Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Should PhD Students Have to Pay Tuition?

Posted by Roobs on April 9, 2013


A couple weeks ago, my roommate had a friend over for dinner.  My roommate is getting his PhD in Public Health at UCLA and so is his friend.  The evening was fine until his friend made, what I believe, was a rather bold statement.  She believes that PhD students, once they reach “candidacy”, should not be charged tuition.  She also stated that this is normal to not charge tuition.  I was taken aback by the statement and began to probe why she felt that way.  And the probe soon turned into argument.  She eventually left with no real resolution to the topic.  I then began to research the topic on my own.  Should PhD students have to pay tuition like Master’s students and undergraduates?  Is it normal practice for the PhD students to not pay tuition?  The quick answer is no.  It is neither right nor normal.  Here is why.

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Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Greuel, Garcetti, and Skyscrapers

Posted by Roobs on February 14, 2013


The other day, someone asked me what is a “skyscraper”.  Really.  I mean, they knew conceptually what a skyscraper was (or is), but they asked me for a definition of a skyscraper since I’m an urban planner.  Who cares, you ask?  Well, this all stems from the current battle for short hairs that is the LA mayoral race.  What exactly is a skyscraper and is Eric Garcetti even really responsible for Hollywood’s turn-around?

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Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

You’re Special Just Like Everyone Else

Posted by Roobs on August 22, 2012

In the past two months, I’ve seen as many articles by gay men who are trying to explain why all gay men are seemingly obsessed with their physical appearance, specifically their physique.  The first article I saw was back in mid-July from the internet site Gawker, entitled, The real reason gay men don’t get fat.  The most recent article was written this week for a blog called Hommemaker.  Orlando Soria writes Why gay men hate their bodies.  Both articles make the unremarkable announcement that gay men are (wait for it), into physically fit bodies.  And not only are they into physically fit bodies they are, in fact… (drumroll) concerned with their own physical fitness.  Shocking, I know.  The main problem with posts like these, from my perspective, is less on the content and more on the stereotype and over simplified statement it makes about the gay community as a whole.

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Posted in LGBT, Politics, Race & Identity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Insulting Fallacy of HSR Critics on the Central Valley

Posted by Roobs on July 10, 2012

During much of the debate leading up to and even during last week’s vote to fund HSR, many legislators and critics of HSR either implicitly or outright insult the Central Valley as a poor place to begin construction of the nation’s most ambitious infrastructure project.  After the years of listening and responding to HSR critics’ arguments, I really am simply and unquestionably irritated and downright tired their statements on the Central Valley.  I have to force myself at times not to just go off on many of these individuals who fancy themselves experts on planning issues – many the most outspoken are those who have no background in the subject at all.  But specifically regarding the Central Valley, I think they just need to stop.  Just stop talking.  As native son of California’s (and arguably the country’s) most productive agricultural region, catchphrases like “train to nowhere”, the Norcal-Socal centric statements that “no one will ride it between Madera and Bakersfield”, and that it should go along Interstate 5 as opposed to State Route 99, are just downright offensive to all residents of the Central Valley.  There are many reasons why the Central Valley is an excellent place to begin construction.  Here are just a few. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roads Aren’t Free [Updated]

Posted by Roobs on November 29, 2011

It’s high time we explore the dubious nature of how exactly we pay to both construct and maintain our beloved highways and their true costs.

[Updated: Following the release of the draft 2012 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Rail project, I have come back to this post to update the numbers.  The overall argument is still the same and very valid.]

Critics tend to fancy themselves experts in all things sociological and economic when it comes to high-speed rail in California.  They argue the technology will not work –people won’t ride it – and/or that it is simply too expensive of a project to undertake during this time of economic contraction and we simply shouldn’t build it to save the money.  However, as I pointed out in a recent post, the cost of NOT building the California High-Speed Rail Project has never been zero.  In fact, it would cost  $100 billion $170 billion to build new highways and air travel facilities to meet future transportation demand as opposed to the $45-$60 billion $98 billion for HSR.  Even with this fact critics point out that it’s also the operating costs, not just capital costs that make HSR too expensive to build.  But while critics spend their time attacking the cost and financing of HSR, they neglect to check the financing of their favorite alternative to HSR: roads.  It’s high time we explore the dubious nature of how exactly we pay to both construct and maintain our beloved roads and highways and their true costs.

