Archive for March, 2014

Polarization

March 24, 2014

“Is it just me or is that polar vortex still hanging around?” No, not that kind of polarization.

CNBC ran an article over the weekend, “Farming in America: ‘There’s a growing discontent’” (by Mark Koba, CNBC Senior Editor 3-23-14). Newark Ohio being surrounded by farms, Analysis thought it might be pertinent to put an ear to the ground to pick up on this groundswell of unrest. Sadly, CNBC is not a very good conduit at all. Every murmur of disgruntlement (“However, it’s not the health debate but forcing the agriculture system into imbalance, which concerns Mark Spitznagel, chief investment officer of investment firm Universa Investments. He’s also owner and operator of Idyll Farms in Northport, Mich. “GMOs and other artificial techniques may be short-term solutions to increasing yields, but they are distorting the natural process and will eventually lead to ruin,” explained Spitznagel. “Agriculture is heading for a wall.””) was accompanied by a sigh of satisfaction (“”There has not been one single food safety issue,” said Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto, the largest producer in the world of GMO seeds. “We are very proud of our GMO technology and more than 90 percent of corn and soybean seeds in the U.S. are GMO,” he said.”). Either the CNBC headline was grossly misleading or something else is occurring within the media, within our culture, which we have taken to be as natural as beginning a sentence with “So”. So, PBS cut Bill Moyers and Company (heavy into dark money, etc.) to half an hour (from the previous full hour) and followed it with pro corporate business programming such as the current format mirror of Scully The World Show (which interviews corporate CEO’s and their story of their companies), or CEO Global Foresight (forward looking corporate futurism). Bill Nye (the science guy) debates Ken Ham (Kentucky’s Creation Museum head). Will Fox program the museum’s presentation immediately following Neil deGrasse Tyson’s New Cosmos? Maybe before so that the kids don’t have to stay up so late. And what’s all this brouhaha about scientific evidence for what occurred immediately following the big bang? The scofflaws of “scientific evidence” for global warming quickly point to this winter’s invasion by the polar vortex to reassert the fossil fuel drilling imperative. Yikes! There’s that polarization again.

“Divided we still stand – and getting used to it Poll shows more Americans accepting Congress’ polarization as a fact of life” (3-24-14) written by Susan Page and Kendall Breitman appeared in The Newark Advocate (without attribution). Analysis guesses Susan and Ken must have some affiliation with Gannett as the article cites a USA Today study (“A USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center poll taken this month, the fourth in a yearlong series, shows no change in the overwhelming consensus that U.S. politics have become more divided in recent years.”), and both The Advocate as well as USA Today are Gannett publications. But need we know? Like the seductress in the oil and gas producers TV ads purrs “Of course you do.” But I digress. “The shift in public opinion toward Egurrola’s (“Gage Egurrola, 23, a salesman from Caldwell, Idaho”) view might reflect broadening acceptance of Washington’s polarization as an inevitable fact of life.” Another person is quoted as saying “I think this is the new normal”. Culturally we are beginning to accept polarization as an “inevitable fact of life”, something “normal” – essentially as natural as a birthday suit.

Like GMO’s, this is a birthday suit with a UPC bar code as well as date of origin; manufactured to a certain extent by the media (what else would one expect from a poll brought into existence by the collaboration of media and a “Bipartisan” group? Is there a tri-partisan or quattro-partisan group?). Like the recent blockbuster (media) release “Noah”, media has taken upon itself the task of designating two of every species for any idea, concept or narrative presented (or maybe it has been assigned that task by its creator, the various corporate owners of said media. Rupert Murdoch could command the New Cosmos share air time with the New Creationism). How did Noah figure out that Apis Mellifera (the honey bee) is all female, producing males only when needed? Their survival is now threatened by “manufactured naturalness”. But again I digress. Polarization is a “manufactured naturalness”, not at all a part of the given order (or progression) of things. It is an aesthetic, like the symmetric arrangement of a religious altar. Ideas, concepts, narratives of futures or histories do not necessarily come with an alternate opposite. (Manufactured) polarization creates a culture of skepticism and skeptics (something likewise pointed out by one of those quoted in Page and Breitman’s article). Skepticism is about the lack of certainty being (reasonable) grounds for the denial of the existence of others, and of the world. Certainty may be something promised by technology, but it plays only a small part in the exploration and creation of ideas, concepts and their materialization (Something America took pride in). Polarization has a stifling, chilling effect on these. No, not the polar vortex!

American Pride

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Legislative Education

March 19, 2014

Early education sometimes involves the teaching of a game called “musical chairs”. Young children love it. Newark’s State Representative has been involved in a game of musical chairs with his State Senate counterpart Tim Schaffer for quite some time. Unlike the early childhood version, when the music stops they both have a seat. This fall’s election looks to be no different. Ohio’s 71st district state representative began playing this game almost exactly 20 years ago. Back then the hot button issue was equitable state wide education as spelled out by the Ohio constitution. Jay Hottinger promised to act on that demand and was elected on his promise.

K-12 education once utilized print newspapers in various writing, history and social studies classes. Reading a paper can be quite educational. Mr. Hottinger chooses to utilize this platform to educate his constituency. He often submits letters to the opinions/editorial section of The Newark Advocate. On Sep. 28, 2013 he educated central Ohio on just what a large number a billion is. It was entitled “Nation’s debt problem demands action”. Today he also wants to impress us with his grasp of big numbers. “Opioid drug epidemic more deadly than Vietnam War” (Mar. 19, 2014) once again “demands action” on big number claims (“opioid and prescription drug deaths are on pace to cause 23 times the number of casualties than what was seen in the Vietnam War”). Other big numbers submitted were 367, 13 and 170. (“House Bill 367 was one of several ideas that originated last summer during the House study committee hearings. The bill passed the House almost unanimously and awaits further consideration in the Senate. House Bill 367 is one of approximately 13 bills involving opioid addiction that have been introduced throughout this General Assembly. Of those, one, House Bill 170, has been signed by the governor.”)

That same governor has suggested incorporating business and government leaders within our school curricula as educators. Though he may be passionately committed to education, Analysis hopes the current 71st district state representative never embraces the governor’s challenge. This recent attempt at educating his constituency would leave most public school students totally baffled. Analysis would like to know what were the number of casualties of the Viet Nam War? Only the dead? Those scarred physically, emotionally and spiritually? Participants as well as associates? When did the count begin? Has it ever ended? Likewise the various cited house bills — what, in Mr. Hottinger’s words, are they about? Just what were these “several ideas”? Or is this, like the ingredients of fracking fluids, proprietary information, disclosed on a need to know basis only? Analysis pays for subscriptions to news media in order to learn about problems facing our community. Constituents pay legislators’ salaries to enact solutions to these problems, not to redundantly parrot the news media’s role of informing that someone needs to act. Finally, what would leave most students squirming in their seats is just exactly what are opioid drugs? In his own words, what does Mr. Hottinger mean by “Opioid drugs”? Is he talking about prescription pain medication, over prescribed and too easily available since the Viet Nam War? The news media cites this as the number one source of addiction in the US today. It has likewise been given the status of number one gateway drug to addiction. Is this what he means when he calls attention to the problem of “Opioid drugs”? If it is, what keeps him from speaking plainly and directly? If not, who or what is he referring to?

Solutions? Analysis finds none in this didactic self-promotional. During the time our 71st district state representative was a corporate sales leader wannabe, the scourge of methamphetamine was a well acknowledged problem that demanded action. The relationship to ephedrine was clear and understood. The manufacturers of ephedrine medications, both prescribed as well as over the counter, did everything possible to successfully keep from being regulated or restrained. The bottom line of the free market trumped the public good, costing enormous casualties. Does Mr. Hottinger propose to address this problem in terms of its relation to the pharmaceutical industry? Will our corporate sales leader sell us a bill of goods on the precedence of the economy and free market over that of the public welfare? The answer is nowhere to be found in this legislator’s educational lesson.

The Oxymoron Of Conservative Mongrel

March 15, 2014

Originally, Analysis was going to consider the Ohio Governor’s desire to change Ohio’s tax structure within the budget. John, the governator, “appears” to embrace change, something usually associated with liberals. In the recent, not so subtle dismissal of the candidacy challenge by Tea Party darlink Charlie Earl, the governor positioned himself as THE conservative choice. Being associated with change, allows him to hedge his bets (hey, he worked for the now defunct Lehman Brothers, what do you want?), maybe come off as a “progressive conservative” (a chimera indeed!). Before regressing to Nugentian mongrelization, Analysis was going to look at just how much “change” was involved with the governator’s proposals. Salaried talking heads have focused on the three tax increases meant to subsidize a tax rate decrease (ostensibly to keep the wealthy from fleeing to the richer ‘burbs of Florida, or Colorado). It is a three legged stool with one portion of revenue expected from the “somewhere over the rainbow” shale oil promise, another from the ever continuous actuality of the Commercial Activity Tax being increased (since things are so much better in Ohio today than 4 years ago, and, well, there is now increased commercial activity), and the last leg from a whopping increase in the cost of cigs and other nicotine related products. The latter, traditionally referred to as a “sin tax,” receives unequivocal support from many sides since it will motivate people to “kick” the addiction habit. The two former are expected to meet stiff opposition from the oil and gas lobby as well as the retail association lobbies. Most pundits predict those will get severely watered down. Analysis finds the entire ploy disingenuous and cynical. Already the culture “assumes” (as something totally natural) that the various lobbies, trade associations and PACS will protect their turf through financial incentives to the legislators in this election year while John, the governator, comes off looking like a reformer, a proponent of “change”. Should the “sin tax” actually succeed at getting people to seek relief from their addiction, then the tripod would collapse since one of its legs would no longer be contributing revenue. The cynical presumption is: let’s cash in on folks’ addiction. No “change” there. To do like Colorado, or Washington State, and unabashedly embrace the “sinfulness” of the constituency and tax another addictive sin, would not grant pedigree to a mongrel “progressive conservative”. Besides, today’s real and actual (statistically verifiable) gateway drug is prescription pain medication, the makers of which have an even more powerful lobby than oil and gas/retail sales combined, and much more incentive to make sure it retains its number one gateway drug status quo (research, dear reader, “over the counter” ephedrine and its relation to methamphetamine for background). The governor is definitely using the conservative approach by cashing in on addiction without disclosing the approach’s reliance that it stay that way, remain the status quo. Ditto was done with (casino) gambling, guaranteed through a constitutional amendment. That tax revenue was supposed to go to schools (not gambling addiction prevention programs). However, when the nitty gritty sausage making of John, the governator’s, budget proposals were squeezed out, individual schools found themselves required to “show me the money” before they can access any of the gambling “sin tax” revenue they are entitled to by law. The governor champions a 3 to 1 matching grant for the dispersal of what was the school funding involved in the original amendment. High rolling schools, already flush with cash, will be able to fund class trips to China, while those in receivership will be lucky to charter a bus to the statehouse. No, it is all more of the same continuance of status quo, no change; “progressive conservative” is a conservative mongrel.

America’s contemporary Duck Dynasty camouflage culture of conservatism is much more interesting to analyze. The Ohio Governor’s tax proposals are only an appetizer of political governance being more about lobbies, PACS and money than democracy. The main course is a much more convoluted challenge, steeped in American history and culture. “Anti-union workers sue Volkswagen, UAW over Tennessee plant” by Amanda Becker writing for Reuters (Mar 13, 2014) continues the ahistoric, “Bizarro” world narrative that Analysis has considered in previous posts. Reinserting itself into due process, the Koch brother’s union death wish in America finds winning not to be enough (the only good _ is a dead _ ). The “anti-union workers” are asserting their right to have their “anti-union” identity recognized as such, though vehemently opposing any form of representation (Gasp! That would be a union) – a class action without a class! (but demanding its right to be recognized as such!! Principle is principle, Analysis surmises.) Ted Nugent, Texas and “principled” conservatism aside, this is not pre-civil war America. As pointed out by previous postings referencing Generation Like (as well as even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of “Japanese” management), capitalist production and marketing are in the 21st century of networking, collaboration and information sharing. German VW has embraced that while American conservative corporate sales leaders appear to be elsewhere. It would be no surprise if the expansion of SUV production, guaranteed by corporate sales leader Senator Corker, never takes place. VW may well reconsider, believing that these folks in Tennessee are crazy. They don’t want what we want (representation and input in our production management approach) and not only that, but they now are suing us in order to maintain the status quo. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Analysis finds this difficult to fathom. From a cultural perspective it is as if someone is saying that we don’t want representation, we don’t want to be involved with any decision making regarding what we do. We want to show up at work, be told what to do, and go home with our paycheck after a week’s work, thank you. You run the company, make all the decisions and just keep us employed while we dance and sing carefree on your plantation. This is the closest to a status quo that Analysis can come up with, and change to that is definitely a threat. It does explain why any attempts to drag America’s conservative corporate sales leaders into the economics of the 21st century, an economics of networking, collaboration, information sharing and disruptive technologies, is met by such virulent resistance and opposition. Delivered today, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would be decried as a jobs killer. Change is not for the lovers of Ted Nugent and the ever “apologizing for racist remarks” Tea Party fringe of conservatism. Even corporate sales leader and former VP candidate Paul Ryan embodies this aspect of Duck Dynasty conservatism. In another Reuters article (3-14-14), “Paul Ryan to meet black U.S. lawmakers after ‘offensive’ remarks” by David Lawder, the camouflage is fading, bad. “Representative Barbara Lee of California, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, called Ryan’s remarks a “thinly veiled racial attack.” “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black’,” Lee said in a statement.”

Webster’s has “conservative, 1. Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”

Representation

March 8, 2014

            Come the week end, The Newark Advocate usually runs an editorial entitled “Pluses and Minuses”. This week’s made no mention of the Advocate’s parent company’s decision to terminate its Newark printing facility, eliminating 74 jobs. With any other business doing likewise, that company’s actions would have appeared under the minus category. By eliding the matter entirely, indeed eliminating it from the radar immediate upon announcement, The Newark Advocate was able to continue representing itself positively. Preferred parenting emphasizes always smiling to the infant child. By the time we are adults, we knee jerk associate good things, “everything must be alright,” with representations of a smiling face. Walmart’s smiley faces, like The Advocate’s “Pluses”, sell.

 

            Kelly Kohls, the Ohio School Boards Leadership Council president, was in the news this week (Speaker argues against Common Core education standards, Mar. 6, 2014, Hannah Sparling, The Newark Advocate — “The council is a volunteer organization that bills itself as the “conservative alternative to understanding education funding, spending and legislative reform,” according to its website. It is not affiliated with the Ohio Department of Education, the State Board of Education or the Ohio School Boards Association.”). She is quoted as expressing her concern “We need to explain to people and wake them up…” “We need to fix this.” “It’s to take back education.” She makes no bones about her dislike of education policies involving many things, including Common Core standards. Representing herself and her position through the “need to fix”, ”wake up” or “take back” assumes that something is broken (is it?), that someone is asleep (are they?), and that something has been removed (has it?). The great communicator, Ronald Reagan, represented the former Soviet Union as “the evil empire” tacitly establishing the assumption that we are the good empire (and thus can do no wrong). This past week’s CPAC conference in Maryland trotted out more Kelly Kohl than Ronald Reagan. Rick Perry solemnly pronounced that America needs to return to greatness. Rand Paul also wants to go “back to greatness”, while Mike Huckabee promotes a return to family values. All of this is, of course, represented with a smiley face. To say that something is foul in Denmark, with a dour demeanor, simply will not sell. It says more about us, than it does about our corporate sales leaders, when we cannot even speak of things being awry without them likewise being “tastefully” packaged for selling.

 

            This week’s brouhaha with the Bowling Green township trustees’ meeting speaks to all this quite eloquently (Trustee’s meeting videos irk some officials, residents, Mar. 7, 2014, Joe Williams, The Newark Advocate). Although not Amish, many attendees of the meeting did not wish to have their representation appear on a video made of the various meetings. Video, photos, even this blog’s essays are representations. “Real time” video streaming is dreamed of much as perpetual motion machines once were aspired to. Evidence of this can be found with how many people quickly whip out their smart phones to record “real time” events. Friction did in the motion machines, time lag always does in video. It may be ever so minute, but it is always enough. The representation is what once was (historically existed), not what now is. Statistics, based on counting (mathematics), are not representations. In the news this week was that Ohio ranks second behind Texas among states in development (business start ups, etc.), likewise Ohio ranks close to last among states in terms of employment improvement (jobs created). How can this be? Think consulting firms, educational businesses, and job placement agencies coming into existence to help people “find” jobs without actually providing them. The “number” of start ups would be (and is) huge, while employment would not increase significantly at all. The relationship between numbers (very real) and representation (not real, though part of reality) is that numbers can only count what is represented. This “accounts” for much of the confusion, conflict and consternation. Whether a part of America’s lost greatness (which requires being taken back) or not, 74 people will soon need to find work elsewhere than Newark.  As part of what is real, numbers have no use for a smiley face.