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Through a Calendar Darkly

By Kevin Osborne · December 28th, 2011 · Porkopolis
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Now that Christmas has come and gone, we enter that strange time of year where many people get reflective and try to make some type of sense and discern meaning from the previous 12-months’ worth of random occurrences.

It’s a noble effort. I tend to agree with author George Santayana’s oft-quoted line: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Still, let’s be honest and admit it is also a moment for simply indulging in nostalgia — and most of us won’t learn a damn thing from it.

In that spirit, here’s a look back at excerpts from columns during a year that was alternately vexing and hopeful.

• “New Enquirer Editor Has Odd Views on Journalism,” (issue of Jan. 12)

Readers who had hoped The Cincinnati Enquirer might impose a more watchful eye on local corporations and their business practices with the hiring of a new executive editor probably shouldn’t proceed any further. They will only get depressed.

… (W)ith the hiring of Carolyn Washburn as the paper’s editor in charge of all news operations, history suggests that situation could get worse.

Back when The Gannett Co. owned The Idaho Statesman, and while Washburn served as that paper’s executive editor from 1999-2005, it became embroiled in a controversy involving conflicts of interest and journalistic integrity that caught the attention of The Washington Post and media watchdog groups. Gannett also owns The Enquirer.

... As Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting wrote in 2001: “The Idaho Statesman has a curious definition of ‘fact checking.’ The business editor of the Gannett-owned daily, Jim Bartimo, resigned when he was told that a story he had worked on about Micron Technologies, the area’s largest employer, had to be sent for pre-publication ‘review’... to Micron Technologies.”

• “Middle Class Should Rally Around Labor Unions,” (Feb. 23)

Pending bills introduced in Wisconsin and Ohio, the latter by State Sen. Shannon Jones (R-Springboro), would strip public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights, including the use of binding arbitration with the public safety forces.

The anti-union factions — led by Jones and Gov. John Kasich here and by Gov. Scott Walker in the Badger State — are blaming the unions for the fiscal woes being suffered by state and local governments.

To buttress their argument, the anti-union faction points to a bogus analysis by the conservative Buckeye Institute that alleges public workers earn up to 25 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector.

What the analysis doesn’t take into account are other factors like education and training.

According to the nonpartisan, less ideologically driven Economic Policy Institute, full-time state and local employees and school employees are under-compensated by 6 percent in Ohio, in comparison to otherwise similar private sector workers.

• “Republicans are the True Radicals,” (April 6) 

Throughout the last two years, we’ve heard one Republican after another bash President Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for supposedly jamming a “radical agenda” down people’s throats. But other than a watered-down health-care reform law that still allows private-sector insurance companies to play a major role, there is little evidence of substantive change or bold initiatives.

Now compare that record to what’s happened in three months since the GOP has reclaimed control of the House of Representatives, just one of our three branches of government.

Although Republicans allege healing the economy and creating jobs are their top priorities, they wasted the first several weeks of the new Congressional session introducing at least three bills that would restrict access to abortions. This occurred despite polls showing that the number of Americans who want to keep abortion safe and legal is growing.

… To push their extreme, ideologically-driven agenda, Republicans now are threatening to shut down the federal government over a budget impasse, all while refusing to touch one of the biggest sources of spending, the bloated defense budget.

It’s going to be an exceptionally long two years with this crowd in charge. I’m not sure we’re going to survive it.

• “Make Sure You’re Happy Enough, Or Else,” (May 4) 

Let me preface this column by stating unequivocally that I’m glad Osama bin Laden no longer poses any sort of threat.

... After reading all the ugliness online, I came across a column written by Dr. Pamela Gerloff, a counselor, on The Huffington Post that helped pinpoint the nagging feelings I was having.

“ ‘Celebrating’ the killing of any member of our species — for example, by chanting ‘USA! USA!’ and singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ outside the White House or jubilantly demonstrating in the streets — is a violation of human dignity,” Gerloff wrote.

... There is a difference between justice and vengeance, and being bloodthirsty is never a virtue.

• “Catholic Church Tries to Deflect Blame,” (June 1) 

A report examining the sexual abuse crisis, commissioned by Catholic bishops, was released in mid-May. One of its chief conclusions is that incidents of sexual abuse by priests peaked in the 1960s and ’70s because of the social upheavals during that era and changing norms about what was acceptable. A more permissive society confused psychologically vulnerable clergy and made them act in ways they might not have otherwise, the report claims.

… (But) the Pope and other church leaders first became aware of the growing problem of pedophile priests in the 1940s, according to Patrick J. Wall. A former Benedictine monk and priest, Wall was so disturbed by systemic efforts to cover up for pedophile priests that he now serves as a senior consultant to a California law firm handling several abuse cases.

Church leaders responded by founding the Servants of the Paraclete in 1947, which operated facilities that offer services and counseling to priests and brothers “with personal difficulties.” Since the flood of lawsuits were filed against the church in recent years, letters by Paraclete officials dating to the 1950s were uncovered that recommended priests found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual activity shouldn’t ever be returned to service.

 • “Mr. Boehner, You’re Not Being Honest,” (July 27) 

Compromise is all about giving up one thing in exchange for gaining another; merely making a series of demands and standing firm isn’t what negotiation or politics is all about. But (John) Boehner, who has been in Congress for nearly 21 years, already knows this.

On the same day Boehner gave his disingenuous speech, he also rejected an alternate plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Boehner disliked that Reid’s plan counted on $1 trillion in savings from gradually winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an interview on CNBC, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was forced to admit that the GOP’s initial budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and even Cut, Cap and Balance counted on savings from ending the wars, too.

What this really sounds like is Republicans are grasping for a reason — any reason — to oppose plans proposed by Democrats. Not exactly what you’d call a good faith effort.


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