Archive for July, 2017

If Not Democracy, Then What?

July 31, 2017

Newsweek lifted an article from RobertReich.org entitled INTRODUCING DONALD TRUMP, THE BIGGEST LOSER by (who else?) Robert Reich, 7-31-17. Those not familiar with Reich will recall he was part of the Clinton cabinet and now is (like a lot of former government heads) an academic. Well, to cut to the chase, he writes articles and essays telling folks what they need to know and think, the big picture, and giving out forewarnings. Describing our apprentice prez as a “loser”, by a former cabinet member of all people, is a bit jaw dropping. No, not because he chose to identify the apprentice president with winning and losing (which we already know), but rather for stooping to the apprentice president’s level of dialogue and discourse (“He’s a loser.”). First our political leaders have degraded to expletives, exaggeration, and unsubstantiated innuendo. Now our academics? Reich’s article is another essay (by many) illuminating that the current administration’s priority is winning/losing rather than any ideology or policy commitment. Analysis finds itself in that same company having written/posted likewise.  Reich lays out a sterling argument referenced impeccably with accurate current events and observations (his own as well as those of others). With his summation he writes “Anyone who regards the other party as a threat to the nation’s well being is less apt to accept outcomes in which the other party prevails – whether it’s a decision not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or even the outcome of a presidential election. As a practical matter, when large numbers of citizens aren’t willing to accept such outcomes, we’re no longer part of the same democracy. I fear this is where Trump intends to take his followers, along with much of the Republican Party: Toward a rejection of political outcomes they regard as illegitimate, and therefore a rejection of democracy as we know it.” America and democracy? Like bacon and eggs, bread and butter, Kardashians and Extra – hard to imagine one without the other. “Rejection of democracy”? Naaa. Same day NPR produced New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks (Greg Allen, Morning Edition 7-31-17). From the transcript: “Keith Flaugh is a retired IBM executive living in Naples, Fla., and a man with a mission. He describes it as “getting the school boards to recognize … the garbage that’s in our textbooks.” Flaugh helped found Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group that fought unsuccessfully to stop Florida from signing on to Common Core educational standards. More recently, the group has turned its attention to the books being used in Florida’s schools. A new state law, developed and pushed through by Flaugh’s group, allows parents, and any residents, to challenge the use of textbooks and instructional materials they find objectionable via an independent hearing.” There is an elaboration of Florida Citizens’ Alliance agenda and methodology followed by: “Flaugh says he’s just as concerned about how textbooks describe U.S. history and our form of government. “I spent over 20 hours with a book called ‘United States Government,'” he says. He found more than 80 places where he believes the textbook was wrong or showed bias, beginning with the cover. Its subtitle is “Our Democracy.” “We’re not a democracy, we’re a constitutional republic,” Flaugh says.” The dictionary gives the following definition for the word “republic”: “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.” Fair enough. Analysis wonders about the elected part and whether Mr. Flaugh is taking something for granted (are we all?). If the representatives and the president aren’t determined through election by the people (which hold supreme power), then how does it come about? Who determines winners and losers? If not democracy, then what?

 

