Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Britain, a Gift Registry for Divorces

In Britain, a Gift Registry for Divorces

Study: Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives?

Study: Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives?

Not Labour v Tory, but Gordon v Dave

Today, at the Tories' spring conference in Brighton, David Cameron will deliver what will be widely and hysterically trailed as the "speech of his life". Well, he's delivered a fair few of those in the past four years, and he certainly has a talent for the genre. The Tory leader has grown used to the hyperbole that precedes such performances. Which is not to say that he is blas̩ about today's address. Far from it: this will be a speech without notes, and Рgiven the Tories' position in the opinion polls Рit has to be a belter.

What has gone wrong, and how bad is it? Here we have a Prime Minister plausibly accused of intimidating his junior staff, and a serving Chancellor of the Exchequer willing to declare (in a remarkable interview with Jeff Randall on Sky) that his boss unleashed the "forces of hell" upon him in August 2008 as punishment for telling the truth about the economic crisis. Last month, Gordon Brown fought off yet another coup attempt – the fourth or fifth of his brief premiership, depending upon how you are counting. Although microscopic growth has returned, the painful symptoms of recession are still being felt across the land. Against such a background, oughtn't the Conservative Party to be 20 points ahead in the polls, rather than six or seven?

Lord Mandelson – using language that only he could get away with – accused the Tories of "willy wobbling all over the place". While the Cameroons would certainly deny any such "wobbling", they make little attempt in private to conceal their concern about the polls so close to election day – a mere 66 days, assuming Gordon goes to the country on May 6. Indeed, it would be odd if they were not concerned. For an Opposition on the brink of office, after many years in the wilderness, the polls at this stage are meant to be the calming influence that stops them going crazy with nerves. No such luck for the Tories in 2010: this one is going to the wire.

The manifest danger for the party is that all manner of false conclusions will be drawn from the narrowing of the polls. As ever, the poll wobble is being used to attack the modernising strategy that (as is so easily forgotten) got the party back into contention after three comprehensive general election defeats. Not enough tough promises, say others. It is important that the Conservatives have a plausible fiscal policy, but I very much doubt that an even longer list of the spending cuts they intend to make will improve their poll position.

Imagine Pete and Dud at the pub.

Pete: You know, Dud. These Tories wouldn't know a Laffer Curve if it crossed the road to punch them.

Dud: Too right, Pete. And I'll tell you something for nothing.

Pete: What's that then, Dud?

Dud: Until those Bullingdon boys produce a list of spending efficiencies
of the sort that will preserve Britain's triple-A credit rating, rather than the paltry £7 billion cuts that Osborne came up with at the last conference ...

Pete: Only £7 billion! It's a bleedin' insult!

Dud: Yeah. Until they do that, I'm sticking with the Natural Law Party.

Pete: As well you should, Dud. As well you should, etc etc.

Officially, at least, the two main parties have arrived at the same analysis. In his campaign launch speech last weekend, the PM said that the coming contest was not a referendum on the past but "a big choice; a choice about who's best for Britain's future". In an article in yesterday's Times, George Osborne agreed, using slightly different language, that the election had to be more than "a referendum on the Labour Party" and must instead be "a choice between five more years of Gordon Brown, or change with David Cameron and the Conservatives".

This, it has long seemed to me, is the clearest and most obvious route to victory for the Tories, but not one they have explicitly and unambiguously embraced until now. Whenever I give a presentation on politics, I use what I call my Kent Dorfman slide. There is a scene in National Lampoon's Animal House, you may recall, when the Delta House pledge committee is considering its candidates: up comes the slide of Kent "Flounder" Dorfman's pudgy features, and the entire room erupts in horror, objects are thrown, people scream. That is pretty much the effect that Gordon Brown's picture now has on an audience.

The question the Tories should urge the voters to ask when they go into the polling booth is not "Labour or Tory?" but "Cameron or Brown?". Last week's ICM poll in The Guardian showed that the Conservatives had fallen to 37 points, only seven ahead of Labour. But when the same respondents were asked who would make the best Prime Minister, Cameron soared to 42 per cent, way ahead of Brown on 28 per cent. The lesson is that the Tories have a positive interest in running this election as a battle between two quasi-presidential candidates, rather than between two national political movements.

Some of Mr Cameron's colleagues feel he has been a bit diffident, a bit distracted in recent days. They should perhaps bear in mind that last Thursday was the first anniversary of the death of his son, Ivan – a milestone that would leave the strongest of men subdued and introspective.

