Archive for December, 2014

Tofurkey

December 29, 2014

Aw, come on, admit it. You’ve seen ‘em, the great big tractor trailer rigs with the huge arrow running the length of the trailer, its point ending at the cab. “Our company’s greatest asset is found here.” (Analysis dreads considering what affect this has on the driver knowing that he is being equated with other ledger sheet resources like the company’s vehicles, buildings, IT logistic system, etc.) Analysis fails when considering what such an arrow, with its accompanying hyperbole, would point to if it appeared on the top of each front page of the Gannett Company’s Newark Advocate. The “readers”, residents of Newark and its surrounds who subscribe to and purchase the paper? Doubtful. The advertisers? Too few. Major PACs operating city and county gov’t? Fewer still, and too simplistic an answer, but intriguing given that the paper and the area’s sole radio outlet comprise the total advertising expenditure on both PACs’ financial disclosures. The intellectual labor at the Gannett media factory? Close, but with its ever shrinking commitment and size (both staff and reporting, the printing operation vanished in 2014, something not covered by the paper’s annual review of the past year), not convincing enough. The Newark Advocate itself? Bingo! The paper itself (both print and online) is the Gannett Company’s “greatest asset”.

Central Licking County can do better than a media source only capable of insuring that its monopoly publication appeals as broadly as possible in order to benefit from the largest number of readers and advertisers (along with the two “captive” PACs). Let’s look at some previously prescribed portions of this made to look like, but really isn’t, meat recipe:

City residential/commercial property maintenance: The Advocate position – Well, Newark needs it badly but we don’t want to inconvenience the landlords who own 43% of the city’s residential housing. A good thing too since that might affect the rents. But we’re all for it.
Jobs/connecting Newark’s unemployed to those jobs: Advocate position – Kudos to Grow Licking County and jobs created off 79 in Heath. The health care industry park off W. Main is the community’s greatest asset (and employer)! We champion job opportunities and growth in central Ohio. We regret that little is actually within Newark itself. Celebrating the projected Canal Market District we’ve purposely elided that once we celebrated this very same space as a proposed public transportation hub for the residents of Newark to access the area’s major employers along 79, W. Main, Granville Rd. and the expanding north end. Best left unsaid since we don’t want to alienate our car dealer advertising partners.
Public funding for the promotion of religion: Advocate position – We feel publicly funded institutions should not promote religion. However, we find the necessity of an anonymous and unnamed area resident challenging such promotional activity through the use of outside representation to be utterly reprehensible. This marginalized individual should have outed themselves. Our paper strongly endorses religion with a regular Faith section featuring acceptance and forgiveness. (Analysis indicates the Advocate editorial board completely missed the strong and obvious correlation with a representative democracy determined by anonymous, er, secret ballot)
Street paving: Advocate position – Newark’s streets urgently need to be paved and bridges maintained but the property owners who benefit from the public access provided by these thoroughfares should not bear any cost. Of course, residential water users will see their rates increase but that “benefits” them by allowing for the mandated replacement of 100 year old waste lines in the downtown business district.

Had enough tofurkey?

Advertisements

The Status Quo Must Be Maintained

December 23, 2014

Gannett’s Ohio guy, Benjamin Lanka, presented an article in their 12-23-14 Newark Advocate (mis) titled “All Ohio third-graders to retake reading test”. Makes you think it will be about third graders and reading proficiency, doesn’t it? The buried lead, found all the way at the end of the article, is “John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the state will use test results from the “thousands of students” in other states who are taking the new assessment this year to determine what the promotion benchmark should be for the next school year.” That sounds more like the Ohio Department of Education is waiting for someone else to do something first. Usually, when someone else does something first, they are said to be taking the lead. Those who come next are following. Analysis imagines some old black and white B grade movie where the army officer says to his enlisted men: “You go first men and I’ll follow.” Doh! Looks like after all the rhetoric about Ohio’s leadership from John the governator and his PAC, the actuality is that in practice Ohio chooses to follow. Analysis finds this to be no surprise. The status quo must be maintained!

Dime-A-Dawg

December 21, 2014

One of the promotions minor league sports’ franchises use is Dime-A-Dawg (Buck-A-Brat, etc.). Although owned by the majors, individual franchisees absorb the cost of this marketing ploy. Supermarkets do a variation called “loss leaders”, fast food restaurants run limited time specials, etc. The majority of fast, and almost fast, food establishments are franchises with a corporate headquarters (foreign or US). Individual locations are either corporately owned (and operated) outright or privately, in terms of the franchisee purchasing the franchise and access to the brand. With a non franchise, the restaurateur must supply the chef (if not the owner), the menu, marketing, take care of all the logistics of obtaining ingredients, facilities, servers, promotion, etc.; whereas a franchisee “purchases” most of these through the brand, the franchise agreement. The business becomes primarily one of management, providing technicians trained to do prearranged specific food prep, service, or clean up, etc. The menu, facilities, ingredient sourcing, promotion, etc. are all facilitated by the corporate brand (in order to maintain brand homogeneity). Occasionally grumblings surface when the franchisee must absorb the cost of a brand promotion orchestrated by the parent company (if the box of 100 hot dogs sold and delivered by the corporate office cost the franchisee $12.00, then Dime-A-Dawg loses money for the franchisee while continuing to make money for the corporate brand). Americans appear to prefer running for the border or sitting in the drive thru line at Mickey D’s rather than “trying” an unfamiliar non franchise, especially when traveling.

PACs are analogous to corporate fast food brand franchising. Dime-A-Dawg highlights the difference between the two. With PACs, as with the commercial brands, the primary marketing is of brand distinction to the largest possible base. The national PAC is analogous to a corporate home office. That is where the brand image is fashioned, jealously maintained and financed. It is where the money decisions flow. Because of America’s unique character, state PACs align with the national corporate headquarters while maintaining a certain autonomy. Local PACs are the day to day interface that benefit from brand identity by marketing it in the every day. Dime-A-Dawg produces the same loss leader situation for the local PAC as it does for franchisees of other businesses. The local has to summarily absorb the loss while corporate HQ benefits completely. Newark is no exception to what other local governments in Ohio face. Dime-A-Dawg has the state PAC celebrating a projected state route interchange while the local Newark franchisee takes a loss, unable to maintain deteriorating infrastructure such as paving its own streets (kinda like after a heavy snow the major highways get cleared while the residential streets are required to wait for the next thaw). Dime-A-Dawg exposes the true franchise nature of a democracy that is exclusively governed by PACs. Local elected officials swear by their sacred commitment to the needs of area residents while actively maintaining the priority of a practice that strictly adheres to the corporate brand’s marketing, which ultimately takes precedence.

A New Normal Christmas Carol

December 19, 2014

The previous post (The New Normal) left Analysis in a most dystopian Yule time reverie. The religious admonition is to beat swords into plowshares. Christmas present indicated otherwise. The spirit of Christmas present toasted the excellent success of marketing firearms and ordinance to all. Plowshares are being beaten into swords. Small wonder law enforcement is becoming paramilitary. Christmas present disclosed there is a 50/50 chance that someone is carrying. Christmas past stepped in to remind Analysis of the NRA’s admonition that a world where all did carry would be a respectful one, filled with courtesy and deference. Christmas future pointed to a world where everyone assumes the other actually is carrying. Analysis found that everyone Christmas future showed had only one arm. The other hand tightly grasped the gun they carried. Analysis recounted that disease is always prevalent, that many ill procrastinate or simply do not wish to admit infirmity, and that mental and emotional disorders are very real maladies afflicting a given percentage of the US population at any given time. Christmas future showed it was only “common sense” to “be prepared”, vigilant for the ever present possibility of others using the firearms they carried inauspiciously, unannounced. No matter where the spirit of Christmas future pointed – the work place, the home, the halls of education or government – no one would collaborate, help or work with each other. It was impossible to “lend a hand” for these citizens of the future only had one. Without that hand, they would be completely disarmed. The spirit showed a citizenry where each was completely responsible for their own life. No one would assist the other. Releasing the gun hand’s grip meant losing the ability to defend one’s self, something now totally necessary given the future this spirit exposed. Analysis begged to be taken back.

“Last night I had a dream about reality.
It was such a relief to wake up.”
(Stanislaw J. Lec)

The New Normal

December 16, 2014

It has been two years since Sandy Hook. In Columbus Ohio shootings are a regular feature of each night’s news. Nationally, mass shootings, involving many victims, are now likewise pretty regular reporting, be it for reasons job related, domestic incidents or just totally incomprehensible subjective malfeasance. But let us speak of other things. Refrigerators are pretty ubiquitous. Who hasn’t got one? Usually they are used to store food. Sometimes medicine, sometimes cold cash (like the corrupt politician in New Orleans some year back), sometimes paintbrushes or chemicals, fishing bait, etc. I mean, if you got the thing, and it is right there, why not? Equally ubiquitous are motor vehicles like cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, OK – golf carts and riding mowers. Take a spin? No problem. Feeling a little down or edgy? Go out cruising the highways to clear your head. Hormones coursing through your bod? The car is right there. Likewise news reports of teen age drivers “too” happy getting in wrecks, of people “too” drunk doing likewise, of road rage and domestic assaults, etc. The vehicle is right there, like the frig. Why not? On a par with frig’s and cars would be mobile communication devices. Cell phones, smart phones, etc. are totally ubiquitous. Lonely? Just need to touch base? Kill time? Be sexy? Arrange a meeting? Change a plan? Let someone know what you think? Vent? Bloviate? Slander? Spread lies, gossip or rumor? Threaten? Etc. The phone is right there. Why not? Besides, we all have a right to free speech, don’t we? Can’t take that away from those sending texts. Threats to free speech are usually accompanied by, you guessed it, more speech! In an essay entitled “The Death of Gun Control: An American Tragedy” Charles W. Collier writes “In the course of any given year (twelve-month prevalence), some 26 percent of the adult population of the US meets the criteria for suffering from at least one “mental disorder.” [footnote references Ronald C. Kessler et al. “Prevalence, Severity and Comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Archives of General Psychiatry 62; 619 June 2005] With civilian gun ownership at around 47 percent, this means that well over 10 percent of the population suffers from a mental disorder and owns a firearm, which works out to something on the order of thirty million people (again using the most conservative estimates). This prevalence of mental disorders, gun ownership, and their combination – these all count as “normal,” in a sociological context.” (Critical Inquiry Autumn 2014 pg. 111) Collier footnoted a Gallup self reported gun ownership poll from October 2011. A recent Pew Poll reports that 52 percent of Americans say protecting gun ownership is more important than restricting it.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Prominently Display A Brand

December 13, 2014

In the previous two posts Analysis investigated why a community’s elected “leaders” would actively pursue policies of stasis, of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. This was addressed particularly in terms of why three incumbents would be in such a hurry to declare their candidacy for re-election. Analysis found brand name association to be a partial reason for such eagerness. After all, being in a picture with LeBron James means not only that you like Mr. James but also that LeBron must like you. Otherwise, why would he allow for the image to be reproduced? Brands aggressively and jealously manage how they appear and are marketed. The brand Misters Hall, Bubb, and Ellington so earnestly seek to be pictured with is precisely one promoting the reproduction and maintenance of the status quo. All of this doesn’t answer the question “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?”

Answering this requires being able to identify the status quo, a slippery subject indeed. It camouflages itself within all that is obvious. Once, the status quo was laissez faire urban growth, considered de rigueur and exemplified by cities like Westerville and Newark Ohio. Today the status quo is with urban/community planning and restrictions as found in New Albany or Dublin Ohio. One of the legacies of Newark’s laissez faire days would be the absence of any residential rental property restrictions or requirements. This camouflaged obviousness reveals that there can be status quo within status quo. Webster’s gives “status” as “state or condition of affairs” and “status quo” as “the existing state or condition of affairs”. Within the contemporary digital information age, which changes so quickly, Analysis finds this to be a somewhat incomplete or outdated definition. Today’s account should orbit the incredible statistical capacity of the digital age. And statistics require some fixed, referential ground or starting point. The status quo pre civil rights differs from that post Viet Nam War, even more so within the contemporary. The status quo of sports was totally different pre Title IX than it is today. “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?” can only be answered by specifying what that status quo actually is. Obviously, with an urban environment of over 50,000 people, the status quo of not having comprehensive public transportation benefits the many new and used car dealerships along with the financial institutions that make for lease rental or ownership. But Analysis exposed the role and necessity of brand identification with its created image of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. Who or what benefits from the policies coming from this manufactured personality?

Neil Irwin presents a statistical contribution to this inquiry (with U S Bureau of Labor Statistics). In a piece entitled “Employers Will Have to Raise Wages. They Just Don’t Know It Yet.” (12-10-14), for the online NY Times Upshot, Mr. Irwin points out that “American employers are the equivalent of a shopkeeper who has a “Help Wanted” sign permanently on display in his window, but never actually hires anybody.” “According to the latest Labor Department data, employers had 4.8 million positions they were looking to fill in October. That’s up 25 percent in the last year and 125 percent since the start of the economic expansion in mid-2009. But for all these vacancies, actual hiring isn’t in a similar boom. The number of people hired is up only 12 percent in the last year and 33 percent over the five-year expansion. Or to look at the same numbers a little differently, the ratio of job openings to actual hiring has been higher in the last few months than it has been at any other time in the history of the data (though that only goes back to 2001). Since the current expansion began in mid-2009, employers have increased the number of job openings they say they have, but hiring hasn’t kept pace.” “Despite high unemployment, the ratio of employer openings to workers hired has risen to the highest levels on record. Here’s a theory to try to make sense of the disconnect: During the recession, employers got spoiled. When unemployment was near 10 percent, talented workers were lined up outside their door. The workers they did have were terrified of losing their jobs. If you put out word that you had an opening, you could fill the job almost instantly. That’s why the ratio of job openings to hires fell so low in 2009. As the economy has gotten better the last five years, employers have had more and more job openings, but have been sorely reluctant to accept that it’s not 2009 anymore in terms of what workers they can hire and at what wage.”

Since the financial meltdown and housing mortgage debacle at the twilight of the Bush presidency, the status quo promoted by the major brands in America has been that of the recession it created. Recession is where money goes on strike – meaning it insists on earning more before it will return to the job it has to do. Money should make even more money (the stock market has more than doubled since the start of the recession). According to the Upshot article, that is precisely what is currently “the existing state or condition of affairs.”

Who or what benefits, cashes in on reproducing or maintaining the status quo would be money (which stands to make even more money, especially if wages don’t even increase at the rate of inflation). Brands are manufactured creations that disassociate the maker from the made, much as a magician distracts the attention of the viewer from the actual sleight of hand taking place. Being identified with a brand, like standing next to LeBron James, makes it appear one is part of the global money making apparatus. The Licking County Board of Elections Financial Disclosure Reports show that this is being done for a pittance. The emperor’s new clothes may not be wearing the union label but they prominently display a brand.

Collision Repair

December 11, 2014

A snapshot image of Newark Ohio in 2011 would look little different than one taken at the end of 2014. The first image would show vacant lots, for rent store fronts, boarded up buildings, an absence of comprehensive public transportation, an absence of any rental property maintenance code, an absence/lack of development/employment, road/bridge and infrastructure deterioration. The contemporary would show pretty much ditto. These were all the main concerns in 2011 Newark and have been set aside, ignored or conveniently excused since. Who or what stands to benefit/cash in on such a continuous reproduction of status quo?

In the previous post (Inquiring Minds…) Analysis was puzzled that three “city leaders”, from the 2011 election, were in such a hurry to take out applications for re-election in 2015. Presently the media is caught up in the rhetorical frenzy of “the act of inflicting excruciating pain” being considered as “torture” when it is perpetrated by someone else and “enhanced interrogation” when it is by us. Ongoing since the Citizens United decision is monetary consideration given to influence the behavior of political operatives being considered as “free speech” or “contribution” rather than the bribery or corruption that it defines. Analogous to an HBO series, evidence of this runs continuously when it comes to the top of the political food chain. Analysis surmised it ought to be no different at the bottom. This turns out not to be the case.

Perusal of the financial disclosure reports of two mayoral candidates in 2011, as well as of the two PACs promoting their election, showed no such “big money” influence (that’s right, the L.C. Democratic Party Central Committee and the L.C. Republican Executive Committee are considered to be Political Action Committees by the L.C. Board of Elections). All of which leaves the questions “Who cashes in from policies that maintain a mediocre malaise?” and “Why are Hall, Ellington and Bubb so eager to be the leaders of this exercise in treading water?” Careful consideration of the 2011 financial disclosures revealed some holes, some surprises, but mainly an accounting for how and why there is such a need to be the first incumbent in line to declare candidacy in 2015 (and it ain’t “We’re number one!” Well, not entirely). One of the amusing revelations shared by both PAC’s financial disclosures was the quaint peccadillo of the individual PAC’s “contribution” to an individual candidate along with the individual candidate’s “contribution” to the PAC (All will loudly proclaim their “fiscal responsibility”). This is akin to one spouse paying the other while the other pays the one. Carefree fiscal PDA’s? No, something else is being “cashed in on”. When it comes to the bottom feeders, the food at the top is much too rich. Getting to the crumbs first potentially may explain it. But how? And what exactly makes up the crumbs?

