A word from our writer.

Well, at one time, I really wanted this blog to be about social, political, and religious issues. Talk about things in a different way, take something and look at it from an angle people are avoiding. That is why I called it “Peeking through Maya.” This title is a direct reference to the Veil of Illusion from Hindu philosophy. One thing that has bugged me, and often kept me from keeping this blog up like I want is that I keep veering towards politics. However, politics is just so much of what is being discussed anymore. I am just going to say that this is not going to be a regularly updated blog, and it will be updated when I think of something to write that I think I can keep to the theme of the blog. Stay tuned for more updates, though!

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Do no Harm..wait, what?

Wow. Has it really been almost a year since my last post? I apologize and blame the latest round of elections. I had taken a strongly political slant, and I had never wanted this blog to be all about politics. However, I was never able to get my mind away from politics to deal with other topics. So, let me see if I can now start fresh with a new topic.

Among many religions is a principle of non-violence, of what you do coming back to you, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. With the modern re-emergence of many of the old Pagan beliefs, we have gained a modern expression of this ideal in “An it harm none, do what you will.” Of course, this is an added criteria to Mr. Crowley’s “‘Do what thou Will’ shall be the whole of the law. This rule is, actually, the big difference between those Pagans who call themselves Wiccan and those who do not.

Wiccans follow this rede. I would hope many of them put the thought into what it means to “harm none.” Ultimately, everything you do harms someone. Thus, the standard response to that argument will always be “Well, it refers to doing magickal workings and ritual.”  Of course, even this logic falls flat. If you do a working to give a friend good fortune with their job interview, and they get the job because of your working, what about the person who would have gotten the job if not for your intervention? Did you not harm them and their family? I believe that every religion has its conundrum that really exists to cause soul searching. Buddhism has its idea that suffering comes from desire. Christianity actually has its concept of repentance. Islam has its actual concept of Jihad(the holy, internal war against the influences not of Islam, for which each resolution is supposed to be personal). Ultimately, the Wiccan Rede is there, and should be there, to make Wiccans think about their actions, see how they can harm others.

For non-Wiccans, though: what holds them back? The ones who go to Crowley’s Law?They can do what they want, unfettered by anything but their own desires and whims, right?  Not really. You see, Crowley’s Law refers to Will, to your Enlightened Will. This is a concept that there is a something greater then yourself, but also an obligation to yourself. You need to understand that your Will is not just your desires, other wise that is what would have been said. It is the power to mold and shape reality, for good or ill. You cannot choose your desires. It takes concerted effort to exercise your Will. More then that, your Will can be used for good or ill, and your Enlightened Will is the truest expression of yourself.

There is an old song by Kenny Rogers called “The Coward of the County.” It tells the story of a boy who father died in prison, but made his son promise to avoid trouble, turn the other cheek, and basicly just let the world do what it would to him, and not raise a hand against it. In the song, his girlfriend or wife was gang-raped by three brothers, and our hero went and beat the tar out of them. One line that always stuck in my head from this song was “20 years of crawling were bottled up inside him, he was holding nothing back, he let them have it all.”  I have always seen this song as a summation of the three ways things can be done. You had why the hero was called a coward: he would do nothing to cause harm. He stayed to his promise for 20 years. That was not a coward, as it takes someone especially brave to not raise a hand when the world is against you. The Bad Guys were the example of what happens when one uses their Will for bad. Sure, the got what they wanted, but then the hero came and gave them their just desserts. Finally, you have the hero of the song showing that the world was not black and white. You can use your Will to harm others for a Just Cause. There is nothing wrong with it. It also shows that the rule of Three still holds: if you do work for ill, it will come back to you.

