Monday, September 15, 2014

To Spank or Not to Spank, That is the Question

As the NFL pivots from one controversy (Ray Rice's domestic abuse of his wife) to another (Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson's abuse of his son), it has brought yet another important issue to the fore: child rearing.  In particular, is it right to physically discipline your child?

I grew up in the age of "whoopins", not spankings.  A spanking would have been scoffed at by my siblings and I, but a whoopin' was an entirely different matter altogether.  My dad had "the belt", and when you were in trouble you had to go get "the belt."  Going to get the belt was probably worse from a psychological standpoint then actually getting the whoopin' itself because it was analogous to a convict walking down death row on his or her way to the execution.  Time seemed to slow during those moments which caused my siblings and I to wonder whether whatever act of misbehavior we had just recently committed was worth the price we were now paying.  And, for us, after we received that whoopin' we did not do it again.  All of my siblings have grown up to be successful people, college and law school graduates, and responsible parents of their own children.  Would we have turned out the same had we not been disciplined?

With some kids, however, a stern talking to will do the job.  With other kids, a mere look from mom or dad is enough to get them in line.  Other kids, not so much.  Each child is unique so there is no universal guide to effective discipline that will get all kids to behave and, unfortunately, children are not born with an inherent sense of self-discipline.  That has to be instilled by the parent.  So the question remains - is it ok to physically punish your child for bad behavior?  Or are those days behind us?

Sound off in the comments below.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Reviews: Mr. Mercedes, Dead Wrong

Mr. Mercedes
by Stephen King
I've been reading a lot of Stephen King's works lately. Someday I will get around to reading what some people say is King's masterpiece, The Dark Tower series, but I didn't have time for all that. So Mr. Mercedes it was. This book is about 400 pages. There are no supernatural elements so if you're unable to suspend disbelief to enter the world of vampires and curses, ghosts and multidimensional demons, then this might be safe reading for you. King called this book his first hardboiled detective tale. King provides some detailed descriptions and some very realistic characterizations, generally. He also stumbles in creating a black character. Here, the black character, despite being a teenager of very high intelligence, is a person who finds it amusingly ironic to speak to the white protagonist in 1930s Stepin Fetchit dialect. The teen claims to do this because he's upper middle class, likely going to an Ivy League school and worries that he's not really living the true "black experience". This is senseless. I grew up middle class. My brother is a Harvard grad. Last I checked there were about seven first or second degree family members on both sides who are attorneys or doctors. We rarely had doubts about who we were or what society was all about and if we did we certainly wouldn't have expressed them by speaking Amos-n-Andy dialect to a white man old enough to be our grandfather. NOBODY in either parent's family thought poverty or dysfunction was the real black experience. Also, my parents wouldn't have allowed me to hang around alone with any adult man, regardless of race. Alarm bells would have gone off. "So Shady, where do you think you're going? Oh Dad, I'm just going over to Mr. Hodges' house to hang out and do things I can't talk to you about". Right. Don't get me wrong. I know that good friends can racially or ethnically mock themselves and each other. I've seen/heard it. But my experience has been that such banter is done by long time intimate friends or lovers with enough history to know that no malice is meant. 

I just couldn't buy that a sixty something white retired cop and a black teenager would have had such trust and history. And certain black conservatives not withstanding I don't know any black people who would find it amusing to refer to their employer to his face and in front of other whites as "Massa So-and-So".

Friday, September 12, 2014

Do the Right Thing!

Do you think you are a moral person? You probably do. There are very few people who consciously think of themselves as evil, immoral or heartless. Even people who kill puppies for a living usually have what they see as good reasons for doing so. From time to time we all have to make decisions, some small and some large about what sort of people we are. Generally these are not difficult and life altering major decisions like telling your dying friend that his wife cheated on him and he has been raising another man's children or escaping a sinking ship and realizing that the lifeboat only has enough room for two other people when you have three kids. All the same morals are morals no matter how minor the decisions seem to be. The choices we make in situations both big and small define the sort of people that we are trying to become. There aren't necessarily right answers to many of these questions but there are probably some answers that may seem right to you. Some questions are purely hypothetical; others are drawn from real life experiences, albeit not necessarily mine. What's the right thing to do in the following ten situations?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Presidential Address on ISIS

Per NY Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday authorized a major expansion of the military campaign against rampaging Sunni militants in the Middle East, including American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq. But he sought to dispel fears that the United States was embarking on a repeat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a speech to the nation from the State Floor of the White House, Mr. Obama said the United States was recruiting a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He warned that “eradicating a cancer” like ISIS was a long-term challenge that would put some American troops at risk.
“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Mr. Obama declared in a 14-minute address. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq,” he added, using an alternative name for ISIS. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president drew a distinction between the military action he was ordering and the two wars begun by his predecessor, George W. Bush. He likened this campaign to the selective airstrikes that the United States has carried out for years against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, few of which have been made public.
After enduring harsh criticism for saying two weeks ago that he did not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria, Mr. Obama outlined a plan that will bolster American training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels to fight the militants. Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide a base for the training of those forces.
Mr. Obama called on Congress to authorize the plan to train and equip the rebels — something the Central Intelligence Agency has been doing covertly and on a much smaller scale — but he asserted his authority as commander in chief to expand the overall campaign, which will bring the number of American troops in Iraq to 1,600.
“These American forces will not have a combat mission; we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” Mr. Obama pledged, adding that the mission “will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
For all of Mr. Obama’s efforts to reassure the public, his remarks were a stark acknowledgment of the threat posed by the militants, whose lightning advance through Iraq and Syria and videotaped beheading of two American journalists have reignited fears of radical Islamic terrorism.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

President Obama Approval Ratings and Leadership

I am not a President Obama partisan. I supported other candidates. I think the President has been a more or less average President. I have been severely disappointed on his foreign policy and civil liberties moves. I think that by instinct and training the President is too often cautious when he should be bold. That aside, given the nature of the United States political economy one would have been foolish to expect any President, let alone the first Black President to have been a fire breathing transformative figure of justice for race, gender, class or any other issue that is near and dear to the Left. That's just not how things work, despite what Cornel West says. It's not original to me and I can't remember where I read it but just recently I perused something that claimed (perhaps jokingly, perhaps not) that just as soon as any US President is inaugurated he is shown an unreleased tape of the events in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 and asked if he has any questions. I don't know about that but for whatever reason President Obama has been something of a disappointment to some notable progressive figures, most recently filmmaker Michael Moore. For some reason some white progressives always seem to be surprised and vaguely disappointed that not every black politician is Nat Turner Malcolm X the 3rd, a fire breathing reject from a 70s blaxploitation movie who's here to kick a$$ and stick it to the Man. I'm not entirely sure such a man would have been elected President. Nah, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been. But it's not just rotund Michiganians that the President has to worry about pleasing. His approval ratings for leadership have reached new lows just as he plans to address the nation this evening to discuss his strategy for dealing with the group ISIS.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Does The Ray Rice Tape Tell Us About Domestic Violence?

NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice, has been cut from the team now that TMZ has released the full video from inside the elevator which shows Rice strike his then fiance now wife, Janay Palmer, as she approached him during an altercation the couple was having.  In the beginning of the video, the couple appear to be arguing.  When they enter the elevator, the confrontation escalates, Rice steps towards Palmer and Palmer then appears to strike Rice.  At that point we can see Rice step back to the opposite side of the elevator.  Palmer, pursuing Rice, takes a few steps towards him and at that point Rice strikes her in the face, knocking her unconscious.  The video:

Even if Janay Palmer struck Ray Rice first, should he have struck her back?
What role and responsibility does each party have in a situation like this?
Is there a double standard for the genders in domestic violence situations?
Should Rice have lost his job?
Your thoughts?

Monday, September 8, 2014

THE NCAA:Too Lenient or Too Meddlesome?

By now, you all have heard about Mo'ne Davis, the thirteen year old pitching wonder from the Pennsylvania Taney Dragons.  Well this time,  the World Series Little Leaguer isn't in the news for her 75 mph fast pitch. She is dominating the news cycle because Geno Auriemma, head coach of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Women's Basketball Team, called her to wish her congratulations for her success in the Little League World Series.  What does this have to do with the price of tea in Mississippi you ask?  I'll explain after the jump.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Perfect Victim

Now that the dust has settled over Ferguson, Missouri, I want to talk about something that's been weighing on my mind.  There's a common theme in these police brutality cases that's troubling for a number of reasons, but mainly it's troubling because nobody seems to recognize it for what it is.  The problem I'm talking about is the incessant need to have a "perfect victim" before we're willing to admit that excessive police force was unjustified. This is especially true in the case where excessive force was used against a person of color.

The events of Ferguson are instructive on this matter. An unarmed teenager was shot by a police officer 6 times until he was dead.  If the teenager had been armed with any kind of weapon then a natural inference of self defense would rise in favor of the officer.  But here there was no weapon.  Nothing that would seem to warrant deadly force by the officer.  As such, a natural inference of excessive force rises in favor of the victim...or so one would think.  However, there is a strong view held by far too many people in this country that, even in situations like this one where the victim had no weapon, the police officer must have been justified.  Which is another way of saying that the victim had it coming.  

And so the hunt for the "perfect victim" begins.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Carbon Taxes: Is the time right?

I belong to the NRDC. I support many local and national initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions and protect disappearing flora and fauna. Humans must live more harmoniously with the planet, as this appears to be the only place in our solar system where we can live. I believe that the relevant scientific data shows unambiguously that global climate change is real and that humans are a huge causal factor. I despise the idea of killing animals for fun or for backwards religious/medical/cultural beliefs (See post on "The Devouring Dragon"). If humanity doesn't change worldwide practices around energy use and resource consumption we could see an even more devastated planet. There will be higher temperatures and more floods. There will be less wildlife and fewer trees. And those unpleasant changes could arrive sooner than we think. And yet I find myself unable to fully support a carbon tax though I will admit that it’s probably the right thing to do. Hypocrisy?  Probably. Quite possibly actually. Heck, absolutely. But let’s examine why.

The basic idea of a carbon tax is that pollution is an externality to economic activity. Neither the seller nor the buyer is concerned with pollution because they aren't paying for it. Just as an amoral factory owner will, absent aggressive regulation, criminal penalties and civil liability, dump pollutants in the water, someone else, i.e yours truly or even the people reading this blog post, will engage in activities that increase carbon emissions because we are not paying the full price.

Movie Reviews: Supernatural Season Six

Supernatural Season Six
created by Eric Kripke
What's your next move when you've told the story you wanted to tell, pulled off your greatest trick, completed all the narrative arcs and basically done everything with the characters you created that you could think of but find that there's still massive consumer demand for your story?
As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle realized after he killed off Sherlock Holmes only to be browbeaten into bringing him back, some creative types learn that the show must go on no matter what. Supernatural creator, showrunner and executive producer Eric Kripke wrote, produced and oversaw an exciting, entertaining and occasionally masterful five seasons of a show that touched on everything from fatalism, predestination and free will to sibling love and rivalry, parental love and loss, heaven and hell, God's mysterious workings and the fatal blindness of evil. He wrapped everything up neatly with a tidy bow for fans. Kripke only intended for the show to last five seasons. Season Five completed everything. However, there was demand for more of the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester. So Kripke bowed out as showrunner and turned over the show's reins to former writer and assistant producer Sera Gamble. I had mixed feelings about this. I thought it was an example of commerce winning out over art. If you're Sam and Dean after you've thrown a jerry wrench into the Apocalypse, saved the Universe, defeated Lucifer, The Archangel Michael, a host of Angels and Demons, conspired with Death, killed three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and (totally unwittingly) possibly talked to and hung out with God Himself, what else can you do that matches all that? I mean there's no place to go but down, isn't there? Well maybe...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Exhibit A on Why Corrupt Politicians Should Take the Plea Deal

Per WSJ: RICHMOND, Va.—A jury found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of a slate of public-corruption charges on Thursday, rejecting the couple's defense that their marriage was too broken for them to conspire and that they didn't accept lavish gifts in exchange for backing a wealthy donor's business.
Mr. McDonnell broke down in tears and covered his face with his hands as the verdict was read. The former Republican governor was convicted on 11 conspiracy-related counts. Mrs. McDonnell maintained her composure, but appeared to battle tears as she learned that the jury found her guilty on nine counts, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell had both pleaded not guilty to the 14 charges they faced. They were acquitted of making false statements on bank-loan applications and Mrs. McDonnell was found not guilty of charges related to accepting golf games and gear, among other things.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 48 hours after hearing testimony for more than a month in federal court, not far from the governor's mansion where the couple lived from 2010 through January.
Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell, who have five children and are both 60 years old, are expected to be sentenced Jan. 6 by Judge James R. Spencer. They face lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.
With their verdict, jurors accepted the prosecution's argument that the McDonnellswrongfully used their position to promote a company, then known as Star Scientific Inc., by arranging meetings for founder Jonnie Williams Sr. with state officials and hosting events at the governor's mansion.
The prosecution showed jurors a golf bag and a pile of designer clothes that were among $177,000 in loans and gifts from Mr. Williams to the McDonnells. They displayed photos of Mr. McDonnell—the former state attorney general and a onetime GOP presidential hopeful—wearing a Rolex from Mr. Williams and driving the businessman's Ferrari.
"The high-end car and fancy watch literally surrounded Gov. McDonnell," said Hampton Dellinger, a law professor who has been following the case. "He was sitting in the car, he had the watch on his wrist and he couldn't distance himself" from the prosecution's claims.
Mr. McDonnell testified that he made the same type of introductions for Mr. Williams as he would for any Virginia businessman and he had done nothing wrong.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Breaking News: Joan Rivers Dead at Age 81

Comedian and Actress Joan Rivers Dead at Age 81

From Eyewitness News 7 New York:

Comedian Joan Rivers has died. Her daughter Melissa released a statement just moments ago saying, "It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother. Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother's greatest joy."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

iPhone Hacker Gets Nude Celebrity Photos from Cloud

Just when you thought it was safe to send your significant other (or whoever) those naked pics of yourself...enter the latest hi tech Peeping Tom:

For anyone whose digital life needs some extra space, the cloud seems like a miraculous solution.But after dozens of purported nude and risque photos of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrenceand Kate Upton, leaked online late Sunday, reportedly hacked from their personal cloud accounts, users might be concerned about their own cyber safety.

Renisha McBride Verdict: How Easy is Justice when Black Life is Valued

In just eight short, simple, and sweet hours a Detroit jury returned a guilty verdict against a man who shot a Black woman in cold blood. 55-year-old Theodore Wafer was found guilty of second degree murder in the November 2013 shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride; Michigan's version of the infamous Stand Your Ground law be damned.

In eight hours a jury in Michigan proved Black lives are worth more than forgettable news headlines and a myriad of protests that are dismissed with each new crisis in the Black community. In eight hours the Michigan jury proved that if you shoot and kill someone because you feel like it, and then claim you were scared, that you sir or madame deserve to go to prison. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

The jury didn't ask a bunch of questions that forced their deliberations to take days. They didn't get hung up on jury instructions that were purposefully written incoherently. They didn't ask to review evidence and props used at trial that the prosecution used to make their point. The jury (I'm assuming since I wasn't in the deliberation room) looked at the crime, looked at the law, and in the course of a work day delivered a verdict that didn't make Black America shake its head and say a collective "I told you so."

I'm proud of that jury and I'm proud of Michigan because I know this simple ish would never take place in Florida.

****UPDATE-Wafer sentenced to serve at least 17 years in prison.***
"Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway called the case “one of the saddest cases” she has ever had.Then she sentenced Wafer to 15-30 years for the second-degree murder, 7-15 for manslaughter, which will be served at the same time, and another 2 years for felony firearm, which is in addition to the others."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cute Animals, Neoteny and Rights

The other day while I was finishing watching Season 8 of Supernatural, I noticed that my dog suddenly seemed very interested in something on the carpet. Well unlike Robb Stark, I make a point of paying attention to what my direwolf is trying to tell me. For someone with a pretty small brain the dog notices more than you might think. I halted the DVD and went to see what the dog was watching. It turned out to be a rather large spider. So I moved the dog away from it. Now usually I would have just killed the spider. But having read the recent special Time magazine issue on animals and how we think of them I decided against that. I retrieved some paper towels. I carefully picked up the spider and dropped it outside. Would I extend such mercy to a housefly? Doubtful. I'm not familiar with the exact details of the different habitats, hygiene and dietary habits of spiders and flies. However, when I see a fly I immediately think disease, dirt, filth and nastiness. A fly vomits on its food before eating it, eats fecal material, and most importantly looks disgusting to me. A spider also appears alien but does not immediately and automatically bring up to me all the images of decay and filth that a fly does. So it was easier for me to save the spider. Any fly that enters my house is going to be almost immediately swatted or chemically poisoned. Is that fair or logical? Probably not.