Violence Is Not The Answer

Posted on 08/18/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

A tragic shooting in Ferguson, Missouri occurred when a police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown. The headlines continue to refer to Brown as the unarmed victim of murder by the police. On Friday the 15thof August, the Police Chief of Ferguson reported that Mr. Brown, 18, was a 290 pound six-feet-four suspect identified as the perpetrator of a strong arm robbery just moments before the altercation. Officer Wilson approached Mr. Brown and his co-suspect Mr. Johnson only blocks away walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.

Officer Wilson confronted Brown and one of the suspects pushed Wilson back into his squad car, a shot was fired from Wilson’s gun in the vehicle, Wilson was injured and subsequently shot the suspect three times resulting in his death.

This incident is under investigation by the local police and the FBI.

The night of the shooting led to violence in the streets, looting, tear gas being fired, Molotov cocktails being thrown at the police and on. The Ferguson police responded with an equal show of force and that lasted for three nights.

On Thursday evening, the State Highway Patrol took over and there was calm on the streets and a dialogue between the citizens and the police. In an interview on Friday the 15thof August, Captain Johnson, of the Highway Patrol, said, “There is no place for violence in Ferguson” and when asked a question about “an old wound that does not heal” he responded that, “this is an old wound and we should close it for good”.

Another question from the audience asked why the authorities did not have the education and skills to handle the outbreak of violence. Capt Johnson said “When all the facts are known and the press leaves town we should work together as a community and solve this problem.”

There are two distinct issues at play: the death of an 18 year old man and the subsequent violence and looting in Ferguson. In this editorial, we will focus only on the violence that occurred over three consecutive days.

Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis. Two thirds of the town are African American and the police force of 53 has only six African American officers. This could be construed to be gun powder waiting for a fuse.

To frame the THF’s position, we believe that actions taken by mobs generally have a base of support in education. It would be hard to believe that parents are teaching children to reach out and kill someone. After the death of Brown, his mother referred to him as a good son who was going to college in the fall. A proud mother who in our opinion did Not teach her son that robbery or other violence that ended in his death were appropriate behavior.

So where did Brown learn that violence and crime were acceptable behavior? Our position is clear. Music lyrics by some music artists teach the bad behavior. Without control or limits, these musicians pen and sing about the thrill of killing, abusing, violent behavior against others and insinuating to their listeners that violence is OK and the norm.

Let’s be specific. Ace Hood in his song, Trials and Tribulations pens lyrics included on our Website such as: “Hit her and go, give me a pistol then run with the K’s, Signing' bonus hit that man that's from thirty feet I got shooters out the D-league”, from Lil Wayne, in his song I Am Not a Human Being II, “All rats gotta die, Yeah, Murder 187, I be killing them bitches, I'm killing these hoes, Nigga try me, that a dead ass pussy. AK on my night stand, right next to that bible, But I swear with these 50 shots, I'll shoot it out with 5-0 And I make that pussy tap out, I knock that pussy out cold, Nigga you get beat the crap out but that's just how the dice roll”  and from Young Jeezy, Get Right “almost killed a thug, Party scene turn to a murder scene, You fuck with me, I put my foot in your ass”.

These lyrics are graphic but to the Town Hall Foundation are clear evidence that the teacher of violence are music artists that incite youths to violence, and are paid very well to do it. Remember that we have connected by academic studies the CAUSE and EFFECT of the lyrics on childhood development and the BRAINWASHING that occurs from the repetitive listening to these songs by way of SmartPhones, IPods and Mp3 players.

While the community of Ferguson rails against the authorities, maybe they should look first at their kid’s smart phones and manage the content that their kids have downloaded.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Cause and Effect

Posted on 08/04/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

The Town Hall Foundation has been evaluating the impact of music lyrics on America’s youth. Throughout 30+ editorials we have described the Cause and Effect of these music lyrics on the most vulnerable of our society and have suggested specific reforms for the music industry to ensure we change this disturbing set of outcomes.

W have shown the impact of the repeat listening to these lyrics to be akin to Brainwashing. Our children have become zombies of our creation. We allow musicians, producers, record labels and on to put profit before socially correct behavior.

In this editorial, we will examine specific outcomes that have been reported in journals and in the press.

-Nationally, more than half of teenagers are virgins until they are at least 17 years of age (Sex and America's Teenagers, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York).

      By corollary this means that the other half aren’t virgins.

-In the U.S., 7 in 10 women who had sex before age 14, and 6 in 10 of those who had sex before age 15 report having had sex involuntarily. (Facts in Brief: Teen Sex and Pregnancy, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York).

      This means that girls who had sex between 14 and 15 were raped.

-Teen childbearing alone costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $7 billion annually for social services and lost tax revenues. (Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy, Prebecca Maynard (ed.), The Urban Institute, Washington, DC).

-Teens 16 to 19 were three and one-half times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. (National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice).

-According to the Justice Department, one in two rape victims is under age 18; one in six is under age 12. [Child Rape Victims,U.S. Department of Justice].

-In the U.S., 1 in 4 sexually active teens become infected with an STD every year. Some common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts (also known as HPV - human papillomavirus), and herpes. (Facts in Brief: Teen Sex and Pregnancy, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York).

-Homicide is the second leading cause of death for persons 15-24 years of age and is the leading cause of death for African-American and Hispanic youths in this age-group (Anderson RN, Kochanek KD, Murphy SL. Report of final mortality statistics. Monthly vital statistics report).

-More than half (56 percent) of youths age 12-17 reported that marijuana was easy to obtain. This is an increase from 6 years prior, when 51 percent reported that marijuana was easy to obtain. (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse).

The Town Hall Foundation’s target audience is children between the ages of 5 and 17. The outcomes above can be caused by many issues: dysfunctional homes, single parent families, economic issues, gangs, education deficits, and of course MUSIC LYRICS. We can’t solve every issue, but we can address the impact of music lyrics that cause our children to make bad choices.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Washington Redskins Defend Name

Posted on 07/21/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

The Washington Redskins football team has run into trouble with their name. Fifty Senators sent a letter to the team expressing their displeasure with the term “Redskins”. Some Indian tribal leaders have complained that the term is disparaging and should be dropped. Other Indian tribal leaders do not see the conflict. In any case, the issue is front and center in the news media.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six trademark registrations owned by the Washington NFL club, ruling that the term "Redskins" was disparaging to "a substantial composite" of American Indians when the marks were granted between 1967 and 1990.

Apparently, even though the trademarks have been in place for almost half a century, the Government body used a test of approximately 30% who deem the term disparaging is sufficient. They believe, without any data, this to be the case today and took action against the team.

The political and societal ramifications are at the surface of this debate. The THF does NOT have an opinion on the debate but does take note of the debate.

When we consider our history and culture, many national groups had/have disparaging nicknames: Polish Americans were called Polack’s, Spanish Americans were called Spics, Chinese Americans were called Chinks/Coolie, Italians were called Dego’s, the French were called Frogs, White Americans were called Honky’s, American Jews were called Hymie’s, American Japanese were called Japs, British Americas were called Limey’s, Irish American’s were called Paddy’s, American Arabs or Indian Sikhs were called Ragheads, Southern laborer-class Americans were called Rednecks, and the list goes on. And who can forget the non-ethnic words such as: fatty, baldy, geek, greaser, dumb blonde, and that list goes on.

This is a confusing issue and does not have an easy answer. Remember when we were taught, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”? In today’s world of political correctness, words do as much damage as the stones.

But when you consider that all of the above have been considered as disparaging at a point in time in the past, possibly today or will be in the future; why do we continue to condone the use of the “N” word and all its variants as acceptable by music artists?? A Federal District Court in 2013 ruled that the use of the “N” word from an African American employer to an African American employee was disparaging and awarded over $300K in the case.

The RIAA, Record Industry Association of America, represents music artists and their rights under the First Amendment. They may be legally right but not morally right. The THF must lean forward and take the case to the people and allow them to make informed decisions.

Please support our efforts to protect our kids. That’s the message for today, more coming.

THF Is Not Alone

Posted on 07/07/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

A Boston University student group  demanded the school cancel a Robin Thicke concert, complaining that the pop star’s “Blurred Lines” lyrics are sexist.

Members of Humanists of Boston University collected 1,500 signatures on an online petition to stop the performance. Thicke had a March 4 date at the school’s Agganis Arena.

“Thicke’s hit song, ‘Blurred Lines,’ celebrates having sex with women against their will,” the group’s petition says, according to Boston Magazine. “Lyrics such as, ‘I know you want it,’ explicitly use non-consensual language. And while watching the extremely explicit video, the insinuations grow from subtle to explicit to obnoxious.”

“We see this as a blatant form of reinforcing rape culture and sexism.”

- Patrick Johnson, Humanists of Boston University

“Clearly, Boston University has been a bedrock for feminism and ideologies of equality more generally. It is a dishonor to our feminist history to symbolically idolize Robin Thicke by allowing him to perform his misogynist music at our university,” the petition adds.

“We see this as a blatant form of reinforcing rape culture and sexism,” Patrick Johnson, the organization’s president, said.

Thicke performed "Blurred Lines" during the Grammy Awards show in January. The song was a Grammy nominee.

A university spokesman says it is unlikely the show will be canceled. He said Boston University had nothing to do with booking the show, one stop on a 16-show tour.

The THF has awarded the Seal of Shame to this song and has called out Robin Thicke in multiple editorials. It appears we do not stand alone. Kudos’s to Humanists of Boston University for speaking out.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

STDs Among Adolescents

Posted on 06/23/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Despite increased education and awareness, the rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America is slowly rising. In fact, STDs cost the U.S. health care system roughly $16 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infection rates aren’t spread evenly throughout the U.S. or across different age groups. Young people between 15 and 24 represent half of all new STD cases. STD rates also vary widely by state—the state with the highest syphilis rates (Georgia) reports 47.5 times more infections than the state with the lowest prevalence (Montana).

Chlamydia, the most commonly reported STD in the U.S. for the past 20 years, often goes unnoticed because it is usually asymptomatic. However, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition that damages the female reproductive system and can lead to infertility. The CDC recommends that women under 25 be tested annually for chlamydia. While most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, an abnormal discharge and burning when urinating are warning signs in both sexes.

Gonorrhea was the most common STD in the U.S. until the implementation of a health initiative by the federal government in the mid-70s, which led to drastically reduced rates. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is also often asymptomatic and can lead to PID if left untreated. Gonorrhea warning signs include burning when urinating and abnormal discharge in men and women.

Syphilis is less common than chlamydia and gonorrhea, but is potentially the most serious of the three if left untreated. Syphilis exists in a series of distinct stages and can be treated at any stage, but damage is permanent. The late stage of syphilis can take 10 to 30 years of latency to develop, but symptoms include paralysis, dementia, and blindness. The first sign of syphilis is a single painless sore on the genitals lasting 3 to 6 weeks, after which more sores and a rash appear on one or more parts of the body.

The THF can directly link the increase in adolescent STDs to music lyrics. As we continue to call out songwriters and performers for their demeaning use of sexual content, we need the support of parents and institutions to remove this vile content from the market.

That’s the message for today, more coming.