Archive for September, 2018

Just Another “He Feared For His Life” Defense

September 29, 2018

Unlike the OJ Simpson trial, the current “trial of the century” is not really a trial at all, but rather a hearing. If indeed a trial, then it would be one of white privilege. But then again, white privilege is doing the trying, or rather hearing, and the outcome is inevitable, determined by privilege. What privilege has ever relinquished itself because it looks bad? The paid media pundits and analysts all speak of “he said, she said” as well as “corroborating evidence”. Analysis finds the entire Kabuki to corroborate the privilege interpretation (and outcome) more than anything else. Then again Punch and Judy would be a better description as the proceedings almost literally followed Sharia law with a female prosecutor “employed” to interrogate a female victim (male and female forbidden to interact in public?). The alleged perpetrator, in turn, was grilled by his “peers” – all male, all white. The animated response was pure Kabuki, or Punch and Judy, depending on the scale of the observer’s religious belief (larger than life-size stylized male actors or miniature puppet caricatures). The reasonable doubt remains, behind which so much white privilege lurks. Something actually occurred. They can’t both be right, can they?  “He said, she said” piously explain (or is it non-explain) all the knowledgeable court watchers. Really? Punch can beat the crap out of Judy behind a curtain without any fear of incrimination? (there’s that “behind the curtain” male/female Sharia thing again) How can this be? Analysis would like to consider this “he said, she said”. Kavanaugh’s impassioned self-righteous outrage was perfectly inline with the law (U.S., not Sharia) (OK, maybe Sharia). How so, dear reader queries? One of the overwhelming appeals of the Affordable Care Act was the extension of health care coverage to children, “extending” their youth till the mid twenties (age 26). Most students of American culture will readily admit that “youth” in America continuously grows longer and later (20 something college “kids” playing televised sports with their wife and children watching at home). Octogenarians might recall when “adulthood” began at 16, then 18, then 21 and now…? (white male, of course) Kavanuagh’s Kabuki outrage was perfectly without guile (as all vintage Kabuki must be). The curtain behind which Punch can assault Judy, and not have it “ever happen”, is The Law. In the U.S. The Law for minors is distinct from that for adults. And, as we all know, what happens in Juvie, stays in Juvie. For the most part, even the names are not included in any coverage of juvenile transgressions. As far as “Judge” Kavanaugh would judge it, youthful indiscretions that happened in high school (or rather, college preparatory school) never happened (a further extension of Dear Leader’s interpretation of history). The stellar display of Kabuki came from the heart, as all good Kabuki does (or is it the other way around?).  Analysis finds “he said, she said” to be just another “he feared for his life” defense.

