Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let's be there for the kids

The election forced this young woman to clarify what mattered to her way too young. She knows where she stands.

“If I had to go through this again to help everybody else who’s Mexican-American, I would do it a thousand million bajillion more times,” she said.

Meanwhile a good friend is calling out truths in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Unfinished business

A couple of updates on crimes past before we lurch into a new year and new crimes:

That torture report
For the moment, a 6700 page report prepared by a Senate committee on the torture crimes of operatives under the direction of the GWBush administration still exists somewhere, though we the people are not allowed to see it. Will the Trump regime seek to do away with the report, to erase this memory? For fear of this, President Obama is squirreling the document away among his Presidential papers. Thinking the Presidential Records Act will prevent the Trump regime from seizing and deep-sixing the report may be wishful thinking. After all, torture enthusiasts like Trump, Bannon, or even pols passing for "mainstream" Republicans have no respect for either law or decency.

A federal judge has also ordered preservation of the report as potential evidence in one of the ongoing criminal cases brought against alleged perps acting for Al-Qaida. If the Trump team bothers, they might go judge shopping to overturn that one.

Our gulag at Guantanamo
President Obama has failed in his inauguration day promise to close this legal and human sinkhole. It looks like he'll get the population down to about 40 inmates before the Donald can "load it up with some bad dudes."

After all, a near majority of voters enjoys posturing as big, mean, and butch, all the while quaking with fear of a few dark terrorists and other phantoms. Irrational fear is a social infection which serves the interests of a strongman. This country was not always populated by such a bunch of nervous handwringers. But now it is. And the people in charge like it that way.

Friday cat blogging

Let's give Morty a rest this week. Erudite Partner encountered these placid sleeping beauties at an SPCA adoption display in downtown San Francisco. She did not bring them home. I sure hope someone did.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Still waiting for District Attorney Gascon to charge Amilcar's killers

After 38 weekly vigils, still no word on whether San Francisco cops can kill residents without any accountability in a court of law.
Facts you may not know.

• 20 year-old Amilcar was a funny, loyal, and thoughtful person working multiple jobs to send money back home to his family in Guatemala

• An independent autopsy report showed SFPD shot six bullets into Amilcar's back

• After both the independent autopsy and the San Francisco Medical Examiner disproved the chief’s initial report, SFPD changed their story

• SFPD Officers Eric Reboli & Craig Tiffe are STILL on patrol in Amilcar's neighborhood

Much more on this nearly two year old case of SFPD impunity: What the police won’t tell you about the Amilcar Lopez killing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

He doesn't like bees buzzing around his head

Somehow I missed this in the days before Christmas.

For more than a year, employees at the Trump hotel in Las Vegas had been picketing, boycotting and hollering to support their demand for fair wages, benefits, and respect. They make the hospitality industry welcoming, after all. Trump management stonewalled.

But last week, Unite HERE/Culinary Workers union announced a new pact to run through 2021.

This four-year contract will provide the employees with annual wage increases, a pension, family health care, and job security.

And it gets better. The Trump Organization wants peace with its hotel workers in Washington too.

UNITE HERE Local 25 and Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. also announced today that they have reached an agreement to permit an orderly organizing campaign for employees at the recently-opened Trump International Hotel located at the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The agreement speaks volumes about the hotel’s commitment to its employees and the value they place on their relationship with our organization,” said John Boardman, President of UNITE HERE Local 25. ...

Organized hotel workers are really good at creative protest. And they'll keep fighting for years. No wonder the President-elect preferred to give in rather than put up with the disruption. The rest of us need to learn from them.

Organize, resist.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

G enjoins delight

Fr. Gregory Boyle has learned more than a thing or two over three decades living among, attending to, and serving "homeboys," "cholos," and other assorted outlaws in Los Angeles. The Jesuit priest served as pastor at Dolores Mission and then founded Homeboy Industries, a sprawling non-profit conglomerate program of employment opportunities and healthy life experiences for gang kids and other suffering Angelenos. Law enforcement has never been unequivocally supportive, but Boyle has won widespread recognition from funders, academics and civic authorities for work that no one else much wants.

In 2010, Boyle, known to his young friends as "G-dog," captured some of what he has learned in a memoir: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. This is not a linear story. Rather it's a carefully composed series of snippets, heartrending and concurrently gloriously hope-filled.

On this vaguely political blog, I'll take the liberty of sharing a short passage that captures the flavor of Boyle's wisdom with political references:

Some time back, at the turn of the century, during a general election, some pundit tried to compare and contrast Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush. He said Bill Clinton walks into a room and wants everyone to like him.Al Gore walks into a room and wants everyone to think he is right. "W" walks into a room and wants the room to know he is in charge. We all feel all of these at one time or another, because they are fear based responses, and it's hard to get out from under that dread. Our frightened selves want only for the gathered to like us, to agree with us, or be intimidated by us. I suppose Jesus walked into a room and loves what he finds there. Delights in it, in fact. Maybe He makes a beeline for the outcasts and chooses, in them, to go where love has not yet arrived. His ways aren't our ways, but they sure could be.

