Friday, July 31, 2009

Best Blog Post Title Of The Week

Maybe - best of the month.
Maybe - best of the year.
Maybe it is simply...

Best. Blog. Post. Title. Evah.

D.A. Ridgely at Positve Liberty:

Obama throwing money at the problem

"Free Money Program Proves Surprisingly Popular"

From the New York Times:
The House of Representatives voted to provide an emergency $2 billion for the “cash for clunkers” program on Friday, and the White House declared the program very much alive, even though car buyers appear to have already snapped up the $1 billion that Congress originally appropriated.
Refresh my memory. When exactly did Congress decide the word “emergency” means “popular with voters”?
My 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee V8 is officially rated as 16 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. Average 16 mpg. The free money cutoff for SUV's is 15 mpg.

No soup for me.

NOTE: Lost track of where on the intertubes I found this animated graphic. Happy to credit the source here if anyhone knows who created it.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arlo Guthrie: "We need a loyal oppostion"

While I am trying to get my arms around the health care debate (screed under construction), how about a little musical interlude?

Arlo Guthrie in a New York Times Magazine interview last Sunday:
NYT: Where are you politically these days?
Arlo Guthrie: "I became a registered Republican about five or six years ago because to have a successful democracy you have to have at least two parties, and one of them was failing miserably. We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition."
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Live at The Guthrie Center Church October 11, 2008...

...and at Woodstock in 1969:

Per my last post, we still need a few more good Republicans.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Everything that is wrong with Republicanism in one easy headline:


Since my divided government obsession had me registering, supporting and contributing Democratic for the 2006 election, then registering, supporting and contributing Republican in the 2008 election, I am bombarded by political e-mail solicitations from across the political spectrum. Most of the e-mail is moved unread straight to the trash bin. Every once in a while, a subject header will get my attention. Like the one that pulled up the screenshot e-mail pictured here.

Yes. It really says that. I am not going to link to the "Pray in Jesus Name Project" (PIJNP) that paid Human Events to have their message delivered into my e-mail inbox. However, the subject line did its job, and I did feel compelled to read it - just to understand what kind of madness could possibly flesh out that headline. I thought at first it must be a parody. Alas - no.

First, some background. An amendment to strip funding for production of the F-22 Raptor was approved in the Senate and excised from Defense Authorization bill under threat of veto by Obama. The F-22 is an expensive fighter without a mission in today's world. It does not fly in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Air Force does not want or need more F-22's. Defense Secretaries and Joint Chiefs under both Democratic Republican and Democratic presidents have tried to kill further production. Both Clinton and Bush tried and failed to kill it. Obama finally did. Just barely.

I read the PIJNP e-mail, so you don't have to. As near as I can tell, the idea is to get F-22 Raptor funding reinstated in the defense bill while it is in conference, for the express purpose of triggering an Obama veto, so that the Leahy Hate Crime amendment attached to the Defense Authorization Bill would also fail as collateral damage. Or something like that. Perhaps they have a chance.

This group, and this e-mail appeal may not be worth the attention I'm giving it. but, they seem to have money for heavy internet advertising, claim to have driven 350,000 petition signatures, and some people are paying attention, so... its worth a look.

What are we to make of what is being advocated in this e-mail appeal? Some possibilities.

One - Face Value
If we take this at face value, we have social conservative religious zealots that actually believe that the "Homosexual Agenda" is a threat so dire, that it is worth risking: a veto of the defense budget; diverting defense resources needed for the wars we are actually fighting; and completely wasting $1.75 billion of taxpayer funds on an unneeded weapons program. All to stop the homosexual agenda and sacrificing both conservative fiscal and security principles.

Two - Conspiracy Theory
Lockheed Martin has been pretty darn effective in gaming the procurement process to continue this particular weapons program. Lockheed arranged for Raptor components to be built in 44 states. As a consequence, 40 Senators voted to continue the program, including liberals like Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd. A majority of the Nancy Pelosi Democratic House of Representatives voted to continue the program. Could Lockheed, a member in good standing of what John McCain calls the "military industrial congressional complex" be taking the "game" to another level by using this organization as a front group? Recall that many believe the 2004 homophobic campaign against gay marriage generated enough additional Republican voter turnout in Ohio to swing the electoral votes for that state and lost the election for Kerry. Is it possible that Lockheed would front a homophobic social conservative organization simply to drive faux grass roots support for a unneeded weapons system? Seems unlikely... but who knows?

Regardless, this points to the continuing conservative conundrum faced by limited government advocates and deficit/spending hawks. The only electoral mechanism that can have an actual effect on practical policy in the short term, is for libertarians, fiscal conservatives and limited government advocates to support Republican legislators in 2010 and 2012 to divide this government.

The fusionist alliance between fiscal and social conservatives (GOP factions described by Ryan Sager as" libertarians" and "evangelists" in his excellent book "The Elephant in the Room"), has been the path to electoral success for Republicans in recent decades. Others describe the alliance as three legs of a tripod supporting the GOP platform - fiscal conservatives , social conservatives and security conservatives. But how can fiscal conservatives and libertarians make common cause with social conservatives if they are actively working to undercut the two other legs (fiscal and security conservatives)?

I don't know how representative the "Pray in Jesus Name" project is of the social conservative rank and file. I pray in Jesus name that they are not the norm. But whether they are religious zealots, a front for cynical corporate manipulation, or straight con-men, having fellow travelers like the "Pray in Jesus Name Project" doesn't make it easy to cast a vote for divided government and fiscal responsibility in 2010. But, as Samuel Johnson noted, "The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully". As does the absence of any other options to constrain spending by this administration. if there is only one path to get to your destination, it is a good idea to take the path.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The League of Divided Gentlemen

The boys over at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen found a divided government ball in the closet and started kicking it around the field a bit this week. The timing is good.

Consciously or not, voters clearly and decisively rejected any notion of divided government in the November election. However, there are equally clear indications of buyer's remorse emerging in the electorate. The right wing is quick to grasp at any straw and, as usual, get it wrong by focusing primarily on President Obama. This is a mistake for several reasons. First, Obama is a likable and popular president and will likely continue to enjoy that personal popularity. Second, he is not running for office in 2010. If in 2010 Republicans attempt to make up ground by simply trying to tie Democratic legislators to Obama, they will miss an opportunity to begin rebuilding their brand. I submit the remorse is not about Obama. It is about One Party Rule.

Pat Toomey is getting it right. Some credit his entry as a primary challenger to Arlen Specter as the reason Specter deserted the Republican ship and became a Democrat. Toomey fired an opening salvo and struck a direct hit below the waterline of Specter's new Democratic lifeboat, when he eloquently made the case for divided government. To the amusement of Brad at The Crossed Pond, Specter immediately dropped 20 points in head to head polls (comparing the May poll of Specter vs. Toomey in a Republican primary to a recent poll now showing a dead heat between Republican Toomey vs. Democrat Specter in a general election). I cannot help but think the growing disdain for one party Democratic rule is a factor in those results. If this is an early indicator of voter sentiment, we can expect "divided government" to be a hot topic in the 2010 midterms [Note to self: Get back to work on your book project].

Ordinary Gentleman Mark Thompson builds a nice intellectual foundation to kick off the 2010 divided government discussion by asking the question "Is Divided Goverment more responsive?". I'll skip right to his conclusions:
"This isn’t to say that divided government is a cure-all that ensures that all our problems will be competently dealt with. Instead, it’s just to say that divided government makes three things more likely: 1. Where there is no national consensus on the existence of a problem, no legislation will try to fix that alleged problem; 2. Where there is a national consensus on the existence of a problem, legislation will be strongly pushed that seeks to solve that problem; and 3. Legislation that passes will be the result of good-faith negotiations about how best to solve the problem.

