Archive for May, 2014

Anticipation

May 28, 2014

Returning to a shortened work week after the unofficial start of summer found announcements in the news. While the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 were being consumed, “The CEO got a huge raise. You didn’t. Here’s why.” (Josh Boak – AP Economics Writer, 5-27-14) Back when B Rock first became president, and way before Occupy (but concurrent with the narrowly averted financial meltdown) CEO’s of company’s listed on the S&P 500 earned 181 times what their average workers made. Today, after the rise and fall of the Tea Party patriots, and Occupy finds itself among the disappeared (did someone just sneeze NSA? Gesundheit!), these CEO’s now take home 257 times what the average US worker makes. Analysis finds it notable that of the top 10 earning corporate CEO’s (with yearly salaries ranging from $31.4 million per year to $68.2 million) more than half are the heads of companies dedicated to keeping the masses entertained (and distracted). Boak gives 5 reasons for “WHY CEOs ARE GETTING HUGE RAISES” (an 8.8% pay increase in the past year). They include stocks (as part of the pay package), peer pressure (keeping up with the Jones’s), the superstar effect (duh, listen to John the Governator tout business CEO’s in our schools and government, kinda like watching Kimye wedding coverage), friends (on boards of directors) and stricter scrutiny (the golden parachute “you’re fired” incentive). “WHY MANY OF US AREN’T GETTING A RAISE”, the reasons are likewise banal – robots, high unemployment, globalization (kinda like some religious belief of a three in one almighty), weaker unions (gasp! Say it ain’t so), and low inflation (well, the statistics say it all still costs the same so no need to pay more).

The long awaited “projected” revitalization of downtown Newark was concurrently made news today (“Open-air market announced for downtown Newark”, 5-27-14, Kent Mallet for the Newark Advocate). Gib Reese’s lifetime wish for the Canal/Market street “parking” lot, has now been officially set in motion. Mr. “Reese, 89, lives in Florida and could not attend the event.” (Maybe John the Governator was right after all with regard to folks leaving Ohio for Florida…). The article touts this latest architect’s rendering as the crowning of newness and greatness for downtown Newark – J. McClain’s new “office building” (peer pressure keeping up with the Kardashians), the former Metropolitan Hotel changing names to Hilton Doubletree (more Kimye wedding moves) and the oxymoronic square circles (most rigorous and strictest scrutiny for the sake of accountability). Can the “many of us [that] aren’t getting a raise” be that easily distracted (entertained, and not cheaply for the city plans to enter into another of those public money dispensing public private partnerships, with the private parts calling the shots)? Like Boak, Analysis can give reasons for finding the emperor to be not dressed at all. “The area has been a gravel parking lot since the block-long, three-story, red-brick Holland-Upham building, also known as the Robison building, was demolished eight years ago.” Back then the ostensible (and broadcast) reason for demolition was the creation of what was eventually unveiled as a plan 8 years later. What’s new about that (other than the inordinate length of time)? Evidence of this can be found with the wall murals that were put up during this anticipated urban renewal (which never took place). Along with that, the city parking garage adjacent to this alley was saved from the wrecking ball as no one would use it, needed to use it. With the Canal Market Plaza, it would be vital (although studies at the time showed saving it was not financially prudent). And the Works developed the building on Second Street to provide more than just space for their own offices. Analysis asks: What will happen to the backsides of the businesses that front the south side of the square?” Will their garbage vanish mysteriously, along with the trucks that pick it up weekly? Who will be selling at the open air market (given the paucity of vendors at the current ad hoc farmers market just around the corner)? Who will be buying is an even more pertinent question (cash buyers are even more scarce at the current market with reliance on publicly funded vouchers filling the gap). As Boak’s article pointed out, the working folks of Newark aren’t exactly swimming in discretionary income (an average 1.3% raise with an average 1.6% inflation rate means there is continuously even less to spend). Those who are, don’t find downtown Newark to exactly be a Jeff Hall “destination place.” Analysis finds this all to be “putting the cart in front of the horse”. The history of urban renaissance lies with the working folks choosing to inhabit, “make vital”, and cultivate their surroundings organically, not by design. Locally this can be found in the history of German Village, Italian Village, the Short North, etc. Planned, designed and projected “destinations” have a poor track record with quality of life appeal. Examples such as in north Columbus The Continent, the still incomplete former brownfields of Dresser Industries on Fourth Street in Columbus and the debacle which is the west side Casino “revitalization” in Cols. attest to that. From parking lot to “destination place” just fills one with anticipation.

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Presto Change O

May 21, 2014

Serendipity finds two online Newark Advocate articles that appear concurrently complimenting and informing each other. Their publish dates differ but their contents symbiotically enlighten. Analysis finds the correlation of “Officials seek variances to expand use of former Licking County Jail” (5-21-14, Joe Williams, Advocate reporter) and “Attorney general cites true threat to civil rights” (5-20-14, DeWayne Wickham, USA Today opinion column writer) intriguing. Seems the Licking County Governmental Preservation Society (No! Not the antithesis of Grover Norquist and his lackeys but a historical society dedicated to the memory of government, er, historical governance, ah, well, dedicated to history, and how things once were.) is requesting that the County building code be relaxed so they can utilize the entire defunct former jail. Something about tourism and haunted tours, or maybe just capitalizing on central Ohio melancholia to see how misery used to be meted out (take a depression selfie seated on a cold iron bed next to a moldy porcelain commode). Suffice to say the Governmental Preservation folks have a hankering for the old jail but can’t afford today’s standards and say they can do it by the ones in play when the jail was built. Would that the Commissioners only return with them to those bygone law and order (and no code) enforcement days of yesteryear. Sigh. If it was good enough for grand dad, it’s good enough for them. Brings to mind Foucault’s masterwork “Discipline and Punish”, but that’s a digression. DeWayne Wickham writes of the US Attorney General’s recent commencement address at the institute of higher learning where Mr. Wickham is the dean of the School of Global Journalism and Communication, Morgan State University. By means of his address, Eric Holder insinuated that the pervasiveness, reproduction and continuance of racism in America is supported and promoted by the actions of the John Roberts Court (the US Supreme Court for those of you keeping score at home). The news-making actions of folks like Donald Sterling and Robert Copeland are only symptomatic of the actual systemic disposition manifested by Roberts and his clan of robed cronies. Wickham quotes Holder as stating that Roberts and the Supremes have “argued that the path to ending racial discrimination is to give less consideration to the issue of race altogether,” and that “This presupposes that racial discrimination is at a sufficiently low ebb that it doesn’t need to be actively confronted.” So what’s the correlation, you say?

No, it’s not that black men “have received sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes,” (Wickham quoting Holder) and that the L C Governmental Preservationist Society is enamored with the means by which this is accomplished (Discipline and Punish, as in, prison – see Foucault). Rather, it is the history itself which the Governmental Preservationist Society elides through its request for public safety standards’ variance. Thirty years ago the ostensible and urgent reason for the jail’s demise was touted as a deep rooted and pervasive mold infection throughout the building. Thirty years prior to that, the reason for affirmative action, for civil rights legislation was the deep rooted disparity of racism pervasive within everyday life in America. Now, magically, the mold has disappeared from the former county jail (though we were told that once a structure is infected by it, once the spores have taken root, it is financially unfeasible and next to impossible to remove and return the structure to one again safe for the public). Ditto John Roberts and the Supremes re: racism in the US. It is no longer a consideration so return with them to those thrilling days of yesteryear when it wasn’t a concern, won’t you?

Wiktionary gives the definition of “nonscientific” as “1. Not scientific; involving faith, intuition, or magical thinking”

Amendment Rights

May 15, 2014

As part of Gannett Company, publisher of USA Today, the 5-14-14 online Newark Advocate presented the op ed column headlined “Is freedom of speech a thing of the past” by Ken Paulson. Mr Paulson is distinguished as a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors in addition to being dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University and president of the First Amendment Center. Mr Paulson’s article adumbrates the recent flurry of “first amendment freedom of speech” events headlined within todays popular media — Donald Sterling, Michael Sams, Don Jones. Cliven Bundy could be included though that news event is cycling out rapidly. Suffice to say, folks say the darndest things for which Paulson suggests there may be ramifications (“economic and professional consequences”). All this contributes to the current “conversation” regarding various constitutional rights – freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of gun ownership, and freedom to be considered as a person and not as an entity existing solely in contemplation of the law. We are, of course, a country of law which is what makes the original tenets of the constitution and its amendments the ultimate arbitrator of “economic and professional consequences”. Mr. Paulson contributes to this wide ranging discussion while not making much positive contribution to the why and wherefore of its materialization (which one would hope concerns him). The theory is nice, the practice is otherwise. When it comes to questions of law, contractual law trumps just about everything else (OK, so you can’t contract to be a slave, though it is very difficult to show it as a de facto state if enough contractual language has been employed). The Supreme Court, being the legal interpreter of last resort, has continuously reaffirmed the precedent (and preferred nature) of contracts and contract law. Mr. Paulson chooses to glaringly elide this enormous and active encroachment of “Amendment Rights.”

When it comes to marketing, Pepsico has a simple strategy – buy out the competition. If a start-up begins to cut into some small part of Pepsi’s market share, Pepsi offers to buy them out, and then continue with them as a subsidiary or make them disappear. If the enterprise refuses, Pepsi will utilize their massive presence to market a near identical clone until the results desired are achieved. This is not unique to Pepsi, but rather part of corporate capitalism. Years ago there was “Amendment Rights” consternation over employers requiring employees to not be smokers (including random home inspections), submitting urine samples for drug testing, confidentiality agreements, etc. This has since expanded to credit checks, social media scrutiny, religious doctrine adherence, etc. Since these are person to person contracts, they are all binding legally under the constitution. The US Supreme Court has ruled corporations (the employers) to be “persons” in the eyes of the law. In fact, contractual obligations, responsibilities and determination also are found with most all consumer “purchased” goods and services, from agricultural seed to communications devices, etc. It is increasingly difficult to step outside the fine print within the practice of everyday life, and so it is usually simply disregarded. Until that fine print is crossed, that is. Had Mr. Paulson bothered to consider the material aspect of the practice of “Amendment Rights”, he would have pointed that out. Analysis finds that we may have “Amendment Rights,” we just can’t afford to use them most of the time. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair)

Survival mode for most today is “Consume, Conform, Keep quiet”. This is unsustainable. Not because of any “Amendment Rights,” but because it violates human rights, what it is to be human. Ages ago Thomas Aquinas introduced the idea of universal human rights because of what was necessary to be human – food (sustenance), water, shelter, and security to live and procreate. Ralph Waldo Emerson thought that half the man is his expression. Codifying what it is to be human, to insure that some other interpretation of social being is not implemented as precedent, is what constitutions, amendments and laws are about. Prioritization and preference of contractual law in the interpretation of social being undermines and erodes any codifications of what it is to be human. Laws, constitutions, markets, organizations and contracts are human creations that can be changed. What it is to be human cannot.

Winning

May 12, 2014

The May 11,2014 Newark Advocate headlines a Joe Williams report “Union opposes staffing shift for Newark Division of Fire”. The subtitle states “City official: Staff change a ‘win-win’”. To cut to the chase, here’s the first part of the story as printed:
“City Safety Director Bill Spurgeon is spearheading an effort to shift supervisor staffing downward in the Newark Division of Fire despite union grievances stemming from the plan. On Monday night, Spurgeon is scheduled to visit with the Newark City Council’s Personnel Committee to pitch a proposal to decrease authorized fire captains from eight to five and increase lieutenants from six to nine. He said that would improve the department’s command structure, enhance safety and save money — about $6,000 each time a captain retires and is replaced by a lieutenant. Spurgeon called the proposal a “win-win” that would trim a top-heavy command structure and expand opportunities for young firefighters to move into management. Saving money would be an “ancillary benefit,” he said.” Analysis’s raggedy old Webster’s defines “ancillary” as “1. Subordinate, subsidiary. 2. Auxiliary, assisting.” Obviously the City Safety Director’s primary concern is too many captains. His desire is one chief, and roughly two lieutenants for each captain retained. This is described as a “win-win”. Saving money would be subordinate. The priority is one of less is more.

Jacob Siegal submitted an unimaginable story for the online Daily Beast (4-21-14). It is entitled “The US Military Is a Socialist Paradise”. Do tell. “America’s military has one of the only working models of collective living and social welfare the country has ever known.” Siegal goes on to describe how all the features of socialism are found within the military. Not only that, but have become part of the military before the rest of the country attempted it. The obvious are communal living, mess facilities, uniform requirements, etc. Less obvious are single payer universal health care (way ahead of the country as a whole), retirement benefits, life insurance, education opportunities as well as assistance, subsidized purchasing power at commissaries and exchanges, and a host of available social programs. The military integrated its population well before the rest of the country, both in terms of racial as well as sexual orientation. Technologically, it likewise is not only integrating alternate energy capacities but also preparing for the current conditions of global warming (something conservatives won’t even recognize, let alone deal with). More importantly Mr. Siegal writes “The pay difference, and thus the lifestyle difference, between a junior troop and a senior general is a small fraction of the disparity that separates the salary of an average worker from that of a top CEO in the private sector.” He adds “And speaking of management and floor workers, as stratified as the military’s rank system is, it is also one of the country’s last engines of social mobility. A young enlistee from a poor background with no higher education can rise through the ranks. The military is one of the only institutions in America, maybe the only one, where the mailroom-to-boardroom scenario still happens often enough to be more than just a self-serving myth.” It is the summation that Analysis links to what is occurring in Newark today: “Upholding the contract that underwrites the service of the volunteer military requires more than just providing resources and distributing benefits. To maintain the loyalty of the foot soldiers the military brass depends on, the leadership needs to show that it can hold itself accountable. It fails often at that task but succeeds enough to be one of the few national institutions left where people take each other at their word.”

Within the Advocate article is the gist of Local 109’s beef with the city; something contractual that the city had given its word on and agreed to. Mr. Spurgeon feels that downsizing to the Walmart/McDonald corporate economic model is a “win-win” for the city AND the firefighters with the cost savings (that companies like Walmart and McDonald rely on) being only a subsidiary benefit. The disparity of being unable to rise through the ranks in exchange for loyalty and service within the Newark Fire Division is not considered. I guess that Mr. Spurgeon would not be bothered by the high employee turnover that comes with the McDonald/Walmart corporate economic model. The Safety Director would be well served to consider what Siegel writes, that to maintain loyalty and motivation “leadership needs to show that it can hold itself accountable.” Who is winning under the Safety Director’s proposal?