Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ray Rice is just a symptom

I’m not normally one to beat upon a string of ideological adjectives when making a point, but lately it seems necessary.

Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that the limit of knowledge is obtaining maximum money – the most admirable goal; and then does all it can to prevent minority groups from achieving it. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that we are not people, but human resources; (celebrities are not even human – they exist only as a brand, a product) and then does all it can to make minority groups appear generic & cheap. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that objects sold in the material world will satisfy our desires, and, failing that, objects provided in the virtual world will do the same; and markets to everyone so they will become more racist, more patriarchal, and more capitalistic. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that its paradigm is the only paradigm.

Ray Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. It has made Ray think he is a product shaped and rewarded for his strength and skill at violence. It has not rewarded him for empathy, compassion, or wisdom. It has supported this training by covering up his violent behavior outside of the game he was paid to play. Ray Rice is a tone-deaf, unrepentant abuser – but he didn’t have to be.

Janay Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society.  Orders of magnitude more a victim than Ray. It has made Janay think that she should silently accept and ignore being abused by her husband. It has not rewarded her for autonomy, assertiveness, or wisdom. It has supported this training by blaming women for everything that happens to them: rape, violence, stolen cell phone photos. Janay Rice is blind to her oppression, but she didn’t have to be.

I am not assigning all blame for the behaviors of Janay & Ray Rice to racist patriarchal capitalist society. Despite what they have been trained to think, they remain capable of healthy choices and healthy behaviors. The tectonic weight of racist patriarchal capitalist society has just made it much harder to be a healthy person and much easier to behave like a racist, patriarchal capitalist. That’s why it’s so easier for police to shoot & kill than do actual police work. That’s why some men think they can hit people & some women think that being hit is okay.

We are animals first. We respond to what is in front of us. We are outraged at Ray Rice, the NFL, Janay Rice, the police of Ferguson, MO. We react to stimuli as we have been trained to do. We are sapient second, and rarely. Though each individual is and should be called upon to be less racist, patriarchal or capitalistic – playing whack-a-mole each time we see an egregious example of our racist patriarchal capitalist society does little to effect change. Change requires action. Effective change requires knowing where to act, and how. We can go on identifying the symptoms, or we can try to end the disease.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame… as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”

[…]

“My point is that one person is responsible. Always. […] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pp 84-85

I’m struck at how very existentialist that quote is. Just as I’m struck at how very apropos the following quote is to the #occupy movement.

“A managed democracy is a wonderful thing […] for the managers…and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible.'”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pg 256

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Stop, Collaborate and Listen: EfficientGovNetwork Regional Collaboration Conference

On Thursday 13 October 2011, I used a vacation day to attend the EfficientGovNetwork Regional Collaboration Conference on behalf of the Cleveland Coalition/Transparency Action Plan Summit. I met up with Pepper Pike councilwoman Jill Miller Zimon and we carpooled down to Akron. Jill was there on behalf of The Civic Commons; they are helping with outreach/education for #EGNetwork.

This conference was designed to help local governments learn how they can work together to save money. If you need more background or context, click the links. A bit of note transcription with elisions and partially polished spots is what you get next, with a bit of commentary at the end.

Notes

Brad Whitehead from the Fund for Our Economic Future had the opening remarks. He said that the Fund’s purpose for sponsoring this conference is to help the economic health of the region. His main points were:

  1. Regional Government collaboration is important;
  2. Successes will be cumulative (no such thing as a big fix), and;
  3. It’s going to be hard work.

He mentioned that the combined economic power of our governments is around $20 billion, which translates to 10% of the region’s total economy. He conceded that this kind of collaboration & efficiency is harder for governments to accomplish than it is for businesses, and mentioned that it takes a combination of will and skill to be successful in these types of endeavors. He tasked the attendees to learn from each other.

His remarks were followed by a plenary session that provided the conference attendees with some food for thought regarding collaboration.

