Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NY Daily News

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Governor fails on the Coastal Commission fight

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

Good editorial on the Coastal Commission in today's Chronicle:

A four-member faction, who all serve at the will of Gov. Jerry Brown, are behind a bid to fire [Charles]Lester on grounds of weak management and unresponsiveness. To that can be added a firm backbone when it comes to controlling building along the coast of a boom-time state. Lester’s future — and the commission’s power — are on the line.

Lester has issued a feisty 20-page memo defending his record and has pushed for a public hearing. His defenders are rallying, too, turning in over 14,000 letters of support. Ten congressional representatives and 33 former coastal commissioners are in his corner. Environmental groups are urging supporters to caravan to Morro Bay, even offering to pay $75 for gas.

The governor is holding off contacting his appointees, indicating that it’s a personnel matter for members to decide. But he should wake up to a bigger reality: California treasures its coast and wants it protected.

Jerry Brown is supposed to be a smart guy and an environmentalist, but there's evidence to the contrary. He supports the dumb high-speed rail project and joined the phony movement to "reform" CEQA after it got in the way of his development plans when he was Oakland's mayor. He's getting another black mark by not supporting Charles Lester. 

Lester's memo is mostly attachments documenting his record as Executive Director of the Coastal Commission since he was appointed in 2011, with only a few pages written in his clunky, bureaucratic prose. But the Coastal Commission was hiring an administrator, not a writer.

In an editorial last month, the Chronicle on what's at stake:

The possible dismissal comes at a heated moment. Before the commission is a plan for a 1,400-home development known as Banning Ranch. The acreage is considered one of largest remaining unbuilt spots along the Orange County coast.

Along with high-profile and well-financed projects, there’s a dose of history. In his first term, Brown signed regulations that put the public vote into practice. He was an active supporter in tune with the message of controlled development.

Now the times may have changed. He has direct control over four of the 12 voting commissioners and has ducked public comment on the agency’s future. He should stand up now and safeguard an institution he helped bring to life. Firing a director in the name of easing development shouldn’t be in California’s future.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Rigged justice for corporate criminals

From Elizabeth Warren:

While presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter.

Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration’s record on enforcement falls short — and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail.

I just released a report (Rigged Justice: 2016) examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: “Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.”

In a single year, in case after case, across many sectors of the economy, federal agencies caught big companies breaking the law — defrauding taxpayers, covering up deadly safety problems, even precipitating the financial collapse in 2008 — and let them off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Often, companies paid meager fines, which some will try to write off as a tax deduction.

The failure to adequately punish big corporations or their executives when they break the law undermines the foundations of this great country. Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars...

Last year, five of the world’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they rigged the price of billions of dollars worth of foreign currencies. No corporation can break the law unless people in that corporation also broke the law, but no one from any of those banks has been charged. 

While thousands of Americans were rotting in prison for nonviolent drug convictions, JPMorgan Chase was so chastened by pleading guilty to a crime that it awarded Jamie Dimon, its C.E.O., a 35 percent raise.

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Downtown Novato station for SMART?

Tim Porter

Interesting comments to the Independent Journal's editorial supporting a downtown Novato station for the SMART train system:

A comment by Ventress Dugan:

Novato was not given any time to make this decision by SMART. We have had to make this decision in a month. So..of course we have NO studies done on ridership. Novato has to pay 100% of the cost to build. Three of the city council members are climbing all over each other to have this. It's funny how the citizens have been backed into a corner to push this through. The Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Assoc. are encouraging the merchants and promising them new people, commuters and tourists will be shopping, eating and enjoying entertainment (in the theater that has been in the works for how many years?).

What the city is not saying is what the SMART engineer said at his presentation at the city council meeting. The engineer stated the Downtown stop would NOT be a commuter stop and in all likelihood only stop on the weekend. And maybe, in the future, weekdays in the day. BUT, if this station does not perform, SMART would close the station. These decisions would be made by SMART alone, with no input from Novato. So Novato will pay $5.5 million dollars ($2.5 if we only build half of it) for a station that NO ONE knows will be an operating station or for how long.

The city staff put a survey online for citizens to fill out. The survey stated there was a "Public Workshop." Which it never had. Also left out were ALL of the details SMART stated. No mention of it not being a commuter stop, no mention of SMART closing the station if it underperformed. In other words, a rigged survey. 

This is shameful, and business as usual for City Staff and City Council Members.

Comments by critic Richard Hall of Planning for Reality are always of interest:

CARB states that under operational conditions diesel trains like SMART emit 19,600g CO2 per mile. SMART's cap and trade grant application shows the average car in Marin and Sonoma in 2017 will emit just 330g CO2 per mile...

Of course SPUR supports the SMART system. It also supports California's high-speed rail project.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

President Sanders?

Young Bernie Sanders

From P.J. O'Rourke in The Daily Beast:

"If Bring-Down Bernie gets elected, all of life will be like being trapped in a meeting of the Students for a Democratic Society writing the Port Huron Statement until the end of time."



Saturday, February 06, 2016

The NFL's brain damage

Robert Scheer on the death of Kenny Stabler:

...The headline on the New York Times obituary put the moral dilemma perfectly: "Ken Stabler a Magnetic N.F.L. Star, was Sapped of Spirit by a Disease of the Brain."

This disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, resulting from repeated head injuries, and established with scientific accuracy only through an autopsy, has now been documented in the case of more than 100 professional football players. A recent example was the Giant's safety Tyler Sash who died at the age of 27 in September.

Seven of those diagnosed are in the pro football Hall of Fame and hopefully Stabler will join them soon. But the NFL's very lucrative tax-exempt cartel long fought recognizing the danger, and unfortunately the settlement the NFL reluctantly agreed to after growing legal challenges did not cover Stabler in his decade of suffering. Stabler, and all those whose work generates the $9 billion-a-year profit for the NFL, deserved better.


Friday, February 05, 2016

Remembering Peak Oil

Randal O'Toole does a nostalgia post:

Remember peak oil? Remember when oil prices were $140 a barrel and Goldman Sachs predicted they would soon reach $200? Now, the latest news is that oil prices have gone up all the way to $34 a barrel. Last fall, Goldman Sachs predicted prices would fall to $20 a barrel, which other analysts argued was “no better than its prior predictions,” but in fact they came a lot closer to that than to $200.

Low oil prices generate huge economic benefits. Low prices mean increased mobility, which means increased economic productivity. The end result, says Bank of America analyst Francisco Blanch, is “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history” as $3 trillion remain in consumers’ pockets rather than going to the oil companies. The Antiplanner wouldn’t call this a “wealth transfer” so much as a reduction in income inequality, but either way, it is a good thing...

See also this.

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Terrorist attackers in the US

From today's NY Times (ISIS in America):

...None of the[82] people accused of plotting attacks received specific direction from the Islamic State abroad, according to the evidence presented in legal documents and other public information that were analyzed by The New York Times and the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law.

The Islamic State has demonstrated an ability to coordinate attacks in Europe from the Middle East. But the United States has yet to see any of those types of attacks. Instead, attacks in the United States have been “lone wolf” strikes.

“While ISIS remains a brutal and lethal force abroad, its operational reach to the United States has been negligible at best,” the center’s director, Karen J. Greenberg, said. In addition, nearly half of the arrests followed undercover investigations by the F.B.I., and most of the individuals were caught early on.

Although the domestic plots are alarming and increasing in frequency, Ms. Greenberg said that the driving force among those in the United States inspired by the Islamic State had been foreign fighting. A third of those accused were allegedly discussing or plotting an attack in the United States; the rest were allegedly trying to travel abroad to fight for the Islamic State, or trying to help others travel...