The Price Of Life Is Too High To Give Up

September 24, 2018

Recent Newark area news prompted Analysis to consider a more national news item. Writing for In These Times, Sarah Lahm headlines Here’s why thousands of steelworkers just voted to authorize a strike U.S. Steel is one of a handful of domestic steel manufacturers who have seen a significant bump in profits in 2018 (9-24-18). “U.S. Steel is poised to rake in close to $2 billion in profits this year, and the workers who helped make that happen want their fair share of the wealth — as well as a way to shore up rapidly rising healthcare costs.” Pretty much gives the kernel of what the article covers. United Steelworkers Union, representing 16,000 steelworkers across the U.S., entered into contract negotiations with U.S. Steel after the old contract ran out 9-1-18. That contract was from 2015 when U. S. Steel was struggling and workers agreed to a wage freeze. Today is a different story. “U.S. Steel is one of a handful of domestic steel manufacturers who have seen a significant bump in profits in 2018, thanks to increased demand for steel, as well as new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. The tariffs have pushed up the cost of steel and helped pad the bottom line for large corporations such as U.S. Steel, a publicly traded company worth over $6 billion.” “[R.J.] Hufnagel [writer and editor for United Steelworkers] argued that U.S. Steel management has scored “more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly work force has not received a wage increase over the same period.” What’s more, he wrote, U.S. Steel also appears to be trying to squeeze workers when it comes to healthcare costs — a common theme in recent negotiations for United Steelworkers.” So what else is new? This is ditto a common theme for workers in whatever capacity they labor in the U.S. The emphasis seems to be on healthcare AS WELL AS wages. “The union alleges that U.S. Steel is no longer offering the current health plan workers have, which requires much less in out of pocket costs, and is instead trying to “bribe” employees into accepting a “high deductible high cost” insurance plan. In exchange, U.S. Steel has said they will reward those who switch to the high-deductible healthcare plan with an annual payout of $1,500 for the next six years.” ““U.S. Steel has made proposals that would increase members’ out of pocket health care costs by thousands of dollars per year,” Hufnagel says.” For context as to the significance of these out of pocket costs, Lahm writes “Some examples of this include a 2017 Bloomberg News report which found that increasing health insurance costs are “eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab.” Reporter Zachary Tracer used government data and research from the Kaiser Family Foundation to show that, in recent years, “premiums for an employer-provided family insurance plan have climbed 19 percent, while worker pay increased by 12 percent.”” Analysis couldn’t help but notice that union membership across the U.S. is down tremendously since its zenith 50 years ago. Union disparagement is a standard meme for the Grand Old Party with its so called “right to work” laws. Recently we’ve covered glowing accounts that PNB corporation has continuously shown profits rising (mostly due to fees on transactions) and growth (buying another bank in South Carolina) while the workers there have celebrated…? Other Newark “business” news heralded the record number of students attending the Newark campus of OSU (second largest OSU campus). High enrollment translates into greater earnings. Coupled with low pay for temporary non-tenured faculty, teaching assistants and student workers, the administration projects spending its “profits” on a new chemistry/technology building, and then a new residence hall (in order to achieve even higher earnings). This play book of business success through greater earnings achieved by holding the line on wages while imposing “high deductible high cost” health insurance (if at all), is repeatedly celebrated by Newark’s Chamber of Commerce, Grow Licking County, and Grand Old Party administration. The 16,000 employed by U.S. Steel are lucky. Unlike the low paid teaching and student labor at OSUN, or other corporate high earners, they at least have a union by which to collectively demand better. Analysis finds the alternative, of waiting for the administration at Park or OSU to lower deductibles and health insurance costs and raise wages of their own accord, to be like the lyrics of a Merle Haggard song: “We’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up, And eating that Rainbow Stew.’ (Rainbow Stew, 1981)

 

