Flipping the Bird

lame_duck_bw__2_Move over idle downtown construction crane, the previous reigning bird-symbol of San Diego municipal malaise.  San Diego has a new City Fowl:  the Lame Duck.

First Jerry Sanders gets reelected last June to a second, dead-end term as Mayor.  Termed out in 2012 there’s already been speculation that his mayorship might get gubernatorial fever by 2010.  Note that Jerry has been a three to six year wonder in his recent gigs at the PD, United Way and Red Cross. Sticking with it for a seven year haul is something out of character for Gentleman Jer.  Yet even if he sticks it out for the full term he becomes increasingly marginalized after the 2010 Council elections when the question “Who’s Next?” begins dominating the tongues of the chattering classes. 

Now Ben Hueso announces his plan to try and bail on City governance by 2010.  No long term San Diego future for that bright young ambitious man.   So with the two principle leaders of San Diego government aiming for the door, how much pressure and influence are they going to be able to generate dealing with the matters of the here and now?  With the multiplicity of boards he serves on, Hueso is already spread in his energies and attention about as thin as a spritz of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” Throw in a run for Assembly and pretty much the only thing he’ll have time to use his Council office for his to store newspaper clippings. 

Meanwhile the city drifts on towards a pension and foreclosure precipice of fiscal doom.

Note to City Council:  You already screwed up once passing over the brightest bulb on your political marquee, Donna Frye in favor of the more political and less influential Ben Hueso.  If he’s turning himself into a self-inflicted lame duck, might you not at least want to consider turning over the gavel to the a lame duck Donna and her greater gravitas?  Might you atleast  consider giving Ben an early good-bye present by stripping him of all that time-consuming responsibility of being council president so he can pursue his higher  aspirations and elevate one of your fellow members whose shelf life is longer than 2010?

But, then, this is San Diego, where we force out of  touch nice guy Republican mayors to resign so we can replace them with out of  touch nice guy Republican mayors and make the lightest-weight council members Council President skipping over the established talent. 

That the city should endure a couple of years of Lame Duck leadership is truly lame. It’s also truly San Diego.

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Et Tu UT

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It was with great sadness that I read yesterday of the sale of the Union Tribune to a private equity group and the ending of decades of Copley Press in this, America’s finest city.  Great sadness, that is, because I didn’t read about such a sale a year ago.  Or five.  Or ten.  Or twenty-five.  The UT—particularly its editorial page brought to you courtesy of Bob “Bowtie because if its not the 1950s then it darn as well should be” Kittle and his band of un-renown known the UT  Editorially Bored–has been in reverse-lockstep with the people of San Diego since Ronald Reagan hung up the spurs and went back to the Ranch in the 1980s.   One can only hope the new owners can take steps to bring the paper into maybe at least the early Clinton years?  Hey, hint for the new guys:  Why not save big money and just run 20 year old editions of the SF Chronicle or NY Times with a UT logo over it.  Even if it’s not topical it’d still me more readable and applicable to the lives of most San Diegans than the current kitty-liter liner has proven to be. 

So little time,  so much to vent and celebrate

This may well prove to be the best moment for San Diegans of a progressive bent since Donna Frye won the mayor’s office  back in 2005!  (Oh, what might have been had the UT sale occurred a half-decade ago….)

For more of my UT hope and loathing check Tony Perry’s blog in the LA Times.

Champagne, anyone?  

Bonus Round

So AIG took the public money ($170 billion worth) and then gave executive bonuses ($165 million.) So what else is new? Lee “I Did It My Way (With A Paltry $1.2 Billion Dollar Government Loan)” Iacocca and his band of brothers did the same back in 1980. Hey, corporate executives just took billions in the peoples’ money to clean up after your economic incompetence. What are you going to do next? Screw Disneyland. Millions in bonuses for being smart enough to ask government for billions in bailouts are due. Break out the 1907 Heidsieck champagne for one and all. Let the little people sip the Cool Aid.

Obama blasts them. Pundits punish them. Comedians ridicule them. And average people start thinking that a return of the guillotine might be a more timely retro moment than the comeback in ‘80s fashions. But, for all the chest beating and hand-wringing AIG executives simply claim their hands are tied—contracts (the kind Corporate America loves to shred when they involve workers or consumers) force them to pay those huge bonuses out. Contracts they negotiated with themselves to pay themselves huge amounts of money which they now claim they must pay—and receive–the taxpayer be damned.

OK, so be it. You pays your money you takes your chances, taxpayers. Chuck Schumer’s idea that we’ll just tax it back is so much bluster—tax increases aimed at a handful of people will never clear the Senate, let alone the courts. So hang up those angry-tax-payer-we-want-a –lynching-suits, everyone.

And put on your angry shareholder suits, instead.

We the People are now the 80% shareholders of AIG. We the People purchased those shares under false pretenses and assumptions (lack of full disclosure and transparency, fraud, lies, call it whatever legalese is needed.) The government should launch an immediate shareholders lawsuit on behalf of We the People against the AIG management, board and each individual recipient of these bonuses for gross managerial negligence or whatever the shareholder lawyers bash misanthropic managers with.

Hirer the best, highest paid Shareholder Shysters the Treasury can afford, give them 10% of the take and let them loose like the starved wolves Harvard and Yale trained them to be. Tie those bonuses up in court until their would-be recipients are little old derivative managers. Go after their personal assets as civil penalties—let them see what its like to be foreclosed on, to have their limos repoed, their kids told there’s no money to send them to that nice school or for band lessons. Force a Board shuffle that results in everyone at the top, from CEO Hank Greenberg to Chairman Edward Liddy on down being fired for cause. Let them spend a few months/years in the ranks of the unemployed and property-less. It would be a crueler punishment than prison.

You don’t even have to carry through on the lawsuits. The threat alone, properly delivered (if anyone has a few extra horse heads their not using and would like to contribute them to a good cause…) might well shake the AIG gurus of galloping gall out of their “We are the Lords of all we survey” complacency.

And if they are so totally detached from reality as not to realize just how close to a French Revolution moment they have come, then go ahead and sue ‘em. Sue ‘em ‘til their eyes bleed, their wallets implode and they become the most reviled symbols of greed gone bad since Marie Antoinette.

Cry havoc and release the sharks of righteous litigation.

Doobie Brothers

Obama US Mexico

What a brotherhood exists between the US and Mexico.  We smoke pot.  Lots of it.  (With some 42% of Americans having whiffed weed at least on occasion,  leading the world in cannabis consumption according to the WHO, one now understands why so many Krispy Kreme’s opened in recent years…)   We have guns. Lots of them. (Over 200 million, according to the Brits.) 

Meanwhile our brethren to the south have poverty. Lots of it.  And access to pot.  Some 25 million tons of it a year.  So we give money to Mexican pot smugglers who use it by US guns to then shoot other Mexican pot smugglers (and cops, politicians, journalists, women, children and any other form of life who gets between the business end of an Uzi and an intended target).  

What a perfect, symbiotic relationship.

And look at the advantages to both sides! Both make money off trade.  People get employed. Consumers get products.  The freest of free market competition reigns This is David Ricardo’s concept of comparative advantage leading to mutually beneficial trade made real.  Indeed, except for all those bodies everywhere, the US/Mexican pot relationship is neo-liberal globalization at its best,  Everybody wins.  Except, of course, for all those pesky dead bodies.  Mexico has lots of them.  Over a thousand in January alone.  And except, of course, for Mexican civil society and democracy, which has pretty much collapsed in Juarez and is teetering in TJ.  And then there are US tax payers, shelling out tens of billions a year to arrest  and incarcerate hundreds of millions of tokers.

But America’s 70 year pot prohibition stills continues to give and give: drug lords get rich,  prison guards get employed and Mexican undertakers have to literally stack up the clients business being so good.  And, best of all all those Americans  who don’t smoke pot, don’t want to smoke pot (heck, they’re plenty happy with old man tobacco and devil whiskey—two other deadly vices the US leads the world in) can continue to take tremendous solace that their cheap, moral thrill of superiority still trumps the cost in ruined—and ended—lives on both sides of the border.

Oh, America and Mexico. Let that  Philadelphia Freedom sing.

I wrote over a year ago that Tijuana (and, now,  most of northern Mexico) is burning while we, their brethren, pay them no heed.  Now the fire is an inferno that is incinerating our neighbors to the south  and is beginning to engulf our own communities on this side of the border.  And, beyond calls to man that border with troops, no-one seems to care. 

Note to President Obama: foreign policy begins at home.  For what does it gain a president to win a victory in Afghanistan if he loses Mexico right on his doorstep. 

 

Positive Some Game

Found this (click here)   in my in basket today from a group called Project Win Win, a  new online non-profit organization  working on a bill to “restore representative government.   You can take their survey here.

Another off-the-wall group?  Visionaries?  You decide.  Then again, if Rush Limbaugh can emerge as the legitimate  voice of conservatism,  anything must go.