Thursday 27 March 2014

Five Offenses That Can Land Kids (But Not Adults) In Jail

Truancy, running away from home, and 'incorrigibility' can lead to kids getting locked up

A jail cell in the U.S.

Supporters of the U.S. criminal justice system often justify locking people up in jails and prisons by saying that this promotes public safety. Given how many prisoners are serving extraordinarily long sentences for non-violent offenses, this line of reasoning is questionable to begin with. But what about people who are detained for something that's not even a crime? Across the country, thousands of children are removed from their homes and confined in juvenile facilities for offenses that would not be considered criminal if committed by an adult. A new report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, "Kids Doing Time for What's Not a Crime," explores the nationwide phenomenon of "status offenses" and the long-term effects this treatment can have on already vulnerable young people.
"The reason they're not crimes for adults is that they typically don't impact public safety," explains Marc Levin, one of the authors of the report. "It illustrates the need to take a more rehabilitative approach that can avoid confinement." Levin says that confinement is ineffective, costly, and provides no tools to either young people or their families to resolve the issues that may have lead to their police involvement. The term "confinement" describes young people taken from their homes and placed, by court order, in residential juvenile facilities. Children who have only committed a status offense without committing an actual crime are supposed to be protected from this type of treatment by federal law. But in 2010, about 76,000 young people were adjudicated (found guilty) of status offenses, and 8 percent of them were placed in a residential facility. About 40,000 more were placed on probation, with another 30,000 given community service or another type of "restitution" – and if those youths violate their court orders, they can then be committed as well.
According the report's data analysis, about 10,000 children in the United States are currently confined over the course of a year just for status offenses. That's a dramatic reduction from the way things were a few years ago, but according to the authors of the report, it's still way too many kids. So how are they getting swept up in the system? Here are the five most common status offenses:
1. Truancy
Truancy, or skipping school, was one of the earliest official status offenses. "There are so many better ways to make sure kids get back in school" than sending them into the juvenile system, Levin says. He describes a case where a student hadn't shown up to school by second hour, so a truant officer went to his home to find out what was going on. The boy didn't have any clothing to wear, "so they brought him clothes," explains Levin. "The underlying goal is to figure out the issue with the family that's causing the child to be truant or run away."
In Texas, truancy is considered a criminal offense. Students who miss school can accumulate fines and even be charged as adults and incarcerated.
2. Running Away
Young people who are committed or detained for status offenses often come from homes with "deeply conflicted family relationships," or may have special emotional, mental or educational needs. If a child runs away, it's likely that some type of intervention is needed, but that type of support is most effective when it comes from the community, not from the courts or the cops.
Even if there is instability or conflict in the home environment, the report emphasizes, child welfare laws have historically prioritized keeping children with their families rather than taking them away, except in cases of abuse or neglect. According to the report, "many in-home interventions, which cost a fraction of confinement...have been proven to strengthen a family's capacity to care for and discipline their child," such as family therapy.
3. Incorrigibility
Far more vague than the other common status offenses, "incorrigiblity" essentially describes a disobedient or defiant youth. "Incorrigibility is something that goes back a long way," Levin says. "It's almost a term you don't hear much anymore." He says that sometimes these complaints come from parents themselves, and other times from schools. However, extremely broad criminal offenses like "criminal mischief" and "disorderly conduct" exist in virtually every state, covering any behavior that was actually violent or disruptive. Children confined for "incorrigibility" alone presumably haven't come close to that level of misbehavior. "Anything that would really present a danger would be covered under other laws that are crimes," adds Levin.
4 and 5. Underage drinking and Curfew Violation
The last two most common status offenses are fairly self-explanatory – as are the reasons why young people shouldn't be sent through the juvenile system for committing them. "Putting them into the criminal system can cause these youths, who are not violent, to come under negative influences," says Levin. Again, he emphasizes community-based support to address this behavior, like treatment programs for youth who may have substance abuse problems.
The significant reduction of status offenses over the past 10-15 years, as well as juvenile crimes and juvenile referrals in general, is a sign of progress. Still, Levin emphasizes that detaining or committing a child for non-criminal behavior remains a fairly common occurrence, one more likely to affect children who are already in vulnerable situations. From when a child misbehaves to the moment they are committed to a juvenile facility, the report concludes, "there are numerous opportunities to address the behavior using an approach other than confinement." With disgraceful numbers of Americans locked up for non-violent offenses, it seems in the country's best interest to keep kids out of the system, especially when they haven't even committed a crime.

Truth and the Media

The world is interconnected like never before, and the overwhelming growth of accessible information on the internet has made figuring out the truth both easier and more difficult.
In this visualization, we see the tipping point where minority opinion (shown in red) quickly becomes majority opinion. Over time, the minority opinion grows. Once the minority opinion reached 10 percent of the population, the network quickly changes as the minority opinion takes over the original majority opinion (shown in green). Image credit: SCNARC/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. - See more at:
In this visualization, we see the tipping point where minority opinion (shown in red) quickly becomes majority opinion. Over time, the minority opinion grows. Once the minority opinion reached 10 percent of the population, the network quickly changes as the minority opinion takes over the original majority opinion (shown in green).
Image credit: SCNARC/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
It is very important to note that 100 years ago, we had more than 100 times as many different interests contributing to the official news media. There were more locally owned news sources which were not fronts for larger mega-corporations. There was no television, so the people relied on the newspapers and the people they met in the world for information. While it was harder to find reliable information about what was happening around the world, it was easier to figure out what was happening where you lived.
Today, only a handful of corporations control the vast majority of mainstream news sources. Corporations like News Corp, Bertelsmann, and Time Warner collectively control huge parts of the market, with actual numbers and percents obscured by shell-corporations owning each other.
This media centralization assures that if we do not take the time to educate ourselves, to inform ourselves from sources other than the TV, we are allowing not only our viewpoint, but also the very basis of our view; the information we base our view on, to be spoon fed to us by highly impersonalized forces with the primary objective of maximizing profit.
A disparaging view of the major British broadcasters war coverage, A1one takes aim at the notion of truth as presented by the media. The fat traditional-looking Englishman looks complacent and uninterested in what he broadcasts and sees. Tehran 2006. Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr
What exactly does this mean?  This means the interests of those who decide what goes on the air, in the newspaper, decide what is investigated, what is published, what information is ignored or emphasized, do not feel connected to the people who are consuming the news. They do not feel connected or identify with us.
The people making these decisions are connected to the people who are paying them, and to other businesses and interests (sometimes government, but since corporations mostly control government, it is hard to tell the difference). This makes them answer far more to existing power structures than to us: their primary interest is not in giving us news, but keeping us glued to the screen, keeping us from thinking about important issues, and maintaining their funding.
While every one of us in the “civilized” world has heard every possible viewpoint in relation to abortion, how many of you know about ocean acidificationbiosphere or ecological collapse and its costs, or about hidden viral genes discovered by regulators in Monsanto GMOs? How many are talking about reasonable alternative energy sources like thorium reactors and bladeless wind energy twice as efficient and half as cheap as current technology, or about the ubiquitous threat presented by endocrine disruptors in our water or by many common types of EMF. How many sources try to present both the actual risks and benefits of vaccines, instead of polarizing the issue?
Gezi Part protest: June 1st 2013 Source: Wikimedia Commons
Gezi Part protest: June 1st 2013
Source: Wikimedia Commons
As Noam Chomsky said “any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the US media.” But, unfortunately, it is not just a US problem, as we saw no reporting about the protest/blockade in Taksim Gezi Park, Istanbul, in the Turkish media, despite sister-protests in at least 67 Turkish cities. The Western media then began talking about Istanbul, but as always is largely ignoring the underlying reasons for the protests: namely democracy and a right to decide what happens where you live. We see the same happening in Ukraine.
Since the dawn of mass media, the political center has been continually and slowly moved to the right to the point that Ronald Reagan’s policies would be criticized as overly liberal by today’s center, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would be characterized as a socialist and likely impeached. This has been deliberately done to benefit the existing financial interests: to make different shades of their opinion the only acceptable opinion, to make corporate fascism look reasonable.
Debate is routinely railroaded into topics of little systemic importance while the available parties actually all hold basically the same economic, environmental, and civil rights stance. This stance can and has been called neo-liberalism, which can be summed up as no regulation, and no government aid, except in the protection of existing power structures, as we see in the bank bailouts and “austerity measures”. It represents a merger of government and big business.
Because debate is kept within this limited spectrum, people are often left with the impression that the view being presented is the only view and that alternatives do not exist. People are also distracted by superfluous or unimportant debates and allow themselves to overlook important issues, and sometimes even end up opposing things which would benefit them, for instance environmental regulation.
Fortunately, we have access to the internet, and this can allow us to bypass these media bottlenecks and exchange information with each other and access independent news sources. Sites like Exposing The Truth, among others, strive to connect with real people, do real research, and speak honestly about important topics. These 21stcentury sources try to present varied viewpoints and dig for the truth, instead of settling for viewpoints which all basically agree.
Unfortunately, current power interests have noticed this migration to the internet and governments and corporations have been actively purchasing and using software for influencing social media. This includes personality-management-software, which enables a single individual to control 70+ online personalities (for instance on Facebook) simultaneously to shift the tone of debates and make certain positions seem more popular than they really are.
Noam Chomsky Source: Wikimedia Commons
Noam Chomsky
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The internet has brought with it as many risks and dangers as it has possibilities. The average person has access to more information than ever before, yet people, according to Noam Chomsky, are less informed than they were 70 years ago, and according to historian Howard Zinn, also less involved in their own communities than they ever were in the past. Censorship efforts also threaten to limit the effectiveness of the internet, and its centralised nature -with only about a dozen main servers in the whole world- means there likely exists one or more digital dosiers about every one of us, our interests, and our online behavior.
As Chomsky so artfully states: “all over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and consume.” Despite the conditioning, many of us know we are not helpless. As I discuss in Be The Change, we can directly effect the people around us, and when 10% of people become aware of something, convinced of it, it quickly spreads to everyone (Syzmanski, 2011).
And as Niklas Luhmann explains, a system –for instance civilization or society- can endanger its own survival and not notice it until the environment is no longer able to fulfill its needs. The system can only notice problems in its environment through overlap with its needs –at which point it may be too late- , or through sub-systems (like ecologists and international scientific bodies) who investigate these questions. But, the facts about both the ecological and social pieces of the puzzle do not effect the system unless other subsystems translate these facts into resonance –or vibrations- within the system, unless other parts of the system ring the warning bells so hard that the system itself recognizes the situation.
This is where social media comes in. Social media has the capacity to produce resonance, to “awaken” society, without the participation of the mainstream media. As long as we have an open and free internet, we can work to assure people wake up, that problems start to be solved instead of only symptoms treated, and that decision making is returned to the people.
Source: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Source: Flickr
Of course, we will need to do more in terms of organizing and solving this dilemma, the current monopoly of power in the hands of irresponsible people, than inform others and trade information. It is a necessary first step, and in the coming months I will write other texts to better highlight our position, strategy, and a few ideas about how we can change the status quo. But, none of that can be successful if people do not realize what is going on, if we collectively are not aware of what is going on. People do not help in an emergency unless they are aware there is one, and it is our first job to let people know there are in fact many emergencies, and they require our attention.
1) Chomsky, Noam. 2002. Media Control.
2) Zinn, Howard. 1999. A Peoples´History of the United States.
3) Luhmann, Niklas. 1986. ├ľkologische Kommunikation.

Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States,

Building Tiny Homes For The Homeless

Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States, hundreds of thousands of citizens are currently homeless and living in a nation whose public representatives are trying to criminalize them rather then help them or solve the problem.
Fortunately, us humans can choose direct action to help their fellow human beings suffering and in need. A group in Wisconsin is making real progress toward ending homelessness, with over 50 volunteers from the Occupy Madison group are working to implement their plan to fight inequality and build tiny homes for the homeless with their Tiny House Project.
In January 2013, 831 homeless were found to be living in the area of Madison alone. The Tiny House Project is an initiative to build micro-homes for the homeless. Although these dwellings are not very spacious, the living spaces will include necessities: bed, insulation, toilet. They are designed to be heated by propane and include a pole-mounted solar panel which will power the light in the home. The total cost for building one home, at 98 square feet (approx 9.1 square meters), is roughly $3,000. Each one is paid for entirely by private donations, allowing people to make a direct investment in their communities. Occupy Madison (OM Build) continues to build more tiny houses in the hopes that one day they will be able to purchase an area of land in order to create a tiny village with as many as 30 homes.
The houses are mounted on trailers which can be legally parked on the street, as long as they’re moved every 48 hours. Occupy organizers were also recently able to have successfully convinced the Madison Common Council to change the city’s zoning laws so the homes could be parked on private property with permission. The Occupy Madison group satisfied with its tangible progress toward read solutions in the war on homelessness, it has adopted the tagline “Doing what the government won’t do,”.
sThe group hopes to have at least 10 homes built by the end of next year, having completed their first home this month. Betty Ybarr, the first resident resulting from the project,  is a formerly homeless woman who spent many of her days living in a tent. Ybarra was able to move into her 98-square-foot tiny home on Christmas eve (24th December, 2013). Bruce Wallbaum, project organizer for Occupy Madison, along with other organizers, is working with area churches to allow the parking up to three of these tiny houses per parking lot.
Many of the homes’ recipients are themselves directly contributing  to the project and helping to build their own future homes, sharing in the excitement and responsibility of having a place to call their own. For those who would like to volunteer or donate directly to the project, you can do so through the Occupy Madison website.

Saturday 8 March 2014

If there is anything in life that you can count on, it's people doing harm to themselves

 In fact, it seems the world economy might just collapse if it weren't for consumers acting outside of their own best interests.

Businesses around the globe invest in your potential for self-sabotage routinely and to the tune of trillions of dollars. Why? There is only one reason: It's a secure investment.

If it weren't such a safe bet, the world's business landscape would look very different indeed.

Here are some examples of how businesses bank on self-sabotage:

1. Fitness centers oversell memberships because they know most of their clients will stop coming to the gym very soon. In fact, one gym manager once told me, "If all of our members showed up consistently, we'd have to close our doors because we could never accommodate everyone. We actually count on people not showing up."

You buy a gym membership and your fitness center will encourage you to get in shape, but still counts on your potential to sabotage your goals by staying home.

Annual revenue generated by fitness centers in 2012: 21.8 Billion (IHRSA)

2. Donut shops, ice cream parlors, liquor stores, tobacco shops and fast food restaurants, on the other hand, invest in your potential to ruin your health by frequenting their establishments regularly. If you didn't sabotage your health at all, their business might decline 90%.

Annual revenue of fast food industry in the United States: 110 Billion (StatisticBrain)
For every $100 the average American spends, $1 goes to alcohol to the tune of $153 Billion annually (Time Mag)
Sugar industry annual revenue: 20 Billion (SugarAlliance)

3. Car dealerships. How many of them count on you making a bad decision? Do they really care that you get the car you want, need and can comfortably afford? Do they give you the space to make a solid decision based on your best judgment? Or are they invested in making a sale regardless of your real needs?

Many of their sales tactics suggest that they don't have your highest interests in mind and would prefer to make the sale - right now - regardless of what's best for you. How many sales would they lose otherwise?

US auto industry revenue: 220 Billion annually (FirstResearch)

4. Giant food corporations COUNT on you not caring what goes into your body. Deadly chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, GMO's, sugar, trans fats and empty calories save them the work and expense of creating truly healthy, organic food - and they bank on you eating their junk anyway, to your own detriment.

Annual U.S. pesticide sales: 12.5 Billion, with 1.1 Billion pounds used (EPA)

5. Credit card companies love it when you are in debt. They count on you failing to pay for what you buy up front so that you can pay them many times the value over time. They seduce you with lies - visions of how powerful and successful you will be once you are carrying their card, overspending and forking over the interest.

Nothing better for a bank than for you to never stop owing them and never get ahead.

Total American credit card debt: 856 Billion
Total American consumer debt: 11.4 Trillion (NerdWallet)

6. Attorneys. There are many legitimate and helpful attorneys out there. And there are those who make their living by convincing you of your victimhood. They see you coming, hoping to stir you up in anger and blame - promising to get you justice when the only thing they are interested in is their own billing.

Some lawyers want to you feel like a helpless victim that the world owes. They prey upon this, build it up within you and fill their pockets with your powerlessness and inability to accept life on its own terms and take responsibility for yourself.

AmLaw 100 Annual Revenue: 67.4 Billion annually (New York Times)

I could go on. Suffice it to say that the world economy as it currently exists depends on you making bad decisions with your money, health and happiness. They are wholly committed to YOU desiring what you don't need. And not only what you don't need...they want you to want what will harm you.

And most people strangely desire just that, as if fulfilling some deeply unconscious destiny.

Without you harming yourself, the world economy as we know it wouldn't exist! Trillions of dollars in revenue would simply disappear. And we've barely scratched the surface with these examples.

How much money have you spent on self-sabotage?

Can you estimate your contribution to the economy of self-sabotage? How much have you spent on unnecessary consumer items, junk food, credit cards, car loans, weight loss programs you didn't use, and all manner of ill-fated decisions?

What if you had EVERY dime of that money right now, safely tucked away in a good investment? How different would your life be? Would it be worth having? Now, multiply your savings by every income-earner on earth and you can get an idea of the price we are paying for self-sabotage.

And that's just the financial aspect, which is the least important. The emotional benefits of abstaining from self-sabotage dwarf the financial.

The biggest problem in overcoming self-sabotage

The most difficult aspect of self-sabotage involves seeing it for what it is. Most often, we disguise it from ourselves and are lucky if we notice it in hindsight. The key is to see it coming and practice prevention, as with most health issues.

To learn how self-sabotage works within your subconscious mind and learn to prevent it from happening further in your life, watch this free video.

Don't be a safe investment for someone who counts on you harming yourself.

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About the author:
Watch the free video The AHA! Process: An End to Self-Sabotage and discover the lost keys to personal transformation and emotional well-being that have been suppressed by mainstream mental health for decades.

The information in this video has been called the missing link in mental health and personal development. In a world full of shallow, quick-fix techniques, second rate psychology and pharmaceutical takeovers, real solutions have become nearly impossible to find. Click here to watch the presentation that will turn your world upside down.