Monday, March 31, 2008

Will Raising the Legal Drinking Age Fix Problems, or Do they Run Deeper?

On March 28, CBC reported that a health unit in London, Ont., had narrowly approved a resolution calling on the provincial government to raise the minimum drinking age from 19 to 21. It's been a topic of discussion in years past and is now again being talked about in national media. Should the legal age of drinking be raised from 19 to 21?

One argument is that yes, it should because it may reduce traffic fatalities between the ages of 18 and 20. According to the Canada Safety Council, the highest rates of impaired driving in Canada are among younger drivers.

In 2002, drivers aged 19 to 24 represented 56 per cent of reported incidents; a stunning 44 percent of fatally injured drivers aged 20-25 had been drinking.

Commenters on the CBC's article were overwhelmingly against the idea of increasing the age, and many made good arguments for it. For example, youth even now find a way to get alcohol if they are not the legal age; and just raising the age is not as helpful as more education about the hazards of binge drinking; and also, there was the idea of raising the driving age instead.

It's certainly true that it's too easy for underage drinkers to get their hands on booze. There are many many willing adults who are more than happy to buy it for minors - a mischievous favor perhaps, or the adult see it as a way to look good in someone's else's eyes. There could underlie a problem with how society in general deals with personal circumstances.

Taking a closer look at the psychology of behaviour, the why of behaviour, would be a good angle to approach alcohol or any substance abuse. What is it about the way our society works that makes alcohol and drug abuse an enticing activity?

Often times, over-drinking is an escape and/or a painkiller. A self-diagnosed treatment for some pain, frustration, personal unhappiness, an escape from reality. Alcoholic drinks are associated with good times. It is seen as a reward, a celebratory staple for parties and occasions. And, some times, getting drunk may be accidental, a bit too much appreciation for a fine tasting libation. It is glorified in society by consumers and brewers, and promoted with the "good times" association. The problem is that consumption gets out of control and is associated with a generous helping of bad times.

Education about alcohol and substance abuse is a good approach to tackle the problems of binge drinking, and drinking and driving. As well, it would be helpful to first understand why young people, and adults, drink to excess, and why intoxicating substances are sought after in the first place. No doubt, reasons will vary, but one reason at least could be because of some void in one's life. What are the voids in peoples' lives? Why do they exist, and how can voids be filled in positive ways?

Raising the drinking age from 19 to 21 won't hurt the situation, it might help, but is far from finding and fixing root causes for binge drinking and alcohol abuse. A serious comprehensive attempt to reduce alcohol abuse requires a larger step than just raising the legal drinking age. Consulting psychological and sociological studies on what factors are involved in drinking behaviour is a start. Let's see what they have to say, and what they might suggest.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Negative Campaign Slogans that Will Not Work

The U.S. election process just keeps heating up. There's been a great deal of negative campaigning, particularly between Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In fact, there's so much that these two negatives are becoming a positive for Republican John McCain. One of Clinton's supporters said that Obama is only in the position he is because he's black, while an Obama supporter called Clinton a monster. Clinton's campaign seems particularly strong on the negative PR - she continues to get more mileage out of the Rev. Wright controversy.

Race, gender, and even age are all sensitive topics and polls are done every other day on these areas. Campaigns use negative campaigning because it can take down the support of the intended target. But how far will the negative campaigning go? It can work, but there is a limit. Here are some slogans that the various campaigns have been considering.

Clinton or Obama on McCain:

To really cripple the country, vote McCane.

McCain, a heart attack waiting to happen.

McCain vows to invade Sweden over their secret weapons of mass destruction.

At least the interns will be safe - probably.

Clinton or McCain on Obama:

Do you really want the pimps and drug addicts as the new White House staff?

Obama has said he will make a Rap music program mandatory in U.S. schools.

If Obama gets elected he will make all school children wear bling.

Obama will name Snoop Doggy Dogg as his new Secretary of Pumping up the Jam.

A President Obama will refer to his Vice President as his main dog.

Obama or McCain slogans on Hillary:

Sure, we'll save money on salary for a woman President, but America needs more than new wallpaper in the White House.

Women are responsible for most car accidents. Do you want a woman President's finger next to the nuclear button?

A roast and apron for every woman.

Hillary would only be a puppet for Bill anyway.

Ok, we gave you the right to vote, but let's not get carried away here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easterly reminders of peace

Boy don't this world ever need more men and women of peace, and more nations with peaceful people, policies and attitudes. American humorist Will Rogers once said minds are changed through observation and not through argument. In the brief life of Jesus the ultimate teacher, we are left with teachings from a man that gave all of himself, for us to observe. Jesus' teachings were about how to live, human treatment, of particularly the needy and oppressed. His teachings are universal. One does not have to be a religious person per se at all, just be open-minded, to appreciate the man and his messages.

There is a great deal of common sense in his messages, much of it is good psychology. For example, treating others as you wish to be treated. A bit of empathy involved here, and makes logical sense. Another always timely and practical thought to ponder is the idea that all races, languages, and creeds are equal. He also stressed the idea of forgiveness, and another biggie is the concept of being nonjudgmental. It's an idea, and we can only strive to be so.

On a practical level, the last one probably meant, for example - if you did point out some failing of someone, or some error or maliciousness, then it is up to the rest of us to understand why, lift the person up, not knock him or her down further.

Jesus' messages were simple, and ideally would probably lead to a much more perfect world. Interpretations of his teachings have unfortunately caused divisions in peoples in our and the rest of the world. Perhaps because humanity could not fully live up to his ideals, arguments were made about what Jesus might have meant or done, and divisions have occurred. Perhaps because humanity to a large degree, emphasize self interest first, and different measures of success, that other rationalizations of what is acceptable are put forward. After all, Jesus did not get into every detail of life, especially 2000 years later, but was probably thinking he did not have to, as his original teachings were meant to cover all situations with love, giving, forgiveness, and respect for human dignity, so no one was left out.

He would not care if about how you label yourself, but rather how you treat each other, and how you choose to live by your daily actions. Other religions, have peaceful and similar teachings as well. Certainly many individuals have promoted peace and understanding. The end goal is to live in peace, and many do. Unfortunately humanity as a whole have used their freedom to choose, and chose to live with ages old success indicators like greed, wealth, power, materialism, and a concept of inequality. That's our present world. In a person's view of their own self actualization, being the best they can be, how well,and how much they care for others, can be computed into the perception of their character and success.

In a world where there never was a time of no war, a world of continuing greed, with a powerful few, and aggressive nations, attitudes and policies, all sides of all issues could use more people of peace, more attitudes of empathy, forgiveness, equal treatment, and respect. It sounds like an outdated thing to say, but what other solutions are there? It is good that the messages of peaceful people in the history of the world get echoed regularly, so that humanity can think of what could be, and strive to evolve to reach a more perfect and harmonious world.

On a day to celebrate a special, yet mysterious man of hope and peace, here's a beautiful song sung by Yvonne Elliman who played Mary Magdelene in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Obama Pastorizes Campaign

It's been a rough couple of weeks for him in terms of neutralizing potentially campaign-killing trouble makers. His own supporters can be his campaign's worst enemies. It was wife Michelle two weeks back that said she has never been proud of America till now, then the NAFTA message mix-up, the association with slum lord Tony Rezko rekindled in the news, and lately Obama's spiritual advisor was dismissed from the campaign because he mouthed off. Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., told a church congregation, him a Pastor, "No, not God bless America, God damn America."

In his tirade denouncing Hillary Clinton, Pastor Wright also said America had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself.

So Obama had to distance himself from his pastor and friend's comments. But the association with a person who gave a racially charged sermon leaves more questions and doubts about the candidate's background. What other questionable relationships did he or does he have with "racy" people? What are his real attitudes and values?

This week Hillary also had to put a big supporter out to pasture. Geraldine Ferraro made controversial remarks asserting that the only reason Obama is so popular is because he is black. Hillary appeared a few days later to douse that fire as well. They both have had glitches with their supporters. The difference though is that Hillary is much more familiar to the public than he, so each new negative tie he has is a liability which when compounded in a short time span can mortally infect his presidential pursuit.

There's plenty more to learn about him. Obama just might have to continue pasteurizing this campaign because who knows what else lies beneath the surface.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is China ready for the Olympics?

It's going to be fun for tourists at the Olympics in China later this year. Check out some amusing translations.

A politician was unfaithful, but should he resign?

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer broke a personal and marital trust with his wife but should he give in to pressure from other politicians to resign? He is a rich guy, with an income of nearly $2 million last year. The crime was paying a woman for intimacy. So $80,000 was blown with a prostitute, no pun intended. Some analysts say this is a victim-less crime. And if he used his own money, then that's as far as the crime goes. If it was the public's purse, then he is in more serious trouble, and nothing will protect him in that case.

Spitzer has been described the "Sheriff of Wall Street" regarding his tenacious and abrasive style of fighting crime on Wall St. and busting prostitution rings. This is the other part of the "whether he should resign or not" question - integrity. How can you stay on a crime fighter if the crime you busted is one you participated in? He would then appear as a hypocrite.

This sex scandal is most hurtful, as it always is, to his immediate families. It's hard to imagine the pain and disappointment they are going through. His 50 year old wife quit a lucrative career as a lawyer 20 years ago, to devote to raising her three kids. She gave speeches on the value of volunteerism, and "greening" homes.

Psychoanalysts speculate that Eliot Spitzer may have a personal problem, weakness or some other psychologically explained condition that led him to engage in a high risk activity like this. Even so, if he did not use public funds for this purpose he does not have to resign, though the pressure will be immense. After all, there are a few other political figures who were naughty in private, but did their jobs well, Roosevelt, Clinton and Kennedy to name a few. And a few good, forgiving, patient women stood by those men(or put up with), Hillary, and Jackie O. for example.

Though Spitzer is under incredible pressure to step aside, he could stay as Governor and not. He did say "sorry", and might only get a slap, not from the prostitute, but from federal prosecutors. His post traumatic news conference time as Governor would not be a smooth sailing picnic, but it can happen, just up to him. Either way, life is just not going to be the same for him and the family.

Update: Spitzer is going to resign this afternoon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I DID, have sex with that woman

Well, that's what is partly presumed but not yet proven in the case of New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer (shown here with wife Silda).

Spitzer is under federal investigation for alledgedly meeting with a prostitute in a Washington hotel. He was caught on a Feb. 13 wiretap arranging to meet the woman.

This afternoon, with his wife at his side, he apologized for acting

in a way that violates my obligations to my family, that violates my or any sense of right and wrong

The prostitute's employer, a call-girl business known as the Emperors Club VIP, charged between $1,000 and $5,500 an hour and operated in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, France.

The poor wife. If this is a surprise to her, it has to be crushing, certainly to the families involved. That this particular person may have had "relations" with a prostitute is a shock to people that know him. Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN political analyst, went to law school with Spitzer, and said that he is "the straightest arrow I know".

Not surprisingly this mug shot is plastered on all the big news web sites, the "I did something bad" look. It's a feeding frenzy for news networks now, but a painful personal experience for a few.

No doubt, it will feed the late night comedians. I can imagine Jay Leno's take on it ..

"Already there are calls for him to resign. There are others who think that if he did indeed cheat on his wife, he should do the right thing, and let her go out and get a strange piece herself."

Friday, March 07, 2008

What's Bill Doing?

"Bill Clinton courts female voters with a barrel of pickup lines."

Oops, I did it again
I played with your heart,
    Got lost in the game
    Oh baby baby
    Oops, you think I'm in love,
    That I'm sent from above
    I'm not, that, innocent

Bill: "I did not, have sex, with that woman - Ms Clinton."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Answer at your own risk

"Congratulations! You've just won a trip to Jamica!"

"Good day, I am calling from CitiOne. We are offering an introductory rate of 9.9% on credit transfers ... (a rapid rant of yadda, yadda, yadda ...) You can take advantage of this fantastic opportunity for the first month without charge, cancel anytime up to 30 days ... (another continuous litany of blah, blah, blah ...) Can I confirm your mailing address to send you the sign up form?"

Unless you've been phone-less you will appreciate the call from credit card solicitors. It's not intended to be a conversation, but it is a non-interrupted spiel about some new offer from a credit agency. The caller usually speaks without a pause, which makes the listener feel somewhat hesitant to interrupt, and irritated. For experienced answerers of such calls , there are different ways to cut it short. You could immediately hang up, interrupt assertively to convey your disinterest, or you could be more colorful with your words.

Many people have caller display which gives them a choice when they identify that strange number calling. They can avoid the whole waste of time, if not the sound of the phone ringing. For many others who do not have call display, the ringing phone is often not answered at all because they try to avoid an annoying call. Before the industry of mass telephone solicitation exploded people did not have to worry about paying for an extra phone service like caller display. For those on low or fixed incomes, it's an expense that was unnecessary in past years. Maybe you've had the experience of calling people, and did not get an answer, but yet they are home. It's too bad in our high tech modern world that people have to worry about dealing with unwanted calls day after day throughout each year.

On the other end though, let's not forget the often dismissed poor caller who has to be patient, in knowing that the spiel they have been directed to deliver, might irritate the solicitee. It's safe to think that they are not sitting there thinking, "even if I can't get the caller to sign up with us, at least I've ticked off another person." After all, they are doing their jobs. Too bad that the way in which these companies work is to verbally impose upon the listener a non-stop string of sales talk which makes people dreading to answer the phone. Some volunteer agencies have people who call and are not so pushy, where it is not so uncomfortable to interrupt. A lesson could be learned from that style.

In the meantime, the credit card callers won't be surprised if you cut the "conversation" short. After all, you're just doing your job too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Doubts about Obama, Hillary's Four day Roll Gives her Momentum

In Ohio Clinton exceeded poll expectations. She has ended up with a convincing 10% win margin in Ohio, over the preceding 5% poll gap. Going in to the contest yesterday, he had an edge in Texas, but she came out on top with 51 to 48% there. The NAFTA doubts seemed to have impact particularly in Ohio. He and his campaign were clumsy handling the goofed affair, and was caught unprepared Monday when Clinton released the last ad suggesting his honesty on the NAFTA issue was insincere.

The red phone ad by itself might not have had the desired effect on last night's outcome. However, since Saturday she has been on a roll, appearing on Saturday Night Live, which projected a more playful Hillary, as did her Monday appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Her three wins last night are significant. Now she has to maintain a renewed momentum. He will now be tested to see if he really has the right stuff. He will have to offer voters more forward thinking reasons to vote for him, quickly and clearly fend off attacks on him.

Obama has a delegate lead (1451 to 1365) but it's a delicate delegate lead right now.

Next stop, Wyoming, Saturday, March 8.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Obama's Position on NAFTA, and his Honesty in Doubt

Either someone in Obama's camp or in the Canadian Consulate in Chicago, is not telling the truth about what went down in a meeting between Obama's economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, and Canada's consul general in Chicago, Georges Rioux,
a Canadian official either made a mistake in recording, and/or misinterpreted what transpired at the 40 minute Feb. 8 meeting.

A quick summary of what this story concerns.
Yesterday Hillary Clinton's campaign ran an ad which suggested that Barack Obama flip-flopped on his stance on NAFTA, i.e., that he would renegotiate it. The ad says he (his campaign) told Canadian Consulate officials that his words were just about political positioning rather than a clear articulation of policy plans. Obama and his economic adviser denies that such words were said to the Canadian Consul. This is significant because particularly in the state of Ohio where NAFTA has negatively affected the economy, Obama has vowed to fix it once elected.
(Also see previous post Mar. 3rd).

The only piece of evidence in this potentially campaign busting twist is a 1300 word memo written by a Canadian offical, Joseph DeMora, who was in attendance at the meeting.

Newsweek has a timeline of related PR responses that allows the reader to arrive at their own conclusions as to what is going on in the Obama/NAFTA story. Here's a key piece of what DeMora wrote that is at the center of this controversy:

... Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.

This memo was also widely circulated among the Canadian government.

Goolsbee responded by saying,
He's not quoting me. . . . I certainly did not use that phrase in any way. . . . In no possible way was I inferring that he [Obama] was going to introduce any policies that you should ignore and he had no intention of enacting.

The Newsweek page notes that, "It (Associated Press) quoted Obama spokesman Bill Burton as saying that Goolsbee was not representing the campaign during the visit and was not authorized to share any messages from the campaign".

No audio recording exist of the Feb. 8 meeting of Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee and the Canadian Consulate.

So there is no hard proof that Goolsbee actually said it, but it leaves doubt. One would assume that a potential U.S. economic adviser and his candidate would be very close, on the same page that is. If Goolsbee did not suggest that renogotiating NAFTA was just political rhetoric, then the recorder DeMora either interpreted a conversation incorrectly, misheard it, or was being malicious. Otherwise, how could he write such words unless they were mentioned by Obama's adviser? Something's odd here.

If Obama has really been bluffing about changing NAFTA just to get Ohio's hurting workers' votes, then what else might he be bluffing about? And, what kind of President would Canada potentially be dealing with? It would sound like one who is more of the same.

He is leading in delegates at the moment but can't afford to be seen in another negative light, like his questionable relationship with slum lord Tony Rezko. There may be more revelations on the NAFTA item, but right now it seems to cast a shadow of doubt over Obama's honesty, and/or his campaign adviser's.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Clinton Attacking Fiercely on the day before Make or Break Vote

More detail to follow Tuesday morning on the Obama/NAFTA story
Negative ads are used because they can have the desired impact for the person behind it. The latest Hillary ad goes after Obama's position on NAFTA. In public he had said it wants it to be renegotiated, but her ad alleges that he said in a private conversation, that his words were just for political purposes. Hillary bounced on this. In a statement to the media, she accuses Obama of double-speak, telling Ohio voters one thing about NAFTA, and telling the Canadian Consulate in Chicago another thing about NAFTA.

From this site

A memo obtained by The Associated Press suggests Obama's economic policy adviser privately told Canadian officials to look at the Democratic candidate's attack on free trade as "political positioning" rather than policy.

Obama's camp says it was not his words but rather a staffer's interpretation.

This information may have been planned for days, and her team waited till today, the day before four primaries Tuesday, to spring the ad, and leaving the Obama team little time to defend, and try to counter the attack. This could sway some votes her way, unless his defense and response are strong and neutralize her ad's message. At this time, her allegation seems strong. It leaves doubts about Obama. The timing of her ad at the 11th hour is evidence that Texas and Ohio are crucial battlegrounds for Clinton. Even a narrow win for her will give her the momentum she has been lacking for over two months, and she will stay in the race till April's next primaries.

The polls are a statistical tie in both Ohio and Texas, 47-43% for Hillary in Ohio, 46-45% for Obama in Texas, with the remaining percentages being undecideds. Hillary will need to win hugely to equal Obama's overall lead in delegates, which is 1379 to 1269. Texas Latinos were a large part of Hillary's support, but Obama appeals to youth, so he may end up getting the "Lateeno" vote, thus stealing from Clinton.

With today's sneak attack from Hillary, and the close polls, it would not be surprising if Hillary does squeak out a win in Ohio and Texas. But, will it be enough to significantly bridge the delegate gap, and give the impression that she indeed has momentum? Will there be basically a 50-50 voter/delegate split, or will Clinton's assertive campaigning entice more voters her way? It's getting interesting again.