Monday, October 14, 2019

Jerry Brown: Not a good governor

David Dayen in The American Prospect:

Earlier this fall, I joked that our staff writer Alex Sammon had become a California legislative correspondent, after reporting on bills to make Uber and Lyft drivers and other independent contractors into employees, and to prevent dialysis companies from steering patients into coverage that benefits their bottom line. 

Indeed, the Prospect has covered a flurry of progressive policy advances this year in the Golden State, like bills to unionize child care workers, cap rent increases, enable public banking, and allow college athletes to earn money on their name, image, and likeness. This is a very partial list.

Just in the past day, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed laws setting a cap on payday lending interest rates and ending forced arbitration in employment contracts. It’s the most productive session in Sacramento in recent memory. 

And what you have to conclude from it is that Jerry Brown was a bad governor.

Most of these bills have been popular and supported by a majority of California voters and lawmakers for years. Newsom isn’t putting much on the line to sign them. 

Democrats held a two-thirds majority in the legislature, or close to it, for most of Brown’s tenure. The votes were there, but Brown vetoed several bills that Newsom ended up signing this year, including the child care worker bill. Others just weren’t worth the trouble of passing until Brown left office.

Older media figures were enthralled with Brown’s throwback rhetoric, his ability to conjure up money quotes, and his willingness to punch the left. Hagiographers wrongly position Brown as a savior of a state in fiscal trouble, when it was progressive ballot measures (which Brown initially resisted) that fixed the situation...

Rob's comment:
Dayen doesn't mention Brown's support for the dumb high-speed rail project that he wrote about earlier this year. Dayen didn't mention it because he supports the project based on the same stupid arguments we've been hearing for more than ten years!

For some excellent analysis of the project go here.

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Biking with bears

Mountain biking along the Whitefish Trails in Montana.
Photo: Lido Vizzutti

CredLido Vizzutti for The New York Times
From the NY Times:

The death of a ranger, Brad Treat, in 2016 was a wake-up call for grizzly bear biologists.

Mr. Treat, an avid mountain biker, was zipping along at about 25 miles an hour through dense forest near Glacier National Park in the middle of a summer afternoon when he collided with a large male grizzly bear.

Apparently startled, the bear reacted defensively and quickly killed him. A witness couldn’t see what happened but could hear it. “I heard a thud and an ‘argh,’” the unnamed witness told investigators. Then the bear made a noise “like it was hurt.” The bear disappeared before emergency responders arrived.

Dr. Christopher Servheen, who led the committee that investigated Mr. Treat’s death, said the accident prompted him to speak out publicly against recreational sports in the areas where grizzlies live...

See also Keep bikes off our wilderness trails and  Severe street and mountain bicycling injuries in adults.

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Rob Rogers

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Just marry one

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Trump's "monstrous betrayal" of the Kurds

A Monstrous Betrayal
by Bernard-Henri Levy

...I rushed to see French journalist and feminist activist Caroline Fourest’s Sisters in Arms.

And I have to say that not in a very long time have I been so moved by a film.

It is the story of a batallion thrown into war against the Islamic State in a land that is never named but is obviously a composite of Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan.

The women are Kurds, Yazidis, French, Italian, American.

In fact, they’re an international brigade of volunteers engaged as in Spain in 1936, in a battle against fascism, which today wears the mask of Islamic extremism. 

On one day, they liberate a village. On another, they go to the rescue of a column of refugees on the other side of the front line.

On a third, a sniper takes out a jihadist pausing at a checkpoint with his cargo of women destined to be sold like cattle in the slave market of Mosul. 

On yet another, we watch a battle in pickup trucks worthy of a Howard Hawks western, in which the fighters face an ISIS unit that is supported by one of those armored suicide trucks that were used to terrorize the Peshmerga, rolling fortresses packed with explosives and careening forward at full speed. 

The next day we come into an apparently deserted village in which every house is a booby trap, where each stone, each toy, each abandoned Koran may be rigged to explode. Suddenly the eerily quiet village erupts into a terrifying battle, hand to hand, street by street, a storm of blood and steel that recalls the most powerful scenes of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.

I happen to know some of the places where the action is set.

In Iraq I filmed warriors similar to those in Fourest’s film, women who scared the hell out of the jihadists, who were better terrorists than they were fighters: brave when it was time to behead a hostage but much less bold when faced with women of mettle.

And in Mosul I also filmed the neighborhood of Al-Zohur—or was it Gogjali, or Qadisiya—where Fourest’s main character, who saw her father killed before her eyes and the rest of the family taken into captivity, is detained, repeatedly raped, and tortured before finally managing to escape. 

I was amazed by the authenticity of those scenes. I felt as if I was back on that hill above Bashiqa, where a young fighter who might have been a sister of Caroline Fourest’s heroines took a bullet to the heart as we filmed the battle.

I trembled for the two hours of the screening as if I were there with those soldiers, so beautiful, so brave, and at times so mordantly funny, soldiers who know that the morons opposing them believe that being killed by a woman blocks their way to paradise and its 72 virgins—but who also know (and here the film reaches a nearly unbearable level of tension) that they must keep one last cartridge in the breech or one last grenade on their belt because even such an enemy as this may sometimes gain the upper hand. 

Formally, the film is quite beautiful. It is admirably framed, lit, set, and acted. Meeting all of the requirements of the genre, it is a true war film of the sort that few women have made. A feminist war film.

And two recent events, alas, add to its timeliness and importance. 

One is the fact that the ISIS hydra is again raising its head, not only over the lands that made up its former caliphate, but elsewhere as well, including in France, where its fanatics managed to strike deep within the police headquarters in Paris this past week, killing four courageous officers.

The other event, announced at the very moment I was drafting this review, is the latest infuriating betrayal by Trump of northern Syria—the monstrously cynical and spineless “enjoy!” that the United States has tossed out to the henchmen of Erdogan’s Turkish state, inviting them to help themselves to what’s left of Syrian Kurdistan. In short, an Ottoman Anschluss blessed by the very Westerners, or in any case Americans, whose most dependable allies in the war against the barbarity of the Islamic State were and remain the Kurds. 

This is Trump’s greatest failure—and that’s saying something. This is what will bring him, if not impeachment, then the certain scorn of history. The world has taken note of this grave moral mistake, as have Americans from both sides of the political divide.

May the rest of the world take notice of Trump’s forfeiture before it’s too late. May Europe, and France in particular, raise before the international community the crime unfolding against our allies.

We owe the Kurds for the blood they shed in Kobane, Raqqa, Qaraqosh, and Kirkuk. We are the guardians of these sisters and brothers in arms who, at the darkest hour, stood up in our stead and for our security. 

In Paris, New York, and across the West, this is yet another reason to recommit ourselves to a noble story of honor and valor that is anything but fiction.

See also Rojava Defends Feminist Revolution Against Turkish Invaders.

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City Hall's war on cars continues

Mary Miles (SB #230395)
Attorney at Law
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 863-2310
for Coalition for Adequate Review

Mohammed Nuru, Director
San Francisco Department of Public Works
Infrastructure Design and Construction
1680 Mission Street, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103


This is public comment on the “Director’s Order” scheduled for hearing on October 11, 2019, the above-numbered Agenda Item proposing to certify the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) and other actions on the “Better Market Street Project" (“Project”). Please distribute this Comment to all staff conducting the hearing and place copies in all applicable files on the Project.

1. The Project is preempted under both the California and the U.SConstitutions. The City may not close public streets or prohibit travel on public streets to travelers, including those using cars. (Rumford v. City of Berkeley (1982) 31 Cal. 3d 545.)

2. The Project also conflicts violates CEQA, since it will have significant impacts on transportation on major arterials and neighborhood streets causing increased congestion as noted in numerous public comments (incorporated hereto by reference). The additional traffic congestion will also cause air quality impacts that are neither adequately analyzed nor mitigated.

