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."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let's Talk About Race...Again! (...or, "Get Ready To Be Pi**ed Off...Again!")

Allow me to lay the foundation. I’m an adherent to the politics (and thinking) of pragmatism. This is to say that I cannot abide by dogmatic- or emotional-based thinking. I shun it. It’s as much as abhorrence to me as stupidity and emotionally-based thinking. As such, I believe that public—and in most cases, individual—policy should be made based on what’s in the general interests of those involved, and not based on some narrow ideology…whether liberal, conservative, libertarian, religious, socialist, or whatever (with the acknowledgement that on occasion, a policy may originate from and/or be a platform of one of these traditions of thinking). I extend the following examples:

-The taking of a human life is wrong, whether its an individual decision, such as in the case of abortion, or by the state-sanctioned taking of a life in the case of the death penalty (neither of which addresses the personal or societal issues they stem from).

-Gun ownership should not be restricted among qualified and reasonable individuals (i.e., without criminal/psychological records or unsavory intentions). Personally I wouldn't feel safe living in a house without a gun to defend myself. Simply put, the police cannot be everywhere, nor can they always prevent crime.

-Government cannot solve every problem. And neither can the Free Market.

-There is no Constitutional provision which says that America must be a Capitalist/Free Market society...that's based solely on tradition.

-O.J. did it (Mark Fuhrman's racism not withstanding).

-Religion has no place in public policy (although there may some influence based on the level of tradition it has on a particular policy).

-Our government spends too much. So too do individuals; neither seems to have a sense of what it means to work within a budget, or save for a rainy day.

-People need affordable health care, not some ideological preservation of “American values." And simply put, 230 plus years of medical services being another commodity of the market economy, and an exploding amount of health care spending as a percentage as a part of our Gross Domestic Product proves that the Free Market is not wholly up to the task.

-Based on reason and a passing knowledge of history, there is no way that anyone—outside of an emotional argument—could have concluded that the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution, in their wildest dreams, have imagined or even anticipated the reality that two adults of the same sex would want to ever get married, thus negating a “Constitutional Right” for them to do so (this is not to say that gay people don’t merit the same legal rights and/or protections against discrimination and persecution that all other Americans have, because they do).

I felt it necessary to establish the thinking behind this post. It is not about beliefs, emotions, or ideology, neither yours or mine. Policy should be based on what people need, not some ideological dogma...not reason, not passions. Setting the parameters is a way of heading off the accusations that I know are bound to come when one reads this; now you know that accusations of "Conservative," Liberal," "Fascist," "racist," or whatever are not going to fly. And now my rant.

I am an African-American.

And race is still an issue in America.

Given scope of issues in the news recently, once again I feel compelled to bring a little objective sanity into an otherwise contentious discourse (or lack thereof).


