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 last year.
By Doug Porter
#1 The Government Shuts Down and Obamacare Stumbles
Today’s UT-San Diego editorial repeats the GOP fantasy that the Affordable Care Act is about to “collapse under its unworkable weight”. If that’s true, shouldn’t they just let it happen? Could another Democrat get elected for President in the foreseeable future if that’s true?
Today’s paper also features a predictable “poll”. A plurality says it’s the President’s fault. The question of whether or not the government should be shut down isn’t even asked.
Bloomberg News, which has considerably more credibility and resources, also has a poll, one that asks the relevant questions:
In a rejection of congressional Republicans’ strategy, Americans overwhelmingly oppose undermining President Barack Obama’s health-care law by shutting down the federal government or resisting an increase in the nation’s debt limit, according to a poll released today.
By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University
By 64 percent to 27 percent, voters don’t want Congress to block an increase in the nation’s $16.7 trillion federal borrowing limit as a way to thwart implementation of the health-care law, which Obama signed into law in 2010 with a goal of insuring millions of Americans, known as “Obamacare.”
A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that begins enrollment today. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.
#2 Not a Democrats’ Democrat?
The Morning Report [at VOSD] let fly with this item:
Meanwhile, local Rep. Scott Peters diverged from the wide majority of his Democratic colleagues yesterday and voted with Republicans to make exceptions to the shutdown for services like national parks and museums. The measure didn’t get enough votes to pass with a required two-thirds margin
Oh, Cheese on Bread, as they say in the Caribbean when looking for a polite oath.
I get it that Peters comes from a conservative district, but this kind of gesture, especially when things like Head Start programs affected by the government shutdown aren’t even being considered, is just.not.right. Nineteen thousand children won’t be attending Headstart funded-preschooling and day care today, according to this tear jerker of an interview broadcast on NPR yesterday.
This item leads me inevitably back into The Shutdown. Today the House will consider FIVE “rifle shot” mini-funding bills today: 1) Vet Affairs 2) DC 3) Parks 4) NIH 5) Military Reservists under rules that require a simple majority to pass.
From The Hill:
The White House on Wednesday renewed its vow to block the piecemeal funding approach pushed by House Republicans.
In a statement of administration policy, the White House called that approach “not a serious or responsible way to run the U.S. government,” promising that the president would veto the measures the House is considering if they reached his desk.
“Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should re-open all of the government,” the administration stated. “The harmful impacts of a shutdown extend across Government, affecting services that are critical to small businesses, women, children, seniors, and others across the nation.”
Come on, Rep. Peters; it’s bad enough that you’re voted to end the Medical Device Tax, a clever lobbyist sponsored piece of legislation leaving a $30 billion hole in health care funding. Just say NO to GOP extortion demands.
#3 “The reign of morons began with the triumph of bullshit.”
—Charles Pierce, Esquire Magazine
Over the last few days the conservative pundit class has been preaching the message that the government shutdown was much ado about nothing. A ‘slim down’ became the Fox news codeword meant to belittle the ever-growing cumulative effects of the Congressional Republican’s efforts to hold the country hostage.
Word came out this morning that this weekend’s Miramar Air Show, already truncated by sequester mandated cutbacks in military spending, would now be cancelled. I have no doubt that the local Tea Party set will soon be announcing the closure was personally ordered by President Obama…
…Congressman Darrell Issa has already indicated to Politico that he’s looking to investigate the closure of various memorials in the nation’s capital especially by the World War II Memorial. Predictably, Issa and his GOP cohorts are prepared to spend more time and energy investigating why the memorials are closed than attempting to reopen the whole government and the monuments right along with it.
Nor it is important to the minority bloc within the GOP holding country hostage that their crusade will soon (2-3 weeks) result in the very veterans that are supposed to be honored by the memorials not getting their pension checks. However, it is apparently important that the House gym has now run out of clean towels.
#4 Kevin, Kevin, He’s Our Man!
Two studies released this week appear to validate the decision made by big money Republican donors to boost the candidacy of City Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
A poll by Republican leaning Competitive Edge Research & Communication of 504 likely voters (Sept. 26-29) shows Faulconer running essentially even with Nathan Fletcher (26-27%, with a plus or minus margin of error of 4.4 percent). Candidate David Alvarez was favored by 13%, Mike Aguirre got 7%, 20% of those polled said they were undecided and while 8% backed one of the seven other candidates in the race.
Following “push” polling questions, wherein surveyors read politically leading statements to respondents, support for Faulconer jumped to 34%, with Alvarez moving into second place with 22% and Fletcher support dropping to 20%.