Which brings us, ultimately, to the thing that keeps Wiccans and other Pagans and Heathens in check with what they do: the Rule of Three, that everything you do comes back three-times. Some argue this is just magical workings, some say that it is everything, some  say it is just the negative you put out that comes back. However,  the concept exists across the board. Now, since a Wiccan would never do anything that would need them to worry about the negative side, but this rule exists even among them, it is obviously not something they teach just to say “Don’t do bad things.” They likely teach it because of the connections between Gardner and Crowley in many of their magickal practices, and because of their own modification of Crowley’s Law into the Wiccan Rede. Those who’s tradition or philosophy traces back to Crowley are inherently aware of the Rule of Three, because it represents so much more then what you do coming back to you. It represents that point where your Will crosses and interacts with another’s Will. It is the evils of Slavery, Oppression, and  Falsehood. It is also Freedom, Elevation, and Truth. If you work on another, you are doing one of these 6 things to them. You are either enslaving them to your Will or freeing them from the shackles that bind them. You are either oppressing them beneath your heel, or you are elevating them, raising them up from the hardships of the world. You are either blinding them with falsehood, deceiving them to your views, or you are removing the lies of others from their vision, that they may make decisions based on Truth. One one hand, you can be suppressing their Will, subsuming it for your own. On the other hand, you could be assisting them, aiding them in implementing their Will upon the world. To make it even more complicated, there can even be valid reasons to suppress rather then assist. Those who reject the Rede in favor of the Law have much more to think about before they do anything, if they truly understand the Law.

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Post office for medicine?

The biggest obstacle to healthcare reform is the cost of healthcare. Many people look at reducing the cost of healthcare by addressing insurance. One of the issues with health insurance, though, is that to be profitable, insurance companies do not want to have to pay out, and so will try to do everything they can to deny claims. Addressing insurance is not going to solve the issues with affordable healthcare for every American. So what will?

One possibility is to do away with private medical practice and private hospitals. Currently, many of the costs of medical care are administrative. Does it really, for example, cost 9,000 dollars to transport someone from one hospital to another only an hour away? Does a tylenol really cost 40 dollars for a hospital? With all these institutions being private, corporate, for-profit organizations, it will always be an issue.

However, what if we made all hospitals, all doctors part of a centralized organization? What it we made the costs for everything directly based on the cost to perform the procedure? How much money could be saved just by saving doctors from having to pay out the administrative costs. From there, comes a standardization of pricing across the board. If, say, we paid doctors 40 dollars an hour, but they usually had 2 patients an hour, so we charge the patients 30 dollars for a basic office visit. If you have an 8 hour operation, you can figure that it would be a minimum of 480 for the surgeon and 480 for the anesthesiologist, plus the cost of the supplies, plus the cost of the nurses and assistants for the operation. This would still make it cheaper then current where such procedures could be tends of thousands of dollars.

Perhaps the idea of adding extra to a Doctor’s salary for specialized skills or experience would be useful for encouraging doctors, but that puts us at risk of something similar to now. These sorts of salary modifications would have to be carefully thought out to prevent said doctors from risking insurance companies refusing to pay for a doctor due to his experience.

One further advantage of having a single, centralized agency that all doctors are apart of is that it could easily be organized in a manner similar to the Post Office, where, while it is allowed to make a profit(which is directed to be, in effect, malpractice insurance and to enhance local hospitals and doctors offices), it is paid for entirely by the payments of the patients. It also means that you cannot have a doctor lose his or her license in one state, move to another, and get a new license. This also applies to nurses and other professionals, and would impose set standards across the country for licensing.

Is this possible? Will the Medical Industry allow it? Who knows…but it is something to think about…

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The Tree of Liberty

On May 4, 1970, National Guard fired on students demonstrating peacefully at Kent State in Ohio. This singular event is often attributed as one of the events that led to the Congress and President finally withdrawing the U.S. from Vietnam.

In the past week, Police in Riot Gear pepper sprayed, beat, and in other ways sought to break down the Occupy Oakland protests in Oakland, California, efforts that have been praised by the Mayor of Oakland. At Occupy Washington, though some of Occupy Protestors did cross lines of attacking Tea PartyProtestors, an Occupy Protestor was hit by a car, and the police arrested the Occupy Protesters who were keeping the hit and run driver from getting away, rather then the man who hit the protester.

I normally try to avoid directly political issues, focusing on things that have sides I can look for the lesser thought about angles. This case, though, I see the escalation going on, and fear that we are heading for another Kent State. The scariest thought, though, is that if and when that happens, the people of this nation will not feel outrage. That is assuming that something like that has not already happened, but not been covered by the media. After all, we cannot have anything scary on the news(unless it is something that pushes the agenda of those who are in charge).

The truly disturbing thing is that, unless something changes, an event like Kent State might be the only way for the Occupy Movement to truly have lasting impact on the political discourse. Unfortunately, even then, it might not. Look at Representative Giffords from Arizona..for a couple weeks after her shooting, the political discussion in Washington turned civilized, but it has quickly returned to the same as before. Unfortunately, it seems that, as is often the case, Thomas Jefferson was right. So we can but wait and see when the refreshing of the roots of the tree of liberty will be.

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I can just imagine the screaming…

Some of the big things I hear right now in the news is all about the whole “47% don’t pay taxes” and, of course, the whole “Buffett Rule” thing, and that in order to start getting rid of our debt, we need to increase our government’s income(when people aren’t screaming that cutting spending is all we need to do). Now, as I was driving home one day, I passed one of those thermometer donation tracking things that Churches are so fond of. They were only $500,000 short of the $2 Million they need for their new wing. This, by the way, has been in just a summer. This got me thinking… Why can’t we tax churches?

No, seriously: Sure, they might do all this charity work…for people who believe in what they do. Also, the requirements for a church currently to get its tax exempt paper work done make it hard, if not nearly impossible, for any of lesser religions to get the status. Meanwhile, of course, you have Christians building 2 million dollar auditoriums, or their nice churches with marble and their gold chalices, paying the pastor/reverend/priest enough that they can have new BMWs, large houses, etc. What would taxing churches, regardless of religion, like we would a corporation, hurt other then to encourage them to keep better records. Heck, it might even create jobs by making the churches have to hire accountants to make sure every dime is accounted for.

Best way to handle it, of course, is to treat the church just like we currently treat corporations as a “person.” If a church makes less then a certain amount, can make sure it has deductions for its charitable work(which, of course, must not include any religious indoctrination tied to it), then it doesn’t have to pay taxes. However, honestly, how many churches are going to reach that point? And, either way: getting tax money from the churches or getting them doing effectively the job of medicare/medicaid/foodstamps/welfare….Win-Win for the budget!

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Money, money, where does all the money go?

