NAMBAL AND NORML: Changing Deviancy (2013)   

           Deviance is defined by sociologist as “any act that violates the norm” (Ruane, 198). Therein lies the problem.  Just like there are those that consider the United States Constitution a living breathing, subject to change, what is considered normal also changes generation to generation.  Many of the activities that we consider normal today were frowned upon as recently as ten years ago.  Sociology studies the social forces involved in the establishment of these evaluative standards, violations of the standard and the reaction to these violations.

            In the 1950s the number of men with pierced eyes would have been relatively small, today men of all ages and ethnic groups have all types of piercings.  The same could be said of women when discussing tattoos.  The percentage of tattooed women has grown over the past decade.  In fact the “tramp stamp” is one of the most popular among younger women; a tramp stamp being a tattoo on the lower back.  While there is no scientific studies that show women with these markings are more sexually active than others, they are considered part of the “Raunch Culture” discussed in Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.

            An interesting example of the acceptance of deviance can be seen in the 1978 movie Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  The movie is set in the 1950s and opens with a conservatively dressed Travolta holding hands and walking on the beach with Newton-John.  This would be the idea relationship for that time.  However as the movie progresses Newton-John’s character, Sandy, is torn on how to keep Travolta’s, now in dark leather coat and greased back hair, interested in her.  The conclusion of the movie has Sandy giving up her conservative look for a sleazy black spandex outfit complete with leather jacket.  The moral of the movie? To keep your man dress and act like a slut.

            Piercings, tattoos and the transformation of Sandy in Grease are considered normal everyday deviances.  These acts “are not viewed as deviant by those committing them and often result in no social sanctions” (Raune, 201).  I would argue that many get tattoos and piercings to express their individualism; they actually are joining part of a larger nonconformist culture that in its own way is conformist, as you need a certain look to belong.  The bottom line is though that their actions harm no one and are becoming more accepted as a norm in today’s society.

             There are those in society whose deviance is looked upon as criminal.  Organizations such as NAMBLA, North American Man Boy Love Association, and NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, are trying to educate society so that it will accept their behavior as normal and acceptable.  The ultimate goal is to legalize their activities so that they will suffer no sanctions for their actions.

            NAMBLA has a tough sell in today’s society.  There are very few members of society that believe that children should be sexually active, especially with older men.  The NAMBLA website lists among its goals; to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by:

•  building understanding and support for such relationships;

•  educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love;

•  cooperating with lesbian, gay, feminist, and other liberation movements;

•  supporting the liberation of persons of all ages from sexual prejudice and oppression.

Our membership is open to everyone sympathetic to man/boy love and    personal freedom (

           The attempt is to make the correlation between their behavior and groups that are beginning to gain some acceptance and pro-liberty groups.  There is very little support from the gay and lesbian community for this type of activity, and gay men for years have been battling the stereotype of being child molesters.  It is also difficult to believe that any political group would lend their name or support for this type of activity. 

            NORML on the other hand may be on the verge of becoming a normal everyday deviance.  “NORML's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.”  Programs such as Showtime’s, “Weeds”, or Cheech and Chong movies have led to a softening of the public’s perception of marijuana.  Many have tired of the war on drugs and the cost believing that, “drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse” (

            The fact that some states have decriminalized small amounts for personal use and medical marijuana bodes well for the acceptance of this behavior in the future.  State governments look at the legalization of marijuana as a revenue source that could fill empty coffers and provide services to the public.  According to Time Magazine, in an article about California’s consideration of legalizing marijuana, “The state's proposed $50-per-oz. pot tax would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in additional revenue.”  There is talk of a ballot initiative, if the state legislature doesn’t act on the legalization for tax revenue proposals now under consideration.

            The challenge for sociologists and law enforcement is to examine the behaviors of people involved in criminal deviance and determine how to stop the activity.  The difficulty is that these individuals form groups “that provide members with a unique set of values, beliefs, and traditions distinct from those of conventional society” (Siegel, 106).  That community makes it more challenging to infiltrate and find answers to the causes for the behavior.

            The sociologist and law enforcement might choose to handle their investigations in much the same way.  Both would attempt to gain the trust of an individual in an attempt to gain entry into the closed community.  Once inside they would observe the habits, hierarchy and learn the history of the group.  Neither would attempt to influence the workings of the group as their interference would disrupt the natural order of the group.  It is interesting that both professions use similar techniques given that their goals are different.

            Once the sociologist gathers their information they seek to determine the cause and affect the deviant behavior has on the person, community and society at large. At the conclusion of their analysis a sociologist seeks to find a remedy for the problem, perhaps by some government action or local charity. 

            Law enforcement on the other hand, once their information is gathered, takes a different track.  Depending on the type of action they become involved in the community; buying drugs, soliciting prostitution, setting up meetings with child molesters, or taking the information gathered to get a search or arrest warrants.  Law enforcement’s remedy for the deviant behavior is an arrest, court action and incarceration.  Their solution is often good only in the short term as the activity returns to the community or the individual continues the deviant behavior upon his or her release from prison.

            The study of deviance is important.  If all activities were considered the norm we would be living in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  A community that shares everything and is conditioned to believe that nothing is deviant will not survive for long.  There will always be people, fads and events that are deviant, it is the level of the deviancy that will determine what has value in a society.  The NAMBLA organization challenges us to believe that sex with young boys is good and an expression of personal freedom.  What value would that normalization bring to society at large? 

