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Posts tagged ‘politics’

The Fatal Flaw of American Democracy

As Americans, we love to tell people how things should be. More often than not, we think the way we do things is the right way, and your way is backward/primitive/wasteful/wrong/fill in here. That’s particularly true when it comes to our own form of democracy, which we’d franchise like KFC and export to the world if we could (which more than one pundit would argue is exactly what we’ve tried to do with every war we’ve been involved in during the last century). In America, anyone can aspire to any leadership position they desire, and if they can convince their fellow citizens to elect them, their desires can become reality. That’s a really good thing, because it means that no matter who you are or what your background, you can rise as high as your powers of persuasion will allow – and you have to look no further than the current President to see just how far one can go.

But there’s a fundamental problem with a system where the people select who should represent them as the leaders of the government – you have to select one of the candidates. That’s been a real problem for most voters lately, since more often than not they don’t really like any of the candidates that are presented for selection. As today is Election Day in America, millions of registered voters will hold their nose, enter the voting booth, and select the candidate who least offends their sensibilities – very few will actually vote for someone they really want to see represent them. There’s a lot of reasons why we have no decent candidates, from a vetting process that effectively eliminates anyone with real-life experiences (which, more often than not, includes the mistakes of life from which leadership is forged) to the genuinely qualified candidates being smart enough to stay away from politics and the mudslinging catfight that it all too often becomes, but the net result is an election that is really a selection of the lesser of a number of evils.

That’s certainly the situation we face today in California as we head off to the polling places. As I look at the options I have, from top to bottom I see little to get excited about:

– For governor, I can select between a burn-out we chased out of Sacramento three decades ago or a gadfly businesswoman who’s thrown over $100 million at the election.

– For lieutenant governor, my choices are a NorCal mayor who was unwilling to face the personal scrutiny that comes with running for the higher office or a hold-over who was given the job as a reward for betraying his party.

– For senator, there’s the current senator who’s done little but lap up the perks of office for 20 years versus a fired former corporate CEO with no political experience.

You can see why I get less than enthused by the prospects.

Of course, being California, we also get the joy of the ballot propositions – a unique experience so violently abused by interest groups that it’s the fodder for late night TV. Among the highlights this year are one that would decriminalize marijuana use (rather pointless, considering narcotic control and enforcement is a federal issue) and another that will try to force the state government to actually do its job by stripping their salary and benefits if they fail to pass an on-time budget. We wouldn’t need that last one if we could just vote the bastards out of office, but there’s that whole “no viable candidates” thing interfering again.

Even my local city election isn’t immune to the silliness – there’s a proposition on the ballot in Redondo Beach that’s so long (180 pages) that Los Angeles County forced the city to foot the bill to print the voter information pamphlets … er, booklets … er, tomes.

Did my part ... such as it is

But we do what we can and I will vote for the best that is offered – or, more accurately, have voted. I, like the majority of my fellow Californians, vote as a permanent absentee voter, giving me the time to leisurely review the voting materials, wipe the vomit from my lips and fill out my return-by-mail ballot. It’s convenient to not have to find time to visit the polling place, and nice to be able to swear like a sailor at the ballot without the guy in the next booth complaining. As more and more voters follow my lead, it’s going to make the process of predicting winners harder to do, and that just adds interest to the process, in my opinion – we’d all love to see a modern-day version of the “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment …

As for the big picture, it sounds like the typical off-cycle election backlash against the party in power is going to be bigger than usual, although I suspect it will be smaller than believed. Republicans are likely to regain the majority in the House of Representatives, stripping the gavel from Nancy Pelosi and handing it to John Boehner, whose avowed goal is to spent the next two years undoing the legislative activity of the last two. In the Senate, the gap betweent the parties is going to close, although the Dems will probably retain their majority. Who exactly will lead that majority is in question, however, as Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is in a tight battle with a Republican/Tea Party candidate and may not survive the fight to lead again. The whole Tea Party phenomenon will have its first noticeable effect with this election, and I suspect it’s not going to be the one they hoped for. A lot of Democrats who might otherwise have lost their seats will find themselves pleasantly surprised tomorrow when they win elections they ought to have lost. Too often, Tea Party and traditional Republican candidates are fighting each other for votes, effectively splitting the electorate. Also, the dogmatic sniping between the camps is distasteful to many in the middle, and many of the uncommitted voters who might otherwise have voted Republican are being pushed to the left.

Either way, it should make for some interesting prime time viewing tonight – and that in itself is a rare thing … :-)

Lock ‘Em Up!

As I was driving to work this morning, the local news radio station was a-twitter with a breaking story about planned street closures today in Century City, and the impact they will have on famously bad LA traffic. Road closures are nothing new to Angelinos … potholes, rockslides and broken water mains all take their toll on commute times. But this one is different … very different.

Apparently, sixteen janitors are being laid off from buildings in the area and the local unions are planning to protest. Things are tough all over, so I find it hard to understand what makes this group so unique, but hey – it’s their right to protest. But these folks are taking it a step further, by planning to block traffic to raise awareness of their plight. What’s more, they’ve notified the police of their intent, who are assigning officers to work the protest – hence, the advance notifications that the radio was reporting.

Look, there’s a famous saying – your rights end where my rights begin. I respect your right to protest, and understand your desire to attract attention to your issue. But you have no right whatsoever to interfere with the daily activites of the thousands of commuters who would otherwise use the streets you plan to block. The minute you do that, whatever sympathy I might have for your cause goes right out the window.

The protest organizers have indicated that they are willing to be arrested to make their point. I suggest the LAPD accomodate their wishes – before they step off the curb in front of traffic.

Expensive Money

The National Bird is making a visit to the Southland today. No, I’m not talking about the bald eagle, but rather Air Force One, which will deliver President Obama to Los Angeles for a pair of Democratic Party fundraisers later this evening. AF1 is scheduled to hit the tarmac at LAX around 4PM – just the right time to guarantee the Presidential motorcade will irritate the hell out of evening commuters. The President’s destination is Hancock Park, where they will be holding a pair of events at the home of writer/producer John Wells of “West Wing” and “ER” fame.

Maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age, but it seems like a lot of time and effort to hop an overnight to Cali just to rake in some money for the party coffers. Sure, they’re gonna stop in Wisconsin to make a speech at some alternative energy factory there, but we both know that’s not the real reason they topped off the tanks on the Big Blue Bird this morning. It’s so the elite – and wannabe-elite – of Hollywood and the local political ranks can be seen with the President, and inject a little capital into a political machine that’s hemorrhaging hundreds. But while it may seem a little smarmy to have the Commander-in-Chief fly cross-country to raise money while juggling two wars, it’s no different than his last 10 predecessors did.

Let’s put aside the distaste for a second and get down to what matters – the money. They always say that if you want to understand a scam, follow the money – so let’s give that a shot here. The two events – a cocktail party and a dinner – are expected to raise about a million dollars. The 200 guests get a chance to hob-nob with the rich and powerful, but we all know there’s only one reason they’re dropping the money in the till – Ol’ #44. Let’s face it, if you want to meet LA Mayor – and fellow fundraiser guest – Villaraigosa, all you need to do is be in the right snack stand at a Lakers game.

So the Dems are counting on the Pres to show up and do his thing, but just how much do you think it costs to bring a sitting President across the country. There’s the cost of the flight, plus the security, plus all the hassle on the ground … I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more than the $1M they’ll raise. And if you think about it for a second, who’s paying to bring Obama to the Wells residence anyway? That’s right – you and I, the American Taxpayer. We’re footing the bill for the entertainment at a event where money is raised for a political party. Wouldn’t it be easier – and a lot less irritating to commuters – if they just had us all write out a check directly to Nancy Pelosi?

Excuse me while I force the vomit back down my throat …

The Only Decision He Could Make

In my Facebook profile, I describe myself as “slightly right of center” politically. That means I can usually see both sides of an argument, and seldom agree completely with either. It also means that my opinion tends to irritate people from both sides of the political aisle, and I suspect this will be no different.

Among my circle of friends are individuals who are openly gay – and others a little less open – and if you were to ask them they’d confirm the following: I am not comfortable with the concept of homosexuality. I was raised in a conservative time and manner, where such things were expected to remain in the closet, and in a church where, as most churches still do today, homosexuality was seen as a moral failure. Even today, as enlightened as I like to consider myself to be, I find it difficult to understand how someone looks as someone of the same sex and finds love.

