Archive for November, 2015

A Rose By Any Other Name

November 28, 2015

In a self-promotional ad for his presidential candidacy, Marco Rubio proclaims “What happened in Paris could happen here.” The line is meant to be provocative, call attention to Rubio’s particular vision for America, etc. Political pundits would all agree it is meant to leverage foreign policy as difference. An essay published by The Hedgehog Review (“Soul Survivor” by Dominic Green) begins with “Reports of the death of religion have been exaggerated.” The essay is almost more power point than statistical exegesis, with various charts and tables citing recent statistical studies on the shifts in American religious involvement – affiliated (with an organized religion), unaffiliated, Christian, etc. From the standpoint of considering the demographics on the basis of espoused belief, it would appear Americans are becoming less religious. But, from the standpoint of practice, Green points out that Americans are as religious as in the past, if not more so. Instead of membership and regular attendance at a traditional church in order to improve one’s life, it is at a fitness gym. Rather than large revivals and meetings of that sort, crowds flock to celebrity events (at one time the Grateful Dead were described as the world’s largest unorganized religion). In place of a mandatory homogenous belief regime for membership, schools and employers now insist on a positive attitude, holding workshops and educational classes to ensure implementation (Shades of Pastor Norman Vincent Peale!). Charitable virtues are fostered through participation in walkathons and “run for the cure’s” – an amalgam of festivals, pilgrimages and giving alms. Etc. All of these are performed with religious fervor while underlying beliefs are various and multiple. Appealing to belief, Rubio insinuates that terrorism is happening “over there”. And “it won’t be over, till it’s over, over there” (from a World War I song, the war to end all wars). From the standpoint of practice, what’s been happening in Paris (and Europe) has already been happening here, for quite some time at that. The latest manifestation happened just yesterday at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs. As our current president iterated after a previous such attack, it seems these types of incidents continuously reoccur every so many weeks. From the perspective of belief, Timothy McVeigh’s heinous act in Oklahoma was notably the most significant terror attack by Americans on Americans. From the perspective of practice, the cumulative outcomes of continuously recurring mass shootings of Americans by Americans indicate something much more insidious. Senator Rubio’s self promoting ad touting his exceptional astuteness, re: terror, is completely misleading. What happened in Paris is already happening here.

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Fact Check

November 20, 2015

“AP FACT CHECK: Trump claims 100M people looking for work” This is one of those headlines facilitated by the internet and high speed servers. It has become ubiquitous in current U.S. elections for “fact checking” to verify the veracity of any given candidate on any given position, policy, or situation. After all, if they are factual, then somehow or other they can be deemed to be worthwhile, valid or grounded in “reality”. The logic driving this is almost childishly…naive. What? Naive? No way. Sticking with the facts verifies that the aspiring office seeker is no daydream believer. By whom? The electorate, of course. Fact checking the electorate may reveal something quite the opposite. Steve Benen for MSNBC writes “Kentucky voters create ‘a big problem’ for themselves” (11-19-15). “We talked last week about a middle-aged Kentucky man who relies heavily on Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, but nevertheless voted for Gov.-elect Matt Bevin (R), who ran on a platform of destroying Medicaid expansion.” “The Lexington Herald-Leader reported today on Owsley County, Kentucky, where most local residents receive health coverage through Medicaid, but where most local residents also voted for the anti-Medicaid candidate.” “The Herald-Leader article quoted a political scientist who crunched the numbers and found that the Kentucky counties most reliant on Medicaid expansion were also the most likely to vote for the candidate who vowed to tear down Medicaid expansion.” While in “Texas: We don’t need academics to fact-check our textbooks” (Christian Science Monitor, Story Hinckley Staff 11-19-15) “The Texas Board of Education rejected a measure Wednesday that would require university experts to fact-check the state’s textbooks in public schools. The board rejected the measure 8-7, reaffirming the current fact-checking system that relies on citizen review panels made up of parents, teachers, and other members of the general public.”

Fact checking, it’s not just for candidates any more.

More Beaming

November 19, 2015

After this blog’s previous posting covering Ohio Governor John Kasich’s desire to expand national executive government with a special office to promote western ethics, as a basis for righteousness (and power), there comes this today: “Kasich administration helped craft anti-abortion language in budget bill” by the AP (11-18-15). Significant within the report is “But Kasich aides began helping hone some of that language about 18 months before it emerged publicly, according to internal emails obtained by an abortion provider and given to The Associated Press last month. The governor’s office confirmed the emails’ authenticity. Kasich’s Cabinet secretary, Tracy Intihar, received and made changes to an early draft of legislation codifying Ohio’s rules for outpatient surgery centers, which include abortion clinics, from late 2011 to mid-2012, the emails show. Two other Kasich staffers, legislative liaison Ben Kaiser and attorney Diane Brey, also were involved, as was Ohio Right to Life.” juxtaposed with “Asked by an attendee at a Bowling Green forum in June 2013 whether he would veto the provisions, Kasich maintained an air of neutrality. “First of all, I’m pro-life, so we’ll have to see how this proceeds through the House and Senate and the conference committee,” he said in a quote redistributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “Then I’ll make a decision on that as to whether I think it goes too far, but keep in mind I’m pro-life.”” When does the “western ethics” appear as practice instead of convenient, spur-of-the-moment theoretical rhetoric? “It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.” (Theodor Adorno Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life 39) Domestic violence stems from someone feeling too “at home in one’s home”. Oh, but privacy covers up all that unethical conduct (“ain’t nobody’s business but my own’). Governor Kasich pleads for the same, but not in person (“When asked this month about the AP’s findings, Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews said the governor’s office didn’t initiate the amendments, which emerged as Kasich and fellow Republicans in the Legislature were under pressure to pass a bill that would have imposed the most stringent abortion restrictions proposed in any state at the time.”). Better to obfuscate and hide behind the covert, the privilege of privacy. This is the part of “western ethics” that those not couched in it find disturbing. The western ethical imperative does not include disclosure of ulterior motives and machinations. Kasich proposes to beam this into other eyes, with no regard for a right to look (or not).

