11 November 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

The Guardian emails:

Dear Jeff,

The crucial UN climate summit in Paris is now just three short weeks away. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the coverage the Guardian has planned for the coming weeks—with alterations and extras based on requests from readers and Keep it in the Ground supporters:

We will give you the history of the talks and background you need to understand why the negotiations are playing out as they are. We will also introduce you to the movers and shakers at the talks. What outcome are they pushing for and why?

Readers Rick Bazeley, Robert Humphries and many others wanted us to help make sense of the data on individual countries and how their pledges measure up. We’ve already acted on that. This major data interactive explains what each country is offering and how those pledges measure up.

Earnie Tuck and Karen Parlette asked which countries are putting serious pledges on the table, while Louise Power and David Feith asked whether countries are being ambitious enough to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. So far, the answer is no. But as the talks approach we’ll provide more analysis of what all this means and whether it is enough to stop planetary disaster.

Our team of reporters in Paris will stick closely to the key delegations and explain the progress of the talks – and what it all means. On the most significant days we’ll run live blogs so you can follow events as they unfold. Many of the nearly 2000 Keep it in the Ground supporters who responded to our survey last month said they wanted us to go beyond reporting what was happening at the talks and get deeper into the underlying motivations of the actors. What are the hidden obstacles to a deal? What are the vested interests in the background? One supporter from Wales summed it up as “the truth instead of spin please”.

Traditionally, the talks are a venue for major announcements from companies, city mayors and others about projects that will contribute to the goal of a low carbon global economy. Our reporters help sift the bold plans from the greenwash.

Many readers don’t just want information, they want to know how they can influence the process. “How can we, the public, make sure essential changes happen?” asked Kim Hunt, while Sheila Wright wanted to know who she should lobby to make her voice heard. We will make this an important strand of our coverage. Outside the conference halls, many environmental NGOs, trade unions, faith groups and others will be protesting for a strong deal. Much of that activism will take place in Paris but there will also be events around the world, not least the Global Climate March on 29th November. You can find your local event here.

A deal is only likely to stick if it is fair to developing countries that have done little to cause climate change but who will suffer the worst consequences. We’ve sent Guardian environment editor John Vidal to the Mekong river to look at the impacts on food, water and forests in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

During the two weeks of the conference, commentator George Monbiot will write a series of pieces about the impacts around the world that the media often misses. Here’s a taster.

Earlier this year, Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy curated a series of 20 poems on the theme of climate change by different authors. We will release recordings of actors including James Franco, Maxine Peake, Tamsin Greig, Gabriel Byrne and Jeremy Irons reading the poems.

Thanks again for your feedback and requests. Just reply to this e-mail if you have other ideas you’d like us to follow.


James Randerson, assistant national editor

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

11 November 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

10 November 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

I’ve always been a bit of a cave dweller, a person who prefers darkened spaces with only the minimum of task lighting, and now Oliver Burkeman has provided me with a rational: I’m disinhibited in such places.

Burkeman writing in Anonymity isn’t just for crooks and trolls for The Guardian expounds:

Inhibition and disinhibition are troublesome terms, though. They paper over the fact that disinhibition can be a good thing: if feeling anonymous frees some people to be dishonest, it frees others to perform at their best. Recent German research reveals that people do significantly better at creative tasks in dimly lit rooms. There’s a parallel here with the rough-draft stage of writing—crucial, as almost any writer will confirm, because it permits experimentation without feeling observed.

I’m writing this in the pre-dawn darkness with only my desk light illuminating my work space. No wonder I feel so creative.

10 November 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Yes, that Timothy McGee

8 November 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

Lynn Johnston writes:

I had such an island. I don’t know if it was the story of Peter Pan or a project my mom gave us to do, but I had an imaginary island, and it was real.

One rainy North Vancouver day, my mom mixed up a paste using flour and water (and some other things), cut out flat cardboard bases, and helped my brother and me form an island in the middle of each one. We had to make mountains and bays, and when the paste was dry and hard, we coloured our islands with poster paint.

I took this project seriously. The ocean around my island was the deepest blue-green. There was a sandy beach in a rocky horseshoe-shaped bay. There was a forested mountain, and a jungle where I could pick tropical fruit. As I painted my island, I thought about how I got there and what I had to work with. A shipwreck was part of my story, of course, and I built an imaginary shack out of the remnants of a washed-up hull. I had a garden and I made a path to the mountaintop where I could watch for ships. Sometimes, a sailor or a passenger would be washed up on my shore and I would have imaginary adventures with this visitor. The visitors never stayed for long. It was, after all, my private imaginary space.

