Sunday, March 13, 2016

God is watching: Dogs and ponies don’t make the cut in SF

For the past couple of weeks, Washington in its great wisdom sent a DOJ subsidiary which calls itself COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) to stage a series of three town halls designed to pour oil on San Francisco’s tense racial waters. By its own admission the COPS is a recommending body, a body without teeth. “Experts” all, it takes this body 18 months to cobble together their assessment at taxpayer expense. They make recommendations and release their findings 18 months later. I attended one of these sessions, last Monday, March 7, 2016.

Eighteen months is a long time. How many more black and brown people will be gunned down by the gangs of rogue cops on the blood stained streets of San Francisco in that time? At the present rate of blood sacrifice we can expect that up to 28 mothers may lose their sons.

The “town hall” strategy has been used by the SFPD over many years. As a general rule, such a panel or commission consists of white people pulling down middle class salaries. In my limited experience, the approach of these commissions or panels is utterly to ignore the high level of rage and mourning for loved ones present at any such hearing. Perhaps the rationale is that by ignoring such  feelings they will automatically dissipate. The reaction, however, is that far from dissipating them, it serves to intensify them, for two reasons: people feel their intelligence is being insulted, and people feel their grieving is being discounted.

Here’s what the 3/7/16 town hall was like: The spokesperson in charge mounted the Mission H.S. podium at 6:00 PM. Reading from a prepared script, making ample use of words like “partnership,” “ community policing,” “approved practices,” she spread great puddles of platitudes like warm mustard plaster over a thinly scattered audience while their eyes glazed, and restless stirrings were audible. The mic was turned over to another speaker who addressed more specific San Francisco-related issues, underscoring that “we are here to ‘listen.’ Taken in toto, these rhetorical exercises lasted 15 minutes of the allocated 2 hour time slot.

Next a huckster dripping sincerity and snake oil, took over. He asked the audience to yell out answers to specific questions: what was the issue people most wanted to talk about.

“Murder.” “Fire Chief Suhr.” “Justice for Mario Woods.” The roar reached such a pitch trying to isolate any of these shouts became impossible.

Another such exercise followed, with people all screaming at once to answers elicited from a set of questions illegible on the projected power point—even from the first row. It struck me these exercises had all the subtlety of tossing slabs of meat to safely caged lions. Indeed the COPS had come to listen, but listen to what? Was this a technique borrowed from group therapy sessions designed to encourage people to vent, and doing so, defuse the rage already evident in the room?

Next, speakers were enjoined to line up in both right and left aisles with mic stands provided for the purpose.  Each speaker was given a generous five minutes (as opposed to the last town hall which restricted people to three). Some 40 people spoke

“Who in DC  sent you here?” one speaker wanted to know. It was the only question pointed at this collection of carpet baggers, some of whom located themselves in distant areas of the auditorium. “Why are you here? Why are we talking to the B team when we need the A team to come out here?” And as might be expected, he received no straight answer. “We want Chief Suhr fired, we want rogue cops jailed for murder. We want Loretta Lynch out here to conduct an investigation.”

“Why is Chief Suhr here? He’s here at the behest of Mayor Lee to clear low-income neighborhoods for developers to come in and make this city unaffordable for anyone other than folks making 6 figures.”

I learned a lot from listening to the speaker array. Chief Suhr (pronounced sir, as in yessir!)has been charged for conspiring to obstruct an investigation into police violence in 2013; and demoted twice, once for mishandling a G-8 protest. and once for failing to file a report of an episode of domestic violence involving a friend.

The population of black people living in the city is down to 3% (from 10% in the days when the Fillmore had not yet undergone “urban renewal”) and that proportion of 3% makes up 40% of all of San Francisco arrests. Does that single statistic require a rocket scientist to parse??

I learned to what degree the SF Police has become a terrorist body, protecting their own, clouded in a code of silence, promoting the terrorist darlings of the chief, who himself climbed out of the recruitment ooze, appointed by terrorists before him. I learned about the pipeline from catholic school that guarantees 90K jobs to rookies fit for nothing but the football field, and the mean streets of SF. All these years, white people have been congratulating ourselves that we live in the most progressive area of the country, but the SFPD is so corrupt, it could do Mississippi proud.

