Posts Tagged ‘Citizens United’

Junk Science

September 10, 2015

Writing for Salon Jack Mirkinson submitted an essay entitled “The media vs. the American worker: How the 1 percent hijacked the business of news This Labor Day, we have one simple question for media professionals: Why don’t you care about the middle class?” (Salon 9-7-15) Mirkinson writes:

“Now, this is not to say that there is an overt conspiracy going on at CBS News or NBC News or wherever else to crowd out coverage of labor issues and stories of working people, or that there is never any good coverage of these issues to be found these days. The news just doesn’t work that way. But media ownership matters because the owners hire the people who hire the people who hire the people, and what are all those people going to be taught? So much of journalism today consists of an elite class covering the world, and you’d be crazy to think that that has no impact on the way journalists think. Our news agenda reflects not a smoke-filled room but rather an unthinking understanding, passed down through the years, about who and what deserves to command our attention. Labor issues and unions inevitably lose.”

Yawn. It’s not like this hasn’t been said repeatedly (“Billionaire CEOs, meanwhile, got lots of chances to put forward their vision of the American economy: Guests that were identified as current or former corporate CEOs made 12 appearances, including former AOL head Steve Case (Meet the Press, 4/6/14), Apple CEO Tim Cook (This Week, 3/30/14) and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (Fox News Sunday, 6/22/14). Former Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican political candidate Carly Fiorina made four appearances.”). Rather, it’s the insidious “un” spectacular occurrences that underscore how corporate ownership has determined who, what, where, how, and when. The latest is Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of National Geographic, the science publication that most readers cut their teeth on. Reuters reports (9-10-15) U.S. court finds EPA was wrong to approve Dow pesticide harmful to bees By Carey Gillam. “The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, is significant for commercial beekeepers and others who say a dramatic decline in bee colonies needed to pollinate key food crops is tied to widespread use of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Critics say the Environmental Protection Agency is failing to evaluate the risks thoroughly.” To which “Agrichemical companies that sell neonicotinoid products say mite infestations and other factors are the cause of bee demise.” What happened to “science” and a government agency that stakes its being on scientific criteria? Somewhere in the Bush years it was determined that the clients these agencies serve are the large enterprises, the very ones regulated by these government entities, and not the public (W is quoted as prescribing just that). But wait, there’s more! Same day Reuters also reports from Europe that “French court confirms Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning” “A French court upheld on Thursday a 2012 ruling in which Monsanto was found guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, who says he suffered neurological problems after inhaling the U.S. company’s Lasso weedkiller.” “Lasso is not Monsanto’s sole herbicide accused of being harmful. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in March that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, one of the world’s most used herbicides, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Monsanto reacted to the finding in June by demanding a retraction, labeling the findings by a team of international cancer scientists as “junk science.”” Now we have Sarah Palin rebutting President Obama’s recent visit to her home state with claims that he got it all wrong. Glaciers are growing. Is it any wonder that no reports of anything said by Bernie Sanders ever appear in the Newark Advocate? Or that no reports surfaced this summer that “Thousands gather to protest government corruption in Guatemala By Associated Press 13 Jun 2015 Every Saturday for nearly two months, Constitution Square outside Guatemala City’s National Palace has overflowed with thousands of protesters demanding an end to corruption and the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina.” (from the UK’s Telegraph) These demonstrations (unprecedented given the repressive history of Guatemala) originated in April of this year, have continued unabated since, and ultimately resulted in Molina’s ouster. Who knew that people could accomplish such things on their own? Mirkinson got one thing right. “Our news agenda reflects not a smoke-filled room but rather an unthinking understanding, passed down through the years, about who and what deserves to command our attention.”

Ten

August 3, 2015

When the SCOTUS Citizen United decision came down some years ago everyone wondered what impact this would have on democracy, elections. Speculation ran rampant from what the value of an individual vote was (in U.S. dollars) to a government totally independent of the window dressing votes – a politics of high finance. Now the dust seems to have settled and some of the nitty gritty, everyday actualities of this decision are coming to the surface. For one, we have the marketing of government much in the same manner as the marketing of utilities, hospitals or educational facilities. No, we’re not talking about government programs but private enterprises like electric or natural gas providers, hospitals or clinics, public, private, charter elementary schools. The choices are extremely limited and usually “predetermined” (in an accident most injured folks won’t rise up on the gurney and tell the EMS personnel that they want to go to Saint Ann’s and not Grant). Branding is what a large chunk of what private companies’ marketing/promotional budgets strive to establish. With government’s need to act with the speed of business, we see vague, L.L. Bean style feel good ads marketing a political party (“if that makes me one, well, it’s not such a bad thing”). In addition to this, we have the entire creation of entertainment venues in order to “soft sell” (subliminal marketing) the products of that political party – much as Disney or Pixar create animation movies to be able to market Star Wars Light Sabers or Buzz Lightyear PJ’s, or action FX movies with no plot or story specifically created for product placement or rollout (fashions, transportation or technology). Now we have the continuous marketing of Fox’s upcoming reality game show “the First Debate”. Only the top ten will make the stage! Who will it be? All the news sites (including NPR and PBS) have been promoting the roll out of this new entertainment venue much as they do for Harry Potter books or Star Trek releases. To say it is brilliant marketing would be an understatement. The projected summer reality show is cut from the same cloth as American Idol, Ultimate Survivor, Dancing With Cigars and other such “competitive” shows where winning or losing can make or break the entrants careers. And of course, it’s still winner take all! This is what Citizens United looks like in real time where democracy is now “enhanced” by being marketed with value added entertainment for a quality voting experience. These premiums make anything unbranded unsaleable and irrelevant (you can even bundle your vote). Governments create markets (don’t believe it? Check out NAFTA, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Outlet Mall coming to 36/37 in Delaware county, as well as Newark’s own Canal Market District). With Citizens United we’ve begotten the marketing of democracy with brand loyalty determined to be THE critical issue of any election. Who will make the stage in Cleveland for Murdoch’s Fox network summer block buster? Who will have the most shelf space on stage? The front runner has the highest brand recognition, who will win the tenth spot? What will be Apple’s next tech “must have” differs little from who will make the debate ten. This fall, freedom will be on the ballot in the form of an amendment to the Ohio constitution granting marketing exclusivity to ten, and only ten, brands.

Ya Basta!

March 15, 2015

An inaudible gasp assaults those traversing Newark. It is the unvoiced silent scream of “Ya Basta!” (Enough already). The cry is inaudible because it is unexpressed. It is unexpressed because it is covered over, bandaged up by all the store signs, commercial ads, billboards, digital signage offering, promising, promoting something better. The “enough already” is not voiced by the people of these residential neighborhoods experienced mainly through a windshield. It is an anguished cry, almost a plea, unspoken but experienced everyday. “Why must what is here always be considered inadequate? What happened to good enough? Why must there always be a priority with something better, something else?” This cry, this plea, paraphrasing Star Trek’s Spock, is “completely logical,” making perfect sense. It will never see the light of day because it is also quite subversive. Other than for some kind of academic study or tome, it has no value, no commercial credibility, no market appeal.

A recent essay, not specifically addressing this “good enough” discontent except obliquely, appeared in the online Salon (3-14-15). It opens a window on this silent scream. “How the Supreme Court is about to explode America’s racial wealth gap” by Catherine Ruetschlin (a Senior Policy Analyst at Demos) concerns itself primarily with the upcoming SCOTUS case,Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (“a landmark case challenging the disparate impact test, which allows a practice to be considered discriminatory if it disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, even if a discriminatory intent can’t be proven.”). The article expresses grave concern over the expansion of income inequality and racial segregation as a result of the court’s previously voiced attitude (“When discussing race, the conservative argument is best expressed by the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts: “The best way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Translation: America has done bad things in its history, but those bad things are gone now, so we should move past those horrors and look forward.”). That attitude is reflected in various rulings denying or negating affirmative action policies based on the disparate impact statute precedent (“A federal judge decided that regardless of racial intent, the result had a “disparate impact” and increased neighborhood segregation.”). The basis of many of the policies and programs meant to boost the ability of minority races to access better education, jobs, housing, etc. hinges on the means to pay for (purchase) these and sustain their value, hence the concern of a widening gap of income disparity and racial polarization. Assumed throughout the cited statistics is that the more expensive spread is the better buy, the preferred means to a better society, a more diverse community, an equitable and participatory democracy. Of course, this only follows the implication that “if something is better, there must be something which is worse.” That implication is the very heart and soul, bread and butter of all marketing and sales, integral to capitalism itself. The SCOTUS Citizens United ruling legitimized the instituted intimacy of corporations and Democracy (as governance), money and power. Full participation in community governance, of its present and future, is only to those who possess the best source of funding (the same appeal underlying the cited essay’s statistics). With its “5 goals critical to city’s future”, the Gannett’s Newark Advocate confirmed this shift in the nature and character of democracy by listing the top movers and shakers in Newark’s future as being corporate entities. Political power in the world today is identified with the accumulation of wealth.

