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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011-04-27 "Doug Bosco & His Phantom Railroad" by Will Parrish from "Anderson Valley Advertiser" newspaper
Across recent years, a State of California agency called the the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) has been plodding ahead in its campaign to make freight chug-a-chug down the tracks from the Port of Eureka on down to the San Francisco Bay — carrying some sort of merchantable cargo as they go, presumably — for the first time since its closure in 1998. In the process, the NCRA has emerged as an object of considerable derision on the part of local observers. Many view the Authority as a waste of time and money. The section of track that runs through the Eel River Canyon would require an estimated $643 million in repairs alone, after all, according to the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) — a level of public expenditure that wasn’t forthcoming given the political climate that obtained when the study was first issued, let alone in the present one.
Others view the NCRA as a den of corruption, populated by North Coast Democratic Party loyalists who have secured gainful employment by way of a phantom rail line, or as a case of crony capitalism whereby politically connected big business interests are enriching themselves by suckling from the public teat — or both. The NCRA is a public agency, keep in mind, funded by taxpayers.
It would be difficult to dispute that the limited liability corporation that has contracted to develop the rail line on behalf of the NCRA struck the agreement on highly favorable terms. The name of the corporation in question is Northwestern Pacific (NWP) Co. Some sentences from its 2006 business plan, like this one, boldly leap from the page: “Douglas H. Bosco, Attorney, NWP Co.’s General Counsel, will be an owner, and member of the NWP Co. Board of Directors.”
According to a former representative to the North Coast Rail Authority from Marin County, Bernie Meyers, the contract between NWP Co. and the NCRA was negotiated, respectively, by Bosco and a fellow named Mitch Stogner, who served as Bosco’s aide de camp during his congressional tenure. The two men have maintained close political ties ever since. The initial term of the contract was for five years, but NWP Co. has a unilateral option to extend the lease for up to 99 years, with virtually no input into the matter from the NCRA — that is, the taxpayers’ ostensible representatives in the matter — itself.
“The lease requires the NCRA to obtain and expend public funds without limitation,” Meyers noted in an op-ed in the Marin Voice this past March. “Yet NWP could conceivably pay NCRA almost nothing under the lease. Payments begin the year after NWP has a net annual profit of $5 million. If NWP makes payments, they will not be to NCRA, but into a ‘kitty’ that NWP jointly controls.” In other words, taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, strongly to the benefit of the NWP and its owners, but with only an incidental amount of public benefit.
The NWP business plan makes note of Bosco’s function in this matter: “As General Counsel, Doug Bosco will focus on building trusted relationships with the public agencies.” Readers of the first two parts of this series on the erstwhile Congressman’s activities since he departed public office can readily translate that sentence to mean roughly the following: Bosco will use his considerable connections within the state Democratic Party apparatus, forged across his many years as a public officeholder and his more lucrative recent service as a lobbyist on behalf of large corporations, to win sweetheart deals on his and the company’s behalf.
Bosco is joined as an owner and director of the NWP Co. by a small handful of regional business empires. One is that of Sausalito-based developer Skip Berg, best known for such audacious schemes as a proposal to develop over 2,500 homes and almost three million square feet of commercial space on Hamilton Air Force Base, south of Novato, during the 1980s. Berg’s most successful business venture to date was his ownership of the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma during the ’80s and early-’90s, which became one of NASCAR’s most lucrative tracks. More recently, in 2005, he scored a highly suspicious $20 million federal contract to develop ferry service out of Port Sonoma, located on the Petaluma River at the Sonoma and Napa county lines.
Another is Evergreen Natural Resources of Oroville, California, which has long set its sights on reopening the hard rock mine at Island Mountain, in the heart of the main stem Eel River canyon. That particular quarry being located in the remote reaches of Trinity County, however, and utterly inaccessible by truck, it has no viable means of bringing the rock to market absent the restart of Northwestern Pacific freight service. The old rail line runs right through the heart of the mine. The Island Mountain Mine report, obtained by Friends of the Eel River, and the 2006 NCRA Strategic Plan propose that the company mine six million tons of rock from the quarry every year.
To make any sort of economic sense, of course, a freight line needs actual freight: that is, merchantable bulk commodities. The Northwestern Pacific once ran almost entirely on the strength of the timber trade. Most of the marketable forest stands in the North Coast have long since been cut, however, and even those that remain tend to be either off limits from logging due to protected status or else are being immediately exported overseas. As a substitute for the trees, NWP Co. originally proposed to fill the freight cars chiefly with the Island Mountain gravel, at an estimated value of $50 million per year.
But absent the aforementioned $643 million to repair the Eel River Canyon track, the Island Mountain mining proposal is destined to remain on hold. As a result, the NWP Co. and the NCRA have focused primarily in the last few years on restoring a far more modest section of the track, from Sausalito to Willits. The Authority had announced plans to begin running trains from the California Northern interchange at Schellville, north to Windsor, beginning this month. It has recently stated that it will have freights rumbling into Willits again by 2014. All of that remains to be seen.
Lacking any Eel River Canyon gravel, another major regional mining interest with ties to Bosco has moved to ramp up gravel extraction in the Russian River basin, beginning in the Alexander Valley, within a 6.5 mile stretch of the river just outside of Geyserville. Entitled the Syar Alexander Valley Instream Mining Project, it involves withdrawing 350,000 tons of gravel per year from the riverbed. Bosco is one of the project’s two attorneys.
Most counties in California feature gravel mining of one sort or another. And, while the modern construction enterprise depends on the practice, it has also caused more than its fair share of the catastrophic damage that is endemic to most waterways throughout the state. Many gravel mines have radically altered flows in streambeds, greatly eroding river banks, and clogging up spawning habitat for fish.
Among North Coast gravel miners, in fact, Bosco’s father-in-law Victor Guynup was specifically singled out for the destructive form of his gravel mining activities in Humboldt County, in a report issued by the County of Humboldt Extraction Review Team (CHERT) in 1997. Guynup’s gravel mine, it noted, had left its gravel bars with “undulating topography and several closed depressions” — a highly technical way of saying he had more or less destroyed a large chunk of the Mad River basin.
