I’m sorry, I thought we lived in a society

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


So, I don’t keep this site up nearly as much as a I used to. Aside from a few posts from 2016 and 2017, it’s a collection of my half cooked ideas of my early/mid 20’s. The reason I started this was because I would perseverate on an idea or a theme and not get that out of my mind until I unloaded it in writing. Ideas that, I may feel differently as I’m peering into my 30th birthday. That feeling hasn’t happened in years, until recently.

Every couple years or so the Army Corp of engineers releases a report on our industrial infrastructure, usually to depressing results. Despite what seems like constant road work our roads, bridges, drinking water, levees, and other industry we all use routinely averages a D…maybe a C- in the brighter areas. But I’m not here to talk about our industrial failures, which anyone who’s blown a tire on a road littered with potholes could explain to you. It’s our societal infrastructure, which no one seems to be able to talk about.

I can’t even promise you that I can articulate it’s decline any better than most, but I’ll try. Whenever I hear a story about a corporation or individual acquiring wealth and using it to distress others (Think Martin Shkreli spiking the price of A.I.D.S. medication) , I always sardonically ask myself “Oh I’m sorry, I thought we lived in a society!?” It’s not my quote but I can’t place where I originally heard it… South Park maybe? But it has become increasingly clear the answer it, maybe…no.

I’m not going to say we all live in petty fiefdoms, focusing entirely on our family and friends and leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. But, it’s becoming increasingly that way. But I think the biggest indicator of the strength of our society isn’t the number of assholes like Shkreli, but our societal infrastructure.

When I say “societal infrastructure,” I’m talking essentially about “shared spaces” Social infrastructure is not “social capital” the concept commonly used to measure people’s relationships and networks, but it’s more than that. It’s the physical places that allow bonds to develop. When social infrastructure is robust, it fosters contact, mutual support, and collaboration among friends and neighbors; when degraded, it inhibits social activity, leaving families and individuals to fend for themselves. People forge ties in places that have healthy social infrastructures, not necessarily because they set out to build community, but because when people engage in sustained, recurrent interaction, particularly while doing things they enjoy, relationships, even across ethnic or political lines, inevitably grow.

Examples of spaces like these are public institutions, such as libraries, schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields. These are vital parts of the social infrastructure. So too are community gardens and other green spaces that invite people into the public realm. Nonprofit organizations, including churches and civic associations, act as social infrastructure when they have an established physical space where people can assemble, as do regularly scheduled markets for food, clothing, and other consumer goods. Commercial establishments, while most require money to patron do add to the list with areas such as cafés, diners, barbershops, and bookstores.

Some places, such as libraries, YMCAs, and schools, provide space for recurring interaction, often programmed, and tend to encourage more durable relationships. Others, such as playgrounds and street markets, tend to support looser connections, but these ties can, and sometimes do, grow more substantial. Countless close friendships between parents, and then entire families, begin because two toddlers visit the same swing set. I know this because one of my family’s closest friends became friends with my family when my parents were at a public park with a 1 year old me, and met another parent’s playing with their 1 year old at a park… In 1991.

As human’s our innate need for interaction is paramount in our lives, yet the belief that these places should be cherished has been diminished. People haven’t completely abandoned shared spaces but are more likely to browse Netflix during their free time then meet people at a trivia night, or a pick up basketball game. I get it, it’s easier. Not to mention most news stories are about murder or scandal in these spaces. Speaking of Netflix, you can get stories about these shared spaces… but usually with numerous stories about serial killers and other sociopath monsters meeting victims in these shared spaces.

Who’s to blame for the degradation of our social infrastructure? National and numerous state budgets all show deep cuts to spending in these areas. These are leaders from both parties. At best it’s an indifference to these spaces, at worst an attack on them. As spaces degrade, people stop using them. As people stop using them, they get less funding, as they get less funding people stop using them… and it’s a cycle until they don’t exist. Our social infrastructure has “the Tinkerbell effect” as they only exist if we believe in them. If we do then you reverse the cycle. People participate in shared spaces, they invite their friends, more people come, should politicians still try to cut their funding, people fight for their areas, and ask for more spaces. 

