Thursday, July 28, 2016

Streetsblog discourages cyclists from wearing helmets

The Big Lie about helmets in chart form

A bicyclist was killed and another injured in a car-bicycle collision early Monday morning on Fiddyment Road, west of Roseville. On Tuesday, authorities confirmed the decedent was 47-year-old Richard Elmer Lawson, of Rio Linda.

According to Sgt. Tammy DuTemple of the California Highway Patrol, Lawson was struck by a vehicle around 6:26 a.m. on Fiddyment Road, south of Athens Avenue and north of west Sunset Boulevard. DuTemple said Lawson was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene, appearing to have died from blunt force trauma...(emphasis added)

We don't know whether Lawson was a Streetsblog reader, but that online anti-car, pro-bike publication does a disservice to its readers by downplaying the importance of wearing a helmet when they ride their bikes. 

A Streetsblog story last month, Why Helmets Aren’t the Answer to Bike Safety:

Better street design and getting more people on bikes — not blind faith in helmets — are the keys to making cycling safer, recent research has shown...Of these countries, the U.S. has the highest rate of helmet usage among cyclists — around 55 percent — but also the highest cyclist fatality rate per distance traveled. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, where helmet use is practically nil, cycling is much, much safer.

While this is just eight data points, higher helmet use seems to be associated with higher fatality rates. Intuitively, that makes some sense. The more dangerous an activity, the more people feel inclined to take steps to protect themselves.

Despite the high rate of helmet use in the U.S., helmet campaigns have clearly failed to make cycling as safe as it should be. If anything, they’ve distracted from the much more important work of designing safer streets and reducing motor vehicle speeds in cities (emphasis added)

A comment to the irresponsible Streetsblog story makes the obvious point about helmets:

...Helmets are meant to protect you from a head injury IN THE CASE of an accident, they are not meant to prevent the accident from happening. Head injuries can lead to death or worse, and the laws of physics apply the same in the Netherlands as they do in the US. A helmet won't stop a driver from spilling oil on the street or from texting while driving. But when you slip on this oil or this driver hits you, the helmet might determine if you end up with a few broken bones and bruises or weather you are going to loose the ability to read silly graphs on Facebook due to death or worse a debilitating head injury.

From the Streetsblog story:

"Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, where helmet use is practically nil, cycling is much, much safer." 

Well, maybe. A quick web search turns up this:

The Netherlands has the most cyclist deaths in Europe as a percentage of total traffic. Over the past years a quarter of people killed in traffic accidents in the country were cyclists. The worldwide average is 8 percent, according to accident figures the European Commission published. According to the figures, there are 570 fatal traffic accidents in the Netherlands per year, of which 185 of the victims were on bicycles. Hungary and Denmark are next on the list, with bicycle riders accounting for 16 percent of the fatal accidents...


"The more dangerous an activity, the more people feel inclined to take steps to protect themselves."

Yes, indeed. That's what Streetsblog and bike advocates hate about even discussing the helmet issue: the accurate implication that riding a bike can be dangerous, infrastructure or no infrastructure. 

But the Streetsblog writer---and the crudely deceptive chart on top of the story---goes too far with this: "higher helmet use seems to be associated with higher fatality rates," as if wearing a helmet somehow actually caused accidents. Hard to believe that even the fanatics who write for Streetsblog believe that. (I've asked this question before: How dumb does Streetsblog think its readers are?)

A New York City study found that "Nearly all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet. Most fatal crashes (74%) involved a head injury."

People who deal with the facts about safety understand the dangers in riding a bike, like insurance companies and the Centers for Disease Control: "While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do."

The Vision Zero slogan masquerading as a safety policy isn't working for either San Francisco or New York City.

I wasn't surprised to learn that wearing a helmet when you ride a bike is controversial here in Progressive Land.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Eviction protest

From Hoodline:

This Thursday, July 28th, neighbors and members of the city's poetry community will rally to support 81-year-old North Beach poet Diego Deleo, who is set to be evicted from his home of over 30 years under the Ellis Act. The rally will be held at Washington Square Park from 12-1pm.

