Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finally, A Sports Hero!

The New York Times

The New York Times is reporting a sports hero is giving up the remainder of his contract after an injury forced him out of play. He didn't feel right about accepting  the eleven million.

It is rare for a sports hero to say his family life is more important than the money. He is forfeiting far more in one year than many, many hard-working employees added together make in their entire lifetimes.

The big news is what's behind the news: this is reported as being very rare. His boss manager even admits he wouldn't ever say "you're not able to play, so you should retire." That doesn't happen, and why doesn't it?

Now I am not going to pretend to have knowledge I don't have about why sportsmen are paid so much. I've heard theories. I do know what is right and fair, and I think the amounts of money top sportsmen make is out of proportion to their contributions to society. 

I haven't ever had a sports hero before, but he's one to me. It's a baby step for the sports community, and I wish more were as honest a person as him. I haven't ever bought the idea sportsmen are worth huge contracts, and I've thought about it a lot. It's a societal inefficiency that's gotten way out of whack. They aren't automatically more disciplined than everyone else and I applaud his action. I don't want to say his name, and the full story is here

What do you think, why are top sportsmen supported and paid so much, apart from being crowd-drawing, crowd-pleasing team players?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Revealing American Highway Statistics

A leading American newspaper, USA Today, reports that western and southern states have a higher proportion of fatalities than the northeast. Wyoming, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas have more fatalities, while DC is safest, followed by Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Illinois. Overall, Texas, California and Florida have the highest numbers of fatalities  as this chart shows:

States Deaths Rate
Ala. 848 18
Alaska 64 9.2
Ariz. 807 12.2
Ark. 585 20.3
Calif. 3,081 8.3
Colo. 465 9.3
Conn. 223 6.3
Del. 116 13.1
D.C. 29 4.8
Fla. 2,558 13.8
Ga. 1,284 13.1
Hawaii 109 8.4
Idaho 226 14.6
Ill. 911 7.1
Ind. 693 10.8
Iowa 372 12.4
Kan. 386 13.7
Ky. 791 18.3
La. 821 18.3
Maine 159 12.1
Md. 547 9.6
Mass. 334 5.1
Mich. 871 8.7
Minn. 421 8
Miss. 700 23.7
Mo. 878 14.7
Mont. 221 22.7
Neb. 223 12.4
Nev. 243 9.2
N.H. 110 8.3
N.J. 583 6.7
N.M. 361 18
N.Y. 1,156 5.9
N.C. 1,314 14
N.D. 140 21.6
Ohio 1,021 8.8
Okla. 738 20
Ore. 377 9.8
Pa. 1,256 10
R.I. 83 7.9
S.C. 894 19.6
S.D. 131 16.1
Tenn. 989 15.7
Texas 3,071 12.4
Utah 244 8.8
Vt. 74 11.9
Va. 757 9.6
Wash. 492 7.4
W.Va. 356 19.6
Wis. 561 9.9
Wyo. 134 24.6
USA 33,808 11

Your chances of having an accident vary dramatically because of where you are.

The study doesn't take into account the idea that fewer cars might make roads safer in the case of bad weather.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Washington National Cathedral: 42nd Martin Luther King Day with The Winans & more

Today's celebration of Martin Luther King Day at the Washington National Cathedral is available online. Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III introduced the program with a rarely heard recording of Martin Luther King in his last sermon at the Cathedral. He promised this  performance the 'most fun' program of the year which had me curious.  Many other ones available at the website are 'fun' too. The Cathedral's Sunday Forums are always interesting and the Sunday Services, all online, are cleansing and restorative emotionally. Watching them online are wonderful occasions for personal reflection at any time.

Urban Nation H.I.P. H.O.P. Choir 

The Talents!!! Today's uplifting performance is very showy, and the camera work is excellent, so it is very entertaining to watch. The music, as can be seen on the webcast, is well-rehearsed, an intense and moving program.

Pianists, guitarists and groups of singers and dancers in colorful gear made an altogether riveting and emotional program. The popular well-known crossover singers the Winans family made a surprise appearance. Many more artists sang along to well-known songs such as  "We Shall Overcome", far more than I can name, I'm sorry. Hip-hop violinist  Daniel D played an amazing see-through violin with  fluid sounds reminding me of the rushing waters of a mountain stream.

Watch it here at the Washington National Cathedral website. The Winans are on past halfway. It's well worth watching all the way through the program.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

FOR Stricter Gun Controls

Revelations some families condone gun possession for recreational use, hunting, for self-defense against animal or human aggressors, and for presents, as gifts are described in this article in The Huffington Post.

