Friday, March 02, 2007

Damage Control and Anonymity, Redux

It's been an interesting couple of days. Ever since Claudio Gallegos over on the Orange Juice! blog posted the first of what he tells us will be a three-part series based on interviews with a person described as a "Westside Improver", the guy over at the CM Press - who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor - has been busily posting up a storm in an obvious attempt at damage control. It's like watching a guy trying to extinguish a forest fire with a squirt gun.

Yesterday, in his post #94, he presents his readers with his version of the history of the "improver movement" and of his "little newsletter" - that's what he used to call his blog. As one reads this posting you can almost hear the lilting strains of violins playing in the background as he portrays himself and his associates as benign do-gooders, concerned only with making Costa Mesa a "nicer" place. It almost brought a tear to my eye as I read it.

Then, today, in #95, he makes another obvious attempt to head off any further damage that might be done by the pending second and third installments of Gallegos' interview series. This little piece of sarcastic misdirection is clever, but way, way too obvious. As I read it the word "squirming" came to mind.

I had to chuckle as I read that post when I came to the following question: "Could it possibly be that Mansoor is actually a pretty bright guy and decides things on his own and doesn't need others to tell him what to do or how to think?" My answer to that one is No, No, No and No.

So, like many Costa Mesans, I look forward to next Tuesday, when Gallegos will publish the second installment. Until then, I fully expect the guy at the CM Press - one recent writer called him the CEO, which I accurately interpreted as an acronym for "Condescendingly Egregious Obfuscator" - to continue to wriggle and squirm to try to find ways to dilute the impact of Gallegos' presentation.

Separately, over on, Byron de Arakal has chastised folks who submit comments as "Anonymous", and has banned such comments from his blog. As you know, I've also banned any comments directed here under the name of "Anonymous". I will no longer even read such submissions. Using the "comments moderation" tool available to me, I simply "reject" any comment sent by "Anonymous". As I've suggested in the past, if you expect to have a chance to post a comment here, all you have to do is check the "other" button and select a pen name if you want anonymity. That doesn't guarantee your comment will be posted, but it does assure that I'll read and consider it. Of course, I'd prefer you used our own name, but understand how the fear of retribution can make that an unsatisfactory option for some of you. The "source" on Gallegos' blog series, for example, likely fears for his physical well-being - a valid reason for anonymity. So, pick a name, any name, and fire away.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Smiling Along With The News and Newport's Protected Views

Well, now, it's been an interesting day here in Cauldronland. The telephone and email have been smokin' with inquiries about the identity of Claudio Gallegos' anonymous Westside Improver - the subject of his post yesterday over at the Orange Juice! blog. If you missed it, you can click here to read it now. I have no clue about the identity of the person - some might say that it's only one of many subjects about which I have no clue. However, I imagine some of us will wait with great anticipation for the next two installments, which Gallegos says will be published the on next two Tuesdays.

As I read today's newspapers a couple articles caught my eye and made me chuckle. One was the report of the difficulty old Jim Gilchrist, Grand Pooba of the Minutemen, is presently having trying to maintain control of that organization. Amid rumors of fiscal improprieties, some members of his board of directors have voted to oust him and take over. My smile just got bigger as I typed those words... sorry, I just can't help it.

The second article was one that reported the most recent of what seems like a jillion reports on the impact of illegal immigrants on our economy. The Associated Press stories, published in both the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, tell us that "the flow of immigrants into California has helped increase wages and job opportunities for native-born workers." According to the report by the Public Policy Institute of California, "Immigrants don't compete directly with native workers for jobs, but tend to bring different skills to the workplace." The report goes on to say, "This allows native workers with the same education level to take more specialized, better paying jobs." "This symbiotic relationship leads to Americans to be able to take more specialized jobs, and to improved output, translating into a 4% real wage increase for American workers in California between 1990 and 2004.", according to the study. This report, of course, flies in the face of all those folks who use, among their arguments against illegal immigration, their "fact" that those workers take jobs away from "real Americans". That has always been a bogus argument. We're in an economy right now that hovers under 5% unemployment - a level at which most economists acknowledge is basically full employment. At that level, most folks who want jobs have them.

I guess our friends who are intent on deporting every single illegal alien from our country - and knocking the underpinning from our economy in doing so, by the way - will just have to find another arrow for their quiver.

So, as we all wait breathlessly for the next installment of "As The Worm Turns", er, "Confessions of a Westside Improver", I'll look for more snippets in the news to bring smiles to our faces.

Before I forget, our good neighbors over in Newport Beach decided last night to proceed with spending several million dollars to create a passive park on that chunk of land immediately above their Main Library, and coincidentally protect minor incursions in the views of a few well-connected folks on the hill above MacArthur at the same time. That property, of course, would be the perfect location for their much-needed new City Hall and esteemed local architect Bill Ficker had provided them with an outstanding rendition of just such a facility that met both the City Hall and Park needs. Instead, there will now be a passive park that will be used by a handful of people each week, surrounded by three very busy streets. I find myself wondering where those few people will park their cars to access the new park. Certainly, few of them will take their lives in their hands by trying to sprint across MacArthur or Avocado to reach it. It's a classic example of the philosophy of some folks in that town which states that no tree will go unhugged. Any other solution for the City Hall will cost upwards of four times as much as the one Ficker designed and will be unbelievably more complicated to manage from a human resources standpoint. Each of the other plans they are considering will involve demolishing another municipal structure and relocation those functions and staff while a new facility is built. I have no dog in that hunt, but it certainly seems to be a poor decision. And, it's a great reminder that, regardless the socio-economic structure of a community, politicians are still politicians - wetting their finger and holding it in the air to see which way the wind's blowing before making a decision.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pulling Back The Shroud

Claudio Gallegos over at the Orange Juice! blog has decided to reach down from Santa Ana and rip the scab off a festering wound that has been growing in Costa Mesa. That wound is the influence one local activist has had over the direction this town has been going for the past few years.

