Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Some cover-ups are good

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District 5 Diary's Year End Awards for 2017

 "They Let You Do It"
Biggest asshole of 2017
Dog that caught the car award: Donald Trump and the Republican Party
After promising for years that they would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, they of course came up empty.

Matt Bors

Handwringing of the Year:
SF Streetsblog worried about the objectivity of the LA Times when it criticizes the high-speed rail boondoggle. Doesn't that reporter understand that trains aren't cars and therefore almost as good as bikes?

Free Speech Award: Audrey Cooper, editor of the SF Chronicle
Cooper warned Chronicle employees that they might be fired if they went to the women's march last January. On the other hand, the Chronicle's editor doesn't have to worry about something that doesn't happen in the first place when it decides not to cover important city stories.

Audrey Cooper Free Speech Award: To the SF Examiner, which censored a comment I made to a story on Polk Street. Both the Chronicle and the Examiner are loyal players on the City Hall team on important issues.

Punks on Bikes of the Year: Marin County's mountain bikers

When Smart People are Dumb Award: Wallace Shawn
Shawn in the NY Times:
"Under Bush, torture became normal and most Americans accepted it. First they were shocked, and then they accepted it. And sadly, under the very likable Obama, these assassinations have become normal, and people have accepted that. In the case of killing Bin Laden, it was boasted about by apparently nice people. I’m not sure we understand the implications of that yet, the normalization of killing individuals."
Shawn finds it sad that our government kills people who kill and/or plot to kill Americans. As a fellow liberal, I find Shawn's statement breathtakingly stupid. 

Worst Art Criticism of the Year: Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais

Desmarais wrote this about the creator---if that's the right word---of the above:
"But I think my ilk is being asked to turn away, Pontius Pilate-style. To leave judgment to the crowd. That would be best. This is an exhibition, like a great comedic performance, resistant to analysis. You had to be there. Still, let me tell you why you will want to go. Cary Leibowitz is a silly artist. He has worked hard at looking witless for some 30 years, mocking homophobes, anti-Semites and, mostly, himself, creating a body of one-liner social commentary in the tradition of the court jester and the Shakespearean fool."
Linking Leibowitz to Pontius Pilate and Shakespeare is what's silly. It trivializes them and fails to elevate Leibowitz into anything but another successful "art" hustler like Jeff Koons and Keith Haring.

A Weimar Republic Award to Left-Wing Counterpunch
Vilifying Hillary Clinton for all of 2016, after the election Counterpunch soon called for the impeachment of President Trump! Michelle Goldberg explained how a similar left-wing strategy worked in Germany in the early 20th Century:
What [Susan]Sarandon is voicing is the old Leninist idea of “heightening the contradictions,” which holds that social conditions need to get worse in order to inspire the revolution that will make them better. In this way of thinking, the real enemy of progress is incremental reform that would render the status quo tolerable. That was the position of the German Communists in the early 1930s, who refused to ally with the Social Democrats, proclaiming: “After Hitler, our turn!” 
No one got another "turn" in Germany until after World War 2.

Monkey on the Typewriter Award: The Republican Party
The only thing the Repugs got right all year is their opposition to the California high-speed rail project. One has a right to suspect, however, that they would support the project if it was proposed by a Republican president and a Republican governor.

Power Speaking Truth to Power Award: Jose Cisneros, City Treasurer
"...According to emerging research, San Francisco levies more fines per capita than most California counties. Also, we assess more fines per capita than Philadelphia, Louisville, Ky., or Nashville, which are comparable city/county localities. As treasurer, I’ve made a priority of protecting San Franciscans from predatory lenders, working with the Board of Supervisors to ban new check-cashing and payday lending businesses. As a gay Latino elected official, I couldn’t live with a financial system that preyed on people who look like me. But I’m also the official debt collector for the city. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable when our local government levies fines on people who cannot afford to pay them. Basically, we are guilty of a form of predatory government..." (San Francisco has become a predatory government).

Future Eyesores of the Year: On Van Ness Avenue and at Masonic and Geary

Never Mind Award: To the SFMTA
After years of lies about safety on Masonic Avenue and Polk Street to justify unpopular bike projects---taking away street parking for those wicked cars in the process, of course---the city's long-delayed Collisions Report showed that neither of those busy streets were particularly unsafe for anyone.

Orwell's Memory Hole Award: The SFMTA wins again!
The closest the MTA gets to mentioning that widely ignored UC study showing that the city can't even count cycling accidents---let alone prevent them with its "improvements" to city streets---the study gets a footnote to this half-truth on page 4 of the Collisions Report:

While injury collisions tend to be reported more consistently than non-injury collisions, unfortunately not all injury collisions are captured by police reports. These include crash types such as solo falls by people on bicycles and certain types of pedestrian-involved crashes. The extent of this underreporting will be better understood with DPH’s comprehensive transportation-related injury surveillance system, which will be released later this year.

Woman on a bicycle with traffic and Civic Center buildings behind her.
Cheryl Brinkman: No helmet?

Sometimes bigger is better
Synthetic turf in SF: More questions than good answers

Best cover-up video of the year: Chernobyl

Biggest payday for the Bicycle Coalition: Bike to Work Day
The City Controller's office tells me that City Hall provided the Bicycle Coalition $65,000 in 2016 to stage Bike to Work Day. It was probably about the same in 2017.

Worst Interpretation of the Octavia Blvd. Fiasco: Jim Herd
The Octavia Blvd. traffic fiasco was supported mostly by city progressives, though it took several elections and four ballot measures to get it done: by the Bicycle Coalition, the Green Party, San Francisco Tomorrow, Calvin Welch and the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Jane Morrison, SPUR, John Burton, Art Agnos, Carole Migden, Tom Radulovich, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, Robin Levitt, the Harvey Milk Club, and Walk San Francisco.


Worst Public Art of the Year: The Silly Bunny

Least Convincing Op-Ed of the Year: Ed Reiskin on Vision Zero
"Not long ago, deaths caused by smoking, plane crashes and not wearing seatbelts were accepted as routine and commonplace in ways that are unthinkable in today’s United States. We’ve proven that, as a society, we can improve safety to achieve once inconceivable outcomes."
But those safety advances were not "inconceivable," which is why they were achieved. But planes still sometimes crash, people still die from smoking, some people still don't use seatbelts, and people will still die in traffic accidents in San Francisco in 2024---and in 2124, for that matter.

Best Unasked Question of the Year: Chamber of Commerce On Congestion Pricing
It's unclear why that question wasn't asked in last year's poll. In previous years, city residents have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of paying to drive downtown in their own city.

Best Wall We already have: Between Church and State

Biggest Historical Muddle: David Talbot's op-ed in the SF Chronicle

Best, Most Succinct History of Religion:

Paul Kinsella

While we're on the subject, Gary Larson on monotheism:

Walk to Work Day: Paid for by SF taxpayers?

Want to have a real debate on transportation? You have to go to Marin County:

Richard Hall

a Pedestrian Hazard: The SFMTA and the Wiggle

Free speech upsets city progs? MTA's Solution: Stop publishing that speech

Photo: Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner

Brian Wiedenmeier, meet Matt Smith
Wiedenmeier tells SPUR about his dangerous ride on his bike to a meeting last year:
San Francisco has made strides in increasing bicycling’s mode share, but its bike infrastructure is still bad. That was the conclusion of yesterday’s state of cycling talk at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association. “I had three or four near misses on Market street just getting over here,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Matt Smith had a similar experience in 2005 on his daily commute by bike:

These conflicts are extraordinarily stressful, and on those mornings, I find myself spending the first part of the day numb with low-level anger and fear. And I'm what you might call an ace at this: I've bike-commuted in big-city traffic for the past 25 years. So if co-workers ask me about getting to our office by bike, I feel obliged to offer caveats about the sections where bike lanes disappear into impatient and sometimes dangerous auto traffic, and about the motorists who don't realize bikes have the right to occupy traffic lanes and who drive dangerously as a result. And if I didn't tell the co-workers, they'd find out soon enough on their own.

The moral of the story: riding a bike in San Francisco is not safe and never will be. Don't do it! In fact riding a bike anywhere is dangerous according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Pork Barrel of the Year: California's Cap and Trade program
...Although it gets a quarter of cap-and-trade revenues and boosters hope that’s enough to keep the controversial, financially strapped project alive, its construction would have, at most, a minuscule effect on reducing the state’s carbon footprint. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor points out that, during construction, carbon emissions will actually increase, and by the High-Speed Rail Authority’s own projections, it would, even if fully constructed, reduce automotive travel by scarcely 1 percent.

The bullet train is emblematic of cap-and-trade spending — that it’s more about political pork than about reducing carbon emissions...

In 2017 Garry Wills explained why the right-wing interpretation of the Second Amendment is a Big Lie.

Incidents in 2017
Gun violence in 2017

Best Poetry inspired by the Trump Administration
: Dan Farber at Legal Planet:

A Man Named Paul Ryan
There once was a man named Paul Ryan,
For whom de-regulation was Zion,
Emissions limits he hated
Lest coal be frustrated,
And his lodestar was someone called Ayn.

The Man From Trump Tower
There once was a man from Trump Tower,
Who longed to have absolute power.
All budgets he’d slash
And the planet he’d trash
And the oceans with acid he’d sour.

A Man Called Scott Pruitt
There once was a man called Scott Pruit
Who said, “Why, there’s nothing to it!
“You undo all the regs,
“Cut them off at the legs
And tell all the polluters, ‘go to it!’”

The Fellow Named Mitch
There once was a fellow named Mitch,
Whose campaign coffers grew rich,
His passion for coal
Had devoured his soul,
Leaving only a faint smell of pitch.

Trump Administration
There once was an Administration
Whose policies caused consternation.
To turn back the clock
And cause liberals shock
Were their highest goals for the nation.

Left-wing Anti-Americanism agrees with Trump

From the left-wing Counterpunch:
"The CIA is not only an unreliable source (e.g. weapons of mass destruction), Kovalik demonstrates that it is also a far greater threat to US democracy than Russia. The Russian hack story is a ruse to excuse Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat, but even more it is a justification for an ever more aggressive US imperial project."

Best Op-Ed on SF's War on Cars: Sally Stephens in the Examiner

San Francisco is a transit-first city. Those of us who live here are told we should use Muni to get around. Or ride a bike. Or walk. But above all else, we should not drive our cars. To reinforce this, city policy makes it easy to remove existing parking spaces — turning curbside parking spots into parklets — and explicitly prevents new developments from providing a parking space for every unit built. Some have called this a “war on cars.”

On the other hand, the Examiner has apparently dumped its archives, which makes linking to many past stories futile. Instead you get this graphic:
Euphemism of the Year: Hemant Mehta on The Friendly Atheist
When KPFA cancelled an appearance by Richard Dawkins, the usually brilliant Mehta called it "de-platforming" instead of "censorship."

SF Weekly Enables Graffiti/Tagging Vandalism---Again

SF Weekly

SF Weekly has a long history of this, an apparent attempt at being cool and with-it to attract young readers.