21 September 2017

TRUMPCARE IS THE GOP’S SHAMBLING ZOMBIE…

0400 by Jeff Hess

Americans love vampires and zombies, in their fiction. Republicans in Congress and the White House, however, think that the solution to America’s rejection of their undead is making the monster even more horrible, more scary, more deadly because of… Jobs. Not mine, not yours, theirs.

Alan Fram, writing in Worries of backlash help revive GOP health care drive for The Associate Press, explains:

It’s divisive and difficult, but the Republican drive to erase the Obama health care overhaul has gotten a huge boost from one of Washington’s perennial incentives: Political necessity.

In the two months since Senate Republicans lost their initial attempt to scuttle President Barack Obama’s statute, there’s fresh evidence GOP voters are adamant that the party achieve its long-promised goal of dismantling that law. This includes conservative firebrand Roy Moore forcing a GOP primary runoff against Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who’s backed by President Donald Trump and lots of money, plus credible primary challenges facing Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Nevada’s Dean Heller.

“Republicans campaigned on this so often that we have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. And that’s as pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill” to support it, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told Iowa reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

“That base is so insistent. You made this promise, stick to it, and you’ll be penalized if you don’t,” said Bill Hoagland, a former top Senate GOP aide and health policy expert.

GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham have spent weeks concocting and selling the party’s new approach to scrapping Obama’s law. They say their proposal, shifting money and decision-making from Washington to the states, nearly has the votes it would need in a showdown expected next week, a deadline that’s focused the party on making a final run at the issue.

Final run? Don’t bet the farm. How many times did congress vote to repeal The Affordable Care Act? Try 61, maybe more depending upon what your definition of repeal is.

I’ve written more emails, made more political phone calls in the past eight months than forever. Here’s what I said to Senator Robert Jones Portman this morning:

Good morning, my name is Jeff Hess and I live in North Royalton, Ohio.

I’m contacting Senator Portman this morning to strongly urge him, a man recently characterized as Midwest nice, a little old-fashioned, and in possession of deep wells of knowledge about taxes, trade, and health care to vote no on Graham—Cassidy.

Simply put, this cash grab by the insurance companies is bad for Ohioans because millions will lose coverage and those who retain coverage will lose protections for pre-existing conditions.

Instead I ask that Senator Portman give his support to Senate 1804, Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act. The tiny few must not be allowed to ruin the lives of Ohio’s families simply so that they may add a zero or two to their profits.

Thank you.

Make those calls, write those emails.

Zombie aren’t real. Insurance company greed is.

Demand that Senator William Morgan Cassidy invoke his own Jimmy Kimmele Rule, because clearly, the senator simply does not understand because he is not a serious person.

20 September 2017

IF THIS BE MADNESS…

2000 by Jeff Hess

America needs a Reverend Doctor Francis Willis; We the People need a Senator Howard Baker to stand up for us and all that is great about America. President Donald John Trump is so blatantly unstable, so dangerous to himself and our nation that members of his own party are questioning his sanity.

His Strangelovian speech at the United Nations this week was frightening. There is no moderating, no curbing of the president. The signs have been there for months, if not years. The football, however, changed everything.

Nearly a month ago, writing in Will Trump Be the Death of the Goldwater Rule? for The New Yorker, Jeannie Suk Gersen began this way:

At his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Donald Trump remarked, of his decision to take on the Presidency, “Most people think I’m crazy to have done this. And I think they’re right.”

A strange consensus does appear to be forming around Trump’s mental state. Following Trump’s unhinged Phoenix speech, James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, said on CNN, “I really question his … fitness to be in this office,” describing the address as “scary and disturbing” and characterizing Trump as a “complete intellectual, moral, and ethical void.” Last week, following Trump’s doubling-down on blaming “many sides” for white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said that the President “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs” to lead the country. Last Friday, Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, introduced a resolution urging a medical and psychiatric evaluation of the President, pointing to an “alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties.” Lofgren asked, in a press release, “Does the President suffer from early stage dementia? Has the stress of office aggravated a mental illness crippling impulse control? Has emotional disorder so impaired the President that he is unable to discharge his duties? Is the President mentally and emotionally stable?”