Probable voter turnout in the Competitive Edge survey was pegged at somewhere between 35 and 40%.
A National University System Institute for Policy Research survey predicts a voter turnout of at about 46% for the special election, with 65% voting by mail-in ballot.
Low voter turnouts in special and primary elections have historically favored Republican candidates and conservative issues.
A UT-San Diego report on the National University study says:
The “Filner voter coalition” will not be a driving force in November, according to the report. Latinos and young voters, who strongly supported Filner last November, are unlikely to participate in high numbers this year. However, LGBT voter precincts will generate high turnout rates.
#5 Statewide GOP Gathering: Hyenas Stalking a Wounded Animal.
This weekend’s Republican statewide gathering in Anaheim was chock full of irony.
Across the street from the GOP convention, Disneyland was hosting “Gay Days” even as the party faithful vowed to fight recently enacted California laws protecting transgender rights.
The political party pitched the media on how this gathering would showcase the new bigger tent GOP chock full of fresh faces and ideas even as one of its approved vendors hawked anti-Hillary buttons promoting knuckle dragging sexism.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Four years ago during the California Republican Party convention, there were three big-name Republicans already revving up their gubernatorial campaigns – billionaire former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, millionaire state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and longtime South BayRep. Tom Campbell.
As the party gathers for this year’s convention, which begins Friday in Anaheim, the leading GOP gubernatorial candidate – former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado – has little cash on hand and just fired his top consultants. Down ticket from him is a slate of no-names and underfunded long shots running for statewide offices, of which Republicans currently hold none.
The state’s party acknowledges its bleak present in the title of its convention: “Rebuilding from the Ground Up.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the star attraction, delivering a sermon on the divide between Democrats and Republicans on economic issues, even as the GOP shutdown of Congress seemed to be steering the nation towards financial disaster.
#6 DeMaio’s Quest to Join the House of Indecision and Suicide Caucus
Congressional (D52) candidate Carl DeMaio is working overtime to try and turn the House-led shutdown to his advantage. He’s campaigning for a “common sense” law that says legislators can’t be paid until a budget is passed. He’s parroting the party line about how “both sides” need to come to the table.
But he’s got a hard road ahead as poll after poll shows even Republicans think the current shutdown tied to defunding Obamacare is a bad idea. And ever-increasing numbers of voters are willing to look past the false equivalence narratives being pushed by the cable news set and blame the Grand Old Party for this mess.
So how did I come up with the terms House of Indecision and Suicide Caucus? I plucked them from commentaries by certifiable conservative commentators.
Jonathan Strong and Robert Costa at National Review paint the broader picture:
House Republican leaders met today at the Capitol, but they made little progress toward solving the fiscal crisis, or calming the GOP’s growing tensions. They remain undecided on the contours of a potential deal, and on how to sell one, especially to the conference’s bloc of skeptical conservatives. “It’s the House of indecision,” says a weary Republican aide familiar with the talks. “We don’t have the votes for a big deal, small deal, or short-term deal.”
For part two of these descriptors I turn to my least favorite right winger, via Raw Story:
Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist and regular Fox News panelist Charles Krauthammer warned over the weekend that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was leading Republicans on a “suicide” mission to defund President Barack Obama’s health reform law with an attempted government shutdown.
Over the past month, Cruz has been joined Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and the Heritage Foundation in insisting that Republicans pass no continuing resolutions to fund the government unless the president agrees to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act.
“It would be over a cliff for the GOP,” Krauthammer said on Sunday’s edition Inside Washington. “I admire the sincerity and the passion of those who don’t want to pass the budget unless you get rid of Obamacare, but it is utterly impossible in the real world. And the only thing it will do is to undo all the gains the Republicans have made over the past year, and undo their very real chances of having great successes next year.”
“I think it’s a suicide caucus…”
Now you might think that I’m playing the old “guilt by connection” partisan ploy.
But consider candidate Carl’s pitch to potential voters last Tuesday at the San Diego Lion’s Club, where he compared himself and his “mission” to Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz, generally considered as being mastermind of the current standoff.
Via San Diego Politico:
…when asked how as a junior congressman he would be able to change Washington, DeMaio pointed to Ted Cruz as an example saying “Take a look at what Ted Cruz is doing. Freshman Senator, he’s certainly creating a lot of stir. So I do believe one individual can make a difference. And it’s a question of whether you are willing to stand your ground.”
#7 A Change of Heart at UT San Diego
Kudos to Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego for catching the local daily fishwrap’s change of heart when it comes to maritime uses for the port area adjacent to Barrio Logan.
