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The Partisan’s 2015 wish list, toward a better tomorrow

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christmas tree lightA review of the Partisan’s posts of 2015 reveals that we did a reasonably good job of accentuating the positive and avoiding unnecessary criticism. In that spirit, we are taking this opportunity to distribute some presents of sorts with the barest amount of advice necessary to provide context.

City of Seaside: A gift bag filled with enough wisdom to realize that this horse-racing thing is never going to happen. You need to know this before you waste more time and money. It might have come to something if the centerpiece of this proposal was something other than a horse racing track, but that’s what it is. Horse racing was a dying enterprise even before the public started recognizing how many horses actually die at the tracks. On top of that, the location is wrong, the developers’ own financial forecasts don’t support the idea and the development team seems to think it can force it down the community’s throat.

Craig Malin: For the incoming Seaside city manager, a subscription to the Weekly and the Partisan because you’ve shown yourself to be a fan of good local journalism.

Sand City: Don’t be jealous about Seaside’s present. Here’s a box of reality for you, too. That hotel on the beach? It was a bureaucratic fluke that got the proposal this far but if you think the community is going to let you build a hotel on the sand, knowing what happens when buildings go up on the shore, you need to get out more.

City of Mared christmas backgroundrina: Your gift is a back brace to help continue to build a people-friendly community rather than a conglomeration of shopping centers and parking lots. Yes, people want restaurants in their commercial districts but the City Council can and should set standards. Time will prove the council right.

The City of King City: A whole new start.

Salinas Police Department: May the big shiny box behind the tree be filled with at least a few months of peace. The way your officers stepped up to contribute money for the 9-year-old abuse victim in the recent child homicide case was truly heartwarming. They deserve something other than crime scene after crime scene.

Jane Parker: Here’s hoping Santa brings you two new colleagues this year. Imagine a board trying to work together to serve the public! Yes, it sounds crazy, but we’ve all heard of Christmas miracles, right?

Dennis DonohuBirch forest in wintere: The former Salinas mayor won’t come right out and say he will run against Parker, though he’s already collecting campaign cash. Our gift is a simple reminder that to beat Parker, he’ll have to take loads of money from people he wouldn’t to have as neighbors. It’s about governance, Dennis, not commerce.

Pacific Grove: A city engineer who can figure out how to use the new hotel tax money to get the ancient sewer system fixed.

Carmel: A few dozen barbecue grills and a mural at the Post Office depicting the good old days of beach bonfires.

Sam Farr: Some fishing tackle.

Jimmy Panetta: A challenge from the left to keep you honest.

Casey Lucius: A professional campaign manager.

Monterey County Democratic Party: Leadership.

Monterey County Republican Party: New leadership.

Cal Am: A conscience.

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The Monterey County Republican Party persists in circulating web memes intended to deceive those who know very little history. It’s likely insulting even to many local Republicans.

I wrote about one a few weeks back but another, courtesy the aptly named outfit Right Wing News, was reposted on social media last week by a wag (or intern) with the local party. Over a smiling portrait of Ronald Reagan, it says if the Gipper were in the White House, “ISIS would be WASWAS.”

So clever. So simple.

Of course, if Reagan were president today, he would be 105 years old. Whether he could operate a smart phone, let alone oversee a military campaign against ISIS, is nothing but wistful thinking. The world has changed a lot since Reagan was elected in 1980.

But in GOP land, the Reagan years of 1981-88 are a golden era frozen in time, and he is the supreme founding father. His actual record in the Middle East is, however, far from golden, militarily and diplomatically.

His predecessor, Jimmy Carter, worked his tail off to achieve what no president has done — hammer out a peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel. Pick up the riveting history  Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright to learn what Carter, with his Christian faith and encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, accomplished at Camp David with the reluctant leaders of Egypt and Israel.

Reagan used direct military force three times in the Middle East — in Libya, Lebanon and the Persian Gulf, fewer times than his successors, both Presidents Bush and Presidents Clinton and Obama.

Reagan launched an air raid on Libya in April 1986 as payback for a terror bombing at a West Berlin discotheque popular with American soldiers that killed three, including two U.S. servicemen. Two U.S. airmen died in the Libya raid.

Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi survived; whether he was an intended target is still debated. Gaddafi went on to mock the Reagan administration and to support acts of terror for years, including the horrific mid-air bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in the waning days of Reagan’s presidency.

Twice in the early 1980s, Reagan sent troops into Lebanon after Israel invaded the chaotic country. First, U.S. troops helped with the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut. Secondly, and tragically, 1,800 Marines returned to Lebanon as part of a peace-keeping mission after Israeli-allied Lebanese militias massacred hundreds of unarmed Palestinians in two refugee camps.

