Sunday night round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesJust a few things to round out the weekend.

** 1 **

Yesterday, I went to an exhibition soccer game — Real Madrid versus Inter Milan. The game, held in UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, was sold out. Despite that, it was a surprisingly lackluster game.

I think that flat feeling arose from a combination of factors. First, it wasn’t a real game, with real consequences. The players, mostly B-List players for both teams, looked more as if they were practicing than competing. Second, the mellow fans were generally enjoying the exhibition quality of the game, so they were cheering both sides equally. While this was very polite, it sucked the energy out of the stadium. In a real competitive game, you want some passion from the audience, as well as from the players.

And third, we were in the nosebleed section. I’m not complaining. It was lovely up there (albeit a little hot), especially since the field was spread out before us. I felt like an eagle. I also realized looking down on the field that soccer reminds me of WWI.

This is not as crazy an analogy as you might think. The players endlessly cycled back and forth over a few yards, constantly getting near each other’s goal and then being repulsed. Although each team played fluidly together, the nature of soccer meant there weren’t any set plays.

Watching it from up high, I thought that, in a way, this would have been what WWI’s trench warfare would have looked like to an alien being perched on a far-away planet, watching the war play out. The two sides faced off against each other and, up until the Americans came along, just endlessly pushed each other back and forth over the same 8 miles.

American football strikes me as being more like traditional American warfare. The battalion, or division, or unit, or whatever, comes up with a strategy and then charges ahead. Ideally, it gains ground and holds it. Less ideally, it gets pushed back and has to regroup. The discipline, though, requires unified forward motion, rather than an endlessly fluid back and forth.

When my kids played, I loved soccer because it made them run, which kids need, and I enjoyed watching my little darlings compete. Without one of my own kids on the field, I definitely like American football better than soccer.

** 2 **

In my earlier post, I said Hamas is worse than the Nazis were. One of the reasons I said that is that the Nazis valued their own (not their enemy’s, but their own) children.  Hamas, however, has decided that its children’s greatest utility is to act the role of corpse — and the younger the Palestinian child, the more enthusiastically Hamas tries to turn it into a dead body.

It turns out that Hamas’s disdain for its children exists independent of an active war with Israel. By its own admission, Hamas used its children as slave labor to build the many tunnels under Israel. One-hundred-sixty of those children died.

** 3 **

Joshua Muravchik is a wonderful writer. One of my favorite of his books is Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, which I highly recommend.  He’s just published another book, which is definitely going on my reading list: Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel.

I know I’m going to like the book because it touches upon a subject I’ve long blogged about, which is the death of the Jew in American culture. Jews no longer exist in American culture.  That marks a sea change from the situation in most of the 20th century.  From the 1910s through the 1970s, Jews were omnipresent, acting, singing, writing, producing, directing…. They made us laugh, cry, and think. That’s all vanished now.  The decline of American Jewry’s role in American life has mirrored Israel’s rise and fall in the eyes of the world.

** 4 **

Antisemitism is a completely irrational hatred. In Islam, antisemitism is predicated upon the words of a 7th century “prophet” who resented the fact that the Jews refused to abandon their faith in favor of his newly created one. For those thankfully few Christians who still hew to old-time antisemitism, their hatred for all Jews in the present day is because, 2,000 years ago, a very small group of Jews aided Christ to his destiny by turning him over to the Romans. For Leftists, hatred of Jews was born out of a 19th century hatred for those few Jews who were visibly capitalist, and now arises from the fact that, until Obama, Israel was seen as inextricably intertwined with America, the bastion of capitalism. None of the preceding justifications for hating Jews springs from a rational source.

Because antisemitism is irrational, it leads to truly stupid outcomes, revealing brains so steeped in hatred they are incapable of thought. Exhibit A is the BBC’s insane, inane tweet about Hamas’s unilateral breach of one of the cease-fires:

Read more at Twitchy.

** 5 **

Speaking of the BBC, the BBC likes “trigger warnings.” I know this, because I’ve seen clips from BBC news shows that use trigger warnings. Such warnings are really, really stupid.

