Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The truth is inconvenient

Last week, the United Nations concluded a major conference on the environment, in which virtually every member other than the United States was frustrated with the American refusal to include specific goals for further negotiations.

The response from this corner was silence. Not because I do not care about global warming, polar bears, keeping the buckeye tree in Ohio, or the diversity of life in Little Darby Creek.

The reason is that I do not know who to trust for accurate science. The issue of global warming is so highly politicized, even within the scientific community, that I don’t know for a fact that the trend is irreversible, or to what extent human activity is involved. During the UN conference, 100 British and Canadian scientists protested the assumptions used in the UN report. We all want to do the right thing, and that should include continued support for renewable energy and practical measures that will help clean the air and water and protect animal habitat. Beyond that, however, how much is within our control? The answers to these questions have major policy implications for every nation.

I really don’t know what they are, but I do know that we need answers from scientists who are looking for the truth, and journalists who are able to report their findings objectively.

The truth may be inconvenient, but the lack of it is dangerous; either because we neglect to prepare for a catastrophe, or because we waste valuable resources following Chicken Little prophecies of the sky falling.

I’d like to have truth on my side – if I can find it.

There is no movement -- yet

Some of our friends who have linked to the Ohio Republic may have misled some readers into thinking that we have an independence movement in Ohio, especially since there are secessionist organizations in other States with similar names.

The Ohio Republic is nothing more than a blog, for now -- but I am interested in working with other Ohioans to get a movement started.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in the Heart

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The snow lies deep upon the ground,
And winter’s brightness all around
Decks bravely out the forest sere,
With jewels of the brave old year.
The coasting crowd upon the hill
With some new spirit seems to thrill;
And all the temple bells achime
Ring out the glee of Christmas time.

In happy homes the brown oak-bough
Vies with the red-gemmed holly now;
And here and there, like pearls, there show
The berries of the mistletoe.
A sprig upon the chandelier
Says to the maidens, “Come not here!”
Even the pauper of the earth
Some kindly gift has cheered to mirth!

Within his chamber, dim and cold,
There sits a grasping miser old.
He has no thought save one of gain,--
To grind and gather and grasp and drain.
A peal of bells, a merry shout
Assail his ear: he gazes out
Upon a world to him all gray,
And snarls, “Why, this is Christmas Day!”

No, man of ice, -- for shame, for shame!
For “Christmas Day” is no mere name.
No, not for you this ringing cheer,
This festal season of the year.
And not for you the chime of bells
From holy temple rolls and swells.
In day and deed he has no part—
Who holds not Christmas in his heart!

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an African-Ohioan poet and editor who lived in Dayton. He wrote both in standard English and in dialect. This poem was reproduced, courtesy of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Digital Collection at the Wright State University Library.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Interview on the Alvarez-Galloso News Hour

I have been interviewed by Roberto Alvarez-Galloso, an independent journalist located in Miami, who is a native of Akron and former resident in the Cleveland area. It has been published in his blog, and will be published shortly in MeriNews of India.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Feds force Ohio to tighten eligibility for children’s health insurance

In another routine intrusion of the Feds on the rights of our sovereign States reported by the Columbus Dispatch, the Bush Administration has informed Gov. Ted Strickland that it will not allow Ohio to expand the children’s SCHIP buy-in health insurance benefit to 300% of the poverty level ($51,510 per year for a family of three). The proposed expansion of the benefit was approved by the Ohio General Assembly in June and championed by Gov. Strickland. The Federal regulators suggested that he resubmit the request at 250% of poverty level. While Gov. Strickland has agreed to do so, he also has publicly pledged to sue the Feds if Ohio’s request is denied.

It is good to see an Ohio Governor stand up to the Feds! Unfortunately, this is not likely to be the last time he will be called on to do so.

Lakota renounce treaties with U.S.

In a move unreported by any mainstream press in the United States* (but reported by Agence France-Presse** and Radio Netherlands), the Lakota (we used to call them Sioux) have formally renounced all treaties with the United States, thereby declaring their independence in a five-state area that includes most of South Dakota and parts of neighboring states. The list of grievances impelling them to the separation, documented on their website, details a history of treatment at the hands of the Federal Government that is nothing short of despicable.

The Ohio Republic stands with the Lakota in their struggle – and they know it will be a struggle – for self-determination. At the same time, we recognize the implications for other tribes and other States, including our own. We will all need to use reason, to find a fair balance between the rights of the native, and those that have built up for the rest of us.

The cause of the Lakota is the cause of us all.

* Note: Since this was initially posted, the story has appeared in mainstream U.S. media, including USA Today. Here is a link to news sources that have carried the story.

** As reported in Vermont Commons: I was unable to find the original source.

Election reform

Since the 2004 election, charges have swirled about that Ohio election officials somehow rigged the process to re-elect President Bush. These charges have been heavily promoted by liberal activist and author Bob Fitrakis, writing for the Free Press in Columbus. This only makes sense if you buy into the media hype that any one state really determines the outcome of a national election. Ohio has 20 electoral votes out of 538. That Ohio “decided” the outcome of the election is only indicative of the deep division that the United States as a whole experienced in that election.

This is not to say that we did not have some flaws in 2004, but to charge, as J. Arthur Loose did in Vermont Commons, that Ohio’s election procedures resembled those of a “banana republic” are also off-base. First, let me grant that we had our problems. We had an unusually partisan Secretary of State in J. Kenneth Blackwell. While he appears to have served the position well in his first term (1999-2003), he had pent-up ambition for the Governor’s office going back to 1990; which motivated him to seek political alliances through his support for the President’s re-election in 2004. Mr. Fitrakis also notes several anomalies (which I cannot explain away) between the usually accurate Ohio Poll and the voting results for statewide issues in the 2005 election.

I will not defend Mr. Blackwell’s conduct as Secretary of State in either election, but will note that, prior to 2004, there were few complaints about Ohio’s election process. In fact, in 2000, Ohio was generally compared favorably to Florida, even though most counties in both states were using punch-card ballots at the time. Our procedures, while not perfect, were usually effective in protecting the vote from fraud. For example, there was no stage in the elections process, from signing the poll book, to loading the computers at the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State’s office, that was not attended to and approved by at least one Republican and one Democrat, each with a veto power over the other.

What changed was the introduction of advanced electronic voting devices, which were approved in haste to meet Federal deadlines under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The deadlines did not permit States to adequately test the accuracy and ballot security of the devices being promoted. The combination of short deadlines, Federal funding, and new technology created a perfect breeding ground for corruption.

Our current Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, has proposed a series of reforms for consideration by the General Assembly, some of which appear to follow a list of 50 reforms proposed by Mr. Fitrakis. While I question the value of some of the proposals relative to their cost, I generally support both sets of reforms. However, neither mentioned one that, in light of Mr. Blackwell’s tenure, should be raised to the top of the list. Ohio law needs to be amended to extend to the Secretary of State and her employees the “Little Hatch Act” (Section 124.57 of the Ohio Revised Code), which prohibits partisan political activity by the classified (civil service) State employees. An exception should, of course, be made for her own re-election campaign, since it will (and should) be a referendum on her handling of the elections process.

In support of Erica Vieyra

The Columbus Dispatch has been reporting on a class project assigned by Erica Vieyra, a teacher of advanced Spanish in the Olentangy Local School District (Delaware County). As a class assignment, she had her students assume an identity and Latin-American nationality, and attempt as illegal aliens, to apply for jobs in the area. The original report in the Dispatch caused a firestorm on the Internet, suggesting that Ms. Vieyra was attempting to indoctrinate her students in liberal values.

It is telling that in today’s report, “none of her students thought that [the immigrants] were going about it in the right way.” They learned the right lesson. The real problem is that American politics is polarized between those who would have law without compassion, and those who would have compassion without law. We have to have both. Without law, we have no order; but without compassion, we have no soul.

My opinion on immigration reform

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why we should welcome the decline of empire

Those of us who have been involved in secessionism have become accustomed to the United States being referred to as an empire; possibly beginning with Kirkpatrick Sale’s article in counterpunch in February 2005.

However, when an Ohioan other than myself writes a published letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch under the title “Empires are always dying from within” –well, that made me sit up and take notice.

What aroused Elizabeth Richter’s ire was Jonah Goldberg’s assertion that “empire” is a necessity if we are to achieve "globalism, military success, capitalism and liberty." She cited John Quincy Adams in an 1821 speech as expressing his opposition to what we now call “nation-building” in these terms: "We do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." Instead, Ms. Richter noted, we are to create such a free and prosperous nation that the rest of the world will try to imitate us.

President Adams also told Congress that if we did try to destroy the monsters of our world that we would become a "dictatress" of the world, and this would damage our liberty.
Ms. Richter then observes with considerable irony the resemblance between the neoconservative philosophy and those of Leon Trotsky and Machiavelli, especially the beliefs that lying is necessary for the state to survive and that the ends justify the means if those in power are virtuous.

She then concludes, “All tyranny is based upon an insistence of those in power to create utopia on Earth. This position is directly opposed to the non-utopian Christian worldview of our Founders, who believed in a messy and widely shared division of power inherent in our Republic.”


Friday, December 14, 2007

Close the door gently

To date, I have been leery of joining the debate on immigration. It is an emotional issue that has the tendency to bring out the worst in everyone. On the one hand, we rightfully demand respect for our laws and our borders. On the other hand, many of us have compassion for the people who have come over illegally. In particular, we remember that many of the Mexicans are victims of unscrupulous operators who carried them over the border making false promises. And to forcibly remove people who have lived here for over a decade on the basis of legal technicalities, seems a bit harsh.

The real problem with immigration lies with the Americans who do not respect their own laws, by insisting on putting illegal immigrants on the same footing as others for purposes of acquiring benefits from the state.

We have to face the fact that we have made serious mistakes; but we have to correct the problem. Therefore, from now on, we must build effective border security that deports illegal aliens within hours of their entry into this country. I don’t know how to do this, but I suspect that it isn’t rocket science. Build physical barriers, increase air surveillance, establish strict enforcement protocols. Those who have been here less than two years should be summarily deported. For the others, we should grant temporary visas – but only once – to let them stay here and enable us to keep track of them. At the end of the visa, they can do one of three things: go on the citizenship track, justify an extension of their visa according to law, or go home. Employers who value these people should have no problem with assisting their employees in pursuing one of the first two options.

We should permit their children to be educated, and to receive a minimum standard of health care. It is not the children’s fault they came here illegally. To help illegal immigrants much more would move us from compassion to stupidity.

Please note that I am referring only to illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants were cleared to come here, are working or living with their families, and are taxpayers. They should be entitled to the same human and civil (but not political) rights as anyone else.

Ohio has a history of diversity in immigration, which obviously is not going to change. This diversity has enriched us culturally and strengthened us in our native capacity to innovate. We remain bound together by respect for our laws and by the English language. Now, let’s clean up the mess the Feds have made, and move forward.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is the energy movement gaining steam?

Julie Carr Smyth, Statehouse correspondent for the Associated Press*, reports today that Gov. Strickland is pressing for an energy bill that includes mandatory thresholds for the use of alternative energies, including clean coal.

"'It’s the spirit of our time,' said Strickland, a Democrat who led his party’s resurgence last year in a political swing state controlled for more than a decade by Republicans. 'We cannot, and I just pray to God that we don’t, let these opportunities pass us by... The status quo does not result in things staying the way they are,' he said. 'The status quo results in things getting increasingly worse in comparison to the rest of the world."

The Ohio Republic and Gov. Strickland on the same page? At least on this issue we are. Like the Governor, I just pray to God that we don't let these opportunities pass us by, either; like too many others we have passed up in the last 25 years.

* As posted by the Canton Repository.

Yankee ingenuity

Continuing an unplanned “Vermont Week” in the Ohio Republic, I encountered a brilliant article in Vermont Commons on creating sustainable energy sources, which follows up nicely on my recent posts on transportation and simplifying the holidays.

Written by Gaelan Brown, it suggests seven options, six of which will work in Ohio (we’re too flat to make hydroelectric power work). The six are: building community and residential-scale electric generation, biomass (burning renewable fuels such as timber* and, for us, corn), biogas (converting municipal sewage and agricultural, uh, waste into a methane-generating electrical power system, wind power (which is beginning to take hold in Ohio), development and promotion of electric vehicles, and solar power for water heating (a long-established technology). Read the details – Mr. Brown explains his points not only reasonably, but also with wit.

With our tradition of invention (and noting that Northeastern Ohio is heavily populated with descendants of New Englanders), we should be able to build on these ideas to achieve energy independence.

* Recent developments in genetic engineering suggest that trees can be genetically engineered to burn more efficiently as fuel; but at the moment there are still a few kinks to be worked out.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Think locally, act locally

In today’s Vermont Commons, Jane Dwinell and Dana Dwinell-Yardley wrote an interesting Christmas piece entitled “Independence from the Holiday Machine.” It contains several interesting suggestions on how to celebrate the holiday, both more simply and more memorably. I’ll just give you the subheadings as a teaser: Buy less, buy local, eat local, spend the holiday doing something fun instead of opening gifts, and create new and meaningful rituals. While many of their suggestions are specific to the Green Mountain State, most of them can be used or adapted right here in Ohio.

Since one of the purposes of this blog is to promote Ohio culture, let me throw out this question for the Christmas season: What dishes come to your mind as being distinctively Ohio cuisine? Let us know in your comments to this post.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

U.S. transportation system isn't going anywhere

Doug Ervin, chairman of 1,000 Friends of Central Ohio, wrote a letter to the editor that was published in today's Columbus Dispatch. He observes that that the United States government spends only 0.93 percent of its gross domestic product on transportation infrastructure (about one-tenth that of China). The funds that are being spent are heavily weighted toward highways, bridges, and air service.

Well, hello... we have $100 per barrel oil, past peak. Automobiles, trucks, and buses are the largest single source of greenhouse gases, and right now, within the state, there are no other options.

One of the principles that I would like to see in the Ohio Republic is that of natural sustainability. I'm not talking about tree-hugging "environmentalism" -- I am talking about working our way toward renewable resources, clean air, and responsible land use. Rail and public transit systems can run on electricity, which can be generated from many clean and renewable sources (and on the short term, by coal, which we still have in abundance -- but will need to develop technologies to burn more cleanly).

As Mr. Ervin writes:

"As we look for options to ease pain at the pump, we find few or no choices.

"Federal passenger-rail legislation that would remedy this is long in coming but again faces delay from a threatened presidential veto and glacial movement by Congress. We need action, and we need it now. Otherwise, how can we possibly begin to address issues such as energy conservation, air quality and land use?"

Ohio is compact and has eight metro areas. We are ideally situated to build a public transportation infrastructure that can be a model for North America -- but only when we have freed ourselves and our tax dollars of the Feds' misplaced priorities.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Senator Brown replies to "Appeal on HR 1955"

On Tuesday, I published an open letter to Ohio's U.S. Senators expressing my concerns about H.R. 1955 (The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act).

I have published Sen. Sherrod Brown's disappointing boilerplate response as a comment, and will also publish Sen. George Voinovich's when it is received.

Two invitations to my fellow Ohioans

As I review the entries in this blog to date, I realize just how much this has been a one-man show. Response to this blog has been slow, but very encouraging, so I remain highly enthusiastic! -- but one man can never be a movement. So, I would like to invite others to join me.

First, if you would like to write for this blog, I invite you to e-mail submissions to me. After we have gone over several contributions and established a level of trust, I shall permit you to contribute directly. In the near future, I shall issue a draft statement of principles that will give you a clearer idea of what I have in mind.

Second, if you would like to get in on the ground floor of a movement for Ohio secession, please e-mail me to indicate your interest. Include in that e-mail your postal address, county, preferred phone number. This information will remain confidential, and will not be used for any other purpose without your express written consent.

In accordance with Robert's Rules, when I have received e-mail notifications from at least 20 people from at least 5 different counties, I shall draft by-laws and a platform to be voted on at a convention (probably all day on a Saturday) at the most convenient possible location.

If you are an Ohio resident, I hope you will seriously consider and respond to these invitations.
If you are not an Ohio resident, let me thank you for reading this blog -- you are always welcome to read and comment. I hope that some of the ideas presented here will be helpful to you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

An appeal to Ohio's Senators against HR 1955

Following is the text of an e-mail message I sent to Ohio's Senators in opposition to the proposed Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act:

I am writing to you today to express my opposition to H.R. 1955 (The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act) in its present form, particularly in its provisions relating to “violent radicalizaton,” and the creation of the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence.

The Act defines violent radicalization as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.”

I note that two provisions of the Act are intended to protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens in their exercise of free speech (Sections 899B(8) and 899F(c)). However, history has shown that such rights can be trampled upon when the Congress or the nation is fearful of a terrorist attack – a fear that can easily be whipped up by less scrupulous politicians and media in support of a political end. I have no doubt that the sponsors of H.R. 1955 intend for the Commission to act in an ethical fashion – but I feel it is unwise to write an Act that assumes that they will do so. Given the opportunity, and especially if the auditing mechanism envisioned in 899F(c) is slow, unpublicized, or otherwise ineffective, it is safer to expect that the Commission will abuse its power.

The First Amendment can be effectively invalidated without passing any legislation directly attacking its provisions, as was proven during the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Internal Security Committee under the chairmanship of Senator Joseph McCarthy, between 1950 and 1954.

Let me remind you of the impact of those investigations, in a few words quoted from (the site also gives original sources for its statements):

“The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. In many cases, simply being subpoenaed by HUAC [the House Un-American Activities Committee] or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired. Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.

By defining violent radicalization as the “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change,” the Act is criminalizing an opinion, rather than a behavior.
I hold a political opinion that many people find distasteful, and I have repeatedly stated my opposition to the use of any violence whatsoever. But if someone takes my philosophy and forms a violent movement in its support, where does that leave me? In all likelihood, according to the language of this act, I have committed “violent radicalization.” If this Act were in effect in the early 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King could have been held responsible for the actions of the Black Panthers.

I am totally in favor of erecting defenses against violence for any reason. I agree that we need to understand the potential for terrorist actions within the United States. Anyone who commits a violent act should be vigorously prosecuted and severely punished according to law; but we must confine the legal process to dealing with the action, not the philosophy that is allegedly behind it. As President Harry Truman wrote in his unsuccessful veto of the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.”

Finally, I appeal to you to consider these words from Edward R. Murrow, in a final comment on McCarthyism:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”

If you cannot oppose H.R. 1955, I urge you to at least support amendments that will better protect the Constitutional rights of dissent.