Entries related to things political.

Schriro and Vance

As a blogger and a professional communicator, I’m always interested in trying to get to the underlying story behind the headlines, and if the headlines involve a public information officer, it is all the more interesting to me. So, the recent transfer of Lt. Paul Vance from his current position as public information officer for the Connecticut State Police caught my attention.

A press release by the Connecticut State Police Captains and Lieutenants Union questions the actions of the state police commissioner.

“The manner in which Lt. Vance was removed was inappropriate and the actions of his removal indicates a disrespect for State Police Commanders.”

So, why would a very well respected police officer be transferred in this manner, especially in a day when law enforcement officers around the country have a desperate need for spokespeople who inspire trust?

One hypothesis is that it is age discrimination. I don’t know how old Lt. Vance is, but he’s been with the Connecticut State Police for over forty years.

As a communications person, I have to wonder about a different angle. First, I find it interesting that there has been no discussion of who the new public information officer will be. One would think that with an important and highly visible position like this, a new public information officer would be announced and there would be information about it on the State Police website.

However, the State Police website, last updated on Feb 18th, list Lt. Vance as the public information officer, and there is not press release on the website about it.

Instead, information about the reassignment seems to be coming via email from State Police Col. Brian Meraviglia, at least, there is who The Day quotes.

So, who is Col. Meraviglia? Back in June, Commissioner Dora Shriro announced that Meraviglia was replacing retiring Col. Danny Stebbins. The article in the CTMirror about Meraviglia said that “Stebbins was the subject of a no-confidence vote by the State Police Union”.

There isn’t a lot more about Meraviglia besides his appointment by Commissioner Schriro. So, the next place I started digging was on her.

This is where things start to get interesting. A search in the news on Commissioner Schriro brought up mostly negative stories. The top story is NYC Prison Scandal Continues; Times Editorial Cites 'Outrageous Behavior' By Dora Schriro, Now CT Public Safety Commissioner.

This article includes a statement from Sen McKinney and Fasano,

Earlier this month, we raised questions about Commissioner Schriro not disclosing at her legislative confirmation hearing that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating the New York City Department of Corrections at the time she headed it.

A subsequent editorial by the Hartford Courant asks, Is New State Police Boss Trustworthy?.

It seems problematic when the media questions the trustworthiness of a commissioner but not the trustworthiness of the public information officer that is being reassigned.

So, why is this coming up now? Earlier this month, the CTMirror reported, Schriro’s results in Connecticut outweigh troubles in NYC.

The Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee voted 5 to 3 to recommend Schriro’s confirmation by the House of Representatives for a full four-year term

It is hard to tell what is going on behind the scenes, but if I were Commissioner Shriro, I’d be looking for advice from a well respected public information officer instead of trying to get him reassigned.

Keeping the Saint in St. Valentine’s Day

This morning on Facebook, I posted,

Happy Saint Valentine's Day everyone!
(Let's keep the Saint in Saint Valentine's Day!)

Several people liked the post, but one asked,

Why? I'm fine with thinking it was invented by Hallmark.

A friend of a friend on Facebook posted,

Who was St. Valentine? I believe he was beheaded for secretly marrying couples during a time when marriage was banned so that men would be more likely to go to war! St Valentine was therefore canonized by the Catholic Church. Am I right?

Another posted

St Valentine was a pimp... but then again we celebrate slave owners and criminals as well.

So, let’s look at some of what is currently said about St. Valentine online.

Wikipedia lists several stories about St. Valentine, noting that

All that is reliably known of the saint commemorated on February 14 is his name and that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian bridge to the north of Rome on that day

History.com provides this story:

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.

Wikipedia also mentions this story as one of many about St. Valentine.

While we may never know the true story, there is a timeless truth people performing marriages against orders, to avoid military service, or to promote some greater good.

Marriage was a way to get avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War. Friar Lawrence married Romeo and Juliet in hopes of bringing to warring families together.

Even this past week, we have seen the Alabama Chief Justice order probate judges not to issues marriage licenses to same sex couples after a Federal Judge found the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Some probate judges refused to follow the Chief Justice’s order and a subsequent ruling was expanded the number of probate judges issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

So, while, my post was meant as a play on, let’s keep the Christ in Christmas, and the many other lines that inspired, such as let’s keep Thor in Thursday, there is something to celebrate in priests and judges that seek to bring people together against the will of those who would wage war or try to keep people apart.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.

Doing the Dishes

I stand over the sink, doing the dishes. The leftovers have been put into containers that will be brought to work for lunch tomorrow. The kitchen is almost clean. Outside, the cold snows blows as the most recent storm abates. The storms, the dishes; it’s all so tedious.

On Facebook, the other day, one of my neighbors asked if anyone knew the story of the two homeless men that often stand at the end of the parkway ramp asking for money. I’ve seen them. I’ve given them money, but I don’t know their stories.

