Author Archives: CharlieClaywell

About CharlieClaywell

I have been a writer for years, mainly as a reporter, but I have always enjoyed history, especially non-mainstream stories buried inside old documents. My blog mostly centers around those stories. On occasion, though, I deviate and talk about my dog, vintage toys and what it's like to be middle-aged.

Gun-Toting Liberal Inadvertently Reveals U.S. Healthcare Hypocrisy

About 150-200 people attended the Freedom Rally sponsored by Preble County businesses and churches. The event was designed to address our local drug problem.

No one deserves to be gunned down. Not even a politician with white-supremacy leanings.

The shooting of United States House of Representatives Majority Whip and representative for Louisiana’s 1st congressional district Steve Scalise, one of nine mass shootings in the United States this week, dominated the news cycle this week.

The story brought many oddities to light. Scalise, a man who once referred to himself as David Duke without the baggage, was saved by black officers. This speaks to the officers’ bravery and willingness to do their job to protect everyone and for one day — even for Scalise — Black Lives Mattered. But that sentiment was short lived as a jury in Minnesota decided, in some cases, white lives still matter more.

But, one of the greatest twists was the issue of healthcare.

Scalise underwent several surgeries, in large part, because of the open carry law he supported. His NRA-funded support meant a mentally ill man was able to use a high-powered rifle to attack him, damaging internal organs in the process. Presumably, though, the Congressman received the best health care from the best doctors funded by taxpayers like me and you because his life matters. In fact, it matters much more than the individuals he worked so hard to take health care away from with the American Health Care Act.

His medical treatment is indicative of how unfairly health care is divvied out in the United States.

‘Wrong Job’ Means No Health Care Coverage

Buried inside a story in my local newspaper is the more common approach to health care for ‘real Americans.’

A public servant in Preble County, who works two part time jobs (one for a county agency), was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Since this individual works two part time jobs, instead of a full time job with benefits, he has no health insurance. This means the full financial brunt of the medical diagnosis is on him. It means raffle ticket sales and fundraisers throughout our community to offset what is certain to be a very costly situation. Although this Preble County man, like the Congressman, is working for the public, unlike the Congressman this local resident does not have the political clout that guarantees high-quality health care.

Political Hate

Warren Davidson, who serves in the House of Representatives for Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live, is Scalise’s co-worker. Davidson is also a member of the Freedom Caucus, the group largely responsible for the ‘mean’ (Trump’s words) AHCA that passed a month or so ago. Davidson, placed in the House through heavy funding by Club for Growth, is fond of saying, “It is not compassionate to bankrupt America.” Although his poorly written marketing tagline is not catching on, it does speak to the political tactic which falsely frames dissenting views. When 45* released his draconian budget a few weeks ago, Davidson was one of the first to praise it. He said,

We cannot bankrupt America. Finally, it appears we have a president who takes this problem seriously. President Trump’s budget bends the out of control spending curve in the right direction by making good on his promises to reform mandatory spending, cut wasteful programs, and balance the budget. This is a serious proposal to begin addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis.

I’ll admit I’m a cynic. I’ve heard the fiscal crisis, America is going bankrupt line of reasoning from the GOP my entire adult life. Yet somehow, we always find a way to build more MOABs, spend billions protecting oil interests in the Middle East — causing many in my community — yanked in and out of the Middle East for a decade — to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as these citizen soldiers experience underreported autrocities. Trump’s budget proposal will continue to fund these imperialistic wars via military entitlement spending while gutting funding for small communities like mine.

One of the proposals in Trump’s budget is to kill the Community Development Block Grant program. A recent front page story in my community paper details what a small Preble County village will do with the $300,000 CDBG funds it received. As a county, we have relied on CDBGs for decades because it is one of the handful of resources we still have to stem our tidal wave of poverty.

Government Is Always Bad

In 1964, John Stormer, a chairman of the Missouri Federation of Young Republicans, published None Dare Call it Treason. I read (most of) the book and will readily admit, I do not have enough fear and am not conspiracy-minded enough to believe half of what is written. But the more dangerous aspect of the book — and the countless like it in the past 50 or so years — is the anti-government rhetoric. It may have inadvertently played a part in the shooting as the shooter may have grown tired of the dismantling.

We have raised a generation or more of anti-government individuals who naively believe that government can only be evil. Many are growing tired of the rhetoric realizing that politicians, not citizens, benefit from the position. But, oddly enough, in the aftermath of the gunfire aimed at the political class there suddenly arose a desire to change the tone. Even ‘Cat-Scratch Fever’ Teddy Nugent backtracked his comments about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now he wants us all to play nice.

What a cowardly hypocrite.

Hate Is a More Powerful Motivator Than Love

One of the key individuals who unleashed Donald Trump on a government-hating element of our society was political operative Roger Stone. In the documentary Get Me Roger Stone, Stone relays some of his rules which include: Hate Is a More Powerful Motivator Than Love. Stone’s political career began with Richard Nixon (he has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back) and he is the embodiment of ‘government is evil.’ He openly admits in the film that ‘unsophisticated’ (his term) voters would latch onto Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric. The film is worth watching just to get a feel for how unlike most Americans political operatives can be — they thrive on power, not justice.

At the end of the day, though, one has to question who wins in this environment of hate, propaganda and politics by marketing?

I believe Scalise will come through his health care crisis financially unscathed.

I don’t feel so optimistic for the Preble County man.

Categories: 8th congressional district, health care, My America | Leave a comment

Walking The Tightrope Of Drug Addiction

Sadness is what I wake to this morning. It permeates my very core. Last night convinced me that I, like the popular Podcast, live in S-Town.

This week’s local news flow includes the story of a young man who escaped Ohio State Patrol custody in Eaton after about a half-milion dollars of heroin was allegedly found inside his vehicle. The escape meant a helicopter was dispatched, guns drawn, people advised to stay inside their homes. It had a ‘Cops’ feel to it, but the real drug news here is significantly less dramatic — and more toxic. It’s someone’s son or daughter — mother or father — unable to kick the habit — a habit that drains the pocketbooks and emotions of untold families in the county.

Some days I do ponder how we got here as a community. What was the tipping point? When did we enter a world where drugs consume our resources and our hope? Was it the 90s? The new millenium? It’s difficult to know the exact tipping point even though what goes on here is hidden in plain site.

You can see it in our yard signs (some mystical, above), our billboards, the tents hidden just out of view in the city parks, and in the rumors that abound.

Allegations exist of a couple local police officers mishandling suspects — usually miscreants and petty criminals — ‘shaking them down’ and conficating their backpacks without cause. I do not know if its true — and both sides have a vested interest in their version of events. But backpacks can be a problem. As pointed out in Methland, some dealers use backpacks to create a meth lab on wheels. They fill a 2-litre bottle and let the meth ‘cook’ as they ride around town. What appears to be a drug house also exist just out of eyesight of some of our Neighbors Against Crime signs. And, according to the latest rumor, a new drug house opened for business on West Somers Street — three or four blocks from the Eaton Police Station.

Regardless of the accuracy of the rumors, one thing is certain — there is a thriving drug market in Preble County.

Whether the market is created by the lack of hope, economic opportunity (rumors say some drug dealers here net $2,000 a week) — or it’s a situation expasperated by the more highly addictive drugs flooding our community — is anyone’s guess. Even marijuana, considered benign by many in Preble County — including many in my generation, is 8-10 times more potent that the marijuana from the era I grew up in (70s-80s). While proponents of marijuana ignore its downsides, a tight link to depression and anxiety complications is revealed in medical studies.

Until our drug problem is solved, nothing else matters.

Drug addiction is draining our resources. At the time of this writing, the county jail has 83 inmates in custody — many associated with drug issues. The facility is designed to hold about 70 so some inmates are being housed in another county — at taxpayer expense. The number of incidents handled by the Eaton Police Department has grown here as well — by about 25 percent in a decade. In 2006, the EPD handled about 2,000 incidents. Last year it was close to 2,500. This is in a city of about 8,000 with a steady to declining population.

Admittedly some of our problems are self-inflicted. Our population is largely high school educated — only about 10-11 percent with advanced degrees. This impacts local job options. We are also fiscally and politically ultra-conservative creating a tendency to slowly crawl to No instead of Yes when solutions are proposed. Our heroin problem is also partially self-inflicted as our doctors have — for nearly a decade — prescribed opioids at a higher rate than other counties in the state. And, in the bizarro legal world of the United States, doctors will never be criminally prosecuted — only the addicts.

I’m certain the sadness I feel this morning will fade because time does heal, but when I look at what my county needs to solve, I’m not convinced we, as a community, have the fortitude and intellectual drive to do it. I know we’re not afraid to work — I’ve seen hundreds of volunteers cleaning up our parks, but this is a much more difficult task.

