19 September 2016


0300 by Jeff Hess

I respect Bernie Sanders. I think that Bernie is the closest we’ve come in a very long time to what I think a progressive politician should be. I do not doubt that Bernie is focused on stopping the election of Donald Trump by supporting the deeply flawed candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I am confident that Bernie believes—although I do not—that Hillary will fight for climate change legislation and a $15 per hour minimum wage and further health care reform and free college educations for all children whose families make under $125,000 per year and all the rest.

None of that is likely to matter because the President of the United States of America is at the mercy of the 535 individual agendas in the congress.

We all need to remember that for the first two years of the presidencies of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democratic Party held majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives but both men failed to accomplish real change.

Only an lotus eater could believe that a second president Clinton would accomplish any goal without even that dubious advantage.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I’m still voting for Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. If Hillary loses, the Democratic National Committee will have only itself to blame.

18 September 2016


1300 by Jeff Hess

[Update at 0549 on 20 September: the deciding factor? High Fructose Corn Syrup. Campbell’s uses the sugar, Amy’s uses organic cane sugar. I know, I know, HFCS gets a bad rap, sugar is sugar, but there is this.]


*Nutritional information in grams per can of soup.

Brands of soup after the jump… Continue Reading »

18 September 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

I’ve been reading The Guardian’s My Writing Day series for a few week now and, while I think the personal essays are interesting, none has yet spoken to me as has that by Tracy Chevalier. She struck a nerve with her frankness and insight.

Chevalier, in Writing is a magic trick that still surprises me when I perform it for The Guardian, writes:

Much of the joy of writing historical novels comes from doing the research: holed up at the library reading about 19th-century techniques for grafting apple trees, or medieval plant symbolism, or the journals of gold rush miners. Or, better yet, being out on the road, standing next to giant sequoias in California, or fossil hunting on the beach at Lyme Regis, or walking from Soho to Spitalfields imagining it is 1792. Research is what gives me ideas, what helps me make up characters and plots.

Research is easy. It’s sitting down to write that’s hard. It’s hard partly because it’s often dull.

Ah yes, the sitting down, the firmly placing your butt in the chair and working, as Chevalier so aptly describes process, the magic.

Often I have to leave my study, with its tempting computer and the window with its view of my neighbours’ lives, and sit in the living room or at the kitchen table. Best of all – and where I’m writing this, in fact—is the British Library. I lock my phone away, I bring my notebook or manuscript, and sit in the concentrated silence of the reading rooms there, the others around me focused, intent. There is nothing so galvanising as being around other people already in the zone.

What happens when I manage to block out the distractions, when I land on the blank page at last? I write one sentence, then the next, then the next. Paper and pen first (pencil in the British Library)—computer is for later. Surprisingly quickly, I accumulate 1,000 words, the empty pages that terrify me every day are filled and I’m done—for that day.

I can’t write with a pen or pencil on paper. My mind moves too quickly and my scrawl is illegible. I am fond of telling people that I only learned one lesson in High School that my teachers intended for me to learn and that was how to touch type. Even that I learned for the wrong reason: my friend Mickey and I figured out that we would be the only boys in a classroom full of girls. (Sadly, the ploy did not work out for either of us.)

When I type I can almost keep up with the thoughts as they come gushing out of my subconscious. I cannot begin to imagine what writing 1,000 words with a pencil would feel like.

17 September 2016


1000 by Roldo Bartimole

roldo bartimole squareDoes this put the lie to Cleveland’s resurgence? Does this mark Cuyahoga County as seriously troubled? ¶A school system (Cleveland) with four Fs. Ignore it, say city leaders by their ease in avoiding it. ¶Will the Atlantic magazine send one of its top editors to lead a stacked panel to lift banners of Cleveland as the resurging example of the comeback of cities? It did. What nerve. What nonsense.

No. They’ll ignore the dead body in the middle of the room.

Three local city school systems finished among the bottom four in the latest State of Ohio grading of all its school systems.

