7 October 2015

0010 by Jeff Hess


7 October 2015


0005 by Jeff Hess

Get your Bernie Sanders Volunteer Organizing Toolkit today. I did.
Find a local event…

bernie unions 151007

One of the reasons I voted for Barack Hussein Obama in 2008 was his support for the Employee Free Choice Act. That support, and my support for President Obama, quickly vaporized in the early months of 2009. I don’t think that will be the case for President Bernie Sanders.

Dan Roberts, writing in Bernie Sanders launches pro-union bill as battle for organized labor intensifies for The Guardian, ledes:

The battle for labor movement support among Democratic presidential candidates broke into the open on Tuesday with the launch of legislation by Senator Bernie Sanders protecting employees who seek to form unions.

Though the Workplace Democracy Act stands little chance of passing the current Republican-controlled Congress, it marks a new phase in the Sanders campaign’s effort to paint itself as the natural champion of organized labor.

The proposals to prevent workers from being victimized for attempting to form unions come amid growing union endorsements for Hillary Clinton and ahead of a White House “Worker Voice” summit on Wednesday which is expected to be attended by Vice-President Joe Biden.

Sanders rejected criticism that his support among unions was lower than he would have hoped, saying that members were backing him even if their leaders were influenced by personal ties to Clinton.

“We have a number of locals, we have the national nurses union and we are going to have a number of more unions on our side – no doubt about it,” the Vermont senator told reporters after a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

“What sometimes happens is that Secretary Clinton has had a number of contacts with union leaders over the years, but I have zero doubt that we have massive rank-and-file support among trade unionists.”

But Sanders also insisted his support for the legislation, which would strengthen the role of the National Labor Relations Board in certifying unions, long predated his interest in running for president.

“This is legislation that I have supported since literally the first year that I was in the Congress,” he said. “It’s not a question of winning union support. What we are fighting for is the survival of the American middle class.”

Union leaders cast a handful of votes. Union members cast millions. Bernie is the candidate of the many, not the few as further evidenced by his agreement with former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that that corporate executives should have gone to jail for the illegal behavior which caused the financial crisis in 2008.

Is Bernie Sanders a Wizard?

Read more about Bernie on HCWW… Watch Bernie TV… Read Democracy Daily

bernie store

As of this morning, 25 September, I have given Bernie $200. How about you?

7 October 2015


0000 by Jeff Hess

top of mind

Racism in America… Global Warming… Raif Badawi…

7 October 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Via Mano Singham (who the Republicans don’t want to vote for a myriad of reasons).

7 October 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

I’m a coffee person (see blog-flag above) but I enjoy a good cuppa now and then whether the working-man’s mug preferred by Orwell and Hitchens or meditative green. This morning Mary Berry goes to the posh side in How to make the perfect cup of tea. She begins: My mother was fussy about making tea…

I’m certain that the comments will not be gentile and proper as evidenced by the response of the first of many: Bollocks.

Then there’s this hilarious bit…

7 October 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

The PEN Pinter Prize for 2015 has gone to Raif Badawi and James Fenton. The prize, named for 2005 Nobel laureate Harold Pinter,

is awarded annually to a British writer or a writer resident in Britain of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world, and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.

The prize is shared with an international writer of courage selected by English PEN’s Writers at Risk Committee in association with the winner. This half of the prize is awarded to someone who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.

My copy of 1000 Lashes arrived last week. Here is how Laurence Krauss introduced the book in the forward:

Freethinking and Saudi Arabia are two descriptions that rarely appear in the same sentence, and for good reason. The former is officially outlawed by the government and religious leaders associated with the latter. For this reason, it is difficult to get a real sense of the difficulties experienced by those who live in Saudi Arabia and who do not want to be shackled by the chains of myth, hatred and ignorance that are the hallmark of religious fundamentalism. [Fundamentalism is unnecessary here, JH]

Most freethinking young people choose to leave the country and work in a more enlightened environment, or if they choose to stay, they keep their view to themselves. One such individual did not: Raif Badawi.

Clearly, Badawi deserves the prize, hell, I’m hoping that he becomes the first blogger to win a Nobel.

