Sunday, July 18, 2010

annoying things

i am sick of seeing obama stickers. hasn't the hype died down yet? i recognized the symbolic significance of obama being the first black president but what does that even mean in a tangible sense for oppressed people of color? people are obsessed because he isn't bush. but he is still just a president, still human, still part of the status-quo, with finite power in a government of checks and balances and corporate interest, he still has troops at war, he is just a dude. so people get over it already and take those dumb stickers off your toyota prius. instead of being for a person be for a cause and then work for it. "change" doesn't start at the top it comes from the bottom. it is the grassroots actions and organizing of common people that bring change. who cares that you voted or who you voted for, what matters is that if you have a problem you try to fix it. you can't put much faith in a politician, in theory they are our representatives so you got to let them know whats up, you can't just expect them to have all the answers.

This is a two part both related to the day the oscar grant verdict was released. while listening to people speak at the rally there were at least two dudes walking around hustlin their marxist papers or whatever they were. that is just rude. there are people talking about serious stuff, the event is about a person that was killed, it is not an appropriate time to be pushing your agenda. if your at the anarchist book fare or some kind of conference okay, distribute your leaflets that is a time to spread info. but at an event like the oscar grant rally if its not directly related to the issue leave it at home, listen to what the speakers are saying cause it is their time. secondly the media hypes things. most people in oakland didn't want a riot, even if they wanted one it wasn't going to happen with 3,000 cops downtown. yeah a few "anarchists" broke some windows and tagged some walls, and maybe some kids got some free shoes and lit stuff on fire taking advantage of the night to run wild, but that was not everyone and that was not the reason people gathered on the day of the verdict. i mean what kind of person vandalizes gold teeth master? of course that is what newspapers focus on and label a "riot." what they don't really talk about is the passionate things people in oakland shared that day to the crowds. some of the people that spoke included members of grant's family, bobby hutton's mom, and mark curry. if the media hadn't prophesied the violence maybe more oakland residents would have come out instead of staying home in fear of downtown and the positive side would have been shown even more. i do not get too easily moved by things but some of what people said almost brought tears to my eyes and gave me reasons to love oakland more. postive words about unity were spoken in contrast to the few vandals that the newspaper highlights with cover photos that people around the country and in the suburbs will look at think "oh those crazy people in oakland are just violent and destructive." But as one dreadlock sporting resident of east oakland said (in my blurred memory paraphrase) "they go after us cause we look the same. we aren't hyphy, we don't go dumb, were the egyptians who built the pyramids."

at work i usually hear spanish radio, top 40, some funk and soul, and hip-hop radio. the radio is already bad enough but hip-hop, or should i say pop-hop radio is even worse. they play about fifteen songs over and over all of which have annoying catchy hooks, auto-tune voices, and/or sexual innuendo that sounds like it was written by an adolescent boy with no sense of poetic style and enough hormones for two people. the other morning i woke up with a lady gaga song stuck in my head, curse you radio!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sit-Lie Law, Skateboarding, and other Rants

A month or so ago the San Francisco city council voted 8-3 against the Mayor’s sit-lie ordinance, which now in lieu of the defeat he will bring the proposed law to the November ballot for the voters to decide its fate. According to some reports the whole thing was partially started when Newsom moved from the safe, affluent neighborhood of Russian Hill to the culturally rich Upper Haight where he witnessed a man smoking crack while walking with his eight year old daughter. Is this the first time he has seen this or something? Is this some kind of shock, and are we supposed to feel bad for others that feel uncomfortable watching someone whose life is being ruined by addiction? Or maybe we should feel bad for the person smoking the crack. Instead the mayor seems to think it is better to make life harder for such lowly denizens, transients, and delinquents. Even though I am still not quite sure what Newsom’s story has to do with enforcing a law that prevents people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks from 7am-11pm. Maybe he would just rather have the man be in the park, which is excluded in the law, so he doesn’t have to witness the drug use in his new neighborhood, I mean as they say “out of sight out of mind.”

What really shocked me about this, and helped inspire this blog post, was to find out that a major supporter of this bill comes from a participant in the local skate community: Kent Uyehara, the owner of FTC skateshop on Haight, a company that ironically claims to have “products born from the heart and soul of the streets.” I expect such a law to come from Newsom but I do not expect it to come from the skate community, a culture I see as sharing roots with the street culture of Haight-Ashbury. I do not know this Kent fellow, and he may be a nice guy, but I am still perplexed. And as a business owner he may have valid arguments that I am not aware of, but it is hard to see this law as a way of solving much. When the store opened its shop on Haight street in 1994 didn’t they know that a street youth culture already existed there? Wasn’t that probably why they wanted to open their shop on Haight street to try and ride the counter-cultural wave and sell a certain image that San Francisco helped to create and that goes together with skate culture like peaches and cream. I mean they didn’t open their shop in Nob Hill. The FTC website says itself that they were “there for the whole ride attracting and nurturing talented outsiders, misfits, and artists…” Outsiders and misfits sound like similar titles that could be used in rhetoric used by the sit lie proponents. In the words of Tara “For the City (which is what FTC stands for), more like For the Cash.” Perhaps Wu Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. is coming to life in the middle class, instead of using gats they use laws to get that “dolla dolla bill y’all.”

Basically the sit-lie law just seems unnecessary. Smoking crack is still illegal no matter where you are, blocking sidewalks is still illegal, and as far as noise I am sure that you can probably go to the police about that too but come on San Francisco is a city for crying out loud, and a very dense one, it is going to be noisy. If shop owners don’t want people congregating outside their storefronts they can politely ask them to leave and I am sure a lot of them would be nice enough to move. Although in saying that I do not want to assume that all store owners treat street people like dirt and all street people are saints, I know that is not always the case. And maybe I am just na├»ve but I like to think if you treat someone like a valued human they will treat you in the same way.

One USA Today article claimed that according to Newsome the issue isn’t about homelessness and he is not criminalizing the poor. The article goes on to say “on any given night, San Francisco's homeless shelters have more than 100 empty beds, he says. The city has kept its shelters open 24 hours and even accommodates dogs.” First off, a shelter is not a home, and secondly these facts do not mean there are not individuals wanting to sleep in these bed. These beds may be empty because of the Mayor’s Care Not Cash program that reduces individuals General Assistance income and instead gives them “housing” vouchers. When housing is not available an individual is given a bed at a shelter for up to 45 days, even if they don’t show up, which means often beds are left empty. The statistic may also reflect the shelter reservation computer system. To reserve a bed in a shelter you must go to a drop in center and access the CHANGES computer system, a system full of kinks and bugs that sometimes show less available beds than there are. And as far as 24 hour shelters, I have never heard of one. Usually you have to get to the shelter at a certain time and then be out by a certain time in the morning. I do not think there are even any 24 hour drop in centers anymore.

Basically I am a bit fed up with San Francisco. It continues to appear to me as a city that is preoccupied with having a progressive image but has no action. A city that can talk but can’t walk its talk. Whether you are the mayor wanting a good political image but doing nothing for the city, an anarchist discussing revolution over a cup of coffee while never reaching outside his/her own subculture community, a rich suburban kid pretending to be poor but never understanding what poverty means, or Haight street landlords who want the hippy culture of Haight street without the hippies like the Hot Topic on Telegraph that I see as representing a capitalistic raid on a counter-culture of yesterday, which ironically tries to sell that culture as a product. Let’s not let San Francisco lose its backbone. Let it not lose its reputation as a home to travelers, a sanctuary for immigrants, a safe haven for ideas, or a place where progress can really happen from the SF State Riots for an ethnic studies program (now the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the US), to the Black Panthers distributing their paper out of the Fillmore and creating social programs that other organizations continue to model today. Don’t let the City be a place that puts convenience, wealth, and image before humans and positive change. So before putting time, money, and effort in to these laws think about what the priorities are and what are alternatives that respect and bring positive results for everyone.

Friday, June 4, 2010

for awhile i have held to the idea that bikes can change the world, and while sounding dramatic i think this video is proof of bikes being a productive medium of change.

Scrapertown from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." ~ Howard Zinn

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cruelty-Free News

I do not discuss issues of vegetarianism much. To be honest I do not really enjoy discussing it, it is just one aspect of the way I choose to live. But I have discovered two significant things recently, one bad and one good, but both information that is potentially relevant to my fellow veg/vegan comrades out there.

I am sad to say Trader Joe's has disappointed me for a second time, the first time being when they didn't hire me in Boston. I seem to be getting to a point in my life where DIY ethics are becoming more relevant: bosses abusing you and places not hiring you, then start your own organization; public transit too slow and expensive, then ride a bike; furniture for your apartment too expensive and fancy, make your own; restaurants serving mediocre, overpriced food, make your own. Sometimes in life if you want something done right you just have to do it yourself, and in this case making pesto. While eating some tasty whole wheat pasta with Tofurky Italian sausage, broccoli, mozza, feta, and pesto prepared by my beautiful girlfriend Tara something compelled me to read the ingredients of the pesto. There already seemed to be too many ingredients in a condiment that traditionally consists of just olive oil, basil, garlic, and pine nuts when I came across this ingredient "Rennet (animal)." What is this? Some kind of squirrel or gerbil? My research tells me it is a stomach enzyme in young cows that helps them digest their mother's milk. Apparently it is used a lot in the production of cheese and is what keeps curds separated from whey. While rennet can be derived from plant sources the ingredients specifying "(animal)" tells me that it is likely harvested from the stomachs left over from veal production. I don't want no dead cow enzyme in my body and Trader Joe's y'all betta check yo' self.

