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Prisons and Mental Illness

Back in the fifties when I was growing up there were state mental institutions to house and treat people who were. mentally ill. The largest one was in Milledgeville, Georgia. In the fifties the facility had as many as twelve thousand patients living, being taken care of and treated there. When I was a student at Emory, my class in abnormal psychology visited and had a quick tour. We visited some of the day rooms in the large wards, and had some contact with some of the patients. The hospital was clean and the patients appeared well cared for. The were kelp warm and dry, and had regular meals. Large mental institutions then started bring eliminated. There were various reasons, but the reason most publicized and popular was that patients could be better off if they were returned to their communities and received care through local treatment centers, as in patients or out patients. It was said that most of them could live at home with their families and would benefit from being around people they knew if familiar locations. New advances in treatments with drugs and other therapies would allow for this local treatment. States started implementing this plan. As proposed the states started downsizing the large mental institutions, releasing patients back to the local areas. The local treatment, however, did now succeed as envisioned. Patients did not follow their treatment and take the medications. Families did not provide the needed cate snd support. The result is that now the facilities that house the most mentally ill are the prisons. And the prison system provides very little if any treatment or needed care. They should, and could if the system was given the resources to provide for the inmates who are mentally ill. We should provide that care and treatment by revising our prison system and giving them the funding and resources needed and necessary. Mentally ill need care and treatment wherever they are found.


Speaking of Race

We divide ourselves into races, and phave discrimination, anger, woke, critical race theory and a lot of other racial issues to deal with. Pull up a city or county on your laptop and pull up demographics. It will percents of population by race, as if each person was one race or another. They are not. We all share most genes in common with everyone else. None of us have genes that match completely. Genes are mixed up and distributed within the general population, but everyone has their own unique genetic composition which is different from everyone else. New genes tend to appear and cluster within groups who have been isolated for long periods of time in their particular area or part of the world. I hear people speaking of one group or another as “my people” as if their group was different from all others. That is partly true, genes or groups of genes in any group are different from other groups. They are different in groups or clusters, and separate in percentages, clusters, and mixtures to produce different types of people. But there are two many mixtures and combinations to divide people into just two, three or four groups or races. People are more complicated than that.

Predicting the Market

There are plenty of books, articles, items on the media predicting the economy. I don’t have a lot of faith in their accuracy. At any time there have been predictions of a stock market crash. Some of them have been right. Some have to be. Our economy runs in cycles, unpredictable cycles. There is a lot of talk now whether of not we are about to have a recession, whether there will be a crash this year, or maybe next year. Some experts predict a soft landing without a recession, others predict a recession, either this year or next year. Some successful investors say not to try to predict for the short term, but look toward the long term, invest in solid companies and wait for them to grow. But which companies are the solid companies and how long will it take for them to grow. There must be magic in picking the right companies. There must be a gene for being able to do that. It has to be in your DNA. There are a few people who can do that well, but very few. But the good news is the general trend of the economy and the market average is up. If you invest in the average, over the years, your investments will grow. That is why index finds have become so popular. They take away the risk of having to decide which stocks to buy. You can buy the average and do well over time. But if you are in a hurry and want to beat the market, that takes a lot of time, study, research, and talent. Most people do better playing the averages, using index funds

The Most Important Issues

Everyone has their own priories of what they think is most important. To me, climate change and pollution are the top issues. I am not able to say one is more important than the other. They both have the potential to destroy life as we know it, or even all life. Those issues are that important. If the science is correct, then unless drastic action is taken soon the earth will become either uninhabitable or almost inhabitable. Pollution can also destroy us. Most of the worst pollution comes from the use of fossil fuels. Plastics and fertilizers are serious problems.These issues are existential threats. If they are not handled properly, human life, and all life in earth could be at risk. Nuclear war poses another existential threat. It has the potential to destroy all life on earth. I am not as worried about nuclear war because we are more aware of the potential damage it would cause. We are not as aware of the potential damage from climate change and pollution. There is a danger that the public will not be aware of the danger until it is too late. It is as if we are all frogs in a pot, not realizing the water is getting hot.

The next most important issue is the economy. Maintaining the economy means having sufficient supplies of food, shelter, clothes and other goods we gave to have to survive. This is essential to maintain order and our way of life. Not all of maintaining the economy is in our control. Drought and crop failures can put severe stress on the economy. That stress, added to existing stress levels can increase existing discontent, spark protests, and lead to wars or revolutions that overturn governments.