6 October 2015


0300 by Jeff Hess

There is a meme about the brazenness of a man convicted of murdering his parents begging for mercy from the court because he’s an orphan.

Wells Fargo has topped that bit of audaciousness. Matt Taibbi, writing in Wells Fargo’s Master Spin Job for Rolling Stone, ledes:

If you still don’t believe our brethren on Wall Street have planet-sized cojones, check out this story.

All over the country, Wells Fargo is making headlines for launching a multimillion-dollar homeowner assistance program called HomeLIFT, which among other things offers $15,000 down payment grants to prospective home-buyers.

Local mayors in big cities from one end of the country to the other are showing up at ribbon-cuttings and throwing rose petals at the bank for its generosity. Newspapers in turn are running breathless profiles of the low-income homeowners who will now get to buy dream homes thanks to the bank’s beneficence.

Some knew, some didn’t, but all are leaving out one key detail: Wells Fargo was forced to launch HomeLIFT.

Yes. Wells Fargo got nailed for robosigning and lost the court battle in City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System v. Stumpf. The fallout from that loss mandated:

…that the bank spend $67 million on a series of measures to repair its reputation in communities hit the hardest by foreclosures and robosigning. Enter HomeLIFT.

Under the settlement, Wells had to dedicate $36 million in homeowner assistance to cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, Detroit, Albuquerque, Virginia Beach and New Haven. It also mandated $6 million in spending for credit counseling.

Wells Fargo had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the settlement and now the bank’s flacks have the balls to try and turn the court-mandated expenditure into a public-relations coup.

I checked the local news in Cleveland and there doesn’t appear to be any recent mention of HomeLIFT. As Taibbi notes, however, there was an earlier program, resulting from an earlier lawsuit: CityLIFT.

When I contacted Wells about this story, the bank initially seemed offended at the suggestion it had not been forthright about the impetus behind HomeLIFT. The new program, its spokesperson Tom Goyda explained, was “part of several Wells Fargo LIFT programs developed to create positive outcomes for people and communities recovering from the financial crisis.”

A similar program called NeighborhoodLIFT, which Goyda described as a philanthropic endeavor, had been created years before the Westland suit. HomeLIFT, he said, was just an extension of that program.

Goyda added that the fact that HomeLIFT and other programs were part of settlement agreements had “already been covered in the news media” and was “mentioned in press releases.”

That was a surprise to me, since I hadn’t seen anything like that in press releases. When I pressed Goyda for an example of a Wells Fargo press release admitting that HomeLIFT was part of a court settlement, he replied:

“Our CityLIFT program within the LIFT family was part of a 2012 settlement with the DOJ and that fact has been included in all CityLIFT releases and background is provided on the program Website and, as we discussed, HomeLIFT’s ties to the Westland settlement is discussed with city officials and has been covered by several media outlets previously.”

This is confusing, but funny. To deflect attention from one lawsuit, Wells directed me to a different and worse one.

While HomeLIFT doesn’t appear to be on Cleveland’s radar, CityLIFT is. Two years ago Olivera Perkins, writing in Homebuyers in Cleveland can get $15,000 toward down payment for the Plain Dealer told readers:

Homebuyers in the City of Cleveland may qualify for $15,000 in down payment assistance funding resulting from a federal mortgage settlement.

Wells Fargo is making $3.7 million available through its CityLIFT program.

Perkins gets points for putting the settlement in the lede and for additionally informing readers:

The money comes from a 2012 settlement between Wells Fargo and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding whether some Wells Fargo mortgages had adversely impacted African-American and Hispanic borrowers.

The same year, the lender was part of the $25 billion national mortgage settlement reached between the federal government and 49 state attorneys general and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers: Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

The agreement settled state and federal investigations finding that these servicers routinely signed foreclosure-related documents without a notary public and without confirming if the information in such documents was correct. Both practices are against the law.

Matt Taibbi was away from us for too long working for First Look Media, the Glenn Greenwald/Pierre Omidyar startup. I had high hopes for that partnership since I greatly admire both Greenwald and Taibbi, but disagreements happened and Taibbi returned to Rolling Stone.

I’m very happy that he’s back.

