Archive for March, 2018

If You Are Not Paying For The Advertising, You Are The Advertising

March 29, 2018

Big RSVP pre-season opening ice cream social was held at Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill the other day (Velvet Ice Cream increasing wages for new employees, credits federal tax cut, Kent Mallet, The Advocate, 3-28-18). Smiles and ice cream all around with Ohio Senator Rob Portman celebrating the recently enacted permanent tax cut for businesses like Velvet. Who doesn’t like ice cream? Good times. Isn’t a day goes by that The Advocate doesn’t feature some area business, established or just opening, usually on the front page. Comes under many guises like “Ace of Trades” or family history, etc. The Dager family history has little to do with a water powered mill (“Velvet will fix the roof of the mill, installing natural shingles like the ones used 200 years ago, at a cost of about $60,000 to $80,000.”). But then celebrating THAT history would be politically incorrect, at least for the theme of this particular GOP social event. Elsewhere, same trade journal, same day (business news is usually the product of a business trade publication), the headline “Licking County set record low unemployment in February” (same reporter, 3-27-18). Good times. Who doesn’t like setting a record (“The county’s unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent last month, according to the ODJFS Bureau of Labor Market Information.”)? A day earlier we read “State gives $750k to help build Newark Boys and Girls Club” (same reporter, same publication, 3-26-18). “State Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, who helped secure the appropriation in the state senate, praised the Evans Foundation effort to establish the local club, which will be part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Columbus Region. “For youth, this is one of the most exciting things in my lifetime,” Hottinger said. “It’s something that’s been on my radar screen for 30 years. I have a special place in my heart for at-risk kids. It’s an economic opportunity for the youth of Licking County and long overdue.”” Good times. Who doesn’t desire an “economic opportunity” for their kids? “The $1.2 million [state appropriated] amount ranked Licking County 24th of Ohio’s 88 counties in the community projects funding. When adding the $750,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs, the county ranked 19th.” Someday we’ll be number one! We’re always told how competitive it all is, economic opportunities for youth and all. So where’s the 21% of Licking County that is below the poverty line? Or the 51% that the United Way in the ALICE report says is one step away from being there (if not there already)? Only a couple of days earlier (3-22-18) Emily Stewart for VOX headlined “Corporate stock buybacks are booming, thanks to the Republican tax cuts. Republicans said their tax bill would go to workers. Instead, it’s going to Wall Street.” (“Right after Republicans in Congress passed their tax bill, lowering tax rates on corporations, companies delivered a very public thank-you: a series of bonus and investment announcements. It was a major PR opportunity for both corporate America and the GOP, meant to show that American businesses were sharing their billions of dollars in tax cut savings with their workers and the broader economy. But over the next few months, the real winners from the corporate tax cut became clear — not workers and consumers, but shareholders. Companies have boosted dividends and stock buybacks. A stock buyback is when a company buys back its own shares from the broader marketplace.”) Well, the GOP ice cream was good. And how about all those kids? At least the Advocate avoided using the phrase “at risk” in conjunction with the great “economic opportunity” (Jay did it for ’em!). Wages haven’t gone up, the poverty rate is still the same as well as the ALICE “almost poverty” rate, so how are these kids to get to the Boys and Girls Club? “Expected to open in 2019 at 96 Maholm St. Open 3-8 p.m. during the school year, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer, serving about 200 children per day. Cost $5 per year for each member. Ages, kindergarten through 12th grade.” One high school for all of Newark is possible only because of mandated (and funded) public school bus transportation. What are the kids on the north end to do? Play at the Hollander Pool whether it has water in it or not? And those at the east end? Play along the tracks? There is no reliable, affordable, accessible, sustainable public transportation in Newark, at least not during the hours the Club will be open. And the single moms at or in poverty, who are working while being at or near poverty, who would benefit most from this Club (estimated at 40+% of single moms)? What have they to look forward to? Same day as Mallett’s record setting employment news (3-27-18) Arthur Delaney headlined “GOP Food Stamp Plan Would Shift Some Funds From Benefits To Training” for the Huffington Post. “The proposal to reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would subject more enrollees to “work requirements,” and would require states to set up training programs for 3 to 5 million people who might be unable to find suitable private sector work. Such programs currently serve 700,000 SNAP recipients.” Gannett failed to cover this. Why is that? At one time there were free small print publications like The Advertiser, the Booster, and other “neighborhood news” community outlets. They were bought out by The Dispatch, Gannett, Sinclair and other “News” outlets. What those small publications served for advertising commercial products is now done by bona fide news source journalism. Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” More like “If you are not paying for the advertising, you are the advertising.” Good times.

Newark Ohio March For Our Lives

March 24, 2018

Today’s March For Our Lives in Newark produced a magnificent contingent of fine and insightful speakers, from poets, politicians to students and teachers. Amongst them one spoke out on the proffered “solution” of arming teachers in schools. Why not grocery store clerks? She asked. Or movie theater attendants, restaurant waitresses and waiters, etc.? In NRA speak, if all good folks carried a gun (which would mean literally all of us since we usually see our selves as good), then it would be a safer more secure world. All this speculative solution making sent Analysis in to a tizzy. Going not so way back in the the way back machine (12-19-14) Analysis remembered what it had posted on that day:

A New Normal Christmas Carol

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

 

“Last night I had a dream about reality.

It was such a relief to wake up.”

(Stanislaw J. Lec)

Inured To Work

March 20, 2018

In his final year in office Governor John Kasich has befuddled political news aficionados by actively promoting the consolidation of Ohio’s Department of Education with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Training (House Bill 512). He has denigrated the independence of the Education Department and called for control of education to be within the purview of the governor. Since he is in his final year, and his children are likewise in the last of their K-12 education, what is the intention or rationale behind such an aggressive position? Adrian Ma, reporting for WOSU, headlined Ohio School Board Opposes Education Consolidation Bill (3-14-18). “Members of the Ohio Board of Education [which the Governor dissed in his promotion] have approved a resolution speaking out against a bill being considered in the General Assembly.” “Both the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) released statements in opposition to the bill Wednesday.” “Speaking to the Board of Education, OEA Vice President Scott DiMauro said even though the bill’s intent is to consolidate to improve collaboration between the agencies, but K-12 officials have to collaborate with more than just higher education and workforce development. DiMauro said they also have to work with local districts, the state Medicaid office, mental healthcare and addiction specialists and many more.” 3-19-18 The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell headlined Computers are now grading essays on Ohio’s state tests. “No, not just all those fill-in-the bubble multiple choice questions. The longer answers and essays too. After Ohio started using American Institutes for Research in 2015 to provide and score state tests, Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs have increasingly taken over grading. Computers are now scoring the entire test for about 75 percent of Ohio students, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and state testing official Brian Roget told the state school board recently. The other 25 percent are scored by people to help verify the computer’s work.” “According to the department, some students copied large portions of the questions or of the passages that they had to read into their answers.  That led the computer to give them zeroes on the question – either as apparent plagiarism or simply because the student offered little original thought in the answer. That’s a sticky point because the tests ask students to show what parts of the passage led them to their answer.” “The most clear guidance so far: An update this month of all the ways students can earn a zero on a question. “A score of zero also is earned when there is a significant amount of text copied directly from the prompt and/or reading passage, with little to no original writing from the student,” that new guide states. “Copying limited text from the prompt is allowable but, as a rule, at least 30 percent of a response needs to be original to demonstrate understanding and earn points.”” Analysis can’t help but ask how the AI program determines writing to be original (since AI is based on data in/data out, that is past examples of “writing” determine the algorithm)? Wiki gives “In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems.” Fair or unfair? We’ve all become captive to algorithm solving our problems, taken this to be “naturally” equitable. Is it? Speaking with Harry Shearer (Le Show, 11-26-17) Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons Of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality And Threatens Democracy, explained how they are really rather biased, depending on how the plan is put together. Analysis