Tom Pascarella, the Administrative Director of Tallmadge, OH spoke about how his town dealt with a 10% drop in their revenue by consolidating their dispatchers with Stow and by joining the Regional Income Tax Authority. This saves them $880,000 per year.

John Hoornbeek, Director of Kent State’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy told us about 4 good things and two challenges about regional collaboration.

  1. This conference and other conversations are good, as are;
  2. The applicability of collaboration across many different policy areas;
  3. The statewide attention the collaboration is garnering, and;
  4. The development of networks for collaboration.

This remains challenging, however, because collaboration is hard and the region isn’t well organized right now.

Ed Jerse, Regional Collaboration Director for Cuyahoga County, spoke about the ways to get communities to work together, specifically, by doing what we already know works. He spoke of the need to recognize that collaboration is an evolutionary process, and there will be dead ends as a result of this. He said that it is very easy to have an idea, but it is even easier to kill one, and that it takes courage to try new things in the face of that challenge.

Dave Kaminski from the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce spoke briefly regarding the differences between government and business efficiency. His main points were that businesses think that government should be run like a business, but they need to understand that governments are required to provide services, even if they impact the bottom line. He got a lot of laughs with his on-point line that you can’t layoff  the 3rd grade.

The question & answer period resulted in the following points:

  1. Top-down pressure (or buy-in) is needed to force collaboration & good networking.
  2. It’s easier to collaborate if you’re not an elected official.
  3. Building trust before collaborating is imperative.
  4. Collaboration should be redefined to extend beyond working with “whomever looks like us.”
  5. Forming a collaboration habit makes further collaboration easier.

Breakout sessions followed. I attended the IT collaboration breakout. Much of the discussion centered around collaboration that had already been implemented and the lessons learned during the implementations. Let me know if you’d like further details. For the most part, the breakout sessions were somewhat inside baseball/hyper-specific, so I’m not going to say much about them here.

During lunch a fistfight broke out and while everyone was distracted at my table, I ate their desserts. Paying attention again? Good. Actually, during lunch Randy Cole from the State of Ohio spoke about the ways that the Kasich administration has made it easier for local governments to deal with the huge cuts in State funding. Afterwards, I got the sense from a few different people that it seemed more like a press conference than anything particularly useful for the government folks there. There’s a $45 million state fund for collaborative projects, but the committee isn’t fully assigned and they haven’t met yet, so there are no details regarding what would qualify for the funding. Mr. Cole mentioned the State Auditor’s Shared Services portal, which is something I hadn’t been previously aware of.

After lunch I divided my time between the Economic Development breakout and the Mergers breakout. In the economic development session I learned a bit about Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDs) but, as important as Economic Development is, I still find it hard to keep attention focused when they get to the nitty-gritty. Dan Mamula spoke about his work with the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative and how they’ve managed to get communities 40+ miles apart to collaborate on economic development issues. I really enjoyed listening to him speak about the work they’ve done.

By the time I got to the Mergers breakout session, they were deep into the details about the proposed #burbmerger of 4 communities in the eastern part of Cuyahoga County. This seemed like the perfect example of what the theme for the day was: “Collaboration is Hard”.

Commentary

I thought this conference was a decent start. I think there needs to be a well-turned-out follow-up meeting (The follow-up meeting is on November 10th at 9am at the Richfield Town Hall) and some sort of technical support persons to wrangle and facilitate continuing conversation about collaboration between the collaborators. I didn’t get the sense that any of that was in place.

While there were many great examples of money-saving collaboration opportunities, most of them were fairly antiquated. I don’t know how many examples I heard about communities who had combined their dispatchers. Both of the IT initiatives that I heard about were a decade old, and it appears that there aren’t any particular leaders pushing for new and innovative collaboration opportunities. To reframe using the watch-phrases from the conference: “Collaboration is hard, so do what already works first.” I agree with this. However, it needed an addition that wasn’t present. The theme should have been more like: “Collaboration is hard. Do what already works first, but make sure you seek out other opportunities at the same time.”  As someone commented in the IT session, all of the collaboration mentioned was at the network layer, and nothing at the application layer.

