Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Norman Mailer as literary critic

When I was 18 or 19 and looking for something to read in Corte Madera circa 1960, I tried the drugstore on the town square that had one of those revolving wire racks with mostly trash and best sellers in paperback editions. There were few bookstores in Marin; there was one in San Rafael and another in Sausalito. The drugstore was where I picked up a paperback of Norman Mailer's Advertisements for Myself, who I had never heard of. Reading that book was an important event in my life, since Mailer was the first serious contemporary American writer I read, except for the Catcher in the Rye, which I loved, and some Hemingway short stories in school (He would be dead within a year).

Though Mailer was a novelist, much of Advertisements is non-fiction, political polemic and social criticism, though that rather description is too tame to describe Mailer's writing. Most of all I liked it because it had real bite, unlike most of the bland stuff I read in school and the magazines my parents subscribed to.

In one of the essays in the book, Mailer has thumbnail critiques of other important writers of the day, including J.D. Salinger: "Salinger is everyone's favorite. I seem to be alone in finding him no more than the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school." Well! I was shocked and thrilled at the same time, which was the effect on me the rest of the book had. His judgment of Salinger I finally had to admit made a good point, which might be altered if Salinger was actually writing all those years when he lived as a hermit and was incommunicado.

A collection of Mailer's letters has just been published. The NY Times has some tidbits, including some literary judgments, in today's review:

“Faulkner writes his long sentence because he never really touches what he is about to say and so keeps chasing it; Hemingway writes short because he strangles in a dependent clause; Steinbeck digs into the earth because characters who hold martini glasses make him sweat; Proust spins his wrappings because" a gay man “gets slapped if he says what he thinks.”

Unfair and untrue, more or less, but good stuff. Mailer was in the Pacific for World War 2. In a letter to his wife from the Philippines: “I was given a machine gun. Your baby is awfully heavily armed now.” Mailer with a machine gun!

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Bono has an accident


You are probably already aware of this but in case you’re not…

U2 band leader Bono suffered major injuries last week in a SOLO bike crash in Central park, NYC. Not a lot of details available but he was reported to have been avoiding another cyclist (Bono Treated With Metal Plates, 'Intensive Therapy' After Bike Injury).

As a high-mileage cyclist myself I experience much more terror in the presence of other cyclists and have been subjected to at least as much vehicular violence from them as I have from motorists. I can attest that it’s just about impossible to find any statistics about inter-bicycle crashes and mayhem. Needless to say, the dangerous, rude and aggressive behavior of cyclists among and towards other cyclists, and the resulting close calls and crashes, are not something about which the bicycle evangelists would ever inform newbies.

If Bono’s crash had taken place in Golden Gate Park and his posse had scraped him up and taken him to UCSF before any police arrived his injuries would, as you know better than anyone, not be tallied up in the MTA’s annual (well, formerly annual) collisions report.

Deane Hartley

Rob's comment:

You are the kind of cyclist that earns my respect, since you are aware of the dangers and not playing the victim card. Cyclist-on-cyclist accidents are rare enough that apparently no statistics are available, but as Bono's accident shows they can be serious.

Accidents can happen to all cyclists. Bike safety expert Bert Hill was hit by a car, and Supreme Court Justice Breyer had a spill off his bike.

A New York Times reporter had the kind of cycling accident that the UC study found was surprisingly common and just as serious as being hit by a car:

My crash came 8.9 miles into a 100-mile ride (of course I knew the distance, because of course I was watching my bicycle computer). My friend Jen Davis was taking a turn leading; my husband, Bill, was drafting — riding close behind her. I was drafting Bill when a slower rider meandered into his path. Bill swerved and I hit his wheel. Down I went. The first thing I did when I hit the ground was turn off my stopwatch — I did not want accident time to count toward our riding time. Then I sat on a curb, dazed. My head had hit the road, but my helmet saved me. My left thigh was so bruised it was hard to walk. Worst of all was a searing pain in my left shoulder. I could hardly move my arm. But since it hurt whether I rode or not, I decided, like an idiot, to finish the ride. The next day I went to a doctor and learned, to my shock, that my collarbone was broken.

