29 June 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

28 June 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

I graduated from Ohio University in 1984 with a B.S. degree in Journalism. (The double irony there is inescapable.) Unlike most of my peers I had the slight advantage of being a bit older than the norm and I think that maturity edge helped me resist the popular drive for objectivity.

Yes, journalists should attempt to be fair in much the same way that judges do, but we cannot escape our individual personal perspectives. Our emotional realities, the lens through which we process our experiences, are unique.

Reading Matt Taibbi’s piece, With CNN Flap, Media’s Trump-Era Identity Crisis Continues, in Rolling Stone this eveing had my head nodding in agreement. As always, the whole article is well worth the reading time, but these two bits struck the chord with me.

First, this:

Eventually, many reporters came to believe Trump was so bad that the press should step out of its normal “detached” role and do more to stop him. But that might have played right into Trump’s hands.

Not all the changes have been bad. Ditching some of the sillier old conventions of “objectivity” has been a good thing overall, as NYU professor Mitchell Stephens points out in a Politico article entitled, “Goodbye, Non-Partisan Journalism. And Good Riddance.”

As Stephens notes, a lot of the old “objective” format had its origins in a commercial strategy from the last century, as networks sought ways to attract wider audiences:

“[News organizations] picked up the habit of reflexively pairing a quote from the Republicans with one from the Democrats. This is a variety of what the sharp-eyed and sardonic press critic A. J. Liebling once dubbed, ‘on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that’ journalism.”

The parsing instinct became so ingrained that media organizations began to feel terror at the idea of having opinions about anything. This was symbolized by the ludicrous evolution of the house editorial at daily newspapers, which often involved nameless editors spinning 700 words in a rhetorical circle before dismounting in an ass-covering question: “Should we do X, or should we do Y? Only time will tell.”

Today, few serious journalists believe in “objectivity.” Every story is filled with editorial choices. Is the article on the front page, or buried inside? Is the headline alarmist, or are horrible things sanitized via a misleadingly academic tone? And are you using words like dissemble when you really mean lie?

For that I would sincerely like to say: Thank you President Trump. He may have rescued my chosen profession from the mire of fair and balanced.

Taibbi’s conclusion is equally important:

For all the flaws in the business, reporters used to have few existential concerns. It wasn’t our job to save democracy. We were taught that our only job was to get things right, and that it was up to others—politicians, activists, voters – to do the fixing. To be useful all we had to do was give people better information with which to make those decisions.

That’s all changed. Journalists for two years now have been trapped between two nefarious forces pushing them out of their natural roles—Trump, and their own profitability model. Both evils have pushed us into this horrid WWE stage of our existence, where reporters too often have been baited into becoming half of a very profitable clown act.

I agree with professor Stephens that we shouldn’t romanticize journalism’s past. But being on nobody’s side wasn’t such a bad thing, either. On top of everything else, Trump has ruined this job.

On this last point, however, I think Taibbi gets the story wrong. Trump has saved our job in much the same way the horrible wake-up call of a heart attack can save a person; providing that jolt to change our lifestyle and perhaps live a bit longer.

27 June 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

Hat tip to Mano Singham…

27 June 2017


1500 by Jeff Hess

In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson ramped up our country’s involvement in South East Asia in response to an attack by North Vietnamese naval forces on two American destroyers steaming in the international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

The attack was pure fiction.

This afternoon, on the heels of Seymour Hersh’ in-depth revelation, in Syria: Trump‘s Red Line for WELTthank you Mano Singham—that the 6 April Sarin gas attack by Syrian forces on Khan Sheikhoun was also a work of fiction, comes news that President Trump has intelligence pointing to a second gas attack is imminent in Syria.

Of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Hersch writes:

:The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

Driving home this afternoon, I listened to news reports that Trump had learned of a second attack in the works. Then the other shoe dropped.

Christopher Woolf, in The risks of war in the Middle East, as the US confronts Syria and Iran for Public Radio International’s The World, reports:

The White House says Syria appears to be preparing just such an attack, the latest escalation in a multisided civil war in Syria since 2011.

“A heavy price,” in this context, is widely seen in foreign policy circles as code for military action.

