Thursday, August 31, 2023

A bit of rant: let's be thankful for those small donors

Thomas Edsall's formula in his weekly NY Times opinion columns is worn out. He assembles a collection of "authorities," mostly political and social scientists, writing in obscure academic journals, all to tell us the reality is more complex or less dire than the headlines proclaim.

Edsall's luminaries may even be correct. But he's become a bore.

And sometimes his conclusions are just minimizing and silly. Exhibit A -- "For $200, a Person Can Fuel the Decline of Our Major Parties." 

Edsall sets out to indict the legions of small donors who have been funding campaigns during the last decade by asserting that their contributions have undermined political party control of candidates and campaigns. I have no real argument with the realization that political parties have lost control of the process. (I have plenty of argument with oligarchic big political donors, but that's not my subject here.)

Here in California, we saw an earlier iteration of the political party decay Edsall so regrets. In this state, beginning in the '90s and 2000s, the parties were overshadowed by functional ideological actors, like SEIU, the Sierra Club, and even NGO groupings such as San Francisco Rising. And it was in the interests of professional consultant gurus to make every candidate and political player a separate fundraising actor, since consultant income derives from the financial success of the people and causes they work for (plus a rake off for TV ads).

Edsall's column leads off by alluding to a stunning finding which goes completely unexplored. 

In their 2022 paper, “Small Campaign Donors,” four economists — Laurent Bouton, Julia Cagé, Edgard Dewitte and Vincent Pons — document the striking increase in low-dollar ($200 or less) campaign contributions in recent years....

Bouton and his colleagues found that the total number of individual donors grew from 5.2 million in 2006 to 195.0 million in 2020. Over the same period, the average size of contributions fell from $292.10 to $59.70. ...

If the assertion I have emphasized is correct, there has been an astonishing growth in the sheer number of citizens who think that what happens in our democratic politics matters and who choose to pay into that process. Edsall sees a nightmare because these citizens -- right and left -- are expressing polarizing desires from government. I see participation -- buy-in -- by ordinary people on a novel level. I don't have to like all of them to be heartened.

If democracy is to work, people have to play. We differ a lot, to the verge of violence. That's scary. But that risk is the cost of commitment to people taking a role in the direction of the country. An unprecedented fraction of us are trying to take part via our dollars.

All this small giving naturally leads to attempts to aggregate the money more effectually. This ad was a great example from the last election cycle. With the increase will come ever more of this also. Maybe they could reduce the flood of email?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Maybe the library will reopen some day

It feels as if the monumental Mission branch of the San Francisco Public Library has been closed ... forever. Even before the pandemic, plans for closing and renovation were discussed in public meetings. Then came the civic shut down in 2020 and the massive Carnegie building never reopened. SFPL provided a "temporary" branch on Valencia -- but what's with the library?

Yesterday the powers-that-be, headlined by local city supervisor Hillary Ronen, announced that construction would begin on the massive empty hulk. She's a library user too.

Mission artist Juana Alicia spoke for our neighborhood's endurance. Her mural, which has been commissioned for the restored main stairwell, will feature images of the nopal, the Mexican cactcus. This prickly fruit serves as an "emblem of resilience and national identity."

The library project was then blessed by the neighborhood Aztec dancers.

At each stage of the renovation project, we've been assured that construction will take 2 years. Will the remodeling be completed by mid-decade? This is San Francisco. I expect delays ...

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Strange sight in the 'hood

Just another Mission District walker out for stroll. Until you zoom in a little ...

What's former President Reagan doing on that guy's leg?

I spend a good deal of time reading/listening to Never Trump (mostly ex-) Republicans these days. They are some of the most insightful folks around on the sad topic of the anti-democratic degeneracy of so much of the GOPer party. In this emergency, the anti-fascist coalition needs everyone. But hey ...

This bunch all seem to have an absolute blind spot when it comes to Reagan. They revere him as a kind of saint. Here was a guy who launched his campaign from the Mississippi locale made famous by the racist murder of three voting rights workers, made war on workers by firing striking air traffic controllers, and spent a term refusing to mention the AIDS epidemic because speaking up might indicate sympathy with dying gay men.

Not a saint to me.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Cretinous and disgraceful

Kevin Drum's shtick is tamping down excessive anxiety among his comrades on the loosely liberal side of the political spectrum. But not on this topic; he's disgusted by the stupidity and cruelty of too many of his credulous fellow citizens. The damage to young humans must take precedence.

Click to enlarge.
Moral panics like this one generally produce nothing but misery and oppression, and the campaign against gender-affirming care is headed down the same road. It's one thing to display some caution toward procedures that haven't been heavily studied and still have unknown consequences—this is happening in some European countries—but it's quite another to ban them altogether out of bigotry and ignorance. That's what the militant zealots in Alabama are doing, along with their militant zealots in two dozen other states.
In the absence of strong evidence in either direction, decisions like these should generally be left up to the patient, their doctor, and their parents. They're the ones best able to make case-by-case judgments. At most, given the current state of our knowledge, states might be justified in mandating a few guardrails (counseling, time restrictions, etc.). But that's it. Banning gender affirming care entirely for minors—the only age at which certain procedures can be done—is nothing more than jumping on the bandwagon of never-ending ugliness that has broken out in the Republican Party in the age of Trump. It's cretinous and disgraceful.

