Thank You To My Readers

I wanted to take this moment to personally say thank you to those of you that follow my blog. Honestly, writing each day has its challenges. Writing an opinion, for me, should create a bit of professionally minded controversy to get us talking about problems, situations, and sometimes hidden unspeakables that we are afraid to base our opinion on. I don’t intend to write to fuel the flames or to be compared to “shock jocks” in the media. Rather I write in hopes to provide a voice for the opposition or concerns from those that cannot seem to get in front of the microphone. It is my wish that others would blog more to foster a better understanding of one another without becoming overly emotional or critical of the writer. The focus should be the subject, and we should scrutinize it carefully not to silence each other, but to be heard equally, fairly, and open minded.

 

Many of you know that I am in graduate school at the University of South Dakota. Next week is spring break. I will take one week off beginning next week to have some much needed free time. I will return to my blogs on the following week. Again, thank you all, and I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

Sam

False Sex Allegations

I had an interesting debate with a coworker today about people that lie about sexual assaults. Many agencies that educate the public about sexual assaults naturally will advocate that sexual assaults should never be labeled as false accusations. In fact, these same advocacy groups suggest that sexual assault are extremely underreported, and all should be taken seriously. On the other hand, there are people out there that will lie about rape because they want to revenge, redemption, or redirection. We both agreed that the key to sexual assault was consent. But in America, we have 5o states, and each state has its own definition of consent or how it’s defined. Consent will continue to become difficult to prove because of its one person’s word against another, and the criteria of consent have varying interpretations.

 

When we think about sexual assault, we may be drawn to an immediate violent crime where a person is raped by force leaving bruises or other injuries. But that way of thinking has shifted in the current definition of sexual assault by a multitude of interpretations to include touching a sexual organ or part. But watch any television show or passionate movie, and it is doubtful that the instantaneous sex scenes will ever demonstrate either person giving consent and sometimes play a role of sexual battery or questionable touching. I mention this scenario because many situations where people are involved in sexual roles are often similar to what we see on the big screen or television. Our conversation discussed if pop culture is somewhat responsible for not providing a benefit of educating the public about acceptable consent methods. If we mix in the ambiguous definitions of each state law, then the debate will continue for eons. Sure, no means no and we should respect that limitation. But in some cases, consent suddenly becomes a no that was never mentioned or insinuated.

 

People don’t typically lie about sexual assault. The subject in the question is that some do and the number appears to be growing.  I am not suggesting or diminishing the numbers that sexual assaults don’t occur. But finding accurate numbers with regards to false reportings can be a challenge. It would require data such as lie detection or counterclaimed physical evidence. The data that most rape advocacy groups utilize is based on studies that were completed between 1974 to 1986 which lists false reportings at 2%. But if you seek data from 1983 to 2004 then the number of false claims jump to 57% or higher. This information is provided from a 2006 paper by Philip N.S. Rumney in the Cambridge Law Journal. It demonstrates that there is a plausible argument that people do lie about sexual assaults or rape which is a disturbing trend.

 

But why would anyone want to lie about sexual assault? Is it because they regret what they did and want to turn back the clock as if it didn’t occur? But why would sexual assault advocate groups and law enforcement lie or mislead courts, schools, and the public about data the clearly shows a pattern of false allegations?  The topic is very sophisticated and ultra sensitive to grasp. People do lie on both sides and now is the time to introduce stiffer penalties for false police reporting and perjury in court. I fear that the future of sexual relations may be filled with smartphone recordings and sex tapes galore to reduce the burdens of rape accusations. The future of courtrooms juries will become a porn-like atmosphere where sex tapes will be viewed as evidence to either prosecute or reject a sex claim. Even with DNA forensics, the courts are filled with political agendas and elected prosecutors and judges. They too have an agenda to win cases to be reelected. We should place more emphasis on the truth and balanced investigation so that we are not revisiting an innocence panel twenty years from now and paying out outrageous sums because of shotty investigations, weak data, and emotional leverage inside the courtroom.

