ENTERTAINMENT, QANON, AND THE POLITICS OF FEAR

FEBRUARY 25, 2021 (counterpunch.org)

BY DAVID ALTHEIDE

Photograph Source: Derivative work: J JMesserly – Public Domain

Pogo’s wisdom applies to our country divided by the politics of fear: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This is important because fear is the source of most anger and hate, which is fed by ignorance and stereotypes often promoted by popular culture and disinformation. Our current situation, highlighted by digital misinformation and by the absurd QAnon conspiracy of a government run by satanic worshipping pedophiles, is enabled by a profitable entertainment media industry fueled by fearful messages and images, as well as new communication formats that manipulate audiences.

My argument is that fear has been transformed by an entertainment oriented popular culture, including news organizations, as well as public agencies and officials who have a stake in fear. They provide the content for the ever-expanding market for entertainment. And it is fear that makes for good entertainment such as Donald Trump’s reality TV persona (“The Apprentice”) as well as his Presidential campaign and four years in office powered by the politics of fear that appealed to many of his followers.

Our research on propaganda campaigns suggests that QAnon’s appeals to fight evil and to “save the children” replicates the 1980s moral panic about “missing children” and “stranger danger” that was based on the false claim that as many as 1.5 million children were abducted, molested, and even killed by predators. Most kids labeled as missing had run away from abusive homes or had been removed by separated parents or grandparents. Still, the myth persists, despite clear evidence that guns at home and auto accidents dwarf the risks of strangers for children.

It was not just the plethora of fearful content and images, but also the media logic that emphasized short, visual, dramatic and often conflictual reports. “Talking heads” providing context and clarification fared poorly in competitive ratings and market share. TV journalism stressed action visuals, especially those involving police, car chases; war coverage involved snippets of combat, or what field producers referred to as “bang-bang.” Audiences liked this entertainment format and came to expect it from not only news reports, but other communication contexts as well, including sports reporting, religious services, educational institutions, and political messages as well. This does not mean that the “media are to blame,” but rather that the quest for high TV ratings and competitive popular culture and movie industries contributed to a barrage of public concerns about safety, security, and an unpredictable future.

And the staple for this video format was fear: Fear sold, got high ratings, and later in the digital age, was promoted as ‘click bait.’ Fearful reports, say, about crime and drugs and threats to one’s family and children struck a responsive chord in viewers; no thinking was necessary to pay attention, just an emotional response. TV news producers realized that fear grabbed viewers’ and politicians’ attention; visually sensationalized reports with little context, about crime, drugs, gangs, and violence drove ratings and empowered politicians to intervene for public safety, starting several drug wars and decades of massive incarceration (e.g., Three Strikesmandatory sentencing). Heeding public outcries about mediated-fear, politicians from Nixon to Reagan to Clinton celebrated and campaigned on the crime threat with draconian legislation that devastated Black Americans in our nation’s central cities.

Much of this menu of fear to protect families and children stressed fear of “the other,” minority groups, foreigners, as well as immigrants. Domestic terrorism should have been on America’s radar, but it wasn’t, even after Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring hundreds. It was the 9/11 airliner terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda operatives that launched the contemporary emphasis on Muslims, Middle Eastern people, and non-European foreigners. The Bush administration’s responses included two wars, funded illegal prisons, kidnapped and tortured suspects, beefed up national surveillance, and promoted a massive propaganda campaign of fear that linked drug sales to terrorism, including a 2002 Super Bowl ad: “If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America.”

The growth of the internet and digital media overlapped with the emergence of powerful right-wing radio and cable stations dedicated to conservative politics and policies, particularly stressing the numerous threats to families and national security from crime and terrorism. Social media–especially Facebook and Twitter–that were instantaneous, personal, and visual, promoted audience involvement and group identity with like-minded participants. These sites became heavily politicized with conspiracy promoters, particularly after the election of Barack Obama, challenging his anti-Americanism and allegations that he was not an American citizen and was partial to Muslims, Black Americans, and that his Affordable Care Act was socialistic.

Donald Trump was a strong supporter of the “birther movement,” that Obama was not born in the United States, and used Fox News as well as social media, especially Twitter, to promote the politics of fear with nativistic and anti-immigrant views. The major TV networks carried his tweets and entertaining campaign messages of the decline of American society, crude attacks of his rivals, the threats from non-Americans. He stressed how conspiratorial cabals were working against America’s future. He reiterated that the established news media were fake and were part of the conspiracy.

The new digital ecology of communication empowered followers to participate in receiving reports to confirm this, retweeting them, and selecting like-minded chats, often orchestrated by foreign agents selling the politics of fear. QAnon simply cultivated the fear and mistrust of government, established institutions, and directed hope for salvation to a mythical leader—Donald Trump– who would save the children. Pogo was right!

David L. Altheide is Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University. His most recent book is Terrorism and the Politics of Fear.