The Marine barracks was attacked Oct. 23, 1983, by a suicide truck bomber, killing 241 Marines. It was the Corp’s single deadliest day since the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. The Marines were withdrawn — the president said redeployed — four months later, before their presence would become an issue in the 1984 campaign.

Two days after the barracks bombing, Reagan launched a military invasion with 5,000 troops of the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada, population 91,000 with an army of 600. It was over in days, and was the only U.S. land war of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan preferred Cold War proxy wars in Central America, Africa and Asia to sending U.S troops into battle. This greatly dismayed conservative thinkers like William F. Buckley and Norman Podhoretz.

Multiple hijackings, bombings and kidnappings in the Middle East during the 1980s show that Reagan (or any other president, to be fair) never found a magic solution to conflict and terrorism in the region.

To boast that Reagan could easily dispatch the “caliphate” of ISIS today, presumably by walking tall, talking tough or reinvading Iraq, based on his Mideast record begs the question: what the heck are you smoking?

A nice guy at heart, Reagan’s sympathy for families of American hostages taken in Lebanon caused his off-the-books national security staff to illegally sell missiles to Iran, funnel some profits to the Nicaraguan Contras and, in the end, consume the final years of his presidency in scandal.

An irony to the Iran arms sales is that the United States was simultaneously backing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the long war (1980-1988) it started by invading Iran. The U.S. ensured Baghdad got billions of dollars in credits, weapons and intelligence, precursors for biological and chemical weapons, and a 1983 visit from special envoy Donald Rumsfeld. We joined the rest of the world in largely ignoring Saddam’s widespread use of chemical weapons during the war to kill thousands of Iranians and Kurds.

In the final two years of the Iran-Iraq war, U.S. Navy ships mounted the largest convoy since World War II to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf from Iranian attack. That the waters were a tinderbox was evidenced by the accidental May 1987 Iraqi air attack on the frigate USS Stark that killed 37 American sailors.

The stalemated Iraq-Iran war, which cost a million lives, finally ended in August 1988. But a month earlier, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial airliner, killing 290 passengers and crew, after mistaking it for an Iranian warplane. The tragic error is largely forgotten by Americans. But it remains an open wound for Iranians.

In another anti-Soviet proxy war in another Muslim country, Reagan’s CIA lavished weapons, equipment and praise on jihadists who flocked to fight the occupying Soviet army in Afghanistan. To be fair, Carter started supporting the mujahideen before Reagan greatly expanded the operation.

Guided by Cold War thinking, Reagan didn’t appreciate the potential danger of radical Islamic fundamentalism. The Soviets’ 1987-89 exit from Afghanistan gave rise to the Taliban, the first-generation of al-Qaeda, and, ultimately, the 2001 ground war mounted by the United States that grinds on today.

There are reasons to admire Reagan. Late in his presidency, he rejected hardliners in his administration and conservative circles to work with the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to reduce the threat of nuclear war, the specter of which truly haunted Reagan. Gorbachev rebuffed his own hardliners and refused to order Soviet troops to put down popular uprisings in East Germany, Poland and other Eastern bloc countries. Both men deserve praise for doing much to end decades of Cold War tension in Europe.

But the Mideast was a different story. The Reagan administration even publicly rebuked Israel over the Lebanon invasion and its expansionist settlement program, actions that would incense prominent Republicans today.

A writer last year for the conservative Cato Institute drew a lesson from the Reagan record in the Middle East that could be summed up: use caution and keep boots off the ground.

If memes devoid from reality are necessary, here’s a tip. Use a picture of Donald Trump saying he would just fire ISIS, or kick its ass, or make them build a wall around themselves and pay for it. Problem solved fabulously.

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imageThe Monterey County Republican Party provided a little history lesson this week, courtesy of former Alaska Gov. and former Fox News political commentator Sarah Palin.

The simplistic message adhered to a theme much favored by conservatives these days as the GOP continues to fail to make any inroads into the hearts and voting preferences of African-Americans. The pitch is: “Hey, we had your backs when slavery was outlawed, and Democrats were KKK members, passing Jim Crow laws and terrorizing your people.”

Here’s a little graphic passed along by Palin and the local GOP, with an added bonus showing how today’s Democrats voted for the Affordable Care Act while Republicans wouldn’t touch the servitude inherent in a law meant to improve health care for millions of people.

For the record, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution — known as the Civil War amendments — were approved in 1865, 1867 and 1870. Republicans citing them as evidence of why blacks today should vote Republican are being about as intellectually honest as those who would cite Hannibal’s use of elephants to cross the Alps in a discussion of modern military transport.

It’s true that for 100 years after the Civil War — the war pressed by first Republican President Abraham Lincoln to preserve the union — white Southerners, longing for antebellum days of plantations and racial superiority, were diehard Democrats.

