Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Douse That Fire, the Snitches Are Coming

You knew it had to happen sooner rather than later. Air quality control scolds are touting Bay Area residents who turn in their neighbors for burning wood, or what appears to be wood, on days when such behavior is supposed to be verboten. In other words, the enviro heavies want us to emulate some of the less attractive aspects of the old Soviet regime. They are seeking to make us a region of snitches who rat out residents on a regular basis. Great. Keep your eyes on those tell-tale chimneys, folks. You just might spot something terribly foul. Like actual smoke. Just call us "Moscow West." What's next? Squealing on people who fail to use low-flow toilets? This could become a cottage industry. Lenin would be so proud.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yep, the NBA is a One Percent Operation

Christmas was terrific. Lots of food, family and friends. And, yes, the NBA returned, belatedly, for another season. Fabulous. Or maybe not. It suddenly occurred to this Scrooge clone that, wonder of wonders, the NBA is actually a rather tall collection of none other than the much-despised One Percent. You remember them. These are the people who make at least $1 million per year. They're the purported targets of the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement. But wait a minute. Just-released TV ratings indicate that, lo and behold, people viewed those Christmas NBA games in healthy numbers. So where was the outrage about the bloated salaries of the athletes on display? There wasn't any, at least as far as we could tell. And the average annual pay for one of these guys is far more than $1 million. Oh, well, maybe it's just a case of selective hatred. Or a lack of proper perspective. You be the judge.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saving the Sharp Park Golf Course

It's not often we can say this, but, surprise, surprise, the mayor of dysfunctional San Francisco, Ed Lee, has done the reasonable thing. He has nixed a plan to turn Pacifica's Sharp Park Golf Course over to the National Park Service. The proposal, advocated by a slim majority of activist SF supervisors (that's probably redundant), would have been a major step toward the eventual closing of the links which are located on SF land close to the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists, who tend to call the tune far too often in these parts, have been lobbying to force the links' shutdown for years. They believe that the desires of golfers are trumped by a perceived need for pristine open space which can become home for certain animals who can't get a fair shake from the hackers under present conditions. The assumption, of course, is that the critters can't possibly dwell somewhere else along the San Mateo County coast. Twaddle. There's plenty of room for everyone. Golfers need some consideration too. These humans are, after all, animals too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Walk on the Mild Side

At about 12:45 p.m. today, the bayfront near the Burlingame/Millbrae border was busy. Jetliners from nearby SFO were landing and taking off in their usual mid-day cadence, a sort of transportation ballet monitored by unseen air traffic controllers. Meanwhile, along hotel row, there was a vague stirring. The San Francisco 49ers were preparing to leave their lodgings at the Marriott and the Pittsburgh Steelers were doing the same a block away at the Westin. Charter buses for the Steelers were slowly backing into the Westin parking lot, blocking traffic on Old Bayshore in the process. The two NFL teams had a date at Candlestick Park at 5:30 p.m. Out on the bayfront trail there was a familiar figure walking in relaxed fashion. Jim Harbaugh looked as though he didn't have a care in the world. He's the head coach of the suddenly-fashionable 49ers, the re-discovered darlings of the Bay Area sporting set. Harbaugh, rather jaunty on a bright, warm December afternoon, nodded as passersby recognized him as the energetic young man who has made the San Francisco franchise relevant again and wished him well. It was the calm before the storm. But it's good to be the king.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Libraries as Temporary Homeless Shelters

Suburban libraries have changed a lot over the years. They are no longer just ultra-quiet places where study, research and academic reflection are hallmarks. Cellphone use is a problem. Internet access has made a difference. So have special programs for rambunctious young children. And after-school tutoring. But one thing hasn't changed much: When the temperature drops, the homeless can be found settling in. Libraries are warm, friendly places. Hence the presence of the down-and-out. This is true even in the most affluent communities up and down the Peninsula. It's been particularly noticeable this month as near-freezing mornings and evenings are the norm. Regular library users have to get used to the reality of the homeless on their turf. These folks often don't have access to daily bathing facilities. Their clothing can be tattered and dirty. They tend to bring their worldly goods with them. You have to learn to read and work around them. Sometimes, that's not all that easy to do. But, in an economic downturn that continues to hammer those on the margins, the dispossessed are here to stay. For them, a heated library can become a temporary home away from home. At least for a few blessed hours a day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Should English Be Our National Language?

Newt Gingrich was in typically effusive form Saturday night during another "debate" between the usual suspects seeking the 2012 Republican nomination for president. As it has been in recent months, this particular session shed little light on the nuances of the candidates' actual policy positions, both foreign and domestic. There are simply too many pols on stage at this point. We would learn more if there were, say, just three, or maybe four. Gingrich, though, did toss out several provocative thoughts. One of them involved the English language. It was his opinion that English ought to be made the national tongue of the U.S. What a concept. Some of us had been under the impression _ mistakenly, apparently _ that English really was our common language. We have been wrong. Prevailing custom and political correctness, along with a series of unfortunate court decisions, have chipped away at that premise over time. That's unfortunate. A common language is essential to bind any collection of people together into a single, cohesive entity. Moves to erode that simple notion have been ongoing. This has been especially damaging for a place like San Mateo County, and California generally, which has seen a huge influx of new immigrants and their children. Without a firm facility in English, they are handicapped in a variety of different and important ways, not the least of which are educational and economic. Failure to demand early literacy in English hamstrings not just immigrants but the society at large. If nothing else, it makes following political campaigns and the important issues being discussed nearly impossible. Gingrich, love him or loathe him, at least had the inclination to bring up the subject on national TV. Whether anyone was paying attention at that point is another matter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Caltrain and the San Jose Athletics

It is becoming increasingly likely that the Oakland Athletics may receive the blessing of Major League Baseball to move the struggling franchise to San Jose. Certainly, it's not a done deal by any means. But all of the signs are pointing toward such a seismic shift. The San Francisco Giants still own the territorial rights to San Jose and the rest of Santa Clara County. But, if the most recent reports are true, MLB is leaning toward some sort of accommodation for the Athletics in the South Bay. A decision could come as early as next month. There is a lot at stake. The Giants would have to be compensated for their losses (potential fans, sponsorships, media rights, etc.). The proposed location of the new San Jose baseball facility, near the current downtown sports arena, would be an economic boon for that area. And Caltrain would be a big winner too. The San Jose Caltrain depot would serve the baseball team's Peninsula followers as it does the Giants now. In fact, if, way down the line someday, both the Giants and A's wound up facing each other in a World Series, it would indeed be the first-ever "Caltrain World Series."