Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vandal vandalized

Screen shot 2016 08 24 at 8.17.54 am
Jeffrey B, Hoodline

Good to see that vandal Shepard Fairey's high-minded work has been vandalized by a fellow vandal. If Fairey has any wit, it will soon be revealed that he solicited the vandalism.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Joel Engardio: Man in a bubble

Westside resident Dennis Seaman, 60, bridges the divide between bicyclists and motorists. (Courtesy Joel Engardio)
Dennis Seaman

There's a lot of foolishness in Examiner columnist Joel Engardio's recent column (Time to mandate bicycle licensesand his reaction to all the negative feedback he got (Reactions and Response to My Bike Column

Apparently his column advocating licensing cyclists was inspired by conversations he had with a neighbor, Dennis Seaman.

“The critical mass bike ride every month is cool, but it pisses off motorists,” he[Seaman] said. “The bike movement has to do more than just demand more bike lanes and take away parking. Cyclists need to give motorists a reason to respect them. Bike licenses and insurance is a no-brainer. It puts everyone on the same playing field.” Seaman recently hit a car door that had opened into a bike lane he was riding in. His injury required 34 sessions of physical therapy. His bike had substantial damage. Yet his auto and home insurance didn’t cover his bike accident (not all policies do). He was on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses.

Seaman was so shocked by this he apparently convinced Engardio that the moral of story is mandatory insurance for cyclists. There are so many objections to that idea even I, Mr. Anti-Bike, think it's a non-starter.

A reality-based moral of Seaman's story: riding a bike is dangerous. Don't do it. 

You would think that someone injured so badly he had 34 physical therapy sessions to recover would understand that reality. On the other hand, a 60-year-old man who thinks Critical Mass is "cool" clearly has cognitive issues.

From Engardio's feedback piece:

One message from a woman on the westside who drives and rides a bike was especially convincing: “Forcing people on bicycles to pay for a license and have insurance does not make the streets safer, but dramatically discourages people from using alternative transportation such as bicycles.” The woman, who is a mother of young children, made another important point: “I have more insurance than you can shake a stick at, and I still find that truly what makes the streets of San Francisco unsafe for vulnerable users of the road…is vehicle speeding.”

Yes, "vehicle speeding" and reckless driving by motorists is a serious safety problem, but there are many other hazards for cyclists, including the fact that most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve motor vehicles (see The myth of cycling "collisions"). 

Potholes and street conditions in general are a hazard, along with rail tracks. And there's the biggest hazard of all, the mindset of cyclists themselves. 

Cyclist and author Robert Hurst:

The most important lesson to be learned here is a bitter pill to swallow: There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist’s own incompetence. As a whole, it turns out, cyclists are not an entirely smooth and skillful lot. The majority of cycling accidents are embarrassing solo incidents, with the cyclist sliding out on turns, stacking it up after ramming potholes, curbs, and other obstacles, or just generally losing control (The Art of Cycling, page 161, emphasis in original).

The last edition of the MTA's Collisions Report (page 24) found that cyclists were responsible for more than half of their own injury accidents in San Francisco.


As I mentioned in the column, bikes are the future. We can’t deny that. We should be doing more to plan for it. I’ve been a strong advocate in previous columns for more public transportation infrastructure and investing in the subway tunnels we regret not building decades ago...My aim with this column was to acknowledge two realities: the number of bicyclists is only increasing and we still have lots of motorists (especially seniors) who rely on driving and parking. With one set of roads, this can cause tension.

Engardio evidently lives in an information bubble. According to the last Bicycle Count Report, commuting by bike in San Francisco has decreased by 7%. Since he clearly didn't read that report---or my blog on the issue---where would he have heard that news? Neither the Chronicle nor Streetsblog even had a story on the report, and the Examiner's story was clearly based on the MTA's press release, not on the report itself.

I wrote about Engardio and SF moderates a couple of years ago, including his delusional idea that a tunnel under Geary Blvd. is reality-based.

And the idea that it's mostly "seniors" who drive motor vehicles in San Francisco is based on nothing but Engardio's prejudice. I don't know of any data that confirms that notion. 

