New editions of the old antisemitism problem at San Francisco State University

My friend Stella Paul got a huge, deserved shout-out at Power Line for her expose of the antisemitic rot at America’s campuses, something that started with a bang right in San Francisco, in 2002.  I mentioned yesterday that this wasn’t anything new to me, since my father experienced it in the early 1970s when he got his Masters there.  My sister reminded me that she too experienced it in the mid-1970s, when she attended SFSU for a few years.

I also remembered that I too wrote something about SFSU’s toxic environment.  I wrote it more than seven years ago, but it’s as pertinent today as ever.  Here are the key parts of that old post:

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San Francisco has been in the press a lot lately (and inspired some pretty funny Jay Leno riffs) because of Gavin Newsom’s sexual misconduct with his ex-campaign manager’s wife. It’s sordid, it’s sexy, and, at bottom, it’s not troubling. That is, as with all good sex scandals, we can purse up our lips disapprovingly, look for the scintillating, salacious details, and know that, in the grand scheme of things, this story will have absolutely no effect on our lives.

The problem with this sex scandal is that it’s been useful to depress two other, much uglier and more significant stories out of that same city. [You can read more about the first story, involving Holocaust deniers and Eli Wiesel, here.]

The second story goes beyond Western dhimmitude and into the realms of psychotic identification with murderous thugs. A little background first. San Francisco State University (“SFSU”) is an old and once respected San Francisco institution. Its roots go back to the last days of the 19th century. It boasts some famous and some infamous graduates, including politician Willie Brown; comedian Dana Carvey; actress Annette Bening; novelist Anne Rice; sorry-excuse-for-a-comedian Margaret Cho; singer Johnny Mathis; Kennedy buddy and naive conspiracy theorist Pierre Salinger; and conservative writer and radio host Michael Medved,* among others. My father, a nice Jewish guy, was also an SFSU graduate (in the same Masters program as Michael Medved, although their paths did not cross).

Many of our family friends, all of them nice Jewish guys, were professors at SF State too. They were good professors, but they were also all old-time Jewish liberals who felt it was the right thing to do to invite Black Pantherette and Communist Angela Davis to become a professor there. Sadly, my dear old Jewish liberal friends seem to be reaping what they so inadvertently, and with the best intentions, sowed.

San Francisco State University has become increasingly radical, even by San Francisco standards, in the past few years. Palestinian groups, which have been an increasingly dominant campus presence, almost succeeded in having expelled a Russian immigrant who verbally challenged their violent anti-Semitic rhetoric. Eventually, even the University administration, which supported the Palestinian efforts against her, was forced to concede that Tatiana Menaker had done nothing wrong — she was just being persecuted for exposing the dominant anti-Jewish politics at SFSU.

Jews aren’t the only ones in the radicals’ crosshairs at SFSU. Republicans are also a target. In 2004, SFSU’s administration did absolutely nothing when Palestinian student groups violently attacked College Republicans who were distributing Bush/Cheney materials. That 2004 event educated the administration to the fact that, when verbally threatened, Palestinian groups get violent; and assured the same Palestinian groups that, when they got violent, the administration woudl leave them in peace to attack another day.

The campus College Republicans, showing exceptional bravery for a small and persecuted minority (which is what they are at SFSU), have been at it again, trying to exercise their First Amendment rights. This time, they held an anti-terrorism protest on the campus’s “Malcolm X Plaza” (clearly Martin Luther King is too tame for SFSU). Debra Saunders explains the insanity that subsequently ensued:

This story starts with an “anti-terrorism rally” held last October on campus by the College Republicans. To emphasize their point, students stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags. According to the college paper, the Golden Gate (X)Press, members of Students Against War and the International Socialist Organization showed up to call the Republicans “racists,” while the president of the General Union of Palestinian Students accused the Repubs of spreading false information about Muslims.

In November, the Associated Students board passed a unanimous resolution, which the (X)Press reported, denounced the California Republicans for “hateful religious intolerance” and criticized those who “pre-meditated the stomping of the flags knowing it would offend some people and possibly incite violence.”

Now you know that there are students who are opposed to desecrating flags on campus — that is, if the flags represent terrorist organizations.

But wait — there’s more. A student filed a complaint with the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development. OSPLD Director Joey Greenwell wrote to the College Republicans informing them that his office had completed an investigation of the complaint and forwarded the report to the Student Organization Hearing Panel, which will adjudicate the charge. At issue is the charge that College Republicans had walked on “a banner with the world ‘Allah’ written in Arabic script” — it turns out Allah’s name is incorporated into Hamas and Hezbollah flags — and “allegations of attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment,” as well as “actions of incivility.”

At an unnamed date, the student panel could decide to issue a warning to, suspend or expel the GOP club from campus.

When FIRE took up the cudgels on the Republicans’ behalf, SFSU went even further down the dhimmitude path, and into the realm of Stockholm Syndrome. As Saunders reports:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that stands up for free speech on campus, has taken up the College Republicans’ cause. FIRE sent a letter to SFSU President Robert Corrigan that urged him to “spare SFSU the embarrassment of fighting against the Bill of Rights.” The letter noted, “Burning an American flag as part of a political protest is expression protected by the First Amendment.” And: “Speech does not constitute incitement if a speaker’s words result in violence because people despise what the speaker said and wish to silence him or her.

“By punishing students on the basis of how harshly, violently or unreasonably others might react to their words,” the letter argued, “SFSU would create an incentive for those who disagree to react violently, conferring a ‘heckler’s veto’ on speech to the least tolerant members of the community.”

The university’s response? Spokesperson Ellen Griffin told me, “The university stands behind this process.”

And: “I don’t believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag. I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah.”

To which FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley responded, “It really doesn’t make any difference whether it’s the flag or a religious figure.”

If the College Republicans had denigrated Allah, I would defend their right to do so, while noting I have no use for the gratuitous Islam-bashing endemic in certain circles.

But it is not the students’ fault that Allah is on the Hamas and Hezbollah flags — in a language they don’t read.

Besides, every freshman should know that students have a right to say what they will about any religion, while believers enjoy the right to talk back.

Charles Johnson summed it up the whole thing at Little Green Footballs when he titled his post on the subject “insulting Allah now a crime at SFSU.”

This is truly the world turned upside down. In the sane world, it’s puerile but allowable under the First Amendment to step on someone’s flag to make a statement. (Indeed, in the insane world of the Middle East, it’s de rigeur to burn the American flag on a regular basis for precisely this reason.) However, in the topsy turvey world that is radicalized SFSU, even though Hamas and Hezbollah are murderous terrorist organizations, the fact that they’ve incorporated the word Allah (in Arabic script) on their flags means that those who protest these organizations’ violent acts by using symbolic speech in turn find themselves accused of committing hate crimes and inciting violence.

As I noted above, what happened at SFSU goes beyond the usual dhimmitude. That is, to the extent SFSU mentioned that the flag stopping could “possibly incite violence,” it’s clear that the school, in good dhimmi fashion, learned its lesson in 2004 when the Palestinians actually engaged in violence against speech that offended them. SFSU isn’t going to get in the middle of that fight any more, that’s for sure (“that fight” being any fight in which Muslims/Palestinians are one of the combatant groups).

More significantly, though, the administration’s claim that it is acting to protect the desecration of Allah indicates that this far Left, presumably secular institution, has completely embraced the ethos of a group that is holding it psychology hostile through the ongoing threat of violence. James Lewis, writing at American Thinker, explains what he sees happening to so many institutions and governments worldwide:

Psychiatry is familiar with an odd syndrome called “identification with the aggressor.” It’s sometimes called the Stockholm Syndrome, after the behavior of air passengers taken hostage by PLO terrorists at the Stockholm Airport in 1973, who, when they were rescued, came out singing the praises of their murderous captors.

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The most infamous examples come from World War II Nazi concentration camps, where some prisoners were placed in charge of others. According to witnesses like psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, these “Kapos” would wear discarded pieces of Nazi uniforms and often abuse their fellow victims. Unconsciously they were identifying with the aggressors, to ward off the awful awareness of their own vulnerability. People do things like that in extremis.

Now look at the behavior of the Left since 9/11, both in this country, Europe, and even Israel. Rather than feel righteously angered by the terrorist mass murder of 3,000 innocent people, large parts of the Left have adopted the aggressors’ point of view. They keep telling us that the Islamic fascists were right to blow up innocent people who had done them no harm; some of them have taken on conspiracy theories, claiming that Bush or Israel really committed the atrocities. At the same time they are in deep denial about the danger of future terrorist attacks on American soil, and blindly refuse to see the rising threat of nuclear proliferation by stateless terror groups. Instead, they “displace” their fear and anger on George W. Bush. To the Left, once Bush is gone, the terror problem will simply and magically go away.

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The Left claims to value “peace” above all things; but that means that self-defense ranks nowhere. It’s not an option — at least not when Republicans are in office. If we leave out self-defense against Iranian nukes or El Qaida truck bombs, there is no option except submission. That is what “identification with the aggressor” comes down to. It is a Stockholm Syndrome for millions of people — most of the readers of the New York Times and the UK Guardian, just for starters.

To make things worse, the Left itself is ruthlessly aggressive against conservatives, democratic individuals who happen to disagree with them. There is a true persecutorial viciousness in the Left’s attacks on Republican presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Emotionally, these people want to destroy those who defy their demands. Almost all the assassins and would-be assassins of American Presidents since JFK have been Leftists, starting with Lee Harvey Oswald. So their rage is not exactly harmless.

(This is another article I urge you to read in its entirety.)

The way I see it, SFSU has gone from fearing its excitable Muslim students, to actually embracing an ideology that ought, in theory, to be completely at odds with the radical secularism that characterizes the Left. It’s reasonable to believe that this counterintuitive outcome results from the fact that the campus Left deeply fears these new radicals, people whose ideology is much more frightening than the chic Communism that Angela Davis embodied, and they have come to associate with the Islamofascist values as a way of distancing themselves from their fear.

And that’s why, while it’s fun to giggle over a titillating and sordid little sex scandal in San Francisco’s City Hall, the real stories in San Francisco, the ones with repercussions that ripple far beyond the San Francisco Bay, are the ones that took place in a downtown hotel and on a uninspiring little university campus.

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*Funnily, the website that lists famous grads doesn’t mention Michael Medved. I only know he went there because he said so on his radio show.

The Progressives’ worst mistake is thinking that they know what others want

Homeless woman (photo by dbking)At a certain level, all of us are solipsistic, in that we inevitably exist at the enter of our own universe.  As it is with individuals, so it is with belief systems.  Whether we like it or not, we assume that our way is the way to do things.  That others would do things a different way is invariably a surprise (although, as is the case with Dutch chocolate, often a pleasant surprise).

One of the things that distinguishes the mature mind from the immature mind is the ability to recognize that your way isn’t always the right way.  Sometimes the other person’s (or nation’s) way is fine, even if it seems inadequate.

(As a side note, I’m not discussing moral absolutes here.  I think we’re entitled to be solipsistic about certain moral absolutes, such as “cold-blooded murder is wrong,” cold-blooded stealing is wrong,” “child-beating is wrong.”  Even there, though, we do make distinctions.  Cold-blooded murder is wrong, but we are open to extenuating circumstances.  Cold-blooded stealing is wrong, but it’s probably okay if you’re starving and steal food.  Child-beating is always wrong, of course, except that some describe “beating” as a slap on the butt with a hand, while others describe it as using a child’s head as a battering ram against a wall.  All decent people oppose the second; many decent people, myself included, do not consider that the first constitutes a “beating.”)

Outside of moral absolutes (or moral somewhat absolutes), what remains are behaviors and beliefs.  It’s here that we all fall prey to believing our way is best.  Where conservatives and Progressives differ, though, is that, while conservatives believe their choices are best, they do not believe that it is up to government to impose those choices on others.  They prefer persuasion to coercion. Progressives, however, are sufficiently self-righteous (or emotionally immature) that they believe that they must impose their ways upon others.

What got me thinking about this was a discussion I had with my sister about a couple of homeless men she and her husband have befriended (don’t ask).  Both men are enthusiastically homeless.  They get government checks, but are incapable of — and, more importantly, hostile to — embracing a middle class lifestyle.

The two men live near a city in a somewhat rural area.  They can bike to amenities, but live in a homeless encampment in the woods (which means they offer minimal inconvenience to the bulk of the city’s residents).  One of them built a teeny, portable wooden structure in which he lives, and powers the TV, the lights, the radio, and the electric cook stove with solar panels.  The other dwells in a tent and mooches happily off friends.  They get water from a nearby water pipe that the city makes available to the encampment.  They get free food from various charities, and spend their government checks on food and drugs.

From my middle class, suburban perch, they live a terrible life.  From their point of view, though, they’re free men who have all their needs met:  shelter, food, chemical stimulants.  They don’t want anything more.  Both are a little loopy (one has a mildly aggressive paranoia, while the other believes he communes with alien beings), but neither is rendered dysfunctional by those “quirks.”  They are free to be themselves.  They don’t miss hot showers, and La-Z-Boys, and cars, and the internet, and X-Boxes, and all of the other things with which we fill our lives.  Nor do they miss health insurance, which means that they’re in sync with previously uninsured Oregonians who got Medicaid.  When they’re sick, that’s what the ER is for.  They like that status quo and, despite living in a state that’s embraced government medicine, they refuse to join up.

I thought of these two men when James Taranto pointed out a Fox-Butterfield moment in the San Francisco Comical:

Fox Butterfield, Is That You?
“San Francisco spends $165 million a year on services for homeless people, but all that money hasn’t made a dent in the homeless population in at least nine years.”–Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, March 12

San Francisco has long spent exorbitant sums on the homeless because the Progressive government believes that it can bribe, cajole or co-opt the homeless into adopting a middle class lifestyle.  The experience of 30 years of failure has only convinced the Progressives that they need to spend more.  They cannot comprehend that, while there are people amongst the homeless population who are genuinely down on their luck and need a hand, there are many amongst the homeless who affirmatively embrace that lifestyle.  They are homeless,  not because we (society) have failed them, but because they like the freedom that comes with homelessness.  They have no amenities, but they have no obligations either.

Progressives aren’t insane, notwithstanding the oft-repeated definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Solipsism isn’t insanity.  It is, instead, a failure of imagination and an emotional immaturity that makes it impossible for a person or belief system to accept other attitudes and desires.

