By Doug Porter
For the twelve days of Christmas I give you: The madness of 2013, one month at a time-A month by month recap of stories that appeared in the Starting Line over the past year.
#1 Sequestration Won’t Make the Sky Fall
Happy sequestration day. The sky most likely won’t fall at 11:59pm tonight when President Obama signs the order implementing terms of a deal struck with Congress designed to be so odious that no person in their right mind would allow it to happen.
That should tell us a lot about the current mental state of the nation’s politicians. But it doesn’t. The horrible deal, as it turns out, isn’t all that horrible, at least in the short run.
Guess who won’t be feeling the effects of sequestration? From Bloomberg News:
The cuts, known as sequestration, will have no impact on the president, U.S. lawmakers and other top government officials. It is especially ironic that Congress, which has the power to avert the reductions, has nothing to lose in the negotiations, said Dan Gordon, former head of federal procurement in the Obama administration.
“The members of Congress are damaging our country by their refusal to repeal sequestration, and I think the American public would like them to personally feel some of the pain they are imposing,” said Gordon, an associate dean at George Washington University law school in Washington.
Democratic threats of doom and gloom are obscured by the nature of the federal budgetary process. Think of the government as a cruise ship. Just because the captain yells “all stop” doesn’t mean the forward motion of the vessel ceases.
So it is with sequestration, Obama style. He would have been better off saving some of the drama for after March 1st and instructing the bureaucracy to institute some surprise shutdowns. Nothing says ‘damn the Congress’ to a voter like having their weekend ruined by a closed campground. Hey, it worked for Bill Clinton.
This latest drama is hardly a good thing for Republicans, either. Despite their attempts to deflect criticism by vigorous promoting the ‘blame game’, in the long run the smirks on their collective faces will come back to haunt them. Their reputation of being the party of “no!” cannot be obscured by posturing or pontificating.
I am not saying that either or both ‘sides’ are to ‘blame’ here. It’s much bigger than that. The whole ‘game’ is rigged.
#2 GOP Circles the Wagons at State 2013 Convention
As California goes, so will go the rest of the country. State Republicans, fearful of obvious signs the party is declining into irrelevancy, circled the wagons over the weekend in Sacramento for their 2013 convention.
The theme of “fighting back” was continuously raised throughout the weekend.
Friday night concluded with a presentation on ‘how to track the billions of dollars fleeing California.’ GOP shills have been pounding the “Taxifornia” meme through the news media in recent months, pointing to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s forays into the Golden State as evidence that economic doom and gloom are just around the corner with the Democrats in control of state government.
Local GOP big dog Tony Krvaric reported on the confab thru his blog:
Attendance is above average, there is cautious optimism in the air and Ruben Barrales’ GROW Elect organization is being met with a lot of enthusiasm.
The San Diego County delegation is 114 strong this cycle, with about 1/3 being brand new participants. Good delegates who are ready to get to work on the resurgence of the California Republican Party.
The confab was larger this year than in the recent past, with controversial (among Republicans) guest speaker Karl Rove serving as the drawing card at a Saturday luncheon. The consultant to former President George Bush told delegates to “Get off your ass” and “Get back in the game and fight.”
Although incoming chair Jim Brulte pulled off somewhat of a coup by getting the GOP strategist to skip his normal six figure speaking fee, the decision was not without controversy.
Rove’s move nationally to channel his fundraising prowess into focus on more ‘electable’ candidates has Tea Party activists incensed. Party unity was kept by booking a certain well-heeled San Diego Congressman as closer for the mid-day event and offering more of a ‘red meat’ line up for Saturday evening. From the Washington Times:
Mr. Rove used to be the enemy of the left, but now he is coming under fire from conservatives who see him as an establishment shill trying to undermine the grassroots.
Mr. Rove has his supporters and detractors, but one cannot deny that the GOP was 2-0 in presidential races with him and 0-2 since. The man won at the biggest stage, so a state party on a losing streak was smart to hear him out.
Congressman Darrell Issa wrapped up the luncheon, and was well received (as he always is) by the party faithful.
Nobody seemed to mind that Rove was himself at the center of GOP failures last fall: His American Crossroads super PAC spent $300 million on mostly losing candidates.
