17 March 2015

WE CAN’T PICK AND CHOOSE… JE SUIS CHARLIE

2000 by Jeff Hess

joker and batgirl

Censorship is wrong. Full stop.

How many times do I have to say: the right response to objectionable speech is never censorship (or the threat of violence) but rather more speech.

On 16 March, DC Comics released a statement saying that the Albuquerque cover was now not going to run—at the artist’s request—and said that there had been “threats of violence [emphasis, here and below, mine, JH] and harassment” over the cover…

Wait, wait, here’s the real twist:

Albuquerque himself said: “My Batgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favourite of many readers. The Killing Joke is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.

“For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically. But it has become clear, that for others, it touched a very important nerve. I respect these opinions and, despite whether the discussion is right or wrong, no opinion should be discredited.

“My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.”

Batgirl’s regular artist, Cameron Stewart, took to Twitter to clarify DC’s statement and said harassment hadn’t been directed at Albuquerque personally, but to people objecting to the cover.

So, the threat of violence is coming, not from the people objecting to the cover, but from the people supporting the cover? Has Gamergate come to comics?

I understand why fans, on both sides, are upset, but this is a matter of art and free speech. Protest, in the form of copious response through more speech, is right and proper, but threatening violence simply makes you a bully, a coward and an ass.

17 March 2015

COMING TO A BREADBASKET NEAR YOU…

0600 by Jeff Hess

Above you see one of the iconic views of the formerly 26,300 square mile Aral Sea. Mouse over the photo and you see the formerly 18 square mile Folsom Lake in Northern California.

Humans can live for about three days without water and we are seriously fucking up our second most precious resource—air being the first—in our suicidal extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.

I live on the shore of one of the Great Lakes, the reservoir of five percent of the world’s, yes The World’s, potable water. Will our children live to see the Great Lakes states mounting troops behind walls to fight off the thirsty hoards?

Climate change is moving our water elsewhere and we’re running out.

As California experiences the fourth year of one of the most severe droughts in its history, a senior Nasa scientist has warned that the state has about one year of water left.

In an LA Times editorial published last week, Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior water cycle scientist Jay Famiglietti called for a more “forward-looking process” to deal with the state’s dwindling water supply.

Famiglietti, who is also a professor at University of California at Irvine, said the state had about one year of water in reservoir storage and the backup supply, groundwater, was low.

“California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain,” Famiglietti wrote. “In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.”

Nasa data shows that water storage has been in steady decline in California since at least 2002, before the drought began.

Famiglietti called for specific measures to combat the crisis, including accelerated implementation of a law that requires groundwater sustainability, a state taskforce focused on long-term solutions and immediate, mandatory rationing. He also said there was a need for the public to be more involved in the issue.

A Field poll released in February showed that 34% of California voters supported a mandatory rationing policy, though 94% agreed that the drought is “serious”. The majority of respondents – 61% – favored the voluntary reductions the state currently encourages.

On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to vote on a conservation measure that would limit landscape watering, the strictest mandate directed at such water use the state has considered.

That’s the plan? Turn off the sprinklers?

(bangs head on keyboard…)

16 March 2015

LEAVE FOSSIL FUELS IN THE GROUND…

0500 by Jeff Hess

Kyoto, following five years after the 1992 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was sufficient proof for me that nothing was being done. Every national and international meeting to yammer on about Global Warming’s existential threat to our civilization and our planet has been an exercise in smoke and mirrors to distract us and create a false sense that something is being done. Well, that isn’t true. Governments serve at the pleasure of those who pay the bills and the carbon extraction industry—oil, natural gas and coal—pay a lot of bills.

Here in my home state of Ohio the fracking frenzy has produced huge dollar signs that keep people from seeing anything but the money for today hiding the devastation of tomorrow. We won’t to see a direct threat from rising ocean levels here, but our rivers are flooding more and our crops are suffering.

We very well may be living in the end days before a devastating ecological crash.