My quest for a good looking vegan shoe has come to an end. My stank feet have found a new clean, fresh home and my filthy old shoes will get vacation. As many who have been on this journey may know the selection is slim for vegan shoes: classic canvas vans, some mediocre-looking skate shoes, weird shiny fake leather shoes, some straight up ugly shoes, and maybe a few odd hemp shoes thrown in the mix. The vans are alright but not my thing and not too original and the other ones are enough to make me reconsider my ethics, buy all shoes second hand, or just go barefoot for the rest of my life. But now I can sleep at night thanks to the shoe company Supra releasing a line of vegan shoes to their roster last holiday season, two of which I approve of! I know those who know me may not believe it, but I am picky. I chose the Diablo shoe that is a mid-ankle skate shoe, which is what I was wanting. So booyah to Supra! Now if only they would make their own shoes instead of making China do it.

To end this post I will leave you with some lyrics to the song "Be Healthy" by the hip hop group Dead Prez. It is kind of relevant, but it is also just an awesome song. This is for Tara:

I don't eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets
only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat
I'm from the old school, my household smell like soul food, bro
curried falafel, barbecued tofu
no fish though, no candy bars, no cigarettes
only ganja and fresh-squeezed juice from oranges
exercising daily to stay healthy
and I rarely drink water out the tap, cause it's filthy

Lentil soup is mental fruit
and ginger root is good for the yout'
Fresh veg-e-table with the mayatl stew
sweet yam fries with the green calalloo
careful how you season and prepare your foods
cause you don't wanna lose vitamins and miner-ules
and that's the jewel
life brings life, it's valuable, so I eat what comes
from the ground, it's natural
let your food be your medicine (uh huh)
no Excederin (uh uh)
strictly herb, generate in the sun, cause I got melanin
and drink water, eight glasses a day
cause that's what they say

They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy
my goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy
cause true wealth comes from good health, and wise ways
we got to start taking better care of ourselves, be
healthy y'all . . .

Monday, February 22, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let the Games Begin

As many know, and probably few care, today is the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I became involved with the anti-Olympic movement about 3 years ago while a resident of BC. I was around when 71 year old indigenous/aboriginal activist Harriet Nahanee was imprisoned for contempt of court related to her part in a protest. She was sent to jail where she developed pneumonia and passed away. I was around when the Native Warrior Society stole the Olympic flag from City Hall in response to Nahanee's death and when late at night local police broke into the community housing/anti-poverty organization I volunteered at and searched the basement for where they thought the flag was hidden. I was around when the same organization lost city funding for their program to Chinese Seniors as retaliation for political affiliations amongst organization workers. I was also around while SRO after SRO was sold off to developers and real estate speculators leaving low-income, vulnerable residents displaced and many illegally evicted. So today I sit around wishing I was in Vancouver to join the 2010 Convergence (the name given to the mobilization of protesters) but I could not afford the cost of getting there so instead I am staying at my parents house, jobless, and exhibiting the early symptoms of a cold. So I have decided to be a part of the movement in my own way by educating those around me starting with this caffeine-induced blog post.

Already I have heard reports of protesters disrupting the last leg of the torch run as well as getting in the way of the Governator's route. To that I give a booyah with hopes that these disruptions and protests will cause for future cities to avoid opening their arms to the games and all the heavy baggage it brings and unpacks in the cities it visits.

Let us go over some of the facts. The Olympics are not about sports, they are initiated by developers and not athletes, in Vancouver's case real estate baron Jack Poole. Cities do not benefit by the games, never have, never will and there are studies and statistic to show this. As I have already mentioned, on a local level the 2010 Games have displaced and made many individuals homeless through the loss of affordable housing mostly within Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (formerly Skid Row). Where in the past owners of low income hotels and SROs would do anything to keep their buildings open and vacancy low the years leading up to the games saw owners not complying with city codes in order to be shut down and having to evict tenants; a vacant building is easier to sell. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is prime real estate given its close proximity to the Olympic village and its historical, ornate buildings. The 2010 Games Inner-City Inclusive Commitment Statement (, that was approved and signed by all three levels of Canadian government, falsely claimed that Vancouver would “protect rental housing stock...ensure people are not made homeless as a result of the Winter Games...Ensure residents are not involuntarily displaced, evicted or face unreasonable increases in rent due to the Winter Games...(and) Provide an affordable housing legacy and start planning now.” These commitments have been ignored and are contrary to reality. Thanks to anti-poverty groups protesting and petitioning the local government for bylaws making it harder to convert buildings to condos some housing was able to be saved.

Besides the poor being displaced they have also been harassed by former Mayor Sullivan's Project Civil City initiative. Disguised as a way to combat homelessness and crime it really does nothing to house people but is just a way to clean up the city for the Olympics using a law enforcement approach to poverty issues as opposed to a human service approach. Through this initiative poor people are criminalized and ticketed for things that are part of their survival such as pan-handling and sleeping in parks.

Those who have ever been to Vancouver or seen pictures will see that it exists in a beautiful, picturesque setting surrounded by water, mountains, trees, islands, etc... License plates boast “Beautiful British Columbia” and that is no lie. Vancouver Olympics have also boasted to be a “green” games, which is laughable at the least. Many sensitive ecosystems have been destroyed and developed on such highway construction over Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver and farther north the development of the Nordic Ski Center in Callaghan Valley. Not to mention this development was done despite much opposition, with a strong voice coming from the indigenous populations that have been existing in these areas for a long time. The land in British Columbia was never officially ceded over to Canadian government which is why you will hear people state “no Olympics on stolen native land.” It is a sad waste of resources and nature to build huge Olympic centers and unnecessary highways for a two week event at the convenience and enjoyment of non-residents and to the detriment of people who call these lands home.

Not only does the Olympics affect the poor, the land, and First Nations people but it affects every tax paying British Columbian. My research has not brought me exact or current statistics but if I remember correctly a source from three years ago conservatively estimated the costs at well over $500 dollars per BC resident, a number which by now is way higher. In sync with every other Olympics the spending has been well over budget and now they are even spending money to transport snow to the warm, rain-drenched city from the Canadian Rockies which I am sure is not a cheap date. The Olympic hot-shots have stolen huge amounts of public money while still requiring residents to pay to attend the Games. Hopefully it will not be a repeat of the 1976 Montreal games that took over 20 years for taxpayers to pay off. Developers initiate Olympic games as a way of making money off tax dollars. Even before Vancouver was selected as the 2010 host city thousands of public funds were used for the local bid committees and the bid process. The amount of public money used for a two week party that does nothing to boost the local economy after the games (even if money is made there is no profit when accounting for the debt) but just makes a few rich people richer could be used for so much more. For example it could be used to fulfill the former Vancouver mayor's promise to build affordable housing. It could be used to focus on residents of a city that has been said to contain the poorest zip code in Canada.

Civil liberties are currently under attack during the Olympics. Vancouver residents with anti-Olympic posters in their windows can be fined up to $10,000 a day and even jail time. The law also allows authorities to enter a person's home with short notice to obtain such anti-Olympic signs. Journalists covering anti-Olympic news have also been detained, questioned, and in one such recent case denied access to enter the country.

Such Olympic corruption is nothing new or simply characteristic of Vancouver. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a terrible history of ignoring and promoting corruption. IOC Presidents have included Nazi supporter Avery Brundage as well a fascist, Franco sympathizer Juan Antonio Samaranch. During Berlin's 1936 Games hundreds of swastikas were on display alongside the Olympic rings. Almost 500 student protesters were massacred by the Mexican government in the days before the 1986 Mexico City games, but of course this was ignored by the IOC. The 1986 games also saw the suspension of Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the US Team for raising black power fists from the podium. The IOC also ignored the South African apartheid and the fact that they had an all white Olympic team despite the country being predominately black. More current is the Bejing Olympics that ignored the human rights record of China, as well as the bribery scandal of Salt Lake City.

Basically the Olympics are not about sports and not initiated by athletes, sports are just the product being sold. It is not just a few scandals and bad apples mixed into a good thing but the institution of the Olympics itself is crooked. The IOC is simply a corrupt organization of rich individuals that pretend to promote international brotherhood in the same way Coca Cola pretends to be health conscious with their Olympic cans stating “Proud sponsor of an Active Lifestyle.” The Olympics should be abolished and athletes should create their own organized Games. Vancouver does not deserve its resources used up for a two week event that does not benefit the local community.