As reasons to understand gun ownership in an open society, let's take apart the arguments.  These are words to use to say to your personal circles, if you are in favor of strict laws, or  just need reasons to lose the unwanted, inherited weapons, capable of mass destruction.

Using guns for recreational use, as aggressors and hunters do, is not popular in areas of the country with developed houses, suburbia, and the cities. Sure, the military use them; police use them; even farmers use them. For food, health-inspected meat from a grocery store is more safe and appropriate to eat (even better for your health is a plant-based diet).  Guns are dangerous to children and to wives in the hands of abusive husbands.

The next argument: guns are for self-defense. Guns are used more for offense, not  self-defense, as many studies show. Both human and animal aggressors are infrequent in rural areas.  Human aggressors should be recognized as the criminals they are;  they face severe legal penalties when caught and punished. Animal aggressors, wild animals with rare exceptions, do not attack humans unless provoked or cornered.

Lastly, guns as gifts. Wonder if families talk about them as they sit around the dinner table and thank each other for those guns. A gift of money, on the other hand, the hard stuff, would be more useful now and to the next generation.

The author of that article, Mitchell Bard, says politicians in the northeastern U.S. are far more likely to condone gun control than politicians in the south and west, with the exception of California. This map, from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, proves gun controls are strongest in California  (scoring 79/100 points) and the northeastern states, and weakest in the midwest, especially Arizona (scoring only 02/100 points!). If every bullet cost an unreasonable amount of money, and if politicians cleaned up their words of vitriol, there wouldn't be any point selling guns; the demand simply wouldn't be there. I know, I'm dreaming.

History lesson: President George W. Bush endorsed the pro-gun lobby for the people of America, and in 2008, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling, allowing guns for self-defense. Notably unhelpful, since guns and ammunition can already be sold without background checks. There are only "gun shows"...There are no "victim  shows"...

America's powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) spends a fortune with emotional appeals on television to push "freedom" as a message, as if Americans will lose personal freedom if they give up their guns. The aggressive NRA commands Americans to buy them because guns scare away everyone and everything. Words from the other side, against the anonymously funded NRA's brawny slogans is the inspiration for my post, to write for the silent, unrepresented victims, and to urge for stricter gun controls.

True fact:

"Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths, and higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings."
Brady Campaign

Everyone knows we rarely buy anything with the purpose of not using whatever it is. Most people use what they have, especially if they've paid for it. Guns are no exception.

There it is in a nutshell: what we don't have, we aren't likely to use.

Let's not play a game with safety, or think about using a gun to hurt  anyone. Please don't buy a gun to start with, or accept one as a gift. Stop the cycle.

A Canadian reporter wonders why there are so many guns in America here':

I don’t recall anyone saying, “I’m worried this rhetoric might inspire a perfectly sane person, with a coherent political theory, toward violence.”
Yet the initial outrage over the event was lost in the ensuing outrage over the outrage. By midweek, the bullet through the head, the deaths and the injuries almost disappeared.
The extraordinary violence of the act nearly vanished as the media apologized for asking obvious, relevant questions.
... they seemed to swear off asking other relevant questions: Why are there so many bullet wounds to the heads and bodies of Americans? Why is this normal? Why are there so many guns?
 T. Southey. The Globe and Mail.

UPDATE: I would like to thank the writer of an article in The New York Times which investigates current gun control research entitled:  NRA Stymies Firearms Research, Scientists Say, which completely disposes of the counterarguments promoted by the National Rifle Association. The NRA uses brute force without punishment to stop funding of basic government research into gun violence and squelches any form of opposition with billions and billions of dollars in financing, physically intimidating and threatening the lives and livelihoods of scientists, according to the article. 

The power of money to destroy opponents can be just as powerful as that of guns. Unfairly, the NRA has choked off money for basic research that would undoubtedly help increase the safety and comfort of Americans. Would that those who are able could take up the fight against gun violence and help the Brady Campaign, which is a sole provider of gun-related research in America. It could help bring more civility and peace to this divided country. Why not have a closer look at all aspects of the National Rifle Association? If they are a non-profit, they are obligated to welcome the interest, because of the tax benefits they receive from the government. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Violent Lord's Resistance Army in Africa

Imagine a large group of children in America are abducted. All at once, reporters race to cover the incident. Swift reactions are predictably anxious and international news coverage is generous. Yet, according to Human Rights Watch, far worse than that is still happening right now, every day, in northern Uganda, and the silence  in world news  is deafening.  Human rights organisations agree world leaders aren't reacting strongly enough to stop the escalating violence. Covered by few journalists, the violence is being carried out by a group called the Lord's Resistance Army. Calling itself a Christian army, led by a supposedly religious  spiritual leader, the video below, "Dear Obama" offers convincing proof it is not religious at all.

