September 28, 2016

The Real Victims Of The War On Drugs

This post has been contributed.


I’m pretty sure that at in the future, our descendants will look back at how we deal with drugs these days with a tinge of sadness. America’s war on drugs has been responsible for hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of tragedies over the past 80 years or so. Things are changing now; albeit slowly. But there is still a lot to do to prevent more lives turning to ruin. It’s clear that drug policy reformers still have their work cut out, and the next decade or so might turn out to be a pivotal moment. Countless victims have been suffering for far too long - and I wanted to shine a light on those victims today.

The addict

Drug addiction is a disease, yet so many victims of this healthcare issue are treated as criminals. It means there are thousands of nonviolent offenders in jails all over the country. It means addicts will buy substances on the black market, which are often cut with all kinds of dangerous chemicals. And, it means that more people are prone to overdose because they are taking a drug in an unregulated environment.


The families

Families of addicts are often the innocent victims of the war on drugs. When parents, children or spouses become addicts, many physical and psychological traumas go with it. Children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts - or marry an addict. And it’s unlikely the cycle will be broken until we come up with a better way to deal with the drug issue.

The producers

Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are often created in developing countries to meet the demand in developed countries. As you can imagine, the conditions that producers work under are nothing close to regulated. The cartels and warlords from everywhere from Colombia to Afghanistan control everything. Local farmers and producers often have no choice but to accept payments - either under duress or because it is their only source of income. When you get caught with a bag of cocaine, a good cocaine attorney might be able to get you off a charge. But the cycle for the cocaine producer may not ever end, and if it does, it is often in death.


The police

The policy sets out the war on drugs, but it’s the police that has to enforce it. But those policies are a never ending problem, a drain on resources, and result in the deaths of good police officers. The last 50 years or so have seen an expensive all out war on drugs which just hasn’t worked. There have been no significant reductions in illicit drug use - or supply. And given that police officers are on the front line, it is putting them in a lot of unnecessary danger.

The taxpayer

While your average taxpayer will have an adverse opinion on a change in drug policy, I often wonder if they realize the real social costs. In 2010, the US government spent $15 billion on the war on drugs, and state and local governments spent a further $25 billion. Just think of what we could do with that money if the policy underwent significant change.

August 11, 2016

Why Every President Sucked: America's Undying Pursuit for a King (Hardcover Book Kickstarter)











Remember when I wrote those songs about why every president sucked? My brilliant designer friend and sister-and-law Lauren Meranda just turned the project into a beautiful hardcover coffee table book you can order. The coolest thing? She’s not trying to make any $ off the project at all – the Kickstarter is simply to fund the publication of the book, at cost. And if you help, you get the album, coasters and other cool rewards! So get a copy, and share this project with your friends – especially those who love to think – especially those who are teachers – especially those who love trivia. And we’ll get this book in people’s hands before the upcoming election. Thanks SO much for your support, and gocheck out the Kickstarter!

July 25, 2016

Revealed: The Pros & Cons Of College Education

This post has been contributed.

Students these days all follow a similar path. It’s seen as the norm to finish high school education, and then move on to college. Eighteen-year-olds spend their final year in school fretting over which college they want to get into. There’s so much pressure on so many young shoulders to get good grades and graduate with flying colors. Getting into college is the product of years and years of hard work.


(Photo source: https://goo.gl/yA3Ze6)

Furthermore, college education costs a lot of money. In fact, some studies have put the average cost at between $11,052 - $42,419, depending on the type of college you go to. These are crazy figures, and it can take a lot out of a student’s bank account. In most cases, student loans are given out, and some students get help from family. Either way, there’s no denying that it’s an awful lot of money to pay for education.

So, it begs the question; is college education worth it? Is it worth going through all the mental strain and financial turmoil? The answer to this question is far from conclusive. It’s very much an opinion based issue. Some students swear that college was the best time of their life, and they wouldn’t change a thing. Others look back on their college years as wasted time and money. In this piece, I’ll have a look at some of the key arguments for and against going to college.

Pro: Desirable Qualifications

The main pro of college education is that you get good qualifications. Obtaining a degree can make you a more desirable employee. Big companies will be more inclined to hire you than someone else with similar experience and no qualifications. It can be a huge boost to your career prospects. However, it does depend on the subject you study. Some qualifications are more desirable than others.

