The Pandemic of American Politics

By Alan J. Yeck

It’s been a bit tough trying to write this week. So much information coming at us and so many emotions in the mix that it’s been hard to bring my thoughts to clarity. Then I saw a picture today and in it I found a few moments of focus. It was a picture of a short hose coming from a fire hydrant, attached to a larger PVC pipe with a dozen drinking taps on it. It’s a fresh water station on the streets of San Francisco for the homeless. There is not a better example of the biggest problem we face today in the United Sates but if you think I’m saying ‘homelessness’ is our biggest problem, you’re wrong. Our biggest problem, and it didn’t start with this administration but I promise you it will continue with the next, is how we address all of our problems- we treat the symptoms and not the causes. The problem isn’t providing drinking water to the homeless, it’s the homeless! Instead of addressing the causes of homelessness, e.g., mental health, affordable housing, life sustaining wages, education, etc., we hook up a hose to a device that is supposed to be used to put out structural fires and call it a day. The world leader in innovation does it again. The COVID-19 equivalent would be to never develop a vaccine and just treat the symptoms with Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu. “Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” That should do it.

Meanwhile, on any given night in our country, more than 500,000 people go homeless every night, 40 million of us are living in poverty, 21 million are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, 10 million women and men are physically abused by their partners, with 700,000 children abused and neglected yearly  (the actual number is much higher because so many go unreported). And what is our mainstream solution? Our judicial system which ensures the extremely profitable prison system has a never-ending supply of customers.  We have 2.3 million people in 110 federal prisons, 1,833 state prisons, 3,134 local jails, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 218 immigration detention facilities (immigration is another problem where only the symptoms have been addressed), 80 Indian Country jails, state psychiatric hospitals, and military prisons. Prison is the largest treatment for mental health in the U.S. What I mean is that where so many Americans need mental health treatment (the root causes of incarceration, homelessness, drug abuse…) instead of making sure they can receive that, we treat the symptoms and sent them to prison where they are beaten, raped, abused and come out more likely to commit greater crimes than before they went in. Prison is like the ITT Tech of criminal instruction. It’s not good but we’re paying for it anyway. 

Those are just an example of some of the many troubles we need to deal with, head on. How do we address them, by finding the root causes or only treating symptoms? These are national issues that affect all of us therefore it is the responsibility of our government and elected officials to implement policies to make the positive changes. But they don’t do they? Why? 1) Follow the money. Always, follow the money. 2) Keep the people asleep. A person in California was asked, “why do you think there are so many homeless people here?” Her response was, “because we have nice weather.” That’s right, homelessness exists there because the weather is nice. OMFG! 1 and 2 working together are hard to beat, but not impossible. 

How do you feel the government systems we’ve been using are working for us? All of them, blue and red, are accountable for what the United States is today. All of them. Until we remove corporate and lobbying influences (the money) and expand the two-party system, the corruption will only continue. And the worst part? Me, you, and your sister too have allowed it. It is time for us to wake up from our social coma. Demand from those whom you vote for that they support this and if they don’t, then know they are why all of the above continues. They are why the capital was attacked, they are why democracy is dying, and they all make money from it. Vote for the person that agrees to make these changes in our system and restore democracy to the people. If they don’t, don’t vote for them.  Yes, it is just that simple. 

Be well and keep up the peaceful fight. 

Masks Matter

This post has been edited/rewritten for clarity from it’s original version with the author’s full permission.

Trigger Warning: Language & Discussions of Death

My husband and I went into social isolation on March 17, 2020.

We went into isolation “early” because I am a part of a vulnerable population. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 29 years this year and I’ve had asthma for around five years. Many of the stats I’ve read and research shared by major medical organizations and trusted groups states that I’m at least three times more likely to die if I contract COVID-19. Way more likely to have COVID long term complications or be a “COVID Long Hauler”. If I were one of the lucky to survive, the chances that I would make it out without at least some serious complications are slim.

I am not writing that out because I want your pity. I am writing it out because it’s important to me that you can put a face, my face, with statements that I’m hearing/seeing being shared.

You know someone like me. Someone who doesn’t “look sick” who deals with a health concern that puts them in a high risk category. You probably know several people who fall into a higher risk category you can see also (such as anyone older than 50).

When you say it is your right not to wear a mask, you are correct. You have the right to put yourself in danger. That said, your mask is more of a protection for the people around you, so you’re actually putting other people in danger by not wearing one. You don’t have the right to put other people in danger. That’s why we don’t allow people to drive when they’ve been drinking.

This pandemic has become a political discussion, when it should be a people discussion. Our collective health and well being, as a nation, is in more danger than ever before. The virus, the death count, our overwhelmed health care system, and the financial ruin health care bills will leave for millions when this is all said and done are reasons enough to show caution. They’re more than enough reasons to do whatever we can to stop COVID.