They were the ‘Dixiecrats,” fierce segregationists, who rallied behind South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1948 as States Rights Democrats. They opposed the civil rights platform of President Harry Truman, who won 77 percent of the black vote that year. For the first time, a majority of blacks identified as Democrats.

Thurmond left the Democratic Party for good in 1964 and became a Republican because of passage of 1964 Civil Rights Acts. Four years later, he was a key ally in shoring up southern support for Richard Nixon, who successfully employed the modern Republican’s Party strategy to flip white voters in the South to the GOP side.

GOP nominee Barry Goldwater had worked the same game  — opposition to civil rights laws — in 1964, when Democrat Lyndon Johnson won a whopping 94 percent of the black vote. The next year, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, but Nixon won the White House three years later buoyed by voter anger over civil rights and antiwar protests.

That’s the starting point for the current history of the Republican Party and black voters. It hasn’t been an upbeat saga — from voter suppression and welfare queens to Willie Horton ads and rancid attacks on the first black president. It hasn’t been pretty at the polls, either. The last two Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and John McCain, received single-digit percentages of the black vote.

That’s not to say Republicans have no ideas to offer. As Jamelle Bouie noted in Slate in May 2014, Sen. Rand Paul has talked of criminal justice reform, softening drug laws and using tax breaks to help economically distressed areas.

One thing’s certain. The party and its pundits should stop with the Democrats-were-the-true racists-not-us history lessons. They’re ancient history, outdated as frock coats and celluloid collars, and irrelevant to anyone with passing knowledge of the past 60 years of American politics.

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I read a piece in Politico the other day about how the Republican Party is shrinking, in part because Republicans tend to be older than Democrats, etc., and older people tend to die before younger people. The GOP leadership, being reasonably astute, undoubtedly recognizes the problem and is likely taking steps to address it. Among the first things it will take is to change the membership oath to no longer require newbies to pledge allegiance to Fox News, the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove.
announcement, conference or political campaign

Locally, the party is taking a different approach to build up its muscle. Classified advertising.

The Salinas-based campaign management firm of Paramount Consulting, also known as Andrew Russo, is running ads in the Craigslist employment section seeking Republican candidates for everything from school boards to the state Senate.

Russo doesn’t require an oath but potential candidates “must be pro-business and fiscally conservative.”

“Some record of prior community involvement (is) highly desirable.”

Paramount lists a long list of previous clients who made it into office, including Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, Congressman Jeff Denham, Salinas school board members Jim Reavis and Lila Cann, former Monterey County Supervisor Judy Pennycook and former Monterey City Councilman Jeff Haferman. That is quite a list but that’s all I’m going say about that.

Also going the Craigslist route is the Monterey County Republican Party, which has been looking for an executive director for quite some time now. That might be because of the compensation. At first I thought it was a typo: $2,500 to $3,000 per month depending on experience. Seems to me that no self-respecting, Democrat-disrespecting Republican would take a job in that range. Maybe it’s a test.

Despite the puny pay, it’s a big job. There are funds to be raised, an office to manage, reporters to be dealt with, interns and volunteers to be supervised, Facebook pages to be fed and a board to be interacted with. The successful candidate has to be skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, DreamWeaver, Indesign, and Adobe Acrobat. Finally, he or she “should have a sense of humor.”

That last requirement is key. The executive director would be dealing with people such as Brandon Gesicki, who placed the ad, and businessman Paul Bruno, two of the most madcap merrymakers to ever try to stuff a ballot box for comic effect.

Brandon “Why Doesn’t Anyone Like Me” Gesicki is one of those campaign managers who will use every trick in the book, every type of deceptive advertising, phony front groups and various intimidation tactics and then tell you he is doing it to prevent the GOP from being taken over by unprincipled people.

Speaking of Gesicki, he’s also advertising on Craigslist for interns for his own office, Capitol Consulting.

He describes it as “an incredible opportunity for anyone wanting to break into public relations and politics.”

The positions are unpaid for three to six months but will turn into paid positions at some point. There is no mention of college credit but, hey, there might be a Republican president by the time the IRS comes around asking questions.

Gesicki says he is looking for someone with good technical skills but he doesn’t mention anything about working on a web site, which is kind of surprising considering that his company’s website is still soliciting clients for the 2013 election and doesn’t include last year’s sheriff’s race as one of his success stories.

On his website, he does make it clear, though, that politics is a “full contact sport” and that “winning is everything.” The part about public service and philosophy is missing from the pages, but that’s merely an oversight. There is a section for  testimonials and I’m sure it will be very interesting when it is no longer  “under construction.”

Come to think of it, maybe I should apply, if not for an internship, possibly the exec director’s job. I have a sense of humor, or at least I did before I became old enough to be a Republican.

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