The Worship of Sports in America

Simply put, Americans take sports way too seriously.

How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Politics In America Suck...!

I'm writing and posting this piece simply because I can't sleep, thanks in part to the neighbors in the apartment above me doing their thing. So I've opted to shut out the sound of the bed squeaks by doing a little online reading. As I surfed to find a distraction to my liking, I came across a piece on Yahoo News that motivated me to post a brief piece on the Beyond-The-Spectrum Facebook page. However, what had originally been slated to be a Facebook micro-blog has turned out to be a an unplanned, unstructured late-night rant about the epiphany I got while reading the Yahoo piece about Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona. 
The writer's thesis is how Flake represents an anomaly among Congressmen--and by extension--among most politicians in America. The impression I got after reading the piece was not of a Congressman who opposes everything President Obama proposes out of ideological knee-jerk reactionism--thus towing the party line.
                                                               Sen. Jeff Flake during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last January.

The impression that I got of Flake was that he is a thinking man's politician, and not necessarily one of the team-player drones we see bursting the seams of Washington's Beltway.
However, as I continued to read about how Flake actually approaches issues with an open-mind--without the presumed automatic party allegiance and anti-Obama fervor--my attention was diverted to the various comments coming from those right within his own party. As I made note of Flake's apparent level-headed approach to deciding on policy proposals, as expected even before finishing the article, I found what I knew would be there--accusations of "treason" and of "capitulating to Obama." And this brings me to my point. One of the biggest problems with politics in America is the polarization of both the representatives and the individuals (i.e., the voters) who support them. We take up sides as if there are ONLY two sides to every issue. Small minds automatically assume that if you're against one issue or its proponent, them you must be FOR the other (i.e., "If you're against Trump, then you must be liberal," or vice-versa). There is too much reflexive side-choosing, and not enough critical thinking in American politics. Paradoxically, it is this pressure to conform to one ideological camp or the other--much like We The People--that promotes the gridlock in the legislative process, and makes those representatives we vote for to do our bidding so hated. In other words, our elected representatives are merely a reflection of our desires...a reason why politics in Washington hasn't worked in years. We The People don't critically analyze policy positions and issues outside of choosing up ideological sides, so our representative don't. This sets of a schizo-dynamic within our body politic that makes us cheer and hate our elected officials at the same time; they do exactly what we do...and we have the nerve to hate them for it. They choose sides based on party and/or group allegiance, not reasoning and critical analysis. And even in the few rare instances when analysis IS employed, its usually only to see if issues fit within the rubric of our preconceived ideological notions rather than analyzing whether our ideological beliefs fit the rubric of reality.
We as voters should not become angry at the likes of Jeff Flake because he doesn't do our bidding. If anything we should strive to be more like him, and not he like us. If politics were more of a noble profession, and less like a bloodsport--and if we ourselves would allow reason, and not emotion or ideology to guide our passions--there wouldn't be more polarization that forces us to gravitate toward (for whatever questionable reasons) the Donald Trumps of America. No, Flake is hardly perfect. But he does represent a semblance of sanity within the insanity that has come to represent what passes for contemporary politics in America.
And now with the quiet returned to my apartment building, I can head back to bed knowing that politics in America doesn't suck as much as it did before.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Charleston Church Shooting - What is "Terrorism?"

"We do not see things as they are.  We see them as we are."  --Anias Nin

That is my favorite quote of all time.

It’s 3 am as I start writing this piece. It’s a purely impulsive move on my part, as it’s in response to the recent racially-motivated shootings in Charleston, SC from earlier this week. I was motivated to so because of the amount of willful ignorant, apparently delusional people in America who so seem to come off as sane and/or reasonable upon first glance.
And no, I’m not talking about Dylann Roof—the white 21 year-old perpetrator who walked into the historically-black Emanuel AME church in South Carolina's largest city and proceeded to shoot and kill 9 black parishioners during prayer services because he “wanted to shoot black people.” No, what I am talking about are the people who reject the notion that what the avowed racist did was not an act of “domestic terrorism. “ What is so hard to comprehend? Roof killed to further an extreme political agenda—starting a race war.
                                                                     Dylann Roof

I’m going to out on a limb here and conclude that the reason that it’s so hard for those who are questioning whether or not this was in fact, an act of domestic racism is because of two fundamental reasons—both related to race. The first reason I suspect is that because of the prevalence of black-on-black crime within the black community. This is to say that so many Americans are so accustomed to being spoon-fed these negative images of the black community a daily basis, that it’s just too hard for many to comprehend reality that racism against black people is still an issue in modern-day, post first-elected-black-president America. To these people, many within the black community are routinely more likely to be victims of each other than of racism. We all know these individuals…they are the armchair pundits who usually deflect attention away from issue at-hand to tell black people that they should focus on the “troubles in their own communities” instead of “marching” and/or protesting against an act of racism—real or perceived—that shatters the myth that racism is not, in fact, still an issue for some in America.

The second reason why it seems so hard for some to accept that the Charleston shooting was an act of domestic terrorism is likewise related to race---that some people of a particular ideological stripe simply do not want to believe that racism still exist. This is to say that some people are so vested and entrenched in their own ideologically-political (and social) beliefs that they are almost delusional in their perceptions of America—especially as it relates to the perceptions of others. Take for example the following clip from Fox News’ coverage of the Charleston from this week. So unwilling were the producers and talking heads at the conservative news network to believe that the motives behind Roof’s rampage could have been racially-motivated that they totally ignored reality favor of “speculation.” They could not only bring themselves to call Roof’s act a case of domestic terrorism, but found it harder to bring themselves to accept that it was even an act of racially-motivated violence.

They ignored the reality that survivors reported immediately in the massacre’s aftermath that Roof himself declared that he “wanted to shoot black people” because “they are taking over” before he started opening fire inside the church. They ignored the pictures that Roof posted on social medical of himself promoting symbols associated with racist ideologies—including the flag of the old American Confederacy and of the defunct white-ruled African nation of Rhodesia. And they ignored his so-called “manifesto” posted online indicating his white supremacist beliefs...all to the conclusion that “we can’t possibly know his motivations” (“Dylann Roof Photos and a Manifesto Are Posted on Website”).
And it is this level of reality-denial that has fed into the narrative that questions, whether in fact Roof’s rampage in the Emanuel AME Church was an act of domestic terrorism. To embrace this absurd level of questioning, those who deny it resort to hair-splitting distinctions that have no basis in reality. For instance, they cite that Roof acted alone, and that he had no ultimate political purpose in perpetrating his act of violence. Honestly, it would almost amount to a conspiracy theory not to believe that it wasn’t terrorism.

It was agreed that Ted Kaczynski—the so-called “Unabomber”—was a terrorist. He killed, and he did so alone. He—like Roof—also left a ranting manifest outlining his aims and motivations.

Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber killed. He acted alone. He was indeed dubbed a terrorist. He even has a webpage outlining his beliefs (Army of God). What’s so hard for people to accept?
Why are so many Americans so committed to formulating and living by their own distorted interpretations of reality instead of perceiving the reality as it is in front of us? Are we so polarized politically as a nation that we doubt and question reason just out of ideological reflex?

And as we ponder those question, here's another question to ponder...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Government "Takeover" of Texas And Conspiracy Thinking...

Earlier this week regarding, the of the state of Texas, Greg Abbott made headlines by sending elements of the Texas State (National) Guard to “monitor” U.S. Army Special Forces, which had been engaging in training exercises in parts of the state. The decision by Abbott to activate the Guard for that purpose was due largely in response to rumors which had been circulating on internet indicating that the Army maneuvers were part of an impending “federal government takeover” of parts of the state (see: "Pentagon: No Texas Takeover Plot" on On the surface, this move by the governor and his supporters seemed to be more akin to a outrageously lame plot from “B” movie starring the likes of Jack Black or Seth Rogen. However, I found myself—as I always have been—fascinated as to why so many Americans are so willing (and capable) of embracing conspiracy theories that border on insanity—but believe what they think to be so rational in substance. The last time I wrote a piece about such crazed thinking, I was accused of being a “closet liberal” for pointing out so many conspiracy theories embraced by those on the right, simply because I highlighted so many of these questionable beliefs held by those on the right. Of course, the fact that I was just as willing to assert that some crazy myths held by the left was overlooked by critics. Ironically, the failure by those on the right and the left to accept that some among their number are borderline paranoids for embracing such questionable beliefs is kind of a conspiracy theory in itself. In fact, as I researched background for this piece, those who identified as political conservatives believed that liberals embraced more conspiracy theories than themselves—and vice-versa for liberals. Consider the results of a poll by Public Policy Polling:

44% of voters believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about weapons of mass destruction to promote the Iraq War, while 45% disagree. 72% of Democrats believed the statement while 73% of Republicans did not. 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and 28% of independents believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Just 6% of voters think Osama bin Laden is still alive. (“Democrats and Republicans Differ on Conspiracy Theory Beliefs”).

In essence, the crazier someone is, the more they are likely to reject the notion.

But oddly enough, partisan conspiracy theorists have more in common than they’d like to believe. Both those on the left and the right believe that small cabals of politically and economically powerful individuals control and manipulate events in both America and the world. On the left, most see this collective Boogey Man in the form of the fabled “Illuminati;” on the right, the mythical “Trilateral Commission” or “New World Order.” Additionally, but those on the left and right believe our politicians are Lex Luthoresqe evil masterminds who likewise manipulate our government for their nefarious ends. Many on the left believe that the ill-fated decision by the Bush II Administration to invade Iraq in 2003 was motivated by helping out politically-connected military contractors make huge profits from the war. While those on the right believe President Obama’s questionable decision to make citizenship easier for illegal immigrants (yes, I know it’s an outdated and politically-incorrect term, but reality is what it is…euphemisms won’t change it) to obtain is motivated by creating more Democratically-leaning future voters.
While I personally don’t give our politicians much credit for being so far-reaching in their ambitions and goals, I realize that nothing that happens in the realm of politics is clearly done by serendipity. Yes, new voter ID laws are meant to counter the projected change in population demographics in future elections that are anticipated to swing in the direction of the Democrats. And yes, the death of the late Ambassador to Libya and 3 of his aides was a tragedy of incompetence and lack of foresight by the Obama Administration. But do these events rise to the level of plotted schemes with methodically- measured outcomes that favor the “schemers?” Of course not. However, I also realize that no amount of reason, logic, official findings, or empirical proofs will change the minds of those determined to reject reality in favor of their personal beliefs and/or biases.
What’s worse, our political leaders—like Governor Abbott—will avoid using the power and influence of their positions to even attempt talk some sense into conspiracy nuts, and often instead embrace and even enable these insane beliefs. It’s why some politicians won’t come out and clearly state that President Obama was born in the U.S., and not in Kenya. And why others won’t just say that vaccines don’t cause autism…because while they may not create conspiracy theories, many politicians do benefit from their acceptance.
But politicians are just being politicians. We can’t fully blame them for following the sometimes questionable thinking of the American voter. They don’t fully create conspiracy theory narratives. The blame for “bad government” and “bad leadership” is the direct fault of misinformed, ill-informed, selectively-informed, and just nut-case American voters who affect policy with their delusional beliefs--whom they believe are the stuff of reason.
But—sadly—you still have the right to believe in whatever crazy, unsubstantiated, irrational, paranoid, and borderline insane issue that you feel is "reasonable." But know that the federal government is not coming to take over the state of Texas...or any other state for that matter. And while we're on the subject, the federal government is not coming to take your guns. You have the right to believe in what ever religion as you always have. And the public schools are not "indoctrinating" your children--hell, they are hardly teaching them, as these crazy beliefs prove.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

From The Riots In Baltimore, A Case Of Excellent Parenting

Sometime ago, I wrote a couple of pieces on the issue of corporal punishment in the role of child-rearing ("To Spank Or Not To Spank? (Hell Yes!)" and "Did That Internet Father Who Spanked His Daughters Go Too Far?").  With regard to this issue, many times high-profile events will bear out why such things need to happen.
Spikes in current events is pretty much blogger gold to someone like myself. We who critique and analyze ongoing events in the news are often treated to a noteworthy occurrence that just begs attention. During the riots that raged through a predominantly black section of Baltimore yesterday, one of those things that just begs for closer attention took place in them in the middle of the destruction and violence.
Now bear with me as I lead up to my overall point.
Like many Americans, I watched news coverage of the riots, sparked by the as-now unexplained death Freddy Gray, a young black male while in police custody (Gray was arrested for running from police and possession of a knife). As per the usual dynamic of many such cases that have come to light in recent years, the public chooses sides—usually along the lines of their preconceived beliefs, sans the logic or reason of critical thinking—by blindly justifying the police’s actions, or by condemning them as inexcusable under any circumstance. One side will assert racism (or at least biased applications of the law) are at the heart of these events, while the other will assert the lack of personal responsibility, bad parenting, warped social values, and adhering to a particular political ideology are the reasons for such tragedies. I took note of this as I (regrettably) watched the partisan commentators on Fox News attempt to outline an—albeit marginally truthful—narrative of the issues behind the events in Baltimore. To see what I mean by the sides that such events tend to form, please watch the video segment below, which sets up my point for the rest of this post.

I have always subscribed to the rational approach that an amalgam of all of these factors lays at the heart of these fatal encounters. What’s more, toss in the lack of professionalism among many police departments, ethnocentrism, lack of self-respect, and a little bit of history, and you get the ingredients for what’s happening in Baltimore. But if you watched the video clip I posted above, you might have noted that some will attempt to oversimplify “solutions” to the rioting by asking, “Where are the parents (of the rioters/looters)?”
Though every parent of every young rioter/looter weren’t to be seen, there was one angry parent who was present at the rioting—but she wasn’t taking part. She made her way to the scene of the mayhem to make known her disgust with her son’s involvement in the rioting, and took action to that point. Enter 42-year old Toya Graham. The reaction single mother of a 16-year old son found participating in the melee has gone viral (below).
My overall point is that parents today are in a battle for the souls of their children; drugs, gangs, sex, degraded cultural norms, wayward friends, and a whole host of other temptations are constantly pulling youth in the opposite direction of the one a parent chooses for their child/children. If a public display of old school discipline is what it takes to keep a child in line, so be it.
And despite what the neo-parenting literature says about spankings and corporal punishment “teaching children to be violent,” this is total and utter nonsense. The number of parents who spank their children as a way to help discipline them has decreased, yet more and more young teens and older youth are participating in adult crimes such as the rioting in Baltimore. Spankings also don’t the violence of youth gangs, school shootings perpetrated by students, and other such acts of violence.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent who is looking after the best interests of their children using direct parenting, in conjunction with a firm hand when it comes to helping their children stay on the straight and narrow. A little national exposure and embarrassment for Ms. Graham's son is a small price to pay for the alternative for criminal behavior.
And for those critics who might disagree, consider the event that brought the mother and son to the point of confrontation…the death of Freddy Gray. As yourself which is worse; a slapping an unruly and disruptive child upside the head a few times, or them dying in policy custody because they couldn’t appreciate the difference between right and wrong? Now, if only the mothers of police officers who abuse their authority would do the same thing to their sons…

(Read more about Ms. Graham's actions during the rioting in Baltimore, here...)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How To End Black Male Deaths At The Hands of The Police--The Black Panthers (Redux)

First and foremost, allow me to apologize to my followers for not having posted any relevant commentary in a long while. I took some time off from blogging to work on my first fiction novel (which is coming along fine, thank you). However, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t completely gone off the grid—I have been regularly micro-blogging almost daily on my Facebook Tumblr, and Twitter pages, as well as publishing updates to my previously published books). But given recent events in the news, I thought it was time I came out of hiding and chronicle my thoughts on a couple of issues in the news on my various blogs.
As per my usual modus operandi, this posting is going to offend many who read it, which—as far as I am concerned—means my goal to provoke critical thinking beyond the reader’s passions is on the right track. In regard to this particular posting, I was moved—as an African-American male—to chronicle an objective analysis of an on-going issue of personal relevance.
The issue at point is the rash of questionable injuries and/or deaths of unarmed black men by police officers that have circulated among the various news cycles. In quite a few cases, video played a central part in swaying public opinion one way or the other in determining (or maybe pre-determining) guilt and/or innocence of either party involved. To be honest, in many of these instances those black men who died (or were seriously injured) were alleged to have been engaged in unlawful actions; running from the police or engaging in a physical tussle with officers. Both Michael Garner and Walter Scott had been accused of engaging in physical struggles with police officers before being shot. Both were not armed at the moments of their deaths.
In other cases, whether those killed and/or hurt by the police were in fact, offering resistance to the officers is up for debate; in those cases, it depends on whom you ask. Twenty-year-old University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was seen as having been belligerent during his bloody videotaped arrest outside a bar for, among other things, underage drinking.
Eric Garner’s videotaped takedown, arrest, and subsequent death choking at the hands of New York City police officers continues to be debated. Garner, a physically-imposing man, had been accused by the police of illegally selling bootleg cigarettes. Many watching the video of Garner’s arrest agree that he wasn’t offering any resistance to the police, who were trying to restrain him using an unauthorized restraining technique. Other said that Garner was struggling trying to breathe, while infamously yelling “I can’t breathe” to arresting officers.
Still in other cases, the actions of police officers can only be seen as questionable and/unprofessional by most reasonable standards. Akai Gurley was fatally shot by a rookie New York City police officer in the darkened stairwell of a public housing project. By all accounts, Gurley was not engaged in any illegal activity, and wasn’t wanted by the authorities. In fact, the officer involved alleged that his weapon somehow discharged by accident while he was holding it on patrol—an explanation which lends itself to many questions. The videotaped shooting of Levar Jones in a Columbia, South Carolina gas station had none of the debate of most of the other shootings. Jones was complying with a state trooper’s order to show his ID when he was taped being shot because of the trooper’s suspicion that Jones was “reaching for his ID” in a manner that made the officer think Jones was actually reaching for a weapon. Fortunately, Jones survived his ordeal with police.

In every case, those shot and/or hurt were not armed, and apparently posed no lethal threat to the officers and/or the public at-large (which I suppose could be debated in the minds of the police officers involved in these incidents). In all but the cases where the officers’ actions were simply beyond reasonable fear of imminent personal threat, most of those involved were not charged with a crime or any major dereliction of duty.
In all of the sensationalism and headlines behind these instances, one salient point being missed by observers is the interplay of so many psycho-social dynamics at work. Police officers have an extremely daunting job, one that I know that I myself couldn’t do—and I’ve been a school teacher! For the most part, our society couldn’t function anywhere near as well as others around the globe where social norms and traditional values police citizens’ actions more than the laws. The professional officers give us a sense of comfort knowing that our calls for helps will be answered and responded to in a decent manner.
Then, there are those who are unprofessional and personally unbalanced to the point where it affects their performance. These include those whose psychological makeup require their egos to be pet and stroked by successful intimidation of those he (or she) feels should respect their authority. Maybe they were picked on growing up. Maybe they just need to feel like big men (and women)…who knows? Others within the unprofessional ranks—understandably so—are victims of their own fears. They see and/or experience things on a daily basis that would make many of us cringe. Many of them see the worst of human behavior, of man’s inhumanity to man. They are lied to daily as they try to ascertain the facts behind criminal activity and maintaining the peace. And for the most part, their attempts to police many of our communities are greeted and treated with contempt and stonewalling of every sort; “don’t snitch” come to mind immediately. And unfortunately for those like myself, many of these bad behaviors and activities occur in our minority communities (and before those of you reading this go into “defense mode,” many bad things occur in non-minority communities too). Let’s be real and honest…FBI and police statistics bear this out. So too does the evening news. So too do our very own observations. How many times have we heard or read about children (and adults) in the ‘hood being killed by stray bullets, of carjackings, the effects of the drug culture in our urban areas, or instances of teens committing once adult-only crimes?
These observations and experiences can create a sense of justified fear in the minds and hearts of police officers. It’s enough to make them shoot first and ask questions later in many encounters. No, it’s not right. No, not every black male is a criminal. Sure, old bad life decisions, limited opportunities, higher unemployment, and/or institutional bias may make us do some things that marginally break the law in the name of survival (e.g., driving without insurance and/or a drivers license, failure to pay child support), but these are hardly capital offenses. But our penchant for merging all criminal activity into one solid lump of perception tends to make many black males perceptually “hardened criminals” in the minds of the limited thinkers and bigoted. Its why the perennially-used explanations of police officers who shoot first and ask questions later—that “I was scared” and “I feared for my life”—resonates so well among suburbanites and middle-class whites who tend to support them. These shared fears of an encroaching criminal underclass moving into safer and gated worlds motivates their thinking. This ethos also explains why so few police officers tend to avoid conviction when they engage in questionably legal actions in the course of their duties; they were just doing their jobs.
I think I have decent solution to the deaths of black men at the hands of the police and allay the fears of the police at the same time. Let’s bring back the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (or the BBP).

For those of you law-and-order types who only know of the Black Panther Party through their “anti-white,” anti-police speeches, calls for “black power,” Marxist-Leninist political beliefs, and/or often violent confrontations with law enforcement, the group originally formed in 1966 with the initial purpose of arming organized citizen patrols in urban black communities in an effort to both monitor and curtail routine practices of police brutality. The following year, founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton expanded the activities of the BPP to include Party-sponsored community social programs such as the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and community health clinics. Sporting their signature leather jackets, black berets, afros, and shotguns whenever they were out on patrol or otherwise engaged in some group-sponsored social endeavor, the Party maintained a relatively high-profile in the communities they served. In most cases, the organization’s twin missions of community betterment and watchmen of police abuses gave many inner-city blacks a sense of pride, self-respect, and empowerment. Because of this, the BBP garnered a mass following of respect in the black communities where they operated; even the street hustlers and gang members respected the Panthers during their most politically-active period, the mid 1960s into the early 1970s.
I know this is a radical proposal, especially in light of the rise to semi-prominence of an even more radical, racist group of activists also calling themselves “The New Black Panthers”—who are in no way affiliated by the former members of the 60s/70s BBP (in fact, members of the original BBP have publicly denounced any affiliation with the new group). But a resurgence of the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense group could have a long reach of benefits for the black community as well as for police officers charged with maintaining order in those communities. Here me out.
A newly-organized, politically-engaging, and socially-active Black Panther Party for Self-Defense could work to instill—or rather re-instill—in the black community the sense of self-reliance we once had…instead of relying others. This would be best exemplified by a new BPP recreating some—or all—of the many community programs (known by the Panthers as “survival programs”) the group started and operated throughout their most active period. Take the Panther’s Free Breakfast for Children Program. It’s no secret that for a lot of black and poor children in the inner-city, the food they receive as they attend public school is often the most assured meal that they might receive on a daily basis.
Likewise, a new Panther Party recreating some (or all) of their many other community service programs from back in the day (e.g., free community health programs, GED programs, free busing for relatives of those incarcerated to visit them in prison, etc.) might go a long ways to illustrating what a sense of community looks like in a generation of black youth who are totally unfamiliar with the concept. Who’s to say that such a wholesale new (read: “returning”) practice of respect for others—especially those attempting to assist others in the community—might not help, say, get rid of that ridiculous practice in many black communities of “not snitching?” Maybe such an outlook might evolve into the same level of neighborhood concern I experienced growing up—where families could go out of town on vacations, and know that their next door neighbor would look after their homes, instead of turning a blind eye to burglary under the aforementioned counter-productive ethos of “don’t snitch.” Additionally, young black youth may come to be appreciative toward those others in their communities working to their benefit. This could translate into people in the ‘hood actually giving a damn about someone other than themselves, going against the grain in our self-obsessed social media world.
A legally-armed, vocal, responsible, and socially-productive cadre of black males comprising a new Black Panther Party would provide a counter to the prevailing negative imagery of the urban “thug.” More importantly, a new BBP that is mission-driven to both protect and serve the black community would be as willing to confront the negative element of the “thug” (as well as other criminal elements) as they would overzealous and abusive police officers. Drug dealers, gang bangers, and others who all but act with impunity as they routinely disrupt the lives of people just trying to live their lives would be confronted by an organized group of productive and civil-minded black men. These civil-minded black males would be willing to confront these negative and destructive community influences with diplomacy—if possible, and force—if necessary to curtail their negative influences on the black community. Best case scenario…the image and social symbolism of a respected, strong, productive, well-dressed, and assertive black male might replace the negative and distorted view of what constitutes a “man” in the eyes of those sporting dreadlocks (as a fashion statement rather than their traditional cultural significance), sagging pants, and “mean-mugging” those simply minding their own business.
More to the point, the respect a renewed Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would generate in the black community would fuel their resolve to confront abusive and overzealous police officers. They would accomplish this by video recording the actions of the police in black communities—without directly interfering with their duties, being able to recite (to) and instruct both citizens and police officers of their respective responsibilities regarding traffic stops and/or other law enforcement actions, and directly confronting and challenging police officers whose actions do not conform to law, regulations, of a universally understood sense of human dignity. The presence of BBP activists at the scene of police actions might help provide an additional sense of security to officers otherwise involved in the course of their duties, helping to change the police officers’ preconceived negative perceptions (and expectations) of black males in general, and during confrontations in particular.
And because I’m well aware that some Americans are very skittish and paranoid of such a suggestion as arming black males for self-defense, it’s understood that the police are a necessary agent for maintaining order throughout America. And for that reason, the difference in time periods and general social moods between when the original Black Panther Party were active and now would preclude all calls and attitudes to “kill all the pigs.” However, the police would be put on alert that abusive attitudes and actions won’t be tolerated, and that excessive force might be met with the same should simple situations escalate out of hand.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How To Fake A Political Issue (And Act "Outraged")... Part 2

First, once again, I must apologize for the length of time since my last posting. As some of you know, I have been writing and publishing a series of safety book related to surviving natural disasters (see the Amazon widget to the right). Needless to say, this undertaking taxes a lot of time. But with the mid-term elections coming up in a week and a half, I thought it was the perfect time to once again discuss the ignorance and selective (short-term) memories of the American electorate.
Some time ago, I wrote a piece entitled “How To Fake A Political Issue (And Act "Outraged")...” This point of focus for that particular piece was an illustration of how effective politicians can be when they manipulate a non-issue for political gain by “adopting” the “outrage” of a particular constituency. In the case of that posting, I discussed how Republicans feigned such manufactured “outrage” over a trip to Cube which rapper Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce took. The faked indignation was supposed to act upon the sympathies of the community of Cuban exiles in Florida, while they continued to perpetuate—via public opinion—the outdated policy of ostracizing a communist government that is fighting both time and inevitability to remain a part of history in the here-and-now (to be sure, Democrats are also given to this political practice).
But, fast forward to Saturday night’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.” Now while I don’t always agree with Maher, I find his irreverent brand of biting sarcastic wit is what many Americans need to hear in order to wake them from their self-imposed, ideologically-driven delusions. Well, his most recent segment of “New Rules” pretty much did just that. His rant reflected perfectly illustrated how Americans can be so easily distracted by political non-issues to vote against their own interests, using the example the governor’s race in Kansas. During Saturday night's broadcast, Maher rips into the fact that the race for governor is a near dead-heat based on recent polls--despite the fact that ill-advised tax and program cuts championed and initiated by the incumbent have drained the state's once significant surplus of revenue, and replaced it with a huge deficit ("What's The Matter With Kansas And Its Tax Cuts? It Can't Do Math") In other words, too many uninformed, semi-informed, and just stupid people who make up the American voting electorate can be swayed by the smokescreen of irrelevant non-issues to actually be made to forget what they are voting on.
Watch Maher’s segment on this past week’s “New Rules” and see if his message resonates with you…(Warning: This following video contains strong language)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another Police Blunder - Texas Mother And Children Accidently Pulled Over At Gunpoint

Let’s get this straight from the gate; there are many good police officers out there not only doing their jobs with unquestionable professionalism, but willing to put their very lives on the line in doing so. The problem is that the questionable decisions by many bad officers tend to over-shadow this fact. And given the number of high-profile cases in the news of late, it would be easy by some to conclude that the police are out of control. Personally, I would argue that police professionalism is out of control.
By this, I mean that many of us are so overly-sympathetic to the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis as public servants, we tend to give their overreactions and excessive caution a pass. Indeed, some hard-nosed law-and-order-supporting citizens are quick to point out that [understandable] police mistakes should be overlooked if no one is physically hurt by such actions—wrongful arrests, the stop-and-frisking (and release) of “suspected” individuals, profiling individuals by ethnic and/or racial grouping come to mind.
The problem with such actions is that it’s always easy to ask and or expect someone else to have their civil liberties inconvenienced to make the others feel comfortable. Take for example yet another recent questionable police action, this time from Texas. A young mother and her four children were pulled over by officers from the Forney, Texas Police Department. According to news reports, the officers were responding to an emergency 911 call from a passing motorist reporting that “four black men were waving a gun out the window of a beige- or tan-colored Toyota."
Dashboard video from one of the present patrol cars shows that the mother was taken out of the car at gunpoint, in front of the four terrified children. Apparently, it wasn’t until a 6-year-old was told to exit the car with his hands up that the officers realized their mistake (read the online account of the incident here).  And despite the officers' attempt to calm the children after realizing their mistake, the damage had already been done.  No doubt, the mother and her children will remember this particular experience with the police in nothing but negative recollections.
Now while some might say "no harm, no foul", there are several points of contention with this incident. First, the report indicating that it was 4 black males allegedly waving a gun—not a female accompanied by 4 children. Second, the automobile belonging to the mother, Kametra Barbour, is a burgundy red Nissan Maxima. Lastly, the lack of employing proactive common sense by the officers. Clearly, not all of the information they had received about the reported individuals matched the situation. And commanding a 6-year-old to exit a car with his hands in the air seems—pardon the pun—overkill in the prudence department. Despite these inconsistencies, there is no forthcoming apology from the Forney police department. In fact, “The police department defends the traffic stop saying the officers responded appropriately to what they believed was a dangerous situation” (WFAA News).

Police dashboard video of the Forney, Texas police stop of a mother and 4 children.

Now to be honest, something inside me “told me” that the family involved would be either black or someone belonging to an ethnic minority group before I researched this story. Sadly, ethnic minorities seem to be those expected to accept the business-end of questionable police practices with an understanding nod.
Granted, they have a job that requires caution when dealing with the public in general, and criminals in particular. But as we saw a couple of weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri, mistakes without employing professional prudence can lead to a loss of faith in our public servants, as well as—possibly—a regrettable (and unnecessary) loss of life.
As I have said on many occasions, police departments across the country really need to reassess their training and procedures, and individuals wishing to serve the public as law enforcement have to think more about their actions before reacting out of base caution and unthinking reflex.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri – Enough is Enough!

Last night, for the sixth straight night, the predominantly black city of Ferguson, Missouri exploded in violence. These nightly confrontations between the police and protesters are the result of community-fueled rage at the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old unarmed African-American man, Michael Brown. The last 2 nights of violent confrontations came after a lull in the civil disruptions when elements of the Missouri State Police had taken responsibility for crowd control and response to previous protests. The decision to hand over law-enforcement duties related to the protests to the state police was evidently due in part to the barrage of public condemnation (from those on both the political left and right (See: "Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Criticize Ferguson Police" for example) from all across the country) of the Ferguson Police Department’s forceful to protests on the first few nights.
(Both protesters and rioters confront police in Ferguson, Missouri last night amid clouds of teargas)

In most of the cases, the protests started out as peaceful, with those participating adopting a stance with their hands in the air and shouting, “Hands up…don’t shoot!” But as with almost any level of mass protests in America, a small element among the protestors opted to take advantage of the relatively disruptive atmosphere to create trouble. That’s when the looting, gunshots, and flying rocks began to replace the responsible protesting of the shooting. Both community leaders and Brown’s parents have made public appeals for peaceful protesting of the shooting, and an end to the violent confrontations that have taken place in the area.
We all familiar with the issues—race, social stereotyping, profiling, high crime, poverty, individual bad choices, the lack of personal responsibility as well as empathy for the community one works in, and unprofessional policing. These are issues are nothing as they relate to questionable police actions; I have written about them here in other high-profile cases (see: “Here Comes The Fuzz!,” “Another Police Beating Caught On Tape (…or, “Your Tax Dollars At Work.”),” and “The Law, Lies, and Videotapes.”). Additionally, there is the oft-overlooked phenomenon of what I call the “Zimmerman-effect.”
This is the psycho-social mindset among suburban and rural whites—particularly but not exclusively male—to demonstrate their Constitutional right to "bare" (read: carry) and in some cases, use guns in the public based on the perception of a non-existential threat of violence that might occur.  In instances when guns are used by these individuals to neutralize a perceived threat, the "threat" is often found to be either minimal and/or non-existent in retrospect (e.g., The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting, The Florida theater shooting, the Jordan Davis/"Loud-Radio" shooting, etc.).

Some of those who possess this mindset tend to be members of local law-enforcement departments--no doubt there are some on the 54-man Ferguson police force.  The irrational aspect of this psycho-social thinking is that in many of the moderately- and high-crime communities where these particular police officers patrol, many residents--including those who qualify legally to carry firearms (myself included)--don't carry them.  But those who live in areas where crime is relatively low or occurs at negligible-levels seem to be obsessed with carrying firearms, ostensibly as an exercise of their "Constitutional rights."
But enough is enough!
It’s time for the unruly among the protesters to properly honor the memory of Michael Brown by protesting his questionable and tragic death in substantive and meaningful manner—one that doesn’t tarnish the message of a unified community expressing discontent with its public servants.
It’s time for the city of Ferguson to make aggressive moves to bring in some “new blood” in the form of officers who reflect the demographics of the community. I’m sure if the city wanted to, they could advertise across the country, making efforts to target areas and/or groups, colleges, or organizations whose members have a passion for public service.
It’s time for police agencies across the country to stop taking in every gun-ho, overly testosteroned male seeking an outlet for his perceived manhood to set the bars higher for their standards. Training should include mandated sociological—and maybe psychological—college-level courses in order to broaden their perceptions of the communities they chose to work in (I would go so far as to require at least an associate’s degree in these and related fields).

It’s time for African-Americans to take charge of our communities and eliminate counter-productive activities and mindsets, such as the infamous (and often celebrated) “thug mentality” and the “don’t snitch” attitudes that breed both apathy and high crime. It’s time for individuals to stop making idiotic criminal decisions that feed and fuel negative, often race-related stereotypes that lead to shootings like those that occurred in Ferguson last Saturday afternoon.

