Opioid addiction is a US epidemic

Jerry Waters, Contributor

Now that it’s finally reached headline-grabbing epidemic proportions, Blue Cross Blue Shield just released an eyebrow raising report that opioid addiction has increased 494% from 2010 to 2016, yet medication-assisted treatment for opioid addicts has only increased by 65%.  Worse, the Republican healthcare bill doesn’t seem to be addressing this as any type of a health crisis. And if that wasn’t horrifying enough, many judges across the nation refuse to accept medication-assisted treatment such as methadone or suboxone as legitimate substance abuse treatment. They demand abstinence-only treatment and continue to impose harsher sentences on addicts who relapse.

Ironically, the very hallmark of addiction is relapse. Let that sink in just a moment.

Admittedly, the judges do have a point that many methadone clinics are profit driven and there isn’t enough emphasis on titrating addicts off medication, but that’s something that can be fixed with sensible regulations. The bigger problem is that many judges just don’t understand medication-assisted treatment and think that either the addicts are getting a legal high, or that they just lack the will power to stop on their own. Also, there’s a difference between someone who is an opioid addict and someone who uses medication-assisted treatment for legitimate, chronic pain management. When it comes to these stark distinctions, it’s time for the judiciary to catch up.

If we go back to the time before Obamacare and we allow insurers to be able to pick and choose what they think are essential benefits in a healthcare plan, substance abuse treatment will be surely one of the first things to get cut. This will hurt the people who need treatment the most.

Sadly, doctors are still being incentivized by Big Pharma to write opioid prescriptions like they’re going out of style. Further, they’re not actively checking patients to ensure that they are not becoming addicted to the medication they’ve prescribed.

We live in an un-nuanced chiaroscuro culture where we love to criminalize and penalize the addict, but refuse to hold the people who write the prescriptions responsible unless their actions are so greedy or grotesque that someone finally takes notice.

Insurers shouldn’t be determining the parameters, modality, or qualifications for substance abuse treatment. They have a conflict of interest that’s worse than a monkey trying to sell bananas. Besides, weren’t these the geniuses who came up with the 28-day Minnesota treatment model because it fit neatly into their billing cycle? It’s taken decades and mountains of research to debunk their arbitrary treatment model, but it’s still going strong in many parts of the country.

Culturally, we seem obsessed with one-size-fits-all solutions. Maybe we can get our legislators to explain the difference between an opioid addict, a methamphetamine addict, a cocaine addict, and an alcoholic.  We’d love to hear their take on co-occurring disorders and even though they haven’t the first clue, they’re happy to write legislation about these things. They’re more than happy to let people with strong profit motives, like insurers and drug companies, tell them what addicts need to get sober.

The opioid epidemic is real and it wasn’t caused by a bunch of middle-aged folks who went to doctors drug-seeking. This was caused by the profit motivations of doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical giants. This was caused by a still broken healthcare system that focuses on illness instead of wellness and pathology over prevention.

It’s time for people across the country to take a deep breath and reflect on the failed War on Drugs. It’s time to put people first again and not be so quick to put them in jail because they have an addiction problem.

Maybe, we can switch from saying “Just say no!” to “We can help you recover”.

The Twitterwocky

Franklin, Contributor and Poet

‘Twas swampy, and the slimy suits

Did covfefe in the krole;

All sorries were the crony whites

And tweeted bigly troll.

 

“Beware the Twitterwock, my boy!

The jowls that spew, the hands that grab!

Beware the Kush and never toy

With Bannonsnatch’s wicked wab!”

 

He took his inky pen in hand;

Long time this twittled foe he sought-

So scribbled he, deplorably,

And oranged was his thought.

 

And, as in citric thought he stood,

The Twitterwock, with tiny hand,

Came twittling in a way no good,

Spewing burble through the land!

 

To print! To print! And the story went-

The Twitterwock with skin so thin,

He found it dumb and left it mum,

That orange head will always spin.

 

“And did you shut up the Twitterwock?