5 October 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

I first heard the myth of Native Americans having no natural resistance to alcohol when I was a senior in high school; and I heard the story from a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who was also an Indian (I use that term advisedly, having spoken with Dennis Banks once). To my uneducated mind, the source was impeccable. Who was I to question someone who had lived reality.

The problem was, of course, that my friend was so deep into the story that he didn’t question the source of the alcoholism he had grown up with all around him.

More than 40 years later, I’m finally getting an education on the topic from Maia Szalavitz writing in No, Native Americans aren’t genetically more susceptible to alcoholism for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

When Jessica Elm, a citizen of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, was studying for her master’s degree in social work, she frequently heard about how genes were responsible for the high risk of alcoholism among American Indians. But her own family’s experience — and the research, she discovered — tells a very different story.

The “firewater” fairytale that Elm came to know all too well goes like this: Europeans introduced Native Americans to alcohol, which they were genetically unprepared to handle. That happenstance led to alcoholism rates that are around twice as high as those seen in whites — and alcohol-related death rates, which are at least tripled. In this view, colonization didn’t make conquered people susceptible to heavy drinking — genes did.

Addiction is often described as an equal opportunity disease. It isn’t: while anyone can become addicted under certain conditions, like most bullies, addiction prefers to hit people who are already hurting. The more trauma and social exclusion a child experiences, the greater the addiction risk. This creates a vicious cycle: addiction itself becomes a reason for even more rejection, prejudice, and maltreatment.

Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the shameful collection of stereotypes and stigmas surrounding alcoholism among American Indians. “Firewater” myths come from the racist ideology that fueled colonialism…

Reading this made me think of the front-page story in my local weekly which talks about the ravages of heroin addiction, but nowhere in the story does the economic reality in North Eastern Ohio get mentioned.

Attack the cause—unemployment, abuse, helplessness—not the symptom or even those selling the escape

5 October 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

Until now the discussions in severe weather stories has been about once-a-century, centurial, events. Hurricane Joaquin, a storm that didn’t even come ashore in the United States, has given Americans a whole new standard to wrap their heads around: the millennial event.

Martin Pengelly, writing in Eight dead as South Carolina hit by ‘once in a millennium’ floods for The Guardian, quotes South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley:

This is the worst flooding in the low country [the region around the South Carolina coast] for a thousand years, that’s how big this is.That’s what South Carolina is dealing with right now.

What does a millennial flood look like?

A “once-in-a-millennium” downpour has flooded large parts of South Carolina, causing at least seven deaths.

The storm had dumped more than 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in parts of central South Carolina by early Sunday. The state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) through Monday as the rainfall began to slacken.

The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, said parts of the state were hit with rainfall that would be expected to occur once in 1,000 years, with the Congaree river running at its highest level since 1936.

Pengelly makes a critical observation in his conclusion:

Haley’s reference to the flooding being the “worst in a thousand years” did not mean that South Carolina, which became a colony in 1663 and a state in 1788, had not seen such flooding since 1015 AD.

The reference was to the expectation among forecasters that in any given 1,000 years, such flooding could reasonably be expected to occur only once.

Pengelly might have added, as I do here, that such events may no longer be expected to occur once a millennium, but, given rising planetary temperatures, we must be prepared to respond to multiples of such disasters and take immediate actions to reduce the carbon emissions responsible before we all drown.

5 October 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

The Guardian emails:

Dear Jeff,

With eight weeks until the doors of the decade’s most important climate change conference open in Paris, it has never been more important to make our voices heard.

That’s why today the Guardian is launching the second phase of our Keep it in the Ground campaign.

You—the supporters of this campaign—have been its backbone since the beginning. So we asked you where to take it next and your responses can be summarised in one word: hope.

We aren’t abandoning fossil fuel divestment but we will now focus on solar power: the alternatives, the positive stories and its amazing growth and potential.

Read our plans for the next stage here. Show you’re still committed to the campaign and help spread the word below.

One reader, Steven Griffiths, a carer from Carmarthenshire, Wales, told us: “I hope you’ll prompt a rethink…and start something that they won’t be able to stop.”

We hope so too—but we can’t do it without you. We’ll be in touch in the next few days to ask for your further input but in the meantime.