It’s time for individuals to stop making idiotic criminal decisions that feed and fuel negative, often race-related stereotypes that lead to shootings like those that occurred in Ferguson last Saturday afternoon. It’s time for parents who make the time to create a child to take the time to raise them properly, with an appreciation for education, and respect for authority.
And it’s time for communities, groups, and individual Americans to take responsibility for our own actions—right or wrong. That’s what responsible people do.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Smokers Suing Tobacco Companies & The Blame Game!

At times, the dissonance, ignorance, and audacity of Americans is a marvel to behold. Sure, this applies to both political and social issues that I often talk about. But what I’m speaking of this time around is our propensity to perpetuate America as a blame-oriented society. The latest ballsy—and utterly irrational—high-profile event to cement this sad aspect of our country’s thinking is last month’s $23 billion dollar trial court judgment in favor of the widow of a 20-year smoker who died at the age of 36 from lung cancer. According to reports, Michael Johnson Sr. died in 1996, 20 years after he had started smoking as a 13-year old. If my math is right, that would have him starting smoking around 1976—long after it was established that smoking was a health hazard. Now I remember being in elementary school during the 1970s, and I also remember being taught how bad smoking was in school. But there is some part of me that wonders how is it that the parents of a 13-year old boy missed the obvious signs of such a high-profile habit—particularly in the 70's when parents were considerably more responsible than they are today? Johnson knew the health risks of smoking, even after he could grasp them as an adult—they were printed right on each pack of the cigarettes he’d purchased. And since apparently he was a chain smoker, that means hr had to have read the Surgeon Generals’ warnings at least once a day for 20 years. His widow had to have known this too. Yet, she initiated what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit against the tobacco company, ignoring her ex-husband’s free will decision.
At any rate, what this episode reveals is our continual obsession with the need to blame something or someone—anyone—for misfortunes that befall us (or our loved ones). Someone must be at fault whenever bad things happen. We’ve grown too quick to not only assign blame for our misfortunes or personal decisions, but we love to sue, as if to punctuate who we assign blame to. We have to blame someone or something other than ourselves. We blame teachers because our children aren’t learning, as we seek to further overburden them with even more duties and responsibilities—with none of the authority. Or if our kids don’t learn, we blame some imaginary malady or invent some new alphabet soup “syndrome" to explain away their “inability” to learn. We blame the politicians we elect for non-functioning government—but insist that they be beholden to our partisan beliefs, which causes the gridlock we see. If someone takes a gun and shoots up a school full of children, it must be the fault of greedy gun makers…or some “mental disorder” that “told” the shooter to do so (except if you’re black…then it’s just a genetic predisposition to engage in criminal activity). If our cars crash, it must have been some manufacturing defect (admittedly, in some cases this is true). If someone says something that “hurts” our widdle-bitty feelings, we sue for slander, libel, or whatever imaginary slight that the law recognizes as a “remedy” for such “offenses.”
The social and economic consequence for our “need” to find fault and place blame for misfortunes is a society that simply cannot function at optimal capacity. Disruptive children in already crowded classrooms are allowed to rob their fellow students of environments conducive to learning, as schools systems, teachers, and officials fear being sue by their parents (because somehow, it would ‘violate” the “rights” of disruptive students to be held accountable for their misbehaviors or removed for the greater good). Parent’s therefore do not parent to the best of their ability, knowing they can always take [their] children to a clinician and have them designated as somehow “impaired” (rather than accept that parents are the ones who tend to be impaired…in their ability to parent productively).
We now have a generation of young people who have no appreciation for life, or seemingly a major understanding of how serious the consequences are for taking a life. These youngsters are reckless, thoughtless, and impulsive. In fact, both children and adults in America are prone to doing impulsive things; and why not? We can always place the blame on the company that produced the item that we decided to use unsafely and/or irresponsibly. And that is why manufacturers have to put warning labels on everything, alerting customers to the obvious hazards in order to avoid the inevitable lawsuit meant to assign blame to their products rather than the users. And liability insurance that companies are forced to counter the threat of a lawsuit drives up prices for the products we use.
And we dare not look to our politicians for any kid of remedy for “irresponsible companies” that make “shoddy” products. They are too busy tugged and pulled in one direction or another by a fickle voting electorate that is too busy pointing fingers of blame at opposing political parties, ethnic/minority groups, and ideologies for why the country is in such a sad state of affairs.
Blaming others is why someone can win a declarative court judgment for spilling hot coffee on themselves and get away with blaming the preparer for “making it too hot” (rather than simply waiting until it cooled in an attempt to drink it). Or why 23 billion dollars can be awarded to the widow of an adult who chose to engage in an unhealthy behavior—that has been widely known to be a potential threat to health and/or life for going on 50 years.
This country will not get better until people—adults, youngsters, black, white, male and female—begin ownership of their decisions and the consequences.  We need to learn that not every event is foreseeable, or is worthy of blame.  We have gotten away from a certain level of fatalism --that often, bad things happen to good people (and vice-versa) that keeps us grounded in reality.  We cannot control everything, but we also need to accept that we are responsible for our own actions. Attempting to find and/or place blame for the calamities that befall robs of the understanding that we are mortal, and that our time here on this mortal coil is limited.  Some things that happen to us are of our own design, while others are an act of God (or fate). Some of us make sound financial decisions, while others make financially irresponsible decisions--both of which impact our lives for better or worse.  When we drive on the nation's highways, we are taking the same chance as we do when we walk out in the rain during a storm.  Lightning strikes some, and ignores others it's the same with smoking or anything else--you take your chances, and you accept the consequences, not blame others for them.

See also:  "What Suing Subway Reveals About Us"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Liberal Vs. Conservative--What's In A Label?

Recently during one of my sleepless nights, I found myself doing what so many other Americans doing—flipping through television channels. I stopped when I came across political pundit Lawrence O’ Donnell’s show, “The Last Word.” on MSNBC.
Now I know what some of you might be thinking: Liberal nonsense from a left-leaning propaganda cable channel. Now, if you decide to stick around for the rest of this piece, such thinking is exactly my point; political labeling. “Liberal.” “Conservative.” Depending on which particular ideology you embrace, the other will invariably draw the ire of those who believe that their particular beliefs are what’s good for America. However, in recent decades, the word “liberal” has been so successfully painted and maligned with such negative connotations by conservatives that even liberal themselves will avoid claiming the label—unlike conservatives who will not only proudly brag about being “severely conservative,” but will even argue amongst themselves who’s the most conservative adherent to their ideology’s principles.  This is the point that O’Donnell was making on his piece…how labeling can be so effective in politics that our very thinking orbits their manipulated meanings, and equates their “truths” on a level with the very laws of physics themselves.

(See:  Talking Points for the story behind the image).

I took the liberty of uploading O’Donnell’s piece, whereby he so eloquently articulated this dynamic of our polarized thinking in modern America. Please take a moment to view the monologue in order to get the gist of the point--that labeling can and has been so effective in modern American politics that our very thinking orbits their manipulated meanings, and equates their “truths” on a level with the very laws of physics themselves. We tend to take the tenets of liberal and conservative doctrine to the point where to argue against any leftist or right-wing-leaning point is tantamount to religious heresy worthy of an automatic rebuke (one usually based on blind adherence rather than a critical analysis of the issues).
I took the liberty of uploading O’Donnell’s piece, whereby he so eloquently articulated this dynamic of our polarized thinking in modern America. Please take a moment to view the monologue in order to get the gist of the point.

For those of you who missed it, the point is not that one is bad while the other is good. It’s that we here in America are often too quick to believe of associate with one party, ideology, or level of thinking simply because we identify with the labels that [supposedly] represents them. The inherent problem with this practice is that it make up highly unlikely to question any wrong decisions and/or policies based solely on labels rather than their intent or effectiveness is eliminating a problem. What’s more, it prevents us from engaging in actual critical thinking about social and/or political policies based on—you guessed it—the labels we attach to them.
With respect to the consequences of political labeling, I will leave it to funnyman Chris Rock’s observational humor to punctuate the point (below) in 60-seconds pure reason (Warning: Contains a liberal use of profanity).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What's Wrong With American Politics?

Maybe there is something to be said for dictatorships as a form of government. Things have a tendency to get done…fast. The passage of laws—even if they are by decree—makes gridlock a non-factor. There is no partisan wrangling between competing political parties or branches of government. And there is none of the upheaval that has come to symbolize what politics in America has come to.
President Obama’s approval ratings are at an all-time low for his tenure in office. The Mississippi Tea Party is in an uproar after its U.S. Senate primary candidate lost to mainstream Republican opponent Thad Cochran—who in turn appealed to a non-traditional base of African-American voters to beat the T-Party’s candidate. Democrats are set to use populist wedge-issues—immigration and a potential raise in the minimum wage—to beat back predicted Republican gains, while walking on broken egg shells on other issues to protect endangered Democratic candidates. And the list goes on…
What can I possibly say, reveal, or speak to in terms of the broken state of politics in contemporary America that most clear-thinking individual don’t already know? The political—as well as the voting—process has been corrupted by the influence and infusion of money; we know this. The ideological and political gulf between opposing belief-holders has never been wider…much to the detriment of the legislative process. The disdain that many of us Americans have for our political leadership finds most of us ranking their appeal generally somewhere between toilet film and a root canal. And the few optimists who remain loyal to one side or the other are more adherent to party-lines, talking points, and platforms than to rational thinking and objectivity. Why is the American political apparatus so broken?
To list a complete analysis of why politics in America is at such a level of unproductive impotence would take bandwidths of terabytes of Internet bandwidth; even a summary would take volumes. However, the conclusion—as painful as it might be for those wishing otherwise—is that America’s system of politics is broken because we are a nation moving toward an oligarchy rather continually engaging in the ”great experiment” of (a) democracy. What’s more, the basic reasons for the emergence of government by the powerful (and not in fact, “We the People”) can at least be listed inasmuch as those with clearer minds would be open to considering both their reality and validity.

The Voting Electorate. 

I will be blunt here; the American voting electorate is pretty dumb. This is to say that we are very uninformed as a people responsible for picking and choosing our leadership. Most of us do not bother to engage in objective research on the issues in any given election…and those of us who do bother to do what passes for research only look up “facts” that support already-held positions. Those who identify with Republicans (or conservatives) will usually refer to Fox News, The Daily Beast, The Drudge Report, The Bible, or any number of “objective news” sources, while liberals (i.e., Democrats) will go to Mother Jones, The Huffington Post, NPR, or other similar news sources considered “unbiased.” Most American voters start our approaching any issue with a liberal or conservative foundation, and then “research” the “facts” from that point. The problem is that most of these “sources” are little more than platforms for ideological talking points and/or already established beliefs. In other words, most Americans obtain their beliefs of certain issues from propaganda rather than objectivity. We don’t seem capable of suspending our preconceived beliefs and ideas to approach an issue based on the merits rather than their ability to support our individual political ideologies.
What’s more, there are simply too many nuts running loose in our country who lack psychiatric supervision. This is to say that many of the things that “informed voters” believe are beyond the pale. September 11th was a government conspiracy. Abortion is part of a planned genocide against the black community. The female body has mechanisms to “protect against that sort of thing.” Obama is not an American. Political correctness reflects “cultural sensitivity.“ There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Global warming is a hoax. Money is “Free Speech.” The Constitution protects abortion.  Universally affordable health care is akin to slavery. …and these are the “rational” thoughts. We believe anything our elected “leadership” tells us, no matter how insane, how irrational, or how counter-intuitive to reality. These virtual lunatics on both the political left and right share the same voting booths as you and I, and are able to pass themselves off as part of the “informed” electorate, who share the responsibility for putting into office other such “rational” individuals who are only too happy to polly-parrot these extreme beliefs in the name of voter support (just listen to the things that come out of the mouths of Michelle Bachmann or Barney Frank).
We’re also fickle to no end. We have a “Mac-Mentality;” we want “solutions” hot, fast, and now…forgetting that it took years for many of the issues facing the country to make themselves known. We are quick to overlook the fact that our politicians are not magicians…they cannot fix any problem as fast as we would like. Because of this, we will vacillate between election-year political party candidates as often as we change underwear. And quite understandably, our politicians don’t know what issue to support or where people actually stand on a given issue—unless said issues are being spoon-fed to the voting electorate. So they too bounce back and forth between “for” and “against” certain policies. Our political leadership’s inability to stand on one particular aspect of an issue may be irritating, but it’s also a reflection of our own ability to stand still on an issue in a realistic sense. We tend to take sides, as if either side wears the white hats. As I’ve often said on so many occasions, we are too quick to attack the other guy, and reject the worst possibilities of our own political affiliations.

Big Money Influence 

In the last few years, Supreme Court decisions have all-but eviscerated the notion that the voting public effects both legislation and voting rights. Rulings like Citizens United have opened the floodgates for the infusion of endless amounts of cash “donations” into the political process by both private and political interests seeking to influence who makes the laws and how they are made. Under the veneer of “Free Speech,” connected political, financial, and organized private interests groups—those usually tied to business—are now able to purchase public policy (and/or its handlers). Private and moneyed interests are not able to shape and mold a government virtually according to their own design.
And since most of us, the voting electorate, tend to accept and heed the talking points of our political affiliations rather than reason and individual thinking, we buy into this dynamic. Too many Americans—who we only have our votes as an instrument of gaining a say in the political process—are too quick to defend the Big Money interests who have more sway over our lives than we like to think because they can influence how our legislators think and behave. We are literally voting and supporting a status quo that works against our self-interests when we protect and defend the infusion of [the] obscene amounts of money into the political process. This is true whether it be in the legalized form of bribery we call “lobbying,” or when we allow shadowy political groups to throw tons of money into campaigns that call for voting for an issue or candidate that we support simply because it reflects our political affiliations.

