SFPD’s performed reform

The Golden State Warriors’ hire of former SFPD Chief Greg Suhr as security consultant created work for many manufactured-outrage activists this past week, but couldn’t have been more business as usual. Team owner Joe Lacob is a Sand Hill Road venture capitalist and both Sand Hill Road and the Silicon Valley it funds have long been patrons of police. If anything, the Warriors’ (temporary) hiring of Suhr only highlights the complete lack of consequences for disgraced, or worse, police in the Bay Area. It also highlights the absurdity of comments from SFPD Commission President Suzy Loftus following her resignation earlier this week:

“There’s a lot more work to do,” Loftus told the Ex Tuesday. “What matters is what did get done.”

“I think through the last two years of an incredibly divisive national conversation, we in San Francisco have leaned into the difficult conversations and made decisions to bring us closer together,” Loftus told the Chron. “I feel like I’m leaving the commission in a great position to continue the progress we made.”

What did get done, though? What difficult conversations and decisions have been had with the community that brought anyone closer together? When Toney Chaplin was named acting SFPD Chief, his reform credentials were touted time and again, yet one of his first acts was to suspend community meetings following police shootings, calling them “unproductive and disruptive.” Unproductive and disruptive because the community refused to accept police propaganda and pushed back at anything other than genuine dialogue. As recently as this week police brushed off community demands and refused to release body-camera footage to justify their shooting Sean Moore. When the department finally named Kenneth Cha as the officer who shot Moore, they did so late Friday night to minimize attention. The Chronicle was so unconcerned they had their architecture critic write the story.

On top of that, Oakland resident Brandon Simpson filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against SFPD this week for being falsely arrested and beaten by officers in the Tenderloin in December 2015. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer accused arresting officer Nicholas M. Buckley of perjury in May 2016 during the appeals process, yet almost a year later Officer Buckley remains employed by SFPD and the Internal Affairs investigation “remains open.” So much energy goes into crafting the narrative that SFPD is led and guided by true reformers such as Suzy Loftus, Toney Chaplin and Chief-at-some-point William Scott, yet their actions refute this narrative every single time. And what motivation do any of them have to do anything other than smile and say, “Reform!” for the cameras? As long as local media continues to parrot their narrative, SFPD can live inside its own fiction as long as it pleases.

Nothing of Value Inside to Steal

“Nothing of Value Inside to Steal” signs are familiar to anyone living in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification; the more you see, the more advanced it’s becoming. The signs are also ignorant and judgemental on a number of levels. For starters, it’s prime settler-colonialism boilerplate. Move into a low-income nonwhite neighborhood, accuse existing residents of being criminals without the sense to know something of value when they see it and then pat yourself on the back for helping to “civilize” the neighborhood.

No one is indiscriminately smashing car windows and aimlessly rummaging around just in case there might be something of use. People break into vehicles because they see something of value inside, value from resale, personal use or any other reason. The car in this photo was one of the cleanest I’ve seen with one of those signs in the window, but there was still a USB charging cable visible near the console. I’ve seen blankets, pillows, paper-towel rolls, clothing and more inside cars with those signs in the window. All basic necessities that would tempt anyone desperate and in need.

When parking overnight on the street, or even a few hours in a mall parking lot, leaving nothing at all in sight is the best idea. That takes effort, though, and gentrifiers aren’t about to expend any energy adapting to their environment, especially not when that environment is currently being terraformed to accommodate them. They’d much rather tape passive-aggressive signs to their car windows demonizing existing residents. You’re Not Welcome Here signs from new residents, targeting existing ones, because who said white supremacy ever needed logic to thrive?

Suzy Loftus curiously quits

The face of police reform” isn’t long for the San Francisco Police Commission as its president Suzy Loftus resigned this week to join the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department as assistant legal counsel. It’s a curious move for a couple of reasons. First, Loftus is apparently trading two high-profile positions, San Francisco Police Commission president and legal counsel to California AG Kamala Harris, to be the Sheriff Department’s assistant legal counsel. Loftus is resigning because San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy believes remaining on the Police Commission would be a conflict of interest, a concern not shared by Loftus’ former boss Kamala Harris. Surely Loftus could’ve found another job that didn’t conflict with her role as police commissioner, but perhaps she was no longer necessary in that role. Kamala Harris was a loyal soldier in the City Hall machine and never failed to support SFPD during her time as a prosecutor, District Attorney or Attorney General. Installing her general counsel as president of the Police Commission ensured a body designed to oversee SFPD would buffer it from any real consequences or accountability. Harris now has bigger concerns as US Senator, however, and may want to distance herself altogether from any direct influence on the Police Commission, making Loftus surplus to requirement.

