Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Steve Bannon Declares Jihad On Infidels

October 18, 2017

Writing for Alternet, Ivy Olesen headlined “I went undercover at a boot camp for young conservatives — here’s what I learned; The Leadership Institute teaches young people how to mobilize for conservative candidates” (10-17-17). Provocative and intriguing! Must read. But Analysis digresses. Equally provocative was a Salon article by Chauncey Devega covering the Values Voter Summit (subject of Analysis previous post) headlined “Birth of a new fascism? Trumpers meet theocrats at right-wing Christian conclave: Roy Moore says “the people of God are rising up,” while Sebastian Gorka hints at a sinister new alliance”. Alabama’s current GOP Senate candidate, Roy Moore, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and (again) former presidential adviser Sebastian Gorka spoke to the assembled faithful after the apprentice president. Devega quotes Moore: “”When you forget God, you can forget politics. When you forget God you forget, just like it says, your heritage, your rights, your freedoms.” “We forget that what they really want to do in this land is remove the knowledge of God. That won’t happen, as far as I can see, because I think the people of God are rising up in this land today. In 2016 we were given a new lease, a new reason, and it’s upon us now. This is not complicated.”” But still a digression. How to get a handle on this? Devega also quotes Gorka: “The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens, as people unfettered.” Damage, to private citizens? Writing for Time (10-15-17) Alana Abramson also covered the Values Voter Summit and headlined: “’This Is Our War.’ Steve Bannon Tears Into GOP Agenda”. She writes of/quotes Bannon addressing the conservative faithful: “”This is not my war, this is our war,” the Breitbart CEO and former chief White House strategist told cheering attendees at the annual convention. “And you all didn’t start it, the establishment started it. I will tell you one thing — you all are gonna finish it.” Noting that the group had a “lot of fights ahead,” Bannon said it was crucial to take on the GOP establishment before effectively turning their energy towards progressives, especially since the current crop of GOP lawmakers do not appreciate President Trump. This disrespect, Bannon said, was evidenced when Senator Bob Corker told the New York Times last week that Republican lawmakers were privately concerned about Trump’s ability to lead the country. Bannon seemed to insinuate that unless Republican lawmakers spoke out against Corker, they would face insurgent primary challenges. Bannon also derided Corker, who he called a “piece of work” for speaking negatively about Trump while soldiers were serving overseas.” In a (9-7-17) 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose Bannon says: “They’re going to be held accountable if they do not support the President of the United States. Right now there’s no accountability. … They do not support the President’s program. It’s an open secret on Capitol Hill. Everybody in this city knows it.” Rising up? Damage to private citizens? War!? Disrespect and lack of appreciation for the apprentice president? Support the President’s program? Much has been written and said about the de facto lack of a plan or program with regard the current administration so this is certainly puzzling, cryptic at the least. Perhaps Ivy Olesen can help clarify these double voiced speeches; double voiced in the sense that to some they mean what is on the surface, to others they are coded messaging. Near the end of a very long article Olesen writes: “This is when I realize that what Ivy [Ivy El Zaatari, the Leadership Institute organizer/instructor] means is that Conservatism appeals to people on a level above facts: religion. Conservatives are skipping right over the whole logic bit and get straight to the good stuff. Ivy is hinting around about “philosophy,” because, like she said, “I’m talking about Conservatives, not Republicans. [..] They talk about their Bibles as much as their Constitution.” Sell ‘em a fantasy, and one with a moral, religious backing as well. Ivy has been trying to get it through our heads that the fear of God is how you can get people to vote against their best interests.” Analysis concludes with the obvious — Steve Bannon declares jihad on infidels.

