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Spirit Versus Letter – Religion and Politics

There are a number of events in any person’s life, that are pivotal in their overall understanding.

For me, at least a couple of them occurred when I was a member of the United States Air Force, many years ago. Back when I was in the military, at least the folks with whom I dealt regularly, were concerned about “base” things.

That’s not to say they didn’t concern themselves with things that appear more superfluous, extended or unimportant. Rather, they felt that if a person had an understanding of fundamental tenets of life, even those things would “sort themselves out to the good.”

An example of this, involves how people respond to being told they need to do a particular thing. Some folks are inclined to follow or not follow the “letter” of what they hear or read; others are interested in the spirit of the same things.

By this, I mean to say that a lot of people tend to do whatever they believe a given law, rule, regulation or other “edict” can be made to say needs done, as opposed to examining the intent in which the requirement was penned or spoken. And that’s assuming they heed what was asked at all.

Then there are those who want to understand the “whys and wherefores,” so that, if they choose to follow a given expectation, they do so knowing what was intended by the one or ones putting it in place.

In either case, it’s possible the answer to, “Will you assent to this?” is a solid, “No.”

Understanding that the refusal to agree may result in consequences, we make our choice.

So for example, when the local government (read here, “state, city or municipal leadership”) set in place a regulation that indicated that all persons in public places were required to wear face masks, I had long since decided that I would refuse to do so for a number of reasons, letting, as it were, the chips fall where they may. 

To begin with, considering the astronomical number of people directly and intentionally flouting speed limits, and the extremely limited number of law enforcement officers, as well as the generally negative perspective where they’re concerned, I pretty much concluded there was no way they would be involved in enforcement of such a farsical rule.

More importantly though, I had long since concluded, the thing the government types were trying to accomplish through their activities would not be managed that way. Even if I believe the thing required would result in what was desired, I was well aware that the majority of folks are not remotely interested in spirit of intent, but are instead driven by “the letter of the law.”

This was demonstrated perfectly by a recent visit to a local department store. I walked in the door (without a mask), and was greeted by zero “enforcers.” I was glad this was the case, as I say, I had no intent to wear a mask.

The point though is, if you think people are going to voluntarily adopt something like mask wear, you’re sadly mistaken.

What was far more telling though, was looking at people who were supposedly wearing masks.

Starting with the customers to the store. A good many of them were either wearing the masks they had on improperly, or wearing masks that were (as is expected) wholly inadequate to the task. In other words, they may as well have not been wearing them at all, since many of them were substandard, and most of the remainder were improperly donned, so as to make the “free flow of output both likely and transmittable.”

I was neither surprised by this, nor particularly bothered. To begin with, pretty much nobody coughed or sneezed—in fact, I saw nobody breathing hard, or looking ill either (yes, I do realize that “COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic carriers.” Thanks).

As much as I can be, I’m a rather private person, the result is, I was doing everything in my power to maintain a distance of far greater than six feet from anyone but my son in any case. When someone got close, I moved (as is my wont). When I had to pass people, I did it quickly, generally looking away from them and where possible, minimizing my breathing. If I had the choice, I didn’t “cross paths with” anybody to begin with. If someone was in an aisle, I didn’t enter unless they were at the other end, and appeared to get getting ready to leave. Sometimes, I found myself on one end of a row, quickly grabbing the one thing I needed, then leaving as quickly as possible when done.

The point here is, you might consider me, “an expert at social distancing,” since I’ve done it most of my life. This is one of the reasons I don’t care for masks—I think social distancing does a much better job. Put another way, “Stay away from others, silly!”

Now let’s take a second and look at employees of the entity in question. First, I should say the store is a “chain.” I’m pretty sure they have a training program for how employees should act in various situations. That said, it’s very obvious those working there regularly discount what they’re told (can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a stocker or other worker block my path or act rude in some other fashion).

Out of maybe ten to fifteen employees, maybe one or two was wearing whatever mask they had in a prescribed fashion. Of those who were, at least one was wearing a mask that almost certainly was not fit for their job.

So even if we ignore the fitness or lack of reasonability of the masks being worn, most of the employees were wearing masks improperly.

Do I find the actions of either the mask-wearing-customers or the workers in the store to be surprising? Considering I know most people to be “letter folks,” not “spirit individuals,” the answer is a resounding, “No!” Was anybody, “Policing either workers or patrons?” Not in any visible fashion.

What do I conclude? The mask ordinance is a near total failure. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. More Importantly? Most folks care only about the letter of the law, not the spirit of it as such, a rule like that cannot help but fail.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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It’s Free… – Religion and Politics

For a little over fifteen years, I’ve been a “homeowner”—to the degree that anyone facing the “triple threat of” mortgage, property tax, and the potential for a claim of imminent domain can consider him or her self so. There are other challenges, like upkeep and maintenance, and local “yard police.”

The point is though, I’ve lived in the same house with whatever constituted my family at any given moment, for a bit more than a decade and a half.

My direct neighbors are not just good, they’re almost as good as neighbors can be. They mostly mind their own business. They tend to be quiet. They’re generally friendly when you deal with them.

Some of the other denizens of the neighborhood have not been so wonderful with which to deal.

At the moment though, most of my neighbors are decent folks and, like me, are “homeowners” or their family.

The logic behind my purchase of this particular property was not the most judicious in the world. Nonetheless, I have mostly been pretty happy with my “purchase.” I bought the house based on a few major considerations, and some more that were not as significant.

Price is always a consideration. I got the place relatively cheaply. The proximity to my work at the time (which, considering I was there for less than a year, proves to have not been so important as I would’ve thought) was “in the mix.” And finally, there was a relatively new, reasonably well kept elementary school less than two blocks away.

That last point also turned out to be relatively unimportant as well, considering one of two children who I have raised or am raising in this house ever attended that school, and only for a short time. I’m not going to go into detail as to why that was the case. It’s not really relevant to the current conversation.

The school, it turns out, is relevant.

My locality would not be considered “affluent.” That’s not a concern to me, in terms of status or anything of that sort.