Coming out of Washington is all sorts of debate on how to decrease the federal debt. They are all throwing out all sorts of various solutions involving cutting spending, raising taxes, what have you. What is a problem with this is that the solutions do not address the reasons for the slow down in the economy that has lead to higher unemployment and less domestics spending.
Among the causes is the simple fact that, for most of the 20th Century, manufacturing for American products was mostly done in the US. In the past couple decades, however, more and more production has gone outside the U.S. While companies like Toyota have been setting up car factories in the U.S., all the products that are the major consumption of the U.S. economy, such as electronics, clothing, toys and games, are mostly made in places like Mexico, China, Korea. Many companies even contract out their phone support to India. This ultimately hurts the ability of people to get jobs of any kind in the United States. If people have these jobs all going outside the U.S., and so, there being fewer jobs available, then, of course, unemployment is going to be a bigger and bigger problem.
Of course, there is another issues linked to this. That many companies in the U.S. now are bringing in foreign workers to do jobs such as housekeeping in hotels, cooking and kitchen work at restaurants and fastfood places, or pretty much any other work at convenience stores, various other menial jobs. Of course, the reasons stated are that “Americans don’t want to do those kinds of work.” After all, these are jobs at minimum wage, and everyone wants to make more money. The problem is that bringing in foreign workers specifically to do these jobs results in the jobs staying at or just above minimum wage, instead of allowing natural market pressure to raise the wages to levels Americans would willingly work for.
Related to the bringing the foreign workers is another issue. Many of these foreign workers, after they pay their rent and bills and food, have money left over. Many of them come from countries like the Phillipines, various South and Central American countries, and various Eastern European countries, where U.S. dollars can purchase alot more then they could in our country. The amount of money these foreign workers have remaining is often sent home to their families. After all, these foreign workers are only going to be here temporarily, so they have little point in being consumers beyond the necessities in the U.S. Thus, the foreign workers end up taking jobs from Americans, and then taking money out of the U.S. economy. With money going abroad, and not staying in the U.S., even if the income is taxed, businesses are not making as much money as they could be, so are able to hire fewer people, and must pay those they hire lower rates.
Now, admittedly, some people will point out that money is not wealth. That instead, wealth is “goods and services.” In essence, money is, effectively, a proxy for the work one does. If you get paid 10 dollars an hour, then your work is worth food for two people at a fast food restaurant. In essence, those 10 dollars are worth those sorts of goods and services. So, money not going into the U.S., money not going to Americans, regardless of the reasons, is taking from our economy by taking the value of our work. Without this money staying in the U.S., people will stay at lower pay-rates, if they are hired at all, because the money is not going into the pockets of those who do the paying.

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Optimus Prime for President! Wait..what?

First, let me apologize for not having posted in….a while. I have a general purpose to try and keep party politics out of this blog(if I talk about something political, it is almost always going to be topics like I have covered so far, topics that can be open discourse and thought provocation for both sides). Recent events have been such that I really would not have been able to discuss what was on my mind without reducing myself to partisan politics.(I do not plan to say anything on my views on the national debt, debt ceiling, Tea PArty, Democrats, Obama, Perry, Romney, Bachmann, etc, ever…that way lies bitterness and anger).

That out of the way, *takes a deep breath*this will be political in nature(if the title had not tipped you off). One thing I kept hearing from both sides in the recent dust-up in Washington was calls for “leadership.” However, no-one has said what they want as leadership. This lead to a friend of mine and I discussing the situation, and we realized something….

Ultimately, the best leader for our country is a fictional character: Generation 1 Optimus Prime! This is the Optimus Prime that was in the ORIGINAL 1980’s cartoon series. This is the leader who, when watching his people being killed responded by driving through the enemy lines(to really cool music), and engaging in single combat with his arch nemesis. He made the tough decision to put the Dinobots in stasis after they went crazy, but later pardoned them when they saved his bacon. This is a leader who was kind and compassionate to those weaker then him, understanding to his subordinates, and utterly convinced that “for evil to win, all that was needed was for good people to do nothing.”

Optimus, though he ultimately made all the decisions, listened to those with more knowledge,and took them into consideration. He could communicate well, as well. He could get his point across to the world governments, the military, and Japanese corporations making killer robot ninja.

But, of all his traits, was one simple thing: When he made a decision, he stuck to it and people listened. Honestly, if the Autobots had elected their leaders, and voted whether or not to follow the ‘bot in charge, I outright believe that Optimus could have said what they were going to do, and would almost always have, through his sheer force of personality, charisma, and CONVICTION gotten the Autobots to follow along.

We, regardless of our party views, want someone like that. We want someone as the President, the speaker of the House, the Majority leader of the Senate, to head of the Local PTA,the Student Body President, what have you, who, when he or she speaks, people LISTEN, they argue for or against, but, ultimately, when the decision is made, it is made, no squabling, no arguing, no looking back and wondering. The Big Bot never looked back, he made his call, and then everyone rolled out, to victory or defeat on their own merits and their belief in the rightness of their cause, the same cause that Optimus was leading them through, regardless of whether or not they believed his decision right or not.

So…Optimus Prime for President!

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