People I’ve known for many years and have always thought were reasonable have posted about their rights being taken away when they are required to wear masks. There is outrage about vaccines and wondering aloud how employers can make things mandatory. They’ve questioned if all of this is worth the income they’re losing. They’ve griped about the government infringing on them and they’ve said they don’t understand what the big deal is. They’ve posted pictures where they haven’t socially isolated from people they care about, because, why would they do that? They feel fine.  

But anytime someone questions the validity or shares misinformation, even just wondering in a public forum if it’s true, I find myself overwhelmed with one of the stages of grief. I never get to acceptance. I continue to hold out hope that my belief in the goodness of all people will win. That hope is more strained all the time.

Now, while millions of people are awaiting the vaccine, and we’re having the deadliest days in American history, I continue to hear people question if the science is real. If this is really necessary when “only a few” die from the virus. We are still having this conversation, so many months in. But really, it’s only 1%, maybe, of US citizens that will die right? And mostly just the sick and elderly. That’s really not that many? That’s not a big deal, right?

Keeping in mind that 1% of the US population is roughly 3.3 million people, yes, it’s a big deal.

Many people continue to cite the rapid creation of the vaccine as a reason to fear it; others simply share their mistrust of any of the information put out regarding the vaccine. Some argue against vaccines in general and use peer pressure and unsubstantiated rhetoric to ignite fear in other people. The misinformation travels even faster than the virus does.

So this is my challenge to those of you who want to reopen immediately and “get back to normal” without additional precautions in place. Who question the science and validity of the science because your political affiliations don’t like Dr. Fauci. This is my statement to the people saying “We’ll lose a few people but ONLY the sick and the elderly.” Or “The strong will survive”.     

I want you to see my face, hear my voice, and listen.

Call me and tell me why I don’t deserve to live.

If the economy is the most important piece; if it is truly just a numbers game, if the “strong will survive”…imagine having to look someone in the face and actually say that: “You don’t deserve to live”.

If I’m not available to take your call, I have hundreds of people (friends, family, my spouse, etc.) you can call. I’m very fortunate to have lived a life filled with wonderful people. If you can’t imagine delivering that statement, “Your friend, sister, daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, etc. doesn’t deserve to live,” then it’s time to stop delivering unhelpful rhetoric regarding vaccines and pull your mask back up over your nose.

For the record, I don’t necessarily care if other people choose not to get the vaccine, with some exceptions (those in direct lines of healthcare, those working in care facilities, teachers, etc.). You do have the right to choose what goes into your body, and I believe that stands for everyone. I’ll be getting my shot. I hope to see you there, even if it’s not to save yourself. Even if you “don’t know for sure” the virus is a real threat. I hope your empathy wins if you can’t reckon with the science.

Also, I recognize this is incendiary. If you don’t believe the stats on masks and vaccines saving lives, then I’ll be forced to appeal to your humanity. I recognize that I’m making the choice to stay very socially isolated and we’ll probably be okay because of that. But every time you or someone you know chooses not to wear the mask, or chooses not to self-isolate, or chooses to continue spreading misinformation and doubt about the vaccine, you’ve made a choice to bring that virus closer to my door. You make a decision that those of us that are already fighting every day don’t deserve to live.

THE U.S. IS THE BEST (at being the worst)

Alan Yeck, Founder

Why our health care system is killing us

Oh, how I long for the good old days, way back in 2018, when only 27.5 million Americans were without health insurance. With the COVID-19 right-sizing (to use a friendly corporate term), we can add another 5.5 million to that number today bringing it to 33 million Americans that cannot afford to take care of themselves or their families.  Here’s the good news though – according to the 2019 Health Care Index from CEOWORLD, our healthcare is better than most third world countries like Nepal, the Dominican Republic, and Bangladesh. Wow, that’s awesome to be number one on that list of some of the poorest countries on earth. Another way to put that is to say that our healthcare system is much better than a pile of horse shit (but not as good as cow shit which when combined with straw and dried out can be used for cooking fuel in India). If we compare our health care system against developed nations like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, the United States comes in dead last or the worst (but we’re still number one for being the worst of the best). To put all of this in the proper perspective, the U.S. pays more for health care than any other country in the world – to be the worst of the best, or the best of the worst. What do we get for our dollars? Higher rates of maternal and infant death, shorter life expectancy, and the highest obesity levels anywhere. Why? Why? Why?

If you’ve read any of my other commentaries, when you want to understand why something in the government is broken, has been broken, and continues to be broken long after the lights came on about it, just follow the money. 

We spend double the costs of anywhere else in the world on prescription drugs. It’s not that we take double the amount – we pay at least double the amount, on average. When you get into specific medications the mark-up can several hundred to several thousand percent. I mean it takes a lot of cash to be a big pharma executive. You think mansions, boats, private schools, vacations to the south of France come cheap? Plus they have to pay off the politicians to keep this system going as is. Please, show some compassion for these billionaires – it takes a lot of work to destroy the American working class. Evil helps too.