** 6 **

Sarah Palin makes a good case for impeachment. Those who are opposed to immediate impeachment don’t look at President Obama’s conduct but, instead, look at the dynamics of impeachment: It makes for incredibly bad optics if Republicans impeach the first black president, especially right before an election. This means, of course, that Republicans are damned if they do (bad optics) and damned if they don’t (unconstitutional loose cannon in the White House).

Palin makes the point that, if we want to shift that dynamic, we need to educate the public so that more than 33% of them support impeachment:

Let’s go back to that poll I cited showing 33% of Americans agree with me on impeachment. It’s clear from the way these polls are conducted that most Americans aren’t aware of what constitutes impeachable offenses.

The Constitution says “high crimes and misdemeanors” are the basis for this serious remedy. The Framers used that term to mean a dereliction of duty, and the first duty of the president is to enforce our laws and preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution.
Alexander Hamilton described impeachable offenses as “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” He called them “political” offenses because they “relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

[snip]

Impeachment isn’t necessarily for ordinary criminal acts, nor is it for bad political decisions or differences in opinion. We’re not saying, “Impeach him because his stimulus failed; he coddles Wall Street while dissing Main Street; he recklessly spends our tax dollars on skewed priorities, etc., etc.”

We’re saying he must be impeached for overstepping his Constitutional authority. Here are some examples: he broke the law in changing the Obamacare law by fiat, and he issued amnesty for illegal immigrants by fiat, and he committed fraud on the American people by lying that we could keep our health care if we like our health care, and he refused to secure our borders or halt this border crisis he caused. The list of abuse is long. Allowing any president to continue this lawlessness sets a precedent for future presidents that can allow destruction of our nation.

We’re acknowledging that there’s only one recourse in holding government accountable when led by a president who breaks the law. Remember the Constitution holds the president directly responsible for the executive branch. He can’t just vote “present” and keep feigning ignorance of all the scandals rocking his administration, any more than a mob boss can claim innocence because he didn’t personally do the hit. The buck stops with the guy at the top.

[snip]

Impeachment is the Constitution’s answer for a derelict, incompetent presidency, as well as for a lawless imperial presidency. Both describe the unprecedented problem we have with Obama.

** 7 **

AJStrata isn’t opposed to impeachment. He just says that it must wait until after the November election. In the meantime, he sees Obama as someone who is buying more than enough rope to hang himself. After all, executive actions are ephemeral, and can be undone as easily as they were done in the first place.

AJ thinks that Obama is trying to force impeachment before the election in the hope that it will hand Democrats a victory in November. The whole calculus changes — dramatically — if the Republicans sweep both House and Senate.

So, patience, everyone (including you, Sarah Palin). Patience is a great virtue and, as the next story shows, the lack of patience can be profoundly damaging. (Although in the case of the next story, thank God for impatience.)

** 8 **

I’ve pointed out in previous posts that, had Hamas been able to restrain itself from firing rockets into Israel, it would probably have successfully used its tunnels to invade Israel on Rosh Hashanah, killing thousands and kidnapping hundreds. Clarice Feldman makes an even better point:

The reason Hamas couldn’t resist firing rockets was because Israel was turning over every stone in an effort, first, to locate Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and then, once it was known they were murdered, to find their killers. (Incidentally, did I miss it or was President Obama completely silent about the brutal antisemitic murder of an American citizen? After all, Fraenkel held dual citizenship.)

So the real reason that Israel was able to deter a terror attack that would have rivaled in scope the 9/11 attack on Israel was because three young boys died at Hamas’s hands. I don’t know if it can, but I still hope that this knowledge brings some comfort to the boys’ families.  In a weird way, it means that the boys did not die in vain, since their deaths almost certainly saved thousands of lives.

** 9 **

When I took my daughter to a college fair, I ended up talking to a young woman from Austin, Texas, which is a lovely city despite a Leftist insanity rivaled only by Berkeley and Ann Arbor. I commented, as I always do when I talk about Texas, that I loved it there, but that the heat was killing. The woman told me earnestly that it’s much worse now thanks to global warming. I spared my daughter the embarrassment of calling that young woman on her uninformed lunacy. I bet the woman also thinks Austin is both wetter and dryer before — two assumptions that are completely wrong.

** 10 **

Deroy Murdock tries to help people understand the Israel/Hamas situation by asking them to imagine a violent Mexican terrorist organization south of California.

** 11 **

Just so you can get a feel for what the United States would look like if Progressives were completely in control, check out the insane San Francisco landlord scene. To call what landlords own there “private property” is an extraordinary misnomer. It’s “private property” in name only:

Landlords are challenging San Francisco’s latest move to discourage evictions from rent-controlled apartments, an ordinance requiring them to pay displaced tenants the difference between their current rent and the amount needed to rent a similar unit at market rates for two years.

** 12 **

Hamas treats Jews and its own people like disposable objects. Israel treats Palestinians like human beings:

Israel treats Gazans

** 13 **

Bless the Marines

Howard Stern

The cost of tunnels

Name changed ideology

Hillary disses women

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.

Gathering together a small sampling of the good stuff

Victorian posy of pansiesA rising San Francisco tech yuppie said what all the hard-working young San Franciscans think about the homeless and derelicts who swarm San Francisco’s streets but that none dare to say aloud.  (I remember well the quiet grumbling about the homeless back in my young days as a downtown yuppie, before political correctness permanently disabled saying such things.)  Needless to say, he’s in big trouble.

I’m not the only one who gets confused about the day on which Pearl Harbor falls.

Sometimes, people who are obsessive compulsive can harness that compulsive energy to create the most amazing beauty.

Despite the Left’s relentless, shrill, well-funded efforts, Americans did not buy into gun control in the year since a crazy man attacked an elementary school.

David Gerstman points out that al Qaeda is indeed on the run — but, contrary to our president’s past boasts, that’s not a good thing.  Gerstman shows definitively that al Qaeda is running to a variety of countries that haven’t previously hosted this anti-American jihadist organization, and then making itself at home there.

A small town police chief reads Kanye West the riot act.  It’s wonderful.

This might be the best paragraph written today:  “Okay, let’s give President Obama some credit. He promised openness, not honesty. You get to see the village. If it’s a Potemkin Village, that’s your problem.”

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.

Life in the suburbs

I may not agree with Marin politically (it’s roughly 70% to the Left of Left, despite the rampant capitalism that supports its infrastructure), but it is a fabulous place to raise children.  Sure, there are problems with drugs and drinking (lots of them), but the fact remains that if you want your children raised in a child-centered community that offers safe streets, old-fashioned neighborhoods, excellent schools, and true community, you can find it in Marin.  My kids play soccer, swim, do martial arts, run around the neighborhood, play parlor games, go to their friends’ basketball/lacross/water polo/football/baseball/etc. activities, and generally live the healthy, physical, safe life that we all dream of for our children.

My kids and their friends don’t hunger for urban life.  When they go into San Francisco, none of them can leave fast enough.  To them, the City is dirty, noisy, crowded, dirty, unsafe, overwhelming — did I mention dirty? — and just not the place they want to be.  Most of the kids they hang with say that they want to attend a college in a smaller rural or suburban area when the time comes.  Put another way, Marin has some of the same downsides as San Francisco — drugs and drinking — and lacks some of the upsides — trendy restaurants and public transportation — but overall, when it comes to raising children, Marin offers much more for parents and children than the City ever could.

Speaking of public transportation, when my children were little and we had left the City for Marin, I thanked God on a daily basis that Safeway was an easy 7 minute drive from my house, and that there was clean, safe parking when I got there, as opposed to my situation in the City.  There, as the crow flew, Lucky’s was 7 minutes from my house, but add in traffic and parking, not to mention the crowded, surly store itself, and shopping for groceries in the city was one long screaming child nightmare that could last an hour or two.  And I had a car.  Had I lived there without a car, a quick trip to the store would have taken up to half a day, with an angry, temperamental child (or two).

Marin is just easy.  It is.

As for the drugs and drink, we’ve tried to instill values in our children.  It’s not the school’s responsibility to instill those values.  It’s mine and my husband’s, and I think we’ve built some pretty strong moral armor around the children.  It helps that the neighborhood shares our values.  Interestingly enough, the kids, when at school, shy away from the fast crowd.  Their friends are as wholesome as they are.

All of which means I totally agree with Mike Lanza, who adds data to my anecdotes and reaches the obvious conclusion:  for all their “it’s for the children” talk, the Democrats’ hostility to suburbs is fundamentally anti-family and anti-child.

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.

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.