Someone Has To Look After These People

It is older generations that leave behind valuable lessons. However, it is a society in general that fails to learn from those lessons until it is too late. My grandmother, if she were still alive, would be 101 in a few days. She worked as a psychiatric nurse for the now-closed Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina for over 33 years. She loved her job because she had compassion and empathy for people. Many of her friends and relatives were concerned for her daily safety working closely with unpredictable seriously ill mental patients. However, she would eloquently put it, “someone has to look after these people.”

To me, that statement alone is paramount to many of the discussions surrounding criminal justice reform, mental illness, and compassion in society today. Decades ago politicians decided to close nearly all state-managed mental health facilities. Later it was insurance companies that began reducing policy coverages for underlying mental health assessments. Then that trickled down towards expensive medications that those with a mental illness cannot afford or ensure regiments are taken promptly to keep them off the streets. The bottom line is nobody is looking after the mentally ill. Well, at least not in a sense we were once accustomed to. Today, mental health is governed and managed by your local police or law enforcement department. Rather than adequately fund a psychiatric clinic, hospital, or increase our nursing shortages American culture feels that police can best manage the mental illness crisis.

When I read the newspaper and learn about another random school shooting, I quickly identify where such chaos and carnage could have been prevented not with gun control, safer schools, unique alert systems, or police presence. Instead the lack of mental health accessibility, counseling, facilities, and qualified individuals to identify these individuals are restricted by polished police cars, fancy badges, uniforms, guns, and police registries. A simple comparison of a mental health clinic versus a police station looks like night and day in America. Perhaps it is time to spread out that police funding to other departments to help citizens go back towards helping people and those with mental illnesses. Jails and solitary confinement facilities are not a proper way to treat mental illnesses.
Additionally, society must stop second-guessing individuals trying to use mental illness claims as a way to skirt criminal justice. It is time to allow qualified and licensed doctors to make that assessment. If someone is a danger to society, then let a someone with a medical license, doctorate, and a hospital residency instead of an individual with a two-week jailer course and basic first aid/CPR.

Lastly, psychiatric facilities are not institutions where we lock individuals up and throw away the key. They are treatment facilities that utilize plans of action to assimilate people back into society. After all, these are people and human beings too. The stigma of mental illness is typically identified negatively within society. That is because we fail to see or witness first hand the overall successes and rely on poor data or circumstances of particular individuals that enter and exit habitually. Our overall vision of mental health encompasses those where psychological effectiveness is not working rather than the whole. This is where we must halt rhetoric such as throwing away a key because doing so doesn’t provide a treatment plan or an ability to remedy mental health issues. Instead, it is a recipe to pass on the problems to future generations because there was nobody to look after them.

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Social Media Detox

I remember a time each Sunday where the newspaper delivery would be bundled like a giant log of firewood with a rubber band at the elasticity breaking point. Within that Sunday edition was coupons, humor sections, public opinion, and segments on what is happening in our neighborhood. Reading the newspaper was perhaps a quiet moment of clarity and solitude. There wasn’t vibrating phone sounds, dings from instant messages, nor random telemarketers interrupting your homemade Sunday coffee moment. It was a quiet time of reflection and absorption of reported credibility of incredible moments.

The weekend also presented a much needed moment to reconnect with family, friends, or neighbors. There were a pen and pad usually near any telephone to write down essential engagements or events. There was a diplomatic methodology as to how to turn down an engagement offer or request. Ringing your parents for some could be a challenge because there seemed to be at least one conflicting moment during the phone conversation. However, we dealt with it and got it over with – until its reintroduction on the next telephone call.

Every home had at least one television, and people knew programming schedules because it was embedded like a stone. The evening news appeared like clockwork at 6PM, and favorite prime-time shows immediately followed. If you missed the show, then you missed it for good. There were no digital recorders or tape players. Those devices came along afterward. There was an intimate feeling around the television as if it were an extended part of the family. Political noise and rhetoric was a part of the television culture. Watching shows such as All In The Family pretty much summed up with its Archie Bunker character of how typical Americans thought. There was no real political correctness. However, there was a decent level of decorum and manners – despite opposing viewpoints.

Today our world is a mobile device that we hardly use to call family, friends or associates. Instead, we choose to text or use smart devices somewhat like a velvet rope deciding who should be allowed to pass. The use of social media seems to be used to popularity club to present an illusion that individuals are connected to an enormous amount of friends. Instead social media in its most potent form is a political spectrum gauge and an obituary identifier. You either learn from social media who like Trump or who died. Nothing more.

The newspaper slowly died because people assumed that smart devices would open opportunities to allow individuals to become more engaged with community events. A $10 a month newspaper subscription turned into an $80 a month smartphone contract, a $60 a month cable account, and $40 a month internet subscription. Yet people wonder where their money is actually going? We subscribe an additional $10 a month to watch movies and wonder why malls, grocery stores, and theaters are rapidly closing. Our weekends are usually spent sleeping in extra hours or ordering online from our favorite provider. We buy lovely homes and decorate accordingly but rarely host a party or invite friends, family, or associates over. The velvet rope has been extended to the house as well.

Our once quiet moment of absorption and tranquility is no longer tranquil. It is a world filled with noise, pings, dings, and reminder alerts as if we are engaged enough to actually take part. American culture has become an internet voting booth without any effectiveness. Our homemade coffee moment is a trek in our SUV’s to the local Starbucks to spend $5 on a cup of coffee and click away on our mobile devices avoiding eye contact as not to strike up a random conversation. Our manners have become self-reliant and self-centered.

It is true that technology and habits do change over a period of time. However, one would think that our habits would become a bit beneficial towards self and others? Society has surrounded itself with smart devices, subscription-based pleasures, and name branded waters that present an illusion that we are sipping in a café in downtown Paris. We tend to think we are living in the moment away from the chaos but are simultaneously living in nothing more than constant turmoil. While society exclaims that youth are at risk for video game obsession or addiction. We too are just as addicted because we have a desire to keep up with the Jones or not to be left behind technologically. To better understand our obsession I challenge you to not use your smart device or other smart gadgets in the house for a month. I dare you!

A lesson learned from my smart device, and social detox was that I was much happier once I turned off all the electronic distractions. My family, friends, associates, and even my cats seemed much more pleased and engaged with me around. We discussed what we read, not what we saw or heard. We become a bit more credible because we were no longer influenced by the noise or distractions. Lastly, I was able to actually smell the roses. I took notice of what was around me and struck up random conversations. I became human again! Again, I dare you to try the same.

Hyperloop Hype

Anyone that travels internationally will usually convey enjoyment and awe at train efficiency in Europe or Japan. When you consider the overwhelming number of ridership not to mention a wonderfully efficient and clean mass transit system you have to wonder why this couldn’t be a staple of the American experience.

 

For starters, it was America that delivered the automobile as a form of independent travel requirements. However, long before the car was horse and buggy or the transcontinental railroad. As the automobile and flight grew into efficiency, the rail system seemed to be outsourced to the industry as a method of moving goods and services. People were and continue to be excluded from the rail experience in America because for some reason it is not efficient?

 

Despite Europe, Japan, China and other nations embracing rail need as a cost savings entity our country seems hell-bent at protecting the automobile. In fact, the stigma of not having an auto and opting for mass transit may accidentally label individuals as no longer qualified to drive because of legal reasons. Trains, buses, and mass transit have become a lesser standard of independence and status whereas the automobile is valued as a personal statement. Watching motorists with oversized SUV’s perhaps squeaking out 12 miles per gallon driving alone doesn’t entirely demonstrate our willingness to become more sustainable. Instead, sustainability is nothing more than a marketing word that people use when separating waste materials.

 

What if the United States began to reinvest in the rail system once again? Sure, it will be an expensive endeavor. The expense comes at a cost because we have neglected a system created a hundred years ago preceding to high-speed interstate highways with overrun budgets and periodic surface repavings. The last time Amtrak introduced a new high-speed locomotive was the in the year 2000 when the Acela Express entered service. That indicates that Federal Transportation Administration is not concerned with replacing aged out rail locomotives. To make matters worse, the Acela Express broke apart in early 2018. If this were an aircraft, there would be orders and inspections to ensure the highest level of public safety. As for the typical U.S. rail system, it is viewed as the lower tier of service. In fact, bus travel is higher than rail service because of the limited destinations trains may travel.