The local shipbuilding industry is threatening an initiative to overturn the recently enacted community plan. The UT-San Diego is blowing a lot of hot air on the subject, using it to attack mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, warning that the livelihoods of 46,000 San Diegans at stake.
Except, as Lewis notes, the paper’s editorial board was all for tearing down one the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal just last year to replace it with a football stadium favored by their publisher. They wanted to move everything maritime elsewhere, like maybe, National City. You know, get those peasants, er, good jobs out of the way of another shiny new toy for the local robber barons.
Blowing up 10th Avenue is certainly a lot more hostile to the port’s maritime business than some community plan for a nearby neighborhood.
In 2012, the U-T hammered the idea that the best use of this land was maritime use. No, it was neither what was best for the economy nor for our city’s beauty.
And yet now, a year later, a plan for a piece of land in Barrio Logan, not even on the port, that likely won’t have any effect for decades, if at all, is an intolerable existential threat to jobs in a vital local maritime industry?
#8 The Battle of the Budget Starts to Wind Down
In the wake of two major developments over the last 48 hours, Republican intransigence appears to be weakening in the Battle of the Budget, 2013 Version.
Small, mostly symbolic, steps occurred yesterday towards ending the threat of default triggered by a Tea Party-led refusal to raise the debt ceiling and, possibly, the re-opening the federal government.
Following a White House meeting for Republican representatives, a public willingness to engage in further discussions emerged. Congressman Paul Ryan told the press both sides should “put their guns back in their holsters”, according to Politico.
This motivation to sound reasonable came on the heels of a letter from financiers and Tea Party backers David and Charles Koch responding to claims made by Senate leader Harry Reid implicating them as instigators of the current standoff.
Every word in the letter was true: Koch industries has played little or no role in the current round of nastiness triggered by right wing forces seeking to undo the Affordable Care Act. Koch family money, on the other hand, has been instrumental in funding the groups supporting the current confrontation.
From Think Progress:
At a press conference Thursday, House GOP leadership announced the new strategy, one day after Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham admitted the group will “give the speaker some flex on a short-term debt limit increase,” in order to extend the shutdown over Obamacare. On Wednesday, Koch officials increased the pressure with a letter for inquiring members who “have asked what our position is on this issue” that claims the conservative billionaires never supported withholding government funds over Obamacare. Privately, Koch officials told Congress aU.S. default would be a disaster.
Both groups have been driving forces throughout the debt and shutdown crises and are responsible for putting Tea Party members in Congress in the first place. Even now, it’s not clear if the Tea Party that Heritage and Koch helped to create will accept a deal on these terms, since debt ceiling truthers refuse to recognize that default is an economic threat.
#9 Battle Lines Drawn in Barrio Logan
For thirty years, San Diego’s Barrio Logan community existed without a community plan. There was no law, no order when it came to land use and zoning. Having prospered in chaos for so many years, nearby maritime industries are threatening the region’s economy unless they get their way.
Historically speaking, in the minds of the downtown-centric elites any regulatory structure was simply not necessary in Barrio Logan. After all, the community was just chock full of “them”, as in people of color, mostly of Mexican heritage. Children were exposed to toxic emissions, the nearby waters used to dump heavy metals and other pollutants, and the robber barons of the shipbuilding industry looked away.
All that messy “stuff” had to go somewhere. Clean air and water were a priority for the city’s “nicer” neighborhoods as a matter of policy.
As other communities around San Diego held street fairs and got block grants, the residents of Barrio Logan struggled just to get organized. For the past five years they’ve worked to create order out of chaos via the creation of a community plan. At public meetings residents jousted with the shipyard builders who dominate the adjacent Port of San Diego-controlled shoreline.
Rather than draw the process out any further, two community plans were created. On September 17, the City Council voted to adopt a modified version of the resident-centric plan including concessions proposed by Councilman Alvarez designed to ease the tensions between the competing interests. The newly approved plan would separate industrial establishments and residential neighborhoods in the interest of breathable air, affordable community housing and support for the maritime workforce.
That compromise wasn’t good enough for waterfronts’ three big shipbuilding and repair companies — General Dynamics NASSCO, BAE Systems and Continental Maritime of San Diego. They say they can’t live with this deal. Using the same kind of flawed logic used by the NRA and gun advocates, they say this is part of creeping conspiracy to do them in. They’ve vowed to overturn the community plan through a public referendum.
Or at least the threat of a public referendum. With high profile figures like Carl DeMaio leading the charge for signatures in shopping centers in neighborhoods north of Interstate 8 and the editorial board of UT-San Diego propagating suggestions of impending economic disaster, the backers of this initiative hope to follow Walmart’s example, whereby the mere threat of an election forced a cash-strapped City to back down…
…According to the environmental impact report for the adopted plan, the buffer zone and industrial park combination will contribute to a projected increase in employment from just over 10,000 jobs to nearly 15,000. The plan received unanimous support of the San Diego City Planning Commission and recommendation for approval from city staff.
Yet we’re being told that thousands of jobs are threatened.
I agree with the shipbuilders when they say much is at stake. We disagree about what is at stake. A city of villages is supposed to be at the heart of the planning version for San Diego. That assumption pre-supposes that citizens are involved as stakeholders.
Except for Barrio Logan, apparently. I have no doubt that a big money campaign warning people (falsely) that jobs are at stake with enactment of this plan will convince non-stakeholders in other neighborhoods to vote with the corporate interests here. After all, they’re just a bunch of brown skinned people down there.
#10 Ex-Mayor Bob Cops a Plea
Robert Earl Filner stood before California State Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta and pled guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence, fraud, menace and deceit and two misdemeanor counts of battery.
The courtroom appearance was the culmination of a plea bargain deal orchestrated by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. The hearing was broadcast live, with the camera showing reporters in the background furiously texting and Tweeting blow by blow accounts. Filner, dressed in a blue suit and wearing a gold tie, seemed oblivious to the near-circus atmosphere around him, responding only when spoken to.
Sentencing was set for Dec. 9, and a press release from the Ms. Harris’ office indicates Filner will serve three months of home confinement followed by three years of probation.
He assented to undergoing mental health treatment, will never to seek public office again and will give up a portion of his city pension.
You’d think that would be the end of the Masher Mayor saga. But you’d be wrong.
There were always twin aspects to the fall of Filner. Both were true.
First were his fallibilities. Decades in elected office left him believing in his own infallibility. Power is ultimately a bad habit, and Filner was/is a fully functional addict. Claiming the mantle as defender of the oppressed as his path to elected office, he became what he was supposed to be fighting.
As a comic strip character once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.
His sense of invincibility, re-enforced via a “winning” track record, left him blind to the consequences of his behavior. And he failed on multiple levels, both as a human being and a leader, as a result. Those failures translated to anguish and humiliation for the women he treated as less than human sex objects.
Secondly were his politics. In the world of San Diego’s ‘get along’ culture he was a threat even before he took the oath of office. No more “business as usual” was an affront to the sorts of vested financial and political interests who’ve ruled this roost for decades. “Wink, wink”, “nod, nod” and a couple of cocktails at the US Grant hotel were no longer part of the process. What made it more maddening was there was no discernible course of action towards ‘getting things done’ for those accustomed to deal making in America’s Finest City.
A series of small battles became major slugfests. Major amounts of political capitol and energy were expended. Minimum wage (or slightly above) hotel workers were paraded in front of reporters as the victims of a Mayor Gone Mad.
For the “downtown interests”, waging these battles was simply a matter of hiring more help to litigate, spin and agitate. Then came the “gift” of Filner’s presumed allies calling for his resignation.
I believe Cory Briggs, et. al., when they say they had no plan. The best evidence for this belief is the events unfolding in the wake of their disclosures.
The local reactionary establishment could (and did) just sit back and watch the administration self destruct. For Republicans and their ilk, the scandal was good for business. The divisions and distractions it caused laid the foundation, they thought, for future deals and personal prosperity.
The era of Mayor Bob effectively ended the day of that first press conference. For a politician removed from the cocoon of Congressional politics, these battles became all consuming.
Nobody’s agenda was being enacted.
On August 30th, Bob Filner left office.
So now he’s out of office. Out of power. He’s a freak circus meriting more media attention than the various policies that are being undermined, reversed or quietly eliminated.
The popular narrative, expressed succinctly in a UT-San Diego editorial cartoon today, is that the city “suffered” through 270-odd days of Mayor Bob as great damage was done to the economy.
And they’re not through with Bob Filner yet.
Now Filner’s legacy is to be used as bludgeon to batter any who might claim to support any part of a liberal agenda.
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer is figuratively donning a superhero cape at campaign stops as he regales audiences with the tale of how he ‘saved’ San Diego from certain destruction.
Witness today’s sermon from Manchester’s Mission Valley minions:
But let’s drop any pretense that this will bring “closure” to the appalling Filner saga.
It’s not just his many victims’ continuing emotional trauma. The fact is the former congressman, city councilman and school board member was helped by a long list of enablers — Democratic elected officials, union leaders and power brokers who knew of Filner’s long history of obnoxious behavior but gave him a pass on it because they saw him as a strong mayoral candidate in 2012. Closure begins when these enablers — starting with labor-boss-turned-
In short: Filner was a pig. And “they” were out to get him. Those truths are not incompatible.
#11 The “Big Lie, Many Places” Strategy
San Diego shopping centers and grocery stores were blanketed this weekend with contract employees reportedly retained by Southwest Strategies. They were being paid $1.75 for each signature gathered on a petition that aims to challenge the Barrio Logan community plan.
People signed the petitions in droves. Why wouldn’t anybody? After all these shills were peddling anything but the truth. And the implications of this initiative effort for other neighborhoods in San Diego are huge.
Want a change in your neighborhood plan for something big and ugly favored by special interests? If you’ve signed one of those petitions, that’s what you’re opening the door for.
One contract employee told people outside a Trader Joe’s in Mission Valley that businesses were fighting having their building being torn down to build condominiums. Another in Hillcrest, challenged on his assertion that tens of thousands of jobs were in immediate danger, changed tacks and asked for a signature just so he’d get paid. Yet another was telling passers-by the Navy base was endangered by condos. And Carl DeMaio was out and about visiting shopping centers, pedaling his latest version of the truth.
Do yourselves a favor. Just say “no” to paid signature gatherers. (I don’t care what the issue is.)
The company behind this “Big Lie, Many Places” campaign is the same outfit that successfully blackmailed the San Diego City Council into repealing an ordinance that would have required Walmart to submit economic impact studies for its proposed urban big box locations.
The Barrio Logan Community Plan was approved by the City Council following five years of hearings and community meetings. Maritime industry representatives are fighting it because the plan sets up a future nine block buffer zone of commercial use between industrial usages and residential areas.
Existing maritime-related business are not impacted by the change, even if they are sold. New maritime businesses (mostly sub-contractors-the shipyards are NOT in this area) and existing businesses expanding by more than 20% will require conditional use permits, involving significant community input. The companies prefer no such permits, saying they could take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure.
The economic impact studies done by the planning groups under the aegis of the City of San Diego indicate that employment in the area will grow by nearly 5000 jobs under the current plan. No residential development is included in the plan; so much for the condos argument…
No studies exist claiming that jobs will be lost in the approved plan goes into effect. That’s right. None. Zero. Zip…. Even though the industry has been aware and participated in the process of drawing up the plan over the past five years.
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer’s been claiming that 46,000 positions are at stake. Even the number he and the industry is using is false. There are a total of 14,400 jobs in the entire Port of San Diego. Again, we’re talking about a nine block area north of Harbor Drive.
So what’s the basis for claiming all these jobs will be lost? Here’s the quote:
“Over time we believe this process will threaten the shipyard’s very existence in San Diego,” said Kevin Graney, vice president of operations for General Dynamics NASSCO.
I’ll tell you what I believe: Putting a community plan up for a citywide vote guts the whole concept of having a city built around its neighborhoods.
#12 Gloria Brings in a Gunslinger
While many San Diegans are focused on the election promises of the four major candidates contending for top job at city hall, interim Mayor Todd Gloria’s made one move that could have a serious impact on the conversations taking place about services and neighborhood.
Fox 5 San Diego reports the iMayor has retained the services of former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith (no relation to the City Attorney) as an efficiency expert.
Known as an expert in privatizing city governments, his claim to fame comes via aggressive programs government services and selling them out to the private sector.
From Fox 5:
The republican’s been praised by conservatives, but blasted by critics accusing him of granting public contracts to wealthy contributors to his mayoral campaign, according to an investigation by City Limits online magazine.
His measures are also reported to have resulted in hundreds of government worker layoffs.
More recently, Goldsmith served as Deputy Mayor of New York City, brought in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help him run the city more efficiently. That didn’t go as planned, he resigned 14 months into the job after being arrested for domestic violence, but was reportedly never criminally charged.
On This Day: 1951 – NBC-TV debuted “Dragnet.” 1961 – The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. 1987 – Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Bill Haley and 14 others. Franklin was the first woman to be inducted.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
September * The Repackaging of Kevin Faulconer, Wherein Barney Fife Gets Transformed into John Wayne
August * All Filner, All The Time
July * San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s World Starts to Fall Apart
June *Issa’s Joe McCarthy Imitation, DeMaio’s Koch Connection and #filnereverywhere
May * Bigger Than Watergate, Dumber Than Obamacare and More Dangerous Than a Leftist Bagman
April * Cochella (Twice), Taxes, Terrorists, and Testing
March *Sequestration, Taxifornication, Misinformation, and the Great Tourism Recession in San Diego
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs