On Taxes

There is a principle which states that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. The stakeholders in government, essentially, are the wealthy. The wealthy and the powerful control the government and enjoy, for the most part, the outcomes that result in the decisions that are made. They are the very ones that should be giving more into the government The rest of the population just tries to get by and hopes that their football team wins. Very few make many demands on the government. It’s mostly the other way around.

Unfortunately, the rich and powerful keep their position by being stingy and egomaniacal. Their goal is to con everyone into believing that it takes herculean efforts to do the simplest tasks – building & maintaining roads (which the Romans managed to do for centuries), educating children (which already relies on dirt-cheap labor forces – teachers are paid a pittance compared to other professionals), and maintaining a meager system to help those who are unable to take care of themselves (a system that is so full of corruption that one can hardly believe that many actual deserving people get any help from it).

The reason the rich and powerful who run the government want it to seem like these are herculean tasks is because they hold a grudge against anything they don’t personally benefit from. These are people who can afford their own personal helicopter pads and fleets of Hummers. Why should they care about the roads? They can afford private tutors for their children. Why should they care about public education? They don’t have to worry about relying on food stamps for their meals. They can hire private chefs.

Meanwhile, those that control the government manipulate systems to acheive the best results for themselves, using the money that the masses provide (from tax revenue to overpriced garbage that the malls sell) towards their own personal gain.

In exchange, the masses get a semblance of security & comfort, the illusion of a democracy, and cable television.

Otherwise, the megalomaniacs fight among themselves for total control, realizing that there are far fewer of them and many of the masses. If there was an organized revolt, they would not stand a chance.

Who are the police? Who are the military? Who are the nurses? They are members of the masses, those who the rich and poweful despise.

Suggestion: the megalomaniacs build their rockets to Mars, go there, and leave us to rule ourselves.

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Drivel of the Day

In a recent letter to the Richmond paper, citizen Bob Haugh of Colonial Heights tells us:

“…Governor Warner, and others who advocate increasing tax rates as incomes increase fail to understand that the majority of people who earn more are better educated and/or work in more demanding fields.”

I don’t necessarily agree with progressive tax rates, though it may be a good idea. I’m no economist. However, the idea that people who are better educated are working in more ‘demanding’ fields is simply a load of bull. Most jobs taken by highly educated people are fairly cushy when compared to blue collar jobs that require one to actually perform physical labor and expose oneself to possible physical harm.

Also, those who are educated usually have the luxury of choosing the job that they enjoy doing the most. Most others have to take what they can get.

Letter of the Day

Here’s an interesting point of view regarding some past transgressions of our great U.S. leaders.

President Stands Above Others

Editor, Times-Dispatch: The editorial, “No Secrets,” kept making the point that other politicians aren’t exactly model citizens themselves. While this is completely correct, there is a reason for more criticism of President Clinton.

Strom Thurmond and Newt Gingrich are two very important leaders; however, they do not have the title of President of the United States of America, do they? I didn’t think so. There is a large difference between the role of a Congressman and that of the President. The President is being a role model for the entire nation while a Congressman, while still important, is representative of only one state.

Let’s be completely honest. Do most people, focusing specifically on the millions of people who don’t care a bit about politics of any kind, even know who people such as Thurmond, Gingrich, and Bob Livingston are? It’s doubtful. Among that same group of people, about how many of them know who Bill Clinton is? If polled, the two outcomes would very likely be greatly different.

The reason a person such as Clinton might get more criticism and attention is that, when taking such a position as a model of our nation, the President should watch his actions a little more closely. Jackie Davis.

petersburg.

I never read the editorial to which Ms. Davis responds, but if Clinton bashing is the point of the Richmond paper, it’s doing a poor job. The letter writer refers to Strom Thurmond as a ‘very important leader’ in the present tense. Someone might need to tell Ms. Davis & the Editors at the Richmond paper that Mr. Thurmond passed away on June 26, 2003, about six months shy of his 101st birthday. Newt Gingrich, whom she also mentions, hasn’t been a Congressman for roughly five years.