Although African-Americans have a right to be angry over last month’s shooting death of 16-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, every American should not only be just as angry but in the mood to engage in deep introspection. This includes African-Americans.
For African-Americans, such outrage should be a daily occurrence. Throughout many urban areas, we see or read about killings of children every bit as tragic Trayvon’s, almost on a daily basis. Maybe if Americans were to exhibit as much outrage over these murders, maybe we could make an impact. But sadly, most Americans—especially African-Americans—have adopted a level of fatalism with regard to life in the ‘hood. Many of us have come to see the senseless death of children as part of our daily existence.
Yes, there are instances of organized protests and candlelight vigils in these areas whenever there is a particularly brutal or senseless murder of an innocent occurs, but in general all such murders are senseless. If traditionally recognized “black leaders” such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were as motivated to travel around the country and address the deaths of young black children who are victimized by similar violence almost daily as they are at appearing at higher-profile murders, they would soon have to be hospitalized for exhaustion. And the lack of even acknowledgment from black conservatives speaks for itself; it gives the appearance that it’s not even a concern for them.
As a matter of priorities, black leaders—both locally- and nationally-recognized leaders—should be as quick to organize and shame those criminal elements in black communities who would engage in the same level of unreasonable behavior as George Zimmerman.
Yes, there is an acknowledgement that revealing the identities of perpetrators of such violence on black children may result in violent reprisals against would-be responsible individuals, the “don’t snitch” mentality which feeds this insanity needs to be eradicated See: "Stop (Not) Snitching! Part 1" and "Stop (Not) Snitching! Part 2").
Black parents need to be more responsible and not validate such counter-productive thinking. They need to be even more of an influence in the lives of their children than their children’ friends.
Black mothers and relatives need to treat their hearts like the enemy. If black-on-black murder is to stop, blood relationships can no longer be allowed to influence blood allegiances. If these individuals know that their relatives are responsible for the murders of young black children, they should be not only obligated but pressured to turn them into the authorities. Such behavior needs to be shamed like the community offense and threat that it is.
Black churches, and in particular black clergy need to do more than, in the words of the late great James Brown, “talking loud and saying nothing.”
More professional police officers are needed in communities where getting to know the people who reside there is more of a tactic than profiling those who live there. Working relationships with organized groups are needed.
If you want a more radical solution, I would propose that responsible black people arm themselves and start patrolling the streets in groups, and enforcing order. The Black Panthers did it in the 1960s and early 70s. Perhaps the “New Black Panthers” would be more constructive in redirecting their anger into the black community and threaten those who would disrupt the lives of law-abiding black citizens instead of putting a monetary bounty on the head of Trayvon Martin’s killer, or shouting to the rooftops how they “hate Whitey!” (See: "New Black Panther Leader Arrested as Group Sets Bounty in Florida Shooting"). Maybe if African-Americans were just as willing to patrol their communities with the same fervor of George Zimmerman, then maybe Trayvon Martin’s murder could be placed within the context of an abhorrent single instance instead of another senseless taking of a young black life. Maybe black child murders need to be the ones living in fear for a change...


No, soul-searching is not just for blacks. White American thinking with regard to race is something of mystery, not just for myself, but for most blacks.
But before I make my points, allow me to say that I like President Obama. I admire his intelligence, his cool-under-pressure-demeanor, and his desire to want the best for all Americans. Is he perfect? Of course not…and no, I don’t agree with every policy he proposes or enacts. Among the policies I have issues with was his decision to involve America militarily in what was essentially an internal matter of Libya. I don’t agree that enhanced interrogation techniques employed against suspected and confirmed terrorists should be banned or discouraged (when at war, fear is every bit an option as any other when it comes to matters of security…especially against foes who are willing to die for their cause anyway). And I don’t agree that America should have closed down prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay (enemies willing to die to inflict harm on Americans need something to fear). But I still like him. He means well.
However, a great many whites do not—or are not able to—view their opposition to (seemingly) every policy proposed or enacted by Obama, our nation’s first African-American president as being problematic, especially in regards to race relations. Indeed, some of these individuals have successfully managed to convince themselves that their opposition to policies such as health care reform is nothing more than ideological differences. And while any difference of agreement is not meant to imply that the President should be given a “pass” with regard to his policies being scrutinized, make no mistake about it; much of this opposition is just a proxy for racial-based animosity.
Without question, President Obama is the most disrespected American president since Abraham Lincoln…an ironic observation considering that many of those who opposed Lincoln’s policies did so based on their racial animus also. One would be hard-pressed to find a president in recent memory that has had his credibility assailed in the most non-traditionally disrespectful of manners—remember South Carolina’s conservative Republican Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst, “You Lie!” from the president’s 2009 address in front of Congress (yes, there have been occasional “boos” or jeers from other Congressmen toward other presidential addresses, but nothing in the records like Wilson’s)? Then there was that famous picture of Republican Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer pointing her finger in the face of the president of the United States. Simply put, if these individuals had tried that with most other African-Americans of lesser stations, their actions would have rated an immediate (and probably illegal) response. And then there are the thousands of unflattering caricatures of the president meant to (ostensibly) mock his policies, but in many cases, amount to attacks on Obama’s ethnic heritage, without appearing as such.