Witch hunts seem to be a recurrent theme of U.S. life. The 1980s saw the great Satanic Panic which inspired terrified parents to dig under daycare centers searching for hidden tunnels where ritual abuse was practiced. Eventually, after childcare workers were put on trial and many cases collapsed, that alluring madness faded. A few people spent many years in prison for "crimes" that have been understood never to have happened. Might the attractiveness of the theory have had something to do with the enormous increase during that decade in the proportion of women with children working outside the home and so the increase in daycare facilities?

Today we live amid a gender-fluidity panic. Beating up on trans kids, trans-curious kids, and their parents is in vogue. How many victims will be left in the wake of ignorant fears, weaponized by Republican political gain?

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Marching on in faith

Monday, August 28, is the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, remembered today for Dr. King's "I have a dream ..." proclamation. There will be commemorations, congratulations, and calls for renewed energy in the incomplete struggle for the freedom of all.

Inevitably looking back 60 years, we telescope events and markers of the Civil Rights movement era which actually spread from the late 1940s through at least 1968. The great march was not an end point, but perhaps a pivot point; what had been many localized eruptions became unequivocally national afterwards. A broad movement coalition was formed for the day; this won the grudging attention of the ruling Democratic Party powers-that-be ... and change followed.

Professor Peniel E. Joseph of UT-Austin describes the context. 

No major civil rights legislation passed in 1963, but it was the most important year in the decade that transformed America.... The forces that fueled segregation and racial hierarchy in America — and the forces that galvanized the political resistance to both — sped up that year. 

... The March for Jobs and Freedom, announced July 2, forged a new consensus across partisan divides by linking American traditions of freedom and democracy with the Black movement’s aspirational notions of dignity and citizenship.... Bayard Rustin — a Black, gay and radical social democrat who spent time in prison as a conscientious objector during World War II — led the organizing of the March On Washington at the behest of A. Philip Randolph, the legendary founder and labor leader who served as head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Rustin endured vicious homophobia within and outside of the movement. ...

Yet Rustin endured, making a final unstoppable comeback within movement circles through his ingenuous organizing skills that helped ensure the eclectic coalition of religious, labor, student, civil rights, business and civic groups were all there in Washington, equipped with buses, portable toilets, sandwiches, water fountains, chairs for dignitaries and more....

That's how a social movement gets things done: broad coalitions enabled by competent logistics. Or so I believe.

The minister of my Buffalo, NY, Episcopal parish attended; his daughter and I were envious. But supportive white northerners didn't think this was anything to take kids to -- sixteen years old was less mature in 1963 than it is today. In a distanced sense, far away parents knew the freedom struggle was no picnic, that violent pushback was always a possibility. As it was. As it is.

Ten years ago, in 2013, another commemoration of the great march took place in Washington. Via Religious News Service, comes this affirmation of the faith from those participants.

Edith Lee-Payne explains: "... it means to me - as a person of faith - a re-dedication that with God all things are possible. ... we knew that sometimes God takes us through some things ... [God] takes us through them to get us where God wants us to be."

Saturday, August 26, 2023

He left a large swath ...

Thomas Cromwell served as English King Henry VIII's councilor -- a sort of chief of staff. He lost his head, literally, in 1540. So did an awful lot of notables of the volatile monarch's court, as a consequence of the deadly mix of greed, jealousy, state formation, wealth accumulation, international enmity, and religious Reformation in which they swam. 

Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography of the most successful and lastingly influential of these men (and a few women including Henry's six wives) is delicious fun, worth 21 hours of listening.

The historian credits Thomas Cromwell's machinations and his convictions with preparing the ground from what became the Anglican Church. Henry's daughter, Queen Elizabeth I built on Cromwell's foundation, avoiding trumpeting its source. MacCulloch identifies the woman who became head of the Church of England, like Cromwell himself, as what reforming Protestants called a "Nicodemite" -- someone who dissembled about their religious convictions for political reasons.

Elizabeth had good reason to detest the nexus of politicians with Cromwell at their centre who had first destroyed her mother and then tried to divert the succession from herself and her half-sister; yet she was irreversibly tied to them in her role as Europe's leading Protestant monarch ... Cromwell's evangelical religion had included a strange sort of Nicodemism, which ran alongside and contributed to the Reformation that he promoted openly and aggressively in the name of Henry VIII during the 1530s; it was hidden in plain sight. It's permanent results became apparent only after this death ... These later developments of the English Reformations ... [included] destruction of sacred imagery and the promotion of a sacramental theology which the old king had murderously loathed. Because of this posthumous result, Cromwell's religious programme must count as the most successful Nicodemite enterprise of the whole Reformation. 

Thomas Cromwell most likely could not recognize the belief structure of contemporary Anglican Christianity, but he would certainly recognize its unwieldy polity and shape, as well as its internal conflicts. Churches -- living human expressions a human yearning toward God -- take the shape of their time and place. We're human, bounded in time, after all.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Friday cat blogging

This shot gives a pretty realistic sense of the size of Mio. At 18 pounds and about 30 inches long at his full extension, he's a lot of cat. Bits of body often hang off surfaces.

He's also sweet and patient which is a good thing as Janeway the Tiny Terrorist jumps him several times a day and they race about until he plops down panting. She's wonderfully fit thanks to all the exercise. He seems a lot more fit than you'd think from the size of him. Maybe he's a kind of NFL-lineman cat, more muscle than blubber?

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Ukrainian independence day

On August 24, 1991, the country now fighting for its life came into being. 

Today, Ukrainians marked the day with a raid on occupied Crimea.

Whatever else Ukrainians may lack, they sure aren't short on grit, style, and bravery.

It's not a pretty picture

I guess you'd have to predict this guy couldn't just fade away. More than half a century of imperial promotion, torture, and war-making doesn't lead to a graceful exit.

In her latest article for Tom Dispatch, Erudite Partner reminds us of centenarian Henry Kissinger's many contributions to the last eight decades of U.S. efforts to seize and hold onto global hegemony. 

It’s hard for powerful political actors to give up the stage once their performances are over. Many crave an encore even as their audience begins to gaze at newer stars. Sometimes regaining relevance and influence is only possible after a political memory wipe, in which echoes of their terrible actions and even crimes, domestic or international, fade into silence.

... Unlike the president he served as national security adviser and secretary of state, and some of those for whom he acted as an informal counselor (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush), Kissinger’s reputation as a brilliant statesman never required rehabilitation. Having provided advice — formal or otherwise — to every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Donald Trump (though not, apparently, Joe Biden), he put his imprint on the foreign policies of both major parties. And in all those years, no “serious” American news outfit ever saw fit to remind the world of his long history of bloody crimes. Indeed, as his hundredth birthday approached, he was greeted with fawning interviews by, for example, PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff.
... If nothing else, Kissinger’s approach to international politics has been consistent for more than half a century. Only actions advancing the military and imperial might of the United States were to be pursued. To be avoided were those actions that might diminish its power in any way or — in the Cold War era — enhance the power of its great adversary, the Soviet Union. Under such a rubric, any indigenous current favoring independence — whether political or economic — or seeking more democratic governance elsewhere on Earth came to represent a threat to this country. Such movements and their adherents were to be eradicated — covertly, if possible; overtly, if necessary.  ...
Read it all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Republican Party has thrown down on hating women and freedom

No watching the Republican debate for me ... I don't feel the need to see the also-rans posture and squabble. Barring an act of God, we'll have forgotten most of them by next spring.

But we should be very clear on what they ALL agree on:

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Advice from history

Willamette University historian Seth Cotlar shared this fascinating artifact of another era when people in the United States had to struggle to combat anti-Semitism. Published in 1943 by the American Jewish Committee,  "What to Do When the Rabble-Rouser Comes to Town" was distributed to Jewish communities to warn people against doing and saying things which stirred up controversy with anti-Semitics [sic]..." 

In today's hyper-polarized world, we might not take the same tack with our homegrown fascists and nativist thugs. We cannot simply deny them a microphone; that's no longer possible. But we can still expose them. And we can sure recognize the type: the crooked fat cat with his lawyers and his army of muscle men.

Let's send him slinking away once again.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Persevering in the good fight

When authoritarians are working to replace established ethical norms with the dictates of the Leader, some of the speed bumps they have to overcome are professional standards. Some people will refuse to play by new rules which violate what they've been taught is responsible -- right and righteous -- behavior. We saw plenty of that during the Trump presidency, notably even from some Trump-appointed judges when the sitting president tried, falsely, to claim he'd been defeated by non-existent election fraud.

Some professionals have been fighting the standards fight for decades. Erudite Partner, in her role as an academic ethicist, worked with professional psychologists during the so-called War on Terror to stigmatize the George W. Bush regime's cooptation of the psychological discipline. Psychologists committed abuses -- torture -- on inmates at our American gulag in Guantanamo. (This admitted torture is why those prisoners, some of them documented "bad guys," have never come to trial; the USofA screwed up, rendering proceedings at law almost impossible.)

Form a 2007 demonstration at an American Psychological Association convention
Psychologist Roy Eidelson reports that the American Psychological Association is still dodging setting effectual ethical standards for members who work with the government. He reports on

... approval of a set of wholly inadequate professional practice guidelines for operational psychology. If this domain is unfamiliar to you, operational psychologists are primarily involved in non-clinical activities linked to national security, national defense, and public safety. Their largest source of employment is the military-intelligence establishment, which includes the Department of Defense and the CIA.
Of particular concern from the standpoint of professional ethics, in some cases these psychologists are called upon to inflict harm, to dispense with informed consent, and to operate in a covert manner such that external oversight by professional boards becomes difficult or impossible. They’re eager to have the APA’s official blessing of this weaponization of the profession because it’s a step toward achieving greater recognition and legitimacy for this kind of work.
In light of the manifest misalignment between key features of operational psychology and the profession’s fundamental ethical principles, I believe the proposed guidelines should have been rejected outright, so as not to lend credence to these practices without sufficient discussion and debate about the profoundly consequential issues involved. 
But it’s worth pointing out that these guidelines deserved a flunking grade simply in comparison to other guidelines recently approved by the APA’s Council for other professional practice areas. For instance, both the guidelines for working with persons with disabilities (2022) and the guidelines for working with sexual minority persons (2021) are each over four-times the length of these vague, abstract, and bare-bones guidelines for operational psychology. Count me among those who find it hard to understand why appropriate guidelines for how to ethically support military-intelligence operations are apparently so much less complicated than guidance for psychologists engaged in other work....
He goes on to remind of past abuses:
What does it actually mean, for instance, to “balance” the government’s urgent demand for actionable intelligence against the human dignity of those suspected of having that information?
Let’s remember too that the military-intelligence establishment has itself engaged in a lot of wordsmithing designed to disguise uncomfortable truths. Most obviously, the CIA used “enhanced interrogation techniques” as a substitute term for a much more familiar one: “torture.” With a similar purpose, the Pentagon reduced the number of reported detainee suicide attempts at Guantanamo by officially reclassifying them as cases of “manipulative self-injurious behavior.” And the number of “juveniles” imprisoned at Guantanamo was decreased by arbitrarily adopting sixteen as the cut-off age—even though a juvenile according to U.S. and international law is someone under eighteen at the time of any alleged crime....
The "War on Terror" taught large elements of the national security state to lie baldly. That lying was the precursor of the recent mendacious Trump presidency. It still matters to call these lies out.

