Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Thoughts On Bullying

Posted: April 24, 2012 in philosophy

Cross-posted at A special thank you to the MyFDL editor for helping with the image.

Image by Greg Wagoner

This morning, Mason and I logged on to our respective computers. We both have browsers that automatically open to Google, and on the Google screen, spanning the page from top to bottom, is a zipper. Out of respect and a good deal of social conditioning, I decided to leave Google’s giant fly zipped. However, I could not run to the Google news tab fast enough, because I was absolutely certain that there would be yet another news story about Secret Service folks not paying their sex workers, during working trips abroad. In my mind, I connected a closed zipper to an open fly.

Mason, on the other hand, had cursor to zipper and was saying, “Well. I guess they probably want me to unzip this.”

As you know, this was under the Google zipper. As he unzipped the zipper, and even as I was cueing the striptease music with a light, off-key, “Chik-a-wow…a-bow-ra-ow-chik-a-wow-a-wow,” I thought to myself that adult men not paying their sex workers is bullying, plain and simple.

Bullying has evolved since I was a kid. Growing up, I never heard the terms ‘bullycide’ or ‘cyberbullying.’ When I was a kid there were bullies for sure, but there were also equally strong anti-bullies who sided with the underdog being bullied and stopped the bullying. On occasion, push did come to shove on the playground, and some kid might turn up with a scrape or bruise. But in general the kids handled things, and sometimes the bullys and the bullied became friends. In high school the cliques were: jocks, heads, socials (pronounced soshes with a long o) and nerds. At the reunion many years later everyone blended with everyone else, or at least, that is the way it seemed.



image by koppdelaney on flickr

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, nor am I a mental health nurse or behavior expert. My observations are from an inmate standpoint, and my opinions are my own. I retained my observations in my notes.

I took my nursing training in upstate New York in the early 80s. During that time, I did a six-week internship at a giant facility in the Finger Lakes region, that was originally named Willard Asylum for the Chronic Pauper Insane. When I was there in the 80s, Willard was known as the state mental hospital. The buildings had retained the looks, feel and lingering smell of a 50s institution, but the immense campus setting was beautiful.

During my internship, I had a patient who had been there since the fifties. Her original reason for being ‘committed’ was that she was a lesbian. Her many years in the facility then led to mental decline. I had another young male bipolar patient, whose cyclic illness prevented him from functioning, and a woman who was suffering from schizophrenia of a variety such that medications were often ineffective. I had yet another patient that I firmly believed did not belong in the institution. She was brilliant, educated and well-read. We had a good many philosophical talks that were over my head from an intellectual standpoint. One day, however, she introduced herself to me as Abraham Lincoln.

I observed some Cuckoo’s-Nest-type burnout among the staff and often had difficulty distinguishing staff from patients, but overall, the atmosphere was caring, the patients were comfortable, and the medical and emotional care and support, especially given that the hospital was a teaching facility with constant student involvement and interaction, was adequate.

Today, Willard is a prison.

What I observed during incarceration led me to conclude that this country is edging toward locking people up if they have mental issues, particularly if they are poor, and then not only playing fast and loose with the Eighth Amendment by removing medical care and emotional and family support, but in some cases torturing them. Jails, which are de facto prisons now, are home to one of the largest and most vulnerable segments of society.

In Willard I witnessed treated mental illness. In Kentucky jails and in prison, I witnessed untreated mental illness. I associate untreated mental illness with a good deal of suffering.

Here are a few of the behaviors I observed:

-The man I call Harry, who was housed in the McCracken County Jail, in an isolation cell, yelled for help all hours of the day and night. Some inmates reported that he smeared feces on the walls. We never saw Harry leave the cell for rec. Harry was pepper-sprayed in his cell.

-In both jails I witnessed inmates curl into a fetal position or wrap themselves in a sheet, and sleep for as much as twenty hours a day.

-In jail, I experienced anxiety that created chest pain, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, depression that contributed to not sleeping, occasional disconnection from reality such that I would believe that a dream had been an actual event, and an inability to focus on tasks at hand. I experienced sleep deprivation over a lengthy period, as well as a couple of incapacitating migraine headaches. Some of these issues got a bit better in prison, where I was under the care of a psychiatrist.