Where gravel mining operations go off the figurative rails most of all is when the profit incentives of large business entities become involved. A 2009 Sonoma County gravel monitoring report concluded that the Russian River naturally replenishes roughly 181,000 tons of gravel per year — roughly half of what Syar is seeking to mine annually. Russian Riverkeeper and Trout Unlimited have filed suit in an effort to halt the project. The extra gravel would not only be a boon to Syar itself; it would also furnish profitable freight for the NWP Co.
Another trump card Bosco and his NWP Co. associates have pulled in an effort to make the freight proposal viable is hauling all of the North Coast’s trash on outtahere and to a dump site in Nevada. “NWP Co. is believed to have a strategic advantage because of its exclusive right to negotiate to use a solid waste site in Nevada owned by Nevada Resource Recovery Group, LLC that has a capacity of about 200 million tons,” the 2006 business plan brags. “NWP Co.’s longer term objective would be to meld solid waste haulage from Mendocino County, and eventually from Marin County and Humboldt County, with that of Sonoma County to the Nevada disposal site which could accommodate all of those counties’ solid waste for more than 200 years.”
To be clear, much of what is notable about the plan to restart freight service via Bosco, Berg, Evergreen Natural Resources, and their NWP Co., then, is that it is based not on any existing cargo that would benefit from access to markets that the rail line would be uniquely suited to provide, but rather depends on such cargo being generated whereas it does not presently exist. Both the gravel mining and trash hauling schemes are emerging in this context.
Fast-tracking all of the aforementioned proposals through the political and legal systems, meanwhile, requires friends in high places, which Bosco and company have in abundance. One fast-track route comes by way of Bosco’s wife, retired Sonoma County Superior Court judge Gayle Guynup. There are strong rumors that Guynup is even on the verge of un-retirement. She has reportedly gone back to school to become certified as a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) attorney. She may soon be appointed as a Sonoma County CEQA judge, meaning many of the legal challenges brought against extractive industries would be routed to her courtroom. The Sonoma County judge who will preside over the lawsuit against Syar’s gravel mining proposal, meanwhile, is a fellow named Elliot Daum who has close ties with Guynup.
An entirely greater level of political interference is manifestly run on behalf of Bosco and allied financial interests by many members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. As only one example, the precocious political career of present Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carillo was wholly engineered by people like Bosco and former Fifth District Supervisor Eric Koenigshofer, an attorney and long-standing member in good faith of the Bosco Boys. In the final weeks of the race, Carillo’s campaign received a virtually unheard-of campaign donation of $23,500 from none other than Bosco’s Northwestern Pacific Railroad business partner, Skip Berg, by way of his company Berg Holdings. Syar, the gravel mining company, gave over $8,000. Bosco himself chipped in $5,000. Carillo’s opponent, long-time Sonoma County public servant Rue Furch, ran on a platform opposing many of the Bosco Boys’ pet projects.
One of those is one of the most egregious vineyard development proposals to crop up during the Grape Rush era, the so-called Preservation Ranch development in the Gualala River basin, operated by wine financier William Hill’s Premier Pacific Vineyards (PPV) of Napa County. PPV proposes to clear-cut roughly 1,700 acres of redwood trees on a 20,000 acre parcel, rip out the roots, and install wine-grapes. In keeping with the extractive zeitgeist, PPV has also proposed at various times to install a gravel mine on their property — presumably as a supply for the roughly 90 miles of road they intend to build. Eric Koenigshofer is a member of the Premier Pacific Vineyards legal team.
The story of the Bosco Boys’ perpetual association with the extractive interests throughout the North Coast is virtually as long and involved as you want to make it.
A bigger point concerns the present state of the American political system. Politicians who act as all-around big business consiglieres while in office parlay this role into lucrative employment and business opportunities once out of office as a matter of course. One billionaire venture capitalist, Ron Burkle, has even referred to former President Bill Clinton as his “rain man,” on account of Clinton’s uncanny ability to use his connections to “rein in” sweetheart deals on Burkle’s behalf — only one example. This series on Doug Bosco serves as only one case study of this systemic tendency.
There are various organizations across the North Coast working to address various of the projects I’ve mentioned in this article — often with considerable success. See , , and for information on some of them.
2011-04-27 "California teachers step up the action; David Russitano, a member of United Educators of San Francisco, looks at the issues driving one of the largest California teacher protests in years"
SOME 300 teachers are planning to occupy the California state Capitol building in Sacramento during a five-day series of protests beginning May 9. The mobilization called by the California Teachers Association (CTA) aims to combine local actions with an occupation of 300 unionists in the Capitol.
This is an important step forward for the CTA, the statewide body of the National Education Association, as it is now taking direct action to stop budget cuts. By calling for a limited occupation of the Capitol, the CTA is implicitly invoking the labor struggles in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere, which have been sparked by anti-union legislation.
The CTA is acting because the hammer is about to fall on working people in California as the state continues to stagger under a budget crisis. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has proposed cuts of $13 billion and a continuation of regressive taxes instituted by his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Brown promised to support the tax extensions only if voters approved them in a special election. That election has been blocked by the Republican minority in the state legislature. Now we face the even more draconian measure of an "all-cuts" budget being proposed by Republicans. Their proposed $28 billion in cuts represents approximately 34 percent of last year's budget.
This constitutes an all-out assault on the working and poor people of California. We have been forced to deal with reductions in public spending again and again over the last three years--and the truth is that there was never really any "fat" to trim.
Now, with its call to action, the CTA has opened the door to a different discussion around the budget.
Nevertheless, the union's demands don't go far enough. Their main goal is reviving Brown's plan by pressuring the Republicans to agree to extend the regressive taxes. These include a 1 percent addition to the sales tax, a reduction in the tax benefit for a single dependent, and an increase in the vehicle license fee. All of these measures are regressive, because they end up costing a larger percentage of income for the poor than for the rich.
