Category Archives: Current Events

THREE FOR THOUGHT

1) Yet another horrific week in the Israeli-People who live on the outskirts of Israel saga. Deafening silence from the likes of Celebrity Asswipe Central (including Russell “I’m not an Anti-Semite…I just choose to bash Israel for defending itself over all the other causes in the world” Brand, Roger “I wrote The Wall so I am entitled to use my celebrity to comment on any situation in the world where an actual nation builds a wall as self-defense against a fictitious people” Waters, the Spanish Brainless triumvirate, Selena “If my taste in men is any indication, I am clueless” Gomez, Emma “you are so lucky you can act, honey” Thompson, Rihanna (she of the Twitter deletion contingent that apparently doesn’t realize the permanence of the internet), Danny “you apparently actually are too old for this shit” Glover, and even Jon “et tu Brute” Stewart). I guess they all hold civilized people to a different standard. Incredibly, I have more respect for Mel Gibson than these naïve cowards. They hide their anti-Semitism behind the idea that they are rallying around a “just cause” while Mel just hates Jews just like daddy did…loud and proud.

But enough on celebrities that aren’t worth my time or money (ironically, both songs penned by Roger Goebbels Waters). And don’t get me started on the media…I have no idea when CNN, the BBC, the AP and CBS became affiliates of al Jazeera, but the reporting on everything involving Israel and its neighbors has devolved into something out of George Orwell’s worst dystopian nightmare (click here and here for some examples).

3 for thought pic (Way to equate the innocent victims with the brutal terrorists CNN – I wish I was making this up)

I remember thinking to myself a few years ago, when Israel heroically decided to free a thousand terrorists in exchange for one of its own (Gilad Shalit), that unfortunately, many innocent people are going to die because of this decision. Of course every precious life in Israel is valuable, and I applauded the exchange at the time despite the uneasiness it made me feel. And it is, in my opinion, no coincidence that the aftermath of that bold, life-affirming move by Israel has led to a giant step backward in the stability of the region. It reminds me of the scene just after “dickless” turns off the power grid in Ghostbusters, releasing hundreds of ghosts the eponymous quartet had spent the better part of the movie capturing, back into New York City society…they wreaked such havoc.

Most of the world is blaming the person for having the unmitigated temerity to swat at the mosquito, who has left welt after welt upon his or her body…and god forbid the swat connects, and the pesky parasite is hurt or even killed…

And every time these troglodytes cheer the death of innocent Israelis like their home-town just won the Super Bowl or World Cup – and I know this happens far more frequently and in greater numbers than the already far-too-abundant video we see in the West – I try to imagine Israelis, or Jews anywhere in the world, really, celebrating in the streets over the death of even Hitler himself…and alas, I can’t even picture it. That level of infantile hatred, of abject putrescence, is reserved for only the lowest of the low.

And yet we hear nothing from the throngs who condemned Israel just months ago…

2) Florida State: While there is much to say about the football team led by a shady character with a growing litany of crimes ranging from grand theft crustacean to rape and sexual assault (and if the rape allegations are true, he should burn in hell)…alas, I am referring to the shooting on campus. Perhaps the nation is so immersed in the deep freeze, digging out of yet another polar vortex, that the shock of yet another mass shooting seems muted in relation to past events…or perhaps it is because none of the innocent victims were killed…or maybe we are becoming numb as a society to all of this nonsense. Whatever the case, the mass-shooting epidemic in our nation is not going away. Feel free to revisit my two-part novella on senseless gun violence I wrote in the aftermath of Sandy Hook…in the words of the great Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same.

3) AP – Not the AP that blames Israel for every wrong in the world these days…but Adrian Peterson. Yesterday, the NFLPA appealed Roger Goodell’s ruling to suspend AP for the remainder of the season without pay. Just once, I would like to see that stupid union do the right thing and say “you know what, we agree with the NFL here. AP was wrong and if any of you other players think it’s ok to get medieval on your own or anyone else’s children, you will not have our support. We are donating the full amount of what AP was set to earn for the remainder of the 2014 season to charitable organizations that champion the causes of abused children and encourage the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL to match our donation dollar for dollar.” Wouldn’t that be great? Why doesn’t that kind of thing happen in our world – especially when it’s teed up like that?

And Rusty Hardin, AP’s defense attorney….are you friggin’ kidding me? This dirt bag had the audacity to ask “who in the hell does he [Roger Goodell] think he is?” Who do you think YOU are Rusty? You defend assholes, criminals and the occasionally wrongly accused for a living…Goodell runs the league in which your client plays. Look, I will be the first to admit Goodell handled the Ray Rice situation about as poorly as someone could, and has not been the best commissioner the NFL has ever seen on many levels, but he is the commissioner. And the real irony in the whole thing is that AP believes, as the father of the child, he should be allowed to mete out discipline any damn way he pleases (he shouldn’t)…and yet is somehow taken aback when the head of his league does the exact same thing, except, you know, without the unconscionable physical abuse.

Anyway…I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy turkey day.

Gobble Gobble,

IDROS

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And With Freedom Comes Responsibility

flag-day-fireworks

There are a great many options when it comes to spending (I prefer investing) our free time in today’s world.

We can take ridiculous “tests” that determine which Kardashian we would be, or which character in Silver Spoons we would be, or which nursery rhyme villain, Disney World ride, Lady Gaga outfit, extinct animal, Spielberg film, Shel Silverstein poem, Chinese Food menu item, etc…

We can crush Netflix original programs four episodes at a clip;

We can pore over, troll and contribute to various social media platforms;

We can have sex (alone or with others), pamper ourselves, shop, exercise, eat, travel, play sports or games, read, nap, Prancercise, meditate, go to the movies, do a crossword, enjoy time with friends or family, volunteer…

We have choices…lots of them. And for that, we are fortunate. God bless America.

I urge all of you to take an hour or so and read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an intriguing and very well written piece recently featured in The Atlantic.

I have no idea how you will feel while and after reading the article. I read it a few weeks ago and still haven’t fully determined how I feel, what I think, and what, if anything, I should do now that I read it, given that it definitely affected me in profound ways.