A friend gets a hard lesson about the “liberal” police state

I was quite tired yesterday when I read something interesting.  Having read it, I jotted down an idea for blogging about it.  That note says “loving the individual versus loving the system.”  I then went to bed.  Today, I’ve spent the last several hours trying to remember what I read and what my cryptic little note meant.

Quite obviously, of course, the note refers to the difference between true conservatives, who believe in individualism, and Leftists of every type who speak of the individual, but only as a prop to justify state power.  The problem is that I’ve said this multiple times before at this blog.  What was new and exciting to me was something that I read that more perfectly illustrated the difference between conservative and statist.  I suspect that whatever that interesting trigger was, it’s gone forever, which is too bad.

However, having that thought in my mind did come in handy today when I got a call from a friend.  Someone she knows got arrested on the charge of doing something very bad.  He and his family don’t have much money, so they cannot afford a good lawyer.  Instead, he will get a pro bono public defender pulled from a pool of available attorneys — which means it’s very hit and miss whether the attorney has the actual skills to represent him.  The multiple charges against him carry automatic and lengthy prison terms — in other words, mitigating circumstances are not allowed.  I don’t know whether this person did what the police say he did but I do know that, if he actually did do what was alleged, there are actually mitigating circumstances.

But here’s the deal:  Because of the mandatory sentencing, his pro bono lawyer has already told him to plea bargain.  A trial is just too risky, because the outcome is binary — you win or you go to jail forever — and the attorney isn’t good enough to raise a reasonable challenge to the state’s charges.  That means that, even if this guy is innocent or there are extenuating circumstances, the risk of having his day in court is so great that the system is forcing him to spend the next decade or more in prison.

This is profoundly undemocratic.  We are guaranteed under the constitution a right to a fair and speedy trial, but the system is designed so that people have no incentive to take advantage of that inherent right.  The problem isn’t even as simple as rich defendants versus poor defendants.  It’s the fact that prosecutors layer on as many charges as possible, regardless of their validity, simply to force a plea bargain.  Rich people can hold out longer, but ultimately prosecutorial overreach is a “get into jail very not free” card.

My friend, who is heartbroken, was fulminating about the “police state.”  I agree.  I don’t blame individual police officers or even individual prosecutors (many of whom I count as my friends in the legal world).  They are operating in a system that cedes them greater and greater power, and with power inevitably follows corruption.  This is especially true when there are no checks on that power.

I see this increased power flowing not from the conservatives, who are normally considered law and order types, but from the statists, who are control freaks.  An inevitable byproduct of a control-freak is increased enforcement.  That is, control is meaningless unless you have the brute force to effectuate it.

Put another way, conservatives expect people to behave well.  Rather than micro-managing that behavior, they would like our institutions to teach good behavior as a moral, not a police, imperative.  Think about it this way:  If you remove God from the equation, the Ten Commandments are still a perfect list of core moral behaviors that lead to societal cooperation:

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God said all these words: “I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.

Commandment 1
“You are to have no other gods before me.

Commandment 2
You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, ADONAI your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.

Commandment 3
“You are not to use lightly the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.

Commandment 4
“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for ADONAI your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work -not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the for eigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.

Commandment 5
“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.

Commandment 6
“Do not murder.

Commandment 7
“Do not commit adultery.

Commandment 8
“Do not steal.

Commandment 9
“Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.

Commandment 10
“Do not covet your neighbor’s house; do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

People who willingly abide by these rules are good citizens.  Conservatives do not believe that they are perfect, but that they will err on the side of decency and morality.  The problem, of course, is that without God as the  ultimate, albeit abstract enforcer (which is the case with statists who will not cede any micromanagement even to God), you’re left with nothing put police power to carry out your increasingly petty and overreaching decrees.

Since there are no big rules, there can only be thousands and tens of thousands of petty little rules.  And petty little rules need an awful lot of law enforcement.  And a lot of law enforcement means a vast concentration of power centered on policing.  It also means an overwhelmed prison system that incentivizes going to jail rather than presenting your case.

What was fascinating was that my friend, in the midst of her unhappiness, had an epiphany:  Sen.  Dianne Feinstein is one of the leading lights of state power.  It’s true.  The minatory, bossy, arrogant Feinstein is certain that she knows everything better than you.  She goes about armed or with guards, but she knows that you’re too stupid to be armed.  Or if you are allowed to be armed, she knows which gun you should use and how many bullets it will take for you to defend yourself.  She knows what you should be paid for your work, she knows how much of your income the government can spend better than you, and she knows that it’s up to her to control even the minutest details of your life.

My friend, though, hasn’t quite connected all the dots.  After fingering DiFi as the living embodiment of Big Government, my friend said, in a bewildered voice, “I don’t understand how she could have come out of San Francisco.”

I’m not shy.  I told my friend that SF is the perfect DiFi breeding ground.  Take away San Francisco’s endless tolerance for public nudity and gay sex, and you reveal a City government with pure tyrannical instincts.  The Board of Stupidvisors micromanages the city in every way possible and has since the Leftist takeover in the 1960s.  Here are just a few examples, which appear in posts I’ve written over the years:

San Francisco: America’s homegrown anarchic totalitarianism

San Francisco mulls expanding gay rights program at expense of academic programs *UPDATED*

The politics of City budgets in liberal cities *UPDATED*

Socialist governments just LOVE to control food

We’ll spend your money no matter what

American taxpayers officially on the hook for a 1.7 mile tunnel in SF

Life for the law-abiding in San Francisco

You get what you pay for with city government

Only in SF is JROTC a “controversial” program

Dealing with government bureaucracies

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, nude world — if you live in San Francisco

The streets of San Francisco (or, this is Nancy Pelosi’s city)

San Francisco’s pro-tenant laws and ethos drive up the cost of renting

Life in an increasingly fascist city — what San Francisco’s plastic bag ban means

Pro-Life versus Get-A-Life

This definitely wasn’t the post I intended to write, but it will have to do.

Psychopathic San Francisco landlords crack under the strain

When my husband and I started looking to buy our own house, he was very gung-ho on buying a duplex.  His plan was that we would live in one unit and rent out the other, with the rent covering the mortgage.  In theory, it’s a great idea.  In practice — if you’re looking to buy in San Francisco — becoming a landlord is something only the very rich or the very masochistic should do.  Landlord-tenant laws are skewed so heavily in the tenants’ favor that it’s virtually impossible to evict tenants once they’re in.  In addition, if you buy a building with existing tenants, not only can’t you evict them, you also can’t raise their rents to market value.  I’d worked on several landlord-tenant eviction cases over the years, and I refused to put myself in that position.

Although this sounds like a renters’ paradise, it actually isn’t.  Landlords, especially those renting out middle- to lower-value properties have absolutely no incentive to do improvements.  Everything becomes an affordable slum.

And of course, if you’re a really unlucky tenant, your landlord might snap and go all psychopathic on you, as these landlords from Hell did.  Actually, it seems as if these people started out psychopathic, but I’ve known other, stronger, more mentally healthy people who cracked under the strain of trying to evict tenants if they were foolish enough to buy a tenant-occupied property.

The end of the library as we know it?

Daniel J. Flynn’s grim picture of modern urban public libraries struck a chord.

It also made me think of the generations of young Jewish immigrants at the turn of the last century who found a refuge from the busy streets around them in the public libraries.  There, they learned, read, and dreamed great dreams.  Now, the thinker and the dreamer wants nothing more than to escape from a public library.

