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Show Notes - Episode 113

June 12, 2022

https://journal.imse.com/the-state-of-global-literacy-and-where-the-united-states-stands/#:~:text=And%20while%20you%20might%20think,literacy%20rate%20among%20all%20countries.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/02/28/math-scores-high-school-lessons-freakonomics-pisa-algebra-geometry/4835742002/

https://speakola.com/movie/jeff-daniels-sorkin-newsroom-2012

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2019/10/29/national-math-reading-level-test-score-common-core-standards-phonics/2499622001/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/07/04/is-it-great-to-be-a-worker-in-the-u-s-not-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-developed-world/

https://20somethingfinance.com/american-hours-worked-productivity-vacation/

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2022/03/19/debate-over-air-conditioning-in-american-prisons-will-heat-up

Welcome to America! The greatest country on earth... where we've had an average of one school shooting per week so far in 2022 and where people die every day because they can't afford medical care. The land of the free... where a full quarter of the world's prisoners are incarcerated! The land of opportunity where most workers don't make enough to pay the rent and where the federal government still thinks it's the early 80s in its perception of what the minimum wage should be. I'm Spider...

and this week we're going to have a frank, honest, and in-depth conversation about why the US is far from the greatest anything and what we can, and should, do to change a few things around here. But first: yet another trigger warning for child sexual abuse (we've got a double header of stories about that) and one girl who has some frank words of her own about her mom and why no one should vote for her. It's CBB: Suffer The Children edition.

CBB 113

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/pastor-who-said-he-mistook-14-y-o-girl-for-wife-in-bed-sentenced-to-prison/
https://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/2022/05/ex-north-olmsted-youth-pastor-who-sexually-abused-teenage-girl-gasps-as-judge-sentences-him-to-prison.html

You know, sometimes I feel like I keep talking about the same stories over, and over, and over again. Every week, it seems like there’s at least one of these stories. And every week, I just sort of want to haul off and punch someone in the face. 

But on the bright side, at least these guys are finally facing some consequences. A pastor is going to jail for sexual abuse of a minor for 4.5 years after abusing the victim for two years beginning when she was only 14. He will also have to register as a sex offender. While I don’t think that is NEARLY enough time, at least having to register as a sex offender helps give people warning before they hire him. 

David Walker, who preached at Church Alive International in Cleveland and then at The Dwelling Place Family Worship Center in North Olmsted, pleaded guilty in March to six counts of attempted sexual battery and one count of endangering children in connection with multiple incidents of sexual abuse that investigators said took place from 2003 to 2007.

Walker’s wife, Anna, pleaded guilty the same day to one count of assault and one count of endangering children after admitting that she participated in one incident of sexual abuse when the girl was 17. Kilbane sentenced her to one year of probation, saying she acted at the behest of her husband.
This guy’s only defense is that it was a ‘random, innocent accident’. Why? 

[Walker] was leading a youth group at a church-sponsored lock-in when the victim ended up sleeping next to him. Claiming he believed she was his wife, he began “rubbing her” and didn’t figure out she wasn’t his wife until the morning.

None of that explains why the abuse continued long after that, or why several other girls who were teenagers in his church at the time said he was also sexually inappropriate with them. (He denied all those other allegations.)

Oh, shocking. Seriously. 

The defense also tried to argue that these crimes happened over 20 years ago and that he should only get probation, saying that he has health conditions now like sleep apnea and diabetes. And he hasn’t done any other crimes so give him a break, right? 

Yeah the judge isn’t having any of that. Judge Ashley Kilbane stated in response to this “All that means is that for 20 years he’s enjoyed life and escaped justice and detection.” 

She also wasn’t having with the pleas of his Christian followers that he was “a good man” and a strong Christian,” as if those things should excuse molesting children in the basement of their church. 

As for the victim, she is now 30s now and said before the sentencing that Walker urged her to become his second wife. He also asked her to continue having sex with him after she got married because that was God’s plan. “You used your flexible schedule from the pulpit to get your hands in my pants,” she said. “Are you sorry or are you sorry you got caught?” 

Him getting actual jail time for this is pretty good but the picture of this guy (it’s in the Cleveland dot com article in the show notes) reacting to his conviction and jail sentence is…just perfect. So satisfying. He really thought he was going to get away with it. It might not be nearly enough time but it’s at least something. 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/christian-predator-josh-duggar-sentenced-to-over-12-years-in-prison/

And here’s another guy who didn’t get nearly enough jail time: Josh Duggar was sentenced to over 12 years in prison for downloading and possessing images of child sexual abuse. Federal agents had raided Duggar’s used car lot in 2019 and confiscated his computers and phone. He actually blurted out during the raid: “What is this about? Has anyone been downloading child pornography?” Smooth, Josh. Real smooth. 

The feds eventually found that Duggar used a browser that would allow him to download the illicit material from the dark web. (Also on his computer? Covenant Eyes, a Christian accountability program that alerts certain people if you look at porn online. Duggar downloaded the content using a workaround that didn’t trigger that software—which suggested that the Christian program didn’t work and that whoever downloaded the illicit material didn’t do it accidentally.) Eventually, the feds found over 200 illicit images of children and knew that someone had both viewed them and tried to delete the files.

While Duggar tried to suggest that someone else had down the downloading, perhaps via a remote link, the jury did not buy this, he was convicted on both counts, and taken back into custody. 

The sentencing comes despite his wife and his extended family pleading for probation and his lawyers stating that he had lived an “exemplary life.” Seriously, who are they kidding? 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/gay-teen-dont-send-my-anti-trans-anti-abortion-mom-to-congress/
And lastly tonight, Kelli Stargel, a florida state senator who is currently running for Congress, is also one of the cruelest and least thoughful politicians in the country. She has pushed for the 15 week abortion ban, has tried to ban trans girls from playing on the appropriate sports teams and has backed DeSantis' awful covid policies. 

And one of the loudest voices against electing her to Congress is her own daughter, 28 year old Hannah Stargel. She is gay, and wants to expose her mother as the bigot she is. In her TikTok where she talks about her mother, she says: 

“Considering the fact that Kelli Stargel is my mother, and sent me to a troubled teen facility when I was only 15, I don’t think that she really has a right to tell you or anybody else who can and can’t be a mother. Because she wasn’t even a mother to her own children. 

...After numerous years of telling me I was hard to love, putting me through tons of years of neglect, putting politics before everything else, and honestly, just being a horrible, horrible person to look up to—is this really somebody you want up in D.C. passing laws for you and your children, telling you what to do with your body?

If I can do anything in my power to make sure that Kelli Stargel does not become a congresswoman from Florida, that would be awesome.”

She says in another interview that she was surprised when she announced her intent to run for Senate as she had planned to step away because of the toll it took on their family.

Huh, guess that's not as much of a problem as she thought. 

And Hannah's not the only daughter who has spoken out against her mother. In 2021 her daughter Laura Stargel spoke out against her mother's crusade to throw trans girls off of high school girl's teams. 
What’s really sad is that her daughters aren’t asking for much. They just want their mother to be compassionate toward marginalized kids and women who may have become pregnant against their will… but Kelli Stargel refuses to do that because she’d rather kowtow to the Republican base than take her daughters seriously. Hannah said she “stopped communicating with her mother” after she pushed the anti-trans bill just months after Hannah came out to her. 

Yeah. She talks a good game about wanting “what's best for Florida's families” but I'm sure that those 'florida families' can go hang unless they share her Christian bigotry. 

