Archive for January, 2019

The Bubble

January 30, 2019

Harry Shearer’s weekly radio broadcast, Le Show, has a segment entitled “News from Outside the Bubble” where he reads accounts of the news from overseas publications. For American devotees of U.S. politics, the equally polarized politics of a country like Poland would be puzzling, to say the least. Accounts of “liberals” would include the U.S. pro-choice position, but also embrace free market capitalism while “conservative” would agree with pro-life positions while promoting the welfare state (universal health care, state funded retirement, etc.). The existing polarization is even more vicious than here in the U.S. with the recent public and real time publicly broadcast murder of the mayor of Gdansk. A recent article in the NY Times by Tina Rosenberg (1-29-19) spoke of steps to remediate the insanity. Entitled: The Magazines Publishing One Another’s Work, “Polarization is everywhere. But it’s being challenged in Poland by a handful of magazines across the political spectrum. They’ve begun sharing articles, to show readers a variety of viewpoints.” In a nutshell, every few weeks the editors of 5 magazines from both ends of the political spectrum have agreed to publish one magazine’s essay on an issue of national concern in conjunction with the other 4’s responses to that featured essay. All 5 publications would run not only the main essay, but all the responses. Readers of the magazines would get out of their bubble by finding the alternative views presented alongside their preferred journalism. Not as radical as Sinclair’s Fox 28 and ABC 6 appearing on CBS 10, NBC 4 and WOSU 34 but more like The Atlantic, National Review and Newsweek, etc. agreeing to publish each other’s articles of faith. Newark News Analysis wondered how this would look locally. The problem is not as much one of “the bubble” being the published outlook of choice (with regard to political affinity) but more like “the bubble” being the inaccessibility to outlooks of difference, period. Recent news brings that situation to the fore. Tristan Navera headlined Park National Bank names new president (1-28-19) for Columbus Business First. “The Newark-based bank said in a release that its board will vote at its April meeting to make Matthew Miller president effective May 1.” Not news for Newark’s hometown paper, The Advocate. Also not news was the account that “The bank also reported its net income rose by 15 percent to $26.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to the same period the year before. Its profit for the full year rose 31 percent to $110.4 million.” As well as the final “As of December, the bank had 11 community banking divisions, totaling $7.8 billion in assets.” (In the banking industry, assets are primarily comprised of money loaned to, and owed by customers) Polarization is eroded by shared pertinent facts. An Advocate published news article, Knights Inn hotel closes 6 months after numerous violations found, by Kent Mallet (1-24-19) appears to disclose important local activity addressing public concern. The onus of this concern was categorically “The mayor [Mark Johns] said the property has already attracted interest for another use. “There is a developer exploring the prospect of re-developing the property,” Johns said. “That property would not be operated as a hotel if these plans go through.” The closing of Knights Inn, combined with construction delays at two other hotels, leaves the Newark-Heath area lacking in available lodging, according to Dan Moder, executive director of Explore Licking County.” The same paper headlined  Knights Inn problems top Advocate’s August stories (9-4-18). That story extensively covered the low income people trapped in a form of indentured servitude requiring full time work to pay off the rent for living there. The Knights Inn closes in the middle of winter and Mallett can’t say what became of the tenants!? In past postings this blog has excoriated the Newark city administration (as well as The Advocate) over the citizens initiative that passed regarding the decriminalization and (de)prosecution of small amounts of marijuana possession. The “one size fits all” approach spilled over into the legalized medical marijuana zoning provisions. A Growing Chorus of Big City Prosecutors Say No to Marijuana Convictions headlines Shaila Dewan for the NY Times (1-29-19). ““If you ask that mom whose son was killed where she would rather us spend our time and our attention — on solving that murder, or prosecuting marijuana laws — it’s a no-brainer,” said Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore. She vowed at a news conference to no longer prosecute marijuana possession, regardless of quantity or prior criminal record, and said she would seek to vacate almost 5,000 convictions. Ms. Mosby’s move places her in a vanguard of big-city prosecutors, including Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. in Manhattan and Eric Gonzalez in Brooklyn, who are moving away from marijuana cases, declaring them largely off limits and in some cases going so far as to clear old warrants or convictions off the books.” ““How are we going to expect folks to want to cooperate with us,” Ms. Mosby said in an interview in her office on Monday, “when you’re stopping, you’re frisking, you’re arresting folks for marijuana possession?”” In the 1-29-19 Advocate that headlines United Way officials: Billions needed for opioid fight; meth abuse rising, Craig McDonald writes “Dingus [Deb Dingus, executive director of LC United Way] agreed about meth abuse: “We see it here, too.” She added, “By the time we federally address the drug of choice, the drug of choice has changed on the street.”” How are we going to expect folks to want to cooperate with us if we’re criminalizing marijuana possession? The news from outside the bubble is that, locally, the bubble is manufactured for local residents to reside in unquestioningly. It is not a bubble of choice or preference, rather it is one of learned resignation.