I daydreamed about this island all the time. When I was being bullied, I went to my island. When I was in trouble (sometimes for being a bully!), I went to my island. If I had a crush on a boy, he might be washed up on the island. Sometimes if a teacher was particularly nice, she might appear there, too. This fantasy went on until I was in high school! Even when I was well beyond childhood, I’d still find myself thinking, “You are allowed on my island.” Or, “You are NOT allowed on my island!” It was a refuge. I was safe there. I had supreme control. There were no rainy days. It was a place of peace, and I think it helped me to survive some difficult times.

The island disappeared after many years…but I can still bring it into focus if I try.

Of course, having a place to live on your island is preferable.

8 November 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

doonesbury 151108

As Mark once famously told us, Exxon is Guilty! Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!!

Exxon, however, is far from alone

7 November 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

The Guardian emails:

Dear Jeff,

Guardian readers have asked us to report more often on stories of hope—and so we have turned to Africa. From Morocco to South Africa, we’ve covered some of the communities and governments who have turned to solar power – not just as a way to fight climate change, but to bring some people electricity for the first time.

As Erick Kabendera found in Tanzania, solar is not just helping health centres and on the way to lighting up 1m homes, but it’s keeping snakes away too.

In Burundi, despite civil unrest and violence, one of the continent’s most ambitious solar projects is moving ahead on 17 hectares of land in Mubuga village. David Smith heard how it’ll change lives, as well as creating hundreds of jobs.

On an even bigger scale is Morocco, where Arthur Neslen visited the edge of the Sahara desert to find out more about plans for a mega solar plant. Once complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world.

We’re not the only ones to find these projects hopeful. So do leading figures such as former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who calls lack of access to electricity as “intolerable, avoidable and profoundly unfair” for Africans. He believes solar holds the answer.

Please continue to share your reporting requests with us. Just reply to this e-mail with ideas.


Adam Vaughan, online environment editor

Previously in The Guardian emails…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

3 November 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

roldo caveliers 151103

We’re into the quicksand of borrowing and spending for wealthy sports owners again without the news media EVER trying to put into context what we are spending for Haslam, Dolan and Gilbert.

Context makes the real picture. Ugly.

Just how much corporate welfare flows would be too revealing. Too shocking. So the media ignore the obvious.

But the public has a right to know. Just how out of balance is our local public agenda? Just how deep into the public pockets are these civic forces, led by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the foundation gang?

We’re not talking simple crony capitalism here. This is straight-out corrupt capitalism at its best. Or should we say worst.

The latest is a $65 million bond issue for the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers. Why? Because they want it. Isn’t’ that reason enough?

I’m not sure why bonds are needed at all, even if you wanted to pay for Jimmy Haslam’s and Dan Gilbert’s gizmos – scoreboards and sound systems. Like we need a bigger TV at the games and louder noise?

This kind of corruption trumps tiki huts and pizza ovens that prosecutors hunt. It doesn’t rate attention of our negligent reporters either.

We did pass another sin tax for the sports moguls. The money IS flowing in.

The sin tax, according to the latest September Cuyahoga County figures, shows an account balance of $20.3-million. Further, the total monthly revenue Continue Reading »

1 November 2015


1800 by Jeff Hess

keef 151101

1 November 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

I didn’t watch the debate (no TV/cable, don’t you know) but I caught the highlights on line and I thought Bernie did well. Ralf Nader takes a broader view and comes down hard on the process in general and Hillary in particular.

The most remarkable part of the Democrats’ “debate” was how Hillary Clinton got away with her assertions and then got rewarded – though not in the subsequent polls, but by the pundits and malleable critics like the Washington Post’s usually cynical Dana Milbank who fell very hard for the Clintonian blarney.

Well-prepared and battle-tested in many political debates, Hillary knows how to impress conventional political reporters, while limiting their follow-up questions. She started with her latest political transformation early on. “I don’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive commitment…. I’m a progressive.”

And the moon is made of blue cheese. Hillary Clinton, a progressive? She is the arch Wall Street corporatist, who hobnobs with criminal firms like Goldman Sachs for $250,000 a speech, and goes around the country telling closed-door business conventions what they want to hear for $5,000 a minute!

