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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Democrats' Candidate, My Broken Waterpik, Trump Off the Rails and Religion 201

Democratic Primary Musings

People who are following the campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination see it coming down to a race among three candidates, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Which one emerges as the nominee will depend on one and only one factor.  (Choosing any of the others still in the race would only happen if the Party failed to come together on one of the leaders and settled on a compromise candidate, probably at their Convention.  Highly unlikely.)

Forget the nationally based polls.  Forget the State primaries and caucuses … unless they are in the States I am about to mention. They are the crucial ones.  Whichever one of the Democratic possible candidates that can win the electoral votes of States like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin should be the Democratic nominee.

Right now, that is the best path to the nomination for Joe Biden.  But we should not overlook the math, as it applies to the crucial States mentioned above.  The combined support for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, whose agendas are similar, may equal or exceed Biden’s.   When one of them drops out, the remaining one’s support may double.  But will it in these crucial States?  That is what will be important.  The decision to drop out might be predicated by poor performances in the early primaries and caucuses.   If neither Warren nor Sanders drop out, the nomination will be Biden’s for the taking.

If Sanders remains as Biden’s challenger, his doctrinaire positions on social issues may hurt him.  If Warren survives, on the other hand, she seems more adept at pivoting and competing with Biden on issues.  I think the Democratic nomination will go to either Biden or the Sanders/Warren survivor and that nominee will be the one that is thought best by Democrats for the job of convincing the voters of these five States, as evidenced by polling in those States, that he or she can beat Trump there.
 Jack Lippman

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What’s Up with Donald Lately

President Trump is running a bit more off the tracks these days then he customarily does.  He has told Jews that they are being disloyal to themselves and to Israel if they vote Democratic.  He cancelled a visit to Denmark when their Prime Minister refused his supposedly joking offer to purchase Greenland.  (Have you ever heard him joke?  Seriously, he is a humorless man.)  He told four Congresswomen to “Go Back Where They Came From,” a long-time taunt of racists toward immigrants.  His tariff proposals are falling apart, as the money comes out of American consumers' pocketbooks, and he lacks the ability to negotiate with China, North Korea or the European nations effectively. Most recently, he ordered that his “wall” be built, implying even if it required breaking laws concerning private property rights and environmental protection with the possibility of pardons for the law breakers. (although he has supposedly backed off on this). Was this another of his supposed jokes? 

The President does a lot of dancing around statements so he cannot be held responsible for them, implying things, becoming a cheerleader at rallies, and attributing his ideas to “what people are saying.”  This is how he got away with his dishonesty at Trump University and many of the shady ‘deals’ he masterminded for years, resulting in the frequent loss of other people’s money.  But supposedly, a President shouldn’t get away with this because it is Congress’ job to stop him from such tactics.

He is off the rails and the sooner Democrats start impeachment proceedings, the better. This stuff is just icing on the justification already in the Mueller Report and his violation of the “emoluments” prohibition in the Constitution.  The reason for this behavior on his part is clearly his fear of not being re-elected in 2020.  He is willing to do anything to hang on to his “base.”   Why?  I think it is beginning to enter his mind that after a defeat in 2020, when all the dirt is exposed, he will be hearing chants of “Lock him up,” and they won’t be joking.

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Religion 201 - Second-Hand Beliefs

(A few years back, this blog included a general summary of the religions practiced in the Western world.  We called it "Religion 101."  Here is "Religion 201" which is certain to be more controversal.)

Western monotheistic religious belief in one all-powerful deity is something Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and ought to be enough, by itself, upon which these believers can anchor their faith.  But it isn’t.  Without formalization and organization into ritual and observance, people do not readily adopt what is referred to as faith in God.  And that formalization requires documentation.  Such documentation exists.

  • For Jews, it is the five holy books comprising the Torah or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Oh, there is more, but this “scripture” is the required basis.
  • For Christians, it is the “Gospels,” (the ‘good news’ about the coming of the Messiah) which builds upon the Pentateuch in the form of the Gospels of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the epistles (writings) of Paul.  Supplementing the Hebrew scriptures, this is known as the New Testament.
  • For Muslims, it is the Koran, the words of God given to the Prophet Muhammad and spoken by him, and later compiled in a holy book.

The authorship of this documentation has been interpreted in many ways.  Some believers consider it the “word of God” and even if God did not write it, God certainly inspired it for whomever did and that’s enough for them. They accept it literally.  All of it.  Others do not. 

Jews generally accept the idea that the five books of the Pentateuch, the Torah, was written by Moses.  That is sometimes hard to take since things that happened before and after Moses’ time, including the description of his own death, are covered in it, so how could he have written it?   Some believe that the words were given orally to Moses by God to write down and pass on and therefore what Moses wrote transcended time, as only God could do.  Forget about impossible chronology.  Moses was just the “scribe.”  Understandably, some claim there were authors in addition to Moses.  And subsequent “holy” writings such as those of the Prophets, while inspired by God, are credited to individual authors such as Isaiah and Jerimiah as well.

Christians accept the New Testament even though the story of Jesus, whose birth, life, death and resurrection is described somewhat differently in the several “Gospels” authored by different apostles and written anywhere from 20 to 90 years after the events they describe took place.  None of them were there so it is logical to expect that inconsistencies would exist. Smoothing over these differences, Christians accept the formalization of what happened as documented in the “Gospels” as the basis of their faith.

Muslims accept the fact that the Prophet Muhammad spoke the words given to him over a thirty-year period by God, and those words were dutifully written down by his followers, not by him.  After his death, Islamic scribes organized these writings into what is known as the Koran.  Islam also includes, with some modification, the core beliefs of Judaism and Christianity but its basic tenet involves a total submission, if not a surrender, to God. 

In all these situations, there is a common thread.  And that is that what was written down, the documentation upon which ritual and observance were based, was obtained “second hand.”   No one was with Moses up on Mount Sinai taking notes.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn’t conduct interviews with those who were in the manger with Mary and Joseph or present at the crucifixion and resurrection.  Paul didn’t carry a tape recorder with him.  And it’s hard to believe the words of Muhammad, carved in stone and written on papyrus by his listeners over thirty years were neatly stored and cataloged waiting for subsequent editors. Over the centuries, these various editors and interpreters of all faiths have added their flavor, perspective and ideas to the documentation, making even the original “second-hand” writings difficult to separate from later versions.

But for those seeking the strength and support that the ultimate formalization of religion which these second-hand “writings,” provide to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it is enough. They accept it as divine in its own right, the word of God not to be questioned, or similarly divine because of the inspiration that motivated its acknowledged documenters.

So we end up with a community of believers in one God, not all of whom base their beliefs on the same “second-hand” documentation.  It amounts to numerous formulas arriving at the same answer.

It is wrong for someone believing in one faith to see those of other faiths who believe differently as “infidels.”  Historically, many faiths have countenanced the murder of infidels.  “My way or the highway!” … or sometimes much worse.  Such zealotry was, and is, wrong.  The early Jews stoned them to death.  Christians burned them at the stake.  Muslims continue to blow them up.

I am certain that this kind of thing was not included in the original creation of any religion’s system of belief in God but was something added along the way as “second-hand” documentation was written, discovered and amalgamated into the faith. If this is ever to be straightened out, it will take a few millenniums, at least.


But that would be just a few droplets in the ocean of time.  After all, the universe existed for a very long time before our species turned up, asking hard questions, the replies to which demand faith, not proof, because of the finite capabilities of the human mind.

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My Chinese Waterpik

About five years ago, I purchased a “Waterpik Flosser” which I use on my teeth several times a week.  Finally,  the tube which carries the water through the device to its brush or the “squirters” (an assortment of which came with the item) broke.  I went online and found replacing the Flosser would run about $60 and was about to do it.  Taking a look at the device, it looked like the broken tube could be easily replaced since the piece it was part of was held on by two screws.  So I went online and found that Amazon was selling that replacement part for just under $10.  So I ordered it.  Oddly, delivery was indicated as taking two to three weeks.  Well, I just got the replacement part by U.S. Mail and have installed it. It works fine.  

But what took so long? 

The original device was probably made in China, so it was logical that was where the replacement part would have to come from.  But it wasn’t a matter of an American vendor importing it and selling it to me as would usually be the case in such situations.  Apparently, I was dealing directly with the Chinese company which was selling it.  That’s why the delivery took so long.  And here’s part of the label from the envelope in which the part came to make that point clear. 

This is when it hit me that in addition to our trade with China being something that involves American consumers every day, it is already so deeply institutionalized that the Post Office Departments of both countries even have a common label indicating both are sharing in the delivery of the item.  Wow!  Dropping it off at a post office in China somewhere in Hunan province was sufficient to put it in the hands of the United States Postal Service.  The systems work together!  (For those studying the label, Changsha is the capital of Hunan province and has a population of about seven and a half million.)

World trade is something good and should not be restricted by tariffs, something they probably taught at Wharton for those who went to classes there.

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