The Trump administration is also warning Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, that they would also be held responsible for any chemical attack.

“This is a really dangerous situation,” says Borzou Daragahi, a correspondent for BuzzFeed News in Istanbul. “It’s how big wars start, actually.”

This bit of Darahahi’s report troubles me the most:

We’re still not clear about where the information is coming from. Our military and intelligence contacts say they have no idea what the White House is talking about.

We should all be troubled by this observation because this is, as Darahahi remarks, how big wars start.

There was confusion in Washington on Tuesday morning when sources at the Pentagon and in the State Department told reporters that they had no knowledge of any Syrian chemical preparations and that they were not consulted about the new threat issued by the White House.

“We’re still not clear about where the information is coming from,” says Daragahi. “Our military and intelligence contacts say they have no idea what the White House is talking about.”

That is, of course, unsurprising and terrifying.

Is Syria about to become our 21st-century Bosnia? No. Not this Bosnia, this Bosnia.

26 June 2017


1400 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader very rarely misses a beat, but in the case of the issue of driverless cars, I think he missed an important aspect. He can be forgiven that, however, because I haven’t heard the issue raised as of yet: driverless cars, either owned or shared, could provide aging baby boomers with an alternative to fooling the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that they’re still safe to be driving their deathmobile on the roads.

More below, but first, in Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions, Nader writes:

The hype and unsubstantiated hope behind the self-driving car movement continues unabated, distracting from addressing necessities of old “mobilities” such as inadequate public transit and upgrading highway and rail infrastructure.

At a conference on Driverless Cars sponsored by the George Washington University Law School earlier this month, the legal landscape of unresolved problems and unasked questions were deliberated for a full day:

What are the legal requirements that should be applied to the testing phase, the deployment phase, liability and insurance, impacts on displaced workers, cyber-security, privacy, and antitrust? A takeaway from this gathering was the number of mind-numbing unresolved systems awaiting this new, untested technology.

First, a little background—car ownership and car sales are expected to flatten or decline due to ride-sharing and a new generation of consumers that is less Continue Reading »

23 June 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

23 June 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

A writer at KallanishEnergy would have young people believe that there is a bright future in becoming a fossil fuel worker. Well who wouldn’t want to work in a dying industry that is rushing to exploit as many natural resources for shareholder profit and personal wealth as possible before rising sea levels and heatwaves make the planet uninhabitable?

Here’s the case in Young people must be educated O&G can be a great career:

Not only must the oil and gas industry educate the general public on the science behind hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, etc., just as important is teaching current/potential employees on what the industry offers. [The science of Climate Change/Global Warming? Not so much. JH]

A panel of experts discussed employee-related issues during Day Two of Hart Energy’s DUG East Conference & Exhibition in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Kallanish Energy attended the annual program.

The issues companies must face when hiring/retaining employees can be daunting and numerous, the experts believe. And, importantly, companies must be prepared to allow their employees to fail—to learn from their mistakes. [Like Exxon, British Petroleum and Energy Transfer Partners? JH]

“The Rover Pipeline, when approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, immediately put out the call for 30,000 workers, to find 15,000 people who could pass a drug test,” said Courtney McShane, director, Business Development, for Wilbros, a specialty infrastructure contractor serving the oil and gas and power industries. [So, your workers can be alcoholics but no druggies? JH]

Rover is an Energy Transfer Partners project 715 miles long, designed to flow 3.25 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays to markets in the Midwest, Northeast, East Coast, Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S. and Canada [and has had construction halted due to spills totaling more than 2 million gallons. JH]

Roger Rodiek, vice president of Strategic Development-Industrial & Energy Division for WSP USA (the former WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, a transportation and buildings engineering firm), said it takes a special type of person to work in the oil and gas field. [Considering whom they’re working for, nah, too easy of a target. JH]

“They want to build things,” Rodiek said. McShane, whose husband is in the armed forces, likened working in O&G to Army life: very structured, punctuated with long hours on the job, and away from family. [Then there’s the added benefit of enjoying despoiling vast tracks of farm land and poisoning water sources while slaughtering indigenous wildlife. JH]


[Bill Debo, operations director, Drill Bits, North America, for Baker Hughes,] reiterated the importance of allowing younger employees to stretch, to try and, perhaps to fail [with catastrophic consequences. JH]

“People get bloody noses—and that’s okay,” he said.

OK, ruining the lives of millions of people is an OK outcome from a learning experience in Debo’s world. His hubris is frightening. Better these young people should think about getting one of the 13 million clean-energy—solar and wind—jobs in China.

22 June 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

In We must remain shocked over Philando Castile. Justice needs moral outrage, Chiraag Bainsa, a former prosecutor for the U.S. Justice Department, writes:

A jury recently acquitted Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the 2016 killing of Philando Castile, a beloved school cafeteria worker. On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office released key evidence, including video from Yanez’s squad car and his interview with investigators.

Two things are evident from the new material: Castile’s every move was calculated to maintain safety and survive the encounter, and Yanez was responsible for turning the situation deadly.

Castile was cooperative. He pulled over immediately. He did not try to flee, resist or even complain. When the officer asked for his license and insurance, he handed over proof of insurance. He calmly and politely volunteered: “Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.”
In fact, under state law, Castile didn’t have to tell the officer about the gun unless asked. He did so to be prudent – for his own safety, that of girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter, and for the officer. Castile had been stopped before – 52 times since 2002 – and likely saw the wisdom in complying.

Yanez told Castile: “Don’t reach for it then.” Per the government’s evidence, Castile reached for his wallet. He even tried to explain this, telling the officer “I was reaching for –”, but was cut off by Yanez ordering: “Don’t pull it out,” referring to the gun. Continuing to communicate, Castile responded: “I’m not pulling it out.” Reynolds chimed in, saying “He’s not –”, but Yanez opened fire.

The result is that Castile was shot for doing what the officer asked: getting his license.

Maybe I’ll be able to write tomorrow.

21 June 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

This is one of what Trevor Noah calls his Between The Scenes segments where he talks to the audience during the commercial breaks. As good as Noah is in his scripted bits, I’m finding the honesty and transparency in these segments actually better.

As Noah points out, Philando Castile was a legal gun owner with all the proper permits for carrying a handgun, and the National Rifle Association hasn’t said jack shit since Castile murdered was found not guilty.

Michael A. Cohen, reporting in Why won’t the NRA speak out about Philando Castile? for The Boston Globe, writes:

Philando Castile was, from all accounts, a model citizen. He worked in a school cafeteria where he’d memorized the names and food allergies of 500 students. That should be enough reason for conservatives to be upset, but Castile was also a licensed and permitted gun owner. To avoid risk of being shot, he told the officer who pulled him over that he had a firearm on him, had a permit to carry it, and was reaching for his license, not his weapon. That hardly mattered, because within moments he’d been mortally wounded.

Quite simply, Philando Castile is dead today because he was exercising his constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

Yet, the National Rifle Association, an organization that is nominally devoted to protecting the constitutional right of Americans to arm themselves to the teeth has said nothing about the acquittal in the Castile case. Last July, when the shooting occurred, the NRA put out a statement that tepidly read “the reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated.” An organization that used the shooting of 20 kindergartners in Newtown, Conn., to call for armed guards to be stationed in the nation’s schools said it couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

From now on I’m referring to the NRA as the National Racists’ Association.

You should too.

20 June 2017


1822 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 1822—Yes! Republicans say they will release draft of health bill amid pressure over secrecy:

Senate Republican leaders said they would release draft language of their healthcare bill on Thursday amid mounting frustration among lawmakers in both parties over the way the party is assembling their bill—behind closed doors and without a single public hearing scheduled. A vote is expected next week.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, confirmed that the draft bill would be made public on Thursday during a press conference with reporters on Tuesday.

He said a finalized version of the bill would be released after the Congressional Budget Office publishes its analysis, which is expected to occur sometime next week.

Again, YES…!!!]

170620 13 republicans senate trumpcare ii
The 13 White Republican Men—including my own Senator Rob Portman of Ohio—are crafting the secret Senate Republican plan to ram a massive tax cut for the very richest Americans down the throat of the rest of us by masking their largess under the guise of a faux healthcare plan is as perfect an example of Shock Doctrine as we’re seeing right now.

Tim Dickinson’s lede to WTF Is Going on With the Secret Senate Version of Trumpcare? for Rolling Stone illustrates the point.

We’ve been hit with an avalanche of news over the past week: Trump under investigation for obstruction of justice! House Whip was shot at baseball practice! Attorney General Sessions stonewalls Intel committee! Tower inferno in London! As a result, the Senate GOP’s campaign to advance Trumpcare is flying beneath the radar—exactly as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants it.

While everyone is watching the White House set it’s hair on fire, Congress is stripping $834 billion from Medicaid and throwing 23 million Americans under the Trumpcare II bus. Unless we help Senate Democrats yank back the curtain.

Here’s what they’re trying to do.

Lauren Gambino, reporting in Republican health bill: Democrats pledge Senate standstill over secrecy for The Guardian, writes:

Democrats have vowed to bring Senate business to a halt this week, in protest against secrecy around a Republican attempt to repeal Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act that will affect access to coverage for millions of Americans.

Beginning on Monday night, Democrats will begin an effort to delay a vote on the Senate health bill by forcing the House-passed healthcare bill into committee, a senior Democratic aide said. Tactics will include procedural maneuvers that will disrupt routine order and late-night floor speeches demanding greater transparency.

Senior party figures, who were reported to be planning to focus on Donald Trump’s reported description of the House bill as “mean”, also launched a campaign urging Americans to speak out against the healthcare plan and share their stories about how the ACA, known as Obamacare, has helped them. In a video, several female senators shared their constituents’ stories.

Obamacare: 11 months and “more than a dozen hearings” vs. Trumpcare: less than 11 WEEKS and NO hearings. Trevor Noah slammed the Republican Star Chamber last week in What’s in the GOP’s Mysterious Health Care Bill?

In the Senate alone compare Democrats in 2009 to Republicans in 2017:

170620 trumpcare obamacare 2009 2017

Call your Republican senators and tell them healthcare is too important to fix in the dark. Call your Democratic senators and tell them to drag their Republican colleagues into the light.

[Update @ 0647—I’ve taken my own advice and called Sen. Portman’s offices in Washington (202.224.3353) and Cleveland (216.522.7095 to leave this message:

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

I’m calling this morning to ask that Sen. Portman stop the Senate’s secret Trumpcare meetings that have the potential to put the lives of tens of thousands of Ohioans at dire risk. We deserve better from our Senate.

Thank you.

I also called Sen. Brown’s offices in Washington (202.224.2315) and Cleveland (216.522.7272) to leave this message:

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

I’m calling this morning to thank Sen Brown for his work and to encourage him to take whatever steps he can to assist his peers in the senate in bringing the secret Trumpcare process into the light and protect the lives of all Ohioans and all Americans put at dire risk by Sen. Portman and the 12 other Republican senators now engaged in these secret meetings.

Thank you.

I also sent nearly identical—I’m writing instead of I’m calling—email messages to my senators. The whole process took less than 10 minutes. Please do the same.]

20 June 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

Earlier today I wrote about The Gang Who Can’t Talk Straight plotting in secret to slash $834 billion from Medicaid and throwing 23 million Americans under the Trumpcare II bus. This evening I’m reading Ralph Nader’s take on the Senate shenanigans.

Nader, in Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them, writes:

In 2006 a book was published called Losing Our Democracy by civic leader, Mark Green. His 21st book, it was the usual Mark Green brand of meticulous research with memorable examples. One would have thought such an important subject would have received wide coverage and circulation. In fact, it was almost completely ignored by reviewers and the media interviewers. In 2017, the danger of having the door shut on the practice of democracy by its citizens is more important than at any other time in recent history.

Republicans prefer to use the words “liberty” and “freedom,” not “democracy.” Why? Because democracy includes these rights but adds “justice,” which holds those in power accountable and brings them down to earth where people live, work and raise their families.

Look at some ways democracy’s doors are closing. Thirteen Republican senators (all men) are now meeting secretly behind closed doors to further deny American families access to affordable, accessible healthcare. They arrogantly (or cynically) have refused to hold a single public hearing. In 2009-2010 the Senate held over Continue Reading »

20 June 2017


0700 by Jeff Hess

170620 this modern world tom tomorrow trump's honest cabinet

What really happened, however…

19 June 2017


1000 by Roldo Bartimole

[Be sure to listen to Roldo’s talk with Ralph Nader on The Ralph Nader Radio Hour. JH]

In August of 1983—some 34 years ago—I wrote this about the Plain Dealer:

“It’s like a giant whale, beached in shallow water.

Too embarrassing not to look at, too big to give it much help, and too obvious to ignore.

More than a year after the demise of the Cleveland Press, the morning paper, the very Plain Dealer, remains rather rudderless.

It has no spark, no drive, no mission.

‘There’s a lot of bad writing, a lot of bad editing, a lot of bad story selection and big gaps in coverage,’ said a close observer of the daily newspaper.

In one sentence he has summed up the discouraging state of journalism at the city’s only daily newspaper.

What can we say 34 years later? That the paper’s a Lake Erie perch dropped at the door four times a week?

The newspaper is shrinking as the city is shrinking. It may be published daily but it delivers to subscribers four days a week and the product remains shallow and even less relevant. There are minor exceptions from a few reporters as there were then.

Sports pages and sections dominate. Giant photos take up space. Cleveland.com has cute notes as how many beer joints are in the city or 27 things to do this weekend. It’s a mirror of Cleveland Magazine and what are the best suburbs. Why not, it gets clicks.

We look at the paper and notice, at least some do, reports from Continue Reading »

19 June 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 1413 on 22 June: Surprise, surprise, Murray is suing John Oliver and HBO.]

[Update at 1042—Jake Nevins offers his take in John Oliver on the coal industry: ‘Trump needs to stop lying to miners’ for The Guardian.]

So, at the time I posted John Oliver’s latest, the video had only been viewed 121,520 times, garnering 11,888 likes and 271 dislikes (a number, I’ll assume, representing all of Robert Edward Murray’s attorneys’, their staffs and various other Murray Energy lackeys. For comparison, last week’s show on Brexit has racked up 4,826,883 views, 100,601 likes and 3,697 dislikes (likely more people who even knew who Robert Edward Murray or Murray Energy were before last night).

Oliver’s mention of The Chagrin Valley Times and the Akron Beacon Journal definitely caught my attention. Murray sued the first paper in 2014 because:

On December 17, 2012, in front of the headquarters of Murray Energy in Pepper Pike, Ohio, Patriots for Change held an organized protest decrying the firing of 156 employees of various companies owned by Robert Murray the day after the presidential election. Protesters alleged that Murray fired these individuals as a political stunt. Sali A. McSherry, a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times, interviewed protestors and sought comments from Murray and Murray Energy. She was able to contact Gary Broadbent, an employee of Murray Energy. He provided her with a statement from Murray Energy as well as statements from Robert Murray. An article appeared in the newspaper on December 20, 2012, reporting on the protest and the response from Murray and Murray Energy. On January 3, 2013, an editorial written by Editor Emeritus David Lange appeared in the Chagrin Valley Times. It was critical of Murray and other appellants. The commentary was published in conjunction with a cartoon unfavorably depicting Murray that was penned by Ron Hill.

He lost his suit in 2015 when the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The Akron Beacon Journal was the recipient of a suit from Murray some 14 years earlier after the paper published a front-page story headlined: Mine Owner Isn’t the Shy, Quiet Type. That suit was settled four years late.

Murray’s appeal narrowed its focus down to four specific statements in the newspaper article. His attorneys claimed the defendants had not provided sufficient evidence to back up the truth of the statements, and therefore didn’t deserve summary judgment.

The four statements about Murray, or attributed to Murray in the story were:

* ‘The only thing I want is a long line at my funeral. I’m sick. I bought my cemetery plot.’ (Murray supposedly said this.)

* ‘If the Boich brothers were the quite voice of coal in the 1990s, ‘Honest Bob’ Murray — as his competitors jokingly call him — was the loud one.’

