Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fuck the Children

I have no links to what I'm about to post; I'm just going on what I heard were the audible "headlines" for one of the nightly local newscasts.  The first two really irked me in a great way, and are both related to a trend that has irked me for the longest time, that I have not talked enough about.  It probably won't be at length, since this is totally off the cuff, I wasn't planning to post today, but couldn't help myself. 

The first headline was of a teenager being "bullied to death", and that charges were being filed in said case.  I'm assuming that the charges are against the supposed perpetrator of the deed.  This is not the first instance in which a kid took his or her own life due to being bullied.  Offhand, I could think of a girl who was a track star and pretty popular that I read about awhile ago (she supposedly offed herself because someone taunted her via Facebook, what a stupid way to go), a gay teen who killed himself (I remember this because the celebrity Lady Gaga eulogized the boy in concert and said there should be laws passed; ooh boy), and the Tyler Clemente case (which many considered to fall within the "bullying" realm, but which I did not, I think it was just a prank gone awry, and I'm glad they didn't hang the kid who did it totally out to dry; he got 30 days, I know people were outraged by that sentence, but I feel that he will have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life, that is satisfactory enough for me at least).  I know that I have said this before on the blog, but I will say it again, the hysteria surrounding "bullying" needs to die a quick, quiet death.  It is overblown, and is a byproduct of the need for many in the hierarchy of education (and a lot of parents out there are culpable, as well) to make kids feel good about themselves. 

This reminds me of a good documentary that I saw about the U.S. school system, called "Waiting for Superman".  One of the many points it raised is the fact that American children are, at best, in the middle of the pack amongst developed nations when it comes to mathematical and literary skills; you name it, we are mediocre at it.  But the one category that our kids excel at, that they finish first in, is "self-esteem".  Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with people feeling good about themselves; it's just that the world at large would expect you to do something, achieve something, in order for you to feel that way.  Wanting people to feel good about themselves, just for being, is empty-minded and can lead to some unforeseen consequences.  I think "bullying" is one of those consequences.  Some of our children feel so good about themselves, that they just cannot believe that there are others who just aren't that into them, and upon taking this detour to the school of hard knocks, it gets to be too much for them and they do stupid shit, like kill themselves or try to kill themselves.  I think a potential solution for this, is rather than pursue initiatives related to stopping "bullying", simply teach those kids most at risk of being picked on, the art of resilience.  Teach them to be tough.  If I were a parent, I would go one further and possibly tell my child to punch any aggressor in the nose. 

The second story that bothered me, and probably bothered me even more than the prior issue, is that an increasing number of schools in Long Island are having students take breath tests for signs of alcohol use before being admitted to their proms.  Again, this has to do with underaged kids, and I feel it's even more of a civil rights issue than the criminalization of "bullying" (AKA "kids being kids").  The reason I feel this way is because I feel these initiatives (along with this new law, you also have a law in Suffolk County that can hold parents criminally liable if they serve alcohol to their kids, in their own home, and of course, you have the ID requirements for buying alcohol and tobacco) are not just about keeping underaged kids from these forbidden pleasures, but also to craft them into obedient adults.  As a society, our civil liberties are eroding at a frightening rate, and we are turning into a "show me your papers, please" society, but without the "please".  Between the proposed criminalization of bullying, metal detectors and security guards in the schools, breathalyzers for going to the prom and all the rest of it, we are taking and punishing any signs of rebellion and questioning out of our youth, and are teaching them, at an earlier age, to respect and to not question authority. 

* I don't literally mean what I say in the headline, it's just a funny routine that was performed by George Carlin in his classic comedy special, "You are All Diseased". 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reagan Supporters Angry that His Blood Sold at Auction

Like some Americans, and it seems that I'm in a minority, I will never understand the adulation that has been bestowed upon President Ronald Reagan.  When you delve into his track record, you will see that he was far from a "conservative"; for example, he raised taxes 11 times during his tenure in office and the overall size of the government grew as well (check out this handy article).  Anyway, some of his supporters are aghast that a vial of his blood, which was taken on the assassination attempt on his life back in 1981, has been put up on an online auction.  They are reportedly using both legal means and persuading the seller of the vial to donate it to the Reagan Foundation rather than sell it.  In a very funny response, the seller says that he's a huge supporter of Reaganomics and that Reagan would rather have seen him sell it than give it away.  After all, donations are kind of socialist, aren't they?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Latest Sign of Iran's Nuclear Program--A Drawing!!

I have not been following the Iran situation closely, but it appears to be petering out somewhat, or is at least on hold for the moment.  There was a lot of saber-rattling concerning Iran's nuclear program, with Israel threatening to strike.  However, it appears cooler heads have prevailed, and I think it's in no small part due to the fact that if war is declared on Iran, than it'll be game over for the economy.  Gas is just shy of four dollars a gallon now, and you can count on it being much more than that if Iran is invaded.  I feel that if Iran is indeed pursuing nuclear power, it's either as a defensive measure to deter the U.S., or as a stopgap measure to keep their lights on in the years to come, due to the peak of oil and natural gas.

Anyway, although they have toned it down, our powers that be are still rattling the saber, and their latest piece of evidence is a computer-rendered drawing at a supposed "nuclear facility" southeast of Tehran.  Based on the picture, this is something that I think I'd be reading in something like The Onion.  Even worse, is that the article plays it totally straight.  The article refers to an official from a country tracking Iran's nuclear program as the one who provided the rendered drawing,  with that official saying that the drawing "proves" that Iran has a nuclear program.    This brings me back to the run-up to the Iraqi invasion, and that dreadful presentation that Colin Powell made to the UN, where he showed outdated pictures and presented plagiarized material.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Viewing Child Porn Not a Crime in NY...But Wait

My first reaction upon reading the headline "Viewing Child Pornography Online Not a Crime: New York Court Ruling" was one of horror and revulsion.  On the issue of civil liberties, I am as pretty far-left as one can probably get, with the exception of enabling cyber-predators to go online and hook up with young kids. 

I remember the Dateline NBC series, "To Catch a Predator", in which Chris Hanson and an organization called Perverted Justice would set up what amounted to sting operations against men who would first meet underage children in a chat room, make lewd sexual comments and suggestions, and set up a meet with the kid.  The "kid" was actually an adult volunteer from Perverted Justice, and upon talking with the online predator, Hanson would try to delve into his head and figure out why he was attempting to inflict rape on a child.  It received a lot of criticism, and perhaps some of it was deserved, but I felt no sympathy for these monsters. 

I began to feel similarly on this matter, as I'd read that the judge who made the ruling wrote in a statement that "purposeful viewing of child pornography is now legal in the state of New York".  I felt positive that it would generate a firestorm from many, myself included.  But I kept reading.  The ruling is meant to protect those who merely "view" these images online, rather than those who download and save it to their computer.  You may be wondering, "what's the difference", but as a lifelong computer user, I began to understand. 

Most people have caching enabled on their computers.  A cache is a component within a web browser that automatically stores data and images that are previously accessed, so that when you access them again, they load faster.  Accidentally accessing a website with pornographic images is a lot easier than you'd think.  All it really takes is looking for a particular website or a file to come across one of these images.  Especially if you're looking for something like the latest movie in theaters.  Also, mis-clicking on a link, which is also very easy and happens to me all the time.  Or opening an email from someone that you don't know and clicking on the link.  In addition, what if a hacker is able to gain access to your computer and can direct your browser to a porn site, which would cache these forbidden images?

After delving into the matter a little further, my understanding was very heightened and I now feel that it was a good ruling.  Apparently, the law that was on the books prior to the ruling was being used to lock up people for up to 20 years for merely having a child porn pic on their computer, without caching being taken into consideration.  Now, a clear pattern of "intent" must be established; someone having a particular folder with pornographic pictures would still be liable for his crimes and would be sentenced, I am sure.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Future We Choose For Us and For Our Children

Guy McPherson's blog "Nature Bats Last" has some good articles, and the one I read today is particularly good.  It raises a particularly good point concerning the parents out there who happen to know of peak oil, our faltering ecological state and everything else.  McPherson writes that he personally knows people who know all these things and yet, decide not to take action to adjust their lifestyles because they want a "better world" for their children.  There appears to be, at least in my mind, a kind of cognitive dissonance in how this "better world" is defined.  These parents want their kids to have access to the technological goodies and modern conveniences that they and their parents/grandparents have enjoyed.  This could prove to be difficult in the years ahead, both due to energy scarcity and the increased loss of capital.  In addition, their notion of "protecting" their children from the somewhat harsh realities of these predicaments, in favor of a future that may very well fail to materialize, can do much more harm than good. 

I am not a parent, and almost certainly won't be in the future, but a common-sense approach that I'd advocate for those of you who are reading this, do have children, and see the world in a similar fashion as myself and people like Guy McPherson, is to teach your kids some form of self-reliance.  Give them chores and responsibilities that have as little to do with gadgetry and modernity as possible.  If you can't fully cut them off from the allure of television and video games, give them sparingly.  And teach them about the history of the world and the circumstances that have led us to this point.  People may think that that's too much for a child to withstand, but I think that this is the best time to reach out to a child on these matters.  They are easy to reach and are not yet stuck in a certain way of doing things.  The alternative is much worse.  Don't hide them from the truth and don't let them become so deluded that a path to a middle-class lifestyle (or the life that you as a parent currently live) is possible, even as that lifestyle becomes harder and harder to achieve and maintain.  I speak from some form of experience, but my parents, like many others, simply could not see the signs.  In the present, that is not an excuse, as the signs of collapse appear to be everywhere, and the only reason one cannot see them is because they simply are not paying attention.