Published: Monday 26 November 2012
“After the new pot law went into effect in January 2011, simple marijuana possession arrests of California juveniles fell from 14,991 in 2010 to 5,831 in 2011, a 61 percent difference, the report by CJCJ senior research fellow Mike Males found.”


Marijuana — it’s one of the primary reasons why California experienced a stunning 20 percent drop in juvenile arrests in just one year, between 2010 and 2011, according to provocative new research.

The San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) recently released a policy briefing with an analysis of arrest data collected by the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center. The briefing, “California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low,” identifies a new state marijuana decriminalization law that applies to juveniles, not just adults, as the driving force behind the  plummeting arrest totals.

After the new pot law went into effect in January 2011, simple marijuana possession arrests of California juveniles fell from 14,991 in 2010 to 5,831 in 2011, a 61 percent difference, the report by CJCJ senior research fellow Mike Males found.  

“Arrests for youths for the largest single drug category, marijuana, fell by 9,000 to a level not seen since before the 1980s implementation of the ‘war on drugs,’ ” Males wrote in the report, released in October.  

In November, as Males blogged recently, voters in Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize but regulate marijuana use, like alcohol, for people over 21. California’s 2010 law did not legalize marijuana, but it officially knocked down “simple” possession of less than one ounce to an infraction from a misdemeanor — and it applies to minors, not just people over 21. Police don’t arrest people for infractions; usually, they ticket them. And infractions are punishable not by ...

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“GAIA is a powerful worldwide alliance of more than 650 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries.”

East Coast residents have spent the last few days surveying storm damage, calculating how long it might take for water-clogged coastal towns to drain, and waiting half-days in gas lines before returning to cold and darkened homes. Meanwhile, more than 8,000 displaced by last week's cyclones in Chennai scrape together the basics of survival, Manila residents clean up from torrential August floods, and Beijing re-evaluates city infrastructure after July's deadly typhoon. The message is clear: climate change is real, and it’s serious. One way cities can significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and help prevent the escalation of global warming is by implementing zero waste practices.


“Environmental Possibilities: Zero Waste” features new ways of thinking, acting, and shaping government policy that are circling the globe. Each week, we highlight a success story in the zero waste movement, excerpted from the report On the Road to Zero Waste: Successes and Lessons from Around the World  by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). GAIA is a powerful worldwide alliance of more than 650 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. Their collective goal is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. Other Worlds is excited to promote the work of GAIA and the organized communities it works with, and hopes that the stories inspire you and others to begin moving your home, town or city, nation, and planet toward zero waste. 


San Francisco has established itself as a global leader in waste management by diverting 77% of its waste ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
Among the nation’s leading writers and thinkers on food and food policy, Michael Pollan talks to Amy Goodman about GMOs and other Agriculture issues.

From California’s Proposition 37 initiative to New York City’s soda ban, journalist and best-selling author Michael Pollan argues that local efforts hold the key to challenging the agricultural industry’s stranglehold over national food policy. With companies like Monsanto influencing Congress and state legislatures, Pollan warns the United States risks falling into a "two-class food system," where only those who can afford to live outside the industrial food system can access healthy ways to eat. Among the nation’s leading writers and thinkers on food and food policy, Pollan is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism and author of several best-selling books, including "In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto." 


AMY GOODMAN: This is Food Day, and we are speaking with Michael Pollan. In late 2010, Democracy Now! spoke to Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Unlike the harsh measures in Arizona and other states that seek to criminalize immigrants and racially profile, ID proposals seek to reduce crime and increase revenue by bringing the immigrant population “out of the shadows.”

A Los Angeles proposal to provide photo identification to undocumented immigrants and other marginalized populations cleared a city council committee unanimously on Tuesday.

The measure proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would make cards available to any city resident for a small fee. They would include identifying information, allow access to city services such as libraries, and could be used as prepaid debit cards. During the hearing on the measure Tuesday, not a single person spoke in opposition to the measure, and those imploring its passage included not just immigrant advocates, but bankers and business owners, who would benefit from the business of the city’s estimated 4.3 million immigrants.

The proposal aims ...

Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
Hipsters yet to be born will laugh at worried talk of “blind spots” and complaints of “backseat drivers.”

Driverless cars are on the horizon, and we can all start feeling ancient now. The youngest among us will remember the days when we had to keep our hands on the steering wheel and foot near the brake. Joining "icebox" and "fire stable" will be such terms as "behind the wheel," "pedal to the metal" and "in the driver's seat."

Hipsters yet to be born will laugh at worried talk of "blind spots" and complaints of "backseat drivers." Windshields with suction-cup marks from primitive GPS devices may become wall art, just as those old blue-glass Delco batteries now hold sunflowers.

I can't wait. The notion of dropping into some soft leather seat, saying, "Take me to the movie theater" (if there still are movie theaters), then pouring a nice glass of cabernet is most appealing. There will be no such thing anymore as drunken drivers because there will be no drivers. Drunken passengers, sure.

Radar will detect objects, including pedestrians and brick walls. Cameras will record lane lines, and infrared versions will see better at night than a raccoon. Some of the newer driverless models go 70 miles an hour.

There will be fewer traffic jams because the computer-run cars will know not to smash into their neighbors. Most accidents are caused by human error, explains traffic expert Tom Vanderbilt in Wired magazine. The driverless car's computer "is better than human in every way."

Driverless cars will reduce the need for new pavement. Did you know that vehicles take up only 5 percent of the road surface on even the most congested highways? "Hyperalert and algorithmically optimized" cars should be able to safely cruise bumper to bumper, according to Vanderbilt.

I keep using the future tense, but ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“San Francisco’s Checkout Bag Ordinance is designed to decrease the number of single use bags and eliminate single use plastic bags, which harm marine life, often end up as litter and clog street drains and are difficult to recycle.”

Oct. 1 is the first effective day of San Francisco’s expanded checkout bag ordinance. To help shoppers understand the new ordinance, San Francisco’s Department of the Environment will kickoff a multi-lingual citywide consumer education campaign to encourage shoppers to bring their own bag when shopping. The campaign will include the distribution of more than 17,000 free reusable bags.

San Francisco’s Checkout Bag Ordinance is designed to decrease the number of single use bags and eliminate single use plastic bags, which harm marine life, often end up as litter and clog street drains and are difficult to recycle. All retailers are now required to stop distribution of single use plastic checkout bags. Additionally they must charge 10 cents for each paper or reusable checkout bag they give out. To avoid the bag charge, customers can bring their own bag when shopping. WIC and food stamp customers are not subject to the bag charge. On Oct. 1, 2013, the ordinance expands to include restaurants and require bag charges for certified compostable plastics bags.

