Archive for March, 2016

Where’s The Crime In All This?

March 29, 2016

In 2015 Steve Smith, a Newark native, was arrested for receiving a package delivered by an imposter FedEx delivery driver (an undercover police officer). The package, which remained unopened, contained cocaine. On 2-11-16 Mr. Smith was convicted of possession and trafficking, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. There had been no undercover “buy” or exchange, no gunplay or violence. 3-28-16 DEA.gov reports “Ohio Men Plead Guilty to Selling “Blue Drop” Heroin Mixed with Fentanyl that Resulted in Death”. One of the active and admitted Marion Ohio dealers faces 16 years in prison for one count of drug trafficking that resulted in death, the other 9 (less than Mr. Smith). Recently Harpers Magazine reran a 22 year old archive of an interview by John Ehrlichman with writer Dan Baum during which the former Nixon policy chief admitted the War On Drugs was a fabricated contrivance intended to suppress the newly empowered black vote (“”You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.””). Analysis notes that the amount of time elapsed from when Civil Rights and Voting Rights were guaranteed and Ehrlichman’s tenure with President Nixon was about the same as what has elapsed since the financial meltdown at the end of the George W. Bush presidency and today. Just as “too big to fail” banks today are not only much larger, but subprime is back and greatly expanded to include car/boat/RV loans as well as credit line extensions. Within 10 years of Civil Rights passage, racism reaffirmed itself under a different form, the War On Drugs. Suppression of voting rights under the guise of criminal laws or economic regulations have only increased in the ensuing years. Convoluted voter ID requirements are implemented to cut down on the statistically negligibly occurring crime of voter fraud. Polling times and places have been realigned/consolidated in the name of fiscal austerity. Analysis recently witnessed Katrina-like images of voters lined up waiting for hours into the late night in the Arizona primary. Like Ohio, Arizona diminished polling times and places to save tax payer expense (please, don’t speak of early voting by mail, etc. since who was actually still running became apparent only days before the primary itself. Those who voted early by mail, etc. for candidates no longer running essentially threw away their vote, that is, didn’t vote at all). Deeply committed to such austere measures is Newark’s U.S. Congressional Representative Pat Tiberi who defends his vote against funding ongoing children’s services in a recent Advocate Editorial page guest column (3-27-16). Licking County Jobs and Family Services relies on this source to provide needed (and often court mandated) assistance for non-voting native residents – the children of Newark and Licking County. Tiberi states “Instead of funding a patchwork of untested programs, we have a responsibility now to ensure that hard working Americans’ tax dollars go toward programs that deliver results and change lives.” (Analysis notes Tiberi’s reliance on taxing American workers, and not various tax abated and credited corporations. A digression for another time). As Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb blurted out when informed of Tiberi’s legislating “It’s just a (federal) line item, a drop in the bucket, but we would all feel it very painfully, and the children would feel it.” (The Advocate, County lobbies feds to keep Children Services funding, Kent Mallett, 3-17-16) yet it does regulate, it does make law determining what is allowed and what is to be a crime. Newark’s own McGruff might feign agreement with the CDC that America is in the throes of an epidemic disease of narcotics use and addiction while speaking at the Newark Think Tank on Poverty’s February meeting. Newark Police Chief Barry Connell’s empathy certainly doesn’t prevent him from taking a bite out of crime — sicking his dog on a suspected drugged perpetrator (The Advocate, Police: Dog bite during traffic stop was OK, Bethany Bruner, 3-9-16). Ike, the dog, is only another weapon in the arsenal of the War On Drugs. In a guest column that appeared next to Tiberi’s in the 3-27-16 Advocate, David Greene describes one of the casualties in this war, Steve Smith. Greene decries the injustice perpetrated by the lack of due process but not the law itself. Is the criminal the one who transgressed the law? Or is it those who abuse democracy and their elected office by legislating restrictions and laws meant to suppress and disenfranchise? Where’s the crime in all this?