Staff – It’s Not Just At Your Hospital Anymore

September 19, 2018

Currently, this blog is following a thread established by the 9-8-18 post, A Tradition Of Americans. That post covered the NY Times Anonymous Op Ed and one of many responses to it. The particular response was by Ari Fleischer, with part of its title being “Staffers don’t get to steer U.S.” Analysis begged to differ citing Michel Foucault. In his history, Discipline and Punish, he interprets the enormous “steering” of social, political and cultural mores and history by management – upper, middle, as well as lower. With the last post, Counter Narrative, Analysis looked at what recently occurred on the west coast with the Berkeley police department’s action on citizens forcibly removed from a demonstration but never charged. The police department stepped out, way beyond their mission as safety forces, to publicize their suppression policy of demonstrations. This management decision involves exposing explicit details and identity photos on social media of those removed (without being charged). The centrality of social media in a large part of the American public makes such activity akin to the scarlet letter of Puritan discipline. 9-17-18 finds Analysis on the opposite coast, in the land of the Pilgrims, considering analogous steering by “staffers” there. An errant screenshot reveals Massachusetts police were monitoring liberal groups The ACLU says the blunder is alarming — and the police response doesn’t add up by Nicole Karlis appeared in Salon. “Last Thursday evening, Massachusetts State Police tweeted a screenshot in regard to a natural gas emergency that affected nearly 8,000 people around the state. The agency’s tweet was meant to display a map of responses to fires and explosions, but the uncropped screenshot showed that the police computer’s browser had bookmarked a select group of left-wing activists, including some police brutality watchdog groups. Facebook groups for Mass. Action Against Police Brutality (MAAPB), the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT); and the “Resistance Calendar,” which shares upcoming anti-Trump protests across the country, were among the list of bookmarked tabs on the police computer browser.” The article notes that it was soon after deleted and replaced by a cropped version. Once the genie of public knowledge was out of the bottle (through inadvertent disclosure), the state police began the window dressing of any malice, claiming a “responsibility to know about all large public gatherings of any type and by any group, regardless of their purpose and position, for public safety reasons.” ““Massachusetts State Police doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Crockford told Salon [Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Mass.]. “Unless a protest is on a highway or at the airport or public location it is none of their business if someone is having a protest. In most areas Massachusetts State Police is not responsible for ensuring public safety, it is local police.” “The other issue is I’d like to see a list of the groups Massachusetts State Police is monitoring for this purpose,” Crockford added. “It seems strange to only monitor a few that only might have a protest someday.”” Analysis found noteworthy from the report: “A peculiar detail regarding the incident is that the screenshot, as mentioned by the state police’s account, was taken at the Commonwealth Fusion Center, an information-gathering center in Maynard, Massachusetts. The center, which was opened in 2005, “collects and analyzes information from all available sources to produce and disseminate actionable intelligence to stakeholders for strategic and tactical decision-making in order to disrupt domestic and international terrorism,” according to its mission statement. “These fusion centers were created in wake of 9/11, and now there are 80 of them nationwide run by state and local law enforcement to fight terrorism, but  instead they are focused on policing left-wing political organizations, and fighting the war on drugs,” Crockford added, explaining that police viewing left-wing groups as extremists likely dates back to the Red Scare.” Yes, Ari, staffers really do get to steer the U.S.

Counter-Narrative

September 15, 2018

Wealthiest Republican supporter in Ohio quits party headlines Justin Wise for The Hill, 9-15-18. “[L Brands CEO Leslie] Wexner, who said he’s been a Republican since college, added that he is now an independent, before saying that he “won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party” anymore.” This just after former President Barack Obama spoke at a rally in Cleveland. “”What you’re seeing is Republicans in Congress who are bending over backwards to try to shield and deflect oversight of this behavior and accountability and consequences,” Obama said. “This is serious. You know it is. And frankly even some of the Republicans know it is. They will say it, they just don’t do anything about it. … [They say,] ‘we’ll put up with crazy’ in exchange for tax reform and deregulation.”” This just after the anonymous op ed “news” in the NY Times covered by this blog’s post, A Tradition Of Americans, 9-8-18 (You know, the one about staffers). “”I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said.” Analysis wrote all that in order to write Berkeley police posted activists’ mugshots on Twitter and celebrated retweets, emails reveal headlined the day before (9-14-18) by Sam Levin for The Guardian. “The Berkeley police department (BPD) faced widespread backlash last month after posting the personal information of arrested activists online, leading to Fox News coverage and harassment and abuse against the leftwing demonstrators at a far-right rally. New emails have shown that the city has an explicit policy of targeting protesters with mugshot tweets, with the goal of using “social media to help create a counter-narrative”.” Analysis needn’t remind readers that “staff” isn’t always Republican or Democrat as some administration spokespeople would like us to presume. Their allegiances may lie elsewhere, as Levin’s reporting goes on to show. “Police arrested 20 people on 5 August, and all were counter-protesters and anti-fascists who came to demonstrate against a far-right event, according to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of San Francisco, which is representing some of the activists. Many arrested were cited for “possession of a banned weapon”, which police said included “anything” that could be used in a “riot”. Some were arrested for bandanas and scarves that police considered “masks” and sign poles cited as “weapons”, according to the NLG, which is representing activists. It appears that none have faced any charges. The records, obtained by police accountability group Lucy Parsons Labs and reported by the East Bay Express, shed light on how officials internally have defined and justified the social media policy for protests. Officials said the “social media-driven protests” have created the need for a “Twitter protocol for mug shots” and acknowledged that the tweets would get “broad national exposure”. One police email had the subject line, “Info flow from Jail to Twitter.” The policy also made clear that police would post mugshots on Twitter only when the arrests were “protest related”, drawing criticisms that the practice was aimed at discouraging free speech activities.” “One protocol document officials wrote last year said police should post the name, age, city of residence, charges and booking photos on Twitter, noting that they would be “quickly reprinted across television, online and print media platforms”. Police received more than 8,000 retweets, 11,000 “likes” and 1.7m “impressions” (times people saw the tweets) in one case, the document said.” “Matthai Chakko, a city spokesperson who outlined the policy in the internal emails, defended the practice in an interview Friday, saying the strategy was a response to “exceptional circumstances” and “exceptional amounts of violence in Berkeley” at previous rallies. He could not, however, provide specific details about any alleged acts of violence on 5 August when police posted mugshots. One individual was cited for “battery”, but he said he had no further information about the circumstances.” “Asked if police considered possible abuse and doxing risks when creating the mugshot policy, Chakko declined to comment.” “Veena Dubal, a University of California law professor and former Berkeley police review commissioner, said the mugshot policy was “really deviating from the role of the police department, which is public safety”. She said she was also stunned by the “counter narrative” language: “If the prevailing narrative is these rightwing, white supremacist rallies should be stopped, and we don’t want them in the city, then the ‘counter-narrative’ is we do want them in our city, and the counter-protesters are the problem.”” ““They broke the law,” he [Matthai Chakko] said. He also declined to comment on why the cases have repeatedly resulted in no formal charges or convictions, saying: “We are comfortable with our arrests.”” Not so comfortable in all this is what former President Obama had to say in a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign just a week prior: “We are Americans. We’re supposed to standup to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up, clearly and unequivocally, to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad.” (from the transcript).  Analysis will let Les Wexner have the last word (through the pen of Justin Wise): “The billionaire CEO reportedly said in a speech last year that he was “ashamed” by Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that erupted in violence and led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.” Licking County Prosecutor Russell Hayes has a problem with all the homeless accumulating in downtown Newark, Ohio. Arresting, charging and jailing indigents is so inconvenient, and costly! With no gazebo to claim as “the home of the homeless”, exceptional circumstances have him shamelessly looking for a good counter-narrative, one that would make him comfortable in executing the duties of his office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Hand

September 14, 2018

Where were you on December 7, 1949, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked? Where were you on September 11, 2001, the day the World Trade Center was brought down? Where were you September 14, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers collapsed?  Ten years ago today the invisible hand of the market became quite visible. The day Lehman Brothers went belly up ordinary people learned that extraordinary deals still left them as ordinary people while Extra celebrities would continue to be promoted as extraordinary. Today, along with other things, Dear Leader says ordinary people are more well off than ever in the history of the US if not the world. Economists, however, are not so sure. Lehman Brothers sobered them to the limits of the invisible hand. Could the not so invisible hand be likewise unabated by greed? To counter this, they pointed to economic cycles; like dark matter, invisible but real just the same. Today market deals promise to solve all of societal ills, from global warming catastrophes to tooth decay. WIKI succinctly states that Adam Smith’s invisible hand “has come to capture his notion that individuals’ efforts to pursue their own interest may frequently benefit society more than if their actions were directly intending to benefit society.” Analysis finds this may well glove the lives of those featured on Extra. The ungloved reality of those featured on the imaginary (and invisible) show, Ordinary, is more that the glove no longer fits while being handed the bill to cover the entire cost of the collapse. After ten years, who has benefitted from the financial crisis? Who has paid for it? Every debt is an asset for someone. To perversely paraphrase Johnnie Cochran, “If it does not fit, you must indict!”

