Thursday, February 25, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these are "the sea lions are gone." The dual picture you're viewing is Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf about two years ago, contrasted with the same view today. No more fat, happy sea lions lolling around and giving the tourists a good laugh. And in case you're wondering, The City didn't discover they are Republicans and evict them.

When the sea lions first showed up at The Wharf back in 1989, they made it clear that they were going to live wherever they darned well pleased. Their sudden appearance was as mysterious as their sudden disappearance. World-famous Seal Rock on the ocean side of The City suddenly had a lot fewer sea lions, and as the numbers there decreased, the numbers at The Wharf increased. It doesn't explain why, but it seemed that the sea lions were on The Wharf to stay. Or so we thought until last November, when they started to drift away in large numbers. The numbers at Seal Rock are not increasing correspondingly, so the experts are still trying to figure out what's up.

Scientists at the Marin Aquatic Center say that the numbers of sea lions off their shores are suddenly increasing exponentially. As you may or may not know, Marin County is on the north side of the Bay from San Francisco, and is the heartland of Barbara Boxer. They have no firm theory yet as to why the sea lions are showing up on the docks at Sausalito and Tiburon, but their initial theory is that the famous sharks that cruise San Francisco Bay are far less numerous on their side of the Golden Gate. I can answer that one. Babs Boxer showed up on the Marin shore pleading for votes, and scared all the sharks away. The sea lions are far more affable, so they're just frolicking around, barking and laughing at her. "Babs, throw us a ball to balance on our noses." Perfectly logical explanation.

NOTE: It has been reported that the state agency in charge of environmental regulation has decided to eliminate its waterless urinals at the State Buildings in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles. There were 56 of them in their headquarters in Sacramento alone. I guess the ammonia odor finally caused them to abandon their savings plan. No estimate yet as to how much those useless porcelain monuments to the Green movement cost, but probably as much as the new 1/2 gallon flush urinals that will replace them. You know--the ones you have to flush twice in order to generate the full gallon it takes to do the job. I don't know why they haven't simply consulted me. I can tell them that you can cut costs to zero by simply eliminating indoor plumbing entirely. No urinals, no toilets, no toilet paper, no hand-washing, no paper towels. It would be a Green paradise (as long as you don't go out onto the street, of course). I should also report that when the waterless urinals were first installed in the downtown Sacramento 25 story state headquarters in 2001, the building was praised as "the greenest high-rise in the nation." I guess they found out it was actually "mellow yellow."

NOTE: Never let it be said that San Francisco is incapable of balancing art and public safety. The busiest fire station in the nation will soon close in order to move into its new and improved building a few blocks away. The current location will be remodeled for use as part of San Francisco's SFMOMA (the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). I've tried to think of something snarky to say about this, but the fact is the two moves make perfect sense. We have a great fire department (world-famous since the Great Quake and Fire), and a fine modern art museum that was running out of space. As the spokesperson for the Fire Department says, "It's a win-win, and we're very pleased about it." The SFMOMA director said the proposal is "a ground-breaking collaboration that reflects a civic spirit that distinguishes San Francisco." I would be a bit less elaborate than that, saying "it's a miracle, but two agencies in San Francisco have actually agreed to something that will benefit the citizens of San Francisco, and not just the special pleaders."

NOTE: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is not entirely done dealing with the persecution of UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law professor John Yoo. But the end is near, and Yoo is on the offensive. Most followers of the Yoo story know that Holder's persecutors in the political wing of the U.S. Justice Department have backed off on all their charges. But there is still the remaining lawsuit filed by one jihadi prisoner who claims that he was unlawfully detained and tortured. That suit was supported by many individual leftist lawyers who were out to get Yoo for giving George Bush advice they didn't like. In papers filed in San Francisco yesterday, Yoo's attorney dismissed the professor's critics as uninformed academics or Democrats with political axes to grind. Well said. And one of those critics is Dawn Johnsen, the Indiana University radical law professor who is currently Barack Obama's nominee to head the federal Office of Legal Counsel (see: Meet Dawn Johnsen, If You Dare).

In the pleadings, Yoo's lawyer Miguel Estrada (remember him?) said Johnsen's guidelines reflect "only partisan disagreement with the policies of the previous administration." He also cited the Justice Department's report from last week concluding that Yoo committed no professional misconduct in his memos. The worst criticism that still stings a bit, but doesn't mean much, was the finding of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility that merely said that Yoo had given Bush one-sided advice. The right side, as far as I'm concerned.

