GUEST WORDS--It’s the little things that beat you up in the end, the daily irritations and indignities.

Mail from City Hall, for instance. You know, even as you draw blood with a paper cut while opening the envelope, that it can’t be good news.

In Atwater Village, people have been receiving “courtesy notices” from something called the Pro-Active Code Enforcement division of the Department of Building & Safety.

The word “courtesy” is the first clue that your holiday spirit is about to be crushed, and “pro-active code enforcement” removes all doubt.

A colleague of mine got this notice about the gate to her back yard:

GUEST WORDS-Soon the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a case with the potential to end this nation’s abominably long and freakish experimentation with the death penalty. That’s right, drum roll, please. Because, if it grants certiorari in Hidalgo v. Arizona – a case Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe describes as emblematic of “the problems with our [country’s] current capital punishment regimes” – America’s broken and vile “machinery of death” can finally be trashed in the junkyard of our dark, wayward humanity.    

Since its reinstatement over forty years ago, the death penalty has soiled our justice system and collective moral compass with its racist, arbitrary, and torturous application. Its ignobility and continued existence in the U.S. has not only drawn international opprobrium from human rights activists and religious leaders, it continues to deny us a seat at the table of civilized, just, peaceable people around the world – whose countries long ago rejected capital punishment. 

GUEST WORDS--Two things are clear about the recent spate of accusation of and confessions by men for sexual harassment and assault: First, they seem to know no ideological borders; liberal men seem no more or less likely to commit such offenses than conservative men are. Second, liberals and conservatives treat these offenses radically differently. But why?

We do not have perfectly analogous cases, of course. The major figures on the right recently accused of sexual assault or harassment include Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Alabama's seat in the United States Senate, and President Donald Trump himself. The major figures on the left largely come from the entertainment sphere. These include producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Louis C.K.

GUEST WORDS--Several small, cash-strapped California school districts are using a loophole in state law to boost their revenue by overseeing a raft of far-flung charter schools, according to a recent report published by the state auditor.

The result, the report says: dismal academic results for thousands of students and a lot of extra money for the districts, one of which increased its revenue more than 10-fold.

Charter schools usually can’t open in California until they find districts willing to track their performance. The agreements are supposed to be limited by geography, but a handful of districts have authorized charters located many miles outside their geographic boundaries—some as far as 50 miles away.

Those school districts say these arrangements are legal and necessary. The applying charter operators need buildings, and they have none to offer, so the charter schools must open elsewhere.

GUEST WORDS--Donald Trump gave Xi Jinping endorsements; Xi gave him face. Trump heaped praise on Xi for being a strong leader; Xi said nothing in return. Trump announced US responsibility for the trade deficit; Xi did not contradict him.

Trump will claim that China has agreed to remove barriers to the American financial sector in the Chinese market; but Xi’s promises aren’t ironclad. 

Trump lamented that the US is “so far behind” China, while Xi simply noted that the Pacific has room for both countries. Trump said nothing about human rights in China, letting Xi believe it’s no longer an American priority. 

Trump called on China for the umpteenth time to strengthen sanctions on North Korea; Xi said nothing, and the Chinese press removed Trump’s comments. 

GUEST WORDS--We are all fighting about which lives matter. The truth is: no lives matter.

At least no lives matter to those with the power to annihilate all lives. To them, we are all disposable. In my judgment, this makes us all slaves.

As odious as every aspect of slavery is (was?), the core power of slavers was the right to kill their slaves at will. That is the power those with their fingers on the nuclear button have over the rest of us. They are slave owners and we are slaves. We pay taxes, mostly against our will, to build the very weapons our slave owners will use to incinerate us.

To those in power, we are not merely “deplorables”, we are “disposables,” like a paper diaper full of baby excrement. The US Government plans to “save” 5000 or so government bureaucrats in the event of nuclear war, so they can carry out the “Continuation of Government” (COG) plan. The same US Government has washed its hands of civil defense. None, nada, not.

GUEST WORDS--The election of Donald Trump was a severe blow to rational thinking. We—and I include many traditional conservatives as well as liberals of all stripes—were so certain that the American people would not possibly elect so undignified, ill-informed, and prejudiced a person. When they did, we assumed Trump would be moderated, constrained, even reassembled by some of the same factors that affected previous strong-willed presidents: the professional bureaucracy, a politically attuned White House staff, pressures from Congress, the traditions of the office, the aspiration for reelection, the demands of the job. None of that has happened. 

So now, in the roughly one year since Trump’s election, we wrongly persist in our optimism that any or all of the following developments signal the end of this nightmare:

  • The polls, which consistently show Trump below 40 percent in popularity and below 50 percent in approval ratings.
  • Trump’s “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” (Jeff Flake), which will lead to widespread defections from the Republican Party.
  • Trump’s failure to deliver on his legislative agenda.
  • The ongoing investigations of Trump and the Russians. (Yes, Paul Manafort and two others have been indicted, but Trump’s collusion and obstruction are a long way from being proven.)

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