Monday, August 29, 2016

Today's best parody/proposal

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

...I think we need a new academic journal: The Journal of Popular Myths and Delusions, or some such. They would tackle things in two ways. First, when a popular theory gets to the point where it's widely discredited in the scientific community, they'd write an article about it that would give news organizations a hook to report it. 

Second, they would annually commission a survey of known scientific falsehoods and then spend the following year debunking the most popular ones. I recommend they start with the whole eight glasses of water thing.


Like Peak Oil, "Peak Car" was wrong

Fourth Of July Holiday Weekend Travel To Be Busiest In At Least 16 Years
Dang, wrong again! Streetsblog brings the bad news (We’re Driving Our Cars More Than Everto the "alternative transportation mode" folks (Revisiting the Peak Car Debate):

...When we addressed the issue of long-term trends in vehicle travel in our 2013 report, A New Direction, we argued that America had reached the end of what we called the “Driving Boom.” 

We chose our words carefully, and what we meant by them was this: America had experienced a historical period from the end of World War II until sometime in the early 2000s in which an array of big societal forces had aligned to drive consistent, rapid increases in [motor]vehicle travel. That historical period, we argued, was over. What was going to come next was uncertain.

But we suspected that, whatever came next, vehicle travel over the long-term was unlikely, under then-foreseeable conditions, to exceed the level of per-capita vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) that prevailed in the peak year of 2004.

Fast forward to 2016, and we now find ourselves at the end of a second year of blistering growth in VMT, even by the standards of the “Driving Boom” era...

Even anti-car Planetizen is downbeat:

One of the key conclusions of peak car-style analysis is that our traditional transportation models are less effective at predicting the future than we’d assumed they were. If anything, the recent surge in VMT---which was just as surprising as the preceding fall, and came more suddenly---validates, rather than undercuts, that conclusion. If, every five years or so, forecasters find themselves saying “boy, we didn’t see that coming,” you really have to wonder whether forecasting trends 10, 20 or 30 years into the future has much utility at all in policy setting...

Yes, the value of "forecasting trends" is particularly useless when wishful thinking is your basic assumption.

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A SMART train story---plus comments!

A SMART train story in the Santa Rosa Democrat: SMART seeks input on bike parking planned at train stations.

As usual the comments to any SMART story are fun to read.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

This Week in Noe Valley


Starting a religion

Click for larger view

Thanks to the Friendly Atheist.

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Vision Zero scorecard

Traffic Fatalities by Fiscal Year

What a surprise! The Vision Zero campaign/slogan is having zero effect on traffic fatalities.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Andy Thornley

When Andy Thornley's op-ed appeared the other day in the Examiner opposing Joel Engardio's proposal to license cyclists, he was identified thusly: "Andy Thornley is a candidate for the District 1 seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors."

That was news to me, but Thornley's career in San Francisco requires more description, since that leaves out the seven years he worked for the Bicycle Coalition before he clambered aboard the MTA's gravy train. (But he's still just a bike guy at heart!)

I first blogged about Thornley way back in 2005, when he told the Bay Guardian about the Bicycle Coalition's real agenda: "We've done all the easy things so far. Now we need to take space from cars."

Over the years, Thornley represented the city's anti-car movement by rationalizing the ban on the right-turn at Market and Octavia; trying to bluff City Hall about the Healthy Saturdays issue; misrepresenting what the Bicycle Plan litigation was about; lying about what the Bicycle Plan is doing to Second Street; and opining that spending up to $390 million for a bike lane on the Bay Bridge would be a good investment.

I wasn't surprised that Thornley doesn't wear a helmet when he rides his bike, since helmets are controversial here in Progressive Land:

People are surprised, often almost offended, that I don't wear a helmet when I ride my bike — everyone knows how dangerous it is to ride a bike, and I'm not only imperiling myself but setting a bad example to other cyclists when I ride bareheaded. Here's my own personal position: I choose not to wear a helmet while bicycling in San Francisco because I'm very mindful of how I look and don't want to give anyone the wrong impression about how safe it is to ride a bicycle in San Francisco. I'm too busy working to facilitate and encourage urban bicycling and the many benefits it brings to spend any of my limited time and energy constructing fear.

That's the kind of intellectual rigor Thornley would bring to the Board of Supervisors.

Looks like Thornley has a lot of competition from seven other political lemmings.

District 1 voters, however, apparently don't require intellectual heft in their representatives, since Thornley would succeed the termed-out Eric Mar, who District 1 voters reelected after he made a name for himself by opposing the ban on public nudity and wanting to ban toys with Happy Meals:

Perhaps the best, though, was [Supervisor]Mar's assertion that the nudity ban was too trivial for the board. This from the supervisor who fought to ban free toys in Happy Meals and called on the Grammys to add 31 categories of music to their awards. "I did choke a little on the water I was drinking when Eric Mar castigated us for focusing on petty issues," said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. "Discussing the Grammy Awards? That was a highlight of my career at the Board of Supervisors, and Eric Mar brought that one to us."

Supervisor Mar---along of course with Supervisor Breed---also supports the dumb idea of filling in the Fillmore/Geary overpass to "close the divide" between Japantown and the African-American community, even though there are now more black people living in Japantown than there are Japanese, not to mention the monumental traffic jam that would create.

Speaking of traffic jams, Mar and Breed also teamed up to support the equally dumb Masonic Avenue bike project that's now under construction.

District 1 voters might want to ask Thornley about where he stands on these issues, since his website doesn't discuss any issues facing either District 1 or the city.

Andy? Dandy! spoke card
Graphic: Jim Swanson

Hey! Get out of our way!
Graphic: Jim Swanson

Of course Thornley supports Critical Mass.

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Making it harder for people to vote, denying them medical care, and denying the reality of global warming apparently aren't enough for Republicans. They now want to expose everyone to an epidemic:

...On Feb. 8, wasting no time, almost as if lives depended on it, the White House issued a comprehensive fact sheet on what was collectively known at the time about the virus. The administration made its case for $1.8 billion in funding, warning that the nation needed to move “aggressively” because “there is much that we do not yet know about Zika and its relationship to the poor health outcomes that are being reported in Zika-affected areas.”

In March, the Washington Post quoted WHO Director General Margaret Chan saying, “The status of Zika has changed from a mild medical curiosity to a disease with severe public health implications.” The possibility that the bite of a single Zika-infected mosquito could be linked to severe fetal abnormalities, she said, had “alarmed the public and astonished scientists”...

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Thanks to Mother Jones.


Richard Branson goes over the handlebars

richard bike crash injuries

Richard Branson, 66, describes his cycling accident (My life flashed before my eyes):

A couple of nights ago I went cycling on Virgin Gorda with Holly and Sam as part of my training for the Virgin Strive Challenge. I was heading down a hill towards Leverick Bay when it suddenly got really dark and I managed to hit a ‘sleeping policeman’ hump in the road head on. The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes.

I really thought I was going to die. I went flying head-first towards the concrete road, but fortunately my shoulder and cheek took the brunt of the impact, and I was wearing a helmet that saved my life (however, perhaps they should build bike helmets that protect the side of the face too---does anyone know of one?). My bike went flying off the cliff and disappeared. We’ve since recovered the crumpled bicycle, completely destroyed. My cheek has been badly damaged and my knee, chin, shoulder and body severely cut...(emphasis added)

Today my son Sam mentioned another fitting quote, from Hunter S. Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

Rob's comment:
Yes, it's somehow "fitting" that Branson likes the quote by Hunter Thompson, who committed suicide at the age of 67.

Branson is another of what I call old farts on bikes.

Thanks to


"He's taking hate groups mainstream"

Max Whittaker, New York Times

Hillary Clinton's speech yesterday in Reno:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I am so thrilled to be back in Reno. Thank you. I have to say, though, I know when I’m here in Reno I’m the other Hillary. And I am more than OK with that because I think your mayor is doing a terrific job. And the fact that she herself is a small businesswoman and committed to really lifting up Reno and giving everybody in this great city, the biggest little city with a big heart, a chance to get ahead and stay ahead.

I could not be more honored than to have her support and endorsement in this race. So thank you so much, Mayor Schieve. And let me also thank Dr. Karen Hilgersom and everybody here at Truckee Meadows Community College. I love community colleges, and I know something about what this college is doing to give people of all ages — not just young people — a real chance to get the skills and opportunities that everybody in America deserves. So thank you.

Now I have to begin by saying my original plan for this visit was to focus on our agenda to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. This week we proposed new steps to cut red tape and taxes, to make it easier for small businesses to get the credit they need to grow and hire. I want to be a small business president. My father was a small businessman. And I believe that in America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.

And so we’ll be talking a lot more about small business and about our economic plans in the days and weeks ahead. But today, here in this community college devoted to opening minds and creating a great understanding of the world in which we live, I want to address something that I am hearing about from Americans all over our country.

Everywhere I go people tell me how concerned they are by the divisive rhetoric coming from my opponent in this election. And I understand that concern because it’s like nothing we’ve heard before from a nominee for President of the United States from one of our two major parties.

From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.

In just this past week, under the guise of outreach to African-Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in such insulting and ignorant terms. Poverty, rejection, horrible education, no housing, no homes, no ownership, crime at levels nobody has seen. Right now he said you can walk down the street and get shot. Those are his words.

But when I hear them, I think to myself, how sad. Donald Trump misses so much. He doesn’t see the success of black leaders in every field, the vibrancy of black-owned businesses, the strength of the black church.

He doesn’t see the excellence of historically black colleges and universities or the pride of black parents watching their children thrive. He apparently didn’t see Police Chief Brown of Dallas on television after the murders of five of his officers conducting himself with such dignity. He certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color and for every American.

It really does take a lot of nerve to ask people he’s ignored and mistreated for decades, What do you have to lose? Because the answer is everything.

Now Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he’s doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be.

And that’s what I want to make clear today. A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far dark reaches of the Internet, should never run our government our command our military.

Ask yourself, if he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans? Now I know that some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself, that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere. Because, after all, it is hard to believe anyone, let alone a nominee for president, could really believe all the things he says. But here’s the hard truth. There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.

And Maya Angelou, a great American whom I admired very much, she once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Well throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is, and I think we should believe him.

When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants. Their applications would be marked with a C, C for colored, and then rejected.

Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed. And the pattern continued through the decades.

State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let’s not forget that Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called Birthers. He promoted the racist lie that President Obama is not really an American citizen, part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black President.

And in 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for president with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.

And oh, by the way, Mexico’s not paying for his wall either.

If he ever tries to get it built, the American taxpayer will pay for it. We’ll be stuck with the bill. But there has been a steady stream of bigotry coming from him. I think we all remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana could not be trusted to do his job because, quote, “he’s a Mexican.” Think about that.

The man who today is the standard bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge who, by the way, had a distinguished record as a U.S. attorney; had to go in hiding because Mexican drug gangs were after him; who has Mexican heritage, but just like me was born in this country, is somehow incapable solely because of his heritage.

Even the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, described that, and I quote, as the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

And to this day Trump has never apologized to Judge Curiel. But for Trump, that is just par for the course. This is someone who re-tweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name “White Genocide TM.” Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers, and spread his message to 11 million people.

His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image, a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills that first appeared on white supremacist websites. The Trump campaign has also selected a prominent white nationalist leader as a delegate in California, and they only dropped him under pressure.

When asked in a nationally televised interview whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump wouldn’t do it. And only later, again under mounting pressure, did he backtrack. And when Trump was asked about anti-Semitic slurs and death threats coming from his supporters, he refused to condemn them.

Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones. You remember he said that thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn’t. He suggested that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Now, perhaps in Trump’s mind, because Mr. Cruz was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. And there is absolutely, of course, no evidence of that.

Just recently, Trump claimed that President Obama founded ISIS. And he has repeated that over and over again. His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health. And all I can say is, Donald, dream on.

But my friends this is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like gospel. They said in October I’d be dead in six months. It’s also what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs.

He even said, and this really just is so disgusting, he even said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there.

I don’t know what happens in somebody’s mind or how dark their heart must be to say things like that. But Trump doesn’t challenge these lies, he actually went on Jones’ show and said your reputation is amazing, I will not let you down. This from the man who wants to be president of the United States.

You know I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a commander-in-chief has to make. In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership, clear thinking, calm judgment, because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. I know we have veterans here and I know we have families, mothers, and spouses, and children of people currently serving.