At the bottom were Cleveland, of course, Warrensville Heights and East Cleveland.

All in Cuyahoga County. How’s that County Executive Armond Budish? Where are you hiding?

It’s a shame. But the Cavs won a championship and the Indians could win, too. So all’s not so bad.

Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O’Donnell pulled no punches in a front page article about the state’s schools grading with this reminder quote:

‘If we’re going to ask for a significant levy, we better show results if we’re going to ask people to renew that levy,’ Gordon said when he and Jackson first proposed the 15-mill tax increase.

Gordon is the Cleveland school district’s CEO (superintendent) and Jackson, of course, is Mayor Frank Jackson. O’Donnell tells it straight.

The report could not have come at a worse time for Cleveland as it Continue Reading »

17 September 2016


0800 by Jeff Hess


Woody Allen famously said that 80 percent of success is showing up. In this moment for our nation, I can’t think of any action more important than that espoused by the group: Showing Up For Racial Justice:

[A] national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.

I volunteered locally and contacted the Cleveland organizer Bridget Walland to find out what more I can do. You should do the same.

Of particular interest to me, of course, is the group’s position on Colin Kaepernick, and by his corageous association, Rodney Axson.

17 September 2016


0300 by Jeff Hess

On 8 December 2004, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) slipped Section 111 of Title I, Division J, of the Fiscal Year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 108-447) and a new national holiday into our collective consciousness: Constitution Day. Our Constitution is the single most important document in Human History; read it all.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Please keep reading…

There are a large number of additional resources. Here are just a few:

The U.S. Constitution.
Celebrate Constitution Day.

I never leave home without my pocket-sized copy of our Constitution.
Celebrate Constitution And Citizenship Day.
A Day Set Aside for the Constitution.

16 September 2016


0400 by Jeff Hess

The scene above from the Scandal episode The Lawn Chair, aired on 5 March of last year is, of course, fiction. Like all good fiction, however, the writers take us closer to reality than we often like to go, and that is what good writers must do.

In the real world we would never see a scene like the above. Lawyers and fixers would keep that part of the story out of the public eye and leave the rest of us to wonder and speculate. I didn’t see this when the episode first aired, I’m watching on Netflix, but current events have smashed the power of that scene into our collective faces.

Ciara McCarthy, reporting in Columbus police fatally shoot 13-year-old boy carrying BB gun for The Guardian, writes:

Police in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was carrying a BB gun, authorities said.

The air gun which Tyre King was holding had a laser sight. An officer mistook it for a lethal firearm, police said. The boy was shot multiple times and died in a Columbus children’s hospital.

Authorities said officers were responding to a report of a robbery in which several people, one carrying a gun, approached a man and demanded money. Police said officers spotted three people, including Tyre, who matched a description of the robbers.

The officers approached the group and Tyre and one of his companions fled, police said. Tyre was shot multiple times after allegedly pulling the BB gun from his waistband.

The city’s mayor and police chief spoke to reporters on Thursday morning, promising a thorough investigation.

Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther called the boy’s death “troubling”.

“Any loss of life is tragic but the loss of a young person is particularly difficult,” he said.

Police chief Kim Jacobs confirmed the basic police account of the shooting and said Tyre was carrying a gun that looked “practically identical” to the guns carried by Columbus police. The shooting will be investigated by Columbus detectives and presented to a grand jury by a local prosecutor, officials said. The grand jury will decide whether to charge the officer involved.

I had a conversation the other day about what actions we ought to be taking in the wake of this death toll that just keeps rolling. Here are two that I think would be good starting points:

No. 1: No police involved shooting should be handled by internal affairs or a local district attorney with a pet grand jury. Only an independent prosecutor should be allowed to investigate and, if found appropriate, prosecute those involved. So far this year, The Guardian’s The Counted project has listed the names of 761 people killed by police in our nation. Tyre King has not yet been counted.

