Earlier this week, I was surprised to discover that the Mormon church was using its money to buy a billion dollar mall in Salt Lake City. Shockingly, the New York Times reports “When completed in 2012, it will encompass 900,000 square feet of retailing, including an outdoor pedestrian shopping mall capped by 115 apartments; 1.6 million square feet of office space in eight buildings; a grocery store; and five residential towers with about 600 condominiums.” Yee-ikes.
My first reaction was one of outrage, my belief being that this project utilizes funds from its parishioners, who should be guaranteed proper stewardship of church property (while Deseret News reports that the funds came from Property Reserve Inc, the church’s real estate arm). After all, when you pay 10% of your wages for the purpose of helping your particular ministry, you want it to fund something… holy. But this is beside the point, since I’m not even a Mormon, which means I can’t hold them to Christian administrative standards, although those standards will be questioned later. While there are certainly moral issues involved here, this massive expenditure raises serious questions about the separation of church, business, and state, the practical nature of philanthropy, and the nature of conservative values. (more…)
Here in the Pacific Northwest, many people say that drug abuse is a medical problem, which leads them to oppose the criminalization of drug use. Their stances against criminalization can vary anywhere from fining people for possession (“high” standards), to providing users with needles and giving the addicts places to inject themselves (really really low standards). Either way, their argument is the same: they say the physical act of taking drugs doesn’t directly harm another person, and drug addicts have a medical problem relating to urges.
To be fair, those supporting de-criminalization are correct: when a person has an overwhelming urge to take a substance, they’re dealing with a set of chemical circumstances and urges that the general public doesn’t, and those urges are caused by the use of drugs. But legalizers forget a few very important things about drug addiction; most notably that once a substance is consumed, the substance alters the user’s set of urges to something very different than what they had before, while at the same time lessening inhibitions. This should lead us to wonder: do we have to excuse those urges, too? After all, if the urge to take a drug is only a medical problem, then the urges following drug abuse must also be medical, since the only difference between a sober person and a deranged addict is the chemical imbalance resulting from drug use. (more…)
These last few weeks, as Israel has been receiving nearly universal condemnation for searching a potentially terrorist convoy, it may seem that Israel is more trouble than they’re worth. After all, the entire world is watching their every move, and sometimes it can seem that the United States is placing itself in a perilous position by giving its support to the Jewish nation.
But the purpose of this article isn’t to convince you that Israel is perfect, or that people in Gaza have been living in comfortable conditions, or even that Helen Thomas is a scoundrel for saying the things she said. This article is to show you what Israel is, why it deserves your respect, why you need to be on its side in terms of national defense, and what blessings the world has received through it. This is a celebration of the miracle of Israel. (more…)
I’m not exactly sure how to begin writing about this, but I had an experience that made me think I was going to die today. As I was sitting in the break room at work, I had a very sharp, sudden pain in the left side of my chest, about where my heart is. The first incident I took as a random occurrence, but upon my second breath I realized something was wrong. Another sharp pain split my chest, and I began to wonder whether or not this was really… it.
There were a few things that popped into my head as it happened, the first two being “not here” and “not now.” I suppose everyone thinks this as their life is coming to a close, as they begin to realize how fragile they were the entire time, and how much they’d taken their strength–and every possible misconception of invincibility–for granted. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that not everyone is fortunate enough to die in battle, or to die rescuing someone, or to die a martyr, or doing anything with any purpose at all. Actually, quite a few people kick the bucket and don’t have enough time to realize they’re about to meet their maker, and even less are likely to find Him even if they did. But for some of us, there’s enough time to ponder what they did–and didn’t–do with their time. (more…)
Any way you look at it, Americans are overtaxed. There’s a tax for gasoline, and a tax for buying a car. There’s taxation when you get paid, and taxation when you spend. If you own a corporation, you have to pay ridiculous amounts of money for being a corporation, and if you just own a business, you have to pay taxes for unemployment funds. If you buy a home, there’s a tax, and if you just sit in your home, there’s another tax. If you’re in Washington State, you have to pay extra taxes for buying liquor and cigarettes, and if you want a carbonated beverage, you have to pay a special tax for that, too. And the taxes are for one purpose: to ensure that the things our government pays for are paid for.
Now, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that despite our massive amounts of taxation, we’re still not meeting our budgetary demands (Currently, we’re facing a yearly deficit of 1.5 trillion, on top of last year’s 1.4 trillion. To put this in perspective, our Fortune 500 only has a yearly net income of 391 billion dollars). And despite the fact that we can’t pay for everything we want, both parties keep promising tax breaks to specific people. Republicans want to tax everyone less, Democrats claim to want less taxation for the poor (a bizarre statement, since most truly poor people pay nothing in federal income taxes), and both sides use these arguments against their opponents every time an election season comes around. This is especially ironic, since our progressively mounting deficit is being met with a political demand: that the person receiving the majority’s vote never win on the promise to responsibly raise taxes across the board. (more…)