Brown drew the CTA into backing the tax extensions by promising to "protect" K-12 in the first round of cuts--and threatening large K-12 cuts if the taxes weren't continued by a ballot measure.
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THESE DEMANDS don't do justice to the legitimate anger and serious concerns of Californians. Working people, especially the most vulnerable, have already borne the brunt of the crisis through cuts in education, health care, loss of public-sector jobs and unemployment benefits.
The rich haven't been sharing the sacrifice or the suffering. Since 2008, the paychecks of the top CEOs have "recovered" and zoomed ahead. According to the New York Times, average CEO compensation went up 27 percent last year. Companies like General Electric can make $14 billion in profits and pay no taxes, and even get a $3.2 billion tax benefit.
In California, there's plenty of money to cover the deficit and fund education and social services. The average gross income for the richest 1 percent of the population in California is $1.4 million. According to the California Budget Project, three-fifths of the population pays between 9.5 percent and 11.7 percent of their income as state taxes. The richest 1 percent of Californians pays 7.1 percent of their income in taxes. Ending that discrepancy would go a long way to overcoming the budget crisis. But instead, the politicians claim that the wages and pensions of public employees are the problem, and call for "shared sacrifice."
In the context of the Republicans' harsh attacks, Brown will pose as the hero of the public sector. He will make cuts himself, but blame the Republicans and the California State Legislature's rule requiring a two-thirds majority on any vote to raise taxes.
However, the real intention of Brown's original plan to push for tax extensions was to keep a lid on protests. The governor, by embracing Schwarzenegger's regressive taxes, has lowered our expectations about what's possible. That has had the effect of demobilizing the labor and progressive movements.
That's why it's crucial to organize a response to the budget crisis that challenges the idea that the public sector is to blame. We need to shift the debate from how to implement cuts to one that puts the blame back on the bankers, corporations and politicians who created the crisis. After all, the education system and the public sector didn't crash the economy. It was the greedy executives who choose to put their bottom line above all else.
Rank-and-file union activists, students and their allies must push for a policy of increasing taxes on the rich, with no concessions. The call to occupy the Capitol offers the chance to change the discussion.
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HOWEVER, FOR us to get across the "tax the rich" message, workers and students need to organize a large-scale occupation of the Capitol, which will allow the people of the state to raise their voices and be heard.
In the long run, it will take a revitalized labor movement willing to take strike action in order to mount effective resistance to the cuts. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 has shown the way by shutting down Bay Area ports on April 4 in solidarity with the workers and students of Wisconsin.
We need more actions like this. As Castro Valley High School teacher John Green noted, "Occupying the Capitol is a huge stride in the right direction, but it's not a replacement for workplace actions--work stoppages, sickouts and strikes. Until we make California ungovernable, the political class and the corporate class are going to continue to their method of governing on our backs."
The potential to build such a struggle is there. Over the last three years, there have been tens of thousands involved in mobilizations against the budget cuts in California. But while these demonstrations and strikes have been important and inspiring, they have oftentimes been sectional or regional. As one section of workers gets hit hard, the others duck.
This has had an impact on the effort to build a statewide movement against the cuts. The dynamic of the budget is that we have to keep mobilizing each year to protect what we used to have. It is a defensive movement that is easily split by the different interests and the way cuts come down. On top of that, it is somewhat demoralizing to keep losing at the same battle over and over again. Since we have been fighting a losing battle, many people have been putting their faith in Brown.
But the hope that Brown and the Democrats can stop the budget crisis is fading. That's why it's important that the CTA, in calling for the Capitol sit-in, has created a space for the further development of a movement to begin to fight the cuts.
However, the CTA's call has limitations. For the occupation to be as effective as possible, it must have a mass character--something on the scale of the labor-led protests in Wisconsin. It will take the initiative of working people from below to make the sit-in at the Capitol into a mass demonstration.
Nevertheless, even a limited occupation of the Capitol will show that working people can change the narrative. Activists should get in contact with their union, student or activist organization to plan on getting to Sacramento. We will see you there.

Monday, April 25, 2011


2011-04-25 "Stop privatizing our community colleges" by Marcos Perez
SAN DIEGO--Students at San Diego City College turned up the heat on government officials and proponents of "school reform" who came to their campus for a U.S. Department of Education Community College Summit on April 15.
Headliners at the summit--an invitation-only meeting for some 200 representatives from community colleges as well as state, local, and federal government officials--were supposed to include California Gov. Jerry Brown and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
Education Department Under Secretary Martha Kanter—who works for Arne Duncan, the man who gave us the Race to the Top program to make states compete for scarce education funds—and representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were also on the guest list. So was San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who recently announced harsh cuts to public libraries and recreation centers in order to close the city's $57 million deficit.
When students got wind of the summit just a week ahead of time, they immediately called a protest. Prior to the demonstration going public, organizers received several confirmations through anonymous sources that Brown and Biden would be present.
This turned out not to be the case—Biden and Brown didn't show up. Some protest organizers speculate that they may have got word of the demonstration and decided to cancel.
Besides wanting to stand in opposition to what the summit represented--austerity and privatization of public education--students were furious that no one on campus, outside of administrators, was advised of the event, and that it was closed to the public.
Many students saw a big contradiction in the fact that about three weeks before the summit, the campus got a huge makeover--with walls, rails and sidewalks painted, new grass laid, sprinkler systems installed, plants and trees planted. And all this while the Sustainable Agricultural Department had been taking deep cuts.
During the week leading up to the protest, administrators called in student organizers several times to advise them that Brown and Biden wouldn't show up and therefore the protest should be directed toward the Governor's Building downtown, insisting that they move the protest off-campus.
The administration, while trying to convince students that we are all in this together, warned student organizers that they didn't want San Diego City College embarrassed. But student organizers stayed focused, held their ground and advised the administration that the protest would continue despite their persistence in trying to intimidate us.
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THE PROTEST began at 8 a.m., with about 50 students and community members gathering in the Gorton Quad, where a large white tent with tables, chairs and a stage were being set up for a midday lunch for summit attendees.
