2012: Are the decks clear yet?

Politics as usual versus … Not.

My colleague Karl writes today about the retirement from the GOP horse race of Tim Pawlenty, and the settling of the race into a “Romney vs. Not Romney” dynamic.  Pawlenty didn’t succeed in being crowned Not Romney in the Iowa straw poll yesterday, but how secure is the tiara on Michelle Bachmann’s head?  Is Rick Perry destined to step into a phone booth and turn into Not Romney?  What will the voters’ judgments be in the bellwether states of South Carolina and Florida?

The whole question is interesting, and begs in turn the question whether the 2012 campaign will be the clear-the-decks, all-bets-off political turning point that many are hoping for.  I think, to begin with, Continue reading “2012: Are the decks clear yet?”

Last whimper from the Gaza flotilla?

Greece to the rescue.

The US and Canadian Boats to Gaza – M/V Audacity of Hope and M/V Tahrir, respectively – tried to make an unauthorized departure on 1 July from the Greek port they have been detained in.  The Greek coast guard promptly intercepted them (don’t miss Challah Hu Akbar’s coverage at the link).  This may be the final ride of the 2011 flotilla.  Its prospects are certainly dimming:  now that AOH and Tahrir have violated a directive from the Greek authorities, which had ordered them to remain in port pending the investigation of a complaint filed against them, the ships can be held there for as long as the Greeks see fit, and their crews might well be charged in court.

Positive as this outcome would be, Continue reading “Last whimper from the Gaza flotilla?”

Public transit employee: $458K salary plus $1.2m home-loan concession

Rockin’ the payroll.

If you had to guess, you’d guess this was in the San Francisco Bay area – and you’d be right. The official in question heads the San Mateo County Transit District, which runs trains and buses, and, like all public transit systems, is always in the red.  This means that when state and federal money bail local transit out every year, it’s tax dollars from across America that make executive compensation like this possible.

For a glimpse of the federal dollars being pumped into metropolitan transit, see this summary of the $270 million in Federal Transit Administration grants to California transit districts under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as Obama’s stimulus package. The San Mateo County Transit District received funds from 18 grants for a variety of purposes, from buying new buses to refurbishing track, updating electrical power infrastructure, and upgrading an operations control center. And that’s just the stimulus package; there are routine FTA grants made every year.

Of course, reducing one official’s salary and perks wouldn’t have covered all these costs.  On the other hand, Continue reading “Public transit employee: $458K salary plus $1.2m home-loan concession”