Monday, September 26, 2016

The debate

Kevin Drum on the debate:

I guess the only thing anyone cares about is who won. I'd give it to Hillary Clinton pretty easily. She handled her facts well, she spoke well, she didn't get baited, she laughed at some of Trump's more ridiculous statements, and she attacked him pretty effectively. "Just listen to what you heard," she said when Trump tried to pretend that he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate. I suspect that even Republicans in the audience laughed at that.

Trump, by contrast, was like a manic version of his usual manic self. He spoke too fast, he got practically red faced at times, he repeated the most obvious lies, and he could barely keep a coherent though together for more than a few seconds before wandering off to something else...

Rob's comment:
As expected Trump was dumb and ignorant, but he also seemed a little nuts. The more I see of him, the worse he seems, reminding me of what James Fallows said months ago: "This is not a well man." On the other hand, the more I see of Hillary the more I like her. That's a result in large part to my ideological bias as a Democrat. But Hillary is a serious person, and Trump just is not.

Trump is a blowhard who doesn't know what he's talking about. As a rich guy, he could have hired experts to draft some kind of Dummies Do Public Policy documents so he could at least pretend to discuss issues seriously. He was too lazy to even do that. It didn't matter during the Republican primaries, but it does now. The more Trump talks in these debates, the less convincing he's going to be.

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Proposition L is delusional

Support the MTA charter amendment

Proposition L on the city's ballot is based on the delusion that there are serious differences between Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors on transportation policy in San Francisco. Whether the board or the mayor appoints MTA board members may turn out to be significant some day but it isn't now, which is why passing this charter amendment is of little significance. It's a solution to a non-problem.

Supervisor Yee, the main backer of the measure, makes the tepid pro-L argument in the Chronicle:

Supervisor Norman Yee, who placed Prop. L on the ballot, said it's an effort to bring more diversity to the MTA board and to make the appointment and budget processes similar to city commissions, committees and other city departments. Supervisors have appointment powers over those commissions and committees. "Let's keep it consistent," he said. "Why not?"

"Why not?" is not exactly the argument of someone who thinks he's supporting an important reform measure.

Maybe the real reason Supervisor Yee supports Prop. L is revealed in a recent SF Magazine story:

...formerly tough to pin down but now reliably progressive Norman Yee. The District 7 supervisor has, over time, chafed at what he’s considered to be slights by the mayor’s team. He wasn’t thrilled, for one, to be left off the guest list for a May public safety meeting in his own district with Mayor Lee, then–SFPD chief Greg Suhr, and district activists. And Yee certainly wasn’t pleased to learn that Ben Matranga, an erstwhile mayoral adviser running to unseat him, had been invited. “And guess what?” cackles a longtime city political organizer. “Norman was a swing vote on how many issues on the left?” (In fact, if not for Yee, four measures that reduce mayoral power would not be on November’s ballot.)

More in the Chronicle's story:

Some of the MTA's more controversial steps, like redesigning streets to speed transit or to accommodate bikes and pedestrians, would have been far more difficult to achieve with a board appointed by both the mayor and the supervisors, he[Tom Nolan] said.

Simply not true. There has been absolutely no dissent on the board of supervisors on any important MTA policies.

Once upon a time, when he was running for mayor and looking for issues to use against Mayor Lee, Aaron Peskin criticized the Central Subway project, but he's apparently now reconciled to that boondoggle.

And with the Chronicle, you have to consider the source, since the most important newspaper in the city has never done a story on that UC study that showed the city was radically under-counting cycling accidents (Nor have the Examiner, SF Weekly, SF Streetsblog or the SF Bicycle Coalition). The Chronicle also didn't do a story on this year's bicycle count, apparently because it showed an actual decrease in cyclists counted.

San Francisco is a one-party town, and the Chronicle is essentially the house organ of that party. The party newspaper of course supports the status quo and opposes Prop. L: "Insulating transit planning from political meddling buys a degree of independence. That’s especially needed in a city plagued by traffic wars, jammed transit and costly employees. Vote NO."

Right. Supervisors elected by district are politically meddlesome, while the mayor is above it all and represents "independence"!

I can't remember the last time a mayor's appointment to the MTA board was controversial---or even prompted any discussion. (Alas, I was the only dissenter on this and this appointment.) 

