I haven’t been writing. This is pathetic, I should write, I can write, but I haven’t been. The near 1000 mile move took a lot of commitment from my family and I. We are seeking to make a better and stronger family from this move and thus far it has been working. My indignation and fear of the unknown have slowly melted away in this new verdant land I call home. The unfamiliarity of place still exists, but now it truly is an adventure here. Enough hemming with subjects unrelated, I shall make my points known because I see a lot of things going on that are foolish, trite, and genuinely disgusting.
In the interest of full disclosure, I spent 14 years in the general vicinity of the Ozarks where the Duggars live. I am not a Christian (obvious to anyone that has either a.) spent time around me, or b.) read my words here). I do not believe in the institution of religion, I do not believe that any of the power it offers can be used responsibly or well, but I do not believe that Christianity alone should have the largest target. Atheism does not equal anti-Christian. Atheism means anti-religion, all of them without prejudice for the one in which a particular person was raised.
This post is generated based off the internet rumor and later omission of guilt by the young Mr. Duggar. Obviously, if you’ve seen the news, you’ve heard about it; however, when I see the following from a Facebook post:
“People need to lay off the Duggar family..yes he made a mistake as all Christians do. He was 14 people…I’m
Not saying it’s right but his family handled it the way they thought it should be handled. He has come out and admitted it and apologized and asked for forgiveness. Let that family be” (sic)
Or even better, the entirety of Chris Martin’s article. The rhetoric in use by supporters is violently disgusting, so let’s take the opposite perspective. Morality does not exist as it is culturally created, therefore, we will not necessarily be discussing anything to do with regard to morals here. This is about ethics and society.
To take the above Facebook quote, which is indicative of a number of people that which to believe in the family’s right to their religious expression, we condense the situation down to a simple commentary on the idea of Christianly failings. This individual made a mistake, therefore, he asked forgiveness of his sins, and in his faith in Christ these were absolved. While these are the basic tenets of the commentary, what the author misses is simple: sexual abuse, regardless of age, are a trope of power. They are an assertion of will and control over another person. Regardless of the morality of the “mistake” and the askance of “forgiveness,” this is ethically incompatible with the desires of the justice system to document and monitor those with a predisposition to sexual violence. Sexual abuse is a crime that is profoundly larger than any mistake. Because of its unethical weight, the individual that professes this a simple mistake is either missing the point or is obfuscating facts.
Given Joshua Duggar’s age at the time, it is highly likely that he “grew out” of this phase of his life. This is the implication of reminding of his tender age of 14. It appears that this phase lasted from, at least, age 14 through 16, based on the researched timeline in this article. At the very least, Joshua Duggar could have been tried as an adult for his aggressive actions. Further, he could have been tried as a juvenile. Either way, he would have been subject to the Arkansas Crime Information System database as a sexual predator and his particular desires would have been noted in case of future allegations made against him. According to the number of victims, the severity of abuse (which I do not know), and other factors, Joshua Duggar could have faced upwards of 20 years in jail for his crimes if charged as an adult. Regardless, based off his actions, Mr. Duggar is a criminal who never faced justice. Further, he never was recorded or monitored as a sexual predator. Utilitarians (what most Christian faiths and social justice warriors espouse) could not have been satisfied with this: based off the number of complaints, the timeframes in which the abuse occurred, and the general fact that this information was kept secret, it is possible there were victims whose abuse could have been prevented if they had access to this knowledge. In other words, the general public’s health and happiness was put at risk by the selfishness of this specific family’s desire to protect their son. This is unethical.
Being a parent, personally, I know he desire to wish to protect and love my child like nothing else in this world before me. However, behavior choices and actions have consequences. Those consequences must be paid. It is unacceptable to attempt to exploit and hide the behavior of your family through connections you have made in the local governments. This is being accountable to Caesar, as Christ as his people to do.
