Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just the facts...Not!

"Conservative commentator Glenn Beck and Tea Party champion Sarah Palin appealed Saturday to a vast, predominantly white crowd on the National Mall to help restore traditional American values and honor Martin Luther King's message."

That was the first line of the Sunday AP story of the Beck rally in Washington. After I read that, my eyes darted back to the "predominantly white crowd" part of that statement and it got me thinking. Isn't it interesting how the use of one or two words can change the focus of a news article? While I should have been more focused on the rally itself, I couldn't help but think about the "predominantly white crowd".

One could argue that "predominantly white" was merely a factual description of the crowd and that it is a newspaper's job to report facts. If anyone did a demographics on the crowd, it is possible it was predominantly white. But the sentence in the article conveys the impression that conservatism and traditional American values appeal only to whites and that blacks aren't interested in the actions of our government.

But that's not all.

That first line was followed by "Civil Rights leaders who accused the group of hijacking King's legacy held their own rally and march".

Suppose the sentence had read: "Black civil rights leaders who accused the group of hijacking King's legacy, held their own rally and march."

Wouldn't that seem to convey the impression that only those who believe in King's message were black and that only blacks believe in civil rights? Of course you and I know that's not true, people from all walks of life believe in King's message and support civil rights for all Americans. But then if that were reported it would be boring wouldn't it? It wouldn't sell papers, wouldn't sell advertising and wouldn't cause controversy. And controversy sells news.

You may think it's a stretch but I'm sticking with it here. The strategic placement of a few words can spin an entirely different impression of the facts, detracting away from the real story and making relevant facts meaningless. This article is one example. How on earth do you go from a rally intended to unite Americans for the purpose of making their government more accountable to a black vs. white issue?

It's no wonder so many Americans are tired of the news and don't trust it. It's because so much of what is reported isn't really news, it's just spin, someone's opinion of what really happened. It seems, when it comes to news, the facts are no longer relevant.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Something to think about...

I know that in America the justice system isn't perfect. But we can't turn a blind eye and say "that's just the way it is".

There are people incarcerated in prison for 20, 30, 40 years and even life due to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws.

There are innocent people who have been convicted of drug trafficking and conspiracy simply for living in a house or being in a car with or in the company of (unbeknownst to them) someone who was actually involved in trafficking and conspiracy.

There are innocent people who have been unjustly convicted and incarcerated under mandatory minimum sentences because they refused to admit guilt (they were not involved) and the guilty parties pointed their fingers at these individuals in an effort to make deals with prosecutors for lesser sentences.

There are people who are addicted to prescription and non-prescription drugs who are sentenced in long prison terms for their addiction instead of being sent to rehab.


Mandatory minimums allow ZERO discretion for judges. Judges need discretion because every case is DIFFERENT!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cancer Fund of America a bad deal...

Nothing pulls at the heartstrings like fundraising for cancer right?

I was sitting in my recliner this morning doing research for my classes while watching House when the phone rang. I asked, "Hello?" several times, nothing. Finally just as I was ready to hang up, I hear a voice asking for me by name. I said "speaking" and then the woman on the other line proceeded to tell me she was calling from Cancer Fund of America ( 877-867-4596 ) and that she would keep me on the phone no more than sixty seconds. Before I could tell her I wasn't interested, she tells me that she won't presume cancer has affected my family followed by "I'm sure it has affected you in some way". Before I could tell her "no not quite yet" she went on about it. So lucky for me, her clock began to tick....remember...sixty seconds.

She told me something about wanting to help people with cancer by aiding in their actual needs rather than research. She then told me that they would send me a packet and that I could donate whatever I wanted. She asked me what I would pledge over the phone and then after I received the packet they would give me thirty days before contacting me. I told her I would rather know their website so I could take a look at things myself. She kept insisting they should mail something to me. I insisted on their website. She kept interrupting me until I remained firm on my request. She gave me their URL which is www.cfoa.org and while we were on the phone I pulled them up. Ok so they at least had a website. That was a start.

