Saturday, February 21, 2015

Time to Wake Up! Riot at Texas Prison Story is a great Example.

The recent riot at a Texas detention facility highlights many complicated and important problems.
First, the fact that the facility mainly housed illegal immigrants, as reported by Reuters on February 21, 2015 suggests that these people were tried and convicted of being on U.S. soil without authorization. If that is the case, it brings forth something that I have personally observed during the past 14 years of people recently deported to Mexico. I spoke with hundreds of the deportees and the majority told me that they intended to return to the United States as soon as possible. However, those that said they would not try to return to the United States, them said that they were imprisoned for being in the U.S. illegally and could hardly believe that they were put into a state jail for only being in the U.S. illegally. In other words, time in prison before deportation deters future attempts to re-enter the country. While this is only my personal observation, it suggest that our government should at least examine this possibility and if empirical data supports my suspicion, we have a real tool that deters illegal immigration. (This is only one possible tool. There are many others, including addressing the root causes of illegal immigration – which probably holds the most promise).

Second, the super-rich, giant corporations and politicians all benefit every time a story ignites anger about illegal immigration.[1] The Reuters story stated that the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) ran this prison facility.
Now let us look at what Reuters did not include in the story:

·         MTC has been the subject of controversies that included rape, nonpayment of salaries and other significant issues.

·         MTC is allied with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is described by is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wish lists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills.
 Most citizens have not even heard about ALEC and most believe that congress actually writes each bill that is considered for passage. In fact, ALEC hands politicians their ‘model bill’ and our representatives add their signatures. Why does all of this chicanery that feeds billions of our tax dollars into private hands? As Business Insider and others have pointed out, six corporations own 90% of the media[2]. The media pushes what I call ‘trigger word’ stories. These are stories that feed our personal biases and hatreds so we come to believe that a minority group, the conservatives, the liberals, a particular political party, the unions, etc. are the causes of our high taxes, overcrowded and underperforming schools, etc. While there is usually some truth in these beliefs, the real culprit are many of the super-rich, many of our corporations and many large banks and Wall Street manipulators.

Another reason the campaign to refocus our concern so we do not attack the true culprits of our nation’s greatest problems is that many of us feel so frustrated that we cannot do anything about the corruption (i.e. bank and corporate bail outs, Wall Street, big money controlling election outcomes). Although we may not know how to fight back, the first step is to at least recognize who and what we need to fight. If a ship is sinking, rearranging the deck chairs should not be our focus. We need to find out why and what can be done to save our own lives!

We cannot trust one news source. GOOGLE (although a giant Internet Corporation) provides very fast ways to explore stories. By entering a few words into GOOGLE it is easy and quick to examine other opinions. A simple ‘trick’ is to enter a name of a corporation, union or person and add the word ‘complaints’ to get a clearer picture. Don’t trust any single source and avoid trying to find a source that only confirms our original bias. Also, put numbers into context. This is especially true when trying to decide what changes in our budget would have a real effect. While saving a million of so by addressing welfare cheats is laudable, if every cheat was eliminated the impact on our budget would be negligible. Also remember that the biggest thieves in government and industry love to see blind patriotism.


[1] For that matter, the same is true when anger is triggered by stories about welfare cheats, and anything that suggests that a minority is responsible for our trillions of dollars of debt, poor schools, etc.
[2] Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., CBS Corporation and NBC Universal. This does not even include Clear Channel that owns over 1,000 radio stations across the nation.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Internet, e-mail, websites, YouTube, social media, news websites and blogs make information easily available. A few minutes of inquiry via Google should make us the most informed people on earth. The problem is that this explosion of information did not make us searchers for the truth. Instead, we search for anything that supports our beliefs and anything that is gossip or about celebrities. We engage in fantasy. We forward e-mails that are hoaxes and become offended when shown proof that those emails are hoaxes.
Here are some real facts that most people seem to have missed.

  • Our Federal Government paid 2.6 million dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly on the job[1]. By the way, the study did not involve ethnic Chinese living in the United States. The study took place in China.
  • Taxpayers directly contributed $18,248,300 million to the Republican and Democratic national committees, or a total of $36.5 million, to hold their presidential nominating conventions in Election 2012. They gave similar amounts to the parties in 2008[2].
  • The Department of Agriculture spent $2 million to fund an internship program. The program hired one full-time intern.
  • Last year, $120 million was paid to dead federal employees. (In all fairness, sometimes it is hard to tell).
  • A total of $146 million was paid for federal employees to upgrade their flights to business class.
  • The government spent $2.6 million to encourage Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services provided an $800,000 subsidy to build and IHop in Washington, D.C. (Google it! It is absolutely true).
  • The National Institutes of Health has given $1.5 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to study why “three-quarters” of lesbians in the United States are overweight and why most gay males are not.
  • During 2012, $25,000 of federal money was spent on a promotional tour for the Alabama Watermelon Queen.

•The U.S. government spent $505,000 “to promote specialty hair and beauty products for cats and dogs” last year.

•NASA spends close to $1 million per year developing a menu of food for a manned mission to Mars even though it is being projected that a manned mission to Mars is still decades away.

•Over the past 15 years, a total of approximately $5.25 million has been spent on hair care services for the U.S. Senate.

•The U.S. government spent $27 million to teach Moroccans how to design and make pottery in 2012.

•During fiscal 2012, the National Science Foundation gave researchers at Purdue University $350,000. They used part of that money to help fund a study that discovered that if golfers imagine that a hole is bigger it will help them with their putting.

•A total of $10,000 of U.S. taxpayer money was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes in Michigan. (What did they say? Probably, "No! Please don't do it"!

•Vice President Joe Biden and his staff stopped in Paris for one night back in February.  The hotel bill for that one night came to $585,000.

•The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar produced in Idaho.

•The National Institute of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is conducting a study on the benefits of watching reruns on television.

•The National Institute of Health also spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.

•The federal government spent $750,000 on a new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

•The IRS spent $60,000 on a film parody of Star Trek and a film parody of Gilligan’s Island.

•Last year, the federal government spent $96,000 to buy iPads for kindergarten students in Maine.

•The U.S. government spent $200,000 on “a tattoo removal program” in Mission Hills, Calif.

•Last year, the government spent just under $1 million posting snippets of poetry in zoos around the country.

•The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research spent $300,000 on a study that concluded the first bird on Earth probably had black feathers.

•The federal government spent $75,000 to promote awareness about the role Michigan plays in producing Christmas trees and poinsettias