Thursday, May 20, 2010

Was Civil Rights Legislation Passed In Error and Does It Matter in 2010?

File Under: Convoluted Theories of BS

"There's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches." – Future U.S. Senator from South Carolina (who notoriously filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for over 24 hours), James Strom Thurmond in 1948.

All right, here is another Facebook spillover. I apologize sometimes I can be over-zealous when commenting on wall posts. Essentially the original took umbrage with Maddow’s slanted-seeming “gotcha” attempt at a fresh, juicy target on her show in the above clip. Some comments felt the interview was an attack that Paul successfully countered; others felt that this was an interrogation showing Paul to be a dangerous choice for a legislator. I do not perceive Maddow as being better or worse than other shows on primetime cable network "news.” She pressed her guest for an answer, he gave it, and she disagreed. I think around the 9:00, 12:00-13:00, and again at the 14:30 minute mark Paul succinctly addressed the question. He thinks discrimination is bad, he believes in 80-90% of the articles in the Civil rights Act of 1964, and he believes that businesses should determine how they do business where public interests are not concerned. The interview was straightforward and Paul's position sounds perfectly defensible to me.

I agree with Paul's argument that a) the government should not police social issues but b) sometimes, it has no other choice. This country has been equivocating on racial equality issues since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence - mainly to preserve some sort of a union wherein future generations can find solutions that confound current generations. The problem is that we do not actually do that - definitively. Civil Rights laws were another set of slapdash "no duh" laws crafted to stop the country from tearing its insides out and get us out of a turbulent era whole. You cannot cure stupidity with a law, you can only add layer upon layer of bandages on it until the burden of bandages outweighs the problem they were covering up in the first place. That said, I also agree with Maddow that without such laws there is nothing to stop these "institutions" from returning. I think as a nation we are backsliding from the stances we took in the 50s and 60s. However, I do not think that another piece of civil rights legislation as important as the Civil Rights legislation of the 50s and 60s will come before Paul or anyone elected this year. Therefore, this question is in fact the first salvo of red herrings, straw men, and other diversionary tactics to come this year.

I will however say what Paul and no other politician conscious of his or her career would say. If I genuinely believed a tenant of the Civil Rights Act violated the Constitution I would have voted against the act in totality if I could not get the offending piece removed or modified. I would have been a starving, rabid wolverine with a sore tooth in my pursuit of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 WITHOUT the offending Articles. I think what Paul might be quibbling over is Titles II and VII. On the surface, they do overstep based upon capitalist and democratic philosophy. Nevertheless, what people who adhere to Paul's philosophy do not understand is that private organizations are only private in so much as they are funded and operated by private citizens. Every resource, product, and service, harvested, manufactured, or delivered in this country belongs to the people who participate in the functioning of this democratic republic. What is scary is that social networks (read: clubs and other “private” groups) are a resource as well. That makes some people shiver I am sure, that is another discussion for another time. No this is not a socialist agenda it is a fact. Imagine trying to haul lumber cross-country, or go on a cross-country family trip if every gas station, diner, park, motel, shopping mall, or other necessary piece of infrastructure had the right to wantonly discriminate against anyone based on whatever criteria they wanted. That would be somewhat difficult would you not agree.

Now you may feel that your great times 4 grandfather came to this country with nothing but $5 dollars and a dream, he worked himself to death so that when his son grew up he could go to Harvard, and because that son had the savvy to invest in real estate one day his son had the startup capital to buy his first oil well, and on and on and on, any notions of “shared” anything is rubbish. However, from the moment great-granddad raised his hand and swore allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, his $5 dollars, hard work and everything it wrought became part of the collective effort to make America great. The difference is, in America, we supposedly allow the person actually doing the work to enjoy the lion share of the benefit - supposedly.

What does that have to do with Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? It is quite simple. I need to be able to walk into ANY business anywhere and receive service. I need a quality, safe, and reliable product or service that is no different from the one sold to the person before me or sold to the person after me. I need to know that if I place an application with a company my application will be considered based on my qualifications and experience, and that only a more qualified or experienced person will be selected in my place. I need to know that my family will be able to buy groceries, for a fair price, at the most convenient supermarket. I need to know that mine, my family’s, and my friends’ lives, liberties and happiness have protection beyond what means we are capable of protecting as individuals. That is how a smooth economy operates. That is a “more perfect union.” This in a way feeds into the concept that certain issues should be determined at as low a level of government as possible. However true that might be, we simply cannot entrust people to do what is naturally right in every instance across the board. Had we waited on the community to decide that such issues were paramount many individuals would be waiting still.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That Faint Rustling Sound is God's Hair Moving Side-to-Side as He Shakes His Head at Us

File Under: I Imagine God is Laughing at Us, Because I Do Not Want to Imagine God Crying

Copyright (c) 2010 Harry A. Gaylord

This was hurriedly scrawled in response to the Draw Muhammad and anti-Draw Muhammad pages on Facebook:

As outrageous as everyone who is against the event believes it is, it will not or I should say should not be stopped - at least in countries with constitutions guaranteeing freedom of speech. Would it be nice if everyone respected everyone's individuality and culture? Yes. Should we violate basic constitutional tenants to force everyone to do so? No.

Freedom of speech protects even the willfully ignorant too. See, I just bashed stupid people...because it is my right to voice an opinion. Would you have the host of this blog ban me for it? Every major religion, race, ethnicity, color, and creed, who has even remotely occupied a space of strategic or economic value, has been a target of persecution, oppression, denigration, or ridicule. All of them. Just ask the Tibetan people they will tell you all about it. Moreover, when the tables turned many of these groups turned around and repeated the process to others. This is not a new process.

One day we just might all get along and this will all be a moot point. However, until such a time comes why are we outraged over the comments of a few financially and intellectually immobile individuals? I found a draw Muhammad page that barely had a thousand fans. I do not think we should all tremble at this woefully non-fearsome coalition of socially unimportant cowards sitting at their computers pontificating about peoples and religions they know nothing about, and who do not intend to make an effort to learn anything either. Do you expect people with actual power and influence, who participate in real world events, will listen to such individuals anyway? Stupidity might be contagious, but it is not that contagious.

Finally, the arguments that religiously defamatory messages or irreverent behavior draws the wrath of God in turn leading to the harm or death of Christians, Westerners, Capitalists, or democrats abroad, is utterly ridiculous. When God decides to descend from where he resides when he is not out smiting people, I think we will all realize it and will not need anyone to point it out for us. Until such time, anyone who may die dies because of the willful actions of another individual or group - not because God mandated it. Period.

Freedom of speech is protected all over the democratic world. I wish people did not say or do disrespectful things. However, just because I do not like it does not automatically preclude it from being protected speech. Unprotected speech would be something that calls for or encourages violence, not something that merely inflames passions. If you feel so defamed, then take your complaint to a court and try to see if you can get some recompense. Just remember, in times of trial and tribulation your emotions are yours to control. I believe that is a tenant, in one form or another, within all popular faiths.

"Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." - John 12:28 NIV

It seems God does not need any help protecting his reputation. Perhaps all he or she wants is for us to love each other and live in peace. I will not beat on my we-have-more-important-things-to-worry-about drum today, but I will tap lightly on my get-over-ourselves-already tambourine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Uber-Nerds Fire a Shot Across the Bow of Fascist Social Networking Oligarchs

File Under: Technically Speaking

The plentitude of useful (and useless) information, file sharing, e-commerce, telecommuting, online games and the myriad of other things the Internet makes possible are all wonderful, but it is the people that make it all worthwhile. For millions of individuals, sites like Facebook or Myspace is where they go to meet or keep in touch with friends on a daily basis. Since their beginnings toward the end of the last century, social networks have been the gatekeepers to probably the most important thing the Internet has to offer: instant connection to your friends and the millions of other net travelers around the world. Such websites have certainly made the world a smaller and more connected place. However, all this wonderfulness comes with a price, because you see...most social networking services are information-grubbing, friend-hoarding fascists. They spy on you, stalk you like paparazzi, and sell your most intimate revelations to the highest bidder.

Once your information is out there, it is out there forever and there is no getting it back - ever. That creates a serious problem within a virtual community based solely on sharing and communication. Individuals leery of being scandalized or harassed because of something they thought they were sharing with only a few close associates have become reticent to share and interact. Moreover, for those who do like to share, achieving a modicum of privacy has become an ordeal itself. The message: if you would like to keep in touch with all your friends in a simple manner, submit to a cavity search and prepare to bare your soul to the world. Such is the state of social networking.

That could all change in the near future thanks to the efforts of four NYU students on a mission to "decentralize" the web. The project is Diaspora* and it aims to place the power (read: control and privacy) of social networking and sharing back into the hands of the end-user by cutting out the middle-manager and allowing the person sitting at home on their computer to be their own social networking server. I could regurgitate a significant amount of technical jargon but I am not a computer programmer so I will break it down to brass tacks. What this would mean is that you the Internet socialite using secure, encrypted software would send all your communications whether they be messages, pictures, videos, or whatever cool new (or recycled) features Diaspora will add directly to other people on the Internet, rather than first sending them to a central place (i.e. Facebook), where all your goodies are scrutinized by the server, combed over by advertisers, and then ultimately shared with the intended target.

Sharing? Check. Security? Check. Privacy? Check. Control? Check.

Bane and 400 Million others like this. .

The Internet used to be such a great place, full of hope and promise. Oh where, oh where did it go so wrong? Perhaps the O'Jays can help us understand it all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Where are the Dads Part III: The Final Word?

File Under: It is in Our Hands

Copyright (c) 2010 Manataka American Indian Council

If you appreciated the positive or inspirational tone of the first and second installment of this series, note that this post is not like those two. In fact, if you are having a good day, a good week, or you are just generally glad the weekend is here, then please revisit this post later. I do not want to be responsible for killing your mood or ruining your weekend. However, the stories that unfold in this post are the penultimate proof that our children, and by extension the future of our planet and species, are in crisis.

This post did not begin as a social commentary, nor did I intend it to be a continuation of, “Where are the Dads?” One of the following articles triggered a memory of a related event – adults aiding their children to commit a heinous crime over an argument between juveniles. At any rate, in the process of searching for the story I remembered, I found numerous similar stories – many, many more. The details, motivation, and participants are not universal in all the following accounts. Nevertheless, several themes are constant: a gross lack of moral decency, a lack of self-control, and a lack of reverence for the sanctity of life. Therefore, this post became the next chapter in “Where are the Dads?” because when by failure to teach or by failure to be present, a parent fails to inculcate such vital lessons in the mind of his or her children from a very early age, the events that follow are the results.

Johanna Orozco

On March 5, 2007, two weeks after his arrest for the alleged rape of his teenage ex-girlfriend Johanna Orozco, 17-year-old Juan Ruiz accosted his accuser in the driveway of her Cleveland home and shot her at close range, in the face with a sawn-off shotgun. Later that year, because of a plea deal, a Judge sentenced Ruiz to 27 years in prison without parole. Johanna survived the attack; and after weeks of recovery in a hospital and multiple surgeries (and likely more to come), she went on to attend prom and graduate with her class. Johanna would go on to become an advocate for young teen girls and raise awareness for relationship violence. Because she survived, Johanna was able to use her tragedy to help others. In that light, she was fortunate, others have not been as fortunate.

“Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn't have anything to do with it.” – Haim Ginott
“It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.” – Homer

Mark and Susan Petric

Later that year on October 20, 2007 in Brighton Township of Lorain County, Ohio, 16-year-old Daniel Petric, severely wounded his father, Mark, and murdered his mother, Susan, showing that sometimes all the love and support in the world is not always sufficient to avoid tragedy. His reason for doing this? His parents forbade him from playing a video game they deemed too violent and confiscated it when they discovered he had purchased it anyway. After breaking into and retrieving a gun from his father’s lockbox the teenager approached his unsuspecting parents while they were watching television. He implored them to close their eyes because he had a “surprise” for them. Expecting something “pleasant,” they did and for Susan Petric that was the last time she would see anything in this world with mortal eyes.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” – Abigail Van Buren
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” – C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

Derrion Albert

On September 24, 2009, 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert lost his life after a vicious, unprovoked attack by two groups of area rivals. Even after Derrion survived the initial onslaught and tried to move himself to safety, Derrion’s attackers pursued him, striking him with fists, feet, and railroad ties. According to one of Derrion’s murderers, Derrion “never struck him;” regardless, his killers pressed upon Derrion, going so far as to kick him and stomp his head once he was clearly unconscious. All this transpired as bystanders cheered and called for more violence. As the early 2010 streak of homicides in Chicago illustrates, murder in the city is not new; only that the perpetrators and victims are growing younger. Despite America’s long association with violence and the decay of the family unit, the crisis surrounding children has not isolated itself to America alone.

“Simply having children does not make mothers.” – John A. Shedd
“Although there are many trial marriages... there is no such thing as a trial child.” – Gail Sheehy

Salum Kombo

On December 20, 2009, 18-year-old Salum Kombo, a Tanzanian immigrant and aspiring artist, became the 13th teenager killed in London that year when a 15-year-old premeditatedly stabbed him over an apparent Facebook-related dispute. Because of that 15-year-old’s actions, Salum died when he was in the prime of his life, alone, on a street distant from home and his parents, and in the arms of a stranger. At least in the UK, a passerby will stop and make sure a dying person does not die completely alone.

“What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.” – P.D. James, Time to Be in Earnest
“Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.” – Gloria Steinem, New York Times, 26 August 1971

A few days later that month on New Year’s Eve, back in the United States, 16-year-old Matthew Dubois of Burien, Washington, shot in the face and fatally wounded his 15-year-old girlfriend, Mikarah Sanders. Why? Apparently, Dubois was angry over a comment left on Mikarah’s MySpace page by an ex-boyfriend and the couple was having another one of many frequent arguments. Dubois, shot himself in the shoulder in order to make the murder appear to be a gang-related home invasion. Moreover, Mikarah’s murder occurred just a month after the contested early release of Dubois, who has a lengthy and violent criminal history, from juvenile confinement. [Additional details]

“Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.” – Frank H. Cheley
“When you teach your son, you teach your son's son.” – The Talmud

Also on New Year’s Eve that year, on the opposite coast of the United States, 18-year-old Amanda Mantini, committed what to me smacks of attempted vehicular homicide, when she plowed into and hospitalized Nicole McCarthy, the mother of a girl Mantini had been engaged in hostilities with on Facebook. Nicole fortunately survived the assault and left the hospital the next day.

“There are no illegitimate children - only illegitimate parents.” – Leon R. Yankwich
“What's done to children, they will do to society.” – Karl Menninger

Returning to Cleveland, our next story could have ended considerably more tragically than it did. In this story most of the perpetrators of criminal activity were adults, by a large margin, the youngest being 23-years-old. However, a MySpace argument (and likely a lack of common sense and intelligence) over the affections of a boy between two 13-year-olds precipitated the ensuing violence. Brendan Fitzgerald, 24, drove the spurned 13-year-old to the home of the other teenage girl, where the two fought, after which Fitzgerald fled. However, 15 minutes later Fitzgerald returned with 27-year-old John Dix II, armed with an AK-47, and two other men armed with revolvers. Upon returning, the impromptu hit squad sees the 13-year-old victim in the back of her parents’ pickup truck, on the way to file a police report. The family sees Fitzgerald return and fearing for the children at home turn around and head back toward the home. Fitzgerald’s gang parks in front of the home and waits for the family to approach. When they do, Fitzgerald’s accomplishes exit the vehicle and open fire. The victim’s father slams the pickup into reverse as Dix chase after, shooting at the vehicle. When the father makes it to an intersection, the family presumably is able to get away. In his recklessness, Dix struck two homes, firing 19 shots, one of which penetrated a window, interior wall, and imbedded itself in the back wall of a home. Moreover, Dix’s final shot wounded the 13-year-old victim, grazing her face at the junction of where her ear meets her head – literally millimeters separated her from death or grievous permanent injury.

“If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.” – George Bernard Shaw
“You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.” – Polish Proverb

March 17, 2010 in Deerfield, Florida, after an exchange of text messages with 15-year-old Josie Lou Ratley, Wayne Treacy, also 15, traveled with his former girlfriend and supposed “best friend” of Josie’s, 13-year-old- Kayla Manson, to Josie’s school whereupon after Manson identified Josie for Treacy, Treacy commenced to attack and brutally batter Josie. Treacy sought Josie with the intention of killing her and Manson was fully aware of his plan. Treacy attacked Josie from behind, repeatedly punching her in the head until she fell down; and once she was on the ground Treacy kicked the girl, stomped and smashed her head on the pavement. Treacy did not stop his unrepentant, murderous assault until a teacher pulled him off the girl. In the after math of his actions, Treacy who has plead not guilty to the charges against him, sent a text message to his friends bragging that he thought he was “going to prison” and he thought he “just killed someone.” After many weeks in a chemically induced coma and multiple surgeries, Josie is out of the hospital and in therapy (update). Some have constructed a Facebook group to show support and the family's legal counsel hosts an official webpage with the most current information on Josie. The above article references the attempted murder of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, a few months prior, by a group of five teenage boys ranging from 13 to 15-years-old. The cadre surrounded Michael, doused him with alcohol, and set him on fire over the $40 Michael owed the ringleader, 15-year-old Matthew Bent, for the purchase of a video game. Authorities described, all but one of the attackers as “laughing” about what they had done and showing no-remorse.

“The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.” – Frank Pittman, Man Enough

In the next account, who was the aggressor or who was to blame are both murky. What is clear is that on March 11, 2010, three teenagers were stabbed at the Laguna Beach home of a fourth, 16-year-old Michael Jason Wilson, who now possibly faces a lengthy term in an adult prison. The eldest victim, 17-year-old Julian C., went to Wilson’s home, along with three other teenagers, to confront Wilson over, you guessed it, a Facebook argument. The confrontation turned sour and allegedly, Wilson stabbed Julian C., at which point two of Julian C.’s accomplices came to his aid and were subsequently stabbed themselves, before subduing Wilson and escaping. Somehow, I do not think when the pioneers of telecommunication, digital computing, and the internet were toiling away in their laboratories and workshops that they ever conceived one day anyone would use their noble inventions as a venue to spread hatred and vitriol or to incite violence and murder.

“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” – Pearl S. Buck
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

This is the story that inspired this post and it is a truly heart-rending and baffling one that proves that the so-called fairer sex is just as capable when it comes to acts of cruelty and inhumanity. On Thursday April 8, 2010 Audreanna Zimmerman succumbed to the injuries she suffered when on March 24, 2010, her former best friend 16-year-old Britnee Miller, Miller’s mother 39-year-old Tina Brown, and 27-year-old Heather Lee abducted, brutally beat with a crowbar, assaulted with a stun gun, doused with an accelerant, and set her ablaze. After two weeks in a coma, the 19-year old mother of two small children finally passed away. What could cause such savagery and callousness, and from individuals who knew firsthand the beauty of life and motherhood no less? There are two Facebook groups, here and here, where you can show support; I have not ascertained any information about helping her family and children.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson
“Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

The final tale gives credence to the argument that little monsters sometimes do grow up to be big monsters. On April 4, 2010, 28-year-old Angela Bradley-Crockett of Cleveland was en route to spend an evening with friends, when she was involved in a minor accident with a van driven by Stephen Davis, accompanied by his girlfriend, Latesha Santos. The pair convinced Angela to follow them to a secluded area where they accosted her, beat her severely, and strangled her to death. After stripping her of her clothes and valuables, they dumped her body by the side of the interstate as if she were garbage or an animal, rather than someone’s daughter, wife, mother, and sister. Davis and Santos are far from children, being 30 and 33-years-old respectively; and Santos’ criminal history as reported is relatively light. Davis, on the other hand, has a long, serious criminal history dating back to a juvenile murder conviction for killing his aunt’s boyfriend. Some would say considering the pair faces the death penalty if convicted, the state has an opportunity to correct with finality a wrong that has festered too long. However, it is truly tragic that three lives may wind up lost and three families destroyed over a condition that never should have existed in the first place.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21, NIV
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4, NIV

Although, isolated mass murders perpetrated by gun-wielding minors such as Jonesboro and Columbine, capture and hold American attention, these tragic incidences are but the tip of a very broad, very deep iceberg; and society’s ship careens toward that iceberg with frightening speed. Deadly violence among minors is not new and is far from isolated. The problem is growing worse and more frequent. We as a society can debate who is to blame for these crimes or what moved the perpetrators to commit such horrible acts. Certainly, in no small number of these cases, the offender acted with forethought and malice; and many of these offenders were close enough to adulthood to know “better.” However, I believe the presence, love, attention, engagement, support, and diligence of parents could have saved the life of some of these victims and prevented the suffering of numerous others – including the offender, who must now live or die with those gruesome actions upon his or her conscience. Without a doubt the acceptance, guidance, and nurturing of one’s parents is crucial. Of course we cannot excuse personal responsibility, but neither can we ignore the vital importance of a positive male and female role model in the development of a child into a mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy adult. Indeed, where and when will a young adult learn personal responsibility if it is not first taught to them through the example of present, responsible parents?

Who should know your child better than you should? After all, they are half you and ideally the other half of them should be standing with you as you face the challenges of parenting. You are not only uniquely able to notice the warning signs that your child might be developing into an unstable, morally bankrupt monster, but also you are uniquely positioned to do something about that fact. We cannot watch our children grow into aberrant adults and remain passive; otherwise, stories like these will only become more frequent and more tragic. Instead, we must treat children with equity and dignity, respecting their unrefined and undeveloped, but nonetheless massive potential to accomplish great things – for both the good and the bad.

The generation before mine has reached its sunset years and my generation is reaching its peak years of affect. Sooner than I would like to admit, but a mere mayfly’s life in the universal time continuum, my generation would reach its sunset and the next generation will pick up the torch. We have serious issues on the table, granted issues that have always plague humanity but nonetheless serious and more so pressing with advancing time. Humanity faces a worsening energy crisis, an unsustainable population growth rate, depletion of key natural resources, a thinning ozone, a warming planet, nuclear proliferation, worldwide poverty and disease, and impending socioeconomic collapse just to name a few. How can you motivate someone to care that a critical species of Peruvian mountain fern is in danger of extinction or that children on the other side of the world die of curable diseases, when that person is incapable of mustering an iota of human compassion for the lives of even close friends and family? To believe you can is illogical. However, we have the power to avoid this future because the solution is closer than you think – it is in our hands.

"I for one am glad I received punishment for breaking rules; this way I learned not to do things that were bad. If it were not for the correction [...] I would not have turned out like I did. If you love your child [...] look for them with correction in mind [...] make sure they know the family rules and they should be rewarded from time to time [...] They will grow up having a deep respect for you." -- Daniel Hawk With Seven Eyes Hoffman

Quotes © 2010 and/or their respective authors