27 January 2015


0000 by Jeff Hess

Note: newer, but less vital stories do appear lower down.


  • Q&A: Jailed Saudi blogger’s wife calls for his release
  • Saudi blogger ‘moved to tears by campaign to free him’, wife reveals
  • Jesuit Priest Thomas Reese Says ‘No Thanks’ to Whipping in Place of Raif Badawi
  • Blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes: Saudi Arabia’s often-brutal pact with its clerics
  • Raif Badawi: ‘Flog me instead of Saudi blogger’ says senior US academic
  • Planned flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi postponed again
  • Saudi blogger’s wife: I feel destroyed but I will not sit in a corner and cry
  • US senators condemn flogging of Saudi blogger in letter to King Abdullah NOTE
  • Saudis should end all plans to inflict physical torture upon blogger Raif Badawi
  • Britain to raise issue of jailed blogger with Saudi officials
  • Gormley: Canada must help Raif Badawi
  • Saudi blogger’s wife says global pressure could force his release
  • raif badawi 150118
    Any kingdom that locks up a writer for 10 years and adds the barbaric punishment of 1,000 lashes delivered 50 strokes a week for 20 weeks for the crime of calling bullshit on their particular superstitions and ignorance ought not to be considered a valued friend and ally of the United States.

    The wife of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for criticising leading clerics, says King Abdullah has referred his case to the supreme court amid an international clamour over his flogging.

    Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with the couple’s three children, told the BBC the decision had raised hopes that the authorities wanted to end her husband’s punishment. But there has been no official statement from the Saudi government.

    The authorities had already postponed Badawi’s flogging on medical grounds after a doctor said wounds from a previous lashing had not healed. Campaigners said the move exposed the “outrageous inhumanity” of his punishment.

    The 31-year-old was due to receive 50 further lashes after Friday prayers, the first 50 having been given outside al-Jafali mosque in the port city of Jeddah last week. He was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison, a fine and 1,000 lashes after criticising Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on his blog.

    According to Amnesty International, which has adopted Badawi as a prisoner of conscience, he was removed from his cell on Friday morning and taken to the prison clinic for a health check. The doctor concluded that the wounds from last week’s flogging had not yet healed properly and Badawi would be unable to withstand more. He recommended that the flogging be postponed until next week.

    Mark Tran writing in Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s case referred to supreme court, says his wife for The Guardian.

    28 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

    988 OUT OF 1,300 VIEWERS SAY NO A new Walmart opened its doors in Northwest Harris County Wednesday morning, but not everyone is happy about it. Neighbors in the Copper Lakes subdivision say the Walmart Neighborhood Market in the 8700… Keep reading…

    WILL THE MEAT TASTE MUCH BETTER NOW…? No single topic has elicited as many comments here at The Writing On The Wal as the meat Walmart sells. So, when I read the headline Walmart ups the ante on food safety from Meat & Poultry, I knew… Keep reading…

    SO, HOW MANY EMPLOYEES GET FOOD THERE…? Walmart seems to be on a philanthropy tear directed at food banks. If I were an enterprising young journalist living in Greeley—famous for the Greeley cattle feed lots—I would ride along for a week or… Keep reading…

    WHEN NO CHOICE MASQUERADES AS A CHOICE… Two weeks ago I posted a tongue in cheek jab at Walmart for being selected as one of the four worst business reputations with consumes by The Motley Fool. This week Timothy Green throws a life line… Keep reading…

    WALMART IS ALWAYS EXTER PECIAL… I suspect that McCray and Almussuidi want the parking lot in front for two reasons, first, there own customers will take advantage of the vacant parking just across the street from their stores, and, the further… Keep reading…

    HOW LONG WILL WALMART FIGHT…? FOREVER… Ever since we began The Writing On The Wal, nee No Cleveland Walmart, back in 2005, we have gotten pleas from people across the country asking one question: how do we stop Walmart from building in… Keep reading…

    WHEN YOU HAVE 75 WALMART CREDIT CARDS… I have said before that Walmart is not responsible for the crimes committed by others inside the stores or in the parking lots. As the ubiquity and banality of Walmart increases, however, the logic of those… Keep reading…

    DOES WALMART MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG…? Of course Walmart is not solely responsible for the obesity epidemic, but as the 800 1,600-pound gorilla in the room, Walmart has to accept leadership in what may be the most controllable of health crisis… Keep reading…

    Previously on Walmart Wednesday

    27 January 2015


    1000 by Jeff Hess

    I offer the following without further comment:

    “He’s got a gun,” yelled Michael Foster, a white, 43-year-old man before tackling 62-year-old Clarence Daniels, a Black man shopping for coffee creamer for his wife.

    While tussling on the ground, Daniels repeatedly yelled, “I have a permit.”

    That did not stop this want-to-be vigilante from trying to make a citizen’s arrest. . . on a law-abiding citizen.

    Foster is fortunate Daniels did not exercise his “stand your ground” rights and fire on Foster. Instead, he kept his poise as Foster held him in a choke hold until police came.

    That Foster would attack an armed man, unaware if he has a license to carry the gun, as Daniels did, is over the top at best, dangerous at worse. The Sheriff’s Office recommends that vigilante-inclined citizens refrain from taking matters into their own hands, especially when an incident is gun-related. Call 911 or alert security, sheriff’s spokesman Larry McKinnon said, before taking any drastic measure.

    Mano Singham comments further…

    26 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    We don’t need, I think—I hope—to detail too extensively here the exact answer to that question. [Why don’t these women (in abusive situations) just leave?] Bullet points: an immediate fear of being punched, kicked, bitten, gouged or killed, and of the same happening to your children, preceded by months or years of exploitation of the weakest points in your psyche by a master of the art; an erosion of your self-confidence, liberty, agency and financial independence (if you had any to begin with), coupled with a sense of shame and stigma and a lack of practical options; no money, no supportive family or friends, nowhere to run.

    So, let’s concentrate instead on the lack of imagination, the lack of empathy inherent in that question. Because it shapes a lot of questions, and particularly those that animate government policy and the political discourse that will start filling the airwaves more and more as we move towards the election.

    Politicians, for example, are apparently completely baffled by Poor People’s propensity to do harmful things, often expensively, to themselves. (That’s politicians of all stripes – it’s just that the left wing wrings its hands and feels helplessly sorry for Them, while Tories are pretty sure They are just animals in need of better training.) The underclass eats fast food, drinks and smokes, and some of its more unruly members even take drugs. Why? Why?

    Lucy Mangan writing in If you don’t understand how people fall into poverty, you’re probably a sociopath for The Guardian.

    I wish that the likes of Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, &c., &c., could read Mangan’s piece and have an aha moment, but I think she hits the nail on the head in the headline: sociopath’s don’t just not understand, they’re incapable of understanding. Sometimes you just have to don your liberty cap and get to work.

    23 January 2015


    0200 by Jeff Hess

    As I struggle with preserving my weight loss from 2012—265 pounds to 185 pounds—Johnny Lee Miller, in the character of a 21st century Sherlock Holmes, nails the challenge; and no one who has not faced the challenge can ever understand why just do it is the most asinine bromide ever conceived. Drip…

    21 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

    WHERE CAN THE WATER GO…? Strictly speaking, this is not a problem unique to Walmart, but given the number of stores with ginormous parking lots coupled with the number of abandoned stores with empty parking lots, Walmart has to shoulder… Keep reading…


    FUDGE TEST SCORES OR GO WORK AT WALMART… That threat, issued by an Atlanta Elementary School principal, is all but Dickensian workhousesque. If teachers couldn’t meet high standards for student performance, “Walmart’s always hiring…,” Keep reading…

    WALMART SANCTIONED FOR WIPED EVIDENCE… A federal judge has sanctioned Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for destroying evidence in a employee discrimination case, ordering as punishment that the jury can presume company supervisors retaliated…. Keep reading…

    BRAUN V. WALMART V. WALMART V. DUKES… The Supreme Court of the United States decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes was disappointing, but there seems to be muscle coming from one state court. Fighting the fair-pay battle state-by-state is not an… Keep reading…

    HOW ABOUT GETTING YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER…? Bay Area Food Bank will be conducting promotional events at three of the participating Wal-Mart stores. The event details are as follows: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Wal-Mart on 4965 Highway…. Keep reading…