But Paul, you may argue, why must we depend on the government and the people for these spaces? We live in a capitalist market, surely businesses will bail us out! But aside from the few areas I named before…they won’t. They won’t because the nature of these spaces isn’t the turn a profit. Parks for example don’t make money, they spend it. They rely on tax payers to pay to work as grounds crews, event planners, tennis instructors , and to ref soccer games. Not to mention there are many examples of businesses with types of no loitering signs… which kind of defeats the purpose of being able to be somewhere and just exist. Businesses tend to try and succeed at attracting a certain crowd, and that crowd can exclude people with a type of skin color, or a type of paycheck, which again defeats the purpose. Remember the black teens that were thrown out of a Starbucks for merely existing there?

Social infrastructure is more than just a space to find friends. It’s a space to share ideas. At this time we see our country are more politically divided than ever. The cause is multifaceted but not unrelated to a decaying social infrastructure. This may be where social infrastructure plays it most important role. It’s role in holding together our democracy. If you have less places where you can share ideas face to face with others then you are left to do that over the internet, which serves as a divider where people tend to be more callus and less thoughtful then if they were face to face with a person. I certainly don’t romanticize them as some breeding ground where people will have their minds changed by strangers espousing differing political or social ideals but we can understand each other more if we physically surround ourselves with those who may think differently than us. It helps us think of the other  side as not so “other”

In a time where all kind of institutions are being cut down and societal pillars are being chipped away at, we all feel a separation between each other. We live in a world where there is an all time high for prescriptions of Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications. How can a lack of societal cohesion that can lead to a sense of distress not contribute to those numbers? A crumbling social infrastructure can lead to an intangible feeling of loss that one may find hard to put their finger on, with disastrous emotional and psychological ramifications.

Yes, our roads are bad, our drinking water is haphazard, aviation leads a lot be desired, and our energy production is inefficient. Our industrial infrastructure is a glaring problem in this nation but nothing that engineers and construction workers can’t fix. Many politicians, including President Trump have addressed the issue and offered plans to remedy it. But our social infrastructure, the spaces we all use, where friendships our made, ideas are shared, our democracy is strengthened and our innate need of “togetherness” is met, I would argue is more important, and one that no one is talking about.




Yes, Dear

History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen


There’s the old adage that “hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn” I suppose there is a bit of truth to this since many older men have tried to impress on me different phrases to use to appease my future wife, such as constantly differing to them in superficial matters, dispensing flattering, yet untrue compliments, and always saying “yes, dear.” However, I don’t think anything can be more hazardous to a man’s (or woman’s) love life (or happy love life) than constant appeasement. It hurts men, women, and the relationships they share.

First off, let me start by saying that I do not endorse men not catering to a woman’s needs, and not giving them compliments. Actions and deeds are nice and only when they are genuine and are intended to please their partner rather than appease them, more on that later though.

Now then, with every post I usually add an image to capture my message in a way words can’t. This one seems the most apt for two reasons. 1st is that this is a picture for a real show. It presents a “stereotypical marriage” of a “typical guy” who gets “hen pecked” (not my word) by his high strung wife and he does his best to try and avoid his wife’s hassling. This show ran for 6 years, clearing touching on some aspect of unhappy married life. And secondly, the man’s face is clearly one where he just wants to be left alone. He is beaten down, and worn out, to his wife’s apparent delight. He clearly tries to appease her, but it never seems to work for long. In the end though, the show, and many relationships like them, didn’t work out.

If history has taught us anything is that appeasement is not a good policy in war, but also not in love. People will treat you as you let them, and this includes people who you love and love you. So if you act as a lap dog to your significant other, then they will learn to treat you as one, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes consciously. I believe this policy is held by many older men because they don’t want to be “hassled” by their wives. So they do and say what they can do “get their wives off their backs.” A relationship shouldn’t be built on appeasing the other person because they’ll be mad if you don’t do something. It should be based on generosity in acts, gestures, and words that come from someone willing to be received by someone accepting.

Many men believe that this some form of feminism. After all leaving many decisions up to wives and girlfriends may seem empowering. Compliments may seem a nice touch. But not when the motives are so someone can “not be hassled.” That was my main motive to do chores around my house when I was younger, I didn’t want my parents to hassle me and surely romantic relationships should be more equal than parent/child ones. It’s also not empowering when the decisions that are left to women are only superficial ones and when the compliments are stale and overused.

