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, December 31, 2012

Closing Out 2012...Issues (Still) In The News!

In less than 24 hours, we will welcome in the New Year 2013. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2012, it’s time to look back at the events that shaped the year in both politics and pop culture, as well as the underlying issues they illustrated.

The Fiscal Cliff:
Here we are, nearing the 11th hour of the impasse between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democrat President, negotiating to create a mutually satisfactory legislative compromise to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that are set to kick in if no deal is struck. Diehard Republicans in Congress are sticking to their political mantra of no tax increases as being a component of any remedy to cut government spending, while Democrats seem to be resisting Social Security and Medicaid restructuring as part of any negotiated settlement to slow their (or lower) their contribution to runaway government spending. Needless to say, these two opposing parties don’t seem to be nearing anything in the way of an agreement.
This ongoing political drama has real-life implications for everyday Americans that neither party is willing to acknowledge—outside of bumper-sticker statements made in front of the television cameras as they jockey to paint the other party as the villain. The politicians involved are only part of the problem…we the people are just as polarized as our political leaders, and they know this. No one is willing to be the bigger person and set aside their ideological beliefs for the greater good. And as long as this remains a reality, nothing is ever going to get done to any benefit. This is one of those instances where those involved need to forsake their outside-the-Beltway political pledges, ignore what they perceive to be the often-as-wrong opinions of their political constituencies, ignore their narrow dogmatic “principles,” and put the good of the country ahead of their political parties, and do the right thing. But then, that would involve people actually agreeing…and we know that’s not going to happen before the end of the year (See also: "Why I'm Not A Republican...Or A Democrat.")

Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo: 

The “reality” television craze, spotlighting the misadventures of pint-sized Southern corn-pone child beauty pageant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and her family, is one of those phenomenons that make one question the sanity of Americans. Stereotypes. Child exploitation. The anything-for-fame ethos. Irresponsible parenting. Unhealthy dieting. Questionable programming by money-grubbing corporate interests. This was one of those multi-faceted experiences that reflected everything wrong with our collective mindsets. It shows how—for a few bucks and airtime—we are willing to surrender our both our dignity and good sense to become “famous;” that we are willing to do anything to get a piece of the limelight. We are willing to exploit our children as well as ourselves, jeopardize their/our health, and reinforce negative cultural beliefs on the mistaken belief that just because half the nation is willing to pollute it minds by being fixated on such insanity validate that this is “what the people want.” In fact, such pop culture dysfunction is not “what people want;” it’s what television executives force us to watch because they are too cheap to invest money necessary to produce the quality and artistically redeeming programming most of older types grew up with. The more obsessed we are with wanting to become individually famous for no reason that its own sake, the more we reveal how famously self-absorbed and mis-prioritizing we are (See also: "The Great Balloon Hoax And Our Obsession With Fame," and "Adults...Children's Worst Enemy! Conclusion").

Aurora, Oak Creek, Sandy Hook, et al.:
The sad thing is despite the numerous incidents of mass shootings this year, there are people on both sides of the argument who continue to ignore common sense in favor of assuming their customary retreating positions when the issue of gun control comes up. Those on the political left ignore the danger of the new “normal” that some individuals will seek notoriety (there’s that “fame-seeking” angle again) or even infamy as a way deal with whatever demons haunt their souls. Something radical has to be done to protect the law-abiding and innocent among us as Americans, particularly males, embrace the distorted notion that spreading their pain to others in some way creates a sense of balance within their narrow universes. Maybe there needs to be armed officers in the public schools, seeing as how most of these mass shooters are not choosing targets where armed protectors are on duty (police stations, military bases--not counting Fort Hood--, National Rifle Association meetings, etc.). They are ignoring the new reality of a society which has adopted way of dealing with personal problems. Those on the political right want to maintain the near-open availability of semi-automatic weapons which are better served on the battle field than in the homes where citizens already own multiple weapons. Many among them defend their intransigence with regards to the Second Amendment right to bear arms as a way of being able to “defend themselves against a government tyranny.” Needless to say, this is pathetically weak excuse in the face of a government which is not really obligated to allow them any gun possession at all…if in fact such a government were truly out to “get their guns.” Finally, there are those who are not able to factor in that the siphoning away of money and community resources formerly used to confront and treat mental illness as an ingredient in such tragedies. For whatever reason, we don’t want to admit that guns in and of themselves—which have always been available to some degree are not as much of the problem as our shifting values.
President Obama shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings

We don’t want to admit that we use unreasonable excuses based on paranoid fears to maintain a obviously crippled status quo with regard to virtual open access to weapons…even weapons that have no place in a civilized society where we have reasonably armed police officers as a first-line of defense. We also don’t want to admit that there is a stigma attached to mental illness which prevents those suffering in silence from seeking redress…and those in the seats of power from providing funding to ensure that those who suffer can get assistance. When paranoia can be justified and weakly explained away by those who are not willing to set aside their petty desires and/or dogmas for the greater good; when we count pennies and cut budgets to fund a growing problem of mental illness; and when we favor rhetoric over actions, we should prepare to gear ourselves up for even more of these sad tragedies (See also: "Sandy Hook, Guns, And Questions," "Gun Control...No! Responsible Gun Control...Yes?" and "How To Stop School Shootings").

Gungnam Style:
South Korean rapper was Psy sure made the ‘rounds on the internet and television circuits…but not for his catchy You Tube breakout video dance craze “Gangnam Style.” At the height of his probable flash-in-the-pan notoriety, it came to light that Psy made some rather off-putting anti-American remarks which he rapped during the height of the Bush Administration’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq. That 2004 performance was widely circulated online once it came to the attention of Westerners, who were still dancing to the You Tube sensation’s video hit.
That performance included lyrics calling for the death of American troops serving in Iraq after two incidents involving South Korean citizens and the American military. Psy’s statements reflected the general anti-American sentiment expressed by many South Koreans at the time, relating to the brutal killing of a South Korean hostage by Iraqi insurgents, and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls who were struck and killed by a U.S. military vehicle.
The lyrics in question went as follows:

“Kill those f--ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives and those who ordered them to torture," and going on to say, "Kill them all slowly and painfully," as well as "daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers."