Give me a hug, my bookish lad!

It’s Independence Day! Whoo-hoo! Hooray!

And all the land was glad.

 

‘Twas swampy, and the slimy suits

Did covfefe in the krole;

All sorries were the crony whites

And tweeted bigly troll.

On Trump’s philistine tweets

Clete Wetli, Contributor

It’s morning in America and the birds are silent, but vulgar, philistine tweets fill the air in their place. Morning turns to mourning as we awaken to realize that the world’s respect for our nation is diminished. Perhaps, the birds are likely silent out of profound embarrassment and, now, they’re probably contemplating permanent relocation to Canada like many other disheartened Americans. The dignity of the office of the President of the United States is in dire jeopardy because the immature septuagenarian that sits behind the desk can’t stop himself from tweeting misogynist insults to his imaginary foes.

This latest boorish tweet denigrating the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” certainly wasn’t his first or his last venture into middle-school indecency. Lest we forget, his tweets are the smallest tip of an iceberg of undisciplined behavior that is characterized by childish selfishness, unrepentant greed, and gaudy chauvinism. Sadly, the First Lady, in her self-proclaimed role as America’s champion against cyber-bullying, has expressly lauded her husband’s attach tweet by claiming it his right to “punch back ten times harder.” One wonders if she is speaking about a past experience that she would prefer to forget, or if someone else in the White House had a hand in writing that bizarre statement.

For years, the conservatives have railed against intellectualism because they thought it foundational to liberalism. They have eschewed science and they have fooled America into thinking that its institutions were crumbling under the weight of their own excesses, incompetence, and conspiratorial malign intent. Trump is the malign fruit of this conservative womb. Trump is the deplorable bastard son of their illicit affair between extremist rhetoric and misplaced indignation. He purposely lies with every breath in an inane attempt to hide his many shortcomings in skill, character, and, most importantly, moral fiber.

His inability to articulate verbally is only surpassed by his the misspelled idiocy of his mean-spirited tweets. Of course, America has had presidents that were deeply flawed, but Trump is plumbing whole new depths of what it means to be an ignoramus that truly endangers our ability to civilly self-govern and function as a representative democracy. His misinformed “wrecking ball” approach to foreign affairs is already upending global alliances and hurtling the world toward tragic, but preventable, conflicts.

Arrogance, intimidation, and unearned inheritance have been the keys to Trump’s past success. We’ve learned this through his ghost-written self-praising books and countless hours of interviews in which he tells people how and why they should worship at the feet of Trump. His sickness is evident and it’s the antithesis of sound leadership and sober statesmanship. Yet, we suffer this fool and conservatives keep defending his every moronic move in outrageous defiance of their own common sense.

Trump’s last round of tweets was beyond embarrassing, beyond reason, and beyond the scope of basic human decency. We must resist this monster of a person and persist in our resolve to fight his agenda. He has no capacity for improvement. There will be no “pivot” other than a more pronounced turn into dysfunction.

America has always sought to be a more perfect union by recognizing its mistakes and atoning for its sins as best it can. These struggles are evidenced by the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage, ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities, and many more vitally important struggles too numerous to list. The point is that we are one nation; not this Trump dystopia of rich versus poor, environmentalist versus denier, pro-cop versus BLM activist, men versus women, Christian conservative versus LGBTQ person, or Republican versus Democrat.

We are America and we should be ashamed that we elected a vulgar, poster boy for white privilege, charlatan as our president who can’t stop tweeting in between flirting with reporters, lying about golfing, and trying to impress heads of state with the button on his desk that he uses to get more Diet Coke.

So, when you get done talking to your children about his latest tweet, ask yourself again why this ill-mannered idiot is our president.

As proud Americans, we should hold his tweets to be self-evident. Maybe, someone in Trump’s inner circle can explain to him what that means in one hundred-forty characters or less.