How can you change the world without taking political power? Actually, the title of a book (Change The World Without Taking Power by John Holloway, 2002). An ironic curiosity since this book is a Marxist critique. Historic Marxism, to date, has relied totally on seizing power to change the world, while failing to change much after having done so. But then there’s the scream of “Enough already!” There is no need for the all pervasive capitalist sales pitch of selling up, worse to better, to which racism continuously contributes (covertly as well as overtly). It is no coincidence that the business districts, new developments, and “future” projected growth areas receive priority public financing rather than the majority of the community, the residential areas from which the silent scream emanates. For these are the “high traffic” areas, the places people “want” to be, decided, of course, by the movers and shakers that the Advocate editorial board recognizes as the leaders of the community. Without taking power, the inaudible gasp can make itself felt in the same manner as those wanting changes in Newark’s pet laws participated in addressing that policy. Hundreds of Newark residents insisting on access to chambers on a council meeting night would get priorities realigned, and their streets paved. “Enough already! Stop subsidizing the “Better” at the expense and neglect of what is more than good enough.” Selling is not governing.

The Longer View

January 25, 2015

“North Dakota 2.7% unemployment will soar” 24/7 Wall Street
“Switching to home solar power is the story of the year” EcoSalon
“”Plunging prices threaten UK’s ‘cash cow’ oil industry” AFP
“Next big future: Roll to roll manufactured decorative perovskite solar panels will be 5 times better and 10 times cheaper” nextbrightfuture.com
“Low oil prices chill once-hot oil town in North Dakota” Christian Science Monitor
“The shape of things to come: The solar powered car of the future.” Financial Times
“Charles Koch: We’re just getting started” Politico
“The future of solar” Fox Business videos

These are some of the headlines in the 1-25-15 online news. The Politico article almost seems an anomaly within the context of the others. Not. It is rather prescient of what the other headlines say in and of themselves. This blog has previously written of disruptive technology, a term used to describe development that displaces one form of technology with another based on the new form being cheaper, easier to use and with more inclusive access while the older displaced technology is more expensive, difficult to sustain and very exclusive. The personal computer (now the smart phone) is exemplary of what disruptive technology is all about. Solar has been described as just that – a disruptive technology. The Koch empire is heavily invested in coal, oil and fossil fuel processing (especially in regards electric power generation and distribution). Kenneth P. Vogel, writing for Politico, gives a smattering of the press release by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce from its current meeting in Palm Springs California. “The group raises money from donors who attend twice-a-year sessions like the one in Palm Springs, and spends it – both directly and through grants to other linked non-profits – on a combination of small government advocacy and partisan electioneering. The groups combined to spend about $290 million in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections, including on hard-hitting ads that were credited with softening up vulnerable Democratic senators who ultimately lost to Republican challengers.” This was a first time “official” release of activity by these previously secret meetings. ““But as many of you know, we don’t rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it! In fact, the work never really ends. Because the struggle for freedom never ends,” Koch said.” Analysis finds the above pairing of headlines to be indicative of the upcoming struggles and some of the issues of the next two years. The relationship (and correlation of the two) will not be covered by the press, media or local news outlets (every struggle involves a struggler as well as a strugglee). Expediency accounts for this. As corporate entities (the media, not the Chamber), they are primarily interested in what drives their market share and improves their stock value. “Divide and conquer” – by separating these into individual news blurbs, the association of one with the other will essentially be obliterated. It appears on the surface that it could be shrugged off as just “growing pains”, the new encroaching on the old. Political scientists say politics is about not only seizing the power of the process (how the game is played), but also the power to frame the argument (what the game is about). ““Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism,” Charles Koch said in his speech, seemingly in reference to the Republican takeover of the Senate during the 2014 midterm elections.” One of those that the $290 million helped into office suggested that not enough people are available to work. Cutting Social Security disability would be a good way to increase the labor pool (John the Governator also argues this, though rather indirectly, by insinuating there are jobs available in Ohio going unfilled). Analysis found this incredulous. Not that SS disability should be cut, but that someone within this “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” propaganda would let slip that it really is all about making more cheap labor available for corporate America (who would opt for SS if they could have fulfilling high paying employment with medical coverage for their disability and a disability friendly work place?). Framing the argument in terms of collectivism, or rather anti-collectivism, makes it appear that the “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” all pay great, have a growing future and are sustainable. The sustainable, disruptive future is framed as “uncertain”, “collective”, “unproven” and “insecure”. The guns, money and megaphone seems to be with the Koch’s. Analysis finds vitality favoring the sustainable, disruptive future. Will Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and others be able to silence and stifle vitality?

