Thursday, March 11, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Does that building look anything like St. Peter's in Rome? It does, indeed. But it's actually City Hall in San Francisco. What goes on inside is rarely very holy, but it's almost always interesting. The outside view is reminiscent of the Vatican, but it has its own character inside. Rather than mimic Rome entirely, the interior is utterly breathtaking in its Beaux Arts manifestation.

Just inside is the huge rotunda, and grand staircase which sweeps up to the second floor where the not-so-grand Board of Supervisors meets. Wrought iron, gold leaf and soaring architecture represent what used to be "The Queen City of the West." Renaissance style, so prominent in Rome, is eschewed almost entirely in favor of the Beaux Arts style so well-beloved in the early twentieth century. The "new" City Hall replaced the old one that was reduced to a pile of garbage and rubble within seconds of the first temblor of the Great Quake and Fire. The Mayor and several of the Supervisors who approved the original construction were indicted for kickbacks and payoffs for the inferior materials used in the construction of the old building. The new building was finished in 1915, just in time for the opening of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

My first view of City Hall was both accidental and unpleasant. To get my mind off my father's death when I was fifteen, my mother sent me off with my half-sister and her family on a lengthy driving vacation. During our stop in San Francisco, with my brother-in-law muttering about Fisherman's Wharf being a cheap tourist trap, we made a stop at City Hall. I got out, and went off on my own. There was a large and unruly gathering going on, and my teenage curiosity got the best of me. The next thing I knew, I was being sprayed by a high-pressure firehose from officials clearing the area of anti-HUAC (House Unamerican Activities Committee) protesters. The demonstrators came largely from both The City and from UC Berkeley. Taking umbrage at being given an unceremonious wetting-down, I later formed my own anti-HUAC contingent in Los Angeles, and ended up two years thereafter as a student at UC Berkeley. Radicals are bred in strange ways.

NOTE: Guest writer at The Chronicle, Jim Taylor, PhD, a psychologist and author, pens an article entitled: "Anti-corporate vs. Anti-government Anger: Who to Trust?" After paying the obligatory shrink's homage to the sensibilities of those who disagree with his take on government, he heads off into the standard liberal rhetoric which "understands what you think," then attacks it because anti-government types are "populists." He proceeds to demonstrate their stupidity by pointing out programs that anti-government types love, such as the military, Medicare, the VA, education, city and county law enforcement and fire departments, utilities, Social Security, and even welfare,which are all, in his mind, socialistic. Huh?

I think most of us can sort the wheat from the chaff, even without a PhD in shrinkology. He may think those services all fall into the category of "socialism," but only someone with blinders on could fail to see that he has mixed apples, oranges and an occasional rutabaga. "They want government out of their lives, except, of course, when they want it in their lives." Not quite. We want government in our lives when it is for the public good and consistent with the Constitution. How he comes to define the military, police and fire departments as socialistic is utterly beyond me. "Public utilities" that are providing good service are largely privately owned. Those that are largely failing are usually government-run. We prefer the former and dislike the latter.

Medicare and Social Security are indeed socialist porgrams. We don't "like them." We're just stuck with them. Most of us have been involuntarily paying into those programs our entire lives, so if I use my Medicare benefits, it's because I had no real choice upon retiring, and why would I not take advantage of a system I was forced to pay into for over forty years? I paid for it, along with millions of my fellow citizens, and it's why I object strongly to those who haven't paid a penny into the system being able to take advantage of the system. Turn it into national health care, and the socialist Ponzi scheme quickly becomes unsustainable.

What does one have to do to participate in the military or police and fire department benefits? Well, to start with, one gets to risk life and limb for the sake of one's fellow citizens and total strangers. What does one have to do to get welfare or Medicaid? Basically nothing more than asking for it and having qualified by being poorer than others (and more often, totally lacking in ambition or any sense of duty towards one's fellow citizens). Being an illegal alien also helps if one wants to live on other people's money. If this PhD can't see those differences, perhaps it isn't the ignorant "populists" who have it all wrong.

