Thursday, March 18, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

The Port of Oakland has taken most of the commercial shipping which used to thrive on the San Francisco docks. But sometimes, in order to get their supplies, the ships heading for Oakland have to get past our first line of defense--the Golden Gate Bridge. This one just scraped past.

Three massive cranes being imported from China (no comment) had to be folded over to pass under the bridge. The ship made it with 14 feet to spare. It later had to pass under the Bay Bridge, and did so with a mere 9 feet between the top of the cranes and the lower deck of the bridge. That's a hair's-breadth in maritime terms, and even though the event unfolded very slowly, it was breath-holding time. Any miscalculation, a shift in the currents, or a surge in the tides could have spelled disaster. The California Highway Patrol ran traffic breaks on the Bay Bridge, just in case.

Although this raises the obvious question about why these cranes couldn't have been manufactured in the United States, it is still a fact that the cranes will provide cargo capabilities at the Port of Oakland that will create jobs. Real jobs. So it isn't all bad. This gives Oakland 22 Super-Post Panamax cranes. Those are cranes that are large enough to service container ships which are too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. Oakland is the nation's fifth busiest port, and the three additional cranes could put Oakland in fourth place. So--I guess it was worth the risk.

NOTE: Apparently, eating nothing but veggies doesn't make one a peaceful lamb. Lierre Keith, a recovering vegan, had a book-signing at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair. The title of her apostate book is The Vegetarian Myth. I say "apostate" because Keith has not abandoned her beliefs that lots of veggies are good for you. But she was a vegan for 20 years, and that means no animal products, of any kind, ever. She has not only decided that an occasional egg or hamburger might be a more natural thing for omnivorous humans, but that agriculture is destroying the world (I said she was an apostate, I didn't say she had attained sanity).

Around 2:15 PM on Saturday, Keith was anarchically touting her book at the lectern of the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park when she was set upon by three militant vegans shouting "go vegan!" while hitting her in the face with chili pepper-laced pies. Said Keith later from her sister's home in Kansas: "We're supposed to be against sadism and cruelty and domination, and these people were willing to do this to me. It's insane. My entire book is about how the world is being destroyed. You should not eat factory-farmed meat."

Frankly, I don't have a dog in this psycho fight. Keith believes in militant action, even property destruction, if it can lead to change. She rails against "factory farming" (which is probably nut-speak for anything larger than a mom and pop farm) and insists on the restoration of prairies and forests. Since she has abandoned pure veganism, I guess she supports everybody running around in the forest primeval with bows and arrows chasing down prey. A luddite anarchist doesn't suddenly become sane or logical simply because she might occasionally give in to the temptation to have a nice steak. If there's one thing "true believers" won't tolerate, it's the least deviation from the pure party line. I'm just trying to imagine what a hot chili pepper pie tastes like. Chicken, maybe.

Final comment: Keith and her people called the police. The primary group taking credit for the chili pie attack is the North American Animal Liberation Press. Their printed reaction online was that "Keith was wrong about veganism, she is an animal holocaust-denier, and betrayed the cause when she called in the "agents of state oppression (i.e., the police)."

NOTE: Mayor Gavin Newsom made an impromptu appearance at San Francisco International Airport. Newsom, unlike his Board of Supervisors, has actually run a successful business. His appearance at the airport was to tout his successful renegotiation of the contracts between The City and the airport vendors by which The City gets 15% of the concessions' revenues. Sure, we all hate paying more for airport food, snacks and books, but it has never actually damaged airport business. And the estimate is that the new contract will provide $330 million in revenue for The City that would otherwise have been lost. That ain't peanuts in a city deeply in deficit.

Some of Newsom's old competitiveness seemed to be coming back out. He pointed out that San Francisco Airport (SFO) is top-dog nationally in getting money per passenger from the activities of merchants at airports. And SFO is number three in collection of total revenues. He wants to make SFO number one. Since he isn't actually increasing the percentage of price which goes to The City, he is merely doing good P.R. for the city he represents. Where was this Newsom during the gay marriage rancor, or when he was testing the waters to become California's governor? I'm actually beginning to like him.

NOTE: A local San Francisco attorney, Daniel Balsam, started suing internet spammers even before he graduated from law school. He just received a $7,000 court award against one of those spammers, Trancos, Inc. Balsam was horrified to have received a personal e-mail from Trancos in 2007. Balsam has been a frequent beneficiary of the 2004 anti-spam law passed by California. In fact, he considers it more important than representing clients who have actually been harmed by something. The law Balsam sued under provides for private persons to collect money damages for advertising that is false or misleading (emphasis added). Mere puffery can be defined as "misleading" if you serve it up right. And that's what Balsam relied on. He won on the grounds that Trancos (which is a provider of advertising access to small companies) sent him e-mails with titles such as "Your promotion," "Paid Survey," and "Join elite." The California law provides for up to $1,000 for each serving of spam, even if the recipient didn't accept any of the offers and lost no money.

