21 August 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

More than 20 years ago I wrote a piece for TRW’s management newsletter on Yucca Mountain. I had been aware of discussions concerning where we would, in John Oliver’s terms, build our nation’s nuclear toilet, for much longer than that—since I lived for four years within feet of two nuclear reactors on board the USS Bainbridge CGN 25, the topic occasionally came up in conversation—and I had both some perspective on the problems and unfettered access to TRW executives and employees involved in the project.

My best understanding at the time was that Yucca Mountain was the safest (safe far beyond how we typically use the term) solution. To the best of my knowledge, that is still the case. The principle problems with Yucca Mountain are transportation (do we really want tens of thousands of nuclear waste shipped on our crumbling highways and railroads) and political will. Solutions to neither problem are anywhere on the horizon.

Meanwhile, I live between two nuclear power plants: Davis-Besse, 85 miles to my west; and Perry Nuclear, 60 miles to my northeast. Both are on the shores of Lake Erie, the primary source of water for most of Northern Ohio. Of the two plants, Davis-Besse is the greater threat to me because of the issue of prevailing winds. Any airborne radiation released in an accident would blanket communities to the east of each plant.

I am a proponent of nuclear power, but oppose our present system because I simply don’t trust any corporation with a profit motive to not roll the dice on safety. We have plenty of examples here in Ohio that they just can’t be trusted:

20 August 2017


1100 by Jeff Hess

170820 tiki torch parade charlottesville

Sit down. Swallow any food or drink you may have in your mouth. Place any hot beverages safely on a flat surface away from your hands.

President Donald John Trump actually spoke a truth when he said, well clenched his fists and read from the teleprompter:

Hatred, bigotry and violence… have been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.

As shocking and positive as that might be, in a Trump White House, that and $200,000 will get you a membership at Mar-A-Lago. Our current social nightmare didn’t begin with Trayvon Martin. We have tolerated the intolerable for longer than I have drawn breath.

Paul Butler—author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men—writes in US justice is built to humiliate and oppress black men. It starts with the chokehold… for The Guardian: how we begin to heal.

Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a US law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt.

In New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Francisco, and many other cities, the US justice department and federal courts have stated that the official practices of police departments include violating the rights of African Americans. The police kill, wound, pepper spray, beat up, detain, frisk, handcuff, and use dogs against blacks in circumstances in which they do not do the same to white people.

It is the moral responsibility of every American, when armed agents of the state are harming people in our names, to ask why.

Yet, we don’t have a good track record of—starting on 3 August 1492—adhering to any moral responsibility that discomforts or inconveniences us. Butler continues:

The chokehold does not stem from hate of African Americans. Its anti-blackness is instrumental rather than emotional. As slaves built the White House, the chokehold builds the wealth of white elites. Discriminatory law enforcement practices such as stop and frisk, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs are key components of the political economy of the United States. After the civil rights movement of the 1960s stigmatized overt racism, the national economy, which from the founding has been premised on a racialized form of capitalism, still required black bodies to exploit. The chokehold evolved as a “color-blind” method of keeping African Americans down, and then blaming them for their own degradation. The rap group Public Enemy said: “It takes a nation of millions to hold us back.”

Actually all it takes is the chokehold. It is the invisible fist of the law.

The chokehold means that what happens in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland—where the police routinely harass and discriminate against African American—is not a flaw in the criminal justice system. Ferguson and Baltimore are examples of how the system is supposed to work. The problem is not bad-apple cops. The problem is police work itself. American cops are the enforcers of a criminal justice regime that targets black men and sets them up to fail.

The chokehold is how the police get away with shooting unarmed black people. Cops are rarely prosecuted because they are, literally, doing their jobs. This is why efforts to fix “problems” such as excessive force and racial profiling are doomed to fail. If it’s not broke, you can’t fix it. Police violence and selective enforcement are not so much flaws in American criminal justice as they are integral features of it. The chokehold is why, legally speaking, black lives don’t matter as much as white lives.

And that is precisely why we must never tolerate the hijacking of the message: Black Lives Matter.

[The above is from Part 2 of a four-part series: Part 1, ‘I worked as a prosecutor. Then I was arrested. The experience made a man out of me. It made a black man out of me’; Part 3, Sexual torture: American policing and the harassment of black men and Part 4, How black women’s bodies are violated as soon as they enter school]

20 August 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

Here’s an experiment. Find a timepiece with a second hand (or a digital timer that counts seconds), sit down comfortably and at the zero-seconds mark close your eyes and subjectively begin counting seconds: one Mississippi, two Mississippi (or whatever trick you want) until you reach sixty and then open your eyes and see how many seconds have objectively passed.

I just did the experiment myself and my subjective minute worked out to be an objective jaw-dropping two minutes and 24 seconds. I repeated the experiment using the 1001, 1002, 1003… method and my subjective minute was still 1 minute and 48 seconds. (Maybe I need a better counting method, or maybe my sense of time is simply slowed to approximately one of my minutes to two of yours.)

Why am I counting seconds? Blame David Eagleman.

Eagleman, according to Burkhard Bilger—writing in The Possibilian for The New Yorker six years ago—

is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”

I have long been fond of the metaphor of time as a bag of containing 1,000 pieces of gold that magically appears each morning on our pillow. Those gold pieces disappear at the rate of one a minute regardless of how we spend them until the bag is empty at the end or our day. (I get my 1,000 number based on an average day consisting of eight hours of sleep and sixteen hours (16 hours times 60 minutes per hour equals 960 minutes. I like round numbers, so sue me.)

If my minute equals approximately 30 of your seconds does that I get twice the gold you do?


Does the difference between objective time and subjective time matter? Eagleman says yes.

(And oh, regular readers know that my dad was a drummer and that I was fond of telling him drummer jokes—What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A drummer—at the end of Bilger’s article, I learned a couple of new ones: 1. How do you know when there’s a drummer at your door? The knocking gets faster and faster. 2. Had we heard about the drummer who tried to commit suicide? He threw himself behind a train.)

20 August 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

The straw that broke the camel’s back is the wrong metaphor if you’re going to talk about President Donald John Trump. The comparison fails because Trump isn’t a beast of burden, he’s a steaming manure pile out behind the barn that simply composts the straw and grows richer.


I feel better now.


Jonah Goldberg, writing in The ‘Last Straw’? for The New Republic, begins this way:

Normally, when I’m out of town, and I can only follow the news or check in on Twitter intermittently, I feel like the security guard at a sewage-treatment plant doing his morning rounds amidst the vats and pools: Same sh*t, different day. But this week feels different. The fecal content is higher. The curlicues of shimmering methane distorting the air above Washington seem thicker.

Taking this metaphor beyond all good sense and taste, when I look at the gauges and dials in the control room, all the needles are in the red, and the sewage-outflow pipes are all pointed at the industrial turbines. I feel like I’m Jack Lemon in a SyFy rip-off of The China Syndrome: From the writers of Sharknado 7: The Sharkenating, SyFy brings you: Shit Show. “My God. That’s not coolant water . . . that’s not water at all!” In other words, it feels like this is the moment when Trumpism hits the fan. Of course, it has felt like this to one extent or another before…

Maybe, but I don’t think so. Only Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the rule of law matters in our latest national nightmare.

Goldberg is a good writer however, and his whole piece is well worth 20 minutes or so of your time. I particularly liked this bit:

[I]f you’re going to then argue that because someone wasn’t as bad as Hitler—or because someone fought Hitler—that they are somehow absolved of their own evil deeds, then you’re a fool. To do so is to render complex moral and historical questions into a pass/fail system. Suddenly, “not as bad as Hitler” becomes a passing grade.

