Satan cakes for social justice

I receive all sorts of press releases. All sorts. Like this one about “Satan cakes.”


PR person Molly Jacobson writes:

“Hi Mike,
“The Satanic Temple encourages everyone to purchase Satan Cakes (image attached) to fight homophobia and stand for civil rights. Please let me know if I can provide more info or schedule an interview with a leader of The Satanic Temple. Thanks! ~Molly”

She includes this press release.

 

Religious Protection Means Satanic Cakes From Anti-Gay Christian Bakers
If bakers won’t make cakes for gay couples, The Satanic Temple declares, they’ll nonetheless have to make cakes for Satan

This fall, the United States Supreme Court will hear a case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. The argument has been contextualized as a matter of Free Speech versus Civil Rights. However, because sexual orientation is not a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (whereas race and religion are), there is a good chance that the right to discriminate against gay couples will be affirmed as a constitutional liberty. Given the political persuasion of the majority of Supreme Court Justices, this outcome is even more likely. For this reason, The SatanicTemple (TST) has announced a plan for those who feel alienated or oppressed by the privileged status that religion holds over sexual orientation: Request your homophobic baker make a cake for Satan.

TST spokesperson, Lucien Greaves, explains: “Our organization has received a lot of concerned messages from people who are upset by the prospect of an environment in which the LGBTQ community are openly and legally treated as second class citizens. The laws of the United States require that no one may discriminate by way of refusal of service against an evangelical theocrat for their religious beliefs, but the evangelical theocrat may discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are. Because religion is a protected class, a baker may refuse service to LGBTQ people, but they may not refuse service based upon someone’s religion. If they aren’t willing to make a cake for same-sex unions, let’s have them make a cake to honor Satan instead.”

The Satanic Temple proclaims that if the right to discriminate against the LGBTQ community is codified into law by the Supreme Court, aggrieved parties who face discrimination should contact them. “If you can’t get a cake for your same-sex union,” Greaves said, “we’ll host a party in your honor at The Satanic Temple headquarters in Salem and order a cake that praises Satan from your offending discriminatory ‘religious liberty’ enthusiast.”

The Satanic Temple in Salem offers Satanic marriages performed by ordained officiants, regardless of the couple’s orientation.

About The Satanic Temple

The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. Civic-minded, The Satanic Temple has been involved in a number of good works including taking a stand against the controversial and extremist Westboro Baptist Church. For more information about The Satanic Temple, please visit http://www.thesatanictemple.com.

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The Sperry Building goes up for sale

The 1888 Sperry Building, a small but lovely vestige of Stockton’s pioneer waterfront, is on the market again.

The Sperry office building at 146 W. Weber Avenue.

I guess the Monterey couple who bought it in 2015, the Kovaliks, couldn’t find a tenant.

Cort Companies' Mahala Burns in the historic Sperry Office Building in 2015.

I wonder how, if at all, the city’s purchase of the twin towers for a new City Hall will affect the building’s prospects.

 

The Sperry Office Staff around 1919 outside the company's office. Photo courtesy The Haggin Museum.

Want to buy the Sperry Building? Contact Mahala Burns at the Cort Cos., (209) 235-5231.

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“This could work out well”

 

The city of Stockton is moving forward with purchase of the Waterfront Tower buildings.

UOP economic analyst Jeff Michael gives thumbs-up to the city’s purchase of the Twin Towers for its new City Hall.

“I was skeptical when I first heard about this plan,” writes Michael, the Executive Director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific, “mostly concerned about the City spending a large chunk of its reserves when it is projecting some tight budget years in the next decade and has yet to reach its staffing goal for the police force.  After taking a closer look, I believe this could work out well for the City in the long-run.

The historic City Hall is no longer suitable, Michael writes.  And the building the city leases from Assured Guaranty, “The 400 E. Main Street is twice as big as the City needs, and a City Hall is an awkward co-tenant in an office building.  Even if the City owned it, this would be a less than ideal structure – the City made a foolish and rushed decision to buy it in 2007.

That was when Edward Chavez was mayor and Gordon Palmer City Manager. I gave this deal applause at the time, but the full chaos of the city’s unsustainable finances was still largely unknown. My credulity explains why I was appropriately skeptical this time around.

“It doesn’t sound like the City is having a good experience with its bankruptcy antagonist Assured Guaranty as a landlord, which is understandable” Michael writes. “It will be interesting to see what Assured Guaranty does with this office building over time after the City moves out.”

Right. Assured wouldn’t speak to me on the record, but it was clear they are dismayed by the city’s decision to leave their building. Well, guys, you foreclosed on the city and took it; good luck.

Michael’s complete post includes some thoughts abut waterfront revival. Read it here.

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Delays plague bullet train

The Merced-to-Bakersfield segment of California’s bullet train was supposed to be done by Sept. 30. “Not even close,” reports the Fresno Bee.

“And while all of the stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has indeed been spent and construction is happening in earnest in Fresno and Madera counties, much of the Valley route in Kings, Tulare and Kern counties – considered the “backbone” of a system to eventually link San Francisco and Los Angeles – remains on the drawing board.”

What happened? Implacable resistance from farmers, who implacably resist everything but farming; ditto their conservative, small government elected representatives; California Environmental Quality Act hurdles and CEQA lawsuits; lawsuits alleging the project failed to comply with Proposition 1A requirements (the high-speed rail bond measure approved in 2008); slower-than-expected right-of-way property acquisition; and cost overruns which required redesign of the system.

So now a bullet train that was supposed to be whisking between Merced and Los Angeles by 2022 will move more slowly between Bakersfield and San Jose by 2025. Maybe. Now voters who approved a $9.9 billion bond in 2008 are looking at $64 billion estimates.

“It’s going to be expensive, probably more expensive,”Dan Richard, California High-Speed Rail Authority board chairman, tells the Bee. “It’s going to take longer. But 50 years from now, people are going to forget that, just like they forgot the 2,300 lawsuits over the Golden Gate Bridge or that it took 30 years to finish Interstate 5,” he added. “It’s here now; we’re going to get this done. And it’s going to be hard.”

I agree. Still If this is what a state’s greatness looks like from the inside, give me sausage.

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America’s need to transcend tribalism

Self-appointed censors: a group agitates on Sproul Plaza to "Shut Down Milo Yiannopoulos,"

Andrew Sullivan writes a must-read essay about growing tribalism in American politics. And how damaging it is to our democracy and our planet.

“Over the past couple of decades in America, the enduring, complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race have mutated into something deeper, simpler to map, and therefore much more ominous…. two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.

“I mean two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country …”

Sullivan repeatedly quotes Orwell, who nailed tribalism a half century ago. “George Orwell famously defined this mind-set as identifying yourself with a movement, “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” It’s typified, he noted, by self-contradiction and indifference to reality.”

Also demonization of other tribes. Now look at this photo of right-wing “provocateur” (a euphemism, in my opinion, for an intellectually vacuous fraud) Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulous held a free speech event at UC Berkeley. The signs he is holding aloft read “Feminism is a cancer” and “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”

Protecting Yiannopoulos’s right to express such a caricature of thoughtful conservatism cost UC Berkeley at least $800,000.

But what’s the alternative? A country censored by snowflakes such as the UC professor who tells the New York Times in this story, “Words can be like rape–they can destroy you”?

The NYT: “According to a survey conducted in August and made public on the Brookings Institution website, a plurality of college students polled, 44 percent, believed that hate speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

“Today’s students tend to believe in a narrower interpretation of the First Amendment than is actually true,” said the author of the study, John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There is this idea that what is permissible to say should be judged in large part on its impact on a listener.”

I’ll be the “word rape” professor has no problem with harsh words used against conservatives.

Small wonder academe is turning out graduates with no appreciation for the First Amendment. But then our president is dissing it as another chunk of red meat thrown to his base.

Read Sullivan’s essay.

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Stockton’s loss, Lodi’s gain

Shan Swoverland writes:

“A couple years ago I had my art club help me paint a mural dedicated to our Delta. It has Mt Diablo in the distance with a proud oak silhouetted in front of it. A few sandhill cranes and a few water hyacinth floating made it complete. It was in my classroom for awhile since I couldn’t get anyone to get back to me from the Arts commission here in town (sigh–MF). I wanted to donate it to my city once again celebrating the beauty right in our backyard.”

“When I heard my former Delta College art instructor Rowland Cheney died in a plane crash with the woman he was going to ask to marry, I decided to reach out the Lodi Arts Commission since Lodi has some of his sculptures downtown. I felt compelled to dedicate this to his memory. I made certain guide lines that Lodi had to do to even get this mural.

“It took over a year for the red tape … but now it’s hung in Hutchins Square. I’ve been told that the dedication ceremony is on Thursday at 4,”

 

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CalPERS’ unbelievable arrogance

Give us more, more, more: CalPERS' board in 2016.

A state senator asks CalPERS to analyze eliminating COLAS — perpetual raises — from public employee pensions, and lowering pensions modestly going forward. And State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, gets this from CalPERS board president, Rob Feckner:

“Feckner said he won’t repeat what he said on first seeing the Moorlach letter. He said the request did not come from the entire Legislature, and if Moorlach really believes in his “pet project” he should find another way to fund it.”

And this arrogant dismissal to a request merely to analyze a means to stop public employee pensions from driving cities bankrupt.

As they surely will. Calpensions reports that at the same meeting, “The city manager of once-bankrupt Vallejo expects soaring police pension costs to reach 98 percent of pay in a decade. Lodi employees dropped from 490 to 390 in the last decade. And Oroville, after cutting a third of its staff, recently cut police pay 10 percent.”

“The Lodi city manager, Steve Schwabaurer, thanked the board for its courage in acknowledging there is a “crisis’ and taking some steps. But he said he has not seen a discussion of options other than asking the cities for more money.”

Bingo. That’s all CalPERS ever does, with a blinkered, pro-labor drive to maximize pensions even as it becomes crystal clear the pension system is a malignant tumor. People pleading for sustainability are doing CalPERS a favor. In a decade or so when multiple municipalities go bankrupt, and municipal services across the state are a skeleton of their former selves, CalPERS’ leaders will enter the history books as one of California’s historic scourges.

Wayne Davis, head of CalPERS; Office of Public Affairs, responds:
“… One thing that I think would be worth adding in for your readers: The committee did instruct CEO Marcie Frost to work with Sen. Moorlach on where he can get the information to answer his request.”

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A bad sign? Stockton money watchdog resigns

Dave Renison in 2013

Dave Renison, the citizen watchdog of public money who heads the San Joaquin Taxpayers Association, resigned as of today from the Measure A Advisory Committee. Renison said in a letter City Hall refuses to be as transparent and accountable as they promised when asking citizens to approve the Measure A sales tax.

That’s troubling.

The 3/4 cent Measure A sales tax goes 1/3 to pay Stockton’s bankruptcy debt (for 30 years!) and 2/3 to hire 120 police. But City Hall also promised to do annual independent audits so citizens could see exactly where the money goes. The Measure Advisory Committee put citizens in a front-row seat to observe.

Such accountability was obviously important after City Hall dug a lunar-size crater with its Chapter 9. It remains important.

In Renison’s letter he says the city started shifting its position after the tax was approved.

“The promise of a Citizen’s Oversight Committee was referenced in this manner on all campaign materials leading up to the passage of Measure A, including the Sample Ballot,” he swrites. “But once the committee was established the City rejected the term ‘oversight’ and replaced it with ‘advisory’.  … Oversight implies supervision.  Advisory suggests something less.”

The real bones of contention appear to be the annual audits and the Office of Violence Prevention.

“On May 19, 2015, this committee said that the City’s annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) did not illustrate the level of detail necessary to fully understand how Measure A revenues are used and how the use compares to its accompanying advisory Measure B.  Therefore, the committee (on my motion) recommended that the City engage separate and independent accounting firm to complete an audit which would be in addition to the CAFR; one that would include all Measure A ‘revenues and expenditures thereof’.

“The Council Audit Committee and the City Council agreed with the recommendation and staff authorized the auditing services of an outside firm*.  However, as was recently reported by this committee, such an audit was never done.”

As for the Office of Violence Prevention, a permanent office also set up by Measure A, “On Sept. 20, 2017, OVP Manager LaTosha Walden told this committee, “We don’t have a database that can give you measurables.”

