Archive for October, 2018

Free Speech, More Than You Imagined

October 26, 2018

A week with so much, where to begin? Some of the events of the past week were the mail bombs sent to those critical of the Trump administration (what does “critical of…” mean?). Never able to be upstaged, the POTUS held various rallies in which he championed attacks on the press (literally) as well as heaped vitriol at other “enemies of the people” – democrats. The news of the week was the noncommittal back and forth of the news media regarding whether there is a correlation between Dear Leader’s words and the violence that attends them. Well, the FBI has apprehended the alleged “domestic” terrorist (gets the “domestic” moniker, along with Timothy McVeigh). This leaves the POTUS crowing about how he’s kept America safe. All of which Analysis finds hearkens back to the primary rallies, 3-12-16 to be specific. At this rally outside Dayton, Thomas Dimassino rushed the stage, spooked the presidential wannabe who was immediately “saved” by the secret service.  ““I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump said.” (Dayton Daily News) The previous day’s rally in Chicago was cancelled because of a bloody melee at the venue. At the Dayton rally the future POTUS attributed this turn of events to “professional wiseguys” and claimed it was a “planned attack by thugs.” Back in Ohio “A few other protesters were led out earlier in the rally, with Trump once telling security to, “Get ‘em out of here” to cheers from the crowd.” At the time the news was the rhetoric, with any correlation to violence being only tentatively hinted at by a news media fumbling around, unable to make the connection (the press had never seen anything like this. And if it’s novel, it’s news). Analysis finds it revealing that the “deep state” whipping boy that gets so many cheers (and jeers) at POTUS late night rallies is precisely what he relied on, then and now, to keep himself, and now the country, safe (folks like the oft maligned FBI). It has been speculated that the rally phenomenon that the POTUS relies on to stay in the spotlight is akin to the dead heads that followed the Grateful Dead.  So many of his interviewed supporters are from another state, and wouldn’t miss a rally, go to every one they can. Something the “fake news” news media is getting wise to. Zero live coverage of these is creeping in. But that same media (whether fake or not) this week quibbled about whether there is any connection with the advocacy and embrace of violence as a solution, and the violence cultivated and flowering currently within the U.S. Even Joe Biden couldn’t help but make the astute, for Joe, observation that “Words matter.” (how ‘bout black lives, Joe?). But maybe it is more than words, and the cat is already out of (or in) the bag. Jim Sleeper presented a difficult essay in Salon the other day: America’s “free speech crisis” takes a darker turn: How corporate power got us here From the “free speech” campaign of 2015 to cry-bully Brett Kavanaugh and the bombs of October: A brief history. The gist of his argument (not a simple one to communicate, or grasp) is that corporate speak is already part of our “conversation” (a word the liberal intellectuals have loved to Zombiehood!). And the language of corporations (business) is strictly censored  (no free speech) when it comes to minding the store (dancing with who brung ya), but heavily antagonistic, fabricated and aggressive when dealing with the other, the competitor (a “free speech” of anything goes if it will brings down the enemy). This already is found within most parlance – school, church, place of employment, local politics. As Sleeper puts it “Instead we’re told that the disease of political correctness has spread throughout corporate culture and the media. That’s getting it backwards, as I argue in a just-posted Los Angeles Review of Books essay on how hollow, seemingly anodyne commercial speech seeds and provokes the hostile speech that’s swirling ever more virulently all around us.” Serendipity would have a local example appearing in today’s (10-26-18) online Newark Advocate – St. Francis de Sales pastor threatens shut down of St. Vincent de Paul (Kent Mallett). More convoluted and complicated than the Sleeper essay (and down right byzantine) the event described is one where a local economic provider (there’s that corporate speak again) has strong armed administration (corporate speak again) of the St. Vincent De Paul housing program (and more corporate speak). The controversy swirls around the program’s transitional housing being restricted to only pure, or righteous (celibate, other worldly, fill in the blank) single or lawfully married adults, with maybe their own children. Sleepovers are verboten. This eliminates the undesirable unmarried who are or have “partners” as well as any “Other” (with or without partners).The non-profit entity’s qualifying clause for who will be empowered by the transitional housing (there’s a bunch of corporate speak) is in violation of another chief source of funding (more corporate speak), the United Way and like entities. All of which flies in the face of their mission statement: “”Organized locally, Vincentians witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served because, in them, Vincentians see the face of Christ.”” No corporate speak there with all the “love”, “embracing”, “charity and justice”, “people of good will”, etc. and “the face of Christ.”

Clear And Simple Message (No Interpreter Required)

October 19, 2018

10-18-18 The news this day was the POTUS open air rally in Bozeman, Montana. Reuters headlines: Trump praises U.S. congressman from Montana who body-slammed reporter (Jeff Mason, 10-18-18). “President Donald Trump on Thursday heaped praise on a U.S. congressman from Montana who body-slammed a reporter during a campaign for a special election in 2017. Trump, who has called the media the enemy of the American people and regularly derides journalists as “fake news,” made his latest remarks during a campaign rally in Montana. Representative Greg Gianforte, who made brief remarks at the rally with Trump, was ordered to perform community service as part of his sentence for attacking Ben Jacobs, a correspondent for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, on May 24, 2017, the day before a special election to fill Montana’s sole congressional seat. “Any guy that can do a body-slam … is my guy,” Trump told supporters at the rally, adding that he was concerned at first that the incident would jeopardize Gianforte’s campaign. “I said: ‘Oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election.’ Then I said: ‘Well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did,” Trump said. Gianforte, who won the election, pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter.” Same day The Hill headlined: The Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter (John Bowden, 10-18-18). “British newspaper The Guardian issued a statement criticizing President Trump on Thursday for making light of a congressman’s assault of a Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, during a campaign rally in Montana Thursday night. The newspaper’s condemnation came minutes after Trump joked that he thought Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R) assault of Jacobs during Montana’s special House election last year probably helped Gianforte win the race. “Never wrestle him. Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of…he’s my guy,” Trump told an audience at his campaign rally in the state Thursday, adding: “I said, ‘Well wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did…He’s a great guy and a tough cookie.” “The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault of an American journalist working for The Guardian,” the newspaper’s editor John Mulholland wrote in a statement obtained by The Washington Post. Mulholland went on to argue that such statements would only inflame future violence against journalists in the wake of the rumored death of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post who was last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey weeks ago.” Same day the Washington Post printed Jamal Khashoggi’s final column submitted the day before his “disappearance” (authoritarian speak for “killed off”). The Post held off publishing it in hopes its reporter would be around to edit it as done previously so many times before (a lot goes in to getting the news right). The Guardian ended its statement with “”We hope decent people will denounce these remarks and that the president will see fit to apologize for them,” the editor added.” Analysis finds the message to be pretty clear and simple.

 

