BRATTON…Women on our city council and men on our Board of Supes, Cruzio scam warning, super tornado film, Angela Davis zinging Kamala…why? Yellow frames on stoplights, Rio Beach photo news. GREENSITE…on Covid and the Homeless. KROHN…another Covid strike?, Council candidate forums, developers and profit, affordable housing, list of ongoing huge developments. STEINBRUNER…County Supes and that pay cut?, Supes to close beaches for Labor Day?, Rural Roads and buried utilities, Vendorless Vendors-what? PATTON…Laws of History. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”ELECTORAL COLLEGE”
BIZARRE MOMENTS THAT ARE UNBELIEVABLE.
CHILD MARIONETTE DANCE.
DATELINE August 17
WOMEN ON CITY COUNCIL, MEN ON BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. Only in Santa Cruz County could you find a city council made up of all women, except for Justin Cummings. And only here too would you find all men on the County Board of Supervisors, all of whom are short except for Greg Kaput. Why is that I wonder?
YELLOW FRAMES ON STOPLIGHTS? It seems like all of a sudden we are seeing yellow frames around some of our local stoplights. It’s a great idea. Who thought that up — and why wasn’t it done eons ago?
CRUZIO AND SCAMMERS. Being a very long-time Cruzio customer/client, I was surprised last week by an email that looked exactly like an email from Cruzio, telling me that my account was being stopped or my emails and been limited…or something like that. It said I must click on the link to resolve the problem. Being wary, I called and conferred with a crackerjack Cruzio representative who said yes, that is a scam announcement you got. He then said…CRUZIO NEVER SENDS AN EMAIL THAT ASKS YOU TO CLICK TO OPEN. NEVER. I just wanted to send that along to Cruzio users.
ABOUT KAMALA HARRIS? Hopefully it’s the majority of us who are very happy that Kamala Harris is running for veep with Joe Biden. Why is it then that former activist Angela Davis and black S.F. Chronicle columnist Otis R. Taylor (08/17/20) have to critique and diminish Kamala’s track record and potential? They can’t possibly want another Trump term, but yet…???
RIO BEACH PROTEST PHOTO. If you scroll down to last week’s BrattonOnline, you’ll see a bunch of Rio Del Mar locals protesting and demonstrating to Keep Rio Free. I received data and names for that photo. Kate St. Clair tells us that State Parks already charged an entrance fee at Seacliff Beach, and they were going to do the same at Rio Del Mar, so the locals protested. Marilyn Jessup says…. “I was there; I made some of the signs. Carol, Judy, Christine Terry, Hunter and Lori, mostly friends from Watsonville High (before Aptos Hi was) and I’ll have to scratch my head to remember the others. The state wanted to put a toll kiosk at the entrance of Beach Drive. I think they actually did, but it didn’t last through the night…”. Now we know, more or less.
B MOVIE BRATTON & BUSHWHACKERS.. Every Friday morning on KZSC (88.1 fm or live online at KZSC.org) from 8:10am-8:20am or thereabouts I present my “B Movie Bratton” segment of short critiques (not reviews) of what’s on our screens. Dangerous Dan Orange hosts the rest of the Bushwhackers B. Club. Lately of course those screens are on anything but theatre screens . Tune in this Friday and listen to my critiques on RAKE do note that Idaho is the only state that expressively forbids cannibalism, and this Australian series is well worth watching. STOCKTON ON MY MIND is an excellent documentary focusing on their mayor Michael Tubb, the first African American elected to that post in their history. MUCHO MUCHO AMOR is also a documentary and tells the eccentric, fantastic, life story of Walter Mercado. Mercado was a showboating Liberace/RuPaul type character who wa famed throughout the Latin American countries. Tune in Friday at 8:10 am.
COVID AND THE HOMELESS.
A lead article in Monday’s Sentinel under Local News had experts wondering why Covid 19 has not hit the homeless population as hard as other demographic groups, especially since many have underlying health problems. I’m not sure why this is a head-scratching issue. Mindful of the need to not over-generalize from appearances, yet observant enough to notice that most who live outdoors are recognizable in their appearance due to lack of bathing facilities and lives of hard living, it is probably true to say that few of the houseless engage in the sorts of Covid-spreading behavior typical of the housed.
I doubt there were many houseless among the more than 2,000 young males who crammed into Harvey West Park last Saturday for an unpermitted, unsanctioned SE Bikes Rideout, trashing the park, blocking access for others, then moving en masse to disrupt traffic and pedestrians along city streets with reported swipes at vehicles as they one-wheeled it to the beach area and West Cliff Drive. Cleanup next day was left to the city Parks and Recreation crew.
I doubt there are many homeless people among the crowds in southern California in the Bible-Belt, who with pastor encouragement insist on their religious freedom to attend big indoor church gatherings, mask-less, in close proximity, with voices raised in Covid-happy song.
I saw no apparent homeless people on city beaches this week, crammed with tourists, ignoring the precautions. Who cares if underpaid cooks sweat in masks in tiny overheated kitchens to provide food for the rest of us? While they put their health on the line for the public, others put selfish-interests above the public’s health. No wonder we have a Covid-19 death rate 40 times higher than New Zealand, adjusting for population size. When people refuse to obey the law, there are usually consequences. Where are the enforcers? The city ranger, employed by SCPD has a beat along the length of West Cliff to the end of Main Beach, including the Wharf and a ten-hour a day work schedule from Monday to Thursday. In summer. With crowds ignoring Covid requirements. A small shift in work schedule would have made a big difference. Why was this not done?
As for the unpermitted Bike Rideout that trashed Harvey West Park and violated all mandated Covid requirements, you can watch the same event here from 2017. It was smaller then and less disruptive. Word spreads through social media. This illegal event should have been on the city’s radar, anticipated and prepared for. Why did it come as a surprise? Why was our Park trashed with no one around to take charge? Have the enforcers thrown in the towel? Has fear of overstepping Martin v. Boise bounds made Nervous Nellies of the SCPD and its rangers? Were they elsewhere? If so, where?
San Diego has made its Convention Center available for the homeless population (think Warriors Stadium, the Civic, UCSC East and West Field gyms). The Deputy Fire Chief in San Diego estimates about 3,000 people has come through and with 6,000 tests so far, 18 have been positive. San Diego has seen no deaths among its 8,000 homeless people. According to the Deputy Fire Chief, they strictly adhere to 6 feet spacing, frequent cleaning and mask wearing. He adds: “we have a team of firefighters that walk the floors to put the cots back where they’re supposed to be.” A small point but a bit of Marine discipline would have the folks occupying the cots putting them back at the required spacing. Build responsibility and ownership. You don’t want highly paid fire nannies doing the job.
While it is good news that the local population of people who live in tents has lower than expected Covid cases so far, nonetheless the impact of their unregulated camping has dire consequences for the environment and for others’ safety. Campsites degrade our open spaces; fires are started; bird habitat cleared of brush for law enforcement visibility even as they admit they can do nothing; low income families who have previously frequented city parks are threatened by out of control individuals while rangers drive by without a word spoken: such are their orders.
It seems at times that social justice and inclusion are rhetoric for grant applications rather than a commitment to achieve those goals in practice.
|Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association http://darksky.org Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.|
COVID-19 SPIKE IN SANTA CRUZ, EXPECT ANOTHER ONE SOON.
This is the Santa Cruz Main Beach this past Saturday 8/15. What is up? Not time to close beaches? As of Aug. 17th, there have been 1,454 people who have tested positive for Covid-19. In Watsonville, 753, Santa Cruz 256, Capitola 39, and Scotts Valley 34 residents have tested positive. This weekend saw up to a dozen officers descend upon vendors. They broke up their stands along Beach Street and hauled away their wares. What I am asking myself is, why is the beach still open? Police can go after vendors, but cannot enforce closing the beach at least between 11a and 5p? Seems like the vendors would not be there if the beaches were closed. Seems like most of the vendors were from the LatinX community too. Seems like this raid on the vendors goes against former-Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018 order to allow sidewalk vending because “[T]he safety and welfare of the general public is promoted by prohibiting criminal penalties for violations of sidewalk vending ordinances and regulations.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB946
City Council Candidate Forums
The votes are in… and Santa Cruz City Council candidates Sandy Brown, Kelsey Hill, and Kayla Kumar have pulled off a trifecta and handily won near-unanimous endorsements from SC4Bernie, several labor unions, and just this past week, the People’s Democratic Club. There has not been this kind of unity this early among the progressive community in many years. Covid-19 has gotten candidates to get out their message early and often and in creative ways as well. Oh, it will be likely that the real estate and developer-heavy Chamber of Commerce types will not endorse these three, nor will discredited former council candidate Robert Singleton’s Business Council endorsement, but this is a given and rightly so. Lynn Renshaw and Brad Brereton’s Santa Cruz Together didn’t even think candidates were worthy of an issues forum, they just endorsed the three pro-library garage, pro-7 stories along the river with little affordable housing, and pro-staff driven city decision-making machine. If you want more rubber stamping of city department head decisions, then don’t vote for the Santa Cruz Squad. As far as campaigning goes, I suspect Brown, Hill and Kumar have enough political acumen up their sleeves and are already implementing inventive ways of addressing vote by mail, which begins Oct. 5.
Transportation and Public Works Commissioner, Candace Brown emailed me this past week to remind me of what I wrote in an old BrattonOnline column about our development-crazy SC Planning Dept. Here is a portion of that column from July of 2019. All this development was the subtext of the Recall campaign. If you want to see a list of Who’s Who in SC Real Estate, and who paid for bogus recall mailers, petition gatherers, and consultants, go here
If you want to see the mind-boggling list of projects proposed for Santa Cruz, go here
If all this development happens, even half of it, Santa Cruz will likely not only look different, but not be the place we would not necessarily want to call home. But, I have not lost hope in the electoral and activist community I live in. With Brown, Hill and Kumar running for seats on the city council, we have a fighting chance to fashion a city “of, by, and for the people.” (BTW, there are many part of the Declaration of Independence I do not agree with, but I have always been fond of that line.)
The 12 years preceding the 2016 city council election were years of real estate good times, which presaged a developer bonanza-BOOM. It was a time that witnessed a distinct shift in Santa Cruz political culture, one that turned away from no-growth and slow-growth pro-environment policies towards an embrace of market-rate development for wealthier folks who do not yet live here. Mantras were born: all housing is equal, and any housing is good housing. And so, a sign was slowly coming into view on Highway 1 just north of Schaffer Road and on Ocean Street too, just south of Highway 17. That sign now reads: Santa Cruz for Sale, Market-Rate Developers Come on in! First came the Broadway Hyatt hotel, then 555 and 1547 Pacific Ave. condo projects (no affordable rental units), and the 151-room Marriot took shape during these years and is now almost completed. This is not to mention the once affordable apartments that are now gone at the La Bahia site on Beach Street. They have found a hotel developer that will build soon. In fact, the Boardwalk’s nemesis to that project for so many years, a veteran Santa Cruz activist, is now moving to New Mexico (go figure!) having lost this battle for a community-oriented, saner project that would’ve placed historic preservation and lower rents front and center.
The New Normal (unless the community organizes for real affordable housing…)
So now, let’s turn to chapter 2 in the once politically unlikely, Surf City Development Boom. I write “political” because so often these same developers need variances, parking spaces, and city infrastructure improvements. The city council, acting as an agent for residents given the representative government we have, can get a better deal, or can simply say, no deal, if the developers are not willing give up significant concessions in order to build here. So, what’s on the table as we look out on the next 3-5 years? Thanks for asking. It ain’t pretty if you are a teacher, barista, electrician, or student looking for something affordable in this town.
