Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hard to pick the most contemptible person in this photo.

But I pick the guy in the middle. Thanks to Harry's Place.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017


Friday, April 21, 2017

More on the Chamber of Commerce poll

There are some surprising---or at least counter-intuitive---results in the latest Chamber of Commerce poll I wrote about yesterday.

On homelessness/street behavior, 74% think it's getting worse, and only 6% think it's getting better. But instead of reacting with punitive measures, people uphold San Francisco's reputation for compassion: 90% support navigation centers in general and 77% support them in their own neighborhoods! 79% also support adding 4,000 shelter beds in the city.

79% support the city's Sanctuary City policy.

Traffic congestion, parking, and some pet City Hall projects don't poll very well: 80% think traffic congestion is worse, 71% say finding parking is harder, and only 29% think Muni service is better.

Removing traffic lanes to make bike lanes does even worse: 49% support and 47% oppose.

48% oppose and only 40% support permanently closing Stockton Street downtown, and both the Geary BRT project (49% to 44% approval) and the Van Ness BRT project (48% to 45% approval) get only tepid support.

The BRT and bicycle lanes results are within or close to the margin of error for a 500 sample size.

That narrow margin of public approval for these major City Hall projects is not reflected by our elected officials, since there are no real dissenting voices on either the Board of Supervisors or the SFMTA Board of Directors.

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Another dumb rail project in trouble

The Honolulu rail project, as predicted, is in trouble: Hawaii Senate To Propose 10-Year Extension On Rail Tax. Ex-governor Cayetano, who opposed the project from the start, took out this full-page ad in the Washington Post:

First post on the project in 2012: Honolulu fights ruinous rail project.

Click on "Honolulu Rail Project" below for more.

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Joel Pett: Sierra Magazine

Thanks to Politico.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Chamber of Commerce Poll

The annual Chamber of Commerce poll is out, but the SF Chronicle didn't do a story about it. Maybe they didn't like the results.

One thing they didn't have to ignore/distort this year: results showing that the people of San Francisco overwhelmingly reject congestion pricing, the idea that they should pay $3.00 to drive downtown in their own city. 

The poll didn't even ask that question this year. Last year 72% rejected that idea, which is a typically negative result over the years (My first post on public opinion and congestion pricing back in 2009: Little support for congestion pricing).

Maybe the Chamber thinks that congestion pricing is now a dead issue not worth asking about every year. Wrong! See page 33 of the latest Transportation Plan by the SFCTA.

Tilly Chang, now the head of the SFCTA, spent a good part of her career pushing congestion pricing, and she isn't going to stop now.

Congestion pricing will be a two-fer for City Hall: it will punish everyone who drives those wicked motor vehicles, and, more importantly, it will raise a lot of money to pay for the city's growing bureaucracy.

More on the poll results tomorrow.

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Patriots skip White House meeting

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Working with Bill O'Reilly

Not to mention the racism, sexism, and homophobia.

See also this.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Randal O'Toole critiques Amtrak

Amtrak photo

I don't share his libertarian politics, but Randal O'Toole is a good critic of the fashion for dumb rail projects around the country (See his latest on a North Carolina project: Another Rail Boondoggle).

He recently took Amtrak across the country, a trip he chronicled in consecutive posts:


The Israeli example: Water and security

"Beyond the Mirage": the whole movie.

We can learn from Israel about water conservation and airport security:

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

History lesson

From today's NY Times:

A special on Friday night on Showtime — the title uses a vulgarity; we’ll just call it “Burn”["Burn Motherfucker, burn!"] — does a somewhat better job, but its main strength is to underscore the history leading up to 1992. The film, by Sacha Jenkins, doesn’t even get to the King video and verdict until almost an hour in, using that time to trace the history of racism and oppression by the Los Angeles Police Department back to the Watts riot of 1965 and beyond.

“The legacy of 1965 is that it brought to a close the optimism of the civil rights movement,” Darnell Hunt, the U.C.L.A. scholar, explains onscreen. Patience was no longer the watchword; violence became a way to express dissatisfaction with the sluggish pace of change...

