The failure of Abstinence Only education.

It’s in the news that Bristol Palin is pregnant again, out of wedlock and not looking to be wedlocked anytime soon since she abruptly called off her wedding to Dakota Meyer over Memorial Day Weekend. It did seem odd that though the wedding was off (not delayed or postponed), her mother Sarah Palin and friends still joined the Meyer family for a party celebrating ‘life’. It seems pretty clear why now, Bristol was pregnant and Dakota Meyer by circumstance will need to be in the Palins’ lives for a long time to come. Since Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s VP running mate in 2008, her family and all their peccadilloes were thrown in the national spotlight in the most brutal way, and inconveniently, Bristol Palin at the time was 17 years old and pregnant with her first child Tripp. The Palin family put out a statement that Bristol Palin and the baby’s father Levi Johnston were ‘engaged’ and were happy together and though not the best time to have this baby, they were looking forward to the addition. The whole thing was a PR image control. Of course, the wedding never happened and the engagement was off soon after the baby was born. The cynic in me was suspect of the fact that they were ever really engaged, and if they were, it’s because there is a baby on the way, not because they really wanted to be engaged. Though not a Palin fan or supporter, I felt badly for Bristol, she was just a young girl, most likely not thrilled with the fact that she’s pregnant. Though her family has means and she won’t be out on her own with a tiny baby, her life as carefree teenager was most likely over, and it was all done in the national spotlight, for the most selfish opportunistic reason, John McCain needed a boost in the polls so he chose a candidate like Sarah Palin. Knowing full well she was unqualified to be Vice President and they were unlikely to win the general election unless the Obama campaign screws up royally in the last few weeks of the general election campaign. Sarah Palin, being a first term governor of Alaska, could not give up this chance to be in the national spotlight, even if she has to expose her pregnant young daughter to the press.

Even more bizarre is that Bristol Palin became a spokesperson for Abstinence Only education, giving speeches and lectures about her own cautionary tale, 17 years old, barefoot and pregnant, alone with a small child, not something to aspire to and her solution is abstinence only. She needed to support her baby and it was probably clear that Levi Johnston wasn’t the reliable type and she was paid for speaking fees and appearances. She also did the Dancing with the Stars and other paid television work as she knew deep down that it will be her supporting her baby alone and she was right about that. I admire that about her, getting her hustle on, keeping a roof over her and little Tripp’s head, saving for their future. She largely stayed out of trouble, no arrests or falling out of nightclubs drunk, she is a very responsible young adult. A lot of teenage mothers lose their shit at some point, from the pressure of caring for a baby on their own, missing out on the rites of passage that their peers get to experience, not being able to go away to college and experience college life and combine that with the inherent immaturity that comes with that age group, they go overboard with their partying in their mid-20s. Not Bristol, she largely stayed on the straight and narrow and just took care of her son and when a paid gig came along, she took it, like all responsible mothers do. She didn’t expect a handout from her newly wealthy mother and I don’t think Sarah Palin offered.

Fastforward to now, she’s pregnant again and she’ll most likely be a single mother to this new baby along with Tripp. And I am sure she feels ashamed and is waiting for the internet trolls and journalists with poison pens to mock her and call her a hypocrite and slut shaming. To preempt leaks in the media about her second (gasp) pregnancy, she wrote this short blog:

(I’m announcing this news a lot sooner than I ever expected due to the constant trolls who have nothing better to talk about!!!)

I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant.

Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.

At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace.

Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.

When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher.

I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.

But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.

My little family always has, and always will come first.

Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.

The short little missive is tinged with shame and regret, and that’s unnecessary, Bristol Palin is now a grown woman and she can do what she pleases with whom she pleases. She need not apologize to anyone, not even to her parents. It’s not an ideal situation, she’s supposed to be married and enjoying her newlywed life with Dakota Meyer (most likely the baby’s father) but it didn’t happen that way, it’s not the end of the world. Like she says, “Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.” Even though she was an advocate of Abstinence Only education, she’s not the failure, the failure is the stupidity of the policy. The Abstinence Only movement supported and promoted by Evangelical Christians and the political right isn’t really about morality or waiting until marriage to have sex, it’s about denying women the right to birth control and an attempt to shame women who get pregnant out of wedlock and to place responsibility of safe sex on the shoulders of women, instead of a joint responsibility. Study after study has shown that abstinence only education is a failure, incongruent with human desire and modern Western society, for good or ill, is a sexually liberated one. It’s also a backward looking policy not a forward looking one. Western society is no longer a society where people only had sex within the confines of a marriage. Many children are born to common law couples and cohabiting couples, so abstinence only policy runs contrary to how modern families are formed. Bristol Palin would have been better off promoting safe sex and reliable birth control methods for committed couples. Bristol Palin should be applauded for not entering into marriage with someone just because she’s pregnant and just to spare herself the shame, she did what was right for her and her children not what the public wants to see or hear.

So to Bristol Palin, don’t feel bad, don’t feel ashamed no matter what your family, church group or internet trolls say. A child is a blessing, you’ve done this once before, so you are an old pro at this, you got this, you can do it. Don’t let anyone slut-shame you or troll you because you feel ashamed and somehow believe you deserve the ridicule and vitriol, you don’t, fight back at every turn. You are free to do as you please, your parents may not like the sound of that but it’s true, life happens and you roll with it. You will find your happy ending one day with the right man under the right circumstance.

Terms and definitions: part three

A good explanation of different kind of feminism and feminists. I am with Gloria Steinem and Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Jar Belles

socialist

Terms and conditions: part one

Terms and conditions: part two

So far in our quest for a set of feminist terms and definitions, we’ve covered some basics and some not-so-basics. Now we’ll get onto the complicated stuff, e.g. various types of feminism. This gets complicated because different groups have their own interpretations on what each of these things mean, so may not agree exactly with the definitions we have here.

I’d also like to explicitly point out that being a feminist does not mean having to subscribe to any of the below groups, or any other feminist group. Feminism is more of a spectrum than a cluster of rigidly defined groups, and the sooner we reject the idea of clear cut labels, the sooner I believe we can work together towards our goals. With that in mind, it can be confusing not to know the basics of each group – hence…

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Being Poor – It’s no virtue, it doesn’t build character, it’s human suffering.

Being Poor. – A must read by someone who has been there.

A very poignant account on what it’s like to be poor and living in poverty in the First World. Too much as been attributed to the so-called ‘virtues’ of poverty. People who say that poverty was good for them and drove them to succeed is bullshit, they only say that only because they are not in poverty anymore, so they are able to look at their poverty with rose tinted glasses. For those for one reason or another cannot not escape poverty, there is no ‘good’ in it whatsoever.

Poverty is a grinding humiliating experience, a series of no-good choices, between eating, keeping the light on or paying for medicine. Many people are not poor by choice, many people become poor due to bad choices for which they may be paying for in a long time to come, an accident, medical emergency, loss of a job, economic decline (moving isn’t always an option) etc.

The current Republican culture of poor shaming and how people ‘choose’ to live on Unemployment benefits instead of looking for a job, taking on ANY job is their own fault. I don’t think any congressman, senator or people running for office has spent any significant amount of time being unemployed and having to survive on benefits, which if you are lucky pays 60% of your former salary.

I’ve never been ‘poor’ though I’ve come close to it, and the stress is unbearable at times, especially if you have children. No parent wants to put their children through not having enough. I was lucky, I got out of that jam because I had a good support system and I am eternally grateful. Not many are so lucky.

I, Too, Left the Tech Industry

A must read. It shatters the image of Silicon Valley as this egalitarian place where racism, sexism and all other -isms don’t exist. Thank you for writing this.

Evgenia Got Free

With a nod to Cate Huston.

I have resigned from a 20 year career in tech. For many reasons, I decided to flip some tables in 2015. I have some not yet coherent observations on this that I will share in case they help others. I benefitted greatly from others’ posts on their decisions to leave tech and how they did so, and would like to pay it forward.

“This is my last tech job.”
A few months ago, a thought struck me out of nowhere. It was not a particularly bad day at work and there was nothing obviously awful going on. I simply thought “This is my last tech job” with absolute certainty. If I were a person of faith this might make more sense, in that it may have seemed like “a message,” but I simply observed it and thought “Huh! Ain’t that something.”

But from…

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What I No Longer Tolerate…

It may be a tad too early compile a list of bullshit in which I am tired of and can no longer tolerate but as I turn on the news everyday and all the things that are coming from television, it just whips me up into a frenzy, so here it goes:

