Thursday, January 30, 2014

Patricia Williams: The Alchemy of Race and Rights

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Patricia Williams has written a very strange book. A series of essays, or maybe a book chronicling a who-knows-what time period teaching law as a black woman in the late '80s, early '90s. There are glimmers of brilliance and glimmers of madness. Part of me tells me that it is not madness but personal experience included in a book we normally expect to be dry and "neutral" with the author absent and that I should be glad that Williams is practicing what feminists and womanists preach: centering the self and the lived experience. But part of me found this a difficult book to read and not just because Williams shares how difficult it is to be a black woman law professor. It is a difficult book to read because it is, well, difficult.

The brilliance lies in paragraphs like these that are also the most traditionally written:
The great paradox of democratic freedom is that it involves some measure of enforced equality for all. The worst dictatorships in history have always given some freedom: freedom for a privileged some at the expense of the rest is usually what makes oppression so attractively cost-effective to begin with. Is freedom really such a narrowly pluralistic concept that, so long as we can find some slaves to say they're happy with the status quo, things are fine and free? Are they or the rest of the slaves less enslaved by calling enslavement freedom? (101)
Other moments of truth call out: Williams points out that she and others are often the "first" something- the "first black female" to do something, and wonders when that will stop happening as it's a belittling form of tokenism in a way: "I wonder when I and the millions of other people of color who have done great and noble things or small and courageous things or creative and scientific things- when our achievements will become generalizations about our races and seen as contributions to the larger culture, rather than exceptions to the rule, isolated abnormalities." It's true and it's harsh: the longer that we see an achievement by an (insert ethnic or gender difference here) person as the "first," it serves to diminish the rest of the (insert ethnic or gender difference) population in the name of honoring the individual. Is Williams really the first black female law professor? Is that all she is? Will she always be the first black female law professor? Is it enough that she has done that- does it let institutions off of the hook for hiring others, for making black law professors a norm?

Many of Williams' pieces include harsh truths like this, but not all of them are encased in such readable, understandable language. There are pages and pages about polar bears and I was unable to pull meaning out of this. Williams is bold and brave in her discussions with colleagues and it appears she is isolated because of this. Part of me wonders if being slightly more conciliatory would be more effective while part of me thinks that that would be conceding- Williams wins because she is who she is and doesn't compromise, whether she wins the battles or not. In a long discussion of rights, Williams wins me over that the discussion of needs is a bad one- people have rights, not needs. But she discusses inanimate objects as having rights and her logic confuses me. I'm confused, and I'm writing like her. The book is strange and confusing. Though I wouldn't recommend it, I am better for having read it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Apologies

First, and I would like never to be quoted on this, I would like to apologize to Los Angeles and all of the people in Los Angeles that I like. I'm not prepared to all people of Los Angeles, just relatives and the few other people I know there. I have long been a critic of Southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular, as most self-respecting Oakland residents are. One of my main criticisms, and the one I'd like to apologize for, is the air quality. "I can see the air even before my plane lands!" I would say. "I can't see next door the air is so brown," I would whine! "How can you live here when the air is thick?" I would question. Well, my dear friends in LA, I'm sorry. Oakland is just as bad. For the last two months now that the drought is here (again), the air is brown. The fog is not fog, it's smog. I can't see the hills, the bridge is covered in a thick layer of haze, and basically it's disgusting. It's the LA of the north. I feel a little sick when I leave the house, both because of the air quality and because of my part in it. I'm sorry, friends in LA.

Second, I would like to apologize to Elizabeth Kolbert who writes for the New Yorker. Kolbert is an excellent author and about 5-10 years ago I realized that I absolutely could not read her excellent pieces on the environment because they were too fucking depressing. I can read about wars, I can read about people killing each other and rape and torture and I can work in animal welfare (until I can't) but I cannot read Kolbert's amazing pieces about the horrible things people do to the earth. I'm sorry, Kolbert, you deserve better. Maybe I would do more for the environment if I could stomach your writing on the awful depraved indifference of my kind.

Finally, I would like to apologize to those who do things about the awful depraved indifference of my kind, environmental activists. I would especially like to apologize to the elders of the movement, those grey hairs that we sometimes mock in our heads, the ones from the 60s and 70s who make us think, internally at least, that activism is for the youth. I was one of those active youth in high school and college and I grew out of it, or something. I got busy, I got adult, I don't know- but I should have stayed involved. Because the smog and this nasty environment and all the shit we do without thinking- buying plastic everything, driving everywhere, watering sidewalks, well- it's disgusting and unconscionable. I should have stayed involved like those elders of the movement.

This is not self-flagellation. This is is true, heartfelt contrition. Accept my apology.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Andrei Lankov: The Real North Korea

The first two thirds of this book is really really good: history and analysis of North Korea- the kind of thing that you don't really find very often because North Korea is so insulated. The last third of this book is a little suspect: it deals with the future of North Korea and what could and should happen. It's a tad, if not apologetic or forgiving of the Kim Dynasty, not particularly creative in thinking out of the Kim box. And maybe that's not apologetic- maybe it's honest: maybe it's going to be virtually impossible that any sort of progressive state building will come out of North Korea or engagement with North Korea. Andrei Lankov seems to know his stuff and it's possible that there just isn't an optimistic solution.

Lankov was an exchange student in North Korea as a young man growing up in the USSR. He has a unique perspective: unlike Americans who can't fathom anything other than democracy, Lankov lived under communism and watched it decline and a new, semi-open society take over. He, also unlike most Americans, has spent time in North Korea, although with similar restrictions on where he could go and who he could speak to and was supervised by monitors. He uses this perspective along with historical research, current contacts, economics, etc to explain why what many of us perceive as irrational behavior by North Korean heads of state (think nuclear brinkmanship, executions, abductions and playing nuclear powers off of each other (he doesn't explain Dennis Rodman- can anyone explain Dennis Rodman? Can Dennis Rodman explain Dennis Rodman?)) is actually quite rational and successful politics. Successful, in this case, means self-preservation and governance, not, of course, providing a high quality of living for the general population or participating as an important player in the global economy.

North Korea is literally one of a kind: not only has the government kept a more-Stalinist-than-Stalinist-Russia type government going since the 1950s, it's done so with a country with a thriving capitalist economy literally sharing a border and a language just to the South. In Lankov's telling, South Korea is the biggest threat to North Korea- both as a nation and to the dissolution of the nation. North Korea once had a booming economy and now is on par with Somalia, money-wise. South Korea has had the opposite change in fortunes. For the Kim dynasty to change, they'd have to admit they were wrong all of these years- that the enemy was in fact doing it right. Meanwhile, South Korea would have to do something that most nations don't really do very well: absorb an entire country of poor, uneducated people and bring them up to speed. Capitalist countries are much better as treating these people as throwaways, cheap labor- others. Think reconstruction south, how the United States treats Mexico, etc. Further, the two Koreas are technically at war- they are literally enemies. Any reunification would actually be seen as conquering- winner takes all. Not a pretty picture. Everything and anything that the North Korean government does can be seen in this light: they are fighting a hostile enemy. They are fighting for self preservation, fighting for their secret offshore bank accounts, and fighting (lastly) for their ideology.

If you're interested in North Korea, this is a good read. It's almost impossible to know what's "true" when reading about the country: is it the horrid conditions that the people live in? Is it this rational government that Lankov writes about? Is it something else entirely? Lankov gives a perspective: and it's a good one to add to the list of what's out there.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rebecca MacKinnon: Consent of the Networked

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The internet is really really complicated. I know about things like servers and WYSIWYG and basic HTML and even what web 2.0 means. I know that there's dial up and broadband and ethernet cables and that sometimes you need cables and sometimes you don't, usually depending on whether you have a wireless router. I know what mesh internet is and I have heard fancy terms like DPI, net neutrality, and I even know the fancy term creative commons. But it turns out that I a) don't know what most of the fancy things mean and b) only have a very surface understanding of the basic things. And chances are, unless you're a super techy person, you are kind of like me (no offense).

Rebecca MacKinnon's "Consent of the Networked" is the book for you (you being the nontechy normal person, no offense again to the techy people whom I just insinuated weren't normal...) if you want to try to make sense of these things, or even care about these things a tiny bit. Notable, though, is that, though published in 2012 and written primarily in 2011, the book is out of date. The tech world moves fast. "Consent of the Networked" is best read as background, and it's important background. For instance, the book was published before the revelations of the full extent of the NSA spying on people. NSA was spying on people long before Edward Snowden leaked what he leaked, and some of that information had come to light- it's in the book. And right after I finished reading "Consent of the Networked," an important case was decided about net neutrality that will influence how we use the internet. (MacKinnon is great on net neutrality.)

MacKinnon starts with the premise that we must value the internet and all related technology as part of the digital commons and ensure that "the power of citizens on the Internet is not ultimately overcome by the power of corporations and governments." Citizens, corporations and governments all have stakes in the internet and varying agendas. MacKinnon hopes that we can come to see the users, makers, owners, etc (some of which overlap) as a civil society, ala Alexis de Tocqueville. MacKinnon hopes for "active involvement by citizens in community life: people from all social strata and professions taking personal responsibility for the safety and well-being of their communities, pushing back against perceived infringements of their rights, and sharing ideas and forming associations to solve problems and improve life for everybody." This involves governments and corporations rethinking their traditional roles, with the help of citizen/activists.

This is increasingly important (and complicated) as we spend more and more of our time online and increasingly have influence and are influenced but what we see/hear/learn/create online. The uprisings and revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia are frequently cited as examples of places where revolution could not or would not have happened without free access to the internet and proof positive that the internet is indeed free. It's not that simple, though: the movements didn't spring immaculately from the internet- rather, the internet was a tool. Further, the internet is not inherently free. The internet can simultaneously serve as a tool of repression and control and liberation at the same time. MacKinnon walks through some current examples (China, Egypt, the US), some initiatives to keep the process democratic, some things that don't really work (like moving control into the UN) and some potential solutions. It's complicated, and even an expert like MacKinnon doesn't have all of the answers, but she sure has a lot to teach.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2013 Books

In another homage to Dad, here they are. Many of them got reviewed here, but some didn't, and those I've forgotten. This was a down year, numberwise (once again the scapegoat? #onlineschool)

Dean MacCannell: Ethics of Sightseeing: Decent, scholarly book on sightseeing, and probably the ethics of it, if you can figure out what that means. Recommended only for those who like scholarly books. I liked it.

Emma Forrest: Your Voice in My Head: Memoir of a woman's journey with and without a great shrink. Amazing, fast read, recommended for everyone- readable nonfiction.

Jana Leo: Rape New York: A short book on the story of Leo's rape and how it played out against the city itself, along with deep looks into the theory behind it. Amazing, if you like theory.

Dan Baum: Gun Guys: A liberal who likes guns takes on the country. Disappointing, since I like Baum. Not really recommended- read one of his articles on the subject.

Emily Matchar: Homeward Bound: Matchar looks at the DIY culture deeply (but not deeply enough) and asks what's going on here? Okay- recommended for those asking what's going on here?

Karen Sternheimer: Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Using fan magazines, Sternheimer takes readers through the building/destroying of the idea of the American Dream. not recommended unless you like history of culture.

Will Carroll: The Juice (not reviewed): A strange (and outdated- published in 2005, maybe) look at steroids in baseball. Good info, poorly written. If you like baseball and can suspend criticism, worth a read.

Garry Wills: Why Priests: A totally unreadable book about the history of the priesthood as described in ancient texts.

Simon Garfield: On the Map: Maps are really fascinating, as is the idea of how we think about ourselves in terms of geography. Garfield is just okay in this- accessible writing, hit or miss in "deep thoughts."

Franklin Zimring: The City that Became Safe (not reviewed): I wrote but didn't finish a long review on this book. It's a complicated and ass-backwards discussion on how New York "became safe" that both backs up and dispels Bratton's work at the same time. I called bullshit and was annoyed that some Oakland mucky-mucks are in love with this guy. Read it if you're into theories of public safety, but please, don't believe everything that you read.

Dave Zirin: Game Over: Are athletes allowed to have feelings/opinions? Depends who you ask. An uneven book but I love Zirin.

Joe Queenan: One for the books: What's not to love here? Queenan loves books- the physical things- and tells the story of his love affair. If you love books, this is a fun read. (And he hates the Yankees.)

Peggy Orenstein: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Orenstein has a girl and raising a girl means PINK, which Orenstein doesn't like. I meh'd this book as I couldn't tell if it was sociology or reporting. That said, it was probably pretty good for those of you who can read a book without meanness!

Brian Chen: Always On: Honestly don't even remember reading this book. Apparently it's about always being connected. Can't recommend it, since I don't remember it.

Joseph Epstein: Snobbery (didn't review): I didn't review this book because I couldn't read it. I believe it's the only book I put down this year, although maybe it's the only one I documented. And I really WANTED to like it. But it was too... snobby to read.

