Supporting the U.S. Post Office Still Matters

If you grow up in the United States, there are certain public services that you might take for granted, but — when you stop to think of them — are actually a rather amazing privilege. Public libraries are one example. Fire departments? Definitely. Public schools. State parks. I would argue that in a better world, universal healthcare would be included here (er, correction, as I have have argued, over and over, such as in this Truthout piece), but for now, that’s not the case. Moving on.

One of the greatest public agencies in United States history, though, is the U.S. postal system, founded in 1775, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster. Since then, for centuries, the U.S. Post Office has maintained its role as a public service, connecting people from all classes, areas, and demographics. What makes the USPS so important, compared to private companies like UPS and FedEx, is that the USPS sends and delivers mail to and from every community, for the same flat and affordable prices, from packed condominium complexes to the most rural areas in the country. In fact, private delivery companies often pay USPS to deliver the packages they can’t cut a profit on. That’s how essential this service is, and why a private company could never take its place. And even in the 21st century, as Vox points out, there are shockingly huge parts of the country, textbook rural America, which still have no reliable internet connection, meaning that the post office plays a vital role in keeping these communities connected to the greater whole.

That’s why it’s so terrifying that now, in 2020, the USPS is under attack.

Attacks on the USPS are nothing new, as Jacobin elaborates. The post office has been under fire for decades, with greedy corporations and individuals anxious to take it over, privatize it, and turn a profit from it. The stereotype that the post office is “going broke” is itself a misnomer, since the agency’s money problems are the result of intentional sabotage, by unfair policies designed to break it down. If the USPS did become privatized, it would destroy everything that makes the USPS important — and in 2020, the year of the pandemic, a year where people of all parties and demographics should be rallying around mail-in voting as a way to keep vulnerable and immunocompromised populations safe, we are instead seeing this vital agency becoming politicized, slandered, and attacked.

So, today, standing up for the post office, and supporting it in any way possible — through speaking out, buying stamps, or whatever method is available to you — is also standing up for freedom, truth, democracy, equality, and the right to vote. The post office has always been essential, and this year, it’s time to recognize just how essential it truly is.

Coffee Thoughts: June 2020 — Black Lives Matter

Change is happening.

In the wake of centuries of systemic racism, decades of police brutality cases on the news, and most recently, the horrific 2020 murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the current protests happening from state-to-state are making waves across society, and should hopefully mark a turning point in this country’s history. As of this writing — and as a direct result of these powerful protests — all of the police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd are now facing charges. The Breonna Taylor case has been reopened. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are calling to change “qualified immunity” laws, and Confederate monuments are finally being toppled. The deep, bloody systemic roots of America’s racism can no longer be ignored or silenced. Black lives matter.

In times like these, anti-racism should be visible, bold, and public. However, as a privileged white person, I tried to take a lot of time to consider what I should write here, and how best to show my support for the movement. Then, it occurred to me: This isn’t a time to put my words out there. Instead, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to step back, and broadcast Black voices, giving time and attention to those who have experienced America’s racism firsthand. So, here are a handful of articles, videos, links, and so on, from those who can speak far more deeply, potently, and personally on this subject than I ever could:

NAACP Image Award Nominated author Kimberly Jones:

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show:

So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” the Los Angeles Times.

Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.

Ta-Nehesi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” the Atlantic.

Further reading:

Reblog: The Problem with Paywalls

First posted this back in 20`18, but hey, why not reblog? Thus, reblog!

Nicholas Conley

Over the past few centuries, it’s been said many times, in many ways, how the cornerstone of democracy is a free press. For the sake of having a more free and just society, we also want an informed society. Newspapers, news websites, news stations, and so on must have the freedom to write about anyone, or anything, at any time, in order to hold the world’s most powerful institutions in check. In the same way that news institutions need to sharply critique the policies of other institutions, though, it’s equally important for citizens to be able to carefully scrutinize the news they read: to ensure that all news sources, from the New York Times to JoeBillysNews.com (not a real site!), use proper citations, follow journalistic standards, correctly present information, don’t misrepresent facts, and so on, in order to make sure that the public isn’t just informed, but accurately informed.

So…

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Coffee Thoughts: May 2020

Welcome to Coffee Thoughts, May 2020! That’s right, May has arrived. Consider this a helpful reminder of the date, since (as you’ve probably noticed) all the days tend to run together in quarantine time.

On that note …

No, America isn’t ready to “re-open”

Currently, you’re seeing a number of selfish politicians, corporations, and our current Buffoon-in-Chief making pushes to “re-open” the United States, usually by waving U.S. flags around (metaphorically, if not literally), saying how wearing masks and/or caring about other people is “just not our way,” or making dire predictions about how another month of shutdown will (gasp!) turn us into the U.S.S.R, or similar such nonsense.

