Two stories today about internecine warfare on the Left:
I am gleefully wallowing in schadenfreude.
Two stories today about internecine warfare on the Left:
I am gleefully wallowing in schadenfreude.
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:
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.
“You are to have no other gods before me.
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.
“You are not to use lightly the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.
“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.
“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.
“Do not murder.
“Do not commit adultery.
“Do not steal.
“Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.
“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:
This definitely wasn’t the post I intended to write, but it will have to do.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Writing a couple of years ago about the streets of San Francisco, in a post I called “Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco,” I had this to say:
Last week, I had occasion to make four separate trips to the City. Each was unpleasant.
The first trip, I got a flat tire from broken glass in the street. I know that can happen anywhere, but it’s more likely along the Market Street stretch I had to travel.
The second trip, I found myself at a corner that boasted both a stop sign and a red light. This was ludicrous, confusing and, therefore, dangerous. This is manic control run amok.
The third trip, I almost got a ticket when I parked at what appeared to be a non-metered space. Half the block had parking meters; half the block, the part where I was parking, didn’t. It was only because a nice pedestrian warned me that I learned that there was an electronic kiosk about 25 feet away from my car that sold parking passes for the car’s dashboard. Other than that word of mouth tip, there were no signs at all warning that, while half the block had old-fashioned meters, the other half had switched to a computer system.
The fourth trip, my husband and I were walking down Gough Street towards the Opera House at dusk. Between the failing light and the broken and dimmed street lights, it was impossible to avoid the hazards of pitted, jagged, broken uneven sidewalk. It was only because we’re in good shape, with decent balance, that the two of us avoided a painful tumble. I won’t even describe the smell of urine and sewage that kept wafting up towards us as we walked along.
Welcome to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.
Well, San Francisco has made this disgrace official, by naming a street after Nancy Pelosi.
Proving, as he so often does, that a picture is worth a thousand words, Michael Ramirez has nailed this most recent San Francisco development.
I remember the hippies as dirty, drugged-out, pathetic human beings lying on the streets in the Haight Ashbury. Their continuing legacy is one of drugs, sexual self-indulgence, and mindless statism wrapped up in equally mindless slogans of “love” and “fairness,” as if a government is capable of giving love or imposing fairness from above.
However, the bells and whistles with which the hippies dressed up their drugs, sex, and Leftist fantasies were often quite lovely. One of my favorite childhood memories is of a rainbow themed art exhibition at the de Young Museum (this one, not this one), an exhibition that would never have happened but for Flower Child imagery.
Likewise, there was something charming, albeit manifestly naive, about the notion of universal brotherhood. I thought as a child, and still think now, that one of the prettiest, most harmonious, expressions of that naive belief was The Seeker’s I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing:
And for those of you who remember the Coke commercial:
(And don’t you just love the all-Americanism of a vapid hippie philosophy being co-opted by Madison Avenue and a multinational corporation to market a caffeinated sugar drink?)
Last week, I posted a Planned Parenthood of San Francisco video that was so extreme and biased, I raised the possibility that it was a fake, intended to discredit PP. The inestimable Zombie, bless his (or her) heart, did the leg work for me and discovered that it is the real deal. Here are the links Zombie sent me establishing that fact: