Wednesday, March 30, 2005

HOW MUCH FREAKIN' MONEY DO WE SPEND ON LAW ENFORCEMENT ANYWAY?

I have a real problem with the bus system in San Francisco - MUNI. They are cutting service and raising the price to ride, but it already sucks. For a city as dense and progressive as San Francisco, we should have a much more modern, reliable and accessible public transportation system. The city is known for public transportation after all. But the buses are old. The drivers are not paid so well and they no longer keep a lot of backup drivers available, so if someone is sick or can't come into work, the bus often just doesn't run. I've waited 45 minutes to nearly 90 minutes for a bus that is supposed to run every 15 or 20 minutes. The buses themselves are also really old. I often depend on the #23, and the other day I found one on fire near Foerster and Monterrey. The buses in Austin, Texas are newer.

What has really frustrated me recently is the number of cops driving all over this town - they remind me of the ants that invade my apartment. They're just pests crawling everywhere. How much does it cost to pay a cop and keep his cruiser full of fuel and operational? Now, how much does it cost to keep a bus running and pay the driver? One night when I was waiting for the bus an excessively long time I saw 6 different police cruisers pass by - some with two cops! Why?! There's no crime in my neighborhood - or hardly any.

I say: "Fire a cop! Hire a bus driver!"

Saturday, March 26, 2005

AMERICA STANDS FOR DEATH AND TORTURE, EXCEPT WHEN A BRAINDEAD, WHITE, FLORIDA-WOMAN IS INVOLVED

More news on our country's violations of human rights amidst our dual wars for power and oil (and perhaps some form of democracy if that suits the two primary purposes). The headline reads, US ARMY SAYS PRISON DEATHS ARE HOMICIDES. The article goes on to say:
WASHINGTON - The Army has concluded that 27 of the detainees who died in US custody in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002 were the victims of homicide or suspected homicide, military officials said in a report released yesterday.

The number is higher than Pentagon officials have previously acknowledged, and it indicates that criminal acts caused a significant portion of the dozens of prisoner deaths that occurred in US custody.
Now here is my own addition to that story:

In response Tom DeLay spoke to Good Friday churchgoers in the mostly-white, wealthy suburbs of Houston that consistently vote him into office. He said with passion, "This act of barbarism can and must be prevented." Reporters followed him into the church parking lot - a large paved-over space packed with SUV's along a busy 8-lane highway across from a Wal-Mart Super Center where he added, "That Americans would be so barbaric as to tie a human being to a wall, kick in his chest until blood flows from his mouth, and crack his rib cage until he dies, without ever charging him with a crime or providing any sort of due process is intolerable."

OK, THE ACTUAL QUOTE FROM Tom DeLay was, "That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks." The first quote about "barbarism" was a real quote from DeLay, but it was about Schiavo, not America's torture victims overseas. The scene of the suburban church near Houston is my creation, but probably accurately describes parts of the conservative sprawl that surround that city. While the urban center of Houston is ethnically and politically mixed, the suburbs are more powerful, more wealthy and more white. I would describe them as the hub of the American right-wing - more modern than the deep south, fully-embracing of free-market economics, ignorant but powerful, Christian but stubbornly conservative and apocalyptic, pro-death penalty, pro-war, anti-union, hostile toward public transportation, consumerist and pollution-friendly.

Luckily most of DeLay's showboating is backfiring. Sadly, the Democrats aren't taking advantage - and why should they take any risks about matters of principle when they don't seem to have any? Unlike the Democrats, right-wingers have strong convictions and they're willing to fight for them. The glimmer of hope here, is that most Americans seem to be rejecting those convictions. But where will they turn?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

30

If I am ever brain dead with no chance of recovery please do not let Tom De Lay and Jeb Bush keep my body alive (yes, friends and family may print out this weblog entry and hold onto it if the situation ever arises - consider it my living will). My guess is that Tom and Jeb empathize with that Schiavo woman so much, because their own states of being aren't that different from hers.

On a brighter note, the antiwar march in San Francisco yesterday was better and larger than I expected. For one thing, it stopped raining, which helped. But I was also surprised at the turnout because of how confused, abandoned and under attack the antiwar movement has been lately. Confused - a lot of folks I've talked to in the past few weeks seem demoralized and unsure about what can be done to stop the war. Abandoned - there has been talk that Move On has moved on and I certainly didn't see the web banners on Common Dreams and elsewhere announcing the international day of action; also the mainstream media seems to be paying less attention (I didn't think it was possible). Under attack - as always, protesters are accused of being unamerican by the right and foolish by the liberal left.

But on to the brighter note thing. Scanning the news wires this morning, there were actually a lot of protests and a decent amount of news coverage globally. Hundreds of thousands marched in London, and I would estimate that 20,000 marched in San Francisco. There were a lot of smaller protests around the world, e.g., Malaysia. The global coordination, despite the lack of support I mentioned above, still amazes me. I don't think there has been anything like it on this planet before.

The question for me is what can we do with that coordination. The vast majority of people on this planet that hold an opinion on the matter are opposed to the war in Iraq. Even a majority of Americans think it was a mistake and that we should pull out our troops. Despite my wisdom at the age of 30, I don't have the answer. But I'm sure that we should stay in the streets, we should continue to kick military recruiters off school campuses, we should continue to connect with antiwar movements across the globe, and we should exploit the war machine's weaknesses as much as possible. Finally, I think the biggest issue that we must overcome in this country if we want a genuine antiwar, anti-imperialist movement to come alive in the belly of the beast is patriotism (or more accurately, American nationalism). This is one of those unpopular stands that I refuse to back down from - I am an internationalist, not a patriot. How do I convince others that this is o.k.? Again, my vast wisdom holds no clear answers.

Today: I will drive! Not a car I own, but a car I share. City Car Share has made it possible.

One last thing - check out this article on the Syria/Lebanon situation. It really helps put things in perspective.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

NO WE HAVEN'T GIVEN UP



Why have we wasted billions?



How can you call on Syria to end its occupation when the U.S. and Israel continue their own occupations?



What did you do today?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

END ALL OCCUPATIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Subhead: Get Out of Your Blogs and Into the Streets Part II

This Saturday (in some places there may be marches on Sunday) thousands of people will take to the streets all over the world to demand an end to the war in Iraq.

A war that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Bush likes to talk about creating a democracy in Iraq, but he neglects to add that these tens of thousands of women, men and children aren't part of the U.S.-friendly "democracy" he is trying to create in Iraq.

A war that has cost the lives of over 1500 U.S. soldiers. Soldiers who are usually working class, people of color. I'd like to see how long Dick Cheney could last in Iraq. I'd give him half an hour before he sees one brown person with a gun and keels over from a massive coronary.

A war that has sucked away billions of U.S. tax dollars that could be used for schools, health care, social security, public transportation, and more cops on the street. I'm just kidding about the cops, but I thought I'd pretend like I was a liberal Democrat for one second.

Bush says we should end Syria's occupation of Lebanon? I'm down with that. If they are willing to do that, we should be willing to end our occupation of Iraq, and Israel should be willing to end its occupation of Palestine. Of course, neither the U.S. nor Israel is willing to make such a move - deadly hypocrisy isn't questioned by the corporate media these days.

So what are you going to do about this? What am I going to do about this? I won't be blogging that day, I'll be in the streets in San Francisco. I know it's hard to believe that protests can work, but I'd point to the activism in Spain, Venezuela (lately Bolivia) and now Italy to argue that massive protest can work. If it seems to have little effect in the U.S., that just means we need more people and more civil disobedience here. Remember, until Seattle in 1999, the U.S. hadn't seen much protest since the 60's. We managed to stop the Vietnam war then, and we can do something similar today.

I'll see you out on the 19th. You kids in Austin better shut down the Congress Avenue bridge again. Call me when you do.

Monday, March 14, 2005

NEWSOM SIGNING MATT GONZALES SHIRT

Here is a great photo by fellow flickr photographer Kodama. Gavin Newsom is our current mayor. Here he is signing a shirt with Matt Gonzales on it - Gonzales ran against Newsom as a Green candidate. Newsom is not "far-left" as Kodama claimed. I have some serious problems with how he's dealt with homelessness, environmental racism, public transportation, and probably other issues. I'm new to town, so I don't know as much as I'd like. Of course a lot of folks love/hate him because of all the gay couples he married last year.

Still I say: MATT GONZALES FOR GOVERNOR!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

SALT OF THE EARTH

Ya, I've been watching more movies than usual these days (DVD's actually, I haven't been to the theatre since I saw The Village). I own a copy of Salt of the Earth now and just watched it. I think I saw it twice before - both times as an undergrad. Once in a class, and possibly once at a viewing by an activist group. The ISO?

Anyway, my favorite placard in the movie reads, "Less Talk. More Money." Maybe there was an exclamation point on it, I can't recall.

My favorite line in the movie is when Esperanza is arguing with her husband Ramon, and she calls him on his attitude. He isn't giving up, he says, but he doesn't think they can win. Then Esperanza says: "So you want to go down fighting? Well, I don't want to go down fighting. I want to win!"

That one deserves an exclamation point.
MYSTERY WALL



Click here to see more of my pix at flickr.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

MY DREAM BIKE

I don't mean to be such a capitalist consumer - I try to resist it, but occasionally a product comes along that is actually a piece of art. In part because of my frustration with public transportation, but also because it's a hot scooter, this is what I want for my birthday: Vespa PX150 Serie America. It'll make your browser vibrate!
RAMADI MADNESS: HOW CHILDREN CAN BECOME TOOLS OF FASCISM

The American Civil Liberties Union has been kicking ass with their Freedom of Information Act request for information regarding torture and other matters (the information they've received so far has now led to a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld). See this earlier post for some of what they uncovered last month. The latest news is that they've uncovered a video of U.S. soldiers playing with an Iraqi corpse, cuddling a kitten, and kicking a handcuffed Iraqi in the head. What is strange is that the Army's own investigation of the video - also released - speaks of an Iraqi being hit in the head by the butt of a rifle while being interrogated, but the copy of the video obtained by the Palm Beach Post apparently shows nothing like this. Perhaps they have a highly-edited version.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

OCEAN BEACH, MUNI, AND MOVIES

Today marked the first time in more than 6 months that I've been running outside with my shirt off. I took the #23 west toward Ocean Beach (the name says it all). The bus takes about 10 minutes to get to the Pacific Ocean, right near the San Francisco Zoo. Then I took off running north toward Golden Gate Park and the Cliff House. From what I can tell, I ran about 4 miles.

I used to run in Austin around Town Lake, and this was the closest to that experience. Better in a lot of ways - waves, lot's going on besides running, biking, and walking, beautiful cliffs and it's on the beach. I didn't take a camera (and, in fact, my new digital camera is broken for the second time in 2 months of ownership), but I've provided someone else's picture below to show, roughly, where I was ...



The sand was sparkly, like it was full of cubic zirconia or broken glass; and a mix of brown and black - in some areas it looked similar to pencil lead. It was also steamy. I think the cold water was mixing with the sand that was absorbing the sunshine and warmth, and that created a mist over much of the beach.

People on the beach were sitting in lawn chairs, playing football, tossing frisbees, flying kites, digging in the sand, and of course there were a few other folks like me running. There weren't as many people surfing as last time I visited the same beach, but that's probably because the waves were choppy and not that high - kind of like a good day on Padre Island. Anyway, it was easy to catch the bus back to my house, and I'll probably start doing this a lot more.

It's rare for me to be so content with the San Francisco public transportation or MUNI.

Lately I've had to fight my rage about that public service. The buses are often late, or don't even show up. The vehicles, themselves, are often old and break down (the exception is the light rail trains, which run great). MUNI officials have recently announced they are raising rates and cutting services. This blows my mind since service already sucks for a progressive city known for public transportation. I think about this a lot when I'm waiting for a bus that's already half an hour late.

I spoke to a bus driver the other night and we tried to figure out why MUNI was having financial problems. We both came to the conclusion that it was because management was raking in our fares and taxes to fatten their wallets, while cutting services and still overworking their drivers.

So, maybe I'll try to do something - other than complain to anyone who will listen - about the buses. Geez, I sound like an old man. Do old men go running shirtless on the beach or go dancing to 80's music on a Thursday night?

I went to a place called the Cat Club this Thursday with Chadwick - it was a little like Elysium of my old Austin days, but there were two dance floors and fewer people wearing black trench coats.

This weekend I didn't go out much, but I did rent Control Room and Garden State. I thought Control Room was really interesting, but certainly not "RIVETING" as David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor apparently wrote. It did make me cry a couple of times, but lately I've been chemically all over the place - I cry when I listen to Talib Kweli's "Black Girl Pain" on my iPod on the way to work - it's really embarassing. Garden State was a sweet love story, and I suppose it was about other stuff, but although I laughed out loud a number of times, I was mostly bored with it. Zach Braff is pretty cute - but pick any movie with 20-somethings and Indy music and the guys will usually be attractive in a boyish, white male sort of way. I don't think I'll watch either movie again.

Unlike these two movies, I also watched Blade Runner (which I own) for something like the 30th time this weekend. What an incredible movie - the director's cut of course. The best visual scene is when Deckard takes a drink (Vodka?) at his place after an intense fight with one of the male replicants out in the streets of a futuristic Los Angeles (I actually think it is set around 2016). He takes a drink and you see some blood flow into the clear liquid from his mouth. I also like the scene where the stripper replicant gets shot and runs through all those glass windows.

So what are you up to?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

IN MEMORY OF SHAKA SANKOFA a.k.a. Gary Graham

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that executing those who committed their crimes before they were 18 is unconstitutional. The decision comes too late for many juvenile offenders killed by the State of Texas in the past few years.