A Tradition Of Americans

September 8, 2018

By now, lest ye be living under a rock, a major source of news/speculation swirls around the New York Times “Anonymous” op ed. One of the responses to this “news event” (the op ed as well as the NY Times running one anonymously) comes from the former White House press secretary during the W presidency. 9-7-18 Gannett’s USA Today ran a response op ed by Ari Fleischer entitled New York Times op-ed betrays Trump, voters. Staffers don’t get to steer US. It is the last line of the title that peaks an interest for Analysis. Both op eds (anonymous’s as well as Fleischer’s) are somewhat mundane, revealing nothing new. Unlike anonymous’s self appointed and self defining “patriotic” tone, Fleischer’s is a bit more jingoistic, even sanctimonious. Given what we all know historically, Analysis found Fleischer’s opinion to border on naïve – “That’s because if you’re going to work for the president, you need to believe in the president. Not just his policies, but the man (or one day the woman).” And what of working for a corporation, deemed to be a “person’ (neither man or woman) by the SCOTUS? Does a recent DU grad obtaining a job in IT for RJ Reynolds need to believe in smoking cigarettes? How about Pepsi? Or Disney? Not much is written about the “underground economy” yet it is an actuality in most larger cities, and to most it is totally oblivious in rural settings. “Underground” makes it sound nefarious like the dark web or bitcoin; more like flea markets, yard sales, unregistered building and maintenance work, dog sitting, trucking, car repair, etc. It is primarily a cash economy. People rely on it. Some even see it as being an originator, if not driver, of fashion and culture (think the history of rap or hip hop, muscle cars, tattoos, hoodies, food trucks, etc.). People employed as staff circulate in the same sort of grey area of oblivion, doing work for pay without having a say in the determination of the operational economy. Not actually in charge like a CEO, COO or President, they still actually run things – make them happen. Along with a slew of other things, French critical thinker Michel Foucault based a lot of his inquiry, research and ultimately conclusions on the workings of “the staff” in history and its influence on culture, politics and world events. One could say his approach is vaguely analogous to that of Howard Zinn (author of A People’s History Of The United States). In a work entitled Discipline And Punish Foucault elaborates how it is “the staff” that determines how things are interpreted and defined. He does this by tracing the history of mental institutions and prison systems from the age of enlightenment to the current era. Someone, after all, has to determine who is actually “acting out” and who is not, how tight restraints need to be and what is cruel and unusual punishment, etc. The administration may hand down policy statements and directives regarding the company or state but it is the staff that ultimately implements them. In today’s culture of information the staff is a kind of interface between the aspired reality and the lived reality or, in the case of the POTUS, the imagined reality and the manufactured imaginary one. After how many police killings of unarmed black men have we not heard “feared for their lives” in immediate conjunction with “not administration policy.” Foucault was definitely on to something. Fleischer sanctimoniously writes “But if staffers can no longer support the president, or as the case with the anonymous author, they doubt the president’s ability to do his job, they need to do the honorable thing and resign. At that point, they can go public and say what they want. There’s a tradition of Americans doing that and it can be a noble one.” (others have just as self righteously said pretty much the same). Yet, that is like saying to those in the underground economy that if you can’t make a living from a real job you should… “do the honorable thing and resign”? “There’s a tradition of Americans doing that and it can be a noble one.”

