Archive for December, 2015

The Year In Review

December 29, 2015

Walter Benjamin, the European critical thinker of the first half of the 20th century, conceptualized the future as an angel recoiling in horror before the onslaught of the present. Harry Shearer, the radio show host of the weekly “Le Show” (and former Simpsons voice, SNL cast member, etc.), culminates each year with a “Year In Rebuke” edition. Newark’s own Michael Shearer (Newark Advocate editor) devoted his December 27, 2015 editorial to a local year in review, filled with the accomplishments of the present that anticipate a future of progress and success (“2016 Holds Much Promise For Newark”). Michael’s angel of the future differs markedly from that of Benjamin or Le Show’s “Year In Rebuke”. For the editor of Newark’s only news source, the future lies with the Republican Party (“We hope Newark’s Republican administration and GOP-dominated city council will use their majority to responsibly and determinedly guide our city to sustainable prosperity and operational funding levels for many years to come.”); this in spite of the fact that THE news of 2015 constantly covered the incredible polarization and division of American civil discourse along party lines. This actuality of contention was continuously reported and commented on but never received attention in any media’s “year in review”. Many candidates for local office during the 2015 election made considerable effort to distance themselves from party identification and allegiance in order to better represent their constituents and enable the actual working of government to take on the challenges facing Newark in the upcoming year. Since 2010 we have had the party of the Advocate’s future hopes completely dominating Ohio’s legislature, executive branch, and judiciary. It has been pretty much ditto that on the micro level of Licking County and Newark municipal governance. Given Michael Shearer’s pinning his hopes on the performance of the past (embracing polarity over problem solving), it is not difficult to understand Benjamin’s angel of the future recoiling in horror before the onslaught of the present.

Coat Of Many Colors

December 16, 2015

[Analysis will let the reader stitch the threads together]

11-19-15 Ohio House Of Representatives guest column Representative Barbara Sears                                                                                                        “As a legislator, one of my biggest goals is to ensure Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.”

11-9-15 Ohio House Of Representatives Newsroom release [Barb Sears sponsor of 394]                                                                                               “House Bill 394 would make changes to the law to boost the state’s trust fund and address its overall solvency. First, it would temporarily increase the taxable wage base for employers from $9,000 to $11,000 until the fund reaches the minimum safe level. Second, it would create an adjustable scale to determine the number of weeks a claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits. When unemployment is low, the number of benefit weeks is low, and likewise, when unemployment is high, the number of benefit weeks increases. These measures save the unemployment trust fund money and, ultimately, help the state reach a positive balance more quickly.”

[ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.] Excerpts from his blog:

WHY THE SHARING ECONOMY IS HARMING WORKERS – AND WHAT MUST BE DONE 11-27-15                                                                                “The so-called “share economy” includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes. “

“It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will be in such uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.”

THE REVOLT OF THE ANXIOUS CLASS 12-14-15                                    “Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.”

“The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees. “

“Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.”

“Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.”

“Safety nets are full of holes. Most people who lose their jobs don’t even qualify for unemployment insurance.”

THE KOCH BROTHER’S GRAND PLAN TO LIBERATE THE POOR          The Plum Line By Greg Sargent 12-14-15 Washington Post

“The political operation created by the billionaire conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch is quietly investing millions of dollars in programs to win over an unlikely demographic target for their brand of small-government conservatism ― poor people.”

“The outreach includes everything from turkey giveaways, GED training and English-language instruction for Hispanic immigrants to community holiday meals and healthy living classes for predominantly African American groups to vocational training and couponing classes for the under-employed. The strategy, according to sources familiar with it and documents reviewed by POLITICO, calls for presenting a more compassionate side of the brothers’ politics to new audiences, while fighting the perception that their groups are merely fronts for rich Republicans seeking to game the political process for personal gain.”

“The efforts include a healthy dose of proselytizing about free enterprise and how it can do more than government to lift people out of poverty.”

FREE TURKEYS, HOLIDAY PARTIES, CLASSES IN ‘DINNER ON A DIME,’ WITH A SIDE DISH OF CONSERVATIVE PROSELYTIZING.          by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico 12-14-15

“ “We want people to know that they can earn their own success. They don’t need the government to give it to them,” Koch network official Jennifer Stefano told activists and donors during an August rally in Columbus, Ohio, at which she introduced one such project, Bridge to Wellbeing.”

“Housed within the foundation arm of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network’s largest group, the program represents “the new way to advance freedom,” Stefano boasted. “And so that’s why, today, you’ll see Americans for Prosperity Foundation reaching out to new communities offering not just classes on the Constitution, and knowing your rights, but on couponing and how to turn your passion into profit by helping other people be successful, to not just tell them about the economy and economic freedom, but to show them that we want them to economically thrive, and how to do it.””

“Charles Koch has long argued ― mostly privately until recently ― that government welfare and regulation actually hold back many of its ostensible beneficiaries. His network’s goal, he told hundreds of ultra-rich conservatives he had summoned to a tony Southern California resort this summer, “is to remove the shackles preventing all Americans, especially the disadvantaged, from pursuing their dreams. That’s what’s happening in this country. We are crushing ― these policies are crushing peoples’ dreams,” including by making “it nearly impossible for the poor to start a small business or, in many cases, even work.””

“At a June 2014 network gathering, donors were given the option of attending breakout sessions entitled “Well-Being: What It Is and Why It’s Important” and “Value-Added Events: Engaging the Middle Third.””

WHEN THE GOVERNMENT TELLS POOR PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE Residents in some public-housing units in Worcester, Massachusetts, must now get a job or go back to school. If they don’t, they’ll be evicted. By Alana Semuels, The Atlantic 12-14-15.

““We tend to be patronizing about the poor in a very specific sense, which is that we tend to think, ‘Why don’t they take more responsibility for their lives?’ And what we are forgetting is that the richer you are the less responsibility you need to take for your own life because everything is taken care of for you,” she [MIT economist Esther Duflo] said in a widely quoted talk at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. “Stop berating people for not being responsible and start to think of ways instead of providing the poor with the luxury that we all have, which is that a lot of decisions are taken for us. If we do nothing, we are on the right track. For most of the poor, if they do nothing, they are on the wrong track.””

“Residents of public housing often have little incentive to work at minimum-wage jobs because their rent is calculated as a percentage of their income. When they work, they pay more rent and they additionally have to pay for childcare and transportation. Sometimes, they end up in a worse financial situation than before they started working, have less time with their families, and are stuck at grueling jobs with little opportunity for advancement.”

TOP KOCH STRATEGIST: “GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WORK HARD LIKE WE DID” Posted on September 2, 2014 by Lady Libertine [Transcript of audio obtained from source who was present at the June network meeting]

[“longtime lieutenant Rich Fink. An executive at the brothers’ multinational industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, Fink advocated for the creation of Stand Together for America, and has sat on the boards of Charles Koch Institute and Americans for Prosperity Foundation, though he left the AFPF board at the end of last month.” Kenneth Vogel Politico]                                                                             Richard Fink [from his speech] “The Long-Term Strategy: Engaging the Middle Third”:

“So the big danger of minimum wage isn’t the fact that some people are being paid more than their valued-added — that’s not great. It’s not that it’s hard to stay in business — that’s not great either. But it’s the 500,000 people that will not have a job because of minimum wage, because there is no such thing as a dead end job. As Martin Luther King said, “(Inaudible) every job is an opportunity.”

A Bridge Too Far

December 13, 2015

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for a case entitled Evenwel vs. Abbott. The plaintiffs (Pfenniger and Evenwel) argue that the legislative districts of the State of Texas, as currently drawn, do not accurately reflect the will of those eligible to vote. The plaintiffs contend the current districts are based on an elected state legislature representing a population and not an electorate, and therefore do not fairly or accurately enact the will of the voters (who assembled them). A district with a large population of eligible AND ineligible voters will benefit disproportionately while a district with more eligible voters and less ineligible ones will be penalized. For example: children, some convicted felons, prisoners, folks without a permanent address (homeless), non-resident aliens as well as illegal aliens are/may be included in the official U.S. Census along with eligible voters. An area with a large population of the former may necessitate 2 representatives in the legislature. An adjacent area may have a greater number of eligible voters. That adjacent area will necessitate only one representative, with a smaller overall census count due to less children, homeless, non-resident aliens, etc. The plaintiffs claim this to be a violation of the constitutional “one person, one vote”, that fair representation should be based on the number of voters, not population (voters and non-voters). Pfenniger and Evenwel are represented by the Project On Fair Representation, the same folks who, in 2013, precipitated the Court’s degradation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Political pundits, civil rights watchdogs, and cultural critics view this as just another attempt by a dwindling demographic to maintain their previous dominance of gov’t and its composition. Should the case be decided in favor of Evenwel, it would question previous constitutional mandates of basing representation on the U.S. Census count. State legislative representation/districts would be determined by individual state counts of eligible voters, something not currently done. Who determines eligibility (who is counted) as well as who does the counting (and how) is problematic, to say the least. Analysis finds the implications of this strategy, such an argument, to be short sighted, less beneficial than the plaintiffs intend, ultimately detrimental to their hopes of manipulating democracy. Currently, in central Ohio, someone like Pat Tiberi would be unaffected by the court ruling in Evenwel’s favor (“Under the Fourteenth Amendment, states are allocated House seats by “counting the whole number of persons in each state.”” ThinkProgress). However, Newark’s Jay Hottinger and Scott Ryan would be affected by this interpretation of “one person, one vote”. Currently, these state legislators can, justly or unjustly, accurately or deceptively, claim to represent those ineligible to vote in their districts – children, those deemed incompetent or ineligible, homeless, aliens, etc. After the SCOTUS Citizens United ruling, corporate “persons” must likewise be included in this group (thanks to the Court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment). Even a casual glance at a publication like the Newark Advocate or a chance encounter with a legislator’s prepared presentation will evidence their commitment to representing corporate businesses within their district. If the Project On Fair Representation prevails then state legislators like Hottinger and Ryan will no longer be justified representatives of corporate businesses, and would need to couch their legislative practices in favor of business otherwise, i.e. as catering to the interests of non-voters. Along with children, aliens, homeless, etc. corporate businesses are ineligible to vote. Ultimately, a SCOTUS ruling in favor of Evenwel may result in a de facto practice detrimental to the ends for which the plaintiffs originally filed suit. The current status quo better serves their interests by maintaining the charade that elected state legislators legitimately “represent” the corporate entities within their districts. As the “Timken” redistricting in Canton showed, this is a very real and continuous priority and practice.

Just Dropped In To See What Condition Our Condition Is In

December 10, 2015

Ongoing news of local concern has been the Ohio legislature’s current bills, HB 56 and HB 394. 56 is intended to promote education, skill and experience front and center on State job applications/interviews, with an applicant’s court record deferred until post application/interview, as part of background checks. 394 intends to drastically redo Ohio’s unemployment compensation protocol, rules and procedure, limiting duration and restricting eligibility. Both these proposals are in response to Ohio’s “improved” economy. They approach the improvement from radically different perspectives. 56 challenges John Kasich’s 2015 State of the Union boast (“And you know what’s really great? No one’s being left out. No one.”) while 394 verifies the presidential candidate as a man of action who keeps his word (by offering over $300 mil in tax cuts to businesses). Both are predicated on the perceived belief that the economy is better, and therefore… But is it? Both Donnie Trump and Bernie Sanders feel that economic indicators (relied on by many, including the FED for raising interest rates, etc.) do not reflect the condition on the ground. Like 56 and 394, the two presidential wannabe’s have different reasons and proposals regarding this condition. Writing for Washington Post’s online blog The Fix, Janell Ross headlines “A new study gets at what critics of the official unemployment rate have been saying” (12-9-15). Confirming 56 and 394’s believers, she reports that “On Friday, the government announced that unemployment had remained at 5 percent, meaning 7.9 million Americans were looking for work in November but were unable to find it.” Next paragraphs she writes: “There are about 17 million “job-seekers” in the United States, according to a report released this week by the Alliance for a Just Society, a nonprofit organization that has been tracking what workers need to earn to support themselves and how many of these jobs have been available for the last 15 years. To be clear, that figure includes the nearly 8 million Americans who meet the government’s official criteria for being “unemployed” and another almost 9 million people who are “underemployed (involuntary part-time workers), workers marginally attached to the labor force, and discouraged workers who would want a job if one was available”” Recently it was noted that nationwide, the average monthly rent for an apartment has risen to approx. $800 a month, with home ownership still not at the percentage level it occupied pre “Great Recession” (Analysis has repeatedly quoted Newark’s high non owner occupant residence rate, near 47%). Ross included a table showing various statistics. In Ohio the single adult living wage (needed to stay off government assistance for things like food, shelter, health care, etc.) is a full time job of $14.50 an hour. The total number of job seekers (the unemployed and those “who are “underemployed (involuntary part-time workers), workers marginally attached to the labor force, and discouraged workers who would want a job if one was available.”) is given as 507,000. Total job openings available in Ohio is given at 172,620, with only 52.7% of those paying at or above the single adult living wage. According to the Alliance for a Just Society, this is a 6 to 1 job gap ratio (those needing a living wage job to such available living wage job openings). This radically redefines the conditions under which HB 56 and HB 394 may realistically be considered. Analysis finds that HB 56 seeks to rectify/alleviate this condition while HB 394 would only aggravate it.

Inquiring Minds Need To Know

December 8, 2015

(Analysis goes revealingly tabloid in this installment) Why does Donnie Trump not wear a wedding ring? Is he not married? Could it be fear of commitment? Or preference for the security an overriding prenuptial agreement provides? Does he simply eschew jewelry as being too ostentatious, a vain show of wealth? And while on the subject of what does and doesn’t show, Donnie parts his hair on the left (as most men do). However, he combs it down from right to left, in essence mirroring most men (at least those still having that much hair). Does this reveal an independent, nonconformist streak? Or could it be to create a subliminal advantage, forcing the patriarchal other to confront their mirror image in the art of the deal? Is that what we look like?

A New Normal Christmas Carol

December 3, 2015

(This is a re-post from 12-19-14)

The previous post (The New Normal 12-16-14) 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)