Naturally, the lyrics were inflammatory to those with a sensitive soft spot for love of America. However, we forget in this country that those who our policies adversely affect have hearts and soft spots too. It’s not for us as a country to judge the anger of another people, especially our allies. Other people, groups, and countries, and hurt too, and their anger is just as much justified as our own when our citizens are hurt or killed by others.
South Korean rapper, Psy

So Psy spoke out of anger...who hasn't...or doesn't? We're supposed to be a nation that favors and promotes freedom of both speech and expression. We can also be a nation of extreme hypocrisy.  As long as Psy was entertaining us with his feel-good lyrics and dancing, we had no problem with him.  The minute he says something which steps on the toes of overly sensitive people, he becomes the Anti-Christ! Let him have his minute in the sun...without the narrow judgments of his opinions.
We in this country are quick to make a big deal out of our right to freedom of expression, but don't seem willing or capable of tolerating it in others.  As I look in retrospect at this issue, I can't help but wonder--especially as a blogger--that is speaking one's opinions, thoughts, and observations all it takes to be hated in America (See also: "Here We Go Again - Ozzie Guillen, Free Speech, And American Foreign Policy," "A Nation of Whiners - Part 2," and "A Nation of Whiners - Conclusion")?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Open Thread - Guns & Public Schools

Based on it's past stance of open access to all manner of weapons--even those that have no place in an open and relatively safe (compared to other countries) society--I always thought the National Rifle Association (NRA) was out of touch with reality and common sense.
However, after NRA president Wayne LaPierre's press conference this morning declaring that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," I find myself in the unaccustomed position of thinking that, for once, the NRA is right (See:  "How To Stop School Shootings").
Simply put, times have changed since I graduated high school back in 1985 (yes, I am dating myself here). As Americans, we had far more access to both full and semi-automatic weapons--with more availability--back when I was in high school.  There were no routine school shootings or gratuitous violence in our public schools, except in the most chronically-impoverished and socioeconomically dysfunctional ares of our major cities--and even then, buy today's standards, the violence that did occur was tempered by our relative conservative values as a country (again, relatively speaking).  The only variable factor that differs then from now was the availability of money and publicly-assessable resources for mental illness-related services, as well as less dubious diagnoses (such as "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" that children/people can use as an excuse for their behavior and lack of self-control).  So the argument that "guns are the problem" does not hold water.
Bottom line, it's that our collective mindsets that have changed. Our social values.  Our collective romanticizing of all things related to the "excitement" of living on the edge.  And since there is no evidence which indicates that things will get better, its best to adapt to the changing times, and make public schools a less attractive a target for cowards out to make a name for themselves (or who are out to cope with their mental/emotional issues in such a questionable manner).
We have armed guards in banks due to the rising incidence of bank robberies, armed sky marshals on airplanes as a result of 9/11, so why not armed guards in public schools?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook, Guns, & Questions!

When I see tragedies like that occurring in Connecticut yesterday, it becomes somewhat difficult to defend my thoughts that limiting gun ownership only hurts legal gun owners, and not the criminals…who tend not to follow the laws of gun purchasing anyway (see: "Gun Control...No! Responsible Gun Control...Yes?").  But with 27 people killed by one lone gunman—including 20 children and 7 adults, including the shooter’s own mother—we are left with nothing but questions instead of answers.

Unidentified Sandy Hook Elementary School staff member leads students to safety

What can we do when our resources for mental health are being limited by cuts, and money becomes the primary concern over potential public (or self) safety? How do we balance privacy laws with the public's right to know when dangerous mental illnesses are a factor with unstable individuals?  How do we compel those with mental/emotional issues to seek help when such issues are so stigmatized that individuals who suffer from them—both marginally and extremely—would rather embrace denial than assistance? How can we balance the right of individuals, particularly those with mental and/or emotional illnesses, and the greater good?

What do we do when legitimate gun owners reflexively scream, “My rights..!” in defense of their legal right to own a weapon…no matter how ridiculous some of the gun laws are? How can we maintain the balance of gun owner’s rights to potentially defend themselves, while limiting the number of guns on the streets?

Is it healthy to create a siege mentality within our public school in the name of safety?

How can we craft gun crime laws in such a way as to make any act by gun-toting criminals prohibitive by way of punishment?

As I said a couple of posting ago, sometimes our “rights” get in the way of the greater good (see: "Too Many Rights Make Wrong.").  And maybe as individuals, we should start considering focusing less on our individual wants and likes and more on what’s best for everyone involved.
No matter how “pro-gun” you are, the deaths of 20 young children is just a little hard to defend, either politically, ideologically, or realistically.

Concealed gun laws, state-by-state (click to enlarge)

Maybe there should be a means testing for gun ownership...the weapons and amount of weapons one is allowed to purchase should be in proportion to the threat of one's environment or their actual would maintain gun ownership, BUT limit the amount of available weapons in the streets possible criminals and nut-cases to acquire. Maybe under such a policy, people living in the violence in gang-infested Chicago would have the means to defend themselves, while the George Zimmerman's of America wouldn't have to overreact to imaginary threats!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's REALLY Look At "Right To Work!"

On the surface, I agree with Michigan's new 'right-to-work" law, which forbids members of unions from having to pay mandatory union dues.  Yes, I don't agree that workers should be made to pay mandatory union dues as condition of their membership, but I don't believe that legislative action should be used to mandate such.
As with anything new law, the motivation was partly political.  Yes, it makes sense--especially in the automobile capital of America--to have a policy meant to stem the building of new automobile plants in mostly Southern "right-to-work" states.  Such a law incentivizes building new plants in Michigan, a state hit particularly hard by the recent economic downturn. But the law also has the added effect of siphoning off potential money which unions use in support pro-union candidates for public office...who are typically not Republicans.  Additionally, a provision in the new law which prohibits it from being overturned by popular referendum--a legal option in Michigan for undoing unpopular or initiating desired laws--smacks of imperialism; a we know what's best for you! law.  Big surprise.
If this new law was really meant to be "pro-worker," as Republican Governor Rick Snyder asserts, then maybe he and the Republican-led Michigan legislature wouldn't mind considering eliminating the the "at-will employment" doctrine among state employers.  In short, the law operates on the following basis:

"any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work" (At-Will Employment).

At the risk of incurring some criticism and "fact-checking" by hair-splitting types, my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience with at-will employment is that it allow employers to terminate employee for any reason which isn't explicitly prohibited by established laws (federal and/or state).  However, this does not include having a thread out of place, or giving a an opinion.  In many states, the attempt to unionize can also be grounds for termination.  I have personally witnessed more than my fair share if individuals having their employment terminated for the most relatively benign of reasons...and the fact that many of the employers were quick to tout "we're an 'at-will employer'" as a justification for their decisions tells me all I need to know about the doctrine. 
If those against the enforcement of paying union dues were really out to protect the "right to work," then they would balance the scales of the asynchronistic power relationship between employers and employees in America by eliminating this antiquated, outdated, and inherently unfair practice by employers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Who Owns the U.S. National Debt...Really?

With the 2012 presidential elections now in the history book, and all of the heated rhetoric about spending the country out of existence has subsided (relatively speaking), it seems were are right back where we started from before the dog-and-pony leading up to November 4th. Despite the mountain-top yelling about how China owns so much of the nation's debt, Washington doesn't seem to have prioritized action, choosing instead to prioritizing politics.  President Obama and the Democrats have staked out a position on the move toward curtailing government spending.  The Republicans have done so as well. And wouldn’t you know it…they don’t agree! Shocking.
At the current rate of impasse, the Mayan calendar prophesies will have kicked in and made all of this talk about "fiscal cliffs" moot before either party can focus on the needs of the country rather than their individual voting blocs. Yes, all know that current levels of government spending are unsustainable and unpayable. And yes, many of us rank-and-file every Americans know the solution is for simply for both parties to just put everything—every government program—under the microscope as a potential sacrifice on the altar of budget-cutting (or at least budget restricting). But as usual, many of us (and our elected politicians) would rather be “right” as opposed to being happy when it comes to political and social policy. Again, shocking.
At any rate, I thought I would just take a moment and put government spending into perspective, and showcase where government spending goes, and expose just which entity (or group of entities) receives the most government spending.