In other words, there’s no statistics showing the OVP does a damn bit of good. A subject I, too, wrote about here.

“At the least,” Renison writes, “the City should reduce the high cost of administration, implement an effective strategy for preventing violence and create a plan whereby success can be measured.

“It is my hope that the OVP will soon be able to demonstrate the impact for which it was created.  If not soon, it should be abolished.  This is an agency that has been unable to prevent or reduce crime.  It is an office established on good intentions with a very low benefit-cost ratio for taxpayers.”

Renison’s done a service by making this public. City Hall has some ‘splainin’ to do.

 

 

 

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Fresno gives a pedestrian mall back to cars

No there there: Stockton's Main Street Mall looking east toward the downtown area from Commerce Street.

In the Sixties, Uncle Sam gave cities money to try an experiment in reviving flagging downtowns: pedestrian malls.

It didn’t work.

In Stockton, a once-bustling section of Main Street from Hunter to Commerce was closed to vehicle traffic. It killed the segment for commerce. If you walk that several-block stretch you are struck by the feeling that there’s no there there.

Fresno did the same thing on its Fulton Street. But realizing its mistake, Fresno is well into reopening its Fulton Street Mall to traffic, “viewed by the city as a key component of efforts to revitalize downtown Fresno.”

When Fresno finishes this $20 million project, I may well go down there to see how it works. Because Stockton’s Main Street Mall strikes me as one of those dumb ideas that endure simply because nobody questions them.

 

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Cabbie recalls giving D.B. Cooper a ride

D. B. Cooper? Robert Rackstraw talks with a Record reporter over the jail intercom in 1979.

 

Ralph Vallejo, a retired cabbie, called from Valley Springs.

Vallejo, 75, said “My memory sure got the hell shook out of it,” when he saw my stories about D.B. Cooper in Stockton, and the documentary by Tom Colbert.

“I picked him up at the airport in Stockton,” Vallejo said in a voice mail message.

I called Vallejo.

“I know it was him!” Vallejo said. “After watching that documentary my mind started clicking.

“I was driving cab—I’m not really sure of the year—at the time he was stockpiling all that explosive stuff (the man Colbert has nailed as Cooper, Robert Rackstraw, was arrested in Stockton in 1979 on charges unrelated to the Cooper caper. As this paper reported, police discovered his storage unit was filled with explosives).

Vallejo said it was around midnight when he pulled up to Stockton Metropolitan Airport.

“He was waiting out in front. “You ready to go?” “Take me into Stockton.” “Where’s your baggage?” “Well I got a big one and I got a briefcase.”

Seemed a really friendly guy. He says , “I want the briefcase in the trunk, the big one in front.” He wanted to go to a bar on Market Street (Vallejo and I later worked out that the bar was Ray & Phil’s).

When they got there, the passenger said, “Keep the meter running. I’m not going to be too long.” But he was “In more than an hour,” Vallejo said. “Came out, OK, let’s go down to a certain address around the Victory Park area. He went in—keep the meter running again —’OK how much I owe ya?”

Cooper also said, “‘Can you open the trunk?’ So I got out and I opened the trunk and I said, what the hell is that thing?”

“I’ll show ya.” And he opened it. Lo and behold there were explosives in there. He told me they were explosives.

“The hairs started standing up on the back of my neck when he opened that briefcase,” Vallejo recalled. “I thought, what the hell is this guy trying to do? Blow me off the f—— map?

“We got to talking and he asked me if I was a veteran. I said I was a veteran of the Army during the Berlin Wall thing. He was in Vietnam, some kind of special ops. And he really had a (grudge) against the military—took an early out. He  was definitely upset with the military.

Vallejo recalled asking the man, “What the hell you going to do with that stuff?”

And, he says, the man replied, “Well, I got some things I gotta blow up.

The man gave Vallejo a $100 tip. And that was Vallejo’s encounter with a mysterious man he is now convinced was the legendary D.B. Cooper.

“You know what?” Vallejo asked. “I always kind of liked the way he did that,” meaning the skyjacking and the crazy parachute getaway. “To me he is a folk hero. He just told the government to—guess what—catch me if you can. I think he’s smarter than the government.”

 

 

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    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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