Friday, January 21, 2022

Who is an American?

A reporter asked [Republican Senate Minority Leader] McConnell if he had a message for voters of color who were concerned that, without the John R Lewis Voting Rights Act, they were not going to be able to vote in the midterm. 'Well, the concern is misplaced because, if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,' McConnell said.

This is what it comes down to: the Republican Party has chosen to be the party for those who think Black and other people of color [and immigrants and queer folks] are not really citizens. That is all. 

These days, the white electorate is about 65-70 percent of voters nationally. A significant minority fraction (35-40 percent) of those white voters are not crazy and know who their neighbors are. The Republicans don't even win all the whites. McConnell's America cannot prevail in a majoritarian country; it only wins majorities in declining pockets (like Kentucky) or when the opportunity to vote is restricted.

Here we are. Nobody is giving up.

Friday cat blogging

There are some newcomers around here. Janeway is curious.
Maybe I can reach them if I get in behind this thing?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The time has come for this to go ...

This grand advertisement for a white man's empire is being removed from the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Since 1940, the statue of Theodore Roosevelt riding out to conquer Cuba, flanked by representations of a Native American man and an African man on foot, has loomed over the museum steps. 

The removal caps a decades-long saga of protests by critics who argued that the equestrian statue symbolized the painful legacy of museums upholding images of colonialism and racism in their exhibitions. Activists have targeted the monument since the 1970s; in recent years, they have tried shrouding the sculpture with a parachute and defacing it with red paint

It's time is over. Good riddance ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

How stupidly ghoulish can Republican politicians get?

These days, the signal characteristic of the unvaxxed is that that they are Republicans. Racial gaps in vaccination rates have been closing. But GOP leaders thrive on keeping their supporters riled up against public heath measures in the name of "freedom." Being unvaxxed has become a MAGA cult marker.

This is literally killing significant numbers of people in the GOP base. Former New York Times reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. offers a quantitative estimate of how many votes the vaccine war is costing the party:

As of this week, about 1,800 Americans a day are dying of Covid; the C.D.C. expects that number to rise above 2,600. 
Virtually all are adults. If 95 percent were unvaccinated and we assume that 75 percent of those were Trump supporters, that’s 1,300 to 1,900 of his voters being subtracted from the rolls every single day. 
Donald Trump lost Arizona by a mere 10,000 votes. He lost Georgia by 12,000, He lost Wisconsin by 21,000. He lost Nevada by 33,000. 
Right now, about 60 Arizonans, 36 Georgians, 34 Wisconsinites and 14 Nevadans are dying of Covid each day. Seventy five percent of 95 percent of that would be minus 103 Trump voters per day — just in those four swing states. Week after week. That adds up. 
Also, there is another factor in the equation. Covid is just one cause of overall mortality. 
While Republican state legislatures are working hard to suppress the Democratic vote, an invisible opposing hand is working against them: God’s. 
The top five causes of death in this country, in order, are: heart disease, cancer, Covid, accidents and stroke. They all tend to smite the old, the obese and those who live far away from hospitals, i.e., rural red America.

McNeil attributes Donald Trump's recent half-hearted support for vaccines -- but not mandates -- to  some awareness of these numbers. If we are still too have elections, he needs these voters.

H/t toJVL at The Bulwark for pointing to McNeil.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

February local San Francisco election

The ballots have arrived in the mail; the drop box is in place. Why don't I feel excited about the February 15 election? 

I've described my all-round disgust with the portion of ballot which is the school board recall. These are lines A, B, and C. We are also electing a City Assessor -- but there is only one candidate.

Most San Franciscans are also electing a State Assembly Member for District 17. The contenders are David Campos and Matt Haney plus a couple of also-rans building name recognition, Bilal Mahmood and Thea Selby. Maybe some other time for those two ...

It's worth being aware why we are having this improbably timed contest. You see, the incumbent Assembly-17 legislator, David Chiu, quit in November to be named City Attorney by Mayor London Breed. That job is the elected city government's lawyer; Chiu will not face to voters until 2023. The previous City Attorney moved over to be the unelected head of the Public Utilities Commission to make space for Chiu. 

This cute maneuver follows a pattern introduced by wily former mayor Willie Brown two decades ago and much loved by San Francisco civic leaders: entice an incumbent to move along out of the election cycle, when legally able appoint a desired candidate as an interim, then let the interim office holder run as the incumbent. 

(Breed tried this in the 2019 District Attorney race, appointing her preferred candidate in October before the November election. Voters recoiled from this transparent ploy, electing Chesa Boudin -- so the same constellation of conservative city leaders are trying to boot Boudin in a recall -- but that's not until June 7.)

For the Assembly seat opened by Chiu's move, the mayor couldn't replace the office holder, so we're voting now on a replacement. 

This is San Francisco so both candidates say the right thing about standard progressive issues like the minimum wage, access to health care, and public safety. The contest comes down to what sort of person do you want in office and who do you trust, at least some of the time.

Haney is a highly ambitious San Francisco Supervisor, a good neighborhood politician for densely urban District 6, who wants a bigger job. The building trades unions and development interests have thrown down for him. In an election where few are paying attention, that may be enough.

Campos is a former Supervisor for the Mission District-centered District 9. He lost the Assembly-17 election to Chiu in 2014. Since then, he's worked as Deputy County Executive in Santa Clara County and in the San Francisco District Attorney's office. He is currently the Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party. He bills himself as a "civil rights attorney." His background is not that of your standard politician (yet?). He arrived in this country as an undocumented child immigrant from Guatemala, graduated from Stanford and Harvard Law School; he's a brainy achiever. 

I'm a Campos voter. But as in the case of our current recalls, I also an unhappy voter who doesn't like seeing the City powers-that-be gaming the system. 

Our local politics are intense, people-powered, and cut-throat. That engaged contentious local democracy is often cited as the reason this city produces an outsized fraction of national leaders. People who come out of here have to learn a thing or two.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

An occasional list of links to provoking commentary. Some annotated by me. Let's listen to some Black women.

Simone Biles: "I have a theory that if someone were to try and account for the exact amount of labor Black women have forcefully and freely contributed to the U.S. economy and culture, if America had to match us cent for sweat drop, it would be a number so great it would bankrupt all of this country’s resources." And she's not just talking about her sport ...

Roxanne Gay: "A great many Americans are only concerned with fairness when they think someone else might get something they won’t get. And they are seething with resentment as they imagine a country in which we help one another." Makes for a hell of a pandemic ...

Chakyya Harrison: "People are struggling because you all made the world this way.” How the federal pandemic stimulus failed her family ...

Nikki Giovanni: "If Earth survives — there’s a good chance we’ll blow ourselves up — gender and race are going to go." Gotta think big ...

Nathalie Baptiste: "Black conservatism is a sort of thwarted Black nationalism, all bleakness and bootstraps."

Christine Emba: "Objections to Critical Race Theory are an emotional defense against unwanted change, not an intellectual disagreement. Conservatives were never debating the facts. ..." When it comes to CRT, they weren't debating, they were just howling grievance against the teaching of truths.

Toni Morrison: "There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art."

'Nuff said.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Loving in a loveless, anti-Black country

Reading Shoutin' in the Fire: An American Epistle by Danté Stewart felt to me a little like eavesdropping on a conversation meant for someone else. I'm so grateful to Mr. Stewart for sharing with anyone willing to read this book his experience of grappling with what it means to him to be Black, Christian, and a citizen of the United States.

One Stewart maxim stands out: "This country is exhausting."