Within the 21st century world of art, the artist is touted as an entrepreneur. “Good business is good art.” (Andy Warhol) The bohemian take on being an artist died with Jackson Pollock. Art programs at institutions of higher education such as CCAD, Denison University, or OSU encourage students to become/foster a brand. Brand association disentangles the created image or personality from the actual actor/creator/author, much as GE or Halliburton is disassociated from the actual CEO, board of directors, or even individual stock holders. PAC’s operate on the same premise, appealing to the same created image or personality while distancing the actual performance from any individual responsibility. The performance needs to entertain, captivate, and distract from any attention ever being placed on that performance’s individuals (after all, that is for history to decide, we are told). Analysis finds that this corroboration goes far in addressing how and why three residents of a community could “cash in” after an abysmal and mediocre performance intended primarily to ensure the reproduction and maintenance of the status quo. Currently the PAC that promoted their original election is on a roll. Being first to cash in on this “brand” affiliation negates any primary challenge. Brand marketing stifles any conversation about inaction, absence of results, lack of leadership. It distracts from the obvious, that the before and after collision repair photos look the same (if not a bit worse).

Inquiring Minds Need To Know

December 5, 2014

The Newark Advocate recently ran a short but very informative news blurb that, quite frankly, was pretty tough to track down after becoming cage liner. The December 1, 2014 headline reads Three City Leaders Eye Re-election (Advocate staff report). “NEWARK Mayor Jeff Hall, Newark City Council President Don Ellington and at-large Councilman Ryan Bubb, all Republicans, have taken out petitions seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 general election.” This within less than a month after the previous election was completed! The likes of a Romney, Bush, or Paul these guys aren’t. Analysis was struck by the eagerness shown to be first out of the gate. Having just retired (from public service), it is only natural for Mr. Ellington. He’s probably a regular at eatery early bird specials and shows up at the barbershop at 7:30 AM to get his haircut, etc. Analysis thinks there may be enough to surmise that it may be in the family genes to always be first in line for Mr. Bubb. But the mayor? There is little to indicate qualms of conscience or any need for redemption (considering the administration’s history). True, true, true, Newark now has the Hilton name prominently posted above the downtown freeway exit. Could a truck stop be on the horizon? There’s vacant land available to be developed at Locust and Fourth. Easy off, easy on. Analysis is reminded of that awkward time just recent enough to be out of fashion but not long enough ago to be considered history; the one of the pre current Thanksgiving Black Friday. The Black Fridays when folks would camp out days before in order to be first in line to cash in on a good deal. In the case of Newark’s Mayor, Council President and at large Councilperson there is a good deal to be had by being first to cash in, er, claim it. And it certainly is not the affection of the citizenry of Newark. Analysis needs to consider this a little more. After all, inquiring minds need to know. Gannett’s Advocate certainly won’t run an editorial cartoon showing Bubb, Ellington and Hall camping in a tent outside the local political business lobby.

How Do You Know, How Do You Really Know For Sure?

December 3, 2014

Analysis notes the many Open Carry demonstrations, not only here in Ohio, but also across the US in previous years as well as this one. NEO Carry, as well as others, takes pride in posting videos of individuals openly carrying assault rifles, hand guns, etc. in parks, shopping areas, and on the street. Videos are also posted of the (non) confrontations with local law enforcement officers. Analysis also notes another video of a little boy brandishing a handgun in Cleveland’s Cudell Park, waving it around. Analysis observed passers by ignoring the playing child. The video later shows law enforcement driving up and shooting the child immediately upon opening their doors. In NYC, the grand jury finds no reason to charge NYC law enforcement officer Daniel Pantaleo in the video taped asphyxiation of Eric Garner. The AP quotes Pantaleo as saying “It is never my intention to harm anyone.” Unfortunately Tamir Rice was never accorded the same privilege.