Professional standards aren't enough, unaccompanied by activism, to resist fascism, but they are one sometimes surprising element of the defense of civilization. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The emergency is not over

The Trump trauma is not going away. Here's LA Times columnist Mark Barazak:
Trump’s superpower as a politician has been his remarkable capacity to survive a string of scandals, moral and ethical trespasses and criminal allegations that would have killed off mere mortals.
Part of it is velocity. The mind barely stops reeling from one episode — an outrageous statement, a bald-faced lie, a norm-busting line no president before Trump had ever crossed — when another swiftly follows.
Part of it is volume. In the whole history of the United States, no president or former president has ever faced criminal indictment. Forty-five chief executives: zero criminal charges. Trump: 91 as of Monday’s Fulton County, Ga., indictment. ...
Political scientist Seth Masket provides his understanding of how, what was once simply a political party serving as a catchment for a lot of illiberal fantasies, has become a clear and present danger to the republic.
... there is a populist, nativist faction within the modern Republican Party that has a long, long history in the United States but has rarely controlled a major party. It has championed candidates like George Wallace in 1968, Pat Buchanan in 1992, and others who advocate for strict limits or even the elimination of immigration and have a distinct white conservative Christian worldview they seek for national politics.
Importantly, they have often felt slighted, and they’ve not always been wrong to feel this way. For decades, Republican leaders in DC made modest overtures to them but never really wanted them in charge. Yes, they’d share some of their cultural claims on abortion and guns, but party leaders like Reagan, Bush, Romney, McCain, and others would still favor some sort of immigration and would leave this faction feeling used or ignored. The faction was put down for years by party leaders who told them that some of their views had merit, but only through moderation could they win national office; sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. The populists complained, but they just didn’t have the numbers to take over the party.
And then Trump came along.
Trump was exactly what most party leaders in DC had been trying to keep out of power. He wasn’t committed to the conservative program. He wasn’t respectful of party traditions. He threatened to blow up the fragile coalition they’d crafted. But he also championed the populist faction, and thanks to his own popularity independent from politics, he was able to turn that minority faction into a majority. He was what the populists were told they couldn’t have, because it would cost the party dearly. Instead, he put their faction in charge, and they won the White House ...

He claims he can do it again. And a plurality of Republicans are sticking with the guy who promises to honor their grievances against the contemporary United States. He "will be [their] retribution." Talk about hating your country ...

The emergency is not over.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

It's not just weather ... and contraction is happening

Thinking of a friend who lives in Baja, California and of so many others in southern California where a novel hurricane path is being cut as I write, here are some observations from our necessary national Cassandra and conscience, Bill McKibben:

... the number of places humans can safely live is now shrinking. Fast. The size of the board on which we can play the great game of human civilization is getting smaller. ... The story of human civilization has been steady expansion. Out of Africa into the surrounding continents. Out along the river corridors and ocean coasts as trade grew. Into new territory as we cut down forests or filled in swamps. But that steady expansion has now turned into a contraction. There are places it’s getting harder and harder to live, because it burns or floods. Or because the threat of fire and water is enough to drive up the price of insurance past the point where people can afford it.

... For a while we try to fight off this contraction—we have such wonderfully deep roots to the places where we came up. But eventually it’s too hot or too expensive—when you can’t grow food any more, for instance, you have to leave.

So far we’re mostly failing the tests of solidarity or generosity or justice that these migrations produce. The EU, for instance, has this year paid huge sums to the government of Tunisia in exchange for ‘border security,’ i.e., for warehousing Africans fleeing drought

... But the size of this tide will eventually overwhelm any such effort, on that border or ours, or pretty much any other. Job one, of course, is to limit the rise in temperature so that fewer people have to flee: remember, at this point each extra tenth of a degree takes another 140 million humans out of what scientists call prime human habitat.

... along with new solar panels and new batteries, we need new/old ethics of solidarity. We’re going to have to settle the places that still work with creativity and grace; the idea that we can sprawl suburbs across our best remaining land is sillier all the time. Infill, densification, community—these are going to need to be our watchwords. Housing is, by this standard, a key environmental solution. Every-man-for-himself politics will have to yield to we’re-all-in-this-together; otherwise, it’s going to be far grimmer than it already is.

As usual, it comes down to solidarity -- among humankind and with all life we share the planet with.

Friday, August 18, 2023

A visitor

Hard to tell whether this critter is trying to get in the front door -- or perhaps just resting. Fortunately, it's not in the cats' view.

Anyone know the species?

Friday cat blogging

Often enough, Janeway and Mio scrap with each other, underfoot from our point of view. The tiny terrorist seems not at all cowed by the size discrepancy. 

We're grateful for the playful pugilism. They both need the exercise and our more sensitive extremities are spared.
After exercise, nap time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

What the neighbors are up to ...

Mexico's power class is not all men any longer.

Or so women aspiring to run for president hope.

The Los Angeles Times has shared a fascinating glimpse of two women from very different political parties with sharp differences who are trying to get into the ring to compete in the coming presidential election.

The two presidential front-runners grew up exposed to sharply different visions of what a woman in Mexico could aspire to be.