would liken this to be analogous to routing a road map to a given destination by various sources – AAA, Google, Travel and Tourism Bureau, etc. Speaking with Guy Raz on the TED Radio Hour (1-26-18) she elaborated: “I mean, look – it’s really important to understand the difference between accuracy and fairness. So it used to be that life insurance companies made black men pay more for life insurance than white men simply because they were going to die sooner. That lasted for a long time before the regulators in question were like – wait a second – that’s racist. And it’s racist because we have to ask the question why. Why are black men living less than white men? And is that their fault that they should take responsibility for and they should pay for, or is that a problem that society itself should take on and fix? So it wasn’t an inaccurate fact that black men lived less time. But the question was, how should we deal with that? And that’s a question of fairness, and it’s a question that we all have to grapple with together. And many of these questions are of that nature. So yes, it’s true that people who live in this ZIP code are more likely to default on their debt. Does that mean we don’t loan them any money, or do we make a rule that people of this age who have a job, who finish college or whatever – what do we decide is fair? And that’s a really hard question. Data science has done nothing to address that question.” “This is Roger Ailes. He founded Fox News in 1996. More than 20 women complained about sexual harassment. They said they weren’t allowed to succeed at Fox News. He was ousted last year, but we’ve seen recently that the problems have persisted. That begs the question, what should Fox News do to turn over another leaf? Well, what if they replaced their hiring process with a machine learning algorithm? That sounds good. Right? Think about it. The data – what would the data be? A reasonable choice would be the last 21 years of applications to Fox News – reasonable. What about the definition of success? Reasonable choice would be – well, who’s successful at Fox News? I guess someone who, say, stayed there for four years and was promoted at least once – sounds reasonable. And then the algorithm would be trained. It would be trained to look for people to learn what led to success. What kind of applications historically led to success by that definition? Now think about what would happen if we applied that to a current pool of applicants. It would filter out women because they do not look like people who were successful in the past. Algorithms don’t make things fair if you just blithely, blindly apply algorithms. They don’t make things fair. They repeat our past practices, our patterns. They automate the status quo. That would be great if we had a perfect world, but we don’t. And I’ll add that most companies don’t have embarrassing lawsuits. But the data scientists in those companies are told to follow the data, to focus on accuracy. Think about what that means. Because we all have bias, it means they could be codifying sexism or any other kind of bigotry.” Which brings us back to the lame duck Governor enthusiastically promoting consolidating the Department of Education into the governor’s Office of Workforce Training, although his children (and grandchildren) will be unaffected. In A People’s History of the United States (pg. 73-74) Howard Zinn writes: “The philosophy of the Declaration [of Independence], that government is set up by the people to secure their life, liberty, and happiness, and is to be overthrown when it no longer does that, is often traced to the ideas of John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government. That was published in England in 1689, when the English were rebelling against tyrannical kings and setting up parliamentary government. The Declaration, like Locke’s Second Treatise, talked about government and political rights, but ignored the existing inequalities in property. And how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth? Locke himself was a wealthy man… As adviser to the Carolinas, he had suggested a government of slave owners run by forty wealthy land barons. Locke’s statement of people’s government was in support of a revolution in England for the free development of mercantile capitalism at home and abroad. Locke himself regretted that the labor of poor children “is generally lost to the public till they are twelve or fourteen years old” and suggested that all children over three, of families on relief, should attend “working schools” so they would be “from infancy… inured to work.”’

The Right To Look

March 13, 2018

“President Donald Trump is telling reporters that he made the decision to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “by myself.”” (Trump choice to oust Tillerson made “by myself” AP 3-13-18). Collateral damage but significant nonetheless is the same AP’s headline from a little later the same day — The Latest: Officials say White House fired Tillerson aide. “The officials said Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, was informed of the move shortly after he released a statement in his name saying that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his termination. Goldstein had also told reporters that Tillerson learned of his firing Tuesday morning from Trump’s tweet announcing he was nominating CIA chief Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.” Same day, CNN headlined ICE spokesman in SF resigns and slams Trump administration officials (Dan Simon, 3-13-18). “Schwab [James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement] cited Acting Director Tom Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as being the purveyors of misleading and inaccurate information, following Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s controversial decision to warn the community of an upcoming ICE raid.” “”Director Homan and the Attorney General said there were 800 people at large and free to roam because of the actions of the Oakland Mayor,” he told CNN. “Personally I think her actions were misguided and not responsible. I think she could have had other options. But to blame her for 800 dangerous people out there is just false.” “It’s a false statement because we never pick up 100% of our targets. And to say they’re a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading.”” Simon takes pains to include “The Oakland mayor said in response to the former spokesman speaking out, “I commend Mr. Schwab for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie. Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard.”” as well as mentioning that Schwab was a 16 year employee, and a democrat. Analysis finds several less than obvious items of interest. Do we want an elected official to act unilaterally “by myself”? Mayor Jeff Hall made the same move with the late night demolition of Newark’s Gazebo. He was unmoved by others in his own party who thought it inappropriate. Isn’t that the rational behind the existence of parties in a representative democracy? That decisions are not with the individual but with a group consensus? Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s referencing “transparency” becomes even more significant in light of the continuous firing and resignations within the current culture of government. Do the American people have a right to look? Finally, it is the entire package of consent, trust and “belief” that the police and prosecutors are involved with keeping crime in check. What happens when we start to question whether or not someone was prosecuted because a crime was committed? Or were they set up because it helps with the “reality TV show” of political party propaganda (an unnecessary contribution inadvertently made by Simon when he couldn’t help but mention that Schwab was a “democrat”)?

Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Stand Up

March 6, 2018

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A young man at the corner of Cedar and East Main asks a bent over elderly gent how he could get to the hospital (or Zanesville, Columbus, or New York City, any or all of the above). “Can’t get there from here, Sonny” replied the octogenarian. (Thank you, thank you very much. You’re too kind) Unfortunately the old coot would be correct. Just prior to the old coot’s infancy, there was an interurban that operated from Newark (and surrounds, like Granville) to Moxahala Park just south of Zanesville. The park is long gone but the vestige of the town remains in its name (the tunnel at Black Hand Gorge isn’t because someone wanted to remove everything that wasn’t a tunnel). From the same period, Cedar Point benefitted and grew from the public transportation provided so park goers could get from Cleveland to Sandusky. There was city wide public transportation in Newark as well as passenger train service to Anytown USA (what do you thing that “station” is just south of the Canal Market?). Half way to now, the grey dog stopped in Newark. Now to access the grey dog requires getting to Zanesville or Columbus (“can’t get there from here”). Flying to NYC involves the same “can’t get there from here.” Newark, another “destination” like Moxahala? “The future is flying cars!” we are told. Those unable to afford a new one can just make do with a used one. Maybe it won’t fly as high, or as long, or crash and burn, but they will have to make do. It’s all about the future (everything’s up to date in Newark city!). Unfortunately right on, but wrong. The future is self driving cars, autonomous vehicles. And in case you were thinking of buying a used one, read the tea leaves again. The big car makers aren’t collaborating with the big internet companies in order to sell these puppies. The major hurdle yet to be resolved is liability (and yes, Virginia, congress will have to pass laws). Which precludes much individual ownership. More like buying a service and paying whatever the service provider charges whether you use it or not. Sound familiar? Sigh! But then again there’s always the future, like hyper loop. There’s even talk of running one from Cleveland to, you guessed it, Cedar Point (get to the Point). But these, like the old interurbans, will be “mass” public transportation – i.e. lots of folk traveling in the same compartment. OMG The future is actually Public Transportation! Yes, Virginia, busses, light rail and autonomous vehicles are all part of the future unfolding before us. So much for flying cars. The last time the future roared through these parts, Newark was left behind and its downtown languished. If you don’t wish for a Ground Hog Day scenario, come to the Public Transportation meeting at Trinity Episcopal Church, 76 E. Main, 10 – noon, Saturday March 10 and help plan the future. “What possessed Analysis to go in depth on something like this” you ask? “Local leaders receive award for historic preservation efforts” Kent Mallet headlined for the Advocate, 4-5-18. “The award recognized preserving historic assets, including the investment to preserve the Licking County Courthouse, historic rehabilitation in downtown Newark, and advocacy for the World Heritage designation that includes the Newark Earthworks.” Unfortunately, you “can’t get there from here.” Thank you, Thank you very much. You’re too kind!