 

A reason we don’t have a bullet train in America is that we don’t have the right rail system and protections in place to allow high-speed rail. Additionally, there is no competition with Amtrak whereas Ford, Chevrolet, and other automakers share the same roads. Moreover, the typical American transportation hub doesn’t create a practical design where trains, planes, and buses meet at an apex point. Instead, planes are at remote airports, buses are located on the shady side of town, and train stations… well, if you find one, let me know. America created the design flaw, and perhaps the automotive industry had its fingers in the pie to allow that to occur.

 

With all the talk about a hyperloop system seems somewhat like a fantasy scene from the Jetson’s cartoon. Why on earth would a hyperloop work in American when we cant even develop and maintain a capable working rail system? Sure, it sounds impressive, and personally, I would celebrate the day such an endeavor reaches the average American. However, I am not as optimistic because a hyperloop must endure the same identical bureaucratic standards as the rails system or anywhere land is developed. In the meantime, I will keep watching the Jetson’s and pretending we live in such a world.

Fake or Credible Internet?

Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared today before Congress to discuss issues of possible Russian election interference. What I learned from that discussion was that internet providers are not as transparent as they claim to be. It has been a long-standing unwritten policy that the internet will not be controlled by anyone or any company. What we perceptively learned today was that the big internet giants have an interest in revenues and public image. Naturally, they do not wish to be labeled as “controllers of free speech.” But what about television, mail adverts or newspaper media flyers. They are regulated by many rules and regulations, and the deliverables of that particular irregularity or false product could be held liable for distribution not to mention investigators will be serving search warrants and filling up evidence boxes for later court dates. Such false advertising or false production is similar to snake oil pitches. Eventually, the salesman and the product can be banned and criminally charged if it causes harm.

The internet can be a dangerous place. It does have a unique mystique about it, and the data it collects and shares can be compared to a diamond mine depending on how one desires to implement a plan. But the internet today is not the porn hub central that once was deemed the 1990’s deviant playground. Today, the internet has become a part of our connected world with ala carte news and home appliance device connectivity. This is a differing contrast to European and foreign markets that protect user information. The internet has become dangerous because we have created conditions for it to be hazardous. Without fundamental enforceable law and boundaries, we have allowed the internet to be policed by not companies and people but instead analytics and software. This is not to imply a conspiracy theory of artificial intelligence taking over the world. Alternatively, the implication is that software is not human enough to determine what is real versus what is not. But to take that argument a bit further, many Americans have difficulty in distinguishing between fake or credible.

Based on that little snippet of discovery it will be hard-pressed for any prosecutor to effectively rule on the Russian election hacking issue. Not because of evidence, but because of the complexities of election laws differing across state lines and internet data servers that typically reside outside the United States as a form of redundancy and backup qualities. Let’s not mix up collusion with election tampering. Collusion is a secretive path to data where tampering is a physical adulteration of data. But I think it is equally important to ask tech giants to disclose to government or a branch of oversight how it maintains its secretive or propriety paths. For example, today I performed a random search of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp separately. What I quickly discovered was that Spacey had all the press information while Rapp had similar linkage. There was not one negative search story about Rapp to include alternative viewpoints or discussions. Why? Is it that analytics immediately point to what is deemed credible or is it what tech giants want us to read?

Overall, it is very complicated, and any legal ramifications about internet tampering will ultimately set a new precedent of how we or others police credible data. Another question to ask ourselves “does metadata exclude opposite viewpoints on purpose because it deems them as false?” This would be the argument I would introduce because not one blog or publication raised issues with Rapp. I am not attempting to slam Rapp. I am only using this as a prime example of how information seems adulterated and selectively scrubbed while searching for it.

The bottom line is that tech giants have an agenda and we the people are its product. Naturally, there won’t be much transparency from tech giants because that would remove a large slice of income and data collection from its grasp.  Google, Facebook, and Twitter currently monopolize our data where we do not own ourselves or our privacy any longer. Until someone breaks up the monopoly or peels back the onion of these companies, we will continue to witness distortion and snake oil pitches that seem all too real. Perhaps the internet and another nation adulterated our recent election by creating emotional harm. At what point will it become perilous where many people die or are harmed because the internet has succeeded credible standards seemingly no longer used because it’s not technical or high speed sufficient?