What it means though, is there are people in this area, who would be considered “economically challenged” to put it mildly.

I came to this part of town, in a time when things were not wonderful. They weren’t horrible either, but this “little nook” had definite issues. By comparison to what it had been years before (a gangbanger haven), it was night and day. Even so, there were things here to make a person at least wonder, if not be unhappy.

Things were sufficiently solid, to make me move in, and frankly, though there have been one or two reasons to consider leaving, there’s been nothing sufficiently serious to get me to finally do so. Obviously, that could change at any time.

The aforementioned school, was sufficiently nice, and it has stayed in relatively good repair for the past fifteen years—at least in terms of the architecture and structure. One of the reasons my child left, was the “staff.” If my child’s teacher could spell, you wouldn’t have known it based on the notes and papers that came back from her (she has, I believe, since retired). She was sadly far from alone. Much of the “workforce” of that supposed institution of learning, were shall we say, not entirely fit for their positions.

My youngest child is moderately Autistic, so when he started to attend school, I was forced to send him to a campus almost ten miles from my home (special needs curricula fill up fast). That turns out to have been a “blessing in disguise.” I won’t get too in depth, but it happens that the place he ended up attending had a pretty good special needs program, as well as a solid team (headed by a couple of particularly good teachers). The point then, is the he didn’t end up at the school in question at all.

Because of his “condition,” I have chosen to keep him in that distant school, knowing that, short of staff changes, he will likely continue to thrive there.

As many are aware, the last school year in this area (and in a large portions of the U.S.) was “interrupted by” a “pandemic.”

Whether you agree with the use of that term—pandemic—to describe what’s happened or not, you well know that many schools ceased to have “on premises instruction” near the end of the last school year. The hope is, they will come back to “normal operation” in the coming year, but that’s really neither here nor there in this discussion.

The “pandemic” is well known to have caused a fair amount of what is termed “economic hardship.” In this part of the city, since there are already many folks not in great financial shape, that means some people have “sunken pretty far.”

The school district decided it would initially be “responsible for” ensuring students got lunch for the remainder of the school year. Over the course of time, that was “extended to” dinner. Then someone decided that, even after the end of the school year, this trend needed to continue.

During the school year, though I disagree with it somewhat, the lunch was somewhat understandable. Dinner became tenuous in my mind. Outside the school year, none of that was reasonable.

I should say though, that I don’t know with any certainty, that the school district continued to pay (it might have been funded elsewhere). I can only tell you that the school’s facilities continued to be used for the process (something which also costs money).

My bigger problem though, was that I very rarely, saw school aged children, or parents who would likely have children of such an age, picking up food.

I’m quite sure folks reasoned, “It’s free… we should take advantage.”

The problem? Somebody paid for that food, and for the most part they had no say in the existence of the “program,” much less its administration. The result is, I very much doubt many “using the program” were parents (or even grandparents or relatives) of school aged children.

Put another way, likely predominantly non-students got food, and the taxpayer (with little or no input) paid for it. That may not be a problem for you, but you can rest assured it is for me and others like me. I pay for what I eat and feed my child (who is “school aged”). When I see people with nicer, newer cellular phones and nicer, newer cars than me, drive up to a local school to pick up food, you can be sure I’m not in my “happy place” at that moment in time.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Communism Versus Soclialism – Religion and Politics

When I Googled Socialism, the very first result I received was:

so•cial•ism sō′shə-lĭz″əm►

n.Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
n.The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which the means of production are collectively owned but a completely classless society has not yet been achieved.
Definitions of socialism that came up when I Googled it.

I’ve said in a previous article, that the definition of the word I would use would be different. Were I tasked to explain socialism, I would say:

Any instance where a task can be performed, or a product created without government, where government instead takes on the task, whether or not the activity is better performed by the private sector.

I would expect someone looking at my definition, to realize that almost every activity or creation of goods by government is inherently socialistic. If you did so, it would show you understand what it is I’m trying to say.

Put simply, my contention is that all government activity is socialistic.

There is a distinction that can be drawn between a sort of “soft” socialism, and its harder form.

You can say that there is a form of socialism that “takes over the productive functions of society in their entirety.” And one can suppose there to be “in between” versions, where the government takes some portion of what can (and probably should be) done by the “private sector” as its own.

Some have argued that this is the case for at least a large portion of the “health sector” here in the United States, for example.

It can also be argued that there is a sort of “veiled socialism.” This would be when government regulates some producer of goods or services to the point that they really are not in control of their own direction.

Based on these descriptions, if we choose to accept them (and for my part, you may be assured I do), it’s definitely arguable that much of the United States is socialist by this point.

All this being said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of defining socialism here—both the “standard definition” and the one I find more correct.

For this article, you can assume my definition to be the one about which I’m speaking when I use the word, “socialism.”

I would like to make one more point about socialism, then move on to talk about Communism for a bit.

Whether you think so or not, nazism is socialism—the “word” is actually a “contraction of” National Socialist, and initially referred to the party to which Adolph Hitler belonged at the time of his rise to power.

That means that calling people who assuredly do not support socialism “nazis” could not be more wrong-headed. You may choose to say, “They’re acting like nazis,” but you should know, they’re probably acting more like just plain nationalists, than nazis.

An interesting “segway” into communism. Communism (at least the Marxist version of it), could be described as a “three step process.” It starts with the “common man” revolting and taking over. It goes supposedly then goes though a period of what amounts to dictatorial socialism, but when it reaches its destination, it’s more or less “controlled anarchy.” The second definition of socialism above, describes the final state as  a “classless society.”

Like it or not, such a society by definition cannot have a “ruling or governing class,” elected or otherwise.

I have been prone to use set of definitions for “right, center and left” politically, that looks something like this.

Leftist – “Tending towards a desire for a large amount of government. Wishing for government to have control to a great extent.

Centrist – “Wishing for government to have some control, but not excessive amounts thereof. Desiring a ‘right-sized’ governmental entity.

Rightist – “Wanting little or no government. Tending heavily towards anarchy.

The problem with these definitions? Leftists will inherently view centrists as rightists. Likewise for rightists, except in reverse, they will look at a centrist, and see a leftist.

But assuming we could agree, and frankly, even if we cannot do so, we should be able to agree that socialism is inherently leftist (particularly “strong” socialism), and communism is—by the listed definitions—on the “opposite end of the spectrum” (far right) in its final stage.

It’s also important to realize of communism, that it virtually never reaches its final stage.

In short Herr Hitler’s intense hatred for communism, may have been unfounded if he was concerned about resultant anarchy, but would still have been reasonable if one consider he had “competition in the socialist realm” as a result of “immature communism” that would never come to full fruition.

Assuming communism (certainly at least the Marxist version of it) could ever be more than a dream though, it’s pretty obvious what the major difference between communism and socialism would be.

“Final” communism, would be a “classless state” (read here, “a society without any type of class based differentiation”—that would be, as I have intimated, anarchy).

Socialism never gets past the idea that “daddy knows best.” In short, “You need someone looking after you, as you certainly aren’t doing well on your own recognizance.”

It’s pretty hard philosophically, to find two ideals further apart from one another—at least from a position of ideals.

At this point though, pragmatism rears its head!

The problem is that communism (again, certainly the Marxist version) has pretty much never gotten past stage two of the “big plan.”

As stated in the initial definition, that would be, well, socialism.

The “end result” is obvious, where there are entities that swear up and down that they’re communist,  it doesn’t take a microscopic examination to see they are pretty much all “stuck on socialism.”

This really shouldn’t surprise the astute observer. When the people who are implementing the socialist phase of communism get a taste of power, they’re likely to be hard-put to give it up (most particularly when they examine the “fruits the ‘revolution’ has wrought.”)

I hope this clears up why I don’t tend to distinguish between communism and socialism. I should point out that I generally find it a waste of time to distinguish between either or the two and outright despotism or tyranny. That’s because they all tend to be functionally the same.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Movements – Religion and Politics

“Black” lives matter!

Yes, that was a statement. Yes I meant it. Yes it was unqualified.

I’m sure you noticed the quotes around “black.” The reason for that is pretty simple, I’m not a fan of the descriptor. I think I have a pretty good understanding what people that adjective is being applied to, and you’ll forgive me for saying so, but it’s not accurate. The folks in question are a variety of “colors” and “hues;” each of them having beautiful folks, in between folks, and not so beautiful (which is strictly a matter of opinion—yours will very likely be different than mine).

So to be clear, black lives matter. That includes presidential black lives, police black lives, scientist black lives, doctor black lives, nurse black lives, assault victim black lives, assaulter black lives, killer black lives, other criminal black lives, totally innocent black lives and any other type of black life you can imagine.

Having said that, allow me to say a few other things.

Firstly, let me indicate that, as others have said, I don’t see “black” lives to be more at risk in most scenarios than those of any other “people group.”

The one exception that immediately comes to mind, would be what is termed “black on black crime.” This is a major problem here in the United States. Huge numbers of Americans of African heritage are being killed, maimed, and otherwise hurt by others of the same cultural group.

Don’t get me wrong, where it’s occurring, things like police brutality affecting “black lives” needs to be dealt with—just as such activity should be taken for all people. The numbers for “black people” though, are at most on par with other cultural groups. In reality, they’re less than they are for most other groups—particularly considering the number of interactions between law enforcement entities and “black” folks. Don’t believe me? Put up, or as they say, shut up! You can easily do the research and if I’m wrong bring the numbers to me.

Even this is not the “primary issue” most folks have with the expression, “Black lives matter.” The problem folks have, is that it’s associated with a “movement.”

You see, when most folks talk about “Black Lives Matter,” they’re not making a simple, undeniable statement as I did. Rather, they’re talking about a movement that has co-opted the expression. How have they done this? By making the expression the name of their movement.

A simple look at their website (http://www.blacklivesmatter.com) reveals four important facts:

  1. Looking at what they claim to believe involves zero statistical data (all “information” presented is anecdotal—and at least the most prominent “data” is errant). Any honest person, would ask him or her self one simple question, “Why?” I contend the reason is simple. The statistics do not bear out what they claim to be true. Put simply, where there are instances where “black” folks have been “done wrong”—sometimes in downright heinous ways, a few that literally resulted in their wrongful deaths—the numbers (especially by law enforcement) are exceptionally small. They need dealt with, and the “punishment” should fit the proven and convicted crime (just like for anyone else).
  2. The two primary anecdotes resulted in no findings of wrongdoing on the parts of the individuals they vilify for being guilty of wrongdoing. Both were either acquitted or exonerated fully. At least one of the two and probably both were further investigated on a federal level by various entities themselves often run by “black” people under the presidency of the “first black leader of the U.S.” The investigations revealed no improper behavior on the part of the persons having behaved wrongly according to “Black Lives Matter.” Nobody is arguing that either individual stands blameless or “pure.” Folks are simply saying that, in the situations being discussed, they were not considered to have been at fault, or to blame.
  3. One of the two who shot and killed a “black” person was not an “official of” any municipality. He was literally a security guard who was attacked by an individual he was pursuing (correctly or incorrectly). Arguing systemic racism as a result of such an interaction is pure hokum.
  4. Both of the two “black men” were almost certainly guilty of wrongdoing on some level. Granted, for Trayvon Martin, it was only provable, that he appears to have attacked Mr Zimmerman with no direct provocation. With Mr Brown though, he was a suspect in a “strong-arm” robbery of a local convenience store before he refused a police order, and attempted to gain access to the officer’s sidearm.

I would hope what I’ve said to this point, makes it clear that where I support the statement that, “Black lives matter,” I don’t support the movement, “Black Lives Matter”—and with very good reason.

This leads to the point of this piece. As a rule, I find “movements” to not be worthy of my support.

Let’s take a second and examine why that’s true.