Dime-A-Dawg

December 21, 2014

One of the promotions minor league sports’ franchises use is Dime-A-Dawg (Buck-A-Brat, etc.). Although owned by the majors, individual franchisees absorb the cost of this marketing ploy. Supermarkets do a variation called “loss leaders”, fast food restaurants run limited time specials, etc. The majority of fast, and almost fast, food establishments are franchises with a corporate headquarters (foreign or US). Individual locations are either corporately owned (and operated) outright or privately, in terms of the franchisee purchasing the franchise and access to the brand. With a non franchise, the restaurateur must supply the chef (if not the owner), the menu, marketing, take care of all the logistics of obtaining ingredients, facilities, servers, promotion, etc.; whereas a franchisee “purchases” most of these through the brand, the franchise agreement. The business becomes primarily one of management, providing technicians trained to do prearranged specific food prep, service, or clean up, etc. The menu, facilities, ingredient sourcing, promotion, etc. are all facilitated by the corporate brand (in order to maintain brand homogeneity). Occasionally grumblings surface when the franchisee must absorb the cost of a brand promotion orchestrated by the parent company (if the box of 100 hot dogs sold and delivered by the corporate office cost the franchisee $12.00, then Dime-A-Dawg loses money for the franchisee while continuing to make money for the corporate brand). Americans appear to prefer running for the border or sitting in the drive thru line at Mickey D’s rather than “trying” an unfamiliar non franchise, especially when traveling.

PACs are analogous to corporate fast food brand franchising. Dime-A-Dawg highlights the difference between the two. With PACs, as with the commercial brands, the primary marketing is of brand distinction to the largest possible base. The national PAC is analogous to a corporate home office. That is where the brand image is fashioned, jealously maintained and financed. It is where the money decisions flow. Because of America’s unique character, state PACs align with the national corporate headquarters while maintaining a certain autonomy. Local PACs are the day to day interface that benefit from brand identity by marketing it in the every day. Dime-A-Dawg produces the same loss leader situation for the local PAC as it does for franchisees of other businesses. The local has to summarily absorb the loss while corporate HQ benefits completely. Newark is no exception to what other local governments in Ohio face. Dime-A-Dawg has the state PAC celebrating a projected state route interchange while the local Newark franchisee takes a loss, unable to maintain deteriorating infrastructure such as paving its own streets (kinda like after a heavy snow the major highways get cleared while the residential streets are required to wait for the next thaw). Dime-A-Dawg exposes the true franchise nature of a democracy that is exclusively governed by PACs. Local elected officials swear by their sacred commitment to the needs of area residents while actively maintaining the priority of a practice that strictly adheres to the corporate brand’s marketing, which ultimately takes precedence.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Prominently Display A Brand

December 13, 2014

In the previous two posts Analysis investigated why a community’s elected “leaders” would actively pursue policies of stasis, of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. This was addressed particularly in terms of why three incumbents would be in such a hurry to declare their candidacy for re-election. Analysis found brand name association to be a partial reason for such eagerness. After all, being in a picture with LeBron James means not only that you like Mr. James but also that LeBron must like you. Otherwise, why would he allow for the image to be reproduced? Brands aggressively and jealously manage how they appear and are marketed. The brand Misters Hall, Bubb, and Ellington so earnestly seek to be pictured with is precisely one promoting the reproduction and maintenance of the status quo. All of this doesn’t answer the question “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?”

