Saturday, December 31, 2016

Free Art

3 Bumps on the Road Ahead for Shared Autonomous Vehicles

3 Bumps on the Road Ahead for Shared Autonomous Vehicles

The Uber that blew through a red light in San Francisco raised unanswered questions about policing, manufacturers’ guidelines, and shared space.

The video, dated December 14, now has close to two million views on YouTube: The light turns red at a busy San Francisco intersection, a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, and an SUV with a giant headlamp sails right through. It was an Uber equipped for self-driving, the sort of vehicle that’s promised to essentially eliminate the dangers of human driving. But it had just narrowly avoided collision with a person exercising his right of way.
Tech companies are afforded a lot of special privileges in their use of San Francisco’s public space, but they’re also subject to heavy scrutiny. It didn’t take long for officials, and the media, to discover that Uber, which had started testing robo-Volvos with humans behind the wheel in San Francisco days before, wasn’t actually permitted to operate autonomous vehicles in California. Uber claimed that the red-light fiasco was caused by human error, and that they hadn’t needed the permits since the cars had human drivers monitoring the wheel. California wouldn’t hear it: The DMV ordered the cars off the roads, or else—so Uber moved AV testing to Arizona, where the governor is thrilled to have them.
Clearly, Uber’s hail-able AVs won’t be withering away under the Southwestern sun. The San Francisco incident raised a lot of questions about how new mobility services and automation intersect, and what lies ahead for cities working out how to handle the promise of shared, self-driving vehicles. Here are three areas where we can expect more action soon.  See full article HERE

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Funniest Take on 2016 yet by Dave Barry

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2016 — What the ... ?


In the future, Americans — assuming there are any left — will look back at 2016 and remark: “What the HELL?”

They will have a point. Over the past few decades, we here at the Year in Review have reviewed some pretty disturbing years. For example, there was 2000, when the outcome of a presidential election was decided by a tiny group of deeply confused Florida residents who had apparently attempted to vote by chewing on their ballots.

Then there was 2003, when a person named “Paris Hilton” suddenly became a major international superstar, despite possessing a level of discernible talent so low as to make the Kardashians look like the Jackson 5.

There was 2006, when the vice president of the United States — who claimed he was attempting to bring down a suspected quail — shot a 78-year-old man in the face, only to be exonerated after an investigation revealed that the victim was an attorney.

And — perhaps most inexplicable of all — there was 2007, when millions of people voluntarily installed Windows Vista.

Yes, we’ve seen some weird years. But we’ve never seen one as weird as 2016. This was the Al Yankovic of years. If years were movies, 2016 would be “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” If years were relatives, 2016 would be the uncle who shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner wearing his underpants on the outside.

Why do we say this? Let’s begin with the gruesome train wreck that was the presidential election. The campaign began with roughly 14,000 candidates running. Obviously not all of them were qualified to be president; some of them — here we are thinking of “Lincoln Chafee” — were probably imaginary. But a reasonable number of the candidates seemed to meet at least the minimum standard that Americans have come to expect of their president in recent decades, namely: Not Completely Horrible.

So this mass of candidates began the grim death march that is the modern American presidential campaign — trudging around Iowa pretending to care about agriculture, performing in an endless series of televised debates like suit-wearing seals trained to bark out talking points, going to barbecue after barbecue and smiling relentlessly through mouthfuls of dripping meat, giving the same speech over and over and over, shaking millions of hands, posing for billions of selfies and just generally humiliating themselves in the marathon group grovel that America insists on putting its presidential candidates through.

And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left. And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …

… drum roll …

… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!

Yes. After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository. The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.

It wasn’t just bad. It was the Worst. Election. Ever.

And that was only one of the reasons why 2016 should never have happened. Here are some others:

▪ American race relations reached their lowest point since … OK, since 2015.

▪ We learned that the Russians are more involved in our election process than the League of Women Voters.

▪ F​​or​​ much of the year the economy continued to struggle, with the only growth sector being people paying insane prices for tickets to “Hamilton.”

▪ In a fad even stupider than “planking,” millions of people wasted millions of hours, and sometimes risked their lives, trying to capture imaginary Pokémon Go things on their phones, hoping to obtain the ultimate prize: a whole bunch of imaginary Pokémon Go things on their phones.

▪ A major new threat to American communities — receiving at least as much coverage as global climate change —emerged in the form of: Clowns.