 Click on the graph to enlarge

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Teasing...Freedom of Expression or Crime?"

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” ― Salman Rushdie 

As a blogger and chronicler of relevant social and political issues, perhaps no greater bane to my endeavor exists than censorship. Can’t stand it. Won’t tolerate it.
Since being online, I was forced to censor only a single response to my postings (based on the fact the link to the commenter’s own blog was deemed too graphic for those wishing to inquire about his own personal views on the issue of gay marriage). Other than that, I would vigorously defend anyone’s right to speak their mind, or say what they feel…no matter how distasteful, painful (to some), or unjustified it might be.
On that point, a rather disturbing story came across my desk from earlier this week regarding one of those incidents of distasteful expression. What I found disturbing was not the inherently cruel the message being conveyed by expresser, but the hundreds of comments and responses the man’s actions had incurred from the public supporting actions taken against what this individual had done…or rather expressed by way of his actions.
This past Tuesday, an Ohio judge sentenced 43-year-old William Bailey to a month in jail. His offense? Bailey was convicted of both a first-degree misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, a subsequent charge of disorderly conduct, and ordered to pay $400 in court costs and fines stemming from his “teasing and taunting a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy.” As with many other instances of stand-out cruelty, a video was taken of Bailey’s actions and posted online…where it went viral in a few short days.
This video and its popularity was part of the basis of the disabled child’s family filing a complaint with the city attorney’s office seeking legal actions against Bailey.

To put the entire incident in context, it becomes necessary to understand the details of what happened leading up to this. According to published reports:

The taunting occurred on Sept. 26, when Tricia Knight and her mother-in-law were waiting for her children's bus to return from school. Knight's three children, including 10-year-old Hope, attend Walker Elementary with Bailey's 9-year-old son, Joseph.
What happened next was caught on an iPod camera by Knight's mother-in-law, Marie Prince.
William Bailey "was dragging his leg and patting his arm across his chest to pick his son Joseph up," said Knight. "I asked him to please stop doing this. 'My daughter can see you.' He then told his son to walk like the R-word."
The next day Knight posted the video on her Facebook page while Prince uploaded the video they called "Bus Stop Ignorance" to YouTube. Within days, the video went viral. The Knight family has lived next door to the Baileys for the past two years, and the incident at the bus stop, according to Knight, is the culmination of rising tensions and intimidation against her kids" ("Ohio Man Sentenced to One Month After Teasing Disabled Girl").

Yes, Bailey’s actions could easily be interpreted by most as the questionable actions of an ***hole. But being compared to an otherwise nasty body part has not been a crime in this country for a long time. As a by-product of our First Amendment right of Free Speech, people should have every the right to express themselves in any way they so desire…as long as it doesn’t create a clear and immediate danger to public safety or social order (e.g., yelling fire in a crowded theater, or attempting to verbally incite a riot). With all due respect to the Knight family, to curtail the expression of Bailey’s thoughts and ideas is to potentially curtail their own.
The authorities in Ohio overstepped their legal bounds by caving into social pressure in charging Bailey with a crime for expressing his otherwise gutter level of thinking. But perhaps issuing a restraining order , community service, or some other colorful form of penalty would have been a more appropriate course of action for Bailey expressing his stupidity. Simply put, it sets a very bad precedent to send someone to jail for this showing their ignorance in a relatively harmless (note, I said “relatively harmless;” please put down your rocks). If we sentenced everyone to jail who offended us, we would literally have to build add-ons to the coastal borders of our country to house them.
Let’s face it…bullying is an occurrence that happens every day of the week, and rarely does it result in criminal persecution, unless it results in actual (as opposed to perceived) criminal acts.
As an African-American, being called the “N-word” by some intellectual and cultural Neanderthal doesn’t hurt me in the slightest (trust me, I’ve been called worse). And I wouldn’t condone anyone who dares to do it to be sent to jail as a consequence. As thoughtless and heartless as people can be sometimes, the unfettered freedom and exchange of ideas—both pleasant and odious—is what made this country a world leader. And we cannot and should not allow our sensitivities to weaken our right to say (or express) what is on our mind, in our hearts, or how we feel.
Individuals do not have a right to employ the heckler’s veto against any level of speech. However, we do have the right to build up out tolerance to ignorance and questionable expression for the greater good of exchanging ideas.
Any time we put limitations on our right to express ourselves—regardless of content of the message—we render meaningless every life that was sacrificed for the same right. How we to know what is right, and what is wrong if we are prevented from ever being allowed to express it?
In understanding and respecting the rights of others to express themselves, we can take a lesson from the late child author Dr. Seuss:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Here Comes The Fuzz, Part 2!

Sometimes, just when you think the world has gone irrevocably to crap, an occurrence happens to give even the hardiest cynics and skeptics pause to think that their might actually be some level of hope for mankind. Such an even happened 2 weeks ago in New York City.
On a cold November 14th night, a selfless act of humanity by NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo briefly overshadowed the news of wars, potential financial catastrophe, and crime. DePrimo, a 25 year-old, 3 year veteran of the city’s police force walk on foot patrol in Times Square when he’d spotted a homeless man sitting on 42 Street. The man was wearing no shoes and no socks. According to DePrimo, "It was freezing out, and you could see the blisters on the man's feet. I had two pairs of socks, and I was still cold." At that point, DePrimo could have just as easily did what the hundreds of other New Yorkers going about their way had did—ignored the man.
However, DePrimo walked over to a nearby shoe store, and purchased a $100 pair of all-purpose boots and brought them back for the man.
A New York City police officer is photographed giving boots to a homeless man on Nov. 14. (NYPD/Facebook)

An out-of-town tourist visiting New York (who incidentally works for a local Sherriff’s department in Arizona) had observed and had managed to capture the entire episode on her camera. She took a picture of DePrimo “squatting down on the ground and proceeding to put socks and the new boots on this man.”
The story and the accompanying photo taken by the tourist chronicling this random act of kindness by a true public servant has since gone viral all over the ‘net.
In the past, I have posted reflections on incidents of past police abuse (see: "Here Comes The Fuzz, "Another Police Beating Caught On Tape" and  "The Law, Lies, and Videotapes"). It truly is a nice change-of-pace to see what real “public service” is supposed to look like…duty tempered with a smidgeon of humanity and genuine concern. Hats off to Lawrence Deprimo…and take notes bad cops…this is what real policing looks like!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Too Many Rights Make Wrong

Let’s face it…sometimes, people can be allowed too much freedom. The opportunity to engage in certain behaviors or make certain decisions, just because the law allows us to, does not necessarily mean that that we should do certain things. Freedom of expression should not, and does not mean “anything goes.” Take for example the law in San Francisco. Up until this week, the law in the Golden Gate city allowed public nudity, particularly within the confines of the Castro district, the gay capital of America. But a 6 to 5 ruling by the city’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday ended the practice within the city limits, with the exception of certain street fairs and events. The new city ordinance effectively bans anyone "over the age of 5 from exposing his or her genitals, perineum or anal region" in most public locations. The ban was spurred as a result of the growing number of complaints by citizens of increasing numbers of naked men walking around and/or gathering in public, particularly around the Castro district.
A nude backpacker walks the street of San Francisco last year. Such an act is now illegal. 

Nudists and other opponents of the new ban argue that it infringes on their “rights.” A federal lawsuit has already been filed arguing the proposal infringes on free “speech” and “expression” rights. However, the Board’s actions interjected a bit of sanity and prudence into an otherwise contentious issue in the city. However, the Board’s actions interjected a bit of sanity and prudence into an otherwise contentious issue in the city. The issue is a metaphor for other’s who defend their otherwise questionable practices as a “right.” No one has a total “right” to do as they wish, even if it is legal (or need I remind you that slavery in this country was legal at one time; it didn’t make it right) for the greater good. Some make the argument exposing the human body, even in public is an expression of “body love.” But how selfish is it tout one’s “right” to expose their genitals—men included—in public view of young children? How can anyone with a level cognitive reasoning justify that public nudity should be a “protected right,” when men exposing themselves to women and children is a crime in every municipality in the country?
We now live in a country where every individual whim, no matter how ridiculous, challenges the law as a protected “right.” The National Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), a pedophile advocacy organization of men with a predilection for sexual relations with underage males says their “rights” are “violated. Homosexuals now claim their desires to be married to others of the same sex as a legal ”right” (as opposed to a recognition). Our public schools are teeming with disruptive students with questionable mental and emotional diagnoses (e.g., Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorders, etc.) whose parents say they have a “right” to bring their particular brands of disruptive hells to our classrooms, and interfere with the learning process of other students.  People who live in relatively crime-free areas have the “right” to own insane arsenals of weapons despite no existential threats to their lives or liberties.
We Americans love our “rights,” but are not willing to take note of their results:

-The nation’s divorce rate is higher than any other industrialized nations. 

-We have the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity—adult and childhood—than any other industrialized nation. 

-We have the highest rates of childhood poverty of any Western nation. 

-We can also claim the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, murder, and incarceration rates of any advanced nation in the world.

We in America are so obsessed with trying to avoid individual discontent that we find ourselves actually being held hostage by our “rights” to freedoms. Our problem as a nation is that we all want to claim special rights, but not recognize that we have responsibilities as well. And the biggest responsibility we have is to protect not our rights, but common sense.
Everyone cannot be allowed to do what they want.  In order to serve the greater good, some individual rights have to be not only curtailed, but denied. As individuals and representatives of various interests groups, we need to break the delusion that most of us live under that we all have a "right" to do what we want.
We don't allow children to vote. We do not legally recognize the right to drink and drive.  Marijuana is still illegal in most states as well as the federal government.   Let's face it...some of us are not going to be allowed to do what we want.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we are willing to take our emotions and beliefs out of the driver's seat of our lives and allow reason to pilot our thinking.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Politics, The American Blood Sport

Readers from other countries daily log onto Beyond The Political Spectrum in order to get an insight into the social and political fabric of America…without all of the MSNBC or FOX News-esque ideological spin. And because many foreign visitors to my blog want to know about (either) the social and/or political landscape here in The States, I thought that foreign readers might want to know that we here in America take our politics very seriously. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that after the recent Congressional and presidential election that politics is as much of a blood sport here as soccer is to most of you who live abroad. For example, as you may or may not know, projection polls leading up to the presidential elections indicated that nationally, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama were in a virtual tie, while the president was leading in the so-called “battleground states”… states representing the greatest number of votes based on population.

 Despite the fact that many knew the election was to be a referendum on the economy and the razor edge closeness of most mainstream polls, the ever-so-slight battleground states lead the president had had many mainstream news outlets and pundits slightly favoring Obama to win the election. However, Republican/conservative backers of Romney didn’t want to believe what most traditional polls had projected for the election…polls which routinely adhered to industry polling standards. Much like an undermanned, underpowered soccer team ignoring the experience of a better team and the probably outcome, they ignored mainstream polls because they were reflective of a perceived pro-Obama “bias.”

 Fueled in part by conservative media talking heads cut from the Fox News cloth, many Republicans had their anticipated election victory “validated” by the likes of conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen (who based his polling system on flawed assumptions which gave the most inaccurate of projections). The effect was a glut of notable conservative pre-election day predictions. For example:

UnskewedPolls’ Dean Chambers: 
Romney 311, Obama 227. “Despite the pattern of skewed polls, most of them commissioned by the mainstream media, the overall electoral landscape is looking more and more favorable for Romney.” — Nov. 1, on

Rush Limbaugh: 
“All of my thinking says Romney big. All of my feeling is where my concern is. But my thoughts, my intellectual analysis of this — factoring everything I see plus the polling data — it’s not even close. Three hundred-plus electoral votes for Romney.” — Nov. 5, on his radio show.

Newt Gingrich: 
“I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 Romney, over 300 electoral votes.” – Oct. 25, on Fox News.

Taken together—and despite evidence to pointing to the contrary—Republicans were dealt with an Election Day loss which they never saw coming. This was apparent in the apparent live on-air meltdown of political strategist Karl Rove election night on Fox News as the projections of Obama’s win started to become apparent. Although in Rove’s defense, his being incredulous toward believing the $300 million dollars of the "dark money" his political action committees (American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS) contributed to seeing Obama defeated went for naught would have rendered me just as unhinged. 

In a similar fashion, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who became the largest single political donor in the history of politics had an equal amount of luckless success.

Mr. Adelson donated more than $60 million. But of the eight candidates he supported, none won. That included the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who was battered by negative ads financed by Mr. Adelson during the primary before Mr. Adelson switched to become a supporter (See:  "Times Topics: Sheldon Adelson.")

And although Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic ones by a wide margin, this is not to say that there wasn’t an equal amount of outside money spent on the Democratic side. And although Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic ones by a wide margin, this is not to say that there wasn’t an equal amount of outside money spent on the Democratic side. Organizations like American Bridges and Priorities USA Action benefitted from large donors whose causes reflect left-of-center issues.

2,100,000 - Irwin Jacobs Founder of chipmaker Qualcomm and former M.I.T. professor.

2,100,000 - Jeffrey Katzenberg Chief executive of Dreamworks Animation.

2,000,000 - Jon Stryker Gay rights advocate and founder of the Arcus Foundation.

1,750,000 - Amy P. Goldman Author; daughter of the late Sol Goldman, a wealthy New York real estate investor.

1,600,000 - Anne Cox Chambers Part owner of Cox Enterprises, the media conglomerate.

1,350,000 - Anne Earhart Investor, Corona del Mar, Calif. Granddaughter of the oil baron J. Paul Getty.
                                                      (Source:  "The Big Democratic ‘Super PAC’ Donors").

Needless to say that this list is hardly exhaustive. However, it showcases how—much like in European soccer—interests groups are willing to go blow-for-blow in influencing election politics in America. In a real sense, these outside moneyed groups would be analogous to the Euro-rich tycoons who own the various teams, and try to exert their influence on the game’s outcome from tournament to tournament.
And much like an occasional European soccer game, this election cycle was marked with its own version of the soccer riot; we call them “presidential primaries.” And this year’s GOP presidential primaries were marked by cut-throat accusations, name-calling, and self-destructive gaffes that opponents pounced on drunker soccer fans rooting for a losing team. And although there were no equally visible Democratic presidential primaries this particular election cycle, we saw the same often raucous atmosphere during the election of year of 2008…particularly between then candidates Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. These pre-election contests to whittle down the party candidates often reveal genuine animosities as well as personality differences between individuals seeking public office, especially at the federal level.
And sometimes, American politics has its occasional bouts of violence and tragedy related to the electoral process, which is usually confined to state and local contests (such as the 2001 murder a DeKalb County, Georgia Sheriff-elect by the former sheriff of the county). But this year’s presidential elections, as a result of the reelection of the nation’s first black president, have yielded a new level of violent insanity. In Miami, 64-year-old Henry Hamilton had been "very upset about the election results,” according to friends and family members. Prior to the recent presidential elections, Hamilton had allegedly made remarks to the effect that "if Barack gets re-elected, I'm not going to be around.” True to his word, he was found dead November 8th “with the words ‘F--- Obama!’ scrawled on his will and two empty prescription bottles nearby” (See:  "Death of Key West Man Linked to Obama's Reelection").
As if suicide over the election of a particular candidate wasn’t bloody enough, a woman in Phoenix, Arizona was arrested and charged with nearly killing her husband in an incident related to the recent elections. According to news reports, 28-year-old Holly Solomon allegedly chased down her husband with the family car, eventually catching up to him and running him down. The reason? Because he had failed to vote in the presidential elections. According to police, “his wife became angry over his "lack of voter participation" in last Tuesday's presidential election and believed her family would face hardship as a result of Obama winning another term.”(See: "Arizona Woman Runs Down Husband With Car for Not Voting: Police").

And yes like soccer, America politics has its equivalent of hooligans and rowdy roughnecks whose only contribution to the sport is mayhem and deconstructive commotion. You can always tell these individuals by their fear-mongering laced with hyperbolic and exaggerated rhetoric. They usually make unsubstantiated claims, more so than what one would usually expect within the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Claims of “government sanctioned ‘death panels,” how women’ bodies can automatically reject forced pregnancies at the hands of rapists, that abortion is a "Constitutional right," how marijuana “isn’t harmful,” and how climate change “has not been proven” are the give-away signs of these outsiders.
So I say this to those readers who are not Americans that we have more in common with you than you might think. Although we tend to do things in this country a lot differently than they do in the rest of the world, we all play certain games—sometimes to the death—with all the fervor and ferocity of the lower mammals. Where you all play and see games like soccer as being a life-or-death affair, we in this country treat politics with the same level of deathly earnest. And as the 18th century philosopher David Hartley once said, "Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays."

Gingrich criticizes former Governor Mitt Romney's recent statement regarding President Obama's election win; that his victory was the result of "gifts" he promised America's minorities, women, and college students. Category:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

...And The Winner Is...!

BREAKING NEWS: News Outlets Project President Obama To Be Re-Elected!

Although it's a little early in the evening (just before midnight as I write this), I thought I'd get in on the ground floor and extend a big congratulations to President Barack Obama on his re-election win in today's general election (of course, I had this same posting prepared in the event either candidate won this year's election). So, after almost 2 years, some $6 billion dollars spent, and an even more polarized electorate (there's a chance Mitt Romney might narrowly win the popular vote, while the President will take the Electoral College), the fight is finally over!
So why does this bode ill for a continually (and politically) divided country? Because among the results of this particular election cycle:

-A noticeably  (and painfully lengthy) primary process which reveals intra-party ideological fracturing (in both parties).
-The election of the first openly gay U.S. Senator in Wisconsin (a controversy to be sure).  In addition, it looks like the legalization of same-sex marriage will pass for the first time on statewide initiatives in three states (Maryland and Maine being the most prominent).
-The ideological entrenchment of the two major parties, neither of which will move toward the rational political center.
-A Congress that remains both numerically and politically divided (the Democrats retain control of the Senate, while the Republicans have the House).
-Divisions along ethnic/racial lines (non-white for one candidate, whites mostly for another).
-Political interests ability to stoop to using the legislative process (and marginally logical arguments) to justify suppressing voter turnout (despite there being no statistical proof of fraud).
-Political infighting between cliques.

Beyond any doubt, other divisions will be made apparent in the upcoming days, weeks, and months ahead.  As a result, we shouldn't expect the newly re-elected President to give a Sally Field Academy Award-like speech ("They love me...they really, really love me!"), as his victory--combined with a divided Congress--was hardly a mandate. 
Maybe the realization of how truly divided a country we have become will wake the politicians in Washington (and in state legislatures across the country) to the need to work together, and put the needs of the people ahead of political party, ideology, or personal prejudices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day...Let's Get Ready To Rumblllllle!

It's Election Day 2012 in America! Vote smart! Vote based on reality (not your beliefs)! Vote Based on reason (not ideology)! Vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Personal Costs of Health Care Costs (or, "Tales From The Darkside!")

I have, am, and will always be a firm believer that medicine and access to affordable health care should be a humanitarian endeavor, not a marketable commodity. And if the only way that the enfeebled- and limited-minded can grasp such a concept is by linking it with some ideologically baited term like “socialism,” then so be it. The bottom line is that health care spending under our current sociopolitical regime eats up 17% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (See: “Health-Care Spending to Reach 20% of U.S. Economy by 2021").  Given that President Obama’s championed health care reforms have not fully kicked in—and whose economic effects can only be speculated about at this juncture—it’s hard not to imagine that total health care spending is as unsustainable a spending splurge as that of government spending adding to the national debt (by the way, has anyone noticed that deficit spending by the government only seems to matter when Democrats are in the White House?). But in considering how some Americans continue to demonize the suspected outcomes of the President Obama's signature legislative achievement, it came to my attention that in the midst of all of the red-baiting and diatribes about government infringement of civil liberties (by way of mandates), people were forgetting just why the discourse of reforming health care became an issue in the first place.
I came across a recent piece from NBC’s The Today Show spotlighting a video portrait of the effects the current health care system adversely affects those priced out of the current system.  If you're one of the few Americans who feel that you don't have a stake in reforming the current system of affordable health care affordability, I invite you to watch the following short piece and think again...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Superstorm Sandy...Devestating Everything But The Politics

Most readers to Beyond The Political Spectrum know that I am critical of both political parties for different reasons. I find the Democrats to be too incompetent, and in many ways enabling when it comes to crafting policies are which meant to help those who need it the most…and too liberal when it comes to social policies. Republicans I find to be too self-righteous, too ideologically-rigid and in denial about their ideological double-standards (that’s not to say that Democrats don’t have their own double-standards).
However, I must say that I have gained a newfound respect for Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie. In the past few days since the destruction wrought on his state as well as other neighboring states in the Northeast, he along with Independent New York mayor Michael Bloomberg put aside political partisanship (Bloomberg to a lesser degree) to address the effects of “superstorm” Sandy on their respective communities.

My respect for them is not based on Christie’s complementing President Obama for his administration’s take-charge approach in securing federal assistance for those residents most affected by the storm. Neither is my newfound respect for Mayor Bloomberg based on his endorsement of President Obama this week for president in next week’s elections. No, my respect of them comes from their pushing aside their ideological beliefs and any animus they might hold toward their ideological foils and engage in political pragmatism rather than political partisanship. Christie has been seen multiple times with Obama since the storm ravaged many areas of his state, coordinating the efforts of recovery…a mere 2 months after giving a keynote speech at the 2012 Republican Convention blasting Obama's policies (See: "Transcript of Chris Christie's speech at the Republican National Convention"). Bloomberg, for his part gave Obama (a lukewarm) endorsement on the strength of the issue of climate change/global warming, and how the phenomenon can adversely affect weather patterns, resulting in the damage we saw this week in the Northeast (See: "New York Mayor Bloomberg endorses Obama"). It truly is a nice change-of-pace to see that there are some in the nation’s political quarters who can not only look, but see beyond partisanship and ideological allegiances to create opportunities for the American people rather than their political parties. But all is not joy in political Mudville.
 The haters have come out to play. The extreme right-wing of the Republican Party has begun slamming both Christie and Bloomberg for their embracing of independent thinking and daring to challenge sacred conservative orthodoxy. Christie has been panned for daring to break ranks and actually cooperating with Obama, even for the sake of securing federal assistance in helping the people of his own state. Perennial microphone meathead Rush Limbaugh has called for listeners on his inexplicably popular radio show “Don’t listen to Governor Christie. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” adding that Christie is “fat and a fool.” Conservative writer Matt Lewis has gone so far as to call Christie “a prop for Obama’s re-election” (See: “Conservatives Bash Christie For Cooperating With Obama Post-Sandy”). Such a practice of intolerance for independent thinking and/or actions among Republicans (and Democrats) is indicative of why our country’s political landscape has become more polarized in recent years that at any time since the Civil War. In extreme cases, extreme right-wing Republicans reserve the moniker of “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) for those who they have a particular disdain for when it comes to adherence and promotion of conservative mantra; Democrats have “DINOs.”
This criticism reflects a major cause of government gridlock we have been witnessing and experiencing in Washington over the last 10 years; individuals putting political party allegiance over initiating effective policy benefitting the American people—and yes, Democrats are guilty of this too. When I think of examples of such political intransigence and intolerance for dissent—even in the interest of the people who elect them—all I can think of are those episodes of “Star Trek” featuring the alien species known as The Borg. Similar to bees, he Borg conquer and take over other species and force them into their collective “hive mind," where they are forced to share thoughts, ideas, and feelings (or lack thereof). The Borg preface every act of assimilation of other species into their collective by prefacing every conquest with the ominous phrase, “We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”
Superstorm Sandy’s arrival apparently blew apart more than sandy beaches, boardwalks, and homes of New Jersey, New York, and the Northeast. It blew away the camouflage of what’s masking the reason as to why anything resembling cooperation can’t occur among and between the Republican and Democratic Parties.  Extreme right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats basing their actions on (their) adherence to ideology and party allegiance rather than pragmatism of need is the problem. Surprisingly, there are still one or two politicians still around who prove that resistance is not futile.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What You Might Have Missed...The Third-Party Presidential Debate

 One of the biggest complaints anyone has with almost any aspect of the sociopolitical status quo in America is that the powers-that-be—namely those with controlling interests in the way things are—tend to silence the voices of dissent…or at least those voices in the wilderness we tend not to pay attention to. And one of the reasons I began this blog is to give an airing to items and issues in the news that are either overlooked, or not even considered within the context of critical (as opposed to ideological) thinking.
As an example, I cite the presidential debate from this past Tuesday. No, I’m not talking about the presidential debate between Democratic and Republican nominees President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. What I refer to is the lesser-known, barely-covered in the media debate between the third party candidates for the White House in Chicago earlier this week. The Chicago-based Free and Equal Elections Foundation sponsored the event, which was moderated by former
 Click on the video to watch the third party debate in its entirety

CNN talk-show host Larry King (See, "Third-Party Debate" for the background to this debate)
The event was arranged to counter the rules of the Democratic and Republican-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates that exclude political parties which do not fall within the parameters of their rules, which include:

Rule 1: The candidate must be constitutionally eligible to hold the office of the President of the United States. Rule 2: The candidate must “have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election.” 
Rule 3: The candidate must have achieved “a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.” 

In regards to Tuesday's debate, the rule that only parties with at least 15% of popular support was used to exclude the third party candidates. What’s more, it seems that many of us ordinary citizens are complacent with the way the two major political parties dominate the political voting process. The Green Party candidate for the White House, Jill Stein was arrested outside the venue of this week’s major political party debate when she showed up with her running mate, Cheri Honkala, to protest the Democratic and Republican virtual monopoly on the debate and election process in America. Stein was taken away to a detention center and handcuffed to a chair for several hours as the Republican-Democratic debate carried on without her…or any third party candidate (See: "Our handcuffed politics: What The Arrest of Jill Stein, The Green Party Candidate, Tells You About America").  And then we wonder why we have legislative gridlock at both the federal and state levels across the country…!
And if such efforts to limit the level of participation of those who would bring a different political view to issues, there is a call from some within established circles to streamline the process even more. Many conservatives during this year’s primaries complained that “that entirely too many candidates were invited to take part, including hopefuls who were consistently polling around 2 or 3 percent.”
What most defenders of the current electoral system don’t know is that some of our nation’s Founding Fathers were not only against the notion of organized political parties, but warned Americans against their control of the political process. Consider their words:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
- GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
  --John Adams

Even activist the Tea Party Movement, which might have sprang from noble intents, was a cause (or series of causes) that eventually became co-opted by right-wing neoconservatives, and has become representative of the very type of candidates that they were trying to keep from being elected…purveyors of a big corporate government!
And despite the reality that some of our most revered Founding Fathers’ thinking on political parties assert the opposite, many political party activists make attempts clothe their contribution to the gridlock of our current political process in the notion that they are “the party of…,” implying some level of legitimacy or being representative of the idea of a real America!
When I think of the current two-party political system and the resulting political polarization it has influenced, I think of the of Thomas Jefferson:

Men are naturally divided into two parties,'' he wrote, "those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [and] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.''

Ask yourself, "Where do you stand?"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Adults...Children's Worst Enemy! Conclusion

Forget the questionable (and often rash) decisions that young people can and do make—sometimes leading to tragic consequences. Forget about cyber- or actual in-the-flesh bullying that some teenagers perpetrate against one another. Don’t even think about the last time you witnessed a fight between teens in high school hallways. When you think about the safety and well-being of today’s youth, think about the shock-value inherent in the actions Jerry Sandusky and the whole Penn State crew. Or think about Jessica Ridgeway, the 10-year-old Colorado girl who went missing for a week before she was found dead and dismembered. If you want to know the source of the issues today’s youth have to deal with, you needn’t go further than the nearest mirror.

Many so-called adults in America are simply bad parents! And while I know that questioning the child-rearing capabilities of many of today’s mothers (and fathers) by a man is the female equivalent of telling a man his penis is too small, many simply are doing a terrible job at raising today’s kids…the results of which we see as part of many a human interest story on the evening news. Take for example the recent story of Jessica Stilwell, the Canadian mother who recently made news by “going on strike” in order to “teach her kids a lesson” (yes, I know Canada is not a part of the United States, but I used this particular news item illustrate my overall point, which Stilwell’s actions illustrate). The frustrated mother, proclaiming herself to be tired of “constantly reminding, cleaning, and nagging her children” about cleaning up the mess they would make of the house daily, refused to clean up behind her 10 and 12-year daughters, videotaping the results of her refusal to clean up the residence and posting them on Facebook. An online article of the story at the Huffington Post supported the mother’s actions by reporting that “the results will make you want to pump your fists and do a solidarity dance.”