It requires working on our perceptions. It requires educating ourselves about chemical dependency.

And, most difficult of all, the work requires giving a chemically-dependent person one more chance — even when you’re exhausted by the predictability of the disease.

Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | Leave a comment

10 Books, Movies That Explore The American Experience

Over the past month or so,  I’ve read — or watched — a wide range of material exploring the American Way.

Here are 10 works I recommend:

1. Glass House by Brian Alexander: I learned about this book from What’s Nonfiction (read review here) and was several pages into the book before I realized that I’ve been to Lancaster, Ohio multiple times in the past year (the story’s setting). It is the town where I dine after a day of hiking at Hocking Hills. Although the financial aspect of the book is too complicated for my tastes, the societal implications of the economic downturn hits close to home. The book deals with the heroin epidemic and the town leaders inability to solve their economic depravity. The obsession of Lancaster’s leaders with poorly thought out solutions (like festivals and tourism) for their economic demise felt very familiar.

2. Dream Land: This is an excellent book to better understand how states like Ohio became an easy target for the heroin trade. Dealers, mostly from small, rural regions of Mexico, swooped in and profited off the consumer base created through opioid prescriptions. The lack of violence in Ohio (and other states east of the Mississippi River) is by design as customer service and a pizza-delivery style approach — plus a keen awareness of law enforcement’s desire for ‘big busts’ — kept the heroin market thriving.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A manual of sorts for parents who have children dealing with drug addiction. The book offers insight into the signs and problems of addictions while offering methods on maintaining a high quality of life for the non-addicted.

4. Tears We Cannot Stop: Sermon to White America. Black minister Michael E. Dyson touches on everything from Black Lives Matters to the hypocrisy of the Tea Party, which he astutely notes, read, on the House floor, a modified version of the Constitution (avoiding the article about slaves being 3/5ths human) when they came to power in 2010. The book offers a strongly argued viewpoint that’s America’s ‘whiteness’ is part of our problem in the current era.

5. The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen: Several books have addressed the issue of how American communities are becoming more segregated by class and income in addition to race. But this book also looks at the impact this segregation is having on politics and our democracy. The lack of mobility of the current generation has left us economically and politically vulnerable, the author asserts.

Movies

6. Warning: This Drug Can Kill You: In this hour-long HBO Documentary you meet several families from across the country dealing with various degrees of the heroin epidemic. The movie begins with 1990s footage of a pharmaceutical company falsely claiming that opioids are non-addictive. The movie ends with a law enforcement agency that, in lieu of criminalization, have an open door policy to place willing heroin addicts into rehab centers. Very powerful stories from ‘real’ people dealing with the fallout of an epidemic created by an under-regulated industry.

7. Friends of God: Filmed in 2006 by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the slant is obvious. The story is interesting as she criss-crosses the country highlighting churches and church signs while interviewing powerful ministers. Although not the goal of the film, it does show the mindset (Vote your Values) that willingly voted for president Trump and why they are doubling-down despite his less than Christian tactics.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Although the film was a little disappointing since the story is quite powerful, it is still a quick way to learn about the rise of the bio-medical industry. Cells extracted from Henrietta Lacks, without her consent, have resulted in cures, cutting-edge medicines and billions of dollars in profit. Lacks, a poor, black woman was never compensated for — what amounts to legalized theft of — her cells. And, as the film points out, it is still legal to extract cells from a patient without their consent.

9. I Am Not Your Negro: Based on a unfinished project by black novelist James Baldwin, the film is mostly a look at America’s hypocritical whiteness. Although there is plenty to comment on about the film, one of the most powerful effects for me was how they zoomed in on historical photos of school integration. By zooming past the black teen or child heading to school and highlighting the expressions on the faces of white children, teens and adults, it is very disheartening to realize those same intense expressions of hate exist today, more than 50 years later.

10. All The Way: This is another HBO film, and it is about LBJ’s campaign for the presidency. LBJ was renown for his crudeness, which the film includes, but the movie is really an excellent condensed version of 1964 — LBJ’s first full year as president. It shows how, even then, politicians were more concerned about wielding power than democracy. Be forewarned, for those tired of the current political debacle, it will not be pleasant film, and it may reinforce budding cynicism.

Categories: American History, Books I have read, movies