Check this out:

Where else but San Francisco City Hall could a 10-foot-long wheelchair ramp wind up costing $1 million?

Thanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.

What’s more, the little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.

“It’s crazy,” admits Susan Mizner, director of the mayor’s Office on Disability. “But this is just the price of doing business in a historic building.”

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Tuesday that the issue went to the heart of liberal guilt that often drives the city’s decision making. He also choked on the price tag, and asked that the board take some more time to come up with an alternative, like maybe just getting rid of the president’s elevated seat.

The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled. The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.

The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible. But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.

City architect Tony Irons and representatives of the state Office of Historic Preservation – which had to be consulted to make sure the city was sensitive to the building’s designation as a state landmark – were called in to take measurements.

Then preservation architects from the San Francisco firm Page and Turnbill worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.

No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.

The ramp won, which means lowering the president’s desk, which means eliminating three of the “historic” stairs and tearing out Manchurian oak panels that are no longer available, which in turn will mean finding a historically correct replacement.

And because the ramp was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment, officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.

Here’s what else is going into the million-dollar ramp:

– $77,000 for the city’s Bureau of Architecture project manager, design and construction fees.

– $455,000 for the actual construction, plus asbestos removal.

– $28,000 for a construction scheduling consultant.

– $3,500 for an electrical consultant.

– $68,000 for the Bureau of Construction Management to oversee the construction and various consultants.

– $12,000 for Department of Technology and Information Services oversight.

– $16,500 for permits and fees. (Yes, believe it or not, the city charges itself.)

– And as much as $65,000 for bid overruns.

All for a total of: $1,123,000.

And counting.

The supervisors considered signing off on the work Tuesday but put it over for another week. Even if the board gives its final blessing, however, construction of the ramp won’t be completed before the end of the year – midway through Alioto-Pier’s second and final term.

“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million.

Water war: The surprise discovery that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger provided funding for eight positions in his budget to begin work on the revived Peripheral Canal has state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata predicting the renewal of an all-out north-south water war.

“This is shocking – it’s the Dodgers vs. the Giants,” Perata said Tuesday after hearing rumors that the governor had also signed an executive order to start planning for a canal.

Bill Maile, a spokesman for the governor, said no such order had been issued. But he acknowledged that Schwarzenegger included $1.4 million in his budget for the environmental work in hopes of getting a water bond on the November ballot.

The centerpiece of the bond would be a canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River to Southern California, skirting the delta altogether.

Just last Thursday, the governor sat down with key legislative Democrats and Republicans – as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein – to try to hash out a comprehensive water plan that would protect the delta and its quake-endangered levees. But no agreement was reached.

“It looks like there is a stealth deal going on now,” Perata said.

Hot wheels: State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s hot, hot, candy-red Dodge Charger – complete with its 20-inch chrome wheel rims – is up for sale on eBay.

Starting bid: $19,000.

Or you can pay $22,800 outright and drive it away.

Seems Perata lost his taste for the stud-rimmed look after he was carjacked at gunpoint over the holidays in Oakland in broad daylight.

At the time, it was thought the carjackers were after the rims, though no one knows for sure because no arrests were ever made.

When the 2006 Charger turned up in one piece in Richmond a few days later, Perata had already decided his sporting days were over.

The state Department of General Services recently sold the Charger to an unnamed private buyer at its monthly public auction for $17,800.

And now the buyer is trying to make a couple of bucks with a quick turnaround.

As the sale posting notes, this car has “a great story (maybe not so great) to go along with it!”

The ‘Bridge to Nowhere‘ carried a price tag of $231,000,000.

At $100,000 a foot, there would have been less than half a mile of roadway- barely enough for the entry and exit lamps for either side the bridge.

It’s your money. Think about that when you enter the voting booth.

The 911 Call You Want To Make

February 29, 2008

From The Times of London:

Employers who hire illegal immigrants can be fined £10,000 ($19,800 USD- SC&A) per worker from today in cases involving negligence, compared with a previous figure of £5,000 ($9,900 USD).

If the employer acts knowingly, the penalty could be an unlimited fine or jail. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, described the moves, which include a points-based immigration system for people from outside the European Union, as “the biggest changes to British immigration policy in a generation”.

Highly skilled migrants who wish to extend their stay will have to have suitable employment. The points-based system, based on a system already in place in Australia, will be tested for highly skilled migrants applying from India in April, and extended to the rest of the world by the summer.

The system will then be extended to skilled workers with a job offer, students, and temporary workers. A tier for low-skilled workers is not planned while vacancies can be filled by migrants from Eastern Europe.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: “The introduction of our Australian-style points system will ensure that only those with skills the country needs can come to work and study.

“Today’s proposals are part of the biggest changes to British immigration policy in a generation, which include a new deal for those migrants seeking citizenship here, a new UK Border Agency to strengthen controls at the border and the introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals.”

The system puts in question the scheme under which Commonweatlh citizens with a British grandparent are allowed to settle in this country. The Labour MP Austin Mitchell said that any proposal to scrap “ancestral visas” would cause anger.

Ministers also revealed that businesses which want to sponsor and employ migrants must be licensed by the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA). A licence will be required from the autumn, when the second tier of the points-based system is due to come into effect. Employers can begin applying for licences from today.

Sponsors will be rated “A” or “B” according to criteria set by the Home Office. Their activities will be monitored, and poor performance could lead to them being downgraded or removed from the register.

The points-based system replaces 80 existing migration routes to the UK. Tier One requires highly skilled workers to achieve a total of 75 points, with various amounts awarded for education, age and their level of previous earnings. About 40,000 people applied under the previous scheme for highly-skilled migrants in 2006, with about 20,000 being successful. Separately, about 14,500 highly-skilled migrants applied to renew their stay in 2006, of whom about 14,000 were successful.

Predictable Drivel

February 29, 2008

With a straight face and breathtaking stupidity, Arab News writer Walid Awad publishes a most extraordinary bit of drivel, Kosovo And Palestine: Why Different Standards? In a complete break with reality, Awad seriously considers the Palestinians to be equal to the Kosovars.

Apparently Mr Awad has that well known Middle East affliction, the ‘Allergy to Reality.

The Kosovars are not screaming ‘Slaughter the Jews!’ or calling for the eradication of anyone. They are not preaching racism and bigotry from the pulpits and they do not teach hate in schools or broadcast or print that kind of dysfunction in their media. The Kosovars are not led by murderous thugs who can’t even be bothered to hide their racist intentions. The Kosovars do not worship or idolize past leaders who were so corrupt that they were left bankrupt.

The Kosovars do not engage in suicide bombings that are celebrated by legions of people.

Now, that is not to say all Palestinians are vile creatures- that would be patently untrue. Survey after survey shows that a whole lot of Palestinians would rather remain under the rule of ‘pigs and monkeys’ than under the  rule of the enlightened ‘Paradise of Arafat’ or the ‘Paradise of Hamas.’

The list of what distinguishes the Palestinians (and in many cases, the rest of the Arab world) is long and varied. In the end what distinguishes them is civilized behavior.

Perhaps the realize that the Beast That Is Israel may be more beneficial to them than what they are being offered by their ‘leadership.’

Let’s look at some of the differences.

Two spectacular events crossed the horizon at the same time.

Firstly, Warren Buffet made the decision to make the largest charitable donation in history- 37 billion dollars, to be used for the good of as many people as possible. At the same time, the Palestinians made the decision to take that final step into the abyss of complete detachment and dysfunctionality as they escalated their confrontation with Israel.

The two events are closely related.

Warren Buffet’s decision will be remembered for a having changed the values of a nation. Sure Americans have been generous- more generous as a nation than any other nation in history- but the extent of Mr Buffets action will have tremendous repercussions, because Mr Buffet has changed the way rich people ‘do business.’ The actions of the ‘Oracle from Omaha’ will have an impact on the actions and attitudes of future generations. To those that might argue (wrongly) that it is only American economic interests are the reason for our generosity, it bears remembering and noting that unlike European monarchies and empires, our foreign aid and nation building included enormous investments in education, health-care and infrastructure.

Mr Buffet’s actions have reversed the course of history. In the past, great fortunes of money accumulated were used to build empires, wage wars and gain power and influence. Sure, money was left to charity, but that was a side matter, a few pennies thrown out to satisfy an ego and social standing. Mr Buffet’s money will not be used to further economic conquer or to fund monuments to his greatness.

It also bears remembering that when great wealth is gained through aggressive or criminal activity it will be used to perpetuate that crime and corruption. Those who earned that money earned by way of crime and corruption will never use that money to serve a common good.

When the accumulation and distribution of wealth and power are driven by self serving and short term needs and agendas, it is inevitable that those needs and agendas will be pushed aside by the next dominant group or individual. The cycle is continuous.

The fabulous wealth of Greek and Roman Empires has been lost. The weal the Incas and the Ottoman have disappeared. Each conqueror confiscated the wealth of the vanquished- and the wealth of each empire now, is barely remembered.

Warren Buffet’s material fortune will have a direct bearing and influence on generations not yet born. His money will not be used for political purposes or to further control of any ideologies or agendas (contrast Warren Buffet with George Soros!), but rather, his money will be used in the furtherance of life and opportunity.

We are witnessing a shift in history, culture, and sociology of man, in one fell swoop. We are witnessing the elevation and highest potential of man. Whereas yesterday, the most powerful men were takers, today, they are givers.

Contrast these higher ideals with the ideals of the Palestinians.

As this is being written, the Palestinians are demanding the release of prisoners in exchange for an kidnapped Israeli soldier. Why? Because they know that the Israelis value and cherish each life- not for the sake of life, but for the sake of the potential of each life.

The Palestinians and many Muslims mistakenly believe that the Judeo-Christian ethic loves life itself. This is a fatal error. We love life, not for the sake of living, but rather, for the potential of each of our lives reflects. The Holocaust is not only remembered for that period of slaughter, but also for the Holocaust that was inflicted on all of mankind. How many potential Nobel Prize winners were killed or weren’t born? How many diseases might have been eradicated through the research of scientists that were ‘experimented’ upon? How many more wonders and miracles might we have seen, had generations of children been allowed to have been conceived? Might hunger and famine have been eliminated?

Nevertheless, the Palestinians proudly proclaim they have fired chemical weapons into Israel (see Dr Sanity’s cold observations). As one culture elevates itself, another culture descends. Whether or not the claim is true, is irrelevant. That the Palestinians would claim Hitler’s legacy is yet another example of a failed and corrupt society. The Palestinians and their supporters claim a high morality, even as the publicly embrace an evil rejected by civilized societies and cultures.

As tens of thousands of Chinese in Hong Kong march for democracy, tens of thousands of Palestinians and their supporters marched in defense of a regime that espouses hate, bigotry and promises death.

While the Palestinians would have you believe they wanted peace, their actions say otherwise.

If the Palestinians and much of the Arab world wanted peace, they would teach tolerance and peace in their schools, not racism, hate and death.

If the Palestinians wanted peace, there would be no training camps for ‘militants’ teaching children how to kill, for the Israelis to bomb. If the Palestinians wanted peace, there would be no arms factories and development of chemical weapons.

There would be no concerted effort to glorify death. The Palestinians and much of the Arab world espouse death because they have been robbed of a future and potential by their own leadership and a religion that has been bastardized to serve and enrich the needs of a few. As long as the current regimes and attitudes will remain a reality in the Arab world, there will be no potential and no promise of a future. As long as western Muslim communities live in that same dysfunctional mindset and support the regimes and corruption that have served to denigrate and demean entire populations, those communities will never be a part of a western mainstream. See this as an example of that kind of disconnect (h/t Dust My Broom. Darcey’s post).

The Israelis will no longer allow themselves to descend to the level of the Palestinians.

If the Hamas government rejects them, they have every right- and many would argue, an obligation, to reject the Hamas government. If the Hamas government rejects past accords signed on behalf of the Palestinians with the Israelis, they have every right to reject members of that kind of government.

If the Hamas government makes clear that their intention is to eliminate Israel, they have made their choice clear. Had Hitler’s cabinet and high government officials been captured and taken prisoner, there would be no clamor for them to be released. In fact, they probably would have been justifiably executed. Just as Hitler was an obvious target marked for death by the civilized world, so too has Israel the right to mark Ismael Haniyeh to that same fate (it bears repeating that had Hitler and the upper echelon of the Nazi regime been assassinated, 50 million lives would have been spared). That the Arab world sees fit to associate themselves with Hamas and all that Nazi-like political entity stands for, speaks volumes.

We have written about some of the more visible differences between Israel and her detractors (see the articles in the ‘Pages’ section of the sidebar). Those differences are clear and unambiguous. That difference is as clear as the difference between philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and the leaders of the regimes in the Middle East.  The vitriol of the ‘clerics’ and leaders of Hamas and Hizbollah speak for themselves.

The Israelis- and all civilized nations- are not obligated to descend into the Palestinian abyss and deal with Palestinian and Arab world dysfunction. Now that the Hamas government has made clear to all what the Israelis have known for years (the Hamas clean and unapologetic anti Semitism) , those supporting the Palestinians are now taking a new tack- they no longer talk about the political aspirations in term of the ‘will of the people.’ Now, they talk in terms of an ‘oppressed and psychologically traumatized people’- as if trauma were the cause of their hate.

The Israelis, we are told, are victims of hate because they have victimized the Palestinians- who, with their Arab world brethren, have declared open season on Jews long before the state of Israel existed.

Now, Palestinians have become children, in need of our protection. Well, consider this: Why are the Palestinians more emotionally wounded than the victims of Chechnya, Darfur or Rwanda? How come the Lebanese and Jordanians, who suffered far more horrendous suffering than the 3,000 deaths of the current Palestine intifadah, weren’t immobilized and driven into incessant conflict? Hafez Assad had ten to twenty five thousand butchered in Hama in one week- and yet Syria did not implode.

If the legions of sympathetic therapists rushing in to help the Palestinians ‘cope’ are to be believed and prove anything, it is that the Palestinian level of dysfunctionality is something the Israelis should not have to deal with. In any event, Palestinian trauma is not severe enough from keeping the Palestinians from having an infrastructure of hate in the media, schools and from religious pulpits. Nor is the level of psychological trauma enough from keeping the Palestinians from having a network of terror training camps, sophisticated weapons procurement programs and of of course, a chemical weapon program.

In the meantime, the UN is taking Israel to task:

Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria were among the resolution’s sponsors. Western countries, including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, voted against it.

Look at some of the countries voting for the motion- and then look at some of those voting against.

How many Warren Buffets do you think will come out of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria?

Portions of this post have been previously published. The absolute stupidity and self serving deceit of Walid Awad is business as usual.

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