Friday, September 22, 2017

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

John Kelly's reaction to Trump's UN speech

Kelly can resign if Trump gets too crazy for him to continue doing that job. The rest of us---the whole world, actually---don't have that option, though we can hope that Kelly sticks around long enough to keep Trump's finger off the button. We can only hope Robert Mueller will hurry up, and we can get this contemptible human being out of the White House.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017



Follow the ongoing implosion of the Trump Administration at the Committee to Investigate Russia.

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Pic of the Moment
democraticunderground.com/


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The 38 Geary and reality

Brock Keeling in Curbed:

Steeling myself for Transportation Week’s worst rush-hour challenge, I expected-slash-hoped for a hellish commute aboard the sluggish and odorous 38-Geary. After all, when I rode this line daily on the regular nearly a decade ago, it was a jam-packed ride, a crotch-to-butt nightmare come to life.

This ostensibly simple line, which runs ramrod straight east to west from downtown San Francisco to the Outer Richmond, has gained a reputation over the years as the city’s most brutal trip in the during busy hours.

On average, it handles 55,270 average daily boardings, making it one of the busiest bus corridors west of the Mississippi.

Not having taken the 38 during peak hours in eons—living in downtown San Francisco does have privileges; namely, a lack of lengthy commute—I braced myself on an unusually warm Tuesday evening to tame the Geary beast.

Hopping on a 38 Geary Rapid at Fremont and Market at around 5:15 p.m. (the route’s initial stop) the first thing that struck me was the lack of queue. Where was everyone? No matter. I jumped aboard, took off my backpack, and scurried around rat-like to find a seat. However, there was no little need to fret as there were seats aplenty.

Strange.

Over the next few stops, sweaty commuters boarded the bus. Some but not many. It was hardly the sardine-tin crush I witnessed in bygone commutes. Many riders were able to take a seat. Many riders were able to stand comfortably. As we traversed Geary up to Van Ness, the border between Geary Street and Geary Boulevard, there was still enough room for riders to keep their backpacks on. (A major no-no. I digress.)

What rush? What’s happening? Did the rapture finally happen? Or was I on one of those rare rush-hour rides that slides in under the nightmare-commute radar?

As the bus approached the Masonic, I jumped off the coach frustrated and confused. An anomalous ride, I assumed. I went back a few stops and climbed aboard a regular 38-Geary line where, once again, I was met with a downright roomy commuting experience, one that bordered on serene.

Now I was pissed. This line proved too comfortable for rush-hour. Where was the steaminess of an broken NYC subway? Where was the existential anguish that the 405 gives Angelenos on a daily basis?

“SFMTA has been working to improve Geary service with initiatives like new low-floor buses and more frequent Rapid service,” SFMTA’s Erica Kato explains. “Red lanes heading on both Geary and Powell work have resulted in an improved trip-time and better experience for our riders.”

But that’s not all. The 38 still has ways to go. “Additional improvements are needed to meet rising transportation demands---so while your ride has improved, we have more work to do,” says Kato.

While there are some rides on the 38 that still bungle things up, the new and improved 38 Geary line is a sign that, indeed, some things can change for the better with SFMTA.

Now, if they can only get people to stop wearing their backpacks on the bus. That would be a true transit miracle.

Rob's comment:
The point of Keeling's piece is not, as Kato assumes, about the red lanes and travel time but about crowding on the #38. But sluggish travel time on that line has also been exaggerated in the past (see this and this). I'm not convinced that either the red lanes or the BRT have ever been justified.

On backpacks: all passengers should learn to take off their packs and hold them in one hand while they hold a strap or pole with the other. Surely people in The City That Knows How can learn this simple courtesy.


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Stanislav Petrov: The man who saved the world

Stanislav Petrov: 1939-2017

From the obituary in the NY Times:

Early on the morning of Sept. 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov helped prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.

A 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, he was a few hours into his shift as the duty officer at Serpukhov-15, the secret command center outside Moscow where the Soviet military monitored its early-warning satellites over the United States, when alarms went off.