While none are without blood on their hands, Pfizer, best known for their ‘Johnny Appleseed’s’ approach to opiate distribution in the medical community which resulted in tens-of-thousands of death’s (zero executives went to prison) and hundreds-of-thousands of addicts, had revenue last year was $51.7 billion. That’s down about $4 billion from the previous year but I’m sure there’s a new life saving drug just around the corner that will cost $5,000 a pill so hang in their Pfizer. 

We’re in a capitalistic, democratic society and I begrudge no one or no company the right to make a profit. I do question greed resulting in the demise of our society though. You should too.

Failure Is Not An Option

Alan Yeck, Founder of

Prior to COVID-19, technology wasn’t widespread enough for online education to even be an option for any health-related closures until, at the earliest, the swine flu pandemic of 2009. Prior to that, any schools whose campuses couldn’t stay open just closed. We might have been able to go on  for a few days to a few weeks, but nothing can compare to our current situation of campus closures and needing to switch entirely to online teaching and learning.

We moved to online education very rapidly for two distinct, and not entirely opposing, reasons . One is a conscious, self-defined clean perspective, full of laurels and intellectual collegial banter about moving teaching and learning forward despite our current circumstances. Damn the torpedoes, we care about the students’ learning, and this virus cannot defeat the sanctity of post-secondary education. The academic high ground.  The other reason we moved to online education at breakneck speed for the money, not the student. It’s an ugly reality for many schools today: enrollments are down, finances are critical, and they’re already cut to the bone. Remove an entire term’s tuition from a budget established last year and more than a few school doors will shut for good with others crippled for the foreseeable future. Please understand I’m not arguing this point but using it to highlight the importance of what has to happen next for our students.  No one taking an online class this term should receive a failing grade.

Having earned my entire MBA at Walden University online, at a time in my life when any other way would have been impossible, I am a huge proponent of online education–an evangelist for it.  I was taught online, I’ve taught online, and I believe as technology continues to progress, what we call online will become the standard medium for education around the world. We’re not there yet, but we’re not far off either. Numerous studies over the years have shown that online education can be as academically rigorous as that done in the classroom, if not more so. Of course, there are institutions, courses and teachers that have given online education a bad reputation within the industry, but those same institutions, courses and teachers also likely deliver poor classroom instruction. They are consistent. The delivery medium is arguably the least important factor in determining the quality of instruction. Internet or in-person, are the students engaged?

Online education is comprised of four elements: teacher, student, curriculum and technology. When all of those elements are fully functional, learning will take place. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s the case. We’ve taken students who initially enrolled for a classroom course and thrust them into the online world with little to no preparation. We’ve done the same to faculty who taught classroom courses. We’ve taken courses designed for the classroom and quickly “adapted” them for online delivery. Three of the four basic elements required for successful online education are somewhat questionable, not to mention other challenges like students who do not have Internet access where they live (could be financial or lack of service). Everyone has done their best, above and beyond the call of duty, to get everything up to speed for online education. You’ve done an amazing job–-truly commendable. Thank you. My point is what all our points should be about–the students.

For advanced learners, online classes are terrific. They performed well before this nightmare, and I’m sure those students are doing great right now. They aren’t the ones we need to worry about. Studies at Harvard and Stanford have shown that struggling students are more likely to do poorly in online classes than their peers with higher GPAs. In their most current model, online courses can be tough, especially for the students who have not had adequate preparation. These students’ outcomes are worse than they would have been had these same students taken in-person courses. After failing a class, these students are much likelier  to withdraw from college.

We have to recognize and address:

1) Not all courses lend themselves to online education.

2) Not every course that was “adapted” for online instruction would meet best practices under normal circumstances

3) The level of instruction for new online teachers probably didn’t follow the same non-COVID-19 process of thoroughly learning the technology and more importantly the pedagogy for online instruction

4) Some of our students would struggle with online learning regardless if everything else was perfect.

Academically challenged students need a classroom and face-to-face interaction with their teachers (not one through Zoom). Of course, there are exceptions to both groups, but policies should never be established around the exceptions. The educational authorities have given us tremendous flexibility to respond to the crisis, and we need to do the same now with our students. Any student who had enrolled in a classroom class, who does poorly online, should be given an Incomplete “I” at the very least to be made-up when they have the option to return to the classroom.

When the nation moved to online teaching overnight, our institutions, state and federal educational agencies, and the accrediting bodies all made it known that they were going to become as flexible as possible to help us accomplish this never-before-attempted high-wire act (no net). The missing part to this flexibility is a unified decision about awarding “I” for any failing grades this term. Another conversation going around is to not award any failing grades, period, this term–-all students pass. Radical? We’re in radical times. If there is going to be an error on our part, it should be on the behalf of fighting for our students. Anything less and we fail them.

Do not fail a student who didn’t sign up for an online class, taught by a teacher who didn’t sign up to teach that class online, when it wasn’t designed to be an online class in the first place. To hold them to the same grading process we’ve always done would be an unacceptable, arrogant, unethical, indefensible and unforgivable position to take. Either an “I” or “P” option must be given to all.