18 August 2016

CRITICISM OF $2 MILLION BIKE TRACK NOT RACIST

2000 by Roldo Bartimole

Blaine Griffin’s charge that the basis of complaints about a $2-million dirt bike proposal by his boss are racist is pathetic.

Griffin, at $105,000 a year, heads the city’s community relations department.

That’s wonderful thinking for good community relations. Calling people racists.

And it’s 20 to 30 years out of date.

There’s plenty of real racism to call out without creating straw man issues.

Mayor Frank Jackson wanted the $2 million deal passed quickly. Naturally. Don’t look closely at where the money is going or, as a number of council members noted, why pools that needed repairs to be open weren’t attended. It seems repairing pools in this hot summer would have been a no brainer.

To back up his claim Blaine, also vice chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, in a Face book post question the lack of outrage for millions of dollars for skateboard parks, boat docks, rowing sports and bike trails, though he named none nor their cost.

He conveniently overlooked the hundreds of millions spent by the city and county on pro sports facilities, their parking structures, and improvement costs that add up to a billion dollars at least.

He conveniently didn’t mention these other recent and far more expensive subsidies—and not for public purposes but for PRIVATE, MONEY-GRUBBING businesses called sports—Larry Dolan’s Indians (given $37 million as of May), Dan Gilbert’s Cavs (given $60 million as of May) and Jimmy “Cheat ’em” Haslam’s Browns. The $2 million track story appeared in the PD the same day as a story in the paper noted Cleveland paid $20 million for another Browns stadium fix-up.

Want to cry about something?

If he really wanted to call out racism he have chased them and the fact that they pay no property taxes, which since their facilities are all in Cleveland, come at Continue Reading »

18 August 2016

A REALLY GREAT USE OF YOUR 64 MINUTES…

1800 by Jeff Hess

Marc Lamont Hill, writing in For real progressives, Jill Stein is now the only choice for The Guardian, makes his case:

The stakes of Wednesday night’s CNN Green party town hall were high—third-party candidates are rarely allowed entry into the corporate media universe, which thrives on the false narrative that only two parties exist here in the United States.

This was perhaps the only opportunity the presidential candidate I have endorsed—Jill Stein—and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, to have the ear of a large portion of the mainstream American electorate. There was little room for error.

They spent little time directly criticizing Donald Trump. This was a wise move, since virtually no one among Stein’s potential base of support is considering Trump as a viable option. Instead, she focused on Hillary Clinton.

At a moment where the Clinton campaign is still attempting to secure the support of frustrated Bernie Sanders primary voters, Stein demonstrated that Clinton’s brand of liberalism does not represent the tone or spirit of the Sanders campaign. By highlighting Clinton’s pro-corporate politics and active role in hawkish foreign policy, Stein raised considerable doubt about Clinton’s leftist bona fides.

“I will have trouble sleeping at night if Donald Trump is elected,” Stein said. “I will also have trouble sleeping at night if Hillary Clinton is elected.”

Sit back, take notes, listen to a candidate who doesn’t represent an evil, lesser or greater, and then think what voting for someone you can believe, who represents a greater good, in might feel like.

(The question and response beginning at 37:38 may be the No. 1 question. I take exception, however to Stein’s response in that she allowed the myth—that Ralph Nader and the Green Party were responsible for George Bush’s victory—to persist. Al Gore has no one other than himself to blame for his defeat. If he had carried his home state of Tennessee Florida would not have been an issue.)

18 August 2016

WHAT THE POLAR ICE IS PROTECTING US FROM…

0700 by Jeff Hess

I’m sure that there are ignorant people who think that if all the ice disappears from the Antarctic that we will enjoy lots and lots of new land to build condos on. What Peter Wadhams, The former director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and professor of ocean physics at Cambridge Peter Wadhams, wants those people to understand is that the ice cap on our planet’s 7th continent is trapping vast quantities of methane, the green house gas that is between 28 and 37 times the Global Warming Potential of carbon dioxide. Melt the ice, release the gas and we stomp on the Global Warming/Climate Change accelerator.

John Vidal, reporting in Time to listen to the ice scientists about the Arctic death spiral for The Guardian writes:

The warming now being widely experienced worldwide is concentrated in the polar regions and Wadhams says we will shortly have ice-free Arctic Septembers, expanding to four or five months with no ice at all. The inevitable result, [Wadhams] predicts, will be the release of huge plumes of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, accelerating warming even further.

He and other polar experts have moved from being field researchers to being climate change pioneers in the vanguard of the most rapid and drastic change that has taken place on the planet in many thousands of years. This is not just an interesting change happening in a remote part of the world, he says, but a catastrophe for mankind.

All so that Exxon executives can buy more toys.

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

18 August 2016

SAVE LOUISIANANS: CANCEL THE OIL AUCTION…

0600 by Jeff Hess

In my lifetime we’ve gone from 100-year floods to 1,000-year floods; from hurricanes to super storms. How long will we put our homes and our families at risk so that Exxon’s executive can buy more toys?

350.ORG emails:

Friends,

This week, central and southwestern Louisiana have been slammed by unprecedented floods. Over the weekend, I watched heavy rains pour down on my community and my own home sink into rising waters.

Across the region, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, thousands of homes damaged, and at at least eleven people killed. This fills my heart with both a deep sadness and deep anger—at the fossil fuel companies driving this ongoing crisis, and at an Administration that continues to sell them the right to do so.

Next Wednesday, on August 24th, the Obama administration is planning to sell off an area the size of Virginia for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the face of this climate emergency, we’re calling on President Obama to cancel the upcoming fossil fuel auction here in the Gulf.

We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and stop treating the Gulf Coast like a sacrifice zone.

Offshore drilling endangers both the people of the Gulf and the climate we depend on. In the midst of this climate-driven disaster, moving forward with this auction is unconscionable. Doing it at the New Orleans Superdome—the site of one of the most visible and tragic instances of climate injustice in recent history—is nothing short of insulting.

We’ve been organizing and resisting for decades here on the Gulf Coast, but right now, we need to come together as a movement and support both the organizing and the relief efforts that are underway on the ground. Like all climate crises, this flood will most gravely impact the already marginalized in our society—poor people, people of color, the elderly.

This climate event is being called a “1,000 year flood” and a “truly historic event,” and according to the Red Cross, it’s the worst U.S. disaster since Superstorm Sandy. This type of storm is far from normal—but it could become normal if we don’t act now. This auction would enable the fossil fuel industry to do more of the very thing that is intensifying these floods in the first place.

Allowing next week’s fossil fuel auction to move forward is rubbing salt in the wounds of a region already in a state of emergency. Sign today and demand that President Obama call it off.

No more business as usual. My beloved Gulf coast is not for sale.

Love and liberation,
Cherri Foytlin, Gulf Coast Mother of six

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

17 August 2016

WHAT MILLENNIA GREW, A CENTURY IS KILLING…

1800 by Jeff Hess

exxon 160818

Back in 1978 I, and the rest of the crew of the USS Bainbridge, transited Australia’s Great Barrier Reef en route from Darwin to Tonga. Standing on the bridge wings we could look down at the reef and marvel at the teeming ecosystem that had taken thousands and thousands of year to form, nearly forty years later, that experience may not be possible much longer.

Bill McKibben, writing in The coral die-off crisis is a climate crime and Exxon fired the gun for The Guardian, explains why:

Vast swaths of coral were bleached this spring, much of the damage done in a matter of weeks as a wave of warm water swept across the Pacific and west into the Indian Ocean. The immediate culprit was clear: the ongoing rise in global ocean temperatures that comes from climate change. But that’s like saying “he was killed by a bullet”. The important question is: who fired the gun?

We know the biggest culprits now, because great detective work by investigative journalists has uncovered key facts in the past year. The world’s biggest oil company, Exxon, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its scientists understood how much and how fast it was going to warm, and how much damage that was going to do. And the company knew the scientists were right: that’s why they started “climate-proofing” their own installations, for instance building their drilling rigs to accommodate the sea level rise they knew was coming.

What they didn’t do was tell the rest of us. Instead, they – and many other players in the fossil fuel industry – bankrolled the rise of the climate denial industry, helping fund the “thinktanks” and front groups that spent the last generation propagating the phoney idea that there was a deep debate about the reality of global warming. As a result, we’ve wasted a quarter century in a phoney argument about whether the climate was changing.

All, of course, in the name of Exxon’s profits. Yes, Exxon is not the only culprit, but as McKibben has made, and continues to make, the case, Exxon is the Walmart of Climate Change/Global Warming. If you want to stop a wrong you don’t go after every offender, you go after the worst offender and work you’re way down the food chain.

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

17 August 2016

SITTING (ON THE FLOOR) ON THE TRAIN…

0500 by Jeff Hess

corbyn seatless 160817

British Rail has The privatized railroads in Britain have cattle cars? Seems so.

Charles B Anthony and Karen McVeigh, reporting in Corbyn joins seatless commuters on floor for three-hour train journey for The Guardian write:

Spending a busy train journey without a seat, crushed up against other commuters in the aisle, or crouched uncomfortably in the luggage compartment is an all-too-common experience for many. But you don’t expect to spot the leader of the opposition on the floor of a train on your way to work.

Jeremy Corbyn, famed for standing up for his principles, sat down for them last week, along with 20 other seatless commuters on a three-hour train journey from London to Newcastle.

In a video shot as he was on his way to debate with Owen Smith in the Labour leadership hustings in Gateshead, Corbyn is seen sitting on the floor of the train, a coffee and brown paper bag at his feet, reading Private Eye. The freelance filmmaker Yannis Mendez, who has been following Corbyn and volunteers for his campaign, filmed the footage.

From his spot on the floor, which he chose rather than upgrading to first class, Corbyn turns to the camera and says: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody.

“The reality is there are not enough trains, we need more of them – and they’re also incredibly expensive.” He said the whole experience was a good case for public ownership.

If there’s not enough room to sit, what then?

Reading this story, and watching the video, made me wonder how many American politicians travel first class or even on private aircraft. I’ll allow an exception for the President and Vice President, and perhaps a tight inner-circle of those requiring extensive security that would make travel for others a nightmare, but members of Congress, let them drive/fly coach. Living the way your constituents live can be enlightening.

16 August 2016

HISTORY ON FROM WHENCE CAME DONALD TRUMP…

1500 by Jeff Hess

I’ve actually been looking for just this article for more than a few months. That the political phenomenon that is Donald Trump didn’t just rise from sea like Venus should be plainly obvious, but since Americans don’t do History all that well, someone had to sit down and connect the dots.

Timothy Shenk, writing in The dark history of Donald Trump’s rightwing revolt for The Guardian, carefully lines up all the dominoes that were set in motion by James Burnham in 1941 by his publication of The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World.

Shenk takes nearly a quarter of his 5,800-plus long read to get to Shenk, but he had a lot of groundwork to take care of first.

To understand Shenk and all the figures that followed, is to know Trump.

Pour yourself a stiff Bourbon and read.

16 August 2016

SCHOOL STARTS ON MONDAY…

1100 by Jeff Hess

soi 160816

16 August 2016

MARGE PIERCY: THE LOW ROAD

0700 by Jeff Hess

If I had to clear my library of all other writers, Marge Piercy would remain. No writer has more deeply affected my education and my attitudes toward so many issues of social and political justice.

Yesterday I noticed an uptick in hits on a particular post I wrote back in December 2012. Today, only 84 days away from The Unblackening, I wonder if people may find some solace and even heart in Marge Piercy’s poetry again:

From The Hunger Moon, New And Selected Poems, 1980-2010 by Marge Piercy.

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.

…How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said No,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

15 August 2016

NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE CANCELED;
WHITE AMERICA RELUCTANT TO DISCUSS RACE…?

1700 by Jeff Hess

[Update on 16 August at 0700: Dave Schilling, pondering in Larry Wilmore’s show was a victim of our reluctance to discuss race for The Guardian, writes:

After a year-and-a-half of finding the humor in some of the bleakest moments in American race relations in decades, Comedy Central is ending Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show. I hesitate to call a satirical half-hour talk show a “grand experiment”, but it was as close as one can get because the overriding topic of conversation was almost always race—a subject Americans aren’t always excited to discuss frankly.

Even if the network stressed that the show would have mass appeal, the very fact that black and brown faces dominated the program both in front of and behind the camera necessitated discussions of race, far more than on any other late-night talk show. As such, the format of The Nightly Show did not lend itself to the cocktail party vibe of the biggest late-night franchises: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with James Corden. A light-hearted, carpool karaoke-esque segment would jar viewers next to a conversation about the trials of the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray or the attacks on cops in Dallas. A Hollywood Reporter piece on the cancellation pointed to Wilmore’s de-emphasizing of so-called “viral hits”. “It’s not designed to have the type of things that [Jimmy] Fallon and [James] Corden do, like the [carpool] karaoke type of thing or lip sync battle and those types of things because those are such pure comic things,” Wilmore had told the Reporter.

Perhaps Wilmore was too serious, but when black men are being shot in the streets, when black women are thrown in jail after traffic stops, when a black woman is harassed by Trumpists for not behaving the way they think she should after winning a fucking gold medal, I for one, gave him plenty of room to work and never missed a show.

I will miss him and all of his cast members.]

So, this really sucks.

Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore is coming to an end.

The late-night humor and talkshow, which premiered in January 2015, will conclude its run Thursday, the network announced Monday.

The program, which filled the slot vacated by Stephen Colbert when he jumped to CBS, sought to explore current events and larger life issues as presided over by Wilmore, who previously had served as senior black correspondent on The Daily Show.

But audience acceptance of The Nightly Show never approached its Daily Show lead-in, neither during the regime of Jon Stewart nor that of his successor, Trevor Noah, who took over last September.

Comedy Central president Kent Alterman praised Wilmore and his team for “crafting a platform for underrepresented voices”. He said the show had steadily improved, “but unfortunately it hasn’t resonated with the audience in a way that it would need to for us to continue”.

I’ve watched every episode from the beginning and thought each was brilliant, but I have no doubt that crafting a platform for underrepresented voices (read people of color) killed the show. I imagine that the demographic sought by Comedy Central is vastly the overrepresented white males, 18-30, a group that probably felt threatened by Wilmore and his cast—especially the strong female comedians: Holly Walker, Grace Parra, Robin Thede and Franchesca Ramsey.

Since the show began, I have posted 56 pieces about the show.

I will miss Wilmore and his cast.

15 August 2016

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, ENOUGH WARS DAMN IT…!

1500 by Jeff Hess

new republic 160815

We have way over used the war metaphor—war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terror, &c.—to the point of fatigue. One of the reasons that Germany lost the literal war in 1945 was that Hitler and his generals tried to fight on multiple fronts and stretched the Third Reich’s resources too far.

Bill McKibben, gets that, but pushes the metaphor anyway, writing in a promotional email:

We’re used to metaphors: the war on drugs, the war on poverty. But in this case carbon and methane—without malice but also without mercy—are waging a war on the civilization that emitted them. This year we’ve lost huge swaths of the world’s coral; vast sheets of ice disappear daily. Our adversary is taking territory and taking lives.

McKibben wants, and rightly so, for people to read his cover story A World At War in the 15 August copy of The New Republic.

That is a reasonable and proper request, but just as we are not, nor were we ever, at war with poverty, drugs or terror—the enemies were (and are) in each case real people with real, self-serving agendas, not abstract concepts—we will not go to war on Global Warming/Climate Change.

Doing so would just be silly.

That is not to say that we are not facing an existential threat from the drumbeat of temperatures rising like a metronome gone haywire. We are, but the threat is not rising temperatures. The threat is from people who believe that profits, that business as usual, are more important than the consequences of continuing to pile up wealth in their chosen manner.

We are at war with a class of people and that is where the metaphor breaks down. In war you kill the people responsible for the threat. To paraphrase General George Patton: you don’t die for your cause, you make damn sure the other poor dumb bastard dies for his. We don’t do that outside of actual war.

We don’t need a bloody revolution fought in the streets with guns.

We need a social/political/economic revolution fought in our capitals with votes.

What we need is for free peoples, peoples who can actually vote and through their votes influence public policy, to shift their politicians off their asses and reverse or eliminate the policies responsible for Global Warming/Climate Change.

We have to keep carbon in the ground.

Another place that the war metaphor fails in how we perceive the shared suffering. In war, everyone suffers, everyone makes sacrifices. We aren’t good at asking people to make sacrifices for a cause that isn’t on their radar. We can’t even draft citizens to make the supreme sacrifice the way we did to stop world Fascism. Now we just ask them to volunteer (as I did) and promise them benefits if they live.

We need to ration energy. Higher prices won’t work because the people responsible for the problem can’t be priced out of the market.

Give the person working at Walmart and the CEO of Global Rapine Inc. the same gasoline ration.

Ration per-person kilowatts and cubic feet of natural gas so that the homeowner at Maple Lane, and the apartment dweller on 35th street, and the McMansion-owning White Middle Class Suburban Man, must each power, light, heat and cool their homes with the same amount of energy.

Do that and you can begin to talk about declaring war.

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground

15 August 2016

TRUMPISTS JUST WANT TO HAVE PHWENDS…

1100 by Jeff Hess

thinker trump 160815

The phenomenon that is Donald Trump is as old as politics. There is a long line of strongman leaders stretching back through recorded history and certainly beyond that we can examine and learn from. The key, of course, is to learn.

Peter Beinart, writing in Trump’s Intellectuals: Why Are Some Conservative Thinkers Falling for Trump? for The Atlantic explores one facet of this political trope: how very intelligent people buy into tyranny.

This is a thread that, despite the oft repeated maxim of Benjamin Franklin that Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety, runs through American politics all the way back to the founders. There were those who wanted to create a locally ruled monarchy in the former colonies and crown George Washington as America’s first king.