 

Beam Me Up, Scotty

November 18, 2015

Eliza Collins reports “Kasich calls for new federal agency to promote Judeo-Christian values” on Politico, Tuesday November 17, 2015. That day Ohio’s presidential wannabe Governor appeared at the National Press Club in our capital, and later interviewed with the peacock network, NBC. Collins quotes from the press club: “”U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering our opponents’ propaganda and disinformation,” Kasich said. “I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share: the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.”” With NBC he continues “”We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have Western ethics … to be part of a Judeo-Christian society,”” Analysis finds this just all too rich for anyone living in Ohio during the Kasich years. Does he intend to expand the size of government? Replace the internet as the global exchange for information and ideas? Embrace Pastafarians? Is this an endorsement of Common Core? Nonetheless, the right to look was, once again, not included. Issue 2’s passing and all, still makes only a few “private” individuals privy to the inner workings of JobsOhio. Part of western ethics?

The Man Who Never Returned

November 11, 2015

Old MTA song about a poor fellow (Charlie) who boarded the metro train in Boston with enough money in pocket to pay his fare only to learn that the fare had increased while he was in transit (kinda like the price of gas going up 20% while grocery shopping. Should have bought it before.).  “When he got there the conductor told him, “One more nickel.” Charlie could not get off that train.” The song is also known as “Charlie on the MTA” by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, 1949. The chorus, that is repeated while the story is told, ends with “He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston. He’s the man who never returned.” Analysis finds this to be an unforeseen outcome of pay to ride while on board. Much as pay to stay has unforeseen pitfalls. Jessie Balmert (“ACLU: Don’t charge Ohioans for jail stays” 11-9-15, Gannett) covers a report released by the ACLU on county lock ups charging incarcerated inmates for their stay. Reuters gives a different perspective in “Ohio pay-to-stay prisons saddle poor inmates with debt: ACLU” (11-9-15) by Kim Palmer. Though Balmert’s headline admonition appears to evoke “Spare the rod” sentiments, Palmer’s report has better math. Balmert states “The Licking County jail assesses a $10 initial booking fee and a daily fee of $60, according to the report. The jail where Mahoney stayed in Marion County has one of the highest fees in the state: a $100 booking fee and $50 per day. That amounts to $1,600 for a 30-day sentence.” Even Karl Rove would have to admit that the same stay in the Licking County lock up would cost the inmate another $210. Where’s someone who has committed petty theft for monetary gain supposed to come up with that kind of cash? Unlike Balmert, Palmer actually quotes from the report (maybe even read it): “”Pay-to-stay jail fees are the next generation of unending debts that seek to tether low-income people to the criminal justice system,” the report states. “These fees are insidious: loading formerly incarcerated people with increasing amounts of debt make it nearly impossible for even the most well-meaning person to become a productive member of society.”” According to Palmer, 40 of Ohio’s 75 counties charge for incarceration. If Licking County were in Louisiana, failure to pay the 30 day lock up charge would result in, you guessed it, further incarceration (“Poor old Charlie!”). Some states further incarcerate those failing to pay fees and costs associated with their convictions/incarceration (“Did he ever return?”). In the spirit of “new” journalism, Balmert attempts to present “the other side” with: ““It’s unfortunate that we have people in any economic situation that are committing crimes,” said Robert Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association. “But there is a cost to that.”” China is way ahead of the executive director on that one. With capital punishment cases, the kin of the deceased are presented with the bullet and a bill for the cost of execution. A Kafkaesque speculation would be the eventual fee and charge for the cost of execution levied on the estates and survivors of those subjected to capital punishment here in the U.S. Failure to pay in Louisiana (and elsewhere) would rekindle the cycle all over again. Will the circle be unbroken?

How Do You Spell Relief?

November 5, 2015

A collective sigh of relief rose up out of Newark this morning. The city dodged another bullet. It could have entertained difference (which was not on the ballot in any form – candidate, policy or controversy). Instead, it settled for a variation on a theme. The big boys in their national debate would blame it on the media. A one horse town, er, one news media town, pretty much limits difference by virtue of its uncontested position (certainly the candidates at the mayor’s debate didn’t question the moderator who just happened to be the paper’s editor). True, the paper scored close to perfect in “backing” the eventual winners. Mark Fraizer spoiled the perfect editorial promotion. Mr. Fraizer has never known difference, only a variation on a theme. That makes for a sad commentary on the lived experience of our electoral form of government. Contests, debates and democratic elections need difference, not variations on a theme; something sorely lacking within our democratic process.