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."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Orlando, Terrorism, And Reality


Now that some time has passed since the tragic events in Orlando, Florida, people might actually be willing to think about reality outside of the various fears and paranoias left in the wake of the recent mass murders there.
No doubt, most peoples’ minds are still fixated on the notion of terrorism, as many believe was the sole motivation behind what happened in at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. So while the specter of terrorism is still on the minds of many, keep the following in the forefront of your thoughts: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines “terrorism” as the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.
Imagine that I’m one of those perpetually unhappy souls, wallowing in whatever unbearable funk that puts us on a path of self-destruction. Being agnostic, I’m neither persuaded nor dissuaded by considerations of afterlife consequences. But I am constantly seeing others around me enjoying their happy lives—the same happiness that eludes me.
And taking advantage of the fact that I have no criminal or negative psychological background, I decide to buy a handgun—no, a semi-automatic weapon—and inflict as much pain on as many people as Since I can’t be happy, then no one should be! And knowing that I will die (probably at the hands of law enforcement or at my own hands; I will play the events out as they come); I will do what I can to be relevant in the memories of others, either by fame of infamy. That’s my ultimate rationale for what I plan on doing.
I make my way to the nearest venue of convenience; one where I know—in all likelihood—is teeming with happy people. Already emotionally unstable, I become incensed looking at all the carefree happiness those around me are experiencing. I whip out my weapon and start sharing my pain with others, spraying bullets indiscriminately and killing men, women, and children. And before the police can come in an stop my mission, I—in a last act of defiance—decided to take whatever potential joy they may have in killing me by taking myself out of that particular equation by killing myself.
In the days and weeks following the mass killing, pundits, acquaintances, and armchair psychoanalysts alike will begin evaluating my motives, engaging in detached speculation, and supposing about my “derangement.” Since I left no outward or obvious indicators as to the whys of my actions, I will—paradoxically—fall into the anonymity of so many other mass shooters looking for eternal infamy. Some will chalk my actions up to another example of a depraved individual, submitting to an equally culture that glorifies both guns and violence…like so many others before me. And a lack of a solid motive or declared would support most such speculations. And since my victims were random, it would be obvious that my actions would not be seen as terrorism. One would be hard-pressed to think anything more of the 2007 gun massacre of 32 people at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute by Seung-Hui Cho, as it was later discovered that mental illness played a part in his actions.
                                                                               Seung-Hui Cho

Now, let’s change things around a little bit.
Instead of an aimless soul seeking infamy, let’s say my actions have a greater-than-myself aim. Such motivations are not an uncommon occurrence I mass shooters in America. In 2012, Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed 5 men and a woman by shooting them. As he was confronted by the police, Page ended his own rampage in a familiar manner; he shot himself in the head, killing himself nearly instantly. A subsequent investigation by authorities revealed Page’s solid links to white supremacist organizations.
                                                                                 Wade Michael Page

Though more rare today than in times past, in April of 2014, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., a known Neo-Nazi shot 3 people in similar fashion at a Jewish community center in Kansas. Like Page, Miller was a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist. Authorities found many racist publications after a subsequent search of his home. To that effect, it was determined by investigators that the motive behind his rampage was anti-Semitism. And like many who engage in mass killings, both Page and Miller apparently planned for death in their paths to historical infamy; Page by shooting himself, and Miller by eagerly expecting to be put to death for his act (during his trial, Miller stated that, "It's my life and I'll do as I please... The death penalty don't bother me" while adding that, if found guilty, "I'll climb up on the gurney and stick the needle in myself.” He was found guilty and sentenced to death in state court. See: “F. Glenn Miller Jr. Takes Over His Own Defense in Jewish Center Killings.”).
                                                                               Frazier Glenn Miller