▪ In a shocking development that caused us to question our most fundamental values, Angelina and Brad broke up even though they are both physically attractive.

▪ We continued to prove, as a nation, that no matter how many times we are reminded, we are too stupid to remember to hold our phones horizontally when we make videos.

▪ Musically, we lost Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Debbie Reynolds; we gained the suicide-inducing TV commercial in which Jon Bon Jovi screeches about turning back time.

Did anything good happen in 2016? Let us think …

OK, the “man bun” appeared to be going away.

That was pretty much it for the good things.

And now, finally, it is time for 2016 to go away. But before it does, let’s narrow our eyes down to slits and take one last squinting look back at this hideous monstrosity of a year, starting with …

… which actually begins on a positive note with the capture of elusive Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who in 2015 escaped (for the second time) from a Mexican prison when authorities failed to notice the signs reading (in Spanish) “WARNING: ESCAPE TUNNEL UNDER CONSTRUCTION.” Since then Guzmán has been in hiding except for an interview with Sean Penn, a guest spot with Jimmy Kimmel and a series of commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings. Mexican police finally are able to track him down during his four-week stint as a guest judge on “America’s Got Talent.” He is taken to Tijuana and incarcerated in what authorities describe as “a very secure Motel 6.”

In health news, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, responding to the spread of the little-understood Zika virus, cautions Americans not to have unprotected sex with foreign mosquitoes. Meanwhile the Flint, Michigan, water crisis worsens when samples taken from the city’s main water supply are found to contain traces of a Chipotle burrito.

Read more here:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unfair pay for monkeys!- lessons from the animal kingdom

Editorial: MTC’s $13,500 meeting to discuss bridge toll hikes

Editorial: MTC’s $13,500 meeting to discuss bridge toll hikes

(Karl Mondon/Staff)The Metropolitan Transportation Commission wants to raise bridge tolls to as much as $8.
PUBLISHED: December 23, 2016 at 6:00 am | UPDATED: December 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm

They’re at it again at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The planning agency just moved into a new $256 million office building in downtown San Francisco, which was funded largely with bridge toll money and ran 53 percent over budget.

But when the 21-member commission held a workshop this month, the new digs weren’t good enough. Instead, they spent about $13,500 to meet five blocks away at the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency.

The bill included $4,225, including service charges and taxes, for lunch and for cookies and drinks during the break of the four-hour meeting. That’s $121 per person for 35 staff members and commissioners.

The meeting room rental was $3,263. Use of the audio visual equipment cost $6,101. MTC has similar facilities down the street in its new building.
MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger. (Karl Mondon/Staff)

The first meeting topic? Raising bridge tolls on seven state-owned Bay Area spans, from $5 to as much as $8. Those same bridge tolls funded the building that wasn’t good enough for the meeting.

If MTC wants drivers to pay more, its leaders should start showing they know how to responsibly spend a buck, or $5 billion that a $3 additional toll would raise over 25 years.

Unfortunately, MTC, under leadership of Executive Director Steve Heminger, demonstrates a money-is-no-object outlook.

Heminger flew during a three-year period to conferences in Tokyo, Sydney, Beijing and Vienna at public expense using air tickets costing more than $45,000, Bloomberg reported.

His $13,000 Sydney flight was eight times the price of a coach ticket. The cost and quantity of his international trips far surpassed leaders of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago transportation agencies.

Meanwhile, Heminger deceived the public about the deal for the new office building, which houses MTC and three other regional agencies, as the project ballooned from $167 million to $256 million.

Heminger didn’t do basic due diligence. The state auditor slammed MTC for bogus accounting. The state Legislature’s attorney questioned the legality of using bridge tolls for the building.

Now comes the proposed toll hike, which state lawmakers could place on the ballot for nine Bay Area counties in 2018.Oakland Mayor and MTC commissioner Libby Schaaf. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

MTC wants more money for BART, which just received voter approval for a $3.5 billion bond measure. That measure allowed using one-third of the money to indirectly subsidize already-excessive labor costs.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf suggests some of the bridge toll money should go toward housing, even though voters in her city and her county just approved $680 million of bonds for housing.

A responsible bridge toll increase that includes money, and spending controls, for roads and public transit might be merited. But public officials must first show they can manage current money responsibly.

Commissioners might start by ordering in sandwiches from a local deli.

Sf mayor Ed Lee and Governor Brown celebrate Bloody Communist China.

Related story here

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Merry Trumpmas!

Our new president is Merry Christmas for comedy. Here are a few more videos from the same artist.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Will SMART train have severe crossing delays like Denver trains?

RTD A Line slowly returning to normal after crossing issues cause ‘severe’ delays


DENVER -- RTD's A Line to Denver International Airport suffered "operational difficulties" at several crossings on Wednesday morning, leading to "severe" delays in service.

The crossings at York, Clayton, Steele and Dahlia streets were affected, leading to the delays. RTD did not say specifically what the difficulties were. Crossing guards put up cones to hold traffic as trains passed through the crossings.

"Please allow extra travel time during the next few hours as we work diligently to fix the issue," RTD said on its website at 4:45 am.

Delays were running about 30 minutes, but by 8:30 a.m., RTD said some of the trains were running on time while others were experiencing delays of five to 15 minutes. The issue was resolved about noon and RTD said it would take about an hour for normal service to resume.

One passenger who got on the train only to find out it was going to be delayed got off. He described the constant delays as "amateur hour."

"I just ordered a ticket and the guy didn't tell me there was going to be a delay and I have to catch my flight in an hour. And the security guard just told me he couldn't guarantee I would get there in time," the man said. "Totally unacceptable."

Delays on the line are nothing new. The A Line has been plagued by by switching, electrical and power problems since its ballyhooed opening in April.

Power outages on Aug. 10 and 11 led to long delays. Train service was halted both days between the 61st and Pena Station and the airport because of a damaged power wire.

Bus shuttles operated between the station and the airport until power was restored.

There were delays on June 9 because of issues with the positive train control switch and wayside signals. On June 4 and May 22, there were delays because of crossing issues.

Power problems stopped the trains on May 16, 21, 23 and 24. On May 24, a lightning strike cut power to the line, stranding 80 passengers who had to walk on a 50-foot-high bridge.

Solar Scams around the Country

Dozens of valley residents were fooled by a solar company that promised cheap bills. Stealth Solar promised huge savings but the Arizona Attorney General's Office says the complaints proved otherwise. Dozens of valley residents were fooled by a solar company that promised cheap bills. Stealth Solar promised huge savings but the Arizona Attorney General's Office says the complaints proved otherwise. Dozens of valley residents were fooled by a solar company that promised cheap bills. Stealth Solar promised huge savings but the Arizona Attorney General's Office says the complaints proved otherwise.

SolEd explains "Who is responsible for Marinwood's Solar Contract?"

SolEd Benefit Corp attempts to explain the solar power purchase agreement to the Marinwood CSD.  The long winded explanation concludes that an un named third party will be responsible for the implementation.  Shouldn't the taxpayers of Marinwood CSD know who will be responsible for twenty year life of the solar contract?  You may have to watch this tape several times since he provides confusing, evasive answers.  Apparently, we are contracting for twenty years with an unknown third party investor.

On November 10. 2015, the City of St. Helena cancelled their contract with SolEd due to "non performance".   

Fair warning to Marinwood CSD. Know who you are doing business with.

  • Richard Devore, C2 Special Situations Group, LLC  Linked IN

  • City of St. Helena votes UNANIMOUSLY to cancel  contract with SolEd Benefit Corporation for "non performance".  Staff Report HERE

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Greenpeace wishes the Children of the World, "Merry Christmas"

Christmas message from Greenpeace to children everywhere, "Santa may not bring you Christmas this year due to global warming".

 Fortunately, Christmas has come to the world, today as it does every year.  A true Merry Christmas and Glad Tidings to You!

 Joy to the World!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Save Marinwood awarded "Truthful News"certification from the FCC.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) today has certified the People's Cube [Editor's Note: Save Marinwood received the same certification]as a state-approved source of "correct, truthful, authentic, forward-looking and genuine truth" that is safe to read, share, and discuss with neighbors, family, and co-workers. This confirms our leadership position among the progressive mainstream media, as our stories more often than not become reality. For bringing only the best current truth to the toiling masses of American workers, peasants, and the unwashed intelligentsia, the FCC has decorated us with the "Truthful News" seal of authenticity, which henceforth will be proudly displayed in our sidebar. 

