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."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Opinion: "I'm So Sick of "Crazy" People!"

I have a big problem with individuals with a past history of some sort of mental illness—diagnosed or otherwise—committing mass shootings or other crimes involving mass casualties. More to the point, it’s mass shootings involving “troubled individuals” that causes me to lose my objectivity and riles my dander.
In many cases, such “troubled” individuals seem to have an innate urge to inflict mass casualties on the youngest, most vulnerable of us—children or adults gathered public places such as schools, houses of worship, or other centers of public accommodation. Yesterday, another such instance was averted in Decatur, Georgia. During the incident, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy with an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons. Hill held staff members in the front office captive, all the while terrorizing the campus by firing his rifle into the air and at arriving police officers. One of the captives, a bookkeeper talked Hill down from what by all indications was his attempt to commit a mass casualty shooting at the school. He eventually gave himself up before going through with his telegraphed intent (See: “Michael Brandon Hill, Accused Georgia School Gunman, Threatened to Kill Brother, Police Say”).

Would-be school shooter and mass-murderer Michael Brandon Hill Booking Photo

During the time he held the staff captive, Hill indicated that he had wanted to die, and that he “was sorry for what he was doing.” And of course, it was revealed after Hill’s arrest that he had past issues of “mental issues.” I take umbrage with the issue of “mental issues” being the cause of such offenses. I simply refuse to believe that such individuals are not “crazy” as such. They have enough presence of mind to know that attacking children would tug at the heartstrings of most Americans in the worst way. They seem to have a sense that hurting innocent children (or innocent adults) inflicts emotional pain, outrage, and grief on their loved ones, and pretty much garners the nation’s attention. 
I would submit that this need to attention, even infamy, speaks to a reality that such individuals are not so divorced from reality or even lucid thinking that they are not aware of their actions.
We have become a nation mental and emotional hypochondriacs, ever-ready to blame our deep-seated unresolved emotional and mental/”mental” issues on whatever malady gives us a pass to excuse our own negative behaviors.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I can recall a time when people would embrace denial about mental and emotional issues that only slightly impaired their social functionality and ability to interact; most would do anything to avoid such labels (and their social implications). But somewhere along the line, we lowered our aversion to being stigmatized by mental/emotional impairments. It’s now gotten to the point where we as a nation are hair-trigger quick to use such impairments as an excuse for our lack of self-restraint and discipline. I can recall once during my years as a long-term substitute teachers working with at-risk (read: “mentally/emotionally-impaired”) youth where one such labeled student told me, “You can’t make me do that…I’m ‘Special Ed.’”
I would think that those with true debilitating mental and emotional issues would be offended by so many claiming to be so “impaired.” It’s like when a persistent man enamored with a woman pursues her for a date; many so pursued women will threaten legal action for being “stalked.” Labeling every infatuated man looking for a date as a “stalker” weakens the impact and legitimacy of the offense. It’s the same with calling every personal issue a debilitating “emotional-” or “mental issue;” it weakens the legitimacy of those who suffer from true mental impairment.
I’ve seen kids and adults with supposed “anger-management issues,” who “take drugs for my issues” manage to control those same supposed “issues” when confronted with truly angry individuals who have no scruples about teaching them their place on the social pecking order. It’s both laughable and quite annoying at the same time.
Bradley Manning, the former army soldier who was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for leaking classified military information to the online whistleblower site, WikiLakes, asserted his "gender-identity issues" as a contributing factor for his actions.
In 2005, an armed federal air marshal shot and killed a man on an airplane in Miami because he had claimed to "have a bomb in his carry-on backpack," while running up and down the aisle of the airplane frantically. Despite his history of "bi-polar" issues (as revealed by family members), he had enough of a grasp on reality to know that saying "bomb" on an airplane in a post 9/11, still-alarmed America would garner a response of panic among those on board.
We truly need to stop allowing people to use supposed “mental” and “emotional” issues as an excuse for engaging in behavior which is fully within their ability to control. We tend to criticize those with self-restraint and discipline as being “uptight” and/or “prudish.” But there is a great deal we can learn from such individuals, such as self-control and personal responsibility for one's own actions.
There is “crazy” and there is crazy. What Michael Hill did Tuesday was not “crazy;” it was a calculated action, despite his history of bi-polar issues. “Crazy” would be Hill or some other “disturbed” individual walking onto a military base or inside a police station full of armed and trained men more than willing to shoot back if threatened in the same manner school children occasionally are.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Health Care Conundrum – A Personal Narrative

Note: I realize that Beyond The Political Spectrum has many readers from various European countries. And in acknowledge of this fact, I have taken the liberty of converting American dollar values to Euros in order to give this issue some contextual clarification.

