Sunday, December 21, 2014

North Korea not the first to censor US media


This video is pertinent to what Ross Douthat was talking about today in the New York Times (North Korea and the Speech Police). The American media was in effect already censored by Islamist zealots during the 2006 riots over the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

The media in San Francisco was shamefully lame during the Danish cartoon riots. See thisthisthis, and this.

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Bill Maher at Berkeley yesterday


Funny, but I didn't see anything in the papers about Bill Maher's commencement speech at UC Berkeley yesterday. I had to go to The Friendly Atheist to find this. Maybe it's part of what Ross Douthat wrote about in today's New York Times (North Korea and the Speech Police):

We live in a time of consistent gutlessness on the part of institutions notionally committed to free speech and intellectual diversity, a time of canceled commencement invitations and C.E.O.s defenestrated for their political donations, a time of Twitter mobs, trigger warnings and cringing public apologies. A time when journalists and publishers tiptoe around Islamic fundamentalism, when free speech is under increasing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic, when a hypersensitive political correctness has the whip hand on many college campuses.

The audio on the video above is pretty bad, so here are some highlights from Maher's speech:

...This institution is all about passing on knowledge. You know, humans have gotten as far as we have because we’re selfish about a lot of things, but not about knowledge. When humans learn something good, they tend to pass it on. The guy who discovered how to make fire gave that shit away for free...

So the first thing you have to know is: It goes fast. Your life. I’m gonna be 59 next month and I know when I thought of 59 at your age, I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was something that was never going to happen to me. There was just too big an ocean of time out there before I got there. No. It’s actually the blink of an eye. And because of that, people often say “Make each second count.” Don’t. Don’t do that. That’s too much pressure. That sounds like one of those vacations where there’s something scheduled every minute.

No, actually, some of the greatest times of your life and going to be idly goofing around. Like I have to tell you, a bunch of college kids! However, the other side of that is don’t goof around too much. Taking time off to travel or to find yourself, that’s cool. But if you do it until you’re 30, you’ll probably find it harder to elbow your way into the rat race. Now you may not want to be in the rat race. That’s cool. But it’s also cool if you want to be in the rat race. It doesn’t make you a rat! This is America. There’s nothing wrong with competitive people wanting to win...Just do it with compassion and perspective.

Not like a Republican.

I’m kidding, of course. No, keeping perspective is maybe the most important way to stay sane throughout your life, and losing it — losing perspective — is a great way to sabotage what otherwise could’ve been a really good life. Do you know that opinion polls this year in America were very bleak? People thought that this country and the world in general were going to hell in a handcart.

They saw a passenger plane just disappear. They saw black-hooded ISIS fighters behead innocent people on YouTube. They learned that Ebola can get across the globe in less than 24 hours. Unless it’s on United.

My point is: We all want perspective. The world seems scarier than ever, but the truth is that the world, although still very troubled, is actually less violent, less engaged in war, and more prosperous than it’s ever been.

As a species, we do seem to be advancing. And when I think about my own life, I feel very lucky that I was born in what could prove to be a real sweet spot in history. I was born after electricity, after antibiotics, and (thank you Jesus) especially after indoor toilets. I was born after those things, but I was born before climate change and environmental destruction could make life a living hell. Which could happen in your lifetime.

You know, I had my fun with the planet, but you need it to be around and in good shape for another 50 years. So I hope all of you here today consider the environment to be paramount among the many challenges we face, because unless we solve that issue there are no other issues.

It’s true. We need a place to live. We’re humans. We need a crib! And the world desperately needs a generation — your generation — to make this a priority the way the Vietnam generation — on this very campus — made stopping that war a priority.

Now some people would say, well, the Vietnam kids, they had skin in the game. They didn’t want to get drafted. You have skin in the game! You don’t want to get roasted!

All over the world, we see the devastation that pollution is causing: heat waves, oceans that are dying and rising, glaciers melting, species disappearing, droughts, wildfires, Frankenstorms. This is an awful lot for Pat Robertson to blame on gay sex.

We have no more time for dithering on this. Here’s a lesson I’ve learned: No politician is perfect. But in every election in your life, there will be one choice that is better than the others. Go out and vote for that one.

Make a difference. That’s what you owe everyone who came before you and died so you can live free. And that’s what you owe everyone who’s sacrificed for you, like your parents. And it’s also what you owe yourself, because you’ll feel a whole lot better if you do make a difference. And also making a difference is why I’m liberal.