Today, Gallegos published the first of what he says will be a three-part series called "Confessions of a Westside Improver", which will be based on interviews with a former "improver" in our city. You can read the first installment here. I don't know the identity of this person, but I suspect that, as this series unfolds, those close to the "improver movement" will find clues sufficient to make educated guesses.

Those who have read my words here for the past 20 months or so, as well as some of the things I've written that were published in the Daily Pilot and other local newspapers for the past several years, will find that many of Gallegos' words have a familiar ring. The intimate details in his little saga will provide further validation of what I've written in the past. I began writing about this man's influence over events and people in Costa Mesa shortly after I became aware of him and began following his activities. I've quantified his accomplishments, if you can call them that, on the path to expunge the Latinos from our midst and lead our city down a dark path many times in many ways.

I've urged readers to familiarize themselves with this man's writings on any of several far right-wing web sites, to more fully understand the underlying philosophy that drives his actions in this city. These writings, plus those on his web log, when combined with his almost non-stop preaching at the podium of any city meeting he attends, give you a real feel for his plans for this city.

It deeply saddens me when I realize that he's found a fertile field among those frustrated, angry folks on the Westside in which to sew his insidious seeds of intolerance. It irritates me when I realize he's been able to use his considerable oratorical and writing skills to sweep this small group of disenchanted residents into his fold and help chart their course. It angers me when I realize just how successful he has been at reaching into the heart of this city and tearing it loose. It befuddles me when I think of those fine, caring, long-time Costa Mesans being so mesmerized by this man that they allow him to convince them that the Latinos among us are the sole reason for all the ills that he perceives in our city - and that their eventual expulsion will solve all those problems.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what this self-professed Mensa member has done to our community, nor will it take rocket scientists to take this city back. What it will take is for the good people of this city to understand what's being done to their hometown and for them to speak out, to repudiate him and his disciples, three of whom make up the current majority on the City Council. It will take considerable fortitude for them to swim against the tide of intolerance that was so evident during the last election campaign, when the mayor and his running mate used the incendiary illegal immigrant issue to ride to victory. It's not too late to take back our city.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Seeking Civilized Discourse

It's been interesting to read articles in the Daily Pilot over the weekend about events of concern to our good neighbors over in Newport Beach. They are still dealing with the issue of just where to build their much-needed new City Hall and now the fate of the Banning Ranch oil field has jumped into the headlines again. The former involves a controversy over 12 acres near the current Main Library which is, in my humble opinion, the perfect spot for the new City Hall. The second involves more than 400 acres on the bluff overlooking the Santa Ana River and West Newport, the plans for which range from lots of houses, a combination of houses and park space or purely park land.

I contrast this with Costa Mesa's current "land" issues. At the last council meeting that body approved the acquisition of nearly two acres contiguous to a current park on the Eastside and, it is assumed from the comments made, plans to have that entire area become a park. And, there is still the steady drum beat from so-called "improvers" to raze apartment buildings around town - displacing the Latino residents - and turn those locations into parks, too.

I was interested in the way Newport Beach residents handle their comments attached to the articles in the Daily Pilot. In the recent past many of the Costa Mesa-related articles have had many comment threads that resembled school yard shouting matches. Not so in the case of our good neighbors. One article regarding architect and yachtsman Bill Ficker's most recent proposal for the use of that 12 acre plot as a combination City Hall/Park generated more than 60 comments - most of which were generally well thought-out and clearly presented. One fella, undeterred by the 100 word maximum, posted 6 consecutive comments to make his points - and did so quite effectively. A companion article emphasizing the "park" aspect of the space in opposition to a city hall being considered for that plot generated 11 comments, most of which were calm, reasonable responses. An accompanying editorial by the Daily Pilot also had 11 comments as I type this, each of similar thoughtful nature. So far, not a single "zinger" attempting to defame a previous viewpoint, unlike so many of the comments posted on the Costa Mesa-oriented articles recently. No personal attacks on other commenters, just clear, thoughtful viewpoints expressed with passion.

I make that observation because it seems that our good neighbors in Newport Beach, even though issues are many times quite polarizing, somehow manage to maintain a level of decorum in their debate that seems unattainable, or at least forgotten, in Costa Mesa. That's a real shame, too, because there appears to be a new group of voices trying to be heard in my town, but they are continually "shouted down" by folks who have strong allegiances to the "improvers". It reminds me of the actions of one of that mob who attempted to stifle a demonstrator in the city council chambers last year as she sung the words to "We Shall Overcome". This guy is a rabid "improver" who, as he scrambled across the auditorium to get in her face like some berserk chimpanzee, tried to drown her out by screaming the words to "God Bless America" at the top of his lungs. It was shameful and actually pretty darn funny. This guy and his peers seem less inclined to frame a reasonable argument, preferring instead to attempt to discourage differing views by using spiteful invective and overwhelming volume - a literary spitting match.

I long for the return to civility in discourse in our city. I long for the time when divergent viewpoints would be considered and debated by mature people who had only the best interests of my city in mind without degenerating into personal attacks. I long for the days when political operatives from national parties didn't try to use our city as a farm team, and exercise their influence over elections and subsequent political appointments. I miss the good old days, when local politicians were not influenced by those among us with a not-so-transparent radical racial agenda. Yes, I'll say it - I long for the return to reason in our city.