Archive for October, 2015

Can You Afford To Be Who You Are?

October 31, 2015

The 10-30-15 AP reports: “Alabama Teacher of the Year told she’s unqualified, resigns”. 2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year and 2015 National Teacher of the Year finalist Ann Marie Corgill chose to resign after the Alabama Department of Education deemed her unqualified to teach the class she was assigned by the local school board that had employed her. “”After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning,” Corgill wrote.” This, all, in a state that requires official proof of identification to exercise the right to vote. To obtain an official ID there requires visiting a registrar in person (akin to the DMV registrars in Ohio). Multiple counties have no state registrar offices capable of doing this. To rectify this inconvenience with their new proof of voter ID law, the state provides a kind of book mobile registrar service, available at a specific site on a specific day and time (for the entire county, not individual municipalities). As with Ann Marie Corgill, the burden of proof to establish who it is you are lies with the individual. Analysis finds evidence of “prove it” requirements and the burden they imply to be widespread, and quite selective. Though most good teachers like Corgill will tell you learning is continuous, ongoing and indeterminate (one thing leads to an unexpected other), students are constantly required to “prove” they are learning (with the exception of Ohio charter schools). Tim Schaffer would have all public assistance recipients pee in the cup to “prove” they aren’t drug users (though self-medicating is ubiquitous and almost the norm throughout the U.S. Such business must be good for Walgreens just chose to buy out Rite Aid). A priority of proof supersedes need in everyday exchange. Ultimately proof of identity requires more than recognition (“so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach,”). Analysis finds there to be a correlation between the cost of “proving it” and official legitimacy (What’s in your wallet?). The recent elections, along with the current preliminary, appear to bear this out. The “minor” candidates, hustling for funding, continuously need to “prove” their worthiness while those who have self-financed their campaigns only need to say: “I’ll be terrific!” It seems to be a variation on the snide “If you need to ask (the price), you can’t afford it.” Only in this case it is more like “If you can afford it, you don’t need to prove it.”

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Curiouser And Curiouser

October 27, 2015

The October 27, 2015 online Newark Advocate staff headlines “Park National reports income jumps nearly 10 percent”. “Park National Corp. announced net income for the third quarter was more than $20 million, an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to the same period in 2014.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. “The corporation’s net income for the year, through Sept. 30, was $60.1 million, compared to $59.7 million for the first nine months of last year.” More yadda. “The Park National Bank loan portfolio expanded during the third quarter. Loans outstanding on Sept. 30, were $4.96 billion, compared to $4.86 billion on June 30, an increase of $100 million, or an annualized 8.19 percent. Loan growth during the quarter increased across all loan categories, including mortgage loan growth of $10 million, commercial loan growth of $70 million and consumer loan growth of $20 million.” Readers cognizant of previous posts will be mindful to note that for a bank, outstanding loans are considered as assets (sources of income). The Advocate staff writes: “Total assets for Park National Bank were $7.2 billion on Sept. 30, an increase from $6.9 billion the previous year.” Analysis wrote all that in order to consider what the Christian Science Monitor came out with on the same day in an article by Husna Haq entitled “Bill Gates just endorsed socialism, sort of: A boost for Bernie Sanders?”. Though the bulk of the article is about America’s relation to socialism (both as policy and as linguistic term) broken down into demographics and history, Haq does more than use Bill Gates as a teaser: “In an interview with Atlantic that made headlines across the Internet, the former Microsoft CEO-turned philanthropist argued that “the private sector is in general inept” as a tool to manage climate change because “there’s no fortune to be made,” and that the only solution lies with government. Governments, he said, must dramatically increase spending on research and development to combat climate change. Private companies should play a supporting role by paying the costs of rolling out those technologies. “Yes, the government will be somewhat inept,” Mr. Gates said. “But the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them.”” Analysis finds this curious. The ONLY proposal for revenue enhancement embraced by the two candidates for mayor of Newark is some kind of income tax. But of course, this is not an income tax on the income of the newly created “persons” of corporations (see SCOTUS Citizens United ruling). It would be an income tax on the income of the other “persons” of Newark. Linguistically they appear identical, but somehow, policy-wise, they differ. ‘Nuff said. It is, however, very curious that for something that affects (and effects) us all, Mr. Gates places his trust in government and not private enterprise. The incumbent candidate for mayor of Newark prefers to rely on the private sector when it comes to something that affects (and effects) the residents of his city (like paving the streets). That is, until it comes to generating income, which is a horse of a different color (it would be politically incorrect to say “person of a different color” though it would imply that the income of one “person” can be taxed while that of another “person” cannot).

