Archive for February, 2020

C U And US

February 28, 2020

The daily news of “the 2020 Presidential election,” with all its analysis, projection and punditry, borders on boredom (noun, the state of being bored. Bored, adjective, feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity). The GOP has its anointed candidate. The Democrat’s don’t. Amidst their embarrassment of riches they cannot seem to coalesce around a single precious gem, hence the ongoing contested spectacle. Each attempts to out-differentiate the other. All claim difference with today’s front runner, Bernie Sanders. Even Mr. Sanders’ closest kin, Elizabeth Warren, asserts major difference from Mr. Sanders. Analysis can’t help but wonder what the situation would be if there were two democratic socialist candidates in the contested field of Democratic Presidential wannabe’s. There are, after all, two self-funded billionaires. There are two women. There are two flyover country aspirants. And two east coast senators. What if there were two democratic socialists? Being able to imagine two greatly clarifies the muddled contested Democratic spectacle. What is grossly apparent, but goes completely unseen, would become categorized as one of many (two), and therefore not novel or unique. The “naturalness” of two of a kind (two self-funded billionaires, two Midwesterners, etc.) would offset the current outrageous audacity of difference presented by Mr. Sanders. After all, it is difference within ubiquity that becomes the natural prey of bullies. But who is the bully? In 2010, just a couple of years after George Bush’s financial meltdown, barely one year into the Obama Presidency, and well before the ACA or Occupy Wall Street, the SCOTUS handed down its Citizen United ruling, essentially extending the rights of personhood to corporate entities (on the basis of the 14thAmendment to the US Constitution). Money is speech. This was greeted with much handwringing, consternation and prognostication by the pundits and political class. What would become of our political process in this American democracy? Well, we’ve witnessed it. Voices, organizers and rallies by self-funded billionaire candidates are, yawn, part of the boring political spectacle (see “feeling weary…” above). Which brings us to the obvious that an imagined pair of democratic socialists would reveal: all the currently vying candidates for president of the US in the 2020 election, save one, want to reserve a place at the table for corporate persons (even though they don’t vote). Some want all the chairs filled by corporate persons (like the incumbent). Some a lot, some a few, some not many but still feel a need for their presence at the governing table. The only one who doesn’t believe that corporate persons (who do not vote) have a place at  the table in the governance of democracy is the democratic socialist. Right now there is only one. What if there were two?

Both Side-ism

February 20, 2020

One of the major criticisms of contemporary corporate media is its use of and reliance on both side-ism. The emphasis and priority has shifted from the journalism school’s basic of cross checked facts to one of ostensibly scrupulous fairness. The Washington Post has kept a running tab of Dear Leader’s lies, misinformation and fabrications, currently at over 16,000, in the past three years. But when he continues to, some spokesperson like Kellyanne Conway will soberly back up the lie and continue its trajectory with a sincere straight face. The corporate media (NY Times, Washington Post, all the BC’s plus Fox, etc.) choose to cover the statements as news, rather than point out the lack of truth, factuality of the event, etc. In the name of fairness they will get “the other side’s” take on the lie or misinformation, hence the name “both side-ism.” Critics say this normalizes corruption, since, well, corruption is just the news and is given fair coverage from both sides (remarkable as it seems). Some of the media, like AP, will assuage their lack by running a separate fact check column, with no immediate link or connection to the lie. This has raised great consternation in the midst of a national election year where, well, things matter. The practice insinuates that the electorate is more interested in reality show celebrity likes/dislikes than real competence, experience or just downright honesty. In Newark Ohio the opposite seems to be the case, along with simply not covering the news at all. In the past week The Advocate headlined the basketball accomplishments of Newark’s Jordan Dartis at Ohio University without bothering to report the large spontaneous demonstration that welcomed the “gun girl” at the same school, same week. In Newark this past week The Advocate presented its bizarro world rendition of corporate both side-ism; that is, just a one side-ism. Kent Mallett’s “Syringe exchange program supporters take case to Licking County health board” (2-19-20) extensively covered the recent demonstration and public input appeal at the Licking County Board of Health monthly meeting. Most of those involved advocating for the sense and need of a needle exchange program were given ample column space to present their reasons and point of view. The only thing missing was any interview or reasons for keeping the county wide ban by the board members themselves. Maybe Kent was pressed for time and couldn’t be bothered to ask the public officials to speak on the matter. Curious, in many ways the corporate media coverage by The Advocate differed little with that evening’s NBC Nevada Democratic debate coverage. Along with Michael Bloomberg’s speaking on camera, on stage during the debate, he also appeared in the ads during the commercial break. Mallett’s online report likewise appeared next to a Licking County Board of Health advertisement listing its various services, location, etc. Analysis finds this spares The Advocate the embarrassment of any both sides culpability.