Obviously, that’s a bunch of hot air. Any of these big figures who want to reopen things are motivated by greed, and nothing else. That’s it. You’d think that for giant corporations, it would be enough that they stole all the bailout funds intended for small business relief (New York Times), but now, you can quite literally see a bunch of wealthy people saying, basically, “Open things up, and let the poor die, as long as we get our business rolling again.” This is cutthroat capitalism at its worst.

Here’s the reality. While the Trump administration (and the ever-smarmy Jared Kushner) are desperately trying to say that the crisis is over, or that America’s response was a “great success story,” the numbers don’t lie: as of May 6th, COVID-19 has killed 72,293 U.S. people, including thousands of deaths in the past few days alone, and the true number is probably far larger than that.

By listening to the experts, and not reopening too soon, it will be possible to re-open in a smart, reasonable way — but stupidly barreling forward, and ignoring the data, will just cause more people to die.

The Pentagon released UFO footage. Yeah, really.

As if 2020 wasn’t weird enough, the past month saw the Pentagon confirm that a few clips of what looked like a UFO were … well, a UFO. Seriously. If this news had hit at any other time, you’d be seeing it everywhere, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels like too much. It’s as if two sci-fi genres got mashed together without enough planning, so now, people are just confused by the whole alien subplot, and not sure how it fits into the main narrative. You know?

Now, a caveat is necessary. First, these videos have been online for a few years. They were just “unauthorized,” and the Pentagon has now, well, “authorized them.” Two, the term UFO does not mean alien, extraterrestrial, or any of that. Here’s a clip, courtesy of the Guardian:

Note, again, that the U in UFO stands for “unidentified,” not “alien.” There are a lot of potential explanations for what these things might be, but the key is that the U.S. government can’t figure it out. As Daniel Oberhaus writes for Wired:

So does the official authorization of these videos mean the Pentagon has finally admitted that aliens exist? Nope. For starters, anything the military labels “unidentified” is not necessarily extraterrestrial. It’s just something in the sky that military officials can’t explain—civil and military pilots see unidentified aircraft all the time. Could they be piloted by little green men? Sure, if you have an active imagination. But usually they turn out to be something much more mundane—an atmospheric illusion, an undisclosed military drill, a satellite, or evidence of a tired pilot’s brain playing tricks on them.

That doesn’t mean that these things aren’t alien, of course. They could be … or, they could be something far less exciting. So while this hardly counts for much, if you’re the sort looking for proof of extraterrestrial life, it’s interesting, nonetheless.

On a lighter note …

If the movie industry ever recovers from this current catastrophe, I have some predictions for the future:

Novel Update

As a full-time writer, I’m extremely lucky in that I already work from home, and my work flow hasn’t slowed down at all. That said, amidst my other writing, I’m always happy to report that my next novel is continuing to move forward! It’s a little early to make a release prediction, given the current pandemic — maybe the end of this year, maybe the beginning of next? — but either way, soon.

Cheers, and hope you all have a great Monday!

Coffee Thoughts: March 2020

Welcome back to Coffee Thoughts, folks. The March edition, to be precise. Arm yourself with a mug, take your first sip, and let’s get rolling.

First off, let’s discuss the one issue that everybody (and I mean everybody) is talking about, everywhere in the world. C’mon, you know what it is. What else could it be, but … what, you thought I meant the U.S. presidential election? Nah, more like …

Coronavirus

Hey, you were warned. Hopefully you washed your hands. And seriously, folks: speaking as a former healthcare worker, please do wash your hands. Thoroughly. Frequently. And yes, yes, count to 20 while you do it. None of this “put-your-hands-under-the-water-and-splash-a-bit-and-take-them-right-back-out” nonsense that some people do.

Now, knowledge is power, and as COVID-19 continues to spread, one of the most important things people can do is learn more about what it is, who is at risk, and how to respond. To that end, as the Guardian explains, it’s important to know that COVID-19 is highly contagious. If it continues to spread, people all over the world will be at risk. At the same time, you should be aware that while the death rate is relatively low — deadlier than the flu, but around 2 percent in, for instance, the Hubei province — there are still thousands of people who have died, so as John Oliver put it, you should strike a balance between being cautious and not, you know, letting hysteria take over to the point where you go swallowing bleach, or something similarly dangerous.

Sadly, the people who will be most impacted by this are the same ones who usually suffer during such times: the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the economically disadvantaged. When it comes to societal inequality, as Bill Gates has said, according to CNBC, the healthcare systems in low-income nations are already struggling, and thus, “A pathogen like the coronavirus can quickly overwhelm them. And poorer countries have little political or economic leverage, given wealthier countries’ natural desire to put their own people first.”

