Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sea Change for The Dividist Papers
UPDATED: Dividist on blogging sabbatical for balance of 2013

The Dividist Papers will be on hiatus for at least the month of May. We have an opportunity to check off a  "bucket list" item and sail across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Morpheus (pictured above). If interested, our progress can be tracked on my other blog, or the captains blog. Try to hold the country together until the Dividist  returns to these blogging shores.

UPDATE 7/4/13: On Blogging Sabbatical
The Dividist returned safely from his transatlantic adventure with only moderate damage.  It was an extraordinary experience and the Dividist is grateful to the captain and crewmates for the shared adventure of a lifetime.

Upon returning from our voyage the Dividist decided to morph our literal sea change hiatus to metaphorical sea change sabbatical.

After blogging here on and off for the last seven years, the Dividist will be taking some time off and letting the blog lie fallow for the rest of 2013. In that time he hopes to make progress on some other neglected projects including some related to his favorite blogging topic here.  He also hopes to have cured himself of the annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person.

He may or may not actually post something in that time, may or may not occasionally update the Featured Video, but will otherwise be content to harass and annoy partisans of both Red and Blue tribes by means of his twitter feed. Feel free to follow somewhere in the right sidebar ==>

He'll be back in the 2014 mid-term election year, where we will again use this venue to advocate for yet another successful divided government outcome.  Until then - Stay divided my friends.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The First Season of Sequestivus
A Time to Air Grievances

It is the season of Sequestivus

The legend of the origin of Sequestivus*

The great leader Obama, who was dearly loved by (52% of) the people spoke to his minions and said "Hear me! You must fear the great beast Sequester, for if it is loosed upon the land there will pestilence and famine." And the people listened to Obama and wondered.

"Go now!" He pointed "Go to the dark castle on the Hill, where the Congress of Many Heads created the great abomination called Sequestration. Bring your pitchforks and torches! Storm the castle and kill the great beast before it wreaks havoc on the land!" The great leader Obama paused, nodding his head sagely  "And if you accidently kill the Congress of Many Heads that lives in the castle on The Hill, well - you know -  collateral damage... shit happens... I wouldn't get too worried about it."

The people considered what the dear leader said and asked. "WTF? A 2.3% decrease in the rate of spending increases? Are you f*cking kidding me? Do you have any idea what kind of cuts we've had to make over the last four years? And you're saying can't figure out how to cut a lousy 2.3% out of this bloated governments spending increases?"

And the dear leader Obama's heart was heavy when the people did not heed his warning. Not to mention pissed. So it came to pass that the Sequestration monster was released to prey upon 48% of the people. And the great leader Obama again went to the people and said "I declare this to be the Season of Sequestivus,  A time of regret, remorse, and recrimination. Let the Airing of Grievances begin."

And so, as a public service, the Dividist Town Crier herewith offers a selection of public grievances in this the first fortnight of the first season of Sequestivus.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

On Rand Paul, Old-Timey Filibusters, John Brennan and "Libertarian Porn"

Mr. Paul goes to Washington
Someone on my twitter feed described Rand Paul's epic 13 hour filibuster as "libertarian porn".  Not sure if I would go that far, but given we are talking about a CSPAN feed of a man talking at a podium for 13 hours, it was far more engrossing and entertaining than it had any right to be.  I watched much of it live. Really. I actually did. I reluctantly tore myself away at the nine hour mark to keep an evening engagement, and was sorely disappointed to learn it was over when I returned.

Rand Paul was ostensibly using the filibuster to block a vote on John Brennan's nomination to run the CIA, but he made it clear the nomination confirmation was not his primary reason for the filibuster. Rather it was administration evasion on a simple question - Does the President think he legally has unilateral authority to launch a drone strike on an American citizen in America? During the filibuster Rand Paul referenced several articles and read them into record. They encapsulate the issue that prompted the filibuster better than I can:

Conor Friedersdorf: Killing Americans on U.S. Soil: Eric Holder's Evasive, Manipulative Letter
"Any thinking person can see that Holder's letter is non-responsive, evasive, and deliberately manipulative in its sly reassurances, right down to the rhetorically powerful but substantively nonsensical invocation of 9/11. (Being more subtle about it than Rudy Giuliani doesn't make it right.) To credulously accept this sort of response, on an issue as important as this one, is behavior unfit for any citizen of a free country, where safeguarding the rule of law is a civic responsibility.    Rand Paul deserves tremendous credit for eliciting this response. In its wake, he needs help from his colleagues and his countrymen. The time to discuss the appropriate scope of the president's authority is now, not in the aftermath of a catastrophic attack on the nation, as Holder suggests. The fact that he disagrees speaks volumes about Team Obama's reckless shortsightedness."
Kevin Gosztola: Attorney General Eric Holder: US Government Has Authority to Target & Kill US Citizens on US Soil
"Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who sent three letters to CIA director nominee John Brennan requesting an answer on “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil,” finally received an answer from Attorney General Eric Holder. The answer indicates the administration of President Barack Obama does, in fact, believe it has the power to assassinate US citizens on US soil with lethal force.... There may never be a targeted killing of a US citizen on US soil and the question of whether a US citizen could be targeted and killed on US soil may remain a hypothetical question for some time, but the fact that the Obama administration has told a US senator there is a circumstance where the government could target and kill someone, who is a citizen, on US soil without charge or trial is a stark example of the imperial presidency. It is an example of how there is, for the most part, no power to violate civil liberties or human rights the president won’t claim in order to respond to “threats” however it chooses."
As interesting as the filibuster itself, was the reaction from the punditocracy. Rand Paul received positive commentary on the filibuster from across the political spectrum. The most withering criticism came from his fellow Republicans.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Who Debt? Obama Debt!

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently updated their analysis of the underlying causes of our debt and deficit problems. Their key findings are summarized in these two charts.

 As you can see, they arrive at a stunning conclusion. Four years after he left office, the deficit is still all George W. Bush's fault:
"Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for nearly $6 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019 (including associated debt-service costs of $1.4 trillion).  By 2019, we estimate that these two policies will account for almost half — over $8 trillion — of the $17 trillion in debt that will be owed under current policies.  (See Figure 2.)" 
In fact, the CBPP project the debt and deficits will continue to be George W. Bush's fault for as far as the chart can see - throughout President Obama's second term, through the next president's first term, to 2019 and beyond. Before we take a look under the covers, it's worth reviewing the history of their thesis.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sequestration is not the problem. Sequestration is (part of) the solution.

UPDATED: 2/20/2013
Find the sequester 
The steady drumbeat in the mainstream media about the sequestration "crisis" is getting louder by the day. With less than two weeks until the cuts go into effect it is already approaching an absurdist crescendo.
the scream
The sequestration is coming!
Let's be clear. The "sequester" is not a crisis.  The "sequester" is not the problem. The real problem is the massive growth in federal spending creating unsustainable deficits and debt that will be shouldered by generations to come.  The "sequester" is a solution to a real problem facing America.

That said, the "sequester" is not a great solution.  It's not even a good solution.  The sequester cuts are not a smart way to address the spending problem. The sequester cuts are also not adequate to solve the spending and unfunded liability disaster that looms in our entitlement programs. But the odds of getting anything smart out of this administration or this congress that even makes as little impact on the real problem as do the sequester cuts are vanishingly small. Since it's a bad bet to rely on our leaders for smart significant cuts, let's at least take the cuts they already passed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Union - The Musical!
Obama Superstar Edition

SOTU The Musical!
Obama Superstar

Welcome to the Dividist's annual coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress - aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging infant, the Dividist despaired at finding a unique approach to the SOTU when so many other bloggers would be traversing the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. I asked Bob in an on-line Washington Post forum whether the SOTU had any real relevance. He responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU, media and blog reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Eco-lawyers sue San Francisco. Case is dismissed. Losing lawyers demand $1.3 million in legal fees anyway. They may get it. Coming soon to a city near you.

In December U.S. District Judge Susan Illston dismissed a lawsuit filed by the W.E.B.L.E.E.D.U. Axis (Wildly Equitable Biodiverse Litigants for Ecological Extortion and Deep Untruths) to shut down the City's landmark Alister Mackenzie public golf course - Sharp Park.  This led some to wonder whether the long running Battle for Sharp Park might finally be over.  Spoiler alert: No.

 I've been covering this story here and on my other blog and was laboring under no such illusion. On Friday February 8, 2013 the WEBLEEDU's filed a pleading with Judge Illston that demonstrates exactly why these lawsuits will never end:

"In a curious twist in the long-running fight between anti-golf activists and San Francisco over the fate of the city’s historic public Sharp Park Golf Course, the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, Wild Equity Institute, and a handful of other groups filed a motion here today in Federal Court, asking the same Federal Judge who dismissed their lawsuit in December, 2012 to order the City of San Francisco to pay their legal bill of more than $1.3 Million... The Plaintiffs’ fee motion was filed under a provision of the Endangered Species Act that authorizes the Courts to award legal fees “whenever the Court determines such award is appropriate”.  Plaintiffs seek payment for more than 2,000 hours of attorneys time, most of which are billed at hourly rates between $550 and $750."
The press release quotes Bo Links of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance echoing the feelings of most people hearing this story - with bemusement and incredulity:  “It’s a head-scratcher... This is environmental litigation in Wonderland... they lose every motion they file, and their case is thrown out.  And now they want the Court to order the City to pay their attorney’s fees?

 Of course it makes no sense. But that does not mean the WEBLEEDU's won't get paid.  It is very possible that the people of San Francisco will be forced to pay some or most of their attorney fees.

Welcome to the Looking Glass World of Equal Access to Justice Act legal fee reimbursements.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ten reasons San Franciscans should support the Baltimore Ravens in the Superbowl

We interrupt this political blog to bring you some perspective on today's game.

Full Disclosure: I've lived in San Francisco for 30 years. However, as I originally hail from Chicago,  Da Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks will always command my sporting loyalties.  Still, I have made a sincere effort to get behind the local teams as my second choice. They've not made it easy.

Look -  I am enormously grateful to the Niners for knocking the Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs. After the Packers lay down against the Vikings to keep the Bears out of the playoffs, watching Green Bay go to the Superbowl would have been too painful to bear. Since then, I have enthusiastically cheered the Niners throughout the playoffs. But the Superbowl  is another matter. There is a very good case for my fellow City citizens to follow my lead and pull for a Ravens win.

Here the top ten reasons why every San Franciscan should reconsider their support for the Niners:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Defense Secretaries Past, Present and Future - Robert Gates at the MPSF Speaker Series

During Steve Croft's softball 60 Minutes interview with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the President reflected on advice he received from Robert Gates shortly after coming into office:
"I remember Bob Gates, you know, first thing he said to me, I think maybe first week or two that I was there and we were meeting in the Oval Office and he, obviously, been through seven presidents or something. And he says, "Mr. President, one thing I can guarantee you is that at this moment, somewhere, somehow, somebody in the federal government is screwing up."
I expect that Gates was cautioning the new President about the inevitable surprises and disappointments of governance as opposed to how the President used the anecdote in this interview. To whit -  the President used it as a fig leaf to dismissively hide and deflect attention from the politically convenient disinformation campaign orchestrated in his administration and delivered via Susan Rice a few days after the attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Might have been a good opportunity for a follow up question from Steve Croft as opposed to simply accepting the popular "mistakes were made" non-answer. But I digress...

Regardless how his advice was misused, one of President Obama's best decisions was to keep Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense and avail himself of the benefit of his experience.

Gates has an extraordinary history of public service, including leadership roles in the Air Force, CIA, and serving in the administration of seven presidents. I had an opportunity to hear the former secretary of defense Robert Gates speak in Marin at the invitation of the MPSF Speaker Series. I've been to a few of these events over the last couple of years and always come away impressed (although some more than others).  He spoke for about an hour and then responded to questions gathered from audience.

I thought some of his more interesting comments came during Q&A and I'd share them here.  I do not have the benefit of a recording or transcript - so the comments I am attributing to Gates are from memory and paraphrased.  In no particular order a  few of his thoughts on our presidents, the presidency and challenges that face us:

Monday, January 07, 2013

Chuck Hagel was thinking "out of the mainstream" in February 2003

President Obama stuck to his guns and nominated Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense setting the stage for a bipartisan nomination fight.  As noted in a previous post, some who opposed the nomination are continuing to smear him with unfounded and despicable charges of antisemitism. Of those limiting objections to policy differences, the criticism of choice is that his views are far out of the mainstream of American thought on Foreign Policy:

Senator Lindsey Graham on CNN's "State of the Union":
“I like Chuck Hagel,” Graham began. “He served with distinguish in Vietnam as an enlisted man — two Purple Hearts. But quite frankly, Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking, I believe, on most issues regarding foreign policy."
Bill Kristol:
"In any case, Friedman confirms that on Israel as well, Hagel's views place him out of the policy-making mainstream. Tom Friedman came to praise Chuck Hagel. He may have ended up burying him."
Jennifer Rubin
"He is far out of the mainstream of both parties on everything from Russian anti-Semitism to Hamas to Iran sanctions."
This criticism reminds me of another time that Chuck Hagel was thinking "out of the mainstream" of Foreign Policy thought.  On February 20, 2003 Chuck Hagel spoke at the Landon Lecture Series at the University of Kansas. It is instructive to consider what constituted "mainstream thought" at that moment in time.