Sunday, September 21, 2008

Response To J Douglas Allen-Taylor

On the one hand, I think it's a step forward that the Berkeley Daily Planet's esteemed columnist spent more than 10 column-inches discussing this blog in his most recent column.

On the other, it's a shame that Allen-Taylor decided to label this blog one of the "worst" blogs in the East Bay. Before I spend some time on his specific charges, I'd like to respond to this broad characterization.

There is no doubt that I have taken issue with Allen-Taylor on more than one front since I started this blog nearly a year ago. I would not, however, choose to label him one of the East Bay's "worst" columnists.

Far from it, in fact. I enjoy reading his column, and I do so on a fairly regular basis. For all I know, he reads this blog as well.

The key point here is that one can disagree with another's writing without labeling it "bad." I would hate to think that Allen-Taylor truly believes every blogger who disagrees with him is a "bad" blogger, as that would be pretty closed-minded of him.

On to the specifics:

Allen-Taylor's first criticism is in regards to my contention that Oakland Mayor Oswald Bates avoided dealing with Oakland's crime problem as long as he possibly could. Quoting from Allen-Taylor:
The realities of 2008, as I see it, are that many of the mayor’s critics found a new issue to criticize him on—ethics—which they picked up in substitute for the previous issue they were criticizing him on—public safety....

This is not exactly the argument I made about Mayor Dullums. I see the public safety and the ethics issues as separate and equally damning. The ethics issues I view as significantly less concerning, as they don't result in burglary, rape and murder. So, no, I haven't moved on from public safety. I still see that as a major issue for Dullums. And, given his recently released laughable public-safety plan, I see no reason to stop criticizing him on this issue.

Next, Allen-Taylor refers to my concern about the Nation of Islam patrolling a free music concert in Arroyo Viejo park:
Why should that worry East Bay Conservative? Because they are Muslim? Because they are African American and Muslim? Or is this one of those wink-wink, hint-hint backhanded slurs that some people easily get, but pass over other folks’ heads?

Well, no. I simply read the wikipedia page for the Nation of Islam. I'm no expert on this group, but that page contains plenty of information that should give any reasonable person pause about using them as a private security patrol. I'm also aware of the Chauncy Bailey affair, which again should give anyone pause.

I would also like to call out Allen-Taylor on his obvious race-baiting. I realize that among leftists one can accuse others of racism against minorities without any evidence, but I would like to see some consequences here and potentially an apology.

Speaking of race, Allen-Taylor makes one more comment:
East Bay Conservative concludes his/her Aug. 18 blog entry by asking “what’s the deal with Allen-Taylor spilling so much ink about Brooks and Dellums—Oakland’s top black politicians? Is this some sort of racism at work?” Now I’m thoroughly puzzled. Is East Bay Conservative saying that an African American columnist shouldn’t be writing about African American officeholders “so much?” Or is East Bay Conservative saying that “racism” (that is, Black Folks talking good about Black Folks only because they’re Black) is the only reason an African American columnist could have a couple of good things to say about a couple of African American officeholders? I’m curious.

Well, now we get to the crux of the matter. I hope my reasonable readers can see what's going on here, because this is exactly the kind of response one frequently receives when challenging liberal gospel.

Allen-Taylor is well known as one of the very few writers in the East Bay who still writes positive pieces about Mayor Dullums. So, what I wrote was clearly not in response to a "couple of good things" written about this or that person. I feel very confident in saying that his writing shows a strong pattern of bias in favor of Dullums, just as mine shows a clear bias against the man.

I do not know Allen-Taylor, and I do not know his heart. But, I think it's troubling if a person supports a politican simply because of that politician's skin color. If it is the case that this is the reason Allen-Taylor shows such strong support for Dullums, then yes I think that is racism.

Incidentally, I believe a dynamic like this is currently at work nationally with the candidacy of Barack Obama. I believe it is dangerous in that arena as well. If our goal is a colorblind society (and I believe it should be), it does not further that goal when certain people champion candidates largely because of the color of their skin.

So, I stand behind the question I posed to Allen-Taylor. If his support for Dullums is partially racially motivated, I urge him to try to put that aside and look at the issues in an unbiased fashion. If not, then I apologize for the insinuation.

And one last thing. Brooks is actually my favorite councilmember. I have found her to be reasonable and pragmatic. So, maybe we have one thing in common.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why I Support Oakland Measure NN

I blogged about this measure previously, so I'll keep today's missive short and sweet.

I saw today's Chronicle article from Chip Johnson opposing Measure NN. I obviously agree with nearly everything he said in terms of the city using the money well, but I do support NN for two reasons:

First, I think it's useful for the city to have money earmarked for public safety. I realize that it will be misspent terribly, but I do believe at least some of it will get to the desired destination. And, I believe public-safety spending has the potential to snowball by creating a virtuous circle of gentrification.

Which brings me to the far more important point.

I view gentrification as Oakland's only hope for improvement. In thinking about taxation, I believe that parcel taxes aid the cause of gentrification. This is because parcel taxes are regressive, so they punish the poorest in the community and encourage them to leave.

Oakland has too much poverty, and much of its crime stems from this. So, Measure NN is a good antidote to this in two ways. It may directly push out some crime through policing, and it will certainly encourage some people to move, as they will be unable to afford the parcel tax.

Dullums Crime Plan: Rearranging Deck Chairs On The Titanic

Imagine you are mayor of a city suffering an epidemic of violence. Also, imagine your IQ is no higher than 75, and you sleep 16 hours a day.

Now, quick, what's your plan for addressing the crime wave?

Oakland's mayor has conducted just this experiment -- albeit with the intelligence and sleepiness issues as involuntary elements.

Dullums' public safety plan really is a tragic comedy. It's comedic in the sense that its treachery will only befall those whom it aims to help; it will have no impact, positive or negative, on people like me.

It's tragic in the sense that forming, modifying and reforming citizen committees has about as much chance of stopping Oakland's violence as me standing in front of the West Oakland Bart station trying to convince passers-by to "be nice to one another."

I feel the same way about the recently launched "Stop The Violence" billboard campaign. What these liberals don't realize is that the people perpetrating the crime don't care what others think about them or their lifestyle. That's the very definition of an anti-social element.

Thinking about Dullums' plan last night, I realized it reminded me of a scene from the hilarious Monty Python movie, Life of Bryan. Upon being informed of the Brian's impending crucifixion, the People's Front of Judea stops to hold a full committee meeting, with motions and votes, before taking action.

So the city government is going to institute a new organizational structure, and that's going to solve our problem. Well, let's take a look at the new structure. Here's the graphic from Dullums' own PDF file. Just to avoid confusion, I want to make sure all readers are very clear that all arrows in the diagram go in both directions. This is a very important piece of the puzzle, as it ensures that no one is in charge:

Public Safety Plan Diagram

So, as far as I can tell, problems emanate from individuals or groups, enter "Service" or "Empowerment" groups who either return the problems or can't resolve them. Unresolved problems get the mysterious label "SDS," are sent to coordinating councils, citywide councils, and then the process reverses itself, with the problem returned, unsolved, to the individual or group.

One look at this graphic tells you all you need to know about why public safety in Oakland is a complete joke. These liberals are so caught up in the trap of political correctness and "service constituencies," that they are unwilling or unable to see the simple fact that citizens need a clear set of rules, clear enforcement and one clear organization to call when a rule is broken.

I took my own stab at an organizational structure for violence prevention in Oakland. Let me know what you think. Notice the distinct lack of civil rights review boards, people bellyaching about police brutality, etc. Also, notice that the arrows only go one direction, meaning that there are no loops in the graph.

This, of course, also means something might actually get done. This runs counter to the core liberal plan of discussing poverty at cafes before hopping in the limo and heading back to the mansion. So, in short, my plan is untenable in a place like Oakland.

Public Safety Plan 2.0

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bart: We Need To Charge More To Reduce Ridership

In an astonishing display of simplemindedness, the folks who run Bart have floated a trial balloon suggesting they might charge higher prices during commute hours.

The purported goal is to "spread out" rush-hour traffic by encouraging commuters to shift their trips outside those congested hours.

My opinion is this is just code for decreasing demand for Bart because they can't figure out how to run the system efficiently enough to handle the influx of passengers as gas prices have skyrocketed.

When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that a public agency in the Bay Area would suggest such a thing. Increasing tolls on area bridges during commute hours makes good public-policy sense by discouraging folks from driving. But why would we want to discourage usage of public transit, particularly as it becomes more cost-effective due to fuel prices?

Anyone who rides Bart daily knows that the system suffers from some issues. It's not uncommon for trains to run slowly or stop running altogther for a period of time. Still, the system works decently, and I think a few minor modifications would enable it to accomodate far more passengers during rush hour, obviating the need for this idiotic price increase.

First, during rush hour, all trains should be 10 cars long -- the maximum the system can handle. It always surprises me to see lines of eight- and nine-car trains during rush hour. These shortened trains create a nuisance for passengers and slow boarding as people must rush over from the edges of the platform where there are no cars.

Second, Bart should change the cars' ridiculous seat placement, at least for the cars used during rush hour. Removing the seats and placing benches along the walls, as they do in New York City, would probably allow 50 percent more people per car.

Third, Bart should actually enforce rules prohibiting bicycles on the trains during rush hour. And, while I'm at it, Bart should also enforce rules making it illegal to use the system without paying. I see dozens of people each week either jump the fare gate or use the elevators to avoid paying.

Finally, I'm sure there are technological solutions which would enable Bart to space trains more closely. I'm no train engineer, but it would seem Bay Area environmentalists and liberals would be willing to figure this element out to avoid steering people away from public transit.

I don't support Bart being free either, by the way. I used to cringe every time they declared a "spare the air" day, as that pretty much meant you'd face throngs of teenagers running up and down the cars as you tried to commute.

I think it makes sense to charge a reasonable price for using Bart. But if anything, the price should be reduced. If congestion pricing is to be implemented anywhere, it should occur on area bridges, with the profits diverted toward mass transit.

I can't believe Bart's plan is even under consideration. What happened to the area's liberals?

A Great Editorial On City Spending

I wanted to encourage readers to take a look at this article by Berkeley resident Barbara Gilbert.

I was surprised to see the strongly liberal Berkeley Daily Planet publish such a strong article in its entirety. Gilbert does an excellent job at describing the sorts of public-employee giveaways which bankrupted Vallejo and are doing the same thing to other East Bay cities.

My biggest confusion with this article is Gilbert's insistence that she supports Obama for president in spite of her seemingly strong understanding of the dangers of out-of-control liberal spending. Perhaps she is just fed up with Republicans in Washington, which is fair enough given the country's state.

Gilbert's editorial reminded me of another article I read in the Contra Costa paper this weekend regarding Democrats who have moved from California to traditionally red states such as Colorado and Nevada. These transplants, according to the article, moved there because of the high cost of living here in Calfornia.

The irony -- yes, I checked with my wife and "irony" is the right term for it -- is that these folks plan to vote for Democrats in their new homes. So, presumably within 10 or 20 years, they'll be fleeing again from a high-tax, high-cost locality to yet another spot. Perhaps they should consider the fact that it is at least partially their voting behavior which causes their high cost of living.

I guess some people never learn.

Oakland Homicide Total Exceeds 100

It seems like just a short while ago that press reports were discussing the fact that Oakland's death toll had dropped below 100 per year for the first time in years. Now, it appears the city is trying to hit a record of the opposite sort.

Well, it's only September 15, and Oakland now has hit 101 homicides.

The three killings that caused us to reach this regrettable benchmark took place over this past weekend. You can click the link above for more details, but few are to be had.

Oakland saw 118 homicides in all of 2007. The important point here is that it appears we continue on the upswing, in spite of our leaders' assurances that they are trying to do something about the problem.

I renew my dismay at our community's seeming reluctance to vigorously protest this dreadful situation. It's hard to imagine, but perhaps people just don't care any more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Restaurant Takeover Suspects Caught

A recent commenter slammed me for daring to suggest that social programs do little to combat crime when career criminals are left to roam the streets unimpeded.

As if to prove my point, the Oakland police department nabbed two of the alleged culprits. And guess what? According to the police, they are career criminals.

Allow me to quote a bit from The Montclarion's article, linked above.

The two key suspects are on parole. One of them will be charged as a "third-striker." And here's what police spokesman Jeff Thomason had to say about them:
"These aren't guys who lost their jobs and got desperate.... These are people who had access to guns and get off on the thrill of robbing people."

First of all, I want to point out that the Oakland police did an admirable job tracking down these suspects. If they are convicted, we owe the cops a debt of gratitude for making the city safer for the average restaurant-goer. Provided the takeover robberies end for a month or two, I might even return to a few Oakland eateries.

This situation also bolsters the point I've made for some time now. I realize that liberals love to point out that poor economic conditions drive people to lives of crime. But just because this is likely true, that doesn't mean the solution is a bunch of welfare or social programs aimed at eradicating poverty (which is impossible anyway, since poverty is defined as below a certain percentile).

I'm not against providing reasonable public services to people of all walks of life. Inner cities need quality teachers just as much as wealthy neighborhoods.

But the reality is that social programs are in vain when crime runs rampant.

There are several reasons for this. Children look around them to see what opportunities are available in their community. When criminals seem to be living carefree lives, they are naturally drawn into that "line of work." Violence also creates chaos, which makes it impossible for non-criminals to have a quiet moment to work on getting their lives together.

Before one cent is spent on social programs, we need to round up the criminals and put them away. I commend the police for their work, but Oakland needs much, much more. The city should fully implement the broken-windows theory, punishing all sorts of criminal behavior.

And, yes, liberal activists should stop worrying about trees in Berkeley, suspend their concern about economic justice, and band together to fight crime first and foremost. Anything else is hypocrisy and doomed to fail.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Positives For Oaklanders

I'm not sure why I receive Oakland Magazine every month -- the label on the magazine says I should subscribe, but I don't and it keeps coming.

Anyway, I was pleased to see the magazine this month highlighting a number of up-and-coming projects throughout the city. Since this blog is usually filled with gloom and doom, I wanted to remind people that Oakland is still broadly on an upward trend.

The magazine highlighted such projects as the Oak-To-Ninth development, the Fox Theater, Uptown and the Army Base. In most cases, private enterprise is pushing into Oakland, making as much change as possible in spite of an idiotic city government.

While Oakland Magazine has a decidedly liberal bent, discussing these projects can't help but point out the positive trend associated with the city's gentrification. Oakland is slowly becoming a city of the affluent, and the transition can't happen quickly enough for me.

I even view the so-called "affordable" units in the city's new developments as a possible positive. Obviously, acceding to demands for these units permits the developers to move forward with their projects, and hopefully they are spread out enough to avoid turning into a ghetto.

It's amazing to see that private capital still flows into such a corrupt and dysfunctional city. Such is the power of capitalism. Oakland lies at the gateway to San Francisco, and even some of the worst crime problems in the nation have failed to stop the city's long-term betterment.

So, take a look at the Oakland Magazine article. I hope you too will marvel at the projects still underway, and hope as I do that the city doesn't figure out how to kill them.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Woman And Baby Murdered: Where's The Outrage?

Oakland's activists have their priorities hopelessly backward.

I remember vividly the street protests throughout the city when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Several teachers faced disciplinary action for letting their students out of class to attend the protests.

What a shame that no one seems to care much as innocents die in Oakland every day.

On Friday, an 18 year old girl and her unborn daughter died from gunshot wounds just outside her apartment on MacArthur Boulevard. Yesterday evening, some folks in East Oakland decided to have a shootout, killing one and wounding four.

Mayor Dullums' current approach to arresting Oakland's violence? According to the Tribune:
Recently, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums tapped Arnold Perkins, former director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, to complete a public safety program that has been in the works for months.

In essence, our city government is throwing up its hands and telling us it has no idea what to do about this problem. "It's unsolvable," they say.

Kind of like the Bush administration telling us there's nothing we can do about global warming, or pushing the country into a war on what turned out to be false information.

However, unlike these national issues, our local killing fields aren't generating a meaningful response from our local protesters. They're too busy fooling around with the trees over at the Berkeley stadium to think about hundreds murdered right under our noses.

Why no marches and protests?

Do people think there's nothing our government can do about this problem? If so, that's complete nonsense. Public safety is one of the few functions which governments have historically performed pretty well.

The City of Oakland has an enormous budget. It possesses police powers and lawmaking authority which permit all manner of actions to stop violence. Just take a look at what the mayor of New Orleans told his citizens prior to Hurricane Gustav: Loot and you go directly to the state penitentiary.

Oakland's epidemic of violence is one of the few situations where activists can make a legitimate difference in a community. Let's face it -- activism didn't stop the invasion of Iraq. It hasn't halted global warming. But in this time and place the grass roots has an opportunity to do something.

Want action out of Mayor Oswald Bates and his crook squad? Take to the streets! Hold a general strike! Jam the Bart stations so nothing can move until we get action! Don't just place measures on the next ballot; demand emergency budget reprioritizing toward police and public safety!

So, why no marches and protests?

I really don't know. I guess protests are reserved for things that liberals don't perceive as partly their fault. Maybe protesting Dullums' inaction would require a self-examination and a reality check as to whether our culture is too permissive toward inner city ne'er-do-wells.

It's even possible that the liberals view violence in places like Oakland as a linchpin to keeping support alive for their policies. After all, people tend to become more conservative as they move up the economic spectrum. Keep the inner cities poor, and democrats are sure to be elected time and again.

Whatever the reason, the inaction of Oakland activists is a testament to the hypocrisy of Leftism.

Sure, they'll take to the streets. But only when there's a television camera nearby to make them a star. Real, solvable, social problems? They'll leave those to someone else.