Saturday, January 31, 2015

The rebirth of "progressive" Poitical Correctness

As a non-PC liberal Democrat, I miss the defunct Bay Guardian because, as the primary source of "progressive" political opinion in the city, it gave me a lot of material about delusional politics and opinion in San Francisco. Now I have to mostly rely on the SF Weekly for that, which is not as good a source, since it doesn't regularly do issues like the Guardian did (Beyond Chron is also a steady source of "progressive" foolishness, like this on free speech).

But when the Weekly does an issue, it's so good/bad that it makes up for the lack of quantity with sheer, qualitative stupidity. I'm referring to its utterly clueless blog post Thursday (We Talked to the People Defacing Those Islamophobic Muni Ads).

Recall that a few years ago the Weekly showed that it was incapable of reading a simple sentence when the first anti-jihad ad appeared on Muni buses: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, defeat Jihad." The hed on the Weekly's blog post: "Muni Runs Pro-Israel Ad on Buses, Calling Palestinians "Savages."

This was dumb on several levels: the two sentences of course didn't mention Palestinians, and whoever wrote the hed apparently didn't understand that Israel has many jihadist enemies other than Palestinians. The author of the post was baffled that Muni allowed the ad on city buses, while conceding that there might have been some kind of legal technicality involved in the issue:

In fact, the day San Francisco started rolling with this ad, is the same day a judge ruled in New York City that its Metropolitan Transit Agency couldn't legally refuse to run it on buses in the Big Apple.

Under what arcane city ordinance did the New York judge rule against that city? Dang, it turned out to be the First Amendment to our Constitution!

SF Weekly naturally approves of the PC vandals who are now defacing the latest ads on Muni buses:

You may have seen them on buses around town, the odious Muni ads that equate Muslims with Nazis and claim that the U.S. government supports anti-Semitism with foreign aid. The ghastly Pamela Geller, she of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has sponsored several of these provocative ad buys, and Muni claims they have no power to tell a paying customer "no" based on the content of her speech.

This post is by a different writer, but it's based on the same ignorance and parochialism. Is Muni's "claim" about the First Amendment---not mentioned by the writer---true or not?

The latest ad actually doesn't "equate Muslims and Nazis." Instead it pictures an international Muslim leader with Adolf Hitler that I blogged about last month. This particular leader and Islam itself have a long history of anti-semitism before, during, and after World War 2. And it is in the Koran.

From the Weekly:

So a group of street artists has taken to waging a campaign of joyful, upbeat defacement, replacing Geller’s stark admonitions against loving thy neighbor with images of Muslim superheroes (like Marvel Comics' Kamala Khan) and people of different cultures getting along.

Oh yes, the vandals are joyfully going about stifling free speech because Geller is supposed to love people who have made it clear over the years they want to kill her and other Jews!

And more:

“We’re not pro-censorship. We’re not talking about the government outlawing certain types of speech. Should she be prosecuted for putting this out there? No, none of us are saying that. But just because it’s some kind of civil right to do something means it’s not harmful? Free speech can still have a cost.”

The only cost: Geller is saying something that these thugs don't like. But it's nice to know that they aren't calling for Geller's arrest for saying things they don't agree with. They aren't censoring anyone, you understand, because they just want to, well, prevent Geller from saying things that they don't like. Look at the vandals' self-congratulatory Facebook page and you find the same stupidity the Weekly demonstrated two years ago. Criticism of Muslim anti-semitism and violent jihad is equated with racism, as if Islam is a race, not a religion:

And the morons invoke the Palestinians again, though, like the first ad two years ago, this one doesn't mention Palestinians:

Speaking of Palestinians and anti-semitism, they recently celebrated after two of their freedom fighters attacked Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem, just like they celebrated after the 9/11 attacks on the US by homicidal/suicidal anti-semites, who just happened to be adherents of the Religion of Peace.

Last week Jonathan Chait published an excellent piece (How the language police are perverting liberalism) on this kind of "progressive" censorship, which is all too common lately:

After political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned. Some of its expressions have a familiar tint, like the protesting of even mildly controversial speakers on college campuses. You may remember when 6,000 people at the University of California–Berkeley signed a petition last year to stop a commencement address by Bill Maher, who has criticized Islam (along with nearly all the other major world religions). Or when protesters at Smith College demanded the cancellation of a commencement address by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, blaming the organization for “imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Also last year, Rutgers protesters scared away Condoleezza Rice; others at Brandeis blocked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s-rights champion who is also a staunch critic of Islam; and those at Haverford successfully protested ­former Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who was disqualified by an episode in which the school’s police used force against Occupy protesters...

Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students. UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I — one example of many “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies.” A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas. These sorts of episodes now hardly even qualify as exceptional...

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Oh, when will all this violence end?

Investigators have reportedly traced
the spate of cold-blooded murders back 3.7 billion years.

Ron Cobb

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Safety lie to justify Polk Street bike project

Like on the Masonic Avenue bike project, the city is deploying the safety lie to justify the Polk Street bike project. 

C.W. Nevius has a typically lazy column on the issue this morning:

What the city is proposing is a wide-ranging plan to target the busiest and most dangerous intersections along Polk Street and try to fix them. Among the ideas are pedestrian bulb-outs — sidewalk extensions — to make sure people are seen before crossing the street, painted bike lanes, and extensive landscaping. The board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is to consider the plan in the next few weeks.

As I've pointed out many times before, the city is lying about the claim that Polk Street is "dangerous." Of course Nevius, who hates it when any important City Hall project is delayed, doesn't challenge "what the city is proposing" because he assumes it's reasonable and justified. He instead poses as a neutral observer between the merchants of Polk Street and the Bicycle Coalition. 

After the Polk Gulch neighborhood vociferously rejected an earlier version of this plan in a well-attended public meeting almost two years ago (as reported by Matier & Ross at the time), the city scrambled to fabricate a "safety" problem to justify the project---who can object to safety?---which was first presented in this memo several months after that meeting:

On average, one person walking and one person biking are hit by a car each month on Polk Street (122 in a five year period). The lower portion of Polk Street has been designated by the city as a High Priority Corridor for pedestrian improvements, due to its inclusion on the citywide list of the seven percent of streets that account for more than 50 percent of pedestrian collisions citywide.

Where did those accident numbers come from? If Polk Street is so dangerous, why hasn't that been noted in any of the city's annual Collisions Reports? Every year those reports provide a list of the city intersections with the most traffic accidents, with an analysis of what the city is doing to make them safer. 

I read those reports every year and write about them here, but I don't recall ever seeing any Polk Street intersections on that list. In the last Collisions Report, the Polk/Ellis intersection is listed on page 25 as having seven (7) cyclist/auto accidents in a three-year period. But it's not on the unsafe intersection list on page 8, since to qualify for that list an intersection has to have had 16 injury accidents of all kinds. 

There's no analysis of the Polk/Ellis intersection showing that it's any different than many others in the city. Or who was responsible for those accidents, though it's safe to conclude that cyclists were probably responsible for half of them, as the report tells us on page 25: "Fault for collisions seems to be evenly split among bicycle riders and motorists according to the SFPD collision reports." Which leaves us with one accident a year at a busy city intersection, which, like almost all such accidents, is a matter of unsafe behavior by cyclists and motorists. And of course even a protected bike lane, like the Polk Street project, can't prevent intersection accidents.

Nevius talks to Leah Shahum: 

“Polk Street has been designated as one of the least safe streets in the city,” Shahum said. “The Department of Public Health designated it as a high-injury corridor years ago.” 

Funny, but I've never heard of that report, and I've been following the bike issue in the city for more than ten years. Did Nevius ask her for a copy or a link to the report? Apparently not, but then he never seems to read any of the city's reports, since that would require some actual reporting.

Shahum also refers to the Polk Street Survey to justify taking away all that parking to make protected bike lanes:

Meanwhile, Shahum and her group want physically protected bike lanes. And if that means taking out parking spots, that’s just the way it goes. She produces data that show shopping revenue is higher coming from those who walk, bike or take public transit than from those who drive.

Naturally Nevius doesn't press Shahum---a long-time lobbyist for a special interest group---about the actual contents of that survey and apparently has never read it himself. What the survey found:

Polk Street primarily serves local residents. 88% of the people surveyed on Polk Street live in San Francisco and 56% live in the direct vicinity of Polk Street. The vast majority of people (68%) typically walk or take transit to Polk Street. People that walk report spending more money on Polk Street on a weekly basis than any other transportation mode. Respondents that drive to Polk Street report spending the most per trip in comparison to respondents using other modes of transportation, but they typically visit the area once a week or less, and people who drive to Polk likely spend less cumulatively than other visitors.

And only 5% of the people interviewed got to Polk Street by bicycle.

