"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."
- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)
"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"
Wednesday, 7 April 2004
Topic: Local Issues Last night I dreamed I saw Joe Hill.... No, not really. Class warfare is in the air. Many months ago in Just Above Sunset Magazine I had the occasion to make some comments on Wal-Mart. See September 1, 2003 Odds and Ends where you will find this:
The recall here has started a new trend of using petitions for all sorts of things. Take the case of small city here called Inglewood, surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, the little city where the Lakers used to play. You fly right over it just as you're landing at Los Angeles International.
This from the Los Angeles Times
Wal-Mart Stores is seeking to bypass a hostile Inglewood City Council and take its plans for a giant new store directly to voters.
The world's largest retailer began gathering signatures this week to force a popular vote on a shopping center, planned for a dirt lot next to Hollywood Park, where Wal-Mart wants to build its store.
Commercial developers have rarely used the initiative process to do an end run around local governments, California planning experts said Friday. More commonly, they said, initiatives are used by homeowner groups to block unwanted development.
The Wal-Mart initiative - by a group called the Citizens Committee to Welcome Wal-Mart to Inglewood - calls for building permits for the store to be issued without a public hearing or environmental impact study.
"The reviewing official shall be required to issue the requested permit or permits without the exercise of any discretion and no development standards, criteria, requirements, procedures, mitigations or exactions shall be imposed," the initiative says.
A simple majority of voters could approve the measure. But if it passed, it would require a two-thirds vote to repeal or amend it.
And this is pretty clever on Wal-Mart's part. No hearings, no studies on the impact to the environment or even on traffic. Forbidden by popular petition! Cool.
Well, it can be argued that one way to get the economy growing again is to drop the stranglehold of restrictions on businesses out there, and free businesses to make money and provide jobs.
We don't need government out here I guess, just folks gathering signatures on just about everything you can think of. Consider it California's contribution to democracy, coming your way soon, from the place all the trends start. We don't need "representative government" because we have direct democracy.
Robert McAdam, Wal-Mart vice president for state and local government relations, said, "When people feel they're not getting a fair shake with the legislative process, they take things to a vote of the people. That's what the initiative process is about, having people petition for voter approval. That's fairly consistent with California tradition."
And the "bypass elected government" trend is our gift, from California to you.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Voters in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on Tuesday rejected by a 2-1 margin a ballot measure that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a sprawling shopping center in the heart of their town.
In voting down the referendum, residents appeared to have taken their cue from elected officials in working-class Inglewood, who fought bitterly to keep Wal-Mart from building a supercenter there, despite the promise of 1,200 jobs and millions of dollars in sales tax revenue.
"This was a major victory," said Jerome Horton, a state assemblyman representing Inglewood. "This was a test site for Wal-Mart. This would have set a national precedent and developers all over the nation were watching to see whether or not a developer could exempt themselves from complying with local laws. This was a much bigger issue than just jobs."
Well, this doesn't cover all you'd see on the locals news shows.
Yeah, Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters were leading marches in the street. But the locals commented on-air, and it wasn't small business folks talking about the possibility that Wal-Mart would drive them out of business, as one might expect. And it wasn't environmentalists griping about the possibility of Wal-Mart getting voter permission to avoid all environmental impact studies and parking studies and traffic-flow studies, or even, if passed, Wal-Mart being exempt from all building and safety codes.
No, the man-in-the street interviews were mostly about the fact that Wal-Mart is a non-union shop that pays low wages and offers below minimal health benefits. No one much wants to work for them. The words "sweat shop" came up quite a bit.
And today bills were introduced in the state legislature to make Wal-Mart reimburse the state for health services for their employees who had to use services for the indigent - hitting the emergency rooms statewide all the time on California's dime - because their Wal-Mart health plan doesn't cover much of anything. I don't recall what the other bill was. But Wal-Mart issued a press release saying the unions obviously got to the lawmakers and probably bribed them or something, and such legislators must hate successful businesses and all that sort of thing.