There are other issues that can cause severe economic problems that are under our control. One of those is inflation. Inflation can destroy an economy and wreck a country. It does that by destroying the economy. The danger us that our government will spend so much money that it will not be able to pay the interest on the national debt without printing so much money that the dollar loses so much of its value that we have economic collapse. In the sixties, we borrowed so much money that in the seventies we had to go off the gold standard so that we could start printing money to continue the interest payments. The only other options were to default on our debt, or raise taxes to unacceptable levels . We were on the gold standard in the sixties, but that did not protect us from borrowing more money than we could pay back. Any system only works as well as the government running the country. If it overspends and over borrows there will be default, hyperinflation, or oppressive taxes. We can go into bankruptcy on the gold standard or on the system we have now. It all depends on the budgets, debts, spending, and taxing passed by congress. We have to be responsible in our control of revenue and spending.

There are many more issues that are important, and affect many people. They are very important to the people they affect. But they do not threaten our existence. They are not existential threats.

Ernest Harben

Political Problems

I want to make a list of our current outstanding political problems. The list will be in random and not in order of importance. Rising crime rates, homeliness, inflation, inequity of wealth, drug misuse, illegal immigration, climate change, overpopulation, and food insecurity. The list could go on but that should be enough for now. Proposed solutions come from every direction, all of them different. Some are in direct opposition to each other.

Root causes are likewise different. Some blame all the problems on the system we live in. Other say it is not the system but bad individual decisions. Other root cause given are lack of respect and distrust of our institutions; tribalism; failure to assimilate into the mainstream culture; lack of mutual trust and respect; lack of values and morals; the decline of the family; too much government; not enough government; wealth and income inequities; taxes are too high; taxes are too low, not enough freedom, not enough equality, too much central government, and not enough central government.

It is normal and to be expected that people will disagree over all of these issues. They are basic questions about society and about government. Opinions will range along a continuum on all these issues. Somewhere along each line there will be a point where fifty per cent of the opinions will be on either side. Most opinions with hover around this point. That position will constitute the central or centrist position. The idea is to keep our policies around this centrist position. Our government and society will function successfully as long as its policies stay there. The problems come if some people on the extremes of the line are not willing to accept the central or majority position. That is what we are seeing now in our society. People on each side of the center point have lost respect for those who disagree with them, and are not willing to accept the central position. If this continues and becomes worse, we will see a total breakdown of our government and of our society. When a collapse comes, it can come quickly and the results can be devastating. We should all be aware of the potential problems we will encounter if we do not find a way to come to some mutual solutions on these issues that we will all can live with. If we don’t the future will be difficult.

Ernest Harben

Personality Traits

We continue to hear debates and arguments over how we get our personalities. The main question is whether genetics and DNA determine personality traits, or whether they are matters of choice learned through the culture we are born into. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists keep conducting research on the nature and origin of personalties, referred to as personality traits. Most of the current research is on the Big Five personality traits. They are Extroversion, Agreeableness, Openness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism. The research is to determine to what extent personality traits are inherited. And the follow up issue is if they are inherited, how does our DNA influence, determine and control those traits. The most prevalent current thinking, based on research and studies, is that those traits are inheritable to a certain extent. The traits remain stable throughout our lives. The traits are influenced by environmental factors, particularly in our early years. The studies show traits are not totally inherited, nor are they totally formed by environmental factors and influences, but they are a combination of both, working together. Different groups have different personality traits both based on their learned culture and by the concentration of genes contained within the group. We should continue with more research in this field. Knowledge of how traits are formed is very useful in working with children and in understanding childhood development.

Ernest Harben

Ranking the Presidents

Last week my fourteen year old grandson asked me who was the best presidents in office during my life. I can remember back through to the Truman administration. As I thought I realized I did not think any of those should be considered a good president, especially not a best president. I told my grandson first that they all made mistakes while in office. And then said they all did some things that were good. I marked down Truman because of the Korean war. Both Bush presidents were also marked down because of their wars in the middle east. Neither Ford nor Carter could handle the economy although both did other things well. Both had short terms in office. Stagflation was rampant during those years and neither had a clue as to what to do to get things going and reduce inflation. Nixon did some good things, and so did Trump, but both were having trouble with criminal activities of different sorts. Johnson is remembered for the war in Vietnam. Remembered not very well. Johnson, like Truman, chose not to run for reelection because his polls were so low that he knew he would not win. Truman’s polls were low because mostly of tge Korean war. It was an unpopular war and it made Truman an unpopular President. Clinton mishandled the war in the Balkans, and had problems with his personal conduct. Kennedy was in only two years, remembered for the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crises. That leaves Eisenhower, Regan and Obama. I won’t rate Biden since he is still in office. But I will say that as of now he would be fairly well far down the list. Regan got the economy going by spending wildly on defense, but created massive deficits, and ran up the national debt. And there were the arms for hostages affair. Obama was very divisive and had problems with handling a war also. I told my grandson I thought Eisenhower was my favorite. He stopped the fighting in Korea and the interstate highway system was his idea. He got the legislation for it passed. My point to my grandson was that all presidents make mistakes while they are in office, but they all have accomplishments, successful things they did well. We have not collapsed as a country. When I look back at the individual presidents, I tend to think of the things they did wrong and judge them, overlooking the things they did that were good for the country. Maybe that says more about me than about them. It is hard to rate any as good, or best. But they can be ranked. And some I remember as being better than others. I rank the presidents, whose terms I can remember, from better to worst as to the good or harm their policies did to the country as follows. Eisenhower, Clinton, Truman, Regan, Carter, Kennedy, Ford, Obama, Johnson, Nixon, Trump, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush.

Ernest Harben

National Divorce

We just had a controversy in the news over whether or not the United States could divide by mutual agreement. That would mean splitting into two or more countries without having a war. The split could be between red and blue states. It could be by Texas or California becoming separate counties, or any combination or combination of states based on culture, geography, or other reasons.

The United States is a federation, a Union of separate states. Is it possible for those states, or groups of those states, to mutually agree to divide into separate countries? When the constitution we have now was written, we had a constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Delegates from each state were called and authorized to recommend amendments to that constitution. Instead, without any authority, they wrote a new one, which was adopted by vote of the people of the required number of states and put into effect. There was no authority or precedent for this. The people just did it and it was accepted and has lasted for over two hundred years. In 1776 a group of delegates met and declared themselves independent from Britain. Britain objected and sent an army to enforce the law, but they were defeated after a few years of fighting and Britain agreed to recognize the new country. The new country then had to organize a government. They adopted the Articles of Confederation, as mention above. That government only lasted a few years and was replaced when the present constitution was adopted. Mutually agreed upon by the people, without any precedent or authority except that which they assumed and took upon themselves. These changes were accepted by the people. There was no civil war. My conclusion is that yes, it is possible.

Housing Problems

Homeless people are sleeping in the street of our major cities. This should not be happening. Governments have a responsibility to prevent this from happening. The first responsibility falls on the city government. Local problems should first be addressed on the local level. If the city can’t solve the problem, then the state government, and then the federal government should get involved. There are existing procedures on how this involvement of higher levels of government is supposed to work. There are procedures to be followed to make this happen.

Most of the homeless in cities are unemployed, but some are not. They have jobs, but can’t afford rent or for other reasons chose to live in tents on the street. Homelessness constitutes a problem for the cities where it iccurs. There is a strain on public services, create congestion, increase crime rates, and are a public health problems. There are federal programs to provide affordable housing. Those programs are successful and have been around a long time. They could be better if they had more funding.

Many of the homeless are not able to hold jobs. That can be from mental health issues resulting from brain disorders and other reasons such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others have other physical disabilities or chronic health issues. Those people should not be forced to live on the streets. This is something which should be addressed by state and federal governments. At one time in our past, mentally ill were housed in state run institutions. Most of these have been closed. Now far to many of those are homeless, live on the streets or in prison. More mentally ill are held in state prisons than in any other facilities. Some receive treatment or medication while in prison. Unfortunately, many others are not. There should be places set aside for these people to live.

There is another group of homeless that do not live on city streets or sidewalks. These are homeless workers who in their cars, recreational vehicles, vans, or trailers. Others are retirees or others that cannot afford adequate housing. Many of these live in recreational vehicle parks. Most of those are construction workers or other workers who move around following the work they can get. Some have seasonable jobs that require constant moving. Affordable and adequate housings for all people us an issue we need to consider.

United States in Crisis

Discontent in the US has been growing in the last few decades. I grew up in the late forties and fifties. We were comparatively content and united then. Eisenhower won with a landslide and was reelected with a landslide. He served as a popular president. And then things started downhill and have not stopped, and there is no indication of when they will stop. Sure, that is an oversimplification, but the general trend has been of forces driving us further and further apart, in not just two directions but in several different directions all at once. We have north and south, urban and rural, California and Texas opposed to each other. Then there are Europeans, Africans, Hispanic and Asians all feeling victimized and alienated. There are large states and small states. People from large cities and large states are complaining bitterly about the inequities of the electoral college and the makeup up of the senate. Rhode Island and Montana each have two senators and few people. California has two senators and tens of millions of people.

It seems as if the country is splitting into sections. But the country has always been split into sections. From the very beginning, or in our case, the beginnings. The United States has no single beginning. It was started by different groups of people in different places. They all joined together, or tried to join together, to form a country. They are still trying. That is why our country is a federation, not a nation. A federation is a group of states bound together with a limited central government. Each state is different with different cultures and different peoples.

It remains to be seen if this discontent continues to grow. The hope is that it will not. The hope is our differences will begin to dissolve and we will be able to find goals, mores, rules and laws that we can agree on and live with. Right now, we are pretty far apart and becoming further apart. It is time to change our direction.

Ernest Harben