Okay, accidents of all kinds happen on our streets. What's my point? That cycling is being oversold as a green, win-win deal for everyone, and the dangers aren't being acknowledged, especially the risk of head injuries. City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are being particularly irresponsible when they encourage the city's children to ride bikes on city streets, since cycling is the cause of most head injuries to children


Why wasn't non-lethal force an option?

What bothers me about this incident---along with the larger issues of white police force in a black population, institutional racism in Ferguson that's common nationwide, etc.---is the mindless application of lethal violence by the cop. From the autopsy photo in the video below, Michael Brown was evidently shot eight times by Wilson. That shows that not only is Darren Wilson a terrible shot, but that none of those shots were aimed at Brown's large legs---he was 6' 4" tall and over 250 pounds---which could have disabled him before the lethal shots. 

And why not use a taser before you shoot at the guy? If Ferguson cops aren't armed with tasers, they should be. 

Even if, as he claims, Wilson thought Brown wanted to kill him, it seems incredible---and unacceptable---that non-lethal force was never a serious option for Wilson.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Katy Tang on rent control

Last year I wrote this about Supervisor Tang:

And Supervisor Tang, like her predecessors, Fiona Ma and Carmen Chu, is a political cipher whose main qualification for office in District Four is that she's ethnically Chinese. (That's why carpetbagger Jane Kim ran in District 6, not in District 4.) Like her undistinguished predecessors, Tang will keep her head down and never say anything interesting or, more importantly, dissent on important city policy and projects.

After reading the story in the Examiner, I have to make one amendment to that harsh judgment. Tang actually makes a good point about rent control:

"She is the only supervisor I am aware of who has publicly expressed that she is anti-rent control," [Sara]Shortt said. "We would not be comfortable with her role being anything more than a caretaker one until a new member is voted in next year." Tang refutes the charge, saying that in fact "I support rent control right now," although she added that she was "open to looking" at proposals to amend the law. "Rent control was put into place for very particular reasons," Tang said of the law that applies to units constructed before 1979. "We had to protect our most vulnerable populations, whether it's seniors or the disabled community. Now obviously over time it has morphed into people who are able to pay market rent are not paying market rent. That's where the problems lie." (Katy Tang brings vastly different perspective to Board of Supervisors presidency)

Yes, indeed. Tang may not have had Supervisor Breed in mind, but she could be the poster child for amending the law, since she lives in rent-controlled housing, even though she makes $100,000 a year plus benefits as District 5 Supervisor (See Breed's 2013 interview on Hoodline: Meet London Breed, Your New Supervisor).

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Boredom at the Chronicle

Writing in the Chronicle yesterday, Heather Knight mocks the Board of Supervisors for the melodrama around choosing a new president now that David Chiu has been elected to the State Assembly. Instead, she wants to see some serious emotional engagement with issues she thinks are more important. She called the present board "boring":

Supervisor Scott Wiener disputed the notion he and his comrades are boring. He said there have been plenty of intense, heated discussions ending in 6-5 votes. Asked to name them, he cited the vote on the redevelopment of Parkmerced from May 2011 and the vote on closing parks overnight from November 2013.

Those are important---even interesting---issues (see this and this), about which Knight has written nothing that I recall. Not exciting enough for her, apparently. If it's excitement you want, writing about local politics and issues is not the right job, but doing that can be interesting. You have to read some boring stuff and go to some boring meetings to understand issues, and Knight is easily bored with San Francisco politics, as she told us a few years ago.

Like C.W. Nevius, Knight is a party line gal when it comes to City Hall policies, especially on the city's traffic policies. She sneered at Proposition L last year:

A group of car-loving residents is trying to qualify an advisory measure for the ballot that would call for restricting parking meter hours and building new parking garages. In transit-first San Francisco, we'd give this the same odds as scoring a fog-free summer.

Okay, but it's evidently beyond her reach to actually discuss city traffic policy in any depth---it's presumably all about "car-lovers" versus "transit-first." Instead she talks to Walk SF and parrots their party line with a cheap shot at City Hall on the safety of city streets:

So far this year, 18 pedestrians, three bicyclists and seven drivers or motorcyclists have died in collisions on the city’s streets. An average of three pedestrians are injured every day. City Hall has adopted a Vision Zero plan with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths in 10 years, but improvements to city streets are slow. When a longtime city worker was run over and killed in the crosswalk in front of Polk Street in full view of her co-workers and a busload of tourists last month, Lee said a traffic signal would be installed---next summer.

It may be too boring for Knight, but if she had read the city Collisions Report, she would see that that those numbers are supposedly typical for city streets. In that report the city also lists the intersections that have the most accidents and what it's doing to make them safer. I suspect that the intersection in front of City Hall is not the most unsafe in the city, that there are others that the MTA thinks are a higher priority. Apparently Knight expected that, after that accident, the DPW would be out there immediately with their jackhammers.

If Knight had done a little reporting she would learn something even more interesting: that the MTA hasn't published a Collision Report since August, 2012, because it's grappling with the reality revealed by that UC study published in December, 2012, showing that the city has a seriously flawed method of counting cycling accidents on city streets. Turns out that for years the city has been relying on police reports and ignoring many such accidents treated at San Francisco General Hospital, the city's primary trauma care center. And there's also another boring 2005 study showing the city evidently has the same problem counting pedestrian accidents in the city.

I know Knight is aware of these studies because, after she wrote about street safety a couple of weeks ago, I sent her the links, pointing out that, until the city corrects its flawed method of counting accidents, we won't really know how safe/unsafe city streets are.  

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

President Obama on immigration

The Republicans have nothing.

Jonathan Chait on the president's initiative (Republicans Hand Obama an Immigration Political Triumph):

Immediately after the election, when John Boehner asked Obama to hold off on unilateral action, reporters asked if he would promise to bring an immigration bill to the House floor. He refused. A senior administration official pinpointed this as the moment when any chance of delay ended. For all the drama surrounding President Obama’s announcement that he would ease immigration enforcement, the decision was always a very easy one to make. It was not even a decision Obama made so much as one that was made for him. Nor was the choice especially difficult to grapple with. The humanitarian and political logic all point in the same direction...

...Substantively, Obama’s executive order gives him less than he hoped to gain with a bipartisan law. But politically, he has ceded no advantage. Indeed, he has gained one. Not only does immigration remain a live issue, it is livelier than ever. The GOP primary will remorselessly drive its candidates rightward and force them to promise to overturn Obama’s reform, and thus to immediately threaten with deportation some 5 million people---none of whom can vote, but nearly all of whom have friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who can...

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Anniversary of the People'sTemple massacre

SF1st reminds us that this is the 36th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. Let's fill in some of the backstory on the cult's time in San Francisco.

From New West magazine in 1977:

Jim Jones counts among his friends several of California’s well-known public officials. San Francisco mayor George Moscone has made several visits to Jones’s San Francisco temple, on Geary Street[sic], as have the city’s district attorney Joe Freitas and sheriff Richard Hongisto. And Governor Jerry Brown has visited at least once. Also, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley has been a guest at Jones’s Los Angeles temple. Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally went so far as to visit Jones’s 27,000-acre agricultural station in Guyana, South America, and he pronounced himself impressed. What’s more, when Walter Mondale came campaigning for the vice-presidency in San Francisco last fall, Jim Jones was one of the few people invited aboard his chartered jet for a private visit. Last December Jones was appointed to head the city’s Housing Authority Commission.

Willie Brown and Jim Jones in 1976
four years after the Kinsolving articles in the Examiner

Tom Kinsolving on his father's expose of Jim Jones: 

After running only four articles in September 17-20, 1972, and getting picketed by Temple cultists, the Examiner went into a fetal position and surrendered for almost the next five years...

He had eight exposes set to run in the Examiner of the fraudulent, menacing cult. Four, however, never saw the light of day, thanks to Jones enforcer Tim Stoen (who later apologized for his actions...) 

