“On Disobedience and Other Essays” by Erich Fromm

On Disobedience and Other EssaysOn Disobedience and Other Essays by Erich Fromm

“Indeed, freedom and the capacity for disobedience are inseparable; hence any social, political, and religious system which proclaims freedom, yet stamps out disobedience, cannot speak the truth.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“Capitalism puts things (capital) higher than life (labor). Power follows from possession, not from activity.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“The supreme principle of socialism is that man takes precedence over things, life over property, and hence, work over capital; that power follows creation, and not possession; that man must not be governed by circumstances, but circumstances must be governed by man.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“For centuries kings, priests, feudal lords, industrial bosses and parents have insisted that obedience is a virtue and that disobedience is a vice.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“We are poor in spite of all our wealth because we have much, but we are little.’ As a result, the average man feels insecure, lonely, depressed, and suffers from a lack of joy in the midst of plenty. Life does not make sense to him; he is dimly aware that the meaning of life cannot lie in being nothing but a ‘consumer.’ He could not stand the joylessness and meaninglessness of life were it not for the fact that the system offers him innumerable avenues of escape, ranging from television to tranquilizers, which permit him to forget that he is losing more and more of all that is valuable in life.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“If a man can only obey and not disobey, he is a slave; if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel (not a revolutionary); he acts out of anger, disappointment, resentment, yet not in the name of a conviction or a principle.

Obedience to a person, institution or power (heteronomous obedience) is submission; it implies the abdication of my autonomy and the acceptance of a foreign will or judgment in place of my own. Obedience to my own reason or conviction (autonomous obedience) is not an act of submission but one of affirmation. My conviction and my judgment, if authentically mine, are part of me. If I follow them rather than the judgment of others, I am being myself;(p. 6)

In order to disobey, one must have the courage to be alone, to err and to sin.

…; hence any social, political, and religious system which proclaims freedom, yet stamps out disobedience, cannot speak the truth.(p. 8)

At this point in history the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey may be all that stands between a future for mankind and the end of civilization. (p. 10)It is the function of the prophet to show reality, to show alternatives and to protest; it is his function to call loudly, to awake man from his customary half-slumber. It is the historical situation which makes prophets, not the wish of some men to be prophets. (p. 12)

Disobedience, then, in the sense in which we use it here, is an act of the affirmation of reason and will. It is not primarily an attitude directed against something, but for something: for man’s capacity to see, to say what he sees, and to refuse to say what he does not see (p. 17)

That which was the greatest criticism of socialism fifty years ago—that it would lead to uniformity, bureaucratization, centralization, and a soulless materialism—is a reality of today’s capitalism.
(p. 31)

Man, instead of being the master of the machines he has built, has become their servant. But man is not made to be a thing, and with all the satisfactions of consumption, the life forces in man cannot be held in abeyance continuously. We have only one choice, and that is mastering the machine again, making production into a means and not an end, using it for the unfolding of man—or else the suppressed life energies will manifest themselves in chaotic and destructive forms. Man will want to destroy life rather than die of boredom. (p. 32)

The supreme loyalty of man must be to the human race and to the moral principles of humanism.
(p. 38)

The individual must be protected from fear and the need to submit to anyone’s coercion. (p. 42)

Not only in the sphere of political decisions, but with regard to all decisions and arrangements, the grip of the bureaucracy must be broken in order to restore freedom. (p. 42)

According to its basic principles, the aim of socialism is the abolition of national sovereignty, the abolition of any kind of armed forces, and the establishment of a commonwealth of nations. (p. 43)

It is exactly the weakness of contemporary society that it offers no ideals, that it demands no faith, that it has no vision—except that of more of the same. (p. 49)

Socialism must be radical. To be radical is to go to the roots; and the root is Man. (p. 49)”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience and Other Essays

UPDATES ~ ANNOUNCEMENTS for Monday 5/14 – Wednesday 5/16 + Weekly and Monthly Events (from Adrienne Fong)

This will be the LAST  announcement  for awhile – unless there is an emergency action. Please encourage groups you are involved in to post events on Indybay. Not everyone has access to facebook. 

Check Indybay for other events: https://www.indybay.org/calendar/

Listed are a few announcements for this week and a section for WEEKLY and MONTHLY events. 


A. Former SF Police Commission President Julius Turman dead at 52 (May 13, 2018)


BSF supervisors to question executives on botched Hunters Point soil cleanup May 13, 2018


   See item # 2 

C. Advocates worry Hunters Point Shipyard cleanup woes extend to Treasure Island (May 13, 2018)


D. Death Toll for Gaza’s March of Return Keeps Rising, Call for International Protection (May 11, 2018)


   See items # 6 and 8

E. This is What They Don’t Want You To Know About Syria: Eva Bartlett on Dan Dicks’ Press For Truth



Monday, May 14 – Wednesday May 16 

Monday, May 14 

1. Monday, 11:00am  5:00pm, Justice for Sahleem Tindle Rally & March

Meet at:

Alameda County Courthouse (Rene C. Davidson Courthouse)
1225 Fallon St.

11:00am Rally


  Address the inhumane justice system;

  Children speakers

1:30pm March to 2040 Webster St. (Where BART Board meeting is held)

2:30pm Dedication: Life and Spirit of Sahleem Tindle

4:00pm BART Board & Police Commission Meeting

The Sahleem Tindle family continues to fight for #Justice4Sahleem and demand that #OMalleyChargeMateu with murder. Joseph Mateu is the BART police officer who murdered Sahleem Tindle across from the West Oakland BART station on January 3, 2018. Despite clear video proof that Sahleem was not holding a weapon and was shot in the back, no charges have yet been filed against Mateu. In fact the BART Police Chief is considering Mateu for a promotion.

Sponsors: Love Not Blood Campaign Anti Police-Terror ProjectHebrew Cultural Community

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1073083472844935/ 

2. Monday, 12:30pm – 4:00pm, Public Hearing! On Massive Fraud at Shipyard Superfund Site! 

Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing
SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.

12:30pm – Press Conference

 1:30pm –  Public Hearing

Residents demand a full cleanup of radioactive and toxic contamination, and will hold government officials and corporations accountable for the cover-up, fraud, and botched cleanup of the site.

At 12:30pm we will gather on the footsteps of the SF City Hall to hold corporations and government agencies ACCOUNTABLE for the fraudulent cleanup of the Hunters Point Superfund site at the SF Board of Supervisors public hearing!

After years of ignoring the well documented allegations of fraud and improper cleanup of the radioactive and toxic contaminated Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Superfund site, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be holding a long overdue public hearing on this issue.

Billions of taxpayer dollars were spent on the cleanup and today, city, state and federal agencies all agree that evidence indicates Tetra Tech may have committed massive fraud on a unprecedented scale. This is one of the most contaminated sites in the nation and it poses a thread not only to the communities of BVHP, but to the entire Bay Area. 

Join communities and environmental groups in voicing the following demands:

1.) We want a comprehensive sampling/testing of the entire Shipyard site including parcels that have been transferred to the City and Lennar/Five Point. Testing must be conducted with independent community oversight.

2.) We demand a thorough and comprehensive clean-up of the radioactive and toxic waste to prevent contamination from entering our community and the Bay, and address the threat to the contamination site due to rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

3.) End plans to build homes at the Shipyard due to the widespread contamination and due to the government’s reckless plan to leave large amounts of radioactive and toxic contamination at the site.

We want agencies and officials to hear our voices. Bring your comments, bring your signs, posters and voices to help amplify our demands. #JusticeForBVHP

Call (415) 447-3904
E-mail greenaction@greenaction.org
Website www.greenaction.org

Sponsor: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/167267203960449/ 

3. Monday, 2:00pm – 7:00pm, Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Sacramento – Rally & Demonstration 

California State Capitol
1315 10th Street


California is one of over 30 states across the country and in Washington, DC heading to their state capitals on May 14 to force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.

This is the first of six weeks of nonviolent moral fusion direct action across the country to show our elected leaders we will no longer allow attention violence to keep poor and disenfranchised people down.

The first week’s theme is “Somebody’s Hurting Our People: Child poverty, Women, and People with Disabilities, and Public Education 

Schedule for Upcoming Bay Area Poor People’s Campaign


Sponsor: California Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/424482201334761/

4. Monday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poor 

The Green Arcade
1680 Market St.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile. A conversation will follow between the author andJennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of Coalition on Homelessness, facilitated by Leslie Dreyer of the Housing Rights Committee which co-sponsors the event.

Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is also the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements.

Info: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2018/05/07/18809012.php

5. Monday, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Real Climate Leadership: How California Can Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground 

Scottish Rite Center
1547 Lakeside Dr.

Tickets must be purchased in advance: https://actionnetwork.org/ticketed_events/real-climate-leadership

Hear Bill McKibbenPennie Opal PlantAntonia Juhasz, and Juan Flores in a panel discussion on how California can go fossil free and set the standard for real climate leadership.

Doors will open at 6:15, with the program starting at 7:00 sharp.