Aside from the caricatures, President Obama has had nearly every aspect of his life either challenged or impugned in ways that white presidents have rarely experienced. Despite long-ago revealed evidence proving otherwise, many people still continue to think that the president’s birth certificate is a forgery. And of course, those willing to believe such paranoid insanity don’t offer an alternative birth certificate showing his “true” birthplace (hint birthers: instead of trying to prove the president’s birth certificate is a “forgery,” try providing a birth certificate from Kenya…it would go a long ways to proving your assertions. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to produce one). Many Americans also still continue to believe that Obama is a Muslim partially because non-Anglo name, despite the fact that he had to distance himself shortly after taking office from the church of Chicago Pastor Jeremiah Wright…a Christian pastor!
President Obama is also the most threatened American president in memory. He's the former presidential candidate who's required the earliest Secret Service protection, and also the most. Please don't tell me this all about "ideological differences."
And sadly, the issues surround the president’s legislative Pièce de résistance, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—health care reform—has given white xenophobes a great policy issue to mask their racial animus toward Obama. We see this most often in how they accuse him of being a “socialist,” which for many is a proxy term for the “N-Word.” More so, they mask their fears and racial apprehensions behind a paranoid fear that health care reform someone is a “threat to individual liberties.” Really? In reality, when have whites in America ever had their individual liberties “threatened” on a wholesale level? On the other hand, history showcases many instances where government entities have actually—not implied—to not only threaten the lives and livelihoods of African-Americans, but done so.
Shall I cite how Southern states conspired to keep blacks from enacting their right to vote, to be represented in the South up until the early 1970s? How about the instances in American history where entire black towns were wiped off the map due to racist mobs because local government’s complicity in refusing to intervene (or because of government intervention)? The Greenwood district of Tulsa during the May 1921 race riots? The Rosewood Massacre of 1923? How about the various gun control laws that were enacted when blacks opted to (legally) pick up weapons and defend themselves against lynchings in the South and official abuse by authorities elsewhere back in the 1960s? The upshot is that whites possess a phantom fear of having their liberties threatened (that health care reform is supposed to do) in a way that has never happened to them on the same scale in which blacks have experienced them. So where does such fear and paranoia stem from? From the fact that an African-American occupies the Oval Office, and their intolerance of that fact. The health care debate is just a convenient vehicle for many whites to voice this point without having to be vocal about it in the way they would like.
Think about it this way: Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are seen as “race baiters” by many whites, who invariably (and ironically) do not see the same tactic being employed by white politicians who pander to white suburban fears. In much the same way, Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum recently made subtle racial innuendoes pandering to these white fears:

"I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money" (Rick Santorum at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, January 1, 2012).

“I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps” (Newt Gingrich at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, January 5, 2012).

These are the same white suburban paranoid fears which caused George Zimmerman to carry a weapon whereas many black neighborhood watch volunteers—who operate in far worse neighborhoods than Zimmerman’s—leading to the death of Trayvon Martin.
These are the reasons that radio and television demagogues like Rush and Glen can surreptitiously slide in a subtly but racially-insensitive remark and not be called on it; it takes something more blatant, such as calling a law school student “a slut” before people react.
Yes, both black and white America has some serious soul-searching to to. Sadly, it was needed before Trayvon Martin was killed, and it will no doubt be needed long after.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gasoline Prices - A Primer

Pay attention…there will be a test at the end!