In the end relationships are partnerships. Men should appease woman no more than women appease men because neither result in anyone being happy with the person being appeased never satisfied and the appeaser never happy. In the end they satisfy no one.  Both members should instead focusing on pleasing each other.  Both should want to say and do things so that the other will be happy. If we aim to please rather than appease to ward off anger or some other unpleasantness, then the relationship will not last, and it is time to change or end the relationship entirely.

Sickening numbers

History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen


So after a long hiatus I’ve decided to reboot this and crank out some material.

Last week. After 7 years and wringing their hands the Republicans who control the house, the senate, and the White House shockingly failed to repeal The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). While the ACA is a mixed bag, this is undoubtedly a good thing since they weren’t really working on expanding healthcare, or even access to it, but rather take it away from a reported 24 million people.  So while, we knew this was coming, I think we’ve reached a watershed moment as a country in the direction of how our healthcare will be shaped in the future. But before we do that, I think it’s important to take a quick look of where healthcare was, where is currently, is and then where it could be.

Where it was: Health insurance in America started out as any insurance industry.  At the turn of the 20th century hospitals started accepting “pre paying” for your healthcare instead of paying when you came. Soon it became a corporate interest and Blue Cross was born in the 1930’s. From there you would buy a plan that you felt you needed and were covered accordingly. It also became a fringe benefit in some industries But as health insurance practices became more intricate and as the population of the country grew at a disproportionate rate, health insurance companies always wanted to make sure they were in the black, they are a business after all. Taking on sick and old people doesn’t help them make a profit. So fine print was added, changes to that fine print were mailed, (usually to the detriment of the consumer), and people were denied treatment for all sorts of reasons, with “preexisting conditions” at the top of the list.

Examples of the changes in conditions would go something like “Dear ________ please use this text (paragraphs of confusing legalese) to replace Section III part B header E of your health care plan.” Now assuming you had a copy of it on hand and you could speak as a lawyer maybe you could. But these messages were common and were usually just masks to say something like “Your health care cap is now a lifetime cap of $5 million instead of a yearly cap of $250,000. Which may be okay if you’re healthy but if you have cancer and need chemo treatment, or a heart attack that will eat up that cap fast and then how will you get coverage?

Examples of preexisting conditions could be any excuse to deny you coverage. Did your dad smoke inside while you were a kid and now you developed lung cancer 40 years later, well…maybe that cancer was a preexisting condition so no coverage for you. Did you not get diagnosed at an “approved clinic” that that insurance company likes? No coverage for your ailment. Did you have acne treatment as a teen, well there’s a .0003458% chance of that causing breast cancer so…. no treatment for you. Basically if you didn’t read the fine print of your agreement or could in some way be blamed for your ailment then “you did this to yourself” and no coverage for you. Insurance companies can and did try to find any reason why you did not deserve full or any coverage for medial procedures and that did lead to fatalities (talk about death panels) because they’re goal is to make a profit and their stake holders happy.

Now, normally there’s nothing wrong with many markets making money and keeping their shareholders happy. If this was a tech firm no big deal right? That’s capitalism. But health care is a very different market.

Where we are now with the ACA

As I said earlier the ACA is a mixed bag of the good the bag and the ugly so first I’ll start with the good.

Children get to stay of their parents plan until they’re 26: To me this is common sense. I remember being 22 and fresh out of college. I got a job as a long term sub which did not have benefits, and I needed my wisdom teeth out. It was no sweat though because I was still covered under my parents and had the procedure with no worries. I feel very blessed to have graduated with no debt and having my health still covered. Otherwise once you get kicked from the comfortable nook of your college the bills come in almost immediately.

It eliminated the preexisting conditions. Now, you have to get the coverage that you pay for no matter what.
It covered holes in medicare drug laws that helped seniors
It made free preventative tests with medicare free. (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure right)
It also made free preventative tests for women for free
Ending awful lifetime caps for insurance

So if that was it, not a bad deal. Fixed some glaring holes, millions of people gained healthcare, what’s to hate? Well it also…

The employer mandate. Employers HAD to provide health insurance to their employees if they had more than 50 or face fines, which was crushing for small businesses.
New taxes. 20 new taxes were introduced in the bill
Overall higher insurance costs
Less choice in health care providers
The individual mandate: Be insured or be fined from the government.

I’m leaving a couple things out from both lists but those are the biggest highlights.

So… where do we go from here?