The headliner for Saturday night was Ben Shapiro, editor-at-large of conservative Breitbard.com and author of numerous tracts decrying liberalism in all its manifestations. Again, from the Washington Times commentary:
His newest book is entitled “bullies,” and he clearly grasps that the only thing bullies understand is force. The left has defined the right, and the right has refused to fight back….
… Mr. Shapiro quickly took the gloves off and did not stop until every liberal bully was metaphorically beaten into submission.
#3 Raising the Minimum Wage Will Hurt the Poor
Today’s UT-San Diego editorial represents the height of hypocrisy.
Titled ‘Minimum wage hikes deliver maximum pain to the poor’, it goes on to tell us in no uncertain terms about the terrible things that will follow should Congress act on a bill introduced on Tuesday by Democratic Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and George Miller of California that would raise the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 — and add an annual adjustment to keep pace with the cost-of-living index. Here’s the money quote:
Low-income families have the most to lose in the game of political poker that is being played this year by Democrats in Washington, D.C.
They go through the usual balderdash citing the “preponderance of evidence” that workers should live in fear of unemployment and starvation if minimum wages go up.
We’re then told:
Direct aid to low-income families, such as food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, is far more effective.
That sounds suspiciously like a government subsidy to me. A 2004 UC Berkeley report found Wal-Mart workers’ dependence on public programs in California, such as Medi-Cal and food stamps, cost taxpayers about $86 million annually. Nationwide, it estimated the cost of public assistance to Wal-Mart workers could be as much as $2 billion annually.
I suppose the fine editorial writers at the UT would like to have these programs funded by sales taxes so their wealthy benefactors are not saddled with a proportional share of the cost of these subsidies.
The real capper in the UT-SD editorial is the close, where Henry Ford is credited with raising auto workers daily wages because the ‘market demanded’ it.
The fact is that Ford didn’t raise the daily wage; he offered a bonus for those who lived ‘The American Way’, and yes, Ford did send people (50 Social Department investigators) around to check. So he got to impose his moral values, which for most of his life included raving anti-Semitism.
I can’t help but notice that WalMart, everybodys favorite punching bag when it comes to crappy pay, is getting their butt kicked by competitor Costco, a company that offers significantly better pay and benefits. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek has come out in support of raising the minimum wage, telling the media:
“Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.”
Costco averages $814 in sales per square foot, while WalMart’s Sams Club makes just $586 per square foot. And WalMart sales are down. Seriously down. Gosh, I wonder if all the bad publicity about how they mistreat their employees has anything to do with that?
At the heart of the issue over wages is a business model that relies upon ‘corporate welfare’ either through tax breaks or subsidies (including their labor costs). Aside from the fact that it’s remarkably short-sighted, such a business philosophy also leads to increases in wealth differential. They get richer, everybody else gets poorer. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the US today.
That’s what the UT-San Diego is really advocating. All you need to do is look at their coverage, oozing with photos portraying bejeweled paramours living the good life alongside their well-heeled benefactors. It certainly has nothing to do with the welfare of the ‘poor’.
#4 Fuzzy Slippers Stoke Fears in Flackland
The article indicates that, in the face of lawsuits and questions over who is or isn’t a working reporter, the San Diego Police are considering just getting out of the press pass business altogether. Via the Mercury News:
…The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security stopped issuing credentials last month and the Orange CountySheriff’s Department in Southern California did so in December.
“With the advancements in digital media and the proliferation of bloggers, podcasters and freelancers, it has become challenging to determine who should receive a press pass,” the sheriff’s department said.
At stake for journalists is whether they can cover certain stories. At stake for the general public is who delivers their news.
The account goes on to quote SD County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell at a forum sponsored by The Society for Professional Journalists last month:
You can sit with your Apple laptop and your fuzzy slippers, you can be an 800-pound disabled man that can’t get out of bed, and be a journalist because you can blog something. Does that give you the right—because you blog in your fuzzy slippers out of your bedroom and you don’t go out and you haven’t gotten that degree—should you be called a journalist?”
Owners of Apple computers, fuzzy slipper lovers and fast food epicureans everywhere were outraged. Ernest Hemingway called from the great beyond, wondering if all his reportage should be discounted because his journalism education stopped in high school.
#5 Let Them Eat Cheeseburgers
Our taxpayer dollars were hard at work last week as the San Diego County News Center, funded at $3.1 million annually with a full-time staff of 11, breathlessly broke the news that Seniors, homeless and the disabled could now use their CalFresh (food stamp) benefits to purchase hot meals in local restaurants.
Called the Restaurant Meals Program, it allows CalFresh recipients who have difficulty preparing meals or do not have a place to store and cook food, use their benefits at participating restaurants.
“This program will provide some of our most vulnerable residents with access to hot food,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, County Boardof Supervisors District 4. “Many of those individuals are without a residence, lack a proper cooking appliance or deal with a handicap that limits their ability to prepare certain foods.”
More than 26,000 CalFresh recipients have been notified they are eligible to purchase prepared foods at participating restaurants. CalFresh recipients who do not qualify for the Restaurant Meals Program are prohibited from purchasing prepared foods.
“Along with providing participants with what may be their only hot meal of the day, the Restaurant Meals Program supports an important component of the business community – restaurants,” said Supervisor Bill Horn, County Board of Supervisors District 5. “I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the California Restaurant Association in helping us create a workable program.”
So I wanted to see just what kind of meals would be available with this news program.
It’s accepted at selected BurgerKing, Der Weinerschnitzel and Rally’s locations. I guess that’s one way of getting rid of the folks that are ‘bankrupting’ our safety net.
#6 Pimping the (Non) News
Promoting reportage online is a sad fact of life for all of us in the world of journalism. I do it for SD Free Press, Voice of San Diego does it, UT-San Diego does it; even broadcast media plays the game. But sometimes you just need to give it a rest.
For a week now, the San Diego Reader has been pumping a story alleging connections and implying collusion between Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor, who granted a motion that some have interpreted as favorable to downtown tourism interests, and “several of the major players arrayed against the Democratic San Diego mayor.”
Those major players include Councilman Todd Gloria, Evan Hotels’ top dog Bill Evans, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and political consultant Jennifer Tierney.
Anybody that reads this column knows that I’m drinking the Filner Kool-aid when it comes to the tourism battle. Mayor Bob’s got it right, IMO. And I’m a big believer when it comes to stories about moneyed interests colluding with and against politicians. Why wouldn’t they? It’s only natural, even when it’s wrongheaded.
The Reader story ends with: “We left a message with Taylor’s court to talk to the judge this morning. This afternoon an aide said that the judge was not immediately available for comment.”
Well the judge has responded, releasing a statement that pretty much makes the Reader look…wrong?…silly?…
To make a long story short (and you can view the judge’s response here), the Reader certainly seems to have stretched the boundaries of truth, making assumptions that cast doubt on even the parts of the reportage that the judge didn’t challenge.
A mention of a hearing involving WalMart by Judge Tower in an earlier account suggested he’d ‘tossed’ an action involving a proposed location in Logan Heights. The judge notes that in fact he’d denied a motion by the mega-retailer to dismiss the case.
The Reader’s ‘connections’ between the jurist and signers of his nominating petition are dissolved when the letter discloses that several dozen judges hired the same political consultant as a means of collecting signatures in a ‘blind’ fashion.
Judge Tower: “The undersigned has no relationship with the individuals named in the article, and has never met or spoken with any of them.”
Hey Reader! Even if you don’t agree or dispute the Judge’s response, at least you can acknowledge it.
#7 Shoot Out at the SDRostra Corral
Given the gun lobby’s unyielding positions on attempts to re-institute a federal ban on assault weapons, gun control advocates have sought to introduce resolutions supporting their position to civic groups and local governments around the country. The reality is that legislation about assault weapons won’t even get a hearing, much less a vote, in the House of Representatives without a wave of public support.
An attempt by Councilman David Alvarez to introduce a resolution on this subject for consideration via the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, squeaked through yesterday without a recommendation on whether it should be approved.
From Fox5 San Diego:
The resolution offered by Alvarez calls for the city to support Feinstein’s bill, along with legislation to prevent the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The draft resolution also asks that California’s congressional delegation back the measure and that the state direct more money into mental health services.
City councils in Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Lemon Grove and National City, along with the San Diego Unified School District have recently passed resolutions supporting the proposed assault weapon ban. San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne told the committee that he fully supported the resolution, citing recent incidents where his officers have been threaten.
Republicans Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf tried to waylay the resolution, first complaining that it should go through a different committee and then questioning whether the Feinstein bill was the best approach. More ‘study’, less action seems to be a favored technique for stalling gun control measures these days.
Or perhaps they were responding to a posting over at conserve blog SDRostra, warning of grave consequences should the Council endorse any gun control resolution:
The unintended consequences of illegitimate actions can have deleterious effects. When the San Diego City Council passed a resolution to encourage a neighboring state to repeal an immigration law, tourism (a major industry in San Diego) suffered. That seemingly innocent resolution, encouraged by a small group of San Diegans, inflicted economic pain on hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans. Those hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans lost confidence in the City Council because it exercised power not specifically delegated to it.
Wow. I’d forgotten all about the local economic recession caused by the City Council’s stand on Arizona’s racist immigration law.
#8 It’s All or Nothing for the Hotel Cabal
This morning’s UT-San Diego makes a big deal (top of the local section, banner all-caps headline) about a counter-offer made by Mayor Bob Filner in the financial standoff currently underway with the Tourism Marketing District (TMD).
It’s no big deal. They’re gonna say no. They either want the outrageous 39 year deal they successfully lobbied for under the previous administration or nothing at all.
The Mayor’s offer:
…would allow the money — roughly $30 million annually — to be released immediately but requires significant changes to a deal approved last year by hoteliers and city leaders.
The money is collected as a 2 percent surcharge on hotel rooms, and is spent by a Tourism Marketing District to promote the city.
The hotelier-run district cannot spend the money at present because Filner has not yet signed an agreement reached with his predecessor, former Mayor Jerry Sanders. Sanders failed to sign the pact before leaving office, and Filner has offered his own ideas for how the program should operate.
Filner told the UT-SD on Sunday that he’d made the offer last Tuesday, but hadn’t heard back. As it turns out, the TMD board will be considering his proposal in closed session this afternoon.
Shortly afterwards, they’ll issue a statement turning down the offer, as they have with previous attempts by the mayor to negotiate. They’ll remind the press about the many employees facing layoffs (they got 60 day warnings) and won’t talk about the nearly $2 million dollars in contingency funds they have stashed away.
#9 First GOP Dirty Trick of the Year
Last week I reported on misleading mailers being sent to residents in San Diego’s District 4. There’s a special election on March 26th for the City Council seat vacated late last year by Tony Young. I profiled District 4 and the nine candidates last week.
Chances are nobody will win this contest outright (50%+1 is required), so the real deal next Tuesday is about who will make it into the runoff. And it looks to me like our local Republicans, even though they don’t have anything more than a token candidate in the race, are trying their best to influence the outcome.
This contest is important to all San Diegans because the winner will likely be a key vote on a City Council hesitant to get with Mayor Filner’s program to shift the emphasis of development away from downtown and towards the many neighborhoods of our city.
And it’s already very clear that our downtown interests aren’t going to give up their privileged position at the public trough without a fight.
That’s why a shadowy PAC calling itself San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform has sent mailers using the City of San Diego’s seal to voters throughout District 4. The flyer appears to be an official government communication warning about progressive candidate Myrtle Cole. It’s customized by neighborhood with the heading:
‘Urgent City Message to Residents of [ … ]’.
The Voice of San Diego examined the most egregious of the claims made in the mailer yesterday and proclaimed it to be “huckster propaganda” in their fact check column.
Copies of the fliers are out there on the internet for all to see. There is certainly a basis for questioning the legality of using the City Seal. And there certainly is no doubt that this mailing was an underhanded attempt to influence the election. I’d call it a dirty trick.
Others might say it’s business as usual for the local GOP types. From Voice of San Diego:
San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform says it promotes job growth, improved public education and reform-minded governance. In the last election cycle, the group raised close to $200,000 from the conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego County, the San Diego Restaurant and Beverage PAC and others. It paid for television ads to support failed Republican District 1 candidate Ray Ellis and mailers in Solana Beach council races.
The PAC’s public campaign filings to date make it impossible to know who paid for the Cole mailers. A call to the phone number listed on the organization’s campaign filings went straight to a voicemail and wasn’t returned. Ryan Purdy, a conservative activist listed on the filings as the organization’s chairman, did not return a call for comment.
April Boling, the PAC’s treasurer, said the organization has followed all applicable campaign finance rules. She declined to say who paid for the mailer.
What riles me up about all this is the clear double standard going on here. The PAC’s ads for Ray Ellis in last fall’s City Council race drew accusations of illegal collaboration between the candidate and the group. Those accusations merited media coverage. This incident barely warrants a peep.
If the shoe was on the other foot, say a Labor Council funded PAC produced an official looking mailer attacking a GOP candidate, you can bet there’d be near hysteria in the local news media. That’s the way things are in San Diego.
I can see it now: the UT-SD website would have a flashing red light (ala Drudge) and there’d be editorials demanding an investigation. District attorney Bonnie Dumanis would hold a press conference saying that she’s looking into it. KUSI would break into their morning mediocrity with a ‘special report’. And the rest of the media pack wouldn’t be far behind.
So this ‘dirty trick’ doesn’t count. It’s taking place in the city’s traditionally ‘Black’ district. If it happened in La Jolla somehow I feel things would be happening differently.
#10 The Stench of Hate
The stench of hate rolled over South San Diego this week as the Voice and Viewpoint, a newspaper that has traditionally represented the opinions of the old school Black community, made their endorsements for the District 4 City Council special election, slated for March 26th. (See more coverage on this contest here.)
Read it for yourself:
Dwayne Crenshaw, who lists himself as a Community Nonprofit Director/Educator looks and sounds like a great candidate, however, Mr. Crenshaw has a tremendous amount of baggage from the issues surrounding his days with the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils (CNC). His openly confessed gay lifestyle is at odds with a great deal of the District’s African American residents in spite of his family’s history in the community. His positions in leadership and advocacy in the Gay community does not lead itself to the building of the kinds of coalitions between the religious and civic community that the Fourth District has enjoyed in the past and needs to build on during this critical period of restructuring. Mr. Crenshaw is not our choice at any time for this position.
Crenshaw responded forcefully over at SDGLN.com, pointing out the history of anti-gay bigotry directed at his campaigns. In the 2004 campaign, theV&V went so far as to say he ‘had bad judgment because God’s judgment was against gays’.
What even more outrageous is the candidate who did get the V&V backing, Barry Pollard, seems to have not noticed the paper’s bigotry in his haste to celebrate the endorsement, touting it on both his Facebook and Twitter accounts:
Rec’d the endorsement of Voice and Viewpoint Newspaper today! Both papers, The Monitor & the Voice! So honored, and proud 4 our community!
— barry Pollard (@BarryBpollard) March 21, 2013
#11 The Tourism Business Dies (Back in March, Remember?)
Since I’m picking on the daily paper today, I may as well get in my two cents on their Friday editorial, which proclaimed San Diego’s tourism business to be already in the toilet due to Mayor Filner’s intransigence on signing off on a poorly conceived deal to fund marketing. Here’s the money quote:
A tourism official said local hotels are already seeing a “huge” falloff in business from the lack of promotion.
This ‘revelation’ stems from an article in a trade publication saying San Diego had a large drop off in occupancy for the week on March 10-16. And it’s literally true. The local hotel market has been soft recently. And tourism officials have been aggressively selling the local news media on this ‘story’.
Cough, cough. What a load of baloney.
The kerfuffle over tourism marketing dollars has resulted in cancellation (it could be resurrected, FYI) of a summer campaign for San Diego. Employees at the Tourism Marketing District have been issued warnings of an impending layoff. Nothing bad has actually happened, yet.
Somehow we’re expected to believe that Expedia and other agencies are telling people not to come to San Diego as the result of a political dispute between the Mayor and a bunch of hoteliers. That the impending cancellation of a future marketing campaign has already had negative results.
Those folks have been drinking too much of the ‘marketing is instantaneous and retroactive’ kool-aide. Or they’re lying.
#12 Best. Petition. Ever.
I haven’t been impressed with much of what I’ve seen ever since the White House web site started letting people file petitions.
Seceding from the Union? Just leave. And don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
But I did see one outlandish idea this weekend that struck a chord. And I think people from all political persuasions can united behind the idea.
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Require Congressmen & Senators to wear logos of their financial backers on their clothing, much like NASCAR drivers do.
Tomorrow: April’s Greatest Hits from The Starting Line
On This Day: 1900 – Carrie Nation staged her first raid on a saloon at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, KS. She broke each and every one of the liquor bottles that could be seen. 1970 – “Hello, Dolly!” closed on Broadway after a run of 2,844 performances. 1978 – Spain adopted a new constitution and became a democracy after 40 years of dictatorship.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs