30 March 2015


0900 by Jeff Hess

In my moldy and decayed collection of eight-track tapes there was (I tossed them all two moves ago, but kept a list of what I had) was the two-tape collection of George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, the mother of all benefit concerts. George and all the musicians who came together would not be happy with what the country has become.

A blogger known for his atheist views has been stabbed to death in Bangladesh, in the latest of a series of attacks on independent writers in the emerging south Asian nation.

Washiqur Rahman, 27, died of serious injuries inflicted in the assault on Monday morning in Dhaka, the capital.

Police have arrested two men, reported to be religious students, for the murder, which comes just weeks after an American atheist blogger was also killed in Dhaka, in a crime that triggered international outrage.

Local police chief Wahidul Islam told Agence France-Presse the victim had been “brutally hacked to death this morning with big knives just 500 yards [460 metres] from his home at Dhaka’s Begunbari area.”

Speech is the ultimate revolutionary act.

29 March 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

How could John Oliver have possibly missed Linndale…?

28 March 2015


1700 by Jeff Hess

This week President Barack Obama spoke out against the incredible subsidy sweeteners given rich sports owners.

In a historic move, President Obama’s new budget proposes eliminating the longstanding practice by governments of forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for wealthy sports franchises to build, renovate, and maintain costly stadiums. For far too long, this shameless giveaway has left city budgets in ruins while showering the franchise owners with hundreds of millions in corporate welfare.

The article follows with this:

President Obama’s not having it any more. In a small article placed in his 2016 budget proposal, he called for ending tax-free government bonds for sports facilities, which have cost taxpayers $4 billion over the past thirty years. Republicans, of course, have immediately refused to pass it because it would mean the franchises would have to pay taxes on it like the rest of us, which they see as just more “big government” restricting businesses. In reality, they just protecting a significant source of campaign donations- over a quarter million dollars to Republican candidates in the last year alone – and it’s common sense to lift such a burden off the taxpayers; as sports economist John Vrooman puts it, “Pres. Obama ends up being the fiscally conservative responsible adult.”

If cities are giving away revenue to wealthy team owners and developers, the federal government would be wise to cut revenue streams to those cities.

They apparently don’t need federal help. That’s what they’re saying.

We haven’t had an adult political leader here in memory.

And I don’t see one on the horizon either.

Too bad Cleveland. Too bad Cuyahoga.

By Roldo Bartimole…

28 March 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

The process began for me 20 years ago when I rearranged my closet and drawers so that I added clean clothes to the left and removed clothes to wear from the right. The idea was that I never had to think for a second: what am I going to wear today? I’ve since added various modifications so that I don’t have to decide trivial. The routines also help me avoid the random distractions that can throw an entire day into chaos.

If such planning can help someone as simple as me, just imagine how your day might go better if you’re the leader of the free world.

Oliver Burkeman writing in What can we really learn from Obama? for The Guardian writes:

The president, Lewis reveals, is up to speed on research into “decision fatigue”, which suggests that making decisions depletes your capacity for making further decisions; accordingly, he tries to eliminate unnecessary choices. “I wear only grey or blue suits,” he told Lewis. “I’m trying to pare down decisions… You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinise yourself.” You needn’t be making decisions about military interventions to find this approach useful. In any life, there are minutiae, and there are things that matter. Being monotonous in your handling of the former means you stand more chance of excelling in the latter.

You can’t pursue the excellent while expending all your energy on the SQUIRREL trivial.

27 March 2015


1500 by Jeff Hess

roldo nader quote 150327

Wow, what a surprise!

Cuyahoga County seems to be running out of money. Can’t borrow, County Executive Armond Budish tells the Plain Dealer.

Can’t borrow for MetroHealth Medical Center but can for a hotel that will be a big money loser. Great Democratic politics.

And the PD didn’t know about this? What another surprise. Especially since the PD applauds whenever Cleveland or Cuyahoga County spends like a drunken sailor. Or gives subsidies or forgives or shifts property taxes. Give it away!

Or wants to build what it really can’t afford.

The Hyatt Hotel deal owned and paid for by taxpayers, will drain the County’s revenue and bleed red ink for the foreseeable future. They didn’t know this?

We want sports stadiums, tax-abated downtown housing, and property taxes shifted to pay for private development. All draining the public coffers.

I reported last September that Cuyahoga County has awarded tax abatements of $722,339,500. I asked only for abatements of more than $1 million. Also reported to me by the County that $2.3 billion of properties have some tax incremental financing attached to their properties. The actual loss of revenue was unknown. You also will see the loss of revenue from the sports stadiums here, all tax exempted forever.

Meanwhile, we have serious needs that go unmet here. And the PD reported today that the County continues to lose population. I wonder if anyone figures that some of that loss should be figured into the often-cited benefits of subsidies cited as income boosts here.

We keep increasing taxes and fees. The quarter percent sales tax for the med mart and convention center (losing money already); the extended sin tax for 20 years and some of the fees we never hear much about—the establishment of an 8 percent parking tax in Cleveland and the added 2 percent admission tax to give the Browns essentially free rent and no property taxes and the same for the Rock Hall. The taxes for stadiums, arts and convention center, as of a month ago, total for each respectively $129 million; $142 million and $264 million collected, according the Cuyahoga County. That’s more than $500 million in regressive taxes. And on they go.

Hundreds of millions in subsidies are given to developers.

Just last week another such project was announced in the PD for Orange—another luxury retail mall development, as if it were needed. Surely more than a good hospital.

Yet the developersadvantaged by the former Gov. George Voinovich’s generous highway money, some $139-million for access to I-271 with an interchange at Harvard Road are asking for more tax bennies.

They want TIF – taxes used for private infrastructure instead public uses. The diverted TIF taxes would go on for 30 years! TIFs take property tax revenue from cities, county, sometimes schools and libraries.

You homeowners and renter will have to pick up the slack.

By Roldo Bartimole…

26 March 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

I found the exchange between Louis Black and Amy Holmes (with a spot on audience reaction) that begins at about 3:40 to be particularly instructive.

For important background on Cruz’s talk to the captive—students are fined $10 if they don’t attend (I’m betting that there is some less financial but stiffer penalty, $10 is to little to influence a college student) these massed meetings—audience.

25 March 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

YAY WALMART, NO SERIOUSLY, YAY WALMART…! Fast forward to the 3:05 time mark if you must, but come on, how many people would ever expect Jon Stewart to deliver a positive message for Walmart? Perhaps because the company recognizes that with… Keep reading…

RAISES MASK HOURS AND SCHEDULING RIFTS… Walmart’s decision to raise wages first to $9 and then $10 an hour is already having positive effects on competitors, including Target, but getting even a raise to $20 an hour is not all that great when you… Keep reading…

$1 MILLION FIGHT ON PRINCIPLE NOW OVER… Reading the news today concerning Jdimytai Damour reminded me that there are literally hundreds of stories here at The Writing On The Wal that have not been adequately followed. Damour’s story… Keep reading…

WILL HIGHER WAGES DRAW MORE NON-FELONS…? Here’s an angle I hadn’t considered concerning the reasons why Walmart decided to raise wages now. This particular hypothesis is weaker than most, but I can see this coming up during a meeting as an… Keep reading…

RIGHT TO WORK BE EXPLOITED… Right-To-Work advocates have wet dreams about sweat shops in Bangladesh and work gangs in the antebellum South. Without organized labor there would be no 40-hour work week, there would be no lunch… Keep reading…

SEC OKS INDEPENDENT CHAIR VOTE… The International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund wants the next chair of Walmart to be independent of the Walton family. Current Chairman Rob Walton, son of company founder Sam Walton does… Keep reading…

NWIMBY ROUNDUP FOR 22 MARCH… The Writing On The Wal began life as No Cleveland Walmart back in 2005 in response to what would become the first, and only, Walmart within the city limits of Cleveland. No story has become more ubiquitous in my… Keep reading…

GOOD ON YOU KEVIN WESTLEY…! We have experience here at The Writing On The Wal when we’re talking about Walmart and offensive t-shirts. As someone with many of Irish blood in my extended family—both here and in County Donegal—I think … Keep reading…

HOW DO WE FIX CAPITALISM…? Every Wednesday I cross post what I’ve written here to my other blog, Have Coffee Will Write, but I can’t recall the last time, if ever, that I brought something from there to here. I thought while writing this plug… Keep reading…

WALMART V. DUKES STILL HAUNTS… In the world of law, precedent is everything and no case has been more important to Walmart than the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 in the matter of Walmart v. Dukes. That case haunts that of… Keep reading…

WALMART AS A FORCE FOR GOODINESS…? I don’t have the figure at hands, but I can imagine that over the past two or three decades, Walmart has imported tens? hundreds? of billions of dollars worth of cheap plastic crap from China at the expense… Keep reading…

WALMART V. TRINITY IS NOT ABOUT GUNS; CORPORATE GOVERNANCE IS THE ISSUE… The reasoning runs something like this: Walmart, as the largest retailer in America, and the largest private-sector employer in much of the country, affects… Keep reading…

DO WALMART CHILDREN MISS BREAKFAST…? I have taught in an inner-ring suburb school where the students seldom get a snow day, even when most other schools are closed, because the breakfast and lunch they get at school may be the only food… Keep reading…

Previously on Walmart Wednesday

25 March 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

non sequitur 150325

25 March 2015


0748 by Jeff Hess

Last week Scott Adams asked about gender bias in the workplace. This week he explores the issue of anti-science bias in politics and who is worse: Republicans or Democrats. (In light of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s vocal support for the anti-vaccination crowd this week, I think this is particularly pertinent.)

Against all odds, it appears my post last week on gender bias in the workplace has been accepted as “balanced” by both the feminist side and the Red Pill guys on Reddit. I am confident no one saw that coming.

[I scrubbed more bias out of it over the weekend based on critiques. Updates at the end of the piece.]

That was the first test of a “system” for curating debates with an eye toward removing bias. The key to making it work seems to be a willingness to include both sides, and to update as new information arrives. And it has to be done in public so folks see the work.

Can the system work again? Let’s test it. I will intentionally pick one of the most politicized (and absurd) debates, run it through our system, and see if it can wring most of the bias out.

The question is whether Republicans or Democrats are more “anti-science.” Obviously there are plenty of pro-science folks in both parties. So we will be dealing with comical stereotypes.

So why bother?

I think the debate on a national level is a distraction. Perhaps we can take it off the table so the country can focus on something useful. If you think the other party is the “anti-science” party, why would you ever take them seriously? So while the debate is somewhat absurd, it has a big impact on the real world.

I will start the system by priming it with a first draft verdict. Submit your links and comments to refine this “living” debate. I will update as needed.

Here is the starting point of my anti-science balance sheet for Republicans and Democrats. And remember we are only dealing with comical stereotypes. There is no claim that any individual fits what follows.

For this first draft, I see the anti-science topics sorted this way.

Republicans (stereotype)

Deny evolution
Mostly religious
Laffer Curve (supply-side economics)
Climate change not caused by people
Anti-vax [update – no on list for both parties]

Democrats (stereotype)

Believe a gender pay gap of 25% comparing same jobs
Mostly religious
Climate change alarmism (as opposed to denying)

President Jimmy Carter may have been the only U.S. president with a science background and we all know how that turned out. Why do we wonder that our politicians, at least when they speak in public, present a we’re-all-dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers personae?

Adams declares a tie:

Claim 7: The question of who is more anti-science is impossible to answer because you can not distinguish between ignorance versus true anti-science behavior. Also, one can not distinguish between ignorance of science and a rational desire to avoid the risk of the unknown. For example, the issues of fracking, GMOs, and nuclear power, can have opponents of all types and for different reasons.

Verdict: True. And I am going to claim this as a successful test of the system for turning irrational opinions into rational outcomes. It was not obvious to me before starting this exercise that the question is too faulty to be useful. Nor was it obvious to me that the alleged anti-science thinking was so widespread in both major parties and crossed so many topics.

So I declare a tie on the question of “which party is more anti-science.”

I am closing down this debate as being unproductive beyond this point. Normally the model would involve keeping a debate open indefinitely so it evolves and improves. But this debate is not worth the effort. It was, however, a great test of the system.

24 March 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

As we approach the 8th anniversary of our most recent Minsky Moment we still do not know how to prevent the next one. What we ought to know is that repeating the prophylactics of the past is, by one popular definition of the word bat-shit crazy insane, well, insane.

Could the answer come from a Python? Perhaps.

This is the year that economics might, if we are lucky, turn a corner. There’s a deluge of calls for change in the way it is taught in universities. There’s a global conference at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, where the giants of radical economics – including Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – will get their biggest ever mainstream platform. And there’s a film where a star of Monty Python talks to a puppet of Hyman Minsky.

Terry Jones’s documentary film Boom Bust Boom hits the cinemas this month. Using puppetry and talking heads (including mine), Jones is trying to popularise the work of Minsky, a US economist who died in 1996 but whose name has become for ever associated with the Lehman Brothers crash. Terrified analysts labelled it the “Minsky moment”.

Minsky’s genius was to show that financially complex capitalism is inherently unstable. Under conditions of stability, firms, banks and households will, over time, move from a position where their income pays off their debt, to one where it can only meet the interest payments on it. Finally, as instability rises, and central banks respond by expanding the supply of money, people end up borrowing just to pay back interest. The price of shares, homes and commodities rockets. Bust becomes inevitable.

This logical and coherent prediction was laughed at until it came true. Mainstream economics had convinced itself that capitalism tends towards equilibrium; and that any shocks must be external. It did so by reducing economic thought to the construction of abstract models, which perfectly describe the system 95% of the time, but break down during critical events.

This reminds me of one definition of war, from the view of those actually fighting, as days and weeks of seemingly everlasting tedium and boredom separated by brief moments of inconceivable terror. I’m all for eliminating that terror bit.

24 March 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

One of my nephews, upon graduation from high school, proclaimed that he would never have to read another book again.

That is bad, but I know there are people who will think this 5 minute and 28 second video too long and boring to watch.

From Nancie Atwell, the first recipient of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Given choice, however, we can learn to be readers. For me the gateway was Science Fiction and Fantasy. Reading is a muscle and reading what you ought to read is like attempting to follow an exercise program that someone else developed.

23 March 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

rebel in hollywood

As a rule, I don’t watch the extras on DVDs because I have found them generally to be masturbatory filler. This has not been the case with the documentary Dalton Trumbo: Rebel In Hollywood found on 2009 DVD release.

This hour-long documentary explores the career of Dalton Trumbo, his struggles as a member of the Hollywood Ten, and the creative challenges he faced turning his celebrated novel JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN into a film. His son, Christopher Trumbo, narrates and discusses the film’s concept, the source novel, and his father’s life and Hollywood legacy. Trumbo’s former colleagues and a few stars, such as cinematographer Jules Brenner and blacklisted actress Marsha Hunt, comment on the screenwriter-director’s career.

I have seldom invested in a more instructive hour.

22 March 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

scrooge mcduck

When billionaires say their taxes are too low, other billionaires say fine, cut a check. This disingenuous response hides, however, the core message wealthy people like Warren Buffet, Nick Hanauer and now Stephen King wish to deliver. They believe, indeed the majority of people worth more than $1 million believe, that all people with more money than they can possible spend need to stop acting like Scrooge McDuck swimming in their vaults of gold and assume responsible roles in the society from which they drew their riches.

Stephen King writes:

At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist view that firing teachers with experience was sort of a bad idea), I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, “How come I’m not paying 50?” The governor of New Jersey did not respond to this radical idea, possibly being too busy at the all-you-can-eat cheese buffet at Applebee’s in Jersey City, but plenty of other people of the Christie persuasion did.

Cut a check and shut up, they said.

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

I think that if we were to examine the lifestyles of those who favor taxation over those who do not, we might discover an instructive difference.

21 March 2015


2100 by Jeff Hess

I read Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 Johnny Got His Gun when I was in high school in the early ’70s, but I never saw the 1971 movie starring Timothy Bottoms as Joe Bonham, the Joe who who volunteered to save the world for democracy, until this weekend.

The movie is brilliant and, I assume because Trumbo both directed and wrote the screenplay, true to the novel. Included on the DVD is the Metallica video of One.

I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up, I cannot see
That there’s not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me

Back in the womb it’s much too real
In pumps life that I must feel
But can’t look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I’ll live

Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me

Now the world is gone, I’m just one
Oh God, help me Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, help me

Imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

As medical science moves apace, soldiers that would have died on the battle field are coming home changed in ways we have not yet discovered how to even glimpse. Trumbo demonstrates how a writer can help us begin to find that fleeting look.

20 March 2015


1000 by Jeff Hess

climate change divest

We’ve done it: since Monday more than 100,000 people have signed our petition asking the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust to move their funds out of fossil fuels. What an amazing response! Scottish actor Tilda Swinton, chef Yotam Ottolenghi and Professor Anne Glover, former chief scientific advisor to the president of the European commission are among the 100,000 of you who have supported the campaign.

Thank you for taking a stand. We’re currently designing a feature to be launched next week on the Guardian that’ll showcase the depth and breadth of the petition’s support. Be on the lookout for an email from us about it.

100,000 signatures on the Internet is nothing. A devoted campaigner could get 100,000 votes to save a cute kitten.

Still, I applaud and continue to support the effort by Alan Rushbridger and The Guardian.

Onward and upward!

20 March 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

I thought schools were all about being bully-free zones.

So, this is what I think the rule should be: if you expect a student of a criminal act—assault, theft, possession, &c.—then first, sit the student down in a safe place, second, call the adults responsible for the student and do absolutely nothing else until that responsible adult is present. Full stop. The following disgusts me.

Adult interrogation methods do not belong in the classroom, so why are school administrators throughout the United States being trained to use them on their students in order to extract confessions?

John E. Reid & Associates is the largest interrogation trainer in the world and teaches such methods to hundreds of school administrators each year. Last month, members of the Illinois Principals Association, for instance, could register for a “professional development” event on “Investigative Interviewing and Active Persuasion”. The School Administrators Association of New York State recently offered a workshop for administrators on this same topic, titled “Are you Sure They Are Telling the Truth”?

These administrators are learning the “Reid Technique”, which relies on “maximization” and “minimization” tactics in order to induce suspects to confess. Minimization focuses on reducing a suspect’s feelings of guilt, while maximization is designed to heighten suspect anxiety using confrontation. Both techniques are legal and both are incredibly coercive.

Controlled studies of Reid interrogation have documented that while such techniques may increase the likelihood that a guilty person will confess, they also increase the likelihood that an innocent person will as well. New research released in February found that the Reid technique causes witnesses to falsely implicate others.

In the ’60s cities learned to not use firefighters to help control riots with fire hoses because this changed the social dynamic and soon those same firefighters, perhaps the bravest and least selfish of all civil servants, came to be seen as tools of oppression and this greatly hindered their ability to perform their primary tasks.

Training administrators to interrogator students, will accomplish the same result and already strained relations with students will only worsen.

I can’t see an upside to this anywhere.

19 March 2015


2000 by Jeff Hess

kasich and paul

Yesterday President Barack Hussein Obama came to Cleveland to speak at our City Club. From the part I heard while driving home, his core message was: my successes have driven my opponents to gnawing on skulls.

Not really, but you get the idea.

So today, I was not all that surprised—vis-a-vis the gnawing of skulls—when Ron Paul’s Campaign For Liberty emailed me decrying the liberal, tax-money-spending tendencies of our commie governor John Kasich. The email, in appropriately old-school faux typewriter (all emphasis in original) face, began:

Dear Patriot,

KasichCare is now 53% over budget according to the Heritage Foundation, with months to go before the end of the fiscal year.

Yet Governor Kasich continues to roam around the country trying to sell ObamaCare expansion AND a Balanced Budget Amendment to conservative states.

Just how does John Kasich expect the federal government to balance their budget when he keeps putting his hand out – not just for Ohio – for states across the nation?

How can citizens be expected to take Governor Kasich seriously?

He needs to get his OWN house in order and his priorities straight.

But he’s too busy telling other states what to do, helping President Obama destroy America’s health care system, and spending federal taxpayer dollars.

If John Kasich’s ObamaCare expansion is allowed to continue in Ohio, it will cost state taxpayers 30 MILLION DOLLARS PER MONTH by the year 2020.

Call Governor Kasich at 614-466-3555 and tell him to get his own house in order. Tell him to end his failed ObamaCare expansion scheme in Ohio.

Then sign your “End ObamaCare Expansion in Ohio” petition, and be sure to ask your friends and family to do the same.

Patriot, you’d think the details above are bad enough.

But the news from Governor Kasich gets worse.

Since KasichCare came in over budget, he had to get creative to pay for the excess cost.

You won’t believe where he’s getting the funding. . .

The Kasich Administration is taking funds from Ohio’s pre-expansion program that covers the truly needy – such as elderly and disabled people – and using those funds for the optional expansion that covers ABLE-BODIED individuals!

How can Governor Kasich justify taking money intended for handicapped individuals to spend on able-bodied individuals?

And there’s still MORE bad news from the governor.

He’s now saying if the Supreme Court finds that the IRS overstepped its bounds by offering subsidies through the federal ObamaCare exchange, he’ll “have to look at” establishing a state ObamaCare exchange in Ohio.

Now, there’s no telling how this court will decide, but the law clearly established that subsidies could only be paid out through a state established exchange.

And a court decision finding the IRS has broken the law would mean ObamaCare – and all its devastating mandates – would collapse under its own weight.

It would give citizens a chance at free market health care again.

But apparently John Kasich doesn’t want free market health care – he wants ObamaCare to remain the law of the land.

That’s why it’s so important you call Governor Kasich at 614-466-3555 and tell him to get his own house in order. Tell him to end his failed ObamaCare expansion scheme in Ohio.

There’s more, much more, but you get the idea.

Kasich is in the hopper as a possible presidential candidate next year. With the likes of Paul dragging him further to the right—at what point do you march off the cliff—the next few months in Ohio are not going to be pleasant.

19 March 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Investing our pension funds and other monies that we expect someday to provide for us in carbon stocks is a bad investment and investors and their advisers are waking up to this fact. Divesting is not just sound environmental policy anymore.

The Wellcome Trust has quietly sold off a $138m (£94m) investment in ExxonMobil, the oil giant which previously funded climate change denial, the Guardian can reveal. But the medical charity, which says “climate change is one of the greatest contemporary challenges to global health”, has refused to divest all its fossil fuel assets, as called for in a Guardian campaign launched on Monday.

Doctors and Wellcome Trust grant recipients labelled this stance contradictory and called for full divestment. The UN World Health Organisation said health professionals should take a leading role in fighting climate change and that divestment by the Wellcome Trust would be in line with calls from UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to cut such investments.

Existing fossil fuel reserves are several times greater than can be burned if the world’s governments are to fulfil their pledge to keep global warming below the danger limit of 2C [2 degrees Celsius, JH], but coal, oil and gas companies continue to spend billions on exploration. The fast-growing divestment movement argues that fossil fuel investments are a threat to both the climate and investors, as action to combat climate change could render the fuel reserves worthless.

At the beginning of the last century, investors lost fortunes in railway and gold stocks. Those investing in oil, natural gas and coal stand to follow the experience of their predecessors.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

19 March 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

derf trashed cover

19 March 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

One of Mano Singham’s readers makes an excellent point in commenting on Mano’s post We’re really #1!

Marcus Ranum writes:

The US leads the rest of the world in military spending—we spend as much as all of them combined. Note, I didn’t hew to the national lie that it’s “defense” spending. In today’s military environment, there is no “defense”—it’s all offense. The US military is entirely about “force projection.” That’s Versailles On The Potomac’s code for “offensive warfare” (something our leaders declare democracies never do. How telling!)

What gave me a clue about this was a few years ago I was invited to a friendly pistol-shooting match with some Swiss friends of a friend. All well and good. Over beer afterward we got to talking about “defense” and one of the Swiss, who was a Colonel in the defense forces, said something that changed my entire world-view. Basically it was: “you can tell what an army is for by how its logistics are set up.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

He: “For example, if our leaders told me tomorrow, to attack France, I’d ask them, ‘how am I supposed to get there? Lufthansa via Frankfurt?”

I am rarely speechless but that was one of the times. If you look at the US military it is entirely oriented toward getting killing power into someone else’s space and delivering death elsewhere. If you look at Swiss military, they have all the mountain road-passes mined with deeply buried collapsing charges and tele-guided remote-controlled anti-tank and anti-air missiles. They have fixed defenses that are designed to cost an attacker an appalling butcher’s bill, but they don’t have tank transporters (their tanks are already where they need to be) and aircraft refuelling for long-range bombing strikes (they only need to bomb the survivors of whatever tried to come through the mountain pass) They don’t have the gear to construct and secure airports in faraway places but they have all of the runways of their airports mined with deep wire-controlled cratering charges… In case, you know, the Americans try to land on them without proper clearance and carrying weapons.

The rest of the conversation was kind of a replay of the Mitchell and Webb sketch, “are we the baddies?”

Who first said that the best defense is a good offense appears lost to History, but in his Principles of War, Carl von Clausewitz wrote:

A fundamental principle is never to remain completely passive, but to attack the enemy frontally and from the flanks, even while he is attacking us. We should, therefore, defend ourselves on a given front merely to induce the enemy to deploy his forces in an attack on this front. Then we in turn attack with those of our troops which we have kept back. The art of entrenchment, as Your Royal Highness expressed so excellently at one time, shall serve the defender not to defend himself more securely behind a rampart, but to attack the enemy more successfully. This idea should be applied to any passive defense. Such defense is nothing more than a means by which to attack the enemy most advantageously, in a terrain chosen in advance, where we have drawn up our troops and have arranged things to our advantage.

Not much of a bumper sticker or a gym poster, but Carl got the message across.

For our first 160 years as a nation, we held to the name decided upon by our founders: The United States Department of War. In 1949, as we entered what would become The Cold War, the name was changed to the Department of Defense. The founders, at least, were honest about what the department was for.

We need to return to that honesty.

« Previous - Next »