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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hobo Jungle to Health Care

Mental Health is not Criminal

A renewed interest in strengthening camping laws by municipalities around the US is a thinly disguised criminal assault on homelessness.

To be fair, some cursory progress has been made to deal with a growing homelessness and the subsequent displacement of a segment of the US population. Unfortunately, it's largely palliative. The measures undertaken haven' gone after the root cause or any systemic-institutionalize problems.

However, rather than focus on a widely debated and contentious argument of wealth inequality, we could turn to different metrics. This is not to say that the idea of a widening wealth gap is bankrupt. Compelling statistics point to a 1% or less subset population controlling nearly 50% of new and established wealth in the US. This certainly is a facet of homelessness but not the main tenet of this article.

An often overlooked or undefined aspect of homelessness is the misdiagnosis of a public health crisis. Worse, it is a blatant gesture to crony capitalism which lurches a policy of disinvestment in public utilities in favor of privatization.

A public utility which has been on a slow march towards privatization is the prison system. Huge multinational corporations have been lobbying all levels of government to build and maintain private prisons in the US for decades. And they have succeeded.

What is particularly disturbing about this trend is that it has seemingly gone hand in hand with another disinvestment of public utilities: mental health facilities. Most states have fledgling mental health facilities or none at all. No corporations have stepped in to fill this gap.

In order to fill more beds (cells), homelessness, much like vagrancy, has been vilified and earmarked as criminal. Instead of meeting some much need mental and public health problems head on, governments have decided to treat abject poverty and homelessness and mental health as criminal.

The politicians and we citizens as their bosses (we voted them in office), apparently have opted to pay for the costs on the back end instead of prevention. Rest assured, there is a toll and pay we must.

Friday, December 5, 2014

To Err is Human: To Correct an Err is Humane

Simple Changes to Correct Medical Errors

Ebola paranoia has nestled into the collective conscious of the western world. This is especially poignant when one begins to digest the rash of medical precautionary measures which nudged Ebola into the 24 hour news cycle. Some of the critique levied onto the medical facilities and their staff is justified and not without merit. That notwithstanding, the medical field as a business entity has addressed these types of procedural pitfalls both preemptively and forensically. One of the ways they do this is by way of certification through The Joint Commission.

ALERT: for those of you directly or tangentially within the medical field you might want to jump ahead; you're already mind-numbingly familiar with The Joint Commission. For those of you who are not as well acquainted with The Joint Commission, then it is prudent to go over what this accrediting organization does.

The Joint Commission is a not-for-profit and independent organization which accredits and certifies over 20 thousand health care organizations and medical programs throughout the United States. In order to receive and remain a Joint Commission certified health care facility, a series of guidelines, procedures, protocols, clinical pathways and best practices, that the commission set forward, need to be followed and upheld. Far more than just a nitpicking watchdog The Joint Commission also establishes longterm goals which aid the health care facilities in committing to a shared vision of business practice.

Central to The Joint Commission's longterm goals and visions is the concept of safety. This is an umbrella concept which entails things like, avoiding patients falling, mental or physical injury and medication errors . Although an emphasis is given to patient safety, the safety of the health care workers is also enumerated. In light of the procedural and mechanical errors made by health care workers treating Ebola patients, the necessity of adhering to the standards and goals set forth by The Joint Commission is of even greater importance.

What is often overlooked or simply never given credence are the more basic ways in which medical errors could be curtailed. Here follows a few straightforward suggestions for tinkering with the medical field in order to reduce hospital and medical errors.

Too many names for the same thing

A convention which arose in Europe was the adoption of universal names of medical terms based on Latin and Greek. Undoubtedly, this was done in conclave to better accommodate medical teaching in the handful of prestigious Universities on the continent.

Employing colloquial terminology was useful dealing with non-medical people but grossly inadequate when discussing it with other medical people across Europe. As is often the case, man's hubris deconstructed a standardization which was meant to quell egos. The result is that a whole jumbled medical lexicon has evolved which is unnecessarily confusing and rife with synonyms. Here are a few examples.

When referring to kidneys they are either renal(Latin) or nephritic(Greek). Kidney stones are renal calculi (pebbles in Latin). If one has bladder stones then these become cystoliths (stones in Latin). One can run into a Sesame Street like word game when referring to the head: skull, capit (Latin), cranium (Latin) or the cephalic (Greek) region.

Convert to the metric system already

The consistent use of standardized measurements is one of the cornerstones of scientific research and discovery. It allows for peer review of experiments by facilitating another pillar of scientific research: replication. The vast majority of scientific research conducting the US is done utilizing one standardized set of measurement; the metric system.

The metric system was first established in France around 1799, the same year Napoleon Bonaparte the reigns of power that war torn country. Although not confirmed, this adoption might have been hastened throughout the European continent because of Napoleon's eagerness to codify and govern more efficiently. Despite the official sanctioning of the metric system in the US by the end of the American Civil War in 1866, an colloquial adoption of the metric system still hasn't materialized.

One way to reduce medical errors would be a formal transition within American medical treatment. Calculations of weight, height, length, temperature, depth and volume are routinely done in the US customary units which have to be converted to be applied to metric calibrations.

Lab values and scales all need a make over: 0-10

As anyone who is in the medical field can attest to; lab values and scales are the bread and butter of recognizing either a pathology or a return to normalcy. Knowing your blood sugar level helps to prevent the adverse effects of either hyper- or hypoglycemia or whether or not the fever with a spike in white blood cells means an infection throughout the body.

Daily lab values are essential in caring and treating patients; especially when administering or adjusting medications. Sadly, there hasn't been a push towards standardization of lab values and scales. Some are done parts per million or parts per thousand. Others are based on increments of decimals attached to single digits like 1.3-1.7. Still others are based on an arbitrary finite set like 80-100 or 45-60.

An overdue simplification of labs and scales based on sets of 10 could reduce the feral nature of establishing an interval scale. Something like 0-10 or 0-100 would bolster medical accuracy substantially.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Systemic Racism, Violence & So-So Media Coverage in the Wake of the Ferguson Decision

One thing should be made abundantly clear, I don't condone indiscriminate and wanton looting, violence or property damage which gets cloaked in a thinly veiled message of civil protest. I am all for raising awareness and getting column inches in the media to highlight your cause. 

But one of the most effective tools, which no one seems to want to use in the mid-term election cycle, is  voting. This was one of the worst turn outs in US history. This fact should be on the minds and agenda's of black community leaders in every nook and cranny of the US. This doesn't mean to diminish the existence of systemic racism which has taken many different guises since the passage of the 14th Constitutional Amendment. Racial profiling exists and it effects all people of color; no matter what their socio-economic status may be.

Let's at least look at some of the issues which have surfaced in the wake of the grand jury's decision not to indict the cop for the shooting and killing of a young black man.

Firstly, this was not a typical grand jury hearing. This was a mock trial and this fact should not be peddled to the American public like snake oil. I contend, and I am not alone, that there was enough conflicting/suspect evidence to have warranted an indictment.

Secondly, it is my understanding that the prosecutor has discretionary mandate on what to bring to trial and what not and to what degree the state will press these charges. This was not done and not explained why it wasn't done. Again, the fact that the prosecutorial discretion is used disproportionately to the detriment of people of color, is one of the tangential reasons the folks in Ferguson and the rest of the US are pissed off. I encourage all of you to read Michelle Alexander's book “The New Jim Crow”.

Thirdly, the media has done a sketchy job covering the Ferguson situation. The old adage, “if it bleeds, it leads”, has proven to be less of a cliché and more of a mantra. No doubt, the last couple of days in Ferguson has been violent and unlawful. Through alternative (read: independently owned) media sources we have been given accounts of peaceful non-violent protests going on simultaneously. This fact is neglected by the big media. Moreover, the rest of the US is protesting peacefully (for the most part) for what they see as systemic racism in all areas of the US. Remember, the protests speak to a much broader issue which effects people of color all over the US; not just Ferguson Missouri.

Lastly, as more people pour over the vast amount of documents/evidence released by the prosecutor, the more we will begin to see the holes and bungles in this case. We should use this tragic event (the horrible loss of a young life and the trauma/PTSD a cop must feel doing his job) and learn to build some bridges and garner some deeper understanding of our American brothers and sisters. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The United Fascist States of American: Part 2

Strong Centralized Government

If the fascist state is in possession of a well oiled propaganda machine, then winning over the populace is made a much simpler task. This means to say, that when the populace is diverted from the strong arm tactics of the fascist government, the government is made more able to implement their policies without annoying intervention. 

Noam Chomsky related the parallels of propaganda during Hitler's Germany and modern America during an interview; “There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away” (Rothschild, 2010).

These are the hallmarks of a nation with a socialized agenda. However, if these recepients don't contribute to the bellicose zeitgeist and efforts of the state they then are not to be taken care of by the fascist state. It's clear that leading American intellectuals see a shift towards historic fascism when one examines the propaganda machine and the injection of polarizing issues. This trend becomes more obvious and more entrenched when war appropriations and the military industrial complex converge.

Militaristic Tendencies and The Armaments Industry

In order for the fascist state to continue to advance its warring efforts two ingredients are need: money and manufacturing. Chris Hellman is communications liaison at the National Priorities Project, a military watchdog and think tank. He maintains that the United States government sets aside 20% of its GDP on military spending. The 20%, Hellman claims, is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Hellman the government funnels billions of dollars into the military using budgetary slight of hand; hear about the Pentagon budget and the war-fighting supplementary funds passed by Congress for our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.That already gets you into a startling price range -- close to $700 billion for 2012 -- but that’s barely more than half of it. If Americans were ever presented with the real bill for the total U.S. national security budget, it would actually add up to more than $1.2 trillion a year”(Hellman, 2011).

Obviously the money is on hand for financing the fascist American state, but where is the money going? Daniel Guerin more than 75 years ago clearly saw where the money was going; “...they (war industries) they eagerly pocket the fabulous profits from armament orders...”(Guerin, 1973). One of those companies in the United States is Lockheed Martin. The Lockheed company merged with Martin Marietta company to form a large aerospace design and manufacturing operation which has profited from government contracts. To illustrate the entwined nature of the American fascist states's collusion with the industrial military complex, investigative reporter Tim Weiner remarked; “it's impossible to tell where the government ends and Lockheed begins” (Weiner, 2004).

Once again it is straightforward enough to see that America manifests another of the three pillars of a fascist state. Solidifying the opposition by squelching out socialistic descenders is last lithimus test of whether or not a state is fascist.
Socialistic Ideals Quelled

Still continuing during the presidency of the Democrat Barack Obama, a combative congress has been swelled in ranks by a far right-wing faction of the Republican party. This political faction goes by the name Tea-Party in commemoration of the Boston Tea Party. This Tea Party seeks to emulate the recalcitrant nature of the protesting Bostonians of the 1770's by aggressively blocking, obfuscating or repealing many of the socialist tenets of modern America. Consider the vociferous dislike of a form of universal health care or the curtailing of food stamp subsidies or reduction in funding of state subsidized morning breakfasts for poor or underprivileged school children.

During the presidency of the Democrat Barack Obama, a combative congress has been swelled in ranks by a far right-wing faction of the Republican party. This political faction goes by the name Tea-Party in commemoration of the Boston Tea Party. This Tea Party seeks to emulate the recalcitrant nature of the protesting Bostonians of the 1770's by aggressively blocking, obfuscating or repealing many of the socialist tenets of modern America. Consider the vociferous dislike of a form of universal health care or the curtailing of food stamp subsidies or reduction in funding of state subsidized morning breakfasts for poor or underprivileged school children.

The emergence of the Nazi Party in Germany reveals a startling parallel to the evolution of the political landscape in the modern United States; “There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over” (Guerin, 1973).