A few of my personal takeaways:

Reading this piece made me feel ashamed and embarrassed to call myself an American in much the same way most of the W Bush presidency did (especially in the aftermath of Katrina – “Heck of a job, Brownie,” the invasion of Iraq and failure to find WMDs and his continual buffoonery that made him a global laughing stock) – and a great deal of the current Obama presidency is doing (Obamacare, the IRS scandal, his hypocrisy in solving the financial crisis – thank god we bailed out GM so they could continue to be so poorly run that their shoddily built cars have killed hundreds – and aren’t we all equally proud that our tax-dollar bailouts were used to bestow giant bonuses on Wall Street’s wolves just days after they fleeced us and the Federal Government out of billions. And don’t get me started on Obama’s consistently shameful treatment of Israel, arguably America’s most loyal and important ally, but alas that is for another article and another time.

My own black history education is shameful…and I know I am at least partly to blame for this. Worse still, I believe I received a top 1% education in our country, and still feel this is true, so I can’t imagine what is taught (and more importantly, what isn’t) in classrooms and curricula that unfortunately fall in the lower tiers of the American education system. I expect the world, and most importantly all Americans, to be educated on the Holocaust as I believe this will at least help to preclude something that awful from ever happing again…and I know there is a complete systemic failure right now in our country in making Holocaust education mandatory and in ensuring it is carried out professionally and effectively (watch this video if you don’t believe me). I similarly believe black history and race relations need to be taught at every level of education in our country. Ignorance nurtures racism…education combats ignorance.

Random thought: show me an important article on race that doesn’t feature an embarrassing nugget about a Philadelphia mayor…

Unfortunate thought: I am once again sickened by Donald Sterling, and he wasn’t even mentioned once in this article. (And Dan Snyder is no prize either).

History is littered with examples of man’s mind-bogglingly evil inhumanity towards his fellow man. Vonnegut built an incredible career upon that fact. Kubrick’s 2001 showcases man’s inhumanity as a core theme. Women (i.e., 50% of the world population) have been mistreated since the dawn of time, and unfortunately continue to suffer in many parts of the world. Same for homosexuals, mentally and physically challenged, vertically challenged, Native Americans and countless others. Bottom line, I am not sure reparations can ever fully repay everyone…or anyone, frankly, who has been egregiously wronged throughout history.

As a Jew and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I kept waiting for the author to relate his argument to a situation in which reparations have been paid in the recent past. I know Germany paid reparations to Israel and to survivors of the Holocaust. I was glad to see the parallel drawn, but was also upset that important lessons, themes and facts regarding Germany’s reparations were omitted. While Germany and some other groups did pay approximately $7 billion in today’s dollars to Israel and direct survivors of the Shoah, Jewish and otherwise, the payments were quite small (a few hundred dollars a month)…let’s say 500,000 people were paid, that total would amount to $14,000 per person. Furthermore, families of those who died received little or nothing. And payments typically only endured for the lifespan of the survivor, so once my grandfather passed away, his payments ceased…same with my grandmother. But what of their children? What of their parents, brothers, sisters and children that perished? The reparations contemplated by Coates are quite different to those paid by Germany in that money would only be paid to descendants of victims (obviously there is no choice at this point). And Coates fails to explain who actually footed the bill Germany paid, how it was funded, how news of it was received in Germany, who received payments, who didn’t, and who was responsible for determining all of this. At least for me, some if not all of that information would have been interesting if not essential for a true thought-provoking comparison to be made.

Among the issues not discussed are the feelings of resentment many Germans felt when these payments were announced – particularly Germans who believed they were innocent and whose families did not participate in the horror show. Also not discussed is the rampant Anti-Semitism raging through Germany and the rest of Europe today…so perhaps the cathartic act of reparations helped quash some racism in the immediate sense (though I doubt that), but the deep-seeded fear, hatred and ignorance always lingered just below the surface and were just waiting for time to pass, memories to fade and hard times to fall in order to resurface. Sure, Germany is not the most blatantly anti-Semitic country in Europe right now…so whoop-dee-doo…I guess the nation deserves a prize for that…but as a Jew, would I dare to live there right now? Would I be comfortable walking alone anywhere in Germany wearing a yarmulke, or a visible Star of David?

That said, I believe it was a good thing that Germany did anything at all even though you could never put a price-tag on the horror of the experience endured nor on the lives and livelihoods lost. But I am not sure I can ever forgive Germany despite the act of contrition. The problem is, it could never be enough, and the powerful and unimaginable anti-Semitism that it took to allow the Holocaust to be perpetrated had been ingrained into the fabric of German and Eastern European life over hundreds of years. Paying money most Germans never authorized or actually supported in reparations did not extinguish that ignorance and hatred.

And then there is this…I am honestly not sure how I feel about the premise of paying reparations given my ancestors were not in America during the time of slavery. My suspicion is there are many people who would feel similarly. Furthermore, my grandparents were treated just as horrifically in Germany and Poland and Russia, if not more so, were left with nothing, and faced awful racism themselves, even in America.

But when the time came to start over, even with nothing, in America…let’s just say that I concede it was fortunate my grandparents were white. Being white is a blessing in many ways for most Jews. If Jews were blue, or green or any color other than white, I am not entirely sure there would be any Jews left on our planet. Hell, we flirted with extinction more than a few times even with our light skin. But being white allowed many Jews to blend in with non-Semitic whites in many parts of the Western world and rise to some modicum of wealth and status. And for American Jews, it can be argued that many direct and indirect benefits we experienced as a result of being lucky enough to have light skin came, at least in some part, from the same exploitation of black people Coates argues quite convincingly benefitted (and continue to benefit) all white people in America. So we reaped and continue to reap the benefits, even if we aren’t culpable for the gruesome and unconscionable acts that enabled the benefits to exist.

Given the above sentiment, I am reminded of the seminal moment in Soul Man, when Darth Vader asks Pony Boy what he learned from his experience as a “black” man, and CTH replied, “if I didn’t like it, I could always get out…” I heard JEJ saying, “you’ve learned a great deal more than I thought” quite a few times as I read the piece.

