Holder Takes Credit for Lower Prison Population

Decrease sentencing for non-violent drug offenders, decrease costs. It’s a band-aid win for the federal government who wants to seem tough on crime but easy on the wallet. For one thing, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 13, 2014 appearance in front of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to push the change to the sentencing guidelines will only apply to federal penitentiaries. There are 213,901 inmates in federal correctional facilities as of Oct. 16th, 2014. There are ten times that many prisoners (2 million) in state-run facilities.

Our prison industrial complex is a disgrace. “Although the United States comprises just five percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners,” Holder said to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Dr. Cornel West and author Michelle Alexander call mass incarceration The New Jim Crow in their book by the same name.

An anonymous comment made in response to Caitlin Seandel’s blog post called “Prison Labor” Three Strikes and You’re Hired, explains the problem of sentencing:

“Incarceration is a function of 4 things (number of arrests, number of convictions, sentence length, recidivism). The current trend is to arrest many, convict some, extraordinary long sentencing with option of parole. The generous offer of parole is negated by high recidivism. The police is (sic) responsible for first introduction to criminal justice system, but also the main amplifier of recidivism. Recidivism always begins with the 2nd arrest. Public prosecutors overcharge, causing construction of inappropriately high bond as misdemeanors become felonies in this unethical practice. The trumped up charges leads to a necessity to plea guilty to lesser charges but waiving the right to trial and a jury. Since so few convicts go through a jury it gives free hands for public prosecutors and judges to ‘do as they please’ without supervision and the involvement of the public eye. The jury would be the ultimate supervision and the moderator of the public prosecutor and the judge. Due to prosecutions overcharging and plea deals this part of the oversight disappears. I would say shame on you all. What can be done? Defense lawyers should lower their fees to help more people get saved from being wrecked by the current system. People selected for jury should attend without hesitation, to make the system work once again. There should be statistical oversight of plea deals vs jury trials percentage. A 50-50 proportion would serve better than a 90-10 (plea vs jury) in terms of keeping the DA and judge under public supervision oversight and moderation. In a system that has got out of control, the citizens appointed to jury duty and the defense lawyers will be the only parties that can actively claim it by back by lawfully allowed means.”

Sources: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

http://ellabakercenter.org/blog/2013/06/prison-labor-is-the-new-slave-labor

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/us/politics/holder-endorses-proposal-to-reduce-drug-sentences.html

 

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Healthcare

Originally posted at Writeindependent.org on June 30, 2012

Obamacare – Affordable Care Act – ACA – Justice Roberts decision – ACA constitutional

I used to own and operate a physical therapy practice from 1989 to 1996, so I know more than most people about the insurance industry. I never understood the media’s argument against health care. When Justice Roberts put in the final decision, the stock market rallied in the health sector. People who once played Russian roulette with their lives will now be able to get health insurance. People who are dying won’t leave their loved ones holding huge debts that could wipe them out. And most importantly, there is no such thing as “death panels.” I can assure you that.

But I was never completely happy with Obamacare. Let’s re-write the Affordable Care Act to be what it was intended to be: affordable health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions, yes, but also offers a public option. Let people have a choice to purchase the plan, even if they are self-employed.

It’s easy to write an ACA that makes sense: just take Medicare and add maternity and child health. There was no need to start from scratch.

There’s only one thing I don’t like about being taxed for insurance: the whole thing should not be privatized. Insurance companies have shown us time and again that they can not be trusted with huge sums of profits. Most of it goes toward the top executives’ salaries and not toward what they should provide: healthcare. Case in point: United Healthcare’s Stephen J. Hemsley makes 48.8 million per year. You can’t tell me that he makes money like that by making the company profitable without also realizing that his efforts and money isn’t going toward improving his subscriber’s healthcare. I know; my daughter and I have experienced being on the United Healthcare plans, and it was no picnic trying to get services.

We shouldn’t have health insurance companies at all because they operate in a perpetual state of conflict of interest. They are supposed to “make money” and “be profitable” and yet they are supposed to “provide funding” for “healthcare”… Doesn’t anyone else see how those two ideals conflict? Medicine should be socialized, end of story. Thirty-two of the thirty-three developed nations have universal health care, with the United States being the lone exception [1].

Norway 1912 Single Payer
New Zealand 1938 Two Tier
Japan 1938 Single Payer
Germany 1941 Insurance Mandate
Belgium 1945 Insurance Mandate
United Kingdom 1948 Single Payer
Kuwait 1950 Single Payer
Sweden 1955 Single Payer
Bahrain 1957 Single Payer
Brunei 1958 Single Payer
Canada 1966 Single Payer
Netherlands 1966 Two-Tier
Austria 1967 Insurance Mandate
United Arab Emirates 1971 Single Payer
Finland 1972 Single Payer
Slovenia 1972 Single Payer
Denmark 1973 Two-Tier
Luxembourg 1973 Insurance Mandate
France 1974 Two-Tier
Australia 1975 Two Tier
Ireland 1977 Two-Tier
Italy 1978 Single Payer
Portugal 1979 Single Payer
Cyprus 1980 Single Payer
Greece 1983 Insurance Mandate
Spain 1986 Single Payer
South Korea 1988 Insurance Mandate
Iceland 1990 Single Payer
Hong Kong 1993 Two-Tier
Singapore 1993 Two-Tier
Switzerland 1994 Insurance Mandate
Israel 1995 Two-Tier

And there is one more problem with Universal Health Care: if we don’t get our environmental house in order, with (for example) autism and cancer rates soaring, we’ll be broke even if our government administers the plan flawlessly. It takes both: to improve the health of our planet as we improve the government that supposedly “supports” our health.

http://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date/

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Will I Lose My Home?

Please don’t make me regret signing up for Medi-Cal! I just found out today that it is possible for the government to lay an estate claim on my house to pay for outstanding medical bills when I die. I remember seeing something about this when I filled out the forms for Medi-Cal so that I could qualify as a provider of (and my daughter could receive) In Home Supportive Services.

But could they really take my home away from Jillian when I die? Please tell me it isn’t so!

There are ten states where language in their sign-up documentation effectively allows those states to use “estate recovery” to steal Medicaid and Medi-Cal recipients’ equity in their homes in order to cover medical expenses.

In California, SB 1124 passed unanimously in the Senate to overturn the wording in the Medi-Cal sign-up paperwork (or online registration, like the kind I used) so that low-income families don’t have to worry about this. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown VETOED the bill! If you don’t believe me, read Jerry Brown’s signature on this veto note: gov.ca.gov/docs/SB_1124_Veto_Message.pdf

For more information on how California uses “estate recovery” to take away people’s home, read: http://bit.ly/ZAtAzB

Sources: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/09/12/1329202/-California-Governor-Brown-Still-Wants-to-Steal-My-Home#

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The Game

Recovered from Writeindependent.org, originally posted on July 13, 2012

We are taught about this game from the time we enter preschool: that you have to learn certain subjects (math and English are presumably the most important), that you have to be ahead of your peers (presumably to have the best chances to enter college), that you will want to earn a lot of money (presumably so that you are attractive to the girls if you’re male, and so that you can be independent if you’re female) and that money is the source of all things: happiness, security, material things that we are sold on TV.

Then to “win” this game, the best and the brightest (because the dullards dropped out at some point and realized it was a pointless game anyway, and maybe they really were the smartest ones anyway…) went on to Harvard, or Yale, or what have you. And they became the “leaders” in every way, because their money bought influence, and with this influence, they changed the rules of the game itself, so that they could get more money and more influence.

Do you see where I’m going here? The same people who supposedly “won” the game of life that they were taught since preschool was the game are the ones who are actually destroying the fabric of our society. First, they created weapons to assure their dominance, they funded this weaponry and the soldiers to blow things up and made sure that the taxes paid for it all, then they undermined our economic system by deregulating it and making it complicated and untraceable and impossible to fix. These “brilliant” minds of finance and war built themselves the ultimate paradox: a place unfit for life as we know it.

So how do we unravel this thing? I actually think human beings are quite resilient. I think that the minds who “won” this game of how to become fabulously wealthy can turn around and become the creative geniuses who get us out of this mess.

And if they don’t do it, we dullards will. Because we will be the creative genii.

Who are these genii (plural for genius)?

They:

  1. Question authority
  2. Use critical thinking
  3. Live “outside the box” in non-traditional paradigms
  4. Lead with their passion
  5. When people say “it can’t be done” they don’t listen and they do it anyway
  6. Find monopoly incredibly boring
  7. Don’t watch much TV
  8. Exercise their artistry, whatever that may be
  9. Live deeply, finding resonant ideas and synchronicities and listening to them
  10. Are considerate of others because they know we are all in this together
  11. Make a conscious effort to tread softly on the planet that is the source of all life.

