10 May 2017


0600 by Jeff Hess

Part II

Zaid Jilani, reporting in Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders Explain How Inequality Breeds Authoritarianism for The Intercept, writes:

On Monday night, one day after the far-right Marine Le Pen lost France’s presidential election but garnered a record number of votes for her political party, Bernie Sanders and Jimmy Carter sat down together to discuss rising authoritarianism across the globe.

The two spoke at the Carter Center, in a discussion that was streamed online.

Asked by the moderator about the rise of authoritarian politics in the United States and elsewhere, both the Vermont senator and former president agreed on a single root cause: political and economic inequality.

“I think the root of it is something that I haven’t heard discussed much,” Carter replied. “I believe the root of the downturn in human rights preceded 2016, it began earlier than that, and I think the reason was disparity in income which has been translated into the average person, you know good, decent, hard-working middle class people feeling that they are getting cheated by the government and by society and they don’t get the same element of health care, they don’t get the same quality education, they don’t get the same political rights.”

“I agree with everything that President Carter said,” Sanders replied.

“Look, here is the situation. You got all over this country tens of millions of people who are extremely angry and they are disappointed. Now we all know as a result of technology workers are producing more today than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Yet despite that you’re seeing people work not 40 hours a week, they’re working 50 or 60 hours a week. Their wages are actually going down!”

Carter and Sanders’s belief that inequality breeds authoritarianism is backed by evidence from France’s recent election.

A post-election examination of France’s presidential contest by the New York Times found that Le Pen’s support “was strongest in areas with high unemployment and low wages.” A regression analysis by The Economist came to similar conclusions.

Sanders and Carter disagreed on little during the night’s discussion, leading the former president to admit who he supported in the Democratic presidential primary.

“Do y’all see why I voted for him?” Carter joked, as the audience laughed.

Yes we do, Mr. President. President Cater is the only president of the United States for which I have voted twice.

10 May 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

Of course, Stephen Colbert also had a few choice words.

What we know this morning: “Our Democracy Is in Danger”: Key Reactions to Donald Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey; and Donald Trump fires FBI director, raising questions over Russia investigation: US president cites Comey’s handling of Clinton email investigation.

James Comey is only the second director of the FBI to be removed.

No, not this Clinton, THIS Clinton.

9 May 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has a plan for fixing the North American Free Trade Agreement. He writes:

I have spent my entire career fighting for a trade policy that puts Ohio workers first. Two days after last November’s election, I called the president-elect’s transition team and offered to work with them to make good on his campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve held roundtables with workers across Ohio to get their input and hear what they believe that should look like. Last Monday, I sent a letter to President Trump outlining a strategy for renegotiating NAFTA, to secure the best deal for Ohio workers. The plan has four key parts, including new strategies that the U.S. hasn’t used in past trade deal negotiations.

First, we need secure up front commitments from Mexico and Canada on anti-outsourcing provisions and Buy America protections before even beginning negotiations.

We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers, and weak, or non-existent, environmental protections in other countries. That’s why we need commitments from our trading partners to secure strict worker protections before we even sit down at the negotiating table.

Next, we can’t pit American workers and industries against each other. The administration should develop individualized negotiating strategies for manufacturing sectors that have been hurt by outsourcing.

American workers shouldn’t be horse-traded simply for the sake of cutting a deal.

Of course, even good trade deals mean nothing if they aren’t enforced. Any new deal must also include more meaningful enforcement tools for American workers, and do away with special courts that allow multi-national corporations to undermine U.S. laws and take advantage of American workers.

Finally, we need to include workers in the negotiations. Time after time, we’ve seen corporate lobbyists writing trade deals behind closed doors, while American workers are locked out. That’s how we end up with trade agreement after trade agreement that sells out workers.

American jobs shouldn’t be up for negotiation, and American workers can’t be traded away as bargaining chips. By setting high standards, putting workers ahead of corporations, and refusing to compromise on outsourcing, we can create the best possible deal for all American workers.


Good luck with that senator. There is a bigger problem here, pointed out to me this morning by Cleveland’s treasure Roldo Bartimole quoting Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson. Elizabeth J. Hauser, editor of Johnson’s biography My Story, wrote in the books final chapter:

One night John Paul said a suggestive thing. It was a sort of a fable, a dream—I don’t know what he called it; but it had been ringing in my ears every since and I am going to try to tell if to you. John Paul said there was a certain river and that many human beings were in it, struggling to get to the shore. Some succeeded, some were pulled ashore by kind-hearted people on the banks. But many were carried down the stream and drowned. It is no doubt a wise thing, it is noble that under those conditions charitable people devote themselves to helping the victims out of the water. But John Paul said it would be better if some of those kindly people on the shore engaged in rescue work, would go up the stream and find out who was pushing the people into it. I could not help but follow that thought. We single taxers, while ready to help pull the struggling ones out, feel something urging us up the river to see who is pushing the people into the river to drown.

“It is in this way that I would answer those who ask us to help the poor. Let us help them, that they may at the last fight the battle of Privilege with more strength and courage; but let us never lose sight of our mission up the river to see who is pushing the people in.

Some of us need to head up river now.

8 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

[Update @ 1928—Oh, this is rich:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claimed on Monday that its online comments system was attacked hours after comedian John Oliver called on viewers of his HBO series Last Week Tonight to file comments to urge the agency to protect open internet rules.

The clowns at the FCC wouldn’t know a DoS attack if it punched them in cock holster.]

[Update @ 1618—I finally got through and left this comment:

Under no circumstances should any corporation be allowed to profit from use of the public communication system, specifically the Internet, more than any other corporation, entity, organization or individual.

Net Neutrality means just that: no favor nor special access.

Video views are now at 926,388; likes/dislikes are 71,481/993 and comments are at 4,536.]

And keep those serves crashing by going to gofccyourself.com

Melissa Locker, reporting in John Oliver Wants You to Flood the FCC Website to Save Net Neutrality, Again for Time, writes:

“The Internet is the repository of all human knowledge — and goats singing Taylor Swift songs,” said John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, rejoicing in the fact that the Internet is an incredible place. However, according to Oliver, that is threatened by the Trump administration’s decision to roll back protections for net neutrality.

If you don’t recall the fifth-ever episode of Last Week Tonight, where Oliver also discussed net neutrality, it is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot limit, slow down access to, or otherwise manipulate the choices that consumers make online by slowing down access to less popular sites. In short, they have to treat all websites as equal. For instance, Ancestry.com and Oliver’s new website, JustTellMeIfImRelatedToANazi.com (which, by the way, directs to the Federal Communications Commission’s site). In short, net neutrality makes the Internet a level playing field. However the Trump administration has decided to roll back Obama-era rules safeguarding net neutrality, which doesn’t surprise Oliver, who also wouldn’t be surprised if “Trump purposefully killed every turkey that Obama ever pardoned.”

The person leading the charge to roll back net neutrality is President Trump’s new FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon. According to Oliver, Pai has reportedly suggested that ISPs could simply promise not to obstruct or slow consumer access to websites in their terms of services (those long technical rules that no one reads), and as Oliver notes, “That would make net neutrality as binding as a proposal on The Bachelor.”

Net neutrality could be protected by an act of Congress, but Oliver does not trust this Congress or any Congress to handle such a complex and technical issue. Instead, Oliver believes that anyone who loves the Internet needs to speak up and make sure the FCC knows that net neutrality is important. To make that easy, Oliver bought the website GoFCCYourself.com which leads directly to the FCC’s public comment area.

As of 0606 this morning, the servers are crashed and 165,400 people have viewed the video and 1,333 have left comments on Oliver’s YouTube account.

This is going to be another good day for We The People tired of corporate fuckery.