That said, I believe that yesterday’s decision by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to declare unconstitutional California’s voter-approved Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, is not only the right decision, but the only decision he could have made.

I”m no legal scholar, but in my mind this day became inevitable the moment the first government got involved with the marriage business. Originally, the church was the de-facto government, providing stability and social order to untamed societies. You got married by the church, everyone recognized you as married, and that was it. Eventually, though, as what we see today as a traditional government began to take on some of the role of the church in providing for the welfare of the people, government chose to provide a parallel process to the church wedding, both allowing governmental recognition of church marriages as well as providing a pathway to marriage for those who opt out of the traditional religious wedding. That’s why while you today you may get married in the local church, you apply to the government for a marriage license – and that license is what yesterday’s decision is all about.

Whether you’re married in front of the altar or in front of a clerk, the marriage license represents a contract with the state, not the church, and is therefore ruled by the Constitution, not the Bible. The church has every right to determine who can or cannot be married in their sanctuaries, or have their marriages recognized by their members. But our Founding Fathers understood the importance of separation of church and state, and built it right into the Constitution by which we are ruled today – and which drove Judge Walker’s decision yesterday. The State cannot force the People to accept homosexuality – tolerate yes, accept no. But at the same time, the People cannot force the State to deny benefits to some they would grant to others, simply based on that lack of acceptance.

It’s worth noting that while Proposition 8 did successfully pass and is the law of the State of California, it hardly came with a ringing mandate – only slightly over 52% of the votes were in favor of the new law. Frankly, I think a lot of people were just like me – unwilling to vote for it, but afraid to vote against it as well. Change is a scary thing for people, and gay marriage represents change. But sometimes, the right thing to do is to take a deep breath and face, rather than fight, the change.

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl grew up, fell in love, got married and raised their kids alongside the rest of the crops on the farm. That was traditional marriage, and proponents of Proposition 8 point to that tradition as part of what they are trying to defend. But look around – the traditional family was gone long before homosexuals began their push for marriage. Science helps couples have children even if both parents are sterile, same-sex couples use surrogates to have children, single people adopt children from around the world – the needs that the traditional marriage provide have long since been met in many different ways. You don’t have to like the direction that society might be moving, but you cannot deny it – and you certainly can’t try and use the law to stuff the cork back in the bottle.

I have a former girlfriend who is a lesbian. She was gay when I met her, although I was probably in denial about it, and she’s gay today, part of a stable, loving couple. That she tried so hard to be someone she was not just to be with me will always be a source of immense pride. But she is who she is, and while I may not be comfortable with it, I do not have the right to tell her who she should be. Similarly, if we the people offer through our government a service to couples – that service being the civil contract of marriage, and all the benefits that come with it – we do not have the right to pick and choose what couples we offer the service to. Believe me, there are plenty of heterosexual married couples that I’d deny the right of marriage to if I could, but you don’t see anyone suggesting we do that.

Back in the early ’90s, I was a supervisor in an assembly area. One of my employees was gay, and her partner worked in an adjoining area, so I saw the kind of interaction they had on a daily basis. It was a new experience for me, and I was surprised to see that they faced the exact same changes any other couple goes through – the ups and downs, the fun and the friction, the financial challenges and the shared celebrations. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise since, gender aside, they were simply two people in love, trying to build a life together.

I’m someone who’s relationship history can be described as hit-and-miss at best, so I can appreciate how hard it is to find that one right person. Imagine if on top of all of the challenges that life places on each of us, you felt so uncomfortable in the traditional gender role that society placed upon you that you are willing to face the scorn that we all know the community continues to place on anyone who is different – just to find true happiness. Do we as a society really want to tell them they are wrong for trying, when all they ask for is the chance to live their life the way we live ours? Whether you accept or reject the notion of homosexual relationships, there’s no denying that gay marriage will do nothing to damage the fabric of our society. Whatever changes it may be seen to represent were set in motion long ago, and the granting of rights to homosexuals is as inevitable and right as it was to blacks and women before.

In the end, what are gays and lesbians really asking for? All they want is the right to face the challenges of life, hand in hand and side by side with the one they love, sanctioned by their government the same as any other couple. How is that fundamentally any different from what I want for myself? I’ll probably never be comfortable with the concept of gay marriage, and will always feel a bit uneasy around a gay couple. But if two people in love want to try and face the challenges of married life together, I’ll be damned if I’ll be the one to tell them they can’t.

Tough Break, Tony …

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is nursing a broken elbow suffered in a bicycling mishap Saturday night. His Honor was pedaling along Venice Boulevard when he was reportedly cut off by a taxi, causing him to fall. His crack protection detail was along for the ride, but apparently unable to finger the particular cabbie.

As someone who was a full-time bicycle commuter for several years, has pedalled over 5,000 miles on the pavement of Los Angeles, and has survived two car-versus-bicycle encounters, I can sympathize with the mayor on this one, and am glad it wasn’t worse than it was. Seldom is there a happy outcome in these events, and the truth is that drivers in Los Angeles just don’t look out for cyclists. When I ride, if forced to blend with traffic, I assume I’m surrounded by idiots who will do the worst thing at the worst time. I’ve learned all the tricks of survival on the streets (like looking at the wheel of a stationary car you fear might pull out into your path – you’ll see the rotational movement of the wheel much quicker than the forward motion of the car).

If anything good comes out of this, perhaps it will be a better understanding that if cyclists and motorists are genuinely expected to co-exist, it’s going to take a combination of cooperatino and new infrastructure.  One of the candidates running against Councilman Tom LaBonge is cycling activist Steven Box, who was quick to point out the challenges Villaraigosa faced unsuccessfully while riding in a decidated bike lane:

“Venice Boulevard is notorious for having all of the trash cans block the bike lanes. Venice Boulevard is notorious for having motor homes block the bike lanes. And Venice Boulevard is notorious for having fast traffic that uses the bike lane to squeeze through even when bicyclists are in the bike lane,” he said.

Personally, I don’t think striping will ever be the answer – if anything, it gives cyclists a false sense of security and can lull them into believing they are safer than they really are.  The only real solution is physical separation, but as we learned with the Metro Rail system, it’s hard to wedge new infrastructure in among the pavement jungle that is Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa is resting comfortably back at his Getty House residence.  His office says he will try to resume a normal schedule of business sometime this week, although I’m sure he’ll make the kickoff of girlfriend / reporter Lu Parker’s new charity tonight – after all, he doesn’t have to buy tickets … 😉

Your Own Personal Katrina

Has it really been five years since Hurricane Katrina tried to wipe New Orleans off the map? Seems like just the other day that the opposition party was berating the President over his slow response to a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Or perhaps I’m confusing it with … just the other day, when the opposition party was once again berating the President over his slow response to a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico …

In the aftermath of Katrina, as many residents of the Gulf Coast struggled to survive – and some failed – the federal government came under a lot of criticism for not being better prepared for such a disaster, and for not responding faster once the magnitude of the disaster was clear. After a few days of inactivity and speeches (including the infamous “Brownie, You’re Doing A Heck Of A Job” debacle), the National Guard arrived with food and water and picked up the slack of rescue and relocation. But the damage was done in the perception of the public.

Five years later, disaster has returned to the shores of Louisiana – only this time, it’s strictly man-made. On the night of April 20, the offshore drilling platform DEEPWATER HORIZON exploded, killing eleven crew members. Two days later, the platform sank 50 miles offshore, and shortly thereafter the first oil was found leaking from the cracked drill rig. Blowout preventers should have sealed the well but didn’t, and thousands of gallons of oil were spewing out of the damaged wellhead a mile underwater. An ecological disaster of unmatched proportion was developing, and all eyes turned to the government to evaluate their response.

Give the Obama administration credit – they learned from the barbecuing of their predecessors that perceptions count. From the very beginning, there were briefings and news conferences and a steady stream of Administration representatives heading into the region – they even established their own web site. Like the Katrina disaster, there was a lot of talk of who was to blame and how to best investigate the disaster. But once again, the federal government is showing that while they might be great at making speechs or holding hearings, they suck at action. They talk about holding BP responsible, but where’s the army of people hired to clean the beaches – hell, it’s not like there isn’t anyone unemployed in the region. Where’s the Coast Guard commandeering a fleet of boats to lay boom around the sensitive wetlands and harbors? Where’s the action?