But what happened to Noah Budnick? I thought he was taking over the Bicycle Coalition from Shahum, who was supposedly going to Europe to find out what all them smart foreigners do to make their streets safer than streets here in the vulgar USA.

Leah, as per the old Dan Hicks song, how can we miss you if you won't go away?

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Questionable" political commentary

From a recent op-ed in the Examiner (Muni's latest giveaway is questionable):

Last week, Mayor Ed Lee disseminated an ebullient news release, thanking the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors for acquiescing to his desires and providing disabled people and low-to moderate-income seniors with free Muni. That the SFMTA board acceded to the mayor's wishes is no surprise. It serves roughly the same role as the referee at a pro wrestling match. 

This is the same body that obeisantly voted to do away with Sunday parking meters at the mayor's insistence only months after voting for Sunday parking meters. Between the $11 million in lost parking revenue, the $4 million dropped by making Muni free for low-income children and the anticipated $4.4 million hit from this latest gift, that is roughly $20 million depleted from the SFMTA's operating budget ­— every year.

If you have "disseminated," "acquiescing," "acceded," and "obeisantly" in two short paragraphs, you need to do some rewriting. 

But clunky prose aside---see an earlier post on that---Eskinazi's analysis is unconvincing, since he doesn't put the numbers cited in the context of the city's budget ($8.6 billion) and the MTA's budget ($840 million). Muni only collects around $200 million in fares every year and gets more than $200 million from the General Fund.

Where most of Muni's budget goes: between $520 million and $542 million in salaries and benefits for its 5,359 employees, depending on whether you're looking at this or this.

Seems like Muni is more of a jobs program than a transportation system. Since the primary function of city government is supposedly to serve the people of San Francisco, giving poor people, old people, and the handicapped a break---a "giveaway"!---doesn't seem like such a bad idea in our rapidly gentrifying city. 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Think your co-workers are difficult?

Thanks to The Dish.


Who's to blame for Corte Madera's Wincup fiasco?

Corte Madera's City Counsel rolled over for ABAG and then didn't do a design review of the huge, ugly project next to Highway 101. Read about that and an analysis of how many passengers the dumb SMART train will have at Planning For Reality.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Another Bicycle Coalition employee joins Muni

Kristin Smith

Every now and then, among the lost dog notices and the ambulance chasing, the SF Weekly's blog has an item of interest:

Both the San Francisco Bike Coalition and Bike East Bay are looking for a few staff members. The SFBC is hiring a Communications Director---Kristin Smith used to hold that position but now is the Marketing Communications Manager at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Whoever takes on that role would have to deal with emails from local bike bloggers and other members of the press in order to make the SFBC look good, plus probably manage a lot of member communications and press releases, and probably a lot more important things.

Smith has a paper trail so that we can examine her credentials, but of course her main qualification is having worked for the Bicycle Coalition.

Maybe Smith can help beef up the MTA's peace/love campaign designed to reassure Muslims and city progressives that Pamela Geller's anti-jihad ads won't offend any terrorists---or their enablers---who adhere to the Religion of Peace.

Other hires by Muni from the SFBC here, here, and here.

Brent and Zelda just got here from Flyoverland.
Aren't they adorable?

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sam Harris on Islam

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What exactly is the Polk Street bike project?

Save Polk Street sends this message:

SFMTA planner denies plans to create evening tow away zone along Upper Polk Street

Luis Montoya, SFMTA lead planner of the Polk Streetscape Improvement Project, faced concerned residents and merchants in a closed door meeting Thursday in preparation for the upcoming January 30th Public Hearing to approve the agency's long awaited project plans. Community members were alarmed to read that the MTA is proposing a morning and evening daily tow away zone for the implementation of a "temporary floating" bike lane from Pine to Broadway as posted on public notice posters wrapped along utility poles in their neighborhood.

Further questions and concerns grew from a report released from the planning department detailing the project's exemption from an environmental impact report and the proposed plans including raised cycle tracks from Pine to Union, the removal of parking along the entire eastern side of Polk St., and the removal of up to 250 parking spaces at project completion. The report suggests the desire for future implementation of a full‐time raised cycle track along the east side of Polk St. from Pine to Broadway (and permanent parking removal).

In response to these questions, Mr. Montoya commented that the posters were misprinted and there are absolutely no plans to implement a PM tow away zone along upper Polk St. from Pine to Broadway. He went on to comment that the report from the planning department is not his preferred proposal he will present at the public meeting on January 30th, but the planning department's own interpretation of the project plans and data collected. How the Planning Department concluded the PM tow away zone he could not say. 

He did confirm his agency's intention to implement the morning tow away zone despite minimal ridership numbers the SFMTA has recorded along northbound Upper Polk St. on weekday mornings, and denied the SFMTA is planning to present a plan that calls for the removal of all northbound Polk St. parking to create a raised cycle track from Pine to Broadway St.  He added that his plan will remove approximately 150 parking spaces along the 1.3 mile Polk St. corridor (in addition to the hundreds of spaces being removed for the Van Ness BRT project), not the 250 listed in the Planning Department report.

At the conclusion of the meeting he asked the group for their trust and support despite the inaccurate and misleading public notice posters and planning department report, and left with a permanent marker in hand to personally alter the posted public notice signs. On Friday a majority of the posters had been removed entirely, again questioning the agency's accountability to the community in providing appropriate public outreach.

SAVE POLK STREET asks for your support in preserving and protecting our neighborhood. Please attend the hearing: Friday, January 30, 2015 10:00 a.m. City Hall, Hearing Room 416 

Please email the SFMTA telling them we need our parking on Polk Street:

Rob's comment:

Recall that Montoya was also MTA's point man for the Fell/Oak bike lanes.

The city calls this a "streetscape project," but it's really just a bike project. The city makes the same bogus claim about the Masonic Avenue bike project. 

The lie about safety is now also routinely made to justify these bike projects. Recall that the MTA first made the phony safety claim about Polk Street in a press release two years ago during their first attempt to push this project through. Not surprisingly, Polk Street makes only the briefest appearance in the last Collisions Report (see page 25) because of seven cycling accidents at the Polk and Ellis intersection in three years; even a separated bike lane can't prevent intersection accidents.

Montoya asks the people in Polk Gulch to "trust" him and the MTA, but this is an agency that can't be trusted even to count the accidents on city streets! We're still waiting for an updated Collisions Report, since the last one was issued way back in August, 2012.

The folks in Polk Gulch did good in that meeting two years ago, but it hasn't had any effect, regardless of all the mealy-mouthed talk and pro forma community "outreach" by the MTA. The city is clearly going to do this project no matter what. 

Bike lanes are now exempt from CEQA review, by the way, thanks to our "progressive" Democrats in the state legislature and Governor Brown.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Another lame Breed interview: KQED this time

Uninformed, softball interviews are apparently Scott Shafer's specialty. His interview of District 5 Supervisor Breed last night on KQED was almost as bad as the interview with Leah Shahum he did two years ago. 

Breed has been fortunate that the city's media is so lame and tame (see interviews before she took office here and here).

Like Breed's earlier interviewers, Shafer didn't know enough about city issues, let alone District 5 issues, to ask Breed any tough questions. Of course he refers to her fuck-bomb rant in the interview she did on Fog City Journal, which, this late in the game, she was able to handle easily.

Her tantrum in that interview was in response to a question about Willie Brown's support for Christine Olague in the District 5 campaign. Breed's career actually began with crucial help from Willie Brown, which she's apparently sensitive about:

For a decade Breed ran the African American Art and Culture Complex, one of four city-owned but privately managed cultural centers. She is widely credited with turning the troubled complex around and oversaw more than $3 million in capital improvements. Breed got her start in politics as an intern in Brown’s Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services. She worked for Brown’s re-election campaign and was later hired at the Treasure Island Development Authority.

Shafer asks about the recent gang shooting of four young men in District 5, and Breed blathers incoherently that "something is wrong," that those men "are not coming back to life"---no shit!---but that the "community is coming together," and that we need more cops. Nothing about the toxic gangsta culture that these young men absorb as children.

The Examiner had a story on Breed last week by a guy who I first learned about in the Bay Guardian's in-exile edition released last Thursday as an insert in the Public Press:

...the Examiner did add a weekly column called "On Guard," written by former Guardian reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez and aimed at covering "The City's political far left." But it seems a weak token gesture that relies on a good but overworked reporter who doesn't have the editorial freedom to truly speak truth to power. That's how this the[sic] company tried to hang onto readers of the Guardian...

Assuming there actually is a "far left" in San Francisco---I only know about the one C.W. Nevius invented---Rodriguez hasn't written anything that can be described as "speaking truth to power"---or to anyone else, for that matter. His puff-piece on London Breed could have been written by her staff. Like Scott Shafer and others who have interviewed Breed, Rodriguez clearly didn't know enough to ask the supervisor any interesting questions about development in the city, "smart growth," her support for the Masonic Avenue bike project, Japantown, or doing away with the Fillmore/Geary underpass, to mention a few District 5 and city issues Breed needs to explain. 