Patreon/Promo – Next week 6/12: What is Patriotism? How The Right Gets it Wrong
Two Weeks: So You Want To Be a Pastor 6/19 – What they Tell You and What You Can Expect
Three Weeks – Off
Four Weeks: Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier 7/3

 

 

The instant I thought about this topic, my mind went to Will McAvoy's (Jeff Daniels') rant in the 2012 HBO series The Newsroom who, when boxed into a corner to answer the question “Why is America the greatest country on earth,” returned a scathing and embarrassingly truthful response: America is NOT the greatest country on earth. Not by a longshot. 

And in his little forced diatribe, he mentions a few statistics that I found interesting and also wanted to see how the numbers match up a decade later. Here's that excerpt from his answer:

This was in 2012...

“We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.” 

So I want to take the time to address all of these and how they look in the year 2022. 

Literacy

Verbal skills are on the decline
Our vocabularies are shrinking like shrinky dinks
Most high schoolers have such low reading proficiency levels, many states that use standardized tests to determine whether or not students graduate have had to drastically lower the bar in areas like vocabulary and reading comprehension just to ensure students actually do graduate and they keep getting funded at the same levels. 

So according to The Newsroom, America ranked #7 in literacy in 2012. Ten years later, those numbers have dropped to ninth when using some very specific criteria. In the study used to collect this data, though, literacy has a very thin definition. If you can read a simple sentence without foreknowledge of what you are going to be asked to read, you are considered literate. The problem is that the criteria they use assumes an elementary school reading level, doesn't address reading comprehension, doesn't ask the subject to come up with a single synonym, or define just one part of speech in the sentence. If you can read “the cat sat on the mat” you're considered literate. Here's the problem...  [talk about AIC here]
That was my first classroom teaching experience and it was also the first and last time I felt like a teacher before I got into the passenger side of a driving school car. 

So with that in mind, let's look at how we're really doing...

When you expand the term “literate” to mean “the ability to read and write on a level that allows you to function in society” we get a much different and, frankly, quite scary story. 

The United States is part of an organization called The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is made up of 35 countries, most of which are from Europe. The organization compiles educational data from nations across the globe, not just their members.

The most recent survey found the US is not seventh in literacy. When you look at the big picture. We are 125th. There are 124 countries with literacy rates higher than ours. 

So why are things so bad here? Well...

According to their latest report, the United States was one of only five countries in the OECD to cut education funding in the years leading up to the study. We spend more money per student than a lot of countries, but I've seen what happens in a high school ELA classroom recently and I can tell you one thing for certain: education in the American classroom is a thing of the past. And here is why:

We pay our teachers shit
We pay very small groups of competent teachers to write the curricula that everybody follows
Once an education rubric is established, the curriculum is adopted by the school district and teachers are required to stick to it.
There is very little that the local teacher brings to the table
We hand out passing grades to students who can't read well or compose a simple five-paragraph essay because if we don't “it'll generate phone calls” and it will result in loss of funding. 

Think about it: if the average school district admits to the problems that exist, the government doesn't give them more money to help more students get IEPs or 504 status, they punish the schools for not seeing to it that their teachers properly deliver the information in the rubric. Because, of course, all students learn the same and should be able to follow the same curriculum. And that brings us to the next point: 

Where the United States starts to fall behind is how much knowledge students gain from their education. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, 15-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 31st out of 35 OECD countries in standardized tests.

Without a solid foundation of literacy skills, students are being set up to fail in all other areas of their education.

A lack of educational programs that work for every individual student, professional training and development that really is a joke in most instances, and the decline of available resources available to students who struggle in basic literacy skills, some students are flat out never given a fair chance at getting an education that works for them. When they bomb their vocab quiz, they either get to take it again or they're just floated a pass at the end of the quarter. No one bothers to teach most of them how to read or write better. Oh sure, there's the token “resource center” or peer tutoring programs in some schools, but another fifteen year old with no training in how to teach anything isn't going to help, nor is sending students to a resource center that is staffed with paraprofessionals who also don't have education degrees or even enough experience in the education space to be of much help at all. 

If a student is two grade levels behind in their reading proficiency for multiple years in a row, it is bound to have a trickle down effect into other areas of his education and life.

Well... yeah. I mean, if they can't read the textbook or can't define half the words in it...

And this is becoming a problem in other key areas, most notably in journalism [ad lib on this here]

Where we Rank in Math and Science

We are falling in math literacy rankings, too. We were #27 in 2012. As of 2020, we were #29. 

Math is supposed to teach you how to think [ad lib on this]

And that is why we see a continuous parade of memes that say things like “Day 3,411 in a row where I didn't use algebra.” That's because the intent of teaching math and the approach we take to teaching it in the US never find their way to each-other.

“Classes here often focus on formulas and procedures rather than teaching students to think creatively about solving complex problems involving all sorts of mathematics, experts said. That makes it harder for students to compete globally, be it on an international exam or in colleges and careers that value sophisticated thinking and data science.” 

In other words, we place far too heavy an emphasis on memorizing how to solve equations and place far too little emphasis on critical thinking. Even word problems are starting to take a backseat to rote memorization, and don't even get me started on common core because that's what that method is rotten to: its common, thought-removing, ridiculously roundabout thought-salad-generating core. I think it's interesting how the numbers line up in common core methodology, but the intricacies and multiple applications of these problem solving methods are never, ever, ever explored in most American public school classrooms. They teach these long-way-'round methods of solving math problems without teaching kids anything about how you can practically apply those problem-solving methods to real-life situations. I can see what CC is supposed to accomplish, but like anything else we try to teach in this country, it falls by the way in terms of why students should learn it. 

I find as a driver education professional that students learn maneuvers and techniques faster and more thoroughly when I not only present the “how to” but also the “why you should” as part of the process. Teach a student to turn their wheels to the left when parking uphill with a curb is easy to forget if you just present the concept and expect them to remember. When you teach them why they're doing it, I find that retention is way higher. It's the same with teaching math. You can't just teach kids formulas and give them cheat sheets so they can pass the test. They learn nothing that way. You have to give them practical reasons and applications for what they're learning so they can associate what they're learning with something of actual value and the experts agree:

Most American high schools teach algebra I in ninth grade, geometry in 10th grade and algebra II in 11th grade – something Jo Boaler, a mathematics professor at Stanford University, calls “the geometry sandwich.”

Other countries teach three straight years of integrated math – I, II and III — in which concepts of algebra, geometry, probability, statistics and data science are taught together, allowing students to take deep dives into complex problems.

“In higher-performing countries, statistics or data science – the computer-based analysis of data, often coupled with coding – is a larger part of the math curriculum.Most American classes focus on teaching rote procedures,” Boaler said. 

Math is supposed to teach us how to think and when it's taught properly, that's what it accomplishes. The way we do it here, all it produces is bored students who graduate barely able to calculate multiplication tables in their heads or even come up with something as simple as “what's 20% of my restaurant check?” Pathetic...

Just for a quick compare and contrast, Estonia ranks first among European countries in mathematics, as well as reading and science. Why? Because they offer high-quality early childhood education to all, they maintain small class sizes (which means they also hire more teachers), and with far less emphasis on standardized testing, teachers there are free to actually teach concepts, not simply how to pass a test. 

Estonia also teaches computer programming at all grade levels – a  strategy started in the upper grades in the late '90s and extended to elementary schools around 2012. There's that practical application that's lacking here and I can think of no more versatile way of presenting mathematical concepts than this at classroom level.

Oh, and by the way... common core doesn't work. The numbers haven't budged in more than a decade proving beyond a doubt that you can't swap out one system that neglects critical thinking for another that neglects it with extra unnecessary steps thrown in. 