BREAKING: Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike

Despite a Senate official’s roadblock, the VP can clear a path to fulfill Dems’ $15 minimum wage promise, according to a blueprint circulating on Capitol Hill.

Andrew Perez and David Sirota Feb 26, 2021 (The Daily Poster)

This report was written by Andrew Perez and David Sirota.

On Thursday, a key Senate official advised Democratic lawmakers that the chamber’s rules do not allow them to include a minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s first COVID-19 relief legislation. The ruling from the parliamentarian means that Vice President Kamala Harris could decide the fate of one of the Democratic Party’s most significant campaign promises — but it remains unclear what she will end up doing.

As the presiding officer of the Senate, Harris — who has long touted her support for a $15 minimum wage — can now use the power her predecessors have used to ignore the advisory opinion and fulfill Biden’s campaign promise to boost the wage. A confidential memo obtained by The Daily Poster now circulating on Capitol Hill spells out exactly how that could be accomplished.

However, White House chief of staff Ron Klain this week declared that Harris will refuse to use that power — a decision that would effectively put the Biden-Harris administration in the position of potentially killing the prospect of minimum wage legislation for the foreseeable future. Immediately after the parliamentarian’s ruling, the White House issued a statement reiterating Klain’s comment, declaring that “Biden respects the parliamentarian’s decision.”

Some congressional Democrats have already been arguing that the Biden administration’s refusal to overrule the parliamentarian would be immoral and a political disaster for their party.

“It’s been 12 years since we’ve raised the minimum wage, and if we’re going to make those promises, we have to be able to deliver on them,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday on MSNBC. “Because, I’ll tell you what, in two years… when people vote in the midterms, you’re not gonna be able to say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, we couldn’t raise the minimum wage because the parliamentarian ruled that we couldn’t do it.’ That’s not gonna fly.”

“Ultimately It’s The Vice President Of The United States”

The maddening process conversation surrounding a $15 minimum wage increase is the result of Democrats refusing to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which means Republicans can block most legislation unless Democrats find 60 votes. 

As such, Democrats are working to pass the COVID bill using the convoluted budget reconciliation process. The process will allow for a simple majority vote on the final legislation, but it also allows Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to recommend tossing certain provisions if she decides they violate the so-called Byrd Rule, which is designed to prohibit extraneous matters outside of federal spending issues to be added to budget legislation.  

The minimum wage, however, has budget implications, according to the Congressional Budget Office — which is why proponents had hoped MacDonough would advise that it is in order, especially since the nonpartisan parliamentarian has previously ruled that other less significant budget-related issues were in order. 

MacDonough, however, refused to do so on Thursday evening. The development is not catastrophic for the $15 minimum wage provision — if Harris simply uses her power to ignore the opinion and clear the path for the measure she has long insisted she supports.  

The problem is that the White House is signaling she will do the opposite.

In an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Klain said that if the parliamentarian advises Democrats against including the minimum wage hike, the White House will not want Democrats to move ahead with it. If Harris refuses to use her power, that decision could leave workers who are paid poverty wages and toiling in hazardous conditions during the pandemic to wait indefinitely for better pay. 

“Not sure if it’s ever happened in the past,” Klain said when asked if Harris will ignore the parliamentarian. “Certainly that’s not something we would do. We’re going to honor the rules of the system and work within that system to get this bill passed.”

Eugene Daniels @EugeneDaniels2For those saying Harris should just overrule the Senate Parliamentarian on $15 minimum wage, Chief of Staff Ron Klain told @JoyAnnReid last night that: “Certainly that’s not something we would do. We’re going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system.”

February 26th 202148 Retweets186 Likes

Vice presidents have ignored the parliamentarian in the past. According to Slate, “Vice President Hubert Humphrey routinely ignored his parliamentarian’s advice.”

Roll Call reported last month: “Precedents for ignoring parliamentary advice include 1967, 1969, and 1975 efforts to change the Senate’s threshold to end debate from a two-thirds vote to three-fifths.”

“Ultimately it’s the Vice President of the United States,” said former Senate parliamentarian Robert Dove in a 2010interview about such matters. “It is the decision of the Vice President whether or not to play a role here… And I have seen vice presidents play that role in other very important situations… The parliamentarian can only advise. It is the vice president who rules.”

At the time, The Huffington Post explained that a vice president “can choose whether or not to accept the parliamentarian’s decision or rule… that ruling is subject to appeal — but the appeal is decided by majority vote.”

Confidential Memo Spells Out A Path Forward

In a new memo circulating to lawmakers and obtained by The Daily Poster, Harris’s power as the presiding Chair of the Senate is spelled out, citing a precedent set during the Clinton administration. 

“It would take 60 votes to overturn the ruling of the Chair on a Byrd Rule point of order, regardless of what the Parliamentarian advises,” states the memo. “Based on a search of the Congressional Record, it appears that only twice has the chair’s ruling on a Byrd Rule point of order been appealed. Both instances occurred on August 6, 1993, during consideration of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. Neither appeal garnered the 60 affirmative votes necessary to overturn the Chair’s ruling.”

