Friday, December 01, 2006

The New Sabbatarianism- Part I

This past week, the Philadelphia Business Journal published a front-page and several accompanying page articles about the casino industry. They begin their front page encomium with the words, “It is exceedingly rare that a state would create an entirely new industry.” Another article begins: “With two casino projects totaling at least $700 million in combined development costs looming on the horizon in Philadelphia, local builders are poised to get a piece of the action once a winning project is selected.”

The article went on to report that these projects far outstrip recent major developments in Philadelphia construction history, including the $543 million international airport terminal. Still another article reports that casino operations are pledged to support nonprofit institutions, making the following statement without any apparent irony: “At the same time, statistics and experience suggest that the new gaming halls will create new compulsive gamblers, some of whom will turn to nonprofits for help.”

Tax relief experts are not far behind in chiming the advantages to Philadelphia. Bernard Anderson, a professor at Penn, enthuses that "the arrival of casinos in Philadelphia is going to be the [city's] most important economic development venture in the last half century." Then he adds, as if the absurdity of it suddenly broke through his trance: "I really believe that."

Other articles intone that “slots save[d] racetracks from ruin” and that local law firms are lining up for a chunk of the goods through the granting of gaming licenses. Likewise, the workforce will benefit from the manna of gaming. “We are talking to all the local universities about not only training, but ongoing course work that will start to create a pipeline of qualified applicants as we become bigger in the future,” said Philadelphia Park CEO David Jonas.

Finally, to top the pie-in-the-sky, it was learned that Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell signed into law a provision that will allow casinos to serve free drinks to customers.

In another local development, the employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer are currently on strike because the new owners insist that 190 jobs must be cut because the paper has not been bringing in adequate advertising revenues. Owners blame the Internet for cutting into newspaper advertising sales, but apparently never mention the news side of the affair. I mean, do people read newspapers to get news? Brian Tierney, the new owner of the Inquirer, is partnered with an associate of the Toll Housing empire (all those huge plywood mansions in fake English styles sprouting up in formerly productive meadows and fields, and which people now are starting to evince a disinclination to buy) and came into great fanfare, when he bought the paper, as a “Local Owner” (as opposed to absentee ownership) even though many people criticized him because he is Catholic. (The preponderant Jewish ownership of the American media somehow escapes the radar screen.)

Whether Catholic or not, Brian Tierney apparently believes in the Market Gospel with all of his heart, mind and soul. It does not seem to have elicited his interest that the Philadelphia Inquirer is a mediocre paper that degrades and ill-serves this once-great city, the founding city of American Constitutional government. Few people complained when the Philly Inquirer joined the anti-Catholic crusade against molesting priests, a campaign fomented by District of Attorney Lynne Abraham, a member of Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Defamation League. Priests who had been accused but not convicted of sexual misdemeanors had their faces and biographies published on the Inquirer website week after week -–a good example of how readily the management of that paper was willing to throw the Catholic Church to the mob.
Nobody seems to object when fanatic neocons like Charles Krauthammer regularly publish their crusading tirades or when “neoliberal” economists like the recent writer from Pat Robertson’s Regent University published an op-ed steaming with fetid falsehoods concerning the public debt. Few people dissented when the Inquirer ecstatically greeted the ignorant and stupendously misinformed opinion of Judge Jones, of Dover fame, in his ruling against the Intelligent Design movement.
Likewise, the Inquirer's positive spin on the Franklin Museum's grisly display of human corpses in the plastination exhibit "Body Worlds" hardly elicited a murmur of dissent, and Penn "bioethicists" like Arthur Kaplan or Paul Wolpe can always find editorial space to tout the "educational value" of such exhibitions, or the magical possibilities of high-tech cannibalism, i.e. embryonic stem-cell research.
These are just a few of the turds left behind in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s steady march to the drumbeat of the New World Order. But at least with the Inquirer, one may discuss the corruption of business, whereas with the arrival of the gambling casino “industry,” we have to do with the business of corruption. It is, so to speak, a neat turn, and one that Americans have been performing with agility and near-invisibility on the world stage for a quarter-century. However, it seems to have escaped the perceptual capacity or analytic ability of Inquirer editors even to question the ruling regime's total commitment to mammonism with its distortions of truth, subversion of the public good, and insouciant disregard for humane, civilizational, or ecological values all across the spectrum of life.
After all, such analysis does not compute in the "advertising revenues," and perpetual mediocrity assures steady sales. The hollowing out of the American economy seems rarely to occupy the minds of the Inquirer's economics editor, and the deeper question of what "productivity" is, even in economic terms, is simply beneath notice.
The "life on the ground," as with those poor Inquirer employees who are about to lose their jobs -- as again with the thousands recently laid off by the Ford Motor Company -- is no longer real to the pundits, who have likewise abandoned the first duty of reason, which is, to connect thought with life. Given this situation, it is perhaps not surprising that the Philadelphia Business Journal has now appeared with an issue in our midst extolling the casino "industry."
I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal:
Dear---I have a strong objection to your glowing review of gambling as an “industry.”Gambling is a predatory activity that particularly negatively impacts the poor. It fosters illusionism, the idea that you can get something for nothing, and the get-rich-quick mentality. All of these have had a devastating effect upon the American character – and economy. I think your fatuous coverage of gambling in Philadelphia was socially destructive, irresponsible,short-sighted, superficial, poorly thought out, and lacking in social and moral insight.
~~ And received the following genial reply from “Bernie”: “I'm happy to run this. Thanks for your opinion. Typically a letter would run with a place of residence under the author's name. Can you provide that please?”
Hey, Bernie, always glad to oblige.
This is a list of complaints against the Inquirer's coverage of local issues and its neoconservative propensity in its op-ed columns.
However, the Inquirer has not seemed to me to be rabidly pro-war in its own editorials, and the excellent work of foreign correspondent, Trudy Rubin, has always elicited my appreciation and respect. The new owner does not seem to appreciate the value of foreign correspondents. Rubin reports today that Brian Tierney remarked to a Washington Post media critic that, "I can get what's going on in Iraq online. What I can't get is what's happening in this region." ("The latest casualty: detailed foreign news," Sunday, Dec. 3)
Tierney's concern for regional focus is not to be deplored, but why the zero-sum mentality, why the idea that good international coverage means less regional coverage? Rubin remarks that mid-sized papers all over the country are shutting down their foreign news bureaus, but that "As you look back at the coverage of the Iraq story,... you'll see that some of the bravest, most informative analysis was done by correspondents from mid-size papers." The commitment to excellence and quality news reporting is what will bring the Inquirer back from the grave.
"Quality" is not a materialized entity like "sales," although quality is ultimately the driver of sales. "Quality" is a spiritual value, a vertical or hierarchical concept that diffuses from the coherence of commitment. The inability of corporate managers to think dynamically, that is, in terms of interacting vertical and horizontal considerations, is the ultimate cause of poor business performance and "flat" sales.

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