Matt Taibbi, attending the same rally in Phoenix had this to say in The Madness of Donald Trump for Rolling Stone:

Is this man losing his mind? And if so, what can be done about it? We’ve had some real zeros in the White House before, but we’ve never had a chief executive who barked at the moon or saw ghosts—at least, not one who was so public about it.

In Phoenix, which is technically a campaign event, the idea seems to be to surround the chief with an enthusiastic audience to boost his spirits after the fiasco of Charlottesville. Put him on the stump in the heart of MAGA country, let him feel that boar-with-a-boner high again.

It doesn’t work. The crowd is big and boisterous enough, maybe 10,000 Sheriff Joe-lovin’, Mexico-hatin’ ‘Muricans, but Trump looks miserable. He’s not the insurgent rebel anymore but a Caesar surrounded by knives. He’s got a special prosecutor crawling up his backside, and there are numerous prominent politicians, including at least two in his own party, who are questioning his sanity in public amid growing whispers of constitutional mutiny. Moreover, after shrugging off a thousand other scandals, Trump seems paralyzed by the Nazi thing. He can’t let it go. Say one nice thing about Nazis, and it’s like people can’t get over it. Unfair!

He plunges into a 77-minute rant on this subject, listing each offending news outlet by name. In a nicely Freudian twist, he starts with The New York Times, which incidentally is the same paper that nearly a century ago identified “Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road”—the president’s late father – as a detainee from a 1927 Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens. Back then, “native-born American Protestants” were railing against “Roman Catholic police”—essentially the dirty-immigrant Irish, last century’s Mexicans. Not much changes in this country. Maybe the father of the 2072 Republican nominee is here tonight in a MAGA hat.

That old family shame might be why the president, who’s always denied Fred Trump was a Klansman (“Never happened”), is having such a hard time with Charlottesville and race. He rails against the “Times, which is, like, so bad,” moves on to the “Washington Post, which I call a lobbying tool for Amazon” and winds up with “CNN, which is so bad and pathetic, and their ratings are going down.”

CNN’s ratings aren’t down. The network’s second-quarter prime-time viewers just cracked a 1 million average, its most-watched second quarter ever, largely due to the blimp wreck of the Trump presidency. It’s the one incontrovertible achievement of this administration. The network tweets as much shortly after Trump says the line. The Phoenix audience doesn’t care. “CNN sucks!” they chant. “CNN sucks!”

What happens if there is no Stanislav Petrov in America?

17 September 2017

HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY…!

1200 by Jeff Hess

On 8 December 2004, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) slipped Section 111 of Title I, Division J, of the Fiscal Year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 108-447) and a new national holiday into our collective consciousness: Constitution Day. Our Constitution is the single most important document in Human History; read it all.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Please keep reading…

There are a large number of additional resources. Here are just a few:

The U.S. Constitution.
Celebrate Constitution Day.

I never leave home without my pocket-sized copy of our Constitution.
Celebrate Constitution And Citizenship Day.
A Day Set Aside for the Constitution.

16 September 2017

WRONG ABOUT CORPORATIONS SINCE 1982…

1200 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader has crushed a misconception I’ve touted as law for years. I can’t begin to number the times I’ve said that corporations have one, and only one legal obligation: to maximize shareholder value. I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I’ve been wrong since 1982, which means that I was never right on this. Feck.

Nader, in Destructive Stock Buybacks—That You Pay For, writes:

The monster of economic waste—over $7 trillion of dictated stock buybacks since 2003 by the self-enriching CEOs of large corporations—started with a little noticed change in 1982 by the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Ronald Reagan. That was when SEC Chairman John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO, redefined unlawful ‘stock manipulation’ to exclude stock buybacks.

Then after Clinton pushed through congress a $1 million cap on CEO pay that could be deductible, CEO compensation consultants wanted much of CEO pay to reflect the price of the company’s stock. The stock buyback mania was unleashed. Its core was not to benefit shareholders (other than perhaps hedge fund speculators) by improving the earnings per share ratio. Its real motivation was to increase CEO pay no matter how badly such burning out of shareholder dollars hurt the company, its workers and the overall pace of economic growth. In a massive conflict of interest between greedy top corporate executives and their own company, CEO-driven stock Continue Reading »

15 September 2017

CATEGORY TWO IS MY FAVORITE…

1900 by Jeff Hess

170915 tom the dancing bug ruben bolling global warming climate change deniers

Jordan Klepper will never run out of material… (Coming 25 September.)

