Teen MySpace Suicide. Preventable, but not the way you think…

An article today talked about a teen who committed suicide after a rather cruel Myspace prank:

The parents of Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, who hanged herself last year, said her suicide came minutes after she received mean messages through the social networking site MySpace. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now that is very tragic. Teen suicides are probably the saddest thing that can happen, and probably the most devastating thing that can occur to a parent.

A police report said that a mother from the neighborhood and her 18-year-old employee fabricated a profile for a teenage boy online who pretended to be interested in Megan before he began bullying her. – [Yahoo/AP]

OK now this is just plain mean and senseless. Some people really need to get a life. That 18 year old seriously needs a date or something…

After the case became public, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt asked lawmakers to review state law to see if changes were necessary to better deal with cases that involve Internet bullying. Some municipalities have also considered or passed statutes to strengthen laws that deal with Internet harassement. – [Yahoo/AP]

Ah, of course. The obligatory knee-jerk, parent activist motivated legislative law passing that is bound to bite us in the rear at some point in the future…

What is truly sad about this incident, isn’t that internet laws aren’t tough enough, bullying laws aren’t tough enough or even, as an extreme example of the futility of this kind of lawmaking, that suicide laws aren’t tough enough. The truly sad thing was that the teen wasn’t tough enough.

Here is the thing. I have known kids who were beaten down and abused daily by their parents, who did not kill themselves. I’ve seen kids grow up in environments that would mentally cripple an adult. But they actually became tougher, stronger and more resilient.

When I was growing up, many of my friends and I were subjected to actual physical bullying. Not stupid disparaging emails. Actually, we didn’t have email. I would have preferred to be bullied by email. But the thing is, none of us contemplated suicide, only survival. None of them have committed suicide. Not one.

My point is this. The internet bullying isn’t the big problem. It’s the way kids today are raised. The ones that commit suicide tend to have considered it long before they ever do, and need special treatment. Or even better yet, to have been raised differently.

If it isn’t internet bullying, it will be failing a test, buckling under peer pressure, failing to achieve a goal later in life, who knows. No law will prevent that mindset. But good parenting, and where necessary, the right treatments, can. So let’s quit making stupid knee-jerk laws, and focus on how to treat suicide prone teens, indeed how to properly raise our kids so they don’t become suicide prone teens.

Seriously, if all it takes for your teen to kill themselves are mean emails from someone they really don’t even know, don’t you think there must be something else terribly wrong?

No charges in MySpace suicide case – [Yahoo/AP]

More car crushing idiocy…

It would appear that Australia is taking a page from Californias law book of senseless and excessive practices:

Street racers in Australia will soon see their beloved cars being deliberately smashed by the authorities in videos posted on the Internet.

The often flashy, souped-up vehicles will be wrecked in crash tests under laboratory conditions, the New South Wales state government announced. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Now I’m sure some of you out there are thinking “Serves them right!”, but I assure you, this law is not a good thing. There is a reason this hasn’t been done in the past. This is technically a violation of an individuals rights. When convicted killers go to prison, even they do not have their belongings destroyed. They may be confiscated and cataloged, but they get them back when they get out. If they get out.

So how exactly can anyone think that this is a fair penalty for any lesser crime? I’d rather impose this penalty for drunk drivers, rather than street racers. At least the street racers are actually in full control of their faculties, and some of them (let me iterate the *some*) are actually really good drivers. The same cannot be said for drunks. But the kicker is that ultimately, as a deterrent, it wouldn’t work for that either.

These kinds of knee-jerk, intimidation-based legislative decisions set very dangerous precedents that could have very profound future ramifications. And to top it off, it’s not like this is going to deter anyone from street racing anyway. Most of the folks who street race will do it regardless of the penalties. Literally. These laws are little more than public displays to make others feel like something is being done about the problem, when in fact, it will have little effect on any hard core racers.

However to their credit, the Australians have adopted a better use for the vehicles than just crushing them. They will be used for crash tests. Which is orders of magnitude better than Californias pointless “crush ‘em all” solution. But both laws are seriously troublesome. The law will have to be very specific on what constitutes “street racing”, and even then I’m sure many police officers will still abuse it, much like how the “aggressive driving” box is seemingly checked on tickets at will, as opposed to, let’s say, the tickets of drivers who actually meet the legal definition of “aggressive driving”…

Aussie street racers to see cars crashed by govt – [Yahoo/AFP]

Presidential ignorance is a curse…

You may remember many moons ago I posted about American citizenship, and whether or not a citizenship exam should include questions on things like sports, world events, and cultural awareness. Now in this bloggers humble opinion, these things are not a true measure of whether or not a person will be a good American.

I would rather have every aspiring American citizen take an ethics test and be done with it. In fact I’d like to see every young American, not just immigrants be required to take a federally mandated ethics test when they reach legal age, before they are allowed to be considered a legal adult. I think the country would benefit from this more than anything else. The rest of it is almost inconsequential by comparison.

Almost. There are many positions where I think a broader, more comprehensive test of ones knowledge, ethics, social awareness and general knowledge of world events and character should be a mandatory requirement. High ranking police and military are a couple that come to mind some of them. Even your average street cop should ideally have comprehensive periodic psych evals, as well as more ethics and social training. But most important of all, President of the United States of America should be one of those positions that requires all of the above.

Before you ever get to see elections, or even start running for president, I think you should, at the very least, be able to demonstrate significantly above average ability on an IQ test, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of social, political and world issues. This should be a requirement for the position.

Why? Because ignorance has absolutely no place in a presidential office. No self respecting IT department would hire a professional bricklayer for their server administration. Nor would a construction company hire a nerd for manual labor. Why does the same not apply for the oval office? People with that kind of power need to know how to use it intelligently. And when I read some of the (many) questionable things our outgoing president has to say, It is clear to me that he is lacking in that department:

In a speech defending his administration’s Iraq policy, Bush said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and stop the sectarian violence that has engulfed the Middle Eastern nation.

“I heard somebody say, Where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,” – [Reuters]

Saddam killed all the Mandelas?!? You know, any country as great as this one really ought to be run by someone who has a modicum of awareness about important world leaders, events, issues, etc. I’m all for presidency being open to any American citizen, but shouldn’t there at least be some sort of IQ requirement? World knowledge? Social awareness? How about the basic ability to form coherent, meaningful and intelligent sentences?

The presidency should be open to everyone, but at the same time, becoming president should be a highly selective process. I don’t believe that it should be solely the domain of highly educated aristocrats though. Lord knows we don’t need more classism. But I think that maybe the presidency shouldn’t be an option for your common, average everyday ignoramus either…

Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark – [Reuters]

Sex on the job? Only of you’re a sex worker…

So I came across an unusual story about an officer who decided to get himself some nookie while on duty:

The jury quickly came to a unanimous verdict as the policeman proved he was able to respond to all emergencies as he was equipped with an earpiece tuned in to the police radio frequency.

“If there was a call for me, I would have answered it and I would have dealt with it,” he told the court, according to the Times newspaper.

His lawyer Kevin Baumber believes that the inspector certainly misbehaved, but his bad decision is not a crime. – [Yahoo/AFP]

So here’s my issue. I am not sure what he was being charged with, but how, in the name of all things holy, did this officer prove that he was on duty? To my knowledge an “on-duty” police officer is supposed to be on patrol right? It may just be me, but I find it difficult to see how he could have been on patrol while engaged in the horizontal mambo.

A police officer in the sack is one less officer on the street, or on patrol, or wherever they are supposed to be. Yes, perhaps this is no different from playing golf, but that would still mean he was off duty. Unless he is trying to tell us that he gets paid to play golf whenever he feels like it. Sure he could have responded to a call, but how many crimes are prevented simply because a cop was physically present at the scene?

Even if we disregard the ethically and morally dubious nature of this case, there is a very big difference between being present on the street as a physical, visible deterrent to crime, and being retroactively available to assist after the crime has been committed. How did these jury members not see that?

I’m beginning to think that part of the problem with the world today is that nobody is holding anyone else accountable for their irresponsible actions. Probably because they don’t want to be held accountable for their own actions either. At this rate we will all be going to hades in a hand basket…

British cop proves he was still on duty during sex romp – [Yahoo/AFP]

Sheriffs Deputy drunken shenanigans…

Just read of an unusual DUI case involving an off-duty Sheriffs Deputy:

Charlotte Moore, 36, a jail deputy, was off duty driving her 2004 Pontiac Grand Am on Saturday when she was pulled over by her husband, Elko County Sheriffs Deputy Mike Moore, a police report said.

In two separate accounts of the incident, Mike Moore indicated she initially was pulled over for either speeding or making an illegal turn.

She allegedly left before being administered a portable breathalyzer test, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.

Mike Moore pulled her over again and called for backup. He left shortly after another officer arrived. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this case is of interest to me for several reasons. First, obviously, as a sheriffs deputy who had probably jailed many inebriated drivers, she should have known better than to drink and drive herself. But the other more interesting point for me was that her husband actually pulled her over twice, and allowed her to be arrested for DUI.

Now I can only speculate about how strong their relationship is, but things like this have a tendency to become points of embitterment. How many people, given the opportunity, would have simply taken the easy route, covered it up, taken the wife home and let her sleep it off? Maybe he had a choice and maybe he didn’t. But if he did have that option, and chose to take this route, I think he did the right thing, and only hope that his integrity is rewarded.

Though I have to admit that in this day and age, I doubt that it will…

Husband pulls over his deputy wife twice – [Yahoo/AP]

The folks are a trip… 4real…

A New Zealand couple is looking to call their newborn son Superman — but only because their chosen name of 4Real has been rejected by the government registry.Pat and Sheena Wheaton say they will get around the decision by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages by officially naming their son Superman but referring to him as 4Real, the New Zealand Herald newspaper has reported. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

OK. I have a question. Why do some parents feel the need to burden their kids with unusual names that might possibly cause them misery their entire life? Do they not think of these things?

I think there should be a name registry. It should be called “Names that will guarantee that your child will get beat up all throughout school, and mocked all throughout their adult lives.” That way when a parent intentionally picks one of these names, they should automatically get slapped with a statutory child endangerment suit… I’m just sayin’…

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a baby, 4Real! – [Yahoo/Reuters]

A nation of finger pointers…

In writing this blog, I learn things about people and life in general that I might not have had I sat blissfully ensconced in my own world behind this monitor. I find I think about things a lot more if I have to write about them.

Some of the conclusions I end up with sometimes catch me off guard. Like I realized today that we are, by and large, a nation of hypocritical finger pointers. Conflicted blame shifters. Flip-flopping fault finders. Myself included. Well I’m a conflicted finger pointer, dunno about the rest ;)

Let me explain. I came across an article today about Americas opinions about texting and driving:

Ninety-one percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent admit to doing it, a poll released Tuesday said. – [Reuters]

Now my math is not exactly known for it’s infallibility, but by my calculations, that would mean that at least 48 percent of the population are texting while driving, all the while advocating that it should be banned. 48 percent. Forty-Eight.

Now doesn’t that seem strange to you? That almost half the population of the United States of America is engaged in a practice they believe should be illegal? And this occurs while completely sober? Here’s another example. I recently came across a message board where some unfortunate sap got caught for speeding in the wee hours of the morning on an open stretch of deserted road.

He came to the board asking for legal advice. He got his advice, but not before enduring some scathing remarks about breaking the law by a few other folks on the board and, apparently, an active law enforcement officer. To his credit, he tried to explain that he attempted to pick the safest optimal conditions for his “speed run” however one particularly vigorous poster immediately flamed him to death for “breaking the law”.

Now I ask you: how many of those people do you think have never broken a law before? How many have gone just that little bit over the speed limit because they were late? Hogged the passing lane doing 5mph under the speed limit, while a line of increasingly irate drivers grew behind them? Had a cellphone conversation while driving? Took a pen home from work? Put on makeup/did their hair on the road? Ate lunch on the road? With a burger in one hand, a shake in the other, and a knee on the steering wheel?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Nobody is perfect, but everyone insists they are better than everyone else. Everyone likes to be able to point a finger at another and say “He/She broke the law! That Idiot! That imbecile!”. The guy who decided to speed in the safest environment he could think of, (and actually consciously thought about it before doing so) gets flamed, while people are talking on cellphones and texting in the middle of traffic on a busy highway (without a second thought for safety) is somehow culturally more acceptable?

Whose actions are more irresponsible? Do you think the law adequately addresses the more dangerous action? My opinion: (like I have to actually say it) No! The law isn’t perfect. You should see some of the silly laws that have passed (some are still on the books!). And more to the point, people aren’t perfect. The fact that I can effortlessly find enough ludicrous stuff to talk about here, on a daily basis, is testament to that.

We all want compassion, mercy, and tolerance and yet we are so reluctant to show anyone else the same. We blame everything for our problems, TV, video games, guns, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, frequently each other. But never ourselves. We are so quick to point a finger at everything/everyone else. But we always ignore the three pointing back at us. We suck. Big time. Epic Fail. I wish there was a reset button on this game…

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving – [Reuters]

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]

First no arms… Now no sight? Aren’t these driving hazards?

Look, I have nothing against differently abled people trying to remain mobile. In a previous post I talked about a guy with one leg and no arms who taught himself to drive. Remarkable. I would not attempt to impose my own limitations upon what they should be able to do. But anyone with a modicum of common sense would apply some self imposed limits on what they should or should not be doing:

Police in the Baltic state of Estonia stopped a man who was driving erratically at the weekend, only to find he was blind.

The 20-year-old was driving in the southern city of Tartu early Sunday — helped by instructions from his 16-year-old passenger.

“At first they thought he was just drunk, but the man kept missing the tube for the breath test, then they realized he was blind” and arrested him, Tartu Police spokeswoman Marge Kohtla said Monday. – [Reuters]

I suppose if you watched the move Scent of a Woman in which Al Pacino plays the part of a blind ex-military man, you may remember the scene where Chris O’Donnells’ character is persuaded to let him drive, guiding him verbally, as they careen through the streets of Brooklyn NY.

Newsflash! That was a movie folks!! Trying this for real is simply irresponsible. Driving is a visual sport. You can’t have blind folk driving any more than you can have a boy girl scout. What was he thinking?!

It is hard enough to drive when you can see. Forget it if you can’t. At least until technology comes up with cybernetic optical implants. Then you can do whatever you want. Really. You can. You will. Just wait and see. Literally…

Blind man arrested for driving car – [Reuters]

The often hidden psychological effects of war…

I just read a very sad story about the brutal assault of an civilian Iraqi family in their own home.

A military jury on Friday found a soldier guilty of rape and murder in the slayings of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family.

Jurors deliberated much of Friday evening before convicting Army Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 22, of conspiracy to commit rape, rape, housebreaking with intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder.

Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders, but alleged he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout. Spielman had pleaded guilty on Monday to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstructing justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

¬†Spielman’s sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: “I hate the government. You people put him (in Iraq) and now, this happened.” [Yahoo/AP]

It is hard to know exactly what was going on in this soldiers head while all of this was going on, but we know for sure that at the end of the incident, an Iraqi girl had been raped, and her family murdered in cold blood. The most important point about this incident is not that the brutality and heartlessness of the crime is unusual, but rather the opposite. The ability to kill without hesitation is a requirement in order to be a good soldier. In times of war this is a necessary ability. In a theater where your combatants are just as likely to be women and children, as men, you learn to kill each with the same level of efficiency. The problem however, lies in the other less salient side effects that occur as a result of this kind of conditioning.

What happens when you reach the point where you can look at someone, a race, or a demographic, and no longer see a human being? Just a soft target? Well, in war, it makes you a better soldier. But once you learn to kill people without guilt, what else might you be capable of? And will you have to moral fiber to discern the right from the wrong and act on it? We may never know the reasons Pfc. Spielman went along with all of this. But I can understand Paige Gerlachs’ hatred of the government. She and her family will be forever emotionally scarred by this incident.

But the sad fact is, though the government may have put them in Iraq and trained them to kill Iraqi men, women and children without guilt, it was not the government who made them murder that family. They were not ordered to do so. The did this of their own free will. And I’m sure they are not the only ones to have committed such war crimes. But the actions of few such out-of-control soldiers, if any, will ever be publicized, even if they are caught. And yet they will return to our soil, with this black mark upon their psyche. And that is the ultimate problem with war.

At the end of any war, you will have not only damaged your enemies population, but your own as well, both physically and psychologically. A war of any kind comes at great cost. To both sides. And unfortunately the rewards are sometimes not worth the sacrifices. It is not something to be entered easily or lightly, no matter how strong you may think you are.

Soldier found guilty of rape, murder – [Yahoo/AP]