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Wed, Nov. 6th, 2013, 04:08 pm
8 Washington - An Empty Victory (Unless You're Rich)

Nobody I really care about won yesterday. Sorry.

I understand that San Francisco progressives are falling over themselves with self congratulation over the defeat of Props B and C.

But all that got defeated was a developer's desire to build a building of a specific height, and of a specific design. This was not a referendum on gentrification. This was not a referendum on San Francisco's growing wealth divide. This was not even a referendum on whether or not to build luxury housing on that particular site. When we get that referendum, I will care about it. I earnestly desire that referendum.

Simon Snellgrove can still build luxury housing at 8 Washington. He just has to build slightly less of it, since the height limit variance he received from the city was voted down. Also, the few concessions the city extracted from him in exchange for that variance, such as the park at the northern end of the site, are now all up for grabs. There is nothing obligating him to provide anything at the site, and likewise there is no law prohibiting him from building a lower-profile wall of nothing but luxury housing.

Congratulations with that victory. The only people who won are the people who didn't want a tall building blocking their views, along with the coalition of busybodies that closes rank anytime anyone threatens to change anything, anywhere, in San Francisco. Which, as I pointed out, is a nice hobby to have when you're not fighting to keep your home.

Don't get me wrong - it's fun to see egg on Ed Lee's face. But it's temporary.

Tue, Nov. 5th, 2013, 02:41 pm
I Don't Care How You Vote(d) on 8 Washington

Edit: Prop B and Prop C went down in flames. And nothing of any value was lost (or gained). Post from this afternoon (with some edits) follows.

捌華盛頓 will probably get built. Maybe not. I don't care. I walked through the Embarcadero Center/Golden Gateway complex today and took a bunch of pictures so I can have a good recording of what the area looks like before the WALL ON THE WATERFRONT gets constructed (or not). It will probably look mostly the same except that there will be a newer, more squat tower across the street from a bunch of taller ones. Criminy. I don't care.

I voted "No" on B and "Yes" on C. In doing so, I delivered a "fuck you" to every single nasty little NIMBY organization that's been bugging me to shoot down this project, as if to do so will impact my life, or anyone's life that I care about, in any meaningfully positive way. Which it won't. San Francisco's "Housing Crisis", which I'm tired of hearing about and would much prefer someone DO something about, will not suddenly end if 140 units for foreign billionaires do, or don't, get built on the waterfront.

The history of this made-up controversy is that a developer spent a few years negotiating with the planning department, and we ended up with a compromise that made both him and the city happy; he gets to sell close to a billion dollar's worth of real estate, and the city gets a little park out of the deal, a pittance of a contribution to the BMR housing fund, and some streetscape improvements. Oh, and some $15-20 million/year in property taxes. The Board of Supervisors then approved the height variance he wanted, and that should have been it. Another day in the life of a rapidly-gentrifying city, a genuinely shitty phenomenon that nobody's doing anything useful about. Yawn.

Instead, the neighbors across the street, whose concerns in life seem to start and stop with the views from their fancy home, started a signature-gathering campaign to place the height limit variance on the ballot, said campaign being greatly helped by a fat contribution from Boston Properties, who own the Embarcadero Center complex of high-rises, and presumably share their concerns. Which are not my concerns. I gleaned this useful bit of information from the coiffed and slick "Yes on B" campaigner who I met at the Clement St. Farmer's Market a few weeks back. He was kinda hot, by the way.

I then went over to the "No on B/No on C" booth, and quickly had all of my preconceived notions about their campaign confirmed. I grilled a woman named Jean, who was manning the booth, and had been involved in the "No" camp from early on. During our chat, Jean rattled off some other campaigns she'd been involved in, all of which seemed to be a "No" on something or another. This was not a NIMBY. This was a BANANA.

Jean made some paeans to the lack of affordable housing in the project. She's right. There's none! This is something, by the way, which the developer's slick representative happily confirmed for me. However, Jean's appeal fell flat when I asked her a few questions about herself and gathered that she had no clue about the housing issues affecting tons of San Franciscans. Perhaps it's because she herself is a homeowner living in a house she inherited, and is paying property taxes based on a decades-old assessment. Cozy! When prompted, she provided no ideas as far as what San Francisco could do to make the city more affordable for people not like her. In fact, she'd never heard of the Ellis Act.

If you're going to pretend to care about San Francisco's Housing Crisis, especially if you want my vote, you had better have fucking heard of the Ellis Act. Otherwise, I will laugh at your transparent attempts to pander to my better interests. When I explained the act's provisions, and why they are so destructive, she then innocently asked "well why aren't people doing this all over the place, then?".