Now, you don’t have to be a liberal...although, c’mon, it’s Berkeley. I think I can speak freely here. I mean, I hope I can. [Pause for effect]

...You don’t have to be a liberal, but if you call yourself a liberal, you have to fight oppression from wherever oppression comes from, especially of women, gays, minorities, and freethinkers…

That’s what makes you a liberal.

And that’s the last thing I’m going to suggest to you: Be a freethinker. One reason our politics is so screwed up is because everyone has become so tribal. As you go down the path of life, ask what’s true, not who else believes it.

Be unique. Stay vigilant for busting yourself for falling into groupthink. You know, everything good and smart started out not by the mainstream.

Steven Hawking once said, the thing about smart people is they seem to be crazy people to dumb people...Don’t be afraid to be a crazy person and understand that the truth is not always popular.

I recognize that this university, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Berkeley free speech movement, made a statement by choosing me for this speech, and I would like to say I appreciate that, and I’d also like to say: I think you made the right statement.

Some misguided students tried to stop Maher from speaking because of his views on Islam.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Marin Coalition: Two viewpoints on the Smart train

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President Obama's weekly address



Barak Obama has been a real good president. He would be even better if he would renounce the dumb high-speed rail project here in California and exercise his clemency powers a lot more.

Thanks to Daily Kos.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Marco Rubio, Sherwood Anderson, Cuba, and The Truth

This edition now worth $48

Words of wisdom from Senator Rubio on his opposition to normalizing our relations with Cuba: "Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth." 

That reminds me of M.S. Arnoni's Minority of One magazine, which I read regularly in the early 1960's. Arnoni used this from George Orwell as its motto: "There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad." Well, maybe. But that's also the credo of fanatics everywhere, including terrorists who find the word of God in the Koran.

I prefer Sherwood Anderson in Winesburg, Ohio:

There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful. And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them. It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

That's more like it.

People are now talking about the best books about Cuba, but for a 19-year-old Rob Anderson "Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba," by C. Wright Mills was the most important book about Cuba, since it contained "the truth" about that revolution. Alas, Mills died of a heart attack in early 1962.

Ralph Miliband, 1962
New Left Review

...As Mills wrote in Listen, Yankee, he had not thought much about Cuba until the summer of 1960—18 months after Fidel Castro took power in Havana. Cuba was forced upon his attention by visits to Brazil in the autumn of 1959 and to Mexico in the spring of 1960. ‘In both Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City’, he recalled, ‘Cuba was of course a major topic of discussion. But I did not know what was happening there, much less what I might think about it, and I was then busy with other studies’. He decided to ‘look into’ Cuba: by the time he went there in the late summer of 1960, he had set up one of his beloved ‘files’ and had read voraciously on Cuba and Latin America. The book which came out of that trip was written in six weeks, at white heat, the way Tom Paine must have written Common Sense, for another revolution. 

Mills was rather detached about his previous books: the next ones would be much better. But he was proud of Listen, Yankee, and with good reason. For it is a good and brave book, in which one Yankee tried to explain, well and bravely, through the fog of misrepresentation with which the American press had shrouded the island, why the Cuban revolution was by far the best and most decent thing that had ever happened in and to Latin America. Mills did not go into Cuba gooey-eyed, nor did he come out of Cuba gooey-eyed. As he wrote, ‘...I am for the Cuban revolution. I do not worry about it. I worry for it and with it’. He did believe that Castro, having been his own Kerensky and Lenin, could avoid becoming his own Stalin as well. 

His desperate anxiety to persuade his countrymen that the Cuban revolution should be helped, stemmed from his conviction that nothing was more likely to make the moustache and not the beard the symbol of the revolution than the United States’ attempt to destroy it. Long before it happened, he had come to believe that the United States would attempt to destroy the revolution by force. It filled him with bitter, helpless shame. In fact, it broke his heart. It was in December, 1960, that he suffered his first major heart attack. It was altogether fitting that, when Mills died fifteen months later, Fidel Castro should have sent a wreath to the funeral. For Mills was a casualty of the Cuban revolution, and of the revolution of our times...

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

No backlash against Moslems


Soon after the attack by the Moslem terrorist in Australia, there were those in Australia who started worrying about a backlash against Moslems. A commenter was skeptical:

What anti-Islamic backlash? I keep hearing from the media and other groups how we Australians are inherently racist bigots looking for an excuse to lash out Muslims but I don't see it anywhere.

Recall that the anti-violent jihad ads on Muni buses a few years ago put city progressives and City Hall in a dither about a completely non-existent "Islamophobia."