Answering this requires being able to identify the status quo, a slippery subject indeed. It camouflages itself within all that is obvious. Once, the status quo was laissez faire urban growth, considered de rigueur and exemplified by cities like Westerville and Newark Ohio. Today the status quo is with urban/community planning and restrictions as found in New Albany or Dublin Ohio. One of the legacies of Newark’s laissez faire days would be the absence of any residential rental property restrictions or requirements. This camouflaged obviousness reveals that there can be status quo within status quo. Webster’s gives “status” as “state or condition of affairs” and “status quo” as “the existing state or condition of affairs”. Within the contemporary digital information age, which changes so quickly, Analysis finds this to be a somewhat incomplete or outdated definition. Today’s account should orbit the incredible statistical capacity of the digital age. And statistics require some fixed, referential ground or starting point. The status quo pre civil rights differs from that post Viet Nam War, even more so within the contemporary. The status quo of sports was totally different pre Title IX than it is today. “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?” can only be answered by specifying what that status quo actually is. Obviously, with an urban environment of over 50,000 people, the status quo of not having comprehensive public transportation benefits the many new and used car dealerships along with the financial institutions that make for lease rental or ownership. But Analysis exposed the role and necessity of brand identification with its created image of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. Who or what benefits from the policies coming from this manufactured personality?

Neil Irwin presents a statistical contribution to this inquiry (with U S Bureau of Labor Statistics). In a piece entitled “Employers Will Have to Raise Wages. They Just Don’t Know It Yet.” (12-10-14), for the online NY Times Upshot, Mr. Irwin points out that “American employers are the equivalent of a shopkeeper who has a “Help Wanted” sign permanently on display in his window, but never actually hires anybody.” “According to the latest Labor Department data, employers had 4.8 million positions they were looking to fill in October. That’s up 25 percent in the last year and 125 percent since the start of the economic expansion in mid-2009. But for all these vacancies, actual hiring isn’t in a similar boom. The number of people hired is up only 12 percent in the last year and 33 percent over the five-year expansion. Or to look at the same numbers a little differently, the ratio of job openings to actual hiring has been higher in the last few months than it has been at any other time in the history of the data (though that only goes back to 2001). Since the current expansion began in mid-2009, employers have increased the number of job openings they say they have, but hiring hasn’t kept pace.” “Despite high unemployment, the ratio of employer openings to workers hired has risen to the highest levels on record. Here’s a theory to try to make sense of the disconnect: During the recession, employers got spoiled. When unemployment was near 10 percent, talented workers were lined up outside their door. The workers they did have were terrified of losing their jobs. If you put out word that you had an opening, you could fill the job almost instantly. That’s why the ratio of job openings to hires fell so low in 2009. As the economy has gotten better the last five years, employers have had more and more job openings, but have been sorely reluctant to accept that it’s not 2009 anymore in terms of what workers they can hire and at what wage.”

Since the financial meltdown and housing mortgage debacle at the twilight of the Bush presidency, the status quo promoted by the major brands in America has been that of the recession it created. Recession is where money goes on strike – meaning it insists on earning more before it will return to the job it has to do. Money should make even more money (the stock market has more than doubled since the start of the recession). According to the Upshot article, that is precisely what is currently “the existing state or condition of affairs.”

Who or what benefits, cashes in on reproducing or maintaining the status quo would be money (which stands to make even more money, especially if wages don’t even increase at the rate of inflation). Brands are manufactured creations that disassociate the maker from the made, much as a magician distracts the attention of the viewer from the actual sleight of hand taking place. Being identified with a brand, like standing next to LeBron James, makes it appear one is part of the global money making apparatus. The Licking County Board of Elections Financial Disclosure Reports show that this is being done for a pittance. The emperor’s new clothes may not be wearing the union label but they prominently display a brand.

