Thursday, July 16, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Forget everything you thought you knew about San Francisco as the city that welcomes everyone (as long as they are registered Democrats or willing to work for ACORN under an assumed name). There is one large element of the population which doesn't fare well--the homeless. And you had that mental picture of all those smiling (if toothless) unwashed masses basking in San Francisco's renowned generosity.

Note: "Consider the source" is always wise advice. So when I relate this horror story to you, keep in mind the source is the National Law Center on Homelessness. San Francisco has been improving in one area of law enforcement. Meanness. In fact there is a rumor that we have an entire squad at police headquarters whose motto is "if they're not clean, we're gonna get mean." The head of the squad is reputed to be one Captain Simon Legree. And because of their herculean efforts, The City has moved up three positions since the last report. San Francisco is now number seven on the mean scale.

The report entitled "Homes Not Handcuffs" lays out the meanness criteria as a matter of the number of anti-homeless laws, how strongly those laws are enforced and the general political climate toward homeless people. The report also states that it tracks "the criminalization of homeless people" as opposed to the criminalization of, well, the crimes they commit. The mantra "homelessness is not a crime" is ubiquitous around town, and completely ignores the fact that vagrancy is a crime, carefully defined in the California Penal Code. Changing the name doesn't change the crime.

So what non-criminal crimes are these denizens of the streets being charged with that are so fascistic? Urinating in public (California state law), sleeping on sidewalks (California state law), drunk and disorderly (California state law), lewd and lascivious sexual displays (California state law) and erecting homeless encampments in Golden Gate Park (San Francisco municipal code). Since the last one is the only one that is unique to San Francisco, that must be the key to what makes us such meanies. The City's famous park is one of the most beautiful urban parks in the nation, and the homeless were turning it into one big hobo village, but making them leave is mean according to the report.

San Francisco's budget for homelessness is about half of that of New York City, though San Francisco has less than one-tenth of The Big Apple's population. But NYC isn't even in the top ten. It is very annoying to have our sister city to the south pull ahead of us again in a study, but Los Angeles has a stranglehold on the number one position in meanness. Still, if we can get the police to stop wasting their time with all those silly murders, rapes, robberies and arsons, we could make room in the jails for the oppressed homeless and take the top position away from those upstart Angelenos. Another interesting factoid is that San Francisco switched positions with Berkeley, but both are in the top ten.

NOTE: A San Francisco Chronicle columnist has figured out the real reason that Sarah Palin is leaving the Alaska governorship. Gloria Nieto has discovered the truth. Palin left because the feds are investigating deaths allegedly resulting from Alaska's cutback in Medicaid. Naturally, she is certain that Palin is personally responsible for the deaths, and is now hiding in plain sight from the feds. She cited an Anchorage Daily News "lede" which says "State programs intended to help disabled and elderly Alaskans with daily life--taking a bath, eating dinner, getting to the bathroom--are so poorly managed, the state cannot assure the health and well-being of the people they are supposed to serve, a new federal review found." The rest of the article has more of the same breathless prose, but it never does any more than damn Palin by innuendo.

Two things occur to me. First, who but a pretentious wannabe "journalist" spells lead "lede?" That usage became archaic years ago because printsetters used to mix up the word that told them where to place a particular paragraph, and the metal type (lead) that they used to set the article for printing. Second, neither the hysterical Chronicle columnist nor the Alaska paper actually had anything whatsoever which even hinted that Palin was involved. At most, they imply that she might be tangentially involved solely by virtue of her position as the state's chief executive. The Alaska paper
was very active in smearing Palin with charges during the election which were subsequently found to be baseless.

If you thought it was strange that the Chronicle ran a series of Iraq War articles written by non-journalist Sean Penn, try this Palin columnist's bona fides on for size. "Gloria Nieto is a social justice activist looking for a job." In other words, she's writing for the Chronicle until she can get a real job. In her article she managed to segue into an analysis of why Palin was getting special treatment for being white, while conservatives were ripping up Sonia Sotomayor for understanding the need for special rulings on the law which only a wise Latina can provide. Not to worry, Gloria. Red Sonia will be confirmed, and you can get a job with her as a law clerk. What good is law school and the bar when you can work for a judge who doesn't really care about the law very much anyway? You're at least as qualified to be a law clerk as you are to be a columnist.

