Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Night Videos

KaapiN">">KaapiN - Taxi Taxi (PART I)
from Megan">">Megan Palero on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Everybody">">Everybody In: Episode 5 // LA FEMME
from Monster">">Monster Children on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Charles">">Charles Bukowski. Uncensored.
from Quoted">Quoted> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> TALISCO">">TALISCO - Your Wish
from zack">">zack spiger on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> The">">The Most Wanted Man in the World: Behind the Scenes with Edward Snowden
from WIRED">WIRED> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Skateboarding">">Skateboarding Time Collapse: Shot with the Lumia 930
from Microsoft">Microsoft> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> Citius">">Citius, Altius, Fortius
from Felix">">Felix Deimann on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> SHOWstudio">">SHOWstudio: Evening In Space - Daphne Guinness / David LaChapelle / Tony Visconti
from SHOWstudio">SHOWstudio> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.> 
Creature Feature: Golden Sweet from CollectiveCreature on Vimeo.

Millenials/Silicon Valley Tech Professionals for Liberty

The Culture of Police Harassment in Ferguson, MO.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

The department is part of a federal program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S. 
AP/Jeff Roberson

According to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033, in which the Department of Defense distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S. 
That surplus military equipment doesn't just mean small items like pistols or automatic rifles; towns like Ferguson could become owners of heavy armored vehicles, including the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement," the agency's website states.
All in all, it's meant armored vehicles rolling down streets in Ferguson and police officers armed with short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters hovering near the citizens they're meant to protect. 
Unnecessary? Absolutely, says Washington Post reporter and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop Radley Balko, who told NBC's Chris Hayes the following:
The militarization itself is part of a larger trend... That is a willingness or a policy among domestic police in the United States of using more force more often for increasingly, you know, petty offenses.
It is a mentality that sees the people they are supposed to be serving not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. If you look at the racial makeup of Ferguson, Missouri, it is about 67 percent black. 52 of the 55 police officers at the Ferguson police department are white.

The police militarization is unsettling to many in Ferguson, a town that, since the events of Saturday that saw a police officer shoot and kill 18-year-old Michael Brown, has seen massive protests and increased police presence in response, as well as an FAA ban on low-flying aircraft—treatment that undoubtedly transforms a Midwest town of 21,000 into a what looks just like a war zone.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Full Moon over Marin

Full Moon Pacific Blanket - SF Bay from Gary Yost on Vimeo.

The Bay Area is famous for its dense fog, and when you're in it the fog is cold and grey. But there's another side to the fog and the only way to see what happens when it fully comes in and blankets the SF Bay Area at night is to be above it. Because Mt. Tam is closed to everyone but rangers and fire lookout volunteers after sunset, very few people have ever seen the majestically mysterious vapors of the Pacific ocean as it flows in to completely cover the Bay. What starts as a partial blanket quickly rushes in to fill the gaps and by 1am, the lights of the cities below eventually become completely smothered. Because this specific night (8/9/2014) was a 96% full moon, the top of the fog and the slopes of Mt. Tam were fully illuminated by silvery-blue light and the only traces of humanity left were aeronautical... the lights at the summit of Mt. Diablo, the FAA radome on Tam's West Peak, and the jets that are guided by that radome's radar safely through the fog.
music: "Tsunami" (Die Welle) by RĂ¼diger Oppermann (

Local photographer Gary Yost posts another nature poem from his perch high atop Mt. Tam fire observatory.  What a wondrous place Marin!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dick Spotswood: Housing 'density bonus' can make numbers misleading

Dick Spotswood: Housing 'density bonus' can make numbers misleading

Marin Independent Journal
Posted:   08/12/2014 12:29:56 PM PDT
One source of the controversy surrounding Fairfax's just-repealed ordinance that would have facilitated construction of 124 new housing units in the Ross Valley community, is that when it comes to Bay Area planning, 124 doesn't mean 124.

Thanks to California laws mandating housing "density bonuses," when certain criteria are met, 124 can really mean something significantly higher than the number of residential units contained in any particular zoning ordinance's text.

The confusion associated with housing density bonuses inevitably fuels public distrust of government. The state Legislature and its regional minions, including the Association of Bay Area Governments, invented and then adopted upzoning bonuses that automatically increase density, effectively overriding local planning.

Once zoning is established or project approval is granted, there is a "bonus" of an extra 25 percent of units for developers who designate at least 20 percent of the projected units for lower-income residents. An additional 10 percent is granted for very-low-income apartments and 50 percent more for senior-allocated housing.

Incentives are fine, but the number of units assigned after bonuses are calculated are the numbers that need to be disclosed in black letters when zoning is set or specific plans considered. 
In their booklet "Density Through Affordability," the prominent law firm of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard advises potential clients, "This ability to force the locality to modify its normal development standards is sometimes the most compelling reason for the developer to structure a project to qualify for the density bonus."
Real estate lawyers understand that developer profitability is all about density and that state-mandated bonuses equal increased density. They know going in what they can get. It's time the public is supplied the same information in an easy-to-understand fashion well before zoning regulations or housing developments are approved.

Editors Note:  It is even worse than this.  The Community development department counts under counts smaller units and studios as "less than a full unit.  Therefore the development that has 82 units like Marinwood Village may actually build up to 164 studio apartments PLUS a density bonus of 32 units for a total of 196 units!   Funny thing, these people have cars, need government services just like the rest of us but the non profit developer can AVOID the majority of taxes for 55 years!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Loud will the Smart Train be?

Rolling Blunder: Why Light Rail is REALLY favored by Planners and Policitians.

Streetcars and urban renewal

Rolling blunder

Federal subsidies have inspired some silly transit projects

A streetcar named desire
LATE and over budget, streetcars are finally rumbling to life in Washington, DC. The long-awaited service, which has cost at least $135m to build, spans 2.4 miles along H Street in the city’s north-east. But it is not taking passengers yet. Operators are still learning how to drive the electric trains, which may come into service by the end of the year. In the meantime, locals can hop on the bus: plenty of them already ply this route, and often at a faster clip.
Most American cities paved over their streetcar tracks decades ago, deeming the services slow, rickety and inconvenient. Commuters have long preferred cars and buses. But streetcars—sometimes known as trolleys or trams—are making a comeback. Services are rolling out in at least 16 American cities, with dozens more in the works. Even bankrupt Detroit has begun work on a three-mile line that is expected to cost $137m.
Fans say streetcars create jobs and spark urban investment. Developers like them because they run on fixed tracks, which means official commitment to a route is locked in. Boosters point to Portland, Oregon, which unveiled America’s first streetcar line with modern vehicles in 2001. One study found that the city’s westside line attracted new business and housing valued at more than 24 times its construction cost. Plans in Atlanta and Tucson have similarly generated hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment and raised property values. The District’s H Street neighbourhood has been moving upmarket for years, but some credit the promise of a streetcar with accelerating development.
Others are more sceptical. The relationship between streetcars and development is not clear, say researchers funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In cities where streetcars have led to urban renewal, they are part of larger, heavily subsidised development plans, with changes in zoning, improvements to streets and other upgrades. And while streetcars are cheaper than other rail projects, they are still costly to build and maintain. Operating expenses are more than twice those for buses, according to data from the FTA, and capital costs are hefty. Tucson’s project, for example, cost nearly $200m and opened years late, in part because the city had to clear utilities from under the tracks, install overhead electrical connections and repave much of the four-mile route.
All this investment might make some sense if streetcars offered an efficient way to move people around. But here, too, the evidence is flimsy. Unlike European trams, which often cover long stretches in independent lanes, American streetcars tend to span walkable distances and share the road with other vehicles. This means they inch along with traffic, often at less than 12 miles per hour, on tracks that make it impossible to navigate busy streets or ride around obstacles. Indeed, their slow speeds and frequent stops mean they often cause more congestion. A bus route could move up to five times more people an hour, says Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute, a think-tank.
If streetcars are so slow and costly, why are there suddenly so many? Because federal subsidies have encouraged them. Under Barack Obama the Department of Transportation has made grants of up to $75m available to “small” projects that promise to revitalise urban areas and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. They need not be cost-effective in the conventional sense if they make a place more liveable or offer other vague benefits.
America’s streetcar revival is gobbling up funds that might otherwise go towards cheaper, nimbler forms of public transport, such as buses. This is not only wasteful, but tends to favour better-off riders, such as tourists and shoppers. Poorer residents are mainly served by buses, if at all, says Daniel Chatman of the University of California, Berkeley, who studies regional planning. “The economics of many light-rail and streetcar projects is abysmal,” he adds.
Well-designed bus routes can spur development, too, and at far lower cost, says Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, another think-tank, Cleveland’s rapid-bus service has attracted $5.8 billion in private investment along its 6.8-mile route. It was built in 2008 for around $50m—just a third of the cost of the District’s streetcar.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marin has Highest Property Taxes in the State.

Marin frontrunner for highest property taxes in California


Single-family homeowners in Marin County pay the highest property taxes in the state, according to an analysis by a national online real estate company.
Zillow, a Web-based real estate marketplace, reported last week that an analysis of 50,000 single-family properties in Marin showed homeowners paid an average of $8,434 in property taxes in 2012. Zillow spokeswoman Camille Salama said the company has been calculating this figure for counties across the nation.

"At the property level, we record the amount of taxes paid, the home value, and the ratio of the two, which equals the tax rate. Within a county, we averaged all three of those fields to compute the average amount of property taxes paid on a single-family home, the average home value of homes in the sample, and the average tax rate of those homes," Salama said in an email.

