Fire Alarm

I’m glad it was a personally busy week because it kept me from posting a blog on Tuesday flaming Council Prez. Scott Peters before he had a chance to redeem himself yesterday. The triggering of my pyromaniac punditry was a report on KPBS Tuesday morning about how Senator Dianne Feinstein came to town Monday to flame the City and County governments for not adequately addressing the region’s fire fighting needs, especially in the wake of still smoldering memory of the Cedar Fire.

As Feinstein pointed out, San Diego is about 22 fire stations and 800 firemen short of a full, fire fighting deck. She also pointed out that we are the largest county in the state that doesn’t have an integrated County fire department. But, then, Senator Feinstein comes from Northern California and doesn’t fully appreciate the political culture of San Diego. You know, the one where any attempt to integrate local government services is seen by our resident right wing wackos (yes, listeners of Rick “Rabble Rouser” Roberts, that would be you) as the first step to forming a North American Union in which we lose our sovereignty to the black helicopters of the globalist conspiracy. And where any suggestion that, if you want adequate fire protection and the resources—read tax dollars—to provide it you’re labeled a socialist.

By the bye, has the San Diego Taxpayers’ Association ever met a tax it liked? Oh, and by the way, I’m a San Diego taxpayer and I don’t belong to that group so, on my behalf and that of all the other San Diego taxpayers who neither belong to your group nor agree with your too often myopic world view that all tax cuts are good and all taxes are bad, might you consider changing your name to the Association of Those San Diego Taxpayers Who Agree With Us or some such? Don’t get me wrong – I think the SDTA raises good points about waste in government, etc., but it would be nice if they advocated just as strongly for tax fairness, as in having everyone pay their fair share of the social burden they place on our government of the people. Such as, I dunno, developers, maybe, who extract great profit from doing business in San Diego by continually pushing development out into the back country fire zone while municipal and county government fails to demand they pay the true cost of that development. That would be fees to cover those 22 fire stations and 800 firemen, not to mention the cost of the police, schools, water, roads, parks and other miscellaneous municipal incidentals whose true costs developers are allowed to push off on the rest of the residents of San Diego. The motto of San Diego’s anti-tax libertarians is Live Free—and make someone else pay for it!”

But I digress. How unusual of me.

At the end of the KPBS piece, Uber-Councilman Peters was quoted as saying that, the voters have twice rejected ballot measures to raise taxes—even Transit Occupancy Taxes that out of towners would pay—to fund needed fire protection expansion. That’s when I started seeing fire-red.

What a cop-out, I thought. Oh, the poor City Council. You tried to raise taxes to provide what was necessary for the public good but the dumb ‘ol public said “No!” (Actually, the hotel and tourist industry and the anti-tax zealots of AM talk and the SDTPA said no and put up the money where their mouth was to shoot you down. And, a few years later, San Diego burned while you all fiddled.) Oh, how can the poor City Council raise revenues to keep San Diegans’ from losing their homes—and lives—in the next great fire when no-one wants to raise taxes?

Ah, guys and gals? That would be called “Leadership.” You know, the thing where you explain to the people that, in life, hard choices have to be made and that, in order to save lives and protect property (which, as I recall, are a couple of the biggies government is supposed to do) you are either going to have to raise new revenues to fund public safety or cut other services and programs and shift the money. Neither are attractive options for anyone but, then, that’s adult life. And it’s time for San Diegans to put on their big boy and girl pants and man up. Oh, and those anti-tax advocates who keep ponying up money to convince San Diego’s that any tax is the first step towards Bolshevikism? How about pointing out that they are basically saying “I’m willing to let the rest of you burn and die so I can pocket a few extra coins and pad my corporate bottom line.”

Then you take the inevitable political heat and backlash from these municipal misanthropic miscreants at the election and stand tall and proud saying “I’m doing what I’m doing for the public good.” And, if the people of San Diego are, in fact, rational, you win. What you don’t do is stick your collective heads in the sand for four years until the next big fire to figure out how to do what you have been told repeatedly by the experts must be done. Which is what the Council did do after the fires of 2003.

Yeah, I was gonna flame Peters on this one. But procrastination is the mother of new discovery.

Yesterday, Peters showed some true leadership style, saying that the city might (Scott, just say it: Will) have to go back to the voters to raise the money by bond — of course we’re not in the bond market, yet–or sales tax. That is a great first step.

The next step is to not then shoot yourself in the foot by saying such an attempt may be “futile.” You don’t go into the big game saying “Hey, we’re probably going to lose,” big guy. You go in guns blazing. Your correct retort to San Diegans’ historic rejection of taxes should be: “After two massively devastating fires that cost the San Diego billions of dollars and over a dozen lives, only a misanthropic miscreant could oppose raising the revenues necessary to protect the people of this great city.” (Okay, substitute something softer for “misanthropic miscreants”— I just kinda like the phrase.)

Bravo for daring to raise the “T” word. Now prepare to get slammed by said miscreants. You’re in your last term on the council, Scotty. Time to put on your big boy pants and fight the good fight for what you know is the right thing to do.

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On the Radio, Wha-ah-ah-oh…

Ok, apology to Donna Summer fans for the title. Looks like there might be a little life left in progressive talk on the AM dial, after all. AM 540 has switched formats to “balanced talk,” mixing conservative and progressive programming. Check out the report on TalkingRadio blogspot. The top progressive draw is supposed to be former liberal top talk dog Mike Jackson. And if you’re saying “Who’s he?,” join my club. He was supposedly big on L.A. talk in the 1990s. Which was, of course, in media terms, a thousand years ago. What next, the return of Fibber McGee or Charlie McCarthy?

I listened to the station briefly today around 11:45 — the topic was whether or not your teen will really tell you the truth. OK, I’ll give them another shot on the way home today. But if the station turns out to be the Dr. Laura/Rush/Al Franken wannabe hours, I’m not too optimistic.

The fall of Mike Aguirre

(From today’s CityBeat)

OK, don’t get excited, loyal and dedicated Aguirre bashers. I don’t mean to imply that Mike “Agonistes” Aguirre is finally down for the count. There’s plenty of pluck left in—and public support left for—San Diego’s embattled city attorney. Yet, from failed lawsuits to his flaming fire fears, bad headlines have been dogging Aguirre constantly since the dog days of summer. And Aguirre hasn’t passed up many opportunities to throw additional fuel on the fires, either. Which has all come together to make the fall of 2007 the autumn of Mike’s discontent. The big question now is: Will his stumbles this fall translate into the ultimate fall from political grace in next year’s election?

This past spring, Aguirre was a civic hero for taking on the Sunroad “damn the FAA, full speed ahead” corporate juggernaut and forcing it to back down on (and de-build) its Kearny Mesa Tower of Terror. But then Mike had to go off quarter-cocked and accuse Mayor Jerry Sanders of corruption in the matter, destroying any last vestige of bonhomie with Sanders or his supporters. Sure, his Honorableness took campaign money from Sunroad and then took actions that seemed to try to help the beleaguered company out of its bind, but you don’t call that being corrupt—you call it being a politician. Meanwhile, Mike’s pension-recall lawsuit was largely recalled by the courts while he was lambasted for blowing millions of dollars on fruitless litigation. Read the rest of this entry »

He’s Baaaack. Kinda. Sorta. Maybe.

Got an email from the reigning voice of radio progressive talk yesterday, Stacy “Yeah we had a growing audience in a really sweet, well-heeled demographic but the suits pulled the plug anyway” Taylor. Looks like there’s a chance he might be back on the airwaves of the late KLSD’s mothership station, KOGO starting 12/3 in the post-drive time 6pm slot. Nothing is final and he may yet end up on the air elsewhere (more the loss to diversiity of thought in San Diego). Giving Taylor a later PM time slot on KOGO is, admittedly, a small bone for KOGO and Clear Channel to throw the listners of KLSD. But a bone’s a bone and a slot is a toe still in the door.

My only question is will this be the new, progressive “Al Gore rocks/G.W. sucks” Taylor of KLSD or will it be the conservative-lite Taylor of KOGO days past. Either way, at least it would constitute something approaching variety in opinion on the AM dial.

Give Thanks

As traditional as pumpkin pie, I serve up to you, faithful City Beat readers, my annual Thanksgiving blog. (I originally posted it for the good ‘ol UT but, alas, since I left them they have been kind enough to delete my blog and its 200 some odd entries from their on-line archives. Kind of like a cyber-book burning. How very 1984 of them.) Bon Appétit and have a happy day.

It is time, once again, for the traditional National day of Thanksgiving, left to us by our Pilgrim forbears . Of course the Pilgrims were a branch of the English Puritan movement, violent revolutionaries who triumphed in the English Civil War of the 1640s, overthrew their king, cut of his head and, under their leader Oliver Cromwell, established history’s first modern military dictatorship. Well, no-one is perfect. (The Puritans, as you may also recall, were also big on authoritarian Democracy, meaning the community could chose its leaders but, once doing so, no-one had the right to dissent, for to dissent was to put oneself in Rebellion against the will of the community, which was a big no no — hence the Cromwell dictatorship. (I’m sure that little historical fact, even more than the turkey and pumpkin pie, makes the Puritan holiday all the more special for the Anne Coulters of America!)

Beyond such historical musings, of all our national days of celebration and solemnity this day stands out because it gives us all a moment to pause and consider the fact that none of us–even in this age of rugged individualist capitalism and ubermensch conservatism–are completely the masters of our own destiny. Each of us owes, in no small part, whatever we have to be thankful for to the divine provenance that guides us and to the community of our fellow men whom support us, without which we would be left to struggle alone as do the beasts of wood and glen.

There are numerous reasons for we as a nation to give thanks. There are, of course, Thanksgiving’s 3 F’s (family, food and football) and the big S (shopping!) to be thankful for. Now, purists, please, least you bemoan the commercialization of Thanksgiving, do know that, as a holiday, it only really took off once it became firmly associated by the rising retail department stores of turn of the 20th century America with Christmas shopping, so the After-Thanksgiving sale is legitimately just as much a part of the tradition as the Turkey and Pilgrims in funny buckle hats (which they never really wore – nor did they eat turkey—you want a traditional Thanksgiving slap Bambi on that platter–but enough icon popping.) There are worse things than living in a country with a McDonalds or Starbucks on every corner, and one of those is living in a country too poor to afford a McDonalds or Starbucks on any corner.

Here are a few other less jocular notions you might reflect on while cataloging your list of things to give thanks for over the past year:

If your child is not one of the ten million American children—almost one in five– living in poverty, give thanks. If you are one of America’s 2 million millionaires, give thanks. If you are one of America’s 228 billionaires, give a lot of thanks.

If you are not one of the 40 million Americans, including over two million with severe disabilities, who have no health insurance, give thanks. If you are one of the 45 million Americans still covered by a pension plan, give thanks.

If you were not one of the 50 million Americans downsized over the last twenty years, give thanks. If you are a CEO with an average compensation of over $10 million dollars–250 times the average pay of your corporate worker–give thanks. If your are part of the 30% of American workers able to save for future, give thanks. If you are not one of the 30% of American workers barely making enough to get by on, give thanks.

If you are one of the 50,000 families with estates large enough to have to pay federal estate taxes last year (only 2% of all estates) give thanks. Paying taxes on wealth beats all heck out of simply being poor. If you are in the top 5% households that own 59% of all our Nation’s wealth, give thanks. If you are in the top 1% of households that own almost 40% of our National wealth, just give a big old mess of thanks. You own 200 times as much as all of the people in the bottom 40% of households combined.

And, finally, if you are not one of the two million Americans in military uniform, or hundreds of thousands wearing a police badge or firefighting gear, give thanks for the valor and sense of duty of those who are.

Bad Trip

Well, Clear Channel Communication finally cleared our local airwaves of liberal signals this week. KLSD’s three year magical mystery tour of progressive talk went off the air Monday to be replaced by yet another local sports station. (Just how many stations does it take to describe the aggregate sports scene in San Diego? How many was does it take to say: Disappointing? I mean, I moved here from Pittsburgh, when the Steelers and Pirates were both creating world championship dynasties. Once I get here I had to ask myself, sports-wise, what’s the point? Padres? Chargers? Legions of unremembered hockey and basketball franchises? Just go to the beach everybody. Get over it.)

The North County Times gives a good “Murder on the Orient Express” list of who killed KLSD. Just as the San Diego Business Journal examines the questionable proposition that replacing the only progressive talk station in town with the third sports station makes good business sense.

I dunno.

KLSD may well have been done in by corporate conspiracy—or at each corporate malign neglect. The marketing of the product was next to zilch. KOGO’s conservative personalities get massive billboards all over town. KLSD got cocktail napkins. Three. At the airport.

But one must face facts, and the fact is that the programming on KLSD was often less than stellar. I liked the morning Stacey Taylor show and think he is still one of the best local voices on talk radio. As opposed to, say, Rick Roberts, Taylor has the advantage of being SANE And he came without the bloated sense of self importance of, say, a Roger Hedgecock, whose ego blows through the boundaries of his bandwidth. I did, though, have a hard time adjusting to the fact that one week Taylor was doing conservative chatter on KOGO and the following week, without missing a beat, he was doing progressive talk for KOGO’s new Cinderella step-sister, KLSD. And the rest of his morning crew tended to be a tad too dorm room-level (read sophomoric) in their conversation for my tastes. Of course what did you want from a guy with the handle of “Scooter.” (Just look how well Libby did with it….)

And once Al Frankin left radio talk for real political talk, the offerings from Air America and other progressive talk syndicates became more than a little flat and repetitive. The guy that replaced Frankin is such a non-personality that I really can’t even remember his name, despite having listened to him several times a week for a year or so—and don’t even care to take the time to look him up. Ed Schultz is interesting but his Dakota upper plains populism doesn’t really resonate well with someone driving a mile or two from the Pacific. And Randy Rhodes, while the most animated and interesting of the bunch, over time comes across as grindingly repetitive. Yes, George W. Bush will probably go down as one of the least effective President’s in modern history. Okay, so tell me something I don’t know.

Bottom line: the on-air talent of progressive AM talk, with their “broadcasting from a 1966 VW bus” pastiche, just can’t aspire to the corporately slick and packaged level of the conservatives. Nor can they rise (or, better said, sink) to the truthiness level of radio conservatives, for whom facts are always second to ideology, smugness triumphs over intellectual rigor and ridicule and character assassination replace reasoned debate. Conservative AM talk radio is the WWE of political journalism. It’s the political Red Bull of the right, giving a jolt to the ego of angry conservatives everywhere. Or, at least, to the egos of their target demographic which, based on the preponderance of the advertising one hears on their programs seems to be bloated, balding, financially busted and frustrated middle aged men.

I’d said before that I thought AM Progressive talk would have a hard time finding an audience. Indeed, to be more precise, I said, three years ago, that:

“Liberal talk radio will always have a problem because liberals tend to want to see both sides of the picture and argue from there…Arch conservative AM hosts are good at simply presenting one side – theirs – and lambasting anything they don’t agree with, which their demographic likes. Most people listen to talk radio to only have their existing ideas reinforced, not challenged or expanded.”

I wasn’t trying to sound elitist in this.(and, for the record, I consider myself more of a moderate though I have to confess that, with Republicans having shifted their perception of the political center so far right from the Reagan years to the present, what I see as moderate they probably would see as communist. Then again, by the standards of the contemporary Republican Party, Richard Nixon would have to be categorized a pinko and Ike an out and out socialist.) This is just my observation, though it seems to be borne out by the free market. Notice Air America has faired poorly compared to conservative talk radio but NPR, with an audience that clearly leans liberal/progressive (indeed, an audience that leans to the left more so than does NPR) but which does a better job of staying fair and balanced than does Fox “fair and balanced is whatever the GOP says it is” News, continues to thrive. Or at least survive. Liberal radio listeners seem to like their world views reinforced, too, but done so with at least a nod to objectivity.
It was, admittedly, a pleasure to occasionally be able to tune the dial to the far right of the San Diego AM spectrum (that, in itself, a bit of irony) and tune in a progressive alternative to the repetitive right-wing barrage from 600 KOGO, 760 KFMB or 1170 KCBQ. (I find it telling that KOGO’s off-hour broadcasts tend to consist of “A UFO flown by Elvis kidnapped Grandma and left her at a bus station in Kansas City” style programming like Coast to Coast. And that KCBQ’s off-hours are dominated by ultra—conservative Christian broadcasts. The off-hours apples can’t fall that far from the prime time tree now, can they?