A lively discussion breaks out in the comments. All of the stereotypes come out. They’re probably drug addicts, part of a gang, too lazy to do real work. Some suggest that you shouldn’t give them money, it just enables them and doesn’t fix anything. Others bring more nuance and compassion.

I relate the story of a church retreat I was at last fall where the topic of giving to homeless people came up. One person expressed concern about giving money to people asking on the street. How do we know that they won't just use it for things that are not good for them?

Yet it was pointed out that God gives blessing to all of us, continually, even though we, too often, don't use God's blessings in ways that are good for us. Likewise, we should give to those that ask of us, even when we don't know if they will use it for their benefit each time.

Many people shared ideas about how to help, with organizations like Partnership for Strong Communities, Columbus House, soup kitchens and various church groups.

Yet the discussion turned nasty as people call other people judgmental and condescending. There is a lot of passion around this subject. Perhaps, some of it revolves around the idea of, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”, around the idea that any of us are just one catastrophe away from being homeless ourselves.

I set down another pot to dry and look outside. The dishes, the snow, are all tedious, but how much more tedious would it be to be standing outside in this storm, unsure what you will eat or where you will sleep tomorrow.

Every December, they have a memorial service for homeless men and women that have died over the past year, and a couple of these services have inspired powerful blog posts.

Homeless is Not a Disease. It's a Fixable Condition.
What it means to be homeless

I finish the dishes and sit down to write. On the couch next me the dog sleeps. In the family room, my wife watches some television show, and my daughter is off in her bedroom being a teenager. Our stomachs are full, we are warm and dry, and I even know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow.

Vaccine Politics

Recently, several friends have posted comments on Facebook trying to make sense about the underlying issues around vaccines. It has become a much bigger discussion today after comments by Gov. Christie and Sen. Paul about whether or not vaccines should be required.

One friend on Facebook asked why Republicans were pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd. I suggested two reasons

1) Republicans seem to be focused on anti-science policies in general, e.g. Teaching creationism, climate change denial, anti-vax, etc.
2) Republicans seem to be focused on individual freedoms at the expense of the common good. This is another key aspect of the vaccination debate.

There’s not much that can be said about the anti-science position of too many Republicans. However, the struggle between individual freedoms and our responsibility to the common good is a big issue which muddies the discussion around vaccines. Large pharmaceutical companies are viewed with much suspicion. Many believe that heads of these companies lobby hard for their freedoms and the expense of the common good. They suggest that a better way of addressing concerns around vaccines might best be addressed by getting the large pharmaceutical companies under control. People presenting this argument of also talk about the proliferation of toxins in our environment.

There is also the issue that many people are stubborn. They will refuse to do what is in their best interest if they feel they are being forced to do it.

Another person on Facebook, perhaps recognizing this dynamic, questioned the utility of people posting pro-vaccine messages on Facebook. Those messages are very unlikely to change the opinion of people opposed to vaccines. I pointed out, however, that people who are opposed to vaccines might not be the intended audience of pro-vaccine messages. Instead, there is something important about getting a pro-vaccine message out for those who haven’t really thought about the issue. If all they hear is the anti-vaccine rhetoric, they might come get to a point of opposing vaccines, without ever hearing the flaws of the anti-vaccine position, or the vast support for vaccines.

I suspect there might also be some perfect enemy of the good thinking going on here. Yes, in rare cases vaccines can cause complications. Yes, in rare cases vaccines don’t protect the individual who has received the vaccine. It is frightening to look at the risks we all encounter, but it is important to compare relative risks and chose risks that are more likely to have a beneficial outcome, or less likely to have a negative outcome. We need to do this as individuals, and we need to do this as members of society.

So, I stay up to date on my vaccines because I believe it is the best thing to do for me as well as for the people around me.

Political Engagement

It is easy, as a politically engaged person, to wonder how other people cannot be politically engaged. This evening, I sat down to write about bills currently being considered in the CT State Legislature, and maybe comment on some Federal legislation, and, if I had energy, talk a little bit about the latest in town politics. There is so much to write about.

Yet it has been another long hard day, and I don’t have the energy to write that post. It is a useful reminder of how people cannot not have the time or energy to become more involved politically.

I do spend time trying to balance out my writing, my studies, my work, my tasks around the house, my responsibilities to various committees I serve on and at times, it just seems as if there isn’t enough time.

It begs the question, what really does matter? I think that’s a useful question to ask. I find I ask it of people in political discussions. For many, it seems to be a question of getting ahead, or simply not falling further behind. Underlying that is the question of who is getting ahead or not. Are we concerned about ourselves? Our neighbors? Our country?

Back to social constructs and the social contract, at least when there is time to think about such things.

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