Stories of the nanny state

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No good deed goes unpunished.

At least that’s how Muir Beach resident Sigward Moser felt Friday after he says he was threatened with a Taser gun, forced to the ground and handcuffed by a National Park Service ranger for refusing to stop cleaning up the oily beach beneath his home.

Moser, a 45-year-old communications consultant, said he was forced to sprawl handcuffed on the wet sand for an hour before he was released and given two misdemeanor citations, one for entering an emergency area and another for refusing a lawful order.

“It was pretty wet and uncomfortable,” he said Saturday. “This is very frustrating, and it was completely avoidable.”

Moser’s Pacific Way home overlooks Muir Beach, where cleanup crews with 100 professionals in white and yellow protective coveralls were at work yesterday.

But there was no one cleaning up Friday when oily globs the size of bowling balls began washing up on shore from Wednesday’s disastrous fuel oil spill.

Moser, a neighborhood liaison on the Muir Beach Disaster Council, went out on the oily beach with an impromptu crew of Buddhist monks in training at the nearby Green Gulch Zen Center.

He said they scooped up 7,000 pounds of solidified oil and put it in plastic bags before park service officials arrived in the afternoon to size up the situation.

“You don’t have to be trained to do this,” he said. “We had on gloves and we didn’t feel there was a health risk. It just lifted up from the sand like it was in kitty litter. They came late with only five people. We felt that anything we could do is better than nothing.”

Moser said he declined three orders to halt his activities before he was cited.

Park service officials held a conference call on Saturday about the incident with members of the Muir Beach Community Services District.

“They were upset, but we tried to reassure them why trained professionals are needed to do this work,” said National Park Service publicist Rich Weideman, citing health hazards and unintended injuries to wildlife by untrained volunteers.

Random thoughts of a random mind

Too much business! Aargh. But there are things out there that interest me, so I’ll throw them your way, and try to get in with more substance later.

If you’re going to play with the big boys, you have to play like a boy. I find it worrisome that, the moment the going gets tough, Hillary starts squealing about identity politics unfairness. Is this how she’s going to deal with it when Putin, or Kim Jong-Il, or Sarkozy, or any male leader criticizes her? I therefore much appreciated Peggy Noonan’s article comparing Maggie Thatcher to Hillary (and loved the anecdote with which she opened the column). It seems to me that, while I’m lukewarm about Noonan’s writing generally, I “get her” when she writes about Hillary. Of course, when Noonan jumped the shark and started swooning over Obama at the article’s end, I lost her, but I still give her credit for understanding Hillary.

Speaking of Obama, Dean Barnett has one of the most interesting articles I’ve seen about the man, since it manages to recognize his undoubted charm and intelligence, while still having serious doubts about his leadership abilities — abilities that he’s never had to prove in the real world. As for me, nothing impresses me less than a Harvard Law degree. This is not merely the knee jerk reaction of someone educated at public universities when confronted with someone from the Ivies. Nope. This is a specific Harvard animus, based on 20 years of practicing law. What I’ve seen is that Harvard law grads from the 70s and before are as good as any other lawyers. Harvard grads from the 80s and after are, generally speaking, not. The ones I’ve known (and this is just my personal experience speaking here) have been, in a word, ineffectual. Yale grads, on the other hand, consistently overawe me, being some of the most incisive legal thinkers I come across. This means that, applying my own personal biases and experiences about Harvard grads, I’m perfectly willing to concede Barnett’s analysis: Obama is intelligent, but impractical and ineffectual.

(To any Harvard law grads who are reading this, my apologies if I’ve offended you. As I reiterated above, I can only talk about the Harvard grads I’ve known, and by sheer bad luck, I may just have run across Harvard grads who weren’t very good lawyers, and wouldn’t have been very good no matter their law school. In any event, Harvard grads have the deck stacked against them from the get-go, because my medium long experience has has taught me that, while grads from the top 20 law schools — and my law school was in those ranks the year I graduated — write very well, and can analyze things to death, they tend to be less effective lawyers than lawyers from the less high and mighty institutions. These differences tend to even out within 5 or 10 years of graduation, but are pretty apparent in the beginning. We write well, but we lack the smarts and practical skills to win cases!)

As you may know, there’s been a big oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, fouling beaches and putting wildlife at risk. The spill left me with a question, and I wonder if any of you have an answer. It’s been a fairly long time since the last oil spill in America (something I assume can be attributed to better built oil tankers). That means a lot of years have passed since the last big spills, especially the Exxon Valdez. What I’d like to know is how the wildlife has (or if it has) recovered since those spills. Do the spills create toxic nightmares going into the next millennium, or at least the next century, or does nature repair herself fairly quickly? I have no knowledge at all about this; just the question. I do have one article that says that, after a horrible oil spill in the Bay in 1971, it took 5 years for the wildlife to recover. Incidentally, I’m asking this question because, while I’m stridently in favor of preventing spills, it’s nice to know that nature is resilient should one happen. (Here’s a heartrending picture of one of those poor birds mired in toxic goop.)

One more thing: I’ve been hearing a lot of Gilligan’s Island in the car lately, ’cause that’s the video du jour (or make that the video du week) in the car for the endless carpooling. I’d forgotten what a stupid show it is, but the kids love it, as I did when I was a kid. One of the moments that sticks in my head, because I have to listen to all this, is Gilligan auditing a debate amongst the other castaways. At the end of each argument, he sagely opines, “You know, he’s right.” Eventually, Skipper turns on him and insists “Gilligan, they can’t all be right,” to which Gilligan, of course, replies “You know, you’re right too.”

I mention this anecdote because I felt exactly like Gilligan when I read Commentary Magazine’s symposium about the war in which we currently find ourselves engaged. Although the contributors sometimes contradict each other, I find myself in agreement with each of them, on both major points and minor nuances. I guess I can do this because their unifying theme is that there is as clash of cultures going on here, with Islamists on the one side and the West on the other side. Each contributor takes that issue seriously, and by not dismissing it, comes up with reasoned, rational arguments and insights with which I agree.

And that’s it this morning from the great randomizer in my brain.