The memo spells out exactly how Democrats could use the same process now, explaining the scenario that would play out if Harris invoked her power:

“What would probably happen is a senator would appeal the ruling of the chair and then the full Senate would vote on whether to sustain the appeal,” it says. “The Chair’s ruling would be upheld as long as there are not 60 affirmative votes to sustain the appeal. So, if the majority could hold enough members together (less than 60 affirmative votes to sustain the appeal), the ruling that runs counter to the Parliamentarian’s advice would be upheld.”

The same memo also warns against Harris accepting the parliamentarian’s advice and Senate Democrats then pretending to push for the new minimum wage as part of the deliberations. In that situation, the memo suggests Democrats would be setting the minimum wage measure up for defeat. 

“If in the same scenario, the chair followed the parliamentarian’s advice (and) a senator from the majority party (in favor of the provision at issue) were to appeal that ruling, then it would also take 60 affirmative votes to overturn the chair’s ruling,” says the memo. “Thus, the majority would be in a weaker position by doing it this way, because they would need to muster 60 affirmative votes to overturn the chair.”

Biden Has Been Retreating For Weeks

Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” released on Biden’s first day in office, called on Congress to raise the minimum wage in its COVID relief bill. 

“Throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40 percent of frontline workers who are people of color,” his plan stated. “As President Biden has said, let’s not just praise them, let’s pay them.

But for weeks now, it’s seemed like Biden and his fellow Democrats were actively hoping the parliamentarian would give them a halfway plausible reason to avoid including the minimum wage in the COVID bill. Indeed, last week, Biden suggested in a meeting with governors and mayors he didn’t think the Senate parliamentarian would allow the wage increase to remain in the bill. 

If you watched White House chief of staff Ron Klain’s appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday, it was abundantly clear that he and his colleagues do not view securing the minimum wage hike in the COVID legislation as a priority. 

Instead, Klain went to the mat to defend Biden’s scandalplagued Office of Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden, who probably won’t have the votes to win confirmation after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he’ll oppose her.

Klain said, “We’re fighting our guts out to get her confirmed.” He added: “If Neera Tanden is not confirmed, she will not become the budget director. We will find some other place for her to serve in the administration that doesn’t require senate confirmation.”

The contrast could not be more stark: The Biden administration appears to be pulling out all the stops to confirm a Washington insider to a relatively obscure position, but not doing the same to fight for a policy that polls show is wildly popular and that economic data suggests is desperately needed now more than ever.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage to $15 could affect the wages of 27 million U.S. workers. Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve published research showing that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth less today than it’s ever been. 

This abominable reality could continue for the foreseeable future if Harris now refuses to use her power to add a minimum wage increase to what could be the only piece of major legislation that could move in a gridlocked Senate.


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Assemblymember Ash Kalra, California Nurses Association Announce CalCare Single-Payer Legislation to Guarantee Health Care for All Californians

Friday, February 19, 2021 (a27.asmdc.org)

AB 1400 would guarantee comprehensive, high-quality health care for all Californians as a human right, leading the nation in the larger fight for health care justice

SACRAMENTO – California Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and joint authors, Assemblymembers Alex Lee (D-San Jose) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), today introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1400, which would guarantee comprehensive, high-quality health care to all Californians as a human right. Renewing its commitment to the larger fight for health care justice, the California Nurses Association (CNA) is the sponsor of AB 1400, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act (CalCare). The CalCare program establishes an improved Medicare for All-type health care system.

“A single-payer health system represents the belief that health care is truly a human right. Our current system results in unjust outcomes and these inequities are underscored especially now, exacerbating economic downturns for working families who have lost their income and meaningful access to health care,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “We will have a long fight ahead in fixing our broken system, but this bill will set us on a real path towards a single-payer system and affirms the policy that would save lives, decrease suffering, and improve public health in California.”

Despite the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, nearly 3 million Californians have no health insurance, while millions more have insurance that they can’t afford to use because their copays and deductibles are too high. Meanwhile, for-profit insurance companies and health care systems are reporting record-breaking profits, even while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage California and medical-related bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

“Health care should be a human right, not a privilege. Millions of uninsured Californians are anxious and afraid of what will happen to them if they get sick during this pandemic. Will they be able to afford to survive COVID-19?” said joint author Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. “California can lead the nation toward a health care model that is affordable and accessible to all. A single-payer health care system will provide health care for all Californians regardless of age, income, or immigration status with no network restrictions, deductibles, or copayments.”

“The wealthiest nation in human history has failed to guarantee health care as a human right. Two thirds of the bankruptcies in this country are tied to medical debt,” said joint author Assemblymember Alex Lee. “We’ve seen from the pandemic that employment-based health care doesn’t work – through CalCare we can guarantee health care for all Californians.”

