S.F. Supervisors Reject WWII-Era Battleship Museum:

I just noticed this item, though it happened last month; according to an S.F. Chronicle article (see here and here for Web-accessible AP stories),

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected efforts to bring the battleship Iowa to the waterfront as a museum, saying the peace-loving city is no place for a warship.

The supervisors voted 8-3 to rebuff a plan by supporters . . . to berth the World War II-era ship at San Francisco's port and turn it into a tourist attraction. . . .

[Some supervisors] cited several reasons why the ship doesn't belong in San Francisco: the widespread opposition to the war in Iraq, the unequal treatment of gay and lesbian enlisted men and women, and the city's reputation as the home of the peace movement.

"It's important that we have for our children, for those who come here, a vision that is uniquely San Francisco in terms of what, for decades, has been a city represented again and again in the foremost positions of peace movements," said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who opposed the plan. . . .

[The ship] first set sail in 1943, and its long career included tours during World War II and the Korean War. . . .

The debate turned Tuesday's meeting into a political free-for-all, with supervisors standing up to express their dislike of the Bush administration's policies and the war in Iraq.

Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty, both openly gay, said they would not support bringing the ship to San Francisco because of how the military treats gay people.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said permanently berthing the Iowa on San Francisco's historic waterfront is not something city residents would want.

"If I was going to commit any kind of money in recognition of war, then it should be toward peace, given what our war is in Iraq right now," he said. . . .

Just appalling. This ship helped protect America and the Free World from the Japanese and the Nazis. It helped protect the South Koreans from being overrun by the North. Yet somehow that's all outweighed in the Supervisors' minds by the Iraq war and of the military's policy on homosexuality. What a shocking lack of perspective and lack of respect for the institution that has helped (and continues to help) to protect San Franciscans -- and, I should mention, gay and lesbian San Franciscans, who would have suffered far worse than exclusion from the military in the hands of our WWII-era enemies, or of our modern enemies -- alongside all other Americans. (For more on a similar lack of perspective on the part of law schools that refuse to let the military interview on campus, see here.)

Naturally, I should stress that the city had no moral duty to allow the berthing of the ship here; there may be all sorts of good practical reasons not to do this, even if, as the museum's supporters say, "they would cover the cost of moving the ship and remodeling the piers where it would be located . . . as well as any other annual fees the city would charge to berth the ship." But at least some supervisors' reason seemed to be essentially their lack of respect for the symbols of the U.S. military -- and what an awful reason that is.

Anderson (mail) (www):
Freaks. Very disappointing. Will either of California's senators speak up? Very unlikely.
8.22.2005 7:32pm
Steve in CA (mail):
Actually, Dianne Feinstein (a former mayor of SF) did speak up. From the AP story:

Feinstein called it a "very petty decision."

"This isn't the San Francisco that I've known and loved and grew up in and was born in," Feinstein said.
8.22.2005 7:36pm
Phillip Carter (mail) (www):

I would also note that San Francisco already has a number of military museums within the city limits as tourist attractions, making this an even more ridiculous (and likely hypocritical) symbolic protest. The famed Presidio base continues to attract throngs of visiting hikers, walkers and picnic'ers. A WWII submarine is docked just across from Ghiradelli Square as a museum. Active U.S. Navy ships regularly visit the piers of San Francisco for port calls, during which they throw their doors open to visitors. And so on...
8.22.2005 7:57pm
Shelby (mail):
As a former resident of SF and a sometime observer of its politics, I would have bet on this outcome. I couldn't give you all the reasons why, but the Board of Supes is increasingly skewed toward these kinds of politicized decisions. (I suspect what the proponents should have done is promised the Board that the city would net a million bucks a year as an attraction. Based on past experience, the figure would be blindly accepted and moving the ship heartily endorsed.)
8.22.2005 8:02pm
Craig Oren (mail):
people in the Bay Area love symbolic protests. I guess this means that we in the Camden area are terrible warmongers because we sought (and have) the U.S.S. New Jersey, an Iowa-class warship.

