24 November 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

Is breaking down a door in a house you do not own to save a child from a fire legal? Of course. Committing a minor crime, breaking down a door, to save a life falls under the necessity defense.

The defense of necessity is available where the defendant acted under the reasonable belief that committing his offense would prevent a greater evil or harm from occurring. For example:

Christopher lives in a town that sits right on the edge of the Hundred Acre Woods. At the end of a hot and dry summer some brush in the woods catches fire and a forest fire quickly develops and spreads. The fire is quickly heading toward the town and Christopher believes that if he burns the row of houses directly on the edge of the forest he will create a fire wall which will then protect the rest of the town. If Christopher does, in fact, burn some of the houses under the reasonable belief that it will protect the rest of the town from the forest fire, he will be able to use the defense of necessity if he is charged with arson.

There are, however, several requirements that must be met in order for the defendant to use necessity as a defense.

1. The defendant must reasonably believe that an actual threat exists. Therefore, in order to use the defense, Christopher must reasonably believe that the forest fire will destroy all or part of the town. Please note that as long as this belief is reasonable, he will be able to use the defense even if the forest fire never actually approaches the town.

2. The defendant must reasonably believe that the threat he is trying to prevent is greater than the damage that will result from his actions. Therefore, Christopher will be able to use the necessity defense if he reasonably believes that burning some of the houses at the edge of the forest is a lesser evil than allowing the entire town to burn.

3. The threatened harm that the defendant is trying to prevent with his actions must be imminent.

4. The defendant can only use the necessity defense if there was no other, less harmful way to avoid the threatened danger. In the above example, Christopher will only be able to use the necessity defense if burning a few of the houses was the least harmful way to protect the town.

5. The defendant will only be able to use the defense if the defendant himself was not at fault in creating the situation that made it necessary to commit his crime. In other words, if Christopher himself had been responsible for the forest fire, he would not be able to use necessity as a defense to burning those houses.

So, does the continued avoidance for any responsibility, in fact the obfuscation of that responsibility, by fossil fuel corporations for our global crisis of climate change/global warming justify invoking this defense?

Emily Johnston, a poet and co-founder of 350Seattle, says: Yes. She is betting the next 20 years of her life on that conviction. She faces trial starting 11 December on felony charges for shutting the emergency valve on the Enbridge tar sands pipeline in Leonard, Minnesota.

Johnston, writing in I shut down an oil pipeline—because climate change is a ticking bomb for The Guardian, explains why she has taken this risk:

A little over a year ago, four friends and I shut down all five pipelines carrying tar sands crude oil into the United States by using emergency shut-off valves. As recent months have made clear, climate change is not only an imminent threat; it is an existing catastrophe. It’s going to get worse, and tar sands oil—the dirtiest oil on Earth—is one of the reasons.

We did this very, very carefully—after talking to pipeline engineers, and doing our own research. Before we touched a thing, we called the pipeline companies twice to warn them, and let them turn off the pipelines themselves if they thought that was better; all of them did so.

We knew we were at risk for years in prison. But the nation needs to wake up now to what’s coming our way if we don’t reduce emissions boldly and fast; business as usual is now genocidal.

In shutting off the pipelines, we hoped to be part of that wake-up, to put ourselves in legal jeopardy in order to state dramatically and unambiguously that normal methods of political action and protest are simply not working with anywhere near the speed that we need them to.

One major hope of ours was to set legal precedent by using the “necessity defense” and bringing in expert witnesses to testify that because of the egregious nature of tar sands crude and the urgency of the climate crisis, we’d actually been acting in accordance with higher laws.

Appealing to higher laws is a risky strategy, but one that Johnston, and her co-defendant Annette Klapstein have decided is worth the potential outcome. Make no mistake. A not-guilty verdict in this case will be a devastating blow to the fossil-fuel industry and their bought-and-paid-for climate change/global warming deniers.

This is a game changer.

24 November 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

Donald John Trump is president of the United States of America due to no small help from the clueless apparatchiks drones at the Democratic National Committee. The ’90s are over and the leaders of the Democratic Party need to wake up, clean house or risk following the Republican Party into obscurity.

Ralph Nader has a few thoughts on that topic. In National Democratic Party—Pole Vaulting Back into Place, he writes:

Seeking to capitalize on the Republicans’ disarray, public cruelty and Trumpitis, the Democratic Party is gearing up for the Congressional elections of 2018. Alas, party leaders are likely to enlist the same old cast and crew.

The Democratic National Committee and their state imitators are raising money from the same old big donors and PACs that are complicit in the Party’s chronic history of losing so many Congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races—not to mention the White House.

The large, embattled unions are preparing to spend millions on television ads and unimaginative get-out-the-vote efforts, without demanding fresh pro-worker/pro-union agendas from the Democratic politicians they regularly endorse.

The same old political consulting firms, which also consult profitably for corporations, are revving up their defeat-prone tactics and readying their practice of blaming the candidates—their clients—when their strategies and lucrative ad buys don’t work.

The Party’s scapegoating machine remains well-oiled. To explain why they cannot defeat the cruelest, most plutocratic, anti-worker , anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-patient Republican Party in history, the woeful party leaders blame gerrymandering (in which they also engage), the Green Party, the Koch Brothers, voter suppression, “lying” Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the “Red States,” and more.

So what’s the plan for the Democratic Party? Their new slogan, developed at some cost by political consultants, is, “A Better Deal.” Mention this to John Continue Reading »

23 November 2017


2200 by Jeff Hess

As an undergraduate at Ohio University during the first Reagan administration I took every course offered by Dr. David Williams. Williams, who taught in the political science department, specialized in what was then The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He had earned his master’s degree in journalism from Moscow University. He was a brilliant teacher.

The one book I remember most from his classes was Hedrick Smith’s The Russians. I still have the book on my shelf.

This morning, reading Luke Harding’s How Trump walked into Putin’s web in The Guardian, reminded me of Smith, Dr. Williams and why I was so fascinated by the Russians more than 35 years ago. Harding opens with the story of a young social and political science student at Girton College at the University of Cambridge: Christopher Steele. Steele, Harding suggests, was recruited for MI6 by one of his tutors. (Looking back now, there is a slight chance that I sadly dodged a similar call from Dr. Williams—there was always a student rumor at OU that the Political Science Department was particularly CIAish.)

Steeled went on to serve his country for 22 years as an intelligence officer and then entered private practice where he would make his living in obscurity until last year when BuzzFeed published the now infamous Company Intelligence Report 2016/080. Under the title US Presidential Election: Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s Activities In Russia And Compromising Relationship With The Kremlin, the 35 page document is best known for one paragraph on the second page where Steele wrote:

One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

Another story in this morning’s Guardian suggests that Michael Flynn, retired US Army lieutenant general and disgraced national security advisor for President Donald John Trump, cutting a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In Michael Flynn breaks ties with Trump’s lawyers over Russia investigation, the Associated Press reports that:

A lawyer for former national security adviser Michael Flynn has told President Donald Trump’s legal team that they are no longer communicating with them about the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision could be a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation or to negotiate a deal for himself.

That is, of course, double-plus-not-good for the golfer-in-chief.

All of this is a rambling prologue—including an international soccer turn—for Harding’s long read (excerpted from his just-published book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win) which drops the first sabot at:

Before this, in early spring 2016, Simpson approached Steele, his friend and colleague. Steele began to scrutinise Paul Manafort, who would soon become Trump’s new campaign manager. From April, Steele investigated Trump on behalf of the DNC, Fusion’s anonymous client. All Steele knew at first was that the client was a law firm. He had no idea what he would find. He later told David Corn, Washington editor of the magazine Mother Jones: “It started off as a fairly general inquiry.” Trump’s organisation owned luxury hotels around the world. Trump had, as far back as 1987, sought to do real estate deals in Moscow. One obvious question for him, Steele said, was: “Are there business ties to Russia?”

Over time, Steele had built up a network of sources. He was protective of them: who they were he would never say. It could be someone well-known – a foreign government official or diplomat with access to secret material. Or it could be someone obscure – a lowly chambermaid cleaning the penthouse suite and emptying the bins in a five-star hotel.

Normally an intelligence officer would debrief sources directly, but since Steele could no longer visit Russia, this had to be done by others, or in third countries. There were intermediaries, subsources, operators—a sensitive chain. Only one of Steele’s sources on Trump knew of Steele. Steele put out his Trump-Russia query and waited for answers. His sources started reporting back. The information was astonishing; “hair-raising”. As he told friends: “For anyone who reads it, this is a life-changing experience.”

Steele had stumbled upon a well-advanced conspiracy that went beyond anything he had discovered with Litvinenko or Fifa. It was the boldest plot yet. It involved the Kremlin and Trump. Their relationship, Steele’s sources claimed, went back a long way. For at least the past five years, Russian intelligence had been secretly cultivating Trump. This operation had succeeded beyond Moscow’s wildest expectations. Not only had Trump upended political debate in the US – raining chaos wherever he went and winning the nomination – but it was just possible that he might become the next president. This opened all sorts of intriguing options for Putin.

What the Russians had, and Donald Trump very much wanted was intelligence on the likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In his first report he wrote:

A dossier of compromising material on Hillary CLINTON has been collated by the Russian Intelligence Services over many years and mainly comprises bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls rather than any embarrassing conduct. The dossier is controlled by Kremlin spokesman, PESKOV, directly on Putin’s orders. However, it has not yet been distributed abroad, including to TRUMP. Russian intentions for its deployment still unclear.

Harding writes:

The memo was sensational. There would be others, 16 in all, sent to Fusion between June and early November 2016. At first, obtaining intelligence from Moscow went well. For around six months – during the first half of the year – Steele was able to make inquiries in Russia with relative ease. It got harder from late July, as Trump’s ties to Russia came under scrutiny. Finally, the lights went out. Amid a Kremlin cover-up, the sources went silent and information channels shut down.

If Steele’s reporting was to be believed, Trump had been colluding with Russia. This arrangement was transactional, with both sides trading favours. The report said Trump had turned down “various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia”, especially in connection with the 2018 World Cup, hosted by Moscow. But he had been happy to accept a flow of Kremlin-sourced intelligence material, apparently delivered to him by his inner circle. That didn’t necessarily mean the candidate was a Russian agent. But it did signify that Russia’s leading spy agency had expended considerable effort in getting close to Trump – and, by extension, to his family, friends, close associates and business partners, not to mention his campaign manager and personal lawyer.

Enter the British version of our National Security Agency: GCHQ. Harding continues:

In late 2015 the British eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, was carrying out standard “collection” against Moscow targets. These were known Kremlin operatives already on the grid. Nothing unusual here – except that the Russians were talking to people associated with Trump. The precise nature of these exchanges has not been made public, but according to sources in the US and the UK, they formed a suspicious pattern. They continued through the first half of 2016. The intelligence was handed to the US as part of a routine sharing of information.

The FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of these contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow. This was in part due to institutional squeamishness—the law prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of US citizens without a warrant.

But the electronic intelligence suggested Steele was right. According to one account, the US agencies looked as if they were asleep. “‘Wake up! There’s something not right here!’—the BND [German intelligence], the Dutch, the French and SIS were all saying this,” one Washington-based source told me.

That summer, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, flew to the US to personally brief CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so important that it was handled at “director level”, face-to-face between the two agency chiefs.

And then, nothing. Steele became frustrated. What he had learned, he thought, had to be made public before the election. This was no October surprise, this was Chernobyl. Harding continues:

At this point Steele was still anonymous, a ghost. But the ghost’s message was rapidly circulating on Capitol Hill and inside Washington’s spy agencies, as well as among certain journalists and thinktanks. Democratic senators now apprised of Steele’s work were growing exasperated. The FBI seemed unduly keen to trash Clinton’s reputation while sitting on explosive material concerning Trump.

One of those who was aware of the dossier’s broad allegations was the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat. In August Reid, had written to Comey and asked for an inquiry into the “connections between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign”. In October, Reid wrote to Comey again. This time he framed his inquiry in scathing terms. In a clear reference to Steele, Reid wrote: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government … The public has a right to know this information.”

But all this frantic activity came to nought. Just as Nixon was re-elected during the early stages of Watergate, Trump won the presidential election, to general dismay, at a time when the Russia scandal was small but growing. Steele had found prima facie evidence of a conspiracy, but by and large the US public knew nothing about it.

Enter Arizona Senator John McCain:

The same month a group of international experts gathered in Halifax on Canada’s eastern seaboard. Their task: to make sense of the world in the aftermath of Trump’s stunning victory. One of the delegates attending the Halifax International Security Forum was Senator John McCain. Another was Sir Andrew Wood, the UK’s former ambassador to Russia. Wood was a friend of Steele’s and an Orbis associate. Before the election, Steele had gone to Wood and shown him the dossier. He wanted the ambassador’s advice. What should he do, or not do, with it? Of the dossier, Wood told me: “I took it seriously.”

On the margins of the Halifax conference, Wood briefed McCain about Steele’s dossier – its contents, if true, had profound and obvious implications for the incoming Trump administration, for the Republican party, and for US democracy. The implications were alarming enough to lead McCain to dispatch a former senior US official to meet Steele and find out more.

The emissary was David Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration. He was sufficiently troubled to get on a flight to London. Steele agreed to meet him at Heathrow airport. The rendezvous involved some old-fashioned spycraft. Kramer didn’t know what Steele looked like. He was told to look for a man with a copy of the Financial Times. After meeting Kramer, Steele drove him to his home in Surrey. They talked through the dossier: how Steele compiled it, what it said. Less than 24 hours later, Kramer returned to Washington. Glenn Simpson then shared a copy of the dossier confidentially with McCain, along with a final Steele memo on the Russian hacking operation, written in December.

McCain believed it was impossible to verify Steele’s claims without a proper investigation. He made a call and arranged a meeting with Comey. Their encounter on 8 December 2016 lasted five minutes. Not much was said. McCain gave Comey the dossier.

All of this feels more than familiar to me. Richard Nixon very nearly destroyed the Republican Party; Trump is set to finish the job, and McCain is prepared to play the role of Tennessee Senator Howard Henry Baker in this circus.

