Recalls, Redistricting and Right-Wing Reconstruction

by Kate

Chicago and New York might be the gold standard when it comes to political corruption, but they’ve got nothing on San Francisco. Scratch the interlocking recall campaigns to unseat San Francisco’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin, and three members of the school board, and you’ll find a hornet’s nest of backscratching and backstabbing going back to the Ed Lee administration. Of course, we could go further back than that. We could go to the Willie Brown administration – remember Chris Daly? Remember the boxes of ballots found in the Bay after Brown creamed the insurgent Tom Ammiano in his reelection bid? But we won’t go there because things are confusing enough already.

In January 2012, Ross Mirikarimi, the elected sheriff of San Francisco, was charged with domestic violence after a neighbor secretly taped his wife, Eliana Lopez, telling her that Mirikarimi had violently grabbed her arm. Mayor Ed Lee demanded that Mirikarimi resign, and when he didn’t, suspended him and appointed a replacement. Lee was at that time in his first elected term. He had been appointed to replace Gavin Newsom (more on him later) who had become lieutenant governor of california. Lee was trying to put his political team together, and Mirikarimi was not an ally. As a city Supervisor, Mirikarimi had voted against the “Sit-Lie” law and other anti-homeless, anti-poor legislation favored by Lee and his friend, then-district attorney George Gascón (now rebranded as the “progressive prosecutor” of LA County). As sheriff, Mirikarimi wanted to focus on alternatives to incarceration and programs that would help combat recidivism and reduce the jail population. As a city supervisor, he had proposed an ordinance to provide reparations to residents who had been displaced by the demolition of the Fillmore, two-thirds of whom were African American.

Mirikarimi won a legal challenge to the suspension and in October the board of supervisors voted to let him keep his job. In early November, a series of attack ads targeted supervisor Christina Olague for her vote in support of Mirikarimi. Olague, the city’s first openly bisexual supervisor, was a long-time civil rights activist from a farmworker family, whom I first met when she was a student organizer opposing u.s. intervention in Central America in the 1980s. She went on to work with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and the queer youth organization, LYRIC. The late-formed committee to defeat Olague was funded by tech billionaire Ron Conway, a major supporter of Ed Lee, and led by a political strategist named Andrea Shorter. Shorter, who had previously been the director of Marriage for All and had worked for Larkin Street Youth Center, Equality California, served on the Commission on the Status of Women and recruited “domestic violence advocates” (don’t blame me – that’s what CBS called them) to attack Olague for her vote. Olague lost the seat to London Breed, who became a close ally of Lee’s and was appointed to succeed him as mayor when he died suddenly in 2017.

Shorter was then investigated by the Ethics Commission for failing to disclose information about her employers while she served on the Commission for the Status of Women. She was eventually fined $800. Who made the complaint? The articles don’t say, but SFGATE does mention that “The dustup comes after a period of fresh tension between the progressive and moderate factions of the local Democratic Party – including the unsuccessful effort to oust progressive Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and the defeat in November of progressive supervisor Olague. Shorter played an active role for the moderates in both and has been involved in exploring a recall of Mirkarimi…”

Andrea Shorter contemplating a recall. Put a pin in that.

Breed was reelected mayor in 2018, defeating the more progressive supervisor Jane Kim, with major support from – drumroll please – Ron Conway. According to investigative journalist Tim Redmond, Conway wrote emails “tell[ing] donors how to get around campaign finance rules to support Breed. He also urged them to give to SF YIMBY Action, the faux affordable housing organization that agitates for building building building on the theory that more luxury housing will “trickle down” to somehow create affordable housing in gentrifying cities. YIMBY is kind of neoliberalism in a bottle. Calling itself “a network of people who advocate for abundant, affordable housing and inclusive, sustainable communities across the United States,” it uses progressive language like “equity” and “climate crisis,” and accuses its opponents of being “privileged.” The YIMBYs’ best friend in Sacramento is gay former SF supervisor, now state senator, Scott Wiener.

Total Recall

This brings us to today, when London Breed and Scott Wiener are the highest profile supporters of a campaign to recall three of the seven members of the San Francisco school board. The other four board members would be facing recall too, except they hadn’t been in office long enough when the petition was filed – you get a six month grace period before you can be recalled. Call it a fighting chance. The recall was launched by a couple, Autumn Looijen and Silva Raj, and has gotten big funding from six local venture capitalists as well as, sadly, the Chinese American Democratic Club. The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Demo Club is also supporting the recall of two of the three members.

The ostensible reason for the recall is that the school board didn’t do enough to get students back into in-person learning fast enough. Some say the reason they didn’t was because they couldn’t do anything to improve the ventilation in buildings that have been in terrible shape for years, and the teacher’s union was legitimately refusing to go back until it was safe. That would make the recall part of the ongoing efforts to undermine teachers’ unions and privatize education. Like the YIMBYs, the recall promoters couch their arguments in terms of “equity,” saying on their website, “Our most disadvantaged kids fell farthest behind.” They are upset that the board spent a great deal of time deciding to rename 44 schools named for colonizers or other racist figures (including u.s. presidents). They harken back to the debate over how to deal with a mural at Washington (soon to be renamed London Breed High?) high school, that was painted in the 1930s by a white leftist artist in an attempt to depict the racist history of the school’s namesake. Some students wanted the mural removed, while some artists and activists felt that it should be put in more context. All of this is framed by the decision, in the middle of the pandemic and as other school districts were looking at similar issues, to open the elite Lowell High School to all students by lottery. Currently, Lowell (on the list to be renamed) is 57% Asian, 18% white, 11.5% Latinx, 10.8% mixed race and only 1.8% African American.

The SF recall is one of more than 200 aimed at California school board members since 2020, part of a nationwide avalanche of recall campaigns. (By contrast, in 2011 17 school board members were recalled nationwide.) Most of the recent recalls were opposing COVID safety measures (masks, vaccinations, closures) and any effort to redress or teach about racism. According to u.s. news and world report, “Recall efforts – nearly two-thirds of which were rooted in pandemic-related issues – were started this year in a wide swath of states…The Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas [in July] hosted a panel discussion entitled ‘Activism Applied: How to Save Your School Board.’ The panelists decried critical race theory, which one of the group, Chinese-born Virginia parent Xi Van Fleet, compared to the Maoist Cultural Revolution.… ‘We’re going to take our army of “Minute Moms,” and we’re going to go across the country and fight these battles,’ Ian Prior, founder of the group Fight for Schools, said.” According to someone who studies recall elections, a school board recall that makes it to the ballot is 75-80% likely to succeed. Polls so far show 69% of SF parents saying they’re in favor of the recall.