That was the point when I sealed my decision to vote Yes on C.

Fuck NIMBYs' precious views, and fuck the myopic Build/Change Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything attitude. This kind of nonsense belongs nowhere near a ballot. There are real issues, affecting real people. Don't try to manipulate those of us who care about them into voting on your petty squabble over San Francisco's look and feel. I have better things to worry about than your hobby.

And on the topic of nonsense that also belongs nowhere near a ballot, fuck the developer for attempting to sell us his project, wrapped up in a handy proposition, as Opening up the Waterfront. This project will open up nothing, with its tiny little park and private health club. And Prop B would be a disastrous precedent, not only because it would be the first of many votes on individual projects (no thank you) but also because the city would have effectively created a special district, exempt from planning, in order to allow a project to go forward. If you don't think that'll happen again, you've got another thing coming. I don't blame the developer for trying to pull a fast one on the city by getting us to approve his project in this way, but I'm certainly not going to go along with it.

A "Yes" vote on Prop B is a vote against democracy. A "No" vote on Prop C is exercising too much damn democracy. Really, I wish I'd never had to think about this stupid bullshit in the first place. I'm happy with my vote. I really don't care about yours. I look forward to not hearing about this again.

I'll follow this post up at some point with some thoughts on what a meaningful approach to San Francisco's affordability crisis might actually look like. It certainly doesn't look like this.

Mon, Mar. 18th, 2013, 06:00 am
Then they came for Weev...

By the time this entry is posted, my friend Andrew Auernheimer (a-k-a weev) will be ambling into court to be sentenced, most likely to a few years in Federal prison.

Upon his conviction, I offered first to attend his sentencing in person, and then revised that to sending a letter to the judge. Eventually, I did draft such a letter, but never sent it.

I did not send it, because its contents were too honest. As written, it would not do him a bit of good. To write a sentencing letter, I'm supposed to opine on his fine character and his importance to me and my community. The truth is that Weev can be a pretty odious individual, and having him in my life has brought me easily as much harm as good.

I remarked on these things in my letter and then got to the main thrust of it: that his prosecution is a sign of a justice system run amok, avenging the hurt feelings of corporations at the expense of an innocent man, exploiting the emotions of a technophobic public (in the form of a jury) in the process.

Unfortunately, those arguments, albeit true, would have fallen on deaf ears. And that, of course, is our problem.

The prosecution of Andrew is a crazy and criminal act. To consider his sharing of iPad users' email addresses with a reporter a form of identity theft requires a degree of credulousness that boggles the mind. It does not matter that he did it for personal gain (in this case: for fame and the lulz). A reasonable stranger would understand that "Fraud in Connection with Identity" involves extracting some sort of gain from the information itself: not, as Andrew did, from the fact of having discovered the information.

To consider requesting data from a public web service to be "Unauthorized Access to a Computing Device" because a company said so after the fact requires a craven disregard for the basic foundations of our justice system. A reasonable person would understand this, and also understand why the analogy of burglarizing a house with an unlocked door does not apply. AT&T's iPad activation server was, for all intents and purposes, a garden-variety web service. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

It was possible to prosecute Andrew because we as a society are more and more dependent on devices and services that we understand less and less. Our entire lives in the West are mediated by technology that most of us can barely operate. This ignorance breeds fear of those who can wrangle these systems. It breeds turd-flinging contempt for those who can be painted as having breached some sort of social contract regarding these systems.

It matters not at all that the real people betraying our trust with technology are the very corporations manufacturing and selling it. Instead, we direct our ire at the person who would show that said corporations have no clothes. Andrew is being prosecuted to satisfy a corporate vendetta, and the jury that found him guilty are victims of the very ignorance that will eventually enslave us all.

Learn to hack. Learn to break things. Call out dishonesty when you see it. Call out breaches of trust. Break out of your dot-com-yuppie cloistered existence, where everyone around you has a "clue". If your family and friends and people in the larger community don't understand who's fucking them, then the Man will eventually come for you next. Your stupid Ruby skills aren't going to save you. Not for long.

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2013, 04:05 pm
There must be some mistake

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Wed, Feb. 6th, 2013, 11:12 pm
Important advice for @meganphelps

Megan Phelps announced today (I guess it was today) that she had left the Westboro Baptist Church. Her post about it is a good read. It's set Twitter slightly abuzz, at least the circles of people that I follow. I follow a good half of the Phelps family, mind you, so the commentary goes in both directions.

A lot of people have a lot of advice for Megan. I feel like some of you (us?) are piling upon hopes that she will transform into an atheist, or perhaps a "better" Christian (presumably more in keeping with someone else's conception of what a good Christian is to be), or maybe even that she will come full circle on LGBT issues and become some sort of advocate.

I'll let Megan undergo her own transformation, or lack thereof. My advice is unsolicited, unneeded, and comes from a nobody (me), and it is as follows: I hope simply that Megan takes care of herself. That was it. And I don't think she needed anyone to tell her that...

I have no demands for amends, because I do not feel like I (as a gay man or as a Jew) have ever been harmed by anything she or her family has done. I understand others may disagree. I understand that even she may disagree. But that is OK.

Westboro Baptist Church makes a lot of people very, very upset. But in my book, according to my values, they are a particularly unoffensive church. Granted, I know very little of what goes on behind their doors in Topeka. I have read the accusations in Addicted to Hate, and other sources, that paint a picture of a harsh and abusive existence within the family. But I have not been there. How they conduct their affairs internally, as a Church or as a family (and Westboro definitely blurs that line) are not my business. If things are as bad as they have been depicted, then I earnestly hope that everyone who has left the Church finds the healing that they almost certainly need.

I find Westboro unoffensive because they conduct what I consider to be the appropriate business for a Church: they preach. And loudly! And because, if I am to take them at their word (and why, pray tell, shouldn't I?), they do it out of what is, at least to them, a feeling of love for their fellow man. "WARN THY NEIGHBOR: REBUKE!" is not a Topeka innovation. It's basic Calvinism. I may criticize the origin of the doctrine, since I am not a Bible believer, which means I consider it (and everything that grew out of it), to be a bunch of poppycock. But to call Westboro hateful would be to ignore what I consider to be a sincere concern for the souls of mankind.

I don't need anyone's concern for my soul, and quite frankly, G-d as I understand him (she? it?) has no issue whatever with the fact that I'm gay, Jewish, or fairly agnostic. But Westboro shares, in very plain and easy-to-understand language, that they are concerned I am going to hell. That's nice of them, I guess. I may disagree with them on the basis of that "Truth", and thus on the conclusions derived therein, but what is there to really get upset about? I should hope that someone would be so kind! Especially if it were true!

And who am I to say that it's not? Who is anyone? Or, rather, who is anyone to be so certain that Westboro is wrong that they must be silenced? I cheered Westboro's victory in the Supreme Court, because it was founded, to me, not in some blind obeisance to freedom of speech, but rather in the spirit of humility that I believe is the essential underpinning of the Establishment Clause. The spirit of humility that dictates that no one, particularly no Caesar (and Washington certainly is the Caesar of our times) can be so sure that anyone else's faith or doctrine is incorrect that they can silence that person, or dictate a contrary belief as the official line of Truth.

Going to hell is very serious business. I should hope that someone would have the freedom to warn me about it. I should hope that that freedom would trump whether it hurts someone's feelings or desecrated some sacred cow (and Westboro has been very good at desecrating sacred cows over the years).

To Megan, Grace, and Libby, I wish you the best, and demand nothing of you. And the same goes to those who are still members of Westboro Baptist Church. I have much harsher words, and feelings, for those Churches that commingle themselves with politics in an ugly way. I have much dislike for those who would seek to get close to Caesar and wield his sword in such a way that their Truth becomes not only their belief, but is enforced, even upon those who do not share it. I do not share Westboro's beliefs. Any of them. But they have never sought to impose those beliefs upon me, only to share them.

Wed, Feb. 6th, 2013, 07:02 pm
To write

I would like to write, but I can not sit down
  and write.
I can sit down
              but I can not write.

I would like to create "content", which is to say
  I would like to be an "influencer", or a 
  "maker", or a "thought leader" but instead I find myself

consuming, endlessly.

To wit:

Three theses flit through my synapses,
  in constant rotation, they
convolute and argue themselves and gather evidence which
  disappears at first stroke as if stuffed down a cosmic
memory hole.

Elusive, it promises to right all wrongs, to set
  conscious dialectics at ease, to
park, for good, my past and identity and present sense
  of conscience and drive, so as to form a perfect platform
  for future endeavors, guileless, and pure.

The first thesis is about race, the second about religion,
  the third about love.

I will never finish them, so judge me.

Wed, Jan. 9th, 2013, 01:23 pm
Crocodile Tears for SF Weekly

So, SF Weekly has just been bought by the Examiner.