 

Crowd Sourcing

January 20, 2019

Crowd news of the past week was, well, crowded. Large crowds of teachers turned out to demonstrate in LA along with masses of parents and students supporting their demands. Crowds of various Federal Government workers turned out for information pickets, demonstrations to end the shut down, sign up for unemployment benefits, food pantry and free meal distribution. Crowds of demonstrators turned out in DC for Native American demands, Pro- Life movements and the Women’s March. In France the Yellow Vests took to the streets en masse for the tenth weekend in a row. And in Central America another caravan gathered and began the long walk north for asylum. The contemporary is a time of masses of people taking to the streets in crowds. Anthropologists and sociologists say it is part of being human to band together. Not necessarily the “herd instinct” but reasons given tend to favor the security and strength in numbers, the efficiency of a division of labor (one babysits while another fetches provisions), and the motivational imperative of actually, physically experiencing that we are not alone; that others think and feel as we do (never found on Facebook). Along with this time of a visible sea of humanity there is the insinuation that these gatherings only take place because “someone is paying for it.” This critique ascertains a kind of surreptitious “worldly” validity. Come on now. Someone had to pay for all the organization, promotion and logistics. Unspoken is that this “pragmatic” line of thought disses what the anthropologists and sociologists ground as the characteristic of being human. We are a communal species, not just in sprawling urban manifestations but also rural interaction. OK, hoarding survivalists demand to differ. Their Prepper Conventions scheduled for 2019 beg to differ with that. Analysis finds the need to band together for the reasons given to run deep and be inextricable. But “I wonder who is paying for that?” accompanies most conversation around migrant caravans and spontaneous demonstrations. Analysis shows the question to be a red herring. It assumes that working together, in a group, is not what it is to be human (not exactly extraterrestrial, but extra human). It already assumes that migration is a solitary entrepreneurial activity, that negotiations are always between the single individual and the nebulous powers that be, and that appeals of any sort are purely subjective, pertaining to the isolated subject and not the aggregate. The next time the insinuation that “someone must be paying” for migrant caravans, yellow vests taking to the streets, or opioid addiction demonstrations worms its way into the conversation, ask yourself “Would these gatherings take place without a profit motive, a bottom line, a business incentive?” The incidence of masses of people taking to the streets grows daily. Analysis finds that someone is certainly paying. What they are paying for is to stop, deny, and make this all too human activity disappear. But who is paying to do this?

Grover Must Be Smiling Today

January 15, 2019

What’s not in the news? An intriguing question indeed. Analysis finds an accounting of the “government shut down” that is not oriented from the perspective of a high school civics class or college political science class to be one answer. How so? Well, what about a perspective that stems from the “all or nothing” fundamental logic of capitalism? Rand Paul is on his way to Canada for a medical operation (Rand Paul to travel to Canada for hernia surgery By Elizabeth Landers, CNN, 1-15-19). “Paul, a respected eye surgeon, has been a vocal critic of socialized medicine. At the height of the Trump administration’s most recent effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, Paul said on Sean Hannity’s radio show: “This is about freedom. This is about whether we as Americans should be free to buy what kind of insurance we want. What’s best for us and our families. And it’s about whether the individual knows best or government knows best. Are we too stupid that President Obama has to tell us what kind of insurance? Does he think Americans are too dumb to make their own decisions?”” “All or nothing” in the sense that this same freedom exists in Canada yet those unable to afford the “open market” of health care can still be healthy through the support of their government (if they choose). Not so here, or at least in the capitalism (without other socialist “competition”) envisioned by Mr. Paul, and many others involved with the government shut down. Oh yes, the shut down. We have hundreds of thousands of employees and affiliated folks out of work. We have hundreds of thousands required to work for no pay. The civics class/poli sci class perspective can’t seem to rectify this disparity. America’s civil war of the 19thcentury supposedly definitively settled slavery as abolished in the United States. Yet, those working are likewise not free to refuse work (sounds a bit enslaving). No, the civics class/poli sci perspective is inadequate. It lacks the substance occurring before our eyes that is not spoken – the growth, evolution, and development of “all or nothing” capitalism (no competition from other ideologies, in whatever way). “Consumerism and capitalism are too often confused with democracy and freedom. They are not the same things.” “For a variety of reasons including economic precariousness, an unresponsive political system, a fear of violence and punishment from and by the state, and a culture of distraction and entertainment, the American people are stuck in a state of learned helplessness. What social scientist and futurist John Feffer has described as “participatory totalitarianism” conditions the American people (and others in the West and elsewhere) to desire and approve of constant surveillance. It has become normalized and incentivized by social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.” (Faced with the “greatest scandal” in our history, what will the American people do? Is America too deeply cocooned in consumerism, too blind or too cynical to take action against a traitor president? Chauncy Devega 1-14-19). “Learned Helplessness” sounds aptly descriptive of the contemporary shut down situation. But it also sounds like a lot of intellectual idealism. After all, since assuming the mantle of leadership, the GOP has improved capitalism by slashing taxes, imposing tariffs (which “levels the playing field” but the consumer pays for it in the end), shrinking the size of government meddling through the elimination of regulations and agencies, and now shutting the government down entirely. Not the stuff of Marvel civics class/poli sci comics! But definitely the stuff of “all or nothing” capitalism, resentful and envious of anything not “privatized.” “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” (Interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, May 25, 2001) “Our goal is to inflict pain. It is not good enough to win; it has to be a painful and devastating defeat. We’re sending a message here. It is like when the king would take his opponent’s head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see.” (from the National Review, quoted in The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock, Crown Publishers 2004, pg. 50) Two quotes by Grover Norquist. Wiki gives: “Grover Norquist (born October 19, 1956) is an American political advocate, who is founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes all tax increases.” Analysis can only conclude that Grover must be smiling today.

