Heavy times these days. An innocent man, Alex Nieto, was murdered by the police on Bernal Heights on Friday March 21. This follows a litany of police corruption cases, regular incidents of police violence, and a growing climate of utter impunity under the old-boy police chief Greg Suhr.
At a wider scale, every day there is dire news about climate change, most recently the NASA-funded report that suggests we are on the brink of a collapse of industrial society (hardly a new idea, but interesting to have it widely disseminated by a scholarly study funded in part by NASA). Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book The Sixth Extinction leaves little doubt that it is humans who are causing the wipe-out of thousands of species across the planet.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed its ongoing commitment to plutocracy by eliminating limits on individual donations to election campaigns. It’s not the Armageddon for democracy that a bunch of liberals are making it out to be–just more of the same relentless arrogance of the ruling class in the U.S., abandoning any pretense about legitimate democratic elections (the same Supreme Court a few months ago threw out most of the Voting Rights Act rules that assured the right to vote to poor and people of color in the most reactionary states in the Union). Much as I disrespect electoral democracy and think it is broken, the message from the Supreme Court is pretty clear: voting rights are for those with money, obviously!
Locally, the supposedly “progressive” Board of Supervisors (San Francisco’s city council) listened to a packed chamber for about 3 hours, nearly unanimous in their clamor for a proper environmental review of the absurd shuttle bus give-away to tech companies (wherein private luxury shuttle buses are allowed to use public bus stops for $1 each–after being free for the past several years–while private citizens who stop on a bus stop in their car are liable for a fine of $271 each!). Citizens documented the radical inflation of local housing markets around tech shuttle stops, decried the ethnic cleansing of the Mission and other parts of the City that are the result, and showed the heavy strain put on public buses and their riders by having the tech buses in their way, and so on. But as has been the case for a long time in this city, the public hearing was a charade, the decision having been made before anyone even spoke. The vote after this overwhelming insistence on an environmental review? 8-2 against, including some so-called progressive supervisors like Jane Kim and David Chiu. Kudos to Campos and Avalos for sticking with the people in spite of the greased wheels and done deal behind the scenes.
We live in a deeply corrupt society, from the local level to the national level. The 1% have decided, going back more than a decade, to grab whatever they can. It’s a society of brazen theft and bribery, where the politicians in Washington are mostly millionaires serving the interests of their class, and local politicians are so devoid of vision that they serve the interests of whatever ascendant pile of dough happens to come along.