Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Are penalties for small crimes too harsh?

No one likes the idea that our taxes are supporting adults that are in prison where they get free room and board, unless they present a real danger to society. However, the way the system works, there are countless cases of people who committed small offenses and have to be in jail. By going to jail or having felonies attached to their records, they are greatly set back in life and their problems just snowball. I heard two cases in Northern Virginia that made me think about how the courts could have handled them differently, specially when it comes to child support.

Case # 1: A 31 year old man (let’s call him T) who was kept away from his father while growing up by his mother finally reconciles with his Dad. He abused drugs in his youth but now is clean. Because of his drug activities in his past, he had to spend time in jail. With his record and lack of education, he has a limited choice of jobs. He lives with his old grandfather, who does not have anyone to take care of him and suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

T rented a TV and one day, and because he was short on cash, he decided to take the TV to a pawn shop so he could make some money. He works some odd jobs which he supports himself and his grandfather with. Since he was behind on the monthly rent for the TV, the store owner calls him and asks him to return it. He stupidly tells them the TV is in the pawn shop, and that he had planned to get it later.

He is slapped with 2 counts of felony. A public attorney will defend him, but he may be convicted, which will further hinder his chances of getting other jobs. What should have been a civil matter becomes a criminal matter. T might go to jail for being stupid.

Case # 2: A man who also had a past conviction of drug dealing in a small scale and therefore works odd jobs owes back money in child support to the mother of his daughter. The court mandates that he pay a monthly sum that is very high for someone who does not have a full time job. Since he falls behind in his payments, he is sentenced to go to jail for failure to pay child support.

Meanwhile, his child support debt grows while interest is added to it. He is allowed to work days and report back to prison after his employer asks the court to free him during the day. He pays the sum he owes until he is up to date with his child support. He is let go and continues to pay for the child support. However, the amount determined by the courts is too much for his small income and he falls behind again. He has no one else to ask for money. Again, he is sent back to prison where he clearly cannot work and pay any child support.

What gives? Why is the system pushing people to the brink and digging them deeper instead of helping them succeed? It seems social workers, along with the Justice System, needs to rethink the penalties for such cases. Maybe the punishment can be community service instead of jail. The cycle then repeats itself generation after generation: drugs, lack of education, latchkey kids, low pay, alchohol abuse…


March 3, 2010 Posted by | Grievances, Society | 1 Comment

The 5 minute doctor

Yesterday I visited a “5-minute doctor”. That seems to be more and more common. I have PRIVATE insurance, a PPO, which I pay a lot of money every month for (and barely use), but I am seeing this happen very often: a long wait followed by a 5 minute check up from the doctor.

My last visit was to an orthopedist. I have something called “tennis elbow”, not from playing tennis but from moving heavy objects late last year. My arm has not healed so I went back to the same doctor I had gone early this year to(he knew my history and was walking distance from my office).

The same thing happened: I waited for one hour (with no good magazines in the waiting room :)); first in the reception area and later in a small room.

What really peeved me is that I had written in the form that I had actually two problems. Everyone knows the human body is like a machine. One thing affects the other. I had pain in some other area, which he totally disregarded. He probably wants me to pay for another consultation so he can charge to look at my other “pain”.

He spent 5 minutes with me, told me what to do (immobilize the area) and asked me to come back after 6 weeks,  hurriedly answering my questions. What a terrible experience! I think doctors don’t think empathy is necessary anymore in their consultation with patients. All they need is some knowledge. Why not then consult with a robot? A robot who would scan your body, inform you what kind of problem you have (in a robotic voice like Kanye West’s songs :)) and than print a list of recomendations?

Are doctors being forced to see a certain number of patients per hour-or may I say, per minute? If that is a private PPO, I prefer that all the money I pay go to an universal healthcare system where I would probably have to wait just the same!



August 19, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Health | 2 Comments

Daily irritants

Everyone has those constant irritants that make our day worse.  Here are some of them:

1. Slow drivers. Those people who apparently love to spend time in traffic…

2. Products that need scissors to open.

3. Products with instructions in very fine print (the population is aging!).

4. Loud talk show audiences screaming: they drive me nuts.

5. Ads that are much louder than the show you are watching.

6) Auto-correct on the iPhone when you are typing in another language.

7. People that write to you in caps.

8. People who send you corny chain emails in PowerPoint.

9. People talking loudly in a foreign language in a public space (I have been guilty of this once or twice..).

10. Medical bills sent sometimes 6 months after an appointment and you simply don’t remember.

11. Drivers who don’t signal.

12. Needing reading glasses for everything, and no laser surgery for that yetreading_glass_1.

13. Parents who take all their young kids (and strollers) to the mall on a busy day

More to come..patience is not my strongest virtue 🙂

July 15, 2009 Posted by | Grievances | 2 Comments

Churches or Businesses?

Churches of all denominations across America like to advertise on street signs using catchy phrases. “You are God’s stimilus plan”, “You are the star in God’s movie”, “God receives knee mail” and so on. It makes me wonder: are these temples of god or just businesses advertising their products?

If god is great and the churches are “sacred” ground, why would these churches need to attract followers, like a car dealership tries to attract customers? Is the answer that more members means more revenue? Aren’t we mixing money with religion here? Aren’t the members going to go anyway if they have religious beliefs? Or because they like this pastor more than that pastor?

Nowhere in the world have churches become businesses as in the USA. It is a social club for the poor, the lonely and the lost. People feel comforted, even if they are praying to no one and getting nothing in return. The ads promise what is impossible and talk superstition. Soon we will see: “20% off sale: come to our church and get a good deal from God.” God can do everything, and he likes some people more than others, right?

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Religion | 3 Comments

Pharmaceuticals ads on TV

As a Brazilian living in the US, I can’t get over the constant adverstisement from pharmaceutical companies. Why adverstise prescription drugs? I can understand marketing OTC products since they are consumer based. But running ads about drugs that can only be prescribed by a physician seems to me as morally wrong. After all, only a doctor will know if that drug is right for you. Advertising medicines seems to me as greed. People who are otherwise healthy might want to buy these drugs online. Hypochondriacs may panic after hearing the symptoms of this or that disease. Let the pharmaceutical companies target their audience: the medical field. Not the general public.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Health | Leave a comment

This is the time to help Obama

I shake my head at how some Republicans and right wing commentators, bitter after an ugly electoral loss and years of hearing harsh criticism for the man they voted for, George W. Bush, now feel it’s time for a backlash. They are having a almost perverse pleasure in picking apart any act President Obama does.  They are not concerned with the well being of the country as much as blasting liberals and our “socilialist” ideas. What are they smoking? Obama’s administration inherited this chaos! He did not cause it, and it will take a herculean  effort with the help of us all to bring some prosperity again to this country. This bipartisanship does not help the country, it brings division, dissention and the us against them mentality.

Right wingers are so angry and lack such empathy towards their fellow citizens that it makes  me think they did not have love and affection as babies and kids. Not enough touching and holding. They can be vicious and are masters in distoring reality (Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh), consequently,  the less educated folks with less analitical thinking ability are fascinated by the hatred they spew.

Obama is a well intentioned man. He wants to do it right, he wants to make a mark and he does not need to be attacked. Hey right wingers, offer some constructive criticism. Are you even able to recognize that it is impossible for everything to be solved just like magic? McCain, I know you have a bad temper and now you want to sit on the sidelines and make fun of Obama, but that’s an easy task. Let’s see how YOU would fix the mess your buddy put us into.

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Politics | Leave a comment

Honesty Day

I would love to institute a day a year where commerce and businesses would have to be absolutely honest. No lies, exaggerations and embelishments could be told.. Advertisement would have to say the absolute truth.