According to Zillow's analysis, single-family homeowners in Santa Clara County ranked second and paid $7,496 in property taxes in 2012, followed by San Mateo County with $6,901 in property taxes and San Francisco County with $5,776 in annual property taxes.
But Richard Benson, Marin County assessor, said Marin wasn't at the top of the list when he divided Zillow's annual tax figures by the state Board of Equalization's average assessed value per parcel figure for single-family homes, which is $657,424. When he did this, Santa Clara County had the highest average tax rate per parcel. Marin came in third after Alameda County.

"If we were to make the assumption that Zillow's numbers could be correlated to the state Board of Equalization's, there's a little bit of uncertainty whether Marin truly ranks first," Benson said. 
His calculations show Santa Clara has a tax ratio of 0.014, followed by Alameda with 0.0137 and Marin with a 0.0128 tax ratio. He said the ratios are nestled together in the same category.

"The rates aren't all that dramatically different," Benson said.

While all California homeowners pay 1 percent of their homes' assessed value as the basic property tax, rates grow when there are additional taxes that have been voted into existence by taxpayers, such as school, library and hospital bonds. These additional taxes vary in Marin from Novato to Sausalito.

San Rafael resident Joe Salama, a Marin United Taxpayers Association board member, said it's not a shock Marin homeowners pay some of the highest property taxes in the state.
"It's not surprising given the level of what I understand to be inefficient spending of taxpayers' money," he said. "It's upsetting."

San Anselmo resident Nancy McCarthy, MUTA secretary, said many voters don't understand the consequences of approving additional property tax measures.

"When they put out these bond issues on the ballot, they do not tell the taxpayers what the total amount will be to repay the bond," McCarthy said. "It's really deceiving to not let people understand the full extent of the price of that bond."

She said every ballot should have a list of the property taxes voters are already paying for, so people have an idea of the financial impact on property owners.
Benson said the amount of money Marin homeowners pay in property tax is less driven by the actual tax rate and more driven by the value of the real estate. Marin has the most expensive real estate in the state, with an average assessed value per parcel of $657,424 for single-family homes.

"We're a small county. Most of our real estate is open space and we have limited growth. We have high-value real estate," Benson said. "That's what's driving it."
San Mateo has the second-highest average assessed value per parcel for single-family homes at $603,166. Santa Clara comes in third at $536,537 and San Francisco takes fourth place at $522,119.

Contact Megan Hansen via email at or via Twitter at Follow her blog at
Highest California Property taxes by County in 2012:
Marin: $8,434
Santa Clara: $7,496
San Mateo: $6,901
San Francisco: $5,024

— Source: Zillow

Making Math Education Even Worse. Berkeley Math Professor Explains

Making Math Education Even Worse

American students are already struggling against the competition. The Common Core won't help them succeed.

Aug. 5, 2014 8:01 p.m. ET
I first encountered the Common Core State Standards last fall, when my grandson started sixth grade in a public middle school here in Berkeley, Calif. This was the first year that the Berkeley school district began to implement the standards, and I had heard that a considerable amount of money had been given to states for implementing them. As a mathematician I was intrigued, thinking that there must be something really special about the Common Core. Otherwise, why not adopt the curriculum and the excellent textbooks of highly achieving countries in math instead of putting millions of dollars into creating something new?
Reading about the new math standards—outlining what students should be able to learn and understand by each grade—I found hardly any academic mathematicians who could say the standards were higher than the old California standards, which were among the nation's best. I learned that at the 2010 annual conference of mathematics societies, Bill McCallum, a leading writer of Common Core math standards, said that the new standards "would not be too high" in comparison with other nations where math education excels. Jason Zimba, another lead writer of the mathematics standards, told the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the new standards wouldn't prepare students for colleges to which "most parents aspire" to send their children.
Martin Kozlowski
I also read that the Common Core offers "fewer standards" but "deeper" and "more rigorous" understanding of math. That there were "fewer standards" became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.
As a result, the Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.
It remained to be seen whether the Common Core was "deeper" and "more rigorous." The Berkeley school district's curriculum for sixth-grade math was an exact copy of the Common Core State Standards for the grade. The teacher in my grandson's class went through special Common Core training courses.
As his assigned homework and tests indicate, when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: "Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient . . ."
Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?
This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn't draw anything loses points.
Here are some more examples of the Common Core's convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: "draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression."
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson's class for the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics. While model drawing might occasionally be useful, mathematics is not about visual models and "real world" stories. It became clear to me that the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.

Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.
For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.
The teaching of math in many schools needs improvement. Yet the enormous amount of money invested in Common Core—$15.8 billion nationally, according to a 2012 estimate by the Pioneer Institute—could have a better outcome. It could have been used instead to address the real problems in education, such as helping teachers to teach better, raising the performance standards in schools and making learning more challenging.
Ms. Ratner is professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the international Ostrowski Prize in 1993 and received the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, of which she is a member, in 1994.