November 16, 2008
I wanted to update readers on my seeming silence. In the aftermath of the election, it was clear that I needed a little time off from blogging. Having no idea when I would find new inspiration, I've been hesitant to offer an apology without knowing when I would be back to daily blogging. Suffice it to say that I'll be back at it this coming week.
In the past week, I've spent a good deal of time on some of the other projects I've been working on in the background of the blog. Those who have been longtime readers know that I enjoy poetry and have occasionally posted some of my own here at Thought Theater. I'm hoping to do more with it in the near future. I'm also interested in photography and film and have incorporated many of my photographs in my postings. I've also been working on a documentary that is nearing completion.
Needless, to say, I'm hoping to compile all of these elements into a plan for the future. It's hard to predict where this might lead, but I'm convinced there's enough content to warrant some further explorations.
With that said, I look forward to posting my thoughts on those issues that have been the heart and soul of Thought Theater. Lastly, my sincere appreciation to those who visit Thought Theater and share in the journey...wherever it may lead us.
May 30, 2008
Earlier this year I submitted an application to the DNCC in the hopes of receiving credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention. Much to my surprise, yesterday I was notified that Thought Theater had been selected.
I've watched every convention since Hubert Humphrey was chosen to represent the party in 1968 following the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I must say I'm look forward to attending this one in person.
From The Notification Email:
Congratulations. The Democratic Convention staff has completed its review of blog credential applications and I'm writing to let you know that your blog will be credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
We're excited to welcome so many blogs to the Convention (about 3 times as many as 2004). And we know you're eager to make travel plans for August. We'll contact you next week with logistical information regarding housing, credential distribution, and other key details. You probably have several questions. Please be patient - as our goal is to distribute this information to all credentialed blogs at the same time.
Thank you for applying and I look forward to working with you in Denver. I'm excited to see how your blog covers the Convention and introduces the Democratic nominee to your audience.
DENVER - As part of its continuing commitment to engage a broad spectrum of audiences in new and creative ways, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) today announced that a record number of blogs have been credentialed as members of the media for the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. These blogs will help ensure that communities across the country are connected to the Convention through the eyes and ears of a growing, diverse group of online voices.
Organizers also announced that blogs credentialed by the DNCC will have access to a dedicated "Blogger Lounge" inside the Pepsi Center, equipped with televisions, technology resources and workspace to facilitate their reporting. All bloggers will have access to the Convention floor, press briefing areas, caucus meetings, filing centers and other auxiliary events open to members of the media.
The credentialed blogs represent a large and diverse collection of voices and perspectives. The pool includes blogs covering national, state and local politics and those representing a variety of groups including the African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American and LGBT communities. Blogs focusing on youth issues, women's issues, labor issues, disability issues as well as those focusing on the environment and communities of faith will also be credentialed among many others.
The complete list of blogs credentialed to date can be found at www.DemConvention.com/credentialed-blogs.
At the moment, I don't have a specific plan for the coverage Thought Theater will provide from the convention. I encourage readers to offer any suggestions in that regard. I'll keep you posted.
Many thanks to those who read Thought Theater. None of this would be possible or purposeful without you.
April 23, 2008
The following video is one of those cool mind benders. All you have to do is stare at the center of the image, keeping your eyes still and steadily focused on the image while the video plays. You will eventually be instructed to look away. When you do, the strange man behind the curtain will have taken control of your mind. Good luck with taking it back.
April 9, 2008
Did you ever wonder what happens to your vision when you've had a few too many cocktails? The following visual is from an ad campaign aimed at drunken drivers and it simulates the effects of being intoxicated. The ad format has been used in prior campaigns but I thought it was rather effective in pointing out the risks of drinking and driving. Regardless, I simply like visual images that mess with our brains.
On a lighter note, I find it amusing to compare today's attitudes on drinking with the one's that existed when I was in high school. At the time, one of my teachers was known for his many oddball comments. One of my favorites related to his take on drinking and driving. With his signature deadpan delivery, he would tell us the following, "If you're going to drink and drive, make sure you have a car." Today, I suspect such a comment might land a teacher in hot water. So much for the good old days.
By the way, to get the full effect of the visual, click on the following thumbnail image and it will open a full sized one.
March 26, 2008
After writing the prior posting on Easter Sunday, I received a call that my sister was in the emergency room and had been diagnosed with severe pneumonia, organ stress, and sepsis. Needless to say, I have spent most of my time at the hospital since receiving that call. The good news is that it appears she is finally making some progress though it was rather scary for the last three days. It's hard to imagine that someone in great health can suddenly be so sick.
I'm hoping to be back on a more normal schedule the remainder of the week...so long as she continues to improve. I've been completely out of touch with world events so I'll have to get busy reading to get myself back up to speed. Needless to say, from what I've seen this morning, little has changed.
Anyway, my apologies for my absence and my thanks to those who frequent Thought Theater. It's always a pleasure to hear from readers and to have the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue. I remain amazed at the power of the internet and the ability it provides for us to connect with others around the world.
Lastly, while none of us want to endure the travails of illness and loss, such events provide perspective and remind us just how important it is to fight for those we love. All too often we get lost in the push and pull of daily life...allowing ourselves to take for granted those who mean the most.
January 31, 2008
On Friday, February 1, 2008, Thought Theater will be relocating to a new host service. The site will be inaccessible for a number of hours during the process.
We anticipate the site will go dark late Friday afternoon and resume service in the early hours of Saturday morning.
We're hopeful all will go well as we have already completed much of the process. As a matter of caution, we are issuing this notice so that Thought Theater readers will be forewarned of the temporary outage.
We anticipate site performance will be improved as a result of this move.
Thank you in advance for your patience.
November 1, 2007
We've all heard the expression "justice is served"...and while most of us leave the table feeling satisfied with what we've been fed; others are forced to swallow a less than palatable plate...one that contains an inordinate amount of one particularly foul ingredient. For approximately two decades, those individuals who have made the unfortunate mistake of choosing to partake of crack cocaine over powdered nose candy have been left to endure the lingering aftertaste that accompanies a recipe rife with ill-conceived and inequitable punishment guidelines.
In a move that begins to correct this long-standing injustice, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the guidelines to allow jail time to be reduced by up to fifteen months. The change is an attempt to reduce the 100 to 1 equation that was instituted in 1988 as an attempt to combat the sudden increase in the use of crack cocaine. Basically, the law stated that an individual had to possess 100 times more powdered cocaine than crack cocaine to receive the same prison sentence. As it turned out, the law imprisoned far more blacks for far longer periods of time for possessing far less cocaine than their white counterparts.
Since 1988, possession of five grams of crack cocaine – an amount equal to five packets of sugar substitute – landed a person in jail for five years. But people caught with cocaine powder would have to possess 100 times that amount, or 500 grams, to get the same five-year stint behind bars.
It's known as the 100-to-1 ratio. And because most people convicted of crack offenses are black and most convicted of powder cocaine offenses are white, critics have long argued that the disparity represents an egregious racial inequity in America's criminal-justice system.
This week the US Sentencing Commission, with little fanfare, officially reduced its recommended sentences for crack-related offenses. [...]
As a result, up to 4 in 5 people found guilty of crack-cocaine offenses will get sentences that are, on average, 16 months shorter than they would have been under the former guidelines. Opponents of the 100-to-1 ratio applaud the commission's move, but they say it's just a first step because the so-called mandatory minimum sentences set by Congress remain on the books.
Many lawmakers expected that long, mandatory sentences for possessing or selling crack would discourage drug use. And because many perceived crack to be much more destructive than powder cocaine, Congress established the 100-to-1 ratio. In 1988, it passed another law that established a mandatory minimum penalty for simple possession of crack cocaine.
Since then, studies have shown that the crack-versus-powder sentencing disparity disproportionately affects minorities. Last year, 82 percent of crack defendants were black, according to the sentencing commission, compared with 9 percent who were white. For powder cocaine, it was almost the opposite: About 80 percent of powder-cocaine defendants were white and less than 14 percent were black.
It remains uncertain if the new guidelines will be applied retroactively. A follow up meeting is planned in November to consider that issue. If the changes were retroactive, the article indicates that as many as 19,500 individuals incarcerated for crack cocaine possession could have their sentences reduced by an average of 27 months.
The situation is a good example of the flaws that have plagued the war on drugs. While I don't believe the use of cocaine is advisable, I do believe there is no legitimate reason to impose punishments that impartially penalize blacks. Some have suggested the best solution would be to make the sentences for powdered cocaine as severe as those for crack cocaine.
