The Bookworm Beat (10/24/14) — Friday’s New York “E-bowling” wrap up

Woman writingMy friend Sally Zelikovsky came up with the pun about a new sport called “E-bowling” after word emerged that the New York physician, who was ostensibly “self-isolating” himself, actually trawled all over the New York, using subways and Uber, to engage in activities ranging from dining out to bowling. I laughed when I read her pun, but I can’t escape the feeling that the real sport here is the game that our government playing with the American people’s health and well-being.

What stops shooters is guns

Those assembled in the Canadian responded appropriately when Kevin Vickers appeared before him: They applauded long and hard for the man who brought a shooter down with a single shot:

There was another shooting today, in a Washington state high school. A 15-year-old managed to kill one girl and wound several others before a bullet stopped him too — in this case, the bullet was self-inflicted.

My son, ruminating on the Seattle school shooting, and still a little shaken by the false-alarm lock-down in his own school, said to me, “I’m not afraid of being shot. What makes me crazy is the feeling of helplessness.” I agreed, pointing out that, even at his school, where everyone is unarmed, their teachers, who genuinely believed a shooter was on campus, fought against that helplessness by improvising weapons made out of whatever projectiles they had in their class.

Shooters who kill for pleasure or to score political/terrorism points, always go where there are helpless victims. They won’t achieve any of their calculated, sick, and/or sadistic goals if people have the capacity to defend themselves.

What stops these shooters is gunshots.  Sometimes the gunshots come from third parties (usually police who arrive had the scene long after the shooter has gotten a good run for his money).  Such was the case in Austin, Texas (“As Martinez fired, McCoy jumped to the right of Martinez and fired two fatal shots of 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Whitman [the killer] in the head, neck and left side.”); Salt Lake City, Utah (“When Talović turned around and aimed his shotgun towards the team, Scharman and Olsen fired again and killed him. Talović’s body was later found to have been struck a total of 15 times by bullets fired by police.”); Santa Monica, California (“He was fatally shot by officers inside the library and then brought outside where he died.”); and Isla Vista, California (“Rodger was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head; police said he had apparently committed suicide.”).

And sometimes, if the police are pressing in on the killer, or he’s run out of ammunition, the killers use their own bullets on themselves.  We saw this in downtown San Francisco (“The attack continued on several floors before Ferri committed suicide as San Francisco Police closed in.”); in Columbine, Colorado (“Both had committed suicide: Harris by firing his shotgun through the roof of his mouth; Klebold by shooting himself in the left temple with his TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun.”); in Newtown, Connecticut (“The police heard the final shot at 9:40:03 a.m, and believe that it was Lanza shooting himself in the lower rear portion of his head with the Glock 20SF in classroom 10.”); and, today, in Marysville, Washington (“Fryberg, 15 a freshman at the school, died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said”.)

It’s a great irony — and an untenable one for Leftists — but the only thing that stops a shooter, whether he’s crazy, a criminal, or a terrorist, is a gun. The reality that Leftists don’t want to accept is that, until we have 100% certainty that no bad guys currently have or ever will have guns, we are safest when, in a moral society, lots of other people — good and moral people — are armed.  Since that certainty can never be achieved (absent, perhaps, the Barnhouse effect), the safest society is the one in which people of good will carry guns.  By the way, Chicago is a perfect example of what happens when only the bad guys, the ones without any decency or moral compass, have guns.

Let’s make sure the cops aren’t the only ones with guns

There’s nothing in the Constitution that says only police officers may have guns. Indeed, the Second Amendment sees the right to bear arms as one inherent in every individual. This is a good thing and all people should do everything they can to make sure that police don’t become our overlords.

I don’t have any particular bone to pick with police. I appreciate that there are people who are willing to go into often dangerous and often disgusting situations to help make our communities better. I do, however, have a very big bone to pick with police who have become so flush with power that they no longer think they’re the public’s servants but, instead, think that they’re the public’s overlords. Kevin D. Williamson details some appalling examples of instances in which police (with the whole criminal justice system backing them up) got confused about their place in the hierarchy.

The problem isn’t just that the police SWAT some houses here and there, without any citizen recourse.  There’s a much broader downstream problem because of the police’s unfettered strength.  As Williamson notes, the police, like all bullies, go for the easy targets — and in America, those easy targets are law-abiding citizens:

The strange flip-side — the second half of Samuel Francis’s “anarcho-tyranny” — is that the brunt of government abuse falls on the law-abiding. Illinois, for example, makes it difficult for an ordinary citizen to legally carry a gun for self defense — up until a couple of years ago, doing so was categorically prohibited. But Illinois police seize thousands of illegal guns from criminals each year, and the state prosecutes practically none of those weapons cases. The law-abiding — by definition law-abiding — citizens applying for concealed-carry permits get treated like criminals, and the actual criminals do not. If you follow the law and inform Illinois authorities that you have a gun in the home, you invite all sorts of intrusion and oversight. If you don’t, nobody’s really looking. Meanwhile, the streets of Chicago are full of blood, going on 1,600 shootings this year and it’s not even Halloween. Nobody is held responsible for that carnage, but if you put an eleventh round in your legally owned rifle in Oak Park, you’re looking at jail time.

Frank Serpico (yes, the real Serpico) has an article out about the appalling corruption in New York when he was a young cop, about the fact that he is still a pariah amongst New York cops, and about the fact that this corruption continues today, with out-of-control police.

What’s different now from Serpico’s time is that the police don’t even have to bother to pal up with the criminals to get cash.  Thanks to seizure laws, the police can be the criminals, shaking people down for all the money they’ve got.  Already a decade ago I was working on cases about civil forfeiture laws that enabled federal and state police to seize cash, cars, jewelry, homes, and anything else that was valuable with impunity just upon suspicion of certain crimes.  Worse, because the money raised this way goes into local, state, or federal bank accounts, judges went along with these seizures because they get paid out of the same pot.  At long last, though, the MSM may be catching up with this particular abuse of power.

The “Allahu Akbar”-ness of the hatchet swinger in New York

Turning to those honorable police who are in the front line between citizens and criminals, I haven’t had the chance to see how the media is playing the case of Zale H. Thompson, the man who used a hatchet to attack four police officers in Queens, slashing one officer’s arm and giving the other a terrible head wound before he was shot dead by two other officers. (You see, guns not only stop shooters, they also stop hatchet wielders.) I’m willing to bet, though, that the media will try to distance itself from Thompson’s Facebook page, which is a veritable treasure trove of fealty Allah and jihad. Fortunately, Zombie is paying attention, and captured the images for posterity.

There are common threads to all mass shooters or random attackers:

Class 1, which seems to be the smallest class, is composed of people who are genuinely and completely disconnected from any semblance of reality. They’re out there killing because they’ve received a message from Zomblot of the Planet Xdafjsiokd, and that message is to kill all glowing pink rocks . . . and you, clearly, are one of those rocks.

Class 2, which often shows up in schools, is young, male, either a Democrat or from a Democrat home, with divorced parents or a completely absent father, and using psychotropic drugs of one type or another.

Class 3, which the media claims is as fictional as the Loch Ness monster, is the one the rest of us are seeing all over the place, on every continent except for Antarctica: He’s male, probably young (no older than his late 30s), Muslim (either by birth or conversion), and he’s utterly fascinated by jihad, so much so that his attacks are often accompanied by the cry of “Allahu Akbar.”

In all cases, gun control works to the attacker’s advantage, because he has the pleasant sensation of aiming at fish in a barrel, none of whom are equipped to fight back.

The vicious misogyny of the American left

I have to admit that I paid very little attention to the screaming headlines about the alleged Palin family brawl. There’s nothing new about the MSM salivating over any story, true or not, that casts a negative light on a woman who was a vice-presidential candidate six years ago and who, since then, has taken up permanent residence in Leftist heads.

By ignoring the Palin brawl story, though, I missed the real story, which is the vicious, gleeful misogyny that so-called “feminists” display when it comes to Palin women. You see, it turns out that Bristol Palin was, in fact, quite brutally attacked. CNN anchor Carol Costello, who routinely takes up the feminist flag for stories about girl-friend beating in the NFL, reacted with unseemly joy when she had the opportunity to share with her viewers the footage of Bristol Palin’s tearful recounting of a man’s violent attack against her:

“Sit back and enjoy!” Costello exclaimed as she introduced her audience recently to the audio in which Bristol Palin recounts how she was attacked. “You’ll want to hear what she told cops about how it all started.”

Costello also confided in her audience that she had a “favorite part” of the audio which could later become courtroom evidence. Ghoulish.

Charles C. W. Cooke, who freely admits to disliking Palin as a political candidate, wrote a splendid attack against the media’s passion for Palin pain, not to mention the double standard that sees a media blackout when Vice President Joe Biden’s progeny engage in disgraceful and illegal activity:

To take potshots at clownish figures such as Lena Dunham, we have learned, is to invite indignant death threats. And yet, when a veritable legion of male comedians elects to use foul, carnal, and, yes, “gendered” language to dismiss Palin and her family, our contemporary Boudiceas shrug at best and offer endorsements at worst. Sarah Palin, as the abominable bumper sticker has it, “isn’t a woman, she’s a Republican.”

[snip]

If it is a sign of poor “judgment” to choose as veep someone whose children are a mess, why does Joe Biden get a pass for the conduct of his son, Hunter, who was kicked out of the Navy Reserve for having been discovered using cocaine?

Breaking my usual rule of keeping National Review off my real-me Facebook page (because Leftists would never dream of reading it), I posted Charles Cooke’s post there, along with a comment to the effect that disliking Sarah Palin cannot justify laughing at a brutal physical attack on her child. The response from my Leftist friends was predictable. Since they couldn’t possibly say anything to exonerate this misogyny, they were completely silent.

For more examples of MSM glee in a woman’s brutal assault, check out Ashe Schow’s round-up.

And the vicious misogyny of the Muslim Middle East

This video’s been kicking around for a while, but I only saw it today. It shows a Saudi family hanging an Ethiopian maid up by her heels and beating her with a bat, like a living, breathing pinata. I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure I heard some of the people assembled to watch this beating laughing as the maid screamed in agony.

The CDC has admitted that the immigrant flood correlates to measles outbreaks

The MSM doesn’t want you to know this, but conservative news outlets are reporting that the CDC has conceded that there’s definitely a correlation between the illegal Central American immigrants that the Obama administration shipped all over the country without pausing for silly little stuff like quarantines and new measles cases. Other diseases are also following in the illegal immigrants’ tracks:

Measles, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases continue as a prime concern for the millions of Americans conflicted about the perpetual arrivals of illegal immigrants pouring into the country. While some diseases have emerged from the Philippines, Africa, Asia and Europe, the unprecedented amount of undocumented aliens is a major issue.

Even Hollywood is taking notice as actress Tori Spelling was reportedly admitted and placed in quarantine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California Monday for respiratory concerns that some media say could be Enterovirus related.

Hospitals throughout America are reporting record breaking numbers as their emergency rooms are overwhelmed beyond capacity. Figures as of October 20, 2014 show the largest reported cases of these mystery illnesses included over 4,300 children at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In just one day 540 children visited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and 340 cases were reported by a Mobile, Alabama children’s hospital. Many hospitals have ceased admitting children temporarily as they determine ways to deal with the outbreaks.

Medical labs testing confirm many of these cases are Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). The Obama Administration has been working overtime to keep the reporting and narrative away from blaming the ongoing illegal and undocumented immigrant invasion into the country. Media reports show at least eight known deaths from EV-D68 in the U.S. in 2014.

Perhaps the White House doesn’t want Americans to know that out of over 70,000 illegal immigrant children who crossed into the U.S. almost 48,000 came from Honduras, Guatemala and Salvador. In these countries measles and the EV-D68 virus are quite common. If we include these children’s family and friends, not listed an “unaccompanied,” over a quarter of a million people from Central and South America have entered the U.S. illegally this year.

Incidentally, eight people have now died from the Enterovirus.

The American medical establishment may be way too complacent about Ebola

We expect the Obama government to tell us that everything is under control when it comes to Ebola. Yeah, sure, if “under control” looks like this:

Meanwhile, even as some doctors are also insisting that our medical system is more than capable of handling and isolating Ebola cases, never mind the possible “E-bowling” habits of infected people, one doctor, who started working in Russia and then came here (and became a Republican), is not so sanguine. He thinks that the medical establishment is grossly underestimating the demands more than 20 Ebola cases would have on our medical system:

When the kidneys no longer work, we start patients on dialysis but how do you safely do it while caring for a patient with Ebola. The answer is you don’t.

The only facilities that could attempt something like this are BL4 isolation wards where the staff practice such techniques while wearing spacesuits. They have dedicated machines that are separated from the other hospital patients. There are only 4 such facilities in the country and the number of such beds is around 20; that is all there is, for the entire country.

Read the rest here. (Hat tip: Wolf Howling, who is on hiatus from blogging)

When it comes to Ebola research, the irony is so thick you can taste it

A lot of conservatives have been pointing out that part of our problem with Ebola is that the CDC has been so busy spending money on trendy things that it’s had little left for old-fashioned epidemic disease control. In other words, it’s been focusing on salt in diets, obesity, and cigarettes to the exclusion of just about everything else.

Here’s the irony: to the extent that the CDC was able to squeeze in a little actual contagious disease research alongside all its trendy lifestyle work, it did so because of . . . Dick Cheney. Bloomberg explains.

We may start changing our minds about working or partying when sick

When I was a little girl — well, actually even through high school — when I got sick, my mother kept me home. She did so because when she was growing up it was considered extremely rude to spread the cold or flu amongst your classmates, colleagues, and social group.

The results of my mom’s policy were two-fold. First, I started malingering because all I had to do to miss school was say “I don’t feel good.” Second, between real and faked illnesses, I missed way too much school, which affected my grades. It was only when I was in college and beyond that I figured out that, whether at school or at work, unless I was actually keeling over, staying at home would hurt my grades or my career too much.

When my kids were little, I sent them to school when they had colds because keeping them home until the sniffles ended would have meant keeping them home for weeks. All the other moms did the same, and that was fine. Obviously, if the kids had fevers, or vomiting, or diarrhea, things would have been different. But for colds and general yuckiness . . . school it was for the kids (and work for the parents).

During all those elementary school years, none of the kids got terribly sick, and all of us felt that we were doing the appropriate thing by giving our kids’ immune systems a work-out. In addition, because the kids brought everything home, we parents gave our own immune systems a work-out too. Once my kids hit middle school, all of us pretty much stopped getting sick.

What I’m working up to is the fact that, in America, going out into the world when you’re a bit sick means you don’t miss important things and you buff up your immune system. Certainly, no one dies. And really, that’s always been the big difference between my generation and my mother’s generation. In Mom’s time, when people, including kids, got sick, some of them died. They got polio (in America), and measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and scarlet fever. Getting a cold could mean pneumonia and, in a pre-antibiotic era, pneumonia could mean death. The risks of illness were so high they outweighed any potential benefits from attending more school or work.

I mention all this because a Russian-born writer, looking at the E-bowling document in New York, is asking why Americans go to school, and work, and social activities when sick. The answer is that, right up until this disease summer, the downsides were limited and the upsides were huge. I foresee things changing….

Charles Krauthammer says something wonderful about Obama’s bystander presidency

For those of us who have been paying attention, there’s nothing new in Charles Krauthammer’s most recent article about the fact that Obama seems to be a bystander to his own presidency. We know that Obama is always more surprised and then more angry than anyone else, as if the endless management failures during his administration aren’t his fault.  If he was a good manager, these things wouldn’t happen.  But if he was even a manager who just showed up for work every day, at least he wouldn’t be surprised and the one he would be angry at would be himself.

What’s new is this exquisite paragraph that Krauthammer wrote (bolded emphasis mine):

The one scandal where you could credit the president with genuine anger and obliviousness involves the recent breaches of White House Secret Service protection. The Washington Post described the first lady and president as “angry and upset,” and no doubt they were. But the first Secret Service scandal — the hookers of Cartagena — evinced this from the president: “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.” An innovation in ostentatious distancing: future conditional indignation.

John Kerry is the rotten fish head at the top of the State Department hierarchy

Hillary was bad; Kerry is worse. (I haven’t forgotten Hillary’s role in the deaths of the Benghazi four. I’m just talking general about her role as leader of the State Department.) Just as a fish rots from the head down, the State Department under Kerry has gone from vaguely hostile to Israel to actively hostile to Israel. Moreover, working in tandem with the rest of the anti-Israel Obama administration, this active hostility is resulting in severe damage to Israel, which is America’s long-standing, most reliable ally in the Middle East — not to mention the only truly free country in that dark, bloodied, benighted region.

John Hinderaker catches Rob Stein, founder of Democracy Now, speaking the truth about power

The Left is always nattering on about “speaking truth to power.” What’s incredibly rare is to catch one of them speaking the truth about power. Rob Stein, however, did do so. I won’t spoil the surprise of this rare burst of honesty. You need to follow this link.

When it comes to Michael Brown’s family, you can’t make these things up

Even before Drudge latched on to it, Joshua Pundit caught the fact that Michael Brown’s family — the one in Ferguson — has come to blows about which family members have the right to milk his death for cash.

Natural selection and vegetarians

I’ve always known that, if you examine a human’s teeth, digestion, and overall health, it’s very clear that we humans are biologically programmed to have meat as part of our diet. What we know now too is that, when it comes to men, the downsides of vegetarianism hit even closer to home.

Meryl Streep to bring Florence Foster Jenkins to the screen

I’ve posted here before about Florence Foster Jenkins, the fabulously wealthy opera aficionado who booked herself into Carnegie hall to share her tuneless, aimless arias with the world. Meryl Streep has been tapped to play Jenkins in some sort of biopic. Little is known about the proposed movie, but I actually think this is a perfect movie for Streep. Because Jenkins lived in pre-media era, Streep will have to be an actress, not just a mimic, and she’s always at her best when she stops parroting other people’s mannerisms and just acts.

San Francisco in her pre-modern heyday

Fred Lyon, a native San Franciscan and professional photographer, loves to take pictures of his home town. The results can be seen at his website and, when it comes to pictures of San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s, his work is spectacular. Whether one loves the City that once was, as I do, or simply enjoys beautiful black-and-white photography, this is an album that’s worth checking out.

Nature’s colorful bounty

You’ve probably seen most of these pictures before, but they’re so lovely, I wanted to share with you a post that puts all of them together in one place.

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:

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

_______________

*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.