22 October 2016


0000 by Jeff Hess

top of mind

End Racism Xenophobia in America… [New] Stop Global Warming… Free Raif Badawi…

There are a number of stories and themes that I come back to again and again. My friend Eric Vessels once wrote that I do a consistently good job of following up, and Scene Magazine said that my daily posts remind the public of Cleveland controversies long after the local media gets bored and moves on.

So, that is what I’m attempting to do here with three stories: our ongoing conversation on Racism in America, the vital need to slam the brakes on Global Warming/Climate Change and the struggle to free Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

While this post is stuck to the top of my blog as a constant reminder to my readers and myself, new stories on many other topics do appear below.

Enjoy. Think, Discuss, Act…

the counted

wayback-machine-smallOne Year Ago* at Have Coffee Will WriteFive Years Ago at Have Coffee Will WriteTen Years Ago at Have Coffee Will Write… *As I post these reminders of the past year at Have Coffee Will Write, I want us all to be reminded of the presidential race and presidency that we might have had if Bernie hadn’t been shut out by the DNC.

22 October 2016


1100 by Jeff Hess

22 October 2016


0900 by Jeff Hess

That was how Bob Greene finished a piece more than 30 years ago in the 6 March 1985 issue edition of The Chicago Tribune under the headline: Portable Phone Tolls For Thee, America. That fall, in a longer piece for his American Beat column in Esquire, Greene reached another (I paraphrase here because the text is behind a paywall) conclusion: In the future we will be able to identify the truly powerful because we won’t be able to reach them.

I write that because in recent days I’ve been thinking a lot about smartphones and how they have changed education. Yesterday I sat down with the most recent edition of The Atlantic (the only magazine I still subscribe to) to read Bianca Bosker’s: The Binge Breaker—Tristan Harris believes Silicon Valley is addicting us to our phones. He’s determined to make it stop.

Here are the passages that grabbed my attention and warranted the use of my highlighter. (An interesting cultural note: One of my students saw me reading, and highlighting, the article between classes and asked what I was doing. He seem perplexed that I would read a magazine as I might a text book.)

“You could say that it’s my responsibility” to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage, he explains, “but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.” In short, we’ve lost control of our relationship with technology because technology has become better at controlling us.

[Josh Elman, a Silicon Valley veteran with the venture-capital firm Greylock Partners] compares the tech industry to Big Tobacco before the link between cigarettes and cancer was established: keen to give customers more of what they want, yet simultaneously inflicting collateral damage on their lives.

Run by the experimental psychologist B. J. Fogg, [the Persuasive Technology Lab] has earned a cultlike following among entrepreneurs hoping to master Fogg’s principles of “behavior design”—a euphemism for what sometimes amounts to building software that nudges us toward the habits a company seeks to instill.

When LinkedIn [a particularly annoying and worthless service I’ve noticed, JH] launched, for instance, it created a hub-and-spoke icon to visually represent the size of each user’s network. That triggered people’s innate craving for social approval and, in turn, got them scrambling to connect. “Even though at the time there was nothing useful you could do with LinkedIn, that simple icon had a powerful effect in tapping into people’s desire not to look like losers,” Fogg told me.

Harris began to see that technology is not, as so many engineers claim, a neutral tool; rather, it’s capable of coaxing us to act in certain ways.

Though Harris insists he steered clear of persuasive tactics, he grew more familiar with how they were applied. He came to conceive of them as “hijacking techniques”—the digital version of pumping sugar, salt, and fat into junk food in order to induce bingeing.

Checking that Facebook friend request will take only a few seconds, we reason, though research shows that when interrupted, people take an average of 25 minutes to return to their original task.

In the end, [Harris] says, companies “stand back watching as a billion people run around like chickens with their heads cut off, responding to each other and feeling indebted to each other.”

Even so, a niche group of consultants has emerged to teach companies how to make their services irresistible. One such guru is Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, who has lectured or consulted for firms such as LinkedIn and Instagram. A blog post he wrote touting the value of variable rewards is titled Want to Hook Your Users? Drive Them Crazy. While asserting that companies are morally obligated to help those genuinely addicted to their services, Eyal contends that social media merely satisfies our appetite for entertainment in the same way TV or novels do, and that the latest technology tends to get vilified simply because it’s new, but eventually people find balance.

