Archive for July, 2016

The Patience Of Jobs

July 30, 2016

No, not Steve Jobs. Jobs, the Marxist definition of “selling one’s labor”. The 2016 presidential event has left the primary season behind and now has entered the final phase of two major party candidates with their pitch to the electorate. And once again, “establishment” or “outsider”, the pitch remains jobs. It is still not clear what the attraction is for the electorate of selling one’s labor, or what the magnetism is that sticks it to election cycle after election cycle, for as long as can be remembered. If there was anything to be learned from the Bush years, it was that profit margins are what drive Wall Street, and where the margin isn’t growing, the stock plummets. Where the money to be made is not “enough”, then the property is left to rot (see Where Credit Is Due 7-10-16 for how this happens locally, or remember the old Meijer store on 21st St.?). Yet both major party candidates are focusing their marketing on “the rust belt” promising, what else, jobs. In interviews with residents of these areas over the last 20 years they all ultimately admit “but those jobs are never coming back” (it is what comes after the “but” that is the working end of a “but” statement). Yes 20, as automation drove out a lot of those jobs with the dot com fireworks of the first Clinton administration. Today’s (un)employment statistics- local, statewide or even national- certainly don’t show what the imagined scenario promoted by the two major candidates portrays. By historic standards, it is at or near full employment. What puzzles the Federal Reserve is that, though on the cusp of being too low (contributing to inflation), there is little signs of inflationary trending. In his run for the White House, Ohio’s Governor campaigned, not on any appeal to “rust belt” marketing, but rather on Ohio’s low unemployment. Locally, former radio personality and current Licking County Commission megaphone Tim Bubb repeatedly uses “jobs” when cutting services to public transportation, family services and affordable housing while “spending” tax generated revenue on Grow Licking County (to which he is a board member), tax abatements, credits and incentives for existing/relocating businesses and development. “Selling one’s labor” is trotted out predictably when austerity is called for. When it comes to sharing (or showing) the wealth, then it is secret, “sunshine law” adverse public meetings that result in Bubb’s boondoggle cost overrun real estate projects. “[Auditor Mike] Smith said he heard last year the courthouse project would cost close to $10 million, instead of the initial $4 million cost approved by the commissioners.” (Kent mallet, Newark Advocate “Auditor: Courthouse cost spike to $10M unsurprising” 7-28-16) “In addition to the courthouse, the commissioners announced the Child Support Enforcement Agency building at 65 E. Main St., needs a repair and restoration project estimated to cost up to $3.8 million. The one-year project will be advertised in August, bids will be opened in September and it may be under construction this year, Bubb said. “The last I heard it was going to be $1 million (for CSEA building),” Smith said. “Why take a $700,000 building and put $4 million into it? You can build a new building twice the size for $3.8 million.” Bubb said he does not expect the final cost will be as high as $3.8 million.” Analysis finds no mention of jobs, “selling one’s labor” in any of these real estate partnership deals. It all is about spending the fruits of someone else’s labor. “”Our budget has increased by $45 million to $62 million and we’re still not socking any money away,” Smith said. “With our credit rating, we could borrow more money than we could ever pay back.” Bubb said the building improvements are not annual expenses and will save the county money in the long run, but the work can’t be overlooked any longer.” Analysis predicts commissioner Bubb will mouth the usual “jobs” austerity spiel when requests are made to fund services to county residents that these buildings are intended for (We can’t afford that. What we need is jobs incentives to businesses and Grow Licking County.) Will Licking County residents find a building at 65 E. Main all dressed up with nowhere to go?

Marketing A Tax

July 28, 2016

Generally, once a month the Newark Advocate business section highlights local marketing guru’s by offering them their own full length columns. This is not to be confused with the regular “ace of trades” or local flavors reporting. No, the marketing pros “sell” Licking County and Newark with glowing reports on Grow Licking County’s success, or the Port Authority’s recent acquisitions (and projected plans) or how marvelous the redevelopment of downtown business is going. No problem. Analysis wonders whether these same marketing whiz bangs will devote their freely given column space to marketing Newark’s income tax increase. Not only that, but how will they market it? Johnstown has announced an anticipated income tax increase on the upcoming ballot which will double their current rate. Their tax increase marketing centers on growth. The town is projected to be a city after the 2020 census. All that growth requires a lot of municipal expense with increased demands on infrastructure, security services, etc. Driving through town the rapid change is evidenced primarily by the mushrooming of new residential housing, not downtown business expansion or industry. Unlike Newark, which is connected to Ohio’s major freeways through immediate access 4 lane highways (79 and 16), Johnstown has none. It is located at the intersection of two lane 37 and 62. Yet it has a very vibrant industrial park and manufacturing sector. Their tax increase marketing appears to target the all too obvious residential housing boom, not the commuting workers. Upper Arlington, surrounded by Columbus, is embroiled in a nasty recall over its recently passed income tax increase. Four council members who marketed the increase face removal over how the money was ultimately spent. Like Newark, the tax revenue was to go for infrastructure maintenance and improvement. The money was spent on redeveloping an old (and much loved) park so part of the park property could be commercially developed. The council members involved claim that was part of the marketing. Those who initiated the recall claim it was not included with the income tax sales pitch. How will Newark’s council and mayor market the upcoming tax increase on the ballot? With half of Newark’s council totally not on board and half facing the scrutiny that befell Upper Arlington’s public representatives, this is not an idle concern. Past expenditure of Newark’s ostensibly earmarked revenues for other projects benefiting the business interests which populate the business section of the Advocate are easily referenced, whether they be tearing down a deadbeat landlord’s building to provide additional municipal parking, prioritizing business street paving, or a back door purchase of a basket building. Analysis finds that overcoming the skepticism generated by the precedent of such past performance needs to be central for any Newark “vote yes” campaign. After all, what if the revenues generated by the tax were used to “save” the basket building? If it was, would anyone mount a recall? Marketing a tax, it’s best left to the pros.

Grand Old Party Of Licking County Commissioners

July 21, 2016

Duly elected commissioner Duane Flowers publicly recommended the execution of Hillary Clinton at this week’s very public meeting of the Licking County Commissioners (a quick peek of closet misogyny?). Grand Poopah Tim Bubb came to the defense of his fellow commissioner by reinterpreting the brother’s words. Translations never do give the original meaning (or the original language!). The local press is all in a kerfuffle over these statements. The usual suspects are implicated – freedom of speech, politically correct speech, maybe better said in private than in public, responsibility of public officials, does such violent “rhetoric” (more translation and interpretation!) contribute to violence? Yadda, yadda. Missed in this all was any consideration of the obvious. Analysis finds that Mr. Flowers obviously felt completely at ease to be speaking within the comfortable environs of his peers and within his official capacity at this completely public government meeting. The disposition and assumption of comfort was more bespeaking a Masonic temple or fraternal lodge than a government meeting room. And why not? The folks there were all of the same persuasion and commitment. These might as well have been lodge members or frat brothers (maybe are). Equally outrageous news this past week came from outside the US where the duly elected president of Turkey is purging those of not like mind (with his party) from any publicly funded positions within the state (from police and professors to foot soldiers and bus drivers). All this is being done in the name of democracy. After all, he was democratically elected and his party holds the monopoly of power. Why should his party take anyone else into consideration, let alone benefit from the public largess? Analysis finds that the Grand Old Party of Licking County Commissioners would readily concur.

Newark Income Tax OMG

July 16, 2016

An iconoclast is described by the dictionary as someone who attacks beliefs and institutions as being superstitious or in error. Over a decade ago Bruno Latour made a play on this with the term “iconoclash” to describe what he felt was the attack on beliefs and institutions worldwide. For Latour, situated in France, this had a lot to do with the tensions between Christian France and former colonial subjects entitled to citizenship but definitely not Christian (many of whom were second and third generation, born in France). Religious (of various beliefs) were attacking religious (of not their belief) as well as secular institutions (such as the state, corporations, etc.), and vice versa (secularists were attacking each other as well as the religious, etc.). The world was on the attack! In the inimitable style of Donnie Trump, Analysis would say that we may be. Then again, simple logic shows we may not (“I don’t know.” D.T.). To read news coverage and commentary, Donnie may be right. Then again he may not. Ostensible reasons for things like Donnie’s own wall (and many other “projects”), PAC ads for the 2016 election, the Black Lives Matter demonstration, the Brexit vote, etc. are all couched in terms of competition and contention – attack or defend. Do people go in the voting booth with such an inflated sense of potency, effectiveness and aggression? Or could something else be at play, invisible behind the curtain of the secret ballot? Latour misses the mark in our time. But he does offer an insight into what most of the high dollar media is missing. The corporate giants like to frame the referendum as a sporting competition – Britons competed to decide in or out. The out won showing the strength of the discontent, the desire to tear down the institution of the EU as in error. With the 2016 POTUS election, it is the match up of the “outsider” versus the “establishment” (bound to defend the practices of her predecessor). Kinda like a heavy weight title fight, huh? Locally, the Newark income tax increase was likewise framed when first initiated a couple of years back. The local media proclaimed the competitive effectiveness of the entire process with “The people voted it down.” But iconoclash it is not, for the next morning everyone gets up and goes to work at the same institutions with the same belief systems all neatly in place. Analysis finds something else to be at play here, something akin to iconoclash but only in appearance. The Brexit vote, the Black Lives Matter message, the statistical dead heat of two radically different presidential candidates may not be about attacking, or tearing down. The statisticians “dead heat” may not be based on “equal distaste for the candidates.” The Brexit vote, the 2016 POTUS statistics, Black Lives Matter, Newark’s income tax referendum may, in fact, be rather a statement of disbelief than one of active effectiveness, potency and aggression. Statements of disbelief usually follow the straight forward OMG of twitter. Choosing to use more characters, they are embellished with irony. Some may even descend to actual cynical commitment. But they are statements of disbelief and incredulity, not attacks on institutions or beliefs based in error or superstition. Analysis shows it is possible to disbelieve something without attacking it or tearing it down. The Black Lives Matter demonstration may be a statement of disbelief regarding the distribution of “equal justice for all” by those paid to ensure it. Brexit may have been the absence of belief in the effectiveness of EU membership (though the next morning everyone expected the same jobs, ease of travel and buying/selling of goods). The “statistical” 2016 POTUS dead heat may rather reflect equal disbelief in Donny’s simplistic nationalism as well as Hillary’s convoluted globalism. And in Newark, a no vote may not be about people wanting to have their infrastructure maintained. It may just be a statement of disbelief that revenue raised by the tax will actually be spent on the intended reason for the tax. After witnessing (repeatedly) how contributions made to NGO’s (like the Red Cross, Wounded Warriors, etc.) are spent for other matters than the one’s the donor intended, AND witnessing the preferential distribution of available funding by state, local county and city government to business related enterprises, a statement of disbelief is not only reasonable, but quite appropriate.

Where Credit Is Due

July 11, 2016

The news out of South Africa in the past half year is of public demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. The demonstrations are instigated by the perceived inequality, or lack of equal opportunity within the population. It primarily centers around the increase in the cost of public higher education, which in theory is to be available to all. The Zuma administration has met these protests with a censorship program based on a policy of “to show violence is to encourage it” resulting in a ban on news coverage of these demonstrations. This fueled a popular response, “Right2Know”, which in turn has ramped up even more demonstrations. Readers of this blog will recognize that the South African “right to know” appears quite akin to the “right to look” requisite for Analysis. Such measures to quell public unrest, and violence, would fail here in the US. The horse would never leave the gate. No, not because of opposition from the ACLU. “To show violence is to encourage it” underlies the nuanced, unmentionable marketing of the NRA and US gun manufacturers (“unmentionable” making for a twisted kind of self censorship). Sales of firearms (and the stock of their producers) are rising. Guns aren’t marketed like new cars or cell phones. Their marketing strategy is more like that of the Trump presidential campaign, reliant on current events and subtle insinuations (such and so MAY be…). Having the CDC study guns as a source of death, as a public health concern is a subtle encroachment of the constitution’s 2nd amendment (so celebrate your 2nd amendment rights by buying a gun. Hint, hint). The police themselves are under continuous imminent threat for their own safety. It is the citizen’s duty to help in keeping us all protected (purchasing a gun would contribute to public safety. Hint, hint). If only those good people victimized by mass shootings had each been carrying, the carnage would have been stemmed immediately (the only recourse to a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Hint, hint). A “show violence but don’t encourage it” campaign would be of no consequence. It is the current status quo. “Just say no” (to showing or encouraging) was what Nancy Reagan championed with regards to the drug epidemic, and probably would be of equal effectiveness with gun violence. Analysis finds the last option, “to not show violence but encourage it”, to be the most intriguing. It almost sounds un-American. Scrutiny reveals it has the closest real life applications within US culture, primarily when it comes to marketing. “Don’t show it but encourage it” is almost the attitude toward pornography, gambling or bankruptcy. No need to look historically at the heady days of the Bush economy with its sub prime bundled securities and derivatives (all variations on don’t show but encourage). A recent Newark Advocate article (North Park Place project receives $250K in tax credits, Kent Mallett, 7-5-16) sheds light on the “don’t show but encourage” practice right here in downtown Newark. “Sarah Wallace, board chairwoman of First Federal Savings, and her husband, John, join Teri and Fred Lowinger, of Chicago, as building owners and partners in the project. Teri Lowinger’s grandfather was Herman L. Art, founder of nearby business H.L. Art Jewelers. “The tax credits make it possible for the numbers to work, to renovate these older buildings,” Sarah Wallace said. “My motivation is what can I do, personally, to help move Newark further forward.”” “Teri Lowinger grew up in Newark and wants to restore the building her grandfather once owned. The upper floors have been vacant for decades. “Teri is very excited about keeping the building,” Sarah Wallace said.” One aspect of the right to look is the right to entertain the question of why were these properties derelict and left neglected over the past 30 years? Aren’t the owners of these self same properties the very civic leaders who continuously championed Newark, and resented any criticism during this same time? If these self same properties had been left neglected and derelict within a residential neighborhood, like cars up on blocks or vacant houses and apartments (with “potential” value in their owners’ dreamed of future), would they still be around, let alone qualify for public funding and tax credits to “realize their potential” after 30 years? The reality with regard to the neighborhood, like that of the “endless” campaign to stem gun violence, is no. Public money would be found to demolish the structure and/or clean up the site (the self same public money that “demolishes” any restraints on gun ownership). What Analysis finds to be the insidious not shown, unseen here, is the certainty that many of these business (and civic) leader landlords who today celebrate their downtown revitalization (thanks to credits and breaks) promoted the development of Newark’s margins over the last 30 years. Their downtown holdings remained neglected and derelict while they hedged their bets. These self same likewise owned a stake in developing condominiums, housing and medical offices on the west side, and big box stores with strip malls on the north. Uptown, downtown, all around the town, credit is given to those who don’t show but encourage.

Aldi Evangelicals

July 5, 2016

Evangelize 1. to preach the Christian gospel to 2. to convert to Christianity 3. to preach the gospel; act as an evangelist
Those church goers not heading home after Sunday services usually end up at a restaurant or grocery store. The Aldi shopper’s tee shirt identified her as one of the latter. It read: “I am protected by the good Lord and a gun.” Her evangelizing may be a badge of honor to her. Then again, the tee shirt slogan could just be considered cool, provocative. A lot of tee shirts are sold because, like bumper stickers, they say what the wearer wants others to read (the wearer is the billboard promoting the message). Either way, for evangelicals evangelizing is an active verb. Such evangelizing was what got W elected and re-elected. The evangelical electoral clout appears to have subsided with B Rock’s two subsequent victories. Recently Focus on the Family’s James Dobson rather tepidly embraced the Trump campaign. Analysis finds this to be in line with current polling statistics swirling around the two presidential candidates. Dobson probably proclaimed Donnie as born again because it was less distasteful than being with her. An Independent Lens documentary, Armor of Light, shows national evangelical leader Rev. Rob Schenck wrestling with the Christian gospel, political conservatism, and his fellow evangelicals’ embrace of guns and the 2nd amendment. It is the conjunction “and” in the tee shirt slogan that tripped him up, instigating the documentary. The dictionary gives several uses and meanings for “and”. The initial definitions cover connectivity related uses, such as “with”, “as well as”, “in addition to” or “added to”, “then”, “also, at the same time”. The meanings expand after that as the usage changes from one specifically concerning connectivity. These latter usages are totally inappropriate for our tee shirt evangelist. “With, as well as, in addition to” work just fine in place of “and”. “Added to” doesn’t change the meaning. “I am protected by the good Lord then a gun” is an insightful substitution (in the event the good Lord is distracted or preoccupied by more pressing concerns). Finally, “also, at the same time” appears to give the most appropriate meaning for the Aldi evangelical’s usage of “and”. This is where Analysis uncovers a slippage with the meaning of “evangelize” and its contemporary American usage. The original dictionary definition definitely implicates Christian religious belief and the gospel. Any SCOTUS style strict textual interpretation of the gospel readily renders an absence of guns, let alone 2nd amendment. Yet as Rev. Rob Schenck showed, his contemporaries evangelize the importance of “the good Lord and a gun.” Aggressive marketing, resulting in the ever growing increase in gun ownership, coupled with the continuous rise in the value of Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger, etc. stock may have more to do with evangelicals obsessing on the security and reliability of a gun (in the event the good Lord may be distracted or preoccupied by more pressing concerns). It is also what these evangelicals currently evangelize. To preach the gospel of the 2nd amendment, to convert infidels to the everlasting salvation of gun ownership may likewise be more about something other than protection or security. It just may be about creating and maintaining believers faithfully and zealously committed to the gospel of individual property ownership- bought, paid for, “and” yours to do with as you please because you own it.