It’s clear that this administration doesn’t understand deepsea oil drilling any more than the last understood the engineering challenges of building a hurricane-proof levee. And frankly, I don’t expect them to know everything about the topic – that’s why you bring in experts to help you craft the proper oversight. But all of that is a discussion for another day. What needs to happen now, as we enter the sixth week of the disaster, is action – positive action to mitigate damage.

There’s a lesson in this for the politicians who would love to use it to make political points, just as there was a lesson in Katrina. That lesson is this: leading the country is hard. Circumstances will jump up periodically and kick you square in the crotch. Whether 9-11, Katrina, Haiti or DEEPWATER HORIZON, the pain will drive you right to your knees. People will forgive that reaction, but it’s what happens next that matters – how do you respond to the pain to resolve the situation. That’s what we’re waiting to see.

I’ll Tell You What’s Un-American, Pal …

Have you noticed lately how lazy politicians have gotten?

There was a time when politics was a proud service, aspired to by the best and the brightest we have to offer as a way of giving back to society. Today, however, it seems like every wannabe with a stack of money or a microphone jumps into politics as a short-cut to national recognition and the fame that can come with it. Along the way, many of the skills and talents that used to be required have slipped by the wayside.

Take the fine art of debate. Once upon a time, two groups of people, civil towards each other but on opposite sides of an issue, would debate the merit of their positions using thought-out arguments and intelligent statements. But those skills seem to have been lost by today’s politicians, who are desperate to make their political points in a world with the attention span of a 3-yr-old child. So rather than sway people with the value of their argument, they fall back on an old tool that’s new again – they brand it “un-American”.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has taken issue with the new immigration bill passed recently in Arizona. Now, the mayor seems like a pretty smart guy, and there are certainly valid arguments to be made against the law. But rather than explain what he feels is wrong with the structure of the law, he slapped it with the “U” word:

“I add my voice in strongly opposing this unpatriotic and un-American law and I call upon our federal leaders to pass comprehensive immigration reform in its place.”

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the political fence, Republican and Tea Party poster boy Rand Paul has been taking heat over some of the statements he’s made regarding various issues since he won the party’s Senate primary in Kentucky.  One of the things he’s irritated about is the President’s handling of the Gulf oil spill and of BP, the company who’s crude is currently puking up beaches from Louisiana to Florida.  Paul’s position is a little different than most; he thinks Obama is being too hard on the oil company, but he had to resort to the “U” word to back up his argument:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Paul said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

Here’s my question – what exactly does “un-American” mean, and who are they to determine what qualifies? Are they constitutional scholars who have studied the works of the founding fathers and understand the intent of the Constitution? Or are they hoping that Billy-Bob will hear that word in a sound clip, slam down his beer and yell, “frakkin’ A!”

Look, these guys aren’t stupid – they obviously understand that we live in a world where news is made in 15-second clips and 140-character tweets. They’re unwilling – or unable – to take the time needed to make a valid argument, so they just right to a word they know is a button-pusher, just like the “n” word or the “f” word before it. And, considering the visibility it gets them, it’s hard to argue with their reasoning. But it is a dangerous game to replace the logic of your argument with simplistic jingoism.

It’s worth remembering that there was once another man who chose to hide his arguments behind the word “un-American” – Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator of a half-century ago who witch-hunts were sanction under a banner of the “U” word. My advice to those in office today: take the time to make the argument – don’t try to hide behind a declaration of “un-American” …

Shaken To Their Liberal Core

The amazing thing about democracy is that no matter which side of the political aisle you may sit on, you’re going to be subject to the whims and wishes of the electorate. Sometimes they’re going to see things your way, and sometimes, they’re not. It’s a lesson as old as the concept itself, and one that must be taught over and over. Today, members of the Democratic Party are the unwilling students.

Tomorrow morning, Democrats will awake to the uncomfortable reality that the newly elected junior senator from Massachusetts, the man replacing the revered liberal Ted Kennedy, is a Republican. They already have their spin doctors working the news shows, trying to convince themselves that this isn’t one more repudiation of the Obama administration and rather just a statistical blip caused by a weak candidate who blew an election. Meanwhile, the Republicans are doing giddy “toldya so” cartwheels and thinking it means that maybe – just maybe – the public is willing to forgive them for trying to foist them with Sarah Palin.

But what does it really mean?

Barack Obama strikes me as a sincere, well-intentioned person who is doing all he can to execute the platform he outlined during his successful campaign for president. And, to be honest, I don’t disagree with much of what he’s trying to do. But anytime you hit the ground running and never slow down, you can miss the scenery – and when that scenery changes, you can be the last to know.

We all know the President inherited a mess, and he did a decent job addressing the recession upon taking office. You can argue about the scope of his plans, but there’s no disputing the number of projects in work or the people employed by them – you can’t turn a corner in SoCal without running into some public works project with its “Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” sign. But once he turned his attention to health care, without slowing to first take the temperature of the populace, things went south in a hurry.

There’s a reason health care reform has been a concern for so long, and it’s not because Congress is lazy – it’s hard! There are a lot of details, and options, and opinions, and it’s been very difficult to achieve a consensus. Thus, every new Congress butts its head against it until bloodied then moves on to other issues. But this Congress – and the President sending the orders – had something different … a super majority, and they weren’t afraid to use it.

You know that old saying about how power – and particularly absolute power – corrupts? Well, Americans on the right – and, increasingly, the center – saw how Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi rubbed their hands together in glee at what they could do with their filibuster-proof majority and began to worry. At their core, most citizens don’t trust politicians, particularly if the checks-and-balances built into the system are overridden. Once it became clear that the Democrats were going to shove health care through no matter what the opposition thought – and with little concern for the opinions of said opposition – a red flag was raised. One-time fringe groups like the Tea Party movement suddenly gained traction, and an increasingly large number of voters wanted to put on the brakes. At the same time, the speed at which the Democrats were moving prevented them from seeing the size of the wave that was about to break over their heads until it was too late to do anything about it.

To be sure, the campaign of Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General who was the Democratic candidate for the senate seat, is as much to blame for the loss as anything. She stumbled badly and often, and did everything she could to lose the election. But in a state with as long a history of sending Democrats to Washington, this is a stunning blow.

The message has been sent to the President and his party – slow down. Think things through. Consider all the opinions, even those of the opposition. Now we’ll see if anyone is listening.

Well, That Didn’t Work … Or Did It?

He’s done it again. Paul Watson, the Sea Shephard Conservation Society’s human publicity machine, is in the news once again – and this time, it’s not just a stunt to hype his “Whale Wars” series … I think.

Watson, a co-founder of Greenpeace who left the group decades ago in a beef over tactics (his were a little too intense) has led his team through Antarctic wars in defense of the whales that populate the region. Japanese whalers are the enemy, and Watson is willing to put his team literally between the whalers and prey in an attempt to defeat them, one whale at a time.

Victim or martyr?

Victim or martyr?

Watson is a media savvy sort, knowing the impact of a good image. He’s quick to court favor with press and celebrity, and several big-name actors and musicians have publicly supported his efforts. For the current campaign, the Society’s primary vessel, the STEVE IRVIN (a nod to support of their efforts by Australians) was to be joined by two new boats, each named for main benefactors to the Society’s efforts – the BOB BARKER, and the ADY GIL. The GIL, in particular, was to be an interesting addition. Under a previous name, EARTHRACE, the sleek trimaran acer set a new circumnavigation speed record in 2008, knocking nearly two weeks off the old mark – it even merited a discussion over in the Marlin Club. Watson’s plan was to use the IRWIN and BARKER to track the whalers, then set the much faster GIL out to pester and slow them down.

Unfortunately, that plan took a disastrous turn for the worse on Tuesday, when the GIL was dogging the whaler SHONAN MARU NO 2.  In a collision between the two vessels – totally unprovoked, in the eyes of the Society – the bow was torn off the GIL leaving it disabled and seriously damaged.  Of course, the trusty “Whale Wars” crew was right their to capture all the action, so you can expect a big ratings bounce.

As you might imagine, the press releases are flying.  The Society is blaming the whalers, while the whalers blame Watson’s warriors.  The New Zealand government has backed the whalers, making them a target for the Society as well, since 4 of the GIL’s 6 crewmembers were Kiwis.  There are accusations of oil spills and conspiracies to murder whalers, and photoshopped pictures on both sides.  Grab your popcorn – this is gonna be good.

I respect Paul Watson’s dedication to the environment and his concern for the planet and its species – after all, this is a billfish conservation website you’re perusing right now.  I even respect his willingness to take action where others sit on the sidelines.  But my fear is that much like an an green Pied Piper, he’s leading a band of college kids and societal dropouts to their doom.  He gets everyone fired up to put themselves on the firing line, but when someone’s live is really on the line it’s not his – he’s hundreds of miles away on the mother ship.  One of these days, he’s gonna get one of those kids killed – and much like the sinking of the ADY GIL, will reap maximum publicity out of the tragedy.

As it is, they’ve already raised a million dollars for a replacement vessel …

No Big Deal Or Really Big Deal?

Ever notice how history has a way of making people look silly? Like all those coaches, for example, who proclaim their love for their current “perfect job” only to reverse course on a dime when the money is waved under their noses? Facts and data can show things that mere words just can’t support.

Earlier this week, Northrop Grumman announced that they were moving their corporate headquarters from LA to Washington DC, ostensibly to better support their primary customer, the US Government. As you might imagine, this was met with consternation and concern by LA business leaders, but NG talking heads quickly threw cold water on any economic worries.

“We don’t really expect it to have a big impact” on South Bay operations, Northrop spokesman Dan McClain said. “The objective is for us to more effectively engage with customers, protect the jobs we have and grow new jobs. So, our goal is for this to be a positive for California.”

Now, Northrop was founded at Hawthorne Airport back in the ’30s, and has a huge footprint in SoCal with major facilites in both El Segundo and Redondo Beach.  It’s possible that this move will have no impact on a company so closely tied to the region.  But, as they say, let me tell you a tale about another little company …

In 1917, a young engineer in Seattle changed the name of his year-old company to one that would include his last name:  The Boeing Airplane Company.  Boeing grew in the northwest and, much like Northrop in SoCal, developed a significant business base around Puget Sound.  Major aircraft production lines were established in Everett and Renton – in fact, every commercial airliner built by Boeing over the years has rolled out of one of those plants.  But Boeing also felt a need to have a less regional presence, and in 2000 decided to move their corporate headquarters to Chicago.  Again, it was a significant event to the politicos of the Northwest, who had frankly taken Boeing – and the huge employment base it represented to their districts – for granted.  Even with the move, they knew Boeing would retain a large business segment in the greater Seattle area.

Fast forward a few years, and Boeing is developing the new 787 Dreamliner.  Like most large aerospace concerns, Boeing has learned that you need to spread the work around to keep people happy, and much of the 787 is being developed by foreign firms selected to ensure their countries’ desire to purchase large numbers of Dreamliners.  Even with foreign ownership, though, much of the work was being done at purpose-built facilities in South Carolina.  When the foreign firms had trouble meeting schedules, Boeing stepped in and first assisted and then supplanted the foreign companies, taking over the facilities and work.

Meanwhile,  back in Seattle, Boeing had established the final assembly line for the 787.  Sure, it would just be bolting together big pieces made elsewhere, but at least Seattle could still take credit for finishing the plane and sending it into the sky.  But a bruising strike put the program behind schedule, and politicians refused to give Boeing any kind of breaks, knowing they’d never take their business elsewhere.  Or would they.

Last year, as orders for Dreamliners skyrocketed, Boeing looked for sites to build a second 787 production line.  Washington knew every Boeing jetliner had been built in the Pacific Northwest, and was confident the new line would be built there.  But down in South Carolina, where Boeing’s new facilities included a flightline with airport access, local politicians had a full-court press in play to get that new assembly line.  Imagine the shock in Seattle when Charleston was announced as the site for the new 787 production line …

Sure, Northrop Grumman has a proud Southern California heritage, but when it comes to corporate decisions, it’s “out of sight, out of mind”.  It’s hard to close a facility when it’s within driving range of your headquarters, but not so hard when it’s all the way across the country.

NG employees, don’t say you weren’t warned …