Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Throwaway People

            You have them in your life too.  They're throwaway people. They mean nothing to you. Your life goes on with or without them. 
            You ride the train to work every day.  You're insistent upon never being late so you get there about 20 minutes early as a rule.  Now you have 20 minutes to waste. You may as well talk to people to kill the time.
            Your first one was Randy.  Randy is about - well just over the official retirement age - and he works as the station ambassador. 
            "Ever since I retired, I'm going downhill."
            "What do you mean?"
            "I've got a doctor for everything - a high blood pressure doctor, a diabetes doctor, a neurologist - last week I couldn't speak.  My wife called the ambulance.  It was a mini stroke."
            "I'm so sorry."
            "Now I have to see a kidney doctor. You have something to do with medicine, right?"
            "Yes, why?"
            "Let me show you the reports."
            He stood up with difficulty - apparently didn't have an arthritis doctor yet - and carefully took his worn brown leather wallet out of his pocket.  He opened the billfold section and gently removed several typewritten pages each folded into 8 parts.  One by one, he unfolded them and handed to me.
            "Well, this is good. The CT scan of your brain was normal. And this laboratory report shows some damage to your kidneys - not bad, really but not normal."
            One report at a time, week by week, month by month, the results of additional tests were reviewed. 
            "They're talking about dialysis," he said one day. 
            "I hope it doesn't come to that."
            It has been about 3 years now since Randy has worked at the train station.  The rumor was that he was on dialysis and too depressed to talk to the other station ambassadors when they called.
            You hope that this won't have the dismal ending you worry about for Randy.
            The tall lady with the leg cast said she worked with the county. 
            One day she said, "I like your dress. Where did you get it?"
            "At a little shop nearby but I can't remember the name of it.  I have the card at home.  I'll bring it in for you."
            It's been at least 2 years since that conversation. No one knows what happened to her.
            You hope one day she will return. You still carry the card for her.
            Jim was a pudgy guy.  He got less pudgy each month on his diet.  By the end of a year or two, he was downright slender.
            Jim was retired but still working.  However, he was going to retire again really soon.
            One day he mentioned his little dog and that became a daily conversation.
            "We had to rush my dog to the veterinarian.  It isn't good.  He has a huge mass in his lung. His labs are all out of whack.  He is on life support and has an IV.  He's got pancreatitis.
I had pancreatitis and it was the most pain experience in my life."
            "Well, surely they're giving the dog pain medications."
            "Yes, that's why she's on life support.  They're keeping her sedated. My wife and I are supposed to go on a cruise this Friday for 4 days. We don't know if we should cancel."
            "Well, it's going to take the dog at least 4 days to recover and if she's sedated and on a ventilator, she won't know.  You should probably still take the cruise and hope that the dog is much better by the time you return."
            "That's what my wife said. We'll probably go.  I found some miracle medication online to cure lung cancer in dogs.  It's extremely expensive but I ordered it.  We don't want to lose her."
            You smile kindly and know that now is not the time to speak.
            Shortly after that Jim stopped taking the train.
            You ask about him and learn that he finally retired.
            You wonder about the dog and you wonder about miracles.  You secretly hope for  miracles.
            There are others:  the county attorney whose cousin decided to take the day off from work at the Washington Navy Yard on that fateful day. The person at the desk next to hers was murdered.
            There's the young man who works as an IT person for a religious organization. His young son is autistic.
            There's the nice woman with ankylosing spondylitis and a frozen shoulder who converted from Judaism to Catholicism when she was a teenager and whose entire family converted because of her.
            There's the blind woman. She got you one day, didn't she? She was talking to the person next to you but you were unabashed in your eavesdropping, weren't you?
            She was being evicted from her home and was in fear of being laid off at work.
            You managed as unobtrusively as you could to chase her off the train and put three  twenties in her hand.  That was all you had in your wallet or it would have been more.
            All throw away people.  People who aren't part of your life and never will be. People without names and with faces you cannot recollect.  Disposable. 
            Not at all important in your life.
            We all have them.

Monday, November 5, 2012



It was forty-three years ago this Autumn when you moved into the charming dilapidated two-story apartment at Seacrest Village in New Hampshire.  The home bore the freckles and moles of age but it felt like eternal sunshine.
You rarely left your mother’s side.  She would stare at you for hours and you would smile and make comforting sounds and bring her joy.
It did not gain your attention that there was a war in Viet Nam or that college students were demonstrating and protesting or that Nixon was President.  You never even acknowledged that men had walked on the moon. The outside world held little of your attention.  You focused only upon your mother and she upon you.
There was a dry chill in the outside air with a soft wind that moved the fire from the branches to the earth.  The earth was a deep tapestry that prevented one’s feet from being grounded.
Your mother watched her television re-runs every morning: The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mary Tyler Moore and Bewitched.  No matter how many times she had seen them, she still enjoyed them and you seemed to enjoy watching her watch them.
When the television was not on, the radio was and your mother sang along hourly as Peggy Lee crooned, “Is that all there is?  If that’s all there is, then I’ll keep dancing.”
You spoke very little yet your voice soothed your mother and always brought an active smile to her countenance.
Your eyes spoke the wisdom of the universe.  You knew it all then, didn’t you?  You understood the linguistic constraints of a viable Physics; you comprehended the Hopi Indian Physics with no construct for space and time and the modern dogma of space, time and the speed of light.
Your smile implied an intimacy with the world’s most eloquent poets.
Occasionally, you would appear to be contemplative.  What mathematic formulas were you solving?  Or were you deliberating upon ethical truths?
Is this innate knowledge and truth ultimately lost when it is constrained by linguistics?
There were some outings that Fall:  a trek to a factory outlet store in Portsmouth; a prayer left at Sunday Mass in Durham; a visit to the doctor’s office.  But they were all inconsequential, simple outings, daring to be recollected, as they are now.
Each same day was new and different.  Every week brought belly laughter without jokes to precipitate them.
Happiness filled the glass until it felt as if the glass was overflowing with all the oceans and seas of the universe.
Was that it then?  Is it that nothing stays the same?  Is it that matter and form are always changing?
Or is it that you straddled that envelope, that warp, and that you had not yet committed to either world?
Could you not have warned your mother?  Was there any way you could have educated her about the dimension in which you dreamed?
Or did you try?  The night before at dinner, you said only one word to her:  “Look!”  Everyone looked at you but you had nothing further to add.
The morning of November 7th, you went to the University of New Hampshire.  When you returned home, your mother suggested you both nap.
For one, the sleep endured.
Forty autumns have passed without notice.  The days are not cherished, the nights are restless and busy.
Your mother spends her nights looking for you.  She has been searching attics and basements, hearing your voice, trying to find you.  She wants to hold you, needs to feed you, and spends her life trying to find you.
It is a frantic search.  She is pressured.   Sometimes she hears you crying and follows the sound but the rooms are empty.  Room after room, night after night, year after year, decade after decade, she looks. You had commanded that:  “Look.”  She looks for you incessantly but does not find you. 
It is this linear time puzzle, isn’t it?  She is looking forward.  Some physicists say we cannot go backward in time but forward travel may be possible.
Curiously she never goes to the place where she last saw you.   
Others may have stumbled upon you there.
What people choose to walk through that New England cemetery, there may be some who stop and glance at the pink marble marker that commemorates your existence.
“Tread softly.  Our angel sleeps here.
                                   September 7, 1969-November 7, 1969”
Your Mommy will never stop loving and missing you, sweet baby. 
You changed her world.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is There Something Wrong With This?

There are approximately 102,319 prisoners in Florida prisons (as of 6/30/11).  The 2010 general population in Florida numbered 18,801,310.
California has approximately 143,778 prisoners in custody (as of 1/31/12). The 2010 general population in California numbered 37,253,956.

Isn't it a curious fact that Florida and California have a very similar number of inmates when California's general population is twice that of Florida.

Are the Florida people so much more criminal than those in California?

Or could there be another reason for this?  Would love to read your comments. Thanks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Borrow my book for free

Do you know about Amazon Kindle Owner's Lending Library? 

You can borrow books for free.  

Customers borrowed 295,000 KDP Select titles in December alone. 

Go ahead - feel free to "borrow" my book.

The price is right.

And I think  you will enjoy the book!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Please take the quiz and answer in the comments section below

Opinion Poll:

Two men break into a home. The owner shoots them. One dies. The other is charged with murder. What do you think?

A guy has pornographic photographs of children on his computer. He never molested a child. He gets life in prison. What do you think?

A decorated policeman runs a mob of drug traffickers and gun sales. He gets put in prison for life and appeals because he has "no criminal history." What do you think?

A rapist gets life in prison. What do you think?

A man is scheduled for execution for murder. Hundreds of thousands of people sign a petition that new evidence demonstrates he was innocent. He is executed anyway. What do you think?

Should governors get more "time" in sentencing than CEO's when they're both guilty of "funny money?" What do you think?

What crimes should be sentenced with the highest sentences?

Murderers (premeditated, serial killers, domestic abuse), pedophiles (which ones - the ones who look at pornography, the ones who sexually abuse small children, those who have sex with teenagers?), the Ponzi scheme millionaires? What do you think?

What should the goals of sentencing be? What should be accomplished in sentencing those who are convicted of crimes?

Do you still believe that prison should include rehabilitation and re-entry into society?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Prayer for 2012: Fair US Sentencing Reform, An End to the Inequities

Just came across the website in which the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights discusses United States sentencing disparities.  One salient point they discuss is this:

"Unequal treatment of minorities characterizes every stage of the process. Black and Hispanic Americans, and other minority groups as well, are victimized by disproportionate targeting and unfair treatment by police and other front-line law enforcement officials; by racially skewed charging and plea bargaining decisions of prosecutors; by discriminatory sentencing practices; and by the failure of judges, elected officials and other criminal justice policy makers to redress the inequities that become more glaring every day."

Read all at this web site:

The ACLU addressed sentencing inequities last March.  One disparity that has been well-known are the sentencing guidelines for using/selling drugs. They appealed to the Sentencing Commission to restore fairness to sentencing.

"In the 40 years since President Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs," America has spent approximately one trillion dollars pursuing a failed policy that has had little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States. In fact, the major result of this "war" is that it has helped earn America the lamentable distinction of incarcerating more people – in absolute numbers and per capita – than any other nation in the world. To make matters worse, this population disproportionately and overwhelmingly consists of individuals of color and the poor."

Read more at:

Penn Law's Study, "When Punishment Doesn't Fit the Crime," is an interesting read.
" might call (this) the “crime du jour” problem. That is, legislators get worked up about a particular offense, either because it’s been in the news or for some other reason.  As a result, they create penalties for it, but the penalties reflect their being particularly worked up at that moment. A year or so later when it’s no longer such a hot topic, that penalty sticks out as being exaggerated."

Another crime du jour of recent times is corporate crime.
"The increase in sentence severity is a nationwide phenomenom, though federal sentences are extremely harsh. Severity has ratcheted up and up again in the federal system. Both the sentences imposed and time served has increased dramatically. For example, the average federal sentence imposed between 1980 and 1995 nearly doubled, and federal offenders sentenced in 1998 will spend roughly twice as long in prison as their counterparts who were sentenced in 1984."

Sara Sun Beale, "Is Corporate Criminal Liabililty Unique?"

Sentencing has become a political tool.  Politicians get on band-wagons to quell popular outrage. In the end we have situations where there is no justice, equity, fairness or reason to the sentences that levied against individuals being punished in the US Criminal Justice System.