I bet few city voters have even heard of any of the present board members. (Go here and click on "members.") This guy was appointed just this year, and I've never heard of him, either before or after his appointment by the mayor. 

The main qualification for board membership is anti-carism and the bicycle fantasy. Or, to be more accurate, if you question either policy, you're unlikely to be appointed by either the mayor or a newly-empowered board of supervisors should this measure pass in November.

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What political civility looks like


Sunday, September 25, 2016

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

31 Trump lies in the last week

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, in Houston on Sept. 17.
The New York Times counted 31 lies by Donald Trump in only the last week: A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump.

Thanks to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones.

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Robert Reich: Conservative when he's home

Robert Reich

Why has Robert Reich endorsed a conservative for Mayor of Berkeley?
Harry Brill
September 23, 2016

In Berkeley nine candidates are running for mayor to replace Tom Bates, who is retiring. The two top contenders, who are on the Berkeley City Council, are politically worlds apart. 

Laurie Capitelli tilts in a conservative direction, and Jesse Arreguin is among the most progressive council members. Because Capitelli is an ardent supporter of development projects, he receives substantial contributions from real estate interests. In fact, his habit of favoring developers and landlords as well explains why he raises more money than any other member of the Council. Also, despite Capitelli's recent support for a minimum wage law---elections are around the corner---he has for a long while obstructed efforts to increase the minimum wage.

Although Jesse Arreguin is not opposed to development, he is infinitely more sensitive to the impact of development on small business and residents. Particularly important, Arreguin strongly supports labor legislation that benefits working people. Unlike Capitelli, he has never wavered on minimum wage and any other labor issues. It is no surprise, then, that among his significant endorsers are Bernie Sanders and the Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Very surprising to progressive activists, however, is that among Capitelli's endorsers is Robert Reich. Reich is among the nation's most progressive intellectuals. He has no problem criticizing big business, and exposing how they have stacked the deck. Clearly, Reich is many light years away from the politics of Capitelli and also from his close ally, Tom Bates, who Reich had said is "the best mayor in the country".

Just as startling is Reich's comment about Capitelli: "Laurie is a serious progressive, one that doesn't just talk about progressive values but who demonstrates them." The Progressive Student Association, which is based on the UC Berkeley campus, disagrees with Reich's endorsement, because Capitelli has "repeatedly voted to reduce funding for affordable housing and has opposed campaign finance reform."

Although Reich's endorsement of Capitelli is disappointing, it is really, if we think about it, not surprising. Reich pays little attention, as he admits, to local politics...

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The truth about the Clinton Global Initiative

...As the Clintons move to disentangle themselves from their philanthropic group ahead of Hillary Clinton potentially clinching the presidency, the Clinton Foundation is winding down the event that has served as a victory lap for global do-gooders. This week’s meeting is the Clintons’ last chance to prove the Initiative’s worth to the world—and to undecided voters, too.

Donald Trump has been telling the American public a different story, repeating on the campaign trail that the Clinton Foundation is “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” one that exists only to line the pockets of the Clinton family. But now, as questions swirl about Trump’s own Foundation, thanks to a series of investigative articles in The Washington Post that reveal Trump uses almost none of his own money to make donations, the Initiative’s annual meeting is an apt time for the Clintons to show off just how much good their Foundation has actually done.

And boy, did Bill bring the receipts.

Though the former president (and potential future First Husband) didn’t mention the election or Trump’s criticisms of the Foundation, he did spend the first first few minutes of his opening address at the Initiative, rattling off a stunning list of statistics about the Clinton Global Initiative’s impact. 3,600: That’s how many public commitments the Initiative’s attendees have made on stage over the last 12 years. 435 million: That’s how many people those commitments have helped. 52 million: That’s how many children have received access to education as a result of those commitments. 114 million: That’s how many people can drink clean water because of the Initiative. The list goes on.

One of the Foundation’s signature accomplishments, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, has provided low-cost AIDS medication to 11.5 million people since it launched in 2002...

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Coming home to Progressive Land

Gabrielle Lurie, NY Times

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas Fuller describes what it was like coming back to San Francisco after 27 years abroad:

...During all my years in Asia I constantly grappled with the perniciousness of poverty. Yet somehow I was unprepared for the scale and severity of homelessness in San Francisco.

