Monday, September 30, 2013

False Equivalence and Republican obstructionism

James Fallows

James Fallows is good on China and anything to do with airplanes. And he's particularly good and important now on the False Equivalence that the media is routinely using to describe radical Republican obstructionism in congress:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the "dig in their heels" headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn't "gridlock." It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us---and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

See this morning's SF Chronicle editorial, where you read "Despite bluster and delaying tactics in Washington..." The Chronicle is too coy to tell us who exactly is blustering and delaying/obstructing the normal operation of our national government because...?

Thanks to the Daily Kos.

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BRT meeting in the avenues

Letters to the editor from the September edition of the Richmond Review:

Thanks for publishing Supervisor Eric Mar's letter announcing his town hall meeting about Geary BRT on the 31st. I told my 15th Avenue neighbors about it and suggested they confirm the time---it was a good thing as the show got started earlier than Mar had said.

It was quite a show; like a spread out of Sunset Magazine with banner illustrations and mockups of the best in show favorite, "Alternative 3 Variant: Consolidated Service." We on the back bench had to smile as more than half of the allotted time was handed off to paid staff presenters. The straw like contenders were "dissed" as we were shown their faults---our hosts knew no one would ever accept eliminating all curb parking to allow bike lanes on Geary. The neighbors started chaffing with questions but got the "let's be civilized and keep with the program" from a disembodied voice.

Keeping with the divide and handle program, the hosts started to coax impatient questioners into smaller groups stashed around the "Y." Our heroine was heard demanding to know why the presenters wanted to keep the neighbors from hearing everything that was being asked? Were they afraid we'd know what faults were found or suggestions our neighbors made? Feedback was easier, more personal handling of concerns was the answer.

Many left, but others stuck around to see if it was to reinforce the predefined outcome---was it confusion or disarray in the "hood"?

And it was smaller in the groups; self-interest is always an outcome when brought down to personal experience. Divide the problem, divide the questions and there is no coming together to find common good for all of the neighbors.

A retired bus operator in one back bench group motioned to the pretty pictures of the best of show and pointed out the need for more room for lines and shelter, not to mention visibility that would find drivers at fault from accident-favoring designs. So many mockups were for other projects that didn't fit Geary. And the snickering wasn't muffled when the ubiquitous double-parked trucks were not there.

Dividing the story, limiting the possibilities, dividing the audience, and limiting the answers are ways of getting controversial big projects past skeptical locals. Show them the need to eliminate the underpass of Geary at Fillmore to distract through an obscure and convoluted problem in another district, but say nothing about the left turns for arterials that are turning some Richmond blocks into cloverleaves for the big streets.

Parse the big traffic question into individual problems and solutions that fly under the radar, then do another and be sure to distract the locals from seeing that something ugly is being put together a piece at a time right under their noses.

We had a great ferry system in San Francisco up to 1935. We got a Bay Bridge that moved cars on the upper deck and trains on a lower deck "Key" system. The boats got beached to rot near Sausalito; we got sold on autos and the trains got pulled from the Bay Bridge and all of the western paths to the Ocean. Now we've paid a lot more to replace the "Key" with an under the bay BART and have a smaller scale ferry system that's got half the capacity we once had. Now, we're being told we had it right in the first place with the streetcars going west.

I mentioned SFMTA accountability and lines of appeal to Supervisor Mar. How about an SFMTA board that's elected by district? He disappeared before there was a bad smell.

David W. Dippel

Regarding the BRT options being considered that include bus-only lanes along the Geary Blvd. corridor---please don't!

I travel by car twice daily along Mission Street, between Van Ness Boulevard and Third Street, in SOMA, with its bus-only lanes in either direction. Every Muni #14 bus I see along that route is either traveling in the car lane, rather than the bus lane, slowing traffic in the car lane while leaving the bus lane wide open, but unavailable to cars. Or, in those cases where Muni is actually using the bus lane, it is straddling both lanes, making it nearly impossible for cars to travel safely in either lane.

I often see trucks far larger than Muni buses traveling our city streets, and they manage to stay within a single designated lane. How difficult is it for Muni to do the same, rather than forcing vehicles to cross over into oncoming traffic in order to safely pass a slow moving bus that can't manage to stay in a single lane? I see this dangerous driving practice by Muni drivers all over the City.

Francesca Wander

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