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Hypocrisy, Plus

We can’t figure why this story hasn’t been all over local media,  but here it Is:

A Republican State Senator from Bakersfield was busted on a DUI after-bar hours closing Tuesday, the facts of the DUI, not so unusual, were reported on the news wires. The back story came up in the gay press – the Senator who was Red Queen anti-gay and voted against every pro-gay bill especially the proposed Harvey Milk Day – had just left a popular gay bar, Faces, in Sacramento with a male companion in his state-owned car when he was pulled over in walking distance of the Capitol Building. The other guy in the car who was not arrested was Latino and the gay bar had something like  a Latino beauty contest that night.

We could not find a darn thing on local media about this by Friday, a posting form a popular gay web site which reported all Thursday… and then Crag Ferguson on his national late night show made fun of the screaming hypocrisy… but we couldn’t find a twig to this in local media on Friday. One can only conclude that hypocrisy is no longer breaking news.

See the original report, click here

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By John Calder,

The street  in front of the Ferry Building is named after Herb Caen to honor The beloved San Francisco columnist who died on February 1, 1997. Our proposal is this: to add a neon three dots to the PORT OF SAN FRANCISCO neon  sign on the Ferry Building tower.

Native San Franciscan will get it and chuckle and tourists and newbie’s in town will  wonder and ask the appropriate questions.
Stay tuned to this space for developments.

As is!

As Proposed!

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To Every Engineer, Designer, Thinker and Hack:

By John Calder

The builder of Fermilab, R.R. Wilson, perhaps explained best why studying fundamental physics is so important in his testimony before the Congress of the United States in 1969. Congress was looking for some sort of justification in spending $200 million.

Robert Wilson: American Hero

What follows is an excerpt from Wilson’s testimony before the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy by Senator Pastore:

Pastore: Is there anything connected in the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of this country?

Wilson: No sir; I do not believe so.

Pastore: Nothing at all?

Wilson: Nothing at all.

Pastore: It has no value in that respect?

Wilson: It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has nothing to do with the military, I am sorry.

Pastore: Don’t be sorry for it.

Wilson: I am not, but I cannot in honesty say it has any such application.

Pastore: Is there anything here that projects us in a position of being competitive with the Russians, with regard to this race?

Wilson: Only from a long-range point of view, of a developing technology. Otherwise, it has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country, except to make it worth defending.

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The U.S. Airport Security Mess:

At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, screening is done in 30 minutes. The key? Look passengers in the eye.

From Our Transportation Correspondent, Peter Buxton:

By Cathal Kelly, Toronto Star

While North America’s airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification. That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel’s, which deal with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience.

“It is mind boggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago,” said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

“Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take s— from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, `We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.'”

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from? “Two benign questions. The questions aren’t important. The way people act when they answer them is,” Sela said.
Once you’ve parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters. Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behavior.

At Ben Gurion’s half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travelers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer. “This is to see that you don’t have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious,” said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side? “The whole time, they are looking into your eyes – which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far. At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil’s advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

“I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101′ to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?’ And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, `Oh. My. God.’

“Take (Toronto’s) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case.  How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.'”

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options. First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.
Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.’ If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

“This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben Gurion airport shares with Pearson – the body and hand-luggage check. “But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.

“First, it’s fast – there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.” The goal at Ben Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in 25 minutes tops.

And then there’s intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies. “There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States,” Sela said. “Absolutely none.” But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who allegedly tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day – would not have gotten past Ben Gurion’s behavioral profilers. So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive? Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

“You can easily do what we do. You don’t have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit – technology, training,” Sela said. “But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept.” And rather than fear, he suggests outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

“Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defense forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they’re doing a good job. You can’t say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don’t trust anybody,” Sela said. “But they say, `So far, so good.’ Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you’ve spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable.”

This is compacted version of an article in the Toronto Star, Dec. 31, 2009

Peter Buxton comments:

One of the reasons our airport security is a mess is – Norm Mineta. Having served as Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, Mineta was (unfortunately) appointed by George Bush to be Secretary of Transportation. When 4 planes were highjacked on 9/11, he gave the panicky order to “Get those [expletive] planes down.” He stopped EVERYTHING. More than 4,500 planes had to land at the nearest airport and stay there for days! Countless foreign flights were cancelled or diverted to other countries, America was sealed off, and much of the world’s air traffic was thrown into chaos!