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You Will Not Replace Us

October 15, 2017

Americans and their relationship with God (religion) is kinda like that between parents and teenagers. Americans, qua Americans only on account of their Constitution, know better than others that it was drawn up with emphasis on keeping the two separate, one out of the other. Teenagers, told no by their parents, will eventually act out. Well, ya gotta do it anyway. This past week a major event of this sort took place that literally flew under the media radar in terms of emphasis. Seems whether Ivana is the first lady or Rex Tillerson called his boss a “moron” was more significant than the fact of who spoke to the Values Voter Summit for the third time, this time as apprentice president, and what was said. In 2015 he spoke as a presidential wannabe. 2016 found him speaking as a candidate for president. 2017 found a deliverance speech. The Values Voter Summit is put on directly by the Family Research Council which in turn was spawned by James Dobson, Focus On The Family. “Co-sponsors of the event included other Christian political action groups, such as AFA Action (part of the American Family Association), the Heritage Foundation, Liberty University, Liberty Counsel and Gary Bauer’s organization American Values.” (according to Wiki). Wiki describes the Family Research Council: “FRC promotes what it considers traditional family values, by advocating and lobbying for socially conservative policies. It opposes and lobbies against equal rights for LGBT people (such as same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, and LGBT adoption), abortion, divorce, embryonic stem-cell research and pornography.” Controversy surrounds not only the apprentice president when it comes to the terms of the “traditional family values” of the FRC as well as the organization itself being classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. And yet the apprentice president has deigned to grace the Summit now three times, with little fanfare on his latest appearance. Analysis thought it would be more than pertinent to consider the text of the 2016 speech with that of 2017 (transcripts from Politico and the White House Press Secretary). In both speeches the bible is quoted once, at the start of 2017 and at the end of 2016 (a twist of the theater’s admonition to always leave ‘em laughing – in this case praying!). “Amazing, amazing group. One of the greatest privileges of my journey has been the time I’ve spent with the evangelical community.” at the start of 2016, “It’s great to be back here with so many friends at the 2017 Values Voter Summit, and we know what that means. We know what that means. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.” Overall, 2016 comes across as a stump speech with the primary focus on political agenda, if you only vote for me. This agenda is the one currently being executed, though couched in an ersatz religious perspective for the consuming audience. Many of that time’s news headlines were from this conference (“What have you got to lose?”, being able to say “radical Islamic terrorism,” and the statistically flawed math in terms of job numbers and budget amounts) and some were never picked up on (“or one of our great generals that we have today – General Flynn, who’s here someplace I love General Flynn”). A hefty portion was Hillary bashing with Obama thrashing given equal time. Tribute was paid to Phyllis Schlafly’s early endorsement. “We are all equal, and we all come from the same Creator. If we remember that simple fact, then our future is truly limitless. There is nothing we as Americans can’t do.” and “Our nation today is divided. Nobody likes to say it, but we’re living in a very, very divided nation. It will be our faith in God and his teachings, in each other, that will lead us back to unity.” are the closest things to actual articles of “religious” faith put forward by the then candidate speaker. 2017 the apprentice president gives a deliverance speech, again following the political agenda promised a year earlier but this time self-congratulating what is (in his estimation) their accomplishment. Little of this captured the mainstream media coverage’s imagination (“president of the Virgin Islands,” “We’re saying “Merry Christmas” again.”). Except, this time the speech is slathered with religiosity, referencing the founding fathers (like Washington and Franklin) and being filled with articles of faith and their bearing on the upcoming political challenges. Unlike the media, Analysis finds these relevant and pertinent. “And they [hard working Americans] make sure that the future of their children has God involved in it.  So important to them.” “As long as we have pride in our country, confidence in our future, and faith in our God, then America will prevail.” “We know that it’s the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities. And above all else, we know this: In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God. Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.” “We will defend our faith and protect our traditions.” “We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.” Analysis finds a Reader’s Digest condensed version would sound a lot like “You will not replace us.”

