Tuesday, November 30, 2021

No more graveyard shifts?

The Great Resignation -- maybe we should call what we're living the Great Labor Discontinuity -- has confused and confounded economists. Having been given some involuntary breaks by the pandemic from the endless of treadmill of meaningless jobs, some people seem to be thinking differently about work. And some are no longer willing to do jobs that destroy  body, mind and spirit.

Erudite Partner asks: An End to Shift Work?

Your doctor can’t solve your shift work issue because, ultimately, it’s not an individual problem. It’s an economic and an ethical one.

There will always be some work that must be performed while most people are sleeping, including healthcare, security, and emergency services, among others. But most shift work gets done not because life depends upon it, but because we’ve been taught to expect our patio furniture on demand. As long as advertising and the grow-or-die logic of capitalism keep stoking the desire for objects we don’t really need, may not even really want, and will sooner or later toss on a garbage pile in this or some other country, truckers and warehouse workers will keep damaging their health.

We are not even at the beginning of seeing what the Discontinuity might imply.

Monday, November 29, 2021


Click to enlarge.

According to the wisdom of economic guru John Maynard Keynes, "Anything we can actually do we can afford."

It's abundantly clear what we choose to do.

No further comment. By way of congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A new German government, climate crisis, and migration

Economic historian Adam Tooze has passed along elements of the platform adopted by the "traffic-light coalition" composing the newly elected German government. Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats are out. The Social Democrats (the red element), the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party (the cautionary yellow right of center), are in. Olaf Scholz is the new Chancellor -- federal Prime Minister, roughly speaking. 

For anyone who retains an impression of Germany as a the homeland of European regressive nationalism and conservatism -- and after Nazism how could we not? -- this description of the German government's intentions is simply stunning:

“We are united by an understanding of Germany as a diverse society of immigration.” 
In the 1970s-1990s, when the current generation of German leaders were growing up, any such statement would have been politically explosive. 
They continue: “Migration has been and is today a part of the history of our country. Immigrants, their children and grand-children have helped to build our country and shape it. The 60th anniversary of the guest-worker treaty with Turkey is symbolic of that.” 
Like the last Red-Green government, this one promises to modernize Germany’s citizenship laws. This time it will permit multiple citizenship. Naturalization will normally occur after 5 years, or 3 years in the case of exceptional integration performances (sic) (Integrationsleistungen) ... 
Any mention of the concept of ‘race’ will be expunged from the German constitution.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel nearly capsized her government by responding generously to the refugee crisis created by war in Syria. The increasing strength of the proto-Nazi ADF party followed; Merkel was forced to backtrack. The new coalition appears ready to try again to incorporate migrants.

Tooze identifies the underlying and urgent emergency that this new German coalition understands:

This is a government that embraces the climate challenge and has the political backing to do something about it. It has no excuses. Germany is pivotal to Europe’s climate ambitions. And, more generally, the success or failure of this government will tell us a lot about the capacity of sophisticated democracies around the world to adapt to our 21st-century polycrisis.
Climate change prompts new challenges to states and to modern civilization itself from the natural world -- drought, fire, frost, flood, pestilence, and more. Climate change makes civil society and governments unstable. Climate change leads to forced human migration and increased flows of refugees at national borders. These are the great challenges of the 21st century.

• • •

This banner hung on Madrid's City Hall. Why in English?, I don't know. Spain serves as a major entry point for migrants to the European Union, often unwillingly.
British politician David Miliband heads the International Rescue Committee which provides aid to people affected by humanitarian crises all over the world, including people displaced by climate crisis. Founded by the refugee Albert Einstein, the organization got its start in Europe during World War II providing assistance to displaced people. Miliband told the Washington Post that people in the United States could use some simple education about the world's migration challenge.

What do you think people tend to misunderstand about refugee crises, about refugees? 
It’s really important that those of us in America or Europe remember that nearly 90 percent of the world’s refugees are in poor countries, not in rich countries. It’s a myth that Western Europe or the U.S. are bearing an unsustainable burden of refugees; the vast bulk of refugees are in low- or middle-income countries.  
Myth number two is that refugees are displaced for a short period of time, when in fact the averages are closer to 20 years than five.  
Myth number three — this not a short list — is that this is all about young men on the move, when it’s families, with about half of the world’s refugees under the age of 18.  
And myth number four is that refugees are in camps, whereas we know that 60 percent of refugees in the modern era are in urban areas — like Beirut, Istanbul, Islamabad. 
... So we need to change the way we do humanitarian aid. We need to provide education as much as we need to provide water and sanitation. And we’re very clear that a feminist approach is important, not just because two-thirds of our clients are women and girls, but because women and girls face double, triple, multiple vulnerabilities and inequalities, that the structures of power that face them are deeply unequal, and we need to take that into account.
There is nothing in the way the world is currently organized that suggests that the world will see fewer refugees in coming years. Local and international conflicts over power and resources will force people to flee. Climate change guarantees more people will be leaving their homes, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Those of us lucky enough not to be displaced, those of us in rich countries, need to face up to this prospect and figure out what we can do for the less lucky. Our own countries can become better for a well-managed, humane migration influx.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

SFPD crime notice larded with self-congratulation

On my Thanksgiving Day walk around the neighborhood, I saw this weathered flyer stapled to a phone pole.

