2013/12/11

California Is Taking Tar Sands Seriously

No gunky tar sands for California, please.

Opponents of tar sands, take heart! One little speck in the rivers of the bureaucracy's paperwork gives us great hope in the fight against this extreme fossil fuel.

Tar sands, for those of you who are new, are what they sound like - tar mixed with sand. It's heavy, gunky, disgusting stuff that takes an incredible amount of energy to dig up, process, transport, and refine. In fact, it's so inefficient that one must "spend" one barrel of oil to get only three back. Compare this to conventional oil, in which the energy of one barrel of oil is used to obtain 70 barrels of oil.

This has grave implications for emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. Because so much energy is used to obtain and refine tar sands, gasoline derived from tar sands has a lot more emissions behind it than gasoline from regular oil. So if we want to reduce our emissions, the first thing we can do is avoid using these extreme, unconventional fossil fuels.

Regional and State Agency Responses


We've seen that the San Francisco Bay Area's regional air quality regulator, BAAQMD, recently passed a historic resolution to commit to doing its part to meet California's goal of dramatic emissions reductions by 2050. This implies that Bay Area refineries will have to reduce their use of low-quality crudes, and over time reduce their operations and eventually shut down.

Now a new player is in the mix, from an unexpected quarter - the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is tasked with keeping an eye on California's long-term plans and goals.

Over in Pittsburg, CA, a company named WesPac is trying to quietly build a major oil terminal with a huge rail component. They're so quiet, in fact, that the vast majority of Pittsburg residents still have no idea that this project has been proposed. One of the concerns of the Pittsburg Defense Council, a grassroots group trying to stop the WesPac project, is that it would bring in particularly dangerous types of crude oil.

WesPac has downplayed the possibility of tar sands, but the OPR is not fooled. In a short letter just over one page long, they asked Pittsburg three simple questions, which basically boil down to: Will this proposed oil terminal receive tar sands-derived oil? This basic question was not covered in the draft environmental impact report, and, unconscionably, the Pittsburg Planning Department does not plan to directly address this issue in the final EIR.

Larger Implications


This is big news in a lot of ways:
  • It means California is taking tar sands seriously at the state level.
  • It means California is considering the impact of tar sands when evaluating new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • It means that the local Pittsburg Planning Dept is acting cavalierly to ignore the key question of what types of crude oil would come in to the proposed WesPac oil terminal.
  • It should put fossil fuel companies and city and county planning departments on notice that regulatory agencies will look very carefully at what specific types of crude oil they deal with.
  • It drives another nail in the coffin of the tar sands industry.

So, tar sands opponents, celebrate this victory! More and more regulators are waking up to the terrible consequences of tar sands.

P.S.


If you live in or near Pittsburg, CA, email the Pittsburg Defense Council and help them out! If you live in the greater Bay Area, help the 350 Bay Area BayCAP campaign ensure that BAAQMD follows through on its strict new resolution.

Full text of OPR letter to Pittsburg concerning the WesPac project

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research recently sent a letter to the City of Pittsburg regarding the proposed WesPac oil terminal. Unfortunately, the Pittsburg Planning Department intends not to answer these three short questions in the final EIR. OPR has serious concerns about tar sands, because of California's mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change).

For more on this, see the "Tar sands in Pittsburg? California government concerned." post on the Pittsburg Defense Council website.

2013/12/03

Letter to certain SF supervisors concerning bike funding.

San Francisco loves to think that it's a world-class biking city, but it spends less than a half a percent of its transportation budget on bicycle infrastructure. The SF Bicycle Coalition is at last pushing them hard on increasing funding. Here's my email to three of the supervisors concerning this pressing need.

more money for bikes, and soon!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to be at the hearing this Wednesday about biking in San Francisco. So I will share my thoughts with you now.

I have been biking in San Francisco for 13 years, and it's gotten much, much better in that time. However, as a whole, SF is still way too car-centric.

A key point most people don't mention is climate change. As part of our responsibilities under AB 32 and S-3-05, San Francisco must dramatically reduce its emissions - very quickly. This means consistently favoring transit and bikes over cars, even in cases - like Polk St - where it gets politically contentious.

Part of getting to those goals is putting our money where our mouth is. If bicycling accounts for 3.5% of all trips, and we have a goal to get to 20% by 2020, how can we have <1% of SFMTA funding go to bikes?