Another Australian takes a dim view of #illridewithyou:

#illridewithyou has taken off. It is, of course, a completely empty gesture designed only to reinforce the arrogant feelings of moral superiority held by those who promote tolerance at the expense of our nation’s safety. And nothing shows the vacuous nature of the moral do-gooders than the fact that they don’t do any good at all. They just ‘Twitter’ good, like gods from on high. Apparently, that is even better than actually doing anything at all. If you support the idea of Islamic rule and Sharia law, the last 24 hours have shown that murdering two Australians is pretty much all it takes to get everyone who is anyone to show deference and submission. It’s not exactly a great deterrence. So expect more violence to come.

Naturally, the feebs at the MTA wring their over-compensated hands worrying about the non-existent backlash: "During the 16-hour stand-off on Monday and Tuesday at a downtown café, 17 hostages were held and, eventually, two lost their lives...The gunman also died." The passive usage tries to take the sting out of the reality: those two were shot to death by a Moslem fanatic, who, by the way, didn't die of Islamophobia. He was shot to death by the police.

Recall the MTA's fatuous "peace campaign" in response to the anti-jihad ads. Your tax dollars at work from the MTA's "creative shop." It's not enough that this agency is aggressively redesigning city streets on behalf of a small, often obnoxious minority of cyclists; it gives us this crap, too.

The MTA's blogger on the origins of the lame hashtag movement:

During this tragedy, two women on social media came together to form an idea about helping to reduce increasing backlash against those perceived to be affiliated with the Iranian perpetrator. The initial expression of support came from the blog of Rachel Jacobs who watched a fellow passenger on public transit remove her head covering. Once off the vehicle, Jacobs reached out to the woman to tell her that she would travel with her if the woman felt intimidated. Once the story was shared on Twitter, another woman...echoed the offer for those who shared her commute and then suggested the hashtag #illridewithyou.

This seems to be the extent of the backlash in Australia: a woman on a bus removed her head covering because she worried about a non-existent backlash in Australia.[Later: Seems like the "head covering" story was invented]

What about a backlash against Islam here in the US? According to the FBI's latest hate crime statistics, attacks on Moslems are way behind hate crimes against the usual targets: black people, Jews, and gays.

These "lone wolf" attackers are not so alone anymore:

The idea that the "lone wolf" is not associated with terrorism is a misunderstanding of how Islamist jihad has morphed today into a war on two fronts: overseas insurgencies that target everyone who is not a certain brand of Islam, and on the other hand, a sophisticated internet presence that incites anyone in the West (or dar al harb, the land of infidels) to carry out single acts of destruction. The "lone wolf" is no longer acting entirely on his own, but is linked voluntarily to a worldwide internet phenomenon...

Like the Boston bombers and a number of others in recent years.

As  the late, great Christopher Hitchens warned us five years ago: "The Battle will go on for the rest of our lives."

Thanks to Creeping Sharia and Jihad Watch.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

35,771 city workers average $80,000 a year

From Cal Watchdog.com

San Francisco:

836,620 residents

35,771 city employees

23 residents per city employee

$3,445 amount spent on total wages per resident

$1,035 amount spent on total retirement & health cost per resident

$80,575 average wages for this city's employees

$24,209 average retirement & health cost for this city's employees

$2,882,234,830 total wages paid by this city

$865,992,432 total retirement & health cost paid by this city

Rob's comment: 

Thanks to State Controller John Chiang, we have some solid information about how much money our overlords in City Hall are making by visiting this site

First surprise: the city has 35,771 employees! My assumption, based on stories in the press, was that that number was around 25,000.

Second surprise: how overpaid people in the Fire Department are. We learned years ago from the Grand Jury that the Fire Department is the worst offender at "pension-spiking." (Pension Tsunami: The Billion Dollar Bubble) What about "salary-spiking"?

Thanks to Cal Watchdog.com

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Australian view of Lindt Cafe

Nothing to do with Islam?


by Bernard Gaynor

Australia has woken to the devastating news that two hostages died in the Lindt Café last night. Like all Australians, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those now grieving.

But I am not going to join in with the mob in perpetuating the myths that are already being circulated as a result of this completely preventable tragedy. And it was completely preventable. It was the entirely predictable outcome of the decision to allow a violent culture with a superiority complex and an itchy trigger finger to take root in Australia.

So expect to see more Islamic flags and more grieving families.

This war has only just started and it’s not going well.

And here are five things the mainstream media is spinning wrong about the Islamic addition to Christmas festivities in Australia over the last 24 hours. 

1. We couldn’t see this coming

Apparently, we could never see this coming. This was an attack we thought we could never see in Sydney. That’s what the Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, said this morning.

