The Worship of Sports in America

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

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."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yes Virginia, There ARE "Lazy Americans!" (Part 1)

Early last week, President Obama received a moderate amount of flack because of a remark he made—within the context of a speech about whether America is doing its best to compete against other economic powers globally—about how Americans have been “lazy” in regards to focusing on our economic priorities. And naturally politicians (being the creatures of opportunity they are) and other assorted talking heads wasted no time in highlighting (or rather crafting) the president’s implied lazy American “insult” in official statements and opinion pieces. Republican Party presidential nominee candidate Rick Perry has even misleadingly parlayed Obama’s “insult” into a television campaign ad.

Sadly, predictably, and ironically, taking the president’s overall message out of context to form a straw man argument is a tried and proven method for conditioning mentally lazy Americans—those who make up a great many among the potential voting electorate who don’t objectively research issues—into believing the worst of an ideological opposite. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of employing this tactic.
But despite the distortion of the president’s message, the reality is that Americans are indeed lazy! Part of this stems from our desire to squeeze as much economic profit from so little effort or investment of what resources we have to utilize, whether they be mental, monetary, material, or spiritual resources. The remainder of the reasons derives from the erosion of the values which propelled America to the zenith of global and military dominance.
To the contrary, those in denial are usually quick to reassure us that America is [still] #1 in virtually everything we do. Common sense (with a helpful dose of reality) dictates that this isn’t true…far from it in fact. The recent trouble with Detroit’s auto industry proves this in the realm of auto manufacturing. When it comes to health care spending as a portion of a country’s gross domestic spending, other countries spend far less than America…and manage to cover the majority of their citizens—without the pretense by some political quarters that (somehow) our “rights” as citizens will be in jeopardy if all Americans are somehow covered by affordable health insurance. And depending on which survey/study you read, there are at least 14 countries whose student’s standardized test scores—as a reflection of the quality of their education and student motivation—are far ahead of lagging American students. In many ways, American arrogance is sorely misplaced.
And when such shortcomings are pointed out by souls brave enough to withstand the predictable barrage of oncoming criticism for their “anti-patriotic” overtones, they are invariably glossed over (read: ignored) by those who would portray themselves as defenders of American idealism. These people do themselves and the country a disservice when they attempt to stir a sense of national pride in American ingenuity which is fit more for memories of a bygone era than as contemporary “proof” of what we can do as a country. Instead of being ashamed when comparing ourselves to the rest of the industrialized world, we gloss over failings with misplaced patriotism, which touts innovation which rarely applies in the current world.
Why this conclusion? In many areas, the reality speaks for itself.

Public Education

What can be said about the public education system in America which hasn’t already been said? Too much government mandate. Too little regulation. Too much or too little local control. Government control vs. private innovation. Bad teachers. Good teachers who aren’t compensated enough. Too much or too little parental involvement. The list goes on. But whatever side one takes or whatever reasoning one assumes, the bottom line is that Americans put far more effort into bickering, arguing, and comparing ideological schools of thought on how best to fix our schools than actually remedying even the most fixable of basic roadblocks hindering an effective (and competitive) education.
Anecdotally and realistically, the curriculums in most American public schools are not challenging enough, nor are the learning environments in many schools functional enough for the formation of a globally competitive citizenry. We’ve known this for the last generation, but we lack the collective will to make the hard decisions as public servants, parents, politicians, and concerned individuals to change this. We know that our public school students’ performance as a nation is well below that of other students from “second class” countries; the comparative standardized test scores don’t lie (but I’m sure that those who don’t agree will find some “flaw” in the methodology). Having spent a great deal of time in and around colleges, I know firsthand that many foreign students take their studies in American colleges far more seriously than their American counterparts. This is a reality is based in part on the fact that many—if not most—of these students hail from countries whose public/primary school systems prepare them to face education abroad with a love of learning, disciplined structure, and in many cases the cultural banking of respect for teachers (as well as authority figures). Even in countries ravaged by war, civil strife, and other calamities, there are instances of children compelled to make their way—some by a sense of duty or personal conviction—to schools some distance away from home in order for them to learn.
One the other hand, we Americans program in our children a sense of entitlement rather than duty. Working currently with at-risk teens at an alternative school, I can’t tell how many times I’ve silently sighed in exasperation as I experience daily how pampered and lazy American children are academically (and in most other ways which count). Many, if not most middle and high school students—especially in urban and city schools—view books and reading in general as a chore given as a form of punishment. Trying to get some students to write is comparable to trying to bathe a house cat. And the respect for teachers is anything but…. Our schools are brimming with lazy students, too uninspired and unmotivated to open their minds to anything beyond the misplaced sense of self-importance and self-absorption their parents helped to impart them with. American students are (somewhat in many cases) indulged by having economic and material resources diverted to creating and maintaining morally and philosophically questionable “investments” such as police/resource officers, accommodation for special needs, and so forth. Such resources are financial and material burdens placed public education by bad/lazy parents who feel they have “rights” enough to allow their disruptive children (discounting those with bona-fide handicaps. What I’m speaking of are the many students over-diagnosed with afflictions such as “Oppositional Defiance Disorder” and other similar “disorders”) to negatively impact the education of those striving to learn in otherwise challenging environments (See: Related Article).
And those students who do take their studies seriously, some are too lazy to actually take the time and effort to learn. Many American students have been socialized with a new but warped set or moral imperatives that compel them to seek the quickest, least labor-involved way to carry out their study requirements. Online term papers, cutting and pasting, and half-hearted efforts are only few of the usual ways that American students showcase their lack of initiative. Once the sole province of a relatively few “slackers,” in our public schools, cheating, taking shortcuts, and/or just laziness has become the new norm in most public schools throughout America. Just last month, several New York area university graduate students were arrested for their involvement in a scheme in which they were paid by high school students to take the SAT college entrance exam for them. In another example, law enforcement authorities and college officials have been made aware of the growing trend of high school and college students obtaining by illegal pretenses (or purchasing on the black market) the ADHD prescription drug Adderall.


Sometimes called the “smart pill,” abusers are taking the drug as a way of increasing concentration needed to complete multiple assignments so that, in many cases, they are able to engage in more extracurricular activities. Finally, the recent reporting of several standardized testing scandals—aided by public school officials—in public school throughout the country attest to the new culture of thinking that many of our American students have latched onto. It’s no wonder American students seek shortcuts and embrace laziness; they are learning their laziness from adults (See: "And Now A New Standardized Testing Scandal" and "A Scandal of Cheating And A Fall From Grace").

