Archive for April, 2019

Gaslighting

April 26, 2019

The last few years have witnessed blatant examples of behavior and speech individually recorded only to be recounted later as not so, never happened or the witness/recording was a fabrication/fake. Most of this occurs on national news. Local occurrences are rarely noted as such. Ya gotta love the online dictionary’s supplemental description of gaslighting as a verb — “from the storyline of the movie Gaslight (1944), in which a man psychologically manipulates his wife into believing that she is going insane.” Either something is taking place, or it is not. Gaslighting shows the how and why of both. Occur locally? As Sarah Palin would say “You betcha!” Columbus teachers march in protest of city tax abatements for developers by Bill Bush appeared in the 4-24-19 Columbus Dispatch. Bush starts off “Ignoring warnings from city development officials that they don’t understand tax abatements, about 400 Columbus teachers marched up to the doorstep of the CoverMyMeds headquarters Downtown on Wednesday and presented the firm with a giant “tax bill.″ Chanting “Pharma got handouts, kids got sold out,” the teachers union tried presenting CoverMyMeds with a giant poster reading: “Bill: Robber, CoverMyMeds” for $44 million but were turned away. The firm received a 15-year, 100 percent property tax abatement last year for a new $225 million office complex Downtown to be completed by 2024.” Around the middle Bush reports: “The Columbus Board of Education last June approved the CoverMyMeds abatement, which will cost the schools about $55 million in property taxes over its lifetime, the city estimated last year. But [Cols City Development Director Steve] Schoeny said this week the schools will share about $650,000 a year in income taxes with the city. “I’m not sure where (the schools) are losing money on that deal,” he said.” You do the math (55 mil divided by 650k per year would mean how many years to recoup?). ““Of course that’s what they say,” [Cols Ed Assoc Pres John] Coneglio countered. “We know the argument. It’s the chicken and the egg thing,” that developers wouldn’t have built without the abatement. But why should condos selling for $300,000 be subsidized by taxpayers, Coneglio asked. “We’re just saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this wisely. You can’t just give everything away.’” Steve Murray, 59, who teaches at Columbus Alternative High School, a building where the district is doing $1.1 million in emergency repairs after the public complained about its poor condition, considers the abatements “racist.” “It’s just so damn unfair” that tax money is diverted from an overwhelmingly minority school district to wealthy corporations, Murray said.” A little closer to home we find The Newark Advocate headlining North Newark affordable housing project awaits tax credits by Kent Mallett the same day (4-24-19). Notable: “One of the last remaining pieces of the old farm could become an affordable housing complex on north Newark land between Walmart and the Newark Area Soccer Association fields. Development plans are contingent on obtaining tax credits from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority, which may announce the recipients next month. Commercial Realtor Steve Layman represented property owner Chilcote Prior LLC earlier this year at Newark Planning Commission meetings, when a lot split was approved and zoning changed from general business to multi-family residence district on 9.7 acres of the farm’s remaining 23 acres.” The article includes a lot of folderol about the land’s history as an investment farm, and the investor’s kin keeping investment horses there, etc. The report ends with: “The apartment complex, Layman said, could consist of 84 units in up to seven buildings, either two-story or three-story. Of the 9.7 acres, only about two acres can be developed, due to the Log Pond Run floodplain. A restaurant could also be built on adjacent land, situated so it would be visible straight ahead after turning from North 21st Street onto Log Pond Drive, Layman said.” You remember Steve Layman who projected development of the old elementary school across from the main library (West Main) only if he could get historic tax credits. Well he didn’t get them but still went ahead and developed the property anyways. It is very notable the article’s stress on tax credits making it happen without mentioning a single word about what rents would be with this “affordable housing.” Speaking of taxes (credits and abatements got to come from someplace, ya know), how about that GOP HB6, the “Energy Bill”? For the Statehouse News Bureau Andy Chow reports: “Opponents are speaking out against the bill that would prop up two struggling nuclear plants while also toss out the state’s green energy requirements for utilities. There’s a debate over whether the legislation will end up saving a person more or less on their electric bills. The proposed law would create a monthly fee of $2.50 to create clean air credits for carbon-free power generators.” “FirstEnergy Solutions says their two nuclear power plants are set to close by 2021 unless they receive financial aid. The bill could give those plants up to about $170 million.” (4-23-19) “[AEP Vice President of External Affairs Tom] Froehle says AEP likes the bill “If done right, the bill will go down some but the benefit is that you’re finally getting investment in Ohio in clean air,” says Froehle. New fees in the legislation would create a $300 million fund from  – more than half would go to the nuclear plants, with the rest to renewable sources.” (4-24-19) Of course, AEP doesn’t own any nuclear power plants. FirstEnergy does (nuclear waste doesn’t just get cleaned up for a “jobs ready” site by JobsOhio, or does it?). But that’s beside the point. “According to a new study, a group of 60 companies in the Fortune 500 booked nearly $80 billion in total profits in 2018, but each owed $0 in taxes. Worse: Many of these companies actually got rebates from Uncle Sam, totaling more than $4 billion.” (Billions in Profits, No Taxes: How the Trump Tax Code Let 26 Companies Off the Hook, Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone, 4-15-19). Of the 26 companies on the list, some are local favs – Amazon, AEP, FirstEnergy, Halliburton. The last word on this goes to someone who knows gaslighting when they see it: “[Steve] Murray thinks he has a simpler answer. If city and district officials are worried that companies will move away if they have to pay their taxes, “let them leave,” he said. “If they’re not putting any taxes into the city, then who cares?” (Bush)