Ever since Hillary Clinton and allied media organs alerted us about the harmful effects of "fake news," American news consumers have been dazzled and confused, not knowing what news they are allowed to read and talk about safely, and what news can put them in violation of government policies regulating the proper reading of news. 

Indignant community organizers have been demanding a radical overhaul of all media regulations, as well as a thorough recount of all information ever published since this country's founding, raising concerns that the United States with its current political system itself is a tragic mistake originating in "fake news." 

While federal judges say that the deadline for such a recount has expired more than two centuries ago, many still believe that enemies of democracy may have used "fake news" to drag the country into the Revolutionary War and trick Americans into accepting capitalism and the electoral college.

Some vocal senior activists have compared the current fake-news confusion to the debilitating panic among American food consumers who had no idea what to eat until in 1990 the FDA at last mandated the placement of Nutrition Facts Labels on all packaged products.

In a similar example of caring oversight, the FCC has adopted a new certification system that separates all news into two clear categories: "fake news" and "truthful news." Additionally, a new law will require all media to display FCC labels to identify their classification. This will alert readers in advance whether they are looking at a genuine government-approved source of must-read truthful news, or they're reading some idiotic concoction of a madman with an unhealthy fixation on the so-called rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Obviously, anything based on such a false, backward premise qualifies as "fake news."

Thus, and similar alt-right media outlets that have been found guilty of misleading the American public into voting for Donald Trump, will be henceforth obligated to display the shameful "Fake News" seal of disapproval. It is only fitting that their false narrative of capitalism and American exceptionalism will be identified with a label similar to the Surgeon General's cancer warnings on cigarette packaging. This is yet another example of caring government oversight that proves critics wrong.

Until all news sources have been properly certified and labeled with FCC badges, readers are advised to follow this helpful chart.

In other news. Hillary Clinton has suggested to counter "fake news" with a government newspaper called "Truth" ("Pravda" for Russian speakers).
See more at

The Key to Riches

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Racist Zipcodes" need Repair according to HUD

From HUD website

Margery Austin Turner, Vice President for Research at The Urban Institute, recently shared insights on the persistence of neighborhood segregation in a presentation at HUD titled “Racial & Ethnic Equity Gaps – How Do the 100 Biggest Metros Compare?” Ms. Turner’s research centers on changes in neighborhood composition between 1980 and today. Though progress has been incremental, more communities are seeing increased diversity. Much of the change can be attributed to an influx of both Asian and Hispanic families into neighborhoods that had previously been either predominantly black or predominantly white; the racial divide that has traditionally separated black and white populations is eroding, albeit slowly.

The Urban Institute looked at a number of characteristics that describe where people live and often determine the opportunities (or lack thereof) that they’re afforded as a result: residential segregation, neighborhood income, school test scores, employment, and homeownership. The Urban Institute developed an interactive mapping tool, “Grading the Top 100 Metros: Racial Equity,” that compares how different metropolitan areas perform for their African American and Latino residents. Available online at the tool allows users to apply various weights to the factors and rank the country’s top 100 metropolitan statistical areas on how well they’re achieving racial equity based on the following parameters:
  • Residential Segregation
  • Neighborhood Income Gap
  • School Test Score Gap
  • Employment Gap
  • Homeownership Gap
By changing the weighting factors associated with each of these criteria, the user can generate a visual “report card” that maps the Top 100 metros’ performance in terms of achieving racial equity based on whatever parameters are of greatest interest. The resulting map shows the metros graded from A to F with corresponding colored dots representing the best, worst, and those falling somewhere in between. Clicking on a dot calls up specific information for that metro area, and a link allows the user to view or download the data.

“If we care about equity, we need to care about patterns of racial segregation,” Turner observed. She noted that the top scores can be found in small- to medium-sized metros in the South and West; for example, Charleston, SC and El Paso, TX score among the best in terms of overall racial equity. Conversely, the large metros in the Northeast and Midwest did not fare as well; for example, Chicago and New York scored in the bottom tier.

Turner also noted that, when segregation is removed from the scoring and analysis is performed using the remaining four factors — Neighborhood Income Gap, School Test Score Gap, Employment Gap, and Homeownership Gap — most of the ten best areas remained at or near the top. In other words, residential segregation is an important source of inequality in schools, homeownership, and employment. At the bottom of the scale, removing segregation from the scoring again had little effect, with all but one remaining in the “Ten Worst” rankings, and the remainder mostly shifting positions.
Turner believes that residential integration continues to be a worthwhile goal, and opportunities for advancement should be more equitably distributed, regardless of where you live. Though much progress has been made, in many areas, access to good schools and employment opportunities remains very much tied to a person’s zip code. “In 1980, there were a lot of suburban neighborhoods that were almost exclusively white,” Turner noted, “Today, there are almost none.” She added, however, that there’s still tremendous room for improvement, both in terms of investing in distressed neighborhoods where services are often lacking, and in making opportunities for advancement more equitably available, such as through open enrollment policies, charter and magnet schools, and through HUD’s many programs that foster community development and neighborhood revitalization.

The Society for Professional Journalist Ethics code and local reporting in Marin

A common point of concern for Marin Residents is the lack of journalist ethics in local reporting. Here are a few of the provision from the Society of Professional Journalists. More can be found at

"Seek Truth and Report It

Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

– Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
– Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

– Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story. "

For the full code of ethics see:

A vital enterprising local press is essential to Marin. Please support our local media.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Libertarian Gift guide.

The Most Important Graph in the World

The Most Important Graph in the World

There has been a massive increase in wealth throughout the world in the last two centuries.
Marian Tupy | December 13, 2016

Jonathan Haidt, the well-known psychologist from New York University, started as a "typical" liberal intellectual, but came to appreciate the awesome ability of free markets to improve the lives of the poor. Earlier this year, he penned an essay in which he pointed to what he called "the most important graph in the world." The graph reflected Angus Maddison's data showing a massive increase in wealth throughout the world over the last two centuries and which is reproduced, courtesy of Human Progress, below.
The "great enrichment" (Deirdre McCloskey's phrase) elicits different responses in different parts of the world, Haidt noted. "When I show this graph in Asia," Haidt writes, "the audiences love it, and seem to take it as an aspirational road map… But when I show this graph in Europe and North America, I often receive more ambivalent reactions. 'We can't just keep growing forever!' some say. 'We'll destroy the planet!' say others. These objections seem to come entirely from the political left, which has a history, stretching back centuries, of ambivalence or outright hostility to capitalism."

Haidt's experience mirrors my own. When giving talks about the benefits of free markets, audiences in Europe and America invariably note the supposedly finite nature of growth and express worry about the environmental state of the planet. Why? In Haidt's view, capitalist prosperity changes human conscience. In pre-industrial societies, people care about survival. "As societies get wealthier, life generally gets safer, not just due to reductions in disease, starvation, and vulnerability to natural disasters, but also due to reductions in political brutalization. People get rights."
This more prosperous generation, then, starts caring about such things as women's rights, animal rights, gay rights, human rights, and environmental degradation. "They start expecting more out of life than their parents did." All that is fine, of course, so long as the pampered youth in the West and newly empowered youth in the Far East remember that roughly 800 million people in the world, many of them in Africa, still live in absolute poverty and experience the kinds of existential challenges that only free markets can solve. Denying dirt-poor people access to cheap fossil fuel energy, for example, can mean a death sentence to a newborn child on life support in an electric-powered incubator in rural Africa.
Let me conclude with two final thoughts. First, there is no obvious reason why growth should not continue indefinitely—although future growth will likely be more dependent on technological change than in the past. In the West, for example, we cannot replicate the growth boost that resulted from the entry of large number of women (50 percent of the population) into the labor force. Second, let's not fall into the trap of thinking that, because the initial stage of industrialization was bad for the environment, pre-industrial society saw man and nature coexist in harmony. Part of the reason why the Industrial Revolution started in England was that the country had to switch from almost depleted wood to coal as a source of energy. Industrialization, and subsequent enrichment, saved European forests, and it can do so in Africa as well.

    Marian L. Tupy is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and editor of

    Capitalism makes the Poor, Rich.

    Monday, December 19, 2016

    Steve Kinsey and friends threaten our neighbors, the Silveira family,

    Marin to Silveira ranch: Settle or sue

    Cattle roam at the Silveira ranch east of Highway 101 in San Rafael. The family ranch and the St. Vincent’s School for Boys property at rear are the focus of an extended dispute over development rights. (Marin IJ photo/2004)
    Cattle roam at the Silveira ranch east of Highway 101 in San Rafael. The family ranch and the St. Vincent’s School for Boys property at rear are the focus of an extended dispute over development rights. (Marin IJ photo/2004) 
    The fate of one of the largest parcels of undeveloped land left in Marin County, which has been hotly contested for more than a decade, could be determined in coming months.
    Marin County supervisors have decided not to renew a “tolling” agreement with the Silveira family that prevents the statute of limitations from expiring on its right to sue over the Marin Countywide Plan.
    Adopted in 2007, this long-range general plan for the county establishes the development rights for Silveira’s 340-acre ranch, which is located east of Highway 101 in the unincorporated area of the county between San Rafael and Novato. The plan substantially reduced allowable development on the Silveira property and the adjacent 770-acre St. Vincent’s School for Boys property.
    The county entered into the tolling agreement with the Silveira family soon after the Countywide Plan was adopted in 2007 to allow the family additional time to deliberate and had renewed the agreement on a yearly basis since, said Deputy County Counsel Renee Giacomini Brewer.
    “Nine years is long enough to not to get some kind of resolution,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey. “As a board, we believe that the countywide plan that was adopted is legally defensible.”
    Kinsey said when the county renewed the agreement a year ago, it notified the Silveiras that it would not be doing so again.
    “We created a board subcommittee consisting of Supervisor (Damon) Connolly and myself to explore with the family whether there was any way to amicably resolve the differences,” Kinsey said. “I don’t think we’re there.”
    Under the law, the Silveira family has until Feb. 1 to file suit; otherwise it relinquishes its right to challenge the plan, Brewer said.
    See article HERE

    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    Amazing Sarah Longfield on 16 string guitar

    Holiday Joy for Needy Family- They won't have to take public transportation

    Antioch auto body shop gives cars to needy families

    By Rowena Coetsee
    POSTED:   12/17/2014 03:54:21 PM PST0 COMMENTS| UPDATED:   ABOUT 5 HOURS AGO
    Myla Wofford, of Oakland, opens the door of a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was repaired and donated to her during Mike Rose Auto Body’s 14th annual
    Myla Wofford, of Oakland, opens the door of a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was repaired and donated to her during Mike Rose Auto Body's 14th annual Benevolence Program in Antioch on Dec. 17, 2014. Wofford, a single mother of two children, has never owned a car before receiving her Jeep Cherokee. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

    ANTIOCH -- Myla Wofford grinned as she slipped behind the wheel of the gleaming white Jeep, the first car the 33-year-old has ever owned.
    The Oakland single mother knows a thing or two about hardship, but for a few hours Wednesday she had a respite from a grinding schedule made even more difficult by the hours she spends every day on BART and public buses.
    But not any more.
    Wofford and her two children were among five needy families who received a set of wheels this week from a Bay Area business that has made the giveaway a holiday tradition for the past 14 years.
    Crowds of onlookers applauded as one by one Mike's Auto Body employees whisked car covers and oversize red bows off the row of restored vehicles at the business' Antioch location, then handed over the keys, along with trunks full of wrapped gifts.
    Myla Wofford, of Oakland, sits in the driver’s seat of a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was repaired and donated to her during Mike Rose Auto
    Myla Wofford, of Oakland, sits in the driver's seat of a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was repaired and donated to her during Mike Rose Auto Body's 14th annual Benevolence Program in Antioch on Dec. 17, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)
    "You are truly angels," Antioch Mayor Wade Harper told the dozens of technicians, insurance agents and vendors who had had a hand in providing the early Christmas presents. "You are giving them freedom."
    The Concord-based company culls used vehicles from among damaged ones that insurance companies and rental car agencies have donated, choosing those that are easiest to repair.
    Mike's Auto Body has repurposed 56 vehicles since it began the outreach; this year's collection featured a Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai hatchback, Toyota RAV4 and a Jeep. Technicians volunteered nearly all their time to fix bumpers and, in the case of the Toyota, electrical problems under the dashboard.
    The Contra Costa County Fire District showed up to the event with wheels of another sort -- bicycles and helmets for youngsters -- while a rental car company provided children's car seats and vendors pitched in with gift cards for gas and oil changes.In addition, Mike's Auto Body will pick up recipients' liability insurance premiums for one year.
    The business finds potential recipients by putting out feelers in the communities that its shops serve as well as through the offer it runs on its website. Families apply for the help, which requires writing a letter explaining how reliable transportation would improve their lives. They also must have a valid driver's license and be insurable.
    Marketing Director Sal Contreras, who established the giveaway, reads all the applications with an eye for individuals who are trying to better their situations and filters out requests from those with an attitude of entitlement.
    He then shows a handful of the letters to the technicians who worked on the cars and lets them make the final decision.
    Contreras calls the recipients on a speaker phone so employees can share their delight over the good news.
    "Everybody goes crazy -- you get goose bumps," he said.
    This year's winners included a single mother of three who bounced around homeless shelters after ending an abusive relationship before moving into a one-bedroom cottage. She needed a car to take her children to therapy as well as to have a chance of getting her old job back, which would necessitate a commute.
    There was also the former U.S. Marine who's working toward a business degree and hopes to become a police officer; he had been borrowing a relative's vehicle to get around since an inattentive driver totaled his.
    Tito Ramos, left, of Pittsburg, looks over his new 2014 Hyundai Hatchback as his kids Tito Ramos, 8, center, and Angelo Ramos, 2, right, and wife Melissa
    Tito Ramos, left, of Pittsburg, looks over his new 2014 Hyundai Hatchback as his kids Tito Ramos, 8, center, and Angelo Ramos, 2, right, and wife Melissa Ramos, in back, look over all the gifts that were in the trunk after the car that was donated to his family during Mike Rose Auto Body's 14th annual Benevolence Program in Antioch on Dec. 17, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)
    The mother of a 13-year-old boy with kidney disease needs to take him to doctors' appointments out of the area but medical expenses had prevented her from replacing the car that broke down this summer.
    There's the Minnesota family who moved to California so their young daughter could receive a double-organ transplant at Stanford University Medical Center only to have their minivan's transmission fail as they drove back and forth between Clayton and Palo Alto for medical appointments.
    And then there's Wofford.
    Working close to 80 hours a week, she estimates she has been spending an additional four hours a day on public transportation commuting between her jobs in Berkeley and San Francisco and shuttling her daughter to medical appointments.
    "That (was) stealing precious moments, time that (my family) could spend enjoying each other," Wofford said.
    Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at

    Star Wars the Libertarian Edition

    Saturday, December 17, 2016

    Will the Lucas Valley Scenic Road be revived after all?

    The recent passing of former Supervisor Gary Giacomini and the resignation of Supervisor Steve Kinsey may mean the Lucas Valley Scenic Road has a chance after all. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful roads and a gateway to West Marin.

    Here is a clip of Gary Giacomini berating Supervisor Damon Connolly for attempting to bring the issue for a vote in 2015.  Both Damon Connolly and the Lucas Valley Scenic Road proposal are very popular in Lucas Valley.  The  passing of "Godfather" of Marin politics Giacomini and the resignation of Supervisor Steve Kinsey (now facing serious ethics charges for his work on the California Coastal Commission)  usher a new era in Marin County politics.

    Friday, December 16, 2016

    Marin Citizens fight Developer and Supervisors and WIN!

    Strawberry medical office plan dead on arrival

    One and Two Belvedere Place sits on a hill in Strawberry. Neighbors fought a plan to use some of these office spaces as medical offices.
    One and Two Belvedere Place sits on a hill in Strawberry. Neighbors fought a plan to use some of these office spaces as medical offices. Frankie Frost – Marin Independent Journal

    A plan to allow doctors’ offices in a Strawberry office complex has died on the vine.
    San Francisco-based Bentley Holdings Inc. decided to sell the property at 1 and 2 Belvedere Place in mid-November despite winning county approval for its plan to lease space to Marin General Hospital for medical offices. Approvals followed a lengthy county review process.
    Neighbors opposed the plan, fearing it would add to traffic congestion in the area; a group filed suit to block the scheme after county supervisors gave the plan the green light in April. See article HERE

    Editor"s Note: Strawberry Residents asked for REALISTIC traffic data of this crowded area and the Supervisors, Developer and the Marin IJ called them NIMBYs.  If you read the comments on the Marin IJ following the article you will find the full story.  The lesson for Marinwood Lucas Valley is community involvement is the ONLY way to shape the community. Developers win while we sleep.

    Boston Police Want to Track Your Emotions on Social Media

    Boston Police Want to Track Your Emotions on Social Media

    A debate rages over the department’s request for a $1.4 million analytics tool that would let undercover accounts monitor users’ locations, associates—and even moods.
    Think before accepting that friend request. (Matt Rourke/A
    How would you feel if a cop enticed you into accepting a fake Facebook friend request, then ran your posts through a machine learning program to “detect” your emotions? That’s what Boston’s police department wants to be able to do. And it makes the social media monitoring operations in the Chicago area that we reported on on Wednesday seem like child’s play.

    Boston police are facing pushback from community groups and city council members for their quiet plans to acquire $1.4 million worth of social media monitoring software that would have surveillance capabilities far beyond the tools used by other police departments around the country.
    The department’s request for proposal calls for a program that uses machine learning and natural language processing to determine “sentiment” and “hostile verbiage” in social media posts. The tool would also help police operate and expand the number of covert social media accounts, or “virtual identities,” used in their social media monitoring. The RFP also discusses numerous ways to collect and map users’ posts, associates, and locations through sophisticated network and GIS mapping techniques.

    The surveillance program has attracted opposition from civil liberties groups and at city council meetings, but, as of now, the police commissioner William Evans and Mayor Martin J. Walsh seem set on seeing it through, citing terrorism and other threats to public safety. “We’re not going after ordinary people,” Evans told WGBH Boston. “It’s a necessary tool of law enforcement and helps in keeping our neighborhoods safe from violence, as well as terrorism, human trafficking, and young kids who might be the victim of a pedophile.”
    The program will be operated by the department’s Boston Regional Intelligence Center and personnel from the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region, according to The Boston Globe. Some police social media programs around the country have adopted a less invasive approach than what is currently being proposed in Boston, and at a far lesser cost. In Arlington, Virginia, for example, police uses a system, called Social Sentinel, that alerts law enforcement about threats via text, e-mail, and daily reports by looking for key terms posted rather than individual accounts.

    Kade Crockford, Director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, worries that the program’s automated data processing capabilities will vastly increase social media surveillance on innocent people.
    “Right now, if they want to create a fake Twitter profile, an individual analyst has to go through all the work of maintaining their profile information and making sure to route their activities with the right IP addresses,” says Crockford. “But with this, they’ll have an automated system to do that work. That means exponential growth in the number of users they can target.”

    Some city council members and civil liberties groups have expressed concerns about who the targets of this enhanced surveillance will be. In 2012, documents obtained by the ACLU of Massachusetts and the National Lawyers Guild showed that the Boston Regional Intelligence Center monitored the internal activities of political groups and filmed protests associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to WBUR. The operations labeled peace groups such as Veterans for Peace, United for Justice with Peace, and Stop the Wars Coalition as “extremist.”
    In another case, from March, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center provided intelligence for a “gang raid” at the Lenox Street Housing Development in Boston’s South End that nabbed 27 people. All were arrested on non-violent drug and firearms charges. The indictment cites evidence from a music video posted to YouTube in July 2014, involving residents of the housing project who “appear to be openly smoking marijuana.”

    Police officials defend the program by pointing out that the data they would be monitoring is open source. “The technology will be used in accordance to strict policies and procedures and within the parameters of state and federal laws,” police spokesman Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy said in a statement to The Boston Globe. “The information looked at is only what is already publicly available.”
    Thomas Nolan, an Associate Professor in Criminology at Merrimack College and a former lieutenant in the Boston Police Department, argues that this claim is misleading. “They have access to mountains of data that none of us could ever retain and sift through, so its not just as simple as looking at publicly available data,” he says. “Thirty years ago, to establish these kinds of criminal links and charts they’d have to get a warrant to get data from phone companies … But the tech has evolved rapidly, and the law is lagging behind.”
    Nolan believes that images from publicly posted social media could be taken out of context and used unfairly to arrest and prosecute people, especially young, poor people from black and Latino communities. “This is subject to anyone’s interpretation, particularly if the data is taken from a community that uses language in a way different from the mainstream dominant culture,” he says. “The meanings of gestures, words, and pictures in their communications are different… so if you are basing the foundation of your investigation on a fiction, and using that to establish probable cause, that would be troubling.”
    As of now, police have not made their selection of the would-be vendor of this program public, and many other questions about how the program would work remain unanswered. “The Boston Police Department is not the NSA, but it seems to think it needs to be, for reasons that are unknown to anybody in Boston,” says the ACLU’s Crockford. “The LAPD paid $70,000 for social media monitoring over a three year period, and L.A. is way bigger. What could BPD possibly need to do with 1.4 million worth of software?”