4 July 2015


0005 by Jeff Hess

Bernie Sanders draws crowd of 10,000 at Wisconsin rally

bernie store

I gave Bernie $100 today (24 June). How about you?

4 July 2015


0000 by Jeff Hess

top of mind

Racism in America… Global Warming… Raif Badawi…

4 July 2015


0900 by Jeff Hess

Dune, one of the 18 books that have shaped my world, was first published by Chilton on 1 October 1965. One of the very few DVD/Blu-Ray discs in my collection is the David Lynch vision of Dune.

Hari Kunzru celebrates the golden anniversary:

During the period he wrote Dune, his wife Beverly Ann was the main bread-winner, her own writing career sidelined by a job producing advertising copy for department stores.

Soon, Herbert’s research into dunes became research into deserts and desert cultures. It overpowered his article about the heroism of the men of the USDA (proposed title “They Stopped the Moving Sands”) and became two short SF novels, serialised in Analnog Science Fact & Fiction, one of the more prestigious genre magazines. Unsatisfied, Herbert industriously reworked his two stories into a single, giant epic. The prevailing publishing wisdom of the time had it that SF readers liked their stories short. Dune (400 pages in its first hardcover edition, almost 900 in the paperback on my desk) was rejected by more than 20 houses before being accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for trade and hobby magazines such as Motor Age, Jewelers’ Circular and the no-doubt-diverting Dry Goods Economist.

The rest, is epic.

4 July 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

I always enjoy the Merriam-Webster Ask The Editor videos. While I have my own quirks—over vs. more than being one particularly irritating example*—I appreciate the squishy language aspect brought to the table by the editors. Language Arts teachers across the United States, and possibly in the rest of the English-speaking world, notwithstanding, words are what we say they are, and we can fight over meaning and usage.

that v which

*More and less are used for quantities—I have more than a dozen apples, not I have over a dozen apples—and over and under are used for position—the bridge is over the creek, the dog dug under the fence.

4 July 2015


0000 by Jeff Hess

The annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on National Public Radio…

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. – Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. – And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

3 July 2015


1000 by Jeff Hess

Objects in the mirror are closer than they seem. Take that to the bank!

What began as a progressive pipe dream—that a rabble-rousing senator from the nation’s second least populous state could wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from one of the most well-known politicians in recent history—is starting to seem plausible.

By way of massive rallies, grassroots politicking and a record-setting number small donations, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is winning over progressive voters, convincing them that his underdog campaign has a fighting chance against Hillary Clinton’s well-oiled—and extraordinarily well-funded—political machine.

On Thursday, the Sanders campaign announced it raised $15m since 30 April from 250,000 donors, many of whom have made small contributions online. In contrast, Barack Obama attracted only 180,000 donors during the first quarter of his presidential campaign in 2007, which has been considered the benchmark for online fundraising by an insurgent candidate in modern presidential politics.

The senator, propelled by a groundswell of support, is also gaining ground on Clinton in polls emerging from across the early voting states.

Get involved on 29 July.

1 July 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

We are now 11 days into summer and Gary Younge is not hopeful.

For the past couple of years the summers, like hurricanes, have had names. Not single names like Katrina or Floyd—but full names like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Like hurricanes, their arrival was both predictable and predicted, and yet somehow, when they landed, the effect was still shocking.

We do not yet know the name that will be attached to this particular season. He is still out there, playing Call of Duty, finding a way to feed his family or working to pay off his student loans. He (and it probably will be a he) has no idea that his days are numbered; and we have no idea what the number of those days will be.

The precise alchemy that makes one particular death politically totemic while others go unmourned beyond their families and communities is not quite clear. Video helps, but is not essential. Some footage of cops rolling up like death squads and effectively executing people who posed no real threat has barely pricked the popular imagination. When the authorities fail to heed community outrage, or substantively investigate, let alone discipline, the police, the situation can become explosive. An underlying, ongoing tension between authorities and those being policed has been a factor in some cases. So, we do not know quite why his death will capture the political imagination in a way that others will not.

