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, April 18, 2011

Black Males - Hopelessness & Hope

It’s funny how some of the issues which stand in the way of [the] equality of happiness (or at least reasonable contentment) for all Americans pretty much chronicle themselves. Take for example the laundry list of socioeconomic pathologies which black males in America tend to lead amongst many demographic groups. In many cases African-American males tend to be far and away leading the rates—in the negative sense—in many categories, from high unemployment and school dropout rates to high rates of health-related issues such as hypertension, particular cancers, and diagnoses of various Attention Deficient (and related) Disorders. We’ve all either read the occasional news articles or have seen the special report news segments spotlighting the “plight of the black male.” Indeed, many of us can almost recite the sad statistics by heart. And given the various and, for the most part ineffective bandage-over-hemorrhage approaches toward addressing the plight of the black male in America, and the resulting expectation among many Americans of the black male’s connection with (or is that participation in?) all things pathological, its easy to conclude that this sad reality has become an accepted part of life in contemporary America. In fact, so much has this view become part of our perceptual realities that many, if not most of today’s crop of black musical “entertainers” (for want of a better word) themselves irresponsibly cater to the worst of sociological beliefs and racial stereotypes with their lyrics and their associated videos. If one was a foreign visitor to this country casually observing the culture, the likes of Trey Songz, R. Kelly, and 99% of Southern Rap-dominated music would indicate that African-American males are nothing more than a group of pants-sagging, sex-obsessed partying potheads with ingrained criminal tendencies, and have no aspirations beyond being “thugs,” “players,” and/or “G’s” (that’s “Gangstas” for the un-hip among you). As a further illustration of how much society has adapted to this particular socioeconomic pathology of being, I point to a recent article which was e-mailed to me. In a recent edition of the online liberal news magazine, the LA Progressive dated last from month, an article appeared with a most ominous declaration in its title; “More Black Men Now In Prison System Than Were Enslaved In 1850.” In the March 27th edition of the weekly, Ohio State University law professor and author of the best-seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness Michelle Alexander made that numbers-backed pronouncement, which is actually a slight bit of mathematical common sense given the natural rate of population increase among the African-American population (http://www.laprogressive.com/law-and-the-justice-system/black-men-prison-system/ [Part 1] http://www.laprogressive.com/law-and-the-justice-system/boiling-hot-mad/ [Part 2]).
The somewhat convoluted explanation of a prison-industrial complex perpetuating this unprecedented black male incarceration rate notwithstanding, Alexander chronicles the story of her eventual “awakening” to this “phenomenal prison growth...as it relates to black” inmates to the time she spent as a civil rights attorney and as active legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, and how “she was blind to the magnitude of this problem.” In the article, the legal scholar implies that the 35.4% of black males being held in custody are there due to the farcical policy known as the War on Drugs “waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” despite studies showing that “whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks.” Alexander conluded that


As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised…prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied education opportunities.



This is the current state being for many African-American males which America has come to perceive as an inevitable reality—the perception of a hopelessly burdensome group of individuals. The actual reality is that in many locales across the country, there are many unsung instances where black males are attempting to shatter this negative imagery of themselves. Two weeks ago in Harlem (yes, that Harlem), the Harlem Millennium Dance Company hosted a local dance at the Alhambra Ballroom. But this was not an ordinary dance of the garden variety fare. There was no bumping and grinding—no simulated sexual gyrations or pelvic thrusts—to profanity-laden rap music. There were no alcohol-spiked punchbowls filled with beverages usually associated with an over 21 crowd passing as simple libations. And absent was a rambunctious crowd of curfew-bending/breaking teenagers expressing their insecurities, trying to fit in, even at the expense of violating whatever household rules their parents set forth for them to follow. Instead, more than 40 black fathers and their daughters danced the night way, dressed in tuxedoes and evening gowns to classics like The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father.”
videoThe event, which started as a simple fund-raiser with modest expectations, eventually grew into a newsworthy affair of some more than 40 black fathers and their daughters. Both organizers and participants had hopes that the event would deliver “a message that men, especially in the black community are playing a role in the lives of their daughters” and by extension, of their children. This was an observation which was bared-out in the varying ages of the participating daughters, ranging from 3-years to older teenagers. What was most inspiring about the dance was, as voiced by the organizers and participants, that it was an example of how little notice we take of things and events which could change our overall negative perceptions of the black male. Paradoxically, the fact that such an event was even newsworthy speaks volumes as to how entrenched our negative perceptions of African-American men have become. But it also showcases the hope that black men are willing to break—or at least weaken—the bonds of negative imagery, and change the way which society perceives them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Intolerance On Parade (Or "April Fools")