    ONE WORD: HORSEMEAT… Hayley Peterson writes about how Aldi’s is Shockingly Cheaper Than Wal-Mart for Business Insider. Plenty of stores are less expensive than Walmart, but not shockingly so. What corners unbeknownst to Walmart executives can… Keep reading…

    LIVING IN SIR TOMPHAM HATT’S WORLD… Imagine for a moment that you live on the island of Sodor in the employ of the North Western Railway. There are exactly 100 families living on the island and the island’s wealth of £1,000. The funds are… Keep reading…

    GOOGLE, WALMART, PORN AND MALWARE… I run several Google alerts to stay on top of specific interests. For The Writing On The Wal I run a simple search for the tags Walmart and Wal-Mart. Since the first of the year, when I returned to more serious… Keep reading…

    THE ANTI-(BLANCHE) LINCOLN… Remember Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark./Walmart)? I do. She left the Senate in 2011—she was replaced by John Boozman (R-Ark./Walmart)—after a 58 percent-to-37 percent general election. A year later Elizabeth Warren… Keep reading…

    HOW PENNIES BECOME MILLIONS… Different communities levy different taxes and if, while visiting out of town say, I but a $10 item at a Walmart where the sales tax is 8 percent and return that same item the next day to my local Walmart where the… Keep reading…

    Previously on Walmart Wednesday

    21 January 2015


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    guantanamo diary 150121

    20 January 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    I encountered a troublingly accurate insight from Jason Fried, of the forward-thinking software firm 37Signals: spam is a way of thinking about life. Unsolicited email is only its most acute expression. “Spam is just throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks,” he told me. “It’s not really communicating. It’s harassing a large number of people to see if anyone responds.” (He explores such ideas in Rework, a new book on work culture, co-written with David Heinemeier Hansson.) Spam flourishes because of a radical asymmetry: since it costs nothing to send millions of messages, a tiny response rate is fine; the irritation of countless others is irrelevant. The effort of distinguishing between willing and unwilling recipients is eliminated. Or, more accurately, it’s outsourced: we, the recipients, aided by spam filters, have to do it.

    Seen this way, all sorts of daily annoyances suddenly appear spam-like. As Fried notes, business life is full of examples: generic press releases are spam—oh, my God, are they spam—and so is firing off an identical CV to 300 employers, thereby informing each one you don’t care about their specific job. Junk mail is spam, obviously. But isn’t most advertising in public spaces, too? A scary thought for journalists: is mass media inherently spammish? Perhaps it’s only slightly overstretching the metaphor to suggest it’s possible to spam friendships, too, by failing to tailor your contribution to the person involved.

    The underlying point is about effort: even if I do want what you’re selling, there’s something about you exerting no effort to seek me out, specifically, that corrupts the transaction. Sacrifice matters. Just as a gift doesn’t mean much if it costs the giver little in money or time, nothing sours me on a commercial exchange, or a social one, than the feeling the other party can’t be bothered. That great lie, “your call is important to us”, writes Laura Penny in her book of the same name, “best exemplifies the properties native to bullshit. It tries to slather some nice on the result of a simple ratio: your time versus some company’s dough. Like most bullshit, the more times you hear it, the bullshittier it gets.” I confess I even feel this about self-service checkouts at Tesco: if they can’t be bothered to pay enough people to staff the tills, I resent shopping there.

    One upside of this is the truism, seemingly supported by studies on the psychology of giving, that when you do put in the effort, it cheers the giver at least as much as the receiver. So there’s my appeal to the spammer behind Mountainous A Fumigated: speak to me personally. You’ll be happier that way.

    Oliver Burkeman writing in Spam—is email only the start? for The Guardian.

    19 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    16 April 1963
    My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

    While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

    I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

    But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

    Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

    You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest Continue Reading »

    19 January 2015


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    sir richard toham hatt

    Imagine for a moment that you live on the island of Sodor in the employ of the North Western Railway. There are exactly 100 families living on the island and the whole of the island’s economy consists of £1,000. The wealth is distributed in this way: the family of Sir Richard Topham Hatt, the great grandson of the first Fat Controller for the railway, guides a family fortune of £480. Your family, and the other 98 families living on the island share equally in the remaining £520, a sum of £5 25p.

    The economy of Sodor, then, would be a microcosm of the real world we live in, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

    Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that—on current trends—by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

    Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

    The charity’s research, published on Monday, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

    Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

    Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

    So, how do we reverse that concentration of wealth?

    Inequality has moved up the political agenda over the past half-decade amid concerns that the economic recovery since the global downturn of 2008-09 has been accompanied by a squeeze on living standards and an increase in the value of assets owned by the rich, such as property and shares.

    Pope Francis and the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde have been among those warning that rising inequality will damage the world economy if left unchecked, while the theme of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital was the drift back towards late 19th century levels of wealth concentration.

    Barack Obama’s penultimate State of the Union address on Tuesday is also expected to be dominated by the issue of income inequality.

    He will propose a redistributive tax plan to extract more than $300bn (£200bn) in extra taxes from the 1% of rich earners in order to fund benefits specifically targeted at working families.

    However, the odds of the White House having any success persuading Congress to adopt the plan, given the Republicans’ new grip on both chambers, are extremely long. But Obama’s embrace of what he calls “middle-class economics”—as opposed to the trickle-down economics of the Republicans—is likely to ensure that inequality remains a pivotal theme of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    17 January 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes [50 lashes a week for 20 weeks, JH] for setting up a website that championed free speech in the autocratic kingdom. His blog, the Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was shut down after his arrest in 2012.

    Cartoonist around the world, under the banner Je Suis Charlie, rightly stood up for those who died in the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. On the matter of Saudi Arabian blogger Badawi, however, my fellow bloggers seem silent.

    So, I for one, would like to say fuck the house of Saud and their oil. These are the people we choose to ally ourselves to? Yes, I get the whole enemy-of my-enemy trope, but feck, are we ever to stand for anything other than profit and wealth?

    *If I’ve blown the translation/transliteration in Arabic for “I am Raif Badawi” please let me know so that I can make the correction.

    17 January 2015


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    Mano Singham explores The shifting language of race and ethnicity. I left this comment.

    The challenge lies in attempting to create a taxonomy where no significant difference exists.

    The word used in any classification is far less important than the intent of the word in the mind of the user.

    Richard Pryor could entitle a comedy album That Nigger’s Crazy; David Duke could not.

    We must find ways to recognize that sub-grouping beyond human or Homo sapiens, if you prefer, in of itself, is the problem. There was once an evolutionary value in developing a shorthand for those who were not of our tribe and therefore potential threats. That is no longer the case and continued reliance on this communication crutch handicaps (another word that has fallen from acceptable use) our further progress.

    Labeling has other problems as well. A couple of years ago, one of the schools where I teach encouraged a campaign to stop the use of The R Word (retard). Retard, like idiot or imbecile, is a perfectly acceptable word used by medical and pedagogical professionals to describe individuals whose intellectual development is slowed, retarded, for physiological reasons.

    When used as a taunt or slur, however, the word becomes a weapon of diminution. Retiring retarded in favor of other words does not change the problem.

    I like to remember the passage in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:

    But Siobhan said we have to use [Special Needs] because people used to call children like the children at school spaz and crip and mong, which were nasty words. But this is stupid too because sometimes the children from the school down the road see us in the street when we’re getting off the bus and they shout “Special Needs! Special Needs!”

    I am male. I am an adult. I am a citizen of the The United States of America. I am of European lineage. I am a descendent of people from Wales and Germany and France and Italy. I am a person with red hair and blue eyes. I am a teacher, a writer, a journalist; the list goes on and on. None of that says anything about who I am in any meaningful or useful way. Put me in any box and you dismiss me.

    I am Jeff Hess, sometimes called Hyphenman, and I do my best each and everyday to be better.

    16 January 2015


    0600 by Jeff Hess

    15 January 2015


    0600 by Jeff Hess

    As pernicious as this arrest and related “crackdown” on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west. The day before the Charlie Hebdo attack, I coincidentally documented the multiple cases in the west—including in the U.S. – where Muslims have been prosecuted and even imprisoned for their political speech. Vanishingly few of this week’s bold free expression mavens have ever uttered a peep of protest about any of those cases—either before the Charlie Hebdo attack or since. That’s because “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game. (emphasis in original, JH)

    Glenn Greenwald writing in France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration.

    14 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

    $10,000 A DAY IS LESS THAN POCKET LINT… Shareholders accused Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in a Delaware court filing Thursday of failing to comply with a court order to produce files from an internal [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] investigation of… Keep reading…

    WHAT BIG BOXES DEFINE YOUR COMMUNITY…? Like Taylor Loyal, I firmly believe in shopping local. Money spent on locally owned (not franchised) and operated businesses stays in the community and boosts local economy. Money spent on cheap plastic… Keep reading…

    IF THE GAME IS RIGGED, DON’T PLAY THE GAME… Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is my favorite politician. She may disappoint me in the long run, most who hold political office eventually do, but for now she is fighting the battles that ought to be… Keep reading…

    TRINITY WALL STREET V. WAL-MART INC. … Large corporations, like Walmart, may depend upon the minutiae of legal proceedings to put off those not directly involved. Such is the case, I think, with the notice I came across this morning in the case of… Keep reading…

    WHAT DO WALMART TRUCKERS TALK ABOUT…? There’s a relatively simple way to find out: read the Walmart thread at Truckers Report. A few of the more active conversations include: Should I put this on the application??? Keep reading…

    MORE CHEAP POISON CRAP FROM CHINA… I stopped shopping at Petco several years ago when I bought two bags of food that made all four of my dogs sick. I returned both bags to the store, making sure to preserve the lot numbers, and received… Keep reading…

    WE’RE NOT COMCAST, MONSANTO OR AMAZON…? Now here’s what may be a very cold consolation for owning and operating the world’s largest source for cheap plastic crap from China: Walmart is better than Comcast, Monsanto and Amazon. Really? Keep reading…

    SHOPPING WHILE BLACK CAN GET YOU KILLED… On 5 August of last year, police responded to a 911 call, entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart and summarily executed John Crawford, a 22-year-old black man, for the crime of having… Keep reading…

    WHY IS WALMART MORE PACKED THAN TARGET…? Inquiring minds want to know: Why is Walmart so much more crowded than Target? The prices are pretty much the same, and when different, it’s by like 5 percent, and often it’s cheaper at Target. Keep reading…

    WHERE’S A SCARECROW WITH A PLAN…? Is there any event more relentless than the steady stomp of marching feet associated with the opening of yet another Walmart? An unnamed big-box store proposal that fueled protests and a lawsuit by…. Keep reading…

    Previously on Walmart Wednesday

    14 January 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    [I]t’s not that failures of will cause poverty. It’s that poverty causes failures of will.

    Anti-poverty initiatives, [analyst Jamie] Holmes argues, should focus far more on relieving these cognitive costs. He praises one Philippines bank that lets customers choose a date before which they can’t access their money – a “commitment mechanism” of the sort UK banks ought to make easier. On a personal level, meanwhile, the message of depletable willpower rings clear: next time you find yourself full of self-discipline, don’t spend it trying to behave virtuously; spend it, instead, altering your environment to reduce your future dependence on willpower. (Rather than resolving to save money monthly, set up a standing order; rather than resolving to watch less TV, get rid of your TV.) Where there’s a will, there’s a way to stop relying on will. [Emphasis mine, JH]

    Oliver Burkeman writing in This column will change your life: Poverty and willpower for The Guardian.

    13 January 2015


    1300 by Jeff Hess

    I know a lot of people would like to see Elizabeth Warren run for president in 2016 (I was one of them at one point) but now I much prefer that she stay where she is, especially now that the Republicans have gained control of the senate. This story is a great example of why I feel the way I do:

    Elizabeth Warren has torpedoed a second economic nominee by the Obama administration for being too close to Wall Street, forcing Lazard banker Antonio Weiss to pull out of the running to become undersecretary of the Treasury.

    Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, led opposition to Weiss—whom Barack Obama had nominated to fill the department’s third most important post—partly on the grounds that he had advised on so-called corporate inversion deals that would allow US firms to avoid tax.

    Amid mounting concern among progressive Democrats in the Senate, Weiss has written to the White House withdrawing his interest and opting for a more junior advisory role instead.

    “Mr Weiss made the request to avoid the distraction of the lengthy confirmation process that his renomination would likely entail,” said the White House spokeswoman, Jen Friedman. “We continue to believe that Mr Weiss is an extremely well-qualified individual, who is committed to the policy goals of this administration and firmly supports the administration’s policies on fostering economic growth and supporting our middle class.”

    The climbdown follows a similar intervention by Warren over Obama’s initial choice of Larry Summers to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a post that eventually went to Janet Yellen instead.

    13 January 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    charlie hebdo 150113
    I have said, many, many times, just ask any of my friends, that the proper response to offensive speech must not be censorship, but rather more speech. I would now make and addendum to that maxim: the proper response to offensive speech must be neither censorship nor violence, but rather more speech.

    When any confrontation escalates from words, or pictures, to thrown fists, then the individual who goes physical has lost the argument.

    There is nuance piled on nuance piled on nuance in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders, but we are, at least for now, still talking.

    12 January 2015


    0600 by Jeff Hess

    joe sacco 150110

    I’ve contemplated Joe Sacco’s graphic essay (cartoon just doesn’t work here, if ever) over the weekend and I still haven’t arrived at a satisfactory position or even framework other than to say that I know not what.

    Reading Ophelia Benson’s post this morning led me to The Great Hiatus which attempts to enlighten readers so that they may see Charlie Hebdo through a French lens.

    I would like to explain a few things, about Charlie Hebdo and about how things work in my country. It might feel insulting, but unless you are fascinated with French culture, have especially studied it or lived some time in France, you don’t know us. You don’t know our history, our politics, even our geography. That’s fine, I myself have a pretty sketchy knowledge of all these stuffs for many countries in the world.

    Not knowing is fine. Spreading false information, or giving your opinion about things you don’t know, is not.

    You have no idea how much the French community on tumblr is feeling betrayed. We stood by your side many times in the recent weeks, we educated ourselves about the situation in the US, we read, we learned. Now, our country is suffering and I read everywhere that Charlie Hebdo was a racist journal, that they had it coming.

    It was not. NO ONE, I repeat literally NO ONE in France ever considered Charlie Hebdo as racist. We might have considered the drawings tasteless, but NOT racists. For the very simple reason that WE FUCKING KNOW OUR POLITICS. So, when you see the covers of the journal out of context and without understanding french, you’re seeing maybe 10% of what there’s to see.

    We must never take the lazy route and deem that our reality is The Reality. My understanding of the world is my understanding of the world, shaped by my experiences, and I cannot simply project that reality on everyone else and become enraged when they fail to act as I expect them to act.

    How much more true must that be when I, or any of us, attempt to project fantasies about groups, communities, nations, or even whole continents, onto those who are not us.

    A wise woman once told me that if you know one person, then you know one person, full stop.

    That is messy and inconvenient and damned exhausting. That position, however is the only one that makes sense.

    Yes, the intent of satire, indeed all humor, is to hurt. Here, however, I would remember Finely Peter Dunne’s dictum: The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

    I think the staff of Charlie Hebdo did a fine job of realizing that noble goal.

    11 January 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    roldo 150110

    The past is always with us.

    Yet we are determined to ignore it.

    We face a crucial police/community crisis with a mayor who stubbornly refuses to face reality.

    The record of neglect speaks for itself—from the long unobserved 11 murders and rapes by Anthony Sowell to the decade of captivity of three young women by Ariel Castro—all on ordinary Cleveland streets—to the half—naked woman identified as a dead deer by alerted but lazy police officers sent to investigate—said something about the policing attitudes of the city neighborhoods of Cleveland. Where is it? What expectations can we have?

    Pity the poor citizens of Cleveland unless they can afford a tax—abated downtown condo. I watched one of Council’s Listening meetings on Ch. 20 and the neighborhood people certainly have noticed the difference in treatment of neighborhoods and downtown.

    Then we had the reckless 137-bullet, 60-car chase and killings of a man and woman—again black—by a barrage of unfathomable gun fire apparently started when a car backfire. Police thought themselves under fire. The two slaughtered had no weapons. Apparently only fear of the chasers and a desire to escape.

    Then the very heartbreaking killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in as disturbing a police action as one could imagine—shot dead less than two seconds after the boy approached a police car wrongly positioned. The rapid police fire cannot be explained away by nonsense that the boy with a toy gun was an immediate threat Continue Reading »

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