sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

February 28, 2011

It’s Official: San Francisco Stinks!

Filed under: environmentalism, politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:18 pm

Visitors be warned:

San Francisco’s big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.

Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.

The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem.

Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite – better known as bleach – to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city’s treated water before it’s dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

So first “the City” dropped $100 million on politically correct toilets, and now it it needs another $14 mil/3 years to fix resulting stench.  In a related news, San Francisco is something like 1.3 billion in debt.  Why not reinstall the civilized toilets and save?  Assuming SF will have to keep spending $14 mil/3 years to alleviate the stench, and returning to conventional toilets will cost another $100, the City will break even in two decades.  And besides, what about all that bleach the City will depose in the Bay? 

A Don’t Bleach Our Bay alert has just gone out from eco-blogger Adam Lowrywho argues the city would be much better off using a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide – or better yet, a solution that would naturally break down the bacteria.

As for whether the supposedly environmentally friendly, low-flow toilets are worth the trouble? Well, according to Jue, they have helped trim San Francisco’s annual water consumption by about 20 million gallons.

There is another reason San Francisco streets stink: the homeless whom the City likes to pile up right in front of the City Hall, syringes and all.  They need to go potty, don’t they?

In any event, many of the solutions to environmental problems (and imagined problems) open a whole new can of worms.  For instance, wind power generators will kill birds.  Lack of logging results in forest fires. Switching from disposable to reusable cloth diapers will require an expansion of water and energy to wash and dry the reusables.  But, apparently, water consumption is only a problem if it’s a more efficient way of removing human excrement.  It just seems to point to the fact that environmental self-flagellation is more of repentance before Gaia then anything else.

H/t: DH

UPDATE: Almost forgot!  California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom who banned plastic bags and bottles during his tenure as San Francisco mayor is also a Gaia sinner.  He was driving around a collection empty plastic bottles in his SUV.

February 23, 2011

Oh, San Francisco!

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:10 pm

Via Political Junkie Mom, SF activists are trying to ban infant circumcision:

Self-described “civil rights advocates” say that a ballot proposition to ban circumcision is on track for gathering signatures, meaning that San Franciscans may vote on the measure this November.

The proposed law is being spearheaded by local resident Lloyd Schofield, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

She says:

Considering the studies that show circumcision reduces STD transmission, I’d think liberals were all for it. But the taint of religious practice obviously negates any connoted benefit. It’s in the Bible, so it’s obviously bad!

And asks another question:

[W]hy does one of the most homosexual cities in America want to ban the “surgical AIDS vaccine“?

Some parents chose to not circumcise their baby boys, and they are quite evangelical about it.  They do not, as far as I know, try to ban the practice.  But who is Lloyd Schofield?  The man who likes to make off color jokes

lives with his partner near Buena Vista Park, and they have no children.

So how did he adopt this issue?
Schofield became interested in the topic after seeing the Bay Area Intactivists marching in the Gay Pride Parade a few years back and has since become an “intactivist” himself.
Bay Area Intactivists have a facebook page.  So who are they and what do they do? This is their photo page:
I thought I’d see pictures of granola moms cheerfully smooching their sons, silly me!  But, I know, dressing up as a penis once a year is not sufficiently satisfying, so Bay Area Intactivists have the urge to outlaw a perfectly safe practice that’s been around for thousands of years and is a part of other people’s religious practice.
I once talked to a woman who says that she’ll raise her children without religion, but will let them choose their own once they turn 18.  “Let”?  By the time they turn 18 her children will be able to do pretty much anything without her permission.  Some teens chose their faith before reaching adulthood.  For instance, Bay Area native Johnny Walker a.k.a. Johnny Taliban converted to Islam in his teens.
Presumably the woman I mentioned wouldn’t have a problem with the ban on infant circumcision.  After all, in her view religion is somewhat of a mature practice.  Better have the state to make decisions about religious rites before parents take charge.  Actually, I should probably leave that woman alone.  When I talked to her several years ago her first son was a month or two old.  She might have different opinions now.
Perhaps Lloyd Schofield doesn’t know this, but as parents we make all sorts of decisions on behalf of our children, including decisions about their religion (or the lack of it), and decisions that has to do with their bodies.  Every time I take my child to a hospital for a routine procedure, I have to sign multiple forms.  It’s up to me to chose a conventional or “boutique” vaccination schedule for my kids.  Or chose not to vaccinate, which would mean that they can’t go to school or pre-school.  If I were to pierce my daughter’s ears, which is practically a rite of passage in some Hispanic cultures, that would be my choice too.
My children were born Jewish, and I intend to raise them within the Jewish cultural and religious tradition.  My son had a bris so he can practice properly as a Jew.  The fact that circumcision has certain medical benefits is reassuring, but that’s not why I had my son circumcised.  I did it because it’s a Jewish rite which doesn’t leave any lasting damage.  Not that my religion would permit the practice if it would put the infant in danger. My son cried briefly; he cries much more when he gets his shots.  The cut was tiny, and it healed really well.
Even the enlightened French do it: Sarkozy’s grandson was bris millah.
And you know what, there are plenty lesbians giving birth to baby boys and circumcising them.  And even raising them Jewish.  And perhaps both raising them Jewish and marching in Pride Parades with their tots, which I think is a really bad call.  But they probably don’t dress up as naked penises.
If I had to guess what possessed Lloyd Schofield to get into intactivism, I’d say it’s desire to talk about male anatomy in socially suctioned ways and fear that circumcision dampens male pleasure.  Only according to studies it doesn’t.  So why not get a life, and stop harassing people about their choices and their families.  All the while bringing shame on their city:
Those familiar with such ballot questions say the initiative stands virtually no chance of passing and is destined to become the latest measure to bring ridicule to San Francisco, like the failed 2008 proposition that would have barred the police from enforcing laws against prostitution.
UPDATE: Did I have to guess what possessed Lloyd Schofield to get into intactivism?  Circumcision Ban Seems More Focused on Penises Than Children’s Rights.

February 22, 2011

My Little War on Ants

Filed under: environmentalism, everyday — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:54 am

Die in organic poison gas…

Jello Biafra

With two little kids there is always something.  After a week of rain that something is ants.  They’ve gotten quite obnoxious lately, like, they have an annoying habit of amassing right on top of an ultrasound repellent.

Ultrasonic repeller: unbelievably, it worked for a couple of years.

Before this repeller I used Windex, which was politically incorrect of me because of the ammonia.  But a gallon of Windex typically contains just 4 oz of ammonia, and the agent evaporates quickly.  Windex is perfectly safe when used properly.  Then one day when I had to annihilate a whole bunch of ants right away, I ran out of ammo.  So I went to the nearby grocery store, which happened to be a natural grocery kind of place — hey, it’s the Bay Area.  Of course they didn’t have the evil Windex, so I bought a substance called Bugs’r’Done, which, according to the clerk, is what they use at the store, and which is totally harmless because it kills ants with an orange sent.  Bugs’r’Done claims that their substance is “food grade,” and can be used around children and pets.  But per bottle label, the spray should be used in a well-aired areas, and picnic tables should be sprayed lightly.

Come hell or high water, I took the spray home and tried it out.  And wow!  Not only it killed the ants better then the verboten Windex, it also repelled them long enough for me to enjoy a few moments of peace.  Unfortunately, it left an awful chemical smell, which made me think that it can cause some other kind of collateral damage.  Per bottle label, active ingredient d-limonene constitutes about 4% of the mixture, the rest is “other ingredients”.  These “other ingredients” are some mystery minerals and natural poisons.

Isn’t a natural grocery clerk an agent of the enemy anyways?  Why should I trust him?  So I decided to gather some intelligence myself, and looked at the contents of the spray.  I found no information about the 96% of Bug’r’Done.  D-limonene is made out of oranges, as promised.  I used Bugs’r’Done for several weeks until my mom brought thee aforementioned ultrasound repeller.  Then me and DH went on a search and destroy mission one last time, and plugged it in.

We eventually removed the repeller to keep it out of hands of my toddler.  Per Kaiser Permanente instructions, we keep powerful weapons out of the hands of children.  Actually, we don’t want them to electrocute themselves.

When the rains started this winter, ants penetrated our house through the porous hardwood floor.  We sprayed them, but they kept coming.  We plugged in the repeller, but this time it was powerless against the invaders.  One morning I woke up to discover a particularly target rich environment in our dining room.  That day on a trip to Home Depo we bought EcoSMART.  I specifically wanted an “organic” weapon because those appear to be deadlier.

The bottle promised that the spray “kills fast”; that it’s “plant based,” “university tested” and “water based”.  They were somewhat more forthcoming about the ingredients.  Active ingredients are the following:

Rosemary Oil — 5%

Cinnamon Oil — 3%

and other — 92%*

Water, Wintergreen Oil, Mineral Oil [huh? -- ed.], Oleic Acid, Canola Oil, Nitrogen, Vanillin, Lecithin

EcoSMART claims that their product secretes a  “fresh natural scent [that] signals it’s working”.  At first I thought the substance smells like candles, but I got sick of it fairly quick, and the stench is even harder to air out then Bugs’r’Done.

We got a couple of days worth of break from the rain, and me and DH decided to declare a truce.  I’m not sure if that was smart diplomacy because the ants have been testing out the terms of truce on the window frame and in the living room corner.  If, when the rain resumes, they keep marching on us, we will be forced to admit that all conventional weapons failed, and I need to use the nuclear option, that is call in pest control.

February 19, 2011

Poster Teachers of Wisconsin

Filed under: education, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:40 pm

This Wisconsin Labor Union protest video is making headlines under the title “Unbelievable: WI Teacher Urges Protesters to Shout Down CNN’s Difficult Question to Her:

Why, I find Nancy Riesch very believable.  CNN, on the other hand, unbelievably, acted more like Fox News in asking that question.

Nancy Riesch is a middle school band teacher.  It’s only band, I know, and classroom situations are different from CNN interviews, but I can’t help wondering how Ms. Riesch handles dissent in her classroom.  What does she do when students pose questions she doesn’t like?

UPDATE: Via Political Junkie Mom, Scott, your son is in my class:

The whole “I protect him” thing certainly sounds like a physical threat, but perhaps this teacher didn’t mean it this way, it’s just how it came out.  :(  I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Whichever way you look at this lady’s sign, it’s obviously intimidating to Scott Walker’s son.  I wonder how the boy feels about his teacher protesting his father, and the teacher should have had the good sense to live the boy out of it.  Just what kind of teachers do they have in Wisconsin public schools, and why are taxpayers asked to pay top dollar for their services?

Whatever the intended effect of this lady’s sign, I’m impressed that Scott Walker’s son is enrolled in a public school.  It sends the message that the governor of Wisconsin is confident that the quality of his son’s education will be compromised should the law he champions pass.  And keep in mind, that while our President supports the Wisconsin strike and public sector unions in general, his own two daughters are in a posh private school.

February 17, 2011

“MY GOD! THE TEACHERS DIDNT SEND US!!!!!”

Filed under: education, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:44 am

A hilarious video of teenagers at their public school teachers’ protest.  Of course they have no clue what it’s all about, but, hey, it’s a protest!  (Via Instapundit, via the PJ Tatler.)

I got a kick out of reading the students’ youtube comments:

MY GOD! THE TEACHERS DIDNT SEND US!!!!! read people readddddd!!!

or:

While the rest of our school knew exactly what was going on. ALSO- our teachers DID NOT bring us to this protest. They couldn’t take part in agreeing or disagreeing with it because of our school district. It was our students free will that made us want to partake in it. I am a fellow student and my parents excused me for this protest. TEACHERS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Get your facts straight and dont believe everything you see…This video isn’t anything near the truth of the situation.

or:

Haha wow how many times do people have to tell u the teachers didn’t send us

Haha indeed.  One day many years from now you might look at this video and laugh.

This incident reminds me of my undergraduate years when Berkeley Graduate Student Instructors, people that commoners call TAs, would go on strike year after year.  IIRC, the strikes were a work of, among others student labor activists, Hatem Bazian.  It was in the mid-90s, I was young, and in no mood to waste my time thinking about Mr. Bazian’s politics.  Graduate students asked professors to cancel their classes in solidarity, and asked students to cut classes, also in solidarity.  Somehow I don’t remember very many of my classes being canceled, but that could be because I took classes from conscientious professors.  Auditoriums were practically empty, though.  The students who did show up were the ones who wanted to go to grad school.

February 16, 2011

Women and Revolution in Egypt

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:47 am

A few weeks ago I noted the virtual absence of women in the revolution in Egypt.  Now I think I know why.  What I find particularly alarming is that the jubilant crowds didn’t care about the bad PR.

February 15, 2011

Self-Governance, East Bay Style

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:49 am

With our intellectual betters wielding legislative supermajority in Sacramento, CA is out of money, and state educational spending had to be cut significantly even before the recession started.  Instead of firing a bureaucrat or two, school districts predictably turned to voters to raise taxes.  Several special elections were held in San Francisco suburb of Alameda, where residents were invited to vote for parcel taxes to support the “excellent” public schools.  (In all fairness, some of those schools are not bad.)

Last such election was held in June 2010, when voters narrowly defeated a parcel tax proposed in Measure E.  Because the parcel tax would have to get a 2/3 majority to be enacted, it’s obvious that there is  broad support for this measure in the community.

Recently, the Alameda Sun published a letter by David Howard (is he this journalist?) accusing the School District of misappropriating 10,000 for the Yes on E campaign:

Documents show that the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) illegally used more than $10,000 in taxpayer funds last year to mail campaign literature disguised as a newsletter to more than 40,000 Alameda households, with the intent of urging voters to pass their Measure E parcel tax in June of 2010. The measure ultimately failed. California state law forbids taxing agencies to use taxpayer money to run their political campaigns.

The warning letter from the California State Fair Political Practices Commission, confirming that the district used “inflammatory” language in the mailing, confirms what every recipient of the mailer knows: that it was a use of taxpayer funds, contrary to California state law, to conduct a political campaign.

Further confirmation comes from AUSD itself, which confirmed, through a public records request, that this twice-mailed “newsletter” was the only one of its kind mailed by AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital in the past 24 months. Residents who didn’t even have a child in an AUSD school received a “newsletter” from the school district.

The warning letter can be found here (PDF file, but only three pages).  Although the Fair Political Practices Commission declined to prosecute AUSD at this time, the ethical issue still stands.  AUSD took taxpayer money to sell tax hikes to taxpayers.  Lovely.  But that’s not the end of the story.  After failing to impose the parcel tax in June 2010, AUSD went right ahead to call a special election in March 2011 with a similar measure on the ballot.  And this is how the school district is conducting the Yes on A campaign:

Additionally, the Committee Against Measure A in Alameda continues to receive anecdotal reports of the school district using school property to facilitate the distribution of “Yes on Measure A” lawn signs, the use of AUSD computers to distribute parcel tax proponent messages and the distribution through the classrooms, to elementary school students, of messages urging support of the parcel tax, all in violation of state law.

Why do I find this information in the letters section?  Alameda Sun is so community-oriented, they run headlines like Bridges to Remain Staffed Overnight.  OK, they cover legitimate local issues, including the parcel tax.  So why so shy about AUSD misappropriating funds?  The Alameda Sun and The Alameda Journal (another town paper) should have dispatched their staffers to ask that Kirsten Vital woman (who is no stranger to nepotism, by the way) probing questions, and stuck their nose here and there to see what’s going on with that Yes on A campaign.  But congrats to David Howard for getting the word out in a first place.  He must have pulled some strings.

Even if the Sun didn’t bury the news, it would probably take a lot more then 10K to get the locals outraged.  You see, the belief that the end justifies the means is quite pervasive here.  Revolutionaries have their eggs to break, and Palestinians have no choice but to blow up kids in pizzerias.  Also, affirmative action has to be defended by any means necessary.  So what’s the big deal about a thieving school district?  A Parcel tax had to be passed; it’s for the children.  If Superintendent stole money, it was in the service of the cause.

Sure AUSD acted inappropriately, but what’s a little theft here and there between us adults?  There is the irony of the school district being a culprit, of course, and campaign law is allegedly being broken in the plain view of elementary school children.  News about corrupt officials is met with indifference, and school children are being used in the most cynical manner.  That’s how you create a culture of corruption.  Oh, did I mention that we are represented in the House by a guy from Maryland?

You know that notorious lefty “Think globally, act locally” bumper sticker?  East Bay never fails to congratulate itself on being well informed and engaged.  Engagement means imagining world peace, making sure that no private entity profits from anything, keeping traffic away from one’s neighborhood and, above all, separating recyclables from compost.  Preserving democratic institutions is not a priority because said institutions are in custody of ideological allies.

We are often warned that if we bring democracy to the Middle East, people will vote in Islamists, as was the case with Hamas in Gaza, for instance.  The same can be said about East Bay.  The people of Alameda seem to want democracy as a mean to an end, which is socialism.  Elected officials are given a free reign as long as they stay faithful to socialist agenda.

But democracy is not a mean to an end, it’s the best form of government ever invented.  And in democracy the end doesn’t justify the means because is about the process.  If we want to live in a free society, and if we want transparency, we should be outraged when our elected officials cheat and lie, even if  the overwhelming majority agrees with their policies.  Without a meaningful civic engagement, is it surprising that our elected officials think they can do anything?

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