28 September 2016

ISSUES FOR YOUR TOP-OF-MIND AWARENESS…

0000 by Jeff Hess

jill2016
top of mind

End Racism Xenophobia in America… 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.

28 September 2016

AN EDITOR DRAWS THE WRITER INTO THE LIGHT…

0700 by Jeff Hess

(This is the scene that sets up the insight above. Truly. Perfectly. Genius.)

Any writer who believes they don’t need an editor is a fool. I’ve seen the difference. I’ve shaken my head reading well established authors, too good and too arrogant to suffer the critique of an editor, write trash. Colin Firth’s Max Perkins relationship with Jude Law’s Thomas Wolfe in Genius should be a Heminwayesgue epigraph to any writer.

As Perkins was to Wolfe (and Hemingway and many others), so too was Robert Gottlieb to Joseph Heller, Toni Morrison, Mordecai Richler, Edna O’Brien, Ray Bradbury, Cynthia Ozick, Doris Lessing, John Le Carré, Michael Crichton, Robert Caro, Katharine Hepburn and Bill Clinton. (I’ll forgive him the last.) Gottlieb has written an autobiography about his life as an editor.

Michelle Dean, in Robert Gottlieb: the editor who changed American literature for The Guardian, writes:

Avid Reader is, in some way, a book for book nerds. To the average book reader, after all, the world in which Gottlieb has made his career is mostly invisible. Most people do not pay attention to the publisher’s imprint on a given book. Most writers are more egotistical than Heller and do not talk about their editor’s contributions to the finished product in interviews. And most editors share Gottlieb’s view that what’s done in publishing is best kept in publishing. “This is a boring point, but it’s a service job,” Gottlieb told me. “You’re there to serve.”

Many years ago, when I was a magazine editor, my ex-father-in-law asked me to show him something I’d written in the magazine of which I was the editor. I tried to explain to him that my hand was on every word, but he wanted to read my voice. Perhaps that’s the way reading ought to be.

Dean continues:

The essential quality of an editor, he told me, is sympathy. “You don’t take on books with which you do not have a sympathy,” he says early in our conversation. “Only trouble can arise if instead of wanting to make a book that you like even better than it is, you want to change it into something that it isn’t.” The most disastrous thing that can happen in an editing process is for an editor to insist on making the book their own. “For writers, everything is at stake in this relationship,” Gottlieb said. “And they’ve very sensitive to what’s going on even if they’re not conscious of it.”

Writers have to be willing to kill their darlings, and editors have to do their best to save what ought to be saved.

28 September 2016

FIRST FOOTBALL, THEN SOCCER AND NOW TENNIS…

0500 by Jeff Hess

Julia Carrie Wong, reporting in Serena Williams speaks out against police killings: ‘I won’t be silent’ for The Guardian, writes:

Serena Williams spoke out against police killings of African Americans in a heartfelt Facebook post, writing: “As Dr Martin Luther King said ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal’. I won’t be silent.”

The tennis champion, who is arguably the greatest sportsperson ever, wrote that she was in a car being driven by her nephew, who is black, when she saw a police car on the side of the road on Tuesday.

“I remembered that horrible video of the woman in the car when a cop shot her boyfriend,” she wrote, referencing Philando Castile, whose girlfriend broadcast the aftermath of his killing by police on Facebook Live. “I even regretted not driving myself. I would never forgive myself if something happened to my nephew. He’s so innocent. So were all ‘the others’”.

“Why did I have to think about this in 2016?” she wrote. “Have we not gone through enough, opened so many doors, impacted billions of lives? But I realized we must stride on—for it’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go.”

Williams is the latest—and perhaps the most high-profile—star to join a growing movement of black American athletes who are speaking candidly about how racism and police brutality affect their lives.

Can basketball be far behind?

28 September 2016

ZIANNA OLIPHANT WITNESSES…

0400 by Jeff Hess

We shouldn’t have to feel like this. —Zianna Oliphant.

28 September 2016

WE MUST STOP CENSORING THE USE OF NIGGER

0300 by Jeff Hess

When I was seven or eight, one of my aunts gave me a globe of the world for Christmas. I immediately sat down and started running my finger over the surface, reading the strange country names. When I got to West Africa I found Nigeria and Niger. I proclaimed to the room, Look! There’s a country called nigger.