Inquiring Minds Need To Know

December 5, 2014

The Newark Advocate recently ran a short but very informative news blurb that, quite frankly, was pretty tough to track down after becoming cage liner. The December 1, 2014 headline reads Three City Leaders Eye Re-election (Advocate staff report). “NEWARK Mayor Jeff Hall, Newark City Council President Don Ellington and at-large Councilman Ryan Bubb, all Republicans, have taken out petitions seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 general election.” This within less than a month after the previous election was completed! The likes of a Romney, Bush, or Paul these guys aren’t. Analysis was struck by the eagerness shown to be first out of the gate. Having just retired (from public service), it is only natural for Mr. Ellington. He’s probably a regular at eatery early bird specials and shows up at the barbershop at 7:30 AM to get his haircut, etc. Analysis thinks there may be enough to surmise that it may be in the family genes to always be first in line for Mr. Bubb. But the mayor? There is little to indicate qualms of conscience or any need for redemption (considering the administration’s history). True, true, true, Newark now has the Hilton name prominently posted above the downtown freeway exit. Could a truck stop be on the horizon? There’s vacant land available to be developed at Locust and Fourth. Easy off, easy on. Analysis is reminded of that awkward time just recent enough to be out of fashion but not long enough ago to be considered history; the one of the pre current Thanksgiving Black Friday. The Black Fridays when folks would camp out days before in order to be first in line to cash in on a good deal. In the case of Newark’s Mayor, Council President and at large Councilperson there is a good deal to be had by being first to cash in, er, claim it. And it certainly is not the affection of the citizenry of Newark. Analysis needs to consider this a little more. After all, inquiring minds need to know. Gannett’s Advocate certainly won’t run an editorial cartoon showing Bubb, Ellington and Hall camping in a tent outside the local political business lobby.

A Tax-Saving Plan For Businesses

November 13, 2014

With the election just barely over, so recent that the last Republican still hasn’t declared victory, those intimately tied to the outcome have already come calling, asking for their due. In an article entitled “Kochs target Republicans on tax breaks” (Politico 11-12-14) Brian Faler recounts “Powerful conservative groups including those backed by the Koch Brothers are pushing Republicans to take a hard line on a raft of expired tax breaks pending in the lame duck, an effort that could jeopardize party leaders’ hopes for a low-drama Congress. Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and others want Republicans to capitalize on their election victory by killing some of the tax “extenders” they’ve long hated, such as a one subsidizing the wind energy industry.” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the November 9, 2014 Newark Advocate ran some apparently disparate pieces on the local election income tax increase that “failed”. Their Opinion (editorial) reflects Analysis’s own pre election prediction – that the tax failed due to a lack of leadership marketing: “You could see it in the tepid push from Republican Mayor Jeff Hall, who seemed concerned about being tied to a tax increase a year before he must seek re-election. Outside a few sparsely attended meetings Hall hosted, there was no push by city leaders to show how paving money has been spent, what the needs are and how bad our streets will be very soon.” Ruing the loss, “That’s sad when you realize the successful flipping of 374 voters would have turned a loss into a win.” And ending with (the second to last line) “What’s perhaps most important though is for our leaders to become more willing to tell our community the stark truth rather even if it’s what they don’t want to hear.” Within that same edition, the paper tries to paint “the stark truth” a Joe Williams report “Roads face more decay without funds New tax not in plans for 2015, mayor says” In excruciating and painful detail, the funding of business street improvements that articulate with business interests is spelled out (downtown streetscapes, total west main rebuild from hospital to new fire station and North 21st St.) while residential streets will get winter cold patch at best, maybe some repaving in 2016. “Will that approach work at least long enough to get to the next round of more-permanent repairs? Some say it hasn’t worked so far, but city officials say they don’t know what other options they have right now. “There’s no magic out there for paving streets,” Hall said. “If there was, why would we go out and ask for more (money)?”” Immediately after the Opinion (editorial) promoting “tell(ing) our community the stark truth rather even if it’s what they don’t want to hear.” space is dedicated to a Guest Column from the community’s professional politician. “One way we have worked to revitalize Ohio’s economy is through the establishment of different kinds of tax credits.” Mr. Hottinger then goes on to recount all of the triumphant tax breaks of the last 4 years and the current bills for more. Ironically, this same paper that dresses itself with the stark truth that the populace does not want to hear printed a story by Chrissie Thompson for the Cincinnati Enquirer just the day before (11-8-14 “Leaders may join tax-bill challenge Cincy mayor says it attacks services”). In it Thompson writes of the initiative by Ohio’s local community leaders to restore their portion of state tax funding (lost over the past 4 years or threatening to be even more so by current House Bill 5). “Newark Mayor Jeff Hall said he would consider supporting a ballot initiative but would first have to see the final version of the bill that passes. “I would surely offer opposition (to the bill) if I thought it was not in the best interest of Newark,” he said. Hall, a former city treasurer, said he does not oppose simplifying municipal tax collections, “as long as it just doesn’t become revenue reduction.” “I question, at times, just how broken the tax system is,” Hall said. “(House Bill 5’s) intentions were to simplify taxes, but part of it has become a tax-saving plan for businesses.””

