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Paying Taxes – Religion and Politics

The word has some of the more negative connotations that exist for any non-expletive in the English language. In fact to some, it could be argued that it is a “bad word.”

What term are we discussing here? Taxes!

You’d be hard-put to find anyone, even among those supporting the idea of government originated social programs, who likes the idea of being taxed.

For most folks, that attitude is exacerbated by the fact that they look at themselves as being relatively poor, and at others, who they see as working every bit as hard as they, to not “pay their fair share,” to be among the rich.

The situation becomes even more knotty, when you tell them a rich person paid basically no income tax for a given year.

How can that even be?” they might be prone to ask. The reality is, as a younger person, I would’ve been right there with them. These days, I think I have a slightly better handle on the world.

There are a couple of considerations that I think can help to clarify such a question. Allow me to lay out a scenario in which I can demonstrate one of them to begin with.

Imagine a person who’s made millions of dollars as a result of being the owner of a successful business.

She worked for years to build it, and ate a ton of boxed noodles and PB&J sandwiches to achieve the pinnacle upon which she now finds herself.

Along the way, she paid herself an income out of the activity, and over the course of time, it came to be in the millions on an annual basis.

On all of that income, at some level or other, she paid taxes.

Since she remained frugal even through those years of great gain, she was able to put aside money for future hard times, should they come along.

Now imagine the company she created, falls on hard times, let’s say due to a pandemic, for example.

Instead of ditching the company, she chooses to bring her personal payout from it, down substantially. After all, she can afford it, and the company will live to fight another day as a result.

Maybe by doing so, she can even keep folks on, who she’s managed to help to have jobs.

So she starts to draw on her savings, and assumes at best, she can count on a moderate income from the business.

It’s not as though she hasn’t saved enough such that, if she slips back into “frugal mode” for a time, she won’t be able to live comfortably on what she has in savings, until her baby stops limping along and can again fight itself. It’s even possible her lifestyle won’t be affected horribly badly.

The thing is, those resources she’s put aside have already been taxed. Her drawing them out of a savings account shouldn’t cause another tax to be incurred. It’s not like she withdrew them even from a retirement account. Supposing she had, in my opinion, the taxes one pays on such a distribution, should be no higher than income tax, which regularly, it is.

So she continues to live off that which she’s been careful to sock away.

The hope is, in the course of time, the company will again come to receive sufficient revenue, to make it possible for her to begin to draw a salary in the future. For now though, she continues to reap no gain from her own business.

Now let’s switch gears for a moment. Instead of an endeavor struggling to survive, we’ll consider one that’s doing quite well.

So successful is that bastion of industry, that the owner seeks to expand it. He looks at his options and comes to the conclusion the best way to do business, is to “self finance.”

Again, he’s been able to pay himself reasonably well up to this point (paying income tax as he went along), and so, is pretty much flush with cash. That said, he has no desire to cause those employed by his little workplace, to suffer a reduction in pay, nor to reduce the quality of his product or service to the marketplace.

His business is profitable, but he’s beholden to shareholders to keep it that way. What can he do?

Well, yet again, he can “take a pay cut” with the express intent of moving the money he would’ve received into a “pot” designated for the expansion of that company.

Here too, the person in question has chosen self-sacrifice, to make it possible to grow that which he’s spent countless hours building.

As a result, he make take on more employees. He may begin new construction. He may add to the tax base of a nearby city or town, by putting a facility there.

When he decides to forgo his benefit for the sake of that which he’s built, he too, finds himself making very little new income as a result.

Because again, he has a way to finance his lifestyle, he can take the hit for a time, and move on.

The point of both of these little stories is pretty simple really. In both cases, the person in question may be wealthy, but he or she is not earning what’s traditionally referred to as, “income.” It’s not hard to see that in such situations, that individual likely will be paying little to nothing in income tax.

You can be certain I’ve only scratched the surface. There are sure to be a plethora of reasons those with some wealth, may not earn what’s traditionally couched as income.

In some cases, they may pay some other type of tax (capital gains or a number of others). Then again, they may pay none at all, since they could be using money that was already taxed instead of accruing new income

So, if you wonder why somebody seen to be financially well off, may show basically no income tax when you’re able to get a glimpse of their IRS documentation, you can be sure the reasons may be many. And no, they’re not by any means all indicative of “bad action.”

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Presidential Qualifications – Religion and Politics

Can you think of a sadder thing than the mental decline of anybody? Certainly it’s far worse for a person about whom you care, but really when it happens to literally anyone, it’s very hard to watch.

If the person was particularly sharp prior to it occurring, the contrast can be dramatic.

Now imagine that person were someone who runs a department of a company, or worse yet, the company itself.

There can be no doubt that ultimately, unless the person remains at a high level of competency, he or she should be asked to step down from the role.

Even more startling would be somebody in charge of the executive function for a country.

To be sure, there are Constitutional qualifications for someone even considering running for that office. That is, the office of the President of the United States. That said, those requirements do not present a particularly high bar.

For the most part, they exist to ensure his or her loyalties lie with the United States, and that the person is sufficiently mature and experienced to hold the office.

That said, there are some others I think we should all consider.

Among them is obviously truthfulness. The person in question should generally be expected to tell the truth. In order to know that’s the case, each person considering a given candidate should be expected to do his or her due diligence.

At present, both people being fronted for the office, have been called liars by somebody. The question is, “Is it true for either?”

I know what I think my answer to be, but that’s not something I intend to divulge in this article—that’s not what this piece is about.

The next question in my mind would be platform. If a person supports things you can’t, it might be reasonable to look at someone else.

That said, if the individual in question is closer to what you believe than any other candidate, yet also holds positions with which you can’t agree, from a pragmatic viewpoint, you may still be better off to assume that one to be your choice.

But in this little essay, I wanted to take the time to discuss another thing I count a pretty important need for what many consider the highest political office in the land.

That need would be solid ability to reason, speak, and relate.

Of all the people in government, there are a couple who must deal with foreign leaders and other dignitaries on an ongoing basis, based on the fact that they’re the linchpins of foreign policy.

Those two are the President and the Secretary of State.

It’s fair to say that many decisions come to our relations with other nations, are made at far lower levels, but how these two interact with leaders and other officials from outside the U. S., tend to set the tone for activities at those levels.

Further, all such relationships should be maintained essentially at the behest of the Secretary of State, who in turn, gets his or her marching orders from the Chief Executive.

The result is, the mental state, and keenness of the head of state here in America, is of paramount importance to those relationships.

On top of that, the leader of the country is often responsible for the final stage of congressional bills being enacted as legislation. It’s his or her signature that mostly makes that possible.

The reality then is, the person filling that office must either be at or very near the top of his or her game. Otherwise, that individual will be at the mercy of those around. That can’t be a good thing when it comes to things like meeting with foreign heads of state.

Your weakness, particularly your lack of mental acumen, is something that will assuredly be obvious to that leader.

If you cannot discuss matters of state with such a person in a cogent, meaningful way, it’s pretty certain in the best case, one can assume your actions towards them will likely be in disarray.

Worse yet, the head of an adversarial entity is very likely to take advantage of such a relationship, realizing that certain types of deceit can be employed, to win victories that are definitely not advantageous to the U. S.

Likewise, dealing with Congress in attempting to agree on various types of policy, among them fiscal direction, can obviously be disastrous if the person is not acutely aware of what’s being discussed.

Though failure on the part of that party may not be the end of the world, at the very least, it will make things that much harder on all who must come behind and work to forge alliances with foreign nations and between the executive and other branches of government.

Sadly, there’s a possibility at home as well as abroad, for people to take advantage where domestic policy is concerned as well.

In all cases, there’s meant to be a balance between the chief executive and those with whom he or she must work.

Not having that, can result in nothing but a dysfunctional government.

This is why, regardless the political affiliation of a person seeking to fill the office in question, those vetting him or her, must be certain he or she has the requisite cognitive ability to handle the position in which he or she is seeking to be placed. Any failure on their part to gain that assurance would be obvious malfeasance.

I’m not here to argue that one person or another currently seeking to fill that office is lacking in this regard. My interest is simply to ensure those considering the situation are taking the stated needs strongly into consideration

If those supposedly responsible for confirming the person put up for office, fail in their duties and it’s obvious they’ve done so, it’s your responsibility when you vote, to ensure the unqualified person does not enter office. And that’s not just true for the President either.

So keep in mind cognitive decline that will affect the person’s ability to sit in the Office of the President of the United States, is one of many possible qualification failures that may mean they never should be allowed to ascend to that office.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Negative Rights – Religion and Politics

I think it’s probably true a lot of folks are relatively unaware that there was a sort of battle over the initial amendments to the United States Constitution.

Most Americans know the first ten amendments as the Bill of Rights.

That said, I believe even those who’re aware of their existence, likely are not in on the fact that the folks proposing them, were at odds with another group who thought they were a bad idea.

On the one hand, were folks who came to the conclusion it was necessary to spell out, certain rights, in order to ensure specific basic freedoms, perceived to have been given by “nature’s God” were not abridged by people claiming to have no understanding of their being an inherent part of the package, as it were.

The ones opposed to such a proposition as the enumeration of those god-given allowances, tended to have at least two problems with that act.

In the first place, they maintained that all men should already be aware they existed. Put simply, they felt amending that precious document by adding explicit references to them, shouldn’t be a necessary thing, because everyone ought to understand they existed. Spelling them out, therefor, was seen as stating the obvious.

Another argument was that it would be assumed by the less scrupulous among us, that they were the only such rights. In other words, instead of assuming certain things to be god-given benefits, because they were not appended to the Constitution, would make it so folks could say essentially, “Well, it’s not in the amendments, so it must not have been sufficiently important to be considered a right.”

Obviously, the disagreement was finally settled such that, here we are, with the Bill of Rights being the first ten amendments of our Constitution.

There’s an interesting fact about those changes. They were intended to make clear the things allowed for as rights therein, were actually more about what individuals—mostly government—could not do, than that for which the people were given authority.

This is why the first argument was so strongly put forth. The assumption was that one of the mandates of the Constitution itself, was that the federal government should already be completely aware it had no authority not expressly given it in that document. As such, stating they could not do something, seemed to be unnecessary.

As I say, those in favor of the addition(s) won the day, as we can see based on how things now stand.

The point though, is that these “negative rights” were what was seen as so significant as to need to be spelled out.

The interesting thing is, the 1st Amendment, starts with a powerful phrase that makes it abundantly clear exactly what a negative right should look like. It says, “Congress shall make no law…” then proceeds to indicate about what Congress will not be allowed to write legislation.

It’s hard to imagine a more overt statement to explain the idea behind a negative right.

The idea here, is that these were, “hands off issues.”

This is why I find it so amazing that government on a national level, spends so very much time talking about how to restrict these things over which they are intentionally informed, they have zero authority by edict.

How many times have you heard of the federal government talking about, for example, banning access to “assault weapons?”

Some years ago, I found a YouTube video that did an excellent job of explaining the basic problem of doing so, called The Truth About Semi-Auto Firearms.

The fact is, I can make no case for the banning of such arms regardless the information given in that video. As I said in another of my blog posts (talking about violence), the problem with weapons is not their form, rather, the concern should always be how they’re used.

The thrust of what I’m saying though, is that this right is a “don’t touch” one, based on the fact that it’s found specifically mentioned in the amendments to the Constitution. That particular one is in the 2nd Amendment to be specific; not the 1st, which I recently heard an uninformed police officer cite, when speaking to a citizen on his right to bear arms.

What I’ve said, is entirely consistent with the text of that amendment. It states simply, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Note the form in this case, instead of saying “Congress shall make no law…” at the outset, it says something even more restrictive at its end. That would be, “…shall not be infringed.” This implies nobody may employ such a restriction.

It’s at this point we begin to ask ourselves about the right of any legislative body in the country, making a law that says something like, “You cannot have magazine that can hold more than ten rounds.

In this, however, I digress. The thing to recognize here, is that the person to whom the authority has been given to bear arms, is not the one restricted by this piece of text. Rather, individuals who might seek to infringe their right so to do are “targeted.”

This is what’s meant by negative right.

What’s interesting is, but for a few very basic things you’re expected always to be allowed to do or have, there are a scant number that aren’t expressed in terms of negative rights. The three that immediately come to mind are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s my contention, this was done on purpose.

It’s generally assumed that government cannot grant you rights, but that you must exercise them yourself. This is why so many have made so much of phrases like, “promote the general welfare.” What am I saying? That you would be hard pressed to find such language in the works of the Founders, and where they occur, the intention was not to discuss a right.

So negative rights speak about things you possess, but more importantly, they’re things others cannot take away. This is the intent of that form.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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On the Wane – Religion and Politics

You’ve probably noticed, that people are getting more than a little tired of the COVID-19 “crisis.”

One need not have a high IQ to know that it shouldn’t matter how folks feel if there’s truly a serious situation such as a pandemic. It should be perfectly clear, that people need to take appropriate action to at least slow the spread of the virus.

That said, can I let you in on a little secret? To date, I’ve seen zero reason to consider the “pandemic” a serious threat to public health in most of the United States.

I’m pretty sure if the average person were to look at the data—assuming they were relatively good at statistical analysis—dispassionately, they would be in much the same place as am I.

I’ve pointed out a couple of facts in past articles, but a “refresh” is sometimes a called for thing.

To begin with, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the top ten states for their occurrence, is presently listed by the Centers for Disease Control, as 126,929. This is definitely more than half the number of deaths in the country.

If one then looks at the number for the top twenty states, that number swells to 169,184.

Also per the CDC (who admittedly, is consistently around two weeks behind on their numbers), the total deaths in which the virus was a contributing factor amounts to 191,451. That means for the entire country outside of the top twenty states, there are just 22,267 deaths.

Considering the U. S. consists of fifty states, that means on average, for the remaining thirty states, the number of deaths in each state since the 1st of February, 2020 is 742 people.

Obviously, the number is higher for some states than for others in reality. That said, no state below the top twenty, has a number for that whole period of nearly eight months, in excess of 2,000 deaths.

If this is true, it seems to me, we must ask a serious question, “Are we truly locking down 30 states in the country for less than 2,000 deaths over an almost eight month period?”

Does it not seem absurd that I’m even asking this question? Can you honestly answer it with a serious response of, “Yes.”? On seeing the numbers, are you beginning to understand why so many are having a hard time taking the lock downs, mask wear, social distancing and general paranoia at all seriously?

I could make conjectures on why things are as they currently are, but the truth is, the reason is pretty well irrelevant, but for one consideration. That would be, “Is there really a need for the actions currently being taken throughout much of the country?”

I contend the answer is a simple one, it’s a definite, “No.”

Still not convinced? Let’s attack this from a different angle.

In the entire country, how many people have died of COVID-19 from the 1st of February, to the 1st of August?

That number was 158,962. That would be an average of around 26,500 persons dying a month.

What does the number look like since that time? It’s 32,390.

Considering we’re very near the end of the month, that number is likely to be most of the deaths for the two months in question. It’s not hard to divide the number in half to get a monthly average for those two months. Doing so gives a monthly average of 16,195, a full 10,000 less per month than the average for the previous six months.

Now consider that 24,882 of those deaths occurred in August. Granted, more will likely be accounted for September, still the current total for September amounts to just 7,508 deaths for the entire country.

It’s hard to imagine that the number will be substantially higher, considering we’re just 2 days from the end of the month. Granted, there’ll likely be upward adjustments of the two previous weeks.

Thing is, when you combine this information, with the fact that thirty states have yet to break 2,000 total fatalities in which the illness was even a factor. It becomes really more than a little bizarre that at least those states remain locked down.

I haven’t done the research, but I count it very likely that the twenty states having high numbers for the entirety of the “crisis,” have comparatively low ones today. That makes it so I’m prone to question the efficacy of any lock downs, mask wearing, or social distancing methods still in play.

I want to remind folks that in a previous piece I wrote titled More on COVID-19 Responses, I cited an article found on History.com. Part of the point of that article, was to indicate that a substantial suspected cause for the end of the Spanish Influenza pandemic, was essentially that the virus went through the whole population and that those who didn’t die from it, became immune.

It may seem a harsh reality, but after more than eight months, it’s quite likely we’re very nearly at that place with COVID-19.

I also assume that the number of deaths for Spanish ‘Flu dropped substantially near the end of the pandemic. I seriously doubt the numbers were kept sufficiently accurately to be certain that’s the case, so it’s likely hard to be sure.

The fact is, I’m pretty convinced by the time any vaccine or other treatment protocol is truly ready to be unleashed on the population at large, it will be largely unworthy of the time put into its creation and distribution.

This is particularly true when considering another fact. Looking at the CDCs data, the number of people under the age of 65 having died with COVID-19 as one of the causes for the entire pandemic, is still under 40,000.

This points to the idea that if we need to be protecting anybody, it’s largely the elderly.

It may seem to you, that we as a country, have not gone massively overboard in our response to COVID-19, when we do things like, arrest people for refusing to wear masks outdoors, who’re likely more than six feet away from others. From my vantage point though, I certainly don’t see that kind of reaction as reasonable. In fact, I don’t see far more tame responses as all that sensible either.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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On Violence – Religion and Politics

You may be surprised to hear this—particularly considering my staunch support for the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution—but I’m a pacifist. It’s my belief that very little can be solved through violent activity.

I’m not arguing there aren’t circumstances in which one might potentially save the life of one or more innocents by acting in violence against someone desirous to maim or kill them.

To put it mildly though, I’m very much against the use of violence to forward or even accomplish most ends.

Most of my Conservative friends won’t acknowledge it’s the case, but they’re almost as rabidly peace-mongering as am I.

I don’t argue against people (even, believe it or not, felons) having guns or other weapons of much of any kind. Like with anything, how they use them is entirely another matter.

When once a person chooses to level a pistol or rifle at another human being with no provocation, for example, I can in no way support their doing so.

That said, I saw a video in which an anti police activist went through a piece of police training, where he was asked to respond to situations in which a cop may find him or her self, either using, or foregoing, deadly force.

Unsurprisingly, he came away with a new respect for the scenarios in which law enforcement officers find themselves on a daily and ongoing basis.

It was equally not shocking, that he came to understand the necessity of compliance when dealing with those in blue.

Those who’ve seen videos of emergency service personnel of one sort or other being gunned down in cold blood in things like routine traffic stops, are already well aware they confront horrible risk with startling regularity.

In the same way I won’t try to pump up the numbers of black people killed by police on a yearly basis—the number being exceptionally small when compared to even those in the general population counted black—I shan’t either, try to indicate that police are at a gigantic risk in most situations, of dealing with violent criminals intent on taking their lives.

Still, where I understand black folks having some trepidation dealing with police, I also certainly feel it reasonable for law officers to have consternation when working with folks who act aggressively, and who may potentially have weapons on their persons or nearby.

Where that group seems to be largely comprised of African American males under the age of forty, that doesn’t mean others aren’t equally assumed to be in that number. The next most likely, is probably men of European descent in that same age group.

All in all, the point though, is where I am a pacifist, I don’t find the things law enforcement does in the normal course of duty to typically be problematic. They’re often where one finds them for the protection of innocents—or at least people for whom they have no reason to assume guilt.

That’s not to say they never misbehave, just that in general their position is entirely understandable.

I also have no problem with folks who have families, having or carrying in either a concealed or open way, weapons intended to protect themselves in situations where it’s necessary. I would hope, based on things I’ve said in past, that it would be clear the protection of family members is even less of a problem in my mind.

Though I know many would argue against such things, I can further easily support the idea of folks going out and hunting for game, whether to feed their families or themselves, or in order to donate that which they dispatch to needy people or organizations.

Where I’m not nearly as enthused by the idea, I can even support certain types of sport activities that involve guns or other weapons (knives, bows and arrows, darts, and others). After all, who are they hurting by doing as they do? And let’s face it, being more expert with a weapon, means you’re less likely to harm another if you have to use it for less frivolous purposes.

The funny thing about all that I’ve said to this point, is that I have yet to touch on an important question. Are the previous uses, those for which 2nd Amendment was penned?

The answer, pretty directly is, “No.”

That change to our Constitution, was intended to make it possible for those former colonists, to protect themselves from tyranny, whether from domestic sources, or those outside the U. S.

You may have a hard time reconciling this idea with that of pacifism. That’s because it’s not the easiest thing in the World to do. Let me help you though.

It’s just as likely that peaceful people will die as a result of the ensconcement of tyrannical regimes, as at the hands of violent criminals.

So as much as I count myself a pacifist, and you can be assured, that’s to a very great degree, I still strongly support, both the right to have and bear arms, and the right to use them when doing so can be justified.

To be clear, in my mind, race is not a factor in this. If you’re black, and you legally and responsibly own various types or armament, I’m no more concerned by that, than when white folks do so.

Getting back to my original point though, the idea of refusing to act violently unless it’s called for, or doing so on an ongoing basis, is a strong current in my psyche. That doesn’t change based on the fact that there’re situations I may perceive require behavior I strongly dislike.

So, if you think violence should be a thing with which you deal on a regular basis, allow me to say, I’m not on board with that idea. Is it something with which one must periodically deal? Certainly! Is it ever desirable? Not in any circumstance I can imagine. That imparted, though I count myself a pacifist, don’t expect to not meet resistance on my part, most particularly if you try to harm innocents.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Beating the System – Religion and Politics

It’s a booming business! Teaching people how to beat the system in some way.

I have problems with the idea at times though. To begin with, the expression itself is somewhat indistinct.

What precisely is, “the system?”

The fact is, there’s no single answer for that question. And frankly, that’s problem one with the idea.

If the system is just some process in place at some entity like a casino, when you talk about beating it, it’s hard for me to care one way or another.

That said, there are systems in place that’re built on law. Sometimes when someone works to beat them, I consider it a good thing. Sometimes it’s neither good nor bad. Other times though, it’s somewhere between mildly problematic and horribly wrong.

In general, when somebody uses the expression, “beating the system,” you can be sure it sets off alarm bells in my head.

I’m not a great fan of some systems, even if I understand the reason for their implementation.

It’s always bothered me immensely, that supermarkets have twenty to thirty handicapped spaces, for example.

That said, I never intentionally park in such a space without cause.

It’s been years ago, but I used to have a friend—he’s long since passed away—who, when I first met him, walked with difficulty. From there, he moved to a walker, then ended up in a wheelchair because of an infirmity with which he was afflicted.

He was a great man, and I rarely ever heard him complain, even when things were very hard for him.

As much as I dislike huge numbers of handicapped spots in front of stores, he was a clear example of why one or two (or more) were a good idea.

When I came to a place where there were handicapped spots, and they were parked full—either by people who had no handicapped sticker or plate, or by those who were “beating the system” by having them when they were anything but necessary—the man would have to walk that much farther to get where he was going, which for him, was probably not too far from climbing mountains at times, for others.

You can be assured I was displeased when we found ourselves in such a situation, and I promise you, my ire was not for wrong done me.

For my part, I’d generally rather park in the back of a parking lot, the walk does me good and frankly, I’m relatively healthy.

Even so, I still have burned into my brain, images of that man as I guided him to a chair, exhausted at times, from the trip he had to take from the car, to wherever we were going.

This is the kind of thing that comes to mind when I hear about people working to beat the system in some fashion.

I get it, not every instance of someone figuring out how to get over on a given way of doing business, is even bad, much less is it anything like the picture I just presented you.

Sometimes, figuring out a way to get around obstacles placed in one’s path is not just a time or space saver, it’s literally hugely advantageous to you and others as well.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind there are times where, when something seems harmless, or even beneficial, you may be entirely unaware how someone or some ones are affected by your actions.

My little example is one of who knows exactly how many scenarios, where you think nobody is being hurt by what you’re doing and you could hardly be more incorrect in that belief.

I consider the start of the COVID-19 crisis when people started hoarding various things to themselves. Remember when there was no toilet paper on the shelves? Well, while some folks were buying up all the stock with zero need so to do, even people like me were being mildly inconvenienced by what they did.

I tend to keep “backups” for most of my needs. That’s particularly true for toiletries. So in my case, there was a period when I was a little concerned I might run out.

There are others for whom that shortage—where not nearly as terrible a thing as the situation I described with my unwell friend—was a comparatively big deal, since maybe they did run out.

That’s an example on a much smaller scale, but still, gaming or beating the system by buying huge amounts of a product you really don’t need is an example of the type of thing I’m talking about.

How many times have you chosen to do something you thought wouldn’t have serious effect on another? Can you believe it may’ve done so far more times than you realized?

For you, it can be the simplest thing, something that overall really gains you little to nothing. For somebody else, it may be working to climb a giant grade as a result of some inability, failing, or unconsidered matter.

Remember, totally without that sort of thing, people often have a great deal on their plate. Add to that some additional stressor, that results from somebody thinking it’s cool to take advantage of some situation or circumstance, where they’ve found a path around the normal way of doing business, and you may push them into serious hardship.

And what makes this harder yet is, sometimes it makes a difference to you. It improves your lot for a time.

As well, much of this sort of thing hurts nobody. The problem is, you might not know when someone will be horribly badly affected by what you do. It takes just one time for someone to be somewhere between inconvenienced and irreparably harmed by the fact that you skirted some system.

Does that mean you should never do it? No. It does mean that most of the time, the risk isn’t worth the small amount typically gained.

I know it seems cool or good to find a way to beat the system. I get there’re times when you may be able to accomplish good things doing so. All I ask is, please keep such activities to times of need where possible. One never knows who might suffer the consequences otherwise.

Thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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Chomsky Review Chapter 2 – Religion and Politics

One of the more difficult things about book reviews—even if you’re only reviewing some section of the writing in question—is the fact that the person penning the tome, may well choose to write or speak about a good many things in a given portion of the work being reviewed.

The second chapter of Dr Noam Chomsky’s, “Understanding Power, The Indispensable Chomsky” is an excellent example of this.

The chapter in question is chock full of a wide variety of subjects.

It starts out discussing the idea that language (Dr Chomsky’s professed specialty) is essentially broken up into two component parts. The first of these, is the normal meaning or words. The second, is the definitions that apply to political usage.

Dr Chomsky uses the idea of “containment” where applied specifically to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as one idea that helps to make his case. Later, he expands its use to Communism in general

It’s his contention, the way the word is used, would justify even the more ruthless, evil nations on the planet being able to apply it in similar manners to talk about how they act and speak.

By way of example Chomsky indicates that Nazi Germany could’ve easily adopted the term in similar fashions, to talk about how it dealt with its neighbors, and the Jews.

Getting too far into detail on this, would result in me writing a pretty large section of text, and would keep me from covering even the small amount of the chapter in question in my allotted space.

From there, he moves on to other examples of containment in the use in which he discusses it. An example would be the French attempting to maintain control of Indochina.

Next we jump to the idea behind the term “peace process.” Dr Chomsky comes to the conclusion the expression means something along the lines of “doing what the U. S. wants you to do,” and that, if America opposes such a process (examples cited are, what happened in Central America and the Middle East around the time the discussion was occurring), it’s not considered a “peace process” by the mainstream media here.

From here, he jumps to the intended concepts behind the words, “moderate” and “radical.” He makes the statement that the same sort of thing applies to moderate as a term, as peace process. The idea being that if you do as you’re expected to do (by the United States), you’ll be termed a moderate, no matter how horrible your human rights record.

For radical, one may apply an opposing definition. Radicals are those who don’t do what America expects, per Dr Chomsky.

Chomsky uses Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and even Iraq as examples of entities counted moderate or moving toward moderation in the United States Press.

At this point, the discussion moves to poverty in the United States. The beginning of that discussion is more or less a qualitative comparison of the period of the Great Depression, to more recent times (the eighties seem to be the main focus). Dr Chomsky states that in his view, the period around the Depression was more hopeful than in the more modern time frame.

Though he seems somewhat uncertain what causes this to be true, he contends that there seem to have been a number factors.

As an example, he talks about the idea that the American economy has largely moved from manufacturing, to technology.

It’s his belief (if I understand correctly), that because the former situation allowed immigrants to find jobs with relative ease, they were more able to assimilate into American society.

The move towards technology, with an outsourcing of factory related jobs to third-world countries has, in his perspective, made it so folks moving from the agricultural sector in the country, and those coming from Latin America, have had a much harder time finding work.

Thus, there is, in his way of looking things, less hope for such folks.

He also entertains the idea that the rapid distribution of drugs into slums and other impoverished communities, may have been an intentional act. The reason for this, he assumes, could be that it made it less probable that activists would be able to bring others together, since they were likely badly affected by the substances in question.

From here, he and is “audience” move through a whirlwind of other ideas. They discuss religious fanaticism. Including the idea that American presidents, must embrace religion (and I think we can safely assume he generally means Christianity) in order to project an image that will make them electable.

The final thing I want to touch on in this article—though there are more I could consider and document—is the idea that world affairs are shifting, partly because of changes in the economies of various countries around the world, and to some degree because of perceived need to mitigate issues surrounding what he would term “environmental soundness.”

The point of the second, being arguments made towards the belief that we’re due to suffer some sort of environmental catastrophe if we don’t take rapid action.

From there, Dr Chomsky talks about the idea that America and other countries, are attempting to continue to build up existing empires. He asserts that the reason this is the case, is that the United States and other empire constructors, benefit in terms of business relationships, if they keep other nations from becoming independent of their control.

Yet again, where I’ve done more than scratch the surface in this little essay, I haven’t done the entirety of that discussed in the chapter justice in my work here, either.

This is at least partially because up to this point, the “chapters” of this text, have actually been essentially the recording of events at which Dr Chomsky has spoken (I assume as the main speaker). The subject at such events—at least where his are concerned—appears to be more than a little fluid.

So, the second chapter of Dr Noam Chomsky’s tome, “Understanding Power, The Indispensable Chomsky” is somewhat a mixed bag. One of my concerns when undertaking the commission to discuss and summarize this work, was made real in this chapter. To wit, trying to cover far too much in far too little space.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Not Backing Down – Religion and Politics

I wrote a piece on my blog not too long ago, that caused my one reader—to be fair, I probably have somewhere between three and ten that read what I say with some frequency—to react in a way that made it quite clear he wasn’t at all happy with what I had to say.

The article, titled “What Appears Versus What Is” can be found here.

The point of that piece was to make plain, something that was rapidly becoming obvious to me at the time.

What I intended to say (and you need to know, that I either did a bad job of saying it, or was misunderstood regardless having done a good one), was that the longer people rioted and looted in cities around America, regardless the righteousness of their cause, the less they were going to find people behind what they were doing.

I extended that concept to say a couple of things.

The first was that, if it came to be known that the rioting and looting didn’t even support viable purposes, many folks would tend to be even less willing to accept the legitimacy of what was going on.

It’s certainly bad enough to riot and loot to begin with. That’s most assuredly true if you can’t argue the places being burned down, the people being physically accosted, and the stores and other businesses being looted and destroyed, had nothing to do with that thing against which you’re supposedly lashing out.

It has come to light that many of the causes celeb of the current unrest (particularly that which is violent and destructive), have very little to recommend them as appropriate and proper reasons for the current level of ire.

The obvious recent example, is that of Breonna Taylor. There’re any number of factors that make it pretty clear, she was embroiled in things that would’ve caused police to at least want to bring her in for questioning.

On top of that, the current argument that law enforcement had a “no-knock warrant,” but knocked anyway, and claim to have announced themselves, before finally breaking down the door and being shot at by Ms Taylor’s then-boyfriend before firing back, certainly seem to change the situation pretty markedly.

There are yet other factors that many people are pointing out, that seriously cause one to question whether any wrong was done in this case, past an officer potentially using his weapon in a way that endangered those dwelling in neighboring apartments.

That activity is under investigation. He may be tried, or at the very least, removed from the force or from patrol duty as a result of his actions. In my way of thinking, considering it was a hostile situation with weapons discharge occurring, I seriously question whether any of that will come to be.

All of this considered, I wanted to get to my other point mentioned earlier. In my prior piece, I made it clear that my warning was not just one that could or necessarily would apply only to those intent on damage of persons and property, or theft.

It might also be found to be the case, where truly peaceful protesters were concerned.

The obvious reason being that, again, the things being bandied about as causal to the non-violent activity, still mostly appear to be invalid.

Yes, George Floyd can be said to be an exception, though it’s questionable things are actually as they initially appeared. Still, at least the protocols in place ought to be brought into question. If for no other reason, this should occur because at least twice I’m aware of, people have died in similar circumstances who might still be with us today, had other actions been taken.

I want to stress that I’m no expert, hence my suggestion of review.

Should anybody be charged for Mr Floyd’s death? That again, is a matter for investigators to answer, not me.

But the point is this. If every case cited were entirely valid—and you may rest assured, the vast majority seem not to bethe numbers would still be negligible.

Does that mean action shouldn’t be taken in the cases found to have issues of one sort or another? In fact, even when it appears there are no problems, investigations should be the norm to ensure nothing untoward happened.

Put another way, when police-involved deaths occur, someone should be going behind to ensure no wrongdoing occurred.

In the end though, there appears to be no data to indicate that any police department is systemically racist in their dealing with various situations.

Where you can say the numbers on a percentage basis are higher, in terms of black deaths to white ones, for example, seeing the body-cam footage does a great deal to explain why that’s true. Black folks are sadly far more prone to act in inappropriate ways when dealing with law enforcement.

This says nothing about the idea that black people—most particularly when considering the percentage of the population at large they represent—seem to be more inclined to be involved in various kinds of criminal activity; and this appears to definitely be true where violent crime is concerned.

Regardless all of this, any loss of life is tragic. Be the decedent a murderer, a violent criminal of some sort, whatever. You can be completely sure, most people don’t want to see another human being killed when it can be avoided.

It would take pretty simple survey to confirm this is the case. For most folks, color is not a factor either. There’s a general bad feeling about having any human being die unnecessarily, at the hands of cops or not, race aside.

Even though I want to be clear, that unwarranted death of anyone by anyone is largely counted unacceptable, I need for folks to understand, why I’m writing the piece I currently am. I’m not doing it in order to say, “I told you so.” Why am I writing it? Because years of experience have made certain things clear to me, I want others to realize. One such thing is this. Protracted unrest even for valid reasons, will cause the public at large to become weary. If it’s not for good cause or if it’s violent in nature, this process will likely be faster, and the resultant backlash, more rapid, and harsher.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Religion and Politics – Religion and Politics

Imagine there were a set of religious beliefs in which it’s not only permissible to lie, it’s considered more or less mandatory so to do in certain circumstances. Now imagine a there’s large percentage of the population who consider themselves adherents to this belief set.

Does such a group actually exist? Frankly, that’s pretty much immaterial. It would certainly be problematic if they did, but for the time being, this what is referred to as a “thought exercise.”

Put another way, if nothing else, to remove bias, we’re assuming the possibility without naming names; or even implicitly pointing the finger at a specific group.

Now imagine the lies told, could be related to things a given believer may work toward achieving whilst in political office.

Sounds scary, no? Well if it doesn’t to you, rest assured it does to me.

The final piece of this puzzle, is that we further must have a person from this particular group, running for political office of some sort.

Nothing here is too difficult to believe, at least not for me.

Where it might be reasonable to argue that such a person would be “found out” because he would’ve lied in past, about certain things, it’s also reasonable to say just about anybody on the planet could be accused—generally correctly—of lying at one time or another.

There are arguments to the effect that both people currently running for the highest office in our land, are at least regular, if not habitual liars. Whether those making statements to that effect are to believed or not, is beside the point.

The reality is, it’s typically not unreasonable to state that everybody has propagated untruth at one point or another—possibly in the very recent past.

It also tends to be true that the official doctrine of a given cohort of those claiming to hold to a specific ideology is substantially different to what makes its way to the public.

Consider that, it at least was I believe, literally counted unconstitutional to practice Scientology in Germany at some point. Why? Because the German government held that it was “not a real religion.” Additionally there was an argument that what they put forth about themselves, was not what they actually held true and correct.

I bring this up because, there are currently similar strictures being considered right here in the United States for different reasons. In fact, such bans have been in place in past for essentially the case I raised (being more or less mandated to lie in certain circumstances), among others.

So the person holding with the ideals in question makes his way to some political office. Having done so, he seeks to further the agenda of those he counts brothers and sisters in his worldview.

He wasn’t put in office for that purpose; rather, he was elected to that position with the express intent that he represent all in the region that put him in it.

You may argue at this juncture, that this is exactly the point of not allowing people in such jobs, who’re likely to use their position, to forward their personal, religious beliefs, if you will.

Now let’s select another person to talk about for a moment. We’ll discuss a woman who is upright inasmuch as she’s able to be so. She too, holds a set of beliefs; one of them being to not lie even if telling the truth means you or your little cadre are seen in a bad light as a result.

Further, within her core tenets for existence, is the idea that you treat others as you would like and expect to be treated (read here, “with respect, dignity, honesty and love”).

Which of these two would you elect to a position of authority, were you fully apprised of their beliefs?

There’s little doubt in my mind which I would choose.

There are those who argue personal beliefs have no place in the public lives of those serving the people. You’ll forgive my saying so, but if you truly hold to some way of looking at the world, how can you not have the things you count true and proper, work their way into your life outside your home and “church?”

Further, for those selecting people for official activities, can you really expect they’re going to ignore obvious flaws inherent to a given foundational position?

As such, can you expect them to ignore that somebody holds that worldview?

When it comes down to it, the idea that we all ought to toss our views by the wayside when we either run for or choose an individual for a given occupation, is a very bizarre one indeed.

What makes it even odder, is the assumption that we can do so to begin with. What do you suppose that says about what we hold dear?

Would you argue that, if we have religious or philosophical beliefs, we should refrain from running for any kind of office, or voting? I would hope not.

At the very least, in doing so, you consent to almost certain disenfranchisement of various constituents.

Fact is, if their views are in the minority, folks are already at risk for not feeling themselves included in the system.

Just imagine being a Quaker, looking at the current political climate in this country. Much the body politic, serves to employ virtually nothing you count reasonable and proper; and you can bet they’re far from alone in that.

The idea that the intention of the statement(s) in places like the U. S. Constitution forbidding a state sanctioned religion, also means that one ought to ignore beliefs when either running for a given public position, or voting for folks when they do so, is one I will never understand.

People should be expected to apply the terms of their ideology to pretty much everything they do. If that’s true, how exactly do you propose it’s reasonable for them to not select leadership on that same sort of basis?

You may have come to the conclusion that beliefs based on faith have no place in the public square. You should be aware that nowhere is such an idea ensconced in the founding documents of the United States. In fact, the Founders seemed to be quite intent on making decisions on that basis.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Government at the Lowest Level – Religion and Politics

I can’t imagine any of the Founders, or even people of their generation, looking into the present state of the federal government of the United States, and not being aghast at what they saw.

I think even among those who favored a more powerful national governmental entity, there would be serious question as to where we are at present.

It seems to me, it would be the perfect moment in time for those who didn’t support a robust countywide entity, to turn to those who did, and with a loud voice, issue those hated words, “I told you so.” One can imagine the sense of vindication, tinged with sorrow for what has come to be.

The fact is, it’s somewhat surprising that in our current “health crisis,” people didn’t try to pass some sort of national emergency mandate, officially locking down the entire country, requiring mask wear, and social distancing.

I largely credit two things for the fact that hasn’t occurred, and neither, sadly, is the U. S. Constitution directly.

Those two factors, are the sitting president, and the fact that one house of the Congress, is controlled by Republicans.

I could be wrong, but I pretty strongly believe, were it not for those two things, the picture might be drastically different.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that particularly the Republican president is part of the reason for the existing machinations where COVID-19 is concerned to begin with.

There appear to be some number of folks, who would love to see him ousted from office right now; and barring that, losing the election so he won’t be in office, another four years.

How large that number actually is, remains to be seen. I believe it will become obvious in some measure in the upcoming election. Of course, if he wins the electoral college but doesn’t win the popular vote—which is at least a little likely, though there may be some unexpected changes there—his opposition will shout that it’s time for another intentional mandate, to cease to be.

Truth is, they’ve been making that pitch for some time now in the more extreme parts of that group.

Here’s the funny bit though. If the federal government were not seen as horribly bloated by areas of the country that tend to lean rightward, there’s a better chance folks would be more inclined to be willing to accept even a potential center-left candidate in the office of the president.

The sad reality though, is that those on the left, not only don’t seem to have an interest in reducing the size of the government on a national level, it appearss to be their desire to grow it even bigger.

The result is that most folks who consider themselves conservatives, are pretty much in direct opposition to the idea of those who count themselves progressives having any serious control on a federal level. And thinking about what happens when that’s allowed to occur, considering what they would have be true, who can blame them?

On the other side of the equation though, are the more progressive folks. They see the attitudes and actions of conservative lawmakers and those who support them, as a pretty strong impediment to the enactment of their desired agenda as well.

The result seems to be a country where, on the national level, there’s a pretty large rift between conservatives and progressives. The dividing space appears to be generally empty.

I have to admit, it’s hard to understand why those of a more progressive viewpoint don’t seek to implement the things toward which they’re working on a more local level.

Doing so, since they tend to be pretty restricted in terms of the parts of the country in which they’re found, would generally not be a problem for those of a more conservative bent.

The truth is, on reflection though, I think I can understand what drives them for the most part.

To begin with, they have implemented more heavy handed controls on those areas over which they have sway, and successful or not, that means the expectation they do so at those levels is far less meaningful.

The other problem is, they believe that doing so on a national level, one presumes, would allow all parts of the country to receive the “benefits” of their philosophy and political theory.

This, to me is one of the major differences between the two groups.

Conservatives seem to feel that they’ve no right to push their way of doing business on the “other side.” That’s an easy thing on all but the national stage, since their general desire is ostensibly to reduce the size of government at every level.

At the lower levels, that’s generally fine, since they tend to live in parts of the country not largely inhabited by those on the left.

For those at the highest levels of government though, there’s a general tendency for progressive folks to enact the same sorts of policies that they already have lower down the chain.

Considering that even entities like the former USSR, claimed to embrace the “soviet” model which itself seems to enfold a concept of government at lower levels, it’s still an odd thing to me, that leftists desire to have a strong federal governmental entity.

One thing’s sure, as long as conservatives and those on the left, share power on the national stage, there will continue to be combat over the best way to run the country as a whole.

For my part, I strongly favor a huge reduction of the size of the national government, and think that’s true for more conservative folks in general.

I realize that puts a target on my back that’s not likely to go away, since I stand in pretty direct disagreement with those who count themselves my opposition.

What that means is, I don’t believe it’s likely things will improve any time in the near future.

So you may think (if you’re progressive in what you believe), that a large, robust federal government is a desirable thing. I’m quite sure you’ll find those on the conservative side have no such perspective. This dichotomy means that—unless we can all learn civility—there will continue to be name-calling and saber rattling on both sides of the aisle for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.