‘Asthma alley’: why minorities bear burden of pollution inequity caused by white people

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The population in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the South Bronx is 97% Hispanic or black. A study found that blacks are exposed to about 56% more pollution than is caused by their consumption, and Hispanics 63% more.
The population in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the South Bronx is 97% Hispanic or black. A study found that blacks are exposed to about 56% more pollution than is caused by their consumption, and Hispanics 63% more. Photograph: Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Mott Haven in the South Bronx is a classic example where black and Hispanic residents experience a particularly insidious ‘environmental inequality’

Hazar Kilani in the Bronx, New York Thu 4 Apr 2019 (TheGuardian.com)

Daniel Chervoni looked out at the busy street from the small community park he tends as a gardener in the South Bronx and clenched his fist as another Fresh Direct diesel truck roared by, spewing exhaust as it took a popular short-cut through the neighborhood.

“They are the reason for our pain, this is why the lungs of Mott Haven’s residents are suffering,” he said.

The park is a little patch of green squeezed between dense housing and a school in the low-income New York City neighborhood of Mott Haven, sometimes nicknamed “Asthma Alley” because it has some of the worst air pollution levels in the US.Advertisement

Residents inhale the emissions of the hundreds of daily trucks going in and out of the nearby Fresh Direct warehouse, and exhaust emitted by constant traffic on the four nearby highways, as well as from the printing presses of the Wall Street Journal, a parcel depot and sewage works not far away.

They need asthma hospitalizations at five times the national average and at rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods.

And while they’re physically closer to such sources of air pollution than most New Yorkers, they use Fresh Direct and read the Wall Street Journal at a lower rate, and generate a minuscule fraction of the vehicles humming along the adjacent expressways.

This all makes Mott Haven, where 97% of the population is Hispanic or black, a classic example of a place caught in a particularly insidious “pollution inequity”.

new study not only describes this as a kind of double bind – where an excessive burden is placed on the health of such a population by air pollution that’s disproportionately generated by white people’s consumption of goods and services – but it measures it.

“Racial–ethnic disparities in pollution exposure and in consumption of goods and services in the US are well documented. Some may find it intuitive that, on average, black and Hispanic minorities bear a disproportionate burden from the air pollution caused mainly by non-Hispanic whites – but this effect has not previously been directly established, let alone quantified,” the report from the National Academy of Sciences stated.

Daniel Chervoni in the community garden he tends in South Bronx.
Daniel Chervoni in the community garden he tends in South Bronx. Photograph: Hazar Kilani/THE GUARDIAN

Christopher Tessum, the lead author of the report, pointed out that, unfortunately, many would not be surprised by the findings.

“What our research did was reinforce what communities of color have been claiming for years,” he said.

The study found that black Americans are exposed to about 56% more pollution than is caused by their consumption, and Hispanics 63% more. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites breathe about 17% less air pollution than they cause, earning a “pollution advantage”.

Bronx activist-turned-lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral last month when she told Congress that the Green New Deal, which aims to tackle economic and racial inequality while also fighting climate change (to which road traffic is a contributor) “is not an elitist issue. This is a quality of life issue. You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx [who are] suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country.”

Among the many sources of air pollution in Mott Haven, Fresh Direct trucks are easy to spot.

Some saw the opening of the online grocer’s new facility last summer as a win-win for the borough, with the prospect of 1,000-plus local jobs and, the company said, easier access to fresh food. But local environmental justice organization South Bronx Unite had warned for years of the effect of 1,000 FreshDirect daily truck trips.

Critics say few of the trucks are delivering groceries in Mott Haven, most serve the more affluent Manhattan and Brooklyn. “We always see these trucks leaving the neighborhood. I’ve almost never seen one stop here to deliver to a house,” Mychal Johnson, an activist with South Bronx Unite said.

Fresh Direct did not respond to requests to comment.

Of 25 individuals walking on local shopping street Brook Avenue who spoke to the Guardian, nine said they suffered from asthma, and 13 said they knew someone who has it.

Chervoni has lived with asthma all his 62 years, most of them in Mott Haven, and said he feels the condition more with the worsening pollution. “This angers me so much. The food I consume in my mouth is my business and I have control of that, but when it’s the air, I cannot control it,” he said. The community created the park he tends so the trees could offset the foul air somewhat.

Some see the upside. “Many of my friends work in the factory and live on the money they earn. To me, the good outcomes of the Fresh Direct campus cancel out the bad,” said local resident Jose Pardo.

Johnson of South Bronx Unite disagrees.

“Why should any human ever be forced to make a choice between air and a low-wage job?” he said.

“Showing research hopefully will drive some solutions. It’s not enough for them that so many kids have asthma. If it was white kids … they wouldn’t have even put the [industrial] plants there,” said Johnson.

More traffic passed by.

“The hospitals put a bandaid on your asthma by giving you an inhaler. We should be fixing the root cause of this problem – the environmental inequality,” he said.

On Twain’s birthday, remembering the writer’s anti-imperialism

On Twain’s birthday, remembering the writer’s anti-imperialism

“I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

By BRUCE MIRKEN NOVEMBER 30, 2021 (48hills.org)

Pop quiz: Which famous American writer said the following?: “I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

If you went with Gore Vidal or Noam Chomsky or W.E.B. Du Bois—well, good guesses. But the actual speaker was the guy who wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. 

As is our standard hero treatment, the USA has turned Twain into a much warmer and cuddlier figure than he was in real life. We think of him as a humorist, a spinner of yarns about jumping frogs, and a teller of adventurous and moral tales of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, princes, and paupers. And he was those things—at times. 

But in celebration of his birthday on November 30, I prefer to remember the Twain we’ve done our best to forget—the Twain who made our country uncomfortable, calling out US and European violence and aggression overseas. Anti-imperialist Twain could still be humorous, but this humor drew blood. 

Sometimes, he dropped the humor entirely. Of Belgium’s King Leopold—who, by the early 1900s, had essentially turned what was then known as the Belgian Congo into the world’s largest slave-labor camp—Twain wrote, “In fourteen years Leopold has deliberately destroyed more lives than have suffered death on all the battlefields of this planet for the past thousand years … It is curious that the most advanced and most enlightened century of all the centuries the sun has looked upon should have the ghastly distinction of having produced this moldy and piety-mouthing hypocrite, this bloody monster whose mate is not findable in human history anywhere, and whose personality will surely shame hell itself when he arrives there—which will be soon, let us hope and trust.”

In 1905, Twain published “King Leopold’s Soliloquy,” in which he assumed the voice of the Belgian king, railing against his critics and wrapping his brutality in protestations of Christian faith. Twain’s Leopold speaks of his desire to “lift up those twenty-five millions of gentle and harmless blacks out of darkness into light, the light of our blessed Redeemer.” But then the pretense starts to drop as he rages at those who dared criticize him:

“They tell how I levy incredibly burdensome taxes upon the natives—taxes which are a pure theft; taxes which they must satisfy by gathering rubber under hard and constantly harder conditions, and by raising and furnishing food supplies gratis—and it all comes out that, when they fall short of their tasks through hunger, sickness, despair, and ceaseless and exhausting labor without rest, and forsake their homes and flee to the woods to escape punishment, my black soldiers, drawn from unfriendly tribes, and instigated and directed by my Belgians, hunt them down and butcher them and burn their villages—reserving some of the girls … But they never say, although they know it, that I have labored in the cause of religion at the same time and all the time, and have sent missionaries there (of a ‘convenient stripe,’ as they phrase it), to teach them the error of their ways and bring them to Him who is all mercy and love, and who is the sleepless guardian and friend of all who suffer.”

