Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Second Amendment lie

A video of Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the N.R.A., at the organization’s annual meeting in Dallas last year.
Justin Sullivan

Letter to the editor in the SF Chronicle:

“Repeal gun amendment” (Letters, Aug. 18) is right on. This is the best commentary on gun control that I’ve seen, and it promotes the only sensible way to stop the continuous murders of innocent civilians in the U.S. As the writer says, the original amendment was to allow states to have a militia to defend against the army of the federal government.

This is irrelevant today, and makes no sense now, nearly 250 years later. We must get a grassroots movement going full speed to save lives and repeal the amendment.

Linda Lewin
San Francisco

Lettter to the editor in t
he NY Times:

Re “N.R.A. Chat Wins Convert in Oval Office” (front page, Aug. 21)
:

What a shocking development! Less than three weeks after the deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump has a phone conversation with Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, and — voilà! — no more support for even the smallest steps toward sensible gun safety regulation.

This is just the latest reminder that this president has no moral compass, but relies only on what people like Wayne LaPierre tell him will keep his base behind him. 

An overwhelming percentage of Americans favor gun safety regulation, yet this president does nothing. This is disgraceful.

Howard Levitt
San Francisco

Rob's comment:
Pretty much impossible to change the Constitution. Any movement for gun control will have to come from cities and states. 

That the Second Amendment gives individuals a constitutional right to own a gun is a big lie about our history foisted on the American people by conservatives and The Repugnant Party. (See When John Paul Stevens Eviscerated Antonin Scalia).

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Trump the artist


Haiku Nate @haiku_n8 LIVINGSTO Replying to @hunterschwarz Masterpiece indeed. #DoubleFiletOFish #MayorMcCheese #CheatoPuff 10:17 AM Aug 20, 2019 Twitter Web App Jon McNaughton 

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Anti-carism and bike supremacy in New York

‘Bike supremacy’ is ruining the city
Robert Miller

From the New York Post:

‘Bike supremacy’ is ruining the city

Bicycles account for just a tiny part of how New Yorkers get around, yet somehow the bike-brigade’s land grab goes on and on.

The latest is Mayor de Blasio’s “Green Wave Bicycle Plan,” dedicating $58.4 million to create another 80 miles of bike lines — more turf torn from cars and pedestrians.

The week before, he dropped plans to triple the number of Citi Bikes and more than double the program’s service area, even as other bike-share companies grab yet other parts of town.

And this mayor isn’t even all that bike-obsessed: He’s mainly just imitated the “Bikes Good, Cars Bad” approach of Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

De Blasio now hopes to have added 160 miles of bike lane in his eight years. Bloomberg created nearly 400 miles — while starting Citi Bike (with its sprawling bike racks taking yet more turf) and burning up more street space on pedestrian plazas.

His transportation department turned nearly 180 acres of prime real estate on stately corridors like Columbus Avenue into temples of torture for motorists, herding cars into single lanes and blitzing roadsides with “No Parking Anytime” signs.

Of course, de Blasio’s focus — his Vision Zero safety goals — often targets the same victims, as in his vows last week that the NYPD will “be watching drivers more closely” and that the city will “change the behavior of motorists.”

“Just in the first three weeks of this month . . . the NYPD issued more than 8,600 tickets for blocking bike lanes — double the same period from last year,” he crowed before emphasizing, “And we have juuuuuussst begun.”

Those tickets have mostly gone to drivers of delivery trucks — guys trying to do their jobs, which bike lanes make tougher.

This is a response to an uptick in bike deaths that has advocates up in arms. Yet it isn’t a true safety trend: Over the long term, the number tracks with bicycle use.

The drive to make New York more bike-friendly has more people riding more bikes more miles — which leads to more bicycle accidents, fatal and otherwise.

Safety was also the pretext for City Council passage of a law to let cyclists stopped by red lights start moving along with the pedestrian “walk” signal before the light turns green. But the real motive was “bike supremacy”: The bill’s sponsor, Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), railed at “a culture that continues to privilege cars.”

