The Bookworm Beat (10/3/14) — End of the week roundup and Open Thread

Woman writing

Ebola in America is a failure of Big Government

Yesterday I pointed out that, in all times and all places, protecting a population from epidemic disease is one of government’s core functions. (It’s irrelevant that these efforts often failed; government was still expected to make them.) Obama is failing that most basic government task. Not only do we have Ebola in Dallas, with exposures going into the hundreds, it appears that Ebola has entered Washington D.C. too.

What’s striking about Ebola’s spread into the U.S. is that it’s not just an Obama failure, it’s a Big Government failure. The Obama failure begins with his absolute refusal to protect our air, land, and sea borders. The Big Government failure goes to Obama’s certainty that he needn’t do anything special to combat Ebola because Big Government will be sufficient in and of itself to protect us:

The chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States are “extremely low,” Obama said. U.S. are working with officials in Africa “to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.” And then this:

In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home. We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.

Obama added that in the unlikely event an Ebola case appeared in the United States, “we have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond. And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.”

As Rich Lowry explains in the article from which I quoted, everything Obama assumed about his wonderful Big Government was wrong. Rather than blocking Ebola, Big Government just provided that many more cracks through which the virus could slip.

Scratch an anti-gun Leftist; find a blood-thirsty killer

When news about Ebola in Dallas broke, one of my old high school friends, who has had a political trajectory precisely the opposite of mine (from moderate guy to hard-core Leftist), voiced the wish that the patient had, instead, been in Austin (Texas’s state capitol) and that, while there, he had spread bodily fluids on the Republican politicians, starting with Governor Perry. When I politely pressed him for a reason, he explained that it was because these politicians had cut back government services, adding belatedly that he was just kidding.

Sometimes, though, Leftists go from “just kidding” to “let’s kill them.” Charles C.W. Cooke looks at anti-gun Leftists who want to use SWATting tactics to try to kill legal gun carriers. That is, when they see someone with legal open carry, they are proposing that they should call 911 and describe a dangerous situation in the hope that the SWAT teams will show up and, expecting the worst, just kill the guy with legal carry.

Indeed, Cooke, who spoke with gun-expert extraordinaire Bob Owens, writes at Bearing Arms, suggests that this is precisely what may have happened to John Crawford at the Ohio Wal-Mart:

[Crawford] was killed because, to borrow a phrase from Lisa McLogan Shaheen, a fellow shopper “called 911 so the cops could gun him down.” “If you sync the phone call to the footage,” Bob Owens tells me, “you’ll notice that Ronald Ritchie, the caller, makes claims that are not true.” Among those claims, the Guardian records, were that “Crawford was pointing the air rifle at customers,” that he threatened “two children,” and that he was recklessly “waving it around.” This does not appear to have been the case. Indeed, when the lattermost statement was made, Owens notes, “the gun’s muzzle was pointed to the ground.” So pronounced are the discrepancies between Ritchie’s story and the surveillance footage that John Crawford’s family is hoping to take legal action. “He’s basically lying with the dispatchers,” the family’s attorney, Michael Wright argues. “He’s making up the story. So should he be prosecuted? Yes, I believe so.”

“Who will rid us of these troublesome gun owners?” the radical Leftists cry out . . . and then use America’s police officers as their unwitting executioners.

Did Jerry Brown sign a good gun bill or a bad gun bill?

I am reflexively opposed to any government interference with gun rights . . . except that I’m wondering whether the bill that Gov. Brown just signed in California might actually have some merit. The new bill allows family members who are concerned about another family member’s gun possession to petition to the court to have the gun(s) taken away.

On the one hand, the bill is another erosion of gun rights and allows anti-gun people to wipe out the gun rights of their pro-gun relatives. Moreover, as we can see from the SWATting tactics above, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Leftist family members won’t take advantage of this law. On the other hand, when someone is becoming dangerous, the family is often the first to know, long before the medical or criminal justice systems catch up.

And then back to the first hand, which is that, if you give the government an inch to grab guns, it will take, not just a mile, but a thousand miles…. Which leads me to the thought that this may be a reasonable law, but one that can’t ever be entrusted to the government to effectuate.

Please tell me what you think. I’m quite obviously conflicted here, in part because I know of several young men who, in their 20s, become schizophrenic, with the family being the first to see that their sweet young boy was becoming scary and dangerous.

History has yet to be written

Jonah Goldberg often attacks the Leftists’ claim that they’re on the right side of history.  The old cliché that history belongs to the victors is at least somewhat more accurate, because it at least looks at history as a thing of the past not as a prediction for the future.

In his latest article, Goldberg points out that one of the problems with the “right side of history” argument is that it’s predicated on the speaker’s belief that events will unfold without any unexpected deviations from plan. When the plans change, as the best laid of them tend to do, the person betting on historic certainty looks foolish at best:

The dilemma for the president is that the once-solid facts that supported these views are suddenly crumbling under his feet. The argument that the fight against jihadism can be managed like law enforcement is easy to make when terrorism is out of the headlines and drones do the messy work out of sight. That same argument is very hard to sustain when the jihadis control territory equal in size to Great Britain and, when not beheading Americans, they vow to fly their flag over the White House. The idea that men who crucify Christians and bury women and children alive would somehow be dissuaded if we closed down the prison at Guantanamo Bay is almost perversely idiotic.

Obama’s love affair with a killer

In 2008, Obama sent an explicit, secret message to Iran, saying in effect “I love you, guys, and I’ll take care of you.” That was one promise he kept. Throughout his presidency, Obama, both actively and passively has worked hard to keep the mullahs in power and their nuclear program on track. He seems to believe that, if he can just be nice to them, they’ll respond by being nice right back to us.

