18 April 2017


0300 by Roldo Bartimole

This is NOT another meaningless city election.

In 2017 it can’t be.

Cleveland is a Distressed City. It must change.

Too many of its citizens are under extreme distress. One can feel it. Read it in the daily headlines. See it in the statistics of need. From lead poisoning, to gun downs, to infant mortality. Hard to not see or feel.

And that has to be the major theme of any campaign to defeat Mayor Frank Jackson. Step one. He must go. Stress.

Preparation of the political soil has already started.

Ironically, the forces that have had a strangle-hold on the city for the past 25 years made a critical mistake. It has helped trigger a demand for change.

The reigning cabal overreached. Too sure of itself. Comfortable in the lack of any opposition for so long.

So it moved without considering any revolt to its plans possible.

It had been on a real roll.

Look at how high they were flying.

Not satisfied with a quarter percent sales tax (to 8 percent) for of 20-years worth $800 million for a convention center and a county-built hotel (doomed to lose money); or the passage of a 20-year, $260-million extension of the sin tax; nor with a $330-million distressed neighborhood Opportunity Corridor by-pass; or a $50-million transit-diverting Public Square; or a voted 25 percent increase in the city payroll tax to 2.5 percent, the ruling clique simply wanted more!

It thought it could get away with another grab at no political cost. Everything going our way, they thought. Why not more?

They were rolling the dice and winning. Why stop?

What more did they want?

They brazenly reached for a multi-million dollar tax infusion for the Quick Arena. It was a grab by those accustomed to getting what they want when they want. Some free bucks from Cuyahoga County; some gratis dollars ($88-million) from the City of Cleveland. Big bucks. Who’d stand in their way?

So they saw their chance and they took it.

They did not count on two things. They hadn’t had to worry about opposition since the White Knight Dennis Kucinich left office. No real opposition. Of any kind. A docile populace. Just roll over them. Black politics ascended but satisfied or decayed.

And they made their overreach just as their boy at City Hall Mayor Frank Jackson made his overreach. Wanting to ride his mayoral horse to another four years. To extend his reign to a record 16 years. Too much for any such job. Especially, when he has done such a poor job.

They saw their chance and they took it.

What they didn’t count on was the rise of any opposition. They had bought everyone, they thought.

But some were not as submissive as the cabal believed.

Up rose the Greater Cleveland Congregation, a community organization of religious and other community groups. And organized.

The times, seasoned by national dissent, fertilized the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus. Protesters.

Together they rebelled. Their motto of rejection: “Not All In.” Open rejection of the arena deal. The big boys thought all was under control. It wasn’t.

The protests told them (and their bought politicians) this sale was not to be that easy.

They saw, felt, and knew of the distress in so many parts of the city.

Still the cabal—made up of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Downtown Alliance, and when needed such entities as the Cleveland Foundation, the Gund Foundation and the offshoots from the Plain Dealer to the Forest City gang, construction labor (of all sellouts) and others too numerous to name—was caught off guard.

What they thus produced was a vocal enemy.

So where does that put us?

In a better position. I’ve just heard that Council President Kevin Kelley, fearful of losing more than the six votes, didn’t present the arena legislation for third and final hearing Monday evening.

Sorry Danny but maybe you helped wake up this community.

They just couldn’t swallow this one.

By Roldo Bartimole…

First published by Have Coffee Will Write on DATE.

Also by Roldo Bartimole…

17 April 2017


0700 by Jeff Hess

1704017 non sequitur wiley miller english grammar rules

As I was walking through the teachers area one day I overheard an English teacher lament: Gawd I hate grammar!

17 April 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

While I continue to post daily updates on important stories concerning the Dakota Access Pipe Line under the Keep Carbon In The Ground banner, two stories popped up this morning that I feel deserve front-page treatment. The first concerns our governor John Richard Kasich and his decision at the beginning of November 2016 to send 37 Ohio State Troopers to confront protesters at Standing Rock.

Carrie Blackmore Smith, reporting in Kasich: I sent Ohio troopers to assist with security at Dakota Access Pipeline for the Cincinnati Enquirer writes:

As his administration continues to withhold details about the roles 37 troopers played at the pipeline protest in North Dakota last fall, Ohio Gov. John Kasich confirmed last week that he approved sending them.

