It is no secret that the United States of America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In fact, if we treat individual states as countries and compare them to the rest of the world, the top thirty spots would be held by individual states, even the lowest ranked state ends up 58th in the world, and the other eight countries in that list are not exactly countries that have shining human rights reputations: El Salvador, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Thailand, Rawanda, Russia, Panama, Coast Rica, and Brazil. This is a rather authoritarian group of countries that experience high levels of violent crime. In fact, El Salvador, Russia, Panama, and Brazil all have murder rates that are double that of the United States, and yet the US incarcerates more people.
According to the Bureau of Prison (BOP) statistics, the 46.1% of individuals incarcerated by the state are charged with “drug offenses,” followed distantly by “weapons, explosives and arson” at 17.9%, and in third place making up 9% of the incarcerated population are “sex offenses.” What is curious about this list is that each one of these categories undoubtedly holds a percentage of non-violent criminals: individuals using drugs, someone with an “illegal” gun, or those engaging in prostitution or otherwise consensual sex. In fact, the first category of crimes the BOP lists that consists solely of crimes with an apparent victim is “extortion, fraud, and bribery” with 6.4% of the population.
When we see that we are locking up a disproportionate amount of victimless drug crimes, as well as, other potentially non-violent crimes and that our incarceration rate outpaces the rest of the world (including all sorts of third world “shit holes”), we have to wonder, just what is going on. There is any number of reasons out there as to why we have such a high incarceration rate with some folks blaming it on a lack of present day education, and others seeing it as a throwback to our Puritan roots.
But when it is all distilled down, we see that our penal system is not one of correction, but one of corporatism and monopolistic force, backed up by the long arm of the law, not just by creating a War on Drugs and implementing draconian sentences, but also incentivizing incarceration by awarding contracts and providing funds to build new and bigger prisons.
In 1972, under President Nixon, the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (Con Act) was passed as a sort of safety net for areas dependent on agriculture, timber, mining, and other rural economies that were starting to lag. Since 1996, starting under President Bill Clinton, the Con Act has lended over $360 million to build prisons in rural areas, as they consider the construction of a prison as “rural development.” On the surface, this may seem well intended: we will always have prisoners, prisoners don’t stop during recessions, a prison can create numerous jobs - especially considering second tier businesses needed to support the demands of prison workers, but of course, this is only surface level. Many prison towns that have received federal money to build prisons have dealt with negative ramifications, some have actually lost money, and once a town becomes a prison town, it is near impossible to go back; there is no upgrading from a prison town to a web development town, or a tourist town. It seems that no matter what side of the prison system an entity gets involved with, there is no complete breaking free.
While many of these prisons are touted as being “private prisons,” the fact remains that the money to build the prisons is provided by the federal government and leaves little room for negotiation when it comes to policies that might actually help these prison-towns prosper. A prison is typically built with the idea that it will provide x-number of jobs, but once construction has been finished residents quickly realize that a good proportion of those jobs will be going to individuals already working for the prison firm and often go to non-residents, and even in those jobs that are actually created, there is a high level of turnover, and with the massive loan that the town and state needs to pay back, there is little recourse.
Unfortunately, even in areas where prisons do create economic development, many problems still arise, both political and moral. While it may be changing, when the census is taken, the prison population is included, creating a skewed view of the voting population (as prisoners do not vote) when it comes time to redraw districts and award electoral votes, especially considering that many of these prisoners do not come from the rural towns they are serving time in, or sometimes, even the same state. This creates political incentive for governors and congressmen to advocate for these federally funded prisons and keep beds filled, especially in areas that typically vote one way or the other. There has been some effort to change this, but it seems to be a slow going process.
Really, though, the biggest problem with our current model is the moral dilemma it places on areas that have become home to federally funded, corporatist prisons: empty beds do not pay. Many times, in fact, states will be on a contract that regulates prison occupancy, so now these rural communities that took federal loans through the Con Act are not only responsible for paying them back, but they are also responsible for keeping incarceration high. This incentivizes incarceration rates for all involved in the prison system, from police officers to prosecutors to probation boards. Unfortunately, this is not all conjecture as we have seen it happen with judges being indicted for racketeering.
