Complete Streets Act queued for California Senate

The Complete Streets Act, sponsored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, is queued up for debate in the California Senate. The bill requires local governments to take into account users other than cars when updating general plans. Pedestrians, bicyclists, children, people with disabilities, seniors, all need to be considered. In a “complete streets” world, cars have a vote, not a veto on how streets are used.
More background on the bill from the TransBay Blog. The bill is queued for the Senate floor, but is being held while the Gov. plays chicken with the budget. If you live in CA, call your state Senator in support of the bill.

Mirror, mirror – who’s the fairest reporter?

Glenn Greenwald’s incendiary analysis reveals that ABC News knew at the time who was spreading the word that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks, one of the threads in the case for war. They still know and they’re not telling. Compare and contrast to Matthew Ingram’s reflections earlier this year about the internet blurring the lines between fact and rumor.
Traditional media can be influenced. PR and propaganda go back far into the history of mass media because they work. This is why companies have pr departments and famous people have media agents. Representatives of traditional media who believe they report fact without rumor or influence are Snow White’s haughty and deluded Evil Queen.

Political blog readership – cause and effect

What does it mean that readership of political blogs in the US is politically polarized, according to a recent study of political blogs in the US. Readers on the right and left reading different blogs, and are more partisan than average Americans. Blogging isn’t a tool for discourse across the spectrum, but a tool for organizing and message-building.
Is the partisanship cause or effect? “We don’t know if blogs polarize their readers, or if highly ideological readers gravitate to blogs that reflect their partisanship.” A comment on Crooked Timber, group blog of one of the study’s authors has an insight. MQ writes, “I think this stuff is going to change over time. The blog world took shape at an extremely politically polarized time, and the polarization was still there in 2006.”
The connection between blog-reading and activism is supported by a multi-national study showing that blog readers in France, Germany, the US and the UK are more likely to be politically active. It would be interesting to find out how many of the the people reading and organizing using blogs have been partisan and politically active all along, and how many have been mobilized by blogs.
Personally, I’ve become more partisan as a result of reading political blogs, and a more active participant in electoral politics. I got involved in tech policy activism before the rise of political blogging; but the issues weren’t particularly partisan at the time. I’ve become more partisan in part because of the evolution of the right in the US toward defense of torture, government spying, aggressive wars, unlimited executive privilege and other radicalism. And partly persuaded by the argument by Markos et al that the attitude of reasoned nonpartisanship on the part of Democrats enabled them to be rolled by those negotiating in bad faith, the “bipartisanship is date rape” tactic. I admire the Obama campaign’s message of hope, but when Obama backpedals on his commitment to the constitution, the right strategy is to organize. It will be wonderful to contemplate varying points of view when the path to compromise isn’t “how much of the constitution do you want to give up.”
It would be exceedingly interesting to find out whether there are meaningful numbers of people getting mobilized to political activity through involvement in blogs and social media.

Peripheral canal and farmers market salmon

The man who sells fish at the Menlo Park farmers market with his family is a good guy and a community leader. There is no local salmon for him to sell this year, because the Delta where the salmon grow up — an estuary at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers — is dying.
Today, water is drawn from Northern California through the Delta. Too much water is being taken out, and too much fresh water is being drawn through what used to be a tidal flux.
My weekend housecleaning radio listening was a KQED forum program about a proposal to build a Peripheral Canal, which would route less fresh water through the Delta, and would take more water around the Delta. After listening to the program, I’m still not sure what to think about the canal proposal. I think that key questions are how much water is moved, and how we live with less. One of the guests on the program was Peter Gleick, a water expert and Macarthur grantee who’s written a report on California water policy.
These water debates are the stuff of Cadillac Desert and Jared Diamond’s Collapse, the tactical decisions that affect the rise and fall of civilizations over time.

Why branded communities fail

These are some good reasons that branded communities fail: focus on features; lack of facilitation; lack of success metrics. The title of the piece implies one more reason — the concept of branded community itself!! The term “branded community” telegraphs the wish that the community will will be about and for the host. Being a good host will surely enhance the reputation of the host. But hosting a party is about making the time and place comfortable and fun for the guests. Communities focused on the goals of the host more than the goals of the participants won’t keep participants around very long.