The New Normal

October 16, 2018

10-15-18 NY Times ran an op ed video entitled If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be. It starred and was by Jason Stanley, with the video by Adam Westbrook and Japhet Weeks. It is only about  5 minutes. Stanley makes it clear throughout that he is a professor of philosophy at Yale and has studied Fascism a lot. OK, the last ten years (he’s not that old). He gives insights about what makes for fascism and why it’s concerning. Analysis shows that what makes for Fascism IS what is concerning! Professor Stanley gives the following “indicators” of Fascism: Usually, if not always, a male leader. There is an emphasis, and reliance, on a mythic past (MAGA), There is a need, and reliance, on creating division within the state (people, culture, etc.). And finally, there is an unrelenting attack on the truth (Giuliani’s “Truth isn’t truth.”). Stanley ends the short flick with the acknowledgement that “When Fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.” Analysis can’t lay claim to Jason Stanley’s bona fide’s though it has written about Fascism several times and referenced Stanley’s colleague, Timothy Snyder, in passing. Analysis believes that the kernel of Fascism can be summed up with even more brevity than that of the learned philosophy professor. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, usually in our youth, even early youth. “Do what we want or you will get hurt.” Stings, doesn’t it? Today’s Washington Examiner headline reads “Trump threatens to pull aid from Honduras if caravan isn’t stopped.” The caravan is in Guatemala, not Honduras (though it was in Honduras before entering Guatemala). No need to go into the details. The NY Daily news ran “Trump’s long history of mocking the appearances of women” after he called his former mistress “Horseface.” And then there’s the archival video of offering to pay a million bucks to Senator Warren’s charity if she took a DNA test, only to find the latest video showing him claiming he never said that. Denials of this sort are not exceptional, more the rule like the Daily News suggests. And rules are the norm, the new normal. “When Fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.”

Ohio’s Issue 1

October 13, 2018

The New York Times is practically synonymous with in-depth reporting, maybe one of the few journalism institutions still able to afford it. Recently they made news by reporting on how the uber wealthy move money around and avoid paying taxes, etc. (something impossible for 99% of regular citizens). The subject of that reporting was the Trumps (and now the Kushners). “Political” is what the supporters of the wealthy scream (or are paid to say) in order to delegitimize the investigative findings. Probably the same will result when Bob Mueller presents his findings. Sigh. On the surface it is hard to find the “politics” in a recent New York Times Magazine in-depth report, Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’ A Philadelphia neighborhood is the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. Addicts come from all over, and many never leave. (Jennifer Percy, 10-10-18). Then again, it is a plethora of actual “politics” though the reporting is not political. Analysis found the safari through the piece to be analogous to the early in-depth reporting of Michael Jackson’s Neverland after his demise. Although Jackson’s Neverland was the (un)limits of the uber wealthy, Percy’s coverage of the ‘Walmart of Heroin’ is the (without bottom) depths of destitution. A quickie synopsis of an intense and very lengthy article is that, for various reasons, a recreational drug tourist who “Googled “really bad drug areas.” A neighborhood in Philadelphia came up: Kensington.” Users who otherwise held done day jobs would shop there. The history of this site, where any and every drug is available and openly used, the trash and homeless encampments that accompany this metastasizing beast, its history and economics as well as the state’s (city’s) efforts to rid itself of this scourge are the stuff of the investigative reporting. The state is not very proficient at dealing with a health crisis (and has a record to show for it). Philly was no different, first trying to “arrest their way out of it,” followed by repeated attempts at treating it as a health concern – disease. The repeated attempts NOT to “arrest their way out of it” resulted in failures that the city in turn used to learn and try a different, more nuanced approach, which likewise failed. Etc. Ad nauseam. Analysis was reminded of the century old (and ongoing) efforts to abate another addiction – nicotine. Its popularity, and availability, were so prevalent and over reaching that designating it as a disease, let alone a health concern of the state, was, well, completely “political.” Like Coke, tobacco products were sold in vending machines for the longest time. The state’s track record of dealing with it is abysmal. States used “tobacco settlement money” as a contribution to their general fund with some going to window dressing like “Just say no.” Along with our president they found a way to capitalize on the negative, taxing tobacco in order to raise even more for their general fund. Instead of “arresting their way out” they opted to tax their way out while saying it was all in the names of more jobs, better economy and something about boats rising and the tide. The “politics” involved with the designation and interpretation of some social phenomenon as in reality a scientific occurrence, like a health crisis, is the stuff of Bruno Latour’s book, The Pasteurization Of France (1988). LaTour writes of the “politics” involved over a lengthy span of time to establish Louis Pasteur’s claim of bacteria as a source of disease. It wasn’t accepted as being so overnight. Indeed, it was actively resisted (power, wealth, influence, etc.). Fast forward to the contemporary reception of climate science (the Anthropocene) or Bayer’s use of glyphosate (Round Up, Bayer now owns Monsanto). No, the state has an abysmal record of addressing and dealing with any health crisis. It is always “political.” If it wasn’t “political,” what would it possibly look like? Carl Hart on why it’s time to legalize drugs: “What is wrong with people making that choice?” Psychologist and author on the myths of the opioid “epidemic,” and why it’s time to ask Americans to be adults, Chauncy DeVega (9-26-18) peels back a corner of what it might be. A quickie synopsis of DeVega’s interview with Carl Hart includes, but is not limited to, myth busting – not all use is addiction (Is Bill Clinton addicted to cigars?), functioning addiction (able to hold a job, pay bills, raise a family, etc.) and malignant addiction (a disease addressed by therapies of recovery, etc.). Scary stuff until one realizes that just such approaches are already used by various countries (Netherlands, Switzerland come to mind). The alternatives of “arresting our way out of it”, “Just Say No” pedagogies, along with abstinence only sex education and forced slavery as immigrant labor opportunity, have a track record of promoting the myth while eliding any solution. Yes, what Hart speaks of, and Philly tries (and tries again), is messy, precarious,  discomforting, and very “political”. The future solution of a health crisis, the disease and scourge of illegal drug possession and use, the stigma, the tragic consequences of incarceration and its avoidance are uncertain, unpredictable. They are found only in the “doing” of solution, not in the myth of certain outcome. Ohio’s Issue 1 may be inaccurate, tentative, imperfect, and fraught with “politics” but it is a “doing” of solution rather than a continuation of theoretical proposals while continuing to “arrest our way out of “ a very real (and “political”) health crisis.

 

Reruns

October 9, 2018

We’ve all seen this movie before, at least once. Casino gambling is legal in Ohio because of an initiative that finally succeeded, after many variations were defeated. It is ensconced in the Ohio Constitution. OMG, say it ain’t so. With the run up to every election (prior to each attempt’s defeat, as well as ultimate success), the line up of usual suspects was paraded out saying how unnecessary the initiative is, and that it is more appropriate for the legislature to handle this, and not enshrine it in the state’s constitution. Ditto for gerrymandering state legislative districts and medical marijuana. Remember the great lines from that much anticipated block buster – how the legislature would take care of it? And they did, back in September of 2016. Who could forget the scene from the thriller, House Bill 523 (the medical marijuana “fix”), and the unforgettable line from the script – “Requires the system to be fully operational by September 2018.” Such a tear jerker (September 2018 has come and gone and still no system, let alone operation). And who doesn’t remember that year’s classic comedy hit – “Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday, but Newark officials said they will not follow the new city law.” And Newark law Director Doug Sassen’s side splitting one liner — “The passage of this initiative really isn’t going to change anything in the manner in which we prosecute possession of marijuana,” (Newark to ignore newly passed pot decriminalization Maria DeVito, The Newark Advocate, 11-11-16)  Ah, citizen initiatives, ya gotta luv ‘em. Then there was the dark knight suspense drama from that same season. At a Newark Think Tank “meet the candidates” citizen “job” interview (10-8-16) “Mr. Hayes is not keen on the Newark PD program in that, as prosecutor, he stresses following the letter of the law. He would like to see any drug protocol changes across the board so that one municipality is not arresting a suspect that another municipality would be referring for treatment.” (Licking County Prosecutor Race, This blog, 10-11-16). The trailer for that hit came out at the end of August at the FED UP rally where the Newark Police Department enthusiastically touted their NARI initiative. Initiatives are sooo cool if promoted by the proper authorities. Sigh. The current batch of remakes headlines County officials united in strong opposition to Issue I (Craig McDonald , The Newark Advocate, 10-8-18). The previously experienced line up of usual suspects appeared with stirring scenes like “As earlier reported, in part, State Issue 1 would eliminate prison sentences for possessing or using smaller amounts of drugs, making the offenses misdemeanors rather than fourth- or fifth-degree felonies. It would also allow people previously convicted of these crimes to petition to have their charges reclassified as misdemeanors. It calls for the state to use the money saved by sending fewer people to prison on increasing drug treatment.” “Hayes said while the Issue is being pitched as one of concern and support for those struggling with substance addiction and local agencies struggling with overcrowded jails, as written, Issue 1 would instead unleash a flurry of perhaps unintended consequences which would hobble law enforcement and upend local court dockets and procedures.” Definitely a contender for best actor in this years rerun would go to Prosecutor Hayes for his heart wrenching ““If this becomes law, it is in stone unless there is a new constitutional amendment,” Prosecutor Hayes said. “The unintended consequences of Issue 1 are pretty incredible,” Hayes continued. “If this passes, all possession felonies would become misdemeanors. The result of that shift in scale would flood municipal courts,” he said. Issue 1 would also effectively nullify the ability for courts to enforce probation unless a person committed some new crime [Gasp!], Hayes said. “If Issue 1 passes, we will have about 10,000 felons released from prison,” Hayes said, because those currently incarcerated would be able to petition for 25 percent reductions in their current prison terms.” Best supporting actor must go to Lt. Paul Cortright of Licking County Sheriff’s Department’s Code Task Force and Enforcement for his original “Cortright said that the state legislature is already taking its own steps and new laws are coming in the near term aimed at easing criminal consequences for low level offenders to ease prison population concerns and further help with offender substance use recovery.” Don’t mess with our authority seems to be one of this country’s most successful genres. Analysis finds citizens never tire of the remakes. Or perhaps they lack the initiative to try something different.

