Sincerity

Sunday, 22 January 2017

In the apoth­e­o­sis of post­moder­ni­ty that we are cur­rent­ly sub­ject­ed to sin­cer­i­ty is hard to find. The alt-fact (pro­pa­gan­da) & alt-right (white su­prema­cist) are un­scrupu­lous­ly disin­gen­u­ous at dis­sem­bling. The so­cial jus­tice left has balka­nized due to self-in­flict­ed “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the ear­ly aughts was at least per­for­ma­tive — a joke that every­one was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was fun­ny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about every­body is a re­van­chist.

The tools used to make noth­ing mean any­thing, and any­thing mean noth­ing have been so re­fined that 140 char­ac­ters can take 10,000 of analy­sis to un­pack. Speed, vol­ume, and anonymi­ty cre­ate so much noise that there might as well be no sig­nal.

I used to think hip­ster irony was the prob­lem & that sin­cer­i­ty was the an­swer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the prob­lem.

I still think sin­cer­i­ty is the an­swer.

My General Political Philosophy

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ethics

In gen­er­al I sup­port can­di­dates, leg­is­la­tion, and civil be­hav­iors that most close­ly meet my eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. The dis­cern­ment process be­comes pro­gres­sive­ly more re­fined as nec­es­sary, which, it turns out, isn’t very of­ten. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and eth­i­cal foun­da­tions are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. There is none oth­er com­mand­ment greater than the­se.
Mark 12:31

But he, will­ing to jus­ti­fy him­self, said un­to Jesus, And who is my neigh­bour? And Jesus an­swer­ing said, A cer­tain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rai­ment, and wound­ed him, and de­part­ed, leav­ing him half dead. And by chance there came down a cer­tain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the oth­er side. And like­wise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the oth­er side. But a cer­tain Samaritan, as he jour­neyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com­pas­sion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pour­ing in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the mor­row when he de­part­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said un­to him, Take care of him; and what­so­ev­er thou spendest more, when I come again, I will re­pay thee. Which now of the­se three, thinkest thou, was neigh­bour un­to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mer­cy on him. Then said Jesus un­to him, Go, and do thou like­wise.
Luke 10:29 – 37

And the King shall an­swer and say un­to them, Verily I say un­to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it un­to one of the least of the­se my brethren, ye have done it un­to me.
Matthew 25:40

Reiterating: Meet those stan­dards and get my sup­port. Oppose them and I’m an op­po­nent.

Reason

I sup­port can­di­dates and leg­is­la­tion that make the cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, and rea­son­able de­ci­sions, even when they are dif­fi­cult. Policies and po­si­tions based on sci­ence, em­pir­i­cal re­search, and long-term vi­a­bil­i­ty get my sup­port. I don’t be­lieve in quick fix­es. Government works best when it is evo­lu­tion­ary — a se­ries of very grad­u­al changes we can be­lieve in. If a leg­is­la­tor or piece of leg­is­la­tion does not meet or im­pedes the pro­gress of cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, or ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing, I op­pose.

Anti-in­cum­ben­cy, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Barring dis­qual­i­fy­ing ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, if a can­di­date or par­ty has been in of­fice or in pow­er in an area for a long time, I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to vote for their op­po­nent, es­pe­cial­ly in a pri­ma­ry. I blame this on 30 years of hear­ing the same names on the night­ly news. A Bush has been ei­ther President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spot­light for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not in­to dy­nas­ties — fa­mil­ial, eth­nic, or oth­er­wise. I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gru­el. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most ma­jor can­di­dates that run for of­fice.

I al­so think that the longer a can­di­date is in­cum­bent — the longer they have to be­come com­fort­able, com­pla­cent, and like­ly to ig­nore their con­stituen­cy. You keep a knife sharp by hon­ing it. The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to peo­ple. Comfortable peo­ple are dull. I think every in­cum­bent should be chal­lenged in a pri­ma­ry when up for re-elec­tion. No free pass­es.

I al­so vote to shift the Overton Window closer to­ward the Judeo-Christian ethic il­lus­trat­ed above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want leg­is­la­tors or leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate to me or oth­ers how and in what way our pri­vate, per­son­al busi­ness is han­dled. All y’all de­serve the pro­tec­tions enu­mer­at­ed in our con­sti­tu­tion. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I re­al­ize that this de­scrip­tion of my po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy isn’t nailed down to the last shin­gle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That or­tho­doxy re­sults in the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate we cur­rent­ly loathe. When there were grey ar­eas to be had in a pol­i­tics, I wel­comed the chance to dis­cuss them, learn, and pos­si­bly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not re­turn­ing any time soon.

7 Years of Political Silence

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I stopped writ­ing about & voic­ing my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions back in 2008 or 2009 af­ter J. Kevin Kelley & Kevin Payne got bust­ed by the FBI for their cor­rup­tion. At the time I tweet­ed some­thing along the lines of “I can’t be­lieve I worked on a project with the­se scum­bags.” That project be­ing a re­design of the County Engineer’s web­site that had lan­guished for over a year, com­plete, but with­out sign-off to go live. The next day I got called in­to the Director’s of­fice with my boss and syn­tax was struc­tured that tan­gen­tial­ly im­plied that fur­ther pub­lic com­men­tary from me on any­thing job-re­lat­ed would af­fect my em­ploy­ment. That Director, Dan Weaver, lat­er got sen­tenced to 3 years in pris­on as part of the same gi­ant pile of cor­rup­tion that in­fect­ed the man­age­ment of the en­tire County. I think the FBI stopped fish­ing soon af­ter be­cause every­thing left was small fry.

They scared me. I had a brand new in­fant, a mort­gage, there were no job prospects in Cleveland, so I delet­ed the afore­men­tioned tweet and kept my head down for an­oth­er 5 years. The FBI burst in to my of­fice be­cause the­se crim­i­nals spat up­on the same civil re­spon­si­bil­i­ty that I was hon­ored to con­tribute to. Everyone at the County was im­pli­cat­ed. I know how louche it is to voice per­son­al opin­ions re­gard­ing one’s pro­fes­sion­al po­si­tion, but some shit needs to be un­equiv­o­cal­ly re­pu­di­at­ed. The fol­low­ing tweet is, as far as I can tell, the on­ly one left stand­ing from that time:

I’ve spent 7 years with my lips zipped — which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve tried to be as non-par­ti­san as pos­si­ble in my deal­ings with every­one. Going along to get along. I’ve avoid­ed en­gag­ing in any­thing that might be politi­cized, but what isn’t the­se days? Ain’t no­body play­ing for low stakes.

I can con­tin­ue to kib­itz, or I can throw my two cents on the pile & see if any­thing shifts.

Mainly, though, I’m tired of keep­ing my mouth shut.

Empathy is Not Always a Virtue

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

I’ve writ­ten a few times about the qual­i­ties of em­pa­thy and our society’s gen­er­al need for more of it in the last year or so. However, em­pa­thy is not al­ways a virtue. When you em­pathize with some­one so much that you be­come emo­tion­al­ly in­ca­pable of meet­ing your own re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (like, say, tak­ing your fi­nal ex­ams), you have left the path of rea­son and ac­count­abil­i­ty, and be­come a type of fun­da­men­tal­ist.

And there is no ef­fec­tive mode of dis­course with a fun­da­men­tal­ist.

Ray Rice is just a symp­tom

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

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.

Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“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

Stop, Collaborate and Listen: EfficientGovNetwork Regional Collaboration Conference

Saturday, 15 October 2011

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.