            One man’s normal is someone else’s deviant behavior.  Law enforcements role is to capture and punish the criminal behavior that society deems abnormal.  The only time this can be changed is if the laws are changed.  So while people are always claiming that you can’t legislate morality, they expect the legislature to do so, as a way of protecting society.  By lobbying for a change in the law a group such as NORML can “legislate” morality, by taking an illegal activity and making it legal.  The same could be said for prostitution in Las Vegas; what is illegal in forty-nine states is legal there, therefore it is not criminal deviancy, it is normal everyday deviancy.

            The role of the sociologist is different.  They do not judge or force a change in the community.  The goal is to determine the root cause of the deviancy and offer a solution that can correct the issue.  Law enforcement and the court system seek to change society at large.  While a sociologist looks at a small segment of society and addresses that self-contained groups issue.

            Ideally as sociologists discover the root causes for many of the deviancies that plague the world today, we will have a better understanding of each other.  In the end anything that can help bring about an appreciation why people act the way they do, can only help society. 

Works Cited

Grease. Dir. Randal Kleiser. Perf. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John. Paramount Pictures, 1978.

Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press. 2005.

 McNichol, Tom. “Is Marijuana the Answer to California’s Budget Woes?” Time. 24 Jul 09



 Raune, Janet and Karen Cerulo. Second Thoughts: Seeing Conventional Wisdom Through the Sociological Eye, 4th Ed. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press, 2008.

 Siegel, Larry J. and Joseph J. Senna. Introduction to Criminal Justice 11th Ed. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.

“What’s Wrong With the Drug War.” 03 Feb 10.  <>

More Than Celebrity  (2009)

         The definition of leadership that I found most appealing is described in “Transactional and Transforming Leadership,” by James McGregor Burns.  In this piece Burns portrays leadership in this way, “I define leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and motivations-the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations-of both leaders and followers” (100).  In this we can see that leadership involves not only the ideas and concern of the leader, but gaining the trust and loyalty of the followers.

            Today, at least in the area of political leadership, the public seems to be more concerned in voting for celebrity, than a leader.  In the past there was more reasoned discussion on the issues of the day.  While the twenty-four hour news cycle and the internet have brought more people into the debate, the noise of special interest groups or the extremes of both parties has drowned out some of the ability to solve the problems we face.

            The difficulty faced today by leaders and followers is one of trust.  While the voters may like a candidate as an individual, there is a lack of trust.  There seems to be a disconnect between those in power and those that put them there.  This can be seen in polling that has Congressional and Presidential favorability numbers at record lows. It is possible that this could change if the next generation of political leaders were to embrace Burns’ idea of leadership.

            A candidate who can run on shared ideas and values can motivate his followers to stick with the agenda when times get tough.  In today’s political climate, as our leaders are viewed as celebrities, once the going gets tough, the followers pack their bags and go home.  Leaders and followers are superficial, were as, with the Burns model there is a shared sense of purpose and willingness to dig in to do battle for a common purpose.

            An example from the past would be President Ronald Reagan.  During his campaign he focused on four to five issues that resonated with people of all types.  Once elected, he held firm to his beliefs and went directly to his followers to contact Congress to get their legislation passed.  In Burns’ words, “. . . the genius of leadership lies in the manner in which leaders see and act on their follower’s values and motivations” (100).  Reagan knew where his people stood on the issues and had the ability to get them motivated to get the job done.

            A more recent example would be Congressman Ron Paul.  Rep. Paul was not well known on the national stage, yet had an impact in the 2008 Republican primaries.  Paul, like Reagan had a simple and straight forward message that crossed party lines.  A Ron Paul rally had people of all ages, ethnic, social and religious groups together based a set of shared values.  Even though he did not win the nomination of his party, Paul’s followers have established a couple of political groups to continue the work of the Ron Paul Revolution.

            Why was Reagan successful, while Paul failed using the same strategies and Burns’ model of leadership?  The big difference in the two was that Reagan had been a governor and was better known to the public.  The turning point in the primaries forReagan came in a debate in New Hampshire.  Reagan had lost in Iowa to George H. W. Bush who was claiming he now had “Big Mo.” Reagan and Bush agreed to a debate in New Hampshire that would be paid for by the Reagan campaign.  Reagan also invited the other four candidates to the debate.  Bush refused to debate them and eventually left.

          Mark Hatfield of the Senate Historical Office put importance of this debate in its proper context writing,

This proved to be a pivotal moment in the campaign; when the moderator, John Breene, ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, his angry response, "I am paying for this microphone Mr. Greene", struck a chord with the public. Bush ended up losing New Hampshire's primary with 23 percent to Reagan's 50 percent.  Bush lost most of the remaining primaries as well, and formally dropped out of the race in May of that year. Ronald Reagan at that moment touched America.  Not only did Reagan talk about opportunity and fair play, he proved it with his actions during this debate.

            Unfortunately for Ron Paul he had no such moment in the debates.  With the cable news networks controlling the debates, Rep. Paul was marginalized and was not allowed to participate in one debate.  Undaunted, Paul took his message to the internet which, it seemed, the majority of his support was based.  While this was effective in raising money and getting his message out, it didn’t help in the polls or the primary contests.