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Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why I Don’t Like Bill Maher

Posted by Roobs on September 28, 2011

My roommate loves Bill Maher.  He gets tickets to the live recordings here in LA and lines up hours before the show just so he can be one of the voices in the background.  He occasionally asks me if I want to join him and I usually say no.  I don’t like Bill Maher.  But how can that be?  I am a staunch Democrat, young , Latino and gay, no less.  I should be a far left liberal (or progressive) cheering Bill Maher’s politics – a man who no matter what he says is a left wing activist.  But that is also not true.  I am a self-described left-leaning moderate Democrat.  With that alone, some of you may stop reading right here thinking that my politics are different than Maher’s.  But that is not the case either.  I generally agree with Bill Maher’s political ends, such as universal healthcare, the legalization of same-sex marriage and decriminalizing pot use.  But I still don’t like Bill Maher.

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Posted in Politics, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Four Basic Qs & As for Fresno-Bakersfield HSR Segment

Posted by Roobs on September 23, 2011

Photo Courtesy of AviationMentor

I spent eighteen years of my life growing up in the Central Valley in the City of Visalia, located midway between Bakersfield and Fresno.  I was never a farm boy.  I grew up in a suburban style two-story house in a cul-de-sac.  Though I didn’t grow up on a farm, I developed an appreciation and understanding (especially as I got older) of those who lived and worked in some of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions.  It’s an understanding of, not simply a lifestyle but a life devoted to the cultivation of essential crops and resources. But over the course of the debate on high-speed rail (HSR) over the first leg of construction from Bakersfield to Fresno, I hate to see these local communities being pushed and misled by local city officials and executives who would throw hardworking famers under the proverbial bus because of their own intransigence.  Here are four basic questions and answers on the “why” for the Fresno-Bakersfield segment of the California High-Speed Rail project.

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$45 billion or $100 billion. Which is cheaper?

Posted by Roobs on August 26, 2011

The cost to NOT build the California High-Speed Rail project has never been zero.

Critics of California’s High-Speed Rail project usually have their eyes fixed on one part of the project – the bottom line.  The most common line of attack against the project is its cost, estimated around $45 – $60 billion (depending on who you ask).  They call it a “boondogle” because they say it is just far to expensive for the state to undertake.  As a post in the California High-Speed Rail Blog points out, critics’ arguments rest on one assumption: That we are to spend $45-$60 billion on HSR or we don’t build it and spend $0.   This, of course, is not true.

From CAHSR Blog:

This claim has always been utterly false. The cost of doing nothing is not zero. Californians are going to have to get around their state somehow, and as population grows and gas prices rise, the cost does too. The cost of expanding freeways and airports to meet the travel demand HSR will meet is estimated at $100 billion. Compared to that, HSR is a bargain.

Anyone who goes shopping can tell you that if you can buy the same thing for a cheaper price, then you do it.  Californians will need to travel around our state whether we build HSR or not.  To suggest that we can do so for nothing is not only false but utterly irresponsible on the part of officials and critics.  Over the next 25 years, California’s population will increase from 38 million residents today to 50 million by 2035, a lot of that growth will happen in the Central Valley.  The fact of the matter is that we are going to build something, either more freeway and airport capacity or HSR in order to meet the transportation demand that will come. High-speed rail is and always has been the cheaper alternative to expanding freeways and airports.

From CA HSR Authority, numbers derived from submitted 2004 EIR:

Statewide, over the next two decades, California’s HST System would alleviate the need to spend more than $100 billion1 to build 3,000 miles of new freeway, 5 airport runways, and 90 departure gates to meet the transportation needs of a growing population. In fact, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to grow at a rate higher than any other region in California. Three counties—Merced, Madera, and Fresno—are projected to grow by 68% by 2035.

So when critics are saying we can’t afford to spend up to $60 billion on HSR, what they are really saying is we can obviously afford to spend $100 billion on more freeways, airport terminals and runways and other costly and less efficient modes of transportation.  In other words, critics would rather Californians pay more than pay less.  Does that make any sense?  No. No it doesn’t.  High-speed rail is a cheaper, more efficient and environmentally friendly means to meet the transportation demands of Californians now and in the future.

Check out the rest of the post at California High-Speed Rail Blog.

Roobs is a masters student at UCLA in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning with concentrations in Transportation Planning & Policy and Urban Design & Development. He has a BA in Legal Studies and Sociology from UC Berkeley. Roobs is a former Waterfront Commissioner for the City of Berkeley and former paralegal for a law firm specializing in real estate development. 

Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »