Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

We don’t need CalTrain for bullet trains, says HSR

California’s High Speed Rail Commission, the agency tasked with getting bullet trains running up and down the state sometime this century, says CalTrain’s “staggering deficit” and possible collapse will not keep it from proceeding with its plans.

Just because the local transit agency, which runs trains from San Francisco to San Jose (and Gilroy, at commute times), is facing drastic cuts to its schedule, even a possible shutdown, doesn’t mean the bullet train project can’t go forward. High speed rail would share the CalTrain right-of-way from Gilroy north (click for a Google map overlay of the bullet train route), and if CalTrain can’t hold it together in the decade or two before the bullet trains arrive, the High Speed Rail Commission might just take over CalTrain. At least that was the idea “floated” by HSR board member Rod Diridon, long-time transit mandarin. After all, they’re both essentially state agencies.

The map shows some details of the HSR plan on the Peninsula, where some sections would be in a trench, some on an elevated way, some at grade level.

Meanwhile, the threat of a lawsuit forced the CalTrain board to put on hold the long-planned electrification of the line. Inexplicably, the lawsuit is from an environmental group, even though electrification would make the line less polluting. Right now it seems CalTrain can’t do anything right.

Torture maven John Yoo to appear on KQED Monday

John Yoo. Courtesy

UC Berkeley law professor and former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo will appear on San Francisco’s KQED radio Monday at 11:06 a.m. on Michael Krasny’s Forum program.

Yoo was one of three lawyers responsible for drafting memoranda to the Bush administration suggesting legal justifications for “enhanced interrogation techniques” to be used on terror suspects. An internal Justice Department investigation found Yoo and his colleagues guilty of misconduct, but a DOJ administrator Friday overruled the report’s findings and ruled their actions did not rise to the level of misconduct. The ruling saved Yoo and the others from possible disbarment.

Yoo is promoting a book, “Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush.” His appearance last month on The Daily Show, in which he unctuously eluded pointed questions from host Jon Stewart and so confounded the usually incisive interviewer that Stewart actually apologized to viewers, was the very definition of slick and slippery. Here’s hoping KQED’s Krasny — whose roundabout questions can themselves amount to a sort of informational filibuster — has more success.

Senator Feinstein California Water Solution

Central Valley Farm Girl

I feel blessed that I was raised in the cornucopia of the Central Valley. I was a farm girl. With a seemingly never ending supply of water, my parents grew an abundance of fresh vegetables on a half acre of land. What they didn’t grow was available from a farm just up the road. I can remember riding home with the new produce, inhaling the sweet aroma coming from a crate of peaches while popping a few hastily dusted off grapes into my mouth.

Now, after years of drought mixed with the worries of endangered fish and water sucking subdivisions, the amount of water pumped out the Sacramento Delta has put the Central Valley’s $20-billion a year agriculture industry in danger. Protecting salmon and housing is important, but when weighed against the impact the lack of water is having on valley farms, how do we determine which is the more important?

I fear that many of those who live in the San Francisco Bay area may not realize that the concern is not just for the financial losses of the corporate farmer. Family farmers, migrant workers, and the numerous businesses that support agriculture may disappear. The Central Valley could become dotted with ghost towns, and imported produce in the Bay Area could become a luxury.

I am ready to support a plan or legislation that may be proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is working hard to help ease the problem.

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Take a look at the AgJobs Bill.

Angry mob assails long-time Healdsburg peace demo

On the Open Salon site, Clio Tarazi, writing as “Stellaa,” wrote this morning about witnessing an incident on the town square in Healdsburg, a wine country town about 70 miles north of San Francisco on US 101, where every Thursday at 6 pm some residents of the town gather for an hour-long peace vigil. Last night, she writes, a group of out-of-towners, possibly people on a wine country tour, began yelling insults at the demonstrators — some ten townspeople — then crossed the street and began screaming in their faces.

The vigil holders stood up to them … pulled away a woman who was the most aggressive, and they walked away shaking their heads and fists. Their faces were contorted from anger.

The bullies had this look on their face of having done something virtuous — a gleeful, high-five, we-kicked-their-butts look. I had my phone, but did not think of taking pictures of the brutish expressions on their faces. I cussed at them as they walked by and glared at them. There were not enough people on the square to shame them.

There was something grotesque about them calling the man holding the “Hiroshima, Never Again” sign all kinds of vulgar names in the name of patriotism and America.

The writer goes on to wonder whether this confrontation was an outgrowth of the protests against health care reform orchestrated by business interests and lobbying groups.

It will be interesting to see what happens during next week’s peace demonstration in Healdsburg.

Calif. governor’s race in NYT magazine


The California governor’s race is the subject of an upcoming article in the NYT Magazine, listing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as “among the colorful candidates.”

The truth is right behind the roller coaster at Great America

Master of the Universe

Master of the Universe

I went yesterday to ConspiracyCon, which is exactly what you’d guess it is: a convention of conspiracy theorists. UFO chasers, 9-11 deniers, tax protesters and this year’s big favorite, explainers of the current economic crisis.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Obama and his administration are pawns of the international banking conspiracy, and it’s all led by former Jimmy Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and the many “secret societies” from the Trilateral Commission to the Bohemian Grove.
  • The reason Ron Paul supporters also have UFO conspiracy DVDs at their booth is because if the government let us know about and learn alien technology, it could go a long way toward solving our country’s energy problems.
  • No plane actually struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001; the damage was the result of planted explosives. This was vouchsafed to me by an extremely energetic and dedicated young man who was giving his DVDs away for free. He had a very elaborate set of xeroxed photographs with the “real” flight path of the airliner, a professionally-produced series of animated graphics which showed the difference between the fake flight path and the real one, and so on.
  • If you experience sudden headaches or body heating as you walk down the street, this is called “electronic harassment” and is the work of the NSA, which can read your driver’s license from space.

This last was given to me by a very sane-appearing man, who said it in the same tones you might use to explain how Twitter works for someone who’s never used it. Everyone was very nice, and very talkative. All I had to do was say to someone, “You seem to have a lot of literature here,” and they’d talk for five minutes without taking a breath.

The best moment was during a presentation by one Webster Tarpley, an animated gent who made a presentation on the conspiracy between Obama and the bankers. At one point he showed pictures of the heads of Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs. When no one in the audience could identify all three, he began ranting, “These are the people who rule the world! Never mind the politicians, these are the real rulers! Maybe if you put down your UFO book and paid attention we’d be better off!”

ConspiracyCon continues today at the Santa Clara Marriott.

Accounts from yesterday’s gay marriage-related rallies

Here are some blog accounts of people who got arrested at yesterday’s Prop 8 protests in San Francisco:
Will Scott
David Nahmod
David somebody.

The Public Press has a straightforward account here (Thanks, Darren). Also, here’s an account from San Diego of a sit-in at the county clerk’s office. Arrests were threatened but everybody decided to leave quietly instead.

If you blogged about getting arrested or being at the demonstrations in San Francisco, email me at prop8protests at and I’ll add a link to your entry.

It’s all about the context

The website Yelp earlier today sent out email to San Francisco members with the headline Put the Fun Between Your Legs:

Provocative, yes — too much so for the sponsor, San Francisco Women Against Rape. A few hours later, Yelp sent out this corrected version:

Nevertheless, even the corrected email is full of references to cute boys and double entendres like “Rachel L likes to strap hers on knowing “there isn’t another person out there” with the exact same one” — messenger bags, that is. Well, if the email didn’t get attention the first time, it is now.

Calif. Supreme Court upholds Prop. 8, outlawing same-sex marriage

In a 6-1 decision announced at 10:00 a.m. today, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, a ballot initiative passed in November that outlawed same-sex marriage in the state. Here is the opinion (PDF file). Marriages performed before Nov. 4, 2008 are still valid, the court ruled.

Activists prepare for Prop. 8 decision by Calif. Supreme Court


The California State Supreme Court tomorrow will issue its decision on the constitutionality of the state law banning gay marriage, which was enacted by the voters as Proposition 8 in November. Some local activists are meeting tonight to plan civil disobedience after the announcement if the decision upholds the law, and another group announced plans to march no matter what the outcome.

The court convenes at 10:00 a.m. and the decision should be known shorter thereafter.

Drivers should avoid the downtown area between Van Ness Ave. and Second St., covering Civic Center and the retail center, where large demonstrations are expected.

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