Archive for 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Posted by Doug White under Political

This whole Occupy Wall Street movement has honestly got me perplexed. For those who have been living under a rock and don’t know what Occupy Wall Street is, don’t feel all that bad, as I’m becoming more of the mindset that many who actually are “occupying” Wall Street don’t really know what it is.

My general impression of this “movement” that started about a month or so ago is this.  A group of people have set up in a park in New York to protest the idea that 1% of our population supposedly makes more than the other 99% does altogether.  From there movements have started  across the country in various places including an “Occupy Sioux Falls” here locally.

From there, things get a little fuzzy for me.  What is the overall purpose of the protests?  Unclear.  What do they hope to accomplish besides being a general nuisance?  Not really sure.

These groups are protesting large corporate influences while basically feeding those very corporations the money they’re upset that the corporations have.  They do so by using their smart-phones (made by corporations) while they use social media (companies that earn huge profits) to protest.  They go to Starbucks (another corporation) to get that warm drink to stay warm in their non home-made tents (made by corporations) that they’ve set up to live in while they fight “the man”.  Unless they make their own clothes, food and shelters, they are protesting every aspect of life that they personally use which makes them in my mind extremely hypocritical.

Their heroes? Steve Jobs.  Michael Moore.  Alec Baldwin.   For a group that protests the rise of the “super-rich” and the effect they have on the down-trodden poor this is mind-boggling.

I watched my own Twitter feed on the day Jobs died and the very people who are all for this protest were almost in a state of mourning over a man who ran one of the biggest corporations out there.  One whose sole purpose was to design products to convince you to give them your money.

And Alec Baldwin, there’s one of the 99% for you.  A super-rich movie/TV star who makes money off those evil credit cards this group wants to protest (he’s a spokesperson for Capital One) and has a reputation for treating his own child like a piece of garbage.  This is a person that these people look up to.

And don’t even get me started on Michael Moore.  Michael Moore has made an enormous amount of money through capitalistic means to espouse his hatred of capitalism.  He also claims not to be one of the 1% which by any sane person’s definition he should be at the top of the 1% list.  There is no bigger hypocrite out in the world than Michael Moore.

Generally speaking, in some regards, the group has very similar complaints that the Tea Party have had.  Whether you’re a Tea Party member or an Occupy Wall Street person, neither group is thrilled by bailouts of companies that then in turn took that money and used it to simply reward people who caused the problems that they were being bailed out for.

But that‘s where the similarities end.  What did the Tea Party do?  They got people into office who hopefully will make a difference.  It’s not guaranteed but at least they’re trying.  Occupy Wall Street simply seems to want to hang out and protest.  For how long?  Again, not real clear.

And they seem to think they are above the law.  They think that they have the right to stay in a place for weeks, go into restaurants and disrupt business because they don’t like what the owner does, defecate on police cars and they think they can do so without consequence.  And when the police do get involved they scream brutality and yell about how the police are supposedly not following the rules of civility when they themselves show no civility whatsoever.

It is so funny to me how this group is being portrayed.  When the Tea Party group was formed, the media went berserk and started accusing the group of having racist overtones – without ONE ounce of proof.  But like I’ve said before, when accusing one of racism in this country, you don’t need proof anymore, the accusation enough is all it takes.

The Occupy Wall Street group has repeatedly showed disregard for other people’s rights or the law in general and the media are trying to make this protest into some sort of positive liberal revolution and paint anyone who may have a concern with large groups of people trying to usurp the rights of others as being paranoid and unreasonable.

Do I think every person in these groups has a desire to cause problems for others?  Absolutely not.  But I think a lot do.  Plus I think the number of people in this group who are hoping for something violent to happen are growing.

I try very hard to be open-minded about other people’s points of view.  I am a strong conservative but I have no problem with someone with a strong liberal point of view.  But this group scares me to death.  I am absolutely convinced that this group is going to cause a repeat of Kent State from Vietnam days.  With the advent of social media and the internet I think that it will actually be much worse than Kent State ever could be and I think violence is going to erupt nationwide.

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that when winter hits a lot of these people will decide to stop this Occupy Wall Street nonsense and go back to “occupying” wherever it is they came from.  But with each passing day my hope in being wrong is dwindling.

Live Long and Prosper

Posted by Doug White under Star Trek

In all of history there has never been a day that was as significant to me as this one.  No, it’s not my wedding anniversary or a birthday of a loved one.  Nope, no one famous did anything of great importance.  A war wasn’t won or lost on this day.  But what did happen was on this day, 45 years ago, the very first episode of Star Trek aired.

Forty-five years! I wasn’t even born when the first episode aired in 1966 and by the time I was born in 1969 the show had been cancelled.  But that didn’t stop me, at the tender age of 5 from falling head over heels with this show.

My mom has told me that I used to enjoy the show so much that I would pretend to be sick at supper time because that was when repeats of the show aired.  I can remember owning a 1970’s toy version of a phaser that would shoot a little circle piece from the top of it.  I loved that toy and wish more than anything that I still had it.

As a teen, I read anything I could get my hands on that was Trek-related. Books, comic books, you name it.  I read the books so much I wore the covers off of them.  I remember seeing Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and was in a state of shock when Spock died.  (I still get emotional watching Kirk and Spock’s final scene together.)  A few years later, I watched with much excitement when Spock was brought back to life in such an unusual way that I overlooked all the glaring holes with the plotline of that movie.

I wished I was Captain Kirk – with his bravado and cunning and his ease around women.  I longed to be Spock with his intelligence and his ability to control his emotions – something as a hotheaded young man I never was able to do well.  To me, Dr. McCoy was like a gruff uncle and Scotty was that crazy relative who seemed to brighten up any room he was in.  The whole lot of them were like this weird extended family that came into my house and brought these exciting adventures to me on a regular basis.

 When The Next Generation came out, I was thrilled – but felt a little bit like I was cheating on my one true love.  For a long time I couldn’t wrap my head around how it was ok that Captain Picard was different than Captain Kirk.  But he and that crew grew on me too and by the time “The Best of Both Worlds” came on, I was hooked completely.  Watching that 2-parter now, I can still remember how I screamed “Noooo!” when Locutus (Picard) came on and Commander Riker ordered Worf to fire phasers and they hit the “To Be Continued” screen.  A whole summer to find out what happened next?  Pure agony!

Meanwhile there were still more movies to watch with the old gang.  William Shatner produced one and while it was the worst of the movies (Kirk takes on God, sort of), it was still very cool and had some great scenes between Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  The final movie for them “The Undiscovered Country”, while showing their age, still managed to provide a good send off for the crew of The Old Series.

About this time, I met my wife-to-be and she somehow managed to stay with me even after I forced her to watch all six of the current movies.  She watched numerous episodes of The Next Generation and if you catch her off guard, she’ll even admit, she liked a few.  Not long after we got married, I took her to see “Generations” which was the much anticipated Picard/Kirk team-up.  At that point, she had enough and from there on forward I was on my own in regards to the movies.

Deep Space Nine came soon then and while not quite what I envisioned Trek to be, I loved the intrigue of the show.  I also loved the fact that Commander Sisko was a little bit more of that rebellious leader much in the same way that Kirk was.  The Ferengi’s never really grew on me but I did love the dynamic between Odo and Quark though.

Then came Voyager – a kind of “Gilligan’s Island” version of Trek.  Which should have annoyed most female fans of the show because it had a female captain who gets her ship really, really lost and we all know that it’s men who can’t ever find their way anywhere without a map.  I loved this show too, of course.  Despite its kind of weak premise of having them lost, it kind of worked, because it allowed the writers to explore Star Trek in a fresh way.  And of course there was Seven of Nine who was primarily put on that show to get every red-blooded male’s attention (played by the beautiful Jeri Ryan) and it was a smashing success.

When Voyager ended, I was sure that would be it but then came Enterprise with Scott Bakula.  I was absolutely beyond pumped for this show.  I thought Bakula was fantastic in Quantum Leap and couldn’t WAIT to see him in Trek.  Unfortunately, if I had to be honest, Enterprise was not that great.  You could tell that they’d gone too many times to the well and the storylines weren’t all that fresh.  The fourth season was better but by then it was far too late.

And so that was it, or so I thought.  The Next Generation had made its last movie and Enterprise was cancelled.  The well had been tapped.  That was until 2009, when the newest Star Trek came out and it was about Kirk, Spock and McCoy again.  Huh?  DeForest Kelly (McCoy) is dead, and Shatner and Nimoy are in their 70’s!  Well, this one took the same characters and had them being played by new younger actors.

It was absolutely freaking FANTASTIC!!!  I saw that movie four times on the big screen.  Even though all of those actors were younger than me now, I literally felt like I was a kid again.  I ate it up.  They could not have made a better movie if they tried and I look forward to many more with this group.

Am I a diehard fan?  Absolutely.  Am I a fanatic?  I don’t think so.  I’m not that much into the technical aspect of the show.  I was once teased mercilessly by friends for calling the “Astrometrics” area “Astrophysics” (yes nerds will tease other nerds for nerdy things like this).  I couldn’t telling you how big one starship is over another or that sort of thing. 

But I love the storytelling that Trek does.  I love how it tackles society’s issues in ways that most shows don’t.  I love the optimistic outlook the show provides for the future.  But mainly, I just love it when Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway or Archer just simply shoot, punch or in some way outwit the bad guys. 

Forty-five years ago this show took to the airwaves and for over 30 of those years I have been “boldly going” to the couch to watch them ever since.  I hope that the series and I “live long and prosper” so I can do this for many, many more years.

The Bullying Epidemic

Posted by Doug White under Personal

March 30, 1981 – for most people this day brings back memories of an attempt on a President’s life.  Ronald Reagan, only 69 days into office, was shot at by a crazed lunatic.  30 years later this day stands out in most people’s mind as a sorrowful day that could have been worse if the lunatic had been successful.

For me, the day brings back memories of a different kind.  Just a little over 11 years old, I was walking home from school when one boy grabbed me and held my hands behind my back while another boy, a much larger boy, slapped me hard in the face.  I no longer remember if I had done something to warrant this behavior.  However, I do remember thinking of the biblical phrase, “Turn the other cheek”.  So I did just that, I looked up at this bully and turned the other cheek.  The bully promptly slapped that cheek just as hard as he could.

Bullying is a problem that has gone on for years in our school system and is in my mind a very serious problem that causes so much harm to young people.  Kids who are bullied tend to feel very insecure and unsure of themselves and at odds with the world. 

What makes things worse is that adults give them mixed messages on what to do.  If a child reports a bully, will the bully be dealt with?  If not, the bullying will simply get worse.  Is it ok to stand up for yourself and defend yourself against the bully?  If a kid is punished for taking a stand against a bully, will he or she have the wherewithal to stand up for themselves ever again?  If you tell your parents, will you just be considered a baby who can’t take care of your own problems?  Every option comes across as a no-win situation to a kid who is confused and tormented.

In today’s world, bullying has taken even worse forms.  With the advent of the internet and sites such as YouTube, bullying can be done for the whole world to see.  And while there appears to be an increase in the amount of people being bullied for such reasons as being gay that has not been the only reason that kids have been bullied.

Let me tell you about a young boy I knew named Billy Easter.  We had just moved to Minot AFB, North Dakota in the late 1970’s and young Billy was one of the first friends I had made.  To most people Billy was just odd…I’m not even sure why people thought he was that way.  We were young and I liked him.  I was one of two friends he had and what I do remember about our friendship is he had given us each a “nail” to represent the “club” we were in.  Today, this seems silly but it was important to him. After all, we were probably 8 or 9 years old.

I lost touch with Billy over the years and didn’t think of him too much until I was a teen-ager and I read a newspaper article indicating the fact that Billy had committed suicide.  This young man went down into his basement and hung himself.  I don’t know why but I’m sure it had a large part to do with the fact that kids ostracized and bullied him for years.

While my problems with bullying never reached the level that poor Billy went through, I struggled with it for periods of my life as well.  Generally speaking, I didn’t have a lot of problems with it beyond what I shared already until we moved to Rapid City, South Dakota and I started going to West Junior High School.

West Junior High was the prelude to Stevens High School and I thank God I never had to go to Stevens.  West was bad enough.  It was a “rich kids” school and if you’re family wasn’t rich, you weren’t liked.  My Dad was in the military so we weren’t a rich family.  The kids in that school responded to this by deciding that I was ripe for the picking in regards to being teased and bullied.

I have had issues with rosacea (red cheeks) my whole life and they picked up on it there and started calling me “Rosy”.  I then one day decided that it would be cool to wear an outfit of my Dad’s that I thought was really sharp looking and it was, albeit for a different generation. J  (no offense to Dad)  I got teased for months at that one – which you could argue that I brought on myself, but keep in mind that most kids who are bullied are usually bullied because they are a little different than the norm.  Why is this necessarily a bad thing?

These are not the only events but they are the ones that stand out.  However, the worst happened one afternoon in gym class.  We were playing softball and the gym teacher and forewarned us to not throw our glove in the air to try to catch a ball.  He had said if we did so, we’d have to run a lap around the field.  Well, being the dumb kid I was, I threw my glove in the air to catch a ball and had to run a lap.  Here’s the thing…I run a little funny.  I walk slightly slanted on one foot and it becomes obvious when I run and looks a little weird.  Not a lot weird, but enough to kids who are looking for anything to pick on someone about.

They started calling me “Flash” after the Flash Gordon show and singing that song.  I tried to ignore it but it kept going on and on until we were in the locker room.  And while I lacked confidence in myself and all, one thing I did have then (and still do now) is a temper.  And it had reached its boiling point and I confronted one of the tormentors.  Before you knew it, we were snapping our towels at each other.

You’d think that was the end of it.  A couple boys do a little push/shove thing and they move on.  Nope.  As my sister and I walked home, that boy and several others followed us home. As we were walking down the street – in full view of parents picking up their kids – these kids put their shirts over their heads and started ramming me in the back. To this day, I will never understand why a parent didn’t stop and put an end to that.

My sister and I kept walking until we got to a bridge we needed to cross.  At that point the kids surrounded us on the bridge.  I asked them what they wanted from me and they said they wanted me to apologize.  I told them if they let my sister go home I would do so.  They agreed and my sister left, but I knew she was headed to get Mom.  Which, in my mind at the time, would not have helped.  If my parents had gotten involved, the bullying would only get worse, I thought.

So after my sister left, I apologized to the kids who had been tormenting me.  Ironic huh?  Not so much.

The bullying did not end there, but fortunately the next year we moved to Ellsworth AFB and I started going to Douglas High School.  It took me most of the time I was there to get a decent level of confidence and self-esteem.  But the way I felt around those kids at West Junior High really never left me, even to this day.

Because of my own experiences with bullying I became somewhat sensitive to any possibility of my kids being bullied as well.  My oldest went to school several years in Marshall, MN and had all sorts of friends and was doing very well there.  When we moved to Sioux Falls, she started getting bullied by some kids at the school she went to here.  What surprised me was that the bullies were boys and one went to our church. 

One day her and a friend were being chased by these two kids with blocks of ice and throwing them at the girls.  My daughter decided to fight back and took ice and started chasing these boys back.  She scared them off.  However, she got caught by a teacher.  All of the kids were then forced to stay in for recess.

I did NOT punish her.  In my mind, she was acting in self-defense.  I have always told my kids that they have every right to defend themselves from someone who thinks that they have some right to do them harm.  I tell them that once the person is no longer attacking them or is unable to hurt them anymore that they need to stop but they do not need to stand there and take what the bully is dishing out.

I am not condoning violence.  But I am also not condoning just putting up with the nonsense that bullies like to do to others.  If you have a way to stop someone from bullying you without resorting to getting physical with them, fantastic.  But that doesn’t always work.

Recently a boy was being bullied and decided to fight back (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxBAy3901kc). If you watch this video you’ll see he was punched FOUR TIMES.  Yet, did you realize that the boy being bullied got suspended too?  That makes no sense to me.

As adults, the first thing we need to do is stop pretending that bullying isn’t a serious epidemic.  We need to get past the idea that simply talking with the bullies will teach them the error of their ways and realize that until we start seriously punishing kids for being bullies, things are never going to change.

But the other thing we need to stop right now is the idea that a kid should not be able to defend themselves when and if it is necessary.  To punish a kid for standing up for themselves will teach the kid that they have to just “take it”. And that is such a dangerous position to put a child into.

Bullying is a hard problem to solve.  Each situation is unique.  But first and foremost we need to make sure that we understand that the kid being bullied is a victim.  No matter how different or odd they might be, they don’t deserve what is happening to them.  To treat them any other way makes us as adults just as bad as the bullies that torment them.