There’s a young man with whom I work with—let’s call him “John”—who happens to share the same predicament which thousands, if not millions of Americans are forced to endure. Twenty-something year-old “John” has a wife and two young children. As the only current breadwinner in his family, John is looking to purchase health insurance coverage for his entire family. The problem “John” has is that he only earns $9.00 an hour (approximately €6.70), while the health insurance offered by his employer is prohibitively expensive.
How expensive? According to the prices listed on the copy of the Benefits (Plan) Selection I obtained, the cost to “John” to cover his family of four with the basic, no-frills plan (with a high deductable between $2,500 and $5,000/€3356 and €6712) is $420.76 (€318.63), deducted from his paycheck bi-weekly. Those of you with a firm grasp of math can immediately see the problem. Earning only $9.00 an hour, multiplied by 40 hours a week, “John” brings home approximately $720 bi-weekly (€536). That means that over half of his take home pay would go to pay for health care coverage for himself and his family. From what’s left over, he has to cover rent, utilities, and basics like food. Because the particular health care option—the only option—the employer offers is so expensive, “John” and other employees have opted to go without.

This personal anecdote came to mind as I took note of the recent vote in the House of Representatives in Congress. Two weeks ago, the Republican majority in Congress’ lower chamber voted for the 40-somethingth time to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act we know as “Obamacare.” Ignoring for the moment that the majority of these same opponents of the new health care law were shouting to the top of their collective lungs during last year’s presidential elections that the economy was the biggest concern of the American people, it’s pretty hard for anyone to rationally reconcile how trying to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act jives with fixing our broken economy. Among some Republican leadership, this dim reality had been acknowledged. Old School Republican and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recently chided the current Republican legislators in Congress when he reminded them that “congressional Republicans would have ‘zero answer’ for how to replace the president's health care overhaul when asked, despite their having voted repeatedly to repeal the measure” (See: “GOP Pushes Rising Stars Amid Calls For Solutions”).
Sure, there‘s a lot of rhetoric being bandied around about how Obamacare is a “job-killer” (and yes, there is some anecdotal instances that some jobs may be adversely affected by implementation of the new law), but the lack of any Republican-sponsored alternative to reforming the current economically unsustainable health care finance model indicates that simple economics is not at the heart of opposition to reform. It’s more likely that not allowing the president and his Democratic allies a policy victory is at the center of the opposition.
If in fact, reforming how we pay for health care in this country were an actual priority, then simply cutting government spending in expendable areas is the most obvious place to start. Both people and the leadership we elect have to consider making the hard choices when it comes to spending priorities. Do we want the ability to be able to pay for healthcare, or is funding programs like Head Start—a program whose overall effectiveness as a kick start to fostering positive childhood experiences in school (and in life) is still a matter of debate—more important? Do we take steps to eliminate the chief reason for Americans filing bankruptcy year-to-year—the inability to pay prohibitively costly medical bills—or do we continue to pay for wars on countries that aren’t an actual threat to our nation’s security and interests? Do we create an atmosphere whereby people like “John” can afford to cover his families with health insurance, or do we continue to give “job-generating” tax breaks to “job creators.” Job Creators…you know, those people who provide people like “John” with $9.00 an hour jobs that offer us health insurance options that we cannot afford to pay for?
As I think of “John” in the context of political opposition to health care affordability, it’s hard to ignore the irony that the officials we elect to craft policies such as health care affordability are comfortably covered by the government-sponsored insurance which “John’s” taxes pay for.

See also: “Universal Healthcare - How Other Countries Do It” and “The Real Health Insurance Industry -- An Insider Look At The Industry