Saturday, March 31, 2012

Welcome to gate-minded America.

Mr. Zimmerman’s gated community, a 260-unit housing complex, sits in a racially mixed suburb of Orlando, Fla. Mr. Martin’s “suspicious” profile amounted to more than his black skin. He was profiled as young, loitering, non-property-owning and poor. Based on their actions, police officers clearly assumed Mr. Zimmerman was the private property owner and Mr. Martin the dangerous interloper. After all, why did the police treat Mr. Martin like a criminal, instead of Mr. Zimmerman, his assailant? Why was the black corpse tested for drugs and alcohol, but the living perpetrator wasn’t?

Those reducing this tragedy to racism miss a more accurate and painful picture. Why is a child dead? The rise of “secure,” gated communities, private cops, private roads, private parks, private schools, private playgrounds — private, private, private —exacerbates biased treatment against the young, the colored and the presumably poor.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's still clear that nearly everyone in the United States is either talking about or already planning to win the biggest single jackpot in lottery history.

For $1 it's a good gamble and pretty cheap dream.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

America needs a slice of humble pie

They say apple pie is a large part of the American culture. Maybe we just need a serving or two of a different kind of pie. Humble pie.

America could use a little humility at this point. We used to self-proclaim ourselves the greatest country on earth, with good reason.

We had a prospering economy, our military was the strongest in the world and we were innovators, changing the world for the better.

Our economy is well past the point of a struggle and has plunged into an apparent free fall. Our military is still the strongest in the world, and we feel the need to occupy any territory that doesn’t share our beliefs. We are still innovators, but we seem to have become complacent.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the values that truly made us great. We had a strong sense of pride, but we were willing to work to still make ourselves better and maintain the title of “the best.” We knew then it didn’t come without work.

Now government programs such as welfare or unemployment have made it too easy to just not work until the “right” job finds you. Swallow your pride and take the job. Be proud to have a job and be a functioning, contributing member of society.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Because scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and academic researchers have observed that poor sleep is strongly linked with traffic deaths, obesity, chronic diseases and teen risk behaviors, improving sleep health could help impact the agency's battles with those issues, said Anne G. Wheaton, an epidemiologist in the CDC Division of Population Health.

Wheaton said that for many people, sleep simply doesn’t rank high on their list of priorities. As a result, they don’t make time to get the sleep they need or they may do things such as drinking stimulants before bedtime that make it hard to sleep.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The United States was the only Western democracy that executed prisoners last year, even as an increasing number of U.S. states are moving to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International said Monday.

"If you look at the company we're in globally, it's not the company we want to be in: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq," said Suzanne Nossell, executive director of Amnesty International USA, citing the four nations with the most executions.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks U.S. trends, told The Associated Press that last year 78 prisoners received death sentences, down from an average of more than 300 annually a few years ago.

Dieter attributed much of the decline to the introduction of DNA testing, which has exposed some mistaken convictions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Explore America: One of Ohio's Best Kept Secrets is Wine

Napa Valley comes to mind when we think domestic wines. But winemakers grew grapes in Ohio as far back as the 1830s. By 1865 Ohio produced more wine than any other state in the country. This state helped launch the wine industry in America...Ohio wineries might be one of the state's best kept secrets, something worth exploring when visiting the Buckeye State. What's for sure is that the wineries are definitely popular destinations and a worthwhile road trip for those who live here.

There are now about 150 wineries in the Buckeye State, and 60 percent of those grow their own fruit. Winchell says at least eight new wineries in Ohio will open in 2012. Ohio wine country is a welcome glimmer of hope in this tough economic climate.

If you're a wine connoisseur, support the Ohio economy and try some of their award-winning wines. Some wineries to check out include Firelands Winery in northwest Ohio. Firelands has been making wines since 1880. They offer tours, tasting of their award-winning wines, a gift shop and wine making supplies.

In southern Ohio, visitors have been enjoying Valley Vineyards since 1970, voted Best Red in Ohio for its cabernet franc, and there's wine and music on Thursdays.

In northeastern Ohio, Ferrante Winery & Ristorante specializes in vinifera grapes and they also offer an Italian restaurant and live music, in addition to their award-winning wines.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ten years ago, our own “brutal” President George W. Bush “snapped” and sent, thus far, over two million U.S. soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan to give goat herders and tribesmen a piece of “shock and awe.”  Results:  over 100,000 civilians killed, hundreds of thousands of children left without families, 2.5 million Iraqi refugees and a completely devastated civilization left in tatters.

Last week, after four deployments in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales “mentally and emotionally snapped.” He executed 16 women and children.  When the inquiry finishes, it will be found that Bates lost his mind, went insane, or suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and transitory brain injury. He’ll be executed or sent to prison for life.

Yet who really stands on the guilty platform for these wars and all their atrocities?  Answer: George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, the Military Industrial Complex, bankers and the apathetic American people.  That’s who!

Do Bush, Obama or the U.S. military junta care about the individual carnage they perpetrate on millions of Iraqi people or  third world countries like Afghanistan,  filled with tribesmen and sheep herders?

No! Why? Answer: money! Loads and lots of it lining a bunch of corporate and banker pockets!  If the big money people had their way, they would carry on those wars for another 10 to 20 years ad infinitum.

How can they do that?  Answer: they feed off the apathy and non-involvement of  the American people.  The “Great Silent Majority” of the 60s continues today.  With a volunteer Army, the MIC enjoys a never ending supply of na├»ve and gung-ho kids for their cannon fodder. 

How about a new way?  How about talking and listening to one another?  How about a “Department of Peace” to balance our “Department of Defense”?  How about the American people take a deep assessment at what the past four wars have accomplished?  Did those wars stop terror?  Did those wars create peace that we proclaim we desire?  Did those wars bring humanity to a higher moral and spiritual level?  If not, let’s intend peace.  Once we move toward peace, watch the “war paradigm” evaporate as we shift humanity to its highest and best.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kirsten started to alter her eating habits when she was still very young, when she noticed that other girls in her ballet class were also doing it.

“I was in ballet from just 3-years-old. So from a very early age, the ideal female body type was very thin. That was the first image I had,” she explains.

“I was living off coffee, Diet Coke and gum. Every once in a while, I'd have vegetables, fruit or a spoonful of peanut butter. I knew there was something wrong , but I didn't know how to stop,” Kirsten explains.

Her parents eventually stepped in and forced her to get help.

However, her recovery effectively began when her mother enlisted her in a beauty pageant because, she says, suddenly she found others to relate and reach out to.

“It was a really good educational period for me. From hearing other people's stories, I learned how to share my own personal struggles,” she explains.

Kirsten is now a political science major at Emory University, and is choosing to speak out to help other women struggling with the same issue to see they need help.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mention the Smoky Mountains, especially Gatlinburg, Tenn., and bears are probably the first thing that you’ll hear about.

Black bears, to be exact. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the last remaining places in the eastern United States where they can be found in the wild.

By the time you’ve visited enough “Beartown U.S.A.s,” you roll your eyes when you see yet another place that claims to have bears. Or so we thought when we pulled up to our week-long vacation rental in Gatlinburg.

If they have bears, I thought, show us.

We remained skeptical even as we road construction signs that read, “Please bear with us.” (Bear with us — get it?) And I shook my head as I saw row after row of carved wooden bears doing all kinds of things. My favorite: The carved wooden bear cub toilet-paper dispenser. Classy.

But there’s one thing Gatlinburg has going for it that Las Vegas, Reno and Branson, Mo., don’t — and that’s bears. We wouldn’t have believed it unless we saw it ourselves, but on the second morning of our stay, we noticed three dark shapes moving on the steep hill just beyond our balcony.

And there they were: two yearlings playing in the rain under their mother’s watchful eye.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

America, you love your burgers. McDonald's remains the leader when it comes to restaurant sales, followed by Subway and Starbucks, which isn't really a restaurant but shows up in the rankings due to sheer sales.

But Wendy's passes Burger King for the number-four spot, pushing BK into fifth place, according to research group Technomic Inc. that ranks the top 500 restaurants in the country.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The American Spring is an echo of the international movement started in Tunisia, Spain, Greece and Egypt. But, crucially, it's also part of the long struggle within the soul of our nation founded as a beacon of freedom with millions in slavery. Our democracy only works if each generation takes up the struggle to build a more just and humane world.

We are a generation rising from the ashes of the American Dream, staring out at a nation, and a world, stripped bare by the unshackled forces of international finance. As we came of age, the notion that countries dedicated solely to profit suffer some form of poverty went from a moral argument to an economic reality. We saw our economy collapse and our democracy implode because too many people believed individuals deserve sole credit for their successes or their failures.

We are each as responsible for ourselves as we are for each other. We will continue to attack a political and economic system designed to concentrate power in an increasingly smaller number of hands. We believe in a nation where our democracy controls Wall Street, instead of letting Wall Street control our democracy. We are building a movement to hold the people who destroyed our economy and privatized our democracy accountable to the will of the public.

Last fall, our movement showed what was possible when people came together to fight for their vision of the future. The movement will take off again if more people feel empowered to speak their minds and share their dreams. It was a reminder that our rights are only aspirations and our democracy only exists if we continue to create it together. The American Spring will succeed if people like you believe our rights are worth fighting for, and our democracy is worth reclaiming

Monday, March 19, 2012

End of the American Dream: Economic mobility is now greater in Europe than the United States

Questions about America’s class system—and its strain on the country’s social fabric—have entered the national conversation in a way unlike any time in recent memory. Occupy Wall Street grew popular in good part by contrasting the “99 percent” of Americans who’ve suffered over these lean years to the “1 percent” who seemed to be growing richer even in the midst of a deep recession. This inspired liberals to voice their worries about the widening wealth gap and falling rates of economic mobility more stridently than they’d dared to in decades.

It’s high time for Americans to have an open conversation about the reality of their own class divisions. For too long, excessive pride in the notion of a “land of opportunity” has masked the fact that too few tickets to the top are getting punched—and that the lives of those who are left behind are getting tougher.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The notion that America is exceptional has been taken up by the Republican Party and the Christian right as a rallying cry, to show how patriotic they are, while asserting that liberals, secularists, humanists and non-believers aren’t.

Some say that what makes us different and unique is that our ideals are stated and our government formed on a constitution declaring democratic ideals and personal liberty. But, as important as they are, these are only words, and our exceptionalism needs to be measured by our actions.

So we might say we are exceptional in fighting wars so frequently. We are exceptional in the amount of religion and religiosity practiced, where people still strive to create a theocracy, we are exceptional in our wanting to control women’s bodies, we are exceptional in our odd combination of concern for and disdain of education and that, while we have a glorious set of principles and ideals, we do not come close to living up to them.

Let there be no mistake, I would want to live nowhere else in the world. We have much to be proud of; the “great experiment” has and is working its way towards Martin Luther King’s arc toward justice.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

On the backs and brawn of the Irish, American cities rose and bridges spanned, and railroads forged west to unify a continent. They offered supreme sacrifice on its battlefields. One hundred and fifty years past, the gallantry of the men of the Irish brigade on the hallowed ground of the American Civil War still inspires, still captivates the conscience.

And they found comfort in its communities. In America's cities large and small, the Irish populated neighborhoods, built congregations and weaved their culture into the collage of humanity that is our melting pot. Once relegated to servitude and seclusion, the Irish found that the American experience provided the dignity that St. Patrick wanted for them — the promise that their hopes and dreams could be realized.

America was conceived and created as the beacon of hope on that horizon, and it was here that the Irish people first came ashore. As an American prayer on this feast of St. Patrick, let us resolve to preserve the principles that allowed it to kindle and rekindle the divine spark in the Irish spirit. As Americans, it is our birthright. As free people, it is our destiny.

Friday, March 16, 2012

AS Americans, we like to imagine our country as we think of ourselves: open-hearted and welcoming; efficient and practical; easygoing, above all. These values are the foundation of our culture, of an open economy fueled by ideas and immigration, and of our soft power — America’s ability to change the world simply because it is admired.

Whatever foreigners think of the American experiment, though, it’s unlikely the experience of crossing our border has made them think better of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The present order will last only as long as those who favor it and benefit from it retain the will and capacity to defend it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is America Still a Great Nation?

Will the type of manufacturing jobs return that allowed individuals like my father to purchase a home, buy additional property, and send his children to college, while possessing only a high school diploma? Probably not.

There is a level of honesty missing from our current political discourse. It is a prohibitive barrier that elected officials appear unwilling to engage and the electorate not ready to receive.

If this persists can America call itself great?

But I remain hopeful about America's potential to change its present course. It's nothing tangible; just call it a feeling based on our transformative history.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

President Barack Obama’s visit to Dayton this evening to take in the NCAA’s First Four will likely create periodic traffic tie-ups and slowdowns, but no one can say exactly where and exactly when.

The U.S. Secret Service and state and local law enforcement keep a tight hold on specific details related to times, routes, and places. But it has been disclosed that Air Force One will land at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base this evening.

The 88th Air Base Wing spokesman Daryl Mayer said Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron will receive a select crowd of greeters. “We’re going to bring down a crowd of about 100 or so airmen to greet them,” Mayer said.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gun nation: Inside America's gun-carry culture

Leaning against a scrub pine as preschoolers scurry about at his feet, Shane Gazda, father of 3-year-old twins, recalls a conundrum he faced earlier that morning: whether to take his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun to a Groundhog Day celebration.

After all, what was once against the law in North Carolina – carrying a concealed gun in a town park, square, or greenway – is now, as of Dec. 1, 2011, very much allowed. To Mr. Gazda, who likes to shoot targets in his backyard, an event as innocent as paying homage to a rodent could turn dangerous if the wrong person shows up.

"Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day," says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. "And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help."

 Ohio has granted people with permits the right to bring concealed weapons into restaurants, bars, and sports arenas.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Defining Democracy: Well, at least America is more democratic than Russia or Iran

It may be the only one of the major countries holding elections this year where a presidential candidate could win a majority of the votes and lose the election. This is because of America's Electoral College system, a bizarre remnant of the formation of the union.

One of the basic concepts of the United States of America is representative government -- that if it is the will of the people to change something it can be changed. But not the Electoral College. "Representative" in principle should mean "flexible." But what it comes down to is that American democracy does not mean one person, one vote, at least not when it comes to the presidency.
The other hammerlock that tradition has on democracy in the United States is the two-party system. There is an argument that President Barack Obama would have benefited from a challenge within the Democratic Party from the right or the left, but no such luck.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

As a nation, we are often quite good at setting goals -- but in reality we are missing them now more often than we meet them.

A 2010 study by the Paris-based OECD's Project on International Student Assessment reported that the U.S. ranked 31st in the world in math performance and 23rd in science. We were 17th in reading. As for our investments in early childhood education, we remain, embarrassingly, near the bottom of OECD countries in terms of the size of our investment and in terms of the unacceptable rates of infant mortality and childhood obesity.

Goals have now been announced by the Obama administration and several major foundations when it comes to increasing the number of young Americans with postsecondary education experience. For example, the Obama administration wants the U.S. to regain its top ranking when it comes to the number of citizens with post-secondary education degrees by increasing the college attainment rate from 40% to 60% by 2020. Again, these are important goals, but what is the country doing now to reach them?

For most of these issues, we need to adopt an "investment" mentality -- one where we will have to change our behavior now in order to ensure a different outcome in the future. Our "kick the can" mentality is what prevents us from actually tackling these problems because we conclude that "now" doesn't mean today but rather some point in the future when someone else will be in charge.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Occupy Rousseau" and Challenge Inequality in America

300 years ago, a watchmaker in Geneva, Switzerland, fathered a son who became the first powerful voice against inequality in an urbanizing Europe in which the costs of capitalism and private property were already clear. Jean-Jacques Rousseau proclaimed in his Social Contract that men, though born free, were everywhere in chains. In time, he became an inspiration to the French revolutionaries.

Astonishingly, three centuries later, inequality continues to dog capitalism and taint democracy's legitimacy -- worse now even than back then. Equality and equality's advocates continue to take a beating in an America whose democracy counts dollars rather than votes, and in which the disparities between rich and middle and middle and poor deepen day by day. Take, for example, these harsh realities:
  • American Latinos and African-Americans, their wealth mainly invested in their homes, have lost 65% or more of their net worth during the housing crisis;

  • Social mobility, the historical remedy to America's inequality problems, is freezing up, with more than a few of those European countries labeled "socialist" here ahead of us on the upward mobility list;

  • Mega-billionaires like Home Depot founder Ken Langone and Warren Buffet say they would gladly pay higher taxes, but tax increases have become a taboo subject for Democrats and Republicans alike;

  • One of four American children live under the poverty line;

  • What would Rousseau say to all this? "The first source of evil is inequality," is what he wrote. To the protesters at Occupy Wall Street he would recall that democracy's a "law we give to ourselves" that requires participation and direct engagement in the making of a common will.


    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    She added that she has long admired his courage and passion for his political beliefs, even if she didn’t share them.

    “He’s a braver man than me,” she said.


    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    The organization launched its Southwest Ohio region based on support from school and district partners as well as civic and business leaders across Cincinnati, Dayton, and Covington, Ky. 

    Working in partnership with communities, Teach For America recruits, trains, and supports talented and diverse individuals from all backgrounds who commit two years to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty.

    Teach For America also developed a partnership with the University of Cincinnati...based on its history of fostering innovation in education and its focus on preparing teachers for urban schools.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Photo ID laws have been introduced or passed in at least 15 states. They discriminate against those who don't have driver's licenses -- disproportionately poor, elderly and minorities. Nationally they could disenfranchise about 5 million voters. Several states are also pushing legislation to restrict voter registration and to limit early voting.

    The current drive is the greatest insult to the Voting Rights Act since it was passed 47 years ago.

    Protests against current efforts to suppress the vote have only just begun. But they will build -- and they will once more pose a moral challenge to America.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    America: On the wrong side of the world revolution

    “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967.
    Since then, corporate greed, technology and consumerism have come to reign supreme in the U.S., and the inherent evils of racism, materialism and militarism as we were forewarned by Dr. King appear now to be invincible.
    Unfortunately for today’s Americans, their press is anything but free since the vast majority of communications media in the U.S. is owned by six corporations: General Electric, Walt Disney, News Corp., TimeWarner, Viacom and CBS.
    While America may have an independent judiciary, which some consider to have been a model for the rest of the world, access is restricted to those who can afford it, and incidences of racial and ethnic discrimination occur with alarming frequency.
    Not so subtle is the blatant racism within the U.S. judicial system, which imprisons a disproportionate number of blacks and ethnic minorities as documented in a report by Human Rights Watch.
    Additionally, there are concerns over concentration of executive power...when the U.S. president can bypass it at will to incarcerate or assassinate anyone, including American citizens, anywhere in the world who may be on “The List”.
    Perhaps the youth will cause an American awakening to blossom this spring.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Such is the state of American civility in 2012, as individuals – increasingly, it seems – defy convention and claim the right to define their own behavior. Some are just doing what they see being done around them – in the ubiquitous, often-weird entertainment industry; in the frequently immature and sometimes violent world of sports; in the tempting anonymity of the Internet, where each aberration-gone-viral seems to become the new norm.

    Manners empower people to demonstrate respect for others, to avoid inflicting the unintentional insult, to defuse the kind of confusion that leads to conflict and violence. The mannerly know how to make good apologies when they mess up, as they inevitably will. And – as with the well-placed snub – they know how to deviate from convention as a means of voicing their concerns.

    The greatest threat to civilized behavior? Technology, say the experts – in particular, on-screen lives that get people out of the practice of the more socially demanding face-to-face relationship.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Video: Does the game "LIFE" still portray the American dream?

    Well, it promised you a car, a house, a family and steady paycheck until the day you retired. Since it first hit the shelves in 1960 , the game of life outlined a simple path to the American dream. Spin the wheel in one version of the game and get a college education for 2,000 bucks and maybe become a doctor and earn $50,000 a year for life or skip college and head right into the workforce earning $12,000 a year. This board game you grew up with no longer represents the America that actually exists...

    If you don't go to college, there's a much lower chance that you'll get a good job and you'll make a lot less money now compared to a college graduate than you used to. There are two big parts of a family budget today that are totally going up. One is health insurance and the other is the cost of gasoline and neither are reflected in the game at all and you can move your minivan across the board without worrying about what it costs to fill at the pump.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    The continuation of self as the center of reality is part of the ideology that will eventually lead to America's down fall. It is also what will in a very religious sense, sustain the current mediocrity of American capitalism.

    The danger is to assume that the fall of democracy leads to some vulgar resurrection of Marxist communism, which was a catastrophe! What we can do is employ history as a tool for what not to do.

    A way forward out of this literal hell on earth is to be found in discourse. But not simply "I listen to you, you listen to me" rhetoric, but honest discussion that leads to change. In the ancient world, it was a community of foreigners who got together to discuss and implement change...For us to invent a new reality where we can begin again.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Does the War on Drugs Do More Harm to America than Actual Drugs?

    Unlike Bill Clinton, President Obama admits he inhaled!People laugh when politicians talk about their drug use. The audience laughed during a 2003 CNN Democratic presidential primary debate when John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean admitted smoking weed.
    Yet those same politicians oversee a cruel system that now stages SWAT raids on people’s homes more than 100 times a day. People die in these raids -- some weren’t even the intended targets of the police.

    And the level of drug use remains about the same.