Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kevin Drum

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Alamo Square Park opening delayed

Img 1907
Photo: Stephen Jackson

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Kevin Drum on the president:

Let's roll the tape. Trump is vain. He's peculiarly unwilling to learn anything new. He feels endlessly persecuted. His attention span can be measured in minutes. He's paranoid over the slightest sign of disloyalty. He is vengeful. He demands constant attention. He makes up preposterous fictions to sustain his worldview and shield his ego from the slings and arrows of reality. He desperately wants to be liked by everyone. He's domineering. His personal relationships are almost entirely transactional. He never laughs. He can't stand people poking fun at him. He's often unable to control his emotional outbursts...

Otherwise, he's well qualified to be President of the United States.

But Drum left out his most salient characteristic: stupidity.


Normalizing The Wiggle

Main image downing neighborways
Photo: Wiggle/SFMTA

The whole point of The Wiggle
is to allow cyclists to speed through that densely populated lower Haight neighborhood to get downtown or wherever they're going in such a hurry. 

Which is why the MTA's photo above showing no bikes on The Wiggle could be a parody of that agency's relentless campaign to redesign city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists, a cause with a PC "progressive" patina and an effective lobbying organization in the Bicycle Coalition. That's why the MTA hires former Streetsblog and Coalition employees to do public relations for its ongoing anti-car, pro-bike campaign that is based on the safety lie.

Never mind pedestrian safety, The Wiggle is green and cool---for cyclists, that is.

Note, too, the two women wearing headscarves. The MTA wants you to know that it's multicultural! Even Muslim women can walk safely on The Wiggle! Recall its lame "peace" campaign several years ago after Pamela Geller paid for those anti-terrorism ads on Muni buses.

When they get a chance, people are skeptical about how The Wiggle encourages cyclists to speed through their neighborhood. See the comments here and here.

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Jonathan Chait

Jonathan Chait
in New York magazine:

By the standards of a comprehensive health-care-reform bill, the [Republican]American Health Care Act is very simple. It’s a huge redistribution of income. The various moving parts in the bill mostly boil down to removing subsidies from the poor and sick and burdens from the rich and healthy...Republicans promised to repeal both sources of financing for the law. But they couldn’t make the numbers add up if they eliminated all the financing sources in Obamacare, so they left the spending cuts in place, and instead focused on repealing the part that Republicans in Washington hate the most: taxes on the rich. So the bill is built on a tax cut of about a trillion dollars over a decade that benefits the rich almost exclusively...

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

President Trump's dumb anti-terrorism policy

Mr. Trump defended his travel ban, asserting that hundreds of immigrants had been implicated in terrorism. “Hundreds of people from outside the country have been related to terrorism-related offenses.”

This is misleading. Independent analyses do not support Mr. Trump’s claim. The New America Foundation identified 12 jihadist terrorists who had killed people in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. All were American citizens or permanent residents and none had ties to the countries named in Mr. Trump’s executive order [emphasis added].

Out of the nearly 400 nondeadly jihadist terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11, perpetrators were linked to Iran or Somalia in three cases. Both countries were named in the travel ban.

According to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, immigrant Muslim extremists have accounted for 16 out of 240,000 murders in the United States since 9/11.

Rob's comment:
Since 2005 I've posted more than 400 times with the "Islamic Fascism" label. (This was the first.) The Trump administration is actually making the danger of terrorist attacks in the US more likely by his anti-Islam travel bans, which play into the narrative by Islamic terrorists like ISIS and Al Qaeda that the US is waging a war against Islam, not Islamic terrorism.

The attacks cited in the above story accurately portray the real threat: by individual "lone wolves" here in the US, not from refugees or immigrants.

See The Islamic State’s suspected inroads into America

Later: A perfect example of a "lone wolf" attack happened in London today. Is there any doubt that the guy was an Islamist? This is the kind of terrorism that is most likely in the US also, not a large scale 9/11 attack.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

"FGC": Female Genital Cutting.

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Mangle this, pal

This video was created by Metro Los Angeles, but the folks at SMART also apparently think people in Marin are morons. Some safety tips from SMART:

Never stop your car on the railroad tracks. Do not cross the tracks until you are sure your vehicle will be able to get across safely. 

Please be patient: Obey all crossing signals and signage. 

Never walk on railroad tracks. Walking on the tracks is unsafe and illegal.