My father was an electrician in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Second World War, and so he probably worked on constructing the ship. For its distinguished record, see (I hope this works) this link.
8.22.2005 8:03pm
Patrick Phillips:
Also, San Francicso has the monument to the USS San Francisco

From the bestofthebay website

Best World War II Memorial

In 1942 the cruiser USS San Francisco attacked a vastly superior Japanese force off the coast of Guadalcanal. It was the most brutal close-quarters naval engagement of World War II. The San Francisco took some 45 direct hits and sustained heavy damage while sinking one Japanese ship and seriously damaging two others (including a battleship). One hundred and six sailors, including Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, were killed and 131 more wounded. Despite it all, the San Francisco safely made it back to port. This savage battle is commemorated by an unusual memorial in Land's End. The USS San Francisco Memorial is oriented toward Guadalcanal, and it eschews the usual symbolic folderol in favor of something far more visceral: a shell-ridden section of the San Francisco 's bridge. The site of heavygauge steel perforated like paper captures the fury and horror of that night better than any sculpture ever could.

Presumably, the Board of Supervisors will be running a bulldozer over the memorial sometime in the near future. Anything else would be hypocritical.
8.22.2005 8:06pm
It's a sad irony of politics and democracy that, while San Francisco can reject the military during times of peace for the military's treatment of gays, the military cannot reject San Francisco during times of war for San Francisco's treatment of the military.
8.22.2005 8:11pm
Minipundit (mail) (www):
It's worth noting that this warship helped defeat a regime that didn't just discriminate against gays and lesbians - it put them in death camps, experimented on them, and killed them. For these people to do this in the name of gay equality is disgusting.
8.22.2005 8:42pm
M. (mail):
When I first read of the SF supervisors' vote against the Iowa coming to the city, I thought "Wow, those guys have long memories." Before reading their actual basis for rejection, I had assumed it had something to do with the Iowa's history re: gays in the military.

When Turret No. 2 of the Iowa blew up in 1989 during an exercise, Navy investigators tried to blame a sailor for sabotage/suicide that killed 47 on board. They claimed his rejection by a gay shipmate caused him to set off the blast deliberately. This got leaked to the media, resulting in widespread stories on the TV news and in the national weeklies, I recall.

After an uproar in Congress, the investigation was reopened, and Sandia Labs proved that the turret's decades-old, faulty equipment, crew error, and unstable powder was the culprit. Also turned out that the sailor, Clayton Hartwig, and his shipmate were not gay. Then-CNO Adm. Kelso personally apologized to Hartwig's family.

Here's the story, from the USS Iowa Veterans' Association:

USS Iowa Veterans' Association - Turret 2

While I don't agree with SF's decision (given my wholehearted support for the military - the Navy in particular), I would at least understand if their protest were grounded in principle based on the ship's history, and not their own prejudices.
8.22.2005 9:07pm
Anand H (mail):
Some things you might think about before you decide that San Francisco's action is appalling.

Feinstein "helped secure $3 million to town the Iowa from Rhode Island to the Bay Area". Isn't this the very definition of "pork"? So another way of looking at this would be - San Francisco supervisors prefer to spend $3 million on a real priority, rather than a military museum. Especially in the Pentagon spending bill. You'd think that the anti-war thing to do would be to get the govt. to spend more money on moving mothballed ships around.

It's been noted that San Francisco already has several military museums, including a dock. Why exactly must there be another one? Are visitors to SF lacking in things to do? More specifically, I would expect a supervisor to ask - what would the benefits be to residents, and what would the benefits be in terms of tourism? In terms of benefits to residents, the benefit is likely to be relatively small. It's not like the place will be different everytime you see it - some people will visit it once, then it's been done. So what you're really looking at is the tourism industry. What segment of the tourist market is San Francisco competing in? What are it's natural strengths? It seems very reasonable to me to argue that another military museum does not actually serve the city terribly well. In fact, it might be a negative to the primary demographic. You can't very well argue that every military tribute must be erected anywhere someone thinks it would be a good idea to have one. Tradeoffs must be made, it's the supervisors job to make them.

And lastly, where's the motivation? It would take a very organized group of "veterans groups and history buffs" to wring $3 million of pork from a Senator. So who is it? What is their goal?