Instead of “deranged,” both Page and Miller’s actions were attributed to a hatred of minorities—hence, their actions’ designation as “hate crimes.” Were their motives political, as per the definition of an act of terrorism? Depends on who you ask. Someone affiliated with the targeted groups will be more likely to call these attacks acts of terrorism, while those who apply a narrower—albeit murky—set of criteria will not.
Now suppose that in my own example, like both Page and miller, I decided to make my targets less-than-random? Suppose I targeted only females, teenagers, or those belonging to a particular ethnic persuasion? While these incidents yielded no declared politically-motivated intent, one can be inferred. By singling out members of a particular group for harm, such acts become less acts of random violence, and more of targeted assaults on those representing particular cultural sub-groups. In essence, they could be considered acts of terrorism, but on the whole they aren’t—even despite the fact that the targeted individuals belonged to particular religious/ethnic minorities, a note which solidifies the motives and goals of the perpetrators.
Now, suppose I decided to engage in an act of violence in which my motivations could be seen as being more politically-inspired. After all, many people see dying (or killing) for a cause that others see as “noble” would make one a long-remembered martyr. Maybe if I targeted a symbol of (perceived) oppression, my actions are less likely to be seen as a random act of violence by a “deranged man.” What’s more, I feel that if I were to follow through, my name would be remembered for all posterity for killing in the name of a grand cause.
That certainly was the thinking behind the actions of Dylann Roof in South Carolina. In 2015, the 23-year old Roof—according to media and law-enforcement reports—walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston under the pretext of joining parishioners in evening services. After a few minutes of praying with the church members in attendance, Roof opened fire with a handgun, killing nine people in attendance. The motivation was racial hatred (Roof was white, while those he shot were all black.  See also: "The Charleston Shootings - What Is Terrorism?").
  Dylann Roof

In multiple internet postings, Roof publicly declared his belief that that "blacks were taking over the world,” after the public reactions in the wake of the Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray cases from Florida and Massachusetts cases Respectively. Additionally, Roof posted several racially-charged-themed images of himself online. One image from his Facebook page showed him wearing a jacket decorated with flag patches used as emblems among American white supremacist movements (those of from the former Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa). Another photo showed Roof sitting on the hood of his car with an ornamental license plate with a Confederate flag image. In keeping with the themes of those images, Roof expressed his support of racial segregation in the United States and had intended to start a civil war.
Despite these declared motives, the targeting of a specific group, and the use of violence to those ends, most Americans are reluctant to call even this horrifying event an act of “terrorism.” Indeed, its distinction as a “hate crime” is more readily applied than anything else. So can we conclude that a targeted group’s racial identity, inferred or stated political goals, religious persuasion, or nationality are, in themselves, not enough to condemn a particular act of violence as an act of terrorism? What about methodologies of violence, or links to organized (terrorist) groups?
In most of the previous examples, guns were the preferred means of committing both targeted and random violence.
Both Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph did not commit their acts of violence using firearms. Both were solidly aligned with groups and/or causes that most would agree are far beyond the mainstream—with McVeigh’s affiliation with the anti-government militia movement, and Rudolph’s membership in the radically anti-abortion Army of God (incidentally, both individuals had loose affiliations with the racist Christian Identity religious movement, while Miller and Page were known members of Neo-Nazi Groups). Both targeted institutions with solidly political goals in mind—even if they were relegated to statements of dissatisfaction rather than actually attempting to actually change the political and/or social status quo. However, both used explosives as their chosen methods rather than firearms. And both were considered “domestic terrorists” in no uncertain terms. But what about the actions of Page, Miller, and Roof…aren’t their group affiliations enough to condemn their actions as “terrorism?” Maybe there’s another factor that needs to be present in order for such politically-inspired violence to be considered acts of terrorism…
 Timothy McVeigh & Eric Rudolph