No. 2: Every county ought to have a police review board with the power to fire police chiefs. The panel should consist of elected volunteers representing the diverse communities in the county. I would recommend no more than five members on such a board. The board must have subpoena power to compel testimony at open meetings. The board must not be allowed to meet in private in any sense. The volunteers would be elected annually and serve for no more than two years.

I’m sure that others more closely involved with such boards will have smarter ideas but I think these are good starting points.

Our problems run deep. They are complex and cannot be fixed in 43 minutes. We cannot escape into our fantasies as IMBD commenter elizabeth_rose324 would seem to desire.

I don’t watch entertainment television to have politics pushed on me. I understand that much of this show is politically based, but including true world politics, such as the modern day issues between the black community and police officers is truly uncalled for. It’s almost despicable. Scandal, why must you push such a political agenda? I don’t want to see an entire episode wrapped around cop hating. Just stop. I feel like I can’t watch TV anymore without a political message nowadays. This episode included a white police officer shooting a young black boy and this inevitably becomes a real world situation, obviously reflecting that of Trayvon Martin. Please, for goodness sakes, just avoid actual politics in a TV show and just create new story lines.

I understand Elizabeth’s pain; reality has overwhelmed her. I have a friend who won’t go see sad movies because the real world is too sad. Maybe that is Elizabeth’s case. We don’t know. Or, perhaps, shows like this overwhelm her cognitive dissonance and she just wants to live in her fantasy of when America was great.

We the people don’t have that luxury.

16 September 2016


0300 by Jeff Hess


I’ve only included the beginning and end of a very long—22,000+ years, duh!—timeline. Please take your time to view the entire history so that you can more fully understand the dastardly lies the fossil fuel industry are spewing out their smokestacks so that they can acquire more toys.

You can so find a detailed explanation and description of this 12 September post at Explain XKCD.

15 September 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

Setting a precedent, no matter how carefully considered, always reveals unintended consequences.

Or, we are meant to believe that is true.

The writer in me wants to believe that FBI Director James Comey is way smarter than people want to believe and that he is playing a very deep, deep game. Here’s my tin-hat conspiracy take: Comey wanted to fry the bastards who nearly pushed the United States over a financial cliff and ruined the lives of tens of millions of American lives, but couldn’t, for whatever reasons. So, Comey figured out how to use the Hillary Clinton emails—essentially a non-crime that hurt no one—to crack a legal door that Senator Elizabeth Warren (maybe with Comey’s direct assistance, maybe not, Warren is that smart) could drive a bus through. Just saying.

David Dayen, writing in Chatty FBI Director to Explain Why DOJ Didn’t Prosecute Banksters for The Intercept offers a much more sane and reasonable examination:

On Thursday, Warren released two highly provocative letters demanding some explanations. One is to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, requesting a review of how federal law enforcement managed to whiff on all 11 substantive criminal referrals submitted by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a panel set up to examine the causes of the 2008 meltdown.

The other is to FBI Director James Comey, asking him to release all FBI investigations and deliberations related to those referrals. The FBI typically doesn’t release investigative details about cases that DOJ chooses not to pursue, but Warren pointed out that in releasing information about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in July, he had pretty much shattered that precedent, and set a new one.

“You explained these actions by noting your view that ‘the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest,’” Warren wrote to Comey. “If Secretary Clinton’s email server was of sufficient ‘interest’ to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency.”

In other words, if Comey can spend hours relating FBI decision-making about State Department emails, he can do the same for the activity that made millions jobless and homeless.

Hearings, possibly on the level of Watergate, I’m sure are to follow.

14 September 2016


0700 by Jeff Hess

Brunswick football player accused of making
racist remarks promoted to team captain?

Denise Zarrella, a reporter at television station WOIO in Cleveland posts:

Brunswick City Schools Superintendent Mike Mayell says he won’t be saying anything more right now about claims of racist remarks and threats being made against Brunswick High School Senior and football player, Rodney Axson, Jr.

Police said they were at the high school today interviewing students about the racially offensive remarks and a threat of lynching made towards Axson after he said, he told his fellow teammates not to use the “n” word in the locker room before a Sept. 2 game.

Axson then kneeled in protest during the National Anthem.

“Once he took the knee, he had a lot of backlash from it, to the point where we had messages sent to us for his lynching, for others calling him an ignorant “n.” He’s doing things to make the black race look worse than what they are,” said Rodney Axson Sr., during a press conference outside the Police Department on Monday.

Rodney Axson Jr.’s father said his son has been attending school and playing football while the allegations are being investigated, but the elder Axson says, it’s hard, because one of the accused has since been promoted to team captain.

“One of the kids that was involved in this or dropped the “n” word. That happened on Thursday. They played on Friday. The kid that was involved in it still played in the game and was promoted to team captain,” added Axson Sr.

So, a white high school football player calls members of an opposing team niggers and he gets promoted to team captain. Please tell me I have that wrong.

14 September 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

So, I finished reading Jesse Ball’s latest—How To Set A Fire And Why—this morning. I had ordered the book from my local library after reading Aditi Sriram review in The Atlantic and I’ll leave that piece to paint the broader brush, but two passages, both late in the book, stayed with me.

The first comes on page 246 when the narrator muses:

From where I sat I could see the whole high school building opposite. Different scenes were framed in all the windows, and along the arterial of the front drive, cars came and went. The whole thing was a vulgar facsimile of something useful, but a false version, one that does no good. Imagine if someone would show you a beehive that doesn’t make honey. What’s the point of it, you say? Oh, it’s just to keep the bees busy. We love it when they learn to like what’s given them. That’s what the voice would say if it decided to reveal itself to you. But usual it keeps quiet.

A dozen pages later Ball uses the narrator to capture why the story, the book I’m holding, exists:

A person writes down what has happened in order to know it. Then a person can find the way forward.

As insightful as the first passage is, these two sentences are much more so. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we resist writing. Maybe we can’t bear knowing and prefer to leave the past out in a cloud somewhere, and this is why we’re stuck in that cloud.

14 September 2016


0300 by Jeff Hess

Sometimes the wealthy and privileged have to take an action to shine a bright light on those who aren’t. If there had not been a Colin Kaepernick, there might not have been a Rodney Axson and an important conversation might have died before a syllable escaped our collective lips.

I live in the greatest country in the world. For all that greatness, however, my country is still imperfect, deeply flawed with tremendous potential to grow. Growth never happens unless we can see where there is room for growth. Colin Kaepernick has helped us to see that and imagine what we might do.

Lindy West, writing in Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest is right: blanket rah-rah patriotism means nothing for The Guardian, explains”

The Kaepernick conflict illuminates a cleft in America’s self-image that has grown especially deep since September 2001. In one camp are the flag-waving jersey-burners who believe that “patriotism” means unconditional, unconsidered cheerleading for anything “American” (ie, anything that enforces the white, traditionalist status quo — Donald Trump’s “great” America of yore), while tarring any dissent as “un-American”. This version of patriotism is more a sport than a political philosophy: root for the home team, even if we’re cheating.

The rest of us believe that our country is a collective that we have a duty to shape; that patriotism is earned, not owed; that if our nation is going to demand worship and supplication from its inhabitants, it needs to fulfil its mandate to protect and care for all of them. If you love something, you want it to be better, and you work for it to be better. Patriotism doesn’t preclude protest; it demands it. “I love America,” Kaepernick said. “I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better.”

I love so much about America. It’s my home. It’s beautiful and wild, and I don’t want to live anywhere else. I am proud to have roots in a place that, at least on paper (however spectacularly we may fail), holds sacred the balance of personal freedom and social equality.

There’s a particular exuberance to the people here – an audacity. At our best we are outlandish and daring and optimistic and guileless and absurd. We are fun. I love that.

But at our worst we’re murderous and proud, incurious and spiteful. We tell marginalised people to sit down (unless that slave guy’s special song is playing) and wait for equality. We insist their oppression is their fault because they refuse to chase the perpetually shifting goalposts of the “right” way to protest—ie, in any way that never disrupts or disturbs any white people whatsoever; ie, in any way that is actually effective; ie, in any way at all. We threaten Kaepernick’s career in retaliation for his dissent, as though it’s reasonable to expect black people to choose between their dreams and their humanity. Our citizens hang Hillary Clinton in effigy for not knowing her place, howl for the mass deportation of Muslims, demand a wall to keep out immigrants, insist to this day that Barack Obama isn’t a “real” American, and do it all without shame on stolen land.

How could we feel pride in any of that?

To steal a sentiment from Winston Churchill: The United States of America is the worst nation on Earth, except for all the others.

We can fix that.

13 September 2016


1400 by Roldo Bartimole

roldo bartimole squareLast time I wrote here I reported on a document that noted Cuyahoga County was more than $1 billion in debt ($1,082,395,000). ¶That’s a lot of money. A scary figure. ¶The Plain Dealer followed quickly with the same story, based on William Tater’s Community Solutions report on the County debt. ¶But it got short shrift coverage. ¶In the old days such a large figure would have been shocking news. The story would have rated an alarming banner headline. These days only sports seem to merit that kind of attention.

Taxes, which the PD almost automatically supports, don’t merit too much close attention. The PD follows the Greater Cleveland Partnership almost religiously. Chris Quinn, vice president of content at the PD, noted recently on a radio program that he attended the GCP’s annual meet up. Hobnobbing with the big boys.

Now it is time to report on some of the spending causing these daunting debt figures and tax income that has already or will be required to be collected to meet those bonded debts.

The quarter percent sales tax hike since January 2015 has brought in $36.2 million to August this year from county taxpayers. In 2015 the tax raised $51,434,292. That’s some $87 million total thus far.

Those pennies at the grocer’s add up.

Total expenses and debt service for both years was $81 million.

Debt service on the convention center and med mart totaled $32.1 million. Debt service on the new hotel was $3.7 million, starting only in March of this year. It will Continue Reading »

13 September 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

So, where are the fans tearing up their season tickets or using their official NFL jerseys to clean their cars in protest over Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee? Where are the true lovers of the game demanding that anyone daring to protest at a gawd-damned American tradition be arrested for disrespecting the Star Spangled Banner like the Constitution says they should be?

I’ll tell you where they are. They’re creeping back into the shadows where they can piss and moan anonymously because they’ve looked around and realized they’re a minority and we all know how minorities get treated in these United States of America.

Guardian sport reports in Colin Kaepernick continues anthem protest and is joined by opponents:

Colin Kaepernick finds himself a less isolated figure these days. A few weeks after deciding to sit out the national anthem during the pre-season, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback made his protest against racial oppression in the United States at a regular season game for the first time.

Kaepernick was joined by team-mates Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold. Kaepernick and Reid knelt while Bethea and Harold raised their fists, as did two of their opponents, the Los Angeles Rams’ Robert Quinn and Kenny Britt. The 49ers went on to shut out the Rams in a 28-0 victory.

A number of players knelt or held up their fists during Sunday’s games on NFL opening weekend and while there is a risk the message behind the protests may get lost as viewers become accustomed to them, Kaepernick gained valuable publicity on the nationally televised Monday Night Football.

Kaepernick lost his starting place last season, and is now back-up to Blaine Gabbert, but that hasn’t stopped his jersey becoming a top seller. He has said he will donate his cut of profits from the sales to community projects, along with an additional $1m.

The 49ers chief executive, Jed York, told ESPN on Monday that he supported Kaepernick. “I’d just say that human rights is a philosophy that everybody should hold dear,” York said. “It’s not easy to make a stand and to do something that’s not popular that’s everybody and I think that’s what Colin has done but I think he’s done it in a respectful way. He’s trying to bring a voice to people that he doesn’t feel have one and I think we want to do the same thing and try to help.