 

Representative Of Dollars

April 17, 2019

The latest video/press coverage provided by the Newark Advocate, after the Monday night (4-15-19) Newark City Council meeting, is disturbing in the least, alarming at most. The mayor of the city is shown, or reported, claiming himself to be “not in charge,” “doesn’t run” things, “not head of the city”, etc. In short, he is a mayor of __? Analysis finds the only word that fills in the blank is “money”. He swears any aid to the homeless will not be free. Indeed, the only frame he can put around the “problem” of homelessness is that of money and cost. Given any celebration of downtown moneyed renewal, or Chamber event, the mayor would bask in the glow of leadership, for here the “problems” of cash flow are self-fulfilling (you only entertain the “problem” of lack of funds if you are certain they can be secured. See this blog’s “Attention To The Community” 3-22-19). But with the “problem” of homelessness he becomes a city manager and not a leader of the people (“We represent the taxpayers’ dollars … I’m saying we don’t just willy nilly spend money. We have to do it the right way. I’m not saying it’s a reason not to, I’m just saying, you’ve got to work out the details.”). Part of the details that make for the most efficient solution to the “problem” of the homeless is to relocate them out of the city entirely (“The mayor suggested land outside the city limits would be better because it would involve fewer laws and rules, and the zoning is more open.” Kent Mallett, Mayor confronted on Newark homeless issue after council meeting, 4-17-19). The alarming aspect of Newark’s city manager’s, er, mayor’s accountant disposition to the problem of homelessness is within the description – “homeless problem.” It is the problem of homelessness, not the homeless are a problem. In the recent ongoing Henry Louis Gates Jr. documentary series “Reconstruction: America After The Civil War” one of the contributors points out that all people have problems, but to say that a people are a problem is to dehumanize them. A city manager focused on “show me the money” solutions to problems would obviously fail to appreciate the nuance of the statement. No, Analysis finds it disturbing and alarming that Newark elects to have a city manager dedicated to representing “the taxpayer’s dollars” rather than a mayor of the people (“According to a new study, a group of 60 companies in the Fortune 500 booked nearly $80 billion in total profits in 2018, but each owed $0 in taxes. Worse: Many of these companies actually got rebates from Uncle Sam, totaling more than $4 billion.” Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone, Billions in Profits, No Taxes: How the Trump Tax Code Let 26 Companies Off the Hook, 4-15-19. So much for corporate “personhood”, not when it comes to being a taxpayer!).