Now that businesses are persons, it certainly is the case that one person’s tax increase is another’s tax credit.

The Very Public-ness Of Democracy

November 11, 2014

“It’s the economy, stupid.” was the issue of elections in the 1990’s. No matter boom or bust, this has carried through as the case until the recent US Supreme Court Citizen’s United ruling. Since that decision, the focus has shifted widely, unpredictably and spasmodically. What is “the issue” is no longer being determined consensually.

The recent election, with its record low turn out and high stakes implications, was also the first post Citizens United mature exercise of money as speech. It was notably marked by a significant absence of any central consensual issue. It certainly wasn’t the economy, or national security, or jobs. Analysis finds that “non issue” was the predominant characteristic of the recent mid term election. This disparate but central (and ever present) “non issue” was primarily created and driven by the machinations made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling.

Analysis reveals various materializations from this recent “non issue” exercise in democracy. Labor (organizations and unions), the great bug-a-boo equalizer of the pro Citizen United argument, played a practically non existent role within the non issue midterm election. This is (and was only obviously) to be expected. It is impossible and illogical to believe that those whose labor exists solely to benefit and produce wealth for business ownership could ever “outspend” ownership itself. The NFL Player’s Association can never outspend the NFL owners who ultimately make union funding possible. Money, as speech, pretty much pre determines who is speaking (and being heard) now. Much of the ALEC driven legislation that fostered the candidacy and issues meant to undermine and eliminate labor organizations, public or private, was and is central to the recent election outcome (like right to work legislation). Why are organized employees such a threat to business ownership and its associations? Analysis finds that, with money legitimated as speech and the creation/predominance of “non issues” within the publicly accessible but privately owned media of recent elections, compelling reasons emerge. Organizations such as the AARP, NRA, or NAACP, etc. usually involve the exercise of free speech and communication within the organization itself (as well as outside). Newsletters and internal communiqués function to relay, reproduce and reinforce information and outlooks critical to the maintenance of the members’ interest. By eliminating employee based organizations, owners eliminate this communication, this exercise of free speech. Individual teachers, bus drivers, EMT’s, laborers, electricians, etc. become cut off from any speech or communication regarding their particular interests and needs. Employees become totally subservient to whatever issues are created, determined and broadcast by privately owned media. As recently witnessed by the “non issue” election, their genuine interests and needs will not be communicated at all.

Analysis articulates this degradation of democracy with its sibling, the emphasis on restricting access to the ballot box through personal ID requirements. Privately, within the sphere of what is today taken as essential social exchange (communication), an email address is a given presumption. Yet obtaining an email address is not a given. Without an ISP or some form of mobile communication service contract, an email account is not. Be it for reasons of super cookies or just plain old advertising mailing list, account providers (owners) need to know how to keep track of (and be able to contact) the account holder. The same applies for anyone entering the rolls of verifiable electorate. From there it is only a hop and a skip to requiring that the voter’s official ID be regularly “updated and stay current”. Given the Freedom of Information Act and the wonders of computer programming, exclusive and customized communication access to potential voters (customers) is virtually guaranteed. As the recent election just showed, with money as speech, “non issues” can readily be communicated as not only essential but central to upcoming elections. Without access to any alternate communication that is not privately owned (and determined by sale to the highest bidder), election results can be more easily managed by those with the most money. Analysis finds the image of an electorate having its heads bent, preoccupied by smart phones or tablets, totally absorbed within their own private “personal” communications to be rather derogatory of the very public-ness of democracy.

The Center For Server Freedom

April 10, 2014

Like a junkyard dog, the AP has been continuously following the Alice In Wonderland goings on in Tennessee and its VW auto plant. Analysis previously presented media’s obsession with “both sides” of a political story as a “manufactured naturalness” (Polarization 3-24-14). This story, not being followed by most of the media (and Jon Stewart, etc.), genuinely involves the most complex as well as contemporary form of polarization. On 4-1-14 from the AP we learned that the governor (of Tennessee) offered VW a 300 million dollar incentive contingent on “works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee” (“Report: Tenn. offered contingent incentives to VW” AP 4-1-14). Governor Haslam, a virulent opponent of unionization, along with the Republican controlled legislature have linked any future “jobs creator” incentives to VW with the non existence of union representation. Prior to the election, Tennessee’s Republican US Senator, Bob Corker, insinuated that VW’s expansion to a new SUV line was imminent if the vote went against unionization. The election went against union representation. Bob Corker’s promised VW expansion announcement never materialized. Governor Haslam claims the incentives were withdrawn prior to the election outcome. The UAW has sued, claiming undue outside influence. An anti-union group at the plant (The Center for Worker Freedom) counter sued, fearing VW would recognize representation by the UAW without an election. “”If the company lets the union walk in anyway, it will have made clear its contempt not only for its workers and the state of Tennessee, but the democratic principle itself,” Matt Patterson, the group’s executive director, said in the release.” (“Anti-union groups worries of VW recognition of UAW Anti-union group raises concerns that Volkswagen could recognize UAW without vote” AP 4-7-14) All of this has left VW between a rock and a hard place. “Volkswagen wants to create a German-style works council at the plant representing both salaried and blue-collar workers. But to do so, it has said it must work with an independent union” (4-1-14). Yesterday we learned “By German law, labor representatives make up half of the company’s 20-member supervisory board, meaning they have veto power over major management initiatives including the expansion or construction of plants.” (“Volkswagen expansion talks at standstill in Tenn.” AP By ERIK SCHELZIG 4-8-14) “”Local Republican politicians such as Mr. Corker and Mr. Haslam interfered outrageously with the ballot,” said Osterloh [Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s global works council], who reiterated the company position that only economic factors would decide whether the plant would be expanded.” (4-8-14) This recent article summarizes the stalemate superbly: “Since then, the union has challenged the outcome of the vote with the National Labor Relations Board; a top labor representative on Volkswagen’s supervisory board told Chattanooga workers that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam “interfered outrageously” in the election; and the governor has suggested that the state has been unable to engage in negotiations with a VW official with final decision-making power. State incentives for expanding the plant would have to be approved by the state Legislature, which is preparing to adjourn for the year in the next few weeks. But Haslam told reporters last week that there were no active talks with the German automaker.”

Analysis would agree with Alice that this gets “curiouser and curiouser.” There definitely is a profound polarization at play, one with covert as well as overt elements. It is a curiously contemporary American one, though Analysis suspects it is probably global as well. The polarization is certainly not the Marxist “labor vs. management” kind of 50-100 years ago. On the one hand we have a global corporation that includes diversity and labor representation within its decision making process (by choice and design as part of its DNA, one could say). On the other hand we have an ad hoc The Center For Worker Freedom defending the integrity of workers, the State of Tennessee and democratic principles. And then there’s the Republican legislature, administration, and federal representatives of that integrity of the State of Tennessee. What is one to make of all this? Where is the polarity? Citizens United (and now McCutcheon) have made the Center For Worker Freedom possible through the legitimacy of dark money, its untraceable-ness. The AP reported on this aspect of Mr. Patterson’s group earlier this year. A link between the Center’s endeavor to defend American integrity and folks like Haslam, Corker and the Tenn. legislators may be obvious though the evidence and proof are completely circumstantial (thanks to Citizens United and McCutcheon). Analysis wishes to consider two historic figures that cast light on this, Henry Kissinger and Karl Rove. Henry, as President Nixon’s secretary of state, is reported to have claimed it is preferable to work/negotiate with a dictatorship than with a democracy, for a dictator is efficient and predictable, while a democracy is messy and unpredictable. Karl Rove mastered the pay to play exclusivity strategy: If our party controls the purse strings, then you must support us exclusively if you wish to be the recipient of that largesse. Both are readily apparent in the ongoing Tennessee melodrama. It is not a “pro business” Republican party at work there, but rather a Karl Rove “pay to play” exclusivity Republican party – our way or the highway. Analysis finds the polarization to be along the representational, messy democracy versus the highly efficient and lucrative rule of ensconced corporate sales leaders. They are sales leaders for the corporate interests that supply the dark money (not the corporations like VW who do not wish to participate). VW could change all that by “going along to get along”, something it has refused to do. The Ohio connection would be the recent move by the state legislature to define student athletes as not being employees of the institutions they generate revenue for. (Once again, like Tenn. a Republican controlled house, senate, governor and state supreme court). The polarization between representative, messy democracy and rule by corporate sales leaders becomes apparent with this move. It would be only a hop and a skip to legislating that those who serve food are not employees of a restaurant. It is not difficult to imagine a Center For Server Freedom springing up to defend the integrity of servers, the State of Ohio and democratic principles.