... You want to be there when the poetry happens. Isaiah has God say: "Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create ... for I create my people to be a delight." God thinking we'd enjoy ourselves. Delighting is what occupies God, and God's hope is that we join in. That God's joy may be in us and this joy may be complete. We just happen to be God's joy. This takes some getting used to.

Boyle's story reminded me of the wisdom of Dorothy Day's sense of life in the Catholic Worker movement she founded. (When her diaries were published in 2005, they were titled The Duty of Delight.)

Boyle makes vivid what might seem almost unimaginable to most of us -- LA's barrios where meaningless violence rules, but love persists. I read this as an audiobook and vigorously recommend that format for this one. Boyle reads it himself, intimately and animatedly.

The book serves as a reminder, as Boyle observes:

“God can get tiny, if we're not careful.”

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmases once and future

When I was a child, one of the highlights of the Christmas season was hearing my mother break out her full-throated soprano at the first strains of the song "O Holy Night!" She belted out all three verses. Unlike me, she had a beautiful voice and could carry a tune. Also, unlike me, the lyrics came to her in the original French. I learned the sounds phonetically (without meaning) years before I attended to the English words. I can still produce a mangled facsimile of the French lyrics.

Reading randomly on the internet as I do, I encountered a blog post titled Christmas Carols as Resistance Literature, which pointed out that, as is often the case, there's more going on in this Christmas carol than the conventional consumer holiday might lead us to expect.

The French text by Placide Cappeau dates from the 1840s; the English by a Boston Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight. Those were not quiet times in either country. In France, the insurrectionary energies that would lead to the revolutions of 1848 and the fateful partnership between Marx and Engels were building. In the United States, abolitionism was gaining ground in Dwight's circles.

Thus it is no surprise that, in both the original French and in English, in the third verse Jesus' birth is hailed as the coming of liberation:
  • Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
    La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
    Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
    L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.
  • Truly He taught us to love one another;
    His law is love and His gospel is peace.
    Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
    And in His name all oppression shall cease.
All this setting people free stuff makes sense when one remembers, when the Jesus surprised his neighbors by reading in his home synagogue in Nazareth, his text was from the prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Yes, however domesticated, there's an enduring resistance literature here.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas meditation

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5, Revised Standard Version bible

There are other translations for the Greek word frequently rendered "overcome." The King James Version, the English language ancestor of more contemporary translations, used "comprehend it." A modern preacher renders it "the darkness is clueless," which I rather like.

A site devoted to explicating the Greek words gives three possible readings:

1. to make something one’s own, win, attain...
2b. seize with hostile intent, overtake, come upon...
4a. learn about something through process of inquiry...

All of these seem a good fate for darkness if darkness is damaging to light.

That if is significant. Not all darkness is hostile. Some is simply beautiful. Some simply is.

But the hostile sort seeks ascendance these sad days. And overcoming it is our burden. We are reminded that Light lives among us.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday cat blogging

Morty loves flowers. Left to himself, he nibbles on them and then throws up. On this occasion, we caught him before he could do that. Or turn over the vase, another favorite activity.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chanukah 2016

Since the first night of Chanukah happens to coincide with Christmas Eve this year, we will be otherwise occupied and won't be able to join the friends with whom we usually mark the holiday of the lights. Fortunately, thanks to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a communal celebration of the light of freedom and justice which does not fail was available in Union Square in San Francisco Wednesday evening.

Amid the Christmas shopping frenzy, scores of us came out in solidarity with all communities under threat in this time, most especially our Muslim friends and neighbors.

Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-California), spoke of her anger at the ignorant hate being directed at her community. Most of us probably don't know the level of harassment this community was under before the election.

Did anyone else feel like they were hit by a speeding train this past November? For many American Muslims in the Bay Area, that’s exactly what it felt like.

... November was off to a rocky start from the very beginning, and the results of the elections had little to do with it. What wasn’t so open and obvious to very many people was that many American Muslims were paid a surprising visit by an unsolicited party.

In the days leading up to the elections, the FBI conducted a nationwide sweep, knocking on the doors and visiting the homes of law abiding American Muslims. The Bay Area community was part of a nationwide FBI sweep that specifically profiled and targeted American Muslims prior to elections about possible pre-election terrorism. Community members were asked appalling questions about whether they personally knew al-Qaeda leaders killed in U.S. military airstrikes the prior month or whether they knew of anyone who wished to cause harm to Americans at home or abroad. Nothing connected these individuals to each other or to any alleged threat. In fact, nothing connected them at all except the fact that they were Muslim and shared a similar ethnicity. ...

CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Desk

These are the same sort of offensively ignorant questions our spooks asked Afghans under interrogation in 2001. Apparently they've learned nothing except that they suffer no penalty for abusing a community under bigoted suspicion.