You can also email me. We’ve also updated the campaign FAQ.

Yours sincerely,

James Randerson
Assistant national news editor

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

5 October 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

The biggest problem with these arguments [—that the goal should be to get the cheapest possible products to the consumer so that the green transition can happens as quickly as possible—] is the notion that there is any free market in energy to be protected from distortion. Not only do fossil fuel companies receive $775 billion in annual global subsidies, but they pay nothing for the privilege of treating our shared atmosphere as a free waste dump—a fact that has been described by the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change as “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.” The freebie is the real distortion, that theft of the sky the real subsidy. p. 70

From This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein


Found in my electronic chapbook.

4 October 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

roldo waterfront line 151004

The city may be drowning in blood. But our downtown still floats on green.

Green as in cash. No expense spared.

Last week the Plain Dealer reported that the Public Square redo (I should say “iconic” redo, as PD Steve Litt calls it; but he calls almost everything he writes about “iconic”) was $5 million short. The Greater Cleveland Partnership, which runs the portion of Cleveland called “downtown”, wants the state legislature to “tuck” in $3.5 into the iconic needs of the Square.

I hate to say I told you but I did. In February:

Why don’t we know the costs of Public Square for example? It’s said to be $30 to $32.5 million. But that doesn’t really add up.

If you believe the PD both the city and county have pledged $10 million each, that’s $20 million; the Regional Sewer District $3 million, that’s $23 million; the Cleveland Foundation, $8 million, that’s $31 million; the Gund Foundation $5 million, that’s $36 million; the Kent Smith Foundation (you know the corporates are behind this when foundation money pours out) $1 million, that $37 million.

But it doesn’t stop there. Oh, no.

More public money will be flushed in over time.

Because the property taxes from the Higbee-Horseshoe Casino building, which supposedly might help finance police and firefighters and more, won’t go to the county and city, as it should. No this tax revenue will be diverted to the Square project too. Who knows how much over time? One price tag has it at $18 million.

So the $37 million plus the $18 million suggests to me that the cost will be $55 million.

That doesn’t include a lot of infrastructure costs that will have to be done, especially for RTA as it has to divert its buses to make space for the next Public Square.

The $18 million results in a tax incremental financing deal via the city.

The loss of that $18 million in property tax revenue will have to be Continue Reading »

4 October 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

The only alumnus of the Clinton Administration that I respect is Robert Reich. I continue to read his blog and have read his books. On Thursday, Reich came to Bernie’s defense after David Fahrenthold’s attack in The Washington Post. Reich begins:

The Washington Post just ran an attack on Bernie Sanders that distorts not only what he’s saying and seeking but also the basic choices that lie before the nation. Sanders, writes the Post’s David Fahrenthold, “is not just a big-spending liberal. And his agenda is not just about money. It’s also about control.”

Fahrenthold claims Sanders’s plan for paying for college with a tax on Wall Street trades would mean “colleges would run by government rules.”

Apparently Fahrenthold is unaware that three-quarters of college students today attend public universities financed largely by state governments. And even those who attend elite private universities benefit from federal tax subsidies flowing to wealthy donors. (Meg Whitman’s recent $30 million donation to Princeton, for example, is really $20 million from her plus an estimated $10 million she deducted from her taxable income.) Notwithstanding all this government largesse, colleges aren’t “run by government rules.”

The real problem is too many young people still can’t afford a college education.

Big money students get lots of tax-payer supported aid from big money universities. Those not tapped into the 1 percent? Not so much. Reich continues:

The move toward free public higher education that began in the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and was extended in the 1960s by leading public universities was reversed starting in the 1980s because of shrinking state budgets. Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years as states slashed education spending. It’s time to resurrect that earlier goal.

Besides, the biggest threats to academic freedom these days aren’t coming from government. They’re coming as conditions attached to funding from billionaires and big corporations that’s increasing as public funding drops.

When the Charles Koch Foundation pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, for example, it stipulated that a Koch-appointed advisory committee would select professors and undertake annual evaluations. The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice.

I’d take that bet.

