Thursday, September 18, 2014

"While cars produce smog, bicycles produce smug."

Talking About Bikelash In Your City from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Even after years of witnessing the arrogance and smugness of cyclists in San Francisco, I'm surprised that the folks who put this video together think it makes their cause endearing.

No doubt it does to the True Believers---it's target audience, admittedly---but it only confirms what the rest of us think: arrogance and smug self-righteousness: "And it makes all of us giggle and be happy, and we just go on doing good work.” Oh, yes, because you are one of the Good People and so adorable! 

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Leave your work at the office


by Matt Davies


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

To anti-war left, the US is the bad guy


Sean Thomas quotes George Orwell's statement that he made in 1941:

England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.

The United States has a similar problem with its left wing. Browse through the leftist Alternet and you learn about the many evils of our society---gun violence, violence against women, violence against blacks, violence against the environment, etc. You learn that the United States is a pretty terrible place---except when you compare it to most of the rest of the world.

Like every other society on the planet, the United States has serious problems, but this anti-Americanism goes back to the invasion of Iraq---or even back to the US attack on and invasion of Vietnam. We are always the Bad Guys!

On Obama's plan to destroy ISIS, the Alternet tells us that the turmoil in the Middle East is all the fault of the US, mostly because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And ISIS, al Qaeda and the other Islamic terrorist groups supposedly are not motivated by Islam, even if the terrorists themselves say that they are, with many citations to the Koran.

It's all about our politics and US foreign policy, which is some kind of reverse spin on nationalistic narcissism. And of course oil, even though Islamic fanatics were slaughtering each other centuries before oil was discovered in that part of the world. The Founding Fathers were dealing with Islamists even before they wrote the Constitution.

If we would only leave those poor people alone to abuse their women and children in peace, there would be no Middle East problem. Especially if we let them destroy Israel, which would solve a lot of problems.

The progressive Daily Kos makes an isolationist argument against President Obama:

We've spent billions arming our Middle East allies to the teeth. They are the ones directly threatened by Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL. Not us. So why is it us that have to do the fighting? It's their backyard, but they can watch comfortably as the United States bleeds trillions more to bail them out? Nice gig, if you can get it. Let those directly threatened by Islamic State put their skin in the game.

As if the United States has to be directly threatened by an enemy before it acts to defend itself and its interests.

The president is criticized by the right-wing for not getting involved in Syria, but Alternet sees the opposite, that the US is somehow responsible for Syria:

The chaos that Obama's doctrine of covert and proxy war has wreaked in Libya, Syria and Iraq should be a reminder of one of the obvious but unlearned lessons of September 11, that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics as proxies to fight secular enemies has huge potential for blowback and unintended consequences as they gain power and escape external control. Once these forces were unleashed in Syria, where they had limited local support but powerful external backers, the stage was set for a long and bloody conflict.

All the US did in Libya was use its air power to prevent the Gadaffi regime from slaughtering the rebels in Benghazi, which was a certainty, given the disparity in firepower between the regime and the rebels. And the US was joined by the UN and 19 other countries in that effort. The US has had very little to do with the Syrian civil war, and US troops have been out of Iraq for several years. But it's still all our fault!

See Jonathan Chait on the anti-Obama left in the US, which is disappointed that the president is not another Lincoln.

Ron Radosh on the right throws Obama's statements about Iraq and the Constitution before he was elected back at him.

But Obama has learned what Lincoln learned about being president: "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

Jeffrey Goldberg has a more balanced estimate of Obama's foreign policy.

What about the city's left on the president's ISIS plan? Nothing but silence at the Bay Guardian and Fog City Journal. Maybe they understand that they really have nothing sensible to say about the issue. (Before he became editor, Steven Jones had a not-very-sensible response to my comment on his article opposing the surge in Afghanistan.)

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Derailing democracy

Bump at the pump


California's Democratic Derailment
Sept. 13, 2014

Politicians ignore the legal caveats that voters added to the bullet train

In theory at least, courts and ballot referenda are checks on legislative tyranny. A California appellate court has effectively done away with both by ruling that the legal requirements of a bond measure approved by voters for the state's bullet train are merely "guidance." Californians ought to try this law-as-guidance defense when they're stopped for speeding.