15 September 2017

HOW FOX NEWS IS BLACKING OUT AMERICANS…

1800 by Jeff Hess

Last year Colin Kaepernick revived a movement begun by Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. Not only did Kaepernick and those who took up his cause survive the American football season, but recent events like the takedown of Michael Bennett in Las Vegas have fueled the movement and athletes have carried their silent protest forward. White folk are getting nervous over at Fox News.

Ameer Hasan Loggins, writing in Why Fox doesn’t want Americans to see NFL players protesting about race for The Guardian, explains:

Did you notice that during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins firmly raised his fist, as a symbolic gesture of black opposition to various forms of systemic oppression? No? Did you see Rodney McLeod and Chris Long alongside Jenkins in solidarity with the cause in which he is standing for? No? You are not alone. Viewers at home did not see any of this—not by accident, but by design.

Fox kept the cameras off of the players, blacking out their protest against racial injustice. While Fox screened an interview before the game with a black player—Michael Bennett—about why he was protesting, the fact that the network hid the actual protest irked many NFL fans.

I understand that we are talking about the same Fox network, whose earliest successes came via shows like America’s Most Wanted and Cops. Programs that served not only as cheap forms of first generation Reality TV, but they also were highly effective at spreading uncritical narratives of the police as being heroic public servants, that viewers could watch on a weekly basis, cemented as dependable good guys always catching the deviant bad guys.

The Fox News scheme did not spring fully formed from some strategy meeting. Loggins traces the history through the career of the man who shaped Fox—Roger Ailes:

Before his time shaping Fox News as its CEO, Rodger Ailes was a media consultant/political strategist for Richard Nixon during his 1968 presidential campaign. We are talking about the same Richard Nixon campaign that saw the, “antiwar left and black people,” as his “enemies.”

According to former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman, a part of Nixon’s political strategy was to publicly “associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

Ehrlichman continued by saying, “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Holding to the maxim—If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—Ailes took what he had learned and helped to get Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush take the White House.

During his time working with George H W Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, Roger Ailes was the architect behind the attack ad known as the “Revolving Door”, in which the Bush campaign played on historically entrenched stereotypes surrounding black men as the hyper aggressive, libidinally driven, criminals via William “Willie” Horton, a convicted rapist.

While the commercial shows various men walking in and out of prison, implying that Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis of not being tough on crime, the goal was to associate Dukakis with Horton, a criminal, leaving Bush’s campaign manager Lee Atwater saying: “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’s running mate.”

It worked.

Ailes is with pal Jerry Falwell now, but his legacy continues.

Fox News: biased and repetitive, they decide

Stephen Crockett, writing in To All the Black Men Watching the NFL, Here’s What Philadelphia Eagles Owner Thinks About Colin Kaepernick for The Root, has a few words to add.

15 September 2017

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING…

1700 by Jeff Hess

Previously…

15 September 2017

LISTENING TO THE MUSIC OF RODDY DOYLE…

1600 by Jeff Hess

Doing a bit of catching up this afternoon (my 1345 student canceled so I was home early) I read last week’s My Writing Day by Roddy Doyle. Music plays a central role in his work day and I’m always interested in what writers listen to when they’re writing.

Music became part of his writing day because when he quit his day job as a teacher in 1993:

I was alone. I was happy enough but the working day yawned; the silence wasn’t eerie but I didn’t like it. A friend suggested music. That seems odd now, that someone had to persuade the man who wrote The Commitments that he might enjoy listening to music while he worked.

But, anyway, it worked. I have a record player in the office—deck, amp, CD player, a stack of the things. It takes up space—it’s like having a Harley-Davidson in the attic. It’s the first thing I see as I climb the last few steps, and my working day starts when I start flicking through the records, going: “Ah yeah, ah yeah, ah yeah, when did I buy that shite, ah yeah, ah yeah.”

I listen to—or play—music all day as I work, unless I’m editing. Sometimes, I know things have been going well when I realise that the music has stopped and I hadn’t noticed. The music I choose in the late afternoon—the last two hours or so—is vital. Philip Glass’s Music with Changing Parts got me to the end of my novel, A Star Called Henry; I played it every afternoon for a year.