OK, at that young age my spelling wasn’t that great, but I knew the word.

My aunt quickly told me that we didn’t say that word. I don’t know where I knew the word from, but clearly someone, an adult thinking that little ears weren’t around or a playmate showing off, had used the word and even then I knew that the word had some hidden power.

I’ve never used that word since, except when I was calling out a xenophobic bigot. The word has leapt onto the media stage in recent weeks with the verbal attacks on Colin Kaepernick, Rodney Axson and the other athletes taking a knee or expressing themselves in other ways during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner to open sporting events.

When I read these stories, I almost always see a mention similar to this:

But just five days ago, @j0es_ tweeted that “Colin Kaepernick need to go back to africa dumb f–king n—-r”. And no, he didn’t censor his words, we did. [Emphasis mine, JH] And weeks earlier, when Eric Reid joined Kaepernick’s protest, @barry0hBama retweeted a Yahoo! story about that with a creative headline: “Colin Kaepernick protests national anthem again, is joined by #n—-r teammate”. Note the hashtag, too, the deliberate push to draw attention to a word with so much racial hatred.

Now, is there anyone reading this, feck, is there anyone on the planet who reads n—-r that doesn’t hear nigger in their head? Once we hear a word, like that little boy at Christmas, we can’t unhear the word. I don’t use the word in public for the same reason I don’t use lots of offensive words I know, they’re offensive. That should not, however, allow us to self censor the offensive words of others when we’re reporting on the offensive use.

I’ll allow that you might argue using n-word or n—-r accomplishes the goal without being offensive, but I just don’t buy that. If we hear the word in our heads, and we do, resorting to code words just makes us look silly and allows, as Lenny Bruce argued, the word to retain power.

We shouldn’t use the word ourselves unless we’re calling out the xenophobic bigots (or the group I call XBATs), but we must not shy away from being responsible adults. Now there will be some who will say that if the niggers can use nigger then I can use nigger. No you can’t. You can’t because your xenophobic bigoted brain doesn’t understand what Wilmore said.

You might be scratching your head at this point, wondering why I used the convoluted phrase xenophobic bigot when most people just use racist. I do so for much the same reason I avoid using terrorism. The other day I found a photocopy left on the machine at school with the headline: Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race. The document makes a rock-solid case for why race is an artificial concept:

1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical differences, but according to religion, status, class or even language. The English word “race” turns up for the first time in a 1508 poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.

2. Race has no genetic basis—Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

3. Human subspecies don’t exist—Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven’t been around long enough, nor have populations been isolated enough, to evolve into separate subspecies or races. On average, only one of every thousand of the nucleotides that make up our DNA differ one human from another. We are one of the most genetically similar of all species.

I applaud all but one of the points: number nine:

Race isn’t biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources.

All of that is absolutely true. Because all of that is absolutely true, we shouldn’t be talking about an artificial concept that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. The quick response from some will be: What about affirmative action? How, they will argue, can we address, as Ta-Nehisi Coates so well sets the table: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. without using race?

I don’t know. If I did I’d probably be sitting on the Supreme Court. Maybe we can’t. From where I sit, however, this is a linguistic fence—and as a writer I am firmly committed to the truth that words matter— we must hurdle.

Suggestions?

27 September 2016

AM I LIVING IN KLAN KOUNTRY…?

0600 by Jeff Hess

the-post-newspaper-southwest-cuyahoga-county-colin-kaepernick-rodney-axson-north-royalton-160925

I don’t think so, but when you look a the above poll results (click on the image and then vote select “view results” to see the current tally) from this week’s North Royalton Post, four out of five respondents do not support professional athletes protesting the National Anthem, you get that the southwest corner of Cuyahoga County is not a liberal bastion.

(I was one of only 19 people who said: Yes. In fact, I would do the same thing.)

Full disclosure: when I talk to my eastside friends about my move to North Royalton a few years ago, I jokingly tell them that I moved to the anti-Cleveland Heights. I do see Trump signs (no Hillary signs yet) as I drive through North Royalton on my way to work in Orange. I do see Gadsen flags in front yards and pick-up trucks flying the Confederate Battle Flag, I buy my groceries in Strongsville where Tim Russo shot the McCain-Palin Mob video.

But did I move to Klan Kountry?

Mansfield B. Frazier writes:

In my sometimes-scathing style I questioned the wisdom of blacks moving into hostile territory instead of strengthen [sic. Fair is fair, Mansfield. JH] their own communities. I received this email in response:

I recently stumbled across your article pertaining to my family. I would first like to say, you made quite a few assumption that you obviously know absolutely nothing about. If you would like factual information about why I “consciously” made the decision to move my family to Brunswick I [sic] open to speak to you. For the record, I do not have ” low self esteem” nor am I trying to “outrun my blackness”. I am very proud of who I am and where I came from. What you didn’t bother to mention in your article is I’m obviously an intelligent, educated Black Woman who made a choice for her children that would not only help to mold them into well rounded individuals but would also provide them with the tools and education that they’ll need to be successful in life. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you, Danielle Axson

I responded:

Ms. Axson,

I do have to question your intelligence (at least to some extent) since you obviously didn’t factor in the racism your son could (and did) face in Brunswick. There were many other places that your family could have moved to that would have provided all of the positive things you want for your son, without the potential negatives of racial hatred.

I just can’t understand how moving into what essentially is Klan country is a good thing. The proof of that comment is this: Where are all of the supposedly “good” upstanding white citizens of Brunswick? [Well, I’m in North Royalton, but I still think that qualifies me. JH] Why are they not speaking out and saying what was done to your son should not and will not be tolerated in Brunswick? The reason is, these kids on the football team were just giving voice to what their parents feel [sic.].

You set your son up for this incident by not thinking through your decision to move into a racist environment. If you don’t understand that, I have nothing more to say to you on the matter.

Stay well and all the best to you and your family.

She responded:

And it is closed minded, individuals like yourself that help contribute to the underlying issues. I gave you an opportunity to get the whole story but I guess it makes you feel better about yourself, to form your own 1 sided opinion and question my intelligence.

You have a nice life.

I responded in turn:

I’m completely open to you explaining to me why you decided to move into Brunswick. Write it down and I’ll read it.

I’m also a radio host. You can call into my show on Sunday evening at 8:05 pm if you want to debate the issue.

In the interim I got a call from Michael Nelson, the new head of the NAACP (who has gotten involved in the case), who stated that Cleveland schools were so bad the Axson family had little choice but to move their family to a city where their child could get a better education. He then proceeded to place the blame on Frank Jackson.

I explained that I could understand their feeling—but moving to Brunswick? There are many places in between Cleveland and Klan country where a black family could have moved to.

But the larger issue is this: The reason Cleveland schools are struggling is because middle-class blacks abandoned the city for suburbs both near and far; and that began long before Frank Jackson became mayor.

I live in Hough, and am proud to say my wife and I built our home here back in 2000, when we could have built it anywhere in the county. We actually like being around our kith and kin.

No one should blame Frank Jackson (who still lives on East 39th Street, by the way) for the sad state of affairs of inner-city Cleveland neighborhoods and schools. If you want to blame anyone, blame the black folks that abandoned the city starting over 50 years ago, all in the name of integration, which has proven to be a failed notion. Some blacks, like the Axsons, are families without a community. They don’t want to live among their own, and whites really don’t want them either.

Mansfield’s explanation of why Cleveland Schools are so bad is simplistic. In 1988 I considered buying a home in Ohio City or Lakewood to be closer to my job in Middleburg Heights. I decided instead to buy a home on the north side of Monticello in Cleveland Heights. While I was not thinking of having children at the time, I have over the years talked to young couples of a variety of backgrounds who did buy homes in Cleveland who told me that they would sell those homes if they had children simply because the schools weren’t acceptable.

Eastside suburban school districts have a problem with school-age children moving in with relatives elsewhere as a way of escaping Cleveland’s school system. Black flight did not cause this problem. I would suggest a deep dive into back issues of Point Of View or Roldo Bartimole’s writings here, particularly the decades of tax diversion away from Cleveland schools, for a better understanding.

I’ve written before that Rodney Axson Sr. has much to be proud of in his son. I can now say that about Danielle Axson as well.

27 September 2016

CALL SEAN… WHEN YOUR PIPES ARE FULL OF CRAP…

0400 by Jeff Hess



Then there’s this from Wiley Miller:
non-sequitur-wiley-miller-presidential-debates-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-160926

27 September 2016

WHY READING OUR CONSTITUTION IS VITAL…

0300 by Jeff Hess

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, widely assumed to simply end slavery, doesn’t. The amendment reads:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, [emphasis mine, JH] shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Two books—WEB DuBois’ Black Reconstruction in America and Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877—make up the backbone of the research for Absent Son, my current novel-in-progress. Both works detail how even before the ratification of the 13th Amendment at the end of 1865, local political forces in the South passed and enforced laws governing vagrancy to feed a prison-to-plantation system to keep the cotton flowing to the North. Ava DuVernay’s film documents how that system continues to the present day.

Nigel M Smith, in The 13th: inside Ava DuVernay’s Netflix prison documentary on racial inequality writes:

[DuVernay’s The 13th] examines why the US has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of those imprisoned being African American. The title of the film refers to the 13th amendment to the constitution: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”

Beginning with DW Griffith’s technically groundbreaking but profoundly racist 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, The 13th is reported to take in the civil rights movement, the 1994 Crime Bill, which extended the death penalty and encouraged states to lengthen prison sentences, and the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement. It makes its debut on Friday at the New York film festival, the first non-fiction film to ever do so. The festival director and selection committee chair, Kent Jones, has said in a statement that The 13th is a “great film” and “an act of true patriotism”.

The trailer sets up DuVernay’s documentary as a provocative a mix of archival footage and testimonies from activists, politicians and historians, including Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Angela Davis, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Craig DeRoche, Shaka Senghor, Malkia Cyril and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Hillary Clinton’s controversial “super-predators” remark from a 1996 speech also makes an appearance.

The 13th debuts on Netflix and in select theaters on 7 October, DuVernay, best known for directing 2014’s Oscar-nominated Selma, had kept the project a secret from the public during its production

This one film may justify my Netflix subscription.

25 September 2016

OH YES, WE CERTAINLY CAN SEE THE PROBLEM…

0500 by Jeff Hess

north-carolina-michigan-colin-kaepernick-rodney-axson-charlotte-tulsa-160925
Note, in the group above, the number of people standing but not placing their hand over their heart and the number of people who do place their hand over their heart but do not remove their caps, and then there are the people standing but not paying attention to the song.

A little more than a month ago, Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the singing of our national anthem as a protest against continuing murder by police of African Americans in the United States. The protest continues to spread beyond professional football and now people in the stands are joining in.

From The Associated Press in College players join in raising fists for anthem as Kaepernick’s protest speads we learn:

Football players for Michigan and Michigan State along with a group of students at North Carolina raised their fists during the national anthem Saturday.

The gestures at the games come following a week punctuated by riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the killing of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Three Michigan State players—Delton Williams, Kenney Lyke and Gabe Sherrod—held their right fists in the air while standing on the sideline before the No8 Spartans hosted No11 Wisconsin.

“Whether somebody salutes, puts the hand over their heart or does something else, everybody has a choice to make,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio added after the Spartans’ 30-6 loss. “Our young people are in college, and I can promise you one thing, that when the flag is presented in some respect, I guess it becomes much more important now. It’s not just, oh by the way, we’ll just stand for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

Coach Dantonio is right. We daily must decide if we are to be an upstander or a bystander.

24 September 2016

CLEVELAND BROWNS ANDREW HAWKINS SPEAKS…

1700 by Jeff Hess

Dan Labbe, in Andrew Hawkins on national anthem protests: ‘It’s not so much about the kneeling as much as it is about the message’ for The Plain Dealer, writes:

If Miami Dolphins players continue their protest during Sunday’s national anthem before their game against the Browns, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins—as outspoken as any NFL player in regards to police violence against African-Americans—supports the message those players and others in the NFL and other sports are sending.

“I support it,” Hawkins said of the protests, started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the preseason and other players since. “It’s not so much about the kneeling as much as it is about the message. And it’s a message that you guys all know I’m passionate about and we’ve kind of been through this before.”

Two seasons ago, Hawkins wore a shirt during warm-ups prior to the Browns’ game against the Bengals that read “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.” It was referring, of course, to the police shootings of 12-year-old Rice in Cleveland and Crawford, who was shot in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio after waving an air rifle.

This story will not go away, and that is a very good reality.

24 September 2016

DO A GOOD DEED: ADOPT A SAD, CONFUSED XBAT…!

1300 by Jeff Hess

An XBAT is a Xenophobic Bigoted Anonymous Troll. Since I began following Rodney Axson’s story on The Plain Dealer‘s website I’ve identified several of these particularly odious creatures and now follow them with the intent of injecting a bit of sanity into their ravings.

I am a rabid defender of free speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment of our Constitution. All of these individuals have a perfect constitutional right to express their vile and offensive views, but, free speech cuts all ways. I, and I hope others, understand that the proper way to respond to offensive speech is never with censorship, but rather with more speech.

Just as the Klan was humiliated in Northeast Ohio a couple of decades ago by counter demonstrators who lined the path of their sad march, so too can we convince the XBATs infesting the Plain Dealer site that they are just as sad and shameful as hooded Klan members.

So, if you feel like doing a good deed and striking a blow for light and decency like one of my heroes—Stetson Kennedy—then adopt an XBAT like Col Kurtz, Razorback (originally Xafcop), Deplorable (originally Whitestorm), 66 or Todd.

Follow them and every time they drop one of their turds, write a response and let them know that you expect them to clean up their mess.

24 September 2016

I SHAMEFULLY CONFESS, I WATCH (AND LIKE) GLEE

0800 by Jeff Hess

In Season 4, Episode 17 of Glee, with Mr. Schuester out sick, Sam and Blaine assign their gleemates to sing guilty pleasures: songs they’re too embarrassed to admit they love. When I watched the show I couldn’t think of any song or band that I would feel that way about, but watching the above video, I realize that my guilty pleasure is the whole show.

I’ll accept that MsMojo knows more about the topic than I, but, as is the case with all such lists, there were songs that I had hoped would be there that got no mention. Having watched the show only through Season 5, Episode 18, I can say that didn’t make her list. These are my two favorite covers: Safety Dance by Men Without Hats and Raise Your Glass by Pink.

24 September 2016

IN MIKE DIKTA’S WORLD, THERE WOULD BE NO USA…

0500 by Jeff Hess

So, here’s a core fail of all the people who subscribe to the whole America, Love It Or Leave It philosophy: if the founders had followed that advice we all would still be bowing and curtsying to Queen Elizabeth as our rightful sovereign. The United States of America, as so perfectly demonstrated by The Son’s Of Liberty at the Boston Tea Party, is a nation founded on protest. (The irony here of the TEA party is not lost on me.)

In that world, Mike Dikta would be wearing a redcoat and singing God Save The Queen. Bryan Armen Graham, in Mike Ditka to Colin Kaepernick: ‘Get the hell out’ if you don’t like America, writes for The Guardian:

Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka has leveled blistering criticism at Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, saying he has “no respect” for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose protest has sparked a national discussion over racial injustice, inspired dozens of NFL players to follow suit and landed him on the cover of Time magazine.

I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” the longtime NFL coach said in a radio interview on KRLD-FM in Dallas. “If they don’t like the country, if they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. That’s what I think.

“I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick. He probably has no respect for me, that’s his choice. My choice is that I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.

“I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now if they don’t want to look for them, then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. Now if you don’t work, that’s a different problem.

Thankfully, we do not live in Dikta’s dream world. I don’t think that, as anthem’s go, The Star Spangled Banner is such a great example, but I do believe that God Save The Queen would be far worse for us.

24 September 2016

TIME PUTS COLIN KAEPERNICK ON THE COVER…

0400 by Jeff Hess

colin-kaepernick-rodney-asxon-take-a-knee-xenophobia-bigotry-160924

I’ll have to wait until I can buy a newsstand copy next week to read the story, but Colin Kaepernick taking-a-knee cover is already big news as evidenced by the headlines this morning: Colin Kaepernick Protest So Big, It Deserved Cover… Says Time Mag; Ray Lewis Hates on Colin Kaepernick Getting Time Magazine Cover; Colin Kaepernick set to appear on the cover of Time magazine; and much, much more.

John McWhorter, writing in Colin Kaepernick Had No Choice but to Kneel for Time, had this to say this week:

The idea that Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is unpatriotic fails doubly: first, in a mistaken notion of what real patriotism is, and second in missing a larger point.

For one, the idea that to not stand while the anthem is played signals a lack of allegiance to one’s nation is simplistic to the point of stretching plausibility, seemingly designed more as a way to hate on someone than to grapple with the complexities of the real world. Is patriotism a matter of either/or? Perhaps in terms of military service, although we find gray lines even there.