We need a massive increase in funding. It should be at least 5%, but 10% is much more realistic.

Thanks,
Martin

2013/12/02

A fracking "long boom" is impossible

The Sacramento Bee has some great articles on the current fracking boom in the US. These include:

I wrote a letter to the editor of the SacBee, which they published with only small changes as Fracking will soon lead to hardship. Here is my original with hyperlinks added (note that their URL uses my original subject):


A fracking "long boom" is impossible


I greatly enjoyed your collection of in-depth articles on the current US energy boom due to fracking.

However, I was disappointed that environmental concerns were sequestered in their own article; they are critical to understanding the phenomenon in full context.

The "Do the Math" campaign points out that we cannot, as a world, burn more than 20% of our proven fossil fuel reserves, or we will push the climate system into a radically different regime, one extremely harsh for our species.

We are already on track to burn up that allotment within 15 years or so. We must immediately, wrenchingly shift our energy system, or we will face severe hardship and death in my lifetime.

Either way, we won't be mining natural gas at current rates for 100 years as Obama claims.

Martin MacKerel

2013/11/08

#TastesLikeTarSands Banner Drop

Incredible view of the Bay from the seats of San Francisco's baseball stadium - but what's that under the Coke bottle?

After having a blast doing a photo shoot for the Tastes Like Tar Sands campaign, I and some friends planned a supporting action that was not officially part of the campaign.

I had been in a bar which had a Giants home game on TV and I had noticed the giant Coke bottle in the background. Aha! So ripe for a banner drop of some kind!

After checking out the structure, we realized that it would take some serious skills and probably some climbing equipment to safely put a banner on or around the Coke bottle itself - it is a giant structure. Instead, we decided to hang the banner from the railing in front of the bottle, and furthermore we could just hold it rather than attach it. That way, we would piss off security and management less, and we would probably get to keep the banner.

In short order the banner was designed and printed just in time for the last game of the 2013 season. We set out with a few extra hands, a videographer, and a couple of photographers.

It was a beautiful day and an exciting baseball game. After watching two-thirds of it, we positioned ourselves, and at the conclusion of the seventh inning - so as not to distract from live gameplay - we unrolled the 40' x 7' banner and unfurled it over the railing.

It reads "Coke: Rots Our Teeth, Ruins Our Climate".
#TastesLikeTarSands
www.forestethics.org/Coke

Here's a shot of us from below (I'm in the green t-shirt):


And here's the best pic, a wide view with relatively clear text:


We had it out for a good couple of minutes before we were made to leave. We expected that we would get thrown out of the stadium, and that's exactly what happened, but it was surprisingly civil. Outside, we held up the banner a few dozen feet away from the stadium and took some more pictures with the Bay in the background, and then rolled it up and headed out for some well-deserved drinks.

2013/09/27

#TastesLikeTarSands Photo Shoot

Heading to Ocean Beach, with the beautiful Marin Headlands in the background.
The Golden Gate Bridge is just to the right, off-camera.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a very fun bit of environmental activism: a photo shoot to support the "Tastes Like Tar Sands" campaign, which is pressuring Coke and Pepsi not to buy tar-sands-derived oil for their delivery fleet.

In the last few months, I've gotten involved in a lot of environmental activism, primarily focusing on the toxic, dirty tar sands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian tar sands across the US to Texas, endangering communities, ecosystems, and aquifers, as well as worsening global warming.

I've engaged in some civil disobedience in front of a State Department office, locked down in a non-violent direct action to shut down construction of a Keystone XL pumping station, participated in a huge demonstration at Chevron's Richmond refinery, and am now helping Pittsburg, CA residents stop a proposed crude oil storage facility.

All of these things are great, but none can quite compare to dressing up in a modified Coke can costume (which reads "Tar Sands") and heading to San Francisco's Ocean Beach to cover myself in mud and sand for a photo shoot. I was joined by a Pepsi can and an activist/hazmat character for an afternoon of fun.

2013/09/13

My Comments on the Proposed WesPac Pittsburg Crude Oil Storage Facility

For background, see the Contra Costa article on Oil storage and transfer facility proposed for Pittsburg waterfront. We need to make sure that NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE is built. (Pittsburg is a town in the San Francisco Bay Area.)


To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing about the proposed WesPac Pittsburg crude oil storage facility.

Such a facility would risk the health of nearby residents by unusual events such as spills. Its day-to-day operations would doubtless also aggravate the existing asthma epidemic in Pittsburg.

Even if the facility operated flawlessly, however, it would contribute to the increased global use of fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gases that through climate change endanger our physical infrastructure, our health, our environment, and potentially the very viability of human civilization.

It is imperative that we change our energy system. To start with, we must insist on NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE.

There is simply no excuse to do otherwise; any statement of environmental impact that claims low impact for additional fossil fuel infrastructure and allows its construction is extremely irresponsible.

Yours,
Martin MacKerel

2013/09/09

Abolish the NSA, Already

After a bit of a lull in August, new revelations about the NSA from the Snowden documents are coming thick and fast again. These are, if anything, bigger stories than the first ones. They show us a picture of a government agency that has gone completely out of control.

One set of revelations shows that the NSA's actions go well beyond searching for "terrorists". In addition to previous revelations of spying at the UN, we now know that the NSA:

However, those are all foreign targets, and while I am surprised at their hacking a media organization and at the economic espionage, that's not entirely out of their remit. Doesn't make it right, but it's not totally shocking.

What is totally shocking is that the NSA considers Americans and American companies as "adversaries" and has acted to make the US less safe by subverting encryption every chance it could. In particular, we now know that the NSA:

  • infiltrated and corrupted Internet standards groups in order to weaken security,
  • corrupted individual employees of US tech companies,
  • when that wasn't successful, hacked into tech companies' systems to steal encryption keys, and
  • worked with companies to deliberately place security holes in commercial software.

This is the height of irresponsibility. In the guise of protecting the US, the NSA has made everyone much, much less safe. It should be called the National Insecurity Agency.

This level of corruption and blatant disregard even for US persons and corporations shows that the NSA has ranged far beyond its original mandate. It clearly has a culture of arrogance and a refusal to accept any ethical limits whatsoever.

It's clear now that the NSA has strayed so far that it cannot be reformed. The only reasonable course of action is to abolish the NSA.

2013/09/04

"Guilty" of Misdemeanor Trespassing

Some guy wearing my shorts underneath an excavator (a 100-ton bulldozer), locked down through its tread.

On June 24th, 2013, I and several other people engaged in a non-violent direct action in which we temporarily halted construction of a Keystone XL pumping station in Seminole County, OK. If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would allow increased exploitation of tar sands, a particularly dirty fossil fuel.

Yesterday, September 3rd, I chose to take a plea deal and pleaded guilty to "trespassing after being forbidden" related to that action. I do not regret my actions, and I hope that in the months and years to come more and more people choose to engage in such direct actions and protests of all kinds in order to prevent construction of more fossil fuel infrastructure. We must act now to prevent further pollution of land, air, and water and limit the risk of climate catastrophe. Such actions are not without their costs, but inaction is the most costly path of all.

Martin MacKerel

2013/08/01

Daniel Ellsberg's Comments on Bradley Manning and Masculinity

At the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club's annual dinner, on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013, Daniel Ellsberg accepted the "In His Footsteps" award on behalf of Bradley Manning. (The footsteps are Harvey Milk's.) He pleasantly surprised the audience by including an provocative call to redefine masculinity (that starts about 6:23 in).




2013/07/09

Theatre Review: Monkey: Journey to the West

The musical "Monkey: Journey to the West" is awesome. I loved the music, with hints and references to other works. The stage show is incredible, involving many different genres: acrobatics, wires, staged martial arts, and aerial dance. The costumes are amazing. It was engaging from start to finish.

It's a curious mix of Chinese and Western. The musical is directed by a Chinese producer and features a Chinese cast. The music is composed by a Brit, using both Chinese and Western instruments. While the monkey journeys to the West, what he finds there is Buddha - a quintessentially Eastern icon to Westerners. In fact, to a Chinese government that reveres its past but is uncomfortable with religion, the story of the Journey to the West might be problematic. Despite not having been staged in China yet (so far England, Paris, and New York), the songs are sung in Mandarin.

What intrigues me most about "Monkey" is its potential as a cultural bellwether. It is an optimistic model for future integration and cooperation of China and the West. We have a work of art, produced by a mixed team, which does not stereotype China, but respects it by adapting one of its most famous classical stories and presenting it in its native tongue in a modern, Western form to Western audiences. I'm curious what the future will bring.

2013/07/04

Chicago Restore the 4th Protest

Today I attended a Restore the Fourth protest in Chicago. It was well attended, with about 250 mostly first-time protesters, and was put together by a small group of first-time organizers. This is about as grassroots as it gets.

The crowd had great energy and many creative signs. The protest demanded that the Fourth Amendment be restored. There was a lot of anger at the NSA, with many calling for it to be abolished entirely. Some chants included:
  • The NSA / has TMI!
  • The NSA / is not OK!
  • Big Bro / has got to go!
  • Free, free Snowden! Free Edward Snowden!
  • Restore the Fourth
As we approached Millenium Park, we came across hundreds of people enjoying the sun in the park. Onlookers were by and large very sympathetic. I was jazzed to see a couple hundred people marching through a crowded area chanting against the NSA. I can only imagine how NSA employees feel right now.

For the most part, the protest was quite patriotic. It even ended with the crowd singing the Star-Spangled Banner. I did not participate, but the song did not annoy me the way it does when it's played at a baseball game. There was something really genuine in how the demonstrators felt about their country and the principles they believe it was founded on, and their defiance in the face of what most of them realize is a usurping of democracy by elites was heartening.

We had a small incident where one young Mexican-American man was detained by a cop for writing on the sidewalk with chalk. About 15-20 of us stayed and chanted "Let him go!" and then a couple of the (white) organizers asked the cops to let him go, it wouldn't happen again, etc. After running his ID, the two cops there did indeed let him go. I have no doubt that the balance of numbers helped convince them to do that.

The organizers did one thing I thought was a great idea: at the pavilion they asked to disperse, talk to people and hand out fliers, and then re-convene in 20 minutes, after which we marched to the endpoint and had a final speakout. In this way we managed to reach out to lots and lots of people.

This took me a second to figure out....
MAD Magazine's Spy vs. spy - very clever.
Crowd shot. Why are the flags at half-mast on July 4th?
People who wished could speak for 30 seconds apiece.
"Grindr Tricks AGAINST Surveillance" - *everybody* hates the NSA.
There's always one. However, apart from a couple Randians and a couple RCPers, these were mostly first-time protesters with no overt ideology.

2013/06/06

Book Review: The Meaning of Freedom

The Meaning of Freedom book cover
I stumbled upon Angela Davis's book The Meaning of Freedom And Other Difficult Dialogues in the basement of the City Lights bookstore. It seemed like a great find at the time - I'd love to hear what Angela Davis has to say! And although something like the "meaning of freedom" is a huge and slippery topic, I'd expect Davis to make some profound contributions.

Unfortunately, this book disappoints. Rather than being one book-length discussion of freedom, or even a progression of inquiries, it is a collection of speeches Davis has made over the last twenty years. Each speech is remarkably like the others, which is fine if you're taking one speech and tailoring it for different audiences and developing it over time as you tour. But it doesn't make for a great book of essays read one after the other.

I'm in general agreement with each essay. Davis problematizes our understanding of freedom by focusing on questions of race, racism, and incarceration in the US. (She also explores a little bit how the US model of incarceration - the prison-industrial complex, we call it - has been exported to the rest of the world.) In particular, she shows how the prison-industrial complex functions to keep black Americans, in particular, as less than full citizens. She speaks often of prison abolition by analogy to the abolition of slavery, and considers incarceration the modern-day incarnation of slavery. She makes a lot of connections between the "civil death" of prisoners and that of slaves.

These are ideas I'd heard before, but it was useful to absorb them laid out the way Davis does. It would have been much better, however, for her to distill her thoughts down in a small booklet, rather than have similar points repeated so many times.

2013/06/01

My Comments to the SF Pride Board Community Meeting regarding the Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal Kerfuffle

My name is Martin MacKerel and I am a straight ally. [some remarks about the anger in the room and remembering the pastor's words about respecting each others' humanity]

When I say I'm an ally, I don't just mean that I think gay rights are cool and I have some friends who are LGBT. I have played for several years in a pool league that "just happens to be gay" and met many people and that's when these issues became important to me. I campaigned against Prop 8, and after it passed I joined a local grassroots group called "One Struggle One Fight" to fight against it, and as part of that I went to DC for the 2009 National Equality March.

I'm also a Bradley Manning supporter since I learned about his situation two and a half years ago. You may ask why? Is there a link? And, yes, there is a simple link in that these are both about justice.

Picture of speakers in line to speak at the meeting
(Left to right) Martin MacKerel and John Caldera in line; Lisa Geduldig speaking

But I think there is a deeper link. Both the process of coming out and Bradley's actions involve speaking truths that might make people uncomfortable. Many people might initially not want to know that a family member or friend is queer. But hopefully in coming out, attitudes are shifted, and both the speaker and the listener are transformed.

I know that lots of people would prefer to believe that the government is on their side, that its military doesn't commit war crimes, and that its foreign policy comes from good intentions.

Bradley showed us, as Daniel Ellsberg did, that these comforting notions are not true. I see the reaction to Bradley Manning's selection as Grand Marshal as part of a prolonged attempt not to face the truth. But sooner or later, and the sooner the better, we must face the truth.

To deny Bradley - to shove him and his uncomfortable truths back in the closet - is to fail in our responsibility as a community.

2013/05/28

Book Review: Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe

Imperiled Life cover: the Statue of Liberty with waves above her waist
It seems my lot in life is to slog through badly written books. The Spectre of Sex was informative, but a bit painful to wade through. Conscious Capitalism was truly horrendous, both in content and form, but I read through to the end for the greater good.

Javier Sethness-Castro's Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe is a book I really wanted to like. I've been thinking for a while of posing the question "Can capitalism save us from climate catastrophe?" honestly, not as a leftist already knowing the answer. I'm inclined to believe the answer is no, but if it can, by all means, show me.

This book is definitely an attempt to preach to the choir, but colour me an intrigued chorister. In addition, the author is a good speaker, and he and I have a mutual friend. So I was ready to enjoy this book.

The problem is that the book is absolutely awful. It's basically a PhD thesis about the Frankfurt school smashed into mini-book form. It's loaded down with references to and quotes from Adorno, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marx, Adorno, Kant, Adorno, Marcuse, Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Adorno, and others. We get it. You're a fan of Adorno.

2013/04/22

Why I am Engaging in Civil Disobedience to Prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline

Note: I provided the following as a public comment to the State Department. The last day to submit comments is the day I am posting this, April 22nd, 2013. You can easily add your name to comments from 350.org.

Later today (Earth Day, April 22nd, 2013), I am going to engage in civil disobedience in San Francisco to pressure the State Department and Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

I am part of a growing and determined movement to move us off of our addiction to fossil fuels - to keep the oil in the ground. A key part of that goal is stopping the mining of tar sands, which Michael Brune of the Sierra Club says "is symbolic of development that is not sustainable". Right now the first step is preventing Keystone XL from being built.

The core of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is section 1.4, titled "Market Analysis". In it are tucked away all the assumptions and the mindset that leads to the glib conclusion that Keystone XL would not substantially contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

The basic argument is that the alternative ways to move tar sands oil to refineries are more polluting, and that the tar sands will be developed regardless of the decision on the Keystone XL proposal. Therefore, the logic goes, you might as well approve the pipeline.

The document essentially counsels capitulation to market forces.

large area of tar sands strip mining area with roads through it

But that's the whole problem - "the market" is insane. It is leading us to catastrophic climate change. We need to interfere with the market. "Fundamental changes to the world crude oil market, and/or [more] far reaching actions than are evaluated in this Supplemental EIS, would be required to significantly impact the rate of production in the oil sands." (Page 1.4-2)

That's what we're asking for, and that's what we're focusing on providing.

And thankfully, that's happening. Other pipeline projects "face significant opposition from various groups". (Page 1.4-26) Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an active campaign to make sure that tar sands oil is not refined in Richmond, California. No doubt there are similar campaigns elsewhere. We will attempt to stop the destruction of the boreal forest, to stop the strip mining, to stop the pipelines and the trains and the ships, and to prevent the refining, distribution, and sale of products from tar sands oil.

Keystone XL does not have social license to operate - this is the beginning of the revocation of the social license to operate of all sorts of fossil fuel industries.

The State Department and President Obama can either help us in our effort to turn us back from catastrophic climate change, or they can try to hinder us. It would be "in the national interest" to come willingly and lead the way to a sustainable future. But we will act regardless.

2013/04/16

My Comments on the USPTO Software Patent Roundtable

Note: I emailed these comments in response to the US Patent and Trademark Office's "Listening Sessions" where they solicited opinions on how to fix the software patent system, which pretty much everyone agrees is broken.




I have several points to make about software patents, most of which come under the topic of "potential future topics" and many of which, I realize, the USPTO cannot act on without new law from Congress. I'm glad the USPTO is acknowledging that there are some real problems with software patents, but I think that they're asking the wrong questions. They're also asking the wrong people.

To summarize my bottom-line view on software patents, based in part on spending 15 years as a professional programmer and having worked at four startups: software should not be patentable at all. If we allow software patents, there are three things we can do to make them less damaging:
  1. reduce the duration to 4 or 5 years instead of 20 (which is a really long time in the software world),
  2. increase the bar so only truly innovative things like spreadsheets count, and
  3. actually require "reduction to practice" - the submitter must implement it, and release source code, as part of the patent.

2013/04/04

Book Review: Conscious Capitalism

Conscious Capitalism book cover
At first glance, Conscious Capitalism looks like just another business book from an egotistical CEO. John Mackey has had great success running Whole Foods Market, and now he wants to share his learnings with the rest of the business world in self-serving, boldly self-assured, and dreadfully written prose. But his aim is higher than just giving business tips or recounting war stories - with co-author Raj Sisodia, he wants to revitalize the entire economic system and provide a "richer and more ethically compelling narrative" about capitalism. Their subtitle, without any trace of irony or humour, of course, is "Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business".

The combination of the title and the subtitle gives it away. What we have here is a very contemporary collision of values: a New Age libertarian how-to. Eckhart Tolle meets Adam Smith - The Secret for the haves.

2013/04/02

So This is the Other Side of how the Sausage is Made

On Friday, March 29th, I went to the Hall of "Justice" in San Francisco to watch part of a hearing related to the case of the so-called ACAC19. These are 19 people who were arrested during a "Anti-Colonial, Anti-Capitalist March" on Columbus Day, 2012.

I was there for the whole afternoon - the hearing had apparently started in the morning, and will be continued at 9am, April 17th. The spectacle was fascinating in a sick way - so this is the other side of how the sausage is made. Apparently this hearing was about a motion to suppress certain evidence. A couple of cops testified and a video was played. There was no jury; just a judge, a prosecutor, and 19 defense attorneys, one for each defendant.

The hearing started out with the prosecutor showing the following video of events near the intersection of Battery and Sacramento:

Your browser is not able to display this multimedia content.

First of all, I was astonished by just how much detail one can miss, which became clear when the cops were questioned by the defense attorneys. After watching that video (only 1 minute 39 seconds long), can you answer the following questions?

2013/02/25

Book Review: The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

Specter of Sex book cover: woman in 19th century dress
I'm a well-off, well-educated, straight, white man living in the US, so I sit in the intersection of pretty much every dimension of privilege. I'm also a radical committed to real freedom and equality for everyone, for the destruction of all these systems of oppression. So the question I'm often faced with is: what should I work on? To what specific struggles should I contribute?

Over the years I've become more and more convinced that patriarchy is a linchpin hierarchy, upholding many others. It's also historically ancient: even among the least unequal, classless, aboriginal societies anthropologists have reported on, most have some degree of patriarchy, and this seems to have gotten distinctly worse with the rise of agriculture, settlements, and class structure.

Accordingly, I have, for example, worked on campaigns for LGBT rights, because I believe that attacking homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people is fundamentally feminist: the basis for these kinds of discrimination is that men and boys should act certain ways, and women and girls should act certain other ways, and there are no exceptions. I can see from years of living in San Francisco how a queer-friendly environment allows even the straightest, most gender-conformant people freedom from gender and sexuality norms that don't suit them.

2013/01/17

FCC Proposed Rulemaking on Prison Phone Rates

Here is a small but very important and effective way you can improve life for two million people in the US and their families.

From the excellent SF Bayview newspaper I found out about this promising proposed rulemaking by the FCC. As you may know if you have ever had to communicate with somebody in prison, the phone rates are exorbitant. There can be per-call and per-minute charges, as well as usurious fees simply to transfer money into a prisoner's account. The boyfriend of one prisoner writes:
My girlfriend is currently incarcerated in Kentucky. Every time she calls me through the prison call system it costs $8.17. On top of that, every time I put money on my account with Securus, whether it is $10 or $500 it costs $6.95 per transaction. It has cost me almost $100 for eight phone calls lasting fifteen minutes each.