Chesa Boudin, whose father, David Gilbert, has just been released from prison after 40 years, had been district attorney of San Francisco for just over a year when the first of two recall petitions against him was filed. That effort was led by republikkkan former mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg, who was also promoting the recall of governor Gavin Newsom, allegedly because of draconian COVID measures and going to a party at the French Laundry. Greenberg’s campaign against Chesa received major funding from David Sacks, former COO of PayPal, who is now one of the largest donors so far to the school board recall. The first recall campaign fell just short of the required 51,000 signatures needed to proceed, but by then a second campaign was already underway. This one was organized by Mary Jung and – wait for it — Andrea Shorter, operating under a group called San Franciscans for Public Safety.

Mary Jung is also a member of the Commission on the Status of Women (oh, bourgeois feminism, what has happened to you?), and a former chair of the SF “Democratic Party.” And she’s a lobbyist for the real estate industry.

Shorter and Jung and Co. easily got all the signatures they needed to get the recall on ballot for February, and by August, had assembled a war chest of over $720,000, about half of it from trump-affiliated republikkkan sources. But some of the donors are prominent demokrats, who actually contributed significantly to defeat the Newsom recall. And incidentally, one of the groups that got money donated for the recall is the Edwin Lee Asian Pacific Democratic Club.

The first “Recall Chesa” TV ad was released a few weeks ago. It features six people, at least four of whom are BIPOC. Among them are Shorter and Jung. Shorter is identified as a spokesperson for “Safer SF Without Boudin.” Jung says that “Chesa’s failure has resulted in an increase in crime against Asian Americans.” Problem: neither of them is identified as working for the recall campaign. Shorter is, apparently, being paid $16,000 a month as a spokesperson for the campaign while Jung is its treasurer. Under federal campaign law, says the website 48hills, that’s supposed to be disclosed. Remember that $800 fine Andrea Shorter paid for failing to discloser her employers? Apparently it wasn’t a deterrent. Maybe Chesa should have imposed harsher penalties for corruption. Yes, I realize that was in 2013. Which is kinda the point.

Chesa has been held responsible for any uptick in crime in the city since he announced his candidacy. A month before the election in 2019, the SF Examiner reported that the SF Police Officers’ Association (POA) had spent about $638,000 on ads attacking Boudin. “The SFPOA is now the biggest outside spender in a race that has become the most expensive contest of its kind in San Francisco history, according to political consultant Jon Golinger.” Using his record as a public defender and his opposition to “gang enhancements,” increased sentences based on affiliations, the POA called him the “best choice for gang members and criminals.” No one was surprised when they started making huge noise about any crime that happened on his watch.

The Real Crime Is Capitalism

The Recall Chesa advocates say, predictably, that crime rates, especially violent crimes, have exploded under Boudin, that he’s given free reign to murderers and rapists by eliminating cash bail and undercharging. In fact, data found by reporters for that famously radical rag, the SF Chronicle and other news outlets indicates that overall crime has stayed about the same since 2019, ticking up in predictable ways, given the social upheaval caused by the pandemic. Homicides went up at the end of 2020 (as they did nationally) but have leveled out again. And in fact, the increase in homicides in San Francisco was significantly lower than those in New York, Atlanta, Seattle and Minneapolis – none of which have progressive prosecutors.

Burglaries in San Francisco are sky-high, especially auto and commercial burglaries, and no one knows exactly why, but it’s not because of Boudin: only about 13% of commercial burglaries and less than 2% of car burglaries are “solved” by the cops. He charges about 80% of the ones that come to him. Overall, 48hills and the Chronicle found that his office is charging as many or more cases as Nancy O’Malley, the decidedly-not-progressive D.A. in Alameda County (where Oakland and Berkeley are located) and roughly equal to his predecessor’s rate. Sexual assault prosecutions are up by 25% since he took office – what about that, Status of Women commissioners? The uproar over car break-ins is kind of hilarious to me, because ten years ago, when my car was broken into two days in a row in Oakland, I discovered that the OPD won’t even take a report on car break-ins – there’s an online form you can fill out for your insurance company.

Ultimately, it’s never been about crime, but about who “feels” safe or unsafe, and who we think has the right to be safe. And you don’t need me to tell you who that is. Ironically, one of the biggest successful recall campaigns prior to the last two years was in 1959, when a group called STOP organized to recall three segregationist members of the Little Rock, Arkansas school board, who had spearheaded a purge of 44 teachers who supported integration. That may have been the last time a recall went for the anti-racist side. These days, recall is the latest weapon in the arsenal of those who want to maintain white supremacy and patriarchy through minority rule.

The Loooooong Story

The New York Times recently ran a series of articles about right-wing moves to take over school boards, using Critical Race Theory to stoke fear and build furor among the trump-minded. While the Times called this a brand new tactic born of the pandemic, it’s actually a continuation of a strategy cooked up in the late 1970s by the Christian Right, based on the work of someone named R. J. Rushdoony, who “called for the establishment of a theocracy within the United States based on biblical law.” Enflamed by the Roe v. Wade decision establishing the right to abortion, and the increase in gay visibility after Stonewall, the Christian fundamentalists developed a theory they called, disturbingly, “Christian Reconstruction.” One of the top political tactics was taking over school boards, called by researcher Frederick Clarkson, “the stealth strategy.” Groups like the Christian Coalition and the Citizens for Excellence in Education gave workshops and funded candidates to take over local school boards in order to prevent sex education or positive teaching about homosexuality and to promote school prayer. The “stealth” part was that they didn’t talk about those issues in their campaigns, but rather were encouraged to “run on vague platforms, such as teaching ‘the basics’ and restoring student discipline.” They were extremely successful.

One part of the strategy was for school boards and other activists to attack textbook content guidelines as too left-wing (they weren’t). In 1979, Texas activists managed to persuade the State Board of Education to adopt guidelines which specified: “Textbooks shall present positive aspects of America and its heritage; they shall not contain material which serves to undermine authority; the amount of violent content should be limited; content shall not present lifestyles deviating from generally accepted standards of society.” The textbook companies didn’t want to, or felt they couldn’t afford to, produce one set of books for Texas and another for the rest of the country, so Texas activists got to control the books for all public school kids in the nation, and that’s been true since 1977.

Back to 2021, the newly formed 1776 Project PAC, a direct response to the groundbreaking historical work of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project, is “dedicated to electing school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history.” When you go to its website, the first thing you see is a popup asking you to “Report a School Promoting Critical Race Theory.”