This is not the first time Reich has supported Bernie

3 October 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

Alan Yuhas, writing in Bernie Sanders thrills Boston with call to fight racism and reform gun law for The Guardian, reports:

Bernie Sanders decried “an institutional racism that allows and continues to allow unarmed African Americans to be killed by police” on Saturday night, as he preached to a huge crowd in Boston that welcomed the Democratic presidential candidate’s now familiar vision of “political revolution”.

Sanders alluded to a string of high-profile police killings of unarmed black people, and to a subsequent series of grand jury decisions not to indict officers involved in some cases.

“It is not easy being a cop today,” Sanders told the crowd. “Many of them are underpaid, their schedules are terrible, and their family life is very stressful.

“But like any other public official when a police officer breaks the law that officer must be held accountable.”

No one, especially those entrusted to enforce laws, must be above The Law.

3 October 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

mass shootings

The Oregon school shooting is evidence that the US response to gun violence ‘has become routine’, Barack Obama says. The data compiled by the crowd-sourced site Mass Shooting Tracker reveals an even more shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting—defined as four or more people shot in one incident—nearly every day. —The Guardian.

30 September 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

frank jackson 150930

Hasn’t the time come for the Plain Dealer to start asking the tough questions of Mayor Frank Jackson? Really tough questions.

The guy the paper has told us to vote for to keep in office.

Columnist Mark Naymik groused that City Council hasn’t been putting the pressure on Jackson. They’re boring. Does he read his paper?

Naymik, a former colleague at the old Free Times, should know that the politicians get unruly when they see they can get ink. In other words, they’ll get hot when the paper gives them encouragement.

I’ve noticed no attempt to build up an opponent for Jackson.

The Plain Dealer long has not given Mayor Frank Jackson the kind of kick in the butt he so richly deserves.

He has been the worse mayor in the last 50 years of my experience.

Yet, the PD—unfortunately, the main source of civic information available—allows him to continue his “it is what it is” nonsensical form of governing. So it never will change. There is no “It is NOT what it should be.”

I last noted Jackson’s lack of concern about the shooting deaths of two children. He got up enough emotion to call them “innocents.”

He has shown no leadership with the police force. Indeed, the opposite.

His inaction at every level is mind-boggling, from the water department to now the airport as one after another debacle becomes public.

Yes, the PD reports these but never seems to have anyone—including Naymik—who adds them up and says, “Hey, what’s going on here.”

It is clear that Jackson never punishes anyone who does badly so why worry, as a city employee, about not doing your job? Nothing is going to happen because “it is what it is.”

And you keep hearing from various private outlets that Jackson feels he should run again. Is this true?

Jackson even fakes his State of the City addresses. He has invented the lazy way to do this, seemingly acceptable to the newspaper, the City Club and certainly the powers that be in town. (They get what they want). Ask me some questions, he says, then answers them with the same “it is what it is” nonsense, usually repeating at least twice his words.

Poverty goes up. Population goes down. Murders go up. The state of children’s health goes down. Police infractions go up. So do city payments to those abused.

Jackson himself rates Jackson poorly. I wrote some time ago:

“Sadly, not that much has changed in 50 years,” said Mayor Frank Jackson, the city’s third black mayor. “We are still addressing aging infrastructure, poverty and issues on the police department.

Actually, a lot has changed.

As Jackson also noted, “You can look at the skyline and see new stadiums and building everywhere, but what you don’t see is the 40-year-old pipeline.” Or, I might add again, the impoverished neighborhoods where little changes.”

Naymik is right about one thing. Someone should be sounding the alarm.

He works for the first and foremost outlet that should clearly let its voice be heard.

We have a mayor who needs to GO!

It’s time citizens should be marching on city hall.

By Roldo Bartimole…

29 September 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

MacArthur fellow genius Ta-Nehisi Coates set the bar for the discussion of reparations in 2014 when The Atlantic published his cover story: The Case for Reparations.

On the eve of his first official visit to former British colony Jamaica, British Prime Minister David Cameron faces calls for his government to pay billion in reparations to the Caribean nation.

Rowena Mason, writing in Jamaica calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery for The Guardian, reports:

David Cameron is facing calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery ahead of his first official visit to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Downing Street said the prime minister does not believe reparations or apologies for slavery are the right approach, but the issue is set to overshadow his trade trip to the island, where he will address the Jamaican parliament.

