5 March 2015


0000 by Jeff Hess

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


  • Members Of Congress Call On Saudi Arabia To Release Blogger Raif Badawi
  • Bianca Jagger joins fight to free Saudi blogger Raif Badawi
  • Liberal Party of Canada statement on Raif Badawi re-trial
  • Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, now faces being beheaded for renouncing the religion, his family have said.

    What is the difference between an execution for your beliefs by ISIS and an execution for your beliefs by the House of Saud?

    raif badawi 150216

    Previous updates: Continue Reading »

    6 March 2015


    2000 by Jeff Hess


    oglaf virgin cobbler

    *Although Derf is…

    5 March 2015


    0900 by Jeff Hess

    roldo rock hall 150305

    They—our politically corrupt office-holders—keep taking the pennies from the public, adding them up and giving them away. They soon become hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Why do they do it?

    Not for better health, not for better streets, not for better schools, not for better services but for the corrupt agenda of the city’s real leaders.

    And for their frivolous fun.

    And they can never think or imagine a tax that weighs more heavily upon those who have so much. Rather they pick the pockets of the poor and near poor. Pickpocket legislators.

    I just totaled up the cost since the beginning of three such taxes: a sin tax, an arts tax and an added sales tax for conventions. As of the end of February.

    The total of the three: $535.7 million. More than a half billion dollars taken from pockets a penny or two at a time.

    Here’s the breakdown:

  • Sin tax for Browns stadium – $129,680,945.
  • Arts & Culture tax: $142,061,796.
  • Medical Mart sales tax: $264,127,025.
  • And the giving-away doesn’t end there.

    Cleveland City Council this week in a 17-0 vote gave the Rock Hall induction promoters $500,000 from their cash register. (Wonder how tickets to the gala for Council and other pols will be handled.)

    Why do the people of Cleveland have to pay for this party of these people? We know they can pay for their own parties.

    This alone is a $16.5 billion business with many of its leading performers worth billions of dollars. (Madonna $800 million; Bono $590 million, Beyonce $440 million to give you a taste.)

    Recently I wrote about how the County Commissioners meeting to Continue Reading »

    5 March 2015


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    A co-worker sent me this story by Katharine Zaleski for Fortune magazine.

    I still am embarrassed by this memory. Five years ago I walked into an office on the twenty-fifth floor of the Manhattan headquarters of Time Inc. (which owns Fortune.) I was there to meet with Time.com’s then managing editor and pitch a partnership idea, but once I took a seat and surveyed the endless photos of her small children spread across the airy space, I decided this editor was too much of a mother to follow up on the idea.

    I still went through with my proposal, but I walked out sure I would never talk to her again. She wasn’t the first and only mother whose work ethic I silently slandered. As a manager at The Huffington Post and then The Washington Post in my mid-twenties, I committed a long list of infractions against mothers or said nothing while I saw others do the same.

  • I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day.
  • I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she “got pregnant.”
  • I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother – who was a top cable news producer at the time – looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday… just like you.”
  • I scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30pm all of the time. It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare. I was obsessed with the idea of showing my commitment to the job by staying in the office “late” even though I wouldn’t start working until 10:30 am while parents would come in at 8:30 am.
  • For mothers in the workplace, it’s death by a thousand cuts—and sometimes it’s other women holding the knives. I didn’t realize this—or how horrible I’d been—until five years later, when I gave birth to a daughter of my own.

    Forced by biology to step into the shoes of the women she had scorned, Zaleski, like Joe Pesci in The Super, finds enlightenment. The real message here for me is the people isolated from those they affect can have no idea of the evil they do. I wish her well, but I have no doubt that the people modeled on her former self remain just as clueless.

    5 March 2015


    0600 by Jeff Hess

    I haven’t written about events in Ferguson, Missouri, since the end of 2014, not because I lost interest, but because the story appeared to gain serious legs. I have continued to monitor the story, and the larger consequences of the murder of Michael Brown, and want to offer this update following the release of the Justice Department’s report yesterday. Juan Thompson and Ryan Devereaux writing in Feds: Ferguson Preys Viciously on Black Residents for The//Intercept report:

    Police in Ferguson, Missouri have presided over a predatory system of entrenched racism, economic exploitation and constitutional rights violations stretching back several years, [Emphasis mine, JH] according to a long-awaited Department of Justice investigation released Wednesday. The scathing 102-page report paints a portrait of a vicious environment in which Ferguson’s black residents are disproportionately mired in municipal court fines — frequently resulting from dubious traffic stops — in order to generate revenue for the St. Louis suburb and routinely subjected to excessive use of force.

    The report, six months in the making, confirms many of the complaints black residents raised in the wake the fatal August shooting of Michael Brown — an unarmed African American teen — by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Brown’s killing sparked months of protest, highlighting longstanding discriminatory practices carried out by Ferguson’s majority white police force against Ferguson’s majority black population.

    In a press conference Wednesday unveiling the report, Attorney General Eric Holder blamed Ferguson’s police for creating a “powder keg” that exploded when Brown was gunned down in broad daylight. In November, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson in Brown’s slaying; in a separate development Wednesday, the DOJ cleared Wilson of alleged civil rights violations in the teen’s killing.

    The DOJ’s report on the Ferguson police department places responsibility for the deplorable civil rights conditions in Ferguson on department and city officials alike–some of whom federal officials documented sending racist emails denigrating the president, the first lady and black people in general.

    The report took aim at five distinct areas: the Ferguson Police Department’s exploitation of citizens as a source of revenue, police practices, the municipality’s court system, racial bias and community distrust. In each area, the police department in Ferguson was found to be an abysmal failure in which interlocking abuses and perverse incentives have eroded constitutional rights.

    Of those five, I actually am most disturbed by the first. When police officers monetarily profit from finding reasons to arrest those least able to defend themselves, we create a society driving not by the rule of law, but a perverse incarnation of Adam Smith’s invisible hand and raise the terrifying specter of the financially motivated Spanish Inquisition.

    5 March 2015


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    Yesterday’s headlines included: Fugitive ex-NSA contractor Snowden seeks to come home: lawyer; Edward Snowden Working to Return Home to US: Lawyer; Edward Snowden in talks to return to United States from Russian exile: lawyer; Edward Snowden ready to return to U.S., lawyer says; and so on and so on.

    Who is this lawyer?

    Yesterday, in Moscow, Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena held a press conference to promote his new book, was asked about Snowden’s case, and said exactly what has been known for almost two years: [emphasis mine, JH] “He has a desire to go back, and we are doing everything possible to make that happen.” Kucherena added that lawyers in various countries have been working on Snowden’s behalf to negotiate terms for a fair trial.

    So why the breathless headlines? Glenn Greenwald continues:

    Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”

    Ever since Snowden revealed himself to the public 20 months ago, he has repeatedly said the same exact thing when asked about his returning to the U.S.: I would love to come home, and would do so if I could get a fair trial, but right now, I can’t.

    His primary rationale for this argument has long been that under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute under which he has been charged, he would be barred by U.S. courts from even raising his key defense: that the information he revealed to journalists should never have been concealed in the first place and he was thus justified in disclosing it to journalists. In other words, when U.S. political and media figures say Snowden should “man up,” come home and argue to a court that he did nothing wrong, they are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from even raising that defense.

    Snowden simply wants a fair trial by his peers where he is allowed to present the best defense possible. Since that defense involves at least embarrassing, and very possibly opening to criminal charges, many in the government of the United States, no such trial is ever likely to happen.

    This CNN video is particularly telling and Greenwald does a masterful job of shredding every word mouthed.

    Where to start? First, Gingrich’s belief that it’s possible to “get the rest of the documents that he has not leaked” is simply adorable. Second, Gingrich is a fascinating choice for CNN to have pontificate on proper punishments given that he is the first House Speaker to ever be punished for ethics violations, for which he was fined $300,000. Third, David Petraeus was just allowed to plead guilty for leaking extremely sensitive secrets — not out of a whistleblowing desire to inform the public but simply to satisfy his mistress—and will almost certainly spend no time in jail; Gingrich, Blitzer, Ignatius and friends would never dare suggest that the General should go to prison (just as DC’s stern law-and-order advocates who demand Snowden’s imprisonment would never dare suggest the same for James Clapper for having lied to Congress).

    Gringrich? Really? Why is this pathetic lying waste of human genome still talking?

    4 March 2015


    1600 by Jeff Hess


    The thermometer crept above 32 degrees F this afternoon and one of our local trolls crept out of from under the bridge to forage on the corn we set out for the deer herd. The pack, of course, went ape shit.

    4 March 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    It’s been a very, VERY 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.

    THERE ARE SIMPLY TOO MANY STORIES… Forty-eight hours later, the stories about Walmart’s announcement Thursday morning that the company has plans to bump up wages for some 500,000 employees are coming faster than I can read… Keep reading…

    I’M DOOMED… In a tale about Lindsey Stone, I came across this passage: At Farukh’s request, Lindsey had been emailing him photographs that didn’t involve her flipping off at military cemeteries. She’d been providing biographical details, too. HerKeep reading…

    HOW TO BUY SOCIAL CLOUT… When you own a publicly traded corporation, even when you own the majority of the shares and hence control the vote, minority stockholders can cause discomfort and embarrassment. Such is the case with Walmart. In addition… Keep reading…

    WAGE TIMES HOURS EQUALS PAY… Walmart has announced the intent to boost hourly wages over the next year and that is good. Walmart workers are pleased with the raise, but when the goal is a living wage the other half of the pay equation—pay=… Keep reading…

    THE NEED CONTINUES TO GROW… My hope in juxtaposing the above image with stories of Walmarts good works is that whenever someone reads about Walmart’s philanthropic largesse, that they pause and remember that such gifts represent both a … Keep reading…

    $10 PER HOUR IS BETTER THAN $7.25, BUT… America is obsessed with exceptionalism. We care about the biggest loser, we celebrate winning the gold, we cheer the valedictorian. Not only can we not all be winners, we can’t even all be above average. … Keep reading…

    MCMILLON ON WORKERS, PEOPLE AND CRITICS… Doug McMillon is only the third man to follow founder Sam Walton—David Glass, 1988-2000; Lee Scott, 2000-2009; Mike Duke 2009-2014—as CEO of Walmart. I barely know McMillon, but one… Keep reading…

    $9 AN HOUR LOOKS GOOD, FOR NOW… The first shock to the system economic has come from the announcement of increases in Walmart wages for some 40 percent of the U.S. workforce. We do all need to take a breath and remember that not… Keep reading…

    A STORE THAT WALMART WILL NOT BUILD… While I have no doubt that Walmart has decided before to not build a store after purchasing the land in the past, I can’t point to a single instance myself. For all those community groups who have worked… Keep reading…

    GLOBALLY, WALMART CAN BE STIFFED… If you buy a lot of limes, as I do, both for cooking and use in adult beverages, you know that the market for limes has been a bit crazy of late. So messed up that I heard one story of drug cartels hijacking… Keep reading…

    THE OTHER NEUTRALITY… One of the reasons I became disillusioned with President Barack Hussein Obama was that his campaign promise to push The Employee Free Choice Act, commonly known as Card Check, forward vaporized. I haven’t heard a… Keep reading…

    WALMART WORKERS’ CHILDREN TOO…? Walmart workers go begging for food for their Thanksgiving dinners while corporate philanthropy spreads money in areas likely to garner more favorable coverage. Walmart has given the Boys & Girls Club’s… Keep reading…

    LILLY WHO…? Remember Lilly Ledbetter? No? Perhaps you remember The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009? Still nothing? That was the first bill new President Barack Hussein Obama signed into law on 29 January 2009. A hopeful start by a president… Keep reading…

    CAN CPCFC* BE BEATEN BACK…? Sam Walton had a great idea: make his all-American stores in the American Heartland the hero of American workers by purchasing and selling the American goods they made. Now Walmart sells American flags… Keep reading…

    WALMART AND THE NEXT GREAT COMPRESSION…? Nobel Prize winning Economist Paul Krugman has entered the conversation on Walmart and the proposed raises for some half-a-million of the company’s workers. Krugman applauds the decision… Keep reading…

    WALMARTING OUR SOCIAL NETWORKS… I’m not sure when Walmart became a meme, yet there is no denying that for the past 30 years or so, the Bentonvile Behemoth has come to hold a place in our collective consciousness. That place, however, is… Keep reading…

    FROM WCPN’S SOUND OF IDEAS… Listening to my local public radio station this morning I wished I had not been in my car. I would very much have liked to have been calling and emailing because there was much that I felt the show missed, or rushed… Keep reading…

    OLYMPIA SEES, RAISES WALMART WAGE HIKE… The bill that passed the Washington state house yesterday still has to work through the state senate and the governor’s office, but I see a hopeful pattern here. If, businesses don’t flee Washington. If… Keep reading…

    WEEKLY WALMART ROUNDUP… When Walmart announced plans to raise the wages of about 40 percent of the company’s workers on 19 February, the number of stories about the Bentonvile Behemoth exploded and I found myself unable to read, write… Keep reading…

    Previously on Walmart Wednesday

    3 March 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    clinton portrait
    I think the nation should burn the painting and demand our money back.

    2 March 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    The blues are not depression. To a person not suffering from either, the difference can be hard to distinguish, and that is part of a problem in matters of brain wellness.

    This year marks the 20th birthday of a medical paper making this argument, and it’s worth dusting off, not least as an antidote to post-Olympics blues. Entitled A Proposal To Classify Happiness As A Psychiatric Disorder, it was published in the Journal Of Medical Ethics. Some have suggested its author, the psychology professor Richard Bentall, was engaging in deadpan humour, but he builds a persuasive case. Consider how psychiatrists usually define a “disorder”. It must be statistically abnormal; Bentall cites evidence that, depending on your definition, happiness is. It must involve “clusters of symptoms that occur together”, which happiness does. It’s often argued that a true disorder must interfere with the patient’s efforts to achieve their life goals. Well, overindulgence in food and alcohol is strongly associated with happiness, yet threatens people’s lives. Happiness triggers impulsive behaviour. Then there’s “depressive realism”, the (controversial) claim that depressed people have a more accurate grasp of their abilities than others. True, Bentall concedes, happiness is generally seen as positive. But that’s a value judgment, and these have no place in science: if an alcoholic enjoys her alcoholism, or a manic person his mania, do their disorders magically vanish? No. So we need a new classification. Bentall proposes some suitable jargon: “Major affective disorder, pleasant type.”

    Yes, as Burkeman notes, Bentall was joking, but not in an April Fool sort of way.

    Bentall’s purpose was to highlight the troublesome nature of psychiatric diagnosis – the way conditions such as schizophrenia are constructed from subjective judgments, though psychiatrists then treat them, usually with drugs, as if they were objective and clear-cut.

    Much in psychiatry is more art than science. Brain wellness is too much in the eyes of the beholders and when fully trained and practiced professionals legitimately disagree on a diagnosis, we have reason to be concerned.

    Second opinions indeed!

    1 March 2015


    1707 by Jeff Hess

    Our particular myths—Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, Davey Crockett Uncle Remus—have a warm, Disneyesque quality that informed our childhoods, but there are adult myths that we cling to that allow us to not feel guilt for the world we ignore. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in The Case For Reparations:

    From the White House on down, the myth holds that fatherhood is the great antidote to all that ails black people. But Billy Brooks Jr. had a father. Trayvon Martin had a father. Jordan Davis had a father. Adhering to middle-class norms has never shielded black people from plunder. Adhering to middle-class norms is what made Ethel Weatherspoon a lucrative target for rapacious speculators. Contract sellers did not target the very poor. They targeted black people who had worked hard enough to save a down payment and dreamed of the emblem of American citizenship—homeownership. It was not a tangle of pathology that put a target on Clyde Ross’s back. It was not a culture of poverty that singled out Mattie Lewis for “the thrill of the chase and the kill.” Some black people always will be twice as good. But they generally find white predation to be thrice as fast.

    How then do we banish the myths? By looking with our eyes wide open.

    [S]o we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

    Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt.

    What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.

    Reparations mean replacing the myth with the reality.

    1 March 2015


    1600 by Jeff Hess

    In cross-reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case For Reparations in the June issue of The Atlantic with the online version, I found this sidebar/precursor dating from 22 January 2012:Crowd-Sourcing American History in which Coates writes, in part:

    I’ve been thinking about that some in my posts on Ron Paul, Howard Zinn and the issue of compensated emancipation. To be blunt, I am unsatisfied with my rebuttal. I have a case which demonstrates, on a surface, why compensated emancipation as an alternative to the Civil War, is ridiculous. But it isn’t complete. It doesn’t attack at all angles.

    The problem debating this sort of thing is the side of dishonesty and intellectual laziness is at an advantage. It will likely take more effort for me to compose this post, then it took for Ron Paul to stand before the Confederate Flag and offer his thin gruel of history. Those attempting to practice history need not only gather facts, but seek out facts that might contradict the facts they like, and then gather more facts of context to see what it all means.

    But Comfortable History is asymmetrical warfare it needs only a smattering of facts, and need not guard against a lack of context, presentism, or other facts that might undermine its arguments. Instead it breezily proceeds through hypotheticals and abstract thought experiments which somehow satisfy our desire to be in possession of a dissident intellect. Comfortable History is like the computer virus that poses as the shield—it positions the espouser as a brave truth-teller, even as it infects us with lies.

    When history depended upon books, the line that History is written by the victors had weight. I don’t think that that, in the age of free publishing via the Internet, holds true anymore. The challenge is not that the victors continue to write history, but rather that the noise and chatters conceals the alternates.

    1 March 2015


    1500 by Jeff Hess

    When asked to suggest one approach for broadening the conversation on reparations and how individuals might push the conversation, Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed to Rep. John Conyers’ (D-Mich.) HR 40.

    Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

    A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

    “It’s because it’s black folks making the claim,” Nkechi Taifa, who helped found N’COBRA, says. “People who talk about reparations are considered left lunatics. But all we are talking about is studying [reparations]. As John Conyers has said, we study everything. We study the water, the air. We can’t even study the issue? This bill does not authorize one red cent to anyone.”

    That HR 40 has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential. If we conclude that the conditions in North Lawndale and black America are not inexplicable but are instead precisely what you’d expect of a community that for centuries has lived in America’s crosshairs, then what are we to make of the world’s oldest democracy?

    If we are troubled by what we learn from Coates writing then he suggests that we begin to demonstrate our unease by writing to our individual representatives and demand that Conyers’ resolution come to the floor for a vote. HR 40 is the starting point:

    A commission authorized by the Oklahoma legislature produced a report affirming that the riot, the knowledge of which had been suppressed for years, had happened. But the lawsuit ultimately failed, in 2004. Similar suits pushed against corporations such as Aetna (which insured slaves) and Lehman Brothers (whose co-founding partner owned them) also have thus far failed. These results are dispiriting, but the crime with which reparations activists charge the country implicates more than just a few towns or corporations. The crime indicts the American people themselves, at every level, and in nearly every configuration. A crime that implicates the entire American people deserves its hearing in the legislative body that represents them.