Rob's comment:
When the 1965 Watts riots happened, I was in federal prison in Lompoc for refusing to report for military service. I asked a black inmate from L.A. what he thought about it. His response: "I hope they burn that motherfucker down!"

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Terrorism and high-speed rail

Everyone agrees barriers are needed to keep debris from derailed freight trains from smashing into the fast-moving passenger cars. But for years freight train operators and the California High-Speed Rail Authority could not agree on their exact design.They finally reached agreement last year. And only then did the contractor for the 31 miles of track in and around Fresno put a price tag on the work: an additional $140 million.

At least some experts see that bump in the bill as a worrisome harbinger.

Cost increases, after all, have dogged the bullet train for years, and new jumps in price may start surfacing as the complex engineering needed for passenger safety comes into clearer focus. Aside from the debris barriers, the range of safety issues includes how bullet trains will operate in dense urban environments where they cross highways, how to contend with the possibility of fires and other mishaps in the long tunnels they’ll pass through...

Rob's comment:
Odd that there's no mention of terrorism. It's surprising that terrorists haven't already tried to derail a high-speed train in Europe. It's not just "dense urban environments" that pose that danger, since it's impossible to secure hundreds of miles of track.

Pro-high-speed rail StreetsblogCal is dismissive of all safety concerns: "Anti-CAHSR reporter finds another angle for attacking high speed rail."

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Public comment on proposed 13th Street "bikeway"

Mary Miles (SB #230395)
Attorney at Law
San Francisco, CA 94102

Edward Reiskin, Director
Roberta Boomer, Secretary, and
Members of the Board
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency ("MTA")
One S. Van Ness Ave., 7th Floor 
San Francisco, CA 94103

DATE: April 18, 2017

PUBLIC COMMENT, AGENDA ITEM 11, APRIL 18, 2017 MTA BOARD MEETING [“Approving a protected bikeway and parking and traffic modifications along eastbound 13th Street between Folsom Street and Bryant Street…”], aka “Eastbound 13th Street Safety Project,” aka “SFMTA – 13th Street Eastbound Bicycle Facility Project” (referred to in this Comment as the “Project”)

This is public Comment on Agenda Item 11 of the April 18, 2017 MTA Board meeting. Please provide a copy of this Comment to all MTA Board Members and place a copy in all applicable MTA files. As noted on the MTA Board Agenda, a determination under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) is subject to appeal to the Board of Supervisors within 30 days. 

The Project will clearly have significant impacts under CEQA, including transportation, air quality, safety, and parking impacts, and the claimed "categorical exemptions" do not apply. The Project must also be rejected for the following reasons.


There has been no outreach to the general public on this Project, only “stakeholder meetings” between the Project sponsor, the MTA's "Sustainable Streets" division, promoters of the Project, and a few local businesses. The claimed “public hearing” on March 17, 2017 was conducted by the Project sponsor, the MTA’s “Sustainable Streets,” the same entity that created the Project in private with no opportunity for input from the general public and then held the alleged "hearing" before its own "Engineering" subdivision. Even members of the public who requested public notice, including this Commenter, received no notice of this Project after submitting many requests to MTA for notices of proceedings on all bicycle projects in San Francisco. 

Further, neither the MTA nor the lead agency conducting the alleged “environmental review,” the Planning Department, gave public notice of its Exemption dated April 10, 2017. That Exemption did not exist and was not publicly available at the time of the claimed “public hearing” on March 17, 2017, and it is not readily available today but instead requires complicated linking to documents not readily available to the general public or easily found by using the internet. Documents related to CEQA review should have been publicly noticed at least 72 hours in advance and placed on the March 17, 2017 “public hearing” agenda in a readily-accessible link so that the public could know what the Project Sponsor, the lead agency, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition were actually proposing. They were not. 

The Project sponsor, the MTA's "Sustainable Streets" Division, claims that its "staff performed door-to-door outreach" to four businesses along eastbound 13th Street from January to March 2017. (MTA “Sustainable Streets” memorandum dated April 10, 2017 ["Project Sponsor’s Staff Report”], page 6.) That alleged "outreach" ignores that this Project is of citywide and regional importance, affecting traffic to and through the area by thousands of daily travelers, access to freeways, and travel to downtown, the train station, and the ballpark, as well as major shopping destinations. 