Other pop-culture references I recalled during and after reading the article:

Dazed and Confused teacher, Ms. Ginny Stroud, to her class after the bell rings: “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

The Wire, when Prez quoted the first few lines of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, and nobody had any idea what he was saying…the opening lyrics of that song are haunting.

Coates’ piece accomplished exactly what the author set out to do, in my opinion. He frustrated me. He made me feel guilt. But most importantly, he made me think. This is an important topic, and if nothing else, my hope is that the education requirements and curriculum for black history and race relations education are expanded as a result of this article.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. I am interested in hearing/reading your thoughts on Coates’ piece. Feel free to comment below.

Best regards,

 

IDROS

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I Thought Virginia Was For Lovers…

In increasing frequency, I am unfortunately reminded that our world is populated with an element of society that represents everything that is wrong with humanity.

The latest was this clip I happened upon when I was looking for Jimmy Kimmel’s classic bit where parents tell their kids that they ate all of the Halloween candy.

OOOPS. My bad. I suppose I need to pay closer attention when clicking a link. I can never un-watch that clip, and I am now more unsettled about having an infant daughter who will inevitably reap the bitter and unjust rewards of inheriting a planet rife with miscreants like the Black family in Craigsville, Virginia.

(Note to self…check with Alanis Morissette whether the family surname “Black” is, in fact, ironic in the context of that horrific story).

This year has certainly been a bonanza for this type of behavior and ignorance. Among the carnage of far too many (and even one of these is too many) school and public massacres, the hopelessness created by extremist factions and monetary influence in politics, and pretty much everything Kardashian…I came across these other gems (gem #1    gem #2). You just can’t make this stuff up, and unfortunately, these people procreate.

Sorry to cast a negative pall over your otherwise beautiful November Hump Day.

Hope you all are doing well.

As always, thanks for reading.

IDROS

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My Heartfelt And Personal Shout Out To Ed Koch

King of New York

King of New York

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of my favorite judge, a New York icon, a Jewish and Israeli activist and a lifelong bachelor with “questionable sexuality.” After all, he presided on the bench in my dominant performance in 1998 on The People’s Court, when I took Ramon “I listen to you Hainah” Diaz to the cleaners, so to speak. There are a number of memorable and laugh out loud funny moments from that experience…I will share one:

The Honorable Ed as I Remember Him

The Honorable Ed as I Remember Him

As of 1998, I had never been on a show like The People’s Court before, not even to a taping. Having seen the show a few times, particularly with Wapner in his post-Rain Man prime, I was familiar with the format, the set, the premise and the unmistakable music. But nothing, and I mean nothing, could prepare me for my actual taping. When we (and by “we” I mean myself and my “character witness” Craig) strode through the doors that led to the courtroom set, in boomed the familiar music (bah-dah-dah-dah)…really loud. A) I thought that music would be added in post production/editing – boy was I wrong; B) I was in the moment, game face on, ready to tear my opponent a new one…focusing on my arguments and such; C) I knew this would be on television, so I did all I could to fight back a surge of uncontrollable laughter that was quickly emerging from deep in my stomach; and D) I may have torn a muscle or two in my gut during said struggle, but the laughter was somehow suppressed…not the wry smile, however, which Easy Ed noticed and made reference to during a commercial break – He whispered, “I saw you trying not to laugh, and you should know that despite all evidence to the contrary, my courtroom is a serious place.” He then winked at me, and the rest, as they say, is history. I will miss his Honorable Ed Koch and my “slam dunk” victory.

A few noteworthy facts about His Honor:

1)      Born in the Bronx to immigrant Polish Conservative Jews in 1924, he grew up in Newark, New Jersey

2)      He was a decorated Army Sergeant who fought in the Battle of the Bulge

3)      He began his political career as a very left wing liberal, opposing the war in Vietnam and marching in the South and in Washington during the Civil Rights Movement

4)      In the wake of the Watergate scandal, during which he actually coined the phrase, “The Watergate Seven,” Koch began to lean more toward the right – so much so, in fact, that by his second campaign for mayor he ran on both Republican and Democratic platforms, and by his third campaign, abandoned both parties completely, running as an independent, though he was still included on the Democratic ticket

5)      This shift toward the right played a key role, as after 8 years in Congress, he ran for NYC mayor in 1977 with a more conservative platform than his competitors, and his timing, in the face of the riots that engulfed the city following the blackouts (and Son of Sam’s reign of terror), was impeccable – He won largely due to his hard-line promise to restore public safety

6)      His three terms as mayor were fraught with highs and lows, but his trademark sympathetic maxim, “How am I doing?” bolstered him to popularity

7)      No matter what his ambiguous sexuality actually was, his primary failure during his first term was his failure to act in the face of the overwhelming AIDS epidemic that gripped NYC during the early 1980s – many authors and activists condemned his behavior, including Randy Shilts, who in And the Band Played On, his influential history of the early AIDS epidemic in America, discussed the possibility that Koch ignored the developing epidemic in New York City in 1982–1983 because he was afraid of lending credence to rumors of his homosexuality. (It should be known that In 1986, Mayor Koch signed a lesbian and gay rights ordinance for the city after the City Council passed the measure (on March 20), following several failed attempts by that body to approve such legislation)

8)      He authored and co-authored nearly 20 books from 1980 through 2007, and in retirement started reviewing movies for a weekly web video segment entitled Mayor at the Movies, which was syndicated in the Huffington Post

9)      Ed provoked and maintained an almost legendary feud with Jesse Jackson, which began during the primaries of the 1988 Presidential election. That race had seen Jackson surprising many as he challenged for the Democratic nomination. As the April New York primary approached, Koch reminded voters of Jackson’s alleged anti-Semitism and said that Jews would be “crazy” to vote for Jackson. It continued from there, and played a large role in Koch’s loss to David Dinkins in the 1989 mayoral primary

10)   Koch often wrote in defense of Israel and, also, against anti-Semitism. He also appeared in the documentary FahrenHYPE 9/11 defending President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and blasting Michael Moore. Koch was quoted in the film saying of Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11, “It’s not a documentary, it’s a lie.”

11)   The very year he and I crossed paths, he penned my favorite quote when asked to comment on his actual sexual experiences, writing:  “What do I care? I’m 73 years old. I find it fascinating that people are interested in my sex life at age 73. It’s rather complimentary! But as I say in my book, my answer to questions on this subject is simply ‘Fuck off.’ There have to be some private matters left.”

Edward Irving Koch, may you rest in peace.

IDROS

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Are We All Cheaters? Thoughts on Lance, Manti, Beyoncé and the Human Race…

I will begin with a joke I discovered in a great article called “Why We Lie” in the Wall Street Journal (please read the whole article when you get a chance):

A man loses his bike (apropos, no?) outside his synagogue and goes to his rabbi for advice. “Next week come to services, sit in the front row,” the rabbi tells the man, “and when we recite the Ten Commandments, turn around and look at the people behind you. When we get to ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ see who can’t look you in the eyes. That’s your guy.” After the next service, the rabbi is curious to learn whether his advice panned out. “So, did it work?” he asks the man. “Like a charm,” the man answers. “The moment we got to ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ I remembered where I left my bike.”

As Dan Ariely’s article explains, “what this little joke suggests is that simply being reminded of moral codes has a significant effect on how we view our own behavior.”

So I ask you all, given the biggest news stories of this week center around a big fat liar and a bigger, fatter cheater, how do the ridiculous Manti Te’o and Lance StrongArm stories affect how we view our own behavior?

From Sports Illustrated

From Sports Illustrated

Well?And lost in the lights of the Oprahtastic and Courician spectacles, it should also be noted that the first wave of Steroid enhanced baseball players were emphatically denied entry to Cooperstown last week by those with votes. For now, a generation of cheaters in MLB face at least some repercussions for their actions…though most perpetrators still made more money in their playing careers than the GDP of many third world nations.

And more recently, beloved Beyoncé apparently cheated too. While lip syncing is nothing new, it seems we all expect more from the likes of Mrs. Z.

It is said that “Cheaters never prosper.” Another classic adage is “You’re only cheating yourself.”

Seriously?

I mean, maybe if Emmett Fitz-Hume, Austin Millbarge and such caricatures are the basis for argument, I could be convinced. (It should be noted that though Fitz-Hume and Millbarge made out pretty well in the end despite their cheating, they were actually given a death sentence after being caught, and through sheer dumb luck and Hollywood scriptwriting, sidestepped every peril thrown their way).

From Warner Bros. Pictures

From Warner Bros. Pictures

But taken at face value, those might just be the most ridiculous proverbs ever conceived. More ridiculous than Fitz-Hume’s cheating in and of itself.

Looking around our world, any non-naïve person quickly comes to a Dr. Gregory House conclusion that everybody lies…and quickly takes it a step further, because it is abundantly clear and glaringly obvious that EVERYBODY CHEATS.  Cheating and lying go hand in hand. To successfully cheat, one must lie…from the very inception of a plan to cheat, until a cheater’s dying day. Not all liars cheat, but all cheaters lie. And the better the liar, the more diabolical and greater in scope the cheating can be.

But before cheaters make their lies public, they first must convince themselves that the act of cheating is ok…even justified…in their own eyes. In many cases, they must lie to themselves. This process is known as rationalization. There are many possible rationalizations for an act of cheating, from “it’s only a game,” and “everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?” to “It will cause a lot more [trouble; pain; shame; heartbreak; etc.] to [lose; fail; underperform; declare bankruptcy; etc.]” and “the potential rewards far outweigh the risk of getting caught.”

We all rationalize our actions and decisions, whether we cheat or not. And we do it every day. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges from the brilliant movie The Big Chill:

Michael Gold (Jeff Goldblum): I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Sam Weber (Tom Berenger): Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Michael Gold: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

So we all lie. We all cheat. And we all rationalize these sins.

But what troubles me, and I am sure most of you out there, is the indisputable fact that cheaters DO prosper…all the time. And insodoing, cheaters rob others who play by the rules of everything from better grades (when curves are affected) to promotions at work (or getting a job at all), from winning a meaningless game or sporting event to making the roster of a professional team, from winning an election at any level to winning a Pulitzer prize, etc. Cheaters rob us of heroes and role models, of dignity, of motivation and in some cases, of everything we believe and believe in.

In other words, both proverbs quoted above seem to be flat wrong.

Ever since Jacob and Rebecca cheated Esau out of his blessing and birthright (and probably even before that), people have deceived and manipulated others for their own gain.

The most incredible part of this admittedly (and unfortunately) unsurprising fact are the depths people will sink to and the random and seemingly insignificant events and mundane activities in which regular Joes (and Josephines) have felt compelled to cheat. Consider the following, just for a taste (I wish I was making some of these up):

1)     Recently, in an annual Scrabble Tournament held in Orlando that I assume a very small percentage of the population even know about, a player was caught hiding blank letter tiles (click here).

2)     Pretty much ever since the invention of TNT, people have used the explosive to aid them in…wait for it…FISHING! Yup, it’s not enough to bring a rod, hook, bait and net to the ol’ fishin’ hole anymore…too difficult and time consuming (and boring, I guess). So let’s blow up the whole lake. Dead and dying fish will float up to the top, and these menaces to all that is sacred just scoop the floaters into their boat and fry up their bounty for supper (see also: deer and bird hunting with machine guns).

3)     Difficult to even type this one: People cheat on paternity tests. And what’s worse, there are articles and websites that describe why and how people do it, like this one.

4)     People cheat when playing video games, often times even skirting fair play in games they play alone. This is not a new phenomenon…it has been going on since the days of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Super Mario Brothers. But this article still brings this odd behavior to light.

5)     People cheat in animal show competitions, as seen here. (Yes, you read that right).

6)     A calamity we are all aware of, but still must be reiterated for its sheer SMH power: People cheat the welfare system (and various other government agencies), like this example.

7)     And this list of jaw-dropping attempts at cheating from the world of sport…some of which even “worked.”

There are countless other examples. Cheating is ubiquitous, and we are all immersed into our society of cheaters at a very young age.

As our innocence disappears, and the veil is lifted from our childhood naiveté, we notice that despite everything our parents told us (if we were even fortunate enough to have caring, loving parents in the first place who imparted such nuggets of wisdom upon us), people cheat, and what’s worse, people benefit from cheating.

We learn it in school, when we see people looking at their classmates’ test papers and “stealing” their answers. We learn it at recess and at home playing games like hide and seek, when we notice the person deemed “it” to peek through their spread fingers and watch where the hiders seek cover. And we certainly learn it on television and in movies, where characters such as Bart Simpson regularly cheat and lie. Even on the occasions where such characters are caught, the punishments levied are generally more comical than fear-inducing. Furthermore, the never aging Peter Pan blessing creators of shows like the Simpsons bestow upon their characters allow the writers to continue to rehash these questionable behavior choices over and over again with impunity.

(Please read this article regarding the cheating epidemic facing private schools)

Children watching and emulating these flawed characters undoubtedly believe such behavior choices are anywhere from virtually inconsequential to at worst, “don’t have a cow, dude,” on the grander spectrum of “I should definitely try that” to “there is no way I am risking that.”

And what’s worse, parents often put so much pressure on their children that cheating becomes, at least in the child’s eyes, the only option…or at least the best option. Far too often, parents foster the cheating mentality themselves by doing the work for their children and allowing the kids to take credit for it.

Our other role models and heroes (besides our parents) cheat too, and their morally ambiguous (read: reprehensible) behaviors are widely publicized throughout the media. Worse still, more often than not (sorry Milli Vanilli), even when caught, the ramifications for cheating sports figures, business leaders, politicians, rock and pop stars and other celebrities seem to be no more than a perfunctory slap on the wrist accompanied by a brief public relations nightmare (which is almost always expertly handled by highly professional teams of PR reps).

It is not surprising, in a world where cheating is so commonplace, that companies have also adopted the practice. After all, companies are people too…er…I mean, they are comprised of and run by people.  Yup, we are swindled, misled and generally duped every day by Corporate Planet Earth (not just America, to be fair), with practices such as side-stepping environmental regulations; false advertising; and, out-and-out lies regarding weights and measures found inside product packaging as well as benefits and possible side affects of certain products.

Of course this has been going on for years. But the audacity of corporations coupled with the regulatory bodies’ inability to counter with any kind of credible and lasting counter-policies never ceases to amaze. A clear trend has emerged: Regulatory agencies in any sphere will never be able to fully control their respective sectors and prevent cheating because they are and always will be vastly under-funded AND those who cheat will always remain a step ahead of those trying to prevent cheating.

Why? You may be tempted to ask. Well it’s quite simple, really. The answer, as always, comes down to MONEY. And there is a great deal of it in the cheating game, in case you haven’t noticed.

So why do elementary school children cheat when playing games like Hide and Seek? No money changes hands there, you may argue. Well the truth is, nobody wants to be IT on the playground just like nobody wants to be POOR in life. Everything is relative. Young people are not ruled by monetary paradigms, so they trade (and therefore cheat) on the currency that rules their lives – self esteem. Kids believe that “winning” games, or at least demonstrating more athletic and strategic prowess on the playground than their peers, makes them cooler and more likeable. And being popular is really what any child wants. Further, kids begin to cheat in the classroom at a young age to impress and win the favor (and love) of their parents. Again, this behavior is motivated by self-esteem reasons.

And adults continue these behaviors they first learned during their youth. The only difference is adults realize their world is governed by money, and so financial motivations dominate their behaviors. It should not be a surprise though, that in our world, money (and its corresponding increase in perceived social status) buys people…wait for it…SELF ESTEEM (yup, all of us adults are just larger kids on that playground). At least people believe money can buy self-esteem.

So back to our opening joke, the Rabbi, the stolen bike and the adulterer. If simply being reminded of moral codes has a significant effect on how we view our own behavior, witnessing the likes of Lance StrongArm humiliated on Oprah (like James Frey and countless others before him), Barry Bonds (and his peers) voted out of the Hall of Fame (at least for now), Carlos Mencia blackballed by the entire comedy industry, and Beyoncé’s image taking a hit for pre-recording our national anthem at BO’s inauguration certainly registers with the rest of us for a number of reasons.

Since we all cheat, these very public shamings make us all take a closer look at ourselves, even subconsciously, for a brief moment and acknowledge our own transgressions with rules and laws…we all recognize the behavior and our own proclivities to bend the rules…and none of us like this recognition. Perhaps that is why we get so angry when others cheat…and particularly when others benefit from said cheating.

And so we then rationalize our own behavior IN COMPARISON to our fallen heroes and celebrity scapegoats. Seeing them writhe in the nets of public opinion, losing respect, honor, glory, money and in some cases, everything, makes us feel superior to these once-respected (even worshipped) personalities, if even for a moment, as we all think to ourselves that we “would never have cheated if we were in that same position” in our best “holier than thou” internal voices.

But would we have? Can we be so sure?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading,

IDROS

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We Don’t Need Guns To Win This Fight…Part Two

From The Washington Times

From The Washington Times

Please click here for Part One of my long but necessary opinion piece about gun control. And here for an amazing article by Garry Wills on our society’ sickening worship of the gun.

So where was I? Oh yeah, guns are bad…

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary (actually, since the tragedy at Columbine High), I have been deeply saddened, angered, repulsed and generally frustrated by arguments I have heard, read and witnessed from the other side of the barrel (pun intended). Some of the head-scratching rhetoric has been directly directed at my own commentary, while a great deal more has addressed other posts on social media sites as well as opinion pieces, essays, pleas and interview answers among countless other media outlets.

Most of the hot air pro-gun honks blow is worthy of nothing more than this classic gem:

But there are some decent common arguments I have read/heard, worthy of a response. I have listed a few of these in bold type below, with a rational rebuttal below it. I am really trying here, because there are lives at stake. And if last Friday is any indication, innocent, young lives at that. I now have a baby girl. I am quite sure all of you with children had a very difficult time dropping your loved ones off at school this past Monday morning (and all mornings after that), if you were even able to muster the strength at all. This madness will, unfortunately, never fully cease, but we can definitely save lives. Even if we save one precious life through our efforts, it will be worth it.

So please read my rebuttals, and agree that it is time to change. There is no way to know if these proposed changes will be better than the current system of anarchy unless we try. But I suspect they will be. And they really can’t make our current state of blood-bath tinged affairs any worse, right?

So please do what you can to help. We need to rise up and protect our children. We need to protect our country. And we need to protect our fellow man. Pro-gun types will argue, “That’s our point.” Well please read below to see OUR logic:

Our Second Amendment rights: Any argument clinging to our Constitution and the Second Amendment is farcical at best. Written nearly 250 years ago, the language and spirit of the Amendment has no relevance or place in today’s society. A) The amendment itself is just that, a change to the original reflecting the dire need, in the time it was written, to allow citizens to bear arms as part of a regulated militia that would combat those attempting to exploit and exert their unwanted will upon the citizens of the USA; B) There is precedent allowing for Constitutional Amendments to be reedited out, just as Prohibition was 80 years ago; C) The times dictate the need for a change to the Second Amendment and its interpretation, as well as the resources and infrastructure dedicated to enforcing the changes made.

As an aside, one potential solution to consider might just be to REINFORCE the language of the Second Amendment, requiring all who would like to bear arms to be required to enlist in the armed forces, where they can get the necessary safety and responsibility training of using a deadly weapon. However, military experience often leads to mental trauma later on in life, so this fix might actually necessitate further action (*see below regarding my plan).

We will basically be arming criminals, and disarming innocent people trying to defend themselves: First of all, I am a realist. As much as I would love guns to be completely outlawed and made illegal, I do not believe this is a viable or practical option. For one thing, there are like 300 million guns out there in the general population of our country, and collecting each and every one of them would be impossible, not to mention extremely dangerous. So what I am proposing is far more stringent GUN CONTROL. My plan follows:

Ban all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, military grade armor and all other assault weapons. Effort to seize, collect and destroy all of these types of weapons already in circulation (this may be difficult and dangerous, but would be worthwhile).

Make it extremely difficult to procure guns going forward: Require written and practical tests, just like with drivers licenses, continuing education, and quality mental health screening up front as well as every three or five years of gun ownership. Require criminal background checks as well as multiple (two or three) character witnesses, notarized, that will basically vouch for the applicant.

*For military personnel returning to civilian life after deployment, require more rigorous mental health screenings up front (consider their return like you would the average driver exiting a freeway. One’s propensity to speed is far greater immediately following an extended period of driving fast…plus, my guess is that the battlefield causes more stress and mental anguish than our highways…just a little more, but more nonetheless). Also, require more frequent screenings (PTSD and other military psychological trauma can lie dormant, like an inactive volcano, until one day…well go visit Pompeii, or read about it).

For athletes and any other professionals who might suffer head trauma on the job, during practice or while training, require the same rigorous and frequent mental health screening as for military personnel throughout their careers as well as after.

Limit the number of guns one person can purchase to one in a three or five year period.

Make serial numbers more permanent.

Account for guns more closely, adding resources to Homeland Security and ATF to do so.

Possibly place GPS tracking capabilities of some type on guns.

And finally, require guns to be manufactured with some kind of password protection or fingerprint activation so that only the licensed gun owner can use said gun (this is obviously to prevent the type of atrocity that occurred in Newtown, where the murder weapons were registered to the mother, but her son “stole” them and used them for unspeakable evil).

If people had guns at the school (or theater, or mall), these tragic events would never have happened, or at least fewer people would have been killed/shot: Variations of this argument are as ubiquitous as awful reality television, and it frightens me to no end believing that proliferation of firearms on our streets and in public places such as schools, malls, movie theaters and amusement parks will create a Cold War-like stalemate that will actually make our world safer. First off, have you ever driven on a public road, or in a parking lot? People are irritable, and honk, cuss and irrationally cut people off all the time. Are these the people you want carrying deadly weapons around 24/7? Second, I do not want teachers and school officials carrying loaded weapons in my child’s school. How do we know we can trust those people and their general mental well-being? How do we know they would act responsibly and safely under duress? And what if they were unable to control their own students, and lost control of the weapon, or had it stolen, and then the students had a loaded weapon in your child’s school? But most important to this ridiculous premise is the safety of our own police and security personnel already in place. How on earth will police who arrive to a scene where a gunman, or multiple gunmen are at large, differentiate between the “bad guys” and the “good guys?” I foresee an incredible number of accidental gunshot wounds and deaths resulting from this vigilante approach.

What if the killer uses a bomb? This argument is certainly germane to our times, and is worthy of concern. However, it has nothing at all to do with the gun control debate. Whether people are armed with guns or not, if terrorists or crazy kids (possibly synonymous) plant a bomb somewhere, no amount of guns are going to stop them. And the same holds true for suicide bombers. Police don’t shoot terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests for a reason: they can still detonate the bomb even if shot, and the act of shooting might actually detonate the bomb on its own.

I don’t trust the majority of my fellow Americans. How can I be sure I won’t run into a psychopath out there? I need my gun(s) to protect myself and my family from everyone, because it seems like anyone, anywhere could be a mass murderer. This is the most hypocritical argument of the bunch. Are we supposed to trust our own children to go play at a friend’s house now? How can we trust NRA members? What if YOUR kid finds YOUR gun while OUR kid is at your home? What if someone gets shot accidentally? I find it totally unacceptable to put even your kids at risk in that scenario, let alone mine, and other innocent children of anti-gun parents. This isn’t a Dirty Harry movie, or Dexter. This is real life, and the more guns out there, the more people trying to be a hero, the bloodier and scarier our society becomes.

If somebody wants to kill people/themselves, they can do it, with or without guns: I heard this argument a great deal following the tragedy in Kansas City as few weeks back, when NFLer Belcher shot his baby mama 9 times and then killed himself in front of his coaches at Arrowhead. And I agree. But I guarantee said person would kill a lot fewer people in the same amount of time, and more importantly, there is a far greater chance of surviving a knifing, a beating or a strangulation, as morbid as that may sound, than a gunshot or NINE. There is also the personal angle some psychiatrists have argued, i.e. using a gun is very impersonal, whereas knives, bare hands and strangulation are very personal murder techniques. This may just give an attempted murderer the time to think/feel a connection and stop him or herself in the act. Unlikely, but possible.

And speaking of the tragedy in KC, many people were quick to criticize Bob Costas for using a national spotlight at a sporting event to wax political (calling for stricter gun control), saying it was neither the time nor place. Well clearly, a mere two weeks before the tragedy in Newtown, it was as good a time and place as any. How dare anyone tell a hardworking man like Bob Costas, who has earned the right to talk to us in our living rooms each week, what he can and cannot talk about. Furthermore, on the heels of yet another senseless murder with a gun, when is a more appropriate time to speak out? Is Kasandra Perkins’ life not as precious as any other victim of gun violence? Is her three month old son, who will now grow up without his mother and father, no less a champion for change than any of the children in Newtown, or Aurora, or Columbine?

For another sports figure using his own limited celebrity to speak out on the issue, unsolicited, but beautifully, please click here. Winthrop Coach Pat Kelsey’s speech is a must listen sound bite for all.

If people really want guns, they will get guns anyway they can, even through illegal means. Look at narcotics as an example: There is no way to prevent this. As I already mentioned, there are nearly 300 million guns already out there in America (and many, many more the world over). Criminals will produce and trade guns in any type of regulated environment, and any tightening of the law will only make their product that much more valuable. BUT – making it more difficult to get guns, coupled with better regulation and expanded resources to track and enforce gun control will definitely deter some, delay some and overall, will reduce gun traffic. Remember, nothing will perfectly eliminate gun murder. But if we can reduce the body count at all, it is a win.

Murder is actually a fraction of what it was, per capita, today vs. in the 1980s: That might be true on an overall basis, but reading Malcolm Gladwell and understanding demographic trends, the crack cocaine phenomenon, better police strategies as well as the effects of Roe vs. Wade explains a big portion of that discrepancy. But this argument is completely made irrelevant when considering the alarming increase in the frequency of MASS gun murder. A rare event in the 1980s, there have been 31 mass murders since 1999 in the US. More stringent gun control can help.

Guns kill people like spoons make people fat: Variations of this gem abound (Guns don’t kill people, people do). And you know what? It’s difficult to argue. But there is no doubt that guns are lethal weapons, killing machines, designed with one primary use – to fire a compact metal object really fast at a target in the hopes of killing, or at least incapacitating said target. Spoons were not designed to make people gain weight, just as a means to convey liquids and loose foods from plate/bowl to mouth. So a disconnect in the logic of this argument stems right from the design table, from the very origins of both utensils. And furthermore, as my cousin astutely reasoned, if you look around at all the overweight among us, it becomes even more apparent that if even a fraction of as many people abused guns as do spoons, we likely have a serious problem on our hands. And we do.

What will we do if our government abuses its power, our military goes rogue or if a tyrannical despot seizes power? Let’s face it. If Orwellian times descend upon us, or even if anarchy runs amok in the US, there is no armory of guns the collective sum of us can have that will render us safe. Our government and military have a stockpile of weapons capable of blowing up the entire solar system, even assuming Pluto is still part of it. Our military has advanced technology, WMDs of varying types, planes, tanks, submarines, boats, choppers and trained personnel. Our Second Amendment rights are not protecting us from evil or tyrannical government anymore. Rambo is fictitious. So are Colonel John Matrix and Robert Clayton Dean. This is yet another reason that Amendment needs to be redacted, or at least, rethought and re-amended.

There are many more arguments and logical rebuttals to appeal to the educated pro-gun, NRA types out there. Unfortunately, reason and logic will be wasted on the frightening segment of that populace that continues to bewilder with comments like “you are gonna have to pry my gun out of my cold dead hand you liberal scum.”

To reiterate: Please help change our nation. Please help save lives. Contact your congressman here.

Or sign a petition here or here.

Thanks again for bearing with me (and not bearing arms).

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe new year.

IDROS

This two part passion piece was paid, in full, by the blood of:

Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, James Garfield, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, Sam Cooke, Bill Brady, Robert F. Kennedy, Harvey Milk, Marvin Gaye, Phil Hartman, Jam Master Jay, Malcolm X, Selena, Sean Taylor, Gianni Versace, Darrent Williams, Peter Tosh, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the victims of Columbine High, Virginia Tech, Red Lake High, the Tuscon Safeway, the Aurora Movie Theater, the Wisconsin Sikh Temple, Newtown Elementary School, every other site of a mass shooting, and thousands more non-celebrity, non-publicized (or publicized on a very limited, local basis) names every year.

And partially by: Teddy Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Bob Marley, Larry Flynt, Andy Warhol, Jackie Wilson, 50 Cent, Suge Knight, Greg LeMond, Garrett Morris and millions more.

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We Don’t Need Guns To Win This Fight…Part One

From The Washington Times

From The Washington Times

My heart is crying. I am at a loss for words, as many of you are.

First and foremost, I would like to extend my condolences, thoughts and prayers to the families of those that were senselessly murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as those who must now live with the horror of the events that transpired last Friday morning. For 20 families (27, actually), it likely feels like the Mayan End of Days was real after all…it just came one week sooner than expected.

I do not like to get up on a soapbox.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this year that I have felt this anguish, this befuddlement, this frustration.

31 times since Columbine, we as a society have been left scratching our heads, searching our souls, uttering words of disbelief, crying, screaming and demanding changes.

What happened in Newtown this past week was all the more tragic, having transpired on what we as a society view as sacred ground (an Elementary School) and because the fatalities were primarily children…very young and innocent children. And because it was the second such tragedy befalling our society in one week’s time. But mostly because of the children.

Things can’t go on this way.

Each time a mass-murder involving guns occurs on American soil, our country sinks further into the bowels of a horrific, frightening and polarizing debate regarding Gun Control. Even a tragic murder suicide involving an NFL player less than a month ago sparked this same debate.

And with every instance, much to my dismay, time passes, the passion for change seems to ebb, and society returns to business as usual, guns a-blazing, holsters full, ammo at the ready…as if nothing ever happened.

I can no longer sit quietly and watch these massacres continue without making an appeal to the sensibilities of anyone out there who feels guns are not part of the problem. I would even like to address those that are willing to concede that point, but are still compelled to believe their Second Amendment rights are more important, in the long run, than allowing our government to make more stringent gun laws that might make it incredibly difficult to buy a gun, and potentially even make it illegal to own a gun.

No matter what people think the Second Amendment says, or how literal they believe those words to be, even today, when we are not living in fear of an army sent by a far-away king attempting to exert control over us by any means necessary. Just like living in America as a full citizen, gun ownership is not a “right.” It never was. Gun ownership is a PRIVILEGE. And with any privilege comes great responsibility. Somewhere along the way, this was forgotten. Somewhere along the way, our nation’s leaders failed to reinforce this fact. Somewhere along the way, guns became something we as a society took for granted, that we viewed as an American rite of passage, a commodity as common as gasoline and as easy to buy and sell, too. Our machismo as a nation depended on the ubiquity of firearms. As we pushed westward, we feared attacks by Native Americans…and we massacred them with our fire sticks. And as we laid claim to vast pieces of land, valuable minerals and natural resources, we took up arms again to protect our homesteads, our livelihoods and our families. Potential robbers, vandals and no-goodniks came to fear guns wielded by upstanding citizens and the law. Or at the very least, respect them. Soon the gun became the de facto law.

Our neighborhoods were secure, replete with gun-carrying watchmen. Our banks and stores were robbery proof with a gun behind the counter. We taught our sons to hunt and to shoot a gun. Women, fearing rape and abuse, flocked to gun ranges to cling to some semblance of security.

I, for my part, am certainly willing to concede that guns are not solely to blame here. We can all point our fingers at a number of things that contribute to this unsettling trend of bloodshed our generation is currently witnessing. Mental Health issues are a big one, and this includes the resources dedicated to research, community outreach, treatment and the de-stigmatization of mental illness in general in our society. Our media is another perpetrator that deserves some of the blame. Godless and evil killers seem to be glorified by our media after each atrocity, and these soulless people are too often given far more attention than the victims and the heroes that try to stop them. Part of this is our own societal issues, as humans find the unknown, the evil, the bizarre and the misunderstood to be far more compelling than those who are normal, law-abiding, regular Joes and Josephines. Furthermore, other media outlets, such as the movie, television and video game industries create and release a never-ending pile of violence-centric content on the public. Other fingers point at Big-Pharma, and our propensity to over medicate our youth with chemicals and band-aids to mask real problems.  And then there are those that blame current parenting techniques, our education system, our diets (which trend toward processed, genetically altered foodstuffs) and our technology (electronics and the internet create a world far less dependent on personal contact and intimacy).

Any and all of the above factors need to be addressed, and very well might be (read: ARE) contributing to a growing epidemic of mass-murder. But there is one factor that seems to be the giant elephant in the room after almost every catastrophic and heart-wrenching breaking news story: GUNS.

This latest tragedy in Newtown has restirred the pot, bringing the gun control debate, and its associated vitriol, to the forefront of national conversation. This time, we cannot let the passage of time once again mask, or at least assuage the passion of those in favor of more stringent gun control. There are too many innocent souls who have paid the ultimate price for us to continue to kowtow to the NRA, to the Second Amendment hardliners and to the general gun-toting populace that refuses to yield on this issue.

Please note that for nearly 250 years, we have endured the Second Amendment. But the frightening and deadly interpretation of that Amendment has only emerged over the past 35 years (please read this article for the gory details).

This coincided, unsurprisingly, with the rise of the NRA. Well, Charlton “Moses” Heston (RIP) and your terrifying army of stubborn gun wielders: we tried it your way…the NRA’s way. And we gave it a go for far too long. I saw that the NRA finally commented on the Newtown tragedy, saying “[We are] prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” That quote was totally fear-induced. There is no way for them to make such an insipid promise. But they know the tides are turning, and want to appeal to the “undecided” in this debate with a last gasp of strength and bravado. Here’s the thing…every argument made by pro-gun honks and NRA supporters hinges on hypothetical, unsound, unproven, flawed logic. There is no evidence, no sample size, not one fact to support their arguments. Just guesses and rhetoric and hubris. And why? Because we haven’t had a chance to see how things work in an American society highly regulated for firearms.

Since the Newtown massacre, I have been trying to rally the troops, to lead an intelligent dialogue for change. I have become, apparently, an accidental activist for gun control (I couldn’t make this up if I tried…there is actually a term for this phenomenon, and I am glad I am not alone in my efforts.)

So I am asking you all to consider acting as well. Even if you are on the fence, educate yourselves. Please don’t allow the children in Newtown to have died in vain. Please do whatever you can to help prevent further atrocities in the future. Our efforts may not completely eliminate senseless murders, but if even one or two lives can be spared, it will be worth it.

Please do something. Because doing nothing is just what the gun lobby and the NRA are hoping for. They sense weakness, and will use their vast resources and influence to counteract any measures from their opposition…unless said opposition can rise up, unified, in numbers pro-gunners have never seen or imagined before. We have them on the ropes. It’s like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, and the NRA is King Hippo (rather apt, no?)…the fat slob’s mouth is now agape, fist in the air, cocked to punch us…and Newtown was the stunning uppercut to Hippo’s face. Now we must land a flurry of body blows and know the bully out. For good.

From Nintendo

From Nintendo

So contact your congressman here.Or sign a petition here,  or here.

Oh, and shame on you Wal-Mart. Please read this article, and consider boycotting that big box empire too. And Alice Walton, you might consider decorating at least one bare wall of your Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas with the blood of every victim murdered by assault weapons purchased at your stores.

Thanks for reading. The second installment of this post will be forthcoming. I appreciate your patience and understanding of my verbosity, which admittedly is even more voluminous than usual. But this issue is extremely important and incredibly polarizing (apologies to Jonathan Safran Foer), and my passion for change is equally great.

IDROS

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