While millions of hardworking Americans are working more and more for less and less, you and your House of Representatives seem to have no problem working less and less for more and more.
If a mother of one in Butler County, Ohio — your home county — working at the Ohio minimum wage ($7.95 per hour) wanted to make a living wage — according to MIT’s Living Calculator for the county — she would have to work 88 hours a week, which adds up to a little over 12 hours of work per day, 7 days a week. You once defended the placement of Ten Commandments on public property. If this mother wanted to obey the Fourth Commandment — “Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy” — by not working one day a week, she would have to work over 14 hours per day, leaving her with only two hours left to spend with her child, given eight hours of sleep. For millions of Americans, the fair deal of eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of discretionary time has been broken. Read more »
By Bruce B. Brugmann (Scroll down for photo id and to see Ex- Marine Pete McCloskey jump the barricade and storm Martin's Beach)
Boys' Night Out, a creation of press agent Lee Houskeeper, was held recently at John's Grill, home of Dashiell Hammett and the Maltese Falcon. Houskeeper turned the falcon on its side, which meant that all of the news and gossip turned up by his newsworthy guests was privileged and could not be repeated to the outside world.
Nonetheless, the timing was perfect because the next day came the welcome news that a San Mateo Superior Court judge had ruled for the public and against a billionaire coastal landowner to open up a valuable chunk of privately held San Mateo coastline. The Surfrider case was handled by Attorneys Joe Cotchett and Pete McCloskey, both of whom were at the dinner.
Houskeeper, who does publicity work for Cotchett, explained the back story to me after the dinner. He said that the Surfrider forces started "the public brouhaha" two years ago when the "Blackwater type security goons were arresting surfers who dared jump his locked Martin's Beach gate fence." Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, had acquired the 53-acre parcel near Half Moon Bay in 2008. Houskeeper asked McCloskey, a Korean War veteran, if he would risk arrest, jump the gate, and lead the surfers a half mile to "free" the beach. Read more »
By Bruce B. Brugmann (with the full text of FDR's address)
Ken Burns' documentary on the Roosevelts, broadcast last week by KQED, was a stunning achievement and the best work Burns has done. It previewed key elements of the New Deal and provided historic context and relevance for the progressive politics of San Francisco and California. But it didn't mention a key local angle, FDR's famous speech to the Commonwealth Club on Sept. 21, 1932, in the heat of his winning campaign for president.
I got on to the speech when Joseph J. Ellis, the noted historian, spoke to the club last year on his new book, "Revolutionary Summer, The birth of American independence." In his introduction, Ellis said that "in my view the most important political speech in the 20th century was delivered here by Franklin Roosevelt."
The speech was written by Adolph Berle, a member of Roosevelt's "brain trust," and drew heavily on earlier progressive ideas, particularly those of John Dewey, a leading progressive scholar who taught mainly at Columbia University in New York. His speech is in the Commonwealth Club collection "Each a Mighty Voice," a beautiful hardcover book published by Heyday. Here is his speech. b3
(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruce B. Brugmann, editor at large of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He was the editor and with his wife Jean Dibble the co-founder and co-publsher of the Guardian, 1966-2012.) Read more »
This bill would establish a stealth template for how to gut the California Public Records Act one economic and political sector at a time.
By Bruce B. Brugmann (with a First Amendment Coalition emergency message and a button for readers to request a Gov. Brown veto)
Possibly the bill most damaging to the public interest in years is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for signature. It is SB 1300, which amounts to an oil refinery protection bill proposed by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Assemblyperson Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), two legislators living in the shadow of the East Bay oil refineries who ought to know better. It was supported by oil companies, organized labor, and the California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and was passed by the Assembly on a 68-5 vote and by the Senate on a 34-0 vote. No debate, no discussion, no questions asked.
The gist of the damage is that SB 1300 was amended at the last minute to force a CPRA requester to pay fees if a court rules against disclosure. As the California Newspaper Publishers Association explained in its current legislative bulletin, SB 1300 "would expand the definition of what constitutes a trade secret and erect an insurmountable barrier to any effort by a member of the public to obtain information about DOSH's performance in its role as a consumer watchdog over a refiner's conduct." Read more »
(Note: In July of 1972, when the Bay Guardian was short a Fourth of July story, I sat down and cranked out this one for the front page on my trusty Royal Typewriter. I now reprint it each year by popular demand on the Bruce blog, with some San Francisco updates and postscripts.)
Back where I come from, a small town beneath a tall standpipe in northwestern Iowa, the Fourth of July was the best day of a long, hot summer.
The Fourth came after YMCA camp and Scout camp and church camp, but before the older boys had to worry about getting into shape for football. It was welcome relief from the scalding, 100-degree heat in a town without a swimming pool and whose swimming holes at Scout Island were usually dried up by early July. But best of all, it had the kind of excitement that began building weeks in advance.
The calm of the summer dawn and the cooing of the mourning doves on the telephone wires would be broken early on July Fourth: The Creglow boys would be up by 7 a.m. and out on the lawn shooting off their arsenal of firecrackers. They were older and had somehow sent their agents by car across the state line and into South Dakota where, not far above the highway curves of Larchwood, you could legally buy fireworks at roadside stands. Read more »
And so the Anti-Sunshine Gang in City Hall, which for two years has been conducting a nasty vendetta against the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, capitulated quietly at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting without a fight or even a whimper.