The defendant's attorney says Trancos will appeal. Though many cases of this type have been won in small claims court, this appears to be the first case decided at a full trial in Superior Court. His argument is that spam is the province of the federal law, which allows for damages only when someone has actually been harmed in some concrete way. As much as I'm a fan of state's rights, I'm with the defendant on this one. California has too many laws providing for money damages for people who have not actually been harmed in any real way. It would seem that Balsam is collecting legal (if not realistic) damages for being, what, inconvenienced? Annoyed? Has anybody informed him there's a thing called a "spam filter?" Are our courts not tied up enough with frivolous lawsuits that we need more like this?

NOTE: Strange things are happening in California politics. The once and future wannabe governor of California, Democrat Jerry Brown, was far ahead of all his potential rivals in both major parties right up until he announced his formal candidacy at the last possible minute. Although it is still very early in the actual race, Republican newcomer Meg Whitman is actually tied with, or ahead of Brown in several major respected polls. Brown has not started his campaign in earnest yet, but the idea of a California Republican, however liberal, being ahead of a well-known and well-financed former Democratic governor was simply unimaginable just a few short months ago.

Although Brown hasn't yet deigned to enter the fray, the basic strategy may have to be altered rather quickly for Brown to win. Whitman has already demonstrated a "take no prisoners" assault on her closest Republican rival, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Fair or not, she has demonstrated that she will not be the usual good-natured pushover that Democratic candidates for governor in California have faced over the past few election cycles (Schwarzenegger was a seeming exception, but he joined the goo-goo Republicans holding hands with the liberal Democrats shortly after his election). Poizner, a Silicon Valley moderate gazillionaire fellow of Whitman's is now trailing by nearly-insurmountable numbers for the Republican nomination.

Brown had been counting on the two rich Republican candidates knocking each other off in the primaries. That didn't happen, and Whitman is in a very powerful position at this point. The unions and left think-tanks have poured beaucoup bucks into anti-Whitman ads, and they've had next-to-no effect. It has reached the point where Whitman can largely abandon her attacks on Poizner and start to turn her attention to going after Brown. Brown, his staff and his supporters are what the military calls a "target-rich environment."

Traditional Republican conservatives are at best lukewarm toward Whitman, but have a long history of opposing Brown. The Massachusetts Miracle has turned pollsters toward looking carefully at the group that was largely responsible for electing Scott Brown to "Ted Kennedy's seat" in the Senate. And independents currently lean 50% to 36% toward Meg Whitman over Jerry Brown in the most recent Field Poll. Among all potential voters in the greater Los Angeles area, a traditionally Democratic demographic, Whitman is slightly ahead of Brown. Whitman leads Brown statewide among women, men, and voters over age 40.

Brown has some very canny and successful advisers. And he's certainly no stranger to electoral politics. He is not intimidated by strong opponents, even when he's running behind. His confrontation with Bill Clinton over Hillary's questionable political and legal activities is practically legend in California. Still, at the early stages of the Republican race, Whitman defined Poizner's role in the race with her ads and her speeches, leaving him on the defensive ever since. If Brown allows Whitman to do the same thing to him, he might very well be in serious danger of losing the election. Much remains to be seen.

NOTE: More unexpected (but wished-for) good news. Her Majesty and Royal Painness, Senator Barbara Boxer, has dropped behind Republican Tom Campbell for the first time in matchups against her potential GOP rivals. She is also for the first time within the margin of error with all three Republicans in the most recent Field Poll. Campbell: 44-43%. Fiorina: 44-45% DeVore: 41-45%. Field says its margin of error is 3.7%. No doubt this partially reflects the anti-incumbent feeling that is growing nationwide, since Boxer's name recognition is much higher than the three Repubicans. 60% of the respondents said they have no opinion of Campbell and Fiorina, while 78% said the same of DeVore. Still, I'll take all the "throw the bums out" votes we can get. It's now up to the ad agencies and the grassroots to make sure that by election day, the Republicans have name-recognition as well.


Joel Farnham said...


Sounds like interesting politics.

What has happened with the water to the central valley? I heard that the Feds were letting some water out in exchange for votes for ObamaCare. Any politicians using the hold-up of water as a campaign point?

Tennessee Jed said...

I had a friend tell me that most of today's cutlery comes from slightly tainted (radiologically speaking) steel from China. That begs the question of whether the cranes will glow in the dark, I suppose.

As for the Vegans, if I had my way, I would get some seals to grab them and stuffy every orafice of their stupid little bodies with chile peppers. (See how calm and reasonable I am.)

I got a notice of suit from some crazy character claiming to be an attorney for a Miss Kitty Kelly. I need a lawyer, Law Hawk.

Unknown said...

Joel: You're ahead of me on that one. It would take one helluva lot of water being released to buy the vote of any Central Valley politician. All conservative candidates (largely Republican, of course) who are running for office in the Central Valley are pointing out the arrogance of the federal government, and particularly its bureaucracy at the EPA, as a bludgeon against the smelt-lovers. I know of no politician in the Central Valley who could be bought off with a little water, but that doesn't mean there aren't some. California voters are angry, but those in the Central Valley are really angry. For them, this is not a theoretical battle. It's genuine survival.

Farmers are experiencing bankruptcies at a rate unrivaled since the Great Depression, and farm workers, along with all the business-owners and employees that depend on them, are already standing in the lines at what is equivalent to depression-era soup kitchens. Obama may be able to buy a vote or two, but it won't produce enough water for any health care sellout to wash off the tar and feathers which will surely follow.

Joel Farnham said...


What gets me about it, is the arrogance of the administration. After cutting off water, there-by destroying farmers, offer some of it back for votes. By what right do these people have to hold a figurative gun to our heads? It might as well be a gun in a literal sense. I don't know about you, but my hatred for all things Obama has grown.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Look at the bright side. The greenie weenies can cut off all the lights at night and the loading and unloading can still go on by the light of the glowing cranes.

I'm still trying to figure out what vegans think our canine teeth and incisors are for. I'm sure nature didn't provide us with those so we could rip open the flesh of peaches and pears.

You deal with Kitty Kelly. I already got a notice of hearing from the Labor Board. Something about primitive working conditions. From what I can tell, I guess state law says I must provide at least two sofas and an antique silk-covered side chair as a scratching-post for each cat employed. LOL

Joel Farnham said...


Maybe Andrew might help you out with that kitty thing.

Unknown said...

Joel: I am convinced that Obama meant what he said about "fundamentally transforming America." If the lives of a few thousand farmers and workers get in the way, tough. All businesses are corrupt, and capitalism is an evil system which must be attacked from within and without. Destroying America's breadbasket by causing it to dry up and wither away into the desert it once was is a small price to pay for getting government control over every facet of our lives and deaths.

Joel Farnham said...


Do you need some black market catnip? I have a source. Let me know. The password is two mows. Not meows, mows.

Unknown said...

Joel: Thanks, but I think I can get it locally at the medical marijuana shop. It's the actual major ingredient in the most popular brand: "Meowie Wowie." Or maybe it was "Acapurrco Gold."

Joel Farnham said...


Mine is not cut with that brain-damaging stuff that seems to be infested with all things SF. Pure Tennessean MowMow. They have a patch close by where I live. They also have a still up there to disguise it as Tennessee Tea, but transporting it has become problematical. The revenoors keep on mistaking it for 'shine.

Unknown said...

LawHawk. Folks in the San Joaquin Valley are watching every candidate, Democrat or Republican, very closely. In most elections, there's some room for moderation. Not this time. Obama and the arrogant bureaucrats in the EPA are one step away from turning the Valley into the dustbowl that accompanied the great depression. Only this time, the disaster doesn't come from nature, it comes from politicians and green-goblins who have taken the abundant resource of water, and turned off the spigot to protect a fish nobody outside the EPA gives a crap about. No compromises this time.

Unknown said...

CalFed: I understand exactly what you mean. Our state budget crisis is a looming disaster for all Californians. But in some parts of California we're no worse off than much of the rest of the country. People in the Central Valley are suffering very real, very serious, and very current financial disaster. And for the rest of the state, the destruction of California's huge and productive food belt will mean the wolf is getting ready to knock on the door of those who think this isn't their problem. Agriculture and related activities are among California's largest producers of both wealth and abundance. How do our geniuses in D.C. and Sacramento plan on replacing that goldmine of taxes? On second thought, don't answer that.

StanH said...

That’s cool with the ships, fun to watch!

It’s too bad that Keith and her attackers didn’t get into a death match, the world would be a better place.

What did Gavin Newsome do, I know he was some kind of a success in business?

Loser pays I believe would help with frivolous law suits.

It’s good to see Campbell ahead, even this early it bodes well for the rest of the country.

Unknown said...

StanH: The vegan battle-royal was so ridiculous that even our lefty local TV stations showed the pie-in-the-eye shots. But they still haven't told us what chili pie tastes like.

Newsom actually knows what it's like to start at the bottom and succeed on your own, even though he seemed to have forgotten it for awhile. He comes from a working-class family, and despite suffering from serious dyslexia, managed to work his way through Santa Clara University. He worked for others at ordinary jobs such as cleaning bathrooms and clearing asbestos.

He was looking for another job when he ran into an old friend, Gordon Getty (yes, the Getty family). Getty had written a rather unknown opera entitled "Plump Jack," and Newsom had worked on a serious business plan to open a wine and spirits shop. They settled on "Plump Jack" as the name for the shop. It eventually evolved into a small chain of restaurants, also called the Plump Jack Cafe. Newsom successfully took Getty's investment and parlayed it into several successful businesses. But he never lost his sense of what it was like to struggle. Once a month, he would award a $50 gift certificate to a business plan that failed. Newsom said at the time "there is no success without failure."

Newsom caught the political bug when he hosted a fundraiser at his Plump Jack Cafe for then mayoral candidate Willie Brown in 1995. His businesses have been successful enough that he has remained an honest politician outside the radical leftist inner circle and and free from the City Hall kleptocracy.

Campbell pulling ahead of the Gorgon, even though it's early, is a very, very good sign. If DeVore loses, which seems likely at least at this point, I believe he will actively support Campbell in the general election. The spoiler here is Fiorina. She has some very odd views, and seems to have a personal dislike for Campbell (remember "demon sheep?"). I would be surprised, though not shocked, if she threw her support to Boxer. Since she has no credentials as either a Republican or a conservative, I don't think that would make much difference either way.

AndrewPrice said...

Wait a minute, they import goods through Oakland? And they don't get stolen? When you first mentioned the cranes, I though they were coming to lift the health care bill. . . or Pelosi's latest botox treatment.

Unknown said...

Andrew: The docks and the commercial areas around Jack London Square might as well be surrounded by prison walls. The dock workers are too tough to be intimidated by the gangs, and the police patrol the commercial areas near the waterfront very enthusiastically.

As for Pelosi's facelift, there are some jobs too big even for a Panamax crane. So they settled for importing tons of botox.

Unknown said...

I guess that St. Louis was feeling left out in our bicoastal discussion of crazy cities. There is a big flap among the "city leaders" because the uniform approach of the census-taking doesn't provide special efforts to go into the high-crime areas of town (which are numerous, if I understand it correctly). We could solve the problem by replacing the temporary census-takers with the Missouri National Guard. That way they could count the thugs and practice urban warfare at the same time.

The officials are also worried that the Bosnian community will be undercounted because they "don't trust the government." Well, either do I, but I was born here. They trusted the government enough to come here in the first place, didn't they? So if I'm understanding this correctly, we should make special provisions to allay the fears of people who don't trust the government by sending in government workers to ask questions that have nothing to do with counting the citizens.

The St. Louis bigwigs want to make sure that the criminals and those who want nothing to do with American society are fully represented by, wait for it, Democrats. Did I miss anything?

Writer X said...

LawHawk, let me know when to start chilling the champagne for Boxer's defeat. Right now, Boxer has a better chance of losing than McCain does. Of course, I'm hopeful that McCain's chances of losing will increase exponentially in the next few months. I'm keeping an extra champagne bottle, just in case.

Anonymous said...


The California Legislature found that Californians suffer actual harm from the receipt of unlawful spam -- $1.2 billion, with a "B" -- and that was back in 2003. The spam volume has increased dramatically since then, despite the federal law too. The Legislature enacted a statute that allows recovery of $1,000 liquidated damages per spam. Spam filters? Of course I've heard of them. They're hardly foolproof, especially when spammers take steps to hide. All that takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
-- Dan Balsam

Unknown said...

Daniel Balsam: I guess we all have our personal crusades. Frankly, I found the whole thing a little silly, but I'm sure I've had more than one person who felt the same way about some of my activities in the past. And if you succeed in stemming the tide of spam, more power to you. Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned and still believe in the doctrine of caveat emptor. Still, if your campaign saves some foolish people from themselves, good for you.

Unknown said...

WriterX: Don't give up hope. Remember, we're supposed to have that victory celebration at Hoover Dam! It's early for both of our states. Although I'm rooting for the Republicans (at least two of them), I worry that Campbell's lead is more apparent than real, but I also think it will solidify as Boxer has to come out of her hidey-hole and try to explain her existence. As for McCain, I may be whistling past the graveyard, but Scott Brown was twenty points behind his Democrat opponent at about this same stage in Massachusetts. Maybe Hayworth will pull this off yet. PS: My favorite champagne is Henkel Trocken.

Unknown said...

Joel: You were right. Democrats Costa and Cardoza have been bribed with a 25% increase in available water (which I guess will kill only 25% more Delta smelt). As Republican Nunes (also of the Central Valley) said: "They'll give those two districts 25% more water for now in exchange for a 100% vote in favor of the health care bill."

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