-Many women self-report anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts during incarceration.

-Binge eating and disproportionate focus on food and on eating is common in jail and in prison. Obesity is common.

-I was in a cell with an inmate who spoke in an indecipherable rapid volley, and who requested that other inmates burp, cover her up, and rub her legs and back “like a baby.”

-In prison, one inmate washed her hands more than one hundred times a day. When anyone got close to her, or brushed against her, she shouted obscenities and threatened physical violence.

-One woman in Fulton County, aged 36 with children, sucked her thumb almost constantly.

-One woman’s hair fell out when she was convicted and sent to prison. Doctors claim that her condition was not true alopecia, because she had eyebrows, but the same doctors also determined that she was not pulling her own hair out.

-Age-related mental decline is common among elderly inmates.

-Many inmates cannot tell you why they are locked up, or when they will be released.

-Some inmates hear voices and talk to imaginary people.

-Self-reported bipolar illness is common.

-Learning disabilities are common.

-Unprovoked angry outbursts are common.

-Since treatment is being denied or eliminated, many women openly discuss plans to re-involve themselves with alcohol or drugs upon release.

-Self-reported history of physical and sexual abuse is common among incarcerated women. Many women have lived with batterers.

The vast majority of inmates exhibiting behaviors related to their own mental state coupled with the stress of incarceration are serving time for nonviolent offenses. As far as violent offenses go among women, it is not uncommon to learn that the woman killed her batterer.

Jails and prisons resemble mental wards, at least for the women. Jails and prisons are anything but healing.


The Deal

Posted: January 15, 2012 in philosophy

written by Masoninblue and reblogged from

I am 64 years old. I have never been as disgusted with the political situation in the United States as I am now. On a scale from 1 to 10, I score all of the Republican candidates and Barack Obama at -1.

In other words, unfit and unqualified to serve.

Hell, I refuse to support Obama because I consider him to be a serial liar and a war criminal who supports indefinite detention, torture, and extrajudicial assassination. He’s flat out insane and dangerous. There is only one place he should be and it is not the White House. It is a prison cell.

The mind blowing fact about the campaigns of the various candidates is the absence of any acknowledgement and discussion of the important issues of these difficult times.

(1) Why empire?

(2) Why no civil liberties?

(3) Why are 2.3 million people locked up?

(4) Why haven’t all drugs been legalized?

(5) Why isn’t anything being done about unemployment?

(6) Why not single-payer health insurance for all?

(7) Why not free college and graduate education?

(8) Why forfeiture?

(9) Why no prosecutions of war criminals and criminal banksters?

(10) Why haven’t the TBTF banks been allowed to fail or taken over and broken up?

(11) Why the extreme and increasing disproportional distribution of income and what can be done to reverse it?

(12) Why oil?

(13) Why nuclear?

(14) Why coal?

(15) Why poverty?

These are some, but not all of the problems that beset us and I neither want to hear, nor will I listen to all these stupid jerk candidates babbling about bullshit.

Fortunately, OWS is starting to change the dialogue, and that gives me hope.

Which brings me to The Deal.

Listen to this tune by the Grateful Dead with OWS as The Deal.

OWS is The Deal.

The Deal

Source: The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics by David Dodd.

Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing.

Since it cost a lot to win
and even more to lose
You and me bound to spend some time
wondring what to choose

Goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down

I been gambling here abouts
for ten good solid years
If I told you all that went down
it would burn off both your ears

It goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down

Since you poured the wine for me
and tightend up my shoes
I hate to leave you sittin there
composin lonesome blues

It goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down
Don’t you let that deal go down, no
Don’t you let your deal go down

Cross posted from my law blog.


Barn at winter by Crane-Station
barn at winter by Crane-Station on flickr. jail art done at Ricky’s World.

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, winter, 2008

Meg announces to the cell that she is on her period.

“So?” says Christie.

“So, I get out in two weeks, and I can get some dick!”

Meg lives in a motel on the outside, where she trades her body for drugs. She has nine children; many of them were born while Meg was in jail. After Meg is released and after she gets her ‘dick,’ her tenth child will be born in prison, but we do not know this yet.

