When the new normal is better than the old normal

Recently my daughter told me that her friend from high school, whom I also know and happens to be the daughter of a colleague, had got married and was pregnant. She is in a same-sex marriage. Another colleague of mine, also in a same-sex marriage, just had a baby too. What struck me was how ordinary this news seemed to me. Just a decade ago, same-sex couples getting married and giving birth to children would have been big news. Now I find myself responding pretty much the way I would to news of an opposite-sex marriage and pregnancy of people I know, happy for the couple, wishing them well, and then moving on to other things.
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We’re really #1!

American exceptionalists are always claiming that the US is the greatest nation in the world and the best at practically anything that matters. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not see it in the same way and marvel at how deficient we are in areas like health care, social and economic mobility, infrastructure, public services, and other quality of life measures.
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The ‘world’s greatest democracy’ is not quite

Politicians in the US are proud of boasting that it is the world’s greatest democracy. That is part of the routine pandering that the public has come to expect, along with being the sole possessor of many civic and even personal virtues. But according to this year’s Electoral Integrity Project report, when it comes to electoral integrity, a measure of whether “polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers”, surely one of the most basic elements of a democracy, the US ranks a lowly 45th among the 127 nations it surveyed in 2014.
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The double standard is now standard

The lawyers for Stephen Kim, who is serving a 13-month jail term for talking to a reporter about a classified matter that was considered minor, are asking the Department of Justice to immediately release him from jail, saying that the plea deal they made with David Petraeus reveals a “profound double standard”. Peter Maass at The Intercept has the details.
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The IRS and me

I do my own taxes. Over the years, I have figured out the increasing number of forms that I have to fill out. They are not that difficult for anyone who can do simple arithmetic and is comfortable with “if …, then …” logical reasoning.

I do not use a professional tax preparer since I figure I will be able to exercise more care since I know the information well and can devote careful attention to it, rather than someone who has to deal with a whole lot of forms and documents. I also do not use the commercial software out of principle. I resent the fact that the government has made a deal with these software companies to not provide their own direct online tax filing system, which would be the logical thing to do. I do not see why I should give my personal data to a private company that lobbies to keep the tax rules complicated so that more people would come to them.
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Presenting the ‘World’s Greatest Deliberative Body’

American exceptionalism is prone to making claims that the US is the greatest country on Earth in every aspect and always has been. The true believers likely think that the Garden of Eden was here and that Jesus was an American too. In this spirit, the US senate keeps boasting that it is the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body though it is telling that as far as I can tell no one other than its own members gives it that title because not only is it false, recent years have shown that calling the behavior of its members childish would be to give children a bad name.
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