Friday, May 29, 2020

Refusing the False Choices

Quoting my City Councilmember, Mitra Jalali:

So many are trying to make us choose right now for their bad faith agendas. I refuse the false choices. We condemn the killing of George Floyd. We hurt to see damage and violence in our cities. We understand so much of it as a breaking point from crushing injustice. We will rebuild.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Here in the Twin Cities, May 28

I hope it's not selfish to say that it's no fun being in the place where the wheels finally come off the wheels that were coming off. As a guy named Max Berger said on Twitter tonight,

I’ve never lived through a collapse of the social and political order before, but I gotta say: it feels pretty bad!
Matches lit to enflame matches that are burning gasoline-soaked flammable materials, wrapped around TNT.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Being a "Race Traitor"

As we live with the present instance of white supremacy here in the Twin Cities, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, I keep thinking of this Twitter thread I read yesterday. It's by Kristin Hogue, a white woman who describes herself as a Ph.D. student at UC Davis studying climate change culture, migration, and refugees. She posted before Floyd was killed but after Amy Cooper was vilified for calling the police in Central Park to report that a Black man dared to tell her she put her dog on a leash:

In 2014 we lived in a white, suburban community. My daughter attended a majority white elementary school. That school year, I discussed the systemic racism I saw in my daughter's school with another white mom. She then reported me to the principal.

The next day, I received an angry call from my daughter's principal demanding to know why I called her school racist. I calmly detailed my perspectives, to which she disagreed and said I was wrong. We ended the call calmly, though I didn't capitulate.

The next few days word spread of my "beliefs." Women - white moms - stopped talking to me. My daughter was "disinvited" to friends' homes. I was branded the white mom that called the school racist. The white fragility of the community was stunning.

Eventually, we left the school, then moved out of the community. I have NO friends back there. So that, folks, is also what we need to be discussing with the Amy Cooper incident. White women patrol other white women and reinforce each others racism.

Amy Cooper didn't act in a vacuum. If she were a white woman who calls out racial injustice instead of perpetuating it, she knows she could lose everything she enjoys - friends, community, jobs, opportunities - because other white women would ostracize her.

I guarantee Amy Cooper has a posse, maybe a mean girl group, but definitely a structure where she's required to be racist to fit in. For change to happen, white women have to be willing to lose everything. They have to understand that their "losses" are inconsequential - to the injustice and violence experienced by people of color.
This aspect of structural racism and white supremacy is under-recognized, even by people who try ("try") to be anti-racist. You give up all of your comfort when you constantly name the problem. You're always told you can't take a joke, at a minimum. You don't give up the privilege that comes with your white skin in this culture, but you come as close to that as possible and it's painful.

It helps to find other white people who are also doing it so you can reinforce each other and hold each other accountable, because it's incredibly easy to take the easy way out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Small Sign of Sanity

I'm assuming you've heard the many terrible news stories of recent days involving killings of Black men and women by police or former police, or white women calling the police on Black men for no reason. So I'm not going to write about any of those stories.

Instead, one piece of good news: A couple of days ago, a federal judge ruled in the Jones v. DeSantis case that Florida Republicans' pay-to-vote scheme is unconstitutional. If someone can't afford to pay court fines or restitution, they can't be banned from voting. (Duh.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted the full court decision here.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Realization

A thought from Joyce Alene, a former U.S. Attorney and current law professor:

I never thought I’d live in a country where I’d have to seriously worry about the President pervasively cheating to steal an election or refusing to participate in a smooth transition of power if he lost.
I've thought about the transfer of power on Inauguration Day sometimes and wondered what it would be like if the sitting president didn't relinquish power, marveling at how easily our leaders of different parties turned over control from one to the other.

I wasn't taking it for granted because I did notice it. But at the same time, I was assuming it was how things worked in this country.

We'll see if it continues.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Not What I Intended

As a gardener, I sometimes curse the rabbits under my breath, but I don't wish them all dead. I learned today from the Science section of the Star Tribune that there's a virus outbreak killing domestic and wild rabbits in six states so far, and I feel just a bit guilty about whether I brought it on through my constant dissing of our lagomorph friends.

According to Science magazine, the hemorrahagic disease RHDV2 is extremely infectious and persists in the body of a dead animal for up to three months. Predators and insects also spread it through their feces.

It was first seen in North America in domestic rabbits in 2018 and in wild species just a few months ago in March 2020, right around the time we were busy with another virus, which is probably why I haven't heard about it until now. It's on the move across the country, it seems.

Maybe the eastern cottontails that live in my yard and many other places are not long for this world, and their loss or great decrease in population will have many effects on the plants they eat and the other creatures that eat them.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Reasonable Accommodation

In case you haven't heard, some of the culture warriors who oppose wearing a mask when they go out in public are pretending to have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. They've created a sign for their fellow mask-resisters to bring with them to businesses, claiming ADA protection of their right to enter the store and citing HIPAA privacy rules.

Here's one of the signs:

This Twitter thread by an attorney had an interesting take on that.

First, HIPAA does not apply. Period. HIPAA applies to medical facilities and users of medical info (your insurance company). Done. The ADA claim is more insidious, and needs some explication.

The ADA does indeed apply to stores, restaurants, hotels, and just about anyplace else that falls under the very broad definition of public accommodation.

And yes, people do fake it sometimes (especially wypipo claiming their animal is an a emotional support megalodon).

So let's say that someone shows up at the grocery store without a mask and demands that they get to shop without it.

The store may still refuse.

The ADA requires that public accommodations make "reasonable accommodations" to the request... A reasonable accommodation is one that allows the disabled person to avail themselves of the full use of the public setting reasonably. Not necessarily the way disabled person wants to, but reasonably.

Sometimes the reasonable accommodation is frankly suboptimal. Contemporary architects are HORRIBLE at disability accommodation...

Were I general counsel for a major grocery chain — and judging by my bank account I am surely not — I would advise store staff not to permit unmasked people to shop in the store, but to have store staff do the shopping for them, waiving any such fees that might ordinarily entail...

Accommodation must be *reasonable.* Reasonable is a sliding scale based on the circumstances, and is not necessary that the accommodation be exactly how the customer demands it.

The beauty part is that this isn't even malicious compliance. It's a legit solution. Is it ideal? Probably not, but is it suitable for people claiming disability? Under the circumstances, yes.

Retailers have a responsibility to protect all their customers from infection...

Will this solution piss off the right wingers cynically twisting disability accommodation for their own purposes? Absolutely, but these are the people who think ADA compliance is a shitstorm game for plaintiff's lawyers.

Friday, May 22, 2020

What They Choose to Engage in Civil Disobedience About

Minnesota's Catholic and Missouri Synod Lutheran Church leaders said a few days ago that they will reopen their churches for more than 10 people in defiance of guidance from our governor. The misery folks are not that surprising, but the Catholics... what is that about? Letter-writer Cathy Heying of Minneapolis gave them what for in today's Star Tribune, using language one would think they would understand:

As a lifelong Catholic, I am active in my faith community that I miss very much during this time of separation. So I understand the temptation to gather again before it is safe to do so. That said, after reading about the Catholic bishops’ and a Lutheran denomination’s plan to defy the governor, I am disappointed, but not only about their willingness to risk the well-being of their faithful (“Some churches say they’ll defy order,” front page, May 21). I am disappointed that this, of all issues, is what they choose to engage in civil disobedience about.

Jesus never called for us to gather and worship him, but he did call regularly for us to defend the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. Oh, bishops, if you are going to take a bold stand in this time, why are you not crying out against the injustice of a lack of safe workplaces, a lack of protections for health care workers, unjust wages and so much more?
But when it comes to the culture war, I guess there's no logic or morality at the base. We should not be surprised anymore.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Airplanes Don't Make You Sick, but Airports Do

Joseph Allen, a professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard's school of public health, had an interesting commentary in a recent Washington Post. He convinced me that people don't get sick from flying on airplanes, which is a common belief among people who fly a lot, and one that I held myself until now.

It seems like an obvious idea: you're siting in a tight space for hours sharing air with a bunch of people. It must be a germ factory, right?

Well, no. Allen is pretty convincing that airplanes are much safer places to be than almost anywhere else when it comes to transferring germs, particularly airborne germs. I'm sure he's correct.

But here's the thing, and he acknowledges this: among other aspects of modern air travel, airports are great places to spread disease. And you can't really fly without spending hours in an airport unless you're a multimillionaire who's driven onto the tarmac to your waiting private jet. Plus traveling through different climates and time zones disrupts sleep, and that has an obviously negative effect on immunity.

Allen lists a bunch of ways that airports could be modified so they are less likely to be transmission factories, many of which sound expensive as retrofits. Others sound like they will make flying even less pleasant than it already is, especially the suggestion that no one should be able to leave their gate area except to use the restroom.

Here's another concept: just don't fly. There are lots of other good reasons not to.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lunch of COVIDians

I'm not one to photograph my food generally, but while preparing to eat one of my most frequent COVID-era lunches (a bagel and soup), I realized the food looked a bit like Mickey Mouse:

Or a screaming pandemic face.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

One Piece of Good News

After five solid years of organizing and struggle, the poor and working-class renters in a group of apartment buildings in South Minneapolis will be able to buy their buildings from their slumlord. They'll convert the buildings to a co-op called Sky Without Limits, working with the Land Bank Twin Cities, city of Minneapolis, and Share Capital Co-op to finance it.

But the organization that started it all, and which doesn't get anywhere near enough credit in the coverage of all of this, is United Renters For Justice/Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia. They did the organizing, day in and day out, with and of the people who live in the five buildings (while they also worked with tenants in other buildings throughout Minneapolis for fair treatment in housing).

The landlord in the case, Stephen Frenz, is an anti-paragon: banned from renting property in the city of Minneapolis, convicted of perjury, fined by the courts, and found guilty in a class-action suit. And yet he still wouldn't sell the damned buildings to the tenants even for the $7 million dollars they were offering.

He's a spiteful SOB and I hope he chokes on his millions. But at least they have their homes.

Some parts of this post are based on this Star Tribune story ... others from my knowledge of this case as it unfolded over the years.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Not Taught in School

From the Twitter account of Native American attorney Brett Chapman:

In this week in 1623, English colonists murdered Powhatan leaders at a peace conference in Tsenacommacah. The English called for a toast to seal a proposed agreement and then gave the assembled Native Americans poisoned wine before opening fire on them. Who were the savages?