    John Conyers’s HR 40 is the vehicle for that hearing. No one can know what would come out of such a debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

    We are all responsible, every adult who holds the franchise, for the crimes committed in our name. Ignorance cannot be an excuse.

    1 March 2015


    1100 by Jeff Hess

    the packClockwise from upper left: Gilligan, Buster and Yaba…

    1 March 2015


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    As I noted earlier, I come to this story late. I am also finding the brilliant writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates daunting, dense and deceptively easy to read. Any young, or old journalist, might aspire to this level of mastery and be gratified in the attempt.

    Coates follows the punch line of his stories head—The Case For Reparations—with this lede:

    Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law.

    As Coates describes in the video from Chicago, Ross and his family lived in a place with no black policemen, no black lawyers, no black prosecutors, no black judges. He and those he loved existed in a predatory state where pirates freely acted on their every whim. If they wanted your horse, they took your horse. If they wanted your farm, they took your farm. If they wanted your life, they took your life. There was no recourse. Ross fled north, to Chicago, hoping to find the protection of the law.

    That was not what he found.

    With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating.

    One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. (In 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, responding to violence among young black males, put the blame on the family: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.” Nutter turned to those presumably fatherless babies: “Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”) The thread is as old as black politics itself. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect. And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.

    The Contract Buyers League’s suit brought by Clyde Ross and his allies took direct aim at this inheritance. The suit was rooted in Chicago’s long history of segregation, which had created two housing markets—one legitimate and backed by the government, the other lawless and patrolled by predators. The suit dragged on until 1976, when the league lost a jury trial. Securing the equal protection of the law proved hard; securing reparations proved impossible. If there were any doubts about the mood of the jury, the foreman removed them by saying, when asked about the verdict, that he hoped it would help end “the mess Earl Warren made with Brown v. Board of Education and all that nonsense.”

    All that nonsense. In the year of our nation’s bi-centennial.

    The Supreme Court seems to share that sentiment. The past two decades have witnessed a rollback of the progressive legislation of the 1960s. Liberals have found themselves on the defensive. In 2008, when Barack Obama was a candidate for president, he was asked whether his daughters—Malia and Sasha—should benefit from affirmative action. He answered in the negative.

    The exchange rested upon an erroneous comparison of the average American white family and the exceptional first family. In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But they’ve won by being twice as good—and enduring twice as much. Malia and Sasha Obama enjoy privileges beyond the average white child’s dreams. But that comparison is incomplete. The more telling question is how they compare with Jenna and Barbara Bush–the products of many generations of privilege, not just one. Whatever the Obama children achieve, it will be evidence of their family’s singular perseverance, not of broad equality.

    More to come.

    28 February 2015


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    john oliver 150301

    27 February 2015


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    I only learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates August 2014 presentation before the Cleveland City Club last this week when I opened the March issue of The Real Deal Press and read R.T. Andrews’ front-page story Looking back to go forward. Ta-Nehisi has long been one of my favorite writers and I was looking forward to watching the City Club video of the event, but sadly that was not to be.

    Thankfully, we can still view similar presentations in Chicago and St. Louis.

    I checked out the June issue of The Atlantic from my library which has Coates’ feature on the cover. I’ll be posting more as I read the piece over the weekend.

    26 February 2015


    0700 by Jeff Hess

    Bill Gates share one, irrefutable commonality: each and every revolution of the Earth provides us with 23 hours, 59 minutes and 4.1 seconds of time. That is a fact and what is true for Bill and myself is true for you and every other being, regardless of class, status or wealth on the planet. That fact will enrage some. What could be more frustrating for someone richer than any ruler that ever lived than knowing that all that wealth can’t buy you a single second more of time? What happens when you have the money to do absolutely anything, and I do mean anything that doesn’t necessarily violate the laws of physics, but just don’t have the time?

    Oliver Burkeman writing in make time for yourself by giving time to others for The Guardian explores that question?

    [T]he wealthier you get, the more time-pressed you feel. And not just because better-paid jobs often mean longer hours. Even if you don’t end up working longer, the economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jungmin Lee concluded, you’ll feel busier, because of all the extra things richer people could be doing, if only they had the time. Obnoxious as it sounds, there’s a sense in which it’s more stressful to have the cash but not the time to jet off to Bali – or even just to buy and read new novels, take piano lessons, or go out to dinner with friends – than it is to have neither cash nor time. That doesn’t mean wealth is as stressful as poverty overall. But it’s depressing, whatever your income, because it suggests that the time/money trade-off may be unwinnable. With every additional pound you earn, you increase the universe of things you could do, but can’t, because there are still only 24 hours in a day.

    So, is there an out? Can reality be gamed? Perhaps.

    [W]hen I found time in my busy schedule recently to talk to Cassie Mogilner, of the Wharton business school in Philadelphia, I was cheered to discover she had a solution. She explained that the best way to cultivate “time affluence”—the feeling of having lots of time for the things you want to do—is actually to give time away by helping others. This may seem, I realise, like the most platitudinous of Thought for the Day platitudes. But if you can spare a few moments (or especially, come to think of it, if you can’t) you really should abandon that assumption and read on.

    In studies conducted with colleagues from Harvard and Yale, Mogilner found that doing brief “pro-social” tasks—such as helping edit an underprivileged child’s university application essay—consistently made people likelier to see their future time as plentiful. Spending time on themselves didn’t have the same effect; nor did being given a “time windfall”, by being allowed to leave the experiment unexpectedly early. Curiously, participants didn’t enjoy the volunteering the most; they preferred spending time on themselves. But only volunteering delivered a major boost in time affluence. The givers also worked for longer on a follow-up task: they became objectively more productive.

    Can this possibly translate for people who do work that is volunteerish for which they get paid?

    25 February 2015


    1300 by Jeff Hess

    roldo jackson 150225

    A recall effort to knock Mayor Frank Jackson out of office could have some significant benefits for Cleveland. Even if it fails.

    I question whether the forces leading this effort have the heft to obtain enough signatures to place a recall vote on the ballot. Some 12,000 plus.

    They are not high profile politicians.

    Leading the charge are Norm Edwards, who sends out messages on minority hiring via the Black Contractors Group, and a former mayoral opponent of Jackson, Atty. Michael Nelson.

    They’ll need to collect some 12,000 signatures. No easy matter.

    However, there is sour discontent about. With Mayor Jackson and more. We will wait to see if others join in.

    Just the effort itself could prove beneficial.

    While there have been a number of economic successes to make Clevelanders happy with their city, there are some serious drawbacks to our exhilaration. And little attention to the problems.

    Study upon study reminds Cleveland of its needs. Poverty.

    A new academic study “Segregated City” measuring inequalities of metro areas placed Cleveland 4th behind Milwaukee, Hartford and Philadelphia. One ahead of Detroit.

    The problem doesn’t seem to measure high on our “to do” list. Continue Reading »

    25 February 2015


    1200 by Jeff Hess

    It’s been a really, really 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.

    WALMART KARANĒ KĒ LI'Ē ĀPAKĀ SVĀGATA HAI... Nearly four years have passed since I last wrote about Walmart’s attempts to crack the retail market in India. The campaign continues, but resistance on the Asian subcontinent continues and… Keep reading…

    SHOPPERS REALLY, REALLY HATE WALMART… Causing your customer satisfaction rating to drop from No. 1, 80 percent, to dead last, 68 percent, in your category over 20 years is not an achievement any corporate welfare recipient is likely to highlight on a… Keep reading…

    SO, HOW MUCH DID WALMART RAKE IN…? I’ve been reading speculations and other reports all week on what Walmart might say about the company’s 4th quarter earnings this morning that ranged from apocalyptic to disappointing. One of the… Keep reading…

    COULD THE END OF WALMART BE IN SIGHT…? Yesterday I wrote about Walmart’s falling customer satisfaction numbers. Are Walmart shoppers a. too poor to keep shopping at Walmart; b. too disaffected to keep shopping at Walmart; or possibly c. … Keep reading…

    WALMART REFUSES HOBBY LOBBY SOLUTION… In the battle for the rights of all workers from the GLBTQ* community, one of the central demands is equality of healthcare for spouses. With same-sex marriage now legal in 37 states, denying a… Keep reading…

    FREE OF ANY PROMPTING… REALLY, WILLY…? The Arkansas-based Conservative Tribune—I swear, I thought the site had to be a Stephen Colbert fan site—wants to put a positive spin on events this week: Wilmot Proviso [I’m not making this up… Keep reading…

    THERE ARE SIMPLY TOO MANY STORIES… Forty-eight hours later, the stories about Walmart’s announcement Thursday morning that the company has plans to bump up wages for some 500,000 employees are coming faster than I can read… Keep reading…

    TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE… Megan McArdle. writing in Why is Wal-Mart hiking pay? It knows how wages work for the Bloomberg View offers the best analyst of why Walmart is raising the wages of some employees. She rolls past Union and political pressures… Keep reading…

    LIKE THESE BINS…? I really do wish that the Fresno Bee had included a photo of the donation bins placed at Walmart to collect food for the homeless, the visual irony would have been poignantly infuriating. The, what I hope will become iconic, photo… Keep reading…

    DEPENDS UPON WHAT YOU MEAN BY SOME Might happier workers be beneficial to producing happier shoppers? Hmmmm… could be. Clearly, Walmart is in a panic. Why else might the Bentonvile Behemoth even consider treating workers like… Keep reading…

    OF NEVER, NEVERMORE Quoth the Raven Goldman Sachs analyst Matthew Fassler: Wal-Mart’s cost of doing business is clearly rising. Wal-Mart found success in retail by being the consumers’ low-cost provider. But in order to keep prices low, it had to… Keep reading…

    WHEN DID SOROS KNOW WHAT HE KNEW…? Thursday was not a good day for Walmart. By the closing bell on Friday, Walmart stocks were down 00 percent to $0.00 a share. Just before the opening bell on Wednesday, more than 24 hours in advance of… Keep reading…

    WALL STREET DEMANDS POUND OF FLESH… Is a roll-back coming? A day after Walmart’s announcement of plans to increases the wages of some half-a-million employees is howling. How dare Walmart, under pressures that threaten the Bentonvile… Keep reading…

    WALMART HAS ONLY 3,317 COMPLAINTS…? Pissed Consumer is dedicated to let people share consumer experience about products and services. According to the the website, Walmart has garnered 3,317 complaints worth some $1 million dollars… Keep reading…

    WHY YOU CAN’T TRUST FINANCIAL ADVICE… When anyone has a direct and vested interest in you buying something they want to sell you, the smart money is to never, ever trust what they tell you because accentuating the positives while… Keep reading…

    RALPH NADER ON THE WALMART RAISES… After meetings with Walmart representatives, public letters to the company’s CEO, and picketing Walmart stores over the past several years, we see that Walmart now decides to be one step ahead of several… Keep reading…

    HOW THE RAISES MIGHT HAVE BEEN FINANCED… I referenced this 2013 study from Demos by Catherine Ruetschlin and Amy Traub last week, but now, as the fallout from the Bentonvile Behemoth’s 19 February announcement has spread a bit, I… Keep reading…

    WHEN WALMART HANDS YOU LEMONS… There is plenty of speculation on how other users of minimum wage workers must react now that Walmart has upped the game in a panic to save the Bentonvile Behemoth’s cookies, but I have to applaud the way… Keep reading…

    Previously on Walmart Wednesday

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