Six years ago voters approved a referendum authorizing $9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail construction, including language with stringent "taxpayer protections." These stipulations were, among other things, that the state high-speed rail authority present a detailed preliminary plan to the legislature identifying funding sources and environmental clearances for the train's first "usable segment" prior to a bond appropriation.

The legislature in 2012 green-lighted the bonds while ignoring these stipulations. The rail authority had pinpointed merely $6 billion of the estimated $31.5 billion necessary to complete the first 300-mile segment from Merced to San Fernando. Only 30 miles of environmental clearances had been certified. 

Last year Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the authority "abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law." But in July Sacramento's Third Appellate District sanctioned the lawlessness with a decision as impressive for its cognitive dissonance as its legal afflatus.

On the one hand, the court opined that "voters clearly intended to place the Authority in a financial straitjacket by establishing a mandatory multi-step process to ensure the financial viability of the project." But then the judges ruled that the challenge to the legislature's invalid bond appropriation and authority's preliminary plan, "however deficient," was in effect moot.

The court could require the authority to redo its plan, but the judges say that would be unnecessary since the Director of Finance must still approve a rigorous final plan before the authority can spend the bond revenue. In other words, the law's procedural requirements don't matter.

Yet the bond referendum had ordered a preliminary plan for legislative review precisely so lawmakers could force the rail authority to address their concerns before appropriating the bonds. This added a modicum of political accountability.

So here we have the spectacle of legislators ignoring the very taxpayer protections that they had used to gull voters into approving a ballot measure that might never have passed without those protections. The lesson is that politicians will grab any new power or spending authority voters give them. They'll blow through the caveats and dare voters to sue to stop them.

As for the courts, they're supposed to enforce the law as written. California's Supreme Court now has an opportunity to do what the appellate judges did not and order Sacramento to follow the bond language. At stake are the rule of law and democratic governance in the Golden State.


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The bike movement comes to Pittsburgh


From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Enough about bikes, bikes, bikes
September 14, 2014

By Joe Wos

In case you missed it, on Sept. 3 our Mayor Bill Peduto and representatives of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust held a press conference for a bike rack. This will come as little surprise in a city that launches fireworks for the opening of an envelope. But this press conference for the illustrious inanimate rack was just the beginning. That same day the city installed five bike racks — allowing for the parking of literally tens of bicycles in the Golden Triangle. The mayor has made it one of his prime initiatives to make this a bike-friendly city. The bike rack itself had no comment.

Pittsburgh is now the 35th best city to bike in, according to Bicycling.com. The press conference was a harbinger of things to come as Pittsburgh ramps up its ongoing efforts to gather as many “best of” list rankings as possible. Throughout Lawrenceville, hipsters rejoiced when Pittsburgh added bike lanes heading into Downtown, enabling white men with bushy beards and black-rim plastic glasses a quicker way to get Downtown to play their banjos on street corners.

This past week bike enthusiasts from around the country gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference to explore such exciting topics as “sidewalk roughness standards,” “The tires are getting pumped and so are we” and my favorite, “Making a career as a freelance active transportation consultant.”

Bike advocates point to the success of bike lanes in cities such as New York — cities with many four-lane roads in each direction and more than 200,000 bicyclists daily. Pittsburgh’s bike lanes, however, have taken two-direction roads and cut them down to one-way, one-lane streets!

They also point to other cities throughout the United States and Europe as shining examples of what Pittsburgh could be — ignoring practical issues such as Pittsburgh’s climate and a realistic assessment of how many Pittsburghers really want to bike to work every day.

This completely ignores and denigrates our existing nonbiking culture and forces us to become “better people” by their standards. They neglect to mention a study in Helsinki showed bike paths to be more dangerous than sharing roads, and a study in Vancouver that reported a decrease in business along bike paths.

Safety concerns are pointed to as the main issue driving the introduction of bike lanes, yet Pittsburgh requires neither helmets for bicyclists over 12 nor bicycle licensing or registration.