“I’m not going to tell the guys what to do,” York added. “I’m not going to get into that. That’s not my place. The locker room will take care of itself. I think even with this when everybody wants to talk about, is this a distraction, what’s going on, it’s been something that I think has been an issue that most people haven’t discussed openly in locker rooms and quite honestly most places. And I think our locker room is one of the places where guys can find a way to actually have a conversation about it as opposed to looking and having a pre-conceived notion of what does this mean and then kind of going their own separate ways.”

Les Carpenter, writing in Kaepernick’s anthem protest is perfect way to highlight America’s race problem for The Guardian, broadens the discussion:

The protest overwhelming the start of the NFL season began not with a shout or raised fist but an act so passive it was all but invisible to the thousands who were there. On the night of 26 August, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before the team’s pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers. His defiance was nearly impossible to discern as he sat surrounded by Gatorade containers on the team’s bench. It might have been missed altogether had a reporter from the NFL Network not noticed and asked him about it after the game.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL Network that night. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

A firestorm ensued, igniting a national debate about racial inequality, police brutality and the meaning of the American flag. Kaepernick, a fading football star who had never seemed political, instantly became a nationally polarizing figure, much as Muhammad Ali had been when he refused to fight in the Vietnam war.

Ali was banned from boxing for three-and-half-years.

We have grown as a nation since then.

We still have far to go.

12 September 2016


0700 by Jeff Hess


12 September 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

Reading Bill Moyers’ speech this morning reminds me of the message that Roldo Bartimole has shared with his readers for decades: that the rich and privileged think that their wealth and power is somehow a right and lesser beings just have to accept that reality.

Moyers, writing in We, the Plutocrats vs. We, the People: Saving the soul of democracy for Moyers & Company, explains:

In one way or another, this is the oldest story in our country’s history: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a metaphysical reality—one nation, indivisible—or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

The story he’s writing about concerned 15 housewives who protested in his small hometown of Marshall, Texas, over the federal government’s impudent demand that they, women of position and power in their town, be required to pay the social security taxes of their housekeepers. Their protest became known as The Housewives Rebellion and, as a 16-year-old cub reporter for the local paper, Moyers was hooked.

Those housewives were white, their housekeepers black. Almost half of all employed black women in the country then were in domestic service. Because they tended to earn lower wages, accumulate less savings and be stuck in those jobs all their lives, social security was their only insurance against poverty in old age. Yet their plight did not move their employers.

The housewives argued that Social Security was unconstitutional and imposing it was taxation without representation. They even equated it with slavery. They also claimed that “requiring us to collect [the tax] is no different from requiring us to collect the garbage.” So they hired a high-powered lawyer — a notorious former congressman from Texas who had once chaired the House Un-American Activities Committee — and took their case to court. They lost, and eventually wound up holding their noses and paying the tax, but not before their rebellion had become national news.

The stories I helped report for the local paper were picked up and carried across the country by the Associated Press. One day, the managing editor called me over and pointed to the AP Teletype machine beside his desk. Moving across the wire was a notice citing our paper and its reporters for our coverage of the housewives’ rebellion.

I was hooked, and in one way or another I’ve continued to engage the issues of money and power, equality and democracy over a lifetime spent at the intersection between politics and journalism. It took me awhile to put the housewives’ rebellion into perspective. Race played a role, of course. Marshall was a segregated, antebellum town of 20,000, half of whom were white, the other half black. White ruled, but more than race was at work. Those 15 housewives were respectable townsfolk, good neighbors, regulars at church (some of them at my church). Their children were my friends; many of them were active in community affairs; and their husbands were pillars of the town’s business and professional class.

So what brought on that spasm of rebellion? They simply couldn’t see beyond their own prerogatives. Fiercely loyal to their families, their clubs, their charities and their congregations—fiercely loyal, that is, to their own kind—they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like themselves. They expected to be comfortable and secure in their old age, but the women who washed and ironed their laundry, wiped their children’s bottoms, made their husbands’ beds and cooked their family’s meals would also grow old and frail, sick and decrepit, lose their husbands and face the ravages of time alone, with nothing to show from their years of labor but the crease in their brow and the knots on their knuckles.

Only We The People have the power to change that.

12 September 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess


I wondered how much time might pass before the take-a-knee movement started by Colin Kaepernick reached a Friday night, high school football game.

I take great pride in a young man playing for a team one suburb over from where I live in Northeast Ohio. A week ago this past Friday, Rodney Axson took a knee. He did so, he said because:

…[H]e overheard two white teammates in the locker room using the “N-word” to describe members of the opposing team.

Axson says that when he confronted his teammates, they said that the word “wasn’t meant for you” despite his objections.

Says Axson, “I do feel it was meant for me because I am an African-American.”

Moments later Axson would become the 4th athlete in 2016 to protest as it came one day after NFL players Eric Reid and Jeremy Lane took a knee.

Axson was the first, but he is now joined by high school players across the nation. Bob Cook, writing in High School Athletes Join Colin Kaepernick In Anthem Protest; Angry PA Announcers Don’t for Forbes, elaborates.

The protests are happening at the high school level, as young players are joining Kaepernick in kneeling. Football players for Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J., kneeled, following the lead of their coach. Football players for Watkins Mills High in Montgomery County, Md., kneeled. So did football players at Maury High in Norfolk, Va. Then there was Auburn High football in Rockford, Ill., and a youth team in Beaumont, Texas. In these cases, players came from schools that were majority African-American, and not everyone kneeled.

Rodney Axson ( front row center) and his 2016 Blue Devils teammates.

Rodney Axson (No. 1, front row center) and his 2016 Blue Devils teammates.

The fallout for Axson has not been good.

While Axson’s protest would go unreported for a week, the reaction to his protest was vitriolic.

Axson says he was called the N-word by teammates multiple times both verbally that day and in subsequent text messages.

Later in the week, a Snapchat post surfaced with a photo of a hand-written piece of paper with four “N-Words” preceded by “Fuck Rodney” and followed by “Lets Lynch Niggers.”

“We made the decision to move to Brunswick to provide a better life for our kids,” says Rodney’s mother Danielle Axson, “he didn’t always feel this way, but his reality has changed. He couldn’t even wrap his head around this.”

His father, Rodney Axson Sr., told Cleveland 19 news, “I thought moving to a community like Brunswick will be safe to keep away from the gun violence and then you have to come out here and deal with the racial thing.”

According to the 2010 census, Brunswick, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb about a 30-minute drive south of downtown, is 96% white and only 1.2% African-American. This dynamic is reflected on the team as Axson is one of only three African-American players on a squad of over 100 whites coached by an all-white staff.

According to Cleveland 19 News, who broke the story on Friday, the district’s superintendent Michael Mayell, released the following statement:

We are still investigating various incidents of inappropriate and racially motivated conduct by students at Brunswick High School. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement as well. As such, we will not comment further until such time as we have a reasonable grasp on all the facts. However, let me say that a statement which has circulated on social media connected with this investigation is reprehensible and I am deeply disappointed that any of our students would participate in its publication. Racial slurs and hate speech have no place in the Brunswick schools and those found complicit in such misconduct will be dealt with accordingly.
This is a statement I have never even conceived that I might need to release. I am saddened to have to do so.

Nathaniel Cline, writing in Brunswick High football player joins national anthem protest, receives backlash for kneeling for Cleveland’s Plain Dealer concluded this way:

Rodney Axson Sr. said his son will continue playing football and taking a knee for future games. Brunswick’s next game is at home against conference opponent Solon on Friday.

“In our eyes, we don’t want our kids to quit on anything,” Axson Sr. said.

Axson has continued to attend his classes [where he carries a 3.5 GPA, the highest on his team, JH] in the past week.

He added that the family remains active in the investigation and has received support from the Cleveland NAACP Chapter.

“Rodney has a bright future,” chapter president Mike Nelson said. “It’s important that we eliminate all the variables in his way.”

Mr. Axson has a son any father would be very proud of.