NOTE: Another Chronicle columnist, David Steiberg, wrote an article about how fun it was watching the dismay with which his luggage was handled at the airports. Being a San Franciscan, he thought it was perfectly normal to have a suitcase full of "sex toys," and was amused at the reactions of the baggage inspectors. Here's just a little bit of the charming story: "I watch her face as she digs through the cuffs, the latex straps, the blindfold, the ziplock bag with condoms, rubber gloves and lube, the ziplock bag with miscellaneous nipple clamps, butt plug, and so forth, Mark Chester's wonderful spandex full-body bondage bag (if you don't have one, you should, but that's another story) . . . . Her face stays 100% deadpan throughout, an impressive show of professionalism." Well, professionalism or pure shock.

Mr. Steinberg was on his way to a conference of sexologists (is that anything like a pervert?) in Seattle. He was amazed that the "toys set off the airport's security metal detector. It usually does just fine as long as I leave my 8-inch solid brass dildo affectionately named Robocop at home." You people all have newspapers that talk about crime, politics, the economy, finance and boring stuff like that. San Franciscans have more important things to read about, like 8-inch brass dildoes (yes, Mr. Quayle, there is an "e" in the plural form of dildo).

NOTE: San Francisco is noted for its strange celebrities (and I'm not even counting the Chronicle columnists). James Raphael Mitchell has been charged with murder in the baseball bat bludgeoning of his girlfriend earlier in the week. Don't recognize the name? He is the son of the notorious Jim Mitchell, one of the two brothers who became rich and famous making crude porn flicks and for owning the Mitchell Brothers Strip Club, a San Francisco must-see landmark. The two brothers were the subject of a sleazy big-budget movie about their lives. The equally sleazy Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen played the brothers. Jim Mitchell was convicted of killing his brother Artie during a drug and alcohol fueled argument. He was charged with murder, but his attorney convinced a jury that his client was crippled by longterm drug abuse, and he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

The younger Mitchell apparently took exception to his girlfriend threatening to leave him so he very sensibly stopped her from doing that--with a Lousiville Slugger. Mitchell is also charged with domestic violence, kidnapping, child abduction and child endangerment. After cancelling the girlfriend's travel plans, Mitchell grabbed their one year old daughter and hit the road.

But that's not entirely the end of the story. The same attorney who represented Mitchell father is representing Mitchell son. That attorney is almost as notorious as the Mitchell brothers and son. Terence "Kayo" Hallinan will be representing the defendant. You might think Hallinan got his nickname from courtroom knockouts. You would be wrong. Terence is a bit of a drinker, and before he became the District Attorney for San Francisco, he was known for waiting for opposing counsel to show up away from the court, and decking him with his fists.

Hallinan also comes from a famous San Francisco family. His father, Vincent, was the first true leftist to sit on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Terence is, in his own words and in public speeches "an avowed Marxist." During his tenure as District Attorney he devoted himself to sniffing out white collar crime and hate crimes while the violent crime rate in The City soared and the conviction rate dropped through the floor. There must be something in the San Francisco water supply that causes the "crazy gene" to mutate, and not for the better. And I haven't even discussed Angela Alioto, the daughter of almost-sane former Mayor Joe Alioto.


Writer X said...

LawHawk, you need to get started on your book. The stuff you write about makes paranormal look like non-fiction. And, Captain Simon Legree? What a perfect name for a cop in a thriller novel.

StanH said...

Funny stuff Lawhawk, I think you deserve combat pay! In 1996 when the Olympics came to Atlanta, they moved all the homeless out of the city and set up new Section 8 housing south of the city (homeless advocates we’re screaming, there was much gnashing of teeth), well they’re back, my wife and I were downtown at the capital for a Tea Party a couple weeks ago, and in the general area we saw dozens of homeless people, “the simple life.”