The juxtaposition of the silent whir of sleek Tesla electric vehicles, with the outbursts of the mentally ill on the sidewalks. Destitution clashing with high technology. Well-dressed tourists sharing the pavement with vaguely human forms inside cardboard boxes.

I’m confounded how to explain to my two children why a wealthy society allows its most vulnerable citizens to languish on the streets. My son, when he first encountered a homeless man, asked why no one “wanted to adopt him.”

It seems a terrible statement about my home country that my children will encounter homelessness and mental illness much more vividly in the wealthiest nation in the world than they did in Thailand, where we previously lived...

Rob's comment:
I had a similar experience in 1995 when I came back to the city from San Diego, where I had lived for several years. Before that I was living in Mendocino County, though I had lived and worked mostly in San Francisco from 1961 until the 1980s.

I was shocked at the sight of homeless people living on the streets and in Golden Gate Park. San Diego may have also had a homeless problem at the time, but if so it wasn't as visible as it was in San Francisco.

Just as shocking as homelessness itself was the passive attitude of the city's left, which, instead of pressing for City Hall to respond to what was clearly a public emergency, endorsed Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, the pie-throwers.

One of my first posts on this blog was about that ongoing political negligence by the city's left. Instead of supporting Mayor Newsom's attempt to deal with homelessness, the left sniped at Newsom and accused him of waging war on the poor!

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Monday night: When Donald meets Hillary

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debating
A good way to prepare to watch Monday's debate: read When Donald Meets Hillary by James Fallows in The Atlantic. Along with a shrewd analysis of the two candidates, Fallows provides the historical context of presidential debates:

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States. 

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. 

As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking over the radio thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won. 

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. 

Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey...

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The Dark Net

From The Other Internet, by William Langewiesche in Vanity Fair:

...The Dark Net exists within the deep web, which lies beneath the surface net, which is familiar to everyone. The surface net can be roughly defined as “anything you can find through Google” or that is otherwise publicly indexed for all to see. The deep web is deep because it cannot be accessed through ordinary search engines. Its size is uncertain, but it is believed to be larger than the surface net above it...

...The Dark Net occupies the basement. Its users employ anonymizing software and encryption to hide themselves as they move around. Such tools offer a measure of privacy. Whistle-blowers and political dissidents have good reason to resort to them. Criminals do, too. 

White fades quickly through gray and then to black in the Dark Net. Furtive sites there offer all manner of contraband for sale—narcotics, automatic weapons, contract killings, child pornography. 

The most famous of these sites was Silk Road—the brainchild of Ross Ulbricht, a libertarian entrepreneur who was arrested by the F.B.I. in San Francisco in 2013 and sentenced last year to life in prison without parole. 

New and even larger marketplaces have opened, including the current leader, AlphaBay, which is owned by a man who has been quoted as saying he resides in an “off-shore country where I am safe,” gives interviews to the press, and openly defies attempts by the authorities to shut him down. 

There are twists: illegal narcotics sold over the Dark Net tend to be purer, and therefore safer, than those sold on the street—this because of the importance to the sellers of online customer ratings. By comparison, it is hard to see the bright side of missile launchers or child pornography.

However noxious the illicit Web sites may be, they are merely the e-commerce versions of conventional black markets that exist in meatspace. The real action on the Dark Net is in the trade of information. Stolen credit cards and identities, industrial secrets, military secrets, and especially the fuel of the hacking trade: the zero days and back doors that give access to closed networks...


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cyclists as victims

Justin Liszanckie in the hospital after the crash. Photo: Liszanckie's mother.
Another injured cyclist

In its daily Today's Headlines feature, SF Streetsblog lists an SF Gate story (2 Bay Area bicyclists killed over a 14 hour spanabout two cyclists dying in street accidents: "Cyclists Killed in Santa Rosa and Fairfield–--Victims Immediately Blamed."

Reading the story shows that apparently the two cyclists were responsible for their own deaths. Maybe later information will show that's incorrect, but that's the only information Streetsblog and its readers had.

The implication of Streetsblog's interpretation: Whenever a cyclist dies in a traffic accident, he/she is by definition a "victim."

I've written before about Streetsblog's grotesque traffic war assumption.

In an account of the accident that injured the guy pictured above, after recounting other cycling accidents, Streetsblog offers some advice:

So where does this leave cyclists? It’s a pretty grim situation that screams that cyclists simply must have video cameras lashed onto their bikes and helmets. Depending on luck isn’t a good strategy. Streetsblog readers will recall the case of Tim Doyle, who was riding in the bike lane when an SFPD cruiser jinked into it, putting him in the hospital. Imagine how that would have played out if not for a good Samaritan motorist with a dash cam? [Attorney Michael]Stephenson also recommends that cyclists, if they are hit, make sure to collect and save evidence (Are San Francisco Cyclists Guilty Until Proven Innocent?).

Yes, cyclists can mount cameras on their bikes and gather evidence after they are in an accident, but after you are hit is often too late.

The idea is not to be hit or have a fall in the first place. A realistic sense of that danger means you shouldn't ride a bike. It's an intrinsically unsafe way to get around. Don't do it! Don't be another "victim" in a Streetsblog story!

And the danger is not all about motor vehicles. Most cycling accidents are solo falls that don't involve other vehicles.

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How the left elected George W. Bush

Image result for ralph nader pictures
Bernie and Ralph

Michelle Goldberg on Slate:

...[In 2000]Nader was unconcerned about the prospect of throwing the election to George W. Bush by siphoning votes from Gore. The week after the Madison Square Garden rally, Nader spoke to an overflow crowd at Chapman University in Orange, California, where he implied that Bush would be better for the left than Gore. “If it were a choice between a provocateur and an ‘anesthetizer,’ I’d rather have a provocateur,” he said. “It would mobilize us.”

The next eight years put this proposition to the test. Nader told me that the 2000 election “showed the pundits that, together with our votes and Gore’s votes, we had a majority progressive turnout.” 

Perhaps it did, but without winning office, the display of a progressive majority counted for nothing. Bush won, beating Gore by 537 votes in Florida, a state where 97,421 voted for Nader. (Nader’s enormous rallies didn’t translate into impressive turnout, and the Greens garnered only 2.7 percent of the national vote.) 

Bush was certainly a provocateur, governing from the far right despite lacking a mandate, but there was no countervailing Green mobilization. After the election, the movement Nader had been building—the one that seemed so alive that night at Madison Square Garden—completely dissipated...

See also Stupidity on the left.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Who progressives are when they're at home


From The Berkeley Daily Planet:

Becky O'Malley
September 16, 2016

So today I opened my email to the usual flood of pleas from candidates and causes, most of which I support. It’s annoying, but I guess they need our money to keep on keeping on with whatever it is that they do.

However. On almost a daily basis I’ve been getting a begging letter from or on behalf of one Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, better known as Daily Kos. He and his staff are asking for contributions to fund a new site focused on elections, a spin-off from their very popular aggregation of mostly pseudonymous rants from self-identified progressives. Like the main Daily Kos site, this new one seems to be ad-heavy (“3 Ways To Stop Dementia--Learn the 3 simple habits that can stop dementia dead in its tracks").

With a claimed 10 million unique hits the Kos enterprise is big business. Today he’s asking each reader to give him a dollar, which would be a cool $10 million if they do.

All of this is fine. The Daily Kos founder, like Tom Lehrer’s Old Dope Peddler, is “doing well by doing good.” And why shouldn’t he?

But when national figures like Markos wrap themselves in the progressive banner, it’s a good idea to check out who they really are when they’re at home.

So when I saw Kos’s recent comments on local news site Berkeleyside, deriding neighbors who spoke up at Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board opposing expansion of a Honda repair shop into a historic retail building in a residential area, I was, shall we say, “shocked”. (Actually, not so much, because he’s done this before.) 

Some samples from his comments on that story: 

“There are a bunch of repair shops just south of Ashby, a couple of blocks from here. There's nothing in that neighborhood's character that precludes this sort of use, but NIMBYs will be NIMBYs in Berkeley…Their hysteria is ridiculous…[Re complaints that existing dealerships park display autos on sidewalks:] Public parking is public parking. Why wouldn't Volvo be allowed to park there? [Re complaints that the project threatens a historic structure:] Too late. Any Mountain [the current tenant] destroyed that 'rich history' already, since apparently a building's history is determined by 1) some old tenant, and 2) a current tenant that is not the old tenant…Then again, this does speak to Berkeley's rich historical pedigree. Rome has the Coliseum. Athens has the Parthenon. Berkeley has [t]he place that once housed a supermarket!” 

What kind of progressive moves into a neighborhood (he lives just a few blocks away) and trashes his new neighbors?

To see his total oeuvre, click on Markos Moulitsas Zuniga to check out his Disqus record. 

Some more ugly stuff there: 

“So what if developers see downtown Berkeley as a cash cow? Who built the existing buildings in Berkeley, non-profit benevolent altruistic charities? People build stuff because 1) there's demand, and 2) money can be made. There's nothing inherently bad about that. In fact, that's why just about everything in this country is made, period.” 

And about the homeless in downtown Berkeley: 

“Where is this right to sit down wherever the hell you please enumerated? I'm curious! There's a park a block over if someone needs a place to chill. Me, I'm looking forward to being able to walk the area with my kids without having to step over human excrement, or having a barely constrained pit bull snapping at them.”

And he’s asking us progressives to send him money? Sorry, Kos, you’re not a nice guy. 

The South Shattuck neighborhood in question is not a fancy one. Its small homes in the Flats, many multi-family, many owned by older people who bought them years ago before Berkeley was invaded by the lifestyles of the rich and famous. And yes, there was also an ageist comment on that thread, not from Kos but by someone who agreed with him: “Why are there so many grumpy retirees with nothing better to do in this city?” 

Exhibiting this kind of disdain for ordinary people who take an interest in what happens in their neighborhoods is exactly the kind of thing that swells the Trump ranks. If a self-styled progressive like Markos Moulitsas takes the side of a major multi-national corporation like Honda against people who don’t want more automobiles near their homes (not just homeowners but also tenants) it’s no wonder some of the aggrieved are tempted by false prophets like Trump. 

And while we’re on the subject of arrivistes, parvenus and carpetbaggers, let’s take note of Robert Reich, who just announced his support for the Bates machine’s candidate for Mayor of Berkeley, realtor Laurie Capitelli. 

Let’s remember that he’s the councilmember who voted to pay out a half-million dollars of public funds as a sweetener for the newly hired Berkeley police chief’s private house (not in a Flatlands neighborhood, may we say, but in the plushier Hills) and then allowed his own real estate company to broker the purchase for a nice commission. Way to profit from public service, Cap! 

Reich was a prominent Berni-bro, eager to denounce Hillary (and Bill, reportedly his former classmate at Oxford) for as long as he could get away with it. But Bernie Sanders has endorsed Jesse Arreguin for Mayor of Berkeley, probably because Jesse endorsed him in the California presidential primary. 

I looked all around the Internet, but could find no record that Capitelli had ever endorsed Sanders (though I left a message on the councilman’s machine, and maybe he’ll call back to contradict me.) 

Arreguin is one of only 100 local candidates to get this accolade from ol’ Bern. As far as I can determine, most of Bernie’s endorsees were local leaders who supported him in the primary. (Full disclosure: another one is my son-in-law Chris Krohn, who is running for the Santa Cruz city council, and who worked hard for Sanders in June.) 

Robert Reich has been on the wrong side of local history ever since he scored the prestigious slot of Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Richard Blum Center for Developing Economies. In furtherance of these fancy jobs, he has moved here, for at least part of the year, and has been busily sucking up to those in power, like Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. 

On the big topics, Reich’s a clever and powerful writer. It’s a mystery to me why he doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to local controversies. Here’s a quote: 

“If nothing is done to counter present trends, the major fault line in American politics will no longer be between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. It will be between the 'establishment'—political insiders, power brokers, the heads of American business, Wall Street, and the mainstream media—and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to 'take back America' from them.”

Yet Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli and his mentor Mayor Tom Bates are exactly the establishment described by this analysis. They are the quintessential political insiders, the power brokers in a city increasingly threatened by speculative developers coming in with big money to profit from the building boom. And like Sanders and Reich, they’re Old White Guys. (I know, Some of My Best Friends Are too, but still…) 

Councilmember Arreguin, on the other hand, is a young Latino, the son of farmworkers, who has consistently sponsored progressive programs on the council and stood up for those being displaced by the city’s gentrification. 

In a complicated switcheroo on another progressive goal, Capitelli first opposed Arreguin’s minimum wage proposal at city council, which was then put on the November ballot by petition. Then he joined the council majority in putting a much weaker version on the November ballot to compete with it. THEN he ginned up a third proposal to supplant both ballot propositions and asked for a special city council meeting to pass it. THEN he didn’t show up for the meeting he himself had requested, which we only heard about via a downtown business association press release. And finally, he persuaded the council, in another special meeting, to pass a “compromise” ordinance, which unlike a ballot proposition could be repealed by a subsequent council vote. And THEN he told us schlemiels to vote no on both ballot measures. Slippery, right? 

Berkeley is increasingly being invaded not only by rich international investors but by global and national celebrities like Moulitsas and Reich, who have identified the city as a trendy happenin’ place to live. People like this who’ve moved around a lot seem to have trouble understanding what contributes to what’s sometimes called a sense of place.

As defined by the Geography Dictionary: 

“Either the intrinsic character of a place, or the meaning people give to it, but, more often, a mixture of both. Some places are distinctive through their physical appearance, like the Old Man of Hoy; others are distinctive, but have value attached to them, like the white cliffs of Dover.”

Berkeley has been distinguished both for its unique architecture and for what’s happened here. For example, the interesting Moderne building, which Honda proposes to take over for its repair shop, was once was a theater that hosted the first reading of Howl. 

Yes, Markos, it’s part of “Berkeley's rich historical pedigree” which you so deride. Too bad you’re too tone-deaf to appreciate it. 

And Professor Reich, if your endorsees, Bates, Capitelli and their ilk, are eventually successful in giving away the city’s remaining development sites for ugly boxes marketed by out-of-town Real Estate Investment Trusts as luxury apartments, we will have lost both our diverse residents and our sense of place. 

More Kos: “Real democracy is at the polls, not the people who show up at arcane meetings.” Well, no, speaking out at meetings counts for lot too. 

My high school’s motto was “Actions speak louder than words.” Being a true progressive means more than just loudly claiming you are one when you have a platform on the internet. As a famous New Yorker once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." 

When you don’t show up you don’t make much progress. For the record, I’ve never seen either Kos or Reich at a Berkeley City Council meeting, and that’s not a good thing. 

P.S. An eagle-eyed reader has spotted, in the latest Capitelli press release, the news that (SURPRISE) Markos Moulitsas Zuniga has also endorsed Capitelli, the big developers' main guy. Birds of a feather flock together.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rose Pak and race in San Francisco

Rose Pak

From the Chronicle's story on Rose Pak's death:

...In the short term, Pak was concerned about getting Kim elected to the state Senate, helping Supervisor Norman Yee get re-elected and supporting school board member Sandra Lee Fewer’s campaign for District One supervisor, Chin said. Kim’s race against fellow Supervisor Scott Wiener was at the top of that list...She had also let it be known that she wanted Deputy Chief Garret Tom to become the next police chief...Her fallout with [Mayor]Lee stemmed from his decision not to appoint [Cindy]Wu to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors. Instead, Lee appointed North Beach community activist Julie Christensen...

Funny, but all the people Pak supported were of Asian ancestry.

The Chronicle story recounts how Pak defamed Julie Christensen to get Aaron Peskin elected. Pak supported Peskin out of spite after Mayor Lee failed to appoint Cindy Wu to David Chiu's seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Pak played the race card against critics---including Aaron Peskin---of the Central Subway project.

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Great place to run: Kezar Stadium

Fog rolling into Kezar

The 10 Best Places To Run in San Francisco on sfist doesn't mention the track at Kezar Stadium. Great surface, redone just last year. No dogs, no bikes, no skateboards, no cars.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Dragnet's acid trip

From Alternet:

The All-American cop drama Dragnet, featuring the iconic Sgt. Joe Friday, premiered in 1967, just as LSD was moving from medical laboratories into the mainstream...

This can be verified easily as incorrect by 15 years, since Dragnet as a TV show began in 1952, not 1967. I knew 1967 was wrong because I remember seeing the TV show when I was a kid. I probably also heard the earlier radio version before we got a TV.

But Blueboy got the jump on me, since I didn't get my hands on LSD until 1969.

Maybe Alternet doesn't have internet access. Send them a contribution today!

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London Breed's leadership


The SF Chronicle's endorsement this morning (below) of the reelection of Supervisor Breed is poorly timed, since it comes right after Breed's latest obscene outburst directed at 48 Hills after an article critical of her housing record. 

"Breed has grown on the job in the past four years, as both a leader and a student of public policy. She deserves re-election." 

Four years ago, we had these words of wisdom from Breed:

You think I give a fuck about a Willie Brown at the end of the day when it comes to my community and the shit that people like Rose Pak and Willie Brown continue to do and try to control things. They don't fucking control me---you go ask them why wouldn't you support London because she don't do what the hell I tell her to do. I don't do what no motherfucking body tells me to do.

In a message to 48 Hills the other day, Breed showed how much she "has grown on the job":

So, when I vote one way, the way you disagree with, I’m the mayor’s bitch, but when I vote the way you want me to, it’s because I have a challenger? So if this is true: “In the past four years, on the vast majority of contested votes, Breed has been on the side of the mayor’s 6-5 majority (until last year, when the majority shifted and a tenant lawyer, Dean Preston, challenged her from the left).” then how does this happen? wow Tim, you are really a piece of work! Honesty? you don’t even fact check your own bullshit ass blog! As my grandmother used to say “I’m going to pray for you, cause you got the devil in you”

I guess you could say that not deploying the F-bomb this time and using "bullshit ass" instead shows a growth in rhetorical restraint (See also this in 2013).

The earlier rant about Willie Brown's influence shows how oddly touchy Breed is about her political career in the city, which began when Brown was mayor:

Breed got her start in politics as an intern in Brown’s Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services. She worked for Brown’s re-election campaign and was later hired at the Treasure Island Development Authority.

I think she's been an awful supervisor. As I predicted after her election, she quickly became captive of the policy priorities of city departments, especially the Planning Department and the MTA. She was only elected in the first place because of the dumb Ranked Choice Voting system pushed by the disastrous class of 2000 supervisors.

There’s no sharper contrast between an incumbent and challenger than this district race taking in the Western Addition and Haight-Ashbury. Supervisor London Breed, who dumped an incumbent four years ago, is under attack from tenant lawyer Dean Preston.

Breed has waged notable battles. She led the charge in stopping a new jail, halted a plan to flip a subsidized housing project to market-rate units, and forced contractors to rework Haight Street improvements after gas lines exploded. She’s combative and tough, hardly a get-along insider.

Preston is determined to link her to Mayor Ed Lee, whom the challenger sees as unpopular in this uber-liberal district. His platform also includes extra tenant protections such as city-supplied lawyers for renters facing eviction, a service that he acknowledges will cost millions.

He wants stronger limits on Airbnb-style home-sharing and more subsidized units in a pair of pending apartment projects on trendy Divisadero Street. Angst over housing costs is a forceful topic for Preston.

The city, though, is better served by a more centrist, consensus-building approach, not the divisiveness embodied in ever-tighter housing laws. Breed has grown on the job in the past four years, as both a leader and a student of public policy. She deserves re-election.

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Liberals and progs should cut the crap: The case for Hillary

You would think that enabling the 2000 election of George W. Bush would be a cautionary tale for third party advocates. Not so. Watching last night's 60 Minutes interview with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld showed that they are contemptible, reckless egomaniacs. 

Paul Krugman on what's at stake this year:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will. Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

All hardcore political narcissists will be voting for the Libertarian candidate due to their disdain for Hillary Clinton's lack of purity. Liberty! Gee, what an original insight! Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones lists 84 reasons why liberals and progressives should cut the crap and support Hillary Clinton (The progressive case for Hillary Clinton is pretty overwhelming).

Libertarianism? What the country needs is more government, not less. See The Case for More Government and Higher Taxes and Once Skeptical of Executive Power, Obama Has Come to Embrace It.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Religion and violence

See also The Radical Disease.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Low opinion

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Herb Caen by Fred Lyon in Hoodline

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Oliver Stone and Snowden

Fred Kaplan reviews "Snowden" for Slate (The leaky myths of Snowden):

Oliver Stone’s Snowden is a bad movie, stuffed with myth, short on drama. Stone has always been a tendentious writer but he was once a terrific director. JFK ranks among the most exasperating movies of all time for portraying Jim Garrison, one of the battier Kennedy-assassination conspiracy-mongers, as a truth-telling hero. But it was still rollicking, spooky fun—so crazy entertaining I could almost excuse its crazy script. 

In Snowden, Stone has another self-styled hero on his hands, but this time he dispenses with the high-flying style and instead spends two hours shrouding his protagonist with the aura of a holy martyr...

...The fact is many of Snowden’s documents bore no resemblance to whistle-blowing as the phrase is broadly understood. Judging from Snowden-inspired stories in the Washington Post and the Guardian, they revealed details about the NSA’s interception of email and cellphone calls by the Taliban in Pakistan’s northwest territories; an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; intelligence assessments inside Iran; and NSA surveillance of cellphone calls “worldwide,” an effort that (in the Post’s words) “allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.” In his first interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden revealed that the NSA routinely hacks into hundreds of computers in China and Hong Kong. None of this is noted in Stone’s film.

Whatever one’s views of U.S. foreign policy in those parts of the world, these activities are legitimate aspects of the NSA’s charter, which involves intercepting communications of foreign powers. They have nothing to do with domestic surveillance or spying on allies. Exposing these intercepts is not whistle-blowing: It’s an attempt to blow U.S. intelligence operations (emphasis added). 

And while Snowden has since acknowledged that other countries do this sort of thing too, not least China and his host at the moment, Russia. He never leaked documents revealing their hacking programs even though, in his job at the NSA, he would have had access to reports (and possibly raw data) about them as well...

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Wake up call

A SMART train makes its way down tracks in San Rafael, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
Photo: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal

From a Marin Independent Journal editorial:

...Its recent nighttime testing of the tracks — on a weekend — drew some complaints from people who preferred to wake up on their own rather than hear SMART horns starting at 5 a.m. Those tests are finished, SMART says — and officials said they were a success. That may depend on one’s perspective — or whether one was ready to get up for the day. SMART soon will be running day and night.

Don't miss the comments to the editorial.

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More on the Van Ness Avenue street lamps

Anonymous writes:

The street lamps were built in 1915. They are over 100 years old, with the design unique to Van Ness Avenue. They changed the original lamps to the beautiful iron scroll and teardrop bulbs in 1936 for the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The Planning Department’s “Historic Preservation Commission,” the SFCTA, and the MTA have already voted to demolish all 269 of the streetlights lining Van Ness but pledged to keep 4 to preserve the Disneyland look at City Hall. An anti-car stooge consultant in Sacramento hired by SFMTA/SFCTA/Obama-FTA came up with a report that says they are of no historic value. 

MTA demands that the street lamps must be demolished for its half-billion-plus-dollar BRT Project on Van Ness. After the close of public comment on the EIR, MTA staff secretly created and selected its center-running “LPA” design for exclusive bus lanes for the two Muni lines on Van Ness. The Van Ness BRT will also remove nearly all of existing median trees and sidewalk trees on Van Ness. 

The VNBRT Project will permanently remove two traffic lanes, all but one left-turn pocket, and all the parking on most of Van Ness to install three to four lanes of red-painted asphalt in the center of Van Ness Avenue/Highway 101, creating permanent congestion and gridlock on every street in the area. The BRT “bus stations” will be more of the ugly plastic “wave” bus stops with glaring, overly lit advertising, the “vibrant” new three-story laser-light streetlamps. Van Ness will have more of the ubiquitous congestion-producing bulbouts and Rohnert Park-style “rain gardens” protruding into the street to make right turns difficult and dangerous.

In June, 2016, the MTA permanently removed almost half the existing bus stops on Van Ness and in July, 2016, renamed the Van Ness BRT the “Van Ness Improvement Project.” In August, MTA signed a contract with Walsh builders headquartered in Chicago with no RFP, with construction costs alone of more than $300 million, not counting hundreds of millions in other costs.

MTA will start clearcutting the trees on October 17. Their first step is to take out all the median trees and demolish the center median so the contractor can park construction equipment there and/or divert traffic there. 

The lampposts will be demolished as the construction moves along the two-mile stretch of Van Ness/Hwy. 101 from Lombard to Mission. The street trees will also come out.

The public “outreach” has been mostly conducted by Kate McCarthy formerly of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, an ardent BRT advocate who is now getting six figures as an MTA employee. 

She joins the many other bicycling and anti-car advocates on the City’s payroll who are now planning the San Francisco transportation system, such as Edward Reiskin (Director of MTA), Michael Schwartz, Paul Bignardi, Sean Cronin, Mari Hunter, Andy Thornley, Aaron Bialick, Rachel Gordon, and others. The MTA web site says that the Van Ness BRT will “rehabilitate our aging infrastructure for the next generation.”

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