But KLSD was a guilty pleasure that I found myself incapable of enjoying for more than a short stretch at any time. Too much banging of the same drum, just like on conservative talk. Too much hyperbole and the occasional trek into hysteria. I’d get a hit, then it was back to the calm, sanity of NPR and occasional quick hits on the somewhat noxious bongs of conservative talk (whose more loyal listeners seem to like sucking down the ganga Limbaugh all day long like so many antithetical Cheeches and Chongs). And then when those bored me, off to revisit my youth on KGB.

Maybe if KLSD had—and Air America would have hit on a better formula—more informed talk, more entertaining and charismatic hosts, real intelligent debate between rival viewpoints (what a radical concept)—I’d have become more of an aficionado. As it is and was, though, AM talk of any stripe has become little more than a bad parody of the old SNL Dan Ackroyd—Jane Curtin mock “Jane, your ignorant slut” debates. Knowledge lite.

For now I’m left with getting my guilty progressive pleasures from watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are always funnier and less self-important than Air America ever has or seems capable of being. That is, once the darned writers’ strike is over. Hey, I believe in worker solidarity but, hey also, having to rely on the regular news channels for info is out and out painful most of the time.

Yet another reason to despise the media conglomerates like Clear Channel that run America, I guess.

Good Will Huntering

Newsweek’s got a good profile of young Duncan D. Hunter’s “was already up the hill from the getgo” struggle to succeed his father, Duncan “Have the Military Nuke the Wildfires” Hunter in the 52nd Congressional District. Yours truly has another of his truly pithy lines quoted.

As I’ve written about Presidential politics, legacy can be a wonderful thing. Who’d have thought that, two hundred thirty one years after our revolution against the inherited powers of monarchy, the land of the common man should become so enamored with dynasties. Yeah, there were the Adams, the Roosevelts and the Kennedys but there seem to be more sons/daughters/wives/husbands of current or former politicians coming into politics everyday. One can see the same trend from Hollywood to Wall Street, by the way. As the Economist Magazine pointed out in 2005, in the land of opportunity, social mobility is actually more static than in what the right sees as an increasingly socialist Europe.

Enter our own dynasty-building with Hunter & Son. Daddy Duncan apparently wants to keep the family business in the family and give Duncan the Younger his seat in Congress–and a lot of Dad’s buds in D.C. are ponying up hefty payola to make this a reality (including $2300 from Donny “You go to campaign with the money you’ve got—thanks to your Dad’s connections” Rumsfeld).

My only question is how are the other three Republicans currently in the primary race going to frame their campaign against Hunter the Younger? (And this race will be Them against Him.) Will Santee Councilman Brian Jones try to convince voters that serving in war may be hell but serving on the Santee City Council has been a close second? Can businessman Ken “The Pool” King convince the 52nd District’s socially conservative voters that there are no atheists in either foxholes or swimming pools? Can Bob “The Other Businessman in the Race” Watkins show patriotic voters in that scarlet red district that experience meeting payrolls and balancing budgets ranks in the wild west world of East County is as much of a credential as dodging hand grenades and IEDs in Afghanistan?

My bet is, noooooo, they can’t. So that will leave them character assassination—the political equivalent of an unfriendly Al Qaeda visit—to try and lay Hunter the Warrior Congressman low. Now, you might think it unseemly for go-Hawks Republicans to attack the reputation and qualifications of a rival politician with a record of military service far superior to their own. Then again, that didn’t stop Karl Rove from savaging certified war hero John McCain in South Carolina (on behalf of certified war non-hero George W.) back in 2000. Nor did it keep Republicans from smearing triple amputee Vietnam war veteran/hero Max Cleland for being soft on terrorists when they defeated him in 2002.

So look forward to the three conservative, pro defense, flag mom and apple-pie Republicans to blast young Hunter for being a carpetbagging, inexperienced, undeserving neophyte trying to ride to office on his Daddy’s coattails (albeit, admittedly, in battle-stained combat boots.)

And, whomever the Republicans nominate for the 52nd, expect that candidate to blast the lone Democrat in the race, retired Navy Seal commander Mike Lumpkin, as an Osama-loving, America-hating, socialist Democrat intent on destroying the nation.

It’s all in the name of serving the public will, afterall.