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From the Blogs

It's so easy to go after public employees

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The always-insightful Robert Cruickshank has a fascinating piece on Calitics today talking about the investigative reports showing that some state employees save up all their vacation time and get big payouts when they retire. It's true that some state workers walk away with upwards of $100,000, and it's true that it pisses people off, and it's true that there probably ought to be some reforms that limit the amount of vacation time you can save and cash in.Read more »

SEIU members oust the old guard

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In a stunning repudiation of the union leadership installed by Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern – whose autocratic style, aggressive expansion, and friendly relationships with big employers has caused a rift in the national labor movement – members of SEIU Local 1021 have voted overwhelmingly for a reform slate of new leaders.Read more »

Bombers kick off derby days with home opener

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Perhaps the snarling theatrics of Whip It have rubbed off on yours truly, but I think it’s no stretch to say that the upcoming bout between the Bay Bombers and the Brooklyn Red Devils (Sat/6, Kezar Stadium) will not only be a showdown between east and west, but also a fight between good and evil. This is co-ed roller derby at its most epic. Why? Your ignorance is regrettable, but forgiven. Let me brief you on the history that has lead up to this momentous event.

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The Chronicle's dishonest hit on district elections

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The move to get rid of district elections – which is based entirely on the fact that big business and more conservative voices (including the Chron) don’t like the progressive policy positions of the current board – is now well under way. The Chron devoted its Insight section to the issue Feb. Read more »

Marching on Sacramento

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Angry parents, hundreds of them, met in Marina Middle School to demand an end to cuts in education.

Angry Muni riders, hundreds of them, jammed City Hall to oppose Muni fare hikes and service cuts.

Angry students from the University of California -- thousands of them -- will hold a huge event March 4th to push for better education funding and lower fees.

There’s something going on here -- because in every case, grassroots activists in huge numbers (numbers that dwarf the so-called Tea Party events) want to force the state of California to change its budget priorities. And they are starting to talk seriously about taxes.

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PG&E’s laughable Prop 16: Who needs friends when you’ve got $35 million?

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Last month, when the Guardian sent an intern to cover a debate between Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesperson David Townsend and California Sen. Mark Leno, the reporter was ejected from the event at Townsend’s request.

I figured I’d be immune from such nonsense when I ventured to the state capitol yesterday for a joint informational hearing about Proposition 16, the ballot initiative that PG&E has bankrolled for the June ballot for the purpose of extinguishing competition in its service territory. The initiative would establish a two-thirds majority vote before any municipal electricity program could get up and running, and its sole sponsor is PG&E.

But just after I snapped a photo of Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano chuckling sardonically at a PG&E executive who had mistakenly referred to the ballot initiative as “Prop 13,” a guard swooped in and ordered me to stop photographing and turn off my voice recorder. Read more »

Concerns raised about City College-Foundation pact

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By Jobert Poblete

At its meeting yesterday, the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees discussed a new draft agreement with its fundraising arm, the Foundation of City College of San Francisco. As reported in this week’s Guardian, the foundation is seeking greater autonomy from the college. The CCSF trustees limited their discussion to proposed changes to the draft agreement, but a final decision may be reached as early as next month in advance of the foundation board's March 16 meeting.Read more »

Who cares about SF's (black and brown) prisoners? Part 2

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Eileen Hirst of the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office just sent me statistics that prove that the majority of folks sitting in our county jails are black men awaiting trial -- statistics that underscore the extent to which the “let’s not rebuild the prison” debate really is racially tinged:

“On any given day, we have about 2000 to 2100 people in custody,” Hirst said, noting that the two jails at the center of the debate only house male prisoners. Read more »

Lucky 7: Listening in on the Strange Boys

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The Strange Boys (playing at the Elbo Room on Sat/27) are as brave and cocky as their music would suggest, an obvious product of the southern state they call home. Hailing from Austin, Texas, their “don’t mess” attitude harmonizes perfectly with wailing garage rock and humid twang. Ryan Sambol’s nasally vocals remind me of a young Bob Dylan and complement the band’s '60s sound. 

