Author Archives: Mkdcofh

Reality Check: DeWine, Trump, and the GOP

Taking reassurance from Governor Mike DeWine is a terrible mistake.

It’s understandable to want reassurance right now. There’s a pandemic, everything is closed, life has been transformed in a matter of weeks and things are going to get worse.

But there’s a reason this is happening. COVID-19 itself is a natural phenomenon, but human choices shape its impact dramatically. America has literally done the worst job in the world of managing this pandemic:

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Senate, a long perspective

The Senate is a terrible institution, intrinsically, but that’s really no more or less than we ever should have expected, given its origins.

I could write at length about the problems with the United States Senate, with its origins, and with the very concept of a senate. But lately I have been musing on one, somewhat ironic, feature of this institution which seems likely to preside over the wrecking of America (with characteristic pomp and puffery).

A quick search online supports my sense that the framers of America’s Constitution had the Roman Republic very explicitly in mind, and that the existence of America’s senate is thus the product of conscious reference to Rome, and its.

From the perspective of history, I submit, the notable feature of the Roman Republic is its takeover from within by a series of tyrants, never reversed right up through the collapse of the Roman state—despite the continued existence of the Roman Senate throughout.

The Framers’ big model for thinking about how a republic could work, in other words, fell to autocrats who found a senate to be no obstacle, and in some ways even a very willing partner to autocracy.

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Messaging around Medicare for all

On healthcare, I’m pretty convinced that some kind of single-payer system is by far the optimal policy. I’m less convinced about the politics than are many single-payer proponents. But I’m certainly onboard with efforts to build support.

Amid signs that this is happening, the emerging Republican argument is essentially that “Medicare is awesome… and America just can’t afford that for everyone, so, senior voters, better that others go without so you can keep what you have all to yourself.” In a sense it is a less obviously ridiculous, but more obviously selfish, update of the 2010 “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” message.

The other day, a suggested response occurred to me: “OK Republican, whom do you want to leave without healthcare? Please be specific.”

Because this seems like the weakness in the “Medicare for all would mean Medicare for none” message: it’s based on activating a fear that America can’t afford for everyone to have healthcare. Doing this has implications.

The implication of a “can’t afford M4A” message is that there just isn’t enough healthcare to go around. Republicans using this message should have to specify whom they think should go without, then.

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The senator from truthiness

As of late August 2018, American politics has become so debased that people fall over themselves praising the integrity, civility and honor of someone who:

  1. attempted to bring an aggressively know-nothing, say-anything internet troll into the White House before deciding to occasionally criticize another one who actually made it there;
  2. made much fuss about the senate and “regular order” before voting to approve a massive betrayal of serious policymaking;
  3. chuckled at his own “joke” of singing “bomb bomb, bomb bomb-Iran” in response to a serious question about policy.

This isn’t really a record of decency or any of those other things; it’s a record of “decenciness.” As with “truthiness,” it provokes an emotional feeling of genuineness, which large numbers of people happily embrace as being just as good as a substantive, reasoned case, if not better.

Teaching leadership: more things we missed

Looking back on whether or not the 1990s were really a missed opportunity, I have concluded that it’s difficult to say that such was more true of that period than of others.

Which doesn’t mean that reexamination offers no lessons. Among those which it suggests, to me, hollowness in our society’s political leadership lessons seems prominent.

In my late 30s, it seems like I’m engaged in a self-study course in political leadership theory and practice, covering a lot of material that should be basic but which I just have not encountered before. It seems also like I’m not alone in this.

Two pieces of personal context also suggest that there is indeed a hole in what our culture teaches: First, I actually paid attention to most of the curriculum throughout my years in school. Second, in this area I even showed interest; in high school I spent a week immersed in something called the National Young Leaders Conference.*

Yet looking back, I nonetheless reached my 30s with an understanding of how democracy works that can’t be called complete even in outline form. If this was the case even for me, is it any wonder that America’s politics seem to have broken down?

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Crowded life, sparse commentary

So much going on. Yet so much of it is political, and taking to my personal blog (which is barely more than a diary) to comment on that seems kind of naive.

Not that I wouldn’t write a long, indulgent post expressing my views on e.g. Lakewood’s political tug-of-war that is now into its fourth consecutive year. But given how much my days are packed with the kind of inelegant campaign activity that actually reaches people, I suppose I just can’t bring myself to expend the effort required by any kind of deep essay.

I’m currently doing… a lot of work for two candidates for state representative, plus some work for another, and for two state senate candidates. I’m writing, for publication, where it makes sense… the latest LO included my promo for next week’s Lakewood Dem Club meeting, and an article encouraging support for Issue 1. (It also includes an ad I designed for one of the rare nonpolitical clients.)

Last week I made a day trip to Detroit for political organizing.

I dream of capturing once more a life beyond all this. But certainly not before May 8, and probably not for some while after that, really.

Oh well. This morning is relatively calm, and I was going to jot down some thoughts about The Infinity War (comic book series) stirred up by recent ballyhoo for the big feature film… then I found that I already wrote such a post three years ago. So.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It was just 2016 a month or so ago I swear

Summer has basically been and gone since my last entry here. It feels like autumn already, too. With hurricanes, fire or drought afflicting much of the U.S., I have no complaints at all about an early autumn, itself, certainly.

But honestly, I scarce know where this year went.

Since… I think it was with the real intense push against Trumpcare in the Senate that things “went to 11” and stayed there. Since then, life has just been full, whatever happens. All day, every day of the week, every week.

I have obtained more than 130 signatures for the Fair Districts ballot measure. And that’s like a when-possible activity, that fits into such “gaps” in my schedule as I can identify.

This past week was relatively calm. Yet it included

  • distributing literature for Jeff Johnson’s campaign
  • handing out dog biscuits at the Lakewood Dog Swim
  • Live-tweeting a City Council meeting
  • an interview about Hancher vs. Hilton with Iowa Public Radio
  • Dropping by an open house about the Icebreaker offshore wind power pilot project
  • Visiting Senator Portman’s office (once again) to express my opinion
  • Putting together two extensive e-mail newsletters

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Status in summary

Details aside, this is it exactly right now.

2016 Year in Review

My experience of this year mostly lends itself to sorting into two, very different, categories: political, and other.

Except that politics isn’t really something separable from other areas of life, however much one may wish or believe that to be so.

Once again, I confront election results that are not only distasteful, but could very realistically make me a healthcare refugee in the foreseeable future. I’m self-employed, I have an expensive preexisting condition, I’m ineligible for Medicaid and a long way from Medicare (both of which will also come under fire anyway). If a Republican federal government junks the Affordable Care Act (and rules out substitutes which feature either redistribution or heavy-handed regulation, which are the only real ways to make private health insurers cover someone like me), I’ll have to look for other governments that might be more helpful. Which, right now, probably won’t include Ohio.

Meanwhile, even in my own life this year, “political” bled substantially into “other,” although this was admittedly voluntary to a great degree.

I really feel that, looking back, I actively “volunteered” for very few of the political activities in which I found myself immersed in 2016. But if I was recruited over and over, I rarely said “no,” and perhaps after a time that amounts to volunteering.

Oh, Lakewood politics, you’re crazy but maybe that makes us a match.

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An Open Letter to LEAF: please help defeat Issue 64

The following is a letter which I recently addressed to the Lakewood Earth and Food Community (LEAF)

There is no more respected voice in Lakewood on issues of sustainability, health and local resilience than LEAF. The deal that closed Lakewood Hospital impacts all of these issues, in predominantly negative ways. I would like to ask LEAF’s members to consider joining opponents of this deal, which voters will confront in November as Issue 64.

Closing our hospital leaves Lakewood without many important health services. Worse, it leaves Lakewood without the control over local interests that our publicly owned hospital protected. As experience has demonstrated—in East Cleveland, in Sagamore Hills, and in Lakewood—a private multinational will pay lip-service to what’s best for communities even while transferring away resources that people depend on.

In Lakewood, this means not only lifesaving medical services, but a resource equally important to most people’s wellbeing: nearly 1,000 jobs. The reintroduction of those jobs at sites outside of Lakewood, meanwhile, only underscores this plan’s most serious harm to LEAF’s mission. As environmental sustainability inherently requires both local action and a holistic outlook, the deal that closed Lakewood Hospital must be considered within a regional context.

In this context, the deal has nothing to do with a changing need for hospital services, and everything to do with sequestering those services in the most affluent zip codes. Shutting down Lakewood’s publicly owned hospital and opening a private hospital in Avon cannot be judged separately in matters of sustainability. If we are to steer ourselves away from unhealthy and environmentally costly development and lifestyles, we need to promote compact, walkable cities like Lakewood. The efforts of LEAF exemplify this planning for tomorrow. In contrast, transferring hospital services to a car-dependent exurb exemplifies the worst features of failed models.

Even if part of this plan is outside the direct control of Lakewood, we can still pursue better options than simply conforming to a harmful trend. Our city and region need community leaders to step forward, today, and help make that choice clear. I hope the members of LEAF will respond to this need, and oppose the choice of sprawl and outsourcing by voting against Issue 64. Our committee will be pleased to answer questions at any time, and we thank you for your ongoing good work.

Sincerely,

Matt Kuhns
Sr. Editor, Save Lakewood Hospital Committee