That reminds me of the story a friend told me about her uncle, a dirt farmer in Iowa. Her uncle, she said, once summed up his life of troubles and back breaking work this way: At least I’m no damned nigger. That sense that we can’t be that bad if we can be, or can pretend to be, better than someone else, is at the heart of bigotry and xenophobia.

Goldberg concludes:

Whether or not the antifa [Anti-facists, JH] goons are better than the alt-right peckerwoods is an idiotic argument to have. It’s an entirely subjective and aesthetic question. If you think racism is the most evil thing ever, you’re going to say the KKK is worse than antifa. That’s fine by me. But who cares? Is there a fainter praise imaginable than “He’s better than a Klansman?”

The really infuriating part of this Manicheanism is its retroactivity. In the post-Charlottesville tumult, liberals have convinced themselves that the GOP is simply the face of institutional racism. Sadly, Donald Trump has made that an easy charge to levy. But as Kevin Williamson notes, this rush to tear down Confederate statues is really an example of the Democratic party cleaning up a mess it created. I’m reminded of something George Clooney said a decade ago: “Yes, I’m a liberal, and I’m sick of it being a bad word. I don’t know at what time in history liberals have stood on the wrong side of social issues.” One could be charitable and say, “It depends what you mean by liberal.” But as an institutional matter, the Democratic party’s history on race is far, far worse than the GOP’s. It breaks my heart that the GOP has allowed this to be forgotten. But as an historical matter, the idea that the party of Woodrow Wilson, Josephus Daniels, Robert Byrd, William Fulbright, Richard Ely, et al. has been the great bulwark against racism is laughable.

The simple truth is that history isn’t simple: The universe isn’t divided into the Forces of Goodness and the Forces of Evil. That divide runs through every human heart and, therefore, every human institution. Recognizing this fact is the first step toward humility and decency in politics and life. But we live in a tribal moment where people ascribe good and evil to vast swaths of humanity based upon the jerseys they wear. Sometimes, the jerseys do make the case. Wear a Klan hood or a swastika and I will judge the book by the cover. But just because you think you’re morally justified to punch a Nazi, don’t expect me to assume you’re one of the good guys.

I’ll simply point to events in Boston yesterday as one for the good guys.

19 August 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

Russ Feingold, writing in How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists for The Guardian, opines:

It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.


Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.


It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?

Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.


Let’s see lawmakers like John Kasich in Ohio immediately stop the state’s intended purging of voting records. Let’s see Wisconsin lawmakers throw out their gerrymandered district map and form a non-partisan redistricting commission.

Let’s see strict voter ID laws criticized with the same vitriol that Republicans used in responding to the events in Charlottesville. Let’s see Republicans call out their own agenda, and openly recognize the connection between the agenda of the racist alt-right and that of the Republican party.

Anything short of radical change to the Republican party’s war on voters of color is merely feigned outrage.

I agree.

19 August 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

170819 xkcd eclipse lots of water

18 August 2017


1300 by Jeff Hess

Ben Jacobs, reporting in Steve Bannon removed from White House role for The Guardian, writes:

Steve Bannon is out as White House chief strategist, a source has told the Guardian, ending his highly contentious career at the center of the Trump administration.

Multiple news reports confirmed his departure, attributing the information to senior administration sources.

Reports from multiple outlets on Friday stated that Donald Trump had decided to remove Bannon but that the White House was trying to work out the details. A Trump ally told the Guardian that the leaks about Bannon’s fate were part of an effort to pressure the White House aide to step down. “They are trying to get him to quit,” the source said.

Minutes later, the Guardian learned that Bannon was out.

Chief of Staff John Francis Kelly cannot be far behind as President Trump is Dr. Hans Reinhardt.

Yesterday—a month in Trump time…

18 August 2017


1000 by Jeff Hess

18 August 2017


0900 by Jeff Hess

So, I’m nearly finished reading Rutger Bregman’s Utopia For Realists: How We Can Build The Ideal World and one of my first reactions was to think that I should send copies to all my elected representatives. They all need to read this book.