Red Herring

March 4, 2018

Red herring: “noun, something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.” No, Analysis is not going to consider immigration (DACA has run out), nor how hot one has to be to obtain an “Einstein visa”, or the links of chain implicated by such legitimation. Rather, Analysis would like to stay with a recent interrogation – reliable, accessible, affordable and sustainable Public Transportation in Licking County. Though the need for Public Transportation has been covered many times in the past, a recent study jumps out with its contribution to the current urgency. Late last week an MIT study was released that was covered by many news outlets. Analysis will quote from “Uber, Lyft Drivers Earning A Median Profit Of $3.37 Per Hour, Study Says” by James Doubek for NPR (3-2-18). “A working paper by Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo at MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research says the median pretax profit earned from driving is $3.37 per hour after taking expenses into account. Seventy-four percent of drivers earn less than their state’s minimum wage, the researchers say.”  Inevitable “push back” will be around the methodology (as it usually has been with tobacco effects studies, the demise of the honey bee studies, and climate change studies, yadda, yadda). “The conclusions are based on surveys of more than 1,100 drivers who told researchers about their revenue, how many miles they drove and what type of car they used. The study’s authors then combined that with typical costs associated with a certain car’s insurance, maintenance, gas and depreciation, which was gathered in data from Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book and the Environmental Protection Agency.” “Drivers earning the median amount of revenue are getting $0.59 per mile driven, researchers say, but expenses work out to $0.30 per mile, meaning a driver makes a median profit of $0.29 for each mile.” Analysis finds a local area university reimburses its employees at 54.5 cents per mile, the IRS rate for personal vehicle deduction. This corroborates the claim that “MIT authors also calculated that it’s possible for billions of dollars in driver profits to be untaxed because “nearly half of drivers can declare a loss on their taxes.” Drivers are able to use the IRS standard mileage rate deduction to write off some of the costs of using a car for business. In 2016, that number was $0.54 per mile. “Because of this deduction, most ride-hailing drivers are able to declare profits that are substantially lower,” researchers write. “If drivers are fully able to capitalize on these losses for tax purposes, 73.5% of an estimated U.S. market $4.8B in annual ride-hailing driver profit is untaxed,” they add.” Of course, an Uber spokesperson said of the study that “its methodology and findings are deeply flawed.” Yadda, yadda. In light of the recent meetings on Public Transportation in Licking County, the study nets a plethora of quandaries. No, not the need for more immigrants to work at jobs that don’t pay enough to sustain minimum standards of living, let alone allow one a future. “Uber and Lyft both have “notoriously high” turnover rates among drivers. A report last year said just 4 percent of Uber drivers work for the company for at least a year.” And the existing LC Transit Board says it has a hard time retaining drivers! A bulwark of the GOP solution to most problems (in Licking County, Ohio, and the nation) is to opt for the free market to “take care of” the problem through the incentive of tax credits, abatements and cuts (or no tax at all! see recently passed US tax code with its partiality to business tax cuts). Indeed, we are repeatedly told by Republican free market ideologues that “the market” is the solution to all problems, including epidemics, health care for all, as well as individual retirement (Dear Leader or John the governator makes little difference). “Both Uber and Lyft have been fighting legal battles for years against initiatives to classify their drivers as “employees” instead of “independent contractors” — meaning drivers don’t receive benefits like health care or sick leave.” Contractors (whether independent or not) are what currently the LC Transit Board, as well as others, rely on as a solution for public transportation needs. “According to MIT researchers, 80 percent of drivers said they work less than 40 hours per week. An NPR/Marist poll in January found that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is held by a contract worker; contractors often juggle multiple part-time jobs.” Analysis finds that though ride sharing (contractors) may appear to be affordable and accessible, it is actually unsustainable and unreliable. Promoting a virtual platform as a solution for Public Transportation in Licking County is in fact, if not intent, misleading and distracting.