Smartphone Etiquette 

This morning I had a dentist appointment. Typically the waiting room area is silent and calming. Not today. A man decided he not only wanted to watch a Facebook video but thought the entire waiting room should hear it too. The room appeared visually upset at the full volume broadcast. A woman politely asked the man to please lower the volume. What happened next was a shock when he abruptly replied with “fuck you!”   Clearly, diplomacy wasn’t going to work, and civility may be on its deathbed.

I remember a time where there was common sense mobile etiquette in addition to civility in public settings. I am unsure where our manners have gone but have we become a society with a sole purpose of contempt of humanity? It is bad enough sitting at home watching television or attempting to sleep when all of a sudden it feels as if I’m experiencing a minor earthquake. What is actually occurring is some motorist with an in-car speaker system passing by so loudly that the windows and picture frames rattle. Needless to say, it is unnerving and a bit rude on the part of those with powerful vehicle stereo systems. It’s useless to yell to turn down the volume because they could never hear you anyway.  Again, common courtesy is discharged because of abuses within freedoms of speech and expression.

I try very hard to show empathy by putting myself in the shoes of others. It is true that sometimes we need some space to let off some steam or get away from drama or whatever is bothering us. But do we need to make so much noise pretending that our personal space is unlimited? Our society enjoys honesty yet is the very culture that won’t say anything to avoid confrontation. Thus why we rarely speak our minds in public and build a reserve of accumulated prejudices from poor experiences of others. Perhaps this is a reason we have a bad race and religious relations in the United States. I am starting to notice the trend of once calm filters become untangled shifting to informal and dramatic decorum in the worst possible way. The bottom line is that I see an increasing amount of hostility and lack of courtesy between one another. This issue highly extends to those that use smartphones in public. It is fair to say that we should be mindful that not everyone wants to hear the latest YouTube funny video in a quiet public setting. Additionally, we are not interested in having to listen to your personal telephone call with colorful graphic details. Finally, I don’t want to ever hear a phone call in the bathroom. It’s creepy enough hearing the person in the next stall straining a possible Taco Bell moment. A fully-fledged conversation is not helping.

How do I know cell phone etiquette is on life support? Go to a movie theater today and try to watch a film from start to finish without hearing a cell phone beep or ring. There is a huge production infomercial to warn people about talking and to silence devices, yet the problem seems to be ignored and growing exponentially. Even if people complain about an unsilenced phone, typically you will hear an occasional “fuck you” in reply from the culprit. It is one thing to accidentally forget to silence a phone but completely another to be belligerent in the matter. At least have the common courtesy to respect your neighbor and adhere to good smartphone etiquette.

Put Down the Cell Phone and Drive!

Sometimes I cannot help but sarcastically roll my eyes when I read a frivolous lawsuit in hopes of changing public habits. This absurd and waste of time cases are similar to the McDonalds Hot Coffee lawsuit filed back in 1992. This time I read where a family wants to sue Apple because of its Facetime application. The suit, filed by a family in Texas, alleges that the Facetime application contributed to the injuries and death of a motorist because the other driver was using the application. While I am sympathetic to any loss of life, I cannot find any legal support for such a lawsuit.

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For starters, I think that most motor vehicles equipped with in-vehicle navigation, SirusXM radio information and instrument cluster informational warnings are just as disruptive as being on a cell phone behind the wheel. Sometimes being behind the wheel of a modern day car seems like being in the cockpit of a Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. There are so many buttons, lane assist lights, parking sensor warning tones, collision alerts, loud Amber Alert tones, weather alert warnings, text tones, incoming email beeps, the occasional CNN breaking news sounds and the list goes on for days. Facetime or other similar products to include texting are features never intended to be used behind the wheel. It is the fault of motorists that blatantly ignore laws and common sense that should be banned from driving for causing an accident or contributing conditions for others to be involved in an accident. I would blame courts for not doing enough to stop the trend rather than technology providers such as Apple.