Another curious aspect of Loftus resignation has been the outpouring of respect and admiration from alleged friends and foes alike. Although Loftus left SFPD every bit as corrupt as she found it, and supported Greg Suhr to the bitter end, she was hailed as a “force for change,” “motivated to try and move the SFPD in a more positive direction,” and and even “a leader on the commission for transformational reform” by the “vociferous” nonprofit San Franciscans for Police Accountability, who have lately been quite supportive of SFPD. Loftus being seen off on a sedan chair of praise is cognitively dissonant, but not without purpose. Loftus would’ve been a perfect candidate for interim mayor or DA, had Hillary won and Ed Lee graduated to her administration, and Gascón replaced Harris as California AG. Lee and Gascón stayed put, though, leaving Loftus with no path forward. Taking a well-paid, under-the-radar position with the Sheriff’s Department allows Loftus to remain a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency candidate able to step in should any high-profile politicians need to leave office for whatever reason.

City Hall always saves for a rainy day.

The siren song of equality

Freedom. Equality. On the surface, they seem interchangeable, but in practice the two words couldn’t be farther apart. Freedom is self explanatory; acting and living without restraint or oppression. Equality is trickier, however. Equality comes with all sorts of terms and conditions. You can’t be equal by yourself; what’s the point? Reaching a state of equality infers a previous state of inequality, most likely enforced if any expenditure of labor is necessary to “achieve” equality. Instead of freedom from oppression, equality only grants oppressed people the same rights as their oppressors, without ever doing away with oppression. Someone inevitably remains oppressed, just not those climbing the ladder of equality.

Already an industry leader in climbing the equality ladder, the Guardian continued its climb last week asking if Trump could save Twitter. Trump and his campaign created, inspired and energized legions of trolls who were the primary undoing of Twitter, along with the company’s refusal to take any effective measure against them. The notion of Trump as Twitter’s savior is farcical at best, but that’s not the point of the article. The article is just another example of the Guardian’s seat-at-the-table journalism, most glaring when they cover Silicon Valley or Trump. The President-elect’s media outlet of choice is currently Breitbart, as well as other conservative outlets such as FoxNews. While the Guardian doesn’t intend to join the ranks of right-wing media, it does want to position itself as the official media leader of resistance, much like MSNBC during the GWB administration. The Guardian needs access to Trump in order to be his foil, though, and to get this access, the Guardian repeatedly proves itself equal to right-wing media by discussing Trump as a legitimate politician instead of the perfect storm of white supremacy that he represents. Any freedom from his white supremacy is an afterthought, at best.

Local media is just as guilty of pushing equality over freedom. When the San Francisco Ethics Commission fined Examiner columnist Stuart Schuffman for misuse of campaign funds during his 2015 mayoral run, fellow Examiner columnist Joe Rodriguez responded with an apologist tour de force. Instead of pushing for freedom from corruption as he did when conservative supervisor Mark Farrell was fined, Rodriguez (very favorably) equates fellow Team Progressive member Schuffman’s scandal to others at City Hall, as if to say, “Hey, it happens and nobody’s hands are clean, but at least our guy’s hands aren’t as dirty, right?” Why bother stopping injustice when you can join in?

Recent police-chief hires in San Francisco and Oakland also brought out the equality merchants. Both chiefs are framed as reformers, though they come from two of the most violent police departments in the country, LAPD and Chicago PD. Others see it differently:

Some community activists are thrilled an outsider will now be inside as chief. “You need an outsider to be a change agent, someone who understands what a modern day police department looks like ,” San Franciscans for Police Accountability spokesperson Karen Fleshman said.

Police departments are white-supremacist organizations wholly independent of outside influence because that’s what they were created to be. Pretending otherwise, that there are “change agents” within, or that “modern day” police departments are any less violent and corrupt, does nothing but perpetuate police propaganda that they can just reform if given enough space and the right people. And money, of course. When activists create equal ground for themselves and police, they lend legitimacy to police corruption in exchange for being able to center themselves and their orgs as preeminent and respected police watchdogs, in need of all the funding to ensure SFPD remains accountable.

What hope of freedom when equality remains so lucrative?

A Medium fleece

Can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Medium founder and CEO Ev Williams demonstrated the downside of dealing with the devil yesterday when he announced the blogging platform would fire a third of its staff and cease sharing ad revenue with creators. This despite Medium continuing to raise millions while overall tech funding remains stagnant. While Ev Williams’ and Medium’s bottom line remains safe, the same can’t be said for those who trusted it:

A number of small but influential online publications — including The Awl, The Bold Italic, Film School Rejects and HBO’s The Ringer — took Medium up on this offer, either migrating their entire sites over to Medium or launching new sites on the platform. In September 2016, Poynter reported that Medium had accepted 30 publishers into the revenue program.

Medium offered minimum revenue guarantees to some publications in the program, promising to pay them a certain amount of money even if it was unable to sell advertising against their content.

As of this week, Medium will no longer sell any advertising at all, though it’s still expected to honor the minimum revenue guarantees. But once those guarantees expire in a few months, the online publications that decided to go all-in on Medium last year could be in trouble.

Content creators, especially those centered in social justice, were always a means to an end for Medium. Silicon Valley loves to decorate itself with trusted activists while funding and campaigning for the most conservative candidates and initiatives on the ballot, and Williams is a chip off the old alabaster block. Medium attracted many indie content creators and media outlets to its platform with promises of revenue sharing, reaped the benefits of hosting them by boosting its funding, valuation and prestige, and then shut off the revenue-sharing tap once it had what it needed. The Silicon Valley way.

What White People Say in Private: The bigoted birthday boy

The inaugural What White People Say in Private post is also a textbook example of it. The gleeful and defiant use of a slur, the immediate backtracking when his racism isn’t met with approval, the flimsy rationalizations and finally full circle to gleeful and defiant use of the same slur again. White supremacy at its finest.

This also doubles as What White People Say in Public since little in existence is louder than white people, especially after a drink or two.

What White People Say in Private

I grew up in the South and lived there over thirty years. Luckily, I took most of my moral guidance as a child from a mad man with a box and dodged the white-supremacist dogma I grew up around, but that racism was still ubiquitous and something I had to learn to navigate in situations I couldn’t avoid. Attempting to re-frame conversations and/or nudge them in different directions became second nature to me, though a second nature that was rarely effective or successful.

By the time I was in my 30s, I was well aware that nothing I said or did was going to make anyone see their racist ways, much less abandon them, so derailing a racist conversation was the best option available to me. One particular night I was stuck in a social event with a group of bigots and when the conversation came around to me, I told them I was a writer working on a book titled What White People Say in Private. They laughed for a half second, then stopped almost on cue, looked at me, looked at each other, then went back to a slightly more cynical laughter. One person half-jokingly said, “We better be careful what we say around him, guys!” Nothing I ever said had that effect on white people, so I knew I was on to something. Over the next few years I often used that phrase in similar situations to make racists just uncomfortable enough to keep their ignorance to themselves while I was around. I even toyed with actually writing a What White People Say in Private book until I joined Twitter and saw trolls saying everything I’d ever heard and worse.

The phrase and the idea never strayed far from my mind, and while a book on the subject wouldn’t reveal anything new under the sun, a blog category with occasional relevant posts could highlight specific incidents and allow people to see bigots at rest in their natural habitat. Opportunities for me to record this stuff will probably be few and far between, but keeping reading and I’ll keep passing along what I stumble upon.

2016: Year of Entropy

Entropy is defined as “the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system” or “the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity.” Though many words could describe the holy terror that was 2016, entropy was on my mind the entire year. No year in recent memory better embodied the idea of putting in more and more work for decreasing results. It was no accident, either. 2014’s new wave of organizing and activism initially caught the state off guard, but with help from its Silicon Valley and NPIC allies, it almost immediately adjusted and by 2016 had its claws sunk into every social-justice org in existence. The Democrats put everything they had into consent and/or coercion. Funding windfalls, increased spotlight and gushing praise from heroes won over most of those who weren’t already on the take. Those refusing to drink the DNC Kool-Aid were gaslighted, slandered and silenced. All to prepare for the ascension of Hillary Clinton.

Then things went all pear shaped. John Podesta’s office was phished like Luddites, and out came a flood of emails detailing the DNC conspiracy to affect the Democratic primaries to benefit Hillary Clinton. Democratic ops throughout social justice questioned the validity of emails they would’ve endlessly tweeted only a year previous. Suddenly Russia became more of a concern than police terror or City Hall corruption as the DNC hypocritically scapegoated them for the Dems’ very own election rigging. Movements everywhere ground to a halt as the DNC called in favors and pledged future support and funding.

And it was all for naught. Trump won and the resistance lay in tatters. Fearless activists who not long ago had fearlessly stared down the state now parroted its Cold War-era propaganda and feverishly fundrasied for the NPIC. Which was what the state always wanted and needed. Too many protests and movements were successfully targeting its tech and NPIC allies, as well as mounting pressure on police departments and unions. Those activists and organizers had to be silenced, co-opted, and brought under Dem guidance, and that’s exactly what happened. Inert uniformity for all.

Housekeeping: Site Redecoration

Though it will always have a place in my heart, it’s finally time for me to bid a fond farewell to my blog’s original design and spruce things up a bit. I also have way too many 2016 memories associated with that original design and the sooner I move on from those vicious little creatures, the better.

The only new addition to the site is the option to subscribe via email. Finding the Connect icons and search field should be much easier now, too.

The three casualties of the site redesign are the Recent Posts ticker in the header, the roundels and the #GiveYourMoneyToWomen widget in the side bar. The main purpose of the widget, as I wrote when I added it, was to draw attention to ways that donations could be steered towards individual women of color where the money would have the most impact, as opposed to giving to nonprofits where the funds may never reach women at all. While the widget didn’t make my site’s current design, I still believe this to be the best method of support and donations and highly recommend it compared to anything else.

The curse of hurt

What is a curse? Popular depictions often revolve around a magic user calling upon evil forces for retribution, or an act so horrible it corrupts the very space in which it occurred, leaving a behind a malignant residue of pain and anger waiting to lash out at any so foolish to disturb it. This exoticizes the normal, however, as curses are born hourly; not out of magic spells or grievous injuries to the fabric of space and time, but simple, basic hurt.

Well, at least basic hurt. The trouble with hurt is that it’s almost never simple in composition, usually a cocktail of psychic toxins that have been simmering in the subconscious for some time. Whether it’s steeped in long-standing issues or the result of an isolated violation, hurt is still hurt, and a single grain of it can infect and harm thousands in the space of an afternoon. Person-to-person transmission is simple enough; anyone perceived similar or related to the source of the hurt is fair game, though hurt acts indiscriminately, too. Hurt will have a person searching through co-workers, employees, friends, family, whomever, in hopes of finding a close-enough doppelganger for the original offender to make them pay all over again, ad infinitum.

This was true enough pre-internet and social media, and it’s especially so now. A Twitter user with enough active followers who believes, truly or not, that they’ve been wronged by a member of a specific demographic can create a hashtag targeting that specific demographic and have it trend within a few hours, if it even takes that long. And that hashtag will act as a clarion: “Bring Out Your Hurt! Bring Out Your Hurt!” Louder and louder as it continues to trend, and more people who, truly or not, believe themselves to have been similarly wronged, join the festivities. Soon enough, members of the indicted demographic will arrive to exonerate and/or justify themselves, believing, truly or not, that they are being targeted for no reason. Hurt, for no reason. And they will take out their hurt on co-workers, employees, friends, family, whomever, in hopes of finding a close-enough doppelganger for the original offender to make them pay all over again. Maybe even create and push their own avenging hashtags to show they mean business. Round and round. Spreading faster than the most virulent contagion.

All of this stemming from one person’s hurt. Hurt that was likely passed on to them and others, just as they passed it on in turn. Eventually, it doesn’t even matter who was right and who was wrong; all that matters is someone has to pay, with interest.

This never-ending mass transmission of hurt has been on my mind recently. 2016 has been one long crescendo of hurt, fear and despair that reached its peak with November’s election and then unraveled into a dissonant coda. In those toxic weeks that followed the election, a good friend ghosted me. It wasn’t exactly something peculiar to me; 2016 claimed its share of friendships early and often. But it was as sudden as it was unexpected and left me with a great deal of, you guessed it, hurt. I don’t know why they broke contact, likely never will and ultimately, it’s none of my business. But the hurt hangs around and always has its own agenda. You didn’t deserve this. Demand an explanation. Never make the mistake of getting friendly with people again. Stay cold and guarded. On and on and on. So much impetus to keep the hurt flowing and pass it along to whoever is convenient.

Or not. Because there’s always a second option. Keep it in check and let it fade like an oxygen-starved flame. It’s certainly not easy and there haven’t been any gratifying episodes of vengeance to entertain me as I work through it all, but I haven’t passed it along to anyone else, either, and that’s important. You don’t go about hurting others because someone hurt you. You protect others from that hurt so no one else will have to feel that way. And again, it’s much easier said than done, but in the end I believe it’s the only way to escape the hurt. Otherwise you’re just passing it back and forth to other people until you break down, they do, or both.