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Avoid these cliches like the plague

From the January 9 edition of the Times Literary Supplement:

In NB of November 21, we drew attention to words that are found in particular phrases but rarely encountered elsewhere: the "riddance" from good riddance being one. We offer a clutch of further examples. Can you use "arrant" beyond its nonsense? Does "bode" do anything besides bode ill or well? Are any days other than past days "halcyon"?, anything other than weather inclement? Kin sometimes appears without "kith," but not the kith without the kin. Is anyone every "raring" to do something other than "go"? Buildings that were once raised from the ground are later "razed" to it; but little else is razed. You "wend" your way back, not forward or sideways. Aspersions can only be "cast"; betide is never without woe; a "grail" is only holy. What was a "whammy" before it was doubled? Thanks to Eric March of Queensland, Australia---hoping this finds him in a fettle. You know the one: never good, satisfactory, all right, or indeed poor; only fine.

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The Missionary Position: The Sequel

by Bill Leak

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Punks With Guns in District 5

"Dude on the t-shirt is throwing a gang sign.
How is it possible that his mom didn't know?"

During an earlier wave of gun violence in the city, I wrote this way back in 2006

There are no quick and easy solutions to the gun violence among young black men in SF, but the least we can do is recognize the important cultural dimensions of the problem. Like the struggle against the homicidal/suicidal Islamic crackpots, the cultural struggle against the violent, moronic gangsta/hip-hop garbage will be with us for a long time.

Naturally, I was called a racist for bringing the subject up (here and here).

From the SF Chronicle after the recent shootings in District 5:

Dozens of people gathered Monday evening to pay their respects to the four men recently slain in Hayes Valley and to call for peace after the bloodshed. The group — which included family members of the deceased, Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and Police Chief Greg Suhr — gathered at the African American Arts and Culture Complex around 6 p.m., about a half mile from where the men were shot and killed as they sat in a double-parked, stolen Honda on Friday night around 10 p.m....Breed, who represents the neighborhood and grew up there, called for the community to come together. “We have a role to play,” she said. “We don’t have the luxury when we know our kids are involved in this. We don’t have the luxury to protect them. We have to get our kids off the street.”

Like other city leaders, Supervisor Breed has a too limited sense of the role she should/could play to fight gang violence. Why not start aggressively combating the vile "gangsta" culture to protect these young people long before their lives are destroyed? 

The black community---and its white "progressive" allies in City Hall---needs to inoculate youngsters against this infection when they are young with thorough discussions in school and at home to expose that subculture as the death/violence cult that it is. 

All public policy debate is essentially about ideas, and youngsters need to learn at an early age the difference between good ideas and bad ideas.

And it would help if the local media stopped enabling this garbage (see this and this), like they do with graffiti/tagging vandalism.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Love Letters to Richard Dawkins

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bill Moyers on "Selma"

Bill Moyers on LBJ and "Selma":

...As for how the film portrays Lyndon B. Johnson: There’s one egregious and outrageous portrayal that is the worst kind of creative license because it suggests the very opposite of the truth, in this case, that the president was behind J. Edgar Hoover’s sending the “sex tape” to Coretta King. Some of our most scrupulous historians have denounced that one. And even if you want to think of Lyndon B. Johnson as vile enough to want to do that, he was way too smart to hand Hoover the means of blackmailing him.

Then, casting the president as opposed to the Selma march, which the film does, is an exaggeration and misleading. He was concerned that coming less than a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was little political will in Congress to deal with voting rights. As he said to Martin Luther King Jr., “You’re an activist; I’m a politician,” and politicians read the tide of events better than most of us read the hands on our watch. The president knew he needed public sentiment to gather momentum before he could introduce and quickly pass a voting rights bill. 

So he asked King to give him more time to bring Southern “moderates” and the rest of the country over to the cause, but once King made the case that blacks had waited too long for too little, Johnson told him: “Then go out there and make it possible for me to do the right thing.”

I was standing very near him, off to his right, and he was more emotionally and bodily into that speech than I had seen him in months. The nation was electrified. Watching on television, Martin Luther King Jr. wept. This is the moment when the film blows the possibility for true drama — of history happening right before our eyes.

To my knowledge he never suggested Selma as the venue for a march but he’s on record as urging King to do something to arouse the sleeping white conscience, and when violence met the marchers on that bridge, he knew the moment had come: He told me to alert the speechwriters to get ready and within days he made his own famous “We Shall Overcome” address that transformed the political environment. 

Here the film is very disappointing. The director has a limpid president speaking in the Senate chamber to a normal number of senators as if it were a “ho hum” event. In fact, he made that speech where State of the Union addresses are delivered: in a packed House of Representatives. I was standing very near him, off to his right, and he was more emotionally and bodily into that speech than I had seen him in months. The nation was electrified. Watching on television, Martin Luther King Jr. wept. This is the moment when the film blows the possibility for true drama — of history happening right before our eyes...

The movie's portrayal of Coretta Scott King is also questioned.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Bill Maher on free speech

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Traffic fatalities/injuries in SF and Vision Zero

Dear Rob,

Happy New Year to you. I pray this note finds you in good health and eager to keep blogging in 2015.

I came upon this article in the Chron’s web page. Funny, I don’t recall seeing it in the print edition. In some ways it’s the most extraordinary reporting I’ve seen from what passes for MSM here. Statistics and anecdotes which tell the story of how gross misbehavior by traffic participants in all modes is the cause of most of the fatalities that occurred in 2013.

Of course the article finishes with blather from the usual airheads about how streetscape improvements (“Vision Zero”) are going to make a difference. After reading the aforementioned accounts of meth-, inattention- and testosterone-fueled fatal idiocy it’s really a non-sequitur to talk about reducing speed limits and improving sight lines.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“The mayor’s not into blaming people, but he wants people to have more of a consciousness on the city streets,” she [mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey] said.

I hold nothing against consciousness but, really, wouldn’t we spare ourselves a lot of effort and money if the mayor were more “into” blaming people WHEN PEOPLE ARE TO BLAME instead of blaming asphalt and road paint when they play no role in accidents.

Deane Hartley

Rob's comment:

The Chron story was probably in the print edition, but there's so much bullshit in the Chronicle it's hard to keep track. The Examiner had a similar story about traffic fatalities early this month that also included some MTA numbers on injury accidents. Yes, at least the Chronicle story acknowledges that the behavior of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists is the most significant cause of accidents on our streets.

The Chronicle story is based on information on fatalities from the SF Police Department, while the Examiner story cites both the SFPD and the SFMTA, which apparently provided the injury accident numbers. Fatalities are of course a lot easier to count than injury accidents.

The Examiner story included these numbers that we're seeing for the first time from the SFPD:

Fatal injury collisions of all types numbered 28 in 2014 and 2013, according to the Police Department's Dec. 3 third-quarter traffic enforcement and collision data report. Severe-injury collision numbers dropped from 171 in 2013 to 144 in 2014, a 16 percent decrease. The total number of injury collisions also decreased from 2,703 in 2013 to 2,285 in 2014, a 15 percent change, according to the police report. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, injury collisions involving motor vehicles and pedestrians fell 11 percent compared with 2013, and those involving bicyclists dropped 16 percent. The 21 pedestrian fatalities in 2013 were the highest since 24 in 2007, prompting city officials and street-safety advocates to push for adoption and implementation of a Vision Zero policy to eliminate fatalities by 2024.

The problem here, as I've pointed out over the past two years, is that the public can't be assured that the city has corrected its method of counting accidents to account for the widely ignored UC study that showed that the city has been radically under-counting serious cycling accidents for more than ten years. There's an earlier UC study that found the city has the same problem counting pedestrian accidents.

Can we assume that the SFPD is now also counting all the injury accidents treated at SF General Hospital, the city's primary trauma center? Maybe, but it would surely clarify matters if the MTA and City Hall made an explicit statement about that to reassure the public, since the problem has been unofficially recognized here and here.

The SF Weekly had a story in early 2014 on how the SFPD is supposedly revising its method of counting accidents in the city, but, like every other media outlet in The City That Knows How, the Weekly has been ignoring the UC study, which means the "humble" reporter failed to ask the cops any probing questions about the issue, like why are they adopting a new method, and how does it differ from the old one?

The numbers in both the Chronicle and the Examiner stories used to appear every year in the MTA's Collisions Report, but the last edition of that was issued way back in August, 2012, four months before the UC study floated that turd in the city's punch bowl. Now the public is getting numbers from both the SFPD and the SFMTA. What's the problem? The city is apparently reluctant to admit how grossly incompetent it has been in counting accidents on city streets, which means that we really don't know how safe/unsafe our streets are. (The count problem was known to the city way back in 2004, since it was acknowledged in the version of the Bicycle Plan that we litigated about.)

And then there's the implication of the UC study on cycling accidents that only District 5 Diary in the local media has been willing to acknowledge: that riding a bike in San Francisco is a lot more dangerous than City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling us, since more than 1,300 cycling injury accidents between 2000 and 2009 weren't counted by the city. Acknowledging that reality is difficult for the city, since redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists has been an important City Hall policy for more than ten years.

That's why the MTA hasn't issued a Collisions Report since 2012.

The Vision Zero slogan is backed up with hyped-up rhetoric from people like the new leader of the SF Bicycle Coalition:

It starts with a simple matter of leadership, which is stating that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. They’re not accidents. That change in thinking is an incredibly important first step.

Even allowing for the fact that he was talking to Streetsblog, this is hyperbole. My dictionary says that the definition of "accident" includes "lack of intention." The notion that the city---or any jurisdiction governed by human beings---can completely eliminate death and injury on its streets is ridiculous.

But the Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco must continue to encourage the public to think that there's an ongoing safety emergency on city streets to further their agenda, which involves punishing everyone who drives in the city---to them "death machines" are the main problem, after all---and pushing the city to create more bike lanes by eliminating parking and traffic lanes on busy city streets and thereby making it harder and more expensive to drive in the city.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Christopher Hitchens: Religion poisons everything

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

C.W. Nevius and local journalism

C.W. Nevius misses the Bay Guardian:

A few years ago, the San Francisco Bay Guardian called me a “conservative suburban twit.” I miss that. The Guardian, an independent, progressive weekly newspaper, was abruptly folded in October, ending a 48-year run. And now there are reports that its less shrill cousin, SF Weekly, will be focusing more on entertainment than news under new leadership.

Those were the days when giants strode the city!

As usual Nevius talks to people who agree with him for a soundbite:

“It is unclear where they are going,” said former Mayor Art Agnos, a progressive stalwart, “but this does not look like a good sign. It would be devastating for public discourse if we do not have an opportunity to hear other voices in the city.” Whatever the Weekly ends up doing with news coverage, there’s no doubting the trend. Opinionated, news-driven independent newspapers are slipping away, partly because it’s so hard to make the finances work in the Internet age.

But anyone who has actually read the two publications over the years knows that the SF Weekly, unlike the Guardian, has never been about city politics and issues. Matt Smith used to bring a tonic shrillness to the Weekly now and then, though his rants were often ill-informed, like his attack on me and the lawyer who handled our litigation against the city on the Bicycle Plan.

The Guardian died because it's "hard to make the finances work" for print publications. But it's actually cheap to do a blog, since all it costs is the time to do the work, which is the main thing for people trying to make a living with their writing.

Nevius turns to Bruce Brugmann for a soundbite:

He’s been disappointed in the direction of independent news ever since. “You look at the alternative papers, it’s awful,” he said. “Before the Internet, we had a lot of power. We had classified ads, personal ads. In the late 1990s, we were up to almost $12 million in revenue.” Of course, slipping revenue is a familiar story for newspapers everywhere. But there’s also a concern that the blogs and Internet sites are content to sit back and snipe at mainstream coverage, rather than getting actively involved in boots-on-the-ground reporting. “These online startups,” Brugmann scoffed. “Do you ever see an online reporter at City Hall or at an event? I never have. They’re not interested in covering the news of the community, holding people accountable.” (An exception is former Guardian editor Tim Redmond, whose website, 48 Hills, broke the story of the new editor at the Weekly.)

Brugmann was just lucky to get out of the print business before it crashed. Does that qualify as "sniping"?

Redmond's scoop about the new Weekly editor couldn't wait for the press release a few days later? Why waste time on that?

Redmond tells us about his scoop:

Weekly newspapers have always done both news and arts, and typically done both well. But news was always a critical element---and for all the times I’ve blasted the Weekly and its politics, the paper spent money on journalists and on investigative reporting.

I can't remember the last time a Weekly cover story was interesting and/or significant. Maybe this one, which wasn't very good, since it got everything wrong. And there was this one, which was almost ten years ago.