It’s a pity that Obama hates Churchill so much. If he liked him better, Obama be familiar with Churchill’s famous aphorism that “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” That hope, of course, is invariably wrong.

Maybe real facts can bring Obama to see just how horrible Iran is. These harsh realities would include the fact that Iran hanged someone for doubting the story of Jonah and the Whale (something that would certainly see Obama hanged too), and the Mullahs’ continued execution of dissidents.

The only good thing to come out of that second report is this little tidbit (emphasis mine):

On September 29, [political prisoner Reyhaneh] Jabbari was seized by prison guards during her shower, forced to dress and told that she would be hanged in the morning. After the prison staff allowed her to make one last phone call to her mother, she was transferred to Rajai-Shahr prison and placed in solitary confinement to await execution at dawn.

Upon her daughter’s transfer, Jabbari’s mother, Shole Pakravan, rushed to Rajai-Shahr prison with her husband, two daughters and a few friends. In front of the prison a crowd grew quickly to protest Jabbari’s execution. Prison authorities ordered the crowd to leave and assured Jabbari’s family that she was not to be hanged — a statement the authorities commonly make before an execution so it can be carried out quietly, without incident.

That rope with which the mad mullahs hang dissidents may end up being the rope with which they hang themselves. It speaks to their waning power that Iranians will protest executions and that the mullahs will lie to pacify them, rather than just killing them on the spot.

And no, in answer to your unspoken question, I don’t think these news reports will actually change Obama’s mind. He is a hard-core ideologue and they just don’t change.  But I can still dream….

Bureaucracy kills the Secret Service

For more than a century, the Secret Service was a lean, mean fighting machine operating under the aegis of the Treasury Department. Then, George Bush transferred it to Homeland Security, where it became just another bureaucratic beast. Kevin Williamson writes scathingly about the way in which bureaucracy is slowly destroying the agency charged with keeping our president safe.

I share with Thomas Lifson the belief that it’s imperative to keep Obama alive.  His death in office, God forbid, could well destroy this country. And having written that sentence, I should add that no president, ever, should be assassinated. Assassination is not only cold-blooded murder, it is a psychic blow to a nation and the most profoundly anti-democratic act of all.

Transgenderism is only skin deep

The other day, I wrote about the importance of recognizing the substance that lies under any form, with special reference to transgender people. I argued that, when people make cosmetic, hormonal, and surgical changes to their appearance so that they look like a person of the opposite sex, that doesn’t change their genetic essence. While it’s kind and polite to address them as they wish to be addressed, we should never blind ourselves to the reality of who and what they really are.

One British man who had male to female gender reassignment surgery a decade ago, is petitioning the British health care service to reassign him to his original gender appearance. His argument echoes what I’ve been saying all along:

Chelsea, who used to be called Matthew, told the Daily Mirror: “I have always longed to be a woman, but no amount of surgery can give me an actual female body and I feel like I am living a lie.

“It is exhausting putting on make-up and wearing heels all the time. Even then I don’t feel I look like a proper woman. I suffered from depression and anxiety as a result of the hormones too.

“I have realised it would be easier to stop fighting the way I look naturally and accept that I was born a man physically.”

I wonder what the NHS will do. It’s wonderfully politically correct to withdraw funding from an old lady with cancer so as to give it to a young man who wants breasts. Where’s the political correctness, though, when the young man concedes that the problem was never with his appearance at all?

High educated liberals as low information voters

Roger L. Simon lives in the Southern California version of my Marin world: His neighbors are well-intentioned, affluent, and highly-credentialed people who almost invariably hew Left politically. Indeed, those few of my friends and neighbors who know I’ve become conservative point to themselves — affluent and educated — and ask how I can be conservative when the smart people support the Democrats.

Simon has the answer for that and, again, it echoes what I see in my world: These people may have degrees, know about wine, and have seen the capitals of Europe, but they’re fundamentally ignorant about the key issues shaping the world today.

California bans all plastic bags

California Governor Jerry Brown has banned plastic grocery bags from the entire state:

California has fired the first salvo in what could be a national war on plastic bags.

Governor Edmund Brown [sic, since he usually goes by Jerry] on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans plastic shopping bags, making California the first U.S. state to officially prohibit stores from handing them out for free.

“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The ban is a victory for environmentalists who say the 13 million plastic bags that are handed out each year in the state end up in waterways and landfills where they don’t break down for decades. Critics argue that the ban is misguided and will cost American jobs.

The new law goes into effect for large grocery chains and pharmacies beginning July 1, 2015. It will extend to convenience stores and liquor stores July 1, 2016.
Under the law, stores will be required to offer customers recycled paper bags or bags made of compostable material at a cost of at least 10 cents. Consumers buying groceries using California’s food-assistance program won’t have to pay for bags.

For me, the ban is nothing new, since it’s already enforced in parts of Marin. Corte Madera stores haven’t been applying either the ban or the “pay 10 cents” requirement, so I prefer shopping in Corte Madera over Mill Valley, which does ban plastic and makes you pay for paper.

I’ve written before about the fact that this ban steams me. I don’t mind if other people want to go around looking like bag ladies with their stacks of dirty cloth and plastic bags, but (a) I don’t want to look like a bag lady; (b) I’d have to use insane amounts of water to keep those bags from being salmonella and e. coli breeding grounds; and (c) even a 10 cent penalty is still a penalty and I don’t believe I should be penalized in this way.