My silence, your silence, our silence causes me to fear for our grandchildren.

There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny. I’m not suggesting that the negotiators decided not to talk about fossil fuels, or signed a common accord to waste their lives. Far from it: they have gone to great lengths to invest their efforts with the appearance of meaning and purpose. Creating a silence requires only an instinct for avoiding conflict. It is a conditioned and unconscious reflex; part of the package of social skills that secures our survival. Don’t name the Devil for fear that you’ll summon him.

Well, that hasn’t worked. The Devil is among us and preparing to make a hell on Earth.

If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations, you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives.

The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders. Leafing through these photos, I imagine I can almost hear what the delegates are saying through their expensive dentistry. “Darling you’ve re-arranged the deckchairs beautifully. It’s a breakthrough! We’ll have to invent a mechanism for holding them in place, as the deck has developed a bit of a tilt, but we’ll do that at the next conference.”

This process is futile because they have addressed the problem only from one end, and it happens to be the wrong end. They have sought to prevent climate breakdown by limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that are released; in other words, by constraining the consumption of fossil fuels. But, throughout the 23 years since the world’s governments decided to begin this process, the delegates have uttered not one coherent word about constraining production.

Compare this to any other treaty-making process. Imagine, for example, that the Biological Weapons Convention made no attempt to restrain the production or possession of weaponised smallpox and anthrax, but only to prohibit their use. How effective do you reckon it would be? (You don’t have to guess: look at the US gun laws, which prohibit the lethal use of guns but not their sale and carriage. You can see the results on the news every week.) Imagine trying to protect elephants and rhinos only by banning the purchase of their tusks and horns, without limiting killing, export or sale. Imagine trying to bring slavery to an end not by stopping the transatlantic trade, but by seeking only to discourage people from buying slaves once they had arrived in the Americas. If you want to discourage a harmful trade, you must address it at both ends: production and consumption. Of the two, production is the most important.

We need, no we must, push past our denial and leave the carbon in the ground.

Listen…

Then read the rest, read the series, read the book, stop reading and take action…

15 March 2015

…WRITERS WHO CAN REMEMBER FREEDOM

1900 by Jeff Hess

On 19 November of last year, Ursula K. Le Guin received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, which administers the National Book Awards. I still have my much-read copies of her Earth Sea Trilogy, which I first read in high school. Those books lead me to The Left Hand Of Darkness and The Lathe Of Heaven and The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and on and on and on.

I missed this speech and I am pleased now to listen to Le Guin’s words.

Could there be a more noble vision than to aspire to be one of the writers who can remember freedom?

Thank you Neil [Gaiman], and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Thank you.

The fight is worthy of our efforts.

(In 2000, Billy Moyers interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin about the film adaptation of her The Lathe Of Heaven. I didn’t see the film until sometime in the early ’80s.)

15 March 2015

SILHOUETTE MAN IS VERY ANGRY…

0900 by Jeff Hess

lost generation

Then of course, there was George Carlin’s take on educational debt

15 March 2015

J. EDGAR’S GHOST IS SMILING…

0500 by Jeff Hess

In the eyes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and those who control that organization (hint: not We The People) we are all terrorists until proven otherwise, and then only provisionally.

Members of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked the time and location of a Black Lives Matter protest last December at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, email obtained by The Intercept shows.

The email from David S. Langfellow, a St. Paul police officer and member of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, informs a fellow task force member from the Bloomington police that “CHS just confirmed the MOA protest I was taking to you about today, for the 20th of DEC @ 1400 hours.” CHS is a law enforcement acronym for “confidential human source.”

Jeffrey VanNest, an FBI special agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor at the FBI’s Minneapolis office, was CC’d on the email. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are based in 104 U.S. cities and are made up of approximately 4,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The FBI characterizes them as “our nation’s front line on terrorism.”

Activists had planned the protest at the mall to call attention to police brutality against African Americans. “Our system disproportionately targets, profiles and kills black men and women, that’s what we are here talking about,” organizer Michael McDowell told a reporter at the time. “We wanted to show people who have the everyday luxury of just living their lives that they need to be aware of this, too.”

According to an FBI spokesman, Langfellow’s Confidential Human Source was “a tipster with whom Mr. Langfellow is familiar,” who contacted him “after the tipster had discovered some information while on Facebook” that “some individuals may engage in vandalism” at the Mall of America protest. Upon receiving the email, Bloomington police officer and task-force member Benjamin Mansur forwarded it to Bloomington’s then-Deputy Police Chief Rick Hart, adding “Looks like it’s going to be the 20th…” It was then forwarded to all Bloomington police command staff. There is no mention of potential vandalism anywhere in the email chain, and no vandalism occurred at the Mall of America protest.

The FBI spokesman emphasized that “As for any ‘FBI interest’ in the Black Lives Matter campaign, the FBI had (has) none,” and “makes certain its operational mandates do not interfere with activities protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” The spokesman acknowledged that vandalism does not fall under the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the parameters under which local police officers are detailed to Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the task force mission of “prevention, preemption, deference and investigation of terrorist acts.” Asked why VanNest, the Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor, was CC’d on Langfellow’s email, the spokesman responded “I don’t know” but speculated it was “as a matter of courtesy.”

Well, isn’t that special.

15 March 2015

STOP FIGHTING FIRES AND FIGHT THE ARSONIST…

0400 by Jeff Hess

As I think of how paralyzing are the myriad of injustices—global warming/climate change, police militarization, racism, sexism, water pollution, air pollution, mass surveillance, the list goes on and on—I realize that I, we, have to think about the root cause, our runaway economic system that allows the Masters Of The Universe and their legions of toadies that serve this 0.01 percent to ravage and plunder unrestrained.

Constantly focusing on treating the symptoms, without seeking solutions to the cause, is a losing strategy for the rest of us because the Masters have rigged the game.

Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents long ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.

Legal is what those who writes the laws say is legal. Can the rest of us work within the system to reform the laws or are we just jerking off.

15 March 2015

WILLY WONKA WOULD BE PROUD…

0300 by Jeff Hess
The above is only the first eight pages, 3,478 words of the full 47-page, 23,060-word Terms and Conditions contract.

The above is only the first eight pages, 3,478 words of the full 47-page, 23,060-word Terms and Conditions contract to which I agreed because I wanted what I wanted right now.

Last weekend my bank went offline to upgrade its online systems. When I logged on following the upgrade I was greeted with a 47-page, 23,060-word behemoth of an End User License Agreement to which I was required to check that I had indeed read and accepted the Terms and Conditions. To my own peril, like any reasonable, over-stressed drone living in the modern world, I checked the box. First, however, I downloaded the agreement and dumped the 47 pages and 23,060 words into a Word file. That how I know that the agreement actually contains 23,060 words.

Anyone who has seen Gene Wilder’s interpretation of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka may remember this precursor to the EULA and Sam (father of Violet, the soon-to-be-blueberry) Beauregarde’s Don’t talk to me about contracts, Wonka, I use them myself. They’re strictly for suckers.

Well, fast forward to 2015 where we’re all suckers.

Enter Oliver Burkeman writing in Capitalism was supposed to reduce red tape. Why is bureaucracy worse than ever? for The Guardian:

[T]here’s something strange about this utterly familiar aspect of modern life, as the anthropologist David Graeber notes in his new book, The Utopia of Rules: it’s the opposite of how the free-market world’s meant to work. Capitalism is supposed to be “dynamic, free, and open”; even those of us who favor a big role for government in promoting social welfare tend to accept that this comes at the cost of more red tape. We oppose free-market fundamentalists – but we grudgingly concede that the world for which they yearn would probably involve less brain-meltingly tedious admin.

Not so, insists Graeber, a self-described anarchist best known for his role in the Occupy movement and for his previous book, Debt: The First 5000 Years. Abandon the narrow definition of “bureaucracy” that exclusively involves government functionaries, and it becomes plain that America in 2015 is the most bureaucratic society there’s ever been. “No population in the history of the world has spent nearly so much time engaged in paperwork,” he writes—and not in spite of free-market capitalism, but because of it.

Assuming that Violet survived her juicing and learned from her experience, she very well might have grown up to become JD-impaired, rise to head the New York City Bank legal department and author the 47-page, 23,060-word bureaucratic monstrosity that is the bank’s Terms and Conditions agreement that I, because, like the children, signed because I wanted access and I wanted access now.

At 59 I have not yet grown up.

Burkeman concludes:

[A] society based on rules at least allows us to pretend that everyone’s being treated fairly, which is handy, since it means that I get to guiltlessly enjoy the ways my position of privileged position means I get to bend some of those rules—even if Citibank’s senior executives get to bend them far more. So not only do I have to suffer the indignities of trying to get a basic working internet connection in one of the world’s richest megacities; Graeber’s book is a reminder that I’m complicit in those indiginities, too.

As Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of Army, Australian Defense Force, told us last year, The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

The time has come to stop walking past.

14 March 2015

MUCH LESS PITHY, BUT WHAT WORTHWHILE IS…?

0800 by Jeff Hess

As much as we might wish the contrary, life is not a bumper sticker or coffee mug,

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do. —From VOL 13, Ch 153, “General Knowledge About Health”, Page 241, Printed in the Indian Opinion on 9/8/1913 from The Collected Works of M. K. Gandhi, published by The Publications Division, New Delhi, India.

Yet, the unnamed author who possibly, or not, paraphrased Gandhiji’s words spoke a Truth, one that I take to heart.

If I wish to make the world a better place for all, then I must be the change I wish to see: no excuses.

14 March 2015

WHAT WILL I DO…?

0600 by Jeff Hess

The alarm bells of the climate crisis have been ringing in our ears for years and are getting louder all the time – yet humanity has failed to change course. What is wrong with us?

Many answers to that question have been offered, ranging from the extreme difficulty of getting all the governments in the world to agree on anything, to an absence of real technological solutions, to something deep in our human nature that keeps us from acting in the face of seemingly remote threats, to—more recently—the claim that we have blown it anyway and there is no point in even trying to do much more than enjoy the scenery on the way down.

Some of these explanations are valid, but all are ultimately inadequate.

We know what must be done, so what prevents us from taking the appropriate actions? Naomi Klein unambiguously continues:

So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, [emphasis mine, JH] the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s. Indeed, governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of what came to be called “globalisation,” with the signing of the agreement representing the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship between Canada and the US, later to be expanded into the North American Free Trade Agreement with the inclusion of Mexico.

We do not need to tear down civilization and live in caves We do need to decide which side of a war on humanity we are on.

[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden.

I, as a white male living in the United States of America, am among that most responsible group.

As Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, bluntly put it: “The door to reach two degrees is about to close. In 2017 it will be closed forever.” In short, we have reached what some activists have started calling “Decade Zero” of the climate crisis: we either change now or we lose our chance. All this means that the usual free market assurances—A techno-fix is around the corner! Dirty development is just a phase on the way to a clean environment, look at 19th-century London!—simply don’t add up. We don’t have a century to spare for China and India to move past their Dickensian phases. Because of our lost decades, it is time to turn this around now. Is it possible? Absolutely. Is it possible without challenging the fundamental logic of deregulated capitalism? Not a chance.

For once, fear, properly channeled can be our friend.

When fear like that used to creep through my armour of climate change denial, I would do my utmost to stuff it away, change the channel, click past it. Now I try to feel it. It seems to me that I owe it to my son, just as we all owe it to ourselves and one another.

But what should we do with this fear that comes from living on a planet that is dying, made less alive every day? First, accept that it won’t go away. That it is a fully rational response to the unbearable reality that we are living in a dying world, a world that a great many of us are helping to kill, by doing things like making tea and driving to the grocery store and yes, okay, having kids.

Next, use it. Fear is a survival response. Fear makes us run, it makes us leap, it can make us act superhuman. But we need somewhere to run to. Without that, the fear is only paralysing. So the real trick, the only hope, really, is to allow the terror of an unlivable future to be balanced and soothed by the prospect of building something much better than many of us have previously dared hope.

Ultimately the question must be, for everyone, What will I do?

I don’t have my answer yet, but I am thinking about what I will do every day.

This I do accept: I must be the change I wish to see.

14 March 2015

CAN WE JUST STOP DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME…?

0500 by Jeff Hess

Really could not care less that our economy somehow benefits from golf courses and retailers doing more business in the evenings.

14 March 2015

ONCE EACH CENTURY: 3.1415…

0400 by Jeff Hess

9265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640
6286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231
7253594081284811174502841027019385211055596446229489549303819644288
1097566593344612847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045
4326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254
0917153643678925903600113305305488204665213841469519415116094330572
7036575959195309218611738193261179310511854807446237996274956735188
5752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737
1907021798609437027705392171762931767523846748184676694051320005681
2714526356082778577134275778960917363717872146844090122495343014654
9585371050792279689258923542019956112129021960864034418159813629774
7713099605187072113499999983729780499510597317328160963185950244594
5534690830264252230825334468503526193118817101000313783875288658753
3208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882353787593
7519577818577805321712268066130019278766111959092164201989380952572
0106548586327886593615338182796823030195203530185296899577362259941
3891249721775283479131515574857242454150695950829533116861727855889
0750983817546374649393192550604009277016711390098488240128583616035
6370766010471018194295559619894676783744944825537977472684710404753
4646208046684259069491293313677028989152104752162056966024058038150
1935112533824300355876402474964732639141992726042699227967823547816
360093417216412199245863150302861829745557067498385054945885869269

Happy Pi Day.

Every number ever memorized, every number that will be memorized, every number, full stop, is contained in Pi. How magical is that?

13 March 2015

WHAT DOES THIS EARTH REQUIRE OF US…?

0600 by Jeff Hess

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. In this broadcast you will meet an effervescent man who still believes we can make democracy work. Later we’ll talk about those people in Washington who refuse to let it work, but first Wendell Berry. A master of the written word, he rarely appears on television. For one thing, when he’s not writing, he’s farming—and that can keep a fellow busy from sunrise to sunset. But we met recently and after considerable persuasion he said “OK, bring your cameras with you.” This portrait is the result. Produced with the Schumann Media Center, which I head.

WENDELL BERRY
: We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?

BILL MOYERS: For Wendell Berry, the defense of the Earth is a mission that admits no compromise. This quiet and modest man who lives and works far from the center of power on a farm in Kentucky where his family has lived for 200 years has become an outspoken, even angry advocate for a revolution in our treatment of the land.

WENDELL BERRY: “A Warning to My Readers.” Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it is.

Watch. Listen. Listen again. Repeat. Often.

Previously…

12 March 2015

I ALMOST BOUGHT A MACBOOK PRO, THEN…

0400 by Jeff Hess

What’s a nerd to do…?

11 March 2015

WALMART WEDNESDAY FOR 11 MARCH…

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.

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… Keep reading…

WHY NOW? IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Fortune magazine writer Rick Wartzman compares trying to understand why Walmart decided to raise wages—a move that I know caused heads to explode on Wall Street—to the way Kremlinologist (an amateur role I… Keep reading…

SPREADING THE GOAT ENTRAILS… Everyone, myself included, is reading the tea leaves on Walmart’s decision to raise base pay for half-a-million workers. Bloomberg Business reporter Dashiell Bennett thinks a better economy and a… Keep reading…

WALMART DOESN’T JUST GET TO SAY SO… A standard is not a standard simply because the world’s largest pusher of cheap plastic crap from China says so, and given the Bentonvile Behemoth’s issues with monitoring vendors’ standards involving health… Keep reading…

LONG BEFORE WALMART CAME TO INDIA… Walmart is not the first multi-national corporation to envision world domination. Nearly a quarter millennium before Walmart landed on the shores of India to exploit the more than a billion customers…, Keep reading…

RELEVANT TO THE COMPANY’S BUSINESS…? Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation, told students at the University of Arkansas that the role of big business is to serve society by using its ownKeep reading…

WHEN GOOD PEOPLE ABANDON SHIP… After listening to Diane Rehm’s discussion on Friday, I had a new thought—for me, at least—about why Walmart decided to raise wages. For the past eight years, as a result of The Great Recession, Walmart… Keep reading…

DID OURWALMART SCORE A VICTORY…? Did OURWalmart bring the Bentonvile Behemoth around to raising employee wages? No. While the union organization certainly played a role, I think other factors, out of the control of the group, played much larger… Keep reading…

REPURPOSING ONE MORE VACANT WALMART… I have no idea how many abandoned Walmarts there are around the country, but I’m betting that most, like building in Cleveland Heights where I used to live, still sit empty behind the cracked and… Keep reading…

WE DO GET WHAT WE PAY FOR, EVERYDAY… So far, based solely on my own reading, Lisa Ray comes closer than the competition to recognizing that Walmart’s pay raise is a result of the Great Recession that allowed the Bentonvile Behemoth to see what… Keep reading…

PRESIDENT FRANK UNDERWOOD ON WALMART… Episode 8 of the third season of House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey as fictional President of the United States Frank Underwood, was written long before the Bentonvile Behemoth decided to trickle down… Keep reading…

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO POSSIBLY SAY…? Well, Fortune did have this question: Why this sweet-looking horse is a major headache for Wal-Mart? and this from Business Insider: Wal-Mart is reportedly furious over this hilarious website and wants to shutKeep reading…

UPDATE: GREENWASHING MEME SPREADING… Last Friday I noted Grist’s takedown of Walmart’s latest attempt to greenwash products with a faux environmental Sustainability Leaders label. This week the story is gathering legs: Wal-Mart recentlyKeep reading…

WILL NORMA RAE’S GRANDKIDS GET JOBS…? In 1979, Sally Fields played the real-life textile worker and union organizer Crystal Lee Sutton in the movie Norma Rae. Sutton died in 2009. Fields, a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, won the Oscar for… Keep reading…

Previously on Walmart Wednesday

10 March 2015

ROLDO RIGHTS ON: GETTING NERVOUS, FRANK…?

1100 by Jeff Hess

eroldo masters 150309

Have Cleveland’s real leaders run a poll on Mayor Frank Jackson popularity (or unpopularity) or are they just naturally nervous these days.

In the Sunday Plain Dealer there was the most unusual op-ed page piece I can remember in 50 years working or watching the city’s newspaper on standing.

Leadership of Jackson shows recall efforts are wrong, said the headline.

It had 45 authors. Or signers. It was an unpaid ad. By those who could afford to pay for their propaganda. Ten of the 45 (as of 2013) are present members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. No surprise there.

The names of many are familiar.

They are the names of those who have benefited greatly not only during Jackson’s reign but through Mayors Michael White and George Voinovich, leaders of very special patrons of the rich and richer. (Mayor Jane Campbell was simply an unnoticed blip.)

That’s 35 years of getting exactly what you want if you are rich and have power.

Why would you want to give it up?

And who are these ingrates that want to spoil the spoils takers? The recall brigade.

Some little known ingrates. And even some are black at that.

They want to upset the spoils cart.

So, we had signatories of note. Of course, there was Paul Dolan, Continue Reading »

10 March 2015

THE OTHER CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALS…

0800 by Jeff Hess

The Guardian is embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it. I have a long history with climate change, but, I fear I may have fallen into the trap of paying insufficient attention to a vital threat in favor of the myriad urgent trivialities filling my plate each day.