The last thing we need in the situation room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference — or doesn’t care to — between fact and fiction. And who buys so easily into racially tinged rumors.

Someone so detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come. And that is yet another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be president of the Untied States.

Now, I hear and I read some people who are saying well, that his bluster and is bigotry is just overheated campaign rhetoric. An outrageous person saying outrageous things for attention. But look at his policies, the ones that Trump has proposed — they would put prejudice into practice. And don’t be distracted by his latest efforts to muddy the waters.

He may have some new people putting new words in his mouth but we know where he stands. He would form a deportation force to round up millions of immigrants and kick them out of the country. He’d abolish the bedrock constitutional principle that says if you’re born in the United States you’re an American citizen.

He says that children born to undocumented parents in America are anchor babies and should be deported, millions of them. He’d ban Muslims around the world from entering our country just because of their religion. Now think about that for a minute, how would that actually work?

The people landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped — just like they do now. But in Trumps America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person what is your religion and then what?

What if someone says I’m a Christian, but the agent doesn’t believe him.

Do they have to prove it? How would they do that?

Really, ever since the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution, believing in religious freedom and religious liberty.

Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border. Now come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that, the so called Islamic State, the territory that ISIS controls. What a cruel irony that someone running for president would equate us with them.

But don’t worry some will say a President Trump will be surrounded by smart advisers who will rein in his worst impulses. So when a tweet gets under his skin and he wants to retaliate with a cruise missile, maybe cooler heads will convince him not to. Well, maybe. But look at who he’s put in charge of his campaign.

Trump likes to say he only hires the best people, but he’s had to fire so many campaign managers it’s like an episode from The Apprentice.

And the latest shake-up was designed to quote “Let Trump be Trump.” So to do that he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right- wing website called, as the campaign’s CEO. Now, to give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines that they’ve published. And I’m not making this up.

“Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” “Gabby Giffords: The gun control movement’s human shield.” “Hoist it high and proud: The confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage”. And that one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides that Breitbart and Bannon tried to inflame.

Just imagine Donald trump reading that and thinking: this is what I need more of in my campaign.

Now, Bannon has nasty things to say about pretty much everyone. This spring, he railed against Speaker Paul Ryan for, quote, “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.” No wonder he’s gone to work for Trump, the only presidential candidate ever to get into a public feud with the Pope.

It’s truly hard to believe but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have known it.

These are racist ideas, race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim, anti- immigrant, anti-woman, all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right. Now, alt-right is short for alternative-right. The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loose but organized movement, mostly online, that rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism, and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.

So the de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for this group; a fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican party. And this is part of a broader story — the rising tide of hard-line, right-wing nationalism around the world.

Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum to have Britain leave the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi — Farage has called for a bar on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and health services.

He has said, women are — and I quote — worth less than men. And he supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race. That’s who Donald Trump wants by his side when he is addressing an audience of American voters.

And the grand-godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs. Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.

Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embraces pro-Russian policies. He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, giving the Kremlin a free hand in eastern Europe. American presidents from Truman, to Reagan, to Bush, to Clinton, to Obama have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia. And we should, too.

All of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it arising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone until now.

On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant.

“We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” one white supremacist said. Duke laughed. “No, there’s still more work to do,” he replied. So no one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed. Racists now call themselves racialists, white supremacists now call themselves white nationalists, the paranoid fringe now calls itself alt-right, but the hate burns just as bright.

Now Trump is trying to re-brand himself as well. But don’t be fooled. There’s an old Mexican proverb that says “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.” So we know who Trump is.

A few words on a teleprompter won’t change that. He says he wants to make America great again, but more and more it seems as though his real message seems to be make America hate again. And this isn’t just about one election. It’s about who we are as a nation, it’s about the kind of example we want to set for our children and our grandchildren.

Next time you see Trump on TV think about all the children listening across America. Kids hear a lot more than we think. Parents and teachers are already worrying about what they call the “Trump Effect.”

They report that bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims and immigrants. At a recent high school basketball game in Indiana, white students held up Trump signs and taunted Latino players on the opposing team with chants of “Build the wall” and “Speak English.”

After a similar incident in Iowa one frustrated school principal said they see it in a presidential campaign and now it’s OK for everyone to say this. We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior before, and we wouldn’t tolerate it in our homes. And we should not stand for it from a presidential candidate.

My friends, this is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits in the convention hall, and told any racist in the party to get out. The week after 9/11 George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims love America just as much as I do.

In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters that they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew Barrack Obama, he said, was an American citizen and a decent person.

We need that kind of leadership again.

We can have our disagreements and believe me I understand that. I think that’s healthy. We need good debates. But we need to do it in a respectful way. Not finger-pointing and blaming and stirring up this bigotry and prejudice. Every day more Americans are standing up and saying, enough is enough, including Republicans, and I am honored to have their support in this campaign.

And I promise you this. With your help I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. For those who vote for me, and for those who vote against me. I will be a president for all Americans.

Because I truly believe we are stronger together, and this is a vision for the future rooted in our values and reflected in a rising generation of young people.

The young people in America today are the most open, diverse and connected generation we have ever seen.

How many of you saw any of the Olympics? Right?

I was so proud. I always get carried away every time the Olympics are on. And you look at the diversity of our athletes. Look at our fabulous Olympic team, representing the United States of America.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African American Muslim from New Jersey, won the bronze medal in fencing with grace and skill.

Would she even have a place in Donald Trump’s America? And I’ll tell you when I was growing up, in so many parts of our country Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky would not have been allowed to swim in the same public pool. And now, together on our swimming team, they’re winning Olympic medals as teammates.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have a person to waste. We want to build an America where everyone has a place; where if you work hard and you do your part, you can get ahead and stay ahead. That’s a basic bargain of America.

And we cannot get to where we need to be unless we move forward together and stand up against prejudice and paranoia, and prove again that America is great because America is good.

Thank you all so very much. Let’s go out and win the election. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

Thanks to

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Warren Hinckle

Chris Felver/Getty Images

Sorry to learn that Warren Hinckle is dead. As editor of Scanlan's and then Ramparts magazines, he was an important influence in the early anti-war movement during the US attack on Vietnam. Ramparts also did good, skeptical work on the assassination of President Kennedy (see this and this).

I was surprised to be reminded that Hunter Thompson's 1970 story on the Kentucky Derby was published by Hinckle in Scanlan's, not Ramparts or Rolling Stone.

Randy Shaw writes about how Hinckle was helpful to SRO residents.

A typical Hinckle story in the SF Chronicle: Porn Kings and a lot more...

Published by Ramparts in 1967

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clinton Foundation: Another excuse for Hillary hate

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

...Did big donors to the Clinton Foundation get extra special access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State? By all the evidence, no. They may have tried to get access, but for the most part they didn't. So far I haven't seen any emails that even remotely suggest otherwise. If anything, Hillary seems to have been unusually careful to avoid entanglements with the Foundation...

If the beef with Hillary is that she's an ordinary politician who's more likely to see you if you're (a) important, (b) a party wheelhorse, and (c) an important donor, then I have no argument. I also have no argument that this is unseemly.

But it's also something I can't get too upset about. It's not just that everyone does this. It's not just that everyone in American politics does this. It's the fact that everyone, everywhere, throughout all of human history has done this. It's just the way human societies work. I'm all in favor of trying to reduce the influence of money on politics, but I doubt there's any way to truly make much of a dent in it. And as I've mentioned before, I don't consider it one of our nation's biggest problems anyway...

Thanks to Legal Planet and Daily Kos.


Vandal vandalized

Screen shot 2016 08 24 at 8.17.54 am
Jeffrey B, Hoodline

Good to see that vandal Shepard Fairey's high-minded work has been vandalized by a fellow vandal. If Fairey has any wit, it will soon be revealed that he solicited the vandalism.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Joel Engardio: Man in a bubble

Westside resident Dennis Seaman, 60, bridges the divide between bicyclists and motorists. (Courtesy Joel Engardio)
Dennis Seaman

There's a lot of foolishness in Examiner columnist Joel Engardio's recent column (Time to mandate bicycle licensesand his reaction to all the negative feedback he got (Reactions and Response to My Bike Column

Apparently his column advocating licensing cyclists was inspired by conversations he had with a neighbor, Dennis Seaman.

“The critical mass bike ride every month is cool, but it pisses off motorists,” he[Seaman] said. “The bike movement has to do more than just demand more bike lanes and take away parking. Cyclists need to give motorists a reason to respect them. Bike licenses and insurance is a no-brainer. It puts everyone on the same playing field.” Seaman recently hit a car door that had opened into a bike lane he was riding in. His injury required 34 sessions of physical therapy. His bike had substantial damage. Yet his auto and home insurance didn’t cover his bike accident (not all policies do). He was on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses.

Seaman was so shocked by this he apparently convinced Engardio that the moral of story is mandatory insurance for cyclists. There are so many objections to that idea even I, Mr. Anti-Bike, think it's a non-starter.

A reality-based moral of Seaman's story: riding a bike is dangerous. Don't do it. 

You would think that someone injured so badly he had 34 physical therapy sessions to recover would understand that reality. On the other hand, a 60-year-old man who thinks Critical Mass is "cool" clearly has cognitive issues.

From Engardio's feedback piece:

One message from a woman on the westside who drives and rides a bike was especially convincing: “Forcing people on bicycles to pay for a license and have insurance does not make the streets safer, but dramatically discourages people from using alternative transportation such as bicycles.” The woman, who is a mother of young children, made another important point: “I have more insurance than you can shake a stick at, and I still find that truly what makes the streets of San Francisco unsafe for vulnerable users of the road…is vehicle speeding.”

Yes, "vehicle speeding" and reckless driving by motorists is a serious safety problem, but there are many other hazards for cyclists, including the fact that most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve motor vehicles (see The myth of cycling "collisions"). 

Potholes and street conditions in general are a hazard, along with rail tracks. And there's the biggest hazard of all, the mindset of cyclists themselves. 

Cyclist and author Robert Hurst:

The most important lesson to be learned here is a bitter pill to swallow: There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist’s own incompetence. As a whole, it turns out, cyclists are not an entirely smooth and skillful lot. The majority of cycling accidents are embarrassing solo incidents, with the cyclist sliding out on turns, stacking it up after ramming potholes, curbs, and other obstacles, or just generally losing control (The Art of Cycling, page 161, emphasis in original).

The last edition of the MTA's Collisions Report (page 24) found that cyclists were responsible for more than half of their own injury accidents in San Francisco.


As I mentioned in the column, bikes are the future. We can’t deny that. We should be doing more to plan for it. I’ve been a strong advocate in previous columns for more public transportation infrastructure and investing in the subway tunnels we regret not building decades ago...My aim with this column was to acknowledge two realities: the number of bicyclists is only increasing and we still have lots of motorists (especially seniors) who rely on driving and parking. With one set of roads, this can cause tension.

Engardio evidently lives in an information bubble. According to the last Bicycle Count Report, commuting by bike in San Francisco has decreased by 7%. Since he clearly didn't read that report---or my blog on the issue---where would he have heard that news? Neither the Chronicle nor Streetsblog even had a story on the report, and the Examiner's story was clearly based on the MTA's press release, not on the report itself.

I wrote about Engardio and SF moderates a couple of years ago, including his delusional idea that a tunnel under Geary Blvd. is reality-based.

And the idea that it's mostly "seniors" who drive motor vehicles in San Francisco is based on nothing but Engardio's prejudice. I don't know of any data that confirms that notion. 

There are in fact more motor vehicles registered in a gentrifying San Francisco every year.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

High-speed rail coming to the Peninsula

Jerry Brown
Governor Brown's folly

From the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has big plans for the San Francisco Peninsula, and you aren't going to like them if you live or work in any of the communities between San Jose and San Francisco.

This report is a kind of "standby" notice. Summer is generally vacation time, not only for school teachers and students, but for governmental agencies, too. When September and October get here, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will be back on track with one of the most destructive proposals you can imagine.

Exact details are expected in September or October, when the Authority will provide specifics on its "preferred alternative" for high-speed rail on the Peninsula. 

All the details are not yet available, but a broad outline of the Authority's high speed plans is now becoming clear. Here is what's coming: PARALYSIS ON THE PENINSULA.

The High-Speed Rail Authority wants to put its trains on the Caltrain right-of-way without providing necessary grade crossings first. The Authority is also calling for a schedule that will mean a train every two and one-half minutes along the tracks.

Think about it! The crossing gates will be coming down every 2 ½ minutes. If you need to get to work, too bad! If you need to get your kids to school, too bad! If there is an emergency, and emergency services vehicles need to get from the east side of the tracks to the west side of the tracks, too bad!

Traffic is already horrendous. The High-Speed Rail Authority plans to make it intolerable.

There are a few other features of the plans that will become clearer as the specifics are brought to light, but widening the existing right-of-way through Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton could require condemnation and takings of both business and residential properties.

And did we mention noise? There will be noise! More noise! Lots of noise!!

CC-HSR has been fighting to protect the Peninsula from adverse high-speed rail impacts since 2008. In large part because the Peninsula got organized back then, the Authority turned its attention to the Central Valley.

Well, now the Authority is BAAACCCK!

Get ready! This is, in fact, a "standby" notice. CC-HSR is pretty certain that we are going to be asking for your help to mount a major campaign to stop the Authority's latest plan. We are certain that the impacts of that plan will be horrible, in terms of what we already know the plan will mean for local communities and local residents. We already know that PARALYSIS is not too strong a word.

When more details are available, you'll hear from us! In the meantime, thank you for your continuing support for CC-HSR.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

The speech on Islam Hillary needs to give


From Sam Harris:

The following is a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November. Its purpose is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern, especially in the aftermath of any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe.

Today, I want to talk about one of the most important and divisive issues of our time—the link between the religion of Islam and terrorism. I want you to know how I view it and how I will think about it as President. I also want you to understand the difference between how I approach this topic and how my opponent in this presidential race does. 

The underlying issue—and really the most important issue of this or any time—is human cooperation. What prevents it, and what makes it possible? In November, you will be electing a president, not an emperor of the world. The job of the president of the United States, even with all the power at her or his disposal, is to get people, both at home and abroad, to cooperate to solve a wide range of complex problems. Your job is to pick the person who seems most capable of doing that.

In the past, I’ve said that groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda have nothing to do with Islam. And President Obama has said the same. This way of speaking has been guided by the belief that if we said anything that could be spun as confirming the narrative of groups like ISIS—suggesting that the West is hostile to the religion of Islam, if only to its most radical strands—we would drive more Muslims into the arms of the jihadists and the theocrats, preventing the very cooperation we need to win a war of ideas against radical Islam. 

I now see this situation differently. I now believe that we have been selling most Muslims short. And I think we are all paying an unacceptable price for not speaking clearly about the link between specific religious ideas and the sectarian hatred that is dividing the Muslim world. 

All of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, must oppose the specific ideas within the Islamic tradition that inspire groups like ISIS and the so-called “lone-wolf” attacks we’ve now seen in dozens of countries, as well as the social attitudes that are at odds with our fundamental values—values like human rights, and women’s rights, and gay rights, and freedom of speech. These values are non-negotiable. 

But I want to be very clear about something: Bigotry against Muslims, or any other group of people, is unacceptable. It is contrary to the values that have made our society a beacon of freedom and tolerance for the rest of the world. It is also totally counterproductive from a security point of view. However, talking about the consequences of ideas is not bigotry. Muslims are people—and most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims simply want to live in peace like the rest of us. Islam, however, is a set of ideas. And all ideas are fit to be discussed and criticized in the 21st century.

Every religious community must interpret its scripture and adjust its traditions to conform to the modern world. Western Christians used to murder people they believed were witches. They did this for centuries. It’s hard to exaggerate the depths of moral and intellectual confusion this history represents. But it is also true that we have largely outgrown such confusion in the West. 

The texts themselves haven’t changed. The Bible still suggests that witchcraft is real. It isn’t. And we now know that a belief in witches was the product of ancient ignorance and fear. Criticizing a belief in witchcraft, and noticing its connection to specific atrocities—atrocities that are still committed by certain groups of Christians in Africa—isn’t a form of bigotry against Christians. It’s the only basis for moral and political progress. 

One thing is undeniable: Islam today is in desperate need of reform. We live in a world where little girls are shot in the head or have acid thrown in their faces for the crime of learning to read. We live in a world where a mere rumor that a book has been defaced can start riots in a dozen countries. We live in a world in which people reliably get murdered over cartoons, and blog posts, and beauty pageants—even the mere naming of a teddy bear. 

I’m now convinced that we have to talk about this with less hesitancy and more candor than we’ve shown in the past. Muslims everywhere who love freedom must honestly grapple with the challenges that a politicized strand of their religion poses to free societies. And we must support them in doing so. Otherwise, our silence will only further empower bigots and xenophobes. That is dangerous. We are already seeing the rise of the far right in Europe. And we are witnessing the coalescence of everything that’s still wrong with America in the candidacy of Donald Trump. 

Now, it is true that this politicized strain of Islam is a source of much of the world’s chaos and intolerance at this moment. But it is also true that no one suffers more from this chaos and intolerance than Muslims themselves. Most victims of terrorism are Muslim; the women who are forced to wear burkhas or are murdered in so-called “honor killings” are Muslim; the men who are thrown from rooftops for being born gay are Muslim. Most of the people the world over who can’t even dream of speaking or writing freely are Muslim. And modern, reform-minded Muslims, most of all, want to uproot the causes of this needless misery and conflict. 

In response to terrorist atrocities of the sort that we witnessed in Paris, Nice, and Orlando, we need to honestly acknowledge that we are fighting not generic terrorism but a global jihadist insurgency. The first line of defense against this evil is and always will be members of the Muslim community who refuse to put up with it. We need to empower them in every way we can. Only cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims can solve these problems. 

If you are concerned about terrorism, if you are concerned about homeland security, if you are concerned about not fighting unnecessary wars and winning necessary ones, if you are concerned about human rights globally, in November you must elect a president who can get people in a hundred countries to cooperate to solve an extraordinarily difficult and polarizing problem—the spread of Islamic extremism. This is not a job that a president can do on Twitter. 

I want to say a few words on the topics of immigration and the resettlement of refugees: The idea of keeping all Muslims out of the United States, which my opponent has been proposing for months, is both impractical and unwise. It’s one of those simple ideas—like building a wall and deporting 11 million undocumented workers—that doesn’t survive even a moment’s scrutiny. 

More important, if you think about this purely from the point of view of American security, you realize that we want Muslims in our society who are committed to our values. Muslims like Captain Humayun Khan, who died protecting his fellow American soldiers from a suicide bomber in Iraq. Or his father, Khizr Khan, who spoke so eloquently in defense of American values at the Democratic National Convention. Muslims who share our values are, and always will be, the best defense against Islamists and jihadists who do not. 

That’s one reason why the United States is faring so much better than Europe is. We have done a much better job of integrating our Muslim community and honoring its religious life. Muslims in America are disproportionately productive and prosperous members of our society. They love this country—with good reason. Very few of them have any sympathy for the ideology of our enemies. We want secular, enlightened, liberal Muslims in America. They are as much a part of the fabric of this society as anyone else. And given the challenges we now face, they are an indispensable part. 

Despite the counsel of fear you hear from my opponent, security isn’t our only concern. We also have an obligation to maintain our way of life and our core values, even in the face of threats. One of our values is to help people in need. And few people on earth are in greater need at this moment than those who are fleeing the cauldron of violence in Iraq and Syria—where, through no fault of their own, they have had to watch their societies be destroyed by sectarian hatred. Women and girls by the tens of thousands have been raped in a systematic campaign of sexual violence and slavery. Parents have seen their children crucified. 

The suffering of these people is unimaginable, and we should help them—whether they are Yazidi, or Christian, or Muslim. But here is my pledge to you: No one will be brought into this country without proper screening. No one will be brought in who seems unlikely to embrace the values of freedom and tolerance that we hold dear. Is any screening process perfect? Of course not. But I can tell you that the only way to actually win the war on terror will be to empower the people who most need our help in the Muslim world. 

The irony is that my opponent in this race, who imagines that he is talking tough about terrorism and ISIS and Islam, has done nothing but voice inflammatory and incoherent ideas that, if uttered by a U.S. president, would immediately make the world a more dangerous place. Being “politically incorrect” isn’t the same as being right, or informed, or even sane. It isn’t a substitute for actually caring about other people or about the consequences of one’s actions in the world. It isn’t a policy. And it isn’t a strategy for winning the war against jihadism or a war of ideas against radical Islam…

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