See also this.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Islamophobia, Europe, and the future of terrorism

One of the Muslim-Americans at the mosque visited by President Obama yesterday:

The words of this pledge[of allegiance] never seem to resonate as much. Here we were waiting for the President of the United States to speak to us because the spike in anti-Muslim hate had so skyrocketed that he felt compelled to address the issue. I had to fight back tears as we got to the last line of the pledge: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Of course only a tiny minority of Muslim Americans are terrorists or potential terrorists. Discrimination, not to mention hate crimes, against them is completely unacceptable, though it's not clear that it's a serious problem yet here in the US. 

The FBI's website on hate crimes still doesn't show a big "spike" in anti-Muslim crime, though anti-Muslim hate crimes were 16.3% of all anti-religion hate crimes in 2014, which is up from 14.2% in 2013. Maybe the 2015 numbers will show a more dramatic spike.

On the other hand, anti-Jewish hate crimes in the US outnumber anti-Muslim hate crimes by a wide margin: they were 59.2% of all religious hate crimes in 2013 and 58.2% in 2014.

Peter Bergen, also on Vox, tries to put the Islamic terrorism threat in the US in a realistic perspective. All-American jihad: Peter Bergen on the homegrown terrorism threat:

There's a sort of paradox here: Americans are more concerned about terrorism now than at any time since 9/11, yet really the actual threat is contained and managed. But as a political matter, no one's going to say that who's running for office. Even though it's true, and any sensible person knows that we've managed this problem pretty well, no politician is going to say we have this thing pretty well under control, because the political costs of something very minor happening later, which can somehow be associated with ISIS or al-Qaeda, are very large.

Two things are true: The problem is going to be persistent, yet at the same time we've managed it into a situation where it's pretty contained and low-level, and that's why the main threat is homegrown militants who are often very hard to detect.

Yes, the perpetrators of "individual jihad" are difficult---even impossible---to stop before they strike, like the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood shooter, and the San Bernardino couple. The Boston bombers got their information on how to make pressure cooker bombs from the internet. These terrorists didn't belong to an organization or a conspiracy that could be monitored. They acted as individuals:

Consequently, individual jihad is often carried out by ordinary people, and the act of terrorism has a very primitive character. The training isn’t really needed, some video uploaded to YouTube or discussions at Jihadist groups at Facebook would be enough for basic knowledge. The very sense of “lone wolf” attacks is based on passion and desire to fight the kafirs (infidels) by all possible means. The purpose of individual jihad isn't limited to any framework---any person, irrespective of skin color, religion, nationality and social status can be targeted. As for the weapon, anything can be used for the attack, from an ordinary kitchen knife or an iron rod to a gun or homemade bomb.

The chance of Americans being killed by these attacks by individuals---brothers, couples, or small groups---is very small. But the danger is that the political impact of every attack will be cumulative and that the Donald Trumps of the country will then magnify their overall significance in our 24-hour news cycle, thus making anti-Muslim hate crimes more likely. 

Besides, how do you tell a victim's family that the death of their loved one is not significant?

Europe has a much bigger jihad problem after Germany allowed in a million refugees from Muslim countries, many of whom are young men, added to Europe's already large Muslim population. For a full-blown "traitor elite" conspiracy theory on why this is happening, see Tet, Take Two: Islam’s 2016 European Offensive.

Hard to believe, like the author, that European leaders deliberately set this volatile situation in motion, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous. Here's the author's worst-case scenario:

In Mumbai in 2008, ten Pakistani Muslim terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades created utter havoc over a four day period, attacking a train station, a hospital (unsuccessfully), landmark hotels and a Jewish center, murdering 164 people and wounding over 300. Simultaneous Beslan, Mumbai and Paris terror attacks, accompanied by car bombs, will be the model for the 2016 jihad offensive in Europe...

Best case scenario, and I don’t see this as likely: the 2016 Islamic Tet attackers will be wiped out the way the Viet Cong were in 1968. But if there are enough simultaneous attacks, in total numbers involving anywhere near the 80,000 or so fighters of the Vietnamese Tet, I can’t see how the present European forces can defeat the jihadists in less than a month, if at all. 