Even more extreme is Speaker Corey Johnson, who this month complained on WNYC that the city has “too many parking spaces.”

CoJo also reiterated his standard line: “We need to break the car culture” that’s “choking our streets” and “literally killing people.” In late May, he dropped his plan to add even more bike lanes and to double the city’s pedestrian-plaza acreage over the next five years. And this is one of the leading candidates to succeed de Blasio.

Ever since Bloomberg, the line’s been that this all about good government: attracting tech companies (who love the cyclist lifestyle), fighting climate change, etc.

Not so: It’s an ideology, pure and simple — a faith in the moral inferiority of car and truck drivers and in the moral virtue of cyclists.

That’s certainly how the bike-riders themselves view it: You can’t cross town without suffering cyclists’ contempt not just for motorists and pedestrians, but for anything and anyone who gets in their way.

That ideology has conned too many of the city’s leaders into handing over vast swathes of the city’s precious public space to a tiny minority of citizens — albeit an organized, and economically privileged, minority.

What the city really needs are leaders with the guts to stand up to the zealots and support the common good.

Pearls Before Swine

Rob's comment:
Yes, the worldview of the cycling movement is a lot like an ideology. See BikeThink: The ideology of bicycles. Like all ideologies, there's a significant fantasy element in BikeThink, particularly about making cycling safe: See Brian Wiedenmeier, meet Matt Smith.

And yes, many cyclists do think they're superior to the rest of us mere mortals who don't ride bikes. See Steve Jones: "Anderson is right: bicyclists do have a radical agenda".

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Religion continues to poison everything



The last few decades sure have been bad ones for organized religion. Conservative Christians have decided that the sum total of the Bible is about reestablishing the sex and gender mores of the 19th century. Liberal Protestantism is so unassuming that hardly anyone even remembers it exists. The Catholic Church has been responsible for the deaths of millions in Africa thanks to its mindless belief that God hates condoms. Much of Islam has been taken over by the toxic Saudi strain. Israel has turned into an apartheid state. Hindus in India are apparently now dedicated to creating a religiously pure state. And even Buddhists have been acting badly lately.

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

John Pritchett

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sbr081519_web.jpg
Steve Breen

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

How bad can it get?

Image result for boris johnson pictures
Boris Johnson

How bad can it get? is a question being asked in Great Britain and in the US. The question is the title of the latest London Review of Books collection of opinions from British writers.

The obvious answer: very bad, both in the US and Britain. 

How much damage will Trump and his proto-fascist Republican Party do to the country---to the world, actually---before we can get rid of him? 

The crises in both countries have been created by conservatives. Trump is a uniquely awful president, but his administration is what a right-wing US government must look like.

Lorna Finlayson:

It has finally happened: Boris Johnson is prime minister. There have been some surprises in politics over the past few years, but this isn’t one of them. As far back as the 1990s, when Johnson’s wit and superficial charm earned him his place as everyone’s favourite Tory, it was foreseeable that he could one day inhabit Number 10. 

Johnson himself has had his sights on the job since at least his Oxford days: the close and enduring entanglement of class, education and politics in this country made it a realistic ambition. Having positioned himself in the right place at the right time, all he had to do was win the votes of a small group of posh, white, male racists, just like Johnson himself.

Brexit, the crisis that was his opportunity, has placed a further monumental obstacle in the path of those who hoped finally to break with the mode of politics that helped produce the crisis in the first place. 

This politics---which Johnson, as much as anybody, represents---has impoverished and privatised British life, entrenched inequality and insecurity, and attempted to steal the far right’s thunder by displacing resentment onto immigrants and foreigners. The effect of Brexit has been, and will be for the foreseeable future, to intensify these features while derailing efforts at resistance...

Rob's comment:
Sound familiar?

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Thanks to Mother Jones.

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Empty seats at last night's Trump rally

Daily Kos

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Friday, August 16, 2019

democraticunderground

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Remember these names: Stevon Cook, Rachel Norton, Jenny Lam, Faauuga Moliga

Photo: Eric Risberg

Stevon Cook, Rachel Norton, Jenny Lam, and Faauuga Moliga are the school board members who voted to cover up the murals at George Washington High School. They are intellectually unfit to serve the public on that board or any other elective office.

Remember the names so you can vote against them if/when they ever run for office in San Francisco again. This kind of stupidity must be discouraged by city voters.

Only Jenny Lam, appointed to the school board by Mayor Breed, will be on the city's ballot this November.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Where the fault lies




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Monday, August 12, 2019

Surprise: SMART train going broke!

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Comment by Seamus O'Ramus

In the Marin Independent Journal:

While Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials praised the progress made after two years of passenger rail service in the two counties, new financial projections show an uncertain future for the transit service.

If the agency does not make any changes to its operations in the coming years, it faces completely depleting its operating fund balance and reserves by 2024, PFM financial adviser Sarah Hollenbeck told the SMART board of directors Wednesday. Another $9 million will be needed to bring the financial picture into balance, Hollenbeck said.

“I think there is no question that we’re getting the clear sense that, even to continue operations, we have to think strongly about how to restructure and looking toward a (tax) renewal,” Damon Connolly, a board member and Marin County supervisor, said at the meeting...(SMART could go broke by 2024, analyst tells board)

Rob's comment:
Be sure to read the more than 100 comments to this story, particularly those by Richard Hall:

"Not only did they not have the money to build the promised line and bike path, they overcommitted on the backloaded bond and don't even have the money to run the shortened line for the duration of the current tax which runs until 2029; they run out of money to operate the train in 2024."

The SMART train is a perfect example, though smaller than the projects studied in this book, of how developers and project supporters operate against the public interest, Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition:

"Martin Wachs interviewed public officials, consultants and planners who had been involved in transit planning cases in the US. He found a pattern of highly misleading forecasts of costs and patronage could not be explained by technical issues and were best explained by lying. 

In case after case, planners, engineers and economists told Wachs that they had to 'cook' forecasts in order to produce numbers that would satisfy superiors and get projects started, whether or not the numbers could be justified on technical grounds." (pages 46-47)

Once a project is started and criticism grows, project supporters argue that good money most be thrown after bad so the original investment isn't wasted!

Or as Robert Moses put it: ''Once you sink that first stake, they'll never make you pull it up.''


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Saturday, August 10, 2019

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Biden, Democrats, and the filibuster

Photo: Tom Williams


...The prospective concern with Biden is not that he would somehow revive the old Dixiecrat coalition, but that he is nostalgically trapped in the bygone world of his youth, unable to grasp the tectonic changes that have reshaped American politics. ..

The Senate is undemocratic by design, giving disproportionate representation to residents of low-population states (which tilt rural and white.) It compounds this quality with a supermajority requirement, the filibuster, which senators often justify as permitting “unlimited debate,” but which does not require any speechifying and is typically used to prevent debates from taking place. 

For decades, the filibuster was primarily used to block even modest civil-rights measures, like anti-lynching measures. After decade upon decade of the Senate serving as a graveyard for civil-rights legislation, the movement finally broke through in the 1950s and 1960s...

But even senators who joined after the decline absorbed its institutional memory and sense of its better past self. “We should not be doing anything to mess with the strength of the filibuster,” New Jersey senator Cory Booker said earlier this year. “It’s one of the distinguishing factors of this body.” Even the famously irascible Bernie Sanders insisted that he was “not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster,” which he defends as a tool “to protect minority rights"...(emphasis added)

Yet none of the Democratic senators running for president can match Biden’s adoration. The Senate’s traditions form his model for how politics ought to be conducted. “The system’s worked pretty damn well,” Biden recently told a reporter. “It’s called the Constitution. It says you have to get a consensus to get anything done.” 

In his presidential announcement speech, Biden frontally challenged the notion that the system had changed and made large-scale bipartisanship obsolete...