  • False platitudes and false hero worshipping, a la Caitlynn Jenner style. Droves of celebrities, people on the B, C and D list, quasi-celebrities, people she’s never met before, she is suddenly all their heroes. The same people that were probably making fun of her ‘transitioning phase’ where her looks were going from male to female and wondering what the heck is going on with her. Now Bruce is Caitlynn and is on the cover of Vanity Fair, she is suddenly ‘brave’, ‘heroic’ and no longer ridiculous looking. Get a grip!
  • People ‘passing’ as a race other than the one they are born with and denying or mitigating one’s ethnic background. It never works, own your race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, even if it’s a shameful one, you are not your ancestors, you can be different. Yes, paging Rachel Dolezal, look in the mirror girlfriend, you are WHITE, not just white, lily white. You are not black, you’ve never been black and the fact that there were no ‘witnesses’ at your birth to make sure you parents didn’t swap their real ‘white’ baby for a mixed race baby doesn’t  make you black either. It’s pathetic, you are white, the race of the ‘oppressor’ and ‘aggressor’, tough shit, own it.
  • Stupid hashtag trends that don’t mean anything like #BringBackOurGirls for the 200 plus Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Unless you are going to get your butt down to Nigeria and traverse the forest and jungles risking being caught or killed by terrorists or dying some jungle disease or be eaten by animals alive, sharing and retweeting these hashtags don’t mean anything, it doesn’t do shit for those poor girls that were kidnapped.
  • Cheap jokes: jokes that get cheap laughs, that don’t require thinking, such as borderline racist jokes, sexist jokes, tasteless sex jokes. Heard them all, not funny, not the least bit interesting. You want to make me laugh, say something witty, relevant, poignant, smart and funny. Pop in a Woody Allen DVD, you get the idea.
  • Republican politicians on TV bleating on about how the liberals are hijacking their religious freedom. No, what they mean is hijacking their right to spout their brand of religion, radical, right-wing, evangelical and irrelevant in public discourse today. If they were for all religions and their religious freedoms that would be a different matter, but what they mean is religious freedom for Christians only. It doesn’t include Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Confucians, Taoists, Agnostics, Atheists, none of it. When they are willing to include any and all religious beliefs, I’ll entertain the thought of their ‘religious freedoms’ being impinged. But for now, follow the Constitution, separation of church and state, and no, we didn’t misunderstand the Founders, they were very clear, the public domain is no place for private religious discourse.
  • Male politicians who are overly concerned with female reproductive functions, namely birth control access and abortion rights and the actual definition of ‘rape’. None of this involves them personally and on what planet they think they should have a say on my reproductive functions. Seriously, get off my jock! And it’s unseemly and creepy for grown men to be so obsessed with women’s reproductive functions. And for them to claim that they are concerned about the rights of the unborn child, get off it! Some men just never got used to the idea that we get to decide when we have kids, how we have kids and with whom we have kids with. They can spend their time being concerned with the millions of children that are living in poverty today.
  • All the shamers and haters: Slut shamers, fat shamers, LGBTQ bigots, misogynists, racists, green eyed monsters, hating on people for being rich, successful, good looking, take your hate and crawl into the first cave you see. If you don’t like someone, get off their social media pages, don’t read their posts and then post hateful replies. Own your shit, fix your shit.
  • The NRA’s willful blindness and indifference to the proliferation of firearms in society and routinely falling into the wrong hands. Clearly the existing gun laws don’t work. The NRA claims that they don’t work because they aren’t being properly enforced, whatever, who cares? How many more massacres do we need to convince the NRA that we’ve a serious gun problem in the US? Given that our mental health system is all screwed up where many patients slip through the cracks, so when they go and buy guns there’s no way to know nor records to show that they are mentally ill or just plain hateful.
  • Rude ass people, people who are rude for no reason, simply because they are a miserable SOB. They have to inflict the same misery on everyone else. Take your baggage and dump on someone who cares.

To be continued…

Addiction – It’s an emotional disease, fueled by shame.

Addiction – It’s an emotional disease, fueled by shame.

Addiction. It’s a disease, a disease of the brain and its inability to resist the urge to drink or do drugs. And it’s ugly. It eats at your soul, it rips everything away from you all to chase the next high or next bottle. Addicts are not nice people to be around when they are in an altered state. You have different kinds of addicts, the happy drunk, the loud drunk, the belligerent drunk, the abusive drunk but they are all drunk and drunks are no fun. At worst they are dangerous, at best they are unreliable, unreachable, gone, drowned into the depths of their addictions. They are there but it’s only a shell of their former glorious self. Their true selves, the perfect being that God created has been obscured by their addictions.

Drug addicts in my opinion have it worse, at least alcohol is a legal substance that anyone over the age of 21 can buy at it their local supermarket or liquor store. There’s no shame or criminality in procuring alcohol. Unless you show up stinking drunk and stumbling into your local liquor store, no one thinks they are selling alcohol to an alcoholic. Street drugs however, are a totally different story. To get drugs, you must contact dealers and they are usually seedy dangerous characters who you don’t want to mess with or owe money to, and with addictions, what follows next is money problems, money to pay for the addictions, if they don’t have it, they will rob, steal, sell family heirlooms to feed that addiction. Like I said, it’s ugly. It’s not something anyone in their right mind would do. And that’s just it, they aren’t in their right mind. People prior to becoming hopeless addicts were sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, soldiers, nurses, doctors, athletes, student, people with potential until addiction took hold of them.

Mother Teresa wrote in her book ‘A Simple Path’:

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

She didn’t specifically refer to addicts, but the sentiment is the same, there is a hopelessness and despair that addicts feel, though we can’t just ‘love’ an addict out of his or her addiction, but love being combined with understanding, empathy, along with effective medical treatment without any stigma attached can go a long way to heal addicts. One of the leading causes of death among addicts (besides the overdose) is suicide, the combination of shame at one’s inability to control one’s addiction can be too much to bear for some. Nora Volkow, the director National Institute on Drug Abuse says that the patients she encounters ” [the] addicted does not choose to be addicted; it’s no longer a choice to take the drug. Addicted people in my laboratory often say it’s not even pleasurable. “I just cannot control it.” Or they’ll say, “I have to take the drug because the distress of not taking the drug is too difficult to bear.”

For the longest time, drug addicts and alcoholics were viewed as people who had weak will power and poor self control. While all the boys can wake up from a night of hard drinking with a hangover the next day but still go about their days unimpeded, only the weak can’t handle his drinking. Only the weak get sloppy, mean, blackout and not remember where he’s been and what he’d done the night before, without realizing that some people’s bodies do not process the alcohol the same way as others. From my own family history, my paternal grandfather was man who was known for being a drunk and he was mean and abusive when he was drunk but he didn’t start out that way. He was a West Point graduate just like his father and grandfather before him, he begun an army career and married my grandmother. But the army drinking culture got the best of him and he became an out of control, raging, cannot stop drinking kind of alcoholic until the end of his life where his liver basically turned to stone (so my dad tells me). My grandmother made the difficult decision to kick him out and divorce him though it was very tough to be a single woman with three small children in the early 1940’s, she risked penury and social ostracism but there was no choice as my grandfather was an abusive drunk. He didn’t just get drunk and go to sleep and wake up the next day, he was abusive and dangerous. And my grandmother did live in relative poverty for many years, she was forced to remarry several times just to keep her family out of total poverty (long story for another time). It was near impossible for a woman to head a household without a man in her days and it is my guess that she remarried not for love but more for necessity.

Needless to say my father and his siblings resented and at times hated their father for putting them in that position. My father and his siblings could have gone on to prep schools and then each to their college of choice or perhaps even continued the tradition of West Point, but my father’s education ended at the 9th grade, he said he had to drop out to work on the family farm, my aunt got married at 18 to a lovely man but I think  given the opportunity she’d like to have furthered her education and my uncle joined the army at 18, neither of them were able to progress beyond high school. My grandparents had a promising life ahead of them, my grandfather could have served in the army during World War II and be an officer in the army, but that never materialized because of his alcoholism. His was a life wasted in various government paper pushing jobs (he was a highly functional and disciplined alcoholic who only begun drinking at 7 PM) because that’s all he could manage. I never got to know him as he died when I was very little and my father has totally cut off any contact with my grandfather since he was 21 years old. Several of my cousins who got to know him told me that I didn’t miss much, he was just as everyone said, a mean old bullying drunk who hated everyone, who terrorized everyone and was just sad act. Though all that was true, I knew there was more to the story, I didn’t want to pry or make it appear that I was ‘defending’ a nasty person I never knew.

In an unguarded moment, my grandmother talked to me about my grandfather, how he was one of the smartest people she’d ever known, the most resourceful and was brilliant in business if only he would just stay off the bottle. Her final words about the subject was, ‘it’s truly an illness, he was sick.’ Given her age and the era she was born, I was surprised that she was able to view it from the lense of it was an illness and not a personal failure. She was 92 years old when she told me this, she knew him before he was the drunk that he became, she knew him at his finest, in military school, sailing through with top marks. They got married the day after he graduated from West Point and they were supposed to conquer the world together. They were both from well heeled New England families, they met at a dance ball in the White House and had my grandfather kept off the bottle and had his career as an army officer continued until his retirement, they would have led a comfortable life complete with the prestige that came with his position. She was surprisingly unembittered about her marriage to my grandfather and was able to remember him fondly, for the man he was, not what he became.

DadGrandparent_0001_2
My grandparents on their wedding day, the day after his graduation from West Point. My grandma’s dress is on fleek.

From what little I know of my grandfather, he probably silently acknowledged that he was an impossible and abusive drunk and the shame must be unbearable for him. He was, after all, a graduate of West Point, the foremost army academy in the country, perhaps the world. He was a student of discipline, he ate, lived and breathed discipline but he had no control over his disease. And the fact that his personal life was often in shambles and most of his children were either terrified of him or hated him, it couldn’t have been pleasurable for him. Being the tough army man that he was, I cannot see him attending AA meetings or going to ‘drying out’ clinics either, so he suffered and his family suffered. Coming from a long line of men who served their country during war and peace in the armed forces but he wasted his life on alcoholism, that shame must have been unbearable, which probably drove him to drink more.

As a result of this family history, my dearly departed dad, who rarely gave me advice about anything told me to watch out for the bottle. Don’t overindulge, have some fun, but set limits, overindulgence of alcohol is a dangerous thing for us . Of course the genetic legacy of my grandfather’s alcoholism is several of my family members have alcohol related issues, I will not call people alcoholics if they don’t acknowledge it, but let’s just say they are highly functional drinkers.

I’ve always considered myself an alcoholic that never materialized, and this is all due to Divine guidance. I indulged myself in college as a rite of passage, the partying got out of hand certain times but it never got to a point where it became a problem for me. Like many people, intermittently throughout my life, I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety and self-crippling feelings of shame. Of all the emotions, shame and guilt are the most corrosive to the human psyche and it drives one to do many things one wouldn’t do otherwise. I can easily identify with the shameful feelings that most people with substance abuse problems carry around with them and it is also because of the shame begets shame vicious cycle when it comes to substance abuse has deterred me from developing an addictive habit. I don’t need any more of feelings of shame. I am by no means a teetotal, I love my occasional glasses of wine and cocktails, but that’s the extent of it.

Medical science and research have come a long way in studying the addicted brain and how is that different from people who aren’t addicted. Substance abuse has been labeled a ‘disease’, which by definition would mean that it’s a medical condition caused by a physical deficiency, no longer considered a character weakness or character flaw. But society and the criminal justice system have yet to catch up with the medical community yet in terms of labeling and treating addicts. The courts still use a punitive method to deal with repeat drug and alcohol offenders, most courts do not offer rehab as an alternative to jail time, most inmates with substance abuse problems do not get the assistance they need while incarcerated, they don’t receive counseling, no detox treatment, and so when they leave prison, they are right back to where they started with their addictions.

Substance abuse treatment requires highly skilled doctors, counselors and therapists to get to the root cause of why a person is abusing an addictive substance, the current model of 28 or 30 rehab program is less than adequate and the medical community is waking up to that fact now. Substance abuse treatment is expensive and needs to be ongoing, long after the patient has left in-patient treatment. Most addiction specialists will tell you that it’s a lifetime process to manage an addict’s sobriety. It requires total vigilance on the part of the patient and any slip up in that vigilance can cause an addict to relapse.