And if you don't understand Math, it's impossible to understand science, so if course we suck at that too. Of course, the overlying problem with this one is the cancer of evangelical influence that fights the execution of meaningful, honest, and fact-based science education around every turn. But there are problems here that manifest long before the creationist nutters ever even take a breath to whine and complain, most of which fall into the same trap as everything else that happens in the American classroom: even with labs and hands-on experiments as part of the curriculum, students learn precious little in science classes that have practical applications or that prepare them to tackle more complex concepts at higher levels of education. And the worst part is that they're not expected to. Unless a student is looking to enter a scientific field in their professional life, they have no motivation to learn anything taught in the classroom and the curriculum is once again written in a way that caters to the lowest common denominator without any thought of challenge or promoting critical thought. Most high school science classes map out experiments and procedures in a way that provides the student with the expected outcome without independent application of the scientific method. What is the point of engaging in experimentation if you're told going in what the outcome is going to be?

As for our science rankings, they haven't changed much. They're about the same with a disparity of just a few percentage points between studies. 

Life Expectancy

The united states ranks near the bottom in life expectancy when compared to other OECD countries. We are 26th out of 35 with an average life expectancy of 79 years. Now, when I was 17, that didn't seem so bad. At 50, I kinda feel like I should be able to expect better. But here's the problem: our healthcare system SUCKS. 

One out of two people in the US have medical debt. Because our insurance doesn't cover medical care 100 percent and in some cases not at all. And if you want health insurance you either need to buy it or you get it from your employer (and sacrifice an insane chunk of your paycheck to have it). Most plans cover major medical expenses to the tune of about 80%. If your hospital stay tops $150,000 (and this is a VERY easy number to hit), you're on the hook for 30k. If you make $15 an hour and work full time, that's more than a year's pay. And you'll keep paying your premiums and copays while trying to figure out how to pay that debt. And the interest on that debt accrues at rates that defy the term usury. 

When I was younger, doctors ordered and recommended tests and treatments that we needed. Today, it's like choosing option packages on a luxury car. The term “reasonable and customary” no longer applies. Medical practices are for-profit and they will prescribe drugs and order tests and procedures that you flat out don't need. Why? Because they get incentives and kickbacks for prescribing specific drugs or making diagnoses that necessitate the purchase or rental of expensive medical equipment to treat. And if your insurance doesn't cover it all, here we go straight back to square one. 

So how do Americans deal with the problem of high copays, sub-par coverage, and the inability to pay for things like prescription meds? We just don't go to the doctor. We wait until we're too sick to cope and then we head to the ER which is sometimes five to ten times more expensive than seeing a doctor. We call rideshares to get us to the ER when we really really need an ambulance but just don't have five grand sitting around to pay for one. Then it takes forever for insurance companies to approve necessary services and treatments and, in the meantime the patient gets sicker. And if the patient doesn't have insurance or their plan doesn't cover the treatment they need, they literally, physically die over an inability to pay. Because clearly money is more important than human life even to a hospital or medical network whose profit margins can be measured in seven, eight, and TEN figures or more annually. One dose of Tylenol with codeine administered by a CNA in a hospital can carry a price tag of $50 to $100. One fucking dose. And if you have cancer, your treatment costs before insurance can reach into the seven figure category in a matter of months. Oh, and lots of American healthcare plans carry a million dollar lifetime benefit. What happens when that runs out and you still need chemo or dialysis or oxygen or just a fucking rescue inhaler?  

And don't get me started on how hospitals can deny vital services like abortion because they're run by religious organizations...

None of these things are issues in countries with socialized medicine and many of the horror stories people are told about healthcare in socialized medical systems are nothing but propaganda. The US is one of a tiny number of countries on earth that expect its citizens to foot the bill for every tiny thing they do to maintain their health.

How We Treat Our Workforce 

To put it plain and simple, American employers suck. And I say this as an American employer. I have employees. And what I've learned as an employer about my responsibilities AS an employer I can tell you one thing for certain: I've been royally fucked over more than once. Why? Because I didn't know all of my rights as well as I thought I did and it is way too easy for employers in this country to hide from their responsibilities. They rely on their subordinates being ignorant of their rights and most are, even with that huge poster on the wall that is supposed to be displayed prominently and yet quite often gets displayed in broom closets and unused office spaces so they don't attract attention. 

Most US employers pay shit and the federal government lets them.

In the year 2022, the US Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees and $2.13 per hour for tipped employees. That's 15k a year for a non-tipped worker. Most individual states set their own minimum wage considerably higher but our federal government is still living in the 1980s in terms of what they consider a minimally livable wage. 

Also, the U.S. has no legal requirement to periodically review and, if necessary, adjust its minimum wage. That means that 100 years from now it could still be the same. Think about that. Take all the time you need. 

And that's just dishonest bosses. Let's talk about some of the legal shit that fucks over the American worker every single day.

According to the Washington Post: The United States and Mexico are the only countries that don't require any advance notice for individual firings. The U.S. ranks at the bottom for employee protection even when mass layoffs are taken into consideration as well, despite the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act's requirement that employers give notice 60 days before major plant closings or layoffs.

The United States spends less of its economic wealth on active efforts to help people who either don’t have a job or who are at risk of becoming unemployed than almost any other country. And they leave the unemployed in the dust. And you can only get unemployment if you weren't fired for cause, which is something that a lot of employers will claim as a means of not extending unemployment benefits when they fire someone for other reasons (like that they can't afford the employee anymore or they decide they don't like you for whatever reason – employment at will covers this but if you are simply laid off, regardless of the reason, they have to pay into UI. If they say they fired you for cause, it starts a whole process that can leave the worker without any semblance of income for weeks or even months on end. Even if they win, they'll be behind on bills and their credit will likely be taking a huge hit.

Now let's say you're lucky enough to get UI benefits without a fight from your employer. U.S. unemployment benefits provide less support in the first year of unemployment than those in any other country. The maximum length of benefits in a typical U.S. State is 26 weeks (just about six months). This is shorter than in all but a small handful of countries. In some states, the maximum benefit length is as little as TWELVE WEEKS. Three months and you're on your own. You can file for federal unemployment benefits but that will only cover you for another six months. Once that runs out you are 100% fucked if you haven't found something else.

It took a fucking pandemic to get people the help they needed and now things have reverted back to the old way of doing things with a few lingering benefits extended to workers that relate to COVID. 

Now let's say you have a job. Unemployment isn't an issue for you. Guess what... you're overworked and underpaid in ways that are laughable throughout most of the developed world. Most Americans find themselves too busy making a living to actually have a life. Even if they have the money to spend, they are so endlessly tethered to their jobs that they have no time or opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Most American households cannot survive on a single income. In 70% of American homes, all adults living in the home work and contribute to expenses and even then, many find themselves living paycheck to paycheck, barely paying the rent or living “house poor.”

The U.S. is the ONLY country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit. The average is over 12 weeks of paid leave anywhere other than Europe. What's the average in Europe? 20 weeks. PAID.

The US is the only industrialized nation whose government does not mandate giving new parents the option to take leave. Here, it's up to the employer and most don't want to deprive their shareholders and CEOs of the money it would take to make that happen... and no one is forcing them to. 

Most industrialized countries set caps on the length of a work week. Guess who doesn't...

Full-time employed females work approximately 8.3 hour work days. Full-time employed males work an average of 9.09 hours per work day.

U.S. workers work an average of 1,767 hours per year versus an OECD country average of 1,687. 

That comes out to:
435 more hours per year than workers in Germany
400 more hours per year than workers in the UK
365 more hours per year than workers in France
169 more hours per year than workers in Japan

The productivity per American worker has increased 430% since 1950. Look at it this way: today, the average American worker is responsible for the work that used to be done by FOUR people. And to put it another way, an American worker in 1950 only had to put in 10 hours a week to have the same standard of living someone working 40 hours a week does now. No wonder American families in the 50s and earlier could have five people in a household able to live on one income. That one job was the equivalent of FOUR FULL TIME INCOMES today.

And just to add insult to injury, here's what we get in America in exchange for all that hard work when compared to other countries:

There is not a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States. The government refuses to protect our income if we get sick.

We are the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave.
In every industrialized country except Canada, The US, and Japan, workers get at least 20 paid vacation days, on average. In France and Finland, they get 30 – an entire month off, paid, every year. The average here is 13 days and some workers have to work for years at the same job to get to that. Most employers start you off with a week off for at least the first two years. And some of rthose employers don't even offer major holidays off. One of my employers made it mandatory to use my own PTO when THEY closed the business due to inclement weather. Amazing.

Now let's look at the three things Will McAvoy cited as the only three areas where we top the list. And these STILL apply a decade later.

Number of Incarcerated Citizens Per Capita

The United States accounts for only five percent of the world's population but 25% of its prisoners. Talk about the home of the free... 

Our prison systems are also often inhumane. We place higher standards on the accommodations in ANIMAL SHELTERS than we do on those in our prisons. An alarming number of prisons, particularly in the south, don't have air conditioning. At least 14 states lack universal air conditioning in their prisons. Florida offers air-conditioned housing units in only 40% of its state-run correctional institutions and Texas provides it in only 30%. 

“In places where the summer temperature can exceed 100°F (37°C), buildings keep both offenders and heat trapped inside. Prisoners on medications to manage blood pressure or mental problems are especially prone to heat-related illnesses, as are those with asthma. Prisoners have died during heatwaves, prompting lawsuits against the states that held them.”

And we could get into a whole conversation about prison food but we will just let this statistic speak for itself: A CDC study found that between 1998 and 2014, inmates suffered from a food-related illness 6.4 times more than the general population. That doesn't happen when the food is fresh, properly stored, and adequately prepared. And we also have this lovely practice in this country of serving our inmates something called “the loaf” if they misbehave. That's right, we feed our prisoners food that is literally on the same quality level as high-end DOG FOOD as a form pf punishment when they step out of line. So what is it? 

From the Nutraloaf wikipedia entry (yes, this is a thing)

“There are many recipes that include a range of food, from vegetables, fruit, meat, and bread or other grains. The ingredients are blended and baked into a solid loaf. In one version, it is made from a mixture of ingredients that include ground beef, vegetables, beans, and bread crumbs. Other versions include mechanically separated poultry and "dairy blend".”

And I want to add a note here about something that many people think is just a principle that applies to biblical times but which is alive and well in America today: debtor's prison. Yes, part of the incarceration problem in this country has directly to do with locking people up because they can't pay, among other things, traffic tickets. 

https://apnews.com/article/c088ef18e04d493aaa987c255f6d2df9

https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2018/02/02/yes-lots-of-people-go-to-jail-because-they-cant-pay-a-fine

The Number of People Who Believe that Angels Are Real

We're not going to belabor this point because, well, it's why we're here doing what we do, isn't it? Every country has a religion problem, but nowhere in the world perpetuates religious delusions of all description the way we do. [ad lib on this a little]

Defense Spending

Was Will McAvoy off by a little by stating that we spend more than “the next 26 countries combined?” I don't know. We're talking about a show on HBO so who knows how many other countries with minuscule budgets they might have researched to qualify that statement. The reality is bad enough. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (and echoed in a variety of other sources), we currently spend more than the next nine. And that's bad enough. China is our closest competitor on that list and they topped out around 300 billion on 2021. The rest of the countries in the pile don't even come close.

Our defense spending last year came close to or exceeded 800 billion dollars, depending on various sources and the areas of spending they attributed to defense spending. So where the fuck is all this money going? Not to soldiers....

It takes a Private in the U.S. Army THREE YEARS to achieve a whopping 24k/year salary. Over the course of three years, their monthly pay only increases by $500. For Corporals, it's an increase of just $400 in the same amount of time. The average Sergeant makes about 8 grand a month but most military personnel NEVER rise to that rank and never earn anywhere near that much. It all goes into the development and manufacturing of weaponry of all description from guns to tanks to stealth bombers and so on. To be fair, there are other avenues for earning income and some soldiers actually do pretty well with programs like the Montgomery GI Bill and other programs that help with education, housing, and more, but, I'm sorry... a driving instructor working less than full time is capable of pulling down 24k. We funnel the majority of money we spend on defense into big scary machines and leave the people who operate them in the dust. 

God fucking bless America...

So, to put a period on all of this, America is not now, nor has it ever been, nor does it have a snowball's chance in Hell at ever being the greatest anything anywhere. We treat our people like shit, we keep people in debt forever paying off college degrees that never even guarantee them an income (and most college degrees are bullshit in or out of Bible college), we incarcerate people for not being able to pay traffic tickets or fines levied against them for other misdemeanor offenses until they pay the debt while simultaneously making it impossible to work for the money to pay the debt, we work our labor force quite literally to death and if that isn't enough, we can also add one more thing to the list of things we're #1 in the world for: gun violence. So far this year there has been just over one school shooting per week in this country and an alarming number of them are committed using legally obtained “second amendment protected” firearms.

You want to do something meaningful, pro lifers? Start speaking out against gun violence. Fuck your thoughts and prayers. They're as useless as the rest of your rhetoric. Put your money where your mouths are and have the balls to stand up for the LIVES of the children that were taken in Texas last week. Do that instead of standing behind idiots who know even less about the constitution than you do who are fighting as hard for their imaginary right to keep and bear arms as you are to control women even to the point of fucking killing them denying them the basic and foundational right to do whatever the fuck they want with their own bodies. 

There is one way to get America on track for greatness (at least as long as we still have a shred of Democracy at work here) and that is to start giving the right people the power to make vital decisions about things like healthcare and workers rights and gun laws and sound interpretations of the Constitution that don't cow-tow to corporations, especially hatemongering evangelical-led corporations.

And, yes, I'm once again telling you to fucking vote. Primaries are going on right now. If rational, clear-thinking, intelligent people go to those polls we CAN see the tides turn. Maybe not in one election, but within a generation for sure. If we stop allowing corrupt politicians the opportunity to influence the things we talked about tonight and start electing people who place a high enough value on human life to jut raise the fucking minimum wage once in a while we'll definitely be doing better than we are now. The greatest country on earth shouldn't have people becoming homeless because they lost three months pay during a pandemic. We shouldn't have people living one pink slip away from losing their health insurance and we sure as shit shouldn't have people dying of treatable illness because they can't afford to be made well. No country that calls itself the greatest could possibly allow these things to happen to their people and yet they happen every day here. Every day someone loses a father, a mother, a spouse, or a child to a healthcare system that dictates that only those who can afford to pay to live actually make it out alive. No country that calls itself the greatest can have an education system that doesn't even go as far as teaching someone how to sign their own fucking name on a document anymore and no country can call itself the greatest when it has workers working full time and beyond full time hours and still qualify for public assistance because their employers are allowed to pay them as little as $7.25 an hour. 

That, our evangelical and fence sitting listeners is why we're not the greatest. Your pastors are lying to you. Your favorite right wing politicians are lying to you and you need to understand that. You're sitting in a room that is burning around you and being told everything is fine. Everything is not fine. Look at how we do things here in contrast to how those same things are done in other parts of the worls and start waking up to the fact that you're being sold a bill of goods with this nonsensical “greatest country” doctrine that the evangelical right keeps trying to sell you. And when you do, vote out the liars and start demanding the greatness that they've promised you by voting in people who at least want to deliver it. Because if we can steer American politics away from the right and keep moving in a direction that at least sets us up for greatness, it won't be just us, but our entire country that finally gets and stays unbound.