Republicans had some… interesting ideas. From setting up “health care saving accounts” to “not buying Iphones” but repealing the ACA, even with it’s flaws does not help get more people covered. Even expanding “access to healthcare” is not healthcare. I have access to emeralds, rubies, and diamonds are my local jeweler…that doesn’t mean I can afford it. Repealing the ACA is fine as it does have many flaws but it has to be a don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

As I said before healthcare is not a normal market. In a normal market you can coupon clip for cheaper cereal. In a normal market you can wait for sales of “last seasons” shirts. In a normal market you can shop around for the cheapest airfare.

But this is the healthcare market. You cannot coupon clip to get a free appendectomy, you cannot wait until pancreatic cancer treatment is on sale, you cannot shop around for the cheapest deal on repairing a broken femur. These are matters of great significance and many times life and death. Capitalism does a great job of aspiring innovation, dropping costs, and creating competition for consumers…in most markets. Health care costs are often arbitrary and confusing.

Every other comparable country (and some that aren’t ) have some form of universal healthcare coverage. That’s not a perfect system either so don’t misunderstand me. You can find lots of Europeans who have gripes about their national system because that’s what people do, but I’ve not seen one non-American want to trade their healthcare system with the American system. And why should they? Let’s look at how the U.S. ranks in different healthcare categories.

Life expediency: US rank #31
Despite all our testing (which Americans do more than anyone) we still rank #31 some can attribute this to our diet or increasingly sedentary lifestyle but that is common among other developed nations as well.

Percent of GDP spent on healthcare: US rank #1 (17%) #2 France at 11% #3 UK at 8%

Yes, let that sink in. The U.S….which does not have a full universal system spends more on their patchwork of medicaid/medicare (as a percentage of GDP) more than any other country which covers 100% of their citizens. So any argument that says “hey at least we get a lot for our money” …do we? This of course doesn’t count the BILLIONS of dollars that is spent on healthcare privately, which where healthcare’s main revenue comes from.

Prescription costs vary but..

If you look at almost any prescription drug out there the U.S. is paying more for it. Not by a couple dollars but a lot more than our European/Asian counterparts. New Zealand does tie us for costs in one pill so… there’s that. But as a country that is becoming dependent on prescription pills to live healthy productive lives (whether it be pain pills, heart pills, depression/mental health pills, and many others) the price we pay is staggering by comparison. Here’s just a few examples.

  1. Copaxone (for multiple sclerosis)                   2. Nexium (for heartburn)
    U.K. pays: $862 per bottle                                Netherlands: $23 per bottle
    New Zealand: $898 per bottle                         England: $42 per bottle
    Switzerland: $1,357 per bottle                        Switzerland: $60 per bottle
    U.S.A.: $4,038 per bottle                                    U.S.A.: $215 per bottle

    3. Enbrel (for treating autoimmune diseases)         4. Avastin (for treating certain cancers)
    Switzerland: $1,017 per bottle                                         U.K.: $470 per bottle
    England: $1,117 per bottle                                                South Africa: $956 per bottle
    U.S.A.: $2,225 per bottle                                                     Switzerland: $1,752
    U.S.A.: $3,940

    I could list dozens of examples but you get the point. The U.S. does not do a good job regulating the sell of prescription drugs nor negotiating a lower sell. That’s because many drugs are made in America and their goal, just like other businesses is to make money. But at what cost? The U.S. is also #1 when it comes to adults skipping doses or not refilling pills based on costs and well the prices rise on prescription drugs, the quality of life suffers for those who need them.

Medical procedures also differ drastically from state to state but are also incredibly more in the U.S. than others. If you need a heart by-pass done that will ring you up an average of $743,000 in the U.S. compared to $42,000 in Australia.

It is an American quality to not want the government in our business. Our country was founded on a revolution against government tyranny so it is in our national D.N.A. to want the government intervening as little as possible in our lives. But, when you look at these numbers for a country that wants to be #1 in everything, when it comes to healthcare we’re only #1 in negative categories. We spend more G.D.P. than any other country on healthcare, we spend more of our own money on healthcare, we spend more than any other country on prescription drugs, we skip out on prescription drugs because of the cost more than any other country.

And what do we get in return? A suspected $750 Billion in waste. A pedestrian level of life expediency, at #31. We’re a respectable but not great in global happiness at #14. Also, those lower costs that other countries spend on treatments are 100% covered. There’s no caps, no deductible, no co-pays, just healthcare. We also see the doctor much less than Europeans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders, so it’s not as if they don’t use their healthcare services.

Americans without insurance have to go to the hospital too sometimes and if they can’t pay then guess who is stuck with the bill? Who is always stuck with the bill? You are, the tax payer. Even an ambulance ride will cost several thousand dollars, even if you’re unconscious and cannot consent to one. People with epilepsy, wear wrist bands asking kind-hearted people to NOT call ambulances in the event of a seizure since they don’t want to get a stiff bill.

So here we are in 2017 with the ACA still the law of the land, a poor band-aid on a bullet wound. As the gap between the rich and poor widens healthcare seems like more of a luxury (despite it being required by federal law) If we do not fix healthcare at it’s root cause we will continue to decline as a nation with sick people and even more sickening numbers.

The Down side of Democracy

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzern’


One of the hardest yet most interesting times in my life was my first year in teaching. I was thrown into a high school in Baltimore County where I was to teach mainly 9th grade government. Boring 14-15 year olds with a process they are far too young to participate in, let alone have me or any teacher walk a tight rope of how the American governmental system works in theory, while almost working in direct contrast in practice is not something I would wish on anyone but I did my best and I ended up not doing that bad.

One of the most memorable moments is when I was teaching about what democracy really means, and how it works (or doesn’t) in countries like North Korea and Iran and why it inevitably is the most preferred method of governance. We’ve all been taught this in school at some point or another? Communism/autocracy is bad and democracy/freedom is good right? However, some of my students weren’t buying it. This was in 2012 and despite being young many of my students (most of whom were liberal) were firmly against Mitt Romney becoming president. While the media may have teased about his faux pas like his “binders full of women” flub or his “48%” remark, for some students these were reasons enough to not support him. Even more, this was the year that rape faux pas like “rape is a gift from God” and “legitimate rape” coming from the mouths of some doomed senatorial want to be’s. My students also weren’t okay with the president’s drone attacks, the grid lock in congress, and other things that I didn’t bat an eye at, at that age. Many would were confounded of how candidates right, left, or center found their way into public office, or even got close to it. It all came back to voting. “Mr. Donnelly, why do we let stupid people vote?” I would be asked. “Yeah, won’t it hurt the country if enough of them do it?” Another chimed in. I stumbled for a moment and said well… that’s why you’re in this class…. to uh… understand the system, so you’ll be an educated voter. Of course that was a lie for several reasons. 1. It’s not an issue class or a debate class 2. Again, it’s how American government works on paper, not in the battlefield. 3. It doesn’t stop “stupid people” from voting now but hopes for a better voting block in 4 years.

Fast forward 4 years and we’ve come to a peak with stupid people voting, with Donald Trump having a real chance at becoming the GOP nominee. Oh what I would give to teach government now. I would just keep on the news for the whole class, since it gives great insight on how undemocratic our process is with super delegates, unbound delegates, open voting, closed voting, how just because you win a state, doesn’t mean you won the most delegates.

But perhaps this is what we deserve. The founding fathers, no matter what their ideological persuasion would all be rolling if they could see the dunce winning the nominee of the party of Jefferson. Of course they’d also roll in their grave to see a black guy as president, and a woman who most likely will take is place…but I digress.

When the founders were drafting the Constitution, there was lots of speculation of what type of government would form. Some thought a new monarchy would form, others thought the states would remain autonomous. A favorite story of mine is of Benjamin Franklin, who had to have men watch him at night because he would drink copious amount of alcohol and begin to talk about things that he shouldn’t have. Since the machinations of what specifically was going on were top secret, his peers knew he couldn’t be trusted to blab about everything they’ve been working on for so long. However, one woman asked him whether or not they are creating a monarchy or a democracy, and he did slip up a big and responded with “A republic ma’am, if you can keep it”

A republic, not a straight democracy. Electing people who knew what they were doing to make the decisions for the populace. The founders were petrified of a democracy. They were all aristocrats by either birth or merit and detested much of what the “riff raff” citizenry did. They thought governance was best left up to the educated. Many institutional blockers were put in place to make sure that even if you wanted to vote they couldn’t. First off you have to be a white guy, and you have to be at least 25, and you have to own a certain amount of property. This was the fewest amount of obstacles one had to hurdle to vote, in Georgia for example the only people that could vote for president were those elected to the state government; a body of about 23 men. Since most of the country were farmers, why burden them with learning about the issues at hand and educating them in some democratic process? If they spent their time doing that who would grow the food?

