The Worship of Sports in America

Simply put, Americans take sports way too seriously.

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 profession...it 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.

video
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!