The right wing knows that they are not the majority. But they do have, or have access to, the majority of the money, and with that, they can buy opportunities to control elections. One of the ways they do that is by controlling the timing of elections, and recalls are a great way to do that. Both the San Francisco recalls will be special elections, and most of the ballots cast will be mail-ins. The lower the turnout, the more it favors the energized base. In San Francisco, recall petitions must be signed by at least “15% or 20%” of the registered voters in the city or district (depending if it’s a city-wide position or representing a specific district) – I couldn’t find anything explaining when it’s 15% and when it’s 20%, but at least it’s a significant percentage. In some states, the requirement is 15% of those who actually voted for the position in the last election. A low-turnout election thus begets an even lower-threshold recall.

photo of Kshama

Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, the first socialist elected to a major city council in close to a century (and the first Seattle socialist elected to a city-wide position since Anna Louise Strong won a school board seat in 1916), seems to have narrowly survived a recall vote last week (as of this writing, she leads by just 200 votes out of a total of over 40,500). Assuming that she would be more likely to win if the recall were on the regular November ballot, Sawant made the unusual move of offering to gather recall signatures herself. The county said she could but that the petitions she and her supporters collected had to be turned over to the recall campaign for verification.

Recalls are just like redistricting, which is now being done in frenzied state houses all over the country, and the voter suppression legislation that has been enacted in 19 states in the last year. They’re like the January insurrection and the attempts to get the election decertified by congress. They’re also like the continued lawsuits against Rabab Abdulhadi and the Arab & Muslim Identities in Diaspora Studies program at San Francisco State – every time one gets throw out, they just file a new one. If you don’t like the outcome, you get a do-over. Keep people fighting all the time just to stay afloat.

pie chart of recall efforts

It’s all part of the drive for the few – the right, the rich, the white – to maintain power over the many. But it’s not a done deal. The Brennan Center for Justice points out that while the onslaught of anti-democratic (that’s a small “d”, in case you’re wondering) legislation is “unprecedented,” 25 states have passed laws expanding voting rights, through longer early voting periods, increased access to mail in ballots, language accessibility, improved disabled access and more. It’s as usual up to us to do the work. Fight for every vote. Don’t give up. If you believe that elections are a waste of time and we need a revolution, hurry up and make it already!

Finally A Change

My name is Michelle, I’m a well-known transgender advocate who worked with the TransLatin Coalition and I’m part of the leadership team with TGIJP.  I’ve been incarcerated with the past 16 years and I have started 3 groups in the CDRC and just recently helped work on SB-132 that was recently signed into law by Governor Newsom.

As far as the groups; one was TALS (Transgender & Alternative Life Style) and the other was CAGE (Cultural Awareness Gender Education) that my friend Kelo started. I met Ms. Michae’ Pulido from the TransLatin Coaliton at a Transgender Fair. It was truly amazing because we both were in contact with Kelly Lou at TGIJP. We worked together on SB-132 and today our bond is still ever growing.

Working on Senate Bill 132 was truly a great experience for me and it was an extraordinary journey. So with the bill now part of law, I only ask that transgender women who do truly want to be the women they seek to be, take going to a women’s prison seriously. This is the greatest opportunity we will have in prison and it gives us a more safe and healthy way to live as the gender we are! Plus, we had some spectacular people working together to bring an historical change within our community that I truly appreciate and thank from the bottom of my heart to the depths of my soul.

I am currently making plans to make my transition to the women’s prison and I’m planning to keep you updated on my journey and I look forward to many more things I can be a part of or start. One of my next projects is to find a way to be a mentor to youths in the LGBTQ community so I can help make a change in society. I also have one other person to thank for their tireless and extraordinary work and that is Lisa Strawn. Thank you for being the person you are and continue the fight, Girl. Enjoy your freedom to be yourself. Thank you UltraViolet. I can use your newsletter as a reference for teaching and learning.

“…Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change our world…” Michelle Kailani. Calvin #V-67229, Mule Creek S.P./FAB4-215-L, PO Box 409020, Ione CA 95640

Leaving Prison

by Lisa Strawn

[ed. Note. Lisa Strawn was granted parole in May, due to be released in September.  Luckily she got out July 17th and was sent to a motel in Southern California.  After a lot of arguing on her part, she was allowed to serve the rest of her parole in the Bay Area.] Leaving prison after 25 years I had a lot of emotions. I was happy to leave and with getting Covid19 at san quentin made it easier. But I had to leave the love of my life of 2 years. That wasn’t good and I still am dealing with it. There have been some difficult times in the almost 2 months of being out.  People I was suppose  to trust, lost me 4 times. But I did not panic and kept it together while being on quarantine by myself in a hotel for 8 days. Two men showed up at my door because a transperson had told them I needed help.  Thomi  Clinton sent Robert and Mike to my room with a phone and $60. From that day I knew there were good people out here and I would be okay. And now I am the first transwoman to be at a program for Women.  I am putting a lot of information together so for the next transwoman comes here it will be easier. On a personal note I have a job and will be having gender affirming surgery in October. Believe me I have worked very hard to make things happen for me. NOTHING has been handed to me. But with the help with others including CDCR headquarters and the loves of my life at Ultra Violet, I am very humble and happy to say I am free and a part of society. Please know everyone inside there is help out here for the trans and LGBTQ  gender fluid people. Remember that.

Written From San Quentin 7/4/20. As you know we have a severe outbreak. As of today the number of Covid people here is up to 1,500 and 4 deaths. Because I am a writer, I am giving you firsthand accounts of everything that has happened and continues at the present.

A month ago we had no Covid 19 cases. There were only a few suspected who were being monitored. Those being monitored were moved from their housing units to lock up units. Since I work on the 4th floor hospital, I have accurate accounts. Now all inmates were given a mask here but the staff was not required to wear them at the time. Before that bus came with those who were sick, there was 6 staff who had Covid 19. Two returned after they were well but still were not wearing a mask. By this time, it was mandatory for the staff. 

Once the bus came then everything changed. They were put in South Block and the spread began. I heard from a source, when they got here they were not evaluated. There were inmates moved out of South Block and put in the main line in West North and H units. Those inmates were not from the bus, they were just housed in South Block, waiting for a bed or a transfer. There were inmates who had Covid from the bus who were moved from South Block to the Adjustment Center (AC). Some of them were taken out, to the 3rd floor hospital lab. The lab was contaminated and the hall had to be cleaned by inmate workers. So that shouldn’t have happened. The people in the lab should of went to the unit because that is how lab has been done for North, West, East and South, H and the gym.  Nobody goes to the lab. I again was getting daily updates of people getting Covid.

