Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to muddle through fairly?

Front edge of the Sutro Baths seen from southwest edge of the ruins. Ocean surf seen at left is held back by a wall studded with stumps of rusty steel bars. Rubble has been filled in between that and a wall with a flat top about 18 inches wide on which people are walking in the distance. The inner wall holds in an extensive pond, seen to the right. Cliffs ahead, headlands in the distance.

We were out at Ocean Beach yesterday. Beautiful weather. Lots of families and tourists out exploring the ruins of the Sutro Baths. As part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the ruins are affected by the shutdown, but they’re open. Yesterday visitors kept edging past each other on the uneven tops of those old masonry pool walls. It made me nervous: no handrails, and in places those narrow walking surfaces run between open box-sided pits full of rain and salt water. No rangers in sight. But the gift and coffee shop was open at the top of the old cement stairs — the nonprofit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy runs it.

As Sarah Kendzior has argued, the shutdown serves Republican privatization goals. The longer this goes on, the more we’ll substitute private systems for public ones. Fewer public entitlements could mean more privately invented rules about who counts as a member of society — and what it means to be left out. More latitude for discrimination and corruption. Less traction for assertions of rights — to benefits, to services, to equal protection of the laws.

So if the shutdown drags on, and charities start to fill in for more governmental functions, the charities in turn have some thinking to do about rights and governance. Continue reading

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8th and Mission, last night

Deep puddle, green traffic light, illuminated bus stop, ghostly impression of a bicyclist. Windowless PG&E building with spiked iron fence and strip of bright light. So very Fritz Lang.

8thMkt040618

P.S. Been seeing that SFSU banner ad everywhere: “We make discovery happen. ” Clearly not written by lawyers.

A lesson for Harvey from the Katrina housing recovery

I’m reading and retweeting the Harvey news, thinking of Hurricane Katrina.

[Update 8/28/17: This post is a “lessons learned” comment, not current advice. For early news you can use, see:

Although Houston had no initial mass evacuation, some people in the Harvey flood zone are going to need temporary places to live if their housing has become unusable, especially as mold begins to form.

Whatever keeps people closest to their own homes is best — if people in low-density areas can get trailers to live in next to their houses or apartments, for example, that’s great — but it seems likely some may have to leave the area outright in search of a safe place to stay while they recover. Continue reading

The ‘Great Red North’ vs Northern CA

Early this month the New York Times‘ Thomas Fuller wrote up a round of interviews with prominent men from the old-school power structures of Northern California inland towns. He portrayed them as speaking for a “Great Red North” (red as in Republican) that feels unrepresented by California state government, viewing it as dominated by urban liberals.

Casey Michel, a writer focused on right-wing nationalisms, almost immediately noted that one interviewee in the article, Mark Baird, was not identified as a leading figure in the State of Jefferson secessionist campaign. A proposed statewide ballot initiative to remove California from the Union is again in early qualification stages with the California Attorney General’s Office. Continue reading

A reluctant UBI dissent

I’ve been posting mostly on Twitter for a long time. A problem with Twitter is, when you manage to say a thing right, it slips away down the timeline at the same rate as everything you said wrong or halfway.

So this morning I wrote a short Twitter essay on why proposals for a universal basic income are riskier in the United States than in some other places. UBI talk seems likely to persist, so my worries might bear revisiting. Here’s a link to the thread.  Midway in, it mentions an article about how UBI payments helped a village in Kenya. Here’s the link.

Would add that as an old public benefits advocate, I know means tests are terrible things. They’re intrinsically bureaucratic, demeaning and unfair. So it would be great if we could give everyone money instead of making poor people jump through hoops for cash aid. But in the United States of 2017, a UBI bill would be exploited to convert uncapped entitlements into individual block grants. In which case, what would happen to public support for long-term medical and disability needs?

It’s the old story: if we could trust each other in America, we could have nice things. It would be great if we could trust U.S. legislators to enact a UBI, but common sense says they would try to end more public entitlements in exchange. That’s an unpayable price.