Voters lap up this kind of happy talk, so Biden would have reason to say this kind of thing even if he knew better. But if he were saying this out of political calculation, it would be odd that he would express the idea in such an uncalculating way — Democrats running for president in the 21st century usually try not to go out of the way to associate themselves with segregationists.

In any case, Biden has been delivering his senatorial restoration riff for so long, and so insistently, that there’s little reason to doubt his sincerity. 

Biden’s 2007 memoir laments “our bitter and partisan party divisions,” but insists, “from inside the arena none of it feels irreversible or fatal.”

The dozen years since, under three presidents, ought to have confirmed that the partisan trend was indeed irreversible.

See also Harry Reid: The Filibuster Is Suffocating the Will of the American People.

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Lessons on the mural

Letter to the editor in the August 7 SF Chronicle:


Regarding “Voters want to keep mural, poll says” (Aug. 7) and “Black leaders back Washington mural” (Aug. 7): At a time when many students and faculty weren’t even aware of Diego Rivera’s Mural of Pan-American Unity at City College, we used a grant for instructional improvement to create lessons on it across the curriculum — English, history, art, graphic design, women’s studies, transitional studies, Latin American history, etc.

According to Phil Matier’s report, a poll shows that voters of color oppose the school board’s decision to paint over Victor Arnautoff’s mural at Washington High School 72% to 12%, and as Michael Cabanatuan reported “Black leaders back Washington mural,” so why doesn’t the San Francisco Board of Education focus on promoting a program that would increase the awareness of all aspects of the mural instead of painting over it?

Students could be given agency to take a close look at it instead of away from it and create artwork and written work expressing their thoughts and feelings. I was shocked at the viewing that they had only provisional signage. They could use a QR code to keep commentary current and inclusive. The Board of Education needs to add to, not subtract from, student learning.

Tina Martin
San Francisco

Rob's comment:
From Matier's column:

School board President Stevon Cook said he wasn’t surprised by the poll results. “I think the public is reacting to the price, but they haven’t really heard why we made the decision,” Cook said. “Most of the ‘click bait’ has been triggered by the words ‘whitewashing over,’ ‘destroying’ and ‘spending over a half a million dollars.’

“What has been lost, is that we made this unanimous vote in service of our students, especially those from communities’ negativity portrayed in the mural, to have a safe learning environment,” Cook said.

No, it's not really about the inflated cost of painting over the mural. It's about Cook's idea of what his job is. He seems to think his primary function is as a baby sitter who must prevent his charges from being upset by what they see and learn. 

But a good "learning environment" should be intellectually and emotionally risky, especially when learning about the shocking history of their country. 

How can any generation make the necessary changes to society if they're ignorant about its history?

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Deactivate the source

 
Photo: Jim Wilson

Letter to the editor in the NY Times:

I applaud President Trump’s suggestion that we need to start policing the proliferation of hate on social media. I suggest that we start by deactivating the source of so much of the discord and vitriol plaguing our political discourse: his Twitter account.

Michael Scott
San Francisco

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Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Photo-ops and wishful thinking

Photo: Amy Osborne

Reading the story in the Chronicle about the new Muni platform near the under-construction Warriors' stadium, you have to wade through a lot of happy-talk to get a reality-check in the last paragraph:

Drivers may experience difficulty. The center garage holds only about 900 parking spaces, in addition to about 2,000 in the vicinity, all priced at $7 an hour during special events. The city will bar most private cars — including ride-hail vehicles — from several blocks surrounding Chase Center.

As the story reminds us, the Chase Center stadium will have only 900 parking spaces for a stadium with 18,000 seating capacity.

Speaking of transportation folly, there was this interesting paragraph in a Chronicle story on the Adachi search warrant fiasco:

What’s more, The Chronicle learned, there was more to the chief’s decision to stop backing the raid. Scott changed course after City Attorney Dennis Herrera told the chief he could not defend the raid, according to several sources with knowledge of the discussion.

This is a mere footnote to a previous City Hall fiasco on how it pushed the Bicycle Plan illegally through the process before we got an injunction and a court order to force the city to do the legally required environmental review of the ambitious project.

Evidently Herrera didn't take that hard line in the run-up to the Bicycle Plan fiasco, which would have saved city taxpayers a lot of money. Instead he gave City Hall a feeble warning and then had his staff vigorously defend the indefensible in court.

Why the different approach? Because Herrera was thinking about running for mayor and didn't want to antagonize the Bicycle Coalition and city cyclists, an important part of the Democratic Party's base here in Progressive Land.


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Thanks to Daily Kos.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2019

How are guns used in the US? To kill women

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The Trace

Misha Valencia in the NY Times:

Every 16 hours, a woman in the United States is fatally shot by a current or former partner. Intimate partner homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women in the country, with nearly half of all murdered women killed by a partner...

Sarah Mervosh in the NY Times:

A new study has found that a higher rate of firearm ownership is associated with a higher rate of domestic violence homicide in the United States, but that the same does not hold true for other kinds of gun homicide.

That means that women, who make up most victims of domestic homicide, are among those most at risk, said Aaron Kivisto, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis and the lead author on the study.

“It is women, in particular, who are bearing the burden of this increased gun ownership,” he said...

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democratic underground

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Republican humor

Thanks to Daily Kos.


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Monday, August 05, 2019

Russia and Moscow Mitch

Rob Rogers

With help from Moscow Mitch:



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Sunday, August 04, 2019



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Saturday, August 03, 2019

Trump stirs up the crackpots

WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: David Reinert holds up a large "Q" sign while waiting in line to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. "Q" represents QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that has been seen at recent rallies. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images)
From Daily Kos:

An internal bulletin circulated in May by the FBI’s Phoenix field office lists “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as a growing threat. And it specifically calls out QAnon—the bastard lovechild of Pizzagate and Trump fetishists—as one of those groups that deserves observation. 

But on the same day this information became public, Donald Trump had QAnon followers on stage to kick off his rally in Ohio.

As Yahoo News reports, the FBI assessment believes that QAnon and similar conspiracy theories “very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.” 

And the bulletin warns that such incidents may increase as we head into the election cycle. Backing up that analysis is information on a series of recent arrests—including arrests that haven’t been publicized—related to beliefs in conspiracy theories. 

In recent testimony, FBI director Christopher Wray made it clear to legislators that “a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” 

But the QAnon conspirators don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of what the FBI is treating as race-related violence, even though some of its promoters have also been tied to explicitly white-supremacist conspiracies.

The FBI bulletin also mentions other conspiracies promulgated by Trump favorite Alex Jones and InfoWars. That includes theories that center around the idea of the “deep state” that have been openly pushed by Trump and other Republicans explicitly trying to undermine the FBI and other agencies. 

It also includes conspiracies claiming that mass shootings are “a pretext for the government to seize or outlaw firearms.”

But as Just Security notes, even as the FBI is noting the danger of these conspiracies, Trump is actively encouraging them. Because they create the kind of divisions and mistrust that he is depending on for 2020...

See also Trump's Racism May Lead to Violence.

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Friday, August 02, 2019

Twitterizing the Democratic Party

Twitter icon

No matter how carefully you curate your Twitter feed, and no matter how much you try to take Twitter with a grain of salt, it will inevitably overexpose you to a very specific subset of the progressive movement. 

This is not just the activist subset. It’s a group that’s way leftier, way louder, way less tolerant, way woker, way younger, and way whiter than the Democratic Party as a whole. 

Even if you think you’re sophisticated enough to understand this and account for it, spending time on Twitter almost certainly skews your view of the progressive movement.

This is what accounts for some of what [John]Judis is talking about. Many of the Democratic candidates seem like they’re in thrall to the lefty twitterverse, deathly afraid of doing anything that might bring down a viral storm on their heads. And it’s hard to blame them, since campaign reporters also love Twitter, and will turn these viral shitstorms into page A1 stories in the New York Times.