 

A family member recently suggested that I begin using an application called Waze. This application is utilized by marking current police traffic enforcement locations and provides up to date accident information. There are plenty of implementation flaws with the Waze app. It requires users to identify problem spots and useful text information about accidents, police, road construction or other pertinent information; all while driving. To me, apps like these are contributing to technology failures because they don’t encourage focused driving. Rather these apps encourage multitasking. But they are not worthy of a lawsuit. There are laws on the books to curb texting or distracted driving. It is up to legislatures to improve the stay current with technology and the law. Suing Apple won’t fix anything.

 

If I had to a moment to improve Apple technology to work in motor vehicles, then I would ask Apple to improve its connectivity with devices that support Apple CarPlay. Each time I hit a pothole my Apple phone could transmit that data to city road crews for immediate repair rather than texting or the need to use my phone while driving. Another suggestion would be those that have a desire to ride my bumper or tailgate other motorists. I would allow the backup camera to snap a photo of the offender and use the backup sensors in my bumper to send data to the DMV to issue a warning about aggressive driving. At least the lack of police presence would be replaced by a credible presence of motor vehicle telematics. If we use technology for smart purposes, then we can improve conditions and reduce frivolous lawsuits. Until then, please put down your smartphone and drive.

My Amazon Echo is my Alibi?

I could not resist mentioning the recent case involving the Amazon device known as “Echo.” I admit that I have one of these devices. When I heard that an Echo device was being subpoenaed to court because it may have listening data I knew that this story would grow into all sorts of hype. While I understand that police in this particular incident want to comb over every inch of potential evidence, I think we may be opening looking into a Pandora’s Box that may have ramifications.

It was last year a murder case in California had Apple and its iPhone applications at the center of controversy. There was much legal wrangling over consumer data, texts, and other meta information. But what was the most interesting part that differs versus the case of Amazon is that the government wanted to hack into the iPhone. There are currently features such as Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and countless other devices that seek voice recognition to wake the device. I fear that our home may inadvertently become a crime scene in waiting if we do not stop the overreach of particular law practices and standards.

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I can remember a time where law enforcement tools have evolved from wanted posters to police radio, patrol cars and social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Community policing today has also expanded through social networking to locate missing children, alert neighbors of suspicious activity, and even inform the public about crimes committed in their neighborhoods. But it seems that police and other law enforcement organizations are migrating its way into our kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. I have nothing to hide. However, I do revere in a bit of personal privacy. The art of secrecy or personal privacy has slowly succumbed its deathbed. Our computer, smartphone, Echo device, automated garage door opener, car and almost anything with a way of connectivity can tell on us. Most disturbing is if there is a time management flaw in the code because that could be the powerful indictment within the law they look for. What can you do to protect yourself from your own devices?

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At one time I was worried about hackers with accessibility to my home security camera, laptop, iPhone and other electronic devices. That later shifted towards foreign governments hacking into my network to do harm to our nation. Within months that seems to have slipped into me being a bit concerned that my own devices are watching me because the police have a suspicion. Folks, all this can be done without much of a warrant. In no way am I eluding that Edward Snowden was correct in his assessment of big brother? But what he shared has had a greater significance on a plausible concern that we no longer have rights to reasonable privacy. If this was a traffic camera where I am behind the wheel near a crime scene, then I can accept that. Hopefully, my alibi would be a credible witness either that saw me or was with me. But I find it difficult for me to grasp that my future alibi may be my Amazon Echo device. That alone is a scary scenario with multitudes of problems written all over it.

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I am an advocate of free will. I do my best to protect animals by working in shelters. I hopefully write witty blogs about the concerns that I see most of you talk about but find little room to do anything about. I embrace technology, pay my taxes, go to school, work hard and have wonderful friends. One thing I will say is that I own my electronic devices. They shouldn’t be considered mature enough to exhibit free will. This means that they are not of legal age, at least of maturity to do human-like things on its own. Therefore I do not consent my electronic devices to exhibit free will or testify on my behalf. That should be where we are today with certain meta or data issues. It is too infantile and too scattered to properly become a reliable alibi for anyone or anything. I don’t want to hinder police from an effective investigation. But we must place a fair and reasonable balance between people and the reach of the law. We may live in America. But with actions like the Amazon Echo warrant, it is beginning to look more like the Soviet Union each and every passing moment. What kind of liberty is that?