Thursday, December 18, 2014

Backlash against Moslems is non-existent

Soon after the attack by the Moslem terrorist in Australia, there were those in Australia who started worrying about a backlash against Moslems. A commenter was skeptical:

What anti-Islamic backlash? I keep hearing from the media and other groups how we Australians are inherently racist bigots looking for an excuse to lash out Muslims but I don't see it anywhere.

Recall that the anti-violent jihad ads on Muni buses a few years ago put city progressives and City Hall in a dither about a completely non-existent "Islamophobia."

Another Australian takes a dim view of #illridewithyou:

#illridewithyou has taken off. It is, of course, a completely empty gesture designed only to reinforce the arrogant feelings of moral superiority held by those who promote tolerance at the expense of our nation’s safety. And nothing shows the vacuous nature of the moral do-gooders than the fact that they don’t do any good at all. They just ‘Twitter’ good, like gods from on high. Apparently, that is even better than actually doing anything at all. If you support the idea of Islamic rule and Sharia law, the last 24 hours have shown that murdering two Australians is pretty much all it takes to get everyone who is anyone to show deference and submission. It’s not exactly a great deterrence. So expect more violence to come.

Naturally, the feebs at the MTA wring their over-compensated hands worrying about the non-existent backlash: "During the 16-hour stand-off on Monday and Tuesday at a downtown café, 17 hostages were held and, eventually, two lost their lives...The gunman also died." The passive usage tries to take the sting out of the reality: those two were shot to death by a Moslem fanatic, who, by the way, didn't die of Islamophobia. He was shot to death by the police.

Recall the MTA's fatuous "peace campaign" in response to the anti-jihad ads. Your tax dollars at work from the MTA's "creative shop." It's not enough that this agency is aggressively redesigning city streets on behalf of a small, often obnoxious minority of cyclists; it gives us this crap, too.

The MTA's blogger on the origins of the lame hashtag movement:

During this tragedy, two women on social media came together to form an idea about helping to reduce increasing backlash against those perceived to be affiliated with the Iranian perpetrator. The initial expression of support came from the blog of Rachel Jacobs who watched a fellow passenger on public transit remove her head covering. Once off the vehicle, Jacobs reached out to the woman to tell her that she would travel with her if the woman felt intimidated. Once the story was shared on Twitter, another woman...echoed the offer for those who shared her commute and then suggested the hashtag #illridewithyou.

This seems to be the extent of the backlash in Australia: a woman on a bus removed her head covering because she worried about a non-existent backlash in Australia.

What about a backlash against Islam here in the US? According to the FBI's latest hate crime statistics, attacks on Moslems are way behind hate crimes against the usual targets: black people, Jews, and gays.

These "lone wolf" attackers are not so alone anymore:

The idea that the "lone wolf" is not associated with terrorism is a misunderstanding of how Islamist jihad has morphed today into a war on two fronts: overseas insurgencies that target everyone who is not a certain brand of Islam, and on the other hand, a sophisticated internet presence that incites anyone in the West (or dar al harb, the land of infidels) to carry out single acts of destruction. The "lone wolf" is no longer acting entirely on his own, but is linked voluntarily to a worldwide internet phenomenon...

Like the Boston bombers and a number of others in recent years.

As  the late, great Christopher Hitchens warned us five years ago: "The Battle will go on for the rest of our lives."

Thanks to Creeping Sharia.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

35,771 city workers average $80,000 a year

From Cal

San Francisco:

836,620 residents

35,771 city employees

23 residents per city employee

$3,445 amount spent on total wages per resident

$1,035 amount spent on total retirement & health cost per resident

$80,575 average wages for this city's employees

$24,209 average retirement & health cost for this city's employees

$2,882,234,830 total wages paid by this city

$865,992,432 total retirement & health cost paid by this city

Rob's comment: 

Thanks to State Controller John Chiang, we have some solid information about how much money our overlords in City Hall are making by visiting this site

First surprise: the city has 35,771 employees! My assumption, based on stories in the press, was that that number was around 25,000.

Second surprise: how overpaid people in the Fire Department are. We learned years ago from the Grand Jury that the Fire Department is the worst offender at "pension-spiking." (Pension Tsunami: The Billion Dollar Bubble) What about "salary-spiking"?

Thanks to Cal


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Australian view of Lindt Cafe

Nothing to do with Islam?

by Bernard Gaynor

Australia has woken to the devastating news that two hostages died in the Lindt Café last night. Like all Australians, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those now grieving.

But I am not going to join in with the mob in perpetuating the myths that are already being circulated as a result of this completely preventable tragedy. And it was completely preventable. It was the entirely predictable outcome of the decision to allow a violent culture with a superiority complex and an itchy trigger finger to take root in Australia.