* Even his (i.e. Murray’s) friends roll their eyes at his hyperbole.’

* ‘He (Murray) tends to exaggerate a good bit.’ (This was attributed to coal lobbyist Neal Tostenson.)

The appeals court found merit in the claim that the first statement was defamatory per se (in and of itself), because it suggested that Murray might be near death, and this perception could hurt his business prospects among people who view Ohio Valley Coal as a ‘one-man operation.’

Considering the next three statements as possible attacks on Murray’s personal integrity, the appeals court found that taking them together could give the impression that Murray is dishonest in his business dealings. Therefore, the court ruled, these three statements are also defamatory per se.

After the appeals court remanded the case back to trial court, the two sides reached a settlement, after what McKown called ‘a delicate and difficult negotiation.’

At the time of the original suit, Murray promised in a press release that:

[T]he first $39,960,000 of any award will be distributed to the 444 employees of his companies in Belmont County—which works out to $90,000 per employee. Any remaining monies, it states, will be put into a charitable foundation to benefit the charities and citizens of Belmont, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, and Noble counties.

In an online search this morning I was unable to find mention of any such distribution.

I’ll keep looking.

Now, you might ask, what does my congressman, James Bupkis* Renacci have to do with any of this? Back on 4 February I fisked an op-ed piece in my hometown newspaper, The Marietta Times, from Renacci in support of removing vital environmental restrictions from coal companies. In that op-ed, Renacci specifically mention Murray Energy:

In 2015, Murray Energy was forced to lay off thousands of workers.

In my February post I wondered why Renacci was interested in Coal in general and Murray Energy in particular. I wrote:

Why is Renacci suddenly so interested in coal jobs? Perhaps because the owners of Ohio (and other) mines are making contributions to Renacci’s war chest? Perhaps because he owes favors to representatives who—like fellow Republicans Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), Bob Gibbs (OH-7) and Steve Stivers(OH-15)—do have active coal mines and coal miners in their districts? Given the choice of The Marietta Times, however, my money is on Bill Johnson (OH-6).

All journalists love the rule: Follow The Money. This morning I see that over his political career, Renacci has received $43,417 from Murray Energy and that Renacci has been the recipient of $390,407 from the oil, gas and mining industries.

Then there is the matter, raised by The New Republic Senior Editor Alex MacGillis in Coal Miner’s Donor. In the lede to that 2012 story, MacGillis wrote:

It is both a pundit’s truism and a mathematical reality that Mitt Romney’s path to the White House runs through Ohio. And that path, in turn, runs through a firm called Murray Energy.

Over the years, CEO Robert Murray has brought in GOP pols from as far away as Alaska, California, and Massachusetts for fund-raisers. In 2010, the year John Boehner became House speaker, the firm’s 3,000 employees and their families were his second-biggest source of funds. (AT&T was in first place, but it has nearly 200,000 employees.) This year, Murray is one of the most important GOP players in one of the most important battleground states in the country. In May, he hosted a $1.7 million fund-raiser for Romney. Employees have given the nominee more than $120,000. In August, Romney used Murray’s Century Mine in the town of Beallsville for a speech attacking Barack Obama as anti-coal. This fall, scenes from that event—several dozen coal-smudged Murray miners standing behind the candidate in a tableau framed by a giant American flag and a COAL COUNTRY STANDS WITH MITT placard—have shown up in a Romney ad.

Days after MacGillis’ piece ran, he wrote a follow-up: A Coal Company Owner Responds. There his lede was:

In [Coal Miner’s Donor], I describe the pressure that Robert Murray, the owner of coal company Murray Energy, has for years exerted on his salaried employees to give to the company’s political action committee and to Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney. The article was based on the accounts of two Murray sources and on documents I obtained, including letters from Murray lambasting employees for not giving more and tables and a list of employee names showing who was giving and who was not.

MacGillis goes on to examine Murray’s response to his article:

[Murray Enegy]’s general counsel denied that Murray was pressuring employees to give or rewarding them in any way for their contributions, as the sources had described occurring. Now comes Murray himself with, as far as I can tell, his first public comments on the matter, in an interview with Erich Schwartzel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “It’s timed to shut me up. It’s a dishonest, totally false and fabricated group of charges to embarrass Gov. Mitt Romney, my family, our company and me.”

Murray was reacting both to the piece and to two subsequent requests that federal authorities look into Murray’s fundraising—one from the Ohio Democratic Party, which sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor requesting an investigation, and one from the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

I’m still looking, without success this morning, for the outcomes of those actions.

*After extensive searches, I have been unable to determine what Renacci’s middle initial stands for. Until I can find a reliable reference to Renacci full name, Bupkis will do.


19 June 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

170619 tom peters 1000 monday


18 June 2017


0900 by Jeff Hess

The national threats engendered by the election of President Donald John Trump are not relative. Banning only some Muslims is not measurably better than banning all Muslims. Phasing out Medicare and Medicaid over any period of time is not better than phasing both programs out tomorrow. No one should feel any comfort in using any form of the phrase well, at least he’s not…. There are no reasonable, conventional people, from the President down, in the White House. Not one.

Naomi Klein, writing in The Worst of Donald Trump’s Toxic Agenda Is Lying in Wait—A Major U.S. Crisis Will Unleash It for The Intercept, explains:

During the presidential campaign, some imagined that the more overtly racist elements of Donald Trump’s platform were just talk designed to rile up the base, not anything he seriously intended to act on. But in his first week in office, when he imposed a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, that comforting illusion disappeared fast. Fortunately, the response was immediate: the marches and rallies at airports, the impromptu taxi strikes, the lawyers and local politicians intervening, the judges ruling the bans illegal.

The whole episode showed the power of resistance, and of judicial courage, and there was much to celebrate. Some have even concluded that this early slap down chastened Trump, and that he is now committed to a more reasonable, conventional course.

That is a dangerous illusion.

Klein continues:

It is true that many of the more radical items on this administration’s wish list have yet to be realized. But make no mistake, the full agenda is still there, lying in wait. And there is one thing that could unleash it all: a large-scale crisis.

Large-scale shocks are frequently harnessed to ram through despised pro-corporate and anti-democratic policies that would never have been feasible in normal times. It’s a phenomenon I have previously called the Shock Doctrine, and we have seen it happen again and again over the decades, from Chile in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s coup to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

As Sinclair Lewis showed us 82 years ago: It Can Happen Here.

There is much written in the past 250 or so days about the chaos in the White House. The supposition is that the chaos is the result of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. What, however, if the chaos is a design feature and not a bug?

Since taking office… Donald Trump has never allowed the atmosphere of chaos and crisis to let up. Some of the chaos, like the Russia investigations, has been foisted upon him or is simply the result of incompetence, but much appears to be deliberately created. Either way, while we are distracted by (and addicted to) the Trump Show, clicking on and gasping at marital hand-slaps and mysterious orbs, the quiet, methodical work of redistributing wealth upward proceeds apace.

This is also aided by the sheer velocity of change. Witnessing the tsunami of executive orders during Trump’s first 100 days, it rapidly became clear his advisers were following Machiavelli’s advice in “The Prince”: “Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less.” The logic is straightforward enough. People can develop responses to sequential or gradual change. But if dozens of changes come from all directions at once, the hope is that populations will rapidly become exhausted and overwhelmed, and will ultimately swallow their bitter medicine.

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

All of this is shock doctrine lite; it’s the most that Trump can pull off under cover of the shocks he is generating himself. And as much as this needs to be exposed and resisted, we also need to focus on what this administration will do when they have a real external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Maybe a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy. Or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist attack like the Manchester bombing. Any one such crisis could trigger a very rapid shift in political conditions, making what currently seems unlikely suddenly appear inevitable.

Klein dives deep into the possibilities. Many will seem in the realm of Truthers, Area 59 advocates and those certain that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is living out his waning years on a Greek island, but Klein is not conspiracy fanatic. She knows what she’s writing about and we dismiss her warnings at our own great peril.

The people in the White House are not stupid.