A rebel army has displaced thousands of people from their homes, abducted a whole generation of children and then forced them for years to become soldiers capable of killings and mutilations. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch says America has a moral obligation to stop it, and now.

 According to the Sunday Forum at the Washington National Cathedral led by Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III in a fascinating introduction and conversation on the issue, the LRA is not a Christian group as its leader claims. It is an army concerned with violence against enemies, with no objective, political or religious, and needs to end. It is unlike the Darfur conflict which is racial.

Here's a quick summary of the situation in Northern Uganda:

Army 1: Ugandan Joseph Kony and three to ten associates are training and using kids as young as eight as an army to kill enemies.

Army 2: Ugandan Government Army, funded by the US, is profiteering from American funding and looking the other way from the LRA. There isn't a French or other army in the area.

Problem:  Ugandan  Army  2 isn't stopping Army 1.

Solution:  According to Human Rights Watch,  special foreign forces could use ground intelligence to capture Joseph Kony and his other cohorts and bring them to the Hague Tribunal to face punishment, because the Ugandan Army won't do it, before the violence spreads further and takes a stronger hold as the army of children mature.

Uganda and the surrounding jungle are where a despotic army chief called Joseph Kony, together with a group of fewer than ten other militiamen, have used children to kill their enemies for decades (BBC). Kony  named his army the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) although he is not a religious or spiritual leader. The LRA abducts both boys and girls for the purpose of massacring his enemies without any political or religious objective.

It is not clear what Kony's objective is, apart from engaging in violence. According to members of the press, Kony and the other leaders have reneged on official peace agreements and do fear prosecution if it should come. All of this is happening while America is funding the main Ugandan army which has then taken money and  done nothing to stop the violence, yet has profiteered.

Typically, Mr. Kony ascends a mountain and then uses his cell phone. There, he orders around his army using his phone on the mountain. His child followers believe him when he comes down from the mountain and issues orders they are told are taken from heaven. His army does not allow radios, so these abducted children cannot know their families want them to return home. The abducted children are used as soldiers, and if girls, then taken as wives.  Kony supposedly has over 60 women forced to be sex slaves and called "wives."

Many wonder why the United Nations hasn't stopped the LRA already?...Briefly, we were informed that the LRA  crosses borders to escape detection. The area they fight in is too insecure to have any NGO base. At the same time,  Human Rights Watch, formerly Helsinki Watch, says the US has a moral obligation to stop the violence, and that it would be relatively effective to do so now as a preventative measure against greater violence.

It's an important, under-reported issue because the current generation of Africans in Uganda and the Congo and Sudan is being lost. When schools close, the entire generation of people pressing for social change, doctors and educators and communities are also lost.

There are steps we can take. Urgently, we can support the current legislation on the LRA that has passed President Obama, currently before Congress to do more, meant to bring change to the region. We can also support humanitarian organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Just because the news is not often reported, doesn't mean the situation isn't newsworthy, or that it isn't happening, but just that news organizations can't afford to pay to cover it.

Uganda is a troubled country;  previous dictator, Idi Amin, was accused of committing atrocities, and the country is currently led by President  Museveni and his corrupt army. Let's hope Congress has the sense to pass this legislation, and can bring about a cessation to the violence we know is going on.

Washington National Cathedral   welcomes people of all faiths, a spiritual resource for the nation.With gratitude. Please give generously.
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.sponsors international journalism 
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

America Could Improve Itself

 "Just because you have a mental illness doesn't mean you're prohibited from buying a gun," said an official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaking on condition of anonymity. "You can be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and buy a gun. A judge has to find you mentally ill before you are prohibited." Wall Street Journal, Jan 10, 2011.

Looking at the tragic shooting in Arizona over the weekend, I can just imagine how this  incident in Arizona is going to go over with people in other parts of the world.

It's easy to imagine how parents and families in other parts of the world will now look at America and try to understand why members of  a democracy would murder their own leaders. This is old ground; it's happened many times in the past. But the fact remains, many Presidents have been murdered, and Congress has been harassed with guns.

  1. In comparison to other countries Americans feel no shame or pressure to change gun laws to protect innocents. It is not jumping to a conclusion to suggest this young man would not have shot people had he not had a gun at all.
  2. It's not a weakness to judge a book by its cover, or a man by his actions.Criminals get extra specially respectful treatment with a lot of charitable attention, in the press, to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if there is no doubt of wrongdoing. Because of this criminal action, we are going to hear more about his family, his early life, etc. In contrast, we have not heard even the names of some of the victims, or much about their lives; the victims have not been accorded better, or even as much attention in the media.
  3. The mentally ill, who would have been put away twenty years ago, are now on the streets of America, according to CNN.
  4. Outcomes that Americans fear, e.g. kidnapping and acts of mental disturbance happen because of fear of retribution from officials, who threaten well-wishers with legal action for interference.
Why hasn't it figured into the national psyche to care whether the country is perceived as "kinder and gentler" than other countries. Isn't it about time? Or is justice a concept secondary to the success of a legal argument in general in this country? Is status as a superpower more important than safety at home? If being civilized requires:

  •   mental and physical health care for all
  •   respectful openness of communication without exaggeration
  •   stronger gun control laws 
  •   better admission procedures for immigrants
In what other concrete ways could America be more civilized? Please write a comment. I'm very sorry if this post offends some Americans, but it's my personal view.
Uganda abductions, killings, brutal group without religious connections. inflicting cruel damage wherever they can.

No political objective. reneged on discussions of peace. wants to stay where he is. LRA has a soldier element of 3-400, with about ten key leaders. Soldiers know no other life, and have been abducted into the ideals of Coney. Women have been forced to be sex slaves of the commanders, and is now over several countries.

But it is very effective.

Darfur is based on race. LRA has not been accused of genocide, as in Darfur. But the LRA has been led by a crazy man for 2o years.

LRA are moving in several countries, they split up, in Congo, Sudan and Uganda, Where they are spreading devastation of their movement.

Why is it so hard to find the man and stop him?

Jungle area, not an easy task. Ugandan army, other army has benefited and profiteered. No rush to stop it. Must be a significant change not led by the Ugandan military to stop this. International community has funded many within the Ugandan government military.

Why has the UN not been more engaged?

LRA is going across borders, in remote places, in countries with other conflicts. e.g. congo has focused peacekeeping in the east, and has not responded to problems in other areas, and across borders.

Legislation before President Obama, has objectives and protections and efforts to disarm abductors,...*  the political will there.

More agressive efforts are needed.After Somali, US is not rushing there, is the problem.

Only need a small military approach, e.g. local trackers.

What keeps you going back to such dangerous work that puts your life in significant risk:

I'm angry. Not a magazine has published the conflict...We need people to listen and understand this has to stop.

Observe and report to make sure it does not sit there in silence: Ida:
I want change, and we have to keep pushing. Witnesses have never told their story and bring it to the outside world, to know what they have suffered, and change and bring those reponsible to justice. 4 min clip. please help us to President Obama." Dear Obama"
background anna politicenter website.

What do you have to be sensitive to when you go there?

Depends on how soon after attack. Everyone reacts differently. Some don't want to talk, but usually they do. We have to be sensitive and take signs from them, and have a good interpreter.

Should we play the role of the world's policeman.

Where the attacks are horrific, and govt does not have will, expertise & * we should act.

If 50 schoolchildren were abducted, what would we do in America? Why is it different when it is in Congolese Africa?

New outlets don't have funding to send reporters into region. Doesn't mean conflict is over, just that there is no money to send journalists out there. Politicenter and Human Rights Watch are important places that should be funded to watch this. Much wider coverage in Europe.

French Army have not been in LRA affected areas.

Coney uses spiritual element to instil fear. People believe him, and that he has special powers to escape attacks. People believe they will be forced back into group if they try to escape because of his special powers.(which he doesn't have) . Sawyer, grew up in St Albans parish.

There isn't much Christianity, invoking spirits more.

He would go up on the hill, making cell phone calls, controlling people by coming down and telling people about when attacks would come and making rules. Chidren do not hear from families who want them to come home.

Coney and a handful of others need to be taken, others were victims of abduction. Enslavement have had continued consequences. Children forced to kill, reintegration problems, if lucky enough to find and live again with family. eg 12 year old girl couldn't remember how many she had killed, about 4 a is hard. Was told people are animals, had no psycho-social support to try to help her recover, thousands like this.

Areas are like this. eg. wanted football to get out aggression. No other ways to vent anxiety, need to learn how to play, having lost their whole childhood. Schools close, and generations are lost: change agents, educators and doctors are lost...whole communities are lost.

Put pressure on our government, be effective and successful. Support humanitarian organizations.

GWU at 6:30 this week, to hear the Congolese to hear more.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Better To Look Forward

An article in The Wall Street Journal about Chinese parenting has whipped up a firestorm of attention in the Comment section.

The author, originally from Asia, speaks only of her daughters, is a professor at Yale Law School, and author of a book about "Free Market Democracy" and how it breeds global instability and ethnic hatred. Little wonder, she is aiming to take the same lesson home to Americans, except on the personal scale. She thinks child and teenage freedom possibly lead to a great national weakness of character and strength. For example, she favors competitive classical music for her child over drama, without tolerance for art, and perhaps psychology.

 The article has moved many readers. One comment that boys in China would not have been insulted by their mothers, stays with me and bothers me. It surprises me that a law professor gets away with calling her daughter names like "garbage" and withholds bathroom trips, and yet hasn't been threatened with child removal by the Department of Youth and Family Services, as they have done for far lesser offenses. Such free publicity in a "serious newspaper" should help the author sell her books this week.

When my sixteen year old read the article, she reflected the author-mother illegally committed child abuse with her daughters. She, of course, thought I was being excessively strict with her last week when I wouldn't drive her and her friend through a snowstorm to attend a rock concert!

Another disturbing article this week concerns a long suicide note left by a graduate student at Princeton University. In it, he addressed the lingering effects of child abuse and that he could not forget them. He wrote the darkness of the pain is what drove him over the edge.

It is obvious to me: parents use strategies to raise children that worked out best for them; it's not necessarily what will work for all children. Each child is different, and needs to have a unique set of circumstances combine to create great success in a career. It's true that luck favors the prepared, but life is short, too. Each person has a unique life to live.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Watch 'The King's Speech': About Leadership and Compassion

All I'll say about the last post is that I got several self-publisher emails in response. They might have seen the post or they might have sent them anyway since I contacted them after the first few drafts. (That latest draft is probably number twenty or so.) We'll see...

Anyway, 'The King's Speech' is a fast-paced, never boring, riveting movie indeed. Sure it's about a speech impediment. Concerned it might be dull, how could the subject-matter be interesting, I wondered? That idea couldn't have been farther from the truth. Everyone loves this movie, and little wonder! 

King George VI

It's so moving emotionally, I suspect no one saw it dry-eyed; it was that  touching. Not only was it compassionate about speech problems, it was sympathetic to Britain, the West and the British monarchy before the Second World War.

King George VI was a British King famous for his stirring speeches; his brother King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne and then married the American Wallis Warfield Simpson had a more lingering, colorful, partying reputation. 

History shows King George VI made many important speeches during the war and his wife, 

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (above) of current Queen Elizabeth II, lived to the age of 104, greatly beloved by the British. The monarchy has, since the time of Queen Victoria  at least, left a legacy of compassion that continues with the British Crown to the present day.  The movie is a tribute to the currently peaceful reign of one of the longest running monarchies in British history.

'The King's Speech' also interests the audience by illuminating the topic of true leadership. Never before King George VI had a British monarch reigned while a previous one still lived. The dangers inherent in a temporarily ambiguous monarchy in England as  King Edward VIII held the throne is a central story behind the movie. Germany in the late 1930s was an  immediate threat to safety in the daily lives of all the British. 

The story of a vulnerable and beleaguered nation facing peril they wished would go away lies behind the story of a King with a disability he wished would, too. The King needed to be a strong speaker to better serve his subjects, not one "afraid of his own shadow" but one who could speak up in  a strong voice to both soothe and defend a nation.

The movie was directed by the British award-winner Tom Hooper starring the enormously talented Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, already well-suited to this role.  The movie is advertised as "based on the incredible true story: when his nation needed a leader, when the people needed a voice, an ordinary man would help him find the courage." It was a  brilliant idea by the original playwright, David Seidler, to tell the story of the King's  relationship with his coach, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, a central character of the movie. The therapy that broke the King's stammer is a personal story, interestingly regal. Anger management was also an important issue the King had to work on with his therapist.

But  the real story is the King's long-term dependence on the therapist, and how hard all the people of Britain had to work for their survival as the storm clouds drew closer. Let's hope America can't draw a parallel somehow to the present day. It's a movie with an entertaining story from the past and many interesting lessons for the present.

On Leadership

King George VI had in abundance the traits of leaders elucidated during interviews on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS today. The Sunday morning  television host interviewed such leaders as a former British Prime Minister, the CEO of three companies including now IBM, the President of Yale University and an influential female former Governor of New Jersey. He asked them to enumerate leadership characteristics. According to these leaders, leadership is about:

1) Getting people to want to do what you want them to by persuading them it is in their best interest.
2) Leaders give an urgency to decision-making.
3) What one is expected to do in a leadership position is to make decisions, even if they are unpopular. As long as they are correct, hard decisions can become accepted in time.