This morning I read Chapter 7—Why It Doesn’t Pay To Be A Banker—which references David Graeber’s brilliant, 2013* essay: On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs.

Bullshit jobs are, Bregman writes, …the jobs that even the people doing them admit are, in essence, superfluous.

Why do we, in the 21st century, have so many jobs that if the people performing those jobs (I can’t dignify them as work) all went on vacation at once no one would notice? Graeber explains:

The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at.

Go, read Graeber’s essay and then read Bregman’s book.


*Of course Douglas Adams nailed the concept decades ago….

18 August 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

18 August 2017


0700 by Jeff Hess

So, this long-read caught me off guard. I had no idea that Neoliberalism wasn’t real. I thought the concept had been around since the ’90s (actually the ’30s). Who knew?

Stephen Metcalf, reporting for The Guardian in Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world explains:

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality. [Emphasis mine, JH]

Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought allowed by our politics. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left’s traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality.

Where does all of this lead Metcalf? To 1936 and Friedrich Hayek.

There once was a group of people who did call themselves neoliberals, and did so proudly, and their ambition was a total revolution in thought. The most prominent among them, Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics.

He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn’t just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?

When the idea occurred to Friedrich Hayek in 1936, he knew, with the conviction of a “sudden illumination”, that he had struck upon something new. “How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds,” he wrote, “bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?”

You should read the rest.

18 August 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

170818 cleveland total eclipse 240408

I’m with Mano on next week’s eclipse…

18 August 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 2415: Charities cancel events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.]

Sam Allard, writing in two separate stories yesterday—Cleveland Clinic Says 2018 Gala Won’t Be at Mar-a-Lago and Willoughby South High School Will Drop Confederate “Rebel” Mascot—for Scene, reported on President Donald John Trump‘s descending spiral in Northeast Ohio.

I first learned of the Cleveland Clinic-Mar-A-Lago connection when a WCPN Sound Of Ideas caller—Carl at timemark 15:21—hijacked the show yesterday morning.

As for the Willoughby Rebels, well, Cleveland’s baseball team could learn a lesson.

Perhaps Willoughby South might substitute one of these rebels for their Confederate caricature.

18 August 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

18 August 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

One of the injuries done to radio in recent years has been the imposition of broadcast packages across stations owned by media conglomerates, destroying local connections with listeners and producing zombie programming. What radio cancers like Clear Channel Communications (the front for iHeart Media) have done to radio, Alt-Wrong broadcaster—and a darling of President Donald John Trump—the Sinclair Broadcast Group wants to do to television.

Lucia Graves, writing in ‘The most dangerous US company you have never heard of”: Sinclair, a rightwing media giant for The Guardian, explains:

In addition to changes paving the way for Sinclair’s merger, [Trump appointee Ajit] Pai’s FCC has proposed eliminating one of its most fundamental rules, which requires local news stations to actually have a local studio where they broadcast the news.

Now, the agency seems poised to do away with local broadcast protections, which would allow Sinclair and other broadcasters to save money by cutting local staff and to impose more editorial input from corporate headquarters.

And that means many more Americans will be hearing from the most dangerous company most people have never heard of—whether they know it or not.

John Oliver offered a refresher course on Sinclair in last month.


17 August 2017


1700 by Roldo Bartimole

170817 roldo plain dealer masthead dabbling ducks

What’s wrong with the Plain Dealer?

The city’s leading media voice has failed to even comment once editorially on the Ohio Supreme Court decision on the signatures of more than 20,000 voters. The Court validated the necessity for the City of Cleveland to examine the signatures for a vote on the Quicken Arena deal.

You would think that the number twenty thousand might wake someone up.

Not when they’re uninterested. And the PD management is surely unconcerned. Democracy is low on its list.

The city’s refusal to count submitted votes was clearly corrupt. Only about one-third of signatures would have to be validated for an election on the massive public subsidy of the arena.

It was clearly an obligation of City Hall.

To fail to comment editorially, the PD shows a serious lack of responsibility and bad journalistic judgment.

The newspaper willingly let the guilty go free of even criticism.

Why is the newspaper unable to comment critically on business and the corporate agenda? Where is its independence?

For months the newspaper used the fat face and body of Jimmy Dimora, former County Commissioner, as an easy target. Front pages splashed as if the paper Continue Reading »

17 August 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

Shame, Governor Kasich. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame…

17 August 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

While of late Matt Taibbi, the heir to Hunter S. Thompson has been writing mostly about our current political nightmare, I first came to his writing because of his ability to yank back the curtain on the arcane world of rich-boy gambling known as Wall Street. It was Taibbi that I first heard about the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR.

As if we needed further reminding that the banking world is run by creatures so loathsome that not even Gringgots would hire them, Taibbi writes in Is LIBOR, Crucial Financial Benchmark, a Lie? for Rolling Stone, tell us that:

It was easy to miss, with the impending end of civilization burning up the headlines, but a beyond-belief financial story recently crept into public view.

A Bloomberg headline on the story was a notable achievement in the history of understatement. It read: LIBOR’S UNCERTAIN FUTURE TRIGGERS $350 TRILLION SUCCESSION HEADACHE.

The casual news reader will see the term “LIBOR” and assume this is just a postgame wrapup to the LIBOR scandal of a few years back, in which may of the world’s biggest banks were caught manipulating interest rates.

It isn’t. This is a new story, featuring twin bombshells from a leading British regulator—one about our past, the other our future. To wit:

Going back twenty years or more, the framework for hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of financial transactions has been fictional.

We are zooming toward a legal and economic clusterfuck of galactic proportions—the “uncertain future” Bloomberg humorously referenced.

LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate. It measures the rate at which banks lend to each other. If you have any kind of consumer loan, it’s a fair bet that it’s based on LIBOR.

The nut of the story is this:

These numbers, even when sociopathic lunatics weren’t fixing them, were arbitrary calculations based on previous, similarly arbitrary calculations—a rolling fantasy that has been gathering speed for decades.

When regulators dug into the LIBOR scandal of a few years ago, they realized that any interbank lending rate that depended upon the voluntary reports of rapacious/amoral banks was inherently problematic.

But these new revelations tell us forcing honesty won’t work, either. There could be a team of regulators sitting in the laps of every LIBOR submitter in every bank, and it wouldn’t help, because there is no way to honestly describe a nonexistent market.

Which, of course, never stopped thieves, crooks and liars from trying.

17 August 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

The news this morning that Steven Bannon has done what his boss would not signals to me that Bannon is bailing on his Gamergate bros because he doesn’t want to be on the plane when it piles into the ground.

Sam Levin, writing in Steve Bannon brands far right ‘losers’ and contradicts Trump in surprise interview for The Guardian, explains:

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has given an unusual interview in which he claimed there was no military solution for North Korea, the far right was a “collection of clowns” and the left’s focus on racism would allow him to “crush the Democrats”.

Bannon, who has been called the mastermind behind Donald Trump’s nationalist agenda, made the controversial and unsolicited remarks to Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, a leftwing political magazine, in an interview published Wednesday.

There are many ways to describe Bannon, but stupid is not one of them. He knows how to manipulate. He knows precisely what he was doing when he cold called Kuttner.

The seemingly candid comments—which included the claims that he would oust his rivals in the federal government, who were “wetting themselves”—come at a time when Bannon faces an uncertain future at the White House. There have been increasing calls from the left and the right for the removal of the former editor of Breitbart News. When Trump was asked at a press conference this week if the chief strategist would remain in his position, the president said: “We’ll see.”

Yes we will Mr. President.

17 August 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

Let the party begin

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