Upon being authorized and financed, CalCare will ensure that all Californians, regardless of employment, income, immigration status, race, gender, or any other considerations, can get the health care they need, free at the point of service. CalCare also includes long-term services and supports for people with disabilities and the elderly, a health care cost control system, and ways to address health care disparities.

“From our experiences caring for patients, we nurses have known the need for and fought for decades for everyone to have guaranteed health care through a system like CalCare,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of California Nurses Association and the national nursing organization with which it is affiliated, National Nurses United. “The COVID pandemic has just underscored the desperate societal need for this program NOW. CalCare will ensure that public health is the priority of our health care system, not making a buck for insurance corporations.”

The CalCare program would be a truly transformative change to California’s health care system. In addition to guaranteeing health care to all Californians, it would save families and businesses thousands in annual health care costs by cutting out the bloat, waste, and inefficiencies of our fragmented, for-profit insurance system.

Californians overwhelmingly support the transition to a single-payer health care system: 57 percent of all Californians supported replacing private insurance with guaranteed coverage provided by the government—even before the Covid-19 pandemic caused millions of Californians to lose their jobs and employer-provided health insurance.

Past legislative attempts have addressed the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, however, the cost of health care remains unaffordable for many working Californians and is a significant burden for the public, as well as private employers and payers. Despite this high spending, Americans have worse health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy and greater prevalence of chronic conditions, which has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, California’s growing senior population only further necessitates the need for more comprehensive health care and long-term care supports.

Assemblymember Kalra has been at the forefront on first-of-its-kind legislation, AB 3087 in 2018, to combat skyrocketing costs in our health care system. He was the author of AB 731 in 2019 which sought to expand health insurance rate review to the large group market and enhance elements of review to better understand the cost drivers in health care. He has been a leader on a number of issues to assist the aging population during his first term as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, championing issues like expanding community-based assisted living, holding nursing homes accountable to resident harm, improving long-term care insurance, extending the Alzheimer’s tax check-off, and requesting additional funding for critical elder care programs.

The principal coauthors of AB 1400 are Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Senators Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). The bill is also coauthored by Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), and Senators Josh Becker (D-Peninsula), Dave Cortese (D-Silicon Valley), John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont).

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Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents the 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San Jose and includes all of downtown. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees. For more information, visit https://a27.asmdc.org/.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon. Since his election to the Assembly in 2014, he has championed legislation to address homelessness, food insecurity, educational inequity and income inequality. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. He also sits on the Assembly Committees on Public Safety, Health, Higher Education and Utilities and Energy.

Assemblymember Alex Lee sits on the Budget Committee as well as the Committees on Education, Transportation, Privacy & Consumer Protection, and Rules. He represents the 25th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara

Word-built world: Poplarism

Feb 24, 2021 (wsmith@wordsmith.org)

poplarism

A mural commemorating the Poplar Rates Rebellion (detail)Photo: Ceridwen / Wikimedia


A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg

Poplarism

PRONUNCIATION:(POP-luh-riz-uhm) 

MEANING:noun: The policy of giving generous compensation, benefits, unemployment relief, etc.

ETYMOLOGY:After Poplar, a district in London, where in 1921 the mayor, George Lansbury, and the council decided to use the tax money to provide relief to the poor instead of sending it to London. The mayor and councilors were imprisoned for contempt of court and the incident is known as the Poplar Rates Rebellion. Rate is the British term for property tax. Earliest documented use: 1922.

USAGE:“Poplarism sought to unite the unemployed and employed by establishing a discourse, embodied in policy, that no working person should be allowed to fall below a level set by a measure of human need.”
Gerry Mooney, Michael Lavalette; Class Struggle and Social Welfare; Routledge; 2000.

Federal judge says California can enforce net neutrality law

ADAM BEAM, Associated Press Feb. 23, 2021 (SFGate.com)

FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, a federal judge ruled California could enforce a 2018 net neutrality law. The law, authored by Wiener, aims to prevent internet service providers from intentionally slowing down internet speeds, among other things.
FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, a federal judge ruled California could enforce a 2018 net neutrality law. The law, authored by Wiener, aims to prevent internet service providers from intentionally slowing down internet speeds, among other things.Rich Pedroncelli/AP

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that California can for the first time enforce its tough net neutrality law, clearing the way for the state to ban internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and applications that don’t pay for premium service.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in 2018, making California the first state to pass a net neutrality law. Open internet advocates hoped the law would spur Congress and other states to follow suit. The Trump administration quickly sued to block the law, which prevented it from taking effect for years while the case was tied up in court.

The Biden administration dropped that lawsuit earlier this month. But in a separate lawsuit, the telecom industry asked a federal judge to keep blocking the law. On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez denied their request, allowing California to begin enforcing the law.

California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the author of the law, called the ruling “a huge victory for open access to the internet, our democracy and our economy.”

“The internet is at the heart of modern life. We all should be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the internet and how we access information,” Wiener said. “We cannot allow big corporations to make those decisions for us.”

In a joint statement, multiple telecom industry associations said they will review the judge’s decision “before deciding on next steps.” They urged Congress to set net-neutrality rules for the country rather than relying on states to come up with regulations on their own.

“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent,” read the statement from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, ACA Connects, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom.

California’s law was spurred by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 decision to repeal net-neutrality rules that applied nationwide. The telecom industry fought hard against the bill, arguing it would discourage companies from investing in faster internet speeds.

But advocates say without the rules, it would make it easy for internet providers to favor their own services by making it harder for customers to access their competitors’ websites and apps.

The law seeks to ban internet providers from slowing down customers’ data streams based on the content they are viewing. It also bars providers from speeding up access to websites willing to pay extra for special treatment.

“The ability of an internet service provider to block, slow down or speed up content based on a user’s ability to pay for service degrades the very idea of a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information at the core of our increasingly digital and connected world,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

Impromptu memorial honors life of SF poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Douglas Zimmerman Feb. 24, 2021 (SFGate.com)

On Monday, San Francisco poet and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti died at 101 years old.

A defender of free speech and anarchist activism, Ferlinghetti was one of the last remaining writers from the Beat generation.

On Tuesday night, a vigil was held outside the bookstore he co-founded in North Beach on Columbus Avenue in 1953.

Afterward, one of the vigil attendees created a sprawling chalk art memorial honoring the writer. Work on the chalk art continued for several hours after the vigil.

Many fans of the San Francisco author stopped by City Lights to view the memorial or add to it with the pieces of chalk left behind.

Chalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEChalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
A passerby views an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEA passerby views an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
A poem surrounded by flowers is part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEA poem surrounded by flowers is part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Anthony Buchanan views some of the chalk art part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEAnthony Buchanan views some of the chalk art part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Chalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEChalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
A rose and poem are part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEA rose and poem are part of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
A visitor takes photos of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEA visitor takes photos of an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Several people add to the chalk art memorial outside City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATESeveral people add to the chalk art memorial outside City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Visitors look at the chalk art covering the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEVisitors look at the chalk art covering the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEAn impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
A group of people view an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEA group of people view an impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that appeared overnight in front of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEAn impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Chalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATEChalk art covers the sidewalk in front of City Lights bookstore in North Beach. An impromptu memorial in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared overnight in front of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 2021.

Parents launch recall effort against school board members

Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were sworn in to the Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2019. (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Examiner)

Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were sworn in to the Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2019. (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Examiner)

Multiple committees formed to explore ways to remove commissioners or change board structure

Two San Francisco parents this week put in motion an effort to recall three school board members up for reelection next year, bringing the total number of committees to organize or explore a recall to three.

Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, tech workers who are single parents to five children between them, said they have submitted local and state filings in the past week to form a committee to recall School Board President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Alison Collins and Board member Faauuga Moliga. All three were elected in 2018.

“The best city in the world deserves the best schools in the world,” the duo wrote on their website. “We are public school parents launching a recall of the San Francisco school board.”

The push comes after the announcement of a separate effort to explore options including a recall that was born out of frustration with the school board over reopening and other heated topics like efforts to rename schools and changes to Lowell High School.

The Better Public Schools political advisory committee launched last week and filed paperwork earlier this month to explore options to change the school board. The new PAC, an offshoot of Families for San Francisco, is also considering recall as well as a charter amendment that would turn the board into an appointed body or running candidates for the 2022 election.

Raj and Looijen’s filing, on the other hand, was explicitly formed to recall the three board members. The remaining four members are not eligible to be recalled until six months after taking office, which would be in June.

State filings show a third committee has also been created to support recalling the three school board members, which Looijen and Raj say is not connected to them. The number listed on state filings for that group matches a San Francisco Republican Party member and assembly delegate, who did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The San Francisco Department of Elections has not yet received a notice of intention to mount a recall effort, a staffer confirmed on Monday. Looijen and Raj are enlisting up to 30 volunteers to serve as official sponsors, who must be San Francisco voters willing to publicly list their addresses.

Once the department notifies proponents the petition requirements have been met, they have up to 160 days to collect signatures, but must do so in person. Joel Engardio, a former Board of Supervisors candidate who has been vocal recently in school board reform, previously estimated a recall effort would need to collect 70,000 signatures for each school board member to ensure they are all valid.

Lopez on Sunday acknowledged that mistakes have been made in the widely criticized school renaming process, which has drawn a lawsuit challenging the methods by which it was approved. The process will be put on hold until schools are reopened, Lopez announced.

“There have been many distracting debates as we’ve been working to reopen our schools,” Lopez wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle editorial and on Twitter. “School renaming has been one of them. I want us to focus our time and actions where they matter most. On the safety of our children, and on safely getting them back to schools.”

JEFF ADACHI’S NEW BOOK UNCOVERS SAN FRANCISCO’S FORGOTTEN PAST

by Randy Shaw on February 23, 2021 (beyondchron.org)

SF’s First Public Defender Faced Murder Charges

Jeff Adachi was a true Renaissance man. A fierce deputy public defender, Adachi won election to run the San Francisco Public Defender’s office and completely reshaped it. He made a film, “Defender,” on the criminal defense process and later wrote this fascinating new book, The Case of San Francisco Public Defender Frank Egan: Murder and Scandal in the 1930’s.

Adachi died on February 22, 2019. It remains a tragic loss for San Francisco.

If you haven’t heard of the 1932 trial of Frank Egan, do not feel bad. I had never heard of the case despite writing about equally famous trials connected to San Francisco’s Tenderloin and City Hall graft for my book, The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

Adachi reclaims a lost slice of San Francisco history, uncovering a story that deservs to be told.

Real Life Noir

Hundreds of “film noir” films were made from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. They featured “double indemnity” murder for hire plots, corrupt men in power, and suspicious women. Many were set in San Francisco, and Dashiell Hammett helped launch the noir genre with stories set in the Tenderloin where he lived.

Adachi’s story unites many classic film noir themes. Yet if he had written the exact events of this book in a novel or screenplay, it would have been rejected as too far-fetched to be believed.

Frank Egan, a prominent and highly skilled criminal defense attorney—and the city’s first official Public Defender—was put on trial for allegedly committing actions that seem unbelievable for someone of his background. Once Adachi recounts Egan’s activities early in the book the reader is hooked on learning whether justice will be done.

Criminal defense attorneys know that small details matter. Adachi captures these in recounting the murder of 57-year old Jessie Scott Hughes on April 29, 1932. The biggest detail highlighted in the opening pages is that when Hughes body was dumped from a passing car she ended up facing the wrong way—this raised doubts that her death was caused by a hit and run accident.

Frank Egan, the first and only person at the time to have held the title of Public Defender in San Francisco, would seem to be the last suspect in a murder for hire plot. But while the city’s police department was engulfed in Tenderloin graft, it also knew how to solve complex crimes. And Adachi details the meticulous path that led to Egan’s murder trial.

Hallinan to the Rescue

Egan was represented by a young attorney named Vincent Hallinan. Hallinan’s woman friend and later wife was Vivian Moore. This was 1932, years before Vincent and Vivian Hallinan became nationally known progressive activists who would give birth to a later San Francisco District Attorney—Terrence Hallinan—and an elite criminal defense attorney in Patrick Hallinan.

Hallinan used every trick in the book and made up new ones in representing Frank Egan. Events occurred in this trial that I have never read about occurring in any trial before. My Tenderloin book highlights the remarkable criminal defense strategies of Jake Ehrlich in representing those charged with graft and prostitution; Hallinan’s work how 1930’s San Francisco was blessed with criminal defense talent.

I rooted against Hallinan and his client throughout the trial. I think most readers will also favor conviction. Hughes entrusted Egan with nearly all her assets. She was not the only woman whose business relationship with Egan cost them dearly, and Adachi describes other suspicious cases (Egan was allowed to combine being Public Defender with running a private trust and estates practice. This connected him to people making wills).

Jeff Adachi was a savvy litigator. And the brilliance of this book is that he frames the facts so that the trial outcome is in doubt until the jury announces its verdict. Hallinan alone injects enough doubt into a seemingly airtight case to sustain the book’s suspense. Hallinan’s powerful closing argument—outside his troubling anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish prosecutor which I hope he later regretted making—showed him to be a future legal star.

Adachi’s book is a must read for San Francisco history buffs. They will love the book’s details. One of the suspects along with Egan was arrested at the National Hotel on Market Street, which the organization I head currently operates. A suspect is interrogated for five days at the Whitcomb Hotel. The jury has dinner and holds a party at the historic William Taylor Hotel, now the historic McAllister Tower owned by Adachi’s alma mater, Hastings Law School.

Many events occur at a place described as the Blackstone Hotel on O’Farrell Street. My 1918 city phone directory has the Blackstone Apartments at 81 9th Street but Adachi’s Blackstone is on O’Farrell; if anyone knows what hotel Adachi is writing about as the Blackstone please let me know.

For me, the book’s only downside is that it reminded me that we lost Jeff Adachi years before his time. How much fun he would have had discussing the trial strategies in this book! We’ll have to have those discussions without him while remaining grateful that he brought the Frank Egan case back to life.