The Unheard And The Unspoken

April 13, 2019

The recent coverage (by the Newark Advocate) of the “meet the candidates” event put on by the League of Women Voters was discomfiting, to say the least. Both sides said what was expected of them. Much was left unspoken, but it was the unheard that resonated throughout. Solving problems is not necessarily what gets people to vote. It is an admirable facility, for sure, for sure. Is that why people, who do vote, vote for this candidate over that? From “Hillbilly Elegy” to “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland” the unheard narrative behind the votes cast is carefully noted. Distilled, its spirit is one of the fear of what little is left, what little I’ve got, someone (other than me) is threatening to wrest from me. That someone can range from any of “the government”, ethnic, religious, racial, international other, or all of the above. The subtext accompanying this unheard is the unspoken that those with plenty (with nothing to fear) use this vulnerability to their gain. Unheard AND unspoken is that all this resides on the presumption that purchase is the solution to problems. Are you a problem solver? All the Democratic candidates for council stressed affordable housing, public transportation, access to more education and better paying jobs. Is purchase the solution to problems? Two candidates, quoted by The Advocate, intimate the unspoken: “”Beyond that, we need to continue to build coalitions of services between government, local government, non-profit, private and faith-based groups, so that we’re all working together,” [Seth] Dobbelaer said. “Making sure the city is being a leader and a facilitator of groups so we’re all working together toward a common goal I think is a top priority and I think the city can do that.”” “”I think the city does have a role to play. I think the city has a role to play to make sure these people (organizations) are coordinating with each other,” [Bill] Cost [Jr.] said. “If I haven’t learned anything else in the last eight years, I’ve learned that when people work together, we get a great deal more done than we do when we try to do it on our own.”” Unspoken was any proposals for a tangible, structured program to do this to solve issues of low pay, public transportation or inadequate housing. Spoken, but unheard, was the creative utilization of existing city resources facilitated by exiting city rezoning capability to address the marginalized homeless situation (“[Daniel] Crawford said “For instance, there’s plenty of open spaces that the city owns that the city isn’t utilizing that we can set up safe places for tent cities.””). This can be done as partial remediation. It allows for more lasting and substantive solutions to be crafted. The same can be said for needle exchanges to address public health threatened by the very public meth and opioid affliction, as well as treating marijuana possession as a misdemeanor (which the residents of Newark voted for but their City Council dissed). All of these have been implemented in other cities across the US, in one form or another (little or no purchase required). No GOP candidates were present as no primary is needed for their movement. However, the GOP position was very much heard and spoken. “Now headed into 2020, we have to remind them that this is your country, not theirs. Since you’ve been such an important part of our movement, I wanted to give you this exclusive opportunity to become an Official 2019 Trump Executive Member and receive your PERSONALIZED membership card. Please contribute to activate your Official 2019 Trump Executive Membership by 11:59 PM TONIGHT and we’ll send you this beautiful PERSONALIZED card. The one thing that keeps our movement alive is our members.” (Trump Make America Great Again Committee) Transportation a problem? Buy a car. Need a place to stay? Rent or buy your lodging. In fear of getting sick? Buy health insurance. Need more money to purchase any or all of the above? Get a better job. Need a better education for higher wages? Buy one. Costs too much? Purchase a loan. “Our movement” purchases job opportunities through taxes on wage earner income. But don’t worry, for each wage earned dollar we spend subsidizing job creating corporations, you’ll get a 1% rebate on all purchases!  Unheard AND unspoken is that all this resides on the presumption that purchase is the solution to problems. Are you a problem solver?

