Category Archives: Corruption

It’s Time to Save the World

“Is my English OK? Is the microphone on?” asked Greta Thunberg, in one of her most recent addresses. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

It wasn’t a joke. No one seems to be listening.

Nine years ago, when I was Greta’s age, I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t politically, globally, socially, environmentally aware. I wasn’t aware of what our biggest problems were–or that I, as a kid, could do anything about it, even if I did know what was happening in the world.

Nine years ago, I was LARPing (live-action role playing). For those who don’t know, LARP is a game wherein you create a character for yourself, dress up in costume, and run around in the woods at night, fighting faux villains with foam sticks. It’s like playing make-believe in the backyard when you were little, but on a larger scale, with maybe a better production value.

LARP comes in a number of forms, but the game I played was mostly like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a fantasy game. Swords and sorcery. Lightning bolts. Storming the castle. All of that.

While I knew that the events in the game weren’t “real” and that the character I played wasn’t “real,” they always felt important. They felt bigger than the small “reality” I actually lived in. I often felt that my character was better than me. She was stronger, prettier, freer. She had more goodness in her; more to give. I wanted to be like her in real life.

This disconnect–the idea that my character was false and somehow separate from me–affected my growth in a number of ways. I could write a book on it. There’s a lot to unpack. But the point here is that even after I managed to quit the game, I had a hard time developing an idea of who I was without that character.

Recently, with the changing of the seasons, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It would be the start of LARP season now, if I was still playing.

I’m still sorting through it, but one of the things that finally occurred to me was that I could be like the heroic character I used to play. I already was like her. She came from me.

But there were still situational differences, systematic differences between that character’s world and mine, dragging me down.

I posted this on Facebook:

larp

And, only days later, the sentiment was echoed by somebody else:

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I’ve been flailing for a solution. Something I could do to help the environment, and reconcile the reality of my apparent helplessness with the idea of once having played at being someone courageous and able to create change.

In this video, Jane Goodall advises people to act locally. “Quite honestly,” she says, “if you think globally, you get depressed.” Break it down, then. Start with what you know you can do. Do something. Even if it might seem small. “We’re all interconnected.”

I’ve been worrying myself sick. I woke up today with a sore throat, and a headache, presumably from my newfangled teeth grinding habit. In an anxious, somewhat dissociated haze, I drove to the store for some groceries, just to get out of the house. Everywhere, meat and dairy. Things packaged in plastic. Delicious things that I only felt bad about craving. I bought one of those chocolate bars that claims to help endangered species, and felt doubtful about its impact, but I hoped.

On my way home, it seemed like all I could see was trash. Scattered along the side of the road, accumulating in the ditches, washed up along the curb. Plastic bags blowing in the wind and caught up in bushes.

Enough is enough.

I found a metal stick–one of those garden hooks for hanging bird feeders or little candle pots–and I filed the end to a point on my dad’s bench grinder. I walked across the street to the park outside my house, and I attacked the garbage in the rain garden. I chased it through the foliage, piercing it with my makeshift rapier, collecting its remains.

Maybe this will help.

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Photo by Robert Stuart Lowden

I’m an adventurer. It’s my job.

And for all the shitheads out there who consume without thinking, and leave their trash lying around; for the people who continue to make a mess of the world, I have just one message:

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The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

NFL is a Not For Profit Organization

NFL MoneyIt can be argued that professional sports organizations provide economic benefits to their local community by helping fuel the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, etc) and paying state income taxes. Although there may be some truth to these claims, there is a dark side to professional sports that many fans are unaware of. Some of the largest professional sports organizations enjoy not-for-profit status for IRS purposes and therefore do not pay federal income taxes. This includes the National Football League (NFL), the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Let’s focus on the NFL.

In 1942, the National Football League (NFL) became a not-for-profit organization. In 1966, the NFL managed to wheedle a few very important keywords into a piece of legislation that solidified its tax-exempt status as a not-for-profit. During these early years, the NFL claimed it needed these tax breaks since it was struggling financially and many of its franchises were folding. Pro football was not yet the crazy profit-generating entity that it quickly morphed into by the mid to late 1970’s.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

According to Gregg Easterbrook in an article for The Atlantic, “Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the [NFL] league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year.”

piggy-bank-non-profit-organizationAccording to the IRS, 501(c)6 organizations are supposed to be business leagues that promote a common business interest but do not to engage in “a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit.” I argue that the NFL is an organization whose *sole* purpose is to provide entertainment and generate profit for its 32 franchise owners. A former IRS attorney stated, The NFL’s main goal is not to “operate for the public purpose of aiding commerce for all within a broad segment of some type of business or business in general. … [Instead] these sports organizations, in my opinion, are anything but public-minded in their profit interest. They are focused on the profits of their franchises.”

Nonprofit Quarterly had an excellent article explaining why Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okal., proposed the PRO Sports Act S. 1524 and the Daily KoS blog offers a scathing (and wonderfully bias) commentary regarding why the NFL should be stripped of its not-for-profit status.

As a spokesman for Senator Coburn’s office stated, “It’s one of the striking examples in the tax code where middle- and lower-income Americans are essentially subsidizing salaries for multimillionaires.”  Furthermore, the Joint Committee on Taxation in Congress estimates that “removing such exemptions… could mean $109 million in new tax revenue over the next 10 years.”

For an in-depth look at this issue, read the full Atlantic article by Gregg Easterbrook here.

To sign a petition to request the IRS revoke the not-for-profit, tax exempt status of the NFL, click here.

The Right Thing To Do

Eric Holder was ruled in contempt of Congress this week due to his not being fully forthcoming with regards to “Fast and Furious”. This NY Times editorial writer seems to think that the contempt ruling was a “pointless partisan fight”, in which he accuses the GOP of trying to make a pretty serious situation nothing more than political jockeying in an election year. I don’t feel like he’s on target. Think about what we’re trying to find here: The *top law enforcement officer in the land* is possibly hiding facts from the American public, in order to save face.

What about getting the truth? What about cutting through corruption? It’s okay to “maybe” be corrupt in order to not get caught? I think I deserve to know what exactly happened, and the President’s last minute “executive privilege” order only solidifies the fact that there’s something to hide. Why can’t our politicians start working for their constituents for a change?