It is heartening to know that some of us still know better.
Trump yesterday reaffirmed his intention of creating a registry of Muslim citizens and banning Muslim immigrants.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

For the record: outsider SFPD chiefs haven't fared well

So San Francisco has a new police chief: William Scott has been head of the LAPD's South Bureau whose personnel are as numerous as the entire SFPD. Scott has two things going for him: first, he's Black which means he's acquired the skills to survive and thrive in an institution whose ethos is historically hostile to Black men. And he's not part of the SFPD command "family," a word used in this context with all the connotations of the Mafia. This may mean that he'll take on the Police Officers Association (POA) which has made it its mission to protect and extend thuggish, violent, and racist policing among officers who have absorbed the department's toxic culture. In his introductory presser, Scott was reassuring, to some.

“As the chief of police of San Francisco, it’s real simple for me: I get the kind of union that I deserve,” Scott said. “My plans are to be the type of chief that deserves a POA that is willing to work with me by the way I work with them.”

Previous chiefs who rocked that boat at all have not had a smooth ride.

In the over forty-three years I've lived in San Francisco, the city has brought in only two chiefs from outside; our cops are not friendly to outsiders. Their stories are not encouraging.
  • Charles Gain (1975–1980; left above) was brought in from Oakland, installed by George Moscone, the reforming mayor later assassinated by an angry ex-cop who became unhinged about the declining power of entitled white men. The POA voted no-confidence in Gain for the offense of changing the colors of police cars from black and white to white and light blue. No kidding. That was a firing offense.
  • George Gascón (right) was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2009, brought in from Mesa, AZ where he greatly improved the homicide clearance rate. San Francisco needed all the help it could get in that area, since on his arrival only 25 percent of murders were being solved. He also brought a record of outreach to community groups. Running the SFPD proved a bumpy ride. He only lasted as chief for a little over a year, jumping to a political appointment from Newsom to the vacant office of District Attorney and then winning an election to the post. From that perch, he instigated a "Blue Ribbon Panel" of retired judges whose report condemned numerous conventions of San Francisco police practice and structure, including POA influence on hiring and firing. A Justice Department investigation proceeding concurrently made 272 recommendations to bring the department into conformity with the law and good police practices.
All the other chiefs since the middle of last century have come out of the force itself, apparently with the approval of the POA. Let's hope the new guy can end the pattern of futility and short tenure.

San Franciscans are struggling these days to rein in a police department which has killed five civilians in the last three years in circumstances in which officers' justifications for their use of force strain credulity. Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora Pat, and Jessica Williams are dead. No officer has been charged or (as far as we know) disciplined. In fact, since 2000, the SFPD has killed 40 civilians; no officers have been charged. These "For the record" posts aim to put the current round of police misconduct and reform in historical context.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"A man who rose to the occasion"

Most people are not heroes. Heroism is beyond most of us and we might as well know that. A 95 year old hero in the struggle against torture and for the empowerment of the poor died in Brazil this week. Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns of Sao Paulo, Brazil stood up against a murderous military regime (1965-1985) and lived to see democracy, however imperfect, restored.

The Cardinal's New York Times obituary is full of vivid detail of the priest's bravery.

After the murder in 1975 of a journalist, Vladimir Herzog, that the government called a suicide, Cardinal Arns led an ecumenical service, along with rabbis and a Presbyterian minister, that was attended by 8,000 people.

Afterward, a group of bishops issued a pastoral letter that deplored torture, the denial of prisoners’ rights to a full legal defense and the suspension of habeas corpus. In support, Cardinal Arns said: “Those who stain their hands with blood are damned. Thou shalt not kill.”

In 1979, when Cardinal Arns went to a morgue to retrieve the body of Santo Dias da Silva, a labor leader killed by the military police, officers backed away as he waved his hand.

A lawyer, Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh, accompanied him to the scene. “We went in, and Cardinal Arns looked at the bullet holes on Santo’s body,” he was quoted saying this year by the Catholic News Service. “He pointed his finger at the policemen and said, ‘Look what you did!’ And all the officers lowered their heads in shame.”

In his sermon at Mr. Dias’s funeral, Cardinal Arns said, “Every age, and sometimes every event, must have its Christ, because only thus will the fellow workers remain united and will not lose hope.”

In A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, reporter Lawrence Weschler described Arns' role in facilitating secret collection of detailed records of torture and abuse, eventually published as Brasil: Nunca Mais/Torture in Brazil. The horrible story is all there. Like so many torture regimes, the military kept fastidious records of its own misdeeds, never fearing disclosure. Working with Brazilian Presbyterians, Arns created space and helped secure funding for millions of documents to be clandestinely copied, preserved, and published. When Weschler visited Sao Paulo, he belatedly understood what a risk Cardinal Arns had taken:

I don't know why, but it took me a while before I fully grasped one of the key facts about this project: Cardinal Arns was completely out on a limb. He had not consulted with his fellow-bishops before or after giving his go-ahead, nor had he sought permission from the Vatican; indeed, the Vatican never knew about the project. ...

