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Thursday, June 30, 2011

About the guy at the gym

This morning I was at one of the beautiful gyms at ASU. And now I remember why I normally wear headphones .... not because of the terrible music they play (that's bad enough), but because of the loud mouth people that occasionally sit in there and tell their life stories instead of working out.

Don't get me wrong, this guy was muscular. He works out. But he had a small head (sort of like the guy to the left).

This guy almost did not stop talking the whole time he was in there. And since the gym was nearly empty, it was very quiet. Thus, his shouting to the girl he was talking to could easily be heard by me, even all the way across the gym.

I remember one thing he yelled to her: "You don't have an Internet connection at your place? Or a cell phone? How do you know what is going on in the world???!!!???!!!"

His next sentence was, "Like in the Casey Anthony trial."

That's enough said right there, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Supreme Court strikes down Arizona campaign finance law

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a 1998 law that provides additional public money to political candidates for state office who face big-spending opponents violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution because it violates free-speech rights.

This comes shortly after the Court's decision in Citizens United which removed Congressionally approved limits on when corporations and unions could "speak" in elections.

This conservative Court is quickly making it more and more difficult for small people--regular people--to have their voices heard.

The Arizona law--called the Citizens Clean Elections Act--was specifically created in the wake of some serious corruption scandals to lesson the impact of money on elections. Currently, the candidate who spends the most money almost always wins.

Rulings like these help assure that candidates who raise a lot of money will not only win but also will likely represent the interests of those who give them money. And the people who give them money are not us, according to the data. Far less than 1% of Americans give $200 or more to a candidate or political party.

So if money = free speech, this simply means people with money have more rights to speech than people without money.

And it means the system is rigged in favor of people with money against people without.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Supreme Court strikes down California ban on violent video games

Do violent video games contribute to violence in society?

My own review of the evidence suggests they do.

But there is still the issue of free speech especially since, in contemporary America, corporations are treated like individual people with rights.

The Supreme Court just struck down California law's that would have banned selling "violent" video games to children. So in this case, freedom of speech wins. Just as in the case where selling "crush videos" depicting small animals being crushed to death is also protected speech.

From NPR:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children, saying it ran afoul of the First Amendment right to free speech.

In one of the most closely watched cases this term, in a 7 to 2 vote, the justices said governments did not have the authority to "restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento had ruled that the law violated minors' rights under the First Amendment, and the high court agreed.

The California law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each infraction.

The decision silenced speculation among lawyers and scholars that the Supreme Court would carve out a new area of regulation to protect children from popular but brutal video games.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the country has no tradition of restricting depictions of violence for children. He said California's law did not meet a high legal bar to infringe on the First Amendment or the rights of parents to determine what's best for their children.

"No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm," Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. "But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."

Although regulating children's access to depictions of sex has long been established, Scalia said there was no such tradition in the United States in relation to violence. He pointed to violence in the original depiction of many popular children's fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White.

"Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore," Scalia added.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented from the decision along with Justice Stephen Breyer, said the majority read something into the First Amendment that isn't there.

"The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that "the freedom of speech," as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors' parents or guardians," Thomas wrote.

In a separate dissenting opinion, Breyer wrote that the issue was "less about censorship that it is about education.

"Sometimes, children need to learn by making choices for themselves," he wrote. "Other times, choices are made for children – by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments."

More than 46 million American households have at least one video game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in 2010.

Next up on the docket?

What can broadcasters put on the air at times when children are watching? My bet with this Court--anything they want!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A new TV show about crime scene clean-up

... seriously?

A new show is coming on the ID channel (Investigation Discovery) called "True Grime: Crime Scene Clean-Up."

Reminds me of the movie The Cleaner with Samuel Jackson.

If we have come to the point where we are so obsessed with crime that producers think this is a good show, we are a sick lot.

And if you actually will watch people clean-up bloody crime scenes for entertainment, there is something seriously wrong with you.

I read the other day that 8 of the top 10 TV shows on now feature images of corpses. That's bad enough, although they are fake and you know they are fake.

Now we have this lovely show, a "reality" show apparently for those among us who just cannot get enough crime and think seeing people clean up real crime scenes is entertaining.

And yes, they even have a FACEBOOK page! Sickos.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For this I might support the death penalty

... or at least perhaps sterilization (for him, not the dogs).

What a shocking and very upsetting story in the news up this way:

"The owner of an alleged puppy mill in Caldwell County has been charged with 104 counts of animal cruelty.
Animal control officers raided Mason Creek Kennels on Thursday and seized 276 dogs, mostly smaller breeds, including some with serious infections who were living in dirty cages stacked on top of one another.

"Today, authorities charged 53-year-old William 'Bill' Thomas Allen, the owner of the kennel on Free Mason Road in Hudson, about 70 miles northwest of Charlotte.

"Allen was released from custody on a written promise to appear in court because he's been cooperating with the investigation, said Shannon Foster, field supervisor of Caldwell County Animal Control.

Released from custody on written promise to appear in court? Really? Wow.

"Allen also faces two counts of failing to bury dead dogs. Those charges and the animal cruelty charges are misdemeanors."

So he had dead dogs lying around, too? Meaning he probably is responsible for killing them, too!

"Authorities said the amount of charges Allen received was based on medical exams performed by veterinarians after the dogs were rescued.

"The dogs' injuries were the result of long-term neglect, rescuers said, with ailments including severe ear infections, matted fur and uterine infections from being overbred."

See, like I said, death penalty. But since he can still have kids, let's at least sterilize this man so he cannot spread his idiocy to others
"Allen surrendered 37 dogs, mostly older females who could no longer have puppies, to animal control the week before the raid, officials said. They were all euthanized."

37 dead dogs! All because of one man!
"Last week, Caldwell County Animal Control Director Greg Greene told the Observer that officers had visited Mason Creek Kennels several times in recent years. Officers had asked Allen to make changes, Greene said, and he initially complied.

"But conditions at the kennel steadily worsened during the past two years as Allen's health declined and he became disabled, Greene said.

"Authorities could not step in until the case reached the point of animal cruelty, Greene said, because there are no laws to prohibit puppy mills or regulate commercial breeders who sell animals to the public.

"Animal advocates have been pushing for three years for a state law to set breeder requirements for veterinary care, housing and exercise. The bill stalled in the General Assembly after some lawmakers called it too controversial.

"The rescued dogs have since been distributed among several animal shelters. On Saturday, more than 40 of the dogs arrived at the Humane Society of Charlotte, where they were sent to foster homes until they're ready to be adopted.

"Allen's first court appearance is scheduled for July 21."

What kind of sick person does this? Personally, I'd support freeing some minor drug offenders from jail or prison to make room for people like this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Show me pictures of a flaccid penis on cigarette packs

The FDA has released its new cigarette warning images, to be displayed on packs as well as advertisements.

I can only say, it's about time. I've been calling for this for two decades, even in my 1998 article, "Tobacco: The Worst Crime in World History?"

And actually, the images are not that bad. Some are even cartoons!

My favorite is probably this one to the left.

Or perhaps this one to the right.

Actually what I'd most like to see is a picture of a flaccid penis since erectile dysfunction is also caused by smoking. It also happens way faster than other pesky things like cancer, heart disease and death.

Plus, young people would actually take notice since they do in fact tend to care about sex and being able to perform.

Students always say to me, "You have to die from something." And I like to reply, yeah but you do want to be able to get it up while you are alive, right?

Erectile dysfunction can occur in men after only ten years of smoking. Which is not only inconvenient and totally NOT sexy, but also is a warning sign for more serious health problems in the future (sorry fellas, the capillaries down there are much smaller than the arteries leading to your heart, so they get clogged up first).
In this Washington Post article, the news media discuss the issue.  It points out this: "At least 30 other countries already require graphic warnings, including some, like Brazil, that go even further than the U.S. messages. Canada, which became the first country to require more graphic warnings in 2000, has seen a significant drop in smoking."

Nice to know we are only about 31st in the world to do this. Too bad we were not the first.

But hopefully we'll see smoking continue to decline anyway.

Monday, June 20, 2011


That is what Ray Lewis thinks.

The LB from the Baltimore Ravens predicts that with a lockout, crime will go up. His words were, "If we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game."

Experts say he is wrong. Specifically, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's PolitiFact group accepted Lewis' invitation to do "research" on the topic, and contacted the Northeastern's Sport in Society Center. According to them, "there is very little evidence supporting Lewis' claim that crime will increase the longer the work stoppage lasts."

The AJC cited a similar crime study.
The Baltimore Sun also looked at crime in 1982 and found an increase during the strike in only one category: homicides.
The Sun tried some other methods to tackle Lewis' claim. The newspaper's Crime Beat blog looked at crime data last season when the Ravens had their bye (off) week. The Sun found there was slightly more crime during the bye week.
The Sun looked at crime in Baltimore the four weeks before the season started and the first four weeks of the season. There was the same number of crimes. The Sun also examined the crime rate there at the end of the Ravens' season and what happened afterward. What did it find? There was less crime after the season ended in early January.

The Sun stressed several times that its findings were unscientific.

Right, unscientific. Meaning they actually don't know the truth and Lewis could be right.

The AJC then went to look at increases in crime during bye weeks, assuming that the no football/higher crime equation would fit a much shorter time frame. No real evidence was presented that would lead in one direction or another.

Of course, bye weeks are not quite the same as a lockout. A lockout lasts much longer than a bye week.

And then there is this gem:
One criminologist we interviewed had a different take. Northeastern University professor James A. Fox heard Lewis' comments and did a study. He looked at key FBI data from the last three years available, 2006 through 2008, focusing on the week before the Super Bowl because there were no games that week and there was intense interest in football around that time of the year. Fox, who was referred to us by the FBI, found no increase in crime the week there was no football.
"I took the Ray Lewis  challenge and I don't see any evidence of [a crime increase]," said Fox, the author of several books on crime who also writes a crime and punishment blog for the Boston Globe.
Now, Dr. Fox is more of a news guy than he is a criminologist. This quote proves it. I mean he actually thinks the week before the Super Bowl is the same thing as a lockout?

That is, simply stated, incredibly stupid.

Personally, I don't know if Lewis is right, but his prediction makes perfect sense to this criminologist. The logic goes like this: People, especially men, watch football in part because of the violence. Watching violence and seeing others suffer from it lowers the likelihood that a person will himself become violent (probably especially when your team wins). Take away the football and you have people, especially men, acting out on violent impulses in the real world instead of sitting on the couch watching TV.

You would think the news media might make an effort to help the reader understand this argument before dismissing it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Closed for vacation!

For anyone checking out the blog, I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

In the mean time, I'll be at the beach!

It's vacation time, people!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Newsweek takes the extraordinary, makes it ordinary

After the alleged RAPE by an enormously wealthy, powerful man -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- Newsweek decided to conduct a poll and run an article about it.

It's called "Hotel Confidential" and in it, Newsweek claims: "It's the dirty secret about business travel. Many married men expect sex along with their room service, according to a NEWSWEEK poll."

Among the findings of their poll are these:

"... of 400 married men ... 21 percent admit to wanting to cheat on their spouse while traveling on business—and 8 percent have actually done so (the majority of them repeatedly)."

"Six percent of the respondents admitted to having paid for sex while traveling on business. Still others acknowledged that they’ve hit on the help: 3 percent of the men in NEWSWEEK’s poll said they’d made a pass at a hotel worker (more than half were rebuffed), and 2 percent had sex with them."

This hardly sounds like an epidemic. Further, it hardly justifies a full story in print and online about the dangers posed to hotel maids across the country!

After all, their own poll shows that 97% of men do NOT hit on hotel staff. And of the 3% who do, what percentage of them rape someone?

Yet, Newsweek writes: "Bo Dietl, TV personality and security consultant for the rich and famous, says he’s now advising clients to avoid any situation while traveling that might seem sexually inappropriate. 'In this day and age, you gotta just watch everybody,' he says."

Watch everybody? Nope, sorry, when I go to hotels I feel perfectly safe, as I am sure the maids do, too. The findings of Newsweek's poll convince me of that.

Finally, Newsweek links one story to many that are unrelated: "Certainly, powerful men behaving badly at hotels is hardly a novelty. NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee in Eagle, Colo., in 2003 (the case was settled out of court). In 2006 former vice president Al Gore was accused of groping and kissing a massage therapist at a hotel in Portland, Ore. And it was at a Ritz-Carlton that sports announcer Marv Albert attacked his mistress and forced her to have oral sex after she refused to have a three-way (he pleaded guilty)."

So the problem is actually what powerful men do, no? On that, Newsweek is silent.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's HIS "Weiner," so who cares?

I've been disappointed, once again, in the news media's fascination with what Anthony Weiner did with his wiener.

After all, it's his "Weiner."

I'm not saying it's cool to cheat on your wife. Or to use state or federal computers for activities that are unrelated to work (if he indeed did this).

The point is this should never have been a news story anyway.

Granted, it's his fault the story got out. After all, he is the one that "accidentally" used his Twitter account to post a picture of his wiener.

And then he made the mistake of lying about it over and over again.

But then, who gave him the opportunity to do so? Who invited him, over and over again, to appear live on television, to talk about this silly issue?

The news media.

All of the channels, in fact.

And as he spoke, who showed close-ups of the man's genitals in his underwear for all to see?

The news media.

Meanwhile, there are some very important issues being set aside so that we can all learn about Weiner's wiener. For example, we've all been screwed (excuse the pun) by elites who created an economic crisis and yet continue to get even richer in spite of our suffering through pay cuts, benefit reductions, and job losses.

We're hearing nothing about how this came about, who is responsible, what should happen to them, how to prevent it from happening again, and how to finally get out of a bad economy!

I guess perhaps we are getting what we deserve. As long as we care more about what public servants do with their wieners rather than their actions as lawmakers, elites must know they can do whatever they want.

Well, as long as they don't tweet pictures of their genitals, that is.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What, exactly, are crimes of the powerful?

You watch the news.

You read it, too.

From these activities, what is your sense of the term "crimes of the powerful?"

Here are the top two stories this morning from 

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is scheduled to be arraigned today on sexual assault charges stemming from an alleged attack on a New York hotel maid in May. FULL STORY
The insistence that former presidential candidate John Edwards serve jail time over allegations he broke campaign finance laws caused a collapse in plea negotiations, a source says. FULL STORY

From these stories, one might get the sense that "crimes of the powerful" are acts of sexual misconduct (because Straus-Kahn allegedly raped a maid and Edwards had an affair and had a baby out of wedlock) or just minor misuses of campaign money.

But in fact, the powerful are the most dangerous people on the Earth.

Their crimes kill and hurt more people than all street crimes combined, and their actions cost us more in property losses than all street crimes combined, as well.

This is one of the main points of the book, and yet, there is little to no news media coverage of it. Even though our country still reels from the economic collapse caused by the massive and widespread fraud of the powerful in the financial industries of America.

The data, with full explanation, can also be seen in my book, Greed is Good.

Friday, June 3, 2011

From Credo Action -- Tell the Media to COVER THE NEWS!

Got this email today and I could not agree more. What follows is an email from Credo Action about media coverage of Sarah Palin, who is not even a candidate for office at this time.
"All Sarah Palin had to do was get on board her gigantic red, white and blue 'One Nation' bus. The media did the rest.
"All week, a throng of news reporters have blindly followed Palin, granting her wall to wall coverage on all the major news networks — despite the fact that she wouldn't tell anyone where she was going, and that she didn't do anything to merit news coverage once she got there.
"It's totally absurd. Sarah Palin isn't news. She's a reality TV personality and FOX commentator, who can't decide if she wants to run for President.
"Until she commits, the media needs to stop treating her like a star candidate, and instead, report on any number of issues that actually have an impact on our lives — something members of the media once felt a solemn obligation to do.
"Instead of fawning over ridiculous, ignorant Palin-isms like 'I love that smell of the emissions!' ABC could have reported on the dramatic announcement that same day by the International Energy Agency, that global carbon emissions in 2010 hit a record spike, and reached the highest level in history.1
"Instead of devoting four of their five top stories to Palin as they did online on Wednesday, CNN Politics could devote more resources to examining the extremist positions of declared candidate who have announced actual Presidential campaigns.
"CBS could expose the utter insanity and irresponsibility of the Republican budget plan — which lavishes giveaways on corporations and the ultra-rich, abolishes medicare, and would require tax increases on the middle class.2 NBC could get old-school and investigate fraud and malfeasance on Wall Street. FOX News could report on the corrupting influence of the rapid escalation of corporate money in our political system.
"Or on the Koch Brothers. Or the Chamber of Commerce. Or the Canadian tar sands, Elizabeth Warren, the Powder River basin, the war on women, the war on science, the war on clean air, the two endless wars our nation continues to fund, fight, and send soldiers to die in.
"After the general public's disgust at the excessive coverage of Donald Trump, this should have been obvious. But major networks didn't get the memo. Let's make sure they hear us now. We'll deliver your petition to the news directors of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News.
"As our nation continues to face major challenges, it's essential that Americans understand the choices we are facing, and how the decisions of our leaders impact our lives.
"The media should play a lead role in that process, and treat the word "news" with more respect and importance.
"It's ironic then that instead of relevant news, we get incessant coverage of the former candidate who couldn't name a single newspaper. It's time for that to change.
Thanks for fighting for more substantive media coverage.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

This is about as absurd as when CNN allowed Michelle Bachmann to appear live after President Obama's state of the union address to deliver the "Tea Party" response? Even though the Republicans had already responded live, and even though Michelle Bachmann is a Republican, and even though there is no such thing as the "Tea Party."

So, are you going to sign? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The real Law & Order: SVU

Law & Order: SVU is one of the most popular shows on television.

As shown in the book, the popular crime/cops show creates major misconceptions in viewers. For example, only about half of the episodes on TV deal with sex crimes, and many deal with murders of white males. Two-thirds of victims are white (black female victims almost completely absent from show, even though they have the highest rates of victimization in reality). Further, women are overrepresented as offenders (33%) and are depicted as  particularly cruel and violent. Finally, most victims (60%) are dead by end of show, even though less than 10% of sex crimes actually result in death.

This week, Newsweek magazine shows us the real Special Victims Unit in New York in this article.

Here is some of what it says:

"Understaffed, underfunded, and overworked, Special Victims detectives often sleep on grimy mattresses or cots in the office and can seem like victims themselves ....

"The door on the second-floor office bears a fading poster: “Manhattan Special Victims Squad, MSVS, Home of the World’s Greatest Detectives,” but it opens onto piles of cardboard boxes filled with files and a motley collection of clothes on hangers. This is nothing like the sets for the television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and ironic, slightly sad smiles break out among the cops whenever you mention the show. There used to be 28 detectives here, doubling up on desks. Now, thanks to budget cuts and jurisdictional changes, just nine Special Victims detectives cover all of Manhattan. One woman detective, since transferred, put up holiday decorations last year, or was it the year before? Nobody’s taken them down or remembers exactly when they went up. Over the door to the conference room, cutout paper letters proclaim 'Happy Halloween.'"

Sounds like a great place to work, no? Or perhaps a great TV show?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crime Fiction Picks Serve Up Summertime Suspense

Let's not forget that one of the original forms of media is the book!

In this article, NPR  recommends FIVE good summer time crime novels.

I'm personally NOT a big fan of crime fiction (there is enough of it in the real world). But I understand why people like it. If you're one of them, check out these books.