If America stayed east of the Appalachian mountains, this may have been the trend for much longer. But when Americans moved further and further west, there were no educated and well groomed delegations to cast ballots. Just dirt farmers and settlers. So under Jackson, universal white male suffrage was made and now every white guy who wandered into a polling station could cast a ballot. Things continued from there. Eventually African Americans, women, and 18 year olds could cast a ballot. Hell, now when you get your licensed renewed at the DMV you can register to vote in just a couple minutes. We’ve stream lined the process, even making an amendment so that we can vote for senators too, since before it was strictly the state representatives who voted.

Of course this has become a process that has had many fits and starts, and sometimes we owe our greatest progression to things that are not democratic at all. Slavery was technically ended by democracy…but only have 600,000 people died. The integration of the army was an extremely unpopular executive order by Truman, the integration of schools had to be made by a small judicial body, and enforced by the army, gay marriage was in the same boat…minus the army. In some states, if you made the right campaign and left it up to a straight vote by the population, decades of change would be erased.

These of course are all American examples. If I really wanted to I could get in to how the Nazi’s came to power because of democracy, and the Russian communist party, not to mention the powers that led the Rwandan genocide were democratic…but this post is already long enough.

And now… we’ve come to 2016. Even thing has led to a man, who says nothing substantive in every speech is going to become the nominee of a major party. I don’t know if this is a failure of the part of the Republican Party or if so many people are just blind with rage of being duped again and again by “career politicians” And what do you do about it? No one wants to go back to the days of poll taxes, or literacy qualifications. In theory you want as many people as possible to vote, and so many obstacles have been put in place to deny that opportunity…but usually for partisan reasons. Many people look at voting as a hassle. Would an education class about what the candidates have said and whether or not their statements were true or not be a better option, or would that be too much for the 21st century voter to care about? Or would it revolutionize the processes? I’m not sure about you but I for one am still all for benevolent despots.

Tough on Crime or Criminals?


A good friend of mine is attending law school and his father is a judge. We have great talks and as I’m sure you may assume many lead to the topic of law and crime. He shares stories of lawsuits he’s studying and things that have happened with his father. One story about his father struck me as incredibly sensible and rare. He told me that a man was just sentenced on his 2nd or 3rd DUI. DUI’s are obviously reckless and dangerous and should be punished so I guessed that his father stuck him with a heavy sentence. He told me that he didn’t because what good can that solve for his family? He has a wife, kids, a job and all those will suffer if he goes to jail for a lengthy time. With him being the primary bread winner how will his family, who is innocent, make ends meet if he loses his job by going to jail? Instead he sentenced him to going to jail for a large number of weekends. This still punishes him but allows his innocent family to not also be punished. However, I see this kind of insight is lacking in much of our judicial system and thankfully prison reform is something the media is finally talking about.

One thing that President Obama has been earning good press for recently is commuting sentences for some drug users. To me, this is a sort of “no duh” thing to do. In college I took a public speaking course and against my professors advice I did a persuasive speech on legalizing marijuana. While doing my research for the speech I saw that criminalizing marijuana helps dangerous Mexican cartels who are devastating their country and more importantly, wastes tons of money by incarcerating drug users. I won’t go over the entirety of my speech but it takes about $46,000 a year in California to house 1 inmate. California houses about 80,000 inmates for drug offenses alone. So if you do the math California spends (46k x 80k) $3,680,000,000 That’s over 3 billion dollars. 3.68 billion that could be used for schools, housing, transportation, R&D and more. This is just housing a prisoner not to mention trials, guards, and all the other costs that go into incarceration. In fact 48% of America’s prison population are for drug offenses alone 8% are for violent crimes. You’re more likely to find a young man who had a doobie on him in prison than a hardened killer. By the way, my professor cautioned against doing it as a topic because she never saw a persuasive one… but I received an “A”

But it’s not just about drugs, we’ve gone threw a jail-happy phase in America. In fact we incarcerate more people than ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. We are in fact #1! China who has a billion more people than us than and has a communist regime still doesn’t come close, but they are #2. Russia is run by an “elected” dictator and still further behind at #3. Brazil is seen as a nation full of criminals and they are #4. All big countries but we have 7 times more prisoners per capita compared to China and about 600,000 more as a raw number. America, the land of the free is also the land of the most imprisoned.

But this leads to a bigger picture. In the 80’s a “tough on crime” approach was taken and it was hugely popular. People liked the idea of 3 strike laws and “locking up criminals and throwing away the key” but liking an idea and the idea being a good one are two different things. Obviously there has to be a punishment for people that break the law, but as the constitution says, it should not be cruel or unusual and it certainly would seem unusual for locking up people for many years for smoking a joint. It also has proved to be ineffective. Tough on crime laws proved to only increase the number of criminals and not decrease crime.

Perhaps one of the reasons we have this prison complex is we are one of the only countries that has for profit prisons. I know that I gave that 3 billion number before of how much a state loses but there are some prisons that  make a profit…for themselves at least, not for tax payers who lose money again. Most have some crazy stipulations of 80-100% occupancy rules where they HAVE to have most or all of their cells filled. This seems to have a need to find and create criminals rather than “correcting” them. Some have been proved to be illegal and judges were sentencing teens to jail and getting a kick back for every “inmate” that went in. Crimes like, “running away from home” and “disrespecting parents”

Prisons are supposed to be called “correctional facilities” however there is not much “correcting” that happens. In fact if someone is in prison for over a year the chance of them returning doesn’t go up anymore. Not to mention going to jail means your chances at a job will go down considerably, they will never vote (if they’re a felon) and will probably do a crime again. Is it any wonder the recidivism rate is so high for prisoners? Currently the national rate is 43.3% and much more so for African Americans.

I always believed in catching more flies with honey than vinegar. People are much more willing to do something (or not do something) if they have an incentive to do so or have options instead of a potential punishment. If we legalize marijuana we can free up a lot of prison space and billions of dollars nation wide. This can be to given to rehab facilities to keep people clean from harder drugs, thus freeing up more spaces and more money. Private prisons should be shut down and seen as the gross miscarriages of justice they are. Punishments should fit the crime and petty  criminals should be seen as people instead of entities that can be locked up and forgotten about.

Make America Bern Again

Make America Bern

I thought the blog was long behind me but with the 2016 election cycle going the way it is…how could I stay away? Lots of tempting topics to talk about.

A couple weeks ago I took a road trip down with a buddy to attend a bachelor’s party in Savannah Georgia. Most people flew but I had never been south of North Carolina so I decided it was best to drive. Of course murphy’s law was in effect and blown tires, sleezy motels, odd run ins, speeding tickets, and 36 hours later we were there, but the ride down is a story for another time…

What I was thinking about during the drive of nothingness was a couple articles I read a year back about the 10 “best” counties in America. The county I currently reside in (Montgomery County, MD) was #4 and the county I was born in (Frederick County, MD) was #10 with many other counties in the MD/Northern Va region. In about a 50 mile radius you can find 7 out of 10 of the top counties, and there are literally thousands of counties in America. When I first read them I was a bit incredulous. The place where I came from is okay, sure even good. But in the top 10? Really?

As I drove some 600 miles I began to think maybe it was true. My drive down south led me into many towns and lots of…nothing. The places I saw there were a lot of people working menial jobs, prices were cheaper, which was great, but a lot of people weren’t making the money that I make in the DC bubble. There were even some people that had to had a different business in their business like a motel that was also a car shop and my favorite, a gas station that was also a day care center (licensed I’m sure).  A wider view of stats show many people are struggling as well. Not just in the south but of course the “rust belt” and many other places. This is exactly what Bernie Sanders is trying to fix.

It’s no secret that I’m supporting Bernie Sanders and spots where the economy never recovered is still felt in many places that didn’t have a lot of money to lose in the first place. Other places recovering back to pre-2008 levels and beyond. While other places are still desperate. This is part of Sander’s message about economic inequality that resonates with so many people. He’s far from a perfect candidate but he does seem to understand the vastness of poverty that hits all races, genders, and ages in many different areas of the country, we like to keep up appearances but many people are an accident away from economic devastation.

Many people are also disaffected with the political system. When President Obama took the presidency in 2009 I was ecstatic. It was my first time voting and was able to vote for someone I really admired.  Of course after the inauguration there were set backs, watered down bills, and a rightward turn that left many of his supporters scratching their heads. Candidate Obama had fire and a vision, president Obama stayed the course keeping many of his predecessor’s policies in place. He was funded by wall street and special interests and they were going to get theirs while he was in office. President Obama went so far as to try and get involved in our 3rd military conflict in the Middle East with Syria until the people (and our allies) did not give support. I didn’t know I was voting for a war monger.

Bernie on the other hand will have a hard time bowing to other interests because he is only indebted to the people, since that is only where his money is coming from. No hand outs from big banks, oil companies, or lobbyist firms. Clinton’s money is Obama’s money. Same big banks, same special interests, more of the same only she’s even wants more intervention in the Middle East than Obama. With advisers who run for profit prisons and wall street, how progressive can she be? Republicans aside, how much will she have to compromise to people who would help buy her an election?

Republicans were in power from 00-08. Things got bad. Democrats were in power from 08-16. Things got good for some and stayed bad for others. The (D) in front of Sander’s same is only for legitimacy he is a true independent at heart with well deserved scathing remarks for both parties. He is the voice of the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten.

Donald Trump will make his way to the nomination by suffocating his competition in the mud, bullying reporters, accosting journalists, and advocating for war crimes in the middle East in an attempt to “Make America Great Again.” I say America is great we just need to light a fire under it and bern with greatness.


The Entertainment of Politics

History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen


The 2016 campaign is well on its way with just days before the Iowa caucuses. It seems like more people are interested in this race or in politics in general, than before. It’s no secret that non-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have created a buzz for people that may otherwise not be interested in politics.

Or maybe it’s more than that. It’s no secret the political news networks like MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN are blowing away the “traditional” news networks of NBC, CBS, and ABC. Obviously MSNBC and Fox News have agendas, which people love to lament as networks that “brainwash” people with partisan “propaganda” and maybe that is partly true but when stories are cross referenced with other sources they can prove to be a great tool for sparking interest in politics.

Let’s face it. Politics on its surface is boring. The consequences are enormous but the actual act of governing is a snooze fest. There have been photographs of law makers asleep on the job, or playing on their phones during a committee hearing. Making laws are tedious and slow. Most politics is inconsequential. Naming official birds, or purposeless holidays, providing funding for bureaucratic organizations, and just the other important but monotonous tasks of keeping a state or the country going. Not to mention all the fundraising that has to go on just to maintain your position…to fund raise more in another couple years.

However, these networks, as tilted as they may be do provide a type of entertainment. They highlight the “exciting” aspects of politics. The battlegrounds, the debates, the ramifications of certain policies. They are doing very well with political theater. If people wanted raw politics then they’d be hooked on CSPAN…which most people are not. Political analysis of how candidates are doing and why certain people should or shouldn’t be elected plays out like a real life drama.

I’ve often attributed my political awakening to when I was 17 and came across a CNN special called “Sun Down Towns.” These are towns where it is not safe for African Americans to be out when the sun goes down. This woke me up to a social injustice I thought was from a bygone era but still were prevalent in the 21st century. If I had never seen that special I may not have been interested to see what else CNN was talking about and thus never interested in politics and it pays off.

It always pays off to be interested in politics than apathetic. A citizenry that understands what is happening with their governance (or not happening) is bound to act rather than allow it to persist, and now it has finally come to a head. These political theater shows have never before seen popularity and we have citizenry that is upset with a multitude on issues and candidates on both sides that do not talk like cookie cutter Democrats or Republicans. The reason why they’re doing so well is because politics is changing. Now it may change back if these fringe candidates are unsuccessful once they win the White House (and one of them WILL win) and its exciting for even the casual political observer.

I’ve said to friends that the GOP primary is my favorite reality TV show. Not being right-wing leaning I’m enthralled in the weirdness of it all. Instead of the traditional dance of scooting closer and closer to the right than coming back to center during the general election, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have turned the rhetoric to an 11. Leaving the traditional candidates befuddled. Sanders is doing a similar tactic on the left, leaving Hillary Clinton from the preordained nominee to being down in all the early states and fighting for her political life.

Some may scoff at politics being belittled to a theatrical performance and see news mixed with entertainment as misleading, but what I see them as a net gain. If theater gets people interested in how they are being governed then great. Political commentary should not be confused with impartial news, so as long as people don’t take a mouth piece’s word as gospel, then there’s nothing wrong if it gets people excited. No one turn’s on fox news and expects to hear an unfiltered view of the news. They expect to hear a conservatives take on it.

I know this is a far cry from my usual jaded view but hey maybe 2016 will have record voting numbers and be the year of the people?