Imagine for a moment that there’s a movement that starts up. The apparent core beliefs of the entity in question seem good (which in itself is an issue, since often what seems true, actually isn’t). As the group in question continues along its path, it is highly likely, their focus will change. This will be brought on by a number of factors, among them, the desire of the majority of members, the desire of leadership to support other causes, and frankly, “loud” folks, who push things into directions they value (whether or not those directions are consistent with the movement’s “initial charter”).

The result? If you look at various movements from times past, you’ll see that many of them look not a thing like they did when they were formed. Often, the best “time in the life of” such an entity, is their formation (and it’s all down hill from there).

You can be assured there are those who will argue that movements improve as they mature by and large, and from their perspectives, that might even be a valid thing to say. In my experience though, it is not the case—in fact, it’s virtually always exactly the opposite of what occurs.

The tendency for movements to move away from their first love, towards things that often are totally unrelated to their initial purpose and charter is why, but for a few notable exceptions, I do not support the concept of “movements.” This is also why so many people (who would not be otherwise), are so hesitant to say things that ought to be simple like “Black lives matter.”

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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The Sea Slug Among Zebras – Religion and Politics

It can be reasonably argued that I was “born into the religion of” science.

As a child, my parents attended no religious events of the “normal sort.” Both considered themselves to be logical, reasonable people; and where he never said as much, as a young man, I’m pretty sure my father had come to the conclusion, all of what is standardly termed “religion” was so much hokum.

The result is, he—and to some degree, my mother as well—raised children who were sort of “by default,” scientific atheists.

I credit my parents with doing their level best to remain neutral in each of their children’s “internal argument or discussion” on what to believe. That’s not to say we didn’t come to some understanding of what they believed and how they positioned themselves. You can be sure that had some effect on each of us—different though it was.

I don’t know for sure (and really, I don’t suppose one ever can) what my father left this planet believing. I got the feeling he somewhat reconciled himself with the idea that there was some sort of “supreme being.” I’m not sure we (he and I) would’ve agreed on that being’s “properties.”

As for my mother, I don’t know if she did what she did early on to not be discordant in her relationship with my dad, or if she changed from being and unbeliever, “back to” one who accounted there to be a God (and particularly the One spoken of in the Christian Bible). Maybe she’s where she is now “for the sake of her children;” her husband having passed off the planet basically a decade hence.

All that said, as a child, you should know that I was “reared on science.”

We were taught to “question everything.” I found out later that my father—by intent or not—didn’t really mean “everything.” I say that based on a discussion we had pretty directly before I left my mother’s and father’s house for the last time.

I won’t go into the discussion, but basically, my dad argued that something was true, I asked how he knew that to be the case and he fell back on (paraphrasing), “It just is.” Further discussion was impossible. He “cut the conversation off,” and that, as they say, was that. I don’t know how well my father kept up with the assertion he made and how people viewed it (it was a commonly accepted premise at the time), but the fact is, it has been since called into question in terms of its definite veracity.

All of this is important because it meant I had a “grounding in” science that few get. My father counted himself a scientist through and through; he raised his children to think scientifically, to use reason, to be logical. If no other thing was taught us (and you may trust there was a great deal more), these things were.

As an adult, I came to understand that, for me and others, science was either “religion lite” or the full blown thing.

Many use science as a “replacement for” religious practice. I should point out that it’s possible to act scientifically, and still support a belief such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism or one of a number of other such seemingly irrational “cores.”

These days, I am a firm believer in the idea that there’s a place for the scientific process in life in general—even if I happen to have concluded there’s a pretty major way in which that “process” is “broken.” Without getting into detail, I believe perception is a major “stumbling block” for the scientific process—that people see things differently, and the result is, even supposedly objective observation is questionable at best. Peer review helps some, but really doesn’t “fix the problem.”

Here’s the where we (you may well be saying, “Finally”) come to the “meat of” the conversation.

The “prime directive” of science, according to a good many people is essentially “objectively observe and report your findings.”

One requirement for good observations is standards. That is to say, we must be able to say things like, “This thing has this property,” or “That thing has this function.” In so doing, we are able to categorize whatever we’re talking about.

As an example. “This substance tends to have atoms or molecules that are sufficiently spaced so as to make it possible to push solids through it with minimal resistance, as a result we can conclude the natural and normal state for this substance is gaseous.”

This type of external objective observation is virtually required to “practice science.”

No scientist would allow a substance to “tell” him or her into what state of matter it should fall except by his or her observing it objectively and making the appropriate categorization.

So if a zebra were to, by way of example, magically “find its voice” only to attempt to assert that it were a sea slug, by objective observation, the scientist would come to the conclusion the animal in question was very confused with regard to its identity.

He or she could poke and prod, test DNA, consider environment (steppes or savannah as opposed to the sea), in short, do all that the scientific method expects, but coming to the conclusion that the aforementioned was a zebra not a sea slug, would be the likely result.

The zebra could continue to vehemently contend that it was a sea creature, this would not change what the scientist’s observation made perfectly plain was actually the case.

In my mind, the same thing is true, for example, where men saying they “identify as” women and vice-versa, are concerned. Where one can make an argument that hermaphrodites have a legitimate claim to both being men and women, simple physical observation tells us this is not the case for most folks making such a claim.

There is an older “formerly transgender” gentleman who essentially said, “All I managed to do was to make myself look like that which I desired to be via chemistry and physical mutilation.” Remember, these are not my words. In the end, he was still what he was, and it made him feel no better to attempt to “camouflage himself” as what he desired to be.

It took him something like eight years to figure out that, not only did the changes not make him a woman, but that he didn’t feel better about himself either. By the way, this seems to happen quite a lot based on the numbers I’ve seen. And when he was “done,” and was suffering “buyer’s remorse” for his prior decisions, all he could do was realize his mistake and take what little possible remedial action was left to him. I urge you to not make the same mistake(s).

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Autism Related Health and Fitness

The Impossible Dream – Autism

For memories to begin to fade—to grow dimmer—literally requires nothing more than the simple passage of time. The older I get, the more obvious this becomes.