Letting The Terrorists Win

October 7, 2017

In Texas, a Defiant Mood at an Outdoor Music Festival headlined a New York Times article by David Montgomery (10-6-17).  The Austin City Limits festival opened Friday (10-6-17) in Austin Texas, the first such event following the recent terrorist attack on another music festival in Las Vegas (Yes Virginia, Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist).  Analysis finds notable: “On Friday afternoon, among music lovers and families with strollers flowing into Zilker Park on the shores of the Colorado River, the mood was partly defiant and partly alert and attentive. But mostly, people were unflappable.” “Sandee Fenton, spokeswoman for the festival, said organizers expected 75,000 people in the park each day, with a total of 225,000 fans this weekend. The group offered refunds to anyone who was concerned about attending, but did not say how many were claimed.” “Just inside the entrance Friday afternoon, Joe Dickie and his wife, Beth Cottey, discussed with their son and a friend whether they should go see a performance by Willie Nelson’s son, or a rock band called Royal Blood. The family, who hails from Austin, has come to nearly every Austin City Limits event since its inception in 2002. Mr. Dickie, a technical consultant, said that the four had debated this year whether to attend. “So now that one crazy person has done that, it might inspire somebody else,” he said, referring to the tragedy in Las Vegas. But in the end, he said, the decision was easy. “We feel very secure,” he said. “We’re not going to let it ruin our good time.”” Montgomery quotes Tyler Costolo, 25, who flew in from Boca Raton Florida: ““I’m kind of the opinion things like that shouldn’t change your life,” said Mr. Costolo, wearing a white T-shirt with the name of the band The Front Bottoms. “At that point, you’re letting those kinds of things win.”” None of this would be at all unusual to residents of Israel, France, United Kingdom, Spain, etc. After terrorist attacks that have occurred there one continuously hears (and re hears) the refrain that by showing up, going on with the everyday activities disrupted by the terrorists, one keeps the terrorists from winning. In Newark Ohio there is a different response to the ominous terrorist threat. Newark’s only downtown park, the Newark version of Central Park, surrounds the historic (and recently restored) county courthouse. Previously benches and picnic tables provided relaxing spots for get togethers amid majestic trees on a neatly tended grass lawn. There was even a spacious gazebo for larger organized gatherings. Now we read: “The picnic tables, where downtown employees often ate their lunches or people played cards in the evening, will not return, the mayor [Jeff Hall] said. Security concerns, Hall said, played into the decision to avoid having people sitting at tables, with backpacks, near the government building. Instead, there are more benches, which are further away from the building. The gazebo will be stored for the winter and appear next year on the lawn of the former Children’s Home site, at 771 E. Main St. Private donations will be used to move and store the gazebo.” (Gazebo to move from courthouse grounds to former children’s home site Kent Mallett, The Advocate, 9-26-17). Analysis concludes with that marvelous premonitory quote regarding Newark’s central park by Ryan Bubb in yesterday’s Advocate: “”It’s going to be back better than it was,” he said.” (Newark Council: Gazebo should stay, but will it? Editor Benjamin Lanka,10-6-17)

 

Polarization And Gerrymandering

October 6, 2017

Analysis finds there to be endless speculation, with statistical backing, on “the polarization of America” on the majority of issues facing our children’s future. Whether this is a readily available handle on the news by the news media, or “fake news” promoted by tech savvy raconteurs (both foreign and domestic), or is actually so but impossible to grasp unless you are a main frame computer is a contemporary puzzle. The US Supreme Court is currently hearing a case questioning Wisconsin’s political redistricting. Labeled gerrymandering, the issue is rather one of domination than polarization. Locally, in Newark Ohio, we have the destruction of the courthouse square gazebo which ostensibly is part of the City of Newark’s public domain but sits adjacent the Licking County Courthouse (also a public domain but of the county, not city). Confused? It is all akin to the township trustee positions that some municipal voters get to vote on even though unaffected by any township adjudication. Where is the gerrymandering and polarization in all this when it comes to the Newark City Council, Mayor Jeff Hall, and the voting residents of Newark? A recent editorial, er, report by the Advocate editor, Benjamin Lanka, may shed some light on this (since obviously no one would admit to polarization in Newark let alone gerrymandering with the ward districting supplemented by at large representatives). Entitled “Newark Council: Gazebo should stay, but will it?” (10-6-17) it paints a rather ambiguous picture (THAT is an understatement!). In a nut shell, Lanka goes out of his way to survey each council representative and their views on the matter. All, save one, would prefer the gazebo remain and not be destroyed. All plead powerlessness to stopping Mayor Hall’s action (but for discretely polarized reasons!). The “save one” is none other than Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb’s son, Ryan Bubb. In the past, Ryan would have been given the benefit of doubt with regard to nepotism, but with the age of the Kushners being part and parcel of the White House administration, the doubt itself is more than doubtful. Commenters to Lanka’s editorial, er, reporting raised the obvious. When Lanka writes “The costs of moving and restoring the gazebo are being paid by private donors.” They ask “who are the private donors?” Analysis speculates it is probably a public private partnership (like JobsOhio) which is not obligated to disclose their “private” parts (so fashionable these days!). Investigative reporting is not this particular Advocate reporter’s forte. Lanka concludes his editorial, er, article by quoting Ryan Bubb: “”It’s going to be back better than it was,” he said.” Priceless! Analysis finds the gerrymandering and polarization of Newark to be a little more readily apparent when one asks a simple question – why has no one suggested (publicly voiced) recalling the mayor if he continues with his administrative action counter the people’s will? All of a sudden the polarization jumps out. The ambiguity of the GOP representative’s we’d-like-it-to-stay-but (“Would I like to see it stay? Absolutely,” Frazier said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect the authority of the mayor.”) is obviously inevitable (an acknowledgement of the little man behind the curtain in Oz). It is what comes after the “but” that makes for the affirmative statement (we still abide by the GOP power structure). The reticence of the Democratic candidates to generate any action to save the gazebo (initiate a recall) points to the de facto gerrymandering (their very powerlessness). Their positions within their districts are none too secure. Analysis finds (on the national level) talk, reporting and commentary on gerrymandering and polarization to be often times, if not most of the time, couched in terms of economics. However, as the Newark gazebo shows, polarization and gerrymandering are about those who have power, and those who are lorded over. We will have our way because we can. And in this case, we can make the gazebo disappear. “It’s going to be back better than it was.” Now THAT’S power!