Even here in the U.S., though, it looks like poor people are going to suffer a lot more than rich people will, because it seems the pharmaceutical industry is still up to its usual price-gouging bullshit: a few weeks ago, health secretary (and pharmaceutical lobbyist) Alex Azar refused to promise that if/when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, that it would be affordable to all Americans. What he’s saying, in essence, is that the pharmaceutical industry is hungry to profit off the misery of sick people. Now, for one, fuck that. Two, that’s classism at its finest. And three, it’s bad science, because vaccines work most effectively when everyone gets them, allowing herd immunity to kick in.

So yeah, this is scary. You know what else is scary? Racism. And another thing that is absolutely, 100 percent not acceptable — and, sadly, is also happening right now — is that Coronavirus has sparked a wave of anti-Asian racism, as I wrote for Grunge, with countless individuals and/or businesses of Asian descent being bullied, ostracized, or even beaten, simply because of the fact the COVID-19 started in China. This sort of insane xenophobia and racism needs to stop, immediately.

Now, for something else

Okay, time to shift to something a bit less stressful, huh? Long, deep breaths. Here’s Nova, the ever-noble companion, being a dog, and doing dog things:

The struggles of finding gender neutral baby clothing are all-too-real

As a new father (almost four months!) I wanted to take a moment to mention this great article on Vox, by Chris Chafin, which discusses the real-life struggles of trying to clad your baby in clothing that isn’t hot pink or baby blue, and questions why society even cares so much about a baby’s gender, to begin with.

Until you become a new parent (or go shopping for somebody else’s baby, or what have you), it’s easy to underestimate just how aggressively the clothing industry wants you to clad your infant in the most ridiculously, stereotypically-gendered colors, prints, and styles imaginable. Now, as the father of a baby girl, I don’t have any issue with the color pink … or, say, butterflies. When she gets old enough to make her own fashion decisions, if she likes pink butterfly garments, she can happily choose those for herself. While she’s a baby, though, it’s downright ridiculous that the fashion industry tries to shove gender norms down your throat, to the point where it’s sometimes nigh-on impossible to find clothes that are, say, green, brown, red, orange, or so on.

The industry’s fixation on an infant’s gender is clearly unhealthy. So hopefully, as society evolves on topics of gender, in general, this is another area where we can evolve, as well.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. Have a great Monday, everybody!

Coffee Thoughts: January 2020

Happy 2020, everybody.

So, I’m going to try something different here.  I love connecting with you guys on here, and browsing through posts and comments as I enjoy a morning cup of coffee. Now, sometimes, I have bite-sized “coffee thoughts.” You know, those thoughts that aren’t quite big enough for a full blog, but longer than oh, say, a tweet? Right. Based on said coffee thoughts, meet the first edition of Coffee Thoughts, where I’ve pulled together little notes from the past month into one blog. Dig the format? Let me know!

Happy New Year

… and happy new decade, on top of it? Talk about a crazy ride. At the beginning of the 2010s, I was a kid traveling across the country by myself, dreaming of someday being a writer. In 2020, I’ve become a full-time writer, published multiple books, grown into a husband and then a father, and changed in more ways than I can count. This has been one hell of a decade, and I want to offer a huge thanks to all of you, particularly the ones who have been along for the ride since 2013 (!), when I first started this blog. You guys are awesome, and thank you for that.

This’ll be a big year, ahead. As I said before, I have a new novel waiting in the wings, and I can’t wait to spill the details. Soon.

The world of entertainment keeps on keepin’ on

This is really more a December note, but still. If you haven’t yet seen Watchmen on HBO, stream it. Yes, even if you haven’t read the graphic novel. Yes, even if superheroes aren’t your thing. It takes a few episodes to really get rolling, but once it does, Watchmen proves itself to be the best TV series of 2019, and arguably, one of the most important of the decade.

In other movie and TV news: okay, so The Mandalorian is actually a lot of fun. And yes, yes, Baby Yoda (ahem, “the Child”) is just as adorable as the memes. Haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet, so I can’t comment on it. Also, I’m enjoying those Sinister Six hints in that Morbius trailer, though hoping the movie itself has a more interesting story than the trailer implies.

The Marshall Islands

Ever hear about the Marshall Islands? This is an issue that needs to get more attention.

As I wrote about on Grunge, this chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific had 67 nuclear bombs dropped on them, via the United States, from 1946 to 1958, causing widespread cancer and birth defects. That’s horrifying enough, but now, a nuclear disaster is in the making: the so-called Runit Dome, which is the concrete structure that the U.S. dumped all of their radioactive waste into, is predicted to crack sometime in the next century. The cause? You guessed it: climate change. This whole situation is obviously the fault of the U.S. government, but evidently, the world’s richest country is currently ignoring the pleas of the Marshall Islands, and claiming that the Marshallese have to deal with it themselves.

Horrifying? Yes. Unacceptable? Absolutely. While the L.A. Times did write about this back in November, this whole situation needs more airtime.