Senate Republican’s healthcare bill is cruel and unusual

Clete Wetli, Contributor, As Originally Published on al.com on June 27, 2017

Instead of trying to fix America’s healthcare system by making sensible, obvious adjustments to the Affordable Care Act that would lower costs and ensure more universal coverage, Republican’s continue to make cruel and unusual proposals that seem to only benefit the wealthiest. Of course, our incoherent president contradicted himself by first calling the House version of the bill “incredibly well-crafted”, but then went on to say it was “mean”. Honestly, Trump doesn’t seem to really care what’s in the bill just so long as he can claim a victory lap.

C’mon, Republicans have had over seven years to come up with something that makes sense. Yet, it seems the only thing they can agree on is more tax cuts for the wealthiest and making it harder for the poor to get or keep affordable care.

The cruel part is the crafty, political double-speak they’re using to sell their mean-spirited prescription. They have been emphasizing the idea of “access” to purchase insurance, knowing full well that it’s not the same as actually “having” coverage. “Access” to purchase a Lamborghini isn’t the same as making the monthly payment and parking it in your driveway.

The unusual part is the bold lying by Republicans on television to pretend that their “give the rich more money” plan is somehow a life-saving cure for our nation’s healthcare system. We’ve come to expect that from the forked tongue of Kellyanne Conway, but now, they’ve got HHS Secretary Tom Price in on the carnival barking act. Price and Conway want people to really believe that the Senate plan won’t cut Medicaid and that “no one will have the rug pulled out from under them”. Their audacity is unusual, disturbing, and laughable in a gothic, cynical sort of way.

The hardliner Republicans are unhappy because they don’t think the bill is cruel or unusual enough, because they fundamentally believe that healthcare is a privilege, not a right. As lovers of an unfettered, unregulated free market, they believe that insurers should make as much money off the sick as the market will allow. So what if grandma goes bankrupt trying to pay her medical bills- maybe, she should have gotten a better job when she was younger, right?

One of the amazing things has been watching a bad bill get substantially worse as it moves through the process. It’s happening because the base of the Republican Party doesn’t like the notion that everyone should have health coverage. They like the idea that poor people have no coverage (they get what they deserve) or a plan that covers basically nothing, while they whip out their employer-subsidized platinum card.

As this new Republican Senate bill is being made more cruel and unusual, it’s worth noting that the Republicans are also advocating for the rights of insurance companies to sell junk plans again. Oh, they’re innovating like a think-tank running on nitrous oxide as they put in provisions to make that enormous tax break for the rich retroactive so they get another huge bonus, aside from the joy of watching poor folks lose insurance.

The other cruel and unusual thing about this whole fiasco is the artificially fast timeline that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put on the whole process. Heck, why even get a CBO score? So what if no one has time to read any of the legal mumbo jumbo in it? Who’s got time for that? Whatever happens, you can rest easy knowing the senators will still have a good, government subsidized health plan.

The Republican Senate looks like they’re taking a “mean” bill and turning it deliberately into something profoundly cruel and pathologically unusual.

Why we should take Stephen Hawking very seriously

Jerry Waters, Contributor

At a recent arts and science conference in Norway, famed scientist Stephen Hawking pleaded with humanity to expedite interplanetary exploration because he believes the Earth has a very short and finite lifespan. Hawking said he thinks that creative applications of Einstein’s theories will result in our ability to travel on beams of light to reach galaxies that are impossibly far away.

So, is Hawking a crackpot or an enlightened prophet with a dire warning for mankind?

First, it’s important to understand that the 75 year old theoretical physicist has done groundbreaking research by developing a cosmological theory that unifies the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. His work has been universally praised and he’s won just about every scientific honor imaginable.

Most people may not even understand his contribution to science, but they will certainly benefit from his research and theories.

Second, Hawking, like many with the courage to question the status quo, has had some humiliating scientific defeats. His most recent was his insistence that Higgs boson, an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics, would never be authenticated. However, thanks to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Higgs boson was proven to exist in 2012 and Higgs won the Nobel Prize for Science in 2013 by definitively proving Hawking wrong.