“O, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practice to deceive!”

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion (1808), Canto VI, st. 17

Debt

October 24, 2015

A curious report appeared in the international news this week; curious not because of the story but what was said in it. AP’s Vanessa Gera reports “Poles eager to oust pro-market party in vote despite growth” concerning the upcoming Polish elections. The story highlighted the appearance of the Law and Justice Party candidate, Beata Szydlo, before an abandoned factory promising, of course, the return of such jobs if elected. The Law and Justice Party is considered conservative challenging the current rule of the incumbent Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her Civic Platform Party (progressive), somewhat vaguely analogous to what we Americans categorize as right and left. The curious part appears in the thumbnail sketches of the two parties given by: “Another Law and Justice victory on Sunday would complete the nation’s shift to a brand of politics that mixes patriotic rhetoric, deeply conservative social values and a desire to use the state to level out economic inequalities. The party promises to reverse an unpopular rise in the retirement age and put more money into the pockets of struggling families with tax breaks, monthly cash bonuses for children under 18 and free medication for people over 75. It also wants to raise taxes on the mostly foreign-owned banks and big supermarkets in Poland and give tax breaks to smaller local businesses and those that adopt Polish technologies.” and “Civic Platform, the pro-business and centrist party that has overseen steady economic growth during its past eight years of rule.” (“When Poland threw off communism in 1989 it moved quickly to embrace free-market policies, with low taxes on corporations and a weak social safety net by European standards. The policies kept down debt and attracted massive foreign investments, bringing prosperity to many, especially in the cities.”), “Part of society is very successful but a smaller part is unsuccessful and still experiences many difficulties in daily life,” said [Dominik] Owczarek, an analyst with the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw. Even though the poor and disadvantaged are in a minority, they tend to be highly motivated voters with the power to influence the election outcome, he said.“. How is this possible? Within European politics much of “the right” stretches back through the Fascism of the 1930’s (prevalent throughout Europe), which actually courses even deeper into the 19th century. Its DNA is much more from the ground up, centered in various organized social accumulations meant to claim for themselves what was possessed by royalty or wealth (Communism, “the dictatorship of the people”, was one manifestation). The U.S. definition of this time/experience was more top down, a kind of McCarthyism, with the folks running things, the wealthy industrialists, etc. hiring thugs, Pinkerton’s, police etc. to muscle and force compliance by the social accumulations in upheaval. So the party affiliations the report describes, of progressives versus conservatives, follows accordingly, given the context of European history. Analysis finds curious the contemporary composition of U.S. party affiliation (which can’t be accounted for because it is the soup we swim in). Since the Reagan elections, the “right” has been supported, promoted and empowered by the very populace its policy’s and priorities do NOT promote. The stereotype is of the “left” favoring give-aways — women’s concerns, social programs (retirement or healthcare), unemployment compensation, welfare, children’s nutrition and education programs, etc. The “right” is generally associated with the market, business interest, wealth and property ownership (land, guns, etc.), and religion (fundamental moral perspective). This differs markedly from the parallel situation described by Gera. Ohio is exemplary of the actuality with the legislature, executive and judiciary dominated by the “right” (though it has a rich “worker’s” history). Someone elected these individuals, or should we say, this party. What Mitt Romney inadvertently revealed (that the individuals of almost half this nation have no net worth) doesn’t correspond with his assessment (that this portion votes for a party that will promote its interest. Something the “right” promotes in Poland. Then again, in Poland Mitt would be considered a progressive!). The focus on the stereotype in Mitt’s covertly recorded statement was misplaced, evidenced by who got elected to run things in Ohio (as well as in a slew of other states). The media and pundit emphasis was on the reason for voting aspect when it should have been on the net worth part. Net worth is derived from comparing an economic entity’s (which is a hypothetical) assets (things of market re-saleable value) with liability (debt, what is owed). If Romney had considered the percentage of people in debt rather than with zero or negative net worth, his prognosis may have differed. The majority of the U.S. populace carries some kind of debt. This debt creates a relationship, an interaction between the borrower and lender, the debtor and creditor. Mistakenly, this relationship is stereotyped as a master/slave relationship, especially in terms of Pay Day lenders, Check Cashers, etc. But a more insightful assessment would be a more nuanced description of support and promotion; that is, of debtor supporting and promoting creditor. If a sibling or close friend borrows/lends money then the debtor and creditor have created/forged a social bond within their relationship; that is, until the debt is absolved (after which they don’t need to interact out of necessity). With debt, they MUST interact with each other. This interaction (social exchange) must be civil, courteous, supportive and promotional, especially if it is accelerated by continuous borrowing, etc. At social functions one will always defer to the other, take a feigned (or genuine) interest in the other, promote or support the activities, priorities, policies of the other; all because debt determines this asymmetric relationship. The nature of debt, with its accompanying support and promotion, may have much more to do with the distinction informed by Vanessa Gera’s article. Interest rates for most consumer debt have been historically low for almost 20 years now (large ticket items, home purchases, student loans, even credit card rates). The asymmetric debt relationship, the inability NOT to promote or support the creditor may account more for why the party of big business, of the market and austerity, is continuously voted into the governance of a nation dependent on credit and long term debt (austerity, after all, guarantees that debt payments will continue without disruption). Getting rid of the debt is certainly NOT in such a party’s interest. Prioritizing “getting rid of the debt” is more revealing of the bad conscience (along with the great rhetoric) continued debtor/creditor interaction produces than any Ben Franklin kind of righteous freedom loving virtue.

Separate Reality

October 16, 2015

Only a fence post would have considered the recent Newark Advocate/Chamber mayoral “debate” without regard, reference, or remembrance of the current national candidate “debates’ (which have been drawing record viewership). Analysis was taken aback by the striking dissemblance of the two, the national and Newark’s. True, true, true, the local was not a production of any competitive capitalist endeavor like adversarial news organizations (CNN, NBC, Murdoch’s Fox). It cannot go unsaid that the Advocate is without competition in terms of Newark, and the Licking County Chamber of Commerce is the largest representative of business interest in central Ohio. The event site itself was one of Chamber membership. This difference must be noted in that it was unlike past candidate meetings/issue forums at different levels/different communities (national, state, and local) structured by social/community groups like the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, or even schools or institutions of higher learning. The mayoral debate’s structure, 100% by the business community within a private business setting (not within a 100% public space) set the tone, agenda, and format for the entire event. The recent national events, highlighting the “outsider” setting the tone or deciding the issues, was markedly absent. It was two different worlds. Newark’s incumbent stressed his accountant’s forte of, well, accounting. The challenger was not very challenging. Was this out of deference to the event’s organizers whom ultimately must be be served and defended? No one asked the question of how one candidate would be better than the other for a resident living on Maholm Street. That Newark has one of the highest percentages of non-owner occupant residential housing in Ohio was as absent as the Longaberger imbroglio. That the former site of the Meijer’s store on North 21st Street will have a new landlord was not. Creative alternatives to generating revenue for needed and essential public services, a mainstay of the national debates (be it subversive agitation or blustery braggadocio), were likewise MIA with the Newark version. Public transportation was mentioned as a nostalgic TV reminiscence – We’d love to visit Disney World, princess, but… (the reader can fill in the “Father Knows Best” scripted scenario). Analysis won’t even begin to consider other matters affecting (and effecting) the resident on Maholm Street that appear in the national debates but were curiously absent with the recent local edition. Does Newark exist in a separate reality?

Community Organizers

October 13, 2015

Community organizers, remember them? No, I mean before they morphed into “social entrepreneurs”, with the ability to strike out on their own for whatever was near and dear to their fluttering hearts, and fund themselves independently (through a variety of public, private, as well as crowd sourcing means). By becoming “social entrepreneurs” they could legitimate an occupation in place of having to find employment with some social organization, which, after the financial meltdown of 2008 and the ascendency of fiscally responsible GOP legislators, has become a little scarce (to say the least). But now, community organizers are back, baby, in demand and on the help wanted roster (coming soon to a jobs fair near you!). Peter Overby for NPR reports “Koch Political Network Takes A Deep Dive Into Community Organizing” (10-12-15). According to Overby “It’s one small part of a long-range plan by Koch Network to build a seamless and legal system of local community and national politics.” Overby points out some of the organizing aspirations: “free market principles, limited government, libertarianism” as well as “the basic message of less government and regulation, more unfettered free enterprise”. Who knew?

“OVERBY: The irony here – none of this is new. Back in the 1880s and early 1900s, political parties were often involved in local communities, but more recently…

THEDA SKOCPOL: Parties have mainly been about raising money and running election campaigns.

OVERBY: Theda Skocpol is a sociologist and political scientist at Harvard. She also leads a group of progressive academics – Scholars Strategy Network. And she’s been studying the Koch Network for several years. She said Koch strategists are emulating what political parties and labor unions used to do. Does the left have anything like this anymore?

SKOCPOL: No (laughter) not even close.”

Then again, Analysis finds no irony in the time period during which community organizers fled that identification for the more lucrative “entrepreneur” association. Who would it surprise, after all, if, upon his term’s expiration, our former Chicago community organizer didn’t himself enter the Washington revolving door and become a top paid Koch consultant?

Make America Great Again

October 9, 2015

You know the feeling. You’ve gone to a local gathering of people for something that really interests you, whether collecting, gardening, sports activity, education, philanthropy, etc. etc. etc. And you leave scratching your head and wondering how all these people, who appeared there for the same reason as you (acute interest in a subject), how this common interest degenerated into talk of making money, saving money, and the means to making this interest become capital in the striving for a source of income (profit). At first you write it off as “This is what clubs are about.” But eventually you notice it happening even at gatherings over coffee or a beer (everything is described in terms of being an “entrepreneur”). You recall the history of the now defunct Soviet states and their operation. Ascendency within the Communist party required aspirants to attend various mundane meetings, sit on boards of committees, and operate social functions and services. This insured that anything discussed, anything implemented, served the people’s revolution, the Communist state. This was also the only route to leadership positions within that society. But you believed this all was a society of imposition. You always believed it to have been mandated, never that it was a part of everyday culture, expected and anticipated to be that way. Now you can’t help but notice that those sitting on the boards of directors at contemporary non-profits, social organizations, arts groups, educational institutions, etc. are all salaried members of the Capitalist party. Party affiliation requires that all problem solving, policy setting, and hands on operation (course of action) involve the exigency of making a profit, showing a capital return. This stains even what, where, how and when your children play as well as recreational sports, past times, gardening, arts, music, etc. (even exercising community is termed community “investment”). Capitalist party membership may not require carrying a card (what is in your wallet?). It does, however, require continuous active promotion and participation. Unwittingly, you’ve just uncovered and revealed the actual everyday workings of hegemony. Capitalist or Communist (Fascism in much of Europe during the 1930’s), religious fundamentalist, monarchist, etc. the boundaries, parameters, nature and horizons of intercourse and exchange within groups of disparate participants are determined solely by the dominating outlook. Hegemony affects how problems are solved, how choices are made, how conflicts are created by providing the channel within which all matters can and will be considered (with the unexpressed always being excluded). This past week there was much talk (and still is much talk) over another round of unending mass killings. The talk centered on guns, and mental illness (never health). A leading presidential wannabe recounted his own personal ability to deflect gun violence (by redirecting it onto someone else – see Popeye’s experience). The sage wannabe (or is it wannabe sage?) continued by claiming the mass killings perpetuated in Europe 70-80 years ago could have been averted if only the victims had been given access to guns. So the tempest swirls over the importance of guns, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and mental illness (never health). The hegemony of “guns” determining the exclusive channel within which all matters can be considered was never mentioned or revealed (part of the unexpressed that is always excluded). It is patently absurd to imagine, let alone suggest, that the millions of everyday people, living in Europe during the mid-part of the 20th century, would, should, or could have taken an active everyday interest and involvement with guns to maintain and insure their otherwise gun absent everyday lives. It is also hubris and arrogance to impose that outlook, those parameters and horizons. But then again, it is hegemony. At one time in the U.S. there were only three major sports (hockey was Canadian). There was only one cheese for your fast food meal (American cheese). One segment of the populace exercised the day-to-day workings of democracy (race). One God was worshiped on one specific day (Sunday). Since that time the hegemony of those horizons was painstakingly expanded, the outlook arduously transformed into the variance and variability of today. The now trademarked “Make America Great Again” attempts, above all, to most definitely express a drive for hegemony.

The New Normal

October 2, 2015

[This is an Analysis re blog originally posted 12-15-14]

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.

Weird News

October 1, 2015

Not to be found with the Advocate but perused by analytical accident, the Cereal Killer riots! “The $5 Cereal That Provoked a London Mob” by Heather Horn (9-30-15) for The Atlantic: “News of the mobbing on Saturday night [9-26-15] of the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch, in London’s East End…” Eventually, “The Facebook description for the demonstration (or “street party,” as its organizers called it) puts it plainly: “We don’t want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don’t want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns—we want community.”” Horn spends the rest of the extensive article investigating the reason for such a strange occurrence. After all, if you can open a business providing $5 bowls of Captain Crunch, what harm is there in that? Then again, as Horn rightly remembers, demonstrations occurred in San Francisco over Google’s commuter bus service causing housing prices to rise and folks had to leave their hearts by the golden gate because of that. The phenomenon in East London has been replicated and is the usual suspect. City loses residents/businesses, etc. vacant storefronts, apartments attract low income but educated, upwardly mobile inhabitants who thrive on the ‘edgy”, authentic atmosphere; eventually spawning specialty businesses like coffee shops, nightclubs, galleries and “ethnic” restaurants. Real estate values go up as equally educated but higher earning desire in on the now, not-so-edgy city living (gentrified). Happens all over – NYC’s Soho, then Brooklyn, soon to be Queens. In our neck of the central Ohio woods it could be the Short North, Italian Village and currently the near west side/Franklinton in Columbus. Horn presents an alternate take to that of housing. She quotes Paul Cheshire, an emeritus professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics – “the demonstrators, or at least the organizers, appeared to have a specific political-cultural agenda.” Nancy Holman, an associate professor of urban planning at the London School of Economics is quoted “Certainly I see at the university lots of people who graduate from the [master-of-science program] with a good job and prospects, living in a house with several other people living with them, and they’re doing that into their thirties. Really, what we’re seeing isn’t so much about gentrification but about feeling priced out—people who are in their twenties and thirties feeling that there’s not a lot of hope in their being a part of life in the capital despite the fact that they work and contribute.” Small chance of such insurrection taking place in Newark where development is not organic but by design. But then again, if a Cereal Killer were to be found across from the Jail Of Terror…?