Guess Who’s Not Coming To Dinner? Glenn Back

In what one could only describe as a convergence of circumstances which benefit sound reasoning, arch-conservative (although I think “conservative” is too tame a label) and demagogue extraordinaire Glenn Beck shocked his viewers on his Fox News Channel show yesterday when he announced that his show on the network would end later this year. As a result of a combination of the increasing divisiveness of his conspiracy-laden far right-leaning rhetoric, plummeting ratings, and an increasing number of advertisers jumping off the sinking ship that is his show, Fox and Beck opted to practice the better part of ideological valor and part company, although it is unclear which party initiated the separation (funny thing is thought, the word “amicable” has not even been mentioned in the reports surrounding the affair). During his run on Fox, Beck—in spite of his millions of loyal viewers—has often found himself the target of mainstream as well as leftist criticism as a result of his often incendiary remarks. But despite the controversy which continues to orbit both his words and his media presence, he was and still remains the darling of Tea Party activists, as well as others with less vehement ideological leanings.

Glenn Beck, during one of his sarcastic promotional photo ops.

Who would have thought…in a nation full of right-wing as well as left-wing lunatics, I guess even vitriol has a ceiling!


Ignore That Previous Statement…Thou Will Judge!

In yet another instance in a long list of proofs that religion and stupidity are a dangerous mix, controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones publicly last month burned a copy of the Quran, the sacred book of scripture among the world’s billion or so Muslims. According to Jones, his reasoning (or lack thereof) was “to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element.” Jones went further in defense of his actions, citing that "We decided to put the Quran on trail…I was the judge but I did not determine the verdict. I was just a type of referee so that people got their time to defend or condemn the Quran….a ‘jury’ of people from all over Florida debated the radicalism of Islam, and the ‘Quran was found guilty.’" (http://abcnews.go.com/CleanPrint/cleanprintproxy.aspx?unique=1302180053583&pfurl=http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=13281689).


In response to this, what adherents to Islam deem as sacrilege of the highest order, violent protests have erupted in Afghanistan, culminating with the deaths of 11 people, including an attack on a United Nations compound where 7 UN workers were killed. Jones is no stranger to controversy. This action was actually a postponement of his previous threat to burn a copy of the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept 11th terrorist attacks last year, but chose not to after intense criticism and public pressure which included a personal plea from President Obama. In response to the deaths in Afghanistan, the Florida pastor has remarked that he feels that he bears no responsibility…of course. He’d rather bear the notoriety of publicity, not the burden or responsibility for his actions.


videoIn most cases, the Constitution asserts that both freedom of speech and religions are absolutes, even demonstrative speech such as flag burning and religious ethnocentrism such as asserting that “My God can beat your God up!” But there is also that caveat/exception about shouting fire in a burning theater. And a religiously intolerant Southern American religious figure (for want of a better term) burning a Quran while Westerners are working in a hostile environment, which is the ancestral home of the religiously xenophobic Taliban amounts to literally shouting fire and a theater (of war). One has to wonder what similar level of outrage was going through Jones’ mind when Robert Mapplethorpe sank that crucifix into that jar of urine back in the 80s and called it “art?”