To Be Continued

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Opinion: The Death of The American Marriage

A little more than a week ago, USA Today printed a piece from its weekly column on religion written by author Henry Brinton, who is also pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia (See: "Column: Wedding Days Are Losing Their Way"). In the opinion piece, Brinton writes about how the drift toward untraditional marriage ceremonies contributes to the shrinking significance of marriage as an institution. Conversely, the pastor argues in how traditional marriage ceremonies, those which take place in a wholly religious setting and officiated by a man/person of faith, form the basis of more enduring and durable unions, and therefore strengthens traditional family units.
But given how even individuals of considerable financial and social means (i.e., celebrities, political figures, athletes, etc.), who spend envious amounts of money on (questionably) extravagant and (also questionably) newsworthy ceremonies are afflicted by the same blistering rates of divorce, domestic abuse, and relationship stress that the average job-holding, beer-drinking, anxiety-ridden everyday Joe is, “institution” is the most apt description of the state of contemporary American marriage…because anyone left in American who takes its seriously would have to be considered crazy.
More of an exercise in devil’s advocacy than an expression of my own cynicism, the institution of marriage—with respect to Brinton’s position—has lost much of its social relevance in the last generation or so. As a child of Generation X, I can remember growing up watching television sitcoms where suspected pregnancies resulting from “flings” between main characters (usually male) inevitably brought up the subject of marriage as a way of “making things right” (these sitcoms reflected the thinking of the times with regard to marriage). This consideration, under such circumstances, was usually the way of addressing the prospect of avoiding the social stigma of bastard children. Marriage was considered an honorable symbol of commitment, even among the most philandering of cads. The ethos recognizing marriage within the context of the day was such that inveterate womanizers like Three’s Company’s Larry or Happy Days’ The Fonz cringed at the prospect of having to marry women they’d somehow managed to “sully” during their romps; it was considered a fate tantamount to death because of the implied level of commitment (combined with the relatively low occurrence of the then-seeming choice to divorce) tying the knot implied.
But now, even without the likes of Brittany Spears’ or Kim Kardashian’s latest publicity-driven stunts to see which has the shortest lifespan, a mayfly or a contemporary American marriage, the modern-day marriage ceremony has become more of an attempt to cater to a woman’s sense of fantasy, fairytale, romance, or just the culmination of bad judgment. There is some anecdotal support for my position, one being that women are far more likely to be the initiates of divorce, some 66% of the time by most studies, which would imply that they are most likely to be most dissatisfied in the resulting relationship (even if you extrapolated for incidences of domestic violence and/or infidelity on the man’s part). And on the heels of this fact is another recent survey which indicated

that up to 30% of now-divorced women actually said knew that they were not marrying the right man the moment they exchanged vows during the marriage ceremony (See: “Did You Marry The Wrong Guy?”).

This would suggest that many jump headway into doomed relationships, lured by the pageantry of the ceremony, with no forethought of pre-marriage personal introspection or consideration of the dynamics or function the relationship itself (with respect to the pre-marriage counseling which people of faith like Pastor Brinton no doubt attempt to engage in couples in).
But even more than changing attitudes is the fact that men and women are simply sociologically different when it comes to perspectives of marriage. Partially driven by our “biological clocks,” many women feel more compelled to marry. It’s made apparent anytime a woman makes the statement, I’m (fill-in-the-age) years-old and I’m still not married, or words to that effect (my personal favorite however, is It’s [fill-in-the-year] and I’m not married…as if a bad decision with regard to marriage couldn’t be made in any given year). Many women are more likely to conform to social expectations and family pressure. Most women view marriage as a form of relationship security, and rely on its legal recognitions for financial peace-of-mind—especially should the spouse dies.
Many—some would say most—men one the other hand, view the commitment of marriage as merely a suggestion, no matter how attractive, accomplished or loyal the spouse, or how privileged the life they have together. Sandra Bullock, Erin Nordegren, and Eva Longoria know this all too well. For many men, the institution of marriage has little in the way of a restraining influence on our “need” to demonstrate how quickly we are able to break the trust we are lucky enough to have earned. And demonstratively, the more privileged (or fortunate) we are, the greater the opportunities and sense of entitlement to bed swap we have (of course I’m not saying it’s right…it’s just reality).
And with the exception of the rare American male who actually marries with the intention to “make it work”—despite the disheartening odds or whatever obstacle gets in the way—many men see marriage and that implied commitment thing as more of an option rather than a publicly-declared promise between two individuals. Most of us are seemingly genetically predisposed to stepping beyond so-called “bond” of marriage and sowing our seeds elsewhere (yes, I know that there are some actual studies which point to this being a fact rather than personal choice, but the jury’s still out on this). We are seemingly designed to break our vows in a vain attempt to find that one nonexistent woman who is the “prefect” blend of femininity, but without the emphasis on “feelings;” sexual, but willing to unquestionably acquiesce to our fantasies (sick or otherwise); and loyal, but not overly submissive or needlessly attitudinal (see ladies…our fantasies are just unreal are yours). Sadly though, most of us men are only as “loyal” as our options. To us, marriage is the ultimate gamble. If we “crap out,” we stand to lose our hard-earned material possessions (or have them divvied-up by "The Man") in divorce, have a portion of our incomes (in the form of alimony, palimony, or child support) garnished, or forced to accept the sometimes inequitable terms of a child custody judgment—ultimately becoming just another loser in the game that marriage has become…with the odds seemingly stacked.
Finally, and to be clear, Pastor Brinton’s opinion asserts that the traditional marriage ceremony is a tried means of reinforcing the promise—not necessarily the notion of love—within a union. That’s a good thing, since the fragility of most modern unions would seem to answer Tina Turner’s decades-old question of What’s love got to do with it...seemingly very little! Quite simply, most of us do not even know how to love...or have no idea what the concept entails. We’re simply too self-absorbed as a culture to understand that being a part of something larger than ourselves like a relationship means that we must be willing to give up some, if not most of our much-lauded “independence” (sorry ladies and gentlemen for the bubble-burst). Too many of us are culturally-programmed to measure ourselves by what others have (and what we don’t), and too focused on the illusion of time in order to determine our individual self-worth as it relates to (potential) relationships. Most of us cannot see past the self to understand that a true union is about “us,” not “me.” Women want romance, men want respect. We as men want women to do whatever we want, while women want to do what they want. Men want women to understand, while women want to be understood. Women want security, men flexibility. Women want partners who can understand their feelings…while men want partners whose feelings won’t always be the central issue in a relationship. And neither of us are willing to compromise in what we want (See: “What Is Love?” on Beyond The Political Spectrum’s sister blog on Hubpages).
The bottom line: the institution of marriage looks to be outliving both its usefulness as a means of ensuring the survival of the traditional American family, and its meaning as way of "proving" one's loyalty and devotion to a single partner. Here's to the institution of marriage...may it rest in peace!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Americans Standing Up - Which Movement Speaks For You?

Government gridlock. A shrinking middle-class. Companies sitting on billions of dollars, and refusing to reinvest in expansion. Banks seemingly inventing fees to gouge the consumer (come on, does it take that much money to manage other people’s money?). Politicians putting party affiliations and self-interests before the greater good. CEO’s, corporate officers, high-level financial decision-makers (you know…those “best and brightest” who are partly—but not exclusively—responsible for nearly tanking America’s market economy) still earning indefensible incomes and bonuses. And as a result of all of this sociopolitical chaos, people have finally taken to the streets and started putting the pressure of the voting electorate on those responsible.
But there are two distinct groups of protestors who seem to getting on their respective soap boxes and adopting the mantle of the voice of the American people. On one hand, there is the Tea Party movement, which purports to speak for the shrinking American middle class, and is opposed to larger government, the current tax structure, and for all things conservative…including social policies. In the last year, they have organized locally and even marched on Washington D.C in an effort to promote these and other conservative forms of government.
On the other hand, there is the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has targeted the banking and lending industries and local government offices by attempting to cause disruptions in day-to-day commerce and the business of government. Their primary aim is to put faces on the economic suffering of the “99%” of Americans they say they represent—those who do not command large salaries, hold public offices, and who have been “victimized” by corporate greed and government apathy toward their suffering. They are opposed to corporate greed, the Big Money influence in government, unemployment, and the current economic state of the nation.
At some points, there is a blurring of the line of policies that these two disparate groups oppose that gives the impression of a single populist uprising, such as the issue of the influence of Big Money in the political process. But with more social issues on their agenda, the Tea Party movement is distinctly different from the more ambiguous, seemingly more progressive Occupy Wall Street movement. So the question of the moment is which group and/or movement speaks you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Read My Lips...No New Politicians!"