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Let's all read Sand Paper

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Charmingly disheveled Adobe Books, strung as it is on the alcoholic's crucifix known as the cross-section of 16th and Valencia, has become a beloved sanctuary for readers, drunkards, and occasionally homeless individuals alike. I always look forward to Adobe Books' events because you can never predict who among the circus just outside will enter and join the fun. Not many bookstores on this dry earth permit customers to imbibe openly from brown bags of Colt 45 during poetry readings. Adobe Books' Dickensian squalor places it fondly in my heart even as its floorboards sink beneath the weight of dusty overladen bookshelves -- and when the smell of stale beer and, somehow, cats, forces me to breathe through my mouth while I peruse.

On Monday, March 1, Adobe Books will host the San Francisco launch party of three new books from Sand Paper Press. It'll be worth holding my nose to dive in.

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Transit activists swarm City Hall

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Hundreds of transit supporters, angrily opposed to the package of Muni fare hikes and service cuts proposed to close a $16.9 million mid-year budget deficit, are now packed into City Hall demanding equity and justice.

"I've never seen anything like this," Judson True, spokesperson for the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, told me as he surveyed the huge overflow crowd packed into South Light Court, watching the upstairs budget meeting on closed circuit television. "We should all get on buses and go to Sacramento. It's clear that grassroots organizing is alive and well in San Francisco."

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High on Fire's latest is divine

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Wielding his custom-made nine-string axe, churning out tone so thick it could flaunt hot pants in a rap video, and crafting an ever-expanding arsenal of neck-snapping riffage, High on Fire guitarist Matt Pike has done it again.

His playing on the Oakland trio's new album, Snakes for the Divine (Koch Records), surmounts a new, fiery height. That the things he already did well (effortless, legato hammer-ons, heavy-handed, scything chords) are done better is hardly surprising – it's the expanding versatility of the snaggle-toothed shredder's songwriting and technique that impresses, along with his ever-improving vocals. Though Pike's work in Sleep will inevitably serve as a preamble, it is likely that the virtuosity and creativity of his High on Fire output will reverberate longer, and heavier, in posterity.

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So long, Bryant Park: SF students show at Fashion Week's last season in the tents

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As the New York fashion world flicked a sassy over-the-shoulder wave and bid its Bryant Park home goodbye -- Fashion Week will move to Lincoln Center starting next season -- six students from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University fretted and beamed as their projects took the stage before the eyes of famed industry professionals.

For the past five years, AAU has been showing select student’s work during New York Fashion week, to give promising graduates exposure and to lure new students out to the Bay Area. Bethany Meuleners’ story is a case in point: three and a half years ago, she secured a seat as a prospective featured student, sat in the audience, and dreamed of seeing her own designs on the runway. Serendipitously, she graduated just in time to have her goal realized. “I can’t believe I’m here! In Bryant Park!” Meuleners told me before the show. “It’s such an iconic thing.”

It's difficult to piece together a coherent narrative from the collections of six individual designers, but this season seemed to play a gothic darkness (three of the students' offerings were almost entirely black) off a theme best summed up as "monochrome time traveler."

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Come flash the friendly skies

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I was bopping my way out to the East Coast yesterday when I had to pass through a telephone booth that could see through my clothing. It wasn’t as fun as it sounds.

Apparently the scare over the Christmas Day plane bombing attempt has wrought some interesting technological developments in SFO. Namely, the implementation of the millimeter wave scan machine, which allows Homeland Security employees to see through your clothes in order to make sure you’re not carrying any shoe bombs, rifles, letter openers, etc. We’ve made the decision that we Americans must be perved on for our own safety. Even the Pope will tell you that’s a bad idea!

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Going Rogue

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By Robyn Johnson

The second decade of the millennium has ushered in some upheavals, and whether they’re for the better or worse it’s hard to say. Tea Partiers are the new Republicans. Doughnuts are the new cupcakes. And now, beer is the new wine.

I recently attended the increasingly popular SF Beer Week, specifically the “A Taste of the Rogue Nation” event at the Rogue Ale Pub House, featuring a delightful cornucopia of their popular brews. Beer sommelier Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection elevated the status of the tasting from a mere beer bust to a frou-frou gourmet gathering with her artfully chosen pairings of artisan cheeses and chocolates. Although a little under a dozen samples were served, the following are the highlights -- and what I could mostly remember to take notes on after several drinks. (Like true beer badasses, we did not expectorate.) Read more »