Kevin Powers: The Yellow Birds: Possibly the only fiction book I read and liked this year (I also remember putting down a fiction book). About the Iraq war- loved it, but don't remember it at all- recommended with that caveat.

Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin: Black Against Empire: Long scholarly tale of the Black Panthers. Highly recommended if you're interested in the movement, or Oakland.

Curt Flood: The Way it Is Curt Flood changed baseball- he's the guy that led to free agency. He has a pretty tragic life and if you're into baseball, this is a short and tragic book.

Brian Christian: The Most Human Human Gave up on this one.

Kate Khatib et al: We Are Many A book of essays about Occupy, with Oakland at the center. I found it fascinating as someone at the peripheral, if frustrating. If you're into Occupy, good read. If not, easy to skip.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett: The Spirit Level Wilkinson & Pickett's book argues that we should be looking at inequality as the cause of a lot of society's problems, and they convinced me. I've thought a lot about this argument since reading the book. That said, can't recommend it, unless you are REALLY into looking at solutions: it's really one-note.

James Mann: Rise of the Vulcans The story of the men (and woman) behind Bush. Great book, if you can bear being depressed.

Elaine Brown: A Taste of Power: Autobiography of a woman in the Black Panther Party. Great read, especially topical for Oaklanders.


  • 23: books reviewed/read, unclear how many not reviewed (at least one started on my bed that wasn't really readable plus untold #onlineschool books).
  • 1: fiction book read (and enjoyed! at least one put down- no idea what it was, not counted above)
  • 3: minimum books read about baseball/sports
  • 20: books from the library
  • 5ish: books I think anyone else would read (maybe less- Emma Forrest (please!), Dan Baum (but don't), Emily Matchlar (maybe?), Will Carroll (if you're into sports), Simon Garfield (he's got name recognition), Joe Queenan (do it!), Kevin Powers (people like fiction, right?), Bloom & Martin (hey, it's UC Press, someone's reading it!), James Mann (people still hate Bush). 
  • 2: Books with author last names that start with "Z." 

We came, we went, we didn't kill each other!

This weekend themacinator went to New York. Months and months ago my sister and I had decided to do this trip and, to be honest, I kind of forgot about it- life has been pretty busy with #onlineschool and work and gardening and house buying and also,  I'm a forgetter. It happened that remembering happened around December and I don't know who started it, but for birthday/Hannukah with both gave each other the gift of a promise not to kill the other. And it worked! We're both home and alive (at least I am, and I can swear she was alive when I left her at the Balboa Park BART station Monday- anything else is out of my control).

While we were in NYC we had a few observations. My sister did some research and got some answers- those are also included. This post is an homage to our dad, but please don't expect the same greatness!

General observations:

*Where are the grocery stores? (We walked a shitton in Manhattan the first day and saw zero grocery stores. Bodegas, sure, corner stores in our language, but no grocery stores. The last day, in Chelsea, we saw a couple, including the world's smallest Whole Paycheck.) Small Answer provided by Coworker of Sister: They're there, they're just small. Answer partially confirmed by observation. Partially negated by the fact that we also saw approximately 10 people the whole time in the act of carrying groceries. Three of these people were on their way to Roosevelt Island which did, in fact, have something resembling a grocery store.

*How is everyone so skinny slash how can they eat SO MUCH FATTY FOOD? (Read: even in the trendiest parts of San Francisco, have you ever seen two cupcake stores on one block?) These people REALLY like their desserts, but many, you could tell the minute you got on the plane back to San Francisco that we were dealing with a different group, and I never thought the Bay Area was that bad! Our thoughts: New Yorkers walk a lot since they don't drive? They smoke more? Related question: What is the average BMI in NYC? Attempt at partial answer provided by Coworker of Sister: MhM, basically (ie: walking and smoking)

*Correlated Question: Where are all the gyms?? These people are so skinny, don't they work out incessantly? Answer: lb found them in the Upper East Side- there are as many as if you go to SoMa or anywhere in Oakland. Answer from Coworker of Sister: They're there, they're just on the second floor, where there is more space (note from themacinator: still didn't see them/signs for them till we got over to that side of island, but we'll take it!)

*How much is retail space in those expensive touristy places? Times Square? 5th Ave? SoHo? A girl like me wants to guess 10k/month in 5th Ave, but that seems so... low or high depending.

*Is it legal to have a yellow car that isn't a cab? Partial answer provided by observation: We saw one yellow SUV type thing that wasn't a cab (or it was a bizarre under-cover-cab). This does not prove legality but does prove that they exist.

*Observation/Question/Judgmental moment: How do people raise kids in Manhattan or get old in Manhattan? It seems really hard/expensive/awful! One of us was particularly stunned by the multi-use playground/dogpark situation (one of us thought it was rad)- who takes their children there!? There really aren't many ways to get around with a stroller or a cane- the subway has lots of stairs and broken elevators and is super crowded and you'll get really skinny really fast walking the island, which isn't much of a priority when you're raising small kids or being old. No real answer here except that a) Florida makes sense and b) why isn't New York the least kid per capita place (themacinator thinks it's San Francisco but may have made that up)?

*Related Observation: ADA compliance appears to be a low priority for folks in this town. Either, as sister suggests, the buildings are really old and it's near impossible and/or they're working on it, or people are much more organized in the Bay Area. The subway (which I love) just isn't feasible if you're any kind of differently abled and there's no warning that you might get off at a stop that is under repair or not set up for your needs. We went through a lot of those swirly gates to enter/exit- even I wasn't fast enough and had to deal with a grumpy station agent (I don't think the height of the booth was ADA compliant) to get through again. Restaurants, stores, etc- we saw one restaurant with a lift to get down into the main seating area and I was shocked- it was the first real adjustment I had seen (that said, I think all of the seating in the restaurant was on stool-type seating at raised tables).

Finally, themacinator would like to know if the beautiful water towers on the top of the roofs are still in use. Please don't take them down if not- they're lovely.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Matt Kennard: Irregular Army

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After the Iraq War was "over," George Bush decided and declared that Vietnam Syndrome was over, too. Popular opinion in America had swung back in favor of military might and Amuhricans were going to start believing that the army was a good thing- a reasonable career option, a duty that any young person would be honored to fulfill, something good people did. But, as usual, Bush was full of shit. The Iraq War wasn't over in 2003 (it's arguably still not over even if troops have been withdrawn and it's now 2014), and Americans are still wary of joining up and shipping out. I don't know if it's still Vietnam Syndrome or if it's something else- Persian Gulf Syndrome? Bush Family Syndrome? War Syndrome? We're not sacrificing our young poor and brown people anymore syndrome?

Whatever it is, Matt Kennard's "Irregular Army" tells the seamy back story behind the numbers. Americans may be wary of fighting, but the military is still out there doing what (someone decides) needs to be done. Changes were made across the board to maximize those willing to fight. Contractors (read: mercenaries) are being used in place of the army, which is why I'm suspicious of drawdowns- is it even possible to get real numbers of Americans left in countries that America has "left"? Recruitment is being targeted in the most desperate areas and, in some cases, outside of the US, although the army will deny this. Troops are being forced to stay in longer than before. And standards are being lowered: those who couldn't get in before get in and those who would have been kicked out stay in. This is the irregular army. And it's harmful to individuals, to home communities, to the force, and to the people at the receiving end of the guns. It's gross.

Think of a worst case scenario of people you can imagine being allowed into slash not getting kicked out of the army (or marines or navy or whatever). I'll start with some easy ones: people you might think of as too old or too fat to be in the army- basically, people who might not be healthy enough to run and shoot and fight and do those things that you think of when you think of whatever it is you think of when you think of warriors. Well, you can now enlist up until 42. The max allowed BMI has also grown, so you can be in the army and be overweight. Age-ism and fat-ism advocates are calling this a civil rights victory, but Kennard shows that really, it's not so great, even for the older and wider individuals or for their fellow fighters. Older recruits tend not to stay in as long as younger recruits and, according to Kennard (and common sense) don't have the same physical abilities as the younger recruits. Benchmarks are lowered. For example, "on recruitment, a seventeen-year-old... would be expected to do forty seven sit-ups and and thirty-five push-ups. For a forty-one-year-old this was a little easier with just twenty-nine sit-ups and twenty-four push-ups." As Kennard says, "bullets and IEDs don't discriminate in the same way." Getting in might require less strength or stamina, but war doesn't. 12.1 percent of the deaths in the war on terror were people over 35 years old, much larger than their representative numbers in the force. Similar issues with larger people. Civil rights or expedience?

The War on Terror also led to the repeal of the ban on being openly gay in the military. Don't Ask Don't Tell, that lovely Clintonian policy, had ended the ban on being gay in the military- sort of. But it turns out that, like age and weight, there was a cynical side to the lifting of DADT. In 2009 I mentioned that DADT might be getting repealed and that no one I knew, queer or otherwise, was really that excited about signing up for military in wartime. Well, that's the point- they weren't, and the irregular army needed every body they could get/keep. (Side note: At work we discuss "bodies" in the general, maybe common, way of staffing- oh, we don't need any specific skills, just bodies. Every time I read or write that the military needs bodies, this takes on a new meaning. The military needs bodies- literally for staffing- but also to sacrifice. The people I'm writing about- old people, fat people, queer people, brown people- their "difference" and previous undesirability- is embodied. And now it's desirable because it's another thing that can be thrown away- killed- by the government in a needless war. Back to book reporting.) Before DADT, a 1982 directive from the Department of Defense said that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. Then came DADT which said that you could serve until you couldn't- like when someone found out who you really were. The arguments against repealing DADT were despicable and at their core, about morality: homosexuality was like adultery: wrong. They claimed good ole straight people would leave if they knew gays were among them. They ignored militaries around the world that banned this kind of discrimination- not gay people themselves- who didn't have problems. They ignored the serious serious civil rights issue at hand: Go ahead, fight, kill and die for your country, but don't tell us who you are. Homophobia was the norm in the service. Witchhunts were standard (I'm guessing they still are, but it's not as kosher anymore- we'll get there.) Then the numbers issue came up, and really, was it SO immoral? Which was worse: having some gay people that were openly gay or not having enough people to fight wars? Kennard writes "In the Bush administration's order of priorities, a commitment to bigotry seems to have ranked pretty high, but meeting army recruitment targets was even more important." Eventually Barack Obama lived up to his campaign promise, sort of, and after Congress passed a law repealing DADT, signed it into law in 2010. I thought this was a qualified good at the time, as much good as can come out of a military win- themacinator missed a chance for cynicism- but didn't realize that war readiness was the real reason for the change. One last thing: The repeal does not make gay service members a protected class. If gay soldiers are discriminated against for being gay, they're shit out of luck under the equal opportunity legislation which means that another president can put DADT right back where it was. So, in peacetime, assuming that comes again, when the military isn't desperate for bodies, queer bodies could again become persona non grata.

I've touched on a couple of the distasteful moments in Kennard's book. I haven't even gone near the outright scary ones. Like gang members and white supremacists and convicted felons people who are so mentally unfit for combat that they beg not to be sent back or shouldn't have been allowed to enlist in the first place. These are people that have no business being around the kind of military equipment and training for their safety, the safety of their fellow officers and the safety of the people in the countries they're occupying/fighting against/doing whatever it is they're sent to do. There are tragedies beyond the tragedies we hear about and tragedies years later in the United States by people with military training and access to stolen military equipment (alarmingly easy to do) and minds messed up by military service- it's just awful. One of Kennard's stories describes a large number of troops that weren't able to move between domestic bases because the leaders were concerned that the two groups would have gang warfare if they met on base. Sound like prison? Yes, it does.

Kennard's book is not wonderful- it's not a deep investigation but it's a very important one. It opens the doors for a lot of questions and further reading. I've been thinking a lot about the Oakland Police Department staffing issues since reading the book and the recruiting and attrition problems the Department is having and the ways they're discussing addressing them in City Council. There is a strong feeling in Oakland and in the government that more cops should come from Oakland and discussion of how to do this. But OPD has it's own form of Vietnam syndrome going on: the reputation of the department is low and really, who wants to join this force who lives here? At some point, you run out of qualified candidates. When Council discusses ways to help get more Oakland residents to get through the recruitment process where they're failing, Kennard's loosening of standards come to mind. Will OPD start accepting people with poor writing skills? Less critical thinking skills? Convicted felons? People with severe physical limitations? Again: this is not a question of discriminating against any of these people- people with poor writing skills, critical thinking skills, convictions and physical limitations are fully qualified to do many jobs. But we set them and the department and the city up to fail in the same way that we set the army up to fail by putting them in jobs that put them in danger and the citizens they are supposed to police in danger. Kennard doesn't offer solutions and I certainly don't have any, because I don't think that military or policing is going to end anytime soon, and that's all I've got.