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Voice of the Voter - This Week's Articles

Scene from Grand Theft Auto game

Modern Media and the Decline of American Society

With the rise in popularity of games like Grand Theft Auto and television shows like Nip/Tuck, should we conclude that the once core values of our society have been eroded? If you view media as a reflection of a society's morays, how do we reconcile the existence of shows centered on the purely superficial and games that glorify violence and mayhem with the supposed high moral fiber of American society? What does it say about America's character when coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where American soldiers are dying daily gets bumped in favor of coverage of where a dead Playboy Playmate who lived a life of excess will be buried and which of the men she slept with is the real father of her baby? While freedom of speech and expression should be protected, including the most offensive forms of speech and expression, why do we as a society gravitate towards the most vulgar and pointless of the available forms of expression?

There was a time in America when most of these forms of entertainment would have been completely unacceptable to "Main Street" Americans but today they have become commonplace and accepted parts of our daily lives. How can we expect our children to have respect for their fellow man when killing and raping are merely games to them? How can we promote looking beyond the physical when entire shows on television are devoted to plastic surgery and what celebrity is wearing or not wearing what clothing? Is it really of any value to our society to watch the most outrageous people from within our society as entertainment? When is pushing the envelope pushing too far? While we should be mindful of limiting speech in the name of decency, when as a society do we simply start changing the channel and turning off the useless sex and violence to which we are increasingly exposed?

The apparent decline of our culture sadly mirrors the decadence that has preceded the fall of other great empires of the past. When you look into history at the fall of Rome, you see the rise of decadence and callousness towards other people on the part of the citizens of the day. The workers of Rome were heavily burdened and under compensated with no regard for their lives or families. The death games in the coliseum were considered to be the most exhilarating of entertainment. The Roman Empire had a military that was spread out over the ancient world in an effort to expand the empire and its ideology. If you look at the art from near the end of the Roman Empire, you see images similar to the types of sex and violence seen today on the Internet, in video games and on television. At one time, Rome was the ultimate empire and was thought to be invulnerable. Rome fell.

When you think about the rampant downsizing of companies, growing gap between the rich and poor, increasing burden on the middle class and combine it with the over-extension of our military and growing insensitivity of our populace towards images of violence and carelessness towards the poor, you can't help but draw parallels between America and ancient Rome. Americans would do well to reflect on the folly of Rome and think about being more considered in what we see as acceptable in our society.

There is no such thing as the invulnerable empire. We fight wars we need not fight. We disregard and marginalize the plight of the most vulnerable in our world and simply go about our daily lives as if there could never be a consequence. In science there is a principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Some would say that applies to society as well. When we do things that damage others in any way, there is a consequence. Sometimes the consequence is not felt for many years but there is always some consequence. Perhaps it is not too late to think about the consequences of our actions before they become our undoing.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer

Is Iran's Offer Unreasonable?

The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made an offer to stop Iran's nuclear enrichment program if nations of the West do the same. He stated that Iran would be willing to hold talks about halting of the controversial program. In a statement on February 20th Ahmadinejad stated; "You demand that we close our nuclear fuel production plant before talks begin. This is no problem. But justice requires that you must shut down your nuclear fuel cycle too."

As the only nation to have ever used an atomic weapon in war, the United States could set an historic precedent by agreeing to this condition for talks. But, in a statement hours after the offer made from Tehran, White House spokesman Tony Snow stated; "That is a false offer because the position of the international community is clear," The position Snow referred to is one held by the U.S., Great Britain, France and Germany that Tehran should unconditionally shut down any activities that have the potential to be used for making nuclear weapons.

Clearly the U.S. has no intention of considering the offer but the question remains, why not? As some accurately point out, the U.S., France and Great Britain all have active programs to continuously modernize their nuclear weapons capabilities and represent the only group of nations that includes a nation that has ever used an atomic weapon against another nation. Is there an unfair double standard at play based on the military superiority of Western nations? What frightens the U.S. about a smaller nation like Iran getting the bomb? Is it that they might use it against the U.S.? How long would it take Iran to develop weapons to the level of being an actual threat to the U.S.? By most accounts, they are decades away from having anything near a first strike capability against the U.S. So what is the real issue? Maybe the leaders of the Western nations don't feel Iran is mature enough as a nation to have nuclear weapons. But, wait, the U.S. is a few thousand years younger than Iran and we have them. Maybe it's that they are a Muslim nation...nope Pakistan has them and they are our partners in the "War on Terror". So what is the real issue?

Perhaps the UN or IAEA should order a global halt to all nuclear materials production until all nations capable of producing nuclear materials have agreed on universal standards for the production and acceptable uses of said nuclear materials. With universal standards for their use and strict accountability in place that no nation can circumvent, the security of all of the people of the world would be improved. At the very least, the Western nations could hold disarmament talks with Iran that would include some concessions on Western disarmament. Right?

Unfortunately, that is unlikely as nations with superior military capabilities are rarely willing to part with even some of them in the name of peace.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer

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The Legalization Debate

Why is pot illegal? Have the people that make the laws ever given a rational explanation for why there should be a difference in the laws governing alcohol and tobacco and the laws governing marijuana?

It seems that some would have us believe that marijuana is the drug that leads to all other drugs. Speaking from my own experiences as a youth, I can say that I smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol long before I ever toked on a joint. Would that mean that cigarettes and alcohol were my "gateway" drugs to marijuana? By the time I experimented with other drugs, I had a much more habitual relationship with alcohol and cigarettes than I ever had with marijuana.

So how then is marijuana different from alcohol and tobacco? The primary difference from a practical standpoint would be the addictiveness of the substances in comparison to one another. When one quits smoking cigarettes, one goes through physical withdrawal symptoms that have been likened by some to the withdrawals from heroine. When one quits drinking, one can experience what are known as the DT's(Delirium Tremens) which can be fatal in some cases. While rare, this is a known side effect of alcohol withdrawals. Marijuana has no known physical withdrawal symptoms and there is not a single credible case of a physical overdose from marijuana while cancer linked to smoking is well documented and alcohol poisoning is not only possible, it is not uncommon.

We get to the meat of the matter when we look at the ease of cultivation and the difficulty of control over the substance. Marijuana can grow virtually anywhere because it is by definition a weed and when something is that hard to control profits from it are hard to monopolize as well. The tobacco and alcohol industries as well as certain pharmaceutical corporations stand to lose a large portion of market share if marijuana ever became legal.

The health benefits of marijuana are just beginning to be discovered with legalization for medical use on the books in more progressive states. It stands to reason that the pharmaceutical industry will lose even more market share with marijuana showing value in medical applications as time goes on. Already it shows promise as an anti-nausea drug for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments and has shown to be an effective pain reliever. Likely in time it will be legalized for recreational as well as medical use but for now we will continue to debate the evils or virtues of the "wacky tobacky".

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer

Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to

How Does Gay Marriage Impact the Institution of Marriage?

There is a debate going today that has been going now for some time regarding the impact of gay marriage on the institution of marriage itself. I have to say that the concept of one weakening the other baffles me. With the divorce rate among heterosexuals near 50%, does the addition of committed gay partners who have had to fight for the right to marry to the pool of married couples in America weaken or strengthen the institution? If gay couples stay together as well or better than heterosexual couples as some espouse, wouldn't the addition of them to the marriage pool lower the divorce rate? If anything, it would seem to me that the inclusion of heterosexuals in the tallying of marriage with gays would hurt the success rate of marriages for gays.

I'm bracing myself now for the hate mail but to me the whole argument seems ludicrous and the rantings of the insecure on the part of the fundamentalists who are spending literally millions of dollars to keep gays and lesbians from having the right to lose half their stuff if their mate gets pissed off and leaves them. It is clear from the recent rantings of Tim Hardaway about gays that homphobia is alive and kicking in America. The real question we should be asking is how much of a threat can any group be to an institution that already fails in about half of the cases it is entered into? The institution of marriage has some serious problems all on its own without any help from gays or lesbians.

Beyond the issue of the actual damages done to any institution by the inclusion of people who live a different lifestyle there lies the hypocracy of the fundamentalists who have deemed themselves to be God's mouthpiece in America and who only selectively choose to read the scriptures to their own end. Jesus taught tolerance and to be non-judgmental of others. To quote the scriptures in the words of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew 7:1 "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged. 7:2 For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but don't consider the beam that is in your own eye? 7:4 Or how will you tell your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye;' and behold, the beam is in your own eye? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye."

Seems like sound advice to me. If you don't have any flaws in your institution, you have some moral high ground to criticize others' ideas of how the instution should be applied to them. If you want to speak for all married heterosexuals by saying you define what the institution is, you need to fix the problems of heterosexual marriage before attacking gay marriage. Let me know when you've solved the divorce and adultery issues for straight folks.

Aside from the contentious religious issues are the more practical legal issues of marriage. There are some legal upsides to marriage including shared benefits from jobs but there are some serious downsides too. If you get divorced in California, you can expect to come out of it with about half of what you had in it unless you had a good prenuptial agreement. California is not alone in this either. Many states have community property laws that leave divorcees with less than they came into the marriage with in many cases. I say spread the love. Let the sorry saps feel the pinch of divorce like the rest of us. Why should straight people be the only ones stuck with alimony payments? Be careful what you ask for though, you just might get it.

As for the threat posed by gay marriage to traditional marriage, the money being spent to try to stop gays from marrying, might be better spent on prenuptial counseling for people thinking about getting married to help them decide if they are ready to enter into a lifelong commitment and for marriage counseling for those thinking about getting divorced to see if that lifelong commitment really was a mistake or if they just need a little help figuring things out right now. As long as heterosexual marriages have a failure rate of nearly 50%, there is no moral high ground for them to talk about threats to the institution.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer

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