Addiction is ugly, there is nothing glamorous or pretty about it, and it does not discriminate between rich and poor. A case in point is the death of Eva Rausing, the American wife of the billionaire Hans Kristian Rausing (heir to Tetra Pak, the Swedish industrialist who invented the modern milk carton), both husband and wife were hopelessly addicted to heroin, they met while they were in rehab in their twenties, they both beat their respective addictions, got married and started a family, and was sober for a long time, then on New Year’s Eve of the new millennium, they decided to share a glass of champagne (which was not the substance they were in rehab for) and thus was the beginning of their long and ugly relapse and decline back into drug addiction, during which they quietly gave up custody of their 4 children to Hans Kristian Rausing’s sister, and finally Eva Rausing died in their Belgravia home in May of 2012. She died of an overdose but her husband, being drugged out of his mind too, didn’t alert the authorities that his wife had died and just left her body under a pile of clothes and bin bags in their bedroom and he went about his drug addled days for another 2 months until he was pulled over for erratic driving which led the police to discover the gruesome scene in his otherwise pristine home. He even lied to his housekeepers about the state of his wife. Their respective families tried to contact them in vain for months, Eva Rausing’s sister even flew from America to see her sister, but she’d already died and was under that pile of clothes and bin bags and no one told her. Hans Kristian Rausing’s sister Sigrid Rausing wrote a moving account of her brother’s addiction and how pointless it was to criminalize addiction, they need treatment not jail. Even the judge involved realized that jailing Hans Kristian Rausing for drugs violations was pointless, he was charged for improper burial of a body and as a condition of his freedom, he was sent to long term psychiatric and drug rehabilitation, where he was required to stay for as long as he needed to. For all their billions, the result of drug addiction is the same, squalor, hopelessness (albeit in a mansion) and eventual death for Eva Rausing. Sigrid Rausing made an astute observation that not all drug users are addicts:

“But it’s important to remember that most drug-takers are not addicts, and that the human cost of the war on drugs globally is enormous. If addiction was more securely defined as an emotional illness, and more separated from the activity of taking drugs, it should be possible to decriminalise drugs. But at the same time it must be made easier to commit addicts at risk of dying into care.”

Hans Kristian and Eva Rausing, being the billionaires that they were, lived a very low key life, albeit in one of the most desirable addresses in Central London. They were not loud flashy people with their wealth. During their life together and until her death, they contributed huge sums of money to drug rehabilitation clinics, hostels and halfway homes, and they weren’t the kind of people that wanted their names on the building, they paid for the everyday administrative costs of keeping the doors open and Eva Rausing in particular was very open in sharing her journey of addiction with other recovering addicts. They were patrons of many of the Prince’s Trust foundations and Prince Charles could always call on them to make emergency donations so that much needed rehabilitation clinics, hostels and halfway houses for addicts would remain open if there was a sudden shortage of funding. As a couple, they understood the deep pain of drug addiction and used their wealth to that effect. For many that knew Eva Rausing, a wealthy woman from cradle to grave, who never had to earn a living, she wanted to make a contribution to the world and this was her way.

It is well and good to redefine addiction and addicts as a disease where they are ill as opposed to people who are just weak willed and cannot control their addiction. But one cannot run away from the simple fact that addicts are just not very nice people to be around. They lie, cheat, steal, deny, deflect and are willing cause untold sadness, damage and harm to themselves and their families just for the purpose of satisfying their addiction. That is why many addicts end up alone with no one to call on when things go from bad to worse and are found dead with a needle sticking out of their arm. And it’s not that the addicts’ families and friends have abandoned them or stopped caring about them, but that they get tired and fed up and those families and friends have lives of their own too and after so many lies, disappointments and promises, people can only take so much:

For us, their family, the sadness of their relapse was overwhelming. Their addiction became our project, a project of endless emails, phone calls, experts, meetings, strategies, agreements, disagreements. Every week brought a new crisis, new information, and new developments. But most of all I remember the sadness. – Sigrid Rausing

Another inescapable fact about addiction, though a disease, is mostly one of self-infliction. People have to pick up that bottle to drink, people have to go out and get drugs to use and I suppose this is where addicts lose the sympathy of some people. But as Nora Volkow explains: “Once people understand the underlying pathology of addiction, people with the disease will not have to go through obstacles to obtain evidence-based treatments (such as buprenorphine or methadone for opioid addiction) but will simply, nonjudgmentally, receive the help they need, like a child with diabetes or a person with heart disease or cancer. They won’t have to feel that shame, or feel inferior, because people understand that they are suffering from a disease that should be treated like any other.”

Another problem with addiction is that the non-addict cannot understand what it’s like to be an addict. To the non-addicted, if something isn’t good for us, we just put it down and don’t use it. After one too many bad hangovers or stomach pains, we learn to not drink too much at once. But addicts don’t know that, they can’t discern too much and just enough, for them there is only too much.As Sigrid Rausing describes her brother in his younger days: “After one stay in rehab (there were so many), he came to live with me for several months. He immediately relapsed; I didn’t know. I thought the way he lived – the plates with rotten food under his bed, the dirt under his fingernails – was just him. The dirt was heroin. I didn’t get it. Eventually – still not getting it – I gently asked him to find his own place. He stayed for several more months, but remained in his room – a second bedroom, a small room – accepting, or choosing, exile. When he left, finally, he disappeared.”

The War on Drugs is officially a colossal waste of money, resources and  lives. All that money that went into catching drug dealers, distributors and cartel leaders could have gone to treat drug addicts instead of punishing them with criminal charges and jail time. Without addicts, the cartels and dealers would have no one to sell drugs to. An addict will get their fix any way they can, no matter the cost or personal danger to themselves, so trying to get rid of the cartels in hopes that they won’t peddle drugs into the United States is convoluted to say the least. The so-called ‘War on Drugs’ can never be won if it’s not treated at the root level, which are the addicts themselves. The logic and belief that if there are no drugs to be bought then there will not be any addicts is a false premise, as evidenced by the Prohibition era. The United States for a short time banned the sale of alcohol, it didn’t decrease the number of alcoholics, people bought illegal alcohol made with dubious substances and more illness and deaths resulted from that than when alcohol was sold legally.

A Letter of Regret From Your Anxious and Depressed Friend

A Letter of Regret From Your Anxious and Depressed Friend

I read this and I was very touched and moved. She is so brave for sharing this. Women are 50% more likely to suffer from depression/anxiety (they are interrelated to me) and to be so open and honest will remove the stigma from mental illnesses.

talkingthisandthat

Dear Friend,

I was not always this way.

I did not always hide away from the general public for months or weeks at a time. Once I was quite confident. I occasionally felt happy. I had a full time job and I could face customers with no concern. I would chat to people over the phone, make an effort to see friends, be interested in daily life. I could cope with negativity. Overcome it, even. I wouldn’t let anything bring me down because I had something inside me that made me keep going out there, into the world, facing it all.

But sometimes, Friend, things happen. Sometimes just one thing. Sometimes many things. The courage to face these things is strong at first, at least stronger than now. But depending on luck, or coincidence, or fate, or opportunity, eventually the voice of that courage for some people is quieter. Weaker…

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Rachel Dolezal: An Impostor, a Really F*cked Up Situation #AskRachel

It’s been revealed that the leader of the NAACP for the Spokane Chapter is a woman called Rachel Dolezal, she has identified herself as a black woman complete with deep tan and tight ringlets for the past 8 years, but it was just revealed this past week that she isn’t black at all, she’s white, and the only trace ethnic blood she has in her is native American ancestry. She had fair skin, straight hair and blue eyes as her parents showed pictures of her when she was young. Girlfriend is definitely white! She’s originally from Montana but moved to Spokane, Washington and reinvented herself as a black woman and became involved in the civil rights movement and eventually became the leader of the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP. Though not familiar with the hiring practices of the NAACP, I am pretty sure that you don’t have to be black to work for them as there are many non-black people involved with the NAACP’s civil rights movement.

Aside from pretending to be black, Ms. Dolezal by all accounts is a competent leader and organizer and brought the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP into financial compliance. She’s deeply passionate about the issues of racial discrimination and economic injustice and always has been. She’s a graduate of Howard University and had deep ties to the black civil rights movement. It’s just unclear why she couldn’t do it as a white person? What difference would it have made? She has since stepped down from her leadership role and gave a parting statement:

“This is not me quitting; this is a continuum. It’s about moving the cause of human rights and the Black Liberation Movement along the continuum from Resistance to Chattel Slavery to Abolition to Defiance of Jim Crow to the building of Black Wall Street to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement to the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement and into a future of self-determination and empowerment.”

From all accounts, she will still remain a member of the NAACP (which accept membership from all races and ethnicities). When confronted about her attempts at passing herself off as black, she seemed confused at the question and told the reporter that she doesn’t ‘give two shits what everyone thinks’. In her resignation statement, she didn’t address her racial identity only that she would continue the good fight. Most people in the mainstream media, including her former colleagues at the NAACP and social media most reacted with confusion and concern for her mental state, that someone would go this far to create an elaborate new identity for themselves that involved changing her race. Many reacted with mockery, how can you not? This is just ripe for late night jokes.

We are in a day and age where we are allowed to label ourselves how we like, people are free to change their identities and beliefs according one’s most recent identity crisis or personal revelation, but it must stop somewhere, and I believe it stops at race. Being an Asian-Caucasian biracial American, I have some experience with racial identity and the confusion that it may cause and can speak with some authority on this. First of all, no one should be ashamed of their race and ethnic background to feel compelled enough to invent a new one. Ms. Dolezal seems to identify with the ‘victimhood’ aspect of being an African-American woman as it fits into the narrative of her work and activism. However, as a minority myself, I don’t view minorities in America as victims, I think minorities of all colors have moved past the the victimhood narrative and mentality as people know that is not a position of strength to fight for your rights from. We as minorities demand equal rights because we are people not because we we are a victimized minority group. The narrative of white people, white society, systems created, built and maintained by white people are the perpetrators and everyone else are its victims is no longer an accurate depiction of inequality in America today. We are definitely not in a post-racial society as many conservative whites would like us to believe. Just because we elected a black president doesn’t mean there’s no longer racism in this country, far from it. Racism has changed from overt racism from the Jim Crow days to a more concealed subtle form of racism, which makes it much harder to detect.

Ms. Dolezal’s attempt at becoming black to identify with society’s victims will only backfire. As many black people will tell you, they are united by their experiences as growing up black in America. The sideway looks when you walk in to a fancy store, the suspicious looks if a black person is driving a fancy car or living in a nice neighborhood, the suspicion and brutality in which police treat young black men, these seemingly small but significant events that make up the tapestry of a black person’s life in America, collectively known as the black experience which is totally lacking in Rachel Dolezal’s experience growing up in Montana. As much as much as she may wish it, she didn’t grow up black and experience these humiliations and indignities of being black in America, so for her to pretend to be black is not only insulting to herself but to black people at large. Her adopted sister who is black said that her actions are tantamount to wearing black face, that is too harsh of a criticism as Ms. Dolezal has nothing but love for black people, but her impostering does no favors for the cause that she is so passionate about. It makes no difference what race you are when you are fighting for the civil rights of others as long as you are sincere in your work and Ms. Dolezal seems to have missed that memo.

RIP Kalief Browder: A Catalyst for Change in the Criminal Justice System

RIP Kalief Browder: A Catalyst for Change in the Criminal Justice System

Kalief Browder was a young man arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack on May 15, 2010, which he denied doing and refused to be bullied into a plea bargain even at the behest of his public defender, even if he could go home after pleading guilty to a crime he didn’t commit. He chose his honor and integrity and his bail was set at $3,000 but his family was too poor to raise it immediately after his arrest. His mother eventually had the money for the bail, but by then it was useless because felony charges have been filed against him and because he was already on probation for another juvenile misdemeanor, which then makes him ineligible for bail. So, if his mother was able to provide the bail prior to the filing of the new felony charges, this ‘technicality’ of the law wouldn’t have mattered. So off he went to Rikers prison to await his trial. He was in prison for over 3 years without a conviction and his charges were eventually dropped when the victim of the theft disappeared and reportedly went back to Mexico. Jennifer Gonnerman of The New Yorker wrote a piece detailing the timeline of his alleged crime and the delays that resulted to him being in prison for over 3 years of which roughly 2 years were spent in solitary confinement. 

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During his time in prison he was brutalized by the prison guards and was held in solitary confinement for long periods of time. During his time in the ‘box’ he was denied food – up to 4 consecutive meals at once, regularly beaten, thrown to the ground, brutalized physically and emotionally. When he returned home he tried to resume his life and made his plight known to others so that other prisoners won’t suffer the same kind of abuse, he gave a detailed interview to Jennifer Gonnerman of The New Yorker. But it all got to be too much and he ended his life on June 6, 2015 in his mother’s home.  How has the criminal justice system come to this? How has this country come to this? Browder was only a suspect awaiting trial, he wasn’t even convicted and it wouldn’t have made a difference if he were convicted as prisoners have rights too. When you hear stories like this about a poor black boy being mistreated, you have to beg the question of what if he were white and from a family of some means (If the family had means he wouldn’t be there but for argument’s sake let’s say the parents chose to not bail him out to teach him tough love), would the prison guards treat him differently? Would it then compel them to treat him like a human being? The prison conditions described do not sound like a prison from the United States of America, it sounds like some horror prison from a Third World country, where prisoners convicted or not have no rights and are treated less than human.

This country was founded on principles of due process, where the state has to meet the burden of proof to convict a person and not the other way around. Citizens have a right to a speedy trial yet Kalief Browder’s motion for a speedy trial was delayed over and over again, he was told that he didn’t meet the requirement for speedy trial. While all this was going on, he languished in Rikers, a teenager, under the legal adult age, rotting in prison awaiting a trial for stealing a backpack. Let’s rue over that ladies and gentlemen, he sat in prison for 3 years, most of which was in solitary confinement, for stealing a backpack! If this isn’t the new definition insanity, I don’t know what is. Of course, no one took any direct responsibility, blaming the system backlog and budget shortages, he was arrested in the Bronx area of New York, notorious for its backlog of cases. There aren’t simply enough court hours and judges to process each of these cases quickly. While that may be well and true, no one has looked into why the Bronx specifically is so backlogged, in comparison to other New York boroughs. Are there more criminals in the Bronx than say Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island or (gasp) Manhattan? Of the 5 boroughs of New York City, the Bronx is the most underprivileged, underserved, the one borough that didn’t go through the gentrification that’s been going on in the other boroughs, and also as unedifying as it is to say it, the most brown and black, which means it’s policed more heavily. More police presence means more arrests, which leads to more prosecutions and backlog. The bail bond system is also punitive to poor people, it either cleans them out financially or if defendant’s family can’t raise the bail, they will have no choice but to await trial in prison. If they can raise the money, that money could have gone to hiring a defense attorney instead of bail.

Most indigent defendants must use public defenders for their representation. Most legal aid offices are woefully underfunded and overworked, some public defenders have over one hundred active cases on their desks at the same time, there is no way for any attorney to adequately prepare for hundreds of cases that are happening at once. So, when the opportunity presents, they encourage their clients to take a plea bargain deal, without even doing research to see if their defendant is guilty of the crime they are being accused of, so they ask their client to take the deal the prosecutor is offering so they can close their case and move on the next one. It’s not a matter of public defenders have poor lawyering skills or that they don’t have the best interest of their clients at heart, it’s that there is simply not enough time, money and manpower for them to prepare for the case in a way that best serves the defendant.

To operate a legal system by due process where defendants have the right to face their accusers in court is a laborious and time consuming one. It requires good legal skills, expertise and lots of time on the part of the courts and the persons involved in the legal system (judges, attorneys, investigators), all of which are on short supply, therefore our legal system is not designed for handling mass arrests and charges that are brought from those arrests and then presuming that every charge that’s been brought against a person has the opportunity to face their accuser in court, hence the plea bargaining system was introduced and often utilized, over 90% of criminal cases end in the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser crime and serving a lesser punishment. And that would be fine if it were done of the defendant’s own volition to spare the court or himself further expense of bringing a trial to court which would yield the same result. Plea bargaining is a win win for everyone involved if the circumstances are right. It’s a win for the prosecutors who get to count it as a ‘win’ or ‘conviction’ and the defendant can get a lesser sentence for a lesser crime.

However, in the cases of indigent defendants, the plea bargain has been their downfall. If they plead guilty to a lesser crime and even just get probation instead of jail time, they would then have a record, and that record will follow them for the rest of their lives (some lesser misdemeanors can be expunged after the sentence or probation has been successfully completed without committing more crimes during the process, but the cost of that is considerable) affecting their ability to get jobs, qualify for education grants, renting an apartment, everything. Certain crimes will shut defendants out of certain industries forever, such as crimes involving theft (great or small) will automatically disqualify one from any financial sector jobs. The prison population is overwhelmingly black and brown, which begs the question that are black or brown people more criminal than their white counterparts? No, this is not the case as data I cited from my previous post indicates, it’s that brown and black and poorer neighborhoods which are associated with higher crime rates are policed more rigorously while residents of leafy suburbs are left to their own devices. This is especially true in drug use among blacks and whites, white people use drugs at the same rates as white people, but black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use. The War on Drugs has recently been renamed the War on the Poor as poor people are the ones that are most affected under the mandatory drug sentences.

The logic always went that if a criminal justice system is tough on crime, even petty crime, it will deter crime, because people don’t want to get arrested and go to jail for small crimes (like stealing a backpack). This is also true in the developing and third world, they impose harsh sentences on crimes in the hopes that it will deter the masses from committing them. In many Southeast Asian countries, drug dealers and smugglers get the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences but drug use, smuggling and dealing hasn’t really decreased by much. Usually these tough drug laws affect the low rung dealers, never the kingpins, kingpins get streetrunners to do their dirty work and they wash their hands of the crime but keep all the profits and the same goes for the War on Drugs in the US. The people that are most severely impacted by mandatory drug sentencing are not the big time dealers, they are always the middlemen, the street hustlers, young lost directionless kids who are locked up a long time for petty drug crimes (petty in comparison to what their bosses do).

Analysts and critics who talk about the court backlog speak from surface and superficial level. The high number of backlogs in The Bronx is because there aren’t enough judges and prosecutors and public defendants to try the cases, but what’s not talked about is why are the police arresting so many people for such petty crimes which don’t get resolved for years? And why is Kalief Browder, a child, a 16 year old given a bail amount for stealing a backpack? He’s 16, it’s easy to establish whether he’s got a passport or not, and his family is poor to go any place so he’s not a flight risk, he lives at home with his mother, he’s in school, he has close ties to the community, i.e. his family and school friends, he’s not a known gang member or career criminal (he’s got a juvie record for operating an unauthorized vehicle – tantamount to teenage hijinks) so why was he not released on his own recognizance and if he were to miss his court dates then further charges can be added. Was it necessary to lock up a 16 year for allegedly stealing a backpack?

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was credited for cleaning up the city, he cleaned up Times Square, New York City Public Library which was an open drug market at one point, instituted street block policing which is still in effect today, which is basically when citizens see constant police presence on the streets, they are less likely to commit crimes so openly and brazenly. And yes, over time, the pimps and working girls moved out of Times Square to New Jersey. Another one of Guiliani’s legacy with the help of Police Commissioner William Bratton was what they called ‘broken window policing’ meaning the police would arrest people on seemingly petty crimes compared to the really serious crimes such as murder, rape and robbery and this was to deter from committing small crimes such as defacing public walls, breaking windows, littering etc. and the byproduct of this is also a cleaner, safer and better looking community. Of course, the now notorious stop-and-frisk was instituted as well as part of the overall effort to clean up the city. These practices were needed in the 1990s to bring down the crime wave in New York City but as crime went down and life went back to normal, it was not necessary for the police to arrest and charge every citizen (adult or child) that is misbehaving.

In Kalief Browder’s case, if a victim accused Browder of stealing his backpack, the police of course should arrest Browder, but instead of putting him through the grinder (bail hearing, set court date etc), police departments should do a quick investigation and see if he stole said backpack. What are the contents of the backpack? Did Browder possess the contents of said backpack, did any valuables from the said backpack end up in pawn shops? For a 16 year old with no car it’s fairly easy to find out if he really stole the backpack. It didn’t need to take 3 years while Browder was being beaten, punched and raped in jail to for the charges to be dropped because the victim couldn’t be located. The whole thing from beginning to end is just insane and almost unbelievable that it’s a case from the United States of America, a place where due process is the founding principle of our criminal justice system. Furthermore, since the US criminal justice system is setup in the way that it is now, perhaps it’s not good practice for police to arrest people for anything and everything. It’s not to say that police should look the other way when a crime is being a committed, but use good sound judgement and have the ability to discern what is a serious crime that deserves arrest and what should be a slap on the wrist. It’s so easy to blame the defendants, they shouldn’t have been hanging out in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. They shouldn’t have been selling loose cigarettes, they shouldn’t have ran when they were pulled over, that’s what caused their demise or predicament, not the rough police treatment or the criminal justice system. If, as a society and criminal justice system is how we respond to suspects who are being arrested, then we are no better than a third world country’s criminal justice system, the US will have no right to ‘lecture’ others about human rights and human dignity as we failed our own 16 year old child.

The #Duggar Trainwreck Continues

With the revelation and admission from Joshua Duggar that he had molested 4 of his sisters and one family babysitter, I choose to come from a fair place and let the Duggar parents tell their story. They deserved that much. Defendants gets the right to face their accuser in court and this is the court of public opinion, far more vicious and unjust than any courtroom in the United States. Megyn Kelly of Fox News scored the interview and promised to be fair and ask all the tough questions of them. It was also revealed that Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald, two of Joshua Duggar’s victims will speak out in defense of their family and how they handled the situation. The reason for the interviews were obvious, to salvage whatever is left of their tattered reputations, which is directly correlated to their income. Since the news of Joshua Duggar’s molestations broke, the Duggar family have been dismissed from many of their public appearances and their show 19 Kids and Counting…have been removed from the TV Schedule. It’s not been officially canceled by TLC yet, but TLC is coming under a lot of pressure to cancel the show and all future Duggar related endeavors all together. There were talks that Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald will get spinoff shows detailing their newly married lives as their reputations are untainted. But all that are just rumors. This Megyn Kelly interview is to test the waters for that theory to see if it’s feasible to do spinoff shows with the two newly married Duggar girls.

The interview was a PR disaster. Whoever they hired as their PR consultant, they need to ask for their money back. It not only didn’t have the desired results, which is to restore the Duggar good name. It did the opposite. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar came across as ignorant, unrepentant, intransigent on their very inflexible views about Christianity (which only a very small percentage of Americans practice their denomination) and bigoted as Michelle Duggar reaffirmed her view that transgendered females should not be able to use the women’s bathrooms because they are really men and can prey on children, totally missing the irony that she had a predator in her home. The portion where the 2 Duggar girls were interviewed went as well as it could have gone, they were the victims after all and what they say is far more credible than what their parents have to say about the situation. Many critics felt that the Duggar girls weren’t totally honest about how they felt as they were brainwashed by their parents into ‘forgiving’ their older brother. I don’t take this view, if they say they’ve forgiven him, they who’s to say differently. They are both married and Jill Duggar Dillard just had a baby in April and Jessa Duggar Seewald is expecting now, so they’ve move forward with their lives have left that chapter behind. As they no longer reside in the Duggar home and probably never will again and Joshua Duggar has already moved out of the home long ago, so for all intents and purposes, it is behind them.

All the Duggars interviewed said that the monster that is the ‘media’ has an agenda against their family as their views are often the butt of ridicule and jokes. And that the mainstream media just don’t like them and what their views represent. They are partially right but not for the reasons they think and I will offer my free services and break it down for them:

  • Starting with Michelle Duggar, who believes that a transgendered female should not use the ladies public restroom as they pose a risk to children, implying that transgendered people are sexual deviants and are harmful to children simply by being transgender, the irony aside, Michelle Duggar has probably never met a transgendered person (male or female), do not know anything about the psychological toll of being a closeted transgender person and really has no clue about the LGBT community at large besides her own prejudices. This is where the hypocrisy comes in, Mr. & Mrs. Duggar (they were confused about the ‘hypocrisy’ label).
  • Their general disdain for homosexuals, adulterers, people who engage in premarital sex, anyone who doesn’t observe their brand of puritanical Christianity, the problem isn’t their beliefs, it’s the open condemnation of people who don’t conform and keeping their children away from people who live differently than they, thus creating a warped reality for their children.
  • The public or the ‘evil’ mainstream media is unforgiving of your family or do not take your words at face value is not because that your son Joshua molested his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teen, it’s because you routinely rail against people who do not share the same strict puritanical Christian beliefs as you. Your children, well Jessa Duggar Seewald at least likes to post ‘angry’ Facebook posts about how ‘we’ (anyone who’s do not observe their brand of Christianity) as sinners and here is a charming example of one of her Facebook Posts, it’s been abridged but the message is the sameOne of the most quoted verses from the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not!” Whenever someone speaks out against something that God calls sin, “Don’t judge!” can be heard coming from a thousand lips. People don’t like to have other people disapprove of the way they’re choosing to live their life.“I will speak to you a hard truth. I do not write this because I think that it will bring me popularity. It won’t. But it is Truth from the Word of God: the Bible.
    To not tell people this is to hide the truth from them. To keep silent is to not care for their eternal destiny! I care about you, and this is why I am speaking out!

    In this world, people have seared their consciences. The standard of what is “ok” or “permissible” in our society today, hardly reflects God’s standard.
    People are content to live on in lying, cursing, pride, anger, bitterness, disrespecting of parents, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins– and if anyone tries to confront them, their attitude and response is, “You live your life, I’ll live mine. Don’t you tell me what to do! Only God can judge me!”
    They don’t even realize what they’re saying. God’s judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly! It should scare you! Man’s “judgement” is a 1000x lighter… usually just a voicing of disapproval. But when unbelieving, sinful men die and stand before God, He justly condemns them to hell.” 

What a charming little missive, and what does she know of ‘God’s standard’, this all out judgmental condemnation from a 21 year old leaves much to be desired. This post reads like a modern version of ‘Sinners in the Angry Hands of God’ by colonial theologian Jonathan Edwards, except this is written by a 21 year old hopped up on Bible steroids. People don’t like to be preached to, especially not by a 21 year old who’s never attended traditional school, never been to college, hasn’t lived a day of life on her own until she got married and has very little knowledge on how the rest of us live, how the rest of us must live, she is a victim of her brother’s molestation but according to her interview with Megyn Kelly, it was ‘dealt with’, they’ve all ‘moved on’ and all is and was ‘forgiven’ until the evil media drudged it all up again. Her husband Ben Seewald, younger than Jessa by 2 years, went one step further to criticize Catholicism though he knows nothing about the Catholic religion. He criticized the catholic dogma of salvation by faith and good works, he said that the ‘good works’ part was unsubstantiated by the Bible. In case he’s unfamiliar, the Catholic religion places great importance on charity, giving back, serving the Lord as part of a person’s spiritual salvation on top of Faith. Those two things go hand in hand, one cannot exist without the other. Someone should tell these kids that they shouldn’t speak about subjects they are not familiar with, it makes you look ignorant.

  • All the Duggars need to dig their noses out of their Bibles and join the real world since they choose to be on reality TV and document their lives and have been financially rewarded for doing so. They cannot have it both ways, choosing to be willfully ignorant of the real (big bad evil) world and getting upset when that reality bites them in the ass. The Bible teaches many life lessons if applied properly to today’s world is a great source of guidance, wisdom and comfort. This is not to diss the messages of the Bible, far from it. The Bible holds many enlightenments, guidance and inspirations to guide us through any time period, Biblical times and modern times, but unfortunately, the Duggar family failed to adapt the teachings of the Bible to modern times. They chose the puritanical interpretation of the Bible, which is fine but then don’t get upset when you dirty little secrets comes out of the closet.
  • Jim Bob’s claim that what happened with Joshua Duggar and the 5 girls he molested is a common occurrence in families, affirmed by the person he spoke with in his church. Um NO ~ Mr.  Duggar, it is absolutely not a normal occurrence to have sons molest their sisters and family friends. This behavior is not normal nor is it acceptable ever. And your ‘safeguard’ solution which is to separate the boys and girls living quarters, locking the girl’s bedroom doors at night, banning the playing of hide and seek and banning older boys from babysitting their little sisters, what you have done is effectively branded all of your sons as child molesters because you are treating your other sons like child molesters when they’ve done nothing to indicate that. You have also made your daughters unnecessarily fearful of their brothers, locking their bedroom door at night so their brothers won’t come in and feel them up, you are already assuming that they will. You have inadvertently made Joshua Duggar’s behavior a ‘normal’ behavior in developing boys, again, no it’s not normal. The interest in girls is normal, but because of their lack of contact with girls their own age that are not their sisters, cousins and other relatives (as girls have equal interest in boys during puberty) and lack of proper sex education at home and what happens to you and your body during puberty, you have restricted his sexual curiosity to his sisters. I am not excusing Joshua Duggar’s behavior but because of your excessive strictness, even restricting what websites your children can visit, he and his brothers have no where to get their questions answered about puberty and their blossoming interest in girls because in your naive ignorant worldview, that’s for marriage only. If they have sexual thoughts, you tell them to pray it away. Jim Bob Duggar, you were 14 once, why don’t try to think back while you were 14 and what you thought about all day long, it’s not pretty but do try and then have some empathy for your sons.
  • Most people can understand why Mr. and Mrs. Duggar chose to handle the initial confessions of Joshua Duggar molesting his sisters ‘in-house’, as when you alert the police and local authorities, social services will have no choice but to investigate the claims and it could be traumatic for the whole family and in severe cases may result in the family being broken apart. Every mother and father understands that and no one wants that unless the abuse is violent serious and ongoing. And also, no one one wants to tarnish the name of their children before they’ve even had a chance to grow up and reform themselves. All of this is understandable, but when you say that you’ve spoken to your church leaders and this ‘happens a lot in families’ thereby excusing yourself as to why you didn’t alert authorities immediately is insulting the intelligence of your fans and public. Especially when these incidents happened on multiple occasions, even after his first stern talking to. You felt so worried that you sent him away to reform himself. Again, if this was a one time thing and you didn’t alert the authorities and it never happened again, then that’s a different story, but that’s not what happened here.
  • When you were asked why you signed up for a reality show when you had skeletons in your closet, you maintained that you had nothing to hide as the situation had been ‘dealt with’ and everyone involved have moved on and Joshua himself is now married and a father to 3 children with a fourth on the way and so none of this matters anymore. I am not sure if you are being deliberately naive or willfully blind to how the real world works and how serious Joshua’s actions were. You Duggars may think that we are all ungodly, impure and immoral  but there are certain personal transgressions that are unforgivable in the fame game, which you’ve signed up your family to be part of and child molestation is one of them. There are few crimes more unforgivable than that as child molestation is usually a compulsion which the perpetrator cannot control and most child molesters are repeat offenders and more importantly, abusing of a minor is considered a heinous act even if the perpetrator is a minor himself, it doesn’t make it ok. So, Jim Bob Duggar repeating over and over again that Joshua was just 14 at the time and was a minor, so it’s not that bad.
  • Lastly, you built your reputation being a Christian family which abides by a puritanical set of rules that you’ve invented but claims it was from the Bible. You set very strict boundaries between boys and girls and they are discouraged from any physical contact except hand holding until marriage, even no kissing is allowed. And all of that is fine and of your own free will to do as you please in a free country, but you staked your reputation on wholesome purity and while raising a large family. You take your church and the Bible very seriously and you try your best to live by the Word of God as you interpret them, so if you thought you can explain away your son Joshua Duggar’s acts of molestation as teenaged curiosity gone awry, you are in for a rude awakening. There is no ‘agenda’ against your family. You may be the butt of jokes for your beliefs. oversized family and funny hairdos (Michelle Duggar) but there’s no agenda out to ‘get’ your family. You did it all to yourselves when you put your family on TV knowing there was a skeleton this big in your closet.