Now that city officials have squeezed the motor vehicle lanes heading into the city, the next step is to cut the “ittsburgh” from Pittsburgh and replace it with “ortland” — thus fulfilling Pittsburgh’s desire to be the next “any city but Pittsburgh.”

One reason Pittsburgh has taken to promoting bicycling is shame. Shame of who we are as a city and of our roots. Bicyclists have taken to fat-shaming our city, claiming health and environmental benefits as well as the moral high ground. While cars produce smog, bicycles seem to produce smug. Criticize the bike lanes, and angry bicyclists head off in a Huffy. Rather than making this city “bike friendly,” they are making it “automobile unfriendly.”

Drivers are not unwilling to share the road, but they do expect bicyclists to abide by traffic laws, too. How many times have you seen bicyclists run red lights or drive on city sidewalks — flying above the law like some sort of magical Pegasus-Unicorn combination of bike and pedestrian?

Safety is a real concern, and we need to educate not just automobile drivers, but also bicyclists. Drivers are willing and able to share the road responsibly. But saying that will just further pump up the ire of bicyclists who argue that automobiles are the problem, period.

Bicyclists have become religious zealots in the first church of the perpetual Schwinn. They are firm believers that the path to salvation is via a bike lane leading through Downtown. They hail bikes as solving issues as diverse as traffic congestion, pollution and obesity. They make bold claims of bicycling cities having lower rates of diabetes and heart disease and a greater love of kittens. Rather than attempt to solve Downtown’s parking issues, narrow lanes, traffic and public transportation issues, they point to bikes as the great solution to Pittsburgh’s ills.

This kind of blind self-righteousness is overcompensation for a city that suffered through decades of low self-esteem. All this, thanks to a tiny percentage of Pittsburgh’s population — a whopping 1.4 percent of people in Pittsburgh ride bikes to work, according to the Census Bureau — illustrating the old adage, “the squeaky bicycle wheel gets the grease.”

As a lifelong Pittsburgher, I recognize that bike-lane improvements are needed to make Pittsburgh safer, cleaner, more pretentious and white. It is an appeasement to a miniscule percentage of the population to create the illusion of a progressive city at the expense of real issues and needs.

The bike movement is a convenient distraction from issues such as race. Make no mistake; this is partly about race. It is about white privilege and entitlement.

According to Bike Pgh’s annual report, 1 percent of its members identify as African-American. This suggests that only a tiny, tiny percentage of African-Americans ride bikes to work in Pittsburgh — whereas one in three say they rely on public transportation. As bus service and routes have been cut in neighborhoods with the greatest needs, bike lanes have been provided to serve a minority that is, by its own admission, unable to attract real minorities...

I love and adore this city. But, every now and then, you have to say: “Get over yourself, Pittsburgh.” Address the real issues that would be a tangible improvement to this city and make us the best Pittsburgh we can be.

Or have you gotten too big for your bridges?

Thanks to ENUF for the link.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bill Maher discusses Islam with feeble-minded liberal



Charlie Rose is the perfect lame liberal foil for Bill Maher on Islam. He's so uncomfortable even discussing the radically illiberal aspects of Islam, he keeps interrupting Maher. This is a serious problem on Rose's program. When he gets someone interesting---and not necessarily someone he disagrees with, like Maher---he constantly interrupts with banal interjections or dumb questions instead of letting his guest talk.

On important issues all right-thinking American liberals are supposed to either agree on or shut up about, Rose is reliably spineless. Last year he refused to broadcast a conversation with RFK Jr., when the latter voiced serious reservations about the official cover story on the assassination of his uncle, which I blogged about at the time.



Thanks to Creeping Sharia

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The US is shocked, shocked, about violent athletes



North Dallas Forty was made in 1979, and it accurately portrayed football as a violent game.


There were drugs...


And there was sex and a casual, offhanded sexism.


A few years before North Dallas Forty, there was Semi-Tough, which was mostly about sex---and of course a casual sexist assumption---not violence. But it included a great parody of EST. Bert Convy even looked a lot like Werner Erhard.

