19 May 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess


A friend here in Cleveland once shared a story about the glory days of the city when wealth abounded and power pulsated in the from offices high above Lake Erie. Cleveland’s railway giants, the Van Sweringen brothers, were convinced to hire a new kind of employee, a public relations consultant. After several months of unsuccessful, from the flack’s point of view, work, the brothers called a meeting. The man expected to be fired and prepared a long list of reasons why his work had not yet produced the desired outcome. Instead of a sacking, the brothers proffered a bonus. They were well pleased, they said, that they had not read a single word about them or their business anywhere, and that was exactly what they wanted.

Power often wants to stay in the shadows.

Somalia could be one of the great untapped sources of offshore oil, if someone can secure a deal to find and extract it, and if anyone can, it’s the company these men work for.

The African nation is one of the most politically unstable, unsafe, and corrupt countries in the world, one of the toughest places for any business to think of operating.

But that is what Schlumberger—the biggest company you’ve never heard of – do, if the rewards are great enough.

Light does not penetrate brick walls. Only when the brick is replaced with glass, when transparency is the rule, does light fill the dark corners where cockroaches and power dwell.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

18 May 2015


1100 by Jeff Hess

Seymour Hersh, by shining light on lazy journalism of what passes for a Free Press in America has earned the wrath of the bought and paid for media.

Seymour Hersh has done the public a great service by breathing life into questions surrounding the official narrative of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yet instead of trying to build off the details of his story, or to disprove his assertions with additional reporting, journalists have largely attempted to tear down the messenger.

Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public.

Hersh has attempted to force the media to ask questions about its role in covering a world-shaping event—but it’s clear the media has trouble asking such questions if the answers are not the ones they want to hear.

Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements—breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later—before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”

More to the point, how are we to believe the corporate media?

18 May 2015


1000 by Jeff Hess

That the United States has employed assassins in covert operations comes as no surprise to anyone. That our military personnel are employed in such targeted assassinations, however, is different.

‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive—to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.

Becoming a murderer, regardless of the cause or rationale or orders from on high, changes the person who pulls the trigger. This is not war. That there are consequences to blurring the difference has increasingly become plain.

18 May 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

shell artic sea pirates

I never gained entrance to the Order of The Blue Nose, but some of my shipmates on board the USS Bainbridge did after I was discharged. The arctic is hostile place and sailors venture there at their peril. Drilling for oil that we cannot use without risking environmental collapse is madness. Corporations, like Royal Dutch Shell, think madness in the pursuit of profits is a positive job description.

Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of pursuing a strategy that would lead to potentially catastrophic climate change after an internal document acknowledged a global temperature rise of 4C, twice the level considered safe for the planet.

A paper used for guiding future business planning at the Anglo-Dutch multinational assumes that carbon dioxide emissions will fail to limit temperature increases to 2C, the internationally agreed threshold to prevent widespread flooding, famine and desertification.

Instead, the New Lens Scenarios document refers to a forecast by the independent International Energy Agency (IEA) that points to a temperature rise of up to 4C in the short term, rising later to 6C.

The revelations come ahead of the annual general meeting of Shell shareholders in the Netherlands on Tuesday, where the group has accepted a shareholder resolution demanding more transparency about the group’s impact on climate change.

Shell is far from unique in this story. All of the petrochemical pirates are setting sail for arctic waters, but what they want to rape, pillage and plunder is not just gold and jewels, but our very lifeboat in space. They must be stopped.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

18 May 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

zits advice

18 May 2015


0400 by Jeff Hess

I still have my Shell Discredit Card that I carried as part of a protest against apartheid in South Africa. Maybe that helped, maybe not, but the protest fit well with Suzanne McGee (and my own) tips for effective consumer boycotts.

In the stupid-idea-from-a marking-wanker category, Shell has leapt to the top of the award’s list with this little bit of fail.

Shell has been caught in an embarrassing spat over its plan for a $50,000 video competition aimed at 18-34-year-olds to promote its view that the world still needs fossil fuels despite climate change.

The film project is being developed in partnership with US-based online ad agency Zooppa, and, according to a leaked email, was to be pitched at platforms such as Vice, the online news service.

An email between Zooppa staff discussing the Shell brief makes it clear “you should NOT mention on your storyboard Arctic Oil”.

Environmentalists say Shell’s involvement in exploiting reserves in the Arctic undermines its attempt to portray itself as a responsible oil and gas company keen to tackle global warming.

While references to the Arctic are ruled out, the memo says “you can mention instead oil, gas, wind, nuclear energy”.

Sure, Shell will get pandering videos from the sons and daughters of Tea Baggers and Faux Snooze devotes, but I expect that the flood of more cogent, and funnier, counter videos will appear on YouTube in 3… 2…

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

17 May 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

17 May 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

When a government, or a corporation, speaks to you, the default position must be that you are being lied to. That was the credo of proto-blogger and journalist icon I.F. Stone. Any thinking human—like Seymour Hersh—ought to adopt the position as their own.

Remember the crowing about how America, standing against the world, used CIA surveillance and interogation tactics to finally put down Osama bin Laden? Well, the event actually happened a lot differently.

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders—General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI—were never informed of the US mission.

I don’t expect to hear a peep about this from our own media pets, but I hope that enough people invest the time to read Hersh’s latest piece to begin to make a difference.

16 May 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

15 May 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

I long ago figured out that, unless real harm is in the offing, attempting to counter, or at least correct, the behavior of an asshole is simply not worth the time. Oliver Burkeman (writing in Don’t let an asshole get to you for The Guardian) attempts to touch the essence of assholiness when he writes:

By no means all obnoxious behaviour is assholish: the queue-jumper who has no grasp of doing wrong may be a psychopath, while the queue-jumper who believes she has a special one-off justification for queue-jumping may just be selfish. Only the asshole queue-jumper thinks it’s right that the rules against queue-jumping shouldn’t apply to him.

I see where Burkeman wants to go, but I think he has a spectrum problem. Assholes and assholiness is not one size fits all but I see the uniting factor being a disregard for those around you. Talking too loud on a cell phone because the other person says they can’t understand you, probably not assholy. Talking too loud on a cell phone because you’re oblivious to those around you, assholy.

Burkeman concludes:

The challenge, in dealing with assholes, is that it’s hard to resist the temptation to fight on their terms: when you explode in rage at an asshole, James argues, you’re really demanding that he recognise your moral status. But that defines you as a supplicant, and an inferior, seeking his approval, thus reinforcing the asshole’s worldview – so don’t be shocked if it doesn’t work. A better, albeit harder, plan is to remind yourself that you’re outraged less by the asshole’s actions than by his inner motivations. A nasty smell on a train – or a few minutes’ longer waiting in line – is a mild irritation, against which you may be justified in taking proportionate action. But the asshole’s moral attitudes, in a deep sense, are none of your business. Getting too psychologically enmeshed in them just makes you a wazzock.

15 May 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

The entire segment is funny, but if you’re impatient, fast forward to time mark 5:50…

15 May 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

In the 1950s and into the 1960s, teachers drilled school children in the arcane and worthless practice of duck and cover as a way of protecting themselves from either quick immolation or a slow painful death in the event of a blast from an atomic bomb.

This morning The Guardian, in their continued Keep It In The Ground coverage of Climate Change/Global Warming, present the imminent threat from which there is no ducking, no covering: Carbon Bombs.

James Randerson, assistant national editor for The Guardian, emailed me this morning to say:

[L]et me introduce our first story on global “carbon bombs”. These are 14 giant proposed fossil fuel projects around the world. The numbers are staggering. If they go ahead, these projects will lead to the emission of 6.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020. That is as much as the entire US emits annually.
View the interactive

In the first, our Australia environment specialist Oliver Milman visits the Galilee basin in Queensland. The plans here are truly colossal. Developers hope to establish a series of mines to exploit a deposit of 247,000 sq km (95,400 sq miles) of coal: a land mass the size of Britain. If the complex is fully developed, CO2 emissions from the burned coal would top 700m tonnes a year. That would mean a CO2 output just behind Germany. There are also concerns that the project will also impact the Great Barrier Reef because of the risks posed by increased shipping to export the coal. We have established that the Australian government has engaged in a frantic diplomatic push to avoid the Great Barrier Reef being listed as “in danger” by the UN.

Preventing the Galilee basin coal mines and other projects from going ahead is the front line of efforts to Keep it in the Ground and prevent dangerous climate change.

We can’t burn what carbon we already know about, exploring for more is madness.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

15 May 2015


0300 by Jeff Hess

B.B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generations, Dies at 89

14 May 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

I spent my 20s having an adventure—seeing the world via the Navy while engaging in a vast array of hedonistic activities, partying for four years (and graduating with a 3.79 GPA) at Ohio University and generally making my life all about me. At 29 I decided the time had come to grow up, settle down and become a responsible member of society.

Worst decision ever.

Oliver Burkeman writing in The cult of youth cheats young and old alike. Let’s reclaim adulthood for The Guardian, suggest a third path.

It ought to go without saying that everybody should be free to read whatever they want, dress up however they want and engage in whatever artistic pursuits they want: there’s nothing to be gained from adding to the amount of shame in the world. Yet in her fascinating book Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age, just published in the US, the philosopher Susan Neiman makes the case that our youth-fixated society is a symptom of something worth worrying about: we’ve defined growing up as nothing but a question of decline. “Being grown-up,” she writes, “is widely considered to be a matter of renouncing your hopes and dreams, accepting the limits of the reality you are given, and resigning yourself to a life that will be less adventurous, worthwhile and significant than you had supposed when you began it.” We’ve created a world in which growing up—let alone growing elderly—is something nobody would reasonably choose. Who can really be blamed for choosing the exhilarating escapes of childhood fantasy instead?

I like to think that in my 40s, when I decided to go on Walkabout, I emerged from the disorientating cloud of What I Ought To Do and began to live a life I wanted.

For all the angst and confusion and guilt and all the other shit I lay on myself, realizing that I live my life, and no one else’s, was a clarifying moment for me. I don’t mean to imply I’ve figured reality out, I haven’t, but I’m at least comfortable with my perspective.

14 May 2015


0300 by Jeff Hess

The measure to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday 52-45 with all but one Democrat—Senator Tom Carper of Delaware—voting against the measure.

So who can read the text of the TPP? Not you, it’s classified. Even members of Congress can only look at it one section at a time in the Capitol’s basement, without most of their staff or the ability to keep notes.

But there’s an exception: if you’re part of one of 28 U.S. government-appointed trade advisory committees providing advice to the U.S. negotiators. The committees with the most access to what’s going on in the negotiations are 16 “Industry Trade Advisory Committees,” whose members include AT&T, General Electric, Apple, Dow Chemical, Nike, Walmart and the American Petroleum Institute.

Before any Democrats suggest that a President Hillary Clinton would have voted cast any light on the TPP legislation, remember how Senator Bernie Sanders and then Senator Clinton voted on the Iraq war.

The Democratic leadership in the Senate does stand ready to fall into lock-step with the rest of the Oligarch’s good little boys and girls in exchange for a few extra pieces of candy.

The vote is not necessarily the final word.

According to Democratic leadership aides, Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, have proposed a compromise to Republican leaders: First, hold a separate vote on legislation aimed at discouraging so-called currency manipulation by American trading partners, which could be vetoed by the president. Then, wrap the fast-track authority he is seeking with a more encompassing bill, including assistance for displaced workers, extension of an African trade accord and other trade enforcement measures.

That offer could be the path forward, given that at least eight Democrats who normally embrace trade deals voted no on Tuesday.

The compromise proposed by Mr. Reid and Mr. Schumer could help the president because the currency provisions demanded by Democrats are strongly opposed by Japan and Malaysia, two of the 12 nations trying to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and could be significant enough to stop the larger accord.

Senator Sanders has been fighting against TPP for more than a year, but President Obama fears Senator Elizabeth Warren even more in this fight, calling attention to her opposition by saying, “I love Elizabeth, but she’s just wrong on this.”

I’m pleased that 50 percent of my senatorial representation—that would likely be 100 percent if the Ohio Democratic Party hadn’t sold out Jennifer Brunner for loser Lee Fisher in 2010—Senator Sherrod Brown, is standing with sens. Warren and Sanders.

Quiet indignation is not enough. As Sen. Warren asks, “Are you ready to fight?”

13 May 2015


2000 by Jeff Hess

I’m with Dan Savage on this one…

13 May 2015


1900 by Jeff Hess

How do you know when a politician is lying? When their lips move.

How do you know when politicians are lying (and are about to yank their constituents around by the short and curlies)? When bipartisanship is championed.

I always get nervous when Democrats and Republicans in government work together on something. This is because we have reached the stage in politics in the US where oligarchic control is so extensive that it seems like the only force that can overcome the sheer pettiness, greed, and ambition of the elected representatives who are so divided on social issues. So signs of bipartisanship that are so revered by the establishment are for me warning signs that moves are in the works that the oligarchy is pushing strongly for and that will be bad for the rest of us. The Trans-Pacific Partnership issue provides a case in point.

When the hands of bipartisanship reach across the aisle you know that the puppet masters have told the children to quiet down and get some work done. When the oligarchs have what they need, the noise of bickering and posturing will return to normal.

13 May 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

13 May 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

Who, and what, we are is not static. We are in this moment, but we were not a moment ago and we will still be a moment from now. The constant changes are subtle, there are no magic switches we may throw; enlightenment is in that moment: before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

This is the mystique of Ferdinand Waldo Demara. Oliver Burkeman writing in This column will change your life: self-perception theory for The Guardian, examines the psychology involved.

It’s tempting to conclude that we’re helpless puppets of circumstance, unable ever to know ourselves. But there’s an upside to self-perception theory: it supports a certain kind of “faking it till you make it”, dating back to William James and revisited in Richard Wiseman’s recent book, Rip It Up. If you want to think of yourself as generous – or happy or confident or patient – then act how generous people act; the self-perception will follow. (This isn’t the same as trying to fool yourself you’re feeling generous, happy, etc: that way lies misery.) Of course, the same goes for bad behaviour. Wilson quotes Kurt Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we should be careful about what we pretend to be.” You’re constantly watching yourself. So you’d better watch yourself.

Who shall I pretend to be today?

8 May 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

A Keef Knight twofer

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