There are in fact more motor vehicles registered in a gentrifying San Francisco every year.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

High-speed rail coming to the Peninsula

Jerry Brown
Governor Brown's folly

From the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has big plans for the San Francisco Peninsula, and you aren't going to like them if you live or work in any of the communities between San Jose and San Francisco.

This report is a kind of "standby" notice. Summer is generally vacation time, not only for school teachers and students, but for governmental agencies, too. When September and October get here, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will be back on track with one of the most destructive proposals you can imagine.

Exact details are expected in September or October, when the Authority will provide specifics on its "preferred alternative" for high-speed rail on the Peninsula. 

All the details are not yet available, but a broad outline of the Authority's high speed plans is now becoming clear. Here is what's coming: PARALYSIS ON THE PENINSULA.

The High-Speed Rail Authority wants to put its trains on the Caltrain right-of-way without providing necessary grade crossings first. The Authority is also calling for a schedule that will mean a train every two and one-half minutes along the tracks.

Think about it! The crossing gates will be coming down every 2 ½ minutes. If you need to get to work, too bad! If you need to get your kids to school, too bad! If there is an emergency, and emergency services vehicles need to get from the east side of the tracks to the west side of the tracks, too bad!

Traffic is already horrendous. The High-Speed Rail Authority plans to make it intolerable.

There are a few other features of the plans that will become clearer as the specifics are brought to light, but widening the existing right-of-way through Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton could require condemnation and takings of both business and residential properties.

And did we mention noise? There will be noise! More noise! Lots of noise!!

CC-HSR has been fighting to protect the Peninsula from adverse high-speed rail impacts since 2008. In large part because the Peninsula got organized back then, the Authority turned its attention to the Central Valley.

Well, now the Authority is BAAACCCK!

Get ready! This is, in fact, a "standby" notice. CC-HSR is pretty certain that we are going to be asking for your help to mount a major campaign to stop the Authority's latest plan. We are certain that the impacts of that plan will be horrible, in terms of what we already know the plan will mean for local communities and local residents. We already know that PARALYSIS is not too strong a word.

When more details are available, you'll hear from us! In the meantime, thank you for your continuing support for CC-HSR.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

The speech on Islam Hillary needs to give


From Sam Harris:

The following is a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November. Its purpose is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern, especially in the aftermath of any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe.

Today, I want to talk about one of the most important and divisive issues of our time—the link between the religion of Islam and terrorism. I want you to know how I view it and how I will think about it as President. I also want you to understand the difference between how I approach this topic and how my opponent in this presidential race does. 

The underlying issue—and really the most important issue of this or any time—is human cooperation. What prevents it, and what makes it possible? In November, you will be electing a president, not an emperor of the world. The job of the president of the United States, even with all the power at her or his disposal, is to get people, both at home and abroad, to cooperate to solve a wide range of complex problems. Your job is to pick the person who seems most capable of doing that.

In the past, I’ve said that groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda have nothing to do with Islam. And President Obama has said the same. This way of speaking has been guided by the belief that if we said anything that could be spun as confirming the narrative of groups like ISIS—suggesting that the West is hostile to the religion of Islam, if only to its most radical strands—we would drive more Muslims into the arms of the jihadists and the theocrats, preventing the very cooperation we need to win a war of ideas against radical Islam. 

I now see this situation differently. I now believe that we have been selling most Muslims short. And I think we are all paying an unacceptable price for not speaking clearly about the link between specific religious ideas and the sectarian hatred that is dividing the Muslim world. 

All of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, must oppose the specific ideas within the Islamic tradition that inspire groups like ISIS and the so-called “lone-wolf” attacks we’ve now seen in dozens of countries, as well as the social attitudes that are at odds with our fundamental values—values like human rights, and women’s rights, and gay rights, and freedom of speech. These values are non-negotiable. 

But I want to be very clear about something: Bigotry against Muslims, or any other group of people, is unacceptable. It is contrary to the values that have made our society a beacon of freedom and tolerance for the rest of the world. It is also totally counterproductive from a security point of view. However, talking about the consequences of ideas is not bigotry. Muslims are people—and most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims simply want to live in peace like the rest of us. Islam, however, is a set of ideas. And all ideas are fit to be discussed and criticized in the 21st century.

Every religious community must interpret its scripture and adjust its traditions to conform to the modern world. Western Christians used to murder people they believed were witches. They did this for centuries. It’s hard to exaggerate the depths of moral and intellectual confusion this history represents. But it is also true that we have largely outgrown such confusion in the West. 

The texts themselves haven’t changed. The Bible still suggests that witchcraft is real. It isn’t. And we now know that a belief in witches was the product of ancient ignorance and fear. Criticizing a belief in witchcraft, and noticing its connection to specific atrocities—atrocities that are still committed by certain groups of Christians in Africa—isn’t a form of bigotry against Christians. It’s the only basis for moral and political progress. 

One thing is undeniable: Islam today is in desperate need of reform. We live in a world where little girls are shot in the head or have acid thrown in their faces for the crime of learning to read. We live in a world where a mere rumor that a book has been defaced can start riots in a dozen countries. We live in a world in which people reliably get murdered over cartoons, and blog posts, and beauty pageants—even the mere naming of a teddy bear. 

I’m now convinced that we have to talk about this with less hesitancy and more candor than we’ve shown in the past. Muslims everywhere who love freedom must honestly grapple with the challenges that a politicized strand of their religion poses to free societies. And we must support them in doing so. Otherwise, our silence will only further empower bigots and xenophobes. That is dangerous. We are already seeing the rise of the far right in Europe. And we are witnessing the coalescence of everything that’s still wrong with America in the candidacy of Donald Trump. 

Now, it is true that this politicized strain of Islam is a source of much of the world’s chaos and intolerance at this moment. But it is also true that no one suffers more from this chaos and intolerance than Muslims themselves. Most victims of terrorism are Muslim; the women who are forced to wear burkhas or are murdered in so-called “honor killings” are Muslim; the men who are thrown from rooftops for being born gay are Muslim. Most of the people the world over who can’t even dream of speaking or writing freely are Muslim. And modern, reform-minded Muslims, most of all, want to uproot the causes of this needless misery and conflict. 

In response to terrorist atrocities of the sort that we witnessed in Paris, Nice, and Orlando, we need to honestly acknowledge that we are fighting not generic terrorism but a global jihadist insurgency. The first line of defense against this evil is and always will be members of the Muslim community who refuse to put up with it. We need to empower them in every way we can. Only cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims can solve these problems. 

If you are concerned about terrorism, if you are concerned about homeland security, if you are concerned about not fighting unnecessary wars and winning necessary ones, if you are concerned about human rights globally, in November you must elect a president who can get people in a hundred countries to cooperate to solve an extraordinarily difficult and polarizing problem—the spread of Islamic extremism. This is not a job that a president can do on Twitter. 

I want to say a few words on the topics of immigration and the resettlement of refugees: The idea of keeping all Muslims out of the United States, which my opponent has been proposing for months, is both impractical and unwise. It’s one of those simple ideas—like building a wall and deporting 11 million undocumented workers—that doesn’t survive even a moment’s scrutiny. 

More important, if you think about this purely from the point of view of American security, you realize that we want Muslims in our society who are committed to our values. Muslims like Captain Humayun Khan, who died protecting his fellow American soldiers from a suicide bomber in Iraq. Or his father, Khizr Khan, who spoke so eloquently in defense of American values at the Democratic National Convention. Muslims who share our values are, and always will be, the best defense against Islamists and jihadists who do not. 

That’s one reason why the United States is faring so much better than Europe is. We have done a much better job of integrating our Muslim community and honoring its religious life. Muslims in America are disproportionately productive and prosperous members of our society. They love this country—with good reason. Very few of them have any sympathy for the ideology of our enemies. We want secular, enlightened, liberal Muslims in America. They are as much a part of the fabric of this society as anyone else. And given the challenges we now face, they are an indispensable part. 

Despite the counsel of fear you hear from my opponent, security isn’t our only concern. We also have an obligation to maintain our way of life and our core values, even in the face of threats. One of our values is to help people in need. And few people on earth are in greater need at this moment than those who are fleeing the cauldron of violence in Iraq and Syria—where, through no fault of their own, they have had to watch their societies be destroyed by sectarian hatred. Women and girls by the tens of thousands have been raped in a systematic campaign of sexual violence and slavery. Parents have seen their children crucified. 