I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. Not like Donald Trump and the Tea Partiers going on about how the continued existence of winter proves it’s all a hoax. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most of the news stories, especially the really scary ones. I told myself the science was too complicated and that the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent flyer status.

A great many of us engage in this kind of climate change denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or we look but then turn it into a joke (“more signs of the Apocalypse!”). Which is another way of looking away. Or we look but tell ourselves comforting stories about how humans are clever and will come up with a technological miracle that will safely suck the carbon out of the skies or magically turn down the heat of the sun. Which, I was to discover while researching this book, is yet another way of looking away.

Or we look but try to be hyper-rational about it (“dollar for dollar it’s more efficient to focus on economic development than climate change, since wealth is the best protection from weather extremes”) – as if having a few more dollars will make much difference when your city is underwater. Or we look but tell ourselves we are too busy to care about something so distant and abstract – even though we saw the water in the subways in New York City during Superstorm Sandy, and the people on their rooftops in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and know that no one is safe, the most vulnerable least of all. And though perfectly understandable, this too is a way of looking away.

Or we look but tell ourselves that all we can do is focus on ourselves. Meditate and shop at farmers’ markets and stop driving—but forget trying to actually change the systems that are making the crisis inevitable because that’s too much “bad energy” and it will never work. And at first it may appear as if we are looking, because many of these lifestyle changes are indeed part of the solution, but we still have one eye tightly shut.

Or maybe we do look—really look—but then, inevitably, we seem to forget.

Focusing on that with is vital, is the only life-maintaining strategy possible.

10 March 2015

COTTONING TO HIS CONSTITUENTS CASH COW…

0700 by Jeff Hess

If not for the Everwar, defense contractors in the United States might have to turn to the manufacture of vehicles for the Postal Service. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark)—the new Walmart senator?—understands who gets him elected (hint: not the people of Arkansas) and took steps this week to ensure the Everwar continues.

Then, instead of going to Disneyland, Cotton scurried over to an event hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.

Now, I wonder why?

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

Cotton strongly advocates higher defense spending and a more aggressive foreign policy. As The New Republic’s David Ramsey noted, “Pick a topic — Syria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snooping—and Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate… During his senate campaign, he told a tele-townhall that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas was an ‘urgent problem.’”

On Iran, Cotton has issued specific calls for military intervention. In December he said Congress should consider supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs—both items manufactured by NDIA member Boeing—to be used for a possible strike against Iran.

Asked if Cotton will speak about his Iran letter tomorrow, Jimmy Thomas, NDIA Director of Legislative Policy, said, “[M]ost members…talk about everything from the budget to Iran…so it’s highly likely that he may address that in his remarks.” According to Thomas, the Cotton event was scheduled in January, “but certainly we bring people to the platform that have influence directly on our issues.”

Now, why the fuck would Israel need a heavy bomber capable of a round trip of 6,000 miles without refueling?

10 March 2015

LET’S GO TO THE TAPE, BOB…

0600 by Jeff Hess

Synopsis: politician makes public promise to resign if claims of wrongdoing found to be true; claims of wrongdoing found to be true; politician claims do-over.

In August, 2013, as evidence emerged of the active participation by New Zealand in the “Five Eyes” mass surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden, the country’s conservative Prime Minister, John Key, vehemently denied that his government engages in such spying. He went beyond mere denials, expressly vowing to resign if it were ever proven that his government engages in mass surveillance of New Zealanders. He issued that denial, and the accompanying resignation vow, in order to re-assure the country over fears provoked by a new bill he advocated to increase the surveillance powers of that country’s spying agency, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – a bill that passed by one vote thanks to the Prime Minister’s guarantees that the new law would not permit mass surveillance.

[Snip…]

A series of new reports last week by New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager, working with my Intercept colleague Ryan Gallagher, has added substantial proof demonstrating GCSB’s widespread use of mass surveillance. An article last week in the New Zealand Herald demonstrated that “New Zealand’s electronic surveillance agency, the GCSB, has dramatically expanded its spying operations during the years of John Key’s National Government and is automatically funnelling vast amounts of intelligence to the US National Security Agency.” Specifically, its “intelligence base at Waihopai has moved to ‘full-take collection,’ indiscriminately intercepting Asia-Pacific communications and providing them en masse to the NSA through the controversial NSA intelligence system XKeyscore, which is used to monitor emails and internet browsing habits.”

Moreover, the documents “reveal that most of the targets are not security threats to New Zealand, as has been suggested by the Government,” but “instead, the GCSB directs its spying against a surprising array of New Zealand’s friends, trading partners and close Pacific neighbours.” A second report late last week published jointly by Hager and the Intercept detailed the role played by GCSB’s Waihopai base in aiding NSA’s mass surveillance activities in the Pacific (as Hager was working with the Intercept on these stories, his house was raided by New Zealand police for 10 hours, ostensibly to find Hager’s source for a story he published that was politically damaging to Key).

That the New Zealand government engages in precisely the mass surveillance activities Key vehemently denied is now barely in dispute. Indeed, a former director of GCSB under Key, Sir Bruce Ferguson, while denying any abuse of New Zealander’s communications, now admits that the agency engages in mass surveillance.

Prime Minister John Key resigns in 3… 2… No wait…

So now that it’s proven that New Zealand does exactly that which Prime Minister Key vowed would cause him to resign if it were proven, is he preparing his resignation speech? No: that’s something a political official with a minimal amount of integrity would do. Instead – even as he now refuses to say what he has repeatedly said before: that GCSB does not engage in mass surveillance—he’s simply retracting his pledge as though it were a minor irritant, something to be casually tossed aside

Well, of course he is, no one but a fool would expect integrity from a politician.

10 March 2015

BLOGGER(S): 1 SLIMEBALL DMCA ABUSER: 0…

0500 by Jeff Hess

Blogging can feel more than a little David-and-Goliathish most of the time, so reading about Oliver Hotham’s small victory has made my Tuesday. (My blogs—Have Coffee Will Write and The Writing On The Wal use WordPress software but are hosted independently.)

After a two-year legal battle, journalist Oliver Hotham and Automattic, owners of blogging service WordPress.com, have emerged victorious against an attempt to use an American copyright law to shut down criticism of a short-lived pressure group call “Straight Pride UK”.

The win, in a Californian district court, sets a rare precedent against attempts to use the the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to take content offline.

The act includes a provision that requires web hosts to remove user-generated content if they are notified that it infringes a third-party’s copyright—or face being held liable for the infringement.

But these DMCA takedown notifications are often abused to force big platform holders to remove content for reasons unrelated to copyright, as Hotham learned in 2013, when he was a student journalist.

In August that year, he posted an interview on his WordPress blog with Nick Steiner, press officer for an anti-gay group called “Straight Pride UK”. In the interview, Steiner expressed his group’s support for homophobic policies enacted in Russia and a number of African nations, and praised Putin’s crackdown on LGBT rights.

But shortly after Hotham published the interview, he received a message from Straight Pride UK warning him to take down the piece within the week, or the group would use a DMCA takedown to force him to do so.

[Snip…]

Following Automattic’s legal victory against the group, activists hope that more web hosts will be emboldened to fight back against malicious takedown notices. Parker Higgins, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “Wordpress going to bat was really unusual, and this could encourage others.”

The firm was awarded $22,264 in legal fees and $1,860 for time spent working on the case, which should also go some way to encouraging others to fight similar cases, Higgins added.

But neither Automattic nor Hotham, who was awarded $960 for his work and time, have much hope of being paid the money. Since August 2013, Straight Pride UK seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth. The group’s website has been taken down, and messages to an email address that was its only point of contact are not being answered.

That is often the case with trolls…

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