Artist General's Warning: Recu$al question could be bad for Bush's political health Michael Masley has a question. It's a question he's been trying to get someone to ask for two years, and time is now running short to ask it. It's a good question, and if there were any justice in the world or democracy left in this orange-alerted country of ours, then Jim Lehrer would ask George W. Bush the question during the presidential debate Sept. 30.
The question is this: Will you agree never to accept any personal profits flowing from any military action you authorize or promote? Masley has been harassing journalists all over the country, trying to get them to ask it of Bush and the rest of his war cabinet, as well as John Kerry and anyone else running for an office that lets him or her participate in decisions likely to put foreigners on the receiving end of an American bullet or bomb.
For a Berkeley resident who makes his living as a street musician, Masley has a surprisingly long reach, spending up to 40 hours a week online, mining sources of information, and sending out entertaining and incisive e-missives under his "Artist General" nom de plume. The guy turns phrases in ways that cut to the heart of important issues, just as his question does.
If the question does get asked, Masley thinks Bush might do his deer-in-headlights impression, or that he'd dodge it or lie in a way that might touch off more media interest in the issue. After all, Vice President Dick Cheney has profited handsomely from actions he took as Poppy Bush's secretary of defense, most notably deciding to outsource many military functions and then becoming CEO of Halliburton, which then got the no-bid contracts to do that work.
Who knows, maybe mainstream journalists might even begin questioning why a war cabinet of Texas oilmen lied their way into occupying some of the most oil-rich regions of the world. Or maybe that's asking too much. (Steven T. Jones)
Selling out for chump change and dissin' voters in the process Preempting a decision by San Francisco voters with the apparent blessing of Mayor Gavin Newsom, the 49ers have cut a deal with Monster Cable to change the name of city-owned Candlestick Park to Monster Park. Anticipating the deal, Sup. Matt Gonzalez held a Sept. 22 press conference urging them to wait until voters decided on Proposition H which asks whether the city should sell naming rights to the stadium and threatening a lawsuit if they didn't. Gonzalez told us the voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to direct the city to breach this contract, and if they do, he would consider filing a lawsuit to implement the will of the voters.
Supporters of selling the stadium name argue that adding one more corporate moniker to this commercial arena is no big deal. OK, say it is about economics and not emotional issues like the fact that the 'Stick was where the Beatles played their last concert and where Willie Mays set national records. Gonzalez says that if it's just about dollars, the city is selling out too cheap. Becoming "Monster Park" brings in just more than $6 million over four years, and the city splits that with the 49ers, making it one of the worst naming rights deals in the country. Hell, Houston is getting $10 million a year for Reliant Stadium, and locally grown Bank of America pays $7 million annually to host the Carolina Panthers.
"If we need to do this to balance the budget, what else are we going to sell?" Gonzalez questioned. Golden Gate Park? City Hall? Hey, Mayor Gavin Newsom has been a hot commodity (the Oct. 4 New Yorker joins a long list of national media outlets profiling him). Maybe we could sell his name? Mayor Monster Newsom ... it's got a nice ring to it. (Jones and Jeanette Huang)
Downtown takes an interest in the school board race Retired teacher and school board candidate James Calloway has nothing against big business, but he doesn't think it should determine who runs our schools.
Calloway joined school board members Eric Mar and Mark Sanchez, Sup. Chris Daly, and elementary school teacher Jeremiah Jeffries at a press conference Sept. 23 to criticize excessive campaign spending by mayor-appointed incumbent Heather Hiles, whose wealthy financial backers brought her well over the $90,000 spending limit.
This first-ever breach of voluntary spending limits worries Calloway and company, who want full participation of citizens in education. They say six-figure campaign budgets drive potential candidates out of the running and risk biased decision-making in favor of corporate investors who live outside of San Francisco.
"Elections will be more about slick mailers," Mar said. "They'll be a popularity contest rather than about who can put up policies that help schools."
Hiles's donors include local financier Warren Hellman and his wife, Patricia; Levi's executive Walter Haas; and Mayor Gavin Newsom. In August, Hellman told the San Francisco Business Times he thinks this year's school board race is more important than the supervisorial races.
For Jeffries, public trust is at stake when those closest to schools teachers and educators can't participate because their small salaries can't compete. Sanchez ran his campaign at under $10,000 and says it was more than enough. Calloway believes a $45,000 limit should be set for a school board campaign.
"This election is about what you can offer to the students, not the business world," Calloway said. "If it was all about money, Bill Gates could be president." (Renee Macalino Rutledge)
Bustin' on Bush There are lots of ways to get involved in the presidential race. If you don't have time to zip off to swing states to register voters, you can join the crowds on the Web who are creating their own anti-Bush paraphernalia, posting anti-Bush screeds on blogs, or designing ever-catchy bumper stickers to rally the masses against Dubya. The latest to add fuel to the political fire: a group of Bay Area comedians and actors has produced an ad spoofing the anti-Kerry Swift Boat commercials. It's worth a look: www.bushvets.org. (Rachel Brahinsky)