[Ralph Della Cava, a scholar of the Brazilian Church, described Arns.] He's not particularly charismatic or dramatic -- not like Dom Helder Camara, who hardly has to lift an eyebrow to draw a sigh from the crowd. No, his strength grew out of a situation in which everyone knew that something was rotten and nobody would say it. And then along came this Mr. Everyman -- a man like us: not tall, not powerful, not charismatic -- who spoke with clarity and immediacy and truth. A man, that is, who rose to the occasion. ...

Monday, December 19, 2016

History does not repeat, but it can instruct ...

Once upon a time, this was what resistance looked like ...
A poster telling Arthur Burns' story
By 1854, many citizens of Boston had come to understand that slavery was simply wrong. And yet their political authorities, including their respected Senator, Daniel Webster, the entire federal judiciary, and the President (that would be Franklin Pierce as hardly any of us are likely to remember) demanded enforcement the Fugitive Slave Law. This law required that any escaped slave be turned over to his or her "owner." The law was the law, duly enacted, and must be obeyed. (Quotes here come from Burns' story as told on

On May 24, 1854, an escaped slave from Virginia, one Arthur Burns who worked as a clerk in a Boston clothing shop, was seized by a federal marshal. Abolitionists were organized as the Boston Vigilance Committee (BVC), composed of prominent "clergymen, intellectuals, attorneys and merchants." They had smuggled escaped blacks to Canada for over a decade. The Burns arrest impelled them to go public.

They provided Burns with a lawyer to represent him: Richard Henry Dana, (coincidentally the author of Two Years before the Mast, still worth reading as an accessible account of Mexican California in the 1840s). As a legal matter, Burns' case was hopeless, but the abolitionists convened a public meeting and worked themselves up to attack the courthouse where he was held.
Some 5,000 irate antislavery protesters attended. Wealthy merchant George Russell, a founding member of the BVC, opened the meeting and immediately set the tone: “The time will come when Slavery will pass away….I hope to live in a land of liberty — in a land where no slave hunter shall dare pollute with his presence.”

Next, America’s most radical abolitionist, Wendell Phillips, condemned what he perceived as the twin outrages of that same May week: “I call [the Kansas-Nebraska Act] knocking a man down, and this [the arrest of Burns] is spitting in his face after he is down.” Phillips called for an assault on the courthouse the next morning to rescue Burns: “See to it that tomorrow, in the streets of Boston, you ratify the verdict of Faneuil Hall, that Anthony Burns has no master but God.”

After Phillips’ impassioned abolitionist oration, the Rev. Parker took to the podium, again asking the crowd to assemble the next morning to rescue Burns. “I love peace,” said Parker, “but there is a means and there is an end; liberty is the end, and sometimes peace is not the means towards it.” Parker advocated violent action: “I have heard hurrahs and cheers for liberty many times; I have not seen a great many deeds done for liberty. I ask you, are we to have deeds as well as words?” The crowd screamed, “Yes!” ...
In fact these white abolitionists had been beaten to the punch by black Bostonians who were assaulting the jail that very night. The BVC crowd joined these blacks. Though they battered their way into the jail, they were unable to prevail over the 50 armed deputies within.

Boston's mayor declared martial law and President Pierce sent in the Marines to remove Burns and enforce the statute. The effect on Bostonians was profound.
Burns was escorted out of the courthouse, surrounded by a large contingent of Marines. Some 50,000 Bostonians lined streets draped in funereal black bunting, booing, hissing and screaming “kidnappers!” Burns was marched down to Long Wharf to begin his long voyage back to Virginia and slavery.

Abolitionist Samuel May, after watching in silent rage as the Burns procession passed by, said: “He has gone! And Boston and Massachusetts lie, bound hand and foot, willing slaves at the foot of the Slave Power.” Abolitionist lawyer and BVC member John Swift reacted in similar fashion: “It was too much for me — to my inmost soul I felt the deep degradation of that moment. Not only had Anthony Burns been deprived of his rights, I had lost something — had lost the proud privilege of saying that I had life and being in a free commonwealth.” ...

Boston would never be the same again. As Amos Lawrence [a wealthy industrialist whose mills ran on the cotton slaves picked] described the transformation, “We went to bed one night old-fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs and waked up stark mad Abolitionists.” At a huge July 4 outdoor meeting held in nearby Framingham a month after the Burns decision, William Lloyd Garrison made his point not with words but with flames. He stood before the crowd and burned a copy of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law... Finally, Garrison held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and set it ablaze, condemning it as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.”

[Henry David Thoreau, whose Walden was issued weeks later insisted] ... the Burns trial was “really the trial of Massachusetts.”
The minister of a white Boston church eventually bought Arthur Burn's release from his Virginia master; Burns attended Oberlin College and became a minister. He died of tuberculosis in 1862 at age 28.

One federal deputy, a 24 year old Irish immigrant, was killed in the courthouse melee. Neither side seems to have considered his death consequential.