I agree. Nader was not all that impressed with Bernie’s performance either, and offers this advice:

Senator Bernie Sanders missed opportunities to highlight Hillary Clinton’s true corporatist and militarist identity. Most unfortunately, she placed him on the defensive with the socialist/capitalist questioning. Next time, Bernie Sanders should tell the millions of voters watching the “debates” that local socialism is as American as apple pie, going back to the 18th Century, by mentioning post offices, public highways, public drinking water systems, public libraries, public schools, public universities, and public electric companies as examples.

He then could add that global corporations are destroying competitive capitalism with their corporate state or crony capitalism, despised by both conservatives and progressives.

That is a message that resonates.

1 November 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

tom peters 151019

One of the actions I occasionally take is to walk the halls with a student. I tell my students that what happens in the hallway stays in the hallway (with the caveat that if I think they’re in danger I will take steps to protect them). I ask questions, they talk, I listen.

The process is not all that complicated.


1 November 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

People sometimes wonder why I stock up on non-perishable goods so much. I’m not a hoarder and I’m not worried about the zombie apocalypse. I just think that since the interest rate on my saving account—0.05 percent—is less than inflation (1.62 percent in 2014) that I’m ahead if I buy goods for tomorrow with today’s dollars

In publishing a letter to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, Ralph Nader is not so sanguine on the situation:

We are a group of humble savers in traditional bank savings and money market accounts who are frustrated because, like millions of other Americans over the past six years, we are getting near zero interest . We want to know why the Federal Reserve, funded and heavily run by the banks, is keeping interest rates so low that we receive virtually no income for our hard-earned savings while the Fed lets the big banks borrow money for virtually no interest. It doesn’t seem fair to put the burden of your Federal Reserve’s monetary policies on the backs of those Americans who are the least positioned to demand fair play.

We follow the reporting on your tediously over-dramatic indecision as to when interest rates will be raised – and no one thinks that when you do, it will be any more than one quarter of one percent. We hear the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and the various regional board presidents regularly present their views of the proper inflation and unemployment rate, and on stock market expectations that influence their calculations for keeping interest rates near-zero. But we never hear any mention of us – the savers of trillions of dollars who have been forced to make do with having the banks and mutual funds essentially provide a lock-box for our money while they use it to make a profit for their firms and, in the case of the giant banks and large mutual funds, pay their executives exorbitant salaries..

We are tired of this melodrama that exploits so many people who used to rely on interest income to pay some of their essential bills. Think about the elderly among us who need to supplement their social security checks every month.

Yeah, think about someone other than the one percent.

28 October 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

Bernie Sanders emails:

Dear Jeff,

You already know that I don’t go around asking millionaires and billionaires for money, and I don’t have a super PAC. This campaign is funded by individual contributions that largely come in response to emails like this one.

Increasingly, people have been making monthly contributions to sustain our political revolution for the long haul. People like Olga in New York who wrote to me saying:

My contribution is very small but I know if we all pull together to make a monthly contribution (no matter how small) then we can truly make a difference. The other candidates have a few people with lots of money, but Bernie has lots of people, and that’s what’s needed to win this election.

Olga’s monthly contribution is important because while we have made great gains in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, we will also have to win many of the states that come after the first four. And in just four months there are a series of 11 primaries and caucuses known as Super Tuesday that could be a make-or-break day for our political revolution.

Right now, almost 100,000 individuals have signed up to make a recurring contribution every month to our campaign. I am very proud of that fact.

So join Melanie from Ohio who told me,

I make this monthly contribution with sacrifice, because although I work hard everyday, my two children don’t have a chance without the change Bernie represents!

And Mary Francis from New Hampshire who added,

I am a minister, Hospice Chaplain, University adjunct faculty and single mother of three. Bernie stands for all of the morals and values of caring for one another as citizens of this country and brothers and sisters in the human family. I am happy to support his campaign with my small monthly contribution and will do what I can in giving my time and energy to his platform for a return to a democratic government of the people, for the people, by the people.

Join Olga, Melanie, and Mary Francis with your recurring contribution for four months and we’ll have the resources we need to win on Super Tuesday.

From day one, the strength of our campaign has been the collective power of people coming together and saying we’ve had enough with the billionaire class buying our democracy: people attending organizing meetings, making phone calls, leafleting in their communities, contributing to our campaign, and more.

What we’re proving here, to everyone watching, is that if we stand together, we will win.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

28 October 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

I first posted this video back in June of last year. Listen very carefully to Francis Marion’s words (as interpreted by Walt Disney in 1959) beginning at the 7:25 minute mark and you’ll understand why all imperial adventurism and colonialism ultimately fails. The situation has not improved.

Roldo Bartimole sent me a copy of Ralph Nader’s thought on the matter. Nader begins:

The photographs in the New York Times told contrasting stories last week. One showed two Taliban soldiers in civilian clothes and sandals, with their rifles, standing in front of a captured U.N. vehicle. The Taliban forces had taken the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. The other photograph showed Afghan army soldiers fully equipped with modern gear, weapons, and vehicles.

Guess who is winning?

The mightiest military force of the 18th century couldn’t defeat a rag tag bunch of colonials in our own war of secession. Perhaps we’re emboldened by the results of our second such fight, but our track record since has not been great. Nader continues:

ISIS forces from Syria have taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, and the battered city of Fallujah. ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria are estimated to number no more than 35,000. Like the Taliban, ISIS fighters, who vary in their military training, primarily have light weaponry. That is when they are not taking control of the fleeing, much larger, Iraqi army’s armored vehicles and ammunition from the United States.

Against vastly greater numbers of Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. weapons, U.S. planes bombing daily, 24/7 aerial surveillance, and U.S. military advisors at the ground level, so far ISIS is still holding most of its territory and is still dominant in large parts of Syria.

The American people are entitled to know how all this military might and the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2003 and 2001 respectively, can produce such negative fallouts.

I agree, but since we don’t have a universal draft (I’m a big fan) most families don’t have a dog in the hunt and we’re able to disregard death tolls because no one we know is dying.

Donald Trump suggested we build a fence. Most people laughed. Cartoonist Scott Adams—who repeatedly warms against taking advice from a cartoonist—writes:

To kill an idea, you need a hypnotist, or someone skilled in the art of persuasion. I’ll describe one way to do it. I do not expect any of the candidates to favor this approach. So what follows is not a policy suggestion so much as an example of how a trained hypnotist would kill an idea.

[As always, don’t take cartoonists too seriously. In this blog we kick around new ideas for entertainment. New readers of this blog need to know I am a trained hypnotist.]

A hypnotist would start by defining ISIS in a way that is true (enough) but provides some sort of psychological advantage. For example, you could start by defining the ISIS brand of Islam as “historical” as opposed to modern. That might not be the right world, but you get the idea. We want a label that is fresh (such as “low-energy” or “nice”) so we can imbue it with the qualities we want. In this model, we stop using the old language of “religious extremists” and similar labels because the old words have not helped us enough.

Then we A-B test historical Islam versus modern Islam to see which one does best.

For a cartoonist, Adams does well. At least he seems to be thinking beyond the current bomb them back to the stone age 7th century strategy that is working so well.

Nader continues:

Our “blowback” policies are fueling the expansion of al-Qaeda offshoots and new violent groups in over 20 countries. On 9/11, the “threat” was coming from a corner of one country – northeastern Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney prevaricator frenzy led to local bounty hunters taking innocent captives, falsely labeled as “terrorists,” who were sent to the prisons in Guantanamo, Cuba. These actions have damaged our country’s reputation all over the world.

That is why they hate us. That was why the Vietnamese, whose leader, Ho Chi Minh, wanted to be the George Washington of his country, came to hate us. We need, as Nader concludes, to tell our elected leaders were tired of their bullshit.

Not repeatedly doing what has failed is the first step toward correction. How much better and cheaper it would be if years ago we became a humanitarian power – well received by the deprived billions in these anguished lands.

What changes are needed to get out of these quagmires and leave a semblance of recovery behind? Press those gaggles of presidential candidates, who war-monger with impunity or who are dodging this grave matter, for answers. Make them listen to you.

27 October 2015


1500 by Jeff Hess

tom peters 101527

One of my heroes, Admiral Hyman Rickover, was more emphatic: Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience.


26 October 2015


1500 by Jeff Hess

Emo Philips gets his due, sort of.

This morning I received thrilling news: a joke I wrote more than 20 years ago has been voted the funniest religious joke of all time! In case you’ve missed it, here it is:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

He said, “A Christian.”

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”

He said, “Protestant.”

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”

He said, “Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Who said the gawd-fearing have no sense of humor?

24 October 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

2015 hottest yet

Last week I finished an essay written as a guest column for my local free weekly: The North Royalton Post. No word yet whether or not The Post will publish the essay, but after reading Jon Queally’s ‘Never Seen Anything Like This Before’ as 2015 Set to Be Hottest Year on Record for Common Dreams, I decided not to wait.

The North Royalton Post published my essay today in the 28 November issue. You can find my copy of the essay here. I’ll add the link to The Post’s copy as soon as they post the column to their website.

23 October 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

The Guardian emails:

Dear Jeff,

When the Guardian launched phase II of Keep it in the Ground we promised to keep you abreast of all the key moves ahead of the Paris climate summit in December.

To recap, the summit is the latest in the annual round of meetings (Conferences of the Parties in UN jargon) to thrash out a global deal on climate change. The talks have been building up to Paris 2015 after the disappointing ending at Copenhagen in 2009.

Here’s a backgrounder on the talks.

This time around, there is widespread optimism that there will be a deal. Why? Because the talks are much further advanced than at the equivalent stage before Copenhagen. Over 150 countries representing 90% of the world’s emissions have already put their greenhouse gas curbing pledges on the table (our big data interactive will help you get to the bottom of what they mean).

Another factor is the French hosts. They have poured a huge amount of diplomatic capital into making these talks a success. Here’s an extract from a piece by the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey, a veteran of reporting many UN climate talks, on France’s diplomatic push:

Every one of France’s ambassadors, in embassies and consulates around the globe, has been educated on the demands of climate change, and instructed in how to communicate the messages to the governments they deal with, ahead of the summit, which starts on 30 November. Ambassadors have been holding public events, private meetings, talks with their diplomatic counterparts, businesses, NGOs and even schoolchildren. At home, the outer walls of the foreign ministry, a stately 19th-century edifice on the banks of the Seine, are covered in a series of banners declaring, in several languages, the messages of Paris Climat 2015. Even the Eiffel Tower. further down the riverbank, has been pressed into service, lit up at night with climate slogans…Climate diplomacy has never seen such a concerted push.

Another hopeful development this week was the landslide by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the Canadian elections. The outgoing PM Stephen Harper turned Canada into an international climate pariah so Trudeau’s promise to take part in Paris can only have a positive impact on the talks. But, says US environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg, let’s not get carried away. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Your sincerely,

James Randerson

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

Previously in The Guardian emails…

21 October 2015


1500 by Jeff Hess

We will need comprehensive policies and programs that make low-carbon choices easy and convenient for everyone. Most of all, these policies need to be fair, so that the people already struggling to cover the basics are not being asked to make additional sacrifice to offset the excess consumption of the rich. That means cheap public transit and clean light rail accessible to all; affordable, energy-efficient housing along those transit lines; cities planned for high-density living; bike lanes in which riders aren’t asked to risk their lives to get to work; land management that discourages sprawl and encourages local, low-energy forms of agriculture; urban design that clusters essential services like schools and health care along transit routes and in pedestrian-friendly areas; programs that require manufacturers to be responsible for the electronic waste they produce, and to radically reduce built-in redundancies and obsolescences. p. 91

From This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Found in my electronic chapbook.

20 October 2015


1500 by Jeff Hess

Not all the episodes of Mystery in the history of Public Broadcasting could ever wash away the stink from a pathologically destructive company like Exxon Mobile. For years I have offered $100 to anyone who could point me to a scientific paper, published in a juried publication, by authors not in the employ of, or financially supported by, a fossil fuel company. My money has always been safe although two or three fools actually took me up on the offer and I traced the link from their author to a petrochemical company in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Now I discover that what I’ve been pointing to all along may actually be against federal law.

That I didn’t know.

Writing in Sanders Joins Call for DOJ Investigation into Exxon’s Climate Coverup for Common Dreams, Nadia Prupis lessens my ignorance:

Arguing the oil giant’s behavior may “ultimately qualify as a violation of federal law,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday joined a chorus of voices calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an official fraud investigation into Exxon Mobil’s decades-long efforts to suppress the scientific connection between carbon emissions and climate change.

“Based on available public information, it appears that Exxon knew its product was causing harm to the public, and spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the facts in the public discourse. The information that has come to light about Exxon’s past activities raises potentially serious concerns that should be investigated,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Exxon Mobil knew the truth about fossil fuels and climate change and lied to protect their business model at the expense of the planet,” Sanders added in a statement.

I recently wrote an essay on related to this topic for publication. I expect to post the piece here soon.

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