When Ya Gotta Get Your Fix

July 29, 2017

The latest full week episode of The Apprentice President cannot go unmentioned. Tumultuous would be an understatement. The weekly show began with many platitudes and pronouncements, Boy Scout Jamboree, a mass rally in Youngstown Ohio, a Twit directive on military preparedness, staff melodrama (all shook up) and the eventual demise of Trumpcare, totally elided by the apprentice prez himself (I’m not going to own it). Not part of the show, but part of the ratings, was the recent Gallup Poll indicating current approval/disapproval, nationally as well as by individual states. In Ohio, the disapproval/approval rating is statistically even given any margin of error (48% disapprove, 47% approve of the apprentice prez. The rest are undecided, whatever that means). Analysis reflects on the approval folks, especially their affirmative “Give him a chance”. Chance has been given, and still undying loyalty and promotion followed the Youngstown mass rally (which was well attended). The rally brought out the typical and expected speculation by the various news/media organizations regarding the being of such a phenomenon (unprecedented in that it is officially described as a 2020 re-election event). An oft repeated mantra of news pundits is that when the apprentice president hits a “tipping point” the crowd size will diminish, the disapproval ratings will increase. This mantra is aging fast, being almost 3 years old. The latest variation of this same mantra is the chickens-coming-home-to-roost one. When the factories aren’t back, when the jobs don’t materialize, when health care isn’t available or is unaffordable, etc. then the approval/disapproval equity will shift. This line has been borne out as inaccurate with the disparity between the “undying” mass affection shown the apprentice president in Youngstown, and the abysmal performance chaos of the last 6 months. The conventional wisdom interpretation is that apprentice president fans don’t really care about outcomes and performance. They like the show because they are so fed up with the politics governing America and (as evidenced by the Medicaid recipient electorate of Kentucky) prefer self inflicted damage to being without, a kind of retro “Let it bleed.” Analysis likens this to high school fund raisers where folks pay a buck, don safety glasses, and take a whack at a car with a sledge hammer. Eventually the car becomes inoperable, an expense to dispose of. But heck, it felt so good to destroy it! And it was all perfectly legal and sanctioned (for a good cause, even). Globally, historically this is nothing new. We’ve witnessed it time and again, this destroying, this purging of the status quo (because it feels so good to off them) and the cataclysmic change it spawns. It is infrequent (and unfulfilled) for America where historically this high has been tempered by the sobriety of our constitutional form of government. Americans don’t care for such a self-image. In a sense it can be spoken of as a kind of death wish. Freud referenced it as a death drive. Wiki gives an assessment which supports conventional wisdom’s interpretation of the “undying” loyalty of apprentice president fans – “In a sense, the death drive is a force that is not essential to the life of an organism (unlike an “instinct”) and tends to denature it or make it behave in ways that are sometimes counter-intuitive.” Analysis finds it little wonder that many of the private lives of these selfsame fans are touched and plagued by the unwanted scourge of the opioid addiction epidemic. It likewise could be described as “a force that is not essential to the life of an organism (unlike an “instinct”) and tends to denature it or make it behave in ways that are sometimes counter-intuitive.”

What Do You Think About Filing Your Taxes On A Postcard?

July 23, 2017

Ohio’s 12th congressional district is shaped like a bass ackward Nike swoosh logo. It includes all of Licking county, though relies heavily on the overwhelmingly north of Columbus conservative counties like Delaware and Marion (just to keep the swoosh from tipping over). It’s forever your representative is career politician, Republican Pat Tiberi. His upcoming re-election war chest totals 6.3 million dollars. Given the recent special election for house representative in Georgia, this might be considered prudent by many. After all, it is all about winning, isn’t it? Mr. Tiberi has been known to reach out to his constituents in his own quite unique and inimitable style. Opting out of his regular telephone conference call “town halls’, he recently chose instead the rather more intimate online survey. The survey (“A Simpler Way to File Your Taxes”) is meant to address the “problem” of current tax filing with all its silly deductions and calculations of income. The solution? “A simpler code that lowers rates for all income levels and eliminates the maze of special interest tax breaks will mean a simpler way to file—like with the postcard example below.” Pictured is a sample post card. On the first line is “wage and compensation income.” Line two is “add ½ of investment income.” Etc. Those surveyed are asked what they think of such an obvious simple solution to an otherwise “taxing” problem. Of course, the voluminous tax code, located elsewhere, will list the definitions of terms like “wage,” “compensation,” and “investment income.” Given that most of the members of our apprentice president’s family and cabinet are multi-millionaires, if not billionaires, their taxable “earnings” would be based on a pittance of what their yearly income is. Not only that, some have offered to receive only a dollar a year in “wages and compensation” for their service to their country. Also, all those individuals, and sole proprietor businesses that have opted for “articles of incorporation” so that their income can be listed as return on investment would show little to no compensation from their work as head of the company/household. It is glaringly obvious that, right out of the box, congressman Tiberi’s “Simple, Fair “Postcard” Tax Filing” gives a 50% tax break to the wealthy while requiring wage and salaried workers to pay full fare. No half off for the vast majority making America great through their daily and hourly labor.

New Deals Contract Government Circa 2017

July 17, 2017

The first line of the news report was almost banal but the news it reported was more than a tragedy – “A yoga and meditation teacher living in Minneapolis was fatally shot by police Saturday night after she called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home.” (Minneapolis police officer fatally shoots Australian bride-to-be under mysterious circumstances   The Washington Post, report by Katie Mettler, Kristine Phillips, Mark Berman, 7-17-17); this in a community still struggling to comprehend the senseless homicide of Philando Castile by exonerated officer Jeronimo Yanez, 7-6-16. “Three mayoral candidates, Minneapolis NAACP officials and about 250 other friends, family and community members attended a vigil Sunday night where [Justine] Damond was shot. “Many of us who have been on the front lines have been warning the public, saying if they would do this to our fathers and our sons and our brothers and our sisters and our mothers, they will do it to you next,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of the candidates and a civil rights attorney. “I really hope that this is a wake-up call for this community to stop allowing things to be divided on the lines of race and on the lines of socio-economic status.” Friends and neighbors called her a “peaceful, lovely woman” who loved animals and helping others.” Analysis knows this will be on the nightly news, across the board. Analysis also shows that these same nightly news broadcasts air a commercial ad, a Public Service Announcement of sorts, that shows a couple having to endure listening to an overly heated, violent argument from the adjoining apartment which ultimately results in the murder of a spouse. Viewers are urged to risk being wrong and call police if they suspect such domestic violence. The ads urging “calling” for help are not new. Nor are the reports of people calling 911 for help, reporting burglaries, sick individuals off their meds, a child waving a toy gun, etc. resulting in someone, even the caller, being shot by the uniformed responders. Usually, there is more than one shot, normally a fusillade as per rigorous police firing range training. The domestic violence PSA may go the way of Movantik commercials. You know, for aid with opioid induced constipation. Like the domestic violence ads, the Movantik ad might be quite appropriate —  until one realizes the epidemic AstraZeneca is trying to cash in on. Likewise, “calling” police “to report a possible assault” might be quite appropriate, until one realizes the redundancy of banal news report first lines describing callers being shot by responders, usually multiple times. Still eager to do your civic duty and call? Analysis vaguely recalls high school civics and government classes teaching long dead political philosophy and theory about contracts between the governed and those who govern, and the role of police in a democratic country like ours. Something in there about trust, and the erosion of trust creating something unrecognizable, even sinister. Evidence of this erosion can be found in “But the BCA [Minneapolis Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] offered few other details on what precipitated the shooting and, it said, neither of the responding officers had turned on their body cameras before the shooting. The squad car camera did not capture the incident, either.” Analysis finds Nekima Levy-Pounds’ statement not to be inflammatory but rather quite documentary. “Many of us who have been on the front lines have been warning the public, saying if they would do this to our fathers and our sons and our brothers and our sisters and our mothers, they will do it to you next,”

Know Justice, Know Peace

July 13, 2017

The media news footage includes cell phone/dash cam/body cam video of a man being shot dead by a policeman. Later, the policeman is exonerated, has done no wrong. Repeat ad nauseam. Closer to home the video shows protesting people targeted by city police and taunted as they are pepper sprayed. Following orders. Repeat again ad nauseum. Both here at home and elsewhere there is video of people complying, or already subdued being punched in the stomach or kicked in the head by uniformed officers. Doing their duty. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. No video available of the nation’s top law enforcement official addressing an SPLC designated “hate group” for an “off-camera, closed-door speech” (NBC News, Jeff Sessions Criticized for Speaking to ‘Hate Group’, Mary Emily O’Hara, 7-13-17) “As announced on his public schedule, Sessions addressed a crowd at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty in Orange County, California.” “Founded in 1994, the Alliance Defending Freedom was a coalition effort between conservative Christian leaders aiming to preserve traditional social norms, restrict access to abortion and fight the “homosexual agenda.”” “But with millions in its war chest, ADF does more than just litigate: The firm wrote model legislation called the Student Physical Privacy Act that built a foundation for dozens of proposals and policies around the country that are frequently referred to as “bathroom bills.” ADF’s model legislation, and the national trend that stems from it, is aimed at keeping transgender people out of restrooms and other private facilities that correspond to their gender identity and presentation.” The dominant news dwarfing all these repeated daily occurrences is “that Russia thing,” disparaged as so much “fake news” by the apprentice president. His son now flaunts the family’s otherwise undisclosed interaction with Russian representatives prior to the official GOP nomination of his dad as their presidential candidate. How is this possible? Responsible news media continuously supplies contextual background reporting for an “in depth” understanding of headline news. Today, USA Today gives “In Trump country, Russia doesn’t resonate” from Tennessee. On 7-11-17 PBS Newshour ran a segment “Deep in coal country, West Virginia residents speak out about GOP healthcare bill.” Closer to home, writing for Reuters, Tim Reid headlines “In Trump’s Ohio bastion, supporters dismiss uproar over Donald Jr.” (7-12-17) With regard to the GOP engineered demise of Medicaid PBS shows a dismayed Rebecca Hicks, a patient at Williamson Health & Wellness Center from Chattaroy, West Virginia, earnestly confessing “I chose those people. I put my faith in those people that they would make this place better, not take away the only things that were helping this area.” Tim Reid reports: “In Hillsboro, the county seat of Highland County, the editor of the Hillsboro Times Gazette, Gary Abernathy, says many people in the county believe the media is trying to destroy Trump. “It just plays into the belief here that the media is fixated on all things Russia,” said Abernathy, whose newspaper was one of only six in the United States to have endorsed Trump for president during the election campaign. “I don’t mind Donald Trump being treated critically or aggressively, but not in a way that is an effort to drag him down. Donald Trump Jr. had one 20 minute meeting with a lawyer from Russia and it’s wall-to-wall coverage.” Analysis finds it extraordinary and quite revealing that the responsible media expends such an effort on the actual news of the media being designated as “fake news” and disparaged as unreliable while the substance of this news, that without reporting events become of no concern, is missed entirely by those it is meant to inform. It seems like an odd twist on the former president’s admonition to “go and talk” with those who don’t agree with you. Reid ends his road trip report with “In the Bob Evans diner in Jackson, three workers from Walmart were sitting down for lunch. They were Trump supporters. Asked about the Russia investigation, they stared back blankly. “I have never heard anything about it,” said Chastity Banks. Neither had her two colleagues.” Repeat ad nauseam nationwide. Given this unique situation, Analysis can’t help but conclude that Junior and “that Russia thing” will go the same route as police violence, shootings, and the dictates (in word as well as deed) of America’s top law enforcement officer.

Michael Mangus, Mark Fraizer, And C-TEC

July 7, 2017

A quick synopsis for readers unfamiliar with the current Newark kerfuffle: “During Wednesday’s council meeting, Michael Mangus, D-4th Ward, chastised Mark Fraizer, R-at large, for comments he made about circuses during council’s finance committee meeting June 26.” (Newark City Council members spar over circus comments, Maria DeVito, Newark Advocate, 7-6-17). Mr. Fraizer threatened to bring the big top down (and did). His reason was that animals were being abused, that he owns 7, and couldn’t imagine they’d learn tricks other than through abusive techniques (a true animal aficionado would have said “cohabits with 7”). Many associated this with the influence of PETA, and their ongoing campaigns on behalf of animal rights. Mr. Mangus chose to chastise via the current, conventional charge against media, “doing the research” and all the fake facts, alternate facts, real facts, science, etc. A little political grandstanding was thrown in for good measure by siding with the locals, and local service organization (and all the good they do). C-TEC? Concurrent with DeVito’s report, the Advocate headlined “C-TEC manufacturing camp looks to fill hole in job market”, also by DeVito, same day. Analysis finds coverage of the brouhaha (ha ha!) to glaringly reveal the character of contemporary culture through the dynamics of this discourse. In attempts to make the world a better place, Mr. Fraizer focuses on righting the wrong. In attempts to make the world a better place, Mr. Mangus focuses on “do right” service (the service organizations contribution through the services of the circus and the disservice of Mr. Fraizer’s comments). He opts, or rather co-opts the currently fashionable trend of bashing the media (gratis our apprentice president) while questioning the character of Mr. Fraizer and his ability to do research and differentiate facts (fake, alternative, “real” facts, “real” alternative facts, etc.). Analysis finds this to be a microcosm of what is occurring on a larger, national scale. The real issue is totally elided, obfuscated by the need to right a wrong (think the GOP and Obamacare) or that knowledge and learning are a matter of discriminating consumerism (think if you just got your news from the right source, you’d get the right answers, correct outlook, whatever – the apprentice president’s approach to correct learning, let alone knowledge). The human animals performing in the circus didn’t learn their tricks through abusive techniques. There are more of them than the non-human kind. The internet is full of documented accounts of human interactions with animals, both wild and domesticated. There are accounts of wild birds eating out of folks hands, pet fish cuddling on the palm of a hand so as to be petted, and crocodiles getting a smooch from their keeper. How do you abuse a croc to get it to be so? No, people and animals do learn tricks through patience, perseverance and continuous repetition. Which brings us to Mangus and his consumer oriented disposition to learning and its offspring – knowledge. There is no “once and for all” absolute, ultimate, final fount of knowledge (no matter how smart your mobile device is). As any good educator would say, learning is continuous. It would be naïve to believe that there is no abuse in the world, or that we can eliminate it totally through some sweeping legislation (like “pee in the cup” legislation for public assistance recipients, “to eliminate the abusers”). Which brings us to C-TEC and the article concerning one of its programs to foster and cultivate learning and skills through patience, perseverance, and repetition. Brand marketing has its consuming faithful convinced that something is a natural, born that way, in the DNA, fated (like Athena sprung whole from the forehead of Zeus). That quality is reflected in the price and inherent. Any flaws indicate lesser value. Etc. Learning and knowledge formation require working with what is unknown and at risk of being off or wrong. Crafting good legislation, whether for health care or circuses, requires a bit of doing, a lot of patience, perseverance and repetition, and even more learning and knowledge. This is something Mr. Fraizer and Mr. Mangus ought to be held accounted for, along with our other elected officials.