Six months after attending Burning Man in the Nevada desert, a trip Harris says helped him with “waking up and questioning my own beliefs,” he quietly released “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention,” [I can’t find a copy online, JH] a 144-page Google Slides presentation. In it, he declared, “Never before in history have the decisions of a handful of designers (mostly men, white, living in SF, aged 25–35) working at 3 companies”—Google, Apple, and Facebook—“had so much impact on how millions of people around the world spend their attention … We should feel an enormous responsibility to get this right.”

Through Time Well Spent, his advocacy group, Harris hopes to mobilize support for what he likens to an organic-food movement, but for software: an alternative built around core values, chief of which is helping us spend our time well, instead of demanding more of it.

An accordion player and tango dancer in his spare time who pairs plaid shirts with a bracelet that has presence stamped into a silver charm, Harris gives off a preppy-hippie vibe that allows him to move comfortably between Palo Alto boardrooms and device-free retreats. In that sense, he had a great deal in common with the other Unplug SF attendees, many of whom belong to a new class of tech elites “waking up” to their industry’s unwelcome side effects [Emphasis mine, JH]. For many entrepreneurs, this epiphany has come with age, children, and the peace of mind of having several million in the bank, says Soren Gordhamer, the creator of Wisdom 2.0, a conference series about maintaining “presence and purpose” in the digital age. “They feel guilty,” Gordhamer says. “They are realizing they built this thing that’s so addictive.”

Currently, though, the trend is toward deeper manipulation in ever more sophisticated forms. Harris fears that Snapchat’s tactics for hooking users make Facebook’s look quaint. Facebook automatically tells a message’s sender when the recipient reads the note—a design choice that, per Fogg’s logic, activates our hardwired sense of social reciprocity and encourages the recipient to respond. Snapchat ups the ante: Unless the default settings are changed, users are informed the instant a friend begins typing a message to them—which effectively makes it a faux pas not to finish a message you start. Harris worries that the app’s Snapstreak feature, which displays how many days in a row two friends have snapped each other and rewards their loyalty with an emoji, seems to have been pulled straight from Fogg’s inventory of persuasive tactics.

There is arguably an element of hypocrisy to the enlightened image that Silicon Valley projects, especially with its recent embrace of “mindfulness.” Companies like Google and Facebook, which have offered mindfulness training and meditation spaces for their employees, position themselves as corporate leaders in this movement. Yet this emphasis on mindfulness and consciousness, which has extended far beyond the tech world, puts the burden on users to train their focus, without acknowledging that the devices in their hands are engineered to chip away at their concentration. It’s like telling people to get healthy by exercising more, then offering the choice between a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder when they sit down for a meal.

I passed copies of the article to several colleagues (including the school psychologist) under the note: scary, scary stuff… Harris’ observations are way scarier than any Hollywood horror movie.

22 October 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

So, John Oliver (a comedian I really like) took a shot at Jill Stein and I’ve received two response emails this week from the Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka campaign. The emails are summarized in this news item from the campaign’s website:

We were pleasantly surprised when John Oliver’s research team reached out to us regarding several statements that have been frequently taken out of context to ask if we felt they were missing any context, which we promptly provided. It was beyond disappointing to see that our responses were completely ignored. The same tired, misleading attack lines were trotted out, and Oliver chose to misrepresent our campaign on the lone substantive issue that he addressed: our plan to cancel student debt.

When Oliver’s fact-checkers asked if canceling student debt via quantitative easing was the campaign’s current position, we replied that we are considering a range of options in consultation with our economic advisors. Regardless, Oliver singled out canceling student debt via the Federal Reserve, implying both that this was our only option and that it would be technically impossible. In reality, experts say that it is technically possible, even if politically difficult, for the Fed to play a role in student debt forgiveness. And Oliver simply ignored the fact that we had other proposals to cancel student debt on the table. Coming from someone who made a stunt of buying and canceling medical debt on his show, and who claims to want alternatives to the failed two-party system, this disingenuous attack on the idea of cancelling student debt is both puzzling and hypocritical.