By very simple math, that number of jihadists means ten thousand Paris-level attacks. Think about that. Ten thousand Paris level attacks! All taking place in the same month, the same week, even on the same day, right across Europe. The politically-correct and overly polite European policemen (and even their militaries, at first) won’t be up to mounting successful counterattacks and rescue operations against a score of Beslans happening in schools, hospitals and concert halls. Not while at the same time, airports, train stations, power plants and other targets are being hit by Paris-sized terror squads right across Europe...

Here in the US, on the other hand, for the foreseeable future we'll face individual jihad attacks that will cause relatively few casualties but that could have a toxic impact on our political life and our civil liberties.

Andrew Bostom on individual jihad.

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Barney Miller and the twin towers

Good to see an occasional Barney Miller re-run on cable TV to check in with Barn, Wojo, Harris, Levitt, and inspector Luger. 

But it's jarring to see in the opening seconds of the intro the twin towers still proudly standing in New York.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Annual pension shortfall: $15 billion

U.S. Census Bureau

...This cash flow (above) shows that during 2014, California’s state/local pension funds, combined, collected 30.1 billion from state and local agencies, and paid out $46.1 billion to pensioners. They are paying out 50% more than they’re taking in, and this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically, pension funds have been net buyers in the market. Now, pension funds across the U.S., along with retiring baby boomers, are sellers in the market. This is one reason it is difficult to be optimistic about securing a 7.5% average annual return in the future, despite historical results. And as for that healthy 15.4% return on investments in 2014? That was offset in 2015 when the markets were flat. It is also noteworthy that employee contributions of $8.9 billion are greatly exceeded by the $21.2 billion in employer (taxpayer) contributions. How many 401K recipients get a 2.5 to 1.0 matching from their employer?...(emphasis added)

San Francisco's "skyrocketing pension costs" (SF Chronicle).

Rembrandt's selfies

Self-portrait as a young man...

...and as an old man

Unlike some of our contemporaries, he didn't have to risk his life making his self-portraits: The Tragic Data Behind Selfie Fatalities


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Smearing Hillary

...Even among progressives, the two-decade-plus smear campaign against the Clintons has had its effect. I keep being told about terrible things the Clintons did that never actually happened, but were carefully fomented right-wing legends---except I’m hearing them from people on the left. The sense that where there’s smoke there must be fire---when the reality was nothing but Richard Mellon Scaife with a smoke machine---is very much out there, still.

Unfortunately, that underlying Foxification of perceptions marries all too well with the tendency of some---only some---Sanders supporters to assume that any skepticism about their hero’s proposals or prospects must reflect personal corruption. Something like that was probably inevitable in a campaign whose premise is that everything is rigged by the oligarchy, but it interacts with the vague perception, the product of all those years of right-wing smearing, that there’s a lot of Clinton dirt.

Even among those who don’t believe in the phony scandals, there is, as there was in 2008, a desire for someone new, who they imagine won’t bring out all that ugliness. But of course they’re wrong: if Sanders is the nominee, it will take around 30 seconds before Fox News is nonstop coverage of the terrible things he supposedly did when younger. 

Don’t say there’s nothing there: a propaganda machine that could turn John Kerry into a coward can turn a nice guy from Brooklyn into a monstrously flawed specimen of humanity in no time at all...

See also this.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

Streetsblog strikes back at L.A. Times story

Streetsblog is playing defense against that LA Times story about the decline in that city's transit ridership after investing $9 billion in its rail system. 

A number of the comments to the Streetsblog LA story support the notion that investing in rail is a false path for LA, while the Streetsblog SF story takes on anti-rail Randal O'Toole, chiding him for cherry-picking ridership numbers and short-term thinking. 

O'Toole can defend himself, but he might say that investing in buses is a much better deal for cities than train systems, which are more expensive to build and to operate over the long term. 

Buses, on the other hand, are cheaper to buy and maintain, and bus systems are more flexible, since cities can change bus lines or just run more buses depending on how best to serve their citizens. See O'Toole's If We Spend Less, We Can Have More.

That has always been the best argument against San Francisco's Central Subway project, that the $124 million in city money invested in the project would have been better spent on our existing Muni system.

Quentin Kopp on the Central Subway project.

See also Thomas Matoff's 2006 critique of the Central Subway's design.

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See also this and this.


Flint: A reminder for California

Caitrin Chappelle, Ellen Hanak

The ongoing public health crisis in Flint, Michigan is a reminder that exposure to dangerous contaminants in drinking water is still a challenge in the US, more than 40 years after the enactment of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. Flint began drawing water from a new source, the Flint River, in early 2014. It corroded pipes and carried harmful lead to residents’ taps. Although California does not face this specific problem, we are still failing to provide safe drinking water to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents...

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Religion and human prehistory

Christopher Hitchens

One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody---not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms---had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). 

Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think---though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one---that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell (Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything).

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Bernie Sanders demagogues the email issue

Sorry to see alleged straight-shooter Bernie Sanders flab-gabbing about Hillary's email:

"That is, I think, a very serious issue. There is a legal process taking place, I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style." He called the controversy "a serious issue" on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday as well, although again he said he wouldn't make personal attacks on Clinton. "I am not going to attack Hillary Clinton," Sanders told NBC's Chuck Todd. "The American people will have to make that judgment."

Bullshit. Calling her emails "a very serious issue" is in fact a personal and political attack on Clinton.

As a story on Vox points out, this is probably about overclassification, not a security breach by Clinton:

The problem, in other words, isn't that the rules for classification are too strict. It's that the rules are unclear, messy, or contradictory, to the degree that the rules exist at all, and individual people and agencies have learned to overclassify to stay on the safe side.

The problem has grown so severe that it has hampered even the ability of American intelligence officials and policymakers to access the information they need to do their jobs. The head of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste, told Congress in 2005 that "the failure to share information was the single most important reason why the United States government failed to detect and disrupt the 9/11 plot." 

He warned, "Information has to flow more freely. Much more information needs to be declassified. A great deal of information should never be classified at all." (emphasis added)

See Paul Krugman's experience with the government's classification system.

See also Michael Tomasky's Bernie Sanders Isn’t Electable, and Here’s Why


Diablo Canyon: Poor design, poor location

by Steven Weissman:

The role that nuclear power could or should play in helping to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is worthy of serious debate, but the latest nuclear-related front-page story in the San Francisco Chronicle is a head-scratcher. Above the fold, the headline reads “Nuclear plant’s surprise backers,” followed by the following subheading: “Environmentalists push for Diablo Canyon to stay open.” The accompanying article reports on a letter sent by a new coalition identifying itself as “Save Diablo Canyon,” calling on regulators to relicense the plant. 

The stated concern is that a closed nuclear plant would make it harder to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Constructed on a cliff along the central California coast, Diablo is the last remaining commercial reactor in the state and it soon must either receive a new license or cease operation.

The mystery about the article is that it only mentions three of those who signed the letter, and each of those three has been on the public record for years as favoring nuclear power. So where is the surprise? Where is the news item?...

If we were to build a nuclear plant in California today, it wouldn’t be at Diablo Canyon. And if we were going to select the best nuclear plant to continue operating for an additional thirty years, it wouldn’t be this one. 

Diablo is perched on a relatively shallow cliff amidst a series of seismic fault lines. It is near a popular small city. It has no doubt led to the destruction of millions of sea creatures due to its massive cold water intake system and hot water reinjection. It was designed incorrectly at first, then retrofitted with beams and shock absorbers that make it a challenge to walk from one end of the facility to another, then discovered to have been erroneously redesigned so it had to be retrofit again. 

There have been reported incidents of faulty operation, such as the failure to notice that a pipe feeding a critical backup cooling system had been stuck in the closed position for over a year. 

In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami-induced Fukushima disaster, important questions were raised about the wisdom of continuing to operate a facility of this type in a coastal, earthquake-prone area. But there it stands, and if the state were to pursue a replacement nuclear plant, it would likely take a decade to get there.

See also this.