Given that the supervisors had good reasons to turn away the boat, they have apparently also decided on some political grandstanding. That's somewhat unfortunate - however, it makes a lot of sense that given the opportunity, the gay supervisors would bring up a complaint that they have with the military that is very important to their constituents.
8.22.2005 9:27pm
DJ (mail):
Anand, I think you're missing the point. There may indeed have been rational reasons to turn away USS Iowa (although, I confess, I believe the ones you offer fall far short of the mark). Problem is (at least according to the press coverage I've seen), the Supervisors didn't offer any. It's pretty clear that the Supervisors who voted against Iowa did so in a burst of pique against the military and its commander-in-chief. Can't put lipstick on this sow, sorry to say.

I would add that the Board's action is deeply ironic seeing as how few--if an--institutions have had as powerful effect on the development and prestige of San Francisco as the US Navy. As I understand it, even San Francisco's gay community (two members of which voted against Iowa) can trace its origins to the sailors and seaman who came ashore at the turn of the last century. Petty indeed--and ungrateful.
8.22.2005 10:23pm
Mark (mail):
As a presently serving Navy Reservist and a frequent past visitor to the great ship, I think that the controversy is actually reversed. Is San Francisco worthy of hosting the USS IOWA? I don't think so. I think the ghosts from the previous wars would be embarassed by the company. I think the USS IOWA organanization should move the ship to a city that will appreciate it and tell San Fran that its doesn't have to worry about soiling its image as the Moon Bat capital of the world.
8.22.2005 10:35pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Hurrah for Feinstein!

OT, I'm periodically outraged that we scrapped the old Enterprise, the sole carrier IIRC to survive WW2, one of the flattops that won Midway, our greatest naval victory. A nation with proper pride would not have done that.
8.23.2005 12:09am
SteveH (mail):
Politics, as usual, leads to some foolishness. But at its best, politics involves compromise. So how about this: The Navy could erect a monument to all of the brave homosexual sailors who have defended their country, perhaps on the grounds of the Naval Academy. And San Francisco's politicians could then, with a clear conscience, invite the Iowa to their fair city.

Of course, if the Navy isn't interested in saluting brave homosexuals who have served, then perhaps a city noted for its homosexuals might want to not salute the Navy. That seems fair.
8.23.2005 1:56am
jallgor (mail):
I am with you Mark, San Fran doesn't deserve her. They should bring her to New York and park her next the Intrepid. We're a lot closer to Rhode Island anyway.
8.23.2005 10:37am
dk35 (mail):
I second Anand H's comments in full. I think he is the only commenter thus far who really "gets it." (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm proud to say that I lived in SF and the Bay Area for about 10 years, and supported the politicians who Volokh is attacking here.)

DJ, I think actually that you might be "missing the point." You write that the Supervisors didn't mention Anand H's reasons, and conclude that they didn't have those reasons in mind. I propose a different view: that those reasons were so obvious to the Supervisors, that they didn't even bother mentioning them.

The thing that Volokh doesn't get is that the progressive left in San Francisco is actually quite libertarian, just like he claims he is. The idea that just because big government tells them that they should jump at the chance to expend valuable city resources on yet another war memorial, they should jump at the chance, is anathema to any good libertarian, no? Before the "patriots" on this board start assuming things, I am not saying that we shouldn't honor those who died in wars. As a descendant of Holocaust survivors myself, I am personally indebted to those that fought in WWII. However, as is mentioned above, SF already has a great number of war memorials, and we have to balance honoring the past with ensuring that those who are living now are taken care of, especially the poor. I therefore put forth the hypothesis that Volokh is letting his right-of-center self get the better of his libertarian self on this issue.

As far as the actual quoted comments of the supervisors are concerned: I am sorry that it offends some people to talk about the waste of money that is Bush's boondoggle in Iraq, or if some people disagree with the idea that the military shouldn't discriminate against people who choose to have sex with members of the same sex. However, to claim that these quotes amount to evidence of the supervisors' lack of patriotism is absurd. Were the supervisors using the discussion of the old ship to advance their political points of view? Of course. But Bush does the same thing (witness his speech yesterday advancing his own agenda surrounded by the VFW in Salt Lake), as, I might add, does Dianne Feinstein (who has for decades partnered with SF business interests who, partly out of greed and partly out of good intentions, most likely were the ones who suggested this whole ship idea to her in the first place).
8.23.2005 11:49am
Anderson (mail) (www):
The "saluting brave homosexuals" tactic falls flat, folks.

It would be nice if the Navy tolerated, let alone acknowledged, its gay sailors.

But by dissing the Iowa's service, SF has dissed the gays who served on it, along with all the other sailors.

PS--Not that anyone likely cares, but I was mistaken above---the Saratoga, sister ship of the Lexington, also survived through all of WW2, only to be sunk at an A-bomb test in 1946. Those were the only 2 carriers to make it through the war, though of course Saratoga didn't see as much combat as Enterprise.
8.23.2005 12:23pm
DRB (mail):

Congratulations! You are the winner of the Karnak Award for reading the minds of the Supervisors and figuring out why they failed to provide any rational, reasonable objections to the USS Iowa, and instead resorted to hysterical anti-military mud-slinging.

You win bonus points for suggesting that politicians engage in mindless partisan rhetoric because they assume people already understand all the logical, reasonable, rational merits of the issue under debate and don't need to hear them.

And if you were able to keep a straight face while writing your post, we'll send you a free copy of the "Defending Politicians Using The Arguments They Should Have Made" home game.
8.23.2005 1:48pm
dk35 (mail):
Ah DRB, so let me make sure I understand this. You and Professor Volokh are allowed to read into the words of others, and I am not. Is that right? My contentions are based on the fact that I actually lived in the Bay Area for a long time, and actually listened to and read a lot of comments by these Supervisors over the years, as well as the groups of people who voted them into office. Thus, at least I have some context when reading their statements regarding the ship. What context do you have?

I don't know where you are from, but the San Francisco electorate is on average a very well educated one. So, believe it or not, not every politician there feels like they need to spoon feed basic facts to the electorate every time they open their mouths. Do SF politicians really need to waste during their precious few minutes of holding the floor in some committee meeting to point out that SF already has its share of war memorials, that city and county budgets are already inadequate to handle the many serious problems facing us, etc.? I hardly think so.

And I don't think that the rhetoric is "mindless." Surely George Bush doesn't consider it mindless to talk about his reasoning for staying in Iraq during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Otherwise, he wouldn't have done it. Right?

Ridiculing me is cute, I suppose (hell, I even smiled when I read your post). I'll go ahead and assume that you do so because you don't really have any substantive response to my argument.
8.23.2005 4:21pm
Why does it matter whether or not the San Fran supervisors took this action for the right reason, ie opposition to pork? We can't read their minds. The problem here is that the public rhetoric made by these supervisors as justifications for their decision is politically correct in the worst sense and absolutely irrelevant to the matter at hand. Opposition to the war in Iraq has nothing to do with a World War II museum. These supervisors seem to be arguing that because the war in Iraq was a bad idea, that means all wars are bad ideas. Now dk35 may be right and that they actually have other valid reasons for their decision, but even if that is the case, I think it is still a problem that they believe their illogical justification will appeal to the San Fran public. If they didn't believe that, why would they say this to the San Fran Chronicle?
8.23.2005 5:58pm
DRB (mail):
Actually, dk35, I ridiculed you because your viewpoint -- that the Supervisors should be judged based on what you think they meant or what you think was in their minds, rather than on what they actually said -- is worthy of ridicule.
8.24.2005 10:57am
dk35 (mail):
But Crash, I fail to see why their comments were in any way illogical. Obviously, your opinion is that the comments were illogical, but I contend that the majority of San Franciscans disagree with you, as the politicians who made the comments are quite popular with their constitutents.

I also think your interpretation of the Supervisors' words is wrong. One could make the argument that protesting this current war, and the military's discriminatory practices, is much more patriotic that spending much needed money on moving an old ship. One could argue that the best way to honor the memory of US involvement in WWII (the last of our noble wars except for our involvement in Bosnia), is to protest Bush's war and the military's discriminatory practices whenever possible.

As to DRB, well, if he can't understand the irony within his own position, perhaps others do.
8.26.2005 4:38am