But we do know, with gruesome certainty, that his number will come up – that one day he will be slain in cold blood by a policeman (once again it probably will be a man) who is supposed to protect him and his community. We know this because it is statistically inevitable and has historical precedent. We know this because we have seen it happen again and again. We know this because this is not just how America works; it is how America was built. Like a hurricane, we know it is coming—we just do not yet know where or when or how much damage it will do.

Summer is riot season.

When I was an undergraduate student at Ohio University we jokingly referred to the Annual Spring Riot, a counterpoint to our Halloween uprising.

No one is laughing this summer.

1 July 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

The House of Saud really, really likes the number 1,000.

Ludovica Iaccino, in Pakistan’s controversial Zaid Hamid faces 1,000 lashes and 8 years in jail for criticising kingdom, writes:

A Pakistani political commentator has been reportedly sentenced to eight years in jail with 1,000 lashes after allegedly delivering a speech criticising Saudi Arabia’s regime.

Pakistan authorities said Zaid Hamid was arrested and taken into custody while travelling to Medina with his wife earlier in June.

“Our embassy in Riyadh has informed us that Mr Zaid Hamid was arrested about two weeks ago. Since then, the embassy has been working with the local authorities to get consular access,” Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah was quoted in the Daily Pakistan as saying.

“Due to the efforts of the embassy, his wife was able to talk to him. Again, due to the efforts of the embassy, his wife will be able to meet with him on 30 June,” he said but gave no further comments on the possible charges.

Pakistan media sources say Hamid has been sentenced to eight years in jail with 1,000 lashes although official confirmation from Saudi Arabia has not yet been issued.

I have written extensively about Badawi this year because his story is a canary in the mine. He is not alone in receiving barbarian treatment at the hands of the House of Saud. Hamid is simply one more example of the brutal evil to be found in one of our treasured allies.

29 June 2015


1549 by Jeff Hess

Hmmm… Maybe he was thinking of these Red Tails

29 June 2015


1400 by Jeff Hess

Expressing moral indignation when human rights are violated is all well and good, taking the high ground should never interfere with profits, or at least Britain’s Ministry of Justice seems to think so.

The legality of a bid by the commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice to provide services for Saudi Arabia’s prisons is to be challenged in the high court.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is launching a judicial review of the tender, alleging that the department has no legal power to carry out the activity.

The existence of the MoJ’s commercial body, Just Solutions International, was revealed earlier this year but little is known about its purpose or operations.

Lawyers for GCHR allege that competing for profit-making contracts for consultancy services overseas is not a “governmental purpose”.

Other than raising revenue for the MoJ, the organisation argues, JSI’s aims are not of public benefit and therefore it is “ultra vires”, or beyond the powers, of ministers to operate such a scheme.

The MoJ has so far declined to release detailed information about the deal. Saudi Arabia has been widely criticised for its human rights record. There has been an international outcry over the case of Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for advocating freedom of expression online.

Melanie Gingell of GCHR stated: “By providing services to the Saudi prison and probation service the UK is lending legitimacy and indirectly supporting such abuses.

“It is hypocritical of the government to publicly condemn barbarity such as is meted out to Raif Badawi, while at the same time implicitly condoning such activities by bidding to provide services on a commercial basis to those who perpetrate the abuses. ”

Somehow I simply find hypocritical inadequate in this instance. Perhaps criminal would be better?

29 June 2015


0900 by Jeff Hess

Here in Cleveland we have our own five victims of FBI entrapment, but they are far from alone. In Entrapped, a film produced for The//Intercept

In 2007, five men were arrested and accused of plotting to attack the Fort Dix military base near Trenton, New Jersey. Among them were the brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka. Their case involved highly paid government informants with criminal histories, one of whom worked over the course of roughly 18 months to attempt to implicate them in a plot. Though none of the Duka brothers would ever plan any putative plot, they were ultimately all sentenced to life in prison. They remain incarcerated today.

This film by Razan Ghalayini, which includes raw surveillance footage and other video documentation that was used against the Duka brothers in court, shows the impact of the case on the Duka family.

The Intercept’s investigation into the case of the Fort Dix Five can be found in Christie’s Conspiracy—The Real Story Behind the Fort Dix Five Terror Plot.

The Bush-Obama Security Scheme strolls on…

29 June 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

himalayan road signs

Like the famous Burma Shave signs of the last century, the road signs use humor to make important points about safe driving. Would 21st century Americans respond to this approach?

29 June 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Alan Rushbridger chose Naomi Klein to kick-off his last hurrah as editor of The Guardian, his Keep Carbon In The Ground campaign. Now, arguably the single most influential religious leader on the planet, Pope Francis, has also turned to Klein, described by The Guardian as one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. What does the Pope want Klein to do?

Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.

“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.

The climate change denial machine has been in full, Chicken Little, pants-shitting mode since news of the pope’s encyclical first leaked late last year.

Expect Klein to be elevated to Whore of Babylon status any minute.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

28 June 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

12 angry men

I know that a lot of people lament losing Jon Stewart, but the rabbi taught his pupils well.

28 June 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

The mowing of lawns is the most worthless task I can think of. If not for concern that my neighbors would complain to me, or the city, about my waist-high grass, I would never mow. I’m not running a golf course here.

Except to clear small areas—like the area around our picnic table and fire pit—I don’t mow our backyard at all. Last year I performed a small experiment by not mowing a strip in the middle of the front yard. Our dogs loved the mini-meadow. This year I expanded the project. I mow the one-third adjacent to the street and the one-third next to the house and have left the middle third to grow naturally. Again, the dogs love the wild area.

I’ve always thought of mowing grass as a kind of pissing contest for non-farmers. (Derf made lawn care a repeating theme for White Suburban Middle Class Man.) Scott Adams has another theory.

Humans are visual creatures. If I see you do something valuable right in front of me it means more than if I hear about something you did in the past. It works the same at your job. If your boss sees you doing something, it means more than if she hears about it later. Optics rule our perceptions.

For many homes, the lawn is the biggest visual cue to a husband’s contribution. In all likelihood, the husband did not build the house. In a two-income household, he didn’t even pay for the entire house. But given our sexist culture, he is probably in charge of the lawn. So if the lawn goes south, he has little to show of his value. His spouse, on the other hand, is often doing one visual thing after another, involving grocery bags, kids, dinner, and keeping up the home. The husband is home at night and on weekends to witness a lot of that action, and, according to studies, he is usually doing less than half of the chores. The husband can witness his wife’s value in a clear, visual way.

The children themselves are also a visual representation of a woman’s value. The man contributed some sperm long ago, probably in the dark. His contribution was visually empty. But nine months of carrying a human in your belly, followed by birth, nursing, and childcare is as visual as you can get.

A typical husband’s contribution to the family happens when he is at work. And unlike the old days where the guy might drag home some animal he killed –which would be visually impressive – today he probably has direct deposit. No one even sees a paycheck.

In 2015, a husband is just an asshole who disappears for half of the day while the wife does all the work.

This is an excellent reason to work from home.

27 June 2015


2100 by Jeff Hess

Now that is the speech I, and many others I’m sure, wish our President had delivered.

27 June 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

Eric Foner is one of my important voices on The South. My much read, thumbed, high-lighted and tabbed copy of his Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 is the cornerstone reference work for my present novel in progress. Elias Isquith, writing in “The face of racism today is not a slaveowner”: Eric Foner on the past and present of white supremacy for Salon, clearly agrees.

SALON: How significant would it be, symbolically, for the Confederate battle flag to be removed by South Carolina?

FONER: As you know, and as it has been reported many times, the Confederate flag was only put up on top of the Statehouse in South Carolina in 1962. It was put there as a rebuke to the civil rights movement. It was not a long-standing commemoration of Southern heritage. It was a purely political act to show black people in South Carolina who was in charge.