Herr Doktor Taylor finally reveals his true colors near the end of his article. He opines that anti-government people don't understand that one of government's prime functions is to protect people against their own bad individual choices. Behaviors such as smoking, eating junk food, or managing their own finances. Then using the liberal collective thinking, he states "when people's individual behavior has a significant societal cost, then government has a responsibility to act in the best interests of our society by mandating reasonable laws, rules and regulations." Ah, the collective. The liberal argument for control of everything by calling socialist schemes the remedy for the "cumulative effect" of individual behavior. And in Taylor's world, the government knows best what is good for everyone, so government gets to determine what is "reasonable." I'm still searching for that in the Constitution. Haven't found it yet. But as Taylor's fellows would say, "don't tell me what you think, tell me what you feel."

NOTE: A recent Tea Party which attracted 500 guests might not draw much attention considering the size of most of the crowds elsewhere. But this one was a little different. This one occurred in the heart of Barbara Boxerland. The town of Mill Valley is one of the liberal bastions of Marin County--one of the few locations in California where Senator Boxer holds a clear lead over either of her two potential Republican opponents in the general election. Marin County is basically the northern extension of San Francisco for those who wanted to escape the dirt and crime of The City. The Golden Gate Bridge separates the hoi polloi of San Francisco from the elite of Marin County, by class, but not by politics.

It was almost surrealistic seeing denizens of that liberal territory carrying signs that said "I [heart] offshore drilling." Ditto for "The road to hell is paved with liberals," and "No amnesty 4 Illegal Aliens." Republicans were not spared. At one table there was literature in which a conservative Republican candidate called her primary opponent a person "to the left of Nancy Pelosi." Most of those attending felt comfortable for the first time in a long time espousing their beliefs openly. Many have been openly shouted down or summarily dismissed as nutcases for suggesting that Obamacare is a crazed socialist scheme.

Many of the crowd were typical Tea Partiers in that they owe no loyalty to either party. They support conservatives, but have largely found them to be missing in action in the Democratic Party. One former liberal announced that after the 9-11 attack on New York City, "I realized all the things I'd believed since the 60's were a lie." When confronted by reporters suggesting that the gathering was racist, Carl Smith, an African-American plumber from Novato bristled. "Most of these people are my friends. I don't hang around with racists. George Bush did more for African-Americans than any president in history." That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it certainly contains a lot of truth.

NOTE: Our political maneuverings aren't quite as dramatic as those in New York, but strange things do happen. Mayor Gavin Newsom has become quite the moderate (even if I will never forgive him entirely for his "you're gonna get gay marriage whether you like it or not" statement). He has defied the Board of Supervisors on many important issues like City spending and sanctuary for young criminal illegal immigrants. Now the mayor is considering running for Lieutenant Governor of California.

One of his considerations is that if he is elected, the Board of Supervisors could replace him with one of the truly far-out leftists who sit on the Board. He has asked for a definitive legal opinion as to whether his term as Lieutenant Governor would begin on January 3, the traditional swearing-in day for state officials, or January 8. If the former, the current Board would appoint the mayor. If the latter, the new Board will be sitting. Missing from the Board by January 8 would be the farthest left of the Silly Supervisors, one Chris Daley, a political enemy of Newsom's, who will be termed-out by January 8. So far, nobody can find any legal reason why Newsom couldn't delay his swearing-in, since the state constitution is silent on the matter. That's not much, but it's something.

Downtown business leaders are not satisfied to risk everything going kablooey over the Newsom issue. They are currently proposing that if Newsom is elected to the statewide office, a special election for mayor should be called. Alternatively, they want any Board choice to be fully and publicly vetted. The former solution is their preference, since it would involve an off-year, off pretty much everything election. Those elections tend to go better for Republicans and business interests since Democrats show up for such elections in far smaller numbers than conservatives with a genuine financial interest in the outcome.

On November 9 of 2009, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was elected to the US House of Representatives. Lieutenant Governors in California are elected independently of the governorship, and frequently are from different political parties. Garamendi, a Democrat, played second-fiddle to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican (well, sort of). By the arcane processes of California's strange progressive form of government giving temporary power of appointment to statewide posts, Democrat Mona Pasquil was made interim Lieutenant Governor by the legislature. But that interim term expires, and the next Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the Governor, subject to approval of the Assembly. Republican Abel Maldonado has been struggling mightily to get the post after Ahnuld tapped him for the post. Maldonado now has the tentative support of the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, John Perez. The more moderate State Senate wants to replace Pasquil, and would settle for a liberal Republican rather than an ultraliberal Democrat. So on February 11, the Senate voted in favor of installing Maldonado.

Perez has advised caution and has told Maldonado to "wait until cooler heads prevail," but Perez may have his own party's interest at heart. If Maldonado becomes Lieutenant Governor in April, his current state Senate seat would have to be filled by a special election. As I mentioned above, Republicans, moderates, and conservatives tend to show up for special elections in greater numbers than Democrats and liberals. If the decision is put off until after May 19, the decision on the Senate seat will ultimately be determined in the general election when Democrats have a better chance to win Maldonado's Senate seat in November. But the Lieutenant Governor position must be approved by the Assembly (along with the state Senate) by that "drop dead" date, or a special election must be called. As with Newsom's dilemma, a matter of a few days could make a major difference in who finally gets the office in question.

The final decision either way will be made in the November general election, but appointment and confirmation now gives the Republicans the advantage of incumbency. Moreover, if the Democratic presumptive front-runner, Jerry Brown wins the general election for governor, it could mean history repeating itself. In his first go-round as governor, the people elected arch-enemy Republican Mike Curb as his Lieutenant Governor. So--are you sufficiently confused now? Then imagine how we California voters feel.


Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - I remember my first view of City Hall, also first seen by accident, and only after numerous visits to the city by the bay. I remember thinking "I thought Sacramento was the capital of California."

Your comments about Jim Taylor are of interest because I often think of the difference between the two political wings in the same terms. Of course I needn't mention which side I come down on. Your comments about not liking medicare or social security are right on point, since that is the liberal mantra saying people who claim "don't mess with my medicare" are defending government and proving their point. That, of course is patently absurd. We just realize that Democratcare will be even worse.

StanH said...

Beautiful building! Georgia’s capital building in Atlanta is very similar built in the Renaissance tradition 1889, a common look for most states.

The mindset of the Dr. Taylor’s of the world are indeed symptomatic of this country’s problem. Liberals drawing their murky equivalent lines between what is socialism, and what isn’t. We must not accept their silly premises, and as you did, ridicule, point and laugh, never giving sanctuary to their liberal idiocy.

If you have a chance to attend a Tea Party, do, it’ll make you feel great!

Is Newsome independently wealthy? He hasn’t been mayor long enough to extort money for a life of leisure?

BevfromNYC said...

Wow, what a beautiful City Hall. It's so grand. And, gee, you appoint your leaders to posts after the spot is vacated for such mundane reasons - someone has moved up. No perjury, no paid sex romps with prostitutes, no graft. How quaint. ;-)

Unknown said...

Tennessee: It was three years after playing slip'n slide on the stairs of City Hall that I returned to San Francisco in slightly more peaceful times to look inside. I have to admit, I was impressed. After doing so much of my growing up in L.A., I thought all city halls were supposed to be like what one L.A. news jockey called "the pointy building." It seemed to take forever, but when they finished the earthquake retrofit and remodeling, the building is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. My old friendly enemy, Willie Brown, had a great deal to do with making sure it was done right. The state capitol building in Sacramento looks a lot like City Hall, but the tower with the dome is a little taller and skinnier, so when shown side-by-side, they don't look exactly alike.

Medicare works well for most patients who have it, and is acceptable to good physicians who are willing to accept it as payment because they're doing well enough with their private patients. Legitimate doctors and hospitals lose money on Medicare but don't want to turn away patients so long as there are sufficient private payers and private insurance to make up for the losses. Obamapelosicare destroys that balance.

Liberals simply don't understand that the only reason Medicare works at all is that it's a Ponzi scheme which depends on more young people who are not eligible for the care to come in and pay for the system than there are older people who are eligible for the system and have paid into it their entire lives. In any Ponzi scheme, when there is more money being spent than taken in, the whole thing collapses.

The seniors who have been the investors and now want their dividends are completely justified in expecting to keep the care they've been paying on all their lives. And unlike Ponzi schemes like Madoff's, who do these lifelong taxpayers sue when they find out the money has been spent on everything but making the system successful?

Unknown said...

StanH: City Hall is one of the few places in town that has actually cleaned itself up (besides the earthquake retrofit and upgrade). When I first came back into town, the putrid Art Agnos was mayor. He was one of the early pure leftist mayors, and a lover of "showing compassion for the less fortunate." That beautiful sweeping area you see leading up to the building was at that time called an "Agnos village." You could barely get through to the building after navigating through the homeless encampments on the mall. Agnos turned City Hall into a hobo jungle.

I don't think the liberals will ever understand how much individual choice (good or bad) is a part of what has built the American character. I'll decide what's best for me, thank you very much Doctor Taylor. When the government decides what's best, everybody loses. Liberals (and psychologists) see human beings as if we were bees in a hive. The government queen sets the standards and goals, and we follow her orders obediently unto death. Then some individualistic bear comes along and steals the honey.

Unknown said...

Bev: It really is beautiful, and the Civic Center surrounding it is almost as gorgeous. The War Memorial Opera House, the old library (now the Asian Art Museum) and a batch of city and state buildings make it take on a minor resemblance to Buckingham Palace. But you'll understand what I'm talking about next. It reminds me of Broadway when I was living in NYC in the mid-60s. It's beautiful, but at night don't walk a block outside the perimeter alone. It gets very dark, and very dangerous very quickly. You start to imagine you're hearing footsteps behind you. And they're not friendly. You quickly transition from Civic Center into the Tenderloin on one side and the Western Addition on the other, two of the highest violent crime areas in The City.

In a town that wants to set "sex tents" up on the streets for special occasions, it's a little hard to bribe or blackmail a public official with a little scandal about kinky sex. LOL

I just heard that your fair city is now trying to ban salt from restaurants. We're bad, but you guys always seem to be able to stay ahead of us.

AndrewPrice said...

Tea Parties in Boxerland, what is the world coming to? She could not be a happy camper this election cycle.

And Newsome as a moderate? Hmm. That sounds a little unbelievable.

Unknown said...

StanH: I neglected to answer your question. Newsom is a social ultraliberal, but a fiscal moderate. He comes from a middle class business family, and was a successful businessman himself before entering politics. Like all big cities, San Francisco has its graft-takers, but it's nothing like you see in most other metropolises. The City has its hardcore ideologists, but not a lot of bigtime crooks. It seems that our local politicians don't become crooks until they graduate to state or federal office. I may be appalled by the leftist politics and perverted policies of the Board of Supervisors, but they rarely enrich themselves with their craziness.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Frankly, I was floored when I first heard about the Tea Party in Mill Valley. And when I found out how many people attended, I was even more shocked. It'a a little like the Cuban pro-Capitalist Party having a major rally in Havana. One step away from totally unbelievable. I think there's some serious change blowing in the wind (apologies to Bob Dylan).

By the standards of most places, Newsom would be called a liberal. But this is San Francisco, after all. He is genuinely liberal on many social issues (gay marriage, obviously), but not all. He's fiscally sensible but has been outvoted by the Board of Supervisors on many occasions. They are currently veto-proof, but he has issued the vetoes anyway to make his point. He's tough on crime. And when the Board tried to institute a DC/Chicago-like total ban on private handgun ownership, he opposed it. The Board wasn't veto-proof at that time, so it went on the ballot, and lost. At the same time, the California Supreme Court had ruled that Newsom was right. Under California law, the state standards preempted the field, and such a ban would have been unconstitutional anyway.

Writer X said...

"He opines that anti-government people don't understand that one of government's prime functions is to protect people against their own bad individual choices." That is classic! Dr. Taylor sounds like a perfect future Democratic congressional candidate.

Great post, LawHawk. Love the photo!

BevfromNYC said...

Bloomberg just wants to lower the added salt in prepared grocery items and fast foods. A bill was introduced this week in the State Assembly (House) to ban ALL use of salt period. There goes the salt shaker industry.

Unknown said...

WriterX: He sure as hell wouldn't run as a Republican or Libertarian. He exemplifies what one author called "one nation, under therapy."

Unknown said...

Bev: Auntie Bloomberg seems to be a believer in incremental takeover of everything we choose to do. He needs soldiers to establish the goals.

I just heard the Brooklyn Representative who proposed the ban. I wasn't sure if he was advocating banning salt or salsa. But clearly, whatever it is he's banning, I'm sure it's best for all of you New Yorkers. He wouldn't have any ulterior motive, would he? I'm sure he's just like our shrink, Dr. Taylor. He just wants to take care of you by preventing you from making dangerous individual choices that have the cumulative effect of destroying the health of the entire Western world. Or something like that.

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