shannon_a: (politics)
San Francisco, Saturday: Right-wing neo-nazi enabler with permit for nazi-enabling rally decides at last minute to move his rally to some place he doesn't have a permit for. Unshockingly, city, which had prepared for right-wing violence at old location, doesn't allow last-minute move to new, unpermitted and unprotected location. Was there magic thinking that neo-nazis could find new rally location and counter-protesters couldn't? Do neo-nazis perhaps have rally telepathy? Or had neo-nazi enabling leader just realized they had almost no turn-out and wanted to be able to blame their failure on mean, mean city? Possibly, neo-nazis just couldn't find parking in city, especially not after last-minute move. Neo-nazi enabling leader then goes on run for day, ending up in Pacifica before finally returning to city for rally he called. There, he finds 20-25 depressed racists (or racist enablers) in Chrissy Fields. Meanwhile, thousands of counter protesters march the streets.

UC Berkeley, Saturday. UC Berkeley Police decide they might like to control crowds this time, rather than allow free reign to arsonists and anarchists, so they block off western crescent where Sunday's anti-hate rally is to be held. And then they go so far overboard that they literally become the fascists that the protesters are protesting against. They ban numerous extremely dangerous objects from the western crescent, like water bottles, backpacks, and liquids that aren't factory sealed. Because free speech can only be truly free when its practitioners are naked and thirsty. Berkeley residents initially respond using their favorite method: they write aggrieved letters to the editor from their home offices, looking out over their multi-million-dollar views. Not that they were going to the protest any way. Because it's not like a Safeway is being rebuilt or anything.

Berkeley Civic Center Park, Sunday. Today's bigotry-support rally is inexplicably labeled "Against Marxism", as if that's some sort of political force in the US. They might as well be protesting against Sufragettes. Maybe they're just trying to cosplay alongside the counter protesters, whose anti-Nazi protesting could be straight out of the 1940s.

Berkeley Skies, Sunday. The helicopters are buzzing the city by 10am. I imagine "reporters" perched in their vulture-mobiles salivating, hoping for the ratings-inducing violence they were denied in San Francisco yesterday. When asked, Berkeley rarely fails to produce a spectacle on command, full of drama and violence, signifying nothing. And the news vultures know it.

On the Ground in Berkeley, Sunday. I regret the fact that Kimberly, a week and a half into a sickness, isn't well enough to escape into San Francisco with me, as we'd planned, but I'll find somewhere else to go after lunch, lest the constant buzz of the vultures for 8 or so hours raise my stress to a breaking point.

Hills above Strawberry Canyon, Sunday. I bake my stress out in the blazing kiln of the East Bay Hills. As I hike higher and higher the antagonist thwip-thwipping of the helicopters soon becomes a dull roar, occasionally drowned out by the susurruss of Highway 24. I stop to write. I hike more. I ascend ever higher and as I drop behind a stutter ridge, the helicopter pollution fades away. The heat blazes to 90. The tension sweats down my back. I eventually decide to loop up to the Tilden Steam Trains and back, mainly because I can refill my water bottle there. I really need a second water bottle for some of these hikes. 

UC Berkeley, Sunday. So how do real people react to the UC Berkeley police's extreme fascism? They just refuse to enater the barricaded western crescent. Duh. Absolutely no one could have predicted that having such huge restrictions that a normal persona couldn't enter the "free speech zone" would result in people not doing so. Congrats UC Police, you have 3,000 people roaming the streets, totally uncontrolled and uncontained. Thankfully, these are the anti-hate folks, who responsibly protest according to the SPLC guidelines: away from the racists (and their racist enablers). So the UCPD's incompetency won't cause problems.

Hills above Strawberry Canyon, Sunday. I descend down some of the trails burned by last month's fire. The hillsides are dusted with white, and the path is covered with rocks. It feels like a metaphor for Donald Trump. The fire promised change, but all it did was burn away necessary vegetation, causing rocks to tumble down, creating a rubble-strewn commons. But that's not it at all, because Trump lied about everything he was promising before the election and afterward. A better analogy would be if the fire claimed there was no greenery above Strawberry Canyon, and then burned it all down, and you realized that the best you could hope for is that the greenery would eventually grow back to be what it was before Trump sullied the White House.

Civic Center Park, Sunday. The bad protesters are out at the Civic Center Park . And, I don't mean the racists (and racist enablers) because only about twenty of them show up. I mean the so-called antifa, who are our black bloc anarchists under a more publicly acceptable name. The fact that they come masked and armed to demonstrations really says it all. Predictably, they break into the park, assault people, and generally seem to create a riot all on their own. Bad news organizations call them far-left because the so-called reporters are far too stupid to understand that political beliefs do not run along a single line. It's these anarchists who have been the criminal drag on all of our Bay Area protests for the last decade. And they turn out to be the only actual problems in Berkeley today too. And beating up the racists, perhaps even the maybe-racists, that's a bad look. It lets them act like martyrs as they post their tear-filled screeds from their mother's basement. It maybe even targets people guilty of nothing more than stupidity or enabling of racists, neither of which deserves physical assault. Fortunately, the anarchists are outnumbered by a factor of ten or more, so pretty soon everyone goes to Ohlone Park to hear a sermon, and the whole day anticlimaxes just like Saturday in San Francisco.

In My Head, Sunday. My first reaction to these two days of failed alt-reich demonstrations is that white nationalists are really awful organizers, and that explains a lot about the White House this year. But a more optimistic side of me hopes that we've hit an inflection point. That the neo-nazis were morons to out themselves so publicly in Charlottesville with their zieg heils and their swatstikas. A year too late, so my theory goes, the more righteous right-wingers have realized that they're aiding and abetting awful human beings, and have decided to stop. So every right-wing demonstration since Charlottesville has been attended by just tens of people. Some have decided to demonstrate online instead, as pathetic as that sounds. Is it true? Time will tell. 

South Berkeley, Sunday. I descend from the hills. The helicopters are gone.
shannon_a: (politics)
So let me get this straight.

(1) Ten months ago, FBI director Comey makes an unprecedented decision to politicize not charging Hilary Clinton for using a private email server by deriding her IT policies in a press conference, going against DoJ policy in doing so.

(2) For the next four months, Donnie Trump uses this press conference as the backbone of his campaign, saying that she's "Crooked Hilary" and we should lock her up.

(3) Russian hackers break into Democratic emails, posting them over next few months. Trump publicly encourages them to break into Hilary's emails too.

(4) Six months ago, Comey sends an unprecedented letter to Congress saying they were reopening investigations into Hillary based on what would turn out to be largely repetitive emails that Hilary had nothing to do with.

(5) Statisticians say Comey's letter probably decided the election. Trump is elected 45.

(6) When called before Congress, Comey reveals that he's been investigating Trump's connections to Russia too, for over a year. But he never felt the need to give press conference or send letters about that.

(7) Comey continues to lead investigation into Trump's Russian connections.

(8) A week ago, Justice Department is told to find an excuse to fire Comey.

(9) Meanwhile, Grand Jury summons go out related to Trump/Russian connections.

(10) Hours later, Comey is fired. Trump is shocked, shocked to find that screw-ups were going on in the Hillary investigations. Ten months ago. You know, with that press conference that Trump built his campaign on. 


shannon_a: (politics)
There are more riots on the calendar today.

You see, it's all the fault of self-interested sociopath Ann Coulter. The idiots at some of the Republican clubs at campus thought she'd be a good invitee for a speech. Because inviting Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos turned out so well.

(To be clear, as far as I know, Ann Coulter isn't a Nazi like Milo. He wrote for white nationalist fronts before he was kicked out for talking up the benefits of child molestation. She just says whatever horrible thing comes to her mind in an attempt to stay in the spotlight and sell more books.)

But, the campus wouldn't give Coulter a place to give her speech, because they rightfully said they couldn't offer security. They finally were able to find a venue for a little later, May 2. She refused, and she kept everyone in suspense until the last moment about whether she'd be here today, even claiming for a while that she'd be talking in Sproul Plaza. This means that all of the right-wing warriors had already gassed up their rusted-out pick-up trucks and told their moms they wouldn't be in the basement for a few days.

Then, Coulter cowardly cancelled at the last moment. Result: right-wingers still coming this way. Helicopters circling overhead. Riots in the forecast. Coulter gets a new book deal.

One of the frustrations about living in Berkeley through these monthly riots (not an exaggeration: we had the Nazi here in February, then March 4th in March, then whatever the excuse was for the latest riots two weeks ago, now this), is seeing how badly the media gets it wrong. Even the local media at Berkeleyside.

The problem is that they keep calling the intolerant black-garbed fighters the "antifa" or even the "extreme left". The antifa is the name they've picked for themselves, but that doesn't mean we should accept their framing. Antifa has noble connotations, and they are anything but. And, they are most definitely not the extreme-left or the left of any sort. These are the same black-bloc anarchists who have been turning Berkeley and Oakland protests into riots for the last eight years. But the media is too lazy to do the research to understand that distinction. But these anarachists are not liberal, not progressive, not even conservative. They're the scumbags who want to tear down everything just because they love the destruction.

As for the "right" that's showing up at these demonstrations, I can't say for sure, but I suspect they're the same white nationalists and racists who were at the heart of Trump's rise to power.

So this isn't extreme right v. extreme left (as much as the media likes that framing). It's black-bloc anarchists versus white nationalists.

And I wish they'd all get the hell out of our town.

You want a much more Berkeley response to this BS? That would be Respect Berkeley who will "stand in nonviolent witness" to today's rioting.

Which sounds to me like what the Berkeley police are already doing.

Here's the hope: the anarchists can't make it to the riots because it's a weekday, and they're working their soul-sucking jobs, wearing their nametags that say, "Hello, My Name is Bob, How Can I Help You?"

The white nationalists will be standing around Civic Center Park, waving their Captain America trashcan lids, not understanding that only the cosmic-cube-warped Nazi Steve Rogers would love them. And wondering why they don't get to beat anyone up.

What if they threw a riot and no one came?

That's the Hope.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today, I returned to Mt. Diablo. Or, rather, I trekked further south this time, had lunch in Rudgear Park, then headed up into the Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

The Rudgear Park was quite busy with people picnicking and walking and following their children riding in electric toy cars. I find that the more affluent an area is, the better used its parks are, and the Rudgear Estates area of Alamo seemed quite busy.

Yet when I got over to the regional park, the people mostly disappeared. I can kind of understand, because the paths in from the west were almost non-existent, just like out by Howe Homestead Park last week.

But from what I can see, people don't walk into these parks (as these western entrances allow). No, they drive in (going to other trailheads, deeper in).

Meanwhile, in Berkeley, pro-Trump and anti-fascist supporters are literally clashing.

Ironically, the police are siding with the fascists. At least philosophically. They've banning pocket knives and signs with poles from the protests.

Yes, Berkeley cops, those could be used as weapons to assault other people. But you haven't suddenly been anointed as the Minority Report police, tasked with preventing FutureCrime(tm).

No, you're supposed to be guarding our home and our rights. And, after long years of absolutely failing to guard our home town because of your cowardly fear of the aging hippies who might squawk if you hurt an anarchist who is breaking windows and burning businesses, now you've failed at protecting our rights too, in fact have preemptively taken them away.

Good job, you.

It appears that Trump has even normalized fascism in Berkeley.

Fortunately, just like Trump's fascism, our cop's fascism is probably illegal.

I do know about this, because I check in with my mail while resting on an uphill hike and get the local police alerts. But I read that the protest is confined to Civic Center Park, and so I opt not to call Kimberly, who I know is in North Berkeley, to suggest she come home by cutting through the campus.

Later, the protest does spill out onto the streets. No word if the police again idly stood by while peoples' lives and livelihoods were destroyed.

But Kimberly opted to cut through campus on her own.

(Though she was shaken by the third instance of Berkeley rioting in three and a half months, and hours of buzzing, hovering helicopters. I hate those things too.)

Things are much quieter out in the Diablo Foothills. I'm circling eastward.

Kimberly commented to me after my last trip this way that she remembers Mt. Diablo being pretty barren, and that's pretty true. There are trees here and there, but for the most part, you're not walking through trees: you're walking from one tree to the next, with barren grasslands around you.

Coming up on one of the several small, dirty ponds I pass over the course of the day, I notice a man talking to a woman. (Yeah, there's a few people now, as I get deeper into the park, and closer to one of those parking lots in the interior.) She explains she doesn't have a map, but gives him directions. He runs off, a dog trotting behind him.

As I circle the pond, he returns and heads off down another path.

And then a few minutes later he comes back from that direction and passes me again, this time heading the same direction I am.

He remarks that these paths are confusing, and I smile.

I tell him I have a map if he'd like to see it, but he says he has his phone.

And I think, "Yes, and it's working so well."

When we're coming up on Old Borges Raunch, I pass him, and it's because he's standing staring at his phone. Clearly lost once again.

I think he'll probably ask me to see that map now, but he never does.

Old Borges Ranch has some animals and a barn and about a half-dozen tractors on display, one with gear work wheels, and some other farm-y stuff.

I remember the farm-y stuff at Howe Homestead Park, and don't really understand this obsession with the area's farming heritage. Maybe it's just more recent there than it is here, on the other side of the hills.

Man-with-dog passes me again as I'm exiting the Ranch area. With a single path before him, for the moment, he seems a lot more confident.

Though he sure walks a lot for a runner.

Eventually he and the dog disappear, never to be seen again.

Soon, I make it out to Castle Rock, another regional park.

There's yet another entrance here, past an Equestrian Center. There are also piles of picnic areas, including one having a very loud DJ constantly announcing prizes for people from across the country.

I keep an eye out for precog psychics, rabid Saint Bernards, and dead bodies, but don't see any.

The prizes seem to be for runners competing in some sort of hill run.

I see the first of them about a quarter mile past the loudspeakers. A couple sitting there shout encouragingly to her that she's just a quarter mile or so from the end.

She says, "A quarter mile? No, it can't be!" And there's such hopeless despair in her voice that I can't really figure out how long she thinks a quarter mile is, but it seems really, really long.

A bit further on, I offer some encouragement to runners too. But I pointedly don't tell them distances.

I use weasel words like "close" and "almost there".

And as we get further and further from those loudspeakers, and as the runners look more and more tired and less and less fit, I stop doing that.

I'm astounding to discover that Castle Rock doesn't refer to a Maine town after all, but instead to huge rocky outcroppings that are rising up to the east of me.

They're utterly awesome. Beautiful and cool, and I want to hike up and around them, but not today because it's coming up on 2.30 pm, which is when I wanted to make sure I was circling back to my bike, abandoned out by Rudgear Park.

Which is just as well because Castle Rock is closed from February to July due to falcon nesting or something.

So I'll have to try and remember to head out there in fall after it cools down over the hills and before it starts raining.

(And I'll have to figure out how to get closer to Castle Rock with my bike, so I don't have to hike two or so hours to get there.)

Some of the paths I come back in are horrible. Totally, entirely destroyed by cows. I see one bicyclist trying to come up one of these paths, and even though most mountain bicyclists are determined to never show weakness in the face of adverse terrain, even he finally admits defeat and starts walking.

His bike still is going BUMP-BUMP-BUMP and looking like it's going to shake out of his hands.

Later I take one of my cutbacks to get back to where my own bike is. I'm, by the by, feeling increasingly smug about not bringing it into the park — especially when I find that Stonegate Trail is barely extant. And it's all muddy or dried hoof prints.

Bleh. But brief.

My favorite hiking of the day is actually after I leave the park proper.

I walked about a block through fancy-dancy houses, but then there was a path that cut back to where I started.

At first, it was another heavily overgrown path.

But then I got down to a creek bed and it became very pretty.

And then I turned a corner and there were beautiful and vibrant flowers in a variety of brilliant colors off to the side.

Totally, not the sort of thing you ever see on a hiking trail. But there was a house just about the flowers and it had some sprinklers to keep them alive.

A wonderful bit of joy at the end of about 10 miles of hard hiking.

On the way home I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some emergency supplies to offset the trauma back in Berkeley.
shannon_a: (Default)
(1445 days left.)

After the election I spent a week or so freaking out about health-care, and what it meant for my future and our ability to move to Hawaii. I wasn't able to put it aside and not worry about it until I came to the conclusion that it was most likely that things would be OK in Hawaii because they had an HMSA before the ACA, and they'll probably have an HMSA after.

And then I pretty much tried to let go of the political fear, angst, and anger.

But Trump has made that impossible since his coronation. Every day there's been horrible stuff. I was right back stressing when I heard that he'd signed an executive order on day one determined to knock out the underpinnings of the ACA by telling the executive branch not to enforce it. And then there was of course the Muslim Ban. Lately the horribleness is almost farcical, like threatening to invade Mexico or hanging up on the Australian PM or signing an executive order to raise Nazi Stephen Bannon to godhood without knowing what he was doing. (He was reportedly angry about the last, but not enough to kick the Nazi to the curb.)

I dread looking at the news in the morning, but I don't know how not to, especially when this is stuff that's going to affect my life.

But I think I'm going to have to figure out how.

The last two weeks of work were very busy. I'd been so energetic and happy and working on projects for the first three weeks of the year, but then I had stress, stress, stress these last two weeks.

I initially diagnosed it as getting too much work in. And, there was a lot. For example I made four passes on a very technical white paper and I worked on some scripts and docs for Chris. All stuff that I hadn't been expecting. And I was trying to also get everything caught up and in good shape for my vacation.

But I think that was a misdiagnosis. The Trump evilness is what formed the foundation of my stress; an excess of jobs just built on it.

Last weekend I was supposed to start up my Burning Wheel game again, but I begged off because I was going out of my head with the thought of prepping and running it. Again, I misdiagnosed it as being solely work, but there's more going on.

Instead, last weekend ending up being quite relaxing. We'd had 4 or so days without rain, which has been a rarity this year, so I opted to hike up in the hills, which I haven't done to any great extent all year. It was a hike I've done before, though via a couple of variant trails: up Panoramic Hill, across the fire trails, along the skyline ridge trail, into Tilden, along the the ridge trails there, and then down, down, down until I get to a bus stop by Lake Anza.

It was a very pleasant walk because we've finally been hitting 60 degrees again. However, there was surprising amounts of damage from our recent storms. At least half-a-dozen big trees down, two of them blocking the trails. A couple of mud slides infringing upon the trail. Mostly non-muddy trails, except a few times were literal streams were running down the trail.

But great, relaxing, and badly needed.

Oh, and I didn't mention my other stressor of late: I've been having my ongoing annoying health issues again. They mostly had faded away during fall, but just before Christmas they picked back up again, and they've been quite annoying throughout January.


And quite bad this weekend in advance, of course, of our vacation.

I'm reluctant to visit doctors again, after the waste of time (and the pain) of way too many visits in 2016, trying (and failing) to figure this out.

But, I'll have new coverage in March with Kaiser (as an alternative to a $300! increase in insurance rates), so maybe when I do this year's physical, we'll talk.

But the doctors were so, so, so worthless in 2016 and so disruptive.

Calgon, take me away.
shannon_a: (politics)
Last night certainly highlighted Kimberly's and my desire to move out of Berkeley, as we had rioters far too close to our house and downtown businesses smashed up for the nth time in the last few years.

Yes, there were serious reasons to protest. Yes, having a Neo-Nazi speak on campus was a really stupid idea, and something we shouldn't be doing with our resources. If he wants to speak, he can get a box to stand on and crazy-rant on Telegraph. But I think some of last night's problems highlight serious problems that I have with progressivism as it's been practiced in Berkeley, and that's yet another reason that I think I'm ready to see the backside of this town.

I identify as a progressive. I believe that fairness and justice should be the foundation of any civilized society. I'd happily say I'm a Social Justice Warrior (and I laugh that some people think that's a slur).

But ...

Berkeley's Progressive Problems

Over-Acceptance. (Or, if you prefer, A Blind Eye.)

I feel like a traitor saying it, but Berkeley is too accepting nowadays. It acts like acceptance is the highest good, that if we accept all, no bad can occur. It totally ignores the fact that some behaviors are anti-social, or otherwise unacceptable.

I actually used to think this was farcical. I saw it in parents that let their children run amok, that wouldn't discipline them or tell them no, because they didn't want to impair their child's individuality or creativity. Totally ignoring the fact that they're the parents and the children are the children and their job is to guide and shape, to move their children toward socially acceptable norms.

Meanwhile, we're so accepting that we're willing to let a Neo-Nazi use our public resources.

And we're so accepting that we're willing to let the Black Bloc riot afterward like they have at every demonstration for the last eight years. (The only notable exception: The Berkeley High demonstrations — the several times the kids have marched out of campus and demonstrated have been totally peaceable, so kudos to them.)

Which is a way of saying that over-acceptance was the root cause of these riots on either side.

And that's not the only way that it's eating away at our city. The homeless are the other big problem, and that's pretty much the same issue. The politicians are literally giving away our public spaces to them, our parks and our sidewalks. They're letting this minority of people take away the commons that should be used by the majority. Because to do otherwise wouldn't be accepting or Berkeley enough. Yes, I have sympathy, but keeping these people on the streets isn't the way to help them. It's just those broken ideas continuing to break our city.

Over-Purity. (Or, if you prefer, Dogma)

Here's another way of looking at the problem: purity. There's a certain faction of our local progressives (and they're unfortunately now the faction in charge of our city government) who seem to believe that it's their road or the high road. They have their fundamental beliefs about how progressivism should work, and if things don't work like that, they refuse compromises.

I suspect this is some of the basis of our police letting the Black Bloc do as they will, and our Mayor letting the homeless do as they will. For me, it broke my own connection to the ultra-progressives in our local government when my city councilman provided the vote that destroyed the possibility of a rapid transit bus line running down Telegraph, right near our house. Because it wasn't green enough, or some such nonsense.

I personally didn't care about the bus line, but it was presented with a plan that would have revamped the entirety of Telegraph, including a protected bike lane that would have run along its whole length. So now, every time I have a car come too close on Telegraph or I have to swerve into traffic because the bike lane ends, I thank my local city councilman, who puts me in danger on a weekly basis because the planned renovation of Telegraph wasn't progressive enough ... and so never happened.

Over-Compensation. (Or, if you prefer, Cowardice.)

This is probably a cause-and-effect thing, but increasingly people seem to over-compensate when dealing with progressivism in Berkeley. I think that's why the police haven't done hardly anything about the last several years of riots: they fear the backlash they'd get, and so just let the rioters run riot.

Personally, I think that non-lethal weapons have no place when people are just protesting, even if they're blocking streets or highways or causing inconvenience. But when those protests turn to riots, when the protesters are destroying property and even hurting people ... that's when the police should be stepping in. And they should be using non-lethal crowd control methods, even if it results in some of the protestors getting hurt.

Yes, there are so-called innocent protestors still out there, but when the protest becomes a riot, they are now giving cover to the rioters. They should be given the chance to disperse, and if they don't the police should disperse them by force.

If there's whining afterward or not.

Otherwise, the police just aren't doing their job.

(And I'm sure they're not the only ones overcompensating toward the loud minority in Berkeley.)

Over-Preservation. (Or, if you prefer, NIMBYism.)

And finally we come to my favorite pet peeve, NIMBYISM. Because the so-called progressives in Berkeley are so conservative that they don't want anything to change. Every new apartment, every new building, even the new bikeways get fought tooth-and-nail.

These people have weaponized the legal system to slow actual progress so much that a lot of builders are afraid to work in Berkeley. And if something is being worked on, expect it to take years and years to come to fruition. A decade isn't unknown.

It's literally the opposite of progressivism, but it's these same people that claim they're the big progressives.

The USA's Progressive Problems

I think there are some similar poisons in the progressive movement in the US as a whole.

I see some of the same purity, but I also think some things have gone too far.

The safe-spacing and trigger-warning in colleges has gone beyond providing a comfortable environment to the point where it's a new censorship, almost a new McCarthyism. And lets not even talk about micro-aggressions.

And I could say the same about some of depths of political correctness. Yes, Neil Gaiman is right that you can often just replace "political correctness" with "treating other people with respect". But I now look at the screams of cultural appropriation that come up anyone tries to pay homage to another culture, or I think about a white boy who was nearly assaulted a few years ago by a black woman for wearing dreadlocks, and I want to shout that it's gone too far. That's not treating other people with respect; in fact, it's the opposite.

Yes, I understand the strength and need for identity politics, yes I want to protected disadvantaged and minority groups. But I feel like we've gone so far down the rabbit hole that it's become the enemy.

Which is also to say that I understand why the Rust Belt can no longer vote for a democrat, even when the alternative was the literal Anti-Christ.

The problems with Berkeley have been bugging me for years.

The problems with national progressivism were a niggling worry for quite some time, but I finally put a finger on it after November's apocalyptic election.

And I'm still uncomfortable with it all because I feel like I'm being insufficiently empathetic. That it's traitorous to say that identity politics can become problematic when they go too far.

I remember that I felt similar things about affirmative action (and, yes, political correctness) back in high school, before I got out in the world, before I better saw and understood the bigger picture. So I worry that may be true again.

What do we want as progressives?


A society where everyone is treated well?

A society where we can feel safe?

A society where our most vulnerable have the same protections as our least?

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

But I'm not convinced that accepting anti-social behavior, that requiring total acceptance of our goals, that giving in to these overweening desires, that holding on to the past without reason, that censoring what people say, or that protecting cultures over people will get us there.

Quite the contrary.
shannon_a: (politics)
So we've got riots again in Berkeley. I came just a hairs-breath from getting caught up in them coming home tonight from Endgame. I BARTed in due to the possibility of rain and the annoyance of continuing health problems. I already knew there were riots going on when I was heading home, but the last I'd heard they were heading down Telegraph, which means toward Oakland.

No problem, I figured when I got off BART in Downtown Berkeley, I'll just keep an eye out for any splinters, but they should have been far away by then. I even grabbed myself dinner before going home. Which is about when I learned that a group of 150-200 rioters had headed down Durant and were now coming up Shattuck. Which means they were now directly between me and home.


Heading up Shattuck, sure enough beleaguered people coming from that direction reported a big demonstration, but said they were no longer on campus, so I headed up to Oxford, which fronts the campus ... and saw the whole demonstration streaming back onto campus. They'd apparently turned away from Shattuck, attacking the Bank of America and some of the restaurants on Center on the way. My guess is that they went after the Oasis Grill and Bongo Burger to protest the treatment of Muslims. (Those would both be Mediterranean or Mediterranean-influenced restaurants.)

Fortunately, I was able to skirt by the end of the rioting demonstration. Got a bottle thrown damned near me. Which seems to happen when I get near these things.

Got home safely.

I've gotten pretty sick of these demonstrations always turning to riots in Berkeley and Oakland, but I have to say, I understand this one.

The morons at the UC campus invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. He's a lackey at Breitbart and a member of the so-called alt-right. That's AP style, by the way, to say "so-called" or something similar if you use the tag alt-right. That's because alt-right is just a bit of Big Brother doublespeak to obscure the fact the so-called alt-right are actually white supremacists and white nationalists.

So, if that got a little confusing: UC Berkeley invited a Neo-Nazi to speak.

Just in case you're confused on free speech: free speech means the government doesn't try to stop your speech, not that they give you a platform. And, it doesn't apply to hate speech. So UC Berkeley inviting Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos. That was stupid. They don't have to tolerate his intolerance.

And so I think people are pretty rightfully and righteously mad. But, I'm pissed that they're breaking things again. I'm pissed that they're terrorizing our town (and me and my wife). And I'm super pissed that they attacked some people misguided enough to support the Nazi.

But damn, UC Berkeley, don't give Nazis a platform. Don't normalize them. Don't act like they're a normal part of free discourse in the United States.

That's Donald Trump's job.

The tail of the riot that I saw was all young. Mostly in their 20s.

I just bit my tongue not to say, "Maybe you should have voted."
shannon_a: (politics)
Yesterday, our United States government undertook the most evil action of my lifetime. The president banned anyone with a passport from seven Muslim countries from entering the country. The only action that comes close is Ronald Reagan's utter contempt for the AIDS epidemic, which resulted in thousands of deaths amid a vulnerable minority. This may not cause as much death (though it could), but it's certainly causing as much misery.

If Trump had just sought to stem new refugees, he would only have entered xenophobia into our codified Books of Federal Law. However, he went further than that. He showed a total contempt and disregard, at a positively sociopathic level, for anyone from this countries. It doesn't matter if they have H-1B work visas or green cards. It doesn't matter if they were on the path to citizenship. It doesn't matter if they have highly sought-after skills that were improving this country. If they happened to be out of the country when Trump signed this order, they've been barred from re-entry. And, this order was so sudden, and so shocking in its scope, that there was no real warning. People going out of the country to attend conferences, to visit relatives, or just to spend a few hours in nearby Canada or Mexico can't return. It doesn't matter that their jobs are here, their family are here, their wives, their husbands, their children are here. It doesn't matter that their apartments and all their worldly possessions are here. They're not coming back.

It's vile. It's evil. It's inhumane.

Even worse, Trump entered an exception into his executive order that prioritizes religious minorities from those countries who are being prosecuted. That's right, using weasel words and the most evil governmental action in this country since the internment of the Japanese, Trump is trying to discriminate against Muslims and discriminate for ... Christians. It shows breathtaking contempt for not just the separation of church and state, but our entire Constitution.

Oh, and there's another exception: Trump banned travel from seven Muslim nations, and somehow didn't manage to include any Muslim nations where he himself has business ties. To be precise, he omitted all the Muslim nations that actually supplied the 9/11 bombers, notably including Saudi Arabia (especially Saudi Arabia) and the United Arabs Emirate. I personally believe that his fear-mongering has absolutely zero basis in reality, and that if anything white nationalists and Nazis are more of a danger to this country than the predominantly peaceful religion of Islam. But, if you accept Trump's premise, then you also have to accept that he's decided that his business interests are more important than our country's safety.

I am disgusted by Trump's actions. I am horrified at the military and police filling our airports, taking innocent people off to indefinite detention. I am sickened that Americans are not being allowed to return to their homes because they don't yet have full citizenship and Trump has decided to discriminate against their countries of birth based solely on fear-mongering, not on reality.

This can not stand. Today, xenophobia, bigotry, and hatred rule our proud country. This is not the Home of the Free. This is not the Home of the Brave.

It's the Home of the Detained and the Cowardly.
shannon_a: (Default)
Welcome to week four, and how is the new year going?

I must admit to a bit of existential dread about the new president. I mean, surely we've had pathological liars in the White House before, though none so obvious. But it's really the combination of that lying with a high level of incompetence and a certainty that he's right that's scary. It's like Dan Quayle rose up to power, but if he was also a narcissistic, self-centered man-child.

The existential dread is the big picture stuff, and I look at the headlines with fear every morning at what he's done today. I've actually had to sign off of a few progressive mailing lists, because what they were sending out was pure FUD that wasn't helping my mood.

But it's the specific stuff that's even scarier. I'm the most worried about health care. Are my costs going to double in the next decade as the CBO has predicted if the Republicans have their way? Am I going to be out of insurance? The damnedest thing is that I'm pretty healthy. I mean, if I had such horrible insurance that it only covered catastrophes, my life probably wouldn't change. I can't even imagine folks that's not true for.

I've lost two of my familial elders since the New Year, heck since the inauguration: Bob's dad (my step-grandfather) and my Aunt Peg.

I probably knew Bob the elder better. We drove down to Los Angeles a number of times when I was growing up, to spend time with Bob's family, and he was the patriarch of the house.

I probably knew August Peg less well, because she lived out in St. Louis, but she was one of the family members delighted to see me when I visited summers long gone.

And all the losses diminish us. It's a somber start to the year.

OK, perking up.

It looks like our recent roof work was successful, as the torrential downpour of the last week didn't cause new leaks. Yay. And they're going to come back in to stucco over the wounds where our water heater was removed last year, after one of our last house problems (sigh!), which will be another thing off our list-of-stressors and our list-of-things-that-must-be-done-before-we-leave-this-house.

Our recent bathroom work was more so-so. I'm hoping that the handyman fixed the leaking problem we had since last year by grouting over the bottom half of the tiles in our bathroom. Our wall has definitely stopped leaking, I'm less sure about under the house. But the grout is much darker than what's on the other half of the tiles. And it looks really grainy. And there was grit all over the tiles. Days later we've got the grit mostly off, and I'm hoping a sealant will make the stucco itself look smoother and better. But the variegated look of the top and bottom of our tile is annoying.

Speaking of rain, I'm well and sick it. It's greatly impacted my exercise over the last few months. I've been getting 50k or so steps a week instead of my goal of 70k and my more typical excess of more than that. Oh, that's been partly the cold too. Altogether it just hasn't been that nice going out on weekends or evenings or whatever.

I've been trying to figure out alternative ways to exercise, but the success has been somewhat limited.

But, yay, we're heading out of our drought.

The state water regulators, meanwhile, talked about extending our drought restrictions during one of the heaviest days of rain after days of rain. Because they have no sense of irony. Or too much sense of irony. But that's generally their modus operandi.

Work has been good since the new year. I feel like the week off helped me get my mojo back, so I've been bouncing around, putting finishing projects on various projects that have been long standing, and feeling good about it.

I'm getting a bit more weighed down this week, because various people all want my attention. I suppose that's to the good, but less bouncy.

So that's 2017 so far. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Trump is the ugly.
shannon_a: (politics)
I first realized how broken America's healthcare system was around the time I turned 30. I was writing the checks for the premiums for Skotos' health insurance, and I was seeing the costs rise dramatically year by year. It was having a major impact on our bottom line as our fees literally doubled over the course of several years.

However, K's issues with health insurance were more notable. She applied for private insurance and she was denied due to pre-existing conditions. It was nothing of particular note at the time, just rare fainting and chalazions (eye styes), but the insurance industry had absolutely no incentive to offer insurance to someone who didn't appear to be in picture-perfect health, so they didn't. It was one of the worst examples I've ever seen of capitalism applied to basic human services, to the deficit of humanity.

We were able to get K. on Skotos' insurance, with fees paid out of our pocket. But if anything that amplified my impression of the core problem. I increasingly realized that our health care — our health assurance — depended on being employed with a company. It made ideas like freelancing and even moving very difficult, because either of those decisions could break our ties to our employer-based insurance system.

In other words, it was heathcare serfdom, locking me to the regular system of employment and making it difficult to go too far afield from the location of the company that I wanted to work with. Perhaps the tie was harder to see than those of serfs with their land in the Middle Ages, but it was there all the same.

America's healthcare serfdom ended on March 23, 2010. The Democratic Congress restored the right of mobility to the population by ending insurance companies' ability to reject applicants, to reject claims related to pre-existing conditions, or to charge more for high-risk patients. As is appropriate in a civilized country, Congress ensured that everyone would help each other, with the healthy supporting the sick. Using a complex system of payments and tax rebates, they also made it possible for everyone to get health insurance.

It made freelancing a real possibility, without living under the Damoclean sword of medical bankruptcy. It also fit with the modern idea of a distributed office, allowing employees spread across the United States to each access guaranteed health insurance in their own state.

Skotos changed over to health-insurance-exchange insurance a few years ago. Admittedly, it's far from perfect. The costs are too high and the networks are too narrow. But it wasn't horrible for relatively healthy people, and it made less-traditional business very possible. More importantly, it offered a way to cut the too-strong tie between employment and healthcare.

For the first time in nearly a decade I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Cost increases finally flattened out, and I no longer had to worry about what to do about medical insurance if a situation arose where my company or my employment would no longer qualify for an employee-backed health insurance.

Meanwhile a new idea fell together for K. and me personally: a move to Hawaii. It was May or June this year when we settled upon this as our intention, for a few years hence. And healthcare was never even a concern, because I knew I could just transition from a plan on the California exchange to a plan on the Hawaii exchange with little problem.

Enter November 8, 2016. Donald Trump won the presidency after running on a chaotic and varied platform that, among other things, promised to dismantle the AMA.

Twenty-two million Americans depend on it. It establishes right of movement, eliminates health serfdom. It opens up new possibilities and removes old anxieties. But it's been the irrational target of hatred for Republicans for six and a half years, so there's every indication it will be gone in a couple of months. Donald Trump's minions even updated their plans on the topic a few days after their unexpected win.

So where do we go from here?

Are we going to return to the bad old days when loss of a job could (eventually, after COBRA runs out) result in the loss of insurance? Will we, the people, once more be bound to our jobs as healthcare serfs?

Trump claims he's going to replace it, but the only specifics on his web site talk about HSAs, which I've always seen as a fancy way of saying, "I don't have insurance."

The ACA was the biggest social entitlement of my generation. It addressed the worst of the human needs not addressed by our then-current government.

If things are rolled back to March 22, 2010, it's going to be ... heartbreaking.

Frustratingly, this proposed repeal is built on lies and unsupported hyperbole that the Republicans are telling about the system. Donald Trump's web site claims that the ACA is unsuccessful due to "rapidly rising premiums and deductibles, narrow networks".

I'd certainly agree that the narrow networks are troublesome. Just last year I wrote about the unacceptable distance I had to go to find an urgent care system. They literally told me to go to Sacramento. I had similar issues with finding an allergist, and ultimately decided to just punt the problem by not dealing with the issue. That's a problem that needs to be fixed.

However the low level of premium increases from 2011-2017 have been a godsend when compared to the decade before. They literally made it possible for me to keep doing what I was doing, what I love, even if the resulting coverage wasn't what I would have liked.

But the worst lie may be the claim that the Republicans can keep the "good" parts of the ACA, like the protection for pre-existing conditions and the ability for young adults to stay on the parents' insurance. Because without that much-hated mandate and without a complex system of risk corridors that moves some monies to the insurance companies shouldering excessive risk due to sicker patients ... it all falls apart.

So maybe the Republicans don't actually kill the pre-existing condition protections which are what protect us from healthcare serfdom, but if they drop the elements that make it possible, the whole system falls apart. And then the ACA dies a slow, shuddering death over a decade instead of a transitional death in two years, as the Republicans proposed last year.

How does this affect us personally? It's hard to say, but it fills me with dread.

K. is no longer dependent on private insurance. She's managed to access Medicare. Mind you, Paul Ryan has been wanting to kill Medicare for years, and he's already stated it's at the top of his list come 2017. So, that's another potential disaster come inauguration day. But there's some indication that he might leave Medicare for current recipients, and if so, things might be OK for a time. And it'd be a foundation to rebuild Medicare after his voucher system crashes and burns.

Instead, my situation will be the trickier one this time. I find it unlikely that my current insurance carrier will want to dump me, because I'm pretty healthy and California itself has some decent protections for insurance costs. I also don't get any subsidies, so all I need is for the insurance company to keep treating me fairly.

But if the ACA is truly gone come 2017 (or 2019), our plans to move to Hawaii just got a lot harder, because I'd need to sign up with a new insurance carrier then. And I have high blood pressure, and that's a pre-existing condition.

It's probably a bit higher as of November 9, 2016.
shannon_a: (politics)
1. Democrats Saying that Someone Else Would Have Won

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, but here's the thing: you have no idea whether Bernie Sanders would have outperformed Hillary Clinton or whether Joe Biden would have or whoever. None. It's an impossible hypothesis to prove because there's insufficient data. We don't know how the states would have broken differently, we don't know how they would have performed in the debates, we don't know what dirty laundry would have come out. We don't know how the general voting population would have reacted to a self-avowed socialist or how they would have contrasted a pugilistic Democrat with Donald.

All we do know is that no one else who actually wanted to run was able to earn enough votes among Democrats to win, and that's not a good argument for being able to do so in the general population.

So, shut up and move forward.

2. People Saying that 538 Should Retire

The pollsters definitely have some 'splained to do because they sucked. The thing is, they weren't off by much at the national level. Final national averages had Hilary at +3% and Upshot is still saying +1.3%. A 2% polling difference is well within the realms of reasonable margin of error and well within the historical margin of error.

Where pollsters utterly failed is at state level polls.

Where aggregators utterly failed is in understanding that Clinton's coalition was inefficiently distributed across the states.

Oh wait, there's one site that didn't: 538. They talked about Clinton's electoral weakness many a time, and said it could easily cost her the election if things dropped to 2% or worse. And there's one site that was giving Donald a one-thirds chance of winning until the day before the election (when it dropped to one-quarter). That's 538 too.

But there are a lot of morons out there who don't seem to understand that a 1 in 3 or a 1 in 4 odd is actually pretty likely. That it means it should come up every three or four elections. And it did.

538 got it right all around.

Now Princeton Election Consortium, the Dailykos, and some other sites that had the odds in 90%+ range for most of the last weeks. They got some 'splaining to do too.

3. People Saying that the Majority of Americans Have Spoken

Yes, Trump won by the rules of the game that Trump and Clinton agreed to before the contest started. (Well, except for the fact that Trump secretly had the FBI and the Russian gov't working for him.)

But don't pretend he has a mandate. And definitely don't claim that the majority of Americans or even the majority of voters spoke.

Well, they did, but they said they wanted Hillary.

She absolutely won the national vote count. Current numbers say by about .2%, while Upshot's calculations say 1.3% when everything comes in.

In other words, Trump's vast mandate is 18% of the population, or a losing minority of about 47% of the vote.

4. Media Not Doing Their Job

The media pretty much made President Trump. Congratulations, take a bow. And it's because they've become entertainment, not the news. Which is a damned shame, because that's not why the gov't gives airwaves to networks. We do it because they promise to practice journalism, not the pablum they're doling out now.

But they treated Donald like entertainment, airing every irreverent breath he took during the primaries.

Then they balanced him with false equivalency, acting like he and Hilary (or any sane politician) were the same.

Then they whored after their ratings by describing a horse race even when there wasn't one.

Meanwhile they breathlessly did the work of the FBI and the Russian Government, making up stories about stolen emails, even though any one's emails could make them look bad, then horribly misreporting the FBI's claims about their investigation.

Real journalists would have put the truth above ratings. They would have investigated. They would have said it like it was. They wouldn't have been tricked en masse by criminals in our government and in the former Soviet Union.

There were moments of light in this year's media coverage, when the so-called journalists seemed to realize that their horrible malfeasance might elect an insane idiot to the White House. But they flickered out the next time some tainted raw meat was dangled in front of them, and all their supposed ethics and supposed competence went right out the window.

Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek is excepted from this diatribe. He seemed to be the only one doing his job, but no one cared. Also that guy who found the pussy tape (but not CBS who tried to hold it back).

5. Deplorables Acting Empowered

The worse thing about the Trump campaign is that it empowered the people that Clinton unartfully called deplorables. Let's be more clear and state who they are: KKK Members. Antisemites. True Bigots. Gamer-Taters. PUAs. Other Misogynists. Transophobes. Homophobes. Islamiphobes.

We've seen it spill out into classrooms and into communities and I'm truly, truly sick of it.

I'm hopeful that Donald will leave these deplorables at the altar now that he doesn't need their vote any more. Because that's his modus operandi. I think He is truly an Islamiphobe, that he was broken by 9/11. But I don't think he's most of those other things.

So I hope they'll wither away in the light of indifference now that he's had his way with them.
shannon_a: (politics)
I stand by the Muslims, the Mexicans, the immigrants, the Jewish, and everyone else who Trump demonized this year in his race for the White House.

I do fear that Trump will genuinely work to make life worse for some of these people, and I will stand by you, even if it's only in what I write and how I act in my day-to-day interactions with you.

I also stand by the people who voted for Trump because they've been left behind by global shifts in the economy and they genuinely think he can make a difference.

I do fear that he's a liar and that he's not going to do a thing to help the poor and the non-college-educated that supported him, that he'll actually make life worse with trade barriers while offering a facade of support through attacking "the other". I'd love to be proven wrong, but if I'm not I hope you'll remember what Trump said he would do for the economy and for the working class ... and measure it against what actually happens.
shannon_a: (politics)
[Warning: Profanity Follows.]

I don't even know what to write. Except THIS FUCKING ELECTION.

No one's had the balls to call it yet (though they probably will by the time I finish this entry). But it's obvious that Donald Trump is our next president. No. 45. It should have been our first female president and about fucking time.

But no, a slight minority of our country, who control it thanks to the fucked-up broken nature of our presidential electoral system, have decided that a xenophobic, misogynist, plutocratic, KKK-embracing asshole should be our president.

This isn't like if Mitt Romney or John McCain won. Because they both seem like decent human beings. Donald Trump obviously isn't. Without hyperbole, he's the least qualified presidential candidate in my lifetime, and I mean least emotionally qualified, least knowledgeable, and just the least fucking appropriate. And that lifetime includes the incompetent liar and junkie George W. Bush. So that's really fucking saying something.

I dunno if if Trump will destroy the economy. (Though the stock market is going to hell tomorrow, that I know.) I dunno if he'll throw Mexicans and Jewish people into internment camps. I dunno if he'll roll back LGBT rights. I dunno if he'll wage a war against women's rights.

I mean the advantage of Trump is that he's not actually a conservative.

But my guess is that we'll get the worse of both worlds. He'll do god awful shit because he's a fucking moron that gets by on his inheritance. Meanwhile Mike Fucking Pence will make all the policy decisions that bore Donald, and then it'll be Christian sharia laws for everyone. Merry Fucking Christmas.

I mean I try and convince myself, maybe he'll just use his mighty business acumen and his outsider status to actually turn things around in a good way. But then I remember he's a fucking idiot and that's all a total sham. His fifth bankruptcy is going to be the Disunited States of America after he leads us into a trade war with Mexico or tells China he's not paying any more money back or something else that he's sure will work but is damned stupid.

The thing is I feel great sympathy for some percentage of the people who voted for Donald.

Hillary said it poorly, but her "basket of deplorables" comment was dead-on. There's a decent amount of actual scumbags in Donald's coalition. KKK members and gamer-taters and antisemites and PUAs. Fuck them.

But a lot of people supporting Donald, maybe even most, aren't. They're poor people who aren't college educated who have been left behind by the economy. We need to figure out how to help them, to bring them back into American dream.

But President Donald isn't going to do a fucking them for them. He spent 20 months lying to them and he's not going to give a shit when he gets into the White House. They were tools, and now that he's done with them Donald's going to throw them out.

(Because that's what rich people do. He'll go buy new ones if he needs them again.)

I hope they see that in 2 or 4 years when he's out there lying to them again and nothing's changed except the future looks even more desperate.

(Just saw the headline, "Trump's speech will be gracious, sources say." It'd be the first fucking time he was gracious in the last 20 months.)

K. has been very worried about the election and I kept telling her, "It's not going to affect us." Because we're white and we're straight and we're relatively well off even if our assets aren't very liquid and we're in a Democratic stronghold and we're planning to move to a Democratic stronghold.

But I've already seen the shockwaves this decision is sending into the stock market. It's going to make it hard to pay this year's property taxes without damaging our savings. And the trip to England we were planning next summer is probably right out.

And then I think that he could fuck up social security disability payments or he could send the economy into hyperinflation. Or.



We survived 8 years of Bush. Surely we can survive 4 years of Trump.

But, FUCK.

The Guardian seems to have noticed that Trump indeed won, while the US news sites are all still playing scaredy-cakes.
shannon_a: (politics)
Why am I sorry for my friends in the UK? SERIOUSLY?

Because every single one of the folks that I actually know in the UK was stridently against Brexit and was shocked by the results. Because a whole generation of UK people just lost their right to live and work in 27 countries. Because they just lost many of the privileges of the EU, but they'll still be beholden to most of its rules and regulations if they want to remain in the common market. Because they woke up this morning to find the already beleaguered pound had lost another 10% of its value, that they'd lost that much more spending power. Because some of them run small businesses that will be endangered by the currency fluctuations. Because the EU is already signaling that they might harshly punish the UK to ward off further defections, while Scotland is again talking about independence. Because they're likely to be going it alone in an even smaller union, while the world simultaneously grows more vast. Because it looks like they're in for a bad few years at the least and a bad decade at the worst and they'll never regain some of the advantages they had yesterday.

In short, I'm sorry for my friends in the UK because they just got burned, and most of them know it.

Democracy is a tool, not a golden ideal. At its best it's a tool that allows us to come together cooperatively and to bring our best emotions into our governance. It can be a tool of hope, of unity, and of love. At its worst it's a tool that can be corrupted, that can enforce the tyranny of the majority, that can embed our worst emotions in our society. Demagogues are its greatest enemy, for too often they bring out the worst in people. Fear, hatred, and desperation can be paired with willful ignorance by a skillful demagogue, creating results that too often benefit only the few, not the many, and not the all.
shannon_a: (Default)
I wanted to offer my support for a two-way bikeway on Dana. The whole south area of Berkeley, from Shattuck to Telegraph is troublesome for bicyclists because of its layout of streets. Shattuck and Telegraph are both dangerous to bike on because of their busy-ness and their poor design, while every street in between is one way, which is a problem if you're headed in the opposite direction. The result is a perfect storm of bad (& dangerous) biking.

Personally, I've been accosted by someone in a car who didn't like me biking down Fulton (which is too narrow to have a shoulder), I've nearly been hit by many bicyclists while walking on the sidewalk of Fulton (which they illegally ride both ways because they don't want to go out of the way and/or because they find the street too narrow), and I've been forced out into traffic on Dana by bicyclists riding up the bike lane the wrong way (again, because they don't want to go out of the way). Adding another route of access through these streets _starts_ to solve these problems.

The other big advantage of the Dana bikeway in particular is that it connects to the campus directly, whereas the other northward streets in the area, Bowditch and Ellseworth, both dead-end without taking you on to campus, unless you then walk your bike to an actual entrance.

If you want to better serve the bicyclists in your district, creating a two-way bikeway on Dana is a great start, because it frees up a major choke point in the area. Generally, it may be the worst of the southside chokepoints. If I want to leave my house at [XXX] and bike onto campus, I currently have to bike all the way up to College to get safe & direct access.

If you afterward want to continue improving biking access for your constituents, three other things would be a great service:

* Getting the northmost two blocks of Ellsworth repaved; the rightmost lane that bicyclists use is *awful*
* Installing a one-way bike lane on Fulton
* Adjusting the Do Not Enter sign at Fulton & Dwight so that it makes an exception for bicyclists
shannon_a: (politics)
Here's a quick tip for journalists. It's incorrect to say, "Safeway employees clean up after protesters looted their store." It's correct to say, "Safeway employees clean up after criminals who coopted a protest looted their store."

They are protesters when they're marching.

They're probably protesters when they're blocking highways and locking up BART. It seems to piss people off as much as the looting, but this sort of criminality-of-inconvenience is much more a part of the country's history of civil disobedience. Mind you, it's not without consequences: Monday's blocking of the highway apparently caused one woman to give birth on the asphalt and could easily have killed two men, one who had a heart attack and another who had a stroke, neither of which could get off the highway.


They're definitely not protesters when they're smashing windows, stealing liquor and dog food, and setting fire to recycling bins. They're criminals. They're vandals, looters, and arsonists. And, there's no longer a protest. It's become a riot.

Words matter.

Here's another fun word fact. Police force is not by definition excessive. If you're breaking the law, you can expect the police to try and stop you, and if you keep breaking the law, you can expect force to be applied to make you stop. That's sort of what we pay the police to do.

I suspect most people would agree that there was excessive force in the cases that are theoretically being demonstrated against — that young black males regularly face excessive harassment and excessive force from police officers all across this nation. That's a problem. A big problem. It's worth protesting against.

However, that doesn't mean that you necessarily faced excessive force if you got tear gassed or hit by a rubber bullet or a bean bag when you were part of a mob that the police had already asked nicely to disperse because of illegal actions. Not even if you were one of the peaceful members of that unruly mob. Not even if you were a journalist who decided to embed himself in that unruly mob.

No, it means that you're paying the price that you opted to pay when you decided to engage in Civil Disobedience. Just like Thoreau opted to go to jail. Maybe it's an honorable wound that you've taken, or maybe you were a masked coward who wanted a bottle of vodka. In any case, it's what should be expected when you decided to break the law and then decided to keep doing it when asked to stop. I mean, what were the officers of the law supposed to do? Stand by and watch?

(Now hitting people with batons may be another issue, since it's even more likely than rubber bullets or beanbags to cause permanent harm [though they can too], and at that point I think you have to ask whether the police officers felt they were in real danger from the mob, and that goes back to the whole question of lethal police force that kicked things off. Some folks say tear gas may be questionable too, and I'll opt out of discussing that for lack of knowledge. Suffice to say, all non-lethal force can become lethal in some circumstances, so the question becomes which ones best combine safety with efficacy when trying to break up a law-breaking mob.)

Monday night, after my work was done and Kimberly had gotten home from her appointments, we were both feeling a bit shell-shocked after two nights of helicopters, sirens, shouting, and tear gas. We both sort of wanted to go out for dinner to feel like we weren't jailed in our house, but we were a bit reluctant because of the mob violence that had burned through Berkeley the night before. However, as I've said before I opt not to let those *((*#$#es keep me from doing what I want to do. So we went out to Smart Alec's for dinner. We got lucky; that was the night that the protesters (and they did seem to be protesters that one night, with no violence reported) blocked I-80.

On the way home we decided to visit Cream, mainly to show our support, since we knew that one of their windows had been broken during the riots on Sunday night. While there we had really a great interaction with the owner. First, he seemed extremely touched when Kimberly told him that we'd visited his store specifically to show some support for his business. Second, he told us what had happened.

As the mob had approached Cream, one of the people in the mob had leapt up to try and protect the business. Other members of the mob then began to assault him like rabid dogs — something that has happened multiple times in the protest: it resulted in a man getting sent to the hospital after being hit in the head with a hammer about two blocks from our house earlier that Sunday, and it caused a kid to lose two teeth in the riots last night. Anywho, one of the Cream employees ran out to save this kid, dragging him back into the ice cream store and locking the door. So the rioters showed their displeasure by breaking Cream's window.

OK, I'll admit, in writing that it was hard not to use the word "protester". Part of that is because of the fuzzy line between a protest group and a mob. Part of it is that there doesn't seem to be a noun for a member of a mob. Mobster? Rioter? Maybe that expresses when the fuzzy line is crossed: when a protest is no longer a group of individuals, it's become a mob.

Despite that fuzziness, I remain very, very convinced that the peaceful protesters have a responsibility to react when their protest becomes a shield for violent and destructive criminal activities.

Perhaps you can excuse them on Saturday by saying that the UCB students at the heart of the protest were too stupidly naive to realize that their protest was going to be hijacked by violent criminals. I mean, anyone who lives in this area long-term knew that was going to happen (and if anything we're shocked by the one day of protest out of four, Monday, when violence didn't occur). But UCB students are a pretty self-absorbed bunch, and I say that having once been a pretty self-absorbed UCB student, so maybe they didn't know.

But once they knew, by Sunday, the day of Berkeley's worst rioting, it became their job to figure out how to protest without shielding criminals. They should have been working with the police to figure out peaceful ways to identify criminals and get them out of their crowds. They should have been expelling those looters and vandals, not protecting them. By failing to do so, they became accomplices to those crimes.

Sucks that protesters in this area have to worry about this. Sucks that the police haven't been able to figure out a better way to separate the wheat from the chaff. But when you're the organizers of the civil disobedience, it becomes your job to either deal with this problem or else to accept that you have willfully become a part of that culture of looting, arson, vandalism, and assault.

And that crosses the line from potentially progressive civil disobedience to meaningless criminality.
shannon_a: (politics)
I've found the constant rioting surrounding our house — the constant hum of helicopters and shrill of police sirens, the occasional smashing of glass or whiff of tear gas — to be very disturbing, stressful,and depressing these last two nights. It's kept me from getting much done either Saturday or Sunday evening.

Tonight, the helicopters started up again at about 4.50pm because the rioters declared another riot starting at 5pm (and another for tomorrow, where they're promising to evict our lawfully elected mayor from office). But tonight I'm going to do my best to avoid Berkeleyside and Twitter, and to just let it all roll off me, and presume that the rioters will stay off our street because all the good swag is on Telegraph and Shattuck.
shannon_a: (politics)
Last night Kimberly and I were sitting in our Living Room, relaxing, and I heard three kids walking down the street outside. Suddenly, there's a SMASH of something breaking, like a beer bottle or a car window. One of them says, "Did you do that!?" And they all broke out laughing.

And that's pretty much the state of "protest" in Berkeley these last two nights. Two nights in a row they've started the protests at around 5pm, so that they could walk the streets under the cover of night. Not something you do if you're trying to be noticed, but definitely something that you're do if you're trying to hide criminal activities. And that's exactly what's been going on.

Last night? Vandalism, arson, looting. A Trader Joe's, a Radio Shack, and a Wells Fargo got hit. Tonight? Vandalism, arson, looting, and assault. Another Radio Shack got hit, and someone got put in the hospital after he tried to protect it because one of the protestors hit him in the head with a hammer. Also, windows broken at Cream, another Wells Fargo vandalized (with crowbars!), as well as a Sprint, T-Mobile, and Mechanics Bank. JP Morgan. McDonalds. It sounds like they've run rampant destroying half of Shattuck. Burning trash strewn all about Telegraph and Shattuck. Several police cars got demolished.

The oblivious kids at Cal keep asking why they got tear gassed and dispersed during a "peaceful protest", but these "protests" have been anything but peaceful. You don't bring hammers and crowbars to peaceful protests. You don't wear black masks.

Some folks claim that despite the overall tenor of those gatherings, most of the protestors are peaceful. That may well be true, at least in Berkeley — and indeed some protestors have tried to defend some businesses, like the guy who almost got murdered with a hammer. But it's also irrelevant. As long as they're ultimately protecting the criminals, as long as they're shielding them in their crowds, they're accomplices to those crimes. They're also totally deligitimizing the movement, much as happened when Occupy descended into anarchy. If they want to have a peaceful protest, they need to actively dispel the looters, the vandals, the arsonists, and the thugs with the hammers. They need to point them out to the police, and until they do, they're just as guilty of those crimes.

Some tear gas drifted down toward our house last night. It was just barely obvious enough to slightly irritate my eyes, but I worried a bit about the cats. I also was genuinely fearful of the protestors and had to think whether to leave our porch light on or off, trying to determine which would make our house more or less of a target.

Sadly, Oakland has been putting up with this bullcrap for years, with a couple of violent protests occurring every couple of years. I'd thought the current wave of protests had ended just before Thanksgiving, but then the city suffered more earlier this week. I was depressed when I went to Downtown Oakland on Saturday and saw that even more stores had suffered damage. The saddest was "The Wine Merchant" or something like that, a brand-new store that apparently didn't ask why the rent was so low right next to Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Well, now they know I guess.

The helicopters are once more overhead. They're messing with my head.


Nov. 25th, 2014 11:21 am
shannon_a: (politics)
I live less than 5 miles from Downtown Oakland, and I'm down there once or twice a week. Last night the criminals were there instead, marching up and down Broadway. They were smashing windows and assaulting police. They were looting the Smart & Final of all its alcohol. They were just across a parking lot from my favorite game store (my favorite store) and it's merely by the grace of Broadway that it wasn't destroyed. (I hope.)

I was born in the Ferguson/Florissant area. Though I don't have the same attachment to it that my parents might, as they grew up there, I did regularly visit my grandparents there when I was young. I don't recognize the individual businesses being destroyed, but I do recognize the general look and feel of the area. It's the nostalgic wonderland of my youth, and it's burning.

There are deep problems with racial inequity in the country.

It's wrong that a black man is likely to be less educated and to earn less money than a white man. It's very wrong that he's more likely to be killed before he turns 18, that he's more likely to be stopped by the police for no reason, that he's more likely to be shot by the police.

It may even be wrong that this particular white police officer in Ferguson wasn't indicted for killing a black man. I don't know for sure, as I think there have to be very high standards for indicting an officer of the law for doing something while carrying out his duties. But maybe those standards should have been met in this case -- and it certainly sounds like DA wasn't doing his job, that he wasn't serving the rights of the victim.

But my own anger wells up when I bike down to Oakland and see yet again all the boarded-up buildings and the broken glass littering the street.

It's fashionable to blame anarchists when Oakland is burning (yet again), and maybe (probably) they're the inciters, but there are a lot of protesters who are all too willing to become arsonists and looters.

I would happily give up some of my income for the rest of my life as a part of a nation-wide program that redistributed that money to people and communities that had been economically disadvantaged. I'd happily vote for politicians who made that their platform.

But I can just barely see that when mob violence erupts like clockwork, when civil disobedience turns into an excuse to get a new pair of Nikes or a bottle of booze, when rioting is an expected response instead of a spontaneous eruption of horrible emotions.

So, pretty much the world sucks today, from every side.

Voting '14

Nov. 5th, 2014 12:48 am
shannon_a: (politics)
Yesterday was voting day, and it generally sucked. The Republicans retook the Senate, which was totally expected, but they generally did +2 to +6 points better than the polling averages expected, meaning they took some extra senate and gubernatorial seats. To paraphrase a twitter wit, "America voted for legalized pot, higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, better access to abortions, and Republican Senators and Governors. HUH."

I care a little bit less about this than when we had warmongers pushing us into multiple illegitimate wars during Bush's tenure, but personally I fear that if Republicans take over control of government, they'll take away my health care and my social security. Because that's what they've said they'll do. Yet people needing health care and social security (and legalized pot and higher minimum wages and paid sick leave and better access to abortions) continue to vote for them.


Locally. Things went better on the local field. (If only California were its own country.) The new transit prop, BB succeeded with 70% where the old one, B, failed with 66%. An improved economy in the two years since the failure of B was probably a help, but BB also didn't overstretch, where B offered a transit tax with no sunset provision. If they hadn't done that, B surely would have picked up another two-thirds of a percent of support and we would have had our improved roads, transit, and bike infrastructure two years earlier.

I also had an eye on our local City Council race, District 7. I've been unhappy with Kriss Worthington, our local council person for a few years. He's one of the most progressive members on the Council, which could be good, but he's unfortunately one of those progressives who becomes purist, refuses to accept compromise, and so is actually regressive because he cuts down progressive policies that aren't progressive enough. So we don't have Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running up Telegraph primarily because of him. And that means I don't have the improved, protected bike ways along one of my two main bike travel corridors because of him. He tried to kill the downtown plan two years ago because it wasn't progressive enough, even though it was quite progressive, and after the voters OKed the plan two years ago, he was at least a quiet supporter of a plot to overturn the downtown plan this year--just when we were starting to get people building in Downtown, and maybe revitalizing our city. The good news is that downtown-poison-pill failed 25% to 75%. Worthington's attempt to screw up our redistricting also got cut down (he didn't like the fact that the new student district was only 90% students and so brought in a new plan after the deadline), with the voters approving the redistricting by 65% or something like that.

Worthington also had a strong opponent this time in Sean Barry, and unfortunately that didn't work out. Barry, who I liked because he's younger, less purist, more concerned about doing something about People's Park and Telegraph, and also an ex-journalist, lost by 80 votes. Mind you, that's out of 700 or something ridiculously small like that, but so it goes.

We also agreed to increase our property taxes for parks, which is AOK for me. Our bill should be $30, and I'm sure Kimberly and I get much more than that from our parks each year.

Screw Big Soda. One of the most notable local measures on our ballot this year was D, which imposes an excise tax on soda of one cent an ounce. I was initially not sure what I thought of it. I'm not a big fan of new sin taxes, though they work (but I don't like to be told what to do), and I didn't like the way it was framed as an excise tax, because that could get passed on to consumers in any number of ways. If stores increase their cost of soda, great, but if they just silently absorb it and have a teeny increase across everything, that's worthless.

But then Big Soda (the American Beverage Association to be precise) kicked off one of the scummiest campaigns I've ever seen. They hired two people to move to Berkeley to jam up our City Council's discussions of the measure, before it went on the ballot. They sent out a deluge of purposefully misleading and confusing propaganda. They illegally posted their "No on D" signs everywhere, totally blanketing our local traffic circles one evening. I also suspect they paid people to astroturf forums discussing the topic. It was unethical and corpocratic. Did I mention I don't like being told what to do?

Before Big Soda spent $2 million dollars to defeat Measure D (that's about $20 per registered voter in Berkeley, and probably $40-50 per person that actually voted), 66% of voters were in favor of Measure D. Big Soda's heavy-handed spending managed to move the gauge 9%. When the final votes came in, 75% of voters were in favor of Measure D.

I guess Berkeley doesn't like being told what to do either.

Losing My Religion. I've been registered as a Green for the last decade or more, but I've had increasing problems with them in recent years. I used to generally agree with their campaign literature, and so was able to use it as a good guide for voting. Unfortunately in the last 2-3 elections our local Green Party has become purist. Yep, just like our wonderful city councilman. So progressive that it's regressive. Just like the Tea Party for that matter. So, believe it or not, the Green Party said to vote against Berkeley's Parks measure (just to give one example) because it wasn't as good as what they wanted. They also said to vote for Kriss Worthington, while the Berkeley Democratic Club said to vote for Sean Barry, no shock there.

So, following the election, I changed my registration from Green to Democratic. It's how I'd generally voted in the main elections, but I'd previously figured that voter registration numbers were a mark for what the major parties needed to pay attention to. Sadly, the Green party is no longer something that I think deserves that.

And now I can actually participate in primaries.

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