190 West Cliff Drive & Dream Inn (DONE)
This project is being pitched by Tyson Sales. He’s quite a pitchman too. After an earlier and well-attended public meeting kind of got messy, too many questions and not enough answers, he is pressing ahead with this 89-condo shopping center project across West Cliff from the Dream Inn on West Cliff at Bay Street. As you might imagine, neighbors ain’t too happy. It appears the project will adhere the 15% affordable housing city policy, but that will leave 85% unaffordable units likely destined for the second home crowd, or sucking from the over-the-hill tech bubble. Lots of Google, Amazon, and Apple buses are already traversing Pacific Avenue. Look for their routes to incorporate West Cliff if this project goes in. The proposed traffic light at Bay, large buildings overshadowing the folks at Clearview Court mobile home park next door, and bringing retail above Pacific Avenue all appear to be flies in the development ointment. Stay real tuned: it should be going to the Planning Commission for approval sometime in August.
908 Ocean Street (Getting Near DONE)
Wow! This will be the mother (father?) of all development projects being proposed for Santa Cruz. It’s a 333-unit project planned for Ocean Street between Water Street and Marianne’s ice cream. (The developer did promise to relocate the venerable Marianne’s.) The project’s development group has quietly assembled 19 parcels and plan to construct a 281,854 sq. ft. of “mixed use development with approximately 5,944 sq. ft. of commercial space…” The rub with this development is that it is called an SOU project, meaning “Small Ownership Units.” It’s never been done here before and it sounds like a project catering to tech workers. Of course, some might argue that the Santa Cruz tech sector is growing and perhaps this might satisfy that growth. Again, stay tuned, try to stay woke, and don’t mourn, organize.
Front Street and Soquel Avenue (Try closer to 400 units now!)
This is a Barry Swenson project at the corner of Soquel and Front Street. It was originally talked about as being a boutique hotel, but has since morphed into a 6-story 170 apartment units rental project. Fifty-eight percent of the units from what I understand are planned to be studios (600 sq. ft.) and “micro-studios” (400 sq. ft.). As yet, not a family-oriented 3-bedroom among any of the units. If state density bonuses are applied for and approved, this project could get higher and add 40-50 more units. They also need a permit from the Army Corps to fill in the ditch that separates property from the San Lorenzo River bike path.
“Front and Riverfront Apartments”
This project will bring another 175 units, 20 affordable and 155 unaffordable, to the downtown across from the Metro station. This project also appears to require permission from the Army Corp of Engineers to fill in the ditch area that separates the river side of the property and might result in another modern-esque, 7-story behemoth shadowing the river and the bike path. Whatever happened to Spanish colonial revival? Look at 401 Pacific as well as the new Lunai Lodge at 550 2nd Street. Both keep within a liberal Spanish-California colonial style.
205-unit project at Laurel and Pacific Ave (Permits ready, but I heard those permits might be up for sale)
This Owen Lawlor-Devcon project was approved by the last council on a 5-2 vote. Councilmember Sandy Brown and I voted no because it lacks any affordable units within the project and therefore, yields to the community 205 unaffordable rentals. It is currently mired in litigation because it is out of compliance with the city’s 15% inclusionary ordinance according to those suing. The developers argue that they are “giving” the city the old Tampico’s site in order to comply with the 15% (now 20%) rule, but it may be insufficient given the cost and length of time it would take the city to move a project forward.
1900 Ocean St. Extension
This project, not well-received by neighbors, appears to be on hold because of neighborhood objections. It will contain mostly unaffordable “residential” condos. Originally proposed at 40 units, it was brought down to 32 by the previous council on another 5-2 vote (Brown and Krohn objecting, mostly because of the unaffordability of units to locals and also the proximity to the venerable Santa Cruz Memorial Cemetery’s chapel.) What we know for now, according to the Planning Dept. web site, is that public comment period ended on July 7th…and now “the Community Development Director (Lee Butler) will take the public’s input into consideration in rendering a decision…”
Addendum (350 Ocean, Almost Done and 314 Jessie put on hold for now)
Please, do not take my word as the last one on any of these projects. Go to the Planning Dept.’s web page to see them for yourself. There is one affordable project taking shape on Jessie Street and anther at 350 Ocean Street. Both projects are needed and could offer some relief to renters. To paraphrase the French philosopher Albert Camus, I would like to support well-designed affordable housing and still love my government. As currently planned not very attractive. Low income housing does not have to be ugly. I’m confident we can get a better design for Mid-Peninsula’s project at 314 Jessie. It will be entirely affordable and that is wonderful. I have yet to see the 350 Ocean project. There’s much more on that city web site that I will take up in a future column, but at the end of the day, if the developers are to have their way and spend down our collective Santa Cruz seed corn, those of us who can afford to stay are witnessing an unprecedented era of market-rate apartment growth. If on the other hand, the voters of Santa Cruz push and prod their elected representatives into building only affordable housing until we’ve caught up with all the market-rate crapola that’s gone up; if residents stand up and demand a couple of hundred affordable units at the two major sites the city owns; if we stand up and say no parking garage, leave the Farmer’s Market where it is, and remodel the library at its current site on Church Street, then we will have a town of, by, and for the folks who reside here. Of course, we cannot take our eyes off the university growth machine for a single moment. The U is bringing in students much faster than we can build housing. In addition to scrutinizing all of the above projects, we must demand that the UCSC stick to the 2020 Long Range Development Plan. In other words, 19,500 students, y no mas!
Future of Affordable Housing in Santa Cruz?
(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. His term ended in April of 2020.
Email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CLOSE BEACHES FOR LABOR DAY WEEKEND
The Board will most likely adopt a Resolution on August 18 meeting, as Item #10, to close all beaches over the Labor Day Weekend, even though County Health Officer Gail Newel has stated it is highly unlikely that the virus is transmitted in outdoor environments and the beach poses a very low risk of person-to-person virus transmission. So, how come the Board wants to do this???
Here is the text of the staff report:
“As the Board is aware, various state and local public health orders have been issued in order to combat the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 emergency constitutes a serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of individuals in Santa Cruz County. Recently, we have seen increased community spread, infection rates, and hospitalizations locally and regionally.
Despite warnings, local beaches remain an attractive spot for congregation, particularly for young people, which have also been experiencing the greatest increase in positive cases. In order to protect the health and safety of our community and to impact the spread of the disease, the attached resolution will close beaches from Saturday, September 5th at 5:00 a.m. until Monday September 7th at 5:00 p.m., with exceptions for public use on Saturday and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. each day. While in the past open hours were from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, both the City of Capitola and the City of Santa Cruz requested these more restricted hours in order to be able to maintain appropriate enforcement staffing.
In order to promote physical and mental health, the ocean will be available for water-based activities such as surfing, paddle-boarding, boogie-boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, and beaches may be traversed during the closure period to participate in these activities. Additionally, facilities adjacent to County beaches such as parkways, sidewalks and trails will remain open.”
Read more here: Consider resolution to impose beach restrictions for the Labor Day weekend in accordance with the local health emergency, as outlined in the memorandum of the County Administrative Officer – Santa Cruz County, CA
MANY COUNTY RURAL ROADS WILL HAVE UTILITIES BURIED UNDERGROUND
Here is a bit of good news. The County Board of Supervisors will most likely approve 14 projects that will put overhead utilities underground along rural roads in high-fire risk areas.
PG&E notified that County of a work credit allocation of $17.5 Million in funds allocated from July 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020 and includes the 2020 work credit allocation, absent the recent underground work done in the Pleasure Point area.
Take a look at the locations in Consent Agenda Item #55 on the August 18 Board agenda:
Accept proposed Rule 20A projects; dissolve the East Cliff Drive Underground Utility District No.19; direct Public Works to prepare a resolution of intention and return to the Board by November 1, 2020 with the resolution of intention, as recommended
Other past projects including work along Soquel Drive in Aptos and Trout Gulch Road to Cathedral. It is encouraging that the County is considering project areas in the wildland areas where fire concerns are high.
Read more about the Rule 20A overhead conversion program here: Conversion of PG&E electric overhead power lines to underground
Please send your thanks so Matt Machado, Director of Public Works:
Matt Machado email@example.com
WILL COUNTY SUPERVISORS REALLY TAKE A 10% SALARY CUT?
The County Board of Supervisors told the people in June that they would take a big cut in salary, in solidarity with the thousands in Santa Cruz County who have lost their jobs and businesses due to corona virus shutdowns. However, evidence of those promised cuts were not available during last week’s Budget Hearings.
They are still not all that transparent, but Ms. Christina Mowrey at the County Auditor & Controller’s Office wrote this in response to my query:
“In response to your question, the furlough savings by Department is included in the Concluding Report -Exhibit 2H, page 136 of the agenda packet. The total general fund furlough savings for the Board of Supervisors Department is $216,722.37 based on 7.5% furlough for all employees except the Board Members calculated at 10%.”
Looking there, I am still not sure the Board is taking a 10% cut, but let’s hope the smoke and mirrors will clear at some point, and transparency will return.
Take a look here to see the big salaries of CAO Carlos Palacios (nearly $400,000/year): 2019 salaries for Santa Cruz County | Transparent California
A 7.5% pay cut for him will have much less hardship than for those workers who are paid much, much less to begin with, and may be barely making ends meet. And then there are the nearly 50 employees whose jobs are being eliminated completely, such as the County Office of Emergency Services Administrator. Who will plan for County response in the next disaster? That will be left to a part-time person in the CAO’s expanded staff, who may or may not know how to do the work.
“VENDORLESS VENDORS” GET MILLIONS IN COUNTY AGREEMENTS
Does this make sense to you? I wrote County Auditor-Controller Ms. Edith Driscoll, for an explanation. Here is what she replied:
A vendorless vendor is listed for contracts that require multiple vendors to fill the needs of the contract. So, one larger amount can be encumbered for the contract with multiple contractors/vendors. When the various contractors submit their invoice, the dollar amount is extracted from the contract and then the vendor number is changed to pay against that vendor.
This still makes no sense to me, and does not seem very transparent either. Write Ms. Driscoll if you are also curious: Edith Driscoll firstname.lastname@example.org
Look in Item #4 of the August 18 1:30pm Final Budget Hearings and see the millions of dollars the County expends on nebulous contracts:
HOW SANTA CRUZ LOST ITS FIRST HISTORIC LANDMARK…AND CONTINUES TO BULLDOZE ITS HISTORY
Lately, every Monday, on page 2, the Santa Cruz Sentinel features excellent local history articles by Mr. Ross Gibson. This week’s article is especially interesting, in my opinion, because in many ways, the City’s disregard for historic preservation back in the 1960’s has not changed to date. I think you will enjoy this article, and reflect on what the City is doing downtown to bulldoze historic structures on Front Street, and other areas. Many thanks to Mr. Gibson for his interesting articles, and to the Sentinel for recognizing the value of a community knowing its history, and the lessons not to be forgotten.
SEND YOUR THOUGHTS BY THIS FRIDAY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SANTA CRUZ COUNTY GROWTH
Send your comments to the County Planning Dept. by this Friday, August 21, to
Comments on the scope of the EIR will be accepted in writing (see the Notice of Preparation for mailing address), or via email. Click here to email comments on the scope of the EIR for this project: CEQA-NEPA@santacruzcounty.us. Please reference the project name in the email title.
It is telling that the County Planning Dept. website shows the last time an Environmental Public Meeting occurred was in 2014. See the attached screen shot. What does that say about the County Planning Department’s commitment to holding public meetings to discuss and explain impacts of large projects, such as the current County General Plan and Sustainability Update?
The Planning Dept. rubber-stamps the majority of large projects these days as “CEQA EXEMPT” and lets the developers do what they wish, eliminating affordable housing that “just doesn’t pencil out” along the way.
Make sure you review the document, focusing on areas that matter to you most (traffic, water, trees and urban cooling, etc) and send your comment by 5pm this Friday.
MAKE ONE CALL. WRITE ONE LETTER. ATTEND A VIRTUAL PUBLIC HEARING. MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK BY JUST DOING SOMETHING.
I welcome your discussion.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
#224 / Laws Of History?
Are there laws of history? That question is the title of an interesting article in Aeon, an online magazine. Click the link to read the article. That’s where the picture came from. A New Yorker profile of historian Yuval Noah Harari, referenced in the Aeon article, is also interesting. If you care about history, and specifically about the study of history and the writing of history, both articles are worth reading.
Neither of the articles, however, as far as I am concerned, provides a dispositive answer to the question posed by Aeon.
Not to worry, I am pretty sure I know the answer, and I am happy to share it with you here.
There are no “laws of history.” History is, in one sense, the story we tell ourselves about the things that humans have done, and about the meaning of the things that humans have done. The word “history” can also mean not just the “story,” but the historical things we have done in and of themselves. So, there is a “history” of World War II, by which can mean the story of what happened in World War II.
But, again… history is not just a “story.” World War II did happen, so what actually happened in the past (the things we might tell the story about) is the real “history.” History as “event,” and history as “story” (which are different things) are labeled with the same word.
The two articles I have mentioned, the way I read them, are mainly focused on “historiography,” which is the study of the methods that historians use in developing history as an academic discipline. Do the stories keep repeating familiar and predictable patterns? Are the things that have occurred in the past (and about which we will write history) determined by what has happened before, the way that the trajectory of a billiard ball can be predicted with accuracy if you know about the initial force that put it in motion and the characteristics of the table on which the ball moves? Where “history” is concerned (as opposed to what happens to the billard ball) there may be past patterns, but there is no certain predictability, and thus no “law” of history.
There really are “laws” that govern the future trajectory of the billiard ball. But there are no “laws” of history that will allow us to know what will happen in the future, just because we know about what has happened in the past. Why not? Here is the reason: human beings are not determined, but are determining. We can do things that have never been thought about or done before, things that are unexpected, and that will have results that are different from the results that have usually occurred in similar situations in the past.
This is to say, with respect to human action, that human beings have the inestimable gift of “freedom,” which means that we are always capable of doing something that is unprecedented. We can always tell ourselves a new story, a story never known about or heard before. In the human realm, “anything” is possible. We are not subject to the laws of physics, so that the very word, “law” means two dramatically different things.
In the Natural World, where the laws of physics (and other natural laws) prevail, a “law” is a statement that “describes” what must and will happen. The “law” articulates an inevitability.
In our world, the world we create, the human world, a “law” is not a description but a prescription. Our human laws are not statements that tell us about what must and will happen, but are our written-down statements about what we want to happen, and about what believe that we should do.
History is what we do, and history is the story we tell about it later.
When we follow our prescriptions, we change the world, and when we actually do change the world, we have a pretty nice story to tell!
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at email@example.com
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.
EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.
“Presidents are elected not by direct popular vote but by 538 members of the Electoral College”.
~Thomas E. Mann
“The Electoral College needs to go, because it’s made our society less and less democratic”.
“Every citizen’s vote should count in America, not just the votes of partisan insiders in the Electoral College”.
“Some of George W. Bush’s friends say that Bush believes God called him to be president during these times of trial. But God told me that He/She/It had actually chosen Al Gore by making sure that Gore won the popular vote and, God thought, the Electoral College. “That worked for everyone else,” God said ‘.
~Sen Al Franken
Sarah Cooper, who does the hysterical lip syncs of Donald Trump on TikTok, is also a standup comedian…
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