Canceling $1.3 trillion in predatory student debt is a top priority for the Stein/Baraka campaign. If we could bail out the crooks on Wall Street, we can bail out their victims – the students who are struggling with an insecure, part-time, low-wage economy. The US government has consistently bailed out big banks and financial industry elites, often when they’ve engaged in abusive and illegal activity with disastrous consequences for regular people. Our society has the resources to provide world-class free higher education to all, and whether we find the resources by canceling the F-35 fighter jet program, reinstating Wall Street transaction taxes, or some other way, all that’s missing to free 43 million Americans from crushing debt is the political will.

In Iceland, the bankers who destroyed their economy are in jail. In the USA, they are laughing at us from country clubs and yachts. Why the difference? Because in Iceland an alternative political party was swept into power, and cleaned house in much the way Stein/Baraka and the Green Party would do. But in the USA the two-party system continues politics as usual, where the leadership of both corrupt corporate political parties collude and conspire against ordinary people on behalf of the economic elite. And that will continue until we the people reject the lesser evil argument and fight for the greater good. That’s why we say—don’t waste your vote on this failed two-party system, invest your vote in building a movement for deep systemic change.

I’m still voting for Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.

You can read the latest version of the emails after the jump. Continue Reading »

22 October 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

Muckraking is a proud and storied tradition for Journalists in America. Perhaps my favorite example is Ida Minerva Tarbell, the woman who singlehandedly brought down the giant that was Standard Oil. In my lifetime I have followed the journalistic careers of I.F. Stone and Roldo Bartimole.

Judge John Grinsteiner threw out rioting charges related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests against well-known journalist Amy Goodman. Not well-known journalist Deia Schlosberg may not be so fortunate.

Deirdre Fulton, writing in ‘I Was Doing My Job’: Climate Reporter Facing 45 Years Speaks Out for Common Dreams, explains:

Schlosberg, an independent filmmaker and climate reporter, was arrested last week in Walhalla, North Dakota for filming the unprecedented #ShutItDown protest held in solidarity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

“When I was arrested, I was doing my job,” Schlosberg said in a statement released Tuesday. “I was reporting. I was documenting. Journalism needs to be passionately and ethically pursued and defended if we are to remain a free democratic country. Freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is absolutely critical to maintaining an informed citizenry, without which, democracy is impossible.”

That is absolutely true. Full stop. Tarbell understood that. Stone knew that. Roldo knows that.

Thieves and despoilers cannot easily operate in the bright light of journalism. Schlosberg told Fulton:

I am a climate reporter; my specialty is following the story of how humankind is creating a grave problem for civilization by continuing to flood the atmosphere with greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial processes. I don’t think there is nearly enough reporting on climate change nor the movement of people around the world working to lessen the impacts of climate change.

It is the responsibility of journalists and reporters to document newsworthy events, and it is particularly important for independent media to tell the stories that mainstream media is not covering. The mainstream did not break the story on fracking nor did it break the story about what is happening at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, nor the stories told in my most recent film with Josh Fox, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. Accordingly, I felt I had a duty to document the unprecedented #ShutItDown climate action, which stopped all Canadian oil sands from entering the United States. Canadian oil sands importation is a controversial issue that is not getting the coverage it warrants, especially considering that the extraction and use of oil sands has a profound impact on every person on this planet.

Schlosberg is not alone. In addition to Goodman, others are feeling the corporate wrath of those who wish to exploit and despoil with impunity.

Schlosberg concluded by drawing attention to fellow videographers Lindsey Grayzel and Carl Davis, who were arrested in Washington state last week for filming the same action and also face preliminary felony charges. Grayzel told Reuters that her footage was also confiscated. “For reporters who are simply doing their job, which is their constitutionally protected right, to be facing such charges is an outrage,” she said.

The whole world is watching must continue to be as true today as it was in 1968.

22 October 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

We all want to grossly oversimplify and bifurcate our world into dichotomies, into black and white. There are, of course two kinds of people, those who embrace the aforementioned and those, wiser, people who think that is pure rubbish. Like determining if a person is a peach or a coconut.

Oliver Burkeman, writing in Are you wasting your warmth? for The Guardian, explains:

Peach people are soft on the outside, immediately friendly and familiar, but if you mistake that for real intimacy, you’ll soon hit the hard stone that protects their inner being. Coconuts have tougher exteriors, but get past that and they’re sweet inside. Americans, according to stereotype, are peaches; the French, like the Russians and Germans, are coconuts. Meyer’s faux pas was a case of the two messily colliding.

Like any attempt to split humanity neatly into two, the peach/coconut divide is absurdly oversimplified. But it’s also useful.

While Burkeman wrote this piece more than two years ago, I find relevance in our current political nightmare. Are Democrats Peaches? Are Republicans Coconuts? Does the dichotomy go the other way? What about those of us who supported Bernie? Is this just silly?

We live in a hyperconnected world; even if we’re annoyed by Those Other People, why also feel insulted, instead of just chalking it up to different customs? Why, in 2014, can an American still genuinely offend a Brit by not buying a round, or a Brit a South Korean by handling his business card too casually (I speak from experience)? Partly, Trompenaars shows, it’s because each side’s value system is logical, yet seems to render the other’s downright crazy. In one survey, he asked people if they’d lie for a friend whose driving got him in trouble with the police. Most Swiss wouldn’t dream of it: how can society survive if you can’t trust people to tell the authorities the truth? Venezuelans disagree: how can society survive if you can’t trust people to stay loyal to their friends? “Both logics are logical,” Trompenaars says, which is one reason multinational firms that try to impose woolly corporate values on their worker— “integrity”, say—are surprised to discover it doesn’t work.

That Republicans are idiots (if your a Democrat) and Democrats are evil (if your a Republican) (and that both Democrats and Republicans are mindless sheep if you’re third-party kind of person) does feel logical from your point of view, but is that logic helpful or simply easy?

I once got into a discussion with a friend over the non-mathematical use of the word rational. Am I rational to think what I think? The short answer is, of course I am. The longer answer, as we discovered over a couple of hours and a lot of coffee, is really, really complicated. Rationality, like the other r-word, reality, is twisted. Our wetware, our individual psychological history, requires that we see our world in certain lights. We are the sum of our experiences and not even twins share all experiences. If there are more than 7 billion individuals on the planet in this moment, then there are more than 7 billion realities.

How the fuck do we deal with that if we want to segregate those more than 7 billion realities into just two camps?

We don’t. We can’t.

What we can do is to be open to the limits of our own programming and seek to be our own coders by processing the constant torrent of data in ways that might help us not make easy, snap judgements.

That’s tough, but how else do you crack a coconut?

21 October 2016


1500 by Jeff Hess

In this excerpt from his new book Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, Ralph Nader writes:

When I was a student at Princeton University I learned from my anthropology studies that the concentration of power in the hands of the few is common to all cultures, societies, nations, tribes, cities, towns, and villages. Even where the thirst for self-governance and democracy is strong (as was the case in New England towns before the American Revolution against King George III) wealthy Tories were there too. In Central and Western Massachusetts, the farmers used the term “the River Gods” to describe the rich merchants using the Connecticut River as a profitable trading route. These days, most people protesting for economic justice use the term “the One Percent” to describe the ultra-small group of people who wield enormous influence over our society today.

There is something about the differences in skill, determination, lineage, avarice, and pure luck that stratifies most people from the rulers who dominate them. In the political realm, the few become dominant because they hoard wealth and are driven to exercise power over others. When a small group of people rules a society the political system is considered an oligarchy; when only money and wealth determine how a society is controlled, the political system is a plutocracy.

From the standpoint of a democratic society, both oligarchy and plutocracy are inherently unjust and corrupt.

Of course there are variations in the degrees of authoritarianism and cruelty that each system exercises over the communities it relies upon for workers and wealth. Scholars have resorted to using phrases like “benign dictatorships” or “wise rulers” or “paternalistic hierarchies—” to describe lighter touches by those Continue Reading »

20 October 2016


1600 by Jeff Hess

I found this podcast series via James Hamblin’s video for The Atlantic titled: Creative Ideas Happen When You Stop Checking Your Phone that features Note To Self host Manoush Zomorodi and artist Nina Katchadourian. (Katchadourian was one of Walter Mischel subjects in the marshmallow study.) I was taken by her exercise for creating a state of boredom by writing 1010101010101010101… as many times as you can, as small as you can on a piece of paper. (In the Bored-To-Brilliance Challenge she tasks participants to put a pot of water on the stove and watch the water come to a boil.)

After watching the video I decided to try an experiment of my own with one of my math students in whom I’m attempting to instill a bit of wonder about math.