It’s balm to my offended soul to read a PRI study saying that, as is the case with most of the Left’s wild hairs, they’ve got it wrong when it comes to the supposed virtues of banning disposable paper and plastic bags:

Proponents of bag-bans omit the most important consideration, which is what replaces the plastic bags? Other bags (including cloth) have even worse environmental impact profiles, and pose additional risks of cross-contaminating food and spreading dangerous pathogens among those who share the bags.

Increasingly, studies suggest that as with other poorly-thought out environmental intervention; banning plastic grocery bags reduces some harms, while increasing others.

And more environmental news about Leftist’s continued errors

Both these stories come to me thanks to Danny Lemieux. The first story says that, once again, scientists were wrong, this time with regard to the anticipated shrimp die-off in the Gulf following the BP oil spill. In fact, the shrimp seem to like that oil:

Looking at the abundance and size of Louisiana white and brown shrimp before and after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a scientific paper published Wednesday said the amount of shrimp actually increased in local estuaries through 2011 and that the size of that shrimp remained unaffected.

[snip]

Van der Ham and De Mutsert’s study compared abundance and size of shrimp in estuaries that were heavily impacted by the spill with minimally-impacted estuaries, both before and after the spill.

It found that shrimp actually was more abundant in areas heavily impacted by the oil spill.

“The rebound to normal abundance and the absence of any effect on shrimp size agrees with the view that the spill may have negligible long-term effects on Louisiana shrimp,” the study concluded. “However, long-term effects of the spill on shrimp may manifest in other traits, such as compromised immunological or life-history traits.

Don’t you just love that last paragraph?  What the study’s authors could have said was “we are still studying whether there are other long-term effects on the shrimp.”  But they don’t.  Instead, they imply that there must in fact be negative long-term effects on the shrimp, just waiting to be found.  That’s the difference, I guess, between true scientific inquiry and ideologically-driven inquiry.

The second story is about those “green” wind farms.  They’re killing hundreds of thousands of precious bats (which fertilizer crops and are otherwise environmentally useful) because they mimic the wind pattern of trees.

One French woman deserves a medal for her bravery

Check out this picture and tell me if this isn’t one seriously brave French woman.

And one West African woman deserves a medal too

Fatu Kekula, a 22-year-old nursing student in West Africa, using nothing more than courage, common sense, and garbage bags, nursed three out of four stricken family members through Ebola without becoming infected herself. What an amazing story of intelligence and decency in action.

Watcher’s Council Weasel of the Week

Don’t forget to check out this Week’s winner in the Watcher’s Council Weasel of the Week contest.  My daughter came in as I was casting my vote by email.  She saw “I vote for ____________.”  She was shocked.  “But you hate ____________.”  When I explained the type of vote I was casting, it all became clear to her.

Picture!

I’m not yet ready for an illustrated edition today, but this poster that a friend sent me is so good, I didn’t want to wait before sharing it:

Obama is my co-pilot

 

Ron Nehring, a Republican for Lieutenant Governor of California

ron-nehring-1-sizedBack in May, I had my first chance to hear Ron Nehring, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of California. I was impressed then, and having heard him speak again last night, I am, if anything, more impressed.

My second meeting with Nehring took place at a local fundraiser.  I didn’t take notes (it was an informal gathering), but I’ll give you my impressions about what he said and, just as importantly, how he said it.

Some of what Nehring said was the same thing I’d heard in May. It was the second time I’d heard about his immigrant parents; about his reverence for the sanctity of the voting booth, which is why he supports voter ID; about the stranglehold that plaintiffs’ attorneys have on the California economy; about California’s onerous and counterproductive tax burden; and about incumbent Gavin Newsom’s dilettante approach the lieutenant governorship, which Newsom views as both a sinecure and a springboard to becoming governor, rather than an actual job with responsibilities to the people of California (never mind that they give him a $123,965 annual salary to do something).

As I said, I’d heard all of the above before. Nehring has probably said all of the above hundreds of times. But here’s where he’s an excellent candidate: Nehring made this intimate speech to a couple of dozen people assembled on the deck of a private home sound as fresh as if he were speaking spontaneously and extemporaneously. There was no sense of rehashed ideas or words. Nehring was fully committed to what he was saying.  He spoke without notes or teleprompter but, instead, spoke from memory without ever giving the sense that he was reading a stale, flat mental script. One never sensed that Nehring was laboring through painful repetition. His beliefs matter to him, and he wants them to matter to us.

The person who introduced Nehring likened him to Ronald Reagan, which is a par for the course introduction when you have a rising young (he’s 44) Republican candidate coming out of California. My instinct was to view this comparison as a rhetorical flourish, rather than an accurate description. Listening to Nehring, though, I found myself thinking that he shares a few very valuable traits with Reagan.

First, Nehring offers a comprehensive conservative ideology. He’s not a businessman who wandered into Republican politics simply because he’s upset that his own taxes are too high. Instead, he is a committed conservative who believes in limited government, low taxes, and intelligent, not perverse, incentives. He wants to reduce California taxes, do away with laws that give trial lawyers incentives to shake down little people and strong-arm businesses, address California’s looming unfunded pension nightmare, and generally help lead California back to her golden days, when she was, in every way, the top state in the union.

Second, Nehring has something akin to Reagan’s sense of humor: he’s a happy warrior. Nehring was not afraid to criticize Gavin Newsom or Gov. Jerry Brown.  Nor was he afraid to make jokes at their, or other Republicans’ expense.  His jokes, however, while biting, lack malice. Nehring comes across as a committed, disciplined, intelligent man, but not a mean man.

