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But Should I Post This On Facebook – Religion and Politics

Matthew 15

10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?

13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.

16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?

17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

I have made it a habit to not quote Christian scripture on this blog. I have a few reasons for this, among them:

  1. For those of you who happen to be Christians, you ought to be reading Scripture and getting from it all the good that in it lies. That’s not really a process that needs to involve me most of the time.
  2. Where scripture is powerful and the wording more than careful, saying the same things over and over tends not to produce the effect most folks desire. Put simply, people respond badly to folks saying the same things in the same way continually. That’s an unfortunate but true thing in my experience.
  3. Scripture is “designed” to be taken exegetically. That is to say, you really ought not take pieces out of the Bible and “feed them” to folks, as it was intended to be take as a whole, and not in bits.

For this post, I have chosen to “break my own rule” because, quite frankly, I’m unable to say this better.

I could try to “dumb it down,” by saying something like, “What goes in is absorbed by the body, or comes back out in some form. What comes out (in terms of ideas, concepts and other communication) shows what’s inside.” And that’s not terrible, but it doesn’t do the job as well as the “original.”

I well understand that Jesus expressed ideas that had been uttered well before His coming to Earth (speaking of the physical manifestation). I also “get” that in many instances, what He said directly parroted (by intent) the statements of others. Regardless, what was said here was pretty well put.

I would think it would be patently obvious how this relates to the subject at hand, but I’m aware that what seems plain to me, may not be so clear to others reading my blog. Because this is true, let me now try to explain.

When you post or repost or share something on Facebook—or frankly, any social media or any place else—people see what you say and more.

Those looking on don’t just see the text or image, they get a glimpse of the heart and mind posting or otherwise sharing what is put out there.

There are arguments in both “directions” as to whether or not this is a good thing. On the one hand, it exposes those who are probably not “worthy to be followed” as what they are. On the other hand, people decide that they like or should follow others without a real understanding who those others are and will often do so for prolonged periods of time without really considering who they are supporting.

There are a couple of things that make this worse:

  1. The absolutely huge amount of information the average person using the Internet “ingests” on a daily and ongoing basis. The term that I find most befitting is “information overload.”
  2. There are people out there who take absolute pleasure in molding that which is worthless or even harmful, into packages that seem attractive to the unaware and uninformed.

There’s another Biblical concept that comes into play as well, it is the idea of “coarse jesting.” Many people assume this only applies to that which is bawdy or lewd. I submit to you that this is not the case. People will see things said as jokes—things that are no more than random thoughts, with no intent that they be believed or followed—and “take them to heart.” This is particularly true if the one or ones bandying them about are folks they respect.

You’ll never hear me say, by way of example, “This politician can only be stopped by a bullet.” I won’t even use that expression in jest. The reason is simple, there are others looking on who will not realize that was what I was doing or who will think it a true and proper thing, even though I didn’t intend it in that way. Obviously, this is an extreme example, there are other things that have been said that seemed harmless to those saying or repeating them. Rest assured, they are not.

I’m quite sure there are those out there that will just “laugh what I’m saying off.” I’m sorry that’s the case, but equally aware it likely is. For those sufficiently open to heed what I’m trying to get across, I hope you will begin to ask yourself a simple question. That question would be, “Should I really post, share, or otherwise support the propagation of what I’m putting out there?” And this should apply “across the board.”

I have been “guilty of” posting frivolity on Facebook, and now and again; I will continue to do so. If I do though, count on me running it through a “core belief processor” before doing so.

I strongly advise you do likewise.

Okay, at my “limits,” as such, allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you for reading.

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Taxes the Short and Long—Religion and Politics

Tax season is another time when age and experience rears its sometimes-ugly head.

Though I’m not a person who fears doing my yearly income taxes, I am a person who knows it will not be the type of event it was when I was a much younger, generally not nearly as well paid individual as I tend to be today.

I don’t think anybody will try to argue that—even with the comparative ease of e-filing—filling out tax forms is anything like fun. The thing is though, when you’re young, the chances are, you can count on some sort of “refund” from the tax authorities.

I’m that guy who has more taken out of his check intentionally, so that he never has to be worried about the “tax man” wanting him to pay more in taxes than he already has. I know, I know, that’s money I could have been investing, or spending, whichever was more reasonable at the time. On the other hand, if I “overpay,” I never “get in bad with” the IRS. The result is, at the end of the year, I still get a nice little “bonus” in that I have essentially “used” the authorities as a “no interest savings account” for a part of my income.

Again, were it not for the concern that they would tell me I owed more than I paid, this would not be the case. Since it’s a distinct possibility, it is the case, and so far, doing this had kept me out of paying more at the end of the year.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this. The answer is, I do end up paying taxes in the course of the average year.

“Wait, isn’t that the case for everybody?” You ask.

Here’s what a lot of folks don’t understand about paying taxes (particularly on a federal level). What’s important is not the “short” game, but the long one.

Allow me to explain.

You see, the average person spends their time with “blinders on.” They look at that pay stub (electronic or physical) and grouse about the fact that they’re paying taxes, and that they “have no choice” but to do so, since their employer takes the money out of their pay before they ever see it. This sounds reasonable, but in reality, their missing what happens in the long term.

Let me take just a second to make something crystal clear. Those entities that collect the monies that are paid in taxation—yours and others—do not, in fact likely can not invest that money in any way. By “invest,” I mean, “Take the monies collected and put them into some sort of vehicle that will be used to make more money on that collected.” In other words, I am not trying to argue that investment in things like roads, bridges and schools doesn’t occur—just that such “investments” are really not investments in strict financial terms.

Yes, they do make it possible to get to work faster. Yes they do make it so there are fewer with so minimal education that they can only do menial tasks. I’m not trying to refute such ideas here.

The truth is, I’ve spent too much time on this already, and can’t take the time to get into much more than what I’ve already said. So let me get back to the “real reason” for this post.

The process of filling out tax forms at the end of the year—as comparatively easy as it has become—is still a “deer-in-the-headlights experience” for most folks. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to understand the concepts that “drive” the tax forms, and frankly, the less complex it has become to me. For the “young and green,” that’s mostly not the case.

Many of us have heard people who say things like, “Forty six percent of all U.S. citizens do not pay taxes.” When we look at our pay stub, we think ourselves justified when we call those people out as liars! The problem though is, the pay stub only reports part of the reality.

As we’re all painfully aware, at the end of the year (or more correctly, the beginning of the year that follows), we have to deal with taxation again, or do we?

If you look at the forms that report your income and what you’re taxed at the end of the year, it appears that you have paid some seemingly pretty substantial amount of your income in taxes.

The thing is though, when you fill out that tax form, a good number (perhaps the majority) of all filers get a “refund.” Some have to pay in and some “break even,” but the number of each is typically comparatively small.

Last year, between what I paid in over the course of the year, and what I got back in “refund,” I still paid a pretty substantial amount of money to the IRS. The thing is though, for many paying taxes, this is not the case.

If roughly forty six percent of the populous of the United States were to look at what they paid in, and compare that to what they received in refund, at the very least, they would see that they ended up paying nothing or next to it. That is to say in most cases, if they paid in two thousand dollars, they got at least a two thousand dollar “refund.”

I’m not begrudging these people their situation. Many of them make little enough, that they truly cannot afford to pay taxes. The point though, is that they don’t end up paying any taxes.

The truth is, some percentage (and I’m not clear on what this number looks like), not only get everything back that was paid in, they get more (through things like Earned Income Credit).

This is where the main argument the the current federal taxation system “redistributes wealth” comes from. If people are getting more “in refund” than they ever paid in, then they’re not just getting a refund, they’re getting a refund and an additional government payment. That money came from somewhere other than the individual receiving it.

As with the idea that spending money on some things qualifies as “investment,” I am not arguing the “merit” of this process. Rather, I am making it clear that the process occurs.

Okay, I am out of space and time, though I really have a great deal more I could say. As such, allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you for reading.

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No, It’s Not the Same – Autism

There are a couple of traits that the majority of humanity—at least among the folks I have known in the course of time—seem to have somewhat in common. They are, a desire to find similarities, and a tendency towards “one-upmanship.”

These two tendencies, frankly, make it that much harder to explain Autism to folks who don’t know what you’re talking about.

When a person displays the first of these (the desire to find similarities), they will downplay or “shift” the things about which one speaks when one talks about characteristics found in Autistic folks. I know these actions are not intentional by and large, but they still have far less than desirable results.

For example, imagine that you tell somebody that, “My child went through a period when they made google eyes at people; followed by one when everyone they didn’t know was basically furniture; and are now in a place where some unknown folks are almost an obsession to be around, and others are entirely uninteresting to the point of wanting to harm them when they encroach on that child’s space.” You would think folks would say, “Wow! That’s not what I would expect out of most kids, without a doubt.”

Instead, many if not most folks tend to respond, “Oh yeah, I (or my child, or my cousin, or my friend, etc.) was like that too!” This means one of two things:

  1. Either the person didn’t understand or
  2. The person about whom they say this is probably Autistic.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that most of the people in question are not Autistic.

That means—more likely than not—the individual didn’t understand. In general, I like to think this is because my child (or another Autistic person) didn’t “fit neatly into” the experiences of the person in question. As a result, they tried to “fit” the Autistic individual into a place into which they don’t go.

The other tendency, is to “shift things.”

Imagine relating the following to somebody. “My child had to have his jacket and gloves on when it was ninety-three degrees out.” Only to have them respond by saying something like, “Oh yeah! My kid did that too.” What that person fails to realize is, it isn’t something my kid just did, it was literally something they felt the need to do to the degree that they were willing to argue over doing it for an hour or more, or have a major meltdown over not being able to do it that didn’t abate until they were allowed to proceed or they were a blubbering mess, melted on the floor.

The individual here was not trying to do anything problematic. Nonetheless, they managed to do just that. 

Then there are the “one-uppers.” These are the people who think that what they have done or experienced is somehow “more than” what you’re talking about

Imagine that you’re talking to someone and you say, “My son would stand at a given door for hours. He would open that door, go through it, close it, open it again and go through it literally for all that time.” Only to have them say something like, “Well I spent two days in line waiting for a Harry Potter book to come out.” Well, that seems to be more “extreme.” The problem though, is that the person in question could have walked away at any time, but made the choice not to do so.

With my son though, again, removing him from that situation would have resulted in a meltdown or a couple of hours of argument, in which he shrieked about why he had to get back to the door.

What I’m trying to “get at” here, is that the responses folks give when hearing about Autistic folks, makes it crystal clear, they “don’t get” what I’m trying to say.

Here’s the problem, in writing, I can take a thousand words to say what I have in my mind. When discussing things face to face, I don’t have that luxury.

This certainly points to the idea that I need to “up my spoken game.” That is to say, I need to get better at verbal communication, such that people have a harder time misunderstanding or misconstruing what I’m saying.

That being said, I’m going to make a little wager. I’m going to bet that I am far from the only person who has problems expressing things to folks unfamiliar. In fact, I would be surprised to hear that most folks dealing with Autistic people on any serious level don’t have the same problem.

That would be why I’m putting this together right now.

When people talk to you about “special needs” folks (in my case, Autism for the most part), they’re not looking to hear your “similar experiences.” They’re trying to express to you the difficulties they experience most likely on an ongoing basis, so that you may come to have some understanding of what they have to deal with that you don’t.

When you try to “relate to” them, what you’re actually likely doing is anything but what they desire out of you. Rather, what they want you to do, is to realize how you (and people you know not dealing with a special needs person) don’t have similar experiences by and large.

If they’re like me, they’re not doing that to make you feel sorry for either themself or the special needs person. Rather, their interest is in giving you a “window into their world.” A big part of the reason I want to do this, is to get you to understand how better to relate to the special needs individual—and potentially, to others like them.

Being honest, I would far rather people hearing what I have to say did one thing above all others, ask questions. “So you’re saying it was virtually impossible to get your child away from a door for two hours without a full-on meltdown?” Would be a wonderful example (by the way, the answer is resoundingly “Yes! That is what I’m saying!”).

Am I saying it’s not possible you can one up me? Am I saying you don’t have a “relatable experience?” I am saying neither thing. All I’m saying is, “What’s important to me, is to pass along information that will make it easier for you or your children to understand my special needs “charge.”

Okay, here we are again at the end of time and space for another blog entry. As usual, I hope your time is good and that you have enjoyed reading.

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More On Immigration Policy – Religion and Politics

I supposed it’s absolutely possible, that there are people out there who have no inkling of current events. As such, the folks in question would be entirely unaware of questions of United States border security and immigration policy and law.

That being said, I believe the majority of folks in the U.S. are aware of what’s happening on that front; most particularly since it has been so strongly “thrust into the limelight.”

I wanted to take just a moment to address a couple of concepts surrounding these issues. The thing is, I don’t just want to address the problems. Rather, I want to talk about these concerns in a way that is internally consistent, the hope being that it’s not just me for whom this is the case.

To begin with, it has been said by some folks that, many of the people preaching the ineffectiveness of a “border wall” have surrounded their own properties with walls.

The truth is, even if they had not done so (and most of them have absolutely no argument against the idea that they have), they still have walls on their houses, locks on their doors and windows, and often, expensive security systems in their homes.

I want to make it clear, nobody with the least amount of sense is “blaming” them for securing that  which they have managed to come to be in possession. We all tend to do that—granted, sometimes to our own detriment.

I can’t imagine a more reasonable thing than to apply this to “larger possessions,” like countries. The truth is, I can’t imagine being alone in that either. The “capital of” the Catholic church is surrounded by walls. Whole countries have walled off large portions of their borders. The point being, you’ll get no argument from me, that this is “reasonable policy,” either personally, or for a nation.

Having made that plain, allow me now to discuss a couple of the arguments that have been made against “reinforcing the border.”

Before I do that, let me first say that parts of the border are already secured using methods similar to the ones presently being discussed (walls of varying types being the preeminent among them); And the “problem for” those not supporting such solutions is the pretty strong evidence that they work. San Diego is often cited as an example of just how well they work.

Obviously, no solution is going to deal with every potential problem, and there’s no doubt this is true for the type of border security currently on the table.

This brings us to what I will address as the “first argument against” the currently proposed measures. That being that—essentially—“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Or placed in another more directly applicable phrasing, “People who want to do so badly enough, will find a way into the country, wall be damned.”

On the face of it, this sounds like a pretty reasonable argument. The problem comes when you consider that people still put walls on their houses, locks on their doors and windows, have security systems, and often generally wall off their personal property. It may not be so obvious to some, but the point is, there are people out there who can and will defeat such measures (some being able to easily do so).

The obvious question is, “Does that stop you from putting locks on your door and locking those locks?” The equally obvious answer is, quite simply, “No.” No need for undue emphasis here.

Boiling it down, the fact that people can and will find ways to access that to which they have no right, doesn’t stop people from seeking and working to protect it—nor should it.

At the very least, it will make them less of a target. At the best, it will keep them from ever having to know things like the dread of home invasion.

On to the second (and, I think for this article, last) point.

There are a good many people who seem to fail at an important realization. If you break into someone’s house, and steal things. You will likely be charged with various crimes; most would argue this is rightfully the case. You will stand in a court, in all likelihood, for breaking and entering, theft (potentially felony theft), trespassing, and potentially, for other related crimes.

By the same token, there are laws that say coming into the United States without permission, or staying when it is not proper so to do, are punishable offenses. And I should point out that, pretty much every other nation in the World has similar laws.

Again, such protections are not considered by most to be unreasonable.

The point here, is that those coming into the U.S. using other than sanctioned methods, and those staying in the U.S. past the point at which they are no longer “welcome” (without some strongly extenuating circumstances) are in breach of law. Put another way, the very act of coming or staying here, is illegal—hence the term, “illegal alien.”

That way of saying things was intended to be a descriptor of their state, not some far-out attempt to stigmatize the person or persons in question.

Everyone can recognize that there are times when one is at least tempted to break (and potentially continue to break) the law. This is particularly true when one is desperate. Nonetheless, when one breaks the law, one should expect suitable and prescribed remedies to at least possibly apply to them.

My contention is that the United States is relatively soft on those who break such laws as a rule. We try to be humane, and I think we largely manage so to do.

One more thought to wrap this up. I’ll sum it up in a question, “Would you ask a thief whether or not he or she should be punished for his or her thievery?” I think most will consent to the idea that this is not how things ought to work.

To take this a step further, would you ask a person in favor or support of thievery whether or not thieves should be legally punished for their activities (again, barring extenuating circumstances)? Again, I think the answer would be a solid, “No.” In most folks’ book.

Okay, here we are at the “time and word limit”—and just in time!

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

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Things Are Not People – Religion And Politics

You would think the title of this article would be sufficient to “snap a bunch of folks out of” a behavior I have noticed appears to be becoming more and more prevalent over the course of time.

That behavior is to treat things as if they were people.

I can understand when people ascribe the properties more or less solely the province of personhood to animals—particularly the ones that appear to be more intelligent. I can understand it even if I don’t agree with it. In the case of animals, they are at least animate. This makes it so it can be assumed there is some level of thought occurring and expected with the animal in question.

Though things can be done to test, and observations can be made, to determine the apparent level of ability based on mental cognizance of a non-human entity, at least at this point in history, communication sufficient to confirm what’s happening is extremely limited. The result is, healthy skepticism should be employed when making any assumptions as to the relative mental acuity of any such animal.

Does that mean they lack intelligence? I have said, nor intended to imply no such thing. That being said, one of the first “truths” of science is that things are constantly changing in terms of what we understand and don’t. The result is that things we believed to be true a relatively short time ago, we now either question or outright denounce as fantasy or fallacy. Obviously, there are a fair few things that have not “changed” in terms of human understanding over the course of time; that doesn’t mean many of them won’t be challenged at some point, just the same.

With flora, it’s even harder to determine whether or not there are “mental processes” of some sort occurring. Far be it from me to state the impossibility of such things. On the other hand, dealing with things in more critical ways, I refuse to simply accept on the face of things that they are, either.

I want to keep an open mind for both fauna and flora, but keeping an open mind does not mean “blanket acceptance” of what some folks have decided is true, even based on apparent observation and experimentation.

I have often used the example—true or false—of the “scientist, measuring” the relative intelligence of folks of European familial origin, against those of African heritage to demonstrate just how important it is to be careful to not just accept what appears to be valid, complete research.

The story goes something like this:

A fellow is tasked with determining the relative mental abilities of individuals from Europe or of that “family,” as compared to people of African origins.

He performs a series of “measurements” and comes to the conclusion that people of European extraction are typically substantially more intelligent than those historically from Africa.

His research appears promising, so a group of scientists from other facilities come to perform “peer review” on his work.

The original researcher explains his methodology thus. “I start with the assumption that the larger the cranial cavity of a given specimen, the more intelligent that specimen will likely have been. With this in mind, I measure the cavity using lead shot (the type that was used in muzzle loaded rifles). I fill the cavity with the shot, then pour it out onto this scale. The heavier the result, the greater the anticipated intelligence of the entity with the measured cavity.”

The other scientists start out as open-minded as possible. Even so, the assumption that, to begin with, intelligence can be determined by the size of the brain, much less the cavity surrounding it, is noted as “shaky ground.” With that in consideration, they decide it is still worth their time to continue the peer review.

They watch as the scientist doing the “experiment” pours lead shot into the cranial cavity of an African subject. He quickly dumps it in, and pours it out onto the scale.

Now it’s time to do the same for the skull of a European. The researcher dumps in the shot, carefully tamps it down, and dumps in more. He continues this process until the skull is as full as possible. He then moves it from the cavity to the scale.

Of course, the weight is greater.

At this point, the peer review is invalidated, and the peer reviewers go home.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the research was “tainted” on multiple levels.

Firstly, the researcher presupposed things that were not inherently true, in that the size of a given brain, or the cavity that contains it, is a way to measure intelligence.

Additionally, he was obviously biased in his or her measurement! A trained researcher may spot many more errors in the “research cited,” but I think the two flaws listed are more than enough to invalidate the conclusions.

The point is obvious. Healthy skepticism is not just reasonable, it is essential. One ought not accept what folks are saying just because they seem to have credentials that indicate they are qualified to say it.

To this point, I have been discussing the idea of ascribing “human qualities” to living things. I make a differentiation between that which is living, that which is animate with definite purpose. It can be argued, by way of example, that a tornado or a hurricane is “animate.” The obvious “next question” probably should be, “Animated by what?”

Where a person like myself, who might make an argument for a “Higher Power,” might also make an argument that such a power might cause various “natural disasters” to occur as a result of some higher plan that is not understood or is questionably understood, those who are not believers would have a much harder time doing so, I would think.

Additionally, we should discuss the idea of things that don’t move naturally of their own accord. It is hard to imagine how folks attempt to imbue such things with human (or at very least, animal) attributes.

The point of all of what I have said is simple. I can understand wanting to “personalize” situations and circumstances. That being said, I cannot consider that a basis to attempt to turn things into that which they are not. That means, things like treating animals as human, or inanimate objects as living, reasoning things is somewhat beyond my ability to understand or accept.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t tend to think so.

As usual, more to say, but out of time and space to say it. Thanks for reading and may you happen upon good times. 

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Yes, Chances Are Good They Already Know – Religion And Politics

Anybody having read any of the blog posts I have taken the time to craft is probably aware that I typically take somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand words for each article. I do this for a number of reasons.

The first reason is, I know that the average person is not “up for” reading very much at any given time. I assume this is a result of a number of potential factors, but choose to believe one of the most important is that they lack the time, plain and simple.

I know well it can be argued that even the thousand word limit is too great. The problem is, I’ve seen too much “damage” done by less. To put it simply, most folks these days, have taken to regurgitating clever sounding “sound bites” that are—being blunt—often barely worth the bandwidth employed to fetch them—much less repeat them.

This leads to my second reason—though not my last, the last one I will cite in this post—that being that I desire to present some level of support and basis for what I say; a thing it seems to me, can hardly be done in less space.

About now, you’re probably wondering what on Earth this has to do with the title of this post, and you’re not wrong to ask. The former is a touch of digression that I’m using to explain part of what brought me to write this article.

You see, I was perusing my Facebook “feed” when I came across a clever sounding argument against dismissing workers from a given employment position based on abuse of various substances.

The essence of this (too) short piece of text was, “If you have to test to determine whether a person is (ab)using drugs or alcohol, it’s because you don’t really know it’s the case.”

The problem is that this is “faulty logic.” You see, more often than not (probably most of the time, in point of fact), the folks requesting the testing do already know—or at least they strongly suspect—that abuse is occurring.

You can try to argue that random testing and “blanket” testing make no sense if this is true. Doing so though, would be a sign that you lack understanding of the current environment.

You see, companies most commonly “blanket” test (including pretty much everyone) on hiring folks. In doing so, they limit the potential “damage” of incoming folks abusing various substances, and as a result, causing various issues for the business for whom they are trying to go to work.

When that’s not the case, they tend to be trying to avoid being taken to court by people for various kinds of discrimination (sexual, racial and others). If they test a “set of” folks, the chances are good they will be of various ilks, so such testing seems inherently fairer. In truth, it wastes the time of employees who likely would never consider abusing various substances, but that’s life in the current business climate. In other words, without creating yet more problems, it is hard to avoid using tactics of this sort.

Random testing is often done on the same basis. If I do things from a more-or-less “lottery” perspective—unless it can be proved to be “rigged”—I cannot easily be accused of discrimination.

Truth be told though, most of the time, when people are abusing various substances (and yes, I do include alcohol in the list), employers are already well aware that people who are using are, well, using and abusing substances. They just need to be careful, lest the fall into the “you’re discriminating against me,” trap.

What’s maybe a little funnier is that employers in many states are being charitable when they drug test folks, and to their own detriment. How do I come to that conclusion? Allow me to take a moment to explain.

In many states in the United States, it’s pretty much legal for an employer to fire an employee giving no reason when he or she does so. This means that if you miss work or fail to perform according to expectations, your employer has no requirement to tell you that’s why you’re being escorted out the door. They can just as well say, “I don’t think you’re a good fit for our company.” Or something equally vague.

On the other hand, if an employer drug tests an employee, and finds they are not abusing any substance–given that there are conditions that resemble substance abuse, when that’s not what’s actually happening—they have the ability to work with the employee to see if they can figure out a way to bring the employee’s performance to a “reasonable level” if they want to keep that employee around.

Here’s the “kicker” though. If a company wants reliable drug testing, they have to either pay a lab for each test, or form a relationship with a lab or other facility so that all testing is covered (there are probably other ways to do this, but the point is the same). At some point, the employer must “pay the piper.” That is, they must pay the entity doing their testing. This costs the company money, and like any expense, somebody must pay.

Whether the employer tacks this additional cost on to what’s paid for their product or service, pays their employees less, or passes the cost on to investors is beside the point. The point is, in some way, somebody pays.

If a company were able to fire an employee for weak performance without worrying about public outcry, or court cases, it’s very likely many of them would be able to, and would cease doing drug tests. Obviously though, most companies don’t think they can do this.

The point is, it’s not that a given employer does or doesn’t know their employees are using and abusing illicit (and frankly, sometimes licit) substances, rather, it is that the level of complexity in the business environment has become overly complex, in part due to overly litigious individuals a good many of whom believe they are “entitled to” various things—not the least of which being employment.

They fail to recognize that an employer has no responsibility to employe them at all. As long as things are allowed to work this way, they will also likely “look like” they do in terms of things like drug testing.

Okay, out of time and words yet again. Have the best of times, and thanks for reading.


Familiarity Doesn’t Breed Contempt – Religion and Politics

I’ve come to the conclusion long titles are harder for people to handle than short ones. As a result, I did my best to keep this one relatively short. If I had made it as long as I would have liked, it would have been “Familiarity Does NOT Breed Contempt; and Absence Does NOT make the Heart Grow Fonder.” Since I was unable to do that while keeping with my own “short title rule,” I thought it might be good to make this the introduction to the article. So, here it is!

I often wonder if I will have enough to say to “fill” a thousand words. The funny thing is, I seldom find that to be a problem in the least. I wondered that about this article, I don’t think it’ll be an issue here either.

One of the sad realities of many “old adages” is, they sound really good, but it turns out, the sound is very nearly the only good thing about them. These two “old gems” are no exception.

The fact is, in the case of both, though they sound fair and reasonable—they even sort of sound “deep”—they’re actually shallow and therefor lack real and meaningful substance. 

The reality is, relationships take work. The reality is, people choose to behave appropriately, or not. The reality is, people in the “current age” have been “sold a bill of goods,” and many of us have bought them. The reality is, but for a few people who have actually figured, or are actually figuring, it out, relationships in the modern day are a highly expendable commodity.

Maybe this is not so new a phenomenon, but it sure seems like it is to me. It truly seems to me that in my scant almost fifty five years of life, I’ve watched as relationships—particularly more serious, long term relationships—have become rarer and rarer. More and more, it appears to me, such relationships end in failure; and if you listen, you’ll find at least one party who swears that it’s all the other party’s fault—if both parties don’t do so!

Don’t get me wrong, there are instances where one or both persons really kill a relationship, and can be “held responsible” for so doing. The problem is, in the majority of instances, it’s not the person or people folks count responsible. Either that, or the reasons are not what folks account them to be.

One of the first problems in long term relationships, is that folks “jump into them” far too quickly. Would it were that folks would take their time, and refuse to rush into such relationships, the World would be far better—if far from perfect—one. And this is more significant when considering that people seem to be living ever longer. As a result, my first piece of advice to young folks seeking to enter into long term relationships is, “Truly, take your time. I know it seems like you have to do things now now now, but if you do, you will likely reap a somewhat unexpected reward, or set thereof.”

Another problem is that folks approach such relationships in an almost cavalier way. It’s not so much that they say things like, “If it doesn’t work out, we can just get a divorce,” or other breach of the relationship, though this does happen, and happen far too often. It’s that they are thinking in the “short term” and not considering what’s likely to happen as their life continues.

So here, by way of example, are two young folks working as wait staff at a local restaurant. They strike up a relationship, not considering that one truly desires to work in food service, where one is doing so in order to “step up the ladder” in the course of time, doing something entirely different. As time and events move, the two realize their ambitions and views on life are not only different, but counterproductive one to the other. Instead of changing for one another, they “stick to their guns.” The both continue to move in the path of their choice, ultimately tearing the relationship apart.

Or perhaps they start in a place that looks much the same—even in terms of what they believe and hold dear and one changes (or both do), and again, the changes work to rend the relationship in a way or in ways that is or are “unfixable.”

The point is, as has been said many times—to the point that it is seen as flippancy or a “pat answer”—relationships take work.

As if this were not complicated enough, things come along that entirely change the character of the relationship. One of the first and most important of these is children. This is particularly true when the children “aren’t normal.” By way of example, I have a moderately Autistic child. Rest assured, he has entirely changed the character of my relationship with my wife.

Please don’t assume I’m saying this is the “only challenge” we face by any means. On the other hand, realize that it’s a pretty serious challenge. How such a challenge will affect a relationship is largely determined by the character of the participants in that relationship.

Another pretty important consideration is where the relationship “finds itself” at the time those in it are dealing with such a challenge. Put another way, when confronted with various challenges, if one or the other (or both) of the parties is not in a place to handle it well, the relationship may well be in serious trouble (if not doomed to die).

Allow me now, to take a moment to impart a bit of wisdom and in the process, sum up this piece.

Please do not “rush into” any type of long term relationship. This is my first “gem of wisdom.”

Realize that relationships are not static. You will  change; your partner will change. It’s already possible the relationship will become irreconcilable if you work to make it work, but not doing so all but guarantees its failure.

Okay, you can be certain I have much more I could say, but here I am at my “self imposed” word limit—and this looks like a good place to “wrap it up for now.” So, may your time be good, and thanks for reading.

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How Long Has That Been Happening? – Religion and Politics

An unfortunate reality surrounding someone being placed in a position of authority, is that he or she is best served by not making “radical changes” on short notice. I’m not saying folks never do this, nor am I saying that when they do so, the results are invariably bad. I’m simply saying that, for the most part, this proves to not make for “good policy,” most particularly because folks who have been in a position for long periods of time—and even many, relatively short periods of time—will very likely be resistant to change.

As if this were not enough, a person taking authority over a large entity may be “responsible for” untold numbers of policies and procedures. And where that person very likely has “priorities” that drive key changes in policy and procedure, and may cause them to change quickly, there are many instances where even they (key policies and procedures) may “slip through the cracks” if there are a large amount of them.

You can be sure that I’m not per se, attempting to excuse errant behavior on the part of the “newly minted” authority figure; nor am I attempting to excuse that behavior when it is on the part of people implementing the existing policies and procedures. I’m simply trying to say that it should be expected that things will “stay in place” that may not be “optimal.” In fact, they may be far from it.

I say this, because I have noted that people want to “blame” such authorities for things that seem to be “occurring on their watch,” and understandably so. I want to make it clear too, that I am not saying that, “Because a policy or procedure was in place when an authority came into their position, means it should not be re-evaluated and possible changed or altogether scrapped.” My entire intent is to say that, “One ought to consider the origins of a given policy or procedure, before attempting to determine where one ought to lay blame for its existence.”

Take for example, U.S. Immigration policy.  Many have said that policies and procedures the which have been in place long before the current administration (and probably the previous one, and so on) took office, are entirely the province and perspective of the current administration. The thing is, for either the current, or former for that matter (or even earlier) administration, where that group did not remove or modify the existing policy, it should be understood that much of it was already in place when they came into office.

Again, does that make the policy in question “good?” By no means! On the other hand, considering the massive number of procedures and policies of various kinds that exist, it can definitely be argued that the sitting or former administration was just “following existing protocol.”

Nobody wants to hear, “I was just following orders.” From a subordinate individual—less yet, do most want to hear, “I just haven’t had the time or inclination to look at the policy with regard to a particular thing.” From “management.” The ugly truth though, is that’s exactly how things often must work. It’s not that a given individual wants to ignore a given treatment or procedure, so much as that they simply don’t have time to review and modify it.

Worse yet, when they do change the way they or their underlings are doing business, there will invariably be both internal and external complaints about the changes. And to make matters a little more interesting, some of those complaints will be from folks who are horribly badly uninformed about what’s occurring and why.

I don’t know whether it’s true, but there’s an old story that I believe talks about a factory in the U.K. The story goes that a piece of paperwork had a box on it that had been there for time immemorial. The box had text near it, but it was entirely unreadable. Somebody teaching another individual what to do with that form told them, “…and in this box, we always place a zero.”

At some point, somebody was rummaging through “master documents” in an old filing cabinet, when they found the “original” for this particular form. On that paper, they were able to read the text that had been so long obscured on the copies since made. It said, “Number of air raids today.”

Of course, this information was “vestigial.” It no longer applied, since the U.K. had not had an air raid since World War II had ended! But because it was easier to just keep entering a zero in the field, that’s what folks continued to do.

I don’t know if the story is true, but assuming it was, it’s possible that even after it was discovered,  the form continued to be reproduced with the box still in place. It’s even possible they continued to fill it out!

The obvious point here, is that the comparative significance of this form was and is likely, tiny when bumped against the “grand scope” of corporate operations—much less of that box.

Now imagine, the company—even if it had hundreds of thousands of employees—would have had less than one percent of the population of a country like the United States. That means that management would have been comparatively easy.

It’s not such an easy thing to run a country, nor even to run a smaller entity like a state. That doesn’t mean heinous or badly errant policy should just be “gone along with.” On the other hand, it does often mean such policy will be in place, and that it’s a good deal harder to “blame” the current authorities for its existence.

I say this to bring it to mind for those who hare likely not considered the truth of this idea. When media or individuals castigate folks in authority for supposed malfeasance, sometimes they’re indicting folks they don’t even realize were involved when decisions were made!

Final point? If you see a policy or procedure in place somewhere, before you “blame the man” currently in charge for it, check to see if you can determine whether they caused that policy to come into being first.

Out of time and “words.” May your time be good and as usual, thanks for reading.