Megyn Kelly promising to be ‘fair and balanced’ asking the ‘tough’ questions as to how this could have happened under their own roof, was a major disappointment. She failed abysmally. She was not tough on the Duggars as she failed to address the most obvious question, their parenting skills and their ability to parent 19 children effectively and giving each child what they need. What happened here with Joshua Duggar is a lapse in parental supervision and basic parenting. From what we know, they’ve no outside help in terms of nannies or tutors so Jim Bob and Michelle created a ‘buddy system’ where the older kids takes care of the younger kids while they go off procreating more little Duggars. Their parenting ability and the capability to effectively parent this many children was never called into question.

The Duggar gravy train is over, it should be over. If TLC knows what’s good for them, they will cancel the show as soon as possible and not have any programming to do with the Duggars for the near future.l

To Root Out Racism in Law Enforcement, a Complete Overhaul of Criminal Justice System is Necessary

To Root Out Racism in Law Enforcement, a Complete Overhaul of Criminal Justice System is Necessary

For the longest time I, like much of the public, held the view that most law enforcement officers were good and decent that there is just a few rotten apples as the Law of Averages dictate. But after reading Redditt Hudson’s article for Vox.com and the statistics of policing in poor neighborhoods and crime, my view has shifted. There are some good police officers and there are others who joined the police force because they have a combination of God complex and inferiority complex and as part of their day jobs, they get to beat, harass, intimidate and at times even murder suspects (clearly the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ wasn’t taught in the academy) simply by the power of the badge they hold. You have a myriad of television shows such as ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Blue Bloods’ which depict more of the heroism of police work and gloss over the ugly side of it. ‘Blue Bloods’ in particular, when the lead character, Danny Reagan, a detective who has a penchant for roughing up suspects and when it goes too far, it’s always somehow justified. His female partner backs him up though she is very reluctant to at times, his boss backs him up and the police commissioner (which happens to be his father) backs him up, after multiple long drawn out sighs and emotional turmoil. They all start out with ‘following the book’ but in the end, the book is tossed out for some other mitigating circumstance. It depicts the difficulty of policing a population who don’t want to be policed. No one wants to be ‘policed’, people want to go about their days unharassed and if the police are needed they will be called.

The situation has become a vicious cycle of rioting inner cities that desperately need police protection but the police are too scared to restore order and then the finger pointing begins.

Police: The neighborhoods are too dangerous, full of looters and rioters and if we use any kind of force we get in trouble for it. We can’t win.

Residents: But you are the police, it’s your job to protect us, can’t you distinguish between necessary force and excessive force?

So, poor and often dangerous neighborhoods are faced with two choices, police abuse or police neglect, what of the middle ground? Effective policing? Police officers who know how to discern real danger versus trigger happy reaction? How about approaching suspects with some modicum of dignity and respect instead of throwing people to the ground and injuring them as so vividly described by Redditt Hudson:

As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an “officer in need of aid.” I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He’d been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.

The officer I was with asked him if he’d seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family’s home and he was home alone.

My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.

I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, “That son of a bitch just assaulted me.” The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to “get the fuck up, I’m taking you in for assaulting an officer.” The young man looked up at the officer and said, “Man … you see I can’t go.” His crutches lay not far from him.

The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, “You see I can’t go!” The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man’s ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.

You can bet your last dollar if the ‘suspect’ was white, the officers would have said ‘thank you sir for your time’ and went on their way. I am sure this poor young man on crutches never got an apology from the offending officers let alone any monetary compensation. According to Hudson, incidents like these happen all day long everyday in poor black and brown neighborhoods. It is truly heartbreaking, and yet the police departments of Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and others do not see the correlation between their abusive actions and the mistrust the population has towards them. And then when all else fails, they trot out their go to PR line: we do the best we can in dangerous conditions, we get no appreciation or acknowledgement. Again, totally missing the irony that sentiment.

There is another side to police abuse of power and excessive use of force and that is the city prosecutors and district attorneys. All prosecutors, in order to get re-elected and stay in their jobs, have to appear that they are ‘tough on crime’. During any local election season, you turn on the TV, anyone running for city prosecutor or district attorney, their number one slogan is some version or variation of being ‘tough on crime’. Having mercy and clemency to defendants that deserve it won’t win them elections. Everyone wants safe streets and the only way to get them is to be tough on crime. One way to measure if someone is tough on crime is their conviction rate or conviction percentage, the higher the better. Some prosecutors can boast of 100% conviction rate or 98% conviction rate, former prosecutor and now the resident shrill of HLN (the sister network of CNN) Nancy Grace says she’s never lost a case and her conviction rate was 100%, and that may true technically but perhaps what the public is not aware of is that less than 10% of cases brought by the DA ever makes it to trial. Most of the cases are resolved by plea bargaining or nolo contendere pleas (No Contest – same as guilty plea) and those count as a conviction as well, even though the prosecutor never worked on the case besides filing the charges and has one of his or her deputy DA work out a plea deal with the defendant’s attorney, that goes towards the conviction percentage of the prosecutor. So, when a prosecutor tells you that they have a 95% conviction rate, keep that in mind. The fact is they rarely go to trial and even if they do, sometimes mid-trial, the case gets plead out. It’s almost impossible to win 100% of all of your trials, especially if the defense attorney demands a trial for his client, it means he or she is confident of the outcome to be in his or her client’s favor and by a good percentage. So, just based on mathematical probability, I’d be very wary of any prosecutor boasting a conviction rate of 90% or above, all it means is that he or she rarely goes to trial or sees the inside of a courtroom.

Law professor Bill Quigley of Loyola University, New Orleans has compiled a list called ’40 Reasons Why Our Jails are Full of Poor and Black People’, First item on the list, he states that it’s not about crime, as crime has risen and fallen independently of incarceration rate. Meaning when crime tides are high, there is still a high number of incarcerations, when crime tide is low, there is still the same number of incarcerations. Next, study after study and survey after survey has shown that black and brown people are discriminated against by the cops. NEWSFLASH: The police do carry out racial profiling (contrary to their claims of the opposite). Black and brown people are just natural suspects to the police, and they are stopped more and when they are stopped their persons, vehicles and personal property are searched more despite there being an amendment banning illegal searches and seizure. Even things as innocuous as traffic tickets target the black, brown and the poor. Police issue more tickets to black and brown people than white people with the same infraction. If they can’t pay the fine, the fees double at times quadruple and if they still don’t pay it, a warrant is issued for their arrest and so when they get pulled over the next time they’ll be arrested for not paying a traffic ticket, they’d be then taken to jail and if you they can’t make bail they’d stay in jail, at which time the vehicle is probably confiscated, the same vehicle that gets them to and back from work or it’s the only vehicle his family owns. Since the budgets of municipalities and cities have beens squeezed due to the recession, issuing traffic tickets is big business for cash strapped cities and again, the poorest of the citizens are most adversely affected.

By all analysis, simply by being black, you are offered a raw deal, starting with primary school. More black kids are more likely to ‘get in trouble’ for the same infractions of white kids. More black kids are in detention for the same things that white kids get away with. To many school teachers, inadvertently, view black kids as troublemakers though all kids exhibit similar behaviors. It’s been criticized as the school to prison model. This statistic is most sobering:

“Though Black people make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population, Black children are 28 percent of juvenile arrests. DOJ reports that there are over 57,000 people under the age of 21 in juvenile detention. The U.S. even has 10,000 children in adult jails and prisons any given day.”

According to Bill Quigley, the whole criminal justice system is targeted towards poor and black people, people with the least resources to fight for themselves. And by resources, I mean monetary and knowledge of how to handle yourself when you are arrested or dealing with police. Middle class people teach their kids to never speak to police without the presence of an attorney or parents, ever. No if ands or buts. And by law, as soon as you request an attorney or your parents (for minors) be present, the police must stop questioning you and leave the room. If they continue to question and harass you, anything you say after that is inadmissible. But many poor folks don’t know this. Police often use the line ‘just tell me what happened and then you can go home’, or ‘just tell me what happened and I can help you’. Or just ‘admit it’, and I can help you, which by the way isn’t illegal for police to do. They are well within their rights to do this, they are carrying out their duty of solving crime, but as citizens we do not have to answer them without the presence of an attorney or we don’t have to answer them ever if we don’t feel like it, it’s the state’s burden to prove a crime occured, not the other way around. We as suspects or persons of interest do not have to answer anything we are not comfortable answering in the presence of police.