Con: Students Are Treated Poorly

There’s a huge argument to be made that students have barely any rights. Sure, they get some protection under Title IX, but that’s about it. They’re forced to pay extortionate tuition fees and end up riddled with debt after graduating. Plus, they’re pushed hard and made to work long hours and put under mental strain. And, students are often the ones most affected by budget cuts and other new legislations.


Pro: Learn New Things And Meet New People

Another pro of college is that you can expand your horizons. You get to meet new people and learn about new things. You can experience new cultures when you’re in college; it’s a wonderful thing. And, you get to learn new and exciting things that you’ve never known before.

Con: Potentially Wasting Time

One could argue that spending a few years in college is potentially wasting time. Especially if you study a subject that doesn’t lead to great job prospects. There are thousands of students that have degrees and go on to work in Target. What’s the point? You may as well have done that three years ago, and you could be further up the career ladder.

So, there are some of the main arguments for and against college education. If you’re a student in high school, then you should weigh up whether or not college is right for you.

July 11, 2016

Are Big Businesses Doing Enough To Save The Planet?

This post has been contributed.


In 2014, a report by the EPA revealed just how much pollution has damaged the world. At that point, the EPA claimed it would be incredibly difficult to fix the situation. Even if measures against pollution were taken, we might still not be able to reverse the effects. Since then, the message has been more positive. Scientists have revealed evidence that the hole in the ozone layer is getting smaller. The rate at which the polar ice cap is melting has stabilized. On the other hand, it is still melting, and we are still damaging the world.

You might have seen ads and promotions claiming you need to do more to save the planet. It’s up to you to fix the world by living greener at home. Put down the aerosol can and make sure that you’re switching the plugs off when you’re not using them. All this is well and good, but will it make a difference if big businesses continue to harm the environment? The answer, of course, is no. One business can do more harm to the environment than millions of households. That’s why we have to ask the question. What are businesses doing to help ‘save’ the planet?

Renewable Energy

The good news is that many businesses in countries across the world are reducing energy usage. This year, the UK released their new plan to decrease energy usage by a massive 57 percent by 2032. To do this, many big businesses are focusing on renewable energy. Renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines are being set up on business properties across the country.

In America, a trillion dollar renewable energy market has just been established. In a joint venture with Mexico and Canada, they agreed to pour money into solar power. This was to help make the aim to get half of America's energy provided by renewable sources by 2025.

New Innovations

Every year there is a renewable energy conference to offer new ideas for the world. Innovative concepts are brought forward for business owners interested in going green. For instance, this year India’s Renewable Energy Conference will present the ideas of some of the biggest players in the industry like Shikhin Mehrotra. As an international force, businesses are now working together to fix the problem we have created. Is it enough? If recent reports are to be believed, businesses may yet offer the solution that we need. Renewable energy technology is still being developed. If we reach the point where we can stop using fossil fuels completely, it will be due to research from businesses.

Continued Problems

That said, there are still issues that we need business owners to tackle more effectively. In the biggest cities in the world air pollution has become a major concern. This includes Nairobi in Africa, Beijing in China, LA in America and London in England. All are dealing with air pollution that could cause health problems for the population. This is mainly due to the number of cars on the road that are highly pollutive.

Therefore the fight against damage to the environment has only just begun. Though it seems clear businesses are doing more than many realise to help tackle the problem and find a solution.

June 10, 2016

The Urgency Of Our Unsustainable Lifestyle

This post has been contributed.

You’ve undoubtedly heard it by now. We are living an unsustainable lifestyle as a species. The fact that some still go on to deny it is astounding. We are burning through our resources and stripping life, minerals and land from the earth at a shocking rate. Yet still there are many who are seeing ways to start turning the car around. Perhaps optimistic, but there are those pushing for ways of a more sustainable future. These people are finding ways to try and scale the civilization we have built, or at least be able to support it. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.


Our food
But part of that alternative involves mass starvation. The kind that first world country inhabitants would have trouble imagining. Not just is it going to be difficult to support the infrastructure of wide-scale food delivery. We’re going to actually be running out of food itself. Particularly, finding the amount of protein foods we produce and eat to be entirely unsustainable. That’s why, already, people are looking to alternative foods. From the salmon farming industry to those who swear by insects as a protein source.