What was consequential was the experience of resistance to slavery, resistance to a moral evil operating under the cover of a perverted legalism. Once such large numbers of Bostonians felt viscerally that they had stood up against such evil, pressure against slavery would build.

None of this was uncomplicated or without cost. Among the white abolitionists, resistance gained force from the adherence of some of the prosperous and powerful, as well as from more ordinary citizens. By the standards of the 21st century, almost all these abolitionists harbored racist views. Though the assault on the Boston jail was apparently launched by free black people (men?), the words of the white leaders are what history makes easily accessible.

There were casualties along the way and eventually a war that killed something like 700,000 people. Apparently that cost was what it took to end slavery. And even then, freedom for all remained an aspirational notion, as it does today.

But there was resistance. And horror. And humanity.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A world war fought piecemeal

Pope Francis has issued a World Day of Peace (that's January 1) message which confusingly came out last week. A December 8 release honoring Mary is traditional, but really, the Vatican needs a media operation that understands news cycles if it wants attention. In this case, does it want attention?

The message is titled Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.

If I'm to believe Google in English (and perhaps I shouldn't) pretty much the only people paying attention are sympathetic Catholic news outfits. A writer at America (the Jesuit magazine) essentially reassures -- nothing new to see here. The National Catholic Reporter provides a competent summary without suggesting that any ground has been broken. Catholics who have long worked for alternatives to violence, such as the former Jesuit Fr. John Dear think they see a long overdue call for Christian witness to emulate Jesus' example of nonviolent resistance to empire and war. They may be over-spinning ... or perhaps not.

I'm not inside this culture of decoding pontifical pronouncements, so I'm just going to pass along part of the Pope's message that I find a perceptive description of the world's messy condition.

A broken world
While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

As the barbarism of the 20th century fades from living memory, are we humans doomed to repeat its horrors? There are numerous countervailing forces (Pope Francis is one among them as is global business' preference for stability). But given our greedy and fractious human nature, it's probably a near thing ...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

San Francisco streets speak

For a couple of weeks after November 8, the usual flow of street art in the 'hood seemed dammed up. This was about the extent of local self-expression.

But soon enough, our usual visual commentators were back at their usual work.

Good to see they haven't gone into hibernation. Resisting in the next period is going to demand all the creativity we can muster; my experience is that moral threats -- like for example California's 1994 anti-immigrant initiative -- have evoked a torrent of visual and performance art. This is part of how we weather storms together and rise up again.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A lesson in how to lie with statistics

Kevin Drum, blogging via Mother Jones, calls this out, more politely than I would.

Eduardo Porter, writing in the business section of the NYTimes, offers this scary picture of how white people have gotten screwed in the job market since 2007. No wonder these poor victims voted for the orange scam artist!
Pretty scary right? Those people are stealing all the goodies, our goodies!

Except that Porter's chart is bullshit. Drum shows why in two simple visual reworkings of Porter's data. His first one restates Porter's assertion:

And his second rendering of the data shows why this picture is misleading:

Whites have the same number of jobs as in 2007 because there are the same number of whites as in 2007. Hispanics and blacks have more jobs because there are more Hispanics and blacks.

Now it is likely that the quality and pay-scale of many jobs have deteriorated since 2007, perhaps especially for whites. But this does not show employment disadvantage among whites. White anxiety is about seeing the relative number of our tribe dwindle. And we can just get used to it and notice we have new friends and neighbors who have many of the same problems we do...

Friday cat blogging

Morty doesn't always feel the need to sleep on our bed with us. But then, for a few weeks, he'll decide he wants to be close. When he does, he wins the pillow. It's an odd sensation to turn over at night and find one's cheek resting a cat's tail.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Coming soon to an administration we failed to avert ...

I might have expected this from some flunky working for George W. Bush, but I was slightly surprised to hear it came from a Trump transition flack. I think of these people as just greedy opportunists, not willful idiots. Anthony Scaramucci, while doing his job of denying climate change during a TV interview, was pushed a little by host Chris Cuomo. He lurched comfortably into young Earth creationism:

“Some of the stuff that you're reading and some of the stuff I'm reading is very ideologically-based about the climate. We don't want it to be that way,” he said.

He later added, “I’m saying people have gotten things wrong throughout the 5,500-year history of our planet.”

These people know where the money is. They know how to make money -- they steal it from other ignorant but more gullible marks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

San Francisco supervisors approve Nieto memorial

By a vote of 9-1, the Supes have approved a memorial for Alex Nieto, the young man our trigger-happy cops murdered on March 21, 2014. The Department of Parks and Recreation was ordered to proceed with an installation at the site on Bernal Hill where Nieto was killed. This bitter sweet victory for Nieto's family, friends, and allies is the result of months of organizing against the SFPD's casual use of deadly force in Latin and Black communities. Nieto supporters held his picture high while the pols discussed.

Termed-out Supervisors Avalos, Campos, and Mar, along with still-serving Supervisor Cohen, were co-sponsors. The only opposition came from Supervisor Farrell who is apparently sucking up for the endorsement of Police Officers Association when he makes his rumored run for mayor.

Supervisor Campos called out the police union for its claim that remembering a young man who died at police hands implied that the Supervisors did not adequately appreciate cops' service. Supervisor Cohen, who was subjected to POA bullying during the discussion that led to declaration the declaration of a day remembering Mario Woods -- another SFPD victim -- agreed, asking the cops to remember that their victims were human beings. The POA didn't bother to show up for the Nieto memorial vote.

San Francisco's usually impotent Office of Citizen Complaints has meanwhile found that one of Nieto's killers, Officer Roger Morse, had "reflected discredit on the department" by gloating on Facebook after a suburban jury cleared the uniformed shooters in a civil trial. OCC findings rarely result in discipline -- absence of effective penalties is why bigotry and excessive force never seem to get rooted out from the SFPD.

Meanwhile, San Franciscans await the Mayor's decision on who to appoint as new chief of the department. Any appointment from inside, including Acting Chief Toney Chaplin, would signal continuation of dirty business as usual under the continued sway of the Police Officers Association.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yemen: our forgotten war

Yesterday the BBC reported on the devastating consequences to starving Yemeni infants caught within that particular used war.

The crisis in Yemen has been overshadowed by the wars in Syria and Iraq. Barely 50% of the funding promised by donors has actually been delivered.

The senior UN official in the country, Jamie McGoldrick, is clearly exasperated at the international response.

"The politics of the situation has overcome the humanity," he says.

"The humanity doesn't work anymore here. The world has turned a blind eye to what's happening in Yemen... right now we are so under-resourced for this crisis, it's extraordinary."

Saudi attacks have destroyed the infrastructure of survival. The United States is paying for and abetting this carnage -- as usual with only the most murky of objectives.

In her latest analytical article, Erudite Partner has tried to explicate: The forgotten war in Yemen and the unchecked war powers of the presidency in the age of Trump. She does a pretty good job.

Monday, December 12, 2016

No retirement possible

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my former "boss" in several progressive ventures was in town. He and I agreed that the personal consequence of the election was that our dream of fading into a relatively graceful retirement had been flushed away, a tiny ripple in the vortex of public and national pain.

Charles Blow riffs on the thoughts of one of my forebears on the retirement question.

... One of the first and most essential ways to mobilize around a cause is to establish its moral framing.

In a 1780 letter written to a fellow revolutionary considering “retiring into private life,” staunch abolitionist Samuel Adams — a man strongly opposed to slavery and therefore one of my favorite founders — wrote:

“If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experiencd Patriots to prevent its Ruin. There may be more Danger of this, than some, even of our well disposd Citizens may imagine. If the People should grant their Suffrages to Men, only because they conceive them to have been Friends to the Country, without Regard to the necessary Qualifications for the Places they are to fill, the Administration of Government will become a mere Farce, and our pub-lick Affairs will never be put on the Footing of solid Security.”

There is no other time to which this could apply more perfectly than now. This is not the time for the “retiring” of “experiencd patriots.” A “vain and aspiring” man now possesses the highest seat in government and the administration of the government is on the verge of becoming a farce. ...

The vital aspect of this is Blow's call for "moral framing." Donald Trump, the Trump cabinet, and the leaders of the Republican party are bent upon committing wrongs. Let's state this in terms that hearken back to more ethically grounded times.
  • They intend to use the power of government to enrich the few rather than to spread the common good.
  • They propose to undermine equal justice under law, both by denying it to classes of people they despise and selling it to cronies, just as did a king that old Sam Adams fought.
  • For these entitled white men, all others are just bit-players living at their pleasure and for their exploitation.
Neither life nor liberty is secure under such a regime.

What we are all asking ourselves ...

... and fearing the answers. Jay Rosen goes there. Professor Rosen (Journalism-NYU) has long been an observer of the foibles of a disoriented press and media. Thanks to Digby for storifying this series of tweets.

"Don't hurt us, we'll be good!" Another Professor, Timothy Snyder, who teaches Central European history at Yale, gives this weasel response a useful label: "Anticipatory Obedience."

Politico reports on the legal avenues the Trump administration might use to constrain the press.

If Trump wants to wage war on the press, he certainly has the tools to do so. He can’t open up the libel laws, but he could still make life very difficult for the reporters covering his administration. For now, all reporters and media lawyers can do is remain vigilant and push back if Trump tries to restrain or punish the press. If the Trump administration takes unprecedented steps to prosecute journalists under the Espionage Act, it will face aggressive legal challenges.

Fine -- if journalistic outlets don't flop into Anticipatory Obedience mode.

On the other hand, Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post reports that engaged citizens can help the press do its job better by paying sharp attention:

... some Americans are tuning in. The New York Times and The Washington Post say subscriptions have soared since the election. The investigative outfit ProPublica, as well as other journalism nonprofit groups, report a flood of donations.

