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Congressman Faso and the proposed American Health Care Act

Congressman Faso

Today I received an email from my Congressman, John Faso, concerning the proposed American Health Care Act. It included a link to a Republican website that speaks to their proposed legislation and a link to the the actual legislation. Asking me to read the legislation is insulting because though I am fairly literate it is well known that the language of legislation is a swamp of references to other pieces of legislation frequently calling for comprehensive knowledge of the topic to even begin understanding its implications. 

The site also spends a lot of time bad-mouthing Obamacare. I get it. Republicans don’t like Obamacare. The question is how will they improve upon it??

BEHEMOTH (BEI XI MO SHOU) at TSL Hudson

This 2015 movie by Chinese director Liang Zhao is filled with great cinematography and sounds. It trades back and forth between scenes of enormous horizon gulping coal mines, under ground mines, iron making, and ends with scenes of a ghost city filled with enormous apartment blocks in a newly developed but vacant city West of Beijing. But, the most arresting part of the movie is its focus on the workers, men and women, in this relentlessly grim, polluted environment. The only narration is text read over scenes with a nude figure huddled on the ground in front of this devastation. It alludes to Dante’s Inferno.

Behemoth is a refresher course on why capitalism, whether in its American or Chinese variant, needs government regulation, strong regulation to prevent this egregious exploitation of the earth and mankind. Of course this presumes the government is in the hands of the people and nota tool of the rich and corporations. Therein lies the crisis.

The movie runs at TSL over this weekend and the two following. Here is TSL’s calendar.

Also playing at TSL is I Am Not Your Negro, the wonderful, challenging movie about James Baldwin.

The Internet and Demand Management (Advertising)

My friend Joe Keenan recently sent me an article by Vicki Boykis, “Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people” from her blog Woman.Legend.Blog

Today’s internet is mean. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when everyone online became a jerk, but to me it seems that the tipping point occurred right when making money off content started being worth more than the content itself.

Ms. Boykis devotes a lot of attention to the fate of the internet to be just another platform for grabbing our attention to deliver advertising messages.

Of course, since the election, many people, including myself, have finally internalized that Facebook is a burning dumpster fire of memes and political messages that physically exhaust everyone and cause social anxiety, to the point of directly influencing our political process. But, we’re so wired to check for positive reinforcement that we can’t tear ourselves away.

Which brings me to the saddest thing about these platforms: they are taking all of our input and time, and our thoughts, energy, and content, and using all of that for free to make money. Think about how many times you’ve tweeted. Or written or commented on a Facebook post. Or started a Medium draft. These are all our words, locked in proprietary platforms that controls not only how our message is displayed, but how we write it, and even more worrying, how we think about it.

 None of this is new. It is all a predictable extension of the gigantic advertising industry that began its dominance of our culture and our visual landscape in the first decades of the 20th century. It gained strength and penetration into our lives with each communications revolution, radio, TV, now the internet. The internet brings such a granularity of messaging that if you do a few searches in Google for information about Iceland while in Hudson NY you will quickly see advertising pitches for hotels in Iceland appear all around you.

Since we have all grown up in the same corporate fish tank it is hard for us to recognize how complete the reach and scope of the demand management industry is. (Advertising executives referred to their industry with this term back in the 1920s – some economists have continued – see J.K. Galbraith New Industrial State 1978 for example)

Here are a few numbers about global spending on demand management. In 2016 all paid media spending was by region: North America: $202 billion (5.9% of world population), Asia-Pacific: $171 billion (59% world population), Europe: $98 billion (4% of world population) ROW: $90 billion.1  So you can see how intensive the bombardment is here.

This intense focus on demand management is reflected in the amount of retail space there is here compared to other developed countries.

Since 1995, the number of shopping centers in the U.S. has grown by more than 23% and GLA (total gross leasable area) by almost 30%, while the population has grown by less than 14%. Currently there is close to 25 square feet of retail space per capita (roughly 50 square feet, if small shopping centers and independent retailers are added). In contrast, Europe has about 2.5 square feet per capita.
…….The primary and underlying reason for this condition, and why it will continue ad infinitum, is that growth expectations/demands of shareholders, independent owners and Wall Street are higher than the growth of the real economy. And this has been the case for at least the last 25 years2

I point out these facts to suggest that our troubles with advertising on the internet fits into the long-term strategy of capitalists to grab our attention and shove their messages down our throats with ever increasing intensity. This is not new, we are just in a new technically more sophisticated era.