USA Today is keeping score of NFL players arrested, and the Niners are well-represented on the list. The Ethicist in the New York Times asks "Is it wrong to watch football?" He thinks it isn't, but I bet a lot of people are unconvinced.

Interesting to note that the two scenes in North Dallas Forty where Nick Nolte and Mac Davis share a joint aren't included in the movie's trailers. Somebody could make an interesting documentary on marijuana in the movies, much like The Celluloid Closet did for gay scenes back in 1981. I remember seeing Paul Newman roll a joint for Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth in 1962, and didn't Cher and Meryl Streep share a joint in Silkwood?

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Sam Harris: Koran, other "holy" books, are "poison"


Sam Harris deconstructs the liberal delusion that Moslem religious fanatics don't base their actions on Islam (Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon):

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.

In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim….ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way….May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God.

Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no”...

...And just like moderates in every other religion, most moderate Muslims become obscurantists when defending their faith from criticism. They rely on modern, secular values—for instance, tolerance of diversity and respect for human rights—as a basis for reinterpreting and ignoring the most despicable parts of their holy books. But they nevertheless demand that we respect the idea of revelation, and this leaves us perpetually vulnerable to more literal readings of scripture.

The idea that any book was inspired by the creator of the universe is poison—intellectually, ethically, and politically. And nowhere is this poison currently doing more harm than in Muslim communities, East and West...

...Religion produces a perverse solidarity that we must find some way to undercut. It causes in-group loyalty and out-group hostility, even when members of one’s own group are behaving like psychopaths.

But it remains taboo in most societies to criticize a person’s religious beliefs. Even atheists tend to observe this taboo and enforce it on others, because they believe that religion is necessary for many people. After all, life is difficult and faith is a balm. Most people imagine that Iron Age philosophy represents the only available vessel for their spiritual hopes and existential concerns. This is an enduring problem for the forces of reason, because the most transformative experiences people have—bliss, devotion, self-transcendence—are currently anchored to the worst parts of culture and to ways of thinking that merely amplify superstition, self-deception, and conflict.

Among all the harms caused by religion at this point in history, this is perhaps the most subtle: Even when it appears beneficial—inspiring people to gather in beautiful buildings to contemplate the mystery existence and their ethical commitments to one another—religion conveys the message that there is no intellectually defensible and nonsectarian way to do this. But there is. We can build strong communities and enjoy deeply moral and spiritual lives, without believing any divisive nonsense about the divine origin of specific books...

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why you should vote against Prop A and for Prop L

Click on graphic for larger view

See also this from Beyond Chron.

















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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tom Ammiano and city progressives


Last week's Bay Guardian cover story (Tom's legacy) quotes Tom Ammiano confronting then-Governor Schwarzenegger and telling him to "kiss my gay ass!"

The Guardian's story on Ammiano is in effect a long, lingering smooch on Ammiano's gay ass:

Ammiano's positions derive from his progressive political values, which were informed by his working class upbringing, first-hand observations of the limits of American militarism, publicly coming out as a gay teacher at time when that was a risky decision, standing with immigrants and women at important political moments, and steadily enduring well-funded attacks as he created some of San Francisco's most defining and enduring political reforms, from domestic partner benefits and key political reforms to universal health care.

These are all important issues Ammiano can take credit for supporting, and it was courageous to come out as a gay teacher at the time.

On the other hand, "at important political moments" in San Francisco, Ammiano and city progressives failed dramatically. One of those moments happened more than ten years ago, when the city was struggling with a growing, seemingly intractable homeless problem. Then-Supervisor Newsom rose to the occasion with Care Not Cash on the November, 2002, ballot. He got himself elected mayor in 2003 with a campaign featuring the homeless issue and then began implementing Care Not Cash, which the city's progressive leadership declared nothing but a war on the poor. He followed up with Homeward Bound, supportive housing, and Project Homeless Connect.

According to a report from the Controller's office, Care Not Cash had some early success, but you rarely hear any progressive leaders in the city talk about homelessness anymore. Gee, I wonder why?