Stewart rode his football potential away from his family and Pentecostal home church in rural South Carolina to attend Clemson, the state's public university and football power. He wasn't a great football success, but he did graduate. His recollections from that time are slightly shame-faced.
Trayvon got murdered when I was a sophomore at Clemson University. I remember other Black teammates on the football team around me were so shaken by the death of someone who looked like us. Some of my teammates lamented the reality of being Black and young and terrified, fearing they would never be protected in the world the ways we knew we were protected on the field. 
I had learned the same lessons as a kid. My mother and father would make sure that we knew how fragile the balance our lives hung in. ... 
I used this as an excuse to stay quiet. So I was a part of the group that didn’t really want to rock the boat, lest I get on the bad side of the coaches, and become what they liked to call a distraction
So I kept quiet. ... 
I had worked hard to become the best athlete and the best man I could be, as our coaches would always say. I had succeeded. During spring ball, my coach raved about how good I was doing, how much I was progressing as a leader, and how proud he was that I was accomplish­ing so much in a short amount of time. “Ma,” I said as I called my momma one day on the way home from practice. “Coach mentioned me in the news conference.”
But Stewart's football success didn't last. Another Black player was able to do more for the team.
Playing college sports, you learn how to see the person next to you as a friend but never too close. Each of your futures hangs in the balance. It is a ter­rible way to live. It is a terrible way to grow up. It is a terrible way to learn how to love yourself. It is a terrible way to learn how to love others. But it is the way that I learned. ... 
This is how we learned to survive college: by dis­trusting one another. Distrust can be a powerful thing, especially when you learn to distrust those who look like you. ... We both came from the bottom and were just trying to make good on the lessons that we’d learned early from our people. We were both trying to prove white people wrong about us. Every. Single. Day. We were trying to prove that we were the “good Black boys.” So many friends and family back home would drop out of school. Some would get pushed out. Some would be ignored. Some would just leave. So we had to be good and much better than those “nig­gas” back home. ...
Stewart's degree in sociology and his devotion to his evangelical faith got him a job as a youth minister in a White megachurch after college. He "succeeded" there, but gradually came to feel there was something very wrong with the White people's Christianity and his own soul. With his wife (who I suspect of being very kind and long-suffering of her emotional husband), he moved back to the South, to his family, to his roots in Black faith. He became a school teacher among young Black kids.
I wanted them to know that any progress that has been made in our country is not because our country has been so good or is always progressing. It is because we have refused to shut up and play, shut up and pray, shut up and work. We have refused to be silent about our pain, out struggle, and our dreams. It is because we have refused to give up faith in ourselves, in God, and in the possibility of justice, liberation, and healing. 
Black Lives Matter was not just a rallying cry of protest for Black bodies. It was a love letter, a monument, a testimony, a hallelujah, a yes Lord, a sermon, a dream. It was a cry to remember and love hard, and to love publicly and to love honestly, and to tell the truth, to be better, for all of us. ...
He found himself wrestling with the meaning of it all:
How do we live in a country that believes itself to be exceptional? 
How do we live in a country that does not believe you to be worthy of loving and surviving and being free? 
How do we live in a country where millions believe you should have stayed enslaved? 
How do we live is a country that clings to myths that are killing us, that says it loves you while betraying you? What does it mean to be caught between truth and myth? What does it mean to love and live in it and believe in it and pray for it and preach in it and not be killed by it? 
And how the hell to do we love? 
... I don't know if I have the answer to any of these questions. I believe they are worth asking and I believe that one day we will all have answers. As the old folks would say, we will understand it better by and by. But more than any answers I could conjure up, I must give myself and others something that will make us shout in the fire. ...
Today Mr. Stewart is a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia -- still trying to figure it all out and still preaching up a storm.

I strongly recommend reading this book in the audio edition. Stewart preaches his story himself.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Is this worth $10K or $100K?

It seems likely the city will be paying out some such sum to Sergio Lugo for an encounter with three out-of-uniform San Francisco cops, if he finds a good lawyer. The plain clothes officers (no body cameras for them) decided Lugo was out of place at 21st and Castro; perhaps he was planning a burglary?

According to press accounts, the cops asked to search him. He protested they had no probable cause. As they moved to cuff him, they knocked him to the ground. With the cops on top of him, he scratched the hand of one of the officers with an X-acto knife. Officer Glennon Griffin admitted in court transcripts that he punched Lugo in the face "15 or 20 times." Griffin came away needing an ice bag for his hand. Lugo suffered a fractured cheek bone.

Nearby neighbors, seeing the violence on their block, called 911 to report a "beat down" -- three men beating up on one.

Naturally, the cops charged Lugo with assault on police officers. He was held in jail for four months. 

The District Attorney's office investigated the charges, deciding after uncovering "a fuller picture" that there was no reason to continue the prosecution. 

Lugo had the services of the city's excellent Public Defender office. It's hard to imagine a San Francisco jury convicting on the facts as they've emerged. 

The Police Officers Association (the cop union) is howling for District Attorney Chesa Boudin's head. How dare he drop the charges? Police Chief Bill Scott stuck up for his officers.

This San Franciscan is glad we have a District Attorney with common sense -- and the courage to stand up to the cops.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friday cat blogging


I had the sense I was being observed. Even through that filthy window, he was watching me and I could see him.

I'm glad to have been entertainment for a window cat.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Chesa Boudin answers his detractors

The pandemic has made many of us anxious and pissy and insecure. How else would we feel after two years of this and a still uncertain future course? 

All this has made it easy for the foes of our progressive District Attorney to incite a panic about crime -- and potentially drown out Chesa Boudin's take on our civic woes and what his office is doing about them. Let's listen to the guy:

Though Fox News might have you think otherwise, the truth is that as District Attorney of San Francisco, I am holding those who have been arrested in connection with the crimes in Union Square accountable. My office filed felony charges against every person San Francisco police have arrested for these crimes. We presented evidence at a preliminary hearing, where a judge agreed there was probable cause to proceed on all felony charges aside from looting — a reminder that aggressive charges do not necessarily translate to convictions. Accountability is important, and my office is vigorously pursuing it, just as we have in 86% of the commercial burglary cases police presented to us this year. For context, police have made arrests in just 8.8% of commercial burglary cases this year. 
Organized retail theft is not a problem that can be addressed solely by law enforcement solutions — which come after a crime has been committed. Public safety is a shared responsibility between police, city officials, prosecutors and the courts — and also requires the help of retailers, community groups, public health providers and community members.  State and city officials make laws; police investigate and arrest; district attorneys file charges and prosecute; and the courts release or detain and sentence. Prosecutors don’t receive cases until after a crime has occurred and police have made an arrest. Combating crime can only come through a sense of shared responsibility. 
... Preventing these crimes before they happen and ensuring long-term public safety requires that, instead of unilateral focus on law enforcement responses or rolling back reforms, we must shift our focus to supporting victims and addressing root causes of crime. Supporting victims means meeting the needs of all victims, not just the powerful or wealthy. The focus on providing increased policing to support high-end retailers has meant that victims of thefts targeting smaller businesses — including numerous stores in Chinatown — have been largely overlooked. Those incidents have not received attention in the mainstream media and the city has not invested the same resources devoted to protecting those businesses as the larger businesses in Union Square.  
... We are at a tipping point in San Francisco; we are in danger of making decisions driven by fear. We should not return to the days of locking up every person who commits any offense, no matter how small — a practice which not only failed to stop crime but also disproportionately impacted over-policed communities of color. Returning to those criminal justice policies offers no solution. We can have both safety and justice. 

My emphasis. I certainly hope he's right.

No prosecutor can fix what's been broken for decades, nor counteract the consequences of a divided city where too much much money chases too little living space. This is a hard town in which to be poor and a hard place to raise kids. Thousands of our citizens do it, but it's not easy and the stresses and strains of hard-pressed poverty adjacent to extravagant wealth leave scars.

A cabal of our near and far money bags don't like Boudin's focus on the root causes of crime. They will be trying to recall him in the June election. Because money talks, you'll hear more about him than you ever wanted. I urge us all to listen to the man himself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

What Texas Republicans think about voting rights

This is not a spoof. Many GOPers actually think this is how we should live. No shit.

I'm pretty sure their big oil donors don't go through this to express their views.