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Thursday, August 01, 2019

Destroying the project to save it

Image result for california high-speed rail cartoons
Lisa Benson

Writing for the LA Times, Ralph Vartabedian has been excellent on the high-speed rail fiasco, which is why True Believers like Roger Rudick on Streetsblog hate his reporting. 

Rudick won't be happy with Vartabedian's latest bad news about the dumb project:

Key California lawmakers have devised a plan to shift billions of dollars from the Central Valley bullet train to rail projects in Southern California and the Bay Area, a strategy that could crush the dreams of high-speed rail purists...

The whole story is worth reading, but I've selected a few quotations, like this one on some historical perspective:

Europe and Asia developed high-speed rail that improved on successful slower systems that grew out of the devastation of World War II, while the U.S. invested more in highway systems. But the California bullet train project bypassed the step of creating a successful statewide rail transportation system before attempting to build a luxury edition.

Yes, the California project has to be a "luxury" train based on the ever-growing costs to build it and the huge operating expenses in the unlikely event it's ever actually built, since the 2008 ballot measure promised state voters that the project would get no taxpayer subsidy after it's built, that it would be paid for by its users.

Instead, whatever existing money the project still has will now be divvied up here and there for other projects. 

We're now in we-have-to-destroy-the-village-to-save-it territory:

“It is not the end of high-speed rail, but a way to save it,” [Assembly Speaker Anthony]Rendon said, citing a growing lack of confidence with the current approach...“It is the end of high-speed rail as we know it, but the beginning of a much better program,” said Art Bauer, a former Senate transportation staffer who was a architect of the high-speed rail effort a decade ago. “It is the start of a new chapter of a more realistic and viable service.”

Vartabedian reminds us how impossible the original notion of running the rail line to San Francisco from the Peninsula always was:

[Governor]Newsom’s plan backed off from connecting the Central Valley to Silicon Valley with electric train service through Gilroy, which would have required a 13.5-mile tunnel under the Pachecho Pass in the Diablo Range.

Reality check: Since the two-mile Central Subway in San Francisco will end up costing $2 billion, Vartabedian discusses with experts the money math on that tunnel, not to mention the billions the project will need to tunnel more than 45 miles under the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains to get to Los Angeles!

The San Francisco connection:

The [high-speed]rail authority pledged more than $700 million to electrify Caltrain’s 50 miles of service from San Jose to San Francisco. And in a deal engineered by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the Obama administration diverted $400 million of a $2.5-billion grant for the high-speed rail to help build a downtown San Francisco railroad station.

Electrifying Caltrain is a good idea, but it seems unlikely that the Transbay Terminal will ever really be a "railroad station." Instead it will always be a $6 billion bus station.

Debra Saunders and Dan Walters have rightly called the project The Train to Nowhere.

But an important part of the Democratic Party's base supports the project: Construction unions, since even dumb projects create jobs for the membership.

Sooner or later Democratic candidates for president will be asked during a debate about where they stand on this fiasco.

SF Chronicle

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Driftglass


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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Racism and the history of the Republican Party

From the Atlantic:

The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then–California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. 

“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. 

Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon gave a huge laugh...

See also Ronald Reagan Paved Way For Donald Trump’s Racism.

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I get that the cable nets have been dealt a bad hand with these huge debate stages full of people no one has ever heard of. 

But CNN took a bad hand and turned it into a farce with its constant and aggressive interruptions to keep everyone down to 15 seconds for anything other than an initial question. 15 seconds! Hell, the moderators couldn’t even ask their questions in 15 seconds. The whole thing felt more like a Roman spectacle than a debate among 21st century adults.

High point: Marianne Williamson talking about the “dark psychic force” of Donald Trump’s presidency. She almost won my vote with that.

Best prepared: Elizabeth Warren, who actually knew what the rules were and was prepared to provide very short, compact answers...

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