Sunday, February 26, 2017

A hate crime and running free

With all the crap flying about, I didn't focus right away on the murder last week of one man and injury to two others in Olathe, Kansas. The shooter seemed to be one of those crazed aging white men who rant at Those People to "get out of my country." It all just seemed one more expression of the general disinhibition of hate that the Ranter-in-Chief has loosed; the Ranter is denying this, naturally. Not to mention that our nuts can easily stock up on the weapons of war.

When I got around to reading the particulars, I learned a little about Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the engineer who died of his wounds, and his friend Alok Madasani who was injured (as was an unconnected bar patron, Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene). Both South Asian Indians worked at the headquarters of Garmin, the tech firm known for its GPS devices.

Garmin is important to me. I own a couple of its fitness watches; they tell me how far I've run and thus free me up to explore trails with a random abandon I had not known until I used these devices. Garmin is part of my world.

Hate has killed within my world. Hate comes closer. Hate grows in potency and we resist as we can.
Since I've touched on running, I want to share this which is pure delight. Chau Smith is my idea of a runner, like me an old lady who won't quit, but unlike me possessed of some talent in addition to pure determination.
Since this video was made, she has run seven marathons in seven consecutive days on seven continents in celebration of her 70th birthday.

Smith ran all her marathons wearing a pink pussyhat.

"I hope I don't offend anyone, but I'm a woman. I have daughters. I have a granddaughter. I run to represent the women," Smith said. "I'm against any man, powerful man, who think they can do anything they want to women without our consent, without our permission."

Although the video shows Smith running on my home turf, she actually lives in Kansas City, not so far from the Olathe shooting.

This is a big, complicated country, worth trying to preserve against the tide of hate.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Senator Feinstein held a private fundraising event ...

and her constituents came with questions. #ResistanceRecess
What will it cost before you hear our voices?

Such as, where has the senior Senator been since Congress reassembled? (Click to on any of these pictures to enlarge.)

So far, our missing Senator has voted more with Trump than any other Democrat, according to FiveThirtyEight.

She's held no public events during this recess, so people brought their messages ...

The Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russian spooks was on many minds.

Sometimes a protester just needs to take a break in the sun.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What do we the people want, anyway?

I first was alerted to this poll because NBC/Survey Monkey found that fully 66 percent of us fear that the Trump administration "will become engaged in a major war in the next four years." I was tempted to snort: haven't we been at war for 16 years now? People in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen certainly might think so. But of course I know what respondents mean and why they are concerned/scared. When the president is a brainless, bellicose boor with bombs, more war seems likely.

But there's a lot more in this poll of "a national sample of 11,512 adults aged 18 and over" taken last week to ponder. What people are most worried about is jobs and the economy (28%) and healthcare (16%). Nobody much likes either party in Congress and a majority (55%) disapproves of Trump's new presidency while 43% approve. This is low, but in the range of where Obama was much of his eight years in office.

But on a huge range of issues, random adults -- for their own mixed reasons -- seem to agree with positions in opposition to the Trump/Republican agenda. Sixty-five percent have "confidence in the judicial system" on which the Tangerine has declared war. Fifty-six percent oppose the Wall; fifty-eight percent say "immigration helps the United States more than it hurts it".

Sixty-eight percent don't want the Roe v Wade decision which established "a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy" completely overturned. They didn't poll whether chipping away at that right was okay, but the strength of the underlying sentiment in favor of choice surprised me. Can the right afford the magnitude of the backlash if they try to outlaw abortion completely, as many certainly aim to?

Respondents were mildly distressed by "globalization" (39%) defined as "the increase of things like trade, communication, travel and other things among countries around the world." However 31% thought we gained from "globalization" while another 28% were not sure. Nothing definitive there. Forty-one percent thought the US should be "less active" around the world, but 80% thought NATO was good for the USA. To be honest, I don't think most of us think much about these matters most of the time.

Keeping the Affordable Care Act, that is Obamacare, polls a few points ahead of getting rid of it. But more interestingly, 40% of those responding do not know their Congressperson's position on repeal. (They don't seem to have asked whether they knew their Congressperson's name; I would not be surprised if a majority did not.) If we want to keep some vestige of the government's commitment to ensuring access to doctors, we've got a clear education project here.

Perhaps most striking to me as that 58% of respondents "have a close friend or family member who immigrated to the United States in their lifetime." Also, 53% "personally know [some]one who is Muslim." Those of us who want a more inclusive United States have a strong base from which to build in this; in general, people don't take kindly to authorities mistreating people they actually know.

This is a big, complicated, fractious and frustrated country, but there are a lot of healthy trends in these findings on which to grow something better.

Friday cat blogging

Who is looking out for who?

Encountered while Walking San Francisco.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Listen to the young people ...

One out of three students in California can't identify a single caring adult at school.

Every young person deserves someone who cares. Every teacher and principal deserves the support and resources to support the next generation.

Believe in me campaign ... Californians for Justice

This made me reflect. Like so many people, when I was a teenager, I felt as if I would never be able to fit into the world of adults. I felt "different" (and I was) -- and the adults were just weird! But there certainly were teachers who told me I had something to offer. This made tough times bearable. Every kid should have that; schools should be organized so teachers can provide that!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ICE on the march

Damn -- these ICE agents look as if they got their idea of their job from NCIS or some other TV police procedural drama. And the hell of it is, they probably did.

The real meaning of Trump's immigration order is that federal agents will feel free to act out their martial fantasies in the lives of brown people with accents -- and we'll have to see whether the lawyers and the courts can curb them. Meanwhile, people of conscience -- of all colors and statuses -- will impede as we can. And offer kindness when we can to our neighbors.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Of an altered landscape, historians, and political lies

A couple additional notes about Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 feel warranted. It's nearly 700 pages after all and paradigmatic for late 20th century understanding of that painfilled period.

A friend, like me educated in the 1960's, noticed the book sitting by my desk and asked: "weren't we taught that Reconstruction was a failure, a scam, somehow a wrong turn?" Yes, those of us in that age group were so taught.

Foner devotes his volume to resurrecting a very different truth.

... the magnitude of the Redeemer [white Southern] counterrevolution underscored both the scope of the transformation Reconstruction had assayed and the consequences of its failure. ... The tide of change rose and then receded, but it left behind an altered landscape. The freedmen's political and civil equality proved transitory, but the autonomous black family and a network of religious and social institutions survived ... Nor could the seeds of educational progress planted then be entirely uprooted. ...

He goes on to recount how the literal descendants of brave freed-people who were active for black empowerment during Reconstruction became leaders of subsequent black struggles to the present day.

And Foner is specific about who he blames for the false narrative taught to both whites and blacks during the first two-thirds of the 20th century.

By the turn of the [19th] century, as soldiers from North and South joined to "take up the white man's burden' in the Spanish-American War, Reconstruction was widely viewed as little more than a regrettable detour on the road to reunion. To the bulk of the white South, it had become axiomatic that Reconstruction had been a time of "savage tyranny" ... Black suffrage, wrote Joseph LeConte, who had fled South Carolina for a professorship at the University of California to avoid teaching black students, was now seen by "all thoughtful men" as " the greatest political crime ever perpetrated by any people." ...

This rewriting of Reconstruction's history was accorded scholarly legitimacy -- to its everlasting shame -- by the nation's fraternity of professional historians. Early in the twentieth century a group of young Southern scholars gathered at Columbia University to study the Reconstruction era under the guidance of Professors John W. Burgess and William A. Dunning. Blacks, their mentors taught, were "children" utterly incapable of appreciating the freedom that had been thrust upon them. The North did "a monstrous thing" in granting them suffrage, for "a black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason, has never, therefore, created any civilization of any kind." No political order could survive in the South unless founded on the principle of racial inequality. ...

The views of the Dunning school shaped historical writing for generations and achieved wide popularity through D.W. Griffith's film Birth of a Nation which glorified the Ku Klux Klan ...

It took the uprisings of the Civil Rights era to undo this lying narrative.
As is true of most of the longer books I write about here, I read Foner's opus as an audiobook, all 41 hours of it. This presented one challenge that I suspect would have felt less acute in print: in this narrative, the white "good guys" -- insofar as there were any -- are the "Republicans." What impulse toward liberation and equality existed among white Northern politicians -- and there was some -- was located in the then newly-formed Republican party. Democrats seeking to disenfranchise black freedmen are the "bad guys" in Reconstruction history.

It is not as if I didn't understand that this was how mid-19th century politics aligned, but living in the times we do, it is slightly jarring to listen to stories of Black Republicans fighting off rampaging Democratic Klansmen. But that's how the political parties operated from 1863 to 1870 or so. Democrats only became a party, in the North, that sought Black adherents from about 1936; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 completed the shift that made Republicans the white supremacist party in the South.

Contemporary right-wingers peddle a modern crackpot historical meme that highlights 19th century Democrats' hostility to black empowerment in order to downplay their own current Republican drive to curtail Black voting. History remains a battleground upon which truth and freedom have to struggle against convenient lies.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Colonial economies

Historian Eric Foner's epic Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 has for several decades been the go-to-account of how northern Republicans flubbed and abandoned the project of making a different South after defeating the Confederacy and preserving the Union. Their retreat left former slaves under the thumb of their former planter owners, terrorized by "Redeemer" white authorities and largely trapped in a new kind labor bondage, tenant farming. He summarizes the result of this brutal process:

...the balance of power between the social classes in the the South had been fundamentally transformed -- a process already visible soon after Reconstruction ended. "This year," reported a New York business journal at the end of 1877, "labor is under control for the first season since the war." The policies of Redeemer governments not only helped to reshape Southern class relations, but affected the course of regional development in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Partly because of Redeemer rule, the South emerged as a peculiar hybrid -- an impoverished colonial economy integrated into the national capitalist marketplace yet with its own distinctive system of repressive labor relations.

That is, in Foner's telling, for all his rich detail on white terrorism and brutality in the service of resubjugating the former slaves, it was the national capitalist revolution in the rest of the country that set the terms for what happened to Reconstruction and to the South.

This left me wondering about what we see today in parts of the Midwest, the so-called Rust Belt. I was born in Buffalo. I never thought to remain there in adulthood; even in the late 1960s the steel, and auto, and chemical, and grain transport economy was contracting. It wasn't a happening place. And as we all have been reminded by the November election, a couple of generations of mostly white industrial and manufacturing workers in similar Rust Belt locations are hurting, the jobs that once bought their parents into a "middle-class" having disappeared to China or perhaps the anti-union South. Eric Loomis insists that this pain is plenty enough to explain the Tangerine's appeal in parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

If you need work or you see a recent past where you had more economic security than you have now (which is probably not a myth), it’s pretty easy to see why you might not pay attention to any of the facts that Trump is your enemy and embrace the idea of building a border wall, of building infrastructure in projects corrupt and ineffectual, of wanting to see pipelines built. ... Economic destabilization makes both racialized nationalism and lies about job creation increasingly appealing to the white working class.

Okay, so that is familiar turf, turf which raises up white economic distress and downplays racial backlash as motivating the recent vote. But maybe Foner's paradigm is just as useful for thinking about those once mighty, now so depressed, industrial centers: the former manufacturing heartland, battered by corporate flight and globalization, may be the country's current "impoverished colonial economy integrated into the national capitalist marketplace." Being relegated to colonial status doesn't make people wiser or more generous or more kind; it's more likely to make them bigoted, desperate, and ignorant.
And yet, to my fascination, things may be turning around for poor old Buffalo. For what it is worth, last fall Erie County, which contains the city, continued its record since 1972 of voting for Democratic presidential aspirants. And, after decades of economic "readjustment," the economy of my much diminished home town apparently is about to experience a drastic shortfall of some 137,000 industrial workers as Boomers retire. Evidently, the "national capitalist marketplace" gives and it takes away. And people's lives are flotsam.

Once upon a time ...

... President's Day inspired this:
A little tacky perhaps, but earnest.

Today just this ... Resist and protect much.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Remembering Executive Order 9066

Seventy-five years ago on February 19, 1942, frightened West Coast residents were understandably shocked by the Japanese empire's attack on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor. Some clamored for the removal of individuals of Japanese ethnicity from their states. Although the "intelligence community" of the day reported that these 120,000 people, mostly U.S. citizens, constituted no danger to the country, President Roosevelt bowed to pressure and ordered them rounded up and sent to internment camps. In this video from the Utah Museum of Art and History, a Japanese-American strawberry worker describes her consternation.

This video from the FDR Presidential Library strives to place Eleanor Roosevelt's later activism on behalf of the 1948 United Nations "Universal Declaration on Human Rights" in the context of her husband's shameful internment policy. The document was "the first global expression of what many people believe to be the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled." In 1988, President Reagan apologized for the Japanese internment and Congress appropriated $20,000 per person compensation to survivors .

A current photo exhibit about the Japanese internment at the FDR Library, featuring images by Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, concludes with this warning:

Executive Order 9066 reminds us that even our greatest leaders can make mistakes when the voice of the people drowns out the voice of reason. As Abraham Lincoln once said:

“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.”

Actor George Takei remembers what it was like, as a five year old, to be dumped in a camp because he was an ethnic Japanese. He doesn't want anything like this to happen to anyone today. You can sign Takei's petition against Donald Trump's cruel immigration orders at the link.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday sightings: the eyes see us and we them

When you start noticing them, there are a lot of eyes staring out from walls and windows in San Francisco.

Sometimes they appear in clusters ...

or alone in closeup.

A few look up from the sidewalks.

Others peer down improbably -- and are at risk.

Others are imaginative.

All encountered while Walking San Francisco.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The 'hood went dark last night.

If you were looking for a taco last night in San Francisco's Mission District, you were out of luck.

Almost all the usual small Latin restaurants were closed.

These aren't chain restaurants. Most are tiny family businesses.

Even the largest and most prosperous ones observed the "Day without an Immigrant" strike against Donald Trump's immigration raids.

Posters on the bus shelters provided some context, but I can't testify that these people "organized" the protest. One of the pleasures of living in an immigrant community is that newcomers bring their modes of protest and political expression from their former homes with them. Those of us born here can learn a lot. (Not that San Francisco doesn't have its own proud history of strikes.)

Friday cat blogging

This is MY driveway. What are you staring at? I didn't ask for a human with a camera.

Encountered while Walking San Francisco.
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