Personally, I don't believe drug use can be extinguished through criminalization so stiffening the punishment seems like the wrong approach. I suspect those unfortunate enough to become addicted would be better served with improved treatment options and I wouldn't be surprised if doing so would, in the long run, cost less to implement than the ongoing expenses associated with the existing criminal model.
At the very least, this current revision is a long overdue correction. Hopefully it will be the first step in reassessing our current drug enforcement strategy.
October 25, 2007
My apologies for my extended absence. I wish I could report that I took off to distant parts on a whim with a newfound friend...but...alas...all I can report is that I have just spent the better part of three days (and I am talking about 18 hours per) backing up and reinstalling my operating system on the PC from hell (or should I say Dell?).
The good news is...not to be found. After my three day brain drain, it now appears that the system will have to be removed and installed a second time. Suffice it to say that at the moment I'm in favor of the President bombing another country...however it isn't Iran...it is India.
OK, I know that is unfair, but no doubt in my weakened state I think I'm entitled to lash out...and right now it's at the technical support people for Dell, Microsoft, and Symantec in India who are currently the bane of my existence. Just once it would be nice for George Bush's insane foreign policy to match up with my own maniacal thoughts.
Anyway, it looks like I'll be playing with my distant friends again tomorrow afternoon as we give it another go. Frankly, I'm not even sure why I've agreed to try this again but it's one of those instances where blind stubbornness has defeated practicality...or one might even conclude I'm a closet masochist who has suddenly found his way out of the closet.
I've been told that if Dell can't make it work this time, they will look at a replacement. At the moment, I'm telling myself that would justify my time and effort. I'm trying to avoid the fact that I may just be substituting one headache with another.
I'll close with one final thought...Macintosh rules!
October 11, 2007
Generally speaking, whenever we hear left vs. right we think about politics. If you're like me, there are times when you just want to escape from the back and forth which seems to be an endless battle.
Well, here's a fun left-right posting that has nothing to do with politics (and please don't comment with an argument that this, too, can be applied to politics). It's one of those brain teaser things that will tell the viewer if their left or right brain is dominant.
Here's how it works. When you look at the dancing figure, determine if you see her spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you say clockwise, you're right brained. If she's turning counter-clockwise, you're left brained.
Even more fun, see if you can get her to reverse directions. The only way I found to do this was to watch her stationary foot and try to envision it turning the opposite direction. I found a blink or a quick glance away from the stationary foot and then back helped me achieve the reversal.
The traits which are associated with left and right brain individuals can be found in the table below the image.
H/T to The Herald Sun via Daily Kos
September 1, 2007
Michael Shermer is a former born again Christian and founder of the Skeptics Society and editor of Skeptic Magazine. He explains his transition to skepticism as follows:
I used to be a born-again Christian. Now you could say I'm a born-again atheist. But they are both articles of faith, so the correct term would be to say that I'm nontheistic, because a belief that there is no God is not the same as to have no belief in God."
He is opposed to teaching Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. He's especially interesting given his born-again Christian background. If you get a chance, check out the whole article and his book, "Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown".
The following video clips are of a talk Shermer gave in which he explains the basics which underlie why people are prone to believe in strange occurrences, miracles, and such...things like crop circles, images on potato chips and tree bark...as well as UFO's.
August 18, 2007
Much to my dismay, my host site has been experiencing a number of outages over the last two days. The outages have been sporadic but it has limited the amount of posting I've been able to enter. I am told that the issues have been resolved and the system appears to be working fine now.
Additionally, I have another commitment that will prevent me from posting new content until later this evening. Please feel free to explore the numerous postings contained within the genres in the right hand column. Hopefully, there will be something of interest to all. Thanks for your understanding.
My apologies for any inconvenience this may have created. Thank you for your patience and thank you for visiting Thought Theater.
July 2, 2007
iPhone Premiere: Is It Real Life Or Is It Mad TV? genre: Econ-Recon & Indie-Script & Nouveau Thoughts
I'll admit that I like new technology...but I had to laugh at the iPhone hysteria over the weekend. As much as I like innovation, you would never find me standing in line at the launching of a new product. I think the following video clips offer some insight into the phenomenon.
The first is a skit from Mad TV in which Steve Jobs is unveiling the new iPhone to the Mad TV studio audience. Note the hysteria of the audience and the mob mentality...people feeding off of each others frenzy. If you've ever seen an episode of Oprah and watched when she announces that the studio audience is going to receive a gift, you'll no doubt see the similarities.
The second is a clip outside of an Apple store in New York City just as the doors are being opened to begin selling the new gadget. As you watch this clip, note the actions of the shoppers as they enter the store and head up the stairs. Many of them are taking pictures, shooting video, and seemingly taking their victory lap in front of adoring fans. Would it be safe to call these events modern rituals?
The last clip is a commercial spoof that Conan O'Brien did on his show a few months back. The thing that fascinates me about all of these clips is the degree to which the comic skits capture what I would call the absurdity of such situations. It's a priceless glimpse into human psychology and our culture's preoccupation with celebrity and notoriety. I'm not exactly sure that being one of the first customers to buy an iPhone should be the equivalent of a hero's parade...but it certainly looks like one.
I wonder to what degree the attention and the simulated hero's welcome plays in the motivation to stand in line and purchase an iPhone or any other product that draws this kind of coverage. Are these people simply tech geeks or does buying the product and being able to tell others that they were there and that they bought one serve to bolster some psychological need? Does the purchase of a $600.00 iPhone provide the same therapeutic boost one might get from a couple visits to the psychologist?
Feel free to share you own observations as I would love to know how you view these kind of situations and what you think they say about our society and our culture. My goal isn't to make fun of anyone that bought an iPhone this weekend but to understand the psychology that is at work. Maybe there's nothing to it at all...but it sure triggers my curiosity with human nature.
Mad TV Skit - Steve Jobs Introduces The iPhone
Outside An Apple Store In NYC
Conan O'Brien iPhone Commercial
June 30, 2007
Murder rates are on the rise in a number of urban areas in the Northeast and one possible explanation being offered is that those metropolitan areas with the lowest immigrant population are more unstable. Murder rates in cities with higher immigrant populations seem to have remained relatively stable in recent years. While immigrant population is offered as one explanation, officials point to other factors in a growing problem with murder rates in the Northeast.
PHILADELPHIA - Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities in a bloodstained corridor along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, and one of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts is this: not enough new immigrants.
The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down.
It is a theory that runs counter to the widely held notion that immigrants are a source of crime and disorder.
“New York, Los Angeles, they’re seeing massive immigration — the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world," said Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson. “These are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble."
I think the argument has merit though it is always risky to generalize. Regardless, it isn't difficult to imagine that the fear of deportation or being apprehended by a justice system that one doesn't understand would offer some level of deterrence. Additionally, my own anecdotal experience suggests that many immigrants spend long hours working and they frequently have more than one job. That alone limits the time one might have to get into trouble. Lastly, it may also be safe to assume that immigrants view living in the U.S. as an opportunity and the means to a better life...and happy people are generally peaceful people.
In interviews with The Associated Press, homicide detectives, criminal justice experts and community activists point to a confluence of other possible factors.
Among them: a failure to adopt some of the innovative practices that have reduced violence in bigger cities; the availability of powerful guns; and a shift in emphasis toward preventing terrorism instead of ordinary street crime.
Others blame a resigned acceptance of “quality-of-life" crimes, such as running red lights and vandalism. Some law enforcement authorities argue that ignoring such crimes breeds disrespect and cynicism and leads to more serious offenses.
The last paragraph makes a lot of sense to me. When people are desensitized such that they view others as little more than annoyances or obstacles...rather than as fellow human beings with feelings, emotions, and families...it becomes easier to disregard human life. Anyone who has driven in traffic should understand the phenomenon whereby we think the worst of anyone who happens to cut us off or drive erratically...until we witness someone we know doing so and then realize that real people are in those vehicles and they don't always have bad intentions.
University of Pennsylvania criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman is a prime exponent of the theory that immigration exerts a moderating effect on crime among poor black men.
“Cities that have heavily concentrated and segregated African-American poverty are the places that have increases in homicide," Sherman said. “The places that have lots of immigration tend not to have nearly as much segregation and isolation" of poor blacks.
Sherman acknowledges the theory is evolving and unproven.
He said immigrants “change the spirit" of a community and affect the way young black men in poor areas relate to each other.
The percentage of foreign-born residents is 11 percent in Philadelphia, compared with 22 percent in Chicago, 37 percent in New York and 40 percent in Los Angeles, according to 2005 census figures.
Alison Sprague, executive director of Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia, suggested there is some merit to the theory. Immigrants in Philadelphia tend to be crime victims rather than perpetrators, she said.
“I really do think the vast majority of people are trying to earn a living and support their families and stay under the radar," Sprague said. Illegal immigrants, especially, “have every motivation not to get involved in something."
“The second-tier cities have fewer economic possibilities for people," said Arlene Bell, a former prosecutor who now runs youth centers in Philadelphia. “When there are no opportunities for kids growing up, no possibility of entering the work force — particularly with their level of education — they’re left to their own devices."
No doubt economic opportunity is a factor...and it may also explain why immigrants choose the locales they do. Cities with better economic conditions are apt to have more immigrants and cities suffering high unemployment are apt to have higher crime.
The fact that immigrants choose cities with more jobs and better economic conditions does suggest that their intentions and ambitions make them less inclined to criminal activities. In other words, they enter the U.S. believing they will have an opportunity to pursue their hopes and dreams.
Cities with high crime rates and blighted areas are likely inhabited by people who feel trapped by their economic status...people who are living generational poverty and have come to view their opportunities with little hope...making them more susceptible and inclined to crime. They simply have a much more negative perspective of their situation than their immigrant counterparts. Despite the fact that immigrants may also come from generational poverty and have experienced similar economic struggles, they have, by virtue of their efforts to enter the United States, demonstrated a more hopeful perspective and a compelling desire to improve their station in life.
I think that perspective may have a significant impact on how one behaves. No doubt hopeful people are more mindful of the pitfalls of crime and therefore make choices to avoid such behavior. People who feel hopeless simply begin to believe they have nothing to lose and are unable to see beyond the moment which makes them prone to bad behaviors.
Daniel DiRito | June 30, 2007 | 10:07 AM |
May 30, 2007
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Dr. X to the Thought Theater readership. Dr. X authors a blog titled Dr. X's Free Associations which can be found here.
Dr. X has kindly agreed to some occasional posting of content here at Thought Theater and I think readers will find Dr. X to be quite thoughtful and most insightful. Some of you may recognize the name from several comment threads.
Dr. X's bio reads as follows:
I am a psychoanalytically-oriented clinical psychologist who has been a private practitioner for twenty years. In addition to my private practice, I have been employed in two university counseling centers.
I have extensive experience treating a wide range of disorders, as well as having expertise in psychological testing and assessment. During my career, I have conducted hundreds of psychological assessments, each including clinical interview and a full battery of objective and projective tests.
My areas of greatest interest are self psychology and intersubjectivity.
Our mutual interest in psychology and our shared curiosities about numerous issues make Dr. X a logical complement to Thought Theater. I'm pleased to announce the addition of this excellent new voice and I'm sure readers will enjoy reading Dr. X's offerings.
May 15, 2007
A Federal Appeals Court has issued a ruling that holds a website (roommate.com) liable for the postings of some of its users. The court ruled that if a website constructs a format that is designed to elicit responses that can be viewed to violate established law, then the owner of the website can be held responsible.
A Web site that matches roommates may be liable for what its users say about their preferences, a fractured three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled yesterday.
The suit was brought by two California fair housing groups that objected to postings on the matching service, Roommate.com. The groups said the site violated the Fair Housing Act by allowing and encouraging its users to post notices expressing preferences for roommates based on sex, race, religion and sexual orientation.
The ruling knocked down the main defense of the site. In 1996, Congress granted immunity to Internet service providers for transmitting unlawful materials supplied by others. Most courts have interpreted the scope of that immunity broadly.
Though their rationales varied, all three judges in the decision yesterday agreed that the site could be held liable for soliciting information from users through a series of menus about themselves and their preferred roommates and for posting and distributing profiles created from the menus. The choices on the menus included gender, sexual orientation and whether children were involved.
Because Roomate.com created the menus, the court ruled, it cannot claim immunity under the 1996 law, the Communications Decency Act.
The ruling is the first of its type and will likely set in motion additional claims against website owners. The good news is that site owners can easily avoid liability by steering clear of preparing forms or documents that are designed to gather unlawful information. Nonetheless, the ruling will no doubt lead to a rash of new challenges to the no holds barred frontier we call the internet.