11 September 2016


0700 by Jeff Hess


This is another true situation. There were times when I was so engrossed in writing or drawing the strip that I was oblivious to everything else around me. My kids could talk to me, ask for things, say stuff that didn’t make sense, and I’d simply nod and smile. An entire day could go by and I’d forget to eat or even get up and walk around. It was like being in a sound sleep. There were times when people would have to distract me from my work, look me in the eye, make sure I was absolutely focused on them, and then say what they wanted me to hear! —Lynn Johnston

11 September 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

This is, of course, a lesson we continuously attempt to impart–-Stay Alive! Don’t text and drive!—to those navigating a ton of metal and plastic at speed down our streets and highways, but the same can be said about how we now walk through life. I wonder how many budding writers are begin crippled by always looking down at the screens of their phones and not paying attention to the human interactions around them?

Philip Hensher, in Pay Attention, writes:

Think about how people reveal themselves through behaviour, and focus on the externals of gesture, expression, dialogue and settings. It’s tempting, given the limitless power of the omniscient novelist, to plunge into a character’s head and write, baldly, “Laura felt painfully envious”. But what has more energy is the analysis of how a character in the grip of painful envy carries herself, speaks, looks, and even dresses. We always know, if we are observant, how a person who is desperately, secretly in love with another behaves. The trick of fiction is to extract the ways in which other emotions affect the outer crust, too, and by observing the characteristic walk of a human being overcome with happiness, say, making the reader feel observant, and not just laboriously informed.

How this carriage affects the characters around her, too: because fiction does not amount to much if it is just one character standing in a stairwell, pondering gravely about past events. If the first lesson of fiction is about the leakage of the abstract into the world of the physical, the second ought to be that fiction is about the way one character’s desires will crash into another’s, and a third, and a fourth, when all that seems to be happening is four friends meeting in a pub, or working together in an office, or finding themselves thrown together by chance. The episode that consists of one person alone leads to nothing much: the episode of four different characters with their own ways of life moves in multiple directions.

To do this, the beginning writer is going to have to undertake some systematic observation, notebook in hand. No novelist worth reading ever sat at home, entranced with the words spooling out. They paid attention to the life of the streets, to the mannerisms of their friends, to the way a small child speaks when he is hoping not to get found out. Fiction looks outwards.

11 September 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. —Hillary Clinton

I don’t like Hillary Clinton. I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton. I requested my absentee ballot yesterday and I’ll be voting for Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka when my ballot arrives.

All of that does not prevent me from saying that Clinton is demonstrably correct in her assessment and attacks on her statement such as that by Ron Fournier, writing in Clinton Was Wrong to Generalize About Trump’s Supporters for The Atlantic are flat out wrong.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in Hillary Clinton Is Right About Trump’s Supporters And Prejudice, also for The Atlantic explains:

One way of reporting on Clinton’s statement is to weigh its political cost, ask what it means for her campaign, or attempt to predict how it might affect her performance among certain groups. This path is in line with the current imperatives of political reporting and, at least for the moment, seems to be the direction of coverage. But there is another line of reporting that could be pursued—Was Hillary Clinton being truthful or not?

Much like Trump’s alleged opposition to the Iraq War, this is not an impossible claim to investigate. We know, for instance, some nearly 60 percent of Trump’s supporters hold “unfavorable views” of Islam, and 76 percent support a ban on Muslims entering the United States. We know that some 40 percent of Trump’s supporters believe blacks are more violent, more criminal, lazier, and ruder than whites. Two-thirds of Trump’s supporters believe the first black president in this country’s history is not American. These claim are not ancillary to Donald Trump’s candidacy, they are a driving force behind it.

When Hillary Clinton claims that half of Trump’s supporters qualify as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” data is on her side. One could certainly argue that determining the truth of a candidate’s claims is not a political reporter’s role. But this is not a standard that political reporters actually adhere to.

I disagree with Ta-Nehisi here. In the age of pseudo-objectivity and faux fair and balanced reporting, determining the truth has gotten lost, but truth must be the very light by which any journalist guides themself. When truth is lost we are left with marketing.

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