In checking their site, I noticed the big "Donate" button. I told her that if I chose to donate I could do so through my credit union billpay system but first I wanted to check out their organization. She kept insisting that they send me a donation kit. (Like I want or need more junk mail!?). I again told her that preferred to check out the website and do my homework first.

Finally I said, "Listen, I want to check out your website first and make my own decision" and she became short with me. I sensed she was about to hang up on me and so I said, "thank you" and hung up on her.

Sure I checked them out, as soon as I got off the phone. Like I said, I'm a skeptic. We donate to several worthy organizations and one of the important criteria is the amount of $$ that actually goes to the cause vs. administration. It didn't take long to discover that CFOA has a ZERO rating on Charity Navigator, a site that I find a very useful. Charity Navigator ranks thousands of charities with comprehensive information on how their money is spent and they do their homework.

In 2008, CFOA raised $13,786,818 however their program, administrative and fundraising expenses were $15,610,466. Hmm...a deficit. This means that ZERO DOLLARS were directed to the people they were supposed to be helping!

The prior year, CFOA disbursed a whopping $54,000 to their cause (most of which was the result of a lawsuit filed against them). Meanwhile their CEO and others at the highest levesls of the company raked in over half a million in salary.

I know there are expenses in running a charitable organization but this is absolutely unacceptable. Someone who claims to be part of the leadership of CFOA commented on Charity Navigator's site that the comments about the costs were not correctly reported, but it can't be disputed that the numbers come right from the reports they are required to file with the Federal Government. I've seen reports for charities that do similar work and their costs are far lower.

So to all you folks who are getting calls from CFOA, watch out. The only people benefiting from this organization are the people who run it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ultimatums

Have you ever issue an ultimatum? You do this or ____________

It's interesting. Ultimatums don't work unless you actually follow through. But I am guessing most of the ultimatums given are not meant to be followed through. If you have no intention of following through, it's probably a bad idea. But still...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Man arrested for yelling at kids on school bus...

A guy in Stockbridge Georgia was arrested (click on link) for boarding his daughter's school bus and yelling at the 25 students on it. His daughter had come home crying that one of the boys on the bus was bullying her.

The guy has been charged with 25 counts of making "terroristic threats" and 25 counts of "child cruelty"

Are you KIDDING?

If your little girl came home crying because a boy was bullying her and nobody did anything about it, what would you do?

Terroristic acts and child cruelty my ASS. This guy was just protecting his daughter. And these days we should be THANKFUL for parents who step up to the plate and do it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Exactly what does it mean to be un-American?

It has been long assumed that being un-American is doing that which is opposed to American ideals, for example a belief in socialism, communism, fascism and the like--things that are in conflict with core American values. Hey if you believe in those things, more power to you. I don't agree with you but then it takes all kinds of people to make a world. Think how boring life would be if we were constantly surrounded by people who agreed with us. At first it might seem kind of cool but it would get boring real quick.

The word un-American is tossed around a lot but what really does it mean? Surely having a certain set of beliefs, any beliefs, no matter how unpopular, can't possibly clash with core American values, right? I mean America is all about people having different beliefs, opinions, and values.

New York Mayor Bloomberg believes that Nancy Pelosi's requested investigation of who is behind the funding of the proposed cultural center/mosque at Ground Zero, is un-American. It's certainly Bloomberg's right to believe that but really what right does he have to call someone with a dissenting opinion, un-American?

Nancy Pelosi is calling for an investigation to determine who is behind the funding of the anti-Mosque movement. It is certainly her right to believe there's some "rogue" element behind the dissent but any investigation into this would be a blatant violation of one of our most sacred freedoms and it would in fact be un-American.

Dissent, disagreement, and protest is in fact--AMERICAN! What is un-American is the attempt to discourage it. Our nation was founded on it. Our Founding Fathers risked their lives to sign a document declaring it. Millions of Americans have died to protect it.

So, to hell with this crap. To Bloomberg and Pelosi and the rest of them...you can kiss my un-American ass. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obsessed.