Click to enlarge. It's worth reading.

In case you didn't bother to enlarge, this reports that a homeless man was found burned in his sleeping bag nearby. The notice goes on to report that, after transport to General Hospital, the injured man died.

It begs for assistance in solving the crime. 

The Chronicle ran a cursory report of the death. I found no report of any subsequent arrest -- I may have missed something.

But that sad atrocity is not really the impetus for this post. I write to call attention to what appears below the plea for assistance:

Click to enlarge. This one is essential reading.

The SFPD used the murder notice to toot its own horn. 

The San Francisco Police Department stands for safety and respect for all. Hailed by the New York Times as a major city department "where police reform has worked," SFPD continues to break ground with its voluntary Collaborative Reform Initiative ...

There's a link to a police website puffing their "voluntary" compliance. 

No mention that under Trump, the Justice Department dropped efforts to force compliance with 272 needed reforms identified in 2016. The California (state) Department of Justice took up the case and, in December 2018, "found the SFPD to be 'not in substantial compliance.'" 

Many of the areas in which the SFPD was found wanting are substantive. They concern the prohibition of a dangerous chokehold once used by SFPD officers; the SFPD’s communication and reporting systems around officer-involved shootings; and informing the public about how to report officer misconduct.

The review was summarized in a Dec. 28 letter from the Cal DOJ to Chief Bill Scott. It found the department to be out of compliance with six of the 13 recommendations mentioned in the letter. The 2016 federal review of the department made 272 total recommendations in the wake of several controversial police shootings and a scandal in which officers exchanged racist, homophobic, and sexist text messages. More than two years later, the police department is still working to meet the recommendations.

By last summer, it was not clear that the SFPD had made substantive changes. Reforms were proceeding slowly.

 “The big picture is SFPD seems much more committed to being perceived as accomplishing significant police reform, than actually doing the most important pieces of it,” [former ACLU police practices attorney John] Crew said of the department’s update. 

... Spanning from one to four years, the timeline gives the impression that several critical recommendations like regular employee evaluations and a commitment “to reviewing and understanding the reasons for the disparate use of deadly force” will not be implemented anytime soon. And the timeline for the reforms has already been pushed back repeatedly, so these estimates provided by the SFPD are uncertain. 

Meanwhile, here in the city as we live it, the SFPD continues to embarrass itself. One of the top headlines in the Chronicle today reads Experts baffled by video showing San Francisco police apparently watching as burglary unfolds. You got to read it to believe it -- corruption or just napping?

No wonder SFPD wants to toot its horn on murder notices on telephone poles ...

• • •

The murder victim was named Luis Temaj. No arrests appear to have been made in this case.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday cat blogging: Thanksgiving edition

In which Janeway helps us set up the dining table.

Before we unfold the table cloth, we place a more-or-less impermeable oil cloth directly over the wood. Janeway wants to know what's under there ...
She burrowed all the way across this new cave ...
What an exciting new place to play we've made for her.
We spread out the covering table cloth ...

Once the table is set, there's more to explore. Fortunately, she's not the sort of cat who leaves her hair wherever she goes. We shoo ... she returns when our backs are turned. 

The unfamiliar presence of guests scares her off during the feast. Afterward, she settled on my lap, all sweetness. She had had an exciting few hours ...

ADDENDUM: Janeway surveys the trimming of duck remains for soup ...

Thursday, November 25, 2021

When the turkey won the day ...

On this day, so lethal to turkeys, it seems right to raise up a brave (and irritable) turkey which achieved its purpose.

Some years ago, while running in Marin County, I intruded on this fellow's territory. Presumably there was a turkey hen and little ones somewhere near by.

I had bare legs. A feinted kick and fast departure seemed smart and off I sprinted. Score one for daddy turkey!

• • •

We have much to be thankful for. In two high profile murders of Black men, in the past year the apparatus of law has been able to take notice of the crimes. And Joe Biden, not Donald Trump, is president. Let us give thanks for living to fight another day ...

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A terrible courage, craven greed and women's solidarity

Here's a headline I wish I'd written, but didn't quote when I excerpted from the article's content: Overthrowing Democracy Requires Overthrowing Feminism? This came back to me watching the fate of #MeToo-proclaiming Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai -- isn't her brave declaration and the subsequent behavior of the people and institutions around her a succinct demonstration of where much boldness for freedom can be found?

Look at the scenario and cast of characters:

• Peng tells the world she was sexually imposed upon by a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party leader.

• Within 30 minutes, Peng's social media post is disappeared by the government censorship apparatus.

• Next Peng herself is disappeared.

• The international Women's Tennis Association (WTA), the governing body of her sport, demands Peng's freedom and expresses willingness to forgo playing in China, a huge market for their sport, if Peng is not freed. That would be 10 tournaments down the drain next year.

• The Chinese government issues a transparently false email and some images claiming that Peng is A-Okay.

• Prominent international women tennis stars like Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams speak out about Peng. The current world No. 1 male tennis star Novak Djokovic chimes in as well.

• Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, participates in a strained video call with Peng. He reports "she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now." He comes away assuring the world that nothing will get in the way of his organization's lucrative Winter Olympics in China in February. All's well as far the IOC is concerned.

• All is not well as far as the WTA is concerned. The WTA said the recent videos "don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," per the BBC.