The first expose, "The Prophet Who Raises The Dead," ran on the front page of The Examiner, Sunday, Sept. 17, 1972. Those that have wanted it, or the other three, never published again, for their own self-serving, immoral reasons, will now no longer have their way. These, and the other four exposes that were originally censored under the threat of Jones and Stoen's law suits, will be published in their chilling entirety right here

Then you'll understand that one of the greatest crimes was simply that the Jonestown Massacre never needed to happen, only for the fact that the Examiner and the rest of the California media lost their backbone in 1972...

When New West magazine published "Inside People's Temple" in 1977, it triggered the cult's exodus from San Francisco to Guyana. From that article:

The source of Jones’s political clout is not very difficult to divine. As one politically astute executive puts it: “He controls votes.” And voters. During San Francisco’s run-off election for mayor in December of 1975, some 150 temple members walked precincts to get out the vote for George Moscone, who won by a slim 4,000 votes. “They’re well-dressed, polite and they’re all registered to vote,” said one Moscone campaign official. Can you win office in San Francisco without Jones? “In a tight race like the ones that George or Freitas or Hongisto had, forget it without Jones,” said State Assemblyman Willie Brown, who describes himself as an admirer of Jones’s.

Supervisor Harvey Milk was still trying to help Jim Jones months before the massacre:

The custody case in which Milk was encouraging President Carter's intervention was successful. Jones was allowed to keep the child, who was murdered in the massacre later that year.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Alamo Square by Robert Frank

In Leah Garchik's column the other day (Robert Frank takes a look at his own photographs), an item on Robert Frank's visit to the Cantor Arts Center's show of his work: "His favorite photograph in the show, he said, was a 1956 image of a couple sitting in Alamo Square, looking to the north."

A 2008 photo of the same view by WaynBremser here.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The San Francisco Modal Equity Study

Where are the bikes?

Streetsblog's Aaron Bialick on the recent anti-car study from academia:

Any doubts that most of San Francisco’s public space is consumed by private automobiles, whether moving or stored, could probably be put to rest with a quick glance at the city’s car-dominated streets. But a new study pulls together some eye-opening numbers about just how unbalanced SF’s priorities have been in allocating street space, prioritizing cars over people, and in charging drivers little relative to the costs they incur.

Of course Bialick likes the study, which is essentially an anti-car polemic written in academese. Bialick's prose, on the other hand, is clotted with BikeThink jargon. "Private automobiles"? Are there public automobiles? (He's not referring to cars issued by public agencies to their employees.) The implication is that public space---parking, you understand, is "storage" for cars---is being "consumed" by dubious private interests, as if, whether you drive or not, designing city streets and regulating traffic doesn't benefit the public in general.

And "prioritizing cars over people" is a standard trope of the anti-car movement, as if people don't drive all those cars. The implication: those who rely on motor vehicles won't be fully human until they start riding bikes. (When I see this cars-over-people usage, I think of that Dennis Weaver movie wherein he's terrorized by a malevolent, seemingly driverless truck, which seems to be how Bialick and his bike-obsessed comrades view motor vehicles.)

The city is supposedly "charging drivers little relative to the costs they incur"? The opposite is the reality. The numbers from the city itself show that City Hall is already bringing in $247,349,190 a year from parking tickets, traffic tickets, red light cameras, gas taxes, vehicle license fees, parking meters, and 20 city-owned parking lots. And there's the $84 million a year in sales taxes that the SFCTA rakes in to maintain city streets. It will never be enough for City Hall, since it has a growing bureaucracy to maintain, including more than 5,000 people working at the MTA.

The study figures that it takes San Francisco $50 million a year (page 15) to maintain city streets, an amount that's covered many times over from what City Hall extracts every year from motorists.

But the study provides this insight about which transportation "modes" cause the most damage to city streets: "A search of the comprehensive TRID[Transport Research International Documentation] database revealed no credible research indicating that bicycles or pedestrians make a significant contribution to pavement deterioration." No shit! They had to consult a "database" to figure that out? But almost all of those pedestrians and cyclists also drive, ride public transportation and taxis. All city goods are delivered by trucks, and of course ambulances and fire trucks use city streets to serve them too.

"Parking lanes in San Francisco constitute 15 percent of the paved roadway area, equal to real estate valued between $8 and $35 billion."
Okay, but what about Golden Gate Park? Imagine the value of that one-and-a-half square miles if it wasn't being wasted on people using it for their private recreation pleasure!

"Street parking in San Francisco totals 902 miles in length, six times longer than the 143 miles of bike lanes."
According to the city's Mode Share Survey this study is in part based on, only 3.4% of all trips made in the city are by bicycle, which suggests that cyclists are already taking up too much room on city streets.

"Bicycling constitutes four percent of trips, but only 1.4 percent of roadway space is dedicated to bicycle lanes."
This is deceptive, since that's not how street space can possibly be allocated. All traffic "modes"---bikes, buses, cars, trucks, etc.---must now share the same limited space on city streets. Since bike lanes have to be four or five feet wide, when bike lanes separated from traffic are made, either a traffic lane or street parking has to be eliminated. (To make the separated bike lanes on Masonic Avenue, the city will remove 167 scarce parking spaces on Masonic.)

The study pretends to be "an objective look at the allocation of one of the City's most important and scarce resources---public roadway space." But it tips its hand in the first paragraph of the introduction, claiming that the study "presents a literature review of work by others that documents the external costs that dependence on the automobile causes to society."

On the "external costs of vehicle collisions," the study (24, 25) cites a 2005 SPUR study on insurance premiums---of course these folks have a SPUR connection---and a Cambridge Systematics study on the cost of traffic accidents in the San Francisco metropolitan area. But, unsurprisingly, the study doesn't cite that UC study on cycling accidents that was published way back in December, 2012, which even has a discussion of what it costs the city to treat cycling accidents.

The Modal Equity study is published by Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities Research and Policy Institute. By exploring their website, you discover some of their deep thoughts like this, comparing cars to junk food:

"Leveling the Playing Field for Sustainable Transportation" began by framing bad transportation choices to those of unhealthy food choices. If your refrigerator and cupboards are only full of junk food, your family does not have any healthy food options and has no choice but to eat junk food. Similarly if the major streets in a community only accommodate automobiles, then citizens have no healthy transportation choices and are forced to drive (or in the case of children and the elderly, be driven).

From the institute's Mission Statement:

Transportation Choices also partners and collaborates with academics and advocates as well as city planners, engineers, architects, public health planners, and allied professions to illuminate the central role that sustainable transportation plays in the vibrancy of communities.

Last year Jack Bog warned us about the use of "vibrant" in this context:

Whenever you read "vibrant," you know the writer is either a smug urban "planning" overlord or a reporter who doesn't know that he or she is being taken in by one.

Or a smug, anti-car academic. (More on "vibrancy" here and here.)

Of course these folks were at that anti-car Pittsburgh convention I blogged about earlier here and here:

Michelle DeRobertis’ proposal for a session at the ProWalk/ProBike/ProPlace conference in Pittsburgh PA in September has been accepted. The session is entitled: “Transportation Studies in the 21st Century” and continues on the theme of her recently published article in the ITE Journal “Changing The Paradigm Of Traffic Impact Studies: How Typical Traffic Studies Inhibit Sustainable Transportation.” Michelle is very pleased to have three excellent speakers from three progressive cities on the panel to describe their city’s traffic study methodologies as well as the challenges these cities faced in incorporating the needs of sustainable modes into the Traffic Impact Studies and land development process: Peter Albert with the City of San Francisco CA, David Thompson with the City of Boulder CO and Patrick Lynch of Transpo group, describing Bellingham WA’s innovative person-trip methodology. Michelle’s talk will address the best practices she has uncovered through research with the ITE Transit and Traffic Impact Studies committee that she is chairing.

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Palestinians celebrate Jerusalem synagogue massacre

Just like they celebrated the attack on the US on 9/11.


What a successful presidency looks like

This is what a successful Presidency looks like:
President Obama Took Office
(January 2009)
7,949The Dow Jones Index17,573
-5.4%GDP Growth3.5%
9.8%Deficit GDP %2.8%
37.7Consumer Confidence94.5

The anti-Obama criticism from liberals is dumb and unprincipled, especially from Democrats like Leon Panetta, who stuck the knife in just before the mid-term elections. Of course Beyond Chron has hammered Obama on the left with this and this, oblivious of the political realities he has to deal with. Randy Shaw accuses Obama of "betrayal" on immigration, even though the president obviously had to delay executive action until after the mid-term elections out of deference to the many Democrats who would have been hurt politically if he acted earlier.

Paul Krugman defends Obama in the Rolling Stone, and Frank Rich defends Obama's foreign policy.

The Rolling Stone provides more numbers on the Obama Administration to supplement those above.

Stand with Obama


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Billion dollar bike path for the Bay Bridge?

A reader writes:


In 2009 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved $1.3 million for a study to explore a pedestrian/bike path on the western span of the Bay Bridge.

In Dec. 2009 the study said it would cost $500 million.

In Nov. 2014 MTC is dishing out another $10 million for a new study for a pedestrian/bike path.

Who knows how much the new proposal will cost?

Rob's comment:

The last study put the price tag as high as $1 billion (Bay Bridge 'bike path to nowhere'). The sky's the limit! I've been tracking this idea for years. No price is too high for taxpayers to pay for projects that benefit the bike zealots.

Willie Brown likes the idea:

Hey, the Willie L. Brown Bridge might get its own bike lane and walkway, just like that span on the other side of Yerba Buena Island. What a great idea. I’m looking forward to leading the first walk.

Willie Brown is what I call a Development Democrat, indifferent to how much projects cost or if they make any sense as long as they create union jobs: Dig a hole and fill it with money.

So is Jerry Brown. When asked about the cost overruns on the Bay Bridge, Governor Brown said "Shit happens."

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Richard Dawkins, flying horses, and Islam

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Michael Moore's half-hearted defence of Bill Maher

Michael Moore's defense of Bill Maher on the Islam issue (In Defense of My Friend Bill Maher's Statements on Islam) tells us a lot about the leftist mindset on a number of things. Reading Moore makes me think that, if he wasn't already Maher's friend---and a regular on Maher's HBO program---his understanding of the issue would be even less.

Moore on Maher's recent history:

Bill Maher is a friend of mine. He stood up for me when I was attacked after my Oscar speech (given on the fourth night of the Iraq War, a war Bill publicly opposed while 70% of the country, including the majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate, supported it), and I stood up for him when ABC fired him and cancelled his show when he attempted to stop the hysteria and fear-mongering after 9-11---resulting in the Bush White House publicly ordering him to watch what he says---or else. When Bill got his HBO show, he went on a 7-year tear against the Bush administration and became one of our most unapologetic and unrelenting voices against the insanity being shoved down our throats.

On further examination, the infamous White House threat to Maher apparently never happened, but for progressives it is now an urban legend.

Sounds like Maher convinced Moore that Islam poses a special problem:

...Bill asks, "If I draw a cartoon of Jesus in a dress, will Christian leaders issue a call to assassinate me?" I can't speak to Bill's drawing skills, but it's safe to say that in the USA he can draw whatever he wants. In fact, other than those murdered abortion doctors, a hundred bombed or ransacked Planned Parenthood clinics and a few people like me, there are not many activists or artists who have to worry about Baptists blowing up their homes. Sinead O'Connor was not beheaded for beheading a photo of the Pope on NBC. Your middle name can be 'Hussein' and you can still win the state of Virginia if you're running for President...But if you're a Dutch filmmaker who makes a movie about violence against women in some Islamic countries, or if you're a Danish cartoonist who draws an image making fun of the Prophet---well, you are then either shot to death or you are now in hiding.

So if Bill is taking the same exact position liberals usually take whenever we see free speech being threatened, or women being abused or people forced to submit to fundamentalist dictates, why then is he facing any criticism for speaking out against these wrongs? When Christians do these things we speak up---loudly. So why not speak out when Muslims do it?

Okay so far, but when Moore tries to explain why liberals are uncomfortable about criticizing and mocking Islam, he gets tangled up in liberal misconceptions and misinformation:

We have witnessed, since 9/11, Arabs and Muslims in this country undergoing huge amounts of prejudice, bigotry and sometimes outright violence. This sickens us (as I know it does Bill). So we are extra sensitive to what sounds like, as it goes through the liberal filter in our ears, any "anti-Arab" comments. We don't want to hear anything even remotely anti-Muslim. But we have to be careful that this doesn't stop us from listening to legitimate criticisms about things that go on in the Muslim world.

In fact, according to FBI statistics, there haven't been a lot of anti-Muslim crimes in the US since 9/11 (see this). There are always a lot more hate crimes against black people, Jews and gays in the US than any other groups (see this).

Liberals are intensely fed up with these two wars against mostly Muslim populations (not to mention the indiscriminate drone strikes on at least four other nations). And now the party that won the elections last Tuesday would like a war with Iran. An ignorant American public was manipulated with fear and lies to start and maintain the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars---and that manipulation continues today in order to justify things like the mass spying by the NSA on our entire citizenry. When the Cold War ended (25 years ago today in Berlin), the defense industry went berserk with worry that their salad days were over. A new enemy was needed. Arab terrorists fit the bill perfectly! Not only has the defense industry since thrived, a whole new fake industry has arisen---the Homeland Security behemoth. As our infrastructure, our freedoms and our middle class vaporize, billions are spent as a grossly out-of-proportion response to a few shitty disasters.

On the one hand, Moore agrees with Maher that Islam poses a special problem, while on the other he denies that there is an international dimension to the problem. The 9/11 attackers were trained in Afghanistan, and that's where Osama Bin Laden, who organized the attacks, was based at the time. Are those "lies"? Can anyone really think that the US shouldn't have gone after the Taliban and Bin Laden in Afghanistan? The riff about the "defense industry" is fact-free, ultra-left piffle.

So we liberals don't want to hear another word about an "Islamic threat" or some non-existent Iranian nukes or...or whatever! We know we're being set up to get behind another war effort, another arms race, another diversion intended to make the point-one-percenters even filthier rich---and the rest of us distracted with false fears and hatreds.

Iran isn't trying to make nuclear weapons? The Israelis will be glad to learn that! One still wonders what all those centrifuges in Iran are for.

Moore thinks that the whole Islam issue is nothing but a set-up to make rich people richer!

I have fond memories of Moore's old TV show, but after "Farenheit 9/11"---a shoddy, stupid piece of work---I haven't been able to take him seriously. This only confirms that opinion.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The imaginary "balance" on the board of supervisors

Let the healing begin!

C.W. Nevius's analysis (Choice for Chiu’s seat could tilt balance) of the non-issue of who will be the next president of the board of supervisors:

Although we mostly see the board president banging the gavel and running meetings, insiders say the real power is in appointing members to various three-person committees. Two members who share political views can control what goes in and out of committee. “If you stack the budget committee, you control the budget,” said a City Hall deep thinker. “If you stack Land Use, you can bottle up developments. If the mayor appoints Cindy Wu, he’s handing the keys to the kingdom to the hard left."

Aside from the unlikely idea of "deep thinkers" in City Hall, the blind quote is pure bullshit. It sounds like Nevius made it up. Except for the Airbnb issue, there are in fact no serious political differences on this board, and no supervisor has been inclined to "bottle up developments" in the city. 

There's no such thing as a "hard left" in San Francisco, though Nevius likes to think there is, just like he likes to think there's a serious "anti-development" movement in the city. These falsehoods make it easier for him to write his cartoon columns that masquerade as serious analysis. All the supervisors are Democrats or, at worst, liberal Republicans.

And Cindy Wu would have something to do with enabling that "hard left"? Ridiculous.

"What’s wrong with Jane Kim?” she[Rose Pak] asks. “Who the hell do they want? She’s smart, she’s reasonable, she’s balanced, she’s well-liked by her colleagues, and she won’t be rubber-stamping everything (investor and Lee supporter) Ron Conway wants."

Actually, there's evidence that Kim isn't the sharpest blade in the drawer. Nevius has doubts about Kim because of her Mirkarimi vote:

Personally, I’m not sure what to make of Kim. She’s clearly smart and ambitious, but she’s a little hard to figure. It isn’t just that she voted to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after domestic violence allegations---and expect to hear a lot about that---but it was the way it played out. Mirkarimi critics needed nine yes votes from the board to remove the sheriff. But by the time Kim’s vote came up, three members had already voted no. So reinstatement was secured. Kim could have voted yes and had it both ways---avoiding a politically charged vote while remaining certain that Mirkarimi would be reinstated. Instead, she went with the progressive party line.

Completely wrong. The Mirkarimi vote would have been "politically charged" for Kim no matter how she voted. But she tried to have it both ways---voting to allow Mirkarimi to remain sheriff and then supporting a recall after the vote! (Vote to reinstate Mirkarimi stirs outcry)

There is bound to be personal resentment on the board among those who supported Campos after Chiu's campaign defamed Campos as being soft on domestic violence because of his vote to reinstate Mirkarimi. Ugly, unprincipled stuff.

But Chiu apparently has no regrets. His post-election statement is worthy of Richard Nixon: 

"I applaud Supervisor Campos and his supporters on their passion and hard work, and we do have healing to do,” Chiu said. “Our city continues to face new challenges and we need to work together to move San Francisco forward.”

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Tyranny of Twee

I first saw the phrase "tyranny of twee" on Brendan O'Neill's blog. There's a lot of overlap between twee and what I call the Cute Movement:

Can anyone stop the tsunami of twee? It seems not. Britain is being swallowed up by tweeness. Like a B-movie style blob, only pink and sugary rather than black and deathly, twee is spreading through the nation, colonising every corner of cultural life. On TV, in the music world, in magazines, twee is everywhere...

It isn't really a tyranny. More like a virus. The teeny, tiny door item on the SF Weekly's blog prompted this post, but I hadn't seen the current issue of the Weekly, which means I have to add this example:

Teeny, tiny, cutesy doors

A "painfully cute" bike wedding.

See also this


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jim Costa: "Godfather" of high-speed rail losing re-election

It's still in some doubt, but Congressman Costa is now hoping that the count of mail-in and provisional ballots will win the election for him. 

The Wall Street Journal in 2012:

The project's godfather is Democratic Congressman Jim Costa, who as a state senator in the 1990s wrote legislation creating California's High-Speed Rail Authority and helped plan the 500-mile route between San Francisco and Anaheim. Before being elected to Congress (in 2004), he also authored a $10 billion state bond initiative to finance the project. Lawmakers in Sacramento postponed that initiative until 2008, fearing that California's recurring budget crises would make it a hard sell. But sell it they did. The rail authority promised voters that the train wouldn't require a subsidy and that the feds and private sector would pick up most of the $33 billion tab. Expecting a free ride, voters leapt on board and approved the initiative in November 2008. Not long afterward, the authority raised the price to $43 billion.

Recall that one of the first federal pork payments to the state for high-speed rail went to the Central Valley in 2010 to help re-elect Costa:

The federal government’s most recent $900 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority came with a string attached: most of the money had to be spent, not in Los Angeles or San Francisco where most potential rail patrons are located, but in the central valley. Handed out just before the election, the grant was a blatant attempt to help the re-election effort of U.S. Representative Jim Costa. It might have made a difference, for despite the fact that Costa’s district leans heavily Democrat, he won over an unknown Republican candidate by a mere 3,000 votes.

Streetsblog thought that was terrific.

Costa's opponent made high-speed rail an issue:

The Secretary of State's close contests site.

The letter below shows that not all California members of Congress support this boondoggle. The California High Speed Rail Authority is trying to get the federal Surface Transportation Board to rule that federal law pre-empts state law and CEQA on the project.

See also Union Pacific's letter to the Surface Transportation Board warning that it still opposes allowing the high-speed rail to use its track in its proposed "blended" system with Caltrain. This is not a new stand by Union Pacific, since it sent a warning letter to the High Speed Rail Authority more than four years ago.