“He has come out and admitted it and apologized and asked for forgiveness.” I do not need to forgive him. He did not wrong me. Forgiveness is between his victims, himself, and his god. However, I can say that now he represents, to me, a person that symbolizes violence, sexual perversion, and exploitation of the system to his favor. As a larger result, his family does the same to me as his parents aided and abetted this behavior, had knowledge of it but did not inform anyone as to the dangers of their son, and then used their personal connections and clout to hide it under the rug. Further, they lied about sending Joshua Duggar to counseling for his behavior.
To continue in the cynosure of words that this has become, Mr. Martin wrote an article in which he criticized reality TV and pop culture; however, I take exception with a few of his arguments:
1.) Twelve years ago, Josh Duggar screwed up?
2.) He crossed a line by sexually molesting girls. That is an unforgivable sin. It’s not like he told a lie or took something from the office that belonged to the company;
3.) Christian celebrities are held to a much higher standard because we all say they should know better. When they screw up, we are so quick to judge.
To counter one and two, which I have taken a bit of context here by not including his questions regarding the status of the Duggars as humans, is simple. “Screwed up?” This is what sexual abuse, which is an assertion of power, will, and authority, is condensed to by Mr. Martin’s words. How fitting a pun to describe his own words about the situation. This gentle amelioration of the actions of Mr. Duggar condenses it down to a Mayberry-esque, “aw shucks” moment.
Barney: “Hey, Andy, uh…. got something to talk to you ’bout.”
Andy: “Yeah, Barn’?”
Barney: “Well, girl down the street said Opie snuck into the room and touched her.”
Andy: “Aww, well, he’s just screwed up, hadn’t he?”
I doubt that really would have been script, but that’s what comes to mind immediately. This description entirely eviscerates the concerns of the victims. It also reminds that it happened 12! years ago. The timeline shows 8-12 years previous, but that’s beside the point, right? The article later asks the following question:
“For those of you who say “once a pedophile, always a pedophile,” you are basically saying God is incapable of changing a heart.”
Scentific work regarding pedophilia has demonstrated a large percentage of offenders who continually commit crimes and no cure or treatment has completely alleviated pedophilia. Mr. Martin is right that people CAN change, but the efforts are herculean in these cases. Further, pedophilia arises in pubescence, approximately the time frames in which Mr. Duggar began his actions. Further, given this, it is highly possible that Joshua Duggar has a personality disorder associated with these behaviors that potentially went untreated for years or perhaps even still. How effective and Christian are the Duggars as parents that do not take their son to a physician to discuss these issues, submit him to psychological testing to aid him with these behavior, and generally subjecting their daughters to their son’s personality problems. They can be judged by the failures to comply with the ethics and morality they defined for themselves. If so family intensive, why then was this not taken head on and cured?
Christian celebrities are held to a much higher standard because they put it on themselves, but documenting their faiths heavily. A connection would be say, Tim Tebow, a terrible professional quarterback, but an amazing college quarterback (note I can still be wrong about this, depending on how he fares with the Eagles). NFL evaluators fairly described him as a quarterback with a weak arm, poor mechanics, and an inability to read defenses — this was a fair commentary; however, Mr. Tebow also liked attempting to provide something to people at each home game, he tried to tirelessly meet with fans and well-wishers, and use them as a chance to witness his faith — this became an unfairly described personality fault by NFL evaluators. Christian or not, Mr. Tebow is great PR for his team because of his requests, but his incessant need to attempt to fulfill them to expand his ministry has angered people in the NFL. This additional level of ethical and moral attachment offers a ready made base of fans, but when actions of the public believer demonstrate their failures to adhere to their own expressed values, their condemnation comes far quicker than the rest.
I genuinely believed I would have more time to scribe for this blog. I just haven’t. Things are settling more and I need to get back to writing.
Here’s what’s been burning my ears up this year thus far:
Katatonia’s Sanctitude, Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase., Luciferian Light Orchestra’s Luciferian Light Orchestra, Napalm Death’s Apex Predator, and a few more things here and there.
I intend on getting back to writing reviews for music, but it’s been so difficult to find the life, family, work, and other stuff balance that I’ve got to consider in my design.
I did no reviews last year. Therefore, I’m going to still do a top 10 list and disappointment list for 2014 releases. Without further ado, here goes my ten favorite releases from last year:
10: Junius – Days of the Fallen Sun EP: Stunningly heavy and dense without ever having to go into traditional metal tropes, Junius’ short release burned up my headphones for quite a long time in 2014.
9: Bloodbath – “Grand Morbid Funeral”: Yes, please, more with the heavy and the dark and the genuinely old school feel and vibe. I completely enjoyed this album.
8: Alcest – “Shelter”: Dream pop at its finest, but the overall sound lost contrast quickly when the intensity was removed.
7. Agalloch – “The Serpent & the Sphere”: A band, whose music is typically dense, melancholic, and reminiscent of the sky just before the clouds break, offers up a serving of the coldest, darkest music they’ve done to date in my opinion.
6. Devin Townsend Project – “Z2: Dark Matters”: Campy, original, filled with fart jokes, and evoking a 50s radio play, this album’s jaunt through Dev’s witticisms is fun if not a touch too saccharine at points.
5. Behemoth – “The Satanist”: Ranked this high due to the sheer factor of sarcasm dripping from Nergal’s voice in the first track: “Blow your trumpet, Gabriel!” I was never a fan before, but I find that I am now.
And, because I’m a massive and amazingly terrible writer that cannot make up his mind, I have 4 albums in a tie for the first spot, depending on my mood (which will be listed below) and these are in no particular order:
1d.) Causalities of Cool – “Causalities of Cool”: Dark, melancholic space country rock? WTF, Dev? This album has seriously some of the most amazing textures, rolling noise, and themes I’ve heard in a long time. Here’s “Ether” from that album that demonstrates this wonderfully:
I found myself gravitating to this when I was feeling extraordinarily stressed or needing to reflect.
1c.) Opeth – “Pale Communion”: Holy shit, it’s not a jangled mess of riffs and thoughts. While I enjoyed Heritage, it was like a sentence fragment. Here’s “Moon Above, Sun Below” from the album:
I found myself going to this one when I needed the melancholy feels from Opeth and when I wanted something openly and unrepentantly creative.
1b.) Solstafir – “Otta”: This album defines Iceland in my mind now. It is stunningly gorgeous, filled with texture, and wonderfully performed. Here’s “Lagnaetti” from the album:
Similar to Casualties of Cool, I found myself coming to this album as I could when I needed a bit of stress relief. Even the abrasive moments are wonderfully performed and never out of context or character.
1a.) Tritypkon – Melana Chasmata”: Oppressively heavy, stunningly depressive, and at times hauntingly beautiful, the album hits a progressive metal fan right in the gut and does everything it needs to do well. Further it has a love poem dedicated to Emily Bronte on it. I enjoyed their first album greatly, but I didn’t get overwhelmed by it.
I came to this album again and again just because I wanted to hear it. It appealed to times when I was down, but also times when I needed to explore a different headspace.
Biggest disappointments of 2014:
1.) Soen – “Tellurian”: Their first release, “Cognitive,” stunned me. It was an amazing album. This album I listed to maybe to or three tracks and switched to a different band and never went back.
2.) Encoffination – “III: Hear me, O Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)”: This album was on the list because if you are going to name yourself with something as off the wall as this, then you better damn well be good. They weren’t.
3.) Mayhem – “Esoteric Warfare”: These are the fathers of Norwegian Black Metal? Eeeeeesh.
Two Albums that Blew My Fucking Mind:
1.) Primus & the Chocolate Factory: Like listening to the soundtrack only (no pictures) of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on LSD. I need not say more. Listen to this album.
2.) Cynic – “Kindly Bent to Free Us:” Like listening to the soundtrack of peace and harmony on LSD.
Distilled down to its barest essences, the role of the agency I’ve been describing is fulfilled primarily by its specialists. These individuals must interview applicants, document their information, and request the necessary data to properly dispose of their cases in a timely and accurate fashion. This is far more difficult than it may seem, but is not nearly as difficult as can be interpreted. I can offer two analyses of the two leadership groups under which I served as an employee: the first of which could do no right, and the other with the right mentality in place.
The average day is simple enough, and can vary depending on your job assignment. Ultimately, you have 8 appointments a day, convening with an applicant every 45 minutes starting at 8:15am an ending at 3:15pm (on average). There is a certain rhythm with this job and this schedule. A comfort that is built up by the rigid structure that allows for a focused assault on your day as it were. Because applications are due on the 30th day after the day of application (e.g: an application on 7/1 must be completed by 7/31), it is fairly obvious when you receive your work list for the day of which cases you need to ma (nage by close of business. One cannot start before 8am and stay after 4:30pm (due to the demands of the job in large offices, it sometimes feels like the 8 hours is not enough to complete all your necessary work – this is not a possibility as some years ago, the State lost a lawsuit against workers that had been doing this).
Best practices means you get the list from your supervisor by 8:00am (they typically arrive between 7:15am-7:30am and stay until 5:30pm-6:00pm – they can do this, as management are not held to the same laws). First thing’s first, you check your email inbox, your work mailbox, and snag your applications. If you’re lucky, you can get the daily report on your work list back to your supervisor before your first interview and deny any applications whose applicants failed to comply with the interview process. Policy states that the interview is a mandated part of the process. Then, you get your first applicant interview of the day screened, meaning you check all available data to which the agency has access (note: THIS DOES NOT MEAN CREDIT CHECKS; THERE ARE NO CREDIT CHECKS NEEDED). During this screening, you should take the time to examine the previous case actions within the past year by reading the documentation from that time. If you’re lucky (again), the interview takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, given you 15 minutes to wrap up your notes and additional time to move on to the next application to repeat the process. This occurs 8 times a day when interviewing.
During these downtimes, you can check to see if work due that day has had information returned by the applicant to complete their cases and make determinations timely. As bad as this sounds, at some points, you may be rooting for no shows to get cases done or to return telephone calls as you can. By the time 3:15pm rolls around, hopefully you’re set up and ready to process anything else that must absolutely be done that day and then completing applications that are due on forward dates (this is hard to do especially for certain roles that have similar due days or if you’ve got a lot of applications due on the same day). If you get the time and have the inclination, read policy. Reading policy is always key to understanding your role with the agency.
Under previous leadership, I have seen this day turn into interviews until 4:15pm at 30 minute intervals (which is near impossible to do). I have seen “walk-in” reschedule days where applicant were invited to come and wait in the lobby (sheer and utter foolishness) to be seen in the order in which they arrived. I have had to take my normal 8 appointments and then take 5 more on top of that due to poor scheduling or errors on behalf of the agency (we -have- to correct these because it is the responsibility of the agency to do things right).
No matter how hard you work or how well you work, you will always have complications. An applicant will be not be as forthcoming in an interview and you’ll have to work doubly hard to get the correct information, a very difficult case will present itself when you’re there, a phone call will come in and you will have to respond, &c. There are a million different ways to get sidetracked that are out of your control. The point is to never be sidetracked by anything you can control (cell phone use, talking, &c) unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is precisely why I listened to so much music at work when I was a specialist, and then this diminished when I became a supervisor so that I could have an open door at all times.
Under previous leadership, specifically my rodeo clown of a supervisor who had never been trained on policy or worked with applicants for benefits, I was given the additional burden of completing supervisory responsibilities. While this was difficult to complete in addition to my normal responsibilities, it did prepare me for the future.
String four of these days together and include a day upon which you are given no interviews to work cases down and that is your work week as a benefit specialist. It can be overwhelming at time as you deal with the typical ebb and flow. To put the numbers into context, as a specialist, you will begin receiving 32 applicants a week for a total of 128 a month. These numbers stack up quickly.
Perhaps my naive self was not fully prepared to appreciate the sheer monolithic structure of government work. I don’t believe I ever made a pretense that I was fully capable and/or ready to enter into the structure, but at the same time, it’s stunning how absolutely confined it all is and how positively medieval. Defined at first by Ganshof as the combination of legal and military customs among the military nobility binding land, lord, and vassals together, feudalism is a problematic term at best. It evokes a large number of images of a rigidly held power structure devoted to consolidating and holding as much power as possible. This is the angle from which I will make my comparison.
Like any good structure, there is a model that imposes structure. From my experience with this job, the power structure is pyramidal. Obviously, the Governor and the state’s Congress sit above this structure and influence it with their decisions and I am not genuinely not so concerned about that because that is out of the agency’s control. People elect their representatives, regardless of political agreement or disagreement, and as a state employee, you are bound to follow the laws and regulations they bind to your positions. Therefore, if the Governor is in our analogy the Royal, then the Congress is the House of Lords & Commons (note: the line is becoming very blurred here in the US on bicameral legislatures and in a small, poor state, those with the most money may not always have the most influence).
The Director of the Agency essentially serves as Royal Governor of the agency. Political appointed and legislatively approved, this individual’s role is to represent the agency in all realms. In my time at the agency, I met and interacted with the Director twice. The first was during supervisor training (to which he was mandated to attend) and the second was a spur of the moment visit to the county office at which I worked. On both occasions, the Director requested “real talk” about the agency and its goals and how employees were representing the State. On both occasions, questions were preemptively screened and vetted before getting to the Director. In other words, very little substance was offered. While this is not too surprising in general, it speaks volumes that the majority of communication from the Director’s office was in the form of press releases, vetting questions, and media interviews. The role of the Director from my perspective was mostly PR. The Director serves from the central office.
Beneath the Director, there are a large number of Divisional Directors. In such a large agency with so many encompassing programs from the State Hospital to Child Protective services, these Divisional Directors essentially serve as the established lords/ladies. Each is appointed by the director and requires gubernatorial approval before they take office. You hear very, very little from these people. In fact, the Director serving for my division retired before I promoted within the agency. Since that occurred, I do not remember, except when the new Divisional Director was introduced, ever having met, received an email from, or otherwise heard discussion about the new Divisional Director. This is important – not because silence indicates nothing: silence from a particular position in this level of management means they are genuinely working hard behind the scenes. Like the Agency Director, they serve in Central Office. The best analogue I have for this position would be a member of the clergy (or the second estate as they were called).
Beneath each Divisional Director, there are a number of Assistant Directors. In the case of my division, there were many ranging from personnel directors to policy directors, &c. Again, similar to clergy, the Assistant Directors were the Mouth of the Central Office (for your LotR fans out there) and were far more visible than the two above. One person in particular demonstrated best practices and powerful leadership qualities that would later come to define how I would attempt to manage my staff. This Assistant Director was very much visible; however, one could attempt to contact any of them for guidance. Each had their own support staff as well; for example, the Assistant Director of Policy (for whom a goal is to insure effective communication of new regulations and policies to the entire agency and its staff) has policy writers for all services offers, lawyers for specific projects, &c. Like the above, all these serve in Central Office.
This represents the top third of the pyramid and effectively documents the structure of the agency’s Central office. There are more staff obviously and other roles that I’ve not indicated here, but these are the important ones as it relates to the Division with which I worked. Like most monoliths, the structure holds its highest status individuals in the most centralized location with religious-like attending staff to administer the details. Central office does not equate to Field office, however, and the continued division of authority and structure is important because this is where it begins affecting all points along the way.
Nulle terre sans seigneur
No land with out a lord; no property without a liege. Those that have served in the Field Office shall, if they have integrated enough with successful people, be granted land of their own with approval from the sovereign. This is where the Field Office staff begins being impacted directly. To manage the need for a large number of Field Offices (one, sometimes two, in each county), the State has divided into a number of geographic and geopolitical (in one case) areas. A Director runs each area, much like a manorial noble in Britain would centuries ago (except with less killing, death, etc). They answer to the Assistant Director of the programs (the individual who I described earlier serves in this role and is wonderful at it). On a day to day basis, it is the Regional Director who’s vision is instituted and who’s dictates matter most. This position is therefore the most important managerial position for the Field Office: from performance evaluations and other personnel matters to communication regarding policy and regulation of the programs, their stamp is on nearly everything in the fief they have been granted.
Unfortunately, the Regional Director (RD) under whom I served was not a good one: tyrannical and flighty are the easiest descriptors. The RD’s answer for most problems was to criticize and take power to institute what was perceived as necessary. The RD has a number of assistants that serve as Data Analysts for the area. The Data Analysts (DAs) are important in these situations, from my observations. I noted that when there were DAs that were willing to investigate, provide accurate and concise real world information, and otherwise talk to the Field Offices, the RD would follow their lead. Being a report driven performance evaluated position, the RD wants numbers to demonstrate strong guidance and compliance with federal goals. In cases where the DAs aren’t doing this and are pushing to be as favorable to the boss as possible, the RD gets as much leeway as they can and the only person that can hold them accountable is in Central Office and in most cases is over 100 miles away from any Regional Office in the state (the RDs get to designate their own Regional Offices upon assuming the title).
Underneath the RD, each Field Office has a Director whose goals it is to facilitate the services for the county. The Field Office Director was my guiding light and additional inspiration. The Director’s job is to supervise and manage personnel and to abet the Field Office to meet Federal goals. However, each office has a Director, the RD’s vision is implemented by the Field Office Directors. When one has a boss that has the ability to control nearly each aspect of your day, then you will find yourself complying with dictates that may absolutely no sense and often don’t have the backing of the clergy from Central Office.
Beneath the Field Office Director are the Field Office Coordinators who handle the day to day policy and regulation compliance with the agency and beneath them you have the Field Office Supervisors (this is as far as I could go). Then beneath the FOS, you have the specialists that interact with and perform the basic currency duties of the agency. Note how top heavy this structure is for the state? There’s nearly 10 levels of management above the specialist position and due to the personalities involved, a typical day can seem like a mine field.
So, what the hell does this all matter?
Ultimately, Central Office decisions affect everyone in the Field Offices; however, they are instituted by the RD. In my case the RD used ineffectual leaders for committees and other interactions to facilitate creating an environment were they began assuming additional power. For example, a decision was authorized to have a Field Office Worker serve as an Regional Case Review Specialist (additional oversight, you see). During the discussion phase, I brought up several questions, but most importantly I asked if we had legislative and directorial approval to do this (each position with the state must stick to its legislatively written job description). The RD replied that this did not matter and that we could do this however we wanted. Within three months during the course of a Legislative Audit, it was discovered that this was occurring in our region. The Auditors told the RD to discontinue this and her manager (who I respect greatly) did the same. So, then the position was rephrased into a New Worker Training Position. Her manager found out about this quickly and reminded that regulations in policy dictate that only those with certification can train New Workers.
Before my leaving, another plan was being concocted by the RD. Field Office management (director, coordinator, and supervisor) are rated on their basest levels against the federal goals. The FOD and FOC are rated on the entire Field Office statistics, the FOS are rated on the statistics of their individual teams. If your team are not meeting the federal goals, then you will not get a high rating in that review. The RD, wishing to increase and coax better performance, wanted to apply this to all county staff, meaning that a worker’s individual accuracy and timeliness did not matter on their performance reviews as they could not ever score higher than the whole county office. This is a violation of Labor Law, but was in the process of attempted justification when I left. The impacts, if allowed to go through, would obviously not only be illegal, but would be extraordinarily demoralizing.
Enjoy. Perfect with themes of the day.