17 January 2017

[NEW] ISSUES FOR YOUR TOP-OF-MIND AWARENESS…

0005 by Jeff Hess

In the past I’ve asked if the DAPL protest could become this century’s Wounded Knee. I’m now thinking that Tienanmen Square might be the better comparison.

[Update @ 0533 on 17 January: Environmental Racism is the idea that corporations, knowing that their facilities or byproducts of production present environmental and health hazards, locate these dangerous operations in communities the least likely to muster real opposition. This, in part, helps to explain why petroleum pipe lines pass through Indian lands—Wisconsin Tribe Votes to Evict Oil Pipeline From Its Reservation.]

[Update @ 0636 on 16 January: This has to be the most outrageous yet accurate lede I’ve ever seen—In response to numerous complaints by North Dakota citizens about protesters blocking traffic, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow motorists to run them over without consequence. So, bill sponser Keith Kempenich wants to create special permission for vehicular homicide. Does it count if they don’t tap the brakes Keith?]

[Update @ 0640 on 15 January: One of my mantras is the only correct response to objective speech is more speech. LaWanna Durbin letter is right on point—Letter: Standing Rock, oil spills.] —More…

the counted
top of mind

End Our Racism Xenophobia… [New] Stop Global Warming… Free Raif Badawi…

There are a number of stories and themes that I come back to again and again. My friend Eric Vessels once wrote that I do a consistently good job of following up, and Scene Magazine said that my daily posts remind the public of Cleveland controversies long after the local media gets bored and moves on.

So, that is what I’m attempting to do here with three stories: our ongoing conversation on Racism Xenophobia in America, the vital need to slam the brakes on Global Warming/Climate Change and the struggle to free Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

While this post is stuck to the top of my blog as a constant reminder to my readers and myself, new stories on many other topics do appear below.

Enjoy. Think, Discuss, Act…

wayback-machine-smallOne Year Ago* at Have Coffee Will WriteFive Years Ago at Have Coffee Will WriteTen Years Ago at Have Coffee Will Write… *As I post these reminders of the past year at Have Coffee Will Write, I want us all to be reminded of the presidential race and presidency that we might have had if Bernie had not been shut out by the DNC.

17 January 2017

WE NEED TO FREE OURSELVES FROM THE NOISE…

0700 by Jeff Hess

Back in September, in COULD I BE AS BRAVE AS ANDREW SULLIVAN…?, I noted Cal Newport’s analysis of Andrew Sullivan’s essay in New York Magazine: I Used to Be a Human Being. Yesterday, while filing a box of papers I came across my high-lighted copy of the article and want to share two passages that I found enlightening. The first reminds me of an observation I made years ago about how the first video camera in my extended family changed family events.

The first time the camera made an appearance—they were ghastly huge things in the ’80s—the family was fascinated and after the father of the birthday girl spent more than an hour videotaping the party, everyone rushed into the television room to watch the tape. I knew then that nothing good would come of this technology. Sullivan had a similar experience more recently.

Things that usually escaped me began to intrigue me. On a meditative walk through the forest on my second day, I began to notice not just the quality of the autumnal light through the leaves but the splotchy multicolors of the newly fallen, the texture of the lichen on the bark, the way in which tree roots had come to entangle and overcome old stone walls. The immediate impulse—to grab my phone and photograph it—was foiled by an empty pocket. So I simply looked. At one point, I got lost and had to rely on my sense of direction to find my way back. I heard birdsong for the first time in years. Well, of course, I had always heard it, but it had been so long since I listened.

My goal was to keep thought in its place. “Remember,” my friend Sam Harris, an atheist meditator, had told me before I left, “if you’re suffering, you’re thinking.” The task was not to silence everything within my addled brain, but to introduce it to quiet, to perspective, to the fallow spaces I had once known where the mind and soul replenish. [Emphasis mine, JH]

Sullivan, a Catholic whose roots run deep, comes back to his beliefs as he wrestles with what technology has done to him.

In his survey of how the modern West lost widespread religious practice, A Secular Age, the philosopher Charles Taylor used a term to describe the way we think of our societies. He called it a “social imaginary”—a set of interlocking beliefs and practices that can undermine or subtly marginalize other kinds of belief. We didn’t go from faith to secularism in one fell swoop, he argues. Certain ideas and practices made others not so much false as less vibrant or relevant. And so modernity slowly weakened spirituality, by design and accident, in favor of commerce; it downplayed silence and mere being in favor of noise and constant action. The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn [Emphasis, here and below, mine, JH].

The English Reformation began, one recalls, with an assault on the monasteries, and what silence the Protestants didn’t banish the philosophers of the Enlightenment mocked. Gibbon and Voltaire defined the Enlightenment’s posture toward the monkish: from condescension to outright contempt. The roar and disruption of the Industrial Revolution violated what quiet still remained until modern capitalism made business central to our culture and the ever-more efficient meeting of needs and wants our primary collective goal. We became a civilization of getting things done—with the development of America, in some ways, as its crowning achievement. Silence in modernity became, over the centuries, an anachronism, even a symbol of the useless superstitions we had left behind. The smartphone revolution of the past decade can be seen in some ways simply as the final twist of this ratchet, in which those few remaining redoubts of quiet — the tiny cracks of inactivity in our lives—are being methodically filled with more stimulus and noise.

Which Shakespeare noted more than four centuries ago, is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

17 January 2017

RENACCI RUSHES TO FURTHER GUT PROTECTIONS…

0600 by Jeff Hess

House Resolution 5, The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017—obfuscately described by sponsor Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) as a bill: To reform the process by which Federal agencies analyze and formulate new regulations and guidance documents, to clarify the nature of judicial review of agency interpretations, to ensure complete analysis of potential impacts on small entities of rules, and for other purposes (I love the and other purposes)—passed the House of Representatives last Tuesday with the help of my Congressional representative Jim Renacci, (R-OH-16). Renacci cast two votes in favor of Republican amendments to the resolution that passed (237/185 and 260/161) and against eight Democratic amendments that failed.

Renacci, of course, voted in favor of the final version of H.R. 5, which passed 238/183.)

Welcome to 2017.

Consumer Reports and Consumers Union (representing the 99 percent) had this to say:

Dear Representative:

Consumer Reports and its policy and mobilization arm, Consumers Union, urge you to vote no on H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017. This dangerous proposal would do severe damage to protections consumers depend on for health, safety, and honest treatment.

Congress has charged federal agencies with protecting the public from threats such as tainted food, hazardous products, dirty air and water, and predatory financial schemes. It established these agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so that public protections could be overseen by professional civil servants with specific technical and scientific expertise. In developing regulations, agencies must act in accordance with the statute and with established rulemaking procedures that require transparency and full opportunity for public input, including input from the industry that will be subject to the regulation.

We agree that the regulatory process can certainly be improved. We stand ready to support constructive efforts to reduce delays and costs while preserving important protections.

However, rather than streamlining and improving the regulatory process, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 would make current problems even worse. Under H.R. 5, agencies would be required to undertake numerous costly and unnecessary additional analyses for each rulemaking, which could grind proposed rules to a halt while wasting agencies’ resources. Collectively, these measures would create significant regulatory and legal uncertainty for businesses, increase costs to taxpayers and businesses alike, and prevent the executive branch from keeping regulations up to date with the rapidly changing modern economy.

One of the most damaging effects of H.R. 5 is that it would, with only limited exceptions, require federal agencies to identify and adopt the “least costly” alternative of a rule it is considering. Currently, landmark laws like the Clean Air Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, and Securities Exchange Act require implementing agencies to put top priority on the public interest. H.R. 5 would reverse this priority by requiring agencies to value the bottom-line profits of the regulated industry over their mission to protect consumers and a fair, well-functioning marketplace.

H.R. 5 also includes several other damaging measures that have not been included previously as part of the Regulatory Accountability Act. These measures would add unjustifiable costs and uncertainty to the rulemaking process, and greatly impair regulatory agencies’ work.

Contrary to its name, the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act” (Title II of H.R. 5) would disrupt the carefully developed constitutional balance between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Courts giving appropriate deference to reasonable agency interpretations of their own statutes, as reflected in Chevron U.S.A., Inc., v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984), is a well-settled approach that promotes sound and efficient agency enforcement, with effective judicial review. Under the Chevron doctrine, courts retain full judicial power to review agency legal interpretations, but do not simply substitute their own judgment for an agency’s. Chevron recognizes that agencies accumulate uniquely valuable expertise in the laws they administer, which makes deference from reviewing courts—which do not have that expertise—appropriate.

Overturning this approach would lead to disaster. It would severely hamper effective regulatory agency enforcement of critical protections on which consumers depend. As the Supreme Court stated in City of Arlington, Tex. v. F.C.C., 133 S. Ct. 1863, 1874 (2013): “Thirteen Courts of Appeals applying a totality-of-the-circumstances test would render the binding effect of agency rules unpredictable and destroy the whole stabilizing purpose of Chevron. The excessive agency power that the dissent fears would be replaced by chaos.” Such a move also would needlessly force the courts to repeatedly second-guess agency decisions that the courts have already concluded the agency is in the best position to make.

The REVIEW Act and the ALERT Act (Titles IV and V of H.R. 5) would cause additional needless and damaging delays to public protections. The REVIEW Act—which would block “high-impact” rules until every industry legal challenge has run its full course—would tie up agencies in court indefinitely, potentially making it impossible to address pressing national problems. The ALERT Act would subject most new rules to a delay of at least six months, and require agencies to waste resources complying with repetitive reporting requirements.

Like the bill’s proponents, we believe regulations should be smart, clear, and cost-effective. However, H.R. 5 does not accomplish this objective. Instead of improving the regulatory process, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 would make it dramatically slower, more costly to the nation, and far less effective at protecting health, safety, and other essential consumer priorities.

We strongly urge you to stand up for critical public protections and vote no on H.R. 5.

Sincerely,

Laura MacCleery
Vice President
Consumer Policy and Mobilization
Consumer Reports

George P. Slover
Senior Policy Counsel
Consumers Union

William C. Wallace
Policy Analyst
Consumers Union

In the first week back in office, Jim Renacci has acted to make the lives of the people living in Ohio’s 16th district more dangerous while helping to ensure that the oligarchs can keep more of their wealth at our expense.

Shame on you Renacci.

16 January 2017

HOW POOR CAN YOU BE AND BE ON THE LIST…?

0400 by Jeff Hess

Over the last few days I found myself wondering just how much money you need to be on the list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. The number comes from Forbes which annually publishes the Forbes 400. The most recent list, 2016, puts Bill Gates at the top with $81 billion, $14 billion ahead of No. 2 Jeff Bezos.

Charles and David Koch, the psychopathic and Libertarian brothers largely responsible for the election of Donald John Trump on 8 November of last year, are at No. 7 with $42 billion and the family I love to hate, the descendants of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, are at nos. 11, 12, 13, 37, 80, 87 and 124 with a combined $134 billion, making them the richest family in the United States.

Who’s at the bottom? Five people share that distinction—Carol Jenkins Barnett, Nicolas Berggruen, Timothy Boyle, Christopher Cline, Jen-Hsun Huang and Gail Miller—with with fortunes rated at a piddling $1.7 billion

So, where is president-elect Donald John Trump? He comes in at No. 156 in an 18-way tie with other billionaires in the single digit mark of 3.7 billion.

This will we will find our Oligarchs. Not everyone on the list has earned that title, but many have or aspire to do so. These are the people that Citizens United empowered to buy the American political system. I used to be fond of suggesting that the U.S. Senate was the most exclusive club in the world, but that club is now largely owned by the Club of 400.

Andrew Carnegie was fond of saying that his secret was to put all his eggs in one basket and then never take your eyes of that basket. The Forbes 400 contains all the eggs, some good but many bad, and we need, to steal a sentiment from Winston Churchill to Never, never, never, never, never, never take our eyes off that basket.

16 January 2017

OBAMA’S MISSED CHANCE THAT CREATED TRUMP…

0300 by Jeff Hess

I voted for Barack Hussein Obama in 2008, but not in 2012. While I fully understand the emotional and symbolic importance of President Obama, he won election and re-election because he was the best in a really horrible field of candidates, and in the years following the historic 2008 election of President Obama, the disastrously failed Democratic National Committee covered its ears and made lalalala sounds while Republican National Committee offered up Mitt Romney as a sacrificial lamb in 2012 and allowed president-elect Donald John Trump stomped all over the occupants of the Republican clown car in 2016.

Gary Younge, writing in How Barack Obama paved the way for Donald Trump for The Guardian, makes his case:

As Obama passes the keys and the codes to Donald Trump at the end of this week, so many liberals mourn the passing of what has been, remain in a state of disbelief for what has happened, and express deep anxiety about what is to come. It is a steep cliff – politically, rhetorically and aesthetically – from the mocha-complexioned consensual intellectual to the permatanned, “pussy-grabbing” vulgarian.

But there is a connection between the “new normal” and the old that must be understood if resistance in the Trump era is going to amount to more than Twitter memes driven by impotent rage and fuelled by flawed nostalgia. This transition is not simply a matter of sequence – one bad president following a good one – but consequence: one horrendous agenda made possible by the failure of its predecessor.

As I’ve listened to and read reflections about the past eight years, I’m not hearing about how America is better for President Obama having been at the helm, but rather I see story after story about what I can only characterize as style. I don’t want style from the President of the United States, I want substance. I didn’t see that in the first four years and that was why I didn’t vote a second time for President Obama. (For the record, I’ve only voted twice for a single President: Jimmy Carter, who, despite the popular vilification, remains, in my estimation, the best American leader of my adult life.) Younge continues:

Racism’s role should not be underplayed, but its impact can arguably be overstated. While Trump evidently emboldened existing racists, it’s not obvious that he created new ones. He received the same proportion of the white vote as Mitt Romney in 2012 and George W Bush in 2004. It does not follow that because Trump’s racism was central to his meaning for liberals, it was necessarily central to his appeal for Republicans.

There is a deeper connection, however, between Trump’s rise and what Obama did—or rather didn’t do—economically. He entered the White House at a moment of economic crisis, with Democratic majorities in both Houses and bankers on the back foot. Faced with the choice of preserving the financial industry as it was or embracing far-reaching reforms that would have served the interests of those who voted for him, he chose the former.

For whatever reasons, Obama caved.

Just a couple of months into his first term he called a meeting of banking executives. “The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability,” one of them told Ron Suskind in his book Confidence Men. “At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.” People lost their homes while bankers kept their bonuses and banks kept their profits.

In 2010 Damon Silvers of the independent congressional oversight panel told Treasury officials: “We can either have a rational resolution to the foreclosure crisis, or we can preserve the capital structure of the banks. We can’t do both.” They chose the latter. Not surprisingly, this was not popular. Three years into Obama’s first term 58 percent of the country—including an overwhelming majority of Democrats and independents—wanted the government to help stop foreclosures. His Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, did the opposite, setting up a programme that would “foam the runway” for the banks.

Did Obama know something that Younge, I and the rest of the world didn’t know? Possibly. I would think, however, that if that were the case, we would have heard about that before the 2016 election. The Obama legacy will not be the Affordable Care Act, his legacy will be the missed opportunity to end too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Younge concludes:

This time last year, fewer than four in 10 were happy with Obama’s economic policies. When asked last week to assess progress under Obama 56 percent of Americans said the country had lost ground or stood still on the economy, while 48% said it had lost ground on the gap between the rich and poor—against just 14% who said it gained ground. These were the Obama coalition – black and young and poor – who did not vote in November, making Trump’s victory possible. Those whose hopes are not being met: people more likely to go to the polls because they are inspired about a better future than because they fear a worse one.

Naturally, Trump’s cabinet of billionaires will do no better and will, in all likelihood, do far worse. And even as we protest about the legitimacy of the “new normal”, we should not pretend it is replacing something popular or effective. The old normal was not working. The premature nostalgia for the Obamas in the White House is not a yearning for Obama’s policies.

The horror of a Trump presidency may make us nostalgic for Obama, but Younge is right: we must remember how we got here.

15 January 2017

WHAT THE OBAMA CARE FIGHT IS REALLY ABOUT…

0700 by Jeff Hess

New grandfather Mano Singham, writing in The winners and losers of Obamacare repeal, has the story—ACA Repeal Would Lavish Medicare Tax Cuts on 400 Highest-Income Households, Each Would Get Average Tax Cut of About $7 Million a Year:
.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has released a report that shows why the Republicans are so eager to repeal the Affordable Care Act even if there is nothing to replace it with. The reason is not surprising: it would result in a huge tax cut for the wealthy, which is the only thing that matters these days.

Always, always follow the money.

14 January 2017

WRITERS ARE WAKED BY OUR CREATIVE MINDS…

0700 by Jeff Hess

There is something magical and damning about the moment when I slip over the edge and tumble into sleep. The magical part is the sweetness of the images that slide past in the fall. The damning part is the frantic need to scramble for a handhold like Kirk or Scotty, so that I can quickly write down those thoughts and not lose them (as I always will) to the rest of the night’s sleep.

Tessa Hadley, writing in Some of my best ideas come in the bath for The Guardian’s My Writing Day series, describes the moment this way:

Of course when I’m in the thick of writing, working on a novel or a story day after day, then I am thinking about it a lot, I’m absorbed in it. Some of my best ideas come in the bath, or in bed just after I’ve put the light out; I have to put the light on again, apologising, and get out of the bed to fetch my notebook. These aren’t usually ideas for sentences, or images; they’re more likely to be the shapes of things that could happen, or must happen, to my characters. There is a dreamy moment just before sleep carries me away, when imagination is especially good at foreseeing, feeling its way to the true next thing. What would he do, after that had happened? What would become of her, after she found out? How might that next scene unfold?

I also found the next bit, what happens when you stray from a project.

Once I’ve left the novel alone for a few days, however, I stop moving around inside its spaces of possibility. The unfinished novel feels like a room shut up inside me; going about the business of my other life I’m aware of it but don’t open the closed door to look inside, though I keep its key in my pocket, fingering it sometimes to remind myself. And then the day comes – unremarkable to anyone else, remarkable to me – when I sit down to my novel again at last. Huge trepidation. At first I can’t remember being the person who chose these words, this story; I can hardly remember what it was I wrote just before I left off. When I read the novel through, I may see from the cool distance that comes with separation that it’s all wrong: too prosy and dull, or too exposed and raw, or fake.

Enticing the muse to return becomes more difficult with each passing morning, which is why Walter Mosley’s sage advice is so important:

If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. The consistency, the monotony, the certainty, all vagaries and passions are covered by this daily reoccurrence.

You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.

Yes she does.

14 January 2017

LIVING IN OHIO’S 16TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT…

0600 by Jeff Hess

170114 ohio 16th congressional district jim renacci

Back in November of 2012 I moved from Cleveland Heights, Ohio—one of the most progressive communities in Cuyahoga County represented by Democratic 11th District Congresswoman Marcia Fudge—to North Royalton, Ohio, represented by Republican 16th District Congressman Jim Renacci. When I talk to my progressive friends I joke that I moved from Cleveland Heights to the Anti-Cleveland Heights. North Royalton is a lovely, friendly, bedroom community and I’ve never felt unwelcome here, but the Trump signs, including one mini-billboard still standing, and the Gadsen flags, including one at the end of my street, are very much in evidence.

I’ve been reading Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda and one of the first pieces of advice is to closely follow The Tea Party playbook and focus on your own members of Congress. In my case that is Senator Sherrod Brown (one of the good guys, thank you Senator), Senator Rob Portman (not one of the good guys and damn you Ohio Democratic Party for picking the lamest candidate possible in 2016 to run against Portman); and Representative Jim Renacci (also not one of the good guys.) Because Renacci represents only Ohio’s 16th Congressional District (see map above) I potentially have the greatest influence by focusing my efforts on him.

That is what I intend to do and I’ll be meeting with some people in the next few weeks to discuss just how to best to carry out that task.

Watch this space for updates.

14 January 2017

…MUST DISAPPOINTMENT ALL I ENDEAVOUR END…?

0500 by Jeff Hess

Early in my blog days I used to post quite a bit of poetry, not so much anymore. That’s unfortunate. I came across this poem this morning in a reference by Tessa Hadley. While I don’t hold to Hopkins’ theist sentiment, the poem still moves me as a writer. Enjoy.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

[Online translation: Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; However
I will speak what is just to thee: Why doth the way of the wicked prosper
? JH]

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

14 January 2017

CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS ACTS…

0300 by Jeff Hess

I was one of more than 100 people who attended the monthly regional membership meetings last week. The CCPC now has more than 1,400 members in Cuyahoga County and the number—encouraged by the pending inauguration of Donald John Trump as our 45th President—continues to grow. If you think that President Trump, and his billionaire agenda, is a bad idea, I encourage you to first, join the CCPC (it’s free); become involved in the CCPC (there are lots of opportunities for varied levels of involvement, see below); and download and read Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda.

Here’s what going on with the CCPC in Cuyahoga County now:

Big Martin Luther King Weekend of Activism!

This morning—Local Conversation on the Department of Justice Annual Update. 9 am to 1 pm at Harvard Community Services Center 18240 Harvard Ave.

The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition presents the 3rd Anniversary Community Update on the Local Conversation on the Department of Justice. Topics include: 1) Insufficient Accountability 2) Inadequate training 3) Ineffective policies and 4) Inadequate engagement with the community. Speakers from The Department of Justice, Cleveland Community Police Commission, Cleveland Police Department, Black Lives Matter Cleveland, Multi Ethnic Advocates for Cultural Dependency, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County, City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Consent Monitoring Team will present.

Sunday—Our First Stand: Save Social Security and Healthcare National Day of Action Cleveland Rally. 4:30 to 6:30 pm at SEIU Local #1199 Union Hall 1771 East 30th Street.

The Republican Congress will soon begin their efforts to dismantle America’s Healthcare System including Medicare, Medicaid and The Affordable Healthcare Continue Reading »

13 January 2017

$2 BILLION IS A SLAP ON THE CORPORATE WRIST…

0500 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader, writing in an Open Letter to Attorney General Lynch: Prosecution or Guilty Pleas for Corporate Crime, makes the case against clemency:

Dear Attorney General Loretta Lynch:

News outlets are reporting that you are about to settle the criminal case with Takata airbag defect case for nearly $1 billion and the Volkswagen emissions cheating case for nearly $2 billion.

On the VW case, the New York Times reported that “the company or one of its corporate entities is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges as part of the deal.”

On the Takata case, the New York Times reported that “one point that remains unresolved is whether there will be any guilty plea to criminal misconduct, either by the company or one of its subsidiaries.”

Takata’s defective airbags have been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 180 injuries in the United States.

As you know, Clarence Ditlow, an engineer and lawyer who headed the Center for Auto Safety for many decades, passed away last year.

In early 2016, Mr. Ditlow appeared on my weekly radio program—The Ralph Nader Radio Hour – and called for criminal charges to be brought against Takata and VW and its executives.

Ditlow called the Volkswagen diesel case one of the most egregious corporate crime cases in history.

“This is one of the most egregious corporate crimes I have ever seen,” Mr. Ditlow said. “When the Environmental Protection Agency set tough new standards for diesel engines, Volkswagen quickly discovered that its technology wouldn’t meet the new standards. But, what they did is, instead of sending their Continue Reading »

13 January 2017

[UPDATED] TRUMP AND THE RUSSIAN DOSSIER…

0400 by Jeff Hess

The story about president-elect Donald John Trump and the Russian Dossier, now attributed to ex-MI-6 officer Christopher Steele—at one point head of MI6’s Russia desk—isn’t going away. Ed Pilkington, continuing the saga in Russia dossier: what happens next—and could Donald Trump be impeached? for The Guardian, writes:

With days to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Washington has been convulsed by news of a 35-page intelligence dossier containing incendiary allegations from Russian spies about close links between the Trump camp and the Kremlin as well as salacious sexual details that could allegedly expose the next US head of state to blackmail. The allegations are wholly unsubstantiated, but were deemed serious enough for US intelligence agencies to pass a two-page summary of them last week both to Trump and the current president, Barack Obama.

The provenance of the dossier lies with a Washington-based opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, led by former journalists skilled in digging up secrets on public figures. The company was employed in September 2015 by one of Trump’s Republican detractors to look into his dealings. According to the BBC, an outside group supporting then presidential candidate Jeb Bush was the main client initially, followed by an anonymous Democratic donor. Fusion GPS in turn contracted a former British counter-intelligence officer with strong Russia contacts to delve into Trump. Reports gathered by the contractor based on his Russian sources were brought together to form the dossier, which in turn began to circulate between the FBI, British intelligence and DC-based journalists who looked into the allegations but could not stand them up.

Then there is Pilkington’s mention of Trump’s worst nightmare in all of this:

Two Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of them Trump skeptics, have been pushing for a no-holds-barred investigation into Russian hacking by a special select committee of the ilk of the Watergate panel.

Meanwhile, the president-elect’s team continues to find anyone willing to perform at the inauguration with the latest addition being, and I’m not making this up, a Bruce Springsteen cover band.

13 January 2017

SAN DIEGO CALLS BULLSHIT ON THE CHARGERS…

0300 by Jeff Hess

I typically avoid the sports pages (one recent exception was following the news on Colin Kaepernick and Rodney Axson) but the news out of San Diego, California, where I lived for two years in the late ’70s, grabbed my attention with this headline from The Guardian: San Diego refused to be bullied by the NFL and billionaire owners. Les Carpenter writes:

Sooner or later the public welfare office for sports billionaires is going to close. American cities will look at the more than $7bn of taxpayer money spent in the last 20 years on football stadiums alone and say: “Enough!”

On Thursday, the San Diego Chargers announced they will be leaving the city where they have played for the last 56 years, and will move to Los Angeles. They are doing this because the politicians and voters in San Diego did not give Chargers owner Dean Spanos the same golden gift Atlanta and Seattle and all the other capitulating municipalities [like Cleveland, JH] gave their ridiculously wealthy teams’ owners.

I left this comment on The Guardian this morning.

Good morning,

Here in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Brown, Cavaliers and Indians, our own Roldo Bartimole has been writing about this issue for decades.

We missed our opportunity when Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 and the best then Mayor Michael White could do was to was preserve the team’s name and colors in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County tax payers continue to pay millions so that uber rich owners can get richer.

Good on you San Diego!

Jeff Hess
Have Coffee Will Write

Carpenter concludes:

No way was San Diego handing out $1bn for a stadium that would sit empty for most of the year. Even assuming the special tax—which would have raised the city’s take on hotel bills to 16% – wouldn’t have pulled money that could have gone to schools and roads, the effort to raise the tax would have taken energy away from tending those schools and roads. Giving Spanos $1bn, regardless of where it came from, would have sent a terrible message.

He is less marching his team to LA than slinking away with a cheap new logo that looks like a broken lamp plug. Thursday is not historic; it is sad.

Yet I, and I assume several stadiums full of San Diegans, are smiling.

12 January 2017

DON’T MISTAKE THE DEEP STATE FOR A FRIEND…

0300 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 0610: The Guardian identifies the anonymous behind the story in Trump dossier: Christopher Steele, ex-MI6 officer, named as author ]

[Update @ 0532: I would also like to add a note on the perverted sex acts alleged in the Trump Dossier. The use of the word perverted is a dangerous word because once you move past consensual marital sex between two responsible adults in the missionary position purely for the purpose of procreation, ALL sex acts are on someone’s list of perversions.]

As I noted yesterday, the story from BuzzFeed just doesn’t smell right and, as I expected, Glenn Greenwald has interjected some sanity into the conversation. Then central message to remember is that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Writing in The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer, Greenwald cautions:

Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing—eager—to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry and damaging those behaviors might be.

The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive.

If Greenwald isn’t the best journalist writing in the English language, I don’t know who is.

11 January 2017

WHAT OUR PRESIDENT SAID…

0400 by Jeff Hess

11 January 2017

FAIR AND BALANCED?, WE THE PEOPLE DECIDE…

0300 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 0853: I’m taking a break—I have to get to work—but I’m noticing clues that this was written by someone for whom English is not a first language. What I’m noticing is that quite a few articles (a, an, the) are missing. Russian, for one example, does not have articles and this caused some mirth among Soviet nuclear weapons treaty negotiators when Americans would obsess over whether treaty language should read a missile vs. the missile (for example) when in Russian the line would simple read missile. Further reading is needed, but this isn’t reading like a really credible source to me.

I’m going to be very interested what Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden may have to say since their expertise will be far more insightful than my own.]

At my core, I’m a journalist. That’s what I paid Ohio University to certify me as with my undergraduate degree more than 30 years ago. I don’t hold to the idea that journalists can ever be objective. We can do our best, in the absence of other voices, to be fair, but in the end we publish, with all the caveat and insight we can muster, and let people decide.

So, I’m not surprised by the shitstorm raised by BuzzFeed’s decision to publish unredacted documents, long in the hands of other journalists, that purport to tie President-Elect Donald Trump to influences in Russia that go back more than five years.

I haven’t read the documents yet, I’ll do so later today, but I encourage everyone to grab copies as quickly as you can on the off chance that they disappear and then sit down and read, as I will do, every word.

While, by BuzzFeed’s own admission, [t]he allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors, I applaud their decision. Here’s how they lede the piece:

A dossier making explosive—but unverified—allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

Lawfare came to this wise conclusion:

[S]low down, and take a deep breath. We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a “fake news” episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts—a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit.

Please pay attention to the updates at the end of the Lawfare piece.

While there is certainly a lot more credibility here than the president-elects former assertions concerning our president’s birth certificate, this may not be Watergate. Again, every American should read and decide. Do not wait and see.

10 January 2017

DEATH BY POLITICIANS

1500 by Roldo Bartimole

170110-roldo-ed-hauserPhoto used courtesy of Scene.

He’s a nice guy. He’s earnest. He’s honest for a politician. He’s likely a good family man. He’s competent. He’s reliable. Don’t think he’d purposely do anyone a wrong. A stand-up guy.

But he’s going to KILL someone.

He’s a Republican Senator. Rob Portman. Of Ohio.

He’ll vote with the gang.

The gang wants to kill so-called Obamacare. It insures many people who cannot get medical coverage ANY OTHER WAY.

They want to kill it bad.

So that reminds me of a man I knew. I couldn’t call him a friend but maybe I could. He’s gone.
He’s gone because in 2008 he didn’t have any medical insurance.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed the U. S. Senate Dec. 24, 2009. It became law in 2010.

His name was Ed Hauser. He was one of the good guys.

He died some months before he could have gotten coverage along Continue Reading »

9 January 2017

TAKE YOUR BROKEN HEART & MAKE IT INTO ART…

0300 by Jeff Hess

[Updated @ 0537 on 10 January: Ouch—Meryl Streep has hit on star-struck Trump’s big weakness and The fightback against Trump starts with Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech.]

[Updated @ 0513 on 10 January: President-elect Donald John Trump pushes and Hollywood pushes back harder. If you come at the [Queen] you best not miss.]

8 January 2017

ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH JUSTICE…

0500 by Jeff Hess

From the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus:

Indivisible Guide: Click here to see a very comprehensive guide that over 400 organizations are using around the country to provide Resistance to Trump. CCPC intends to use many of these principles in our local resistance effort. The key is to flood Congress with calls from angry constituents as soon as unfriendly legislation is proposed. This approach actually worked last Tuesday when the Republicans backed down from their attempt to do away with the independent ethics oversight commission that oversees Congress. The Trump Emergency Response Team described above will be a large part of CCPC’s effort to mobilize quickly.

Contact Congress to Support Palestinian Rights: As you may have seen last week, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry both voiced approval of continuing to work towards a two-state solution in Palestine. This is in direct opposition to the current Israeli policy of unlimited expansion of the settlements and a permanent Apartheid State. The new administration will soon weigh in on the situation. Click here to read Cleveland Peace Action’s excellent summary of last weeks events and to find out what you can do to help the oppressed Palestinian people.

Clevelanders for Public Transit Update: At Monday’s Cleveland City Council meeting legislation is being introduced proposing that the City of Cleveland be restricted from paying $12 million to the Federal Transit Administration due to Mayor Jackson’s closure of Public Square. Instead of wasting this money how about reopening Public Square? How about a big presence at Monday’s meeting? Click here for more details.

Road Trip to Washington DC? A group of CCPC members is traveling to Washington DC to personally lobby members of Congress to restore the Glass-Steagall Act as Trump promised during the campaign. Lobby Day is scheduled for February 1. Not sure yet if it’s going to be a one or two day trip. If you think you might want to Continue Reading »

8 January 2017

I’M FEELING MUCH BETTER NOW…

0400 by Jeff Hess

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