8 Ball Aitken – Refugee

There are way too many for rent and for sale signs out here in the America we know and see every day. Something’s happening in this land, and there’s way too much suffering to go around.

There are too many storefronts and warehouses and factories abandoned in too many towns, even in places you would not expect. Outsourcing and unemployment is taking its toll on America. It is not healthy for a democracy. It’s even harder on the less fortunate in our society.

People just like us are losing their homes, and they have no place to go. No work, no hope. Too many people are only a paycheck or two away from crisis. Too many no longer have paychecks, and have been forced to scramble in the last couple of years to make ends meet, often without a safety net.

I don’t know what it will take to set the ship of America back on course. To get us back to work. To get America manufacturing again. To allow the American Dream to be revived from its doldrums. Or we will, once again, all be refugees in search of better lives.

8 Ball Aitken comes from Australia with a National Resonator guitar on his knee. “Refugee” comes from his 2004 CD Behind The 8 Ball. It rings true worldwide, no matter who you are or where you are.

The Shame of the American Penal System

I recently read an article in The Economist about America’s out-of-control prison system, which locks up more of our own citizens than any other nation on earth, including Russia and China. It has given me a lot to think about. I’d like to share the article and some of my thoughts below.

Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country. Between 2.3 million and 2.4 million Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. Overcrowding is the norm. Federal prisons house 60% more inmates than they were designed for. State lock-ups are only slightly less stuffed.

And some of the reasons why:

The system has three big flaws, say criminologists. First, it puts too many people away for too long. Second, it criminalises acts that need not be criminalised. Third, it is unpredictable. Many laws, especially federal ones, are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them.

In 1970 the proportion of Americans behind bars was below one in 400, compared with today’s one in 100. Since then, the voters, alarmed at a surge in violent crime, have demanded fiercer sentences. Politicians have obliged. New laws have removed from judges much of their discretion to set a sentence that takes full account of the circumstances of the offence. Since no politician wants to be tarred as soft on crime, such laws, mandating minimum sentences, are seldom softened. On the contrary, they tend to get harder.

The solution is obvious and logical, according to the Economist article — legalize drugs and treat drug abuse as a public health problem instead of a criminal problem. The population in most state prisons would drop in half, saving state budgets and solving a host of other problems at the same time. We could start by legalizing marijuana, which would be a big help by itself.

I believe that another reason could be that we have law enforcement officials who are encouraged to have high arrests numbers in order to gain advancement in their departments, and prosecuting attorneys whose high conviction rates can lead to political advancement. I know that in my own county, our prosecuting attorney every year writes a letter to the public in which he cites the statistics relating to arrests, convictions, fines collected, and years of incarceration handed down. It’s little else than a self-aggrandizing productivity sheet, much like a piece rate factory worker would turn in to justify his job and prove his value at turning out more pieces of product.

Another possible reason can be seen in the trend toward privatized prisons. Each person incarcerated has a dollar value placed on them in the private prison operator’s budget. More prisoners equal more money. I believe that prosecutors and judges, wittingly or unwittingly, are predisposed to send more people to prison in order to bump up the profit structure for these private industries, possibly in return for campaign funds, or other lucrative opportunities within the private sector of jurisprudence.

The LaHayes on Huckabee

All I can say is, “cuckoo.” Obama bringing on the “end times,” as if there is such a thing. The biblical prophecies fulfilled, as if they are real. And all the rest of the claptrap that evangelical Christians pump out of their grand illusion. Wow, and this stuff made it onto primetime Fox News. Kind of reiterates how much Fox News is worth, doesn’t it?

Sarah Palin chose (B): Ten questions for mothers

Ten Questions for Sarah Palin’s supporters who are also mothers:

1. If you were a state governor who was eight months pregnant–and remember, Sarah Palin already knew hers was a high-risk pregnancy because of her age (44) and, according to her book, her baby having been diagnosed via amniocentesis as having Down syndrome–and you were scheduled to fly some 4,000 miles from home to give a speech at a conference, would you (a) give your speech from home via teleconferencing, using modern real-time technology, and explain to your hosts that the high-risk nature and advanced stage of your pregnancy made you reluctant to fly; or, alternatively, send the deputy governor to give your speech or (b) dismiss any staff or security slated to fly with you and insist on flying 4,000 miles to the conference yourself?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

2. If, while attending this conference, you experienced leaking amniotic fluid and felt early contractions on the morning before you were scheduled to speak, would you (a) hand the speech to someone else, ask him or her to give it on your behalf, and go straight to the nearest hospital–one that was equipped for handling high-risk mothers, premature births, and special-needs infants–and get yourself checked out by a doctor or (b) continue with your day and give the speech anyway?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

3. After giving the speech, would you then, immediately afterward, (a) go directly to the nearest suitably-equipped hospital or (b) insist on going to the airport and proceed to get on the first of two several-hours-long commercial flights–airplanes on board which there would be no lifesaving equipment or stored blood should you go into hard labor and experience pre-eclampsia or hemorrhage, no sterile environment, and no high-risk obstetrician attending you–in order to be able to say the baby was born in your home state?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

4. At the conclusion of that first flight, would you then, upon landing and deplaning, (a) go directly to the nearest hospital in the connecting city as fast as possible, even commandeering MediVac transport if necessary or (b) take another flight lasting several hours, in order to continue heading home?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

5. At the conclusion of the second flight, would you (a) go immediately to either of two nearby hospitals with fully equipped NICU’s (neonatal intensive care units), or (b) embark on a one-hour drive through dark, snowy, and winding roads in order to get to your hometown regional hospital–a facility that is not equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies, special needs or premature babies, or even twins?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

6. If you were the governor of a state and the mother of two teenage daughters–and you were well-known and widely regarded for your espousing of conservative Christian family values–would you (a) make a special effort to impress upon your daughters the responsibilities they had as members of the state’s “First Family” or (b) allow one of your underage daughters to have her boyfriend “practically living in the house”, fully aware they were having sexual relations, which fact would eventually be established in no uncertain terms when the two teens conceived a pregnancy?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

7. If, in addition to your to your seventeen-year-old and thirteen-year-old daughters, your household also included a seven-year-old daughter, and both girls would certainly be aware of their older sister’s boyfriend’s routine overnight stays–the elder one undoubtedly knowing the reason for same–would your answer to the last question (a) change or (b) remain the same.

Sarah Palin chose (b).

8. Upon your return to the office, when your premature infant is three days old, would you (a) keep him at home in the care of a baby nurse, where he can receive UV light treatment for his jaundice along with careful monitoring, should he develop any complications due his congenital heart defect; and as your staff will be excited for you, take some family baby pictures to work, thus avoiding the dangers of exposing such a vulnerable baby to the germ-filled environment of your office or (b) bring him with you to the office so you can show him off for photo opportunities?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

9. If, when your infant with special needs was a few months old, you were to be offered a high-ranking position–say, the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket–which would entail your being away from home for a few months and place you squarely in the limelight of a high-profile campaign; and at approximately the same time as this offer was made, you were to discover that your minor daughter was pregnant, would you (a) politely decline the position, citing ‘family reasons’, and set about protecting your daughter’s privacy as your family worked through the situation and planned the best course of action for your child and future grandchild, doing your best to deflect unwanted press attention all the while or (b) accept the position “without blinking”, and then parade your entire family–including your obviouly pregnant minor daughter and her boyfriend–into the bright lights and onto the international stage of the Republican Convention?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

10. Does Sarah Palin embody your definition of “Family Values?”

(a) yes or (b) no. And you choose..?

* All particulars reflect on-the-record occurrences, ages, timelines, and events, and specific details as reported by Sarah Palin herself are taken from her own autobiography and/or interviews.