            In both Reagan and Paul you have two leaders that stood for what they believed in and attracted followers that felt the same way.  This is what a leader should be, someone with a strong foundations of beliefs that can rally people from different backgrounds and social standings to unite for a common purpose.  President Reagan may have started out in the movies, but when it came to leadership, he was not just a celebrity. 

Global Warming, Climate Change (2010)

         Perhaps the most important issue being discussed today is “climate change.”  The decisions made in Washington D.C. will impact our lives for the foreseeable future.  Both sides have a “you’re for us or against us” tone.  The great difficultly for the citizens of the country is that the rhetoric of both sides doesn’t help them come to a reasoned opinion.  A hard look at the communication ethics used by the leaders of each position in needed to understand how we may be being manipulated.
                                           What ethical criteria, standards or perspectives are being applied?
         Those that support the idea of climate change believe they hold the moral high ground.  As protectors of nature and humanity, it is their mission to save us from ourselves.  There is a belief in the intrinsic value or inherent worth of the environment, a view that it is valuable in itself.  Some in the environmental movement believe that the Bible commands good stewardship of nature and there are others that believe that the world would be better off without humans.
         Group A, the environmentalists, argue that the signs of man’s impact on the Earth can be seen every day in countless ways.  A few of the favorite examples are the melting icecaps, the rise in temperature, strong thunderstorms, hurricanes and the extinction of thousands of species.  We have a seen the video of the lone polar swimming in the ocean looking for a place to rest, and most likely drowning.  Thousands of leading academics give credence to the climate change argument and no less an authority published the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report warning of the great danger we face in the very near future.  There is also the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 that argued for the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent a major global catastrophe. 
        Group B, those that don’t believe in global warming or climate change also want to protect the environment.  They also have a belief that man should be a good steward of the planet, however their perspective is that man is not responsible for climate change. There are scientists on this side of the issues that argue that climate change is cylindrical, and that every 300 years the Earth heats up and cools down on its own.  Other scientists point to sun spot activity (solar variations), or lack thereof for the heating and cooling of the planet.
       The leaders of Group B believe that whatever changes in climate or pollution levels can be corrected by the free market.  It is the belief of this group that any legislation that is passed in the Congress will cripple business, raise unemployment rates and restrict the freedom of all American citizens.  Once again they believe that examples of environmental extremism can be easily seen daily.  Group B points to closed factories, construction and job losses due to the presence of some endangered species stopping production, limits on the type of vehicles that can be manufactures as examples of how nature is favored over humans.  They will also argue that the polar icecaps are expanding and there are more polar bears alive today than at any point in recent history.

                       Reasonableness and Relevancy
        It is interesting that both sides have valid points and that the majority of their claims are reasonable.  Obliviously both groups can agree that the climate changes, the debate is on whether man is solely responsible or if the temperature changes in three hundred year cycles.  To the layman, with no interest other than living his life with as little noise as possible, this would seem to be a starting point for working out a solution to the current problem. 
       The difficulty is that both groups in communicating the relevancy of their positions are using fear to get the citizenry motivated. Group A will paint a picture of impending doom, temperatures in the upper nineties, massive flooding, famine and disease of Biblical proportions.  Group B, using its own set of paints, will paint a dark picture of closed businesses, large unemployment, government mandates that restrict freedom of choice and movement.  Finally they will both stand behind the podium and state, “If we don’t take the steps to stop it now, it will be too late and life as we know it will cease to exist.”
        In an effort to mobilize an apathetic population this type of extreme communication takes priority over reasonableness, as relevancy becomes the main focus.  To get the votes or public outcry needed to pass or stop legislation, or in the case of an elected representative, get re-elected both groups have to motivate their base constituencies.   

                         Does the communicationsucceed or fail in measuring up to standards?
         If we were to look emotionally at the two groups we might feel that they are both acting unethically.  A closer look, taking the emotion out of the equation, would show that both groups are acting ethically to get their point of view across.   It is interesting that in most cases the right of the political spectrum criticizes Sal Alinksy’s tactics, but in this effort they seem to embrace them.   In fact both sides are borrowing heavily from Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals to influence the populace.  What follows are a few examples of how Alinksy’s rules are being used by both groups.
        Rule 2, Never go outside the experience of your people. Both groups only use tactics that are familiar to their base groups. Group A is willing to have protest demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience, whereas, Group B focuses on letter and email campaigns to Congress.  However the recent Tea Party activities might be the start of a new strategy for groups on the right.
      Rule 5, Ridicule is a man’s most potent weapon. Depending upon your perspective, Group A consists of a bunch of left-wing, tree hugging, environmental fascist hippie nuts and Group B houses ignorant flat earthers, who can’t understand that the debate on climate change is over.  It is difficult to defend against ridicule and is an effective tool take the speaking party off message.
      Rule 8, Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions, utilize all events of the period for your purpose.  As can be seen from the recent debate on HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 both sides flooded their respective Congressperson with calls, emails and visits from lobbyists.  Emails were sent to group members urging them to call both local and Washington offices.  The internet has created an entirely new way for groups to disseminate information to one another, as has twitter.  
      During the debate the latest weather facts and figures were tossed about as proof that both sides positions were coming to be. Unemployment and deficit figures were used by Group B to warn of the dire consequences of passing the legislation.  While Group A displayed on poster boards at the front of the House Chamber the number of green jobs that would be created and how new tax revenue would cut into the deficit. It is obvious that both groups know how to successfully play to their audiences.  While the legislation did pass the House both sides are gearing up for battle in the Senate.  
     Rule 9, The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.  Both sides shamelessly demagogue the issue.  A reasonable person would find it hard to believe that New York City would be six feet underwater in fifteen years if this piece of legislation did not pass.  Similarly, the chances of a person believing that “cap and trade” will lead to the government control of all industry are just as unlikely.  Yet both sides continue to successfully paint a dark picture of the world with seemingly little resistance from the general public.
      The threat of Global Warming or Climate Change has actually clouded the perception of many in the public.  A failure to act quickly will lead to the destruction of the Earth; something must be done, and soon.  The other side counters, and many believe, that we are moving too quickly, giving up personal and property rights that the government will never get back.  
     Rule 13, Pick the target, freeze it and polarize it.  In this case Group B has done a much better job at picking the target.  When you think of Global Warming or Climate Change the first person you think of is former Vice-president Al Gore.  The task for Group A is more difficult, mainly because they have been much more effective in getting their message out and Group B is fighting to get on even terms.  The lack of leadership in Group B makes it difficult to demonize one individual.  They have a much more difficult task in trying to freeze and polarize an entire group.
     Given that both groups are using a similar communications ethic and both have succeeded in getting their message out to their 

base, I would tend to believe that they have been relatively successful in measuring up to the standard.  Whether public perception of the issue is correct or not, both groups are motivating their members to become involved.   The communication is targeted and narrowly focused to get the individuals that will come out and do the work necessary for the group to be victorious in their cause.           The response that is generates is based more on emotion, rather than the facts.  A call to duty; to protect the planet or protect your

                                 To Whom is Ethical Responsibility Owed?
     Ethical responsibility is owed to the group.  We would like to believe that both groups have a responsibility to the public to present the facts to the public.  Actually they are; they are presenting their facts.  They are making an attempt to mold public opinion in their direction.  

What is not considered in the groups’ equation is the impact their communicative ethic has on society.
While each group has to answer to those that are backing it, be the Sierra Club or the Heritage Foundation, it would seem that somewhere the truth should actually be the most important part in the communication process, not the rhetoric.  When we discuss ethical responsibility in an academic sense, ethics takes on a different connotation. For example, most people consider being ethical as telling the truth or doing what is right in a situation.  In our discussion of ethics we mean getting a task done to the best of the organization’s ability, for the express purpose of getting the organization across the finish line first.  .  In Ethics in Human Communication Robert Jackall “found that the pressure of getting ahead contributed to organizational cultures the preference success and efficiency rather than ethics” (Johannesen 157).  
       An example might be former President Bill Clinton.  President Clinton had the ability to compartmentalize.  While many were not happy with his personal conduct, they were happy with his policies and ability to great things done.  It was during his presidency, and I believe it is only his presidency, that there were always two sets of poll numbers, job performance and personal behavior.  Poll after poll would show the President had high job performance numbers and low numbers for his personal behavior.  While his personal actions didn’t necessarily reflect his policy beliefs, he was an effective and popular president.
      Ethical communication does not necessarily mean ethical action.  Perhaps it should be viewed in a “nothing personal, business is business,” vain.  It could be argued that organized crime is the most ethical in both communication and action.  When the boss explains what he wants done, why and the personal consequences of failure, it is clear what will happen to an individual if he fails in his job.  While this is effective communication, I doubt that this is the model we would like the private and public sector to adopt.

                                                How Do I Feel After This Ethical Choice?
        In my case after studying the facts of Climate Change, I do not consider it to me a entirely man made phenomenon.  It is important to protect the environment.  I have yet to hear the politician that runs on the issues of dirty air and water.  The scare tactics of both sides have clouded the issue to such a degree that many decide based on feelings not fact.  
In discussions with family, friends and others I feel comfortable with my communication ethics.  While I have a point of view on the subject, I can sleep at night knowing that I am presenting facts, not fear mongering talking points.  There is no name calling, on my part, although I have been called a “denier” by those that believe in climate change. If the goal of communication is to further yours and someone else’s knowledge on a subject, then I feel successful in my efforts.  
       It is easier in my case as I am not part of the group that questions climate change.  My one true rant on the subject can be found on this site, which said, in part, 
“I mean really isn't the climate always changing?   I believe that use to be called the ‘Four Seasons.’  Does anyone remember, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter?   The first Earth Day warned of the coming Ice Age!!   As the political winds changed so did the cause and the attempts by government to limit our freedoms.   We don't need the government and a panel of scientist with a political agenda to tell us what the weather outside our door is, believe it or not we can tell on our own.”
      While it may appeal to the group it is my own thoughts and words on the issue.  The piece was successful, in that, those how read it and did not agree were not offended and found parts of it humorous.  The discussions we had we pleasant and non-combative even though we really didn’t change anyone’s mind on the subject.

                                           Coherent Reflection of the Communicator’s Personal Character
      In my opinion it would seem that those that believe in climate change are not acting out of character in their communications.  Vice-President Gore truly believes that “The Earth has a fever” and wants to change the way we live to prevent its destruction.  I, on the other hand, don’t believe in the man-made climate change theory.  It is important to preserve the planet without destroying the rights of the people who live on it.
      The beliefs held are an accurate reflection of our personal character.  Neither of us wants to see the planet destroyed, and believe in conservation.  We want our children and grandchildren to live in a safe environment.  We just disagree on how best to get there.

                                                       Resolution Principles
        A true resolution in this debate will never really come to fruition.   First, there is too much political capital that has been spent for either side to back down from their position. Second, the climate change issue is a money maker for too many different organizations, political parties and politicians.  Third, climate change is an excellent wedge issue that politicians can use to run for office or get re-elected.  Fourth, scientists that depend on government money for research will work to get the result needed to keep funding.  Finally, the weather will always be changing allowing both groups to continue exploiting the public for money and votes.  
        If both groups were to engage in the Spirit of Mutual Equality and  “aid each other in making responsible decisions regardless of whether the decision be favorable or unfavorable to the particular view presented” (Johannesen 56).  In doing  so it could be the start of toning down the divisive rhetoric and working for a real solution to some of the environmental problems we face.  
       This might require each side to take a walk in the other’s shoes to see “the reality of the other’s viewpoint” (55).  This type of communicative inclusion could soften the hard line positions of both sides.  For example both groups want to stop our dependence on foreign oil, but can’t agree on how to do it.  Those that believe in climate change want electric cars, solar and wind power.  The other group would like to drill for oil in the United States and build nuclear power plants.
        One possible solution; do both; it will take at least ten years until electric vehicles can perform the way consumers want them too.  Why not invest in off shore drilling for a limited time, to lower our dependence on foreign oil supplies while we build the cars of the future?   There would have to be an agreed time frame to accomplish these tasks, so that real results could be seen and oil drilling stopped at the appropriate time.  At least a discussion of this type would give the public a sense that the problem was being worked to a solution.
          The problem with this type of thinking is that many politicians don’t want a solution.  They would prefer to demagogue issues relying, “heavily on propaganda . . . irrelevant emotional appeals pseudoproof to circumvent human rational decision-making process” (114).   As noted earlier, there is a lot of money at stake in climate change and it seems to be easier to get the public engaged in the cause, not the solution.
          Any real work for climate change legislation will be done in any number of committees in the House and Senate.  These small groups if could be successful as long as they keep the conversation focused on the real issue.  The discussions should be “responsive to the subject matter of the conversation and at the same time help establish conditions for the future unrestrained formation of experience” (141).  The experience here would be the creation of rules for debate in both chambers that will allow for real debate and not grandstanding.
          While I don’t see a change in the communication strategies of the climate change groups there is always the hope that the rhetoric will give way to the facts.  John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things” and in this case as stubborn as the positions both sides have taken.  We may never know the true facts of global climate change and if we don’t that means both groups have succeeded for their organizations.  
          Is that a good or a bad thing?  Academically in may be a good thing.  The rules of engagement laid out by Alinksy will have worked as planned.  It would seem though that it is abad for the public.  In today’s society many only learn about the issues though sound bites on the news or political shows where the guests scream at each other.  As communication becomes more packaged and specialized the public will be more easily led to the “correct” decision.  
      We can see this happening as organizations do polling and focus groups in an effort to craft their message.  Advertisers, organizations and politicians spoon feed us what we want to hear to sell themselves or their product.  Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass would have four hour debates, in public, on the issues of the day.  Today we are lucky to have an hour and a half with the two presidential candidates.  When we do there is a moderator with prepackaged questions and the candidates are given one minute to respond, thirty seconds for rebuttal. 
        The art of communication is dying.  People twitter and text.  High School students are being to write papers the way that they text.  We are sacrificing thoughtful conversation for time. The entire nation suffers from attention deficit disorder.  If you speak to someone for more than a minute their mind begins to wander, looking for some new stimulus.  If we lose our ability to communicate one on one or in small groups we are doomed as a people.  We will become a nation locked in our rooms punching a keyboard as we keep in touch through Facebook, YouTube or the next great social networking site.  We will be social by being anti-social, hidden away, tucked behind a glowing white screen.
Works Cited

Alinksy, Saul D., Rules for Radicals. New York: Vintage Books 1971.
Johannesen, Richard L., et al. Ethics in Human Communication 6th Edition. Illinois: Waveland 
Press 2008.

A Winter's Morn

            The cool crisp air startled Joe as he walked out of the house.  The dull grey sky and sharp wind drew a contrast of feelings from him.  The darkness made him wonder why he was up.  The cold wind tore his tired thoughts to alertness.

            The crisp white snow gave way to the weight of his brown suede shoes.  The snow’s cold, clear blood clung to Joe’s shoes, chilling his feet.  Joe flipped the collar of his wool coat upward to shield his rosy cheeks from the tearing wind.

            Finally he reached his car.  Cold numb fingers, fumble small frozen keys. 

            “Fudge,” Joe mumbled as the keys fell to the icy driveway.  Bending down, flakes of snow landed on his unprotected neck, forcing goose bumps to rise up.  His fingers stiffly grasped the circular key ring.

            “God it’s cold.”

            The key fights to keep itself from the lock in the door.  Its teeth grind as Joe firmly pushes the key in with the palm of his hand, then turning.  Quickly Joe swings the door open, seeking shelter from the cold.  No comfort is given as cold, hard, vinyl seats pierce his blue dress pants. The wipers work furiously against the window as the defrost blows cold air.

            Thoughts of going back into the house enter his mind, but it is too late, the commitment has been made.

No One Wins In the GOvernment Lottery

            In "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau discusses the role of government in the lives of people and society.  Thoreau believed that change can be made through social conscientiousness.  That in some way this is a better way to scrutinize the law and government than voting for change.  Thoreau believed that, “All voting is a sort of gaming,” and given the current state of affairs in the country today he would seem to be right. 

            Each election year voter participation drops and fewer candidates contest elections.  Occasionally, there will be a slight upward blip when a candidate excites the voters, but overall the electorate is frustrated by the lack of vision shown by those seeking office.  The sense of public frustration has not reached the leadership of either party and the cycle continues, uninspiring candidates, lead to uninspired voters, that in turn keeps voters away form the polls, leaving the same uninspiring politicians in office.  So the “change” voters are clamoring for does not happen.

            Change, real change is the last thing a politician wants.  Much like casino operators, today’s politicians, want to control the odds.  They do this by getting professional consultants involved and to them the campaign is nothing more than a game.  Getting the “R” or “D” elected is more important than the beliefs or character of the candidate.  Like Blackjack, getting elected is a numbers game.  A consultant will figure out what percentage of blacks, whites, women or men are needed to win. Then develop a strategy to win a majority of a minority of groups.  This fractured tactic hampers change. It pits the same groups that elected a candidate against each other as they are looking out for their own interests. These are the same interests promoted by the candidate during the campaign as a vehicle of change and unity.

            The one unifying force that an elected candidate will support is dependence on government.  Once elected, the legislator starts to bring home the bacon, making the voters more dependent on the government.  The voter then begins to support and vote for the very person they may have voted against in a prior election.  The government becomes bigger and more intrusive and the citizens become more dependent on the handouts that the government supplies.  Voters then begin to play their own numbers game, supporting whoever gives them the most bang for their vote.  In the end the unifying forces become the greed of the voter, and the power craved by the politician.

            Had Thoreau lived in these times, he would be speaking out about the growth of government, the loss of personal liberties and the lack of participation in the election process. The fault is as much that of the voter, as it is of the elected official.  While much of the public wants a smaller streamlined government; they want it at someone else’s expense.  Until government is smaller and less expensive, or the public is willing to give up all the freebies, that they are actually paying for, there will be no change.  Perhaps in time more people will become involved in the election process.  Ideally those that do vote will realize that when they register to vote they are not buying a lottery ticket with a guaranteed payout.

Minding your own business (2015)

          The concept of justice as “minding one’s own business” is ridiculous.  In a perfect world, or city as Socrates describes, there would be no need of justice.  A society regulated in such a fashion, that people are basically mind numbed robots, has no need for justice.  We cannot wait upon the perfect man to serve the perfect city.  For a society to have justice, often it is up to imperfect people to become involved. 

            Rev. Martin Luther King was not a perfect man, yet he became the leader of the civil rights movement in the Sixties.  He could have chosen to mind his own business and let justice eventually be served to the African-American people living in the south, but he didn’t, instead choosing to battle the injustice of the time.  Ralph Nader has spent so much time not minding his business that now he is despised by former friends as well as past foes.  Had Mr. Nader have just minded his own business when a friend of his died in a car accident, how many of the safety features in automobiles would now exist?  Theodore Roosevelt as Police Commissioner instituted policies to stop the corruption and graft of the cities “guardians” and to help enforce equal justice in New York City.  Here was a man of privilege or “the strong man that serves the weak to the neglect of his own advantage” (Bloom 373).  Roosevelt irritated many powerful men in New York politics with his sense of justice, but pursued it with vigor. 

            There can be no justice in the city as a city is just a shell.  The soul of the city is its leaders and that is where justice is derived.  In the end it is up to the people of the city to become involved so that the justice they seek comes from the values they hold.
Bloom, Allan, Plato : The Republic, 2nd Ed, Pub: Basic Books, 1991.

High School Beer Sales

(This one got me in trouble with a local paper, as they thought there was some truth to this and had a reporter look in to this story. Oops.)

           In an effort to recover from the budget cuts in education, local school districts are preparing to take a page from the WVU playbook and begin selling beer at football games.  While controversial the plan is gaining traction with local politicians, educators, football boosters and parents.  Several districts in Western Pennsylvania have already contacted the State Liquor Control Board about the application process.

            The revenue generated for districts over the course of a season is estimated to be approximately six figures. That coupled with the advertising in the football programs, naming rights of fields and other advertising opportunities for distributors and State Stores could prevent property tax increases.  There is also some thought being given to selling wine and other alcohol products that would be more appealing to female fans.

            As an olive branch to local distributors, tailgating would be permitted beginning three hours prior to kick-off, and beer purchased by the school must bought from a distributor located within three miles of the high school football field.  Hard liquor and tobacco products would still be banned from school grounds so as not to send the wrong signals to the student body.  Also public service announcements warning of the dangers of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes would be read during the first and fourth quarters of the game.  All beer sales would end at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter.

            If successful, the beer sales could extend to other sports such as soccer, basketball and baseball where there is a tradition of drinking at the professional level.  Governor Corbett was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson said that the Governor was intrigued with the plan and may consider scrapping a proposed seat licensing fee for high school sports.


We Got The Looks

            The problem with our country is that white people don’t like the way black people look at them; black people don’t like the way white people look at them, Hispanics don’t like the way blacks and whites look at them, and vice versa. Women don’t like the way men look at them, men don’t like the way women look at them. Skinny people hate the look of fat people, fat people hate the look of skinny people, and average size people hate the look of both, and both hate the look of them. People don’t like the way gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders look, and transgrenders, etc., don’t like the look of other people as well.

            Basically, we don’t like each other’s look, we don’t like the way we look at each other, or the way other’s look at us and, yet, have a hard time looking away from each other’s look.  My solution if elected president would be to have the government gouge everyone’s eyes out, so we could get all this lookism eliminated, and begin hating each other for the way that we sound.

The Cold War (2007)

            At the end of World War II the “Big Three,” the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, set about mapping the postwar world.  The Yalta accords attempted to lay the ground work for a lasting peace.  Unfortunately, the distrust of the countries involved set the stage for over forty years of Cold War conflict.  The Cold War was the driving force of American foreign policy until the early nineties.  The Cold War started with a sickly President Roosevelt and was ended by the policies of a strong President Reagan.

            The distrust between the Soviet Union and the United States can be traced back to World War I.  Vladimir Lenin headed the new government and took Russia out of the war in March of 1918.  The Western Alliance sent a small expeditionary force into Russia fearing the Germans would stage military action from there. In fact, “American troops actually fought the Bolsheviks in north Russia and Siberia in 1918-19” (Roskin, 233).

            During the Russian Civil War, 1918-20, the Western Alliance supplied arms to the White Army in their battle against Lenin’s Red Army.  This early incident possibly influenced Joseph  Stalin, who was commissar for nationalities during this time, in his feelingds of distrust with his Western Allies in 1945.

            Of course Stalin and the Soviet Union had given the Allies of World War II ample reason to doubt their sincerity.  In 1939 the Soviet Union “signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany” (Henretta, 813).  Later in the war the Soviets joined the Allied forces to stop the Axis powers.  Throughout the war neither side trusted each other.  It has been argued that the Americans dropped the Atomic Bomb over Japan to stop the Soviets claims for influence in the Far-east.

            The American policy was formulated by diplomat George F. Keenan.  Keenan’s policy, called containment, first appeared in “February 1946 in an eight-thousand-word cable from his post at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to his superiors in Washington” (Henretta, 855).  Keenan argued that the best policy to adapt against the Soviet expansionism was “firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world” (Henretta, 855).

            In 1947 communist guerillas launched a full scale civil war in Greece, and the British occupation forces.  The British advised President Truman they could no longer assist the anti-communist forces.  Truman believed that if Greece was lost to the communists then similar groups in France and Spain would attempt to grab power “and thus threaten to bring the industrially developed regions of Western Europe into the Soviet sphere” (Henretta, 858). 

            This incident caused the president to announce the Truman Doctrine.  in his speech to Congress on March 12, Truman “called for all Americans to fight communism on a global level and ‘to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’” (Hernetta, 858). The Truman Doctrine and containment became American policy into the Eighties.

            Another important element of Truman’s Cold War strategy was the Marshall Plan.  Secretary of State George Marshall in June of 1947 “urged the nations of Europe to work out a comprehensive recovery program and then ask the United States for aid” (Henretta, 858). Marshall promised the full cooperation of the United States to any nation who requested assistance.  This served a twofold purpose; this would forestall the economic problems that might lead to the rise of communism and provide a strong market for U.S. goods.

            The most enduring symbol of the Cold War was the city of Berlin.  Differing visions for a postwar Germany came to a head in 1948.  The Soviets feared a powerful German state, which had invaded Russia twice in the Twentieth Century that could join with the West.  In the spring of 1948 the Soviets demanded control of the city of Berlin.  The Soviets imposed a blockade on all highway, rail, and river traffic to West Berlin. Truman responded with an airlift.  For almost a year, American and British pilots flew in nearly 2.5 tons of food.  On May 12, 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade ending the crisis, but Berlin would become a hot spot again in little more than a decade.

            With the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 the United States entered, for the first time, a peacetime military alliance.  This alliance caused a concerned Soviet Union to form a military alliance for Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Postwar Europe was nearly divided in half on ideological lines.

            The troubles in Europe did not hurt the American economy.  Consumer spending increased because workers had amassed substantial wartime savings that they were eager to spend.  The GI Bill also put money into the economy by providing a wide range of educational and economic assistance to returning veterans.  Throughout the 1950s the economy continued to boom in large part due to Cold War spending on the military and arms race.

            When President Eisenhower left office in 1961, he warned the nation in his farewell address “of a ‘military-industrialized-complex’ that already employed 3.5 million Americans and whose ‘influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal Government’” (Henretta, 880).  In his speech Eisenhower demonstrated how the Cold War now affected every aspect of American life.

            President John F. Kennedy was barely four months into his administration when the Cold War entered into the American Sphere of influence.  Concerned about Castro’s growing friendship with the Soviet Union, Kennedy launched a group of Cuban exiles to foment an anti-Castro uprising.  The plans drawn up by the Eisenhower Administration, called for a landing on the Bay of Pigs.  The small force of 1,600 men was crushed, the expected assistance from the United States government never came.

            This early foreign policy disaster was an embarrassment to the young Kennedy Administration and cast doubts on Kennedy’s leadership.  Khrushchev, the Soviet Leader, interpreted this failed invasion as evidence of the United States’ intent to launch a full-scale invasion of Cuba, and Kennedy did not need to be taken seriously as an adversary.       

            Later that same year, Kennedy and Khrushchev met in Vienna to discuss a nuclear test ban treaty, the civil war in Laos, and the status of Berlin.  The meeting did not go well, especially in regards to Berlin.  Krushchev wanted Berlin declared “a free city, which would mean the withdraw of both Soviet and Western occupation forces” (Henretta, 923).  Kennedy refused, setting up a second showdown in Berlin.

            Days after the meeting, Khrushchev deployed soldiers to sever East Berlin from the western sector of the city.  Kennedy in a televised speech announced, “that he would ask Congress for a large increase for military spending, a massive fall-out shelter program, and the authority to mobalize the National Guard, call up reserves and extend enlistments” (Henretta, 923), during this and future crises.  This did not stop the East Germans and Soviets from building the Berlin Wall, which stopped the exodus of people fleeing into West Germany.  The Berlin Wall stood as the supreme symbol of the Cold War until 1990.

            The final confrontation between Kennedy and Khrushchev took place in October 1962.  The Soviet Union had sent 43,000 troops to join 270,000 Cuban troops after the Bay of Pigs.  An American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft photographed missile sites being constructed that had the capability to strike the United States with nuclear warheads.  The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest that the United States and the Soviet Union ever came to a shooting war.  President Kennedy, with the assistance of his brother Robert, stood firm during the crisis and the use of a naval blockade caused Khrushchev to back down and remove the missiles.

            Having stood on the brink of nuclear war Kennedy decided to attempt a new foreign policy approach to be called détente.  This did not end containment, but did recognize the Soviet Union as an adversary that the United States could negotiate with.  A symbol of the new Moscow-Washington relationship was the telephone “hotline” in 1963, so leaders could quickly contact each other in a crisis.  Détente remained the policy of the United States until the 1980s.

            Détente actually began to collapse late in President Jimmy Carter’s Administration with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Ronald Reagan entered the presidency with a confrontational approach to the Soviet Union, including a strong commitment to stopping communist expansion. This became known as the “Reagan Doctrine.”  This doctrine “established a dynamic equilibrium in the strategic equation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union-not by requiring resistance at every confrontation, but only at those of America’s choosing, thus restoring the foreign policy to the U.S. side” (Winik, 458).

            Reagan, through tax cuts and increased military spending, energized the economy.  The rate of growth from 1980-88 was 3.3% of the GNP.  “Real median income increased by 5% between 1982 and 1988 for those who started in the top fifth of the income earners, and increased 77% for those who started in the bottom fifth (primarily by moving out od the bottom quintile).  In the 1980s, the percentage of African-American families earning more than %50,000 in real dollars doubled from 7% to 14%, the unemployment rate for black teenagers fell by 21%, and black unemployment in professional and managerial  jobs expanded by one-third.  The real median income of black families increased by 17% between 1982 and 1989.  The number of Hispanic-owned business soared 81%.  The number of women-owned firms expanded by 57%” (Reiland, 2).

            In 1983 Reagan delivered the death blow to the Soviet Union when he proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).  SDI would be a satellite and laser shield that would detect and destroy incoming missiles before they could strike.  Reagan supporters claimed “SDI would render nuclear war obsolete” (Henretta, 1010). It has been argued that the entire “Star Wars” initiative was nothing but a rouse to force the Soviets to increase their military spending.

            Jeff McMahan in his anti-Reagan book, Reagan and the World, stumbled upon the very strategy that Reagan used to win the Cold War, “Surging ahead in the arms race is alos an important element in the Administration’s strategy of economic warfare with the Soviet Union.  Forcing the Russians to divert even more resources tp the production of arms, will, it is hoped, help cripple the less robust Soviet economy, ultimately brining about the collapse of the Soviet system from within” (McMahan 3-4) emphasis added.  There, in less than a paragraph, one of Ronald Reagan’s critics outlined how he won the Cold War.

            The confrontational approach by Reagan, Kennedy, and Truman lead to economic growth for the United States.  Truman with the Marshall plan increased America’s economic base in Europe, while remaining tough by supporting Berlin with an airlift that prevented the spread of communism through Western Europe. Kennedy by lowering taxes and increasing military spending spurred economic growth throughout the 1960s, and after a rough start, stood firm and prevented communism from reaching American shores.

            Had Franklin Roosevelt been healthier in Yalta, or survived until the end of the Second World War, he and Stalin may have reached an understanding that would have prevented the Cold War.  “The Cold War body count alone is at least 22.5 million.  That’s the number of human beings murdered by Soviet Communism from the end of World War II until 1987” (Jasper, 264).   It took the strong and visionary leadership of Ronald Reagan, who presided over the strongest peacetime economy in American history, to win the Cold War without starting World War III.



Henretta, James A. American History Vol. 2, New York: Worth Publishing, 1993.

Jasper, William F. Global Tyranny . . . Step by Step. Wisconsin: Western Islands Publishing,1992.

 McHanan, Jeff.  Reagan and the World.  London: Pluto Press, 1984.

Reiland, Ralph A. “The 1980s: A Decade of Greed?” Internet. 1996. Available:

Roskin, Michael G. Countries and Concepts. 5th ed. New Jersey : Prentice Hall, Inc, 1995.

Winik, Jay. On the Brink.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996