And yet, despite having the highest incarceration rate in the world, despite having contracts with the State that regulate occupancy, despite a fading war on marijuana, despite the country being hopelessly in debt, despite politicians’ inability to pass a budget, the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act continues to dole out funds from the USDA budget to governors and towns advocating for bigger prisons. This is not rural development. These are not private prisons. They are prisons funded and regulated and incentivized by the Federal Government.
No matter where on the political spectrum you fall, it is fairly well accepted that the public education system leans to the left; some simply accept this, others get angry, and still some enroll their children in private schools or even try their hand at homeschooling. Many of the latter accuse the schools of indoctrinating children into Statism or even Socialism. And while this may have some truth to it, there are some things parents do without recognizing that they are, in fact, indoctrinating their children into socialism right from their own home.
Most everyone has heard the little catch phrase before: “sharing is caring,” and while to some degree, it is, sharing can actually be rather sinister. The problem with sharing, is that it can diminish the importance of private property, individual ownership, and voluntary interactions.
In a classroom, most of the toys used are bought by the school or the teacher, they do not belong to the children and it is up to the administrators to make the rules surrounding how toys are shared. However, in the home, toys are usually purchased by an individual for a specific individual. At my house we have a few of those toys meant for large group play, specifically, a rickety jungle gym with a little climbing wall, a slide and two swings; we also have four children. This creates problems. We often resolve these problems by introducing a new object, or suggesting they take turns, but we do not actually force our children to get off a swing and give it to a sibling. Usually the suggestion to share is enough to persuade our children to behave differently, and if it’s not, we might lean a little harder with shoe-on-the-other-foot examples, but we never force a child off the swing.
We need to teach our children the voluntary actions of charity, not State sanctioned theft.
And then we also have those individual toys: the Batman action figure Grandma sent down, or the iPod Santa left behind. Too often, parents allow a child-owner of a toy to use the object, but when a sibling or friend wants to use it, the child-owner is forced into sharing. If you do not share, there are consequences that may involve time out, or shuttering of the toy, of course this is after the child that made the request to share has been given the object of their desire against the will of the owner. It may not seem like a big deal, after all, I am the parent and children should learn to listen to authority figures, right? But consider the message and the moral you are sharing: “It is okay for an authority figure to force someone to give up their private property to someone else who wants that property.” This is simply unacceptable. There is no need for this framework to ever be established, especially in the mind of a child. On top of this, it not only tells a child it is okay for an authoritarian force more powerful than you to take your property, it also tells a child it is fully acceptable to appeal to authority to use force on others so the appealer’s desires are met. It instills entitlement, which only furthers the acceptance of forced sharing.
Now, I am not suggesting voluntary sharing is a bad thing, or that we should not encourage children to share, but it should be on their terms. There is great importance in teaching children the value of charity, and the benefits of taking care of others when you can, but these are things that cannot be forced, and it must be understood that these things have limits. We need to teach children that being mindful of others has a place, but it is at their choosing. At the same time, we need to teach our children that sometimes, we will never be able to use a friend’s toy, nor may we ever be able to purchase the toy on our own and that is simply the way of life. We need to teach our children the voluntary actions of charity, not State sanctioned theft.
The left have cast him as an enemy of women’s rights, suggesting that his appointment to SCOTUS would lead to the end of Roe V. Wade, that he would “create laws” that put women’s reproductive organs in the hands of stodgy old white men. But what the left, nor the right tell us is that Brett Kavanaugh is no friend of liberty. He is a proponent of the State, of mass surveillance, and data collection. We should be less afraid of the end of Roe V. Wade and more hesitant over the final erosion of the Fourth Amendment under the guise of legislation meant to stop “terrorism” or “sex trafficking.”
So what, then, is the Libertarian case for Kavanaugh? Simply put, he seems fairly decent on the rest of the Constitution, and by fairly decent, I mean not as bad as the rest of the manure heap. When it comes to Kavanaugh, we know what we are getting; we know the Acts he has had a hand in drafting up; we know which presidents have kept him close; we know what to be worried about. We also know he will stand up for Second Amendment, and most of the rest of the Bill of Rights.
And if we are honest, the Fourth Amendment no longer really matters in the sense that the Federal Government will continue to spy on it’s people and collect data regardless of any Amendment to the constitution. They have been ignoring it long before the Patriot Act, and they will continue to ignore it unabated; does it matter if it’s out in the open?
Should the left prevail in stalling his confirmation, or having his nomination pulled altogether, it is more than likely the next candidate will not be appointed until after the mid-term elections, and if this supposed blue wave pulls through and the democrats take the senate, we will see a SCOTUS nomination that will be much more progressive and as a whole, less concerned about the Federal Government recognizing the boundaries laid out by the Constitution.
Is Kavanaugh a good pick, no, but then, no one that will be put forward will really be a “good” pick. It simply comes down to the fact that every appointment to SCOTUS will be a turd sandwich, and at this point, I’ll take a turd sandwich that will at least try to remind the State of some of the People’s personal liberties.
It is with some trepidation that I write this letter, but I feel it is something that must be said given the current climate surrounding our social and political norms. I write with trepidation, knowing that some will categorically box me as a Nazi, misogynist, rape-enabler — none of which I am. I do not write this letter as part of any collective, class or political identity, rather I write it as an individual.
In the last year, the #MeToo movement has gained momentum; it has called out a number of individuals on dastardly crimes and brought them to face society at large for their unwanted deeds. Some of these attackers have been high profile, and some have been co-workers down the hall that outside of the local community no one was aware.
The recent accusations brought against Brett Kavanaugh, have shed a light on something sinister that lies within the #MeToo movement, and I’m not talking about false accusations. (Nor am I defending Brett Kavanaugh, as I feel his position on the Fourth Amendment is damning.) Much of the hoopla surrounding Kavanaugh is due to the 24-hour news cycle regurgitating experts at any given moment and the fact that everyone on social media is an expert.
Across social media, we have begun to see more hashtags, born of the #MeToo movement that pertains to sexual assault and victimhood in general. We have seen things like, “#IBelieveWomen,” “#IStandWithVictims,” “#IstandWithChristineBlaiseyFord,” and any number of permutations therein. When we use labels like these, we sweep away any middle ground for discussion; we create a wide array of implications, some more nefarious than others and in turn, they create an extreme polarization. We imply that those who ask questions about a particular assault, don’t believe women, don’t support victims and don’t care about sexual assault in general, all of which are egregiously incorrect. These hashtags also imply that we do not need to dig any deeper than the victim to find the truth, that the truth lies in the mouth of the accuser. Sadly, people do lie about sexual assault, and sometimes, despite positive ID of an assailant and a conviction, DNA evidence later exonerates the accused (that is not to say these are false allegations, just false convictions of someone who was not purposefully misidentified.) Unfortunately, the misguided nature of these hashtags does not stop there.
Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes. One that no one could rationalize with any real sense of justice. It is unfortunate that sexual assault often occurs with very few, if any witnesses but, it must be treated the same as any other crime. Unfortunately, we must side with the accused until there is ample evidence that they are, in fact, the guilty party. We cannot accept the word of one individual as the penultimate evidence against the accused. This quickly takes us down a dark slope of hysteria similar to that of McCarthyism, were accusations are used against those with whom we disagree. These hashtags ignore this fact. They suggest that simple allegation is the equivalent of guilt. They suggest that by being a victim, your testimony is infallible. This is unacceptable.
In my suggesting this, I do not believe all accused are innocent, I am not implying sexual assault victims are liars, nor am I belittling their trauma. I am suggesting that before we attach all-encompassing hashtags and beliefs to every allegation, we step back and reevaluate. We take into account that sometimes, we get things wrong, and it is wholly unjust to accuse an innocent individual to assuage a victim’s fears no matter how terrifying they may be.
The general consensus is that the environment needs protection; that man kind, gone unchecked will destroy the natural world, use all it’s resources and be left to live on a dusty ball of rubbish. We are then led to believe that the only way to protect the environment and all it’s natural beauty – and keep humanity safe for eternity – is through regulation and laws passed down from the State. While I do think the natural world has some intrinsic value, it is not through State dictation through laws and regulations that this value be implied or protected; rather, that protection should come through private property rights.
If you are not aware, a good chunk of Northern New York is made up of the Adirondack National Park, a 6.1 million acre park that includes the Adirondack Mountain Range, over 10,000 lakes, and 30,000 miles of streams and rivers. Nearly half of the acreage is privately owned, but is under heavy restrictions placed by the Adirondack Park Agency, the other half is owned by the state. This means that there is a great infrastructure of roads running in and out of the park for both local residents and tourists looking to hike, canoe, ski, or otherwise enjoy the natural world that the park provides.