Presumably this will end their years-long legal feud with the SF Bay Guardian (already owned by the Examiner). The potential that this will reduce media diversity in SF is there, too. I'm not too worried, though. The Guardian is a joke, and the Weekly is an insult. They deserve each other. Losing either would be a deliverance. Losing both would be a master-stroke.

The Guardian is a joke because they place the blame for nearly every problem in California on a combination of Prop 13 and PG&E malfeasance. If there ever was a shred of nuance at the SFBG, they threw it out long ago. Their voters' guides tend to line up with my interests, but other than that the writing is a slog unless you're totally out to lunch. The comments section is a who's-who of local political cranks. It's entertaining the first few times, then it gets really, really boring.

SF Weekly is gentrification journalism. Its key demographic is young, upwardly-mobile transplants to SF. People like myself! However, unlike most of said crowd, I intend to stay and probably start a family. Most of SF Weekly's readership will be gone once they're either out of college or Brooklyn beckons. That, or they'll have kids and flee to the suburbs. During these peoples' brief (parentally or Valley-funded) vacations in San Francisco, SF Weekly plies them with the advertising they need (5 pages of Instant Medical Marijuana Evaluations) and a regular schedule of whiny reporting about how broken San Francisco is, lest they get the crazy idea of trying to get to know the place long-term. SF Weekly's message: don't even bother.

It is true that San Francisco has a lot of problems. The root of those problems is that city government is myopically focused on pleasing one demographic: new, young wealth. Ed Lee spends most of his time hanging out with Valley types, and the only infrastructural improvements the city seems to get these days are things like bike lanes, which are mostly useful to the young and able-bodied (myself included). Bike lanes are nice, but the school system is a disaster, Parks and Rec is basically just a graft operation, and the Housing Authority alternates between a place to stash defective administrators and a resettlement operation for poor overseas Chinese. The only diamond in the rough is DPW, who have managed to make great improvements in the sewer system the last few years. Three cheers for DPW. I digress...

Almost none of the regular business of a city, such as educating, housing, and providing services for working residents (including ones whose families have been here for multiple generations) seems to be important enough to City Hall. The reason all these things are a disaster is because the city's priority is taking care of educated out-of-towners with disposable income. And investment in public goods doesn't benefit SF's New Chosen, whose needs are almost entirely fulfilled by private enterprise. Between patronizing expensive restaurants, using fancy car services, riding chic corporate shuttles to Valley jobs, and barely stepping outside of a 1-2 square mile portion of the city, these people are easy to take care of: just make sure that nothing stands in the way of their continued gentrification of working-class neighborhoods and they won't complain. Try finding one of these people at a public pool, or their kids at a public school (if they even stick around long enough in the city to have kids of school age), or riding all but a few MUNI lines (and only with great complaint).

San Francisco refuses to invest in its own people, people who grew up here or raise families here, because there's no profit to be made from it. Follow the money. Gentrification is big business, and City Hall has long since been bought and sold by its advocates and benefactors. For all of SF Weekly's complaints about how badly the city is misrun, have they ever cast any shade onto the key phenomenon that distorts all of the city's priorities and hurts most of its residents? No? Then they're part of the problem.

I hope the Examiner eviscerates them and turns them into an arts and entertainment rag, which is all they were ever good at. And the Guardian should just be a blog at this point. I'm not sure why they keep trying. There might be room for good local journalism in SF, but aside from a handful of blogs (SFCitizen, bluoz, etc.) there's very little light in the room. And it's a damn shame.

Thu, Oct. 11th, 2012, 01:51 pm
Coming Out And Stuff

Everyone's posting their National Coming Out Day stories so I'll post mine.

I used to run with a crowd of ravers and skaters. And skating ravers. It was a pretty butch bunch of guys. I'm pretty sure I was the only gay one among them. I knew I was different, because they were always skeezing on women, and I didn't get it. However, I still believed that at some point in the future I would finally get the memo and start ogling girls like they were.

I've shared about my struggles in a previous post. Needless to say, I wouldn't admit to myself that I was gay, and I was terrified that you would find out before I did and "out" me. In the end, pretty much that is what happened: after I'd moved in with her in New York, my sister asked me point-blank, if I was gay or not. I was 18.

Nobody had ever asked me that before. Because it was my sister, who has always more or less had my number, I was able to be honest about it. I told her I was "bi", and then about 30 minutes later, the bisexual phase of my life was complete and I came out as gay. It was a really short phase.

A few nights later I called my best friend in Chicago and came out to him and his girlfriend. He was pretty supportive and was mostly worried that he would have to stop saying "fag", which was about every other word out of our mouths at the time (myself included). I assured him nothing would change1, and he was satisfied with that.

I came out to my mom in a phone call as well. She just wanted to know if I was sure, which I told her I was, and she went ahead and told my dad so I wouldn't have to. My parents may be Republicans but they're still educated socially liberal Jews. There was no hellfire or brimstone, just some patronizing concern, which has mostly gone away over the years.

A few weeks later in Chicago I drank myself into a blackout at a party with the rest of my friends, and apparently had some slurred, drunken coming-out. I had to be informed it had happened a few weeks later. I had no idea. Things were a little different but not so different that I really noticed.

By and large, everyone in my life has been cool about me being gay. I've always lived in environments that were either indifferent or supportive of queer people. That doesn't mean that I didn't spend years and years in self-hating misery, drinking, using drugs, and alternately hating and judging other queer people. Internalized homophobia is a bitch. I took all of the nasty things society said about people like me, and accepted them as fact.

I had a second coming-out of sorts when I got sober in 2006 and had to get serious about the way I've been relating to myself and the world. That broken belief system I carried for years has slowly but surely come apart. The last couple of years have been a journey of coming to terms with who I am, and growing in love and service to all of you. Coming out is a process, not an event. It began when I'm 18. It continues, today, at 29. The world is still a very hostile place for queer people, even if we live in a cocoon of supportive friends. I try to do my part every day to change that. Are you?

1not cool now, but it was then.

Sat, Sep. 22nd, 2012, 10:22 pm

I haven't cried like this at a movie ever.

I was a toddler when the AIDS epidemic got into full swing. I was halfway through middle school when the first PIs came out and AIDS stopped being an automatic death sentence. Through that time, AIDS was nothing more than a remote and mysterious disease that hadn't affected but one person I only vaguely knew. It wasn't even on my radar.

During High School, I started to struggle with the idea that I might be gay, and HIV/AIDS emerged on my consciousness in a new and shameful way: as an inescapable corruption that lurked around the corner, waiting to strike the instant I dared to explore the (at the time, very unwanted) feelings I had towards other men. If I was gay, it meant I was cursed.

I went to a very gay-affirming private high school with several out faculty. I am a child of educated, socially liberal parents. Coming out, to those around me, was a non-event. But I can say with conviction that the idea that "Gay = AIDS" was a powerful motivator to avoid accepting that very essential fact about myself.

The only option available, it seemed to me, would be to do everything possible to convince people I was something else; to assume an alternative identity that was so overpowering that nobody would dare question my sexuality, lest they find something out about me that I was not yet ready to confront myself. I found this in raving and drugs; not only in the activity, but in the identity, the clothing, the style of speech: anything to help people conveniently put me in a box so they could stop asking further questions.

It worked. At my 10-year high school reunion, people were happy to find out I was alive. But only because they were worried I would have died, by then, of an overdose. That I was gay was a surprise to nearly everyone.

It's only in sobriety that I've grown into a healthy perspective around my sexuality, and around HIV. I am grateful today to be HIV-negative, and to have been more or less untouched by the storm that consumed entire generations before me, even if the psychological wreckage still found a way to make a mess of my teenage mind.

This film made me realize just how much I've taken for granted. It made me realize just how horrifying things were for the first millions of victims, when seemingly every institution turned a blind eye to the plague, and many actively wished and cheered the deaths of gay men. If I think I had it bad, I've got another thing coming. The very ground that I walk on was paved by men who never had a chance to survive AIDS, and who laid their very lives down to fight homophobia, unequal access to health care, and the indifference of the medical establishment. The changes they brought about were truly revolutionary. I had no idea.

I was reminded immediately of the words of Thandiswa, singing of the generation born after another revolution (specifically, that which brought about the fall of Apartheid in South Africa). The song is called "Nizalwa Ngobani":

The world changes
Revolutionaries die
And the children forget
the Ghetto is our first love
And our dreams are
drenched in gold
We don't even cry
We don't even cry about it
know it no more
are the beautiful ones really dead

I am of the generation after a storm. I am of the generation that can waste its time on trifling things. I am of the generation that is no longer fighting to stay alive. It is such a gift to know where I come from, and such a calling to continue the fight for justice in this world.

I want to thank the brave men and women of ACT UP, and the talented filmmakers who finally brought their story to the screen. Everyone should see this movie. Everyone.

Movie SiteShowtimes

Tue, Sep. 11th, 2012, 11:13 am
Over it

11 years ago I was sleeping off an acid trip when my mother ran into my room and turned the TV on. I think the second plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I was tired and hungover, so I turned the TV off, went back to bed, and slept through the defining trauma of my generation. This is quite possibly one of the best decisions I ever made. It didn't spare me from two years of freaking out and keeping an emergency bag of Ketamine in my wallet in case I was ever trapped in a burning building. But I was spared the effect of watching it live.

11 years later, I have no interest in watching replay after replay after replay of fireballs and collapsing buildings and running people, whether set to dramatic string music or Yakety Sax. I'm so grateful today that I don't own a television and am thus insulated from the primary means of mass emotional manipulation. Thanks to the awfulness of 9/11, we built ourselves a massive police state, killed hundreds of thousands of people overseas, and got ourselves embroiled in a 1000-years war. Those images, played over and over and over, have been used to jerk us into justifying every manner of subsequent atrocity.

9/11 was awful. I hope nothing that awful ever comes along again. But I'm tired of people yanking my chain and convincing me that some nebulous other needs to be destroyed in order for me to feel safe. I'm tired of being complicit in war, hatred, and nation-destruction. I'm tired of numbing myself to the reality of what we do overseas, swathed in the comforting illusion of "it's for my safety". There are better things helping me sleep at night than the knowledge that it's open season in the Middle East.

For this world to be truly safe, it will need a lot more love in it. Today I'm going to look out the window and acknowledge that the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, it's another lovely day in my adopted city of San Francisco and I'm sober. My goal today, like it should be every day, is to inject some more love and service into the stream of life. My advice to anyone else stuck in the miasma of endless remembrance is to turn off your television, go outside, and let someone know you care about them. It will do a whole lot more than shaking your fist at the heavens.

Thu, May. 10th, 2012, 02:15 pm
Why what the President said yesterday matters to this gay man

Let's start with some facts:

Barack Obama is a calculating individual with a thorough training in the machine politics of my beloved hometown (Chicago). The President is not big on accidents.

I have no doubt that his decision to come out in favor of gay marriage yesterday was preceded by plenty of thought, polling, and political calculation. Whether or not Biden had anything to do with the timing of that decision is of only passing importance: we know that Obama was planning on revealing this policy shift at some point.

It's also worthwhile to note that, policy-wise, his TV interview (and the various follow-up press releases) contain no additional prescriptions beyond what he's already done, which is to refuse to defend DOMA. By stating that gay marriage will continue to be decided on a state-by-state basis, Obama is basically committing himself to nothing more than his existing agenda.

I woke up in California today still unable to marry my partner of 5 years, and nothing the President said yesterday will have any direct impact on that very painful and frustrating fact.

All that being said, Obama's public statement of support for gay marriage will prove to have been a ballsy, principled, and important move. Here's why:

By making support for gay marriage a position in his upcoming campaign, Obama will ensure that the issue finally gets the nationwide hearing it deserves. I'm not talking about the legislative hearings it deserves, or the judicial hearings it deserves... I speak specifically of the conversation it deserves. We now have an election where one candidate is in favor of gay marriage and the other adamantly against it. It will figure into both parties' talking points and campaign. This is a wonderful and promising development.

In 2004, Ken Mehlman architected a particularly cynical component of Bush's reelection strategy, which was to put anti-gay marriage measures on the ballot in 11 states. The idea was to increase conservative turnout. Whether this had a discernible effect on the election outcome is debateable.

It had a harmful effect on gays and lesbians, however. Few things are more painful than knowing that your neighbors are heading to the polls to vote against your very civil rights. It hurts. It hurts on a deep level waking up the next day and wondering which of the people you interact with every day exercised their animus at a polling station. It also hurts because when gay rights are up for a vote, attacks on gays increase, both in speech and with violence. Witness the awful, ignorant things said about gays whenever there's a gay marriage amendment on the ballot. Witness the signs that get torn down and the people that get harrassed and beaten up.

An election where nobody's willing to advocate the pro-gay position resembles a bunch of one-way bullying, and little else. That's what the recent election in North Carolina looked like. Much like the campaign against Prop 8, the anti-Amendment 1 forces simply couldn't bring themselves to actually make an affirmative defense of the gay citizen's right to a marriage, or even a civil union (the amendment banned both). Instead, the usual empty paeans were made to "fairness", or "harmful effects"... extra emphasis was placed on the possibility that unmarried partners (presumably heterosexual) could lose domestic violence protections. With nobody willing to actually make a pro-gay argument (lest we rankle the feathers of voters who genuinely don't like gay people), the amendment won overwhelmingly.

We finally have the possibility of gay marriage getting a fair hearing this November. And mark my words, it will. And with a President finally willing to make a principled argument for extending a basic civil right to a suspect minority, we'll no longer be sitting in our basements waiting for the proverbial tornado to pass over our homes. We'll no longer be simply wishing we could be left alone. We'll have an advocate, and one with the best bully pulpit around: the Presidency. What Obama did yesterday changes nothing, and everything.

Thank you Mr. President

Mon, Oct. 31st, 2011, 07:01 pm
San Francisco Rant: Housing

My least favorite people in San Francisco politics are Willie Brown, Willie Brown's stooge Gavin Newsom (thankfully "promoted" to a meaningless office in Sacramento where he can't do much harm), and Randy Shaw, the great Poverty Pimp of the West.

Do I ever dislike these people! Together they have conspired to cement San Francisco as the ultimate Sanctuary City for the Rich. It is a city scrubbed of opportunity for anyone middle or working class. If you want to talk about a place with no room for the "99%", it is San Francisco. Of course, the city has a healthy supply of the chronically indigent, mentally ill, and drug addicted (presumably, the bottom 1%). These people constitute the reserve army of the professional Left; always available for a vote and completely dependent on services (many of which are outsourced for big $$$). You can move them around like chess pieces while painting yourself as a hero of the poor, and it is very remunerative. But aside from the (admittedly very visible) lowest rung of San Franciscans, everyone else in this town is pretty bourgeois, has lived here a long time (and can continue to, with the help of Prop 13 and/or rent control), or is not in good longterm housing. No middle-class family is going to settle down in a "roommate situation" with 5 strangers.

I would like to be a homeowner in this city. It's never going to happen unless I make a big heap of cash (or hit my dad up for a big heap of cash). The price of housing in San Francisco is absurd. I could make this a rant about Prop 13 (because it encourages people to hoard property, and drives up the price of real estate), or even make it a rant about rent control (because it generates an artificial scarcity in rental units and encourages landlords to rent vacant units at the highest price possible), but I won't. Both of those, for better or worse, have their purpose. I may read the Guardian a fair amount, but I'm not willing to lay all of California's problems at the feet of Prop 13 and lack of enforcement of the Raker Act. One thing that would help make San Francisco more affordable would be the introduction of large numbers of vacant units onto the market, but the city has done its best to make sure that never happens. When South Beach was redeveloped under Willie Brown, the city struck a deal with the developers to make sure that only a limited number of units hit the market at any one time, lest there be even a temporary glut in housing which might cause prices to drop. Everything in this town is sold at "market rate", which might as well be called "overseas Chinese rate", since that's who's buying it and living in it (a few weeks out of the year). All those big flashy towers in SOMA have done nothing to ease the city's housing problem, nor have they made the neighborhood any more interesting. It's still a freeway. Hey, remember that deal Chris Daly struck with the One Rincon developers to put money into an "affordable housing" fund instead of actually putting "affordable housing" in their tower? Do you know that they never put that money into the fund because it was contingent on them finishing their project? Fun fact, that!

If I were Grand Poobah of this town, I would Manhattanize large swaths of it (primarily the uninteresting parts), to the point that it caused the bottom to fall out of real estate prices and allowed a few people in the actual middle class to buy or rent here. I know, that is a very radical idea. But since people jealously hold on to their overly-inflated-and-completely-out-of-touch-with-reality "property value", it would never come to pass. San Franciscans' ability to interfere in just about anything the city does leads to a great demonstration of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Because building anything in San Francisco means being dragged through 3 years of public comment and letting every stupid neighborhood group have its say, any project that actually breaks ground will be guaranteed to be:
  • Sold at "market rate"
  • Stripped of anything interesting architecturally, so as to be maximally unoffensive
  • Built by the small handful of companies that have greased the political wheels here sufficiently to be able to do whatever they want
Wow. Democracy! There's a reason that all the newly-built parts of this city look like East fucking Berlin.

Let's talk about poor people now, and the people that exploit them. Randy Shaw, the head of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, is almost singlehandedly responsible for destroying housing opportunity for the working poor. He makes a sizable salary off of housing the homeless via "Care not Cash" that enables him to live large in the Berkeley hills, far away from the wreckage he's caused. Housing these "homeless", by the way, doesn't take them off the streets during the day, since most of them are still crazy or hooked on drugs and have nothing better to do than sit around, panhandle, get high, and get into trouble. Meanwhile, the desperate souls penned up in his buildings are subject to constant entreaties from drug dealers and criminals, who are allowed to roam the halls for free since his entire staff is on the take. If an addict is truly determined to recover, almost nothing can stand in their way, but you can surely make it harder. Randy Shaw makes it damn near impossible. He fought the Power Exchange moving into the Tenderloin tooth and nail because they had the temerity to clean up the drug dealers off of their half of a block. What a charlatan. If you're ever walking the Tenderloin and wondering why it's such a crappy neighborhood, just remember: there's people making big bucks off of keeping it that way. And they're really smug about it, too...

There is no affordable housing for the poor in San Francisco. There used to be! The lowest rung of available housing used to be in SRO (Single Room Occupancy) units. Rooming hotels. Bed, sink. No shower, shared bathrooms. Likelihood of bedbugs: high. But if you were working poor or just getting back on your feet, they were your foot in the door in San Francisco. Thanks to programs like "Care not Cash", those rooms are now by and large reserved only for those who absolutely can not help themselves. Sorry! Randy Shaw saw money to be made! The city pays a fat lump sum (with almost no oversight) to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (and other similar agencies) for the service of housing these people. Why rent rooms to the poor when you can just provide housing as a city service, and make a handy profit in the process? I know people who are homeless because they were not mentally ill enough to qualify for an SRO room. You can't just rent one, anymore, at a lot of these hotels. You have to enter The System, and The System is only interested in you if you're completely batshit crazy. At least one friend of mine was denied housing because he had the audacity to get and stay sober. Whoops! Perhaps he should have pursued "harm reduction" instead...

G-d help this place.

Fri, Jul. 1st, 2011, 01:26 pm
How I update my desktop

* 5-19 * * 1-5 /home/tehdely/local/bin/update-kellys.sh


curl -f http://ob-kc.com/images/current_lg.jpg 2>/dev/null > $NEW
if [ -e $NEW ]; then
  if [ "$(md5sum $NEW | awk '{print $1}')" != "$(md5sum $WALL | awk '{print $1}')" -a -s $NEW ]; then
    mv $NEW $WALL 
    # Make sure it is bleak
    convert $WALL -modulate 75,20,66666 ${SEPIA}

Tue, Apr. 5th, 2011, 04:37 pm
Larouche People: I am not worthy

I love trolls. I love political trolls. I've previously expressed my deep and abiding love for the Westboro Baptist Church.

Lyndon Laroucheites are pretty lol trolls. Much like Westboro, they truly believe in what they spout, and even more like Westboro, they take all antagonism from the public as evidence that they are right.

These guys set up shop outside the Bank of America branch on Fell Street. I was going there to do some mild-mannered banking and noticed a very distressed woman arguing with them. She had been trolled. She was definitely in the process of losing. I finished my banking and went home, then realized I needed to do more banking, so I returned, this time with a video camera! By this point she was walking down Broderick with her boyfriend, and she was crying. She lost. I hope she had a nice day.

I shot some video of the Larouchites and tried to antagonize them. At this, I failed horribly. I even used a technique that has proven very successful for Scientologists (another awesome band of trolls), which is to videotape my subjects while walking around them ominously. This typically makes people very uncomfortable! When that failed to raise their ire, I went into a tirade about how they were stepping on the turf of my local revolutionary Communist organization. I even tried to drop in a cheap shot or two about how Lyndon Larouche wanted to quarantine everyone with HIV in the 1980's. That also failed, and eventually I got tired and left. They won.

During this whole time, they were taping up their sign. Apparently, the angry (and visibly trolled) lady from earlier had torn it up in a fit of rage! They called her a fascist. I went into the bank to do my second bit of banking. When I returned, there were police there, disinterestedly taking a report about the sign-ripping "assault". Little did I know that this would hit the news today and be spun as an assault on an Obama supporter:.I am not worthy. What a brilliant meta-troll. The local media's comment sites are filling up with people classing this as either some sort of statement about Obama, or perhaps a liberal pulling a Tawana Brawley to feign victimhood. You idiots have all been trolled. Enjoy your vitriol.

I am voting Larouche. Here's some video of the aftermath. Do those look like Obama supporters to you?


Sat, Jan. 15th, 2011, 08:21 pm

1. Hit random on wikipedia.com. The page that comes up is your band name.

2. Hit random on quotationspage.com. The last 4 or 5 words of the LAST quote on the page make the album title.

3. Flickr.com - click on the last seven days link at the very bottom, then click on interesting photos from last seven days. The 3rd picture is your album cover.

4. MSPaint or Photoshop it and post in the comments.

lol dongs