Conversely, unified government makes it more likely that: 1. There will be more legislation where only one side of the political spectrum sees the existence of a problem; 2. There will be less legislation where there is a consensus on the existence of a problem since solutions to that problem will, in some instances, be politically inconvenient to the party in power, while the party out of power will have little incentive to push meaningful reform for which the party in power will be able to take credit; and 3. Legislation that becomes law will be significantly undermined, possibly to the point of being counter-productive, by intra-party horse trading and more concentrated interest group influence."
Mark is diving headlong into an area of divided government theory that DWSUWF has studiously avoided. He speculates about the actual mechanism whereby divided government delivers better governance and legislation. In general, DWSUWF has been more interested in promoting the empirically documented benefits of a divided government state and advocating a voting heuristic to exploit them, as opposed to wondering "Why does divided government work?".

As usual, the commentariat at the League are equally informative and stimulating. This last is a bit self serving, as your loyal blogger could not resist weighing in with a few observations. Notable among the comments were these two remarkable admissions -
"Alright, you’ve [mw] got me half-convinced that I’m wrong about the value of a voting strategy."- Mark Thompson

"I think mw may be right that I am overselling the difficulty of determining how to vote for divided government." - Michael Drew
Your blogger is unaccustomed to this kind of affirmation and does not know how to react. I think it best if I just take the rest of the day off. Before I go I'd like to offer Mark a token of appreciation as a charter member in the yet-to-be-posted 2010 Coalition of the Divided ("half-convinced" is good enough for DWSUWF) - Mark, please accept the semi-original graphic at the top of this post, just in case you want to swap out your avatar on your next divided government post.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stimulus funds flowing through a "Pipeline to Nowhere"

As promised, DWSUWF is following up on an earlier post regarding the potential Pacifica "Pipeline to Nowhere." First, know that your loyal blogger fully understands that in the greater scheme of things, $2m of stimulus funds is less than a drop in the gigantic porkfest bucket that is the Obama Stimulus plan. But... having noticed a potential issue for a local project that has not received much attention, I feel I should try to ensure that at least this one little $2M drop of taxpayer funds does not get wasted.

Work with me here... this is going to be a deep dive into the weeds of this one stimulus project. I will make this as clear and concise as I can.

The Project
Here is the project as described on the Department of the Interior "Recovery Investments" website:
Pacifica Recycled Water Project - Pipeline, North Coast County Water District Pacifica, Calif. Reclamation ARRA Funding: $2,203,750 Total Project Cost: $8,815,000
Local Contact: Kevin O’Connell, Project Manager
Funding will be used to construct new facilities including 3.5 miles of pipeline, a 400,000-gallons storage tank and a new pump station. The project will provide recycled water to irrigation users that currently draw water from the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, and thereby reduce users’ dependence on existing potable water supplies.
So we have an $8.8 million water pipeline project, of which $2.2 million will come from stimulus funds. We learn from a San Mateo County Times article that the remaining cost will be split between the San Francisco Public Utilities commission and the North Coast Water District using low interest construction loans from the State of California. It should be noted that both municipalities, the county and the state are facing enormous budget shortfalls and have no money to waste. We also learn from the article that 78% of the water flowing through the pipeline will be used to irrigate the Sharp Park Golf Course. The course is currently being irrigated with water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir with good potable water that can be better used elsewhere.

So far so good. Regardless of ones political posture on the stimulus package itself, and unlike a lot of the pork, waste and just plain stupid expenditures emerging from the website, this project clearly meets the criteria of what the stimulus package was promoted to accomplish. It is an infrastructure construction project. It will create 275 jobs. It helps relieve the growing pressure on the San Francisco Bay area watershed. It's recycling water during a drought. It is a needed project. What's not to like?

The Problem
Sharp Park Golf course is located in Pacifica but owned by the city of San Francisco. Legislation has been introduced in San Francisco (Item 090329) to close Sharp Park and turn it into a nature preserve in order to protect an endangered garter snake and frog (both of which have lived in harmony on the course property for 70 years).

This legislation was submitted by San Francisco supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at the instigation of a well heeled out of state ecology organization with a reputation for intimidating municipalities with their high power legal machinations. They have funded a glossy website filled with half-truths promoting a phantasmagorical photoshopped vision of a "restored" Sharp Park. Nowhere in the website do they explain in detail where the money is going to come from to realize this wildly expensive and poorly thought out fantasy. The only organized opposition to this is an underfunded local grass roots organization of bay area golfers, preservationists and Pacifica residents who are fighting the good fight to save Sharp Park - a historically significant landmark golf course designed by Alister MacKenzie.

The SF Board of Supervisors is currently awaiting a study due at the end of the month, and will then decide the fate of Sharp Park. Common sense dictates that a simple plan be developed to insure the golf course continues to operate in harmony with the red leg frog and the garter snake. That would make perfect sense. But we are talking about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, egged on by well funded extremist eco-bullies, so - no telling what will happen. They could very well close the course.

Here is the point. If the Supes decide to close the Sharp Park golf course, the approved stimulus water recycling project will literally be a "Pipeline to Nowhere. " There will be no reason to waste $2.2 million of stimulus funds and another $6 million of California funds on this project.

The Prescription
Common sense dictates that a pipeline project to irrigate a golf course should not proceed if the golf course is to be closed. If there is no commitment by local, state, and federal leaders to the continued operation of the beneficiary of the pipeline (the Sharp Park Golf Course) the stimulus funds should be redirected. Again, this pipeline project is a good project that will help the community, create jobs, save water, and is a good use of stimulus funds, if there is a commitment to the Sharp Park Golf Course. So - what will it take to get that commitment?

This blog has a limited (if loyal) readership. However, I will do what I can to put a spotlight on the potential of funding a "Pipeline to Nowhere." Faced with public embarrassment, public officials will generally take the path of least resistance. In this case that path is a simple rational common sense approach:
  1. Commit to the continuation of the Sharp Park golf course.
  2. Implement procedures at the course to further protect the snake and frog.
  3. Build the pipeline to irrigate with recycled water.
  4. Find a way to inoculate Pacifica and San Francisco against abusive lawsuits from the eco-bullies in Tucson.
For a change, why not try to solve this problem before the money is wasted? To that end, over the next 24 hours I will be forwarding versions of this message to the following officials and organizations:

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco
Mayor Julie Lancelle of Pacifica
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Representative Nancy Pelosi (8th District)
Representative Jackie Speir (12th District)
Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Vice President Joe (Stimulus Sheriff) Biden
Government Accountability Office - Fraudnet
Department of Interior - Office of Inspector General
Anyone else who might shine some additional light on this project

Feel free to chime in. I'll also try to get some reporters, and other blogs interested.

To borrow a phrase from the Bravo Channel - let's see what happens.


Pacific Riptide has been covering the pros and cons from a Pacifica perspective. They have a link to a video of Mayor Julie Lancelle recounting the history of this political battle to local Democrats last Saturday . She is fighting the good fight. Pacifica is lucky to have her as mayor.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

I can't add anything to this:
Guest WaPo OpEd on "Obama's predicament"

Every once in a while you run across something so well written, so precisely articulated, and so perfectly spot-on, all you can do is cut and paste. From Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch opining in the Washington Post:
"The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year.
Beyond pushing the "emergency" $787 billion stimulus package (even while acknowledging that the vast majority of funds would be released in 2010 and beyond), Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill and a $106 billion supplemental spending bill to cover "emergency" expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, improbably, a "cash for clunkers" program). Despite pledges to achieve a "net spending cut" by targeting earmarks and wasteful spending, Obama rubber-stamped more than 9,000 earmarks and asked government agencies to trim a paltry $100 million in spending this year, 0.003 percent of the federal budget.
Such is the extent of Obama's magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn't even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of "providing the American people more transparency in government."

What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance... Don't pretend that a budget that doubles the national debt in five years and triples it in 10 is the work of politicians tackling "the difficult choices." Americans have a pretty good (if slow-to-activate) B.S. detector, and the more you mislead them now, the worse they'll punish you later."
The only thing I question is that last highlighted bit. For all the smarmy cynicism and sarcasm, the authors have a real optimism about the American electorate. I wish I could share their Pollyanna faith in my fellow citizens. The more I see, the more I fear that most Americans fall into the one condition not covered by the Abraham Lincoln homily. Obama/Axelrod are well on the way to proving that that you can indeed fool most of the people most of the time.

[NOTE: I did find something to add - a couple of self serving links to the embedded quote]

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Robert McNamara Remembered -
lessons from a liberal technocrat

"I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones.

So let it be with Caesar."

- William Shakespeare (Marc Antony's eulogy)
Marc Antony's intent was masked by his words, and the words that Shakespeare put in his mouth are the opposite of what Shakespeare knew to be true. As a rule - it is the good that men do that live after them. We are reluctant to speak ill of the dead. We prefer to celebrate the song and dance man, but forget the child molester and drug abuser. So let it be with Michael. But what of Robert? Almost lost among the Michael Jackson Memorial media circus last week was the notable death of Robert McNamara. Perhaps he is an exception to the rule of remembering only the good men do.

Robert McNamara died in his bed on Monday July 6th. Words like those of Shakespeare's Antony, words crafted to deceive, words considered only as a means to a political end, are words that seem particularly apropos when remembering Robert McNamara.

McNamara has been a frequent topic on this blog. The recurring theme and the unanswered question: What did he know to be true about the Vietnam War, when did he know it, what actions did he take and fail to take as a consequence, and why did he chose not to tell the American people what he knew? It seemed an important lesson for today. From a September, 2006 post:
In 1995, Robert McNamara (widely referred to as "the architect of the Vietnam War") writing in his memoir "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam", revealed that as early as 1967 (with 25,000 American dead) he no longer believed that America could win the war in Vietnam, and as a direct consequence of expressing that view, resigned (or was fired) from the LBJ administration. This McNamara quote is excerpted from Harold P. Ford's analysis "Thoughts Engendered by Robert McNamara's In Retrospect":
"We were wrong, terribly wrong... Enemy morale has not broken . . . . It appears that [the enemy] can more than replace his losses by infiltration from North Vietnam and recruitment in South Vietnam. . . . Pacification has if anything gone backward. As compared with two, or four, years ago, enemy full-time regional forces and part-time guerrilla forces are larger; attacks, terrorism and sabotage have increased in scope and intensity. . . . In essence, we find ourselves--from the point of view of the important war (for the [hearts and minds] of the people)--no better, and if anything worse off. This important war must be fought and won by the Vietnamese themselves. We have known this from the beginning . . ." Robert McNamara -"In Retrospect" (pp. 262-263).
Neither McNamara nor LBJ chose to share that insight with the American public. Ultimately it took 50,000 American lives for a majority of Americans to learn that their government could not be trusted on the reasons for, nor the "light at the end of the tunnel" progress in, Vietnam. It is reasonable to posit, that if McNamara had recognized in 1968 that his loyalty was owed first to the American people, and second to the LBJ administration, had communicated what he knew then to the American people, we might have seen a better end, a quicker end, and fewer deaths and casualties in Vietnam.
McNamara had a bit more nuanced view of his own actions. While he acknowledged his analysis and the consequent administration decisions on Vietnam were dead wrong, while he regretted his support of that war, he remained unapologetic about putting loyalty to his president ahead of his obligations to the American people. He had no problem rationalizing his decision to keep the American people ignorant of what he knew to be true about that war.