 
Perhaps it is safe to say we should return to a moral conscience society where we are careful not to place ourselves in situations where vulnerability could take place. Equally, there should be basic respect that individuals don’t benefit from a situation because the conditions are favorable. But we don’t live in a perfect world. However, we shouldn’t be adding to the imperfections to create falsehoods well after the fact. It’s one thing to have a credible case but another where the credibility is clouded and vague. Those that lie about sexual assault only hurt those victims of other sexual assaults and rapes. It makes our society suspicious and apprehensive especially in a time where adults should be reduced based on education and community information. But states should also take a moment to properly codify and streamline consent and federalize sex crimes so that education is improved and reduces the mixed definitions of assault.

Nerve Agent Is New Terrorism Threat

Last week Kim Jong Nam, the son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assassinated according to Malaysian police. Kim Jong Nam died shortly after two women put a substance on his face while he was checking in for a flight. Police have not said how the women were able to apply the nerve agent to Kim’s face and also avoid becoming ill themselves. The seeming contradiction of a poison that could kill him quickly but not sicken the attackers has stumped experts. A statement from the inspector general of police said that a preliminary analysis from the Chemistry Department of Malaysia identified the agent as “VX Nerve Agent.”

 

When I heard the news events regarding Kim Jong Nam I couldn’t help but think, “this is like a 007 film in real life.” The scary world of missile test launches just took a back seat causing the world to become a whole lot more terrifying. Just think for one moment that every bomb terror plot or dirty nuclear device that our nation heavily investigates and monitors now has to deal with a potential military grade nerve agent that can kill unmonitored within seconds. What makes this story interesting is that it was quickly administered with the potential to expose others in a public area such as an airport. Look for a moment at the diplomatic chaos it has stirred. Is Homeland Security prepared for this new threat both domestic and internationally? Maybe on paper, but perhaps not as prepared as we may think.

 

My question is, “was this a test of a new terrorism threat to airport security?” If so, how will airports or security experts deal with detecting nerve agents as a threat from public places? But another question is where did this nerve agent come from? It has been since the 1960’s since nerve agents were widely identified. Ask any soldier from the Cold War Era, and they will mention stories about Nerve Agent Treatment Autoinjector training scenarios. The threat was real until Congress banned nerve agents in 1972. 32,000 tons of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off the United States. Currently, Russia stockpile of nerve agents is still available but lacks the money and resource to destroy it. Perhaps this is the footprint from where an international investigation should begin? But that is likely to occur due to the current relations between the United States and Russia.

 

I would suggest that Congress and the United Nations begin an accountability audit of nerve agent nation facilities immediately. This is not the time to point fingers at how the nerve agent was acquired or used. It is a time to place steps and practices, so this horrible event doesn’t escalate into a catastrophic incident. If I were the Director of the CIA, I would be concerned how a nation such as Malaysia has a military grade nerve agent on its land. What if this nerve agent was in a small container on a plane bound for the United States? Do we have the technology to intercept it? These are the questions that you and I should be concerned about.

Private Prisons: Bad Idea

Recently the Trump administration decided to return funding back into private prisons. If you want a glimpse into what a private prison operation looks like, then you may want to watch a few seasons of Orange Is The New Black. Of course, television shows depict a Hollywood styled message, but we should be mindful that this is neither Oz nor Prison Break. Prisons and jails house real people that were found guilty of crimes ranging from failure to pay child support to murder. It has been documented that prisons are now the new mental health facilities yet many in prison cannot seek help because of budget cuts or constraints. Therefore, it’s doing time. Privatization of prisons is nothing more than a false sense of money savings scam combined with corruption and injustice. You cannot build a discount Supermax prison facility and purchase electricity, water, and security at a reduced rate. Private prisons are a fraud providing a sense of fiscal responsibility.

 

I remember a time where prisons were called the Department of Corrections. This fancy title doesn’t seem to carry much weight if prisons and jails are considered a revolving door. I am skeptical when someone calls a correctional facility a revolving door especially when those terms originate from the very people that administer prisons. Why not reintroduce education, job skills, and mental health requirements back into prisons? Yes, it is costly. But failing to provide that very funding is why prison populations grow and sometimes spiral out of control. Funding is not about building more jails and prisons. Funding should be about investment so that jails and prisons don’t become overpopulated. It appears the counties and states are spending in technological requirements that federal grants already contribute or pay for rather than spending on health care, education, and programs to reduce repeat offenders. Prisons also want to keep matters quiet and private as not to require oversight. This is perhaps why prison and jail administrators don’t want outsiders that could raise or report issues such as abuses or the lack of programs.

 

Prison privatization may save a few dollars here and there, but the bureaucracy continues. I would suggest that if private prisons are going to facilitate and house inmates to save money, then state and federal agencies should be responsible for providing mental health care. There should be some form of oversight so that the revolving door mentality is reduced. I would also suggest that prison population census begins showing the numbers of inmates returning the system within a two year period. That way we the public can determine if we are not just saving money, but reducing our recidivism rate. However, if the general public wishes to throw money at a revolving door prison system thinking that cutting individual funding may save money, resources, and create deterrent conditions then perhaps the public should spend a few days in prison or jail to understand its overall impact.

 

Trump said in his campaign speeches that he was going to clean up American crime and begin deporting illegal immigrants. Naturally privatized prisons are one suggestion of facilitating that need. But prisons are not a proper answer when it comes to deportation methods. Other nations deport immediately and allow an individual to appeal from their host country. Simply filling up an immigration prison will cost Ameican taxpayers; not illegal visitors. Prisons already endure a stigma of organized crime and accelerating inmates to advance from low-level crimes to dangerous criminal activity. Do we want to encourage an immigration violation to become an escalated criminal? No prisons are needed for deportation. An airline or bus ticket can do that. Our domestic prisons should be to house criminals that rape, murder, steal, or feloniously ruin our society. To clean up American, we must learn to re-educate America about our laws and consequences. Spend money on educating prisoners and buy an airline flight for an immigration problem. I’m sure our private aviation sector would enjoy profiting a bit more money from that idea.  It’s far cheaper than housing an immigrant for over six months or more. Otherwise, the only winners are the prison industry and its stockholders.

Gone Are The Mega Malls

When was the last time you visited a shopping mall? It appears that the icon of American retail has officially started to feel the pinch of shoppers. The convenience of indoor sprawl mixed with every brand retailer known to the public eye may have winked its last time to the typical consumer.

 

It was reported that Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot are performing solidly. For all the hype about Nordstrom’s and other retailers such as Victoria’ Secret, it appears an ending is about to come sooner than excepted. Today’s shopper has become lean and fiscally conscious in an economy that nearly a decade ago felt an economic collapse. That feeling still resonates with today’s buyers. In fact, large grocery stores are starting to feel the pinch too. Large chains are beginning to take notice with no frills shopping German grocer Aldi’s and Lidl.

 

While big box stores appear to have stability now, it is safe to assume that the future of shopping mixed with smartphone apps will become a bit more frugal and competitive. Super sized Walmarts are already feeling a decline in individual sales because of marketing designs. A typical consumer may enjoy the low-cost benefits of a particular retail item but complain heavily about how giant Walmart is to locate it. Instead, Walmart appeals to the add-on purchase. It hopes while you are shopping that you will buy something else. However, consumers are beginning to catch on, and it will only be a matter of time before consumers revolt. The supply and demand curve may need reexamining.

 

Amazon’s performance may be at an all-time high. However, I would argue that postal delivery may do more harm to Amazon as the company’s growth expands. Walmart is in the beginning stages of reducing its storefront size and introduce shipping options to compete with Amazon. Other retailers are catching on to add local and same day deliveries. The future of retail may be reverting back to a time when there were actual home visits such as the milkman and vacuum salesperson. Forget about junk mail and telemarketing calls today. I forecast a new sales vision of door and delivery salesmen combined. The new shopping mall may be actually your home and smart device.

 

update: JC Penny released in a statement it will close 140 of its stores effective immediately. Sears and Macy’s have closed a significant amount of stores already. 

Has The Lottery Lost Its Appeal?

