May Day. A day to herald the coming of Spring with song and dance, a day for children with flowers in their hair to skip around beribboned maypoles, a time to crown May Day queens.
But it also is a day for demonstrations heralding the causes of working people and their unions such as are being held on Sunday that were crucial in winning important rights for working people. The first May Day demonstrations, in 1886, won the most important of the rights ever won by working people the right demanded above all others by the labor activists of a century ago:
"Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!"
Winning the eight-hour workday took years of hard struggle, beginning in the mid-1800s. By 1867, the federal government, six states and several cities had passed laws limiting their employees' hours to eight per day. The laws were not effectively enforced and in some cases were overturned by courts, but they set an important precedent that finally led to a powerful popular movement. Read more »
International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a “breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is “in direct, overt violation of international law.”
Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.
Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Senator Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right,” Morse said on national TV in 1964. “And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia -- just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it.” Read more »
I had just settled into my seat Friday night at the Brava Theater in the Mission to see the opening night production of “Monologos de la Vagina" and the San Francisco debut of Eliana Lopez as a performer and producer.
This would be an interesting evening, I mused, because the play is being performed in Spanish and I speak only a word or two of Spanish. The play, known in English as the “Tne Vagina Monologs,” was written by Eve Ensler. It opened in 1994 for a five year run off Broadway and has been produced internationally in many variations. It became, as the New York Times put it, "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." .
Art Agnos, the ex-mayor who is leading the battle to stop the Manhattanization of the waterfront, was attending the performance with his wife Sherry. He tapped me on the shoulder and said quietly, Bruce, they filed a lawsuit this afternoon to block our waterfront initiative. They, he explained, were the developers, the Building Trades and Construction Union, and the San Francisco Giants. We chatted for a few moments about the impact of the suit and what must be done quickly to stop it in court.
This was, I thought, a quintessential San Francisco moment. Read more »
Plus: Tim Redmond reports on Sue Hestor and her environmental legacy on his new local website 48 Hills.org.
How do you say happy birthday to a San Francisco icon like Sue Hestor?
Some 200 of her friends, allies, pro bono legal clients, political heavies, and fellow warriors against big developers and their pals in City Hall gathered Saturday at Delancey Street for a surprise party to celebrate Sue's 70th birthday.
When she arrived, she was obviously surprised to find a band playing "We shall overcome" and her friends standing, clapping, cheering, and singing in admiration for a woman who has spent more than four decades as a citizen activist and attorney fighting for one good cause after another, usually at bad odds against the big guys, often for clients without pay. It was truly a historic moment in the history of San Francisco politics.
I first knew Sue when she popped up as a feisty volunteer in the Alvin Duskin anti-high rise campaign of the the early 1970s. The Bay Guardian was doing an investigative book, "The Ultimate HIghrise," on the impact of highrises on the city. She pitched in on the project and was in the book's staff photo, jauntily wearing her trademark straw hat, standing next to the hole in the ground for the Yerba Buena Center development. Read more »
American journalism has entered highly dangerous terrain.
A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos -- who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.
The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.Read more »
(B3 note: This exchange between Norman Solomon and the Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron followed a Solomon column that dramatized the ethical issues involving the Post and its new owner Jeff Bezos, founder and CE0 of Amazon. Solomon noted that Amazon has landed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. He wrote that "news media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them" and that Bezo is now doing "big business" with the CIA "while readers of the newspaper's CIA coverage are left in the dark.")
To: Martin Baron, Executive Editor, and Kevin Merida, Managing Editor, The Washington Post
Dear Mr. Baron and Mr. Merida:
On behalf of more than 25,000 signers of a petition to The Washington Post, I’m writing this letter to request a brief meeting to present the petition at a time that would be convenient for you on Jan. 14 or 15.
(B3 note: reprinted from last year and to be reprinted every year by me for reasons that will become apparent upon reading this story.)
This is the incredible story of the neglected hero of Pearl Harbor.
His name is Joe Bulgo and he lived across the street from our family for years on 14th Avenue in the West Portal area. I knew him as a neighbor, and our daughter and son played with his two daughters. His wife Val for decades has sold and still sells fine jewelry in a downtown department store. Daughter Linda played the star Snow White for years in Beach Blanket Babylon and now has her own show in Las Vegas. Daughter Dianne is the catering director at the St. Francis Hotel. And our families shared a wonderful domestic helper, Rose Zelalich.
But neither our family nor any of his neighbors had any idea of his Pearl Harbor heroism until his daughter Linda gave me a copy of a story on Joe in the December issue of the 1990 Readers Digest. Read more »
Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes several hundred of his columns. It's time for Congress to help the many jobless Americans an estimated 450,000 in the next three months alone who are about to be denied federally- funded Unemployment Insurance benefits.
What Congress must do and must do quickly is once again expand the emergency program that was established during the Great Recession in 2008 to provide benefits averaging $300 a week to the steadily growing number of jobless. Congress has until only January 1 to block the first cutbacks of extra benefit weeks that could continue until at least 2015 unless Congress Acts.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing measures that would lengthen the benefit payout period through 2014 at a cost of about $25 billion on top of the $225 billion spent so far on the program. But given the congressional haggling over economic measures, the chance of agreement before Congress adjourns December 31 is slight. Read more »
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, a famous MIlwaukee daily newspaper always rated among the top ten U.S. newspapers.
I was packing with my wife Jean and two kids, Katrina and Dan, to go to San Francisco with the idea of starting a newspaper, which three years later became the San Francico Bay Guardian. But I was still on duty in the Journal newsroom on the Friday morning of the assassination.
Early in the morning I got a call from the publicist of the Moscow Circus, which was finishing up its highly successful run in town. I had covered the circus as part of my show business beat and had rated it highly as the splendid show it was. The publicist, a good guy and competent at his job, wanted me and the Journal's music critic, Walter Monfried, to go with him to lunch at a nearby German restaurant called Mader's.
"I will buy the lunch," he said, '"and you won't have to write a thing. You will be doing me a big favor. I have lots of money left over on my expense account and I need to get it spent. I want to spend it on the two of you." And he repeated the point for emphasis, "You will be doing me a big favor."
And so Walter and I, after our noon deadlines on the afternoon paper, headed out for Mader's, planning for a big meal and lots of drinks. Read more »