Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jamey Rodemeyer

I was trying to avoid posting something about Jamey Rodemeyer, but I am having trouble ignoring it, so here goes:

For those who are unaware, last week (9-18-2011) 14 year old Jamey committed suicide. The factors which contribute to something like this are many and varied. In Jamey's case there had been a history of bullying, but as a health care professional I have to say that this by itself is not a cause of suicide. It is a contributing factor.

Nevertheless, I am astounded at the actions of many in this case (though I shouldn't be - it happens all the time). Bullying should never be acceptable. I am sure the bullies - and their parents - at this moment feel no remorse and no sense of responsibility - after all, they did not kill Jamey. Jamey killed Jamey. Yet responsible they are, and accountable they should be.

If a person commits a felony, and in the process of that crime someone is killed, the perpetrator is charged with murder. It doesn't matter that they did not intend to physically harm the victim: if the crime had not happened, the death would not have occurred. I think this should be the case for bullying. If you bully someone who then commits suicide, you should be charged with homicide, the degree of which would be determined by the nature of the bullying.

Some, notably Lady Gaga, are calling for a new law to be enacted in Jamey's name. I don't think that should be necessary, though since bullying itself is not a crime, I do support Lady Gaga's efforts. And may I offer some wording for Jamey's law?

The excuse, "I was only bullying him, I did not pull the trigger/put the rope around his neck/etc." is as valid as "I only ran over that person because I was drunk and s/he was in my way."

And that says a lot, coming from me. Why? Because I so totally disagree with our current "justice" system. But that is a topic for another blog entry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I have always loved to read. When I was in elementary school it became obvious to my parents that "grounding" me was not a very effective punishment if I was allowed to read, so "not being able to read" had to be part of my grounding.

However, when I was in junior high reading became a chore. I constantly had to write book reports, and they had to be written a specific way, and had to be about books from a specific list ... and I was never really interested in any of the books from the list.

So for years I didn't read - well, not anything that wasn't specifically assigned.

Also, when I was young, I would come home from school and do my homework first. It usually took me about 1/2 hour to 1 hour. After that I had time to do my chores and then have fun (play with my friends, watch TV, whatever). I remember I loved school - it was great to go to a place where I could spend 6 hours with my friends, the work wasn't that bad, and I was able to get very good grades.

But now I notice that kids come home from school and have two, three, four hours of homework - most of it just for the sake of giving homework. In my opinion, that's too much. I find it hard to believe anyone could enjoy life having to do that much busy work. The system seems to be geared toward driving the enjoyment out of life, just like my middle school drove the love of reading out of me.

I'm back to loving reading again. It happened in high school when I got to a pair of teachers (two years of English) who said, "Yeah, read whatever you want and then come tell me about it." It was much easier then to read things I liked and then discuss the book with someone else who had read it. I got to read Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Lord of the Flies, a couple of HG Wells stories - all very enjoyable, all thanks to teachers who wanted me to enjoy reading, not find it a chore.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Warfare

For several weeks now this notion of "class warfare" has been bantered about in the media. Actually, it's been used before, but recently it's been gaining in popularity, and I completely understand why. Do you?

Let me begin by introducing the word of the day: demagoguery. Excuse me if I borrow the following from Wikipedia (mostly because I like the goofy letters used in pronunciation keys):
Demagogy (/ˈdɛməɡɒdʒi/[1]) or demagoguery (/ˈdɛməɡɒɡəri/[2]) (Greek: δημαγωγία, from δῆμος dēmos "people" and ἄγειν agein "to lead") is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes.

The concept has been discussed since ancient times, as far back as we have been able to trace intelligent persons willing to discuss the tools their leaders use to increase the number and dedication of their followers. Look at that definition: impassioned rhetoric, prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities - anyone think these are positive qualities? Anyone think these are tools to making good decisions? Anyone think decisions based on demagoguery will lead to a better future?

So back to "class warfare." The phrase brings to mind a battle in which one (or more) classes is pitted against the others. It implies that there is an attacking party and a defending party. If there is an attacking party, said party may be attacking justly or unjustly. The same can be said of the defending party (defending their position, whether that position is defensible or not). The Grand Old Party maintains Obama has called the middle and lower classes to arms against the upper class.

I must say, I like John Fuglesang's observation: 'Class Warfare' is when the bottom 98% fights back (!/JohnFugelsang 19 sept 2011). What I don't like is that this presumes we are fighting a war - which I think Obama is trying to avoid. It presumes that asking people to pay "their fair share" (jeeze, whenever I say or think that I hear it falling out of the Governator's mouth) is tantamount to the opening salvo at Lexington on April 19, 1775 or Gavrilo Princip's two shots on June 28, 1914. At this point, Obama has only asked that those who have more, give more.

Let me use an analogy: Jeff has a decent income. He is neither rich nor poor. David and Betty make much less, and Carla and Rebecca qualify as legally 'poor.' Theo is a multimillionaire. They are all "friends," and Theo says, "Hey, let's go to dinner at El Torito Grill."

Jeff orders Surf and Turf, which consists of a 6 oz filet mignon and 8 oz of lobster tail. $45
David and Betty each decide on a 1/2 pound hamburger with fries. $25 each
Carla and Rebecca go along reluctantly, mostly due to feeling socially obligated, and split an appetizer. $9 each.
Theo also orders the Surf and Turf, but since he eats at El Torito Grill at least 3 times per week and always brings a bunch of friends, his meal is comped by the chef.

Is it fair for Theo, the richest of the group, to not have to pay for his meal, while Carla and Rebecca have to pay $18 for an appetizer? Would it be "class warfare" for Jeff to mention to Theo, "Hey, maybe you should talk to the Chef and ask them to not comp your food, since you can afford the meal much more than Carla or even I?"

I don't think this should be a war, and it only is because of demagoguery: the Grand Old Party knows that by mentioning "class warfare" they will get a visceral reaction from their constituents, a gut instinct to vote against yet another war.

As John Stewart says, let's tone down the rhetoric and make some sane decisions to get our country back on the right track.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I don't know why, but my family constantly sends me spam - most notably my mother and my sister. Since much of it is political, I wonder if maybe they're trying to convert me - but whatever.

I guess I should start by saying I am an apolitical socially progressive fiscal conservative (read: Marc is all over the map). My mother and my sister appear to be hard core republicans if not tea partiers. Usually I just try to avoid the politalk because I don't think it gets me anywhere except smack in the middle of Argueville. However, when my family sends me emails - even spam - I at least glance over it to see what it's about.

The thing is, whenever it is political, it's not just info or opinion, it is flat out bashing of any democratic candidates or office holders (current or past, doesn't matter). Every email I receive demonizes democrats, as if having one in office will bring about Satan's rule on Earth. And whenever I fact check any of it, it's always half-truths or complete lies.

What I wonder is, why does this always seem to be the Republican/Tea Party tactic? I'm not saying that there are not lies floating around about Republicans or Tea Partiers - but I have never seen a Republican or a Tea Partier demonized in spam. I hesitate to say it, but it makes me think they don't have any substance to offer, so the only thing they can do to make themselves look good is to make everyone else look horrible.

I have to be wrong. I just have to be. But I haven't found the proof. Anyone?