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."

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?