Archive for February, 2016

Free Association Nino Dreaming

February 27, 2016

Like watching TV news in an Iron Curtain country during the Viet Nam War – no different than today’s coverage of Syria – which side is being witnessed? Nino was a great man who months before his passing virulently opined that lesser people should be schooled in less challenging universities. Did he also love the poorly educated? By US standards the current election has once again drawn out an immense turnout. In Iran, that is. There, as here, the conservative authoritarians do all they can to suppress the vote through numerous “legal” restrictions. But practice through participation is what makes democracy, and the citizens there vote under duress where as here in the US, for some reason, we always need a “get out the vote” campaign. Nino took particular pride in determining the outcome of the lopsided Bush v Gore constitutional “crisis”. Afterwards no one here took to the streets in protest whereas after their 2009 election was determined by authority, Iranians flooded the streets to demand their votes be counted, with many losing their lives over it. Here in the US voting is one and done, go home and watch Netflix after performing your civic duty. Nothing tickles Nino more than the possibility of a 2000 recurrence this year. Any SCOTUS outcome will be markedly different by an evenly divided court, no one to cast the deciding vote and break the tie. The image of black robed Supremes standing around a coin toss like Iowa Democrats in caucus has Nino rolling on the floor holding his sides (best out of three?). What difference would it make, anyways, for the two white, super rich New York City residents vying to be the next president (and SCOTUS vacancy nominator)? Those charged by the constitution to confirm the tie breaking appointment chose instead to defer that authority to one of these two candidates, forgetting that the outcome could, like in 2000, hinge on a yet to be named, non-existent tie breaking vote (that their constitutional authority could have facilitated). This would leave all in limbo, a place Nino doesn’t recognize as appearing in the sacred founding text. It does, however, please the deceased jurist that the virus of gridlock, which almost shut down the government, has now spread to all three branches, creating a fundamental (and textual) constitutional crisis. Nino’s eyes water from delirious laughter over the deadlock surrounding the state being stifled in its quest to assert sovereignty over the least little nook and cranny, leaving no stone unturned in its obsession to learn the contents of an I phone, frozen constitutionally by a deadlocked court with no majority. Any and all secrets must only be state secrets! The revered justice shall rest in peace relieved somewhat by the consolation of knowing that his deadlocked colleagues will keep power plants burning coal, Guantanamo open, and Planned Parenthood clinics closed.

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

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By Any Other Name Would Smell The Same

February 25, 2016

Transparency International puts out a yearly Corruption Perception Index ranking the least to most corrupt countries in the world. Last year’s index (2015) covered 168 countries and found Denmark, followed by Finland to be the number 1 and 2 least corrupt countries. Somalia and North Korea were tied for most corrupt, followed by Afghanistan. The US was ranked at number 16 least corrupt (we’re not number one, not even in the top 10). Analysis ponders how such determinations can be made. There are no separate bank teller windows marked “Bribes, Kickbacks and Extortion: Payments and Withdrawals”. In all these countries, government officials (as well as un-officials) will simply say “Well, that’s the way it is done around here.” Obviously corruption must be determined through analysis – careful study of theory (the articulated framework of governance, like representative democracy, monarchy, war lord, etc.) and practice (verifiable evidence of what is done and how). Recently the Newark Advocate (2-23-16) presented a staff written, self-congratulating public service article (“Govdeals sales reach $1 million for county”). Of note would be the theory that, in a self-governing democracy, the trust of those governed should be confirmed by the government’s practice. The practice is the sale of government acquisitions openly to the highest bidder (“sales of unneeded, obsolete, surplus or confiscated property”…” through the online auction site”). These acquisitions are said to include “computers, automobiles, office equipment, jewelry, coins, telephones and other items”, also known as chattel. Analysis finds little need by government for “jewelry, coins, … and other items” except for law enforcement sting operations…? The government must have acquired these (“unneeded, obsolete, surplus or confiscated property”) through various and sundry means. Only a few days prior, one of these means was reported on by the very same newspaper. Again, in a self-laudatory piece (“Land bank to eliminate Second Street eyesore’ by Kent Mallett, 2-18-16), the government, consisting of the “Licking County Land Reutilization Corporation”, completed the acquisition of one property from a projected many throughout the county, also known as real property. The one (“the former lodge at 87 S. Second St.”) is to be disposed of by sale (“for $100”) to “Gutridge Plumbing”, which incidentally also happens to have “purchased area properties and removed homes in poor condition on Spencer and First streets.” When it comes to chattel, Licking County government seems only too eager to confirm the public trust through open sale. With real property, something else is preferred. Real property distinguishes itself from chattel according to Anglo Saxon legal heritage, which predates the US Constitution and is incorporated within. It is one of the foundations and fundamentals of power. The US Constitution affirmed this basis of power by granting real property holders equal legislative power to that of the voting demos, a senate to counter a house of representatives. Ditto is found with state government in Ohio. “Possession is nine tenths of the law” may be a cliché except that county government is deeply implicated in maintaining this, proving and verifying real property as opposed to chattel (through recorder, auditor, assessor, engineer, etc. and the laws mandating it). The transference of real property is a transference of power. Unlike the sale of chattel (“through the online auction”), the non-conforming “sale” of real property by “The County Land Bank board [which] includes [County Commissioner Tim] Bubb, [Newark Mayor Jeff] Hall, County Commissioner Duane Flowers, Licking Township Trustee Joe Hart and Licking County Treasurer Olivia Parkinson” to someone who has previously “purchased area properties and removed homes in poor condition on Spencer and First streets” is actually an arbitrary transference of power, by fiat, without public regard (not an open sale). “Well, that’s the way it is done around here.”

Community Consideration In Practice

February 21, 2016

Analysis blog posting of 2-12-16, Community Consideration, found that it was much more beneficial for the city to fund continuing education for its police force rather than have the chief function as PR representatives “educating” the community. This may sound like pure theory, with no possible practical application. After all, the police are modeled on the military (any doubts on this check out the made for TV footage of SWAT in action, whether the real life media coverage or the made for Hollywood imitations on the plethora of TV entertainment police shows). City funding of police is heavy on continued training, not education, especially not being “educated” by the community (it is sworn to serve). Recent actions, as well as insights, by a city police chief beg to differ. 2-18-16 PBS News Hour Race Matters interview of former Montgomery Alabama police Chief Kevin Murphy by Charlayne Hunter-Gault indicate the alternative is not only preferable, but doable in practice. From the transcript:

 

“CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: During the 50th anniversary of police violence against peaceful civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, that ended in Montgomery, police Chief Kevin Murphy did something surprising. He apologized to Congressman John Lewis, a frequent victim of that earlier violence, and handed him his badge.”

Further on in the interview:

“KEVIN MURPHY: One of the first things that I implemented as the new police chief was enacting a class, creating a class. We went way back in history to the Dred Scott decision all the way through to the Emmett Till case, because I wanted the officers to experience what really happened. You know, what my observation was is, you have a 21-year-old officer who had never lived through or seen the civil rights era for what it was, the dark reality of it. And so this young officer would stop an African-American citizen and get somewhat of a pushback, because maybe this 60- or 75-year-old African-American citizen’s last encounter with a Montgomery police officer was very negative. After they attended the class, I saw a lot of promise, in that, the next time they encountered that citizen, they felt like: I understand now.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And you put this class — you got this class put into the police academy’s training.

KEVIN MURPHY: I did. And we actually had all members of the department, not just the sworn officers, but the civilians, attended as well, and had tremendous feedback. The first part of the course is classroom, then a tour of the Rosa Parks Museum. But my favorite part of the class was the conclusion, where there was a values segment. And the values segment was giving scenarios to the members of the class. It was strongly agree, somewhat agree, strongly disagree, somewhat disagree. But I was proud of the answers and the outcomes of those scenarios, because they were learning from the class that, you know, you have to be very careful in the way that you apply this power. And, you know, we’re seeing it in the country now. And I think that we were teaching that in this class, how to de-escalate a situation where a citizen was upset because they thought that they were going to be mistreated when they saw the patch of the Montgomery Police Department, and it was the officer’s responsibility to ensure that citizen that that wasn’t going to occur.”

 

Kevin Murphy had much more to say. Analysis found it very refreshing to hear the former Chief speak and act in terms of specifics, not presidential candidate promises of “change”. City priority should be community educating the police force (that is sworn to serve it), not police educating the community.

DIY Analysis

February 19, 2016

Analysis and theory, can’t find one without the other. Apple’s dictionary defines theory with “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” as well as “an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action”. Theory is often disparaged in favor of action or tradition, but even extreme conservatism (“because that’s the way it’s always been done”) is a theory in itself (“an idea used to…justify a course of action”). Sometimes theory is obvious, as in Kent Mallett’s “Land bank to eliminate Second Street eyesore” (2-18-16 Newark Advocate). Mallett quotes Newark Mayor Jeff Hall as saying “The purpose is to put properties back on the tax rolls.” That’s the theory. But wait, elsewhere Mallett writes “After the building has been razed, the vacant land will be sold to nearby business Gutridge Plumbing for $100.” and a little after that “He [Gutridge] said if the vacant building next to the Elks can someday be removed, the open space would be a good spot for a community center.” Does a community center put a property “back on the tax rolls”? Here’s another one for you. “CEO channels Bernie Sanders in opposing AEP and FirstEnergy plans” by Tom Knox for Columbus Business First (2-17-16). It covers the ongoing PUCO petition by AEP and FirstEnergy to bill Ohio electric users for keeping active and maintaining redundant coal fired power plants which are unnecessary and not profitable (kinda like a spare tire or battery, just in case…). Knox quotes competitor Dynergy Inc. CEO Bob Flexon as saying “For the Democrats, Flexon cited a way for Sanders to highlight his frequent and fervent lamenting of the country’s income inequality. “Bern runs around and he talks about how the game is rigged,” Flexon said. “The middle class is getting screwed. And quite honestly, folks, that’s how I feel about these PPAs. These only exist for Wall Street.” PPAs are power purchase agreements, long-term contracts that Ohio utilities American Electric Power Company Inc. and FirstEnergy Corp. want with their subsidiaries to reduce risk and guarantee income.” At the end he quotes him again with ““When Bernie Sanders says the middle class is getting screwed and Wall Street’s winning, this is an example of that,” Flexon said. “That’s what’s happening here and the only way you can fight it is to speak up. I’m going to lose the battle if it’s just Dynegy. We’ve been carrying the sword on this thing, fighting this thing and we’re just getting streamrolled by it.”” Which brings us back to theory, “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” as well as “an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action”. Sanders’ theory is the foundation of his presidential wannabeism. It certainly is not “the way it’s always been done”. Flexon’s theorizing about AEP and FirstEnergy’s proposed PPAs inadvertently exposes the more important, underlying theory of democracy (which Flexon appears to share with Sanders). Democracy itself, as a way of governing, is a theory, made possible only by a self governance through the active involvement and engagement of the governed into the affairs of governing (“That’s what’s happening here and the only way you can fight it is to speak up.” Sanders repeats an analogous appeal with all of his stump speeches.) Is AEP and FirstEnergy’s PPA proposal an example of the middle class getting screwed for the benefit of Wall Street? Is the game rigged?

Is It Any Wonder?

February 17, 2016

“Contaminated Flint water among most expensive in the U.S.” Reuters reports 2-16-16. Let’s look under the hood: “The annual water bill in Flint as of January 2015 was $864.32 for a household using 60,000 gallons a year, said Washington-based advocacy group Food & Water Watch” “The second highest water prices in the country were in Bellevue, Washington, at $855.25 a year for 60,000 gallons of water. The least expensive water was in Phoenix, at $84.24 a year.” Desert models somehow age better. Must be because of the paucity of rain, winters without ice and salt….

How about this beauty: “Trustees agree to OK abatement for MPW Industrial Services” (Maria DeVito for the Newark Advocate 2-15-16). No need to test drive this baby, we’ve done it before (this blog’s “Limited Time Blue Light Special On Aisle 5” 7-30-14). Take a look at the lines on this model: “Trustee Charlie Prince said after the meeting that the trustees didn’t have the exact resolution, but he “didn’t want to continue the uncertainty” for MPW so the three trustees passed an intent to grant the 15-year, 100 percent tax abatement the company is seeking.” Not enough power for you? How about “MPW, an industrial cleaning and water purification company”? Customer satisfaction is number one. With extra added features like “The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved today a 50 percent, six-year tax credit to MPW for creation of $1 million in new annual payroll.” (“MPW plans $4.4 million expansion, 25 new jobs” Kent Mallett for the same Newark Advocate 7-29-14). Something sweet to seal the deal? “The county will extend an existing sewer line from the Pilot Travel Center truck stop just north of Interstate 70 to the MPW facility at 9711 Lancaster Road SE. “That was a big part of the deal — connecting to a public system and off of a private system,” Bubb said.” (same Mallett article from 7-29-14). Hmmmmm. Not sold on the benefits? Bring us your best deal and we’ll beat it or give you… “The study – which looked at the 500 largest community water systems in 48 states – showed that private, for-profit water systems generally charged more than the public water systems that prevail around the country.” (same Reuters) “The county will extend an existing sewer line” for a private “cleaning and water purification company” to assist its business, earn a tax abatement, and collect a tax credit. We’re dealin’!