Our water
It’s not just food that we’re running out of, either. Fresh, drinkable water is dwindling now, as well. Particularly when you consider the rise of droughts in areas like California, that’s a real concern to be addressed. Without taking the steps to live in ways that use less water, we are directly contributing to the shrinkage of the world’s water supplies. There are even some who say that water might replace oil as one of the most viciously fought-over resources on the planet.

Renewable energies
Speaking of oil, it’s become clear that we can no longer rely on it and fossil fuels. Yet, despite the rising chorus of scientific evidence and rallies for us to slow down, we show very few signs of doing that. We need to start taking seriously the fact that the energy consumption our society needs will no longer be possible at the rate we’re going. That we need to start seriously looking at the means of providing alternate, renewable energies. Already, solar and geothermic power are being developed and exploited, but we need to go faster.

Dwindling reserves
Speaking of energy, it’s important we take a good look at the dwindling reserves we have in terms of oil. There are no more reserves on the planet that are at peak levels. They are all dwindling and we’re not likely to find any more. Unless, by some miracle, huge reserves are discovered, we’re looking at running out of fossil fuels before the next century.

Making a difference
It’s not too late to start fighting for the conservation of our food, our water and our earth’s resources.  The Empowerment Institute is just an example of one of the groups fighting for a sustainable living campaign. The other groups mentioned above, the alternate energy providers and salmon farmers, are all for the same thing. If you want to start making a difference, vote with your money towards sustainable products.


June 06, 2016

What Will Obama's Legacy Be?

This post has been contributed.

As each month ticks by, we come closer and closer to the US presidential election date. On November 8th, a new candidate will take over from Obama, and move into The White House. At this moment in time, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two front runners. We’ve already seen an intense campaign, and things will heat up, even more, I’m sure.

But, today we’ll forget about the future, and look at the past. President Obama has been at the helm for eight years. When he burst onto the scene, he promised change. He wanted to fix America and lead us to a brighter future. As his tenure draws to a close, I think it’s interesting to look back at what he’s done. What will his legacy be?


(pixabay: https://goo.gl/vVB0eU)  

Obamacare

The main thing Obama will be remembered for is his Obamacare. He campaigned to change the health industry in America, for the greater good. Millions of uninsured patients are now covered thanks to Obamacare. It was a system that helped to provide Americans with access to high-quality healthcare. Before this, only the rich could afford the best care possible. It was met with great praise from Americans, and they loved him for it. But, as seen on http://www.takingonissues.com/, some are skeptical about it. They say it’s confusing and costs taxpayers money. Regardless of what you think, it’s a policy that he’ll be remembered by forever. And, Hillary Clinton looks to continue with Obamacare if she wins the election. So, his legacy will live on through future presidents.

Education

Another key talking point about his presidency was education. Obama signed legislation that helped reform higher education in America. He stopped student loans from being controlled by corporate fat cats. Instead, he made them affordable and even implemented a system to make it easier to pay them back. Non-wealthy students were no longer unable to afford a college education. It made for a fairer playing field and gave the less fortunate a chance to succeed.

Terrorism

The threat of terrorism has remained constant throughout Obama’s reign. Currently, ISIS is the biggest worry regarding world terror. As per an article on http://time.com/, he said some acts of terror will never be stopped. But, he also mentioned how they’ve dealt with the main threat of terrorism. They’ve stopped terrorists from having the means to carry out massive attacks like 9/11. And, it must be remembered that Obama was the president when Bin Laden was captured and killed. On the larger scaled, it can be argued that he dealt with the war on terror well. There haven’t been any huge attacks like 9/11 during his reign.

So, what will Obama’s legacy be? He’ll leave The White House having created life changing policies for many Americans. It should also be noted how he cut unemployment

rates dramatically too. There will be groups that think he failed, but that’s natural. In my opinion, he’s done a good job, and the country is in a better shape now than in 2008.

June 02, 2016

Do Workers Now Have Too Many Rights?

This post has been contributed.

Nobody wants to see a return to the days to nineteenth-century factory work. The working day was long and monotonous. And the work itself was downright dangerous. But the question has been raised as to whether workers today have too many rights. Is that true?

