Posted by: JDM..... | January 31, 2013

There I go…

…taking myself too seriously again…

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Posted by: JDM..... | October 19, 2014

Group therapy…

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Posted by: JDM..... | October 11, 2014

Boys will be boys…

they must be taught to be men….

The media thrives on unpleasantries, which isn’t necessarily bad. After all, bandage makers thrive on injuries, but just as there are good bandages and there are cheap knockoffs that aren’t worth a toot, there’s good journalism and tabloid garbage. When a story is “reported” instead of just mined for the dirt, I’ll read it.

Today, I ran across a news item regarding seven teenage football players who are in serious trouble because of allegations of hazing and significant sexual assault and other charges that have been occurring within their team culture. Their school cancelled the football season, and it has not yet been determined which, if any, of the young men will be released to the custody of their families and which will remain incarcerated for the time being.

It would seem that anyone who has been at least moderately socialized would find this story disturbing. Being a male, I have observed and experienced some of the more unsavory residual behaviors that somehow have been passed down from generation to generation since the first of us stood upright. Adolescence is the Marine boot camp of life, and very few reach their thirties without some nicks and dings. For most, these nicks and dings are learning experiences, and the manner in which some engage and adapt to the challenges sometimes contributes to the development of desirable character traits. For others, those experiences are traumatic and significantly impact how they will navigate the ensuing sixty years or so.

No longer being among the primitive fauna where brutishness , or at least the capacity for it, may be necessary to survival, human beings have largely suppressed and redirected such energies towards competitions like sports and other positive creative outlets. But, the potential has not been bred out of our species, regardless of our self-serving claims to the contrary. Human beings can be, and frequently are, violent members of the animal kingdom. Like it or not, it is part of our underlying nature, and without it we would probably have to be downgraded to join the mosses and lichens.

All of that being said, the other aspect of our nature is to strive for nonviolence and peaceful interactions. We are “civilized”, yet like other species, we tend to congregate with or nearby our own kind. Being out of one’s element engenders anxiety and hyper-alertness. Having “outsiders” enter our “space” creates similar responses while the intruder is assessed and identified as friend or foe. That particular behavior has not been bred out of our species either, and outlawing it doesn’t make it magically go away.

Adolescence as a whole, and Teen sports in particular, is a time when these human characteristics are identified and the current socially preferred adaptations and expressions of them are learned and practiced. Mistakes are made, and while we normally don’t respond to teen transgressions the same as we would with an adult perpetrator, the intervention is equally important, perhaps even more so.

The investigations will produce knowledge regarding the alleged hazing and sexual misconduct. It is crucial that two things occur as part of whatever interventions are applied.

First of all, as the story reports, those harmed must be healed.

Second of all, those responsible for the harm must be corrected and redirected. The interventions for 15 to 17 year olds must not be formulated from a 40, 50, or 60 year old perspective, though the ultimate goal is to teach them to adopt those adult social and cultural standards. There is no life experience to draw on for the adolescent to “see” through that lens, but adults may be able to remember how to at least access some recollection of the teen view. Look at this way: if you want to teach American literature to a Spaniard, you had better learn to teach it in Spanish.

During my 25 years in the behavioral health field, I specialized in working with adults and adolescents referred by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services because of problems with substance abuse, and later as a part of the support staff for a residential psychiatric facility. According to my peers and supervisors, one of my strong points apparently was a knack for “meeting them where they’re at.” Whether that was a compliment or a zinger depends upon one’s viewpoint; I choose to stick with the former. Finding that turf could be an interesting prospect when trying to establish a connection with a street wise sixteen year old who doesn’t trust anybody and probably with good reason.

It is vitally important that the young men who committed the illegal and immoral behaviors be engaged in a way that facilitates them being redirected and corrected without condemning them to association with the Dark Side of the adult world to which they will likely gravitate if nothing is done at all. Those responding to them must ask what kind of men do they want these errant teenagers to become. Just writing them off as “bad” eggs may vindicate the adults, but it doesn’t do much to help them make course corrections toward productive citizenship in the future. Consequences for unacceptable behavior are important, but if the message is just negative, expecting positive behaviors to follow is misguided. Just threatening or beating someone into compliance is not “change”, absolves the subject of responsibility for making internal changes, and is only appropriate for the unapproachable cases.

Of course, positive redirection and creative consequences may not work with all of them. There are some who, for any one of a number of reasons, may already be firmly on a path of self-destruction. In fact, in my field, there were more non-successes than successes. In those cases, “containment” and control may be the only realistic options. After all, the victims must be healed, and future potential victims must be protected.

I’m retired now, but I couldn’t help but think while reading the story, if I was a part of the response team and was given a choice of which kids to work with, I’d choose the ones who are probably rightfully scared, rightfully in very deep shit, and most certainly in need of a guide who knows how to peel an onion to its core without ruining it.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | October 8, 2014

What if…

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Posted by: JDM..... | September 18, 2014

Promises, promises, promises…

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Posted by: JDM..... | September 16, 2014

Last call…..

Don’t bet on it…..

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Posted by: JDM..... | September 12, 2014

News is the new Vaudeville…

except it’s ridiculous, not funny….

Never a moment’s rest, it seems. The tabloidesque media hardly has time to whip some incident of alleged inadequate interracial or ethnic obeisance, social turpitude with sexual undertones, or some other trendy no-no into a lather when someone else steps in a yard cookie. Jeese!

I’m tempted to make reference to “the latest” issue to get wanna-be investigative reporters wallowing in dumpsters at midnight and demanding fifth grade report cards et al under the Freedom of Information Act, but I know another will likely hit the fan any minute now. Regardless, the hot issue at present is the Ray Rice controversy, wherein the star Baltimore Ravens running back was video-recorded giving his now-wife a knuckle sandwich in an elevator about five months ago.

Not unlike when a size 12 disrupts the integrity of an ant hill, the revelation, the video, and NFL resumes hit the fan as Rice was kicked off his “job”, relieved of the trainload of money he was contracted to earn, and the feeding frenzy was on. Who knew what, when did they know it, and what did they have for lunch that day? Film at eleven….probably the same one everybody saw at six in the morning, at noon, mid afternoon, and after supper. Only the details change as the taint of responsibility wicks through all in the neighborhood.

Interesting. When a similar thing happened in my town recently, as it unfortunately does on a regular basis, the accused was arrested, made the Police Reports in the morning paper, went to jail, bailed out, and was scheduled for a court date a few months in the future. If he is convicted, appropriate consequences will be handed down in a court of law. Meanwhile, other than having no contact with the victim and a few other restrictions, he returns to his normal routine and is innocent until proven guilty.

Employers are often supportive of valued employees who run into trouble, except in cases of heinous felonies, of course, and unless the frowned upon and/or illegal behavior has become a habit for the employee. When big Names and big Dollars are involved however, “employers” can’t wait to shake the Name off and away like a tenacious booger

Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL in general, and somebody’s third cousin, no doubt, are all being tried by the rabid media. Fingers are pointing in multiple directions in a game of “Musical Who Gets to Live Under the Bus“. Meanwhile, there has been no involvement by the law enforcement side of the equation.

Here’s my take on it, political correctitude and the media be damned:

Domestic violence is against the law, and while it is not tolerated in our society, it happens to more than 1,300,000 men and women in the United States every year. Consequences may include incarceration, probation, financial penalties, and more. The goal is not only to protect the victim and exact punishment, but to address the abuser’s issues in an effort to prevent subsequent assaults.

Like it or not, we do have an unofficial caste system, and people of fame and wealth, whether it be in politics, the entertainment world, or in sports, are treated differently. Ray Rice should have been held accountable under the law just as any other man would have been. No consequences should have been levied until he had had the benefit of his day in court, and any consequences should be the business of the court, not the NFL. And even if the NFL were to have a say, it seems to me the incident should be mulled over by some sort of tribunal before they draw and quarter the man in the town square.

Rice and other people of note should not be immune from prosecution, nor should they be punished and stripped of their assets without benefit of first being allowed to present a defense to prosecution.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | September 9, 2014

I’m sorry….

and other moments of ennui…..

I see that the Apology Epidemic continues to chug along nicely, or at least the media flies continue to swarm around it like a July barnyard. I have some thoughts on the matter.

First of all, “apology” is a misunderstood reference today, though with unintentional but exquisite irony its application is almost always as apt now as it would have been when the ancient Greeks coined the word’s precursor to denote the act of speaking in defense of something. In the modern context, that usually means the apologizer’s ass.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 24, 2014

I wonder what happens.….

when the puppet yanks BACK on a line…..?

I think we’ve all run into one of those annoying people who has made it their life’s work to finish every sentence you try to utter. I even knew one who did it silently, just mouthing the words you were presumed to be on the verge of saying. I don’t know about anyone else, but that sort of thing has a way of inspiring felonious fantasies in me.

I was thinking about that yesterday when I scratched out a cartoon that had zipped through my head and just had to be brought to life. Within moments, that irritating third Facebook column informed me that I might also be interested in a “group” about animation.

That happens a lot. If I blog something, the “tags” are forwarded to the Marketing and Thought Completion Department where they are repurposed as spam. The same thing happens if I e-mail a friend or look something up on Google. The Cybersnoops presume to decide my every next act, thought, urge, impulsive purchase, genre of curiosity, and body noise.
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Which provided me with an amusing thought “THEY” haven’t been privy to until this moment…..

I’m going to embark upon a campaign of chumming in cyberspace, just to see what will bite on whatever I toss out there…….and I guarantee it will be an eclectic scattershot of double entendres, obscene references, psychosis inducing incongruities, and any other padlocks and random metal ware I can stuff into the Facebook, Google, and Microsoft extruders.

This should be fun. I wonder if I can manipulate them into self destruction or self incrimination of some sort?

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 22, 2014

Government on guard against extremism.….

might I suggest they look in the mirror?…..

When the Attorney General of the United States made a visible point of grabbing some airtime from the Ferguson, MO flare-up, I was reminded of something I was thinking about just a couple of months ago when he announced that he was going to reconvene the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, a tentacle of the Dept. of Justice brought to life in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The function was put on the shelf following the events of “9/11″ when international circumstances took precedence.

I have a problem with this concept, and am still withholding any fist-pumping or symbolic bellowing of “HOO-rahs” until AG Eric Holder and his handlers answer some tough questions. Good luck; “terrorism” is neither a new word nor a modern concept, and it seems to be one of those “silly putty” items in the lexicon that take on the shape of whatever context they happen to land in. Just what the hell is a “terrorist”, anyway? From the perspective of King George III, George Washington must surely have been a “terrorist”. Nelson Mandela was called a “terrorist”. Et Cetera.

The point is, you can jump back and forth across that moat indefinitely without discovering a stable definition that works on both sides. I’ve heard it said that “terrorism” is kind of a broad brush, mostly used by governments and other authorities to cast an air of doubt and negativity over those who oppose them. Heck, most of us learned how to exert power by discounting the other guy before we got out of Kindergarten.

***

Getting back to the DTEC

First of all, I can’t help but wonder precisely how this “ Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee” will definedomestic terrorist” to begin with. If one looks at that question in the context of 1995, when Timothy Mcveigh set off a truckload of explosives in front of the Oklahoma City federal building, who could object?

On the other hand, if one looks at it in the context of the early nineteen fifties when Sen. Joseph McCarthy went on a binge of assuming everyone was a “subversive” until proven innocent, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) blacklisted some of our most creative citizens because they didn’t march in step, and the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) sniffed out suspected Communist sympathizers hiding in every nook and cranny, anybody with a gram of common sense would object very loudly. Regardless of the answers to these questions, I’m stingy with my approval in such matters. The NSA scandal didn’t help to soften that stance, and I think we have good reason to be concerned that the Bill of Rights might, once again, be facing challengers who cause us to teeter on the brink of totalitarianism in the name of “National Security”.

And, as is almost always the scenario, the more dangerous enemy may be the very one whose mission it is to protect us from the enemy. Reminds me of “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly, who created an iconic poster back in 1970 saying essentially the same thing.

These are times when fear shrinks the intellect and eccentricity of any kind may be construed as a threat, reminiscent of the Cold War years. Holding views that don’t harmonize with the Approved View of the Moment should not be defined as extremism. “Terrorism” can be painted with a broad brush, and we need to recognize the differences between organized campaigns to cause death and destruction, people of strongly contrarian beliefs, and rogue players of questionable sanity. In a society of 318 million people, how many acts of alleged “terrorism” constitute an epidemic or “threat” to our safety warranting a task force with such innate potential for abuse? Answer: When the breadth and scope of authority and secrecy increase, it’s because the count was too low and the stats need padding.

Vigilance is, in itself, “common sense”, of course, but focused government task forces and committees can be highly motivated to find something. If not counterbalanced with oversight to ensure they don’t find more than is actually there, the combination of passion and power is at least as great a threat as the ones they are supposedly convened to ferret out.

Any time a government takes it upon itself to police, as it were, the activities of fringe ideologies, all ideologies become subject to scrutiny.

There is no question about whether or not government is putting the hard-sell on policing the people, and redefining associated activities as “protecting” them.

When AG Holder announced the revival of the DTEC back in June, news articles cited Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who claims to be an expert on terrorism and stated that “more people have been killed in the U.S. by ‘right-wing-extremists’ since September 11, 2001 than by al Qaeda-inspired militants.”

That’s a bit scary, not so much the substance of her allegation, but the fact:

  • That she made such an outrageous claim

  • That she pre-condemned a huge number of people based on politics and implied association because they score to an unspecified degree to the “conservative” side of an imaginary “centerline”.

  • That Holder seems to think along similar lines

  • And, the fact that people with real power believe such tripe

While I don’t question that Beirich has earned “expert” designation in certain areas, the numbers being tossed around sound more like figures thrown in for effect rather than ones tendered to provide any useful information. I’m a statistics skeptic, and though I don’t consider myself to be an “expert” in my fields of interest, I do have many years of hands on, front line experience in the behavioral sciences which provided me with a certain understanding of what makes people tick, and I think I know tunnel vision when I see it. I don’t know where she got her numbers, or what filters she applied, but I understand about 3,000 innocent people were slain on September 11, 2001, after which the architects of the horror did what any sociopaths do after a hit….they laid low for a couple of years.  If a “right wing extremist” ran over her neighbor’s dog in the interim, it probably qualified for the non-al Qaeda tally.  Pre-scripted epiphanies work like that.

There is bound to be disagreement and misunderstanding regarding what the “War on Terrorism” is all about because there are so many factors affecting the definition of “terrorism”. On a personal level, the concept of “terrorism” brings to mind the events of that dark date, September 11, 2001. I think of organized activity designed to harm the United States, to destroy, disrupt, or kill innocent people on a large scale. In the “legal sense”, to the extent that I understand it, and evidently from the government perspective as well, “terrorism” may refer to the ideological forces behind an act as much as to the act itself.

In my layman’s opinion, that is dangerous; that is unconstitutional; that is un-American.

Incidents of an extreme nature are not difficult to condemn as terrorism, but the lack of a commonly understood definition that doesn’t change with the political weather, leaves a lot of room for undocumented expansion of the net being cast.

The A.C.L.U. has expressed concerns because of the Attorney General’s stated intention to keep tabs on “anti-government animus and racial intolerance.” Oh, that helps clarify things! Well, at least I know that I am probably under somebody’s microscope because I openly admit that I think my beloved country is being mis-administered by idiots and worse. I defy anyone to prove me guilty of “racial intolerance”, though. In fact, even anthropologists can’t agree about “race”. It’s another of those “silly putty” words. What ever happened to the “Irish race”, anyway…..? Those who strain every word and action through a filter that divides people into piles according to skin color and a handful of other real or imagined physical characteristics are the primary CAUSE of cultural tension today, not the solution. Shut up. Please.

By the same token, what might be considered terrorist at one time may not be so defined in another. History has demonstrated that, under stress, a society tends to narrow its path of approved ideologies and activities, and to expand the roster of those deemed enemies of the state, which creates opportunities for excess and abuse.

In thinking of the political, ideological, and economic environments of today from both international and domestic perspectives, the American people, and their elected representatives at all levels, must be equally vigilant for potential threats against our physical and economic safety, and of potential government excesses committed in that effort.

***

While looking for a workable definition of terrorist or terrorism, I meandered through the ideas of many authors, journalists, and self-styled pundits, and most seemed to see “terrorism” as:

  • Acts of violence or the threat of violence;

  • Actions that are designed to create fear and alarm;

  • Actions intended to coerce their target into taking certain paths;

  • Motives include political objectives;

  • Actions may be those of a group or of an individual.

The not so funny funny thing is, both terrorism and counterterrorism can be described accordingly, depending upon perspective.

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 20, 2014

Two chairs.….

A little over two years ago, I wrote a small item about meeting a neighbor of mine on my way back from walking to the post office. I spoke with Eldon from time to time after that day, and never forgot to thank him on Veterans Day and at other appropriate times. If you recall the item of July 13, 2012 , you may remember that he was a WW II veteran who had come home decorated with a number of medals and more than his share of lead.

Last fall, I didn’t see as much of him walking to town as I was accustomed to, but he and his wife were almost always sitting out front in their two white lawn chairs when I’d walk to the Post Office, and we’d wave and comment on the weather.

Eldon passed away this June, at the age of 92, surrounded by family and friends, at home in the house he had built back in 1948. As a matter of fact, for the last three or four months of his remarkable life, he and his wife of 66 years were rarely if ever alone. It wasn’t unusual for there to be two or three cars in the driveway, which, incidentally, he seal-coated himself about three years ago. One of the neighbors had started snow-blowing the driveway for him last winter, and has been taking care of the lawn this summer as well, checking in on Eldon’s widow just about every day. Our village is like that. I didn’t know there were many such places left until we moved here.

Eldon was a remarkable man, and I wish I had known him better. The image of that fit and trim, ninety year old man, in his blaze orange vest, marching purposely down the highway breakdown lane, a couple of miles from home, is etched permanently in my memory. Sometimes, I’d pass him on his return trip, with a newspaper tucked under his arm. He liked to read the paper every day, and I know the nearest place to buy one in this part of rural Maine is two and a half miles away.

I still see his wife from time to time, when I walk to the Post Office. I wave, she smiles, and waves back from where she sits in her white lawn chair, in its usual spot by the side of the driveway. There is always another white chair there, too, but it is empty now.

At least, that’s the way it looks to me. I’m not sure she would agree.

Well done, Eldon.

…and, thanks.

 

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