Posts Tagged ‘Learned Helplessness’

Act Like An Owner

November 28, 2019

Pulitzer Prize winning author and investigative reporter David Cay Johnston ended a conversation with Chauncey DeVega (11-27-19) by saying:

“Nov. 3 is coming. We have the power, it’s our country, we own it. We own our government. We should act like owners. What we’re seeing in Donald Trump, who is just the symptom of deeper problems, is the wages of 40 years of people renting out their interest in the government, saying, “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” We can’t do that if we want to be a free people. The American people must be civically engaged. Having to go vote and volunteer some time is nothing compared to all of those gravesites in the Philippines, in France and in Germany, of American soldiers who died for this country. All those Americans in the Union who died in the Civil War. To not be a citizen is to disrespect what they gave up their lives for. We need to take the responsibility of being a citizen seriously. Not just talk. Not just griping on the internet. Act like an owner. It’s important.”

Analysis finds this statement to contribute a partial accounting for the dismal results of the recent Newark Ohio city wide election; dismal, not in the sense of outcome but for the historic low voter turnout, in an election determining three at large city council representatives as well as the mayor‘s office. “Voter participation in the Newark mayoral race fell to the lowest level in a quarter century, with fewer than 10,000 votes cast for the first time since at least 1991. Mayor Jeff Hall, a Republican, won a third term with fewer than 5,000 votes in a growing city of 50,000 residents and 30,000 registered voters. Voter turnout in the city dropped to 27.6%, down from 36% in 2015, and 43% in 2011. Turnout in mayoral election years varied from 41% to 48% from 1995 through 2011. In 1995, when the city had 6,000 fewer residents, 12,300 voted, or 48%. This year, only 8,403 voted for mayor.” (Kent Mallet, The Advocate, Voter turnout in Newark hits quarter century low in mayoral elections,11-24-19). Analysis doesn’t know where to begin. For all the rhetoric and reassurance by the Democratic candidates of engaging the community and being out in the neighborhoods the fact remained that they just couldn’t get people to come out and vote. This resonates ominously on a state wide as well as a national election level. What good is all the talk of “electability,” bemoaning gerrymandering and vote suppression when you can’t deliver existing registered voters to the polls, not to even entertain the vote itself? Perhaps the emphasis and focus is awry. It is common knowledge, reinforced by US Census data, that almost exactly half of Newark residential housing is non-owner occupant. By correlation one could legitimately surmise that half the registered voters are renters. Maybe the actual and real challenge coming up in 2020 is overcoming the “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” disposition prevalent in America today (and ever growing). With an incumbent who spends lifetime’s of presidential salaries on golf and potential Democratic Party candidates vying for the nomination to oppose him including multiple billionaires, no wonder the American electorate feels inclined to “Let somebody else take care of it. We’re going to behave like renters.” It appears to be no more than a replacement of one landlord for another. Few non-GOP politicians are cultivating the message that “it’s our country, we own it. We own our government. We should act like owners.”. Rather it’s “if we win, we can stop being renters.” Really (and if we lose?)? “We need to take back our country.” Like it wasn’t always ours? And even varying articulations of “negotiating a better deal.” Sounds a lot like renewing a rental agreement to begin with! Analysis finds it to be no coincidence that the Democrat party’s challenge in 2020 is one of displacing an actual and for real landlord. But then what? The real challenge remains one of “We need to take the responsibility of being a citizen seriously. Not just talk. Not just griping on the internet. Act like an owner.”

Self Driving Cars

July 11, 2019

This week ABC News did a small piece headlined Rapid decline in honey bee population ‘unsustainable,’ experts say (7-10-19). No biggie. We’ve seen articles like this covering global warming, environment, bees, algae blooms, etc. for the past two decades. They are chock full of statistics, projections, interviews with pedigreed experts, dire predictions, and sometimes even politicians. Reading them is almost a kind of perverse rote learning, actually reinforcing learned helplessness in those they intend to inform. In short, they are the norm, as seasonal and uneventful as weather news, school lunch menus, or the local festival calendar. Buried deep in the ABC article was “The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it has suspended data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies survey due to budgetary reasons, just weeks after researchers reported that nearly 40% of managed honey bee colonies in the country were lost over the past winter. “The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources,” a July 1 statement from the USDA read. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service report is only one of three major bee surveys published each year, Mulica [Matthew Mulica, senior project manager at the Keystone Policy Center, a consulting company that works with the Honey Bee Health Coalition] said. The Bee Informed Partnership and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also file reports that are widely used in the industry, he added.” Same day, different news source headlined Intelligence aide, blocked from submitting written testimony on climate change, resigns from State Dept. (Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, 7-10-19). “Rod Schoonover — who worked in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues — spoke before the House Intelligence Committee on June 5 about the security risks the United States faces because of climate change. But White House officials would not let him submit the bureau’s written statement that climate impacts could be “possibly catastrophic,” after the State Department refused to cut references to federal scientific findings on climate change.” “One of the statements White House officials objected to was this observation: “Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant — possibly catastrophic — harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”” As mentioned repeatedly in previous blog posts, the CDC is forbidden by federal law from tracking gun related deaths and injuries. And we all know what happens with White House administrators, managers and spokespeople whose lexicon strays from “wonderful”, “remarkable”, or “amazing”. The privatization of American Government is becoming akin to a new car dealership –- they are always pitch perfect, or rather, what they pitch is always perfect. Their cars never catch fire or roll over in crashes. Indeed, they aren’t in the business of keeping tabs on car crashes. Bad news can be dismissed as fake news since it can’t be officially sourced. See, no one is keeping track. Are you?

The Bubble

January 30, 2019

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

 

Grover Must Be Smiling Today

January 15, 2019

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