Among others the Project will also have impacts on historic resources throughout the area by altering existing historic infrastructure street lamps, other historic resources, and on natural resources by removing all of the existing London plane trees, affecting the character, habitat and environment of Market Street.

The Findings contained in the “Director’s Order” have not been circulated for public review, and falsely claim the Project’s significant impacts that are identified in the EIR cannot be mitigated. The “Order” states that the Project has already been or will be approved, with or without a public hearing.

3. City proposes significant federal funding requiring environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), which has not been done. City may not proceed with this Project or any part of it until it has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA.

4. The “Director’s Order” states that the Project will cost $610 million, and yet lists available (but apparently not approved) funding of $143 million. Where does the City propose to get the other hundreds of millions for this bicycle Project?

5. The Project is not a “pilot” Project and not exempt under CEQA Guidelines. City may not piecemeal environmental review by deferring analysis and mitigation of parts of the Project’s impacts or declaring parts of the Project “exempt” while claiming it has conducted environmental review of other parts of the Project.

Therefore, this Project may not be lawfully approved, and the proposed action must be rejected.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

President Bone Spurs betrays/denigrates the Kurds

Pic of the Moment
democratic underground

From the NY Times:

...Critics of Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday argued that World War II combatant status was a bizarre subject to invoke, especially since the Kurds were — and are — stateless and not a monolith. And in any case, the United States today is friendly with Germany, Japan and Italy, the main Axis powers during World War II.

Others questioned whether any member of the Trump family had fought for the United States during World War II and noted that during the Vietnam War, the president received five draft deferments.

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City Hall is enabling the squalor on our streets

Eric Risberg AP

From San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless, by Heather MacDonald:

...For the last three decades, San Francisco has conducted a real-life experiment in what happens when a society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior. The city has done so in the name of compassion toward the homeless. The results have been the opposite: street squalor and misery have increased, even as government expenditures have ballooned. Yet the principles that have guided the city’s homelessness policy remain inviolate: homelessness is a housing problem; it is involuntary; and its persistence is the result of inadequate public spending. These propositions are readily disproved by talking to people living on the streets.

...An inadequate supply of affordable housing is not the first thing that comes to mind when conversing with San Francisco’s street denizens. Their behavioral problems—above all, addiction and mental illness—are too obvious. Forty-two percent of respondents in the city’s 2019 street poll of the homeless reported chronic drug or alcohol use; the actual percentage is likely higher. 

The city relentlessly sends the message that drug use is not only acceptable but fully expected. Users dig for veins in plain view on the sidewalk; health authorities distribute more than 4.5 million syringes a year, along with Vitamin C to dissolve heroin and crack, alcohol swabs, and instructions on how to best tie one’s arm for a “hit.” Needle disposal boxes have been erected outside the city’s public toilets, signaling to children that drug use is a normal part of adult life. Only 60 percent of the city’s free needles get returned; many of the rest litter the sidewalks and streets or are flushed down toilets.

Drug sellers are as shameless as drug users. Hondurans have dominated the drug trade in the Tenderloin and around Civic Center Plaza and Union Square since the 1990s. They congregate up to a dozen a corner, openly counting and recounting large wads of cash, completing transactions with no attempt at concealment. 

Most of the dealers are illegal aliens. One might think that city leaders would be only too happy to hand them off to federal immigration authorities, but the political imperative to safeguard illegal aliens against deportation takes precedence over public order. Local law enforcement greets any announced federal crackdown on criminal aliens with alarm.

...The brazenness of the narcotics scene has worsened since the passage of Proposition 47, another milestone in the ongoing effort to decriminalize attacks on civilized order. The 2014 state ballot initiative downgraded a host of drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. (See The Decriminalization Delusion, Autumn 2015.) 

Local prosecutors and judges, already disinclined to penalize the drug trade so as to avoid contributing to “mass incarceration,” are even less willing to initiate a case or see it through when it is presented as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. San Francisco officers complain that drug dealers are getting neither jail time nor probation. 