NOTE: The big debate over the America's Cup goes on. San Francisco Chronicle contributor Carl Nolte wrote a great article on the subject on Sunday. He disputes the contention of non-San Franciscans that "San Francisco Bay is no place for the America's Cup races, which should be sailed in some proper place with tradition, like Newport, Rhode Island." San Francisco gazillionaire Larry Ellison's boat won the last race, and he wants San Francisco Bay to be the next venue, as is his right. Says Nolte: "That's like saying Joe Montana and Steve Young shouldn't have been allowed to play in the Super Bowl because they were too good, or that the 49ers should have been owned by some nonprofit outfit, like the Little Sisters of the Poor instead of some rich guys like the DeBartolo family."

San Francisco may be newer than Newport, but we weren't exactly born yesterday. Says Nolte, "In fact, San Francisco has a yachting tradition that goes back more than 140 years, when the San Francisco Yacht Club was organized near what is now the UCSF campus at Mission Bay (the southern side of San Francisco, on the Bay, rather than on the ocean side). The first big races on the Bay, on July 4, 1867, were the Master Mariners regatta, with working sailing schooners and sailing scows. The race was revived a few years ago and is still sailed every spring by big, old wooden boats." Nolte is responding to charges that Ellison and San Francisco are upstart newcomers as well as pointing out that Ellison's boat was not the only one that appeared to be "three hulls that look like a spider with wings."

San Francisco Bay usually looks quite peaceful, but anyone who has ever sailed it knows that it is anything but. It would not be a simple sail on a small pond, as many critics have claimed. The Bay has its own microclimate and weather, and some of the most treacherous currents and tides in the world. It is a true challenge for any boat that would enter our waters for the America's Cup race. As Nolte says, "In San Diego, when the wind gets up to 15 or 17 knots, they head back to the yacht club and pop a beer. Here, when the wind gets to that speed, we say "Yahoo! Let's Go!" I'm not sure how much Ellison would appreciate the "Yahoo!" part, but you definitely get the idea.

Finally, Nolte sums it all up with, "The [guys] are entitled to brag. After all, the less-than-famous Golden Gate Yacht Club just won the America's Cup, the oldest trophy in international sports. Though Ellison won the cup, the trophy itself belongs to the yacht club he represented." For those nay-sayers who think San Francisco Bay is too easy to sail, I would suggest they come here, jump into the water, and try to swim to Alcatraz. If the icy water and the ever-shifting currents don't get them, the sharks (or Barbara Boxer and the sea lions) will.

NOTE: Muni, the San Francisco mass transit agency that can't shoot straight, is about to raise fares--heftily. Love those government boondoggles. After receiving beaucoup millions of dollars from a federal stimulus, $17.5 million from a cancelled BART program, and $7 million in increased taxes, the agency still has a $53 million deficit. The buses and light rail trains already smell, the buses particularly start running early in the morning, and by late morning they have disappeared or are running fifteen minutes to a half-hour late, and fare-jumpers outnumber fare-payers. Violent crime on certain routes is a near-daily event.

So part of the "solution" is to cut service massively in a system that is already inadequate, and raise fares across the boards, including doubling the monthly price of passes for the disabled and senior citizens. As part of their budget "solution," they also want to raise parking meter prices and extend the meter hours late into the evening. You can't find a bus, and you can't afford to park your car. Brilliant. Oh, and a raise for the already overpaid union bus drivers is still on the table. The accountants are including as a "plus" the income from taxes which have not even been approved yet and are highly-unlikely in San Francisco's moribund economy. No word about cutting the salaries of mid-level Muni management whose execs already earn more than most big city mayors.

NOTE: The same court (not the same judge) that allowed the Prop 8 lawsuit to go forward had found in favor of a lesbian domestic partner who petitioned for full visitation rights with the minor child born during that partnership. The U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and the ruling now becomes permanent. That is not the bad thing you might think it is. In fact, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal and upheld the usually-reversed Ninth Circuit on very sound grounds. It stated that the lower court decisions were properly made on adequate independent state grounds. In other words, it was saying that California's domestic partnerships are identical to traditional marital relationships in both form and substance, and it is not the place of the federal courts to interfere with the laws of any state so long as they don't violate any basic Constitutional guarantee.