Before taking on King Leopold, Twain had already assailed the imperialism of the US and multiple European nations in “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” published in 1901. Here, Twain directs his sarcasm at the notion that it was the “white man’s burden” to uplift the allegedly less-advanced races, using the voice of one supposedly involved in that cynical process to catalogue its excesses as being bad for business:

“Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked—but not enough, in my judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit in Darkness are getting to be too scarce—too scarce and too shy. And such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality, and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or profitable for us. We have been injudicious.”

Twain then proceeds to catalogue the brutalities inflicted on African and Asian people by Britain, Germany, Russia and other nations before turning his rhetorical guns on the United States and its occupation of the Philippines. This is history that my schooling entirely omitted. Twain finally taught it to me when I was in my forties, telling a story of betrayal and treachery that most Americans never learn:

“We knew they were fighting for their independence, and that they had been at it for two years. We knew they supposed that we also were fighting in their worthy cause—just as we had helped the Cubans fight for Cuban independence—and we allowed them to go on thinking so. Until Manila was ours and we could get along without them. Then we showed our hand … We forced a war [with the Filipinos], and we have been hunting America’s guest and ally through the woods and swamps ever since.”

After laying out the casualties we inflicted on our former allies, Twain sums up: “…we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit’s work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America’s honor and blackened her face before the world…”

This is brutal stuff, and Twain didn’t need to do any of it. At this point in his life he was a celebrity, as much so as any movie star or pop singer you could name today. He could have just basked in the glow of his successful books and speaking tours and enjoyed a quiet retirement, but instead he railed repeatedly against injustices committed by his own and other “civilized” governments.

Literary critics have mostly not been kind to these later writings, dismissing them as the rages of a man embittered by family tragedies (by this point Twain had outlived his wife and three of his children.) But there’s something gloriously unfettered in these works—I’m highlighting the anti-imperialist pieces here, but there’s also the scorching anti-war screed, “The War Prayer.” This is Mark Twain with the seatbelts unfastened and the parental controls set to “Don’t give a f***,” and it’s glorious.

Happy birthday, Mark. We sure could use you now. 

PUBLIC SPACE, PRIVATE INITIATIVE

by Eve Kessler on November 30, 2021 (beyondchron.org)

(This piece first appeared in Streetsblog USA)

A quiet revolution in public space management is spreading throughout New York City — and it is not being undertaken by the city bureaucrats who are paid to oversee our streetscape, but by Business Improvement Districts, private entities that raise money from commercial interests and also raise questions about the future of urban space.

But if a bevy of recent pedestrianization initiatives is any indication, if a neighborhood wants extensive street improvements, it had better have a BID, as the city Department of Transportation has left major decisions about planning and design of key areas of the city to these private business organizations, the majority of which operate in rich, White areas.

BIDs have long spearheaded pedestrianization efforts — such as in the Financial District (2003), Madison Square (2008), Herald Square (2009), and Times Square (2012-16) — but in the last nine months, these efforts have accelerated, with the BIDs of the Meatpacking District, SoHo, Hudson Square, Union Square, and the Downtown Brooklyn all announcing far-reaching plans to create pedestrian-friendly areas.

BIDs comprise a tiny part of New York City’s footprint — they cover only 2 percent of the area of the five boroughs — but they have become engines for livable-streets innovation. The BIDs, which are technically “public-private partnerships” with the DOT, steadily have transformed major shopping and commercial districts in the densest parts of the city into some of the most people-friendly streetscapes in Gotham.

Business Improvement Districts don’t undertake such efforts simply out of civic-mindedness and enlightened urbanism — although many of their members and managers profess such — but rather because shoppers, diners and strollers are more likely to spend money on people-centered streets.

Pedestrianization is “good for business and good for our neighborhoods, because people want to be in them. We’re bullish,” said James Mettham, executive director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, which just worked with the DOT on the city’s longest shared-street block, on Broadway between 21st and 23rd streets. The shared street is a key part of the city’s “Broadway Vision” for a pedestrian-friendly corridor between Columbus Circle and Union Square — a civic vision, perhaps, but one that is anchored and maintained entirely by BIDs.

Upcoming innovations

As the pandemic recedes, BIDs are moving more aggressively than city officials in advocating for, and creating, more pedestrianization — seeing the “open streets” movement pioneered by street-safety activists as the harbinger of things to come and using the coming post-COVID moment as an opportunity (or the excuse) to extend their reach and pedestrianize miles of New York.

Consider the following:

  • The Hudson Square BID, which covers the old Printing District above Canal and below Greenwich Village on the West Side, announced last month that it is spending $22 million to create pedestrian-friendly corridors along Houston, Washington, and Greenwich streets and better connect the area to Hudson River Park (see photo at the top of this story). The plan will create two miles of protected bike lanes and claim 50,000 square feet of curbside space for uses other than parking. The BID already spent $27 million in recent years in order to widen sidewalks, plant 350 trees, and improve local parks.
  • The Union Square Partnership in January unveiled plans to add 33 percent more public space to the square by banishing cars from some streets and connecting some marooned triangles of land to the park. In particular, Union Square West, made car-free some time ago, will get an even stronger connection to Broadway via improvements to the 17th Street plaza. The $100-million plan would add 100,000 square feet of public space by subtracting room for cars.
  • The Meatpacking District’s BID is using Little West 12th Street, an open street, as a laboratory for street innovation. In August, the DOT and the BID made Gansevoort Street, Little West 12th Street, and West 13th Street permanently car-free between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street, using movable planters and street furniture. The streets of the formerly industrial area themselves are now paved with what they were historically — cobblestones.
  • The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, as mentioned above, partnered with the DOT on the longest shared stretch of Broadway. It also just hosted a month-long “pop-up” plaza on Broadway just north of Madison Square Park, an experiment that could presage a more permanent installation.
  • The Lower East Side Partnership, a BID that operates in a narrow swath of the central shopping district of the old Jewish neighborhood, is one-upping the city on garbage. It recently proposed to its community board that the BID centralize commercial trash collection and even bring in compact street sweepers in order to help deal with local trash issues. (The city won’t fund such sweepers.) The BID is pressing the board and the Department of Sanitation to bring the “Clean Curbs” pilot containerization program to the LES — months before the city has gotten the program off the ground.
  • The SoHo-Broadway Partnership recently unveiled a “vision plan” for making parts of Broadway, Prince and Broome streets more pedestrian friendly, in order to promote safety, rationalize operations such as garbage collection and loading, better the environment and create more space for cultural events and people in a district, that hadn’t seen real any street improvements for a half-century. The BID piloted “Little Prince Plaza” on successive Saturdays in October (see Streetfilm below).
  • The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a consortium of three BIDs covering the Fulton Mall, the Borough Hall area, and the Metrotech Center, recently introduced a “Public Realm Action Plan” to pedestrianize and green a large swath of the area under its purview, including some smaller side streets. The BID worked with design firms Bjarke Ingels Group and WXY architecture + urban design not only on shopper-friendly street treatments, but on “green infrastructure” to improve air quality and mitigate heat-island effects.

These “vision plans” are variations on car-free districts pioneered during the last half-century in Europe and tacitly acknowledge the simple fact that cars ruin cities. Meanwhile, the DOT — which traditionally has been dominated by a cadre of traffic engineers — remains beholden to political pressures from car-owners entrenched at community boards (indeed, the DOT’s mission statement is long on “the movement of people and goods in the City of New York” and very short on creating great public space).

