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September 2008

Foreclosure Watch: Prices Plunge, Sales Up

July data from DataQuick indicate that the number of real estate sales in Pacifica rose 6.7 percent from one year ago, while the median price here dropped to $550,000, a 23.2 percent decline from one year ago.

In the Pacifica Tribune legal notices, foreclosure auction notices hit an all-time high of 73 in the first week of September but have declined sharply to a low of 40 this past week. That is the lowest level of trustee auction notices since the first week of May 2008.

The highest price paid for a house in Pacifica in July was $1,105,000. Despite that sale, the average per-square-foot sale price in Pacifica declined 30.3 percent, year to year, to $396 in July. It is now one of the lowest prices in San Mateo County.



Strange Love: Ralph Nader Hearts John McCain

In 2004, Nader asked McCain to help his campaign -- and the senator rushed to his side. Is the consumer advocate now returning the favor?

By Joe Conason,

Feb. 29, 2008 | Irritated Democrats -- and everyone else who feels that we have heard more than enough from Ralph Nader -- cannot help wondering why he would be running for president yet again, at the risk of becoming a permanent national joke. Is he stroking his own ego, as some critics complain? Is he motivated by principle to offer voters a different choice, as he will insist? Both those explanations may still be plausible, although between 2000 and 2004 his support fell from 3 percent to 0.3 percent, which is not exactly an ego boost nor an endorsement of third-party politics. Even in 2000, when he made his strongest (and most disastrous) showing, he fell far short of his own 5 percent target.

But the evidence suggests another possible motive for Nader to run this year -- namely, that he hopes to help his longtime ally John McCain, to whom he owes at least one big favor. Nader is already focusing his fire on the Democrats, with his Web site featuring dozens of press releases attacking Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while none voice the slightest criticism of McCain. In his latest round of television appearances, Nader trained his fire directly on Obama.

Nader's proclivity to boost Republicans and blast Democrats has been a matter of historical record ever since the Florida debacle eight years ago, when his 97,000 votes probably deprived Al Gore of victory in that crucial state. Although the consumer advocate and his supporters continue to deny any such culpability, Republicans clearly feel that his presence on the ballot works to their advantage. As Mike Huckabee noted on hearing of Nader's impending announcement last week, a Nader candidacy tends to siphon votes away from the Democratic presidential nominee. "So naturally," said Huckabee bluntly, "Republicans would welcome his entry into the race."

Actually, Republicans have learned to do more than merely "welcome" Nader. Four years ago, Republican officials and activists in certain swing states helped gather signatures to gain ballot access for Nader, while several major Republican donors sent generous checks to his campaign. And no Republican spoke out more forthrightly on his behalf than McCain, who in 2004 urged the authorities in Florida to put Nader on the ballot there despite his failure to qualify -- and who sent his own lawyer down to the Sunshine State to fight for Nader in court.

McCain launched that intervention from his perch as chairman of the Reform Institute, a Washington think tank funded by corporate soft money and liberal foundations and staffed by McCain staffers and partisans. On the surface, at least, the Arizona senator was pursuing a principled defense of open ballot access, and he recalled how establishment Republicans had used legal technicalities to block him from the New York primary ballot in 2000. He sent Trevor Potter, a prominent attorney and former Federal Election Commission member who has long represented him, to assist the Nader forces in Tallahassee. It was an inspiring story of shared democratic values that crossed the ideological spectrum.

But as the New York Times reported on Sept. 17, 2004, there was a political back story behind McCain's assistance to Nader. According to the Times, "Mr. Potter said that the Nader campaign first sought Mr. McCain's backing in the case last week and that subsequently the Bush campaign also asked him to get involved." (Candidate Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo, issued a statement thanking McCain and the Reform Institute that is for some reason no longer available on the Nader campaign Web site.)

That tantalizing sequence of events suggests McCain's motive in backing Nader may well have been partisan as well as principled, since the "maverick" senator had only weeks earlier sworn his fealty to George W. Bush on the dais at the Republican National Convention. Certainly the Bush campaign would have felt reassured knowing that Nader would be on the ballot again in Florida, like a lucky rabbit's foot.

The Naderite connections with McCain go back many years to the era when the Arizona senator displayed real maverick tendencies in jousting with corporate interests in the tobacco, telecommunications and automobile lobbies, as well as his strong support for campaign finance reform. Nostalgia for the old McCain may explain why Joan Claybrook, who directs the Nader-founded Public Citizen organization, stepped forward to defend him against the Times exposé of his relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Meanwhile Claybrook, Nader and other reformers have said little or nothing about McCain's gaming of the public campaign finance system while voicing sharp criticism of Obama for waffling recently on his commitment to accept public financing.

Nader may occasionally tweak McCain over the war in Iraq or the Canadian healthcare system, but they both know that that won't matter. Watch while Nader blisters Obama or Clinton and McCain smiles. Wait to see whether McCain tries to insist that Nader, whose support is minuscule and shrinking, deserves to appear on the debate dais with him and the Democrat. Look for Republicans to prop up Nader with ballot signatures and campaign cash. And remember that this time Nader's candidacy, having descended from tragedy to farce, may simply be an inside joke.

Sharp Park Golf Course: Snakes, Frogs & Divots


An environmental group accuses the City and County of San Francisco of illegally killing two federally protected species that live at a publicly owned golf course at Sharp Park in Pacifica. The group threatens to sue if San Francisco officials refuse to close the golf course and restore the coastal wetlands. Click the link above to read the full story.

Fly High on Seaweed


No more peanuts and pretzels on airplanes, but someday algae oil may be in the fuel tanks. Solazyme, a South San Francisco startup focused on producing oil from algae, says that it has produced the world's first algal-derived jet fuel. Company officials say their algae-based fuel has been tested by one of the nation's leading fuel analysis laboratories and passed 11 tests necessary for use in aviation. READ THE FULL STORY HERE

[forwarded by Todd Bray]

Devil's Slide Tunnels Get Bridges to Somewhere


The bridges have been completed over Shamrock Ranch to the Devil's Slide Tunnels, which are still under construction. Today, Caltrans welcomed several hundred visitors to its celebration of the bridges. Politicians spoke, schoolchildren and schoolteachers oohed and aahed, and the men in orange vests and yellow hard hats showed off their handiwork. See my photo album on the lower-right sidebar. (John Maybury)


Vienna Vegetable Orchestra


VIENNA (AFP) - The Vegetable Orchestra has been playing with its food for 10 years, delighting audiences from Belfast to Hong Kong with its self-made cucumberphones, celery bongos, pepper trumpets and leek violins. Drawing inspiration from electronic music artists such as Germany's Kraftwerk or John Cage, the dozen musicians from Vienna carve and chop their own instruments to create a truly organic sound. The orchestra, which has racked up almost 2 million hits on the video-sharing YouTube website (VIENNA VEGETABLE ORCHESTRA) also offers its fans a treat after each concert: vegetable soup. "But we're not necessarily vegetarians or militant environmentalists," Wilhelm said. "Besides, our instruments aren't organic. That would make them too expensive."


Planned Parenthood: Anti-Palin Checks Pour In

"For a few weeks, advocates of choice have been using e-mail to announce a nationwide campaign for donations to be sent to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name. I checked with PP representatives, who said that as of Friday, the organization had received $763,350, from 29,609 individuals in all 50 states. More than two-thirds of that money came from first-time donors." (Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle, September 29)

PSD Says Pacifica Schools Are Seismically Safe

Recently, someone posted a link to an article implying that Pacifica schools might not be seismically safe. According to my source at the Pacifica School District, our schools are as safe as can be:

"As part of the modernization, geotechnical surveys were done at each school site. The design incorporated seismic upgrades based on survey. All plans were approved by the State's division of architecture to ensure that they were built to the highest safety standards: current seismic requirements, fire plans, and general structural integrity. The district hired a licensed contractor to oversee the projects to ensure that each school was built to plan and code. The bond money approved by the voters in 1996 was spent wisely to ensure that elementary students are in safe, beautiful schools, which are a source of pride for our entire community."


Dead Marine Mammals on Pacifica Beaches

We have tons of rotting meat on our beaches and it's no one's job to do anything about it. City of Pacifica seems to think that the Marine Mammal Center (MMC) has to do it, but that is just not true. MMC looks after only live animals, not dead ones. The Academy of Sciences might want a bit of them for some sort of sample, but they don't remove them, either. I found that out from the MMC itself, when I spoke with its representatives at the Fog Fest. I asked what we can do about it and they told me there are three options. We can tow them out to sea, bury them, or ignore them.  The first is preferable, but it would require a boat of some sort that the city, to my knowledge, does not have. The second might be easier to do. We get the "Bad Boys" who do public service for the county instead of sit in county jail, and I think that burying dead seals might be just the sort of task that they are suited for. They do go around now to clean streets and empty garbage cans, so we could feasibly add  that work detail to their duties. At first, it might resemble the scene in the Reno 911 movie with the whale, but I am sure they will eventually get the hang of it. Let's get a number to call to report dead carrion on the beach and a work detail to bury it then. The last option, which we do now, has these wonderful creatures exposed and rotting for months on end down there. There are certain environmentalist fanatics who really do believe that the public should never be allowed in a natural environment except in strictly controlled settings. I and the rest of the public who love nature and the beaches hold them in contempt. I don't want to send photos of the dead animals, but trust me, they are there. What should be done?


Linda Mar Woman Nose to Nose with Hummer

Scott McKellar says his wife Patty with the cornflower-blue Irish eyes was out on her back deck in Linda Mar the other day when a hummingbird flew right up in her face and hovered eyeball to eyeball with Patty for what felt like an eternity. There was no physical contact, no harm no foul, but Patty said her close encounter with the hummingbird felt "pretty spiritual."