Solid conservative reasoning, regardless of how the Justices themselves might feel personally about homosexual unions. More importantly, the high court's refusal to hear the case seriously blunts the anti-Prop 8 argument that the homosexual community is being unconstitutionally discriminated against. The rulings say clearly that the only thing the whole issue revolves around is the single word "marriage." If marriage and domestic partnerships are constitutionally equal under California law, as the rulings indicate, then the anti-Prop 8 arguments lose almost all their validity when that issue comes before the high court, as it almost inevitably will. This is ultimately a victory in a seemingly unrelated case that could lead to a Supreme Court ruling in the Prop 8 case that would preserve the right of the people of the State of California to choose their own definition of the word marriage while at the same time protecting religious institutions from persecution on phony "civil rights" grounds.

NOTE: A San Francisco judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the family of a father and son who were viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant who was allowed to roam freely in The City pending his conviction on earlier misdemeanor and felony arrests. The suit was filed against the City of San Francisco by the family, claiming that The City should be held liable for failing to protect its citizens from predatory illegal immigrants. As I've told everyone before, the leftist Board of Supervisors has twice passed ordinances forbidding the police from reporting illegal immigrant minors to the federal authorities unless and until the little darling has been convicted of a crime.

The court's ruling is harsh and horrifying, but probably correct. As the judge stated in her ruling, "the purpose of the reporting statutes are to catch illegal immigrants, not to prevent crime." That is small comfort to the grieving family. To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom has ordered the police to ignore the Board's ordinance and report all illegal immigrants who commit crimes to the federal authorities, whether they are minors or not, and whether they have been convicted or not. At least one person in City government is looking out for his fellow citizens.


Mike K. said...

Regarding the waterless urinals:

It sometimes seems that the greens think that diseases like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever can only occur in third world countries.

They seem remarkably lax about proper sanitation. Remember Sheryl Crow crowing about using only one sheet of toilet paper? There's also a weird obsession with cloth diapers, as if we're running out of landfill space.

Civilized people limit their contact with excrement.

How silly to have to say that.

StanH said...

You touched on it, the Sea Lions weren’t evicted because they were Republicans, they self evacuated because they are Republicans, and needed to escape the lunacy that is SF.

They should be forced to keep the waterless urinals, as a constant reminder of liberal policy.

It looks like the Gay and Lesbian protagonist, protest too much, and perhaps the anti Pop 8 folks have been upended?

The “bipartisan”…barf…deathcare summit is beginning and who is there representing Conservatives, McCain, Grassley (RINOs), to name a couple no worries right?

Writer X said...

Even the sea lions are abandoning Boxer? Smart animals!

If the waterless urinals don't kill everybody, the ammonia will. I have a feeling the City of San Francisco won't stop until everyone has returned to their caveman/woman ways. When do you start wearing organic loin cloths?

Thanks for the laughs, LawHawk!

AndrewPrice said...

Funny article Lawhawk. I'd read that the sea lions turned up in the Pacific Northwest, like many other Californians. I guess they didn't like the taxes either?

Unknown said...

Mike: I'm a little surprised that StanH (below) didn't mention that. The City of Atlanta had a major cholera epidemic in the late 20s. It wiped out a substantial portion of a modern city. San Francisco has a seriously crumbling infrastructure, and homeless people relieving themselves in alleys, etc. If that gets into the water table, we're in big trouble in the 21st century. But the Supes are more worried about second-hand smoke.

Unknown said...

StanH: The sea lions have a fine sense of irony. They'll probably come back after they've had their fun barking at Boxer in the North Bay.

They could keep the waterless urinals and paint them with pictures of Obama, Schwarzenegger and Newsom. Sound familiar?

The domestic partnership/visitation case doesn't kill the anti-Prop 8 case, but it certainly does some damage to its basic premise that being refused gay "marriage," they have fewer rights. The visitation case helps put the lie to that argument.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I ain't wearin' no loincloth of no kind, nohow, nowhere. LOL

Unknown said...

Andrew: They really wanted to join WriterX in Arizona, but the trek was just too tough. I was going to suggest that they just swim down the inland rivers and fatten up along the way by eating the Delta Smelt, but they couldn't hear me over the barking and belly-slapping. Maybe even the seal lions know how useless the Delta Smelt are.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--It sounds like you need to bring back the Committee of Vigilance (the "Vigilantes") that early San Francisco was famous for. Build the scaffolds right in front of city hall, just like they did then, and hang the Board of Supervisors for being complicit in protecting murderers.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: That sounds like a plan. It wouldn't be the first time they had to rid City Hall of its corrupt and doctrinaire politicians. Not that I would encourage insurrection, of course.

Unknown said...

Lawhawk. That should work. You need to get the sea lions to listen to you. You could get rid of the delta smelt and preserve an endangered species of sea lions that people actually give a damn about at the same time. Can a delta smelt balance a ball on its nose? No.

Unknown said...

CalFed: We may be on to something here. First, fatten the sea lions up on the Delta Smelt. Then fatten up the Bay sharks on the Board of Supervisors. All in the name of good ecology.

StanH said...

I tried to look up a Cholera outbreak in Atlanta in the ‘20s and all I could find is that after the Great Fire of 1917 there was a Cholera outbreak afterwards? Sorry Mike and Hawk I can’t help you.

Unknown said...

StanH: I did that from memory. It had to do with the ground water becoming contaminated, and it may have been earlier. But it was definitely in the 20th century. So it may have been in 1917. I just figured if anybody would know, you would. I took the course on the modern American city in 1969, so I'm afraid my memory is not as good as it might be. LOL

StanH said...

It’s amazing to think that cholera outbreak could happen in America a mere hundred years ago. My grandmother who passed two years ago at 97 would always splendor at the changes that she witnessed from Horse & Buggy, to the Moon Landing.

Tennessee Jed said...

Mahelo, Hawk. Always nice to start back in with an S.F.Diary as my first article since returning. Sea lions moved to Boxer's area looking for a hand out and to escape waterless urinals, I'd bet.

America's Cup, eh? (cue "Danger Zone" music) I think the real issue, although not directly stated by Nolte, was: "is San Francisco effete enough for America's Cup?" Which reminds me: Do you remember that dreadful America's Cup movie with Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey? One must be careful what one wishes for?

Maui was great, Hawk, although it is easier to expand one's deficit over there than with a Democratic pork/largesse piece of legislation. Caught up with your jewelry folks in Lahaina. Fairmont in Wailea was great, whale watching particular good this year and I almost birdied the famed 18th at Kapalua Plantation (albeit only playing to 550 yards from the tees I played.) Pretty much managed to lose all contact with politics and media for over two weeks.

Aloha to all Commentarians. Nice to see things cruising along as usual at this site. It was particularly hard to have to watch the "summit" today. The Obamites still seem to fail to make the distinction between price control and cost control I see.

Personally, it may take a couple days to get back on track.

AndrewPrice said...

Welcome back Jed! Sounds like you had a good time.

Unknown said...

Aloha, Tennessee! Welcome back. We've missed your input.

Boy, do I remember that stinker of a movie. "Wind." They should have put it together with "Breaking Away" (which was a good movie), and called it "Breaking Wind."

Glad you had fun in Hawaii. Maui is absolutely beautiful, but of course I never got that free trip I was supposed to get, so I had to get that from photos. I'll have to live it vicariously through you.

I posted the picture of the "Crosley" Federal Building the week you left town, but it's there for you to check out.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: BTW, did you ever get a chance to work humuhumunukunukuapua'a into a conversation? LOL

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - thanks! It was a great time, and hard to come back to snow flurries.

Hawk - I did get to use it by singing with uke accompaniment"I want to get back to my little grass shack in Kealakua" (where it is part of the lyrics) to a Pirate I came accross in Lahaina. Then I noticed, he had taken a large ship's wheel and shoved it way down into the waistband of his pants. I asked "Are you crazy?" He looked at me for a second and replied "Aarggh, it's driving me nuts!" ;-)

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Obviously, the gentle breezes and long white beaches haven't changed your sense of humor. Our secret: I originally learned how to say "trigger fish" in Hawaiian the same way you did, but I had no idea what the hell it meant. It took my friends at Maui Divers to inform me it was a fish, not a native girl swimming by.

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