So, I’m watching the network evening news this tonight, and I take note of the report that gasoline prices have been rising steadily over the past several weeks—which is really not news if you’ve been to the pump yourself.
Interested, I decided to do a little researching on the heels of what was reported in the news. What I found to be interesting are the chief reasons why we are paying so much. One reason is understandable, while the other is one of those strange esoteric dynamics of economics.
Marginally-speaking, there is very little political leaders in this country can do to lower the prices of gas…regardless what the candidates running for the White House are telling us. Outside of a presidential release of the strategic oil reserves, it’s just out of our hands for the most part (President Obama did just that last June, which only resulted in a 3 cent drop in prices over a period of a couple of weeks). Among the most predictable of the reasons for the rise in the oil prices is the saber-rattling between nuclear-ambitious Iran and the West. These “global demand shocks,” reflecting the turmoil in the Middle East comprise the majority the reasons in the price rise.
The second reason is based on the ambitions of those seeking to fatten their incomes. Oil future traders and other market speculators invest capital in the oils markets, betting on prices—and their portfolios—to rise, which they do whenever they infuse more speculator funds into the market. When prices rise, it gives speculators more of an incentive to invest more. And round and round it goes.
Yes we could drill more (which the country has been doing for the last 8-10 years...more than under the previous administration), but between exploring suspected oil fields, research, gathering the necessary capital for investment, associated start-up logistics, licensing, government regulations/requirements, operations costs, and the like, any new addition to the available supply wouldn’t reach the market anywhere from 5 to 8 years. Simply put, proclamations of “Drill, baby, drill!” are overrated.
And given how Americans are still opting to drive expensive luxury model automobiles and SUV's--despite the already soaring prices at the pumps--it speaks more to the reality that we as a country have a fuel consumption problem, and not a supply problem. Simply put, there is no level of oil drilling that our insatiable and undisciplined appetites for it's need can't surpass.
If politicians would stop engaging in scare tactics and admit there are no simple answers other than America going back to creating something the rest of the world alternative sources of energy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Religion…Enough With This S***! (…or, “You People Taking This Way Too Seriously!”), Conclusion

Religion is one of those things which is something of an mystery to me. Logically, I understand that it is (supposedly) a path toward spiritual enlightenment for those whose souls cry out for some level of harmonious existence within the chaos of a world full of upheaval of every stripe. However, as I try to grasp the way it is practiced, I tend to see a manner of thinking among its adherents which makes me question its usefulness in the Grand Scheme. No doubt, many individuals like myself who question the disconnect between what supposedly religious individuals say and do see a gulf between the preaching and practice of proclaimed faith that at times seems to span infinity.
Last month, Muslims in Afghanistan—including Afghani military personnel—who took offense to the accidental burning of copies of the Koran, took their vengeance out on six U.S. servicemen (the same servicemen who helped to liberate their country from the oppressively “religious” Taliban régime) by gunning them down, while at the same time illustrating their frustration with the American presence in the country.
Recent news items have spotlighted the African-based ethnic insurgency calling itself “The Lord’s Resistance Army,” which has been engaged in human rights abuses that includes the forced conscription of male children, and the forced prostitution of female women and children since the late 1980s. Led by a self-proclaimed “spokesperson for God” Joseph Kony, the movement claims among its aims, to be working towards the establishment of a theocratic state in Uganda (although recent news reports fail to disclose that the LRA was mostly driven out of Uganda. And like many spiritually “enlightened” and “holy” movements before it, uses the most reprehensible tactics in its effort to impose its view of the world on others…the least of which include kidnapping, rape, murder, and object-lesson mutilations.
And in America, so-called “Christians” have impugned the religious convictions of President Obama to levels which transcend simple disrespect, including by those seeking to replace him as Commander-in-Chief in the upcoming November 2012 elections.
A few years ago, the president was forced to quickly distance himself from controversial words (as well as membership in the church) of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright of Chicago, whose fiery videotaped sermons condemning America for its historical mistreatment of African-Americans led to further demonization of the president.
When it’s all said and done, like many things in American politics (and indeed, in the personal lives of many individuals), religion is a tool…a means to an end, to be used as any other. And in the hands of adept politicians and manipulators, it has become every bit as effective a weapon as mudslinging, character assassination, and labeling those to they are opposed to.
Take the current Republican primary for example. Last month, Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum attacked President Obama’s worldview, stating that the president had a “phone theology,” and not a theology “based on the Bible. The ethnocentric nature of Santorum’s remarks notwithstanding, the freedom of religion right of the First Amendment in no way either promotes, nor compels the president or any American to choose one religious belief over another. But when rightfully challenged on this point, individuals like Santorum and his Evangelical brethren most often will reflect the argument back on individuals by implying a level of religious persecution against those who support and share his beliefs.
The fact of the matter is that the secular state is not anti-religious (although the same cannot be said for secular culture). The separation of church and state was designed to protect religious liberties, not promote them. However, religious zealots like Santorum tend to purposefully distort this reality, equating the absence of (any) religious influence in public policy and the effort to maintain the separation of church and state with an active effort to suppress religious liberties. It’s a disingenuous tactic at best, and it simply plays to the ignorance of those who rely on sound bites and talking heads to shape their thinking, as well as caters to those who perceptions and understanding may be similarly distorted and seeking validation of their beliefs.
Former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum,

Religions and their respective doctrinal precepts among their believers—along with human emotions—have done enough to create social and political divisions all over the world since the introduction of monotheism. And sadly, most adherents do not even stop to think about their beliefs and why they embrace them. In most cases, they are merely choosing to believe what they learned from their parent, and their parents before them, and so on. And even in the rare instances where individuals are able to separate themselves from the socialization (or is it “indoctrination”) into their belief systems, they still tend to ignore the purpose of following a particular spiritual path in the first place—to enlighten their souls and to create a level of respect and co-existence with their fellow human beings. In theory, religion is supposed to make believers better individuals. But human ambitions being what they are, have spurred believers to take what are supposed to be spiritual precepts—guideposts for creating better lives and better living—and turn them into yet another means of obtaining what they want. There seems to be just as many confused, duplicitous, and troubled individuals who function under the auspices of “believers” as they appear to be among their “secular” counterparts.
And when these dynamics are thrown into the arena of politics, you get what we have today—a society fragmented along so many ideological lines where arguments and counter-arguments seems to be the goal of governing, not the creation of substantive policies that make lives better. Religion in politics has been used to justify everything from war, support of the death penalty, and abortion clinic bombings, to racism, gay marriage, and rejecting universally affordable health care. And we are the adults.And we are supposedly the adults...
Imagine if the 1962 decision to ban prayer and religious worship in our public schools had not been enacted; our children and their schools would be every bit as socially fractured as our society and our political arenas (in retrospect, great idea).
I suppose that when it comes to religion, who needs "clear thinking" when people have their faith?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Religion…Enough With This S***! (…or, “You People Taking This Way Too Seriously!”), Part 1

"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion."
--Steven Weinberg

As an agnostic, I have to admit that I have no way of putting myself in the cultural shoes or the socialized mindsets of individuals so obsessed with, and so fanatically devoted to their religious beliefs that they often engage in behavior which—contradictorily—turns the very precepts of their beliefs on their heads. The only way that my mind can even try to grasp how people can have such myopic fidelity to their beliefs is by likening it to the unshakable certainty a small child has for believing that the Boogey Man awaits them in the room at the end of the dark hallway in which they are expected to enter…and that they are better off basking in the “safety” of what they can see. Perhaps a similarly skeptical reader can wax a more eloquent analogy on the level of understanding it takes for how and why people are able to place so much faith in the unseen, unknowable, and the unverifiable that they willingly surrender their ability to reason beyond their fears or feelings.
And although over the centuries, wiser, more intelligent individuals than myself have sought many times before to attempt to interjection some sanity into the thinking of such Godly individuals, events in recent months have compelled me—at the risk of further isolating regular readers—to write about how individuals have co-opted the already questionable concept of religion…to the detriment of informed thinking and society in general.
The current upheaval in Afghanistan provides an excellent example of how much blind adherence to religious dogma impairs judgment, reveals both intolerance and hypocrisy, and promotes social disharmony.
The recent protests and violence among Afghanis as a result of the accidental burning of Korans—the holy book of the Muslim faith—by low-ranking U.S. Army officials has been ranging for the past two weeks. As of this writing, some six U.S. service personnel have been killed by those protesting the burning of the venerated texts. And despite an apology by President Obama to both the government and the people of Afghanistan, the violent outcry continues, with protesters rejecting the apology and even burning effigies of the president.

Protesters in Afghanistan burning an effigy of President Obama, following the president's apology to the Afghani people over the U.S. military's accidental burning of confiscated Korans.

Taken from detained suspected militants, the holy books were seized by military officials because it was believed that the militants were using them to send messages among each other. The Korans were then accidentally disposed of in a manner offensive to Muslims—by burning them.
Despite the various cultural disconnects and misunderstandings surrounding the issue, the dynamics of the mistake are somewhat understandable…at least to those who are capable of thinking beyond blind devotion and an almost psychotic—if not oftentimes hypocritical—respect for a particular religious belief. Americans for the most part are not very privy to the understanding of cultures beyond our own. And sadly, this lack of understanding carries over to many within the various American military branches.
Additionally, many Americans—especially those in the military—cannot understand that many cultures see Americans as incapable of error, in a manner of speaking. Considering that no other country exports many aspects of its culture to the point where we are emulated the world over, that we are the only country to ever have put a man on the moon, have conquered many diseases which still plague countries like Afghanistan, and that we possess the mightiest military on the planet, Afghanis can—if erroneously—reasonably conclude that any country with such know-how is capable of such behavior only as a matter of intent.
But this is not to say that the Muslim people of Afghanistan are without fault. They are killing U.S. servicemen—the same soldiers who helped liberate their country from the brutally oppressive theocratic Taliban regime—because like Evangelical Christians in this country, Muslims in the Arab World worship their particular interpretation of God (and all things spiritually-related) with hair-trigger sensitivity to perceived “affronts.” So much so that many adherents forget that they owe American soldiers who sacrificed life and (in many cases) limb to give them a shot at a life outside of theocratic oppression.
And like their Christian counterparts here in America, Muslims in Afghanistan seem to embrace a level of thinking which, instead of promoting understanding, tolerance, charity, and forgiveness, seems to promote selective kind of each.
The problem I’ve observed with such single-minded adherence to these beliefs is that adherents often start to actually believe themselves as correctly representing their faiths, instead of the distortions of reality they tend to become. More so, these individuals tend to engage in questionable actions that are more often the manifestations of secular considerations rather than benevolently following spiritual precepts. Such individuals often act mostly out of anger (for not being “respected,”), fear (of being overwhelmed and/or feeling powerlessness in a world of more powerful and influential people exist), pride (in many cases, wounded by some slight), or because they presume to be following the “word/will of God. These motivations tend to reinforce a notion of self-righteousness which blinds adherents to the notion of questioning their own actions, or of seeing some contradictions in their actions. This religious soap boxing is how Muslims are able to convince themselves that those who do not share their personal convictions are “infidels” to support self-serving jihad against them.
We see this same dynamic often in America, where politically active left-leaning Progressives and Evangelical conservative Christians are often convinced of the righteousness of their various causes based on their personal religious convictions (or rather, their interpretations of such). It’s how those with politically right-leaning politics can accuse those on the left of being “Godless liberals,” while leftists can point out conservative “aspirations” of turning America into a theocracy (which admittedly at times seems that way). This is why those on either side of hot-button political issues like gay marriage can claim either that “God is gay,” or “God hates fags,” depending on one’s secular ideological—not spiritual—bent.
In America, religious beliefs tend to be more of a secondary consideration with regards to public and/or social policy. They may provide a driving impetus for these policies, but make no mistake…political power, aspirations, and one-upmanship is the primary consideration.
Just by observing the current Republican primary process, we can see how invoking the idea of divine intervention among the various candidates—both past and present—is meant to sway those who would vote for them in the name of political aspirations. Former Republican primary candidates Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Herman Cain all have said that “God wants/called me to run for president” (apparently, “God” wanted these individuals to just run for the highest office in the land, but not to actually assume the post).

Political commentator LZ Granderson talks about candidates "called to run by God" recently in CNN.

Simply as a matter of common sense, God cannot be on everyone’s side when it comes to beliefs, motivations, and/or actions. And as a matter of experience with human beings, invoking religious backing and/or the idea of God in matters of personal desire is usually done as a justification for actions which adversely affects others.

To be concluded...