Besides the World Series, in case you were wondering.
The evening before I was due to fly to San Francisco, with car rental a priority, my wife discovered that my driver’s license had expired. Brilliant. I flew out from Dulles the next day thinking I might have to cope in California without a car. But you can get a temporary license, it turns out. Jumping through the DMV hoops on Fell Street was an experience in itself. When I arrived at 9:30 there must have been 150 people ahead of me. Take a number, find a chair, wait. You pay a fee, take a written (multiple choice) test with 50 questions, and study the booklet. I did so for two hours. I nearly failed the eye test but emerged with the needed paper at 4 p.m.
I had plenty of time to observe my fellow citizens — or aliens, perhaps. It never ceases to amaze me that in one of the most expensive cities in the country, so many ruffians, ragamuffins, and street people are out and about. Why so many?
Turns out local taxpayers were making a cash payment of about $400 a month to anyone who qualified. Tramps and ne’er-do-wells were heading to the City by the Bay from all over the state. My wife suggested perhaps I should go and apply for some cash assistance myself. Good idea, but it entailed too many bus rides, and probably another take-a-number-and-wait situation.
I did go to the St. Anthony Dining Room on Jones Street, next to St. Boniface Church — a center of Catholic Charities activity. I went down an incline into a subterranean hall full of tramps, 95 percent male, who were partaking of a free lunch. I should have interviewed one or two but I wasn’t up to imitating George Orwell (in Down and Out in Paris and London). I will say this. The volunteers who work in these places — mostly they seemed to be women — deserve a medal because street people are not the easiest people to deal with.
A few years ago, a city supervisor named Gavin Newsom proposed a welfare reform called “Care, not Cash,” and it became law. Now the city still gives cash, but much less, and other benefits such as housing and food are thrown in.
Newsom used the publicity to run for mayor and won. Today he is running for lieutenant governor.
San Francisco is basically run by rich liberals and for them giving away other people’s money to the “needy” is a good idea. They can admire their own “generosity” without having to deplete their own bank accounts. But it turned out the street people were spending the money on drugs and alcohol (duh). That may have hastened their demise — a good example of an unintended consequence. But it also turned out to be bad for business. Too many tourists found drunks sprawled in their path, urinating (and worse) on the sidewalks. So the “business community” supported the change in the law and the number of street people has gone down.
I had to do some research in the San Francisco Public Library, quite an impressive structure near City Hall. On Fridays it doesn’t open till noon, and by the time I arrived a small mob was already waiting to enter. Street people? Hard to say, because almost everyone these days, male or female, seems to dress in the same nondescript outfit; mostly black or near black. Business suits are rare. An article in the Examiner — not the Hearst paper of old but the free paper also published in other cities — had a front-page story: “Ugly Chapter in Library Violence: Outreach efforts for homeless patrons have yielded successes, but assaults and thefts increase in the last year.” They’ve hired a social worker to “reach out” to the homeless, mentally ill, or drug addicted. I was working in Special Collections up on the sixth floor, where peace and quiet reigned.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the (free) Examiner wipes out the ($1) San Francisco Chronicle. Local news is what’s needed, but the issues of the Chronicle I saw mostly had the usual dull liberal slant on national and foreign news, already copious on the Internet.
I went to see my lawyer friend David, who works downtown in one of those skyscrapers at the foot of California Street where the incline seems to go straight up. (With snow and ice in the winter, San Francisco would have been impossible.)
“What’s up in San Francisco?” I asked.
“It’s mellow,” he said. “The men are poorly dressed, the gays are in charge, and the women are on Prozac.”
At a major law firm, he was wearing an open-necked shirt himself.
“Friday,” he explained. The dress code reflected “the general sloppiness pervading the modern era.”
The gays? “They have immense political power. But a lot of the teeth grinding has gone.” Don’t take your kids to the Gay Pride Parade, but on juries they are “not particularly liberal. They have to pay insurance like everyone else. They are not out to redistribute wealth.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?