 

Community Consideration

February 12, 2016

NPR reported this morning (2-11-16) that the family of Tamir Rice, the Cleveland 12 year old who failed to obtain a concealed carry permit for his toy gun, was billed for the EMT services requested and delivered too late after his shooting by a Cleveland police officer. Analysis wonders if the family of 54 year old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who had a real gun and wore it on his belt “for all the honest world to feel”, will be sent a bill to cover all the costs involved with his shooting. It’s obvious why local law enforcement deploys its chief to do the PR work of educating the “community” (not much different than corporate chief executive operating officers pitching ads for their company’s product). It would be a far better allocation of city resources to fund required continuing education for the entire force. Educating “community” members will do little to dispel the conventional perception that involvement will cost you. Analysis finds it a bit of a stretch to consider Finicum’s “patriots” as a community. None of them called that part of Oregon “home”. Tamir Rice, however, was the neighborhood child now mourned by many in the community he called “home”.

Goes Without Saying

February 9, 2016

News flying low and slow under the radar today concerns The Sparta in downtown Newark. Analysis notes not saying “The Sparta Restaurant” for The Sparta happens to be one of those shape shifting entities akin to a chameleon. No sooner than one reaches for “restaurant” than one is holding on to Project Main Street. As far as news is concerned, restaurants in downtown Newark come and go, primarily for aspirational reasons, money and business. But The Sparta is not a business though it is a restaurant; more of that shape shifting DNA. From the economists’ statistical standpoint of start up success, flower shops do best. Fastest failures are restaurants (see above “come and go”). Economists claim it takes 3 years for a restaurant to establish any sustainable potential. The Sparta is past that. What gives (or takes)? Anna Jeffries’ report “After three years, Sparta seeking community support” (2-5-16, Newark Advocate) provides the closest to a selfie of the shape shifting Sparta possible. The article presents future aspirations (“Raising the $10,000 by April will help the business, but it’s not the only solution, he said [“Allen Schwartz, acting president of the Sparta’s board”]. The number of meals sold every hour needs to increase by two to keep the restaurant in the black.”) as well as start up intentions (“He [Chris Ramsey, former Sparta owner and Project Main Street originator] opened the restaurant with a plan to offer jobs to people who wanted to be trained to work in the restaurant industry. His long term goals included creating a community supported agriculture program to grow locally-produced food, launch a green-jobs training program and convert the second floor of the Sparta into classroom space.”). But what is Project Main Street? Like all of today’s presidential candidates say – you can go to the website for specifics on mission statement, policy, etc. Much like the poor, Jeffries’ article reveals The Sparta’s great (and urgent) need. Most poor want better than what they have which, if they are poor, they may have in name only, or not at all. Precarious would best describe it. Unlike the poor, The Sparta has a rich network of like minded entities of goodwill. Indeed, merging with Goodwill would be one outlet from poverty. The two shape shifting entities compliment each other by maintaining analogous descriptions of being not for profit while operating as a business. Businesses that are not really businesses but embrace business because, well, it’s good business! From “Newman’s Own” to “Wounded Warriors” Americans are not only familiar with but inundated by shape shifting entities whose mission statements consist of service and community, that are in the business of serving the disadvantaged, which often extends to the poor. Analysis finds all of this implicates an “advantaged” lurking somewhere. This becomes a bit unsavory determining who’s in, who’s out, who is rich and who is poor, the advantaged, the disadvantaged, and who’s responsible for what. These shape shifting businesses differ from religious institutions who answer to a higher calling. They also differ from public, democratically instituted and maintained providers like the library, senior centers, public arts organizations and public schools. Shape shifters, like The Sparta, superficially resemble today’s ever growing public/private partnerships. The resemblance fails in that though shifty, public/private partnerships have no shape. Analysis finds this to be yet another option for The Sparta – becoming shapeless by being subsumed within the Licking County Chamber of Commerce that administrates the Grow Licking County public/private partnership. A theoretical option is relocation. SPARK has relocated its art workshop from downtown Newark to Granville. A “Goodwill” type local donation business once operated in Granville for the benefit of Licking Memorial Hospital. The business is gone, no longer needed by Granville or the community hospital. But the volunteer and goodwill potential remain. Local business, local donation, locally sourced, all involve location. Such a move might entail a loss of property, history and personal identity through the rupture of re-location, but what poor person hasn’t been subjected to that?