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."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another Police Blunder - Texas Mother And Children Accidently Pulled Over At Gunpoint

Let’s get this straight from the gate; there are many good police officers out there not only doing their jobs with unquestionable professionalism, but willing to put their very lives on the line in doing so. The problem is that the questionable decisions by many bad officers tend to over-shadow this fact. And given the number of high-profile cases in the news of late, it would be easy by some to conclude that the police are out of control. Personally, I would argue that police professionalism is out of control.
By this, I mean that many of us are so overly-sympathetic to the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis as public servants, we tend to give their overreactions and excessive caution a pass. Indeed, some hard-nosed law-and-order-supporting citizens are quick to point out that [understandable] police mistakes should be overlooked if no one is physically hurt by such actions—wrongful arrests, the stop-and-frisking (and release) of “suspected” individuals, profiling individuals by ethnic and/or racial grouping come to mind.
The problem with such actions is that it’s always easy to ask and or expect someone else to have their civil liberties inconvenienced to make the others feel comfortable. Take for example yet another recent questionable police action, this time from Texas. A young mother and her four children were pulled over by officers from the Forney, Texas Police Department. According to news reports, the officers were responding to an emergency 911 call from a passing motorist reporting that “four black men were waving a gun out the window of a beige- or tan-colored Toyota."
Dashboard video from one of the present patrol cars shows that the mother was taken out of the car at gunpoint, in front of the four terrified children. Apparently, it wasn’t until a 6-year-old was told to exit the car with his hands up that the officers realized their mistake (read the online account of the incident here).  And despite the officers' attempt to calm the children after realizing their mistake, the damage had already been done.  No doubt, the mother and her children will remember this particular experience with the police in nothing but negative recollections.
Now while some might say "no harm, no foul", there are several points of contention with this incident. First, the report indicating that it was 4 black males allegedly waving a gun—not a female accompanied by 4 children. Second, the automobile belonging to the mother, Kametra Barbour, is a burgundy red Nissan Maxima. Lastly, the lack of employing proactive common sense by the officers. Clearly, not all of the information they had received about the reported individuals matched the situation. And commanding a 6-year-old to exit a car with his hands in the air seems—pardon the pun—overkill in the prudence department. Despite these inconsistencies, there is no forthcoming apology from the Forney police department. In fact, “The police department defends the traffic stop saying the officers responded appropriately to what they believed was a dangerous situation” (WFAA News).

Police dashboard video of the Forney, Texas police stop of a mother and 4 children.

Now to be honest, something inside me “told me” that the family involved would be either black or someone belonging to an ethnic minority group before I researched this story. Sadly, ethnic minorities seem to be those expected to accept the business-end of questionable police practices with an understanding nod.
Granted, they have a job that requires caution when dealing with the public in general, and criminals in particular. But as we saw a couple of weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri, mistakes without employing professional prudence can lead to a loss of faith in our public servants, as well as—possibly—a regrettable (and unnecessary) loss of life.
As I have said on many occasions, police departments across the country really need to reassess their training and procedures, and individuals wishing to serve the public as law enforcement have to think more about their actions before reacting out of base caution and unthinking reflex.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri – Enough is Enough!

Last night, for the sixth straight night, the predominantly black city of Ferguson, Missouri exploded in violence. These nightly confrontations between the police and protesters are the result of community-fueled rage at the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old unarmed African-American man, Michael Brown. The last 2 nights of violent confrontations came after a lull in the civil disruptions when elements of the Missouri State Police had taken responsibility for crowd control and response to previous protests. The decision to hand over law-enforcement duties related to the protests to the state police was evidently due in part to the barrage of public condemnation (from those on both the political left and right (See: "Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Criticize Ferguson Police" for example) from all across the country) of the Ferguson Police Department’s forceful to protests on the first few nights.
(Both protesters and rioters confront police in Ferguson, Missouri last night amid clouds of teargas)

In most of the cases, the protests started out as peaceful, with those participating adopting a stance with their hands in the air and shouting, “Hands up…don’t shoot!” But as with almost any level of mass protests in America, a small element among the protestors opted to take advantage of the relatively disruptive atmosphere to create trouble. That’s when the looting, gunshots, and flying rocks began to replace the responsible protesting of the shooting. Both community leaders and Brown’s parents have made public appeals for peaceful protesting of the shooting, and an end to the violent confrontations that have taken place in the area.
We all familiar with the issues—race, social stereotyping, profiling, high crime, poverty, individual bad choices, the lack of personal responsibility as well as empathy for the community one works in, and unprofessional policing. These are issues are nothing as they relate to questionable police actions; I have written about them here in other high-profile cases (see: “Here Comes The Fuzz!,” “Another Police Beating Caught On Tape (…or, “Your Tax Dollars At Work.”),” and “The Law, Lies, and Videotapes.”). Additionally, there is the oft-overlooked phenomenon of what I call the “Zimmerman-effect.”
This is the psycho-social mindset among suburban and rural whites—particularly but not exclusively male—to demonstrate their Constitutional right to "bare" (read: carry) and in some cases, use guns in the public based on the perception of a non-existential threat of violence that might occur.  In instances when guns are used by these individuals to neutralize a perceived threat, the "threat" is often found to be either minimal and/or non-existent in retrospect (e.g., The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting, The Florida theater shooting, the Jordan Davis/"Loud-Radio" shooting, etc.).

Some of those who possess this mindset tend to be members of local law-enforcement departments--no doubt there are some on the 54-man Ferguson police force.  The irrational aspect of this psycho-social thinking is that in many of the moderately- and high-crime communities where these particular police officers patrol, many residents--including those who qualify legally to carry firearms (myself included)--don't carry them.  But those who live in areas where crime is relatively low or occurs at negligible-levels seem to be obsessed with carrying firearms, ostensibly as an exercise of their "Constitutional rights."
But enough is enough!
It’s time for the unruly among the protesters to properly honor the memory of Michael Brown by protesting his questionable and tragic death in substantive and meaningful manner—one that doesn’t tarnish the message of a unified community expressing discontent with its public servants.
It’s time for the city of Ferguson to make aggressive moves to bring in some “new blood” in the form of officers who reflect the demographics of the community. I’m sure if the city wanted to, they could advertise across the country, making efforts to target areas and/or groups, colleges, or organizations whose members have a passion for public service.
It’s time for police agencies across the country to stop taking in every gun-ho, overly testosteroned male seeking an outlet for his perceived manhood to set the bars higher for their standards. Training should include mandated sociological—and maybe psychological—college-level courses in order to broaden their perceptions of the communities they chose to work in (I would go so far as to require at least an associate’s degree in these and related fields).

It’s time for African-Americans to take charge of our communities and eliminate counter-productive activities and mindsets, such as the infamous (and often celebrated) “thug mentality” and the “don’t snitch” attitudes that breed both apathy and high crime. It’s time for individuals to stop making idiotic criminal decisions that feed and fuel negative, often race-related stereotypes that lead to shootings like those that occurred in Ferguson last Saturday afternoon.

It’s time for individuals to stop making idiotic criminal decisions that feed and fuel negative, often race-related stereotypes that lead to shootings like those that occurred in Ferguson last Saturday afternoon. It’s time for parents who make the time to create a child to take the time to raise them properly, with an appreciation for education, and respect for authority.
And it’s time for communities, groups, and individual Americans to take responsibility for our own actions—right or wrong. That’s what responsible people do.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Smokers Suing Tobacco Companies & The Blame Game!

At times, the dissonance, ignorance, and audacity of Americans is a marvel to behold. Sure, this applies to both political and social issues that I often talk about. But what I’m speaking of this time around is our propensity to perpetuate America as a blame-oriented society. The latest ballsy—and utterly irrational—high-profile event to cement this sad aspect of our country’s thinking is last month’s $23 billion dollar trial court judgment in favor of the widow of a 20-year smoker who died at the age of 36 from lung cancer. According to reports, Michael Johnson Sr. died in 1996, 20 years after he had started smoking as a 13-year old. If my math is right, that would have him starting smoking around 1976—long after it was established that smoking was a health hazard. Now I remember being in elementary school during the 1970s, and I also remember being taught how bad smoking was in school. But there is some part of me that wonders how is it that the parents of a 13-year old boy missed the obvious signs of such a high-profile habit—particularly in the 70's when parents were considerably more responsible than they are today? Johnson knew the health risks of smoking, even after he could grasp them as an adult—they were printed right on each pack of the cigarettes he’d purchased. And since apparently he was a chain smoker, that means hr had to have read the Surgeon Generals’ warnings at least once a day for 20 years. His widow had to have known this too. Yet, she initiated what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit against the tobacco company, ignoring her ex-husband’s free will decision.
At any rate, what this episode reveals is our continual obsession with the need to blame something or someone—anyone—for misfortunes that befall us (or our loved ones). Someone must be at fault whenever bad things happen. We’ve grown too quick to not only assign blame for our misfortunes or personal decisions, but we love to sue, as if to punctuate who we assign blame to. We have to blame someone or something other than ourselves. We blame teachers because our children aren’t learning, as we seek to further overburden them with even more duties and responsibilities—with none of the authority. Or if our kids don’t learn, we blame some imaginary malady or invent some new alphabet soup “syndrome" to explain away their “inability” to learn. We blame the politicians we elect for non-functioning government—but insist that they be beholden to our partisan beliefs, which causes the gridlock we see. If someone takes a gun and shoots up a school full of children, it must be the fault of greedy gun makers…or some “mental disorder” that “told” the shooter to do so (except if you’re black…then it’s just a genetic predisposition to engage in criminal activity). If our cars crash, it must have been some manufacturing defect (admittedly, in some cases this is true). If someone says something that “hurts” our widdle-bitty feelings, we sue for slander, libel, or whatever imaginary slight that the law recognizes as a “remedy” for such “offenses.”
The social and economic consequence for our “need” to find fault and place blame for misfortunes is a society that simply cannot function at optimal capacity. Disruptive children in already crowded classrooms are allowed to rob their fellow students of environments conducive to learning, as schools systems, teachers, and officials fear being sue by their parents (because somehow, it would ‘violate” the “rights” of disruptive students to be held accountable for their misbehaviors or removed for the greater good). Parent’s therefore do not parent to the best of their ability, knowing they can always take [their] children to a clinician and have them designated as somehow “impaired” (rather than accept that parents are the ones who tend to be impaired…in their ability to parent productively).
We now have a generation of young people who have no appreciation for life, or seemingly a major understanding of how serious the consequences are for taking a life. These youngsters are reckless, thoughtless, and impulsive. In fact, both children and adults in America are prone to doing impulsive things; and why not? We can always place the blame on the company that produced the item that we decided to use unsafely and/or irresponsibly. And that is why manufacturers have to put warning labels on everything, alerting customers to the obvious hazards in order to avoid the inevitable lawsuit meant to assign blame to their products rather than the users. And liability insurance that companies are forced to counter the threat of a lawsuit drives up prices for the products we use.
And we dare not look to our politicians for any kid of remedy for “irresponsible companies” that make “shoddy” products. They are too busy tugged and pulled in one direction or another by a fickle voting electorate that is too busy pointing fingers of blame at opposing political parties, ethnic/minority groups, and ideologies for why the country is in such a sad state of affairs.
Blaming others is why someone can win a declarative court judgment for spilling hot coffee on themselves and get away with blaming the preparer for “making it too hot” (rather than simply waiting until it cooled in an attempt to drink it). Or why 23 billion dollars can be awarded to the widow of an adult who chose to engage in an unhealthy behavior—that has been widely known to be a potential threat to health and/or life for going on 50 years.
This country will not get better until people—adults, youngsters, black, white, male and female—begin ownership of their decisions and the consequences.  We need to learn that not every event is foreseeable, or is worthy of blame.  We have gotten away from a certain level of fatalism --that often, bad things happen to good people (and vice-versa) that keeps us grounded in reality.  We cannot control everything, but we also need to accept that we are responsible for our own actions. Attempting to find and/or place blame for the calamities that befall robs of the understanding that we are mortal, and that our time here on this mortal coil is limited.  Some things that happen to us are of our own design, while others are an act of God (or fate). Some of us make sound financial decisions, while others make financially irresponsible decisions--both of which impact our lives for better or worse.  When we drive on the nation's highways, we are taking the same chance as we do when we walk out in the rain during a storm.  Lightning strikes some, and ignores others it's the same with smoking or anything else--you take your chances, and you accept the consequences, not blame others for them.

See also:  "What Suing Subway Reveals About Us"