7 May 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

Last week, in my continuing coverage of the barbaric lashing and imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi, I posted an update from The New Arab: Saudi Arabia sentences man to death for ‘insulting religion.` The story tells us that:

A court in eastern city of Hafar al-Batin handed down the sentence to Ahmad al-Shamri last week, two years after he was arrested for apostasy.

Shamri, who is in his twenties, was reportedly sentenced to death in February 2015 for posting videos on Kik Messenger of himself “insulting God, the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, ripping up the Quran and hitting it with a shoe”.

Shamri perpetrated his crime against gawd at about the same time that Stephen Fry gave the interview with Gay Byrne for RTÉ One’s The Meaning of Life excerpted above.

Now, more than two years later Shamri has lost his second appeal and Fry is being brought up on blasphemy charges, not in Saudi Arabia, where we shrug off such medieval bullshit because the House of Saud is our valued ally and, well, you know, Islam, but in Ireland.

Pádraig Collins, reporting in Stephen Fry investigated by Irish police for alleged blasphemy for The Guardian, writes:

Police in Ireland are investigating a complaint of blasphemy regarding comments made by Stephen Fry on a television programme shown on Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTÉ.

Gardaí (police) in Dublin have contacted the man who reported the allegation following a broadcast in February 2015, and a full investigation is due to be carried out, the Irish Independent reported.

Under Ireland’s Defamation Act 2009 a person who publishes or utters blasphemous material “shall be guilty of an offence”. A conviction can lead to a fine of up to €25,000.

That this is not some archaic ecclesiastical edict dating from the last millennium, but a secular law only on the books for less than six years makes the charge all the more horrendous. Collins continues:

A member of the public, who asked not to be identified, said he made the complaint against Fry more than two years ago at Ennis garda station in County Clare.“I told the Garda I wanted to report Fry for uttering blasphemy and RTÉ for publishing/broadcasting it and that I believed these were criminal offences under the Defamation Act 2009.

“The garda then took a formal written statement from me in which I quoted Fry’s comments in detail. This written statement mentioned both Fry and RTÉ specifically.”

He said he was asked by the garda if he had been personally offended by the programme and if he wished to include this in the written statement.

“I told the garda that I did not want to include this as I had not personally been offended by Fry’s comments – I added that I simply believed that the comments made by Fry on RTÉ were criminal blasphemy and that I was doing my civic duty by reporting a crime.”

After hearing nothing for 18 months, the complainant wrote to the head of the Irish police, Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, “asking if the crime I reported was being followed up. A few weeks later I got a standard ‘we have received your letter’ from her secretary.”

But recently the man was contacted by a detective from Donnybrook garda station in Dublin (the same suburb where RTÉ is headquartered) to say they were looking into the blasphemy claim. “He said he might have to meet me to take a new more detailed statement.”

The No. 1 comment on Collins’ story (with 684 likes) comes from Iliaska who wrote:

In the 21st century, could we just prosecute whoever attempts to prosecute someone for “blasphemy?” This very notion has to go.

Hear, hear!

7 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

While House Republicans partied, We The People occupied the barricades to push the barbarians back through the gate and all but nine House Republicans are diving for cover. Adam Gabbatt, writing in Big, angry crowds to fight back against Trumpcare for The Guardian, has the details:

After working hard to pass a bill that would strip millions of Americans of their health insurance, Congress is taking a well-earned recess for the next week. The idea is that politicians return to their home districts to meet their constituents. But if your representative is a Republican, you’ll have a hard time finding them.

According to the Town Hall project, which tracks face-to-face meetings held by members of Congress, only nine out of the 217 Republicans who voted for Thursday’s healthcare bill [that, of course includes my representative, Jame Bupkis Renacci, JH] have plans to hold town halls during recess week.

In lieu of the great Republican no-show, Indivisible, a progressive group which aims to use Tea Party tactics to influence politicians, has posted the names and office telephone numbers of every Republican who voted for the bill. Indivisible is encouraging people to call those representatives.

6 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

Ralph Nader, in Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader Asks Why the Entire House Congressional Delegation from Connecticut Refuses to Sign HR 676 or Full Medicare for All Legislation, writes:

Dear Representatives Joe Courtney, Elizabeth Esty, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and John Larson:

There are 109 colleagues of yours who are co-sponsors of HR 676, Congressman John Conyers’ single payer bill in the House that provides full Medicare for all with free choice of doctor and hospital.

Yet not one of you—members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation—has co-sponsored HR 676.

This despite majoritarian support, with a recent Pew poll showing 85 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents saying the federal government should be responsible for health care insurance.

Why are you not representing your constituents on this critical reform that, as demonstrated in other countries, is much more efficient, provides Continue Reading »

5 May 2017


1600 by Jeff Hess

This is what he said to his constituents in his weekly newsletter:

This week, I took the first step in fulfilling a promise I made to the 16th District and was elected on: repealing and replacing Obamacare with a more patient-centered, affordable, and flexible health care system. Ohioans are suffering under Obamacare. Premiums have risen over 90 percent since 2013, deductibles are skyrocketing, and insurers are running for the door in the exchanges.

Please understand that there is a lot of misinformation out there and the AHCA does not allow insurers to discriminate against people because of their gender and pre-existing conditions, and no one can be denied coverage. [That’s true, AHCA does not do any of those things, HOWEVER, the AHCA—aka Trumpcare 2.0—gives states special permission to do those things if they so wish, so everyone should expect reduced services at higher costs for fewer people. JH] The bill is now in the Senate’s hands, where it will undergo more changes before its passed into law. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the other chamber on producing the strongest legislation possible to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all Americans.

Here’s what Jim Bupkis* Renacci said before the vote.

Note that at timemark 4:03 Renacci pretends that he’s already been elected governor of Ohio.

Can you say hubris?

Meanwhile, in the Senate…

*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.


5 May 2017


1500 by Roldo Bartimole

We don’t realize the taxes and a fee that has been added during the tenure of this mayor who was supposed to represent the city’s underprivileged and needy. He doesn’t.

But he’s been the Man. Mayor Stagnant.

The Corporates Man. Full member of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. They love him over there.

He’s now talking neighborhoods. A little late Frank. Actually, too late.

Whatever they seem to upchuck, he finds reason to find just oh, so good for us.

Even the garbage is now costly in Cleveland. Jackson added an $8 a week fee. Why not? It’s regressive, isn’t it?

He gives away city assets with a yawn. To developers, to sports billionaires.

He found a way to charge Clevelanders for the trash they must throw away. What’s next? A tax on how much air you breathe?

Cleveland badly needs a no-nonsense mayor who actually believes its citizens deserve representation.

It’s time for some rabble rousing.

Jackson certainly has been a vigorous proponent of taxing what you buy.

He has stood aside when others raise taxes too.

Even though the man from the most impoverished ward in the city knows it has to hurt his people. It is what it is though, right?

Jackson is a fraud as a rep of the disadvantaged. He has been the puppet of the privileged.

He will, of course, be endorsed by the Plain Dealer, now a subsidiary of the GCP and about as concerned for the ordinary guy as our president.

But let’s try to look at the taxes Jackson has watched or endorsed in the last few years.

Jackson has supported or remained mute as deprived people have been skewed by those that set our agenda.

You can start with the latest—the sordid Arena deal. The city will pass Continue Reading »

4 May 2017


0549 by Jeff Hess

4 May 2017


0500 by Jeff Hess

After Bernie Sanders withdrew from the 2016 race for the Democratic Party nomination the people who believe in the necessity for progressive policies directed towards the needs of the 99 percent and not the 1 percent stayed organized. As I’ve heard Steve Holecko say time and time again as part of his introduction at meetings around Cuyahoga County, progressives here in Cuyahoga County came together to form the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus. The CCPC is precisely the kind of organization that Ralph Nader describes when he discusses Citizen Lobbies below.

Nader, in It’s About Bringing Your Congress Back Home, Citizens!, writes:

The large marches, in Washington, DC and around the country, calling attention to importance of science and focusing on the calamitous impacts of climate change had impressive turnouts. But the protests would have been more productive if they concentrated more—in their slogans and signs—on 535 politicians to whom we have given immense power to influence policies relating to those issues, for ill or for good.

I’m speaking of Congress.

Congress cannot be ignored or neglected simply because we know it to be a corporate Congress, or a gridlocked Congress, or a Congress that is so collectively delinquent, or perk and PAC addicted, or beholden to commercial interests, or self-serving through gerrymandered electoral districts where they, through their party’s controlled state government, pick the voters to elect them.

Sure, there are probably 100 good legislators on Capitol Hill. But many of these progressive elected officials fail to effectively network with citizen groups, or organize left-right coalitions back home into an unstoppable political force. Issues that invite such left/right consensus are numerous, including raising the federal minimum wage, protecting civil liberties, tackling government waste and corruption, advancing solar energy, reforming the corporate tax system, full Medicare for all Continue Reading »

4 May 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

170504 zen pencils akira kurosawa the note take gavin gav aung than

The one piece of advice I would offer to any writer would be to record every thought you can in a series of analog notebooks that you will be able to reference throughout your life. In reading Charles Johnson’s The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling I came across similar advice to his students. Johnson commended the notebooks of Nathanial Hawthorne and Albert Camus as examples.

I read Gav’s Akira Kurosawa: The Note Taker back in January and had meant to post this before now (but, well, so many posts, so little time, you know). The message, thankfully, is timeless. Gav writes:

…it was only when Kurosawa was a young Assistant Director, working under his mentor, the director Yamamoto Kajiro, did he approach reading in a new way. Kajiro told him “If you want to become a film director, first write scripts.” Kurosawa agreed, and after he had finished writing his first screenplay showed it to his mentor for feedback. Kajiro proceeded to quickly rewrite a scene in front of Kurosawa’s eyes that was vastly better. The young Kurosawa was “awed”. Inspired by his teacher’s ability, Kurosawa decided to re-educate himself: “From this point on, my approach to literature changed. I made a deliberate effort to change it. I began to read carefully, asking myself what the author was trying to say and how he was trying to express it. I thought while I read, and at the same time I kept notes on the passages that struck some emotional chord in me. When I reread in this new way things I had read in the past, I realised how superficial my initial reading had been.” [Emphasis mine, JH] —From Akira Kurosawa: Something Like An Autobiography.

To be a writer, you must first be a reader who then learns to read as a writer. That is a lesson a lot of writers never learn.

Thanks to Gav’s cartoon I’ve gone back this morning to read part of Kurosawa’s Something Like An Autobiography. While I’ve put the entirety on my list for this weekend, here is the section from which Gav pulled his work:

I can testify to [Yamamoto Kajiro’s] writing abilities because of his precise criticisms and revisions on the scripts I later wrote. Anyone can criticize. But no ordinary talent can justify his criticism with concrete suggestions that really improve something. The first script I wrote under Yama-san’s supervision was based on Fujimori Nariyoshi’s story Mizuno Jurozaemon. In the original there is a scene where the eponymous hero tells his comrades of the Shiratsuka band about an edict he has seen put up on a signboard in front of Edo Castle. I followed the original closely and had Mizuno go back and report to his friends what he had seen. Yama-san read this and said if this were a novel it would be fine, but for a script it was too weak. He quickly dashed off something and showed it to me. Instead I having Mizuno do something dull like talk about the edict after having read it on the signboard, Yama-san had him uproot the sign-board and arrive carrying it over his shoulder. He plants it in front of his comrades and says, “Look at this!” I was awed.

From this point on, my approach to literature changed. I made a liberate effort to change it. I began to read carefully, asking myself what the author was trying to say and how he was trying to express it. I thought while I read, and at the same time I kept notes on the usages that struck some emotional chord in me or that I considered r some reason important. When I reread in this new way things I had read in the past, I realized how superficial my initial reading had been. Not just literature but all the arts, as one matures, become gradually more comprehensible in their depth and subtlety. This is of course very commonplace notion, but for me at that time it was a revelation, and it was Yama-san who led me toward it. Before my very eyes he had taken his pen to my script in the midst of reading it and revised as he went along. I was not only surprised at his ability, and inspired to re-educate myself, but at the same time came to understand, something of the secrets of creation. Yama-san said: “If you want to become a film director, first write scripts,” I felt he was right, so I applied myself wholeheartedly to scriptwriting. Those who say an assistant director’s job doesn’t allow in any free time for writing are just cowards. Perhaps you can write only one page a day, but if you do it every day, at the end of the year you’ll have 365 pages of script. I began in this spirit, with a target of one page a day. There was nothing I could do about the nights I had to work till dawn, but when I had time to sleep, even after crawling into bed I would turn out two or three pages. Oddly enough, when I put my mind to writing, it came more easily than I had thought it would, and I wrote quite a few scripts.

One page, one paragraph, one sentence, one word at a time is all you need to do. All we have is this moment, right now, and all the writer has to do is write in this moment. Time takes care of the rest.

4 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

3 May 2017


0400 by Jeff Hess

For the first time since I moved to Cleveland back in November of 1984, Cuyahoga County’s corporate elites may actually get their hands slapped for digging down to the bottom of the cookie jar and I think we have to thank President Donald John Trump because he created this toxic political climate that has progressives in Cleveland, the nation and, indeed, the rest of the world rising up in protest.

Sam Allard, writing in Toward Undercurrents: On Regional Leaders, the Media and the Rotten Deal they Cherry-picked Facts to Propagate for Scene, ledes:

During the riveting April 21st edition of WCPN’s Reporter’s Roundtable, Cleveland.com Editor Chris Quinn remarked upon Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s State of the County address.

“What was striking about the speech was that [Budish] took a real hard line, as firm as you ever hear from him, on the critics of the proposed Q deal,” Quinn said.

“He basically called a lot of the information out there ‘alt-facts.’ There’s been an undercurrent that somehow the Cavs aren’t paying for half of this, which they are. And he also talked about the idea that you would take the money that would go into this and spend it elsewhere as being wholly improper because the money largely comes from the Q taxes and from the hotel bed tax which has to go to tourism… The firmness of his statement was a bit of a shock.”

Indeed it was.

But Budish’s crusade against ‘alt-facts’ has failed to deter the coalition of citizen groups purportedly propagating them. That coalition, comprised of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268, is now collecting signatures for a referendum on the deal. The petition must be filed within 30 days of the legislation’s passage. (CCPC Political Director Steve Holecko managed to get a bankable quote from Bernie Sanders in a Q&A after the Senator’s City Club remarks Monday morning: “I don’t like that idea,” Sanders said, speaking of public subsidies for arenas generally. “That smacks to me of corporate welfare. I think billionaires can fund their own endeavors, and when you talk about a city which has blight, which has educational problems, I think what government should be doing is investing in the needs of working people and low-income people.”)

Those are ideas that regional leaders would surely get behind in the abstract, or in other American cities. But in the event, our elected crop has sounded a great deal more like Donald Trump, preaching about jobs and trickle-down economics as they decry fake news and mock or ostracize legitimate dissent.

In examining Mayor Frank Jackson’s explainer in Sunday’s Plain Dealer, Allard writes:

Mayor explains why The Q Deal is ‘a forward-thinking investment, the headline read. It appeared in Forum, the PD’s opinion section, so regular readers should have known what to expect, but why not “the Mayor argues that…” or “believes that…” or even “explains why he thinks that…”?

One reason might be: this is not an issue that traditionally needs to be argued around here at all. It’s supposed to be self-evident that the sports teams are soulful community partners, and that the (publicly owned!) facilities they inhabit are massive economic [auto parts] in need of occasional public lubing if we want to Keep Cleveland Strong. One can see the epileptic fits into which elected leaders have lately descended, and it’s a good bet that they’re annoyed because they’re not accustomed to having to defend this sort of thing. They often resort to a patronizing posture, (one that the PD framing bolsters): that we would all agree with them if we were only more educated on the issue.

No one has worked tirelessly to educate Clevelanders on this topic than Roldo Bartimole. After 30-plus years of constant lessons on how Cuyahoga County’s corporate elites have built their own palaces on the backs of the 99.9 percent, Roldo, and the rest of us, may get to see real change.

3 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

President Donald John Trump famously changed his mind about nation building and America first and getting involved in civil wars in other countries—perhaps because he understands our own so well—after he saw tragic pictures of children injured and slaughtered in Syria. He was so moved that he ordered our Navy to launch nearly 60 million dollars worth of cruise missile in a symbolic attack on a Syrian airfield.

CLoser to home President Trump continues his fight to boot millions of Americans, and their children, to the healthcare curb because well, America’s first non-white president.

I checked this morning to see if Trump had tweeted about Kimmel’s monologue and didn’t find anything (although I did read former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh’s classic Republican response).

Former President Barack Hussein Obama, however have words to share.

2 May 2017


1200 by Jeff Hess

I don’t know why I write. I can talk about needs and drives and magic and book store groupies (actually I just made that one up, although maybe there are hot, sexy women who hang out at bookstores for famous author signing; feck, who am I kidding?), but in the end I don’t have a good reason for doing what I do. I suppose we all have to do something and writing is just the card I drew. Kurt Vonnegut expressed the thought this way:

Let him talk to Darwinists, hat in hand. It’s educational, and pays off in the end. As Colonel Littauer said to me one time when I was bitter about being broke: “Who asked you to be a writer in the first place?” —to Knox Burger on 8 January 1973, p. 194 Kurt Vonnegut: Letters.

So I get what Vonnegut was saying. Writer’s who bitch about what they do should just get a day job. The world won’t miss our words. Ever.

2 May 2017


0300 by Jeff Hess

170502 keystone xl pipeline tressa welch guardian

This morning The Guardian launched a three-part series focusing on the mother of all pipelines: the Keystone XL. Why Keystone? Oliver Laughland, writing in in Part I—Life on the Keystone XL route: where opponents fear the ‘black snake—explains:

Framed as a victory over government regulation and a win for jobs creation by the Trump administration and those who support the [Keystone XL] project, critics characterize the reversal as a win for a foreign business over environmentalism and private land rights.

As the prospect of construction looms, The Guardian spent one recent week travelling along the proposed US route of the XL, meeting with those who will be directly affected by the expansion. The journey starts at the Fort Peck reserve, about 80 miles from the Canadian border and the first concentrated population in its pathway, where Tressa Welch and her group of “water protectors” believe it is a duty endowed upon them by their ancestors to resist the construction.

The men here are preparing the land for the Sun Dance festival in June, when the community will gather to pray for good health, fast without water for four days and offer parts of their flesh. “We give a little piece of ourself back to Mother Earth, because she supplies everything to us,” Welch says.

As for many of the young tribal members on this reserve, the election of Trump and the rebirth of Keystone has brought with it a renewed connection to history and culture through activism.

Welch is the focus of Laughland’s first installment and he begins from her point-of-view:

“Our people call it the black snake because it is evil,” says Tressa Welch, as thunder clouds steamroll the blue sky over the plains of Wolf Point. “And like snakes they come out of nowhere, they slither and strike unknown.”

She faces southwards where, a couple of miles away, forks of lightning crack over the Missouri River. The 2m acre Fort Peck Indian Reservation straddles this winding water source, providing sustenance for the almost 7,000 Assiniboine and Sioux tribe here and thousands of others throughout north-east Montana. It is the river that Welch and other Native American activists on the reserve say the Keystone XL oil pipeline – or the “black snake” – will corrupt.

The river maintains the deer, the fish, the native plants, sweet grasses and sacred sage. “Anything that threatens my way of life and my spiritual well-being, I consider myself at war with,” she says, her two-year-old daughter by her side. “I will do whatever it takes.”

This is the existential threat that people still emotionally tied to the land face. Privileged Americans, perennially mobile and able to buy and sell houses as they see fit, who can wake up in the morning and not really know where they’re living unless they check the addresses on their snail mail, who think they are are wonderfully urbane and 21st century because they can do their job from anywhere (and who have jobs that can be done from anywhere), see such attachments to the land as quaint, retro and so-last-century.

They ask with no sense of irony: why don’t these people just move?

Where I live, on America’s North Coast, adjacent to the Great Lakes—which contain 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water and about 21 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water—we don’t think as much about water as we ought to. (Although the two spills on our on pipeline—the Rover—could change that.) In the West, however, water is life in ways that people who think that staying hydrated means buying cases of bottle water every week at the grocery store do not grasp.

The purpose of the Guardian’s series (and my intent in drawing attention to the series) is to expand the protests and galvanize opposition to the deadly black snake that is the Keystone XL.

Read. Act.

1 May 2017


1700 by Jeff Hess

Sam Allard, reporting in Bernie Sanders Promotes Progressive Agenda, Disses Trump, at City Club Event for Scene, writes:

In a lively question and answer period—it was the longest line for questions we’ve ever seen at a City Club event—Sanders touched on issues of political activism, gerrymandering, the national Democratic agenda, his support for a Pro-Life candidate in Nebraska, and even the Q deal.

“I don’t want to get too involved in the local issue,” said Senator Sanders, in response to the question posed by the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, “but I will tell you this. You have, all over this country, in many cases billionaires, people who own professional teams, who are going to taxpayers to ask for money. I don’t like that idea. That smacks to me of corporate welfare. I think billionaires can fund their own endeavors, and when you talk about a city which has blight, which has educational problems, I think what government should be doing is investing in the needs of working people and low-income people.”

This has always been the core of Bernie’s message. This will always be the core of Bernie’s message. This is why Bernie is, as Allard ledes, the most popular politician in the United States.

1 May 2017


1400 by Roldo Bartimole

The really gross crime of Barbara Byrd Bennett wasn’t that she was brazenly stealing, even from school children, but the trail of supposedly high-standard people and institutions she dragged along with her. Or that accompanied her knowing what they were supporting. Indeed, subsidizing her and her games.

That’s not in the trial record.

And how often it happens in this town and so many others reveals our civic corruption. It’s really festering here.

Leeches, aided by the Presentable People and their Respected Institutions, abound here.

Our “leaders” knew the real quality of Barbara Byrd Bennett. They had to. But she was doing their bidding. Effectively.

Her specialness was hinted when she showed up here in 1998 and didn’t take the title of Superintendent of Schools. No, she was above that. Mayor Michael White knew what he had and she took the title CEO, a corporate title. Appropriately.

It fit what he and the corporate/foundation gang wanted.

They soon dismissed elected boards of education. Can anyone recite the names of the school board’s members now?

But BBB had confidence in their dishonesty. So much so that she apparently thought she could simply get away with what has now put her in jail for four-and-a-half Continue Reading »

29 April 2017


2300 by Jeff Hess

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 and Part 9.

And if you really feel like you need to see the pale imitation of Not The White House Correspondent’s Dinner, you can watch that sham here.

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