Friday, November 27, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

As promised, I'm going to continue with opening pictures of sights other than the ubiquitous Golden Gate Bridge (at least until I run out of them and return to the most notable symbol of the City by the Bay). Pictured is Coit Tower, visible from almost every spot from downtown to Fisherman's Wharf, high atop Telegraph Hill. In front of the tower is a statue of Columbus, holding out his hand toward the great unknown west. He thought he was looking toward China. Since the tower overlooks the largest Chinese community outside China, he might have concluded he was right if he came to The City today.

The legend, common even among San Franciscans, is that the tower was designed to look like a fire hose and nozzle to commemorate the role of the firemen who so bravely fought the destructive fire following the Great Quake of 1906. It's an understandable mistake. The tower was commissioned by society queen Lillie Hitchcock Coit in 1933. The grande dame donated one-third of her considerable fortune to the beautification of the city she so loved, and Coit Tower was among her bequests. Coit was particularly fond of Knickerbocker Engine Company Number Five which had rushed through the explosive demolitions to attempt to save as much of the Telegraph Hill area as possible. But the design itself had nothing to do with the fire companies. It was meant as an art deco symbol of The City, to be seen by all the ships entering the Bay on their way to their moorings. And it is, indeed, one of the most visible symbols of The City as ships enter the harbor, to be dwarfed by the Transamerica Tower only after the ships have rounded the northern shore before proceeding to their moorings on The Embarcadero.

The interior contains a brew of murals that don't seem to fit Madame Coit's basic beliefs. They are fabulous (as in "like a fable," not like Perez Hilton "fab"). Most were done as early examples of FDR's Public Works of Art depression program. Needless to say, the art was very left wing. But San Francisco, being San Francisco, and Lillie Coit being Lillie Coit, it ended up being a left-right joint venture in defiance of anti-communist outcry. After New York's Rockefeller Center destroyed Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads for its depiction of Lenin as a hero of progress, the demand went out for similar destruction of the Coit murals. Lillie stood firm--"Nobody is going to destroy my murals." And she meant it. Still available for view are Stackpole's Industries of California, in which Stackpole depicts himself reading a newspaper describing the destruction of the Rivera mural. Bernard Zakheim's The Library mural depicts a fellow artist crumpling up a local newspaper (The Chronicle?) while reaching for a copy of Marx's Das Kapital. Arnautoff's City Life shows a news rack prominently displaying The Daily Worker and The New Masses. Today it's all campy good fun, and in keeping with Dame Coit's wishes, it's all free to the public.

On Wednesday, the tower got a treatment unlike any it has ever had before. It became a giant movie screen, visible from Nob Hill, Russian Hill and the Wharf. In keeping with crazed San Francisco tradition, the whole dusk to dawn presentation commemorated the 1969 Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island. The producer calls it "a film feature for the spirit." At least he didn't say "The Great Spirit." Any Indians still hiding on Alcatraz would be able to see the projection, if they still have their Native American eagle eyes. Otherwise, binoculars would be in order. At least it wasn't Marxist, so I guess that constitutes a refreshing change.

Note: Sarah Palin's blockbuster hit is not faring well in San Francisco. Somehow, I'm not surprised. The venerable Chron headlines "Bay Area Not Maverick Enough To Read Palin Book." So a couple of rogues at Pajamas Media thought it might be a good idea to see what "smart" books made the shelves in San Francisco bookstores. While the Palin book is reluctantly displayed at the megastores, the independents just don't want to take room away from the more intellectual books that San Franciscans so love.

The Chronicle points out that the Palin book "Might as well have cooties. Hardly anyone wants to touch the thing, or even get close to it." They quote bookstore owner Nathan Embretson: "Our customers are thinking people. They're not into reading drivel." So let's take a look at the books which are prominently displayed at the independents, and which are so, so, intellectual.

Inside Job: Unmasking the 9-11 Conspiracies by Jim Marrs. Originally planned for a major publisher, the tome couldn't pass legal muster. After major revisions and editorial support, they still couldn't reach an agreement. Marrs found a minor paperpack publisher after the original publisher cancelled in 2003. Six years later, it's sitting prominently on the shelves of the independents.

Discovering America as It is by Vaidas Anelauskas. Anelauskas has been identified as a white racist anti-semite by several respectable journalists. A quote from the book reveals: "Only from people of that peculiar tribe can we expect such Talmudic hatred for humanity. There is even a famous saying that wars are the Jews' harvest." I seem to remember that this particular saying was very popular among Nazis and neo-Nazis.

The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood by Rashid Khalidi. A companion piece to Discovering America, from the viewpoint of jihadists rather than Nazis. When will those Jews just go away and leave decent folk alone?

On The Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality by Ward Churchill. Expanding on a theme of Malcolm X, the unwashed, unshaven pseudo-Native American with zero academic credentials other than being fired by the University of Colorado for plagiarism, providing false information, and subversive activity, this is a fine leftist fantasy about terrorist America.

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones. The communist race-baiting former Green Czar for his soulmate Barack Obama has simple solutions for complicated problems. Par for the course for simpletons.

Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys to Alien Worlds Through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies by various mushroom-shaped authors. "Those who regularly navigate the hyperspatial landscape that some have called the 'tryptamine dimension' have long suspected that the portals to inner and outer space may be one and the same. This book, a collaboration of the most cutting-edge shaman/neuroscientists working in this field, boldly explores this concept in a stunning tour de force." What more can I say?

And the list goes on, seemingly interminably. The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal by J. Patrick O'Connor; Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist by Willam Ayers; Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke (there's an "e" at the end of that name. I'm no relative of the sissy-boy actor, I assure you); Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen by Mark Rudd; Cold Fusion: Challenge to U.S. Science Policy by Lyndon LaRouche (remember him?); and finally, J.Lo: The Secret Behind Jennifer Lopez's Rise to the Top by National Enquirer writer Sarah Gallick. They could have cut that last title to: J.Lo: The Not-So-Secret Behind.

I may be a bit of an academic snob, but I gotta tell ya, next to that list Sarah Palin is looking like Ludwig von Mises. You betcha.

Note: Among the multitudinous female candidates for public office, a new one has joined the fray. Meg Whitman is running for governor, and her first urban stop since announcing her candidacy in September is in San Francisco. The second Silicon Valley high-powered woman executive to throw her bonnet into the ring, Republican Whitman has left the Senate race to her counterpart from Hewlett-Packard. Whitman made her bones as CEO of e-Bay. Whitman made a good start by talking to her fellow business owners and execs at the St. Francis Hotel gathering of the Chamber of Commerce. So far, she is ahead in the preliminary Republican polls, and has already spent $19 million of her own money on the campaign. How come I never made that kind of money when I was a business executive?

Whitman is slowly emerging, but so far it's hard to tell if she's a moderate or a full-blown RINO. She is clearly pro-business, but her stands on social issues and government interference in private matters have not yet been fleshed out. An example of her biz-speak includes: "What is remarkable is whether people are talking about a spending cap or the growth of costs in the state, no one ever talks about the government getting more productive. Productivity metrics not in the nomenclature." The last I looked, almost every Republican and conservative was talking about government lack of productivity and how the job could be done better privately (and profitably), and if she means "government actions in places which belong to the private sector," we're all opposed. But those productivity metrics sound cool, don't they?

But she does have a serious image problem. The Sacramento Bee reported that she had registered to vote in California as recently as seven years ago, and only registered as a Republican in 2007. It took a week for her to respond to the charge, and during that interim, she was already labeled a carpetbagger and had developed a public image as a dilettante and a candidate with little previous interest in GOP politics. Her slow response was that she was a registered Republican who voted in Ohio throughout the 80s, but it may have been too late to change the immediate perception of her as just another opportunist who hasn't earned Republican loyalty.

The best candidate in the Republican field is the serious and successful conservative Tom Campbell. But he can't come even close to raising the kind of war chest available to Whitman or his other opponent, Steve Poizner. Though Poizner is a relative unknown like Whitman, he is also a former Silicon Valley success story, having started a couple of Silicon Valley high-tech firms, and selling SnapTrack for a billion dollars.

Most of the buzz about Whitman is related to her organizational skills rather than her political positions. Poizner said of Whitman: "She's a marketing expert. That's an important skill. I've hired a lot of these people. If folks want to re-brand the state, they'll vote for her. If they want to rebuild it, they'll vote for me." Sorry, Mr. Poizner, that honor should go to Campbell.

But still it's clear that she couldn't do any worse at destroying the state's once leading economy than RINO Schwarzenegger or her likely opponent in the general election, former Governor Moonbeam Jerry Brown. Although Brown's leftocrat party holds a thirteen point registration lead over Republicans, Whitman has shown as being in a dead-heat for the governor's job in several recent polls, including Rasmussen. For that reason she goes out of her way not to come off as a celebrity know-nothing running against a liberal machine. Ahnuld has damaged that image, perhaps forever. But she does attack professional politicians. "If the professional politicians had done such a great job in Sacramento, maybe California would be in better shape than it's in."

It's unlikely that any issue, even gay marriage, will be able to push the economic crisis off the top of the list of "fix it now" issues. And Whitman thrives on that. She says, with a large amount of veracity, that her experience running a large company can translate into success at a state capital held captive by strong union interests and an unruly legislature. Brown has never done much of anything except dither around in state politics, and his best friends are Hollywood celebrities, big unions, state employees, and ACORN.

Much about Whitman remains to be seen. But for now, it looks like she's a relatively sensible candidate who knows how to read a balance sheet and hasn't taken any radical views along with her on the campaign trail. And she won't be intimidated by Brown's dismissive snarl and snarky one-liners the way so many others have. This may turn out to be one of the more exciting contests in recent years.

Note: Gavin Newsom, illustrious missing mayor and former candidate for governor, is well known for his reluctance to fire any city appointee. But he just fired Stefanie Coyote (wife of renowned actor, drug advocate and general all-around lefty Peter Coyote) from her position as Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission. The $132,000 annual job is supposed to promote the desirability of San Francisco as a spot for Hollywood filming. Two years ago, she caused a major flap by making the Marine Corps jump through liberal, politically-correct hoops to film a recruiting ad featuring San Francisco backgrounds. The Marine Corps allowed that next time it would film in less hostile territory, like Berkeley.

Apparently, Newsom blindsided Coyote. She was away on a Thanksgiving leave, and got the news second-hand. I have to give Newsom credit--his action served up two turkeys on one platter. Attaboy, Gavin. There may be hope for you yet.

Note: Speaking of banana republics (We were speaking of banana republics, weren't we? Or was that an earlier column?). Banana Republic, the popular clothing store for yuppies who want to live in the South Seas in the 30s, is owned by The Gap. San Francisco's unemployment rate is approaching 17 percent, and Banana Republic is doing its part to alleviate that. At their main store on Grant Avenue, they just hired 39 greeters. Unfortunately, that doesn't actually help our unemployment rate, since 35 of the 39 hirees are neither Californians nor San Franciscans. In fact, they're not even Americans.

All 35 are visiting tourists or foreign students. Banana Republic insists that the minimum wage jobs were open to anyone, but no locals applied. Well, as your intrepid reporter, I must let you know that I have low friends in high places. I am friendly with several business owners in the nearby Westfield Shopping Centre where Banana Republic has its second largest San Francisco store. They all report daily applications from locals willing to take any job for any pay rate that's legal, and more than a few have mentioned that both Banana Republics had told them there were no jobs available.

Note: Not to be outdone by the local booksellers, Mad Mark Morford has his own opinion on Sarah Palin's blockbuster hit book. If you want to know his suggested usage of the book (he doesn't clarify if you should wait for the parperback or not), here it is: Top Ten Uses for Going Rogue.


AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Don't forget that Witman is a McCain compadre (she was even part of his campaign) and that she praised Van Jones.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Thanks for the tips. I was aware of the McCain connection, and given that this is California, it's probably no big deal (we're not going to nominate my favorite conservative, Tom Campbell, anyway).

The Van Jones comment is new to me, and far more troubling. I'm going to look into that farther. Novice politicians do have a tendency to say stupid things early on, and the "green" agenda is popular among the sheeple in California. But if she actually meant that as praise for a communist race-baiting thug, and knew what she was saying and what Jones really is, I will be among those fighting her tooth and nail. Thanks for the warning.

If she commented favorably on Jones without checking his background, she made a serious rookie mistake. If she knew, and meant it, she is a RINO of the worst kind.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I did a couple of quick searches on the Van Jones issue, and here are two of the prominent takes on her remarks:
How Well Did Whitman Know Van Jones and Meg Whitmans Blasts Van Jones.
There were many more, but these seem to be the two extremes. It may yet turn out to be that "rookie mistake," but as Ricky said to Lucy: "Meg, you gotta lotta 'splainin to do."
Thanks again for putting us on that track.

AndrewPrice said...


I touched upon her praising Van Jones in my Van Jones article back in September:

Oh, and in case you’re thinking of supporting McCain friend and California something-or-other candidate Meg Whitman (R, e-Bay), she described Jones in May as doing “a marvelous job… I’m a huge fan of his. He is very bright, very articulate, very passionate. I think he is exactly right.”

Unknown said...

Andrew: Are you suggesting I don't read your articles? LOL Frankly, I don't know how I missed that, but I did. Thanks again for keeping us up on Whitman. She's got a big hole to dig out of with that one.

I'm guessing I saw "Van Jones" and moved on, since Whitman seemed to be just a blip on the California radar screen at that time. Campbell had already announced, and Poizner was at least already known in California politics as our current Commissioner of Insurance (the only Republican other than RINO Ahnuld holding statewide office).

We've had so many of these rich flash-in-the-pans run for statewide or federal offices on the Republican ticket that I probably just dismissed her. The electoral history of California is strewn with multimillionaire Republican dilettantes losing elections. Just ask Arianna Huffington.

I won't make that mistake again.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's exactly what I'm suggesting! LOL!

I have no respect for Whitman. I remember a lot of criticism about her time at ebay, and from what I remember her saying for McCain during the election, I'm pretty sure that she's going to be a RINO supreme. She'll probably make Arnold look tough. Yuck.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I've seen those murals in Coit Tower. They are very spectacular, in a poster art sort of way. The references within the murals are historically fascinating, but most people viewing them today wouldn't have a clue what they're trying to convey since anybody under 60 hasn't been exposed to the Nazi/Communist propaganda posters.

Unknown said...

Andrew: You have no idea the despair we conservatives often feel here in California. Money and fame win Republican primaries and lose general elections. Poizner does have a fairly good track record, but Tom Campbell is the ultimate traditional, thoughtful, honest conservative. And he doesn't have a chance.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: The locals wouldn't see anything surprising either, since our newsstands prominently feature the Daily Worker and similar communist publications even today.

Writer X said...

Whitman is Arnold but without the accent. Despite her war chest, do Californians really want more of the same?

Interesting tidbit on Newsom. Is it possible that he's been visited by the ghost of Christmas past?

Thanks, LawHawk. Great laughs.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I can't figure out what Californians want. They mostly seem to think they live in a movie. And any good line, no matter how fantastic, seems to work on them. If Whitman can downplay her apparent need to hang out with radicals, and emphasize her "bottom line know-how" she might win. On the other hand, she'll face Governor Moonbeam who will promise a chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage, along with world peace, love and brotherhood. They're just as likely to buy that.

As for Newsom, he might just be another liberal who got mugged by reality.

Unknown said...

LawHawk, Maybe the foreign greeters are English-deficient to the extent that they don't realize that in a city as expensive to live in as San Francisco, minimum wage is equal to slave wages. And when they are asked "why does $2.57 in linen material translate into $95.00 for a pair of pants that are too baggy and have too many pockets?" they can reply "I don't understand."

Unknown said...

CalFederalist: Very astute. And since the merchant is Banana Republic, the clothing is all labeled: "Not made in Honduras." But as Obama and Holder slowly change the entire basic nature of America, the pants can eventually say: "All Banana Republic products are made in the USA."

StanH said...

Coit Tower seems a beautiful setting, even the murals would be cool for setting the era when the tower was built.

I have Sarah’s book a good read, and you will understand quickly the leftist fear of this little woman. Fearless, Proud American, God fearing, self-made, beholden to no one. I don’t know if that means necessarily Presidential material, she has work to do, but…. As an aside, I’ve become more of an admirer.

“Be sure to put a coat on …you’ll catch your death of RINO.” CA politics are strange indeed, but I’m pulling for Campbell. This is the state that gave us Reagan.

Unknown said...

StanH: The Tower is very cool, and you have it right on the money--the murals are a perfect representation of a bygone era but in perfect keeping with the times surrounding the building of the Tower. The entire Telegraph Hill neighborhood is pure San Francisco, complete with a species of [now] wild parrots that got loose from a pet store consignment many years ago.

Although I take no stand on Sarah Palin's book, it only seemed fair that if the left was going to attack it for being insufficiently "intellectual," I should point out what they do consider intellectual here in la-la land.

Likewise, I'm reminded of the left wing uproar when "The Bell Curve" was immediately attacked for being "racist," even though there were damned few reviewers who could point out where the data was wrong. The New Republic called National Review to task for not jumping on the condemnation bandwagon. National Review replied: "We apologize for our tardiness in reviewing the book, but unlike the others, we thought it might be a good idea to read the book before reviewing it."

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