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DE-REGULATION: LET PREDATORS BE PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2021 at 12:09 am

This December 2 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of a criminal empire. An empire that almost destroyed the Western United States.

The Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by extortionate market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

California suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 20th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats should recast de-regulation thus:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

The coal industry has pumped millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron has spent millions assuring us that all its profits go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.  

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

THE RICH–AND THEIR EVILS–ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2021 at 12:55 am

In November, 2017, President Donald Trump and a Republican-dominated House and Senate rammed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 through Congress. It became law on December 22, 2017.  

The law: 

  • Ignored the stagnation of working-class wages and exacerbated inequality;
  • Weakened revenues when the nation needed to raise more;
  • Encouraged rampant tax avoidance and gaming that will undermine the integrity of the tax code;
  • Left behind low- and moderate-income Americans—and in many ways hurt them.

For American corporations, however, the law was a godsend: 

  • Cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent;
  • Shifting toward a territorial tax system, where multinational corporations’ foreign profits go largely untaxed;
  • Benefitting overwhelmingly wealthy shareholders and highly paid executives.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the issues he confronted was how to preserve liberty within a republic. And key to this was mediating the eternal struggle between the wealthy and the poor and middle class.

Machiavelli deeply distrusted the nobility because they stood above the law. He saw them as a major source of corruption because they could buy influence through patronage, favors or nepotism.

Successful political leaders must attain the support of the nobility or general populace. But since these groups have conflicting interests, the safest course is to choose the latter.  

Writes Machiavelli:

….He who becomes prince by help of the [wealthy] has greater difficulty in maintaining his power than he who is raised by the populace. He is surrounded by those who think themselves his equals, and is thus unable to direct or command as he pleases. 

But one who is raised to leadership by popular favor finds himself alone, and has no one, or very  ew, who   are not  ready  to  obey him. [And] it is impossible to satisfy the [wealthy] by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way. 

Machiavelli warns that the general populace is more honest than the nobility–i-.e., wealthy. The wealthy seek to oppress, while the populace wants to simply avoid oppression.

A political leader cannot protect himself against a hostile population, owing to their numbers, but he can against the hostility of the great, as they are but few.

The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned, but from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition. And as they are more far seeing and more cunning, they are always in time to save themselves and take sides with the one who they expect will conquer. 

One…who becomes prince by favor of the populace, must maintain its friendship, which he will find easy, the people asking nothing but not to be oppressed. 

But one who against the people’s wishes becomes prince by favor of the nobles, should above all endeavor to gain the favor of the people.  This will be easy for him if he protects them.  

In 2020, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The State of Tax Justice 2020.” 

May be an image of 6 people and text that says 'SO YOU WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO "STOP GIVING POOR PEOPLE FREE STUFF"? FUNNY HOW YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT THE $70 BILLION A YEAR WE SPEND ON SUBSIDIZING WALL ST BANKS, THE $38 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES GIVEN TO OIL COMPANIES, THE $2.1 TRILLION THAT FORTUNE 500 CORPORATIONS ARE STASHING ABROAD TO AVOID PAYING U.S. TAXES, AND THE $153 BILLION A YEAR WE SPEND TO SUBSIDIZE MCDONALD'S & WALMART'S OW-WAGE WORKERS? OCCUPY DEMOCRATS'

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings: 

  • Countries lose over $427 billion in tax each year to international corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion.
  • More tax is lost to tax havens ever year due to corporate tax abuse by multinational corporations than by individuals.
  • Multinational corporations short-change countries out of $245 billion in tax every year.
  • People who move their wealth offshore short-change their governments out of $182 billion in taxes every year.
  • Almost all responsibility for global tax losses falls on higher income countries.
  • Higher income countries were responsible for 98 per cent of all the tax loss countries around the world lost.

The report recommended: 

  • Governments should introduce an excess profit tax on large multinational corporations which have profited during the pandemic while local businesses were forced into lockdown.
  • Digital tech giants claim to have our best interests at heart but have been short-changing us out of billions in tax for years.
  • Governments should introduce a wealth tax to reign in the billions in tax lost to tax havens every year.
  • Establish a UN tax convention that makes sure robust international tax standards are set in a transparent and democratic way.

Fortunately, Machiavelli has supplied timeless remedies to this increasingly dangerous situation:

  • Assume evil among men—and most especially among those who possess the greatest concentration of wealth and power.
  • Carefully monitor their activities—the way the FBI now regularly monitors those of the Mafia and major terrorist groups.
  • This means using bugs, wiretaps and informants—and, above all, assuming that powerful men dedicated to their own greed will inevitably become criminals.
  • Ruthlessly prosecute the treasonous crimes of the rich and powerful—and, upon their conviction, impose severe punishment.

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 5, 2021 at 12:13 am

“America needs the outsider Trump to do what normal politicians would not and could not do.”

That was the assertion made by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.

Among his bestsellers on military history:

  • The Second World Wars
  • Carnage and Culture
  • Wars of the Ancient Greeks
  • The Western Way of War
  • The Soul of Battle: How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny

Historian Victor Davis Hanson said there has been no consequences for the wrongdoing by elites in society and warned that republics and successful states fall apart when the elites fall out of touch with the people."We have a whole bunch... here at home, that feel they can dictate to people and they're never subject to the ramifications of their own ideology and policy," he said of elites. "And it's like the emperor has no clothes and then they're surprised that Trump won or surprised that peo

Victor Davis Hanson

In 2019, Hanson turned his attention to politics—specifically, The Case for Trump.

Its dust-jacket provides a useful summary of its contents:

“This New York Times bestselling Trump biography from a major American intellectual explains how a renegade businessman became one of the most successful—and necessary—presidents of all time.

“In The Case for Trump, award-winning historian and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson explains how a celebrity businessman with no political or military experience triumphed over sixteen well-qualified Republican rivals, a Democrat with a quarter-billion-dollar war chest, and a hostile media and Washington establishment to become president of the United States — and an extremely successful president.

“Trump alone saw a political opportunity in defending the working people of America’s interior whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn, Hanson argues. And Trump alone had the instincts and energy to pursue this opening to victory, dismantle a corrupt old order, and bring long-overdue policy changes at home and abroad.”

The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hanson | Basic Books

Hanson’s book appeared before Trump:

  • Tried to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joseph Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowed the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, killing more than 400,000 Americans by the time he left office. 
  • Attacked medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordered his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to stay-at-home and wear masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.
  • Became the first President in American history to refuse to accept the results of a Presidential election.
  • Tried to overturn the November 3, 2020 election of Joe Biden through 60 lawsuits and the arm-twisting of several state lawmakers.
  • Sent a mob of his fanatical followers  to attack the United States Capitol Building. Their mission: Stop the counting of Electoral College ballots certain to give Biden the victory.         
  • Was twice impeached during his four years in office—the only President to be impeached twice (and acquitted by a Republican Senate which ignored his litany of crimes).

But his book appeared after Trump had:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was assigned to investigate those ties after Trump fired Comey. 
  • Attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for refusing to fire Mueller.
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges whose rulings he disagreed with.
  • Given Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.
  • Amassed an infamous record as a serial liar, in both personal and Presidential matters.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
  • Shut down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded. 

So much for Hanson’s claims that Trump had been “one of the most successful—and necessary—presidents of all time.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s Hanson’s claim that “Trump alone saw a political opportunity in defending the working people of America’s interior whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn.” 

In November, 2017, Trump and a Republican-dominated House and Senate rammed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 through Congress. It became law on December 22, 2017.

According to Chye-Ching Huang, Director of Federal Fiscal Policy, the law did nothing to help ordinary Americans.

Testifying before the House Budget Committee on February 27, 2019, Huang stated that the law:

  • Ignored the stagnation of working-class wages and exacerbated inequality;
  • Weakened revenues when the nation needed to raise more;  
  • Encouraged rampant tax avoidance and gaming that will undermine the integrity of the tax code; 
  • Left behind low- and moderate-income Americans—and in many ways hurt them.

For American corporations, however, the law was a godsend: 

  • Cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent;
  • Shifting toward a territorial tax system, where multinational corporations’ foreign profits go largely untaxed;
  • Benefitting overwhelmingly wealthy shareholders and highly paid executives.

This was hardly an attempt at “defending the working people of America’s interior.”

Trump never made another attempt to “reform” the tax laws.

DDMBs, SI, WALGREENS, NO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2021 at 12:28 am

Thanks to its mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement, San Francisco is often considered the homeless capital of the United States.

Current estimates peg the homeless population of San Francisco at about 8,000.

In 2019, a survey found that an estimated 2,831 members of this population were sheltered. Another 5,180 were unsheltered. This made for a total of 8,011.

The vast majority of them fall into four groups:

  • Druggies
  • Drunks
  • Mentally ill
  • Bums.

Or, to put it more discretely: DDMBs.

Many DDMBs refuse to enter the city’s available shelters. Some claim these places are dangerous—understandably so, since they’re peopled with drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums. 

But another reason why many of these shelters go unused is: They don’t allow their guests to drink up or drug up.

Huge areas of the city are covered in feces, urine, trash and used hypodermic needles. Hospitals overflow with patients that have fallen ill due to the contamination.

The city will spend about $852 million in 2020-21 on DDMBs. Dividing that amount by about 8,000 DDMBs provides the figure of $106,500 per DDMB.

In February, 2018, NBC News surveyed 153 blocks of the city—an area more than 20 miles. That area includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and the cable car turnaround. It’s bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue. And it’s also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds and a police station.

Reporters found trash littered across every block. Forty-one blocks were covered with needles and 96 blocks were contaminated with piles of human feces.

Most of the trash found consisted of heaps of garbage, food, and discarded junk—including 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces throughout downtown. If you step on one of these needles, you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or a variety of other viral diseases. 

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And once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne and release deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus.

In a 2018 news story on NBC’s San Francisco affiliate, KNTV, Mohammed Nuru, the director of the Public Works Department, said: “Yes, we can clean, and then go back a few hours later, and it looks as if it was never cleaned. So is that how you want to spend your money?”

Another danger posed by DDMBs: Their rampant shoplifting has led to the closing of many Walgreens drug stores in San Francisco.

Walgreens Logo.svg

Low-income and disabled seniors who depend on these stores for prescriptions are especially at risk. 

Walgreens spokeswoman Alexandra Brown claimed that the closures were part of a “transformational cost management program.” 

Apparently, even the chief victim of these thefts refuses to publicly blame the “homeless.” 

An employee at the closing Walgreens store at 730 Market Street said the store couldn’t cope with losing $1,000 a day due to shoplifting.

Walgreens is not the only drug store to be victimized by DDMBs. A CVS location a few blocks away, at 995 Market Street, also closed due to shoplifting.

The latest wrinkle in San Francisco’s “be kind to Untermenschen” campaign is the creation of “Navigation Centers.” These will supposedly warehouse DDMBs temporarily until they can be “navigated” to permanent housing.

But housing is in short supply in San Francisco, and there is no telling how long how many of these drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally disabled and bums will stay in them. Or what harm they will wreak on the neighborhoods warehousing them.

Hundreds—if not thousands—of them are heroin addicts. Such people will commit virtually any crime to support their habit. And their crimes of choice are burglary and robbery. 

Thus, pouring large numbers of them into San Francisco neighborhoods via “Navigation Centers”—essentially holding pens for DDMBs—guarantees that countless decent citizens will become targets for desperate criminals.

Navigation Centers boast that they ban drug-abuse or drug-dealing on their own premises. But they allow DDMBs to come and go at will. Which means they are free to engage in drug-abuse and/or drug-dealing in the neighborhoods where these centers exist. 

Most politicians set their priorities on how popular their programs will be among voters. But San Francisco’s reject practicality for allegiance to Uber liberal ideology. 

Drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and those who refuse to work are not reliable voters. Those who are productive, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens do vote.

And many of these people have voted—to not visit San Francisco again.

Hosting conventions is a lucrative business for San Francisco, bringing in about $2 billion each year. But in 2018, a Chicago-based medical association boasting roughly 15,000 conference attendees canceled its planned visit.

And in 2019, Oracle’s OpenWorld voted to cancel its planned convention in San Francisco and be centered from 2020 to 2022 at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas. The San Francisco Travel Association estimates that the move will cost the city $64 million in lost revenue.

Oracle logo.svg

The reason for both cancellations: San Francisco’s fervent embrace of DDMBs—and the refusal of attendees to wade through piles of trash, used hypodermic needles, beer bottles, human feces and huge tents on sidewalks.

For a city whose lifeblood is tourism, its fervent embrace of DDMBs threatens to become a fatal one.

DDMBs, SI, WALGREENS, NO: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2021 at 12:30 am

Why are Walgreen stores disappearing from San Francisco?

The answer can be summed up in four letters: DDMBs—Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums.

These are the untouchables of San Francisco. If you doubt it, consider the following:

If you are a firefighter, police officer, paramedic or schoolteacher, and want to live in San Francisco, forget it.

According to Rent Cafe, which provides apartment listings directly from top property managers: “The average rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $2,879.” And “the average size for a San Francisco apartment is 739 square feet.”

Patent 523 Apartments for Rent in Seattle, WA | Essex

So unless you’re a hugely successful IT professional—or narcotics dealer—your chances of being able to afford a San Francisco apartment are lower than Donald Trump’s of winning a “Mr. Congeniality” contest.

But there’s hope for you yet—if you’re a Druggie, Drunk, Mental or Bum. 

Why? 

Because the Mayor of San Francisco—currently London Breed—and Board of Supervisors have deliberately created an Untermenschen-friendly program that actually encourages such people to move to the city.

Run by the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH) it’s called the COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program. And it works in two stages:

Stage 1: Move the “homeless” into the city’s hotels—at city expense.

Stage 2: Provide them with not only free food and shelter but free alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes

According to a May 11, 2020 story in City Journal.org:

“The program’s primary purpose is to keep homeless people, the majority of whom are addicts, out of harm’s way during the pandemic. By getting their substance of choice delivered, the thinking goes, the guests may be more apt to remain in their government-funded rooms.

“Another purpose of the program is to protect the public against the spread of coronavirus. The city doesn’t want homeless people who should be staying in their rooms roaming the neighborhood in search of the substances, potentially infecting others.”

San Francisco Department of Public Health - Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding

After news about these deliveries leaked on social media, DPH claimed that “rumors that guests of San Francisco’s alternative housing program are receiving taxpayer-funded deliveries of alcohol, cannabis and tobacco are false.”

Except that the reports weren’t false.

The program is funded by private philanthropists  Nevertheless:

  • DPH administers and oversees the program.
  • It’s staffed by city workers, including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, and security personnel.
  • The department manages, stores, and distributes the substances.
  • Employee time is involved.

Thus, the program is financed by taxpayers, even if an outside group provides some of the funding. 

“Managed alcohol and tobacco use makes it possible to increase the number of guests who stay in isolation and quarantine and, notably, protects the health of people who might otherwise need hospital care for life-threatening alcohol withdrawal,” says DPH spokeswoman Jenna Lane.

Drunk guy passed out on the sidewalk - YouTube

“Many isolation and quarantine guests tell us they use these substances daily,” says Lane, “and this period in our care has allowed some people to connect for the first time with addiction treatment and harm reduction therapy.”

Notice the word “guests.” As if San Francisco—or any city—should welcome hordes of drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums as assets to its community.

“Harm reduction” therapy, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, is “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.”

DPH said in a statement that these “guests” are screened for substance addictions and asked if they’d like to stop or have support to reduce their use.

If they say they want to remain alcoholics and/or drug addicts, they’re provided with their substance of choice.

The department also provides methadone for “guests” who are addicted to opioids.

Little Falls Police Warning Public After Suspected Heroin Overdoses - YouTube

DPH staffers have helped people buy “medical marijuana,” the agency told local affiliate ABC7.

But the agency doesn’t “facilitate purchases of recreational cannabis,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, SFGate.

Nor does the agency require that its addict “guests” remain quarantined. It merely asks that they do so.

When they’re not injecting, swallowing or sniffing drugs, many of San Francisco’s “guests” spend a lot of their time ripping off retail stores.

Walgreens drug stores have proven a particular target for these DDMBs. 

On March 17, Walgreens closed its 10th store in the San Francisco area. 

The reason: Rampant shoplifting, courtesy of DDMBs. 

“I feel sorry for the clerks, they are regularly being verbally assaulted,” a regular customer, Sebastian Luke, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens’ policy is to not get involved. They don’t want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just keep coming in and taking whatever they want.”

“Why are the shelves empty?” a customer asked a clerk at a Walgreens store.

“Go ask the people in the alleys, they have it all,” replied the clerk.

One store in the San Francisco area reportedly lost $1,000 a day to theft. 

Under California law, theft under $950 is considered a misdemeanor, but many prosecutors prefer to free those charged rather than holding them in jail.

The maximum sentence they could get: Six months. 

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2021 at 12:10 am

Here’s Story #2 on how to stand up to Right-wing bullies.

In 2014, the Arizona Republican legislature passed Senate Bill 1062.

This allowed business owners to legally discriminate against gay and lesbian customers—including the right to refuse medical care to them.  

Its intent: To appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party. 

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona. And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice.

  • Large businesses—such as Apple, American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Verizon and Intel—publicly opposed the measure.
  • With Super Bowl XL1X scheduled to be played in 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concern.
  • Arizona’s United States Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake publicly urged Governor Jan Brewer to veto the measure, citing worries about the economic impact on the state’s businesses.

Faced with a choice between monetary greed and ideological fanaticism, Brewer chose to veto the legislation on February 26, 2014.  

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Governor Jan Brewer

Suddenly, Right-wingers who had anticipated becoming persecutors now claimed themselves to be victims. Among their rants on Twitter:

  • “CNN led full court media press to take away rights of Christians. Just the beginning. Using tolerance as weapon against us. Wake up.”  –John Nolte (@NolteNC)
  • “Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.”  –Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro)
  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” –toddstarnes (@toddstarnes)
  • “A sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” –The Center for Arizona Policy 

American Rightists believed they had a right to withhold their business services from those they hated.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.  

Story #3:

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Among the students who survived the carnage: 17-year-old David Hogg. He quickly joined the student-led gun control advocacy group Never Again, becoming one of its best-known spokesmen. 

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David Hogg

He and his fellow student activists were immediately targeted for vicious insults and even death threats by the National Rifle Association and its shills—especially those in Congress and the Fox News Network. 

One of these shills was Fox News host Laura Ingraham. On March 28, not content with attacking Hogg’s efforts to ban assault weaponry, she attacked him personally, tweeting:

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)” 

Hogg hadn’t been able to get into UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Irvine, despite having a 4.2 grade point average. 

For many Twitter users, this was beyond the pale, and they made their anger known: 

“Laura, you’re a parent. This is pretty deplorable.”

“Can’t imagine why any adult would make fun of a kid over college rejections, let alone a kid who’s been through what the Parkland kids have.”

“What is the purpose of this tweet? What is wrong with you? Are you actually proud of this? Regardless of your political beliefs and motivations, THIS is how you choose to present yourself? You must be so sad, angry and scared.”  

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  Laura Ingraham 

But it fell to David Hogg to strike back in a way guaranteed to frighten even the most fanatical Rightists. 

“I’m not going to stoop to her level and go after her on a personal level,” he said. “I’m going to go after her advertisers.”

He posted the following tweet to his 600,000 Twitter followers: 

“Pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #  

“Top Laura Ingraham Advertisers 

1. @sleepnumber
2. @ATT
3. Nutrish
4. @Allstate & @esurance
5. @Bayer
6. @RocketMortgage Mortgage
7. @LibertyMutual
8. @Arbys
9. @TripAdvisor
10. @Nestle
11. @hulu
12. @Wayfair

Nutrish was the first advertiser to drop its sponsorship of Ingraham’s program.  Other brands followed.  

Suddenly alarmed, Ingraham tweeted the next day: “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David…”   

Hogg dismissed her statement: “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers.” He said that he would accept her apology only if she denounced “the way your network has treated my friends and I in this fight.”  

Ingraham made no such effort She stayed silent after her tweet. Meanwhile, her advertisers continued to fall off:   

  • The Atlantis
  • Bayer
  • Paradise Island Resort
  • Office Depot
  • Jenny Craig Miracle
  • Ear
  • Honda
  • Progressive
  • Hulu
  • TripAdvisor
  • Expedia
  • Wayfair
  • StitchFix
  • Jos A. Bank
  • Nestle and 
  • Johnson & Johnson.

Although only 17 at the time, David Hogg knew it’s better to stand up to tyrants than submit to them.

He sent a message that even the most hard-core Fascists could understand: Attack me and you’ll get it right back in your ugly faces.

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2021 at 1:16 am

There are two ways to deal with bullies: Submit to them—or stand up to them.

Here are three stories of what happened when intended victims counterattacked their would-be predators.

Story #1:

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had pushed to drop PP from grants. She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia. 

So, in 2012, she made her move.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie. And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

Related image

Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  • More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking  Komen to reverse course.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000   to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give—or withhold—its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

Story #2:

Two years later, in 2014, the Right made another move to strip Americans it didn’t like of their most basic rights.  Their weapon of choice: Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House of Representatives and Senate. Its intent: 

  • Allow business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allow employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allow individuals to renege on contract obligations.  
  • Allow hospitals to refuse to provide medical care to a gay or lesbian patient.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected—so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Officially, its intent was to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent was to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice. 

THE NEWS MEDIA: FACING SOME PAINFUL TRUTHS

In Business, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2021 at 12:10 am

On September 27, 2020, The New York Times broke the unprecedented story of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he has long held secret. 

Among the revelations: He paid no federal income taxes at all for 10 of 15 years. And he paid only $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

For most newspapers and TV networks, such investigative reporting is a rarity. Most media outlets are little more than “happy news” or propaganda organs.

Two years earlier, on April 28, 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf had hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. There she skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

Most of here jokes were focused on Trump administration officials—especially then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Michelle Wolf in 2016.jpg

Michelle Wolf

Erin Nekervis, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the “news” being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On CNN—where “news” now largely consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest: You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

Related image

Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

Trump was “good for the news media” in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” 

Both Trump and Tyson were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”]  And more viewers meant higher ratings–which meant money.

WANT TO STOP GUN MASSACRES? HERE’S HOW

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2021 at 12:12 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does—can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

This is especially true for Republican members of Congress. They have opposed background checks on gun buyers—while allowing criminals and terrorists to own firearms. They champion the sale of assault weapons—which were designed for use by the military, not civilians.

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They speak directly to those masses of disaffected Americans for whom the Second Amendment is the Constitution. And they know they can count on those voters to give them lifetime tenure in Congress.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.
  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.
  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these needless tragedies.

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO NOWHERE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2021 at 12:39 am

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California.

In 2018, MUNI, with a budget of about $1.2 billion, served 46.7 square miles. It is the seventh largest transit system—in terms of ridership—in the nation.

Its bus drivers are the highest-paid bus drivers in the nation.

The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730.

This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

Muni | SFMTA

And yet: What are San Francisco residents getting for all that money being paid out?

Far less than they deserve.

Since the arrival of the Coronavirus plague in San Francisco in early March, 2020, MUNI has:

  • Offered fewer bus routes
  • Made it impossible to guess when a bus will stop
  • Reduced the number of buses and
  • Scrapped its underground lines altogether.

What does all this mean?

It means that, of MUNI’s 89 routes, all but 17 have been eliminated.

MUNI claimed that the cuts were made to allow for increased social distancing on the most vital routes. How riders were supposed to increase social distancing on fewer buses was not explained.

Muni Service Changes 2.0 Start Saturday | SFMTA

A MUNI bus

The 38 Geary bus line—which travels east and west—is the most heavily-traveled route in the city. In pre-COVID times, these buses were packed, often with passengers standing close together in the aisles after all available seats were taken.

Loudspeakers aboard MUNI buses regularly tell passengers to socially distance from each other—that is, put at least six feet between themselves and their fellows.

But with far fewer buses running, MUNI passengers can’t be sure when—or if—the next one will arrive when they need to catch it.

So residents don’t hesitate: They scramble aboard, en masse, the first bus that shows up.

This makes social distancing impossible on most rides. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Cooronavirus

MUNI loudspeakers also tell passengers “You must wear a mask to board MUNI.”  And most passengers do wear a mask when they board.

But that doesn’t mean all of them do—especially those who board through the rear doors, out of sight of the driver way up in front. 

Even when passengers wear masks, they often do so just under their nose or chin—meaning they can sneeze or cough potentially lethal germs on anyone sitting near them.

Another drawback to riding MUNI: Buses don’t always stop when you pull the “Stop” cord. 

Suppose you board the 49 Van Ness at Sutter Street. Now suppose you’re a senior, or disabled, or have a couple of bags of groceries you need to lug up to your apartment. 

The 49 boards at Sutter, but it doesn’t stop until it reaches Jackson Street—which means you pass Bush, Pine, California, Sacramento, Washington and Clay before you reach Jackson.

And if your apartment lies somewhere between Sutter and Jackson, you’re going to have to forego riding MUNI and walk north to it, or you’re going to have to get off at Jackson and walk south to it.

Not content with making above-ground routes needlessly complicated and even dangerous, MUNI has eliminated its underground routes. 

These featured fewer stops over longer distances, thus reducing the amount of time you had to be on board.

MUNI’s official reason for this: To protect its drivers from the dangers of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Transit System (BART) which serves cities well beyond San Francisco, continues to use its network of underground and above-ground stations.

No one at MUNI has yet explained why its drivers can’t do what BART’s have done for the last year.

And while all this is going on, city officials—specifically, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors—are relentlessly pushing to make San Francisco “car-unfriendly.”

San Francisco City Hall 2.JPG

San Francisco City Hall

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This has long been their goal. And COVID-19 has made it possible for city leaders to aggressively pursue it under the guise of helping restaurants.

Countless spots that once were reserved for parking have been turned into outdoor dining sites. This seems to makes sense for restaurants, which have taken a beating since indoor dining was banned due to COVID. 

But outdoor dining isn’t as safe as many people think.

Sure, you and the person(s) you’re eating with may not be COVID-infected. But what about the people at the packed table just a couple of feet away from you?

And what about the pedestrians who often must walk between unmasked diners on either side of a sidewalk? 

Offering a mixture of incentives and deterrents has long been a preferred method for winning compliance. In Mexico, this has been famously termed “Pan o palo” (“bread or the stick”).

San Francisco has chosen to offer a sticks-only policy:

  • Allow its bus service to treat its patrons with infuriating contempt; and
  • Make it ever harder for residents and tourists to use private automobiles to reach their destinations.

It’s a recipe guaranteed to cost the city dearly—in both residents and tourists.

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