How Citizens United Matters In Newark Ohio

October 3, 2017

“Residents rally against move of gazebo from Courthouse Square” headlined today in the Advocate (Kent Mallett, 10-3-17). “Gazebo” will get tagged while “residents” will be taken for granted. After all, residents of a neighborhood association, block watch or school zone will often times coordinate to demand/petition council to address a safety concern, traffic situation, etc. And council will needs be attentive as residents vote, whether they own property or not. They reside in the voting precinct. Who else is there to vote? With Newark City Council’s recent passage of the downtown SID a curious twist has appeared in the neighborhood/council relationship. Essentially, the SID has created a “neighborhood association” which not only can demand/petition council equitably with any other Newark neighborhood, but has the added advantage of being semi-autonomous. The “persons” in this neighborhood are self-governing, something other Newark residential neighborhoods don’t enjoy. Membership has nothing to do with residency, and everything to do with property ownership. The “residents” of this neighborhood are likewise not voters (people with the capacity to vote). They likewise needn’t even reside in Newark (or Licking County for that matter). And yet they can make decisions as to the way their neighborhood is to be. Just as “old MacDonald had a farm” is a complete fabrication of the nature of farms and farming in the US today, so is the sole proprietor, owner-operator “mom and pop” account of business owners and business in downtown Newark. The vast majority of properties owned, businesses owned and conducted are within the structure of corporation (check deed title listings at the county engineers/recorders if you’d like. There is a map that lists who owns which parcel. Few of the names are individual entities). And as we all know, corporations are entities that exist “solely in contemplation of the law.” And thus do not vote. But wait, the highest court in the land ruled that they are “persons” (Citizens United ruling). So, as persons, they can politically organize, be semi-autonomous, and self-govern their neighborhood. What is the cost of admission to this neighborhood association? Well, exactly that. If you have money to spend, you are welcome downtown. Just passing through, keep moving (to another neighborhood). Don’t bring your own picnic to enjoy under the trees, or let the kids run around on the grass, or gather at the Gazebo. Grass, picnic tables and Gazebo are not part of the business plan for these “persons”. From Mallett: “The mayor said the Canal Market Plaza, opened last year just south of the Square, is a better place for concerts and community events, allowing performers and the audience to be under roof, out of the rain or sun. Hall did not attend the council meeting as he was home sick.” “Safety Director Steve Baum explained the gazebo is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and its presence has become a security issue. “There are problems with homeless people sleeping under it, on it, around it,” Baum said. “Security is not the same for government buildings anymore. Our courthouse lawn is not necessarily the site for certain venues.”” Mallett quotes Carol Floyd, D-7th Ward who inadvertently blurts out what everyone knows but denies: “”I do not want us to become a community of ‘them’ and ‘us.’ I want to be an inclusive community that welcomes everybody, not us — the nice, normal people that don’t want the homeless or those who don’t have very much.” Thanks to the workings of Citizens United, the SID facilitates the downtown neighborhood’s charging admission. Well, OK, no ticket or reservation required. But you’d better bring a credit card or cash.

Another Kim K Fundraiser

September 29, 2017

We are all familiar with the yearly Fed Up! rally and its continuous mantra of addiction is a disease. Even the medical profession recognizes this and has designated addiction treatment a specialization, like cardiology, rheumatology. We likewise are aware of and applaud the first step initiative of the Newark NARI program. “President Trump said last month that he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency,” but he has yet to issue a formal declaration. The commission chaired by Christie has called on Trump to take such a step. An initial report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Abuse and the Opioid Crisis noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll from the epidemic is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”” (First lady listens and learns about opioid crisis, Darlene Superville, AP 9-26-17). “Opioid epidemic” is not hard to understand though incredibly hard (and costly) to treat. So the 9-26-17 Newark Advocate headline, Commissioners get judge’s approval on federal lawsuit against opioid distributors (Kent Mallett) is welcome news indeed. “The commissioners obtained on Thursday the approval of Licking County Common Pleas Court Judge David Branstool to use outside counsel to file the lawsuit against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors: McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.” “[LC Prosecutor Bill] Hayes said last week the goal of the lawsuit is to force distributors to better regulate the drugs and help in the resolution of the opioid epidemic. Any settlement money could be used for law enforcement and treatment facilities, Hayes said.” “The Licking County Coroner’s office reports 20 confirmed drug overdose deaths this year, as of Sept. 12, in the county. At least 11 were the result of opiates or opiates combined with other drugs. There were 17 confirmed drug overdose deaths in the county in all of 2016. The county commissioners last week approved resolutions declaring opioids a public epidemic and authorizing prosecution against the distributors. “We are taking this action today because the costs of this opioid crisis have overwhelmed our ability to provide for the health and safety of our residents,” [LC Commissioner Duane] Flowers said in a written statement. “Homes have been broken and families torn apart by this epidemic, which has claimed victims from all walks of life.”” Notice the slippage? For those of you keeping score at home Attorney General Jeff Sessions is often referred to as the nation’s top cop. Mini me prosecutor Bill Hayes fills a parallel capacity in Licking County. And Bill is no fan of NARI, indeed has come out against it in his 2016 election campaign (and has yet to appear at a FED UP! rally). Yet Mallet writes “Any settlement money could be used for law enforcement and treatment facilities, Hayes said.” Sounds a lot like a Kim K fundraiser where 90% of contributions may go to law enforcement and 10% to treatment. Analysis wonders where the epidemic is.

Duck Soup

September 26, 2017

From this blog’s 6-1-17 posting (El SID And The Poppies): “Why is a SID an integral part of gentrification? To increase property values (for the non voting property owners of the district – in 2013 Analysis also found that of the remaining not government, religious, or bank property owners, few were individually named, most were corporate legal entities) rents need to be higher across the board (like the neglected house on the block determining neighborhood value). A SID does specifically that. As a tax, it increases the property owner’s costs which in turn increases the operating expense for any business located there. Marginally profitable businesses will exit as they did prior to the large scale construction of downtown several years ago. Ditto for any other renters (i.e. residential tenants). Upscale enterprises (with capital backing) move in and, Voila! The SID has functioned perfectly as planned. In the meantime Newark’s City Council will wrestle with the tsunami of legalized marijuana while this disenfranchised mandate will pass like shit through a duck.” The Newark news of today and the past week confirms this. From the Newark Advocate these headlines “Newark City Council rejects medical marijuana zoning proposal” (9-26-17), “Gazebo to move from courthouse grounds to former children’s home site” (9-26-17). Prior to that “Special tax coming for downtown Newark after Newark City Council approval” (9-21-17) and “Parking around Licking County Courthouse — ‘bad idea’ or ‘a winner’” (9-22-17). In the 9-26 Gazebo article Kent Mallett writes “The Children’s Home was demolished in 2013. It was built in 1886, serving as a county children’s home before it was decommissioned in the 1970s. It later housed county offices and a medical clinic before closing in 2009.” Sub-context to Mallett’s historic context is that justification for relocating the county jail to a “new” building on East Main was that the old jail was encrusted with black mold – impossible to eradicate (and therefore unhealthy). In 2009 commissioners chose to neglect upkeep on the Children’s Home while maintaining the “old” jail for storage. A central decision maker resulting in the Children’s Home being demolished and the “old” jail being maintained was current commissioner Tim Bubb. In the 9-22 Parking article Mallett again provides context. After reporting the meeting location as the Double Tree hotel, he states “The meeting, by Newark Development Partners community improvement corporation, included several small group discussions and reports, and presentation of a downtown parking study by OHM Advisors, a Columbus architecture, engineering and planning firm.” No decision has been made regarding the proposal promoted by NDP. Analysis finds the 9-26 Gazebo article indicates otherwise. Again Mallett, “Bubb added, “It was the only place in downtown you could do a performance. Now, the Canal Market provides a much better venue. The gazebo, in my observation, lived its life as a performance venue.”” Analysis discovers this to be the same authority on the “life” (and death) of the Children’s Home. Sub context on the Canal Market goes back to these same days (of jail, Children’s Home, and square renovation). The Canal Market was the “dream’ of a local philanthropist who controlled the essential property (adjacent the “old” jail). Analysis surmises he would not commit to “renovate” this property and materialize his dream unless the surrounding county/city did likewise (parking garage construction being the initial goodwill gesture). No coincidence that the jail was saved while the Home disappeared (and the jail as a public transportation hub was completely dissed). No coincidence that moving the gazebo was sooo important at the start of the courthouse renovation. At the time Newark resident appeal prevented the earlier move, now in play for projected parking space. In the 9-21 Special Tax article Maria DeVito writes “Now that the district has been approved by council, the next step is to create a board of people who will run the district, Ernest said. The board will have five people on it. Three who are voted on by the property owners within the district, one appointed by the mayor and one appointed by city council, Ernest said. It will be up to the board members to decide what the district should use the money for each year out of the parameters that have been set up by the district, which include services such as parking enforcement, safety and security, litter control, graffiti removal, visitor ambassadors, special projects and marketing, Ernest said.” Analysis finds this to be the same Fred Ernest, head of the Newark Development Partners (integral to downtown gentrification). Analysis finds that nowhere in this convoluted history of manipulation of public spaces, public funding, and public “interest” is there any voter input. Nowhere is there resident input. The parking meeting like the much earlier courthouse square design meeting were both held at the hotel, a member of the NPD (not at a public space like the library, school auditorium, etc.). While Rome burns (or in this case is gentrified) those elected to represent the residents of Newark are more concerned with nitpicking marijuana distribution center location (“The state has already prohibited dispensaries from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground or public park. Mangus’ proposal also would have prohibited dispensaries from being 500 feet from a residentially zoned area.” “Fraizer would also like for dispensaries to not be allowed with 1,000 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground or public park.” 9-26 Council Rejects). More circus? “The SID has functioned perfectly as planned. In the meantime Newark’s City Council will wrestle with the tsunami of legalized marijuana while this disenfranchised mandate will pass like shit through a duck.”

What We Have Learned

September 22, 2017

The sports news usually runs a headline like “What we have learned after week two of the NFL (or NBA, etc.).” Analysis finds news of the last few weeks to be fast and furious, and all over the map. Indeed, much news focuses on one “event” while ongoing events simply are elided. So what have we learned in the last couple of weeks of news? One thing for sure is that Americans have learned that news coverage is a professional activity. No, not the high esteem for journalistic excellence that used to sell print productions, but at least that hurricanes and what they leave behind are not “fake news.” This implies that those reporting it are not a fake news service. All of which enabled not only Rand Paul but the AP to run a headline story like “Trump hits GOP foes of health bill, Sen. Paul calls it fake” (9-22-17). We have learned that Newark’s Jay Hottinger will speak at a FED UP! rally while sponsoring stand your ground legislation and House Representative Pat Tiberi will speak at the same rally while legislating to get rid of Medicaid (where’s the fake in all this?).  We have learned that even though (factually) over 40% of residential housing in Newark is non-owner occupant, the city council of Newark would prefer that those persons owning “real” property do the governing, whether they reside in Newark or are even flesh and blood people with a birthday (Special tax coming for downtown Newark after Newark City Council approval, The Advocate, Maria DeVito, 9-21-17). We’ve learned that local, state or national, we prefer our administrators to be wealthy.  We’ve learned that if the administration’s cabinet is made up of billionaire’s appointed on the sole qualification of being determined to undermine that office, well, it actually happens (be it with Devos, Sessions, Price, Perry, etc.). A curious thing we’ve been learning but continue to deny is the importance of branding. Anything of Obama origin is quickly dismissed, replaced by the self-same policy or directive only now with the apprentice president’s specific logo on it (like the apprentice president’s Houston visit ball caps). DACA, Korea, Syria, health care all roll on with the self same administration, only a different brand name. We’ve learned categorically that this is because there is no “plan”. There is no plan for DACA (limbo was never imagined as a “plan”), there is no plan for the Syrian imbroglio (still the same US involvement as before the change of administration), no plan to confront, contain or reduce rising healthcare costs (let alone create greater inclusion), no plan to deal with the Korean peninsula (unless one defines playground name calling as a strategy). And now, on a near nightly basis we are learning about pop culture’s definitive version of the Viet Nam War (The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick – PBS). What we haven’t learned, yet, is that there is no definitive version of history – something the recent brouhaha over confederate monuments reinforces (that they were manufactured and installed for historically different reasons at historically different times). Much of what is now revelatory in Novick’s and Burns’s flick, was contemporary news at the time it happened. Then it wasn’t labeled “fake”, but rather dismissed as irrelevant or outright denied. What we have learned is that current climate change denial, racism in America denial, income gap disparity denial, health care denial, all parallel the historic denials of the Ike through tricky Dick era that the Burns Novick film covers. After all, isn’t that what we have learned?

The New Normal

August 31, 2017

The average citizen resident of Newark pays income tax, and more, and in return expects competent administration of city services like road access, police and fire protection, water, sewer, etc. etc. Not unusual. Residents of municipalities have never had reason to think twice about whether an inappropriately parked car will be ticketed, a vandalized street sign will be repaired, a littered and overgrown lot will be rectified, or that their duly compensated mayor will represent the city as the best there is. Now we read this by the Advocate’s Maria DeVito: “Newark Development Partners board members are seeking to create the district and have gathered permission from the required 60 percent of property owners in the area. The goal is to use property tax assessments from those within the district to pay for services such as parking enforcement, safety and security, litter control, graffiti removal, visitor ambassadors, special projects and marketing. If approved, property owners would pay 7.5 percent of the tax rate applied to the 2016 real property taxable value, providing the district about $110,000 annually. The assessment would first appear on their 2018 property tax bill. The tax would last five years, but could be renewed for an additional five years by the property owners. (New downtown property tax gets initial approval from Newark council, 8-29-17). This is the Special Improvement District Analysis covered in past postings. DeVito’s final words include: “If council approves the district, property owners then elect property owners within the district to a leadership board. The district board determines how much of the available money is devoted to the various services.” On 8-30-17 The Miami Herald’s Kristen M. Clark headlined “DeVos had a public agenda for Florida schools meetings … and a private one”. From the report: “A day after visiting a private religious school and a public charter school in Tallahassee, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent Wednesday speaking behind closed doors with various education stakeholders, business leaders and advocates in Florida’s capital city. The events were not disclosed on DeVos’ public schedule, as her office deemed them “private” activities.” “Meanwhile, DeVos’ office also did not disclose — nor offer a readout of — a meeting reportedly held earlier Wednesday with about a dozen leaders of business, higher education and advocacy organizations at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The News Service of Florida reported that DeVos had a “warm reception” there and urged the leaders to “double down” on efforts to expand choices for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.” “She also urged a rethinking of the federal government’s role in the education system. “I think that there’s been an outsized footprint in the last couple, three decades on the part of the federal government in education,” she said. “And it’s my goal to extract us from a lot of those spaces. I will welcome your thoughts on what we need to be doing less of. And if there are areas to be doing more of, what are those areas?”” Shortly after the inauguration Rolling Stone reported; “Betsy DeVos just bought herself a nice little cabinet position. On Tuesday afternoon, most Senate Republicans – all but Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski – voted to confirm the billionaire Amway heiress as secretary of education. It cost her $115,000 in personal donations to sitting Republican senators; $950,000 more has flowed in from the DeVos family over the last three-and-a-half decades. And another $8.3 million from the DeVoses has gone to Republican super PACs in the last two election cycles alone. Not cheap! But it got the job done. And no one should expect her family’s financial manipulation of Republican senators to stop there. In fact, if what the DeVoses have done in Michigan is any indication, she and her family are likely just getting started trying to buy Republican support for their radical agenda.” (Betsy DeVos Just Bought Herself a Trump Cabinet Position. She and her family are likely just getting started trying to buy Republican support for their radical education agenda by Tessa Stuart, 2-7-17). Pre-inauguration Politico headlined “Trump rewards big donors with jobs and access Contributors who met with Trump gave about $59 million in support of his campaign and other Republicans, averaging more than $800,000 per donor.” by Isaac Arnsdorf, 12-27-2016. Analysis indicates that America is abandoning government by the people, of the people, for the people in favor of a two tier system that embraces government by and for those who can afford to pay, with the rest becoming those serving, or rather, servicing this government. After all, we are constantly reminded of how we now have become a service driven economy. Newark’s downtown SID confirms the two tier system. This is now the new normal.

Charlottesville Ain’t The Sharks And The Jets

August 16, 2017

Leonard Bernstein wrote the music to West Side Story in the 1950’s. The story was based on the template of Romeo and Juliet, only instead of Shakespeare’s rivalry of the Montague’s and Capulet’s, Bernstein considered that of the Jets and the Sharks. Ethnographers are likely to point out that this template is somewhat universal with actual examples from America’s own history, like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. Indeed, West Side Story could also be staged as a sports rivalry (the Jets and the Dolphins), or an intrigue between two college basketball or NASCAR dynasties. However, Analysis finds it a bit disconcerting when the apprentice president of the United States appropriates this same template to address the ongoing tragedy which happened in Charlottesville Virginia this past week. Nazi’s and their opponents are not like the Montagues and Capulets. There is a difference, both in the engagement as well as the correct use of the cultural template. Suffice to say it is not a sporting event, nor a literary play. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel and the future apprentice president’s mentor, Roy Cohn, may have mastered the insinuation of equivocation for purposes of disparagement during the McCarthy “Communist investigations” but the real politic of this methodology ultimately failed America. This tactic relies on eliminating difference in favor of the cultural template utilized in story telling. Successful, it absolves one of the “rivals” of guilt, while assigning guilt to the other (a perverse interpretation of “equal justice for all”). The apprentice president has utilized this argument form many times as a “real estate” tycoon as well as in his primary/general election run. He continues with it now during his Charlottesville “do overs”. Analysis shows he will likely call for another “do over” explanation (and probably many more). In the case of Charlottesville, the template as explanation is totally inadequate. It is very, very convenient for quick, deadline oriented media. Nazi and KKK ideology has history, actions and deeds which cleave to a rigid perspective and interpretation. The opposition is diverse, even disparate. Much as the folks who run in the various races-for-the-cure fund raisers, the opponents of Nazi’s are unified by a determination to stop the spread of a known carcinogen. The inevitability of confrontation and clashes leads folks like the apprentice president to simplify and equivocate the “rivalry” in terms of the cultural literary template. Cohn’s ghost calls out “they’re both the same, equally bad.” However, there is a deafening silence when it comes to defining or narrating the “other side’s” history and continuum, word and deed, position and ideology. To do so would be to speak of anarchists, something that folks like McCarthy made sure would not see the light of day, let alone media presence. Professor David Graeber was fired by Yale University for having done anthropological field work with various anarchist groups and actions in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. You remember the various world bank, international monetary fund forums disrupted by anarchists in cities like Seattle, Washington, Quebec and numerous overseas occurrences? Gonzo journalism it wasn’t but his involvement and study resulted in an excellent academic anthropological book entitled Direct Action: an ethnography. Recommended reading if one would like to understand the antifa which operate on the principle of the black block (which also requires a bit of understanding as it is not just folks with tiki torches chanting anti-semitic babble). Folks like Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover would prefer Americans associate anarchism with bomb throwing and Sacco and Vanzetti. Events like Standing Rock present more current incarnations of “anarchy”. As Graeber pointed out, anarchists are primarily interested in local governance issues. They eschew oppression of any kind and prefer local governance to be resolved within a framework of consensus – so that each represents themselves and all feel they have been heard, all feel the resolution is not at their expense (no 50 senators and the vice president to produce a majority, in order that majority rules). The rest flows from that (their disregard for national government, for multi national capitalism, etc.). Charlottesville ain’t the Sharks and the Jets.