What is true, as Janet Daley argues (left), is that the Tory leader has to exude a clearer urgency of mission in his speech today: the "fierce urgency of now" as Barack Obama put it on the campaign trail, echoing Martin Luther King. There is a longing for a simple, authentic statement of leadership. "We need to see 'Dave Unplugged'," as one of his advisers puts it. And how much more so in the three television debates between the party leaders.

This will be a volatile election, thrillingly so. I am not sure the public is in the mood to let anyone "seal the deal" just yet: the sky-high disgrace of the expenses scandal saw to that. This time, the electorate will make Cameron sweat until the last vote is counted: there will be no Blairesque moment of national acclamation, no long-choreographed festival on the morning after the election. In these poll figures, the punters are sending the Tory leader a clear and impatient signal. They want to see him match their fury, to be their tribune: not the smooth spokesman of an alternative elite, or a scandalised economist, obsessed only with the detail of the deficit. They want a rebel leader, the head of a resistance movement. "This election is going to be a really bloody punch-up," in the words of one Shadow Cabinet member. That's for sure. Seconds out, round one.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Con of "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance

"The choice, despite what some say, really is between having a free
country and having an officially religious nation." A debate occurring in
America is whether "under God" should be included in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Some American citizens believe it should be kept, while others have their
reasons to exterminate it. In a country with many different traditions and
beliefs, is including God in the Pledge fair to every citizen? Is it
Constitutional? To some American citizens, the answer would be "no".

In 1892, Francis Bellamy created the Pledge of Allegiance. His
version of the Pledge was, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic
for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Many argue that "under God" in the Pledge is tradition, but it was actually
added in 1954 during the Cold War. Americans against "under God" believe that it
should be removed and put back to its' original state.

Some Americans would also agree that "under God" goes against the
Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion", states the First Amendment. Some believe that the founders of the
Constitution wanted to exclude religion from state to promote freedom of
religion to every citizen so persecution would not occur.

"Love of country is not, nor should it be, measured by a citizen's
religious belief or lack thereof." Some would argue that stating God in the
Pledge is stating ones' love for him, not the country. They would argue that the
Pledge was created as a patriotic statement, not a pledge to God. For many
non-believers, "under God" is against what they believe, and it's not respectful
to those beliefs. Some are affended by the inclusion of "under God" in the
Pledge and want it taken out.

Though there is an option for children stating the Pledge in
schools, some parents believe their children will conform anyway. Their children
would say the Pledge out of fear of being different or unpatriotic. Many believe
that exterminating "under God" overall would solve this problem.

To accept the Pledge the way it is or to create change is a decision
many Americans against "under God" in the Pledge go through. For America to be a
"religious" country or to be a "free choice" country, "Under God" goes against
the separation of Church and State amendment in the Constitution, but it's
ultimately the government's decision to change it.

"The Issues - Pros and Cons of "under God""Kids World.2000-2009

"Is "under God" in the American Pledge of Allegiance appropriate or should it be
eliminated?" DebatePedia. 25 January 2010


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video Games and Violence Con


Video Games Cause Violence-Con

                This long fought over controversy over whether or not video games influence violence can be defended by statistics and facts for both sides of the issue. The cons of video games and violence are as listed .

           1. Over-dependence on video games could lead to social isolation, because kids often play alone.

           2.  Practicing violent acts may lead to aggressive behavior over watching TV.

           3. Women are often portrayed as weaker characters that are helpless or sexually provocative.

            4. Game environments are often based on plots of violence, aggression, and gender bias.    

           5. Many games only offer an arena of weapons, killings, kicking, stabbing, and shooting.  

           6. More often games do not offer action that requires independent thought or creativity. 

           7. Games can confuse reality and fantasy. 

           8. In many violent games, players must become more violent to win.

           9. Academic achievements may be negatively related to over-all time spent playing video games.

               Some of the effects of video games are: 1. they involve a constant hurting and/or killing of others. 2. There is no punishment for killing. 3. The more you kill the more you are rewarded. 4. The killing was almost always seen as justified.  All these things seem to lead to the fact that killing is an acceptable method of solving problems (he hurt someone I love, so I'm going to go over to his house and kill him), or that violence is okay. Similar to constantly being exposed to television violence, video game can also lead to a desensitization of violence. The exposure to violence in video games can also lower a child's feelings towards others or to a point where they begin to see other people as objects rather than real people.  Kids being constantly exposed to this kind of violence in video games can lead to being aggressive later.

