Personal Responsibility: an archaic ideal?

What happened to the days when people took responsibility for not only thier own actions but the results if accidents that happen to them?

 An injured woman who slipped in an Alaskan parking lot can sue the federal government for failing to remove snow and ice, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

When did it become par for the course for people to sue for slipping and falling on ice? More importantly, why does that make sense to anyone? People don’t intentionally put ice out to make people fall. It’s not a malicious act. It’s an act of nature. Why should anybody be forced to expend the time, energy and/or cash clearing out their own sidewalk? Because it’s on their property? Hogwash!

So what happens if nobody owns the land that you happen to slip and fall on? Who do you sue? God? Mother Nature? How dumb is that? How can it be the rule of the land that if you have an accident on someones property, they are automatically at fault for it, even of they have successfully avoided any similar accident for years?

How about people stop blaming everyone else for accidents that are often just the fault of their own carelessness? How about being more responsible, like walking more carefully when they see ice? Or waiting for hot coffee to cool down before drinking it? These laws shield those who lack common sense, are allowing people to become dumber and dumber every day. Before you know it, we will all be stupid Eloi, hunted and consumed by legal Morlocks…

In icy Alaska, Army can be sued over fall – [Yahoo/Reuters]

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 handgun mayhem.

A recent case regarding whether an Oregon school teacher could bring her handgun to school has been decided:

Shirley Katz, who has a legal permit to carry a concealed handgun, argued she needed the Glock semi-automatic pistol to protect herself from her ex-husband. She sued the school district when it told her carrying a gun was against a district policy prohibiting guns.

Circuit Judge G. Philip Arnold agreed with the district, saying “The District has a right to enforce this policy.” he noted that employees “accept their jobs subject to, and knowing, the policy.” – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Well now. That’s too bad. I can sympathize with the need for the district to remain in control. But this ruling won’t prevent any disgruntled students, irate ex-husbands, explosive bearing gang members or crazed faculty from bringing firearms on campus either.

Unless the district installs metal detectors. And hires some really burly security guards. But of course they’d have to arm the security guards, ’cause they would be useless against an armed assailant if they didn’t have a projectile weapon of some sort. Like a taser. Or a firearm. Except your average taser has an average range of about 15 feet. And is single shot. Not much help against a firearm wielding opponent. Unless they are less than 15 feet in front of you, and you are a crack shot.

It seems to me that while the district seems to be ignoring the basic fact that these rules do not protect the ones who follow them. Only the ones who break them. They do not prevent anyone from bringing a firearm into the school, unless the rule is supplemented by active security measures, such as metal detectors and random spot checks that physically prevent them from being broken. And that just breeds an atmosphere of oppression. Not to mention that even those measures can be circumvented.

So what exactly is the point of such a restriction? At the end of the day, it seems entirely easier to just arm the teachers. It would be much, much cheaper, and orders of magnitude more effective. If not with firearms, then at least with tasers. Sticking ones head in the sand in a gunfight only guarantees that ones hind quarters will get shot off…

Teacher loses fight to take gun to class – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion :) )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

Why we need better psych profiling for law enforcement.

I have mentioned on a couple of occasions that I believe that our Justice system here in America needs a serious revamp. I have no illusions about the complexity, inherent problems and near impossibility of creating a perfectly just, adequate and equitable legal system in any country. But here in the US, we have so many resources available that there are some things that we have no excuse for not implementing some basics that would seriously help balance out some of the flaws in the justice system and law enforcement, as it stands today. Articles like the ff, where an off-duty Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer wigged out and went on a jealous killing spree, only cement my opinion:

An off-duty sheriff’s deputy went on a shooting rampage early Sunday at a home where seven young people had gathered for pizza and movies, killing six and critically injuring the other before authorities fatally shot him, officials said. – [Yahoo/AP]

I know police officers are people too, but shouldn’t there be checks and balances? A requirement for a Specific kind of person for these positions? Even the possible motive for the killings makes no sense:

The circumstances of the shooting were hazy Sunday and it wasn’t immediately clear what the gunman’s motive was, but the mother of a 14-year-old victim said the suspect may have been a jealous boyfriend. – [Yahoo/AP]

A jealous boyfriend? Really? He went on a shooting spree out of jealousy? Even though this motive is entirely speculation at this point, it still begs the question, how did someone like this make it into the force? I know many progressive law enforcement offices use psychological profiling in their hiring process, and I don’t know if the Wisconsin Sheriffs dept. is one of them, but I really think it should be a standard practice, not just in progressive law enforcement establishments, but across the board.

I think that along with periodic evaluations and a statistical analysis of officer behaviour in reference to their psych evals over time and as a whole, could help nip these kinds of problems in the bud. In fact any force that is intended to exercise any level of control over the general populace needs to have this kind of testing done. Maybe I’m beating a dead horse into glue. But come on. Isn’t it worth the lives that would be saved, and the prevention of unfair police brutality to implement something like this universally?

Off-duty Wis. deputy sheriff kills 6 – [Yahoo/AP]

Da Prez Gats Prahoritahs…

In the latest mind-numbing news, our illustrious Prez has vetoed a bill intended to expand health benefits for American children:

The Democrats who control Congress, with significant support from Republicans, passed the legislation to add $35 billion over five years to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

His reasoning for the veto?:

“Poor kids first,” Bush said. “Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system.”

Ah. Yes. Of course. Poor Kids First. Sure thing there Mr. Prez. And the Federal government should absolutely stay out of health care. Yeah. What was I thinking. Silly Dems. Healthcare insurance isn’t for middle class kids. Please enlighten us further:

The president argued that the Democratic bill was too costly, took the program too far beyond its original intent of helping the poor, and would entice people now covered in the private sector to switch to government coverage. He has proposed only a $5 billion increase in funding. After Bush’s speech, White House counselor Ed Gillespie said the president’s offer of more money meant more than the $5 billion extra, but he wasn’t specific about how much more. – [Yahoo/AP]

Hmmm. Now lemme see here. Apparently you are perfectly fine with the approximately $454 (and swiftly rising) Billion US dollars that we have spent sending many brave American soldiers into a shadow war, (I won’t even go into how many of them aren’t coming back) but $35 Billion to fund kids health care (over 5 years) is too costly? Interesting.

So your priority at the moment would be to ensure that we stay at war with an enemy in hiding, and attempt to stabilize a country that is founded on quicksand, for as long as possible. As opposed to taking steps to help ensure that about 4 million American kids have the opportunity to remain healthy. Primarily because you are afraid of “freeloaders”. Huh.

Mr. Prezidente, your Kung-Fu is mystical. And strong. And as sensible as standing barefoot in a muddy open field, wearing a hawaiian shirt, bermuda shorts and a tin foil hat in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Bush vetoes child health insurance plan – [Yahoo/AP]

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]

Our Rights: The Overlapping Gray Areas…

I just read an interesting article that illustrates a common, but not so visited aspect of our much valued “personal freedoms”. They are not as clearly defined many like to think:

For Dwight DeGolia’s neighbors, the last straw was the fake palm trees.

The 62-year-old retiree had spent years fixing up the sliver of sloping land outside his home, adding two putting greens that were almost 30 feet long, a small creek and a gazebo.

But the 8- to 12-foot palm trees made it impossible for neighbors to ignore DeGolia’s project anymore, a passion that they said was making the neighborhood look tacky and led them to take DeGolia to court.

Cities and neighborhood associations have struggled for years with how to handle situations in which eccentric people with a penchant for lawn decoration get into fights with nearby homeowners.

The battles often feature issues that are far from straightforward, such as whose property rights are more important — the woman who fancies dozens of cupid statues on her front lawn, or the next door neighbor who has to look at it? – [Yahoo/AP]

I thought I’d talk about this because it’s one of those areas that I think that American culture just doesn’t give enough attention to. The first and most important thing to remember is that, human beings are, at the same time, social, and very, very different.

Regardless of our intentions, so long as we have to interact with others whose beliefs, backgrounds, upbringing, etc., may be worlds apart from our own, we may do things to offend. Unfortunately, this can happen, even when we are exercising our “personal freedoms”.

Any good American will say that we all believe that our personal freedoms should be protected, and must remain inviolate. And in theory, this is good and admirable. Except for one, very large, problem. The idea of isolating and protecting an individuals personal rights is not always a realistic (nor universally practical) goal, since, in any social community, the areas of each of our individual rights overlap. Massively.

And unfortunately, being the litigation happy people that we are, we forget some of the lessons our parents taught us when we were growing up. You know, the ones about compromise? Sharing? We have become so selfish, that we will fight, tooth and nail, to the death, to do what we want to do, claiming justification under the flag of our “Individual Rights”.

We tend to completely ignore the fact that the person we may be in contention with, may have an equally valid right to say, do, or express whatever it is they feel the need to do at the time. Now I honestly believe that, with freedom, comes great responsibility. And, unfortunately, equally great sacrifice.

Everybody wants to have their freedom. But nobody wants to bear the responsibility, or have to be the one to sacrifice something. I believe that the idea of individual freedoms isn’t about each if us getting what we want. It is about trying to make sure that everyone, not just you, has a chance to get what they want.

We have to learn to compromise, be considerate of others. Try and resolve our differences. Be willing to listen. Be willing to compromise. Everyone should be willing to sacrifice something. Perhaps a little more this time, maybe a little less next time. It will change from case to case. And there are not perfect solutions.

But the willingness to compromise should be there, if we really all truly believe in the concept of individual rights. No ones rights should exist to exclusivity of all others. And until we learn that lesson, I think we will all just be going through the motions, and paying lip service to the concept of “Individual rights”. It will be a catchy phrase, nothing more.

And I don’t think we really want that as a nation. But that’s just my opinion.

Yard art is in eye of beholder and court – [Yahoo/AP]

A minor “Hit and Run” with tragic consequences…

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some people will go to avoid bearing the responsibility of their actions, as displayed by the ff article submitted by a friend:

A woman, fleeing the scene of a wreck that she was involved in, crashed her car into a tree Thursday night, killing her child, police said.

The woman, who was not identified, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. But the boy, believed to be between 5 and 7 years old, died at the scene, said Atlanta police Officer James Polite.

Police said that minutes before the collision, the woman – who has not yet been named – was involved in a minor wreck on Jonesboro Road and Cleveland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta. – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You know, even though we don’t know the details of the original accident that caused this woman to decide to flee, and eventually careen out of control, it is easy to see the trail of bad decisions that got her there. First, a “Hit and run” is just plain irresponsible.

We may never know why she decided to run that day, but regardless of who is at fault, if you are involved in a traffic collision, to drive away from the scene without ascertaining the condition and well being of anyone else in the collision is just not acceptable.

But to then decide to drive your vehicle so fast that you lose control of it going round a curve with your young son in the car is just plain negligent. Plain and simple. I firmly believe that the most honest measure of our character can be seen in how we react when we are faced with difficult situations. And to be quite frank, I think this lady was of very poor character. And she paid for her bad decisions with the life of her young son.

Some people seem to think that responsibility is something that can be shucked when it is inconvenient. In fact, the opposite is true. It is at the times when it is the most inconvenient that being responsible is of the greatest value. Is is sad that such a small inconvenience had to cost so much. Had this woman understood that, her son might still be alive today…

Woman kills her child after fleeing minor wreck – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

What kind of kids are we raising?

I think that America, as a culture, we have started down a long slippery slope towards self imprisonment. We are stripping away from ourselves the very freedoms we hold dear. I see it every day. Even in some of the most innocuous things:

On the playground of a northern Colorado Springs elementary school, tag is not “it.”

The touch-and-run game and any other form of chasing was banned this year at Discovery Canyon Campus’ elementary school by administrators who say it fuels schoolyard disputes.

“It causes a lot of conflict on the playground,” said Assistant Principal Cindy Fesgen. In the first days of school, before tag was banned, she said students would complain to her about being chased or harassed.

Fesgen said she would hear: “Well, I don’t want to be chased, but he won’t stop chasing me, or she won’t stop chasing me.” – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Is this what we want our kids to do? How do we expect our kids to learn anything about people and life, if every time they run into a problem we ban it wholesale? How are they going to learn how to deal with each other? Learn how to handle people and their idiosyncracies? When will they understand that not everything is going to go our way, and that not everything is under our control?

And even worse, how do we teach those kids what they can and cannot do? How do we teach kids that you cannot harass someone just because? Banning tag isn’t going to teach that. All this teaches them is if you don’t like it, get it banned. No tolerance, no patience, no  understanding. Nothing else will be learned by this action. The playground will have one less game, and the children will have one less avenue  to learn about others and themselves.

 Nationally, several schools have done away with tag and other games because of the accidents and arguments they can lead to. It’s a trend that has rankled some parents and childhood experts who say games such as tag contribute to children’s social and physical development. – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Apparently, even childhood experts can see the flaw in this way of thinking. And yet we have schools, communities, cities, states and even federal legislation that allow exactly the same thing to happen on a national level. What’s the betting that this is all fueled by the same mentality? People don’t seem to be able to see the big picture. It may sound like an unlikely slippery slope, but at the rate we are going, sooner or later, we will legislate ourselves out of our own personal freedoms.

Believe it or not. Your choice. But I have seen enough insanity to tell me that it’s possible. I can only hope we either come to our senses, or I’m not around when we finally lock ourselves in and throw away the key…

Springs elementary gives tag a timeout – [Colorado Springs Gazette]