The Nag

March 24, 2016

After Richard Nixon abdicated the presidency, pundits and historians suggested that maybe, just maybe, he had crossed the threshold of where a lie becomes the truth – and couldn’t discern the difference. OK, so pathology has its privileges. Fast forward 20 years to the first Clinton presidency when the truth was equivocated, and “facts” were fast and loose. No, not just regarding personal indiscretions but things like trade agreements, domestic criminal justice policy, banking regulations, etc. The following president launched an invasion on the pretext that something was present though the likes of Hans Blix found otherwise. Confronted with this, George W. Bush could only say “So what?” The next presidency and its election cycles brought increased use of near instantaneous “Fact Check”, hoping to settle fact and fiction (or in George W’s case – existence of non-existence, or is it non- existence of non- existence? Or, more succinctly, as his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, put it “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”). More recent, the US legislative branch(es) blatantly disregards what displeases, Fact Check or not. The Planned Parenthood debacle with its ensuing flurry of state funding cuts springs to mind along with election fraud legislation and, lest we forget, the almost decades long disavowal of what geologists term the Anthropocene, “the current geological age, viewed as having begun about 200 years ago with the significant impact of human activity on the ecosphere.” Now, once again within the election cycle, we have not only a disregard for the truth (Fact Check be damned), but entire fictions upon which debates and discourse are structured and performed. One day a candidate embraces one narrative only to have the spouse espouse the opposite. Truth, Fact Check, or Reality TV, what is of value, worthwhile? “Seriously, America? Study finds mere 2.7 percent of U.S. adults meet criteria for ‘healthy lifestyle’” by Washington Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha (3-22-16) may be of more relevance in all this than would appear topically. Seems no matter what, tobacco warnings with graphic depictions, Reality TV “Biggest Loser” shows, walkathons, runathons, sports hysteria, etc., Whole Foods, bottled water craze, gluten free, organic, “healthy” eating, etc., as well as wellness check ups, Affordable Care Act medical coverage, internet medical self-diagnosing/medicating, etc. (not to mention the Arnold), Americans’ preference for the “other” predominates. “A study conducted by Oregon State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has awarded nearly every adult in the country a failing grade. The researchers used four barometers to measure whether someone’s behavior could be considered healthy. They include an appropriate balanced diet, being active, meeting the recommended criteria for body fat percentage and not smoking. Using data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, they found that 97.3 percent of the 4,745 people they looked at did not meet the criteria.” “an appropriate balanced diet, being active, meeting the recommended criteria for body fat percentage and not smoking” are not too complicated. Yet the overwhelming majority prefer otherwise. Analysis finds today’s preference for Reality TV over Fact Check (or truth) within contemporary election discourse to be no coincidence, more a nagging premonition that accurately defines the current climate (much as the Anthropocene describes our geological condition).

Ted Cruz Joke

March 18, 2016

What’s the difference between Ohio Governor John Kasich and Ted Cruz? U.S. Representative Pat Tiberi and Ted Cruz? Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb and Ted Cruz? Give up? Kent Mallett may be of some assistance on this one. The online Newark Advocate of 3-17-16 has him reporting “County lobbies feds to keep Children Services funding”. Ohio Governor John Kasich economized by shorting Licking County Jobs and Family Services and never including them in the state’s economic comeback he constantly crows about on the campaign trail. “During the recession, in 2008-09, the county lost about $200,000 in state funds, which could be used to match federal funds, Fisher [John Fisher, director Licking County Jobs and Family Services] said. None of those funds have ever been replaced by the state, he said, despite repeated requests.” Now the area’s U.S. Congressman is following the presidential wannabe’s lead by doing ditto. “Fisher told the commissioners the proposed bill before the House Ways and Means Committee would take away more than $400,000 the county agency uses each year to pay staff to investigate reports of abuse and neglect, mostly against children, but also against older residents. Fisher discovered later in the day that the committee had already voted to eliminate the funds, moving the bill onto the full House leadership, which will evaluate it. U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, a member of the committee, voted with the majority in a 20-16 vote.” Commissioner Tim Bubb, all in a tizzy over losing County revenue and perhaps being asked to fund some service that benefits county residents instead of economizing (cutting back as he did with county wide public transit), feigned leadership by rushing downstairs to voice his displeasure with the representative’s representative (“The commissioners suggested walking down to the building’s first floor, where a representative from Tiberi’s office had office hours.”). “Commissioner Tim Bubb told Stefanov [Joe Stefanov, representative Tiberi’s representative]: “In Licking County, Mr. Fisher has nowhere to go other than back to the county general fund. It’s just a (federal) line item, a drop in the bucket, but we would all feel it very painfully, and the children would feel it.”” In a separate article on the same day (Commissioners’ approval completes MPW abatement saga, 3-17-16) Mallett reports on the commissioner’s emulation of the governor’s continuous economizing. He is quoted as saying how happy everyone should be, especially the children of Lakewood Schools, to take a funding cut in order to boost the bottom line of a private corporation doing business in Ohio (“”They’ve all gotten to know each other better,” Bubb said. “Even though it was a little awkward, the way it played out, the end result is the right thing happened and the relationships have improved greatly.” MPW leaders toured the schools and school officials visited the industrial cleaning and water purification company just south of U.S. 40 and west of Hebron. “They’ll probably be a better community for it, with possibly MPW doing more with Lakewood,” Bubb said. “It’s all good, I think.””). Ted Cruz’s position is that government’s role is to get out of the way of churches and private enterprise so that they can do what they do best, provide service and make money; at most be included as part of a public private partnership (with the emphasis on “private”). Are Lakewood schools to look forward and rely on charitable contributions dangled down on strings when MPW is pleased and sees fit to do so? Will Licking County Children’s Services be replaced by evangelical outreach, charity in the name of the Lord? What is the difference between Cruz and Kasich, Tiberi and Bubb? We turn to Mallett again. As he reported the previous day (Port Authority plans $31 million in capital projects, 3-16-16), the public private partnership of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority has decided to demolish the building housing the Heath City Rec Center, another service offered to Licking County’s residents and children hitting the chopping block. “”We’re not dying to tear it down, but we need to be prudent,” Platt [Port Authority President and CEO Rick Platt] said. “We’re not in the rec center business, as a port authority. You either plan to invest or remove the building. We’re not going to make any investment in the rec center. It’s not producing revenue. Without some outside source, we need to prepare for it not being usable anymore.”” The joke is the children of Licking County need to “take a shower and get a job” (former presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich) and begin “producing revenue” instead of playing. The funny thing is this joke has no end, and no punch line.