The Times They Are a-Changin’

April 7, 2019

News stories contribute to history, and history sometimes forms patterns. These patterns, in turn, may or may not be recognizable or even sensible. Interpretation of these patterns comprise much of analysis. Interpretation can come in many forms. Some of the news of the recent past forming a pattern, of sorts, would include, but not be limited to, the social interrogation of the behavioral interactions of Joe Biden, the recent heart surgery of Mick Jagger, the firing of SPLC founder Morris Dees, and lest we forget, the family reunion of Rupert Murdoch. A pattern? Other than being a bunch of hyper successful white guys from roughly the same generation there doesn’t seem to be much else they have in common. Biden is under the scope for having a squeaky clean reputation of going home to his family on the train to Delaware every evening from the senate. Though not being accused of philandering, his touchy feely mode of “pressing the flesh” is considered discomforting today, a violation of personal space. Mick has been strutting his personal brand of sexuality on stage for over a half century. Prepping for more of the same, reportedly up to twelve miles of walking around on stage per performance, his heart gave out. He is projected to continue performing after heart surgery. “Dees, 82, was fired last month for unspecified misconduct, igniting a rush of speculation about what had come between him and the organization he built into a legal and fundraising behemoth. The nonprofit said that Dees had acted in ways that did not reflect “the mission of the organization.” Internal documents reviewed by The Post, along with interviews with current and former employees, suggest that the celebrated civil rights organization had been bitterly at odds with its founder for several years. Those battles have centered on his refusal to retire, his behavior toward women and his comments regarding race, according to the documents, the employees and Dees himself.” (Years of turmoil and complaints led the Southern Poverty Law Center to fire its founder Morris Dees, Washington Post, Neena Satija, Wesley Lowery, Beth Reinhard, 4-5-19). And Rupert? Big family reunion celebrating the recent partial sale of Fox to Disney amidst his global media empire, etc. (closed to the press, of course). OK, his fourth wife was one of Mick Jagger’s lady friends but that wouldn’t involve Dees or Biden. Not much in common with these geezers, other than being geezers. A teleplay by Rod Serling would indicate otherwise. Like most of Serling’s work, it says more about the viewer than the viewed. The 1956 award winning teleplay (later made into a movie) was entitled Requiem for a Heavyweight. In a nutshell it was about a heavyweight boxer, not exactly a contender, who was presented with an alternate possibility but in the end returns to contention as a wrestler (fall guy). Of course there is more to it than that, but getting beat up before a crowd is all that Harlan “Mountain” McClintock knows. The similarity to our four candidates is that they, in turn, continue with the pursuit which is “all that they know.” It is hard to imagine, especially in this age of click bait “how to retire early,” that any of our hyper successful four didn’t entertain alternate possibilities after achieving success. But the crowds love ‘em. What is it that the crowds love? That’s not readily apparent in the disparity of our four. Maybe to the critical reader, but to the crowd it is akin to the old Willie Sutton quote about bank robbing –“because that’s where the money is.” Biden, Jagger, Dees, Murdoch, and others are the producers of success, the mega million lottery winners. Like with Harlan McClintock, the crowds pay for admission to follow the action in the ring, win or lose. But “the times, they are a-changin’” (Bob Dylan, another old curmudgeon who actually chooses alternate possibilities). Is the crowd changing?

Half The Story – But Which Half?

April 3, 2019

Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor swung by Licking County to talk to some folks about some things near and dear to his heart. You remember John Husted. The same John Husted who as an elected representative was caught in a bizarre court case regarding being a representative of his district in Dayton all the while living with his family in a home in Upper Arlington; except that his “residence” in Dayton was unoccupied. Paying the water bill satisfied the courts that he was a lawful “resident.” Apologies for the digression but it was irresistible. No, John didn’t talk about affordable housing with the Newark Homeless Outreach at City Council. Nor did he speak about state initiatives to deal with methamphetamine abuse at a Newark Think Tank on Poverty meeting. No, Republican Lieutenant Governor (and wannabe future Governor) Husted’s heart embraced “Workforce development is the most important issue the state faces, Lt. Gov. John Husted told a Grow Licking County investor’s breakfast crowd Tuesday at The Granville Inn.” (Lt. Gov. Husted: Workforce development is Ohio’s most important issue Kent Mallet for the Newark Advocate, 4-2-19) Mallett is rather succinct: “”It is, by far, the most important issue we face,” Husted said. “Everywhere we go, this is the No. 1 issue. What we have to do is be a magnet for talent. The people, the communities, the states that get this right, will see greater prosperity. “Talent can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s someone who can pass a drug test and show up for work five days a week.” For others, he said, it could be someone with a doctoral degree. Adding to the challenge, he said, is the reality that more Ohioans will turn 65 years old than 18 years old during the next decade, dwindling the workforce further. Employers need mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, for example, Husted said.” Curious how the recent announcement of a new building to be constructed at OSUN COTC fits right in to that. Another digression, mea culpa. The next day the NY Times headlined “Short of Workers, U.S. Builders and Farmers Crave More Immigrants As a tight labor market raises costs, employers say the need for low-wage help can’t be met by the declining ranks of the native-born.” (Eduardo Porter, 4-3-19). Gasp! Significant numbers from the article: “The tightest labor market in more than half a century is finally lifting the wages of the least-skilled workers on the bottom rung of the labor force, bucking years of stagnation.” Not exactly mechanical or electrical engineers. “But to hear builders tell it, the rising cost of their crews reflects a demographic reality that could hamstring industries besides their own: Their labor force is shrinking. President Trump’s threat to close the Mexican border, a move that would cause damage to both economies, only adds to the pressure. Immigration — often illegal — has long acted as a supply line for low-skilled workers. Even before Mr. Trump ratcheted up border enforcement, economic growth in Mexico and the aging of the country’s population were reducing the flow of Mexican workers into the United States. The number of undocumented immigrants in America declined to 10.7 million at the end of 2017 from a peak of over 12 million at the height of the housing bubble in 2008, according to the Center for Migration Studies.” “The problem for builders is that the recovery in home building has outpaced the growth of the construction labor force. Housing starts have picked up to a pace of 1.2 million a month, more than twice as many as at their trough in April 2009. The number of nonsupervisory workers in residential construction, by contrast, has increased by only 40 percent since hitting bottom in 2011, to about 530,000.” “Were it not for immigrants, the labor crunch would be even more intense. In 2016, immigrants accounted for one in four construction workers, according to a study by Natalia Siniavskaia of the home builders’ association, up from about one in five in 2004. In some of the least-skilled jobs — like plastering, roofing and hanging drywall, for which workers rarely have more than a high school education — the share of immigrants hovers around half.” “For all the fears of robots taking over jobs, some economists are worrying about the broader economic fallout from a lack of low-skilled workers. And businesses across the economy are complaining that without immigration they will be left without a work force. “It is good for wages to go up, but if labor is at a point where employers can’t hire, it is reducing growth,” said Pia Orrenius, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “There’s also considerable wage pressure in small towns and cities that are depopulating, but that is a sign of distress, not of rising productivity.” The labor crunch is likely to persist for some time. The Pew Research Center projects very little growth in the working-age population over the next two decades. If the United States were to cut off the flow of new immigrants, Pew noted, its working population would shrink to 166 million in 2035 from 173 million in 2015.” Double Gasp! Work force development may be near and dear to Mr. Husted’s heart as the most important issue facing the state, but this is only half the story. In disguise, the Republican in Mr. Husted is promulgating a white power movement theme, since we don’t have to address what historically really made America great – immigrants. The vitriol, diatribes and lies (some just call it hate) directed at immigrants defies their underlying value to the country as well as Licking County. Velvet Ice Cream (poster child of Grow Licking County) was an immigrant contribution. “Many of the high school students who would replenish the pipeline of carpenters, plumbers and electricians are undocumented immigrants. “Half of the kids in the high school carpentry programs are DACA kids,” said Mr. Hoffmann, the Dallas builder, referring to a program that allows unauthorized minors to stay in the United States. “They are not documented, so we can’t work with them.”” (Porter, NY Times) “”You get what you reward,” Husted said. “Whatever society celebrates, it gets more of. I’ll do signing days at tech schools.”” (Mallett, Newark Advocate) Triple Gasp!