American Factory

February 15, 2020

The Oscar winning documentary, American Factory, will be screened this coming Thursday eve, 2-20-20, at the USWA Local 244 Union Hall, 350 Hudson Avenue, Newark Ohio. It begins at 7 PM with an open group conversation to follow its airing. This is the February feature for the Third Thursday Film series sponsored by The Freedom School In Licking County. When informed of such group gatherings to watch a flick, the knee jerk response usually runs something like: “I can get that on Netflix. I’ll be sure to watch it.” Analysis determines this pretty much misses the point. In the first half of the 20thcentury a Russian literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin, introduced the idea of a dialogic reading or viewing. For Bakhtin, when a work or text is considered by more than one individual, a richer, fuller, more complete sense of the work is available to those assessing it. Simply put, an individual person can’t see the back of their own head. But they can see the back of their friend’s head. Together, in conversation, the two can arrive at a richer and fuller understanding of each other’s makeup, which is incomplete when assessed individually. The same can be said for watching a film or reading a book. Dialogical consideration enhances the understanding by filling in the blind spots. Along with countless others, Newark News Analysis has written of the demise of the commons, and the detrimental impact it has made on social interaction in America. The pre-industrial age commons was an open space available to area residents for leisure, congregating, gathering, celebrating, play, etc. The voracious need for workers and consumers by the captains of industry exorcised the state sanction of the commons, essentially eliminating them entirely. Vestiges of this space for communal (common) interaction can be found with neighborhood parks and some city squares. These of course are subject to regulations, hours of admission and limits to interactions (permits). Netflix could be considered as antithetical to the space of the commons. Along with the demise of the commons was the fall of festival, the communal gathering of play, usually located in the space of the commons. Comparisons of play designated within the communal space of contemporary parks and the play found within the notion of festival would be akin to comparing New Orleans Mardi Gras and the NFL or MLB. True, there is a sort of competitiveness found between the tribes or the crews sponsoring individual lines or parades. But this is not the designated and deliberate (specific) competitiveness incorporated within the layout of most parks (individual or group sports). Improving one’s individual jogging time or winning the league tournament is not the stuff of festival. Both bring people together for play but the time and ends of festival differ from that of competitive play. Mardi Gras has no beginning though it does end. Parks have designated times when they can be accessed. The play of competitive sports is predetermined, hence some are better at it than others (some play while others can only spectate). The play of festival is all inclusive and enhanced by diversity. Competitive play results in active participants (players) and passive spectators (fans). Festival play is one of open participation. Festival participants make their play while most competitive sports spectators have it made for them (are not players). Watching American Factory individually on Netflix, with personal phone distractions and preoccupations (multi tasking) is not the same as attending a common space viewing with an active conversation afterwards. Festival makes for a dialogic understanding (celebration) by virtue of its all inclusive and diverse participation. Individual Netflix perusal is incomplete. The blind spots are never even noticed.

Whatever Is Good Will Appear

February 9, 2020

In the previous post (Food For Thought, 2-6-20) Analysis wondered what the barriers of voter suppression were in Newark Ohio. Even more importantly, why was no one speaking of them? As a partial response to the novel coronavirus, a 1,000 bed hospital was just built in China in 10 days. The Empire State Building was built in one year, in the midst of the Great Depression. Last year an abandoned 9,000 square foot Family Dollar building was purchased with the announced promise of becoming a homeless shelter in the heart of Newark Ohio (Evans Foundation to buy former Family Dollar for Newark homeless shelter, Kent Mallett, Newark Advocate 7-27-2019). Also in 2019 the city’s public/private partnership, Newark Development Partners Community Improvement Corporation, “announced the purchase of the Arcade. The purchase includes all real estate located at 15 Arcade Place, including the entrances facing North Third and North Fourth streets, commercial property extending east and west between the entrances, approximately 22 commercial spaces inside the arcade and the potential for 15 to 20 residential units above the area.” (Historic downtown Newark Arcade sold, renovations planned, Benjamin Lanka and Kent Mallett, Newark Advocate, 11-23-19), also in the heart of Newark Ohio. Which development do you believe will be completed first? Indeed, to call the Family Dollar building a ‘development’ would be a gross misnomer, verging on (Gasp!) misinformation. Though the word ‘development’ appears in the name of Newark Development Partners, which was involved with both projects (along with Newark’s shadow prime minister, Dan DeLawder), the word ‘development’ doesn’t appear at all in Mallett’s Evans Foundation article. But the final lines of Lanka and Mallett’s Historic downtown piece say it all: ““Our community is excited about the progress that has been made downtown.  Sustainable success requires patience and investment into various aspects of the area, from physical improvements to business climate to residential opportunities and more,” [NDP Executive Director Fred] Ernest said in a release. [NDP Chairman Dan] DeLawder added, “This purchase was made possible through extraordinary philanthropic support from several local parties. We are grateful for the continued generosity of the Newark community in helping accomplish the goal to promote and foster economic development in our city.”” Through the legal entity (corporation) of a public/private partnership, public government becomes an enabler of private corporate development (not far removed from an addiction enabler). The Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority is an excellent example of this, constantly touting its money making commercial development adjacent to the Newark Heath airport. Indeed, it has been so successful in money making money that some years ago it purchased the PIME Seminary property for projected development 20 years in the future. Development is simply money making money. Only catch is that one has to have the money to make the money, which is where the government’s public financing comes in (along with tax abatements, credits, infrastructure improvements, etc.). Roughly half the residential housing in Newark is non-owner occupant (rental). It is easy to correlate 40% of Newark’s population with that of the rest of the country in terms of having less than $1,000 in liquid assets in case of emergency (one step away from being in need of a homeless person’s shelter). Add to this the average debt load (student, credit card, medical, etc.) and job precariousness… Where’s this population of citizens’ capacity to develop? Why bother? Best to leave it to the pros. This is readily evidenced by the recent replacement of banker Mark Fraizer’s Newark City Council seat by, you guessed it, NDP’s marketing salesperson Spencer Barker (touché, it is a time of no need for evidence or witnesses). Analysis concludes that pubic office seeking candidates touting the merits of development are one of the major vote suppression barriers utilized in Newark Ohio. When a candidate says “good for economic development” what she or he is really saying is “No need to come out and vote, folks. We’ve got this.” THAT’S voter suppression.

“Everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear.” (Guy Debord)

 

Food For Thought

February 6, 2020

During the past mayoral election of November, 2019, just over 26% of Newark’s registered voters took the time, made the effort to vote. The number of votes re-electing the incumbent mayor was equal to 10% of the population of the city as a whole, 16% of those registered to vote. Yawn was the collective reaction. Indeed, the numbers were even less than previous years; in other words the downward trend is considered the norm. Oh, but the recent brouhaha in Iowa is definitely not a yawn. In all the “new tech is the answer to all our problems” reviews, the real news was that voter turnout in the Democratic caucus was also down. “According to a NBC News entrance poll, even first-time voters — the young backbone of the progressive forces — dipped below past years as well. In 2008, first-time voters soared to 57%, thanks to the enthusiasm over Barack Obama’s campaign; last night, an estimated one in three voters was a newcomer. And it gets worse: Past turnouts were already at such cringe-worthy lows. In 2016, only 15.7% of Iowa’s voting-eligible population took part in the caucus. Our record turnout, thanks to Obama’s campaign in 2008, clocked in at 16.1%.” (Forget Iowa’s stupid app: Democrats can’t ignore the dismal turnout if they hope to win My caucus in Iowa City had 60 fewer people than four years ago. Tepid turnout will re-elect Trump for sure, Jeff Biggers, 2-5-20, Salon) In an interview with USA Today’s Nichelle Smith (‘Overwhelm the system’ to thwart voter suppression, Stacey Abrams counsels blacks, 2-4-20) Abrams responds with “I think there are two pieces to focus on. One is ensuring that voter suppression does not have its intended effect, which is by making it more difficult to vote, people decide not to bother trying. Our goal through Fair Fight and Fair Fight 2020 is to ensure that people know about the obstacles that are being placed in their way, but (are encouraged to) vote in even larger numbers to overwhelm the intention of the system. The best way to defeat voter suppression is by having such a high turnout that the barriers to voting have limited effect. The second piece I want people to pay attention to is the 2020 Census. While people don’t often think of that as a voting rights issue, it’s directly related not only to the allocation of congressional leaders, but to how the (voting district) lines are drawn for school boards and for city council and county commissions and state legislatures.” Analysis wonders where the barriers are in Newark. Even more pressing is why has no one noticed? But in terms of the greatly hyped aspirations of the Democrats with regard to the 2020 presidential election it gets even more messy. Buttigieg and Sanders came out of Iowa neck and neck. Between the two of them is the actual “showed up to caucus” backing of over half of Iowa’s Democrat nominating participants. Immediate news out today gives Sanders an enormous campaign contribution haul in January, 2020. Active, engaged participation is there and yet Jeff Biggers  can still, quite accurately, write “The real discussion, post-Iowa, is whether Tom Perez’s Democratic Party can galvanize the necessary vision, enthusiasm and opposition to beat Donald Trump in November — or not. Will an entrenched party leadership under Perez allow Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg to rise in the front ranks? It’s about the Democratic Party uniting around a bold vision that not only challenges the empty promises of Trump’s economic claims, devastating environmental rollbacks, and reckless immigration and global policies, but inspires new and dispossessed voters to show up on Election Day. Battered by the trade wars, a farm crisis and historic flooding, Iowa should not have been a tough playing field to rouse enthusiasm. Rising health care costs and climate change remain the top two priorities of caucus-goers. But with Democratic leadership that has refused to allow debates on climate change, stacked the convention committees with members of the corporate establishment, and eased debate requirements for billionaire Michael Bloomberg, you have to wonder:” Analysis also wonders how such pressing issues could drive turnout in a national election and yet not exist at all in a local mayoral contest just one year prior. Food for thought