She has made the comment about getting some ‘dick’ to be mean, because she knows that the rest of the cell occupants are serving lengthier sentences than she has ever had to serve, and that we will be unable to know a man’s touch or have sex, and she will.

When the announcement about dick does not elicit much of a response, Meg starts in on Christie, who, having been denied drug court and now faces 24 years for nonviolent drug-related charges, is desperately depressed. Christie stays on her bunk all the time now, crying.

One of Christie’s felonies, by the way, is for a cold check in the amount of something like one dollar and seventy-two cents, whereas Meg, who will walk out of the jail and get some dick and get pregnant two weeks from now, has a lengthy history of theft and possession charges that, for some reason, she has never had to worry much about, in terms of serving any time.

Rather, during her frequent yet brief accomodations in the McCracken County Jail, she busies herself with the passive-aggressive practices of constant manipulation and torment of fellow inmates who will be serving lengthy sentences entombed in cement with no hope. Each time, Meg leaves, and gets some dick, among other things.

Meg says to Christie, “I think you are overreacting.”

“I can’t help it,” says Christie. I’m not overreacting. I feel really, really, really bad inside. People notice that there is something wrong. I can’t quit crying. I don’t mean to be such a bitch about it. I just don’t know what to do about it. I sleep 15 hours a day now. I can’t handle this.”

“It’ll be all right,” says Meg, who, two weeks from now will be having sex.

“You don’t know that,” says Christie.” I’m sorry. This isn’t me, but I just don’t know what to do.”

Christie cries.

Down the hall, Harry yells from his isolation cell, “HELLLLP! PLEEEEASE! Somebody! Let me out! Helpme helpmehelpme helpmehelpme Helllllpp…”

Sally is on the phone, calling her mother “a fucking whore.”

Sally calls her mother every five minutes or so, and treats her like a disobedient child. She says, at maximum volume, “I love you! Shut your fucking mouth, you’re nuthin’ but a lazy whore.”

Sally’s mother shouts back. Sally also screams at her 17-year-old son on the phone. She holds the receiver and says to us, “He ain’t got his books for home school yet. Can you believe that shit? My mother ain’t even got his books! She ain’t nuthin’ but a useless whore, don’t do nuthin’ but lay on her back all day.”

The son is supposed to be homeschooled by Sally’s mother, who is addicted to Vicodin and who never completed the eighth grade, because Sally is in jail.

The son is also apparently very sick, with some kind of severe illness that Sally cannot define. Munchausen by Proxy I think to myself, although I never say it. I think this to myself privately because Sally also self-reports severe, undefined illness in herself, and the mother is dysfunctional, and there is too much collective severe-yet-undefined illness in a young group of closely connected people. Sally looks healthy and robust. It is Christie, crying on her bunk, unable to get up, that I worry about.

I like Sally, and we get along well. I do not agree with how she speaks to her mother or her son, but Sally is amicable to fellow inmates, and she has a delightful sense of humor.

Meanwhile, Meg has come back to the cell from a brief visit to the jail library. The library is a jail cell with mostly paperback romance novels and religious materials, and a remarkable dearth of literature. Meg sets an arm load of romance novels onto the steel table, and then starts gossiping about YaYa, who was in the library, gossiping about Amy. YaYa is not here to defend herself.

Meg says, “I just wanted to hit her.”

I say, “She’s pretty big. Maybe that is not such a good idea. You know, hitting her.”

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Meg taps on the wall to the cell next door, to arrange for her delivery of drugs for the evening, in the form of the inmate-next-door’s psych meds. Everything went okay for her first delivery, and I secretly hope that everything will continue to go okay, because when Meg is on someone else’s psych meds, she usually shuts up.

They make some arrangement.

Later, I am doing exercises on the floor next to the steel door when the steel door flies open, nearly hitting me, and there stands Tiffany, the sergeant, and she is irate. She says, “Who got the note from Carter!?”

“Who’s Carter?” I say.

“Who got that note from Carter!?”