• Lord Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, chimes in to support the IOC's brush off of Peng. Male sports moguls stick together.

Sadly, it's unlikely any of this ends well for Peng.  But it's sure a clear cut demonstration of who in sport is all about money and who cares about justice for women. The Chinese government and male sports bosses appear very much in sync with each other. As usual, the athletes, most especially the women, are just products to merchandise and stoke bureaucratic egos on the way to the bank.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

We have a long history of struggle over what government is for

It's annoying and dispiriting to watch Republican opposition to President Biden's effort to improve U.S. hard infrastructure. Pretty much everyone agrees roads, bridges, and airports need help, but GOP legislators have received death threats for voting for the Biden plan.

Because the inescapable dividing line in U.S. politics in the mid-19th century was the continued existence and expansion of slavery, it's easy to overlook that support for federally financed "internal improvements" was some of the glue that held together the emerging Republican Party coalition 160 years ago.

The small white master class which ruled states which became the Union-breaking Confederacy wasn't interested in anything that would advance prosperity broadly among small farmers, laborers, and working immigrants. They were doing just fine extracting value from forced slave labor on their plantations. Republicans found a majority constituency by promising to use the federal government to encourage infrastructure building for everyone. There was something from Republicans for the many, even if voters weren't interested in national politics.

The leading planks of the 1860 Republican platform on which Abraham Lincoln ran began by confronting the crisis created by slavery.

That the history of the nation during the last four years, has fully established the propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation of the Republican party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their nature, and now, more than ever before, demand its peaceful and constitutional triumph....

That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions...

That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy...

That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom ... 

But that document went on to promise, against the dogmas of the slavocracy, to use government to improve the lives of the people in ways that should seem familiar today:

That appropriations by Congress for river and harbor improvements of a national character, required for the accommodation and security of an existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the federal government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland mail should be promptly established.

And Republican-led Congresses during the bloody Civil War that followed Lincoln's election proceeded to enact a broad wish list of "improvements" that had been blocked by the slave states, including support for railroads, higher education, and owner-occupied small farms. 

How far today's Republican legislators have fallen from this broad vision of national well-being -- in thrall to financiers, corporate bosses, and conman Donald!

Monday, November 22, 2021

We don't need no stinking kings!

This morning, Heather Cox Richardson lays out what the forces of equity and human decency in this country are confronting in the present moment:

Putin, Orbán, Lukashenko, and others like them are advancing a very old version of society. They believe that a few men—white, Christian—should run the world and amass both wealth and power while the rest of us support them. While they attract voters with their cultural stands—attacking immigration and gay rights, for example—they have rigged elections, turned their economies over to cronies, and stifled the press. They have turned their nations from democracy to an authoritarianism that has been called “kleptocracy” or “soft fascism.”

In short, they want to abandon democracy for autocracy—government by a dictator.

Astonishingly, radicals of the American right have embraced this vision. Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has been open about his support for both Orbán and Russia, and in 2022, the Conservative Political Action Conference will meet in Budapest, where, apparently, they think they will feel at home. Leaders on the American right hammer constantly on cultural issues, deliberately inflaming voters against immigration, Black rights, and transgender students on school sports teams, for example, as signs that American society is collapsing and that we must turn to Christianity and traditional values to restore our stability. 
... [ that they are] are taking their lead from minor authoritarian countries—the economy of Russia is comparable to that of Texas, while Hungary’s population is comparable to Michigan’s—shows the extraordinary poverty, or perhaps the extraordinary greed, of their vision.

Our domestic authoritarians are tapping into widespread disillusionment -- a significant number of us are frustrated, pained, and anxious. Too many of us are ready to see hope in a king. 

And a slight majority of us, know -- however bad the present -- we couldn't survive in the authoritarians' world.

This is ironic in a moment when debate over the impetus for the American Revolution is raising rancor among historians. But whether or not at its core the American founding uprising was predominantly about preserving slavery and despoiling native peoples, it certainly was about ending colonial rule by a distant king.

Democracy is hard. Multi-cultural, multi-ethnic democracy is harder. We've only had a glimpse of such a thing since the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960s. 

And democracy rooted in women's equal humanity is something new under the sun.

Professor Peter Beinart helps us to understand the centrality of revulsion against female empowerment among our homegrown fascists. They like having a Kimberley Guilfoyle around to front for them, but, he quotes Texas A&M political scientist Valerie Hudson on how, at a deep level, they experience women's equality as emasculation and desecration of what they hold holy.

Hudson argues that in many societies throughout history, government has rested upon a social contract between men: “Men agreed to be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women.” In those societies, male political dominance appeared legitimate—like adults ruling children—because it mirrored the hierarchy of the home. Women’s rule, by contrast, was considered unnatural. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “Youths oppress My people, and women rule over them. My people, your leaders mislead you.”

Beinart continues:

... Trump’s message was clear: As president, he would put women in their place. He promised a new political order in which all women—no matter how elevated their status—would be graphically reminded that their worth is determined by men. In so doing, Trump tapped into an anxiety among his supporters, more than two-thirds of whom said in an April 2016 poll that American society “is becoming too soft and feminine.” When he led crowds in chants of “lock her up”—something Republican crowds never chanted about John Kerry, Barack Obama or Joe Biden—he incited a fantasy of revenge. In a de-feminized America, women who threatened male power would be not merely defeated but punished.   

