Friday, March 24, 2017

Too good

Stolen from someone I don't know on FB.

Let's remember: when your opponent is sinking, toss him an anvil. Don't ease up. We've got a long way to go.

What does the Trump administration really think about torture?

General Mattis at the Department of War (so-called Defense) says he's against it. Judge Gorsuch bobbed and weaved away from questions in his hearings.

But very likely this is much more telling:

The United States has declined to join other countries in criticising China over allegations of torture against human rights lawyers.

The UK, Germany, Canada and eight others signed a letter raising concerns about lawyers and rights activists detained incommunicado for long periods.

The letter urges China to investigate torture claims against lawyer Xie Yang and others.

Independent, March 23, 2017

Guess the Great Tangerine likes him some cruelty to people who get in his way. I have no doubt he'd love to put some obstreperous lawyers on the water board, when he takes a break from trying to wrench health care away from poor people.

Friday cat blogging

We've been moving some furniture around and Morty has found a new favorite perch to oversee our shenanigans.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

From inside the wire

One of the things the organization Critical Resistance does that hardly anyone does is ask prisoners what they think. Prisoners have their own, multifaceted and not necessarily uniform, takes on the goings on in the world outside.

Recently, [CR] asked imprisoned people to share their reflections on Trump's presidency and how to strengthen our resistance to what some see as rising fascism. Lacino, Robert, and Asar (quoted here), as well as others have generously offered their analysis and experience.

... The testimonies include excerpts of letters from immigrants, Black men and other men of color, people sentenced to the death penalty or life without parole (the other death penalty), gay people, and people imprisoned in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and South Carolina. 

The entire collection of responses, including images of original letters, are posted at Prisoners Speak Out: Analysis and Perspectives.

Asar Imhotep Amen wrote from California State Prison - LA County:

"Trump's regime will greatly affect me, along with the community at large as well as all presently incarcerated people... Trump's regime serves a deliberate and specific purpose in sustaining white terror, power, and domination. In other words, the relationship between people of color, along poor white folks in America and the holders of state power in the United States is similar to that which exists between the colonized and the colonial master."

Lacino Hamilton, imprisoned at Chippewa Correctional Facility, Kincheloe, Michigan, had this to say:

Repression doesn’t come and go, it merely becomes more or less evident, as its "spectacular episodes" are spaced closer or farther apart. Donald Trump being an expression of a "spectacular episode". Repression is a permanent blanket covering the movement. Many people don't think this is so, because you don't notice the difficulty you have trying to breathe. This is because you’ve become accustomed to the reality and the weight of the blanket, long gaps between "spectacular episodes” have given many of us the impression that the blanket had been "pulled back” or “lifted". But it’s been here all the time, before Trump was elected president, and we’ve learned to move under its weight, and now consider this type of repression to be normal.

Robert Chan, imprisoned at California State Prison - LA County, added his view:

Now is the time to stand with our free-world allies as they daily protest Trump's latest ugly declarations and executive orders. In our thoughts and in our prayers, with our hearts and with our words, we stand with the oppressed and all progressives fighting for social justice. Never before have I been so surprised and inspired by the outpouring of unity that's coalescing in the sea of courageous people stepping up against tyranny.

I figure I'm called to live up to Mr. Chan's expectations -- will I?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Water for the city

The California drought may be over, but on World Water Day, it is good to know that our local water authority is thinking ahead. Amid the blizzard of verbiage that comes with the bill, there was this:

Smart, reliable, resilient and local: Groundwater for San Francisco
... Developing local groundwater can help diversify our supply portfolio and ensure we have a local source for water should a drought, earthquake or other disaster interrupt our Hetch Hetchy supply.

In March, 2017, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) will start pumping groundwater from the Westside Groundwater Basin aquifer that extends to approximately 400 feet below the surface in San Francisco. The groundwater will be treated and blended with our regional drinking water supplies before it is delivered to our customers. Over the next few years we will continue adding groundwater in order to reach our goal of blending 4 million gallons a day (mgd) of treated groundwater with our regional water supplies by 2020.

... On an average day the City of San Francisco – including our residents, businesses and visitors – will continue to rely primarily on the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, a system that combines the resources of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with 5 reservoirs in the Bay Area, for 60 million gallons of drinking water. Adding groundwater to our regional water supplies makes San Francisco’s water supply more reliable, particularly in the event of droughts and emergencies.

Who knew there was an aquifer there for the tapping under the Sunset District? It's easy to look at this and wonder -- is this a construction boondoggle for politically connected contractors? Well, maybe. But this city has added 150,000 residents since 1980. And new San Franciscans keep on coming, for all the congestion and crazy housing costs. Building some forward looking infrastructure seems a good idea.

Because everyone needs a clean place to take a dump

On this World Water Day, (an annual UN observance) can you help the 495 residents of the tiny rural town of La Rinconada, Nicaragua, achieve 100% sanitation coverage? That means everyone in the hamlet would have access to a clean latrine. Latrines reduce diarrhea, especially among children, and help keep well water unpolluted and safe to drink.

The community has pledged 10% of construction costs and to do all the labor, but they need materials.
  • $25 - fifteen bags of sand
  • $50 - seat & concrete slab
  • $150 - metal superstructure
  • $485 - 1 household double-pit latrine
Small sums that don't mean much to us in the U.S. can be sent along through El Porvenir, a partnership with rural Nicaraguan communities which has been doing this work for over 25 years. Please help if you can.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tools for resistance: on the lookout for fake news

In the time of Trump, the rest of us don't need to be passing around conspiracy theories. As smart media reporters have explained, the point of Trump's and his handlers' lies is not to replace truth with their falsehoods, but to persuade as many as possible of us that "everything is a lie."

This works better in a campaign than in governing. Reality bites in the real world. Running hard up against reality -- families broken by deportation, lost health insurance coverage, shuttered food stamp offices -- makes for painful encounters with undisguised truth.

Still, we can work not to play along with the disinformation environment. Let's leave the false stories to the other guys and strive to be sure that we are aren't buying into tales that just aren't so.

Several points:
  • If a headline grabs your attention -- and particularly if it is something that feeds your political assumptions -- CHECK around a little. Do you know the publication/site that it came from? Is any other well known source also reporting the story? The big newspapers and CNN have lots of faults, but they don't (usually, though occasionally they'll print a conspiracy fable-maker) run with completely unverified rumors. If something seems just too juicy, or too prejudicial, or too satisfying, to be true, it might be false, even in the age of Trump.
  • When you make yourself a source of information (say you write a blog), think hard about how you "know" what you "know." The American Press Institute describes an instructive, easily understood, "hierarchy of accuracy" that journalists can use before deciding to spread something around.

    Some facts, quotes, assertions and color are more reliable than others.

    The stuff that comes from an eyewitness is better than that which is second-hand.

    The stuff that you know for yourself is better than the stuff someone else supposedly checked out … or did they? ... Beware of the idea that you have to post a story because it’s “out there” — floating around.

  • Learn from others who are wrestling with evaluating stories for accuracy. Amnesty International has launched an international Digital Verification Corps working to

    blow the whistle on inauthentic materials depicting human rights violations. But equally important is our work at using advanced digital methods to curate reliable multimedia data that can be used to demand accountability for human rights atrocities. The relevance of this work cannot be overstated, especially in an era where everyone with a cell phone camera is a potential news reporter.

    This is an inspiring project.
WNYC's On The Media podcast pointed me to many of these references; Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield provide a regular reality check. #trypod

Monday, March 20, 2017

Judicial horrors

Because Neil Gorsuch is presentable -- he could probably be introduced to a suburban mother without acting like a thug -- it is unlikely Democrats will rise up to block his confirmation to the Supreme Court. It would take everything they've got and that isn't much. Sure, he's a stone conservative white man, perhaps slightly to the right of the dyspeptic curmudgeon he would replace, but they are likely to figure that at least Trump didn't nominate Steve Bannon to the court.

I'll be watching whether Democratic Senators raise two issues in hearings:
  • Torture: During the GW Bush administration, Gorsuch was one of the merry band of torture apologists at the Justice Department making up rationales for the divine right of the President to order whatever extra-legal measures he might like in his war on an adjective. It's going to be the supreme test of our legal system whether judges will constrain a runaway president who can always cook up a national "security" threat when he wants to justify something foul. My often disappointing Senior Senator, Diana Feinstein, is the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and, after being mistreated by the CIA herself when looking into abuses, has developed a bee in her bonnet about torture. So she might push for answers in this area.
  • Birthright citizenship: I don't know if any Democrat will raise this, but they should. Maybe Senator Maize Hirono of Hawaii could do it; it would be good to hear it from a person of color. The Trump/Bannon project of MAWA (Making America White Again) founders on the fact that anyone born in the country is automatically a citizen under current interpretations of Congressional citizenship statutes and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. A citizen is any "person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." But right wing legal activists hope that the application of this principle to children of undocumented immigrants could be ended by simple act of Congress, if concurred in by a sympathetic Supreme Court. They'll go there if they have a chance; the MAWA project is a desperation move, and fails so long as people of color can't be kept from citizenship whether by exclusion or voter suppression and/or incarceration. The great contemporary historian of the Reconstruction era when the US adopted birthright citizenship, Eric Foner, writes of birthright citizenship:

     The 14th Amendment, as Republican editor George Curtis wrote, was part of a process that changed the US government from one “for white men” to one “for mankind.”

    Those were a different kind of Republicans.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For Lincoln, the country was about a growing, a wider, citizenship

This country has always been built up by "somebody else's babies" as Congressman Steve King asserted with such horror last week.

Abraham Lincoln celebrated that truth in July 1858 when the country was still only a few generations old. In one of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates during his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, he explained:

... We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity.

We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.

If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are.

It's strange today to read that Lincoln was considered the plain speaker in this oratorical contest; Judge Douglas was the polished orator. Have debates degenerated or merely changed? Is it the spin or the consumers of politics who have changed?

Of course there were a lot people left out of Lincoln's ringing 1858 declaration from a contemporary perspective. Did these voters' sisters count? What about the indigenous people dispossessed in Lincoln's west? But, later, when he had the chance, Lincoln did get around to doing something about the people most excluded from that vision.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hannah Arendt on Evil

Yes, I'll allow myself that capital "E". I find myself meditating on this from the disputatious philosopher:

When I wrote my Eichmann in Jerusalem one of my main intentions was to destroy the legend of the greatness of evil, of the demonic force, to take away from people the admiration they have for the great evildoers ...

I found in Brecht the following remark:

The great political criminals must be exposed and exposed especially to laughter. They are not great political criminals, but people who permitted great political crimes, which is something entirely different. The failure of his enterprises does not indicate that Hitler was an idiot.
Now, that Hitler was an idiot was of course a prejudice of the whole opposition to Hitler prior to his seizure of power and therefore a great many books tried then to justify him and to make him a great man. So, Brecht says, “The fact that he failed did not indicate that Hitler was an idiot and the extent of his enterprises does not make him a great man.”

It is neither the one nor the other: this whole category of greatness has no application.
“If the ruling classes,” Bertholt Brecht goes on, “permit a small crook to become a great crook, he is not entitled to a privileged position in our view of history. That is, the fact that he becomes a great crook and that what he does has great consequences does not add to his stature.” And generally speaking he then says in these very abrupt remarks: “One may say that tragedy deals with the sufferings of mankind in a less serious way than comedy.”
This of course is a shocking statement; I think that at the same time it is entirely true.

What is really necessary is, if you want to keep your integrity under these circumstances, then you can do it only if you remember your old way of looking at such things and say: “No matter what he does and if he killed ten million people, he is still a clown.”

Interview, 1978

Friday, March 17, 2017

No Muslim ban, now or ever!

For the moment, the Trump/Bannon Muslim ban has been put on ice by two courts in Hawaii and Maryland. San Franciscans turned out Thursday to roar their rejection of the president's attempt to make the country white again.

The event was organized by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), bringing together a broad coalition of groups who are unanimous in rejecting the Trump/Bannon racist strategy.

As Julia Carrie Wong who writes about tech for the Guardian tweeted:

Pretty cool that Muslim ban blocked by Chinese-American AG arguing on behalf of Syrian-American plaintiff before a Native Hawaiian judge.

This world of difference is what Trump/Bannon wants to whitewash from the land. They can't do it so long as people can overcome the fear; that's a heavy ask because the fear and the harm along the way will be all too real for those upon whom it falls.

The times require both "NO" and care from all who can.

Cats for St. Pats

It's important to someone that their stone cats partake in the celebration.

Green tinsel anyone?

And yellow clover?

We all have our own ways of celebrating cultural holidays.

Encountered while Walking San Francisco.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

California: what does it mean to be a sanctuary state?

People of many faiths, from every corner of California, marched and lobbied in Sacramento on Wednesday in support of several bills now in the legislature that aim to enforce our state's rejection of the Trump administration's effort to "Make America White Again".

SB54 would bar police and sheriffs from arresting or detaining people just for immigration violations unless a judge issues a warrant. State and local law enforcement agencies would not be able to help investigate immigration violations, inquire about someone's immigration status or provide addresses to federal immigration officers.

... the committee also voted along party lines [all Democrats in favor] to advance SB6, which would provide $12 million to pay lawyers for immigrants facing deportation, and SB31, which would bar state officials from sharing data if the federal government creates a Muslim registry.

San Francisco Chronicle

Clergy led the crowd out of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

At 86, Dolores Huerta is still marching for justice.

Roughly: "God, who rules this country, brought me here -- and I'm staying!"

The crowd spread out at the Capital grounds.

A few folding chairs are a nice touch after a march.

As one speaker insisted: "No tiendo miedo. No fear. We have been here before." And another warned: "We are not passive. We are aggressive!" We'll see what what our political leaders do in this moment.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The burdens of hyper-masculinity

Why do right wing racist thugs go in for wack-doodle blonde hair displays? Both Trump and the Netherland's Wilders get their color out of a box. Guess it is worth remembering that in nature, the peacock whose image we call to mind, is the male ... Poor boys, so much work to be beautiful.
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