8 October 2017


1500 by Jeff Hess

Matt Taibbi, writing in Gun Lobby Is Down to Its Last, Unconvincing Excuse for Rolling Stone, observes:

Polls consistently show that majorities of gun owners believe the purpose of the Second Amendment is “protection against tyranny.”
National Rifle Association merchandise sits on display during the 144th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Top Republican contenders for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination are lining up to speak at the annual NRA event, except New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who were snubbed by the country’s largest and most powerful gun lobby

So we’re down to that—we need to put up with this, because it’s gun enthusiasts who will come to the rescue if this ever happens in America.

Here’s my question about that. Where were all these heroic tyrannophobe gun owners during the unprecedented expansion of police and surveillance powers that took place after 9/11?

Answer: nowhere. We didn’t hear them shrieking about habeas corpus becoming a joke in the Bush years, or torture and extrajudicial assassination becoming standard practices. We didn’t hear them protesting the vast expansion of the classification of government documents, or complaining about the widespread abuse of material witness statutes, the national security letter provision of the Patriot Act, or a hundred other problems.

Nor did they ever protest aggressive new domestic enforcement policies like stop-and-frisk and predictive policing, for the obvious reason that those programs were mostly directed against minorities in poor neighborhoods.

Taibbi concludes:

The tyranny argument, the gun lobby’s last excuse, is a joke. People aren’t buying up military-grade weapons in preparation for some new-world-order Anschluss into flyover country.

Americans are just bored and crazy and insecure and like to calm their nerves by shooting bottles, Kim Jong-un paper targets, and, pretty regularly now, crowds full of innocent human beings. It’s madness, and there aren’t enough highly paid pseudo-intellectual gun lobbyists in the world to justify it anymore. Can we finally at least drop the pretense that this is about anything but money?

Sadly, no we can’t, Matt. Sure, for the gun manufacturers, their lobbyists (and the NRA) as well as the many of the politicians they support, money is the ticket in the same way that money is the focus for drug dealers. The buyers, however, aren’t making money, they’re spending it and you have to wonder why someone making $900 a week—like one of my former students—would fork over several hundred dollars for a pistol. There are other motivations (and I use the plural advisedly here) for buying guns.

Let’s set aside for a moment, hunters or recreational gun owners who only want to legally kill game animals and paper targets. We might also ignore collectors who only want to display their firearms in cabinets in the same way a philatelist or numismatist might. I’m even willing to give a pass to the person who keeps a shotgun or pistol in the house for the sole purpose of protecting their home from invaders. The gun owners we have to ask about are those, like Steve Paddock, who amass personal arsenals. Of those people we have to ask: what the fuck are they afraid of?

The common trope is a tyrannical government, but that (Michael Brendan Dougherty notwithstanding) is a ruse de guerre. In our nation’s history—stretching from President George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion to President Barack Hussein Obama and Cliven Bundy—no private citizen, no matter how well armed, has resisted the federal government. Private citizens, however, have repeatedly (and often with the blessing of local, state and federal authorities) wielded the militia might against lesser threats like Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Trade Unionists.

They fear Ragnarök, the final race war.

7 October 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

So, this is the bit that frustrates me, if you want to talk racial purity, there is no such animal for two reasons:

First, race is not a taxonomic classification and

Second, the common ancestors of humanity all came from Africa, so dudes dudettes—

We’re all Africans.


7 October 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

Back on 6 August I began to write a post with the headline: SO, WHERE IS MUELLER’S GRAND JURY GOING…? I got swept up in other writing and never finished the post. This morning, on my way to the library I stopped to listen to a segment on The New Yorker Radio Hour titled: The Trump Children Were Investigated for Fraud, but Avoided Indictment. Listening to Ave Carrillo reporting, my mind went back to the National Review piece that first sparked my interest.

Then, I wrote:

I’m not JD-impaired and most of what I know of the law I learned from Perry Mason, Jack McCoy and Dr. Dru Evarts. The last, a real person, almost set me on the path to law school, but that’s another story. All of that is to say that I’m at sea over evaluating Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation of President Donald John Trump and those around him.

That’s why I’m doing my best to read widely on the topic. This morning I pulled up Andrew McCarthy’s Is Mueller’s Grand Jury Impeachment Step One? for the National Review.

That story led me at the end of the month to the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Mueller’s investigation of Paul Manafort. Josh Dawsey, reporting in Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe for Politico, wrote:

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes. [Emphasis mine, JH]

President Donald John Trump, and his minions, may have been operating under the false impression that they would be ultimately protected by a presidential pardon. Mueller has burned that ace-in-the-hole by adding the potential for state charges to the investigation.

Which brings me to Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Trump SoHo. Here is how How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment begins:

In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included e-mails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

In one e-mail, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coördinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the e-mails, they worried that a reporter might be on to them. In yet another, Donald, Jr., spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the e-mail chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the e-mail. There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the e-mails told us. “They knew it was wrong.”

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal-defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr., and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump’s attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator, with little experience in criminal matters. But, in 2012, Kasowitz donated twenty-five thousand dollars to the reëlection campaign of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower-level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped.

On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance’s office at One Hogan Place, in downtown Manhattan—a faded edifice made famous by the television show “Law & Order.” Dan Alonso, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.” (Kasowitz denied making such a statement.)

All of this is done and dusted. Maybe.

I have no doubt that President Trump would easily throw any of his associates under the bus. Business is business.

Family, especially to Trump, is different.

I saw, but did read or even think about, this story in The GuardianIvana Trump: I talk to Donald regularly despite ‘insane’ divorce. Ivana is the mother of Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka. The hook for the story is Ivana’s book: Raising Trump, but the coincidences are piling up. Her assertion that she and Trump now speak regularly.

Children, of course, would be the primary talking point. If Trump SoHo is about to become important again, if Mueller is looking for leverage, a mother could be worried, and Marc Kasowitz’s magic could once again, be needed.

6 October 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

171007 dick gregory keef keith knight think
COINTELPRO, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s infamous dirty-tricks gang, is back under the guise of the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit and a declaration that:

Black Identity Extremist perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.

Perceptions? Fucking perceptions? Sam Levin, writing in FBI terrorism unit says ‘black identity extremists’ pose violent threat for The Guardian, call’s bullshit:

The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners.

“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”

The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring.

The FBI did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Friday, but defended its tracking of “black identity extremists” in a statement to Foreign Policy, claiming the “FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights”.

The FBI’s report noted specific cases of recent violence against police, most notably Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old shooter in Dallas who killed five officers and said he was targeting white people and law enforcement. Black Lives Matter—a movement protesting the disproportionate killings of black citizens by police in the US—had no ties to Johnson or other targeted killings of police and has condemned those shootings.

The number of police officers killed on the job also remains a fraction of the number of citizens killed by officers each year, and statistics suggest that more white offenders than black offenders kill officers.

Deceased FBI Director John Edgar Hoover, a black man who passed for white, was allowed to run roughshod over our Constitution for decades. This latest manifestation of White Supremacy cannot stand and Anne Branigin isn’t having it.

6 October 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

171007 resist keef kief knight sean spicer

6 October 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

In September 1973, the year I turned 18, William Harrison published Roller Ball Murder in Esquire. Two years later, when I was still in Gunner’s Mate School at Great Lakes, I first saw Harrison’s adaptation of the story to the big screen. Harrison set his corporate dystopia in 2018.

We are only three months from the real 2018, and far more terrifyingly close to Harrison’s vision than we would like to believe.

Ralph Nader, in How Big Corporations Game Our Democracy into Their Plutocracy, writes:

A major chapter in American history—rarely taught in our schools—is how ever larger corporations have moved to game, neutralize and undermine the people’s continual efforts to protect our touted democratic society. It is a fascinating story of the relentless exercise of power conceived or seized by corporations, with the strategic guidance of corporate lawyers.

Start with their birth certificate—the state charters that bring these corporate entities into existence, with limited liability for their investors. In the early 1800s, the Massachusetts legislature chartered many of the textile manufacturing companies. These charters could be renewed on good behavior, because lawmakers then viewed charters as privileges contingent on meeting the broad interests of society.

Fast forward to now. The charter can be granted online in a matter of hours; there are no renewal periods and the job is often given over to a state commission. Over the decades, corporate lobbyists have had either the legislatures or the courts grant them more privileges, immunities and concentration of power in management, rendering shareholders—their owners—increasingly powerless. The same corporate fixers work for corporations and their subsidiaries abroad to help them avoid US laws, taxes and escape disclosures.

Remarkably, the artificial creation called the “corporation” has now achieved almost all of the rights of real people under our “We the People” Constitution Continue Reading »

5 October 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

James Bupkis Renacci wants to replace faux conservative RINO and failed presidential candidate John Richard Kasich in Ohio’s top elected office. Renacci clearly believes that his experiences selling cars makes him the best choice to get Ohio into lockstep with President Donald John Trump. Citizens for Trump like what they’re hearing from Renacci and they’re here to help.

Henry Gomez, reporting in A Group Called Citizens For Trump Is Raising Money—But Not Always For Trump’s Candidates for BuzzFeed News, writes:

Citizens for Trump is particularly focused on Ohio, where it has endorsed Trump-inspired Rep. Jim Renacci for governor and recently launched a website bashing one of Renacci’s Republican rivals.

The outside group shared a staffer with the congressman: Vanessa Treft, a field director for Renacci who also is listed as the Ohio and Michigan director for Citizens for Trump. Citizens for Trump’s website lists 19 volunteer team members, including Selaty and Treft.

Selaty acknowledged collaboration with Renacci’s campaign in several areas. “We discuss certain things on occasion,” he said. “Not through Jim, but through other surrogates,” including Treft.

Selaty said Treft “hasn’t lost her title” with the group, but she is “pretty much full time with Renacci now.”

In an email, Renacci campaign spokesman James Slepian wrote that Treft works full-time for the campaign, “but is no longer a paid employee” of Citizens for Trump.

Slepian also said campaign advisers are not aware of the group’s fundraising operations or structure, and that there had been no “legally impermissible communications” between the campaign and the group.

“To the extent that anything of monetary value is provided by Citizens for Trump to Renacci for Ohio, it would be subject to the same legal contribution and reporting requirements that govern any other donor,” Slepian added.

Republicans who favor other candidates in Ohio are complaining that the group is not playing fair. And a campaign finance expert says the Citizens for Trump arrangement raises legal questions, in part because it has not registered as a political action committee, and because outside spending groups are not supposed to use a candidate’s name — in this case, Trump’s.

“Unfortunately a group of shady operators saw the president’s candidacy to profit from his name, likeness, and catchphrase,” Paul Jossey, a Republican campaign finance lawyer who has written about deceptive super PACs, told BuzzFeed News after reviewing the organization’s material. “Most Americans, even most lawyers, are not sophisticated enough to recognize ‘Citizens for Trump’ is wholly unrelated to the president’s reelection campaign unless they read the fine print.”

No one has time to read the small print Paul.

*After extensive searches, I have been unable to determine what Renacci’s middle initial stands for. Until I can find a reliable reference to Renacci full name, Bupkis will do.


4 October 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

When I first heard the news from Las Vegas on Monday morning, the reports characterized the massacre as the worst mass shooting in recent history. The question that came to my mind was, well, what was the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States? The massacre at Wounded Knee, 1890, 150 dead, leapt to mind, but I knew that there could be others. This evening, writing in Las Vegas Is Only the Deadliest Shooting in US History Because They Don’t Count Black Lives for The Root, Michael Harriot goes for the teaching moment.

News reporters and anchors have repeatedly referred to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas as the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history.” Like all things that are constantly repeated, the proclamation has become fact.

In 2013 a report by the Congressional Research Service defined a public mass shooting this way: incidents occurring in relatively public places, involving four or more deaths—not including the shooter(s)—and gunmen who select victims somewhat indiscriminately. The violence in these cases is not a means to an end such as robbery or terrorism.

So, according to that broad definition, we wondered: Is 64-year-old Stephen Paddock the worst mass shooter in the long history of America? Does the Las Vegas incident qualify as the “deadliest” mass-shooting incident?

Only if you don’t count black people.

Here’s where learning History, our History, is vital. Harriot goes on to detail:

The Bombing of Black Wall Street, 1921, 250 dead…

The Elaine Massacre, 1919, 237 dead…

The Thibodaux Massacre, 1887, 100 dead…

The Colfax Massacre, 1873, 150 dead…

The Bloody Island Massacre, 1850, 135 dead…

Harriot’s list goes on.

4 October 2017


1600 by Roldo Bartimole

Cuyahoga County has released its bond prospectus showing more than $140 million to be borrowed for the Quicken Arena expansion.

The issue that never got the vote it deserved. Politicians, corporate interests and even citizen action forces jilted citizens of a voice on a give-away to seven times billionaire Danny Gilbert, all around capitalist money-grabber.

The sordid deal was made after the city refused to examine for validity more than 20,000 gathered signatures (some 6,000 valid were needed) calling for a vote on the subsidy deal and after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the city must examine the signatures. City Council, under Mayor Frank Jackson’s pressure, had voted to provide some $88 million of city money to the expansion. Council then refused to validate signatures. Some 22,000 Clevelanders didn’t matter.

The Greater Cleveland Congregations, which helped gather the signatures, however, withdrew them, apparently under pressure from business, political and other church sell-outs.

The first glimmer of live civic action here in decades was aborted by those who had provided such hope. A sad spectacle.

The rich coerce the poor in Democratic Cleveland. And call it Progress. No wonder so few, less than 13 percent, bothered to vote in the primary. A waste of time, they conclude.

One of the three new County bond calls for annual payments of $850,000 in 2020 to annual payments in the one to three million dollars a year. These payments end in 2035 with a final disbursement of $3.1 million.

Money will flow out of county and city revenues to pay these costs.

Dribs and drabs to Cleveland politicians. It’s not their money but yours.

Another bond offer calls for annual payments through 2035, concluding with a payment of $4.1 million in that year. A third bond offering calls for payments to start next year and end in 2024 with a final $1.9 million payout.

The County and city of Cleveland would pay these obligations.

Cuyahoga County already has significant debt.

The Democratic dominated Cuyahoga County keeps nickel and diming Continue Reading »

3 October 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

171003 ta-nehisi coates 1a

TIMEMARK 7:25—Great writing is necessarily a selfish act. You have something inside you that you are trying to express, or a question that you are trying to answer and you hope that the answer you produce resonates with a wider audience.

TIMEMARK 45:10—Joshua Johnson: What gives you the most hope? Ta-Nehisi Coats: I get this question all the time. I’m a writer. My influences are other writers… I don’t know why it is the expectation that I will be any different than other writers and other journalists. Writers and journalists are generally not in the business of giving hope. They are in the business of reading, reporting, researching and then writing. That’s what I do. If I make you feel hopeful, that’s great, if it doesn’t then see your pastor. That’s not my job.

Michael Harriot, in We Were 8 Years in Power Moves Ta-Nehisi Coates to Top of Black America’s Draft Board for The Root, writes:

[We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy] is characterized as an in-depth look at the Obama presidency from one of America’s greatest living writers. It dissects 2008-2016 with the surgical precision and insight of a master medical examiner.

Even though the work is being sold as a piece of historical analysis and political commentary, it is neither of those things. It is a look at the history of race in America. It is an unapologetic laying out of facts. More than anything, We Were Eight Years in Power settles an argument: If, by chance, we ever came together to draft someone to pen the story of being black in America, there is no doubt that Ta-Nehisi Coates should be the consensus first-round pick.

Coates opens with the often forgotten reminder that after the Civil War, black men were elected to serve in the House of Representatives and Senate in comparatively large numbers. Coates quotes civil rights activist and South Carolina Rep. Thomas Miller as saying, near the end of Reconstruction (referred to by Coates as the “Redemption Era”):

We were eight years in power. We had built schoolhouses, established charitable institutions, built and maintained the penitentiary system, provided education for the deaf and dumb, rebuilt the ferries. In short, we had reconstructed the State and placed it on the road to prosperity. —Thomas Miller, 1895

Although the compilation of essays written from 2008 to 2016 examines every detail of the first black presidency in microscopic, high-definition detail, Coates’ primary argument is not about the successes, failures and political nuances of Obama’s time in office. It is really not about politics, history or even Obama. Eight Years is less about an American presidency than it is about America.

I chose to pull the two quotes about writing and writers from Ta-Nehisi’s interview because I found the task of excerpting what he had to say about President Donald John Trump and white supremacy impossible. I would however, ask you to pay special attention how he weaves the response of W.E.B. Du Bois to Miller into his narrative.

2 October 2017


2300 by Jeff Hess

While The Guardian continues Live Updates into a second day, please consider this: the slaughter in Las Vegas is the 1,516th mass shooting in the United States in the last 1,735 days. In the last 57 months, 1,719 Americans have died and 6,510 have been injured in mass shootings. Look at those numbers again.


1,719 DEAD, 6,510 INJURED.

First, to the best of my knowledge in this moment, Stephen Paddock’s arsenal, which included more than 40 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, was purchased and owned legally.

Second, consider this. Congress is actually considering a law making silencers, fucking silencers, legal. Title XV of H.R. 3668, the Hearing Protection section of the Orwellian-named Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act, includes this specific language:

SEC. 1503. Treatment of certain silencers.

Section 5841 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(f) Firearm silencers.—A person acquiring or possessing a firearm silencer in accordance with chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, shall be treated as meeting any registration and licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with respect to such silencer.”.

We don’t know how many rounds Paddock fired before he took his own life, but the fact that we are talking about 59 dead (as of now) and 527 wounded means that he is likely to have fired, at a minimum, nearly 600 rounds. Now, assuming that Paddock’s assault rifles were equipped with 30-round banana magazines, that means he emptied and changed magazines at least 20 times.

Imagine how many more people Paddock might have murdered from the 1,200 feet away if his weapons of mass destruction had been equipped with legal silencers masking his location from police?

Then there is the elephant in the room: the terrorist’s white privilege:

Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was a white American. And that simple fact changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse: Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.

The privilege here is that the ultimate conclusion about shootings committed by people from commonly nonwhite groups often leads to determinations about the corrosive or destructive nature of the group itself. When an individual claiming to be a Muslim commits a horrible act, many on the right will tell us Islam itself is the problem. For centuries, when an act of violence has been committed by an African-American, racist tropes follow—and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.

We must demand that Congress shred, burn and bury the ashes of H.R. 3668 ensuring that such insanity never, ever again is thought of by lawmakers.

We must demand, instead, that Congress take action now, today, to shut down the gun lobby and protect real Americans from these weapons of mass destruction.

Now, lest you think I’m against gun ownership, I’m not. I’ve written before about my stand on the Second Amendment—spoiler alert, I support the Second Amendment—and I want to see the full amendment enforced. My short version is this: draft every citizen, male and female, on their 18th birthday. Allow gun ownership only to those who have completed basic training and become a member of (a) active military, (b) the active reserves or (c) the inactive reserves, aka the militia.

We must stop the national insanity.