Mangled language bonus: To all government agencies around the globe, plain old "signs" are now "signage."

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Donald Trump
Getty Images

Gerald Ford: "Ronald Reagan doesn't dye his hair. He's just prematurely orange."


It's still Chinatown, Jake

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode" is on the music disc on the space probe Voyager, launched in 1977. Aliens are now presumably enjoying that and Blind Willie Johnson's wonderful Dark Was the Night.

Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that the spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems. The disc carries photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States and a medley, "Sounds of Earth," that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of music, including works by Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry, and Valya Balkanska. Other Eastern and Western classics are included, as well as various performances of indigenous music from around the world. The record also contains greetings in 55 different languages.

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Donald Trump Week 8
Daily Kos


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Bannon: White power scumbag

Image result for steve bannon pictures
Steve Bannon


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Synthetic turf at the Beach Chalet field

Turf Cross-Section
Synthetic Turf

After reading this
article in Salon the other day, I asked the folks in the Recreation and Parks Department this question: "Interested in your reaction to this story about the potential toxicity of artificial turf. C
an you provide information on what kind of artificial turf SF is using on soccer fields in Golden Gate Park?"

Eric Pawlowsky, a Planning & Performance Analyst with the department, responded promptly: 

Hello Mr. Anderson,

Here’s some info on the Beach Chalet turf:

Manufacture: Fieldturf
Fiber/backing: XT-57
Infill: SBR and sand

Okay, this tells us which brand of synthetic turf the city is using on a specific field in the park but not on other fields in the city. But I didn't ask about the other fields, only about those in Golden Gate Park.

Still, the response implies that the city thinks that turf isn't toxic. Otherwise, of course the city wouldn't install it.

A little research on Fieldturf isn't reassuring, since there have been quality problems with its product around the country.

Those problems aren't about the product's toxicity but about its durability, though when/if synthetic turf unravels that might lead to more exposure to the potentially toxic recycled tire "crumbs."

Important questions about synthetic turf's toxicity are still being asked (Soccer players' cancers ignite debate over turf safety):

...It was about seven years ago, and their children were in preschool together. [Amy]Griffin, assistant head coach of women's soccer at the University of Washington, mentioned to Bryant how "it was weird" that some of her current and former players, especially goalkeepers, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Griffin turned to Bryant and said she wondered whether cancer was somehow associated with those "little black dots" on the artificial turf fields where they play, which were then replacing natural grass fields. Those dots are recycled tire crumbs. "I didn't think much of it until my son," Bryant said. Years after that conversation, just before he turned 14, Jack Bryant was diagnosed with cancer. He's a soccer goalie...

Other than the turf, Griffin said, she couldn't point to any other potential factors that might be linked to cancer among the goalkeepers on her list. "When I keep adding up these things, in my head, it's the one thing that I still don't feel great about," she said of crumb rubber being a possible factor.

"Goalkeepers get it in their sides, hips, elbows, abrasions from sliding on the stuff. So if they have an open sore, not only the black dots but the dust particles that you can't even see when the tire crumb breaks down so small get in there. I'm sure you eat it and inhale it," she said. "Just in a 10-minute warm-up, our keepers will hit the ground anywhere from 50 to 100 times."

Since the investigation, Griffin said many more people have reached out to add names to her list. Now, Griffin's list of soccer players with cancer has grown to 237, she said, and her team still uses two fields, one grass and one artificial...

Kathleen McCowin  bounces a soccer ball on the synthetic soccer field, at South Sunset Park, in San Francisco, Calif., to demonstrate the movement of the rubber material contained in the turf as seen on Fri. Jan. 16, 2015. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle
Michael Macor photo

For earlier posts on the issue, click on "Synthetic Turf" below.

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Kevin Drum


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Monday, March 13, 2017

The MTA peddles a deceptive "vision"

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The MTA's blog

Below is my comment to Pedaling Forward: A New Guide to Our Vision for a Bike-Friendly SF in the MTA's blog that it refused to post.[Later: My comment was finally posted many days---not sure how many---later. Maybe all those 6,263 employees were too busy cranking out that kind of bullshit to post it?]  I more or less can see why I've been censored here in Progressive Land---again---not for obscenity or personal attacks but for opinions that are unacceptable to the groupthink about bicycles and traffic in general that dominates city institutions, like SF Streetsblog, the SF Examiner, and now the SFMTA. 

The author of the MTA blog post may see calling his analysis "deceptive" as a personal attack, but I can't think of a better way to describe it, except maybe "singing for his supper." Hard to believe he really thinks he's giving the subject a factual, straightforward treatment.

My comment:

This is a deceptive analysis, since the baseline percentage on bicycle commuters is the year 2000, not 2006, according to your own Transportation Fact Sheet (page 3): in 2000 2% of city commuters rode bikes, and in 2014 4% rode bikes. That's a 100% gain for sure, but it took 14 years to get there:

According to your 2015 Bicycle Count Report, there was actually a 7% reduction in bike commuters from the previous count (page 9):

Your "Streetscape" site for Masonic Avenue is also deceptive about that street's safety and the impact that project will have on traffic on that busy regional traffic corridor. It's essentially a bike project tarted up with some landscaping:

This kind of sales pitch makes the MTA sound like a corporation selling the public a defective product, which undermines your credibility.

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Daily Kos


Even Fox News questions tax cut for the rich

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan:

...Ryan is not, in fact, a policy entrepreneur. He’s just a self-promoter, someone who has successfully sold a credulous media on a character he plays: Paul Ryan, Serious, Honest Conservative Policy Wonk. This is really his first test at real policymaking, which is a very different process. There’s nothing strange about his inability to pull off the real thing, as opposed to the act...In other words, maybe this looks like amateur hour because it is. Ryan isn’t a skilled politician inexplicably losing his touch, he’s a con artist who started to believe his own con; Republicans didn’t hammer out a workable plan because there is no such plan, and anyway they have no idea what that would involve.

Or to put it another way, this could just be more malevolence tempered by incompetence.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Anti-car transportation planning" in Seattle

Traffic backs up on 12th Avenue South in the International District and the arterials around a closed Interstate 5 through Seattle during the evening commute Monday, Feb. 27. A tanker truck carrying butane rolled over earlier in the day, causing a total shutdown of north and southbound lanes of I-5 through Seattle.  (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)
Seattle Times

From an editorial in The Seattle Times:

...Major incidents will keep happening, and their effects are worsened because Seattle eliminated numerous arterial lanes in recent years. This reduced capacity hurt on Monday.

Lanes were replaced with bicycle paths. The problem isn’t adding bike paths, it’s that the city did so by reducing general traffic capacity. This makes the street network less resilient and capable of handling surges — and more dependent on I-5.

Murray should consider the network’s brittleness as he prepares to reconfigure downtown streets. His One Center City plan will likely eliminate more general-purpose lanes, cutting arterial capacity adjacent to I-5. A potpourri of new bike lanes, streetcars and bus lanes are being considered on First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues. Meanwhile the viaduct is being replaced with a smaller-capacity tunnel.

How will these changes affect traffic problems, especially when accidents occur? Monday’s gridlock highlighted the folly of Seattle’s utopian, anti-car transportation planning.

Despite extensive street reconfigurations, the share of trips taken by bicycle hasn’t grown. Yet the number of vehicles owned, drivers and miles driven continue to grow — as does congestion (emphasis added).

Seattle will always be a busy city with lots of traffic within and through its borders. So infrastructure planning should be based on overall need, not ideology and special-interest lobbying.

Policy should be guided by total capacity and demand, not cherry-picked statistics and wishful assumptions...

Rob's comment:
Sound familiar? This is the same thing San Francisco is doing, even though the number of trips by bicycle has actually decreased as the number of motor vehicles on our streets has increased.

And all those "improvements" to city streets haven't made them any safer even as they make city traffic worse than it has to be. Meanwhile the city is doubling down on the bike/anti-car foolishness: Pedaling Forward: A New Guide to Our Vision for a Bike-Friendly SF.

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Kevin Drum

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Calculated Risk

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Sometimes bigger is better

Obama's crowd left, Trump's on the right

Thanks to Daily Kos.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

High-speed rail and Caltrain

On March 5th The Wall Street Journal commented on the recent decision of the Secretary of Transportation to defer action on a proposed grant to Caltrain that would set the stage for the state's High-Speed Rail Authority to take over an ownership interest in this local commuter line to transform it into a leg of the state's mismanaged and ill-planned High-Speed Rail project: 

Congratulations to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for putting a stop to some dubious grant-making for San Francisco Democrats by a former Obama official in another imbroglio for California's bullet train.