So which other organized group could I affiliate myself with where I could engage in politically-motivated violence in a cause bugger then myself against targeted groups, and have my actions be considered acts of terrorism?
So let’s change another factor in my previous scenario…that of my own motives. Suppose as someone contemplating a mass shooting, my motives were religious rather than secular in orientation? Organized religion, with its many splinter denominations and politically-active affiliated arms would easily provide me with a sense of purpose for my violent intentions. But since I’m black, I couldn’t very well link myself with the race-conscious Christian Identity movement. And I’m fairly sure the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan wouldn’t be open to me as a prospective member. So I need a platform to validate both my actions and my quest for infamy, preferably a religious one, and one already in the news, where people are already so fearful and paranoid of that I shouldn’t have any problem being remembered long after I am gone. Fortunately, there is already one that comes to mind.
What if by birthright, I happened to belong to the Islamic faith. Suppose I had some personal demons that forced me to seek a greater sense of belonging or purpose….one that would allow me to distance myself from said demons. Though I might not truly be committed to my faith, it still allows me the cover to aspire to something bigger than myself. I mean, if I were truly faithful to my cause, I would have had long-term affiliations and—nowadays—a trail of publicly-posted sympathies on social media. And if I were actually well-learned about the geopolitical intricacies of Islam, I would certainly know with which sect and/or branch of its most radicalized wings I was going to both affiliate and sympathize myself with. And if I were, in fact, going to go on a mass shooting of “infidel” Americans, I certainly wouldn’t target a semi-ostracized sub-culture like homosexuals to make my point—I would go after a target that would allow me to kill as many Americans of any and every stripe as possible in order to make my political point known. But knowing the social psychology of Americans to the point where I know that they are both deathly paranoid and suspicious of Muslims (thank Donald Trump), I know that if I were to claim affiliation with Islam, I would not only gain notoriety, but infamy, and—from my own perverted perspectives—respect. Despite the questions my inconsistent building blocks of my violence-achieved political message, I will have earned my infamy as a great “terrorist,” even if it is granted to me posthumously.
Well, that is exactly what happened with regard to events surrounding the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre. The perpetrator, 29 year-old Omar Mateen was the American-born son of Afghani immigrants. Aside from brief pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, Mateen had spent no extensive time abroad in regions where he could have become indoctrinated and radicalized under extreme Islamic doctrine. As further proof of this, the night Mateen committed the mass shootings at the Orlando area gay club, he called local 911 authorities and claimed affiliation and solidarity with the Islamic State, more widely known as ISIS. In his call, Mateen claimed that he was a Hezbollah member. Hezbollah is a Shiite organization that is fighting ISIS and is considered one of ISIS' biggest enemies. He also claimed that he and his family were connected to al-Qaida. Again, a totally different organization that does not see eye-to-eye at all with ISIS (in fact the two groups often clash in parts of Afghanistan), and both don't see eye to eye with Shiite Hezbollah. His claim as a radical sympathizer with radical elements of Islam wasn’t scrutinized by the shocked American public. Most Americans were all-too eager to take Mateen at his word that his actions were inspired by his (supposed) sympathies with ISIS.
                                                                             Omar Mateen

The absence of any pro-radical sympathies on social media is perhaps among the most telling red-flag of his claims (see: “The Challenge of Explaining Omar Mateen Through His Social Media Accounts.”). This would support the fact there has been zero evidence of Mateen having been directed by any known terrorist organizations to carry out the attack through social media.
So the question becomes, does publicly declaring one’s self and one’s actions to be in solidarity with a known terrorist organization and their goals make one a “terrorist?” Well, this week’s sniper killings of 5 Dallas, Texas police officers during a public protest of police shootings of civilians wouldn’t bear this out, as already law-enforcement officials and the media are calling this act an “act of terrorism” (Example: “This is Dallas, This is Our City, And We Don't Let Terrorism Win”). This in turn begs a similar question; does the reality of targeted individuals make an act of terrorism? While targeted individuals and/or groups are a factor, they certainly cannot be the lone deciding factor in what constitutes terrorism, as every example provided included targeted individuals. What about the extent and brazenness of the acts of violence? In a sense, all of the examples provided were brazen and/or extensive to some degree; what’s more brazen than bombing a building containing a day care center for toddlers (McVeigh) or attacking unarmed parishioners inside a church as they are praying? Yet, one is considered an act of terrorism, and one is considered “merely” a “crime.” That’s simply too inconsistent a criteria.
The one lone factor then is religion…not the religion of those who would be my targets, but my own. And it would have to be a religion with a (recent) history of having its name and tradition appropriated by extremists with its midst, much like “good white Christians” appropriated the tradition of Christianity in America, as they lynched black people, and forcibly relocated Native Americans from their native lands onto reservations. Think about the recent high-profile acts of violence and destruction where the perpetrators all shared the same Islamic faith: the 1993 Trade Center Bombing; the 2001 September 11th Attacks; the 2015 San Bernardino Shooting Attacks; and last month’s Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting. These were instances that were universally considered “terrorist attacks.” Many contained the same elements of violence, greater-than-me-motives, and political message (both spoken and unspoken).
The overall message here is that the term “terrorism” is such a loaded, such a fear-driven term that we only seem to—inconsistently and sporadically—apply it to those acts of violence that we deem cuts to the heart of our daily life as Americans. But in reality, all mass shootings, bombings, and politically-motivated acts of violence challenges our sense of peace and normalcy. Additionally, picking and choosing which acts of violence we deem so great as to constitute “terrorism” further divides the country. Those with an agenda, such as Donald Trump can easily exploit these situations to their political advantage, further polarizing us along ideological lines.
For the sake of consistency and the conveyance of their horrific nature, every act of violence with a political message and/or greater-than-me intent should be considered “terrorism.” And religious affiliation should not be the lone criteria for what constitutes such acts, because in essence, when someone uses violence with a narrow “greater good” intent, all victims are all terrorized—those who are killed, those who are lucky enough to survive, and those of us forced to witness such atrocities.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Donald Trump And The Art of Political Propaganda


I actually had to put some thought into what to title this posting. Not because it was difficult to come up with one, but because American has become so politically polarized, I dare not try to inadvertently fuel that particular reality ethos. However, at the same time, I know that there are those who favor a particular political ideological persuasion will see a "bias" behind every blog posting, news report, fact-check, or rosebush that doesn't paint their views in a flattering light, no matter how much effort goes into trying to maintain objectivity.  This is particularly, though not exclusively true for those with a conservative bent.
And as we are so politically polarized, its easy to understand why Republicans can't fathom Hillary Clinton's popularity among many Democrats, or Donald Trump's among many Republican. Aside from the possibility that these presumptive presidential candidates for the 2016 Presidential Election have messages that strike a resonate chord with their respective followers, there is another possibility; better self-promotion.

Presumptive Republican Party presidential candidate Donald J. Trump

What makes this possibility more than existential is the proven fact that propaganda, combined with boundless self-promotion and the appearance of self-assurance in the hands of of someone with years of experience, can yield a virtual Cult of Personality for a virtual master of the craft. To illustrate this point, please watch this piece from last night's episode of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher." As I know the name Bill Maher can evoke instant revulsion and trigger a reflexive urge to simply click off this posting, I would urge you to suspend your preconceived beliefs and at least consider why political candidates might be so successful in the eyes of fanatical adherents....and why some are not.

video

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pop Culture Fails (...or, "Things To Leave Behind In 2015!")