Beinart begins in the 20th century, immediately after the end of WW II:

In his 1949 book, The Vital Center, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. observed that “against the loneliness and rootlessness of man in free society,” totalitarianism “promises the security and comradeship of a crusading unity.”

Beinart links that crusading unity to the intellectuals of post-war Poland:

In 1953, Czesław Miłosz published The Captive Mind, which described how a series of Polish intellectuals came to embrace Stalinism. Miłosz detailed the role that “coercion” and “personal ambition” played in their ideological transformation. But he stressed that he was concerned “with questions more significant than mere force” or material advancement. “To belong to the masses is the great longing of the ‘alienated’ intellectual,” Miłosz argued. “The gratifications of personal ambition … are merely the outward and visible signs of social usefulness, symbols of a recognition that strengthens the intellectual’s feeling of belonging.”

In 2016, Beinart sees the same longing in our own alienated intellectuals.

[L]ike the men who led [the Marxist and Fascist] movements, Trump offers intellectuals the chance to speak for the energized masses and thus to make themselves relevant beyond their salons. And now, as then, the desire for such relevance is strong enough to make some intellectuals question liberal democracy itself.

Read the intellectuals who are supporting Trump—or are open to supporting Trump—and you notice a few themes. First, they admire his campaign’s raw, unbridled energy. The Trump movement, according to the Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, radiates “dynamism.” His supporters “are just about the only cheerful people in politics … They’re having a good time.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an even more unabashed Trump booster, explains, “There is no model here … It is a Donald Trump unique, extraordinary experience. And you have to relax and take it for that kind of a unique experience.”

Who knew that Peggy Noonan, best remembered as President Ronald Reagan’s speech writer, was still a thing?

What Noonan is really suggesting is that established politicians and commentators lack the moral standing to oppose Trump, because he can’t be any worse than they are. And besides, the people are with him.

In The Captive Mind, Miłosz argued that Stalinist intellectuals “present[ed] as demons the rather inefficient police and the sluggish judges” of Poland’s pre–World War II regime in order to suggest that Soviet domination could not possibly be worse. By condemning America’s current leaders as predatory and decadent, Trump’s intellectuals are doing something similar. “The natural arc of Obama-style progressivism is always anti-constitutional fascism,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a frequent contributor to National Review. Ken Masugi, a former assistant to Clarence Thomas now at the Claremont Institute, a respected conservative think tank, argues that while Trump may not be perfect, he at least champions “the sovereignty of the people,” who are rising up against “American elites [who] have long abandoned the basic principles of constitutional governance.”

Where Beinart really made me sit up was his mention of what may be the greatest manifestation of troll culture yet: the totally anonymous and now shuttered Blogspot blog named, of all things, the Journal Of American Greatness.

During its four months of life, the “Journal of American Greatness”—which featured a collection of writers with classical pseudonyms and an affinity for the German American political theorist Leo Strauss—made a highbrow case for overthrowing America’s existing political order and replacing it with the raw, dynamic, intoxicating energy of Donald Trump. The journal shuttered itself in June after some of its contributors grew worried that their identities would be exposed. But the conservative author Steven Hayward, who knows several of its authors, predicts that they will continue publishing in other venues. Already, he says, they have received several offers for book contracts.

The “Journal of American Greatness” makes explicit what Noonan, Hanson, and Gingrich imply: that America’s current system of government is illegitimate. One article declares, “The digits of one hand suffice to count all of the truly committed defenders of American sovereignty, liberty, and nationhood in Congress.” A second asserts that the United States is “post-Constitutional.” A third accuses Washington conservatives of a “decadence so deep that it would take some Oliver Cromwell to puncture.”

Hence the America that needs Trumpists to become great again.

Does any of this matter? It depends on how close Trump comes to winning. If Hillary Clinton routs him, the intellectual argument being constructed on his behalf will fade. It will fade because Trumpism derives its legitimacy from its support among the people.

The threat will come if Trump’s popular support surges. For Trump, popularity equals truth. That’s why, when he’s ahead, he spends so much time citing polls. He understands that in American public discourse, it’s hard to say the people are wrong.

Except, of course, when people are wrong as we in America have learned time and time again. Democracy requires that good people stand up and exercise their First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech when energized masses led by the likes of Trump believe they can craft their own reality. To those who buy into magic.

Beinart concludes:

Miłosz called The Captive Mind “a debate with those of my friends who were yielding, little by little, to the magic influence of the New Faith.” Little by little, some American intellectuals are yielding to their faith in the supporters of Donald Trump. They must be challenged now, before that magic influence grows.

Just don’t look to Hillary Clinton to do the challenging.

15 August 2016

SPAM HAS AN END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT…?

0700 by Jeff Hess

This morning I got four copies of the same email to four different email addresses (two of which I don’t use) with the subject line: Order Confirmation 5487 1761689 20160815 455715 from someone at ESAB. Clearly the company’s email has been hacked in someway.

My spam filter stripped the email of all potentially dangerous links and attachments, but left this:

This communication and any files transmitted with it contain information which is confidential and which may also be privileged. It is for the exclusive use of the intended recipient(s). If you are not the intended recipient(s), please note that any disclosure, copying, printing or use whatsoever of this communication or the information contained in it is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us by e-mail or by telephone as above and then delete the e-mail together with any copies of it.

ESAB does not accept liability for the integrity of this message or for any changes, which may occur in transmission due to network, machine or software failure or manufacture or operator error. Although this communication and any files transmitted with it are believed to be free of any virus or any other defect which might affect any computer or IT system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure that they are virus free and no responsibility will be accepted by ESAB for any loss or damage arising in any way from receipt or use thereof.

I think the spammer must be a reader of Non Sequitur: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

15 August 2016

THE NEXT FINANCIAL BUBBLE IS READY TO BURST…

0600 by Jeff Hess

Perhaps 15 years ago or so I had a friend who bought a car through J.D. Byrider. I was unfamiliar with the company but got a quick an horrible lesson from her experience. She bought a car that I might have paid $2,000 for if I was feeling generous, for about $7,500. I don’t know what her interest rate was or how long she had to pay off the loan, but I wouldn’t doubt that she got much the same kind of deal as the woman in the video.

Like the people in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, my friend had no savings and a job that paid little. The killer was that her job was in Canton and she lived in a small community about 45 minutes south. She had to have a car or she was out of work.

Some might ask, Well, why didn’t she move closer? Like people without savings she couldn’t come up with the cash—first month, last month and security deposit—to fund a new apartment and pay a mover (remember, she didn’t have a car) to get her up to Canton. Add in that she was divorced and still had a minor child living with his father in the community. If she moved to Canton, she would have to leave her son behind.

In the land we claim is filled with opportunity, there is damn little unless you’re a banker or have a wealthy daddy to pay your bills starting out. Self-made millionaires/billionaires are nearly as scarce as rainbow pissing unicorns.

14 August 2016

WE THE PEOPLE RESERVE OUR RIGHTS AS WELL…

0600 by Jeff Hess

keef 160814

keef 160710

From the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Investigation Of The Baltimore City Police Department:

Today, [10 August 2016] we announce the outcome of the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department.

After engaging in a thorough investigation, initiated at the request of the City of Baltimore and BPD, the Department of Justice concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.

BPD engages in a pattern or practice of:

(1) Making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests;

(2) Using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans;

(3) Using excessive force; and

(4) Retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally—protected expression.

This pattern or practice is driven by systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training,
supervision, and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law.

I have yet to finish reading the full 164-page report, but I have to wonder when, if at all, the DOJ addresses the problem of recruiting and screening of police before they enter the academy. I have to wonder how many graduates, going back decades, should never have been allowed in the door in the first place.

Ah, here we go, on page 137:

The Department also appears to be confronting challenges in recruiting qualified officers—it has only met a fraction of its goals for the 2016 Academy class. At least one of the Department’s background check processes—its psychological testing—has been investigated for allegedly rushing those evaluations, sometimes conducting psychological evaluations for aspiring officers in as little as fifteen minutes. [Pass a 15-minute evaluation and you too can carry a gun! JH] The Department must ensure that in its efforts to recruit a sufficient quantity of officers, it does not sacrifice the quality of officers that the Baltimore community and current employees of the Department deserve.

To be fair, this is a deeper flaw in our society when we raise the issue of entrusting individuals with deadly force. A bit more than 40 years ago I reported on board the USS Bainbridge, (CGN 25) as a Gunner’s Mate, Missiles with a security clearance that allowed me intimate contact with tactical nuclear weapons on a daily basis. Now there were plenty of safe guards in place—drug screening, a two-man rule, &c.—but I was never formally screened for psychological fitness before I was allowed to do the work I did.

I hope, but sincerely doubt, that the situation has improved in 40-plus years. Won’t you sleep more soundly tonight?

13 August 2016

U.S. CONGRESS IS AWOL AND OUT OF CONTROL…

1300 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader writes:

Taken as a whole, with exceptions, the American people have the strangest attitude toward the Congress. Our national legislature spends nearly a quarter of our income and affects us one way or another every day of the year. Yet too many people withdraw in disgust instead of making Congress accountable to them. Warren Buffett once said, “It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”

People have a low regard for Capitol Hill. Polls show less than 20% of people approve of what Congress does and does not do. In April a poll registered a 14% approval rate. People know that Congress takes a lot of days off—all with pay. Senators and Representatives work over 100 fewer days than average Americans do. Specifically, members were in session 157 days in 2015 and 135 in 2014. This year the House is scheduled to be in session for only 111 days, with the August recess alone stretching nearly six weeks.

People also know that these politicians feather their own nests. At a minimum, members of Congress receive a $174,000 annual salary, plus a great pension, health and life insurance, assorted deductions and expenses. These are benefits that many Americans can only dream of getting.

Even when Senators and Representatives are in Washington, Congressional leaders expect them to spend about 20 to 30 hours per week dialing for campaign dollars – for their re-election and for their Party’s coffers. Asking for money in or Continue Reading »

13 August 2016

AN IRONIC TRUMP MOMENT AND SYSTEMIC RACISM…

1000 by Jeff Hess

No, not in the same video, but these two from Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show are brilliant.

13 August 2016

UPDATE: WE ARE ALL WITH STUPID…

0900 by Jeff Hess

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of calling people stupid because (a) their IQ is lower than ours, but since there can only be one top IQ, we all have IQ’s lower than a portion of the world’s population; (b) they’re actually just ignorant, as are we all on more subjects than we can list; or (c) and this is the really dangerous instance, we disagree with what they say and think we can just dismiss them by labeling them as stupid.

When we dismiss people as stupid because their world view is out of whack with our world view, this is what happens.]

12 August 2016

FRANK JACKSON IS DONE

1800 by Roldo Bartimole

roldo 160812

I’ve concluded that Mayor Frank Jackson WILL NOT run for re-election.

I don’t believe he has the fight left in him for a fourth term.

And he has to know that he will not have an open field with only fake opposition as Ken Lanci, who had money but nothing else to offer. In other words, he won’t have a cleared field. Indeed, it may be crowded.

It has been the rule that opposition to Jackson—Jeff Johnson, Zach Reed and even the battering ram Nina Turner—would observe the unwritten Cleveland rule that they wait in line. Wait in line until Jackson decides to call it a day. Then they are permitted by the community to run. I believe that day is over.

There is no doubt that more than one of Jackson’s line-waiters has decided time is not on their side. They can’t wait another four years until 2021. They’re getting literally older, too, they realize. When one jumps, the others must.

So you will see a campaign come 2017—next year.

It would be my bet that Jackson has over-stayed his welcome, just as Ralph Perk did in 1979. Mayor Perk finished third—behind Dennis Kucinich and Ed Feighan—and out of the final race. He had too much baggage. So does Jackson.

The same fate awaits Jackson if he wants to test the voters again.

Too much has gone wrong—police, streets, political hangers on as Marty Flask, Michael McGrath, and his reputation as a people’s mayor faded into the downtown mayor. The headline that 90 had been shot in July and 12 killed suggests there is little concern on the part of the city leadership and the Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com, that bewildering mishmash of what was once a newspaper, one that some (mistakenly in my estimation) considered among the nation’s leading daily publications. Sad. Now it seems to be Continue Reading »

12 August 2016

WE ARE ALL WITH STUPID…

1000 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 0937 on 13 August: When we assume that someone we disagree with, or dismiss, is stupid, this is what happens.]

Recreationally this summer I’ve been watching Glee on Netflix and I’ve heard the comment that so many of the students are really stupid. I’ve take exception saying the kids are ignorant, an easily fixable condition.

Stupid, however, has become a minor theme in the show manifesting in one break-up and culminating in Born This Way where two of the students wear t-shirts that read: I’m With Stoopid, with the arrow pointing up; and I’m With Stupid, with the arrow pointing down for the episode’s big number.

I tell my students that I wake up every morning thankful for my vast ignorance because that means I get to learn that day. That’s how we fix ignorance, we learn. Stupid on the other hand is a pejorative hurled at people we don’t agree with—think of all the stupid jokes made about President George W. Bush or Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Neither man, by any stretch of the term, is stupid.

David Freedman, writing for The Atlantic takes the discussion to an even higher level in The War On Stupid People:

The 2010s…, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s?bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.

This is a pejorative I hear in school and in adult conversations. Intelligence, as Freedman continues, has very real consequences in our world.

From 1979 to 2012, the median-income gap between a family headed by two earners with college degrees and two earners with high-school degrees grew by $30,000, in constant dollars. Studies have furthermore found that, compared with the intelligent, less intelligent people are more likely to suffer from some types of mental illness, become obese, develop heart disease, experience permanent brain damage from a traumatic injury, and end up in prison, where they are more likely than other inmates to be drawn to violence. They’re also likely to die sooner.

I honestly don’t recall what my SAT/ACT scores were, but I doubt they were very good. I took both tests the same day—one in the morning and then, after a quick lunch break, the other in the afternoon—with absolutely no preparation. My body and mind were toast by the end of the day but my scores must have been OK because I got into the one college I applied to, Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Personally I think both tests are bogus as hell, but that’s another post.

Students today taking the SAT work their way through three sections: reading, writing and math. The maximum score is 2,400 with 800 points possible in each of the three sections. Today, those scores not only influence, if not make or break, your college career, but also what jobs you may get hired for.

In addition, many employers now ask applicants for SAT scores (whose correlation with IQ is well established)

I was surprised by the parenthetical. A quick online check however, indicates that this actually true. So, what might my IQ be if I say, had a 1,499 SAT score? Pumpkin Person says 108, or slightly above average. (More on this below.)

Freedman continues:

“Every society through history has picked some trait that magnifies success for some,” says Robert Sternberg, a professor of human development at Cornell University and an expert on assessing students’ traits. “We’ve picked academic skills.”

Which lead Freedman to zero in on the problem.

…it might make more sense to acknowledge that most people don’t possess enough [intelligence] that’s required to thrive in today’s world.

The College Board has suggested a “college readiness benchmark” that works out to roughly 500 on each portion of the SAT [that 1,499 I mentioned above, JH] as a score below which students are not likely to achieve at least a B-minus average at “a four-year college”—presumably an average one.

…it seems safe to say that no more than one in three American high-school students is capable of hitting the College Board’s benchmark. Quibble with the details all you want, but there’s no escaping the conclusion that most Americans aren’t smart enough to do something we are told is an essential step toward succeeding in our new, brain-centric economy—namely, get through four years of college with moderately good grades.

For Baby Boomers that wasn’t fatal, but beginning in the ’70s, as the America economy began to shift and factory jobs were outsourced, the jobs not in Freedman’s brain-centric economy became scarcer and scarcer to the point that the destructive power of globalization has become a central theme of the 2016 presidential election.

What can we do?

A lot, says Freedman, but he isn’t hopeful that we will do what needs to be done.

He picks, however, the easiest target: get serious about early childhood education where children, beginning at age three or even earlier, receive early education done right by well trained teachers whose education has focused on the need of these young minds. The results can be epic.

…measures of virtually every desirable outcome typically correlated with high IQ remain elevated for years and even decades—including better school grades, higher achievement-test scores, higher income, crime avoidance, and better health.

Right now, we are not even coming close.

Unfortunately, Head Start and other public early-education programs rarely come close to this level of quality, and are nowhere near universal.

According to Freedman primary and secondary schools are getting some $607 billion a year from federal, state and local revenue sources, but he says:

…these efforts are too little, too late: If the cognitive and emotional deficits associated with poor school performance aren’t addressed in the earliest years of life, future efforts aren’t likely to succeed.

Confronted with evidence that our approach is failing—high-school seniors reading at the fifth-grade level, abysmal international rankings—we comfort ourselves with the idea that we’re taking steps to locate those underprivileged kids who are, against the odds, extremely intelligent. Finding this tiny minority of gifted poor children and providing them with exceptional educational opportunities allows us to conjure the evening-news-friendly fiction of an equal-opportunity system, as if the problematically ungifted majority were not as deserving of attention as the “overlooked gems.”

In his closing, Freedman turns to vocational programs that were once a staple in education. (We have a number of very good vocational programs here in Cuyahoga County and a number of my students spend half-days in them.) A national problem exists, however, that even these programs focus too greatly on science, technology, engineering and math, according to Freeman, catering to students:

…who want to burnish their already excellent college and career prospects. It would be far better to maintain a focus on food management, office administration, health technology, and, sure, the classic trades—all updated to incorporate computerized tools. We must stop glorifying intelligence and treating our society as a playground for the smart minority. We should instead begin shaping our economy, our schools, even our culture with an eye to the abilities and needs of the majority, and to the full range of human capacity.

There are some advantages of being average that our present system which values academic skills over all others misses.

…the less brainy are, according to studies and some business experts, less likely to be oblivious of their own biases and flaws, to mistakenly assume that recent trends will continue into the future, to be anxiety-ridden, and to be arrogant.

Freedman concludes:

Smart people should feel entitled to make the most of their gift. But they should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth.

Indeed.

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