Friday, November 20, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

I know everyone's used to the Golden Gate Bridge photo that usually starts my Diary. But for a change of pace, I decided I'll start highlighting some of the other more famous sights in San Francisco. It probably has something to do with my need to be reminded that I live in a beautiful city with ugly politics. You've already seen the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid. Today's photo is a real change of pace from monumental modern architecture and engineering, and harks back to simpler days in The City.

You're looking at the Japanese Pagoda, located in Golden Gate Park, one of the largest and most beautiful urban parks in the nation. The Pagoda is just one of several strikingly gorgeous exhibits in the Japanese Tea Garden portion of the Park. I was tossed whether to show it or the "moon bridge" over a small babbling stream that runs through the entire park. It all began with the California Mid-Winter Exhibition of 1894. Most of the exhibits stayed in some form or another right up to today. There is also a Japanese Tea House, a Mt. Fuji hedge (it's really big), a large bronze Buddha, and a pond with a small island. And they're all located in a special area flanked by the De Young Museum (a former Victorian masterpiece that during an earthquake rebuilding was turned into something that looks faintly like a 1920s Los Angeles gas station) and the California Academy of Sciences. The Pagoda itself was part of the Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915, and had to be moved from Treasure Island to the current park location.

Oh, and if you thought the fortune cookie was a Chinese invention, it was in fact first created as a treat for visitors to the Japanese tea gardens in the Park. The next time you crack open one of those sweet, crunchy jewels to find out what the course of the rest of your life will hold, remember that the fortune cookie and the fortune are both San Francisco inventions.

NOTE: Several young turk lawyers from San Francisco who went to work for Jerry Brown's Office of The California Attorney General are now having to use their talents to figure out how to get the front-running gubernatorial candidate out of a mess largely of his own creation. Brown has long been known as a headline-grabbing muckraker. His latest grab for the headlines had been his preparation to use the power of the A.G.'s office to prosecute and/or sue the conservative activists who taped interviews of ACORN offices that were anxious to assist them in opening illegal alien child prostitution businesses. Several of those tapings took place in California.

ACORN has been a major contributor to Brown's war chest, and his interest has been largely in "investigating" the incidents, not the underlying crimes and misuse of public funds by the Marxist-inspired and Soros-supported political organization. Meanwhile, a major spokesman for Brown, one Scott Gerber, was actively involved in getting the goods on the conservative film-makers, including multiple interviews with California mainstream journalists about the propriety of the film-makers actions' (leading the discussions down the road of lockstep support for ACORN and condemnation of the film-makers tactics).

One of the journalists got suspicious, and by the end of the day, Gerber was forced to admit that he had done exactly the same things as the film-makers, only with foreknowledge of its possible illegality and a boss hell-bent to nail the dirty rats who exposed the ACORN degenerates. Gerber was forced to admit publicly that he had secretly taped the interviews (six interviews with five journalists, one of whom is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle). Brown's office claims it had told Gerber not to tape the interviews without getting prior consent. And of course I believe every word that comes out of Democrat politicians who have a fondness for accepting campaign funds from questionable left-wing organizations.

Gerber has resigned, and Brown's office says it has "completed the investigation," whatever that means. But now the New Age Attorney General faces both serious legal and political questions. There's always the "what did Brown know, and when did he know it?" issue. But if the actions of the film-makers were illegal, so were those of the A.G.'s official spokesman If he prosecutes the film-makers, and doesn't prosecute Gerber, he's wide open to obvious charges of favortitism and hypocrisy. If he prosecutes Gerber, he risks alienating the ACORN supporters (a major constituency in San Francisco) as well as the SEIU thugs and most of the left wing of the Democratic Party. It couldn't happen to a nicer phony. And best of all, the investigation may be conducted by a private non-partisan group. If it appears that Brown knew of and approved of Gerber's actions in advance, then he might very well be a criminal co-conspirator. Payback's a bitch, isn't it Jerry?

And just to put the frosting on the cake, here's an excerpt from a speech made by ACORN's chief San Diego organizer to the local Democratic Club in El Cajon: "The attorney general is a political animal as well. Every bit of communication we've had with Brown's office has suggested that fault will be found with the people that did the video and not with ACORN (emphasis added)." The monkish California Attorney General is turning out to be Eric Holder Lite.