Deleo first learned of his potential eviction from his Chestnut Street apartment on July 1st, 2013, when landlord Martin Coyne sent notice of his intention to use the Ellis Act to remove Deleo from the backyard cottage that he and his wife shared for years until she passed away in 2012. The controversial California state law allows landlords to get out of the business of being a landlord as a last resort, but critics say that it's being used too frequently by real estate speculators to flip buildings for a quick sale...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Role models

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Noam Scheiber/Stuart Stevens

Thanks to Kevin Drum.

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The Repugs are right about high-speed rail

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Libertarian Randal O'Toole on the Republican platform:

The current administration’s transportation department “subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit,” notes page 5 of the 2016 Republican Party Platform. For example, the administration’s “ill-named Livability Initiative is meant to ‘coerce people out of their cars.'”

...The [Republican]platform also calls for privatizing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (as if any private investor would want it), but says nothing about the rest of Amtrak other than it is “extremely expensive for the American taxpayers, who must subsidize every ticket.” 

It is more definitive with regard to high-speed rail, saying “we reaffirm our intention to end federal support for boondoggles like California’s high-speed train to nowhere.”

Rob's comment:
High-speed rail and the Obama administration's anti-carism may be the only thing the Repugs are right about, though Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the project when he was Governor of California.

President Obama, who I happily voted for twice, has never shown that he knows anything about transportation, which his appointment of Ray LaHood as transportation secretary demonstrated. 

LaHood consistently showed how clueless he was with his anti-car, pro-train statements, like this bit of stupidity:

One of our signature transportation programs will be connecting America with high-speed intercity rail, so people can get out of their cars. They can take a train ride to see Grandma rather than doing it in a car.

They can do that only if grandma's house happens to be next to a train station.

The Obama administration gave California $3 billion for its dumb high-speed rail project, an enormous waste of taxpayers' money on a project that will never get built.

Streetsblog keeps hope alive for the boondoggle.

Note on usage: Sorry to see O'Toole using "with regard to" when "about" or "on" would have been a lot better.

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The story of this country

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25:  First lady Michelle Obama acknowledges the crowd before delivering remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Michelle Obama:

That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful intelligent black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. 

And because of Hillary Clinton my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.

Thanks to Daily Kos.


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Monday, July 25, 2016

The Treasure Island Transportation Plan

Looking over the SFCTA's Treasure Island Transportation Implementation Plan is not a reassuring experience. It confirms what the critics of that development project have said all along---that allowing 8,000 new housing units on the island is a dumb idea.

It's dumb because of the traffic that will come with that kind of development, which is what the transportation plan grapples with for 124 pages.

Once the project was okayed by City Hall, some kind of anti-car transportation plan was required to deal with all that traffic, which is why the Bicycle Coalition helped write an earlier transportation plan. Who knows more about anti-carism than the Bicycle Coalition? The updated answer: The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA).

A Very unpopular idea with city voters

The SFCTA's answer to traffic congestion in the city has long been Congestion Pricing. The current head of the SFCTA, Tilly Chang, spent a good part of her career pushing Congestion Pricing for San Francisco. 

She's been unsuccessful pushing the plan pictured above for downtown San Francisco, but Treasure Island is her chance to implement Congestion Pricing ideas, including a $5.00 charge for island residents when they leave the island in their car and another $5.00 when they return in their car (page 102 in the plan): 

The charge will be established at a level that meets the program objectives of reducing off-Island peak travel via private automobile and maximizing revenue generation to fund transit.

The ultimate achievement of the anti-car movement in San Francisco: punish those who insist on driving those wicked automobiles and raise money for the agency that's doing the punishing!

The MTA has already mastered this principle: It now extracts $150 million a year from motorists with parking meters and parking tickets to support its growing bureaucracy of 6,263 employees---as of 2015---up from 5,745 in 2014.

Once San Francisco achieves absolute gridlock in the downtown area---all those new housing units with no parking will help do that---Treasure Island's "maximizing revenue" Congestion Pricing system will be applied in the city itself using some variation of the map pictured above.

