Nature News Jake Sigg
1. Daylength on Tuesday is one hour shorter than on the summer solstice
2. The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 - Republicans will go berserk
3. Food, Inc. will be shown again on KQED Tuesday 10 August at 7.30 pm
4. San Francisco voters strongly support restoring Hetch Hetchy
5. Wolf killing stopped in Montana and Idaho
6. "The sun will not rise or set without my notice"
7. This is a biggie: A study is being conducted by CA’s DFG re the state’s Game Refuges where currently no hunting is allowed
8. The Case against poisoning our wildllife
9. Should off-roaders rule the great outdoors?
10. Green Hairstreak event updates
11. Cash Prizes for Environmental Educators in Secondary Schools
12. Have we permanently consigned 22% to unemployment or underemployment?
13. 2010 Growing Greener School Grounds conference/Sweet Honey on the Block
14. Scientific American news
16. A Republican district attorney seeks to make three-strikes more humane
1. From Dave Kaplow:
Yesterday was August 10, one of the annual milestones in our native plant calendar. On August 10, the daylength is one hour shorter than during the summer solstice, and is changing by roughly 2 minutes per day. By Tuesday, we will switch from May to April daylengths. Soon, we will begin to detect the subtle differences in light intensity and hue that let us know that fall is on the way.
(Not to mention that I have already seen a few autumn migrating birds. Sheesh!--we're just coming to the height of summer. Do these birds need advice from me? Uh, maybe not; see quote below: "Every animal knows more than you do." JS)
"Our planet has a skin disease; it's the human race." Anonymous
Center for Biological Diversity
The National Environmental Policy Act is America's bedrock environmental law. It recognizes that unsustainable population growth is a key factor in almost all the environmental problems we face.
In the 40 years since it was passed, though, the U.S. government has failed to address the population issues the law raises. Today, population pressures are greater than ever -- and directly linked to biodiversity loss and species extinction -- but the federal government is still doing little to address this critical problem.
The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 (HR 5121) could help correct that shortcoming. The bill would help address overpopulation by funding initiatives like universal access to contraception, sexuality education, reproductive health care, education on gender equity and programs to reduce violence against women.
Please ask your Congressional representative to help stop the extinction of species and loss of biodiversity on the planet by addressing human overpopulation and cosponsoring HR 5121, the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010.
Click here to find out more and take action.
"Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of humans...no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel there is more in humans than the mere breath of his body. -Charles Darwin
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” Robert Louis Stevenson
3. Food, Inc. will be shown again on KQED Tuesday 10 August at 7.30 pm
Lose weight--watch this program and you'll never want to eat again--either that or switch to organically-grown food. A shocker.
San Francisco Voters Strongly Support Restoring Hetch Hetchy
Evenly Divided on Who Should Pay
Overwhelming Support for Water Recycling & Water Conservation
San Francisco--Restore Hetch Hetchy announced partial results today of a public opinion poll which clearly indicates that San Francisco voters overwhelmingly support the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. The City of San Francisco currently uses the Hetch Hetchy Valley as a reservoir filled with water from the Tuolumne River. It is one of 8 reservoirs in which Tuolumne River water is stored prior to delivery to San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The mission of Restore Hetch Hetchy is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its original natural splendor while continuing to meet the water needs of all the communities that depend on the Tuolumne River.
Executive Director Mike Marshall made the following statement about the results:
“These results clearly demonstrate that the residents of San Francisco are beginning to understand that removing the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir will not affect their water supply. San Francisco’s water comes from the Tuolumne River not the Hetch Hetchy Valley. If we San Franciscan’s were to become better stewards of the national resources we were given in 1913 and invest in alternative water sources such as water recycling and groundwater management we could restore Yosemite National Park back to its original glory. That is a vision the people of San Francisco clearly support—it’s time for policy makers to get on board.”
David Binder Research Inc. conducted the public opinion poll on behalf of Restore Hetch Hetchy in mid-July. The poll had a sample size of 500 registered voters in San Francisco July and has a margin of error of 4%.
1. Do you support or oppose San Francisco making increased investments in modern technologies to increase water recycling, water conservation and local ground water even if it means a small increase in water rates?
1. Support 76.0%
2. Oppose 16.4%
3. Don’t know 7.2
2. Would you support or oppose the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley if replacement water and electricity supplies were provided at a SMALL INCREASE in San Francisco water and electricity rates?
1. Support 41.8%
2. Oppose 43.4%*
3. Don’t Know 13.6%
3. Would you support or oppose the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley if the federal and state governments funded the entire effort and there was NO INCREASE in San Francisco water and electricity rates?
1. Support 59.0%
2. Oppose 31.4%
3. Don’t Know 8.6%
5. In response to a suit by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies, a federal judge yesterday stopped the killing of wolves in Montana and Idaho. Judge Molloy ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had illegally stripped the northern Rockies gray wolf of its Endangered Species Act protections in 2009 by relying on political, rather than biological, reasoning.
He ordered the wolves put back on the federal threatened list, which will end the hunting seasons that have killed more than 100 wolves in Montana and Idaho in the past year.
Yesterday's ruling will also help other wildlife because it strikes a down Bush-era policy adopted by the Obama administration allowing the government to protect only small populations of endangered species instead of the entire species. Reliance on this anti-environmental Bush policy has been one of the many low points of Interior Secretary Salazar's management of endangered species.
Thanks to Earthjustice for representing us in this case, and thanks to the thousands of members and supporters who wrote letters, made phone calls, waved signs and reminded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wolf recovery in the northern Rockies needs to be completed, not abandoned.
This is a major win for the protection of these impressive and rare wolves.
The Center is also working to protect existing wolf populations in the Southwest and Great Lakes and to reintroduce them to former habitats in the Northeast, Utah, California and the Northwest.
"The sun will not rise,
without my notice
7. Eric Mills:
A study is being conducted by CA’s DFG re the state’s Game Refuges where currently no hunting is allowed. Reportedly, based on public input and research results, DFG will review and evaluate to consider “closing” the game refuges (which would then allow firearms and hunting). DFG is accepting public comments up to December 1, 2010, and must submit its report to the legislature by January, 1, 2011. The study was mandated by AB 1166, Cox, in 2008.
From the DFG’s website, http://wwwdfg.ca.gov/wildlife/gamerefuges/ a map and the following information are provided:
Evaluation of the Status of Existing State Game Refuges
The California Legislature has directed the DFG to review and evaluate the existing State Game Refuge system. A State Game Refuge is an area of land on which hunting is not permitted at any time unless specifically authorized by the Fish and Game Commission.
In 2008, the DFG proposed a legislative change to eliminate the State Game Refuge status of some areas. The proposed change in status would open these lands to public and private use, consistent with adjacent properties, and consistent with other refuges managed by the state and federal government. The Legislature directed the Department to seek public input on this topic.
Motivation and Merits of Closing State Refuges
DFG must provide a summary of relevant comments and other information provided by the public to the Legislature by January 1, 2011.
Reasons to OPPOSE and submit comments by December 1, 2010 deadline:
DFG appears to use faulty logic by claiming use on a refuge must somehow be consistent with adjacent properties. Applying that logic to game refuges would mean there could never be a game refuge adjacent to any parcel boundary where refuge rules apply. Because state refuges are not managed in the same manner as other refuges managed by state/federal governments is irreleveant. National forests and parks are managed differently from state forests and parks. DFG’s argument seems to be that hunting fufills a consistency critera. Such an argument for “consistency” is specious.
DFG appears to assume that the only reason(s) for establishing the refuge/no hunting or no-firearm designated areas 100 years ago was to provide a supply of game animals for hunting. Thus, the claim is made that since the refuge may no longer serve that purpose, it should be closed and hunting be allowed. However, this “purpose” claim is as speculative as the claims that the refuges no longer serve that purpose. The refuges have value—for wildlife of many species and for citizens who wish to enjoy wildlife watching or nature without concerns for dodging errant bullets or arrows. Moreover, there are other species which may not be “game” in the sense of hunting that benefit from refuge habitat.
Assuming DFG’s original purpose claim (refuges increase unmolested game that expand into adjacent hunting lands) is valid, DFG now claims that the refuges are not working, based on studies. However, we don’t know the nature or effectiveness of the studies; they, nor any solid evidence to support such claims, are not available or cited on DFG’s websites. Additionally, we are forced to “trust” an agency that is pressued by hunters and for decades has attempted to do away with refuges (referring to them as “tragic waste" to fairly review and evaluate refuge closure. This in itself creates a conflict of interest or a bias for DFG to potentially ignore valid science or public sentiment, and to alleviate pressure from hunters by just opeing up refuges for hunting, which is akin to habitat destruction.
DFG claims that “The scientific community's knowledge of wildlife ecology and behavior has increased since these refuges were created, and based on this information, DFG has developed significant regulatory processes to protect and enhance wildlife populations.” First, this is irrelevant. The fact is that in a refuge area, wildlife IS protected. Secondly, by its own admission, DFG has concerns regarding the decline in Black-tail deer populations. In fact, DFG has initiated a study to try to find out why Black-tailed deer populations have declined over the past 20 years. According to its website (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/news10/2010080303-Deer-Study.html ), DFG “...began a three-year study of habitat changes, predation and land use patterns affecting black-tailed deer in Mendocino County. The decline in the harvest of black-tailed deer over the past 20 years is well-documented.” The website goes on to state that statewide, the harvest of black-tailed deer bucks has declined from 27,846 in 1989 to 14,895 in 2009, a drop of 46 percent. In the counties in the study area zone, harvest numbers have dropped from 3,013 to 1,297, a 57 percent decline. Based on these population declines, if anything, DFG should be pressing for more, not less, game refuges.
DFG also claims that “Elimination of the ‘State Game Refuge’ designation will have no significant impact on the wildlife and ecosystems of these lands. However, no evidence, no proof, and no studies are presented to support this conclusion. Thus a claim can be made that since the biggest declines in deer herd populations (Mendocino’s 57% decline) are occurring where there are no game refuges, then possibly the game refuges are indeed serving the so-called purpose of increasing herds/populations and that elimination of the State Game Refuge designations will have significant negative impacts on wildlife and ecosystems.
In the analysis of SB 1166, 2008, the validity of the game refuge “purpose” is questioned. DFG states that the purpose in establishing the refuges 100 years ago was to protect deer from being overexploited during the period of early regulation and enforcement of game laws—the end of “market hunting” of game species and the beginning of active conservation. However, SB 1166’s analysis questions that stated purpose and suggests there were other valid reasons for establishing the Game Refuges.
At the federal level, similar decisions to open up protected wildlife areas to hunting were successfully challenged in court. In one case, Fund for Animals successfully argued that the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to vastly expand sport hunting without first investigating the cumulative impact on refuge visitors, migratory birds, sensitive resources and threatened and endangered species violated the National Environmental Policy Act (which requires F&WS look at the whole picture before changing a refuge’s hunting policy. In other words, the agency must evaluate not only the effect hunting will have on the plants and animals in a particular refuge, but also the cumulative effect hunting will have on all refuges.
Refuges are still safe havens for wild animals and for people who wish to hike, observe, boat, etc., without the threat of hunting and all its impacts. Closing refuges results in a loss for both the animals and the people who use the lands in peace.
With hunters representing less than 1% of the state’s population, the vast majority of citizens would not approve the closing any State Game Refuge. If a true study and poll were taken, the vast majority would vote for increasing game refuge acreage, rather than eliminating or depleting it.
Additional motives for closing the State Game Refuges can be found in the implementation of the SHARE program (Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement) which pays private landowners handsomely to allow hunting. We hope the DFG’s “review and evaluation” includes the potential financial windfall that will open up for the private landowners as well.
State Game Refuge Closures must not be allowed to proceed without full disclosure of all impacts for every refuge. The public knows very little about this procedure, and at a recent county Fish and Game Commission meeting, not one commissioner knew about the proposal (except the one who was questioning it and concerned). Thus, the “public outreach” mandate is not being fulfilled. DFG also should study the merits of increasing Game Refuges designations throughout the state and especially in the Mendocino area where Black-tail herd declines are critical.
We urge all to oppose the closure proposal and to submit comments to that effect immediately.
If there are any questions, please contact Marilyn Jasper at firstname.lastname@example.org
SB 1166, Cox, 2008, was created to address the issue that prohibited law enforcement agencies to enter game refuges in performance of their duties because firearms/weapons were not allowed. The first provision in SB 1166 permitted law enforcement officers to enter a game refuge in the performance of their duties. A tacked-on second provision required that the DFG undertake “...education and outreach efforts, including efforts regarding the potential closure of all state game refuges other than 2 specified refuges. The department would be required to provide an opportunity for public comment. The bill would require the department, on or before January 1, 2011, to prepare and submit to the Legislature a report on those efforts and a summary of any information provided by the public that is relevant to the potential closure of those state game refuges. For details on that legislation, go to:
“Game Refuges: A ‘Tragic Waste,” TRACKS, 1997. http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/gamerefuges/docs/1997Tracks-GameRefuges.pdf
The author indicates that the refuges were established for the purpose of providing a steady supply of game animals for hunting, however, it is unclear from the legislative history that that was the only or specific purpose of the refuges. [bold added] From: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_1151-1200/sb_1166_cfa_20080623_111449_asm_comm.html
"For the animal shall not be measured by the man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and more complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear." Henry Beston
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." -- Gandhi
"Every animal knows more than you do." Native American Proverb (Nez Perce)
The Case Against Poisoning Our Wildlife
The poisoning of our wildlife is subsidized by U.S. tax dollars through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program. Over 120,000 native carnivores - including coyotes, wolves, bobcats, badgers, foxes, and bears - are killed every year by Wildlife Services, largely at the behest of corporate agribusiness interests. More than 13,000 of these animals are killed by poisoning with Compound 1080 and M-44 sodium cyanide devices.
In addition to poisons, snares, leghold traps, toxic gas, and aerial gunning are used by Wildlife Services against our native carnivores. Poisons are the most environmentally reckless weapon, killing indiscriminately while contaminating our environment. And we can stop this cruel and unnecessary federally supported practice by asking our Representatives to support H.R.-5643 - the Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide Elimination Act.
We know after two centuries of killing coyotes by our Federal Government that indiscriminate lethal control is not effective in reducing coyote populations or in protecting livestock.
Please contact your Representative and urge him or her to support and co-sponsor H.R. 5643 ~ the Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide Elimination Act.
9. From Lee Rudin:
Should Off-Roaders Rule the Great Outdoors?
What if only off-road vehicles were allowed in our parks? As part of its Great Outdoors Initiative, the Obama administration is collecting ideas for how communities can better conserve outdoor spaces via an online forum where people can post suggestions (and others can vote to "promote" or "demote" them).
When Sierra Club member Nancy Dess posted her idea, though, she was surprised to see that the only ideas getting promoted were from off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
What's going on here?
(off roaders shouldn’t, and neither should Ken Salazar, the United States Secretary of the Interior
In summer, the song sings itself. William Carlos Williams
10. Upcoming Event dates for the Green Hairstreak:
• Sat. Aug. 21, 11:30am-1pm We'll have an outreach table at the 5th Anniv. Party for the 16th Ave. Tiled Steps.
• Tues. Sept. 7 at 6pm: presentation at the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association. We are updating them on the Green Hairstreak Corridor, and asking for money towards signs for our sites.
• Sat. Sept. 4 at 10am: workshop at White Crane Springs Community Garden (7th & Lawton) with Liam O'Brien.
• Mon. Oct 25 at 7pm. "Butterflies of San Francisco" program at the Sunset Public Library, 1305 18th Avenue. Liam will be leading the presentation with a discussion on host plants and the Green Hairstreak
Our Backyard Native Nursery Network is also holding a workshop for BYNN participants on Wed. Aug. 18th about plant propagation and landscaping with natives. Contact me if you're interested in attending.
Deidre Martin, Nursery & Stewardship Coordinator (415) 564-4107 • email@example.com
11. Cash Prizes for Environmental Educators in Secondary Schools. (Spread the word!)
Environmental Futures Contest for Public Schools, sponsored by San Francisco Unified School District, is offering two prizes of $2000 and $1000 to secondary teachers who, with their classes, teach to the environment within their subject. This is open to all subjects, grades 7-12, except Science, as it's an effort to bring environmental education into areas where environmentalism has not been taught. For example, a teacher of English and her class may use environmental essays, films, speakers, as she teaches essay writing, or a Spanish teacher might use environmental information concerning the rapid decline in biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest as she attempts to have her kids translate and discuss. Creativity encouraged. Deadlines and judging in Spring. See www.environmentalfutures. Jim LeCuyer, firstname.lastname@example.org
12. Charles Marsteller:
We have just made a horrible mistake. Instead of reducing wages (or relying on flexible wages as the economy argued--wage deflation to maintain employment--we have relied on LAYOFFS, ie.we have permanently consigned 22% to permanent underemployment/unemployment.
This will cause political and social instability.
I just read an economist w/think tank that says the unemployment rate is 22%. This includes all the workers who have quit looking, who are underemployed, working PT, working 3 jobs and who are seeking work.
A friend of mine just told me of the 57 graduates in his daughter's architecture class out of the Univ.of Washington, three found jobs and of those three, the starting salary for one was very low ($37K). And of the three, two are not working in architecture.
But all have debt.
WE ARE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE AS THOSE WHO HAVE WORK LARGELY ARE LEFT INTACT AT FULL SALARY AND BENEFITS. Yes, some report that their firm had layoffs, and on top of that, there has been some wage reduction. This is certainly true of STATE AND LOCAL WORKERS.
In 1931 my grandfather (a Federal engineer) was given an option: 4 days pay for 5 days work or 20% layoffs. They took the work so they could continue to feed their (now) extended families, continue on their career path and continue building job skills, and maintain normalcy to the greatest possible extent.
This meant we had, in 1931, wage flexibility--at least in my grandfather's Federal Agency. We had wage deflation. This maintained employment to the greatest extent possible.
But this time we came to rely on LAYOFFS, instead consigning the now unemployed to GOVERNMENT SUPPORT and FEDERAL DEBT which means we will all suffer and drag the economy down, and down.
(By and large I agree with Charley's scenario. Why the president or Congress hasn't made any moves is cause for speculation, but you can be sure the calculations are political. For starters, this would be an admission that things are not going to change for the better in the foreseeable future--and optimism is de rigueur in our society and its consumer economy. The president doesn't dare utter anything that implies we're never going to get some of these people back to work. That would be a self-fulfilling prophecy and the Republicans would have a field day, blaming him for all the bad things that happen--things that are going to happen anyway. My joy at his 2008 election was severely tempered by knowing that economic news and unemployment would continue bad for at least the next several years, and the party in power always gets blamed, regardless of whether just or not. The only hope Obama has of getting re-elected is if the GOP puts up someone who scares all except its own right-wing, such as Sarah Palin. The Democrats succeeded in extending unemployment payments, but that only buys a little time, then we're right back where we were, and several billion deeper in debt. What is the solution if the GOP manages to block its renewal next time? Charley mentioned political and social instability. D'accord. JS)
“History should be the instrument of self-criticism, not self-congratulation.” Simon Schama
13. Garden for the Environment
2010 GROWING GREENER SCHOOL GROUNDS CONFERENCE
Date: September 24th & 25th, 2010
Location: San Francisco, CA
The 2010 conference will feature hands-on workshops where you can learn how to use the sun as a teaching resource, understand the basics of organic gardening, build your own planting beds, create colorful mosaics, install irrigation, and more. In addition, many workshops will cover how to connect the outdoor classroom to the education content standards at all grade levels. Visit SFGREENSCHOOLS.ORG for more information.
Questions about Youth at the GFE?
Email Nicole at Nicole@gardenfortheenvironment.org
Sweet Honey on the Block
NY Times, Hugh Raffles
July 6, 2010
"For the first time in more than a decade, New York’s beekeepers are claiming their summer perches on the city’s rooftops. Bowing to a citywide campaign, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently removed honeybees from the Health Code’s register of “venomous insects” and other prohibited animals...."
14. Scientific American
NEWS: Phytoplankton Population Drops 40 Percent Since 1950
Researchers find trouble among phytoplankton, the base of the food chain, which has implications for the marine food web and the world's carbon cycle
60-SECOND EARTH: Global Warming Is Undeniable
Yet more scientific research highlights ongoing climate change--as the U.S. enjoys the hottest July on record
("Enjoys" the hottest July? Doesn't Scientific American have proofreaders? JS)
OBSERVATIONS: Dispersed oil proves less toxic in EPA tests
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released results of its second round of toxicity testing on dispersants
CLIMATEWIRE: New Efficiency Standards for Appliances Provide Cuts Equal to Removing 100 Million Cars
Cutting electricity use by dishwashers and refrigerators could save 550 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 25 years
EXTINCTION COUNTDOWN: Thaw deal: Climate change could leave penguins in the dark
Few animals can live totally in the dark, and penguins are no exception
("Few animals can live totally in the dark, and penguins are no exception" I call that unclear writing. My first reading was that penguins are one of the few animals that can live in the dark; however, I think the opposite is meant. JS)
> The absolutely Best way to erase a song from one's head is to replace it with the Star Spangled Banner
> Works every time
> If you haven't tried the Tuscan cantaloupes, you should -- I have no idea how they do it, but I've undoubtedly bought hundreds of them over the past several years, and I've never gotten a bad one. They range from excellent to very good, where the traditional cantaloupes are completely hit or miss -- some are good, and some are horrible.
> The Tuscan-style melons are more expensive, but I'll gladly pay more for a melon I know I'll enjoy, rather than one with a 50% chance of being tossed in the bin, half-eaten.
> You probably aren't a Costco fan, but I usually buy the Tuscans there and have never been disappointed.
> Hi Jake: I have bought 2 fabulous cantaloupes from the Noe Valley Market on 24th; I go there, since I ride on Sundays. Parking is easy and they open at 8 and I am home by 9.
“Truth comes out of error more easily than out of confusion.” Sir Francis Bacon
Mandatory sentencing in California
A Republican district attorney seeks to make three-strikes more humane
The Economist, Jul 29th 2010
THE judge remembered Larry South well when he saw him in a Los Angeles courtroom in June. Twelve years had gone by since he had sentenced Mr South to life in prison for attempting to steal $29-worth of plumbing supplies from Home Depot. Now, however, Mr South was in court to be freed. “I’m so pleased,” said the judge. Emily Galvin, his lawyer, held back tears as Mr South embraced his sons, aged 19 and 12. Even the prosecutor seemed delighted.
That prosecutor’s attitude represents a potential earthquake in the evolution of California’s three-strikes law, the most severe of the mandatory-sentencing reforms adopted by 26 states in recent decades. The law, approved by voters in 1994, requires a double sentence for offenders with one previous criminal conviction and 25 years-to-life for those with two previous strikes. As a teenager in the 1980s Mr South had twice stumbled drunkenly into garages, attempting (and failing) to steal something. The prosecutor in 1998 counted these as two previous strikes and demanded life.
But that was when Los Angeles County had a different district attorney. The current one, Steve Cooley, has other ideas about Three Strikes, which he values as a “powerful recidivist tool” but also considers “draconian”. Mr Cooley has become the first DA in California to have a written policy not to invoke the three-strikes law when neither the current crime nor the previous strikes are violent or serious.
His approach is especially noteworthy because Mr Cooley is also the Republican candidate for attorney-general of the whole state. As a conservative, he need not be as paranoid as his Democratic rival about being called soft on crime. The son of an FBI agent and a proponent of the death penalty, Mr Cooley can point out the obvious—that the law is often egregiously unjust—and still be considered tough.
His Democratic opponent, Kamala Harris, agrees with him on three strikes, but has so far been more circumspect. As district attorney of San Francisco, which many Californians consider quasi-Jacobin, she has to work harder to seem tough. Her Jamaican father and Tamil mother went to Berkeley in the 1960s and marched in the streets. And her sister once lobbied for a (failed) ballot initiative that would have reformed the three-strikes law to exclude non-violent crimes.
Both Ms Harris and Mr Cooley opposed that reform. But Mr Cooley then proposed one that was only slightly more conservative. It would have stopped counting non-violent, non-serious crimes as third strikes, unless a previous strike was heinous. That initiative also failed. Ms Harris thought it “went too far”.
And so, with a Republican unexpectedly in the lead, the debate about the three-strikes law has been set in motion. Its injustices have become embarrassing even to right-wingers. Elaine Howle, the state auditor, recently reported that of the 171,500 inmates in California’s overcrowded prisons last year, a quarter (43,500) were sentenced under the three-strikes law. More than half of these are locked up for crimes that were not serious, at a cost of $7.5 billion.
In the absence of a change in the law, therefore, increasing discretion by prosecutors may be the best way forward. Mr Cooley certainly thinks so, and his stance provided the opening for Ms Galvin. When she revived Mr South’s case in Los Angeles, she met no resistance.
Mr South has since found a job at the docks. He is catching up with the free world and is learning to text. He is getting reacquainted with his sons. Within California’s brutal system, he represents one case that turned out right.
When you’re young, try to be realistic; as you get older, become idealistic. You’ll live longer. Anthony J. D’Angelo