NOTE: As if the City's budget is not already a pipe-dream of phony accounting to make the City look less broke, more bad news has hit the "planners" who had missed two major factors in calculating budget shortfalls. The City's rapidly rising unemployment rate, and a big hit from lower property tax revenues are putting the City even farther in the hole. And to add insult to injury, several major departments have been running well over their projected reduced budget allotments--the Sheriff's Department, the Fire Department and the Superior Courts (for a total overrun of nearly thirteen million dollars so far).

Of course the geniuses on the Board of Supervisors are simply denying any of this. They first claim that property tax appeals based on the reduction in real value of the property owners' interest will not be granted. Why should property owners be assessed taxes based on the real value of their property when the assessment can be based on what the social engineers think it ought to be worth? The combination of reduced property taxes (if the Marxists don't declare war on the property owners) and reduced income from payroll taxes resulting from high unemployment could add about eighty million dollars to the deficit. Of course if they're going to adjust the real value of the property to "fix" that problem, why not also require employers to pay payroll taxes equal to the number of employees the Supervisors think they should have, not the actual number they do have? I'm catching on to leftist economics.

To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom is not living in the same psychedelic bubble as the Supervisors. His chief of staff has said "I don't even know if I have words to describe how bad this is." Chief fantasizer for the Board, Supervisor John Avalos, not only denies that any such shortfall is coming, but wants to add another $7 million dollars in expenditures to the budget to offset the loss of income for city and school district workers who have received layoff notices. His proposal already has support from six of the eight Supervisors needed to pass it over the Mayor's veto.

One Supervisor apparently hasn't drunk the Kool Aid yet. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd says he figures the budget shortfall will turn out to be even worse than predicted, and that the Board needs to get serious about major fiscal reform. "These numbers are dramatic. We need to go after the big money now. A clip here, a clip there doesn't get it done." I'm sure the other Board members will quickly have Elsbernd declared mentally incompetent and shipped of to a mental institution in the near future.

NOTE: Peaceful art turns violent. Back in the 70s, the area around Fillmore and Haight had become a dangerous place indeed. Black liberation armies held sway over the streets, and antiwar activists and anarchists planned their next attack on the City and its police department. In order to bring a sense of calm to the area, local merchant Christopher George, who owns a building housing a much retrofitted grocery store had contributed to creating a mural on the on the original grocery store wall depicting "Carmen Banana" and her vegetable friends. George was under the impression that since he owned the property what went on the wall was up to him.

Over the years, slum relocation in the area has been quite successful, and the neighborhood has become quite yuppified. Local gay business people had been active in the area from the beginning of its transformation. They bought most of the commercial buildings in the area which were largely in foreclosure. But Carmen Banana and her friends on the mural wall had been an early respite in an area once know for its drug-dealing, drug-using, and turf warfare. And George hired the artist to draw something representing "healthy food," thus creating Carmen and her troupe of dancing carrots, tomatoes and radishes. The artist, Fredrick James, said "it was the gayest, silliest wall mural you have ever seen. The idea was just plain fun."

And for thirty years, the fading mural gave people a smile, whether locals or visitors. So George was very surprised to find one night a couple of weeks ago that there were two artists painting over Carmen and friends. He was not a happy camper. George demanded that they stop painting immediately. They replied "All this stuff is dated." George shot back with "I know, I'm dated. I put this stuff here. You painted my building. Why don't you paint my car too?"

It turns out that Upper Playground was the source of the misunderstanding. Upper Playground is now a small chain of specialty trendy clothing stores. They own a building in the area, and had commissioned several murals throughout the City. One day, a representative of the company had gone into the grocery store (run by a family that took over the business, but not the ownership of the building) and asked if they'd like to have a more modern, cutting-edge mural on their wall. An employee said "sure." There is no regulation of this kind of "wall art" in San Francisco, so it's not uncommon for graffiti artists to simply ask a business resident if they can paint the wall of the building. No contract, no payment, just free "art."

The new artists had painted some sort of semi-abstract clothing ad, described by one local as a cubist version of King Neptune. And it had already developed a small but vocal support group. But since there was no contract, no payment, and no authorization for the painting from the building owner, George, King Neptune has been painted over, and the original artist was called in from semi-retirement in Santa Cruz to bring Carmen and her veggie friends back to life. So despite a few harsh words and a thrown punch or two, the area has settled back into enjoying its healthy food dancers amidst the other murals of more recent and abstract vintage. The City is looking into avoiding future conflicts by finally requiring permits from the City and legally-obtained permission from the actual owner of the building before any further murals are painted.

End Note: As a result of a very busy calendar and absence from my computer on Wednesday and Thursday, this Diary entry was done on Tuesday. However, I did review Morford's column late Thursday night, and it didn't have much to do with what we discuss on these pages. Nevertheless, I know I've now created some secondhand fans for him who need to see pure craziness in print, so if you're addicted, here's his Wednesday column: Three Visions of All-Consuming Hell.


Writer X said...

LawHawk, I have a sudden craving for sushi after reading your post today.

And, somebody pinch me. I actually agree with Mark Morford's third point in his rambling rant on Adam Sandler's movie. Definitely time for a vacation.

Unknown said...

WriterX: LOL. I had the same feeling about warm saki.

I knew you'd read the Morford article. And as I said, it wasn't really the kind of political fodder we usually look for, so I didn't comment. But it is worth a read, and I agree on Adam Sandler.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Well, chop suey was invented in Chicago, so why not fortune cookies in San Francisco? Everyone knows about the large Chinese population in San Francisco, but few outsiders who haven't visited the city know about the large and influential Japanese community. Not only is there the beautiful Japanese section of Golden Gate Park, but there's an entire section of town called Japantown. Great shopping, lovely neighborhoods. And a fantastic contrast to the projects in the nearby Western Addition.

AndrewPrice said...

Why am I not surprised that San Francisco can't keep a budget. Is there anyone in Calfornia who ever understands the concept?

Unknown said...

Andrew: Almost all the intelligent conservatives are bunched in the Central Valley. Most understood a balanced budget, and with the exception of some of the big cities (Fresno, for example), they ran their governments efficiently. Now they're all facing bankruptcy because of the environmentalists and the damned delta smelt. In other words, the few California politicians who could balance a budget are facing a liberal-created crisis rendering them totally incapable of balancing their budgets no matter how hard they work at it.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: I was born in Chicago and live in San Francisco. I wonder if there's any connection between my presence and those clever inventions? LOL

StanH said...

Wow Lawhawk, that was the best description of liberal economics I’ve ever read, thanks. If it doesn’t work make things up, eureka!

In your opinion do they have a case against the two undercover journalist that have exposed ACORN?

Unknown said...

StanH: Yep, that's liberal hide-your-head-in-the-sand economics. Just like the "created and saved jobs" at the federal level, these dumb clucks just make things up.

As for the chances of a successful prosecution, they're small. California does have some stringent laws about taping conversations without the knowledge and consent of the other party. But they've always related to things such as telephone conversations and private communications. The state supreme court also is very strong on finding an exception to those laws when there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The interviews were conducted in the open offices of ACORN, and anybody from the general public was free to wander in and wander out, taking in everything that was being said and done. I think in the long run, this will go away. But it's a good thing that Andrew Breitbart has openly challenged ACORN to a court battle and welcomes the attention of crooked politicians like Jerry Brown. It may have to go all the way through the appellate process to the state supreme court before good legal sense prevails. I just don't think ACORN or Jerry Brown want the kind of publicity that's going to come out of this.

StanH said...

Thanks Lawhawk interesting. I saw Breitbart last evening on Hannity basically challenge Jerry Brown to a dual, from what you say sounds like a good move. I hope Andrew B. is lawyered up he is fearlessly taking on the powers that be. I hope Brietbart is incorruptible, in regards to a pay off by Barry and the boys. We’ll see, exciting stuff indeed!

Unknown said...

StanH: Breitbart already has a team of lawyers lined up. He doesn't strike me as the bribeable type. I think he's a true crusader, and the ACORN-subsidized attorneys general are his targets.

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