The startling takeaway is that we as American citizens now have little impact on governmental and legislative policy by way of our voting. The only exception to this is when highly organized and motivated individuals like those in the partisan Tea Party movement are able to affect a small number within a larger party. But the effect of the Tea Party’s ideological intransigence is also part of the problem in why our politics have become so dysfunctional—they are too wedded to the belief that they are right in what and how they believe government should function. To this effect, many of the movement’s supporters and candidates have often invoked the phrase “no compromise” when it comes to getting legislation passed. This in turn creates the gridlock that stymies current system of governance —such as it is—and destroys any chance for passage of any form of legislation. We now have a system where private, moneyed, and politically-connected interest groups, as well as their lackeys in the various levels of legislative halls, are a law unto themselves. Simply put, the majority doesn’t rule. I know that special interests do not have my interest at heart when they lobby (i.e., pressure) my Congressman or state legislator to either think or vote on their behalf. I’m still waiting to the rest of my fellow Americans to catch up to this fact…but I won’t hold my breath.

The Changing Economy 

Oddly enough, when America had a stable Middle Class, and when we were a nation that actually produced manufactured goods, we had a stable voting electorate. There were fewer socioeconomic and political divisions by which our politicians could drive a wedge through to exploit for personal gain. In fact, quite the opposite; we were more willing to overlook both the political decisions and indiscretions of our elected leaders because the effects of either didn’t seem to have an overt consequence to the public at-large. Iran-Contra didn’t turn into a general clamor for impeachment (except from the extreme Left). Former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry’s conviction for drug use during an FBI sting—one caught on video—didn’t affect his eventual re-election to that same position. And despite his allusions that his contentious congressional confirmation had racial overtones, Clarence Thomas was eventually confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.
Our tolerance for decisions weak and/or questionable political decisions was far greater, relegated to the “all politicians lie,” or the “It doesn’t affect me and my family” ethos. As long as gasoline was cheap, jobs that actually paid the bills were still available, financial institutions were not overtly greedy (and corrupt), and our economy was still the envy of the world, why would any of us have complained…much less organize enough to take sides. But along the way, the economy and our political sensitivities started to change. While good-paying manufacturing began moving offshore in an effort to compete with the invasion of cheaper foreign-made products, a lower-paying service-based economy took over. Organized labor—unions—was assaulted from two points; the reduction in their numbers due to the off-shoring of jobs, and an assault on laws meant to protect union practices by business-friendly Republicans. This assault included curtailing laws that made it easier for Democratic-leaning to fund Democratic candidates and worker-friendly legislation. With unions (and their political money) weakened to historical levels, a supportive money supply to the Democratic Party was dried. This forced the Democrats into bed with the same kind of Big Money and private interest groups that the Republicans had cozied up to years earlier in order to raise party fund money (see: Lobbying Spending By Sector). Although many of those supporting legislation responsible for weakening organized labor will usually make references to “election fairness,” “economic concerns,” accusations of union “corruption” as justifications for doing so, make no mistake about it—attacks on unions were more about securing political advantage for benefitting political parties (and candidates), and not for the greater good (although one would be hard-pressed to deny that denials of such provide for the most elegant of rebuttals).
What's worse, many rank-and-file Americans have started to buy into the political narrative (put forth in part to defend the actions of those jockying for political fund-raising advantage) that "union greed" is what was responsible for the transformation of the American economy rather than the natural and inevitable drive by manufacturers to drastically find a way to increase profits in the face increasing global competition. We have forgetten that it was the labor-friendly demands of unions—higher wages, benefits, and reasonable hours to name a few—that helped to create a stable Middle Class in the first place.  This leads into the final factor contributing to our sad state of politics in America...

The Political Class

When I talk about the political class in America, what I am generally speaking to are not only career lobbyists, but career politicians, elected members of both major political parties, 501 (C )(4) political organizations (associated non-disclosed donors), and regular corporate economic entities—all of which/who form what can be unarguably considered the new ruling oligarchy in America. This is the say that these groups and individuals are so politically active and themselves informed about the inner workings as well as the mechanics of the legislative process that they can literally shape laws that benefit each entity and individual within this ruling political class. Our politicians are merely a means to this end. In most cases, these people and/or groups can be recognized by their constant presence in politics, their last names—especially in the cases of political “dynasties” (e.g., families that constantly produce career politicians)—and the influence they wield in affecting the legislative process.
Regardless of political party affiliation, most of the ruling oligarchy tends to be mainstays in the halls of power in this country, with some 50% of retiring or electorally defeated Congressmen taking up with lobbying firms in continuing to influence the legislative process on behalf of the highest bidder.
Even in the case of the few who aren’t as personally motivated by monetary gain, they are too beholden to their ideological (and by extension, their political party’s) beliefs to be effective legislators. This means that they tend to embrace party-lines and baseless thinking in order to appeal to their respective bases and remain in power for the sake of careers in “public service.” This is why climate change deniers, race-baiters, proponents of immigration “reform,” and those who think all taxes are “bad” tend to maintain their popularity among their respective supporters. This means that many of our elected leadership will literally say and promise anything in order to protect their political positions. Many have conned the American voting electorate into thinking we actually have a choice—via our votes—over which direction our country should go when it comes to the legislative process when in reality, the politically-connected ruling oligarchy makes these decisions.

Admittedly somewhat cynical, our American oligarchs have designs to pull the strings of political system in order to suck as much wealth as possible from the nation (and its people) by ensuring cheaper labor, government subsidies, and other favorable legislation that ensures greater profits and the free flow of capital among and between each other. Additionally, political oligarchs in this country seek to hoard the wealth they collect by saving money in the form of tax cuts and favorable tax rates. To enable these designs, political oligarchs employ a army of lawyers, image consultants, and public relations too sculpt favorable images of politicians who work to protect the wealth of their fellow oligarchs.
Politicians and other members of the political class all-but crippled the Middle Class by sucking all the wealth and promise out from it via usurping the political and legislative process. And without a strong middle class, America cannot offer its citizens a chance to improve their lives, to maintain the infrastructure required for commerce and growth, or support those citizens that need a safety net thanks to lower-paying employment (See: “How the Middle-Class Got Screwed”). The political class cheats the system as it was meant to be in order to steal the wealth of our nation and hoard it for themselves.
But in order to keep attention off of themselves and their designs, oligarchs will often sow the seeds of dissent among competing groups of Americans. Liberal vs. conservatives. Immigrants vs. native-born citizens. Ethnicity vs. ethnicity. We blame each other for “ruining the country,” while the political class benefits. The fact is, when you look at the military, you will find both liberals and conservatives in uniform. I would like to believe that both liberals, conservatives, as well as those in between love that the American Constitution is supposed to reflect the will of the people, not the special interests, and certainly not the interests of the political (and economic) ruling class in America. However, as much as we would like to believe that our vote counts, it seems that our country is being controlled and manipulated by the moneyed and politically-connected elite—and not We The People!