 

401K? Not Even Close.

October 5, 2018

On the 10-5-18 edition of PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields answered a question asking “how do we heal after the Kavanaugh hearings?” with a reference to the fact that even with record unemployment in the country, we retreat to tribal camps when it comes to issues of difference. Though unspoken, the assumption was that “with things going so well” it would be a little easier to persuade one another (since the foundation would be this overall sense of shared prosperity, “wellness”). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed this week that the unemployment rate for September 2018 fell to 3.7%, the lowest it has been in almost 50 years. The dialectic of it all is hard to miss. Polarization 50 years ago centered around a colonial era war that the U.S. was engaged in. That very same war was what was driving the low unemployment figures. Fast forward to today’s polarized country and the same dialectic applies with regard to unemployment figures and polarized lack of consensus. Interesting to note, but hidden in all the polarization, was that 50 years ago some of what was possible during the run up to low unemployment was continued to be possible during those same low unemployment days, economically. A person with “a decent job” (what is an “indecent job”?) could afford housing, could afford transportation, could afford medical (dental, etc.) care, and could even afford to record memories of a vacation or of “college life”. Can as much be said for today? 50 years ago those in the “middle class” could afford a summer retreat or RV, even a retirement home in Florida or Arizona. Who can count on their retirement today where most feel they will be working at least until they are 70, if not beyond? Who can savor their “college life” when paying for it all but displaces everything else, even study? Mark Shields was on point while at the same time failing to elaborate a fundamental difference in the statistics of “unemployment rates” over time. That fundamental difference is the enormous spread of income disparity over the last 50 years, where today a “decent job” pays for little more than being one step away from living under a bridge. This income disparity has shrunk the middle class while making anything regarding health care, vacation, education, or retirement available only to 1% of Americans. Face it Mark, low unemployment rates do not reflect a misery index, something today’s polarized America shares with that of 50 years ago. “By now, you’ve likely heard the conventional wisdom: that you should aim to have a nest egg of $1 million to $1.5 million. Or that your savings should amount to 10 to 12 times your current income [to retire].” (AARP The Magazine). Really? What percentage of folks, employed or not, have that kind of money socked away? 401K? Not even close.