The modern United States of America displays all three of the characteristics of a fascist nation state. The intense consolidation of power and money through ritualized propaganda is certainly evident in the modern US. An overabundance of monetary support is diverted from the government to favored war industries in order to finance its bellicose tendencies. Again, another characteristic of fascism has been met. Finally, the systematic belittlement of socialistic ideals has made its way to the forefront of the American psych. The combination of these elements is nearly indisputable proof of the modern United States of America fascist nation.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1961).Farewell Address.DDE’s Papers as President, Speech Series, Box 38, Final TV Talk. Retrieved from

Guerin, Daniel, Merrill,Frances. (1973). Fascism and Big Business. New York: Monad Press.

Hellman, Chris. (2011).$1.2 Trillion for National Security. Retrieved from

Rothschild, Matthew. (2010).Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America.Retrieved from

Weiner, Tim. (2004).Lockheed and the Future of Warfare. New York: New York Times (November 28, 2004).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The United Fascist States of American: Part 1

The modern statecraft of the United States of America a fascist nation state. The perpetual bellicose zeitgeist of the United States since World War II has been the handmaiden to fascism. The steadfast and often unnoticed veneration of a strong centralized nation state is the hallmark of fascist statecraft. A vociferous loathing of socialistic ideals is a key component of the fascist doctrine. Combine these two elements with aggressive militaristic tendencies, usually beneficial to the state and the state sanctioned industries, and the recipe for a totalitarian fascist nation is complete.

America has clandestinely undergone a transformation from a Democratic Republic to a Crypto-Democratic Fascist Nation. The telltale signs of this can be seen in public veneration to the national flag (the pledge of allegiance), the financial coddling of multinational industries geared toward military manufacturing and national agencies which clandestinely police the populace searching for descenders and then applying pressure to remain within party lines. Although this paper will support the thesis that the United States of America is fascist, an exhaustive documentation of such an assertion falls outside the scope of this paper.

Fascism Historically Defined
In order to determine if the United States of America is indeed fascist it is essential to have a clear definition of what is meant by fascism. During the the second and third decades of the 20th century the world was witnessed the assent to power of two iconic fascist regimes in Europe, Adolf Hilter's Germany and Benito Mussolini's Italy. Much of what is inferred about the nature of a fascist nation is gleaned from on of these two models. In an interview with Noam Chomsky, a leading American intellectual, told reporter Matthew Rothschild; “The Weimar Republic was the peak of Western civilization and was regarded as a model of democracy... (but) No analogy is perfect....but the echoes of fascism are “reverberating today” (Rothschild, 2010).

Daniel Guerin was a French Anarcho-communist and prolific writer of treatises which extolled the virtues of communism and anarchism while lambasting the fascism and fascist nations of most notably the German fascist nation under Hitler. In the year 1938, which corresponded with the fascist power grab in German, Guerin provides, in his book Fascism and Big Business, a simple and succinct definition of fascism. He writes; “...fascism is reduced to this: a strong state intended to prolong artificially an economic system based on profit and the private ownership of the means of production...”(Guerin, 1973). Guerin went on the explain what the cornerstone of that economic system was; “...big business approves of an aggressive policy that brings it new armament orders...”(Guerin, 1973). In other words, fascism is a powerful, centralized and militaristically combative state that overtly subsidizes war goods manufacturing all of which occurs within an anti-socialist public rhetoric.

Hitler and Mussolini's brand of statecraft were populist reactions to what they viewed as to rampant and financially destructive capitalism, monarchism and colonialism. Daniel Guerin explains; “The crisis of the capitalist system itself is what shook capitalism to its foundations by drying up the sources of profit. The working class, on the other hand, paralyzed by its organizations and its leaders in the hour of the decay of capitalist economy, did not know how to take power and replace dying capitalism with socialism” (Guerin, 1973).

Finally, President Dwight Eisenhower gave a harrowing and bleak cautionary note to the American people about the emerging dangers of fascism during his farewell address, January 17, 1961. It must be noted that the United States had fought and defeated, in the European theater during WWII, the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. However, the United States had never demilitarized to a peace time size of the armed forces after the conclusion of World War II. Eisenhower forewarned America; “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together” (Eisenhower, 1961).

Thusly, even then the tell tale signs of fascism were apparent in America: a strong centralized government with militaristic tendencies, a thriving war armaments industry and a distain for socialistic ideals.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1961). Farewell Address. DDE’s Papers as President, Speech Series, Box 38, Final TV Talk. Retrieved from
Guerin, Daniel, Merrill,Frances. (1973). Fascism and Big Business. New York: Monad Press.
Hellman, Chris. (2011). $1.2 Trillion for National Security. Retrieved from
Rothschild, Matthew. (2010). Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America. Retrieved from
Weiner, Tim. (2004). Lockheed and the Future of Warfare. New York: New York Times (November 28, 2004).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On The Brink of World War One Again

The world is increasingly weaving a diplomatic web in which nations find themselves haplessly and unwittingly insnared. One such web in recent years has been the buttressing of long standing alliances by the incorporation of new members.

Examples of these organizations are the European Union and NATO as well as fragile and tenuous military coalitions. Additionally, the world has witnessed the re-emergence of a bygone world superpower, Russia. We watch as she flexes her atrophied political muscles while she surreptitiously annexes the former now sovereign territories. Perhaps most insidious is the appearance of rouge political-military organizations like ISIS which has precipitated negotiations between ideologically disparate nations.

Although nothing has officially been verified, Iran and Saudi Arabia seem to have mended diplomatic fences as the treat of ISIS encroaches on Asia Minor. A stellar example of the rhetorical adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

This layered overlap of alliances, which muddied any clear, workable partnership, is essentially what sparked WW1 back in the summer of 1914. Unceremoniously we marked the centennial this year and the world seems to be asleep at the wheel as a similar landscape of uncertainty unfolds.

Pope Francis warned of just such a scenario as he laid a wreath at the foot of a monument in Italy commemorates soldiers who died during the First World War. Then as now the geopolitical landscape seems to be astride a powder keg as the world attempts to keep the emerging flash points at a distance.

Lessons should have been learned from the First World War as the world again 100 years later stands on the precipice of a protracted and seemingly unending military engagement. Here follows two priorities which should to be addressed in order to keep the geopolitical community from the mistakes a century ago.

One: NATO needs to redefine its mandate. The organization has become so convoluted and antithetical in regards to its original charter. Not only are there landlocked nations which are member states but most of the NATO members are not even bordering the Atlantic Ocean. When the Soviet Union collapsed so to did the Warsaw Pact nations along with their collective military alliance. To fill the void of uncertainty, the Western democracies expanded their membership ranks to include these developing or emerging Eastern European democracies. Delving farther back in history, this tactic was employed by the Roman Empire in order to pacify an uncertain unity which was forged between Rome and the peoples just beyond the Empire's border.

Two: The western nations should reconsider their role in brokering temporary peace between historically hostile governments. Utilizing a venn diagram technique to do a risk-benefit analysis on the effectiveness of loose alliances will not solve systemic problems. It's often an arduous task to sift through the hallow rhetoric of politicians. Yet, when they pepper their speeches with phrases like “protecting our (western) interests” , it usually means cheap natural resources or cheap labor. Rethinking and retooling our involvement in centuries old ideological debates along with rethinking and retooling our dependence on the protection of cheap natural resources and cheap labor, is where we should be investing our diplomatic energies.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

List of 5 Boring Webcams: Right to Privacy versus the Right to Snoop

The modern digital age has wrought us with a social, ethical and legal conundrum of what exactly is the limit of our information gathering. Whether it's spying, snooping, eavesdropping, prying, being nosey or just a tinge of voyeurism we have all been at least complicit, either overtly or accidentally, in infringing on someone else's privacy.

As the Edward Snowden debate rages on about his patriotism or treason, one fact remains: the government through its NSA branch has been unwarrantably delving into the world's privacy. Whistleblowers during this paradigm shift have often been vilified in the public forum regardless of their diligence in unraveling the controversies through the proper channels. Furthermore, the gravity of their revelations have sometimes compelled them to go rogue and disgorged their findings into the public arena, occasionally causing them to be demonized for revealing the magician's secrets.

A common occurrence with any new technology is that the initial usage becomes overshadowed, thereby stretching out to encompass a bevy of unforeseen applications. The rapidity of emerging digital technologies is outstripping the ability of society to address, define and regulate the subsequent ethical, legal and cultural ramifications. Moreover, these unforeseen applications tug at the almost threadbare fabric which makes up an individual's right to privacy. One need only to examine the draconian laws which were drafted around the turn of the century to accommodate the emergence of the motorized vehicle, in order to see how tradition trumped technology. 

Before there is either an organic codification of digital privacy or jurisprudence catches up; individuals will continue to navigate a stormy sea of divulgence and privacy. Until that time here is a list of Boring Webcams to help satiate a gluttonous voyeurism.   

Yangzehaven Rijnmond: Rotterdam Harbor webcam

Larimer County: Landfill webcam

Khan Shatyr Shopping and Entertainment Centre Cam Astana Kazakhstan: Inside & Outside webcams

Wailing Wall Jerusalem: Wall webcam

Gelderlandplein: Amsterdam construction site

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hookah's and Hookers

For most westernized societies, apart from the US, it comes as no grand revelation that prostitution has been legalized, supervised and taxed for years. Whether the country is a constitutional monarchy, a democratic federation or a secular electorate democracy, the fact that prostitution is neither vilified nor aggrandized but tolerated is not a topic for immediate debate. It is an exemplar of Voltaire's infamous summation of what the Enlightenment saw as intrinsic democracy. Paraphrased his statement reads; “I may not agree with what your are saying but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.

This is the cornerstone of democracy and the implicit pledge to tolerate actions and ideas which are not physically harmful to others. Libertarian pundits in the western world adhere to this ideological tenet on this social issue but are coyly dismissive when the same rhetoric is used in fiscal governance. Nevertheless, if one explores Europe, especially Norther Europe, prostitution is not only a visceral manifestation of this social ideal; it's tangible; it's on the government's radar. Prostitution is not only legal, it's also highly regulated in most Europe countries (mandatory health screenings and copious documentation). Additionally, there are also several localized labor unions devoted to the woman of the night.

Throughout the short but dense American history prostitution has nestled itself in the American psyche encompassing all social milieux. Consider the brothels and street walkers of America's oldest metropolitan areas; places like New York City, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, to name but a few documented cities. But a gritter and subtler form of prostitution could be found on the advancing frontier of the American west. It is an almost ubiquitous scene in any film which subscribes to the Wild West format. This paradigm is not relegated to the big screen. Television shows like Gun Smoke employed a leading character, Miss Kitty, a brothel madam. To illustrate how ingrained and banal the archetypical brothel madam was; her character was the love interest of another lead character; Marshall Dylan: a governmental enforcer of the law. This tradition has continued to flourish in America, albeit under the radar and somewhat clandestine. The proud state of Nevada is one of the last American bastions of prostitution in the modern age. And they won't change a thing.

If this analogy seems anachronistic or esoteric, then consider the modern pornography industry. This business model thrives. It thrives because of the same mechanisms which are infused in Colorado weed legalization and Nevada prostitution legalization. The news outlet, CNBC, conducted a study of the profitability of legalization of marijuana and came to several staggering conclusions. They based their conclusions on data from research groups like NORML (National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws) and US Health and Human Services. Although the numbers differ greatly, an aggregate of all revenue delivers an estimate of taxes to be collected and overall savings in law enforcement equalling $20 billion. That's an estimate before the burgeoning cannabis cafe revolution in the US. What are the numbers then for prostitution?

According to an ABC PrimeTime report; $10 billion a year is generated through the various distribution channels of the porn industry. Even more astonishing is that large multi-national corporation realize the innate cash cow that is pornography; “Companies like General Motors, AOL Time Warner and Marriott earn revenue by piping adult movies into Americans' homes and hotel rooms, but you won't see anything about it in their company reports”. It appears that sex, as a commodity, is trading with relative impunity as a blue chip stock in the US. Why not prostitution?

Many people, it appears, don't take much umbrage to pornography, if it is tightly scrutinized and adequate foresight is maintained. Things like age requirements for performers and consumers as well as legal consent without duress for performers, are probably the chief concerns for those who have a laissez-faire or libertarian view towards the industry. But what is the fundamental difference? None really if one considers that the aforementioned criteria are met. Both prostitution and pornography as well as marijuana consumption are victimless if these criteria are adhered to under the law.

Let's do the numbers. Tracey Pierce Sonntag, in an article entitled “Case for Legalization ofProstitution” illustrates the financial feasibility of prostitution we can utilize the data collected on one Nevada brothel. Her findings reveal that an employee at the brothel earns $100,000 taxable income a year. This is if the employee is only working on week per month! What's more remarkable, on a financial-tax scale, is that there are an approximately 1 million, on a conservative estimate, prostitutes in the US which could yield a whopping $20 billion or more a year in taxes.

Much like the crusades being waged through America to decriminalize and ultimately legalize marijuana, so too should America embrace her prostitution past and decriminalize and ultimately legalize prostitution.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Dopamine Diaries

Lachen mit Mir und Meinem Freund: Schadenfreude

Jokes, jests, quips and paradoxical situations are the ingredients which cause us to laugh. The biology/physiology which underpins laughter is the release of dopamine. This is one of the human body's feel good drugs out a pharmacopoeia of feel good drugs. In a crisis, a traumatic position or a moment of acute stress, the brain becomes awash in dopamine which decreases the anxiety level.

Professor Jim Davies, in his book “Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe”, lays out what he generally considers to be the bedrock of what constitutes a joke, which in turn invokes a laugh. According to Jim Davies, a joke must have one or more of the following elements to qualify as laughter producing joke: expectancy, familiarity and sympathy.

In other words, the components of a joke need to be recognized by the one experiencing the joke. Also, the situational modus (logical and systematic progression), of a joke should be within certain parameters of recognition. Lastly, the recipient of a joke should be invested emotionally in the person or thing involved in the joke; either culturally or socially. If these criteria are met, then the likelihood of the joke being successful is enhanced. Take for instance, the classic joke set up of 3 different people who in a bar and are all confronted with a similar circumstance. Here's an example of just such a joke:

An octopus walks into a bar and sees a band playing in the corner, composed of an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman. The octopus walks up and says “I’m the best musician in the world. I can play any instrument you like”. So the English guy goes “Alright then. Play this” and hands him a guitar. The octopus plays it better than Jimi Hendrix, better than Eric Clapton, better than anyone and hands him back the guitar. The Irishman says “Okay, how about this?” and shows him to the piano. The octopus sits down and plays it like never before – Better than Liberace and Elton John. The best pianist ever. Finally, a Scotsman says “Alright, let’s see ya play this then” and hands him a set of bagpipes. The octopus looks at them and fumbles with them. Couple more minutes and he’s still struggling and there’s no sound coming out. Couple more minutes go by and still nothing so the Scotsman says “So, can you not play it then?” And the octopus says “Play it? I’m gonna fuck her when I get her pajamas off”

All the elements are embedded in this joke in order for it to induce at least a snicker of laughter. Again, according to Jim Davies, this is the classic formula on which to base the success of a joke.

However, a seemingly omitted ingredient for inducing laughter is the innate voyeuristic joy of the distress which befalls another person. The English language has adopted the German word for this situation: schadenfreude. In the realm of jokes and laughter one has to look no further than physical humor in the form of pratfalls and practical jokes. The silent film industry of the early 20th century was filled with these comedic geniuses like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, the Keystone Cops, Laurel and Hardy and W.C. Fields to name but a few.

In these performances the viewer passively watches the impending misfortune of the comic and then laughs either with a sigh of relief that it didn't befall the viewer or in an unconscious catharsis as the stress level is abated. Regardless, at the Moment Suprême the viewer has opened up the flood gates to an influx of dopamine. Naturally, this isn't only reserved to watching films or stage performances; it can also be literary. A few days ago I had a marvelous release of dopamine at the expense of a former US president.

Normally, when I receive spam-email blasts from political parties I delete them without impunity. Today was different. This spam-mail was from George Bush Sr. and the GOP pandering for donations. Everyday I am bombarded with the grubby, contracted, gnarled digital hands of politicians reaching into the void as they beg for money.

In other words, to quote one of my favorite snowclones; “the king is dead; long live the king.” With the giddy curiosity of a ravenous polecat, I read the opening sentence and was immediately overtaken with schadenfreude. The first remark, meant to establish a rapport with me, the reader, went like this; I don’t know what your guilty pleasures are in life, but one of mine is socks.”

Intrigued as I was, I pressed on to read more. Bush went on to flesh out what he meant by such an psychologically eerie and revealing statement: “I’m a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern -- the better! It’s usually the first thing people notice I’m wearing whenever I’m out in public and that’s the way I like it.”

Was I witnessing in black and white the neurological dismantling of a once proud and intellectual man? This is where my chance a more clinical observation came to a halt. The rest of the email prattle on about how the liberals and the conservatives in the sandbox can't get along and play fair. The blanks aren't worth filling in for any clarity. And then it happened; an unexpected jolt of dopamine at the conclusion of the email: “Samuel Johnson, thank you for your friendship over the years. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

With those words he has promised me more schadenfreude as he will be sending me more details about the fetishes he cultivates in retirement. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Morning-after Pill, Free Speech and Gender Parity

The Hobby Lobby Case before SCOTUS is premised by the court's earlier ruling on Citizens United. This legislative frankenstein reiterates the SCOTUS decree that corporations are PEOPLE and thusly entitled to 1st amendment rights of free speech. The crux of the argument now, once the Affordable Care Act has been mandated as federal law, is that corporations want to exercise their free speech rights on the basis of religious or moral convictions. In other words, they are seeking a “conscientious objection” status which will allow them to circumvent the federal law.

Although a stretch, it could be said that these corporations, as PEOPLE, are protesting a law much in the way draft dodgers and draft card burners protested the federal government conscripting them to fight in the Vietnam War. Despite the unique features in this case before SCOTUS the general outline of the case is a moral and civil rights battle that has been fermenting for decades. The battle is about the sovereignty over a womans reproductive rights with sweeping implications for males as well. 

However, a solemn question looms larger than the breadth of the particulars in the Hobby Lobby case which is whether to pay for its female employees health coverage that includes contraceptives. The question is, in Orwellian terms; whose free speech is MORE equal than the others? If since SCOTUS has decided that corporations are PEOPLE, are they then, through the sheer size of the manpower within the corporations, more deserving of free speech than the individual citizen?

Perhaps the fact that, according to statistics compiled by Forbes Magazine, the parity in female CEO's in Fortune 500 companies to male CEO's is alarmingly low at 8.1% as of 2013 might play into the sovereignty question.  That the chief plaintiff of the Hobby Lobby Case is a woman only underscores the disparity. Moreover, Viagra, Cialis and other pde5 inhibitors (erectile dysfunction drugs) are components of health care policies which are conspicuously intended for men. Yet their inclusion in these policies has either never or at best disingenuously been subject to public debate. These male-centric drugs enhance and augment a male's self-determination regarding their reproductive free speech rights.

It is now time that this circular and illogical rhetoric be cast aside or better yet, turned on its head. Imagine if the hypothetical contra-argument was set forth by Hobby Lobby and other corporations afforded a PERSON status. What if corporations required their employees to adopt the morning-after pill as a component of their health coverage based on religious or moral articles of faith. 

These corporation PEOPLE won't want a portion of their work staff hindered by 9 months of pregnancy and intermittent care of a newborn. No, that would negatively effect the female employee's labor efficiency. So what better way to combat a woman's free fall in labor output than to encourage an early pregnancy termination. The fact that a man or a woman's labor output is sovereign personal property and not a profit variable controlled by corporate PEOPLE is a whole other can of worms.