Basically, Ms. Davis has compiled a retro history of years gone by to make a point that Presidents should be held to a higher standard than Congressman, particularly Clinton (nothing is mentioned of our current Commander-in-Chief). I wholeheartedly differ with this opinion. All of our elected officials should be held to the same standard, that of doing the work the people called them to do. Posturing as ‘role models’ and this type of nonsense doesn’t accomplish a single thing.

‘Til [blank] Do Us Part

Co-habitation is much more common among men (39% have done so) than among women (28%). This, according to the Barna Research Group, a ‘service marketing research company located in Ventura, California. BRG has been providing information and analysis regarding cultural trends and the Christian Church since 1984.’ This is an interesting statistic, since, co-habitation is, by definition, an activity conducted between a man and a woman. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that co-habitation is much more commonly reported in this study by men than women.

Another Barna study found, ironically, that those bastions of ‘family values’, the religous right (particulary Baptists and non-denominational Christians) have a higher rate of divorce than atheists and agnostics. The five states with the highest divorce rate? Nevada, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma. All states that went for Bush in the 2000 election.

Letter to the Editor

Here’s something I submitted today.

Editor, Times-Dispatch. Within recent months, you published at least one letter citing quotes from the Bible. I wholeheartedly agree that more people should be aware of the Bible’s words. Given that, here are some citations I would like to call to your attention:

In Leviticus 12: 1-8, the Bible describes how a woman can atone for the ‘sin’ of childbirth. In Biblical times, any activity that made a person ‘unclean’ was considered sinful.

Deuteronomy 24:5: ‘When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.’ This provision would make an interesting addition to the Family Medical Leave Act.

In Luke 14:26, Jesus says ‘If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’ Jesus demanded total, unwavering loyalty of his followers. Is hatred of your family consistent with ‘family values?’

1 Corinthians 7 (excerpts) ‘…(1-2) It is good for a man not to touch a woman… (27) Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed . Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife… (29) Brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.’ Marriage, in the early Church, was seen as a distraction, especially given that Jesus was thought to be returning within their lifetime.

Overall, would it not be well for those who quote the Bible to keep in mind that there are individuals who spend countless years in seminaries and in private study (clergy and lay folk alike) who would not presume to use the Bible as a tool for their political whims but rather as a guide for spiritual enrichment? I think that if legislation was as easy as simply following the Bible, we wouldn’t need the General Assembly. We could simply be ruled by priests.

Jeffrey S. Fowler, richmond.

Novel (in progress) – Revision

CHAPTER ONE

You Can’t Ride a Dead Horse

The horse was dead. This was certain. Dr. Slaughter felt for a pulse again, moving stethoscope here and there, mostly for effect. He knew the obvious. Rigor mortis had set in already. His arrival was all theatrics.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do Phil,” he said, with just the right tinge of seriousness and resolve in his voice.

“Well, I guess I kind of figured,” Phil said. “But, how the heck do you think he got into the living room?”

Dr. Slaughter shook his head. “Beats me. Someone must’ve let him in through the garage, though you’d think there would be hoof-prints in the carpet and your hallways there, even there around the kitchen area – they aren’t but so big.”

Phil scratched at his beard a bit. “Yeah – that’s what I was thinking.”

The two men stood a second just staring at the animal that lay there on the wall-to-wall carpeting, just shy of touching the couch. The coffee table was nowhere to be found.

“Well, if there’s anything else I can do for you, you know where to find me,” the doctor said. The two men shook hands in a kind of perfunctory fashion. Then, Dr. Slaughter gingerly stepped around the horse’s carcass with just the right amount of authority and tact, and let himself out the back door.

How this thousand-pound beast could end up in his living room was more than Phil could get his head around. For one, it wasn’t even his horse. He didn’t even know anyone who owned a horse. In fact, he had never even been in the saddle. Phyllis had taken a ride on a miniature pony once at the State Fair, but that was it.

“How did the horse die, Daddy?” Phyllis, age six, had been watching the whole time. When Dr. Slaughter had come in and examined the horse, she was there right alongside, making sure everything went smoothly. She petted the horse’s coat and felt it’s soft, brown fur. She was there even when Phil had turned on the kitchen light and noticed something rather larger than should be lying in his living room.

“Well, honey, Daddy doesn’t know, but we’re going to need to get him out of here so we can watch our cartoons on the TV, so be a good girl and fetch me that yellow pages over by the phone in the kitchen.”

Phyllis happily obliged.

“Can I ride him?” Phyllis asked with yellow pages in hand, a book that was almost as big as she was.

“Well, honey, Daddy doesn’t think anyone can ride a dead horse. What about you?”

“No. Probably not.” Phyllis said.

“I think you’re right,” Phil said.

TIME MUST PASS A BIT BEFORE NEXT CHARACTER VISITS AND WHO IS EDDIE?

Phyllis scratched her head.

“Isn’t that Pastor George?” She pointed to the sliding glass door that led into the kitchen.

There was a slight tap on the glass.

Phil looked up from the phone book.

“Oh – well, yes it is,” Phil said and flipped the lock and pulled the door.

“Hi – come on in,” Phil told him.

“I heard from Eddie that you had some trouble. What’s going on?”

“Well, it’s the darndest thing – er, I’m sorry pastor. It’s – well, I had just been home for maybe a minute when there was this horse in the living room. I wasn’t sure if it was dead or what, so I called Doc Slaughter and – anyway, it is dead. But, just – there’s no way he could’ve gotten in to the house is the thing. I locked – well, even if it was unlocked, how the heck – pardon me padre – how does such a thing – anyway, it’s a little beyond me now. I’m just seeing about maybe getting somebody to come in and pick him up.”

“Do you want to see the dead horse?” Phyllis asked Pastor George in a little sing-songy voice. “It’s really dead,” she said.

Phyllis took Pastor George’s hand and led him into to the living room. Sure enough. He saw the dead horse lying there, big as anything.

“Well, I guess it’s well that you’ve been blessed with such a large living room,” Pastor George said, “otherwise you’d have no room for this mighty, well – once mighty beast.”

Phil looked up from the phone book. “Yeah – I guess I feel blessed. What do you think about the horse?”

The pastor knelt beside the animal but made sure not to touch it. He looked it over head to toe, carefully considering the mane, the closed eyes, the mouth. “This is a gift. I don’t know how or why, but this horse is a gift.”

“A gift?” Phil slowly walked towards where the pastor knelt, the phone book still open.

“Well, any time God gives us an extraordinary moment, we must see it as a gift.”

“Extraordinary – yes, that’s true. This is just about that, I would say,” Phil said, ”But, what do I do – how do I use it? I don’t really understand how this is going to help.”

“I think the first thing we should do is to say a prayer – with you if I may.”

”Yes,” Phil said, “Yes, sure, that’s good. That’s a good idea.”

“Let’s bow our heads.” Pastor George closed his eyes. Phil stood and thumbed through the phone book. Meanwhile, Phyllis had propped her hands up on the top of one of the barstools in the kitchen. She was barely tall enough for her hands to reach. Pastor George began his prayer.

“Lord, we come to you now in a strange situation that we cannot comprehend. Our minds are not able to grasp the passing of this horse and its placement here in this place is not for us to question. What we know is that your will is sufficient and your grace is justified. We are thankful for your eternal power and your peace. Give us your peace now, Lord, as we learn from your hope how to use this – this perplexing gift. In Your Son’s Holy name we pray, Amen.”

Pastor George and Phyllis opened their eyes.

“Here’s one,” Phil said. “This looks like a good place.”

“Daddy – you didn’t close your eyes,” Phyllis said.

“I’m sorry – honey, but I think I found someone to take the horse.”

The ad in the phone book stated, under the title TAXIDERMY, roughly, the following:

“Life-like family heirlooms. Superb details. Fur Rugs. Fish & game.”

When the phone rang, Jake was helping Paul lift a frozen deer carcass into the work area. They had just set it down.

“Jake’s.” It was Jake, the owner, answering.

“I’m wondering if you take horses.” It was Phil asking.