For more event information:

Info: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2018/05/11/18809118.php

Tuesday, May 15 

6. Tuesday, 4:00pm – 7:00pm, Rally to Commemorate the Day of the Nakba

Israeli Consulate – San Francisco
456 Montgomery St.

On the streets to rally and protest 70 years of Israeli occupation. The Bay Area says no to occupation, no to war, and no to Zionism from here to our homelands.

Sponsor: Palestine Action Network

Info / List of endorsers: https://www.facebook.com/events/166843127350157/

7. Tuesday, 4:30pm – 6:30pm, Grill Your Government – BBQ at City Hall

Oscar Grant Plaza

The recent incident that took place at Lake Merritt surrounding charcoal grilling is not only an example of how the police are used to control African Americans, it also exemplifies the growing tensions for how Black Oakland experiences a changing city.

Join us in solidarity to protect Black Oakland and to push elected officials to do something about the abuse of city resources. We don’t want more meetings, forums or empty gestures – we want action so this doesn’t happen again.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/165861237418208/

Wednesday, May 16

8. Wednesday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Protest Against Israel! Ehud Barak Not Welcome in SF!

3200 California (at Presidio Ave.)

SF Muni lines #1, #2, #3, #43

Former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak will be in San Francisco. Barak has played an instrumental role in fragmenting the Palestinian people and was a general for the Israeli army during 1980’s. Join us to protest outside of his event, he is not welcome here!

Endorsed by several groups

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/527687277626386/

Wednesday, 6:00pm, Strategic Meeting for “No Justice No Deal” 

St. John’s
1661 15th Street (@ Julian)

Info from Anand:

The goal of the meeting will be to assess the campaign thus far and determine next steps.

ICYMI, the Chronicle published a short piece on the contract: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Arbitration-board-rules-against-effort-to-speed-12889842.php

I posted a short Twitter thread with some reflections, in case you’re curious. 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Weekly Events

Thursday’s, 3:00pm, Food Not Bombs –San Francisco

For information or to volunteer:  send email to sffnbvolunteers@riseup.net.

Cookhouse:  Station 40, 3030B 16th Street (between Mission and Julian).

Food Pickups: Help Needed!

Cooking:  3030B 16th Street–3:00 pm to 6:00 pm–Ring doorbell for entry–Help Needed!

Sharing: 16th and Mission BART Plaza — 6:00 pm–Help Needed!

Cleaning Up:  3030B 16th Street–after Cooking–6:00 pm – 8:00 pm–Help Needed!

Friday’s, 12Noon – 2:00pm, Mothers on the March Against Police Murders 

Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St.

Please join us to demand that DA George Gascon charge police officers with murder!

Friday’s, Melt ICE with UNITE HERE Local 2! 

630 Sansome St.

All are welcomed to stand with Local 2 members in support of immigrants and against deportations!

Check 415-864-8770 ext 733 to be sure that they will be present.

Monthly Events 

The 7th of each month, 10:00am – 11:00am  – Celebration of the Life of Luis Góngora Pat.

Alter site:

Shotwell & 19th Streets

Stand with Luis’s family and the community each month on the monthly anniversary of Luis’s murder by the SFPD. Check FB site near the date for

Updates and details. All are welcomed

The family is still waiting for DA Gascon to charge the killer cops who murdered Luis.

Civil trial will not be until April 30, 2018

FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/230409604013458/

The 21st of each month, 6:00pm – 7:00pm Stand with Alex Nieto’s parents, Elvira and Refugio Nieto 

Bernal Hill

SF MUNI Bus line  # 67 stops within a short walking distance to the site where Alex was shot at 59 times by SFPD in March of 2014.

Join Elvira and Refugio each month. All are welcomed.

Book: “The New Human Rights Movement”

The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression

The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression

by Peter Joseph

Society is broken. We can design our way to a better one.

In our interconnected world, self-interest and social-interest are rapidly becoming indistinguishable. If current negative trajectories remain, including growing climate destabilization, biodiversity loss, and economic inequality, an impending future of ecological collapse and societal destabilization will make “personal success” virtually meaningless. Yet our broken social system incentivizes behavior that will only make our problems worse. If true human rights progress is to be achieved today, it is time we dig deeper—rethinking the very foundation of our social system.

In this engaging, important work, Peter Joseph, founder of the world’s largest grassroots social movement—The Zeitgeist Movement—draws from economics, history, philosophy, and modern public-health research to present a bold case for rethinking activism in the 21st century.

Arguing against the long-standing narrative of universal scarcity and other pervasive myths that defend the current state of affairs, The New Human Rights Movement illuminates the structural causes of poverty, social oppression, and the ongoing degradation of public health, and ultimately presents the case for an updated economic approach. Joseph explores the potential of this grand shift and how we can design our way to a world where the human family has become truly sustainable.

The New Human Rights Movement reveals the critical importance of a unified activism working to overcome the inherent injustice of our system. This book warns against what is in store if we continue to ignore the flaws of our socioeconomic approach, while also revealing the bright and expansive future possible if we succeed.

Will you join the movement?


League of Pissed Off Voters endorses . . .

June 5, 2018 Voter Guide

New Polls Show Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough to Beat GOP

Recent survey data bolsters concerns that Democrats’ feeble partisan maneuvers are ill-suited to ousting the Republicans from power

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif, speaks in Berryville, Va., Monday, July 24, 2017, to unveil the Democrats new agenda. From letf are, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. (Photo: AP/Cliff Owen)


With six months to go before the midterm election, new national polls are showing that the Democratic Party’s much-touted momentum to gain control of the House has stalled out. The latest numbers tell us a lot about the limits of denouncing Donald Trump without offering much more than a return to the old status quo.

Under the headline “Democrats’ 2018 Advantage Is Nearly Gone,” CNN reportedWednesday that nationwide polling found “the generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten” —“with the Democrats’ edge over Republicans within the poll’s margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.”

With so many gerrymandered districts as well as widespread voter-ID laws and other GOP-engineered voter suppression, Democrats will need a substantial margin in vote totals to prevent Republicans from retaining a majority in the House of Representatives. (The prospects are worse in the Senate, where Democrats are defending a lopsided number of seats this year.)

“The Democratic Party is still dominated by elected officials and power brokers who appear to be deeply worried that a future progressive upsurge of political engagement could loosen—or even end—their corporate-funded grip on the party.”

While “47 percent of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44 percent back the Republican,” according to CNN. “Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31 percent) or with the GOP in charge (30 percent). A sizable 34 percent—including nearly half of independent voters (48 percent)—say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress.”

The CNN survey comes on the heels of other grim national polling. Released last week, a Reuters poll concluded that “enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials.”

“The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall,” Reuters reported. “And they increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy.”

Young people overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign for president. With their votes in Democratic Party primaries and caucuses two years ago, the young showed that they want truth about the destructive effects of corporate power—and forceful action against its manifestations, whether economic injustice or climate change.

Overall, the latest generation of adults is negative about the demagogue in the White House. But most Democratic leaders aren’t offering a clear and compelling alternative. As Reuters put it, “Although nearly two of three young voters polled said they do not like Republican President Donald Trump, their distaste for him does not necessarily extend to all Republicans or translate directly into votes for Democratic congressional candidates.”

Six months ago, the independent report—titled Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisispointed out that young people “increasingly want politics to be for something profoundly positive rather than just against Republicans.” As a member of the task force that worked on the report, I was struck by how the top echelon of the Democratic Party keeps trying to insulate itself from—and fend off— the tremendous energy that mobilized behind Sanders during the primaries.

In short, the Democratic Party is still dominated by elected officials and power brokers who appear to be deeply worried that a future progressive upsurge of political engagement could loosen—or even end—their corporate-funded grip on the party. As the Autopsy report said, “Emerging sectors of the electorate are compelling the Democratic Party to come to terms with adamant grassroots rejection of economic injustice, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, environmental destruction and corporate domination. Siding with the people who constitute the base isn’t truly possible when party leaders seem to be afraid of them.”

The Sanders campaign was “mostly propelled by millennials,” the report noted, and the campaign “turned what conventional wisdom had pegged as an obscure, 2-percent campaign into a photo finish with the establishment’s preferred candidate. Once the nomination was settled, much of this grassroots energy dissipated as the Clinton campaign declined to adopt positions like single-payer health care and free public college that resonated with young voters.”

Those kinds of positions have gained some traction in the aftermath of 2016, but they still have a steep climb in the hidebound upper reaches of Democratic Party power. For the people atop the party, it’s so much easier and more comfortable to selectively denounce Trump—while opposing genuinely progressive agendas that would really challenge income inequality or take aim at the warfare state’s bloated budget or cross up the big donors who funnel vast quantities of money into the party.

With the world facing the dual threats of climate change and nuclear holocaust, it’s no exaggeration when Noam Chomsky describes the present-day Republican Party as “the most dangerous organization in human history.” The latest national polling reflects the reality that Democrats’ feeble partisan maneuvers are ill-suited to ousting the Republicans from power. Methodical grassroots organizing will be necessary—to bring down the GOP’s deranged leadership, and to defeat the forces of corporate power and militarism that continue to hold sway at the top of the Democratic Party.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Harvey Milk Club endorses . . .

Vote Early, Vote Often!

Here are our Club’s endorsements for June 5th. Print this now and vote early at City Hall:
U.S. Senate: Kevin de Leon
U.S. Congress #12: Nancy Pelosi
U.S. Congress #14: Jackie Speier
Governor: Delaine Eastin
Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Attorney General: Dave Jones
CA Secretary of State: no position
State Treasurer: Fiona Ma
State Controller: Betty Yee
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond
Board of Equalization #2: Malia Cohen
CA State Assembly #17: no position
CA State Assembly #19: Phil Ting
Mayor: Dual endorsement for Jane Kim & Mark Leno
Supervisor District #8: Rafael Mandelman
Superior Court Judge #4: Phoenix Streets
Superior Court Judge #7: Maria Elena Evangelista
Superior Court Judge #9: Kwixuan Hart Maloof
Superior Court Judge #11: Niki Judith Solis

Proposition 68 (Parks, Environment, Water Bond): Yes
Proposition 69 (Transportation Taxes & Fees Lockbox): Yes
Proposition 70 (Vote Requirement for Cap-and-Trade): No
Proposition 71 (Effective Date of Ballot Measures): Yes
Proposition 72 (Rainwater Systems Tax Exclusion): Yes
Regional Measure 3 (Bay Area Toll): no position
Measure A (Public Utilities Bond): Yes
Measure B (Commissioners not Running for Office): Yes
Measure C (Tax for Childcare & Education): Yes
Measure D (Tax for Housing & Services): No
Measure E (Banning Flavored Tobacco): no position
Measure F (Representation for Evictions): Yes
Measure G (Tax for SFUSD): Yes
Measure H (SFPD Use of Tasers): No
Measure I (Relocation of Sports Teams): no position

Netanyahu Begins Calling For Israeli Return To Ancient Homeland Of Iran

May 10, 2018 (theonion.com)

JERUSALEM—Declaring that it was long past time for his people to live once again on their ancestral soil, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly began calling Thursday for the Israeli return to their ancient homeland of Iran. “The land of Iran has long been part of our heritage, and we implore the international community to work with us to ensure its return to the independent Jewish state,” said Netanyahu, adding that Israel was willing to use military force if necessary to reoccupy all 636,400 square miles of present-day Iran that were historically included in the promised land bestowed upon the Jewish people by biblical mandate. “The so-called Islamic cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and dozens of others were founded on what were once ancient Jewish kingdoms, not to mention how many of our most sacred sites Iran currently occupies, including the Imam Reza Holy Shrine, the Jamkaran Mosque, and the Zoroastrian Fire Temple of Chak-Chak. In fact, Iran is home to the highest concentration of Judaic ancient holy sites anywhere in the world outside of Mecca, Lumbini, and Vatican City. We demand that the Jewish people be permitted to return to ruling our ancestral Persian homelands.” At press time, Netanyahu had approved plans to begin construction on a large Israeli settlement in downtown Tehran.

Vote your values with your dollars: Support an SF public bank

May 7, 2018 (SFChronicle.com)

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle

Almost every dollar the city of San Francisco has is stored on the balance sheet of a big bank: more than $10 billion of city money at Citibank, US Bank and Bank of America. These banking decisions are made by the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, and ultimately, by elected Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

We should organize San Francisco to prioritize supporting local financial institutions over big banks — some of the least ethical corporations in the United States. Almost every dollar the city of San Francisco has is stored on the balance sheet of a big bank: more than $10 billion of city money at Citibank, US Bank and Bank of America. These banking decisions are made by the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, and ultimately, by elected Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

The San Francisco Treasurer’s Office recently launched the Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force to explore whether the city should form its own public bank. That might make sense as an option for ensuring that our dollars stay local and go toward ethical ends. There already are indications from presentations and conversations that the task force is backpedaling from a public bank structure and instead considering half measures, such as a revolving loan fund. Such a fund — instead of a public bank — wouldn’t begin to leverage the power of San Francisco’s public funds. It would just leave them at big banks.

I work in financial technology to disrupt big banks — a passion that came from graduating from college directly into the 2008 financial crisis. One of the first things I did when I moved to the Bay Area was to vote my dollars against the big banks by choosing a local bank for my banking. Why? Because corporations increasingly are responding to political pressure as consumers vote their values with their dollars.

After two black men in Philadelphia were arrested for sitting in a Starbucks without buying a coffee, people began organizing a boycott. Suddenly, Starbucks is closing all it stores for a day to give its workers implicit bias training. Delta Airlines severed ties with the National Rifle Association in response to a boycott. The #DeleteUber and #DeleteFacebook campaigns are widely seen as having effected positive change at those companies.

Activists point to the role big banks play in financing the extraction and use of fossil fuels, gun purchases, private prisons and defense contractors. These banks also have paid billions of dollars in fines for defrauding customers over the last decade. Bank of America alone has paid at least $68 billion in fines and settlements related to mortgage fraud since the 2008 financial crisis. Wells Fargo’s fraudulent-account scandal is just the most recent — every top five bank has had multiple settlements with California’s attorney general.

Since 2005, the San Francisco treasurer has received national acclaim as a leader in financial empowerment, but nearly every program has brought San Franciscans to big banks as customers:

•Bank on San Francisco created an on-ramp to financial services for the unbanked, providing alternatives to the exorbitant service fees of predatory lenders and paving the way for greater financial stability. The biggest participating banks include Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Union Bank and U.S. Bank.

•Kindergarten-to-college savings accounts, created for every student entering the San Francisco public school system, is a great idea, but every account created adds to deposits at Citibank.

Taken together, these amount to running interference for big banks, not an ethical vision of San Francisco’s relationship to banking.

San Francisco has an obligation to manage public funds to prioritize environmental responsibility, fair labor practices, and affordable housing, among other principles. You, as a San Franciscan, can influence the placement of billions of dollars. It’s your money, so just as I would recommend that you move your personal funds out of a big banks and find a local bank or credit union for your loans and bank accounts, so too should you advocate that the city do the same.

Contact the treasurer’s office today, and request such a change.

Zac Townsend is the former chief data officer of California and a former co-founder of open banking startup Standard Treasury. He is currently a partner at San Francisco firm Deciens Capital, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage financial technology.

Sierra Club 2018 Endorsements

Sierra Club California’s tax exemption status – 501(c)(4) – allows us to make endorsements for candidates and ballot measures.

For Sierra Club’s endorsements for federal offices, click here.

For Sierra Club’s endorsements of local candidates or measures, please check your local chapter’s website. You can find a link to your local chapter’s website here.

Below you will find our 2018 endorsements. Please check back here for frequent updates.

Endorsements for Statewide Offices:

Office Candidate
Governor Gavin Newsom | Press Release | Why Sierra Club Endorses Newsom
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Bleich | Press Release
Attorney General Xavier Becerra | Press Release
Secretary of State Alex Padilla | Press Release
Controller Betty Yee | Press Release
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond | Press Release

Assembly Endorsements:

District Candidate Main City Chapter
AD 2 Jim Wood Santa Rosa Redwood
AD 7 Kevin McCarty Sacramento Mother Lode
AD 13 Susan Talamantes Eggman Stockton Mother Lode
AD 15 Dan Kalb Richmond/Berkeley San Francisco Bay
AD 16 Rebecca Bauer-Kahan Tri-Valley San Francisco Bay
AD 17 David Chiu San Francisco San Francisco Bay
AD 18 Rob Bonta Oakland/Alameda San Francisco Bay
AD 19 Phil Ting San Francisco/Daly City San Francisco Bay
AD 22 Kevin Mullin San Mateo Loma Prieta
AD 24 Marc Berman Palo Alto/Mountain View Loma Prieta
AD 25 Kansen Chu Fremont/San Jose Loma Prieta
AD 27 Ash Kalra San Jose Loma Prieta
AD 29 Mark Stone Monterey Ventana
AD 30 Robert Rivas Hollister Ventana
AD 37 Monique Limón Santa Barbara Los Padres
AD 38 Christy Smith Santa Clarita Valley Angeles
AD 41 Chris Holden Pasadena Angeles
AD 43 Laura Friedman Burbank Angeles
AD 46 Adrin Nazarian Van Nuys Angeles
AD 47 Eloise Gomez Reyes San Bernardino San Gorgonio
AD 49 Ed Chau San Gabriel Angeles
AD 50 Richard Bloom Agoura Hills/Hollywood Angeles
AD 51 Wendy Carrillo East Los Angeles Angeles
AD 53 Miguel Santiago Huntington Park Angeles
AD 54 Sydney Kamlager Los Angeles Angeles
AD 56 Eduardo Garcia Coachella San Gorgonio
AD 57 Ian Calderon Whittier Angeles
AD 58 Cristina Garcia Bell Gardens Angeles
AD 59 Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Los Angeles Angeles
AD 62 Autumn Burke Inglewood/Hawthorne Angeles
AD 63 Anthony Rendon South Gate Angeles
AD 66 Al Muratsuchi Torrance Angeles
AD 72 Josh Lowenthal Huntington Beach Angeles
AD 76 Tasha Boerner Horvath Encinitas San Diego
AD 78 Todd Gloria San Diego San Diego
AD 80 Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher San Diego San Diego

State Senate Endorsements:

District Candidate Main City Chapter
SD 02 Mike McGuire San Rafael San Francisco Bay
SD 18 Bob Hertzberg Van Nuys Angeles
SD 20 Connie Leyva San Bernardino San Gorgonio
SD 22 Mike Eng El Monte/West Covina Angeles
SD 24 Maria Elena Durazo Los Angeles Angeles
SD 26 Ben Allen Los Angeles Angeles
SD 28 Joy Silver Palm Springs San Gorgonio
SD 30 Holly Mitchell Culver City Angeles
SD 34 Tom Umberg Huntington Beach Angeles

June Ballot Measures:

Measure Summary Sierra Club CA Recommends:
Proposition 68 – California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018. California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018 would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection and restoration projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects.


To see our press release on supporting the measure, click here.


For the full text of the measure, click here.

Proposition 70 – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Reserve Fund The measure would require a one-time, two-thirds vote of the legislature in 2024 on the distribution of greenhouse gas reduction funds generated by the cap-and-trade program For more information, click here.

The policy will empower a small set of legislators to extract significant policy concessions in exchange for their votes. It will postpone urgent expenditures for climate, air quality, and other statewide and local priorities, including expenditures in environmental justice communities.


For the full text of the measure, click here.


November Ballot Measures:

Measure Summary Sierra Club CA Recommends:
Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018 The bond would provide $8.877 billion for various water projects and programs.


The flaws in the bond will enable certain dams and other infrastructure we have opposed. It also directs to unspecified water projects a specific category of funds collected through the state’s cap-and-trade program that should be used to efficiently cut climate emissions.


To see our detailed list of concerns about the water bond, click here.


For the full text of the measure, click here.


Voter Registration Is Voter Suppression: Low Turnout by Design in the USA

By John Laurits

May 8, 2018 (JohnLaurits.com)

Voter Registration Lowers Turnout, Voter Suppression

During 2016’s nominally democratic primaries, the voter-rolls – i.e. the lists of people who get to vote – were afflicted by a slew of mysterious errors and illegal purges in a number of states. As a result, millions who registered as democrats were unable to vote. Millions more independents (who make up a majority of eligible voters) found they were disenfranchised in states where deadlines to register passed months before anyone even knew who the candidates were. New York, for example, excluded a mind-blowing 2.9 million active voters from the primaries for not registering by a deadline 7 months beforehand, as well as another 200,000 whom NYC election officials would later admit were illegally purged from voter-rolls. The worst voter suppression, however, is neither the purges nor the arbitrary placement of deadlines but the fact that the US forces its citizens to register before they can vote in the first place.

The US Voter-Registration System:
A Costly Sham to Suppress Voters

Managing a good elections system is no easy task and the right solutions often differ depending on type of government, population size and distribution, transportation issues, funding, and so on. Because of this complexity, election-related problems can sometimes be much harder to solve than it may seem at first. The US voter-registration system is not one of those problems. In fact, the US is the only developed nation — as well as one of the only countries in the world — that still foists the responsibility for voter registration on its citizens.

Voter Turnout in the USA: Tragedy or Farce?

The estimated US voting-age population during the 2016 primaries was around 250 million¹. Records show that almost 17 million voters picked the democratic candidate and a bit over 14 million voters picked the republican candidate. That means…

\mathtt{\frac{14,015,993}{250,055,734} = 0.056051 \text{ or }\approx5.6\%}\mathtt{\frac{16,917,853}{250,055,734} = 0.06765 \text{ or }\approx6.8\%}\mathtt{5.6 + 6.8 = 12.4\%}…that just 12.4% of 250 million voting-age US-Americans determined the two options that the rest of the nation had to choose from. Even if all the voters in both primaries are combined…

\mathtt{\frac{(30,633,131 + 31,183,841)}{250,055,734} = 0.24721 \text{ or }\approx24.7\%}…the result is still fewer than ¼ of US voting-age citizens. This is the predictable result of such a system.

Voter Suppression US, Graphic: "Don't forget to register 6 months in advance, take the whole day off to wait in line for 6 hours in your gerrymandered district and hope you haven't been purged from the registry!"In addition to the illegally purged and the millions regularly disenfranchised by other registration errors, the system is designed to exclude the majority of US-Americans registered as independents from the primaries. ​In this context, 12.4% is actually right on par. Even if there were no other problems (which there are), the fact that registration keeps most of the country from partaking in ‘democracy’ gets pretty darn close to single-handedly defeating the whole purpose of holding elections in the first place.

How Voter Registration Works 
(& Why It Doesn’t in the US)

Maintaining some kind of list or registry of voters is one of the core features needed to manage elections² at a national level. As a FairVote research report on the topic explains:

Clean and complete voter rolls are [a] vital tool in every democracy: by confirming that citizens have met all the eligibility requirements and that each eligible citizen is registered to vote once and only once, the voter registration process ensures the validity of the vote and helps to confer legitimacy on the electoral process.

Before the digital age, there was a time when the best way to keep an up-to-date list of voters was to require everyone to fill out and submit paperwork to various regional authorities every few years. Processing millions of paper forms was a grueling yet necessary part of managing a national elections system. This type of system lead to a lot of errors, which is just what happens when vast, mostly unsupervised networks of underpaid clerks are asked to somehow turn a whole population’s handwritten submissions into an up-to-date national registry of voters.

Thanks to today’s informational architecture, such arduous and inaccurate systems are now used in only a handful of pseudo-democracies that continue to spurn the advances of the 21st century. Like Burundi. And the USA.

Opt-In Self-Registration vs. Automatic Voter Registration

Infographic, Low US Voter Turnout, Voter RegistrationIn addition to reducing time and effort, modern automatic registries produce more accurate results. Digital registries can be updated automatically using data that is already being collected by civil registries like birth and death certificates or national healthcare records and social security. Whether conducted in the US or internationally, an overwhelming body of research shows that automatic systems are far more accurate compared to the self-initiated, opt-in US system.

And as if having an accurate voter-registry were not enough of an upside, automatic universal registration of eligible citizens is a lot cheaper, too. According to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network³:

Concerning the cost of voter lists, a main lesson learned from previous research (and still relevant) is that permanent registries promote both transparency and cost-effectiveness, particularly when they are periodically updated with corrections, additions and deletions without obliging voters to re-register.

The system of voter-registration used in Canada, for example, costs 12 times less per-registered voter than the US system.

Modern Automatic Registration Works

Modern systems — like those nearly every stable country in the world use — result in much higher rates of registration among voting-age populations. Study after study (after study) has shown that wherever government assumes responsibility for registration by automatically adding voters as they come of age or become citizens, turnout is higher and more citizens are registered. For example, about 90% of the voting-age population (VAP) is registered to vote in Canada, 91% in Indonesia, 93% in France, and 97% in Japan.

And the US? According to the 2014 census, 64.6% or just under 2/3rds.

The Self-Initiated, Opt-In System Is Just Awful
(& US Public Officials Damn-Well Know It)

Comic about US party affiliation, Sidewalk Bubblegum

Stolen without shame or regret from Sidewalk Bubblegum

It has been well-known for decades that the US voter-registration system is one of the glaringly obvious reasons that US elections are #1 at having the worst voter-turnout in the developed world. It was known 25 years ago when embarrassingly low voter-turnout forced congress to pass the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that created a standardized form and required states to offer registration at certain public offices, such as the DMV. While some improvement is better than none, it was clear to a 2001 commission chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford that the NVRA had only scratched the surface of the problem. The commission bluntly concluded:

“The registration laws in force throughout the United States are among the world’s most demanding … [and are ] one reason why voter turnout in the United States is near the bottom of the developed world.”

Despite the success of the US campaign to spread ‘democracy’ all over Africa and the Middle East in the 17 years since, thus far the same politicians seem to be incapable of bringing it home.

Not Abolishing Self-Registration Is Voter Suppression

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - Voter Registration Is Voter Suppression: Low Turnout by Design in the USAIf the failure to fix the US registration system was only due to congress being a birdbrained horde of nitwits who genuinely were unable to find a workable solution, such inaction might be forgivable — but the truth is more disheartening.​ There are too many alternatives that are so well-known and readily available that it would be ludicrous to believe more than a few of them give a damn about the integrity of US elections or about democracy itself for that matter. Anyone who can use a search engine can verify that plenty of far better systems are currently in use all over the world.

It is a fact that self-registration results in lower voter-turnout compared to modern registration systems and it is also a fact that automatic registries are more accurate, easier to maintain, and cheaper. And in light of these facts, a person has to wonder — why would elected officials be so resistant to fixing voter registration — ? Why would they not implement any of the pre-tested, ready-made, more accurate systems at a fraction of the cost? Is it because US politicians want less accuracy? More difficulty? Or higher costs? Or is it that they want fewer voters participating in the political process?

What seems more likely?

In solidarity,
John Laurits

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