Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

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Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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10 Guesses Why SF Mayor Ed Lee Is Sitting With Michelle Obama at SOTU

| Tue Jan. 28, 2014 9:00 PM EST

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

First Lady Michelle Obama has invited San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to sit in her box during the State of the Union Speech tonight, but she didn't specify why. All we know is that she's continuing a longstanding tradition of inviting "extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union Address," as the White House puts it.

A former city bureaucrat who was first appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to replace Mayor Gavin Newsom before winning re-election, Lee is considered popular and competent but not particularly extraordinary—except for the fact that he's the...oh, wait, he's only the second Asian-American mayor of a major US city. (The first was San Jose's Norm Mineta, who later became Transportation Secretary under George W. Bush.) So why was Lee invited? Was it because he proposed a $15 minimum wage for a city whose $10.55 minimum is already the nation's highest? Or perhaps because he rallied Silicon Valley around immigration reform?

Here are 10 other possibilities:

  1. Obama is settling for Lee because he couldn't get Bat Kid.
  2. The president is set to announce a transcontinental Google Bus route.
  3. In the future, $4 toast will be a mandatory minimum benefit in Obamacare plans.
  4. Rose Pak
  5. Maybe he has some techie friends who know how to fix a website.
  6. Exporting your poor and middle-class people to other cities is a great model for fighting income inequality.
  7. The Fear the Moustache meme is still too legit to quit.
  8. The President feels guilty for that time when the Giants won the World Series but Lee couldn't get into the White House party because his name wasn't on the list.
  9. Lee is the last Californian the Secret Service would suspect of being a marijuana courier.
  10. If you live in DC but crash on your San Francisco friend's couch when you're in town for business, it's probably a good idea to return the favor once or twice. The same logic applies to political fundraising. See you in Presidio Heights, Ed.

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In the Bay Area, Anti-Google Protests Get Creepy

| Wed Jan. 22, 2014 8:38 PM EST
Google street view detail from the Counterforce flier. (Image cropped and house number redacted by Mother Jones.)

So, the Bay Area's tech backlash has come to this: At 7 a.m. yesterday, activists showed up on the doorstep of Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to protest, well, pretty much everything. They're holding the guy behind the self-driving car responsible for gentrification, destructive gold mining, Chinese sweatshops, government surveillance, and, more generally "the unspeakable horror" of helping "this disastrous economic system continue a bit longer."

A flyer distributed by the activists, who call themselves "The Counterforce," left little doubt that their fight is personal. "Preparing for this action, we watched Levandowski step out his front door," it reads. "He had Google Glasses over his eyes, carried his baby in his arm, and held a tablet with his free hand. As he descended the stairs with the baby, his eyes were on the tablet through the prism of his Google Glasses, not on the life against his chest. He appeared in this moment like the robot that he admits that he is."

This Guy Died and Asked For His Blood to Be Splashed on a Nuclear Facility

| Thu Jan. 16, 2014 5:38 PM EST
In July 2012, an elderly nun breached the Y-12 facility carrying baby bottles filled with a comrade's blood.

Later this month, Megan Rice, an 83-year-old Catholic nun, could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for breaking into Tennessee's Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex and splattering the walls of a weapons-grade uranium warehouse with human blood. That may sound pretty far out—the blood, but also the stiff potential sentence and the notion of an octogenarian breaching a high-level nuclear facility guarded by machine guns and tanks. In any case, the symbolic spilling of blood isn't all that unusual, especially for Rice's fellow Christian peace activists in the Plowshares Movement.

"The blood could be seen as a surrogate for the blood of Christ...and its pouring could be interpreted as a symbolic act of Christian purification."

"We use real human blood frequently in these kinds of actions," says Paul Magno, who spent nearly two years in federal prison in the mid-1980s for breaking into a Pershing missile factory in Orlando, Florida, where he spread blood on missile-launcher parts. "It means terror and bloodshed if these things are ever used, and even if they are not, because we are taking so much of humanity's future to just sustain an arsenal."

According to a paper by Barnard College religion professor Elizabeth Castelli, the first documented use of human blood in an anti-war protest was on October 27, 1967, when four men entered the Baltimore Customs House and poured a mix of their own blood and animal blood on Vietnam War draft files.

One of them, Tom Lewis, became a lifelong peace activist. He died in his sleep in 2008 and and was cremated, but not before his comrades extracted and froze some of his blood for use in one final action. In July 2012, it was thawed and placed into eight baby bottles, which Rice emptied onto the walls of the Y-12 uranium unit.

The radical Catholic priest Philip Berrigan, who also took part in the Baltimore draft protest, initially rejected the blood idea as too "bourgeois" and "tepid," according to his biographers. But he eventually came around, and began to elaborate a theological interpretation: "The blood could be seen as a surrogate for the blood of Christ, he envisioned, and its pouring could be interpreted as a symbolic act of Christian purification—a kind of echo of the sacrifice of the Mass."

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