“They can’t go there on their own, they have to ask me,” Kasich said, referring to Ohio State Highway Patrol, during an April 10 meeting with The Enquirer’s editorial board.

It might seem obvious for this power to rest with the governor, but until Monday, Kasich’s office had not provided a straight answer as to who authorized the mutual aid trip.

Ohio governors do not have a great track record when the topic of deploying force against protesters. That, perhaps, is why Gov. Kasich is hesitant to let Ohioans know what those 37 troopers did in our names.

As the highway patrol has refused to release details and records about Ohio’s role in the situation, tensions have grown.

The state denied requests for information from both The Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch, based on claims by state lawyers that the officers were undercover and providing security in a situation that could “prevent … or respond to acts of terrorism.”

Troopers undercover at Standing Rock? Experts say no.

Since then, videos have emerged of troopers spraying the protesters with chemicals and arming themselves before rushing in riot gear, in their state-owned cars, to clashes with protesters.

Last month, the Dispatch learned officers had used force against protestors.

A record was released “showing that a review by superiors found that the troopers’ use of force on the protesters was appropriate and within patrol policy,” according to the Dispatch article.

The state contends, however, that the public is not entitled to know either the frequency or type of force used, despite recommendations for transparency issued by the Ohio Collaborative Police-Community Advisory Board in 2015. The advisory board was organized with an executive order by Kasich, in response to clashes in Ohio and around the nation between police and the public.

When force is used in our names, we absolutely have the right, the obligation to know what our elected officials are doing and how that endangers all our lives.

Which brings me to the lie-fest that is the Presidency of Donald John Trump. Writing in Bold promises, fewer results: Trump’s executive orders don’t always live up to his claims, the Los Angeles Times‘ David Lauter reports:

It’s been one of President Trump’s favorite boasts since he took office: By his order, new oil and gas pipelines built in the U.S. will be made from American steel.

As is often the case, Trump has wrapped the claim into an anecdote he often repeats. Referring to his orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, Trump recalled last month that he interrupted the signing to ask, “Who makes those beautiful pipes for the pipeline?”

“Sir, they’re made outside of this country,” came the response.

“I said, ‘No more, no more.’ So we added a little clause—didn’t take much—that [if] you want to build pipelines in this country, you’re going to buy your steel, and you’re going to have it fabricated, here. Makes sense, right?”

The story has proved effective with Trump’s audiences, but it’s not an accurate description of what he did. It took the White House only a couple of weeks after the signing to acknowledge that the “Buy America” rule would not apply to Keystone. That would be unfair, officials said, because TransCanada, the company building the line, had long ago bought its pipe, some of it made in the U.S., and the rest in Canada, Italy and India.

Even so, White House officials have insisted that all future pipelines will be covered.

That’s not true, either, according to government documents and interviews with officials in the affected industries.

The actual number of pipelines covered by Trump’s Buy America rule could well be zero.

I have to remember this story the next time I encounter a Trumpist wearing a Make America Great Again hat.

17 April 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

17 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

I never imagined myself saying this privately, let alone in public, in print, but here I go: Thank you House Speaker Paul Davis Ryan and President Donald John Trump for awakening the sleeping giant and making Universal Healthcare a real possibility in America.

Ralph Nader, writing in Crash of Trumpcare Opens Door to Full Medicare for All explains:

You can thank House Speaker Ryan [who continues to avoid his constituents, JH] and President Trump for pushing their cruel health insurance boondoggle. This debacle has created a big opening to put Single-Payer or full Medicare for all prominently front and center. Single-Payer means everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of physician and hospital.

The Single-Payer system that has been in place in Canada for Decades comes in at half the cost per capita, compared to what the U.S. spends now. All Canadians are covered at a cost of about $4,500 per capita while in the U.S. the cost is over $9,000 per capita, with nearly 30 million people without coverage and many millions more underinsured.

Seventy-three members of the House of Representatives have co-signed Congressman Conyers’s bill, HR 676, which is similar to the Canadian system. These lawmakers like HR 676 because it has no copays, nasty deductibles or massive inscrutable computerized billing fraud, while giving people free choice and far lower administrative costs.

Often Canadians never even see a bill for major operations or procedures. Dr. Stephanie Wohlander, who has taught at Harvard Medical School, estimated Continue Reading »

16 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

Jesus and Mo explain the whole cruciversary thing…

*English is the only (at least European) language that uses a special word instead of the language’s version of Passover.