The proposed Project, part of the “Vision Zero” Project, removes two heavily used travel lanes and at least 35 parking spaces on eastbound 13th Street, reducing traffic capacity on this major traffic corridor from three existing lanes to one lane in the eastbound direction. (San Francisco Planning Department: Certificate of Determination Exemption from Environmental Review, Case No. 2017-001180ENV, April 10, 2017 [“Exemption”], pages 2-3, 5, 9-13) That proposed capacity reduction will bottleneck and back up the already heavy traffic on eastbound 13th Street to outside the immediate Project area, affecting major intersections at South Van Ness Avenue, Folsom Street, Bryant Street, Harrison Street, and 11th/13th/Bryant/ Division Streets. (Exemption, page 5)

Traffic volumes allegedly measured in 2015 are out of date, and in any event contain no supporting evidence, including the dates they were taken, the time of day, or who took them. Even so, the Exemption admits that traffic capacity on eastbound 13th Street will be reduced from the existing roadway capacity of 5,700 vehicles per hour to 3,800 vehicles per hour. Both the vehicle volume and the reduction attest to the regional importance of this corridor, and the failure to identify and mitigate the impacts of delaying 1,900 vehicles per hour. (Exemption, page 5) 

The Exemption document fails to establish the cumulative area affected by the Project, and fails to state that the City and the Project Sponsor, City and its MTA "Sustainable Streets" Department, have already provided bicycle lanes on 14th Street, 15th Street, 16th Street, and 17th Street in City's 2009 Bicycle Plan Project, and a dedicated 12-foot-wide bicycle lane with buffer on westbound 13th Street, removing hundreds of parking spaces and traffic lane capacity in nearby corridors. The failure to accurately state existing conditions results in an inaccurate baseline for analyzing impacts in violation of CEQA. The figures in the Exemption document and the obvious direct impacts from delaying 1,900 vehicles per hour show that the claim of no direct and cumulative significant impacts is false. 

In addition to the proposed drastic capacity reduction, which it terms a "road diet," the Project also proposes forced turns from existing through lanes and installing "painted bicycle boxes at the intersections of Folsom Street/13th Street, and Bryant Street/13th Street to construct a “new bicycle facility on eastbound 13th Street.” (Exemption, page 1) The Project also proposes prohibiting right turns at red traffic signals at northbound Harrison Street approaching 13th Street and a special "two-stage" left turn box to enable bicyclists to turn left from the right lane to "make an intersection more inviting for…bicycles." (Project Sponsor's Staff Report, page 5) The Project will also introduce time limits for whatever parking remains on 13th Street. (Id.)

No evidence supports the Project sponsor's spurious claim that this is a “high injury corridor for bicycling” or establishes justification for the significant adverse impacts this Project will cause on traffic, air quality, noise, and safety. The "high injury corridor for bicycling" fiction is irrelevant to establishing baseline existing conditions for analyzing the impacts caused by the proposed Project. Claims that there have been “a total of 57 traffic collisions along 13th Street between Folsom Street and Bryant Street" are unsubstantiated, with no documentation showing the circumstances of such alleged “collisions” or that this is a “high injury corridor for bicycling.” (Project Sponsor's Staff Report, page 1) Indeed, the fictitious “high injury corridors” created by City’s “Vision Zero” Project include the Project Sponsor’s extensive wish list to create adverse traffic conditions for vehicles throughout San Francisco and extend the already-expansive Bicycle Plan agenda that benefits less than 4% of travelers and adversely affects the other 96%. 

The Project Sponsor's Staff Report also contradicts the lead agency's Exemption document and misstates existing conditions and the Project description, including falsely stating that the Project would only remove one eastbound traffic lane, when in fact it proposes removing two traffic lanes on eastbound 13th Street. (Project Sponsor's Staff Report, page 3) That document also misstates the number of eastbound vehicles on 13th Street, which is 5,700 counted vehicles per hour per the Exemption document. Conveying false and misleading information to the public violates CEQA. Both the Exemption and the Project Sponsor's Staff Report ignore that City’s 2009 Bicycle Plan Project also provided bicycle lanes on 14th Street, 15th Street, 16th Street, and 17th Street, removing hundreds of parking spaces and traffic lane capacity in nearby corridors, along with creating the dedicated 12-foot-wide bicycle lane with buffer on westbound 13th Street.