What was the left's approach to the city's homeless problem before Care Not Cash and Gavin Newsom? Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, nothing but political theater that implied that there was nothing much to be done about it, that city residents would just have to put up with it as part of the capitalist system, etc.

Ammiano's response to Care Not Cash? He and three other progressive supervisors---(Gonzalez, McGoldrick, and Peskin) put Proposition O---Care Not Cash was Proposition N---on the ballot at the last minute as a poison pill for Care Not Cash without any hearing or real public input, whereas Care Not Cash was an initiative that had to get signatures to get on the ballot.

The city's left has never really recovered from Newsom's victory over uber-prog Matt Gonzalez in 2003.

The Guardian hopes Ammiano will come back and help "revive the city's progressive spirit."

He acknowledges that things can seem to [be] a little bleak to progressives right now: "They're feeling somewhat marginalized, but I don't think it's going to stay that way."

What kind of leadership can he provide on city issues?

Ammiano of course supports the Bicycle Plan, but that and anti-carism is already the most important part of the progressive agenda, which is not necessarily a good thing. Nothing new he can offer there.

Ammiano was a leader in the successful attempt to take down the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley, a dubious achievement that he and city progs want to duplicate on Masonic Avenue with a bike project that will eliminate 167 parking spaces. This project is a political time bomb that will detonate next year when the project is implemented.

Ammiano opposed the sit-lie legislation passed by city voters to deal with street punks on Haight Street. He even proposed a Homeless Bill of Rights to counter the sit-lie legislation.

Along with every other city progressive, Ammiano was a big supporter of Proposition K in 2003, which saddled city---and state and federal---taxpayers with the Central Subway boondoggle.

Naturally, Ammiano also supports the dumb high-speed rail project. Gavin Newsom, his old political opponent, is the only prominent Democrat to come out in opposition to it.

Ammiano said the city is desperately in need of some strong political leadership right now, something that he isn't seeing from Mayor Lee, who has mostly been carrying out the agenda of the business leaders, developers, and power brokers who engineered his mayoral appointment in 2011. "Basically, he's an administrator and I don't think he'll ever be anything but that," Ammiano said. "We are so fucking ready for a progressive mayor."

The routine conversational vulgarity is offensive and not the kind of leadership that folks like Guardian editor Steve Jones really need. City progs seem to think that being an authentic progressive requires them to sprinkle their conversation with obscenities (See this and this.)

But how specifically does Ammiano differ with Mayor Lee on the issues? It would be helpful if a progressive leader offered a thoughtful critique of the city's foolish "smart growth" development policies, but Ammiano has never voiced any opposition to turning the city into Highriseville.

Ammiano said he's been too busy lately to really think about what's next for him...Ammiano is talking with universities and speakers bureaus about future gigs and he's thinking about writing a book or doing a one-man show. "Once I get settled, I'll look at the mayor's race and [Sen. Mark] Leno's seat," Ammiano said, holding out hope that his political career will continue.

A prediction: Ammiano will not run for mayor. He's more likely to run for Leno's senate seat. Like Willie Brown before him, he's now more comfortable operating in Sacramento than San Francisco, which is a much tougher political environment.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Almost everyone in the US drives to work

















From CityLab:

If you live in one of America's major cities, mobility often feels inextricably linked to public transportation. New York City couldn't function without its iconic subway. Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles have made big expansions to their metros. Chicago and San Francisco are planning state-of-the-art rapid bus lines to complement their rail systems. Even historically sprawling, car-reliant cities like Denver, Phoenix, and Houston are betting on light rail to guide their future growth.

Amid news of all this transit growth, it's far too easy to forget that on any given day most city residents still drive to work. The Atlantic Media/Siemens State of the City poll is a sobering reminder of that reality. Among every single urban demographic group—let alone non-urban groups—the majority of respondents commuted by car...

Most people in Europe, by the way, also drive to work.

This is not news, but it's a reality-check for the anti-car bike movement. See page 3 of this ACS report to understand the insignificance of cycling and the importance of motor vehicles for Americans. See Wendell Cox in New Geography for a thorough analysis of this reality.

Why do people drive to work when public transportation is cheaper? Because it's a lot faster, and people can access more jobs in a much wider area with a car. A pro-bike writer concedes that

...people make rational calculations to drive so much of the time, even in cities where decent transit does exist. The total financial cost per trip of driving somewhere is likely higher than taking transit (or biking), once you factor in car payments, insurance, and maintenance. But we tend to treat those as sunk costs. And so we often make travel decisions with a time budget in mind, not a financial one. By that metric, it's clear here why people who can afford to drive often chose to. It's also clear on these maps that people who can't afford a car pay a steep penalty in time to get around (emphasis added).

Not having cars is a serious handicap for the poor, since public transportation can't realistically provide access to a wide area when you're looking for a job.



















In San Francisco a much lower percentage of people drive to work, with 36.6% of commuters driving alone, and 46.6% of commuters overall relying on motor vehicles. Only 3.6% of city commuters ride bikes to work, though the city is claiming that the latest ACS numbers make it 3.8%. 33% of city residents take public transportation to work.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Jack Reacher and NPR liberals


You wouldn't think that people who listen to NPR would also read Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, but apparently you'd be wrong, since NPR did an interview recently with Lee Child who is promoting his new Reacher book.

I've enjoyed several of the Reacher novels, which, for formula fiction, are pretty good. But the formula is like Elmore Leonard's books in that the people Reacher kills or beats up all have it coming. Someone once pointed out that books by Elmore Leonard and Jane Austen have one important thing in common: happy endings, which is why liberals like the Reacher books. He always wins out over the Bad Guys.

Other pulp writers admire the books. Ken Follett in the NY Times Book Review:

Which of the big fall books are you most looking forward to?
I can hardly wait for “Personal,” by Lee Child. Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of. I read every one as soon as it appears. And by the way, the author is a really nice guy.

Child is a nice guy who writes about a guy who isn't too nice to do battle with the Bad Guys on their own terms.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

The new Polk Street bike lane



Thanks to Streetsblog.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

High speed rail: Checking the Fact Check

















For its story on the Brown-Kashari debate, the Chronicle had a "fact check" sidebar of the candidates' statements. On high-speed rail:

Statement: Kashkari said that as a result of Brown spending $70 billion on the high-speed rail project, the state is spending only $2.7 billion on water storage and other important matters such as upgrading school facilities.

Fact check: The state can't dip into one pot of money for unrelated projects. California's $68 billion high-speed rail plan calls for using a combination of federal dollars, voter-approved state bonds and potentially cap-and-trade money. The state's water bond, which is on the November ballot, calls for $2.7 billion for surface storage.

True, if the water bond passes in November, the state can't take that money and spend it on schools. But Kashari's point was obvious: If the state is going to spend billions on the train to nowhere, it limits what it can spend on other issues.

True too that the state's high-speed rail plan is counting on money from the federal government to build the system. But it's been clear for several years that there will be no more money from the feds for this project. You have to get to page 53 of the high-speed rail authority's 2014 business plan to find a discussion of where it's going to get the money to build the system.

The cost to build only the initial operating segment from the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley:

Appropriated Funds
State Bonds (Proposition 1A) $2,684
Federal Grants $3,316
Committed Funds
State Bonds (Proposition 1A) $4,240
Uncommitted Funds $20,934
TOTAL $31,174[billion]

More than $20 billion short! Governor Brown convinced the legislature to allow him to hijack $250 million in cap-and-trade money for the project, but that's not a serious amount of money for building even that first segment. And it's a one-time deal, since it's not at all clear that the legislature will allow that probably illegal appropriation---it's being litigated (see also page 14, 15 here)---in the future. See also Cap-and-Trade Auction Revenue Expenditure Plan by the state's Legislative Analyst.

And the annual interest payment on the $9 billion in state bonds California voters authorized in 2008 will come from the state's general fund:

If the bonds are sold at an average interest rate of 5 percent, and assuming a repayment period of 30 years, the General Fund cost would be about $19.4 billion to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion). The average repayment for principal and interest would be about $647 million per year. (emphasis added)


Thanks to TRANSDEF for some links.