The numbers began to rise and there had been ’man down’ alarms all day in the units. Some who were sick were sent to outside [hospitals] and some moved to Carson, Alpine and Badger in South Block. During this time there was a modified yard schedule of West and North Block. But also Alpine Covid people were going outside. We all had separate days, but the Alpine people should of never been out in the yard. Again the number of positives began to rise. On June 16th, I took the Covid test with a bunch of other workers. The test came back negative. People were still going ‘man down’ in the units and the number of staff with Covid was rising. 

On June 22nd the entire North Block was tested – that is over 800 people. When I got the first test we had to tell the staff to change their gloves between tests. So we all got tested, people were getting sicker and there were more ‘man downs’. As many as 10 a day. As the test results started coming back there were names being called out every day. Then on June 27th, an officer was going door to door giving the news who was positive. He stopped at my door and told my other half cellie that he was positive. Of course I tried to keep it together. He was in total disbelief. He thought because he had no symptoms and weighed 207 pounds, he couldn’t get it. I wasn’t told anything about my [2nd] test, but figured I had it because for that week, I had no sense of smell or taste and still don’t today. As the hours passed I became more upset as I watched my other half pack his stuff. We were both very upset and crying. It’s hard to see someone you love, cry. I did the best I could to tell him he would be okay and he would return in a couple of weeks. I kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him.

My doctor came and told me I tested positive. Even tho I feel okay, this has been the worst hell for me in the 25 years I have in. I am scared, I am scared for my other half and I am scared for all here. I’m supposed to be preparing back to a world I haven’t seen since 1994 and now I have to deal with the stress of having Covid. On top of all this, unless it is Covid related, medical staff is not seeing anyone about anything. I am not getting my hormone shot, I haven’t had one since June 9th. I’ve put in several requests with no response.

I truly believe that Covid was here before the bus came because of the staff who had it already. The 4 men who died on death row had no contact with other prisoners. So they only could of got it from the staff. Maybe on purpose. Who knows?

Those with Covid who were sent to Badger are on a hunger strike, including my other half, because the cells are filthy, some toilets don’t flush and the cells don’t have power.

I’m staying busy and writing a lot and getting rest. This time should have been spent with my other half before I go out of here in September. But this is almost over and I am looking forward to a new life. I am glad that I changed my life and that UltraViolet had a big impact on my life to change. I will always be grateful to UV and I am excited to get out. Sad to leave my other half behind. It’s going to be hard to adjust after loving him for 2 years.

I hope you continue to be safe and tell everyone I said hi and I am looking forward to being out and seeing all at UV.  Thank you for the love, Lisa

COVID-19: Paranoid Thoughts and Other Enlightenments

by Deeg

Thanks to Bob Woodward there are now recordings proving that trump knew that COVID-19 was dangerous, spreading, and killing people back in March when he was saying it wasn’t much and would go away. He knew that young people got the serious disease when he said that they weren’t at risk. By the way, he also thinks, or doesn’t think, that there is systemic racism. What would we have done without Mr. Woodward’s recently published book Rage, which will be available on September 15, for about $18 online or at your local independent bookstore.

SARS-CoV-2 is a virus. COVID-19 is a disaster created by this capitalist, racist system we live in.

Over 10 percent of the California prison population has contracted the disease (almost 2/3 of the San Quentin population). A study published by the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project found that from March 31 to June 6 there had been 42,107 cases of COVID-19 and 510 deaths among 1,295,285 incarcerated individuals, with a case rate of 3251 per 100 000, 5.5 times greater than the general population.

COVID/prison graphic

Until late spring, ICE (immigration and customs enforcement) refused to release data about COVID cases among people being held in its cages, warehouses, private prisons, and camps. On August 3, the International Rescue Committee reported that over 20 percent of the people who were voluntarily tested at ICE facilities tested positive, but that the test positivity rate may be as high as 80 percent in some facilities. By August, ICE had conducted 450 deportation flights this year to Mexico and 14 other countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Eleven countries confirmed that people infected with COVID had been on those flights. The IRC concluded that these flights have contributed to big increases in cases in these countries, for example El Salvador (0 to 14,000) and Guatemala (1 to over 40,000).

COVID-19 was already recognized in China before January 1, although governments paid little attention. One Chinese physician, Li Wenliang, who wrote about it to colleagues was reprimanded. He died from COVID in February. By the end of January cases had been diagnosed in other countries, including the u.s. (some in California). The CDC issued its first guidance about COVID-19, following a model developed for pandemic flu, recommending all transmission-based precautions, such as placement of patients in airborne infection isolation rooms and the use of respirators (such as N95s) by health care workers. By the end of February, hospitals across the country were already pushing back against CDC recommendations. As with H1N1 in 2009, the hospitals had not prepared for a surge of cases.

On March 1, the first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported in New York State. That week, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Health reached out to local health departments around the country to get them to join in a letter to pressure the CDC to lower protection for health care workers, saying that respirators were unnecessary, the disease is not spread by aerosols. Then COVID-19 exploded in New York, and by March 31, over 1000 people in NYC had died. With much fanfare, a u.s. navy hospital ship was sent to NYC but initially refused to treat COVID patients. Eventually they divided the ship between COVID and non-COVID, and during the month they were in NYC, treated 182 patients in this ship with a 1000 bed capacity. The hospital ship sent to LA at the same time stayed for seven weeks, treating a total of 77 patients. Several crew members contracted COVID.

As the story moved from cruise ships to nursing homes, to meat packing plants, manufacturing and construction, it became clear that the u.s. was completely unprepared and apparently unwilling to try to control the epidemic and save lives. Workers at hospitals and nursing homes were denied, or unable to get, personal protective equipment, and the federal government did little to ease shortages. Stories eventually emerged of corruption and incompetence among the friends of jared kushner who had been chosen to build up the federal stockpile. In April, kushner said, “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile, it’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” (In fact that had been the purpose of the “strategic national stockpile” which during the previous decade had been specifically allocated to regions and states.)

There has been a lot of smoke in the air lately, but some of it started in January when health care industry “experts” denied that COVID-19 was spread by the inhalation of infectious aerosols, an opinion the world health organization endorsed as recently as July. The science, however, really isn’t in dispute. For example, in July, 240 aerosol scientists signed an open letter to WHO stating, “Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 m from an infected individual”

This means that workers exposed to patients with COVID-19 need to be protected against inhalation through using respirators, and patients should be placed in negative pressure rooms which prevents aerosols from traveling thought the facility. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough negative pressure rooms in California or in most other countries, for the enormous outbreaks. And somehow, nine months into this epidemic there still aren’t enough respirators. The defense production act has still not been invoked to require respirator manufacturers like 3M, to increase production. California issued $500 million in contracts to companies that had never before produced a single respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (NIOSH approval is required for u.s. workers). The first of these respirators were finally received by the California stockpile in July, after several previous batches had been rejected for not having met even minimum filtration criteria.  

Instead of producing more respirators, the u.s. government contracted with defense contractor batelle to set up facilities to “disinfect” N95 respirators, using high levels of hydrogen peroxide vapor in fumigation chambers. These respirators, intended for single use, are made of several layers of synthetic materials. Electrostatic charges build up between the layers and help to capture the particles. This method is defeated when the respirator becomes wet. The NIOSH approval of these respirators does not include any method of disinfection. Although the food and drug administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for this method, allowing up to 20 use/disinfection cycles for each respirator based on the manufacturer’s studies, independent studies have found decreased protection after 1-3 cycles. NIOSH has been mostly silent on the lack of respirator supply and alternatives to protect workers. NIOSH has never approved disinfection methods for filtering facepiece respirators, but has not disputed the EUA.

Are we all in this together?

In March, the white house COVID taskforce began its “we are all in this together” campaign.

We are not.

On September 5, the CDC published that African American and Latinx people are each at 4.7 times the risk of hospitalization from COVID 19 compared to white people. George Washington University’s Lisa Bowleg explained in a July editorial, We’re Not All in This Together, “The current presidential administration’s response to COVID-19 has unnecessarily exacerbated pain and suffering. But the pain and suffering have not been equally borne. COVID-19 reveals disproportionate risk and impact based on structured inequality at intersections of racial/ethnic minority status and class, as well as occupation. Many of the riskiest and most stressful frontline jobs now deemed essential offer low pay and are occupied by people at the most marginalized intersections: racial/ethnic minorities, women, and undocumented workers. These intersections contrast starkly with those of the predominantly White, middle-class, and rich people who hire, legislate, and direct the conditions under which the “essential”—or expendable, depending on your point of view—work and, in the COVID-19 era, live or die.”

Starting in late February in Washington State, and continuing around the country skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities had outbreaks affecting both staff and residents. In the period May through August it was estimated that 35-40 percent of u.s. COVID-19 deaths were related to nursing homes.

photo of Heroes Work Here banner

COVID-19 continues to ravage California prisons, where San Quentin made the news for over two months. So far, 2200 of the 3700 people incarcerated at the prison have been infected with COVID-19. According to the CDCR statistics there have also been over 2200 cases at Avenal with 351 new cases in the last 14 days. Large outbreaks are also currently occurring at Folsom State Prison and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility. Hundreds of incarcerated people have been infected at Chuckawalla Valley, the California Institution for Men, California Institution for Women, and many others. Of approximately 115,000 people incarcerated in california’s prisons, as of the beginning of September over 10 percent are recorded as testing positive. This doesn’t include the people who became sick prior to the testing program. (Of California’s almost 40,000,000 people, 757,000 have tested positive, a rate of 1.8 percent.) Twenty-six incarcerated individuals have died of COVID at San Quentin and 21 at the California Institution for Men, a total of 59 in the system, according to CDCR records. Nine employees at the prisons have also died.

There has been a critical lack of information regarding occupational risk, even regarding actual case counts and deaths among healthcare workers. A study published earlier this year found that of the 315,000 COVID cases reported to the CDC through April 9, only 16 percent indicated whether the person was a health care worker. The CDC later reported that through the end of July, almost 120,000 health care workers had been infected and at least 587 had died. As with the April report, this is considered to be a drastic underestimate, given that 84% of reports did not include occupation.

Heroes Work Here

These days, it seems like every hospital and long term care facility has a banner or sign proclaiming “Heroes Work Here.” This idea of not providing health care workers with the safety equipment they need, while calling them heroes as they get sick, and in some cases die, actually goes back to 2003 SARS in Toronto. In that situation as well, the managers denied health care workers respirators, and didn’t use airborne infection isolation rooms.

Under the California Stay at Home Order workers in thirteen industry sectors considered “critical infrastructure” were not required to, or in many cases even permitted to, stay at home. These industries included health care, agriculture and food processing, transportation, waste and waste water treatment, etc.

Black and Latinx workers are much more likely to work in “essential industries,” where there are many reports of COVID infection clusters and deaths. In the beginning of September, the local health department ordered a Foster Farms chicken processing facility in Lancaster CA to shut down some of its operations after 392 positive tests and eight reported COVID deaths out of 1400 workers at the plant.  The next day some areas of the plant were back in operation. On June 25, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union reported that nationwide 238 of its members in grocery, meatpacking, food processing and health care — had died from COVID-19 and about 29,000 had been infected or exposed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Many factors increase the risk to workers in certain industries. Workers in agriculture are often transported to jobs in crowded trucks or busses by farm labor contractors, and may sleep in crowded “labor camps” or “employer provided housing,” which often lack even sufficient plumbing. Many seasonal farm workers are on H2A visas which require the employer to provide housing, which is often several people crowded into each room in what were formerly substandard motels.

OSHA and the OSHA state plans like Cal/OSHA have been extremely slow to protect workers. This despite Cal/OSHA having a regulation in place for over 10 years that applies to health care facilities and prisons, and requires specific control measures for novel diseases such as COVID-19.  The federal OSHA data base shows 2000 complaints received by Cal/OSHA and considered valid since March. (This does not include fatalities and hospitalizations which are reported separately). But it wasn’t until September 4, that Cal/OSHA finally announced that it has issued its first citations for COVID-19 hazards, to 11 employers. One was in health care.

Months ago, unions petitioned federal OSHA to adopt an emergency regulation to protect workers from COVID-19. This petition was turned down. California regulations are adopted by the occupational safety and health standard board who will finally consider a petition for an emergency regulation on September 17. Because there is already a regulation in place, although not being enforced, for health care, prisons, and certain other environments, this emergency regulation will likely apply in agriculture, food processing and other “essential” industries, as well as workplaces in general.

The Economic Crisis

Estimates are that less than 1/3 of workers can work from home. The federal $600 per week unemployment supplement has ended, and a smaller more restricted $300 per week may be made available through the states. At the beginning of August, over a million unemployed workers in California were still waiting for any unemployment check.

A national estimate at the end of July was that over 12 million people, 40 percent of renters in the u.s., will be at risk of eviction by the end of the year. On September 1, gov. newsom signed AB 3088, a limited extension of the eviction moratorium that had been included in his initial executive orders. This moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment of rent until February, so long as a tenant pays twenty five percent of the rent. The landlord can still try to collect unpaid rents from earlier in the year. Without the law, the Aspen institute estimated that 4 million Californians were at risk of eviction.

According to the u.s. census bureau, as of late July, 12.1% of adults lived in households that didn’t have enough to eat at some point in the previous week, which is an increase from 9.8% in early May. Almost 20% of Americans with children living at home couldn’t afford to give their children enough food, an increase from almost 17% in the beginning of June.

Of course, the stock market has recovered. Pharmaceutical companies are prospering. Hospitals have laid off staff because of the decrease in revenue due to canceling of elective procedures, but are doing well financially, particularly since they don’t have to buy respirators or safety equipment. Dentists, who successfully pressured the CDC to reduce infection control recommendations, really want you to come in for a cleaning, or hopefully some more expensive procedure. Root canal, anyone?

The national government has given industry everything they could ask for. The American hospital association, and the professional associations who front for them, set policy for the CDC. They continue to push laws that would prevent people from suing businesses for COVID exposures.

In California, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GOBIZ) is the lead agency for COVID-19 guidance and recommendations, with or without consultation with public or occupational health. Oh, and remember when newsom took office and proclaimed a moratorium on executions? Well, he has now allowed COVID to kill 13 people on death row, a number equal to all the executions carried out since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.

Paranoia?

It is easy to believe pretty much any conspiracy theory involving trump & co. Maybe they created or spread a virus developed as a bio-weapon to use on China. Maybe they hoped the “boomer-doomer” virus would lower corporate pension obligations and let them steal more money from social security and medicare. Maybe they intentionally allowed the crisis to grow in order to disrupt the elections, and legitimize a coup, which according to many people interviewed on KPFA has already occurred. Maybe you are paranoid.

Or maybe you think, like Ann Fagin Ginger said after the passage of the Patriot Act, that the right wing always has programs in the drawer that they are ready to pull out whenever some crisis presents an opportunity, such as the 9-11 attacks. Or a novel virus.

Chelsea Manning Still in Prison

Chelsea Manning is still incarcerated in Virginia, at the direction of a federal judge, for her failure to testify at a second grand jury investigating wikileaks and Julian Assange.

Chelsea, was originally charged in 2010 with various military violations for leaking information about the u.s. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. During her initial incarceration at Qantico, the harsh and inhumane conditions were so extreme that at her ultimate sentencing, the military court reduced her 35-year sentence by 112 days. During her incarceration, Chelsea fought for her right, and the rights of all incarcerated people, to gender appropriate treatment and care. On January 17, 2017, obama commuted her sentence to an additional 4 months, and she was released on May 17.

However, in February 2019, Chelsea was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating wikileaks and Assange. She refused to testify, and on International Women’s Day, March 8, was held in contempt, and ordered to be incarcerated until she complied. She was released on May 9, when the grand jury expired. On May 16, she was ordered to appear before a new grand jury investigating Assange, and she was incarcerated again, this time for 18 months. In addition, she is being fined $1000/day, so that when released, she will owe the government over $400,000. As her twitter feed explained on new years eve, she will have been incarcerated for over 77% of her life in the past 10 years.

On December 30, 2019, Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur, released a letter, which accused the u.s. government of “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The letter called for her release and cancellation or reimbursement of fines.

Judy Clark’s Out!

photo of Judy Clark

Judy Clark was paroled in April and got out of prison May 10th after 38 years. The parole board cited her advanced age (only 69 but who’s counting), the many years she has served in jail, her good institutional record and the numerous actions she has taken through the years as factors in the decision. Judy was originally convicted of murder connected to the 1981 robbery of a Brinks truck in Nyack NY.  She was sentenced to 75 years to life but governor Cuomo commuted her sentence in 2016, making her eligible for parole.

Judy was very active when she was in prison.  At Bedford Hill S.P. in New York, she helped create one of the first AIDs counseling programs for women in prison.  It became a model for other prisons around the country. In the 1990’s she was part of a successful campaign by inmates to open a play area in the visiting room to make it easier for women to connect with their children.  In addition, Judy has trained service dogs (some for law enforcement) and taught various educational classes including prenatal care to other women inside. Over 2000 people, including former inmates and prison staff wrote letters in support of her parole.

Welcome home, Judy.  It’s about time.

Immigration Shorts

Communities organize to get queers out of detention centers

LGBTQ immigrants, including caravanistas, are being mistreated, misclassified, and denied asylum by ice, despite Obama-era policies. The HRC reported that in 2018, of the 298 trans people currently imprisoned by ice, 13 percent were in solitary confinement. Although there is a “pod” dedicated to trans women in Cibola County New Mexico, most trans women are held in all-male prisons.

Locally and nationally queer and trans people are organizing to get our people out of detention and into our communities. Groups of friends, community organizations and congregations are organizing to sponsor people out of detention, and in some cases face a lot of resistance from ice. People from QUIT! and our friends are trying to sponsor a couple of lesbians to come to the Bay Area.

On March 13 the SF Interfaith Council
http://www.sfinterfaithcouncil.org/ held a community informational meeting sponsored by  Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria y Santa Marta. Ministerio Latino (Plymouth UCC), St. John’s Presbyterian Church, St. Agnes Catholic Church, Pine United Methodist Church, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Or Shalom Jewish Community, and the Marin Interfaith Council.

Family Separations Continue

In February, the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) https://texascivilrightsproject.org/ released a report based on interviews of asylum seekers and migrant parents at the southern border in the six-month period following the June executive order that supposedly ended the practice of family separations. TCRP screened nearly 10,000 migrants and asylum seekers at or near McAllen TX   who were being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry. 272 of them had been separated from a child family member, including 38 parents or legal guardians. The separations of those 38 adults affected 46 children, 25 who were younger than 10, including an 8-1/2 month old infant. As of the release of the report, the government had not reported these children to the courts or congress. The rest of the 272 were siblings or other relatives accompanying children.

In January the office of the inspector general for u.s. health and human services reported that thousands of children may have been taken from relatives and turned over to the office of refugee resettlement (ORR), prior to the announcement in 2018 of the “zero tolerance policy.” In February 2019, Jallyn Sualog, deputy director of ORR, stated to the court that it might not be possible to track down the children, whose numbers could be thousands more than the official estimate. On March 8, Dana Sabraw, the federal judge who has been overseeing the reunification of families, expanded the class covered by his order to all migrant families separated between July 1, 2017, and June 25, 2018. During that time, 47,083 children were handed over to ORR.

Asylum Seekers in 9th Circuit win right to court hearing

On March 7 the 9th circuit court of appeals ruled that immigrants whose asylum claims were denied by ICE and an immigration judge have the right to appeal in federal court. This decision overturns policies based on a 1996 law limiting appeals rights. The district court judge had refused to consider the case, which involved a Tamil immigrant from Sri Lanka.  The Southern California ACLU took the case to appeal. The decision of the court was that constitutional protections (habeas corpus guarantees) apply to asylum seekers, and that therefore they can seek a hearing in federal court before being “summarily deported.” This decision protects people in the 9th circuit area, which includes nine western states and Guam.  But it conflicts with a decision in the 3rd circuit, so will likely end up in the supreme kkkourt.

Banks Divest from Private Prisons, amazon stays with ice

Three quarters of immigrants in detention are held in private prisons, primariy operated by coreCivic (formerly corrections corporation of america) and geo group. Several big banks provided over $2 billion last year in financing to these corporations. After over a year of protests, some at the home of jp morgan chase CEO jamie dimon, jpmorgan announced that they would stop financing these prisons. According to Slate both wells fargo and u.s. bank are also divesting, but not bank of amerikkka. Meanwhile, amazon, which the MIT Technology Review called “the invisible backbone behind ICE’s immigration crackdown,” continues to work with ice on programs such as facial recognition, despite many protests.

No Mail No Way

by Julie

On August 29, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections (PADOC) locked down all the state prisons.  12 days later, the lockdown ended and a new terribly restrictive mail policy was instituted.  As part of a $15 million “security” plan, $4 million is going to Smart Communications, a Florida company started in 2009. All mail is to be sent directly to an address in Florida. Smart Communications, using their 2017 improved virtual mailroom, “Mail Guard, will scan and digitally forward all non-legal letters, photos or drawings. Prisoners will receive only a printout.  Since the new policy began 3 months ago, there have been numerous complaints of missing pages, misdirected letters, long delays and illegible copies.  Photos are sometimes shrunk to fit 4 to a page and often converted from color to black and white. 

According to a recent survey of incarcerated people by the Vera institute for Justice, letters are used by 92% of prisoners to stay in touch with friends and family. Many studies have shown that maintaining supportive relationships with the outside world hugely helps a person when they are released.  For many, the thought that their correspondence will be stored in a searchable database is a deterrent to even writing a letter. Discouraging written communications in any way is harmful and despicable.

The “rationale” for the new policies is a supposed series of incidents where guards got sick after exposure to drugs called synthetic cannabinoids, K2. In interviews in two Philadelphia newspapers, several medical toxicology experts have expressed their belief that it is unlikely that people were sickened by incidental exposure, arguing that more likely it was “mass psychogenic illness” – a sort of contagious anxiety response.  To quote S. Wilson, one of our prisoner subscribers in PA, “The real reason is to further monetize incarceration.” Yet another way for private companies to make money off of the prison system, actually off of prisoners themselves.

Legal mail (anything from a lawyer’s office) will be opened in front of the recipient and inspected.  The prisoner will then receive a copy.  The whole process will be videotaped and the recording kept by Smart Communications. The ACLU PA, PA Institutional Law Project and the Abolitionist Law Center first sent a letter in September to the PADOC strongly objecting to the new policy.  On October 30, they filed two lawsuits. “My greatest fear is that my legal mail will become the reading material of the superintendent or worse, my opponent,” said Leticia Chavez-Ford, a civil rights lawyer.  Ordinarily she sends out 60-70 letters to inmates every month. Other lawyers have said such fears have already led to weeks-long back logs in requests for legal phone calls.  At some prisons, officials are refusing to allow such calls unless a court date is imminent. 

Jones v Brown (3rd Cir.2006) states that policies that interfere with protected communications or strip those protected communications of their confidentiality, impinge upon the inmate’s right to freedom of speech.  The two current lawsuits also claim that the PADOC’s changes are unwarranted and unnecessary because there is no evidence that legal mail is a major source of illegal drugs. A lawyer at the ACLU-PA reported that the PADOC only presented two instances.

At first, the PADOC cut off all access to volunteer-run free book programs and limited prisoner ability to get books from publishers.  Instead they said they would provide access to E-Books, but the prisoner would have to buy a tablet and buy books from a DOC-approved vendor, GTL, and place their orders thru the PADOC.  After an onslaught of angry letters and phone calls, the DOC gave up that plan.  Books can again be sent by free-donation programs like Books thru Bars and “original sources” like publishers and bookstores. Thousands of books are sent into prisons every year by Books thru Bars, just one of several book programs.

As the new policy stands now, legal mail should still be sent to an individual prisoner’s own institution, books and magazines are sent c/o Security Processing Center, Inmate’s name and #, 268 Bricker Rd, Bellefonte PA 16823 and all other mail is sent c/o Smart Communication/PADOC, Inmate’s name, #, Institution, PO Box 33028, St. Petersburg FL 33733

Prison officials around the country have been trying to make similar laws.  This year, New York, Maryland and the Federal Bureau of Prisons all started new policies drastically restricting inmate book purchases.  They all quickly rescinded them in response to public pressure and threats of legal action.   In PA, there have been rallies and other protests against the new policy.  In December, a few groups organized letter writing campaigns, sending angry holiday cards to Governor Wolf (who completely supports the DOC) and Corrections Secretary Wetzel. One woman wrote, “I hope you get the touch and feel the originality of this card because my loved one won’t … [ever be able to].”

Write or call governor Wolf, 508 Main Capitol Bldg. Harrisburg PA 17120, 717-787-2500, govcorrespcrm@pa.gov and corrections secretary John Wetzel, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg PA 17050, 717-728-2573, ra-contactdoc@pa.gov  

178 copies of UltraViolet were sent to PA prisoners in September and all of them were returned.  We emailed a DOC official, who sent us new instructions for this issue. Several of you wrote us explaining the new policy and requesting a replacement which we sent at the beginning of December c/o Security Processing in Bellefonte as per instructions. If you get a chance, let us know if you’ve received any UltraViolets. Of course, if we get them back, we’ll know you didn’t and we’ll try to figure out why.

PA isn’t the only state to make it hard for prisoners to get mail, just the most egregious and the most public.  Some prisons only allow postcards, no letters. South Dakota, for instance just sent back all the newsletters we mailed to South Dakota State Prison in Sioux Falls because, all of a sudden, address labels aren’t allowed.  Last month, one of the State Prisons in Florida changed their address from a street # to a PO Box and then returned all the newsletters that had been sent, with no explanation.  Only a letter from an inmate subscriber alerted us to the change.  FL DOC also seems to move prisoners around a lot but doesn’t forward their mail.  Some of our subscribers have been moved 2-3 times a year.  Federal prisoners also are often moved to totally different states, also with unforwarded mail. Occasionally we get an UltraViolet back, officially censored for “violent words” or “support for a demonstration” or “inciting prisoners”.  It all seems so random.  Some mailroom person will return a newsletter with the new address, others will black out the addressee’s name and address so completely, we can’t tell who or where it came from. Often we hear from you about a missed newsletter that never even came back to us.  Where did it go?

We want to thank Mark T, Ms. Juicy Queen Bee, Stephen W, David B and Chris C who wrote to us this month about the destructive new policies in PA.  We greatly appreciate all the mail we receive from Inside (and outside tho that’s rarer). Please keep writing.

Voluntary Services First!

by Tory

Various nonprofit organizations, Senior and Disability Action, Coalition on Homelessness, The Mental Health Association are leading the push to stop the draconian implementation of SB 1045 in san francisco.  SB 1045, as was explained in the last UltraViolet, is a developer-backed bill allowing for three pilot california cities to expand conservatorship of people with both psychiatric disabilities and substance abuse issues.  It is a naked attempt to target houseless people and remove them from the streets.  

The san francisco board of stupervisors is rushing to implement this law, responding to pressure from the wealthy elite complaining about the “unsightly” homeless encampments, interfering with the ease of their relentless gentrification. The Voluntary Services First Coalition, as the name suggests, is pushing for actually providing services and housing as a way to solve this problem.  It is such a simple idea and apparently too complicated for city politicians: if  real housing, drug treatment on demand and accessible mental health services existed, homeless encampments would shrink!

The Voluntary Services First Coalition had its first public event on November 30 at the san francisco public library.  There was a panel discussion with a slide show about the bill and then a Q&A.  To the coalition’s surprise at least 100 or so people showed up; about two thirds were people involved in providing services in sf and a third people who might be impacted by the law.  Jennifer from The  Coalition on Homelessness showed a slide show which discussed the history of the marginalization of disabled people in california and san francisco. In 1867, san francisco was the first u.s. city to pass “ugly laws”, which made it illegal for people with visible disabilities to be seen in public.  california involuntarily sterilized more people than any other state.  There was also a good firsthand account by someone who had been incarcerated for having psychiatric problems.  Susan Minzer from the ACLU disability rights project talked about how SB1045 would significantly curb people’s civil rights.  The coalition distributed a survey giving people a chance to express their personal experiences.  People also gave revealing testimony during the Q&A both as impacted people and as providers struggling with inadequate resources.

The coalition has several differing world views in the approach to fighting this egregious plan.  Many sf nonprofit organizations have a long history of involvement with city hall and are adept at knowing who and how to talk to the city politicians.  To that end there have been a number of meetings with the board with less than hopeful outcomes. Mayor london breed has been using this law as a public relations stunt to prove she is doing something about those pesky homeless people plaguing her golden city. Board members, it would seem, are nervous about going against her.  Some people in the coalition feel we should be devising amendments to the legislation to mitigate the effects of the legislation.  The coalition has been participating in “stakeholder” meetings convened by the board of stupervisors.  LAGAI-Queer Insurrection, Gay Shame, Poor Magazine and others have urged fighting the implementation of the legislation altogether, calling for a grassroots movement led by impacted people. Having done some fliering and talking with people around the sf library, it is clear to me that houseless people are aware of this push to expand conservatorship and are very concerned about it.  By offering amendments and going to stakeholders’ meetings, some us feel that the coalition is legitimizing the legislation before a real movement opposing it has taken hold.

On December 19, Voluntary Services First will be doing an action in which they sing doctored xmas carols dressed up in grinch masks in the halls of city hall.  Along with the political caroling, people will march around the civic center and the library doing outreach about the issue.

The legislation will likely go to the board rules committee in early January. The coalition will put a call out for people to attend and raise hell.  Poor Magazine is working with impacted people to organize a demonstration.  There needs to be a bigger, more vociferous movement, one that puts impacted people front and center, one that insists on  comprehensive accessible services for mental illness and good housing for everyone.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Gay Shame graphic against conservatorship

The Horrors of Self-Surgery

Thank you so much for sending me UV. I gain so much knowledge from it. As I write this I am experiencing great pain which may be due to my attempts at Self Surgery a year ago. Medical did a UA, said there was no infection and referred my complaint to my therapist (a social worker). It has been over a month now that I have been going through this pain which is now worse than my attempts at a self-orchiectomy. I am shocked that I am being denied non-transition related medical care because I am a transgender woman! (This facility is openly anti-trans in practice) I did report this to my attorney. I am being represented by OutFront Minnesota (www.outfront.org).

Transsexual individuals historically have engaged in various forms of self-surgery or have enlisted the help of others to modify their anatomy when qualified professionals have refused to help. These actions are negatively labeled by health care professionals as “auto-castration”, “genital mutilation”, breast disfigurement” and/or “impulse control issues” to name a few. ‘Suicide’ may often be attributed when the attempt fails and the transgender individual dies.

Gender Affirming Self Surgery (GASS) is a term I have begun to apply after my own attempts at suicide and ‘auto-castration’. [This is] unlike the other terms which fail to indicate that the patient’s actions are not to harm or kill themselves. GASS acknowledges the patient’s actions are to correct our bodily ‘abnormalities’ and provide relief from our gender dysphoria. The purpose is to find comfort in our own skin.

When health care providers see themselves as gatekeepers to appropriate medical care, they open the door to dangerous, possible life-threatening, GASS and suicide. When the health care provider works with and advocates for their client in the direction of their transitional goals, affirming their gender identity at every level, we can put an end to the dangerous practice of Gender Affirming Self Surgery and reduce the number of deals in transgender youths and adults.

Kendra-Michelle Lovejoy PhD, 1111 Highway 73, Moose Lake MN 55767