I had originally planned on posting this piece back in January, but given the books and other projects I had been working on, I was forced to delay it until now (no, there is no shortage of all the pies I have my finger in; it’s just that this is something that I am compelled to get off my mind). What’s more, this post marks the beginning of my return to blogging on a regular basis. Even still, it’s March 2016. And the new year is still young enough for me to post this in its original wordage.
Most of us will agree that the opportunity to see the start of another year of life is something of a blessing. It might also be construed as being something of a curse by others—in some respects. This is because the “stupidfication” (yes, I chose that made-up word on purpose) of many aspects of American pop culture continues to prove how dumbed-down we have collectively become.
As this is the start of a new year, I thought that I’d take this opportunity to offer up a few suggestions as to which particular pop culture practice we should leave behind in 2015. These dubious practices are not only annoying to anyone with half a brain (and the good sense that comes with it), but contribute to the continual degradation of decent and productive behavior. So without further adieu, I present some of the things we should leave behind in 2015…

1 “Lill,” “Yung,” and/or “Thug” rappers. In fact, let’s have no more “thugs,” and no more “rappers"…period! Simply put, I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) needed to list all of the so-called “rappers” with these particular prefix monikers for their stage names. But suffice it to say that any aspiring rapper who hopes to stand out in the already overpopulated rap game by calling himself “Lil” or “Yung” something or other is not going about it the right way. So many “Lil” and “Yung” rappers nowadays shows a lack of individualism and creativity that carries over into the subject matter of their simple and garden-variety lyrics (see: "The Negative Influence of Southern Rap Music, Part 2")

If you can ever stomach listening to most of the [c]crap produced by the genre nowadays, you would hear very little in the way of the lyrical sophistication, social consciousness, and raw talent that rappers of the 80s, 90s, and even the earliest part of the 2000s exhibited. To hear today’s crop of “rappers” tell it, everyone in the ‘hood is all about partying, getting high, “making it rain,” killing someone who they perceive has disrespected them somehow, or engaging in some hedonist sexual escapades.
This promotion (read: “pimping” of a detrimental subculture for the sake of album sales needs to be left behind in the history of last year—and all of the “Lil” and “Yung” purveyors of it as well. And speaking of negative imagery…

2 Sagging pants. If anyone can provide a logical answer as to why many young black (and a few white and Latino) males wear their pants this way, I would gladly ignore disparaging this otherwise idiotic practice (*cue crickets chirping*).

Believe it or not, in the past I have come actually come across a few adults who have defended this non-fashion statement. Most of the time, the excuses given by knuckleheads to make those of us with good sense accept this stupidity falls along the lines of “what’s in their heads is more important that what they are wearing”—which is patently absurd of course.
Instead of making lame excuses as to why such a stupid practice should be tolerated, these adults should be telling those who sag their pants following dress codes and simple expectations reflect the greater imperative of learning how to follow simple directions. What’s more, if those slaves to dumb trends have a hope of transcending the allure of thuggish imagery, they should be made to understand that in nearly all of our socioeconomic institutions where success—and upward mobility—is the standard, no one dresses in such a manner. You simply do not see politicians, bankers, lawyers, corporate CEOs, or world leaders dressed this way. Success demands a level of conformity—if for no other reason than to show that one can be trusted with responsibilities beyond being able to follow simple expectations.
In other words, adults who make excuses or tolerate this practice in thug-wannabees are not doing these young men any favors. And it’s totally irresponsible to overlook and accept it as the new “normal” among young people. It simply does not reflect the reality of life in the functional, adult world. Pull you pants up! Sagging is so last year!

3 Models. WARNING—I’m going to be as intentionally rude and “sexist” as I can be to make this particular point, so steel your sensitivities for the disparaging to follow.
Women, I’m sure many of you have heard the old adage, pretty women are like a city bus; all you have to do is wait 5 minutes until another passes by. I prefer to compare physically pretty women to leaves in the autumn—everywhere! My point is that is seems like every other “cute” woman in America aspires to be a model. And with the advent of social media formats like Facebook, Instagram, and the like, wannabe “models” are multiplying faster than lustful cockroaches on prom night. Simply put, the American people have already become so dumbed-downed through our cultural devolution that we simply don’t need another reason to focus on the surface—of anything.