Show me a “leader” of industry, a traditional wealthy individual, and I can almost guarantee they don’t do the most important of these. We know for a fact that their course is unsustainable. So how smart was this paradigm we foisted upon our children, or our parents foisted upon us? And should we continue to be complicit in this system, or find a better way?

 

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Mainstream Media Drops the Ball

Mainstream media still refuses to report on the Trans Pacific Partnership (aka TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TTIP), supposedly “free trade” agreements that are Trojan horses for corporations to gain unprecedented rights. Briefly, these trade agreements allow corporations to sue governments if their laws stand in the way of their profits. For example, if a government passes a law to ban GMOs, Monsanto can sue that government for lost revenues.

What court would ever find in favor of Monsanto in such a case? Well, the lawyers who are crafting the TPP and TTIP agreements thought about that. They’ve set up a kangaroo court of three attorneys who decide the outcome of such lawsuits. They call it a tribunal, and this tribunal answers to no one. Lucky for Monsanto, the attorneys are handpicked by –you guessed it—the same attorneys who helped craft these agreements.

In case you still can’t believe it, under NAFTA several huge companies have sued countries who have signed that agreement, also reviewed by a similar kangaroo court. Here are some cases where corporations have sued governments and the damages sought (in American dollars):

Company Country being sued Damages sought (in millions of dollars)
Ethyl Canada $250
Metaclad Mexico $90
SD Myers Canada $20
Loewen State of Mississippi $725
Sunbelt Canada $220
Pope & Talbot Canada $507

But will you find out about this through the mainstream media? Suspiciously, they are mum about these lawsuits.

Many activists in the countries involved in these deals have already been protesting. Twenty-two countries across Europe are planning public rallies in over 1,000 locations. But, will you hear about them from “Fox ‘News,’ CNN, New York Times, London Times, ABC? Of course not. Did you hear about the massive protests against it? Of course not. You only hear what the interest groups permit you to hear,” says Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy for the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. “If these faux ‘trade agreements’ go through, Europe and Asia will also be ruled by American corporations.”

Sources: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Fancy1.pdf

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/10/12/382010/the-us-lie-machine/

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Guess Who: Quotes from Famous Folks

“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” ―Dr. Cornel West

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The Replant Problem in Orchards

Recently, while researching steam treatment of weeds, I happened upon a marvelous paper called The Importance of Soil Fumigation: California Tree and Vine Crops.

Turns out that there is something called the “replant problem.” When a tree gets old (stone fruits last 15 to 20 years, grapevines last 20 to 35, and almonds last up to 25 years), they need to be removed. Since most commercial orchards follow a mono-culture agricultural model, growers want to quickly plant youngsters of the same variety. Often, this doesn’t turn out so well.

The reason new trees have trouble is that the soil is often infested with nematodes, small worm-like creatures that puncture holes in the roots and cause all kinds of damage, even to the point of starving the tree. New plantings placed in the same area will exhibit stunted growth and poor food production if there are already nematodes in the soil.

As if the nematodes weren’t bad enough, soilborne diseases from phytophthora fungi and bacterial canker will kill new trees.

To eradicate bad bacteria, fungi, and nematodes, growers use chemicals such as Chloropicrin, 1,2-dichloropropane (1,2-D), 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D), and methyl bromide. ALL of these chemicals have been phased out by the EPA due to their carcinogenicity and toxic effects on humans.

So what are growers doing now? They cut their trees down to a stump, saturate that stump in Roundup, and starve the nematodes until they die. Then they plant a nematode-resistant rootstock like Nemaguard with their desired cultivar grafted on top. It’s not a great system.

The other way to handle the replant problem is through a ten-year fallow period, where soil organisms die off from not having the food they had gotten used to.

Apparently, the report says that steam doesn’t do the trick, even using 6” deep augers to apply the steam into the soil.

I’m not saying that there aren’t other answers; I’m just summarizing what this paper says. I’m leaving a lot of detail out, but if you’re interested, here is the link to the pdf: http://bit.ly/1vZeWOm Some of the statistics about the types of crops we grow in California and the percentage of that crop in the world’s overall production is impressive.

My suggestion is to stop monocropping. When an organism takes hold in a monocropped situation, it easily spreads from tree to tree. In a diverse ecosystem, even if a pathogen affects one tree, it’s unlikely to spread to dissimilar neighbors.

We know that diversity strengthens ecosystems, but our factory-farm mentality and “economies of scale” industrial models prevail in today’s fast-paced, profit-driven world. It’s only when nature gives us a wakeup call that we’ll have to bow down to the realities of this diversity issue.

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The Farm Bill

Did you know that $62.5 million of the 2014 food bill goes toward identification and management of plant pests? In an announcement dated September 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) invited stakeholders to submit their suggestions for 2015 projects that: “enhanceplant pest/disease analysis and survey; target domestic inspection activities at vulnerable points in the safeguarding continuum; enhance and strengthen pest identification and technology; safeguard nursery production; enhance mitigation capabilities; and conduct outreach and education to support these goals.”[i] The amount per year increases to $75 million annually by FY 2018.

Let’s hope they find safe methods for mitigating pests.

[i] http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/ourfocus/importexport?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/APHIS_Content_Library/SA_Our_Focus/SA_Plant_Health/SA_Domestic_Pests_And_Diseases

 

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Superweeds: Fact and Fallacy

It has been widely reported that because of an over-reliance on Roundup and other herbicides, that a new class of “superweeds” is now thriving. The following myths have popped up as a result:

  1. Myth: Superweeds come from gene transfer between species, and especially as a result of genetically engineered crops.

Fact: Geneticists say that gene transfer from herbicide resistant crops to weeds can happen, but it’s not the main cause of weeds’ resistance to herbicide. It’s more the reliance of weed control using one class of chemical over and over again.

  1. Myth: Superweeds have a greater-than-normal ability to crowd out and fight for nutrients, harming the desired plants more than the usual weeds.

Fact: The resistant weeds are no more problematic than the “old” weeds; they are similarly competitive to the desired crops, with potentially overwhelming effects.

Andrew Kniss, Ph.D., board member of the Weed Science Society of America and University of Wyoming faculty member says, “Nearly any weed species can be economically devastating if left uncontrolled. It is important to incorporate a variety of weed management practices and not rely exclusively on herbicides for weed control. Monitoring weed populations is also important. Early recognition of resistant populations and rapid intervention can help reduce the impact these weeds have.”

Source: http://wssa.net/2014/10/weed-scientists-uproot-common-superweed-myths/

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Bad News and the Grace of God

The bad news is that I didn’t make the cut for ShopLocal.us’ grant program. They sent me a “deep regrets” letter that said I didn’t advance into the final round. You can see my entry here: http://www.shoplocal.us/grant/entrant/10199/Garden-Love.html

I had a hard time with the news. I wondered what I did wrong. But of course, there is no right or wrong here. Selecting a winner is a matter of opinion.

Why didn’t ShopLocal.us send us the links to all the entrants? I would have liked to see my competition. I was expecting the ShopLocal folks to email their “followers” the links of all the videos that had been submitted because it just makes sense. Don’t they want to promote local businesses? Isn’t that their mission? So why weren’t we given the information about all the other contenders?

When you put as much time and effort into creating a business, a reputation, a brand and a video that showcases those things, it’s hard to find out that it hasn’t made the cut. But it doesn’t mean giving up. I have to say, this is a humbling experience.

Life isn’t always about success. Often, it’s about how you handle the downs. I’ve got more than the usual quantity of failed attempts because I try so many different ways to be successful. I have been flexible and resilient, optimistic, positive, and when things don’t work out, I figure I’m building up to one huge joyful day when something I’ve done hits the mark. And if it never happens, then boy, will I feel joyful when I die. I know that logic doesn’t make everyone happy, but it’s my way of handling the crushing incessant and unrelenting pounding I’ve had for the past four years of trying to make a go of things.

When things are really bad, I console myself by knowing that no one is paying any attention to what I’m doing. So if I’m not gaining any traction, I’m also not embarrassed because I’m being ignored!

I joined the Live Your Legend blog challenge because I know I write more than anyone else out there! And that’s the thing about writers: they write even when there seems to be nothing to say. What happens is that you get better because you’re honing your craft, even on a bad day.

Live Your Legend (LYL) promotes Jonathan Fields’ RevolutionU program. I love it! It looks great. But I’m not ready to take the class because my book isn’t finished yet. What’s the point of trying to start a revolution when you don’t have your ducks lined up? I can tell I’m not ready. There’s value in being ready for a thing before you try.

My writers’ group loved the completely new first chapter of my book. They told me today that it was good writing, that they could visualize what I described, and that they wanted to know more. There was enough positive feedback to feel like it’s coming along. And that is what I want to focus on tonight before I go to sleep. One small grace from God is worth the world.

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