There's a personal element to Redmond's approach to this non-issue and non-scoop:

Reynolds and I were never close. For a while we worked in the same office, but he took a Village Voice Media approach to the news, which was often cynical about the left, and I was (and am) a proud progressive. I never met him for lunch or drinks, never saw him outside the occasional pass in the hallway. I don’t even have his phone number. But he had a reputation as a skilled editor, and you could see that in the clean copy the paper produced, and he cared about news. If the Weekly moves more in the A&E direction, it will be one less news voice in the city at a time when there are so few paid reporters covering local issues.

He didn't even have his phone number! Reynolds apparently wasn't a schmoozer, which is counted against him. I get comments like that here, too. Why don't you show up at "community" meetings? This is Brugmann's gripe at local bloggers. But anyone interested in City Hall can now watch most meetings on TV, and important planning and traffic documents are available online. Why would anyone sit through those paralyzingly boring meetings at City Hall if he/she isn't paid to do it? To wait to make a public comment on an issue while the supervisors wander around and/or nod off in front of their laptops?

And since when have weeklies really been about "news"? We can get most news stories from the dailies; I still read the Chronicle, the Examiner, and the NY Times every day before I check some online sites for more.

The most important function of the weeklies should be to cover stories not covered by the mainstream media and to bring an alternative analysis to the stories they do cover. Which is where the Guardian failed over the years---in its analysis of events in San Francisco, where it brought a crude, paleo-leftist perspective to local issues that actually hindered understanding.

And what does it really mean anymore to be an "alternative" newspaper? There was rarely anything in the defunct Guardian or in the Weekly now that would disturb readers of the Chronicle, the Examiner, and the NY Times.

And who exactly in the local online community is doing any serious political analysis or commentary, except yours truly? SF Appeal mostly recycles mainstream stories, Ditto for San Francisco Citizen only does issues every now and then, Left in SF is long gone, Fog City Journal is dormant, and the SF Weekly's blog is mostly about missing dogs and traffic accidents, rarely venturing into political issues, which is just as well, since when they do they embarrass themselves, like on the anti-jihad bus ads a few years ago.

C.W. Nevius has degenerated from his early good work on the homeless issue after he came over from the sports page. Now we get his hard-hitting columns on Christmas cards and a big smooch on Supervisor Wiener's skinny ass. 

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Friday, January 16, 2015

High-speed rail news

By Lisa Benson

[Later: The dumb project's growing opposition in Southern California.]

Before meaningful and continuous construction[of high-speed rail] can actually start, here are some obstacles that will have to be overcome:

The Authority needs to have the money to finance that continuous construction. The estimated cost of the project is $68 billion (and this is truly an underestimate). The Authority has a little over $6 billion, best-case scenario.

Currently available federal funding is on the order of $3.3 billion. That's part of the $6 billion figure just mentioned. Further federal funding for the project is not going to be available for years, if ever...

Furthermore, the $3.3 billion in federal funding is supposed to be expended by September 2017, and it is unlikely the Authority can spend those funds fast enough to utilize the total $3.3 in federal funding by the 2017 deadline.

Every dollar of currently available federal funding must be matched, dollar for dollar, by state funding. So far, NO state bond funding is available for construction, and the Governor's proposed use of so-called Cap and Trade funds would not provide enough revenue to be considered an adequate source for the match.

Not only is Cap and Trade funding not sufficient to provide a $3.3 billion match for the federal government, the use of Cap and Trade funding for the High-Speed Rail project is legally improper, and a lawsuit has already been filed to prevent that improper expenditure.

Because the project, as currently planned, does not comply with the requirements of Proposition 1A, the High-Speed Rail Bond Act, it is quite possible that no bond funding will ever be available to match federal dollars or to construct the project. A trial on the key issues related to the availability of Proposition 1A funding will take place this spring.

On a non-money issue, the Authority is seriously behind schedule in its eminent domain acquisitions, so the Authority won't actually have access to the land that would allow "continuous construction" to begin. 

Also on a non-money issue, and perhaps even more important, the Authority's own engineers have revealed that there is no way that the chosen route for the Initial Operating Segment from the Central Valley into Los Angeles can be physically negotiated by high speed trains. Either the grade will be dangerously steep to go down the mountain or it will be extremely expensive to go through the mountain in a tunnel. In either case, the current route will have to be redesigned and possibly relocated. That will take time not mentioned and money not available...

There was lots of fanfare and lots of hoopla last Tuesday in Fresno. Does this mean that the High-Speed Rail project is going to happen? In one word, "No!"
Rob's comment:
According to the Hoover Golden State Poll, public support for the project is plummeting: only 16% of those polled think the high-speed rail project should be a state priority.

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