Elsewhere, however, critique and even scolding are fundamental facets of loving. What would be unpatriotic of Kaepernick, given his views, would be to refrain from sitting out the national anthem out of an unreflective sense of patriotism as an on/off switch. Kaepernick thinks his country is capable of changing and wants to help it do so.

How else was he supposed to say so in a way that would get attention, which is rather basic to contributing to an ideological moment? Was he supposed to tweet?

I haven’t bought, or read, a copy of Time for a very long time. I will be doing so next week.

23 September 2016

ARE AMERICANS READY FOR DEMOCRACY…?

1400 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader, in BreakingThroughPower.org–Ready for Democracy!, writes:

Are the people ready for democracy? This question was leveled by monarchs, despots and authoritarian rulers post-World War II when stirrings for freedom in less developed countries blossomed. We often heard apologists for the western colonial powers—the British, French, Portuguese, etc.—say that the Indians, the Arabs and the Africans were not “ready for democracy.” By that they meant people didn’t have the experience, wherewithal, or desire to do what was necessary to govern themselves.

In our own country, are we ready to revive, repair and reclaim our deteriorating democratic institutions from the 24/7 drumming of corporatism and its corporate state? Not so far!
Congress and state legislatures score very low in approval polls by detached, inactive citizens. Our courts are operating on squeezed budgets and doctrines that obstruct and severely ration justice. Even using the courts is a major burden for most people except for the rich and powerful.

No western country places more obstacles on voters and for third-party challengers. Limited access for third-parties restricts voices and choices at election time. Deep inequalities in income, wealth and power are not improving. We have the second lowest voting turnout among almost three dozen western nations.

It has been said that democracy is not a spectator sport. By definition it must be a participatory duty that we impose on ourselves. Apart from jury Continue Reading »

23 September 2016

RESPECT IS NOT GIVEN, RESPECT IS EARNED…

0600 by Jeff Hess

Matt Taibbi in Colin Kaepernick and Forcing Love of the Flag writes:

You can insist all you want that people pledge allegiance to the flag, but it seems like the more important thing would be making all Americans want to do so, and we’re a long way from that. You can’t regulate people’s feelings.

Reading Taibbi this morning made me think of the fictional rant of Officer Newton and the comment of a panelist on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday that the post WWII Los Angeles Police Department was modeled on the Marine Corp.

I know from 11 years of serving my country that military personnel are taught to respect the uniform and the rank, and that is right and necessary because service members may be thrown into situations where they fall under the command of commissioned and non-commissioned officers that they have never met. That is not true of the police. Police in America are not military personnel and the citizens of the United States do not serve under their command.

Police, indeed all public servants, do not deserve respect. They must, to steal a phrase from John Houseman, earn it.

23 September 2016

FROM THE GUARDIAN: GUN NATION…

0300 by Jeff Hess

This was one of the topics of discussion during my lunch yesterday at Tommy’s on Coventry.

In Gun inequality: US study charts rise of hardcore super owners, Lois Beckett writes:

Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 133m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.

The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary, obtained exclusively by the Guardian and the Trace, estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70m guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.
Large increase in handgun stock

The new survey, conducted in 2015 by public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, also found that the proportion of female gun owners is increasing as fewer men own guns. These women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men, and more likely to own a handgun only.

In a companion piece for The Guardian, Meet America’s gun super-owners—with an average of 17 firearms each, Beckett ledes with:

For years, Rich, a refinery operator from Wilmington, Delaware, was a typical American gun owner. He had only one or two guns, including a handgun he stashed in a bottom drawer in his bedroom. He never took it out and never fired it.

Then, in December 2012, 20 first-graders were murdered in a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, sparking renewed calls for a ban on the AR-15 military-style rifle the shooter had used.

Worried that a ban was coming, Rich joined the crowd of people at a local gun store and paid roughly $2,000 in cash for an AR-15 – about twice what the gun is worth today.

“I never really wanted one before,” he said, “but at that time there was the fear that if you don’t buy it now, you may never, ever get one.”

One purchase followed another. Three months after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, Rich owned 10 guns. Today, he says, it’s at least 43, and he asked that his last name not be published, for fear that publicizing too many details might attract thieves.

The 39-year-old is now one of America’s firearms super-owners – part of the 3% of American adults who collectively own 130m firearms, half of the nation’s total stock of civilian guns.

The collection in his safe includes three AR-15 lower receivers that will allow each of his three children to customize their own rifles when they come of age, whether an assault weapon ban is passed or not. But Rich said semiautomatic AR-15s had become a little boring to him. He’s much more excited about historic military weapons, and dreams of someday owning a fully automatic weapon. That’s “a grail gun”, he said. “It’s like a whole other arena of firearms ownership.”

Meet Donald Trump’s strongest voting block.

22 September 2016

IN CLEVELAND BUILDINGS ARE ON WELFARE

1100 by Roldo Bartimole

The article announcing the sale of Cleveland’s historic Terminal Tower by Forest City may start a new merry-go-round of tax abatements and other subsidies downtown.

Not that there’s been a slow down.

But we see a second round of tax gifts on the same building from back in the early 1990s.
Subsidies have been flowing to developers. And no one’s adding up the count.

Talk of the 57-story Key Center sale would include the Marriot Hotel, a 900-space garage beneath Mall A (city property), all of which received tax abatements in the 1990s. Question: What kind of subsidy could a new owner now squeeze from the city? (See old subsidies below).

Round and round we go with little attention paid to public revenue losses.

We don’t have a free press in Cleveland because we have a subservient press in Cleveland. Or should I just say a corporate press. Or a sleepy press. A sleepy press is a dangerous press.

It should be the responsibility of a vibrant press to tote up the score so that the public can determine whether there is fairness in the taxing system.

I fear there isn’t. I know there isn’t.

It’s rather amazing how commercial property downtown sheds property taxes so that homeowners will pay more to keep the county, city and city schools financed. (As I have said before, in the 1950s commercial/industrial property, which was taxed more heavily, became equal to homes. It means business already had property taxes reduced. This was before the state tax abatement legislation of the late 1970s. And you don’t get to depreciate as business does.)

Subsidies add the frosting.

Mayor Frank Jackson, a reliable source tells, has told business leaders that he’s the guy who can keep these gifts flowing. So a vote for his payroll tax increase and Continue Reading »

22 September 2016

FOR RAZORBACK, DEPLORABLE AND COL KURTZ…

0600 by Jeff Hess

keith-knight-col-kurtz-razorback-deplorable-black-lives-matter-colin-kaepernic-rodney-axson

This is for Razorback, Deplorable, Col Kurtz* and the rest of the cowardly bigots frightened by strong Americans standing up by taking a knee for justice.

Here are the panels leading up to today’s: 160919, 160920 and 160921.

[Update on 25 Sept @ 0531: here are the panels that follow the above—160923 and 160924.]

*Col Kurtz’s comments seem to have disappeared after 23 August. You can still see a screen shot of his xenophobic bile here.

22 September 2016

OWAIN GLYNDŴR: THE LAST PRINCE OF WALES…

0500 by Jeff Hess

Five-hundred-fifty-five years before my birth, my Welsh ancestors made a final push against the occupiers of their land. Owain Glynd?r, the last real prince of Wales led the rebellion.

Glyndŵr was a descendant of the Princes of Powys through his father Gruffydd Fychan II, hereditary Tywysog of Powys Fadog and Lord of Glyndyfrdwy, and of those of Deheubarth through his mother Elen ferch Tomas ap Llywelyn. On 16 September 1400, Glyndŵr instigated the Welsh Revolt against the rule of Henry IV of England. The uprising was initially very successful and rapidly gained control of large areas of Wales, but it suffered from key weaknesses – particularly a lack of artillery, which made capturing defended fortresses difficult, and of ships, which made their coastlands vulnerable. The uprising was eventually suppressed by the superior resources of the English. Glyndŵr was driven from his last strongholds in 1409, but he avoided capture and the last documented sighting of him was in 1412. He twice ignored offers of a pardon from his military nemesis, the new king Henry V of England, and despite the large rewards offered, Glyndŵr was never betrayed to the English. His death was recorded by a former follower in the year 1415.

Glyndŵr is portrayed in William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part 1 (characterised as Owen Glendower) as a wild and exotic man ruled by magic and emotion.

With his death Owain acquired a mythical status along with Cadwaladr, Cynan and Arthur as the hero awaiting the call to return and liberate his people. In the late 19th century the Cymru Fydd movement recreated him as the father of Welsh nationalism.

Cymru am byth!

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