That holiday for me would me a lot more useful than some silly ones we have…

Here is what would happen:

1) Prices would not be allowed to end in 99 cents. No one could adverstise a pair of pants for 39.99. The price would be 40 dollars PLUS tax. The tax would be included in every label.  Same for cars, shoes, eletronics, you name it.

2) Ads could not promise anything that it does not accomplish. A shampoo TV ad showing a model with long, shiny and straight hair would have to say: “if your hair is not long, shiny, healthy and blonde” our product will not make it look like this.

3) Ads promising miracles (“erase those wrinkles, look 10 years younger”) would have to say the plain truth: “If your use this cream, your skin might look smoother, but it takes years of taking care of your skin to make you look younger”.

4) Advertisement with hidden content. No, you will get a 20% discount but the reality is that we jacked up the price to be able to offer this “discount. Buy two get one free? In reality you are paying for 3 because we jacked up the unit price anyway.

5) Ads with meds: they do NOT belong in TV. I don’t remember ever seeing in Brazil ads on TV for anti-depressants and other prescription drugs. Cough medicine? Ok.

6) Fine print. Fine print would have to be printed in big bold letters and be at the beginning or any contract or ad. There could be no hidden clauses.

7) Websites for any service would have to have the cancellation option in an easy spot with big letters. Have you ever tried to cancel a phone line or something?

8) Banks and services would have NO hidden fees. All extra fees and taxes would be carefully explained and laid out.

9) Products with expensive packaging would tell you exactly how much you are paying for the fancy box. Sometimes the packaging is worth more than the product…

10) Magazines would have normal sized women wearing their clothes. Catalogs like Newport News, Spiegel and even the more conservative clothing ones would not have size 0 and 2 models advertising their clothes, but models who are size 8-12. After all, the women who buy their clothes are sizes 12, 14…

11) Fast food chains would have to put in big bold letters the amount of calories, fat and sugar in their menus. That could scare some people off…

Look at this ad…yeah right

January 2, 2009 Posted by | Grievances | Leave a comment

Why are packaged goods so hard to open nowadays?

We have all experienced how hard it is to open many kinds of packages that involve several products, particularly eletronics. It’s getting worse and worse! Recently I was trying to open a damn plastic tray which contained cosmetics (!!) from Costco and even using a big knife and scissors I almost bruised and hurt myself trying to open it! If manufacturers and retailers are so afraid of shoplifting, try better security! It is just so hard to open these things! Hair straighteners, cosmetics, medications and even food!

Costco is really exaggerating.  I dare the Costco managers to try to open these plastic trays in 5 minutes.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Grievances | Leave a comment

Penalty for not signaling

I am not for more fines or regulations, but I spend a lot of time in traffic on the Capital Beltway and I have two major pet peeves:

Cell phone usage while driving and the absence of signaling.

Why are so many drivers in America (or is it only in the DC suburbs area) against signaling? Don’t they realize how frustrating it is for the driver behind to not know if you are going to turn right or left or go straight? Are they too lazy to touch the lever? Bad driving skills? Can the cops enforce that more?

Cell phones: please, please, please. Stop chatting on the phone folks. Stop using your commute to touch base with all your friends!! You are slowing traffic, not signaling, not paying attention and endangering people’s lifes. The biggest offenders seem to be hispanic immigrantes, who are still in love with their first car and their first cell phone.  Use your cell phone to quickly call someone if you are going to be late or if by any chance you get lost, but not to gossip! And  I won’t even start on the texting subject….

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Grievances | Leave a comment

Why do so many chain restaurants show only sports on TV?

I know the answer: they are supposed to be sports bars!!  But some are not. Some are just your regular chain restaurant where you want to have an affordable meal. But all I see are football and basketball games in every monitor. What about changing at least one channel to CNN people? This way the population can be more informed and less ignorant 🙂

December 11, 2008 Posted by | Grievances | 2 Comments