Ahead of his trip, Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, has led calls for Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery and referenced the prime minister’s ancestral links to the trade in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed, General Sir James Duff.

In an open letter in the Jamaica Observer, the academic wrote: “You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors … You are, Sir, a prized product of this land and the bonanza benefits reaped by your family and inherited by you continue to bind us together like birds of a feather.

“We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.”

We have no problem in the United States with seizing ill-gotten profits. I know the question is far more complicated than I state here, but how is demanding reparations from slavery morally any different?

29 September 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

Senator Ted Kennedy served the people of Massachusetts for nearly half a century. He also served the people of the United States and the world. After a thankfully brief flirtation with Republican Scott Brown, voters in Massachusetts found a worthy successor to Kennedy in Elizabeth Warren.

Sunday Senator Warren spoke at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston. At the core of her speech was the message of 2015: Black Lives Matter.

Fifty years [after the 1950s/1960s civil rights struggle], violence against African Americans has not disappeared. Consider law enforcement. The vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of an honorable profession that takes risks every day to keep us safe. We know that. But we also know—and say—the names of those whose lives have been treated with callous indifference. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. We’ve seen sickening videos of unarmed, black Americans cut down by bullets, choked to death while gasping for air – their lives ended by those who are sworn to protect them. Peaceful, unarmed protestors have been beaten. Journalists have been jailed. And, in some cities, white vigilantes with weapons freely walk the streets. And it’s not just about law enforcement either. Just look to the terrorism this summer at Emanuel AME Church. We must be honest: Fifty years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.

And what about voting rights? Two years ago, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates ever wider for measures designed to suppress minority voting. Today, the specific tools of oppression have changed-voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and mass disfranchisement through a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates black citizens. The tools have changed, but black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process.

Violence. Voting. And what about economic injustice? Research shows that the legal changes in the civil rights era created new employment and housing opportunities. In the 1960s and the 1970s, African-American men and women began to close the wage gap with white workers, giving millions of black families hope that they might build real wealth.

But then, Republicans’ trickle-down economic theory arrived. Just as this country was taking the first steps toward economic justice, the Republicans pushed a theory that meant helping the richest people and the most powerful corporations get richer and more powerful. I’ll just do one statistic on this: From 1980 to 2012, GDP continued to rise, but how much of the income growth went to the 90 percent of America—everyone outside the top 10 percent—black, white, Latino? None. Zero. Nothing. 100 percent of all the new income produced in this country over the past 30 years has gone to the top ten percent.

Today, 90 percent of Americans see no real wage growth. For African-Americans, who were so far behind earlier in the 20th Century, this means that since the 1980s they have been hit particularly hard. In January of this year, African-American unemployment was 10.3 percent—more than twice the rate of white unemployment. And, after beginning to make progress during the civil rights era to close the wealth gap between black and white families, in the 1980s the wealth gap exploded, so that from 1984 to 2009, the wealth gap between black and white families tripled.

The remedy for these racial and economic injustices lies in the vote. This, repeats Warren, is the reason Republicans are so focused on narrowing the franchise and preventing another 2008 catastrophe for those who falsely believe that our country is a White, Christian nation.

Two years ago the Supreme Court eviscerated critical parts of the Voting Rights Act. Congress could easily fix this, and Democrats in the Senate have called for restoration of voting rights. Now it is time for Republicans to step up to support a restoration of the Voting Rights Act—or to stand before the American people and explain why they have abandoned America’s most cherished liberty, the right to vote.

And while we’re at it, we need to update the rules around voting. Voting should be simple. Voter registration should be automatic. Get a driver’s license, get registered automatically. Nonviolent, law-abiding citizens should not lose the right to vote because of a prior conviction. Election Day should be a holiday, so no one has to choose between a paycheck and a vote. Early voting and vote by mail would give fast food and retail workers who don’t get holidays day off a chance to proudly cast their votes. The hidden discrimination that comes with purging voter rolls and short-staffing polling places must stop. The right to vote remains essential to protect all other rights, and no candidate for president or for any other elected office—Republican or Democrat—should be elected if they will not pledge to support full, meaningful voting rights.