Last month Ms. Chao said she is delaying indefinitely a $647 million federal grant for the Caltrain commuter service that former Federal Transit Administration chief Carolyn Flowers approved two days before President Obama left office. Ms. Flowers now works at an engineering company that is a contractor for the Caltrain project. 

Last week Governor Jerry Brown sent a letter to Ms. Chao begging her to release the funds pronto. "Can we discuss this on the phone?" he asked in a handwritten note.

California's 14 House Republicans have asked Ms. Chao to withhold the federal cash until an audit is completed on California's misbegotten bullet train. An internal Federal Railroad Administration analysis in December found that the train's first segment in the sparsely populated Central Valley is running 50% over budget.

How does the electrification of Caltrain connect to high-speed rail? Good question. The bullet train will supposedly link to Caltrain, though that may not be for several decades, if ever, at the current rate of construction. 

Since the choo choo may never reach the Bay Area due to litigation and funding shortfalls, Bay Area Democrats late last year wrote legislation that would make $600 million of the $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds that voters approved in 2008 available for electrifying Caltrain. This may be unconstitutional as legislators aren't allowed to amend measures passed by voters, and some taxpayers have sued.

Ms. Flowers decided to help her progressive friends in San Francisco on her way out the door by fast-tracking the federal grant for Caltrain. Now she's returned through the other door to collect a piece of the cash. Sacramento is America's western swamp.

William Grindley has also commented on the action taken by the Secretary of Transportation. Grindley is a Peninsula resident with stellar financial credentials (World Bank; Associate Division Director, SRI International; Founder and CEO, Pacific Strategies, retired, with a degree in Architecture, Clemson; and a Masters Degree in City Planning, MIT). Grindley has led a group of financial experts in studying the state's High-Speed Rail project. His reports are highly critical of what the state is doing. They are available on the CC-HSR website.

It shows the fragile position Caltrain, HSR, the Legislature and Brown have put themselves in through incompetence (Caltrain and CHSRA have known it needed the $600M of federal funds since its MOU of 2012) and arrogance (the Legislature and Governor both know they can't preempt/bypass Voter Ballot votes). 

The Governor's whining is the capstone. Does he think that California deserves any more attention for an HSR project the Feds have kept on drip feed for too many years? 

The federal HSR $ came to CA because in 2009 Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. For 8 years---until AFTER the 2016 election---the DOT/FRA ignored warning signs, including a paper [written by Grindley and his team, and provided to] the DOT's Office of Inspector General in 2013. Suddenly, with a new Administration, the DOT/FRA bureaucracy finds problems. 

If the whole story were any more than political; that is if the project made transportation or financial sense, private investors would have lined up at the door nine years ago. They haven't, they won't: so the political answer from the new federal political power is not what Caltrain, HSR, the Legislature or Brown want. 

Local politicos are trying to put pressure on the federal Department of Transportation. Like Governor Jerry Brown, they are hoping they can get their calls answered. Answer the calls, maybe. Just don't capitulate! Don't fund that inappropriate grant. That's the advice of CC-HSR.

There is, in fact, a way to accomplish what Caltrain needs, and to modernize the Caltrain right of way, without tying our local commuter line to the dead (and we do mean "dead") weight of the moribund High-Speed Rail project. Secretary Chao's action is saving the Peninsula from a bad decision, and is preserving the opportunity for Caltrain to upgrade the corridor in the right way, allowing for the further commuter expansion that will surely be needed, as increasing gridlock makes that corridor ever more important for local residents and riders.

Rob's comment:
Not clear what the WSJ is referring to by electrifying Caltrain "the right way," since that will be expensive no matter who pays for it.

If the Trump administration kills the project, it would be doing a future California Governor like Gavin Newsom a favor, since it would make President Trump the bad guy. Newsom is one of the few state Democrats to express doubts about paying for the project. Steve Glazer is another.

SFStreetsblog is a die-hard supporter of the dumb high-speed rail project. It even slants descriptions of links to stories on the project, like the recent Dan Walters column in the Examiner (California bullet train suffers two big setbacks that could be fatal), which is described by Streetsblog as "Fact-Challenged Columnist Still Hates HSR." The op-ed by Walters is actually a succinct, fact-based summary of the present dire political/economic condition of the project. SF Streetsblog on Caltrain electrification.

The Chronicle's Matier & Ross give readers the bad news about when the inevitable happens and high-speed rail doesn't come to San Francisco:

San Francisco’s over-budget and oversize $2.4 billion Transbay Transit Center will open in December — but it’s going to cost an estimated $20 million a year to run the place, and no one knows where all the money will come from. The three-block-long behemoth was envisioned as the Grand Central Station of the West, a dynamic hub for buses and high-speed rail that would draw more than 100,000 visitors a day.

Come opening day, however, there will be no high-speed rail. Instead, for many years, the five-level showcase just south of Mission Street between Second and Beale streets will be little more than the world’s most expensive bus station — serving mainly the 14,000 transbay bus commuters who roll in and out daily on AC Transit.

That reality is starting to sink in and has city officials scrambling — because without the big crowds that trains were supposed to bring in, there are serious questions about where all the money needed to keep the place secure, clean and well lit will come from...

Randal O'Toole on the Caltrain electrification issue:

Secretary Chao has not killed the project but only deferred the decision to give Caltrain the money pending an audit of the high-speed rail project. Such an audit would especially look into a recent Federal Railroad Administration prediction that the short segment of high-speed rail that is currently under construction will cost around 50 percent more than claimed. Based on that, the final cost of a true high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco will be around $150 billion, which is something like four or five times the amount promised to voters in 2008 and about ten times the cost projections in the late 1990s (emphasis added).

See this High-Speed Rail Authority 2015 document: Electrification of the Caltrain Corridor.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Van Jones: Opportunist

Politically 2009 was a long time ago. Remember when Van Jones was dumped by the Obama Administration for signing that 9/11 "truther" petition? (Van Jones: San Francisco Progressive). Recall too that, since he's articulate and photogenic, last year Jones made a comeback as a TV commentator for CNN. 

Based on his reaction to President Trump's speech to Congress the other day, Jones's most salient characteristic now is opportunism. Can a job in the Trump administration be far behind?

Conservative Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders nailed it in 2009:

In 2004, Jones signed a petition that suggested that people in the Bush administration "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war." Last week, Jones released a statement in which he asserted that he did not agree with the petition "and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever." And yet he allowed his name to remain as a signatory for years...Also damning: A column by The Chronicle's Chip Johnson that reported on a 1999 protest organized by Jones in support of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Supporting a cop-killer was okay but the 9/11 petition went too far? I bet the Obama people didn't know about either one.

When you look at the online 9/11 petition, it seems that Jones's signature was number 46, but it now has "Name removed by request 9/9/2009." Too late!

Another TV commentator---conservatives love it when liberals screw up---Charles Krauthammer got it right:

One Obama administration source told ABC that Jones hadn't read the 2004 petition carefully enough, an excuse echoed by Howard Dean. Carefully enough? It demanded the investigation of charges "that people within the current [Bush] administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war."

Where is the confusing fine print? Where is the syntactical complexity? Where is the perplexing ambiguity? An eighth-grader could tell you exactly what it means. A Yale Law School graduate could not? No need to worry about Jones, however. Great career move. He's gone from marginal loon to liberal martyr. His speaking fees have just doubled. It's only a matter of time before he gets his own show on MSNBC. (emphasis added)

Yes! Except his show is on CNN.

Jones is becoming the Richard Nixon of the left. His message to his supporters after his 2009 resignation was positively Nixonian.

Chris Daly---remember him?---defended Jones in 2009.

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Court orders release of cell phone safety document

The document.

By Hannah Albarazi

After keeping it hidden for years, California’s Department of Public Health has released a draft document outlining health officials’ concerns about cellphone radiation exposure.

The previously unpublished document was released this week after a judge indicated she would order the documents be disclosed in the case Moskowitz v. CDPH.

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., who is the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, sued the state in 2016 under the California Public Records Act to get the document released.

The document is dated April 2014, but Moskowitz says the document was originally prepared seven years ago and updated several times, but never released to the public.

He previously told KPIX 5 why he decided to sue the state.

“I would like this document to see the light of day because it will inform the public that there is concern within the California Department of Public Health that cellphone radiation is a risk, and it will provide them with some information about how to reduce those risks,” Moskowitz.

The two-page document, which the Department of Public Health first emailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday afternoon, looks like any other fact sheet released by the state, except that this one has, in big bold letters “Draft and Not for Public Release” stamped across the pages.

Among the information in the document, which is titled simply, Cell Phones and Health, are summaries of scientific studies that suggest long-term cellphone use may increase the risk of brain cancer, among other health problems.

The draft fact sheet states that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), a type of radiation, are emitted from cellphones and that because they are “used frequently and kept close to the head and body, cellphone EMFs can affect nearby cells and tissues.”

In the draft fact sheet, state health officials list their recommendations for members of the public who wish to reduce their exposure to the radiation emitted from cellphones, but state that as more studies are done the recommendations on the fact sheet may change.

Health officials’ overall recommendation is to “increase the distance between you and your phone” by using a headset, the speaker phone function and text messaging. Health officials recommend not sleeping near your phone and not carry it in your pocket or directly on your body, unless it is off.

The fact sheet also states that “EMFs can pass deeper into a child’s brain than and adult’s” so suggests parents limit their child’s cellphone use to texting, important call and emergencies.

But there are also some in Silicon Valley who say the science doesn’t support the fact sheet. David Witkowski leads Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Wireless Communications Initiative and says “it’s very weak on details, references to existing peer-reviewed journals and studies…”

Moskowitz, however, is not yet satisfied.

He said with the release of the document, the CDPH has violated the Public Records Act, saying it “stamped new lettering in huge dark letters across the face of the document,” essentially creating a new document rather than producing the document as-is.

Moskowitz says, “that lettering states that the document is ‘draft and not for public release’ when the judge’s tentative ruling stated exactly the opposite — that the document was not a draft, and must be publicly released.”

More by Moskowitz with links to the decision and other filings.

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Es very nice

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Nimbys, Yimbys, and Berkeley

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
2211 Harold Way

Zelda Bronstein in 48 Hills and The Marin Post:

...East Bay Forward has less to show for its efforts, but then, it’s barely a year old. According to [Gregory]Magofña, the group’s biggest success has been alerting Oakland planning commissioners to the perils of downzoning parts of the city. “A lot of elected officials know who we are,” and the do-ocracy approach has fostered East Bay Forward’s reputation for “being sane.” He also mentioned that they’d gotten “lots of people involved” in the repurposing of the Naval Weapons Station in Concord for new housing and parks (a Lennar project).

But Magofña also marked key reversals. One occurred on the municipal level. In 2014 voters approved Berkeley’s new Downtown Plan and its provisions for dense construction. In last November’s election, however, “Berkeley flipped in a very surprising way: it went completely NIMBY.”

The other setback was both political and personal. When Magofña was working as an aide to Tom Bates, his questionable backroom machinations were exposed by the editor of “a news rag”—he didn’t name the publication; clearly it was Becky O’Malley’s Berkeley Daily Planet—that, he said, “is supposed to be reputable” but “is now her opinion column.” The editor “associated me [with]the mayor, so I had to step away” from East Bay Forward.

When it came time for Q & A, I had my question—I knew I’d have a chance to ask only one—ready. I prefaced it with remarks to Magofña, stating that what he’d said about smart growth being popular in Berkeley (my town) was not true. 

The reason that all the candidates save one who’d been endorsed by Tom Bates, including incumbent Darrell Moore, lost badly last November was that voters opposed the new buildings going up in downtown, notably the eighteen-story, luxury tower at Harold Way (off Shattuck) that had been waved on by the Bates council. Magofña did not contest my claim.

I didn’t have to comment on his run-in with O’Malley. As he said, she did go after him in an April 2015 op-ed that opened with this memorable lede:

If it wasn’t such a cliché, I might say that you can’t make this stuff up. How could it be ethical for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who will eventually be reviewing variances sought by 2211 Harold Way in his quasi-judicial role, to lobby himself using the services of his taxpayer-funded aide, who seems to be organizing “a special Berkeley sub-group” of the now notorious SF BARF group which fronts for developers?

It appears that the Berkeley activities of the pro-development San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation are being coordinated out of the office of Berkeley Mayor Bates, or at least by one of his city-paid staffers. A reader who lurks on the San Francisco BARF list-serv forwarded this communication to us:

From: Gregory Magofna  
Subject: [sfbarentersfed] Berkeley Community Benefits/Housing Mitigation Fee
Date: April 7, 2015 PDT 

I know a special Berkeley sub-group was created upon my request, I will get to that with specific projects in the coming weeks. I just wanted to let the group know about something on tonight’s city council agenda: Significant community benefits for developments over 75 ft in Downtown Berkeley. 

The fight is over what else developers should be required to do and NIMBYs have been making outrageously impossible demands to meet to block the project. There is talk of another meeting coming up just on this so it’s not the end of the world if no one attends, but it does set the stage for the other 4 tall buildings in downtown. Please plan on coming to the special meeting in May. 

There was no need to defend the Planet against Magofña’s insinuation of disreputability. That indictment was undercut by his admission that in the wake of O’Malley’s piece, he had to temporarily abandon East Bay Forward...

See also Does Compact Development Make People Drive Less?

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Friday, March 03, 2017

Trump, Putin, and the new Cold War

Cover Story: Barry Blitt's "Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley"
To understand the context of the Trump administration's growing Russia problem, read Trump, Putin, and the new Cold War in the March 6 edition of The New Yorker.

A discussion of this article on Charlie Rose.

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Bike News Roundup #2


Bike sales are down, but 17 million is still a lot of bikes:

According to the Bicycle Recycler and Industry Trade News, national bike sales to retailers fell in 2016 by 8 percent. That comes after the National Bike Dealers Association (NBDA) reported a 3.4 percent decrease from 2014 to 2015 with 17.4 million bikes being sold. Sales have averaged around $6 billion annually in past years. “It’s a no-growth market right now,” said Lynette Carpiet, editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry Trade News. “That’s what is driving things.”

But sales of those devilish motor vehicles are up.

A reader writes:

The SFMTA 2016 Annual Report "Delivering Progress" shows on p.26 a 'Select Project List' and itemizes 34 projects under the heading "Completed." Seventeen of them are bicycle projects.

I wrote about this "report" in December. It's essentially a PR exercise, full of happy-talk and grinning Muni passengers and drivers, including on page 5 the claim that the MTA has "more than 5,900 employees." That's true, but for a document with a 2016 date that number isn't current, unless in the unlikely event the agency has recently dumped a bunch of workers. The numbers keep going up. As of 2015, the MTA had 6,263 employees.

A candid story in Citylab about one cyclist's emotional rides (Ride Angry:The best thing about bicycle commuting is the rage):

Bike-boosters insist that the bother and safety concerns can all be mitigated with the right equipment, clothing, and state of mind, but I’m here to tell you that Gore-Tex and fancy pants will only get you so far. Bike is suffering...Getting a daily fight-or-flight workout is one of those little-discussed advantages to bike commuting; the flip side is that you have to be willing to be afraid. And you will be. Despite the strides made in the development of protected bike lanes, cyclists in most U.S. cities are tiny woodland critters amid large and dangerous predators. To ride is to live with constant, twitchy fear. Those who complain about the comparatively paltry numbers of bike commuters in the U.S. seem to have unreasonable expectations for the average Americans’ eagerness to be terrified.

The story features the writer's therapeutic rage about the dangerous behavior of drivers, even though most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve another vehicle.

A comment to the story:

It's nice that the author has found a silver lining, but these issues are why I gave up on biking. It doesn't feel safe, and I'm not much of a risk-taker. On a bike, you don't have much control over the risks (e.g. cars, road conditions), and you're vulnerable if something does happen.

That is, when something goes wrong, it's the cyclist that gets hurt. At least the Citylab writer is realistic about the dangers and still chooses to ride his bike. The comment is even more realistic. Why do it? Because bikes are now an integral part of the overall progressive project and part of every city transportation discussion, though the numbers don't show that cycling is a significant transportation "mode." 

I of course think bikes are being irresponsibly oversold. Even children are now encouraged to ride bikes in the city! (see Children and the bike cult and the thoughts of bike messenger/author Robert Hurst: "Is cycling dangerous? Yes.")

City cyclists apparently think City Hall can/should make cycling safe. They are now creating a martyrdom cult around cyclists who have been killed on city streets. Those people are among "the fallen" in a traffic war that pits cyclists against motor vehicles---and a local government that's supposed to make riding a bike safe, which is clearly impossible (see Streetsblog's body count in the traffic war and More fatalities in the bogus traffic war).

Carolyn Tyler

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