I’m generally against zero-tolerance policies. I’ve read too many stories about kids expelled because of an asthma inhaler or a pocket knife forgotten in a jacket pocket (or in the trunk of a car) and accidentally brought to school. Those sorts of harmless, technical violations of the rules are exactly the sort thing that should be tolerated.

But there’s one zero-tolerance policy that I’d really like to see. Prompted by the gruesome story Occupy Oakland: second Iraq war veteran injured after police clashes, about a man beaten so badly by police that his spleen was lacerated, who was then denied medical care for 18 hours, I think we need a zero-tolerance policy for failure to provide medical care to prisoners.

Every person involved in taking or holding a prisoner—police, guards, staff, managers—should be absolutely responsible for doing everything necessary to ensure that needed care is provided.

If needed care is not provided, everyone who heard the prisoner request care, saw the prisoner in distress, or got a report that the prisoner needs or has requested care, should be fired.

There should be no exceptions.


The crowd in West Side Park at the Occupy CU rally

I came out of college almost debt-free, because my parents paid for my education.

I got a job writing software. It was exactly what I wanted to do—the only thing I wanted to do as much as writing prose. I remember being glad that my manager didn’t know that I’d have worked for free, just to get access to the computers. (In 1981, computers were still expensive.)

I started my career right at the moment when software started to became important everywhere. Even though my degree was in economics, I had no trouble finding software jobs.

I got raises, because software went on becoming more important. Even when the companies I worked for fell on bad times, I found a new job without difficulty.

I saw things changing. After about 1990, jobs went away a lot quicker, and when they went away, they didn’t come back.

I was still okay, because software was still important.

I realized that software wasn’t going to remain special. I realized that millions of people around the world could write software just as well as I could. I realized that the ones in China and India could live a middle-class life on one-tenth the money I was earning. I realized that I couldn’t compete with them on price.

I figured I was safe for a while, but only because there were so many managers who were sure that an employee he couldn’t see working probably wasn’t working. But that wouldn’t last. Managers would adapt. And managers who couldn’t adapt would lose their jobs.

I started saving money. I could see that I wasn’t saving it fast enough, so I started living more frugally. That was a double win: Spending less left more money to save, and it also provided me with an existence proof that I could live on less.

I lost my job when Motorola closed its Champaign facility in August of 2007. By then, I had saved and invested a lot of money. Not enough to retire in any ordinary sense, but enough that I figured I could get by without a regular job.

I am a writer now. It’s exactly what I want to do.

I am very lucky. That’s not unusual; there are a lot of lucky people. What’s a little unusual is that I know just how lucky I’ve been.

I am the 99%.