Drug courts have closed in some California cities, reports the Washington Post, because police have lost the threat of prison time to induce addicted sellers like the Seattle man into treatment. The number of clients in San Francisco drug court dropped from 296 in 2014 to 185 in 2018, a decline of over 37 percent.

Mental illness is the other obvious condition afflicting the homeless that makes the question of affordable housing secondary. Thirty-nine percent of the homeless polled in the 2019 street survey said that they suffered from psychiatric conditions; the actual percentage is probably higher...

...When the mentally ill abuse drugs, their risk of violence increases. But assault seems to have been normalized in San Francisco, at least when committed by the homeless. Wallace Lee is part of a neighborhood coalition trying to stop the placement of a shelter on the Embarcadero, the city’s tourist-friendly waterfront. 

“Anyone who has lived in San Francisco for five years has either been attacked by a homeless person or has a friend who has been attacked,” he says. Members of his protest group have stopped mentioning such assaults in public hearings, however, since doing so brings on accusations that they are “criminalizing homelessness.”

In October 2015, three gutter punks—youth who roam up and down the West Coast colonizing the sidewalks and panhandling—robbed and shot to death a 23-year-old Canadian woman in Golden Gate Park and killed a 67-year-old man a few days later after stealing his car. They were high on meth. 

The incident appears to have produced no perturbations in San Francisco’s thinking or policy. In August 2019, a 25-year-old homeless addict viciously attacked a woman entering her Embarcadero apartment, after demanding that she let him inside so that he could kill the “robot”—a female concierge—at the reception desk. 

The presiding judge initially refused repeated requests to hold the suspect in pretrial detention. The San Francisco supervisors may be unwilling to back policies that would help prevent such violence, but they have found time to ban city agencies from stigmatizing the perpetrators of such violence by using words like “felon” or “offender.” Under language guidelines passed in August 2019, criminals and ex-cons will henceforth be known as “justice-involved” persons or “returning residents.”

...The combination of maximal tolerance for antisocial behavior, on the one hand, and free services and food, on the other, acts as a magnet. “San Francisco is the place to go if you live on the streets,” observes Jeff, the 50-year-old wino and drug addict. “There are more resources—showers, yeah, and housing.” A 31-year-old named Rose arrived in San Francisco from Martinez, northeast of the city, four years ago, trailing a long criminal record. She came for the benefits, including Vivitrol to dull the effect of opiates, she says woozily, standing outside a huge green tent and pink bike at Golden Gate and Hyde, surrounded by the Hondurans.

Suggesting that some of the homeless are making a choice is heresy in official circles. Longtime San Francisco pol Bevan Dufty, formerly director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Opportunities, Partnerships and Engagement, now president of the BART board of directors, says that it is “B.S.” to call people service-resistant. “The lies that people tell are disgusting—‘people don’t want services,’ ‘they come here to be homeless.’ These lies are to make you blame the victim.”

The advocates’ fallback position to their “service resistance is a lie” conceit is that services have to be “relevant to where people are,” which means that services should come with no rules or restrictions. It is not for the people destroying the social compact, however, to decide whether they will deign to accept the help that taxpayers are offering, when refusing that help destroys everyone else’s quality of life. Up and down the West Coast, Third World diseases associated with lack of sanitation—including typhoid, typhus, and hepatitis A—are breaking out in and around encampments. 

In 2018, San Francisco officials received more than 80 calls a day reporting human feces on sidewalks and thoroughfares. The city’s encampments generate up to six tons of trash daily, including needles still loaded with heroin and blood. The stench of the streets lingers in the nostrils for hours.

Elevating the alleged rights of the homeless over those of the working public has cost billions in government outlays with nothing to show for it. Mayors have come and gone; agencies have been renamed, task forces convened, ten-year plans rolled out, and section chiefs, liaison officers, and operations-support teams added to existing bureaucracies and seeded into new ones, while the “unsheltered” count continues to rise—up 17 percent from 2017 to 2019 alone, to 8,011. 

San Francisco continues to puzzle over the reason. Is it lack of city-created affordable housing, as the advocates and politicians maintain? No other American city has built as much affordable housing per capita, according to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. From 2004 to 2014, the city spent $2 billion on nearly 3,000 new units of permanent supportive housing, which comes with drug counseling and social workers. More have been constructed since then, and thousands more are in the works, along with more shelter beds.

Is San Francisco not spending enough generally, as the advocates and politicians maintain? Its main homelessness agency—currently dubbed the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and dedicated to an allegedly novel mission: “helping homeless residents permanently exit the streets”—commands a $285 million budget. 

Add health services and sanitation, and you get a $380 million annual tab for homelessness, according to the city’s budget analyst. That figure is wildly under the mark, leaving out criminal-justice costs, welfare payments, and repairing infrastructure deterioration, among other expenditures. But even assuming the conservative $380 million, that works out to $47,500 a year per homeless person.

...In 2016, voters defied the Coalition on Homelessness again and approved Proposition Q, which allowed sanitation workers to clear encampments after a 24-hour notice and an offer of shelter. It, too, went largely unused until supervisor Mark Farrell, installed as an interim mayor in January 2018, vowed to start applying it. “You can offer services, you can offer shelter and housing to people and at a certain point, as a city we need to draw the line and say ‘this is a service-resistant population, we need to take down those tent encampments because they are unhealthy for the entire city of San Francisco,’” he said in 2018. Farrell was succeeded as mayor by London Breed in July 2018, however, and the Prop. Q power returned to limbo status.

...San Francisco is not going to solve its street squalor unless it commits to a foundational principle: street living is not allowed, period. Set up camp, conduct your bodily functions in public, litter, loiter, use and sell drugs—all these illegal behaviors will result in a law-enforcement response, if only just moving someone along. Establishing that principle focuses the mind, bringing urgency to the task of creating places where people can get the help they need. 

The chimerical goal of building more affordable housing in the city for the “unsheltered” population would have to be discarded; its primary usefulness was to guarantee that the homeless remain on the streets, serving as a fund-raising bonanza for the activists and as a tool of the political Left. A unit of affordable housing in San Francisco costs between $600,000 and $800,000, depending on the materials used; building housing for all 8,000 homeless individuals would cost up to $6.4 billion, a third of the city’s budget. 

Permanent supportive housing for the entire homeless population would cost another $200 million annually. Yet according to a 2018 study by the National Academy of Sciences, such service-rich housing decreases the time that recipients spend homeless by only one to two months a year.

No one has an entitlement to live in the most expensive real-estate market in the country, certainly not on the public dime. It is not even clear why any given city is morally obligated to provide housing to someone who starts living on its streets, even if that city’s culture of permissiveness led to the vagrant’s decision to camp there....

...Residential neighborhoods should not have to accept the risk of shelters. People who have worked their way up the housing ladder have a right to expect stable neighbors. In San Francisco, however, openly opposing such facilities unleashes a torrent of abuse from the advocates and their political allies. 

At a hearing in April 2019, a member of the residents’ group opposing a new Navigation Center on the Embarcadero said that he decided to speak at the hearing only after being called “a racist, a bigot, [and] class elitist” for not wanting to give up his backyard to the drug trade and untreated mental illness. The advocates’ insistence on larding homeless housing through every part of a city, no matter the real-estate costs, is their revenge on the bourgeois values that they despise.

The homelessness industry loudly protests any abandonment of the local housing ideal. “San Francisco must invest fully in housing that keeps impoverished families in our city,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said in 2018, objecting to a program that subsidizes apartments for single mothers outside the city. Impoverished families are the “city’s lifeblood,” according to Friedenbach. That is a disputable proposition. 

The advocates’ fallback position is that moving people outside the place where they currently claim homelessness severs the ties that can get them back on their feet. There is no evidence supporting this proposition. (San Francisco also provides bus tickets to about 800 individuals a year to rejoin family or friends elsewhere, an initiative that should be expanded as much as possible.)

Providing the mentally ill with the “liberty” to decompose on the streets is cruelty, not compassion. Several California state legislators have introduced legislation to make involuntary treatment and commitment easier. Yet the draft law is estimated to cover a mere eight individuals in San Francisco, by requiring, over the previous year, eight previous emergency visits to a hospital, as well as the patient’s refusal of voluntary outpatient services.

...The legal framework for responding to crime and vagrancy must also change. Proposition 47 should be amended or repealed to restore to police the ability to make arrests for most property crimes and for what used to be drug felonies. Reinstitutionalizing the severely mentally ill would free up jail space for ordinary criminals; at present, many of the untreated mentally ill end up in county jails after committing crimes, where they fail to receive needed long-term assistance. 

The city’s prosecutors and judges also must start taking low-level offenses seriously. Since 2016, judges in the San Francisco Superior Court have stopped issuing warrants when someone cited for a public-disorder misdemeanor skips a court date. Such enforcement, according to court personnel, criminalizes poverty. But the rule of law does not have an income threshold; its application should be universal. The enforcement or nonenforcement of norms sends important signals to individuals about what society expects of them.

The litigation onslaught from the homeless-industrial complex in every city with a significant street-anarchy problem is endless. But a 2018 ruling from the Ninth Circuit—comprising the Western states—was particularly crippling to order maintenance. The Ninth Circuit panel ruled that jurisdictions could not enforce anti-camping ordinances at night if they did not provide enough shelter beds for their entire street population. The panel drew on a pair of Supreme Court cases from the 1960s that held that government could not criminalize a status—such as the status of being a drug addict—without running afoul of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 

Criminal statutes must instead target voluntary acts, such as using or selling narcotics, the Supreme Court ruled in those 1960s cases. The 2018 Ninth Circuit decision, Boise v. Martin, extended this reasoning to protect public encampments. (An earlier Ninth Circuit case, Jones v. Los Angeles, had reached the same result, but that decision lost its precedential value when the parties settled.) 

Being homeless was a status or involuntary condition over which a person has no control, the Boise v. Martin panel held. If the state cannot criminalize homelessness (because homelessness is an involuntary condition), the state also cannot criminalize the inevitable consequences of that condition. Sleeping in public is one of those inevitable (and uncriminalizable) consequences, since sleep is a biological necessity. Only if a municipality has available shelter capacity for everyone on the street may that municipality cite someone for occupying a public sidewalk or thoroughfare in the evening. The Boise ruling triggered an increase in encampments across the Ninth Circuit, as officers backed off of enforcement.

Boise v. Martin was a patent case of judicial activism in the pursuit of a favored policy agenda. The decision discounted facts that stood in the way of its desired conclusion. But the ruling’s most serious problem was the declaration that homelessness is an involuntary condition that the sufferer has no capacity to control or change. Numerous personal decisions go into being homeless, such as not moving to a cheaper housing market, refusing offered services, or breaking ties with friends or family members who might be able to provide accommodation. 

The concept of agency is already under assault in the legal academy; should more courts pick up on this trend, much of the criminal law would have to be discarded. A dissenting Ninth Circuit judge in a subsequent appeal of the case noted that if cities cannot ban sleeping in public, because sleeping is an inevitable concomitant of being human, they also cannot ban defecating in public. The majority chose not to respond to this logical inference.

In July 2019, Theodore Olson, a Washington lawyer best known for his work on the 2000 electoral case of Bush v. Gore, announced that his firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, was seeking Supreme Court review of Boise v. Martin. If the Court grants review, Olson should challenge not just the specific holding banning encampment ordinances but the constitutional jurisprudence underlying the decision as well. The Eighth Amendment speaks only of punishment; it is a mistake to use it as a restriction on the substantive criminal law. Moreover, the conduct versus status distinction that grew out of that mistake is, in many instances, philosophically incoherent.

If San Francisco wanted to give its homeless addicts their best shot at stability, it would go after the open-air drug trade with every possible tool, including immigration law, however unlikely such a change of course is. The San Francisco Police Department should send information regarding drug-trafficking suspects to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, so that ICE can arrest illegal-alien dealers for deportation. Proving illegal status is easier than busting a drug-trafficking operation. 

Though California law bans state law-enforcement officials from honoring ICE requests to deliver illegal-alien convicts to ICE custody, the Los Angeles and Orange County Sheriff Departments have created workarounds that San Francisco should use. If advocates insist that the main driver of homelessness is insufficient housing, they should stop trying to increase the state’s huge illegal-alien population—currently somewhere between 2.2 million and 2.6 million—which competes for housing and drives up costs. 

At a Board of Supervisor hearing in June 2019, single mothers organized by the Coalition on Homelessness demanded in Spanish that they be given federal Section 8 housing vouchers, rather than the shelter apartments they were currently occupying. Some of those single mothers were undoubtedly in the country illegally. Taxpayer subsidies should go to citizens, not individuals who are defying the rule of law.

The stories that the homeless tell about their lives reveal that something far more complex than a housing shortage is at work. The tales veer from one confused and improbable situation to the next, against a backdrop of drug use, petty crime, and chaotic child-rearing. 

Behind this chaos lies the dissolution of those traditional social structures that once gave individuals across the economic spectrum the ability to withstand setbacks and lead sober, self-disciplined lives: marriage, parents who know how to parent, and conventional life scripts that create purpose and meaning. There are few policy levers to change this crisis of meaning in American culture. 

What is certain is that the ongoing crusade to normalize drug use, along with the absence of any public encouragement of temperance, will further handicap this unmoored population.

The viability of cities should not be held hostage to solving social breakdown. Carving out a zone of immunity from the law and bourgeois norms for a perceived victim class destroys the quality of urban existence. As important, that immunity consigns its alleged beneficiaries to lives of self-abasement and marginality. 

Tolerating street vagrancy is a choice that cities make; for the public good, in San Francisco and elsewhere, that choice should be unmade.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Danger personified


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Finally, reality check on homelessness

California Policy Lab

I've been writing about homelessness in San Francisco for 15 years. Then-Supervisor Newsom's Care Not Cash was passed in 2002 by city voters who wanted something done about the city's growing homeless problem. (Oddly, the city's left has a history of getting the issue wrong, characterizing Care Not Cash as an attack on the homeless!) 

That Newsom, unlike city "progressives," was serious about doing something about homelessness led to his election as mayor in 2003.

The city's left operated on the assumption that the homeless were simply poor people who couldn't afford the rent in pricey San Francisco, which was at best a half-truth. For anyone who took a look, many of the homeless clearly had substance abuse and/or emotional issues.

San Francisco is finally assuming that's the reality, that housing is not the only issue that has to be dealt with: Breed pushes expansion of mandated SF mental health treatment.

Another delusion fostered by the left: that the homeless were mostly long-time city residents who are down on their luck: Are the city's homeless really "San Franciscans"? 

Of course that doesn't really matter, since no matter how long the homeless have been here, we have to get them off the street. But it's just another layer of bullshit obscuring the reality, that soon-to-be homeless people keep arriving in the city, which highlights the ultimate reality: homelessness and housing is a national issue that can't be solved by one city. All we can do is mitigate its impact with humane and realistic policies.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Rob Rogers

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Pelosi's moment

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favors and services

What? Oh, no particular reason. I just happen to have this scene on my mind at the moment.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

View image on Twitter
Daily Kos

Rob's comment: Not soon enough.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

‘Lying to the Queen is not a good look’

Cold War Steve's satirical take on the UK prime minister's unlawful suspension of parliament, September 24, 2019. Copyright the artist.
Cold War Steve on the unlawful suspension of parliament 

Time Magazine

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BART: One of few successful rail projects

...The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is one of the few post-war rail systems that an urban area began to build without the promise of federal support. However, recent additions to the system have received support from New Starts.

Initially, BART suffered huge cost overruns and ridership fell well short of projections. Today, BART is considered to be a vital component of Bay Area transportation, mainly because of the large number of people it carries under the Bay between Oakland and San Francisco. 

However, few people look at the cost of BART to Bay Area transit: paying for BART required reducing resources to bus systems such as AC Transit and San Francisco Muni. (emphasis added)

Similar to Atlanta, Bay Area transit ridership peaked in the early 1980s, with 491 million bus and rail riders carried in 1982. At that time, buses were providing about 70 million vehicle-revenue miles of service per year. 

Although the population of the Bay Area (including Concord and Livermore but excluding San Jose) has grown by a third since that time, rail and bus ridership in the year ending June 2019 was less than 430 million, resulting in a 35 percent drop in per capita ridership.

BART is effectively a subsidy to property owners in downtown San Francisco, which has more jobs than any American downtown other than New York, Chicago, and Washington. If it weren’t for BART, many of those jobs would be in Oakland, San Ramon, or other east bay cities and congestion across the Bay Bridge would be about the same as it is today. 

In the meantime, bus ridership might not have declined by 40 percent since 1982, allowing many more low-income people to use transit to get to work...

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Monday, September 23, 2019

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

A political obituary

The text of today's cover of the NY Post:

Bill de Blasio's presidential campaign, May 15, 2019-Sept. 20, 2019, dead of ego-induced psychosis. Neighbors said the body had been in rigor mortis for some time.

It died doing what it liked best---being as far away from New York City as possible.

It was surrounded in the end by friends, MSNBC hosts. It's in a better place now---a Park Slope gym.

Whether it was in the empty churches of South Carolina, the sun-kissed empty deserts of Nevada or begging someone, anyone, to talk to de Blasio at the Iowa State Fair, the campaign always gave 100%---and always polled at 1%. "Can't" was never part of its vocabulary. Neither was "won't," "please stop," or "this is a dumb idea."

The campaign is survived by the hotel industry officials who expect favors from City Hall. And 8 million suffering New Yorkers.

In lieu of flowers, de Blasio asks for donations to his slush fund.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Rob Rogers

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Supervisor Yee and the tunnel fantasy

Scott "Pixie Dust" Wiener

Last week in the SF Examiner:

San Francisco’s sleepy West Side — from the Richmond District to Parkmerced — is often characterized as The City’s suburb, replete with one-story homes, slow-rolling fog, and many, many, many cars. But that may change. Someday, it could be home to The City’s newest underground rail extension. San Francisco is exploring plans to dig a new subway tunnel between West Portal and Parkmerced and also south out to the Ingleside neighborhood, after roughly $960,000 to finish a study of the project was accelerated by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee on Tuesday morning.

And "someday" I could be the  Pope of Rome.

More from the Examiner story:

[Supervisor]Yee told the San Francisco Examiner that Parkmerced and other neighborhoods he represents will soon see thousands of housing units built — at Parkmerced, at San Francisco State University and perhaps by Stonestown Galleria — necessitating more transit for perhaps 20,000 new residents as well as thousands of current ones.

Yee wasn't the supervisor for that district when I wrote about this way back in 2011 about an earlier study of the area: City study: Parkmerced project will degrade city's quality of life

So why don't we just build some tunnels to avoid traffic gridlock on 19th Avenue?

Right, since the Central Subway project---less than two miles long!---has been such a great success so far, as the Examiner reported the other day. And that project could never have been done without federal and state money.

City politicians and journalists seem to think they're visionaries when they talk about tunneling under the city. Scott Wiener leavens his tunnel fantasies with "pixie dust" to indicate that he's counting on money from an unknown source to pay for that foolishness.

More from the Examiner:

“This concept has been growing and evolving over time,” explained Sarah Jones, planning director at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “We haven’t fully made it there yet on what it takes to make this a real project,” she said. This new study then, she said, “is the last piece of that.”

No, "the last piece" will be getting the money to dig the tunnels. Where will it come from? Like the dumb high-speed rail project, advocates for these local visions/hallucinations are apparently counting on the success of the Democratic Party next year. 

Taking control of the White House and Congress will presumably allow huge bundles of money to be parachuted into San Francisco by Nancy Pelosi and whichever Democrat is elected president next year.

That seems unlikely as we evidently are moving into a recession next year regardless of the political outcome of the election.

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