In fact, opposition to BID pedestrianization efforts often organizes around community-board meetings, such as at a Nov. 4 meeting of the Manhattan Community Board 2 Transportation Committee at which the SoHo-Broadway BID presented its vision plan; for a contentious four hours, resident after resident rose to defend the needs of motorists, even as many complained of hellacious traffic congestion, pollution, and ear-splitting noise from cars.

But BIDs know better.

“We want an improved quality of life throughout the Brooklyn core,” Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer told Streetsblog. “We want to push forward in places that have been ignored. The city hasn’t taken a hard look at the streets other than the arterials, like Atlantic Avenue. All of those streets are home to tens of thousands of people.”

Why is this happening?

The rise of the BIDs stems from something rotten in the Big Apple: public disinvestment. The movement to form BIDs started about 50 years ago with the deterioration of city services and accelerated during the city’s late-1970s fiscal crisis; the city enacted legislation authorizing BIDs in the early 1980s. The first BID, the Union Square Partnership, formed in 1984 with a heavy assist from Con Edison. After that, the BIDs, loosely overseen by the city’s Department of Small Business Services, took off like a shot.

According to the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 BIDs Trends Report, the most recent one available, 76 BIDs served 93,000 businesses and collectively spent $170 million on supplemental services in that year, the largest chunk of which (25.5 percent) was on sanitation followed by marketing and public events (20.1 percent) and public safety (14.6 percent). They spent about $17.1 million on streetscape and capital improvements in the teeth of the pandemic. If you subtract marketing and public events costs, BIDs collectively spend almost $136 million to supplement services that the city supplies to all areas.

BIDs employed 435 full-time staffers in FY 2020 and tens of thousands more part-time. Almost two-thirds of the BIDs are found in Manhattan (25) and Brooklyn (23). BIDs manage 12 percent of the open streets in the city’s program and have been heavily involved in the “Open Restaurants” program. A glance at any BID’s website, almost all of which feature cheery photos of local cafes, demonstrates how the needs of the restaurant industry drive a good deal of BID activism on behalf of people-centered streets.

The downside

But when the impetus for people-centered street innovation comes mostly from commercial interests, it demonstrates by its very existence the atrophy of those functions in the public sector. It also has profound effects on equity when areas — especially poor neighborhoods where, not coincidentally, streets are the most dangerous — don’t have BIDs: They simply don’t get the amenities that other areas enjoy. The growing privatization of public space management — and the private security services that come with it — also creates opportunities for harassment of people of color, youth, and the homeless.

And if a BID doesn’t adopt a street, it’s up to the DOT to fix it — a scenario with predictable results. Manhattan’s gritty Canal Street, for example, is not currently part of any BIDs streetscape plan, so it remains a dangerous car sewer to which the DOT is only making marginal changes.

“Why is it that wealthy BIDs are leading the way on pedestrian safety?” asked Jackson Chabot, director of public space advocacy for Open Plans, the parent company of Streetsblog, in City Council testimony on Oct. 25. “I wish that the Department of Transportation had the same transformative vision for our streets and sidewalks. … New Yorkers deserve access to safe public space, literally outside of their door. Open streets have shown us this is possible; now we need a framework for public-space management to manage them municipally.”

Others have an even more pointed critique of BIDs. Nicole Murray, a member of the Ecosocialist Working Group of NYC-Democratic Socialists of America, sees the BIDs as vehicles for small-business owners to impose their needs onto public space through direct government support and funding.

“The needs of the public may clash, directly or indirectly, with the spaces BIDs create,” she said. “While BIDs are often clean and well-lit, they are hostile to existing social and economic structures residents carve for themselves. Street/table vendors, skateboarders, dancers, game and social circles … become loiterers, nuisances, and vagrants. Anything that doesn’t improve the image of the district — and the businesses’ bottom lines — must be replaced with approved structures: hostile architecture, loud shopping music, security and surveillance.”

There is an inherent conflict between property-minded BID constituents and the itinerant city population. The dust-ups among BIDs and the homeless people moving through their territory led to a wholesale rebranding of BIDs’ efforts to remove folks as social-service outreach. Street vending has proved another flashpoint with bricks-and-mortar BID members, with store-owners complaining of unfair competition and peddlers citing official and police harassment.

Still, BIDs have an advantage over the DOT on street questions because of their small geographic focus, tight connections to property owners, businesses, and residents; and granular know-how on quality-of-life issues, which obviously the affect an area’s commercial fortune. BIDs even have stepped into the breach on open streets — more than half of which failed because of of DOT neglect — by running 10 percent of the 274 open streets created during the pandemic, according to a Transportation Alternatives report.

“BIDs have more flexibility in contracting and procurement, are more nimble, and can be more responsive,” said Mike Lydon of Street Plans, a design firm that worked on the SoHo-Broadway vision plan and many other such efforts around the world.

“What you are witnessing is driven by real and perceived needs [in] making large gains in public space and livability at the global scale … as well as the moment we are in politically,” Lydon added. “With so many new Council members and a new mayoral administration, it just makes sense for BIDs to put their best foot forward to develop public-realm plans to help set the agenda for our city’s incoming leadership and to help businesses recover from the still ongoing economic impacts of the pandemic.”

As for the BIDs tendency to privatize, securitize and monetize public space, Lydon says, well, that is what Americans get for their low-tax philosophy. He said that “every plaza, park, and neighborhood should have stewardship resources,” but Americans don’t invest in the public realm.

“We don’t have a money problem; we have a political problem,” he added. “When I work with European colleagues they really struggle to understand why we have to tax ourselves at a district scale to avoid taxing ourselves at a citywide scale in order to deliver better public spaces but only in the places that can afford to tax themselves. … When you look at almost every single other modern nation, they do not have to invent the BID because the resources, as strained as they might be in some cases, do flow into local governments to support the public realm.”

The fix, he said, is to lay the groundwork for an Office of Public Space Management — a body either within the DOT or the Mayor’s Office that can provide the kind of attention to neighborhood placemaking that BIDs do in areas that don’t have BIDs. Open Plans has also advocated for such an office.

The DOT says that it is seeking to establish pedestrian areas in neighborhoods that lack BIDs and to bolster the resources for the now-permanent open streets program. Three major-league open streets — the “gold standard” 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights; Berry Street in Williamsburg; and Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues in Prospect Heights — will receive “Broadway Vision”-style pedestrian and bicycle improvements next year (though those plans are still heavily reliant on volunteer effort, which has left too many open streets reclaimed by cars, TA’s recent report showed). Of the 85 car-free plazas the department has created, 45 have non-BID stewards, including schools, businesses and not-for-profit groups such as the Youth Ministries for Peace, its partner for the Morris Avenue Plaza in the Soundview section of The Bronx. The city cited two programs, OneNYC Plaza Equity and Public Space Activations, that aim to give local groups in strapped areas with funds, technical assistance and programming for pedestrian spaces.

“Every New Yorker deserves safe and accessible public spaces where they can relax, meet with others, or enjoy art and entertainment,” said department spokesman Vin Barone. “Equity is a guiding principle as we create new pedestrian spaces and plazas citywide. In addition, as we finalize rules for a permanent open streets program, we will bring open streets to more neighborhoods — even those without strong community resources.” (This is almost exactly what then-DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the launch of open streets in May, 2020.)

Local community groups often lack the know-how or the personnel to manage public spaces successfully on their own. Public-space management is a profession, involving expertise in disciplines including procurement, contracting, event-planning, sanitation management, vendor relations, street design and maintenance and others.

Like Lydon, several BID leaders interviewed for this story support the idea of making public-space management a singular focus for the city, although they declined to endorse any one plan for such an agency. Mettham said that having a deputy mayor for public space as the “connective tissue” among the “alphabet soup” of city agencies would be helpful in solving jurisdictional questions.

What’s needed is “change management,” said David Estrada, the executive director of the Sunset Park (Brooklyn) BID and a co-chair of the NYC BID Association. Unfortunately, the responsibility for public space is so “siloed across agencies.”

“BIDs have taken responsibility for handling a bureaucratic process that is difficult to navigate,” he said, but often “they are being left to hold the bag and clean up the mess.”

As the city emerges from Covid-19, it may be time that residents who don’t have the luxury of living in the confines of a BID get some help with those same matters.

Eve Kessler

Now He Tells Us: David Brooks Suggests That the Republican Party Has Embraced Fascism

NOVEMBER 29, 2021 (counterpunch.org)

BY CHUCK CHURCHILL

Photograph Source: PBS Newshour – CC BY 2.0

A recent Atlantic article by David Brooks, “The Terrifying Future of the American Right: What I Saw at the National Conservative Conference” lays out the latest thinking on the Right that contains some revealing language echoing the rhetorical techniques embraced by Hitler and the Nazis. The article cites examples of the “line” now being taken by the Republican Party that suggests, even to an old time conservative like Brooks, that the Republicans are now running full tilt towards fascism. Counterpunch readers who have paid attention to Paul Street’s great articles exposing this turn might see more evidence to reinforce his view that with today’s Republicans we are facing a fascist party and movement.

These US Rightist “intellectuals” have in fact manufactured a “Left” that they can hate. It has almost nothing to do with any historical Left but is a convenient label for their fascistic attacks. It seems tailored to take advantage of some of the more divisive ideas of the Democrats, especially their “identity politics.” (More on this below). David Brooks points none of this out.

Brooks’ focus is on the fact that these current younger “conservatives” have abandoned any idea that political differences can or should be worked out with rational or practical assessment of policies. What once might have been seen in our two-party system as political disagreements about how best to serve the American people, have been turned into irreconcilable antagonisms that cannot be compromised. Brooks quotes their spokesperson, Rachel Bovard: “Woke elites – increasingly the mainstream left of this country – do not want what we want. What they want is to destroy us.” Who are these “woke elites”? They are a “totalitarian cult of billionaires and bureaucrats….” Thus, the Right’s target is constructed for broad appeal to a mass of generally poorly informed individuals. Anyone who is concerned with racism and police murder, and who might have considered the long history of these tools of rule is “woke.” Billionaires and bureaucrats – who doesn’t abhor these people? Yet there is no mention that their new leader, Donald Trump, is an authoritarian billionaire who fits this bill, and has constructed a cult around himself.

It’s all about “the American People” of course. Yet the Right has chosen to see them largely as a homogeneous group of “whites,” aligning themselves with a long history of white supremacy, while increasingly “demonizing” the Democrats with charges of “socialism” despite a history in the early 20th century of Republican support for “progressive” reforms. Recently even policies that derive from Republican sources like Mitt Romney’s ideas for what became Obamacare are attacked and repudiated. If Democrats are for it, no matter what it is, or how many people may also favor it, Republicans are against it. Compromise is out; tribalism is in. Trump feeds on this with his demands for loyalty above all else. It is a clear example of the Nazi leadership principle.

The Republicans have become a party of the far-Right and like the Italian fascists and German Nazis have taken on a war mentality against their putative enemies, because they are the ones who are truly being threatened. They have embraced and defended Trump’s white supremacy and authoritarian moves, along with his penchant for reciting whatever self-serving lies that come into his head. Their activities have begun to resemble the early fascist movements in Germany and Italy. Armed gangs operate in the streets in cooperation with and protected by the police (Portland is a prime example, but recent events in Kenosha also stand out). The message coming from government and corporate media is that these neo-fascists can use violence with impunity, whether in groups or as lone vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse. They will be protected and legally exonerated when they commit murder. This was also the pattern in post-World War I Italy and Germany. In both of those countries the majority was much better organized than we are here – so far.

Moreover, today’s Right is recycling some of the same rhetoric that Hitler and the Nazis used to try to recruit “the lower classes” to their movement. But the primary Nazi focus was on “the Jew” as the demonic force behind everything, supposedly including the biggest capitalists, from whom the Nazis were getting money and state protection.  Hitler never spoke without making his antisemitism the central message of his orations, with “the Jew” responsible for everything wrong with Germany. Jews were the centerpiece of Hitler’s racism, but of course plenty of other “non- Aryan” peoples like the Slavs were classed as inferior, fit only for slavery. These people occupied an enormous land area to the east, coveted by German imperialism.

David Brooks deals with none of this history. In fact, few on the Right want to look at the actual historical record that shows the world-shattering consequences produced by the international capitalist competition that led to World War I, in particular the Russian Revolution and the later rise of fascism. In the US. there is little written or produced visually for public consumption that gives an honest and thorough treatment of all the implications and tendencies of this First World War. Jacques Pauwels’ superb book The Great Class War is an exception. It shows how a world war was launched by the aristocratic and big business rulers of rival countries, each seeking to defend or expand their empires and to quell and contain a restless working class that was seeking a greater share in the wealth produced by their labor. These workers were expected by their rulers to do the fighting for “their” respective nations. They did indeed fight and die in large numbers, but not without resistance.

The Russian Revolution was the most successful example of this resistance, though clearly an unintended consequence of the war itself, one not intended, that is, by the rulers of the countries who prepared and launched the war. Nevertheless, in Russia it produced a mass upheaval from below that took that country out of the war. It ended the rule of Tsarism, the landed aristocracy, and the big bourgeoisie despite continuing attacks by Germany and the Allies that included an invasion by American troops. In other words, the world’s capitalist powers, which had been fighting each other for empire, nonetheless came together to try to crush the Russian Revolution, viewed as a powerful threat to capitalism. Western rulers remained hostile to the USSR throughout its history, even during the brief World War II alliance against Germany during which the Russians engaged the bulk of German divisions on the eastern front and smashed the Nazi armies. This cost the Russians over 20 million people! The Russian Revolution set Russia on a course of economic development that made the USSR into a great power that rivaled the US. This success was dearly bought by the labor of the Russian masses in a remarkably short period of time. Today we learn almost nothing of this, and anti-communism prevails, even on too much of what passes for “the Left.” The Right foregrounds its hostility to “Marxism,” just as Hitler did.

Brooks expresses his concern about the Republicans’ abandonment of the old style of conservatism but can’t bring himself to criticize their now open embrace of racism.  Neither is there any discussion of white supremacy, except in implied fashion via reference to a film by John Ford, The Searchers, viewed by the Right as a positive version of the conquest of the west, with white heroes like John Wayne. Despite this, the Right includes in its attacks on its mortal enemies, an alleged Hollywood “elite” of Liberals aligned with the Democrats. Ignored by Brooks and the young right-wingers he criticizes is the actual historical record: American slavery, segregation (look around; has it been ended?), and the continuous murderous violence against black people; these never put in an appearance. Nor does the history of settler colonialism’s genocidal attacks on Native Americans, or the violent seizure of Mexico’s northwest, conveniently projected as “The Mexican War.” Above all, class as an analytical category revealing a world divided between capitalists and workers, remains the invisible man.  This is the heart of fascist opposition to Marxism, and what Hitler sought to eliminate from public discourse — any discussion of class — while at the same time rhetorically trying to attract workers into a Nazi movement whose aim was to deprive them of leverage against capitalism and prepare them to be cannon fodder for Germany in the next war.

All the real social fault lines, especially the stark divide between the 1% multi-billionaire class and the huge majority of workers, are removed and replaced with a melange of attacks against social media and “big business,” with the added twist that these elements are supposedly being led, most implausibly, by “Marxists.” Here we have the continuing ubiquity of anti-communism enshrined in this ludicrous equation that is no more supported by any reality than was Hitler’s rhetorical yoking together of finance capital and socialism. But due to German workers’ long experience with social democracy, and after WWI with communism, Hitler recruited few of these organized, class-oriented workers. In the end, he did not need to because the majority of German workers stuck with their party leadership. The Social Democrats claimed to be Marxist but had settled for a role in the German parliament. They voted for war credits against Lenin’s advice, and continued to cooperate with the Army after the war and with the Weimar Republic, essentially disarming themselves. The new post war communist party influenced by the Russian revolution, the KPD, lost its leaders right after the war when the Army-sponsored rightist Freicorps militia murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Thus, no consistent working-class unity against fascism was forged, and Hitler won out.

For the Right in the US today, Hitler’s “Jewish bankers” and “Jewish Bolsheviks” have morphed into “Marxists” collaborating with and protecting a “left wing” big business elite. This is what passes for original thought on the Right today. It is pure demagogy! But it can work on a population that is kept ignorant of how capitalism actually functions. These people can see the deterioration in their lives and are looking for those responsible. The Right gives them both a vague power elite that they characterize for their petit-bourgeois followers (including unorganized predominantly rural white workers) as “the Left:” “Communist Democrats” (Trump’s absurd words) working for big business while mainly serving racial minorities but opposed to “ordinary Americans.” It’s the Brooklyn Bridge!

What is being relied upon here is what Hitler pioneered: the enabling of the big lie technique through control of media and continuing institutional protection for fascist activities that include assaulting and murdering anti-racist, anti-fascist protesters.

This new, uncompromisingly hostile Right, characterizes social media and the universities as captives of “the Left.” In a crowning case of big lie reversal (or projection), it is “the Left” that threatens to eliminate “conservatives,” not the other way around. Republicans have been attacking the “left wing media” now for decades, successfully. This is part of their program to push the American population further to the right by undermining potential or actual sources of information that might contradict the Right’s line or expose their lies, and thus amp up their “cancel culture” war against free and open communication. This is mordantly ironic, since the vast majority of today’s mass media is owned by a tiny handful of giant corporations that could hardly be further from left wing. Furthermore, universities may have more left-wing faculty than right wingers. They are still run by conservative Boards of Regents staffed by powerful capitalists, with administrations that do their bidding.

In fact, this openly fascist Right is stepping up its work on several levels, from militias and Proud Boy would-be Brown Shirts, to vigilante killers like Kyle Rittenhouse. Nor do they neglect grass roots politics that ensure them influence in local, state, and national institutions, all the way to the Presidency. Do we need reminding of their unprecedented efforts to make Trump a permanent president? Just what we need, Trump der Fuhrer!

When this criminal crew gets power, what do they do with it?  The Republican Party stands firmly against anything that might aid the majority of the American people of any color who have to work for a living. Republicans oppose higher wages, single payer health care, free public education, a “defense” budget that might be scaled down to what is needed for actual defense instead of endless wars, any real measures to address climate change. Historically, the post-Civil War Republicans earned their label as the “party of Big Business.” In this respect are they any different today?  They have just learned how to mis-lead and deflect from their true purpose with an amped-up racism and fascist demagogy that has largely gone unchallenged in the corporate mass media discourse.

The Democrats have certainly played a role in all this. Their leadership is beholden to big business donors, and it has only taken a couple of diehard corporate shills like Manchin and Sinema to stop the Dems from enacting policies that might cost big capital more than they are willing to pay. (What are they willing to pay? Anything at all? Give us deregulation and tax cuts!) When pro-working-class leadership does emerge, like Bernie Sanders, whose message of “socialism” turns out to be widely popular, the leadership sabotages him while the corporate media defames him.

Above all Dems’ use of identity politics is a huge gift to the Right.  It replaces a focus on class, where multi-racial unity is a primary source of strength in the working class’ struggle, literally, to survive the onslaught of the current capitalist crisis that is reverberating throughout the world.  The crisis runs from climate change to the continuing drive of US Imperialism to hold on to world empire, and to the current covid pandemic. This encompasses an incipient cold war with China and a non-stop Pentagon budget that includes money for a nuclear arsenal that portends a growing threat of nuclear war. Add to this: continuing unemployment, disrupted supply chains, monopolistic price gouging, widespread poverty, exploitation, and authoritarian repression thrown in to keep the workers beaten down and divided, up to and including open fascism.  Dems’ identity politics allow the Republicans to pretend to be for white people (the vast majority of whom are working class), on a racial or ethnic basis that pits one group of workers against another and disables both. Workers need multi-racial, multi-ethnic, international organizational unity (historically, communism).  For the Right, from Hitler to Trump, it should be clear that they serve(d) big capital. In opposition to working class internationalism, they promote the idea that it’s all about “America.”  Hitler ranted about Deutschland Uber Alles, for which he was prepared to sacrifice 35 million Germans, whom he then blamed when the war was lost. The US Right spouts the same garbage about “America first,” regardless of how many “Americans” (not to mention the rest of the world’s people) have to suffer and die for the continuing dominance of US corporate power. And how many from the billionaire class are among the casualties in America’s wars? Even Confederate soldiers had it right (the only thing they had right) as far back as the Civil War when they complained that it was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight!

If these fascists win out, what will be in store for the working class? Hitler made sure that any independent workers’ organizations in Germany were destroyed, their leaders jailed or killed. This was the true purpose of Nazism – a dictatorship in favor of big German capital and in pursuit of its goals. Nor, apparently can we look to the Democrats to end capitalism’s constant drive to expand the wealth of the few at the expense of the many that has already led to two world slaughters, and portends a third.

GOP ‘Silence Speaks Volumes,’ Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert’s Bigotry Goes Unpunished

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Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) addresses thousands of demonstrators from across the country as they rally in support of a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 2021. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

BRETT WILKINS November 27, 2021

Rep. Ilhan Omar on Saturday condemned her GOP colleagues’ inaction following the recent publication by Rep. Lauren Boebert of an anti-Muslim video in which the Colorado Republican lies about the Somali-American lawmaker being mistaken for a suspected suicide bomber inside the U.S. Capitol.

“These anti-Muslim attacks aren’t about my ideas but about my identity and it’s clear,” Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted.

Addressing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), she added that “your silence speaks volumes.”

Boebert issued what critics called a “sorry not sorry” apology via Twitter on Friday after calling Omar (D-Minn.) a member of “the jihad squad” and falsely claiming that a Capitol police officer came urgently running into an elevator the two congresswomen shared.

“What’s happening?” Boebert said in the video, which was recorded at an event in Pueblo last Saturday. “I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar, and I said, ‘Well she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.'”

Boebert’s story—which Omar says never happened—drew applause and cheers from the audience. Pueblo County Republican chair Leverington subsequently defended Boebert, saying she “probably expressed the sentiment of many Americans.”

“Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter.”

Boebert also referred to progressive Democratic lawmakers as the “jihad squad” last week while defending Rep. Paul Gosar, who on November 17 was censured by the House of Representatives and stripped of his committee appointments after his office produced and published an edited animé video depicting the Arizona Republican murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

While Democrats and at least one Republican—Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois—have condemned Boebert’s attack on Omar, GOP leadership has been silent on the matter.

“Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter,” Omar tweeted on Friday, adding that McCarthy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “need to take appropriate action.”

“Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims,” she warned. “Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”


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Supes face key affordable housing vote

Plus: more taxpayer dollars for bad cops, and 248 people locked up beyond the legal time for a speedy trial because SF courts are lagging … that’s The Agenda for Nov. 29-Dec. 5

By TIM REDMOND NOVEMBER 28, 2021 (48hills.org)

The full Board of Supes will have a chance Tuesday/30 to push for more immediate spending on affordable housing—or side with Mayor London Breed, who wants to prevent the effort.

At this point, seven supervisors have signed on to back a measure by Sup. Dean Preston that would allocate $64 million to buy and build new non-market social housing.

But Breed has been organizing to defeat the proposal, and she will almost certainly veto it. That means the supporters will need one more vote.

Sup. Ahsha Safai voted for the measure in committee, but is not a co-sponsor. The two other supes most likely to be an eighth vote, Rafael Mandelman and Myrna Melgar, told me they remained undecided last week. Melgar was the only supervisor to join Breed’s Office in a meeting with affordable housers that in part sought to convince them not to back the measure.

Mandelman was at a rally just two weeks ago, arguing that the city needs to buy more apartment buildings so they don’t go to speculators who evict the tenants.

Sup. Rafael Mandelman speaks out against speculative evictions. He could be a swing vote on a measure to allocate more money to take housing out of the market.

It’s going to be one of the more dramatic housing votes of the year, and will reflect the political alignment of the board. The meeting starts at 2pm.Help us save local journalism!Every tax-deductible donation helps us grow to cover the issues that mean the most to our community. Become a 48 Hills Hero and support the only daily progressive news source in the Bay Area.Learn more

The San Francisco Police Department continues to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in legal settlements for wrongful conduct by officers. The latest: The Government Audit and Oversight Committee will consider Thursday/2 settling for $2.5 million a lawsuit by the family of Keita O’Neil, an unarmed Black man shot and killed by a cop who is now facing criminal charges.

The officer, Christopher Samayoa, had been on the job only four days when he fired the fatal round. The family’s lawsuit says that the older officer who was in the car with him should have done more to prevent the shooting.

It’s likely that the supes will go along with the settlement, and more millions of dollars will go out the door because of killer cops.

That committee will also hold a hearing on the backup at the city’s criminal courts, where, according to board documents, 248 defendants are in custody in the SF jail and have been held well beyond the legal statue for a trial.

Including people who are out on bail, there are 437 felony cases that are pending well beyond the statutory time frame.

As a proposed resolution by Sup. Hillary Ronen notes:

Allowing a person to be caged for an extended period of time when they have not been convicted of a crime is contradictory to one of our nation’s most basic rights and principles—that a person is innocent unless and until the government proves the case against them beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once the legal statute for a “speedy trial” (in felony cases, 60 days unless the defendant waives time) the case is supposed to be dismissed.

All of that changed under COVID, of course, when the courts were closed.

But courtrooms should now be re-opening, along with schools and City Hall and many other businesses and institutions, Ronen says—but while civil cases (including evictions) are going forward, criminal cases still lag:

The Court has 37 departments at the Civic Center Courthouse, almost all of which are currently being used for civil trials as opposed to criminal.

So are misdemeanor cases where the defendant is not locked up:

In April 2021, the Court began sending out-of-custody misdemeanor cases to the Civic Center Courthouse while in-custody felony defendants remained in jail only to have their cases continued again and again by the Court.

Public Defender Mano Raju has sued the Superior Court for its failure to hold timely trials.

Meanwhile, of course, the rightwingosphere is attacking District Attorney Chesa Boudin for not prosecuting enough people—when the court won’t hold enough criminal trials.

Ronen wants to hear from the courts, the DA, and the public defender.

That meeting starts at 10am.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

Articles ~ Petitions / Actions (including pending executions) ~ Events for Tuesday, Nov. 30 – Friday, Dec. 3 (from Adrienne Fong)

Few Events – NOT back posting on a regular basis

Please include Accessibility and ASL info in your events! And if your action is ‘child friendly’

*** ASL interpretation – Let me know if your event needs this service .***

Please post your actions on Indybay: https://www.indybay.org/calendar/?page_id=12

 See Indybay  for  other listings of events.

ARTICLES

A. Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein were ‘partners in crime,’ prosecutor says in opening statements of trial

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein were ‘partners in crime,’ prosecutor says (kcra.com)

B. Pfizer is Lobbying to Thwart Whistleblowers Exposing Fraud – November 29, 2021

Pfizer Is Lobbying to Thwart Whistleblowers Exposing Fraud (theintercept.com)

C. Self-Defense? After Rittenhouse, Calls to Drop Murder Charges Against Black Teen Chrystul Kizer – November 29, 2021

Self-Defense? After Rittenhouse, Calls to Drop Murder Charges Against Black Teen Chrystul Kizer | Democracy Now!

D. Supes face key affordable housing vote  – November 28, 2021

Supes face key affordable housing vote – 48 hills

   Plus: more taxpayer dollars for bad cops, and 248 people locked up beyond the legal time for a speedy trial because SF courts are lagging … that’s The Agenda for Nov. 29-Dec. 5

E. Indian Farmers Score a Victory Against Modi Government on Strike Anniversary – November 28, 2021

Opinion | Indian Farmers Score a Victory Against Modi Government on Strike Anniversary | Shiney Varghese (commondreams.org)

F. S.African doctor says patients with Omicron variant have “very mild” symptoms

S.African doctor says patients with Omicron variant have “very mild” symptoms | Reuters

G. WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift ‘Naive’ Omicron Travel Bans –November 28, 2021

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/28/who-south-africa-urge-nations-lift-naive-omicron-travel-bans

H. WATCH: Israeli soldiers describe their actions in Hebron – Novembe 17, 2021

WATCH: Israeli soldiers describe their actions in Hebron (israelpalestinenews.org)

2 PETITIONS / ACTIONS

1. Free Leonard Peltier

  SIGN: Petition — Free Leonard Peltier

  Urge President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier

For info about the case: About — Free Leonard Peltier

In violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The United States Bill of Rights, and the American Constitution and its Amendments, the case of Leonard Peltier is unparalleled in the history of constitutional violation. In particular, the Constitution’s 8th Amendment clause, designed to protect people from “cruel and unusual” punishment being meted out in a “wholly arbitrary” fashion. “Cruel and unusual” is the only term that can describe Leonard’s far too lengthy imprisonment. “Wholly arbitrary” is the only way to describe the fact that he remains in prison long after the point when most inmates convicted of similar crimes are paroled or released. Distinguished judges in Canada and the U.S. have called for leniency and compassion. For years now, Amnesty International has been calling for Leonard’s immediate and unconditional release.

2. Legalize abortion once and for all!

  SIGN; Abortion rights petition – PSL (pslweb.org)

   See events # 2 & 4

PENDING EXECUTION PETITIONS

December 9, 2021: Bigler Stouffer in Oklahoma

January 6, 2022: Wade Greely Lay in Oklahoma

January 27, 2022: Donald Grant in Oklahoma

January 27, 2022: Matthew Reeves in Alabama

EVENTS

Tuesday, November 30 – Friday, December 3

Tuesday, November 30

1. Tuesday, 9:00am, Justice 4 Sean Moore

Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St.
SF

Officer Kenneth Cha will be arraigned for homicide charges in the death of Sean Moore.

The family of Sean Moore is asking for support from the community.. The killer cop is being brought into court on homicide charges so you know the POA (Police Officers Association) etc will be there in support of the killer cop. We need folks to come out & support the family.!!! If you believe in accountability & justice, please share & show up if possible..

Wear black

Bring signs: Jail Killer Cops!

Brief History:

On January 6, 2017, SFPD officer Kenneth Cha and his partner responded to a noise complaint. Sean Moore was un-armed. He was beaten and shot at on his own property.

DA George Gascon at the time initially set bail at 2 Mill.

January 20, 2020, Sean Moore died from his injuries.

On May 3, 2017, officer Cha shot and killed another man, Nicholas Flusche after Nichloas attempted to steal a sandwich.

Officer Cha remains on active duty with the SFPD.

Sean Moore: January 14, 1974 – January 20, 2020

 – Sean is survived by his father and mother, Amos and Cleo and his brother Kenneth

For more info about Sean: (1) Facebook

Article: DA files homicide charges against SFPD officer in shooting death of Sean Moore – November 2, 2021

https://missionlocal.org/2021/11/da-files-homicide-charges-against-sfpd-officer-in-shooting-death-of-sean-moore/

Notice is from Equipto on facebook

Wednesday, December 1

2. Wednesday, 3:30pm – 4:30pm, Rally for Reproductive Justice at the Federal Courthouse in SF

Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
450 Golden Gate (at Larkin)

SF

On Wed., December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case aimed at overthrowing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the land. 

The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice calls on all feminists, working-class people, and defenders of human rights to come out that day to add their testimony and “Tell it to the Judges: Uphold and Expand Abortion Rights.”

Legal, free and accessible abortion should be guaranteed for all—what’s more it is a real survival issue for the poor, women of color, and trans people. We need to tell the courts they have no right to deny or restrict this basic need. We assert it’s #MyDecisionAlone. 

WHAT WE STAND FOR
• Protect & expand Roe v. Wade; safe, legal abortion on demand without apology
• Repeal the Hyde Amendment
• Overturn state barriers to reproductive choices
• Stop forced sterilization
• No to caged kids, forced assimilation, & child welfare abuses
• End medical & environmental racism; for universal healthcare
• Defend queer & trans families
• Guarantee medically sound sex education & affordable childcare
• Sexual self-determination for people with disabilities
• Uphold social progress with expanded voting rights & strong unions

Host: National Mobilization 4 Reproductive Justice

Info: Rally for Reproductive Justice on the Steps of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco : Indybay

3. Wednesday, 4:00pm – 5:00pm, World AIDS Day March & Candlelight Vigil

Meet at:

SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.
SF

Accessibility needs please reach out to Ande Stone (astone@sfaf.org ).

March is to St. John’s the Evangelist Episcopal Church for the AIDS Memorial Quilt display, dinner and Revival Dance.

Join us this year for World AIDS Day on the steps of San Francisco city hall to remember those we’ve lost to the HIV/AIDS crisis and to issue a call to action for justice for our communities.

We will have a series of speakers to lift up the voices of people living with HIV and to verbalize the challenges our communities still face 40 years after the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Please bring a photo of loved ones you’d like to remember. We will provide candles for the candlelight vigil.

This will be an outdoors event. We will have masks available and ask that everyone please wear a mask.

Host: SF AIDS Foundation

Info: World AIDS Day March & Candlelight Vigil | Facebook

4. Wednesday, 5:00pm – 7:00pm, SF: Defend Roe v. Wade! National Day of Action

Powell & Market St.
SF

Abortion rights are under siege by the right wing in this country. The reactionary-stacked Supreme Court is considering multiple cases which threaten Roe v. Wade. On Wednesday, December 1st the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. The decision in this case could spell the end of Roe v. Wade protections by allowing states to defy the federal ruling.

Roe v. Wade was passed due to a massive national movement organized to push for legal rights to bodily autonomy and access to abortion services. We must continue showing up in the streets to defend abortion rights!

Host: Party For Socialism & Liberation

Info: SF: Defend Roe v. Wade! National day of action : Indybay

Thursday, December 2

5. Thursday, 12Noon – 1:00pm, Defend Argentina Political Activists Cesar Arakaki & Daniel Ruiz – Drop the Charges

SF Federal Building
90 7th St.
SF

Two Argentinian socialist and human rights activists,Cesar Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz,have been framed in false accusations of intimidation,and rioting for being at a rally protesting against a neoliberal pension reform legislation by the neo colonial regime back by the U.S.A.,E.U. and the I.M.F.

They have been sentenced by a court in Buenos Aires to three years and a half imprisonment.They are free on appeal and they are in danger of imprisonment in the Argentinian dungeons where the could be tortured and possibly killed.

The US and the AFL-CIO through the AIFLD worked with the CIA to support the last military dictatorship in Argentina which led to the imprisonment, murder and deaths of trade unionists and political activists.

For articles / links see info on Indybay

Sponsor: United Front Committee for A Labor Party

Info: Defend Argentina Political Activists Cesar Arakaki & Daniel Ruiz-Drop The Charges! : Indybay

6. Thursday, 5:00pm, Mario Woods ~ Memorial & Vigil

2915 Keith St. (nr. 3rd St.)
Site where Mario was executed.
SF

Community, please come out to pay respects for the Mario Woods memorial. It’ll be 6 years since he was executed by the SFPD. Bring candles, sage & your positive healing energy.

Facebook message is from Equipto: Facebook

7. Thursday, 6:30pm, Food Not Bombs Food Share

16th & Mission Sts (BART Plaza)
SF

We are switching days for one week only. We will not have a sharing on Wednesday, December 1. Instead, we will share food at 16th/Mission BART Plaza at 6:30 PM on Thursday, December 2.

For more information about our weekly sharings, please visit the following webpage:

Serving Info | San Francisco Food Not Bombs (sffnb.org)

Friday, December 3

8. Friday,1:00pm – 2:00pm, Shut Down the Police Officers Association

In person

SF Police Officers Association (outside)
800 Bryant St. (@ 6th Street)
SF

RESIST with “Mothers On The March”, “Black and Brown for Justice and Equality”, Family’s whose love ones have been killed by cops from SFPD, and the Community.

– Demand the San Francisco Police Officers Association be Shut Down!

– The SF Police Officers Association Be Declared a Non Grata Organization

– Call for the abolishment of the ‘Officers Bill of Rights’

– Jail Killer Cops – demand killer cops be charged with murder.

– Abolish the Police 

The POA has supported and defended officers who have executed people in our communities.

If you can’t attend contact Mayor London Breed tell her that you oppose funding for SFPD:

Mayor London Breed

Telephone: (415) 554-6141
Email: MayorLondonBreed@sfgov.org

Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West

Contrary to the popular imagination, bearing arms on the frontier was a heavily regulated business

Matt Jancer February 5, 2018 (smithsonianmag.com)


Dodge City in 1878
Dodge City in 1878 Wikimedia Commons

It’s October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, and Arizona is not yet a state. The O.K. Corral is quiet, and it’s had an unremarkable existence for the two years it’s been standing—although it’s about to become famous.

Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, is having a gun control problem. Long-running tensions between the lawmen and a faction of cowboys – represented this morning by Billy Claiborne, the Clanton brothers, and the McLaury brothers – will come to a head over Tombstone’s gun law.

The laws of Tombstone at the time required visitors, upon entering town to disarm, either at a hotel or a lawman’s office. (Residents of many famed cattle towns, such as Dodge City, Abilene, and Deadwood, had similar restrictions.) But these cowboys had no intention of doing so as they strolled around town with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles in plain sight. Earlier on this fateful day, Virgil had disarmed one cowboy forcefully, while Wyatt confronted another and county sheriff Johnny Behan failed to persuade two more to turn in their firearms.

When the Earps and Holliday met the cowboys on Fremont Street in the early afternoon, Virgil once again called on them to disarm. Nobody knows who fired first. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne, who were unarmed, ran at the start of the fight and survived. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, who stood and fought, were killed by the lawmen, all of whom walked away.

The “Old West” conjures up all sorts of imagery, but broadly, the term is used to evoke life among the crusty prospectors, threadbare gold panners, madams of brothels, and six-shooter-packing cowboys in small frontier towns – such as Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge City, or Abilene, to name a few. One other thing these cities had in common: strict gun control laws.

Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West
Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton (left to right) lie dead after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This is the only known photo of 19 year-old Billy. Wikimedia Commons

“Tombstone had much more restrictive laws on carrying guns in public in the 1880s than it has today,” says Adam Winkler, a professor and specialist in American constitutional law at UCLA School of Law. “Today, you’re allowed to carry a gun without a license or permit on Tombstone streets. Back in the 1880s, you weren’t.” Same goes for most of the New West, to varying degrees, in the once-rowdy frontier towns of Nevada, Kansas, Montana, and South Dakota.

Dodge City, Kansas, formed a municipal government in 1878. According to Stephen Aron, a professor of history at UCLA, the first law passed was one prohibiting the carry of guns in town, likely by civic leaders and influential merchants who wanted people to move there, invest their time and resources, and bring their families. Cultivating a reputation of peace and stability was necessary, even in boisterous towns, if it were to become anything more transient than a one-industry boom town.

Laws regulating ownership and carry of firearms, apart from the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, were passed at a local level rather than by Congress. “Gun control laws were adopted pretty quickly in these places,” says Winkler. “Most were adopted by municipal governments exercising self-control and self-determination.” Carrying any kind of weapon, guns or knives, was not allowed other than outside town borders and inside the home. When visitors left their weapons with a law officer upon entering town, they’d receive a token, like a coat check, which they’d exchange for their guns when leaving town.

The practice was started in Southern states, which were among the first to enact laws against concealed carry of guns and knives, in the early 1800s. While a few citizens challenged the bans in court, most lost. Winkler, in his book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, points to an 1840 Alabama court that, in upholding its state ban, ruled it was a state’s right to regulate where and how a citizen could carry, and that the state constitution’s allowance of personal firearms “is not to bear arms upon all occasions and in all places.”

Louisiana, too, upheld an early ban on concealed carry firearms. When a Kentucky court reversed its ban, the state constitution was amended to specify the Kentucky general assembly was within its rights to, in the future, regulate or prohibit concealed carry.

Still, Winkler says, it was an affirmation that regulation was compatible with the Second Amendment. The federal government of the 1800s largely stayed out of gun-law court battles.

“People were allowed to own guns, and everyone did own guns [in the West], for the most part,” says Winkler. “Having a firearm to protect yourself in the lawless wilderness from wild animals, hostile native tribes, and outlaws was a wise idea. But when you came into town, you had to either check your guns if you were a visitor or keep your guns at home if you were a resident.”

Published in 1903, Andy Adams’s Log of a Cowboy, a “slightly fictionalized” account of the author’s life on the cattle trails of the 1880s, was a refutation against the myth-making dime store novels of the day. The book, which included stories about lawless cowboys visiting Dodge City firing into the air to shoot out lights, has been called the most realistic written account of cowboy life and is still in print today.

Adams wrote of what happened to the few who wouldn’t comply with frontier gun law:

“The buffalo hunters and range men have protested against the iron rule of Dodge’s peace officers, and nearly every protest has cost human life. … Most cowboys think it’s an infringement on their rights to give up shooting in town, and if it is, it stands, for your six-shooters are no match for Winchesters and buckshot; and Dodge’s officers are as game a set of men as ever faced danger.”

Frontier towns with and without gun legislation were violent places, more violent than family-friendly farming communities and Eastern cities of the time, but those without restrictions tended to have worse violence. “I’ve never seen any rhetoric from that time period saying that the only thing that’s going to reduce violence is more people with guns,” says Winkler. “It seems to be much more of a 20th-century attitude than one associated with the Wild West.”

Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West
Although barely legible in this photo, the top sign to the right reads “Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited” Kansas Historical Society

Aron agrees that these debates rarely went on, and if they did, there’s scant evidence of it today.

Crime records in the Old West are sketchy, and even where they exist the modern FBI yardstick of measuring homicides rates – the number of homicides per 100,000 residents – can exaggerate statistics in Old Western towns with small populations; even one or two more murders a year would drastically swing a town’s homicide rate.

Historian Robert Dykstra focused on established cattle towns, recording homicides after a full season of cattle shipments had already passed and by which time they’d have typically passed firearm law. He found a combined 45 murders from 1870-1885 in Kansas’ five largest cattle towns by the 1880 census: Wichita (population: 4,911), Abilene (2,360) Caldwell (1,005), Ellsworth (929), and Dodge City (996).

Averaged out, there were 0.6 murders per town, per year. The worst years were Ellsworth, 1873, and Dodge City, 1876, with five killings each; because of their small populations, their FBI homicide rates would be high. Another historian, Rick Shenkman, found Tombstone’s (1880 pop: 3,423) most violent year was 1881, in which also only five people were killed; three were the cowboys shot by Earp’s men at the OK Corral.

As Dykstra wrote, frontier towns by and large prohibited the “carrying of dangerous weapons of any type, concealed or otherwise, by persons other than law enforcement officers.” Most established towns that restricted weapons had few, if any, killings in a given year.

The settlements that came closest to unchecked carry were the railroad and mining boom towns that tended to lack effective law enforcement, a functioning judicial system, and firearm law, says Aron, and it reflected in higher levels of violence. Like Bodie, California, which was well-known during the 1870s and 1880s for vigilantism and street violence.

“The smoke of battle almost never clears away completely in Bodie,” wrote a young Mark Twain on assignment for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. Historian Roger McGrath found that from 1877 to 1882 there were 31 homicides in Bodie which, according to the 1880 census, had only 2,712 residents. As the contemporary paper Sacramento Union called it a “shooter’s town,” Bodie by 1880 had acquired a national infamy. Even as far as New York, a dangerous man was euphemistically called “a bad man from Bodie.”

The one-man law seen of TV and film Westerns is how we remember the West today. It was a time and place where rugged individualism reigned and the only law in the West that mattered was the law on your hip – a gun. Most “cowboy” films had nothing to do with driving cattle. John Wayne grew his brand as a horseback vigilante in decades’ worth of Westerns, from his first leading role in 1930’s The Big Trail to 1971’s Big Jake, in which the law fails and Wayne’s everyman is the only justice.

But as the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance tells us, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

As the West developed, towns pushed this mythos of the West as their founding ideology. Lax gun laws were just a part of an individualistic streak that manifested itself with the explosion in popularity of concealed carry licenses and the broader acceptance of openly carrying firearms (open-carry laws) that require no permit.

“These Wild West towns, as they developed and became more civilized and larger, there was an effort to promote their Wild West heritage very aggressively, and that became the identity of the town,” says Winkler, “but that identity was based on a false understanding of what the past was like, and wasn’t a real assessment of what places like Tombstone were like in the 1880s.”

So the orthodox positions in America’s ongoing gun debate oscillate between  “Any gun law is a retreat away from the lack of government interference that made this country great” and “If we don’t regulate firearms, we’ll end up like the Wild West,” robbing both sides of a historical bedrock of how and why gun law developed as America expanded Westward.