Archive for April, 2017

Encore (Non) Performance

April 19, 2017

“Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” (Ohio’s current Governor John Kasich in his 4-4-17 State of the State address). Future Ohio Governor wannabe (but current Ohio Attorney General) Mike DeWine addressed the opioid epidemic in Pickerington recently (DeWine would require opioid education as governor Trista Thurston , Reporter for Gannett’s Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, 4-19-17). The current governor touted his Start Talking initiative as counter acting the opioid drug epidemic in Ohio. The wannabe governor touts a mandatory K through 12 “Just Say No” curriculum to counteract the epidemic (following the trail of tears footsteps of Nancy Reagan and Ohio’s DARE program). “”I don’t know any other way of doing it,” DeWine said. “It can be done without a great burden on the schools.”” Another unfunded mandate on Ohio’s public schools (sans charter/private) embraces the current governor’s three basics (fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation). In addition, Thurston notes “The communities faring the best throughout the epidemic, DeWine said, are the ones where people have watched it get so bad and decided to do something themselves.” (without state involvement, or cost). DeWine sees the state’s role in terms of his recently begun pilot program, “Since about half of the children in foster care throughout the state are there because one or both parents are addicted to drugs”. “The pilot program will provide specialized services, like intensive trauma counseling, to children. It will also offer increased access to drug treatment to parents of children referred to the program.” “So far $5.5 million has been committed to the pilot.” In his State of the State Governor Kasich committed $20 million from the Third Frontier Commission to develop a high tech silver bullet solution [no pun intended]. “The current opioid crisis is different than other drug epidemics, DeWine said, because it’s impacting everyone.” Thurston concludes her report by quoting the wannabe governor: “”We have a crisis,” DeWine said. “If ten people were dying a day of some strange new plague, we would treat is as a health crisis.”” So why don’t you? What’s stopping you? Analysis finds that treatment for a public health crisis of this dimension would be in terms of beds in detox and rehab centers, beds that were immediately accessible. It would be in state budgeted funding for all the children affected by the loss of caregivers produced by this epidemic (essentially Ohio’s new orphans), not just a pilot enterprise. It certainly wouldn’t emphasize nor rely on high tech silver bullet solutions, K-12 curriculum additions, or Start Talking programs.

Underage Alibi

April 12, 2017

As previously posted, Ohio’s tax revenue continues to come in far short of the previous projections. Previous budget income tax cuts were passed based on the Reaganomics that income tax cuts will yield job growth, spur investment, etc. Analysis finds this logic to be disingenuous with the actual policies implemented by the GOP (whether legislative or executive). In a 4-11-17 Ohio Public Radio piece entitled “Lawmakers Scrutinize Kasich’s Proposed Tax Cuts As Ohio’s Revenue Miss Mark Again” Karen Kasler records the following interview observations: “The state says its March tax collections came in $203 million dollars below estimates. That brings the total shortfall for this fiscal year to $615 million – more than half a billion dollars. And it’s led by income tax revenues that are $448 million dollars less than had been projected. Budget director Tim Keen admits those numbers are a surprise, but says there are a few things that could be to blame – including the withholding growth rate, which he calls shockingly low. “Our withholding out of people’s weekly or biweekly paychecks is much lower than we expected, which is driving a good portion of the underage,” Keen said.” In answer to questions regarding the previous projections and the actual lagging economy by State Senator Vernon Sykes “Keen responded by saying that tax cuts have increased the state’s competitiveness. And he also said slow population growth has hurt revenues, but that lowering the income tax can help with that.” Also in Ohio news this past week is the deportation proceedings of Maribel Trujillo Diaz, a 41 year old Hamilton mother of 4 who sought refuge in Ohio 15 years ago and is an upstanding citizen (according to her church and fellow citizens). Indeed, this obsession with deportation has been national news for quite some time, 2016 as well as 2017. Analysis finds part of the GOP’s disingenuous logic to center on the justification of an improved economy as a result of various tax cuts and tax shifting while ““Our withholding out of people’s weekly or biweekly paychecks is much lower than we expected, which is driving a good portion of the underage,”” It is not rocket science to conclude that although the tax cuts may have spurred low unemployment numbers during the Kasich administration, the actuality that these jobs pay little accounts for the “underage”. Even more disingenuous GOP logic is the alibi that “slow population growth has hurt revenues” while actively hunting down those who contribute to the state’s population count as well as revenue in order to jail and expel them.

The State Of The State Of Ohio’s Opioid Epidemic

April 6, 2017

A blizzard of angst filled soul searching follows the presidential election, current administration, continuing to this day with “how did this happen?” Etc. Many are not so surprised, more bemused in that all of this was in plain sight. Intentions as well as actions today are simply a continuance of what was stated, promised, and actively displayed before. ‘Nuff said. Within his recent (4-4-17) State of the State address, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich’s lips pronounced “Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” This mantra was repeated multiple times, even more through fragments. Sounds pretty clear. No mystification of priorities, intent, or course of action here. He also had this to say about Ohio’s Opioid drug epidemic, though he didn’t call it that (Name thing I guess. Been there, done that with the current pres’): “Last year, Highway Patrol troopers had their largest single heroin, meth and prescription pill seizures. Ohio was one of the first states to create prescribing guidelines for doctors. We’ve linked our medical providers into our pharmacy system to slow doctor shopping and for the first time we’re registering pharmacy technicians. We’ve expanded access to the overdose-reversal drug to first responders, pharmacies and families of those addicted. And we created Start Talking! to encourage more adults to talk to children about the dangers of drugs. In all, we’re spending nearly $1 billion a year.” And “That’s why today I’m asking the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. These funds will target existing, proven ideas that simply need an extra push to be brought to the fight — ideas like using a simple device that connects to someone’s ear that can relieve pain and block the effects of opiate withdrawal.” Finally “We love our children and care about our neighbors, so we’ve got to deliver this message to them: “Don’t do drugs or you will destroy your life and you will destroy the purpose for which the good Lord created you.”” Not a word, or dollar, for rehabilitation. Analysis considers the implications of this abdication of leadership, the vacuum formed by Kasich’s overriding priorities, intent, and course of action. Indeed, historically US public health epidemics have been met by an equally public response of sanatoriums, recovery centers, and public health initiatives (all notably absent with the governor’s approach). History has lectured us extensively on what happens in a leadership vacuum (South East Asia, Syria/Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Add to that Kasich and the GOP’s historic preference (and reliance) on a religious response to education, social welfare and public health concerns. Here is some of what Kevin Lewis O’Neill writes in an essay entitled “On Hunting” (Critical Inquiry Spring 2017):

““We hunt men,” Alejandro said, “to save them.” Locked up inside a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation center for his use of crack cocaine, Alejandro participates in his pastor’s hunting parties or grupos de caceria. At the outer edges of today’s war on drugs, Christian vigilante groups scour the streets of Guatemala City with singular intent: to pull users out of sin by dragging them into rehab. And so, in the middle of the night, when the capital is an absolute ghost town, three or four recovering users drive with their pastor to the house of an active user.” “As a part of economic restructuring – which has included the privatization of state enterprises, the liberalization of trade, and the relaxation of government regulation [sound familiar?]– less than 2 percent of Guatemala’s total health budget addresses issues of mental health, with its hospitals flatly denying medical service to those patients seeking support for substance abuse.” “Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers, when taken in the aggregate, have six thousand beds.” “Guatemala’s prisons sit at 250 percent capacity; the hospitals do not accept users; and Guatemala’s only mental institution understands drug use to be well outside the scope of its mission.” “More important than numbers, however, are the visceral truths that Pentecostal Christianity promises its people: Salvation is real; hell is eternal; and Jesus loves you. Another imperative also follows. Often stamped onto Pentecostal print media, with an allusion to sin as well as the hunt, it announces: escape for your life. One effect of this faith is a growing network of informal and largely unregulated Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers. These sites warehouse users against their will inside of onetime garages, factories, and apartment buildings. Each has been repurposed for rehabilitation with razor wire, steel bars, and iron gates. Inside, pastors practice teoterapia, or theological therapy. This is a mix of Pentecostal theology, twelve-step programming, and self-help psychology. Its working assumption is that captivity will give way to conversion. It does not. Yet this bald fact has not slowed down the growth of these centers, and for good reason. Again, these centers provide a practical solution to a concrete problem. Drug use is up. State resources are down. And Pentecostalism is the discourse of change. [Sound familiar?] The net result is a shadow carceral system infused with Pentecostal imperatives about not just sin and salvation but also about who can be hunted and why. It is a theological construction that carries concrete consequences. Today more Guatemalans find themselves literally tied up in Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers than locked up in maximum-security prisons.” Lest the reader think that, not being Pentecostal or Guatemalan, Ohio’s Governor along with the current US Attorney General are not in the hunt. Au contraire, “there are some thirty thousand men in Philadelphia alone with warrants out for their arrest.” (O’Neill)

Unedited

April 4, 2017

Analysis goes short. The Abra Cadabra of headline juxtaposition on the front page of the 4-4-17 Newark Advocate was irresistible. The large cap “Kasich, Others Tout New Amazon Center” directly over the smaller cap “Licking Co. files foreclosure on Longaberger Basket” invites “Now you see it. Now you don’t.” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Advocate’s new editor came out this past week. No big surprise in that it was the interim news editor, Ben Lanka. He even took the time to pen a personal column to introduce himself. Unnoticed (or should we say Un-edited) was the disappearance of the editorial/opinion section from the everyday, week day paper. Great for Gannett’s bottom line. Terrible for Newark’s readers’ need to know (you know, “Inquiring minds” and all). Gone are divergent points of view columns. Also the editorial cartoons (another reason for why “editorial cartoonist” has vanished from high school career day). And finally, absent and forever gone is the editorial itself, once a point of pride for most publications, expressive of the local news outlet’s leadership role in the community. But hey, Newark now has a new editor for its paper. As he puts it, “I’ve always believed as a journalist my most important role is to give a voice to the voiceless and to hold those in power accountable.” Analysis indicates that, without an everyday editorial/opinion page, this has the potential of being more magical than Penn and Teller!