 

Labor Day

September 3, 2018

We All Labor To Support Trump’s Debt (9-3-18, a teaser headline run by Salon’s Bob Hennelly). As mentioned too many times by this blog, one person’s debt is another’s asset. Same day, NY Times’s Campbell Robertson and Jim Tankersley headlined: Growth Has Lifted Counties That Voted for Trump. Mostly, It’s the Wealthy Ones. President Trump’s economy has left the most distressed swaths of the country waiting for their share of the good times. This was a curious, though redundant, analysis of the tale of two counties – one in St. Charles County Missouri, and another in Knox County Illinois. Of note: “The most prosperous Trump-supporting counties — as ranked by the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank in Washington focused on geographic disparities in the American economy — added jobs at about a 2 percent annual rate in 2017. The least prosperous Trump counties, which the group calls “distressed,” did not add any new jobs, on net. As a group, the distressed counties saw more businesses close than open in 2017, and they lost population over the course of the year. St. Charles County, which sits in the most prosperous slice of American counties, saw job growth of nearly 2 percent last year, and business growth of 6 percent. By contrast, about 200 miles north in Illinois, Knox County ranks in the bottom fifth of prosperity nationwide, according to the Economic Innovation Group’s rankings.” “In Mr. Obama’s final year in office, according to data from the Labor Department, Knox County lost 1 percent of its jobs and businesses. In Mr. Trump’s first year, it lost more than 5 percent of its jobs — and nearly 7 percent of businesses. Knox County also continues to see higher unemployment than the nation as a whole. Its unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in July, down only slight from its rate of 5 percent in July 2017.” Analysis found it unnecessary to go that far from Newark to find evidence of this within today’s headlines. Writing for the 9-3-18 Plain Dealer, Susan Glaser headlines Planet Oasis: $2 billion Ohio entertainment complex plans spark debate as new details emerge. This blog covered the zoning controversy that ended with the Tanger Outlet Mall coming to Berkshire Township in Delaware County just west of Sunbury. That agreement opened the door for further development – such as David Glimcher’s Planet Oasis (yes, that Glimcher). “Glimcher said he will finance the massive project via dozens of small deals with individual operators of the attractions, hotels and restaurants. The development does stand to benefit from an already existing tax-increment financing plan on the land, which allows property tax revenue to be funneled back into infrastructure improvements.” Where have we heard that before? (Hint; The author of The Art Of The Deal) “Opponents, meanwhile, are relatively powerless to stop it. The property was rezoned for mixed-use development in 2016, which cleared the way for the development of the Tanger Outlet Mall, which opened last year.” Hmmm, sounds inevitable, or natural, depending on your outlook. “Besides, he [opponent “Joshua Varble, who lives about 3 miles from the project”] said, Delaware County – the wealthiest in Ohio – doesn’t need the economic boost.” Celebrating his own diversity “Glimcher said he has planned the development to appeal to all ages and economic levels, locals and out-of-towners. Central Ohio, he said, is within a day’s drive of 100 million people – a bigger reach than either Orlando or Los Angeles. Despite local opposition, Glimcher said reaction to the development has been largely enthusiastic. “In the 40 years that I’ve been doing this, we have the least amount of negative reaction that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “People need a stress reliever. People are looking for something positive.”” Helping to enable all this positivity “A new highway interchange is planned for the area, about a mile south of exit 131, though construction isn’t expected to start until next year at the earliest.” Polaris (a Glimcher development), which lies just south of Berkshire Township, received a new interchange only after completion and operation indicated a need. Analysis finds much to question here. ODOT will build a road wherever it is told. But it can only do so if transportation funding is provided. Transportation funding expended on new highway construction is transportation funding not invested in public transportation. Who really is benefitting from the transportation funding being spent on a redundant interchange? Who is benefitting from development? A day’s drive for 100 million people wouldn’t be affected too much by developing in a “depressed” central Ohio county, but would benefit so many more people. These same people will be burdened by the debt of state funding for a new highway interchange that benefits “the wealthiest [county] in Ohio.”

‘There is the employer’s sabotage as well as the worker’s sabotage. Employers interfere with the quality of production, they interfere with the quantity of production, they interfere with the supply as well as with the kind of goods for the purpose of increasing their profit. But this form of sabotage, capitalist sabotage, is antisocial, for the reason that it is aimed at the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, whereas working-class sabotage is distinctly social, it is aimed at the benefit of the many, at the expense of the few. —- Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, 1916