The point, though, is that Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds in the world; a genius who truly understand the rigors of intense scientific inquiry. He is not given to wild speculation, nor does he care about the popularity of his conclusions.

For these reasons, we need to listen when Hawking says he believes that perpetual human existence on our planet is unsustainable. Given his record, he’s not saying this out of hysteria or religiosity, rather as a scientist considering the overwhelming evidence of grave and imminent threats or the real chance of the random and unforeseen.  He mentions things like nuclear holocaust, climate change, genetically-engineered viruses, asteroids, and a host of other things that are probable and rational threats to our very existence as a species. Hawking even considers the dark side of artificial intelligence which, in diabolical hands, could be used to perpetrate genocide or unwittingly cause great harm to humanity.

Hawking isn’t just prophesying the demise of Earth; he is showing us a path to survival. This is why he believes so strongly in taking science seriously. With science, interplanetary and intergalactic travel is not only possible, but obligatory. With science, colonization of other worlds is a necessary safeguard to ensure that our species survives. It’s also a way to decrease the drain of natural resources on Earth and give the planet a fighting chance to recover and heal from its most rapacious inhabitants.

This is why we need to take Hawking seriously. He isn’t peddling vague notions or careless speculations, but purposefully searching for real answers to dilemmas that may have catastrophic consequences if left unanswered.

Hawking embodies an everyman who looks at the obvious aftermath of rampant human consumption and self-serving vices and, wisely, chooses to look for a way to achieve universal redemption and realistic salvation. Hawking doesn’t believe that will come from prayer, but will come from our collective intellect applied creatively to our common problems.

In this age of Luddites, who eschew facts and science, we must ensure that great and accomplished men like Hawking are heard above the Facebook memes and internet noise. It’s time to celebrate science, including the science that gives us nightmares.

We need to take Hawking seriously because he’s not only shown us what will likely happen if we don’t act; he’s given us a rational, achievable plan so we can act collectively with purpose and survive to avoid our own demise.

Resist Trump’s Assault on the First Amendment

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Since taking office, our whining toddler-in-chief has shown that he loves to dish shit out, but that his artificially orange skin is too thin to endure any type of criticism. So, Trump, also known as Twitler, has taken to playing games with the White House Press Corps. He’s abruptly cancelled press conferences, kept reporters in rooms with trash-bags blocking the windows while he’s been on the road golfing, and even instructed that they not be allowed to film or record audio of press conferences.

Trumplethinskin wants to ease up libel and defamation laws so that he can continue his part-time job as America’s most prolific litigator. Yet, Drumpf thinks it’s okay for him to call women pigs, grab pussies, and lie every time his mouth is open, but he wants to make damn sure that he can sue the shit out of anyone who says anything that offends his delicate sensibilities.

So, what are we going to do about little Donnie small hands and his disregard for our most basic constitutional rights?

Well, we’re going to keep talking, writing, publishing, inquiring, and (don’t take this the wrong way) probing. Cheeto Benito really hates getting probed, we hear. We’re going to keep being Americans and demanding that our free press holds our government accountable. If we have to, we’ll go to jail over it, but we sure as hell won’t stop. We’re going to ensure that Americans understand what happens when the state controls the press.

Benedict Donald’s funky haircut soulmate, Kim Jong-Un knows a lot about controlling the press. His state run media plays nothing but masturbatory homage to Kim in between showing lots of images of the White House enveloped in a mushroom cloud. So, as Americans, is this what we want for own country? Is that what’s next; twenty-four seven coverage of Fuckface Von Clownstick giving us virtual tours of his new Trump Somali Casino Golf Resort and Strip Club in between sycophants like Jeffrey Lorde telling us how awesomely great America is because of our great leader, Mango Mussolini? Maybe, they’ll throw in a few clean coal documentaries and cooking shows with recipes for frying spotted owls.