Later: The case for keeping Diablo open from Mother Jones: Closing This Nuclear Plant Could Cause an Environmental Disaster

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Feminists, Islamists, and Richard Dawkins

From Patheos:

Last week, the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism (NECSS) opened up registration for its annual conference, which draws hundreds of people annually. Richard Dawkins was one of the keynote speakersThe video in question caricatured a feminist (one who actually exists, though I doubt Dawkins knew that) and was titled “Feminists Love Islamists.” 

When Dawkins learned that the woman in question was being harassed online, he deleted his tweet and later told his followers to stop bothering her...

That’s all well and good, but the bigger concern for NECSS organizers was that Dawkins found the video worthy of being tweeted in the first place. That’s why they removed him from their roster.

Now, in his first public comments about the withdrawn speaking invitation, Dawkins told me he wishes NECSS organizers had simply spoken to him first...

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Another cops-beating-black-man video

It's simply astonishing that 25 years after Rodney King cops are still doing this. Why? Because they can get away with it. The story here.

Thanks to Alternet.


Friday, January 29, 2016

How angry are Americans?

Kevin Drum

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

It seems as though I've heard about the seething anger of the electorate before nearly every election in my life. Joe Klein takes a drive through the heartland every few years and reports back about this. But all sorts of polling evidence suggests that Americans aren't really all that unhappy in general and not really all that angry about the government. No more than usual, anyway. Now, maybe this year really is different. Maybe voters are more responsive to angry appeals even if they aren't especially angry in general...


Berkeley: Is this the city you want?


Scott Wiener on double parking

For once I agree, more or less, with Supervisor Wiener on an issue. In an interview with SF Streetsblog, Roger Rudick complains about double parking in bike lanes:

I went for a tour of the new bicycle infrastructure in SF and almost immediately I saw a DHL truck just pull right onto the new raised bike lanes. I’ve actually seen this happen already right in front of SFPD and they don’t seem to act on it at all. What do we do about that?

Wiener: SFPD and MTA have really just failed when it comes to double parking enforcement; whether it’s double parking in traffic or on a bike lane. And I don’t say that lightly. I work closely with both agencies. I think there are certain things they do really well. But this is one area where I would give both agencies, to be charitable, probably a “D” and maybe an “F.” I feel for delivery truck drivers. It’s a really hard job in a city like SF. And there are times where they have to double park...

There’s a culture that’s developed in SF over many, many, many years. And it’s hard to change. And also to be clear I’m not advocating that we’re going to eliminate all double parking. There are situations where a delivery truck can’t pull over. They’re are situations where a driver is running in to get something on a street where they’re not causing a problem by double parking. To me it’s about reducing the amount of double parking and also taking a look at the corridors where it causes real problems whether it’s for traffic or for Muni or for cyclists. I’m not saying we should be wiping double parking off the face of SF. It’s about taking a thoughtful approach...

Of course truck or auto drivers who double park when a parking space is available should be ticketed, and maybe the problem has a cultural dimension that could be reduced by more enforcement. 

But the problem in San Francisco is that neighborhood commercial districts have two-lane streets with much-used parking on the side. Delivery drivers double park mostly out of desperation to do the job. At least Wiener has a "thoughtful" understanding of the issue and didn't pander to Rudick's readers with a knee-jerk anti-motor vehicle response.

Wiener should also do a more "thoughtful approach" on other issues, like high-speed rail, a project that is heading for a political defeat and/or a derailment by the courts. He should join Gavin Newsom and other Democrats by recognizing the folly of the project before it collapses completely.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anti-car policies failing in LA

Los Angeles Times
Al Seib, LA Times
Hi Rob,

Hope this note finds you well. I am pasting in the URL of an article that might be of interest to you. The failure of “transit first” in LA and Orange counties, where transit boardings have declined for 3 straight years (Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California).

If any people in California have incentive to adopt alternate (to cars) surface transportation it would be Angelenos, whose region is legendary for its traffic congestion. Yet driving continues to increase in popularity.

I admit that when I first moved to Orange County in 1984 and experienced the gawdawful slow traffic I was highly enthusiastic about the idea of freezing the road network and building out transit instead. It was a new theory back then but now all the major cities in California have been trying it for 30 years. 

I still like the idea, but only in theory. I am satisfied that the results prove that the idea is a practical failure. I wish the public authorities would simply go back to building the infrastructure that the people clearly want (actions speaking louder than words) and quit trying to coerce us into wanting something different.

Deane Hartley

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Defaming Mayor Lee

Mayor Lee and Leah Shahum

I've never been one of his supporters, since Mayor Lee supports all the big projects I oppose: the Central Subway, high-speed rail, the Warriors' stadium on the waterfront, not to mention his attempt to destroy Ross Mirkarimi, etc. 

For once I have to agree with Randy Shaw; the ongoing attempts to tar Lee with the campaign fundraising indictments are contemptible.

The follow-up question to the felony charges against three people for illegal fundraising activities is simple, and classic: What did Mayor Lee know, and when did he know it?

The answer so far is also simple: nothing, since there's no evidence that the mayor knew anything about it. 

Redmond cites a recent KQED story that adds nothing new on the issue, including any evidence against Lee. A KQED story last year got it right when it quoted Judge Breyer: "There's nothing there" incriminating Mayor Lee. It was all about Shrimp Boy Chow's lawyers trying to influence his trial by accusing the government of selective prosecution.

Redmond says the "Examiner has been doing great reporting on this from the start." On the contrary, the Examiner jumped on the story and made accusations without any evidence (See Broke-ass Stuart and the dumb-ass Examiner). 

Six months and three indictments later, and there's still no evidence that Mayor Lee is implicated in anything illegal.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

MH370 still missing

Jeff Wise is closely following the MH370 story on his blog:

It’s been almost two years since MH370, and the worldwide search into the greatest mystery in the history of aviation is looking a little ragged. Nothing has been found on the seabed where satellite analytics said the plane must have gone. Only a single piece of debris has turned up, and it’s under lock and key in France. Some are starting to grumble that we’re reaching the end of profitable inquiry. Others say maybe it’s time to consider a broader range of possible fates for the missing plane. 

To get a sense of the mood of the room (as it were) I’d like to pose a question to readers:

If the search of the seabed comes up empty, no further debris is found, and investigators find significant problems with the flaperon (such as proof that the barnacles are less than a year old, or that the the barnacle species mix indicates it didn’t originate on the 7th arc), would you be willing to seriously consider the possibility that the satellite signal was deliberately tampered with and that the plane went somewhere else other than the southern Indian Ocean?

No, this is an unreasonable idea. Tampering with the satellite signal would be so complicated that no one could have attempted it, and in fact it might even just be totally impossible. The plane must have been on the seventh arc somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere at 0:19. Occam’s razor.

Yes, and in fact we should disregard satcom data entirely. Maybe it was corrupted deliberately by Inmarsat or a Western intelligence agency, and maybe the so-called experts don’t know what they’re talking about. The plane could be anywhere.

Yes, but we can’t disregard the satellite data entirely. The data is not illusory, it had to be generated by some physical process that originated on the airplane, and analyzing it might help us understand where the plane went.

None of the above. (Explain).


The Trump Tapes

Thanks to Mother Jones.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

The beginning of the end of god worship

Christopher Hitchens

The end of god-worship discloses itself at the moment, which is somewhat more gradually revealed, when it becomes optional, or only one among many possible beliefs. For the greater part of human existence, it must always be stressed, this "option" did not really exist. We know, from many fragments of their burned and mutilated texts and confessions, that there were always human beings who were unconvinced. 

But from the time of Socrates, who was condemned to death for spreading unwholesome skepticism, it was considered ill-advised to emulate his example. And for billions of people down the ages, the question simply did not come up. The votaries of Baron Samedi in Haiti enjoyed the same monopoly, founded upon the same brute coercion, as did those of John Calvin in Geneva or Massachusetts: I select these examples because they are yesterday in terms of human time. 

Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.

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