The suffering of these people is unimaginable, and we should help them—whether they are Yazidi, or Christian, or Muslim. But here is my pledge to you: No one will be brought into this country without proper screening. No one will be brought in who seems unlikely to embrace the values of freedom and tolerance that we hold dear. Is any screening process perfect? Of course not. But I can tell you that the only way to actually win the war on terror will be to empower the people who most need our help in the Muslim world. 

The irony is that my opponent in this race, who imagines that he is talking tough about terrorism and ISIS and Islam, has done nothing but voice inflammatory and incoherent ideas that, if uttered by a U.S. president, would immediately make the world a more dangerous place. Being “politically incorrect” isn’t the same as being right, or informed, or even sane. It isn’t a substitute for actually caring about other people or about the consequences of one’s actions in the world. It isn’t a policy. And it isn’t a strategy for winning the war against jihadism or a war of ideas against radical Islam…

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

View from the Cliff House 1865
Cliff House, 1865

Thanks to the Westside Observer.

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The statue: An artistic and political failure


The sculpture is all wrong. It's an artistic failure and failed political satire. That's not Donald Trump's face, and the hair has a rock-like solidity, unlike the wispy, monumental comb-over that matches his vanity.

His self-satisfied smirk is more to the point

Besides, the letter in today's SF Chronicle makes an obvious point:

Is  there a double standard to San Francisco's sense of humor?

The naked statue of Trump at Castro and Market streets was all in good humor, and most San Franciscans enjoyed it. But one wonders how much they'd enjoy it if the statue was of a naked and overweight Hillary Clinton? Would their tolerant and good-natured amusement continue or be turned into more absurd claims of the non-existent "war on women"?

Paul Forrest

The Republican "war on women" (e.g., their determination to shut down Planned Parenthood) surely exists, but the point on a possible Hillary statue has to be taken. Some right-wingers are no doubt working on it right now.

The sculptor himself seems like a dim bulb.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Left, right, wrong, and District 5

Supervisor Breed

This from Tim Redmond on the Democratic County Central Committee's endorsements:

The vote in D5---to endorse Sup. London Breed for re-election and snub tenant advocate Dean Preston---was expected, but still a bit embarrassing for the left, since several of the members of the Reform Slate that took control from the real-estate interests in June decide to support Breed...

What choice did the committee have? Both are Democrats, but Preston is so timid on the issues a lot of city progs hesitate to support him (see Dean Preston: A one-issue candidate?). Apparently Matt Gonzalez's endorsement isn't enough to make Preston a "left" favorite. 

I think Breed has an awful record as District 5 Supervisor, but that record includes issues that other city "progressives" are also awful on. She's wrong on almost everything, but unlike Preston she at least takes positions on issues, though that's mostly because she has to as a supervisor.

I guess the other members of the committee could have abstained, like Aaron Peskin: 

District Five went to Breed overwhelmingly---with some of the candidates that the progressives supported in June joining the conservatives and going with Breed. Bevan Dufty, Pratima Gupta, Leah Lacroix, and Sophie Maxwell all voted for Breed. Peskin abstained. When the vote came to consider Preston as a second choice in ranked-choice voting, Gupta and Lacroix voted to endorse Preston; Peskin abstained again...

That's typical Peskin, who's more windsock than political leader (see Aaron Peskin and the class of 2000).

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Trump's "apology"

Since Trump's "apology" lacked specifics, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones makes a list:

1. Saying I opposed the Iraq War, even though it was a lie.
2. Implying that I opposed withdrawing from Iraq, even though it was a lie.
3. Attacking a Muslim family that lost their son in Iraq.
4. Suggesting that we should register all Muslims in the US.
5. Saying that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination.
6. Calling Hillary Clinton the "founder" of ISIS.
7. Saying that I might break our NATO guarantee by not defending the Baltics.
8. Trying to renege on a $1 million donation to a vets charity until the Washington Post embarrassed me into it.
9. Saying the real unemployment rate was 44 percent, which I knew was a lie.
10. Saying that my companies offered child care to their employees, which was another lie.
11. Confirming a story that I sent my personal jet to ferry soldiers stuck at Camp Lejeune, yet another lie.
12. Continually claiming that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw bombs in their apartment, also a lie.
13. Claiming that I saw a video of Iran unloading pallets of cash.
14. Claiming that I saw thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11, even though I didn't.
15. Tweeting that 81 percent of white homicide victims are killed by blacks.
16. Saying that the Obama administration was deliberately sending Syrian refugees to red states, which was a lie.
17. Saying that Carly Fiorina is ugly.
18. Repeatedly claiming that America has the highest tax rate in the world, a huge lie.
19. Telling Anderson Cooper that I still don't really know if Barack Obama was born in the US.
20. Claiming that more than 300,000 veterans have died waiting for VA care.
21. Saying that vaccines cause autism, which is a disturbing and genuinely damaging lie.
22. Denying that I suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons, even though I said exactly that to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
23. Calling Hillary Clinton a liar when she said—accurately—that I had suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons.
24. Claiming that judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against me because of his Hispanic heritage.
25. Promising that I would tell all Trump properties to allow guns on their premises.
26. Slyly implying that maybe President Obama is actually sympathetic to ISIS.
27. Not releasing my income tax returns even though I promised to, and then lying about this being due to an IRS audit.
28. Saying that John McCain was no kind of war hero because he got captured.
29. Mocking a disabled reporter in front of a huge crowd.
30. Claiming in a debate that I never called Marco Rubio "Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator" even though that's exactly what I called him.
31. Being a cheapskate who never donates any money to charity.
32. Saying that I support torturing enemy combatants.
33. Suggesting that maybe somebody ought to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

Rob's comment:
Anyone who's had experience with someone like Trump understands that calling him a liar is not entirely accurate, since they believe their bullshit when they are saying it. Later they often convince themselves that their bullshit is true. Trump's pathology was not sustainable only because he said it to a national/international audience and was challenged afterward.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Steve Bannon

Never mind Hillary, what's for lunch?

Who is this asshole now running Trump's dumpster fire of a political campaign? Reading last year's Bloomberg profile by Joshua Green gives you an idea. It's not a pretty picture. (This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America)

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are a match made in hell: two racist crackpots who want to take over the Repugnant Party. Maybe they'll do us all a favor and destroy it instead.

Thanks to James Fallows.

Photo: Michael Krinke Photography/Getty Images

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Streetsblog and Scott Wiener

SFBC photo, Dyami Serna

Streetsblog's Roger Rudick, in his interview with Supervisor Wiener, again waves the bloody shirt on bicycle accidents:

It’s been over a month since the deaths of Kate Slattery and Heather Miller. Mayor Lee has finally issued an Executive Directive to accelerate safety improvements. But why did it have to wait until two people died on the same night? That horrible night didn’t really highlight that the areas where they were killed are dangerous; we already knew that from the slow trickle of deaths and injuries. Why do we wait until some tragic spectacle to react?

I've asked this question before: How dumb does Streetsblog think its readers are? Maybe the real question is, How dumb is Roger Rudick'? 

Since neither of those fatal accidents could have been prevented by any "improvement" the city could make---one was caused by a motorist running a red light and the other was caused by a car thief speeding through the park---Rudick's question would normally be seen as pure demagoguery, except that Streetsblog's intellectual standards have always been so low you have to think that it's simple stupidity (see this and this).

Wiener probably understands that about those specific fatalities, but he flab-gabs around a bit before this:

But we also know that each of these Vision Zero projects are controversial; not within the transit community, but when you’re talking about traffic calming measures that reduce lanes and slow speeds, there’s often pushback and we see it everywhere. We’re getting pushback to our plans for Upper Market. There was pushback on some of the South of Market project. We have pushback on Mission. Pushback on Geary. Everyone is entitled to a point of view…but that pushback makes the process go slower. There are times when the MTA doesn’t want to pick too many fights, so they pick their battles.

"Pushback everywhere"! Where does it all come from? From the neighborhoods where City Hall is trying to foist its bogus "improvements" on city residents. Resistance to the Taraval project was about parking. The neighborhood resistance in the Mission was also about taking away street parking to make a bus lane. I don't know what the Upper Market pushback was about. 

And Geary? Not at all clear what Wiener is talking about there, though maybe he's just repeating the falsehood about the Geary BRT that he provided the NY Times two years ago.