The Project Sponsor's Staff Report claims that, "146 people were counted bicycling in the morning and 50 people in the evening peak hour periods along eastbound 13th Street." (Project Sponsor's Staff Report, page 3) That means that bicyclists are less than three percent of travelers in the immediate Project area. Further, the Exemption states that "The proposed project would not generate new bicycle trips…" (Exemption, page 6) The insular special interests evident from these figures do not justify the extensive significant impacts on transportation, air quality, parking, public safety, and human impacts caused by the proposed Project on the other 97% of the traveling public.

The Project will clearly have significant direct and cumulative impacts on transportation throughout the area, and significant impacts on air quality, public safety, including emergency vehicle movement, noise, and human impacts that must be identified, analyzed, and mitigated under CEQA.


The Project will clearly have significant impacts on the environment, and therefore is not categorically exempt. (See, e.g., 14 Cal. Code Regs. ["Guidelines"] §§15064, 15065(a)(3), 15300, 15300.2, 15301, 15304)

The exemptions invoked, i.e., Guidelines §§15301 and 15304, do not apply (Exemption, page 3) Guidelines §15301(c) does not apply because the Project does not propose "minor alterations" of "[e]xisting highways and streets, sidewalks gutters, bicycle and pedestrian trails." Both the Project Sponsor's Staff Report and the Exemption admit that there are no existing bicycle lanes on eastbound 13th Street. (Project Sponsor's Staff Report, page 3; Exemption, page 4) Further, the Project does not propose "minor alterations," but proposes major changes affecting and significantly impacting transportation, air quality, parking, noise, and public safety, both in the immediate and cumulative areas. Guidelines §15301 explicitly states that in determining the types of "existing facilities" subject to such an exemption, "The key consideration is whether the project involves negligible or no expansion of an existing use." Far from being negligible or no expansion, the Project proposes usurping two-thirds of the existing roadway capacity and parking for a currently non-existent use of that corridor. 

The Guidelines section 15304(h) exemption invoked (Exemption, page 3) also does not apply to the proposed Project, because bicycle lanes do not currently exist on 13th Street, and because the Project does not propose minor "alterations in the conditions of land, water, and/or vegetation which do not involve removal of healthy, mature, scenic trees except for forestry and agricultural purposes." (Guidelines §15304) The Project instead proposes major alterations to a heavily traveled urban corridor causing significant impacts.

The Exemption's unsupported conclusory statement, "None of the established exceptions applies to the proposed project" under Guidelines §15300.2, is also false, as are the claims that the Project will have no cumulative impacts, and that no "unusual circumstances" are presented by the Project.

There is no adequate analysis of cumulative impacts in the Exemption, with that document claiming with no supporting evidence that the Project sponsor's staff found "projected growth in vehicle traffic volumes" between now and 2040 to be "approximately 15 percent." Cumulative impacts must also measure "successive project of the same type in the same place, over time." (Guidelines §15300.2). This Project, moreover, has "possible environmental effects" that are "cumulatively considerable," meaning "that the incremental effects of an individual project are significant when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects, and the effects of probable future projects." (Guidelines §15065(a)(3).) 

The City's past, present, and planned future incursions onto City's roadways to impede vehicle transportation, remove parking, force turns, and otherwise adversely impact traffic include past extensive transportation impacts due to the Bicycle Plan, "Sustainable Streets," "Vision Zero," and other Projects that, combined with the present Project, clearly have cumulative impacts on transportation, air quality, parking, and public safety that cannot be considered in a vacuum and are plainly significant cumulative impacts.

Further, in this instance, the very large traffic volumes and the proposed drastic reduction in street capacity constitute unusual circumstances. (Guidelines, §15300.2(c).)