18 June 2017


0700 by Jeff Hess

170618 city club of cleveland Robert Greenstein President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

I sat in my car this morning listening to Robert Greenstein deliver his City Club of Cleveland presentation: The budget would turn back the clock even farther to before the 1960s.. You should listen as well. Seriously.

18 June 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

A couple of weeks ago I left this comment on Haley Zaremba story Despite High Profile Spills, Oil Pipelines Are Still Safer Than Other Options for OilPrice:

Good morning,

Pipelines are safer than all the other bad choices. Safer does not equal safe.

Safe would be to leave the fossil fuels in the ground and continue developing 21st century energy resources.

We ought not to allow the rest of the world to leave us sucking on the fossil fuel teat.

Jeff Hess
Have Coffee Will Write

Not surprisingly, the comment never posted. Oh well.

As I follow the story of the Rover pipe line here in Ohio, however, I see the safer (sometimes even touted as safe) meme) is becoming more and more common.

Here’s a clue, whenever a corporation, or their shills, started highlighting safety, run.

This morning I noted a letter-to-the-edition in the Intelligencer, Wheeling News-Register from Joe Eddy, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Manufacturing in Wellsburg, West Virginia. For a bit of context, please note that among Eagle Manufacturing’s products is the SpillNest line for: oil and gas sites and other large area applications. (I doubt that a SpillNest could have handled this mess, but my point is that Eddy has a dog in the hunt. He writes:

Most important, pipelines are the safest means to transport natural gas. Built under the scrutiny of all federal, state, and local regulatory authorities, the Rover Pipeline will meet or exceed all safety requirements — including rigorous standards set by the approved construction company. Today, technologically advanced techniques, such as x-ray inspections, high pressure water tests, automated valves that shut off the flow of gas in case of an emergency, and 24/7 monitoring, make safety the number one priority in pipeline construction.

No, no, NO, Bob. Pipe lines, Rover in particular may be the safest means to transport natural gas, but they are not, in any wild fancy of imagination, safe. This is the message we need to repeat as often as we can. Safer does not mean safe. Safe is keeping the fossil fuels in the ground.

17 June 2017


1400 by Jeff Hess

170617 roldo on nader radio hour

Roldo’s interview begins at timemark 42:39

17 June 2017


1000 by Jeff Hess

There is a sense that writers compartmentalize. That we have a time and a place where we write and that after we have written our self-imposed daily allotment, we stop and go about the rest of our mundane day. I don’t buy that. Being a writer is a 24-hour-a-day reality and we never stop being writers. This can be distressing to the non-writer’s around us. We never seem to be off-the-clock, every second is grist for our writing mill. Long before people began taking selfies and live streaming their lives, writers were constantly taking notes, consciously and unconsciously, of every moment, every conversation, every view, every touch.

Most of what we record in a day is rubbish, but you never know what will spark a character or an entire novel.

In If I wake up at an early hour and write 500 words each day I will, in time, have a book, Hisham Matar writes:

The myth is you do the ordinary every day and the extraordinary will happen; if I wake up at an early hour and write 500 words each day I will, in time, have a book. Not all myths are untrue, of course, yet some of my best writing happens on the bus or while walking, and I must stand to one side, writing quickly, trying to catch the line of words that had just passed through my head like a butterfly. Some are phantoms; others are valuable sketches that can become the basis for entire paragraphs. I have learnt to take them seriously.

In recent years I have relied on the recording tool on my ancient flip phone—I actually have students who don’t recognize the device as a phone at all—to capture thoughts and moments for later transcription into my notebooks. Transcription is vital. I learned that as an undergraduate when I would transcribe all my class notes every evening before preparing for the next day.

Matar concludes:

I used to spend the evenings, depending on how the day went, either congratulating or beating myself up. It took me a long time to understand that both are just as narcissistic and just as useless, not only because the work is not responsible for my mood, but also because both conclusions steal the wind from my sails and leave me exhausted either from self-loathing or jubilation. Now I close the door and return to my life a little tired but also with that modest contentment and gratitude of those who enjoy their work. This must be boring to read, as there is really no drama. The deeper I am in this routine, the better things are.

Deep work indeed.

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