The capitulation came in a two line phrase buried in item 28 in the middle of the board’s agenda. It was a report from the rules committee recommending the Board of Supervisors approve a motion for unnamed nominees to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. “Question: Shall this Motion be approved.”
Board Chair David Chiu asked for approval in his usual board meeting monotone. And the approval came unanimously, with no dissent and no roll call vote and not a word spoken by anybody. He banged the gavel and that was that. And only a few veteran board watchers knew that this was the astonishing end to a crucial battle that pitted the powerfuf Anti-Sunshine Gangs against the sunshine forces and the citizens of San Francisco. It was a battle that would decide whether the task force would remain an independent people’s court that would hear and rule on public access complaints. Sunshine won.
(Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.)
In a memoir published this year, the CIA’s former top legal officer John Rizzo says that on the last day of 2005 a panicky White House tried to figure out how to prevent the distribution of a book by New York Times reporter James Risen. Officials were upset because Risen’s book, State of War, exposed what -- in his words -- “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”
The book told of a bungled CIA attempt to set back Iran’s nuclear program in 2000 by supplying the Iranian government with flawed blueprints for nuclear-bomb design. The CIA’s tactic might have actually aided Iranian nuclear development. Read more »
By Bruce B. Brugmann (with the complete text of Art Agnos speech to the May 21 dinner of San Francisco Tomorrow)
When Art Agnos was sworn in as mayor in 1988, he used the Athenian Oath that was taken by young men reaching the age of majority in Athens 2000 years ago. He shortened the oath (as many did) to say: “I promise…upon my honor…to leave my city better than I found it.”
For Agnos, a Greek steeped in Greek traditions, the oath was a serious matter. “At the heart of our vision,” Agnos said in his inaugural address, “ is a refusal to let San Francisco become an expensive enclave that locks out the middle class, working families and the poor. At the center of our strategy is a belief in the basic right of people to decent jobs and housing.”
Twenty-six years later, Citizen Agnos was working hard in private life to leave his city better than he had found it. He led a citizens’ movement that stopped the monstrous 8 Washington project, knocked the Warriors off the piers, forced the Giants to lower their highrise expectations, and promoted Proposition B that would stop the Wall on the Waterfront and require a public vote on any increases to current height limits on port property.
And Agnos is having the time of his life doing all this, as he made clear in his remarks to San Francisco Tomorrow, the one organization in town that has been manning the barricades in every major Manhattanization battle all these years on the waterfront and everywhere else. He enjoys taking on Mayor Lee and “the high tech billionaire political network that wants to control city hall and fulfill their vision of who can live here and where.” And he must relish the Chronicle’s C.W.Nevius and the paper’s editors and their self-immolating bouts of hysteria. Read more »
By Bruce B. Brugmann (with special sunshine vendetta chronology by Richard Knee)
The Guardian story in the current issue demonstrates in 96 point tempo bold how important the glare of sunshine and publicity is in City Hall in keeping the public’s business public. Yet, the anti-sunshine gang in City Hall is intensifying its savage attack on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.
The Sunshine Ordinance established the Sunshine Task Force to serve as the people’s court for hearing citizen complaints on public access, thus giving citizens a way to get secret records, open secret meetings, and hold government officials accountable. It empowers citizens to be watchdogs on issues they care about. It is the first and best ordinance of its kind in the country, if not in the world, and its effectiveness is shown by the fact that the anti-sunshine gang regularly tries to bounce strong members and gut the task force.
Terry Francke, then the executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition and author of the ordinance, and I as a founder anticipated this problem in trhe early 1990s and put a mandate into the original ordinance for the task force to have representatives from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (a journalist and media attorney) and the San Francisco League of Women Voters, two organizations with experience and tradition with open government issues. Later, the mandate included a representative from New America Media, to insure a member of color for the task force.
I served for 10 years on the task force and then Mayor Willie Brown made the point about City Hall interference by targeting me for extinction. He tried several times to kick me off the task force. I refused to budge, on the principle that neither the mayor nor any other city official should be able to arbitrarily kick off a member of the task force for doing his/her job. When Willie left office, I left the task force when my term was up and the principle was intact.
Today, as Richard Knee writes in his timeline and chronology below, the principle is once again under city hall attack. Knee replaced me as the journalist representative of SPJ and has served under fire for a record 12 years. He writes that the latest attack is retaliation for a unanimous finding by the task force in September 2011 when Board President David Chiu and Supervisors Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen, and Eric Mar violated local and state open meeting laws by ramming through the monstrous Park Merced redevelopment contract with 14 pages of amendments that Chiu slipped in “literally minutes” before the committee vote.
This was a historic task force vote in the public interest, and a historic vote for open government and for all the good causes. But instead it prompted a smear- dilute-and- ouster campaign by the Board of Supervisors, with timely assists from the city attorney's office. The ugly play by play follows. The good news is that the sunshine forces inside and outside city hall are fighting back, hard and fast, and with a keen eye on all upcoming elections. Stay tuned. On guard. :
When I was growing up in my hometown of Rock Rapids, Iowa, a farming community of 2,800 in the northwest corner of the state, Memorial Day was the official start of summer.
We headed off to YMCA camp at Camp Foster on West Okiboji Lake and Boy Scout camp at Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota. The less fortunate were trundled off to Bible School at the Methodist Church.