Quite the contrary, as I read the story I imagined kicking my feet off in their backsides to illustrate the roles and responsibilities of responsible parents. This kind of lazy parenting and overly-liberal attitude toward modern child-rearing does nothing more but reinforce a child’s thinking that they are the ones in charge of our homes. I actually found myself thinking, “Who’s the child in this family?”
Today’s parents—due to time constraints, laziness, irresponsibleness, guilt, or stupidity—are simply too afraid to apply and instill any measure of discipline in their children, and the rest of us pay the price. As a former camp counselor for at-risk teens, I would see and experience the results of such questionable parenting up close and personal (I spent 24 hours a day, anywhere from 7-15 days at a time, sleeping, eating, and using the bathroom out in the woods for 2 years with these teens—I dare you tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about). I also saw how others in society are eventually forced to clean up the mess that other parents make when I was a long-term substitute teacher. Parents are all-too willing to accept any excuse for the behaviors of their children (a dubious clinical medical diagnosis, social trauma, or simply “being different”) other than the most reasonable explanation…they are simple not doing what they should be doing to raise children to be responsible adults.
No parent should have to go “on strike” in order to encourage their children to clean up. First and foremost, children should be taught how to clean up from the earliest moments they are able to hold a broom handle competently; I know that was the case in our house. My mother taught my siblings and I how to clean a house from top-to-bottom. In addition, she taught us how to iron out clothes (including how to align the hems in pants), and cook. During my stint as a camp counselor, teenage boys (and girls) would tell me how they didn’t know how to make up a bed because they usually had such a simplistic chose performed by them by over-doting (and irresponsible) mothers. If there should ever be a “strike” in a house, it should be the strike of a belt or an open hand against an unruly backside! Call it “barbaric,” call it “outdated,” but I’ve seen how spankings used in conjunction with active parenting works (See: "To Spank Or Not To Spank? Hell Yes!"). Back in the day, the police would pick up unruly children, and take them home to an expected meeting of hickory switch and butt by a responsible. Now in a perverse role-reversal, police are expected to jail parents who care about their children enough to ensure they aren’t a danger to themselves (or others). For the sake of any children that I might someday raise (and the nieces and nephews I helped to raise), I would hope that the local authorities would adopt an equivalent to a witness protection program in the event that one should decide to call the authorities on me for doing my job as a parent...and that's the attitude most parents and guardians should have!  And I’ve talked to many parents who quake in their shoes at the prospect of going to jail for administering a spanking to their children. In effect, their children are in control of the household, coming, going, and doing as they please.
The result is a generation of children who have little respect for adults. It’s one of the reasons an incident occurring at the end of the last school year in New York caught so much attention. Almost everyone remembers the story of 68-year old former bus monitor Karen Klein, who was taunted at the hands of disrespectful middle-schoolers to the point visibly crying. The entire incident was captured on video tape by others on the bus as it occurred.
To their credit, the middle-schoolers apologized publicly to the former bus monitor. However, it took shaming on a national stage before they developed the testicular fortitude to do so. It also illustrates how little respect that today’s kids have for adults who, by virtue of their parents’ fears and ineptitude as parents, have instilled in them the idea that they are the equal of adults…which they are most certainly not! 
If parents do not do their jobs, they should expect others to take the initiative to do so. This happened earlier this year in Texas. A 6-year old kindergartner attending Salinas Elementary School, near San Antonio, Texas had developed a reputation for being a bully at the school (and it’s only reasonable to believe that the parents had been notified of their child’s status as a school bully). So his teacher devised a lesson for the class’s resident terror; the teacher had each of the “24 other students in the class line up and slap Neely one-by-one” (See: "Mom Says Teacher Had Students Slap Her Son").   Granted, such an overboard action has its risks, it also illustrates how society will develop ways to correct aberrant behavior in children whose parents fail in their responsibility to instruct them in how to interact with others. Sadly, the teacher was fired by school officials (you guessed it...I applaud such actions as instructional objects in the pitfalls of bullying).  We need more adults willing to take such hard approaches in order to teach life-long lessons to such kids who parents are obviously not up to the task!

This is not to say that there are not responsible parents left in America. Some not only do engage in regular directing and responsible parenting, but they are not the sort who hovers over their children’s every actions in the name of keeping them from potential harm. Too many parents are raising wimps. They do not allow their children to explore their limitations. They put a bandage on every scratch and scrape. They are afraid to let their children do this or that without a suit of armor. As children, my friends and I explored every nook and cranny of our city…without relative harm. We climbed trees. We went to local ponds, explored abandoned houses (this was before they became havens for dope fiends), and always traveled in packs for safety. And our parents were well aware what we were doing.
But today, even when parents are responsible and aware enough not to treat their children like fragile glass, other over-doting parents tend to overact. In La Porte, Texas, a stay-at-home mother was arrested on a charge of child abandonment after one of her neighbors called the police because on the complaint that her children to play outside their mother’s immediate presence, which was not true. On its face, the case was eventually dismissed by authorities. The mother is in the process of suing the local police for false arrest (See:  "Mom Sues Police After Being Arrested for Letting Her Kids Play Outside").

It's sad that the paranoia fear of other weak parents has to interfere with how another chooses to allow her children the freedom to be independent (and to grow).
If this was the worst the mother can do in regards with raising her kids, she could do a lot worse. Many Americans see far worse on a weekly basis in the form of parents who exploit their children for fame. The Learn Channel’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” and the “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” spin off caters to the lowest in decadent parental behavior. Such shows sexualize and objectify underage girls, and puts their emotional and physical health at risk for the same of fame…of a sick perversion of it. And the fact that such shows garner so many viewers is indicative of how far we’ve such as a society in how we validate and enable bad parenting.

"Honey Boo Boo" from TLC's series of the same name

The bottom line was parenting and parents was much better back in the day.  When I was younger, playgrounds were covered with rocks, not padding. We weren’t mandated to wear bicycle helmets. We stayed away from our homes for hours at a time. There was an underlying element of minimal danger, but our parents were OK with it all. Parents spanked, and police would often collaborated with the dynamic. It didn’t mean parents were less responsible; quite the contrary, they were more responsible. We didn’t have courts, interloping social services organizations on hair triggers for any perceived sign of “abuse” (to which, the scope of what constitutes such has become so wide as to encompass everything short of yelling “boo”), or interfering paranoid adults who bring their personal judgments and prejudices into how others responsibly raise their children. Our parents weren't parading us in front of the world in order to gain the notoriety of an audience who couldn't give a damn about our emotional and physical health.  And we as children were definitely more respectful to not only our parents but most adults. 
We need to get back to the spirit of tough love in raising children, allowing them the privilege and opportunity of exploration in order to facilitate both their independence and growth. But at the same time, being cognizant of the need to restraint impulsiveness and disrespectful attitudes, as well as ungratefulness for having their immediate needs (not wants) met. And we definitely need to get back to the understanding that what you do in your house with your children definitely affects how the rest of us have to deal with your mistakes as parents!And this is something every adult can do, not just parents.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Adults...Children's Worst Enemy! Part 1

Over the past year, I have time again come across examples of young people—children and teenagers—making questionable decisions, and involved in questionable behaviors. Forget about the children I see in working with at-risk youth and their parents; I’m talking about those engaged in decisions which have become newsworthy human interest stories that illustrate a certain social pathology in behavior among our youth. What’s more, many of the questionable decisions I have witnessed children make today have had the tacit or explicit blessing of their parents. This leads me to conclude that the reasons today’s American youth are so trapped in an ethos of negative decision-making is due to the adults in their lives as both negative influences and as mentors.
Take for example 19-year Miami native Amanda Rodriguez. A day before her 17th birthday, she underwent the radical medical procedure—radical for a teenager—known as gastric bypass surgery. Watching the health segment on NBC’s Today Show from a June airing spotlighting Rodriguez’ decision, I decided to research not only her case, but those involving other teenagers either considering or having undergone the final-option procedure for weight loss. I was surprised to learn that something under 1,000 teens a year have some kind of medical procedure related to stimulating weight-loss in dangerously obese children.
Granted, there are many benefits of this radical medical procedure for those young people who opt to undergo it, the fact that such an extreme measure is needed at all to address health issues related to teenage obesity—issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes—speaks volumes about how much bad parenting and by adults mentoring adversely affects young people.And the ironic thing about this procedure is that:

Surgery usually requires preliminary weight loss and then a strict postsurgical regimen of dietary changes, vitamins, and exercise. If the teen and his family aren't fully committed, the results can evaporate quickly or fail to materialize in the first place (see: "Surgery Is No Quick Fix for Obese Teens").

In addition, there are other possible post-surgery complications based on unrealistic expectations of the radical and often irreversible surgery, including an “increased likelihood” of nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, possible follow-up surgeries, and anemia. Teens receiving this surgery “must be committed to becoming more active and eating healthier for life,” indicating that there are life-long obligations and consequences of having to undergo such a radical means of confronting childhood obesity. The funny thing is that the same level of healthy and active lifestyles required after such procedures could have been employed by responsible parents prior to the decline of their overall health by simply monitoring their children’s diets…things parents are supposed to do.
 A superimposed photograph of a teenager from the 1950s and today.

Instead, we have a nation of parents who enable such deleterious decisions by their children by shirking their responsibility to directly parent to their children, opting instead to avoid the conflicts and tantrums inherent in opposing their desires. In the case of fattening our children, it should come as no surprise that many parents often reward their children with food for various reasons. In addition, many parents do nothing to discourage laziness in today’s crop of youth; I can’t tell you how much I have heard older teenagers whine and complain about having to actually walk someplace as opposed to being chauffeured by parents who have too-little time to spare for such menial tasks. Furthermore, we are no longer a nation of manual labor; we have not only become too dependent on technology, but actual work—especially that consisting of breaking a sweat of even minimal amounts of physical exertion–is almost unheard of. And then we wonder how is it that our children have become so fat and lazy…!  Our inexplicable addiction to watching the misadventures of “Honey Boo-Boo” anesthetizes us to the health-related dangers of over-indulging (and in Boo-Boo’s case, exploiting) our kids for whatever reason!
And then there is the sense of morals—or lack thereof—that parents nowadays instill in their children. Earlier in the year, I was watching CNN’s sister network, Headline News when it aired a piece featuring a controversy involving former adult “actress” (although I think “actress” in such a context stretches the credibility of the word) Alana Evans. Evan was fired from her job as a public school science teacher after her co-workers had revealed that she had been an x-rated porn star. An administrator for the school where Evans had been fired from asserted that “her presence would disrupt student learning.” Having been a long-term substitute myself, I applaud the school district’s decision as a prudent move to avoid the distraction her presences would have no-doubt caused.
What I found so astonishing was Evans’ unapologetic attitude about her sordid past; she was literally a “working mother” at the time of her involvement in her former profession. She proudly defended her decision to seek out such work in order to “take care of her children.” While I agree that being able to put food into the bellies on one’s children is important, so too is what we feed their hearts and minds. A sense of morals and responsible parenting is just as important a contribution to a child’s upbringing as ensuring their nutritional and material needs are met.
My mother used to say that “all money isn’t good money,” and perhaps no level of questionable decision-making illustrates this notion than this (and other related) instance. The problem with being able to justify our actions, our responsibility to take care of our children is that it fosters a sense that making money is the most important thing in the world—no matter what the moral and/or social implications. This mentality doesn’t make much room for being able to look our in children in their eyes and explain to them that we were able to meet their needs in ways which don’t (or shouldn’t) foster a sense of embarrassment in having to explain one’s choice. And one can only think of the stigma Evans’ children would have to endure because of her ill-thought-out decision to take on a vocation with such negative social connotations attached to it. In short, just being able to house, feed, and clothe a child doesn’t necessarily make one a good mother. Yes, it sounds a little judgmental, but maybe judgments are what we need in order to become better models for our children. How many of us would really want our children to mimic our mistakes in judgment? “Legal” doesn’t necessarily mean “right.”
When I was a teenager, my mother took me and my younger brother out with her to farm fields to help her pick fruits and vegetables in order for us to pay our rent and utilities. She didn’t have to resort to such a morally bankrupt vocation in order to take care of us…and I have nothing but respect for her for not having to do anything she would be ashamed to tell us about. Bottom line, there are always options which don’t emotionally scar our children as we fight for their souls trying to raise them. However, too many adults don’t consider the consequences of their often selfish thinking when it comes to how we influence children today. And then we wonder why our children think it’s ok to lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want…!  It's because of our often selfish decisions as poor role models for teaching children that the ends justifies the means.

To be concluded...!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Election 2012 - Perception vs. Manipulation!

At the risk of favoring one pundit over another, I thought last Friday’s (10-05-12) segment of “New Rules” on HBO’S Real Time with Bill Maher provided an excellent analysis of reality versus perception (I know many on the political right cannot stand Bill Maher). If you count yourself among the number who cannot tolerate Maher’s take on society, politics, and personal observations for more than a few minutes, I have taken the liberty of clipping the more irrelevant parts of his weekly “New Rules” monologue and posting the more relevant portion where Bill Maher gives an insightful clarification of the economy…a reality presented by one side in the current election discourse.

I’ve also taken the liberty of posting President Obama’s newest campaign ad satirizing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s declaration that he would cut federal subsidies to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), potentially affecting the noncommercial network’s hallmark long-running children’s “Sesame Street.” Granted, Obama’s attack ad is a little over-the-top, it’s also a tragically funny-as-hell illustration in how far political campaigns go to manipulate the public perceptions to the point of the effectiveness we see in Maher’s observations (and how many people embrace the negative).

As I have reiterated so many times before on my blog, people...take the time to actually read, research, and actively think about how you perceive reality, not how your beliefs influence how you perceive it. Take the time to measure whether your beliefs and your experiences are in-synch with the way the world operates. Questions perceptions and propaganda, not embrace them.  In other words, use your heads, not your hearts or emotions!