In this regard, Nehring contrasts wonderfully with, say, Barack Obama, whose specialty is truly nasty digs at his opponent. After all, who can forget Obama’s condescending, singularly mean dig at Hillary, whom he characterized as “likable enough“? And then, of course, there was the time Obama subtly, but definitely, called Sarah Palin a pig. Neither of these remarks went to Clinton’s or Palin’s politics; both were just gratuitous insults. In other words, Obama is not a happy warrior, he’s a school yard bully.

Nehring, by contrast, had some amusing digs about how busy Gavin Newsom has been . . . working at his winery. This wasn’t a dig at Newsom’s personal wealth but was, instead a political point that segued neatly into arguing that Newsom has failed to act in his most important role as lieutenant governor:  convening and chairing California Commission for Economic Development.

Given California’s dire economic woes (greatest number of people living in poverty, one of the worst unemployment rates, the exodus of major businesses, etc.), one would think that Newsom would be all over the Commission.  One would be wrong.  In fact, Newsom has been too busy tending his grapes even to bother putting together a commission, let alone spending the time to focus on California’s disastrous financial situation. In that context, any jokes about Newsom’s labors in the field were perfectly appropriate.

Third, Nehring is quick-witted. His speech was short, as suited the small, informal venue.  That meant, of course, that he couldn’t possible touch upon all the issues that matter to him as a person and a candidate.  During the subsequent question-and-answer period, one of the audience members wanted to confirm that, if Nehring became lieutenant governor, he could create a Commission for Economic Development even if Jerry Brown (who will be governor for some years to come) was opposed to the proposed commission members. When Nehring affirmed that yes, he could gather around him a group of people committed to making California great, rather than continuing down the same ruinous path, the man said, “This is an important issue that you should be using in your campaign.” With a friendly smile, Nehring cheerfully replied, “I agree with you and I want to thank you for making it for me.”

Fourth, Nehring is, as Reagan was, pro-Israel, which is really lovely coming from someone whose parents were born in Nazi Germany (although they were small children then, able to see only how it destroyed their country). Last month, Nehring and his campaign manager, the lovely, intelligent, vivacious Nyna Armstrong (a friend of mine whom I admire greatly) went on a week-long solidarity mission to Israel. Yes, I did mean last “month,” not last “year.” They went to Israel right in the middle of the war, when Hamas was lobbing hundreds of missiles daily into Israel’s civilian centers.

Nehring is open about the fact that we have to recognize that Israel’s enemy — radical, jihadist Islam acting through Hamas, ISIS, al Qaeda, and any number of violent organizations — is America’s enemy too. While it’s true that California doesn’t set foreign policy, the fact remains that it matters when the governor of the most populous state in America is correct about one of the major moral issues of our time.

Winning a state-wide office as a Republican in California is a tough task. After all, with a few minor exceptions, California has morphed into a one-party state. Nehring recognizes that he has to make common cause with constituencies that normally reflexively vote for Democrats, but he thinks he can do it. For example, the people who are most negatively affected by California’s vile public school system are blacks, and he wants to reach out to them. Likewise, the people who are most opposed to Gavin Newsom’s call to legalize marijuana (a plan Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer oppose) are Hispanics, and Nehring wants to reach out to them too.

Across the board, Nehring has solid conservative solutions to problems that victimize the Democrat party’s most fervent supporters. With his fluid, interesting speaking style; cheerful humor and quick wit; and mastery of facts and principles, Nehring may well be the man who breaks through the Democrat Leviathan that has grabbed hold of and is destroying California.

It helps that Nehring is running against a man who can’t be bothered to run.  Newsom assumes that being a reasonably good-looking young Democrat with name recognition is all he needs. It helps too that the lieutenant governor’s office isn’t very powerful, so it’s not the subject of a fierce, nationalized partisan focus.  That leaves room for an intelligent, able contender.

Winning matters.  Even if the office isn’t very useful, once one gets that office — as Newsom knows — it is a launching platform to the governor’s office. That being the case, how much better to give that platform to a bright, principled Republican, than to a entitled, hard-Left Democrat.

If you’re a Californian reading this blog, I know that you’re going to vote for Nehring, so I won’t say “vote for Nehring.”  What I really hope you’ll do is:

(a) Make sure you do vote, no matter how disheartened you’re feeling;

(b) Donate to Nehring’s campaign, something that will offset the vast financial advantage that the Democrats (the so-called “party of the little people”) have; and

(c) Contribute your time to the campaign, either by formally volunteering, or just by spreading the word about the fact that there’s a candidate out there who might be able to help California back to the top of the list of great states, rather than keeping it at the top of the list of failed states.

As California goes, so goes the nation — but even rank stupidity can be corrected

CraziforniaRoughly a year-and-a-half ago, I gave a rave review to Crazifornia, which my long-time friend Laer Pearce wrote. Since he published that book, California has only gotten more crazy, proving that everything he wrote was accurate and prescient.

People are catching on to the fact that they should listen to Laer if California is to have any hope of regaining its once golden glow and, more importantly, if the rest of America is to be stopped from following in California’s dross-strewn footsteps.  I was therefore beyond thrilled when I saw that Laer’s latest speech in Beverly Hills got the worldwide coverage it deserves thanks to a write-up in Breitbart:

The discussion began with Mr. Pearce agreeing with the AFA presenter’s assertion that progressive ideology is “deeply embedded” in California. The author said that progressivism’s anti-business, pro-regulation agenda has “run the state into the ground,” and added that it’s a “tragedy” that such a resource-filled state is struggling so badly. He explained that California often “gets away” with it, because many of the best minds in business, technology, and politics are in the state.

Mr. Pearce then directed the conversation to specific problems plaguing California. Quoting from his book, he said, “Despite rising taxes, services in the state continue to deteriorate.” To illustrate his point, Mr. Pearce asked the audience: “How many people here get their mail at 6 o’clock?” After almost everyone’s hand went up, one woman in the audience sighed, “I get mine at 7.” Mr. Pearce also noted that California has the lowest-rated tax collection service in the country, while burdening its residents with the highest taxes of any state. “You’d think they’d be good at it by now,” he quipped.

Next, the author shifted the forum’s focus to California’s inefficient bureaucracies. He related a personal experience he had with the California Coastal Commission in his hometown of South Orange County. Apparently, there was some mud on a neighborhood sidewalk that residents wanted scraped off. The Coastal Commission came in, surveyed the mud, and designated the small sidewalk area a “wetlands.” The Commission had found just one of three possible indicators of a wetlands environment; still, they sprung into action, erecting a bridge and guardrail around the area, spending about $200,000 of taxpayer money so they could brag about “preserving wetlands.” Mr. Pearce called the unelected Commission “extremely corrupt,” although he noted “it’s probably the best one I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

You can read more about Laer’s talk here, and I really do urge you to get Crazifornia, which isn’t just informative, but is also delightful.

The anti-Asian battle in California, once limited to high school, now plays out in the world of higher education

Lowell High SchoolI grew up entirely surrounded by Asians.  I think I had one friend who was Jewish.  The rest were Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino.  They all came from homes that had exactly the same values:  marriage, education, hard work, and self-reliance were the family watch words.  Those are still watch words amongst conservatives who believe (and have the data to support them) that those people most likely to leave poverty behind are the ones who do well in school, get married before they have children, and then work extremely hard.  Nevertheless, if I am to judge by Facebook, all of my Asian high school friends are hard-core Progressive Democrats.

But back to my youthful friendships.  Why did I have so many Asian friends?  It wasn’t just that I grew up in San Francisco, which is to Asia what Ellis Island was to European, Central European and Russian immigration.  It was that I went to Lowell.  Lowell was unique among public schools in that you didn’t get into it because of your neighborhood.  Instead, you had to grade into it, so it drew the top students from all over San Francisco — something it had done so since its founding in 1868.

Back in my day, Lowell wasn’t yet being called a “Chinese girls school,” but a quick glance through my late 1970s’ yearbooks shows that the student population was around 40% Asian.  The “Chinese girls school” phrase came into being, I believe, in the 1980s.  Back in my day, there was also still a big enough bolus of Jewish kids that we made the joke that, if Chinese New Year and Yom Kippur fell on the same day, they’d have to close the school.

The year I graduated, Lowell was ranked as the 9th best high school in the country.  Its list of august graduates (as well as embarrassing grads) was a sight to behold.  The abbreviate list below is culled from a fuller list here, but even that list is incomplete, since I know it’s missing a few Nobel Prize winners (in the sciences) and authors (e.g., Lemony Snicket):

ALBERT MICHELSON, Class of 1868.
First American Nobel Prize in Physics, 1907. Michelson Hall of Science on the Naval Academy campus honors his name.

JOSIAH ROYCE, Class of 1871.
Philosopher, author, Harvard professor. Royce Hall on UCLA campus honors him.

FRANK ANGELLOTTI, Class of 1879.
Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

STEPHEN MATHER, Class of 1883.
“Father of the National Park System”. First Director. Mather Air Force Base honors him.

EUGENE DE SABLA, Class of 1883.
Visionary builder of first hydroelectric plant in Northern California Called “Father of the PG&E”.

JOSEPH ERLANGER, Class of 1892.
Physician; Professor, Washington University in St. Louis. Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1945.

LIEUTENANT THOMAS SELFRIDGE ’99, West Point 1903.
U. S. Army aviation pioneer. First man to die in an airplane accident – in the Wright Flyer, 1908. Selfridge AFB in Michigan honors him.

REUBEN (RUBE) GOLDBERG, Class of 1900.
Dean of American cartoonists.

MATHEW TOBRINER, Class of 1920.
Judge of the California Supreme Court.

IRVING STONE, Class of 1920.
Biographical novelist: “Agony and the Ecstasy”, “Lust for Life”, “Passion of the Mind”.

EDMUND G. (PAT) BROWN, Class of 1923.
District Attorney of San Francisco; State Attorney-General; Governor of California, 1959-1967.

MAJGEN. ROBERT FREDERICK, Class of 1924.
Winston Churchill called him “One of the Allies finest fighting generals”. Commander of the 45th (Thunderbird) Division in World War II.

JOHN A. BLUME, Class of 1928.
Seismic Engineer; “Father of Structural Engineering “. Blume Earthquake Center at Stanford honors his name.

WILLIAM R. HEWLETT, Class of 1930.
Inventor, businessman, philanthropist. Co-founder, Hewlett-Packard Company; Flora & William Hewlett Foundation; Hewlett Computer Lab at Lowell honors him.

DR. MAKIO MURAYAMA, Class of 1933.
Biochemist, NIH, Bethesda, Md.. First recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Medical Award for sickle- cell anemia research.

CAROL CHANNING, Class of 1938.
International star of stage and screen. Lowell’s Carol Channing Theater honors her achievements.

RICHARD DIEBENKORN, Class of 1939.
One of America’s foremost abstract painters. Received UCLA Medal in 1987.

PIERRE SALINGER, Class of 1941.
Press Secretary to President John F. Kennedy. Chief, ABC European Bureau.

GENERAL KENNETH MCLENNAN, Class of 1943.
Assistant Commandant, Retired, U.S. Marine Corps; only Lowellite to attain the rank of a four-star General. Board Chairman, Retired Officers’ Association.

JEAN KAYE TINSLEY, Class of 1944.
One of the world’s foremost helicopter pilots. Chief Judge from the U. S. at the World Helicopter Championships held near Paris in 1989.

VICE ADMIRAL ALBERT BACIOCCO, USN, Retired, Class of 1948.
The three stars of a Vice-Admiral is the highest Naval rank to have been achieved by a Lowellite.

DIAN FOSSEY, Class of 1949.
Sacrificed her life protecting the mountain gorillas of Ruanda. Book and film, “Gorillas in the Mist” describe her life with the great apes.

BILL BIXBY, Class of 1952.
Movie and TV star: “The Incredible Hulk”, “My Favorite Martian”. Director.

STEPHEN BREYER, Class of 1955.
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Appointed by President Clinton in 1994.

RICHARD LEVIN, Class of 1964.
President of Yale University (1993).

NAOMI WOLF, Class of 1980.
Yale; first Lowell alumna to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Author of “The Beauty Myth – How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women”.

TOA’ALE S. MULITAUAPELE, Class of 1984.
The first American-Samoan ever to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and is now a fighter pilot for the US Navy. Was president of CSF while at Lowell, also member of Shield and Scroll all four years.

The point of the above list is to say that going to Lowell once meant something.  I was proud of my alma mater.  Indeed, up until the 1970s or so, San Franciscans were generally proud of Lowell.  It was a testament to “the City that knows how.”

As San Francisco became increasingly Leftist, however, City government became hostile to Lowell, which was seen as an unfair, elitist institution.  The view was that it just wasn’t fair that all those Asians got in.  The mere fact that they worked harder than everyone else (at least 12 hours more of homework per week than any other student group) didn’t justify their admission to such a good school.  The school district felt strongly that there were way too many Asians and whites (including Jews) at the school and far too few blacks and Hispanics.

Following a lawsuit, which San Francisco did not vigorously fight, the school district instituted a quota system.

Suddenly, Lowell ceased to be a Chinese girls school and started achieving the correct skin color that only a Leftist multiculturalist can love.  It also stopped being Lowell, a place of high academic accomplishment.  Instead, it became just another high school with a slightly better GPA than all the other high schools in the City.  It dropped like a stone in nationwide rankings.

San Francisco’s Asian community, however, wasn’t going to give up without a fight.  The Asians knew that, if they could once again get into Lowell based upon the content of their academic record and not the color of their skin, Lowell could return to its preeminent status — one that gave Asian grads a serious leg up as they applied to colleges and universities around the world.  The Asian community therefore sued and sued and sued . . . and finally won, sort of.  A 1999 consent decree resulted in a court ordered quota system that worked in Asians’ favor, so much so that the school (a) became primarily Asian again and (b) rose in nationwide rankings again.

The racial hate mongers were not pleased that the school was ascending again thanks to the Asians and wanted to rejigger the quota system.  That did not happen.  Right now, the school operates without quotas, and continues to be fairly highly ranked nationwide, although it’s never regained the stratospheric academic heights it had before the Leftists messed with it.

Why this long history about Lowell?  Because the racial hate-mongers in California are trying to do to the UC system what the Left did to Lowell, which is to boot out the Asians:

California has a long and ugly history of discriminating against Asian Americans. From the Anti-Jap Laundry League, the Anti-Chinese League, the Asiatic Exclusion League, the alien land laws, the Anti-Coolie Act . . . the list is long. Much of that discrimination had its origins on the left, with the Ant-Jap Laundry Act, the Asiatic Exclusion Act, and the Anti-Coolie Law being in the main projects of organized labor, which did not like the idea of being made to compete against Asians for work.

And now another group of left-leaning Californians is chafing at the idea of being made to compete with Asian Americans.

The California state legislature was on the verge of approving a referendum to restore the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions to state universities. The referendum originally had the support of three state senators who have since had a change of heart: Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ted Lieu of Torrance, and Carol Liu of La Cañada, Democrats all. They changed their minds when they were overwhelmed with telephone calls and e-mails — thousands of them — from angry constituents who know exactly what such affirmative-action programs mean in the context of elite universities: Asian quotas. A petition to cancel the referendum has already been endorsed by 100,000 signatories. Subsequently, the senators sent a letter to the speaker, John Pérez (do I need to note that he’s a Democrat?) seeking to have the measure tabled. The letter reads in part: “As lifelong advocates for the Asian American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children.”

Will this manifestly racist effort to deprive Asians of academic opportunities succeed in driving the Asians out of the Democrat party and the politics of racial grievance?  Sorry, but no.

Just like my fellow Jews, for a smart people the Asians sure can be dumb when it comes to political allegiance.  These are two ethnic/cultural groups that assiduously avoid looking at the actual issues dividing the two parties (effectiveness of big government versus individual freedom, obsession with race versus obsession with individual ability, etc.) and think, instead, in simplistic terms:  Democrats are good; Republicans are evil.  It will take more than a second sustained, aggressive Democrat-powered racist attack against Asians to change this allegiance.

Getting back into drought mode

Life in the Dust Bowl

Life in the Dust Bowl

I was in high school during the last major California drought.  I found it a very traumatic experience.  Thankfully, we didn’t end up with a Dust Bowl, and we didn’t have mass starvation of the type one periodically sees in Africa.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things could get that bad.

As a teen, I resented the imposition of water rationing.  I found disgusting the whole “when it’s yellow, let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down” mantra.  Truly, I felt that it’s my God-given right as an American to flush my stuff and, when I approach a bathroom, to know that you flushed your stuff too.  My parents tried to save their lawn by catching the water from the last rinse cycle in the washing machine, but it died despite those efforts.