For the above reasons, the proposed 13th Street Project is not exempt, and it has significant impacts that must be analyzed and mitigated under CEQA. The MTA Board must therefore reject the proposed approval of the Project at Item 11.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Madonna of the Book. Botticelli. En esta obra se observa a la Virgen con el Niño en su regazo, como una de las representaciones del cambio de pensamiento del artista.
Mary Beard in the London Review of Books:

In my Catholic girlhood she was everywhere, perched up on ledges and in niches like a CCTV camera, with her painted mouth and her painted eyes of policeman blue. She was, her litany stated, Mirror of Justice, Cause of Our Joy, Spiritual Vessel, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, Gate of Heaven and Morning Star. Not a woman I liked, on the whole. She was the improbability at the heart of spiritual life; a paradox, unpollinated but fruitful, above nature yet also against nature. 

She could have been a benign second mother, and on your side, but she always seemed to be in cahoots with authority; she knew your every move, and had a low opinion of it. It was because of her purity that you had to guard your darker thoughts; each of your little sins was, you were assured, a sword piercing her heart. 

She was the example you were urged to follow, while knowing that you would fail. Pray all you like, you are not going to be both a virgin and a mother; this was a one-off by the deity, a singular chance for sullied female flesh to make itself acceptable to the celibate males who were in charge of whether or not we got to heaven. 

It always seemed odd and distasteful to hear priests speak reverently of the Virgin Mary, when you knew they despised women or feared them or regarded them as being as strange as talking fish.

To outsiders, the cult of Mary can seem quaint and charming; but it introduced into the life of every small Catholic girl a terrifying bind, and into the mind of every small Catholic boy a standard impossible for women to meet. By adolescence they had perhaps given up praying to statues, but they carried into manhood a frozen concept of femininity...

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daily Kos


The only wall we need

Freedom from Religion Foundation


"If you see it on TV..."

Madness is not Trump's most salient characteristic; it's stupidity.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bike News Roundup 4

Mayor Lee

I became a critic of the bicycle movement in San Francisco during our successful litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan, which the city was illegally implementing on the streets of the city without any environmental review. 

I still think that redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority is a bad idea. I also believe that riding a bike is intrinsically dangerous and that City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are irresponsible in encouraging the unwary citizenry---even children!---to start cycling with no realistic understanding of the dangers involved.

What critics of the bike fantasy don't need is allies like Ann Pfoser Darby in New York City:

At a previous meeting, Ms. Pfoser Darby denounced proposed bike lanes as a taxpayer-financed amenity for the undocumented immigrants she claims are their main users...Ms. Pfoser Darby’s willingness to openly share her opinions is not new, but her outspokenness on undocumented immigrants has reverberated with the election of President Trump, who she said is “finally doing something about the illegals.” She remained adamant about her position on the bike-lane proposal: “I said the truth — the bike lanes are made specifically for the people who come into the country illegally.” She said she surmised cyclists using area bike lanes were undocumented immigrants by their lack of English and nervous mannerisms.

Or like this guy in Ross, who tried to run down a cyclist in his SUV.


Existing conditions
Turk Street

The Bicycle Coalition is upset that the city is backtracking on a plan to put a protected bike lane on Turk Street between Market St. and Gough St. As the photo above shows, like most streets downtown, Turk has only two lanes with parking on the side. Hard to make a protected bike lane without a major impact on parking, loading, and access for fire trucks.

A company in the Netherlands has an app that tracks how its employees get to work. The idea is to reward those who ride bikes to work to encourage "sustainable" transportation. But even in the Netherlands, cycling can be risky:

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.

But of course more people cycle in the Netherlands than in other countries. Still...

A recent article by a Portland State professor explored why girls in Portland don't cycle as much as boys raised a perennial issue in the cycling community: Why don't as many women as men ride bikes? I posted in 2009 about that disparity revealed in the 2008 San Francisco State of Cycling Report: Only 23% of city cyclists were women. That hadn't changed much by 2011

I suggested a few answers to why that continues to be true in 2015: Why aren't women joining the bike revolution?

On the other hand, women in East LA are using bikes as an organizing tool. They call themselves The Ovarian Psychos:

City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are still trying to put lipstick on the pig they created called Octavia Blvd. Recall that all good liberals and progressives---progressives are liberals on steroids---supported the 1999 ballot measure that prevented the Central Freeway ramp from being rebuilt. Instead, a new Octavia Blvd. would be created!(See Octavia Boulevard: A "progressive" fiasco.)

According to the Voter Information Pamphlet (page 156), some of the folks responsible for the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd. we have today: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the San Francisco Green Party, San Francisco Tomorrow, Calvin Welch and the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Jane Morrison, SPUR, John Burton, Art Agnos, Carole Migden, Tom Radulovich, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, Robin Levitt, the Harvey Milk Club, and Walk San Francisco.

The Central Freeway used to carry 100,000 vehicles a day over Hayes Valley. Most of that traffic is now on Octavia and other surface streets in the area, creating gridlock in that part of town for most of the day.

Streetsblog is putting a smiley face on the Octavia Blvd. expressway that now carries more than 60,000 vehicles a day through the heart of Hayes Valley to and from the freeway:

The street closure and events this week, meanwhile, were part of the overall “Octavia Boulevard Enhancement Project,” which is in turn part of the Market-Octavia Area Plan to make the boulevard and surrounding streets safer and more pedestrian-friendly.

Surprised to learn from the Governors Highway Safety Association that many pedestrians and cyclists killed on the country's streets are drunk:

State Highway Safety Offices and their partners should broaden their anti-drunk driving campaigns to encourage bicyclists and pedestrians to consider safer transportation alternatives after heavy drinking. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported today, the ratios of fatally injured alcohol-impaired bicyclists and pedestrians have not fallen as dramatically as the proportion of impaired motor vehicle drivers killed, and this remains a significant problem. In fact, surprisingly, more than one-third of pedestrians and one-fifth of bicyclists killed in crashes in 2014 were legally drunk.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ed Reiskin

Mari at Meter Madness forwards a message from Nancy Wuerfel:

The SFMTA has done a terrible job of informing the neighbors about the proposed bike lanes on Vicente Street. The Transportation Engineering Hearing on April 14th is premature, since most people have not seen a notice.

FOR THE RECORD, here are the facts:

Tues, 4/4/17:  I sent an email Jonathan Chimento that was returned to me as "undeliverable." Apparently SFMTA has some kind of problem receiving emails (not just in this case). I did have a telephone discussion with Jonathan in which he promised he would put his name and telephone number on the notices to be posted on Vicente so people could talk to him. He did not do this.

Wed, 4/5/17:  The flimsy paper notices were taped onto poles along Vicente Street. There are no maps that show exactly how the bike lanes, parking and traffic lanes would be lined up on Vicente Street. I observed notices on 4 poles at the intersection of 23rd Avenue and Vicente. No protection was afforded the notices, no lamination.

Thursday and Friday: Lots of rain and wind in the Parkside District that destroyed many notices.

Sat, 4/8/17: The paper notices were in tatters from the storm, many unreadable.

Sun, 4/9/17:  I walked along Vicente and noticed only one intact notice between 20th Ave and 28th Ave, and most intersections had NO notices or even tape left on the poles. Where parts of a notice were still remaining under the tape, the bottom part was torn off that had information about submitting opinions by fax or email, requesting language assistance, about getting more information, CEQA rights, etc. 

So a week before the hearing, the notices were partially or completely destroyed. Therefore, the public noticing was incompetently done with no regard to keeping notices intact for 10 days. There was no public meeting to discuss the lanes before the public hearing.

Please reschedule the hearing and repost all of the notices along Vicente after scheduling a public meeting to explain the changes SFMTA is asking for. The first posting is disrespectful to the public, the businesses and the institutions affected by this change.

Nancy Wuerfel

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - JULY 10:  Donald Trump plays a round of golf after the opening of The Trump International Golf Links Course on July 10, 2012 in Balmedie, Scotland. The controversial £100m course opens to the public on Sunday July 15. Further plans to
Never mind health care, what's for lunch?