Since my dad's death last March, I've been somewhat obsessed with understanding what he went through after his stroke and the coma which ended with his death 24 hours later. Shortly after his death I was obsessed constantly, now it only hits me every now and then, in that I go on these research binges here and there, just trying to understand.

I'm sure I will be told I should see a therapist. But you know, I don't have time for a therapist, so this is my therapy. I write about it. That and I've got dad's medical records and will be obtaining the images of his brain taken at the hospital. The folks at the hospital were incredibly helpful, even referring me to their chaplain if I needed anything. I need to get those images. I need to see what his brain looked like. Why? Because I need to be able to imagine what he was thinking and feeling in his last hours.

There is the belief that in a coma, consciousness exists so long as the individual is breathing. The brain stem controls hearing and it is generally accepted that coma patients can hear since that is controlled by the brain stem and the last of the senses to deteriorate when a person is dying. I am certain dad heard us when we talked around him. That said, I just need to know what was going on in his brain during those final hours.

I believe God works in mysterious ways and everything happens for a reason. I believe there is a reason he was not meant to get to the hospital sooner. The doctors might have administered the t-PA in the first three hours but according to the doctors it likely would not have had any effect. Dad's health was already going downhill when he had the stroke. That said, we know that dad did not want to live in a state in which he could not care for himself. That was very important to him and he made us promise him we would never let that happen. I think he always worried mom would not be able to make that choice.

For dad, it was about quality of life and never having to rely on his family or others to take care of his basic needs. He wanted to go to the bathroom on his own, feed himself, and not require someone to wipe the drool from his face. I believe that God helped dad and us by taking away our choice. After dad's stroke, mom went into a state where she was unable to rationalize the events taking place, which impeded her ability to make a choice. I believe God worked through her by removing her ability to rationalize so she would not be in the position to make the choice. Looking back, there has never been a moment that I wished things had gone differently because you have to be careful what you wish for. And none of us could have lived with ourselves if dad had lived----but in a state he always wanted to avoid. In reality, dad died in peace. That is what he wanted and that's all that matters.

In the end, I think my need to understand the last hours of his life has something to do with coming to terms with my own mortality. Dad's death made me realize finally that I am not going to live forever. When a person who is a rock in your life dies, it does make you rethink things. And it is no wonder in the past year and a half I've been pondering my life's meaning. Everyone says "oh don't worry about what your purpose is, just live" but they don't understand what's behind it. To understand life I have to understand death. If every now and then I have to question my purpose here by rehashing dad's death I guess that's what I have to do. I have to believe his death meant something, that it wasn't in vain, that it is supposed to teach me something.

The "need to know" mood hits me only occasionally and perhaps when it does that's when dad is working through me. I know he's with me all the time, as long as you remember someone they always remain with you. But when it hits me I have to go with it. I'm drawn to it. And sometimes we can't escape our destiny. In any case, I'll continue doing what I have to do to deal with this in my own way, crazy as it may seem. And I'll keep talking about it, and you guys will keep reading it. And what will be will be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I was arrested!

I went to class to take an exam I wasn’t prepared for. I hadn't had time to finish reading the chapters so I told the person giving the exam I had been sick (which I had been just not prior to the exam). The person giving the exam was a proctor and not the actual professor.

She told me I had to take it and I said better to take it and get something than get a zero on it. There I was trying to take the exam, it was tough, it was matching terms or something. A lot of stuff I hadn't studied. Eventually a lot of people finished and left. My mom wound up in the room (I have no idea how or why) and somehow she was trying to help me by getting the answers from the instructor's manual. I was sitting on a bed or couch and trying to do this exam. She was near the teachers guide or something. I remember sitting somewhere and the teachers guide was near me when I tried to look at it, it was blurry so I couldn’t get a good luck while the teacher was out of the room.

Next thing I know, the teacher is there and he had heard me say something to the proctor about me sending an email to him (the prof) about needing more time to study as I had been sick. The professor never recalled getting my email. His name was Dr. Alex Courtelis (no relation to Alec Courtelis) and was an older man, dark hair with gray, dark skin, maybe Middle Eastern descent, perfect English.

Suddenly I am at this hotel and I must have needed a shower or something. There was this shower towards the back of the hotel room, in a small area surrounded by glass--glass you could see through, like large floor to ceiling windows. It was not a tub or anything, it was the kind of shower you might use at a beach after getting out of the water or at a pool just before you go in. I think another room adjoined it across the way or something. I went over to it and got under it fully dressed to clean up and next thing I know the people who were staying in the room were on the other side of the glass doing something and they got mad at me and called the police.(There's also this part of the dream in between all this where my shirt I wanted to wear to work had some pen marks on it and I tried to clean it).

Anyway, I told the people who were staying in the hotel room that me using their shower was a stupid thing to do but I can't remember what excuse I gave them. They had called the police, who got really nasty with me and the next thing I know the sheriff orders them to shackle my hands. I began screaming at them and the Sheriff was a real asshole and he decided since HE was the sheriff he would make my life miserable. He kept me sitting there outside with these things on my arms and refused to let me have a phone call or lawyer. I was angry and I told him where he could go and the more I yelled at him the more he vowed to make my life hell. And I told him I would sue him when I got out. The people who had called the cops, at first they were mad at me, VERY mad for using their shower, but then they began to get mad at the cop for being so mean. I began wishing I were a lawyer so I could sue them for violating my Constitutional rights. This young cop came up to me and told me I was making his job difficult but I didn’t care. I was pissed.

Then I woke up. The most vivid thing I remembered when I woke up was being really pissed off at the police and wanting to get back at that Sheriff using the law against him. It's odd because I am one who respects police. At the same time I'm very aware there are corrupt police, like there are corrupt people anywhere else. No more, no less. What was this dream all about?

Monday, August 09, 2010

It's simple. Do your job or get out.

I was talking to a student today whose major is in another department on campus. He told me that he's having some difficulties getting assistance from his major professor, some others in the department as well as the person who handles the student services in his graduate program. He told me this woman is nice to certain students but not others. Trust me, this student has a very pleasant demeanor and is very friendly, always smiling, so I have a hard time believing he would be deserving of a bad attitude from a staff member.

This student told me that his major professor doesn't contribute to his program, doesn't give him any advisement as to what courses he should take, and in general isn't very helpful. The student is in his first year and there is no departmentally established curriculum for his program of study. When he asks "what courses should I take that will help me in my program?" he is told "take anything you want" and that is NOT advisement. He told me that several students in this department are in the same position as he is and nobody wants to complain because nobody wants to rock the boat.

This is one of the problems of career service in higher education. People are in the system so long they forget how to do their jobs. They forget how to care. The person in this student's program who handles the graduate student services should be doing her job and answering student questions and directing them to the appropriate resources for help. Sure at times there are students who ask you the same things over and over again. And sure there are students who don't pay attention to the policies and wind up begging for help at the last minute when they had all semester to take care of their problems. But in the end, we can't say no. We have a responsibility to help them within the guidelines of course.

And as to the professor, the major advisor who has been at the University for nearly 30 years, he needs to either get with the program or retire. At an institution of higher learning, there is NO room for people like him and yet there's nothing you can do about it because they have tenure. That's right, tenure.

At institutions of higher learning there are some professors who shouldn't be there. They should have either been fired or retired a long time ago. Same goes for some of the staff. These people use and abuse the system because as everyone knows "when you work for the state, you can't be fired". That's common knowledge at many state institutions as it is in state government. This is why you find professors who have broken all sorts of rules and remain employed, this is why you find staff who sit on their ass all day playing online video games and are rude and mean and nasty to the people they are supposed to be helping. And they get away with it. I hate it. They should be required to do their jobs or be tossed out on their ass.

Do any of us really think that this kind of thing would go on in most private corporations? I don't think so.

Sometimes I have a tough day at work. I wear many hats and many times it can be very difficult to balance all the responsibilities of my job. But my students count on me and I can't let them down. Even if I'm having a bad day, I still have to put that aside and do the right thing.

If only I could figure out how to pass that lesson on to others.