Our house was filled with buckets in the kitchen and the bathroom, and all non-carpeted floors were hazardous, since the act of shlepping buckets from bathtub to toilet or sink to plants meant that the floors were perpetually covered with drips.  Step wrong and your bathroom turned into a skating rink.

yellow let it mellowAs you’ve probably seen in the news, California is having another drought, although this one is worse than the last big one in the 1970s.  (Interestingly, the last big drought coincided with the last big Polar Vortex.  Hmmm.)  The timing couldn’t be worse for my family, because we’ve already sunk substantial sums of money into a project requiring water, not to mention having signed contracts for that same project.  It’s unclear whether the project can go forward.  Worse, because of the signed contracts, we’re in a situation where we’ll still have to go forward with the least satisfying part of the project., which doesn’t require water.  Blech.

What’s also fascinating (to me, at least), is how quickly I’m back in the groove of water rationing.  I guess it’s like riding a bike — you never forget.  I’ve collected buckets, I’m saving bath water, I’m saving hand-washing water for the kitchen sink to use when I need to run my garbage disposal, etc.  I’ve told the kids that the only clothes that get washed are the genuinely dirty ones, that they have to keep their bathing to an efficient minimum, and that they can’t run any water while they brush their teeth.  Oh, and my garden is dead as a doornail.  My home looks derelict in the extreme.

We’ll get through this one, of course, but I’m not looking forward to the drought’s run.  It’s depressing.  Very, very depressing.

A matched set: California is broke and we know why

One of my friends posted a great chart on Facebook:

Rich states and poor states

And then I remembered a post at The City Square which explains how California ended up at the bottom of that chart.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in more California lunacy (and remember, as California goes so has gone the nation), check out Laer’s Crazifornia blog (and please consider buying his delightful, informative book, Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State – How California is Destroying Itself and Why it Matters to America).

Dems lose supermajority in California

The State is too far gone for it to matter, especially because we’ve got Jerry Brown as governor, but it is worth noting that there’s been a slight, ever-so-slight, downgrade in Democrat power here in California:

The sudden resignation Friday of a state senator from Kern County robs Democrats of the supermajority that could have raised taxes without Republican votes, but could also slow efforts to scale back one of California’s landmark environmental protection laws.

Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, announced that he is taking a job as manager of California government affairs for the Chevron Corp., saying he is tired of the political life and wants to spend more time with his wife and two young daughters, the younger of whom was born with Down syndrome.

I wish Sen. Rubio much happiness with his family, since he’s certainly right that they are very important.  I also note that it’s somewhat interesting that he’s leaving Democrat politics to work as a lobbyist for Big Oil.

And that’s all I have to say.  Your comments, of course, will be welcome.

Lowering expectations in California

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article that both praises Governor Jerry Brown’s “balanced” budget and notes that California is in desperate financial shape.  Clearly, the Chron is lowering expectations in case Brown’s “balanced” budget doesn’t do what it promised.

The Chron is wise to keep its readers from getting too excited.  I heard from a fairly knowledgeable source that Brown achieved his balanced budget (a) by determining how much he wanted to spend and (b) by announcing that the amount he wanted to spend would be matched precisely by anticipated 2013 tax revenue.  The first number (spending) is real; the second number (expected revenue) is completely phony.  In other words, reasonable people can confidently assume that, by the end of 2013, California’s budget will be more out of whack than ever.

California-for-Beginners-copy

Both mandatory unions and mandatory professional organizations are antithetical to Constitutional Free Speech *UPDATED*

California Bar Seal

The State Bar of California, which I have to pay into in order to practice law in the State of California, long-ago abandoned its core responsibility of ensuring that people who hold themselves out as lawyers to California citizens are at least minimally qualified.  As with all these mandatory organizations, it’s turned into a political advocacy group and, again in sync with all these mandatory organizations, it advocates Left. That is, it forces me to pay money if I want to have a livelihood in my chosen profession, and spends that money on heavily politicized issues such as abortion.  (It hews so far Left that, even when I was a Democrat, I was offended by many of the political stands it took with my money.)

The State Bar isn’t the only professional organization that leans Left.  The American Bar Association is heavily political too in a Leftist kind of way. The difference between the ABA and the State Bar, though, is that the form is a voluntary organization. I was therefore able to cancel my membership when I realized that my money was being used to support political causes that were unrelated to law and with which I disagreed.  Sadly, I can’t opt out of the State Bar — not if I want to be a practicing lawyer, that is.

Looked at this way, I have the same lack of rights as union members who don’t live in in right-to-work states. Here’s the deal: if unions and bar associations limited themselves to their original function, which was to ensure that union workers have good conditions or that lawyers have reasonable qualifications, union dues and mandated bar memberships would be less of an issue. Unions and Bar associations, however, have drifted far afield from these core responsibilities.  They’ve branched out since the 1970s or so to become political action groups taking far Left stands on just about everything.

When states mandate that workers must join unions or that professionals must join professional associations, the state is effectively coercing citizens into funding speech with which they may disagree. Looked at this way, mandatory participation in activist unions and professional associations is a profound perversion of the First Amendment right to free speech. Free speech doesn’t just include the right to speak freely, it also includes the right to refrain from participating in speech with which one doesn’t agree.

All of this popped into my mind when I received an email from the president of the State Bar of California (emphasis mine):

Begging

By now, you should have already received your State Bar of California fee statement. Statements were sent out on Nov. 30, and many of you may be taking steps now to send your payments before the Feb. 1, 2013 deadline. If you have not yet received your statement, it may be helpful to know that you can sign in to My State Bar Profile to calculate and pay your 2013 fees.

As the president of the State Bar, I would like to take this moment to enlist your help with an important opportunity that you have through your annual dues.

