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."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Oil & Water CAN Mix

In Buddhist philosophy, the central tenet is that nothing last forever. But in market philosophy, it seems that that particular lesson has to be forever learned the hard way, As Michigan has learned in the past couple of years. Long staking its economy on the single industry of automobiles, the state has learned that even America’s love affair with its automobiles is not an eternal thing. As a result of the current recession and unforeseen rise in world oil futures in the past couple years, Michigan has been hemorrhaging jobs, a stable tax base, people, and hope; its once proud world-leading automobile giants are only a step or two from declaring bankruptcy.
Partially as a result of its failing economy, its governor, Jennifer Granholm, has made the growing trend of renewable energy the foundation of her initiative to create a new industry base in the state. To this end, earlier this week T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil baron who has become the unlikely but welcomed spokesman for the push to make the country independent of its attachment to foreign oil, joined the governor on the state’s premiere resort, Mackinaw Island to pitch the benefits to the nation as a whole of diversifying the state’s economy in this particular direction.
In his pitch to gathering of industry and government officials, Pickens noted that, “Michigan is a big state and you have a lot of resources here. I would think people would see it as an opportunity.” The energy tycoon acknowledged that the state has an already-established manufacturing base (i.e., an infrastructure capable of supporting mass industrial complex), a willing work-force hungry for employment, and the government’s desire to provide tax credits and other financial incentives to any investor that is willing to start the ball rolling towards this goal…in addition to natural resources such as “abundant wind and water.”

Texas Energy Baron & Billionaire Pushes American Independence from Foreign Oil


At the risk of sounding partisan, Pickens is a pragmatic political conservative that Americans need more of…one who has the will to do what’s necessary rather than what’s feasible for the market. Most of his ilk (as well as a few more toward the moderate left) seem hell-bent on keeping the country technologically stagnant by their insistence that the only way to meet the growing demand for oil is to invest in drilling for more of it domestically. This politically-entrenched mindset will do nothing more than keep America (and by extension, the world) from exploring and moving toward the next level of technological advancement, the push toward finding environmentally safer and cheaper renewable fuels.
One can only hope that the other policy- and opinion-makers in both Washington and Lansing (the state capital for those of you who are Jeopardy-impaired) take Granholm and Pickens' example to heart and be willing to put down their partisanship “thinking” caps and do what’s best on this particular issue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parental Controls Needed…for Parents (or, “Are Parents Smarter Than Their Fifth-Graders?”)

Back in February, Beyond-The-Political-Spectrum delved into the issue of special education in America, which explored the notion that perhaps not everyone should be allowed to have or raise children (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/Entitlements).
From my own experiences and observations, there are far too many irresponsible and selfish parents who, for whatever systemic and/or personal reasons, simply bear children and then burden our public schools, other adults, or the streets with the responsibility of raising them.
And in the instances where parents are taking an active role in the rearing of their children, there are many cases of either over-parenting, or downright foolhardiness in the decisions that they make. Consider the case of the drama that played itself out in Minnesota over the past week. In that instance, Colleen Hauser, and her 13-year-old Daniel son spent a week on the run, avoiding both law-enforcement authorities and a court order requiring that the cancer-ridden teen submit chemotherapy in order to save his life. By most accounts, it was believed that Daniel would die without the treatments for his Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, but such treatments went against the religious convictions of the Hausers, who prefer the natural healing practices of their American Indiana beliefs.
After a week on the run, the mother and son surrendered to authoritAdd Videoies back in Minnesota, where the mother was taken into custody and the son became a ward of Brown County, Minnesota’s protective services. This was another in a long list of cases where there is too much faith being applied and not enough good parenting sense, once again proving the absurdity that is a sad reality in America; we’re required to be licensed to do a great many things—including to cut hair—but anyone is allowed to be a parent. And as I suggested back in March, there should be a requirement of psychological testing, counseling, as well as a minimal education to have and bear children in America. Granted, I’m sure that this is not going to be well-received, but then again, as individuals, most of us have no clue what’s good for us…as a society, it’s even worse.


AP – FILE -- This recently taken file photo (may 13, 2009) shows The Hausers, Colleen and Daniel



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In the same criticism of special education, I also explored the notion that many parents were too quick to reach for the meds in addressing behavioral problems with their children. As if to illustrate the dangers of making psychotropic drugs our Plan A in helping to rear our children, this week, it came to light that the powerful anti-psychotic drug Risperdal has left a trail of troubling side-effects, especially in children. And yes, some parents want to sue the drug manufacturers for the trouble that their decision to use powerful and dangerous drugs caused.
Watch this CBS News Investigation (originally aired 05/29/09) for more information on the effects of this drug.






Watch CBS Videos Online



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Finally, it was has to be indisputable proof that there is a such thing as "too much freedom," 29-year-old Knox County, Tennessee resident Desmond Hatchett was in court recently to face hearings (with an "s") on allegations that he was not meeting his child support payment responsibilities. This wasn't hard to understand considering that Hatchett has fathered some 21 (as in "Blackjack") children by various women. During the particular day he was in court, Hatchett's name appeared on the dockette some 11 times in one day (one for each woman he's fathered a child with).
As a single man, I had been wondering where all the single women eligible for dating were. Now I know...they apparently were all in Desmond Hatchett's bedroom. Reiterating the point, there are far too many selfish and dysfunctional adults who continually become or who are already engaging in what could laughably be called "child-rearing." And what's worse, their over-exaggrated faith in their ability to properly raise children will do nothing more than burden the rest of society with the social and financial and reprecussions of their decision for years to come. To state the obvious bluntly, biological capacity should not be the sole criteria for parenthood. There are far more relevant factors to consider, such as being of sound mind and emotional well-being, as well as the ability to provide (the possibility of) a future for one's child...without undue strain on society.

Desmond Hatchett sits in a Knox County, Tennessee courtroom last week, awaiting review for his multiple child-support cases.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Criticism of Employers in America - Conclusion

When it comes to the tradition of employer hiring practices in America, there is probably no one reading this that hasn’t been labeled overqualified at some time during their lives. Granted there is some understandable reasoning from the employer’s perspective in this occasional practice, the fact remains that it insults the intelligence as well as creates an unnecessary roadblock in the path of someone seeking a job, a career, or simply a means to survive; people still need to eat, abundant experience and/or education achievement notwithstanding. The resulting logic of being tagged “overqualified” is that perhaps if a job candidate were capable of either dumbing themselves down, suppressing their ambitions, or hiding their education achievements, it would make them more employable.
When all is said and done, American employers need to abandon that logically-devoid dingy called blind adherence and try hopping aboard the good ship Reality. Just because you are unwilling to turn away from the old ways does not by any means mean that they are working. Expecting job hunters in this Save-Every-Buck-I-Can economy to travel excessive distances—on their own dimes—on the off-chance that they may actually be selected for employment is hardly realistic. This economy is affecting everyone…if employees and job hunters have to adapt, so must employers. Just because the current economic reality favors employers doesn’t mean common sense should be abandoned. They should really consider telephone interviews. Unless the prerequisite for a potential job includes sexual favors on the couch in the interviewer’s office, there is nothing that can be done in person that can’t be done over the telephone (and yes, I know that makes entirely too much sense, but then I find most decision-makers lack the critical thinking skills they are often looking for in employees). Insofar as "determining whether a potential candidate has the skills we need," that's what resumes and supporting references checks are for. Interviewing charm can be manufactured, so it behooves an interviewer to be more objective in their assessments of a potential employee.
Also, keep in mind that just because a job candidate has a loose thread on a button or scratches their head is no indication that they will potentially bankrupt an employer’s company. Too many individuals who believe that they are working in the best interests of their companies are way too judgmental. Not everyone is a salesperson, or possesses a salesperson’s persuasiveness, even as it relates to trying to get a prospective employer to consider them for a position. It doesn’t mean they lack confidence…it just means that people are different. Even more so, many lack the insight to “see” the outside-the-box thinker that many employers are often looking for, often mistaking plain-spokeness, uncommon beliefs, or a high-level of self-confidence and intelligence—all traits of self-motivated and innovative thinkers—as not being a “fit for our company.” The scenario is analogous to one of those Hollywood movies where a sophisticated thief has broken into a high-security museum, and is preparing to steal the Crown Jewels or some such item. He/She cannot see the infrared security beams until they adopt the special goggles that allow them to see the beams crisscrossing around the item. Well, looking for an innovative, outside-the-box thinker who could help an employer meet their goals is a lot like those movies. One cannot “see” an innovative person unless using innovative insight (or their old eyes as it were). In simplest terms, it takes a thief to catch a thief. Maybe American employers would be more successful if they would concentrate more on substantive attributes of potential employees, such as academic performance, personal adversities overcome (which demonstrates many positive traits), experiences and references, and leave the “behavior” observations to those more trained to observe such. Furthermore, tests that would actually measure potential job performance as it relates to whatever particular type of job being applied for (and not something that “demonstrates” aptitude or is done simple to “weed out” other similarly qualified individuals) would go a long way toward finding the right individual for an employer.
And lastly, employers could stand to be a little…no, a lot more professional in their dealings with job hunters. The American job hunter’s time is just as valuable as anyone else’s, and the time it takes to put together and send a resume or other job inquiry should be reciprocated; employers owe people interested in working for them the courtesy of response to inquiries, even if it is just a form response such as an automatic reply e-mail. It’s gotten so that those seeking work have become more professional in their endeavors than employers.
It’s understandable that for many American employers, good employers are hard to find, but not quality employees. If more time and effort were actually invested in seeing good potential employees instead of looking for them, perhaps American employers wouldn’t be in the same boat as we consumers and (ex-)employees, looking to survive in an economic downturn that is hurting employee and employer alike. Remember, it was who many chief employers decided to choose to employ that was in part, the cause of this economic downturn.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Criticism of Employers in America - Part 2

Continued from Part 1


What in particular is beyond reason about the way by which American employers tend to choose and hire prospective employers is that during these unprecedented economic times, everyone has been forced to change the way they conduct business as usual, EXCEPT in regards to hiring practices. Many departments of the various levels of government around the nation as well as many private-sector employers have gone to (and continue) a 4-day work week in order to save on operating expenses and to help their own employees cope with exceedingly high cost of gasoline and the prohibitive cost of commuting to and from work. Transportation (of products) has become more expensive. Consumers have had to become innovative in their household-related cost-cutting measures in order to survive the rising cost of products and services in these lean economic times. Banks have cut back on credit and tightened their loan standards. But for some inane reason, the human resource departments of employers seem to think that they alone are exempt from the need to change in order to adapt to the shifting economic realities. They still use the model of hiring the best interviewer rather than the most intelligent, most experienced, most outside-the-box thinker (In 95% of cases, the ability to “interview” is a “skill” separate from the individual requirements of most job opportunities; one has nothing to do with the other, but most employers fail to notice this). The problem is lies with the competence of the choosing mechanism that employers use.
I can recall some time ago applying for a position as a delivery driver for one of the major soft drink giants. I knew that the local bottling company for this company only hired through an online resume system, a system administered by an outside company not affiliated with the soft drink giant, but contracted by the soft drink company in order to find “compatible” prospective employers. I obtained the fax number for the company’s local bottling office and faxed in my resume along with a brief cover letter, hoping that this would give me an edge on any competitors for one of several positions. Given the area I was living in, I was certain that my college degree, honors distinctions, spotless driving record/CDL, well-honed resume, and my lack of substance abuse or a criminal record—all I noted in my cover letter—would make me a shoe in for the company. Sure enough, the manager of the local office suggested that I go immediately to their online resume system and apply. I was contacted by the same manager, who was at a loss as to why my resume had not showed up on their radar as it were. What happened was that I was found “not to have been compatible” as a prospective employee based on my answers to the resume system’s question and answer section. You know the types of pointless questions that are intended to divine who you "really" are: Do you love your mother? Do you believe that most people are dishonest at some point time in their lives? And so on.
Such questions would not have revealed that I had every intention to show up early and work late at every opportunity in order to rise through the ranks of the company and acquire a semblance of job security (the company has boasted that they have never had any mass lay-off at any point in their entire history). Such tools do not reveal individual ambition, do not reveal the personal motivations that a prospective employee would have for working hard (such as having to feed and provide for a family) and securing something of a secure financial future. It didn’t matter that I had no criminal history, had never even touched alcohol or taken in any type of foreign substance, that I was motivated (in part) to have a steady income so that I could pay down my student loans, that I was looking to rise through a company’s ranks and become a reliable employee, or that I had a history of volunteering hundreds of hours for social and poltical causes…all that mattered was my ability to answer questions correctly.
Such tools and their obvious and inherent weaknesses are directly in-line with human resource personnel who work on behalf of their employers to find decent and successful employees. But the problem with their lofty goal is not in trying to achieve the goal itself; the problem is the criteria they use select employees. As you may have guessed, I myself have been told once or twice that I “didn’t interview well,” despite my ability to articulate myself, my intelligence, and my various related experiences (to which again, I ask, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China insofar as the particular positions?). What I take issue with are those individuals, who’s backgrounds and/or education are in human resources, that tend to over analyze a prospective employee to the point where every fidget or untimely clearing of the throat becomes symbolic of some presumed negative attribute that may interfere with their ability to carry out job duties. In the worse instances, individuals are judged to not "fit" into a particular employer's company simply by virtue of harsh and unfair judgements of their apparent personalities. And this particular assessment would probably have merit if interviewers, as employees themselves, would recognize the fact that their personalities are not representative of every employees' personality; just because a candidate did not personably appeal to a single interviewer does not mean that that the job candidate would not in fact be loved by someone else within the same company. Putting too much faith on their training and their “abilities,” these individuals forget that they are not psychologists, psychoanalysts, or even in most cases trained observers of human behavior…they are people like you and I…people who bring their personal and cultural biases to the office. They are individuals, many with “professional” flaws themselves, not oracles or seers! And employers (as well as the individuals themselves) need to remember that.

To Be Concluded...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Criticism of Employers in America - Part 1

A couple of year ago, during a time when I was looking for work, I applied for a position located literally on the other side of the state of Michigan—a near 4 hours and close to 300 miles from where I lived. Between my own particular experience and the position’s duties and minimum education requirements, I felt that I was a lock for the position; it was a potential fit-like-a-glove match. The person overseeing the recruitment of potential candidates for this position must have thought so too, as I received an invite for an interview only one day after e-mailing my resume and cover letter to the appropriate personnel department. But my lack of positive results from the pitiful few interviews that I had gotten up to that point, the then-prohibitive expense of traveling so far on near $4.00 a gallon gasoline at the time had gotten me to think that I simply couldn’t afford what was something of a gamble with the limited financial resources I had at the time. Armed with this reality, I called and inquired about the possibility of a telephone interview in lieu of gambling with resources I could ill-afford to lose. The response that I received was “A telephone interview isn’t practical.” Needless to say, I was kind of taken aback; record-high gasoline, a 4 hours drive, and a day off from my part-time job…all on a gamble for a position that I may or may not get? ‘Impractical’ for whom?
This particular experience into the world of job hunting, as well as actually standing back and objectively observing how American employers seek potential employees taught me that America’s employees deserve whatever harsh fates await them in these unprecedented troubled economic times. Why do I say this? Because American businesses and organizations possess a remarkable inability to adapt their hiring practices to the new (and harsh) economic realities of global competition from workers in foreign nations, most of whom possess a level of productivity and a work ethic that dwarfs what we like to think of as “unparalleled” American output. So for the blindly patriotic or unyielding among you reading this, and who cannot think past old paradigms—even at the expense of embracing the illogical and senseless—you may want to stop reading at this point. But for those of you open and wise enough to release your death grips on traditional (but meritless) practices and consider valid cynicism toward current hiring practices in America, by all means, continue to enlighten yourselves.
Jumping right in, I am astonished at the way by which America’s employers blindly perpetuate hiring practices, which make little or no sense whatsoever, without dedicating even a nanosecond of thought to questioning their validity—the most obvious being the jump-through-the-hoop performance we call the “job interview.”
To start, this particular ritual is nothing more than a personality assessment as well as a lying contest—or is a reasonable person supposed to believe that every person applying for a job is everything he/she says that they are? According to a 2005 study in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, “60 percent of people had lied at least once during [a] 10-minute conversation.” What’s more, other similar research found that “extroverts tend to lie more than introverts…especially in a job interview situation.” With such being the case, it’s not surprising that a interview “offers success only slightly better than flipping a coin—52%” when it comes to their generally accepted (bus obviously mistaken) “accuracy” of finding a potentially successful employee. It speaks volumes then that, all other factors being equal, employers tend to hire the person who is the better performer rather than the one who is actually more competent.
To this effect, too much weight is given to “great answers” during a job interview, to which I find myself asking, what do ‘great answers’ have to do with the price of tea in China? Just because someone is able to spin a yarn, how does this translate into competence or potential successful employment? Call me stupid, but I simply do not see the connection. I mean, is this why so many recent immigrants from South of the Border are hired for a growing number of American jobs…because of their “perfect command” of the English language and their sophisticated interviewing skills…or is it because most know that they as a group are capable of outworking most Americans? I mean, if I were a candidate for a position as a janitor or window washer (or any other position), how does “how well” I answer pointless question assure the interviewer that I won’t sweep dirt under the carpets or leave streaks on the windows? A fact of life, especially given such precarious economic times, is that everyone lies, including our parents and best friends. Throw into the mix the immediate economic needs of job candidates and the requirement that they have to literally sing for their suppers, and you develop a clear understanding of why America is the nexus of the current worldwide economic turmoil; the “best and the brightest,” especially where Wall Street and the economic community in general are concerned, are most often chosen from among those who are able to sing their own praises the most effectively, and not necessarily the most competent, most innovative thinkers. How else can anyone explain why someone with superior academic credentials, self-confidence, and experience is turned down for an employment opportunity when compared to other candidates for a given position of lesser attributes? And with so many American employers all-too willing and/or eager to favor image over substance, some job candidates are resorting to facelifts and other forms of reconstructive surgery in order to gain favor with a prospective employer via “that extra edge.”


To Be Continued...