So expect to see more Islamic flags and more grieving families.

This war has only just started and it’s not going well.

And here are five things the mainstream media is spinning wrong about the Islamic addition to Christmas festivities in Australia over the last 24 hours. 

1. We couldn’t see this coming

Apparently, we could never see this coming. This was an attack we thought we could never see in Sydney. That’s what the Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, said this morning.

Hello! Mike! Is there anyone home?

Australians aren’t goldfish. We can remember things for more than three seconds. Like, for instance, the fact that 800 police descended upon Sydney just a few weeks ago to prevent some peaceful follower of the religion of peace from peacefully severing some random Aussie’s head. In Martin Place. Right where the Lindt Café stands.

Anyone who couldn’t see this coming has had their head in the sand and their backside pointed skywards, almost as if they have already embraced Islam.

I’m guessing, however, that most people would not have expected the news that the deranged gunman was actually on bail. For a multitude of sexual offences and in relation to his wife’s murder (she was peacefully set on fire). Or that this bloke had a habit of sending abusive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Who needs to worry about the Islamic threat when our own legal system holds the safety of Australians in such contempt that it would let this guy run free?

But I can think of no better advertisement for the actual truth of Islam than the fact that a murderous sexual deviant would stroll into the heart of Sydney for his last stand under the most famous words of Mohammed.

2. Don’t worry – it’s just a lone wolf

Don’t worry Australia. Mr Ali Akbar is a lone wolf. This is a one off.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who stabbed two police officers in Victoria in the name of Allah earlier this year.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who shot a Canadian soldier and then stormed that nation’s parliament in the name of Allah a few weeks ago.

Just like the one-off lone wolf who went on a rampage at Ford Hood in the United States killing 13 soldiers in the name of Allah a while back.

Just like the…by now you should be getting the picture. I could go on all day talking about the lone wolves out there who all seem to operate in disciplined unison.

There is an army of ‘lone’ wolves. That makes the ‘lone’ part redundant. And the guy responsible for the death of two Australians in Sydney yesterday wasn’t all that alone anyway. He had over 14,000 followers on Facebook. So expect this to happen all over again.

Because the one thing that these people all have in common is an ability to read the Koran, and a commitment to following its bloody message.

3. Don’t worry – it’s not the Islamic State

Keysar Trad was on Sunrise this morning waxing lyrical about how this was not the work of the Islamic State. And Kochie was nodding along with him. I didn’t know these two men were spokesmen for the nation that is not a nation that we are at war with.

But anyway, apparently this means we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

I don’t really know why I should have to point this out, but if the Lindt Café siege had nothing to do with the Islamic State then it only proves that it is not just the Islamic State that we should be worried about.

It is proof that it’s not the design of the flag that’s the problem, but the words that are on them. And those flags all carry the same Islamic words and have the same Islamic meaning: total global domination.

The simple fact is that the Sunni-Shia Islamic split is nothing more than an argument over who gets Mohammad’s loot. They still haven’t worked it out 1,400 years later, but they pretty much agree on everything else of importance: the non-Islamic world are a bunch of heathen scum who should be subjugated, raped and pillaged.

The flag in the Lindt Café overshadowed the ‘Merry Christmas’ for a reason. It was an arrogant message of contempt and it signified a murderous intent to enslave us all.

4. Islamic leaders have condemned this violence

Apparently Australia’s Grand Mufti has condemned the Lindt Café siege.

And with that, the media went running on their way to talk about how Muslims fear for their lives, living in such a racist country like Australia.

But the truth is that Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed has a lot of hide to issue such a statement. This is the same man that sent a statement to the Federal Senate in October claiming that new anti-terror laws inhibited his religious freedom.

You read that right. Nothing further needs to be said. The Grand Mufti’s statement says it all: it is an open admission that Islam promotes terrorism.

The real question is this: why has the media barely reported this at all?

5. The Islamic Community suffers from this

The last 24 hours are wreaking a terrible toll on the Islamic community, if you believe the media.

Give me a break.

This is the ultimate good cop/bad cop routine.

Some dude walks into a café and kills two people. In return, the Islamic apologists are given huge air time. The Premier of New South Wales convenes video conferences with the bloke who claims new anti-terror laws impinge religious freedom and interfaith prayer services are held at mosques around the nation. Politicians are jumping over themselves to promote Islam. And it’s all because, under the Islamic flag, two Australians were gunned down.

Like I said, give me a break.

And, of course, the social media numpties have gone nuts. #illridewithyou has taken off. It is, of course, a completely empty gesture designed only to reinforce the arrogant feelings of moral superiority held by those who promote tolerance at the expense of our nation’s safety. And nothing shows the vacuous nature of the moral do-gooders than the fact that they don’t do any good at all. They just ‘Twitter’ good, like gods from on high. Apparently, that is even better than actually doing anything at all.

If you support the idea of Islamic rule and Sharia law, the last 24 hours have shown that murdering two Australians is pretty much all it takes to get everyone who is anyone to show deference and submission. It’s not exactly a great deterrence.

So expect more violence to come.

Thanks to Jihad Watch for the link.


John McPhee: "Los Angeles Against the Mountains"

The San Gabriel Mountains

Back in 1988, John McPhee wrote in the New Yorker about the geology behind what's happening in the Los Angeles area right now: first you have fire and then you have the massive debris flows off the San Gabriel Mountains after a heavy rain. The excerpts below begin on pages 232-233 on this PDF of the book version of "Los Angeles Against the Mountains II," October 3, 1988, The New Yorker):

...In November, 1933, the chaparral burned in numerous watersheds above Pasadena, La Canada, La Crescenta, and Montrose, and slopes were left black and bare. Rainfall in amounts that the Flood Control District called a "Noah-type storm" followed in the last days of the year, mobilizing, on January 1, 1934, a number of almost simultaneous debris flows that came out of the mountains, went through the orchards and into the towns, killed dozens of people, destroyed hundreds of houses, and left boulders the size of icebergs far down the fans...Out of Pickens Canyon came a debris slug of such magnitude that it traveled all the way to Foothill Boulevard, crossed it, and passed through the business district of Montrose. A boulder eight feet in diameter came to rest on the main street of town, three miles south of the mountain front. The New Years Day Flood, as people still refer to it, killed thirty-four in Montrose and neighboring towns, ruined nearly five hundred houses. All over the bajada, Model A's were so deeply buried that their square roofs stuck out of the mud like rafts. Streets of La Crescenta were like braided rivers of Alaska, with channels of water looping past islands of debris...

...There are three debris basins along Country Club Drive. There were two in 1964. The upper one failed. The slug that came down the street and invaded houses killed Aimee Miller, the wife of Frank Sinatra's piano accompanist. Her home was knocked off its foundation. Her husband was swept downhill and into a debris basin. He survived by hanging on to a Volkswagen that was part of the debris...

Sally Rand lived in Glendora, pretty far up the fan. At Christmastime that year[1968], in the Kingdom of Rubelia, she did her phan dance at Mike Rubel's castle. Four weeks later came the devastating rain. Listening to it thump his roof, Art Cook[City Manager of Glendora] said to himself, "This is the night. I'd better get down to the Hall." He got into his car and went down Palm to Grand; as he turned onto Grand, the flow met him. It picked up his car and carried it a quarter of a mile. ("I just sat there, scared as hell.") Eventually, his slithering wheels found traction, and he drove off none the worse for having been part of the snout of the debris. "A wave six to eight feet high came out of Rainbow Canyon," he said. "The rock, debris---everything was suspended in the liquid mass. Horrendous boulders, trees, car bodies were suspended in the mass. It sounded like a train---a runaway express train. Just a roar."


Monday, December 15, 2014

Senator Elizabeth Warren: "Break Citigroup in pieces"


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Anti-Americanism on the left

I don't mean anti-Americanism in the death-to-America sense practiced by the governments of Iran and North Korea. Instead, it's just a tacit assumption by many liberals that the foreign policy of the United States is the biggest problem in the world. Noam Chomsky's writing reflects that assumption explicitly, as do many contributors to Alternet. Closer to home, we have this from Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll:

We’re still killing a bunch of people in the Middle East, participating in a war we have no hope of winning. It’s not even clear what winning would look like. We are using our military almost because we can, because it gets restless without a mission to attack somebody. It is part of our national narrative to deny that this is true.

Presumably Carroll is referring to the war against ISIS. Actually, there's a very good chance that the US and its allies can defeat ISIS. Winning would look like this: first, contain ISIS and prevent it from taking any more territory, and then roll it back using Iraqi and Kurdish troops on the ground. If we can't defeat ISIS, it will threaten not only Iraq and the Kurds but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which is a member of NATO. (Iran can take care of itself.) With money from looted banks and captured oil fields, ISIS can also afford to plot attacks on the US and our allies in Europe. Defeating ISIS seems like a sensible---even a necessary---"mission" to me.

Unlike his carefully observed columns about his cats, Carroll doesn't deign to deal in such details when writing about foreign policy. He simply assumes that the US is the bad guy that is needlessly creating fear in the American people:

People are fearful. One of the reasons they’re fearful is that their government is spying on them all the time. Even though most people shrug off privacy concerns — “I’m not doing anything wrong; why should I care?” — the paranoid reality of the surveillance state is all around them. We’re afraid because they’re making us afraid, and when we’re afraid, we agree to all sorts of silly things.

This is apparently a reference to the NSA's surveillance program, which is not in fact "spying on them[us] all the time." The reality: the NSA scoops up all electronic communications to create a data base from which it can occasionally find actual terrorists and their enablers. Carroll is implying that the government is actually reading our email messages and listening to our phone calls and "spying" on us because that's just what the government does, which is now a standard leftist trope.

Michael Moore is a good example of the Alternet left in the US:

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.

This is the standard leftist line on Islamic terrorism: We're supposed to simply shrug off attacks like 9/11 and those in London and Madrid. Any serious attempt to defend ourselves is seen as a "out of proportion" to the threat. No political leadership in the world would last long with that rather blase approach to protecting its citizens.

Steve Jones, former editor of the Bay Guardian, made a similar argument in 2010:

You want a death toll in the millions to avenge an attack that killed 3,000 or because you're scared that someone might try to blow up an airplane or subway train every few years? You're insane! Have you no sense of proportion? Do you really think we'll just kill them all and live happily ever after? That's a children's fairy tale.

There's a sense of proportion for you: What's a few airplanes and trains blown up every now and then?

The simple truth is that many liberals and progressives---progressives are liberals who think they're morally superior to other liberals---think that radical Islamists pose no serious threat to the country or our allies around the world.

This is why some liberals shrugged off the demise of The New Republic magazine---because it took our national security problems seriously and didn't think that the US was always the bad guy. The Alternet: "The New Republic was a vicious imperial mouthpiece." And the Daily Kos: The New Republic was a "shambling animated shitpile."

And here in Progressive Land, Randy Shaw sneered: "TNR influence was artificially inflated by its New York City home and the social connections of its its[sic] overwhelmingly white male writing staff." White guy Shaw sees racism everywhere. If only the New Republic had been published in San Francisco using all those brilliant people of color that write for Beyond Chron!

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James Baldwin in the city, Spring 1963

Take This Hammer from SF Bayview on Vimeo.

Thanks to Neighbors Developing Divisadero for the link.


The Harding Theater

Harding Theater

The folks at Neighbors Developing Divisadero send this message:

Time for eminent domain?

The Harding Theater made the news again because the property owner, Michael Klestoff, turned down a $4 million offer from community-minded businesses and orgs to transform the 1200-seat theater into a bookstore and multi-performance venue (live music, dance performances, lectures/authors, and more).

The property owner recently submitted a revised version of an earlier plan to demolish the stage and make condos to the planning department. Although a similar plan in 2008 was pushed back against by city-wide efforts to save the space from being chopped up and underutilized. After saying no to multiple above market-rate offers and campaigns to revitalize the protected theater in support of neighborhood culture and arts-related jobs, the city should seriously consider the use of eminent domain so that this historic community asset (protected under the state law, CEQA) is not allowed to blight the neighborhood and deteriorate further. Or perhaps there is an in between solution? Perhaps the property owner could receive an incentive from the city to develop low-income housing for artists on the property if he sells the theater to the bookstore/performance venue group?

On an important note, a bookstore was one of the top desires voiced by neighbors for Divisadero in two community input surveys from NOPNA (2007) and NDDIVIS (2012).

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Friday, December 12, 2014

District 5 Diary's tenth anniversary

Ten years ago today I made the first post on this blog about Supervisor-elect Mirkarimi's appearance at a Haight-Ashbury Neithborhood Council meeting to address an issue that was important to city progressives at the time: the construction of a garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park and the proposed "widening" of MLK Blvd. to comply with a court order about access to the garage.

What impressed me was that Mirkarimi clearly didn't understand that issue very well, since he apparently thought that only the garage entrance at Tenth and Fulton was necessary, that there had been Brown Act and Sunshine Ordinance violations of the public process, and that the "widening" proposal was illegal. None of that was true, which was explained by Mike Ellzey in an interview a few months later.

Building the garage was obviously a good idea once the city chose to rebuild the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences on the Concourse. Who were the main opponents of the garage? None other than the city's bike people, including the Bicycle Coalition and Leah Shahum, even though the garage was a $55 million gift to the city from Warren Hellman and the city's rich people.

In short that first post foreshadowed the issues in many other posts in the next ten years.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Marin Bicycle Coalition and high-density development

From Planning for Reality

Dick Spotswood's latest column in Marin's Independent Journal (Marin bike lobby's political clout is slippingcriticizes Marin cyclists:

Not to be ignored is the sense of entitlement often exhibited toward motorists and pedestrians. Add to the list longstanding bikers-versus-equestrians and environmentalists disputes over use of single-track trails on Mount Tamalpais and Marin Municipal Water District's watershed.

"Sense of entitlement"? Sound familiar? I've blogged about the boorish cyclists of Marin here, here, and here.

Aside from the usual bad behavior by cyclists on Marin's roads and trails, many in Marin are upset that the Marin Bicycle Coalition supports the trendy "smart growth," dense development theories that have created a backlash:

It didn't help the biker cause when its movement was hijacked by big-time developers and their regional alphabet agencies' allies. Cyclists are now often lumped together with housing activists calling for more development. That's never been a popular strategy in Marin.

See Planning for Reality on Marin planning issues. See also Citizen Marin and this.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also supported "dense development" here in SF. Exhibit number one: The city's plan to allow developers to build 8,000 homes, 500 hotel rooms, and 550,000 square feet of offices and businesses on Treasure Island, which will boost the population on the Island to 19,000. Think traffic on the Bay Bridge is bad now?

The Bicycle Coalition's role: It did the transportation plan for the Treasure Island project! Guess which transportation "mode" dominates that plan?

Massive Wincup development on Highway 101

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Today's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by Malala Yousafzai


Dianne Feinstein's finest hour

Andrew Sullivan at The Dish has long been a good source for those opposing our use of torture. Most of the recent posts on his blog have been about the torture report Feinstein's committee released yesterday. Except for Senator McCain, who has first-hand experience of torture, Republicans opposed releasing the report and are now defending torture. The Republican Party: the party of voter suppression, the party that wants to prevent Americans from getting medical care, the party that wants to force women to have babies for theological reasons, and the anti-immigrant party is now the torture party.

But the White House isn't exactly covering itself in glory. Sullivan quotes Jerome Waldman:

And even the White House can’t seem to bring itself to call this by its true name. Today I was on a background call with a group of senior administration officials, and they were asked repeatedly why they seemed so reluctant to use the word “torture,” even after President Obama admitted that “we tortured some folks.” One official replied, “We’re not going to go case by case in a report like this and try to affix a label to each action.” But they do affix a label: “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which they used again and again, accepting the euphemistic label the Bush administration affixed to it. The White House certainly deserves credit for ultimately supporting the release of this report (even if they seemed reluctant to do so).

Apparently the White House is clinging to the "enhanced interrogation" euphemism for torture because if it called it by its right name it would have to prosecute those responsible, a can of worms it's reluctant to open.

George Orwell identified the practice in Politics and the English Language (1946):

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Millennials drive as much as previous generations

From CityLab:

It Turns Out That Millennials Do Drive

It's become an uncontested truth that young Americans dislike driving, and indeed, Millennials do seem more fond of public transportation than their elders are. But a new Census tool comparing 18-to-34 year olds now and in the past raises questions about just how much things have changed. In many major U.S. metro areas, young people today drive to work as often as they did in 1980, if not more...

Alliance for Biking and Walking

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Can soccer be saved?

In yesterday's SF Examiner:

Heading in soccer: Is it worth the risk?

Dr. Kevin R. Stone

...In soccer, there's the added risk of injury when heading the ball. A 16-ounce soccer ball traveling at up to 50 mph smacks the head deliberately and repeatedly. How often? In a range of 32 to 5,400 times per player per season according to a study of amateur soccer players by Lipton et al Radiology. The brain changes detected by MRI were not subtle, nor would you expect them to be.

Why is it that the fun and satisfaction of participating in sports overwhelms our recognition that they could significantly destroy our body, be it the knee or the brain. The answer, I believe, is that as athletes we just can't comprehend the impact of the damage. We don't understand that sports injuries build up and lead to arthritis, or that repetitive brain trauma gradually reduces our cognitive power. Either that, or we chose to ignore it, we feel invincible. Simply put, the fun outweighs our belief in the risk and, even if we acknowledge the risk, in many cases, we think it is worth it...

I've posted on this before. Soccer has long been favored by  parents as a less violent alternative to American football. My son played soccer a bit as a child, but he and his contemporaries were never developed or skillful enough to do headers, which is the most damaging part of the game as the kids get older and more coordinated.

The Cost of the Header in the New Yorker.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Can football be saved?

Malcolm Gladwell: "Football Is a Moral Abomination"


Dave Chappelle and his white friend

Tech punk kills The New Republic

A semi-literate, 31-year-old, billionaire tech punk just killed one of the great magazines in the country's history. See this, this, and this

When I was living on Chestnut Street in the early sixties, every week I walked over to the newstand on Chestnut to buy both The New Republic and The Nation---35 cents each! Best investment I ever made. The periodical room of the old main library at the Civic Center used to have bound copies of all the back issues of The New Republic, including the first, well-worn issue that was published in 1914.

Chris Hughes: culture vandal

Later: see also this, this and this. Franklin Foer writes about the origins of the magazine.

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Sheriff Mirkarimi: City jail "the largest mental hospital in the city"

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on the San Francisco Jail System
By Rebecca Rosen Lum

While the overall inmate population in San Francisco is declining, the percentage of inmates with serious mental health problems---schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder and others---has climbed.

From 2004 to 2013, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says, the time psychiatric staff has had to spend with inmates nearly doubled. Evaluations, medication planning, therapy, discharge planning and case management---what the jails call units of service---soared from 40,000 to 72,000 over a decade.

In February, when Mayor Ed Lee convened a task force of mental health leaders to generate ideas for treating the drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless population, Mirkarimi showed up uninvited. He said the city has failed to appreciate that the jails have become “the largest mental hospital in the city.”

You said the city has not yet recognized the burden the jails are carrying. What’s going on?

Sheriff Mirkarimi: What’s called for is a master plan. The municipal criminal justice leaders have been focusing on recidivism. They’re doing much better. The homeless are cited and released quickly. But they don’t have a handle on the mentally ill population. Our jails should not be a substitute for mental health treatment. Absent a comprehensive citywide plan, the knee-jerk response is to criminalize mental illness.

Is the mayor paying attention to these issues?

It was a mistake that he just blessed the new San Francisco General Hospital without new psychiatric units. Any time a new hospital is built, it should have to provide psych beds. We have the new California Pacific Medical Center that has no psych beds. I met with the mayor’s staff. This should be a very top priority of the city. I know we can do better.

We’ve got Mobile Assistance Patrol. You can call 311 and they’ll send out the MAP, which is a lousy, hit-and-miss approach to dealing with mentally ill homeless. We must be looking for a permanent solution. There needs to be more of a continuum of care.

Some inmates with mental illnesses were homeless before their arrest, sleeping in stairwells, storefronts, elevators and under cardboard. At San Bruno Jail, they sleep indoors, eat regular meals, learn yoga, participate in recovery programs, engage therapy and get medication.

Our jail psychiatric services are hands-on. San Francisco is renowned for its psychiatric therapy and medication therapy. We’re the first county jail system in the country to be qualified to sign up people under Obamacare. And the reason for doing that is 80 percent of the people who leave our custody have no health insurance, or access or resources to health insurance.

What’s the difference between the main city jail at 850 Bryant St., which will be replaced with a seismically secure facility, and the city’s other jail in San Bruno?

850 Bryant is a stark, inhumane, deplorable building. When I came into office, the proposal was to replace it with 903 beds, and I said that that’s unnecessary, far too big. And so the plan was replaced with 640 beds. It will be a facility unlike any facility in downtown San Francisco. It’s about accommodating a smaller population with a more humane detention facility with a lot more emphasis on re-entry and rehabilitation programming.

The governor talks about the need for mental health services and doing it through realignment---moving inmates from state to local responsibility. That hasn’t translated into dollars?

It hasn’t translated. I met with the governor about this very issue with some of the other elected sheriffs from around the state. I asked him point-blank: What is after realignment? We want to understand what is going to be his priority in this next term.

Is there an alternative funding source?

We appealed to the mayor and the Board of Supervisors to go in this direction, and that just did not happen. One thing we want to do is go beyond what I think is the insufficient training that is required by the state of our deputy sheriffs, who work the jails and attend to post-release populations with mental illness, by instituting Critical Incident Training. I want to make it mandatory.

Do you work with other city agencies?

The Department of Public Health, San Francisco General Hospital and Jail Psychiatric Services link up with Healthright360. We have a very focused intake and scripted regimen for somebody who’s suffering from mental illness while they’re in our custody, and discharge planning for when they’re about to be released. I really think we need to up our game in preparing them for release. And that is really the overarching strategy that I’m trying to institute here.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Bill Maher: "We should own the First Amendment the way right-wingers own the Second"

An interview with Bill Maher on VF Daily:

VF Daily: To some people this wasn’t big news—you’ve said some of these things before. But it wasn’t maybe in such strong or stark terms. Did something change or something spark this for you that made you speak out more strongly?

Maher: No. I’ve been saying the same thing for years and years. What changed was Ben Affleck...when an A-list movie star gets involved in the debate, everyone cares. If it had been Kim Kardashian it would have been even bigger.


If you said everything you said but said it as, “I’m critiquing radical Islam,” I don’t think it would’ve sparked so much controversy. It seemed to be the implication that you’re applying your critique to the entire religion. In your mind is there moderate Islam?

Well, it depends on what you define as moderate. They would say there is moderate Islam, and I’m sure there are moderates in Islam. But again, if you speak out against the oppression, there is every chance that the people who are not so moderate will take it out on you...The irony of the Berkeley situation is I thought campuses were places where free speech was championed. And one of my problems with Islam is that they are not that big on free speech, which so offended the Muslims at Berkeley they wanted to ban my speech.

There’s lots of polling and there’s lots of research on this subject that connects, lets call them the rank-and-file, with the extremely illiberal ideas of Islam. Like, if you leave the religion, it is the appropriate response to have death visited upon you. That’s not an outlier in the religion. A Pew poll of Egypt done a few years ago said, I think, 90 percent of Egyptians felt that if you leave the religion, that’s the appropriate response.


You know, one of the arguments I hear a lot from people on the other side of this debate is: “Bill, don’t you know that Islam was more tolerant in the 9th century or the 14th century?” We’re living in the 21st century and I am the first one to admit that, yes, Christianity was the bad religion in the 14th century. That’s when the inquisition was going on. And in the 16th century, that’s when the Protestants and the Catholics were slaughtering each other all over Europe, just the way the Shiites and the Sunnis are now.

But as many people have said before, Islam is the religion now that needs a reformation and that needs an enlightenment. I don’t know if you saw the open letter to Ben Affleck that that Pakistani woman wrote?

Yes I did. What were you gonna say about it?

She said, “Thanks for for standing up for my peeps. But all you did was close off a conversation that we need to have.” That’s one reason I’m glad this happened. We need to have this conversation. And she said, “I want to join the 21st century, too. Why can’t you be on my side in my quest to do that?” And she ended the letter by saying, "You know, I’d love to have a drink with you sometime to discuss this, but (a) I’m not allowed to drink and (b) I’m not allowed to leave the house unless I’m accompanied by a male guardian."


The religious scholar Karen Armstrong did an interview with Salon and talked about what you and Sam Harris said. And she said that your comments fill her with despair because this is “the sort of talk that led to the concentrations camps in Europe. The sorts of things that people were saying about Jews in the 30s and 40s.” That’s gotta sting, especially coming from her.

It doesn’t sting because it’s beyond stupid. Jews weren’t oppressing anybody. There weren’t 5,000 militant Jewish groups. They didn’t do a study of treatment of women around the world and find that the Jews were at the bottom of it. There weren’t 10 Jewish countries in the world that were putting gay people to death just for being gay. It’s idiotic.

What do you want to say to those kids protesting you at Berkeley?

My message is: be a liberal. Find out what liberalism means and join up. Liberalism certainly should not mean squelching free speech. And by the way, that petition was online, so anybody could sign it. You didn’t have to go to Berkeley to sign it, you could sign it more than one time...So it was kind of a bullshit thing to begin with. Even people who don’t agree with everything I say about Islam certainly were on the side of letting me speak. The comments I read were just almost embarrassed for the kids.

And I would just say to all liberals: we should own the First Amendment the way the right-wingers own the Second.

Thanks to Salon.

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When San Francisco stopped prosecuting drug users, violent crime went down

Thanks to The Dish.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Noah Budnick: "excited" to lead anti-car special interest group

As the new executive director of the city's Bicycle Coalition, Noah Budnick shares Leah Shahum's preference for the language of hype. He refers to the "incredible energy" of the anti-car movement around the country, and he's "so excited" to be in San Francisco. Shahum's comment is also hyper: Budnick has "tremendous experience" and will be a "terrific new leader, she is "excited" about his ability.

Shahum shouldn't be a hard act to follow, since her long reign as head of the coalition has been characterized by arrogance, stupidity, and outright lies.

The Bicycle Coalition's press release includes this baloney:

Under her leadership, the number of people biking in San Francisco has skyrocketed (97% from 2006-2013), protected bikeways have been added across the city, and bicycling has become a core issue in creating a more livable city. She leaves the SF Bicycle Coalition to pursue a fellowship studying Vision Zero initiatives in Europe.

It's a lie that "people biking" in the city has "skyrocketed" 97%, since that's a reference to the last city bicycle count report, a survey that's only done once a year during commute hours. It doesn't measure the number of people riding bikes overall in the city; it only counts people riding to and from work on that particular day. And where are all those "protected bikeways" in the city? I know of one on the Panhandle but not any others.

This is a problem that the bike zealots have always had---knowing the difference between their own hype and reality. From Streetsblog's story on Budnick:

Budnick once debated with Rob Anderson, who sued SF over its 2009 Bike Plan (delaying it for years), on a 2008 edition of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation.” He was also featured alongside Anderson and Shahum in a Wall Street Journal article on the issue at the time.

Actually, we sued in 2005 over the 2004 version of the Bicycle Plan, not the 2009 version (See Judge Busch's decision, wherein he all but called the city liars for their lame argument). And Budnick was not in that Wall Street Journal story. Streetsblog provides a link to the story but apparently didn't bother to read it. I don't remember Budnick at all from a radio program that allowed me little time to say anything, which wasn't surprising, since NPR usually upholds the prog party line.

This kind of ass-kissing on Streetsblog by Budnick probably didn't hurt his application for the job:

Last month, Streetsblog USA interviewed Budnick about the TA-hosted Vision Zero Symposium, a first-of-its-kind national event held in NYC. “In San Francisco,” he said, “the broad coalition and engagement on Vision Zero is impressive...I think what they’ve done in San Francisco with the Vision Zero coalition is good work for us to note.”

On Vision Zero, the rhetoric is outrunning the reality. Budnick:

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....When the leadership acknowledges that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable, then you can move past these policy debates about whether or not zero is appropriate, and you can start from a strong moral position.

Meaning that you supposedly seize the high moral ground with this absurdity, since obviously not all traffic injury accidents are preventable; people will sometimes indulge in unsafe behavior, regardless of how well city streets are designed. This kind of hyperbole just makes Budnick and Shahum sound like hyped-up megaphones for their anti-car special interest group.

For someone supposedly concerned about the safety of city streets, Shahum has had nothing to say about that UC study that found the city has a radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents. You would think that someone pushing Vision Zero would be outraged at that gross incompetence about the safety of her membership.

By coming to grips with that study and its implications, Budnick could signal that his regime at the Bicycle Coalition is going to be different than Shahum's.

Bike guy John Murphy comments to the Streetsblog story: "I keenly look forward to the Rob Anderson blog post on this one. His tears of sadness are so delicious."

Why would I be sad about a leadership change at this special interest group? Like Budnick and Shahum, Murphy is probably just "excited."

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Bicycle Coalition's new director

Dear Rob,

With executive director Leah Shahum’s departure our local bicycle coalition had an opportunity to reform itself and staunch the outflow of its members (they used to boast publicly of having 12,000 members but have been silent about their membership for some time; their 2013 annual reports contains no membership figures, although it does disclose statistics about volunteers and newsletter subscribers. 

Alas, instead of picking a new executive director who could direct the Coalition’s efforts on behalf of those who already ride bicycles, they are handing the post over to another human-powered-transit evangelist who appears to be just the guy to continue the faith-based crusade for the great mode-shift rapture in which all the sinful motorists eventually see the error of their ways and, through the miracle of cityscape re-engineering, become daily utility cyclists.

Among my circle of bike-riding friends, all of whose annual mileage is in the mid 4 figures, you will find no current members of the SFBC although some of us (including me) used to be members as recently as 2012. We are all adults; we all ride transit and walk; we are all licensed drivers and car owners. None of us sees the Coalition as representing our interests as committed cyclists or as San Franciscans. Oh, I suppose the Coalition’s efforts to school cyclists and taxi drivers in the rules of the road are a nice idea (although I see little evidence of this schooling on the streets). 

But its emphasis on screwing up roadways like JFK Drive and Masonic Avenue to fulfill its religious commitment to segregation of bikes and cars over more simple, inexpensive streetscape improvements (such as dedicated right-turn lanes to the right of bike lanes, helping to keep motor traffic running smoothly while guiding it and bicycles out of each other’s way) is at variance, to say the least, with what my friends and I view as what would be most valuable to our bike-riding experience and most harmonious with other traffic modes. We really don’t like being resented and despised.

Not all major bike coalitions choose this path. The coalition in Silicon Valley, perhaps influenced by all the rational, facts-based engineers down there, is a good example. Instead of ignoring valuable academic research (as the SFBC does with the UC bicycle injuries study) the Silicon Valley coalition actually co-sponsors academic research with their local teaching hospital to assist them with discovering what really works and what doesn’t. Sponsoring and underwriting research is something I recommended to the San Francisco coalition when I was a member and participated in their strategic planning brainstorm meeting. You can see how eager they were to embrace THAT suggestion.

Deane Hartley

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