Monday Reads: Odds and Ends and Beginnings

downloadGood Morning!

Autumn is really a wonderful time. Many folks look forward to  spring with its colorful flowers and that hint of warmth.  I personally am invigorated by the slight chill in the air, the earthy color of trees, and the promises of new school years and harvests.  That’s why I really hate to see us rushed through the season.  I also love the end of daylight savings time and the return of being able to actually wander urban streets in the magic of dusk.  I miss jumping in the huge piles of leaves that my dad used to rake with the dog barking at his side but delight in finding kids repeating the ritual for me. The leaves from my banana trees just don’t have the same smell or crackle and my joints tell me that diving into anything that vigorously is well past me.

To some, this time of year heralds the war on Crassmas and really big sales and crowds at stores. That season makes me stay home to read books.

This is a story that typifies the rush past fall. Evidently Starbucks didn’t choose a cup design that’s christmasy enough. So, they’re getting shade from the hyper-religious.  You know, those folks that don’t really understand how they’ve basically appropriated everything yule-related and monopolized it as their own. Personally, I think they should STFU and spend more time reading up on things related to the supposed Prince of Peace.

When Starbucks released its famous red cups to launch its holiday season on November 1, customers who ordered hot beverages received a red cup that was noticeably unadorned.

The 2015 cup that Starbucks describes as “a two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below” is rather plain compared to past versions that featured ornaments and reindeer.

As it turns out, the blank design irked some customers. On November 5, Joshua Feuerstein, an Arizona-based evangelist who describes himself as a “social media personality,” posted on his Facebook page that this year’s spartan red cup illustrated Starbucks’ dismissal of Christmas as a Christian holiday in favor of political correctness.

In the video attached to the post, Feuerstein says that Starbucks “wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups. That’s why they’re just plain red.” Feuerstein said that instead of boycotting the coffee chain, he wanted to start a “movement,” so he went into a Starbucks—with his gun, as Arizona has an open-carry law and Starbucks has not outright banned firearms—ordered a hot drink, and told the barista that his name was “Merry Christmas,” which was subsequently scribbled on his red cup.

“So guess what, Starbucks? I tricked you into putting Merry Christmas on your cup,” Feuerstein said in his video. He urged his Facebook followers to do the same. The video has been watched about 12 million times and nearly 500,000 people have shared it.

On Sunday, three days after Feuerstein posted his video,Starbucks released a statement explaining the design of this year’s red cup. The company said that it took a “cue from customers who have been doodling designs on cups for years”—Starbucks started its holiday cup tradition in 1997—so “this year’s design is another way Starbucks is inviting customers to create their own stories with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas.” It’s also worth noting previous Starbucks red cups lacked any outright Christian symbolism.

Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of design and content, said in the release that in the past the holiday cups have told stories. This year, Starbucks “wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories,” Fields wrote. He said that the coffee chain “has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays,” so it’s “embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it.”

If you see any one telling a barrista that their name is “Merry Christmas”, tell them they’re the main reason that “nominal” christians are becoming more secular.  Who wants to be associated with a religion of loud, angry, self-righteous bigots?   No wonder folks are turning away from the institutions and establishments.


America is undergoing a religious polarization.

With more adults shedding their religious affiliations, as evidenced in the latest from the Pew Research Center, the country is becoming more secular. In the past seven years, using the new Pew data, Americans who identify with a religion declined six percentage points. Overall, belief in God, praying daily and religious service attendance have all dropped since 2007.

Today’s America is losing much of the general religious ethos that dominated the U.S. for hundreds of years.

However, the religious, in some ways, are becoming more religious. While fewer people said religion was somewhat important to their lives, there was a jump in those who said religion was very important. Of those who identify with a religion, Pew found an increase in reading Scripture at least weekly, participating in a small group and sharing their faith at least weekly. Church attendance numbers were relatively steady.

images (1)The article goes on to explain how this is affecting the culture and is probably living a lot of the zealous feeling disequilibrium with life in America.   The problem is that the zealous are sure making the rest of the religion looks pretty dismal in a similar light that it’s hard to appreciate the beauty of the Sufi way of understanding Islam with ISIS running around. Let ISIS and Pat Robertson fight the war on christmas.

Thankfully, there are still stores like Nordstroms that let families appreciate the celebration of harvest and diversity that is American Thanksgiving.  Employees stay home and customers don’t shove and push each other through the aisles to grab up some electrical gadget that will be broken or forgotten a year from now.  Some times, modern America abuses some of the best things we can offer.

Take the great American vacation.  I’ve told you how horrid Air BNB is from a neighbor’s eye view, but take a look at this tragedy.  This is a real lesson in why there’s such a thing as regulation. Health and safety regulations–as well as liability insurance–is not a staple of this new way to exploit American consumers.  This family lost their father and husband to an innocent looking tire swing attached to a derelict branch. I’ll let you read the details of the tragedy.

It’s only a matter of time until something terrible happens,” The New York Times’s Ron Lieber wrote in a 2012 piece examining Airbnb’s liability issues. My family’s story — a private matter until now — is that terrible something.

Since the incident, I’ve felt isolated by the burden of this story and my sense of obligation to go public with it, but with an unclear aim. Am I “raising awareness,” in the familiar path of the victim speaking out? And if so, to what end? What will sharing my story really mean for Airbnb? Could the company, with its reportedly $24 billion valuation and plans to go public, do more to ensure the safety of the properties where millions of guests stay each year? As Airbnb rises into a global hospitality behemoth — reinventing not just how we travel but how we value private space — what responsibility does the company have to those who have given it their dollars and trust?

Startups that redefine social and economic relations pop up in an instant. Lawsuits and regulations lag behind. While my family may be the first guests to speak out about a wrongful death at an Airbnb rental, it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. Staying with a stranger or inviting one into your home is an inherently dicey proposition. Hotel rooms are standardized for safety, monitored by staff, and often quite expensive. Airbnb rentals, on the other hand, are unregulated, eclectic, and affordable, and the safety standards are only slowly materializing.

4fb6c_college-campusPaul Krugman’s Op Ed today is a bit glum.  He’s been reading the study that shows that mortality among Middle Aged-White people is on the rise.  What does it say about a country where the what should be a relatively privileged population appears to be killing itself with excesses and forays into depression? We’ve known for some time that mortality for the poor and for minorities is bad relative to other developed countries, but not it appears its spreading to what’s usually been our healthy middle class.

There has been a lot of comment, and rightly so, over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause. We’ve seen this kind of thing in other times and places – for example, in the plunging life expectancy that afflicted Russia after the fall of Communism. But it’s a shock to see it, even in an attenuated form, in America.

Yet the Deaton-Case findings fit into a well-established pattern. There have been a number of studies showing that life expectancy for less-educated whites is falling across much of the nation. Rising suicides and overuse of opioids are known problems. And while popular culture may focus more on meth than on prescription painkillers or good old alcohol, it’s not really news that there’s a drug problem in the heartland.

I always find this time of year to be a bit like American in general.  Instead, of enjoying the beautiful scenery, the fruits of harvest, and the things offered by Autumn, many of us–including the masters of the economy–are rushing forward into the season where coffee cups are controversial, employees are ripped from rest, holidays, family, and basic sanity and manners, and money buys nothing but crap that falls apart and probably is bad for you.

We’re even basically at a point in society where all fall seems to represent to some people is screaming, yelling, and drinking over a gladiator sport that endangers and coddles its gladiators and doesn’t really encourage time together in a manner that includes conversation and good cheer. Even there, it’s all about the winter play offs and ultimate game.  It’s not about the feel of the stadiums, the warmth of a good sweater, and the realization that your time at school is going to be short so you might as well dig into the campus life with gusto.  The number of autumn semesters and hope for that new school year is limited, you know unless you join the ranks of the academic which is getting increasingly harder to do these days.

So, go ahead if you want to sing “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”.  I’m going to wallow in Autumn Leaves for awhile.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



23 Comments on “Monday Reads: Odds and Ends and Beginnings”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Ben Carson is now putting the blame on his ghost writers along with the press.

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

    Liar, liar pants on fire may be a better slogan for this campaign.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yup. He’s a piece of work. His pants should look like a flame thrower. Just hope he’s cooked as the latest flavor of the month. Rubio will be next.

  2. NW Luna says:

    I will never use Airbnb. Bad enough that they disrupt neighborhoods, but their lack of safety standards and callous irresponsibility to tragedy is criminal. Disappointing that their money blocked passage of a minimal standard in San Francisco.

  3. dakinikat says:


    Emotional abuse of children vs physical abuse … Study

    • NW Luna says:

      Another study which adds to the preponderance of evidence on this. Some findings indicate that psychological abuse has more insidious effects and so may be longer-lasting and harder to overcome than is physical abuse.

      • dakinikat says:

        Yes. I can definitely attest to it anecdotally too.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I definitely think emotional abuse has long-lasting effects. I grew up in a violent family, but what I remember most is the things that were said to me. However, I’m not talking about real beatings. Extreme physical abuse is terribly damaging psychologically. And let’s face it, a lot of parents actually kill their children.

  4. NW Luna says:

    That Xian wacko pitching a tantrum over a Starbuck’s cup! Really, considering what reindeer and holly represent, the joke’s on him. Whereas wearing a gun into a coffee shop is all about Christmas, riiiiiight.

    I recall one Crassmas season in downtown Seattle where I walked by someone “Merry Christmas”-ing everyone who walked by, as he tried to hand out pamphlets headlined “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I smiled and said “Happy Hanukkah!” to him, which made him turn the equivalent of verbally frothing at the mouth. Guess he didn’t think turnabout was fair play when someone else handed out religious greetings to him.

  5. Enheduanna says:

    OK – thank you for Crassmas! I’m stealing that one for sure.

    It really is amazing how non-Christians don’t even seem to exist as far as the fundies and Fox News crowd are concerned. It never enters their head that insistence on moving this country toward a theocratic government is problematic.

    So the latest from the lovely Church of Mormon:

    In which gay parents and their children are deemed apostate. Looks like it is backfiring and people are leaving.

  6. List of X says:

    This Starbucks Christmas cup warrior is lucky that his Starbucks barista didn’t misspell “Merry Christmas” on his cup.

  7. Nice article! I agree – the festive season has become ridiculously commercialised over time, but perhaps it is inevitable. In the UK (I cannot speak for the USA, although I am living in MD for four months) Easter, Halloween, Christmas – all just times for stores to blast you with products.

    In the USA, I have been taken aback by how swiftly companies adapt. They even use Veteran’s Day as an opportunity to make sales, which is sick in my view.

    Today, I wrote a blog on the Scotland Bill. Tonight, I am going to continue reading THE MARTIAN – excellent!

  8. Sweet Sue says:

    I just caught a moment of Jake Tapper’s interview with Brian Cranston; Cranston said he’s excited that Trump is in the running because he says what he means and Americans don’t want a tightly controlled and scripted candidate.
    You guys, Walter White is an idiot!!!

  9. roofingbird says:

    I think a study like this, that reveals a certain group of people are dying at a higher rate, should link to the real new study that looks for reasons why. For example, how many were vets?

    What part does our increasingly poisoned environment play in depression? (Remember that study showing that women in upper middle class homes had a higher incidence of breast cancer because they were spraying their lawns more?)