An open mic allowed for several students to give speeches where they voiced their concerns about the direction of public education, privatization, the economic crisis, the wars, austerity measures, immigrant rights, veteran rights and the need to fight back.
By 9:30 a.m., about 150 students gathered and began to march toward the summit's opening plenary at the Seville Theater.
Students took the march into the streets and arrived at the Seville Theater chanting, "Tax the rich," “Sí se puede" and "Who's school? Our school." A few more fierce speeches were given, and students demanded the summit attendees to hear what we had to say.
San Diego Community College District spokesperson Richard Dittbenner made his way to the protesters to address the crowd. He began to lecture students about how we didn't understand what was really going on, and that those inside were helping to improve the education system.
He was instantly heckled and reminded that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is leading an effort to privatize education. After some more dialogue, student organizer Wayne Scherer took the megaphone and told Dittbenner, "Your summit is phony and lies; this protest is truth!" Students' enthusiasm increased after this confrontation, and they marched back toward campus.
Marchers headed back to Gorton Quad. Students attempted to reach the Quad through one staircase only to be quickly shut out due to a small sidewalk that two police officers had completely blocked off. Marchers tried to find an alternate route--this time through the front entrance. Police were unable to contain the crowd as they marched through the wide staircase.
Everybody headed to the large white tent and sat in, temporarily occupying it. With high spirits and a sense of power among them, protesters began to discuss the immediate next steps.
At this point, the baseball team from the athletic department huddled near and around the tent. Word had spread to student organizers that the administration had sought to get the athletics department to police student protesters.
Administrators felt compelled to address the crowd and they were given an opportunity. First came Dean of Student Affairs Denise Whisenhunt, who threatened to take disciplinary action, including expulsion, against student organizers, all the while claiming that she is on our side and "feels our pain."
Next was City College President Terry Burgess, who argued that we should focus our attention on protesting local Republican politicians who are holding up Sacramento.
Lastly, Community College District Chancellor Dr. Constance Carroll addressed the protesters and suggested that we are all in this together, that those inside were trying to improve the situation, and pleaded that students leave the tent and meet with her inside the cafeteria.
Student had heard enough of the same old rhetoric. At this point, they took the opportunity to discuss and democratically decide what the immediate next step should be. Students rejected a meeting in the cafeteria and instead proposed a meeting in the Quad, right next to the tent.
The administration was completely opposed to this because they knew students would heckle and chant down the attendees. After more discussion and on-the-spot democratic decision-making, protesters demanded that the administration agree to meet in a public space, Gorton Quad, where student would organize the meeting and present them with demands in a couple weeks. They agreed.
Students felt victorious and their hopes were raised due to these recent actions at City College. The event got significant media attention, which embarrassed City College for hosting such an event.
The local movement, while continues to be in its infancy, has seen an upsurge in actions and protest since the occupation of the Capitol building in Wisconsin. Students are realizing that it's up to them to continue to push the envelope. A comment from a protester on April 15 pointed to a key argument for our side: "This is a bipartisan attack!" Let's continue to fight back.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011-04-20 "Antiwar movement revitalized by Independents and third party groups" by Damon Eris from "California Independent Voter Network"
According to a new study, the antiwar movement in the United States is now driven almost entirely by Independents and supporters of third parties. The findings have media outlets asking “Whatever happened to the antiwar movement?” even as thousands of Americans took to the streets in cities across the country earlier this month to protest the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
The new paper, published in the journal Mobilization by Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas, analyzes what the authors call “the demobilization of the antiwar movement in the United States” between 2007 and 2009. Based on interviews with over 5,000 demonstrators at nearly 30 major antiwar protests across the country over that two year period, the researchers conclude that the electoral success of the Democratic party in the elections of 2006 and 2008 led to the large-scale abandonment of the antiwar movement by Democrats, even despite the party’s failure to deliver on its antiwar promises.
“Activists identified with the Democratic Party were disproportionately likely to leave the movement as time went on, as they considered Democratic electoral success to be concomitant with the achievement of their policy aims,” they write.
In their interviews and surveys, the researchers tracked the partisan composition of the protests they attended. In 2007 and 2008, participation by self-identified Democrats fluctuated between 37% and 54%, and then plunged to a low of 19% in late 2009. Over the same period, participation by third party supporters and Independents who professed no party affiliation fluctuated between 46%, when Democratic turnout was at its high, and over 85%, as Democratic turnout reached its nadir.
The report concludes that, “the withdrawal of Democrats from the movement in 2009 appears to be a significant explanation for the falling size of antiwar protests.” The research team’s surveyors estimated that hundreds of thousands of individuals turned out for antiwar protests in early 2007 and dwindled to the hundreds by late 2009.
The report’s findings have prompted a number of mainstream media outlets to ask: “Whatever happened to the antiwar movement?” On April 15th, both NPR [] and the Wall Street Journal published articles posing that exact question. The piece at NPR noted that, “Now and then, small pockets of protesters still band together,” while the WSJ [] report stated that antiwar protests remain at about the levels common in late 2009, “drawing mere hundreds.”
Remarkably, neither of these articles mentioned the fact that on the previous weekend, thousands of Americans had gathered in New York and San Francisco to protest the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. As it turns out, the protests were widely ignored in the mainstream media. A report by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [] drew attention to the dearth of coverage and called on news media to “stop blacking out progressive protests,” writing: “The antiwar protest had thousands of attendees--and received almost zero corporate media coverage.”
Neither NPR nor the Wall Street Journal appear to have reported that upwards of 10,000 anti-war protesters gathered in New York City on April 9th, and that thousands more converged in San Francisco the next day, even though these were likely the largest antiwar demonstrations in the country since 2008. Coverage of the protests was almost entirely confined to local media outlets, third party news sources and blogs.