Rudick complains about Mayor Lee's veto of the Idaho Stop earlier this year, and Wiener reminds him that there weren't enough votes: "I was the first co-sponsor and I was very supportive. And I was disappointed it didn’t go through. Clearly we don’t have the votes." Dang! The mayor won't allow city cyclists to ignore stop signs! The bastard!

Wiener on double parking in the city:

I believe SFPD and SFMTA are committed to Vision Zero. There are some really good people within SFPD who do want to see it happen. But double parking is one area where both agencies have just failed…it’s private automobiles, it’s taxis, it’s garbage trucks…it’s an unending situation. They cause traffic jams, they block Muni, they block the bike lane, it undermines our entire transportation system and makes our streets more dangerous. It is one of my significant frustrations.

This is hyperbole. People usually double-park in San Francisco because they often have no alternative. Taxis are supposed to find a legal parking space before they pick people up or drop them off? Ridiculous. Same goes for garbage trucks and city cops. Most neighborhood streets have only two lanes with parking on each side. Finding a parking space is often difficult to impossible for everyone. The notion that blocking bike lanes should be a big deal is the kind of special treatment cyclists have no reason to expect.

Wiener provides Rudick with an anti-car campaign riff:

Transportation funding is going to be a massive priority in the State Senate; the state does not do nearly enough for public transportation. It always takes a back seat to freeway funding and that needs to change. We need an urban transportation agenda in California where the Bay Area and Los Angeles work together to grow the transit pie instead of fighting over crumbs. If we’re going to expand subways to Western San Francisco and the Bay View, extend Caltrain and HSR downtown, build a second Transbay tube, and do all the things we need to do to absorb the two-million population increase we expect in the next 25 years, that has to be a high priority. I will definitely be working with the transit advocacy community on progressive transportation policy, Automatic Speed Enforcement, fire code reform, and creating greater incentives for local jurisdictions to build complete streets.

Randal O'Toole: "All you have to do is mention the words 'public transit,' and progressives will fall over themselves to support you no matter how expensive and ridiculous your plans."

Automatic Speed Enforcement has real practical problems, like in Chicago.

Wiener, like most Democrats, has always supported the high-speed rail boondoggle. And "subways to Western San Francisco and the Bayview"? The official price-tag for the Central Subway project is $1.58 billion, but I bet it will end up costing $1 billion per mile. 

That means a subway under Geary Blvd. to the ocean would cost more than $5 billion! Even a liberal Hillary Clinton administration is unlikely to pay for that, even if the Democrats take control of the House in November.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Transit versus cars

SF Citizen photo

Two years ago, the Antiplanner predicted that self-driving cars would put most transit agencies out of business. So it’s not surprising to see push-back against self-driving cars from transit supporters. What’s surprising is that it took so long.

Cities need more public transit, not Uber and self-driving cars,” says Kevin Cashman, a policy analyst with the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research. “We don’t need self-driving cars — we need to ditch our vehicles entirely,” argues California writer Rebecca Solnit in the Guardian.

Cashman’s argument is that self-driving cars won’t be “affordable,” while public transit is. Excuse me? In 2014, American transit agencies spent $59 billion to move people 57 billion passenger miles (see page 106). That’s more than a dollar per passenger mile.

All spending on cars and driving, meanwhile, amounted to $1.1 billion (add lines 54, 57, and 116 of table 2.5.5). Highway subsidies in 2014 were about $45 billion (subtract gas tax diversions to transit and non-highway purposes from “other taxes and fees”). For that cost, Americans drove 2.7 trillion vehicle miles in light-duty vehicles. At an average occupancy of 1.67 people per vehicle (see table 16), that’s 4.5 trillion passenger miles, which works out to an average cost of 26 cents a passenger mile.

In other words, transit is only “affordable” because three-fourths of the cost is subsidized, while less than 4 percent of the cost of driving is subsidized. 

I’m in favor of ending both subsidies, but someone has to pay those costs; when adding them in, driving is four times more affordable than transit...

Back in 2014, after the Antiplanner predicted the doom of public transit, Human Transit writer Jarrett Walker wrote a more insightful, but still flawed, response. Really dense cities will still need transit, he argued. I don’t disagree with that; my paper admitted that transit would survive in New York City and perhaps Chicago and San Francisco...

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Hillary's email: The new Whitewater

The Latest Clinton Email ‘Scandal’ Is Still…No Scandal

Eric Boehlert in Media Matters:

Journalism is often about priorities. The act of newsgathering and storytelling is more than assembling facts and quotes and providing context. It’s also about deciding what’s important and specifically which stories are more newsworthy than others...

So the morning after Donald Trump seemed to make a veiled, yet shocking threat of political violence against his opponent, NBC News dubbed the day’s top story to be a small number of 2009 emails from Hillary Clinton’s State Department that had been released, emails that Clinton neither sent nor received.

For me, that weird prioritization represented an early red flag that the latest round of Clinton email coverage was heading seriously off-track---again. It also confirmed that there seems to be some weird magnetic bond the press has devised that keeps itself breathlessly attached to the email pursuit, not matter how trivial the developments.

In other words, the Clinton emails are the new Whitewater. It’s the media’s latest Clinton “scandal” in search of a storyline. It’s a meandering genre of overexcited journalism that long ago lost sight of what the Clinton wrongdoing was supposed to be.

Recall that Whitewater, the-hard-to-follow pseudo-scandal sponsored by The New York Times in the 1990s, dragged on so long that it became hard to recall what the Clintons’ alleged original sin was. (Losing money on a real estate deal is against the law?)

“I could never remember what it was supposed to be about,” former Times reporter Todd Purdum recently conceded about Whitewater. “It was so byzantine.”

We’ve seen the same arc with the Groundhog Day email saga. In real time, very few Beltway journalists will admit that the gotcha email story no longer has any gotcha. Likely only years from now will reporters and pundits concede that the Clinton email story was “byzantine” and hard to follow...

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Monday, August 15, 2016

After ISIS: Celebration


From Slate:

Residents from the northern Syrian city of Manbij are celebrating their freshly restored freedoms after U.S.–backed forces seized full control of the town from ISIS, which had been using civilians as human shields. Photographs show people pouring into the streets to celebrate after a battle that lasted 73 days. Wrestling control of Mabij from ISIS marks the biggest defeat for the group in Syria since July 2015, notes the Associated Press, and comes amid a string of territorial losses for the extremist group. “The city is now fully under our control but we are undertaking sweeping operations,” a member of the Syria Democratic Forces, the alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces who receive air support from the U.S., said.

One particularly poignant photo shows a woman burning her niqab, as women could finally walk the streets without having to cover their faces for the first time in more than two-and-a-half years. Similar scenes have become common in other towns liberated from ISIS...


Daily Kos

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Trump versus Trump

Thanks to Daily Kos.


MH370: Free the data!


The latest from Jeff Wise.

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Socrates, not Jesus

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

In Russia, the less you know the better you sleep

Getting away with murder

"...Litvinenko went on to claim, on the basis of hearsay, that Putin had been known by KGB insiders to have been a padeophile and that once he became head of the FSB[successor to the KGB] he had destroyed secret tapes showing him having sex with underage boys...

These particular allegations about Putin by Litvinenko may well have had no basis. But that would not have prevented Putin from being outraged enough to strike out. In 2000 Putin observed  of his enemies: 'If you become jittery, they will think that they are stronger...You must hit first, and hit so hard that your opponent will not rise to his feet.'

This philosophy has served Putin well, enabling him to maintain his unchallenged political power in Russia for over one and a half decades and also, by all evidence, to get away with murder."



Time Magazine

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Female genital mutilation

500,000 female genital mutilation survivors or at risk in U.S.
by Joe Davidson
Washington Post

Visualize a long line, more than 500,000 people long.

Look closer. They are all female. You’ll see lots of girls, some new born.

What you can’t see is the many who have had their genitalia mutilated. Those who haven’t are in danger.

This imaginary queue represents real people, the number of women and girls in the United States who were “at risk of or had been subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2012.”

The dispassionate language of a Government Accountability Office report reveals an alarming trend: the number of women and girls in the United States potentially facing or who have already suffered mutilation has grown threefold since 1990. A practice that should be extinct, now concerns many more people than the population of Atlanta.

