To balance the negativity in last week's letters, I'd like to say I've been taking the SMART train three days a week for over a year from Cotati to San Rafael. I love it—from the views of green hills in the winter and spring to the air conditioning in the hot summer. Going through the marshlands offers great birdwatching, too (I once saw a bald eagle close up from the train). The staff is always super-friendly and helpful. Parking is free and easy in Cotati. I'm not technologically inclined in the least, yet have no problems with the ticket kiosk. Lastly, I treat myself to a Henhouse IPA once a week from the train's mini-bar. I have customers who take the train from Sonoma County to San Rafael just for the nice day trip. It's so nice to read a book and look at the great views, instead of sitting in traffic.
It's Happening Here
"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."—Dostoyevsky
Putting aside, for a moment, the documented mistreatment of our undocumented immigrants by the private detention industry, will anyone claim privately run detention centers do not present a conflict of interest? What should we expect when the business of justice goes to the highest bidder? Free market fundamentalists argue the benefits of "private" over "public" and speak of efficiency and competition, but there is no competition, no choice, for those detained who are the recipients of "services." The family fleeing gang violence in Honduras and seeking asylum at the U.S. border has no more choice in their accommodations than do chickens in factory farms, but in the latter case, at least there is the potential for consumer pressure to improve living conditions.
GEO Group and Corecivic both invest heavily in Trump. GEO donated $225,000 to a Trump super PAC. Corecivic kicked $250,000 to Trump's inaugural committee. Lobbying interests from the private prison industry are on pace to reach $3 million this year. What are they paying for? Lucrative contracts, less oversight, less accountability, assurance their beds will be filled and new structures will be built. They pay for control, and for the freedom to cut costs and increase profits at will.
Consider the Trump Administration's recent attempts to circumvent the Flores Amendment. Flores asserts minimal standards for the treatment of detained children and their access to education, recreation and legal representation. Flores says that no unaccompanied child shall be held beyond 20 days. There have been 46 reported deaths in ICE Detention, most attributable to medical and psychiatric neglect. The harm to children and families is beyond measure. This kind of cruelty is almost beyond comprehension, except to say it is the logical result of unchecked greed.
The free marketer says government only interferes, that regulations are impediments to progress. But this isn't a free market, and Flores isn't merely a regulation—it's a protection. Against what? Ask Dostoevsky.
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On Sept. 20, young people and adults from Sonoma County will join a global strike to demand action on the climate crisis. A rally for those striking locally, or for those who want to support strikers, is scheduled from noon–2pm at Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa.
As we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for energy, we are adding more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This build-up acts like a blanket that traps heat around the world, disrupting the climate. We must address the problem before it gets worse. Join us as we Strike for the Climate!
Building on a wave of student protests from Sweden to Mexico, the Sept. 20 strike comes three days before the United Nations Climate Change Summit. According to the UN website, world leaders will convene in New York on Sept. 23 to "showcase a leap in collective national political ambition" and "demonstrate massive movements in the real economy in support of the agenda." Strikers—many of them high-school age—will provide a visible reminder that leaders must make good on those promises now if our future is to be preserved. The strike will have a running program of singing punctuated by coordinated actions for social media engagement, as well as educational tables from local organizations fighting for climate justice. Voting registration will be available, as well as information on legislation and policy in the works to help push our lawmakers to move faster on the climate crisis so that we can give future generations a meaningful chance at life.
The local effort is coordinated by a coalition of community environmental and climate justice organizations including Fridays For the Future Santa Rosa, Sunrise Sonoma Hub, 350Sonoma.org, Sustainable SRJC, the Climate Protection Center, the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Climate Reality Project, Schools for Climate Action, Transition Sonoma Valley, Daily Acts, Citizen's Climate Lobby Santa Rosa and various other faith, labor and community groups.