One Post reader wrote to me recently asking how her family’s foundation could help defend reporters against potential legal challenges. After conferring with Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, I suggested she consider a donation to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She got back to me to say that they had done just that — to the tune of $10,000. ...

Most of us can't do that. But we probably can subscribe to media we find make us more informed and vigilant.

Resist much, we must.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

While awaiting the Light ...

This Advent season I'm listening to an interesting Great Course, twenty-four lectures on Jesus and His Jewish Influences by Dr. Jodi Magness. She teaches Syro-Palestinian archeology and early Jewish history at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of how Jesus’s teachings and views were shaped by his Jewish background and context, illustrated by selected passages from the canonical Gospel accounts. ...The purpose of this lecture series is not to authenticate the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s sayings and activities; rather, we will illustrate how the Gospel accounts fit within the context of early Judaism—that is, Judaism in the time of Jesus—and how the Gospels inform us about Jesus’s life and ministry.

She's set herself a big, convoluted, task here. The first lecture consists entirely of definitions of terms that we misunderstand when we project our notions into the past. A couple of examples: "temple" -- the literal dwelling place of a god and "monotheism and monolatry" -- the later is the worship of one god while accepting the existence of other deities, a commonplace in the older Hebrew writings. This helps, but Magness is striving so hard to overcome accreted assumptions -- certainly Christian ones but I suspect also contemporary Jewish ones -- that the result sometimes feels like a series of disjointed leaps through millennia of Jewish history. Perhaps that's nature of a short survey course.

Yet I've learned much I hadn't before appreciated.
  • Who knew that a scholar can make a case that Jewish mythologizing of the very real flash-in-the-pan Greek conqueror Alexander the Great who overran Palestine in 332BC paved the way for the notion of a divine man/god? The scholar Ory Amitay argues

    that Alexander’s historical role as the paragon of divinization helped prepare the way for the acceptance by Jews of the principle of the divine son. Alexander was a flesh- and-blood person who broke the barrier between humanity and the divine. Another well-known parallel between Alexander and Jesus is that both died at the age of 33. Amitay notes that Alexander was a bridge between the worlds of monotheism and polytheism. He concludes, “Alexander and Jesus were close neighbors in the boiling matrix of God’s heroes and demons which characterized the religious life of later antiquity.”

  • I'm familiar of course with Gospel asides such as "Can anything good come out of Nazareth [Gailiee]? (John 1:46) What I'd never taken in -- maybe someone had told me but I missed it -- was that Galilee had only been part of the Jewish/Judean world for a short time.

    ... His Jewish descent would have been questionable, as well. In fact, Galilee had been Judaized by the Hasmoneans only a century before Jesus’s birth. Therefore, by Jesus’s time, the population of Galilee included non-Jews who had been Judaized, or forcibly converted to Judaism, by the Hasmoneans a century earlier, as well as descendants of Judean colonists.

    Jesus wasn't just a country bumpkin -- he was one with a suspicious ancestry. Hence the elaborate birth narratives.
  • Magness is at her most enlightening discussing the ascetic Essenes, the Jewish sect that lived at Qumran and left the "Dead Sea Scrolls" manuscripts in caves there. She is emphatic in her view that Jesus could not have been an Essene, although his followers shared some similar apocalyptic expectations and also sometimes held their goods in common.

    ... the Qumran sect adopted a priestly lifestyle. Every full member lived his everyday life as if he were a priest officiating in the Jerusalem Temple, which meant that full members observed the highest level of Jewish ritual purity. But according to the Gospel accounts, Jesus regularly came in contact with members of the Jewish population who were impure. ...The Qumran sect was an exclusive sect; full membership was not open to the majority of the population. Jesus’s approach, however, was inclusive. He welcomed everyone into his movement.

    Oh -- and John the Baptist wasn't an Essene either. They'd have found his diet of locusts and honey quite repellent.
Studying ancient history in these awful days does not truly distract. But I find I can experience fellow feeling with people who had the misfortune to live through calamitous events in past times.

All quotes here are from the .pdf with accompanies the audio of this course.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

San Francisco going to the dogs?

Some are just cute.

Some seem in equilibrium with their human.

He's seen better days.

And he's too perky to be quite believable.

Life would be more interesting outside this dirty window.

Why did you lock me in this car?

All encountered in one tiny precinct on the side of Russian Hill while Walking San Francisco.

Fake news for the taking at a supermarket near you

Stop worrying about what infests Facebook. It's right there in a rack by the checkout stand.

Trump and Enquirer CEO David Pecker have been friends for years. “They’re very close,” said a source close to the Enquirer. In July 2013, Trump even tweeted that Pecker should become CEO of Time magazine, which at the time was being spun off from its corporate parent, Time Warner.

NY Magazine

Friday, December 09, 2016

Donald's gaggle of used wars and warriors

For fifteen years, the US military and our array of shadowy "security" spooks have been fighting -- well something or other. Much of that time, it has been hard to tell what they've been given the task to accomplish except, perhaps, to prevent further embarrassment to US executive authorities. What was it we thought we were killing and being killed for in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hard to know, and certainly whatever the "mission" was, it hasn't been accomplished.

This is not to say that vast quantities of guts and brain power haven't been devoted to whatever this was -- and is -- that our country is doing. Now that Herr Trump is stuffing his entourage with generals whose experience has been in this frustrating, amorphous, and largely fruitless enterprise, it is all the more important for the rest of us bring into focus what we've been doing.

Every once in a while, the muddled project spits out someone who fought the good fight for whatever it is, and, patriotically, wants to try to get the country back on the rails. It's a tough job.

One of the first of these was Ali Soufan. He was just about the only Arabic speaker in the FBI back in 2000, and thus one of the earliest insiders to encounter the absurdity of the post 9/11 enterprise. He left, or perhaps was pushed. He's the principal in the Soufan Group, a "security" consultancy that puts out interesting briefs (ads?) about what they call "challenging international issues."
On the anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 last Wednesday, the Soufan Intelbrief offered an interesting reflection:

In many ways, we are still in a ‘post-Pearl Harbor world’—rather than a post-9/11 world. Much of America’s current national security posture and military capabilities arose out of a war that the U.S. may not have entered with the same level of national commitment had it not been for the Pearl Harbor attack. Indeed, Pearl Harbor has been used to describe the September 11 attacks and aftermath; both attacks were surprising in their timing and nature, but both stemmed from threats that were growing and apparent at the time. The aftermath of September 11 generated a similarly intense rallying point for a shocked nation.

However, Americans after 9/11 were urged to resume a normal life—a reasonable attitude given the true nature of the threat faced at the time. After Pearl Harbor, every level of American society braced for an existential conflict.

The war that followed the September 11 attacks was an entirely different type of conflict than the wars the U.S. had prepared for since December 7, 1941. Indeed, the conflict once dubbed the global ‘War on Terror’ is a real shooting war in many different theaters of operations. Yet unlike the aftermath of 1941—when the U.S. became a nation at war—since 9/11, the U.S. has simply operated as a nation in a war. ...

That last sentence is the crux. The 9/11 attacks were crimes. The 9/11 attacks did not presage a "war". They could and should have been treated as offenses against international and national laws; civil, diplomatic, and military force should have been used to apply law to the miscreants, not to spread carnage far and wide. Because they were treated as equivalent to Pearl Harbor, as if they launched a war, we and the peoples in our path remain trapped in a "war" which is not a "war" but rather a cycle of destruction which has no rational mission or end.

Our post-9/11 military adventures have never been about averting some existential threat to the people of the U.S. Terrorism is despicable and horrible, but it isn't going to maim or kill any significant fraction of us. Yet enough of us demanded of our leaders that they achieve the impossible -- guarantee our perfect safety in a world where many have good reason to hate us -- that they've been empowered to spew death and destruction around the globe without plan, purpose, rhyme, or reason.

Trump's cabinet of the military leaders of that enterprise probably contains more awareness of the futility of all this than just about any group in government. After all, unlike the country at large, they have been at war. They've been made responsible to execute policy madness. And they've been losing, or failing, or something that can't really be evaluated because there are no metrics to measure success when you don't know what you are doing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all this seems to drive some military leaders mad. General Flynn, he of the fake news tweets and hatred of all Muslims, seems in that category. General Mattis may well be a wiser character. Thomas Ricks, who is no military sycophant, thinks so. It is certainly dangerous to civilian control of the military to have so many generals at the top of the government. But if we are going to be in permanent war, perhaps it should be no surprise.

As an unruly teenager, Donald Trump was shipped off to a Hudson River military school to be "straightened out." (I remember marveling at ads for this sort of educational service in the classified section of my parents' Saturday Review in those years. What sort of kid got that treatment?) His classmates remember his getting over on the strict school discipline. We're all going to be forced to see whether he gets over on his next set of officers. There's no sign he's learned any discipline or matured much.

Resist much, we must.

Friday cat blogging

Morty just doing his job, being beautiful.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Are we self-limiting?

Scot Nakagawa has questions for progressive organizers, which include this:

... many of us appear to be afraid of seizing power.

While I sure don't see us seizing power any time soon, I think he is onto something about how we limit ourselves.

Last night I attended a meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission, a largely powerless but highly ornamental feature of the non-governance of our police department and its rogue union. (Much more here. SFPD shoots citizens with impunity.) There are some good people on that police commission (and some who are probably just sleepy time servers ...) They are people who've pushed and shoved and gotten themselves into a place where, for little material payoff, they can strive to do something that, if effectual, might make the city a better place. For this, if they step out of line, they take abuse. Plus they have to fill their lives with absorbing endless bureaucratic minutia if they want a chance to have any effect.

How many of us who complain have been willing to do that sort of thing? Darn few; I certainly never even considered it. Scot's article is worth reading and thinking about.