As attorneys, other people’s problems challenge us to do our very best. We straighten out transactions gone awry. We resolve property and commercial disputes. We counsel our clients through criminal proceedings and personal difficulties and help with innumerable other problems that ordinary people have every day.

But there is a new challenge. Sadly, our economy has experienced an almost unprecedented downturn with interest rates at historic lows. It is the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA)* revenue that pays for civil legal assistance for indigent people statewide; and it is barely a quarter of what it was in 2008. There is no cushion left as we struggle to close the justice gap – the gap between the legal needs of the poor and the legal help we can provide for them. This is an unprecedented crisis for those we are charged with protecting.

But there is a powerful step each of us can take in seeking a solution to the justice gap. Your tax-deductible donation to the Justice Gap Fund (a component of the statewide Campaign for Justice) will expand access to justice for the millions of Californians with nowhere else to turn. The Justice Gap Fund is the only statewide vehicle to restore critical funding to nearly 100 legal nonprofits that serve our biggest cities as well as the most isolated rural communities.

A gift made at line 10 of your annual dues statement, or online anytime at www.CAforJustice.org, will make a real difference.

Please join me in the Campaign for Justice. Make a life-changing gift to the Justice Gap Fund – it will make a real difference to those who most need our help.

I have to say that my heart strings remain un-tugged.  The Leftist policies of coercive organizations such as the California Bar Association helped lead to a long, deep economic collapse and painfully drawn-out recession.  The Bar, with its speech amplified by coerced dues, managed to out-shout someone like me, who would have had more money if the Bar hadn’t taken it away.  If I could have been left to my own political speech, I might then have been more amenable to contributing to a fund that helps poor people entangled in the political system.  Because the fund is owned and managed by the same group of people who contributed to this mess, however, I’ll hang onto my money until I find more worthy charities.

UPDATE:  You have to check out Michael Ramirez’s perfect editorial cartoon, because it distills to a single picture the whole free speech (or non-free speech) argument I made above.

California Department of Education fights school district for daring to spend money on children’s education.

Boy eating lunch

I wrote a few days ago about the fact that the State of California Department of Education has gone after the Kentfield School District in Marin County, because the District’s food program relies on PTA volunteers, rather than on paid union members.  Our local paper has an update on the story say that, for the time being, the School Board has decided to continue with business as usual, rather than acceding to the State’s demands.  What I love about the most recent report is a single sentence.  Look upon it and marvel:

One of the state’s concerns is that the extra revenue from the lunches are used to fund school programs, books and equipment. The letter said that it’s the district’s responsibility to oversee food service, employ staff and use cafeteria revenue for expenses only.

Think about it:  the State of California Department of Education is appalled that a school district would spend money on education, books, and classroom equipment.  How dare they!

I also learned one new thing from the story update:  the Kentfield PTA actually provides the food itself.  In my children’s’ elementary school district, the PTA was never more than a facilitator.  It did charge a slight premium, and the parents who paid for hot lunch knew that the premium would go to PTA activities supporting education.  In our case, though, when the state protested, the district caved immediately, kicked out the PTA, and started sending all the money (more than the PTA charged) to a third-party provider that didn’t give any residual profits back to the school.

The PTA president, who seems like a conservative in the making (if she isn’t one already), spells out the whole situation with great clarity:

PTA President Karen Loebbaka said what makes the program different is that instead of having a company come in and make profits, the PTA gets to put its profits toward education.

“We’re able to channel tens of thousands of dollars back to our district,” Loebbaka said.

She said the program is voluntary and doesn’t require students to participate.

“If you don’t like it, it doesn’t serve the needs of your family, pack a lunch,” she said.

School supplies

I am irresistibly reminded of the bad old joke:

First man: Come the Revolution, we’ll all drive Rolls Royces.
Second man: What if I don’t want to drive a Rolls Royce?
First man: Come the Revolution, you’ll have to.

AP report on thwarted terrorist attacks within the United States downplays Islam’s central role in the planned attack

The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle was simple:  “FBI: 4 Calif. men charged in alleged terror plot.”

California men, huh?  Did they have names like Big Kahuna and look like this?

“Yo, dude, I’m like going to, you know, like, attack the man. It’ll be, like, totally tubular.”

No? Well maybe these California men rejoice in names like Butch and look like this:

“Hey, everyone! We’re going to have a little whip and dip party. We’ll start with some fun bondage stuff, and then move on to the crudités. I’ve got a divine dip.”

Somehow that doesn’t seem right either. Maybe that’s because, when you read the story, you discover that these guys weren’t just any old California men. Instead, they had a lot more in common with these guys than with surfer dudes or San Francisco’s Folsom Street brigade:

That’s right — these “California men” were (a) Muslims and (b) three of them came from places other than America, let alone other than California:

Four Southern California men have been charged with plotting to kill Americans and destroy U.S. targets overseas by joining al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, federal officials said Monday.

The defendants, including a man who served in the U.S. Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release.

A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001.

The other two — 23-year-old Ralph Deleon of Ontario and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales of Upland — converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments.

They later recruited 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali of Riverside.

[snip]

Kabir is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan. Santana was born in Mexico, while Deleon was born in the Philippines. Both are lawful, permanent U.S. residents. Gojali is a U.S. citizen.

In a sane, honest world, the AP headline would have said “FBI: 4 Muslim men in So. Cal. charged in alleged terror plot.” But we’ve already established that we don’t live in a sane, honest world, right? We live in a world dominated by a media that is determined to pretend that Islam, with its institutionalized jihad and antisemitism, is just a myth, and that it’s purely coincidental that these mythical Islamists keep trying to blow up Americans.