“With this expanded ordinance, San Francisco joins 49 other cities and counties in California working to rid our environment from costly and harmful plastic bags,” said Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “Today we take a huge step forward in reducing our use of single-use bags and reaching our goal of zero waste. As this ordinance takes effect we also kickoff a major outreach campaign to help all San Franciscans remember to bring their own reusable bag when shopping.”

Over the last six months SF Environment has been executing an extensive multi-lingual outreach campaign to the city’s affected retailers which has ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
Monsanto is therefore the very embodiment of the biotech-agricultural-industrial complex, the company has worked very hard to earn that distinction.


In the city of St. Louis, there is no one who does not have a friend, relative or neighbor working at Monsanto. This city on the banks of the Mississippi river has the doubtful honor of hosting the world headquarters of the Monsanto corporation. Founded in 1901, it was one of the world's leading chemical companies in the twenieth century. At the start of this century it transformed itself into a biotechnology giant, or as the company likes to put it, "a leader in the life sciences industry". Nowadays, Monsanto is the world's largest seed company (global market share: 27%) and owns over four fifths of the planet's genetically modified (GM) seed.


Monsanto is therefore the very embodiment of the biotech-agricultural-industrial complex, the company has worked very hard to earn that distinction. That also means that it symbolizes everything that is wrong with the food system.

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign.”

For Democrats caught up in the race for U.S. presidential power, Mitt Romney’s description of “the 47 percent” is a great chance to pile on. Here is a super-rich Republican showing his contempt for the working class, many people are thinking — let’s make the most of it!

But sometimes the “caught in the act” statements of politicians are worth more than a quick dismissal. Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign. He told people in a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to explain their economic frustrations.

The two remarks are different. Romney’s is contemptuous, while Obama’s is only condescending. As someone brought up working class, I can tell the difference; I voted for Obama because I’ve been condescended to a lot in my life, and that doesn’t stop me from making reasoned choices. I’ll vote for him again. But my point here is that both remarks reveal the striking lack of agency that is assigned by leaders of political parties to the working class.

What made Obama’s remark condescending was that he made it as a leading Democrat. If the Democratic Party had been fighting for the agency of working class people, then the labor movement would be so strong that we would now be enjoying full employment, universal health care, and low or no college tuition. The financial sector would have been too regulated to throw us into the current recession, and if it somehow had done so anyway, the priority in 2008 and 2009 would have been Main Street, not Wall Street.

In other words, the economic frustrations that Obama linked to certain cultural expressions in small-town Pennsylvania were exacerbated by his own party. His remark ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.”


Occupy is now a year old.  A year is an almost ridiculous measure of time for much of what matters: at one year old, Georgia O’Keeffe was not a great painter, and Bessie Smith wasn’t much of a singer. One year into the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was still in progress, catalyzed by the unknown secretary of the local NAACP chapter and a preacher from Atlanta -- by, that is, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Occupy, our bouncing baby, was born with such struggle and joy a year ago, and here we are, 12 long months later.

Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. But its most remarkable aspect turned out to be its staying power: it didn’t declare victory or defeat and go home. It decided it was home and settled in for two catalytic months.

Tents and general assemblies and the acts, tools, and ideas of Occupy exploded across the nation and the western world from Alaska to New Zealand, and some parts of the eastern world -- Occupy Hong Kong was going strong until last week. For a while, it was easy to see that this baby was something big, but then most, though not all, of the urban encampments were busted, and the movement became something subtler. But don’t let them tell you it went away.

The most startling question anyone asked me last year was, “What is Occupy’s 10-year plan?”

Who takes the long view? Americans have a tendency to think of activism like a slot machine, and if it doesn’t come up three jailed bankers or three clear ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“Thankfully, only two minor injuries from the explosion were reported at the refinery and among the 100 firefighters who battled for five hours to contain the blaze.”

For thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay Area communities of Richmond, North Richmond, San Pablo, and El Cerrito, last Monday was a night of terror.


Explosions and a massive fire shook Chevron's giant refinery in Richmond starting around 6:15 p.m. Our own Jessica Meskus, the associate art director of Sierra magazine, lives about four miles from the refinery and got home at about 6:30:


I heard the sirens go off. It happens every once in a while. I've lived there three years. When it happens, you close your doors and windows, and you wait for someone to tell you what's going on. So I went outside to get Wilma, my tortoise, from the backyard and make sure my dogs Lex, Leela, and Moose were inside. As I bent down to pick up Wilma, I heard the second explosion and saw a huge plume of black smoke lift into the sky.

As soon as I heard the explosion, I yelled at my husband and screamed at our neighbors to lock up their house. We live downwind and it was coming straight at us. The sirens were going. We didn't know if it was an attack or something else. When you live in Richmond, you know there's a refinery there. But you just hope that it's safe.


It was about 15 minutes before anything came on the news. We had no warning call, which we get sometimes. We didn't know if we should jump in the car or what. The smoke completely blocked the sun.


Thankfully, only two minor injuries from the explosion were reported at the refinery and among the 100 firefighters who battled for five hours to contain the blaze. But that 4,000-foot high plume of black smoke that blacked out the sun was visible from all over the Bay Area, and it was filled with particulate matter, sulfur compounds, and other toxins. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that area hospitals logged 1,700 ...

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
“Currently, over a million New Yorkers are left with equally undesirable options when confronted with an illness: go to work sick or go without pay.”


New York City’s paid sick leave bill is backed by grassroots labor activists, a veto-proof majority of the city council, the New York Times editorial board, and even some celebrities. However, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) is blocking the measure from coming up for a vote, claiming it would have a negative effect on small businesses.

The city’s proposed law would require businesses that employ 20 or more people to give their employees at least nine paid sick days each year; those with 19 or fewer employees would be required to provide five paid sick days. Currently, over a million New Yorkers are left with equally undesirable options when confronted with an illness: go to work sick or go without pay. Passing the Paid Sick Days Act would help New York City employees gain the labor protections that are already nationally mandated in 163 other countries around the world.

Nevertheless, Quinn refuses to bring the bill to a vote in the city council — dealing a blow to ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
Here’s my invitation to you: Let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people—whoever they are to you.


A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I were walking along the crowded waterfront in San Francisco, and coming toward us was a trio of young African-American men who were joking and playing. When we passed I greeted them, and just as the last of them walked by I heard him say, “Thanks for seeing us.”

It took a minute for that to register. My companion said “Did you hear what I heard?” and it took me a moment before I could respond with, “Yes.” My heart was breaking.

How could it be that I would be thanked for merely seeing someone? It took all of my self-control not to run back to those young men, gather them in my arms and apologize for every person who had ever overlooked them, averted their eyes, or turned away. What must it be like to move through a world that refuses to meet one’s eyes, that refuses to acknowledge one’s very existence?