Employment law has changed a lot since the early days. In the middle of the nineteenth century, workers weren't able to bargain for better pay. They either took what they got, or they found something else. But once workers started to band together all that began to change. Workers suddenly got the right to unionise, thanks to political changes. And this increased unionisation had a number of profound effects in the twentieth century.


The most important effect was that workers’ pay started going up. In unionised industries, pay tended to be a lot higher than in non-unionised industries. In turn, that made the industries themselves more attractive to workers and many workers found jobs.

But the other effect was that it made employing people less attractive to industry bosses. They didn’t want to have to pay all the extra compensation. And so they looked for ways to automate labour. Of course, early on, the incentives to do that were small. Yes, workers were paid slightly more, but it still paid the owners of businesses to employ them.

But since the end of the second world war, workers’ rights have continued to advance. In developed countries, much of the legislation has revolved around discrimination. First discrimination based on gender was eliminated in the 1960s. Then, after that, discrimination based on race, thanks to the civil rights movement. Then, following on from that, a whole raft of anti-discriminations measures. Businesses could no longer discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, religion or age.

By the 2000s, the legislative reforms were complete. And practically everybody celebrated them, even businesses themselves.

The Problems

But, of course, these reforms came with significant costs. One of the biggest costs was the fact that businesses were now far more exposed to legal proceedings. Once the legislation came in, businesses could face employment tribunals on grounds of discrimination.

Businesses started looking for employment tribunal representation. They needed some form of legal protection against the increasing frequency of tribunals. And they needed to be far more careful in the way that they recruited and treated staff.

Many saw this as a victory for the worker. After all, who wants to see discrimination in the workplace? Nobody. But of course, it might now be working against the interest of workers themselves. Let’s take a minute to think about this.

One of the biggest problems that workers now face is that they are a lot more expensive to employ. Companies must take out insurance to cover the costs of litigation. And they must be vigilant against future legal claims. Remember, it’s not just the direct costs of employment that companies have to worry about. It’s the risk that they might get sued. And each time they take on somebody new, they have to factor in this risk. If the risks go up, then from their perspective, so too do the costs of employment. And if those go up, then they’re less likely to want to employ somebody new.

But it’s not just in matters of discrimination where workers’ rights have expanded. Worker’s rights have also expanded in other areas. Workers are entitled to workplace pensions, parental leave and minimum wages. And all these things sound great on paper. In fact, anybody with a shred of decency would want these policies to remain in tact.

But of course, these policies don’t come for free. Somebody has to pay for them. And that person is usually the workers themselves. Why? Well, the problem is that all of these policies have the effect of making labour a lot less attractive. If employees are able to sue their bosses every five minutes, then their bosses aren’t going to want to take them on.

In individual cases, we wouldn’t expect this to have much of an effect. But when we’re talking about the whole economy, the effect on workers is large.

The main issue seems to be that a lot of these employment policies were a great idea when they were introduced. In the past, employers had little choice but to employ real people. Not much production, especially in services, could be automated. And so employers had to just accept that labour was expensive. Ultimately, they passed these higher costs onto consumers.

Now, though, the situation is changed. It’s no longer the case that human labour is sacred. There is the real possibility that robots will replace people over the next three decades. And that process will occur far more quickly, the more expensive is labour.

The Solutions

So what’s the solution? We can’t go back to the nineteenth century working conditions. We’ve moved on since then, not to mention the fact that going back would be political suicide. And we can’t carry on as we are now, mainly because of the threat of automation.

The solution might be found within businesses themselves. Businesses work best when they have a vibrant and diverse workforce. But to achieve this, they need to have excellent human resources credentials. For employees to succeed, they need to find businesses that have a great culture. The culture needs to be one of constantly moving people forward and increasing their skills. The best defence that many people can have against automation is to increase their value to the companies they work for. Yes, employment law makes employing people less attractive. But workers themselves can do a lot to counteract this. They can work hard to make themselves more attractive. Having great skills and doing a great job is one way to secure this.


Of course, there will always be times when employers have acted unjustly towards their staff. And in these situations, tribunals are justified. But it’s the wider, systemic effects that should worry us if we want to keep people in work.