Just then, we realize that Meg’s drug arrangement has not gone as planned. Carter, the inmate next door who was on psych medication, had wrapped two pills in paper and ‘fished’ them underneath her cell door and into our cell, under the door. But it did not work, because the note got stuck.

Tiffany leaves. Meg goes off on Carter. “Dumb bitch, she shoulda knocked.”

Meg smiles, giggles, and laughs, as though she had nothing whatsoever to do with the note or the pills in the note. She dismisses the whole incident, and gets on the phone to make arrangements with someone on the outside to smuggle cigarettes into the jail. Later, she tries to get me to make an appointment with the nurse and lie about some ailment, so that Meg can get Tylenol pills, or any pills. I refuse.

When I refuse, she makes fun of me, of my trial, of my conviction, of my lengthy sentence, and of the fact that she will be getting dick two weeks from now and I will not be getting any dick until it is too late for me to have sex, because I am too old.

In my mind I try to come up with reasons for meanness and lack of empathy among warehoused humans in the same predicament, and I wonder if people in the train cars during the holocaust were mean to each other. What is it, exactly, that brings out such hate? Perhaps it is overcrowding or demeaning, dehumanizing treatment, or lost confidence in ‘the system,’ or female jealousy, mental illness, lack of stimulus, or hormones, or frustration and separation from love, touch and family. Maybe it is a combination of everything.

I fold my cranes out of scavenged paper. I move them around. I adjust the towel on my head. I go into the bathroom and climb onto the steel toilet and look through the slit to the dumpsters outside.

I return to the steel table. I put the tiny cranes with the big cranes.

I stay silent.


Written by Masoninblue and reblogged from


by annalise.ellen creative commons @ flickr

The seven deadly sins are:

1. Wrath,

2. Greed,

3. Lust,

4. Sloth,

5. Envy,

6. Gluttony, and

7. Pride.

I doubt that there is an adult alive today who has not been gripped at least once by each of these demons, but I will leave that subject for another time.

Today, I want to share my thoughts with you regarding our nation, its relationship with these demons, and what will become of it if we do not act.

Piercing the veil of propaganda, I see our federal government captured and controlled by the too-big-to-fail banks, multi-national corporations that privatize profits and socialize losses, a paranoid national intelligence network that invades everyone’s privacy, and the military industrial complex. Our nation is war and war is big business.

Like moths cocooned alive in a spider’s web powerless to resist a slow agonizing death as its insides are slowly sucked out, we the people have been reduced to mere tax revenue units expected to pay for endless war and cover all of the financial-sector losses from the TBTF banks gambling in the world casino. Meanwhile, the private sector regards us as nothing more than interchangeable minimum-wage labor units to be exploited to the fullest extent possible without enjoying any benefits.

Our nation is known by all people of the world for its all-consuming quest for world empire via never ending war to seize valuable diminishing natural resources. Greed, which is Number 2 on the list of deadly sins, is god. Neoliberal economics is its Bible and nobody talks about the Golden Rule.

I see a nation seized by wrath against people with brown skin and illegal immigrants.

I see a nation seized by lust for natural resources that belong to others.

I see a slothful nation unwilling to change and work on developing renewable forms of energy.

I see a nation seized by envy for world empire.

I see a nation seized by the gluttony of wanting it all.

I see a nation seized by the false pride of American exceptionalism.

As I look ahead at the future, I see the ship of state capsized at sea by the seven deadly sins.

I see no other possible outcome unless we heal ourselves, take back our government, and kick the corporations out of the Temple.

Although the path to redemption and illumination will be long and difficult, we know where to find it because others have led the way and marked it for us. Remember always that one must die to be reborn and the seven deadly sins can be conquered by the seven virtues.

1. Wrath is conquered by Peace;

2. Greed is conquered by Generosity;

3. Lust is conquered by Purity of Intent;

4. Sloth is conquered by Courage and Effort;

5. Envy is conquered by Compassion for oneself and others;

6. Gluttony is conquered by Temperance; and

7. Pride is conquered by Humility.

Never forget the Golden Rule.

What do you see?

Cross posted from my blog.


This video is inspirational, and if you have not seen it, you must. These guys make me want to keep going and never give up.

I will be blogging another Frog Gravy today. In the meantime, please have a look: