Info Gluttony

Why I Won’t Move to Oakland (Anytime soon)

Posted in personal, politics, thinking about cities, urban planning by echan on October 28, 2011

I was born and raised in SF, and with the exception of my academic exile on the East Coast, and the past 9 months down in the foggy D.C., I’ve always lived in SF.* During and after law school, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to Brooklyn West, since it’s sunnier there and the real estate is shiny and a few hundred thousand dollars less than San Francisco. My friends there are cool and open-minded, and generally politically and socially engaged. Plus, there’s stuff going on over there, unlike the sterile strip malls and quaint small towns of the South Bay, or the sleepy homogeneity of Marin. Before this week, the three things that held me back were:

1. Fear of earthquakes. I constantly ask which is scarier, being in the Transbay Tube or on the Bay Bridge when the Big One hits, and both options terrify me equally.

2. Fear of crime / lack of policing to deter crime. I’m not sure that I feel comfortable living in a place where the Police Department doesn’t investigate property crimes. You’re house got burgled? You got mugged? Tough luck!

3. I don’t really drive, and BART doesn’t run late enough. I’d hate to constantly look at my watch at a Fillmore concert to make sure that I made my last BART train home.

But the brutality of the police response to Occupy Oakland this week has sorta sealed the deal against me moving to Oakland. When a City Administrator can issue orders for brute force to be used on peaceful protesters, something is wrong. When the Mayor, Jean Quan, can claim ignorance to the plans to raid Occupy Oakland, something is very very wrong. Between the Oscar Grant protests and now this, my dominant image of Oakland isn’t of art crawls or Children’s Fairyland, but of police in riot gear and people in wheelchairs being tear-gassed, and that’s not the type of city where I want to live. And my head has been trying to tabulate how much of the City’s budget is going to pay out settlements for police brutality related to this week’s clearance of Occupy Oakland.

A huge part of me is trying to understand how the City of Oakland, which prides itself on incorporating the language of social justice and addressing inequality, had one of the most violent reactions (that I know of) to the Occupy movement. I know part of this is rooted in the OPD’s sense of impunity and their past scandals, but until there is some progress on this front, Oakland goes onto the “places where I won’t live” list. I’m not sure how much the Planning and Police Departments talk to each other, but the image of a police department is key to attracting new residents to a city. A police department that terrorizes residents, instead of doing any actual policing, does all of your realtors a huge disservice.

*This is a total aside, but in case you didn’t know already, I’m moving back to SF next week.

Rah Rah Warren!

Posted in politics by echan on September 22, 2011

One of my law school section-mates succinctly summed up my feelings about Elizabeth Warren in a Facebook status update:

I love this woman. I know her from law school and I love her. The end.

But one reason why her little video resonates with me so much is that it succinctly explains what I wish I could tell every relative who thinks that the government takes their money without giving them anything back.

A month or so ago, I was engaged in a conversation with an aunt whom I admire, but who is an exec at one of those giant infrastructure and defense companies. She complained about the millions of dollars the government was “throwing away” to protect desert tortoises near a solar project her company was building. She said, “The government has never spent any money on me.”

My jaw dropped. I pointed out that she went to public school and to the UCs. Her kids went to public schools and the UCs. She’s used public transit and the roads. But she was stubborn; she felt that she contributed to her kids schools via the PTA, not through her taxes. And she was angry that she was still paying for other people’s kids to go to school for free.  My inability to reason with her, despite my best efforts makes me want to flyer her car (and the cars of my other similarly minded relatives) with the image below.

The New Power Haircut?

Posted in politics by echan on December 3, 2010

This photo of Madame Secretary has been circulating and caused some bafflement:

One of my friends explained that Clinton had simply forgotten to take out the clip.

But today, in the WSJ Law Blog, I came across this photo of Ginny Thomas:

Two powerful, middle-aged women isn’t enough to establish a trend, but there is a remarkable similarity to how Secretary of State Clinton and Ms. Thomas are wearing their hair. Clearly, the plastic hairclip transcends partisanship.

All Politics is Local

Posted in Disaster Capitalism, politics by echan on January 28, 2010

So long as California social service cuts translate into the mentally ill being treated solely with meds, or being denied treatment altogether, and MUNI seriously floats the idea of cutting service and increasing fares again, it is hard for me find comfort in Obama’s State of Union.  While high speed rail may get the job train moving for parts of California, my resevoir of hope drains out with each bus delay.  Empirical evidence shows that once these cuts happen, the services tend not to come back.

If there’s one silver lining, at least, the Obama presidency means that we won’t have a “That’s not true” Alito replacement filling Justice Stevens seat.

And Let’s Bring it Back to Haiti

Posted in Disaster Capitalism, media, politics by echan on January 28, 2010

Big announcements today, I know, I know, but let me re-wind the media clock back 15 seconds to Haiti.

First, let me point out Rebecca Solnit’s scathing critique on the media’s use of the term “looting” in natural disasters.  I think J-schools and newspapers need to bring Solnit in to train their staff on covering disasters, and I second her call, “We need to banish the word ‘looting’ from the English language. It incites madness and obscures realities.”  Her core argument is that the word “looting” itself is deadly, since it privileges the value of property above human life and dulls our natural sense of compassion:

And in disaster after disaster, at least since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, those in power, those with guns and the force of law behind them, are too often more concerned for property than human life. In an emergency, people can, and do, die from those priorities. Or they get gunned down for minor thefts or imagined thefts. The media not only endorses such outcomes, but regularly, repeatedly, helps prepare the way for, and then eggs on, such a reaction.

The second bit on Haiti comes from Skip Gates, who traces the poverty there to a series of American (and European) foreign policy decisions made a couple of centuries ago (hat tip to TNC’s post).  The American policies that strangled Haiti’s development started with Thomas Jefferson, and appropriately began to change with Abe Lincoln:

By 1804, Jefferson told John Quincy Adams that he was determined to end trade with Haiti. Having helped the Haitians gain their freedom, he then sought to strangle the new-born nation. He sought to quarantine the island and opposed official trade because that would mean recognizing its independence. And that could inspire slave insurrections throughout the American South. The embargo on Haiti remained in force until the spring of 1810; trade fell from $6.7 million in 1806 to $1.5 million in 1808. Non-recognition of the republic remained official American policy until 1862.

Abraham Lincoln signed the bill to recognize Haiti, at long last (and Liberia, too, by the way) in June 1862. The bill passed both houses of Congress only after long and heated debate. James Redpath, the head of the Haitian emigration bureau and an abolitionist, had pressed Massachusetts statesman Charles Sumner to introduce this legislation, for one reason: to encourage the emigration of freed slaves and free blacks to both countries, which remained a dream of Lincoln’s even a month before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

While I learned of Haiti’s early independence and poverty in elementary school, my textbooks left out the bit about Jeffersonian foreign policy.

And now, you can forward your attention span to the next big news story, Obama’s State of the Union (which I am willing to bet will have less than 10 sentences addressing U.S. foreign policy.)

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Addendum: Ha, had that last parenthetical said “less than 10 minutes” rather than “less than 10 sentences,” I would have been right:

Mr. Obama spent only nine minutes in an address that lasted more than an hour on foreign policy.

Dear Mr. President

Posted in politics by echan on January 20, 2010

Your presidency turns one-year-old today, and I must say that I agree with Junot Diaz, and implore you to “Start telling us a story.”  I read the news, and I think that it’s a shame that I know more about the outfits that your wife wore in the past year than about what you accomplished and stand for.

What it means to be a Patron

Posted in media, politics by echan on October 28, 2009

Now, I’m all for these various things: (1) Investigative journalism (2) into the Bay Bridge (3) brought to you by McSweeney’s, and I’ll probably make my $4.00 donation sometime later today to support this endeavor.  I’m also heartened to see the cost of this undertaking (by experienced journalists) quantified at $10,000 (which is about the same price as a small- to medium-sized motion* at a big law firm).  However, a small part of me worries about this becoming the model for non-profit-based journalism going forward, where the only stories that get funded are the ones that appeal to the general public.  For instance, if I only have $50 to donate per year, this means that I’d only donate to 10 or so stories.  While things like the Bay Bridge might grab my money, it makes me wonder if stories about prison violence or the prolonged detention of illegal immigrants would get the light of day, because they may be less compelling.  Under our current dying system, I feel that the popular stories subsidize other areas that need a watchdog too, even if there’s less public interest in them.

*A big motion at a big law firm can hit 7 figures easily.

Our National Ugliness

Posted in health is wealth, politics by echan on August 18, 2009

I thought the Presidential campaign was ugly, but the “discourse” surrounding health care reform really depresses me.

This video really forces me to ask, “Who would have thunk it (7 months ago), a nation torn asunder by health care reform, of all things?”

First Race, and Now Weight

Posted in politics by echan on July 22, 2009

I’m going to keep this short, but I am alarmed that when it comes to female Obama appointees, so much attention is paid to weight.  Attention to weight is the new chauvinism.

First, while Obama was looking at SCOTUS noms, some derided one potential nominee, the brilliant, Elena Kagan (whose signature marks my J.D.), and the current nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, for being too fat, under the guise that they would have a shorter life expectancy.

Now, Fox News and the more neutral ABC News are turning the spotlight on Dr. Regina Benjamin, Obana’s Surgeon General pick.  The argument? She’s a bad health role model because she’s overweight. The message, “Hey, let’s completely obscure her achievements as a MacArthur Genius grant recipient who founded a medical clinic to serve the rural poor in Louisiana and instead focus on her waistline in judging her ability to promote health.”  Is there really nothing baser than calling a woman “fat”?

It’s one thing to promote a standard of beauty that promotes “skinniness” as the ideal for fashion models, it’s another to judge very talented and high-achieving woman who are at the top of their respective fields based on weight.  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.  The Sarah Palin Runners World spread may be proof enough, that America, like Italy, prefers “hot” female politicians, regardless of experience.

Someone Get Me a Voter Registration Card, Stat!

Posted in politics by echan on June 23, 2009

I’ve grappled over the decision to remain in the GOP fold forever, even though the party of Lincoln, has drifted further and further away from what I believe in.  Colin Powell bought the Party a few more months, but Peter Brimelow’s comments (and very presence) at a recent Pat Buchanan conference dedicated to “Building the New [Republican] Majority,” may be the final straw.  Brimelow urged the attendees of the Buchanan conference to attack affirmative action in an effort to attract the votes of ‘young whites’ and ‘yellow people.'”  Comments like that push “yellow people” like me out of the GOP’s supposedly big tent.

Oh, and Buchanan’s attacks against Sotomayor were not kosher either.

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Addendum: Simon pointed out this comment from the Coates’ blogpost on the Buchanan/Brimelow’s Hatecon, “This is fractal fail: no matter how far you zoom in, there’s still more fail.”