If it’s true that art imitates life, should the government be able to control art like it controls life? On January 30, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss gun violence. In addition to Gabrielle Gifford’s plea for legislators to act, Senator Charles Grassley (Republican) urged legislators to consider holding the entertainment industry responsible. According to him, and the National Rifle Association, violent video games influence what is acceptable in society. Therefore, they would prefer the focus be on regulating the gaming industry rather than restrictions on gun ownership.
Unfortunately for the NRA, it’s very difficult to regulate the sensationalism within the entertainment industry beyond advisory warnings. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court struck down a state law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. Because video games communicate ideas or social messages, it is protected under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. And while preventing users from imitating violence is an important government interest, no direct link between video games and violence to others exist.
Many reports provided that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, Adam Lanza, was obsessed with video games after police found several games searching his home. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA used this to criticize the media and legislators for ignoring “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people … through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.” But maybe it’s ignored because legislators can restrict guns better than video games. So should we stop debating where lies the blame and focus on Gifford’s plea for action?
When it comes to the Manti Te’o’s story regarding the hoax, his claim of innocence sounds just as ridiculous as the story itself. He reportedly met Lennay Kekua, his fake girlfriend, in November 2009, developed a relationship between 2010 and 2011, alleged she was in a car accident in early 2012 where it was discovered that she had leukemia, alleged she died along with his grandmother in September 2012, and alleged he discovered it was all a hoax by December 6, 2012.
Notre Dame, the school Te’o attended, investigated whether the hoax implicated extortion, gambling, or an effort to influence the outcome of the national championship game. Extortion involves obtaining another’s property by force, violence, or fear. Accusations of gambling suggests that Te’o or Notre Dame used the hoax to fix outcomes of games for profit. Evidently, Notre Dame did not uncover anything to show that Te’o or the coaches knew of the hoax, and used it to obtain a spot at the national championship game or obtain funds from gambling operations.
Recently, Te’o acknowledged deceiving the public into thinking he was unaware of the hoax prior to the Heisman ceremony and the national championship game. Some people still, however, suggest that Te’o knew of the hoax prior to the girlfriend’s alleged death. According to Stephen A. Smith of First Take, it is unreasonable to claim love for a girl without meeting her face to face, seeing her in the hospital after discovering she’s sick, or attending her funeral. Do you agree? Or is it possible to be that naïve within a three-year period?
During the month proceeding the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, New York passed the toughest gun control legislation, which includes criminal punishment for the unsafe storage of an assault weapon, and President Obama issued executive orders to improve background checks and encourage law enforcement in schools. But the National Rifle Association gets the award for the most controversial attempt to respond to the issues raised in the Sandy Hook shooting, an advertisement painting President Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” for not fighting to protect children in the same manner as he protects his own.
In response to the NRA’s ad, the White House called the video “repugnant and cowardly.” Commentators have stated that the video is an example of how destructive the NRA has become in its attempt to protect gun ownership. Others have stated the comparison between the government’s protection of its leader’s children and children all over the world are extreme and unfair. Others, however, have supported the comparison stating that while the President’s children are overly protected, several other children have died.
But does attacking Secret Service or its protection of the President’s family cross the line? Is such a comparison helpful in the gun control debate? Or is it a distraction? Recently in Oklahoma, a 12-year-old girl called 911 shortly before shooting a stranger who broke into her home. The intruder survived and is being held at the Bryan County Jail. Her family and followers of the story have commended the young girl’s actions. She was able to protect herself in the face of danger. Gun ownership is not completely bad, but perhaps the NRA is having a tough time seeing the good.
For almost twenty years, Beverly Kearny was the head coach for women’s track and field at the University of Texas at Austin, leading the Lady Longhorns to six NCAA Championships. On January 5, 2013, she resigned after the University approached her about an intimate relationship she had with an adult female student ten years prior. Coincidentally, she was up for a promotion and contract extension.
Due to the lapse in time since the affair, Ms. Kearny is calling foul. She alleges that her forced resignation was unlawful because a male teacher would not have suffered the same fate. The University responded that she was not asked to resigned because of the affair, but because she did not report it in accordance with the University’s employment policy. Furthermore, it claims not to be aware of any man who remained employed after violating the same provision that resulted in Ms. Kearny’s termination.
The general rule of an employment relationship is that an employer or employee may terminate for any reason or no reason at all. Several exceptions to this rule exist, including sex discrimination as a reason for termination. Although the facts imply a contractual relationship rather than an employment at will relationship, she does not appear to implicate a breach of a contract. In such case, she has to prove the existence of sex discrimination to claim unlawful conduct by the University. In other words, Ms. Kearny will have to present examples of male teachers or coaches who were not terminated for failing to report an affair with a student.
While the law doesn’t place the burden on the University to prove non-discriminatory conduct, it implicitly has such burden. Some jurors have a tendency to favor the employee unless proven otherwise. And if Ms. Kearney can articulate examples, the employer will have to prove a distinction along with non-discriminatory conduct.
Now for the consciousness. Ms. Kearny is a minority in her profession not only because she is female, but also because she is black and a homosexual. That alone sparks debate over her termination. However, many people in social media have supported the University’s position. According to them, her actions were unethical because she abused her authority as a teacher. Since, however, the University did not discourage such relationships and claims Ms. Kearny was terminated for failing to report it ten years ago, is it still justified?
New Year same old drama, and unfortunately this isn’t the Real Housewives. Despite the aura of change that ushering a new year brings for many, Congress reminds us that politics comes before people. It ended 2012 bickering over changes to the tax code, holding steadfast to their ideology without any regard to the people’s re-election of President Obama. The bickering carried on into the New Year, despite passing Amendments to the tax code in the Senate and the House of Representatives. And the House postponed consideration of federal aid to millions suffering from Hurricane Sandy, leaving many to presume that their bickering is more important than the people they pledged to represent. These events are enough for a month of reality television. The only problem is that it is not entertaining.
Aside from the increase in tax rates for individuals with income over $400,000 and families earning more than $450,000, the tax code Amendments, H.R. 8 also extends the following deductions and credits:
- Expenses for School Teachers
- Mortgage Interest
- Dividends from certain investment companies
- Research and Development Tax Credit for Businesses
- Alternative fuels tax credits
- Child Tax Credit (5 year extension)
The legislation also extends unemployment compensation benefits and services, and changes the middle class tax brackets to 28%, 31%, and 36%. The tax rate is capped at 39.6%
So who or what is to blame for the behavior or our congressional leaders? Is it the transparency of government? The Tea Party? Pride? Or the media’s need to sensationalize for ratings? And can “we the people” do anymore than vote to force collaborative leadership rather than ideological bickering? In other words, does democracy mean we relinquish our voice to elected representation or we use the representation to adhere to our voices?
The New Year showcased a new reality television, The Sisterhood. The premiere episode followed the lives of four preachers’ wives as they introduced their families, their friendships, and their ministry. Tweets from tonight’s show beg the question of whether God and reality television in its entertainment form should ever coexist.
Before we get into the moral issues raised by the show, let’s discuss the law implicated in the storyline: The Church is a Business. Legally, a business is an employer, a taxpayer, and a provider of services. As an employer, the show presented hiring, firing, and pay issues, all dictated by the law. Tara’s husband moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta to pastor a church, and within six weeks was terminated from his position. Since no evidence of a contract was presented, even a church can fire for any reason or no reason at all, so long as it isn’t unlawful (i.e. discriminatory).
Christina signed checks for employees working at the church her and husband founded. Paychecks have tax implications and are subject to wage and hour laws. Additionally, Christina showcased the many services their church provided in addition to Sunday worship. Domonique’s husband had to close his church because it wasn’t generating revenue to cover expenses. And Ivy discussed the financial struggles of growing their church in the inner city. Even for a charitable entity, revenue and expenses carry legal obligations.
One underlying consciousness raised by the show was the kitchen scene at Domonique’s house. In this scene, Domonique and Ivy were discussing (some may say arguing) with Tara about her communication style with them and with people who may not be well versed in Bible scriptures. It appeared that Domonique was judging Tara and sought to change her communication approach, rather than getting to know Tara and accept her. There is a thin line between advising and passing judgment. The line becomes even thinner when such advice is not requested. We all have various perspectives on life given that we all have various upbringings and experiences. The bible teaches to accept people as they are, and when they come to you for teaching or become open to scriptures, share the message God provides.
While the countdown for the fiscal cliff loomed, the top headline going into 2013 was that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are expecting a baby. Aside from the sensationalism of their lives individually and as a couple, her pregnancy overshadowing the fiscal cliff was extreme given that the fiscal cliff directly affects the general public. Nonetheless, the popularity of the story and its underlying consciousness offer a perspective that may indirectly speak to our moral compass or view of success.
Kim and Kanye’s status as celebrities undoubtedly drives the popularity of the story. So what does the law say about unmarried parents? For starters, unmarried parents may be considered a family unit. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the government may not discriminate against households consisting of non-related individuals unless there is a separate compelling interest. The law does not, however, provide rights to such legally non-related individuals even if the relationship severs. Therefore unmarried parents in separate households must manage caretaking within the confines of uncertain child support and welfare systems.
Second, the law aims to provide and protect rights of children despite the parents’ marital status. Such rights include affording out of wedlock children the same protections of children born from married parents. When parents agree on custody and support, the court does not intervene. Otherwise, the presumption is that the natural mother gets custody unless deemed unfit or paternal custody serves the best interests of the child.
But what’s more complicated are lifestyle and child-rearing decisions. Historically, children were considered property of the father and their lifestyle were dictated according to his wishes. For example in 1981, Florida permitted a father to obtain custody of his child after the mother married a black man. While states may no longer make custody decisions solely based on race, courts have adopted the approach that race may be a factor in determining a child’s best interest. Courts may also scrutinize a parent’s religious beliefs when evaluating custody or child rearing.
Now for the consciousness. After Kanye West introduced his “baby mama” at a concert, twitter over-flooded with user’s reactions. Is it a problem that Kim and Kanye’s unborn child made top news? On the one hand, the personal lives of celebrities may balance the harsh realities of life. On the other hand, while balance is important do such stories serve as a good outlet?