 

Who Really Pays For The Wall?

January 7, 2019

The number one news story of 2018 by the Newark Advocate, according to the Newark Advocate, was the demise of Longaberger. To make a long story short, property in Muskingum County as well as Licking County was developed in order to manufacture and sell hand made baskets, home décor, etc. The central office building in Licking County was built in the shape of a picnic basket, handles and all. The company went through various reincarnations until it ran out of karma. The buildings and real property steadily lost value as their original use could not be easily replicated. What company seeks a picnic basket shaped office building? State Farm? They are actively seeking to shrink their footprint in Newark. On the other end of Newark sits the now defunct Meritor plant. Same game, different players. Who wants an antiquated former factory building? Down the road is the Newark Port Authority’s public money investment adjacent the still functioning Kaiser Plant. Like the Kaiser Plant, Meritor Factory and Basket Building, the new big box distribution centers, warehouses and manufacturing developments down 79 and in New Albany are tailor made for the prospective tenant. One sits idle, clean room and all, in the Port Authority development as the tenant did not materialize. The public funding of these developments can range from any and all of land acquisition, subsidies, infrastructure, tax breaks as well as tax credits. Grow Licking County, Newark Development Partners, along with JobsOhio justify this “public investment” in terms of potential income tax revenue to be earned through the employment opportunity as well as sundry commerce generated. Success stories such as Kroger’s Market Center occupying the long vacant Meijer grocery are touted while the vacant former Chesrown dealership less than a mile away are elided. The Market Center demolished the old grocery store in order to custom make the new one. The former Kroger store on Deo Drive is likewise vacant, though it is not a stand alone commercial building (part of a strip mall). The stand alone north Newark Walmart was built on a vacant wetland and one would like to believe that it is now no longer being subsidized by tax breaks and credits, but actually generating full property tax revenue. What all of these commercial developments, along with others, have in common is that they are real property “improvements” made with a specific and exclusive utility (and very limited at that). They are not interchangeable or variable like residential property development. As with the Chesrown, Meijer, Longaberger and Meritor real estate improvements (buildings), it is the tenant that brings value to the real estate, not the material improvement to the vacant land. The 1-6-19 NY Times ran an article by Patricia Cohen entitled As Big Retailers Seek to Cut Their Tax Bills, Towns Bear the Brunt. “With astonishing range and rapidity, big-box retailers and corporate giants are using an aggressive legal tactic to shrink their property tax bills, a strategy that is costing local governments and school districts around the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. These businesses — many of them brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, Menards and Walgreens that have faced fierce online competition — maintain that no matter how valuable a thriving store is to its current owner, these warehouse-type structures are not worth much to anyone else.” The “foundation” of the legal arguments is that appraisals of real property for tax reasons are based on comparable sales of like properties in the neighborhood. So if adjacent agricultural land is selling for $25K an acre, that’s the assessed taxable value of an acre of farmland. It matters little if it was a corn field, forest, wetlands or truck salvage yard. The same happens with residential properties. Now the corporate attorneys want ditto for commercial properties. Newark and Licking County residents would do well to check the easy money provided to corporate developers by Tim Bubb, Duane Flowers, Rick Black and Newark Mayor Jeff Hall through the likes of Grow Licking County and Newark Development Partners. “Businesses, of course, appeal property assessments as routinely as coaches work the refs. But this approach — labeled dark store theory by critics — significantly broadens the basis for those appeals while threatening to undermine municipalities’ ability to raise operating funds. “The potential for a domino effect of property tax appeals across the commercial and industrial portions of the tax base, which, were it to occur, could have a much more profound effect on some governments’ ability to levy” property taxes,” S&P Global Ratings concluded in a report last year. For a smaller town or school district, “the financial impact could be devastating,” said Scott Nees, a co-author of the report, noting that it could also threaten localities’ ability to borrow money.” “In the Lowe’s case, the company spent more than $16 million to buy the land and construct its 140,000-square-foot building less than a dozen years ago. The city [Wauwatosa, Wisconsin] assessed the spot in a bustling retail hub right off Highway 41 at $13.6 million. The company’s appraisal was $7.1 million, based on sales of empty and once empty buildings in other neighborhoods.” ““Either my property taxes are going to go up or my schools are going to suffer,” said Lisa Williams, who lives in a classic Craftsman-style bungalow a few minutes’ drive from Lowe’s in Wauwatosa, a comfortable suburb of Milwaukee. “The stores want to get all the benefits of being here without any of the costs.”” ““These warehouses are obsolete pretty much from the moment they build them,” said Robert Hill, a lawyer in Minnesota who has represented Walmart, Menards, Walgreens, CVS, Sturm Foods, United Healthcare and other companies. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re for sale in a suburb of Virginia or Nome, Alaska.”” Analysis finds that the GOP federal tax cut which mainly benefitted corporate interests was only an additional step in the redefinition of personhood by the SCOTUS ruling of Citizens United. It likewise clearly defines the GOP’s push to privatize America. Increasingly Licking County’s GOP administrators absolve local government from public service obligations because “there is no money” while subsidizing corporate “citizens.” Corporate persons “want to get all the benefits of being here without any of the costs.” Who really pays for the Wall, or schools, or roads, or water and sewage, or anything else for that matter?

 

A State Of War By Any Other Name

January 5, 2019

As relayed in Wiki: “On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, while performing a signals intelligence patrol as part of DESOTO operations, was pursued by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron.” “It was originally claimed by the National Security Agency that a Second Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead evidence was found of “Tonkin ghosts” (false radar images) and not actual North Vietnamese torpedo boats. In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened. In 1995, McNamara met with former Vietnam People’s Army General Võ Nguyên Giáp to ask what happened on August 4, 1964 in the second Gulf of Tonkin Incident. “Absolutely nothing”, Giáp replied. Giáp claimed that the attack had been imaginary. The outcome of these two incidents was the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by “communist aggression”. Timing is everything. Barely 10 years had gone by since the unresolved conflict of the U.S. and Communist China/North Korea. Ditto for the defeat of the French by the Communist forces of Ho Chi Minh, which ultimately led to the French withdrawal and loss of their colony, Viet Nam. The “Domino Effect” was the underlying rational that somehow always eventually surfaced to justify the change from covert warfare to overt warfare precipitated by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. State capitalism would be a more accurate description of the results. The Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in DC testifies to where the dominoes actually fell, and who paid for them (not the same kind of Wall). All this within the brevity of a 10 year exchange! Indeed, little more than 20 years after the Big One, WWII. Fast forward to present day America. 1-4-19 NBC runs Trump admin lawyers working out details of using national emergency to build wall by Julia Ainsley. “Trump said at a press briefing Friday he was considering declaring a national emergency in order to bypass Congress. “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country,” Trump said at the press briefing in the Rose Garden.” An unnamed senior administration official is quoted by Ainsley: “”Depending on the severity of crisis, it’s always been an option. Now that things are getting worse, we are looking at how that could be operationalized and used to confront the crisis,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.” Unlike the 60’s when “fact checking” took a lot of time, and work, and could even cost the researcher their careers, if not quality of life (as in, jail), the very same day NBC News’s Jane C. Timm ran Fact check: What’s a ‘national emergency,’ and can Trump declare one to get his wall? “”I can do it if I want,” he [Donald Trump] told reporters at the White House on Friday. “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. We can do it. I haven’t done it, I may do it.”” Unlike President Johnson 55 years ago, the current polarized, party politics dispenses with the need of congressional approval. In December of 1981 Wojciech Jaruzelski, then leader of Communist Poland, declared a National Emergency to counter the growing, pro democracy, pro west Solidarity movement. It was termed a “State of War” (communist or capitalist, declaring a National Emergency can come in handy, and always involves the military). Timm writes “A president can declare that the country is in a state of national emergency at his discretion. The declaration confers a set of special executive authorities that are designed to give the president the power to effectively handle emergencies, such as an outbreak of war.” Timm (and too many others) have referenced the Government’s own statistics that show that since 9-11-01, there has been steadily less migration, and less border apprehensions. Analysis recommends the reader refer to Fact Check’s The Wire, 6-28-18 Illegal Immigration Statistics and 4-6-18 The Stats on Border Apprehensions by Lori Robertson. Analysis finds a “State of War” by any other name (call it National Emergency if you like) is, well, er, a State of War.