Thursday, August 20, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

The fog continues to creep in on little cat feet and cable cars still climb halfway to the stars. I'm going through one of my crazy optimism phases right now, and it helps when I look out my window, see the sun shining brilliantly on the Golden Gate, the ships and sailboats sailing on the Bay, the Marin Headlands and Sausalito on the other side of the water, and am reminded that in many ways, San Francisco must still be one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Don't worry. I'll come to my senses soon.

NOTE: This may be a small contributor to my optimism. San Francisco just scored the highest test results in the state for urban school districts. I'm not sure that isn't a little like being named the handsomest warthog in the herd, but I'll take what I can get. The downside is the worst ethnic achievement disparities also exist in The City. The local African-American students continue to post among the worst scores in the state, yet the scores of all other groups are rising, some substantially. This could be due in part to The City's ongoing public image of loving diversity while underneath systematically zoning out and pricing out the African-American parts of town.

When I arrived in The City for the first time in 1962, The City had a Black population of about 12.5%. Today, that number has decreased to less than 9%. The City has exhibited the 60s description of "benign neglect." It would never actively pursue driving the Black population out of town, but despite some cosmetic show for the cameras, the Bayview, Hunters Point, Western Addition and Tenderloin districts have been allowed to deteriorate. Much like the Fillmore District, the decrepit buildings, high crime rate and substandard conditions have made portions of The City nearly uninhabitable. Then come the developers, with plenty of money to grease the skids at City Hall, and propose "urban renewal." I remember that when I was living in New York City, the locals referred to urban renewal as "slum relocation." But at least New Yorkers moved their blighted areas to other parts of the city.

Here, we move our lower working-class neighborhoods across the Bay to Oakland. Today, the formerly working-class Black Fillmore District is yuppie central, complete with a latte shop on every corner and expensive condos lining every street. City Hall is in the process of approving the final stages of a massive redevelopment project in the Bayview/Hunters Point area which will include expensive office buildings, expensive "green" light industry, expensive shops, expensive lofts, expensive condos, and pretty much expensive everything. This will all complement the current Giants Stadium project that was put in place a few years back. That project already displaced a large part of the African-American population of The City. So why would anyone expect any help from City Hall for the failing schools in those areas? I guess we have to ask the diversity-merchants in government about that.

The state hasn't done much better. Though all scores went up across all ethnic lines, the gap between White and Asian students and their Black and Hispanic counterparts remains huge. While 71% of state Whites and Asians scored nearly 72% proficiency in math and English, only 37% of Black and Hispanics showed sufficient proficiency for their grade level. Once again, state "educators" blame underfunding, overcrowding and a lack of qualified teachers in the minority areas. Perhaps it could actually be attributed to lax enforcement of minimal standards and discipline, high crime and drug statistics, lack of motivation by the local parents, peer-pressure, and constant adherence to policies of bilingualism and "creative" learning.

Those who blame everyone except the people directly involved forget to point out that under California's crazy school financing scheme, property taxes are collected locally, then forwarded to Sacramento for redistribution to the school districts with the "greatest needs." For that reason, the dangerous and bottom-scoring schools in South Central Los Angeles and East Oakland receive nine times as much per student from the state as top-scoring (and top taxpaying) districts such as Eastern Ventura County, Beverly Hills and San Marino. Another example in microcosm of how redistribution of wealth by the government improves nothing and damages a great deal.

NOTE: One down, three or four hundred to go: The City proudly announced, and the Chronicle proudly reported that the sinkhole on Elgin Park, which was so big that it ate automobile suspensions for lunch, has finally been filled in--permanently. For months, The City would wait until it got another complaint, send out a City Crew to throw some rocks and asphalt into the hole, and cover it over. It sometimes took as long as week and a half for another complaint to arrive on a City bureaucrat's desk. Gosh, until now, it had never occurred to any of the engineering geniuses at City Hall that this might be more than a simple asphalt problem. The clue should have been that every time the hole reappeared to nosh on somebody's automobile wheels and springs, the hole really smelled bad. So they finally decided to investigate a little, shall we say, deeper. Sure enough, a collapsed sewer line was causing the problem. Now if they can just figure out that the smelly hole that reappears regularly on the O'Farrell Street side of Macy's (and has for about fifteen years) may be caused by the same problem, we'll be on our way.

NOTE: Not all town hall meetings on Obamacare are hotbeds of demagoguery and Republican Party plants. Some are very civilized. Take the meeting across the Bay in the City of Alameda, please. Throngs of ageing hippies and smiling liberals driving BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes showed up to swoon over the government's plan to take over everyone's lives. Regular SF Gate contributor Gloria Nieto (who describes herself as a "social activist looking for a job") rhapsodizes over the glorious scene: "What was evident throughout the hours at Alameda City Hall was the desire for people to talk to each [other?]. Not to yell or be yelled at, no screaming matches with neither person listening to each other, there was a desire to talk, be heard and listen. People who did not agree with each other were still talking to each other for the most part." I believe she's speaking of those who want nationalized health care today, and those who will wait until next week.

Never mind that in an earlier paragraph, Nieto had said that "The vast majority of the crowd was there in support of health care reform, but one man jumped up on the stairs . . . and started yelling his position against health care reform . . . and he was in turn shouted at by others there, some a little too close for comfort." I may be a little thick, but don't those sound like two contradictory statements?

But it's her closing line that gives me the opportunity to take up the gauntlet thrown down by Andrew Price in his post yesterday entitled "Conservatives--Beware the Crazies." Nieto concludes her article with "So congratulations, citizens, you proved this could be a debate without holsters and guns, threats or implied violence." How long are we conservatives going to tolerate our crazy fringe handing liberals the rope to hang us with? Some damned fool shows up at a town hall meeting with a loaded rifle, preparing to protest Obamacare. What?! So the right-wing nutroots jump on the Internet and declare "the Second Amendment gives him the right to keep and bear arms." Yeah, just like the First Amendment gives you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater.

Haven't our fringe friends ever heard the expression "just because you can do a thing, that doesn't mean you should do it. I am a Second Amendment purist (which is not the same as a Second Amendment absolutist). Whether under any interpretation of the Second Amendment he had a right to carry a loaded rifle into a public meeting is totally irrelevant. Even if he had a concealed weapons permit and was packing under his clothing, this would not have been particularly noteworthy or newsworthy. But a loaded rifle? It may be legal (or it may not be), but it was sure as hell provocative and threatening. He claims he was merely exercising his rights as a free citizen to attend a public meeting. Isn't that the same argument the New Black Panthers used for intimidating voters at the polls in Philadelphia?

Now I fondly cling to my Bible and my .357 Colt Trooper V Magnum, but I reserve my Bible for home use and for taking to church, and my .357 for home defense and for taking to the gun range. I don't take either to public meetings and wave them at people just so they'll know I have the right to do so. Think, people! It was inevitable that this idiot would get nationwide attention from the MSM. The Obamacrats have been trying to paint us as dangerous lunatics, and this moron handed them the prize evidence they were looking for. This battle is tough enough without encouraging fools to prove the left's point. So if there's a Second Amendment Rally in your neck of the woods--take your gun. And if there's a town hall meeting to discuss and protest Obamacare--leave your gun at home and take your brain.

NOTE: A poll this week from the Gallup Organization showed that we're on the upswing on the conservative side (if we don't scare hell out of the undecideds with our loaded rifles). Gallup is a polling organization with ties to the Democratic Party, and tends to use unfairly heavy sampling from Democrat districts. Nevertheless, the results are both pleasing and astounding. Self-identified conservatives have for some time out-polled self-identified liberals nationwide. But for the very first time since polling started using the liberal/conservative dichotomy, self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals in every single state. Yep--all fifty! I'm sure it will come as no surprise that the one jurisdiction which remains strongly liberal is the one the Democrats wnat to treat as a state for electoral purposes--the District of Columbia. In Gallup's most recent poll, those who described themselves as conservative (31%) or very conservative (9%) reached a very satisfying 40% grand total. Those who described themselves as very liberal (5%) or simply liberal (16%) reached a less-than-grand total of 21%.

This means the Republican message must be conservative. It must be clear. It must be strong. It must be proud. It must be coherent. It must be unified. And most of all, it must point out that Democrats who run to the right of Republicans before elections almost invariably make a sharp left turn after the election. It must also point out privately, but sternly, that any Republican who runs to the left of a Democrat will not receive any money or moral support from the Party. Arlen Specter got the message, and left the Party. We have an amazing opportunity in 2010 and 2012 if we don't muck it up with extremism, namby-pamby RINOism, weak messages, conflicting messages, fake bipartisanship, disorganization and candidates who don't know which side their bread is buttered on.

NOTE: For my regular Diary readers, I must sadly announce that Mark Morford, enfant terrible of the loony left, must either be feeling ill or has run out of some of his medication. During the past week, the very worst he has done is to take a couple of half-hearted jabs at Sarah Palin and religious extremists. I pray for his speedy recovery or quick connection to a dealer, since I depend on his book-length sentences to fill in my nutcase collection every week.


Tennessee Jed said...

morning, Hawk - well another interesting ride through the city by the bay. Initially, I was going to link your smelly hole comments to politicians, but thought better of it (oops, I guess I just did; sorry!)

Wow, bringing a loaded rifle to a meeting; talk about giving ammo to Pelosi. I must be getting cognitive because I actually thought San Francisco ships their blacks to Oakland before I even got to the part where you wrote it.

Sometimes I fantasize how it would be fun to get all the rich conservatives to buy up San Francisco and then import fundamentalist Christian conservatives to take over government just to see how the city might change. . . and yes, we need Morford back for our chuckle.

StanH said...

The same thing is happening in Atlanta, civil rights leaders are calling it the re-gentrification of the city, this started with the Olympics in 1996. At the time we had one of the oldest housing developments in the country Techwood Homes right in the middle of the city and next to GA Tech where a lot of the Olympic events took place. This place was a hell hole and had to go. So the city moved everyone out and settled them in Sec: 8 housing in the far south side of the city and out of view of all the visitors. The Renaissance of downtown has continued apace

Education to me is a direct result of the Balkanization of our society, critical thinking has been replaced with identity education, feelings, have replaced, “reading, writing and arithmetic.” This does not bode well for our countries future.

Bringing a weapon to any kind of public gathering is dumb. However one of the people that brought a weapon stated it was a direct result of SEIU attacks on town hall attendees, for his personal protection, violence escalates. This fissure in our country is getting dangerous.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: I knew someone (beside myself) would link the holes to the politicians. LOL Right now, the Chinese are the largest conservative vote in The City. The yuppies are socially liberal, fiscally moderate, and young. They tend to grow more conservative as they age. The Black vote is consistently left, but the City Hall folks want money more than votes, so they continue to decrease that portion of the electorate. The old money was conservative, but has moved out of town. The new money is very liberal, but already going into its second generation. There may be hope yet.

Unknown said...

StanH: San Francisco's first experiment with slum relocation was the Fillmore District, starting in the early 70s. But then we had the downtown business boom, and it re-concentrated efforts. By the late 80s, the traditional boom had slowed, but the boom was on, necessitating new housing for a grand influx of instant millionaires. Overnight, the South of Market (SOMA) projects started. That triggered all the others.

As for education, one of the few public/private schools that had City support was the only one in town where all groups, African-Americans included, actually made significant gains across the boards. It promotes strictly academic standards of the old kind. Believe me, the school board and the city government will never figure that out.

The "SEIU defense" was an afterthought. That rifle was aggression, pure and simple, and in fact, no different from what the SEIU did in that it's a breach of public civility and common sense. I'm no Gandhi, and organizing "self-defense" groups seems just fine to me. But if we turn public meetings into potential running gun battles, we're already lost.

Unknown said...

UPDATE: I've mentioned several times in the Diary that the BART strike has been l-o-o-m-i-n-g nearly interminably over the Bay Area. As of my last Diary, only the drivers (you know, the ones who aren't necessary since it's a fully-automated system) were holding out. The union that represents the "drivers" and BART management continued to negotiate even after the Sunday night deadline. The union leaders finally gave up the raise, but wanted a shorter contract. BART stood its ground, and the union leadership accepted the final offer. The strike is still looming, since the drivers have to vote on the proposed agreement, but since most San Franciscans and other BART riders had plenty of time to figure out alternatives, the drivers may realize the jig is up. I'll let you know.

Writer X said...

Where can I mail Mark Moford a Get Well Card?

Great post, Lawhawk. The contradictions in San Fran continue to amaze (and entertain) me.

Unknown said...

WriterX: You could probably send it to San Francisco County General Hospital, Psych Ward. Thanks for helping me out. There's plenty of material at any time in this urban loony bin, but he provides the best of all.

Skinners 2 Cents said...

It's always nice to learn more about SF with out having to go there. You are a brave soul.

I don't think I agree with the guns at town hall meetings issue.

Our government should fear us, that rife or hand gun is a reminder as to why. We can and will fight back with force if necessary. Are we not on the very tipping point where we either just settle for a whole new style of government or we remind them who is in control of this country. As well as why our founding fathers thought we should be allowed weapons in the first place? This appears to me as the exact reason for the 2nd amendment in the first place.

The only reason we view these people as crazy is because we are accepting the lefts ideals of how the world should work. A rifle showing up to the outside of a town hall meeting shouldn't be considered crazy. We're giving in to lefts American perspective. That's whats gotten us to this point in the first place.

The reality is that the man with the rife was out numbered a good 20 to 1 at a minimum by law enforcement and the Secret Service. If anything this should be a talking point for how responsible gun owners are, no one got shot, he didn't intimidate anyone. The gun silently speaks for its self as a powerful reminder to officials that in fact the people have the power.

I do understand that it's fuel for the crazy lefts attacks against us but what doesn't?

Citizens with signs- Tea Baggers/crazy

Citizen with pets- Animal Slavery/crazy

Citizen with religion- Crazy all around.

Unborn babies are babies- Crazy, crazy talk, and women hater.

No matter what we do, we will be demonized and if we accept the lefts premise, we can never win the most basic of arguments.

The man has the right to carry the gun and did so lawfully. He was in the appropriate designated area. In my mind that is all that matters. He didn't yell fire he merely exercised his constitutional rights and did so respectfully. More importantly he drew a symbolic line in the sand for the entire world to see and especially for local and national political officials to see.

I don't see any comparison between this and the Black Panthers issue. One is illegal and one is not. One was trying to intimidate voters and one was practicing his 2nd Amendments rights. The man with the gun was not blocking the entrance to the town hall meeting at all. If anything he probably drew the crowd away from the town hall meeting. If we keep conceding constitutional guarantees it won't be long before you'll be marked crazy for daring to speak conservatively.

Unknown said...

Skinners2Cents: I wish I could agree with you on the "guns at town hall" issue, but I simply can't. And for multiple reasons.

As a gun-owner who will never give up his Second Amendment rights, I want the government to know I am prepared to fight if my fundamental liberties are ever under direct attack by that government. That is about six steps and a few years (if ever) from a town hall meeting. The Founders used words to get the English King to respect (not fear) them. They used words to declare their independence. And only upon rejection of the words did the guns (and fear) come into play. With the law, the ballot box, 220 years of Constitutional government and a citizenry ready to face down the government with words, deeds, and votes, I'm not quite ready to declare a de facto war on our government, let alone try to convince my fellow citizens to agree with me by brandishing deadly weapons at public meetings.

The "SEIU" defense doesn't work either. As you said, the clown with the rifle was outnumbered 20 to 1 by police and Secret Service. Now since he already has the right to own and possess that rifle, what was his purpose in taking it to a public meeting except to silently intimidate others? A sign with a picture of a Minute Man holding a rifle at the ready would have been equally effective in getting the point across without scaring the hell out of other people attempting to make their voices heard.

Anyone in that crowd, including me, would have been perfectly justified in thinking that the crazed gun nuts were there to make a bloody and violent point, ending with them going down in a blaze of crazed patriotic glory from the gunfire emanating from the police and Secret Service.

There is simply no way to see the presence of a man armed with a loaded rifle at a civilian gathering of political opponents except as pure intimidation.

I repeat, the New Black Panthers weren't even carrying guns when they alleged they were just protecting the integrity of the polling places in Philadelphia. Do you buy that? I don't. Intimidation is determined by the surrounding circumstances. Baseball bats aren't illegal. Heavy chains aren't illegal A peaceful gathering of American citizens for the purpose of airing their differences cannot in any manner be considered an appropriate venue for armed implied threats.

I don't care if the politicians or "the government" feared the gunman. I care that my fellow citizens were confronted with an armed man whom they knew nothing about in a touchy environment.

The other leftist pejoratives that have been used against us have largely fallen flat on their faces with intelligent people. But being able to point out a militia-like presence at a peaceful public political meeting is genuine fodder for liberals which is one helluva lot harder to laugh at. It doesn't matter that it was questionably legal, it was plainly stupid.

As for it being "his Constitutional right," I repeat that no Constitutional right is absolute. Freedom of speech is not a defense to yelling fire in a crowded theater. It's not the truth or falsity that matters, it's the result it produces. Like carrying rifles at a public meeting just because you can.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Great post, interesting thoughts. I would respond more, but my mind seems to have gone numb. I'll add more in the next day or two.

Skinners 2 Cents said...

Law Hawk,

I see what your driving at and it does make sense. I'm not really for scaring citizens in general either but only to a certain point.

I only see it as a reminder to politicians, but it was as you pointed out probably taken as trying to intimidate citizens.

For myself the way that the town hall meetings have been handled in the press and on record by many politicians is equal to the rejection by King George. Your voice should not be heard because your an angry mob or a Nazi sympathizer or what ever demeaning thing they can come up with next.

I think the guns are actually a backlash to this derogatory treatment of average citizens.

Politicians tried to intimidate average citizens, average citizens show up to intimidate politicians right back.

If just one founding father was here today and as an average citizen tried to cordially debate their representative, well we've seen what happens. "Right wing nut job," instant label regardless of argument.

I think the founding father would ask why we had waited so long to start forming militias again.

'A dangerous situation', always makes me chuckle a little bit when ever I hear it. I'm an adrenaline junkie so I hear it a lot. We face dangers far greater than one man with a gun constantly through out the day.

Every time we drive somewhere we are surrounded by people with deadly weapons and people not trained very well at operating them. We are trusting that the rest of society around us is competent at operating an automobile. The high number of vehicular fatalities would indicate that the road is far more dangerous than a gun. Yet no one fears the cars passing them on the road as they stare at the gun and tremble.

It's the conditioning of people in this society that makes me nervous, because anyone with a gun is a lone gun man of some sort.

If seeing a gun helps to break some of the conditioning then all the better. Instead of thinking, "wow I didn't get shot by that crazy gun totting lunatic." It's, "look a gun totting lunatic that's hell bent on death and carnage."

I'm sure they still feel that way even after they managed to make it back home alive and un-shot. Like everyone else at the town hall meetings.

That's just my take on it and I'm certainly not hoping for any type of civil war. I also haven't had to sit through countless examples of legal, normal situations going terribly wrong because of a weapon either.

Thanks for your time and wisdom.

Unknown said...

Skinners2Cents: Well, we're getting closer. I'll just throw a few more ideas out, and we can call it a day (I've been working since early this morning without a break).

First, I understand your analogy but I find it slightly imperfect. King George was an hereditary, unelected monarch at a time when the colonies were not considered proper British subjects. Though no longer an absolute monarch, the King of England had great powers. Obama is a highly polished Chicago machine politician who is unlikely to see a second term. He is subject to impeachment, and he can serve no more than two four-year terms in office.

Parliament was the only legislature, not subject to recall or defeat by the colonists. We are a free people, with the right to speak and assemble guaranteed by a Constitution which gives sleazy politicians two years in one House and six in the other. And Kennedys aside, we don't have an hereditary peerage. All are subject to the will of the People.

The government has tried using multiple methods to stop the tea parties and the town hall protests. They have all failed miserably. The tea parties created a whole wonderful grassroots organization which has very successfully gotten its message across. The town hall protests, despite all the efforts to stop them, have gotten bigger, nosier and more pointed. The Democrats are in retreat. Calling the protestors Nazis, a mob, astroturfers, or demagogues has only strengthened their resolve.

I get the impression that you think I'm a delicate flower, easily intimidated. That's what the redneck sheriffs with the guns, batons, and big police dogs thought of me and my friends in the South in the 60s. They found out we were every bit as tough as they were. So when I say I'd be worried about a fool with a rifle at a meeting where it's entirely unnecessary, it's not because I'm a pants-wetting sissy.

If a situation like that makes you chuckle because you're an adrenaline junkie, then perhaps you ought to consider the rephrasing of Kipling's Courage: "When you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs, perhaps you don't understand the situation." And choosing to do something dangerous is one thing, having someone else choose the situation for you is quite another. In my life, I've chosen to skydive, deep sea dive, hunt for dangerous game, and race sports cars at nearly 200 mph. My adrenaline flows fast enough without having to stimulate it involuntarily by having to watch over my shoulder to see what some fool with a loud mouth and a long rifle is up to.

Continued below:

Unknown said...

Skinners2Cents (continued)

Citing automobile accidents as a greater danger than guns is just not an apt analogy. Utility of the act versus the risk of harm is the test. We need to drive cars, and there are far more cars on the freeway than there are armed men. What need is there for a gun at a peaceable assembly? There are 1,000 times as many deaths from lightning per year than there are from shark attacks. Well, if you happen to live in Kansas that's true. But if you're swimming in shark-infested waters, lightning starts to look pretty safe.

So let's take the fear factor out of the equation. I'm not afraid of guns. I'm a hunter, and I was raised around all kinds of guns from pistols to thirty-odd sixes. But I guarantee you that if some jerk with a loaded rifle show up at any town hall meeting I'm at, I'm going to be paying as much attention to him as I am to the business at hand. That's not fear. That's just good sense. Since he has no reason to be there with a loaded rifle, I would be foolish to dismiss the idea that he might not just decide to use it. And as for being in "a designated zone," does that zone also include the bullets that come out of that rifle? There's a difference between bravery and foolhardiness, just as there's a difference between fear and normal caution.

At best, this rifle-carrying moron was a major distraction from the serious business that was supposedly the focus of the meeting. And if some people are afraid of people who carry guns for no legitimate reason other than they have a right to do so, it is still important to remember that even fearful people are allowed to vote. I don't want rifle-toting fools driving potential Republican votes into the arms of the Obamacrats.

I doubt very seriously that anyone attending that meeting, or anyone watching it on TV suddenly became an opponent of Obamacare because they were so relieved that the nutcase with a gun didn't shoot them--at least not this time.

Unknown said...

PS: The word "nosier" in part 1 of my response directly above should be "noisier." But come to think of it, I sort of like nosier, too.

Skinners 2 Cents said...

Thanks Law Hawk,

What can I say I'm hard headed.
Perhaps I'm just taking the opportunity that I never got in college to debate such issues.

Your a wise man and far more intelligent than I, which I knowingly admit.

I hope none of this has come across as an attack on you personally, it's merely many of the things running around my head.

God bless sky diving, the most fun anyone can have with their clothes on.

I haven't gotten to break the 200 mph limit yet, one day though.

Thanks for your wisdom.

Unknown said...

Skinners2Cents: I didn't take it as a personal attack at all. I thought you made some very good points. The beauty of this kind of forum is we can disagree on details, but agree on the ultimate goals, and at the end of the day, we're all friends.

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