Female genital mutilation generally isn’t considered a U.S. problem. But it is, primarily because of increased immigration from countries where it is practiced, rather than widespread cutting here.

Jaha Dukureh is one of the half-million. She was cut in Gambia when she was just one week old. Decades later, she is based in Atlanta where she founded Safe Hands for Girls to fight female genital mutilation. She still bears the scars, at least emotionally.

“It’s a part of my body that was taken away from me that’s never coming back,” she said by telephone. “Every woman wants to feel whole.”

Wherever the cutting is done, the 513,000 individuals in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate now live in the United States. That means this country needs to do something about it. CDC’s estimate might be low. It does not take into account countries where female mutilation is practiced, but where there is no data. Nor does it include undocumented people.

“The CDC’s data aren’t perfect, but this estimate is very troubling and highlights how urgent it is that we do more to protect women and girls from this brutal form of gender-based violence,” Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) told The Washington Post. “And it shows that more needs to be done to better understand the scope of this issue here in the United States.”

GAO’s report says female genital mutilation are “procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other harm to the female genitals for non-medical reasons.” Partially or totally cutting away the clitoris is an example. There are no health benefits, says the World Health Organization (WHO), only harm.

Female genital mutilation is rooted in the cultures of some African countries and elsewhere, including Indonesia, Colombia and India. Why is it done? Violent sexism is a big part of the answer.

“The purposes behind FGM are almost always based in patriarchy, but the reasons vary,” said Shelby Quast, director of Equality Now’s Americas office. Equality Now advocates women’s and girls’ rights internationally.

Among other factors, WHO says “FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behavior. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts.”

Reid, who requested the GAO report, called the government’s lackluster response to female mutilation “truly shameful…many Americans haven’t even heard of FGM or they think it’s some far-away problem. Although it’s illegal, it happens here, and we shouldn’t stand for it. The GAO reports lay out a number of actions our government can take to help address this terrible human rights violation.”

Specific federal laws against female genital mutilation have been on the books since 1996. Three years ago, Congress made it a crime to take a girl from the United States for the purpose of mutilating her abroad, a practice known as “vacation cutting.”

Yet, efforts by the mighty Uncle Sam against female genital mutilation are feeble.

Though genital mutilation is a crime and a violation of human rights, “law enforcement officials identified few investigations and prosecutions,” GAO reported. It found just two active programs aimed solely at female genital mutilation abroad, in Kenya and Guinea.

Rob's comment:
It's inexcusable that the writer doesn't even mention Islam, since that religion is now the main practitioner of this barbaric practice.


Governor Brown tries to gut CEQA

Rose Foundation Study Says California Environmental Quality Act Does Not Hurt Development

Study: CEQA Does Not Hurt Development
by Patrick Range McDonald

The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment just released a major study that finds there’s no evidence that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) severely impacts development in the Golden State — a direct repudiation of claims made by Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy developers. Brown and the state legislature are currently considering highly controversial legislation that would gut environmental protections that CEQA provides.

Titled “CEQA in the 21st Century,” the study notes several key findings:

— The number of lawsuits filed under CEQA has been surprisingly low, averaging 195 per year throughout California since 2002. Annual filings since 2002 indicate that while the number of petitions has slightly fluctuated from year to year, from 183 in 2002, to 206 in 2015, there is no pattern of overall increased litigation. In fact, litigation year to year does not trend with California’s population growth, at 12.5 percent overall during the same period.

— The rate of litigation compared to all projects receiving environmental review under CEQA is also very low, with lawsuits filed for fewer than 1 out of every 100 projects reviewed under CEQA that were not considered exempt. The estimated rate of litigation for all CEQA projects undergoing environmental review (excluding exemptions) was 0.7 percent for the past three years. This is consistent with earlier studies, and far lower than some press reports about individual projects may imply.

— In San Francisco, just 14 EIRs were prepared in the past three years (less than 5 EIRs per year). The case study of San Francisco provided in this report highlights how, contrary to critics’ claims, at least one of California’s major cities routinely uses the streamlining procedures encouraged and built into CEQA statutes and guidelines.

— Despite critics often citing CEQA as a “major barrier to development,” no evidence supports that assertion. There are no studies available which quantify the cost of CEQA compliance or its impact on development projects...

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