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Militarizing the cops

Oliphant

The San Francisco Police Department has shown restraint in the type of war surplus equipment it has received from the Pentagon according to NPR and the Daily Kos. No armored vehicles, grenade launchers, or airplanes, unlike Nebraska, which apparently is getting ready for some serious civil disturbances.


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Friday, September 05, 2014

Bike/anti-car movement worried about Prop. L


Joel Ramos, Mayor Lee's anti-car appointment to the SFMTA board, is worried about Prop. L, the initiative that opposes the City Hall, Bicycle Coalition anti-car policies that are increasingly unpopular in the city. He now returns whence he came, to Transform, with an anti-L op-ed that preaches to the choir.

Ramos struggles to simulate even-handedness with this:

There has been an understandable backlash as plans for protected bicycle lanes (e.g. on Polk Street, Masonic Avenue, etc.) and high-quality transit-ways (e.g. bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue) have required the removal of curbside parking. But without these improvements, even those who are angry about the loss of public space for private cars will suffer down the road. If Prop L passes, streets will continue to get more clogged and more dangerous as car traffic increases with population growth.

Of course Prop. L is only an advisory measure that won't have the force of law. But the anti-car folks are apparently beginning to suspect they and the bike people really aren't very popular in the city, and this is the first chance city voters have had to express that antipathy. If the initiative passes in November, it will be a major turd in the punch bowl for the anti-car bike movement. Until now City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been pushing bike lanes through the process even when they are unpopular in the neighborhoods, like the nutty Masonic Avenue and the Polk Street bike projects Ramos mentions.

Only our successful litigation forcing the city to do the legally required EIR on the 500-page Bicycle Plan has slowed the city's anti-car movement.

Ramos supported the East Bay BRT project that was rejected by Berkeley and San Leandro, and he was annoyed when neighborhood opposition to parking meters surfaced two years ago. The Van Ness BRT project will make traffic worse in that part of town not only because it takes away street parking but because it will divert traffic onto the already busy Franklin, Gough, and Polk Streets.

Streetsblog announced last month the campaign in opposition to Prop. L:

The campaign is being managed by Peter Lauterborn, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar, though Mar’s office isn’t officially affiliated with it. Lauterborn said endorsements are still being gathered, but that it’s already backed by Supervisors Mar, Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, John Avalos, and David Chiu. No currently elected officials have come out in support of Prop L.

Lauterborn is still listed as a "Legislative Aide" to Supervisor Mar, which seems like Mar's office is in fact "officially affiliated" with the anti-L campaign. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Lauterborn wrote that silly letter justifying the Masonic Avenue bike project, since he's also on record supporting the equally silly idea of filling in the underpass at the Fillmore/Geary intersection.

Speaking of that part of town, people are still wondering about that Planning Dept. map of Japantown that extends two blocks across Geary. Could this be part of the city's attempt to "preserve" Japantown---which has few Japanese residents---by expanding it? Who exactly will benefit from this subterfuge?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Vote No on A in November

Muni at work
From the No on A folks:

VOTE NO ON A November 4, 2014 Election, SF 

NO ON TRANSPORTATION AND ROAD BOND 

Raising property taxes and rents, without legal language to commit funds only to Muni, is deceptive, especially when Prop A’s TEP (Transit Effectiveness Project) eliminates more Muni service in neighborhoods. 

1) Raises property taxes and rents, by a 50% pass-through with no exemption for rent controlled units, to pay for General Obligation Bonds of $500 million, with $500 million in interest, for a total debt of $1 billion—without accountability. 

2) Non-binding legal language in the Ordinance:

a) “May be allocated” spending language, unlike other state and local bond measures.

b) “May include but not limited to” legal language, unlike any contract or agreement. 

The City’s Ballot Simplification Committee acknowledges this failure to commit by noting “The City could use the funds for the following purposes,” rather than the usual “shall use.”

3) Lack of binding project definition gives a blank check to the SFMTA, allowing expenditures on roads, on non-Muni projects, on other projects’ cost overruns.

P. 3--5: The Ordinance’s legal language makes no commitment to any specific work: “Projects to be funded under the proposed Bond may include but are not limited to the following.” For eight project types “A portion of the Bond may be allocated to…” Everywhere else in the Ordinance “shall” is used. 

4) Prop A does not restore past Muni service cuts. Since 2006 Muni has eliminated bus routes, shortened bus lines, decreased frequency, decreased night service, worsened switchbacks, missed runs, late buses and decreased connectivity in every neighborhood. 

5) Prop A’s TEP cuts more Muni buses in neighborhoods, diverting service to “high-use” corridors and eliminating bus stops, hurting seniors, disabled, youth, and low-income families.

6) Oversight provisions are extremely weak, with a citizens’ committee merely empowered to conduct an annual after-the-fact review of spending and to report findings to the Mayor and Board. The committee has no say in the allocation of the funds. 

7) Prop A is silent as to who decides on projects that will be funded and on dollar amounts. 

8) Muni has already wasted billion of dollars. Muni service levels and ridership numbers have declined, while Muni budgets, staffing and salaries have soared. The only independent audit of Muni projects, by CGR Consultants in 2011, concluded that nearly all of Muni’s large capital projects have large cost overruns.

9) Prop A’s dollars can be taken by other projects’ cost overruns. Before voters give SFMTA more money, SFMTA must show that it can track its capital projects’ schedules and budgets, as well as avoid overruns. 

10) A Better Way! Reject this bond measure! From the surging City Budget ($8.6 billion this year), allocate General Fund dollars to Muni’s operating and maintenance budgets. Instead of new bond debt, utilize the $500 million savings in debt interest to implement 2003 Prop K’s transit-preferential streets---quicker and cheaper. Before unproductive debt, let’s reverse Prop A’s policy of Muni cuts in neighborhoods. Then SFMTA should work from a carefully-developed plan geared to solving San Francisco’s most critical transportation needs prior to new bonds. SFMTA should not be doling out $500 million haphazardly in response to pressure from politically-connected groups.


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ISIS and Obama exchange messages


ISIS sends "A Second Message to America" as it murders Steven Sotloff. Obama has sent 120 messages to ISIS---aka, Krakpotistan---in the form of airstrikes, with many more to come.


Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rating SF drivers: Not the best, not the worst


















Since there are so many variables involved in these rankings, as the author of the Slate piece (Which city has the worst drivers?) admits, he's indulging in more of a "parlor game" than a serious study: "If you don’t like my methodology, make your own." He includes a link to a spreadsheet with his rankings and the variables used.

There's a consensus that Miami has the worst drivers; both Slate and Travel and Leisure agree on that.

The Slate writer based his rankings on several sources, including starting out by inverting the Allstate ranking of the best drivers in the country.

On drunk driving, San Diego is the worst, and San Francisco comes in only 8th worst in the country. But the big variable on that list is enforcement, since Kicking Tires tells us that

San Diego has a sergeant and five specialized officers who spend 40 hours a week just stopping and arresting DUI offenders, according to Insurance.com. City officers are trained to watch traffic and search for even slight driver’s errors, such as stopping too long at an intersection.

Slate factors in miles driven into its rankings ("the number of miles that members of an average household travel by car in a year"). Since people in SF on average don't drive as far in our geographically compact city, we get a bad rating on frequency-of-accidents:

The Allstate rankings, for example, are based on the number of years between accidents. San Franciscans average 6.5 years between crashes, but they drive 74 percent as many miles as the average for cities in our survey, so we lower their years-between-accidents to 4.8 to account for how rarely they drive.

The sheer traffic density in San Francisco has to be factored in, since we have more than 10,000 registered motor vehicles per square mile (47 square miles, 477,314 registered vehicles).

But the biggest joker in the deck is how traffic accidents are counted, not only in San Francisco but everywhere else. That the city has a radically flawed method of counting accidents on our streets throws that important number in doubt.

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