Hello! Mike! Is there anyone home?

Australians aren’t goldfish. We can remember things for more than three seconds. Like, for instance, the fact that 800 police descended upon Sydney just a few weeks ago to prevent some peaceful follower of the religion of peace from peacefully severing some random Aussie’s head. In Martin Place. Right where the Lindt Café stands.

Anyone who couldn’t see this coming has had their head in the sand and their backside pointed skywards, almost as if they have already embraced Islam.

I’m guessing, however, that most people would not have expected the news that the deranged gunman was actually on bail. For a multitude of sexual offences and in relation to his wife’s murder (she was peacefully set on fire). Or that this bloke had a habit of sending abusive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Who needs to worry about the Islamic threat when our own legal system holds the safety of Australians in such contempt that it would let this guy run free?

But I can think of no better advertisement for the actual truth of Islam than the fact that a murderous sexual deviant would stroll into the heart of Sydney for his last stand under the most famous words of Mohammed.

2. Don’t worry – it’s just a lone wolf

Don’t worry Australia. Mr Ali Akbar is a lone wolf. This is a one off.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who stabbed two police officers in Victoria in the name of Allah earlier this year.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who shot a Canadian soldier and then stormed that nation’s parliament in the name of Allah a few weeks ago.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who went on a rampage at Ford Hood in the United States killing 13 soldiers in the name of Allah a while back.

Just like the…by now you should be getting the picture. I could go on all day talking about the lone wolves out there who all seem to operate in disciplined unison.

There is an army of ‘lone’ wolves. That makes the ‘lone’ part redundant. And the guy responsible for the death of two Australians in Sydney yesterday wasn’t all that alone anyway. He had over 14,000 followers on Facebook. So expect this to happen all over again.

Because the one thing that these people all have in common is an ability to read the Koran, and a commitment to following its bloody message.

3. Don’t worry – it’s not the Islamic State

Keysar Trad was on Sunrise this morning waxing lyrical about how this was not the work of the Islamic State. And Kochie was nodding along with him. I didn’t know these two men were spokesmen for the nation that is not a nation that we are at war with.

But anyway, apparently this means we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

I don’t really know why I should have to point this out, but if the Lindt Café siege had nothing to do with the Islamic State then it only proves that it is not just the Islamic State that we should be worried about.

It is proof that it’s not the design of the flag that’s the problem, but the words that are on them. And those flags all carry the same Islamic words and have the same Islamic meaning: total global domination.

The simple fact is that the Sunni-Shia Islamic split is nothing more than an argument over who gets Mohammad’s loot. They still haven’t worked it out 1,400 years later, but they pretty much agree on everything else of importance: the non-Islamic world are a bunch of heathen scum who should be subjugated, raped and pillaged.

The flag in the Lindt Café overshadowed the ‘Merry Christmas’ for a reason. It was an arrogant message of contempt and it signified a murderous intent to enslave us all.

4. Islamic leaders have condemned this violence

Apparently Australia’s Grand Mufti has condemned the Lindt Café siege.

And with that, the media went running on their way to talk about how Muslims fear for their lives, living in such a racist country like Australia.

But the truth is that Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed has a lot of hide to issue such a statement. This is the same man that sent a statement to the Federal Senate in October claiming that new anti-terror laws inhibited his religious freedom.

You read that right. Nothing further needs to be said. The Grand Mufti’s statement says it all: it is an open admission that Islam promotes terrorism.

The real question is this: why has the media barely reported this at all?

5. The Islamic Community suffers from this

The last 24 hours are wreaking a terrible toll on the Islamic community, if you believe the media.

Give me a break.

This is the ultimate good cop/bad cop routine.

Some dude walks into a café and kills two people. In return, the Islamic apologists are given huge air time. The Premier of New South Wales convenes video conferences with the bloke who claims new anti-terror laws impinge religious freedom and interfaith prayer services are held at mosques around the nation. Politicians are jumping over themselves to promote Islam. And it’s all because, under the Islamic flag, two Australians were gunned down.

Like I said, give me a break.

And, of course, the social media numpties have gone nuts. #illridewithyou has taken off. It is, of course, a completely empty gesture designed only to reinforce the arrogant feelings of moral superiority held by those who promote tolerance at the expense of our nation’s safety. And nothing shows the vacuous nature of the moral do-gooders than the fact that they don’t do any good at all. They just ‘Twitter’ good, like gods from on high. Apparently, that is even better than actually doing anything at all.

If you support the idea of Islamic rule and Sharia law, the last 24 hours have shown that murdering two Australians is pretty much all it takes to get everyone who is anyone to show deference and submission. It’s not exactly a great deterrence.

So expect more violence to come.

Thanks to Jihad Watch for the link.

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John McPhee: "Los Angeles Against the Mountains"


The San Gabriel Mountains

Back in 1988, John McPhee wrote in the New Yorker about the geology behind what's happening in the Los Angeles area right now: first you have fire and then you have the massive debris flows off the San Gabriel Mountains after a heavy rain. The excerpts below begin on pages 232-233 on this PDF of the book version of "Los Angeles Against the Mountains II," October 3, 1988, The New Yorker):

...In November, 1933, the chaparral burned in numerous watersheds above Pasadena, La Canada, La Crescenta, and Montrose, and slopes were left black and bare. Rainfall in amounts that the Flood Control District called a "Noah-type storm" followed in the last days of the year, mobilizing, on January 1, 1934, a number of almost simultaneous debris flows that came out of the mountains, went through the orchards and into the towns, killed dozens of people, destroyed hundreds of houses, and left boulders the size of icebergs far down the fans...Out of Pickens Canyon came a debris slug of such magnitude that it traveled all the way to Foothill Boulevard, crossed it, and passed through the business district of Montrose. A boulder eight feet in diameter came to rest on the main street of town, three miles south of the mountain front. The New Years Day Flood, as people still refer to it, killed thirty-four in Montrose and neighboring towns, ruined nearly five hundred houses. All over the bajada, Model A's were so deeply buried that their square roofs stuck out of the mud like rafts. Streets of La Crescenta were like braided rivers of Alaska, with channels of water looping past islands of debris...

...There are three debris basins along Country Club Drive. There were two in 1964. The upper one failed. The slug that came down the street and invaded houses killed Aimee Miller, the wife of Frank Sinatra's piano accompanist. Her home was knocked off its foundation. Her husband was swept downhill and into a debris basin. He survived by hanging on to a Volkswagen that was part of the debris...

Sally Rand lived in Glendora, pretty far up the fan. At Christmastime that year[1968], in the Kingdom of Rubelia, she did her phan dance at Mike Rubel's castle. Four weeks later came the devastating rain. Listening to it thump his roof, Art Cook[City Manager of Glendora] said to himself, "This is the night. I'd better get down to the Hall." He got into his car and went down Palm to Grand; as he turned onto Grand, the flow met him. It picked up his car and carried it a quarter of a mile. ("I just sat there, scared as hell.") Eventually, his slithering wheels found traction, and he drove off none the worse for having been part of the snout of the debris. "A wave six to eight feet high came out of Rainbow Canyon," he said. "The rock, debris---everything was suspended in the liquid mass. Horrendous boulders, trees, car bodies were suspended in the mass. It sounded like a train---a runaway express train. Just a roar."

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Senator Elizabeth Warren: "Break Citigroup in pieces"

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Anti-Americanism on the left


I don't mean anti-Americanism in the death-to-America sense practiced by the governments of Iran and North Korea. Instead, it's just a tacit assumption by many liberals that the foreign policy of the United States is the biggest problem in the world. Noam Chomsky's writing reflects that assumption explicitly, as do many contributors to Alternet. Closer to home, we have this from Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll:

We’re still killing a bunch of people in the Middle East, participating in a war we have no hope of winning. It’s not even clear what winning would look like. We are using our military almost because we can, because it gets restless without a mission to attack somebody. It is part of our national narrative to deny that this is true.

Presumably Carroll is referring to the war against ISIS. Actually, there's a very good chance that the US and its allies can defeat ISIS. Winning would look like this: first, contain ISIS and prevent it from taking any more territory, and then roll it back using Iraqi and Kurdish troops on the ground. If we can't defeat ISIS, it will threaten not only Iraq and the Kurds but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which is a member of NATO. (Iran can take care of itself.) With money from looted banks and captured oil fields, ISIS can also afford to plot attacks on the US and our allies in Europe. Defeating ISIS seems like a sensible---even a necessary---"mission" to me.

Unlike his carefully observed columns about his cats, Carroll doesn't deign to deal in such details when writing about foreign policy. He simply assumes that the US is the bad guy that is needlessly creating fear in the American people:

People are fearful. One of the reasons they’re fearful is that their government is spying on them all the time. Even though most people shrug off privacy concerns — “I’m not doing anything wrong; why should I care?” — the paranoid reality of the surveillance state is all around them. We’re afraid because they’re making us afraid, and when we’re afraid, we agree to all sorts of silly things.

This is apparently a reference to the NSA's surveillance program, which is not in fact "spying on them[us] all the time." The reality: the NSA scoops up all electronic communications to create a data base from which it can occasionally find actual terrorists and their enablers. Carroll is implying that the government is actually reading our email messages and listening to our phone calls and "spying" on us because that's just what the government does, which is now a standard leftist trope.

Michael Moore is a good example of the Alternet left in the US:

An ignorant American public was manipulated with fear and lies to start and maintain the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars---and that manipulation continues today in order to justify things like the mass spying by the NSA on our entire citizenry. When the Cold War ended (25 years ago today in Berlin), the defense industry went berserk with worry that their salad days were over. A new enemy was needed. Arab terrorists fit the bill perfectly! Not only has the defense industry since thrived, a whole new fake industry has arisen---the Homeland Security behemoth. As our infrastructure, our freedoms and our middle class vaporize, billions are spent as a grossly out-of-proportion response to a few shitty disasters.

This is the standard leftist line on Islamic terrorism: We're supposed to simply shrug off attacks like 9/11 and those in London and Madrid. Any serious attempt to defend ourselves is seen as a "out of proportion" to the threat. No political leadership in the world would last long with that rather blase approach to protecting its citizens.

Steve Jones, former editor of the Bay Guardian, made a similar argument in 2010:

You want a death toll in the millions to avenge an attack that killed 3,000 or because you're scared that someone might try to blow up an airplane or subway train every few years? You're insane! Have you no sense of proportion? Do you really think we'll just kill them all and live happily ever after? That's a children's fairy tale.

There's a sense of proportion for you: What's a few airplanes and trains blown up every now and then?

The simple truth is that many liberals and progressives---progressives are liberals who think they're morally superior to other liberals---think that radical Islamists pose no serious threat to the country or our allies around the world.

This is why some liberals shrugged off the demise of The New Republic magazine---because it took our national security problems seriously and didn't think that the US was always the bad guy. The Alternet: "The New Republic was a vicious imperial mouthpiece." And the Daily Kos: The New Republic was a "shambling animated shitpile."

And here in Progressive Land, Randy Shaw sneered: "TNR influence was artificially inflated by its New York City home and the social connections of its its[sic] overwhelmingly white male writing staff." White guy Shaw sees racism everywhere. If only the New Republic had been published in San Francisco using all those brilliant people of color that write for Beyond Chron!

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James Baldwin in the city, Spring 1963

Take This Hammer from SF Bayview on Vimeo.

Thanks to Neighbors Developing Divisadero for the link.

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The Harding Theater

Harding Theater

The folks at Neighbors Developing Divisadero send this message:

Time for eminent domain?

The Harding Theater made the news again because the property owner, Michael Klestoff, turned down a $4 million offer from community-minded businesses and orgs to transform the 1200-seat theater into a bookstore and multi-performance venue (live music, dance performances, lectures/authors, and more).

The property owner recently submitted a revised version of an earlier plan to demolish the stage and make condos to the planning department. Although a similar plan in 2008 was pushed back against by city-wide efforts to save the space from being chopped up and underutilized. After saying no to multiple above market-rate offers and campaigns to revitalize the protected theater in support of neighborhood culture and arts-related jobs, the city should seriously consider the use of eminent domain so that this historic community asset (protected under the state law, CEQA) is not allowed to blight the neighborhood and deteriorate further. Or perhaps there is an in between solution? Perhaps the property owner could receive an incentive from the city to develop low-income housing for artists on the property if he sells the theater to the bookstore/performance venue group?

On an important note, a bookstore was one of the top desires voiced by neighbors for Divisadero in two community input surveys from NOPNA (2007) and NDDIVIS (2012).

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Friday, December 12, 2014

District 5 Diary's tenth anniversary



















Ten years ago today I made the first post on this blog about Supervisor-elect Mirkarimi's appearance at a Haight-Ashbury Neithborhood Council meeting to address an issue that was important to city progressives at the time: the construction of a garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park and the proposed "widening" of MLK Blvd. to comply with a court order about access to the garage.

What impressed me was that Mirkarimi clearly didn't understand that issue very well, since he apparently thought that only the garage entrance at Tenth and Fulton was necessary, that there had been Brown Act and Sunshine Ordinance violations of the public process, and that the "widening" proposal was illegal. None of that was true, which was explained by Mike Ellzey in an interview a few months later.

Building the garage was obviously a good idea once the city chose to rebuild the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences on the Concourse. Who were the main opponents of the garage? None other than the city's bike people, including the Bicycle Coalition and Leah Shahum, even though the garage was a $55 million gift to the city from Warren Hellman and the city's rich people.

