Hiking with high school students

students.at.tafoni.rock.crop

I had a delightful hike yesterday with 14 students from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California. Four teachers escorted them and four of us volunteers helped. The photo shows us enjoying a huge outcrop of tafoni sandstone in El Corte de Madera Open Space District, off of Skyline Boulevard in Woodside, California. Volunteer Patrick took more photos.

Thanks so much to the leaders of our Sierra Club San Jose program Inspiring Connections Outdoors and to the Sequoia teachers who organized our outing.

Our Sierra Club leader for this outing, Steve, is a certified naturalist. He taught us that Douglas Fir needles are tasty and full of Vitamin C. He taught us how to identify Poison Oak, Huckleberry, and Douglas Iris. He showed us pungent Bay Laurel leaves, a peculiar tall, pale, parasitic orchid, and Slender Salamanders hiding under a log. He told us that the bulky pale-green tufts of Old Man Beard (Usnea) lichen hanging from the tree limbs around us can grow only in exceptionally clean air. We all inhaled deeply!

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Take military gear away from police

Octopus whose legs list military weapons and point to different U.S. cities

A marcher passed me this picture on Tuesday, April 14, during the “Stop Murder by Police” demonstration in San Francisco. I admire how concisely and dramatically it teaches us about the crazy gear our neighborhood cops are now using against us. The only exaggeration for effect you’ll find in the picture is on the octopussy’s bottom legs. As far as I know, local police in the U.S. aren’t yet using Uzis or laser cannons. The U.S. Navy, though, is testing bow-mounted laser cannons. Act now, or see one soon in your town.

Your city or town police most likely roll their armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers only into poor, black neighborhoods. Usually, to serve a search warrant for contraband drugs. Often, marijuana. Most often, none found. Take a look at the ACLU’s 2014 report, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing”. Police training officers teach recruits to “steel their battlemind.” Recruits serve no-knock search warrants by tossing stun grenades into front rooms full of children. Baby Bou Bou suffers severe burns. Let’s take the weapons of war out of our neighborhoods. Let’s rediscover policing that really does serve and protect.

Note: Who drew the octopus? The back of the picture contains a photocopied letter to the editor of The Berkeley Voice, entitled “Basic needs must be met,” published on Friday, February 6, 2015. The author: Gene Bernardi, of Berkeley, a member of Berkeleyans Organizing for Liberty Defense. Those are my only clues. Thank you, Gene.

My letter to Oakland City Councilmembers

aerial photo of the Port of Oakland

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Dear Councilmember ————,

I am so proud that Oakland, here in my Bay Area, is considering a model privacy policy to oversee how surveillance data is collected, stored, and handled. Our new technologies for recording and tracking people are so powerful, it’s hard for us to foresee all the consequences of using them. These new surveillance devices create temptations that no has ever faced before. It’s easy to find examples of government employees succumbing to temptation to gather data they shouldn’t or to misuse data for their own amusement or to hurt people. Those misuses include ogling, coercion, and even blackmail.

I’m also proud that Oakland is considering sanctions on people who disobey the policy. We need to give people effective incentives to obey. We also need to give retraining when it’s called for. I think that including a private right to sue is also brilliant. Sometimes, it is politically difficult for one government employee to sanction another. The private person who was hurt, though, will be less hesitant to take legal action.

I’m listing here a few examples of data misuse by government employees that residents of other cities have discovered. It happens!
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SF-cop-who-reportedly-ogled-women-is-suspended-3329181.php
http://www.notbored.org/camera-abuses.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/how-nsa-can-abuse-data-on-americans-2013-7

Thank you very much,
Rhona Mahony
Stanford, Calfornia

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On Tuesday, May 12, the Oakland City Council will decide whether or not to accept the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee’s policy recommendations for surveillance data collected by the Domain Awareness Center. Let’s hope the Councilmembers pass the policy. People in other cities across the U.S., and all over the world, can use Oakland’s policy as a model to protect their freedom of speech, their confidence in meeting with whomever they choose, and their intimate moments with friends and family.