Monday, January 31, 2022

San Jose is trying a new tack to regulate guns

This year our rightwing Supremes most likely will throw out nearly all limits on ownership and display of personal guns under a bonkers interpretation of an 18th century legal guarantee that states might maintain "well-regulated" militias. 

A California city is trying a new regulatory strategy. Just as we are required to carry insurance to cover the deadly carnage we might inflict with our cars, gun owners in San Jose will be required to carry liability insurance and pay a fee to support gun violence education.

Under the city’s vision, [a] nonprofit will send out letters to registered gun owners who live in San Jose asking them to pay the annual fee. Once a payment is made, the nonprofit will send the gunowner a form with their proof of payment and a space on the form to fill out their insurance information. Gun owners will be required to carry or store a copy of the paperwork with their firearm, according to the mayor. 
Residents who are exempted from the ordinance include sworn, active reserve or retired police officers, people who have a license to carry a concealed weapon, and low-income residents facing financial hardships. 
Failure to abide by the law could result in a civil fine or temporary forfeiture of a firearm.
The new law is pretty weak stuff:
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said that having liability insurance would encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes. 
The liability insurance would cover losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of the firearm, including death, injury or property damage, according to the ordinance. If a gun is stolen or lost, the owner of the firearm would be considered liable until the theft or loss is reported to authorities. 
However, gun owners who don’t have insurance won’t lose their guns or face any criminal charges, the mayor said.

They might, however, find themselves paying for any damage they allow with their lethal toys.

Predictably, cry-baby gun lovers have whined about "tyranny" and run to the courts to kill the ordinance. I wonder, do they carry auto insurance?

I also wonder whether a court system packed with Republican judges will throw out this common sense measure. Worth trying.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

There are more things on heaven and earth ...

... than we imagine or pause to notice.

Pyroaerobiology is being built by people following their curiosities.

These women wondered and found delight. Well worth a few minutes of your life.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

2022 election preview -- because democracy is on the line

The media refer to 2022 as "an election year." In fact, and probably to the detriment of citizen engagement with democracy, every year is an "election year" somewhere and in many places at some level of government. 

This is a federal midterm election year during which we'll vote on all 435 members of the House of Representatives, one third of the Senate, and a slew of state governors. It is also a year in which the candidates of the Irresponsible Party -- a nice label for Big Lie-promoting Republicans, don't you think? -- will be seeking revenge for losses in 2020 and to win power going forward. And the history of midterm elections under a new president says they'll have the wind at their backs.

The purpose of this post is to lay out some context for the contests we're all going to live through, as much for my own understanding as any reader's, though perhaps some might find this useful. So here goes:

Gerrymandering: Because 2020 was divisible by 10 and the Census Bureau somehow completed a plausible count of us all as required by the Constitution, states are reapportioning the districts in which we vote for state reps and Congress. Republicans control all branches of government (state legislatures and governors) in 23 states; Democrats in 15; and others are divided. State laws about reapportionment allow for many variations on how districts are drawn, but who is in power has a lot to do with the results, mostly.

In a general way, the predominance of Republicans in many state governments would promise that Congressional maps would grossly favor Republicans. And in some places (looking at you, Tennessee) they do, so far in the process. And in a few Democratic Party controlled states like Illinois, Dems are shoring up their advantages in Congressional seats. But the best-informed observers including Dave Wasserman at the Cook Report and many others don't see Republicans creating many aggressive gerrymanders. Rather,

... Republicans don’t appear likely to gain a significant number of seats through redistricting. Instead, they’ve taken up a new strategy: make red seats redder.
If this is correct, it should seem familiar to Californians. In 2000, the state legislature approved what amounted to an incumbent protection gerrymander: though Dems predominated, they largely made their own members and sitting Republicans invulnerable to challenge for a decade. Only one Congressional seat (won by Democrat Jerry McNerney in the northern Valley) turned over during the '00s, despite growing Democratic margins among the electorate. The sense they'd been disenfranchised encouraged Californians to adopt our current independent Citizen Redistricting Commission to do the job. (We still get mostly Dem Reps because we are mostly Dems.)

Elections for the House of Representatives: Decades of gerrymandering and voluntary self-sorting by political preference mean that hardly any Congressional races are really competitive. As of today, the Cook Political Report points to a measly total of 13, nationally. Some others may develop because of local circumstances or candidate quality. But unless you live in or to next to one of these competitive districts, your political attention is better paid to other offices. 

Elections for Governor: Though Republicans have ridden decades of smart gerrymandering to control of many state legislatures, in quite a few of these states the electorate statewide is closely divided. These are mostly "battleground" states in presidential years. And electing Democratic governors to four year terms in 2022 will help protect an honest vote count in 2024 if the Reps try again to override the decision of the voters. 

States where elections for governor are critical and where volunteer help and any available cash might be of assistance include:

Georgia: the inspiring Stacey Abrams will again be on the ballot. This will be very tough, but never count that brilliant organizer out. 
Nevada: Incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak will be seeking another term. 
Pennsylvania: Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the consensus Democratic candidate. A slew of Reps are running in a primary on May 17.
Wisconsin: Incumbent Democrat Tony Evers will face whoever wins the Republican primary on August 9. There are at least two well-funded contenders, both Trumpy. Wisconsin has the best organized Democratic Party in the country. 
Michigan: Incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will try to hold on for another term. A Black Detroit police chief, Jame Craig, is one of the leading Republican contenders; these will face off on August 2. 
Arizona: the governor's office is open as the incumbent Republican is termed out. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs probably leads the Democratic aspirants, while Republicans have a slew of choices including QAnon and Trump-loving news anchor Keri Lake. The primary is August 2. 
• Another governor's race I'm watching: in Maine, Trumpish former governor Paul LePage wants to take back the job from incumbent Democrat Janet Mills.
Then there are the Senators.
Again, Democrats are quite competitive statewide in places where Republican gerrymanders keep them out of power in the state legislatures.

Georgia: Incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock looks to be taking on Trump-cult adherent and Georgia football hero Herschel Walker. Since Walker is pretty close to certifiably nuts, this shouldn't be much of a contest, but that assumption disregards the heft of college football in the Peach State.

Nevada: Incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto will seek a second term. Her likely opponent Adam Laxalt -- who his family considers him an unworthy usurper of a proud Nevada name -- is a far right wingnut and failed governor candidate. Not going to be easy for Masto though; the Democratic registration advantage in the state is declining.

Pennsylvania: This open Senate seat has attracted a wild cast of characters in both parties, including the 6'7" tattooed Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and, among the Reps, TV-doctor Mehmet Oz. Fortunately the primary is in May, so we'll get a look at the real shape of the contest here fairly early in the year.

Wisconsin: The Senate's dumbest anti-vaxxer, incumbent Republican Ron Johnson, is up for re-election. If Dems were not so well organized, as the sitting Senator, he'd probably be a shoo-in; the primary for the Dems is late, August 9.

Arizona: Incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly will face off against one of several Republicans to be chosen in August. The leader among them, a man who needs another vowel, sitting Attorney General Mark Brnovich, figured out his own advancement meant he had to support Donald Trump's Big Lie against his own Republican election officials in this battleground state.

North Carolina: This open seat will be an attractive prize for Democrats as their nominee for the state's other Senate seat only lost by 1.8 percent in 2020 while Trump won the state. The sitting governor is a reasonably popular Democrat, so Dems see a chance. There's a wide field of Dem and Rep candidates running in a June 7 primary (date subject to all sorts of litigation over House seat boundaries; North Carolina is Republican Congressional gerrymander ground zero.)

• I'll be watching also New Hampshire, Ohio and Missouri where the vagaries of electoral contests might shake up Senate prospects -- though probably not, as party polarization is such a strong force.

Whew!!! Gonna be a tough year -- and as much Democratic Party success as can be won matters desperately to the preservation of some remnant of U.S. democracy.

Those of us who care need to pick the most plausible contests and be ready to donate and work.

Finally, if figuring all this out is just too much, and you have some cash, consider supporting Swing Left's national fund which prioritizes smartly for us.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday cat blogging

This cat didn't even bother to look up when I moved closer with my camera. No messing with his beauty sleep.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

On forced teaching of tripe

The American right fears truthful education. And unscrupulous politicians know how to scare and outrage anxious parents about what their kids might be encountering in the schools.

The point is that the smear campaign against critical race theory is almost certainly the start of an attempt to subject education in general to rule by the right-wing thought police, which will have dire effects far beyond the specific topic of racism. Paul Krugman 
... Critics say the focus on white guilt precludes any candid discussion of American history. "This isn't even a ban on Critical Race Theory, this is a ban on Black history," Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones (D) said. "They are talking about not wanting White people to feel uncomfortable? Let's talk about being uncomfortable. My ancestors were uncomfortable when they were stripped away from their children." via Judd Legum 
The banning of books about race or LGBTQ issues does not just affect those communities, said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association. It also withholds the opportunity for all students to learn “an honest and accurate truth of our history...Censoring the full history of America impacts all of us as a country,” Anderson said.
The country has been here before. Fundamentalist Christians made themselves a laughing stock in the early 20th Century by blocking teaching of evolution in Tennessee. (Yes, they still would if they could ...)

Senator Joe McCarthy went looking for Communists under beds and school room desks in the 1950s.  The great editorial cartoonist Herblock saw that episode like this:

Click to enlarge.
We do not remember these censorship eras proudly.

PEN America (a free speech watchdog) has outlined some of the goobledegook that is turning up in contemporary right wing gag laws being offered in state legislatures. The report concludes:

It is unclear how this ends. Nevertheless, just three weeks into 2022, some facts are already coming into focus. This year’s crop of educational gag orders will be even more censorious than 2021’s. They will target more institutions, regulate a wider array of speech, and impose harsher penalties. If current trends continue, they will also suffer from numerous internal defects and inconsistencies, the product of both a rushed drafting process and ideological zealotry. Their impact on the educational process may be severe.
H/t Laura Malone Elliott for the cartoon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Pelosi on the case

My Congresscritter Nancy Pelosi's office emails press releases. Ninety-nine percent of them straight go to trash unread. But here's a a recent one I happened to open that made my heart glad:

Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the San Francisco Waterfront project will receive $5 million in new Army Corps funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to complete the ongoing Corps study investigating how to strengthen Embarcadero Seawall to withstand earthquakes and rising sea levels. 

This city needs this. As the Bay rises due to our warming climate, whole sections of downtown will be underwater unless ameliorating measures are taken. Already, supper high tides overflow Embarcadero walkways.

2017 photo
The Congresswomen is such a national figure, it's easy to forget she also brings home the bacon for constituents. But she does. This needs attention and she provides it.

Wonder whether she's also on top of the danger of rising waters to the Bay Bridge toll plaza? That sure looks like risky terrain to this observer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Demagogic power

In Jesus and the Disinherited, the theologian Howard Thurman writes of humanity's encounter with the God-Man from the perspective of people who "stand with their backs against the wall." Their encounter is very different from the stance of comfortable middle class churches. This special book influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his struggle against the domination systems of the United States. Thurman is brutally uncompromising in calling out the lies, the hypocrisy, the justified hatreds, the survival stratagems that those on the downside of power employ which get in the way of realizing their own humanity.

I'm not going to try to discuss Thurman's thoughts in any depth here (or probably ever), but in reading his book, I encountered a chilling passage I cannot resist sharing:
Several years ago I was talking with a young German woman who had escaped from the Nazis, first to Holland, then France, England, and finally to America. She described for me the powerful magnet that Hitler was to German youth. The youth had lost their sense of belonging. They did not count; there was no center of hope for their marginal egos. According to my friend, Hitler told them: "No one loves you -- I love you; no one will give you work -- I will give you work; no one wants you -- I want you." And when they saw the sunlight in his eyes, they dropped their tools and followed him. He stabilized the ego of the German youth and put it within their power to overcome their sense of inferiority. It is true that in the hands of a man like Hitler, power is exploited and turned to ends that make for havoc and misery; but this should not cause us to ignore the basic soundness of the theory on which he operated.
Does Thurman's account of Hitler's power remind you of anyone in U.S. public life? Here's a reminder:
“Go home. We love you, you’re very special.” ... “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. ..."
Yes, that's Donald Trump tweeting from the White House to the mob he incited to attack the Capitol and the Congress on January 6, 2021.

The power in recognition -- in the claim to love -- is a neutral thing; the question is, what or who does that power -- that charism -- serve?

Monday, January 24, 2022

Pilgrimage is for seeing

One of my great pleasures is reading, on Facebook, accounts by pilgrims and aspiring pilgrims of their journeys toward the venerated cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. The most common route for these long walks begins in France, crosses the Pyrenees, and proceeds northwest through the Basque country and Galicia. There are many variations on the route. A few years ago, Erudite Partner and I joined with a friend to walk the Primitivo route, one of the oldest and most rural. 

Some people are even more ambitious. People begin walking from all over Europe, making their own routes. These days, I'm enjoying looking at an account from one Liam J. Bayly of his trek south from Glasgow along the west cost of England. He's a reflective narrator. (I have no idea how he intends to cross the Channel.) He expresses cogently something that I have felt walking the bayside perimeter of the San Francisco peninsula:

Looking from this vantage point across Middlesbrough at the vast industrial sprawl, I could feel it. The sadness. The very deep and powerful sadness and woundedness. Think me crazy?!? That's fine. You can. But it doesn't change a thing. This is not a rant nor a soap box. This is a description of a moment. I wept. The tears were not tears of joy. They were tears of immense sadness. The industrial period of the human race was necessary for our evolution. But it has come at a cost. A severe cost in some cases. It has left its mark. And I ached and I wept.

I appreciate that, even as he weeps, he also accepts that our hideously destructive, frequently cruel, brilliantly creative, capitalist civilization has led to better lives for masses of humans who wouldn't be alive without the standard of living it makes possible -- and also for a long running catastrophe..

This seems as a very truthful state of mind for our times. Pilgrimage is about noticing.

Photos are San Francisco Bay views taken while Walking San Francisco.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Need to store your wines?

I love finding the unexpected when I'm out Walking San Francisco. While walking in the Presidio, I learned that this former military post, now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, includes wine cellars for rent.

The historical designation of this area is Battery McKinnon Stotsenberg, but the non-profit trust that runs the Presidio as a park and tourist destination seems to have repurposed it for a more lucrative function. If you've got a private wine collection you want to house underground, this facility is for you.

That's a fine dirt mound covering the "cellars."

Barrels announce the obscure location's purpose.

Lots of barrels ...

Walking the area has made me a cautious fan of the management of the Presidio Trust. When the Feds were dissuaded from selling off this magnificent old base to developers, it passed to a novel public-private non-profit in 1994. The new Trust was required to become self-funding. The arrangement seemed ripe for all sorts of grift and elite profiteering. And I have no doubt there has been plenty. But viewed simply as a huge scenic park that is honey-combed with well maintained trails, reasonably accessible to both San Franciscans and visitors, the place is a terrific success.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Who is an American?

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

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

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

Here we are. Nobody is giving up.

Friday cat blogging

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

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The time has come for this to go ...

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

How stupidly ghoulish can Republican politicians get?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

February local San Francisco election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Nuff said.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Loving in a loveless, anti-Black country

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Is this worth $10K or $100K?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friday cat blogging


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

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

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Chesa Boudin answers his detractors

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

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

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

My emphasis. I certainly hope he's right.

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

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

What Texas Republicans think about voting rights

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

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

New year, another election

If you are in San Francisco, you are facing an Election Day on February 15. WTF? Yes, that's when we'll be voting on whether to recall three members of our elected Board of Education -- the body which more or less runs the S.F. Unified School District. Members Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga, all elected in 2018, are on the ballot. And their chances don't look good.

Like citizens everywhere, San Franciscans are in a pissy state of mind after two years of pandemic. Many parents are even more pissy than the rest of us, furious with a public school system that closed down for months and then reopened without giving parents and teachers confidence it was taking every available precaution, such as new ventilation and making testing available. Everyone inside the schools is required to mask and every student has had the opportunity to be double vaxxed. Ninety-six percent of the teachers are fully vaccinated. But some schools, like the one near me, Buena Vista-Horace Mann, opened plagued by rats, gas leaks and mold. The Board of Ed. didn't seem to be able to do anything about these facts.

And then, in mid-pandemic, the Board seemed to take leave of its senses by announcing it was going to rename 44 schools without going through any plausible process with students, alumni, parents, and historians. Now it's a sure bet that plenty of schools are named after people who were awful racists and settler capitalists by our current standards -- but you have to get at least a plurality of interested citizens on board with changes if those changes are going to satisfy the community that pays for the schools. (And how do you pick your targets? This citizen could do without a school named for Dianne Feinstein, though I am sure our Senior Senator has her fans.)

And then it emerged that Board member Alison Collins had texted some bigoted anti-Asian opinions and the rest of the Board stripped her of her position as vice-chair. Whereupon Collins sued her own colleagues. That's imploded.

With this combination dereliction and crazy antics, it's no surprise that the three members (of seven) who are eligible for recall have been put to a vote.

BUT that's not all that's going on here. United Educators of San Francisco, otherwise known as the teachers union, is at loggerheads with the Board on a lot -- but the union opposes the recall. They claim that the recall is just an attempt by right wing funders and charter school zealots to seize control of public schools away from voters and give it to San Francisco's mayor. Should the recall succeed, the mayor appoints replacements. Here's what the teachers union has to say:
UESF President Cassondra Curiel said, “As educators who love our communities and care for our students, we are urging voters to reject this recall. The recall will waste precious resources when decision-makers need to be laser-focused on meeting the needs of our students. A successful recall ultimately results in mayoral control of the board of education, making it harder for families and the educators they entrust their children with every day to advocate for resources.  
“SFUSD is facing as much as a $112 million deficit next year, which could mean layoffs, increases in class sizes and cuts to essential services to our most vulnerable students. We need an independent board that will fight for the resources our students deserve, not a board beholden to City Hall. The distraction of a special recall election with potential mayoral appointments is NOT what our students and educators need most at a point of real crisis for our classrooms. 
“The central issue here is not the individual commissioners themselves. This is about the voice of our parents and our communities. The recall undermines the voices of parents and voters about who should represent them on the Board of Education. It makes the mayor the sole decision-maker about who should sit on the board. Parents and voters want a school board that answers to them, not unelected appointees that answer to City Hall.”
I'll buy this. 

The big bucks in this city have a hard time winning a straight up vote. The city is a truly awful specimen of urban inequality. But when we see fairly clear cut choices between the greedy and the needy, we usually vote for the latter. So Big Money wins here by subterfuge -- such as hiding behind pissed off parents to change school governance in directions they favor.

I hate the whole thing; I think the current board is full of it; and I'm reluctantly voting NO.

• • •

I'll come along  next week with commentary on the other February 15 contest, a special election for a San Francisco Assemblymember.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Stop them, before someone sets them loose ...

Erudite Partner investigated some of the latest in military artificial intelligence threats. 

Here’s a scenario to consider: a military force has purchased a million cheap, disposable flying drones each the size of a deck of cards, each capable of carrying three grams of explosives — enough to kill a single person or, in a “shaped charge,” pierce a steel wall. They’ve been programmed to seek out and “engage” (kill) certain human beings, based on specific “signature” characteristics like carrying a weapon, say, or having a particular skin color. They fit in a single shipping container and can be deployed remotely. Once launched, they will fly and kill autonomously without any further human action.

Science fiction? Not really. It could happen tomorrow. The technology already exists. ...

The Rise of the Murderbots is not some dystopian fantasy. It's here and humans have choices.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

In memory of the Reverend Jeff Donnelly

These photos are from his first celebration of the Holy Eucharist with his community of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco on December 3, 2006. Jeff died too soon at his home in British Columbia on January 7.

Such a good priest and a sweet, brave man. May you rest in peace, Jeff.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Tribal vexations: what's wrong with those people?

Why Democrats Are So Bad at Defending Democracy That's a headline on a David Brooks column from January 6. I don't know whether I can blame Brooks for the headline, but I sure recognize the sentiment it expresses. This is a concise statement of what Never-Trumpers and other right leaning refugees from the Republican Party ask all the time -- they observe something about how Democrats in positions of elected power act which they find unfathomable. I spend a lot of time reading these folks (for example) because I really believe that, faced with racist fascism, we need to inhabit the biggest tent possible to have a chance.

But I remain bemused by the question. The answer seems obvious to me.

Pure preening time-servers aside, Democrats seek elected power in our democracy because there are policies they want to see enacted that make improvements in how people live. They care about the intricacies of providing health care, child care, education, infrastructure, public health and so much more. They want to change how the country uses its wealth in order to curb climate crisis. Democrats always appear "in disarray" to outsiders because they disagree about priorities and program details. There's lots of scope for argument. But they seek elected office primarily because they want to make changes for the common good.

Pure lazy time-servers aside, Republicans seek elected power in order to have power. The present iteration of the party literally has no policy platform (Trump dispensed with such an antique artifact in 2020). They have a few limited policy instincts: govern as little as possible and provide tax cuts to the wealthy. They do usually want to ensure security for themselves, their base, and to some extent the nation (though they can seem remarkably stupid about where security comes from, but that's another subject.) Since they seek elected office primarily in order to have power, they are often smart about getting and keeping power. That's what they do. No wonder they often think Dems merely incompetent.

Democrats are fortunate to have members who care about power because, for them, access to some power is a matter of survival: people of color, queers, immigrants, and other marginalized constituencies. So much of the energy of Democratic Party politics comes from the margins ... Ex-Republicans have a hard time seeing this too.

If the Republic is to survive its current white nationalist discontents, some muddle of all these tribes will have to understand each other a little more and work together, however uncomfortably.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Friday cat blogging: meet Noosa

She sure looks like a close cousin to Janeway, doesn't she?

According to the Washington Post:

Hisham Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti often struggles with headaches and bouts of loneliness. At Guantánamo, he took comfort in the stray animals that wandered into the camp, and in Slovakia he keeps a cat that he named Noosa. “I like animals,” he said. “Animals are like small children. Innocent.”

Mr. Sliti, originally from Tunisia, was dumped into George W. Bush's law-free prison at Guantanamo in 2002. By 2014, U.S.jailers had realized he was just some loser they'd been sold by crooks in Afghanistan. They dropped him off in Slovakia. He has understandable PTSD and no reliable means of support. And not much life. And, having crushed a working class guy who wanted to be a mechanic, the United States takes no further responsibility for him.

At least he has Noosa.

Old fight; new year

If the horror of it all is getting you down, there's a prescription for malaise: DO SOMETHING.

These good people gathered at the main intersection in the affluent Bay Area suburb of San Mateo yesterday.

They were pumped -- maybe it was President Biden's bluntly calling out the former guy, or maybe it was just that they'd worked alongside each other during long hard years of the Trump presidency and this was sort of a reunion. Our necessary masks make it harder to see who is there ...
We don't need no f-ing kings ...
We know who told us the score ...

Onward to 2022.

Some somethings are better to do than others -- but if we want a democracy, we all have to do what we can.

Friday cat blogging

Janeway greets with her tongue. She may think we need bathing, for all I know. To live with Janeway is to be cleaned. 

Morty of blessed memory had a similar impulse -- but his was directed at our fur. He would wake us up by grooming the hair of our heads. Janeway prefers to lick our noses.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Anniversary of the coup attempt

The clearest statement I've seen of the implications of the insurrection of January 6, 2021 comes from Jeffrey C. Isaac:
There can only be reconciliation, and healing, after the partisans who have rejected normal democratic processes have been defeated and agree once again to hold with the tenets of our Republic. 
Until that time, January 6 should not be a day not for commemoration, but for mobilization in defense of democracy.

I have no idea who Mr. Issac is, but my Civil War-era Union ancestors would no doubt agree.  

The obvious implication is that we are called in this time to use every available tool to preserve and extend the national experiment, however imperfect it is. (And it is awfully imperfect.) That means elections obviously. And the courts. And state and local governments. (Might a tarnished federal structure prove helpful?) 

But countries all over the world have shown that when freedom is under attack, mobilized, mostly nonviolent (if only because lacking the implements of violence), visible people-power matters.

To that end, I'll be attending what I fear will be a small, damp demonstration later today. If we want democracy, we have to show up, each in our own ways. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Beijing Winter Olympics in the 'hood

Somebody's got it in for China and the upcoming extravaganza. Here an ice hockey enforcer takes down a barefoot monk.

Ubiquitous surveillance cameras make a kind of mogul.

How about some coronavirus curling? 

These posters have turned up on random Mission District phone polls. Don't disagree with the sentiments behind the first two here, but mostly I'm just reminded that Olympics equate with noxious nationalisms. 

UPDATE: the posters were created by Australia-based Chinese artist Badiucao. An oft-censored critic of the Chinese government, Badiucao’s series satirized the Beijing Olympics and China’s human rights record.

COVID testing in the 'hood

In this season of omicron, there was a substantial line for testing at 24th and Mission this afternoon. Lot of folks want/need to know.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Laws to constrain law-breaking cops

This new year, California has joined the rest of the more civilized states by making it possible to evict law breaking cops from law enforcement jobs, forever.

Not only are law breaking cops (in theory) out of the job, but also police are barred from shooting rubber bullets at protesters -- with some exceptions that I would expect the more lawless departments to try to drive an armored personnel carrier through. And they are not supposed to rough up and arrest journalists either. Here's hoping.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

An occasional list of links to thought provoking commentary on the condition our condition is in. Some annotated by me.

New York Times Editorial Board: "the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. ... " Here's comes 2022 and beyond.

Jennifer Rubin: "Our politics have fallen victim to the primal scream of once-dominant White evangelicals. Having failed to capture the hearts, minds and souls of a majority of Americans, these communities are turning against democracy. They prefer an authoritarian theocracy to a multiracial society in which they are a distinct minority. ..."

Ed Kilgore: "Republicans are using every tool available to protect the independence of state governments they control, as the GOP-dominated federal courts work to dismantle rights guaranteed to all Americans. ..." Until the Supremes get into it, people in blue states will have more civil rights than people in red states. After that, who knows, but the omens aren't good.

Kevin Drum: "Georgia passed a bill that would effectively give a Republican commission the authority to overturn election results in Democratic counties. This, rather than routine tightening of election laws, is the real danger to democracy that we face. However, over the course of the year no similar bill was passed anywhere else. ... Don't just write this off as Kevin trying to make lemonade out of putrid lemons. It shows that there are real limits to anti-democratic actions from Republicans when we fight back."  Optimistic. There is some evidence that wildly energetic organizing can blunt run-of-the-mill voter suppression by bureaucratic restrictions. But if they just seize the polling process, what's left?

Jeff Schogol: "For those who have taken part in the post Sept. 11 wars, cynicism runs deep. Many veterans took part in the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, showing the painful divisions among troops and veterans about whom they trust and which facts they believe. It will be up to the Forever War generation to begin the healing. Those who have survived have an obligation to succeed where the Baby Boomers failed and stop the United States from sending its sons and daughters into harm’s way for unattainable goals. Your task will be to prevent future generations from being treated as if they were expendable. ..."

The Why Axis

Paul Waldman: "Electing more Democrats is a difficult task — and it isn’t a particularly clever or innovative solution. It will take money, energy and commitment over the course of years. But if anyone has a better idea, let’s hear it. ..."

I hesitated to start posting an occasional feature like this. I'm imitating Fred Clark -- the Slactivist -- who offers "Postcards from the Culture Wars." I usually click on one of his many offerings and frequently appreciate the result. But link lists can be lazy fluff ...

If anyone finds this feature useful, let me know in comments.