Bruce Brugmann

Comcast-NBC: Too Big to Merge


A letter from

Cable giant Comcast and NBC Universal have just announced that they’re merging to form one of the most powerful media companies in the world.

Washington and Wall Street are already saying this mega-merger is a done deal. If we don’t act now to stop it, we’ll have even more corporate control of our media, higher prices and fewer choices.

It’s a marriage made in hell, and we need a citizens’ uprising to stop the merger.

Join the Uprising Against the Mega-Merger.

Editorial: U.S. out of Afghanistan


Now is more important than ever for the movement that swept Obama into office to get back into the streets and oppose his Afghan escalation policy

EDITORIAL We knew President Obama wasn’t going to be perfect. We knew he was a lot more of a political moderate than the left — which was so excited about getting rid of George W. Bush and voting for a candidate who was against the war in Iraq — always wanted to acknowledge. And we knew that the key to a progressive national agenda was keeping the pressure on the new president, who won on the basis of massive grassroots support and would be, we hoped, swayed be the mobilization of that same coalition on key political issues.

And now, after the biggest disappointment yet of his young presidency, it’s more important than ever for the movement that swept Obama into office to get back into the streets. Because the president’s decision to put 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan — to escalate, at great expense, a war the United States can’t win — is a disaster for the nation.

Trillin: Lieberman on the public option



Senator Joe Lieberman
and the public option

If public option’s in the bill, Joe says,

He’ll work to make a filibuster stick.

If so, insurance giants then will cheer.

The poor will think of Joe when they’re sick.

The Nation (11/30/09)

Dick Meister: We need jobs! Now!


The most sensible job creation program comes from the AFL-CIO and a coalition of civil rights and other organizations

By Dick Meister

(Dick Meister has covered labor and politics for a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator.)

Of all the ideas out there on how to pull us out of the economic mess we’re in, none makes more sense than the program laid out by the AFL-CIO and a coalition of civil rights groups and other organizations.

DeLong: Why Are Good Policies Bad Politics?


J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. This column is from the Project Syndicate news series.

Why Are Good Policies Bad Politics?

By J. Bradford DeLong

BERKELEY – From the day after the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year, the policies followed by the United States Treasury, the US Federal Reserve, and the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been sound and helpful. The alternative – standing back and letting the markets handle things – would have brought America and the world higher unemployment than now exists. Credit easing and support of the banking system helped significantly by preventing much worse.

The fact that investment bankers did not go bankrupt last December and are profiting immensely this year is a side issue. Every extra percentage point of unemployment lasting for two years costs $400 billion. A recession twice as deep as the one we have had would have cost the US roughly $2 trillion – and cost the world as a whole four times as much.

Memo to Obama on Afghanistan


Scroll down for an excellent analysis of Obama’s predicament by Center for American Progress.

I find most troubling President Obama’s statement that the Bush administration didn’t have the resources nor the
strategy in Afghanistan and that he will now finish the job.

I also find most troubling that his generals leaked their need for more troops to the press, so the hawks and the Republicans could start the Vietnam-style drumbeat for more troops and more war and in effect more occupation. That advice should have been presented in confidence to Obama and his military advisers.

I am more interested in hearing how many U.S. servicemen heading for Afghanistan will be on their second, third, or fourth tours? How many families in how many communities will be wrenched by this yet another war-by-surges policy? How many returning servicemen will be properly treated for their war wounds, physical and psychological? How in the world can Obama, taking on one of the world’s toughest assignments, finish the job in a country and with a government that is the most corrupt in the world behind Somalia? How can he bypass the more sensible advice from his vice-president and plunge further into the Big Muddy and once again endanger the strong reform agenda of a Democratic president? How can he put more billions into this country that nobody, from the Mongols to Alexander to the Brits to the Russians, have been able to tame? How can he spend more blood and treasure in Afghanistan when faced with the terrible job and economic problems back home in the U.S.?

We started out chasing Al Queda and we are now fighting the Taliban in a vicious civil war seemingly without end. As we should have learned long ago, it’s easy to put the troops in. It’s hell to get them out.

That is the big challenge in Obama’s speech: to show us the way out with as little collateral damage as possible. Here is one of the best analyses I have seen, from the Center American Progress.

Stmt on Obama’s Upcoming Afghanistan Decision & Press Call Monday

Center for American Progress

Statement on Obama’s Upcoming Decision on Afghanistan and Press Call Advisory

CAP Experts Brian Katulis, Lawrence Korb, and Caroline Wadhams are available for comment on this statement over the weekend, and will be hosting a press conference call on Monday, November 30th, at 12:30 p.m. More information on the call below.

Obama alert: Restore funding for small business


As small business people know, the Obama administration has spent its capital largely on Wall Street and neglected the real job creation engine of the U.S. economy: small business and loans to small business.

Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California and the Paul Revere of small business, has put out the SOS for people to contact Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and push them to help restore the critical funding programs for small business.

He sent along this article for explanation:

Sba Runs Out Of Gas On 7a And 504 Loans
Capital –

By Kent Hoover

It’s a blue Monday for small businesses and the lenders that make SBA loans.

The Small Business Administration no longer has enough economic stimulus funds to continue its 90 percent guarantee on its flagship 7(a) loans. It also will have to raise its fees on its 7(a) and 504 loans, which primarily finance real estate. As a result, beginning today, borrowers face a choice: They can be put on a waiting list to get the higher guarantee and lower fees on their loans if additional money becomes available; or they can apply for a regular SBA loan.

Calvin Trillin: Deadline Poet


GOP Candidate, pushed by right, ends upstate bid

–The New York Times

The GOP’s chief commissars had heard

That there was trouble in the 23rd:

Though every county chairman there had voted

For Dede Scozzafava, it was noted

That she, though certainly a high achiever,

Was not, in fact, a zealous true believer.

If any of the canon caused her doubt,

That justified their push to throw her out.

All commissars need neither rhyme nor reason.

They know that deviation’s always treason.

Economic snapshot for November 2009


The Center for American Progress reports that weakness in the labor market is threatening the fledgling economic recovery. Policy should center on creating jobs to boost U.S. middle class economic security and help those who are most vulnerable.

Friday, November 20, 2009

By Christian E. Weller

(The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.)

Lingering weakness in the labor market is threatening the fledgling economic recovery. Millions of jobs have been lost and unemployment has risen to the highest level in almost three decades. The labor market weakness will make it harder for families to repay their high levels of debt and thus will likely contribute to high foreclosures, credit card defaults, and bankruptcies.

Policy has shown what it can do to revive a depressed financial market and turn the corner for a shrinking economy. Policy attention should now lie squarely on job creation to ensure that the recent improvements are not short lived. Strong labor market gains are necessary to boost the American middle class’ economic security and help those who are economically most vulnerable. Extended unemployment benefits, increased health insurance coverage, and support for state and local government programs will all help achieve those goals.

1. The U.S. economy has turned the corner. Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter of 2009, the first increase since the second quarter of 2008 and the largest gain since the third quarter of 2007. The economic stimulus legislation helped to increase consumer spending, home purchases, and federal government spending in the summer of 2009, which all contributed to faster growth.

Calvin Trillin: The Wall Street whiners




–The New York Times

The government has moved to intervene

To make the pay scale slightly less obscene.

The Wall Street types consider this unfair.

Tney say they earned their money fair and square,

And 20 million, say, is only middling

For someone who’s so good at money fiddling.

Of course, if things again go not as planned,

They’re back to Washington with hat in hand.

These fiddlers do deserve some admiration:

They’ve found themselves a win-win situation. B3

Editorial: Fixing police discipline in San Francisco


San Francisco has long operated under the proposition that civilians, not police officers, should conduct investigations of complaints against cops

Editorial: San Francisco’s new police chief wants more authority to discipline problem officers. He’s been talking about it since the day he arrived, and he’s getting some political traction. Sup. David Chiu has called for a hearing in the next few weeks, and it’s likely that the chief will seek a Charter Amendment next year to redefine how the top cop and Police Commission handle personnel issues.

We have no problem giving the chief the right to fire a bad cop. In fact, if George Gascón wants to quickly rid the force of the small number of violent and unprofessional officers who are responsible for most of the serious discipline problems, more power to him.

But Gascón isn’t stopping there — he wants to reduce the power of the commission and possibly the Office of Citizen Complaints. And that’s a very bad idea.

Police discipline is one of the biggest problems facing the force. The city has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlements in police abuse cases. Rogue cops have beaten, harassed, intimidated, and sometimes killed innocent people. And because so few officers ever face serious penalties, the bad behavior goes on unabated.

Gascón recognizes that. He told us in an interview in October that he thinks there are 10 cops on the force who ought to be fired, right now. That would send a powerful message: in the past 20 years, fewer than five police officers have ever been fired for misconduct.

Right now only the Police Commission can terminate an officer; the most the chief can issue on his own is a 10-day suspension. And there’s a huge backlog of discipline cases. That’s partly the result of the system itself — commissioners are part-time appointees and discipline hearings are time-consuming. It’s also partly the fault of the department — previous chiefs have shown little interest in expediting discipline cases and have worked to thwart the ability of the Office of Citizen Complaints to complete investigations.

Dick Meister: The man who didn’t die


Joe Hill told his IWW comrades just before he stepped in front of the firing squad, “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”

By Dick Meister

(Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor, politics and other matters for a half century.)

It’s Nov. 19, 1915, in a courtyard of the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Five riflemen take careful aim at a condemned organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, Joe Hill, who stands before them straight and stiff and proud.

“Fire!” he shouts defiantly.

The firing squad didn’t miss. But Joe Hill, as the folk ballad says, “ain’t never died.” He lives on as one of the most enduring and influential of American symbols.

California Dems: Get out of Afghanistan


California Democratic Party sends a clear message to President Obama. Stop making war in Afghanistan. Will he get the message?

By Norman Solomon

(Norman Solomon is co-chair of the national Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”)

There’s a significant new straw in the political wind for President Obama to consider. The California Democratic Party has just sent him a formal and clear message: Stop making war in Afghanistan.

Overwhelmingly approved on Sunday (Nov. 15) by the California Democratic Party’s 300-member statewide executive board, the resolution is titled “End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.”

Economic Snapshot for December 2009


Center for American Progress

Economic Snapshot for December 2009

By Christian E. Weller

Download the snapshot with full graphs

Financial markets have eased, the economy is in recovery, and job losses are shrinking. Economic policy now has two challenges: ensuring strong job growth and securing durable economic growth. These goals are intertwined. Millions of Americans need to find jobs that will allow them to repay their large debts and avoid high foreclosures, credit card defaults, and bankruptcies, which in turn will boost business investment and economic growth.

The successes of past economic policies are apparent. Credit markets have substantially eased from the panic of last year, and the recession ended more quickly than would have been the case without the stimulus. Public policy interventions now need to help bring back millions of jobs and create stronger long-term growth.

Dick Meister: A Czech miracle


It was 20 years ago this month when the “Velvet Revolution” erupted in Czechoslovakia and
Eastern Europe

By Dick Meister

It’s a time of celebration in Prague this month. A time to mark the November day 20 years ago when the “Velvet Revolution” erupted. A time to mark the beginning of the end of the Soviet rule that had crushed democratic reform movements in Czechoslovakia and its eastern and central European neighbors.

For two decades, Soviet troops and Soviet-controlled political leaders had been in charge. But then, on that November day in 1989, hundreds of protesting university students marched through downtown Prague. Riot police moved in to club and beat the peaceful marchers, prompting widespread outrage and a month of peaceful demonstrations — the “Velvet Revolution” – that would soon lead to the end of Soviet domination.

It was a realization, at last, of the high hopes for liberation raised 20 years earlier. I was there in the hopeful summer of 1968, one of the journalists who had rushed over to record the miracle that was occurring throughout central and eastern Europe during what was known worldwide as ”The Prague Spring.”

Gorbachev: More walls to fall


Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his leading role in the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War. Today, as the Founding President of Green Cross International, he is heading an international Climate Change Task Force. This column is part of the Project Syndicate news series.

To echo the demand made of me by my friend President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Obama, “tear down this wall.”

By Mikhail Gorbachev

MOSCOW – The German people, and the whole world alongside them, are celebrating a landmark date in history, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not many events remain in the collective memory as a watershed that divides two distinct periods. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall – that stark, concrete symbol of a world divided into hostile camps – is such a defining moment.

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought hope and opportunity to people everywhere, and provided the 1980’s with a truly jubilant finale. That is something to think about as this decade draws to a close – and as the chance for humanity to take another momentous leap forward appears to be slipping away.

Editorial: Newsom: support just-cause eviction law


For the roughly 20,000 renters living in newer units, evictions can happen on a landlord’s whim.

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom, reeling from criticism of his disappearing act last week and his failure to quickly reengage with San Francisco, has an opportunity to repair some of his tattered image, particularly among progressives, and mend fences with the majority of the Board of Supervisors. It wouldn’t even require a dramatic or groundbreaking step — all he has to do is agree to sign legislation by Sup. John Avalos extending eviction protections to roughly 20,000 vulnerable San Francisco renters.

The Avalos legislation clears up a lingering loophole in the city’s rent-control ordinance, a leftover piece of a bad deal that tenants were forced to accept when the city first moved to limit rent hikes 20 years ago. Back in 1978, with greedy landlords taking advantage of a housing shortage to jack up rents by astronomical rates, the supervisors and then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein were under immense pressure to pass some kind of control. But the landlord-friendly mayor and at-large elected board were unwilling to do what Berkeley had done across the bay by setting permanent limits on how much landlords could raise prices. Instead, they approved a watered-down measure aimed largely at fending off a tenant initiative that would have gone further.

Comcast-NBC: Too Big to Merge




In less than a week, we have changed the media’s view on the Comcast-NBC merger. At first, the Associated Press, New York Times, Reuters, NPR and CNN said that the deal was as good as done. Now, thanks to our relentless push, they’re saying it faces a tough battle ahead as Washington responds to the public outcry.

Even the free-market fundamentalists on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board are calling us “consumer-protection alarmists” for so effectively gumming up the process!

The tides are shifting, thanks to the tens of thousands of people who joined our call to action below. But we can’t ease off the public pressure until this deal is stopped. A Comcast-NBC monolith would control as much as 20 percent of the communications landscape in the United States. That’s just too big.

Please follow this link to support our call to action.

Thanks for all that you do,

Free Press Action Fund

Too Big to Merge

Cable and Internet giant Comcast has just announced that it’s merging with NBC Universal to form one of the most powerful media companies in the world.

Washington and Wall Street are already saying this mega-merger is a done deal. If we don’t act now to stop it, we’ll have even more corporate control of our media, higher prices and fewer choices — online and on TV.

It’s a marriage made in hell, and we need a citizens’ uprising to stop the merger.

Join the Uprising Against the Mega-Merger

Help us get 100,000 people to tell President Obama to make good on his campaign pledge to act “against the excessive concentration of [media] power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group.” It’s time for the president to keep his promise.

Meister: ‘Vetoes by silence’ hamper labor


Labor Hampered by ‘Vetoes of Silence’

By Dick Meister

Nothing is more basic to our democratic society than the principle of majority rule. But what if the eligible voters who fail to cast ballots were automatically recorded as voting “no”?

Ridiculous as it sounds, that’s exactly what the country’s airline and railroad workers face when they vote on whether they want union representation.

Imagine if every election had such a rule. President Obama wouldn’t be president, since less than half the eligible voters turned out for last year’s presidential election. Most, if not all, congressional candidates would also have lost last year — or in any other election year — since voter turnout for congressional elections has typically been less than 40 percent.

FAIR: The press fails the midterms



Failing the Midterms: Press overplays election results

Republican candidates won gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday; meanwhile, Democratic candidates won two special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York and California. But it was very clear which set of elections corporate media wanted to portray as sending an important message about national politics–that voters were discontented with the White House and wanted Democrats to move to the right.

“By seizing gubernatorial seats in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans on Tuesday dispelled any notion of President Obama’s electoral invincibility,” declared the Los Angeles Times (11/4/09)–as if Obama had previously been confused with Superman. On NPR, Mara Liasson reported (11/4/09): “There’s already a feisty argument going on about what the election results tell us, but there’s no argument about the score. The Democrats got a slap in the face. The Republicans a much-needed victory.”

Solomon: The next phase of healthcare apartheid


Rep. Nancy Pelosi did what she could to sabotage the single payer health care position of her own party in her own state

By Norman Solomon
(Norman Solomon is co-chair of the national Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America.)

In Washington, “healthcare reform” has degenerated into a sick joke.

At this point, only spinners who’ve succumbed to their own vertigo could use the word “robust” to describe the public option in the healthcare bill that the House Democratic leadership has sent to the floor.

“A main argument was that a public plan would save people money,” the New York Times has noted. But the insurance industry — claiming to want a level playing field — has gotten the Obama administration to bulldoze the plan. “After House Democratic leaders unveiled their health care bill [on October 29], the Congressional Budget Office said the public plan would cost more than private plans and only 6 million people would sign up.”

Editorial: The next Gavin Newsom


Will Newsom emerge as an embittered, angry, and ultimately unsuccessful mayor committed to punishing his enemies or a serious leader who can live up to his own hype?

EDITORIAL It’s possible that Mayor Gavin Newsom took a long look at himself, his life, and his future last week and decided that politics — intense, 24/7/365 politics — wasn’t what he wanted right now. It’s possible (as Randy Shaw noted in that Newsom "now joins longtime adversary Chris Daly in putting family relationships ahead of one’s political career." It’s possible that he never really wanted a future in electoral politics and was driven to run for governor less by personal ambition than by the desire of his advisors to see him in a higher political role.

In that case, Newsom has a responsibility to do the best job he can over the final two years of his term as mayor, then step away and find something else to do with his life.

The man who drove the Chronicle nuts


Stephen Barnett, prominent UC-Berkeley law professor and noted First Amendment and antitrust scholar and activist, 1935-2009

Photo by Jim Block

By Bruce B. Brugmann

(Special note: read Barnett’s scathing indictment of Examiner/Chronicle/JOA news coverage in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (9/31/1970)

Steve Barnett would have been highly amused with the way the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle handled the obituary of his death on Oct. 13 of cardiac arrest. He was 73.

The AP and the Chronicle ran respectful obituaries of his illustrious career as a UC Berkeley law professor, prominent First Amendment advocate, critic of the California Supreme Court, a director of the California First Amendment Coalition, and widely published legal scholar on media, antitrust, and First Amendment law.

The Chronicle even tossed in a couple of paragraphs pointing out that Barnett was “a frequent commentator on the Newspaper Preservation Act, the 1970 federal law that allowed papers in the same market to cut costs by merging some of their operations.”

Meister: A warm day in Berlin


Dick Meister describes the tense scene at the Berlin Wall shortly after it went up in 196l

By Dick Meister

It was 20 years ago this month that the Berlin Wall finally fell, one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. But though it’s long gone, I and I’m sure many others, have not forgotten that Soviet-erected barrier which had stood for 28 years as a nearly impenetrable divider between the Soviet East and the West.

I especially remember the first time I saw the wall, just after it went up in 1961. The atmosphere was incredibly tense, a tension I and other reporters had found almost too acute to describe.

West Berliners sat at sidewalk cafes downtown, chatting amiably but without gaiety. Genuine relaxation seemed impossible because of the newly-constructed wall that stood just a few miles away. Out there the crowds were greater, but almost no one was talking.