In other nations, Trump’s ideological cousins have done something similar. To undermine fragile liberal democracies, they have associated them with emasculation. And to signal their restoration of male dominance, they have humiliated powerful women. When Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, voted to impeach his predecessor, Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff—who had been tortured by Brazil’s military rulers in the early 1970s—he dedicated the vote to one of that regime’s most infamous torturers. In 2015, he told a Brazilian congresswoman, “I would not rape you, because you are not worthy of it.” When Bolsonaro ran for president, crowds at his rallies chanted that they would feed dog food to feminists. ...

The leadership of the Republican party has sold its soul for this stew of feces. The rest of us are challenged: will we allow them return their king?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

COVIDiots harangue the tourists

They planted themselves opposite the entrance to Pier 39, our most attractive maritime tourist trap, and kept up a loud din on Saturday. Ah, free speech.
They proclaimed multiple and mixed messages.
Alongside the usual white natonalist appropriation of patriotic symbols, somebody urges "Free Austria." This apparently refers to the rather desperate effort by the Austrian government to stop rising coronavirus infections with a new lockdown and a nationwide vaccine mandate beginning this week.

The tourists took the protest in stride: just more of the freak show along with the clowns and jugglers.
If these folks want to avert something similar to Austria here -- not likely, but we never know what the virus may do -- they know what they can do. Get vaxxed now!
• • •
Encountered while Walking San Francisco.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Visitors from our futures ...

I keep encountering robots. It's eery. This one is patrolling a parking lot. I first saw it around 7am and thought of it as a sort of night security guard. Its progress is silent, but lights flash. It moves about during the day as well -- perhaps checking for abandoned cars and other anomalies? I don't know.

Steven Levy, the venerable chronicler of Silicon Valley, got inside Google's (properly Alphabet's) "moonshot" Everyday Robots facility.
Everyday Robots is trying to do two really hard things, a challenge so hairy that some question whether the effort is worth it. The first is credibly performing the tasks of human helpers. Everyday Robots lives on the razor’s edge of Moravec’s paradox, which states that it’s relatively easy for computers to perform difficult cognitive work and devilishly difficult to duplicate the functions of a two-year-old. ... In the Everyday Robots world, conquering a mundane task, such as crossing a cluttered room and opening a tricky door handle, is like winning the Super Bowl. ... 
The second hard thing the project is attempting to do is move toward that goal in such a way that it makes more sense, in terms of both economics and efficiency, to have a robot on hand than a bored and underpaid human. ... 
On one hand, it’s astonishing to see these robots monitoring conference rooms and wiping tables. But then you ask yourself—why is Alphabet spending millions of dollars to perform chores that wouldn’t challenge a three-year-old? The corollary to Moravec’s paradox is Samuel Johnson’s unfortunate [make that misogynist] comparison of a woman preaching to a dog that walks on his hind legs: “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all,” said the 18th century writer ... 
Two real tests need to be aced before everyday robots will be truly useful: They have to be cheap enough to be a cost-effective alternative to human labor, and they have to be flexible enough to cope with the near-infinite number of unplanned obstacles they will encounter in the chaotic reality that humans easily navigate. [E]ngineer Benjie Holson—he grew up in a family of puppeteers, acquiring a perspective that he says is helpful in his current job—admits that at this point, if the robots cleaning tables were supplied with soy sauce instead of disinfectant, they would blithely soil the surfaces with it. ...
Definitely worth clicking through to Levy's article to see some cool, spooky videos.

This one was checking inventory in a store; at least I think that was its project. Would we feel better about these things if they were programmed to tell us what they are doing? We might. So far that doesn't seem to have occurred to their inventors.

And, of course, we have to be concerned about what happens to the people whose jobs will disappear -- even if I wouldn't want to spend my days checking inventory, for someone this job is a livelihood. If these things proliferate, we're sure to see some machine-sabotaging Luddite resistance.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday cat blogging

While Walking San Francisco in this big, busy, and often pedestrian-unfriendly city, most cats I meet are safely behind windows, eyeing the passersby.

But a few sit proudly on their turf, surveying their domains.
They know whose city this truly is. 
Janeway takes a similar proprietary attitude toward her neighborhood and her many human admirers who often point and wave.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Not a happy thought

A headline yesterday gave me a horrible flashback. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy's coming retirement means

Feinstein poised to move into presidential line of succession if Democrats keep Senate 

That is, the party in control of the Senate picks the president pro tempore of that legislative body. By tradition, that's the longest sitting Senator; when Leahy goes, that Diane. The role is almost entirely ceremonial -- with one exception: if for some reason, a president, a vice-president, and the Speaker of the House are unavailable, presidential succession moves on the Senate president pro tempore. 

Now we still have a Veep and a Speaker (that would probably be wet noodle Kevin McCarthy if GOPers win the House in 2022) before we get to the Senate president pro tempore. So an upward leap for Feinstein seems improbable -- and a good thing too, as in her case, it doesn't seem advanced age is leading to wisdom.

It's mostly forgotten, but we have Diane Feinstein because of previous unthinkable events. In the mid-1970s, she looked to be a washed up local San Francisco politician. She'd run for Mayor twice and lost; as has been typical in the city, candidates to her left and to her right sucked up all the energy. In 1975, the city elected the progressive candidate, George Moscone. Feinstein remained on the Board of Supervisors, but she seemed done. Then in 1978 Supervisor Dan White killed Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk; the crime was a consequence of culture war tensions much like those we are living through today. 