23 November 2017


2100 by Jeff Hess

Oh, this is just too feckin’ good. Michael Harriot—who has replaced Matt Taibbi on my blogroll—reporting in Retired Alabama Police Officer Says She Was Told ‘to Watch’ Roy Moore Around High School Cheerleaders for The Root, writes:

A retired Gasdsen, Ala. law enforcement officer says she and her fellow officers were told to keep Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore away from the high school cheerleading team because it was known that Moore preferred young girls.

Faye Gary, a former police officer told MSNBC that everyone in the small Alabama town was aware of Moore’s preference for young girls. This echoed reports in the New Yorker and AL.com that Moore had been banned from the local mall for hitting on underage girls.

“The rumor mill was that he liked young girls,” Faye said during an interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday. Faye served as a Gadsen police officer for 37 years and says she worked as a juvenile detective, explaining that every day her department “waited for a complaint to come in” about Roy Moore.

When I was a teenager I had an 48-starred American flag in my bedroom that I used to joke didn’t recognize Mississippi or Alabama as part of the United States. How many more shoes have to hit the floor before everyone, inside and outside Alabama, says enough is fucking enough?

23 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

171123 wiley miller right brain left brain creativity non sequitur

22 November 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

Anyone out there who still lives in a fantasy world where corporate executives, given the choice between putting more Americans to work for their company versus using the tax windfall to buy back their company’s stock and thus increase the stock price and their personal wealth, needs a dose of reality. Ralph Nader has warned about the threat of buybacks before and, as I learned myself only recently, corporations will always favor their own profits over those of stock holder, to whom they actually have a legal obligation.

The very suggestion that the tax plan will result in more jobs for American citizens—other than the servants hired by billionaires—would be laughable if only the tragedy was so real. Nader sent the letter below to 23 Senators.

In Letter to Democratic Senators on Stock Buybacks, he writes:

Dear Senator,

Please see my recent column on the practice of stock buybacks. This would be an effective point to raise to aggressively push back against the Republican tax plan, which would only provide corporations more capital to burn buying back their own stocks. If they want the tax cuts to get more capital for investment, why have they spent more than $7 trillion since 2003 buying back their own stock? (Which is a way of burning capital.) The answer is it enhances the value of their executive compensation package.

(See Steven Clifford’s book The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop it).

It would be beneficial for you to inject this argument into the current Senate debate on the McConnell bill that cuts income for the people in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and the big corporate firms.


Ralph Nader

The Republican tax plan is perhaps the greatest scam and money grab yet perpetrated upon American citizens.

21 November 2017


2300 by Jeff Hess

171121 zen pencils gavin aung than william blake poison tree
Pay very close attention to Gavin’s warning at the top of the comic…

21 November 2017


2200 by Jeff Hess

I don’t think I’ve ever hesitated in posting one of Ralph Nader’s essays, but this one gave me pause. Not because I disagree with Nader, I don’t, but rather because he pivots from our current hurricane of rape/sexual abuse/sexual misconduct/creepy-man behavior to our culpability in our government’s slaughter of millions of innocents. I get that he’s asking where’s the rage. I do. I just think the turn may too sharp.

Nader, in The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law, writes:

#MeToo is producing some results. At long last. Victims of sexual assault by men in superior positions of power are speaking out. Big time figures in the entertainment, media, sports and political realms are losing their positions—resigning or being told to leave. A producer at 60 Minutes thinks Wall Street may be next.

Sexual assaults need stronger sanctions. Only a few of the reported assaulters are being civilly sued under the law of torts. Even fewer are subjects of criminal investigation so far.

Perhaps the daily overdue accounting, regarding past and present reports of sexual assaults will encourage those abused in other contexts to also blow the whistle on other abuses. Too often, there are not penalties, but instead rewards, for high government and corporate officials whose derelict and often illegal decisions directly produce millions of deaths and injuries.

A few weeks ago, former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice shared a stage at the George W. Bush Institute, reflecting on their careers to widespread admiration. What they neglected to mention were the devastated families, villages, cities and communities and nations plunged into violent chaos from the Continue Reading »

21 November 2017


2100 by Jeff Hess

Also: Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell respond to Charlie Rose allegations and Colbert talks Charlie Rose And ‘The Crusty Paw.’

Meanwhile, Molly Redden, reporting in ‘You’ll never work again’: women tell how sexual harassment broke their careers for The Guardian, writes:

“There are coming to be consequences for those actions, but it’s too little too late,” said one of the women, former DC Comics editor Janelle Asselin. “For the people who were harassed and assaulted, the consequences are something we’ve been living with for years.”

“The longer I read comics, the more I feel the possibilities are limitless,” said Asselin, reflecting on her time as an editor at the publishing powerhouse behind Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and big-budget superhero movies such as the current Justice League.

“If you’re at DC, you’re at the pinnacle of comics,” Asselin said. “You feel like you’ve made it into this amazing club where only an elite few get to work. It was a dream come true.”

Asselin rose to be the associate editor of one of DC’s most treasured properties—the Batman comics. From her perch, she shepherded one of DC’s first bisexual characters, Starling, into existence and put the brakes on sexist plot devices.

“There was a storyline in a Robin comic where the writer wanted the female villain to be tricked by chocolate. Because she’s a woman,” Asselin recalled with a laugh. It was her first time objecting to a major storyline, and she won.

But her time with DC would be short-lived. After she and a number of women reported Eddie Berganza, one of the company’s most esteemed editors, to HR for making sexual comments in 2010, Berganza received a promotion.

Asselin quit.

Berganza, who has fired earlier this month following a BuzzFeed report about the allegations against him, has not publicly responded to the accusations and did not return a request for comment from the Guardian, nor did DC.

Earlier this month, Asselin tweeted: “I loved my job at DC until that year that things went south. I never would’ve left if it hadn’t been for DC’s lack of respect for the women who came forward. My career and life could be very different if Eddie Berganza hadn’t been what he was.”

“I underestimated what the psychological impact of reporting him and watching DC promote him anyway would be,” Asselin told the Guardian. By the end, “I hated going to work, because I had a very negative view about the company and their priorities.”

Asselin took a new position with Disney but was later laid off. Working as a comics journalist and starting an independent publishing company gave her some satisfaction, but ultimately, she burned out. Today, Asselin is a claims adjustor for a workers’ compensation insurer.

And the fanboys in their mothers’ basement go into their SJW rant in three, two….

Poor little bunnies…

21 November 2017


1800 by Roldo Bartimole

Okay, now who can tell me who ran against Mayor Michael White in 1993 when he sought his second term?

It’s not a trick question. It does relate to today.

It’s the last time Cleveland voters turned out—or should I say failed to vote —in numbers similar to Frank Jackson’s recent victory for his unprecedented four-year fourth term.

Jackson told one Councilman recently, “I got the message. People want change.”

Problem is Jackson so far hasn’t moved. I don’t see the urgency. He doesn’t show a real spirit of leadership.

And the situation calls for some quick, strong action.

Jackson needs to clean out the dead wood. I don’t think he’s up to the job. I don’t think he wants to do it.

In October 2012, I wrote:

There were too many reasons why Clevelanders voted slothfully in the recent mayoral runoff election:

1) Its citizens are a dispirited, dejected constituency, and they further do not believe it makes a spits worth of difference who is mayor.

2) The major outlet for news (hint: PD) held up its nose at the candidates and decided they were not worth serious coverage, so the paper of record avoided its duty and made the race even more irrelevant.

There has been a long, long process of killing democratic predispositions in the Cleveland community for the benefit of the few.

Cleveland has been an institutionally dominated community for so long that it may be impossible to revive the city’s democratic status, once praised by Lincoln Steffens for its muckraking spirit.

Those comments could be written today. Little has changed.

The situation is worse. And on the decline.

Back in 1993, Mayor White won easily some 76,000 votes to 14,000 in the general.

Now, there are interests that want to further diminish city participation in Cleveland’s government. They want to cut city council from 17 as far down as they can. That’s a mistake because occasionally a council member is elected who really does want change. Or at least sees it as a stepping stone to higher office. Few can be bought more cheaply also.

The poor showing in this November’s election—slightly less than 23 percent of Clevelanders voting—screams “Something’s wrong here.

In 1993, in what could be called an election few should have cared about, the turnout was 33 percent. It was the lowest since 1965 when Mayor Ralph Locher held his seat over Ralph McAllister. Neither one was a very popular politician. Locher had had no opposition in the previous election though 50 percent of Clevelanders still voted. In the next election he was eliminated in the primary. The general election drew whopping 79 percent of voters with Stokes defeating Seth Taft by a couple of thousand votes.

Now, who did run against White in 1993? A character named David Lee Rock, a pretty much unknown. Rock drew some 14,000 votes to White’s 76,000.

We owe it to ourselves to see that this low turnout never happens again. Schools, libraries, social media and maybe some real citizen action should pick up the slack of the city’s only semi-daily newspaper, which seems dispirited itself.

Or new and converted buildings will not revive Cleveland. We have to do it the old fashioned way. By ourselves.

By Roldo Bartimole…

20 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

19 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

I have written much before about my recognition that as a native-born white male in the United States I am, by no merit of my own, the recipient of a level of privilege that places me near the pinnacle of humanity. In the past I have always focused on the white part of that categorization, but national events in the past month have me thinking much more about the male part.

Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, has written a long-read on the topic—thank you Mano Singham—that I find insightful. There is much there, but I wanted to pull out one bit because the man discussed is someone I’ve long admired: Matt Taibbi. In Rebecca Traister on the Post-Weinstein Reckoning, she writes:

The progressive journalist Matt Taibbi recently published a lengthy apology/explanation in which he despaired that the public reappraisal of the work that established him (in particular, a book about Russia that he now says is satirical and includes accounts of pushing women under the table for blow jobs, of telling them to lighten up when they object to such high jinks) is coinciding with the publication of his book about the death of Eric Garner. It’s the kind of important book that he’s been working toward writing for 30 years, he laments. Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve wanted to be writers for 30 years, who’ve yearned to make the world a better place by telling stories of injustice, but who haven’t had the opportunity in part because so much journalistic space is occupied by men like Taibbi: dudes who in some measure gained their professional footholds by objectifying women — and not just in big, bad Russia. Take the piece Taibbi wrote in 2009 about athletes’ wives. “The problem with the Smoking-Hot Skank as a permanent life choice,” he opined, “is that she eventually gets bored and starts calling up reporters to share her Important Political Opinions.” Taibbi may feel demoralized because the hilarious misogynistic stylings of his youth are now interfering with his grown-up career, but lots of women never even got their careers off the ground because the men in their fields saw them as Smoking-Hot Skanks whose claim to having a thought in their heads was no more than a punch line.

Men have not succeeded in spite of their noxious behavior or disregard for women; in many instances, they’ve succeeded because of it. They’ve been patted on the back and winked along — their retro-machismo hailed as funny or edgy — at the same places that are now dramatically jettisoning them. “The incredible hypocrisy of the boards, employers, institutions, publicists, brothers, friends who have been protecting powerful men/harassers/rapists for years and are now suddenly dropping them,” says one of my colleagues at New York, livid and depressed. “What changed? Certainly not their beliefs about the behavior, right? Only their self-interest. On the one hand, I’m so happy they’re finally being called out and facing consequences, but there’s something so craven and superficially moralizing about the piling on by the selfsame people who were the snickerers and protectors.”

There is an argument that bad men—never bad women or bad people—can do great works, but now I have to consider what even greater works might have been done but for the privilege of bad men.

One of the practices in many families sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner is to ask the question: what are you most thankful for this year?

I wonder just how many people will admit that they’re thankful for the unearned privileges given to them?

18 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

Jonathan Tobin, writing in Roy Moore Proves Outrage May Not Be Dead for National Review, ferrets-out Steven Bannon’s endgame:

So it’s worth asking why the Breitbart CEO not only has failed to distance himself from [U.S. Senate Candiate Roy] Moore now that he’s become politically radioactive but is doubling down on his candidacy in the face of a media feeding frenzy and condemnations from many Republican officeholders.

The answer has very little to do with the question of Moore’s guilt, the strong case built against him by the Washington Post, or the new accusation from a women who claims he assaulted her when she was 16. Nor is it about the judge’s unconvincing denials or the difficulty of replacing him on the ballot with weeks to go before the special election. Rather, it is the result of Bannon’s political credo, which conceives of politics as a form of warfare in which no quarter can be given. To Bannon, this battle is not about Moore’s fitness for public office but instead is a conflict with both the media and establishment Republicans that he believes must be won by any means available.

But to what end? Tobin responds: total victory.

…It’s fair to ask why no one at Breitbart is asking the same question about Bannon’s determination to defy not only the establishment but the country’s growing awareness of sexual-harassment cases. The reason the Breitbart folks are sticking with their man isn’t their spurious claims that Moore is being treated unjustly, or that the Post story wasn’t bulletproof against the libel lawsuit Moore is disingenuously threatening. Rather, it is rooted in the belief that conservatives fight in a gentlemanly manner while their liberal opponents go for blood while engaging in the politics of personal destruction, and that this must change if the country is to be saved.

If not David Byrne, then perhaps Bannon considers Arnaud Amalric to be one of his personal heroes.

17 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

I first read Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media when I was a magazine editor working for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in the late ’80s. I was only five years out of journalism school and the book reminded me of why I had become a journalist. I didn’t immediately quit HBJ, but Herman and Chomsky fueled my search for better work. A review of the 2002 update (I ordered a copy this morning) of the 1988 original reads:

In this pathbreaking work, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky show that, contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order.

Based on a series of case studies—including the media’s dichotomous treatment of “worthy” versus “unworthy” victims, “legitimizing” and “meaningless” Third World elections, and devastating critiques of media coverage of the U.S. wars against Indochina—Herman and Chomsky draw on decades of criticism and research to propose a Propaganda Model to explain the media’s behavior and performance. Their new introduction updates the Propaganda Model and the earlier case studies, and it discusses several other applications. These include the manner in which the media covered the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and subsequent Mexican financial meltdown of 1994-1995, the media’s handling of the protests against the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund in 1999 and 2000, and the media’s treatment of the chemical industry and its regulation. What emerges from this work is a powerful assessment of how propagandistic the U.S. mass media are, how they systematically fail to live up to their self-image as providers of the kind of information that people need to make sense of the world, and how we can understand their function in a radically new way.

Herman died last week at age 92 (his final piece—Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies—appeared this summer in Monthly Review) and Matt Taibbi published his remembrance through the lens of Marketing Consent. Taibbi wrote:

Manufacturing Consent was a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers. The book described with great clarity how the system of private commercial media in America cooperates with state power to generate propaganda.

Herman’s work was difficult for many to understand because the nature of the American media, then and now, seemed at best to be at an arm’s length from, say, the CIA or the State Department. Here is how the book put it:

“It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent.”

The central thesis of Manufacturing Consent was that there were worthy and unworthy victims (U.S. citizens devastated by hurricanes in Texas and Florida are worthy, those citizens in Puerto Rico, not so much) in deciding what stories to publish/broadcast.

In Manufacturing Consent, written during the Cold War, the idea was expressed thusly: One Polish priest murdered behind the Iron Curtain earned about a hundred times as much coverage as priests shot in Latin America by American-backed dictatorships.

The Polish priest was the worthy victim, the Latin American priests unworthy.

So Americans learned to be furious about atrocities committed in Soviet client states, but blind to almost exactly similar crimes committed within our own spheres of influence.

The really sad part about the Herman/Chomsky thesis was that it didn’t rely upon coercion or violence. Newspapers and TV channels portrayed the world in this America-centric way not because they were forced to. Mostly, they were just intellectually lazy and disinterested in the stated mission of their business, i.e., telling the truth.

Early in his piece, Taibbi touches on a theme that strikes close to home:

We don’t censor the truth in America, mostly. What we do instead is ignore it. If a lone reporter wants to keep banging a drum about something taboo, like contracting corruption in the military, or atrocities abroad, he or she will a) tend not advance in the business, and b) not be picked up by other media.

Therefore the only stories that tended to reach mass audiences were ones in which the basic gist was agreed upon by the editors and news directors of all or most of the major media companies.

In virtually all cases this little mini-oligarchy of media overlords kept the news closely in sync with the official pronouncements of the U.S. government.

Remind you of anyone you know (or really need to know) in Cleveland?

16 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 0416 on 17 November—Finally, another journalist has picked up the story: Sam Allard, reporting in Bikers for Trump are Not Congressman Jim Renacci’s Private Security Detail for Scene, writes:

According to Renacci spokesman James Slepian, they were not. Bikers for Trump weren’t serving as security guards at the Nov. 4 event, nor have they been retained by Renacci’s campaign in any capacity.

So, the next question has to be: if their not private security, and they weren’t invited by the host or Renacci, what were they doing there?]

171114 bikers for trump john leonard james bupkis renacci

So, I don’t know why this story isn’t being played more broadly, but reading my local free weekly newspaper, The North Royalton Post, this evening I can across this headline: Bikers for Trump eject serial protester from Renacci campaign event. Reporting for The Post, staff writer Bob Morehead writes:

It was supposed to be a routine stump speech to a hand-picked, friendly crowd, Nov. 4.

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci was at the Galehouse Tree Farm to reinforce his bid for Ohio governor in 2018. The event was billed as a “Fall Meet and Greet” with small business owners and farmers.

“The congressman plans on speaking about the need for positive change of the business climate in Ohio and how his ideas will help small business and farmers in Ohio grow and expand,” the advance notice read.

Before Renacci arrived and took the microphone, though, there was a disturbance in the back of the room.

“I guess Mr. Renacci doesn’t want to answer questions from his constituents,” a man shouted.

The man, later identified as John Leonard, 59, of Medina, then shouted “Get your hands off me! I’m leaving! Get your hands off me!” and was pushed, jacket over his head to restrain his arms, out of the building by an armed member of Bikers for Trump as another member of the group opened the door.

The story was first posted on Saturday, 4 November, and updated no Wednesday 8 November.

Now, nearly a week later, I just checked and found no mention of the story except in the original.

How is it possible that a candidate for governor of the State of Ohio can have, or allow, armed members of a motorcycle club to act as his private security and get no notice from statewide media?

Has everyone forgotten Altamont?

15 November 2017


1500 by Roldo Bartimole

171115 roldo stokes forbes pov point of view

All this praise being heaped on Carl Stokes by the news media and many others is a bunch of bullshit.


Because it comes after he’s been dead more than 20 years and it doesn’t fit how he was treated when he was the first black mayor of Cleveland.

In other words, when it really counted.

At a press conference Stokes said:

There is hardly a place in this community where two or more persons join that their disgust in the two newspapers is not expressed. Rich people, poor people, black and white people. There is a serious erosion of confidence in the truthfulness, the integrity and he sincerity of the newspapers. And yet, what recourse do the people have as a source of news? None, really.

It’s a good reading of the media today, too.

I could tell him today what recourse he has.

Be dead for some 20 years.

The phonies come and maybe tell some of the truth about you. But they don’t know the truth because they didn’t tell it in the first place.

News media find telling the truth very difficult. First Amendment or not.

Stokes left town in disgust. Does anyone say that?

His press secretary Dick Murway told me at the time:

He felt (the corporate leaders) had deserted him and Cleveland, and they simply didn’t want conflict. With few exceptions Stokes felt that they were more concerned about not rocking the boat rather than seeking solutions. He became more and more conscious of his blackness and this disturbed the business establishment.

I wrote at that time in a piece in Business & Society Review about corporate responsibility in Cleveland:

Stokes has provided a safe trip through the late 1960s and into the 1970s in a city where urban eruptions had become rather common place.

It’s good to have a counter-history to the regular news media.

Before Stokes left, he laid the ground for an organized political structure that would empower black politics. It was called the 21st District Caucus where his brother Continue Reading »

14 November 2017


2000 by Jeff Hess

171114 bikers for trump john leonard james bupkis renacci

So, I don’t know why this story isn’t being played more broadly, but reading my local free weekly newspaper, The North Royalton Post, this evening I can across this headline: Bikers for Trump eject serial protester from Renacci campaign event. Reporting for The Post, staff writer Bob Morehead writes:

It was supposed to be a routine stump speech to a hand-picked, friendly crowd, Nov. 4.

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci was at the Galehouse Tree Farm to reinforce his bid for Ohio governor in 2018. The event was billed as a “Fall Meet and Greet” with small business owners and farmers.

“The congressman plans on speaking about the need for positive change of the business climate in Ohio and how his ideas will help small business and farmers in Ohio grow and expand,” the advance notice read.

Before Renacci arrived and took the microphone, though, there was a disturbance in the back of the room.

“I guess Mr. Renacci doesn’t want to answer questions from his constituents,” a man shouted.

The man, later identified as John Leonard, 59, of Medina, then shouted “Get your hands off me! I’m leaving! Get your hands off me!” and was pushed, jacket over his head to restrain his arms, out of the building by an armed member of Bikers for Trump as another member of the group opened the door.

The story was first posted on Saturday, 4 November, and updated no Wednesday 8 November.

Now, nearly a week later, I just checked and found no mention of the story except in the original.

How is it possible that a candidate for governor of the State of Ohio can have, or allow, armed members of a motorcycle club to act as his private security and get no notice from statewide media?

Has everyone forgotten Altamont?

14 November 2017


1900 by Jeff Hess

When Roy Moore steps down/gets booted from the United States Senate, he might be considering a move to Baghdad.

The family values of the religious wrong in Iraq appear to be more in line with those of Moore (and Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler) than the majority of Americans.

If Moore finds Iraq to be too, well, Middle Eastern, he might consider a NATO country closer to home: Turkey:

Activists and opposition politicians in Turkey have rounded on a law that allows Muslim clerics to conduct civil marriages, describing it as a blow to women’s rights and secularism and part of an ongoing effort to impose religious values on a polarised society.

The law allowing “mufti” marriages was passed by parliament and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, then published in the country’s official gazette on Friday, despite protests by civil society activists and opposition lawmakers. Last month, Erdo?an declared the bill would be passed “whether you like it or not”.

Supporters of the law point out that it does not change the requirements for a legal civil marriage. They say it does not create a loophole that allows child marriages or polygamy, and simply makes it more convenient for citizens who are religiously observant.

And, as his religious-wrong supporters here in the 21st century continue to clearly demonstrate, they’re all about convenience for the religiously observant.

14 November 2017


1800 by Jeff Hess

John Oliver explains…

14 November 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

I remember discovering Octavia Butler back in 1976 at The Amber Unicorn, a fantasy and science fiction bookstore then doing business in San Diego, California (the store has since moved to Las Vegas). My habit was to spend no more than $20 per payday on new paperback books. In 1976 that would buy six to eight books.

At the time Butler was a unicorn herself, a female, African-American Science Fiction writer in a world dominated by white men and her Patternmaster series was ground-breaking on many levels. Butler died in 2006.

Ashley Nkadi, writing in A Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction Made for Black People, by Black People for The Root, shows just how far SF&F (never Sci-Fi, Ashley, please) has come:

Since the beginning of time, when we have not been included, we have created our own. HBCUs, black-owned businesses, black houses of worship, black social organizations and The Root itself are fruits of our resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. The books Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture and The Encyclopedia of Black Comics are fantastic evidence of this rich hub of black art. To further elaborate, here is an inclusive (and intersectional) guide to black art and artists in the genre to support, ranging from emerging to longtime favorites.

I was particularly taken by Dark Matter, a 448-page anthology that: introduces black science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers to the generations of readers who have not had the chance to explore the scope and diversity among African-American writers. What caught my eye was the inclusion of W.E.B. Du Bois, alongside Butler and many others, in the collection. I had no idea.

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