In short that first post foreshadowed the issues in many other posts in the next ten years.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Marin Bicycle Coalition and high-density development

From Planning for Reality

Dick Spotswood's latest column in Marin's Independent Journal (Marin bike lobby's political clout is slippingcriticizes Marin cyclists:

Not to be ignored is the sense of entitlement often exhibited toward motorists and pedestrians. Add to the list longstanding bikers-versus-equestrians and environmentalists disputes over use of single-track trails on Mount Tamalpais and Marin Municipal Water District's watershed.

"Sense of entitlement"? Sound familiar? I've blogged about the boorish cyclists of Marin here, here, and here.

Aside from the usual bad behavior by cyclists on Marin's roads and trails, many in Marin are upset that the Marin Bicycle Coalition supports the trendy "smart growth," dense development theories that have created a backlash:

It didn't help the biker cause when its movement was hijacked by big-time developers and their regional alphabet agencies' allies. Cyclists are now often lumped together with housing activists calling for more development. That's never been a popular strategy in Marin.

See Planning for Reality on Marin planning issues. See also Citizen Marin and this.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also supported "dense development" here in SF. Exhibit number one: The city's plan to allow developers to build 8,000 homes, 500 hotel rooms, and 550,000 square feet of offices and businesses on Treasure Island, which will boost the population on the Island to 19,000. Think traffic on the Bay Bridge is bad now?

The Bicycle Coalition's role: It did the transportation plan for the Treasure Island project! Guess which transportation "mode" dominates that plan?

Massive Wincup development on Highway 101

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Today's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by Malala Yousafzai

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Dianne Feinstein's finest hour



Andrew Sullivan at The Dish has long been a good source for those opposing our use of torture. Most of the recent posts on his blog have been about the torture report Feinstein's committee released yesterday. Except for Senator McCain, who has first-hand experience of torture, Republicans opposed releasing the report and are now defending torture. The Republican Party: the party of voter suppression, the party that wants to prevent Americans from getting medical care, the party that wants to force women to have babies for theological reasons, and the anti-immigrant party is now the torture party.

But the White House isn't exactly covering itself in glory. Sullivan quotes Jerome Waldman:

And even the White House can’t seem to bring itself to call this by its true name. Today I was on a background call with a group of senior administration officials, and they were asked repeatedly why they seemed so reluctant to use the word “torture,” even after President Obama admitted that “we tortured some folks.” One official replied, “We’re not going to go case by case in a report like this and try to affix a label to each action.” But they do affix a label: “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which they used again and again, accepting the euphemistic label the Bush administration affixed to it. The White House certainly deserves credit for ultimately supporting the release of this report (even if they seemed reluctant to do so).

Apparently the White House is clinging to the "enhanced interrogation" euphemism for torture because if it called it by its right name it would have to prosecute those responsible, a can of worms it's reluctant to open.

George Orwell identified the practice in Politics and the English Language (1946):

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.



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Monday, December 08, 2014

Millennials drive as much as previous generations


From CityLab:

It Turns Out That Millennials Do Drive

It's become an uncontested truth that young Americans dislike driving, and indeed, Millennials do seem more fond of public transportation than their elders are. But a new Census tool comparing 18-to-34 year olds now and in the past raises questions about just how much things have changed. In many major U.S. metro areas, young people today drive to work as often as they did in 1980, if not more...

Alliance for Biking and Walking

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Can soccer be saved?


In yesterday's SF Examiner:

Heading in soccer: Is it worth the risk?

Dr. Kevin R. Stone

...In soccer, there's the added risk of injury when heading the ball. A 16-ounce soccer ball traveling at up to 50 mph smacks the head deliberately and repeatedly. How often? In a range of 32 to 5,400 times per player per season according to a study of amateur soccer players by Lipton et al Radiology. The brain changes detected by MRI were not subtle, nor would you expect them to be.

Why is it that the fun and satisfaction of participating in sports overwhelms our recognition that they could significantly destroy our body, be it the knee or the brain. The answer, I believe, is that as athletes we just can't comprehend the impact of the damage. We don't understand that sports injuries build up and lead to arthritis, or that repetitive brain trauma gradually reduces our cognitive power. Either that, or we chose to ignore it, we feel invincible. Simply put, the fun outweighs our belief in the risk and, even if we acknowledge the risk, in many cases, we think it is worth it...

I've posted on this before. Soccer has long been favored by  parents as a less violent alternative to American football. My son played soccer a bit as a child, but he and his contemporaries were never developed or skillful enough to do headers, which is the most damaging part of the game as the kids get older and more coordinated.



The Cost of the Header in the New Yorker.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Can football be saved?




Malcolm Gladwell: "Football Is a Moral Abomination"

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Dave Chappelle and his white friend

Tech punk kills The New Republic

A semi-literate, 31-year-old, billionaire tech punk just killed one of the great magazines in the country's history. See this, this, and this

When I was living on Chestnut Street in the early sixties, every week I walked over to the newstand on Chestnut to buy both The New Republic and The Nation---35 cents each! Best investment I ever made. The periodical room of the old main library at the Civic Center used to have bound copies of all the back issues of The New Republic, including the first, well-worn issue that was published in 1914.

Chris Hughes: culture vandal

Later: see also this, this and this. Franklin Foer writes about the origins of the magazine.

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Sheriff Mirkarimi: City jail "the largest mental hospital in the city"


Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on the San Francisco Jail System
By Rebecca Rosen Lum

While the overall inmate population in San Francisco is declining, the percentage of inmates with serious mental health problems---schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder and others---has climbed.

From 2004 to 2013, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says, the time psychiatric staff has had to spend with inmates nearly doubled. Evaluations, medication planning, therapy, discharge planning and case management---what the jails call units of service---soared from 40,000 to 72,000 over a decade.

In February, when Mayor Ed Lee convened a task force of mental health leaders to generate ideas for treating the drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless population, Mirkarimi showed up uninvited. He said the city has failed to appreciate that the jails have become “the largest mental hospital in the city.”

You said the city has not yet recognized the burden the jails are carrying. What’s going on?

Sheriff Mirkarimi: What’s called for is a master plan. The municipal criminal justice leaders have been focusing on recidivism. They’re doing much better. The homeless are cited and released quickly. But they don’t have a handle on the mentally ill population. Our jails should not be a substitute for mental health treatment. Absent a comprehensive citywide plan, the knee-jerk response is to criminalize mental illness.

Is the mayor paying attention to these issues?

It was a mistake that he just blessed the new San Francisco General Hospital without new psychiatric units. Any time a new hospital is built, it should have to provide psych beds. We have the new California Pacific Medical Center that has no psych beds. I met with the mayor’s staff. This should be a very top priority of the city. I know we can do better.

We’ve got Mobile Assistance Patrol. You can call 311 and they’ll send out the MAP, which is a lousy, hit-and-miss approach to dealing with mentally ill homeless. We must be looking for a permanent solution. There needs to be more of a continuum of care.

Some inmates with mental illnesses were homeless before their arrest, sleeping in stairwells, storefronts, elevators and under cardboard. At San Bruno Jail, they sleep indoors, eat regular meals, learn yoga, participate in recovery programs, engage therapy and get medication.

Our jail psychiatric services are hands-on. San Francisco is renowned for its psychiatric therapy and medication therapy. We’re the first county jail system in the country to be qualified to sign up people under Obamacare. And the reason for doing that is 80 percent of the people who leave our custody have no health insurance, or access or resources to health insurance.

What’s the difference between the main city jail at 850 Bryant St., which will be replaced with a seismically secure facility, and the city’s other jail in San Bruno?

850 Bryant is a stark, inhumane, deplorable building. When I came into office, the proposal was to replace it with 903 beds, and I said that that’s unnecessary, far too big. And so the plan was replaced with 640 beds. It will be a facility unlike any facility in downtown San Francisco. It’s about accommodating a smaller population with a more humane detention facility with a lot more emphasis on re-entry and rehabilitation programming.

The governor talks about the need for mental health services and doing it through realignment---moving inmates from state to local responsibility. That hasn’t translated into dollars?

It hasn’t translated. I met with the governor about this very issue with some of the other elected sheriffs from around the state. I asked him point-blank: What is after realignment? We want to understand what is going to be his priority in this next term.

Is there an alternative funding source?

We appealed to the mayor and the Board of Supervisors to go in this direction, and that just did not happen. One thing we want to do is go beyond what I think is the insufficient training that is required by the state of our deputy sheriffs, who work the jails and attend to post-release populations with mental illness, by instituting Critical Incident Training. I want to make it mandatory.

Do you work with other city agencies?

The Department of Public Health, San Francisco General Hospital and Jail Psychiatric Services link up with Healthright360. We have a very focused intake and scripted regimen for somebody who’s suffering from mental illness while they’re in our custody, and discharge planning for when they’re about to be released. I really think we need to up our game in preparing them for release. And that is really the overarching strategy that I’m trying to institute here.



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