Monday, April 10, 2017

Brain hacking

"Technology is not's a call to distraction."

See also Marshall McLuhan.

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Muddle on the left

Market Watch

Like everything else he does, of course President Trump's attack on Syria was "ill-conceived."

But David Talbot's column yesterday is more ill-conceived than the attack itself (Ill-conceived aggression our legacy of being born in the U.S.A.):

The United States has never been fully at peace in my lifetime — and I was born when Harry S. Truman was president. This “forever war” escalated as my young sons watched wide-eyed while the World Trade Center turned to dust. The U.S. retaliated by launching a “shock and awe” offensive at a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to us. “When will they start bombing us?” my 8-year-old asked me. He instinctively understood that even great imperial powers must at some point pay their dues and are not immune from the consequences of their mighty actions.

Bringing the kids onstage while you're making a political/historical argument is never convincing. But it also helps if you don't get your wars mixed up. Talbot distorts history by ignoring that the US "retaliated" for 9/11 by attacking and invading Afghanistan, where Osama Bin Laden was based and most of the 9/11 attackers were trained. But if Talbot mentioned Afghanistan, he would have a hard time arguing that that war was an unjustified exercise in "imperial power." The "shock and awe" show and the disastrous invasion of Iraq came 18 months after the 9/11 attack:

Thousands of civilians have died in the U.S.-led onslaught against the Iraqi city Mosul that has raged off and on since 2014, including scores killed in a March 17 air strike. But this never-ending flow of collateral death in the Middle East and Horn of Africa is simply seen as an inevitable, if regrettable, part of the flexing of American power.

No mention of ISIS, which has controlled Mosul since 2014, the only reason the US is part of the "onslaught" on that city to take it back. That struggle is being fought almost entirely by Iraqis and Kurds. Yes, civilians are getting killed during the siege just as they were killed during World War 2 and Vietnam. The difference now is that the US no longer targets civilians as a matter of policy. The March 17 air strike was a tragic mistake:

Little has changed since the long, grinding Vietnam War that Springsteen sang about, except our soldiers are now being sent to kill brown-skinned people instead of “the yellow man.” When these warriors return, they are honored for their service, but it all rings hollow. Vietnam veterans were allegedly spat on when they came home, but, in my experience, the antiwar movement was more likely to embrace them and care for them. Nowadays there is no peace movement, except for the scattered and brave efforts of groups like Code Pink.

The US prefers killing people of color in its wars? That casual slur is contradicted by our carpet bombing of German cities during World War 2. Talbot also knows that it's nothing but a right-wing legend that Vietnam veterans were spat on by anti-war demonstrators when they returned. Why not just say so? 

And the people in Code Pink are "brave" for being anti-war in the US? Bullshit. They are periodically hauled gently out of Congressional hearings for being disruptive, but they don't seem to suffer any long-term consequences, which is how it should be. The leftists at Counterpunch also like to congratulate themselves for "Fearless Muckraking Since 1993." 

It's been a long time since being a dissenter in the US involved serious risk.

See also To the anti-war left, US is the bad guy.

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Priority problem

SF Examiner

A letter to the editor
in the April 9 SF Examiner in response to Transit officials reconsider ‘watered down’ Turk Street bike lane.

The SFMTA has a priority problem

I’m horrified that our city government prioritizes bikes ahead of public safety. I have witnessed firsthand the disaster that the SFMTA has created, confiscating public infrastructure and repurposing for a vocal minority. Watching from Davies Symphony Hall, we were shocked to see an ambulance unable to get through Van Ness due to the newly confiscated lanes for a ridiculous bus lane and bike lanes.

During a ridealong with the SFPD, officers had to slam over speed humps and screech around bulb-outs getting to an emergency call. I can only imaging what that would do to an ambulance occupant. And recently I turned right onto Eighth Street and nearly slammed into a concrete island that appeared in the middle of the right lane.

Why are we putting billions of dollars toward street redesign when we can’t even maintain them, can’t even plant trees? When seniors and disabled object to street redesigns, why do their voices fall on deaf ears? Why are the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA so powerful that they dictate an anti-car policy that endangers public safety?

When the Fire Department objects due to public safety concerns, they should be prioritized first. I pale to think the nightmare we will endure when they next earthquake hits and our emergency services, food and water can’t get through. It’s clear we’ll get no sympathy from the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and especially not the SFMTA (now affectionately known as Motorist Torment Authority).

As a 28-year resident of San Francisco and a supporter of subway expansion, I find myself unable to vote for funding for the SFMTA. They only cause misery and favor the 3 percent (or less) vocal minority.

Jamey Frank
San Francisco

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Thanks to Politico.


Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Friendly Atheist

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

City Hall's pseudo-tolerance and violent jihad

Photo: Mike Koozmin, Examiner

City Hall and the local media
are being dumb---again---about this issue, promoting a bogus version of tolerance instead of, well, tolerating speech that makes many liberals uncomfortable.

Ads on the sides of Muni buses supporting Israel and calling unnamed enemies “savage” while also claiming hatred of Jews is “in the Quran” drew rebuke citywide for years. Now San Francisco may ban such political speech on Muni bus advertisements and other transit property when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors votes on a policy revision Tuesday.

Anyone without a reading disorder can see that Israel's enemies aren't "unnamed" in the above ad, since "jihad" is fingered. And of course the text of the Koran and other Muslim holy books have a number of references to hating Jews and violence against "unbelievers." 

This reporter's reading disorder is the same one suffered by City Hall and the local media during the earlier rounds of this silly controversy.

From the MTA's resolution:

The proposed amendment would change the existing Advertising Policy’s advertising standards to prohibit advertisements that, among other things, concern a political or public issue, contain profanity or violent descriptions or images, are intended to be insulting, degrading, disparaging, demeaning or offensive, are reasonably likely to be harmful or disruptive to the SFMTA’s transit system, encourage or depict unsafe transit behavior, or are adverse to the interests of the SFMTA.

The only party possibly demeaned or offended by that ad would be the jihadists themselves, like those who carried out the recent attacks in London and Sweden, attacks that are becoming routine in Europe, and, to a lesser extent, here in the US. But the jihadists would likely not feel demeaned, since they are proud to be religious crackpots who often target Jews and would like to destroy Israel.

More from the Examiner:

The controversial ads are a project of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Its president, Pamela Geller, reportedly told Breitbart News in 2016 that San Francisco is among the last major cities to not ban political speech. That sort of Ban, Geller told Breitbart, is “a ban on the truth, in accordance with Sharia. They say it’s hate speech but that’s the euphemistic narrative. It’s like putting a pretty white bow on a steaming pile of dung.”

Yes, Pamela Geller is a right-wing provocateur, and Breitbart is a right-wing website. So what? Free speech is only for liberals here in Progressive Land?

A web search doesn't clearly show that this ban is legal, but it just makes the city look dumb, though there's nothing new about that. See for example the lame "peace" ad campaign created in response to Geller by those Big Thinkers at the MTA.

This raises an important question: Why are mainly liberals in such a muddle on this issue?

See also Terrorism, Islam, and dhimmitude in City Hall.

SF Bay also has a dumb account of the controversy.

For more on the issue, click on "Muni Jihad Ads" below.

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Trains in the US carry freight, not passengers

Calculated Risk

From Calculated Risk:

Total carloads on U.S. railroads in March 2017 were up 7.3% (87,183 carloads) over March 2016; excluding coal, carloads in March were up 2.7% (23,337 carloads). Intermodal containers and trailers were up 3.8% (47,180 units) for the month. Year-to-date total carloads through March were up 5.7% (180,665 carloads), while year-to-date intermodal volume was up 1.4% (47,977 units) over last year.

That's about "carloads" of freight, not passengers. After the advent of the automobile and air travel, passenger rail was no longer profitable 50 years ago. That's why we now have a federally subsidized Amtrak system. 

It's also why Warren Buffett invested in freight rail, not passenger rail.

I don't share his libertarian philosophy, but Randal O'Toole is good on the train delusion. See O'Toole on Trump and infrastructure.

Some history on rail in the US here and here. See also Why don't Americans ride trains?

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