Category Archives: Community

Trump’s fear of protests alters his U.K. trip


If there’s anything Trump hates more than leaks [see previous post], it’s protesters, a dislike shared by those Republican state legislators who have been sponsoring draconian anti-protest laws.

And his loathing of seeing people loathing him has resulted in a change of plans for his trip to Old Blighty.

From MercoPress:

Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK is to be delayed until October and will take place mostly in Scotland, according to reports. The Daily Mail has reported that planners want to shift much of the US president’s trip – originally penciled in for the first week in June – to the Queen’s residence at Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, in a bid to deter protesters.The president could spend as little as one day in London before heading to Scotland.

A senior Whitehall source told the paper: “The Americans have asked to push it back. “They don’t want what will be one of his first big foreign trips to be overshadowed.”

Mr Trump’s mother, Mary, was born in Stornoway on the isle of Lewis. There is also speculation that Mr Trump may wish to visit the area during his stay. He has substantial business interests in Scotland, including the Trump International Golf Course in Aberdeenshire.

However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those calling for his state visit to be cancelled in retaliation for his “deeply wrong” travel ban.

The reported delay also means that Parliament will be in recess, making it impossible for MPs to “snub” the President by refusing him the honor of making an address.

Homeless in one of California’s richest cities


We started reporting in California back in 1967, just as hippies started flocking to California’s sunshine in hopes of, well, who knows what?

Many of them arrived in old Volkswagen vans and battered panel trucks, mobile homes for those with little money but high on hope [and a lot of other stuff, too].

We had moved to Oceanside, working for the late, lamented Blade-Tribune.

Every newsroom back then had police scanners, tuned to the frequencies of local police,m sheriff’s, and state law enforcement agencies, so we kept our ears attuned to code numbers for significant crimes as well as the occasional cop-to-cop banter.

We also had to learn another kind of code, the peculiar terms used by local cops to describe people, things, and activities. [One such term we learned a couple of jobs earlier was sail cat.]

In Oceanside, we started hearing a new term, creepy-crawler.

Which I soon learned meant hippie.

When parking becomes a matter class politics

Oceanside was booming, thanks to the Vietnam War, because the engine of the town’s economy was the adjacent Camp Pendleton, a veritable factory for turning out well-trained Marines to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

You saw the occasional pickup truck with a camper or a trailer, even cars like the Nash Ambassador with a front seat that dropped back level with the back seat to form a very comfortable bed, as we know from personal experience.

Until the creepy-crawlers came, the occupants of those vehicles had either been tourists or folks visiting Marines at the base, people who in any case looked like everybody else and contributed to the local economy by spending on meals and other things.

Creepy-crawlers, on the other hand sucked money out, what with their panhandling and all — or so the reasoning went.

But even worse, they freaked out the straights and scared people off, what with their long hair, unshaven skin and those weird clothes, the beads, and all that pot and other weird shit they were taking.

Not exactly what you wanted in a town where to official motto was Tan Your Hide in Oceanside.

Like many other cities up and down the coast, California began enforcing new or rarely used parking ordinances, aimed at hippies while simultaneously also banning those who had once been tolerated, thanks to all those pesky civil liberties lawyers who were fighting against selective enforcement.

In other words, the unwillingly unemployed and the working classes were also victimized along with the creepy-crawlers.

Hippies are, for the most part, long gone, but the poor remain, today’s victims of laws drawn up in a different era.

How a Santa Barbara tackles the problem

A few years after we worked in Oceanside, we took an interim job in Los Angeles, where we I handled printing jobs for an NGO. We met a graphics designed who lived in Santa Barbara, a town to the north I’d only passed through on the Pacific Coast Highway.

What’s it like? I asked.

You know what they say about Santa Barbara, don’t you? she replied.

Allowing as how I didn’t, she responded: It’s the home of the very rich and the very poor, the newly wed and nearly dead.

Just as Oceanside was middle class, Santa Barbara was home of some of California’s richest, and remains so today. And in very few places do the rich exercise their control so openly, with the shameless assistance of the local newspaper.

And in Santa Barbara, laws against folks sleeping in their vehicles are strictly enforced.

From BillMoyers.com:

Homeless in the Shadow of Santa Barbara’s Mansions

From the accompanying report:

Twelve years ago, the Safe Parking program, run by the nonprofit New Beginnings Counseling Center, began offering a provisional solution. Its program places those sleeping in their vehicles into 20 private parking lots scattered around the city and provides bathroom facilities and some security. The parking lots are available only overnight and the cars must move by early morning. The group estimates they take 125 vehicles off the street every night and help more than 750 people a year.

The stories that Safe Parking’s clients tell me often involve a catastrophic financial loss precipitated by unemployment, domestic violence, injury or illness and the resulting medical bills. Most are working, although they have often lost secure, decently paid jobs and now struggle to make ends meet with multiple part-time jobs. A growing number of those forced to live out of their cars are families. All have been priced out of a brutal housing market.

Rents in Santa Barbara have skyrocketed in recent years — 20 percent in the last year alone — with one-bedrooms priced at $1,500 or sometimes significantly higher. The simple calculus of supply and demand is partly to blame. With a vacancy rate below 0.5 percent, a crisis figure, the housing market is at the mercy of landlords. Nor are there enough subsidized units to make up the shortfall for low-income renters — or plans to build sufficient numbers of new ones to meet the need, advocates say. “Santa Barbara’s housing market is broken and has been,” explains Chuck Flacks, executive director of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness.

State Republicans ramp up new anti-protest laws


If there’s one thing Republicans hate, it’s protests.

Unless, of course, they’re run by Republicans, as in the case of that infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that disrupted the Florida recount in the 2000 Bush/Gore race a protest organized by Trump lawyer/adviser Roger Stone and using paid protesters.

Because of the Dakota Access Pipeline occupation and the massive anti-Trump protests of recent months, Republican-controlled state legislatures are bust enacting all manner of laws criminalizing protests, even to the point of classifying them as organized crime.

TeleSUR English reports on the of the worst pieces of legislation:

1. Arizona

Arizona lawmakers have approved a bill that could make people who organize or take part in protests that turn violent subject to the same criminal charges used to fight organized crime. The bill also seeks to seize protesters’ assets.

Republicans, who pushed for the bill, say it will help curb the kind of protests that have erupted nationwide over the past few years by penalizing those they term “paid” and “professional” demonstrators, a notion they share with President Trump.

Opponents of the Arizona bill say it is unconstitutional and will serve to harm Arizona’s reputation nationally.

“This bill only serves to chill people’s rights to free speech by allowing one bad actor to turn peaceful demonstration organizers into racketeering felons,” state Senator Martin Quezada, Senate Democratic Whip, said last week.

2. Indiana

Republican lawmakers in the state of Indiana introduced a bill in January that initially required police to clear, by “any means necessary,” protesters from blocked roads and highways within 15 minutes.

The bill was changed last week, removing the phrase by “any means necessary” and instead granting police the power to fine protesters for blocking the roads. The Republican lawmaker behind the bill said it was designed to “limit traffic obstructions.”

3. Minnesota

Republicans in Minnesota have introduced two separate anti-protest bills. One seeks to grant cities the power to sue protesters in order to charge them for the cost of policing demonstrations. The second bill could see protesters fined for blocking streets and highways.

4. South Dakota

As they anticipate renewed protests over both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, Republican lawmakers are introducing a bill that would expand the governor’s emergency response authority to “destructive” protests, create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways.

If passed, the law would expire in 2020.

5. Tennessee

In order to counter peaceful protesters in the state, Republicans are introducing a bill that would protect drivers from liability if they hit protesters and injure them in streets and highways as long as the hit is not intentional.

How killing the NEA threatens America’s museums


Robert B. Ekelund, Eminent Scholar and Professor of Economics Emeritus at Auburn University, is both a classically trained pianist as well as a passionate collector of art.

He’s also a world-renowned economist.

In an analysis for The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English, Ekelund tackles an item up for the chop in Donald Trump’s first budget, abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts [NEA].

The NEA is one of three cultural institutions proposed for elimination, the others being the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

While Trump says he wants to build up infrastructure, the only improvements he wants are those related to commerce, including the roads, tunnels, and bridges we used to commute to and from those corporate jobs.

So what does it all mean for folks like us?

From The Conversation:

Some politicians have never made a secret of their desire to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as its companion agency the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Each of these agencies have traditionally been regarded as bastions of “liberalism,” making them prime targets for conservatives in the culture wars.

While I would dispute that characterization, opponents’ ostensible reason for killing off the NEA in particular is equally flimsy: cost savings. Costing taxpayers US$148 million in fiscal year 2016, the NEA made up a minuscule fraction of the $3.9 trillion the U.S. government spent. (If you add in the other two agencies on the chopping block, the total was still just $741 million.)

At the same time, NEA opponents tell those who worry their local communities will see arts funding dry up, don’t worry, private sources will emerge to make up for the difference. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s because it’s the government funding itself that often drives the donations in the first place by energizing private philanthropy. And since privatization of arts funding is one of the supposed reasons for killing off the NEA, the argument begins to fall apart.

If we focus on the allocations to museums in particular, my particular focus, the proposed cuts could lead to a reduced financial health of all museums, especially smaller museums in the middle of the country.

blog-nea

Where the money goes

The NEA’s budget of $148 million is divided up among 19 different categories, including arts education, dance, music and opera. (The NEH gets a similar allocation of $148 million, while the CPB – which funds National Public Radio and PBS – gets $445 million.)

The loss of funds to each arts category would be unfortunate, but I would argue the museum funding cuts would be especially damaging. A closer look at the impact on museums is also illustrative of the deleterious effect of eliminating the NEA for American arts more generally, which generated $704 billion in economic activity in 2013. Another study showed that each dollar of investment in nonprofit cultural institutions creates $1.20 to $1.90 in per capita income.

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A Muslim girl fights for her individuality


And we mean fight literally.

A wonderful documentary from Jayisha Patel of Australia’s SBS Dateline, a look at Fareeha, a remarkable young Indian women skilled in a very untraditional martial art struggling to make her way to the national championships.

It’s a story about a person from Hyderabad whose dream is to become a police officer so that she can protect young girls in a nation riven by religious and sexual violence.

Her struggle reveals tensions universal in modern life, created when cultural norms created in an era of slow travel and limited technology were evolved at a time when organized religion dominated all aspects of civic and familial life.

While the West dubs the struggle triggered by America’s armed imperialism Islamist, what has happened in the U.S. and Europe might be called a Christianist insurgence. While authoritarianism in the Mideast and North Africa is fueled by an authoritarian interpretation of the Koran and sayings attributed to the Prophet, while the authoritarianism of the West is inspired by an authoritarian interpretation of the Bible, relaying heavily on particularist selection of passages from practices proscribed by Torah and a vision of the imminent future taken from Revelation.

The cultural norms   struggles against are not so different than the gender-based laws many Republicans dream of enacting.

And when you look at how the Christianists really want to control women and their roles, is it really that different from what the Islamists want?

In that context, enjoy a remarkable, true story about a triumphal struggle.

From SBS Dateline:

India’s Wushu Warrior

Program notes:

What happens when cultural tradition clashes with a young person’s dream? Dateline meets a Muslim girl whose passion for martial arts is raising difficult questions for her family.

Intolerance II: A censored potent white racism talk


You would think the University wouldn’t censor a talk by Tim Wise, an outspoken, articulate, well-informed critique of white racism and its deep cultural and institutional roots in American culture.

On 25 January, the University of California–Santa Barbara Multicultural Center hosted An Evening with Tim Wise, A White Anti-racist Advocate.

It’s a powerfully informative talk, a rant [in the best sense of the term] revealing the Trump campaign’s skillful use of racism to mobilize his voters.

And in making his points, Wise employs the occasional shit, a fuck or two, and what we suspect is one instance of asshole.

The words are used in the best rhetorical tradition, as potent emphases.

But where the words were only a brief silence remains in the version posted online by University of California Television today [24 February].

How stupid.

But that hypocritically ironic flaw aside, do watch a very memorable talk.

From University of California Television:

An Evening with Tim Wise: A White Anti-Racist Advocate

Program notes:

Author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise speaks about the importance of being a white ally to communities of color, and how we can all work together to create a healthier community on campuses and in the world beyond. Wise spoke as part of UCSB’s Resilient Love in a Time of Hate series.

Map of the day: America’s fast-vanishing forests


Loss of Forest Coverage [upper maps] and Changes in Average Distance from Nearest Forest [lower maps], 1991-2000  From Forest dynamics in the U.S. indicate disproportionate attrition in western forests, rural areas and public lands, a new study published in PLOS One [open access], maps indicate tghe decline in forest area [a] and percentage of change [b] and the average distance of an individual from the nearest forest [c] and the change in distance over the decade [d].

Loss of Forest Coverage [upper maps] and Changes in Average Distance from Nearest Forest [lower maps], 1991-2000
From Forest dynamics in the U.S. indicate disproportionate attrition in western forests, rural areas and public lands, a new study published in PLOS One [open access], maps indicate the decline in forest area [a] and percentage of change [b] and the average distance of an individual from the nearest forest [c] and the change in distance over the decade [d]. Click on the image to enlarge.

Forests in the United States are dying, whether at the hands of loggers, ranchers, or real estate developers, or, as in the cases of Colorado, Oregon, and California, from disease and drought.

Loss of habitat poses a major environmental threat to countless species, but loss of the nation’s forest has another impact as well.

It further isolates us from an environment that provides us with both recreation and a source of renewal and reflection.

And with the Trump administration already implementing policies top open up yet more of the nation’s forests and other public lands to commercial exploitation, things can only get worse.

New study reveals extent of a one-decade loss

Scientists looked a forest losses over the last decade of the 20th Century, and their findings are very worrisome, especially in light of what the next four years may bring.

From the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Americans are spending their lives farther from forests than they did at the end of the 20th century and, contrary to popular wisdom, the change is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban settings.

A study published today [open access] in the journal PLOS ONE says that between 1990 and 2000, the average distance from any point in the United States to the nearest forest increased by 14 percent – or about a third of a mile. And while the distance isn’t insurmountable for humans in search of a nature fix, it can present challenges for wildlife and have broad effects on ecosystems.

Dr. Giorgos Mountrakis, an associate professor in the ESF Department of Environmental Resources, and co-author of the study, called the results “eye opening.”

“Our study analyzed geographic distribution of forest losses across the continental U.S. While we focused on forests, the implications of our results go beyond forestry,” Mountrakis said.

The study overturned conventional wisdom about forest loss, the researcher noted. The amount of forest attrition – the complete removal of forest patches – is considerably higher in rural areas and in public lands. “The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable,” said Mountrakis, “but that’s not what our study showed. Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches.

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