.

Some 331 independent theaters, including those owned by George R.R. Martin and Michael Moore, said they would run the film. These theaters made room to screen the film and reaffirm our constitutional right to free speech.

Everyone cheered and Sony looked like the good guy – for about an hour. Then they announced that they were also going to release ‘The Interview’ on pay per view through Google, YouTube and Xbox on Christmas Eve, 24 hours before it would be in the theaters.

Dick move, guys. Total dick move on top of a metric ton of dick moves.

Sony undercut the independent movie theaters who put aside screen time to play their steaming turd of a movie by releasing it online a day early. That means no ticket sales, no popcorn or sodas or candy sales for the independent theater owners. Just empty seats for a crappy movie whose only sizzle factor was that it had been briefly banned. But that ban was over the day before, and in computer time that’s an eon.

Sony’s dick move meant that there was only $2.8 million million in ticket sales for 331 theaters over the Christmas weekend ($2100 per screen – just dismal). Compare that with Sony’s online sales of $15 million for Christmas Eve through Sunday and you can really see how they screwed independent movie houses. Trying to recoup $80+ million dollars sunk into the film on the backs of small theater owners is unethical. That seems to be a trend with them.

Sony has treated employees, contractors, distributors and movie houses with utter disdain, but what happened to them needs to be addressed. The question is by whom? Us? Japan? The World Court? The local jurisdiction where this is being done?

As I said, I find it a stretch to call this a Cyberwar. I think Cyberwars are associated with governments, infrastructure and defense, and as important as Madonna’s new album is, this is corporate espionage not an act of war.

And that’s where I run out of ideas. I have no clue how to protect something as complex as a multifaceted multinational conglomeration. Anything I say will be woefully inadequate. I wish I had an answer.

It seems the only thing I can do is hope the white hat hackers are more committed to the cause than the black hat hackers, and that countries start working together to combat cyber-crime.

What is the take-away here? Never ever write anything in an email you wouldn’t want published for the whole wide world to see and judge you for.

Abandon the notion of privacy because not one person, company or entity is safe from being hacked. Not one. Act as if your life is on display – because it is.

Elf on the Shelf: Santa’s Stalky Spy

Elf on the Shelf

“I have a SERIOUS problem: I can’t find Twinkletoes!! OMFG. Total panic”

Sucks to be you.

I have no problem admitting that I think Elf on the Shelf is creepy and I’m glad I never had to deal with it as a parent.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children’s picture book about elves who are Santa’s spies. The book comes with a stuffed doll called a scout elf that ostensibly watches your child and flies back to Santa in the North Pole every night to report about their behavior. Every morning between Thanksgiving and Christmas finds the elf in a new position in the house. Like its cousin Flat Stanley the more original or outrageous the position the better.

The doll itself comes in male and female, light skinned and blue eyed, and dark skinned an brown eyed so you can take your ethnic pick of who you’d like to be tattling to Santa about your child’s every misstep. The Elf gets its magic from being adopted by a family and being named, an elf might lose its magic if it is touched by the children.

I first heard about Elf on the Shelf several years ago when I saw people posting pictures on Facebook of stuffed elves getting into mischief. It was mildly cute and I didn’t think much of it as I scrolled past. As the last few years have gone by more and more people started doing it, with their vignettes getting more and more elaborate, I thought about the whole phenomena. I came to the conclusion that I don’t care for Santa’s Stalky Spies.

My first problem with Elf on the Shelf is that I detest a marketing ploy being called a tradition. Seriously, when the book was released in 2005 the name was Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition. A tradition the day it was released? Wow. That’s something. Especially since it was a tradition that took a few years to catch on after first publication.

But, catch on it did, and are they ever marketing the hell out of the whole thing. Go to The Elf on the Shelf website and find the book and cheap toy doll on sale for $30. You can buy your elf various pieces of clothing like a $10 leather jacket, or a $7 football jersey. For $25 you can buy your elf a chef’s apron and get a cookie cutter thrown in. $20 will get you a new product for 2014 called Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition. That’s right you can buy a pet reindeer for your $30 stuffed elf.

The whole website is just pushing crap products on their entirely made-up Christmas tradition. That’s not entirely true, I admit. They’re also pushing crap on a completely different totally bullshit made up tradition: It’s called Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition. Yes, they’ve managed to whore out birthdays, too. They have a birthday Countdown Calendar and Birthday Tradition Game that sells for $40. The Countdown Calendar is an ersatz advent calendar that is supposed to have a trinket put in each pocket on every day for the four weeks leading up to the birthday girl or boy’s special day. That’s right – it’s not enough to have a birthday party and a big day to celebrate, the new tradition requires a month of tithing before you even get to the party. Don’t forget that for the big day you want to be sure to get the $25 kit to decorate a chair. See if you can put your arms around that. The new birthday tradition involves a month of gift giving and special decorations for the birthday boy or girl’s chair.

So, we’ve determined that Elf on any Shelf is nothing more than a sickening consortium designed to move product. It will come as no shock that there are videos, comic books, e-games, figurines and even a special edition 2014 Elf on the Shelf skirt. They have truly monetized their ‘tradition’.

But, that’s not what bothers me most about Elf on the damn Shelf. What bothers me about it is that it’s another way lie to your children about why they should behave. Don’t tell them that they should behave because it’s the right thing to do. Lie to them, and tell them that a small cheap toy is going to tell Santa if they’re having a bad day. Just over there, hiding in the African violets, is a nosy tattle-tale elf whose sole purpose in ‘life’ is to watch you and judge you all day long. Then, when you finally fall asleep it flies off to the North Pole to tell Santa how you measure up and whether or not you get a good score for the day. Blackmail parenting. Charming.

If you need a stuffed elf to help you get your kid to behave for one month a year you might want to rethink your parenting style. Not only that, the subtle message you’re sending a child is that if they don’t get everything they want for Christmas it’s because they just don’t measure up. If they’d been better, done more and tried harder they’d be getting everything on their list.

But beyond crass commercialism and unintentionally damaging messages is the idea that it’s normal to have someone watching your every move. You must always be on guard because you are always being watched.

But, for fun you can look at it like a conspiracy theorist does: The Elf represents our surveillance state in an insidious way: We’re only being watched for our own good, we’re told. If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear from the Elf’s report to the Big Fellow, who keeps the information far away in a place you have no access to. (Let’s not even talk about the metaphorical layer of bureaucracy the Elf represents.) Are we comfortable with a myth that desensitizes children to constant surveillance and lack of privacy? Are we also getting how this meant in jest?

Yes, of course, it’s harmless fun. I’ve no wish to get between you and your fun. Just give a thought to its larger implications about glorifying invasion of privacy and stalking in exchange for material goods.

If that seems far-fetched to you at least admit that this is a modern commercial construct masquerading as a tradition, and that the only thing its manufacturers care about is moving units. Just because you call it a tradition doesn’t make it so.

Move over Black Friday

IMG_20141104_125146157[1]“It’s less than a month away and I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet.”

Congratulations America. You’ve taken the one holiday that was about simply giving thanks for the things we already have, and turned it into a bacchanal of shopping.

We no longer have Thanksgiving Day – it’s Black Thursday. (Damn you media for repeating that name until it stuck.) Yes, the holiday shopping begins on turkey day itself. Stores are asking their ‘associates’ to forgo their family dinners and football games so that they can sell a few more televisions.

Of course the stores wouldn’t be opening if there weren’t people shopping. That’s the problem right there. People are showing up. Just as they’re mouthing the words about how everyone should have the opportunity to overeat and get in an argument with racist Uncle Joe they’re pulling into the lot at the mall. If people weren’t spending money then the stores wouldn’t open. It’s as simple as that.

Of course there’s the guy on Facebook who said he was going shopping because there’s a movement encouraging people to stay home on Thanksgiving. “You know me… tell me I shouldn’t do something and I will!” Wow. What a simply awful person, a troll in the flesh.

Black Friday remains a shopping experience unto itself. An American Running of the Bulls, if you will. You better keep on your feet or risk getting trampled or gored by high heels. It’s no joke. According to the web site Black Friday Death Count there have been 7 deaths and 92 injuries associated with Black Friday since 2006 involving trampling, shootings, car accidents and pepper spray incidents. It’s every one for themselves when those doors open.

People are proud of themselves for acting like they’re in Pampalona, Spain, as the bulls are being released. You see video of frenzied shoppers racing down the aisles, being pushed from behind, fighting it out with their fellow human beings for an X-Box and this year’s ‘It’ toy. Dignity be damned, it’s all about getting ‘things’. Really, nothing says the reason for the season like an iPad for $399 or a 39” flat screen for $219. Closer my god to thee with a $29 Ninja Master Prep Professional.

So why do people end up in the mall or big-box store lurching about like the living dead bumping into each other, searching for brains? Because we amuse ourselves by spending money. We care more about things than experiences. Did we learn nothing from the Great Recession? Why are we still judging ourselves and others by the things we have? Too many people got behind the 8-ball trying to keep up with appearances, and instead of having learned a lesson about not needing so much stuff they’ve just been waiting for the chance to run up their credit cards again.

I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have your things. You can have your things. You want more things? Feel free to buy all the things you can afford. I’m also free to opine that fighting tooth and nail for a discount Netbook like it’s the last helicopter out of Saigon is pathetic.

Here’s the dirty secret about those bargains: If you’re looking for deals you’re an idiot if you go out shopping on Black Friday. An absolute idiot. With the exception of a handful of loss leader items per store that are gone in the first 5 piranha-like minutes everything else is available online, usually with free shipping.

Turns out people are figuring that out, and 2013 saw a drop in spending at the local mall, and a rise in spending online. It will be interesting to see if this year’s shoppers do the same. Note to online retailers: Stop trying to make Cyber Monday happen. The internet is open 24 hours a day and we all know it.

So why do people go to the mall with half of humanity on the day after Thanksgiving? Because it’s the physical and mental start of the high holiday shopping season, and a reason to indulge in gluttony and toy lust. It’s a chance to overspend, but tell ourselves that we got a good deal on it.

We have so much shopping to do that the average person needs an entire month to do it all.

It seems to me the need get so much stuff means we don’t have time to take a day to be grateful for what we do have. That’s a damn shame.