Sometimes I wonder if Donald Trump didn’t invent the typical American lottery system. After all American style lotteries inflate its actual lump sum to what you could win if you take the money over nearly three decades. Yesterday the Powerball lottery drawing had a jackpot of over 435 million dollars. (someone actually won on a single ticket) But the reality is that once you calculate the lump sum option and federal taxes, then you walk away with perhaps $182 million. Don’t forget about your state revenue wanting its cut which will reduce that sum.

 

I am not implying that I wouldn’t be appreciative to winning the lottery. However, I would at least like to win without having the additional taxes and not be paid over 30 years. Why can’t we have our lotteries like Great Britain, Canada or other nations that don’t tax its winners? Additionally, they pay in a lump sum. What is most helpful in those lotteries is that they have a cap on jackpot winnings. That means, for example, the UK Lottery cannot be above 170 million British pounds. So the additional contributions to its lottery scheme do not require bond investments as opposed to our lottery.

 

What I do like about internationally based lotteries is that they keep its winners anonymous. There are no published reports in the media about winners unless the winner wants to be identified. I like that idea because it allows recipients the option of not being identified by criminals or those that want to harass winners for loans or other financial gains. American lotteries in only a few select states have anonymous rules. Perhaps we should do the same to reduce liabilities to potential winners. After all, we tax the hell out of the winner and then plaster the name and address of where they live. It’s almost as if winning the lottery will not only change your life but become expensive to return to some normalcy of life and privacy.

 

There are mixed feelings about the lottery. Does it actually provide a tax revenue to certain state funded programs? Does the lottery constitute a double taxation because of purchase and winning standards? All in all, the lottery is a bunch of hype with outrageous jackpots only created to give it marketing appeal. Yes, there are winners and life changing moments for some. It does have an appreciation level. But the lottery should take a step back and become a bit more realistic with jackpots similar to European standards. The federal government should halt its exploitation of the lottery and create a tax-free zone for lottery winners. Lottery winners are the ones that make lavish purchases giving back to tax bases. Maybe we are tired of the lottery because despite playing, we are not winning. I think the lottery is losing its appeal. This is why we should reevaluate how the lottery contributes to our system.

Smoke and Mirror Town Hall

Remember those Town Hall meetings where politicians are supposed to meet the public and answer questions or concerns? It seems that we are a bit too loud for our members of congress or senators. Apparently, the Town Hall meeting has become somewhat similar to a lynch mob of angry constituents that want answers but don’t receive them. Needless to say, it was politicians with intelligent talk during the election cycle that demanded accountability in Washington has now gotten full throttle from its own people… but members of Congress don’t like it.

 

Before I become the conspiracy theorist at large, I want to say that when politicians throw accusations that Town Hall meetings are filled with staged protesters. Let’s not forget when the same thing was lobbed and mentioned during the Democratic town hall meetings. Now that the Republicans have a taste of their own medicine they can either choose to blame the media or blame the people that interrupt the meetings – or both. But one thing is for sure, politicians won’t answer pressing questions. In fact, I have heard one politician say, “there is no one size fits all” plan. I hate to say it, but that is what legislation and law should be all about. You don’t create a law to hurt one side and allow the benefit to the other. This is why past laws are vague enough to balance between both sides.

 

Today it seems that Congress wants to strip away the layers of balance between liberal and conservative. This is why laws are clogged in our court system. The constant bickering back and forth over the same rehashed legislation continues to divide people. Town Hall meetings are intended to listen and facilitate balance so that laws protect people, not hurt them. When politicians run from the microphone from town hall meetings and instead seek ten thousand dollars a plate fund raisers naturally people will be pissed.

 

Now is the time for politicians to learn to approach its constituents from both parties and find out how to balance effectively and seek diplomacy. For once in my life, I somewhat wish we had a system in place similar to Great Britain. Once there is a no confidence vote or election process then the entire house is abolished, and elections occur rather quickly. There are no three years of presidential campaigning. You can’t run from the microphone, the press or the people in Britsh politics. Also, you must form a coalition with another party to form a substantial majority. I do like that idea. Perhaps as leaders of the free world we should reevaluate are we actually listening to the people is politics. In American politics we nothing more than smoke and mirrors filled with artificial applause and artificially placed people?