Friday, January 17, 2020

What about the high-speed rail project?

Governor Newsom probably doesn't want to talk about it, but California is still spending billions on the dumb high-speed rail project. It's one of those zombie projects that keeps going regardless of criticism or cost---now double what voters were promised in 2008.

Former project booster Quentin Kopp is now a critic:

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Delivering the charges against Trump to the Senate

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Trump's cover-up

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Jane Natoli and reality

Jane Natoli and David Chiu

An email message from Jane Natoli, who is running for the Democratic County Central Committee:

For the 3rd time in 4 years, I was hit by someone driving while biking yesterday on the streets of San Francisco. I have a broken metacarpal in my left hand and a badly busted bike. This trip to SF General was better than my last, or at least quicker, but it was still all eerily similar to the last time I was hit while biking. 

How many times do we have to repeat this before we have the safe streets we deserve, before we break the thrall of cars? I can tweet and text pithy things this time. What about next time?

...I've been hit 4 times! I fight because I know the trauma of getting hit all too well, both as a person walking and a person biking. Help me fight for change so there is no next time.

Rob's comment:
This is reality sending you a message, Jane. You should contemplate the wisdom of bike messenger/author Robert Hurst:

Is cycling dangerous? Yes. Yes, it is. Deadly, no, but definitely dangerous. This is actually a controversial thing to say. There are those who bristle at any suggestion that cycling is dangerous, because they fear it will scare non-cyclists away from ever ditching their cars and trying a more healthy form of transport. This is a good point, but it doesn’t change the fact that cycling is dangerous. This is not some urban legend that needs to be debunked. It is reality, and we need to embrace it (The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons From the Street).

Important to keep in mind too that most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve other vehicles. 

The city can't realistically make riding a bike safe, though it pretends to do that with its phony Vision Zero campaign and all its "improvements" to city streets. City Hall wants to get more people on bikes mainly because that might help mitigate the city's traffic congestion.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020


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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Going too far

Samuel Beckett Picture
Samuel Beckett

In today's NY Times:

Samuel Beckett, when asked one beautiful spring morning whether such a day did not make him glad to be alive, responded, “I wouldn’t go as far as that.”

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Another Repug Hillary investigation comes up empty

Hillary was grilled for 11 hours before a Senate committee about the bogus Benghazi issue. The Repugs didn't lay a glove on her.

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Thursday, January 09, 2020

PTSD and the bike lobby

In Tuesday's Examiner:

A duo that is notorious in transit and bicycling circles for efforts to block local bike lane projects is back in action. Attorney Mary Miles and car advocate Rob Anderson, who successfully tied up city bike lane plans for years with litigation, have filed an environmental challenge to the Page Street Bikeway Pilot that could potentially delay the project (They’re back: Frequent bike lane foes challenge Page Street project, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez).

More than five years ago I wrote about the remarkable post-traumatic stress people in the city's "bicycle circles" were still suffering years after our successful litigation against City Hall's attempt to rush the Bicycle Plan through the process without any environmental review (See also this).

Why would the courts allow us to "tie up" the Bicycle Plan for years? Because way back in 2006 Judge Busch understood that the city was clearly violating the most important environmental law in California, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

Significantly, the city didn't appeal Busch's decision, since City Hall knew at the time he was right. City Hall simply assumed in the beginning they could get away with doing no environmental review of the 500-page Bicycle Plan that takes away thousands of parking spaces and dozens of traffic lanes to make bike lanes on busy city streets.

This kerfuffle is about an appeal of the city's latest anti-car "improvement" to our streets, the Page Street Bikeways Improvement Pilot, which of course will make it harder for those wicked motorists to access the freeway via Octavia Boulevard (an earlier City Hall traffic planning fiasco). You understand, of course, that whatever the city does to our streets is an "improvement."


SFMTA staff have written in reports that the point of making the project a pilot is to measure those impacts, with planned reviews to see who is impacted, and how.

This is typical of Rodriguez, whose bike-related stories are based on the MTA's line on its projects (see also Another Rodriguez puff-piece on Masonic Avenue). Not surprisingly, he gets a sound bite from the Bicycle Coalition retailing the safety lie to justify the project.

He also talked to our new District 5 Supervisor:

The appeal may serve as an early test for newly sworn-in Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the neighborhood encompassing the soon-to-come Page Street bikeway. “I have been a long-time advocate for bike safety improvements along Page Street,” Preston said in a statement. “As to the vote on the appeal, I look forward to the hearing and learning more.”

In spite of his ideological pretensions, Preston is no rebel. He's never had the spine to even mention during either of his campaigns the Masonic Avenue bike project that runs through the middle of his district. Of course he will support the project after a display of pseudo-objectivity like above. His reference to the bogus safety issue is the tip-off.

When the MTA starts a "pilot" project, it's just preliminary to implementing a project:

Miles and Anderson argued in the appeal...that the pilot’s purpose and duration are not to collect data but to implement a bicycle project “on behalf of” the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which the challengers call “a private lobbying corporation.”

We "call" the SFBC that because that's what it is. Many may think the SFBC is a city agency, since its agenda is methodically implemented by the city, but it is in fact a "private" organization that lobbies for cyclists, a special interest group.

More Rodriguez:

The project was approved in November by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, but drew some objections from Haight Street merchants who feared that some drivers would shift from Page Street to Haight Street, gumming up traffic there.

Anyone familiar with those streets knows that this project is nowhere near any Haight Street businesses and, project or no project, unlikely to have any affect on Haight Street traffic.

I saved the most contemptible city argument parroted in the story for last: 

That additional traffic on Page Street has threatened children attending John Muir Elementary School with potential traffic collisions.

People in that neighborhood know there's a crossing guard there during school hours. Besides, like most city schools, parents often drive to pick up their children at that school.

The phony children-threatened-by-cars argument was also used to justify the Masonic Avenue bike project:

The array of nearby schools — including the University of San Francisco, San Francisco Day School, and Wallenberg High School — puts thousands of students at risk of the speeding vehicles...

I've never heard of a single student hit by a vehicle in that neighborhood, and the Day School has a crossing guard during school hours at the Golden Gate/Masonic intersection.

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Confusion on the right

The cover of TIME magazine with Donald Trump and the toddler crying as border patrol searches her mother.

This is Trump’s deepest belief about foreign policy: The things that separate the United States from terrorists and dictatorships are not a source of strength, but of weakness. Our enemies are stronger and tougher, willing to do the hard things that must be done in order to win. To defeat them, we must become like them.

Trump has long dismissed respect for human rights, international law, and innocent life as a form of political correctness. During the campaign, he promised to kill the families of terrorists, steal oil from countries the U.S. invades, and restore torture. “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” Trump said in 2016. “Okay, folks? Torture — you know, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. Okay?”

Rob's comment:
This is a mistake often made by conservatives: they get toughness mixed up with cruelty.

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A “Pearls Before Swine” strip from last week; by Stephan Pastis. (courtesy of the artist and Universal Uclick)
Stephan Pastis

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Sunday, January 05, 2020

Christian crackpots dominate Trump administration

Attorney General Bill Barr Will Be Targeted By House Democrats For No Particular Reason
Attorney General Barr

By James A. Haught

Back in 2003, in a top-secret international phone call, President George W. Bush urged French President Jacques Chirac to join America in invading Iraq on grounds that Christian nations must thwart the Satanic forces of Gog and Magog. 

Chirac was baffled by such crackpottery. A few French newspapers wrote derisive sneers about the born-again U.S. leader.

Today, it’s déjà vu all over again. Religious kooks in high office are an absurd facet of the Republican Trump administration.

Vice President Mike Pence is a hero of the evangelical Religious Right. He opposes the teaching of evolution in biology classes (even though evolution is a bedrock of biology). As Indiana governor, he signed a notorious “religious freedom” law to let fundamentalists treat gays cruelly. His wife teaches at a born-again Washington-area school that sends students to a Creation Museum which teaches that Planet Earth is just 6,000 years old and humans coexisted with dinosaurs.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a fundamentalist who thinks doomsday is coming. In a 2015 church talk, he said “politics is a never-ending struggle…until the rapture.” In 2014, he told a church group that “Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.” Yet he’s in charge of American foreign policy to billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and secular people.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once told a gathering: “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” She advocates vouchers to funnel public money to fundamentalist schools.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry declared on Fox News that God “ordained” Donald Trump to be president, that Trump is a divinely “chosen one.”

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a Notre Dame University speech espousing “God’s eternal law---the divine wisdom by which the whole of creation is ordered.”

Barr said “the Founding Generation were Christians,” which isn’t quite true. Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, an early version of non-Christian Unitarians.

The attorney general warned that “over the past 50 years, religion has been under increasing attack,” and has suffered “steady erosion...On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativisim.” He blamed the retreat of religion for America’s upsurge of unwed pregnancy.

Evangelist Ralph Drollinger leads what is called the “White House Cabinet Bible Study Group.” The right-wing, born-again meetings include Pence, Pompeo, Perry, DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and NASA Director Jim Bridenstine, plus former cabinet members Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Alex Acosta and Scott Pruitt.

Religion is vanishing rapidly in America. White evangelicals---the heart of the Republican Party---have fallen to just 16 percent of the populace, according to Pew Research. Yet Trump gives them a gigantic role in his government.

Congress soon will decide whether the vulgar, shallow, obnoxious president should be impeached. I wonder if grounds for impeachment might include putting too many fundamentalists into high office?

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How Trump got the US kicked out of Iraq

I don’t think we should be in Iraq at all, let alone killing Iranian military leaders there. If we are going to stay in Iraq, this just makes things harder. Iraqi leaders, who have to run a country divided between Sunni tribes and pro-Iran Shiite militias, can’t afford to be seen tolerating this kind of thing. 

There’s already a lot of chatter that our attack will force Iraqi leaders to either put further restraints on us or else kick us out altogether.

It’s pretty obvious that Trump made this decision rather unexpectedly because he was pissed that his previous escalation didn’t work. 

All the reporting I’ve seen suggests that virtually no one else really wanted to kill Soleimani. It was on the list of options presented to Trump specifically to make the other options look more moderate.

A Talleyrandesque sort of devious statesman might—might—be able to handle the aftermath of this in a way that makes relative peace more likely. Unfortunately, Trump is an idiot who is doing this because he’s obsessed with Benghazi and wants to show his predecessor that, by God, a red line is a red line. He has no idea what he’ll do next.

Among other things, our war against Iran seems to be escalating largely at the behest of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Following the lead of either of those countries is a bad idea. Following their lead when they actually agree on something seems like a wildly bad idea.

Rob's comment:
This may be a blessing in disguise, since it gives US politicians a good excuse for getting out of Iraq altogether. Hey, Iraq kicked us out! 

Let Iraq and Iran work out their relationship and how to deal with ISIS and their fanatic Muslim populations. That may take generations. The US should only be concerned if/when they threaten our national security.

It should be remembered that Trump set these events in motion by getting the US out of the nuclear deal with Iran and ratcheting up sanctions on that country, which was completely unnecessary, since the nuke deal seemed to be working and some kind of detente with Iran seemed possible.

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Friday, January 03, 2020

L.A. and N.Y.

John Callahan

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The problem with Vision Zero: Dumb and dishonest

Activists and mourners attended a vigil for Daniel Cammerman, a pediatrician who was fatally struck by a school bus while he was riding his bike near Central Park. He was one of 28 cyclists killed in New York City in 2019.
Scott Heins, The NY Times

One of the big problems with Vision Zero---aside from the fact that it's a slogan, not a realistic safety policy---is that it makes people seem a lot dumber than they really are.

The latest evidence of that is a story in yesterday's NY Times (More People Are Dying on New York City’s Streets. What Went Wrong?).

Basing a traffic safety policy on wishful thinking is what went wrong, especially with the push by many cities to get more people to ride bikes:

Promisingly, the number of traffic deaths in New York City had dropped in recent years. Then suddenly, they rose in the past year to 219, from 203 deaths in 2018, according to preliminary data from the city. There were 28 cyclist deaths in 2019, the highest level in two decades and more than double the number in the previous year.

More cyclists are being killed in New York because more people are riding bikes there:

Cyclists have called on the police to more aggressively enforce traffic laws and city officials to install more protected bike lanes that are physically separated from traffic. Biking has become increasingly popular in New York City — the number of daily bike trips has nearly doubled, to 490,000 trips in 2017 from 250,000 in 2010.

...Cyclists regularly post photos online of treacherous routes and police cars and other vehicles blocking bike lanes. “It’s been a particularly difficult year, especially for New Yorkers who bike,” said Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, a group that promotes cycling. “Most of the people killed while biking in 2019 would still be alive if there had been a protected — and unobstructed — bike lane available.”

They would all be alive if they hadn't been riding a bike, which has intrinsic dangers that promoters of cycling are in denial about. City governments want to get people on bikes because it's not only the PC thing to do but because it helps cities mitigate traffic congestion.

It's simply irresponsible to encourage people to ride bikes as if it's a green, win-win deal for everyone without also providing a realistic sense of the dangers. San Francisco even encourages parents to get their children to ride bikes on city streets!

Like most cities, the only way to make protected bike lanes---or unprotected bike lanes, for that matter---in New York City is by taking away a traffic lane or street parking, a politically difficult trade-off where motor vehicles are the favored means of transportation.

More from the story:

The troubling statistics have raised doubts about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature plan to improve street safety and prompted the City Council to embrace an ambitious effort to add 250 miles of protected bike lanes to “break the car culture.”

Mayor de Blasio personifies the limousine liberal concept. Does he ride a bike in New York City? Har har:

Though he or she might prefer Uber rather than an actual limo, a limousine liberal is generally someone who espouses a brand of politics that doesn’t quite match up with his or her tax returns and actions. Mayor Bill de Blasio, with his police-chauffeured SUV rides from Gracie Mansion to his Park Slope gym, is a limousine liberal. He tells tales of two cities, but it’s getting harder for New Yorkers to believe he’s in touch with theirs.

The Vision Zero bullshit originated in Sweden. How is Sweden doing in eliminating traffic fatalities? Not very well, as it turns out:

“Vision Zero” emerged as a strategy to navigate the conflicting demands of valuing individuals’ lives and the desire to improve accessibility to car traffic, and the traffic safety campaign was launched by the Swedish government in 1997 with the novel goal of reducing the number of road deaths to zero. In Sweden, the campaign has been very successful in achieving its narrowly defined goals, and in its first 20 years, the number of people killed in traffic mishaps each year halved from 541 in 1997 to last year’s 270.

I'm not too good at math, but 270 is a long way from zero.

By the way, the assumption behind the Vision Zero slogan is that motor vehicles are the biggest threat to cyclists on city streets. In fact the most common cycling accident is the "solo fall" that has nothing to do with other vehicles. See The myth of cycling "collisions" and The UC Study, "cyclist-only" accidents, and infrastructure.

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Congressman compares Trump to Jesus

See also the Daily Beast:

“I rise today in opposition not only to these articles of impeachment but in strong opposition to the process that has brought us to this point,” Loudermilk declared during his House speech, adding: “Our founders knew a government without constraints could accuse anyone of any crime at any time even without compelling evidence.”

...“Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, keep this in mind,” Loudermilk exclaimed. “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers.”

“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats afforded this president in this process,” he concluded.

View image on Twitter

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Difference between Seattle and San Francisco

Image result for gary larson why dinosaurs became extinct
Gary Larson

Gary Larson In today's NY Times

"Then a big shot in the arm was when The Seattle Times started running my cartoons on a weekly basis. It didn’t last forever — too many complaints, I was told — but it ultimately motivated me to head down to San Francisco, where I walked through the doors (again, unannounced) of The San Francisco Chronicle, and the rest, as they say..."

A letter from Gary Larson

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Ticket to a Santa Clara 49er game: $149!

Image result for picture of 49er stadium;
Levi's Stadium

The San Francisco[sic] 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. 

Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.

Rob's comment:
Want one ticket to the game against the Rams Saturday night? That will be $149!


Thanks to Daily Kos.

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Lock him up

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

$12 billion isn't enough?

John Blanchard, SF Chronicle

The mayor is worried about a budget deficit, and maybe she should be. But $12 billion is a lot of money---and 40,951 is a lot of city employees.

Take, for example, The Municipal Transportation Agency (aka, Muni)---please. It has a budget of more than $1,200,000,000 and still struggles to run the city's transportation system with 6,348 employees. 

The agency has a shortage of operators for its buses and trains, but it doesn't otherwise seem to have an employee shortage.

The agency's new anti-car leader at Muni will apparently be making $337,112 a year to implement the Bicycle Coalition's agenda on city streets. The SFBC should chip in to help the city pay his salary.

Tumlin should keep in mind that his predecessor did everything City Hall asked him to do, but Mayor Breed still threw him under the bus, so to speak.

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Good for Slotkin. She takes a principled stand and defends it. Convince voters in your district that Trump must be impeached. 

If you lose the argument and the election, so be it. You defended the Constitution and democratic principles. If you can't do that now, there's no point in your being in Congress.

Reality penetrates the Fox bubble:

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Monday, December 16, 2019

SMART train coverup

George Russell

In the Marin Independent Journal:

by Kevin Fixler

As part of its effort to rally voter support for an early sales-tax extension that would stabilize its finances, SMART has regularly touted figures showing overall ridership, which last month surpassed 1.6 million passengers.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency has routinely submitted monthly figures to a national transportation database since it started service in August 2017.

But how full are its trains each day? SMART has repeatedly declined to release daily and weekly ridership figures that would give the public a better gauge of how successful the North Bay’s commuter line has been, showing, for instance, who is riding the train and when they are hopping aboard during the week.

Over the past four months, SMART officials have refused to provide news outlets, including the Marin Independent Journal, with the more detailed ridership data — information that other public transit agencies including BART and Golden Gate Transit routinely share...

The stance raises questions about SMART’s commitment to transparency at a politically crucial time for the agency in the run-up to the March vote on its ballot measure, which needs a two-thirds majority in the two counties to pass. 

The measure would guarantee SMART tens of millions of dollars each year in public subsidies for another 30 years by extending to 2059 its quarter-cent sales tax, which covers most of its operations.

The start of service to the Larkspur terminal at week’s end — one of the system’s biggest accomplishments — is expected to grow ridership with improved rail-to-ferry access and could burnish its chances at the ballot box...

Rob's comment:
This story originally appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Whenever the Independent Journal publishes a story on the SMART train, the comments to the story are essential reading.

Richard Hall is one of the most important commenters on this issue. One of his comments to this story:

There are a limited number of peak commute two or three carriage trains that happen to be full going in one direction in the mornings. You presume that capacity could be easily increased, but this denies certain realities:

* SMART cannot increase the service interval to less than 30 minutes because it is an 85% single track line with limited passing points (Ignacio and downtown San Rafael)

* To increase capacity by increasing frequency would require double tracking and eminent domain land purchases. The land purchase and construction costs would easily require an additional 1/4c sales tax. SMART's own polls have shown that voters barely had the appetite for 1/4c sales tax (had to try three times) and 1/2 cent would never pass.

To increase capacity by increasing the number of carriages would require redesigning every single station from the current 3 car capacity. This would be difficult to impossible, especially in locations such as downtown San Rafael. Can you imagine a four car train sitting in San Rafael station where it would have to block a road? The width of a San Rafael city block only allows for 3 carriage trains.

Sure the train blows away traffic on 101, but that's serving just 1/8% of Marin and Sonoma residents at a preposterous cost and terrible ROI. For the minimal benefit to this tiny ridership 60,000 daily car users and 9,000 daily transit center trips are disrupted and delayed by the train.

Officially reported ridership is in decline. SMART's own EIR projects that the Larkspur extension will add just 231 additional riders. (emphasis added)

See also Mike Arnold here, here and Sonoma-Marin train line debuts Larkspur Station and easier trips to and from city.

Streetsblog loves the not-so-smart train, because trains aren't cars, which makes them almost as good as bikes: SMART Celebrates Larkspur Extension.

Streetsblog editor Roger Rudick wouldn't have been hired four years ago if he didn't support the even dumber high-speed rail project.

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Democracy grief

Lennart Gabel

After Trump’s election, a number of historians and political scientists rushed out with books explaining, as one title put it, “How Democracies Die.” 

In the years since, it’s breathtaking how much is dead already. Though the president will almost certainly be impeached for extorting Ukraine to aid his re-election, he is equally certain to be acquitted in the Senate, a tacit confirmation that he is, indeed, above the law. His attorney general is a shameless partisan enforcer. Professional civil servants are purged, replaced by apparatchiks. The courts are filling up with young, hard-right ideologues...

See also the Lie of the Year.

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Rogues gallery

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Republican hysterics

Pic of the Moment

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Political cartoons
Matt Davies

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Dogshit producing community sues the Feds

Photo: Kevin Humes

Dec. 12, 2019

Three dog owners’ groups and a recreation association sued the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in federal court in San Francisco Thursday to challenge proposed restrictions on dog walking.

The lawsuit claims that some of the rules in a document known as the 2019 Superintendent’s Compendium are “substantial and controversial changes” to the park unit’s existing pet policy, which dates back to a plan developed by a citizens’ advisory commission in 1979.

The suit asks for court orders requiring the recreation area to complete an environmental study of the proposed changes and to follow the National Park Service’s requirements for public notice and an opportunity for public comment on significant policy changes.

The plaintiffs in the case are Save Our Recreation, San Francisco Dog Owners Group, Marin County Dog Owner’s Group and Coastside Dog Owners Group of San Mateo County.

The defendants are the GGNRA, the National Park Service and the U.S. Interior Department. The GGNRA, which encompasses more than 80,000 acres of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, is a unit of the park service, which in turn is a division of the Interior Department.

A representative of the GGNRA was not immediately available for comment.

The GGNRA’s website describes the recreation area as a “dog friendly national park” and notes that it is the only park unit in the National Park Service to designate particular areas for allowing responsible dog walking off-leash when dogs are under voice and sight control.

The lawsuit alleges that one change in the 2019 Compendium is a rule prohibiting dog walking entirely from two areas at Fort Funston where canines were previously allowed off-leash.

Another change is a requirement that dogs must wear identification tags showing their rabies vaccination status or their owners must produce official documentation of rabies vaccination status on demand, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that some of the proposed rules are attempts to revive elements of a proposed Dog Management Plan that was developed by the GGNRA between 2011 and 2016, but dropped by the National Park Service in 2017.

The same groups also filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information on the GGNRA’s development of the 2019 rules.

See also Sally Stephens: Why we sued the National Park Service over dog rules.

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An American hero: Bar code developer dies

Image result for barcode picture
George Laurer, developer of the bar code, is Dead at 94:

George J. Laurer, whose design of the vertically striped bar code sped supermarket checkout lines, parcel deliveries and assembly lines and even transformed human beings, including airline passengers and hospital patients, into traceable inventory items, died on Dec. 5 at his home in Wendell, N.C., near Raleigh. He was 94...

The Universal Product Code made its official debut in 1974, when a scanner registered 67 cents for a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. (One of the original scanners is at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; the package of gum was bought and retained by a Marsh executive.)

“It was cheap, and it was needed,” Mr. Laurer told The New York Times in 2009. “And it is reliable.”

And it revolutionized commerce...

The bar code increased the speed of checkout lines by some 40 percent, eliminated labor-intensive placement of price tags on every product, and resulted in fewer register errors and more efficient inventory controls...(emphasis added)

The code even made a cameo appearance in presidential politics and became lodged in urban legend.

During the 1992 primary campaign, it was widely reported, in The New York Times and elsewhere, that President George Bush was so out of touch with average Americans that he was baffled by a supermarket bar code scanner he encountered at a grocers’ convention...

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