The second largest crime wave is the War on Drugs, a misguided policy that President Nixon put in place to counter the high use of crack cocaine and other street drugs at the time. Black people have been targeted for the war on drugs, there more black people rotting in prisons today on non-violent drug crimes due to the policies of war on drugs. It has unfairly targeted black and brown people. Statistics has shown that drug use among white people and black people are the same but only black people are arrested for drug offenses more than white people. And with a drug conviction, it’s hard for people to find gainful employment so many feel that they’ve no choice but to revert to a life of crime. It’s a vicious cycle of arrest, imprisonment and reoffend. How can a race be only 12% of the total population but account for the majority of the prison population? If the system isn’t racist by design then the policies behind the criminal justice system and public policy are fatally flawed and blatantly racist. And we are not even talking about black people being shot dead on the street by cops, these are people that were apprehended alive and sent to prison for crimes that do not fit the punishment.

There needs to be an immediate overhaul of the criminal justice system. The courts need to release all current prisoners who are in prison for nonviolent drug crimes or any non-violent crimes and after their release, their criminal records are to be suppressed for 2 years to give them a chance to rebuild their lives free from their criminal records, if they reoffend within this 2 year time frame their records will then be unsealed and they would have to account for their crimes. If they keep their record clean for 2 years and maintained gainful employment, their records should remain sealed for 5 years and after that, the defendant can request to have it expunged. This is not being ‘soft’ on crime or criminals, it’s that the criminal justice system has created a population of unemployable people from nonviolent crimes and those unemployable people are creating a drain on society and the vicious criminal cycle needs to be stopped. Also, people in jail or has warrants out for their arrests due to unpaid tickets, those records should be expunged as well and tickets to be repaid based on economic ability. To have an arrest warrant out for someone for unpaid tickets is a public policy bordering on lunacy.

The arrest, imprison, release and reoffend is big business now. It’s big business for county workers, federal workers. Private prisons are built to house these people, even private prisons have a lobbying group now in Washington DC! It’s gotten way out of hand, prison used to be the last resort for a person to rehabilitate themselves, now it’s a holding cell for the poorest citizens.

Forty. Putting all these problems together and you can see why the Center for American Progress rightly concludes “Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty.”

If this isn’t immoral, heartless, cruel and insane, I don’t know what is.

Finally, a perfect art installation of what is wrong with our society today.

US PRISONS

Correlation of Lack of Good Jobs and Crime

Two different reports I read this week, though unrelated on the outset, they are in fact very much correlated. The Economist Magazine did an in depth report called ‘Men Adrift: Badly educated men in rich countries have not adapted well to trade, technology or feminism’ and ‘I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing’, written by a former St. Louis Police Department Officer Redditt Hudson for Vox.com. Hudson certainly puts a new perspective on the supposed heroics of police officers and the work they do. Without body cameras to hold their daily interactions with the public accountable and given the deep culture of covering for each other in police departments, there is almost no way to punish police officers for abusing the rights of the citizens they are charged to protect.

Globalization of the world’s economies begun when China opened its borders for trading in the 1980s. After the death Chairman Mao Tse Tong in 1976, his successor Deng Xiao Ping decided that China needed to join the 20th century. It had spent the end of 19th century managing the decline of the Qing Dynasty and fighting the Opium Wars with the British, spent the first half of the 20th century fighting Japanese invasion and illegal occupation, followed by World War II and in 1950 a civil war broke out between the Nationalists and the Communists, which the Communist won and overran the whole country and then shutting its borders to any and all outsiders for the next 30 years. For most of its history, China was ahead of its contemporaries in the West in technology (paper and gunpowder were invented in China 1000 years before any Western civilization even thought of it), learning, literacy, medical advancement and maritime travels. All of the things that are associated with Western advancement was first thought of, created, discovered and invented in China. This is important to point out because most people see China today as a ‘developing’ nation, which was agrarian, just coming to grips with modernity and that’s not an accurate description. The Chinese foundation in society for expansion and development have been in place for centuries, but not for events of history getting in the way, it would not be in the behind position it’s in now. So, when Mao’s successor Chairman Deng decided to open China’s markets to the world, people then predicted and predicted correctly that China could overtake the United States or Europe as the largest and most advanced economy in the world sooner rather than later. China is untapped human potential of one billion strong, they have abundant labor force who are hardworking, will work for cheap, who are happy to work for cheap and will gladly welcome any foreign investment in its cities without too much red tape. It’s true that during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, there was a whole generation of people were banned from getting an education depending on where your name fell on Mao’s encyclopedia of blacklists, but it’s safe to say that in the subsequent generation, they’ve recovered from that. One of the hallmarks of Chinese civilization is the emphasis on learning and bettering oneself, handed down by the great teacher and philosopher Confucius millennia ago, so even Mao’s rowdy band of children soldiers can’t destroy that spirit for learning and advancement for too long.

So, it is only sooner or later where lucrative factory jobs would go overseas to Asia (especially China) and South America, where employers don’t have to deal with unions, strikes, shutdowns and relentless demands in wage and benefit increases. This isn’t a morally right or wrong thing, it’s business. People get into business to make profit and large corporations will go anywhere that makes conducting business easier. Post-war America was basically only country standing that wasn’t blown to bits, whose technology and industrial infrastructure was still in good shape, naturally, America became the biggest manufacturer in the world simply by default. The USSR and most of Eastern Europe took itself out of contention by throwing down the Iron Curtain and Germany, France and Great Britain were rebuilding their countries after World War II. Right now, literally the whole world is competing for fewer good factory jobs. You add to that with the use of robots, computerization and machination of production, the same factory could employ less people. In addition, the factory workers that remain must be computer literate as well, a requirement that wasn’t there previously. The days where you got a union card out straight out of high school, got a job at the local factory, do your 25 or 30 years and retire with a gold watch and pension no longer exists as those factories no longer exist. And there is nothing comparable in salary and similar skill set that replaced those factory jobs. It is against this backdrop that The Economist did its reporting.

The men featured in this essay are men in the deep South of America and Northern England, a former industrial region until all the factories shuttered and are now entrenched in hopeless poverty. Though the interviews were conducted in 2015, the views expressed by the men could easily be mistaken for a previous era. In Tallulah, La, though plagued by joblessness and hopelessness, they all expressed their desire to be a traditional man, which is to provide, one man even went so far to say that if his ‘woman’ has to work even when he has a full time job, then he’s failed her and his family. These views are more congruent with 1950’s than 2015. In Tallulah, La, there was a lumber mill there able bodied men with a strong pair of hands but lacking academically could work, but that mill closed. Men could also work at nearby farm jobs, but with the machination of farming, work that formerly required 100 men now only require 10. But it doesn’t mean that there are no jobs available in Tallulah, there are plenty of service based jobs, such as customer service, teaching, nursing etc., which require a whole different skill set, skill set that is more suited to women. Many recruiters in the area wanted to give opportunities to out of work men, but simply put, they lacked the most basic education, numeracy, literacy and people skills to hold down a service based job. Women, more so than men, are able to be friendly to customers even if they don’t feel like it. Even if given the opportunity, most men will not go for jobs such as nursing, food service or general customer service, they view it as emasculating and the work too emotionally tedious, which is fair coming from the viewpoint of a man, but the world is changing and one must change with it.

Despite the lack of jobs, it hasn’t stopped these men from procreating, many of the men featured have multiple children with different women, but the stories all sound familiar, they were kicked out by their children’s mothers for being non-productive, not contributing financially or to child care, they basically sat around watched TV all day, some were abusing drugs or drinking to excess. It’s not an arrangement that is preferred by women but most feel they have no choice, they simply cannot have an adult layabout around the house not contributing to the finances or the upkeep of the home. The reporter concluded simply that poorly educated men in rich countries simply failed to adapt. They failed to adapt in rethinking the traditional model of where the man provides and the woman takes care of the home, they failed to update their education to include more computer based learning (though this could be the lack of services available in poor school districts) and many of the men featured were high school dropouts so their literacy and numeracy skills are limited at best. Many cite the reasons for dropping out due to getting in with the wrong crowd, lack of proper parental guidance at home, and general lack of interest in school. Many regret this decision later but there’s not much that can be done about it then.

The article also cites feminism as another reason badly educated men in rich countries have been left behind. The women have changed, due to the feminist movement. The undertone is that women are no longer so tolerant and so patient with errant men, because they don’t need to be. Job opportunities have opened up for women, though women still make less than men but it’s enough to make a living with the proper education and training. This also gave rise to broken homes because women are less reluctant to kick out a non-contributing partner or if he’s not contributing the right way. As a woman and a feminist, I personally argue that this is a survival tactic. With the current economic climate of today, and if women still depended on men to bring in bulk of the family income. I am sorry to say we’d all starve. It’s not that women treat men today as disposable, it’s that women treat the men who aren’t contributing enough as optional, no one likes to deprive their children of their father or want to head a household on her own, but sometimes there’s just no choice. There is also a more Darwinian argument which argues that men of today do not need to be as responsible as their grandfathers were because society has placed less pressure on them to provide as women now earn good incomes. And that the whole caveman thing where men provided to protect their brood to ensure his genetic survival has changed because women aren’t so dependent men for their economic survival, well if this is true, I really must agree that men is the weaker sex after all. What about self accountability, self-betterment just yourself, regardless if you have a wife or children to support? We like to make comparisons to cavemen, but we aren’t cavemen, we are thinking sentient beings who have free will and can make choices for ourselves. By the same argument, women could have just stayed our pliant little-selves and behave like damsels in distresses so that the men a) won’t feel bad about themselves and b) there would still be lots of jobs for them…oh wait, we’d all starve. What is Darwinian about this whole scenario is that people who fail to adapt either in thinking or behavior, they will get left behind.

Idle men lead to problems. It’s no accident in high poverty areas, there is also high crime. When you have a lot of grown men with nothing to do all day, you can expect trouble, which leads to the second article by a former St. Louis police officer, Redditt Hudson, he states that in any given police department large or small 15% of the police will do the right thing no matter what, 15% will abuse their power no matter what and the rest fall in the middle, depending on who they are hanging out with and Hudson states that the power abusing cops have an ‘outsize’ influence on others in their department, which explains how even some black cops behave badly. It’s known that police officers are almost like a band of brothers, they look out for each other and have each other’s backs and sometimes that includes covering up criminal behavior of their fellow police officers. If one speaks up, he would be blackballed and his career may be stalled depending on how deep the rot goes, and given the ‘brotherhood’ culture, no matter what, it’s drilled into their heads that they must look out for each other. Hudson gives numerous examples where white police officers have abused their powers for nothing at all, beating down doors of black neighborhoods looking for a suspect, dragging people out on their knees, all because he said there was no home but him.

Had Walter Scott’s murder not been recorded by a cell phone camera, Michael Slager could have gotten away with murder, literally. He even went so far to plant his taser by Walter Scott’s body to corroborate his account that the suspect went for his taser and so he had no choice but to shoot him. It puts into the whole new light of the supposed ‘heroics’ of cops and the media narrative they normally put out there, which is the majority of the cops are good but there a few rotten apples and it’s only the rotten apples that make the news. In areas where there is ‘high crime’ and high poverty, the police usually patrol those areas more closely than an affluent suburb. For example, in the case of drug arrests, the majority of drug arrests are Latinos and blacks but they do not do more drugs than their white counterparts. Drug use across among blacks, Latinos and caucasians are about the same, but it’s the Latinos and blacks that get arrested for drug charges more because they are policed more. So, it’s not the case that white people are better citizens than their counterparts it’s all down to policing. If cities want to clean up the blight that is affecting poor neighborhoods, policing the hell out of them is not the way to go. The reason for poverty is lack of jobs, lack of good education and lack of good vocational training. The people of Ferguson and Baltimore certainly did not choose to live in poverty, in neighborhoods full of blight, the circumstances made them so and now there is no escape. Anyone with a drug conviction is basically condemned to a life joblessness or underemployment. Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of color, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious affiliation, but they can legally discriminate against convicted criminals and many do. Many of the people in underserved populations are talked into accepting a plea bargain for probation or community service, and this is self-serving to local governments because they want to save costs but what public defenders fail to explain clearly to these defendants is that accepting a plea for a lesser charge is the same as having a conviction on your record. Having a conviction on your record (especially drug convictions) will immediately limit your chances at anything, from public assistance (including public grants for education), decent employment, employment in certain sectors etc. The repercussions are huge and can be avoided.

Affluent and middle class folks know this and that is why you see parents spending thousands of dollars to make sure their kid doesn’t have a DUI on his or her record. It may seem easier and more cost effective to just accept a plea and enroll in alcohol education class and do community service, but the record will be there for perpetuity, especially for drug offenses. Knowledge and resources that are available to affluent folks are not available to poor people with bad education and poor access (attorneys, children’s advocates etc) they often get stuck in this repeat cycle of arrest, incarceration and reoffend. Laws have to change regarding a person’s criminal past, someone with a minor drug conviction at age 18 shouldn’t mark them for life. The criminal justice system needs to be reformed in the manner which the performance of the prosecutor isn’t dependent on his or her rate of conviction (a plea bargain counts as a conviction) so they just go after everyone for any crime so they can boast that they have good conviction rates. Many of these kids, their lives are over before it even begun due to a minor drug charge in their youth and that’s the real miscarriage of justice.

The Re-Awakening: Still Smells Like Teen Spirit

At the recommendation of a good friend, I watched Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. She was a late discoverer of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and their seminal album ‘Nevermind’ and by late, I mean now, in year 2015, after the release of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. Like all Gen Xers, the album ‘Nevermind’ and especially the song ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ spoke to me, put into words how I felt about my surroundings, my family, my elders, my education (or lack of) and how it was all a load of crap. Teenage angst expressed at its finest. In 1991, I was only just a preteen but due to certain situations thrust upon me, I felt a lot older than my years. It was considered inappropriate material for my age, but I was able to get my hands on a copy of the album and like millions of people then, it’s was like being slapped awake by the truth and that we are all being lied to by the Establishment.

Of course adding to the allure of the album and the music was the troubled and turbulent private life of Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain. He was grungy looking, which by now had become a fashion trend. He was very handsome with delicate features and would be more noticeable if he would only shower, shave and comb his hair once a fortnight. His wife Courtney Love described him as being better looking than Brad Pitt but not knowing it. He came from a broken home and was ’embarrassed’ about his parent’s divorce and since the age of 9, he was basically off the rails. By the time he became famous, he was a habitual drug user and not particularly repentant about it. He suffered from anxiety, depression and severe stomach pains that went undiagnosed his whole life, which he used heroin to dull the pain and of course to numb his psychic pain. And like so many others before him, at the age 27, it all came crashing down and he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on April 8, 1994, he left behind his wife Courtney Love and his 20 month old daughter Frances Cobain. It was all over for him. Like those before him, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, all perished at the age of 27. Some believe the age of 27 is a curse, but it really isn’t, the human body and psyche can only take so much abuse and for these individuals (and Amy Winehouse after them), their bodies and minds simply gave out at age 27. There’s no curse or cosmic conspiracy, it’s biology.

Kurt Cobain is forever transfixed in our collective imaginations as a troubled 27 year old who never beat his demons, never found his happy ending to his troubled life. To his fans he will forever be the wild-eyed man-child with a blond mane, who looks as if he rarely showered or shaved. During the height of grunge fashion, personal hygiene became optional because Kurt Cobain made it cool to look unkempt. Almost every minute of his short tragic life has been discussed, analyzed and dissected ad nauseum, many attribute his sadness and final downfall on his family and his wife, very few people actually held the man himself accountable for his own feelings, behaviors and getting treatment for his medical conditions (mental and physical) – he certainly could afford it. And because his life ended so early, in a way he never grew up and so there was no need to hold him accountable.

As a fan of Kurt Cobain and his music, and as a fan who did ‘grow up’, I will attempt to hold him accountable for his own actions. I will pretend that he did get to live to be middle age and actually grew up (mentally). In the Montage of Heck, by all accounts, his troubles stemmed from the divorce of his parents, it was a particularly nasty divorce and it forever shattered the image of the ‘perfect’ family he had in his head. His father made the mistake of telling his son that he won’t ever remarry but eventually did when he met his stepmother. She had 2 children from a previous marriage and had one more child with Kurt Cobain’s father. Due to his difficult temperament, his mother gave up custody of him. His father’s new wife attempted to be a good maternal guidance to him but because he was bullying the other kids, she had no choice but to ask him to leave. For awhile, he was bounced around between relatives and basically stayed with whomever would take him in. It was at this time he begun to suffer from depression and anxiety and had already attempted suicide by laying down by the train tracks. No one much noticed or cared about the reasons behind his bad behavior and wrote him off as a lost cause. His performance at school was poor but showed a great gift in art and writing. On top of his mental illnesses, he had undiagnosed stomach pains that plagued him his whole life. He dulled his pain (physical and mental) with drugs and alcohol. The drugs went from pot smoking to ultimately heroin. He became a hopeless addict and he knew it. In fact he ‘chose’ to become an addict. After the success of ‘Nevermind’, he basically shut himself in his house and did drugs, during which time he had a baby too.

On what planet did he and Courtney Love think that being junkies and having a child is a good combination, I shall never know. They were very wealthy by then and could do as they pleased. When they did a joint interview with Vanity Fair Magazine, admitting to their junkie lifestyle and Courtney Love admitted to using heroin while pregnant which then raised an alarm with social services, she herself received a lot of criticism from fans and public alike. Nirvana fans in particular never liked her, felt her to be an opportunistic groupie who ensnared a vulnerable man, so this was a chance to jump on the Courtney Love hate wagon: she shot up heroin while pregnant, so she’s a horrible person. She clarified in this film that she did use heroin while pregnant with Frances but just once and Frances was born healthy, and to be fair to them, regardless of their personal state, their daughter Frances was always a healthy cherubic child who was not neglected, as evidenced by video footage and photos. I will not attempt to analyze their relationship, as marriage between 2 people is very complicated, what is clear is that the marriage was mutually reciprocated, it was not a case of Courtney Love ensnaring a vulnerable man who was powerless to resist her, he was a full participating partner in the marriage. Kurt Cobain himself was very ‘upset’ with all the criticisms hurled at his wife, with people saying ‘mean’ things about her. Well dear, you can’t go on the record for a national publication admitting that a) you are junkies and proud of it, b) your wife admitting to using heroin while pregnant and then complain that people have an opinion about that. Do what you will with yourself but harming an unborn child is unacceptable even in very liberal musician’s circles. This shows extreme lack of maturity on his part, kind of like a stroppy teenager who didn’t get his way. However, the public’s idolization of him was such that he could do no wrong and it was all his wife’s fault.

For a boy so traumatized like Kurt Cobain was, it’s hard to find a light at the end of the tunnel and had he just lived the life of a boy with no high school diploma and worked dead end jobs, his end by self-infliction isn’t entirely unlikely. His mother Wendy wisely observed that he won’t cope well with sudden fame, and he didn’t. He didn’t mind enjoying the spoils of fame, namely the riches that came with it, but again, he failed to man up and realize that one cannot happen without the other. He had resources at his disposal and could have gotten help with his various issues, and he knew he needed help, but he chose to be a junkie. It was a deliberate choice on his part. All the money and energy he spent on doing drugs could have been better spent by helping himself, finding a diagnosis for his stomach ailment, getting therapy or rehab for his substance dependency, living an all around better life. He had a chance to reform himself and he chose not to.

All the stroppy teenagers who listened to ‘Nevermind’ know eventually we have to grow up, we can’t be irresponsible, sullen and stroppy forever, and ‘Nevermind’ captured brilliantly the sentiments of a kid coming of age in the 1990s, I listened to it with devotion and fervor, it was the Gospel truth, held in regard with the absolute certainty that it spoke my truth, the Truth. And it did, for that moment in my life. Every time I hear any Nirvana song come on the radio now, I have happy memories and still know the melodies and the words. But eventually and very reluctantly, I put on my big girl pants, grew up and dealt with this pesky thing called ‘life’. It wasn’t fun all the time, but it wasn’t so bad either. With age and maturity, what seemed unsurmountable at 15 or 16 becomes a minor inconvenience at age 25. Of course the biggest tragedy of his suicide is depriving his little girl Frances Cobain a father. For all his troubles, even in an altered state, with his limitations, he adored his little girl and loved being a father. It was his dream to be a father but he chose to end it all, thinking he was no good for his daughter in his present state. How wrong he was, as the old adage goes, ‘a bad father is better than no father’. And he wasn’t even a bad father, he was just ill and if he cleaned up and got himself sorted, he could have been a great father. But he never got to know that and that’s the real tragedy.