Incidentally, Flynn is spot on in describing San Francisco’s main branch:

In San Francisco’s main library, I witness four legs sharing a bathroom stall, a transsexual engaging herself in a heated argument, and a security guard loudly informing a fellow patron: “You can’t take your shoes and socks off in here.”

The library was built at enormous cost to the City and has ended up being a scary homeless shelter.  In the beginning, the library tried to prevent this from happening by installing the most uncomfortable chairs ever know to God or man.  The homeless prevailed, though, to the extent that I would never allow my kids to enter that building alone.

Fortunately, in Marin, voters save their political correctness for the ballot box, so they can visit liberalism’s ills upon others.  This means that the libraries in Marin are very, very nice.

Pro-Life versus Get-A-Life

If you’d like to see a wonderful, fascinating compare-and-contrast photo essay, you’ve got to read Zombie’s Walk for Life vs. Roe v. Wade birthday party: Abortion showdown SF. To begin with, I love Zombie’s writing style, which is an invigorating blend of erudition, true humanism, and snark.  Additionally, the post is a very useful reminder that, while most pro-Abortion people believe abortion is a personal issue, the Left fully understands that it is yet another way to break familial bonds in favor of state control.

How should cities cope with the homeless?

Tom Ammiano, San Francisco’s reliably far-Left supervisor, was in the local news today because he’s come out with a new proposal that can be called “the homeless bill of rights“:

Among other things, the proposed law would require legal representation for anyone cited under such laws as San Francisco’s sit/lie law or anti-panhandling ordinance.

It would give “every person in the state, regardless of actual or perceived housing status,” the rights to “use and move freely in public spaces,” to “rest in public spaces,” and to “occupy vehicles, either to rest or use for the purposes of shelter, for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

However, one provision of the bill can be interpreted to allow restrictions of those activities as long as they are applied equally to all people, and not just homeless people. That leaves wiggle room for evaluation of local ordinances that would probably not spell their immediate dismissal.

(You can see that Ammiano envisions himself as a modern-day Anatole France (“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”).)

Ammiano’s proposal makes the news in the same week as two other stories about society’s lost souls.  The first was the story of Larry DePrimo, the policeman who, frustrated by his inability to aid a barefoot homeless man, went into a shoe store and bought the man a brand new pair of all-weather boots. The second was the story of a crazed man who pushed a father-of-two to his death on the New York subway tracks.

All three stories revolve around a single issue:  what should a civilized, affluent society do about those who are too dysfunctional to live a stable life, but are just functional enough to survive on the streets without starving to death?

Any discussion about the homeless has to begin by recognizing that there are two different types of homeless in America.  The first type, the one that makes for heart-rending headlines telling us that we must socialize our economy, is the down-on-its-luck family.  These families are the economic tragedies, the ones who fell victim to a bad economy and lost first their livelihoods and then their homes.  The adults are functional, but have fallen through the cracks, created by bad luck and hard times.

These “working class” homeless are, in theory, quite simple to help.  Give them shelter and childcare, and then give mom and dad a job.  I understand that the procedure isn’t as easy as the theory.  I’m just pointing out that the remedy is a straightforward one, no matter how challenging it may be to implement it.

The second category of homeless people is the more vexing one.  These are the ones who are homeless because they have mental diseases or addictions that render them incapable of functioning in normal society under any circumstances.  Jeffrey Hillman, who was the beneficiary of Officer DePrimo’s charity, is a prime example (emphasis mine):

It turns out the homeless, barefoot man who captured the hearts of thousands isn’t actually homeless. Jeffrey Hillman, the recipient of a pair of boots given by a good samaritan New York City police officer, has an apartment in the Bronx, officials told the New York Daily News.

According to the Daily News, the 54-year-old Hillman lived in transitional housing sites called “Safe Havens,” from 2009 until 2011. He then secured his current apartment through a Department of Veterans Affairs program that helps homeless vets. Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the city agency, told the Daily News that outreach services continue to try and help Hillman, but he “has a history of turning down services.

I know Hillman’s type of homeless.  You couldn’t miss this type growing up and working in San Francisco.  Because San Francisco has a temperate climate, its downtown streets are dotted with filthy men (plus a few women) who sit on the sidewalks all day begging for handouts.

It is immediately apparent looking at these beggars that they are not simply slackers who prefer begging to work.  All of them show the signs of serious illness and advanced substance abuse.  Many of them are obviously seriously mental ill, with the scariest ones have long, angry conversations with invisible companions.

The paranoid ones, like Hillman, resist help.  They would rather live outdoors, even if outdoors means the mean, freezing streets of New York, Chicago, or Boston, than put themselves in one of the shelters that their delusional minds classify as dangerous.  To them, having your own primitive tent, cardboard room, or doorway, complete with tinfoil hat and nearby dumpster for food, is a much safer way to live than anything offered by the “enemies” who surround them.

It is these homeless people to whom Ammiano wishes to extend the virtually unlimited right to live on San Francisco’s streets and in her parks.  (Incidentally, in San Francisco they live that way already, simply because the City only intermittently enforces its vagrancy laws.)  By advancing this right, though, Ammiano manages to forget about the other people in San Francisco, the ones who are not homeless, who work, pay taxes, go to school, play, and otherwise try to live normal lives within the City.

You see, the problem of homelessness isn’t just a problem for the homeless.  It’s a problem for everyone.  The parks that used to see children playing while their mothers sat nearby in cheerful, chatting clusters quickly turn into needle, condom, feces, vomit, and bottle strewn bogs, complete with smelly, often violent men and women camped out on benches and under bushes.  The streets with the charming, inviting stores are now a dirty, smelly mess, repulsing casual shoppers.  Tourists, tired of being importuned by by a Calcutta-like stream of beggars, stay away.  And because the homeless carry with them lice and tuberculosis, they create public health risks.

More than that, as I’ve frequently argued, it is psychologically damaging to ordinary people in a community to be told that they must allow a person who is manifestly mentally ill, whether because of disease or drugs, to lie around on the streets.  I hew libertarian in most respects, but my support for absolute individual freedom begins to fray when an individual is incapable of caring for himself.  Just as I wouldn’t say that a five-year old is free to make her own lifestyle choices, I’m loath to allow free rein to a person so mentally ill that he cannot perform basic human functions, such as seeking shelter or feeding himself. To me, he is as incapacitated as a five year old.

The problem is obvious; the solution less so.  In the old days, vagrants were thrown into prison, which had the virtue of giving them shelter and food, but also exposed them to criminals who preyed upon them and left them back on the streets when their sentences ended.  Another tactic was for the police to tell vagrants to “move along,” getting them off of one cop’s beat and putting them on another’s.

The 20th century saw a growth industry in “modern” psychiatric institutions, which treated the mentally ill as patients rather than as zoo animals, as was the case in old fashioned “insane asylums.”  Sadly, though, too many of inmates suffered terrible abuse in these institutions.  Because they’re unpleasant work environments, too many employees were lazy and/or sadistic, and too many of the doctors were mini-Mengeles, viewing the mentally ill as human chimps for experimentation.

The 1960s and 1970s, therefore, saw a coming together of the Left and the Right, both of which groups, for different reasons, believed the asylums were dangerous places for society and for the inmates, and passed legislation to close them down.  The law of unintended consequences hit hard when these institutions closed:  The mentally ill had no place to go but to their families, who either made them crazy in the first place or who couldn’t cope with their craziness, or to the streets.

I don’t have an answer to the question I posed in this post’s title:  How should cities cope with the homeless?  I know that I disagree strongly with Ammiano’s push to give the homeless a special set of rights that turns San Francisco’s streets into a vast homeless shelter with no recourse for the regular folks who live in and pay for the City.  That’s the wrong approach and, to my mind, a cruel one.  As humane people, I believe we have a moral obligation to care for those incapable of caring for themselves.  The old psychiatric institution model is a good one, because we know that mandatory treatment can work, but I’m at a loss as to how to prevent the abuse that once-upon-a-time made closing these institutions a reasonable decision.

Do you have any ideas?

UPDATE:  Welcome, Ace of Spades readers.  If you enjoy this post, I invite you to check out the whole site.  And if you like what you see, think about subscribing to the Bookworm Room newsletter.

The girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island

Courtesy of the Navy League, today I boarded the USS Makin Island as an official ship’s greeter.  My visit was a bit more fraught than past experiences have been, so I thought I’d walk you through the girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island, starting with pre-visit preparations:

  1. Review boarding instructions at last-minute and realize that I’m supposed to wear “slacks.”  Who the heck has slacks?  I live in jeans, either blue or black.  Burrow through closet and discover antique pair of bland brown slacks.
  2. Breath sigh of relief that slacks still zip.  I vow not to do any inhaling for the rest of the day, lest the slacks become rebellious.
  3. New problem:  After a harried search for the sole, and ancient, pair of brown shoes I own, I find that they are scratched and dirty.  This is bad.  Worse is that I have no shoe polish.  A frantic hunt for something oily to help liven up the leather yields only Tea Tree oil.  Did you know that if you polish your shoes with Tea Tree oil you go around the rest of the day smelling like disinfectant?  I know that now.
  4. Leave house in order to arrive at Pier 80 (in the southern-most part of the City) by 2:30, since the last, best word is that I should be there at 3:00.  I figure a half-hour of wiggle room is a good thing.
  5. Halfway to Pier 80, I get a timely telephone call telling me that the USS Makin Island is actually going to be at Pier 30/32.  Under these circumstances, San Francisco’s maze of one way streets becomes the enemy.
  6. Arrive at Pier 30/32 at 2:30, blithely assuming that I’ll be on board by 3:00.  Hah!  But more on that later.
  7. Learn that, because of snafu, while I am approved for entry onto the pier, my car is not.  I begin the hunt for San Francisco street parking.  Rather to my surprise, I find a spot only a block away, a distance even my dodgy knee can tolerate.  I spend a few minutes struggling with the new-fangled ticket machine, which charges me a hefty $12 for four hours of street parking.  Four hours should be enough, right?
  8. Arrive at pier, and saunter self-consciously across a vast parking lot and staging area, which is empty but for a handful of people who clearly belong there, including five spit-and-polished Marines.   Here’s a picture of that vast space:

  9. With feigned coolness, because I’m neurotically certain that everyone there is staring at me, I casually seat myself on one of the comfortable-looking, bright orange security barriers.
  10. Learn the hard way, when my weight compresses the barrier on which I’ve seated myself, that said barriers are filled with water.
  11. Come to terms with the unpleasant realization that an objective observer, unacquainted with the facts, could reasonably conclude that I wet my pants.
  12. Check out spit-and-polished Marines to see whether they noticed that I’m suddenly looking remarkably foolish, not to mention incontinent.  Happily they appear oblivious — or perhaps they’re just too polite to point and laugh.
  13. Try to air-dry my butt as discretely as possible.  This involves my skulking along the parking lot with my back to the cars, trying to get the benefit of the stiff breeze blowing across the pier.  I am suddenly very grateful that the Navy is running late.
  14. Begin casting longing glances at the Porta Potties. Why the heck are they in such an exposed location?  Think dry thoughts (which is hard to do with wet pants).
  15. Due to extremely brisk breeze, my pants finally begin to dry.  I also give thanks for very expensive all-weather hair style.
  16. Begin to wonder if the thrill of welcoming an amphibious assault vessel is worth it. I fight urge to beat strategic retreat.  I remind myself that dry pants are a good omen and, feeling courageous now that my butt is dry, I slink off to the Porta Potties.
  17. The intelligent, knowledgeable half of the Navy League greeting committee arrives.  Thank God!!  Then I get the bad news:  I arrived an hour early for a ship that is going to be at least an hour late.  Oh, and I’m the point man for the Navy League presentation.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of public speaking?  I’m not shy.  I can show up to a party knowing no one and still have fun.  It’s having all those eyes looking at you (see items 9 and 10, above).  This blind panic is made worse by knowing that those staring are (a) mostly male and (b) mostly younger than I.  When I was 25, this would have been cool; now that I’m . . . ahem . . . my current age, it’s just nerve-wracking.
  18. Go to car to regroup.  I try to freshen up, only to realize that I’ve forgotten to bring lipstick.  This girl doesn’t feel fully dressed without lipstick, but I focus on the fact that I no longer look as if I’ve wet my pants.  I’m ahead of my own curve.  With lunch a distant memory, and no eateries nearby, I eat a stale power bar that my son left in the car donkey’s years ago.
  19. Return to pier, which is filling up.  The USS Makin Island appears.  It is magnificent:
  20. Attach myself like a limpet to my wonderful Navy League point man who patiently listens to me as I nervously babble.  I know I should muzzle myself, but I’ve got so much adrenalin pumping through me at the thought of public speaking that nothing is going to stop my mouth from moving.
  21. Finally!  Only an hour and a half after I first report for “greeting duty,” we board the ship.  Dozens of ridiculously handsome/beautiful, polite, incredibly young people, all of whom look spiffy in their uniforms, are everywhere.  Is it really possible that they’re all staring at me?  Remind myself I am no longer 13, and that it’s not all about me.
  22. One of said spiffy young people leads us to the wardroom, where we receive a very polite welcome and are offered food and drink.  I recoil at the thought of food, but demand water like a starving man in the desert.
  23. Briefing commences.  The Captain welcomes all of his visitors aboard.  I’m shocked.  How can someone be so fresh and young, and have so much responsibility?  I later check out the ship’s web page and learn that Captain Pringle isn’t that much younger than I am — he just looks a whole lot better.
  24. Fortunately, I’m not the first speaker.  Before I speak, representatives from the Fleet Week board, the San Francisco Police Department, and the NCIS speak.  They are all composed and quite interesting.  This worries me.
  25. Oh, my God!  It’s my turn.  There must be about — oh my! — 50 (or could it actually be 3,000?) people sitting there waiting to hear me speak.  I introduce myself and my fellow Navy Leaguer, and am more grateful than I can say that I remember our names.  I’ve been known to forget my own name in public speaking settings.
  26. I subscribe to the theory that, if you’re obviously at a disadvantage and the people you’re with aren’t your enemy, you should throw yourself at their mercy.  I therefore apologize in advance for a few things: (a) I’m shaking with nerves; (b) I’m a vast chasm of civilian ignorance; (c) I’ll be reading from a prepared script; and (d) I don’t have my reading glasses, so I can’t see the prepared script.  I am off to a rip-roaring start here.
  27. Things are going well.  I’m making it through the list of goodies that the Navy League is providing for our maritime guests, and I’m only stuttering a little bit.  I get cocky.  When I come to the part about tours up in Wine Country, I ad lib:  “This is up in the Sonoma/Napa area, north of San Francisco.  It’s really beautiful up there and wine tours are fun.  Just be sure not to drink or drive.”
  28. Did I just do that?  Did I tell a room full of Naval and Marine officers not to drink and drive?  Could I have been more disrespectful to them?  I don’t know if recovery is possible, but I try:  “I can say that, because I’m a mother.”  Okay, just kill me now.
  29. I finally wrap up my mercifully brief presentation with only minimal hyperventilation and no tears.  Showing that they truly are officers and gentlemen/gentlewomen, several of the briefing attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a fine job.  What nice people these are!
  30. Return to my car three hours and fifty-seven minutes after I first arrived.  Hurray!  I didn’t get a parking ticket.  I go home giddy with excitement.  Mission accomplished!

Despite my own neurosis, I had a wonderful time.  As I told the assembled officers, the USS Makin Island is a lovely ship, and I was truly honored to be on board.  If you’re in or near San Francisco this weekend, don’t let the crowds deter you.  As you can see from the Fleet Week website, there are so many things to do and see, and it’s your chance to thank personally the men and women who serve our country.

Life in an increasingly fascist city — what San Francisco’s plastic bag ban means

San Francisco’s plastic bag ban went into effect today.  Not only does it ban plastic bags entirely, it also forces people to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they use.  The new rule in the City is bring your own bags or suffer.  All the usual suspects are happy.  What’s interesting is that some of the unusual suspects aren’t happy.  For example, an Arab, probably Palestinian (knowing the neighborhood) shopkeeper:

Across the street at the Eezy Freezy market, owner Al Khalidi is not so pleased about the city’s actions. He said he’s the kind of guy who can’t stand to see someone throw a recyclable into the trash, but believes the city’s law goes too far.

“Do you want a free bag or a 10-cent bag?” he playfully asked a customer, before putting his beer can and soda bottle into a small black plastic bag. Khalidi said he was told by a city worker that he can use plastic bags until he runs out.

[snip]

Khalidi hasn’t started charging for paper bags just yet. He wonders how people would feel about the ban if they see an old woman’s paper bag break open onto the street on a rainy day.

“It’s not a big deal really,” he said. “But when a plastic bag is a must, I hope I can provide one and not have it turn into a big thing.”

Clearly, Mr.Khalidi has the immigrant’s (or first generation child’s) appreciation for free choice, as well as a proper understanding of the real world consequences of handing over to the government your right to make decisions about the things that directly affect you.

And then there’s the gal who likes the freedom to make her own choices, which include reusable bags, and who thinks everyone should have that same freedom:

At first glance, Denise Snyder seems like someone who would also be supportive of the change. She had three heavy reusable bags strapped on both arms while she waited for the N-Judah near Safeway. But she said people are tired of being nickeled-and-dimed by the city.

“I think it hurts people that can’t afford it,” she said. “I know it’s an ordinance, but there are just too many penalties and fines and fees already.”

The most interesting comment, though, came from one of Mr. Khalidi’s customers.  To me, it perfectly sums up liberal fascism, and explains why a generation of people steeped in public schools and American universities willingly embraces increasing government control over their lives (emphasis mine):

Back inside the Eezy Freezy, regular customer Michael Donk, a limo driver, said he is a strong supporter of the new ordinance.

“I do think it’s a good thing. It’s not about control,” he said. “It’s about reminding us what’s good for us.”

Didn’t Reagan say that the nine scariest words in the English language are “We’re from the government and we’re here to help”?

I’m paying close attention to this, because bag bans are creeping up in Marin. The Safeway in Strawberry is under an ordinance banning plastic bags; the ones in Corte Madera and Novato are not. You can guess which ones gets my custom.

San Francisco’s pro-tenant laws and ethos drive up the cost of renting

Housing in San Francisco is expensive because the City is bounded on three sides by water and on the fourth side by another city.  Housing in San Francisco is expensive because it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world, so a lot of people want to live there and are willing to pay a premium to do so.  Housing in San Francisco is expensive because, if you don’t mind a little fog, it’s got a delightfully temperate climate that, like Baby Bear’s porridge, is usually “just right.”

And of course, housing in San Francisco is so expensive because the one-sided municipal and state laws favoring tenants make it extremely risky to be a landlord:

Janet Sluizer knew she was taking a bit of a chance when she turned to Craigslist this summer to find a tenant for her apartment in the Mission. What she didn’t expect was that she’d be spending thousands of dollars in a struggle to evict a roommate who she says hasn’t paid rent beyond the first month.

“This is a nightmare,” Sluizer said.

It’s a nightmare that landlord advocates say is all too common in San Francisco, where 64 percent of residents rent.

“What she’s experiencing is not unusual,” said Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association. “The rental housing market in San Francisco is quite complicated and complex to manage.”

According to New, a combination of confusing rent ordinances and an abundance of free legal resources for tenants make it difficult for inexperienced landlords to evict someone on their own.

“If you attempt to evict a tenant, even if it’s a simple non-pay issue, we recommend you hire an attorney to do that,” New said.

Read the whole painful story here.  I can assure you that this is not an unusual San Francisco story.  I knew a couple that spent five years and about $100,000 to evict a tenant.  Interestingly, the tenant wasn’t even their tenant.  They’d rented the apartment to Guy One, whose boyfriend, Guy Two, moved in with him.  When Guy One died of AIDS, Guy Two refused to leave.  Instead, he had his boyfriend, Guy Three, move in with him.  Guy Two then died of AIDS, leaving Guy Three in possession.  The landlords decided it was high time they regain control over their property, especially since Guy Three found rent an unreasonable obligation.  And so began their five year odyssey.  When they regained the property, they sold it.

Another landlord didn’t even bother with the fight.  She simply sold the property, complete with horrible tenant, and gave the buyer a $50,000 discount.  The buyer, a friend of mine, discovered even that wasn’t such a great bargain, as it took him another two years to get the tenant out so he and his family could move in.  Meanwhile, they had to pay mortgage, rent, and legal fees.

I used to do pro bono legal work for people with AIDS.  I had imagined helping them optimize their SSI and other benefits.  What I ended up doing for these guys — for free — was helping them stiff their landlords.  After my third go-round, I withdrew my name from the pro bono pool.  I didn’t have the stomach to engage in this kind of perfectly legal landlord screwing.

It’s no wonder that San Francisco landlords charge high rents.  They need those high rents to help pay their almost inevitable legal fees.

Obama savaged in San Francisco

Aside from getting to see downtown San Francisco without actually having to shlep into downtown San Francisco, I liked Zombie’s latest photo essay because it shows how disaffected Obama is.  The Left hates him, the Right hates him, and he spends time hobnobbing with the rich.  He is not a man of the people.  Indeed, if Vanity Fair is correct, his feeling is “to Hell with the people.”

There is no sweet smell of success emanating from Obama’s latest campaign.  Just the smell of flop sweat and failure.  I know this can change, but sometimes failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

The streets of San Francisco (or, this is Nancy Pelosi’s city)

Writing a couple of years ago about the streets of San Francisco, in a post I called “Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco,” I had this to say:

Last week, I had occasion to make four separate trips to the City.  Each was unpleasant.

The first trip, I got a flat tire from broken glass in the street.  I know that can happen anywhere, but it’s more likely along the Market Street stretch I had to travel.

The second trip, I found myself at a corner that boasted both a stop sign and a red light.  This was ludicrous, confusing and, therefore, dangerous.  This is manic control run amok.

The third trip, I almost got a ticket when I parked at what appeared to be a non-metered space.  Half the block had parking meters; half the block, the part where I was parking, didn’t.  It was only because a nice pedestrian warned me that I learned that there was an electronic kiosk about 25 feet away from my car that sold parking passes for the car’s dashboard.  Other than that word of mouth tip, there were no signs at all warning that, while half the block had old-fashioned meters, the other half had switched to a computer system.

The fourth trip, my husband and I were walking down Gough Street towards the Opera House at dusk.  Between the failing light and the broken and dimmed street lights, it was impossible to avoid the hazards of pitted, jagged, broken uneven sidewalk.  It was only because we’re in good shape, with decent balance, that the two of us avoided a painful tumble.  I won’t even describe the smell of urine and sewage that kept wafting up towards us as we walked along.

Welcome to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.

Well, San Francisco has made this disgrace official, by naming a street after Nancy Pelosi.

Proving, as he so often does, that a picture is worth a thousand words, Michael Ramirez has nailed this most recent San Francisco development.

Just Because Music: The New Seekers “I’d like to teach the world to sing”

I remember the hippies as dirty, drugged-out, pathetic human beings lying on the streets in the Haight Ashbury.  Their continuing legacy is one of drugs, sexual self-indulgence, and mindless statism wrapped up in equally mindless slogans of “love” and “fairness,” as if a government is capable of giving love or imposing fairness from above.

However, the bells and whistles with which the hippies dressed up their drugs, sex, and Leftist fantasies were often quite lovely.  One of my favorite childhood memories is of a rainbow themed art exhibition at the de Young Museum (this one, not this one), an exhibition that would never have happened but for Flower Child imagery.

Likewise, there was something charming, albeit manifestly naive, about the notion of universal brotherhood.  I thought as a child, and still think now, that one of the prettiest, most harmonious, expressions of that naive belief was The Seeker’s I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing:

And for those of you who remember the Coke commercial:

(And don’t you just love the all-Americanism of a vapid hippie philosophy being co-opted by Madison Avenue and a multinational corporation to market a caffeinated sugar drink?)

San Francisco Chronicle columnist warns city’s rational thinkers not to roll in the mud with one specific fringe group

Here’s the lede:

The great thing about living in San Francisco is that it is socially and culturally responsible. The bad thing is, a city that is so socially and culturally responsible can’t resist taking the bait when a fringe group tries to provoke a reaction.

In a non-Bizarro world, one might think that the columnist, C.W. Nevius, is advising San Franciscans to ignore the OWSers camped out along the Embarcadero.  What better way to avoid the drugs, feces and vomit?  Except that can’t be right take on that lede because even San Francisco, with its seemingly endless tolerance for all things Progressive, cleared out the OWS camp a couple of months ago because it was a public health hazard.

Or maybe Nevius is advising San Franciscans to avoid the antisemitic/anti-American hate fest that occurs whenever the Progressive crowd takes to the streets of San Francisco to oppose the wars the U.S. is fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Nope.  Can’t be that.  Those protests ended when Obama took the White House, even though it took another three years for one war to wrap up and the other is still going strong.

Hmm.  Maybe Nevius is telling San Franciscans to stay away from the annual Up Your Alley Fair, an open air celebration of pretty much unlimited debauchery.  Or the annual Folsom Street Fair, which features less nudity, but more whips and chains.

I mean, frankly, when it comes to “fringe groups” that are trying “to provoke a reaction,” San Francisco certain has more than its fair share.

This being San Francisco, however, Nevius had something even more fringey in mind, something so horrifying that even San Francisco’s usual crew of protesters, the ones who will take off their clothes to protest anything, including their right to take off their clothes, are being warned away lest they get damaged by contact with this extremist organization.  What is this diabolical gathering, the one so out there that San Franciscans need to hide in their homes rather than validate it with confrontation?

The 8th Annual Walk For Life, which will be held on January 21, 2012, in San Francisco.  Last year, this “fringe” group managed to gather around 40,000 people, all of whom frightened ordinary San Franciscans by wearing normal clothes, walking peaceably, and carrying signs that support life.  (Zombie has an illustrative photo essay from the 2010 walk.)

Nevius, who sometimes distinguishes himself by being amongst the more sensible columnists by San Francisco Chronicle standards, embraces San Francisco’s amorality, however, when he says that the City, en masse, should ignore this pro-Life plague:

The best approach, of course, would be to let them [the pro-Life walkers] have their moment, ignore them, and then go back to real life in San Francisco. That’s the approach that will be taken by the local chapter of Planned Parenthood.

[snip]

Naturally, not everyone feels that way, and we can just about count on clashes between the two groups. There will be disagreements about the size of the crowds – protesters claim that the walk organizers overestimate the size of the march, and members of the walk claim that the number of protesters decreases every year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to a classic example of sound and fury signifying nothing. When the walk concludes Saturday, you can bet that no one will have changed his or her position, although everyone will be congratulating himself or herself for standing up for the cause.

I’ve done enough abortion posts for you guys to know that I’m conflicted on this subject.  I grew up totally pro-Choice, focused entirely on the woman’s needs and convenience.  As I’ve aged — and had children — I’ve no longer been able to deny that there is another life involved.  I want to deny it.  If, God forbid, my daughter shows up pregnant at 15, I want to say “Oh, never mind, darling!  I’ll just take you to the doctor and that’ll be that,” but I don’t think I can anymore.  It’s not a woman’s convenience versus a cell’s existence.  It’s a life versus a life.

So when C.W. Nevius says “[w]hen the walk concludes Saturday, you can bet that no one will have changed his or her position,” he’s plain wrong.  The walk may be the last link in the chain for someone who is struggling, as I struggle, with making a u-turn in a profound belief system, one that forces us to confront who we are and what value we place upon ourselves.

Christmas in San Francisco

San Francisco used to be charming.  Now it’s just kind of creepy — or, at least, large parts of it are.  For example, the OWSers are creepy.  Even creepier is what happens when the OWSers come together with the nekkid Santas.  And I have to ask, as I always do:  Why is it always only the ugly people who insist on taking their clothes off?

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, nude world — if you live in San Francisco

The City That Knows How, which is how long-time San Francisco columnist Herb Caen viewed his beloved adopted city, is at it again, this time with proposed legislation saying you can’t enter restaurants nude, nor can you, as a nude person, sit down in a public space without putting something under yourself first.  How about something completely different?  In the interests of decency and healthy sexuality, how about, you don’t let people wander around naked in public!

The human body is a wondrous thing.  To that end, I prefer to keep some of that wonder alive by seeing less of most people’s bodies, rather than more.  Economics 101 holds that, the rarer a commodity is, the more precious it is.  When you have wrinkled old hippies (link is not NSFW) and emaciated drug addicts wandering the streets showing their all, it tends to cheapen the premium we in the West have traditionally placed on God’s (or Nature’s) special design.

In a question and answer he set out in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Woody Allen pretty much sums it up:  “Is sex dirty?  Only if it’s done right.”  Trying to make the human body as ordinary as yesterday’s newspaper is definitely doing it wrong.

Cross-posted at PJ Media

Dealing with government bureaucracies

I do not understand the liberal love affair with government.  Government is inefficient and it bullies people.  Had a business engaged in the same conduct as the City of San Francisco, it would have apologized profusely or found itself flamed to death.  A government, however, can act with impunity, because it holds the power.

I’m not advocating an anarchic system without government.  I’m just saying that people ought to think very carefully before they vest more and more power in government’s hands.  History shows repeatedly the truth behind Thoreau’s dictum that “That government is best which governs least.”

Only in SF is JROTC a “controversial” program

The news is good, at least for the time being, but I was rather amazed to learn that JROTC, which has been around since before WWI, all over America, is “controversial”:

The San Francisco school board gave the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps yet another vote of confidence Tuesday, ensuring that the controversial military leadership program will stick around for at least another two years in seven district high schools.

The board decided in a 5-to 2 vote to let JROTC students continue to earn required physical education credits through independent study, a decision that ensures the military program can maintain enrollment numbers.

The circumcision ban on the San Francisco ballot is driven by blatant antisemitism

I often say I’m shocked by something that crosses my computer screen, but that’s not really true.  I mean, I probably sort of shocked insofar as I’m surprised that someone has behaved according to type, but in an extreme way, or that something I’ve long assumed would happen actually did happen (or, in a surprising way, didn’t happen).  But I’m very seldom shocked to the core of my being.  Today, though, I was shocked, shaken really, by an email Zombie sent me.

Zombie has gotten hold of some of the campaign literature from those supporting the circumcision ban that made its way onto San Francisco’s November ballot.  I am not kidding when I say that the material is indistinguishable from something the Nazis would have prepared:

Go, read the whole thing, and prepare to scrape your jaw from the floor.  It’s horrifying, nasty, awful, evil stuff.  I read a headline today (and can’t, for the life of me, figure out where), stating that antisemitism is resurgent today in a way not seen since the eve of WWII.  This kind of garbage makes that claim — a claim I don’t doubt is true — resonate with real force.

My last word on the subject is that, in the 1930s, as now, socialism was politically dominant in the Western cultures that supported antisemitism, and Islam was (as has been the case for centuries) politically d0minant in the Middle Eastern cultures supporting antisemitism.

Antisemitism is a vile, virulent plague that will not die.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

[This post has been amended from its original publication to include an image, and to remove the throwaway line that the San Francisco Chronicle failed in its investigative duty.  It didn't.]

San Francisco discovers free enterprise

San Francisco is definitely up in the top five when it comes to “most Progressively governed cities in America.”  No surprise, then, that the city’s finances are in a shambles.  What is a surprise is the fact that, faced with a looming budget collapse, the City has suddenly discovered capitalist incentives:  it’s offering the big employers tax cuts to stay in the City.

This is a smart move on San Francisco’s part.  (And I can’t believe I wrote that sentence about the City that doesn’t know how.)  The Leftists may call them “the rich people” or “blood sucking corporations,” but I have another name for them:  employers.  The City has discovered that if you constantly penalize employers, they go away.

As Obama’s vicious, dishonest budget speech shows, he hasn’t yet come to that little realization.  Nor, despite his intellectual common ground with Tom Friedman, has he seemed to realize that Friedman is right about one thing:  the earth is indeed flat.  In the old days, employers had nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide.  Now, the corporations can go to all the other socialist countries that have lower corporate tax rates than the U.S., while individuals simply bid a fond adieu to their natal land.

I realized today that what makes Obama’s class warfare even more disgusting is that he makes no attempt to pretend that he’s one of the little people.  As I read in Ronald Kessler’s In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect, when Jimmy Carter, the last president who presided over such a disastrous economy, paraded around carrying his own suitcase, it was pure theater:  the suitcase was empty.  Nevertheless, he made the effort.

Obama, however, doesn’t bother.  Even as he demagogues about the fat cats, stopping just short of demanding their heads on pikes, he openly revels in the kind of lifestyle only the very rich can afford.  While he lectures us about heat and air-c0nditioning, he keeps his White House digs at 75 all year round; while he tells us to trade in our tried and true cars for expensive hybrids, he and his family jet all over the world on exotic vacations, traveling in gas guzzlers everywhere they go; while he “commiserates” with our belt tightening, he and his family dine on lobster, Kobe beef, and foie gras.  His arrogance is so overweening that he assumes that he is entitled to these luxuries — at our expense, of course — even as he insists that we cut back, tone done, retrench and, of course, destroy our employer class.

Putz isn’t a strong enough word, but it’s the only one I’ll use on my PG blog.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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You get what you pay for with city government

One of my “crossing the Rubicon” moments came upon me about twenty years ago, when I went to the main branch of the old San Francisco public library (before it moved to its snazzy, very expensive new digs), and tried to check out a book.  I found myself standing in a line of about 60 people, all waiting to check out their books.

Standing on tip-toe (remember, I’m short), I was able to see that there were three active stations, each with a library employee checking out the books.  Considering that checking out books isn’t “rocket surgery,” I was at a loss to figure out why it was taking so long.  I discovered the problem when I got to the head of the line:  the clerks weren’t trying very hard.  To be honest, they weren’t trying at all.  Watching molasses drip on a cold day would be a more scintillating experience than watching these public servants processing the public.  To add insult to injury, they were rude too.

I walked out thinking this to myself:  “I doubt anyone of those clerks is paid more than about $28,000 per year, plus benefits.  That’s $84,000 cash per year, not including the benefits.  Why don’t they just hire one good person for $50,000 (plus benefits, of course), and get the job done right at a savings to the City of $34,000 per year, plus two unused benefits packages?  But of course, that couldn’t happen.  The unions would never go for it.  Their goal is to have as many employees as possible who, once they get their jobs, can never be fired, no matter how shoddy their work.  This isn’t about serving San Franciscans, this is about maximum employment for union members.”

I walked out of that library much more conservative than when I walked into that library.

This memory came back to me courtesy of an Instapundit post (hat tip:  Earl):

MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED / OVERGENEROUS PUBLIC PENSIONS: Report: SF Pension Crisis Much Worse than City Claims: Adachi-commissioned analysis puts gap at $6.8 billion–not official figure of $1.6 billion. “The city’s pension fund is officially underfunded by $1.6 billion. Nation’s study argues that the pension fund is relying on a 7.75 percent annual rate of return that is unrealistic over the long term. The study argues for 6.2 percent, which it says was the average rate of return in the capital markets from 1900 through 1999.” Frankly, that “conservative” number looks overoptimistic to me. 4% is probably more realistic.

Life for the law-abiding in San Francisco

This little squiblet from C.W. Nevius’ column in the SF Chron (which is about the only thing in the SF Chron still worth reading), sums up everything that is wrong with San Francisco:

Greg and Christy Baciocco, who have run NuStar Heating and Metal Supply on Otis Street since 1989, are resigned to their graffiti curse. Sometimes they get tagged two or three times a week. And don’t tell them to put up security cameras.

“The guys who are doing it look right into the camera,” Christy said. “They are not concerned at all.”

They must clean up the wall or face a city fine, so the Bacioccos bought paint so they can clear the tags themselves. That civil effort was recently noticed by a city health official.

She notified the couple that keeping paint on the premises in gallon containers would require them to pay a hazardous materials fee.

And of course, since San Francisco is, next to Berkeley, the closest thing to a true Leftist city in America, it’s also a tocsin, warning ordinary Americans what happens when you let the Left have the keys to government.