Washington is scared. It knows the facts. And after the exoneration yesterday of the four rogue cops who drilled Alex Nieto’s body with 59 bullets, claiming he was threatening them with a taser, it should be scared. Because Alex Nieto’s wrist bone was found by the coroner to be IN HIS POCKET. Washington knows that people can be pushed only so far. And when they’re pushed to the brink, it becomes necessary to provide them with the illusion that the sensitively named COPS is there to listen.

And what will we do about it? Next time DC sends out their defusing team, several strategies involving changing the space are possible. 1) Take over the stage. En masse.  Encourage the shamsters to sit in the audience and listen. Then, moderate ourselves so as not all to talk at once. One of the ways to do that is to agree to structuring the meeting as a spokescouncil. 2) Walk out. DO NOT PARTICIPATE. Better theater is to be had out in the streets, away from dog and pony shows. In the streets, what you see is what you get.

Over late dinner last Monday night, through the plate glass windows giving on Valencia Street in the Mission District’s heart, I watched some 23 luxury, double decker buses roll by, their tinted windows glowing with eerie blue lights, ferrying the techies home to their luxury SF condos from Silicon Valley’s 12-hour days, safely insulated from having to see people being assassinated in San Francisco’s blood-stained streets, oblivious that the high rent they’re able to pay is driving out San Francisco’s working class.

Back in the East Bay, I hail a cab home. “Been to the theater?” my Somali cabbie asks me.  “Yes,” I tell him, “but not the usual kind.” I give him details. “Assassination,” he says. “Genocide. But God is watching,” he assures me.

In Somalia they still call a  spade a spade.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Scheduled appearances

March 8 at 3:30 PM. International Women’s Day. Omega Salvage, 2403 San Pablo between Channing & Dwight in Berkeley.
I will be sharing reflections about women’s role “saving the world.” connected with Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World.

April 5 at 7 PM. City of Berkeley Temporary Council Chambers, 1222 University Ave. . The City of Berkeley will honor Cecile Pineda for a life-time achievement as a literary artist.

April 7 at 3:30 PM Doubletree Hilton, Denver Colorado: NACCs panel
Colonialism, Environmental Justice, Land Politics within Chicana/o Studies discusses Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World.
Rescheduled -  Ethnic Studies Library, 30 Stephens Hall,  UC Berkeley – schedule now tentative until UC Labor dispute is resolved.

MARCH 8 IS DESIGNATED THIS YEAR for us to celebrate Internal Women’s Day by the folks who do the designating. I hope they’re women, but given the neocon state of things, everything these days is up for grabs.

Omega Savage at 2403 San Pablo Between Channing and Dwight in Berkeley is putting on a day-long extravaganza—weather permitting!—this next Tuesday, March 8.

Here’s the line up:

3:30-4:30 Cecile Pineda/ Author (and feminist, I  might add)
4:30-5:00 Rybree/ Musician
5:00-5:45 Toby Blome'/ Code Pink Sisters/activist
5:45-6:15 Hali Hammer/ Musician/Activist
6:30-8:30 Alice Pennes / Art Project
6:15-6:45 Barbara Lubin/Mecca for Peace 
6:45-7:30 Andrea Pritchett/Musician/Activist
7:30-8:00 Gussie & Grits/Musician
8:30 ish Shirley Smallwood (during break for Dirty Cello)         /Musician/Storyteller
8:00-9:00 Dirty Cello/Musician

I’d venture to guess that most of the women listed above would not only describe themselves as feminists, but I know most of them to be activists as well. Trouble-makers. Trumpeniks, (no relation) as we say in Williamsburg.

Someone is probably gonna push me on stage at 3:30 (weather permitting) so I got to thinking I ought to give what I say  some thought.

In his tragimentary, Michael Moore, a rabid feminist, interviews Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Iceland’s first woman president (1980-1996). It’s conceivable she speaks with some authority when she says: “Women are going to save the world—if the world can be saved.”

Everybody who is anybody, and almost everybody who is a woman, knows that already. There’s lots of speculation about why that is, things like it comes with lactation, parturition, or caregiving. etc. etc.  You don’t have to lactate to be a woman, and you don’t have to care about the planet (necessarily) if you know how to lactate.

Based on my review of articles published and filed by me over the past 5 years women’s activism saving the world, falls into four main areas: agriculture, women’s health, economics, peace and peace advocacy. I reviewed work being done by women world-wide and in the United States. World-wide emphasis stresses such environmental issues as soils, water, seeds, land reclamation, and disaster relief. In the Untied States, emphasis is on reform of law enforcement, and on women’s health issues. Peace-making, and de-militarization are well represented both in the U.S. and world-wide.

World-wide, 80% of the world’s agriculture is done by women. Millions of women care about soil, and the health of soil; they care about the quality of water. They care about seeds. “Saving seeds is the heart of peasant culture,” to quote an article published by Popular Resistance, Nov. 7, 2015. They care about cultural preservation. This is true of indigenous people’s movements such as Idle-No-More, and including such seed-saving groups as We Are the Solution, based in Senegal, with related groups in
Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mali; and Sarayaku, a Kichwa tribe village in Ecuador, whose woman-led movement sued the Ecuadorian Government in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to stop military and corporations from clearing their land for oil development. They care about the forest, the Amazon to be specific, because without healthy forests, there can be no healthy soil—or healthy air for that matter.

Leading figures in such movements are Vandana Shiva, who strongly advocates against monocultures and whose foundation, Navdanya,  works to save seeds; and the late Wangari Maahtai, whose Green Belt Movement planted over a million trees in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

In the United States, attention is now focused on a case to be heard on the SCOTUS’ upcoming calendar. It has attracted intensive notice because it promises to have as wide-reaching consequences as Roe vs. Wade. It even scores a hashtag : #stopthesham. The American war against women is being waged on the health care front , the incarceration front and the economic front. Women in the U.S. are the fastest growing incarcerated population. Battles are being waged in such notorious prisons and detention centers as Hutto Detention Facility in Texas, (which facilitates deportation of abused women seeking political asylum) and Florida’s Lowell Correction Institution , which prostitutes women prisoners. More women-centered advocacy is needed on behalf of incarcerated women and their families. Skirmishes are being fought on the legal front, in a number of states where anti-choice policies lead to widespread arrest and forced intervention of pregnant women; and against abortion providers. One in 4 U.S. women can’t afford abortion, and 97% of rural counties have no  abortion provider. Women-led organizations such as Planned Parenthood and support networks for women released from incarceration are fighting defensive actions.

On the economic front, 24% of women world-wide earn less than men for the same work; two thirds (2/3) of American women make under $10,000 yearly, and the tax structure, and neocon-inspired austerity cuts impact women and their children disproportionately. Despite the work of prominent women economists, such as Marilyn Waring, women’s domestic work has yet to be counted in most nations’ GNP.

Peacemaking and de-militarization activism seems to be well represented by women in the United States and world-wide. Of issues affecting women, such representation seems to me to be the most balanced. In the United States, such women-led organizations as Code Pink, Mecca for Peace, Madre, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom (which has just celebrated 100 years) are working for nuclear and weapons of mass destruction abolition, and for diplomacy over warfare.

As a general rule, women-led organizations have very little overhead. Let’s pause a moment to imagine just why that is!  But we have room to grow. Today, March 8, 2016, Friends of the Earth published a list of nine amazing women who have defended the environment, including the recently assassinated Honduran activist, Berta Caceres. Thousasnds of Hondurans came from afar, some taking 10-hour bus rides, to protest her murder. "Berta is not dead," they chanted. "She has multiplied." We must also bear in mind that a woman now running for president of the United States, made the overthrow of the legitimately elected Zelaya government possible during her stint as Secretary of State. Honduras now has more murders per capita than any other country in Central and South America.  None of these remarkable women acted alone. Individuals can do little without recognizing that change can be effected only when women organize. We still have a way to go if we are going to save life on this magnificent blue-green planet.