As you can imagine, winters in Northern New York can be rather daunting, especially the higher elevations in the mountains: there is ice, snow, steep slopes, billowing winds, curving roads, sub-zero temperatures, and, of course, people. In an attempt to melt the snow and ice and keep travelers safe, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) plasters the roads with salt. During the off seasons, the salt is stored in massive piles, most of the time in a giant dome shaped salt barn, but there are some piles that are left exposed to the elements year round.
In the 1970s, the National Wildlife Federation called out the use of salt to melt ice on roads as being potentially harmful to the environment, and as it would turn out, they were partially correct. According to Dan Kelting, an Environmental Sciences professor at Paul Smith’s College, New York State began using heavy doses of road salt in the 1980s and in the time that has passed, NYS has used over 7 million tons of salt on the road.1 The salt melts the ice, gets washed away by rain, pushed into the ditches by snow plows, and eventually finds its way into lakes, rivers, streams, and ground water, where it causes problems for both nature and humans.
Salt is a naturally occurring mineral that is often added to foods (sometimes in great quantities) to enhance flavors. It is also a necessary mineral to our basic survival as human beings; however, when too much salt is introduced to the diet, there are a number of health concerns that can rise, including: hypertension, stroke, and heart disease to name a few. Of course, no one is saying the general salt contamination in well water from salting the roads is so bad that it can cause these diseases (in some houses though, the well water is no longer potable), but individuals who suffer from hypertension – aka: high blood pressure – or who may have already suffered a heart attack or heart disease, that would need to monitor their sodium intake may unknowingly consume too much salt in their water and risk future health problems.
The Current State Monopoly Approach
The amount of salt in the ground water also causes secondary health effects. If you have lived in a place where they salt the roads, you will recall seeing a white minerally buildup on the rocker panels of your vehicle. You will also notice that once your vehicle starts to rust, it spreads quickly. This is from the salt on the roads, and why you wash your car more in the winter, than in the summer. What’s happening is that salt is a corrosive agent; it is corroding the metal parts of the vehicle and breaking them down, this same thing happens to water pipes, and unfortunately, many older pipes contain harmful substances such as lead. So when the salt water starts to corrode pipes, it also begins to release lead, and other harmful substances contained in the pipes. (This is essentially what happened in Flint, MI.) Not only does this cause secondary health effects, but it also adds undue infrastructure stress on both public and private water systems as well as any appliances that utilize the water, as parts tend to wear out sooner and need replacement earlier than expected.
While run-off may add to the salt contamination issue, the main source of salt contamination comes from the salt barns – where they store the salt. As you can imagine, a big pile of concentrated salt will slowly seep into the ground from the rain and humidity. And this is where we are today. It has happened in a few towns – notably Orleans, NY – that the salt has seeped into the ground water and has wreaked such havoc on the infrastructure that the town water systems need to be replaced.2,3 This replacing also comes with a very high price tag in the millions, sometimes exceeding $10 million.
In a number of Northern New York towns, the state has come in and cleaned up the mess, laying down new waterlines, however, this cost is passed on to residents – both directly and indirectly – for example in Palmelia, NY, the DOT laid new pipe along route 342, but by then many homeowners had already spent thousands replacing appliances and plumbing fixtures in their own homes, and on top of that, these homeowners were required by the state to pay an additional water bill of $2500 to cover capital costs of the project.4 In the town of Orleans, where the project was estimated to cost $13 million, the town received a $100,000 grant from the state and an $11 million interest free loan, but it wasn’t enough to cover the project and residents were left with the option of covering the $1.9 million difference by adding an extra $1000 a year to their water bill. Don’t forget, the $11 million would eventually have to be paid back – by taxpayers funding the town. In the situation with Orleans, despite numerous studies tracing salt concentrations back to the salt barn, the DOT does not claim responsibility for the contamination. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time this happens, but par the course, State led pollution is usually kept quiet and the State seldom takes responsibility. In the case of many towns in Northern New York, even when officials have accepted blame for contamination, officials have gone so far as to say that the contamination of a private well is a problem for the well owner, not the State.
To make this even more disturbing, consider where the funding for the $11 million interest free loan and the $100,000 state grant came from: the tax payers of New York. And don’t forget, NYS DOT receives federal funds ear marked for particular projects, so essentially, the loan money, and the grant money are coming from every single tax payer in the country.
It seems a bit convoluted, but broken down it goes like this:
A State run monopoly with required membership enforced by the State, and funded by tax-payers creates an environmental health problem. The State run monopoly then loans tax-payers their own money to fix the problem. It then forces residents to pay an extra fee for the new work.
There is no winning when you sue a tax-payer funded organization, you are in essence suing yourself.
A More Minarchist Approach
If we look to the free market and more liberty-centered solutions we will find that there are a few different options we can follow. The first is just smaller government. The NYS DOT is a state wide organization. They consider all state highways their jurisdiction and treat them accordingly. When we examine the facts, however, most of the small towns in the Adirondack park don’t actually use salt. Instead they use sand. Now sand doesn’t clear the roads down to pavement, but it also doesn’t effect the water table as drastically. (It may cause some siltation in rivers and streams, but that seems the lesser of two evils when compared to salinization.) Local towns also use sand instead of salt, because it is cheaper and they don’t have the massive tax base that New York State does. In fact, New York State uses 2.5 times more salt on the roads than local municipalities do.5
When a small town creates an environment of toxicity for both private individuals and businesses, it is easy enough to pick up and move locations, but remain in close proximity to jobs, family, and friends. The State has very little vested interest in where their citizens go as a move out of state is much less likely than a move from one town to another (moves within the same country are twice as likely as moves between counties, let alone States.6) Consider the economics of a person moving from a town of 200 versus a state of 20 million; just based on a percentage of tax-base alone, a person is much more valuable to a small town than the state, likewise the incentive of a small town to keep citizens is much higher than that of the state.
A Slightly More Anarchistic Approach
We can also look at this from a more drastic lens and consider that the roads be privatized. It sounds scary, but it makes sense, and it keeps everyone healthier. If the roads were privatized, and owned by a third party, it would be up to the third-party to keep the roads clean. Undoubtedly, they would want to keep their roads clean of snow and ice to ensure safe travel and happy customers. In order to do so, they could utilize the current State model and use copious amounts of salt, but as we’ve seen in many instances above, salt gets into the ground water and contaminates wells. Unlike the State, which has unlimited funds to repair damage, a third-party’s resources are limited. There are many examples of private corporations being held responsible for environmental pollution, when GE contaminated the Hudson, they were forced to pay for clean up, a third-party that owned the roads and subsequently contaminated the ground water would be held responsible for clean up and rectification. Restaurants and businesses that couldn’t afford to constantly replace appliances and in turn left towns in Northern New York, could recoup costs from the third-party responsible for the contamination, stay in their local residence and continue to build the economy. A third-party would know this and out of necessity, go out of their way not to contaminate their surroundings and would either come up with a better way to store the salt, or they would come up with another way to clean the roads.
A third-party would also be solely responsible for storing the salt. In some towns, residents did not want to build covered salt barns, surely an uncovered mound of salt will contaminate more ground water than a roofed salt barn, but as it was a publicly run entity, the residents made the choice to leave the salt uncovered. If a private entity was responsible for containing the salt, the public would have no choice in how it was stored and, in looking out for their best interest, the private entity would cover the salt.
The difference between the State and private corporation is competition. The State has no competition, and there is no limit to their funds. When they damage private property, they are seldom held accountable and when they are held accountable, the damage costs are just another line item on next years budget that every tax-payer will have to answer for, this is not the case for a private corporation. Rather, quite the opposite. Private corporations funds are limited by their resources. Imagine how shareholders would react if a company kept going over budget every year and just increased product pricing in an attempt to cover the difference. That company wouldn’t last very long. The State also has a monopoly on competition. Sure, there are elections every few years, but in 2016 “when voters cast ballots for state representatives [last fall], millions of Americans essentially had no choice: In 42 percent of all such elections, candidates faced no major party opponents.”7 This lack of competition does not exist in the private sector, as soon as another company sees an opportunity to step in and make some money, they will and the competition can drive prices down and increase quality of goods and services. It is shameful that residents of Northern New York do not have the ability to make these choices to help keep their lives safer and the environment healthier, and it is even more shameful that it seems a fairly standard practice that State level politicians would suggest contamination on their behalf is the responsibility of the private property owner.
Some days in the spring, I find myself wanting the dead heat of a Georgian summer to
keep me locked up inside, not because I particularly enjoy having cause to take a shower after walking from the house to the car, or because I enjoy paying an obnoxiously higher electricity bill for powering the air conditioning units, but because there is a lull. During fall, we keep busy with the fall crops, give the lawn a final mow and try to enjoy the relatively cooler weather as we drift toward the winter solstice. Winter is a time for bucking firewood, amending the sleeping soil, digging holes for future fruit trees, and trying to harvest some venison before the whirlwind that is spring comes tornado-ing in.
Once spring arrives, there is no slowing down, and this spring has been exceptionally busy. In part because we keep expanding the garden and trying to get more crops in, in part because there are more mouths to feed and more obligatory places to be, but mostly because of the rain. Don’t get me wrong, the rain is usually a good thing in Middle-Georgia,but where as I typically have to mow the lawn once every three weeks, it’s been an every other week ordeal (if not more than that), weeding the garden has been virtually non-stop, and the damp weather has kept the beans from germinating as healthily as they should, leaving them susceptible to aphids and cutworms and other unsavory pests. But we have prevailed. The rain may not be over, but it is slowing and the temperatures are climbing into the mid-90s during the days and evening temperatures hovering right around 70; it seems as if summer is here and the lull is beginning.
When things start to slow down we have time to enjoy the sunrises bouncing off the clouds, waking up the bees, eliciting the edamame to show their dainty purple petals and enticing the big showy squash flowers to open for pollination. We have time to sit on the porch, lingering under the fans after dinner, watching the barn swallows swoop in and out of the corn patch as they catch the Lovebugs mating mid-flight. Summer brings the end of school and friends who can stay a little later.
Of course, just because there is a lull doesn’t mean all work cessates. There are still plenty of chores that need to be done outside in the heat. The lawn still needs the occasional mow, the crops harvested and the animals fed. You can do it in the cool of the morning, but it’s still 70 and muggy as anything you’ve ever experienced and as soon as the sun rises it’s width over the horizon, the temperature starts climbing. The trick is enjoying the time you have to appreciate it all.
I like to believe there was a time when journalism was journalism: when actual facts were checked with reputable references, not just some guy on Twitter who may or may not have fabricated a document. A time when newspapers and magazines sold because they contained pertinent information and facts that allowed the reader to form an educated opinion. I want to believe this, because this certainly is not the case in today’s world of “journalism.” We live in a time with an endless supply of media outlets constantly rushing to be the first to cover a story and in this rush, facts are lost and misrepresented – sometimes knowingly (Syria or Yemen anyone?). No longer can a media program survive on a channel, bolstered by programs of entertainment; instead a reporter must sell a story and garner their own ratings. A story must catch the viewers attention in the seconds it takes to flip to the next channel. A writer must convince the reader to click and follow along from a title and half a by-line. No longer are they reporters, but story tellers.
Journalism has turned into sensationalism. Every mainstream piece of media that trends on Twitter or Facebook or cycles through CNN, MSNBC, FOX, every single piece is sensationalized. They do not present facts, they confirm biases. They affirm their audiences belief. Unfortunately, if they want to stay alive, they must. But in the long run, who does this help? Surely it does not help the people who could do with learning just the facts before making a decision. Rather, it helps the media outlets. In a world where people are more concerned about one of the Kardashian’s butt implants, the latest celebrity to land in rehab, or the most recent football player to beat his girlfriend, we are drawn to drama and extreme emotions and the media devours us alive. It sells us sensationalized non-facts.
Consider the recent events in Parkland, Florida. All of social media was in an uproar a week later, not over the safety of children at school and how to resolve that issue, but over gun control. Why? Because that is a polarizing issue that can sell ad space and generate clicks. Is anyone going to argue that killing children is a good thing? Probably not. But what is something we can argue about? The Second Amendment. So that is what the media fires up; a story that will either outrage us, or confirm our already cemented beliefs. There is no more fair and balanced journalism. Everything has a side. It is the only way to sell. Let’s face it, no one is swayed because of a half-truth article CNN pushes out about how bad an AR is. (Consider AR stands for ArmaLite, the company who popularized the typical AR look. Also consider that by the US Army’s definition, the AR-15
is not an assault rifle.) The people who are already anti-second amendment are cemented in those beliefs and the folks who are pro-second amendment are cemented in their beliefs. Both sides present “facts” about school shootings and gun violence and back those facts up with statistics from one source or another, but more often than not, these facts completely contradict each other, so who is wrong? In a rational world, we could have that discussion. We could debate openly about what these statistics mean and what information is faulty, but we are not rational. We are immediate. We are right. We are sensationalized.
If we could step back and look at things with perspective, we would realize that while shootings are not a good thing, there are other things going on with our children that are much worse. Consider that, according to the CDC, in 2015, 2,333 16-19 year old teens died in automobile accidents and another 200,000+ went to the emergency room. That breaks down to six teens per day, and that’s only 16-19 year olds! Now consider that 300 K-12 students have been killed in school since 1980. Understandably, no one wants their children to die, and certainly not at school, a place you are, to a degree, compelled to send your children, but at the same time, you cannot even compare those numbers. There are certainly much more dangerous things we allow our children to do every day, that we do not even blink at.
So why the outrage? Shootings impact a single community much more so than a car accident; when one community looses a member it grieves, but the more individuals a community looses to a single event, the higher the level of grief as more families are directly impacted. But let us look at it from the media’s perspective: who cares about a car accident? Is there any debate over whether or not we should use cars? Does anyone really proclaim that drunk driving is a good thing? Do we battle over what age teens should be allowed to drive? Or speed limits? Is the nation going to watch a piece about a car wreck in some no-name town? No! Cars are common place. Virtually everyone uses them or has knowledge how to use them. We grow up learning how to use them by watching adults model appropriate driving skills; we even learn how to use them in classroom settings. There is very little polarizing when it comes to cars (other than maybe emissions.) But guns, guns are different. Guns are not something everyone has. They are not objects everyone grows up learning to use as a part of life. We are convinced that only the criminal element needs guns. We are taught that guns are scary and should be feared. And that fear can be sensationalized. That fear can be sold.
Imagine what would happen if the media presented unbiased facts? Imagine if they helped create a discourse around safety in schools instead of polarizing the people and spreading propagandist half-truths as facts. It might not get the Tide-Pod-Eaters attention, but certainly it would help society a bit. So what do we do? Consider the opinions of others, consider their points. It is important for us all to realize that we are not right about everything; that our opinions are just that: opinions. To hold so tightly to our own opinions and belief structure that there is no room for others is sheer idiocy. The only way to advance as a society is to learn from the experiences of other people and try to understand them, to understand that our personal experiences do not apply to everyone. Believe it or not, the media and the pundits do not have the answers. They are not experts; they do not even know the facts. What they do know is how to sell a story and unfortunately, that story passes as news.
When we started getting back into gardening – there was a lull when the kids were really little – we had time to pick out seeds, to weed the garden, to water it and cultivate all the little seedlings. Our children were also a little older and a little more self-sufficient than they had been. They were old enough and mature enough to have their own crop(s) to tend to. This worked out well as gardening time also doubled as family time and no one was left out. Instead of going for a family walk together, we’d all go out in the garden and work together.
Last August, we had two foster children – aged 3 and 1.5 years old – arrive. Part of it was the chaos of a life that suddenly found itself with two more kids and probably some of it was their age, but sadly the garden was allowed to slip. We missed a number of later summer harvest crops; we picked some, but had nearly no time to process and preserve some. The weeds proliferated and some where even allowed to reseed. Our fall/winter garden was put in late and has scarcely produced anything. The three year old foster child can handle sitting in the garden and can play with the older two when she get’s bored, but still requires a fair bit of redirection. All in all, we can handle her behavior fairly easily, unfortunately, the one year old is a little harder to handle in the garden, after all, the only thing a one year old can really do in a garden is destroy! This meant one of us had to babysit the baby while the other tried to multitask in the garden – directing the youngers while still preparing the garden for vegetables.
We have a Baby Ergo from our kids and it works wonders, but it isn’t total freedom. Your range of motion is almost 100%, but you still can’t do everything, and this is all assuming that the child wants to be in the pack, or has fallen asleep. If a child doesn’t want to sit in the Ergo and proceeds to flail around and scream, you can forget about it. We really needed a pack-and-play. I’m not sure if we actually had a pack-and-play when my kids were little. We may have, but if we did, it was seldom used. Thankfully, when the foster kids arrived, we were gifted a nice used one from someone who’s last child had just moved beyond pack-and-play age. It was nice, but as pack-and-plays are, it was heavy and burdensome to move it from anywhere but room-to-room within the house, let alone outside. We needed something that could go outside; a kiddie-corral if you will.
We looked around online at a few different options and finally settled on the Summer Pop ‘n Play Portable Playard. Essentially it’s just a juiced up pack-and-play. (And it was pretty darn cheap all things considered!) There are two main differences, the first is that it is larger, quite a bit larger and is octagonal. The second difference is that it rests directly on the ground. A typical pack-and-play utilizes a platform that sits up some framing, the Pop ‘n Play rests directly on the ground. I’m not entirely sure why it rests directly on the ground, but I have my suspicions: the floor is a flexible fabric and is much lighter than a hard foldable floor that many pack-and-plays utilize, but being flexible, it needs something to keep it sturdy, and that’s the ground. They have also used some lightweight tubular metal to keep this thing extra light and easy to carry around.
In terms of set-up and take-down, this is one of the easiest I’ve ever experienced. (I’ve set up a number of pack-and-plays and they always seem to be a hassle.) The Pop ‘n Play is octagonal and folds almost like an accordion or one of those portable canvas camp chairs. It then goes into a bag that has a shoulder strap that makes it exceptionally easy for carrying.
The first few times we set it up, we did have a little hiccup – we didn’t read the directions. Honestly, it didn’t seem like anything that needed directions to read, but it did and we skipped over them. On the bottom of each point where the Pop ‘n Play touches the ground, there is a strap. We left those alone in the beginning, but what you’re supposed to do is pull the straps over the bottom points into a groove. This tightens the Pop ‘n Play and locks the sides from moving in or out. Not a necessity, but definitely helpful.
Overall, we’re super pleased with this product, we use it in the garden, we use it when we have camp fires, we use it for pic-nics. There are plenty of times we can let the one year old off his leash and he roams about doing as he will, but that requires a parent to escort him, and that isn’t always possible. The Summer Pop ‘n Play has allowed us to do things we couldn’t do before because of a “young child.” In fact, we’ve already been in the garden prepping for spring planting a number of times while the baby naps in the Pop ‘n Play. It has truly been a game changer, and in all honesty, could probably double as a pack-and-play for inside use. Win!
Addendum: I just saw on Amazon that you can also purchase a canopy to keep sun and water off the wild ones inside!
It’s been crazy around here the last couple of weeks without much respite. The Christmas season, while enjoyable, was a bit taxing this year with two new foster kids added to the roster. We always try to go small: a handful of small gifts that are more useful than pleasurable, but everyone trying to help out giving us presents for the foster kids, Christmas got bigger than it ever has been at our house. So while Christmas was enjoyable, as it wound down and into New Years, it was a bit of a relief.
That was until the 1.5 year old foster kid came down with RSV. Our daughter had RSV when she was a new born and it was scary business. We spent a few extra days in the hospital with her in the NICU and it was unpleasant to say the least. I was hoping that the foster kid was old enough to handle it on his own with a few breathing treatments at home: I was wrong. Wednesday night they sent us to the local hospital and held us hostage until Saturday night. What fun! Nothing like hanging out in a 12×12 room for three days. (It really made me think about how poorly I’d do in prison.)
We were discharged Saturday with instructions to administer breathing treatments every four hours. Yes, every four hours until our follow up visit a week later. Every four hours for a week. It also meant the wee one couldn’t go to day care or pre-school all week which meant homeschooling with a ‘Roid Rage baby running amok. It also meant sheer exhaustion. And to top it off, the Department of Family and Child Services was coming on Friday for their annual home-study. It doesn’t mean much, we have a safe home, but the anxiety of having someone come into your home and evaluate it something, not to mention all the cleaning that has to be done.
The home-study is done, the follow up visit took breathing treatments down to twice a day, and the super cold week didn’t kill all our cauliflower! It’s time to get back to normal – or at least some semblance of normal. The plan for today: get started on more firewood, and shoot a squirrel for home school – the eldest is studying skeletons. Not sure why, but I am giddy with excitement to wander off into the woods and start felling some trees.