The Worship of Sports in America

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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."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Muslim Group To Build a Mosque at Ground Zero

From the “What The **** ” Department, it was revealed during the last few days that a Muslim group are in the final stages of preparing to build a mosque in a building just a few hundred feet from Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Center attacks of September 11th.
News outlets including the New York Post and the Fox News Network (overlooking the ideological inclinations of the latter) have revealed that the mosque will be a part of a 13-story Muslim community center which has billed as a cultural center, and will house “not (only) a mosque but a community center for all faiths that will include recreational facilities.”



http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/mosque_madness_at_ground_zero_OQ34EB0MWS0lXuAnQau5uL
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/14/plan-build-mosque-near-ground-zero-riles-families-victims/

Needless to say many Americans are up in arms. The anger behind building a mosque, a shrine to the religious ideology—or rather a perversion of it—which provided the impetus for the 9/11 attacks so close to the site of the attacks themselves smacks intolerance all around.
On the one hand, Muslims are allowing their dedication and adherence to their religion to blind them to the sensitivities surrounding the issue…to the families of those who lost loved ones on that day, and Americans in general. While a spokesperson for the American Soeciety for Muslim Advancement defends the building of the center as a “need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive” by “amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies,” the uproar by those against the project—most vocally the families of those lost that day—is being ignored in favor of what the Muslim group wants. Combine this with the intent by the center's sponsors/operators to open the center on September 11th 2011—the 10th anniversary of the attacks—only adds salt to the still festering wounds, and feeds the atmosphere of insensitivity surrounding this issue.
One the other hand, victims families in particular and Americans in general, still feeling wounded by the events of that day, are potentially painting all Muslims with a broad paintbrush. It is causing a failure to understand that not only were planes hijacked that day, but so was the Muslim ideology…by extremists.
As opposed to looking for possible solutions to the issue, more thought should have been put into the brainstorming and communications stages of this predicament. Groups with such potentially conflicting motivations and missions should take the time to communicate with one another whenever something of this magnitude of sensitivity, such as when a vendor wants to erect a liquor shop near a school.
In much the same way that a neo-Nazi organization (and no, I am not comparing Islam to Nazism as an ideology) would not be allowed to build a headquarters near Aushwitz, or a Japanese naval memorial near Pear Harbor, why would zoning officials in New York not consider the sensitive nature of permitting such a structure near such a site?
Local governmental departments such as those responsible for zoning should stop blindly engaging in the bureaucratic routine of simply approving or building , and actually put some consideration into the effects of proposed projects of this nature.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Financial Crisis, Bankers, And What To Do (Or, “Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Collect Any Money!”)

When it comes to the economy in general, and the economic crisis of last year in particular—and the jury’s still out on whether or not the crisis over—there are two schools of thought, one favoring (and/or blaming) the lack of government regulation of the marketplace economy, and the other favoring (and yes, blaming) more government regulation. To be sure, ebbs and flows within the marketplace are a part of the cycle which gives it life, although it’s a little hard to appreciate this fact abstractly when one considers that real people, real families are often affected adversely by these cycles. But to the credit of each argument, common sense rather than economic ideology tells us that there are times when government regulation can increase the intensity of these ebbs and flows, to the greater detriment or benefit of the economy. Still, the loyalists to the government-need-to-interfere and the laissez-faire beliefs remain unwavering to their respective ideological beliefs.
So it should come as no surprise that there will still be some who disagree with one way the government of Iceland is dealing with the economic crisis within its banking community…a crisis whose effect has been infinitely worse in terms of profound damage to its overall economy. This week, it was reported in the news ("Top Economists: Iceland Did It Right … And Everyone Else Is Doing It Wrong" as an example) that the government of Iceland has begun to initiate both civil and criminal proceedings against banking executives related to the collapses of the country’s 3 largest banks, Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir. After the findings of a government inquiry concluded that the banks collapsed due mostly to former banking heads taking "inappropriate loans from the banks," the government of government agencies initiated a $2 billion lawsuit in a New York court against former shareholders and executives for alleged fraud. In addition to the lawsuit(s), Iceland has taken the further step of freezing the assets of other banking executives both in the US and in Europe (such as in the United Kingdom and Luxemburg) where many have fled and live lavish lifestyles. Finally, the police have begun rounding up still some other former bankers while issuing arrest warrants for others.
With respect to the outcomes of the Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco International criminal trials of earlier this decade, the Icelanders seem to have mastered not only certain Olympic sports, but how to properly deal with those most responsible for the economic crisis in its country. In America, the financial community makes no bones about justifying big bonuses to “retain the best and most talented” within the lending community, extravagant lifestyles that are were/are “earned,” and asking for and receiving government loans with no sense of shame…all despite the “best and brightest” causing the near-economic collapse of the American economy due to questionable lending practices. While many banking executives and leaders have made off like (pardon the pun) bandits, many Americans have seen the values of their retirement packages plummet to levels that will force many to work well past the age where age has reduce their physical limitations to do so. But as I have often said before, there is a great many things that Americans can learn from other countries about how to deal with socioeconomic problems. Instead of rewarding willful ineptitude, risk taking, and out-and-out greed with bonuses and an implied Its ok to engage in questionable lending practices…we’ll subsidize you both socially and economically, we should be taking a page out of the government of Iceland’s book and start a criminal (and civil) roundup and prosecution of those most responsible for nearly doing what terrorists couldn’t do…bring the country to its economic knees. The government of the United States should the seizure of assets, the initiation of lawsuits, and bringing of charges against those who put potential of personal advancement ahead of the welfare of their institutions, investors, and of the average American who has been invested in many aspects of the lending industry due to changing trends in funding potential retirements.
Stealing a line from the now-classic 1983 Eddie Murphy-Dan Aykroyd movie Trading Places, “The best way to hurt rich people is to turn them into poor people.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's Right & Wrong About The Tea Party, Conclusion

...Continued From Part 2

Perhaps one of the biggest paradoxes of the Tea Party is that many of the rank-and-file members who work in local communities probably believe that they are working in the best interests of the country by protesting what they feel to be exorbitant taxes and unchecked government spending. However, upon closer examination of the reality of the beliefs which they are protesting against, an almost exclusively cynical view of the movement tends to become the basis of doubt.
Take for instance the inference of their movement’s/organization’s acronym, Taxed Enough Already and their protestations that they pay too much in taxes. In a world where perception is often reality, the movement has convinced many Americans that taxes are exceedingly high. But according to the latest information, only 18% of Americans say that they support the Tea Party movement, and half of them have indicated that their taxes are fair (www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002487-503544.html). But it is only upon closer examination of the research that the picture starts to gain a new focus; only the most active within the Tea Party say that their taxes are too high, most often represented by Tea Partiers who attend public rallies and related functions such as the Tea Party Convention held last February in Nashville. Of them, 55% make no bones about their taxes being too high.
Not only do the numbers within the Party of actual adherents to its base claim misrepresent the validity of their protestations, but the validity of their claims simply does not gel with the reality of facts. According to most research, taxes are at an all-time low when measured against the historical trend, especially for those in the middle-class income brackets, which most Tea Partiers are if the statistics are accurate (According to a recent CNN poll, 32% of those identifying themselves as “Tea Party activists” reported earning between $50,000-$75,000, 18% reported earning $30,000-$50,000, and only 8% reported earning less than $30,000 (34% earn more than $75,000. As a group, those incomes are higher than nationwide averages, but not so much that their tax burden is even close to being equivalent to the highest wage earners, who have the highest tax burden. http://www.thefourthbranch.com/2010/04/taxes-at-lowest-level-in-60-years-so-why-are-tea-partiers-angry/). And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that those in the same income brackets benefited from the tax reductions that were a part of the Obama Administration’s 2009 stimulus package). Furthermore, capital gains taxes have had modest reductions in recent years. So to quote a famous line from the 1980s, “Where’s the beef?”


Click on image to enlarge shrinking income tax and capital gain burdens on various groups

Another point where such a movement loses it perception of populism is when it has professional talking heads representing the movement, who engage in spin instead of actually listing its grievances and allowing the public to judge for itself. A recent airing of Headline News’ Joy Behar Show (below) demonstrates this to the utmost degree.

video

What the video demonstrates is a tried and proven propaganda method for gaining credibility (and legitimacy) in American politics when it comes to individuals and organizations. The method involves either espousing populist ideas, and/or clothing oneself in patriotic beliefs; in this respect, the Tea party is unlike most other such movements in American history. Expert talking heads representing this movement (as others representing themselves in such a manner) can and do take the most straightforward of questions about their movement and twist the answers to where they come off as victims of or guardians against an imaginary threat. And while there is no doubt that many of the movement’s grassroots (i.e., community level) activists truly believe in the movement’s cause, it’s a little hard to understand why so many cannot think beyond their allegiance to their political ideologies to think independently. For example, why is spending such an issue now even after a record budget surplus built under the Clinton Administration (and a Republican-controlled Congress), and its subsequent erosion under the Bush Administration? This is what the Tea Party movement has managed to do to such a degree that many of its grassroots activists truly believe that they are working in the interests of the country as a whole.
So what the phenomenon of the Tea Party appears to be is an organization where the most active members are a minority among a minority, one that the majority of them will surely make an attempt to pass off their numbers as representative of a consensus of Americans. Do I believe that the Party has “tapped into an undercurrent of discontent” among the voting American electorate? No more so than they represent what is has always been a perpetual sense of disgust toward the sense that government is corrupt. But I am reminded of the quote by former Republican Maine Senator Bill Cohen, "Government is the enemy until…you need a friend.”

What's Right & Wrong About The Tea Party, Part 2

...continued from Part 1.

Just as I can pile on my personal beefs with many aspects of Democratic Party/liberal ideology, I can do the same with Republican Party/Conservative mantra…more so because of its self-crafted perception that it’s the party of all things unquestionably moral, patriotic, and good (and while yes, I’m very much an adherent of morality in policy, I draw the line at sanctimony). Take for example the phenomenon of the Tea Party movement making headlines almost daily for the last year or so.
It has been self-billed as a movement of “ordinary Americans” who are concerned about the welfare of the country’s future, mostly as it relates to the federal government’s current fiscal policies. And based on these surface perceptions, I listed in the first part of this posting what was admirable about the movement. But given what I have seen in the media, what has actually come from the mouths of the movement’s organizers and supporters, and how those within the movement portray their cause, there is just as much to dislike about the Tea Party movement. Among what is wrong with (i.e., questionable) the Tea Party is

· …the timing of the “movement’s” current activist activities. In a world where timing is everything, this calls into question whether the movement is truly a grassroots mobilization of ordinary Americans against out-of-control government spending, or just another ideological vehicle for one of the two major political parties to gain (or regain) control of Washington (and by extension become patsies of interests who desire a more business first, people-be-damned Free Market at-any-costs atmosphere). Yes, the Tea Party movement has been around for a few years, but it was given a shot in the arm in recent times by its support of former presidential candidate Ron Paul’s failed bid for the 2008 Republican Party nomination. Paul’s populist beliefs struck a resonate chord with many conservative Americans, who gave tepid opposition to President George Bush’s plan to help bailout Wall Street financial institutions (TARP loans) to stave off a wholesale financial meltdown, but has given opposition with both barrels to President Obama’s policy of continuing TARP loans and extending loans (ie., bailouts) to America’s failing auto industry. More to the point, this organized opposition to Obama’s policy proposals was gaining steam even before he took office. So to say that “runaway government spending” is the movement’s motivation can be looked at—cynically so—as being an ostensive opportunity for what many on the Conservative Right in general, and the movement in particular to irrationally view and/or paint the Obama Adminstration as a “threat” to American Free Market values in the form of being a harbinger of a “Socialist form of government” (via his drive to reform health care insurance to cover more
Americans).

· …how the Tea Party misrepresents and allows itself to be misrepresented. Many within the movement assert that runaway government spending and exorbitant taxes are the reason for its activism and opposition to the current administration’s policies. Furthermore, they declare that they are against and will work to unseat any elected official (mostly at the federal level) whose voting record adds to government spending. But again, timing and perception are everything. With the extremely rare exception, most of those whom the movement oppose for re-election are Democrats and/or Liberals, so one has to ask where was the movement’s current level of organization and opposition when the previous administration’s policies ran the national deficit up from $5.7 trillion to some $10 trillion under a Republican-controlled White House and Congress for the previous 8 years?
In addition to seeming to represent more of an effort to influence partisan party politics rather than a true representative grassroots efforts, the movement’s overall message of being “Taxed Enough Already” (its acronym) seems to be at odds with reality. A highly-publicized recent CBS/New York Times poll indicated that most Americans consider the current income tax level they pay to be fair, regardless of political persuasion or income level (
www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002487-503544.html).
The poll was criticized in some conservative circles—predictably so since the Tea Party seems to represent their ideological views—as being inaccurate since most other research indicates that between 45% and 48% of Americans don’t even pay income taxes when refunds and various tax credits are factored in. A valid point under most other circumstances, but what the criticism fails to acknowledge is that the poll included many professed Tea Party supporters, whom were “oversampled…and then weighted back to their proper proportion in the poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for both all adults and Tea Party supporters.” What’s more is that “forty-five percent of self-identified "Tea Partiers" make less than $50,000 per year, according to a
USA Today/Gallup poll.



Click on graphic to enlarge (Courtesy CBS News/New York Times)

Similarly, 50% of the total population makes less than $50,000 in the same poll. Based on reason alone, it seems safe to assume that if about half the country avoids federal income taxes, a similar percentage of the Tea Party movement doesn’t pay taxes as well, even as they protest about their tax “burden.”


To Be Concluded...