Republicans no more want want a free and informed electorate than court-room attorneys want a fair and impartial jury. We the people, however, require free and informed voters because without them the game is rigged.

Warren concluded this way:

Back in March, I met an elderly man at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. We were having coffee and donuts in the church basement before the service started. He told me that more than 50 years earlier—in May of 1961—he had spent 11 hours in that same basement, along with hundreds of people, while a mob outside threatened to burn down the church because it was a sanctuary for civil rights workers. Dr. King called Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, desperately asking for help. The Attorney General promised to send the Army, but the closest military base was several hours away. So the members of the church and the civil rights workers waited in the sweltering basement, crowded together, listening to the mob outside and hoping the U.S. Army would arrive in time.

After the church service, I asked Congressman John Lewis about that night. He had been right there in that church back in 1961 while the mob gathered outside. He had been in the room during the calls to the Attorney General. I asked if he had been afraid that the Army wouldn’t make it in time. He said that he was “never, ever afraid. You come to that point where you lose all sense of fear.” And then he said something I’ll never forget. He said that his parents didn’t want him to get involved in civil rights. They didn’t want him to “cause trouble.” But he had done it anyway. He told me: “Sometimes it is important to cause necessary trouble.”

The first civil rights battles were hard fought. But they established that Black Lives Matter. That Black Citizens Matter. That Black Families Matter. Half a century later, we have made real progress, but we have not made ENOUGH progress. As Senator Kennedy said in his first floor speech, “This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.” So it comes to us to continue the fight, to make, as John Lewis said, the “necessary trouble” until we can truly say that in America, every citizen enjoys the conditions of freedom.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We need to stop the delays here.

29 September 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

As for pitching climate action as a way to protect America’s high-consumerist way of life—that is either dishonest or delusional because a way of life based on the promise of infinite growth cannot be protected, least of all exported to every corner of the globe. p. 58

[W]hat the moderates constantly trying to reframe as something more palatable are really asking is this: How can we create change so that the people responsible for the crisis do not feel threatened by the solution? How, they ask, do you reassure members of a panicked megalomaniacal elite that they are still masters of the universe, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

The answer is: you don’t. You make sure you have enough people on your side to change the balance of power and take on those responsible knowing that true populist movements always draw from both the left and the right. And rather than twisting yourself into knots trying to appease a lethal worldview, you set out to deliberately strengthen those values (egalitarian and communitarian as the cultural cognition studies cited here describe them) that are currently being vindicated, rather than refuted by the laws of nature. p. 58

From This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein


Found in my electronic chapbook.

29 September 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

I can’t remember a time in my life when I was bored. Boredom is simply not a concept I emotionally understand. Yet, hardly a school day passes when I do not hear one of my students lament some permutation of the phrase: I’m so bored. Gayatri Devi, writing in Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It’s the last privilege of a free mind for The Guardian, can relate:

I live and teach in small-town Pennsylvania, and some of my students from bigger cities tell me that they always go home on Fridays because they are bored here.

You know the best antidote to boredom, I asked them? They looked at me expectantly, smartphones dangling from their hands. Think, I told them. Thinking is the best antidote to boredom. I am not kidding, kids. Thinking is the best antidote to boredom. Tell yourself, I am bored. Think about that. Isn’t that interesting? They looked at me incredulously. Thinking is not how they were brought up to handle boredom.

The last thing many students want to do is think. They want to be entertained. Entertainment, however, only masks the problem. Devi recommends instead that students:

So lean in to boredom, into that intense experience of time untouched by beauty, pleasure, comfort and all other temporal salubrious sensations. Observe it, how your mind responds to boredom, what you feel and think when you get bored. This form of metathinking can help you overcome your boredom, and learn about yourself and the world in the process. If meditating on nothing is too hard at the outset, at the very least you can imitate William Wordsworth and let that host of golden daffodils flash upon your inward eye: emotions recollected in tranquility—that is, reflection—can fill empty hours while teaching you, slowly, how to sit and just be in the present.

Blaise Pascal nailed the problem when he wrote (as Oliver Burkeman echoed earlier this year): All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

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