I could make an analysis and write this piece solely about the kind of pervasive racism which creates a very specific and limiting box in which African

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“Hundreds of cities around the United States have laws advocates say unfairly target the homeless, including bans on sitting, lying, begging and placing objects on the sidewalk.”

Amber, 24, who’s been living on the streets half her life, was sitting on a sunny sidewalk in downtown Berkeley last week, cuddling her three-month-old puppy and talking to a friend. But if voters approve a measure the city council placed on the November ballot, sitting on the sidewalk – after a warning – could cost her 75 dollars.

“That law will give us tickets we can’t pay, then we’ll have warrants and end up in jail,” said Amber, who “spranges” – asks for spare change – to feed herself and her unborn child.

Although the council chambers was packed with those opposing the law, the city council, at the end of a dramatic meeting that went past midnight on Jul. 11, approved putting the sit ban to a vote. The proposed ordinance is similar to statutes in Seattle, Washington, Anchorage, Alaska and Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. It would ban sitting on the sidewalk in commercial areas between seven a.m. and 10 p.m.

Some four dozen public speakers addressed the council, many arguing that the economic downturn is to blame for Berkeley’s vacant storefronts, and that punishing the homeless won’t bring back business.

John DeClercq, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO, the sole speaker favoring the measure, said the law would make the city’s business districts “more welcoming”.

Once the public speakers queue wound down, the meeting took an unexpected turn when several activists stood up and led the public in the civil rights protest song, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

The three council members opposing the sit ban joined the sing-along, as the five other council members present left the room. When they returned, in the midst of chaos, the majority voted to place the measure on the ballot.

The dissident council members contend the vote was taken without council debate and therefore illegal. “They ...

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that doctors should be able to proscribe medical marijuana and 75% believe that the federal government should defer to a state’s decision to legalize marijuana for certain uses.

This November, voters will face ballot questions on a variety of issues. Some initiatives are targeted at denying the rights of working families, women, LGBT people, communities of color, immigrants, and the poor, while others are targeted at implementing better public policy. Ten important issues to watch this November can be found here and here are five more issues to watch:

1.     Marijuana laws in Colorado, Montana, and WashingtonColoradoMontana, and Washington all have ballot questions that could lead to partial decriminalization. In Colorado and Washington, voters will choose whether to legalize and regulate sales of small quantities of marijuana to residents 21 years and older. In Montana, voters will decide ...

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“It’s about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.”

Last night, the California Secretary of State’s office announced that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the state’s November ballot. The historic initiative would be the first law in the United States requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.

“We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. “This initiative is pretty simple. It's about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.”

The initiative requires labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – which are plants or meats that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration occurs in a laboratory and is not found in nature.

Polls show nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Nine out of ten voters in the U.S. and in California back labeling, according to recent polls (see Mellman 2012Reuters 2010Zogby 2012). An April poll by San Francisco TV station KCBS found 91% backed labeling.

The California Right to Know initiative is backed by a broad array of consumer, health, and environmental groups, businesses and farmers. Major endorsers include Public Citizen, Sierra Club, American Public Health Association, United Farm ...

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
“Luckily, a growing number of people concerned with the origins and impacts of their food are rejecting this materialistic and one-dimensional view of what we eat.”


In 2002, two neighbors armed with spades and seeds changed everything for crime-addled Quesada Avenue in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point area. The street had been ground zero for the area’s drug trade and its attendant violence. But when Annette Smith and Karl Paige began planting flowers on a small section of the trash-filled median strip, Quesada Gardens Initiative was born. Over the course of the next decade, the community-enrichment project profoundly altered the face of this once-blighted neighborhood.

Jeffrey Betcher is the Initiative’s unlikely spokesperson. A gay white man driven to the majority-black area by the high cost of housing elsewhere, he moved into a house on Quesada Avenue in 1998 to find drug dealers selling from his front stoop and addicts sleeping beneath his stairs. He told me about the day that he returned home from work to discover that his neighbor Annette had planted a little corner of his yard.

“Even though there was a throng of people—drug dealers who were carrying guns, pretty scary folks—she had planted flowers on this little strip of dirt by my driveway,” he told me. “I was so moved by that . . . I thought, that’s what life is about. That’s what community development is about. That’s what’s going to change this block faster than any public investment or outside strategy. And in fact it did.”

A group of neighbors got together for a barbeque, and Jeffrey—who has a background in community organizing—started a conversation about the positive aspects of living in the ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
This 99 percent reality—millions of young people saddled with student debt joining the jobless and homeless to confront an increasingly vulnerable and bleak future—suddenly had a face and a voice that resonated across the nation and around the world.


Where does the Occupy movement turn next? Can social movements build on its momentum? Will protest and new forms of mobilization create change to transform the economy to one that works for people and the planet?

When would-be Occupiers pitched the first tents in New York’s Zuccotti Park eight months ago, hand-written signs declaring “we are the 99%” grabbed the public imagination. This 99 percent reality—millions of young people saddled with student debt joining the jobless and homeless to confront an increasingly vulnerable and bleak future—suddenly had a face and a voice that resonated across the nation and around the world. 

So too were observers struck by the novelty and creativity of Occupiers able to make decisions by consensus, posing a stark contrast to a U.S. Congress where decisions seemed increasingly to be bought and sold by and for the one percent. Across the United States, thousands of encampments echoed the core message: a healthy society was a more equal society and Wall Street’s lock on our economy and our politics had to be broken. 

In dozens of cities, actions reinforced this message as the victims of this unjust system started to fight back with verve and effectiveness. In some cities, occupiers stood guard in front of foreclosed homes to block banks from evicting inhabitants. In others, occupiers urged people to “move their money” from Wall Street banks to locally-rooted credit unions and community development financial institutions. From ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Nobody in Washington is telling people the truth: Focusing on deficits during a recession-cum-depression is wrongheaded, foolish, and destructive.”

On a recent Meet the Press face-off between Democrats and Republicans, a politician claimed we urgently need to cut government spending. He embraced a plan to slash vital government programs and gut retirement security, while actuallycutting taxes for the rich. The only tax hikes in his plan were targeted toward the already-devastated middle class.

Then it was time for the Republican to speak.

Who'd have thought it? Progressive stalwarts like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin are pushing the same radical austerity plan as Jamie Dimon, CEO of troubled megabank JPMorgan Chase, and Robert Rubin, the Clinton ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
There's economic reform, and then there's economic transformation. How entrepreneurs, activists, and theorists are laying the groundwork for a very different economy.



As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In 'New Economic Visions', a special five-part AlterNet series edited by economics editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness. The “New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up.

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the “99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.

Thousands of real world projects—from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives andstate-owned ...

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“Although APIs account for a third of San Francisco’s population, in 2010 they only received 11.8 percent of all HIV tests given in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.”

Seventeen years ago, Henry Ocampo did not think he would make it past his 25th birthday. A fresh graduate from the University of California, Davis, the young Filipino American was the pride and joy of his family.

None of them knew his status.


As an HIV prevention worker, Ocampo knew the risks. Although his then-partner was HIV-positive, they’d played it safe, getting tested routinely. He wasn’t ...

Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Sending Debt Peonage, Poverty, and Freaky Weather Into the Arena”

When I was growing up, I ate books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and since I was constantly running out of reading material, I read everyone else’s -- which for a girl with older brothers meant science fiction. The books were supposed to be about the future, but they always turned out to be very much about this very moment.

Some of them -- Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land -- were comically of their time: that novel’s vision of the good life seemed to owe an awful lot to the Playboy Mansion in its prime, only with telepathy and being nice added in. Frank Herbert’s Dune had similarly sixties social mores, but its vision of an intergalactic world of disciplined desert jihadis and a great game for the substance that made all long-distance transit possible is even more relevant now. Think: drug cartels meet the oil industry in the deep desert.

We now live in a world that is wilder than a lot of science fiction from my youth. My phone is 58 times faster than IBM’s fastest mainframe computer in 1964 (calculates my older brother Steve) and more powerful than the computers on the Apollo spaceship we landed on the moon in 1969 (adds my nephew Jason). Though we never got the promised jetpacks and the Martians were a bust, we do live in a time when genetic engineers use jellyfish genes to make mammals glow in the dark and nerds in southern Nevada kill people in Pakistan and Afghanistan with unmanned drones. Anyone who time-traveled from the sixties would be astonished by our age, for its wonders and its horrors and its profound social changes. But science fiction is about the present more than the future, and we do have a new science fiction trilogy that’s perfect for this very moment.

Sacrificing the Young in the Arenas of Capital ...

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“Wells Fargo is one of the top banks foreclosing on Californians and had 17.5 billion dollars’ worth of foreclosed homes on its books nationally as of June 2010.”

More than 1,000 people took the Occupy Wall Street Movement message straight to the one percent Tuesday, most of them rallying outside the Wells Fargo stockholders meeting in the heart of San Francisco's financial district - and some 30 of them "mic-checking" inside the meeting.


Protesters, many of whom had come from out of state, targeted what they said was Wells Fargo's high rate of foreclosure, predatory lending practices, tax dodging and investing in private immigrant detention centres. Wells Fargo is the nation's largest mortgage lender.


Rev. Gloria Del Castillo, of the Buen Samaritano church in San Francisco's largely Latino Mission District, came to the protest as part of an interfaith organization working for economic and social justice. Her understanding of the mortgage crisis is not theoretical.


"I'm here today, not only as a faith leader in this city," Del Castillo said, before marching to the Merchants Exchange Building, where the shareholder meeting was to be held. "Myself, I'm going through foreclosure right now, thanks to Wells Fargo. I asked them three times for a loan modification so that I could stay in my home, and they refused."


Barbara Casey was among the limited number of protesters who were able to tell Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to his face what they thought. Casey, secretary treasurer of SEIU 503 trade union in Portland, Oregon, was one of the 100 or so demonstrators who had bought single Wells Fargo shares or obtained proxies, allowing them, in principle, to go into the shareholder meeting. And she was one of about 30 who actually made it into the meeting.

Casey contends Wells Fargo management deliberately excluded most of the protesters with appropriate shareholder documents.


She described the scene inside: "Mr. Stumpf was about to go into the board proposals, but meanwhile ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“In restorative justice, you have to actually have the offender and the victim sit down and discuss what happened and how the offender can make it better.”

Instead of being kicked out for fighting, stealing, talking back, or other disruptive behavior, public school students in San Francisco are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators, or engage in community service. All these practices fall under the umbrella of “restorative justice”—asking wrongdoers to make amends before resorting to punishment.

The program launched in 2009 when the San Francisco Board of Education passed a resolution for schools to find alternatives to suspension and expulsion. In the previous seven years, suspensions in San Francisco spiked by 152 percent, to a total of 4,341—mostly among African Americans, who despite being one-tenth of the district made up half of suspensions and more than half of expulsions.

This disparity fed larger social inequalities: Two decades of national studies have found that expelled or suspended students are vastly more likely to drop out of school or end up in jail than those who face other kinds of consequences for their actions.

“My first act as a school board member was to push a student out of his school,” recalled Jane Kim, a former community organizer who as a member of the Board of Education needed to approve all expulsions.

“That’s not what I expected to do,” she said, especially when it seemed to exacerbate the social inequalities she had pledged to fight in her position.

Board colleague Sandra Lee Fewer said, “Sixty percent of inmates in the San Francisco county jail have been students in the San Francisco public school system, and the majority of them are people of color. We just knew we had to somehow stop this schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline.”

Fewer and Kim, along with colleague Kim–Shree Maufas, led the three-year process for the board to officially adopt restorative justice. Though the task force charged ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
Here’s our guide to the top 10 super PAC contributors through Jan. 31, the latest date for which donors have been required to disclose.

The coming election cycle will likely be the most expensive in history. Thanks to Citizens United and other recent court decisions, individuals, corporations and unions can make unlimited donations to so-called super PACs that support a candidate. The money is flowing in. So, exactly who is donating, and what do they want?

Here’s our guide to the top 10 super PAC contributors through Jan. 31, the latest date for which donors have been required to disclose. Unless otherwise noted, all estimates of net worth are from Forbes. (See our PAC Tracker for an interactive breakdown of  READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
De los Santos was served with another eviction notice last week, asking him to vacate the property by 6:01 a.m. yesterday, but said he would not comply with the notice.

More than 200 protesters have been fighting to save the home of Arturo de los Santos, an ex-Marine who went into foreclosure after Chase Bank advised him to skip payments to speed up a loan modification he never received. In early February, amid rumors that Riverside, California sheriff’s deputies could serve papers on the home at any time, organizers from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and other groups surrounded the home, and de los Santos petitioned the sheriff to prevent eviction.

At the time, de los Santos said he was prepared to get arrested to save his home, and last Thursday, he was, according to The New Bottom Line:

Arturo de los Santos, his family, and scores of supportes went to the Los Angeles headquarters of Freddie Mac on Thursday, February 16 to protest his foreclosure and eviction, to ask Freddie to restore his mortgage, and to let his family keep their home. After refusing to leave the lobby of the office, the police were called and Arturo was arrested.

Watch video of de los Santos’ arrest:

De los Santos took his case to Freddie Mac because it insured his original mortgage and is thus servicing the foreclosure. Before taking his case to Freddie Mac, de los Santos offered to make the payments he had been advised to miss, but Chase refused his money. “Chase told me to talk to Freddie Mac, because they were only servicing the loan and Freddie underwrote it, but Freddie told me to talk to Chase,” he 

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“Activists are asking that Bank of America be regulated and break up into smaller, safer pieces that won’t take America down with them if they fail.”

Last November, 2011, I finally made the move to ditch the corporate bank account I’ve had since I was eight years old and opened an account at a local, sustainable bank. So did thousands of Americans during Bank Transfer Day, resulting in over $4 billion dollars moved out of big banks and into credit unions.

Do you know where your money spends the night?  Wall Street banks are trashing our economy and our environment in the name of their own profits—do you buy into their corruption and greed? 
 It’s time to Pink Slip Big Banks and invest in a more peaceful and just future by moving your money!  How?  I used the Move your Money tool to find a listing of local banks and credit unions in my area.  I selected New Resources Bank in San Francisco, the same bank that Rainforest Action Network and CODEPINK use.  After opening my new account, I used the 7 Simple Steps To Move Your Checking Account checklist to really move my money, and finally, I proudly visited a B of A branch and presented them with a Pink Slip - they were friendly enough about losing my business (I admit I'm no millionaire so it wasn't a big loss, though it was the principle of the thing).

This year on International Women's Day, March 8th, I plan to join the women of the 99% at Break Up Bank of America actions.  The Women Occupy Call to ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“Seven teenagers think so—and they’re taking the federal government to court.”

Seven teenagers set a new precedent for environmental action in May 2011 by suing the federal government for not taking measures against climate change. They claim that the government’s policies regarding climate change are squandering natural resources.

The young plaintiffs, led by 17-year-old Alec Loorz, filed a total of 10 suits against the federal government and individual states under the public trust doctrine, a legal principle derived from English Common Law which holds that the government is responsible for protecting resources—like water and wilderness—in trust for the public and future generations. 

The legal action is supported by a coalition of groups called the iMatter Youth Council, which is petitioning the government for a 6 percent reduction in global CO2 each year, an emissions ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Co-op businesses do everything that a corporation can do, but with a democratic structure, an equitable sharing of income and a commitment to the common good of the community and future generations.”

We're being told by today's High Priests of Conventional Wisdom that everyone and everything in our economic cosmos necessarily revolves around one dazzling star: the corporation.

This heavenly institution, the HPCW explain, has such financial and political mass that it is the optimal force for organizing and directing our society's economic affairs, including the terms of employment and production. While other forces are in play (workers, consumers, the environment, communities and so forth), they are subordinate to the superior gravitational pull of the corporate order. Profits, executive equanimity and a healthy Wall Street pulse rate are naturally the economy's foremost concerns.

How nice. For the wealthy few. Not nice for the rest of us, though. We're presently seeing the effect of this enthronement of self-serving corporate elites. Millions of Americans are out of work, underemployed and tumbling from the middle class down toward poverty. Yet excessively paid and pampered CEOs (recently rebranded as "job creators" by fawning GOP politicians) are idly sitting on some $2 trillion in cash, refusing to put that enormous pile of money to work on job creation.

The Powers That Be keep us tethered to this unjust system of plutocratic rule only by constantly ballyhooing it as a divine perpetual wealth machine that ...

Published: Wednesday 8 February 2012
“Kevin Cooper was convicted of the brutal murders of a Chino Hills, California family and a young houseguest in 1985, and has been on death row at San Quentin since then.”

In this interview, author J. Patrick O’Connor discusses his newly released book Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and The Framing of Kevin Cooper, explaining why he is convinced of Kevin Cooper’s innocence. O’Connor asserts that the police and prosecution orchestrated an obvious frame-up that continues to be upheld by federal appeals courts, albeit with the blatantly unfair rulings by US District Court Judge Marilyn Huff blocking critical forensics tests that had been ordered by the US Ninth Circuit Court in 2004.

This week, O’Connor launches a California book tour, beginning in the San Francisco Bay Area (view schedule here). On Monday, O’Connor sat down for a video interview with Prison Radio, where he discusses aspects of this story not addressed in the text interview below (watch video here). Marking the book release, Prison Radio has recorded a special message from Kevin Cooper himself (listen here). To learn more about Cooper’s case and what you can do to help, visit

Prison Radio:  How did you get involved in Kevin Cooper's case?

J. Patrick O'Connor:            During the fall of 2008, I was in the Bay Area on a book tour for The Framing of Mumia ...

Published: Tuesday 24 January 2012
“The dance gave a positive message for our collective future with creative prowess, illustrating a cry of pain against oppression and injustice, and, through street theater, invoking a powerful bridge of reconciliation between the 1% and the 99%.”

A day of hard rain and wind could not dampen the spirits of activists representing the 99% as they gathered at Justin Herman Plaza (dubbed Bradley Manning Plaza by locals) in San Francisco on Friday, January 20th, 2012, to mark the dark anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision with a day of action. Organized by a coalition of over 55 Bay Area organizations and dozens of OccupySF affinity groups, protestors disrupted business as usual with demands that banks end predatory evictions and foreclosures and that corporations lose the rights of personhood.  The day was called Occupy Wall Street West (OWSW), alluding to the power of the SF financial district and state in the global market – California is the 9th largest economy in the world.  Activists executed plans for traditional nonviolent direct action to block the doors to big banks, effectively shutting down Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters and occupying Bank of America’s main branch.  And then came a surprise tactic: dance.


A flash mob called “

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
The road ahead for the new credit union will not necessarily be easy, cautioned Rafael Morales, public affairs and west coast programme officer at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

Occupy activists from Wall Street to San Francisco's financial district have dramatized their anger with big financial institutions by blocking JP Morgan Chase Bank doorways, dancing atop Wells Fargo counters, pitching a tent in a Bank of America lobby, hanging banners across Citibank windows, and accompanying the actions with the now-familiar chant "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."


The Occupy Movement condemns the banks' role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more.


But protesting isn't enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People's Reserve Credit Union (PRCU). Occupy San Francisco is encouraging the venture.


In the next few weeks, McKeown says he'll be ready to submit the PRCU's application for a charter to the California Department of Financial Institutions.


"The country's been devastated economically because of greed and government malfeasance," McKeown said in a recent interview at the downtown San Francisco Public Library. "I don't think it's hard for folks who are educated to understand that the banks have ripped us off."


The PRCU will be patterned on the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, where McKeown spent three months studying microfinance. Its interest rates will be low and loans will go mostly to people who couldn't otherwise qualify for loans at banks or even at most credit unions. However, they won't be targeted to people who cannot pay them back.


Borrowers will be required to attend classes in business and personal finance and will ...

Published: Tuesday 10 January 2012
“Thousands gathered to witness the swearing-in of Ed Lee, administered by former San Francisco Mayor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein.”

Ed Lee’s inauguration Sunday morning marked a historic moment for San Francisco, which now has its first-ever elected Chinese American mayor. But unlike when he was first appointed a year ago by then-outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, yesterday’s ceremony saw an affable Lee downplaying his background in the Chinese community, instead emphasizing his role as an innovator for the city as a whole. 


Thousands gathered to witness the swearing-in, administered by former San Francisco Mayor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein. The ceremony began at 11a.m. after an hour of dance and musical performances. Introduced by former Mayor Willie Brown, Lee, the 43rd mayor of San Francisco, was joined by his wife, Anita, and two daughters, Brianna and Tania.


Published: Tuesday 10 January 2012
“The Occupy Movement exploded after the Wisconsin state Capitol occupation and Arab Spring, as if tens of thousands of people suddenly discovered allies and a voice to confront what they perceive as a corrupt power structure.”

With its encampments mostly destroyed, the nascent Occupy Movement in thousands of communities across the U.S. and dozens more around the world has not faded away.

Instead, it has rebounded in multiple forms, reclaiming foreclosed homes, occupying banks, shutting down ports, interrupting university trustee meetings and political speeches at the Iowa Caucuses, and forcing people on the streets, in Congressional corridors and at city halls to address how the one percent's wealth and power has created a stranglehold on the 99 percent. 

The Occupy Movement exploded after the Wisconsin state Capitol occupation and Arab Spring, as if tens of thousands of people suddenly discovered allies and a voice to confront what they perceive as a corrupt power structure. 

As the movement matures, however, it will be challenged to sustain its momentum, while continuing to embrace a diversity that includes anarchists and progressive Democrats, those without homes or jobs or hope and those in the middle class, and people who suffer from racism, sexism and homophobia as well as those who do not. 

The future of the consciously leaderless movement is being determined both within the confines of its formal decision-making structures and, increasingly, through allied and autonomous groupings. 

General assemblies, the decision-making body of most Occupies, were designed to give voice to multiple views. Eschewing majority rule, the Occupy GAs generally require 80-to-90 percent approval of proposals. 

Nonetheless, some participants say the system remains biased. Frequent attendance at GAs is difficult for many. Others say that concerns of people with minority positions are ignored. 

The 90 percent required in Oakland "is really a supermajority", said former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles, active with 

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
The issue of job loss is then transformed into a situation where a typical low-wage worker is employed for fewer hours per week or per year, but gets more money for each hour worked.

Eight states and one city (San Francisco) raised their minimum wage this week, providing a pay raise to just over 1 million workers. In the face of this good news, the opponents of the minimum wage are warning of serious job loss. They are likely to be proved wrong, yet again.

A simple Econ 101 story argues that a higher minimum wage will lead to fewer jobs for teenagers and other workers at the bottom rungs of the labor market. However, at this point a large body of research shows that increases in the minimum wage at the national, state and even local levels have not cost jobs. That may sound counterintuitive; after all, economists always say that when the price rises, demand falls. This should mean that with a higher minimum wage, employers will want fewer workers.

The real story, however, is somewhat more complex. Employers not only care about the wages they pay, they also care about workers’ productivity, and the rise in the pay by itself may cause workers to be more productive.

There are two reasons why this could be true. The first is simply that workers may feel better about their jobs and take them more seriously if they are paid a higher wage. In effect, the higher minimum wage will make the workers getting paid the minimum better workers. Economists call this effect an “efficiency wage” and there is a substantial body of empirical research to support it.

The other way in which a minimum-wage hike could increase productivity is by reducing turnover. Turnover imposes substantial costs even for the least-skilled positions. It requires managers’ time to review applications and interview ...

Published: Sunday 1 January 2012
“Based on the city’s own recent experience, the employment impact of Sunday's 32-cent increase will be imperceptible.”

On January 1, the minimum wage in San Francisco will cross the psychological threshold of $10 an hour. An automatic cost-of-living adjustment built into city law will raise the wage floor 3.2 percent, from its current $9.92 to $10.24. Predictably, employers have been warning that the increase will cost jobs. In fact, a great deal of economic evidence suggests otherwise.

Last March, my CEPR colleague, David Rosnick, and I finished a detailed study of the employment impact of the first three years of the San Francisco minimum wage. Back in early 2004, San Francisco established a city-wide minimum wage of $8.50 --25 percent higher than the $6.75 California state minimum wage at the time and 65 percent higher than the prevailing federal minimum of $5.15.

We analyzed employment patterns in a range of industries with a high share of low-wage workers, including fast food and retail. We compared trends in wages and employment in San Francisco before and after the increase with trends over the same period in San Francisco's adjacent suburbs and, separately, in ...

Published: Tuesday 27 December 2011
“Although the bay’s herring spawning grounds are now free of toxic oil, studies have found that the moderate-size spill of 54,000 gallons had an unexpectedly large and lethal effect.”

Thick, tarry fuel oil disgorged into San Francisco Bay from a damaged cargo ship in 2007 was surprisingly toxic to fish embryos, devastating the herring population that feeds seabirds, whales and the bay's last commercial fishery, scientists reported Monday.

Although the bay's herring spawning grounds are now free of toxic oil, studies have found that the moderate-size spill of 54,000 gallons had an unexpectedly large and lethal effect.

The culprit, a common type of ship fuel called "bunker fuel," appears to be especially toxic to fish embryos, particularly when exposed to sunlight, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"That's the big lesson," said John Incardona, a toxicologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service. "This bunker oil is literally the dregs of the barrel, and it's much more toxic than crude oil."

The container ship Cosco Busan spilled low-grade bunker fuel after it sideswiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on a foggy November morning four years ago. This type of sludge-like fuel is cheap and thus popular among operators of commercial shipping fleets that transport raw materials and goods around the globe.

Scientists have traditionally focused on larger crude oil spills, such as last year's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico or 1989's Exxon Valdez tanker disaster, in which 11 million gallons of oil were discharged into Alaska's Prince William Sound. The Exxon spill is suspected of wiping out the sound's herring fishery, which has never bounced back.

From studies in Alaska, scientists knew that oil could cause heart deformities to developing herring in their embryonic sacs.

But after examining herring embryos placed in cages in shallow waters near the Cosco Busan spill site, researchers were surprised to find that nearly all had died, and their ...

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
“In the morning, when I ask my students what they had for breakfast, a number of them show me backpack pockets full of candy wrappers.”

“Miss, can we have a snack break?” asked one of the students in my after-school 'Hip Hop Stylez' class at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco. As a teacher, I have heard this question countless numbers of times at the beginning, middle and end of my classes. In my first few months at James Lick, I often struggled with keeping my students' energy up and their attention focused on the task at hand. I would often go home worried about how I could improve my lesson plans to get the students more engaged.

But after about a month and a half of teaching, I began to realize one of the reasons for my students acting out: they were not getting enough to eat to sustain themselves throughout the day. Even with the small cartons of juice and grab-size snack bags that the after-school enrichment program supplies, they were not feeling satisfied.

From then on I started to let my students take an additional snack break in the middle of our two-hour class when they could get another snack bag to tide themselves over until the 6:30 p.m. dismissal. While a handful of my students took up this opportunity, I also noticed a few shied away from the snacks. Some mentioned in passing that they did not like the juice drinks (from concentrate) and starchy treats that the after-school program supplied.

Even though the program ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
California schools submitted extremely high numbers of student’s possessing guns into a state database for school discipline, but the Center has discovered great overestimation in the data.

Did schools in Sacramento County, California, really suspend 6,645 students last year for having a firearm at school? What about Alameda County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where raw numbers fed into a state database had 6,594 kids suspended for packing a gun?

Clearly, the answer is no. But we found these funny figures — and another huge error — while digging into raw numbers that California’s schools must submit to the state’s Department of Education after the close of each academic year. The department adds up the raw numbers of disciplinary actions and categorizes them by county, district, school and infraction and posts the information on its website for the public to see starting in September. 

The Center discovered the mistakes while sifting and adding up raw data as part of an investigation into extraordinarily high rates of student expulsions in Kern County in the Golden State’s Central Valley. We wanted to compare which of 34 separate education code violations led to kids getting suspended and expelled in each California county.

Alameda has problems with youth violence, to be sure. But it was beyond belief that one school, Arroyo High School, could have had 1,198 suspensions for violating a specific state education code prohibition on guns.

We had the same thought in regard to Sacramento’s numbers. The county’s Twin Rivers Unified district initially appeared to have reported a cluster of thousands of suspensions, specifically for guns, which made us wonder if the county's overall figures were inflated. One school, Foothill High, ...

Published: Monday 12 December 2011
“While some have embraced peer courts and after-school diversion programs, others have given little credence to the trend toward softer disciplinary practices taking off in places like San Francisco.”

While there are many aspects of culture and politics that unite the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of more than 7 million people, attitudes toward school discipline do not seem to be among them.

What happens to students when they disrupt the classroom or commit crimes depends largely on where they live.

That is because approaches to expulsion and suspension vary widely across school districts and across the region. Over the past seven years in the Bay Area, expulsion rates range from among the very lowest in California in San Francisco County, averaging 0.07 percent, to nearly double the state average in Napa and Solano counties to the north, averaging 1.08 percent and 1 percent. San Francisco isn’t the only county that has seen recent declines. Napa county has seen a sharp per-capita decline.

While reforms such as restorative justice appear to coincide with decreases in expulsion rates across the region in the last year or two, school administrators at the county and local level have a wide range of views on the best ways to preserve order in schools after a student has misbehaved. While some have embraced peer courts and after-school diversion programs, others have given little credence to the trend toward softer disciplinary practices taking off in places like San Francisco.

By their nature, California school districts are independent, and policies on everything from security to dress codes can differ significantly. There is no uniform approach to discipline, as borne out by statistics compiled by the California Department of Education.

The disparities among schoolchildren in low-income and minority communities have been extensively documented. Two recent studies reported that minority students were more likely to be expelled or suspended than their white peers for similar offenses. In Texas, the Council of State Governments reported that African-American students were 31 percent more likely than ...

Published: Friday 2 December 2011
It’s disconcerting that the FBI is engaging in illegal spying, and it is also troubling that the FBI is betraying the trust of the very American Muslims who have chosen to cooperate with the federal government in its goal of identifying and preventing domestic radicalization.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), using information gathered from internal Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents, is alleging that the FBI is illegally gathering information on Muslims’ political and religious affiliations during outreach meetings.

Particularly since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has been conducting outreach with American Muslims and Arab Americans, working with them to increase cooperation between communities and federal authorities. Yet the documents obtained by the ACLU show that the FBI has been using this outreach to spy on Muslim communities that are ...

Published: Tuesday 22 November 2011
“What was born and what died that day a decade ago has everything to do with what’s going on in and around the park, the country, and the world now.”

Last Tuesday, I awoke in lower Manhattan to the whirring of helicopters overhead, a war-zone sound that persisted all day and then started up again that Thursday morning, the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and a big day of demonstrations in New York City. It was one of the dozens of ways you could tell that the authorities take Occupy Wall Street seriously, even if they profoundly mistake what kind of danger it poses. If you ever doubted whether you were powerful or you mattered, just look at the reaction to people like you (or your children) camped out in parks from Oakland to Portland, Tucson to Manhattan.

Of course, “camped out” doesn’t quite catch the spirit of the moment, because those campsites are the way people have come together to bear witness to their hopes and fears, to begin to gather their power and discuss what is possible in our disturbingly unhinged world, to make clear how wrong our economic system is, how corrupt the powers that support it are, and to begin the search for a better way. Consider it an irony that the campsites are partly for sleeping, but symbols of the way we have awoken.

When civil society sleeps, we’re just a bunch of individuals absorbed in our private lives. When we awaken, on campgrounds or elsewhere, when we come together in public and find our power, the authorities are terrified.  They often reveal their ugly side, their penchant for violence and for hypocrisy.


Published: Monday 14 November 2011
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the recession has inordinately affected blacks and Latinos.

At 18, Valerie Klinker was kicked out of her grandmother’s house in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. Despite being without a roof, alternating from parks to cars to SROs, Klinker says she never identified as homeless, a fact that, in the eyes of the city, made her all but invisible.

Indeed, advocates for homeless people here say there is a growing number of young African Americans who, like Klinker, are becoming homeless as the ongoing recession and nationwide trend of urban black flight erodes access to traditional safety nets. It’s a trend, they add, that’s happening largely under the city’s radar.

“Today, 55 percent of [our clients] are black, compared to 1998, when that number stood at about 15-20 percent,” said Rob Gitin, director of At the Crossroads (ATC). The outreach program, based in San Francisco’s Mission District, primarily serves transitional age youth (TAY) between the ages of 18-24, too old for foster care but too young for many of the city’s homeless programs.

Falling Through the Cracks

Coming from historically poorer neighborhoods in the city or from communities across the bay, such as Oakland and Richmond, many young people shy away from identifying as homeless, Gitin explained.

“But if you ask them where they’re spending the night,” he noted, “most couldn’t say.” In large part that’s because the people they once relied on, such as family or friends, are no longer in a position to help, or just aren’t there anymore.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the recession has inordinately affected blacks and Latinos. African Americans have seen a widening of the income gap compared to whites from 11 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in 2009. U.S. Census figures for 2010, meanwhile, show that San Francisco’s black population has plummeted from 12 percent to just over three ...

Published: Monday 14 November 2011
A sharp disagreement exists among those who say there’s no room in the movement for people who won't protest peacefully.

On Nov. 2, the day of Occupy Oakland's General Strike, the streets were filled with chants and music and the sounds of people speaking in the many tongues of Oakland residents.

There was poetry, a children's brigade, uplifting speeches and triumphal marches that shut down banks, major downtown arteries and the nation's fifth-busiest port.

Protesters almost believed the 99 percent could triumph over the greedy one percent.

The day was mostly peaceful.

But in the afternoon, black-clad protesters wearing bandanas shattered bank windows and spray-painted storefronts, and late in the evening they built bonfires in the streets and tried to occupy an empty building. There were arrests; one protester was hospitalized from what he said was a police beating.

Though relatively few demonstrators took part in the vandalism, next- day news stories featured smashed windows, graffiti, and protester stand-offs with police.

No individual or group has taken public responsibility for the vandalism. Many believe agent provocateurs are responsible. Whether these are government agents or young people who believe destroying property builds the Occupy Wall Street Movement - or both - the question discussed since the General Strike is key: how should the movement respond to acts of property destruction and violence by those in its ranks?

A sharp disagreement exists among those who say there's no room in the movement for people who won't protest peacefully; those who want to embrace protesters who destroy property and at the same time encourage them to behave "responsibly;" and those who say they meet police violence with their own, while building a movement.

One group of people responded by writing a resolution to present to the Nov. 9 general assembly that says: "Those who launch physical attacks on people or property are not welcome to do so at or near Occupy Oakland events and ...

Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
Frustrated Americans now have decided to use the polls to spell out their frustration.

Americans who are frustrated with the broken politics of the moment will have plenty of opportunities to Occupy the Polls on Tuesday.

That’s what happened in Boulder, Colorado, last week, when voters shook things up by backing a referendum proposal that calls on Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations can spend as they choose to buy elections. The same election saw Boulder voters endorse a plan to end the city’s reliance on private power companies and replace them with a public utility.

There are big issues, big races and big tests of the political potency of organized labor, social movements and progressive politics playing out this Tuesday, on the busiest election day of 2011. In some cases, voting offers an opportunity to make an affirmative statement on behalf of a change in priorities. In other cases, there are opportunities to push back against bad politics and bad policies. In still others, there are signals to be sent about the politics of 2012.

Here are some of the big races to keep an eye on Tuesday:



Published: Monday 7 November 2011
“The $7-billion reconstruction of the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland is in the hands of a state-subsidized Chinese company.”

Listening at last to his inner FDR, President Barack Obama is going straight at the Know-Nothing/Do-Nothing Republicans in Congress.

At a rally in September on a bridge connecting Rep. John Boehner's state of Ohio to Sen. Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky, Obama challenged the two GOP leaders to back his plan for repairing and improving our country's deteriorating infrastructure. "Help us rebuild this bridge," he shouted out to Boehner and McConnell. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work."


Yes, let's do it!

However, in addition to the usual recalcitrance of reactionary Republican leaders, another impediment stands in the way of success: many of the infrastructure jobs that would be created could end up in China.

Holy Uncle Sam! How is this possible?

It's due to a trap door that was built into the Buy American Act. This 1933 law gives preference to U.S. companies bidding on major infrastructure projects. However, it allows the general contractor to opt out of this requirement if the difference in U.S. and foreign bids is significant. This is no theoretical concern, ...

Published: Monday 26 September 2011
Right-wing pundits and politicians have denounced the DREAM Act as part of a vast minority-liberal conspiracy to disenfranchise white Americans.

On August 26, just three blocks from San Francisco’s iconic City Hall, the veil was lowered from a 100-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall mural on the wall of the city’s Quaker Meetinghouse. Declaring “No Human Being is Illegal, y Cada Uno Tiene un Sueño” (and each one has a dream), the piece is the work of an immigrant-rights youth group called “67 Sueños” (67 Dreams) whose mission is to raise awareness of the plight faced by the estimated 67 percent of migrant youth who would not benefit from the provisions of the DREAM Act.

The center of the mural portrays three young migrant figures saying, “67% of migrant youth: are pushed out of high school; are ignored by the media; are excluded from immigration reform.” To their left are symbolic indigenous figures and animals who have gathered, dream-like, before rolling green fields. Moving to the right, a grey cityscape overtakes the green fields, the sky turns dark, and the nightmarish realities of migrant life take shape. A desert graveyard bears the names of some of the many who have died on the journey north or in custody of U.S. law enforcement. Looming behind is the image of the separation wall. One youth is pictured climbing over the fence, while an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent arrests another .

The mural evokes the dichotomy between dream and reality – the latter more akin to a waking nightmare. This dichotomy also captures the tensions around the DREAM Act itself.

Published: Wednesday 17 August 2011
“The cellular-service shutdown, which was defended by BART authorities who claimed it was done to protect public safety, immediately drew fire from free-speech activists around the globe.”

What does the police killing of a homeless man in San Francisco have to do with the Arab Spring uprisings from Tunisia to Syria? The attempt to suppress the protests that followed. In our digitally networked world, the ability to communicate is increasingly viewed as a basic right. Open communication fuels revolutions — it can take down dictators. When governments fear the power of their people, they repress, intimidate and try to silence them, whether in Tahrir Square or downtown San Francisco.

Charles Blair Hill was shot and killed on the platform of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system's Civic Center platform on July 3, by BART police officer James Crowell. BART police reportedly responded to calls about a man drinking on the underground subway platform. According to police, Hill threw a vodka bottle at the two officers and then threatened them with a knife, at which point Crowell shot him. Hill was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Hill's killing sparked immediate and vigorous protests against the BART police, similar to those that followed the BART police killing of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009. Grant was handcuffed, facedown on a subway platform, and restrained by one officer when another shot and killed him with a point-blank shot to the back. The execution was caught on at least two cellphone videos. The shooter, BART officer Johannes Mehserle, served just over seven months in jail for the killing.

On July 11, major protests shut down the Civic Center BART station. As another planned protest neared on Aug. 11, BART officials took a measure unprecedented in U.S. history: They shut down cellphone towers in the subway system.

It's the first known incident that we've heard of where the government has shut down a cellphone network in order to prevent people from engaging in political protest," Catherine Crump of the ACLU told me. "Cellphone networks are something we've all come to ...

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