OK, so you’re "cute.” What else do you have to offer the world other than something to look at? And how will you keep the attention of others when the next “bus” comes by 5 minutes after you’ve peaked in artificially-generated notoriety?
And while on the topic, a couple of related topics come to mind. If all you have are good looks and few luck-of-the-draw curves—attributes that you are oh so willing to exploit—to offer those all of us straight males, don’t be surprised when we start seeing and treating you purely as sex objects. Especially when many of you are posing in what amounts to dental floss, in overly-suggestive poses— in a society that is already brimming with omnipresent innuendoes and overtones of sexuality to sell everything from cars to carpet. It takes a disconnected sense of irresponsibility to want to both exploit and profit from one’s sexuality, without wanting to take responsibility for it.


And for “urban models” (models who cater to the hip-hop mindset), if you are going to engage in superficial flesh-peddling, please salvage a smidgeon of the class that actual models exhibit. By this, I mean WTF is up with all of the excessive tattooing? Some of you look like the graffitied sides of a New York City elevated platform train car. Whatever the inspiration for this trend, it was truly horrible advice to these obviously attention-deprived women. Putting so many tattoos on an otherwise blemish-free and (naturally, not “after-market” body part-infested) attractive body is like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa—it simply doesn’t belong there. It's not “cute,” contrary to what you’ve all been told (or think). Leave the inking to the bikers, Special Forces operatives, and social outcasts. In fact, leave all of the amateur “modeling” in 2015!

4. Auto-tune. This is one of those “kids-get-off-my-lawn” moments. By that, I mean I—along with a good chuck of the nation—old enough to remember a time when it actually took a little thing called “talent” to make music; particularly to sing. Those were the good old days, when we were actually willing to shelve out our hard-earned money to spend on a record that we know contained a bit of the artists’ soul and efforts. And for the uninitiated, “talent” is a developed skill possessed by an individual, or group of individuals that is not common among everybody. That is to say, a true talent is something that not everyone possesses. As it relates to Pop music any and every would-be “artist” can now pollute the airwaves with auto-tuned “singing.”
Make no mistake about it—this does not reflect talent. Singing is something not everyone can do; that makes it a talent. Gimmick-riding auto-tune to radio play may be quick and convenient in this age of manufactured music “artists,” but it hardly counts as artistic. This makes if a non-talent. What’s more, it’s symbolic of the overall decline in Pop music standards over the last decade or so; all style, little or no substance.
I could ramble on about this travesty against real music, but most of what is bad about auto-tune was said in my previous posting, “Why Southern Rap Music Sucks..."
And oh yes….leave it in 2015!

5 “Twerking.” OK, let’s just come out and say it; twerking is not dancing. Twerking—the suggestive gyration of a female’s posterior to bad (usually auto-tuned) music—is the self-exploitation of one’s sexuality for attention (or for dollar bills if performed in the vicinity of a stripper’s pole). But of course, modern feminist’ double-standards being what they are, many will defend this lack of modesty as women “owning their own sexuality;” but without that pesky sense of having (or taking) any responsibility for it. Thought not surprisingly, these are the same women who would demand that we men see them as “more than sex objects.” Such dissonance never ceases to amaze me.
video
Questionable "singer," Miley Cyrus "twerks" onstage

The message this display of stupidity and self-degradation conveys is that it’s OK if women objectify themselves; just you evil and ‘patriarchal’ males had better not do it! Get mad if you want. It’s the truth. Accept it and heal; fix your dissonance.
Women, do yourselves a favor, please stop “twerking.” It only appeals to those of us men with a low-brow nature who wouldn’t want to have anything to do with you outside of sexual play toy. It doesn’t make you look “talented;” it makes you look cheap and boorish…not to mention classless.

It’s a new year…let’s leave the stupid and tasteless behavior that is making us look like a nation of Neanderthals behind in 2015!

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.
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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 CNN.com). 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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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)
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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).

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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.