Another anti-car measure is called "ramp metering":

Ramp metering controls the traffic volumes accessing the bridge during periods of congestion by manipulating the traffic signals that control ramp traffic. For example, should bridge congestion reach unacceptable levels, Caltrans could increase the length of the red phase of the signal, decreasing the total number of green phases shown to vehicles accessing the bridge at the on-ramps at Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. Ramp metering helps to not only ensure the integrity of traffic flow on the bridge mainline but also puts a cap on automobile use during peak periods...(page 106).

Apparently once congestion on the bridge reaches "unacceptable levels," residents will be stuck behind a red light on the ramp until congestion becomes more acceptable. What could go wrong with that?

The Treasure Island project is part of City Hall's "Smart Growth" development policy.

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Trump, Putin, and the anti-American left

Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Syracuse, New York, April 16, 2016; Vladimir Putin at a meeting with journalists, Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016
Carlo Allegri/Reuters; Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

...What is the relationship between Trump and Russia? That Russia is pulling for Trump is at this point beyond any dispute. The Kremlin’s English-language propaganda channel RT and Russia’s army of Twitter trolls, as well as Russia’s internal propaganda, have all thrown themselves behind the Republican candidate. A series of reports (here, here, and here) have shown that Russia backed the operation to hack the DNC. 

Adrien Chen, who reported last summer on Russia’s army of internet trolls that spreads disinformation abroad, noted in December that the trolls he was tracking had begun posing as pro-Trump conservatives.

It is the other half of the equation that is more opaque. Putin is helping Trump, but what exactly is Trump giving him in return? As Foer notes, Trump’s habit of refusing to pay back people who loan him money means regular American banks won’t lend him money anymore, making him dependent on unusual sources of financing. He has cultivated deep personal and financial ties with Russia — and to do major business with Russia, unlike a reasonably free economy, is to do business with its ruling claque. 

Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, helped orchestrate Putin’s intervention in Ukraine. His Russia adviser Carter Page has deep ties to Russia and owns stock in Gazprom, the state-controlled firm that is a major source of the Kremlin’s financial and economic power. Michael Flynn, another Trump adviser, appears regularly on RT and refused to answer questions about whether he is paid to do so. Trump and Putin have exchanged lavish compliments.

Trump’s own financial ties to Russia are completely non-transparent and will remain so as long as he refuses to release his tax returns. With a normal candidate, the Russia connection would amount to a massive, disqualifying scandal. At minimum, the nominee would face overwhelming pressure to release his tax return — a standard requirement even without grounds for suspicion — to prove he is not getting paid by a hostile foreign power...

The American far left during Truman’s era, just like today, was not pro-Russia so much as it was anti-anti-Russia, and follows identical themes: Criticism of Russia’s domestic repression or aggressive foreign policy is merely a ploy to distract from and excuse America’s own failings, and provides dangerous support for American aggression, which could lead to war. 

So, just as the left of the '40s and '50s saw anti-Stalinism as an excuse for Jim Crow, a Glenn Greenwald today casts Russia’s human-rights record in an implausibly favorable light, and reflexively dismisses any contrary view as simple hypocrisy. When Russia menaces Ukraine, The Nation informs its audience that this is perfectly justifiable because Ukraine is not really a country at all...

Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books:

...President Putin, who is an intelligent and penetrating judge of men, especially men with masculinity issues, has quickly drawn the correct conclusion. In the past he has done well for himself by recruiting among politicians who exhibit greater vanity than decency, such as Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schröder. 

The premise of Russian foreign policy to the West is that the rule of law is one big joke; the practice of Russian foreign policy is to find prominent people in the West who agree. Moscow has found such people throughout Europe; until the rise of Trump the idea of an American who would volunteer to be a Kremlin client would have seemed unlikely. 

Trump represents an unprecedented standard of American servility, and should therefore be cultivated as a future Russian client. 

Trump correctly says that Putin respects strength. But of course Putin prefers weakness, which is what Trump offers. 

As Putin understands perfectly well, the president of the United States has standing in Russia, and enjoys far superior power to the president of Russia, only insofar as he or she mobilizes the moral and political resources of a rule-of-law state. 

It is precisely Trump’s pose of strength that reveals his crucial vulnerability. As anyone familiar with Russian politics understands, an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow. It is unclear how much money Trump has, but it is not enough to matter in Russia. If he keeps up his pose as the tough billionaire, he will be flattered by the Russian media, scorned by those who matter in Russia, and then easily crushed by men far richer and smarter than he.

Putin has been accordingly circumspect in his return of Trump’s wooing. For him Trump is a small man who might gain great power. The trick is to manipulate the small man and thereby neutralize the great power...

See also Why Putin hates Hillary.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

About Hillary's alleged unpopularity

Hillary talks about her approval rating:

"So I have a track record. And I'm going to remind people of that. Because it's not just rhetoric, for me," she said. "When I was secretary of state, I had a very high approval rating, as you can go back and check. Because I was doing a job that people could see."

When she was a senator, her approval rating was 66%, the same as it was when she was secretary of state. 

There's always been Hillary hate on the right, of course, since her administration will be a conservative nightmare, with a base of women, gays, Hispanics, African Americans/people of color, and union workers.

But there's also Hillary hate on the Bernie Sanders left: See this, this---and the anti-American Counterpunch left.

The mainstream media's negative coverage has nourished Hillary hate:

Source: Media Tenor, January 1-December 31, 2015. Tone figures based on positive and negative statements only. Neutral statements are excluded.
Shorenstein Center

My prediction: the more people see her during the campaign---especially when compared to Trump---the higher her approval rating will go.

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Are Americans angry?

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

It's now conventional wisdom that explains Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders: American voters are pissed off. A few of the latest examples here and here.

Kevin Drum challenges the conventional wisdom:

So why are voters so angry? That's a good question, except for one thing: it assumes that voters are angry in the first place. It's true that if you go out and talk to people, you can find plenty of angry folks. That's always the case, but it's completely meaningless. The only interesting question is: Are Americans angrier than usual? It sure doesn't look like it, does it? You can take a look at every poll you want, and what you'll find is that, generally speaking, Americans just aren't unusually unhappy or unusually angry right now. They just aren't. There's virtually no serious data to suggest otherwise...

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Sam Harris Responds to Reza Aslan

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gary Trudeau saw him coming

9/18 1987

Rob's comment:
What's surprising is how little Trump has changed over the years. 

It's good to see Uncle Duke again. Too bad Hunter Thompson isn't still around to cover this campaign. It was irresponsible of him to commit suicide.

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BRT and Berkeley

AC Transit 2162, Van Hool AG300 (60ft) on 1R

Bus Rapid Transit is coming, and it slows down bus service
Russ Tilleman
Friday July 22, 2016

I recently considered taking the AC Transit 1R Rapid Bus from my home near Telegraph in Berkeley to the Registrar of Voters office by Lake Merritt in Oakland. When I went online to check the schedule, I was surprised to find that the 1R wasn't listed.Here is what I found on the website: 

"AC Transit 1R This route has been discontinued. Canceled due to BRT construction. AC Transit 1 provides local service along the corridor between San Leandro and Oakland. AC Transit 6 provides local service between Oakland and Berkeley." 

My understanding is that this is a permanent change caused by BRT, and not just an inconvenience during the construction project. 


So now, with the coming of BRT, instead of an express bus that ran from San Leandro to Berkeley and back, riders will have to transfer between the non-express 6 and the non-express 1. 

When I predicted that the small speed increase of BRT wasn't worth the massive cost and environmental damage, it didn't even occur to me that BRT would make bus service slower. 

Now AC Transit is spending $174 million on a project to slow down bus service. That money could have put solar panels on the roofs of thousands of homes and actually helped the environment. 


According to AC Transit's arguments that slightly faster bus service would get drivers out of their cars, much slower bus service will presumably get people off the bus and into their cars. 

And people called me an anti-environmentalist!