              Older players know the difference between reality and fantasy. They know the differences between right and wrong. They are aware that the violence being shown in video games is not real. So you would expect that violent video games would not affect them. However, violent games do affect older audiences. In kids, violence in video games caused an increase in aggression, but for older audiences the aggression was showed in different ways. Kids expressed their aggression in behavior or physical play. College students expressed their aggression through increased hostility on a test or heart rate.

                A common effect that video games have among its players is that it develops high adrenaline rates that can lead to hyper-aggressiveness as well as symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Frequent playing of these games that increases your adrenaline can lead to stimulus addiction. Stimulus addiction is a common response among children immersed in violent games. People suffering from stimulus addiction need stronger and stronger stimulation to read the same emotional experience, sometimes leading to a search for more violence games.

                This leads to the question: "Does violence in video games lead to violence in the real world?" Many parents worry that violent games not only cause rude behaviors in their children, but if it will cause violent behavior in them as well. Research done in 1998 has found that in a group of 5 to 7 year old, children imitated during free play what they had been just exposed to on video games. The children who played active but non-violent games showed that in their play, while children who played games with violent themes showed more aggression. This resembles the "monkey see, monkey do" behavior that most kids do. Females tended to be more stimulated than males. This is probably due to the fact that males tend to be more exposed to violence in general, making an increase in aggression more in females. A Stanford University study found that when third and fourth graders television and video game consumption were reduced to less than seven hours per week for 20 weeks, their verbal aggression decreased by 50% and their physical aggression decreased by 40%. There are many cases that show how players of violent video games exhibit increases in aggression, especially in younger audiences. However, there are very few cases showing how playing violent video games leads or was the cause of violent behavior. The most compelling argument condoning violence in video games comes from Lt Col. David Grossman. Grossman spent over 25 years learning and studying how to enable soldiers to kill and used video games as a tool to enable soldiers to kill. He states that "Children don't naturally kill; they learn it from violence in the home and, most pervasively, from violence as entertainment in television, movies, and interactive video games. We are teaching children to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. We are rewarding them for killing people. And we are teaching them to like it."

                Those against violence in video and computer games say that they would like to see them censored. However, censorship of video games can't be done due to the First Amendment. It is though illegal to distribute obscene or offensive video games to children, including video games harmful to minors.

               People have been talking about the ESRB system as well. The National Institute on Media and the Family decided to figure out how accurate the ESRB ratings were. The panel discovered that based on violent and sexual content, 32% of the games rated E (Everyone) were either questionable or inappropriate for 3-7 year olds, and that 57% of the T (Teen) rated games were deemed questionable or inappropriate for 12-17 year olds. So in conclusion, it would seem that it would better for the parents themselves to determine if the game is appropriate for their child and not solely purchase a violent game based on the ESRB rating. The other rating system is the Recreational Software Advisory Council system (RSAC). The RSAC is similar to the ESRB except that it rates computer games instead of consoles games. Nintendo and Sega have their own rating systems. So all rating systems are different and can be viewed differently.

                    A statistic fact has been recorded that the typical American child watches 28 hours of television a week and by the age of 18 will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.  To prove that statistic, the following cons of violence leads to video games have been argued from critics and researchers all over the world:

            1. Increasing reports of bullying can be partially attributed to the popularity of violent video games. The 2008 study Grand Theft Childhood reported that 60% of middle school boys who played at least one Mature-rated game hit or beat up someone, compared to 39% of boys that did not play Mature-rated games.

            2. Video games often reward players for simulating violence, and thus enhance the learning of violent behaviors. Studies suggest that when violence is rewarded in video games, player's exhibit increased aggressive behavior compared to players of video games where violence is punished.

           3. Violent video games desensitize players to real-life violence. It is common for victims in video games to disappear off screen when they are killed or for players to have multiple lives. In a 2005 study, violent video game exposure has been linked to reduced P300 amplitudes in the brain, which is associated with desensitization to violence and increases in aggressive behavior.

          4. A 2000 FBI report includes playing violent video games in a list of behaviors associated with school shootings.

          5. Violent video games teach youth that violence is an acceptable conflict-solving strategy and an appropriate way to achieve one's goals. A 2009 study found that youth who play violent video games have lower belief in the use of nonviolent strategies and are less forgiving than players of nonviolent video games.

          6. Violent video games cause players to associate pleasure and happiness with the ability to cause pain in others.

          7. Young children are more likely to confuse fantasy violence with real world violence, and without a framework for decision making, they may repeat the actions they see in violent video games.

          8. Violent video games require active participation, repetition, and identification with the violent character. With new game controllers allowing more physical interaction, the immersive and interactive characteristics of video games can increase the likelihood of youth violence.