I downloaded and listened to this podcast series during my daily 80 minute, round-trip commute today and now I’ve even more pumped to try my own version of the bored-to-brilliance challenge. I’ve also found Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant, The Lost Art of Spacing Out video that I’ve begun to watch.

20 October 2016


1100 by Jeff Hess

[Update at 1100]

Mano Singham nailed the moment in the debate when the spectacle started going off the rails.

It started when she got a question about what the WikiLeaks release of her campaign’s emails revealed about her views on trade and immigration. After a quick non-substantive response, she pivoted to talking about Russian involvement in the hacking and that they were trying to subvert the election and that Trump was Putin’s buddy. This was an obvious diversionary ploy by her to shift attention away from a serious vulnerability. And Trump immediately pointed out that this was an obvious pivot away from the question but then, incredibly, rather than ignore the diversionary tactic and press his advantage, he actually followed that squirrel and went on a rant about how she was outmaneuvered by Putin and calling her a liar. At one point in the heated cross-talk, she said that he was Putin’s puppet and he immediately shouted back, “You’re a puppet!” and then repeated it. It was like witnessing a playground exchange where a child flings the same accusation back at the accuser.

The world is watching with a little amusement and great horror as we eat our young.

20 October 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

Americans of a certain class and lineage were aghast when President John Kennedy went outside without a hat. What might those people think of Donald Trump?

Matt Taibbi in The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump for Rolling Stone, writes:Keeping up with Trump revelations is exhausting. By late October, he’ll be caught whacking it outside a nunnery. There are not many places left for this thing to go that don’t involve kids or cannibalism. We wait, miserably, for the dong shot.

Though, with those tiny, tiny hands, well. Taibbi focuses on Wisconsin congressman and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s annual “GOP Fall Fest,” where, he writes, “The modern Republican Party will perish.”

Speaker after speaker ascended the stage to urge Republican voters to vote. But with the exception of Attorney General Brad Schimel, who got a round of applause when he grudgingly asked the audience to back Trump for the sake of the Supreme Court, every last one of them tiptoed past the party nominee’s name. One by one, they talked around Trump, like an unmentionable uncle carted off on a kiddie-porn rap just before Thanksgiving dinner.

Metaphorically anyway, Trump supporters like Goril were right. Not one of these career politicians had the gumption to be frank with this crowd about what had happened to their party. Instead, the strategy seemed to be to pretend none of it had happened, and to hide behind piles of the same worn clichés that had driven these voters to rebel in the first place.

In two years House Republicans, as well as Senators and a whole slew of down-ticket candidates will carry on their backs how they responded to Donald Trump in 2016. Voters will want to know what they did to stop the cluster fuck of weak princes that was the GOP primary.

There wasn’t one capable or inspiring person in the infamous “Clown Car” lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer.

Hell, forget two years from now, Republicans are already feeling the burn:

The House speaker had held a conference call with elected Republicans, telling them they were free to yank support from Trump if they thought it would help them win in November. This sounds like a good decision, until you consider that it’s one he should have made the moment Trump sealed the nomination. As always, the Republicans acted far too late in disavowing vicious and disgusting behavior in their ranks. Then again, it’s hard to keep the loons out when you’re scraping to find people willing to sell rich-friendly policies to a broke population. The reaction among hard-line legislators was predictable: You’re telling us now we can’t be pigs?

Taibbi follows on with a recitation of four political lies that underscore why I’m voting for Jill Stein:

Lie No. 1 is that there are only two political ideas in the world, Republican and Democrat. Lie No. 2 is that the parties are violent ideological opposites, and that during campaign season we can only speak about the areas where they differ (abortion, guns, etc.) and never the areas where there’s typically consensus (defense spending, surveillance, torture, trade, and so on). Lie No. 3, a corollary to No. 2, is that all problems are the fault of one party or the other, and never both. Assuming you watch the right channels, everything is always someone else’s fault. Lie No. 4, the reason America in campaign seasons looks like a place where everyone has great teeth and $1,000 haircuts, is that elections are about political personalities, not voters.

So, where does Taibbi leave us?

In the absolute best-case scenario, the one in which he loses, this is what Trump’s run accomplished. He ran as an outsider antidote to a corrupt two-party system, and instead will leave that system more entrenched than ever. If he goes on to lose, he will be our Bonaparte, the monster who will continue to terrify us even in exile, reinforcing the authority of kings.

If you thought lesser-evilism was bad before, wait until the answer to every question you might have about your political leaders becomes, “Would you rather have Trump in office?”

Trump can’t win. Our national experiment can’t end because one aging narcissist got bored of sex and food. Not even America deserves that. But that doesn’t mean we come out ahead. We’re more divided than ever, sicker than ever, dumber than ever. And there’s no reason to think it won’t be worse the next time.

I don’t think we can fix what we’ve broken. We own this.

What we face now is how do we survive?

19 October 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

In addition to my daily early morning walks with Buster along the Cleveland Metroparks trail that passes adjacent to our backyard, I also spend time between students circling the campus at the high school where I teach. The primary goal is physical health, but I also recognize the mental health benefits of these walks.

While I do carry my cellphone with me, I don’t spend time chatting like many other walkers I see with their faces in their screens. I grew up in the quiet of the woods and I do my best to spend time there.

We all should

18 October 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

So, how clueless is the Alt-Right? Pretty fecking clueless given the failure to get an obviously satirical tweet from raandy on Sunday that read:

i love working at the post office in Columbus, Ohio and ripping up absentee ballots that vote for trump

Of course the Trumpists went into full-blown pitchforks and torches mode at this obvious proof that their man was right when he said the election was rigged.

Here’s the problem. I vote by mail in Ohio and I know that my ballot is sealed inside an envelope inside an envelope so there’s no possible way for a postal worker to know whom I voted for that doesn’t involve destroying both envelopes and spoiling the ballots, regardless of who the voter picked to be our next president.

The Trumpists missed this little fact.

Robert Mackey, writing in State of Ohio to Investigate Satirical Tweet That Fooled Drudge and Limbaugh for The Intercept explains:

A chorus of outraged conservatives, including Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and Curt Schilling, expressed anger on Monday at what they wrongly called evidence that a postal worker in Ohio had destroyed absentee ballots cast in the Republican’s favor.

The satirist, who writes as @randygdub, describes himself only as a “cool and chill guy of online,” living in California. Within minutes of posting his tweet on Sunday, he was surprised and delighted that his joke was mistaken for a genuine confession by Trump supporters eager to find any evidence of the election rigging their candidate, falsely, claims is rampant.

By Monday morning, however, the satirist’s joy at confusing enraged conservatives reached new heights when his tweet was reported as genuine by the right-wing blogger Jim Hoft, who demanded to know if someone in a position of authority would “follow up on this.” It apparently never occurred to Hoft that he could have followed up himself, by attempting to contact the Californian who posted the tweet, or by scanning the rest of his Twitter feed, which is devoted to political comedy.

Within hours, the fictional story had also been discussed, as fact, by Rush Limbaugh, and prompted investigations from both the United States Postal Service and the Secretary of State of Ohio, Jon Husted.

Those are my Ohio tax dollars Husted is throwing in the fire and I’m not happy about that, but I realize that Husted doesn’t give a flying fuck if I’m happy or not since I never have and never will vote for him. There will be a few Republicans in the state, however, who will think that being trolled by a political satirist into wasting their tax dollars is lame and will not be happy.

18 October 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

*First Dog On The Moon…

17 October 2016


0700 by Jeff Hess

dad-from-2006My family and I sat together in a nursing home room late Wednesday afternoon and watched as my father drew his last breath. My readers know my father from the scores of emails he forward to me that I turned around and published here under the tag From My Dad. His death was not sudden or unexpected, but rather the result of more than year’s gradual decline. I remember thinking that the end days had begun when we were looking at his model railroad layout in the basement and he told me that he no longer had any interest in working on the ever expanding project.

I have previously marked other important milestones in my own life by measuring them against my father’s. Now I have a final milestone on my horizon.

When we were all sitting around with the pastor who will conduct the service tomorrow, my sister remarked that we could write a book with all our memories and I said that Dad had already written that book and the book was us.

My brother Chris suggested these words for the memorial card in lieu of scripture:

Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.

—attributed to John Wesley

Today I’ll be spending much of my time writing my remarks for the service. I’ll post those when I’m finished.

I am a writer. I became a writer because I am a reader and I became a reader because the two men who were most important in my life, my Grandfather and my Father, filled our home with books and started me down my path by reading to me.

As I grew, I read most of those books, many more than once, and there came a time when dad and i began to read the same books. I remember how special he made me feel when he brought home four paperbacks—these paperbacks—and we discovered Tolkien’s Middle Earth together. The tale of Bilbo and Frodo and Gandalf and all the rest is magical, but paled before my wonder in the times I spent with dad talking about Tolkien’s world.

When I was a little older, and had money of my own, I began buying books to share with Dad. The first I gave to him was this one: Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. That book, along with Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, first put the thought in my head that I could be a writer, a journalist. All that reading broadened my horizons far beyond Marietta and I wanted to see what was out there.

My first adventurous steps were to Colorado State University in the foothills of the Rockies and a summer high up in the mountains working at a scout ranch. I hitch-hiked back to Marietta from Wyoming in August and when I showed up at the door, only the dog recognized me with my long hair and a straggly beard. Dad took my brief homecoming before returning to Colorado in stride and I can still hear the surprise in his voice when I called home three months later to tell him that I had stretched my horizons even further by joining the Navy. I didn’t ask Dad if I should enlist because he had instilled in me the confidence to make that choice myself. That decision opened a new chapter in our lives together as we shared experiences about military life.

When I let Dad know that I would be getting a security clearance to work with nuclear weapons, he told me about receiving his own clearance in the Army and how I needed to let all my friends know what was going on so that they would be prepared when the FBI showed up at their doors. Dad also gave me two important pieces of advice about serving: First, he said, when you’re in a foreign place, take at least one day away from the bars and see how people lived where I was visiting; second, he advised, if i decided to get a tattoo, don’t get a girl’s name. Both served me well and I was able to visit places as far north as the Sea of Okhotsk where we played cat-and-mouse games with the Russians, as far south as Australia where we waited for Skylab to come crashing down, and to Africa where I watched mated cheetahs hunt in the wild. I climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, SCUBA dove in the waters around the Philippine Islands and watched kick-boxing matches in Thailand. Each time I came home I would share my stories and photos with Dad and each time he would share more of his own with me.

After the Navy I went to Ohio University to earn my bachelor’s degree. I studied writing and journalism, political science, history and computer programming. Dad was the first person I called during my junior year to tell him that I was a bona fide writer because I had just received a $250 check for a magazine article. After four years I graduated with way better grades than I ever earned in high school but I was inclined to blow off graduation as meaningless theater. I couldn’t, however. Dad had been sick when I graduated from High School and unable to attend my graduation. I knew that I had to attend my college graduation for him; I wanted us to share the afternoon together.

I had a good career as a magazine writer and editor, but fiction was still in me and in the ‘90s I took what I saw as a Walkabout, a term I learned in Australia, for a journey of self-exploration. I wanted to see if I could write a novel. I did and Dad got to read the manuscript first. He told me he liked the book; no praise could be higher. I’ve since written three more novels. all as of yet unpublished, and I’m working on the fifth. I always say that I have no regrets about my life because I am the sum of all my experiences and I like who I am.

I regret now, however, that I will never be able to see my father’s face when he reads the words: This work is dedicated to Charles Benjamin Hess, my Father, the man who never stopped believing in me.

You can read his published obituary after the jump. Continue Reading »

16 October 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

I fully agree with the dozens of commenters that, at least based on this speech [Up to the 12:00 minute timemark where she loses me, JH] and what little else I know about Michelle Obama, she should be on the ticket, not Hillary.

(Also, check out the two men in the background at timemark 9:12)

So, what did the other woman in the race, Green Party Presidential (and my) Candidate Dr. Jill Stein have to say? This and this.

16 October 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

16 October 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

I had a conversation yesterday about whether or not Trump supporters were working or middle class. I came down on the side of working class because I think the people we see chanting at rallies and calling for revolutions are predominantly disaffected working class Americans.

Sarah Smarsh, writing in Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans for The Guardian, sets me straight:

Hard numbers complicate, if not roundly dismiss, the oft-regurgitated theory that income or education levels predict Trump support, or that working-class whites support him disproportionately. Last month, results of 87,000 interviews conducted by Gallup showed that those who liked Trump were under no more economic distress or immigration-related anxiety than those who opposed him.

According to the study, his supporters didn’t have lower incomes or higher unemployment levels than other Americans. Income data misses a lot; those with healthy earnings might also have negative wealth or downward mobility. But respondents overall weren’t clinging to jobs perceived to be endangered. “Surprisingly”, a Gallup researcher wrote, “there appears to be no link whatsoever between exposure to trade competition and support for nationalist policies in America, as embodied by the Trump campaign.”

Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000—higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33 percent among whites or 29 percent overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism—not income, education, gender, age or race—predicted Trump support.

In recent weeks I’ve made several trips to my hometown of Marietta, Ohio, and I’ve noted that the reasonably prosperous suburb of North Royalton, Ohio, where I now live, has way more Trump/Pence yard signs than Marietta. Marietta is conservative and Republican, but that does not mean the community is driven by a white working class’s giddy embrace of a bloviating demagogue.

The faces journalists do train the cameras on—hateful ones screaming sexist vitriol next to Confederate flags—must receive coverage but do not speak for the communities I know well. That the media industry ignored my home for so long left a vacuum of understanding in which the first glimpse of an economically downtrodden white is presumed to represent the whole.

So why if they’re not representative, do these images predominate? Because, Smarsh believes, of the cognitive dissonance of Big Media:

In seeking to explain Trump’s appeal, proportionate media coverage would require more stories about the racism and misogyny among white Trump supporters in tony suburbs [Like North Royalton and the adjacent communities of Strongsville and Brunswick. JH]. But, for national media outlets comprised largely of middle- and upper-class liberals, that would mean looking their own class in the face.

Mirrors can be very scary.

16 October 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess


Sheriff David Clark chose very poorly when he picked this stock photo for his tweet exclaiming:

It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time

Lois Beckett, reporting in Milwaukee sheriff says it’s ‘pitchforks and torches time’ and stands by Trump for The Guardian, writes:

Clarke’s comments come at a time of growing anxiety over Trump’s repeated claims, without evidence, that the presidential election is rigged against him. At least one Trump supporter at a rally in Cincinnati on Friday was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying that if Clinton is elected, “I hope we can start a coup.”

“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office, if that’s what it takes,” the supporter said.

At a rally for Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence on Thursday, a woman from the audience told the candidate she, too, would rather take action than allow a Democrat to win. “I don’t want this to happen – but I will tell you for me, personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in,” she warned, “I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in.”

“You don’t want – don’t say that,” Pence replied.

Noting a history of violence at Trump rallies by his supporters, some online observers took Clarke’s call for “pitchforks and torches” seriously, asking whether he was inciting violence and whether his comments constituted sedition against the government. His remarks also raised concerns that it was inappropriate for a law enforcement official famous for his “law and order” political views to be calling for citizens to take to the streets.

Robert Post, a first amendment expert and the dean of Yale Law School, said Clarke’s comments were “horrible and despicable” but that “an American court would view this as venting, basically.”

I agree. I’ve used the pitchforks and torches/tumbrels and Phrygian caps metaphors myself more than once. The difference is that I expected my readers to understand the metaphor. I’m not so sure that Clarke’s audience—like the woman in Cincinnati who addressed Mike Pence—are all that clear on the concept.

15 October 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

I have no problem with the exercise of anyone’s guaranteed, first amendment right to practice their personal religion as long as that practice does not stomp all over the rights of others. Campaigning, and voting for, individuals who you feel represent you’re personal values is good. Expecting the people you elect to curb, or outlaw, the personal values of others is not.

White Christian Americans have nothing to fear from becoming a minority since our nation has always treated minorities with acceptance and respect. Right?

14 October 2016


1700 by Jeff Hess

Big carbon really, really hates is scared shitless by the far bigger hydrogen because you can’t turn an obscene profit off of the Sun the way you can by extracting coal, oil and gas from the ground. Advocates of solar power, are getting their message out and burning through the flack-generated waves of dis-information that would make a tobacco executive blush.

Ralph Nader writes:

If Mother Sun were to select a favorite son on Planet Earth, Ken Bossong would be high on the list. Operating for over forty years on a tiny budget from a tiny office in Takoma Park, Maryland, the unsung solar energy advocate has been a one-man informing and organizing machine.

He founded the Sun Day campaign in 1992, in his words, “to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.”

With renewables like solar and wind energy becoming the fastest growing sources of new energy in many areas of the world, Bossong is now seeing his long and often frustrating battles against the traditional corporate skeptics Continue Reading »

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