The protests in New York and San Francisco, along with smaller gatherings in other cities, were organized by the United National Antiwar Committee, a relatively new antiwar umbrella organization founded in the summer of 2010. It consists of a diverse coalition of antiwar and peace groups as well as Independent and third party political organizations. Among the featured speakers at the protest in San Francisco’s Delores Park was Malalai Joya, an antiwar and women’s rights activist who was driven from her seat in Afghanistan’s parliament because of her opposition to both the US occupation and local warlords, according to a report at the Socialist Worker [].
Numerous third party leaders spoke at the events in New York City. Among them were Howie Hawkins, a former Green Party nominee for governor, Charles Barron, a local elected official and leader of the Freedom Party, and prominent antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, who waged an unsuccessful bid for Congress as an Independent against Nancy Pelosi in 2008, coming in second in the race with just over 16% of the vote. Sheehan pulled no punches in her remarks.
“People say there’s only two things guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I can guarantee you three more things: if you vote for a Democrat or a Republican, you’re voting for more war, you’re voting for more economic oppression, and you’re voting for more environmental devastation,” she said to the assembled crowd in the heart of New York City.
Reportedly, the United National Antiwar Committee is now working to build on the momentum created in New York and San Francisco, and is coordinating with immigrant and workers rights groups to stage a new round of protests across the country on May 1st. Maybe the mainstream media will take note.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2011-04-15 "L.A. Unified cuts most summer school classes" from "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
Los Angeles school officials announced Friday that they will cancel the majority of their summer school offerings for the third year in a row because of budget shortfalls.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is facing a nearly $400-million deficit this year, already issued preliminary layoff notices to more than 7,000 staffers earlier this spring.
Classes will still be offered starting July 6 at some high schools for some current sophomores, juniors and seniors who are either failing or need to go to adult school. Some online classes will also be available, as will meal programs at some campuses.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011-04-14 "Students Hold Rallies, Marches, Teach-Ins at 23 California State Universities To Protest Education Cuts & Attacks on University Employees" by Alice Sunshine
Students and workers across California held protests at 23 California State Universities yesterday, occupying CSU administration buildings to demand the resignation of Chancellor Reed. "We have to take action to save our universities for California's middle class and working families before it's too late," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, as faculty joined the protest events. According to the California Faculty Association, "the California State University has lost some $1 billion, let go more than 3000 faculty, slashed course offerings and tripled student fees. Tens of thousands of eligible students have been turned away or given up because of rising costs and inability to get necessary classes."
The day of action in the CSU laid out five important issues for the university management:
•Spend money on classes— cut management bloat
•Stop layoffs and job losses for faculty and staff
•Bargain fair contracts for faculty and staff
•Keep the University public— No more fee hikes
•Support CSU transparency and oil extraction bills
"We call on the top CSU executives to adjust their thinking. Too much of their priority is on their own compensation and power. It is clear in our bargaining over the faculty contract that the Chancellor believes the state budget battle gives him license to impose policies that have everything to do with his own 'discretionary' power and little to do with saving quality education," Lillian Taiz said.
For over 4 years Students for Quality Education (SQE), a student led coalition has watched the degradation of Higher Education. Time and time again SQE has opposed and fought against piercing budget cuts, sky rocketing fees and inflating costs of administration salaries, but after 4 years of failed leadership under Chancellor Reed students have had enough.
Students are demanding the resignation of Chancellor Reed and are calling out for a democratically run University that prioritizes funding for quality education, instead of funding a bloated administration. To highlight this goal, students marched to their administration buildings and assembled peacefully to demand Chancellor Reed’s resignation. The occupations/sit-ins were coupled with a “People’s University,” which discussed how to create a democratically run University that focuses on quality education for all.
These April Actions are a prelude to the launch of a national campaign by faculty organizations on public college and university campuses, each of which is dealing with variations of the same themes—— deep cuts to public college and university funding combined with attacks on union rights and academic freedom. Watch for announcements of the campaign launch in May.
•A description of all 23 campus actions can be found here [].

Monday, April 11, 2011

SF Labor Council Demands The Gov Jerry Brown Ends Furlough Of Ca-OSHA Inspectors & Restore Medical Unit
Resolution to Protect Health & Safety at Ca-OHSA, End the Ca-OSHA Inspector Furloughs & Hire Medical Professionals for Cal-OSHA:
Whereas, the protection of the health and safety of California's workers is critical; and
Whereas, the 196 Ca-OSHA inspectors have been furloughed by previous Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and
Whereas, these inspectors salaries are paid for by grants and premiums from Workers Compensation Insurance; and
Whereas, their salaries have nothing to do with the state budget crisis; and
Whereas, the impact of a 3 day a month furlough has a dangerous impact on the ability of these inspectors to enforce the rules and regulations of Ca-OSHA and
protect the safety and health of California workers and the public; and
Whereas, the furloughs continue under Governor Jerry Brown's administration; and
Whereas, there are more Fish and Game Inspectors than Ca-OSHA inspectors in California; and
Whereas, Under Governor Schwarzenegger only one half time doctor at Ca-OSHA remains for California's 17 million workers; and
Whereas, new dangers and diseases in biotech and nano-tech require professional medical training with MD's for investigation; and
Whereas, the right of California's workforce to have a professional medical staff in Ca-OSHA is crucial to their health and safety protection; and
Whereas, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which killed 146 mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant garment workers in New York and the need to commemorate their fight for health and safety then and today,
Therefore be it Resolved that the San Francisco Labor Council calls for the immediate cancellation of all furloughs of Ca-OSHA inspectors and the full staffing of 7 doctors for a professional medical staff unit in Ca-OSHA to protect the health and safety of California worker and,
Be it Further Resolved that this Council supports the San Francisco Workers Memorial Day in San Francisco on April 28, 2011 at ILWU Local 34 initiated by the California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day and
Be it Finally Resolved the SFLC calls on all other affiliated bodies and organizations to concur in this action and to send letters to their California legislative representatives and California Governor Jerry Brown for action on these requests.
Submitted by David Williams, SEIU 1021, and adopted by the San Francisco Labor
Council on April 11, 2011.
Tim Paulson
Executive Director

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011-04-10 "Nancy Pelosi joins GOP on for-profit college aid" by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
It's not often that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi camps under the GOP tent, but that's just what happened recently when she broke ranks with Bay Area Democrats and the Obama administration and voted to keep billions of dollars in federal student aid flowing into the coffers of for-profit colleges.
She had her reasons. Some of the biggest recipients of the $32 billion in federal student loans and Pell Grants each year paid to for-profits are in her district - including major Democratic donor John Sperling, founder of the online University of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit college.
The issue arose after Education Secretary Arne Duncan proposed a rule that would stiffen federal aid requirements for for-profits, making them provide stats showing that their students actually are getting the jobs they trained for.
For-profit students make up just 10 percent of the total college population, but account for 43 percent of all loan defaults, the department says.
Schools in Pelosi's backyard that have a big stake in the federal grants rule changes include:
-- The Academy of Art University, one of the biggest landowners in the city. More than half the academy's 17,000 students received federal grants or aid last year totaling $199 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
-- The Art Institute of California, whose Civic Center-area campus is owned by Education Management Corp., a mega-chain operating in both the United States and Canada.
Heald College campuses downtown and the Mission District's Everest College - both owned by the fast-growing Southern California-based Corinthian Colleges Inc.
Campaign finance records show that the 90-year-old Sperling, along with his son Peter and their Apollo Group Inc., have poured about $600,000 into Democratic and Republican campaigns since 2008, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where Pelosi has been a major fundraiser.
Sperling is also a part-time San Francisco resident, and his family has purchased three mansions here worth $62 million.
According to published reports, Sperling personally lobbied Congress against the administration's proposed restrictions.
An Apollo Group spokesman said in a written statement they were concerned that the impacts of the proposed restrictions weren't fully understood and that they could limit student options and potentially "unfairly disadvantage hundreds of thousands of historically underserved students."
A Republican-authored House amendment to block the secretary from going ahead with the loan plan cleared the House over the "no" votes of a number of Bay Area Democrats, including Reps. George Miller, Barbara Lee, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier.
The amendment never reached the Senate, but some Pelosi allies in Washington say her support has given cover for the GOP to continue pressing to include the amendment in the final budget package.
"We are disappointed in her vote, and we made that very clear to her staff," said David Halperin, director of the student advocacy group Campus Progress, and one of the few reform supporters willing to speak on the record for fear of upsetting the powerful Pelosi.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told us "the leader heard from advocates on both sides of this issue, including the Art Institute of California, Heald College and Everest College - all in San Francisco."
And while some friends might not like Pelosi's stance, Hammill said, "The amendment simply gives room for the Congress and the administration to sit down and find a responsible path forward that addresses the concerns public and for-profit institutions have."

Friday, April 8, 2011

2011-04-08 "Commission on Teacher Credentialing Slammed in Newly Published State Audit" by Mary-Alice Coleman, Esq.
Phone: (530) 758-4234
Sacramento, CA
* Students put at risk as potentially dangerous teachers remained eligible to teach for months or years awaiting review for misconduct
* Whistleblowing attorney fired by Commission on Teacher Credentialing says she feels “vindicated” by report’s finding
Kathleen Carroll was fired by a state agency after trying to expose a myriad of problems the agency refused to acknowledge and claimed did not exist. A state audit that Carroll was instrumental in instigating now shows she was not only right, but that the problems are worse than most imagined.
An extensive state audit of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) released April 7 painted a picture of a small but important state agency in complete disarray. The audit cites the CTC with having a massive backlog of unprocessed reports of teacher misconduct, a poorly trained staff, ineffective and inefficient internal processes and document management, and cronyism in its hiring processes.
State auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter to legislators that the CTC’s slow pace may have allowed teachers of questionable character to stay in the classroom.
Carroll, who was hired by CTC in October 2006, says that by 2009 she became very concerned when she noticed a significant increase in the years-old mandatory conviction cases coming across her desk for review. She claims she was shocked to see reports of teachers and administrators who continued to work even after being accused of acts of gross misconduct and who might be a danger to school children.
In one case, a teacher was allegedly seen kissing a student in 2007, but the CTC did not contact the school district until 2009. The CTC learned that another instructor allegedly showed middle school students pornography in 2008, but did not request police documents regarding the matter until 2010. By then, the vice principal who reported the incident had retired, the student who saw the pornography did not recall the details, and others could not be found.
The teacher went on to work at another school in the district, and the committee closed the case without taking any action. A commission manager “did not offer any explanations as to why the division did not investigate this case sooner," according to the audit.
A CTC Staff Counsel, Carroll asserts she was harassed and ultimately terminated from her job by the CTC when she exposed its improper activities. After trying to report wrongdoing to the Chair of the Commission and later to the Executive Director, Carroll was not only rebuffed, but was issued a gag order by the director and was told not to speak to anyone. Fearing that the CTC’s massive backlog of unprocessed reports of teacher misconduct was putting California school children at risk, Carroll went outside the agency to seek redress.
In late 2009 and early 2010, Carroll contacted the State Bar of California for guidance. About the same time, she also made several contacts through the Whistleblower Hotline of State Audits regarding the process for obtaining an outside audit of a state agency. In response to advice she received from the Whistleblower Hotline, Carroll contacted her own legislator, Sen. Darrell Steinberg. Steinberg’s request to conduct an investigative audit into the status of licensing matters at the CTC was unanimously approved by the Joint State Audit Committee.
Carroll was not the only person dismissed after speaking up about the CTC’s troubling issues. Michael Kaufman, a new Committee on Credentials member and the Public Representative, was suspended and asked to resign when he became an outspoken critic of CTC’s delays and backlogs of disciplinary actions. When he refused to resign the CTC Executive Committee fired him, claiming he was not “collegial” with the staff regarding the backlog issue, and for “acting like a lawyer.”
In addition to the lack of quality control and huge backlog of misconduct documentation within the educator discipline division, Carroll also reported what appeared to be blatant acts of cronyism and nepotism within the agency. Carroll contends that there are many examples of questionable hiring, including Assistant General Counsel Lee Pope hiring his daughter and previously having his son on the CTC payroll. Carroll claims that other divisions have employees with spouses, children, and friends on the payroll.