“You got a horse?”

“Yes – it’s a dead horse and I’m wondering if it’s something you’d need?”

“Well, I hope it’s dead. We don’t work with live animals – obviously. If it’s dead we can work on him for you.”

“Well, but do you need a horse because I don’t actually want him – actually, it may be a ‘her’. I’m not sure.”

“Uh – we don’t just take animals. I mean, I can work with you on the price – depending – I mean, we could just do the head maybe.”

“Well, no. That’s – I’m just trying to see what I can do with this dead horse. Is there a glue factory that you can recommend?”

“Glue factory?”

“Don’t they take care of this sort of thing?”

“Uh – I don’t know about that. I think we could maybe use some of the skin for other projects I suppose, but you’d have to transport the animal and it’d have to be frozen.”

“Frozen?”

“Yeah – that’ll preserve the animal better. Otherwise, the skin starts to decay and all.”

”Well, I don’t have a freezer that big; I’m not sure if that would work.”

“Not sure what to tell you then – unless you can get the horse to us by seven. We could maybe free it – we’re working on a deer now and there may be a little space left in our deep freeze.”

”OK, well, that’s – ten minutes from now. I don’t think that’ll work.”

“Yeah – that’s true – sorry. Not sure I can help you then.”

“OK – what do people normally do when their horse dies?”

”There’s a rendering plant over in the next County, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“Is that what’s usually done?”

“Well, there aren’t any pet cemeteries that I know of nearby. Or you can bury him yourself if you have a place – the land and all.”

“Bury? No, we live here – it’s in the suburbs.”

“A horse in the suburbs?”

“You wouldn’t happen to have the number for the – uh – that plant you were talking about, would you?”

“The rendering plant – probably in the phone book – I think its called Ulanta Protein – I think that’s the company.”

“OK – Ulanta – U-l-a-n-t-a?”

“Sounds right.”

”Thanks. Thanks, I appreciate the help.”

“No problem.”

Phil hung up. Pastor George had been praying silently over the dead animal.

“Pastor,” Phil said, “I’m just going to see about this plant thing if you think that’s – well, that’s the best thing I think, don’t you?”

“Well, Phil,” Pastor George said, rising to his feet. “You have to pray about this gift of yours. God has put this horse in your living room for a purpose. You have to be open to his voice. He’s calling you – he’s been calling you to – .”

“Yeah – pastor – actually, I’m kind of tired here. It’s been a long day and I need to get rid of this horse in my living room. It’s not really sanitary and all. I’m going to get on the phone and make some more calls.”

Pastor George, who was taller by about six inches than Phil and older by about twelve years, put his hand on Phil’s shoulders. “Phil, do what you think God wants. I’m just a servant of God. You obviously have your ways, but let me ask you this – “

“Yes?” Phil could feel Pastor George’s hand on his shoulder like a warm, heavy weight.

“Remember your community, remember your church community – OK?

“Yes.”

“See you Sunday?”

“Yes, George. OK, I’ll see you Sunday.”

“OK then – Phil.”

Pastor George let himself out and Phil, still holding the phone book, stood just outside the sliding glass door as Pastor George got into his car. The pastor slowly eased out of the driveway with just enough pomp and prestige and slowly accelerated out onto the subdivision street, the red tail lights glowing and then disappearing around the corner towards the main road.

Phil walked back into the house, shut the sliding glass door and flipped the lock. He put the phone book on the counter top. A tear started dropping down his cheek, and soon others followed. He propped himself up next to the counter, quietly sobbing.

“Daddy? Don’t cry. The horse disappeared.”

“Honey – Daddy’s just tired. We’ll get the horse out of here – don’t worry.”

“But it’s gone.”

”What?” Phil stood up and turned to look into the living room, wiping the wetness on his cheek with his shirt sleeve.

“Did angels take it?” Phyllis asked.

“Angels?”

The living room was empty. Where the horse had been lying were the broken remnants of a wooden coffee table.

“No honey – I don’t think – I don’t think so. Daddy’s not too sure.” He picked up Phyllis and started walking around to see if there was a horse walking anywhere in the house… “Strange,” he said to the emptiness.

“Can I have a horse in my room, Daddy?”

“No Phyllie – I think it’s time for you to go to bed.”

Over-nite Un-sensation

The local radio station that Hope and I listen to has abruptly changed format from 80’s music (and more) to ‘Oldies’.

This reminds me when, in the early nineties, an actually great, eclectic rock station 106.5 disappeared one day to be replaced by the same trite crap – business as usual on the airwaves.

The plot – to drive consumers to get either satellite or digital radio.

Richmond

Richmond, Virginia. Land of the dull. It wishes it were New York, but isn’t even Peoria. Nestled within the schizophrenic Henrico County, which is, at once, poor in the East and rich in the West; butting up against the vast suburbia and faux ruralism that is Chesterfield County, yet separated from it by the James River, Richmond is a place ill-defined.

Is Richmond the delapidated buildings of East Broad Street only blocks from the State Capital? Is Richmond the sterile city hall that stands above all other buildings, shooting into the air, overlooking its domain with a perpetually blind eye? Is Richmond the once ‘great’ Capital of the Confederacy still commemorated by a small museum and the original Confederate ‘White House’ which are both dwarfed by their nearby big brother, the enormous complex of the Medical College of Virginia?

Perhaps Richmond is the river, with its flood wall that serves as a reminder to all that, at least in some things, Richmond thinks ahead. Richmond certainly is not the 6th Street Market Place, the only gem in a stretch of urban decay, but recently demolished to make way for the original street that it was built over.

Is Richmond Cary Town, with its eclecticism and subtle snobbery where completely unaffordable shops nestle among cheap restaurants and the only good record store within a 200-mile radius (this figure is a mere estimate)? Or is Richmond the Carpenter Center or the Landmark Theater, which occasionally attract national known artists and musicals? Or is Richmond the Coliseum, which is best known for its ridiculously antique facilities where basketball can hardly be played during ice hockey season, where the Circus comes faithfully through town every year, but little else worth mentioning.

Perhaps Richmond is the Byrd Theater, with its cheap tickets and retro-lush interior where no one can sit very comfortably.

Perhaps Richmond is best embodied by the cultural gulf that exists between its two major educational institutions – the state-supported Virginia Commonwealth University, a juggernaut that is slowly taking over East Broad Street; and the University of Richmond, a quietly stodgy faux Ivy League school that imports most of its students from the northern states.

Whatever Richmond is – we know what it is not. It is not a meaningful historic attraction (Williamsburg is). It is not an important bustling metropolitan center (Washington D.C. is). It is not an intellectual and artistic haven (Charlottesville is).

Within twenty years, Richmond will become part of the ever-expanding megalopolis that is Northern Virginia, which is already arriving at Fredericksburg and will continue Southward. That is, if Ashland doesn’t stop it.

Today’s Flotsam & Jetsam

Maturity has no magic age. Thirteen. Eighteen. Twenty-one. Thirty-five. Sixty-five. Eighty-one. None of these matter in the question of whether someone is ‘mature’.

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Anyone can quote Biblical passages to support a variety of opinions regarding a wide variety of subjects. Perhaps this is a good thing, since the Judeo-Christian aesthetic is broad enough to provide ‘something for everyone.’

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Quippy quotes that sound like sage wisdom can often be misleading.

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Once all the world turns to Jesus, the real war will begin over how best to worship.

Lyrics for a Goth Album

I Disappeared

I disappeared

And nothing happened

I disappeared

And no bells rang

I disappeared

No angel got his wings

I disappeared

No one came.

Where does the story really end?

So many knots to untie

As if you’ve been my only friend

No one uses the word ‘die’

I disappeared

But not fast enough for you

I disappeared

Good times were far and few

I disappeared

You turned the other way

I disappeared

But you just passed away

I disappeared

With everything in place

I disappeared

A smile on your face

I disappeared

You’re driving down the road

I disappeared

You’ve nothing left to hold

La la la la la la la la la la la la la la…

I disappeared…