One idea about controlling advertising might be to require the facts and claims mentioned in advertising to in fact be verifiable. We are all intensely upset over our new age on non-fact, counter-fact, alternative-fact politics. Yet, for decades we have allowed advertisers to lie and cheat without bounds in their promotions. An effective enforcement of the  Truth in Advertising Law would be a start.But that would require a government controlled by the people not the corporations and rich.

  1. https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Worldwide-Ad-Spending-Growth-Revised-Downward/1013858 []
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinlewis/2015/03/17/retail-in-2015-a-reality-check/#517594ca27ef []

Congressman Faso’s Challenge

Today I received an email from Congressman Faso’s campaign committee. It read in part:

Friend,

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) today released a memo claiming Democrats are “starting the 2018 election cycle on offense.” This is an alarming statement on many levels. For one, they really do see the future of our nation as nothing more than a political game. They are also choosing to completely ignore the American people by not acknowledging the sweeping Republican victories from just two months ago.

The most worrisome item in the memo is that the DCCC listed my seat as a “Round One Target.” I was sworn in less than a month ago and already the Washington Establishment is targeting my district as one to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into in order to install the liberal candidate of their choice.

The email then went on asking me to donate to his re-election campaign!

Here is my reply:

What’s Happenin’ at HAL??

A quick run down the screen on your smartphone reveals the range of activities at the Hudson Area Library. We won’t mention here all of the other groups using the Community Room for their meetings and events. Then take a look at the January ’17 E-Newsletter at the bottom.

January ’17 E-Newsletter

Open the news letter here.

BTW – you can sign up for the HAL e-newsletter here.

 

Hudson Provides a Positive Sign for Democracy

img_1849Amidst all of the hand wringing about the Presidential election, both its process and outcome,  we can note that Hudson conducted a little experiment in democratic direct action that at the local level will likely produce interesting positive results in the future.

E-Books Flatline; Books (Paper) Return Like Zombies

As the Web was becoming ubiquitous in the early haze of the 21st century the wonders of Google search displaced Altavista and other engines in the search wars. Web wags declared that the age of books, actually all paper-based media, to be over. The Web would quickly provide universal access to all of human knowledge on your computer. This even before the iPhone and Android brought the Internet to our hand and thumbs. Amazon and Apple launched their tablet reading devices, Kindle and iPad. Others followed. The numbers are truly amazing. Over 2 billion tablet computers were sold between 2010 and today. The sale of e-books rose enormously.

On the way to the funeral books proved to be the zombies of the paper media world. Newspapers and magazines have continued to decline.

The Transformation of Libraries

Wilcox Public Library, Wilcox AZ

Wilcox Public Library, Wilcox AZ

For centuries private and institutional libraries have been about the storage and retrieval of information on paper. They were hushed spaces where stern librarians guarded the paper and maintained the decorum. Even public libraries bent towards this model. But, today, public libraries throughout the US, in fact around the world, have transformed themselves in the span of fifteen to twenty years. They embraced the internet, have become a key access point, and expanded into a place for engagement, learning, and creation. This transformation occurred based on the values held by libraries and their users, direct input from users, and the library staff’s guidance and experimentation.

(download a PDF version of this essay here)

“The True Size of Africa” – immappancy revisited

For years I have been disturbed by my lack of knowledge of Africa. This lead me years ago, stimulated by Michael Crichton’s pulp novel Congo, to investigate Mercator maps and the true size of Africa. You can find  some of that in an earlier twice revised post,  “Michael Crichton’s Congo and the Transformation of the Western Mind“.

Now comes a more compelling graphic from Kai Krause, “The True Size of Africa“.12

The True Size of Africa by Kai Krause

click on map to get larger image.

 

  1. I found the graphic and reference in the 10/10/2010 Economist []
  2. I am not the first to discover this map – Google “true size of africa” []