Symbolism has its limits. On the other hand, to see that flag flying … it’s a statement by South Carolina. Black people perfectly well understand what it stands for. A lot of white people do also. I think removing it is certainly a positive step.

SALON: Can you tell me a bit about South Carolina’s history in this regard, and why it’s often singled, out even among its fellow former Confederate states?

FONER: I have taught in South Carolina as a visiting professor. I have lectured many times in South Carolina at the University of South Carolina, at Clemson, at Beaufort, in Charleston. I have good friends there and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that everyone in South Carolina is a deep racist or has anything to do with a guy like Dylann Roof. On the other hand, one has to recognize that South Carolina has a very unique and deplorable history when it comes to slavery and race.

It goes way back to the American Revolution. South Carolina had delegates who insisted that Thomas Jefferson take out a clause that condemned slavery from the Declaration of Independence. It was South Carolina delegates who got the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Clause into the Constitution. It was South Carolina who was the leader in nullification, the leader in secession. The first shot of the Civil War was shot there. South Carolina was the only Southern state in which the majority of white families owned slaves.

In writing my present work I have struggled with writing Black characters because I don’t want to get the portrayal wrong. Writing stereotypes, caricatures, is a pitfall for a white male writer. I’ve avoided doing so by not having any Black men or women as central characters in my story. That is a mistake I need to rectify.


26 June 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

roldo 150627

Roldo Bartimole writes:

If you don’t believe that the city that has for years been the butt of TV late Night jokes is making a big comeback you haven’t been reading national news outlets about Cleveland’s resurgence. Yes, we’re talking that old rust belt, river-on-fire, shrinking city on Lake Erie once self-boasted “The Best Location in the Nation.”

I’ve watched Cleveland—as other cities—fighting to be recognized as special and relevant for 50 years. Now some attention is being paid. Is it real? Are there costs?

From the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times and assorted other media outlets praise Cleveland’s latest resurgence, including its choice as the Republican Party’s 2016 National Convention next July.

Visitors are shown the gloss but sightseers don’t get into the weeds where much of the truth lies.

Hopes are high for this city that once boasting a 1950 population of 914,808. However, 528,287 left since, shrinking Cleveland below 400,000. And contraction continues. The downtown population rise is what gets the glossy notice. It is spurred by converting places where people once worked into subsidized and tax-abated Continue Reading »

24 June 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

no battle flag walmart

[Update at 0430: Clearly this story has serious legs.]

Yesterday, in WALMART SAYS NO TO RACIST BATTLE FLAG… I applauded Walmart’s decision to no longer stock or sell merchandise bearing the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virgina. Demonstrating the power, for good in this case, of the world’s largest retailer, other retailers are joining Walmart in this boycott of our most racist symbol.

Before anyone jumps all over me for appearing to be a hypocrite about my well documented, and rabid, stance in support of our First Amendment, I will say categorically, that if my neighbor decides to fly the offensive battle flag, I will wholeheartedly support his decision to do so while I pound stakes in the ground to support a large sign declaring my neighbor a racist.

That is how our Constitutional right to free speech works.

Demanding that a government agency, required to represent all citizens, take down the flag, however, is a different matter. Larry Wilmore does an excellent job of laying out the case.

21 June 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Raif Badawi’s book 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think is available in French and pre-orders are being taken on Amazon.

Raif Badawi’s is an important voice for all of us to hear, mild, nuanced, but clear. His examination of his culture is perceptive and rigorous. Of course he must be saved from the dreadful sentence against him and the appalling conditions of his imprisonment. But he must also be read, so that we understand the struggle within Islam between suffocating orthodoxy and free expression, and make sure we find ourselves on the right side of that struggle.” —Salman Rushdie

On principle, I’ll wait until the book is available from a source other than Amazon, but that is a private decision. No matter where you find the book, buy a copy and read what Badawi has to say.

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