Last night I dreamed I saw Joe Hill.... No, not really.
My conservative friend says what's wrong with America is we restrict businesses and the key to getting the economy going again is outlawing unions, and making it illegal for any employee, individually or collectively, to oppose or even to comment on how that employee is being treated. That is, if you don't like your job, or your pay, or your benefits, or you think you workplace is unsafe... just quit. Get another job if you're so damned unhappy.
Well, that's one view.
Class warfare is in the air.
Wal-Mart blanketed Los Angeles with television spots before the election - full of warm fuzzies about happy employees and wonderously low prices on fine merchandise. And they lost.
People are choosing sides.
And if you want a nice cotton shirt for five dollars made in Sri Lanka by some ten-year-old who works a seventy-hour week for eight cents an hour, well, there is a Wal-Mart over on Crenshaw. Go for it.
Topic: Local Issues Arnold Shwarzenegger: the man California trusts to fix things... My friend Joy wonders why I don't ever write about Arnold Shwarzenegger and matters related to his election and now his management of this state.
Sigh. What's to say? The voters out here bought the hype. Everyone believed that he had some magic plan that defied the laws of economics and lined up to vote for him.
Hell, he was a no-nonsense action hero who said the problems were simple - eliminate waste (no pun intended) and we keep all our services and get no new taxes; in fact, the new car registration tax increase was to be rolled back.
And it was. I paid a six hundred dollar fee to reregister my car a few months ago and I expect a refund check for four hundred in the mail any day now.
The upshot? Most cities, cities that depend on that tax income for basic services, now face sixty-percent cuts in their annual state funding. Close libraries. Lay off police and firemen. Arnold specifically said he would not, under any circumstances, reduce that allocation and now says... well, he's not saying anything. He just cut the funds.
...is Arnold the most brazen liar in the history of politics, or what? I say this without a lot of malice, since I genuinely sympathize with the almost impossible job he's taken on. But still, enough's enough.
As the LA Times reports today, Arnold was on CNN yesterday and suggested that he might suspend Proposition 98, an initiative that guarantees a certain minimum level of school funding. To anyone who wasn't in California during the campaign it's hard to get across the depth of the deceit this demonstrates. Here was his TV ad on the subject of education:
Question: Will you have to cut education?
Schwarzenegger: No. We can fix this mess without hurting the schools. For me, children come first. Always have, always will.
I'm telling you, this ad ran a dozen times a night on every station in the state. He said over and over that education wouldn't be touched and that he supported Proposition 98. It was a cornerstone of his campaign. But less than a month after being sworn in he casually proposes gutting Prop 98 and then sends out his chief flack to make weasel noises about what the meaning of "cut" is. It's really unbelievable.
In the same interview, Arnold also backed off his promise to make sure local communities get back the money they lost when he reduced the vehicle license fee. And he's backed off his promise to investigate the groping charges.
This is a joke. He knew perfectly well exactly how bad the state's finances were when he made these promises, and he made them anyway. He knew he couldn't keep these promises without tax increases, and he made them anyway. And everyone believed that he had some magic plan that defied the laws of economics and lined up to vote for him.
And now he's just tossing those promises overboard without so much as an apology. It's revolting.
California voters got what they deserved. A lying fraud. But a dynamic, self-made lying fraud. An action hero who would clean house and fix everything? Dream on.
This is the land of illusion - or delusion - or whatever.
Topic: Local Issues First the fires, and now this? Even the French are worried about things out here! So I'm glancing at the summary of the French press at RFI - Internet Press Review in English - and Michael Fitzpatrick in his daily review of what's in the papers there tells me this:
Just in case Californians thought the worst was over, now that Terminator has made it to the State House, there's serious bad news on the Science pages of today's LE FIGARO. The home of Hollywood is not simply threatened by bad acting and big earthquakes, California also faces the threat of being engulfed by a monstrous tidal wave.