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer was one of the few broadcast news outlets not distracted by the Michael Jackson death-a-palooza, and explored this very question on the night of his death. An excerpt:

The full segment includes interviews with documentarian Earl Morris and biographer Deborah Shapley. Also interesting, the complete 1995 interview between Macneil and McNamara, as well as a spirited round table discussion between a young Senator John McCain, George McGovern, McGeorge Bundy and Robert Scheer, also available on the PBS site:

Recommended viewing.

The picture of Robert McNamara that emerges from the interviews, the book and the documentary differs from contemporaneous reporting when his memoir was published. There is no contrition on display. No quest for redemption is in evidence as some suggested at the time. This is the technocrat, the policy wonk, the engineer poring over the wreckage of an airplane he designed and offering observations on why it crashed and burned. His hope for his memoir:
"I hope what it will do is cause us to examine what happened then and try to prevent it in the future."
Examining the McNamara lessons can drive a blogger to drink. So let us start at our favorite watering hole, The Repeating History Bar. Here we find another senior administration official choosing personal loyalty to a president over their duty to the American people. Many have compared McNamara to Rumsfeld. I have done so myself. But in the context of the lessons learned from McNamara and Vietnam, the more apt comparison is Colin Powell. From a more recent post:
Colin Powell enabled the GWB administration to garner the support needed to put us on this course [in Iraq]. I suspect that Colin Powell, out of misplaced loyalty, like McNamara on Vietnam, failed to be forthright and honest with the American people about Iraq. Should Colin Powell, in future memoirs, like McNamara, proclaim that he knew that the Iraq occupation was a wrong policy, he will, like McNamara, have blood on his hands for every day that passes between the time that he recognized the mistake, and the day he finally comes clean with the American people. It took McNamara 27 years. How long will it take Powell?"Make no mistake. It was a critical decision point, a nexus in history, when in 2002 Colin Powell walked into the Oval office to advise the President. As he related to Tim Russert:
"when I took it to the president and said, “This is a war we ought to see if we can avoid,” I also said and made it clear to him, 'If, at the end of the day, it is a war that we cannot avoid, I’ll be with you all the way.' That’s part of being part of a team."
Powell understood that this was the wrong path. Powell understood that the rationale for action in Iraq did not pass muster on the lessons he extracted from Vietnam, the Powell Doctrine. Powell could have told Bush that he did not support the policy and resigned. Instead Colin Powell enabled George W Bush to make the decision to prosecute the occupation, much like McNamara enabled LBJ to expand our footprint in Vietnam. Colin Powell sold the war to the American people. After Cheney and Bush, Powell is the man most responsible for the war decision.
That lesson went unheeded. How about another lesson? A cautionary tale about the hubris of having the "best and the brightest" liberal ideologues run the country:

ROBERT MACNEIL: You say you were prompted to write this book because you were heartsick at the cynicism, even the contempt with which people view their political institutions today. How did you think this book might dispel that cynicism?

ROBERT MCNAMARA: I hope it will explore why the leaders did what they did. My associates were properly described by that pejorative term, "the best and the brightest." They were young, intelligent, well-educated, hardworking, dedicated servants, they're people in their government, and they were wrong.

Now, I think, if our people understand that, then we can talk about, why were they wrong? How can we avoid similar errors in the future?

ROBERT MACNEIL: But as you document, if the best and the brightest that Kennedy and Johnson could muster year after year made the mistakes you admit and they refused to listen to their critics, to use your phrase, "were blind prisoners of their assumptions," and in the process sent nearly 60,000 Americans to their deaths, would that not confirm or deepen people's cynicism about government today?

ROBERT MCNAMARA: Well, no, I think -- I hope what it will do is cause us to examine what happened then and try to prevent it in the future.

The last administration did not learn from the lessons of McNamara. One wonders - Could our brand spanking new administration comprised of today's "best and the brightest" liberal ideologues learn anything from Robert? Perhaps they need no lessons, after all they are so supremely confident in their intellect and ability that they:
Nothing to worry about there.

Rest in Peace Robert McNamara.

Your political and intellectual heirs are in charge.

UPDATE: McNamara's favorite poem

A punctuation mark for the man and the post...

The Palace - Rudyard Kipling

"WHEN I was a King and a Mason - a Master proven and skilled
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently under the silt
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built."

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stimulus dollars to be spent irrigating a golf course that will be closed.

It looks like the Obama stimulus package that does not stimulate finally found a local "shovel ready" project to stimulate:
Pacifica golf course, parks to use recycled water
By Julia Scott
San Mateo County Times

"PACIFICA — A local water treatment plant will soon be piping 50 million gallons of treated, recycled water to the Sharp Park Golf Course and other sites in Pacifica thanks to a $2.2 million grant from the federal government. The North Coast County Water District, which serves potable water to Pacifica and part of San Bruno, got word last week that a shovel-ready project 10 years in the making had been greenlit by the grant, paid for by the federal stimulus package... The SFPUC will use 78 percent of the water to irrigate Sharp Park (the golf course is in Pacifica but owned by San Francisco) and therefore owes a larger part of the debt."
Just one little glitch - the city of San Francisco is hell bent on closing the course:
Snakes to inherit Sharp Park golf course
Bruce Balshone
San Mateo Public Policy Examiner

"Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced legislation (see item 090329) aimed at turning the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica into a biological reserve, much to the dismay of golfers and Pacifica city leaders. The venerable course, which opened in 1931 was designed by famed architect Alister Mackenzie and landscaped by John McLaren, is actually owned by the City and County of San Francisco despite sitting squarely within the City of Pacifica."

As an enthusiastic patron of the local public golf courses, I have been following the San Francisco Golf Wars with a rooting interest. Generally I would not post a local story on this blog, but with stimulus dollars now literally being showered on the golf course, the story does take on a national flavor. This is not a done deal. We are awaiting the results of a study designed to impartially validate and rationalize the pre-determined conclusion of the board of supervisors. To whit - demolishing a historic landmark to protect endangered species that have been quite happy living under the stewardship of the self-same golf course for the last 75+ years.

I sure hope those endangered frog and garter snakes are real thirsty, because they are about to get a lot of very expensive water. One wonders if the stimulus bill watchdog - Joe Biden, knows that taxpayer dollars are being spent to irrigate a golf course that may soon not exist? I wonder if Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Supervisors will be in as much of a hurry to close this course if local stimulus dollars and jobs hang in the balance? Stay tuned...

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Demographics über alles

Michael Murphy is the most recent to flog the popular political theory that we are witnessing a "permanent realignment" in the electorate favoring Democrats. In a recent Time column, he predicts an ice age for Republicans:
"...the numbers tell a clear story; the demographics of America are changing in a way that is deadly for the Republican Party as it exists today. A GOP ice age is on the way. Demographic change is irritating to politicos, since it works on elections much as rigged dice do on a Las Vegas craps table: it is a game changer... In 1980, Latino voters cast about 2% of all votes. Last year it was 9%, and Obama won that Hispanic vote with a crushing 35-point margin. By 2030, the Latino share of the vote is likely to double. In Texas, the crucial buckle for the GOP's Electoral College belt, the No. 1 name for new male babies — many of whom will vote one day — is Jose. Young voters are another huge GOP problem. Obama won voters under 30 by a record 33 points. And the young voters of today, while certainly capable of changing their minds, do become all voters tomorrow."
I have been hearing about the permanent realignment theory for years and have never been comfortable with it. Occasional commenter Superdestroyer has been an early advocate of this view, as exemplified in comments here as well as at The Moderate Voice and other blogs. To me it smacks of racism, and I find this notion of ethnicity as an absolute determinant of electoral destiny to be offensive. The explicit assumption is this: Since Latino's voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the last election, they will always vote Democratic. Moreover, minorities will always vote based predominantly on their race, and not as individuals. I just don't accept the premise. As a consequence, I was pretty dismissive of Superdestroyer when he did make an appearance here. Now I find his thesis is mainstream conventional wisdom. Who knew?

Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics also isn't buying it. In his post "There are no permanent majorities" he recaps the arguments against the conventional "permanent realignment" wisdom, invoking the American voters preference for divided government as one of several thoughtful and well documented reasons not to put too much stock in the theory...
"Americans are seemingly very reluctant to give true majorities to either party. Since FDR left the scene, Americans have given unified control to a party for four years or more only three times: 1949-52, 1961-66, and 2001-06 ... I don’t know if this is part of a conscious effort on the part of Americans to achieve divided government, or if governing America is an impossible task, such that the President’s party always gets punished. There’s certainly a strong argument for the latter – after all, no President since Teddy Roosevelt has left office with more Congressmen of his own party than he had the day he entered office. Regardless of the cause, the fact that unified government is so rare should give further pause to those who expect our current arrangement in Washington to survive for an extended period."
That said, Murphy does have some very good advice for the GOP:
"Young voters need to see a GOP that is more socially libertarian, particularly toward gay rights... Latinos need to see a quick end to the Republican congressional jihad on immigration... the GOP should support practical immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship."
Reasonable arguments and sensible advice. This approach, combined with common sense fiscal responsibility ( Like the rhetoric that Obama ran on in the campaign, but has now been completely abandoned by the President and the Democratic party) should appeal to any rational voter - regardless of skin color or ethnic identity.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

UPDATED: 04-July-09 Added links and fixed typos.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Under My Thumb.

Welcome to the Senate Al! As the 60th Democrat in a filibuster proof Democratic Senate... with no meaningful opposition in Congress to every statist liberal wet dream... what could be more appropriate than "Under My Thumb"? Rock On!

Now, some think Al Franken was never much of a comedian, but he does a damn good Jagger. I just wonder if Mick would make as good a Senator as Al makes a Rolling Stone?

Try as I might, I can't get too worked up over the filibuster proof 60 vote threshold now finally reached by the Democrats in the Senate. Yeah, it puts a punctuation mark on complete Democratic one party rule, but the reality is that Franken is carrying "coals to Newcastle". In the wake of his certification, we are treated to the spectacle of Democratic Party hand-wringing , right-wing wishful thinking and incoherent blogospheric nonsense framing the 60 vote milestone as less than meets the eye. I guess the idea is to lowerthe expectationsof the left that they may not get every single thing they want passed.

These stories are partially right. The 60 vote plurality does not really mean all that much, but it is not for the reasons they state. It is because unchecked single party rule was already a fait accompli after the November election. As I've said here before, if there is anything we learned from the last administration, it is that buying two or three or four Republican Senators for any given vote is never a problem. Obama and Rahm and Axelrod understand that, even if the blogosphere and MSM do not. If there was any doubt about the effectiveness of the dwindling Republican minority, it was eliminated with the passage of the enormously wasteful stimulus bill Democratic Party Porkfest in February. The die for this administration was cast with that bill.

The damage is already done. Senator Al Franken will not make a meaningful difference. This single party Democratic government has already committed to trillions of new spending while quadrupling the deficit. They've dug a financial hole that can only be filled by imposing new economy-throttling taxes and unleashing the inflationary and currency devaluing monetary printing presses. These are the simple facts. Before Senator Al Franken, or after Senator Al Franken, the only thing that can restrain the Democrats now are the Democrats. So far... not so good.

At least with Al in the Senate we can expect a little entertainment as the Democrats drive the country off the economic precipice. Wouldn't it be cool to see Al Franken reprise this performance on Monday, on his first appearance on the floor of the United States Senate?

Or even better, a rendition of -"I can't get no satisfaction."

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.