In her impoverished home in the state of Hidalgo, Xóchitl Gálvez faced beatings from her alcoholic father, who once threatened to kill her mother. She’d hear the men in her family quip, “Women are only good for the petate (a bed) and the metate (a stone to grind grains).”

Claudia Sheinbaum grew up hearing her parents, both scientists and former student activists, talk politics in their home in the state of Mexico [City]. She saw firsthand what a woman could accomplish, spending a night at age 15 at a hunger strike with Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, the pioneering crusader for the disappeared whose work helped build Mexico’s human rights movement. ...

Contrary to what a casual US news consumer might expect, Gálvez, a sitting senator, seeks to lead the more rightward leaning party coalition, while Sheinbaum, a former Mexico City mayor, comes out of the current president's left-populist party.

Both speak loudly about the role of gender in the election:

“Mexico is no longer written with the M of machismo ... but M of mother, M of mujer” or woman, Sheinbaum declared to thousands of supporters just before leaving her post as mayor to enter the presidential race.

Gálvez has called Mexico’s president a “machista” and told reporters, “You need many ovaries like the ones I have to confront such a powerful man.” 

Though the two major parties may put forward women candidates, Mexican political scientists caution this election will likely turn on voters' evaluation of current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). 

“People vote for women without a problem. What matters is the political party, and you have to understand that Mexico is not a feminist country,” said Karolina Gilas, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM. “Mexican society continues to be very conservative.”

While the presidential hopefuls can’t ignore feminist issues in a country where an average of 10 women a day were slain last year, the movement doesn’t have the weight to tip a national election either, Gilas said.

The election will be held June 2, 2024.

• • •

Two comments from me: 

1) Around the world, women seem able to make more incursions into the highest elective offices than we see here in the USofA. Latin America has elected women leaders in Argentina, Chile, even Nicaragua and Honduras. Way back in the mid-1960s, I remember marveling that Mrs. Bandaranaike could become the first premier of post-colonial Sri Lanka. A wise professor who had lived in the country explained to me when a government/system of government was in the process of finding it's feet, there might be more room for women. 

Perhaps if we get through the current trauma with US democracy intact, we'll be in a season in this country when unprecedented space opens ... we'll see.

2) Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for the best mainstream coverage of Mexico available to me. We are not alone on this continent and the neighbors matter.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

So amazing ...

 By way of Bill McKibben, here's a rousing way to begin the day.

Images via Windows on Earth: see the Earth through the Astronauts' Lens. Best viewed at full screen size.

Let's offer this as a tribute to Montana activists:

Young environmental activists scored what may be a groundbreaking legal victory Monday when a Montana judge said state agencies were violating their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment by allowing fossil fuel development.

The ruling in the first-of-its-kind trial in the U.S. adds to a small number of legal decisions around the world that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.

... Law professor David Dana at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law said the ruling was a “remarkable win” for the young climate activists and predicted it will be used as a guidepost for attorneys bringing similar suits in other states.

... State officials tried to derail the case and prevent it from going to trial through numerous motions to dismiss the lawsuit. [District Court Judge Kathy] Seeley rejected those attempts.

Julia Olson, an attorney representing the youths, released a statement calling the ruling a win “for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate.”

They aren't going to fry quietly. Oil barons, mine owners, and their bought-and-paid-for state legislators will do their best to suppress their movement, but don't count them out!

Monday, August 14, 2023

What is the Deep State?

Erudite Partner spoke with Times Radio from Britain today. She elaborated one of her many articles for TomDispatch and won some plaudits for clarity.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Priest exiled

California was not always a blue -- progressive, Democratic -- state. Far from it. Until the turn of this century, California was often home to a multitude of regressive, conspiratorial right wing movements, often abetted by "respectable" business leaders. And most especially, the state was aggressively racist.

Forgotten now, was 1964's Prop. 14 which sought to stick a bar against laws ensuring non-discrimination in housing into the state constitution. Realtors and property owners wanted the right to openly discriminate against nonwhite people, especially Black individuals. Backed by realtors, the proposition was sold to white homeowners as a way to preserve the value of what was usually their sole asset, their new suburban houses, against threatened integration. And the campaign worked. Voters approved the measure with 65 percent of the vote.

It took until 1967 for the U.S. Supreme Court to excise this blemish from California's constitution. 

I was reminded of this very Californian struggle by this archival photo from Religion News Service.

The caption reads: Father John V. Coffield, pastor of Ascension church in Los Angeles, requested — and was granted — a “self-imposed exile” in Chicago for an indefinite period. He is shown here with Father Juan Soto, left, and a group of parishioners, on Dec. 29, 1964. Coffield, in announcing the exile, claimed he had been forbidden to preach out against racial problems by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles. Coffield said he preferred the exile to maintaining “silence on racism,” and as a solution to “an impasse between my cardinal and myself.” Coffield also claimed he had been given an “enforced vacation of five months” from June to November after he had spoken out against a state proposition nullifying anti-discrimination laws in housing, later approved by voters. 

RNS credits the Presbyterian Historical Society for the image. 

UPDATE: An alert reader has pointed out that there is far more to the history of this peripatetic priest than RNS knew. Coffield died in 2005. He has been credibly accused of molesting a child.

Convenient for all concerned that he could be shipped off to the Midwest.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

A couple of leashed scientists

I sympathized with these confused pups. This leopard was all too lifelike. Though presumably it didn't smell like a cat, since close up it seemed made of a kind of paper maché.

No idea what it was doing sitting on the edge of the Bay.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Friday cat blogging

I wouldn't contend that we exactly have the Peaceable Kingdom around here. We find ourselves serving as neutral obstacles occasionally. But becoming a two cat household goes as well as might be hoped ...

There's good deal of wary watching.

But actual fur seldom flies.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Some history of our lives as a wedge issue

For the pure pleasure of it, I'm reading Diarmaid MacCullough's Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life. This is an intricate story of how the first semi-modern European state came to be; I may write more as I go along. Or not. For now, I just want to pass along a tidbit that speaks to the ongoing struggle here and everywhere to win legal acceptance of those of us whose sexual and gender orientations strike our neighbors as non-conforming.

As is true about many things that make English history, legal repudiation of queers and queerness was tied into King Henry the Eighth's effort to escape his childless marriage to Katherine of Aragon. We got the Church of England as the island's quasi-contribution to the Reformation. We also got a legal prohibition of "buggery" by act of Parliament in 1534. 

... one of the earliest pieces of legislation, actually the first considered in the Lords after Parliament opened, was a curious initiative for which one would expect a history of previous public grievance or discussion, but there is little previous trace. It was a statute making buggery a felony, that is a criminal offence in common law, with the death penalty attached to it.

The annoyingly unnamed peer who advocated this Act for the Punishment of the Vice of Buggery linked it to the misuse of ecclesiastical sanctuary jurisdictions, which suggests a context: this was the first symptom of the new attack on Church privilege. The well-informed anonymous commentator on the Reformation whose fragmentary account remains in the Wyatt papers directly linked its enactment not just to the unnaturalness of clerical celibacy generally but to monastic corruption in particular, and so the buggery statute looks like a new try-out of Cromwell's program of intervention in the affairs of monasteries and friaries. 

Over the previous four years, William Tyndale [translator of the Bible to English] in his literary duel with [Sir Thomas] More had launched the long English Protestant tradition of linking sodomy to clerical celibacy. Yet the Act had a wider significance, quite apart from forming the basis of all punitive action in England against male homosexuals up to the nineteenth century. After the Papacy had created a body of canon law and church courts, such matters of morality as this had been the concern of church lawyers in the Western Church, and not the King's courts. The Act was the first major encroachment in England on that general principle, a phenomenon that occurred right across sixteenth-century Europe, Catholic and Protestant alike ...

That is -- LGBT people were a convenient foil for Cromwell's facilitation of Henry's power grab ...

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

It wasn't even close

Ohio voters resoundingly rejected a Republican attempt to reduce their power to pass state constitutional amendment by majority vote on Tuesday. And in doing so, the majority ensured they'll be able to enshrine a right to abortion in the state's basic law through an initiative in November.

Click to enlarge. The red is the NO position; all the larger cities.

It took only an hour and a half after polls closed for the AP to call the election for the NO increase to the threshold position. Republicans had hoped by calling a summer vote and making it harder to pass an initiative, they could fend off the state's majority. But now abortion rights will be on the ballot in Ohio in November and chances of more than 50 percent voting for reproductive health care have to look good.

When they can't win at the ballot box, Republicans try to change the rules. Not this time.

• • •

Expect Ohio Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown who will be up for re-election in 2024 to run strongly for abortion rights. The more interesting question is whether Montana Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who is also up, will be singing a similar song. He should be. Polls show that Montanans 

... reflect a libertarian mindset across the political spectrum.

“That’s basically ‘leave me alone’ and leave my rights alone,” Banville said. “I like the right to abortion. I like my guns and want the government out of my business.”

... “If the system is not profoundly broken, which it is not, then they don’t generally support coming in with wholesale changes,” Banville said.

Abortion as a vital concern is not going away. People get pregnant when they shouldn't/can't have babies. GOPer guys don't get it, but they are threatening women's lives and we fight back.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

He will be judged in a court of law

I put in some hours over the weekend reading Special Prosecutor Jack Smith's coup-attempt indictment of the former president. It's true what the legal-eagle commentators insist: it is relatively easy reading. What seems many years ago, I tried to do the same with the Mueller report. That was hard going. This mostly is not.

As someone who followed the House of Representative's January 6 hearings closely, there was not much I found novel. Your mileage may wary ... but here are some points that stuck out to me as somewhat new.

The Trumpkins kept on trying to line up Senators and Congresspeople to delay the transfer of power even while the mob was chasing legislators about the Capital -- and after.
As violence ensued, the Defendant and co-conspirators exploited the disruption by redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince Members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims. (p. 6)
On the evening of January 6, the Defendant and Co-Conspirator 1 attempted to exploit the violence and chaos at the Capitol by calling lawmakers to convince them, based on knowingly false claims of election fraud, to delay the certification... (p. 41)
That's some monomaniacal fixation on an impossible task and purpose -- and beyond stupid.

Smith highlights righteous remonstrances from Republican legislators refusing to violate the law and their consciences. From House Speaker Rusty Bowers of Arizona:
As a conservative Republican, I don't like the results of the presidential election. I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him. But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.
I and my fellow legislators swore an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona. It would violate that oath, the basic principles of republican government, and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people's vote based on unsupported theories of fraud. Under the laws that we wrote and voted upon, Arizona voters choose who wins, and our system requires that their choice be respected. (p. 11)
Ever since I heard Bowers testify before the January 6th Committee, I've held in mind that Mormons like him believe God had a hand in the development of the U.S. Constitution. Not my way of thinking or doing history, but almost certainly a support in what must a terrible personal crisis.

From Michigan's Republican House Speaker:
... I fought hard for President Trump. Nobody wanted him to win more than me. I think he's done an incredible job. But I love our republic, too. I can't fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win. That's unprecedented for good reason. And that's why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors . I fear we'd lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College . And I can't stand for that. I won't. 9p. 19)
I wondered while reading the indictment -- why didn't the fake elector scheme leak before January 6? There were eight states and presumably more than 100 people involved. People talk. 
And those of us who feared that Trump might not go quietly when he lost the election had been prepped even before November 3 to be ready for whatever stunt he might try. I think especially of our UniteHERE comrades who organized a party outside ballot counting in Philadelphia which made it hard for Trumpists to invade the space. 
Yet all those investigative journalists who worked to reveal Trump plots before the election didn't surface the fake elector scheme. I might not have noticed -- I was still making calls to try to win the Georgia U.S. Senate seats for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. But it seems as if the certification threat should have leaked and then publicized, beyond just highlighting Trump's upcoming rally.

Do read the indictment for yourself.

• • •

Side notes on the language of the indictment:

I guess we're all going to have to learn the expression "outcome-determinative," an ugly but economic way of describing the non-existent voting fraud that Trump claimed would have changed the results. I get it, but I don't like it. My problem.

I found the use of "knowingly" (thirty instances!) a little confusing. For example, this: "the Defendant made multiple knowingly false statements ...". The contention in that sentence is that Trump "knew" he was pushing bull-bleep. "Knowingly" is an attribute of the Defendant, not of the lies he told. Maybe it's just me, but I found this way of expressing this murky. It may be solid legalese.
Photo: Kevin Fogarty/Reuters

Monday, August 07, 2023

Big shoes for the next generations

Civil rights leader and lawyer Charles Ogletree (pictured here at a book talk in 2010) was a regular summer resident on Martha's Vineyard, one of an array of Black luminaries who make the island off Massachusetts their own place. No wonder the Obamas bought a residence there.

From the New York Times:

A son of California tenant farmers and the first in his family to graduate from high school, Professor Ogletree rose from poverty to become one of the most prominent civil rights lawyers in the country, leaving a mark on the courtroom and the classroom.

As a litigator, he defended clients both famous and unknown, including Tupac Shakur and the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, whom he helped to sue the city and the state of Oklahoma for restitution in 2003.

“He was determined to see that Black people were treated fairly in the courts, whether they were an Anita Hill or a Tupac or an indigent person in the streets of Boston,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., a close friend and fellow scholar at Harvard, said in a phone interview.

The island remembers Ogletree for his fishing prowess.

In 2011, he took in the largest bluefish — at 15-and-a-half pounds — during the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.

That generation of civil rights luminaries will be missed.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Seventy-eight years after Hiroshima

When a young friend first visited the UK's Imperial War Museum, she exclaimed, "that's a peace museum!"

Well, not quite. I've never been to their physical location, but their online presence certainly approaches imperial wars with a distanced complexity. This short video is a good example and poses, rather than answering, it's question.

War is always evil and we need to remember that.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

My generation is often part of the problem

Paul Krugman [gift article] comes up with some data that surprised me. He explains that Miami, if anything, has less affordable housing costs than New York City. As in New York City and here in San Francisco, the high cost reflects inadequate supply. Folks with money bid up the price of what exists in a location they find desirable.

He also shares a good deal additional about the Florida economy that I'd not been aware of, at least front of mind.

Retirees have been moving to Florida for the warm winters for a long time, ever since Groucho Marx told potential buyers: “You can get any kind of a home you want. You can even get stucco. Oh, how you can get stucco!” But there are a lot more potential retired migrants now than in the past: between 2010 and 2020 the overall U.S. population grew only 7.4 percent, but the population 65 and older grew 38.6 percent. And since retirees spend money on local services, the influx of seniors creates jobs for younger adults as well.
... the influx of retirees does help explain why Florida’s population is still growing fast even though its biggest metropolitan area has become increasingly unaffordable.

Ron DeSantis better not attack Medicare. 

But also, the growing distortion of the state's age profile might, unhappily, explain why the ambitious governor thinks the way to go is to attack "woke."  His voters are the semi-affluent, white, retirees, not the Black and brown, younger, working class in the state. As the age profile of the state tilts more and more toward older Boomers, maybe it's fine to hobble education for young Floridians? 

This sort of thing doesn't end well.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Friday cat blogging

It's been an active week of adjustments for cats and people at Casa Gordo y Flaca. Janeway and Mio were allowed to meet directly:

There was suspicion, but fur did not fly.
This picture properly shows the size discrepancy. He's an 18 pound cat!! She's still a Tiny Terrorist.

Captain Janeway is not daunted. They chase about, and while there is some hissing and yowling, no damage seems to result. It's just exercise. We try to stay out of the way.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Straws in the wind ... Supreme Court edition

It seems noteworthy that all three aspirants to replace California US Senator Diane Feinstein in 2024 think it will be to their advantage to campaign for reining in a rogue Republican US Supreme Court. 

Since ProPublica documented that Justices Thomas and Alito show no sign of disproving they are in the tank for their billionaire buddies, an already Trump-packed Court has cratered in public esteem.

Click to enlarge.
Decisions such as forcing pregnancy on unwilling mothers, ending Joe Biden's college debt relief program, and allowing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people by businesses operating in the public sphere didn't help raise the Court's esteem among majorities.

All three candidates endorse Congressionally-mandated codes of ethics for the Justices and limiting their tenure to 18 years. They also would look at expanding the number of Justices on the Court. Congress has the power to pass these measures. 

Here are relevant stances from the three candidates via the LATimes:

• Representative Adam Schiff: “What people know about expanding the court, they associate with Roosevelt and court packing, and I think we need to make the case that, ‘No the court has already been packed,’ and the question is whether there’s action taken to restore balance on the court,” Schiff said in an interview. 

• Representative Katie Porter: On student loan debt: "this decision came as the final blow after a week of Supreme Court decisions turning back the clock on equality and threatening the strength of our economy,” Porter’s campaign wrote. ... “This Supreme Court isn’t just conservative, it’s corrupt,” said Porter, a former UC Irvine law professor. ... After the Dobbs vs. Jackson ruling last year, which overturned Roe vs. Wade and ended a court-protected right to abortion that had existed for nearly 50 years, Porter said the “decision to overturn Roe is a direct assault on liberty, equality and justice for all.”

• Representative Barbara Lee:  She argued "last month that the court’s members can’t credibly make decisions on the weighty issues of the day when they’re 'potentially putting their own financial interests ahead of their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.'” ... “Voters know we cannot maintain the status quo,” Lee said in a written statement to The Times. "Court reform goes beyond progressive politics — the future of our democracy is at stake.”

These strong positions don't mean that Congress can be expected to do anything to curb the runaway court right away, no matter which is elected. But they are all channeling a deep vein of disapproval. Over time, this will either push some Justices to moderation ... or change will come via the peoples' elected representatives.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Indictment Day: what are you feeling?

It seems as if I should have something to say as the former president is finally indicted for trying to undo the will of the voters in 2020 -- but I know I don't have anything to add to the cacophony. That reflects one of the difficult realities of the moment: mostly when I write here about injustices and atrocities, I try to envision actions we the people can take to end or reduce the harm. The Trump indictment takes the man's crimes out of the realm of popular action and into the arcane realm of the law. Let's hope he's convicted, but there is not much we can do about it.

Donald Trump doesn't want to play in that arena, so he is running for president again and his cult is large enough so he is comfortably on the way to nomination by the Republicans.

Therefore what we can and must do is work to make sure he can't ever win again. But that's a year away.

So I find myself reflecting on Indictment Day about the range of feelings the Trump trauma has induced in me over time. Here's a briefly annotated list:

November 2016: Horror and disbelief -- I had done almost no work in the 2016 election, for the first time in a couple of decades. I was no Hillary fan. But how could the electorate elevate this foul, incompetent man? I was open to conspiracy theories, for a hot minute. But mostly I was bewildered and not a little afraid.

January-December 2017: Fury and repulsion against the cruelties of the Trump regime toward migrants and Muslims carried me through that first year. 

January-November 2018: I remained angry at my fellow voters for elevating this nightmare. I was repulsed by the mushrooming lies. I was disgusted by the obvious law breaking and graft in the administration, especially the Trump family. And, soon enough, I was determined to participate in beating this monstrosity at the ballot box; we did just that in the midterms.

January 2019-January 2021: Going into the presidential year, it was clear what had to be done. I was ready to work. I wasn't a Joe Biden fan, but I don't expect to like Democratic presidents, even though I heartily prefer then to the alternatives. The pandemic made it harder personally, since I didn't think I could risk going out on campaign. That ached. And grated. I was lucky to work remotely with a campaign (UniteHERE) that not only won in most of its aspects, but also prepared union members for the reality that Donald Trump would not concede his loss and might do just about anything to hold onto power. He did on January 6.

And so, today, I feel tired, worn out, and still determined. Our frayed democracy and continued rule of some kind of law again hangs in the balance going toward the 2024 election.

How are you feeling on Indictment Day?

• • •

On the indictment: Trump is accused of depriving citizens of our voting rights. Don't miss that. It is true.

Special prosecutor Jack Smith: “Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread mistrust the defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”

For me, the most interesting commentators are the post-Republicans. A few:

Ken White, an Los Angeles attorney focusing on law and liberty, writing at Popehat: I’m furious. This indictment describes a course of conduct that should live in infamy for centuries, with Trump and his co-conspirators assuming their place in a pantheon of criminals, traitors, and anti-American miscreants for as long as the country endures. But Trump’s wrongdoing is fundamentally about not caring about truth, and only caring about power. Be better than Donald Trump. Care about the truth.

Peter Wehner, sadly reformed Republican speechwriter who specializes in Christian ethics in The Atlantic: Here’s something we should prepare for: If Donald Trump thinks he’s going down, he’s going to try to burn down our institutions. He will mobilize his MAGA base, his Republican enablers, and the right-wing media to unleash yet more lies and conspiracy theories. He will portray himself as a martyr who is being persecuted for the sake of his supporters. He will claim that his legal troubles prove that the system is corrupt, and not him.
Trump and his supporters will try to tamper with witnesses, intimidate jurors, and threaten public officials. And he will try to cause enough confusion, disorientation, discord, fear, and even violence to escape accountability yet again. Donald Trump has already deeply wounded our nation. He’s perfectly willing to break it. It’s up to us to keep him from succeeding.

Tom Nichols, another disillusioned Republican, also at The Atlantic: Other Republicans now, more than ever, face a moment of truth. They must decide if they are partisans or patriots. They can no longer claim to be both. ... To support Trump is to support sedition and violence, and we must be willing to speak this truth not only to power but to our fellow citizens.

The Trump trials continue a season of unexpected strange bedfellows.