Computers warned that five Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles had been launched from an American base. “For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he later recalled. “We needed to understand, ‘What’s next?’ ”

The alarm sounded during one of the tensest periods in the Cold War. Three weeks earlier, the Soviets had shot down a Korean Air Lines commercial flight after it crossed into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a congressman from Georgia. President Ronald Reagan had rejected calls for freezing the arms race, declaring the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” The Soviet leader, Yuri V. Andropov, was obsessed by fears of an American attack...

After five nerve-racking minutes — electronic maps and screens were flashing as he held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other, trying to absorb streams of incoming information — Colonel Petrov decided that the launch reports were probably a false alarm.

As he later explained, it was a gut decision, at best a “50-50” guess, based on his distrust of the early-warning system and the relative paucity of missiles that were launched...

Historians who have analyzed the episode say that Colonel Petrov’s calm analysis helped avert catastrophe.

As the computer systems in front of him changed their alert from “launch” to “missile strike,” and insisted that the reliability of the information was at the “highest” level, Colonel Petrov had to figure out what to do. The estimate was that only 25 minutes would elapse between launch and detonation.

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike,” he told the BBC. “But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”

...As the tension in the command center rose — as many as 200 pairs of eyes were trained on Colonel Petrov — he made the decision to report the alert as a system malfunction.

“I had a funny feeling in my gut,” he told The Washington Post. “I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it.”

Colonel Petrov attributed his judgment to both his training and his intuition. He had been told that a nuclear first strike by the Americans would come in the form of an overwhelming onslaught. “When people start a war, they don’t start it with only five missiles,” he told The Post.

Colonel Petrov was at first praised for his calm, but in an investigation that followed, he was asked why he had failed to record everything in his logbook. “Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don’t have a third hand,” he replied.

He received a reprimand.

The false alarm was apparently set off when the satellite mistook the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. The computer program that was supposed to filter out such information had to be rewritten.

Colonel Petrov said the system had been rushed into service in response to the United States’ introduction of a similar system. He said he knew it was not 100 percent reliable.

“We are wiser than the computers,” he said in a 2010 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. “We created them"...

Rob's comment:
This shows why it's scary of President Trump and his administration to threaten North Korea: it raises tensions and creates a situation where such mistakes become more likely: War With North Korea Starts to Look Inevitable.


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bradley Manning went from this:


To this:

photograph
Chelsea Manning

Looks like he made the right call.

See also Bradley Manning is not a hero, though there is something heroic about the transformation.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Housing crisis #3: The bogus highrise solution

One Oak: Luxury condos at Market/Van Ness

Joel Kotkin describes the false path of building luxury housing in cities desperate for affordable housing (U.S. Cities Have a Glut of High-Rises and Still Lack Affordable Housing):

More to the point, these buildings don’t tend to be occupied by middle-class, much less working-class, families. And in many cases, these units are not people’s actual homes; in New York, as many as 60% of new luxury units are not primary residences, leaving many unoccupied at any given time...

Cities favored by luxury developers---like Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle and San Francisco---have also seen deteriorating affordability and, in some cases, a mass exodus of middle- and working-class residents, particularly minorities. San Francisco’s black population, for example, is roughly half of what it was in 1970...

These expensive units are far out of reach for the younger people who tend to inhabit the neighborhood, instead serving as what one executive called “vertical safe deposit boxes” for people trying to get their money out of China.

Luxury high-rise units were not built for families, and they are often located in areas with poor schools and limited open space. They may simply become high-priced rentals, attractive no doubt to childless professionals but not to middle-and working-class families...

But San Francisco progressives like Jason Henderson and Tim Redmond, former political editor of the defunct Bay Guardian, mention affordable housing only in passing when discussing the One Oak luxury highrise condo project. 

Forget about affordable housing. It's all about traffic for the two bike guys (Jason Henderson: CEQA warrior?).


If you ride your bike on Market Street, as I often do, you sometimes get walloped by huge gusts as you pass that intersection. The wind whips down Van Ness and — as it is, with the existing buildings — can almost blow you off your bike.

When Redmond was editor at the Guardian, he sounded the alarm about this kind of project in 2005 but failed to mention that emerging housing emergency in later editions of the "progressive" weekly. 

And the Guardian never did a story on the Market/Octavia Neighborhood Plan that allows a bunch of highrises at the Market and Van Ness intersection, though it shared this political negligence with the rest of the city's media by ignoring this massive planning change for that part of the city [Later: Wrong! the Guardian did do one story on the M/O Plan in 2007: Stop the press: The Guardian mentions the Market/Octavia Plan!].

Instead, city progs pivoted to making anti-carism and bicycles the most important political issue facing the city.

Redmond:

For starters, the city admits in Planning Dept. documents that it has no idea how many Uber and Lyft drivers are picking up and dropping off passengers — so the impact of those rides was ignored in the EIR.

Odd claim by the city, since the San Francisco County Transportation Authority did a study on this subject that it posted last June.

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5-David Horsey-Los Angeles Times and Tribune Media.jpg
David Horsey

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The housing crisis #2


“There aren’t enough roofs for all the people who want to live in San Francisco,” said Christine Johnson, 35, who directs the local office of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and also serves as a planning commissioner at City Hall. “Unless we make dramatic changes to how we think about and produce housing, we risk losing everything that makes our city special.”

SPUR is famous in SF for being pro-development (see this, this, and this).

More from Engardio: 

...But he[George Wooding] is skeptical that 17 acres of open space at Balboa Reservoir can become a mini-Mission Bay on the Westside. There is a plan for 1,100 new homes at the site. Johnson would like to see 2,000 units. Wooding said 500 should be the limit. “What good is 2,000 houses if it takes 40 minutes to get on a train?” Wooding asked. “I like the idea of transit villages, but transportation has to come first. I hate it when we build things half-assed and then end up chasing mistakes.”

This is the thing about pro-development advocates in San Francisco: they never met a highrise they didn't like or a housing proposal they didn't want to make bigger. 

Unlike Calvin Welch, they apparently think we can build our way to affordable housing here in San Francisco. That assumption ignores the demand side of the housing equation: San Francisco has long been a jobs center for the Bay Area but gentrification is making it increasingly impossible for people working here to afford living here. 

That is, the demand is distorting the housing market so much that the supply part of the equation is less relevant.

But folks like Johnson---and the Chronicle's editorial board---insist that Brisbane, a town of 4,282, must allow a housing development for 4,400!

From a Chronicle editorial:

But the proposed development would bring big changes to Brisbane. The plan would more than triple the city’s population over the next 30 years. Change is hard, and Brisbane residents don’t want it. Just 16 percent of Brisbane residents wanted to see the Baylands parcel developed as housing, in a recent city-commissioned study.

Gee, I wonder why the people of Brisbane don't want to triple the size of their town? The Chronicle and SPUR aren't asking Brisbane to do something that's merely "hard"; they're asking that town to essentially commit suicide.

Would it be okay with the Chronicle's editorial board if the population of San Francisco is tripled? This is nuts.

See also Joel Engardio: Man in a bubble and Tunnel visions.

More on the housing issue tomorrow.

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Evangelicals, the Nashville Statement, and gay rights


Andrew Sullivan on the Nashville Statement by evangelicals: 

...But their intransigence on this question is killing them. It’s particularly damning when so many of these leaders just endorsed, voted for, and threw their weight behind a man who has married several times, claimed that avoiding STDs was his own version of Vietnam, has humiliated successive wives, has bragged about sexual assault, who talks of his own daughter as a sexual object, and touted the size of his dick in a presidential debate. On all of this, most of these same Evangelicals looked the other way. But gay and transgender Christians? We are living rebukes to God’s natural order...

The reason so many minds have changed on this question is because we know more about our nature than we ever have before. You don’t have to junk all of Christianity to acknowledge that. Gay people, for example, will be the first to insist that male and female exist: It’s just that we are attracted to our own sex and not the other. Transgender people — by seeking to conform their outward appearance with what they feel is their true gender — are also indirectly paying a compliment to the male-female natural structure and want to fit into it. 

For a few generations now, gays and lesbians and transgender people, by coming out, have been telling our stories, and those with open minds and big hearts have heard us. It is one of the great tragedies of many Evangelical and orthodox Christians that they are not interested in listening...

I believe that for an entire generation, this question is a litmus test for whether Christianity really is about love, and whether the Gospels (which have nothing to say about homosexuality) should even get a hearing. I can date my own niece’s and nephew’s rejection of Christianity to the day the priest urged them to oppose equal rights for their uncle. That’s why Evangelicalism is dying so quickly among the young. 

The latest PRRI survey shows that only one in ten Evangelicals are now under 30. It is no accident that the generation that has come to know gay and transgender people as people also finds it hard to dehumanize us in the way the Nashville Statement does, and see a church leadership that still treats us in this fashion as inimical to their own, yes, Christian values...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hillary and The Creep


From the NY Times:

In excerpts from the book...Mrs. Clinton described what she called an “incredibly uncomfortable” experience: Mr. Trump “looming” behind her while they shared a small stage for the second presidential debate. She wondered whether it would have been better to “stay calm” as she did, or instead, “turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep, get away from me!’”



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Monday, September 11, 2017

"Islamophobia": Silencing Islam's critics

Muslims burn copies of Salman Rushdie’s "Satanic Verses" in Bradford, U.K., in 1988. (DEREK HUDSON/GETTY IMAGES)
Muslims burn copies of  "Satanic Verses" in the U.K., 1988. 
(Derek Hudson, Getty Images)

Pascal Bruckner in City Journal:

...The term “Islamophobia” probably existed before these bureaucrats of the empire used it. Still, this language remained rare until the late 1980s, when the word was transformed little by little into a political tool, under the pressure of British Muslims reacting to the fatwa that the Ayatollah Khomeini had pronounced against novelist Salman Rushdie, following his publication of The Satanic Verses. With its fluid meaning, the word “Islamophobia” amalgamates two very different concepts: the persecution of believers, which is a crime; and the critique of religion, which is a right. A newcomer in the semantic field of antiracism, this term has the ambition of making Islam untouchable by placing it on the same level as anti-Semitism.

In Istanbul, in October 2013, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, financed by dozens of Muslim countries that themselves shamelessly persecute Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus, demanded that Western countries put an end to freedom of expression where Islam was concerned, charging that the religion had been represented too negatively as a faith that oppresses women and that proselytizes aggressively. The signatories’ intention was to make criticism of the religion of the Koran an international crime.

This demand arose at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban as early as 2001 and would be reaffirmed almost every year. UN special rapporteur for racism Doudou Diene, in a 2007 report to the organization’s Human Rights Council, decries Islamophobia as one of the “most serious forms of the defamation of religions.” In March of that year, the Human Rights Council had equated this type of defamation to racism, pure and simple, and demanded that all mockery of Islam and its religious symbols be banned.

This was a double ultimatum. The first goal was to impose silence on Westerners, who were guilty of colonialism, secularism, and seeking equality between men and women. The second, even more important, aim was to forge a weapon of enforcement against liberal Muslims, who dared to criticize their faith and who called for reform of family laws and for equality between the sexes, for a right to apostatize and to convert, and for a right no longer to believe in God and not to observe Ramadan and other rites. Such renegades must face public condemnation, in this imperative, so as to block all hope of change.

The new thought crime seeks to stigmatize young women who wish to be free of the veil and to walk without shame, bareheaded in the street, and to marry whom they love and not who is imposed on them, as well as to strike down those citizens of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom of Turkish, Pakistani, or African origin who dare claim the right to religious indifference...

Questions about Islam move from the intellectual, individual, or theological sphere to the penal, making any objection or reticence about the faith liable to sanction.

The concept of Islamophobia masks the reality of the offensive, led by the Salafists, Wahhabis, and Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and North America, to re-Islamize Muslim communities—a prelude, they hope, to Islamizing the entire Western world.

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a refugee in Qatar sought by Interpol for inciting murder and promoting terrorism, often deplored the fact that Islam failed twice in its conquest of Europe: in 732, when Charles Martel stopped the Saracens at Poitiers; and in 1689, with the aborted attempt of the Ottomans to take Vienna. Now the idea is to convert Europe to the true faith in part by transforming the law and the culture...


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The housing crisis #1: Honesty and stupidity

Curbed

A few days after I praised Paul Krugman for his honesty on the housing crisis, he's stupid  on the subject:

Houston’s sprawl gave the city terrible traffic and an outsized pollution footprint even before the hurricane. When the rains came, the vast paved-over area meant that rising waters had nowhere to go.

So is Houston’s disaster a lesson in the importance of urban land-use regulation, of not letting developers build whatever they want, wherever they want? Yes, but.

To understand that “but,” consider the different kind of disaster taking place in San Francisco. Where Houston has long been famous for its virtual absence of regulations on building, greater San Francisco is famous for its NIMBYism — that is, the power of “not in my backyard” sentiment to prevent new housing construction. The Bay Area economy has boomed in recent years, mainly thanks to Silicon Valley; but very few new housing units have been added.

If San Francisco is so "famous for its NIMBYism," why doesn't Krugman---and others who make that claim---cite some city organizations and individuals leading that movement? 

Note too that Krugman abruptly shifts his argument above and below from San Francisco to "the Bay Area economy," as if they were the same thing (Only New York City is already more densely populated than SF):

More Krugman:

The result has been soaring rents and home prices. The median monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is more than $3,000, the highest in the nation and roughly triple the rent in Houston; the median price of a single-family home is more than $800,000. And while geography — the constraint imposed by water and mountains — is often offered as an excuse for the Bay Area’s failure to build more housing, there’s no good reason it couldn’t build up. San Francisco housing is now quite a lot more expensive than New York housing, so why not have more tall buildings?

The reality is that San Francisco is in the middle of a housing boom, as explained in Curbed, the real estate blog, back in 2013: "Construction cranes are popping up like weeds across the city, and these days folks are used to new buildings rising up in just a matter of months. The current construction boom is one for the record books..." 


San Francisco is currently experiencing its highest level of housing production since the 1960s’ Urban Renewal. According to the City Planning Department’s Housing Inventory, almost 3,500 units were built in the year 2014, and we can estimate another 3,500 homes were completed in 2015. The last time we reached such levels of production was between 1963 and 1965, during the heady and controversial days when entire neighborhoods were bulldozed to make way for new construction.

Thousands more units are currently midconstruction, or have been approved and are simply waiting for developers to start construction. According to the City Planning Department’s “Pipeline” data as of October 2015, there are almost 9,000 units of housing in various stages of construction and another 4,300 fully approved homes that have yet to begin construction. (This does not include the 23,000 units approved in the huge Hunters Point Shipyard, Treasure Island and Park Merced projects, which will be built in the coming years).

The real issue is discussed by Calvin Welch: Can We Build Our Way to Housing Affordability in San Francisco? 


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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Playing through

Kristi McCluer took the viral photo of a wildfire burning as golfers play at the Beacon Rock Golf Course in North Bonneville, Wash.
Kristi McCluer

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Saturday, September 09, 2017

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Pic of the Moment
democraticunderground.com

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Donald Trump: "Mind-numbingly, epically incompetent"


Lennart Gabel

The New York Times throws a bouquet to Graydon Carter, who's retiring as editor of Vanity Fair, one of those magazines where the table of contents is on page 30. But under Carter's regime it always had something worth reading, if you could find it. 

The story in the Times includes this tidbit:

He talked his way into a job at Time in the late 1970s before cofounding Spy[magazine] in 1986. Spy took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a “short-fingered vulgarian.” (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his “too big” hands during a visit to Houston.) Among the magazine’s pranks was to mail checks of smaller and smaller quantities to celebrities and wait to see who was avaricious enough to cash them; Mr. Trump redeemed a check for 13 cents.

Earlier this summer Carter shared his opinion of Donald Trump:

The word “trump” formerly was a verb used in polite bridge and whist circles. Trump, the man, is now up there with Hercules and Sisyphus with his own branded adjective. I’m not completely sure what it stands for. 

But when it finally settles into the lexicon, I’m certain that it will be a disconcerting combination of petulant, preening, ignorant, shameless, vulgar, paranoid, vainglorious, reckless, imperious, impulsive, unhinged, callous, corrosive, narcissistic, intemperate, juvenile, disloyal, venal, chaotic, squalid—what have I forgotten? Oh, yes!—and just mind-numbingly, epically incompetent.

As the cliche goes, every cloud has a silver lining---and maybe every category 5 hurricane does, too. Consider this from Michael Daly: 

The most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic is headed straight for the beach houses of [climate change]deniers Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and the Koch brothers.

If I was ever inclined to believe in a divinity---and I've been an atheist since childhood---it would be if hurricane Irma surgically obliterated the beach houses of those folks and left everything else in Florida intact.

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Guess who's to blame for Irma?

Republicans know climate change has nothing to do with Hurricane Irma.
Patheos

Or, just as likely, these storms are a loving God showing off his powers to teach liberals some fucking humility!

Wondering why hurricane Harvey wasn't named "Hillary" by the Trump administration? After all, "Hillary" isn't on the list of banned names

The answer: only because the US doesn't control how hurricanes are named.

But there is a petition to change Irma's name to "Ivanka."

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Novato Narrows project: Finished in our lifetime?

Marin transportation officials are speeding up the design of Novato Narrows widening to prepare for construction if needed dollars become available. (IJ photo/Robert Tong)
Photo: Robert Tong

A comment by Ronrico Padroni to a story in the Marin Independent JournaL (Novato Narrows widening planning put on fast track):

Those huge road cuts that you saw going on along the narrows project for the last 3 or 4 years, the majority of that work was installing an enlarged water pipeline in Sonoma County that ends in Novato.

This pipeline project was also funded in part by CalTrans, and also the NMWD and they even took some of our ratepayers money in the MMWD to help pay for it.

I remember driving that stretch of 101 and seeing all the work going on and the huge stacks of blue water pipe being put into place. I knew it was a waterline, but most people thought it was for drainage of the 101 project. The media and public officials kept that project a secret until after it was completed. They had to, otherwise the commuters would have been in an uproar. Especially since the enlargement of the pipeline was taking more SCWA water and feeding it to Novato to foster the continuation of the big population expansion that Novato has been doing since around 2000 (it started with Hamilton).

I find it disgusting that so much money that was earmarked for 101 and other improvement projects has been diverted away from the actual scope of work and going secretly to other projects and non-profit corporations and their lawyers.

In the meantime, the commuters are being strung along and kept in the dark (in traffic) as to why their commute situation is not improving at all but getting worse. 

Officials don't seem to be accountable with our tax dollars. They keep saying that they need more money to finish the Narrows project, but when they get more money, they instead spend it on SMART, new pipelines for Novato, a bike lane on the Richmond bridge and a host of other useless projects that are not going to benefit the North Bay commuters at all. 

Heck, the Narrows project may never be completed in our lifetimes at this rate.

When the Independent Journal does a story on SMART, the comments are always fun.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Parking-protected bike lane on 13th Street under the Central Freeway.
SFMTA
FROM:
Mary Miles (SB #230395)
Attorney at Law
San Francisco, CA 94102

TO:
Edward Reiskin, Director
Roberta Boomer, Secretary, and
Members of the Board
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency ("MTA")
1 S. Van Ness Ave., 7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

DATE: September 5, 2017

PUBLIC COMMENT, AGENDA ITEM 10.1(S) SEPTEMBER 5, 2017 MTA BOARD MEETING [“ESTABLISH—TWO LEFT LANES MUST TURN LEFT – 13th St. eastbound at Bryant St.”]

This is public comment on Agenda Item 10.1(S) of the September 5, 2017 MTA Board Meeting “adopting environmental findings and approving the following parking and traffic modifications…(S) ESTABLISH---TWO LEFT LANES MUST TURN LEFT---13th St. eastbound at Bryant St.” (Referred to in this Comment as the “Project”) Please provide a copy of this Comment to all MTA Board Members and place a copy in all applicable MTA files. As noted on the MTA Board Agenda, a determination under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) is subject to appeal to the Board of Supervisors within 30 days. 

As already explained in previous comment incorporated by reference here, The Project will clearly have significant impacts under CEQA, including transportation, air quality, safety, and parking impacts. The claimed "categorical exemption" does not apply for the reasons already stated. 

In addition, the approval action before you must be denied, because MTA staff Jennifer Wong repeatedly, emphatically and without qualification stated in testimony both before this Board on April 18, 2017, and before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on June 27, 2017, the falsehood that the 13th Street Project would not remove two traffic lanes on 13th Street eastbound at Bryant Street. 

Those and other material falsehoods by Ms. Wong and other MTA staff substantively and materially misled the public and the Board of Supervisors as to the Project’s impacts on traffic, parking, air quality, GHG, and emergency vehicle access.

The failure to accurately describe the Project violates CEQA’s fundamental purpose to inform the public and decisionmakers and distorts and invalidates the environmental analysis. Here Ms. Wong and other staff repeatedly insisted (over public evidence to the contrary) that the Project would NOT remove two traffic lanes on eastbound 13th Street. 

Further, CEQA prohibits piecemealed and segmented environmental “review” such as MTA’s attempted deception here. 

For all the reasons previously stated and stated here, the Board must therefore reject this proposed Project because it violates CEQA. Further, as an ethical matter for misleading the public, the MTA should immediately take action against its employees who, as here, lie to the public and the decisionmakers.

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Why is all this traffic on Octavia Blvd. in the first place? See Octavia Boulevard and the "transit-rich" mythology and John King's amen chorus: Norquist and Macdonald.

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Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - DACA
Deb Milbrath

President Trump's cruel and gutless action on DACA is typical of bullies and blowhards like him, since they are usually also cowards. Instead of forthrightly rejecting Obama's executive action protecting dreamers, Trump punted the issue to a congress that's unlikely to act.


There is an eerie familiarity to President Trump’s position on deporting immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. It contains the same mix of cruelty and desperate incompetence as his position on repealing Obamacare. There is the alternating of threats and bluster with sweet promises; the repeated delays in hopes a solution will somehow materialize; the lack of interest in programmatic detail...and the final lurch into blame-avoidance that we are seeing now (“Congress, get ready to do your job---DACA!,” Trump demands, bluntly framing the policy as something Congress, not Trump, was supposed to have been working on these past seven and a half months...

It should be obvious to everyone by now that Trump is not a serious person about anything of importance. He doesn't really care about public policy or the impact it has on people. He doesn't care about religion, which made his mealy-mouthed piety the other day about "praying" for the people of Houston particularly revolting.

Willie Brown in last Sunday's Chronicle:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has become the latest victim in our new world of politics — one where instant emotional gratification and ideological reinforcement crowd out intelligent discourse. Feinstein jammed a stick into a snake pit when she said in a Commonwealth Club appearance that there was little chance of President Trump being impeached, and that she hoped “he has the ability to learn and to change, and if he does he can be a good president.”

Everyone understands that a Republican congress won't impeach Trump---at least not yet based on what we know now. But it's just stupid to hope that Trump will ever become anything but the contemptible human being he has always been. That Feinstein even voiced that hope shows that at 84 she's well past her sell-by date and should retire.

More from Brown:

Look, folks. There’s no reason to root against Trump learning and changing and being a “good president.” That would mean he wouldn’t blunder us into a nuclear war with North Korea, and would get religion on immigration, and wouldn’t let corporations do whatever they want to the environment. If he became a good president, that would mean he wasn’t using the office to enrich himself and his family and that he was respecting the rule of law...That is the way it is in today’s politics, where the key to success is to pander to people’s emotions rather than getting them to think or face reality.

If pigs had wings, they might fly. Donald Trump is---and always has been---a swine. Brown matches Feinstein's stupidity with some of his own.

See also Paul Krugman: The Very Bad Economics of Killing DACA.

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Jim Morin

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Bike News Roundup #8

No helmets for Streetsblog

I do the Bike News Roundups
to at least mitigate somewhat the steady stream of uncritical anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall, Streetsblog, and the Bicycle Coalition, not to mention CityLab, Planetizen and all the other anti-car sites.

That the bike movement is as much anti-car as pro-bike is confirmed by the recent story in Streetsblog USA: Improving Biking Is as Much About Slowing Cars as Building Better Bike Lanes. The clear assumption: if cycling is to gain, motorists must lose.

This has long been the assumption of San Francisco's Bicycle Coalition, as its former executive director Leah Shahum affirmed: "Imagine streets moving so slowly you'd let your six-year-old ride on them."

What she's imagining is traffic gridlock in the city, with her imaginary six-year-olds and her adult comrades weaving in and out of that designed traffic congestion. (Shahum doesn't have any children she can send out to play in the traffic.)

It's typical of Streetsblog USA to picture people riding bikes without helmets, since they denigrate helmets as a safety accessory for their readers, many of whom are cyclists.

Note too the comments to the story by yours truly engaging the True Believers on the tenets of their faith---BikeThink. I can comment to stories in Streetsblog USA, unlike Streetsblog SF, which banned me several years ago for making too many comments that annoyed the faithful.

* Last month Lucy Madison, who lives in New York City, wrote an op-ed for the NY times. She began by noting the increase in cycling in that city: "New York City is in the midst of a cycling boom. New Yorkers are riding bikes more than ever, both as a commuting option and a recreational activity."

But there's a downside to more people on bikes:

Seconds after she set foot in the crosswalk, a cyclist plowed into my mother with such speed that he broke her collarbone and multiple ribs. (My mom, who followed pedestrian laws with a near-religious fervor, had a green light.) She fell back on her head, fractured her skull and lost consciousness soon after. The cyclist was cited for disobeying a traffic device. The next day, my mother was declared dead at the hospital.

Her mother was hit in Washington, D.C., but Madison notes that kind of accident is not unknown in New York:

The number of collisions between pedestrians and cyclists rose more than 40 percent from 2012, when there were 243 crashes that injured 244 pedestrians, to 2015, when there were 349 that injured 361 pedestrians.

It's also not unknown in San Francisco: see this and this. Madison was able to get cyclist/pedestrian accident numbers for New York, but we can't do that in San Francisco. 

Under the Vision Zero slogan/policy, City Hall only provides accident numbers and a high-injury network map showing where most traffic accidents happen, not why or who was responsible, which gives the city a blank check to make whatever "improvements" it wants to city streets, most of which make it harder to drive in the city and have no discernible impact on safety.

Governors Highway Safety Association

* Apparently the bike lobby is abandoning the lie about Valencia Street and instead is pushing to eliminate street parking on the street to make a protected bike lane, apparently like the one planned for Masonic Avenue. After the negative feedback the city got on the transit lanes on nearby Mission Street, the city probably won't rush into that Valencia Street makeover.


Child Passenger Safety Week

* Good idea to make sure the kids are buckled in. But what about this? Children and the bike cult, since many cycling deaths are caused by rear-end accidents.

* Something cyclists and runners have in common is thinking about whether short rides are better than long rides or sprints are better than long jogs: Sprinting vs Jogging: Which Is Better For Your Health? and The Virtue of Short Rides.

* BikeShare hardware is vandalized in the Mission and not welcomed in Bernal Heights where, like many neighborhoods, taking away parking is an issue. Burrito Justice is a bike guy, and he maps it out for cyclists in that part of town, whether you're going by BikeShare or not.

* We learn from this MTA document (pages 63,64) that the city is planning to spend more than $600 million on bicycle projects in the next 20 years:

San Francisco’s Bicycle Strategy, building on the 2009 Bicycle Plan, lays out the key investments needed for the City to promote cycling for everyday transportation. The Strategy proposes investments to enhance and expand the City’s bike network to accomplish its goal of 20% bicycle mode share. Full Build-Out of the Bicycle Strategy is designed to provide a system in San Francisco that offers cycling as an equal choice for transportation compared to other modes. Investments in this category will lead to safer routes and connections for bikes citywide, secure parking for bikes, and access to shared bicycles.

As I've pointed out, 20% of trips by bicycle in San Francisco won't happen any time soon, if ever (The 20% by 2020 fantasy). Note that the paragraph doesn't say "by 2020." The implication of the below suggests that even the MTA admits that 20% by 2020 always was a fantasy:

As the population of San Francisco grows and increases in density, traffic congestion will increase unless the City is thoughtful and efficient about the limited use of the public right-of-way. Currently, the existing bicycle network accommodates a 3.5% bicycle mode.

The city's Transportation Fact Sheet (page 3) puts the 3.5% (or 4%, the updated percentage) of bike commuters, or all trips by bicycle---the two distinct numbers are often confused---in historical perspective: it took 14 years to achieve, since 2% of city commuters rode bikes in 2000.

* Streetsblog says a recent study reached an unsurprising conclusion:

People on bikes are exposed to the highest levels of pollution per mile—surprise! But, say the authors, bike riders can reduce their exposure by “choosing dedicated pathways that are away from traffic sources.” Yes, of course. And every bike commuter would love to have that choice.

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