Doyle goes on to list a number of other musicians—some of the people who’ve been filling the day for me—that he finds to be writing worthy.

  • Drive By by The Necks;
  • Steve Reich;
  • Boards of Canada;
  • Colin Stetson;
  • Sarah Neufeld;
  • Laura Cannell;
  • Mogwai;
  • Fennesz;
  • Brian Eno;
  • Max Richter;
  • William Basinski;
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto;
  • Christian Blackshaw;
  • Tim Hecker; and
  • Caoimhín Ó’Raghallaigh.
  • Missing are the likes of Try a Little Tenderness, Mustang Sally, Dark End of the Street and Take Me to the River because, Doyle writes, I rarely play rock music. It’s too distracting, too many stops and starts, howls and lyrics. We’re in total agreement there. I need instrumental music when I write.

    14 September 2017

    TRUMP’S IDEOLOGY IS WHITE SUPREMACY…

    1800 by Jeff Hess

    170914 racism boston red sox banner

    So, if I had read this story yesterday, I might have read a paragraph or two and moved on. Today, however, I’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest (see below) and I have to view the story through a different lens. I’ve said before, and I still believe my thoughts to be true and honest, that the election of President Donald John Trump may be a blessing in disguise for our nation because Trump has ripped off the festering bandages of our deepest wounds. We must think differently. We must entertain the possibility that we have all been fooling ourselves for generations and that we have vital choices to make.

    Coates has a new book—We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy—scheduled for release October 3rd. I’ve already ordered my copy and look forward to reading the entirety of his work, but The Atlantic has published this 8,000-plus word excerpt as a stand-alone essay. White folk are not pleased.

    Coates, in Donald Trump Is the First White President, writes:

    It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

    That is how Coates begins. I always have difficulty excepting his writing because he packs so much into each word. I wanted to highlight this next paragraph because Coates uses the quote from historian Nell Irvin Painter to make a point that I repeatedly try to emphasize in conversations surrounding bigotry, prejudice and xenophobia. This is why I do my best to not talk in terms of the artificial constructs we label race and racism, but rather about White Supremacy and what that means in our society today. Coates continues:

    “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president.

    Here Coates yanks off our real and metaphorical hoods:

    Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. [Emphasis mine. JH.]

    I have been guilty of this in the past, but my education—aided by Coates and my brother Cavana Faithwalker–progresses.

    Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom and the great power in not being a nigger.

    Coates concludes:

    Before the election, Obama found no takers among Republicans for a bipartisan response, and Obama himself, underestimating Trump and thus underestimating the power of whiteness, believed the Republican nominee too objectionable to actually win. In this Obama was, tragically, wrong. And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.

    The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off “moderate” whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

    It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

    What do I do with this? Cav and I are breaking bread next week. We have much to talk about.

    14 September 2017

    DON’T BE STUPID, BE A SMARTY, UNDERMINE THE…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    Also: Dreamers, Jesus and a patronizing slab of white privilege in aspic.

    Previously…

    13 September 2017

    BLEAK ELECTION: LESS THAN 13% BOTHER TO VOTE

    1800 by Roldo Bartimole

    I have said before that I’ll never underestimate Zach Reed. Mayor Frank Jackson should be very careful as the two will vie in the general election.

    What a disappointing election with fewer than 13 percent of Clevelanders bothering to cast a vote for mayor. Mike West of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections reported that 32,826 citizens voted of the 261,308 eligible to choose a mayoral candidate. That’s 12.62 percent.

    Not the lowest ever but a puny number in what should be an important election.

    The coverage of the election was really poor in the Plain Dealer.

    There seemed a purposeful attempt to lower the temperature of political debate.

    It’s not surprising as the PD has become more a promotional edition of sometimes news pretending to be a newspaper.

    Yes, I know that they are concentrating on Cleveland.com and clicks.

    That is a poor excuse for not following major candidates around and reporting daily on what they are saying and doing.

    The PD obviously failed to make the issue of the 20,000 plus signature and the terrible bungling of city hall’s handling of the issue. Nor did we get any delving into how the Greater Cleveland Congregations pulled the signatures after the Ohio Supreme Continue Reading »

    13 September 2017

    ‘CAUSE RIGHT NOW ALL WE HAVE IS THE DUMMY…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    From The Washington Post:

    An Ivy League graduate headed to law school, with eyes on becoming her state’s first female governor, Miss North Dakota Cara Mund knew the importance of answering a question head-on.

    So when judges at the Miss America competition asked her whether President Donald Trump was wrong to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords that seek to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, she did not hesitate.

    “It’s a bad decision,” she said during Sunday night’s nationally televised finale. “There is evidence that climate change is existing, and we need to be at that table.”

    That answer helped her win the crown as Miss America 2018 at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

    Meeting with reporters afterward, Mund said she wanted first and foremost to give a real answer to the question.

    From The Guardian:

    Question: Last month, a demonstration of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent, and a counter-protester was killed. The president said there was shared blame with “very fine people on both sides”. Were there? Tell me yes or no and explain.

    Miss Texas, Margana Wood: I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the No 1 issue right now.

    From Fox News:

    Miss Missouri Jennifer Davis was asked to be “the jury” on whether Trump colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and give “innocent or guilty” verdict.

    “Right now I’d have to say innocent because not enough information has been revealed,” Davis said, adding however that “we should investigate it to its fullest extent.”

    Fox, of course, did a bit of creative editing on Davis’ answer. If you listen to the video above, you’ll hear her full response. What she said was:

    Right now I’d have to say innocent, because not enough information has been revealed. We are still investigating this and I think we should investigate it to its fullest extent, and if we do find the evidence that they have had collusion with then they should … the justice system should do their due diligence and they should be punished accordingly. [Emphasis mine. JH]

    President Donald John Trump, meanwhile, tweeted to his minions:

    12 September 2017

    STEVE BANNON STEPS FROM BEHIND THE CURTAIN…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    Trevor is funny and on target, but if all you know about the 60 Minutes conversation between Steve Bannon and Charlie Rose comes from the late-night television show hosts (like Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert for starters) then you’re grossly uninformed.

    I confess that I agree with much of Bannon’s assessment. I also disagree with much of his conclusions take from that assessment.

    There is a possibility that Bannon’s interview is all misinformation—I’m not sophisticated enough to make that assessment—but the question must be present in any viewer’s mind. What he says cannot be dismissed, however, because I do think that he pulls back the curtain sufficiently to allow us to seriously consider what will happen in 2018, in 2020 and beyond.

    You should also watch the outtakes from the interview.

    11 September 2017

    WE ARE BURNING DOWN OUR HOUSE…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    While our attentions are focused on Harvey and Irma and Jose and… in the southeast, unnamed and impersonal fires are burning down the northwest and turning the moon red.

    Naomi Klein, writing in In a Summer of Wildfires and Hurricanes, My Son Asks “Why Is Everything Going Wrong?” for The Intercept, explains:

    At a playground in the haze, I meet a young mother who offers advice on how to reassure worried kids. She tells hers that forest fires are a positive part of the cycle of ecosystem renewal—the burning makes way for new growth, which feeds the bears and deer.

    I nod, feeling like a failed mom. But I also know that she’s lying. It’s true that fire is a natural part of the life cycle, but the fires currently blotting out the sun in the Pacific Northwest are the opposite, they’re part of a planetary death spiral. Many are so hot and intransigent that they are leaving scorched earth behind. The rivers of bright red fire retardant being sprayed from planes are seeping into waterways, posing a threat to fish. And just as my son fears, animals are losing their forested homes.

    The biggest danger, however, is the carbon being released as the forests burn. Three weeks after the smoke descended on the coast, we learn that the total annual greenhouse gas emissions for the province of British Columbia had tripled as a result of the fires, and it’s still going up.

    This dramatic increase of emissions is part of what climate scientists mean when they warn about feedback loops: burning carbon leads to warmer temperatures and long periods without rain, which leads to more fires, which release more carbon into the atmosphere, which leads to even warmer and drier conditions, and even more fires.

    I’ll be worm food long before the worst arrives and once the feedback loops feeding more and more carbon—long stored in trees and permafrost—fully take hold, we will have lost any opportunity at survival.

    Frank Herbert’s 1965 magnum opus Dune was of a piece with Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring. Together they form the basis for much of what we think of as the environmental movement today. My own environmentalism has roots in those works. More than a half-century later (a nanosecond in Gaian time) we have made minor tweaks here and there, but we are staring over the edge of an ecological cliff and the bottom is shrouded in smoke and gloom.

    10 September 2017

    WE LABOR IN THE DARK…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    I finished Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance yesterday and for the first time in many years, perhaps decades, I truly came across a new, for me, way to look at planning and goal setting. For most of my life I have relied on the wisdom of Charles Hobbs as recorded in his book: Time Power.

    Hobbs taught me to think of planning in terms of my immediate (daily) goals that are informed by my short-term goals which are informed by my intermediate goals which are informed by my long-term goals which, at the highest level, are informed by my universal principles. This pyramid structure, for me, resulted in a myriad of goals spreading out from no less than 11 UPs.

    Duckworth has taught me that truly successful people, those, in her terms, with Grit, function with a Life Philosophy, a single idea (or possibly two ideas: professional and personal) that informs all that you do. What spoke to me was her reference to a Sport’s Illustrated interview with Hall-Of-Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. Duckworth writes:

    When he retired in 1987, a the age of forty-two, he’d compiled 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts, and a 2.86 earned run average. In 1992, when Seaver was elected to the Hall Of Fame, he received the highest-ever average of votes: 98.8 percent. During his twenty-year professional baseball career, Seaver aimed to pitch the best I possibly can day after day, year after year. Here is how that intention gave meaning and structure to all his lower-order goals:

    [Pitching] determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I’m awake. It determines how I spend my life when I’m not pitching. If it means I have to come to Florida and can’t get tanned because I might get a burn that would keep me from throwing for a few days, then I never go shirtless in the sun. If it means when I get up in the morning I have to read the box scores to see who got two hits off Bill Singer last night instead of reading a novel, then I do it. If it means I have to remind myself to pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand, then I do that, too. If it means in the winter I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down, then I eat cottage cheese.

    The life Seaver described sounds grim. But that now how Seaver saw things:

    Pitching is what makes me happy. I’ve devoted my life to it…. I’ve made up my mind what I want to do. I’m happy when I pitch well so I only do those things that help me be happy.

    What I mean by passion is not just that you something you care about. What I mean is that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination. At the extreme, one might call your focus obsessive. Most of your actions derive from their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy.

    Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this life philosophy is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal.

    Previously, I’ve thought that such narrow focus, such obsessiveness, was the purview of people who are uber successful in one area, but total losers in every other aspect of their lives—Lance Armstrong is the example I most often raise—and I recognize that that still may be the case. Duckworth, however, tempers her position this way:Like Seaver I have one goal hierarchy for work: Use psychological science to help kids thrive. But I have a separate goal heirarchy that involves being the best mother I can be to my two daughters. As any working parent knows, having two ultimate concerns isn’t easy. There seems never to be enough time, energy or attention to go around. I’ve decided to live with that tension. As a young woman, I considered alternatives—not having my career or not raising a family—and decided that, morally, there was no right decision, only a decision that was right for me.

    As a young man, I very consciously made the decision to not be a father because I know myself well enough to realize that my own goals would be more important than meeting the needs of any children. I love children, my nieces and nephews and students are wonderful people, but they are all the primary responsibility of other adults far better inclined and equipped to see them to adulthood than I would ever be.

    Duckworth concludes her book with one final thought, an examination of a great writer, one of my personal heroes, Ta-Nehisi Coates. In 2015, Coates received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award. Duckworth extracted the following from Coates remarks in the video included on his MacArthur Foundation page, and framed them as a poem:

    The Challenge of writing
    Is to see your horribleness on the page
    To see your terribleness
    And then go to bed.

    And wake up the next day,
    And take that horribleness and that terribleness,
    And refine it,
    And make it not so terrible and not so horrible.
    And then go to bed again.

    And come back the next day,
    And refine it a little bit more,
    And make it not so bad.
    And then go to bed until the next day.

    And do it again,
    And make it maybe average.
    And then one more time,
    If you’re lucky,
    Maybe you get to good.

    And if you’ve done that,
    That’s a success.

    Duckworth ends with this:

    If you define genius as working toward excellence, ceaselessly, with every element of your being—then, in fact, my dad is a genius, and so am I, and so is Coates and, if you’re willing, so are you.

    I always carry a number of special pencils with me that I give to my students. I also keep several at hand for my own use. The black pencils have the following printed in gold letters down their length: Genius is doing the work, NOW!

    The rest is easy.

    9 September 2017

    15 APRIL 1961: THE BILLY B TAKES HER FIRST DIP…

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    We chased the Kitty Hawk’s sister ship, the USS Constellation CV 64, for many a sea mile in 1976. Because this first “Super Carrier Class” was armed with MK 10 Terrier Missile Systems, I could have opted for duty on the Kitty, or either of her two sister ships (USS Constellation CV 64 or USS America CV 66—USS Enterprise CVN 65 was not equipped with Terriers.) but didn’t relish living among 5,000+ sailors. The Bainbridge’s crew of 525 was plenty big enough.

    In preparing this post I came across a news item that, as a result of President Donald John Trump’s wish to deploy more aircraft carriers, suggests that the Kitty could be pulled from mothballs in much the same way the USS Iowa BB 61 (1951 and 1984), USS New Jersey BB 62 (1950, 1968 and 1982), USS Missouri BB 63 (1986) and USS Wisconsin BB 64 (1951 and 1988) were during their careers.

    8 September 2017

    WHAT WAS CRAZY IN 1995 SEEMS QUAINT NOW…

    2000 by Jeff Hess

    170907 derf john backderf coffee house crazies

    8 September 2017

    WE TOO CAN BE BRAVE AS CANADIANS AND LEAP…

    1900 by Jeff Hess

    Central to Naomi Klein’s most recent book—No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics And Winning The World We Need—is the document included at the end of the book: The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another.

    The document’s preamble sets up the challenge.

    We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.

    These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

    Canada is not this place today— but it could be.

    We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

    Everyone, everywhere—not just Canadians in Canada—could live in such a country, on such a world.

    The Leap Manifesto is not some pie-in-sky fantasy. We only need leap.

    Now!

    8 September 2017

    MY FIRST SKIPPER: RADM BYRON BRUCE NEWELL…

    1800 by Jeff Hess

    From the 2017 USS Bainbridge DLGN/CGN 25 reunion in Lancaster, Penn., 4-8 June.

    8 September 2017

    WHAT TO DO WHEN WE SEE THE FEET OF CLAY…?

    1700 by Jeff Hess

    More than a decade ago I began writing, often three times daily, about Myanmar and, as my blog-sister Shamash called her, Our Lady Aung San Suu Kyi.

    I slacked off in 2011 because Myanmar seemed to be changing for the better and I turned my blog attentions elsewhere.

    Over the last few days, however, Myanmar, and Aung San Suu Kyi, have once again come to our attention and the Noble laureate’s legacy is in great danger.

    Writing in Desmond Tutu condemns Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Silence is too high a price’ for The Guardian, Naaman Zhou explains:

    Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to end the violence against her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority in a heartfelt letter to the Myanmar leader.

    The 85-year old archbishop said the “unfolding horror” and “ethnic cleansing” in the country’s Rahkine region had forced him to speak out against the woman he admired and considered “a dearly beloved sister”. Despite Aung San Suu Kyi defending her government’s handling of the growing crisis, Tutu urged his fellow Nobel peace price winner to intervene.

    Tutu wrote:

    My dear Aung San Suu Kyi

    I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

    In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

    Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

    We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently—and some may have greater firepower than others—but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.

    My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

    It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

    As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness.

    God bless you.

    While there is no mechanism for such an action, some are calling for the Nobel committee to strip Suu Kyi of her status as a laureate. I can understand why partisans wanted the committee to take similar actions with laureates PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and President Barack Hussein Obama, the case of Suu Kyi feels different.

    Zhou continues

    Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever peace prize winner, said on Monday “the world is waiting” for Aung San Suu Kyi to act.

    “Every time I see the news, my heart breaks,” she wrote on Twitter. “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same”.

    On Tuesday, the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said the government clearance operations in Rakhine “risked” ethnic cleansing. A Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize had reached 377,332 signatures by Friday.

    On Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi made her first spoken remarks on the crisis in Rakhine since government crackdowns began last month.

    It is a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months. The situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times.

    According to UN estimates, up to 300,000 Rohingya could be displaced into Bangladesh due to “clearance operations” by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces.

    Not unreasonable at all, Our Lady.

    I could be wrong. I need to think much more about this.

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