All you have to do to make a leftist head explode is just mention, “Sarah Palin.” Great fun by the way.

Atlanta has the third or fourth largest gay community in the USA for the most part they are an asset to the city, but occasionally you get a perve like that columnist in SF that becomes overtly repugnant, just for the shock value. Note to the gay community: “everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” Keep your sexual proclivities to yourself!

We had Larry Flynt in Atlanta for a while, yuk. Sleazy people have sleazy lives, right.

CrisD said...

While 100% of the homeless are not mentally ill I think it is important to recognize the significant percentage of homeless who are sick. I have previously alluded to my personal familiarity with caring for the mentally ill and I would like to be specific about the terrible bind for family and friends.
Sometimes medication works and coupled with a persistence in caring for someone the person can be kept off the streets. Unfortunately, I know many folks who deal with treatment resistant resistant patients (esp. young men) who were once quite normal, even high achieving individuals who are lost and virtually irretrievable. Adding insult to injury, is a society that jails the sick and sometimes even blames the family.
Thank you for your attention to this matter which is very close to my heart (and to some of my public work.)

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - as always, a very interesting article and fun read. Your comments about "K.O.' Hallinan's dad makes me think it would be interesting to read your take on the history of liberalism in the city by the bay. I certainly know of the hippies and political activism at Berkley, but normally, one would think the background of the city would lend itself more to rugged individualism. As I think about it, the spread of communism within the Roosevelt administration and during the depression years would probably be heavily intertwined in the story.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Typically odd.

CrisD, you're right about the homeless. A lot of them have serious mental problems and they resist treatment. Unfortunately, most people view the homeless as "lazy" or "victims of capitalism." I think that prevents society from finding an effective solution to this problem. You can't fix a problem that you either don't or won't understand.

William said...

I love these SF Diaries. Thanks for all the work you guys do.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I was thinking of handling it as a science fiction novel about a parallel universe. In order to avoid the pitchforks and torch crowd in town, I would use a nom de plume. I was thinking of Isaac Asthmatov, or maybe Robert A. Hindsight. Of course I could just steal the name of a real sci-fi author--Philip K. Dick (that would go over big in this town). Whaddya think?

Writer X said...

LawHawk, Definitely go with Dick. Sure to be a bestseller in SanFran. Will the locals be smart enough to know the joke's on them?

Unknown said...

StanH: I think the group that published the study moved San Francisco up in the meanness rankings more out of shock than anything else. The City is overly homeless-tolerant, but the last time the group did a study, The City was homeless-welcoming, or maybe homeless-encouraging. The biggest homeless makeshift tent city in the country was on the elegant City Hall Mall, and encouraged by then-Mayor Art Agnos. Subsequent administrations decided on city beautification projects, so the villages had to go. Compared to the encouragement The City used to give the homeless, it must seem mean to them these days.

Unknown said...

CrisD: As the former chairman of my church's Social Ministries Committee, I saw firsthand the damage the liberal tolerance for aberrant behavior has done. There are good people, who through no fault of their own, have found themselves destitute. There are people with mental illnesses who need genuine help. Physical illness can also drive decent people into desperate conditions. The problem with homeless-tolerance is that truly needy people who just want help until they can get themselves back into the working world are shunted aside for political-correctness and liberal guilt. Study after study has shown that about ten to twelve percent of the homeless suffer mental illnesses. Another ten to twelve percent are temporarily homeless from just plain damned bad luck of some sort. The remainder are professional bums. We can't help the twenty to thirty percent who really need it because the money's all gone taking care of those who simply want to live the fine hobo lifestyle.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: The City was always famous for rugged individualists who saw opportunity everywhere. And it was also known for its leftist leaders as well. The communists were heavily involved in the unions, and ruled the docks. And yet San Francisco was also instrumental in driving the communists out of the labor movement. The dynamics of politics were truly energizing. When I first moved into town there were two healthy political parties--very conservative Republicans and very liberal Democrats, and they regularly alternated in power.

The "Summer of Love" seems to be the breaking point, turning The City into a drug-hazed haven for the truly bizarre. Today there are still two parties in town--the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, and the Mensheviks win more often than not.

Unknown said...

William: Welcome, and thank you. San Francisco more than any other city in America is proof of the old adage: truth is stranger than fiction.

CrispyRice said...

SF sounds like a truly fascinating city. I'm only familiar with the tourist areas, myself.

Speaking of homeless people, I saw an interesting documentary recently called "Dark Days" which chronicled the community living in the Amtrak tunnels under NYC. The majority of them indeed were heroin addicts, but there were a few who just seemed to enjoy the freedom, lack of bills, and "alternative lifestyle" they were living. It was fascinating to see how much they had built up home down there, complete with electricity, running water, etc.

At the end, Amtrak was kicking them all out and basically bought an apartment building to move them all into. They seemed so happy to have been given a home, and the audience was left with sunny views of them in a beautiful new building, each promising to start a new life. I'd be very curious to see a follow-up to it.

Unknown said...

CrispyRice: I saw that doc as well. It was fascinating, but I had the same thought you did--what does it look like now? I've seen pictures of the Cabrini Greens housing project in Chicago the day it opened, and one year later. In the former, it looked like a grand palace. In the latter, it looked like a war zone. It was the classic model for what happens when you give people something for nothing. These are people who don't know the difference between liberty and license.

San Franciscans actually tried to do something practical to help the homeless a few years back. A citizen initiative forced the Board of Stupidvisors to change the way welfare and general relief moneys were handled. Instead of just giving them checks, they would get their own rooms at residential hotels (not fancy, but adequate), food, and a small allowance for "walking-around money." Then-Mayor Willie Brown was quickly threatened by the homeless lobby for taking away the homeless peoples' "freedom" and refused to enforce the ordinance. Why accept food and shelter when you can have money for booze and recreational drugs and then complain about how badly people treat you?

CrispyRice said...

That's sad, LawHawk, just sad. Given a home and food, they could easily set up doing whatever they needed to to get their lives moving again - more education, entry-level jobs, medical care, addiction help, etc. Isn't there more human dignity in giving someone a way to begin to be a productive member of society again rather than to keep them forever destitute and dependent on the largess of the government?

I guess there I go, being a cold-hearted conservative again.

Unknown said...

CrispyRice: It takes a liberal urban nightmare like San Francisco to produce not only a permanent underclass, but one that has both power and important advocates. I came very close to getting myself forcibly ejected from a Board of Supervisors meeting for speaking out too loudly and too lengthily at the public podium about the thriving homelessness industry. We were outnumbered about ten to one by groups like "Food Not Bombs," the ACLU, "Advocates For The Homeless," "Young,Gay and Homeless," and speakers like Ron Kovic and Martin Sheen. Speaker after speaker told their maudlin stories (which the legislation remedied). One speaker said "Do you think I want to live like this?" I shouted "Yes, that's exactly what you want." We gave them homes, food and spending money, and they spat on it. How can you possibly help people like that? A couple years later, the other big cause du jour was the disappearance of sharks from the Bay. There simply wasn't enough food left in the Bay for them to eat. I proposed solving two problems at once. Feed the homeless to the sharks. Clean streets and fat sharks in no time.

Mike Kriskey said...

Two questions, LawHawk:

1. Did you have to look up the correct plural of "dildoes" or is that something you just pick up, living where you do?

2. Are Mensheviks anything like mensches? (I don't know the plural of mensch.)

Unknown said...

Mike: I looked up "dildoes" in my Funk & Wagnalls. But it is necessary for survival in San Francisco that one understands jargon and proper spelling of sex toys (singular or plural), even for conservatives and heterosexuals. Personally, I deny any knowledge of what they're talking about.

Likewise for "mensch." I paid my way through college and law school by working in the jewelry industry. Learning Yiddish was a survival skill. At least it's a lot like the German I learned as a child in a German household, so it was fairly easy for me to pick up. Hence, the plural of mensch is menschen (although it is sometimes given the purer Hebrew ending of -im or -em). As for the actual meaning and plural form of Menshevik, a Russian word, I am totally clueless. So endeth the lesson.

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