Randy Shaw is Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic. He graduated Hastings College of the Law three years before Jeff Adachi.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw’s latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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Beat poet, publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti dies at 101

JANIE HAR and HILLEL ITALIE, Associated Press

Feb. 23, 2021 (SFGate.com)

FILE - Author Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears in Oct. 8, 1988. Ferlinghetti, a poet, publisher and bookseller has died in San Francisco at age 101. His son says Ferlinghetti died at home on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ferlinghetti helped launch and perpetuate the Beat movement. He was known for his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, an essential meeting place for the Beats and other bohemians in the 1950s and beyond.
1of3FILE – Author Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears in Oct. 8, 1988. Ferlinghetti, a poet, publisher and bookseller has died in San Francisco at age 101. His son says Ferlinghetti died at home on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ferlinghetti helped launch and perpetuate the Beat movement. He was known for his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, an essential meeting place for the Beats and other bohemians in the 1950s and beyond.Frankie Ziths/AP
FILE - Author Lawrence Ferlinghetti recites a poem after he was awarded the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community at the National Book Awards in New York, on Nov. 16, 2005. Ferlinghetti, a poet, publisher and bookseller has died in San Francisco at age 101. His son says Ferlinghetti died at home on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ferlinghetti helped launch and perpetuate the Beat movement. He was known for his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, an essential meeting place for the Beats and other bohemians in the 1950s and beyond.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet, publisher, bookseller and activist who helped launch the Beat movement in the 1950s and embodied its curious and rebellious spirit well into the 21st century, has died at age 101.

Ferlinghetti, a San Francisco institution, died Monday at his home, his son Lorenzo Ferlinghetti said. A month shy of his 102nd birthday, Ferlinghetti died “in his own room,” holding the hands of his son and his son’s girlfriend, “as he took his last breath.” The cause of death was lung disease. Ferlinghetti had received the first dose of the COVID vaccine last week, his son said Tuesday.

Few poets of the past 60 years were so well known, or so influential. His books sold more than 1 million copies worldwide, a fantasy for virtually any of his peers, and he ran one of the world’s most famous and distinctive bookstores, City Lights. Although he never considered himself one of the Beats, he was a patron and soul mate and, for many, a lasting symbol — preaching a nobler and more ecstatic American dream.

“Am I the consciousness of a generation or just some old fool sounding off and trying to escape the dominant materialist avaricious consciousness of America?” he asked in “Little Boy,” a stream of consciousness novel published around the time of his 100th birthday

He made history. Through the City Lights publishing arm, books by Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and many others came out and the release of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem “Howl” led to a 1957 obscenity case that broke new ground for freedom of expression.

He also defied history. The Internet, superstore chains and high rents shut down numerous booksellers in the Bay Area and beyond, but City Lights remained a thriving political and cultural outlet, where one section was devoted to books enabling “revolutionary competence,” where employees could get the day off to attend an anti-war protest.

“Generally, people seem to get more conservative as they age, but in my case, I seem to have gotten more radical,” Ferlinghetti told Interview magazine in 2013. “Poetry must be capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic.”

The store even endured during the coronavirus outbreak, when it was forced to close and required $300,000 to stay in business. A GoFundMe campaign quickly raised $400,000.

Ferlinghetti, tall and bearded, with sharp blue eyes, could be soft-spoken, even introverted and reticent in unfamiliar situations. But he was the most public of poets and his work wasn’t intended for solitary contemplation. It was meant to be recited or chanted out loud, whether in coffee houses, bookstores or at campus gatherings.

His 1958 compilation, “A Coney Island of the Mind,” sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the U.S. alone. Long an outsider from the poetry community, Ferlinghetti once joked that he had “committed the sin of too much clarity.” He called his style “wide open” and his work, influenced in part by e.e. cummings, was often lyrical and childlike: “Peacocks walked/under the night trees/in the lost moon/light/when I went out/looking for love,” he wrote in “Coney Island.”

Ferlinghetti also was a playwright, novelist, translator and painter and had many admirers among musicians. In 1976, he recited “The Lord’s Prayer” at the Band’s farewell concert, immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz.” The folk-rock band Aztec Two-Step lifted its name from a line in the title poem of Ferlinghetti’s “Coney Island” book: “A couple of Papish cats/is doing an Aztec two-step.” Ferlinghetti also published some of the earliest film reviews by Pauline Kael, who with The New Yorker became one of the country’s most influential critics.

He lived long and well despite a traumatic childhood. His father died five months before Lawrence was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1919, leaving behind a sense of loss that haunted him, yet provided much of the creative tension that drove his art. His mother, unable to cope, had a nervous breakdown two years after his father’s death. She eventually disappeared and died in a state hospital.

Ferlinghetti spent years moving among relatives, boarding homes and an orphanage before he was taken in by a wealthy New York family, the Bislands, for whom his mother had worked as a governess. He studied journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received a master’s in literature from Columbia University, and a doctorate degree from the Sorbonne in Paris. His early influences included Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and Ezra Pound.

Ferlinghetti hated war, because he was in one. In 1945, he was a Navy commander stationed in Japan and remembered visiting Nagasaki a few weeks after the U.S. had dropped an atom bomb. The carnage, he would recall, made him an “instant pacifist.”

In the early 1950s, he settled in San Francisco and married Selden Kirby-Smith, whom he divorced in 1976. (They had two children). Ferlinghetti also became a member of the city’s rising literary movement, the so-called San Francisco Renaissance, and soon helped establish a gathering place. Peter D, Martin, a sociologist, had opened a paperback store in the city’s North Beach section and named it after a recent Charlie Chaplin film, “City Lights.” When Ferlinghetti saw the storefront, in 1953, he suggested he and Martin become partners. Each contributed $500.

Ferlinghetti later told The New York Times: “City Lights became about the only place around where you could go in, sit down, and read books without being pestered to buy something.”

The Beats, who had met in New York in the 1940s, now had a new base. One project was City Lights’ Pocket Poets series, which offered low-cost editions of verse, notably Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Ferlinghetti had heard Ginsberg read a version in 1955 and wrote him: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?” a humorous take on the message sent from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman upon reading “Leaves of Grass.”

Ferlinghetti published “Howl and Other Poems” in 1956, but customs officials seized copies of the book that were being shipped from London, and Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges. After a highly publicized court battle, a judge in 1957 ruled that “Howl” was not obscene, despite its sexual themes, citing the poem’s relevance as a criticism of modern society. A 2010 film about the case, “Howl,” starred James Franco as Ginsberg and Andrew Rogers as Ferlinghetti.

Ferlinghetti would also release Kerouac’s “Book of Dreams,” prison writings by Timothy Leary and Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems.” Ferlinghetti risked prison for “Howl,” but rejected Burrough’s classic “Naked Lunch,” worrying that publication would lead to “sure premeditated legal lunacy.”

Ferlinghetti’s eyesight was poor in recent years, but he continued to write and to keep regular hours at City Lights. The establishment, meanwhile, warmed to him, even if the affection wasn’t always returned. He was named San Francisco’s first poet laureate, in 1998, and City Lights was granted landmark status three years later. He received an honorary prize from the National Book Critics Circle in 2000 and five years later was given a National Book Award medal for “his tireless work on behalf of poets and the entire literary community.”

“The dominant American mercantile culture may globalize the world, but it is not the mainstream culture of our civilization,” Ferlinghetti said upon receiving the award. “The true mainstream is made, not of oil, but of literarians, publishers, bookstores, editors, libraries, writers and readers, universities and all the institutions that support them.”

In 2012, Ferlinghetti won the Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize from the Hungarian PEN Club. When he learned the country’s right-wing government was a sponsor, he turned the award down.

___

Italie reported from New York.

FRESHWATER FISH ARE IN “CATASTROPHIC” DECLINE WITH ONE-THIRD FACING EXTINCTION, REPORT FINDS

BY SOPHIE LEWIS

FEBRUARY 23, 2021 / 12:28 PM / CBS NEWS (cbsnews.com)

Thousands of fish species are facing “catastrophic” decline — threatening the health, food security and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world. New research shows that one-third of all freshwater fish now face extinction

According to a report published Tuesday by 16 global conservation groups, 18,075 species of freshwater fish inhabit our oceans, accounting for over half of the world’s total fish species and a quarter of all vertebrates on Earth. This biodiversity is critical to maintaining not only the health of the planet, but the economic prosperity of communities worldwide. 

About 200 million people across Asia, Africa and South America rely on freshwater fishers for their main source of protein, researchers said in “The World’s Forgotten Fishes” report. About one-third of those people also rely on them for their jobs and livelihoods. 

Despite their importance, freshwater fishes are “undervalued and overlooked,” researchers said — and now freshwater biodiversity is declining at twice the rate of that in oceans and forests. 

Eighty freshwater species have already been declared extinct — 16 of them in 2020 alone. 

GREECE-ENVIRONMENT
Thousands of dead freshwater fish are seen around Lake Koroneia, Greece, on September 19, 2019. SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Nowhere is the world’s nature crisis more acute than in our rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the clearest indicator of the damage we are doing is the rapid decline in freshwater fish populations. They are the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine, and we must heed the warning,” said Stuart Orr of the World Wildlife Fund. “Despite their importance to local communities and indigenous people across the globe, freshwater fish are invariably forgotten and not factored into development decisions about hydropower dams or water use or building on floodplains.”

Climate Change 

Migratory species have dropped by more than three-quarters in the last 50 years, while populations of larger species, known as “megafish,” have declined by a “catastrophic” 94%. 

Freshwater ecosystems face a devastating combination of threats — including habitat destruction, hydropower dams, over-abstraction of water for irrigation, various types of pollution, overfishing, the introduction of invasive species and ongoing climate change.  

Organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation and The Nature Conservancy have now called for governments to implement an “Emergency Recovery Plan” to save freshwater biodiversity. They recommend protecting and restoring rivers, water quality and crucial habitats — undoing the damages caused by overfishing. 

“Freshwater fish matter to the health of people and the freshwater ecosystems that all people and all life on land depend on,” Orr said. “It’s time we remembered that.”

© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sophie Lewis

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Sophie Lewis is a social media producer and trending writer for CBS News, focusing on space and climate change.