The audit also found similar troubling signs and derided the CTC for its lack of “a complete set of approved hiring procedures,” and its failure to “consistently document justification for hiring a particular candidate.”
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the audit revealed that changes must be made.
"The audit clearly shows the commission needs to overhaul its process and reevaluate its personnel," Steinberg's spokesman, Mark Hedlund, said in an e-mail.
As for Kathleen Carroll, shortly after the Bureau of State Audits began its investigation, CTC ordered her from the offices, and then fired her effective December 2010. Carroll is currently fighting the termination of her employment in the State Personal Board.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

2011-04-07 "Brown, GOP to hit the road with budget message" by JULIET WILLIAMS from "Associated Press" newswire
Gov. Jerry Brown is preparing to take his budget appeal directly to voters, holding at least two events in Southern California that he says will be the start of a tour to sell his plan for maintaining a series of temporary tax hikes to plug a remaining $15.4 billion deficit.
The Democratic governor will have company on the road: The state Republican Party also was launching a tour Thursday. GOP officials said it is intended to counter the governor's claim that deeper cuts to public schools, higher education, law enforcement and other programs are coming unless voters get the chance to renew the tax increases.
"Should we be sitting here and saying we're going to close school for two months? From my perspective, that's a disingenuous conversation," said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.
She planned to appear Thursday night in Fresno with newly elected California GOP president Tom Del Beccaro, followed by periodic stops around the state over the next year.
Brown ended talks with Republican lawmakers last week over his proposal to hold a June special election. He wants voters to continue temporary increases enacted two years ago in the vehicle, sales and personal income taxes. The governor wants them extended for five years.
But he said this week he is still hoping to win the two votes he needs in each chamber of the state Legislature for a future special election on the taxes. No one, including Brown, knows when such an election could be called, even if he gets the needed votes.
The next regularly scheduled statewide election is the presidential primary in February 2012.
Brown is hoping to put the pressure on Republicans by laying out possible budget cuts that communities could face in an all-cuts budget — although neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to vote for such a proposal.
"It will have a devastating effect if that's all cuts — to schools, university, to the mentally ill, that puts them all on the streets, and to law enforcement, to probation, to sheriffs. It's unacceptable," the governor told a meeting of law enforcement officials in Sacramento this week. "I know the people — when faced with the true cuts and knowing what they are or extending the taxes they're already paying — hopefully they're going to vote to continue to fund a decent level of government."
Brown scheduled an appearance Friday at an elementary school in Riverside, a Republican area of the state that is represented in the Legislature by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
Jeffries welcomed Brown to his district but warned the governor not to expect a warm reception.
The lawmaker said his constituents don't want to pay higher taxes. He said they support the cuts to public employee pensions and state spending that Republicans have been advocating.
"My constituents are struggling to make ends meet and can't afford Governor Brown's tax increases to fund a bloated state government," Jeffries said.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has said closing a deficit smaller than the remaining $15.4 billion shortfall would require cuts. Those would include nearly $5 billion from K-12 schools, another $585 million from community colleges, $1.1 billion from universities — including a 10 percent student fee increase at California State University campuses — and $1.2 billion in cuts to health and social services.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011-04-06 “Budget Cuts Would Disproportionately Affect Incarcerated Women for Now” by Ali Bollbach
Ali Bollbach is an intern in the Yolo Judicial Watch Court Project.
Last week, during the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting, representatives from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, and Public Defender’s Office gave presentations on their cost cutting techniques employed in the past and proposed plans for the future.
Up until recently there was hope that Governor Jerry Brown’s previous budged cut proposal would allow the Yolo County Leinberger Memorial center, a minimum security facility in Woodland, to remain partially open. However, due to the increased likelihood that an agreement will not be made by June and the impact of a lack of any agreement even as early as July 1st, new measures must be taken.
During the last three fiscal years, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department has cut forty-two positions through layoffs and declining to rehire empty positions. They have also employed a more recent trend in the job market, that of utilizing unpaid positions.
At the meeting Sheriff Edward Prieto laid down the law, and said there was “absolutely no way we can lay off any more deputies.”
The proposal by Prieto and his department to shut down the already partially closed minimum-security facility appeared to be a last ditch effort to prepare for the worst-case scenario if no state budget is approved.
The current fiscal year saw a partial closure of Leinberger Memorial Center and despite original estimates that the center would be safe from the chopping block, the most recent meeting revealed this was not so. The department estimated that the proposal to close the center fully would save them about 1.7 million dollars a year. But at what cost?
As it stands Leinberger Memorial Center is geared for inmates wanting to work with outside agencies to reduce their jail time. It also acts as an overflow facility for the Monroe Detention Center. Currently only about 35 males are housed in the Leinberger Memorial Center due to the partial closure earlier this fiscal year.
While other news sources have mentioned the potential hazard to society that closing the center would pose because of the release of some inmates due to the lack of room, few have yet to consider the adverse gender implications such a closure would have.
If closed, the men housed at the Leinberger Memorial Center and the Monroe Detention Center would go through a process of triage. Those with the worst offenses and most serious crimes would be retained while those with lesser crimes would be released due to the lack of space. But what about the women?
None of the women in the facility would go through the triage process necessitated from the closure because there are no women being housed at the Leinberger Memorial Center.
Thus it is very possible that some men in custody could be released, while women detained, even though it is very likely some of the men could be considered more dangerous criminals than some of women in Monroe, simply because of their gender. How is this legal?
When I spoke with the Sheriff’s Department about this triage procedure negatively affecting women more than the men currently housed at the Monroe Detention Center, I was reminded that state law requires male and female areas to be fully separated.
This means that women in this triage procedure are being held for less dangerous criminal activity than some of men who are being released. Women would be adversely targeted for the specific reason that they are women.
I was reminded, though, that there have been times when this was the opposite. Apparently not all is fair when following strict federal laws, as a more gender-neutral approach would focus solely on the severity of crimes committed.
While it would be ideal in this instance for the detention center to be a bit more fluid regarding the number of men versus women it can house at a given time and still follow federal law, it is federal law that mandates the separation between the genders that currently makes this impossible.
But how else will this closure affect inmates and Yolo County as a whole? Tracie Olson, one of the many Yolo County public defenders gave her opinion of how the closure would affect her clients’ choices at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Olson spoke of inmates waiting to hear back from various residential treatment programs as a viable option instead of jail time who benefit from remaining in the detention centers.
She argued the detention centers offer a safe environment for inmates to abstain from illegal substances, which in the long run helps them to succeed overall. Without room at the center for such offenders, due to the proposed closure, some would be more likely to run into illegal situations hurting their chances of recovery.
Similarly clients interested in work-study programs, when applicable, instead of serving jail times when applicable would not be as interested in putting forth the effort of participating in such a program if they could be released from jail quicker.
She noted, “Honestly telling my clients to serve 30 or 90 days [or participate in work project], I’d tell them to go serve in the jail and you’d be out by Monday. No reason to sign up for work project.”
While closing the Leinberger Memorial Center would alleviate some of the current budget problems, the detriment to an already vulnerable population would be irreparable.
Hopefully some of the future proposals will take these consequences into account.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011-04-05 "Action needed to support Winnemem Wintu Tribe" by Dan Bacher
The Winnemem Wintu Tribe is now working on two very important efforts that require your assistance.
First, this summer they will hold the Bałas Chonas, or Coming of Age Ceremony, for the young woman who will become the next spiritual leader of the Tribe.
"We face the same challenge of getting the stretch of river temporarily closed, and the stakes are even higher," said Debbie Davis, Policy Director of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. "Please take a moment to send a letter of support for the closure."
”This is a matter of survival – the Winnemem people need our ceremonies and our sacred places to live," emphasized Caleen Sisk-Franco,
Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. "The government is endangering our entire way of life by refusing to cooperate. All we are asking is for four days of temporary river closure. That does not seem like too much to ask for the survival of an entire people.”
Please also watch for future emails outlining the practical, on the ground help that will be needed to create the privacy the Tribe needs to bring their next leader into womanhood.
The second effort is to return the McCloud River winter run chinook salmon home from New Zealand. In the early 1900s, McCloud River salmon were transported to New Zealand, and the Maori people have agreed to return these disease-free fish to the Winnemem. "We now need the cooperation of the U.S. and California State Governments," said Davis.
The Winnemem have a plan to establish a conservation hatchery and to reconnect the McCloud River to the Sacramento River. To help the salmon travel around the dam, they would use two natural creeks, Little Cow Creek and Dry Creek, where spawning salmon used to migrate before the dam.
Water from the McCloud River would be channeled to these creeks and flow down to the Sacramento, below the dam. Returning salmon would be able to catch these creeks and spill out in the reservoir near the mouth of the McCloud River. Once there, they would be able to catch the scent of their birth waters and find their way home. There is currently about ¼ mile of channel that would need to be created to make the connection between Cow Creek and Dry Creek and the Lake.
To help the young fry to remember their home waters, the Winnemem will rear the salmon in a small, open air hatchery until they’re large enough to make the journey to the Pacific and fend off the myriad non-native predators that now inhabit the Sacramento and the delta. The hatchery itself will be modeled after the hatchery on the Rakaia River in New Zealand.
The Winnemem Wintu is a traditional tribe who inhabits their ancestral territory from Mt Shasta down the McCloud River watershed. When the Shasta Dam was constructed during World War II, it flooded their home and blocked the salmon runs
Please take a moment to send a letter to support the tribe's efforts to "Dance Our Salmon Home." Please be sure to fax a copy of your letter to: 530-275-4193.
You can get a copy of sample letters and fact sheets by going to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe website:

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011-04-04 "Arizona State Senator Pearce, an unapologetic Neo-Nazi sympathizer, speaks on behalf of California State's Secure Immigration Enforcement Act" from "Northbay Uprising Radio News"
TIM DONNELLY, [Cal. Assembly Member, 59th District of Twin Peaks], organized a Rally and Press Conference on Arizona-Style Law, held at the California State Capitol during Monday, April 4th at 2pm, to support California Assembly Bill 26, the “Secure Immigration Enforcement Act.”
Speaking at the rally was special guest, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who was instrumental in passing the Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona,
Cassandra Joiner, press contact at Tim Donnelly's office, estimated 150 people participated. She claimed to be ignorant of Arizona State Senator Pearce's past affiliation with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, and said there were no Nazis in the crowd. The crowd did include many White-Nationalists who support the political goals of Senator Pearce, including the removal of all ethnic studies classes from higher education.
Assembly Bill 26 would help law enforcement manage illegal immigration in the State and fulfills Assemblyman Donnelly’s campaign pledge to introduce a bill similar to the Arizona immigration law, in California.
This measure would, among other things, end sanctuary cities and enforce immigration laws against employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, which will free up jobs for citizens and eliminate incentives for people to come here illegally. Additionally, this measure will make illegal presence in California punishable by a misdemeanor, and increase the penalty for criminals that traffic illegal immigrants into California for the purposes of sexual slavery to life in prison.
For additional information, contact Cassandra Joiner at (916) 319-2059 or
Since 2005, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce has spoken publicly with the National Socialist Movement [NSM] and expresses support for the goals expressed by the following 14 words: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children"
Senator Russell Pearce supported the candidacy of NSM leader JT Ready to City Council of Mesa City, Arizona.

2007-06 photograph showing NSM leader J.T. Ready and Russell Pearce at an anti-immigration rally at the Arizona State Capitol. Eyewitness news reports say the two spent alot of time together, and allow photographs to be taken:
J.T. Ready, second from right, at a NSM rally
During 2008, Senator Pearce sponsored Arizona Senate Bill 1108 “that would prohibit students of Arizona universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their membership”, with the intention of making illegal groups such as the Native Americans United and the Black Business Students Association.