In a time of high fuel prices, we would expect our “leaders” to help the airlines. George “The Decider” Bush supported Mineta’s foolish decision, thus increasing the damage done to airlines and air travel, and causing chaos in world trade! Bankruptcies followed. Air-shipped food rotted in grounded planes and countless travelers missed critical meetings, adding stupidity to the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center!

Quickly, Bush, Cheney, Mineta & Co. cobbled up a “Transportation Security Administration.” They largely ignored other countries, such as Israel, who had fought terror for decades, or Englan which had been terrorized by the IRA with huge bombs like the one exploded in Oklahoma City.

Osama bin Laden must have been greatly amused by Mineta’s antics. We were not amused to be strip-searched in jammed airports, and to have jewelry with “sharp points” roughly confiscated. Airport security weenies even tried to grab a Congressional Medal of Honor from a World War II hero and former Governor!

I got a blistering lecture for carrying a safety pin and a 1.5 inch long GI can opener on my key chain. “Don’t you know you can cut the throat of a Stewardess with those?” the idiot shouted! Safety pins are great for splinters and cutting articles out of newspapers, and our GIs knew many uses for the little can openers – screw driver, scraper, lid-lifter, etc. They are on my key chain now.

Mineta and his bungling TSA were not amused by the ordinary things that folks carry in their pockets, purses and carry-ons. And he disliked a good program that was supported by pilots and airlines – the arming of our pilots. In spite of this really effective security, Mineta tried to strip funding out of the armed pilot program. Very clever.

Don’t worry, Mr. Obama has apparently wrecked the program.
Mineta finally retired and was quickly rewarded by having San Jose International Airport named after him. Mayor La Guardia of New York City and JFK were not so honored during their lifetimes. Perhaps this was related to Minteta’s bringing government money and support to Silicon Valley during his political career. His TSA “accomplishments” are now only dirt under his living room rug.

Just remember Mineta the next time you walk, in your socks, past X-Ray machines at the airport. Write him a letter if you catch Athlete’s Foot, just before boarding a long overseas flight. It happens, I know.

Israelis must be amused at our silly security. The following is a compacted version of a lengthy article in The Toronto Star, on December 31, 2009, provides a refreshing look at a different approach to airport security.

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Hetch Hetchy could go on ballot

By John Holland

In 1910, voters in San Francisco approved a $45 million bond issue for the construction of a water system on the Tuolumne River.

In 2010, city residents could vote on a proposal to tear out a key part of the system – Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

Restore Hetch Hetchy, the group leading the effort, aims to get the measure on the November ballot.

A vote in favor would not spring the wrecking crew into action, as the city still would have to find alternatives for storage, possibly in an enlarged Don Pedro Reservoir.

But passage would make it clear that San Franciscans want Hetch Hetchy Valley restored to its pre-dam splendor, said Mike Marshall, the group’s executive director. “If we get it on the ballot, it will be a bit of a game-changer,” he said.

The details of the measure, including how to pay for dam removal and other work, are being discussed.  A 2006 state study estimated a $10 billion cost to raze the dam, restore the valley and replace the lost water supply. Restore Hetch Hetchy contends that all of this could be done for $1 billion to $3 billion.

The group suggests that part of the money could come from the state and federal governments and from private donations. It argues that the restoration would provide a natural wonder for all to enjoy while reducing the state’s water and hydropower supplies by less than 1 percent.

Opponents of the removal generally agree that the reservoir should not have been built in Yosemite, but they say reducing water storage in a drought-plagued state would be foolish.

Critics include the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs the system.  “Our city is facing a $522 million budget deficit, and there certainly are other priorities,” said Tyrone Jue, director of communications for the commission. “Quite frankly, (the campaign) doesn’t take into account the 2.4 million people in the Bay Area who depend on water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.”
Opposed from the Start
The ballot measure would be one more chapter in a saga that started more than a century ago. John Muir and fellow environmentalists considered Hetch Hetchy Valley as magnificent as Yosemite Valley to the south. They suffered a bitter defeat in 1913, when passage of the federal Raker Act allowed the city to build the dam. It took 21 years to complete all of the reservoirs, tunnels and other waterworks. Since 1934, the system has supplied water to San Francisco and several nearby cities. It also generates hydropower for the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and other users.

Environmentalists seethed for decades about allowing the 312-foot-tall dam in a national park. They saw a ray of hope in 1987, when Interior Secretary Donald Hodel suggested removing it. Studies and debate followed, but the dam still stands.

Marshall said his group decided last year to focus on educating San Franciscans about how the valley could be restored without reducing their water supply.

The group contends that even without the dam, river water could be pumped into the diversion tunnel downstream from Hetch Hetchy. It suggests increased use of other parts of the system, including Cherry Creek and Lake Eleanor in the Yosemite area and Calaveras Reservoir in Alameda County.

Marshall said the city could increase water conservation and recycling, along with tapping groundwater.

Enlarge Don Pedro?
Another possibility is enlarging Don Pedro, owned by MID and TID and nearly six times as big as Hetch Hetchy. San Francisco would have to negotiate with the districts.  MID General Manager Allen Short said removing Hetch Hetchy would reduce the state’s ability to capture excess river flows and endure droughts.  “California needs all the water storage and power that it has now, plus more,” he said.

Restore Hetch Hetchy could get the measure on the ballot by collecting about 47,000 signatures from registered voters in the city or persuading the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to place it.

If time is tight this year, the measure could wait until November 2011, Marshall said.
His group, which used to be based in Sonora, had about 1,800 members and a budget of about $250,000 as of last year.

One of the board members is Jerry Cadagan of Sonora, a retired lawyer. He takes issue with people who say the reservoir is a mistake that should be allowed to remain.

“I have a different train of thought,” he said. “When you make this big of a mistake, correct it.”
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at or 578-2385.
Read more:

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The Loss of An Environmental Giant


Tom Graff


By Mike Marshall

Tom Graff, the former Regional Director of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) passed away on November 12th, after a long battle with cancer. The environmental movement, and the campaign to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which Tom energetically supported, lost a great friend, a great advocate and a great strategist.

“He was a consummate legal warrior who used science and law to fight on behalf of all of us” said Jerry Meral, Restore Hetch Hetchy Board Member, upon learning of Tom’s death.

Tom Graff founded the EDF California office in 1971. He led the effort to dissuade utilities from building nuclear and coal plants along California’s coast. He worked with the George H. W. Bush administration to support the pioneering emissions trading program in the 1991 Clean Air Amendments, leading to sharp reductions in the sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain.

Tom’s passion was water policy, however, where he championed using markets to provide incentives for efficient and sustainable use in California’s cities and on its farms without building new dams and diversion projects that cause environmental harm. He worked closely with Senator Bill Bradley and Congressman George Miller to pass the Central Valley Project Improvement Act in 1992, and helped over many decades to restore Mono Lake, the Trinity River and the Bay-Delta and Central Valley Rivers that feed into it.

Tom co-authored “Paradise Regained: Solutions for Restoring Yosemite’s’ Hetch Hetchy Valley” along with several other EDF staff.  In writing the report, Tom insisted that respected and well-known consultants participate in writing the report in order to ensure its acceptance. He appeared with Harrison Ford in EDF’s award winning film “Discover Hetch Hetchy” and, after retiring, joined Restore Hetch Hetchy’s National Advisory Board.

The board and staff of Restore Hetch Hetchy will sorely miss Tom’s counsel and guidance but are renewed in our commitment to realizing his dream of a restored Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Mike Marshall is the executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy.

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Paint On Rust

From Peter Buxtun,
Our Transportation Correspondent

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Continuous calamities plague our Bay Bridge. First it was shut down to install a huge S Curve. That chaotic closure was extended when cracks were suddenly found in a huge beam that was was not near the S Curve. It was hurriedly fixed after extra days of chaos.

The fix failed at rush hour, weeks later, dropping the 5,000 pound steel beam into traffic – luckily not killing anyone. This calamity caused another closure, while the failed fix was re-fixed. Caltrans  “took that opportunity” to improve road-striping in the S Curve, where there had been a rash of smash-ups. The striping looked great.

Today we have new calamity. The “K Rail” failed when a poor guy driving an 18-wheeler went into the S Curve (like we all once did), perhaps at 65 MPH. He lost it and went through the rail, crashing 100 feet down onto the rocks. The K Rail might stop cars, but it did not stop his truck.

And Caltrans was mumbling recently about “a need” to close the bridge down again for more fixes.

Our poor Bay Bridge! Like the Titanic in 1912, it is now a symbol for our age of self-delusion.

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Election day- The Argonaut Recommends:

November 3, 2009 San Francisco Municipal Election

City Attorney

Re-Elect Dennis Herrera


Jose Cisneros

Proposition A

Budgeting Process Revisions


This is yet another City Hall barn-door sham that does nothing to rein the horse of galloping civic budget deficits. There is also the usual screwing around with the small print – the Firefighters and the craft unions will never forgive Supervisor David Chiu whom they blame for sneaking in a arbitration-deadline provision that will make negotiating more of a pain for them.

Proposition B

Additional Aides for Supervisors


Costs and increasing the size of government aside, the last thing we need is more Power for the present Board of Supervisors.

Proposition C

Stick Naming Rights


If the city can squeeze a few more needed bucks of out the decaying stadium, squeeze away.

Proposition D

Market Street Revival


This proposition has been ill-served by its titling on the Ballot, which makes it sound like its all about electric signs. Proposition D is a welcome attempt to do something to revitalize the most run-down section of Market Street and return to the classic Mini-Times Square bustling theatre district of last century. This is such a good idea that even the Bay Guardian had to pretzel-twist itself into opposing it on the dubious grounds that it didn’t let the Board of Supervisors in on the action, to which we say Hurrah.

Proposition E

Bans Advertising on Bus Shelters


The anti-commerce mafia is at it again.

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Police Chief Earns His Pay; Mouse That Didn't Roar Rebuked

By John Shanley

Editors Note – John Shanley is a native San Franciscan.  He is a former spokesperson for District Attorney Terence Hallinan and recently served as a deputy city attorney assigned to the San Francisco Police Department.

My phone started ringing on Friday afternoon as word began to spread that newly appointed San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon had assigned sidelined veteran officers Gregory Corrales and Greg Suhr to head up Mission and Bayview stations respectively.

Both of these officers had their careers put on hold because in recent years discipline within the SFPD is akin to being sent to Siberia.  For years the department, in blatant violation of the peace officer bill of rights, tried officers personal matters in public.  While this may sound like a good idea to people who know nothing about policing, it was not only illegal, it was bad public policy.  And it did NOTHING to further police-community relationships.

I know because I assisted Bill Fazio in defending Captain Corrales who had charges relating to the Fahitagate scandal hang over his head for eight years.  He was charged with talking to the media (which officers are encouraged to do under their general orders).  The comments he made also turned out to be accurate, much to the chagrin of those who like to kick cops.

Why does it take eight years to resolve police personnel issues? Great question. Let me suggest it is because we have had cowardly political leadership and an absolute mouse running the department for eight years.  Now I have nothing against mice.  My niece thinks they are cute.  Perhaps they are, but they should not run police departments.

A police chief is the appropriate person to make the vast majority of calls when it comes to police discipline. Pushing every case to a commission full of people seeking political office  is, well, cowardly. And cowardice is a poor quality in a political leader or in a police chief.

So three cheers to our current chief who has decided to earn his hefty paychecks by making a few decisions.  Welcome to SF, Chief Gaston.  The natives are pleased.

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Missile Narrowly Misses Continental Airlines Flight in Texas

HOUSTON  A missile may have just barely miss hitting a Continental Airlines flight on Friday.

Liberty County sheriff deputies are meeting with the FBI and FAA to discuss this incident.Sheriff deputies say on Friday a missile may have been launched near Interstate 10 and mount Belview. A continental flight which had just taken off from Bush Intercontinental Airport may have been the target.If it was done deliberately, how much more dangerous can you get? said Chief Deputy Ken DeFoor with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department. He went on to explain, It was less than a hundred feet from the airplane itself, going underneath the cockpit of the airplane.

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