I don’t know about y’all, but I plan to call The Fraud of Fifth Avenue out on every single lie he utters. I intend to criticize his disregard for our institutions and societal norms. It’s my right to speak and Hair Furher isn’t going to silence me. I hate his policies and, worse, I hate the incompetent, self-serving, money-grubbing assholes he’s put in positions of power. Their cruel brand of Social Darwinism is beyond despicable and beyond forgiveness.

This is why we must resist. It’s why we must organize. It’s why we must vote.

Some of these folks aren’t just selfish or incompetent, they are actually evil. Take Steve Bannon’s whole shit sandwich that he calls “the deconstruction of the administrative state” with a side of Russian dressing. I’m sure it took awhile for Steve to explain to The Angry Creamsicle what those big words actually meant. Well, in part, it means eroding our ability to resist by denying us our First Amendment rights.

They want us to tone down the rhetoric after they spent decades vilifying liberals and encoding dog-whistle euphemisms into our public discourse. Well, with no due respect, they can fuck themselves. It’s our right to opine, our right to question, our right to satirize, and even our right to use coarse language to get our point across, so long as the little people are in bed dreaming of a world free of The Fanta Fascist.

So, you want to effectively resist Trump’s assault on the First Amendment? Then, keep reading twentytwentynews.com, write an article yourself, pick up the mic at a protest, and never forget it’s your inalienable right to criticize the government, no matter what the Human Tanning Bed Warning Label says.

Get your tiny little hands off my First Amendment, Pudgy Mc Trumpcake.

Whew! That feels better… now, Imma just gonna wait for my cease and desist letter from Mr. Short-fingered Vulgarian while I knock back a few orange sodas…

Republicans are only as sick as their secrets

Clete Wetli, Contributor as Originally Published on AL.com on June 20, 2017

After falsely spinning the formation of Obamacare as some nefarious clandestine plot, Senate Republicans are now working in secret to craft new healthcare legislation and they should all be diagnosed with incurable hypocrisy. It’s been said that “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and this crew is not only infected, but dangerously contagious. Whether it’s White House press briefings that won’t allow recording devices or Trump refusing to definitively indicate if he’s secretly bugging the Oval Office, the Republicans seem to be overdosing on secrecy these days.

Most of us grew up understanding that transparency was essential for democracy as insurance against corruption and unethical agendas. Yet, Republicans seem to have adopted a new love for the backroom deal. We saw it in Alabama when the Republicans played whisper games under the pay-for-play leadership of “Mr. Transparent”, Mike Hubbard, with the infamous Alabama Accountability Act and now we’re seeing it in Washington as Republicans play partisan tricks to keep America in the dark.

It’s the same shadowy approach that they’ve been using to gerrymander every district they possibly can across the country. Recently, it’s become so bad that the Supreme Court is finally getting involved. In many states, the electorate is closely divided, but Republicans drew gerrymandering plans in secret to ensure lopsided victories that account for the disproportional advantage in state legislative districts.

Of course, Trump is still hiding his top-secret tax returns. Sessions is keeping secrets about how many visits he had with the Russian ambassador and is even more cryptic when he’s asked why. While Kushner has been put in charge of fixing everything under the sun, his wife and White House Advisor, Ivanka, has a job so secret she doesn’t even really know what it entails. Kushner, of course, has been accused of trying to set up a super secret “back channel” to communicate with Russia for reasons that are, well, mysteriously confidential.

As America watches the myriad of hearings on Russia, they take on a farcical tone because the answer to almost every significant question is “It’s classified.” Also, let’s not forget about the clandestine meeting in the Seychelles last January that Blackwater founder, Eric Prince had with emissaries from Russia and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of Trump. The Republicans sure seem to be enjoying all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue because more, and more of it, appears to be leaking out.

Republicans want you to believe that all this covert, enigmatic secrecy is normal and that it’s the leaking of these secrets that’s the real threat to our democracy. There is, indeed, a grain of truth in their assertion, but it sure doesn’t explain why there seems to be an obsession with secrecy in their party unless they’ve got a whole lot of things to hide. Ironically, it’s likely that the leaks are coming from folks within their own party, probably because they still harbor some lame, old-school beliefs- like a transparent government that works for everyone.

If Republicans are serious at all about “Making America Great Again”, then they could start by demanding that the Oval Office turn over all of its cards.  Keeping secrets in the interest of preserving national security is one thing, but keeping them to cover up shady bank deals, presidential blunders, or unethical politics is quite another. In fact, the bizarre fixation on secrets just keeps begging the question, “What is it that these folks are trying so hard to hide?”

If you’re only as sick as your secrets, the Republicans better get some emergency care quick before they vote to end their own healthcare benefits.

Move Over Old White Guys, Winter is Coming

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

On Tuesday, the country was in an uproar over the special election in peach-loving, Jesus-thumping, land of cotton and the Confederacy, Georgia, between Handel and Ossoff. Democrats heralded it as a referendum against Trump and Conservatives heralded it as a mandate for their policies. Before yesterday’s polls even opened, I saw disaster coming like a train through a pigeon.

The Democratic Party has a problem if their strategy to win the mid-term elections is to let the Republicans sh*t the bed and that be enough to win millennial voters. Yesterday was a clear example of how that strategy is going to lose miserably. Rather than the party standing for something, they are too busy standing against Republican policies. And just like Ossoff demonstrated yesterday, running as Republican-lite isn’t going to get you a clear majority. What will get you a clear majority? Courting millennial voters.

Millennial voters make up the same proportion of the U.S. voting population as did the Baby Boomers. If the powers that be continue to pat us on the head and say that we are everything that is wrong in the world, you are going to lose miserably. Millennials are hard-core liberals, possibly willing to take socialism out on a date and a drink and see where it goes. This is the reason Bernie was so popular and spawned the so-called Liberal Revolution if only the DNC had not gotten in the way of the will of the people.

Millennials are the most educated, hard-left politically, socially liberal generation yet to come and they have little tolerance for the hate-mongering rhetoric of the hard right. They are also open to the economic redistribution of wealth and universal health care that makes conservative voters gasp and swoon.  Millennial voters aren’t into this because they are lazy and not willing to work. It is because we would rather not work three jobs to make one wage that was so readily given to our grandparents and parents. We would like the same financial advantages our predecessors had and the scales have been tipped off balance to prevent us from doing so. In fact, we are on the hardest working generations because we have been financially screwed from day one. The multiple wars, the 2008 crash, crushing student loan debt to get a minimum wage job… any of this sound familiar?

America’s most impoverished, powerful and morally driven generation wants a seat at the table or we will just take it from you. This generation values authenticity and integrity over political experience any day. We are the generation of the selfies and showing the real you – not the fake corporate façade of the 80s and 90s. We see through carefully crafted messages and spin faster than you can spin it yourself. We are the opposite of everything our predecessors have told us to be and we are turning industries on its head. The revolution is coming and if the Democrats and Republicans can’t get with the program then they will be thrown out of power. Winter is coming and if the politicians cannot adapt to the winds of the change, then they will be left out in the cold.

Ask no questions and obey authority?

Anna Gwen, Contributor

Stanley Milgram, one of the most prominent social psychologists of the 20th century famously conducted some of the most well-known social experiments.  Many psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals still debate Milgram’s experiments as being psychologically traumatic, deceitful, and ethically wrong.  One experiment in particular has garnered this criticism, titled “Obedience to Authority.”  In this experiment, one participant was the “teacher” the other participant the “learner.”  If the learner could not recite back to the teacher, then the teacher would administer “shocks” to the “learner.” The experiment was already designed for it to be impossible for the “learner” to perform in order to avoid shocks.  The teacher and learner were both unaware of this.  Yet 85% of teachers administered lethal shocks.  In the world of ethical research, yes, one could certainly condemn the ethics of the experiment.  Yet shockingly (pun intended), the results speak for themselves:  85% of the participants all administered lethal shocks.  There were no biases with gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.

“So what?” you might ask.

Well, ‘so what?’ seems to be a mantra that so many Americans are using these days.  Milgram conducted this experiment in an attempt to understand why we do what we are told to do, regardless of the outcome.  In his analysis, Milgram referenced the behavior of Nazi Germany officials after WWII.  And they simply said “we did what we did because those were our orders.” Those orders being to torture and murder millions of innocent people. Well, if many continue to be either apathetic or close-minded, and simply “take orders without asking why, it’s conceivable that some people will likely say the same as the Nazi officials- we did it “because we were told to do so.”

This experiment can be taken as a political metaphor, as well.  For example, why do some people vote solely on the premise that of “well, they are my Party,” yet are openly deceived with false promises, blasphemy to their own religious affiliations, and then blame the other “Party” for all the problems in the United States and abroad.  It seems to be that one slogan can manipulate and convince individuals that a positive change is happening even when the reverse is actually occuring.  Well, here in Alabama, what are the positive changes in terms of social progress, social equality? A great example of questionable social and medical change is that of mental health.  Approximately, 1 in 4 adults are diagnosed with a mental illness in any given year, at any given time.  Approximately, 1 in 10 children and adolescents are diagnosed with a mental illness in any given year, at any given time.  And guess what? Those numbers are not declining.  Yet, the availability of reasonable treatment options and facilities are on a steep decline.  It’s baffling, but many people persist in the belief that mental illness is a myth.  They also believe that those who suffer should just be cast out or ostracized socially.  Put them in jail or prison!  Even if these ill-informed notions were true, the penal system in Alabama cannot accommodate most of the inmates that are mentally ill.  Prison system officials have even spoken out about the persistent problem of incarcerating the mentally ill.  Yet, despite hard evidence and facts, many still question the causes, reality, and implications of mental illness.

Milgram’s “Obedience to Authority” experiment is scarily becoming more and more relevant.  As Americans we need to start asking the right questions. We need to stop going along with “what we are told” just because someone in authority said to do it.  Blind obedience will have negative consequences for future generations. Without critical thinking and questioning authority, we may, indeed, end up with a “Big Brother” who is always watching and listening.

That’s scary.

To be a progressive society, we must ask questions, we must peacefully protest when necessary. We must protest based on facts and not based on media idiosyncrasies that only exist to get higher ratings.  Do you want to be a one of the 85% who obediently administered lethal shocks or one of the 15% that questioned authority?

It is up to you.

Alexa, please purchase Whole Foods.

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

In the acquisition heard round the world, Amazon acquired Whole Foods last Friday for $13.7B dollars and the internet went nuts. The jokes were endless with “Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck” jokes and many speculated that Bezos told Alexa to purchase Whole Foods accidently. Amazon has come a long way from its book seller roots to now permeating every aspect of our lives. But with this “prime” price tag, Amazon is positioned to give the online grocery market a run for its money.

This acquisition is the biggest Amazon acquisition to date and the damn thing paid for itself. Amazon’s market cap appreciated by $15.6B after the announcement which means they essentially got Whole Foods for free. And now are looking to transform the brand which has always struggled for its market share as they struggled to compete on price.

This is not the first foray into the produce world by Bezos. AmazonFresh was launched six years ago and with anemic success. It turns out that the general public still likes to inspect their produce before purchasing but Amazon is poised to integrate Whole Foods with their 460 existing distribution sites though I think they will need a few more to take this newly acquired spending power for a whirl.

This move is seen by analysts and those in the “know” as a power play against Walmart. With Walmart’s online grocery ordering as well their recent acquisitions of online retailers such as ModCloth (which I am still mourning), Amazon and Walmart are about to go head to head in an all-out e-commerce war. If Walmart wants to beat Amazon, they are going to have to work on their negative press to get anywhere with Millennials. Millennials want to say F*** you to the big box retailer and Walmart is paying that price. So with the victor go the spoils, may the best retailer win!