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Suspicions confirmed: MH370 pilot's "suicide run"


From New York magazine:

New York has obtained a confidential document from the Malaysian police investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that shows that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, conducted a simulated flight deep into the remote southern Indian Ocean less than a month before the plane vanished under uncannily similar circumstances. The revelation, which Malaysia withheld from a lengthy public report on the investigation, is the strongest evidence yet that Zaharie made off with the plane in a premeditated act of mass murder-suicide...

A post from last year: Media ignoring the obvious: The Pilot did it.

See also the comments to the version of the New York magazine article on Jeff Wise's website.

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Tim Kaine

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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Republican Party: From Lincoln to Trump

See also this.

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Getty Images

Matt Davies

Donald Trump yells at America for more than an hour

More from the great Matt Davies here.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Charlie Rose is a lousy interviewer

I've posted before about Charlie Rose's limitations as an interviewer (see this and this). He did it again in his interview with Hillary Clinton the other night. He barely let her finish a sentence without his banal, poorly-informed interruptions. It must be exasperating for her to have to put up with this bullshit instead of just saying, "Shut up for a minute, Charlie, and let me talk without constant interruptions."

Bill Maher was effective in getting Rose to stop interrupting in their discussion of Islam, during which Rose was reliably lame and poorly informed. As per mainstream media practice, Rose was uncomfortable even talking about Islam, especially with someone who's a critic. 

Maher finally raised his hand and said to Rose firmly, "Let me finish."

Hillary was probably thinking, "Okay, it's his show, but why does he keep interrupting the next President of the United States? He asks me for an interview and then barely lets me talk."

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bicycle Coalition membership drive

Training wheels at first

The bicycle commuter count is down 7%, and women aren't eager to join the guys in the bike revolution. Maybe dogs can be drafted. See Hoodline: 'Raise The Woof' At PUBLIC Bikes This Saturday.

They're probably smart/dumb enough to go for it. If dogs can ride skateboards, why not bikes?

After all, parents here in Progressive Land want to get their children on bikes. Why not their dogs?

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Double standard on blocking traffic

On the one hand, Streetsblog thinks parking in the bike lanes on Valencia Street is a problem and a safety issue. They aren't wrong. On the other hand, how are small businesses on Valencia supposed to get deliveries? This is a problem for small businesses in a lot of city neighborhoods.

But when progressives block the streets for political reasons, it's a different story. Critical Mass, for example, has been bullying the people on the streets of their city since 1992. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of that disruptive demo.

When Black Lives Matter demonstrators block streets, an anti-car site tells us that streets and freeways were always designed to be racist, so it's okay to block traffic during anti-racist demonstrations!

Streetsblog even argues that people obstructing traffic during demonstrations are only exercising their First Amendment rights! Black Lives Matter, but there's no such thing as Motorists Matter, since not blocking traffic---that is, when traffic moves well---is really about indulging "motorist entitlement."

The eagerness to arrest and aggressively disperse people protesting on highways seems inseparable from public officials’ identification with motorist entitlement — the presumption that drivers’ business must never be subordinated, and certainly not for a spontaneous public demonstration exercising First Amendment rights...

In passing the Streetsblog story on Valencia retails what I call the Valencia Street Lie:

It should be noted that none of this work detracts from the efforts of the late-great bike advocate, Mary Brown, former Membership Director at the SF Bicycle Coalition. In 1999, she successfully campaigned for the striped lane on Valencia Street, one of the first bike lanes in the city. Local businesses and others fought that simple change. But bike counts increased 144 percent the following year from that breakthrough accomplishment.

I've been writing about the Valencia Street for years, and I've never seen any evidence that "local businesses" opposed the bike lanes. In fact, in a follow-up study by the MTA in 2000, we see this:

The Mission Merchants Association, whose boundaries are Division Street and Duboce Avenue to the north, Guerrero Street to the west, Cesar Chavez Street to the south, and Folsom Street to the east, supports the bicycle lanes (page 6).

On the same page:

A common complaint from these responses was the proliferation of double-parking in the bike lanes along Valencia Street...It should be noted that double-parking on Valencia Street was a problem before the installation of bicycle lanes.

It's a problem without an obvious solution. Ticketing delivery vehicles punishes those trying to make deliveries to small businesses, which in effect will punish the businesses themselves by making it even harder to get deliveries.

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Which countries have the most immigrants?


...It’s not just a question of nuclear codes, it’s everything about him, the casual lies, the open racism, you name it. Just read Jane Mayer’s brutal article that landed today based on her interviews with Tony Schwartz, who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal and who believes now that Trump is a totally amoral sociopath.[Later: Trump threatens Schwartz with legal action]

It used to be, back in more civil times, that the other side kind of went dark during one party’s convention. No one can afford that luxury now. Americans who watch the GOP fest are going to hear four nights of “Hillary has blood on her hands” and “Hillary belongs in jail.” 

The Clinton campaign should devote some energy this week not to pushing back against those narratives directly necessarily, but to reminding Americans that the other guy is unacceptable on every level...

See also 141 Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done That Make Him Unfit to Be President

Later: I just read the Jane Mayer New Yorker story linked above. It's the best thing I've read about Trump, and I'm sorry to say I've read a lot. Needless to say it's not flattering.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bobby Knight supports Trump

Pre-Trump symbolic behavior by one of his supporters.


Inmate mental health: Story that's not a scoop

The SF Weekly on the county jail's mental health crisis

For the second time in a month, a report on the state of inmate mental health in San Francisco has been released - which means for the second time in a month, we can wonder if anyone at City Hall is still paying attention to the crisis happening in the County Jail system and, in turn, on city streets. 

San Francisco officials last year wanted the city to invest in alternatives to incarceration instead of a new jail, and that includes much more robust mental health care services. But since the Board of Supervisors rejected funding for a new jail in December, not much has happened save for a concept paper released in mid-June and now a grand jury report on the mental health crisis among inmates...

The SF Weekly doesn't mention it, but the much-maligned Sheriff Mirkarimi tried to warn the city about this ongoing crisis, calling the city jails "the largest mental hospital in the city" in an interview with The San Francisco Public Press back in November, 2014.

See also "It's expensive to be poor."

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Hillary: Overturn Citizens United


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Latest Pew poll: Hillary 9 points ahead

Pew Research Center

Thanks to Mother Jones.

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Trump and the media:1987

Doonesbury, 1987

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Calling the right's bluff on ISIS

I've done a number of posts that criticize liberals for their peculiar inability to talk clearly and convincingly about Islamic terrorism (See this, thisthis, this). Sometimes liberals leave the impression that those of us who are alarmed by Islamic terrorism are simply Islamophobes, that we're exaggerating the threat, that most Moslems are peaceable, etc. Yes, of course most Muslims aren't terrorists, but that doesn't help us deal with the significant minority that are.

I've been asked before what I think should be done, but I really don't have more to suggest than what President Obama is already doing, including his drone strikes.

But the least we should do is stop with the liberal/progressive denial about calling it by its correct name and pretending that somehow all will be made right by our good liberal multicultural intentions.

On the other hand, the right-wing goes to the opposite rhetorical extremes, which Kevin Drum calls out today:

All of these folks are fundamentally pissed off about our "seriousness" in going after ISIS—although I don't think ISIS has yet been connected to the Nice attack. But put that aside.

Whenever I read stuff like this, I have one question: What do you think we should do? If you really want to destroy ISIS, and do it quickly, there's only one alternative: ground troops and plenty of them. This would be a massive counterinsurgency operation, something we've proven to be bad at, and at a guess would require at least 100,000 troops. Maybe more. And they'd have to be staged in unfriendly territory: Syria, which obviously doesn't want us there, and Iraq, which also doesn't want us there in substantial numbers.

Is that what these folks want? Anything less is, to use their words, unserious. But if they do want a massive ground operation, and simply aren't willing to say so because they're afraid the public would rebel, then they're just as cowardly as the people they're attacking.

This is the choice. Don't bamboozle me with no-fly zones and tougher rules of engagement and better border security. That's small beer. You either support Obama's current operation, more or less, or else you want a huge and costly ground operation. There's really no middle ground. So which is it?

Rob's comment:
Nor do conservatives have better domestic proposals to fight terrorist acts by people already in the country. Presumably the FBI is trying to identify those people, but the task is difficult to impossible before such "lone wolf" attacks happen.

The unpleasant reality is that this brand of terrorism will be with us for the foreseeable future: "The battle will go on for the rest of our lives."

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The scorecard

The Religion of Peace
Religion of

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sam Harris, Fareed Zakaria on Islam

See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Why Islam Needs a Reformation.

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Michael Herr on Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick

Michael Herr ("Dispatches") sometimes worked with Stanley Kubrick on movie scripts. Below are a few snippets from the long piece Herr did In Vanity Fair after Kubrick died:

I’d arrived for work in the late afternoon. “Ready for some serious brainstorming, Michael? You want a drink first?” I reflexively checked my watch. “How come all you heavy drinkers always look at your watches when somebody offers you a drink?”

Jim Thompson, the toughest pulp novelist of them all, had made him nervous when they were working together on "The Killing," a big guy in a dirty old raincoat, a terrific writer but a little too hard-boiled for Stanley’s taste. He’d turn up for work carrying a bottle in a brown paper bag, but saying nothing about it—it was just there on the desk with no apology or comment—not at all interested in putting Stanley at ease except to offer him the bag, which Stanley declined, and making no gestures whatever to any part of the Hollywood process, except maybe toward the money...

...Once a year he’d get the latest issue of Maledicta, a journal of scatological invective and insult, unashamedly incorrect, willfully scurrilous, and pretty funny, and read me the highlights.

“Hey Michael, what’s the American Dream?”

“I give.”

“Ten million blacks swimming to Africa, with a Jew under each arm.”

To which he added, “Don’t worry, Michael. They don’t mean us.”

...Then he told me about a friend of his, a studio head who’d just bought an apartment in New York. He told me how much he’d paid for it, and said that he was the first Jew ever admitted to the building.

“Can you believe that? What is it, 1999? And they never let a Jew in there before?”

In Holland, he’d heard, there was a soccer team called Ajax that had once had a Jewish player, and ever since then Dutch skinheads would go to all the team’s matches and make a loud hissing noise, meant to represent the sound of gas escaping into the death chambers. “And that’s Holland, Michael. A civilized country.” Laughing...

...Stanley didn’t live in England because he disliked America. God knows, it’s all he ever talked about. It was always on his mind and in his blood. I’m not sure he even really knew he wasn’t living in America all along, although he hadn’t been there since 1968. In the days before satellite TV, he’d had relatives and friends send him tapes of American television—N.F.L. games, the Johnny Carson show, news broadcasts, and commercials, which he thought were, in their way, the most interesting films being made. (He’d tape his favorite commercials and recut them, just for the monkish exercise.)...It wasn’t America he couldn’t take. It was L.A.

He was walking into a Hollywood restaurant one night in 1955 as James Dean came out, stepped into the Porsche Spyder that had just been brought around by the parking valet, and drove off. Stanley remarked at the time how fast he was going...

...He didn’t exactly utter the word “actors” under his breath like a curse, but he definitely thought of them as wild cards, something to be overcome with difficulty. They were so lazy about learning their lines, were often otherwise “unprepared,” so capricious, so childlike, and the younger ones were completely spoiled. There was even something mysterious, and to him a little freakish, about anybody who could and would stand up in front of other people to assume and express emotions at will, sometimes to the point of tears.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have to tell you, I really like actors.”

“That’s because you don’t have to pay them, Michael.”

...They’d come to him for direction, and he’d send them back to work to find out for themselves. On A Clockwork Orange, when Malcolm McDowell asked, he told him, “Malcolm, I’m not RADA[Royal Academy of Dramatic Art]. I hired you to do the acting.” He was preparing a scene for Spartacus in which Laurence Olivier and Nina Foch are sitting in their seats above the arena waiting for the gladiators to enter and fight to the death, and Nina Foch asked him for motivation. “What am I doing, Stanley?” she asked, and Stanley said, “You’re sitting here with Larry waiting for the gladiators to come out.”

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