Career Path

March 15, 2016

Of course, the news of the past week would be the political primary. Of note, it is no coincidence that the collaboration of the various Ohio newspapers headlined in Sunday’s Newark Advocate (A State Of Decline: Ohio economy struggles to recover from 15-year slide, staff and wire reports 3-13-16) appeared when it did (just two days before voting day). Had it appeared earlier, it may have exposed the governor’s partial truth campaign ad touting 417,000 jobs created. The news collaborative indicated since the turn of the century Ohio has lost “442,958 private-sector jobs.” No figures were given since 2008 when the governator himself became unemployed due to his employer, The Lehman Bros.’ total meltdown (a partial truth his rival Donnie Trump approved of in his own ad campaign). The jobs really are (according to Kasich) and aren’t there (according to research results), something to be considered. In a separate article in the same Sunday Advocate (United Way blueprint looks at issues facing county 3-13-16), Barrett Lawlis reports that the blueprint found Licking County residents’ behavioral issues and concerns (mental health and addiction) to be the top priority finding of its own extensive research and study. Almost as a caveat or addendum Lawlis writes “Gibson [poverty co-chair Donna Gibson] said that a way to fight poverty in the area is to increase the level of the workforce. ‘We’ve got to work with the working poor,’ she said. ‘We need to support them and help them find a career path to be successful. To do that we’ve got to fill the skill gap so they can move themselves up.’” So the careers are and aren’t there (depending on the working poor being helped to find a “career path”). Analysis finds that the terms “jobs” and “career” have become interchangeable in contemporary speech. Many of today’s political wannabe’s wax nostalgic about “jobs” from a bygone era. A “career”, on the other hand, involves a résumé and history like their own or that of a future nominee to the Supreme Court, or of some corporate CEO, entertainment or medical professional. This distinction is contrived for purposes of partial truth campaigning (the exceptional case where a half loaf is worse than no loaf. Only a full loaf is acceptable). Analysis finds that the jobs are and aren’t there because what is termed a “job” is not necessarily employment (employer/employee). What equivocates “jobs” and “career” is that the contemporary use of the term “career” relies on a résumé of being a professional job seeker. Many economists point to the increasing percentage of current jobs being part time (or multiple part time), temporary, gigs, sharing, and entrepreneurial. In all of these jobs, the only certainty is that the job holder will necessarily have to seek (and hopefully find) another such position. That is, the job itself becomes one of being a professional job seeker; hence the interchangeability of “jobs” and “career” (as a professional job seeker). We are told (by economists) that within the near future 30-40% of all jobs will involve this career path. To be a professional job seeker is to continuously be on the make, stalking every and any opportunity, being willing and ready to “sell one’s self”, having a ready-made elevator spiel, etc. Hence the plethora of career development advisors, educators, and developers who pitch courses and workshops on positive attitude, networking, confidence building, self-presentation, etc. Everything you wanted to know about becoming a professional job seeker by selling yourself to the highest bidder but were afraid to ask (or even consider)! If Arthur Miller were to write Death Of A Salesman in the 21st century, it would be a totally different play. For one thing, Willy Loman would be an electronic algorithm. The dying is likewise elsewhere. Once something is sold, it no longer belongs to the seller. What happens when the profession involves “selling one’s self”? A convoluted logic of schizophrenia sets in, akin to an addict’s relapse reasoning, that “I’m only selling a small part of my time” (part time, temporary), “it’s only this once, right now” (a gig or sharing), and “Maybe it will take me somewhere else, not where I’m at presently” (entrepreneurship). Which brings us back to the article about the United Way’s blueprint finding of behavioral concerns (mental health and addiction) as the top need priority of the community it serves. Analysis shows the current growth of behavioral dysfunction within community to be implicated by the contemporary use of “jobs” and “career” morphing into a professional job seeker.

Not News?

March 9, 2016

Or at least not for central Ohio. 3-8-16 Alex Zielinski reports online for ThinkProgress “Ohio Planned Parenthood Clinic Vandalized, Called ‘Den Of Babykillers’”. Newark’s only newspaper, along with the Cols. Dispatch and TV channels (one of which is owned by The Dispatch’s former owners and two others affiliated with Fox) found no need to headline this on the 7th and 8th. Zielinski begins the report with “Staff of a Columbus, Ohio Planned Parenthood clinic were greeted Monday morning with a freshly painted message in red scrawled on the outside of their clinic: “SATAN DEN OF BABYKILLERS GOD SEE ALLLL Mark 9:14.”” Of note: “Monday’s graffiti is the first major act of vandalism to a Planned Parenthood clinic since an anti-abortion extremist killed three — and wounded many others — at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in November.” “The act of vandalism comes exactly two weeks after Ohio Governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich signed a bill that would pull all federal funding from state Planned Parenthood clinics.” And ending with: “Similar to other state bills aiming to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, Ohio’s reasoning to enact this bill is entirely based on the misleading video campaign that says the women’s health organization profits off fetal tissue — a campaign that has been discredited by nearly a dozen state courts. More broadly, Ohio is one of the states with the most stringent abortion restrictions in the country. The rapid pace of clinic closures there over the past several years is second only to Texas.” Analysis questions whether this is not news because it is (Christian) domestic terrorism not affiliated with Islam and at a nascent stage, is politically inconvenient for a newspaper (The Advocate) that places its hopes with the Republican Party (see this blog’s 12-29-15, The Year In Review), or an embarrassment to an out of touch presidential wannabe who hearkens his bygone glory days on the campaign trail as reasons for being elected.

 

Free Breakfast Program A Social Commentary

March 2, 2016

Maria DeVito, writing for the Newark Advocate, reports on 2-29-16 “Newark schools launch free breakfast program”. In it she states “The pilot program started at Ben Franklin on Jan. 8, but Newark City Schools Superintendent Doug Ute said the district plans to provide breakfast at all its schools starting next school year.” One reason for this was given as “Last year, the district realized that of the students who were eligible to eat a free breakfast, only about 30 percent were taking advantage”. The rest of the article covers the nuts and bolts specifics of the program and its implementation (such as “The school uses the federal reimbursements it gets for students to pay for the program, which the students named Morning Kickoff, Cable Miller said.”). It also notes that “Licking Valley Local Schools has been offering free breakfast to all of its students for about six or seven years, said Jan Jennings, the district’s cafeteria director.” and that “Heath City Schools just started serving breakfast to all of its students this year, Superintendent Trevor Thomas said.” Analysis, of course, is intrigued by all this, especially that “only about 30 percent were taking advantage”. Analysis wonders what is behind all this? That same leap day (2-29-16), Janie Boschma, writing for The Atlantic, came out with a very long and complicated study entitled “The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools”. She begins with the rather cut and dry (and almost lifted out of each page of American history) “In almost all major American cities, most African American and Hispanic students attend public schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income, a new analysis of federal data shows. This systemic economic and racial isolation looms as a huge obstacle for efforts to expand opportunity because researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.” This is followed by a slew of statistics, studies, and sources which all pretty much indicate that big city or small, these students find themselves in schools where 75% or more of their peers can be designated as low income or poor. “the National Equity Atlas [“The Atlas is a joint project of PolicyLink and the University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, or PERE”] defines low-income students as those eligible for the federal free- and reduced-lunch program.” Given that Ohio has opted to emphasize charter schools as a “choice” remedy, Analysis considers the significance of the disparity. Boschma writes “The overwhelming isolation of students of color in schools with mostly low-income classmates threatens to undermine efforts both to improve educational outcomes and to provide a pipeline of skilled workers for the economy at a time when such students comprise a majority of the nation’s public school enrollment.” Again a slew of statistics, studies and sources citing how graduation rates, test scores, college matriculation, etc. are affected. “The issue, Reardon said [“Sean F. Reardon, a professor at Stanford University’s graduate school of education and one of the nation’s leading experts on residential and educational segregation”], isn’t “that sitting next to a poor kid makes you do less well in school.” Rather, he said, “it’s that school poverty turns out to be a good proxy for the quality of a school. They are in poorer communities, they have less local resources, they have fewer parents with college degrees, they have fewer two parent families where there are parents who can come spend time volunteering in the school, they have a harder time attracting the best teachers. So for a lot of reasons schools serving poor kids tend to have fewer resources, both economic and social capital resources.”” OK, so that would explain the initial low participation rate at Newark’s Ben Franklin (“only about 30 percent were taking advantage”). To participate is to admit, much as use of “food stamp” plastic reveals one’s situation. But why take a program intended for a part and extend it to all (“All the students at Ben Franklin Elementary School were offered the same meal as part of a pilot program that offers all students a free breakfast regardless of whether they are part of the free and reduced-price lunch program.”)? Again, Boschma writes ” In some cities, urban leaders are trying new strategies to confront these trends. They are driven by a belief that for prosperity to continue, they need to craft policy that ensures their own young people are equipped to compete for the jobs the city is creating.” Though her article focuses primarily on racial/ethnic disparity, the problem, as problem, returns to one of economic conditions – income disparity with prosperity as the solution. “These high levels of concentrated poverty in schools persist—and have increased overall—even in cities where there has been tremendous growth since the recession.” This would account for the use of this program in rural Licking Valley as well as economic wunderkind Heath. As DeVito reported for the Newark Advocate in her 2-26-16 article, “Local experts: Diversity a necessary conversation topic”, “According the United States Census Bureau, in 2014 less than 10 percent of the county population’s identified as a minority. The biggest minority population was African Americans with 3.8 percent.” What drives or “creates” this breakfast program since the racial/ethnic factors described by Boschma would preclude its use? Indeed, as Boschma writes, “Socioeconomic integration is a legal alternative to racial reintegration—ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2007 in the case of Parents Involved v. Seattle—that largely produces the same effect.” Analysis finds that having everyone eating together without pretense for exception is definitely a form of socioeconomic integration, something affirming and for which schools implementing it should be lauded.