1 October 2017


2300 by Jeff Hess

Oliver’s lede on Puerto Rico and tax reform is also his usual great…

1 October 2017


1600 by Jeff Hess

There are plenty of newspaper journalists out there who do understand the dictum of Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley:

Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.

Cleveland’s Plain Dealer is seldom in such company.

Dennis Anderson’s piece in The Guardian, Our newspaper was irrelevant to Peoria’s South Side. Here’s how we changed that, tells how to do journalism right. Anderson, executive editor of the Peoria Journal Star writes:

On an evening last September, I received a call from Robbie Criss, a member of a readership group my publication, the Journal Star in Illinois, started three years ago to improve coverage of Peoria’s South Side, a neighborhood where many residents struggle with poverty.

Criss told me his two teenage sons were arrested in a park at gunpoint and were brought into the Peoria police station because they “looked like” suspects in an armed robbery. About five hours later, after police determined the young men had nothing to do with the crime, they were released.

Criss was furious and I could barely understand him during the call. He said the only reason his sons were detained was because they were black. The police department completed its investigation of the incident and found that while the teens were detained in a proper manner, some professional standards were violated. Police would not explain in detail what they meant by that. However, during our coverage of the story, the police department apologized to the Criss family.

Not too long ago, the Journal Star wouldn’t have received a call like the one from Criss. Frankly, we weren’t a factor in the life of the neighborhood. We were told by some that they believed the only reason we went to the South Side was to cover crime, or when free meals were handed out to the needy during Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Sound familiar? Here’s how the Star Journal set out to change:

As part of our work, I lead monthly meetings at agencies throughout the neighborhood, such as South Side Mission, Neighborhood House, Helping Hand Resource Center and Dream Center Peoria, and share the more than one dozen stories the Journal Star writes each month as a result of our growing community source list. We talk about stories we should be covering, current local and national events and concerns people have with news coverage.

Can our Pee Dee change? Maybe. Change, however, has to start at the top with editors courageous enough to say no to sports boosterism and feel-good stories of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy. I have no doubt that there are reporters still writing for the Plain Dealer eager to write the kinds of stories that Anderson describes. Sadly, most are probably marking time until they can get out of Cleveland and start writing real stories.

Once again, the loss is ours.

30 September 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

Libertarians are like the blind men trying to describe an elephant: they don’t have a clue what they all want.

Henry Gomez, writing in Libertarians Are Still Looking For The Next Thing for Buzzfeed, offers this example:

“All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans,” Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian Republican from Kentucky, told the Washington Examiner in March. “But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas—they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch* in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along.”

So, Mr. Massie, now that you’ve realized that you’re in the running for craziest son-of-a-bitch, how does that make you feel?

More importantly, as Gomez explores, is the Libertarian Party now simply the gateway drug to the Alt-Wrong?

The Charlottesville fallout prompted the Daily Beast’s Matt K. Lewis to declare libertarianism “a gateway drug to the alt-right” — a catchall term for the Trump-friendly following that includes white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. His piece prompted polite pushback from several libertarian thinkers, including Mair and Jack Hunter, a former Rand Paul aide who lost his job after being outed for his past pro-Confederate beliefs. “There is no ‘pipeline,’” Hunter, who has renounced the views he pushed in his earlier days, wrote at Rare. “A slow drip, at best. Regardless, when it comes to racists, libertarians should always make clear, in no uncertain terms, that we are not them.”

Most libertarians who spoke to BuzzFeed News similarly stressed the need for an unequivocal disavowal. “Some people conflate being contrarian with being Libertarian,” the [Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas] Sarwark wrote to BuzzFeed News in an email after reading the Lewis piece. “Libertarians stand for all rights—of all people—all of the time. That ‘of all people’ part generally leads to white supremacists and nationalists feeling unwelcome within the Libertarian Party.”

If that is the case, and I have no reason to doubt Sarwark, then the party needs to tell any Alt-Wrong members that they need to get out! The alternative is to be sucked down the black white hole that is Steve Bannon’s alternative.

*President Donald John Trump, petting his minions, has now rendered this insult forever off limits.

29 September 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

Via Mano Singham…

Herman Wong and Rachel Chason, reporting in Meet the Air Force general who delivered a powerful speech against racism for The Washington Post, write:

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria had an important message for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets at a moment of crisis.

Five black cadet candidates at the academy’s preparatory school in Colorado Springs had found racial slurs written on the message boards on their doors.

Silveria, who took over as the school’s superintendent in August, urged cadets to reach for their phones.

“I want you to videotape this so you have it, so you can use it — so that we all have the moral courage together,” he said, surrounded by 1,500 of the academy’s faculty, administrators and athletic coaches.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, get out.”

[VA chief took in Wimbledon, river cruise on European work trip; wife’s expenses covered by taxpayers]

Silveria’s forceful denunciation has been heard far beyond the walls of the academy in Colorado, introducing the veteran officer to a national audience.

“I wanted to have a direct conversation with them about the power of diversity,” Silveria told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Friday, referring to the cadets. “Ultimately, these men and women are going to be lieutenants in the United States Air Force.”

Baldwin read Silveria messages of support on Twitter and asked him whether he believed Washington needed better leadership. He replied that his “message to the cadets was not about that.”

He said his speech was intended to show the cadets that they were all united “as an institution protecting these values.”

Security forces are looking into the matter, according to Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force Academy. The preparatory school is designed for candidates who have shown leadership or other qualities that would make them strong applicants for the academy but who need to shore up their academic work before becoming cadets, Herritage said.

Silveria, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985 with a bachelor of science degree, succeeded the academy’s first female superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson.

In his 32-year career, Silveria has nearly 4,000 hours of flight time, including combat missions over Iraq and the Balkans, making him one of the Air Force’s most experienced pilots, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

So far, as of noon on 30 September, I’m not finding any tweets from the president about General Silveria.


Generals Silveria and Morrison are examples of the best we can be.

THIS is how a leader speaks. Full stop.

29 September 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

27 September 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

When monarchs or their spawn go mad, when bat-shit crazy politicians go off the deep end, when whole masses of individuals succumb to group psychosis, we think we understand what to do. We believe that because we’re dealing with people. When the insanity has infested the non-person—I don’t care what the United States Supreme Court declared—we are at sea. Our confusion allows mayhem and death on scales we cannot grasp.

Ralph Nader in Big Institutions—Immunities, Impunities and Insanities, writes:

One of the first times I used the phrase “institutional insanity” was in 1973 to describe the behavior of scientist Dixy Lee Ray, chairperson of the presumed regulatory agency, the Atomic Energy Commission. I pointed out that her personal and academic roles were quite normal. But her running of the AEC—pressing for 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000 (there are 99 reactors left in operation now), and going easy on a deadly, taxpayer subsidized technology that was privately uninsurable, lacked a place to put its lethal radioactive wastes, a national security risk, replete with vast cost over-runs, immunities and impunities shielding culpable officials and executives, should a meltdown occur and take out a city or region (all to boil water to produce steam to make electricity)—was a case study in “institutional insanity.”

Both the AEC and its successor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, captured by the atomic energy industry, operate this way to this day, no matter the near misses, the spills, growing corporate welfare outlays, and the inadequate Continue Reading »

26 September 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

I learned of Chuck D’s and Tom Morello’s project—Prophets of Rage (from Prophets of Rage, 1988/2011)—in an interview by David Greene. I immediately ordered the CD and I’m listening to it this evening.

The music is powerful. MARA: Make America Rage Again.

Dorian Lynskey, in Prophets of Rage: ‘We’re the soundtrack to the resistance!’ for The Guardian, writes:

It started with a tweet. On 12 April last year, Tom Morello was watching CNN when he saw the news: “Trump rages against the GOP machine.” Rage Against the Machine, the pioneering LA rap-metal band that Morello formed in 1991, may have been the most radically leftwing group ever to headline arenas but a name that catchy is bound to be commandeered for other kinds of rage against different machines. Morello took a screenshot and tweeted it with the words: “This isn’t exactly what we were thinking.”

Clearly the gods of protest music were telling him to do something. Less than two months later, Morello had formed the supergroup Prophets of Rage, a kind of rap-rock Avengers featuring Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford from Rage, Chuck D and DJ Lord from Public Enemy and B-Real from Cypress Hill. “This was a five-alarm fire,” Morello says. “Raise your hand if you want to save the country!”

Not since Rebel Diaz’s cover of Florence Reece’s Which Side Are You On have I heard protest music this strong. Buy the CD, buy the LP. Listen. Repeat.

25 September 2017


2300 by Jeff Hess

Driving between students today I was blown away by how every, and I mean every, radio news show focused on one story: President Donald John Trump’s appeal to his minions with his fire the sons of bitches meme. You might argue that Trump has distracted us from yet another zombie blowing up, but I don’t think he’s that clever. I think he just wanted to hear some cheering in Alabama.

As I wrote earlier, Trump has singlehandedly taken what was a smoldering issue—the plague of violence and murder rained down upon black men in America by police—and poured high-test gasoline on the embers to create a bonfire so as to unite even some of his most fervent supporters against him.

It’s wrong to do it in the street,
It’s wrong to do it in the tweets.
You cannot do it on the field,
You cannot do it if you kneeled.
And don’t do it if you’re rich,
You ungrateful son of a bitch.
Because there is one thing that is a fact,
You cannot protest if you’re black.

—Trevor Noah, with apologies to Dr. Seuss

This is Trump’s most epic fail yet.

25 September 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

Anndddd, we have Colin Kaepernick for the wind. Once again, President Donald John Trump thinking that firing up the base was the solution to all his problems has thrown gasoline on what was an honorable and sincere protest and transformed taking a knee into a bonfire across the NFL.

Les Carpenter, writing in Colin Kaepernick has won: he wanted a conversation and Trump started it for The Guardian explains:

All Colin Kaepernick ever asked was for his country to have a conversation about race.

This, he warned, would not be easy. Such talks are awkward and often end in a flurry of spittle, pointed fingers and bruised feelings. But from the moment the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback first spoke about his decision to kneel or sit during the national anthem, he said was willing to give up his career to make the nation talk.

In one speech on Friday night, Donald Trump gave Kaepernick exactly what he wanted. With a fiery blast at protesting NFL players that seemingly came from nowhere, the president bonded black and white football players with wealthy white owners in a way nobody could have imagined. By saying any player who didn’t stand for the anthem was a “son of a bitch” and should be fired by his team’s owner, Trump crossed a line from which no one could look away.

Here’s how my local poor excuse for a fish wrap covered the day:

Browns linebacker James Burgess tweeted before Sunday’s game that he was a supporter of Donald Trump, but Friday night’s comments by the president let him down.

“I was a Trump supporter. It wasn’t a hate tweet,” Burgess said following Sunday’s game. “I don’t hate the dude. I was just let down by those words. Those words made me feel uncomfortable when he said it.”

Burgess was one of at least 20 Browns players who knelt during the playing of the national anthem prior to the game.

Those words, of course, came at a rally when Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

Trump has singlehandedly made son of a bitch as toxic as nigger.

Writing in Donald Trump’s Allies Join His Crusade Against The NFL, Henry Gomez examines those coming to Trump’s defense:

A political group with close ties to President Donald Trump is amplifying his attack on professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest.

“Turn off the NFL,” reads a digital ad produced by the nonprofit America First Policies, which planned to begin spreading the message on social media Sunday afternoon.

The ad includes a photo with Trump, hand over his heart, and a #TakeAStandNotAKnee hashtag. It follows Trump’s recent remarks, first delivered during a Friday night speech in Alabama, aimed at football players who have protested police brutality and other causes.

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