According to new research by a team of geophysicists, the gradual grinding at the meeting-point of the American and Pacific Plates... those enormous chunks of the earth's crust which move past one another at the rate of three-and-a-half centimetres each year... is sometimes interrupted by a massive collapse which causes undersea earthquakes and sends out waves of up to five metres, travelling at around 850 kilometres per hour.
Things are tough enough. It's not just bad acting and big earthquakes out here.
La faille San Andreas qui traverse San Francisco n'est pas la seule menace sismique pesant sur l'ouest des Etats-Unis. Tout le long de la c?te californienne jusqu'? la Colombie britannique (Canada), la plaque oc?anique Juan de Fuca glisse et descend sous la plaque continentale am?ricaine, ? raison de plus de 3,6 cm par an. L?-bas, chaque rupture brutale de la cro?te peut provoquer de redoutables tsunamis (1) car cette zone de subduction est situ?e sous la mer. Les vagues g?antes sont un danger pour toutes les r?gions c?ti?res du Pacifique. C'est ainsi que le 27 mars 1964, un tsunami provoqu? par un tremblement de terre au large de l'Alaska traversa l'oc?an Pacifique ? la vitesse de 830 km/h, atteignant les bords de l'Antarctique seize heures plus tard et faisant au passage 130 morts en Am?rique du Nord. [ and so on... ]
And I suppose I'll see this in the Los Angeles Times tomorrow.
Topic: Local Issues "All Politics is Local" Yeah, yeah. Out here national politics are having a local impact. The Republicans in Washington punish Southern California... GOP guts projects by local Dems Los Angeles Daily News, article published Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 11:45:40 PM PST By Lisa Friedman, Washington Bureau
If a congressional Democrat asked for it, Southern California won't be getting it.
In one of the year's ugliest political battles, Republican lawmakers have rejected almost every request made by a Democrat for a local education, job or health program.
The reason: retaliation. Earlier this year, Democrats voted en masse against a federal spending bill. Now it's payback time, and local programs such as nearly $3 million in educational and community programs in San Fernando and Lake Balboa and at California State University, Northridge, can kiss federal funding goodbye.
Local GOP lawmakers said they are standing behind their party, despite losses to local communities.
"I support the decision of the cardinals on this," Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora said, alluding to powerful House appropriation leaders. "I have no choice."
Democrats, however, are fuming and calling the move an abuse of power by Republicans.
Well, this is how the game is played.
Denied: $750,000 for High Tech High at Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley community of Lake Balboa and $1 million to help Cal State Northridge pay for its aquatic center for students with disabilities. Also cut was $1 million earmarked for a community health education center at Mission Community Hospital's San Fernando Campus, and a $3 million request Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, made for Huntington Memorial Hospital's trauma center. Add the $600,000 request to renovate a health clinic in Azusa and the $400,000 request for the construction of the East Valley Community Health Clinic in West Covina. No way. Gone. Along with $240,000 for the city of Pomona to establish an after-school program. Ain't gonna happen.
Schiff didn't like the cuts in the federal education budget. He voted against the cuts. Bad move, Adam!
"Why should Huntington Memorial Hospital suffer the loss of funding for its trauma center because Democratic members feel the president should fully fund education?" Schiff said. Calling the cuts "close to the line of ethical propriety," Schiff charged, "This means health care in our community will suffer."
Well, you could have voted with the Bush folks more often. People may die because you didn't.
The engineer behind all this political retribution is Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee that controls spending on education, health and job programs. Regula astonished lawmakers earlier this year when he announced that Democrats who voted against the spending bill July 10 would not see their "earmarks" -- sometimes called pork -- included in the compromise final version of the bill.
And so it goes. The man in Ohio punishes the folks out here in Los Angeles for voting against the Bush team.
This all is a pretty good argument to vote straight Republican from now on. It is too dangerous not to.