For the sake of simplicity, I’d like to convey the idea that our elected officials—those who, at least in theory, work for us—can be categorized into two different and distinct archetypes.
On the one hand, there are politicians. These are the self-serving types of individuals who always seem to mudsling, fear-monger, and flip-flop their way into “public service.” They are typically influenced by Big Money and Special Interests (or, in the event that an issue of particular impact cannot be ignored, the voting electorate). Most often, they are motivated by the urge to seek out influence and power as well as the [possible] long-term security of a career in public office. And more often than not, their scruples and sense of honor tends to plummet as a result of their holding onto the power of their positions (as we’ve seen so often in the scandals that happen with shameful regularity).
One the other hand, there are the statesmen. Statesmen are the rare breed who actually assumes the responsibilities of public office with the intent to work on behalf of the greater good; they actually want to do something on behalf of the country (as opposed self-gain). They are motivated by the needs and/or wants of the American public (even if their policy beliefs skirt the boundaries of dogmatic ideology), influenced (for the most part) by conscious, and tend to continue working on behalf of people even after public office.
Insofar as local and federal elected officials, sadly there are way too many of the former and a precious few of the latter (especially in Congress). As far as presidents—past and present—go, it’s pretty much a mixture in every sense of the word. Jimmy Carter was neither a statesman nor politician, but an idealist who found himself in a world run by the principle of real politicks (he more or less assumed the role of statesman after his tenure as president). Ronald Reagan (despite the fact that I didn’t/don’t agree with a few of his domestic policies, especially those which hit the poor particularly hard) was a statesman in most senses of the word. George Bush I started as a politician who morphed into a statesman. Bill Clinton became a politician by circumstance. George Bush II was a victim of circumstances who tried to be a statesman…to less than stellar results. Barack Obama—and yes, I know how many view him—I believe to be working in the interests of the greater good, despite attacked on all fronts. He has the savvy of a politician, but desires to be a statesman.
With regard to politicians, I could easily use this forum to soapbox and give them my two cents on how best they could serve the country as statesmen rather than politicians. But in lieu of giving people the benefit of my objective opinion, I will step aside and allow the words and wisdom of Black Entertainment Television founder and self-made billionaire Robert Johnson to speak to this issue. Last month, he was interviewed by the CBS Evening News in an effort to get the input on how best to deal with the impasse in executing policy and legislation, how to fix the ailing economy, and how to work for the benefit of every American.
To sum up his take on how to best approach American's problems, the self-made businessman calls for the need for those seeking positions in public service to sacrifice.

Please watch.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Race & President Obama's Congressional Black Caucus Speech...Where's The Beef?

The funny thing about race in America is that it is often never raised as an issue when it should be, and ignored when it shouldn’t be. Take the field of politics for example.
Last week, President Obama gave a speech at a Washington D.C. gathering of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) which could only be described as “fiery” in both its content and delivery. Last Saturday, the president told black lawmakers to “quit crying and complaining” and to support his policy initiatives, including his latest one to create jobs.
In sounding more militant than moderate, the president’s speech was a response to the increasing chorus of discontent vocalized by many black leaders that his administration hasn’t been addressing concerns of the African-American community…especially with regards to the current economic slump, which as hit the back community particularly hard (black unemployment is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent).
But more controversial was the assertion from some liberal-thinking individuals that the Associated Press’s (AP) transcribing of the president’s words was “racist.”
According to one such individual, African-American author Karen Hunter, the news service failed to “clean up” the speech as “other news outlets did” when it transcribed the content of Obama’s speech to the CBC. At issue was the AP’s choosing to include the “dropped ‘g’s” in the president’s chosen diction at the event, so that it’s printed version of the president’s speech appeared as followed:

"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do." (Source: The Associated Press).

After Hunter had voiced this observation on the MSNBC cable news network the following Sunday, the issue became an instant debate in some news quarters.
And as with any non-issue related to politics, people have chosen sides. Some liberals say that printing the president’s speech by uncustomarily leaving it in its truly uttered form caters to negative racial stereotypes, while conservatives say that leaving the Chief Executive’s words shows a shameless pandering to African-Americans by using a common linguistic style among this particular group.
The truth is that what the president did in his speech is something which happens every day within the black community; ordinarily articulate—oftentimes educated—African-Americans communicating ideas and beliefs to each other in a way which lessens intrapersonal tensions, and creates a rapport among those from different backgrounds and experiences. Adopting blackspeak—for want of a better term—by blacks to address other blacks for the aforementioned purposes is no more different than African-Americans who adopt standard English in a job interview or when addressing a white crowd. It’s no more an “issue” than when former President George W. Bush’s opted to speak fluent Spanish when he addressed Latino-Americans crowds. It’s no more “pandering” than those choosing to tailor their political messages to groups like farmers, corporate CEOs, or middle-class white Christians. The bottom line is that focusing on such mundane things as this creates an issue where there really is none.
In this upcoming election season, let’s stick to the real issues—jobs, government spending, national security, and getting rid of career politicians who are more beholden to Big Money and their petty self-interests than to the American people!

Part 1 of President Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus

Part 2 of President Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Affordable Health Insurance & Politics - Separating The Ideological BS From Reality!

Regular readers to Beyond The Political Spectrum know that I am a rabid proponent of universally affordable health care coverage for all Americans. After all, if America is truly to be “the land of opportunity,” then there is nothing more basic to [the] equality of opportunity than having the good health (or access to) to be able to work hard, and to have the strength to work toward better opportunities for oneself…infant-level common sense to be sure.
However, as I watched the Tea Party-sponsored Republican debate which aired on CNN last week, I came away with a clearer understanding of why America has become so politically, socially, and ethnically polarized in recent times. The short answer is that our leadership (and their individual supporters) is tainted by too many competing ideological beliefs, driven by self-serving politicians seeking to hold on to their jobs rather than working on behalf of the interests of Americans (e.g., too many politicians, and not enough statesmen), and too much special interests money which beneficiaries call an extension of “Free Speech.”
With regard to universally affordable health care, just mentioning the contentious issue conjures up catcalls of “socialism” by the politically opportunistic, the narrow-minded, and the ideologically short-sighted. And thoughts of the government should/can pay for everyone by the fiscally unrealistic and irresponsible. As an example, I cite the case of Republican Party presidential nominee candidate Ron Paul, who I—despite his staunch libertarian views—thought was more of a reasonable sort prior to last week’s debate (I even alluded to him as such in a prior posting. )
During a particular moment of the debates, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Paul:

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just -- you're a physician, Ron Paul, so you're a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced --

BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody --


BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

(Multiple shouts of “Yes!” from audience)

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.


PAUL: And we've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that's the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

There's no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.


Source: ( and Beyond The Political Spectrum.blogspot).

To view this segment from last weeks debate in Tampa, Florida, click on the video.

That the debate was co-sponsored by the Tea Party was no surprise that such a response received such rousing (and heartless) support by the audience. In much the same way that extremists Muslims have co-opted mainstream Islam in areas of the Middle East, The Tea Party has hijacked the Republican Party (at the expense of reason and civility). Consequently, Republican candidates seeking the GOP’s nomination to challenge President Obama in 2012 have grown ever spineless, kow-towing to the Tea Party’s hard right-wing ideological views and political intransigence in much the same way that Obama has capitulated to the Republicans in Congress time and again.
The problem is that such beliefs (and the shameful support by those in the audience) are driven by beliefs, which in turn are driven by ideology (ies) that are active reasoning. I observed this phenomenon firsthand while preparing for this particular posting. For example, a common thread of thinking that I saw running through most posted online opposition to the notion of universally affordable health care reflected Ron Paul’s view; that people have the “choice” of whether or not to purchase health care in a free society.
It borders insanity to think that most of the uninsured in this country “choose” to go without health insurance. Speaking from personal as well as anecdotal experience—as well as the fact that most surveys and studies support this—most people who go without health insurance do so as a matter of economic pragmatism. Many must choose between paying crucial utilities, food, rent, or health care. Broken down by statistics:

The primary reason given for lack of health insurance coverage in 2005 was cost (more than 50%), lost job or a change in employment (24%), Medicaid benefits stopped (10%), ineligibility for family insurance coverage due to age or leaving school (8%). Source: National Center for Health Statistics (Source: “Health Care Statistics.”

And sadly, those who have been fortunate enough (especially in this economy) to afford health insurance—while opposing equal access for the rest of us—make the mistake of thinking that their good fortune or efforts are applicable to all Americans. To those, I say that life is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Extenuating circumstances vary from individual to individual, and should always be considered before making such black-and-white generalizations.
To further illustrate this point, consider the following article from USA Today, also from last week:

Amanda Hite says she felt "really healthy" when she applied recently for health insurance. But Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield denied her, because she had seen a chiropractor a few months earlier for a sore back and later had visited an emergency room because of back pain.

"I was surprised and let down," said Hite, 34, of Lexington, Ky., who didn't think her periodic back pain would be enough to keep her from buying health insurance.

Hite's case isn't unusual. Many of the plans offered by Anthem Blue Cross in Kentucky reject about one in five applicants, according to data provided by insurers to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Rival insurers in the state have even higher denial rates: Humana rejects 26% to 39% of applications in Kentucky, while UnitedHealthcare denies 38% to 43%.

Citing its own 2009 study, America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, says 87% of people who apply nationally for individual coverage are offered a policy. That figure, however, includes people who are turned down for one policy but offered another that may cost more or have fewer benefits.

The federal website contains denial rates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, and is updated periodically. The most current information is for the first three months of 2011. The data show that denial rates routinely exceed 20% and often are much higher, according to a Kaiser Health News review of 20 of the most populous states and the District of Columbia. The data reflect applications that are turned down for any reason.

The information provides fresh evidence of the challenges facing people buying individual health insurance. It also shows the likelihood of whether consumers are approved for a policy depends on which state they live in and the insurer they choose.

Denial rates can vary widely within individual states. In Georgia, for example, Aetna's denial rate is 15% compared with 47% for Kaiser Permanente and 67% for John Alden Life Insurance.

Also, the same insurer can have vastly different denial rates in different states. For example, Kaiser Permanente denied 32% of applications in Maryland but 17% in Colorado. (Kaiser Health News is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

James Larreta-Moylan, director of individual and family plans for Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente, said the denial rates vary because of the different types of plans sold, and the age and health conditions of applicants in different markets. He said denial rates can be higher in some markets where sicker patients apply for plans with richer benefits. Medical underwriting, or reviewing an applicant's health status, "is an unfortunate reality of today's market," he said.

Mike Cantone, 27, of Orlando, was denied a health insurance policy last year by UnitedHealthcare, which considered him a risk because a doctor used a monitor to test his heart for a few days in 2007. No problems were detected, he said. "I was shocked and frustrated," said Cantone, a political director for a community organization. He is still uninsured.

Denial rates of 70% and 53%

Two companies consistently had the highest denial rates — John Alden Life Insurance and Time Insurance, both owned by Milwaukee-based Assurant Health. In nearly every market surveyed, their denial rates were at least twice the rate of competing insurers. For example, in Tennessee, John Alden turned down 70% of applicants and Time, one of the biggest individual insurers in the country, rejected 53%.

Assurant spokeswoman Heather McAvoy said her company offers alternative plans when applicants are rejected due to health status. These can include policies that require consumers to pay extra to cover a pre-existing medical condition. "Unfortunately, when consumers accept the alternative coverage — and are, in fact, insured with Assurant Health — they are classified as a 'denial' under the HHS criteria," she said.

AHIP, the trade group, says the federal data on coverage denials are misleading because they do not include people rejected for one plan but offered another. The data also include denials involving applicants who don't live in the plan's coverage area.

The Deartment of Health and Human Services acknowledged AHIP's arguments but said it was important for the data to reflect when people can't get the specific policies they apply for. The department said most of the denials are the result of medical underwriting.

Health care overhaul offers help

The difficulty of buying individual coverage was a big reason behind the 2010 federal health overhaul, which will ban insurers starting in 2014 from denying individual policies based on health status.

In the past, most consumers haven't been able to look up insurers' denial rates before sending in a check to apply for coverage. Maryland is the only state that requires insurers to report information on denial rates.

But as part of the federal health law, HHS last November started posting the coverage-denial rates, which can be searched by ZIP code at

Using the data from the website, a Government Accountability Office study of 459 insurers published earlier this year found an average of 19% of applicants nationally were denied coverage. But the study showed a wide range of denial rates. A quarter of insurers had denial rates of 15% or below and a quarter had rates of 40% or higher.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation into four large for-profit insurers last year found that the denial rates have steadily increased from 11.9% in 2007 to 15.3% in 2009. The companies reviewed were Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint.

The denial rates are an important tool for helping consumers select an insurer, said Deborah Chollet, a senior fellow with Mathematica, a non-partisan think tank. That's because the application process can take a month or more, and carriers typically require the first month's premium with the application.

Sara Collins, vice president of the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, said the denial data underscore the need for the industry changes that will occur in 2014. "It's not surprising that denial rates are high, because insurers have an incentive to only enroll the healthy risks," she said. "If a person comes in with a health problem that will potentially cost (the insurer) money, they are probably not going to cover them" (Source: "Health Insurance Denial Rates Routinely 20% Data Shows," USAToday. September 12, 2011).

So aside from lack of any real choice, insurers routinely deny a percentage of Americans, some for questionable reasoning (or lack thereof). In the case of California, the high rejection rates of those residents seeking insurance coverage triggered an investigation, enjoined by the state’s attorney general in 2009 “HMO Claims-Rejection Rates Triggers State Investigation”).
For those opposed to the notion of universally affordable health care insurance/coverage, even in the face of such indisputable research which counters their claims, one can routinely expect to have sources questioned, anecdotal and personal experiences substituted for any real counter-evidence, and/or the employment of esoteric hair-splitting statistical analysis and numbers crunching (figures which usually are “solid” in the abstract, but have no real basis in reality). If all else fails, the Boogey Man of “socialism” is used as a trump card of sorts, as if maligning a policy/idea which one does not support or believe in makes is so.
In Ron Paul’s case, his obvious appeal to the Tea Party’s extremism carries with is a bit of real world conviction.

Back in 2008, Kent Snyder — Paul's former campaign chairman — died of complications from pneumonia. Like the man in Blitzer's example, the 49-year-old Snyder
(pictured) was relatively young and seemingly healthy* when the illness struck. He was also uninsured. When he died on June 26, 2008, two weeks after Paul withdrew his first bid for the presidency, his hospital costs amounted to $400,000. The bill was handed to Snyder's surviving
mother (pictured, left), who was incapable of paying. Friends launched a website to solicit donations (Source: "Ron Paul’s Campaign Manager Died of Pneumonia, Penniless and Uninsured." Gawker. September 14, 2011).

This comes as no surprise, as a 2009 Harvard University medical study found that an estimated 45,000 Americans die a year from lack of health insurance ("Harvard Medical StudyLinks Lack Of Insurance To 45,000 Deaths A Year," September 17, 2009), up from the similarly estimated 18,000 a year back in 2002 ("18,000 Deaths Blamed On lack Of Insurance," USAToday. May 22, 2002).
Granted, Paul’s Tea Party pandering remarks were somewhat serendipitous with regards to the death of his former campaign chairman, it speaks to the levels to which our leaders’ (and their supporters) embrace ideology over reality, with the goal of attaining power for, and representing the interests of some Americans and not all.
I urge all Americans to speak up and speak out. Don't allow extremist elements to paint the impression that they represent the interests of every and all Americans. I urge politicians to adopt a spine and resist the false influence of those who perpetrate as though they represent all of us.
And I urge Americans who align their thinking with a narrow political and/or socioeconomic ideology to view their surroundings through a more reasoned basis.
Conservatism and Liberalism did not come into existence with the Big Bang or Creation. They are the products of mortal thinking, and no doubt individuals harboring ulterior motives and self-interests.

Monday, September 19, 2011

For The Aspiring Political Activist…The Most Politically-Charged Colleges Campuses

Before I begin this week’s post, I would like to say that this post marks a milestone for me. This is my 100th post here on Beyond The Political Spectrum, and I would like to thank those who regularly visit my page and e-mail me their thoughts and suggestions (and to those who haven’t heard back from me, I am diligently working to make their issue suggestions known). It’s a labor of love that I enjoy bringing to you. And now without further adieu, my thoughts for this week…

When I began college back in 1991, I had just come out of a period of extended unemployment, and newfound purpose. I remember having spent most of my days involved with local as well as national political issues. This period culminated in many full days—hundreds of hours volunteering (that’s unpaid for those of you who cannot wrap their minds around the concept)—on the political campaigns of local candidates, attending block club meetings, and working with nonprofit organizations.
The political atmosphere of college (s) back then was/were reflective of the political atmosphere of America in general; a few politically active individuals and organizations and a level of subdued contention among competing interests in Washington and nationwide.
Twenty years later, the political (and by extension, the social) polarization is unlike that at any other time in American history except for maybe the period leading up to the Civil War or during the 1960s. Just as in those periods, we have politically-involved individuals—both unaligned activists and those affiliated with organizations and political parties—who have arrogantly (and ethnocentrically) christened themselves as “true Americans,” while maligning those who do not share their values as “un-American,” “socialists,” fascists,” “uncaring,” “elitist,” "racist," and a whole host of subjective pejoratives.
Below the surface of these accusations are sentiments of class divisions, dueling socioeconomic ideologies, and—with the first African-American in the White House—racism (although some of those most rabidly against anything Obama-affiliated will simply deny that race plays no issue…and I emphasize some, lest someone accuse me of being “elitist”). Conservatives accuse Liberals of wanting to turn America into a Socialist Utopia, while liberals routinely accuse conservatives of caring about nothing more than the Free Market (the truth of the matter is that I find both individuals ideologically umbilicaled to those particular narrow views of the world to be morally bankrupted at times).
So, thanks to Beyond The Political Spectrum reader Tim Handorf over at Best Colleges (thanks Mr. Handorf for soliciting the information for this piece), I thought it would be great to provide those aspiring to become involved in politics and political activism with a list of (some of the ) 12 Most Politically Charged College Campuses in America. And hopefully those seeking to become part of the politically-inspired in this country will become truly educated, and spur true solutions which give the American people what we need rather than what some narrow, ideologically-encircled politician and/or “activist” thinks we should have.

12. American University, Washington D.C.

11. Oberlin College, Oberlin Ohio

10. Wesleyan University, Connecticut

9. University of Wisconsin, Madison

For the rest of the list, read here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Health News - Advances In Treating & Preventing Cardiac Arrest (...Or, "A Story With A Heart!")

One of the better experiences to come from this labor of love—blogging—is that, despite the many socioeconomic ills and levels of political polarization ongoing in America, I can often bring you tidbits of hope in the sea or man’s-inhumanity-to man.
This is actually a tale of two happenstances: the first being an illustration of what happens when people can ignore differences and unite to help someone in need, and the second marking recent advances in heart attack treatment and prevention.
Back in January of this year in the small town of Goodhue, Minnesota, Howard Snitzer walked out of a local grocery store…and collapsed on the sidewalk outside. He was suffering a “massive heart attack” according to medical officials familiar with the story. Both Mr. Snitzer’s life and the story could have ended right then and there, were it not for Candice Cane, another customer in the store at the time of Snitzer’s collapse. She began to immediately administer CPR. It was at this point that an auto mechanic from across the street saw what was happening and walked over to lend assistance. When Cane became exhausted with her attempts to keep the man alive, the mechanic began to take over. When he became too tired to continue the efforts, another stranger began to take over the heart messaging technique. And then another took over after that. In all, some 20 local strangers lined up waiting to administer CPR to Snitzer, keeping him alive for 96 minutes, and long enough for emergency first responders to arrive and begin making further, more involved attempts to bring him back. He would successfully regain consciousness days later in the hospital (LA Times, 03/04/2011 - "CPR for 96 minutes...").
Just as amazing as this story was, equally as amazing was that assisting Mr. Snitzer’s revival was the new use of an existing technology.
After first responders had arrived on the unbelievable scene via medical helicopter, among them was a flight nurse who had been trained in the use of capnography. Capnography, a relative old technology, measures how much carbon dioxide is expended with each breath. It’s a procedure that helps doctors and medical personnel determine whether a patient is hyperventilating, having an asthma attack, or a heart attack. It also helps them decide—in this case—determine whether CPR is working.
During attempts to resuscitate Snitzer, his carbon dioxide levels suggested that blood was flowing to vital organs (e.g., his heart and brain), and the flight nurse thought Snitzer still had a chance. While some emergency responders involved thought the case was a lost cause, others, including Dr. Roger White, the Mayo Clinic-based anesthesiologist who came up with the solution to get Snitzer's heart beating normally again did not want to waste the valiant efforts of the strangers who worked so hard to give Snitzer a fighting chance. According to White,

...before the use of capnography, the only way of assessing blood flow to vital organs was by feeling for a pulse or by looking for dilated pupils. He says those methods are very crude and can fail. Snitzer never had a pulse despite good carbon dioxide readings. Without the information from capnography, he says, it would have been reasonable to stop CPR — and Snitzer likely would have died.

In places other than Minnesota, capnography is slowly becoming standard equipment for emergency responders. In response (or maybe because of this), the American Heart Association has added capnography to its list of 2010 guidelines for treating heart attack and cardiac arrest patients.

In other related news, last month several news organizations presented pieces about another advancement in predicting the possibility of heart attacks. Although there is some disagreement as to how these stories were presented in the media, the focus should be on how there are options being presented to the American people (see: Cardio Exchange) with regard to heart health.
In other related news, last month several news organizations presented pieces about another advancement in predicting the possibility of heart attacks. Although there is some disagreement as to how these stories were presented in the media, the focus should be on how there are options being presented to the American people (see: Cardio Exchange) with regard to heart health.
Among the other procedures being introduced to help in the early screening of heart against heart attacks is calcium imaging (CI). When used appropriately—that is, targeted toward those with increased risk, as opposed to a broad use—calcium imaging has the potential of being a useful additional great diagnostic tool in the fight to prevent the leading killer of Americans in any given year. It is a procedure which involves a cardiac CT scan to obtain information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. The presence of this calcified material could be an early indicator of atherosclerosis.
The downsides of this procedure is that it is costly, may or may not be subsidized by insurance, and is not a definitive test for early onset of heart disease or of a heart attack (hence, the mention of it being an “additional great diagnostic tool”).
Finally, The NBC Evening News reports the growing, but still controversial use of a blood test called, a C-reactive protein or CRP test. As in the case of calcium on the walls of coronary arteries, the presence of CRP in the blood is a potential marker which could be an early indicator of heart disease (that is to say that CPR levels in the blood will rise in response to inflammation, which in turn has been linked to atherosclerosis). The same cautions with calcium imaging applies likewise to CRP testing, although more insurance companies are willing to pay for it rather than CI.

As with many things we do, including the thoughts/thinking we engage in, our health-related issues are a matter of choice. Being informed is simply another way of providing the ammunition to make informed choices. Now take what you’ve read to heart…literally

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Opinion (Sort Of...) -- President Obama & Liberals Cause Earthquake On The East Coast!!!

BREAKING NEWS--President Obama Causes Earthquake on East Coast! (Notice This Scrolls To The Left)

(The following is a message paid for by shameful politicians we allow to represent us in government!)

Near disaster was averted yesterday by the divine providence of the one-true God who our illegitimate Muslim president chooses not to believe in! An earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter Scale, whose epicenter was centered near Mineral, Virginia, shook parts of the greater Washington D.C metro area. The quake was measured as far west as Chicago, as far south as Atlanta, and as far north as Toronto, Canada.
This earthquake is yet another example Obama’s job-killing leftist policies, and why he and his socialist, anti-Constitutional comrades have to be stopped! This earthquake was a sign from God almighty that He wants the liberals out of office! In effect, president Obama and liberals caused this earthquake, and we can expect more natural disasters like this if true Americans like you and I do not work to return America back to the people!

Ok, tongue-in-cheek aside, this send-up of current political thinking in America is why people need to think beyond politics and take ideology and passions out of politics. Almost daily, we hear the ranting of those who embrace the most ridiculous notions and conspiratorial accusations in the name of whatever narrow little beliefs they support. Death panels, fake birth certificates, financial doomsday scenarios, and unsustainable entitlement spending not-withstanding, the American people deserve better.
It’s one thing when individuals living on the geographical and political fringe of America believe in one-world governments, generalized stereotypes, and embrace a hatred of a government (which many of them freely participate by way of public office and voting). It’s another to have these individuals represent us in the halls of government itself, hindering legislation, engaging in fear-mongering, and enacting policies based on based on their interpretation of what and how they believe we should be governed rather than by the needs of the people or by consensus.
Federal spending needs to addressed; serious and substantive hard-choice cuts as well as fair revenue intake have to be considered. Entitlements have to be fixed in a way which provides both sustainability and security. And while the deficit is important, people are more concerned with jobs. Tax cuts, especially for the financially well-heeled and politically-connected mean nothing if people lack the income employment provides to even enjoy a tax cut. People need guns--the means to protect themselves--from criminals (and not from an imaginary threats from an "oppressive" central government) without undue legislative hindrance. We need to stop involving America in foreign wars that have no bearing on American interests, and which cost too much in the way of money and lives. People need universally affordable health care (access), especially if a work-based health care regime means is to be the paradigm. Life—for most people—is a need, whether outlawing abortion and/or capital punishment is the means of ensuring it. Political ideology is a want; people want to believe in governing a certain way. But there is no Constitutional provision for wants. And government should be about ensuring needs, not wants!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

America...The Lazy, Stupid, and Dumb!

Back in March of this year, I went to the movies to see a somewhat decent sci-fi flick, “Limitless.” Because the movie is now on DVD, I can give you a synopsis of the movie’s premise. In the movie, the protagonist, a down-and-out writer and otherwise chronic failure comes face-to-face with a failed drug salesman with criminal affiliations. The salesman gives the loser a pill which magnifies his mental faculties and sensory perceptions a thousand-fold, which turns his life around in a kind of “The Matrix” meets Charlie Brown scenario. Beyond that, you’ll just have to either rent or buy the DVD.
Fast forward to July of this year. In one of my rare days of leisure, I was watching the news when my interest began to focus on a story on NBC’s “The Today Show.” It featured a story about the abuse of the anti-attention deficit disorder prescription drug, Adderall by otherwise normal college students. Apparently, there is a growing trend among some these students, many of them attending top-tier colleges, of taking the drug in an effort to help stimulate concentration and spur the focus needed to successfully study all night.

Watch "The Today Show's" health segment on how college students abuse the drug, Adderall by clicking on the "watch" button.

According to one female student on the “Today Show” segment,

When I’m on Adderall and I’m looking at the textbook I can forget about everything else around me. I figured if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I get the advantage?”

Another male student added, “It’s given me the boost to work non-stop for 10 hours a day…Baseball players take steroids to be the best and students take Adderall to be the best. It’s steroids for school.”
Experts say that Adderall is considered safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor, but can addictive to those using it in non-prescribed ways.
Labeled “the ‘smart pill’” by those using it on college campuses, those who peddle Adderall to those looking for the edge to maintain academic performance sell the pill for as much as $5 for a 25 milligram tablet. In the case of those traditionally cash-strapped students who can’t come up with money for the pill, they are given advice on how to obtain a legally-prescribed dose of the drug for their own use; fake symptoms and go to the nearest doctor.
As I watched the report, my mind started to make connections that this abuse has to other perspectives with regard to issues like affirmative action in higher education, how we rear our children, the quality of students public schools, our collective sense of ethics (or lack thereof), the over-medication of our children, and our collective lack of appreciation for hard work.
Whenever there is talk of race and higher education, preferential treatment for minorities in admission is usually in the forefront. However, the abuse of Adderall by college students at top-tier colleges reveals how irrelevant numbers and standardized test scores can be for some. Remember, these are “the best” according to the numbers. It’s also a reflection of a larger issue…that of those having resources and the ability to via access to manipulate the system in order advance while others are condemned to “follow the rules.”
The abuse of the drug is symptomatic of a serious epidemic of faltering ethics which could be traced directly to parenting. The concept of easy fixes and quick ways out have been lost and supplanted by a win-at-all-cost mentality. We see this in many aspects of contemporary child-rearing. Parents who push their children almost from the womb to excel promote win-win-win thinking by micro-managing many aspects of their children’ lives with the focus on results.
From entering their children in “child pageants” (the worst kind of exploitation) and signing them up for every extra-curricular activity (in the hopes of finding their possible sports “niche”), to hiring college entrance “coaches” who assist in prepackaging young people in an appealing way to as to increase their chances for college admissions (including test coaching) and/or mortgaging their homes to pay for their children’ education, many middle class parents seek to cement their children’s futures at the cost of the latters’ independence and the ability to self-earn their success. Many are impressed with the thinking that money, means and quick fixes are the keys to succeeding; hard work, grit, and intestinal fortitude are the provinces of the less-than-fortunate. The “everybody cheats/bends the rules” ethic in a society of perceived one-upsmanship has become the accepted mantra of those seeking advantage as a result (what about affirmative action for the rest of us without such resources to succeed?).
With instances such as the abuse of Adderall, how we raise (and strip our children of their sense of independence), and how such extreme measures are needed to succeed in college curriculums which are not even as challenging those in other countries, is it any wonder the rest of the world considers Americans to be "soft?"
The ease by which college students can and do abuse Adderall also reveals how quick we are as a society to seek solutions to even the most common and human of afflictions…diverted attention. This is due more to the lack of self-discipline and will that we have avoided instilling in our children, and not a proliferation of ADHD. Quite simply, we have over-medicated out children (and ourselves) where they have come to accept that pills are the answer to our shortcomings.

Americans need to back to the Old School approach to rearing emphasis on hard work, structure, direct involvement in their children’ education, and an occasional visitation from a leather belt worked wonders to create responsible citizens and half-way decent leaders. Overly-liberal, new age ideas about non-punitive, be-your-child’s-friend child-rearing are ruining traditional (and I think proven) methods of parenting. Two-parent households (responsible parents), clearly-defined parent-child roles and expectations, and the aforementioned Old School approaches are the only things that will put our youth back on the path of an appreciation for self-earned, self-generated success.
While Tea Partiers complain about "how our children are going to pay for our current debt," our children are selling off something even more important...their souls and the future basis for what had made America successful in the past!

See Also: "Apr. 09 - A Nation of Whiners."
"May 09 - Faith, Drugs, & Children...Bad Parenting Made Easy."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hypocrisy In Debt Ceiling Talks...Nothing New!

Breaking News! Debt Ceiling Deal Reached!

Yes, there needs to be a curtailing on government spending. Yes, the government has to adopt a full measure of fiscal restraint with regards to spending. But ever since the debt ceiling "crisis" began, I can't help but ponder why, in my recent memory, has it become such a point of contention this time, and not so much in times past.
Then I came across this little piece on Think Progress, a site that I don't normally frequent:

VIDEO: House GOP Urged Clean Debt Ceiling Hike As A Matter of Responsibility And Good Governance

By Jeff Spross on Jul 30, 2011 at 8:30 am

Under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), the Republicans continue to precipitate a stalemate over the debt ceiling and a possible economic crisis. As ThinkProgressZaid Jilani and Travis Waldron have reported, not only did the Republican leadership vote multiple times for clean debt ceiling hikes under more favorable political circumstances, but no less than 98 currently serving House GOP members did so as well.

Between a vote in 2004, and another in 2002, many of these Republicans took to the floor of the House to defend a debt ceiling hike as not only necessary, but as a basic matter of responsibility and good governance. ThinkProgress has compiled the video.

At the risk of sounding like taking sides, Republican lawmakers have allowed themselves to be held hostage by the Tea Party's influence within their ranks (to put this dynamic into perspective, former President Bush II had too initiated policies which had begun a surge in deficit spending). They are so myopic and fixated on holding the ideological line against tax increases that they simply cannot see reality. Allow me to paint the picture:

1. We are in strained economic times nationally! The country cannot afford to allow interest rates to rise...even the talk of such puts strains on both domestic and foreign markets.

2. The voting electorate did not elect Republicans to Congress last November to add to Washington gridlock! Politics is about legislative compromise, not legislative hindrance. What is occurring with regards to the debt ceiling talks is proof why politicians cannot and should not be allowed to govern by ideology as opposed to pragmatically.

3. If we were focused on creating and replacing the 10 million jobs lost in the economic downturn instead of whether the economically well-heeled have to "suffer" tax increases, we wouldn't have so much revenue shortfall in the first place. This is an indication that we need a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts, fiscal restraint, and the removal of liberal and conservative ideologues in Congress (after all, I can think of at least 10 million people who couldn't care less about a tax increase).

In the simplest terms, like my mother used to say when I gave her an excuse about cleaning my room, "I don't care how you get it done...get it!"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Police Beating Caught On Tape (…or, “Your Tax Dollars At Work.”)

Once or twice, I’ve had the unfortunate duty to have to shine a light on police misconduct on Beyond The Political Spectrum’s sister page on You Tube page. But in what seems to be a seasonal occurrence in the realm of journalism, a Las Vegas newspaper is reporting the beating of citizen videographer, Mitchell Crooks (yes, I know…an ironic last name).
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Las Vegas police officer Derek Colling is under continual investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, after having been found to have violated several department policies. The sustained complain found that on March 20th of this year, Officer Colling used excessive force (among other violations) on the 36-year-old Crooks, who was confronted by Colling after being ordered to stop recording a police investigation of a burglary from across the street in his own driveway.

According to the internal review (and what the video tape seems to indicate), Colling used more physical force in a situation where a confrontation was simply not warranted. Department procedures mandate that findings stemming from the incident go through an arduous process which includes further review by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, recommendations for suggested disciplinary actions from Colling supervisors, and hearing from an internal board of review.
Las Vegas police officer Derek Colling during a previous court testimony
The possible penalties include everything from no action—if his actions were found to be questionable but not in violation of department policies—to suspension or termination. Colling is currently on paid suspension and has been since April 1st.
In all fairness, it should be reported that both Colling and Crooks have both been a part of controversy prior to this incident. Colling has been involved in 2 fatal shootings, both having been ruled justified.

In 2006, he and four other officers shot Shawn Jacob Collins after the 43-year-old man pulled a gun at an east valley gas station.

In 2009, Colling shot and killed Tanner Chamberlain, a mentally ill 15-year-old who was holding a knife at his mother's neck and waving it at officers.

For his part, Crooks made headlines in 2002 when he videotaped two Inglewood, Calif., police officers beating a 16-year-old boy. In addition, he has been arrested on drunken driving and petty theft charges, both charges being dated.

I have several problems with this entire incident. First, a paid suspension since April 1st amounts to a paid vacation, the likes I never got, even after my surgery.
Second, what was the officer’s level of training? Being a police officer, a public servant where government, people, and the courts place so much trust with, should require much more than a since-childhood desire to want to be one. Public servants with so much power and so much of the public’s trust should have more rigorous requirements, both professionally and personally. There should be at least an associates degree/2-year college degree requirement, with target focuses on Sociology, Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Civics. In addition, background checks should not be confined to sterile records checks. There should as much a level of scrutiny performed in the background checks of police officer candidates as there is for those wanting to FBI agents or similar occupations; personal interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances would be nice.
Finally, psychological testing is a must! There has to be a psychological weeding out process for police officers to limit the number of control freaks, power trippers, and other questionable types who seems to gravitate to that particular career choice.
Its something of an indefensible double-standard that police officers, with whom we place so much public trust in, have so much in the way of procedures and organizational bulkheads which prevent them from being summarily dismissed for obvious outright abuses of power, while the rest of us must live and work under the specter of “at-will” employment. We can be terminated for no given reason other than our employers feeling like it, justified or not.
Crooks’ misfortune illustrated that we need to be Watching the Watchmen!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Federal Debt Crisis....You Vote!

There is so much I can say about the looming federal debt crisis, but I'm sure that's it's all been said but other pundits and talking heads.
After Monday's talks between Congressional leaders and President Obama broke down without a hint of a compromise or solution, the president urged Americans to call their representatives in Congress and tell them in no uncertain terms to find a! And based on the way reports indicate that Congressional office phones lit up, Americans are fed-up with hearing the daily broken record of No Compromise...yet(?).
I thought it would be interesting--sans the political- posturing, pandering, partisanship, finger-pointing--to see with whom the American people find fault with insofar as responsibility for the failure to find a solution.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New HIV Treatment Breakthrough vs. Sexual Behavior

Quite often, many of the behaviors which human beings engage in have had me questioning whether we are in fact the highest order of life on the planet. Politicians distort reality and craft policies which affect real lives for the sake of political power. Individuals routinely allow themselves to be manipulated for the sake of ideological conformity and to assuage their social and individual insecurities (or fears). We wage wars. We kill with inconsistent justifications. And we allow our baser desires like sex to control our higher reasoning; at least animals have primitive instincts—sans the reasoning ability—as grounds for doing so.
With regards to sex, instances like the high-profile indiscretions of former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner and former California Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, revelations of local suburban prostitution rings (some involving teenagers) being busted up by police, and the introduction of sexual addiction as yet another in a growing list of human psychological maladies provide an insight into how sex controls our lives. Even if life and/or health are at risk, we often find ourselves victims of our own urges. Take the issue of HIV and AIDS for example.

Last week, it was reported that an experimental drug being tested among HIV-infected adults in Africa has been shown to significantly reduce the spread of the virus in their uninfected partners. The drug, Truvada, had already been shown to prevent the spread of HIV among gay men. The conclusion of the more recent study indicates that the drug is also just as effective in preventing new infections among heterosexual couples as well (The study and it’s results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine). According to the research,

At the same time, national and international health officials said it's far from clear how preventive use of these drugs will play out. How many people would want to take a pill each day to reduce their risk of HIV infection? Would they stick with it? Would they become more sexually reckless?

As with any issue involving human behavior, there are potential implications to consider surrounding the drug’s potential use. Among these concerns: how many people would want to take a pill daily to reduce their risk of HIV infection? If so, would they be consistent with its use? Would they become more sexually reckless?
If the history of our behavior with regards to sexuality is an indication, we can expect even amounts of irresponsibility and responsible behavior. While the new drug shows a great deal of promise in preventing the spread of HIV, especially in AIDS-stricken regions of the world like Africa, human behavior can be expected to be only marginally changed by the advent of the new drug. Take for example the revelation earlier this year of the link between oral sex and the increase the risk of certain types of head and oral cancers (ex: “Rise in Some Head and Neck Cancers Tied to Oral Sex: Study” and “Oral Sex Causing Increased Cancer Rate in US” ). In much the same way that this link garners high levels of skepticism among those who routinely engage in oral sex (mostly because of the irrational human propensity to defend what we like or what feels good such as cigarette smoking and drinking), the same could be expected with Travada. Continual engaging in this particular risky sexual behavior by the public has not noticeably diminished since the reporting of this story. Indeed, most have brushed aside the link in much the link between oral sex and certain cancers with the same casualness they have with many suspected carcinogens; everything causes cancer. Expect the same reckless casualness with sexual behavior under the new anti-AIDS drug regime.
And in much the same way that the pill ushered in changes in women’ sexual behavior, there is the very real possibility that people would feel that this new advancement, if made available on a wholesale scale, would give the false sense that the risk of contracting AIDS is a thing of the past, leading to even more promiscuous sexual behavior. Men, including high profile celebrities, power-shapers, and everyday joes will still engage in unprotected sex, despite the risks. Politicians, sports figures, and high-profile types in particular can and will continue to birth children from extramarital affairs (if you doubt the slackening morals of our decadent sexual decisions, you needn't look any further than rapper Lil Wayne, who has 4 children by 4 different high profile women in the entertainment world). Prison rapes will still go on. And teens will still experiment, spurred on by the implied socially-driven message that “everyone does it.” Oddly enough, the only group which anyone could be expected to responsibly use the new drug would be those who engage in sex for more pragmatic reasons…prostitutes, and maybe the possible exception of those in the adult film industry.
As for the rest of us “responsible” adults? Considering that many of us cannot even remember to take our blood pressure, vitamin supplements, or even birth control pills daily, how can anyone in their right minds expect those at-risk of spreading a dangerous pathogen like HIV to be as responsible? During the drug’s trials, it was found that 31 of the volunteers had not even taken their pills at all, while some others did not take their entire supply. These individual failures indicate that even at the risk of health and ultimately life, people will still lie about issues related to their sexual behavior as well as continue to act recklessly.
Don’t get me wrong. I like everyone who is interested in such things am excited at this new medical breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. But in opposition to the researchers and scientists involved collective declaration that it is a “game changer,” human nature being what it is leads me to believe that it will do nothing to change human sexual behavior…or the irresponsibility which causes us to make irrational decisions with regards to our health.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Violent" Video Games Are Not The Problem

Last week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling in a California case which probably left irresponsible parents cringing with frustration, and video game industry executives feelings as though they’ve beaten the final boss—on the most difficult setting—of an RPG (that’s Role Playing Game for the handful of you who aren’t into video games)…without cheat codes. In the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Nine Wise Men/Women exhibited an uncustomary level of common sense (at least with this particular court lineup) and struck down as unconstitutional California’s attempt to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
In a vote of 7 to 2, the court upheld a lower court’s decision that the state’s law, which imposed a $1,000 fine on those who sell (or rent) video games deemed “violent” to minors, violated free-speech rights. Despite the varying reasons for doing so, the justices rightfully concluded, at least implicitly, that video games are neither harmful, nor do they cultivate in those of us who play them a mindset of aggressive behavior. And while there are studies which would seem to indicate otherwise, there are an equal number of counter studies which indicate the opposite.

"Fatalities" from the original Mortal Kombat video game, considered by many to be the game which spurred concern about violent video games.

Dueling “experts” aside, California’s (and other states’) attempt to “protect” children from deleterious influences was woefully misguided from the very beginning. To even entertain the notion that violent video games (or any other form of entertainment for that matter) can potentially affect individuals in a negative way ignores history itself. Generation Xers like myself grew up with the most brutal and violent of “influences” on television, in books, and on the big screen, and psychologically speaking, we’re not any mentally worse for wear. I can remember watching the Coyote mauling himself many times an episode as he tried to put the Road Runner on a dinner plate. And I can’t count the number of times a spinach-drugged Popeye beat down Bluto daily. Television Westerns, whatever Stallone and/or Schwarzenegger flick playing at the theater, or the prior week’s episode of the A-Team (Ok, that last one was a bad example) simply did not influence us to wreck havoc on people or property. And while it’s true the video games lacked the blood and gore of today’s crop of games like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil (my personal favorites by the way), we played our share of games which put an opponent on his (or her) keister, but they failed to cause us to walk into a crowded public venue wanting to do the same thing.
Back in the day, the difference was a culture which reinforced the demarcation between reality and fantasy. We had parents who taught us discipline, both physical and emotional…a practice sorely lacking on today’s parents. Thanks to over-doting parents, kids today are emotionally weak. They have a sense of entitlement rather than a sense of duty. They become angry over the smallest inconvenience instead of being told that life little disappointments are as inevitable as the sunrise…and then are told they have “anger management issues.” Too many parents are too inept at actually rearing independent thinkers. Today’s children are very suggestive to even the most questionable of practices and influences—just look at the beltlines of today’s urban males if you don’t believe me. So if young video game players are “influenced,” its due to parents not working to be the primary influence in their children’s lives instead of their peers. Maybe if today’s parents didn’t opt to buy their children Sony Playstations and X-Box 360s with the intent to use these marginally interactive instruments as proxy baby sitters, there wouldn’t even be an issue of a violent video game’s “influence” on the psyches of children.
Society was more responsible also once upon a time. Television programming, was punctuated by object lessons as well as educational interludes such as ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock” and CBS’s “In The News.” There was not the over-saturation of self-indulgent “reality” television programs, “entertainers” selling sex in music and videos, and misguided adults not allowing public institutions such as schools to do what’s necessary to teach rather than what someone’s ideological stance or belief is.
If anything, it is everything but violent video games which is harming children. If states like California want to be an instrument in preventing harm to children, how about crafting laws which compel more constant, consistent, and positive parenting?