Three final thoughts:

  • I felt that lunch would have been better if there hadn’t been a speaker. Quite a few fruitful networking discussions were cut short.
  • I thought there should have been a discussion or some speakers specifically addressing the reasons these communities haven’t felt the need to collaborate until now. The reason they are collaborating now is obvious. The money ran out. If they’d been collaborating beforehand, this pickle wouldn’t be such a big dill. (NO APOLOGIES).
  • I thought there should have been some sort of action item or umbrella goal for the participants to leave with other than the super vague “collaborate”. Is the Fund for our Economic Future going to act as a liaison or networking and technical support source for this initiative, or is the expectation that ad hoc collaborations will be the norm. I feel that if there is an expectation for regional collaboration, there should be a group wholly dedicated  to promoting that.

Someone at the conference said that collaboration isn’t something you can do part time. I completely agree and think that applies to transparency as well. These are the hot new paradigms, and if you can’t give them the effort they deserve, you shouldn’t try them at all.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Let Him Die

I’m up a bit earlier than usual because I’m training Abraham to wake himself up when he needs to pee during the night. So, of course, I decide to cogitate upon the recent CNN/Tea Party debate, and in particular the part where Tea Partiers choose to let someone my age, who chooses to be uninsured and then injured, die. The clip:

And here’s what I’ve thought:

The freedom of Ron Paul, current libertarians, and the Tea Party is the freedom of choice. They want the ability to not participate in existing government for a variety of reasons mostly boiling down to the fact that the government spends their money in ways they don’t approve of. They don’t really claim this as their goal, instead they just call it “small-government”, but that’s the outcome they’re aiming for. They’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to accomplish this non-participation is to get elected and change the stuff they don’t like about government. It’s a fundamentalist position. The major logical hole in this argument is that they want to enforce their choice upon everyone. That’s not libertarian. Another logical hole in the argument is that they’re not doing anything on their end to opt-out of the system right now. The major irony of this argument is that the Tea Party, who doesn’t want to be forced to purchase health care, is saying “let me die if I get sick or injured and can’t afford to pay.” Another major irony of this argument is that the choices they are fighting over are first world problems. The fact that choices are even possible in these situations is a reflection of the quality of life that has been created by the fact that we live in an America that has been governed by people who have constructed a social contract that makes our way of life possible.

Hole 1: Some people want to live in a society that cares for others. Some people want to create institutions and mechanisms that ensure that care is provided for the society and the individuals within it. The applause & outbursts in that clip show that there is no concept of “love thy neighbor” and, in fact, no conception of even “who is my neighbor?” or even “neighbor” going on here. This isn’t a political philosophy of autonomy & personal responsibility, it is a political philosophy of selfishness, borne out of ignorance. If it were borne out of knowledge you wouldn’t have people cheering or calling for death. (This space reserved for tangential discussion of the epistemology of psychology, sociology & anthropology as it relates to society & libertarianism).

I’m all for autonomy & personal responsibility. I’m also all for social responsibility, because I know that organizing, pooling resources, and working together for a common goal (building a road, providing health care for all citizens, lobbying the GOP to change it’s policy positions (looking at you here, Tea Party)) is more effective than acting autonomously. I also know that, as autonomous and personally responsible as I am, and can be, at some point, I’m not going to be able to get by without some help from my friends, the government, or other social institutions.

Hole 2: Opt-out. If these people don’t want to participate in the current social contracts, they should opt-out. That’s an easy choice, but hard to practice. Don’t like paying taxes? Change your tax withholding to zero and don’t pay taxes when the time comes. Work for cash, or if fiat currency isn’t your thing, precious metals. Don’t buy health insurance, and when you get sick, don’t seek care from modern medical institutions. You can always opt-out. If America won’t let you, move to someplace that will, but don’t complain when the quality of life blows, because quality of life is created and sustained through social contracts, governance, and loving thy neighbor.

PS. If you’re raising your kids to be libertarian, don’t potty train them. You’ll be forcing them to abide by a social contract for sanitation. Give them the freedom of choice. Plus, you won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to teach them to wake up and take a piss when they feel the need.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Caveat Emptor

There are endless things we can and have learned from nature that have daily, practical application in our lives. Velcro was invented by a guy who took a close look at the burrs that stuck to his dog’s fur. It wasn’t given to us by Vulcans. I’m sure my mom has a special place in her heart for those things, since there were innumerable times that my socks went through the wash completely covered in them. Velcro is useful, and it is kind of difficult to figure out how it could be misused.

Marketing, on the other hand, is something that nature has ingrained into us, and learning to use it as a tool for just about any job means it gets misused all the time. The most blatant form of nature’s marketing is used for sexual selection. Think peacocks, or Irish Elk. Pretty harmless, specifically targeted marketing. That easily explains the marketing phrase “sex sells.” Properly marketed, you can sell anything. With products, this has been age old; there were hucksters selling snake-oil and hoof grease to dirt-farmers in Ur. I’m sure the marketing of ideas dates to antiquity as well, but the proliferation of communication in the information age compounds this into a serious problem.

With proper marketing, you can sell any idea. There’s a sucker born every minute. What sucks about the suckers is that they’re more likely to believe the hype than due the diligence. So you can sell creationism, fascism, racism, and that Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslin and folks will take the good marketing as gospel.  It’s Colbert’s truthiness. Facts are hard things, and thinking requires thought. Since we’re hard-wired by nature to buy good marketing, it’s easier to buy intellectual snake oil (especially when it goes with our preconceptions) than put forth the effort to test facts for scratch, indentation and rebound hardness.

Caveat emptor, and if you don’t, God help the rest of us.

Saturday, 19 June 2004

Terrorist Attack Trading Cards

I was at Jamie’s Flea Market Saturday and I found something that hit the market when I was 6 years old. Something that shows me what 17 years of bickering, global reorganization and bloodshed has changed in the zeitgeist of America. Yeah, basically nothing.

WRAPPER_thm.jpg

Disclaimer

Though these cards claim to be educational, it is well to bear in mind that any words of educational value contained on the backs are refracted through a lens of aggressive and rhetorical American nationalism. While terrorism is, indeed, a terrible thing, the type of education that these collectible items provide is antagonistic and ignorant of its own effects. Moreover, they are both hilarious and sobering [a sort of shake-your head and laugh] to any person who has a decent ability to separate thoughts into subjective and objective frames. So. You just need common sense.

Benito Mussolini Terrorist Attack Trading Card

Mussolini was a terrorist? and a facist? If I had a face like Mussolini I definitely wouldn’t want to form a political party about it. The fact that he was captured by the partisans he oppressed is not ironic, it is closer to poetic justice. It would be ironic if he was executed by his own party for oppressing the partisans.

SOMEONE SET US UP THE BOMB

First off: “Bombs create the spectacular and safe types of destruction that terrorists are known for.” WHAT?!? To conclude, ending a sentence in a preposition ain’t good English. Thirdly, someone obviously busted out the thesaurus for ‘perfidious.’

Margaret Thatcher Naked On A Cold Day

Beware of guys hiding behind trash cans and attempting to hide behind buildings but not doing a very good job of it because their rifles stick way out. They blow up things. AMERICA SANCTIONED!

Liberty

Of course they were going to blow up the SoL. Drug-running is an impossible possibility. Our nation humiliates itself just fine, thanks.

caught

This guy looks like me when I had my beard. That creeps me out.

Qaddafi

I can’t really be funny about any of these because they are so ridiculous they speak for themselves. Note the subtle juxtaposition of the last two sentences.

Iran

The Ayatullah looks like he is speaking to masses of people burning in eternal damnation. He might be useful as a means to undermine the Soviets. This card also invokes Godwin’s Law.

BOMB

Thanks for playing! I wonder if Tom Clancy got his idea for The Sum of All Fears from this card. Goodbye!