As president of the Board of Supes, Feinstein became "acting mayor." And, through some twists and turns and one recall, that's how she got where she is now.

Here's hoping, if Dems hold the Senate, they'll find a graceful way to inject someone with sharper energy into the line of succession. 

Killing off the base

The indefatigable Charles Gaba is at it again, presenting visually the statistical evidence that Republicans have chosen to kill off their own supporters rather than to try to preserve their tribe's health.

The Former Guy didn't want there to be a deadly pandemic. Mass illness and deaths would upset the stock market and derail his glide toward re-election. Besides, most of the early 2020 deaths from COVID in the United States were on the blue Democratic coasts, no concern of his. He made the choice to throw the job of fighting the novel virus to state governors -- then failed to provide resources and back up from the federal government. He poo-pooed public health precautions. He egged on anti-mask protesters.

Even when scientists invented a vaccine (during his term of office!,) he encouraged resistance to the life-preserving injections.

And the inevitable consequences followed: coronavirus cases in areas that listened to Democrats and, eventually to President Biden, saw lower cumulative death rates. Red areas that voted for GOPers overtook and then surpassed the pandemic death rates in Blue counties and states.

Click to enlarge.
"The cumulative death rate in the reddest tenth is now over 48% higher than the bluest tenth."

Killing off your own base seems an unsustainable strategy for a political party, but traumatized people may yet give it a further run ...

Gaba has created an animation from these figures which is worth clicking through to absorb.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Late pandemic blues

I've been making too many visits to Kaiser Permanente health facilities lately. What's there? A workforce, exhausted by the pandemic, making demands.

Yesterday, when I went to pick up some meds, I wondered whether I'd be met by picketing pharmacists. But no, apparently workers and management settled at the last minute.

Meanwhile, a long-running strike by Kaiser stationary engineers drags on. They walked out on September 18 and see no bargaining progress yet. These are the workers who keep the physical plant running -- a major job in a modern hospital. Somebody has to fix pipes and recalcitrant elevators, at whatever hour they are needed.

A friend who is a retired stationery engineer tells me that, though the job is very well compensated, erratic scheduling which puts workers on-call for irregular long stretches. Understaffing can wear down even the proudest mechanics. The pandemic most likely brought all these inconveniences and inequities to the fore.

The Chron reports other Kaiser unions are demonstrating their solidarity:

In support of the engineers, several other unions have authorized one-day sympathy strikes on Thursday, and the California Nurses Association and National Union of Healthcare Workers on Friday. 

Our stuttering recovery from pandemic disruption seems to have awakened many workers to their hopes for better ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Watch out, University of San Francisco!

"Unfair, Unjust, and Un-Jesuit." was the rallying cry across the campus community.

Yesterday members of the Part Time Faculty Association (PTFA) sponsored a speakout to highlight how poorly their members are treated by a cheapskate administration. Adjunct professors, who teach 45 percent of the credit hours offered, have little job security, no advancement path, and low pay -- and the powers-that-be want freeze their pay in this time of inflation! The administration is dragging out bargaining talks in the hope of outlasting these insecure workers.

Hwaji Shin from Sociology brought a solidarity message from the Full Time faculty -- who have their own struggles with the administration.

Michael Hammond, a part-timer who teaches in Rhetoric and Communications, explained the union's demands. 


PTFA's elected leadership and organizers stood up for a picture at their successful public action.

Yes, that's Erudite Partner right in the middle of the Red for Ed bunch. 

University administrators all over are facing an aroused workforce. The entrenched system of exploiting labor at rich knowledge factories is breaking down. Tomorrow adjunct instructors at University of California campuses have called for a two-day strike.

Thanks to PTFA for the photos. I unable to attend to take my own.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Climate Woodstock

As I almost always do when the issue is climate, I need to farm out any summation of the COPS26 show to David Roberts. Unlike me, he's put his life into knowing what he's talking about when it comes to a warming planet.

And while the UN talks followed their usual, halting, incremental, unconvincing, too laggardly pattern, he takes hope from all the surrounding activity which he calls "Climate Woodstock."

Alongside every official COP is a kind of international festival where everyone who’s doing anything on climate goes to talk about it. Bi- and multi-lateral coalitions, states, cities, nonprofits, corporations — everyone gravitates to the moment when media attention will be most intense.

There was a bit of a sour taste at the festival this year, given that fossil fuels were abundantly represented and the poorest and most vulnerable were, thanks to Covid, unusually under-represented.

Nonetheless, amidst the unsavory optics came all kinds of heartening news. There was a global treaty on methane, brokered by the US and the UK, which has been signed by more than 100 countries. ...

A group of governments and private funders pledged to spend a total of $1.7 billion on Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) protecting local biodiversity. Over 100 countries pledged to stop deforestation by 2030.

A group of philanthropic and development organizations and governments called the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) pledged $10.5 billion toward helping emerging economies transition from fossil fuels. Similarly, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) pledged over $130 trillion of private capital to the energy transition.

And so on. What this shows is an immense amount of will in the world to address this problem, struggling to organize. There’s so much going on.

... national governments are often going to be in the caboose of this train — civic groups, the private sector, and subnational governments are leading the way. That’s distributed all over the world, less easy to see and sum up, but it shows that the caution and intransigence of national governments are not the whole story.

COP26 was a snapshot of a world — agonizingly slowly but with gathering speed — moving to address a crisis. There’s no reason for anyone to stop pushing, but there’s also nothing wrong with acknowledging and celebrating the progress that’s been achieved by all the pushing so far.

Things are moving!

Check out Roberts' Substack. 

We better hope he is right -- and all do our bits as we can wherever we are located.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Photos from weekend retreat

Though the leaves are mostly off the trees, Northern California is still enjoying a late summer. It was shorts weather in Sonoma County over the weekend. 

The Bishop's Ranch was lovely and peaceful, as it almost always is. The good folks of Saint John the Evangelist know how to play, pray, and ponder.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Blog on retreat this weekend

I'll be with my comrades from St John the Evangelist at the Bishop's Ranch in Sonoma County this weekend. Not sure of connectivity, so will just take a blog break. 

Here are some pictures from this lovely setting taken at a previous retreat.

That staring cow served as the header for this blog, some eons ago.

One of our members is providing a photo workshop. Who knows what I may come back with this time?

Friday cat blogging

Portrait of Janeway at her most dignified.

Thanks to Christopher Ingraham who writes a delightful Substack called The Why Axis, I've learned that which animals we choose to live with carries political meaning -- maybe.

... while dogs are more popular overall, liberals are disproportionately likely to own cats, while conservatives tend to be dog people. There’s been some debate over what’s behind the split — urban/rural differences? Household income? Gender?

New peer-reviewed research points to another cause: conservatives hold strong anti-cat biases, likely stemming from cats’ disregard for social hierarchies, their general lack of loyalty, and their refusal to submit to authority. Those characteristics are at odds with certain principles conservatives tend to hold dear.

Apologies to the researchers who put out this stuff (the linked study seems to implicate UC Press) but I found it hard to tell whether I was reading satire. Somehow elaborate statistical data analysis seems overkill.

But what politics, if any, do cats prefer in their servants? Now there's a proper research question.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veterans Day: they were simply Marines

On January 15, 1943, my Aunt Anne (Adams Lentz) was commissioned a captain in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve, the first woman on active duty in the new force. She served as Supply Officer for much of the war, ensuring that the women were provided with suitable outfits for an expanding catalogue of roles, including acting as paper pushers and secretaries for officers, but also as drivers and mechanics.

In peacetime, Aunt Anne had worked in Manhattan, designing and procuring school uniforms. With the outbreak of World War II, she eagerly joined up to do her part and found a similar role in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. The WAAC lent her to the Marines for a 30 day stint in late 1942. She apparently decided she wasn't leaving. She pulled the considerable strings she had access to as the wife of Army Brigadier General John M. Lentz, who was attached to the Army Ground Forces Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to receive an immediate commission and rank.

Her name turns up in the contemporary Marine Recruiter magazine and prominently in the 1994 commemorative pamphlet, Free a Marine To Fight: Women Marines in World War II by Colonel Mary V. Stremlow, USMCR. Stemlow's little book makes lively reading:

Some stories sound too contrived to be true, yet are repeated too often to be dismissed as mere folklore. One such tale was rescued and restored to its rightful place in history when Mary Eddy Furman confirmed that, yes, the portrait of Archibald Henderson, 5th Commandant of the Marine Corps, crashed from the wall to the buffet the evening that Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb announced his decision to recruit women into the Corps. Mrs. Furman, then a child, was a dinner guest ... on 12 October 1942 when the Commandant was asked, "General Holcomb, what do you think about having women in the Marine Corps?" Before he could reply, the painting of Archibald Henderson fell. 
... General Holcomb's opposition was well-known. He, as many other Marines, was not happy at the prospect. But, in the fall of 1942, faced with the losses suffered during the campaign for Guadalcanal — and potential future losses in upcoming operations — added to mounting manpower demands, he ran out of options. ... 
... With 143,388 Marines on board and tasked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to add 164,273 within a year, the Marine Corps had already lowered its recruiting standards and raised the age ceiling to 36. At the same time, President Roosevelt's plan to impose a draft threatened the elite image earned by the selective, hard-fighting, disciplined Marines, and so, the Commandant did what he had to do. In furtherance of the war effort, he recommended that as many women as possible should be used in non combatant billets. ... 
... The public, anticipating a catchy nickname for women Marines much like the WACS, WAVES, and SPARS, bombarded Headquarters with suggestions: MARS, Femarines, WAMS, Dainty Devil-Dogs, Glamarines, Women's Leather-neck Aides, and even Sub-Marines. Surprisingly, considering his open opposition to using women at all, General Holcomb adamantly ruled out all cute names and acronyms and when answering yet another reporter on the subject, stated his views very forcefully in an article in the 27 March 1944 issue of Life magazine: "They are Marines. They don't have a nickname and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of Marines. They are Marines." 
... A mere two-and-a-half years after the formation of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve, there were 18,460 women on active duty: 17,640 enlisted persons and 820 officers. Women commanded 28 units and comprised another 17. A few were assigned independently to specialities such as recruiting. 
... The task of demobilizing the war machine was essentially an administrative process requiring more clerks than warriors. There's an old saw that says an army fights on beans and bullets. In 1945, the War Department learned that an army disbands on a mountain of paperwork. Although nearly everyone expected the women to return home quickly, they were needed more, not less. ... 
... among all the beautifully worded accolades bestowed on the women Marines of World War II, is a simple statement made by General Holcomb, the Commandant so opposed to having women in the Marine Corps in the beginning: "like most Marines, when the matter first came up I didn't believe women could serve any useful purpose in the Marine Corps . . . . Since then I've changed my mind."

• • •

I didn't ever have much contact with my Aunt Anne, my father's older sister. She never lived in Buffalo  where the family was centered and died in 1976 by which time I had decamped to California. I cannot begin to imagine what she would make of women's roles in the today's fighting forces. Much of her job in designing Marine uniforms was to ensure that the women remained properly recognizably feminine. But she was clearly no submissive female; General Lentz was the second of four successive husbands, each of whom I think offered her access to a world beyond the propriety of the upper middle class, urban midwest.

We might not have quite approved of each other, but I think we might have found each other interesting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

It's official: we will vote June 7 on whether to recall Chesa Boudin

Our progressive District Attorney was never supposed to win election, as far as the City establishment was concerned. The fix was in. The Mayor even appointed her preferred candidate as "interim" D.A.

But in 2019, the voters had other ideas. 

So disgruntled losers fanned discontent among a grumpy pandemic electorate and are dragging Boudin back into another campaign, just when the reforms he's attempting might be hitting their stride.

Turning an entrenched system of dubious justice around is hard. Boudin may not succeed. But there are plenty of Republican moneybags and some conservative Democrats, not to mention the SFPD union leadership, who aren't willing to let the man try. 

So we have to vote in a rerun.

Boudin's detractors will have all the national right wing money they could wish to run whining ads, many of them just lies. Let's hope we're smart enough to ignore the noise.

Ryan Alexander-Tanner has made the case for Boudin's reforms in cartoon format.

As far as I'm concerned, this alone might be enough to earn my vote.

But there is so much more.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Playing politics with the plague

David Leonhardt reports:

... the per capita death toll in blue America and red America was similar by the final weeks of 2020.
And then came the vaccines. And the death toll from the virus diverged in line with political leanings.

Click to enlarge.

In order to undermine a Democratic administration whose standing depends on ending the pandemic, Republican politicians are encouraging and endorsing vaccine resistance. And that is killing off a disproportionate number of their own supporters.

The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point. 
In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.
Leonhardt extrapolates from present data that some combination of natural immunity from past infections, additional vaccinations, and better treatments, will reduce future death rates. This trend line won't go on forever. But as long as the virus is rampant, unvaccinated people in red areas will become the preponderance of the casualties.

A lot of people have died to serve the interests of Republican politicians. It's not extremist to conclude this a criminal atrocity.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Toadstool sequence

Three weeks ago, there was this.

Five days later, this. Amazing what some rain will do.

A week later, this:

Today, scarcely a trace left.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Time change

I was prepared to wake up annoyed at the time change this morning, but seeing the light at my usual moment -- 6:45am -- I realized I was delighted. Guess I'm fickle.

But I did find myself wondering: didn't California vote overwhelmingly for an initiative (Prop. 7 in 2018) to stop with all this seasonal clock tinkering. Yes, we did. But apparently we're stuck with it. In order for this measure to become the law, our legislators in Sacramento need to get onboard.

... the California State Senate needs to pass this by a two-thirds vote and they haven't yet. It's stalled. Even if it did get passed in California, the federal government then needs to approve it. 

At Scientific American, Diana Kwan reports her interview with Beth Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University. She thinks we might be healthier and happier if we just settled in with "standard time" all the time.

Most people agree that we need to get rid of this transition back and forth. I personally am an advocate for permanent standard. The reason I am is because I look at light as really important for our well-being, our mood and our sleep. Getting enough light, especially in the winter, is critical. If we have permanent daylight saving time, I worry that come May, June, July, we’re getting too much light too late in the evening. Then we have trouble falling asleep because we don’t make [enough] natural melatonin, which requires it to be dark. To me, the beauty of the permanent standard is: you have your light in the morning in the winter, when you need it, and you have your dark in the summer, when you need it.

I'm not so sure I agree. I do well in the early morning, but in our frenzied capitalist context, morning light seems wasted; we're mostly still asleep. Meanwhile more early evening light seems invaluable. 

Your mileage may vary ...

Saturday, November 06, 2021

In which Ron Kim became a champion for elders

For those of us not from New York State, mention of disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo brings to mind a bully and an empowered lech. But it was not only those who chose (in return for a measure of power?) to work in proximity to this very bad boss who suffered.

New York Times opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang has conducted a substantial interview with Assemblyman Ron Kim who blew the whistle on Cuomo's murderous misadministration of his state's nursing home business during the pandemic. Cuomo propped up his donor cronies by requiring nursing homes to house COVID patients released from hospitals who could be labeled "stable." Thousands died and nursing homes, where staff were often under-trained and short term as well as poorly paid, became centers of transmission for the virus. And then Cuomo used his pandemic emergency powers to protect nursing home owners from wrongful death lawsuits.

Having successfully raised the issue of mismanagement and malfeasance in private nursing homes, Assemblyman Kim has found greater understanding of elders and a passion for more .

Nursing homes and elder care aren’t really things that generally make somebody’s political career. What caused you to get involved so heavily in this one issue? 
Kim: It’s deeply personal for me. We had constituents at the peak of the pandemic that came to us desperately crying that their loved ones were dying in these facilities. The language that they used was out of this world. Half of my staff was like: “Don’t talk to this person, they seem crazy. How could these facilities be committing murder?” 
My gut feeling was that I should talk to them. And after I understood what was going on, because I also had an uncle in a nursing home, things started to connect very quickly for me. ... I think there are way too many powerful individuals and groups implicated in this scandal, which goes back many decades. 
... I think we’ve culturally accepted and normalized ageism. Because when it comes to corporate and establishment Democrats involving racism or sexism, we are so quick to police each other and call each other out, because we want to keep that moral standard. But when it comes to older people dying thousands at a time, we’re out eating brunch, looking the other way. 
There is no return on investment for policing ageism. I think that’s the status that we’re in, and unless we’re completely honest about where we are, we’re not going to move forward.
Assemblyman Kim thinks the state needs to create a public nursing home program that competes with, and outshines, the private businesses in both efficiency and human decency. Who knows whether New York politics will enable him to succeed.

Kang reports that he came to his attention to Kim's reform effort by observing what happened during the pandemic at San Francisco's Laguna Honda.

It was a public facility in San Francisco that offered a good example of how to battle the pandemic inside a nursing home. Laguna Honda, one of the largest county-run nursing homes in the country, houses a significant portion of the city’s indigent elderly. Under normal conditions, an outbreak there would have almost certainly led to extensive loss of life as understaffed and poorly run facilities scrambled to deal with the crisis. That didn’t happen, in no small part, because Laguna Honda and its staff are run by the local government. Not only did the facility have much better staffing numbers than many of the for-profit nursing homes in the area; the direct link to public health officials also allowed for direct and decisive action. 
It’s true that outbreaks can happen at even the best-run facilities, but the for-profit industry can almost entirely be blamed for the scope of the American nursing home tragedy.

Kang doesn't mention that our mayor's grandmother had once lived at Laguna Honda; that certainly helped get the city's attention. As soon as it became feasible, residents and staff were frequently tested and quarantined. It undoubtedly also helped that the strong union of city employees insisted on protective measures. And when vaccines became available, Laguna Honda residents were first in line.

In the early months of the pandemic, my Walking San Francisco project took me to the perimeter of Laguna Honda. I looked at the huge facility with foreboding. Was the virus going to crash through those huge buildings, wiping out helpless inmates?

San Francisco's obsessive attention to a plethora of injustices can often make us a national laughstock. But there's a residue of broad, informed, applied compassion around here which we should treasure.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Friday cat blogging

Click to enlarge.

This picture requires some explanation. Janeway loves ladders. They are playground equipment. In general she finds more elegant ways to get on top of things -- she's a good and brave (foolish?) leaper. She even thinks she ought to be able to walk on curtain rods. 

But sometimes getting down is a little more awkward ...

Thursday, November 04, 2021

What the Biden administration means ...

Jason DeParle writes about poverty for the New York Times. "Poverty" as a broad descriptive explanation for the suffering around us is not as common as it once was. Why 55 years ago, we embarked upon (and lost?) a War on Poverty. But what is the homeless man sleeping on the street but the end result of an economic and political system which leaves its unlucky members without means to live decently, leaves too many in poverty? Why did local community activists organize food deliveries to women locked in with children during the worst of the pandemic, women trapped in poverty? This country has far too much poverty.

Because poverty has been his beat for a long time, DeParle is stunned by the Biden administration's determination to use its powers to fight poverty, through legislation if possible, but also through deft administrative footwork. Here's a tale:

... A few years ago a Republican Congress ordered a revision of the nutritional standards [for SNAP/Food Stamps] and omitted language that had previously required the revisions to be cost-neutral. This change in legislative instructions, seemingly inadvertent, opened the door to increased aid. Accelerating the nutritional review, the Biden administration issued a new Thrifty Food Plan, which caused an average benefit increase of more than 25 percent. About 42 million Americans—one in eight—will now get more money to buy food, and unlike the other pandemic-era expansions, the increase is lasting. 
As the product of complex bureaucratic machinations, the SNAP increase could easily be described as an embodiment of insider-driven change. But when I talked to Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, in August, he didn’t just tout the studies of how quickly the old benefits ran out or the science of apportioning legumes. He talked about the threat that poverty posed to American democracy. “We may have a Constitution and a Declaration of Independence, but if we had 42 million Americans who were going hungry, really hungry, they wouldn’t be happy and there would be political instability,” he said (meaning more instability than already exists). “The safety net is part of how you build a democratic fabric that works. It creates a much more stable and secure country.” Perhaps what he said was obvious, but I don’t recall previously hearing a Cabinet official justifying aid with a reference to democracy’s vulnerability.
Another observation from DeParle:
Even if the safety net shrinks to its pre-pandemic size, and the current statistics become a blip on a chart, it will be a blip to remember. It’s a blip that says high levels of poverty are a political choice, not a fate. ...
That's the choice we are making when we elect even boring Democrats.
EBT is California-speak for Food Stamps/SNAP. You'll find signs like this in every corner store in poor neighborhoods.