15 April 2017


1200 by Jeff Hess

Meeting the expectations, or the imagined (ours not theirs) expectations of others is a fool’s errand. Most people, I’ve found, are too busy dealing with their own craziness and if they’re not, they ought to be. We all just need to get on with what we thing is right and let the rest of the world deal.

That, to me, seems to be what Kurt Vonnegut was getting at in this letter to Don Farber. Vonnegut wrote:

I know it is the place of the man to do brilliant things with money, but this manhood thing has me completely worn out. I just want to be a writer.

—to Don Farber on 7 January 1972, p. 179

Can there be a better way to spend our brief time here?

15 April 2017


0800 by Jeff Hess

14 April 2017


1200 by Jeff Hess

This may be the most extreme example of a personal marshmallow test I have ever come across. Nadeem Aslam, writing in I take delight that my initials in Urdu look like a pen by an inkwell for The Guardian relates his experience:

There are afternoons when I don’t write, using the internet instead. I see the internet as a beautiful resource. Next to my writing desk is a blank sheet of A4 paper on to which I jot down things I need to look up – some to do with the book I am writing, others completely unrelated. Only when the sheet is full—on both sides—do I log on: it can take up to 10 days to fill the sheet. Then I go through the items one by one. A particular scene from a half-forgotten movie; the contemporary reviews of a classic novel … I stay logged on for as long as it takes to look everything up. Afterwards I pin a new sheet next to the desk.

My own practice is similar, but I don’t know that I could follow Aslam’s example of not looking up information until both sides of my paper were full. I find waiting until I’m done with the task at hand, at most a matter of an hour or two, difficult enough. This could be an interesting experiment.

13 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

Corporations are apolitical. They have a single purpose: maximize shareholder value. Every other goal is, by necessity and law, second to increasing wealth for those who own the business. Threaten that raison d’être and a corporation will take the fastest, most certain path to neutralizing that threat.

Want a corporation to pivot? Jam the brand.

Naomi Klein, in How To Jam The Trump Brand, for The Intercept, explains:

United’s stock plunges after video emerges of a passenger being violently dragged off an oversold flight. Pepsi yanks an ad that portrays police and Black Lives Matter-ish protestors making peace over a can of soda. Fox News faces an advertiser exodus after new revelations of massive payouts to settle sexual harassment and verbal abuse allegations against host Bill O’Reilly.

If there is one lesson that emerges from all these controversies it is this: Institutions organized around a powerful brand image—often understood as “a promise” from a corporation to its customers—are in big trouble when that image gets battered and the promise appears to have been broken. These facts make corporate brands intensely vulnerable to public pressure, particularly when that pressure is loud and organized.

President Donald John Trump, and all his family, view his presidency not as an opportunity to serve their nation, not a chance to give back to the country that has allowed them to accumulate so much privilege, but rather a golden-arched opening to grow more insanely wealthy from all the free publicity and influence being President of The United States of America entails.

Need proof? Consider First Lady Melania Trump’s successful suit against The Daily Mail in which she claimed she:

had the unique, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. …The product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

By reaching a settlement, First Lady Trump confirmed that power and influence, not a desire to service, drove her husband to seek and win his position as the most powerful person in the world. Klein continues:

Journalists have pointed out these conflicts many times, and Trump and his spawn have responded with a defiant shrug. This is happening for very simple reason: Trump isn’t playing by the normal rules of politics, in which elected representatives are accountable to voters and to an agreed upon set of standards. He’s playing by the rules of branding, in which companies are only accountable to their brand image.

Klein’s solution, relying on a strategy that she first outlines in her 1999 book—No Logo—concludes:

ever since I started writing about brand-based pressure campaigns and boycotts in the mid-1990s, research that turned into my first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. What I learned is that any brand—no matter how seemingly amoral—can be significantly weakened with the right tactics.

So, with that in mind, here’s a quick-and-easy guide for doing battle with the president in the only language he understands—his own brand.

Unhappy with our Marketer-In-Chief? Jam the Trump brand.

12 April 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

I just learned about The Bernie Sanders Show this morning while reading Adam Gabbatt’s The Bernie Sanders Show is interactive TV talk for the era of Facebook activism piece in The Guardian.

12 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

Back on 28 March, in response to a Guardian Long Read by Rebecca Solnit, I wrote:

Occupy was to millennials, perhaps, what the anti-war movement was to me and my fellow boomers. In many ways we lost our way in the ’70s and ’80s, but even then protest, the desire to fight for that society in which everyone counts, smoldered and even, at times flared, as Solnit describes.

We work towards that perfect society by studying the past; by building on the strategies and organizing principles of others.

President Donald John Trump has galvanized a core of Americans who were first awakened by the Occupy Wall Street movement in ways I don’t think the billionaires thought possible. Consider how in the last 36 hours millions of Americans became so outraged by United Airlines brutality that the company’s stock dipped.

That is a good outcome. The better outcome will follow from that rage repeated again and again until the billionaires and their political puppets become very, very scared.

Ellen M. Gilmer, reporting in DAKOTA ACCESS: No end in sight for courtroom battle for E&E News, writes:

Lasting legal fallout over the Dakota Access pipeline remains to be seen, but other impacts of the conflict have already taken hold.

Chief among them: a greater sense among developers of the risks of rapid public organizing against a project.

“They don’t want to attract the attention of the protests more than anything else,” said Brandon Barnes, litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “The companies are used to contending with permitting and legal challenges. These things happen all the time. But the new variable now is social media.”

Organizing and campaigning against projects that affect Indian Country may be more important than any courtroom battle, activist Chase Iron Eyes said.

“It’s pretty clear that United States jurisprudence doesn’t really have a grasp or a respect for Native nations,” he said. “We’re not going to win by hiring the best lawyers. That’s not how this works.”

No, Mr. Barnes, that is not how protest works in a world where news is no longer restricted to three national networks or even corporate-controlled broadcast media. In a world where the internet dominates, controlling the message becomes impossible and the resistance is no longer futile.

The Standing Rock protest is just the first of dozens? hundreds? of such examples of We The People exercising our constitutional right to assemble and protest peacefully.

We The People will recover what we’ve lost and push forward.

(And yes, we can, and do, have a sense of humor about all this.)

11 April 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

170412 saffiyah khan

How can we all not be moved by the bravery of Saffiyah Khan?

Of course, Khan is far from alone…

11 April 2017


1600 by Jeff Hess

In my day job I work with a range of students to help them more from their studies. While my work covers the gamut of topics, I probably spend more time on maths skills than any other subject. One of the messages I do my best to reinforce with my charges is that those who fail to understand how maths work are doomed to be conned (or, as I more often phrase the warning: played). Ignorant students grow up to be ignorant adults and our financial institutions whose very structure depends upon that ignorance are getting ever richer because they understand how to play their marks.

Ralph Nader, in The Savings and Stability of Public Banking writes:

As a society obsessed by money, we pay a gigantic price for not educating high school and college students about money and banking. The ways of the giant global banks—both commercial and investment operations—are as mysterious as they are damaging to the people. Big banks use the Federal Reserve to maximize their influence and profits. The federal Freedom of Information Act provides an exemption for matters that are “contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.” This exemption allows financial institutions to wallow in secrecy. Financial institutions are so influential in Congress that Senator Durbin (D-IL.) says “[The banks] frankly own this place.”

Although anti-union, giant financial institutions have significant influence over the investments of worker pension funds. Their certainty of being bailed out because they are seen as “too big to fail” harms the competitiveness of smaller, community banks and allows the big bankers to take bigger risks with “other people’s money,” as Justice Brandeis put it.

These big banks are so pervasive in their reach that even unions and progressive media, such as The Nation magazine and Democracy Now have their accounts with JP Morgan Chase.

The government allows banks to have concentrated power. Taxpayers and Consumers are charged excessive fees and paid paltry interest rates on savings. The bonds of municipalities are are also hit with staggering fees and public assets like highways and public drinking water systems are corporatized by Goldman Sachs Continue Reading »

11 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

10 April 2017


1700 by Roldo Bartimole

I was, but I shouldn’t have been, surprised to see Michael Nelson, leader of the local Cleveland NAACP, appearing before City Council today as a cheerleader for the newest huge subsidy for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs.

The NAACP, I thought, was supposed to represent primarily those who have needs, not a white billionaire. A billionaire looking to take money from the people he’s supposed to represent.

Yet, it should be no surprise, especially when you understand that the NAACP chapter here will soon be honoring Jimmy Haslam, another billionaire and sports team owner. Seem to love billionaires. Wonder why.

It’s the way goes these days.

It’s sad for me. I remember when one of the powerful political voices for Cleveland blacks and others who needed representation was the 21st District Caucus. The late Carl Stokes’ creation.

I remember speaking at a meeting of the caucus to oppose the first flood of public money for sports back in the early 1990s. The sin tax vote. It lost in Cleveland (with some help from Rep. Mary Rose Oakar on the west side.) When are west side taxpayers going to wake up to the con? (I had to laugh to hear some unctuous comments in favor of the latest give-away by newly elected president of the National League of Cities Matt Zone. Says something about all cities doesn’t it?

The 21st Caucus was chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes then. But it was Carl’s show. You see Carl was the one who propelled the caucus as a political power for blacks here. But he had become a judge. Judges don’t do public political fights. So Lou had to chair the meeting. But it was definitely a Carl parade on the Establishment.

Boy, do we need a Carl Stokes now.

Nelson was actually testifying before City Council’s finance committee Continue Reading »

9 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

8 April 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

I may have been blessed by my father’s decision to not give any great deal of good advice. In my life I can only recall three times when we discussed what I might do. The first was between 8th and 9th grades when he told me that he would do all that he could to support me in my decision to take college prep courses in high school. The second time came when I joined the Navy (a decision I told him about but did not consult him on—a repeat, I would learn years later, of his own experience in enlisting in the Army) and he offered these two pieces of advice: first, if I decided to get a tattoo, I shouldn’t get a girl’s name; and second, to take at least one day in a foreign port to get away from the bars and see where and how people lived. The third, and final time came after I took Mary Jo to Marietta to meet the folks. We had dinner at The Levee House. My father was saddened when I told him that my marriage was over 1999, but he was happy when he met Mary Jo. After the meal he took me aside and told me: she’s a keeper. He was right.

So, I’ve followed my father’s advice so far because he never tried to make me in the imagined image of how he might have been. Kurt Vonnegut, in writing to his daughter, shows much the same wisdom.

Most letters from a parent contain a parent’s own lost dreams disguised as good advice. My good advice to you is to pay somebody to teach you to speak some foreign language, to meet with you two or three times a week and talk. Also: get somebody to teach you to play a musical instrument. What makes this advice especially hollow and pious is that I’m not dead yet. If it were any good, I could easily take it myself.

—to Nanny Vonnegut on 20 September 1972, p. 187 Kurt Vonnegut: Letters.

7 April 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

What we know, live…

The question for We The People, President Donald John Trump and indeed the World must be:

Does the manner of murder of children matter, or are the murders of all children equal?

6 April 2017


1600 by Roldo Bartimole

It was like a bad dream. What was? The Ch. 20 viewing of some six hours of almost meaningless discussion of the city council’s give-away of millions of dollars to Dan Gilbert and his Quicken Arena gang. As if he needs it.

I’ve seen this movie before. Too many times. Up close.

This time it was another skimming of city taxes for a sports team.

Nothing unusual here, folks. Look the other way. Keep walking.

Council Chairman Tony Brancatelli proved to be as weak and unresponsive a chair as typical as he allowed testimony by the establishment’s front-men Fred Nance of Squire-Sanders and finance front-man (who had quickly quit Gateway to suggest clean hands) Tim Offtermatt of Stifel Nicolaus, and Cavs Caveman Len Komoroski. He was overseen by Council President Kevin Kelley, who put on a feeble show and left early.

Here’s Offtermatt’s take and bias on the last Gateway heist from his mouth:

The Cavaliers would have legal leeway to break their leases with the county and city, said Tim Offtermatt, chairman of Gateway Corp., the nonprofit that acts as landlord for the teams’ stadiums. He changes hats when there’s dough to be made and schemes to peddle.

Always the threats.

Earlier in the meeting—what I guess was supposed to be public comment—was limited and allowed a self-interested labor leader and a known front for minority construction hiring to share time with two actual community people.

What was so noticeable—except to the ill-observant Brancatelli—was the constant attempt to divert what the Greater Cleveland Congregation spokesperson Pastor Richard Gibson of the Elizabeth Baptist Church. The GCC is a coalition of church/community people organized to try to bring some participation in government by citizens. Obviously seen Continue Reading »

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