The News Cycle is a Dumpster Fire

And thus, the Trump impeachment has begun. About time? For sure, but still, it’s strange to watch it finally play out. I mean, obviously, the Trumpster is corrupt to the point of seeming cartoonish: after all, this is a guy who quite literally had to pay $2 million in damages last month because he was stealing money from his own charity to do things like buy paintings of himself. Is this real life? Unfortunately, yes, and the fact that the above story barely stirred the news cycle shows just how ludicrous this whole thing has gotten. However, the current GOP establishment is still pledging loyalty to their emperor, so a disappointing conclusion to the impeachment seems like a foregone conclusion. That said, Trump is a criminal, so putting him on trial (at the very least) seems necessary, regardless of how this all ends.

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that Trumpism is just one particularly vile symptom of the U.S.’s bleeding wounds, not the original cause of them. These issues go back decades. Trump just exploited them. And honestly, even if he were removed, you have that bigoted fanatic Mike Pence sitting behind him. You know who Pence is? Oh yeah, that’s right, just the living embodiment of Reverend William Stryker, that nutcase from X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, with all the zealotry and self-righteous hypocrisy to match. Hey, seriously, I’m not the first one to notice this:

Image result for stryker mike pence"

 

Dog Stuff

Okay, enough news. Something happier. Here is Nova, my noble friend, showing off her favorite Nicholas Conley novel. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out if there’s a doggy treat hidden inside?

Nova-Intraterrestrial

Family, fatherhood, and all that good stuff

On a final note: in my last post, I shared the news about our impending baby. Now that she’s here, though, I could’ve never predicted how much my life would instantly change. That’s a cliche statement, for sure, but it’s a true one. Being a parent is already the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. Truly. Just watching her experience everything for the first time, to feel the love as I hold her, to look into those little dark eyes that are so full of curiosity and wonder … and on top of that, to have the opportunity to share this experience with my wife, the person who amazes me more than anyone else in the world, has already made 2020 my favorite year to date. And it’s only been a little over three weeks!

Until next time, folks. Enjoy the rest of your morning coffee, and I’ll do the same.

Coffee woodstove fire

Syrian Refugee Camps Battered by Flooding

Syrian Refugee Camps Battered by Flooding

Originally posted by Nicholas Conley on Inquisitr.com

Over 40,000 displaced persons, across 14 refugee camps, were battered by the recent flooding in northern Syria’s Idlib province, resulting in destroyed shelters, lost possessions, and at least two deaths, reports The National.

The thousands of refugees living in these camps, having already survived mortar attacks, bombings, and other violence, have been unable to return home due to the continuing war. This past weekend, the region was pummelled by heavy rains. Knee-high mud water flooded into the camps, and tents were severely damaged… READ MORE.

I thought I could fix my Alzheimer’s patients. I learned to help them instead.

I thought I could fix my Alzheimer’s patients. I learned to help them instead.

Alzheimer's - Vox - Nicholas Conley

My first day in a nursing home was one of the most traumatic events of my life. I’d taken all the classes. I’d done the required clinical internship. I had the knowledge and the firsthand experience. But nothing prepared me for that first day on the floor.

It was a madhouse. Nurses were scrambling everywhere. Residents were constantly calling for help, ringing their call bells, but the workers were too busy jumping between patients to answer them. Many patients were unable to help themselves, even in small ways. Personal hygiene wasn’t optimal.

It wasn’t because the nurses were apathetic or incompetent. Trust me when I say that the people I worked with were some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever met. But the whole system is a chaotic mess; the result of a structure meant to warehouse people, where patient interests and business interests are often in conflict … READ MORE.

Roundup: Join Us For Good

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all had a great start to 2019.

Now that I’ve been a full-time writer for a few years, I’ve spent a lot of time writing for a wide array of different publications, on subjects ranging from quirky science facts to superheroes to word histories on Dictionary.com. That’s just the nature of being a professional freelance writer: you never know what you’ll be doing next week, and sometimes that’s the most fun part. One of the projects I’ve been the most proud to work on this past year, though, has been Eastern Bank’s “Join Us For Good” initiative, a campaign dedicated to spreading the word about important social issues, speaking up for the marginalized, showcasing good deeds, and making change in New England, the United States, and the world as a whole.

Here are some features I’ve written for Join Us for Good. Thanks for reading!

MIRA: Helping Refugees in Massachusetts

Celebrating International Human Rights Day, Today and Every Day

Carol Fulp: Leading a Diverse and Inclusive Future

National Suicide Prevention Month

Vanessa Calderón-Rosado: Paving the Way for Latina Leaders

PTSD Awareness Day on June 27th

2018 Midterm Elections: Massachusetts Votes YES to Question 3

Disabled American Veterans Helps Vets and Family

Paula Johnson Honored with Social Justice Award

Join in! For Good This August

World Mental Health Day