           9. Playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior and arousal. A 2009 study found that it takes up to four minutes for the level of aggressive thoughts and feelings in children to return to normal after playing violent video games. It takes five to ten minutes for heart rate and aggressive behavior to return to baseline. Video games that show the most blood generate more aggressive thoughts. When blood is present in video games, there is a measurable increase in arousal and hostility.

          10.Playing violent video games cause the development of aggressive behavioral scripts. A behavioral script is developed from the repetition of actions and affects the subconscious mind. An example of a common behavioral script is a driving script that tells drivers to get in a vehicle, put on a seat belt, and turn on the ignition. Similarly, violent video games can lead to scripts that tell youth to respond aggressively in certain situations. Violence in video games may lead to real world violence when scripts are automatically triggered in daily life, such as being nudged in a school hallway.

           11. A 1998 study found that 21% of games sampled involved violence against women. Exposure to sexual violence in video games is linked to increases in violence towards women and false attitudes about rape such as that women incite men to rape or that women secretly desire rape.

            12. Violent video games can train youth to be killers. The US Marine Corps licensed Doom II in 1996 to create Marine Doom in order to train soldiers. In 2002, the US Army released first-person shooter America's Army to recruit soldiers and prepare recruits for the battlefield.

              It is obvious to observe the harmful affects that can be caused by video games. There are always two sides to an argument, and somtimes the negatives can outweigh the positives in certain situations. So out of all the negatives presented in this case,they show the outcome that killing is an acceptable method of solving problems, or that violence is okay, when in reality it is not. Hopefully everyone can now realize the other side of the argument that is being portrayed as no big deal, is in reality a very big deal.


Works Cited

Cesarone, Bernard. "Video Games and Children." Video Game Use. Kid Source, 20 Apr. 2000. Web. 3 Feb. 2010.


Holmes, Leonard. "Violent Video Games Produce Violent Behavior." Mental Health., 9 Nov. 2005. Web. 3 Feb. 2010.


Kalning, Kristin. "Does game violence make teens aggressive?" Technology and Science. MSNBC, 8 Dec. 2006. Web. 3 Feb. 2010.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Video steers student into texting foes' camp

Teen steers into texting foes' camp
By Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN — Like most of her friends, Jillian Humphries used to consider herself a whiz at sending text messages from behind a steering wheel.

“For most of us, texting and driving was a daily event,” the Benson High School student told state lawmakers.

The teenager reformed her ways after seeing a graphic video made in the United Kingdom. The video is a dramatization of a head-on crash caused by a teen driver sending a text message.

Now, although Humphries admits it is a daily test of will, she neither texts nor talks on a cell phone while driving.

She appeared Tuesday before the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee to support a bill that would ban texting while driving in Nebraska.

Legislative Bill 845, introduced by State Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, would apply to drivers of all ages.

Under the bill, a first offense would mean a $200 fine and the loss of three points on one's driver's license. The fine would be $300 for a second offense and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

Harms said texting while driving has become a widespread problem and is getting worse.

“It's a tragedy waiting to happen, not only in this nation, but in this great state,” he said. “I believe lives are at stake every day.”

He said the growing popularity of text messaging has led to growing concern about driving safety.

The number of text messages sent monthly has exploded from 7.2 billion in 2005 to 135.2 billion last year, according to CTIA, a wireless telecommunications industry group.

Nearly one in five people who own cell phones admitted, in a 2008 survey, to reading or sending texts while driving.

The result is that texting caused between 200,000 and 1 million accidents during 2008, according to an analysis by the National Safety Council.

The council estimated that about 1 percent of drivers were texting at any given moment in 2008 but that such drivers accounted for between 3 percent and 18 percent of accidents.

Harm said Nebraska would not be the first state to ban texting by drivers.

Nineteen other states ban texting by all drivers, while nine ban it for young drivers. Nebraska bans texting and cell phone use by teens with learner's permits or provisional driver's licenses.

Bans also apply to federal employees who drive government vehicles and to commercial truck and bus drivers.

And just Tuesday, an Iowa House committee approved a limited ban on people texting while driving.

Harms noted that he is often asked whether a ban could be enforced. He said law enforcement officials say they can usually tell whether someone is texting by their erratic driving. Texting drivers will speed up, slow down or veer into another lane.

No one appeared in opposition to LB 845. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would ban cell phone use by school bus drivers, including employees of private companies that drive students under a contract with a school. LB 697 was proposed by a group of students from Lincoln East High School.