Let’s Win This

I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the last three weekends knocking on doors for Senator Sander’s presidential campaign. During the week I phone bank.

I live a comfortable life. Many of the people I’ve spoken to, as a volunteer for this campaign, do not. They deal with unemployment, the threat of having relatives deported and a future of debt and uncertainty. And we all have, hanging over us, a climate crisis. California experienced the driest February on record. In some places there was no rain at all.

The last time I phone banked (reaching out to other supporters and volunteers around the country) I became overwhelmed, choked up with emotion and had to stop. What got me was the level of commitment of working people and students to this campaign–people with a lot fewer resources and time than I have.

No other candidate has a ground force as committed as Senator Sanders. No other candidate has been as consistent throughout his life in support of working people. His message is no more radical than saying that this country should offer the level of services that other developed countries have.

Some of you may not agree with all of his policies. If that’s you I respectfully ask you to consider a strategic vote for Sanders if just because no other Democratic candidate has the team in place to win this election.

We have one chance to make this happen. Not me. Us!

If you are still on the fence, read this article, “The Liberal-Conservative-Socialist Case for Bernie Sanders.”

Worst of NextDoor

It began innocently enough. What could be wrong with a website that reunites people with their lost cats, offers crowdsourced suggestions for plumbers and operates as an ongoing garage sale? But as is usual for anything coming out of Silicon Valley, NextDoor, has gone full Lord of the Flies except instead of kids it’s mostly old folks beating dissenters to death with their keyboards.

I’ve used NextDoor to get rid of furniture, give advice on humanely removing bees and publicize events. But, like so many other social media websites, NextDoor has devolved into a toxic stew of hatred tapped out by lonely, late night keyboard warriors. Here in my Los Angeles neighborhood, topics on homelessness and gentrification seem, in particular, to bring out the trolls. NextDoor has become 4chan for old homeowners.

Here’s a typical discussion on my neighborhood’s NextDoor, in this case about a homeless encampment at our local park:

If there’s one good thing about NextDoor it is that it has disabused me of the idea that my community is somehow more “open minded” than other parts of the country or that urban people are more progressive than rural people. These are stereotypes that I’ve been guilty of harboring in the past. We are all, myself included, easily sucked into the sort of hateful trolling that Silicon Valley has found a way to monetize on social media. How do you keep people glued to a website like NextDoor? Just offer the spectacle of your elder neighbors tearing each other apart in a text-based reality show. Best of all you can join in on the mud slinging!

There’s an easy solution to all the hate and trolling: paid moderators. Such moderators could limit the discussion to the things NextDoor is good at: the aforementioned and uncontroversial pet reunification and plumber recommendations. Maybe those plumbers could be vetted too! Of course, paid moderators would make the website unprofitable. Instead NextDoor crowdsources the moderation to both get around paying any employees and to absolve themselves of the responsibility of dealing with the mess they’ve made.

I’m curious if any of you, our dear readers, use NextDoor? What have you used it for? What are the controversies raging in your neighborhood on the site? As for me I still peek at the site periodically, mainly to see if anyone needs bee help, but I’ve become really turned off by the vitriol. And I feel sorry for the people I see most engaged in these NextDoor debates. I suspect they are both lonely and suffering from depression.

Nithya Raman for LA Council District 4!

During my years serving on the board of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition I learned that Los Angeles is one of the most corrupt and dysfunctional cities in the U.S. It’s run by a machine, is fundamentally un-democratic and, to top it all off, incompetent. Our city’s appalling homelessness crisis and transportation gridlock is the result of this disappointing leadership.

If there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud it’s that things have gotten so bad that a new generation of activists is rising up to toss out the incumbents. Last Friday, Root Simple friend and podcast guest Jessica Rath hosted an intimate gathering with one of those activists, Nithya Raman, who is running for Council District 4.

In the course of the evening, Raman discussed her homeless policy, how to make the city council more democratic and ways to escape gridlocked traffic. Raman has an urban planning degree from M.I.T., helped start the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, served as executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment and worked for the city on homeless policy. Frankly, she’s one of those people who have already accomplished what would take me ten lifetimes to get around to. She is much more qualified than the incumbent David Ryu, who has a thin resume and a record of opposing housing and transportation improvements.

This is an important election. City councilpersons in Los Angeles wield much more power than the mayor. CD 4 has a population of 253,000 people making it larger than most U.S. cities. If you live in CD4, a gerrymandered district covering Los Feliz, part of Koreatown, Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood please vote for Nithya Raman!

Making the Shed Great Yet Again

Here’s a picture from May of 1999 showing our late doberman Spike guarding me while I worked on our then 90 now 100 year old shed.

Guess what I’m doing over 20 years later? Working on the same shed.

Me in 1999. In 2020 I need glasses.

The shed has gone through two previous improvement battles starting with shoving a foundation under it, electrification and strengthening the floor followed by a somewhat misguided attempt at insulation and ceiling covering.

Over the past few years the shed went from being Kelly’s work space to a place to shove junk we didn’t want to deal with. With this latest improvement effort we’re turning it back into a pleasant space for Kelly to work in. I’m undoing some of my previous shoddy work and installing an oak floor and a nicer ceiling.

I have a hard time sitting at a computer when lured by the demands of carpentry which explains the sparse posting over the past two weeks. At least I’m thinking about writing while I work. I’ve been meditating on something Corey Pein said in the Twitters: “The more I learned to have confidence in myself and write from my own honest perspective, the more of an audience I have found, and the better I feel about my work.” The writing work I plan to do later this year would benefit from more honesty, from not shying away from controversy and a humor based more on experience than snark. Or the siren song of carpentry and woodworking might just lure me for the rest of my days. We shall see.

Happy 2020!

As 2019 comes to a close I’ll leave you with two caricatures by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. The first depicts, I think, William Morris after a night of partying.

The second one is a self-portrait. There’s a nice anecdote about Burne-Jones,

….his pet grandson used to be punished by being sent to stand in a corner with his face to the wall. One day on being sent there he was delighted to find the wall prettily decorated with fairies, flowers, birds, and bunnies. His indulgent grandfather had utilised his talent to alleviate the tedium of his favourite’s period of penance.

Thanks to the Pre-Raphaelite Society for these images.