Monday, July 06, 2015

Gavin Newsom's leadership

On the front page of this morning's Chronicle (Will Gavin Newsom’s post-Pride glow get him the governorship?):

In an interview this week, Newsom said he is gratified by the outpouring of support, but he also argued, “Gay marriage was about people — but it was also about the principle that we have the capacity to change things. Hopefully, if there’s any’s that it’s not a single issue, it’s a style of resolve and commitments — you can call it leadership,” he said. “You are given a moment in time, you say what you think and the consequences are the consequences. I’m not going to wait for the prevailing winds.” He said he will be guided by what he calls “the spirit of the Obama say, ‘Don’t read the polls — change the damn polls.’”

Conservative political commentator Patrick Dorinson, who writes the CowboyLibertarian blog, says that outlook forever casts Newsom as “a founding father...the Mount Rushmore of the (marriage equality) movement. He will go down as the guy who stuck his neck out, and he’s been vindicated,” Dorinson said. “He could have played it safe, and he didn’t have to.”

As I've pointed out before, Newsom's timing on his gay marriage initiative---early 2004 in a presidential election year---was poor and helped re-elect President Bush. Why not wait until after the November election? And supporting gay marriage in San Francisco wasn't a particularly brave political act in the first place. 

His initiatives on homelessness, on the other hand, were much bolder in this ultra-liberal city, creating a rift with city progressives that still hasn't healed.

The Chronicle story doesn't mention two big, costly projects that a Governor Newsom could helpfully torpedo: the high-speed rail project and the delta water tunnels, as noted by the LA Times earlier this year. He's exercised leadership by publicly opposing both of these pet projects  of Governor Brown. If Newsom had wanted to play it safe, he would shut up about those issues. 

Newsom went public with skepticism on the high-speed rail project back in 2013. Now that was real leadership, since the project is favored by Governor Brown, the Democratic Party, and the unions.

Local Democrats, like Scott Wiener and Mayor Lee, are lagging behind Gavin Newsom's leadership on high-speed rail.

And Newsom supports legalizing marijuana in California.

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Robert Frank

A fine appreciation of Robert Frank in Sunday's NY Times (The Man Who Saw America):

...In 1947 family friends who lived in Queens met the boat that carried Frank to the United States. The next day, they showed him Times Square: ‘‘The crowd! The crowd! I never was used to such a big crowd, and they were so enthusiastic about being there. It was America! Those big signs!’’ At a coffee shop, Frank encountered a waitress who flung everyone’s silverware onto the table. In that moment of democratic informality, Frank knew New York was where he wanted to be. ‘‘In Paris you’d see African people on the subway, and they were African. Here in America they are Americans. There is no other place like this.’’

...Since there ‘‘weren’t so many artists in photography to meet,’’ Frank says, he became interested in the work of only one photographer: Walker Evans. Evans’s images of battered roadside prewar America were, as the photographer Tod Papageorge writes, Frank’s ‘‘sourcebook’’ for his own rendition of the American scene. Frank sought Evans out, and soon the older man was inviting Frank to his Upper East Side apartment to help him photograph objects like tools arranged on a table. ‘‘If I put a piece of cheese on the table and said, ‘Photograph it,’ ’’ Frank says, ‘‘his would be different from my piece of cheese. His pictures were more careful. I was fast. Hurry! Hurry! Life goes fast.’’

Evans wore English shoes and patrician airs. Frank had become close to raffish Beats like the poet Allen Ginsberg, and when Evans was hospitalized, he asked Frank not to bring ‘‘any of those friends of yours up here.’’ Frank believed that despite the humanity in his pictures, Evans ‘‘felt he was better than other people. That was something I couldn’t stand.’’

...He found [Jack]Kerouac ‘‘at a New York party where poets and Beatniks were. Some painters. Everything happened downtown.’’ When Frank showed the writer his pictures, Frank says he was empathetic. ‘‘Kerouac personified what I hoped I’d find here in America. He was interested in outsiders. He wasn’t interested in walking the middle of the road.’’ Seizing the moment, Frank asked if Kerouac would introduce ‘‘The Americans.’’ ‘‘Sure,’’ Kerouac said. ‘‘I’ll write something.’’

...When Frank raised his camera and shot, the process was blurry quick, meaning he could capture what he saw as he perceived it. People, Frank says, ‘‘don’t like to be caught in private moments. I think private moments make the interesting picture.’’ It says something about Frank that his favorite ‘‘Americans’’ photograph shows the only people who caught him in the act. A black couple resting on the grass in a San Francisco park looks toward the lens in outrage. Beyond them are white city buildings. What is conveyed is how it feels to be violated wherever you go...

Frank says he was most drawn to blacks: the bare-chested boy in the back of a convertible; the woman relaxing beside a field in sunny Carolina cotton country; the dignified men outside the funeral of a South Carolina undertaker, who uncannily bring to mind the day President Obama eulogized Clementa Pinckney. Then, in November 1955, Frank was traversing the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River when a patrol car pulled him over outside McGehee. The policemen's report noted that Frank needed a bath and that "subject talked with a foreign accent." Also suspicious were the contents of the car: cameras, foreign liquor. Frank was on his way to photograph oil refineries in Louisiana. "Are you a Commie?" he was asked...

Also see How Art Became Irrelevant in Commentary.