Even still, I have relatively vivid recollections from childhood (though many of them involve the World whizzing around me with my having very little recognition of what was happening as it did).

One thing I remember pretty well, is that as a child, for some short time, there was either no television in the house, or I was unaware of and unconcerned with its existence. This was not a function of my parents’ cheapness or unwillingness to invest in “new technologies.” Rather, it was a reality of television being so new that most folks didn’t yet have it, or see the sense in procuring it.

I still remember the first (black and white) TV, coming into our household (at least the first one of which I was aware—and I think the actual first one). I remember bad pictures, I remember all stations shutting down at some hour of the night. I remember programming for “all ages” (read here “mostly not for children”).

In the course of time, TV switched from black and white to color, and there began to be times where children had something to watch (mostly cartoons and variety shows initially).

All that said, television didn’t become “important to my life” until I was well into my twenties.

Most of my younger life, there were three or less “stations,” and you were “at their mercy” for what you could see.

As time went on, the variety of possibilities increased; you got more channels, VCRs and similar allowed folks to record and play back, etcetera.

These days, in the era of “smart televisions,” tablets, laptops, smart phones and the like, all that I’m recalling seems like ancient history; relics of a bygone age. Perhaps that’s not a totally unfair characterization.

This all “matters” because things like complex cartoons, and television shows with special effects and the like did not exist in my childhood. They came along only when I was getting older, and even then were very simplistic by comparison to what most toddlers experience today.

My (Moderately Autistic) son lives in a totally different World than the one in which I spent my childhood, and it turns out, that’s a pretty significant thing.

You see, my child (as, I assume is the case for many Autistic children, and some who are not Autistic) has an exceptionally difficult time separating flights of fancy from cold, hard reality. Nowhere does this become more obvious, than when he speaks of what he desires after having watched various things on television.

There are numerous children’s “television programs” (mostly these days, it’s things that are “streamed” on a variety of application based content viewing services), that depict graveyards, in anything but a “realistic light,” as an example.

I cannot tell you how many times my child has been subjected to ghouls and zombies coming out of graves, ghosts “haunting,” and supernatural occurrences in cemeteries.

Perhaps your experiences have been different than my own, but for the most part, I have found burial grounds to be places to somberly reflect on the passing of ones long (or not so long) gone. I’m not saying none of the things depicted in the “programs” in question are, or could be true. Even so, I have never seen such a thing. Equally importantly, the episodic content in question virtually never paints them in any other light.

The result of this? My child was enamored of graveyards. He was always talking about them, noticing them as we passed them by, asking to go to them. In the end, I succumbed and took him through (in car) a couple of local cemeteries.

You should know, where my family has history in the area where I now live, to the best of my knowledge, none of my family has plots or graveyards anywhere in this region. That meant that I had to take him to burial places that were not only unfamiliar to me, but where it was likely we technically had no business.

Fortunately, most folks are entirely and blissfully unaware who does and who doesn’t have “business in” a given burial plot. Additionally, we had the good fortune, to not be in any of the memorial sites when others were there (nobody to look at one with displeasure for interrupting their visitation with those passed).

I have no idea whether my boy will redevelop his interest in graveyards, but for now, I seem to have sated them.

This is one scenario with which I was able to easily deal. There are others—some very difficult, some impossible—still to be “covered” in some way.

Many of the more outrageous shows spend their time doing things like lumping together mythologies from a variety of cultures. Egyptian historical mythology is a favorite. The result is, for a couple of reasons, my child has decided he wants to go to Egypt. Of course, he doesn’t want to go to the country as it exists, he wants to see the things he’s been “promised by” the various representations. Could I take him to Egypt (assuming I could afford so to do)? Yes. Would he get from that experience, what he hoped to and believed that he would? Not at all.

Even this is not an example of the “least tangible” things he as come to desire. There is a “baseball arena” in a cartoon that does not exist. Even if it did, the things happening in the cartoon would assuredly not be occurring there. My progeny would like nothing more that he can imagine at present than to go to that place—and he believes it’s real, and regularly questions why we’re unable to go there.

I have no doubt that children who are not even a little Autistic have similar beliefs of reality of such imaginings, but I also believe that, for the most part, parents are able to convince their children of the “unreality” of the things their child desires to be concrete.

I spent weeks trying to convince my son that talking dogs (read here, “the like of Scooby-Doo”) are not real. I still think he comes back to the belief they’re actually a thing. Such is my life, and his.

My time is at an end where this article is concerned. I just wanted to give you a “peek under the hood” of the Autistic mind. I hope this article has served to do that.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Statistics Versus Anecdote – Religion and Politics

I am an example of someone who in their younger years had a very hard time living  in the “statistical world.” So strong were the emotions that drove me about, that I was really pretty much unable to understand how anybody could take anything other than personally.

I would see or hear about a certain event and a couple of things would happen.

Firstly, I would latch onto claims whether or not—had I done my due diligence—the facts were really as they were reported.

Secondly, I would be so caught up in the individual story, that I allowed it to “drive me on a macro level.”

The first thing is bad because it means I can be manipulated into believing things happened that actually didn’t. That’s why today, I tend to take more of a measured approach, choosing to get the facts before I react. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand the value of being slow to anger, quick to listen and somewhat slow to speak as well. That doesn’t mean I always “master myself,” where these things are concerned. It does mean I try to do just that.

The second is equally bad. In the course of time, I am coming to realize that people use manipulative practices to convince people that things are far more serious and urgent than they actually are. Yet again, a measured approach is the key to not getting swept up in this sort of “induced panic.”

There’s a third reality here as well. Oftentimes, people are sold on the idea that tools are not in place to deal with issues when they’re found, even though they do actually exist. That’s not to say that things will always work as designed; at times, people must be willing to work a little harder to get things taken care of.

Part of what sells people on all three of these, is the use of anecdotal “evidence.”

The thing is, anecdotes are useful; they provide “color” statistics cannot. That being said, if one relies solely on anecdotal data, he or she is likely to be “sucked in to” believing things that are not true.

There are literally people who make a living convincing others into believe things based on what amounts to propagandized anecdotal data.

The reason such people exist, is that unscrupulous individuals realize they will be able to sway public opinion through their use. This is particularly true where younger, less experienced folks are concerned.

Not all older people, but a large percentage of them, have been taken in by this type of schysterism before. For them, old adage, “Once bitten, twice shy.” Comes into play

There are still those, even as they age, that are regularly trapped into this “bad mentality.” By and large, these folks are driven by emotion.

Emotion is not—contrary to what you might be thinking, looking at my statements to this point—an inherently bad thing. That being said, allowing decisions to be made based solely on feelings, is not  a good thing. This is particularly true when the emotions in play are the result of a “small sample of data” but decisions being made are overarching decisions.

There’s an old idea, it is summed up in the expression, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” This is as true for the number of crimes as it is for their severity.

Finding that some very small percentage of a given group of people commits a particular type of crime (or acts in some specific way) is not cause to take “corrective action” on the whole group.

So for example, if we determine that less than one percent of law enforcement officers are guilty of reported misconduct—even if we can assume that number is only a fraction of potential cases—it’s not reasonable to disband entire police departments as a result.

Is it improper to ask that reformative measures be put in place? Maybe, maybe not; that depends on the measure or measures requested.

The point though is, if you’re taking action against a larger group—be they law enforcement, protestors, U.S. Citizens of African family, or anybody else—on the basis of the actions of a tiny minority statistically, you’re probably at the very least overreacting.

In order to know that, it’s necessary to analyze something other than stories that make you “feel.” You must look at data on a larger scale. Let the reader be clear, you must also confirm that data is not “polluted” or otherwise invalid, else you’re no better off than someone reacting emotionally.

Only by looking at statistical data on a larger scale, will you be able to tell whether there’s even a problem to be rectified, much less, determine how to go about fixing it.

I know it’s not easy, to get past the emotion that you feel in a specific case, but it must be done.

Imagine it’s you who’s being badly done by as a result, and if not you, then your husband, wife, child or even grandchild.

People must come to understand that acting out of feelings will almost invariably cause others who have done no harm or wrong to be penalized by those doing so (acting emotionally). Those done harm may very well end up being people about whom you care a great deal. Even if they’re not, remember, the chances are good some body or bodies cares or care about the innocents who are suffering.

Remember too, that making people suffer as retribution for the wrong done to others, when the ones being made to “feel the pain” had nothing to do with that wrong, is as immoral and wrong as the original injustice done.

Put simply, if I didn’t kill your uncle, nor assent to his death, if you make me undergo retribution for that act, you’re potentially no better than the people who actually did kill your uncle. That doesn’t mean it’s not sad, unfortunate, and a matter that should be taken up that your uncle was killed, just that it shouldn’t be a matter of undirected or misdirected rage.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Violence – Religion and Politics

In my last post to this blog, I took special care to make it clear that I believed things happening in this present moment, and in the very recent past, are and were unwarranted. The actions in question ran the gamut from protests, to riots, to looting, to personal harm of individuals and property not involved with the thing being “protested.”

I made no strong distinction between those being violent, hurtful and harmful , and those not doing so. That was because, in my way of seeing things, none of the folks were warranted in their actions.

I know there will be those who disagree with me. You’re obviously within your rights so to do.

Further, I recognize that those peacefully demonstrating were within their rights, too.

As I pointed out in my prior article, being “within one’s rights” and doing the right thing are not synonymous. I can do things which I have every right to do, and still be errant in doing them. The results of my actions can be manifold, some may be good, others may be bad (and some may be anywhere in between the two extremes).

My unwillingness to concern myself with the level of violence of the protesters, as opposed to the rioters, looters, and doers of other harm, was based on the fact that I agreed with none of them, and that nobody was doing anything worthy of my consideration (past in how it affected others), much less my acceptance or approval. It’s obvious that my acceptance and approval are in no wise required (nor even desirable) by those doing as they’re doing.

Someone posted a prime example of the worst of all “social communication” on the “feed” of one of my social media accounts—to wit, the “meme.” The essence of the “inaccurately terse” message was, “How is it that you take the worst of the protesters, rioters and looters as who you use as your baseline, and not the worst of the people they’re protesting?”

The irony in this post hit me like a ton of bricks! The point of the “protests” was not (at least not according to most I’ve heard speak) about any but the worst of the group against which protests were occurring.

Put another way, the person was complaining about the very thing the “protestors” were doing. They were castigating a whole class of people in their society on the basis of the actions of a very few (not even generally supported) miscreants. They literally called for the groups in question to be disbanded on that basis. Then came this absolutely preposterous meme.

Here’s the best part though. Where there will always be “outliers” (who cannot, by the way, as the badly phrased meme tries to indicate, be considered as “mainstream”), that’s not where the majority even of detractors appear to “live.” By their very nature, the outliers will tend towards extremism. That being said, I tend to be on the “edge of” common sentiment about what’s going on. The end I occupy is the “right (not per se correct, but on the right side of the political spectrum) side.”

My perspective? Well frankly, I’ve already stated my view, but allow me to encapsulate it here. “Those people peacefully protesting, where within their rights are being extreme in doing so. Those  rioting, looting, and harming others, doubly so. The peaceful protesters have every right to continue to protest peacefully, my viewpoint on their doing so aside.”

The majority of folks seem to feel those demonstrating, have not just the right to peaceably assemble, but that it’s proper for them to do so.

It’s not until we get to rioters, looters and doers of harm that even the average conservative person has any problems.

Put simply, for the most part, people I have seen speaking and writing about what’s going on are certainly not judging the majority (the peaceful protesters) by the acts of the (terribly harmful) minority (the rioters, looters, and people doing injury). Most folks are encouraging (peaceful) protest, and discouraging harm to anyone.

There can be no doubt, those responsible for unjustifiable violence against the persons and property of their fellow citizens are incorrect in what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter upon what “side” they’re counted.

That means, when a rioter acts violently and it’s not called for, he or she is wrong. That also should be understood to be saying, when a  law enforcement officer does likewise, he or she is equally so.

You see, it’s not the “class of” a person that makes him or her problematic, it’s their words and actions. That’s why I maintain that the one who was largely causal to this whole series of events, was certainly wrong in his actions and statements. That being said, to this point I have seen zero indication of “racism” on the part of that individual.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to be held accountable for what he’s done, just that what appears to have motivated it, is not what many are claiming.

As a final thought, I want to say this again. For a group of folks who seem to have a problem with their ranks being categorized as “bad” by virtue (or more correctly by vice) of an obvious minority who are problematic to them as well, it’s funny that they have chosen to champion a cause that takes that very same perspective.

Nobody in their right mind is trying to say law enforcement is “pure as the driven snow” (that would be like trying to argue that my children are “perfect angels”—which not one of them has ever          been). But the majority of folks working to keep the streets policed tend to be good, honest, hard working folks.

Just as in any other segment of society, there are people in the world of “marshaling,” who don’t belong there. Those folks do things they ought not, and some of them (a pretty small percentage, it appears) are heinously wrong in their actions.

In an estimated 370,000,000 (three hundred and seventy million) interactions with law enforcement a year, even if we assume 10,000 (ten thousand) result in misconduct investigations, that means less than a hundredth of a percent (.01%) end in even investigations of wrongdoing on the part of officers (of any kind). How many are then cleared of wronging of any kind. I have no idea, but if any are, the number of problems is even lower.

Now consider that all misconduct is being considered here. Suddenly “systemic” seems to be a bit of an overstatement for any kind of infraction on law enforcement’s part.

By the way, the last number I saw, was more like 8,500 investigations in the average year for a decade.

In closing unwarranted violence is wrong, it doesn’t matter who is being violent.

May your time be good, and thanks for reading.

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Questionalble Judgement – Religion and Politics

You’re in a major metropolitan area somewhere inside the United States of America.

You happen to be walking down the street at just the right time, to see a law officer “apprehending a perpetrator.”

It’s obvious the person taking the other into custody, is under exceptionally good control of the person he’s managing; further, there are numerous other agents around the “nabber,” making it highly unlikely the person having been caught will get away, or cause issues of much of any kind.

Still, the officer seems to be acting extremely harshly where the person he’s just collared is concerned. Being a good citizen, you take out your cellular phone and begin recording the interaction. You make it plain to the arresting individual you’re doing this.

He continues to act as though you aren’t even there. You know better than to try to get between the lawman and his work, so you stay away, but continue to “film.”

The officer is using a choke-hold on the person he’s captured, and it looks painful at best, and dangerous at worst. You ask the choker to “ease up on” the person he’s throttling and again, he seems to ignore you.

The person being held seems to lose consciousness. It looks like he may no longer be breathing. He begged the person with the choke hold on him to stop, saying he was unable to breath.

Now from my perspective, it makes zero difference the “race” of either the policeman or the person he’s dealing with (likewise for sex, but that’s another story). That being said, the officer happens to have been a person of African heritage, and the other—the “perpetrator”—a person of European descent.

At no point of which you’re aware was any language used that indicated the law enforcer had anything “racial” against the person with whom he was dealing. Further, though the officer’s actions appeared to be seriously egregious, it didn’t appear they were in any way motivated by the “citizen” being “white.”

Your video (or someone else’s) “goes viral.” There is protesting in the streets based on this “police action.” It soon turns to rioting and looting. Regardless that most have been peaceful, some folks just had to get rowdy and act in wrongheaded ways.

Even among the protesters though (those who have not acted improperly) are signs indicating the actions that occurred were “racially motivated.”

You saw the whole event transpire. It was ugly, it was (based on everything you saw) entirely unjustifiable.

In your mind, the officer should lose his job, be disciplined, and probably be charged for some crime or crimes (up to and perhaps including murder). Maybe the other law enforcement personnel that were on the scene should have at least some of these things happen to them as well (perhaps all of them?).

Your problem? As far as you’re able to see, there’s not a single sign that what happened was a matter of “race.” And you should have some idea, after all, you’re “white.”

You attempt (pretty much entirely in vain), to get people to understand that there appeared to be no “racial motivation” in what occurred. As stated, you seem to almost entirely fail.

There’s another thing that’s eating at you. You’ve been in the city in question numerous times, and you have never seen an enforcement officer misbehave. In fact, they have been kind, courteous and polite—downright friendly. Yet those you see demonstrating are acting like this sort of thing goes on all the time—almost as though it’s more common than not.

You decide to do some research for yourself. In the process you determine a couple of things.

Firstly, you find out that the officer in question has pretty much never shown the least interest in the “race” of those with which he was tasked to deal. He has been reprimanded multiple times for acting inappropriately when interacting with folks with whom he had reason to work. In fact, he has far too many instances where this was the case for your liking. But he was an “equal opportunity idiot” in those situations, no pattern of racial abuse “sticks out” on looking them over.

The second thing you discover? Not only in that metro area, but in the United States as a whole, the number of incidences of bad behavior by law enforcement appears to be exceptionally low. This is consistent with what you’ve seen, and with what your discussions with others have led you to expect.

On looking a little deeper, you come to the position that the numbers may be lower than they should be, since some officers’ records may have been essentially “expunged by requirement.” Even so, the numbers as they appear are quite low.

The protesting (and the rioting and the looting, and the other personal harm) continue to occur. In the meantime, things happen where—though folks have been extremely injudicious in their actions—fuel is added to the fire (whether it “fits the narrative” or not is another matter). The result is a protracted set of protests, riots, lootings and personal harm.

The more you consider things, the less you think the folks acting as they are, are being reasonable (where this is particularly true for the rioters, looters, and persons doing harm, you come to realize that it’s also true for the peaceful protesters).

“It’s perfectly reasonable for people to protest against things that are obviously problematic, most particularly if they’re common,” you reason, “but doing so when they’re not problematic, and when the actually problematic events are very rare, is not at all reasonable.”

The issue is that you are in the definite minority. Most folks are willing to be incensed on the behalf of the person who was killed (which is what happened to the “criminal” in the earlier story), by the officer.

Was the officer (likely horribly) wrong in his actions? Certainly! Should he (and again, possibly others) “pay for” what he (and they) did? If a jury of his (or their) peers decides so, absolutely!

Should this result in widespread protesting (and potentially rioting, looting and otherwise harming others who were totally uninvolved), probably not.

Keep in mind that I have intentionally “turned this around” in order to get people to think what they’re supporting.

Final thought? Protesting is literally Constitutionally guaranteed. That doesn’t mean every instance of it is anywhere near reasonable. In the instance this was “modeled after,” I submit it was not.

May your time be good, and as usual, thanks for reading.

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Police Misconduct – Religion and Politics

For a person who has never intentionally (certainly not willingly) danced a step in my life, it’s amazing how much “fancy footwork” I have to employ when writing—most particularly about Religion and Politics.

Things that sensible, rational people, would assume to normally be expected of other sane and reasonable human beings are often called into question if those of us with a generally Conservative viewpoint don’t come right out and say them.

And if we mis-step and forget, even if we make it clear that what was not said, was what was intended, many never seem to see that and continue to treat us as though we intended something we never had in mind when we said what we did.

I say this because I’m about to do it again.

I want everyone to understand that, there are “bad” law enforcement officers. I want people to know that police “do things wrong” every day. I want folks to know I realize that accidents happen, too. I want folks to know that people make “judgement calls” each an every day, and that law enforcement is no exception to this “unwritten rule.”

In fact, officers of the law in various capacities must often make snap decisions (that may—let the reader understand—result in the death of innocents if the wrong one is made) often on a daily basis.

People enforcing the law are not perfect, they will make mistakes; some number of them will maliciously do wrong (though the number that does so is exceptionally small—at least, if we choose to believe the statistics).

There’s no doubt that “police Internal Affairs offices,” exist for cause. Unfortunately, more often than not, that “cause” is to placate folks who are just certain officers have “done wrong” without coming anywhere close to knowing the facts.

I can’t speak authoritatively for the entire country, but I know in Central Arkansas, if a law enforcement officer has a “run-in” with someone that is in any way violent, it’s assumed that he or she will be suspended from duty, until a full investigation has occurred.

I’m not trying to argue the merit of such actions, or call them incorrect. My point is simply to make it plain that, officers are looked at (often using microscopic scrutiny) often almost every time there is a violent event in which they are remotely involved.

I would be more than a little surprised to hear that this was not common throughout the United States—indeed, much of the World.

So when I saw the “headline” indicating that there were eighty-five thousand instances of officers accused of misconduct, rather than surprised, I saw something I more or less expected.

But here’s where it gets “interesting!”

As is often the case in “articles” like the one cited, no time frame was specified in the headline. I had to take a second to go into the piece to get that information.

In this “modern day world” of TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read), where my blog posts (which intentionally average around a thousand words), are often all but entirely ignored (and I’m not big-headed enough to assume everyone should be reading them, I’d settle for just a few), I can imagine someone glomming onto the headline without doing any  “delving” to acquire more data from the article.

I took just a second to look at the (hit) piece. When I did, I determined that the data in question was for a decade (you read that correctly, for ten years).

So where I didn’t do more research to find out how that was broken down in the period in question, I pretty much immediately did the “averaging math.”

This means, that in a “community of” law enforcement officers that is counted to be roughly 700,000 (yes, seven hundred thousand), there were, on average 8,500 (eight thousand five hundred), misconduct investigations into enforcement officers’ actions over the course each year in a half a score of years.

I can’t speak to the results of the investigations, but I can tell you that—based on the little I know about law enforcement—it seems very likely that many of the investigations either turned up no wrongdoing, or unintentional failure, or instances of plain bad judgement than anything else.

Even if we assume some level of officer misconduct in every reported case, that still amounts to less than a two percent “misconduct rate” among “people in blue.”

Considering the propensity of many departments (and other entities) to require such investigations any time any kind of incident of substance occurs (signs of misconduct or no), you can be assured that it’s highly likely, the number of cases that bring back any bad result, is less than a quarter. DISCLAIMER, I do not know this to be true, this is a guess on my part. If you don’t trust what I’m saying (and it wouldn’t bother me in the least if you didn’t), do some research and by all means, tell me what you find.

Assuming my guess to be accurate, that would mean an average of 2,125 cases of misconduct of any kind yearly (again in seven hundred thousand in law enforcement uniforms). What makes this even more amazing is that the number of interactions between police and non-law-enforcement is likely in the millions annually. This makes the chances for some sort of misconduct absolutely huge.

Let me make a couple more points, then I’ll leave you to your thoughts.

To begin with, “misconduct” is an intentionally broad term. An officer may have decided a young lady was “cute” and asked her for her number—yes that is misconduct if he’s in uniform and “pursuing justice.” As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, we had a “regulation” (AFR 30-30 “Standards of Conduct”) that outlined many cases of how we were to behave (and how not). For me, taking any kind of gift from a contractor was an infraction, worthy of disciplinary action. This was so strictly enforced, that some contractor left “Christmas gifts” on my desk and more than thirty years later, I have no idea who it was (I never used, nor even really accepted the gifts).

My second point is this, even if all instances of potential (read here “unproven”) misconduct were race of sex based, the number would be pretty small (obviously, we would love it to be zero, but this is not a perfect world). Considering we have no idea actually involved folks of other groups that are considered “targeted” these days, we cannot answer percentages (we can almost certainly say they were not all “racially or sexually motivated”).

So you still think we have “systemic issues” with Police misconduct (much less brutality)? You may be part of the problem! Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong! One warning though; don’t count on my not looking into what you say. Based on the “abuse of power” demonstrated by the “press” and others, you can count on my taking the time to look into things and respond.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good.