Prom and graduation season

1/3 of the 1,700 kids, aged 18 - 14 killed each year from accidental injuries (including motor vehicle crashes), homicide and suicide occur during prom and graduation season.

Because of this heightened concern and awareness I have been asked to give some presentations at some of the local high schools. I have three scheduled this year, and the last two days I have given two, and next week I will do the third. These presentations are given to high school assemblies of seniors,  and in some cases seniors and juniors, about DWI and making "good choices". This has been less than satisfying for me for a whole bunch of reasons. However I have been given an opportunity to review some of the data and I thought I would share some of it here because I think it is instructive in many ways of the kind of society we are living in.

1 in 3 12th graders report, on survey, that they have binge drank (5 or more drinks on a single occasion) in the last two weeks. This data is pretty consistent in Genesee County,NY, New York State  as a whole, and across the country.

Goofing on the 150 or so juniors and seniors I talked with this morning, I asked them to raise their hands if they had binge drank in the last two weeks. Surprisingly about twenty hands went up and one kid shouted out laughing, "Yeah, I got wasted!!!", the kids around him laughed.

I asked them why they think so many kids binge drink and they shouted, "Because it's fun."

I guess it is to a point. BUT.............................................................

90% of the estimated college rapes per year (97,000) occur when the victim, perpetrator, or both are intoxicated. I live in a college town and I remember a few years ago seeing an article in the college newspaper reporting that 11 rapes had been reported to campus security that year. I was startled. Is that high, low, under reported? I thought rape was a serious felony crime and rapists, if convicted, go to prison. Are college student rapes on a college campus reported to campus security handled differently? Is this a different type of crime?

25% of sexually active college students , or about 400,000 college students between the ages of 18 - 24 per year, report having unprotected sex per year while under the influence. Studies have found that 20- 25% of young women are infected with a STD like chlamydia and/or gonorrhea without knowing it.

11% of college students report perpetrating property damage while intoxicated.

25% of college students report symptoms of academic failure ( missing classes, late papers, doing poorly on exams) because of alcohol.

Vomit_2 Living in the downtown area of a college town in Brockport, NY, on Saturday morning when I walk the two blocks from my house to my office to see clients, I have to walk around the piles of vomit on the village sidewalks. Last week I could actually see the elbow macaroni and beans from Jimmy Z's garbage plate in the vomit. There were three piles on the corner of King Street and Main Street. This is a common occurrence. I pointed out to the kids this morning that alcohol is poison and your body tries to reject it and if the body cannot, alcohol poisoning leads to coma and death.

Alcohol is readily accepted in our society and glamorized in commercials and advertisements constantly. Is it any wonder that "getting wasted" and "to party" have become synonymous?

After my two kids were killed in a drunk driving crash, perhaps I am over sensitive, but the tragedies and heartache caused by alcohol, it seems to me, far outweigh its benefits and pleasure especially when used to excess as the youth in our society seem to do in significant numbers.

Here is my daughter Brigid in her Irish dancing dress before a performance when she was 5 about a week before she was killed.

Brigid Kathleen Markham

04/11/87 – 03/10/93


Here is my son Ryan in his Irish dancing outfit before a performance about a week before he was killed .

Ryan John Patrick Markham

05/09/84 – 03/10/93


Here is the 18 Wheeler tractor trailer that smashed into the car driven by my wife and with four of my children in it. It was the driver's third DWI.


This is me, a tired old man, talking about it after 15 years. Had they not been killed at age 5 and 8, Brigid would be 21 today, and Ryan would be 24. I miss them terribly. They were great kids and would have been outstanding adults. Our world is poorer for not having them in it.


Americans are propagandized by corporate media.

Americans are propagandized by the corporate media. Amy Goodman interviews Greg Mitchell on Democracy Now on March 24, 2008 about his new book, "So Wrong for So Long". Every American needs to be aware of how their news is manipulated to meet the needs of the government. This clip of Greg Mitchell lasts about 11 minutes which is well worth watching.

To read, listen, watch more, go to the Democracy Now web site by clicking here.

The Ethically Challenged

Unethical I have been thinking a lot the last 6 months about the importance of ethics in my life and in our sense of community.

I was at a workshop last October lead by Michael White, the Australian Social Work Psychotherapist, who pioneered what is called Narrative Therapy. Michael was challenged by a grad student in the audience who asked Michael if Narrative Therapy was "an evidence based therapy", and what research has been done on its outcomes? Michael replied that he was not a researcher and would leave that to others. He said that his bigger concern was not whether Narrative Therapy was evidence based but rather was it ethically based? This resonated with me because so much of what I see seems to be based on money, and data, rather than whether it is ethical.

On 11/30/07, This American Life broadcast show 344 entitled "Competition". It includes two segments both well worth listening to. The first segment describes a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma that engaged in human trafficing in order to compete in the global economy. The owner of the company convinced himself that enslaving people and impoverishing them and cheating them was for their own good.

The second segment deals with a ratings war among media companies in Boise, Idaho wherein one TV station unethically ruined a man and his family's life after he had been categorized as a sex offender 13 year prior to the news story being run just to sensationalize its programming to improve ratings.

I came from an ministerial ordination this afternoon where it was stated as part of the ceremony that there is still sin in the world. Indeed, there is and we need to call one another to repentence.

I highly recommend this 50 minute show. It will cost you $0.95 to download it, and it is worth it.

Link: This American Life.

Subtle manipulation of celebrity images sells to gullible Americans lacking media literacy skills

Heath_ledger I have increasingly enjoyed the blog, The Last Psychiatrist. It is thoughtful, relevant, and stimulating. The current article has to do with how People Magazine treats the personality of Heath Ledger, the star of Brokeback Mountain, who suddenly died recently on 01/22/08.

I, of course, can't speak for The Last Psychiatrist, but I think his point is that People Magazine wants to hook readers and sell magazines and is not necessarily interested in the truth. Therefore, the reader should beware that he/she is reading a spin that may not provide information that is entirely accurate. I have long been interested in media literacy which are skills rarely taught in schools, even colleges, any more. The Last Psychiatrist makes a good case for readers to get out their media literacy skills and apply them to People's schlock.

Here is part of what The Last Psychiatrist writes:

All of this is subtle, I'll admit. But that's why it's so important to see it.  If it was blatant, we'd be arguing it; subtle is a virus, it's unconscious.  Individually none of these photos or phrases mean anything, but taken together they signify something; like the use of the green filter in the movie The Matrix.

If you ask, "are you saying People thinks he is gay?" you've misunderstood.  People has no interest in the truth; it is inviting speculation, it is causing confusion.

In order for you to understand what I'm saying, you'll have to accept that the media doesn't just select the "best" photos or quotes for their stories, but carefully selects ones that fit their story-- story that's not necessarily explicit.

Link: The Last Psychiatrist: People Magazine Has Something To Tell You About Heath Ledger.

Justice Talking Radio - FCC approves further media consolidation screwing American citizens

Fcc Justice Talking is a great radio show and on its program released on 01/21/08 Margot Adler the host talks with FCC Commissioner, Michael Copps and other guests about the new FCC rules on media consolidation.

Media Corporations have bought our politicians and now they want to increase their power by controlling not only radio and TV but newspapers. This is not a good thing for our democracy which is becoming increasingly fascistic under the Republican Bush Administration as the politicians and corporations get into bed together to manipulate and oppress citizens at the local level by keeping them in the dark and spinning the news in a direction that the polticians in power say is "Fair and Balanced".

This is a major campaign issue in the 2008 election. Do you know where your candidates stand?

It's a good show which lasts about 55 minutes. Every voting American should listen to it.

Link: Justice Talking.

FCC fines Comcast for broadcasting "fake news"

Fake_news PR Watch announced 09/24/07 that the FCC fined Comcast Corp. $4,000.00 for broadcasting fake TV news. Basically, VNRs, video news releases, are marketing pieces structured to look like news. This goes on all the time, but it is the first time that the FCC has decided to fine a media corporation for deceptive practices.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on September 21 that it was fining Comcast Corp. $4,000 for its cable channel CN8's broadcast of fake TV news, a video news release (VNR) without disclosure.

The Comcast fine is the first-ever sanction for airing a VNR, a sponsored PR video that mimics the structure and style of television news reports. The fine is a direct result of Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) investigations, and of a joint complaint filed with the FCC by CMD and Free Press.

The FCC's action against Comcast is precedent setting. It firmly rejects the public relations industry's argument that no disclosure is needed if television stations are not paid to air VNRs. Hopefully, the FCC will soon address the nearly 140 other undisclosed VNR broadcasts that were documented in CMD's two reports, "Fake TV News" and "Still Not the News."

The links in this quote don't work. To connect with them go to the article by clicking on the link below.

Link: A First for the FCC: Fining Fake News! | Center for Media and Democracy.

Giuliani is a con man extraordinaire

I saw Rudy Giuliani yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulas and it was disturbing how glib and smarmy he can be.

It also is a shame that you have to go outside of the United States to get honest appraisal of our own Presidential candidates. However, Channel 4 in the UK has a great piece on what a disengenuous person Guiliani is. Remember, Giuliani thinks Bernie Kerik is a great guy. Here is a brief snippet from the Channel 4 UK piece.

“At Ground Zero today they are still digging the foundations for the new freedom tower. Before 9-11 the one thing Giuliani had done was to build himself, right next to this site, an emergency command centre”

“Giuliani spent $60m on the command centre in the World Trade Centre. He installed a humidor for his cigars, monogrammed towels in bathroom, even had private elevator which was handy when he brought his mistress here at the weekends. But he also installed a 600 gallon fuel tank which meant that when burning debris hit the building it went up like a blowtorch”

“So Giuliani found himself wandering the streets because he had ignored advice to put his command centre safely underground in Brooklyn. Insisting instead it had to be near City hall.”

It is a scary thing that this is the best that the Republican party can come up with for candidates.

Thanks to Northcoastcafe for the original reference to this piece.

To watch the whole video, which is well worth watching, and is about 8 1/2 minutes click on the link below.

Link: Raw Replay - Revisiting History.

Save the internet

While the corporations pay the politicians and the media to distract Americans from the real issues with bogus issues like gay marriage, prayer in public schools, womens freedom to choose, they slowly corrupt our democracy by putting profit over the common welfare.

As we move into high gear for the 2008 Presidential campaign I will be writing some articles on what I consider the real issues that we, as a nation, should be discussing if we are to insure a safe, prosperous, and healthy future for our children and our grandchildren. I have added a new category to my blog called Campaign issues 2008. We would do well to educate ourselves about these issues and hold our elected representative accountable for addressing them in meaningful, relevant, honest, and effective ways. The first issue is net neutrality.

Many of the media and telacom corporations would love to take over the internet and charge people for access to higher speed sites. The internet should stay "neutral", that is, not be owned by any corporation for profit so that it can charge money for premium access. The internet should be considered part of the "commons", that is,  common space for the public welfare not privatized space for the profit of the few. For more information click on the link below to the Savetheinternet web site.

Link: Save the Internet : The Threat is Real.