Tag Archives: children

Mentally ill man with criminal record assaults U.S. school; U.S. Yawns

A mentally ill man, a man with a criminal record, enters a school with over 500 rounds of ammunition, ready to kill children in a Newton-style assault.   The story briefly popped up on the news yesterday and a bit today, but other stories quickly supplanted it.  Tomorrow, it will be a story that is largely forgotten. Why was the story not considered as newsworthy as the new dog in the White House, the Dow dropping for 5 straight days, or the latest celebrity gossip?  Because thanks to a brave bookkeeper who talked the gunman into surrendering, no children died.

Evidently THIS is our one stalwart line of defense against wackos with guns who want to kill our children…bookkeepers with a slick tongue.  Given that it was OBVIOUSLY no problem for a mentally ill man with a criminal record to obtain enough fire power to kill every student and teacher at the school, gun control isn’t the answer!!  Perhaps the gun wackos out there will push back against the next, feeble attempts to pass gun-control legislation by instead pushing for linguistics training for hard-luck bookkeepers such as the hero in this instance.

Bookkeepers over gun control…THEREIN lies our only hope to prevent another Newton, because god knows our NRA-beholden wimpy politicians care more about the next election than they do the lives of our children.

Today’s Rememberance…and The Average NRA “Member”

Average NRA "Member"

I've had multiple blog posts about my feelings about the typical NRA "member". Today's gutless comments from NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, offered just a few moments after a touching remembrance of Newton's Sandy Hook victims, certainly reinforces my feeling about gun-toting wackos and their need to "compensate" for other things they seemingly lack in life.

I have the day off, getting ready for a weekend of family celebration and fun. While running errands this morning, I was stopped cold in my tracks when I passed a TV and saw a “special report” breaking into regular programming, as the TV stations carried a remembrance and moment of silence for the 27 kids and teachers slaughtered last week in Newtown, Connecticut. I stood there next to a lady and her daughter as it started. The daughter was a beautiful young girl who had to be around the same age as the innocent 1st graders who were gunned down last week. As the moment of silence began, the television carried a loud bell chiming 27 times, once for each life lost. With each chime came a picture of the victims…27 times…in alphabetical order, until the last, a 6-year old Allison Wyatt, was shown. Miss Wyatt looked remarkably similar to the young girl standing next to her mom, and the already flowing tears of the mom next to me turned into a full-body sobbing as the last bell chimed, and the TV lingered on this last victim. I’m a guy, so I’m not supposed to react that way in public, right? While I managed to suppress the full-body sobbing of the mother next to me, I also had tears on my face as the moment ended and they resumed normal programming. I’m sure that any parent with a young child felt the same at that moment. I would hope ANY human being felt the same at that moment.

Just a little later in the morning, National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre provided the NRA’s first public statement after the massacre of a week ago. LaPierre, as noted by NBC, took a “defiant” tone, stating that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“.  I’m sure the 20 families with children slain in Newtown took comfort in LaPierre’s statements.  I’m sure that family of Allison Wyatt and the other beautiful young children feel comforted to know that the NRA is working to solve the problem by recommending armed guards at every school across the nation. I’m sure that families of gun violence victims across the nation take heart in the notion that the NRA will be fighting the evil media, Hollywood, and the music industry, the TRUE perpetrators of the culture of violence in the United States, according to Mr. LaPierre.

After all, it’s not the GUNS that perpetuate a violent gun-based culture in the U.S., right?  It’s not groups like the NRA that perpetuate gun violence, right?  There’s no blame to be assigned to the NRA’s insistence that private citizens have the same access to weapons of mass destruction as do our military soldiers, right? No!  Of course not!  Don’t be silly!!  It’s an evil media misrepresenting the NRA and a gun-based culture!  It’s Hollywood sensationalizing the USE of the weapons that the NRA endorses!  It’s popular music that glamorizes gun violence that results in freely available semi-automatic weapons being used to gun down 20 children in the span of a few minutes!!

It was quite the stark contrast this morning, seeing the incredibly moving remembrance of the Sandy Hook victims, and just a little bit later, hearing the incredibly callous and out-of-touch comments from NRA’s LaPierre. 

Bear with me for a moment as I get to my point here, but…I’m a scientist.  A large part of my job is communicating the work of my team with outside scientists and other potential users of our research and data.  When I was in high school and early in college, I was scared to death to speak in public.  The turning point for me?  Experience, especially after becoming a teaching assistant in grad school, but a large part of the turnaround for me was also seeing first-hand that the biggest BLOWHARDS, those who sometimes seem to be the confident with other people, are, in actuality, the most insecure (and the most full of shit).  I’ve said it out here many times…it’s those folks that are incredibly insecure, those that are the LEAST sure of themselves, who are also often the ones who feel the need to brag…to gloat…to ACT “confident” in public. 

Hence my analogy to the average NRA “member” above.  Disgusting display by Mr. LaPierre today, but it’s nothing new to the insecure, out-of-touch nuts that populate the NRA.  If guns are a big part of your life…you’re definitely compensating for “shortcomings” somewhere else in your life.

Do you want teachers spanking your kids?

No Spank

Americans already are MUCH more likely than people of other nations to be victims of violence, to be raped, murdered, shot, executed, or assaulted. I guess it's no surprise that we're also much more likely to endorse the use of physical pain to punish our children.

Time magazine had a recent article about spanking as a form of punishment for children.   The article leads off with a story about Taylor Santos, a 15-year old high school student who evidently was letting a friend copy her homework.  Her punishment?  She was spanked…hard to enough blister…by a 15-year old, MALE vice-principal

The Time article notes that 19 states allow teachers to spank kids.  Obviously, the Taylor Santos story is a bit weirder in that it was a male who spanked her, violating the school policy.  But really…do we REALLY want teachers spanking kids?  Or…why the HELL do we spank kids at all?

Just from an emotional side…I think spanking is NOT about the kid, it’s about the adult doing the spanking.  Spanking to me is something that adults do to make THEMSELVES feel better.  Spanking to me is something adults do to relieve their OWN frustration over misbehavior.

From the scientist side of myself…you also have to just look at the evidence.  Study after study show that spanking is NOT beneficial, it does NOT curb negative behavior, but instead, it spurs behavioral problems in kids and increases their aggression. 

Despite the evidence, despite the extremely negative impression of spanking in many other countries…the Time article notes that 71% of adults in America approve of spanking as a disciplinary tool.  That’s down from 94% in the 1960s, but still very high, considering that the practice is simply banned in many countries.  What I found absolutely stunning about the article though is that nearly 1 in 4 adults think it’s OK for TEACHERS to spank their children.  Really?  You REALLY want to authorize other adults to discipline your children by administering physical pain???!?!?

It’s disgusting to me that parents or other adults feel that administering pain or any other physical stress is an acceptable form of punishment.  However, I can already anticipate some responses from the “old-school” folks out there.  Perhaps “Old-school” isn’t the right term.  Studies have shown that in terms of overall demographics, the differences are often pretty marginal in terms of who approves of spanking.  Men are slightly more likely to approve, as are blacks, poorer people, and blue-collar workers.  But the differences between demographic groups really are quite small.  However, I can easily imagine certain personalities that are more likely to approve.  I can easily imagine responses I’d get to this post, from certain types of people I know.

I do find it interesting that Americans collectively seem to have this sense of superiority over other cultures.  I find it interesting because there’s little doubt that other cultures look down their noses at American attitudes towards issues such as spanking…capital punishment…violence and gun control…etc.   Given the laws in other nations, and given that Americans are MUCH more likely to be spanked, executed, shot, or murdered, I’m sure that many cultures view Americans as modern barbarians.

I must say…there are many times I agree with those views.

My son and REAL life – ObamaCare

Alexander
Our son, the week after coming home from the hospital after being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.

Obamacare isn’t popular.  But there ARE key provisions of Obamacare that are very popular.  One of these is a guarantee of insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, a provision supported by 85% of Americans.  Other provisions are also very popular, such as the ability to cover your children until they turn 26.  Despite the popularity of these provisions, about half of America would like ObamaCare to be repealed.  Perhaps that half should look past the political BS and look at the real-world effects of ObamaCare.

My 9-year old son has had Type-1 diabetes since just after his 1st birthday.  We are fortunate enough to have good insurance, but I shudder to think of those in our situation without insurance.  Our son has an insulin pump, which alone costs $8,000.  Supplies for the pump?  $1,800 every 3 months.  And that doesn’t include other supplies for testing blood, doctor visits, etc.  What happens for someone like us under Obamacare, vs. under the status quo?  What are the REAL world effects should Obamacare be repealed?

First, Obamacare extends the length of time parents can cover their children.  We could cover our son until his 26th birthday.  Secondly, once he turns 26 and needs to get his own coverage, he couldn’t be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition.  But what if Obamacare is repealed?  What happens to someone like my son?  What happens when he turns 26, and has to get coverage on his own?  Could he even GET coverage, given that he has Type-1 diabetes?  What happens if he has to change jobs?  In a post-ObamaCare world, who pays the thousands of dollars for supplies that my son’s VERY LIFE depends upon???

My wife and I both have good jobs, but even so, I can’t imagine trying to pay for pump and other supplies, without insurance coverage.  That nightmare is a REALITY for thousands of Americans, until ObamaCare fully takes effect.  We OURSELVES have heard from families with poor or no insurance coverage, who have had a child diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.  We OURSELVES have gotten stories from parents whose options are few.  For a parent with a child with Type-1 diabetes, you’re constantly fighting against time and the inexorable march of the disease.  As time marches on, the liklihood of complications rises, be it coronary disease, kidney damage, diabetic retinopathy resulting in blindness, etc.  Your ONLY weapon against it right now?  Controlling your child’s blood sugar as best as you can.  To do that, an insulin pump is indispensible.

But this is America.  We seem to value corporate profits more than the health of our own children.  For FAR too many with poor or no insurance coverage, the only choice is to skimp on diabetic supplies, using constant insulin injections and paying for testing supplies as you can.  Do you have ANY idea how DAMN HARD it is to constantly have to give your young child multiple shots, every day, day-after-day, with NO end?  Do you have ANY idea how DAMN HARD it is when the first phrase your child learns to put together is “No Shot!! No Shot!!!” (something we dealt with). It tears your heart out.  God knows I broke down like a baby the first time I had to give my son a shot, while he was in the hospital after being diagnosed.  And that definitely wasn’t the only time.

For the first year and a half after diagnosis, my 1-year old son had to endure a minimum of 3 injections per day, usually more.  Every meal had to be planned in advance, every carb counted.  For 8 years since, we’ve also maintained a constant regimen of blood tests, including my wife and I taking turns being the one who gets up in the middle of the night to check him.  Despite our best efforts, it was very difficult to control his blood sugars during that first year and a half.  Despite our best efforts, I felt like we were “failing” our son, because we knew that in the long-term, an inability to control blood sugars made diabetic complications much more likely.

When our son was 2, we were blessed with the opportunity to start using an insulin pump.  Instead of 3+ injections a day, he only needed one “site change” every 3 days.  Instead of carefully planning every meal and snack well ahead of time to ensure he was getting the right amount of carbs to match the insulin we estimated was left in his body…he now could now eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  We just have to type in the number of carbs, and the pump gives him the correct amount of insulin.  Best of all, his blood sugar control was DRAMATICALLY better.  We’ve at least done all we can to slow the progression of the disease.

But let’s say you’re a single mom without health insurance, and you’re facing the same nightmare we have.  Can that single mom afford a pump for her child?  Or is she forced to choose a life of painful injections, KNOWING there’s a better way, but also knowing that in America, the health of her child isn’t as important as the profits of a health insurer?  What about a middle class family in this situation who is forced into a job or location change?  Will that family be able to get insurance coverage for their child with a pre-existing condition?  Or will they too be forced to choose between incredibly expensive payments for insulin pump equipment, or using cheaper methods of blood sugar control?

Why should they HAVE to make that choice?  Is this America?  Or is this some third-world country with a government, health-care system, and a PEOPLE unable, or UNWILLING to make the health of their children a national priority?

THIS is the reality of ObamaCare.  It is NOT a political tool to be wielded like a weapon by the two parties. ObamaCare is about REAL PEOPLE.  It’s about covering people who’s very LIVES are in jeopardy without insurance coverage.  It’s about Americans acting as if they GIVE A DAMN about the health of their children.

New Political Battle Front: Children’s Entertainment

Callista Gingrich

Republicans "fighting fire with fire". Since Hollywood is CLEARLY attempting to indoctrinate our children in the evil Liberal agenda, champions of conservatism such as the Gingrich's are using the more DIRECT approach to indoctrinate children in conservative principles. Here, I believe Callista Gingrich is teaching the children that Obama is an evil Kenyan Socialist Muslim.

Lou Dobbs is such a tool.  What was it?  Was CNN not paying him enough?  He USED to be at least rational, bordering at respectable!   But what’s happened over the last several years?  I’m mean sure, taking a job at Fox “News” is bound to warp ANYONE’s soul, but who knew that it could happen so quickly?  Now every time Dobbs opens his mouth, you’re waiting for something stupid to come out.  In other words, he’s become like FAR too many Republican politicians or talking heads. 

Dobbs’ latest crusade?  An issue that threatens to destroy the moral fabric of America itself…Dr. Seuss, and the upcoming “The Lorax” movie.  Dobbs claims that the Lorax is a result of “the president’s liberal friends in Hollywood”, and is attempting to “indoctrinate” children in a “liberal agenda”.   In The Lorax, a strange woodland creature fights against removal of all the trees.  According to Dobbs and Fox News, The Lorax is some offshoot of Occupy Wall Street.  According to them, Dr. Seuss and children’s entertainment in general are trying to push a “liberal” agenda. 

Give…me…a…freakin’…break.   First of all, why is it a negative to say that we shouldn’t cut down every single tree (as is done in the Lorax)?  Is EVERY other movie that features ANY kind of wildlife or conservation theme really part of one big liberal agenda?

I can see the Republicans coming out with their “alternative” versions of movies.  In the Republican version of “The Lorax”, God will float down from the heavens and inform the people of the town that Earth is there for people to rape and pillage, leading the villagers to throw the Lorax in prison and convert the entire town to one big oil-fracking field.   In the Republican version of “A Dolphin’s Tale”, instead of saving the dolphin and giving it an artificial tail, Winter the dolphin will be slaughtered and sold to a Japanese sushi conglomerate.   In the Republican version of “Big Miracle”, the whales will be allowed to die while BP peppers the region with offshore oil platforms. 

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, since the new crop of Republicans don’t even seem to CARE about our children’s future.  They don’t seem to CARE whether our children have clean water or air, or an adequate environment to support humanity.  And (GASP!!!) if you teach our children about basic conservation issues, they might grow up to (GASP!!) APPRECIATE the natural world and live in harmony with it, rather than treating it all as one big opportunity for short-term economic gain. 

Thank GOODNESS we have champions of Republican conservatism to counter this evil liberal Hollywood plot to indoctrinate our children in basic environmental responsibility!!!   Not only do we have beacons of conservatism like Dobbs to protect us through open criticism of children’s literature, we now also have Republicans fighting fire with fire!  Callista Gingrich has a children’s book out called “Sweet Land of Liberty“, about a history loving elephant (no attempt to “indoctrinate” children with the use of the elephant as the main symbol of the story).  

I’m SURE we’ll see Dobbs appearing on Fox News soon, railing against Callista Gingrich’s book, right?  I’m sure we’ll see Dobbs having an on-air rant against the Creationism museum and its attempts to teach children the “truth” about evolution, right?

Obamacare Covering 2.5 Million more youth

Thanks to the new health care bill, the percentage of young Americans with health insurance has risen dramatically. If I'm Obama, I'm DARING the GOP to focus on repeal.

Why in the hell so many people are against the health care reform bill is beyond me.  Every INDEPENDENT (aka, NOT FOX NEWS!!) analysis has shown the bill will reduce costs, or at least be a wash, AND cover millions more Americans.  But yet the right has chosen Obamacare as a rallying cry against big government, and a rallying cry for the 2012 election, lying about the costs and benefits of the bill while they’re at it.

Yesterday, the CDC announced that thanks to the new health care bill, 2.5 million more young Americans have health coverage.  In the 19-25 year range, the percentage of insured rose from 64% to 73%.  The increase is largely due to a provision which allows parents to keep their children on their insurance through age 26. 

Obama has had a terrific foreign policy record since taking office, capturing Bin Laden and ending the Iraq war.  Now, things are starting to roll his way more on domestic issues.  Unemployment is edging down, first time applicants for unemployment are at their lowest level since the recession began, and now, the benefits of the health care bill are starting to take effect.  If nothing else, Obama has a LOT of ammunition for 2012 debates against the GOP candidate.  He’s had some remarkable successes, especially given the cards he was dealt, and the impossible to work with GOP-led House.

GOP War on Education

Lord Voldemort, Victim?

Lord Voldemort...victim of government oppression, and new face of the Tea Party

Government is evil.  The tea-party take-over of the GOP has simplified the GOP message into one simple statement…government is evil.  It doesn’t matter if it’s government funded science, programs for the poor….heck, it could be a government sponsored program to hunt Horcruxes and prevent Lord Voldemort from destroying mankind, and the Tea Party would end up carrying pro-Voldemort posters and rallying against government oppression.

As a scientist, I find it incredibly disturbing that political ideology trumps sound scientific research when it comes to artificially politicized issues such as climate change and evolution/creationism.   In the short term, such short-sightedness (I’m being VERY polite by not using a more vulgar, but appropriate term) may not do significant harm.  However, the GOP’s attacks on science and government’s role in providing education also is likely to have a devastating long-term effect on American innovation and our place in the world. 

Here’s a terrific piece from Slate on GOP’s changing stance on education.  Terrific, but damned scary.  Instead of ensuring every child has the same educational opportunities, instead of making sure that a basic curriculum is provided which lays the educational foundation for our children, conservatives have twisted the discussion towards whether we’re (GASP!!) mentioning homosexuality, teaching evolution, or (GASP!) discussing contraception instead of abstinence.

In a Tea-party world, our children will be wearing chastity belts, will think babies are delivered by stork, and will have no concept that a substantial portion of the human race are (GASP!) homosexual.   In a Tea-party world, we may end up with good little children who obey their parents, go to bed on time, and faint if they should even hear someone say the f-word. 

In a Tea-party world, our children will also think Great Grandpa Jones had to fight dinosaurs on his way to work, that rain is simply angels crying, and that calculus is some kind of a fungus you get on your feet.  Our children will also UNDOUBTEDLY end up being low-paid lackeys working for foreign bosses, foreign heathens and sinners who foolishly were raised with an education focused on science, mathematics, and an unbiased historical view of the world.

As a scientist, I can’t help but think that much of the world is simply laughing at what passes as “educational issues” in the U.S.   Laughing, and smiling as they watch the era of American dominance in science and innovation get flushed down the drain for the sake of artificial morality.