Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slap Hitter: Jose Canseco and the Scarlet A's

Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 10:30 AM

The Oakland A's just threw the Feel Bad party of the year.
The 20th anniversary of the sole World Championship squad in the later dynasty came together to relive old memories and celebrate the legacy of brighter days. Only the Athletics (with an assist from Jose Canseco) could turn a bash into a wake. A turd in the punchbowl is the way we roll now.

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Jerry Brown Sues Pleasanton

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 7:02 AM

California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued the City of Pleasanton, alleging that its 1996 law that caps the total number of homes in the city violates state law, according to the Chron. Pleasanton is on the verge of approving a plan that calls for another 45,000 jobs within city limits, but no new housing. Brown alleges that the cap on housing forces workers to live elsewhere, thereby adding to suburban sprawl and worsening greenhouse gas emissions. We have to applaud Brown on this one; he appears to be right on the money.

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State to Run Out of Cash Next Week

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 6:41 AM

As California Democratic leaders wasted time pushing a budget bill that was never going to pass, state Controller John Chiang warned that the state would run out of cash next week, according to the Chron and the Mercury News. Chiang said he plans to start issuing IOUs next week to local governments, private contractors, state vendors, and to taxpayers awaiting tax refunds. Meantime, a key part of the Dems' proposal to fix the state's $24 billion problem didn't get any Republican votes, as expected. However, the Mercury News reported that Democrats and Republicans may not be that far apart and had begun "a feverish round of negotiations to bridge a $2 billion to $3 billion gap between the two parties." Moderate Republican state Senator Abel Maldonado, who joined Democrats in February to reach a budget compromise, described the two sides as being "close."

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Amazon.com Threatens California

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Amazon.com has sent a letter to the governor and the state Legislature threatening to sever its contracts with California businesses if a tax bill authored by Berkeley Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner becomes law, according to the Wall Street Journal. Skinner's bill would force Amazon.com to start collecting sales tax in the state. Skinner introduced the bill earlier this year because of the devastating effects the giant online retailer has had on small retailers, especially because it doesn't charge consumers sales tax.

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Wingnut Republican Puts Hold on Tauscher Nomination

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 12:43 PM

Republican US Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, an opponent of nuclear arms reduction, has put a hold on East Bay Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher's nomination to the Obama State Department, according to Foreign Policy magazine. Tauscher is a big backer of nuclear arms control, but Kyl apparently is holding up her nomination because he opposes the Obama administration's attempt to lower the US and Russian nuclear weapons' stockpiles. Tauscher will remain in Congress until Kyl releases the hold on her nomination, thereby putting off any East Bay special election to replace her. Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and state Senator Mark DeSaulnier are the leading candidates for her Congressional seat.

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Dems Bang Their Heads Against Wall, Again

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 7:05 AM

State Democrats are pushing forward with a budget plan that includes tax increases, even though they realize that their proposal has no chance of passing, according to the Chron. Governor Schwarzenegger says he will veto the Democrats' plan — that is, if the proposal gets enough votes to reach his desk, which is unlikely. State Dems are refusing the demand by the governor and Republicans that the state's $24 billion budget deficit be balanced with spending cuts. The Dems say the cuts proposed by the governor go too far. And they're right, of course. But the only problem is that they have no choice but to make cuts or the state will go bankrupt. Moreover, Dems haven't done all they can to balance the budget.

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BART Workers Want 3 Percent Raise

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 6:43 AM

While workers throughout California are taking pay cuts or being laid off because of the economic crisis, BART train operators and station agents are demanding a 3 percent raise over the next two years, according to the Chron. Those BART workers, along with another BART union, also have voted to sanction a strike, the paper reported. In other words, BART workers have just won the award for being both the greediest and ballsiest public employees in the state.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Berkeley High's Drug Problem?

Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 2:05 PM

The Berkeley Unified School District has commissioned a task force to address the district's apparent drug and alcohol issue, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet. The 2008 California Healthy Kids Survey revealed that among Berkeley High eleventh graders, 52 percent said that they had drunk alcohol and 45 percent said that they smoked pot in the last thirty days - and furthermore, 54 percent of eleventh graders said that they had been drunk or high on school grounds. This represents a fairly dramatic increase from the 2006 survey and shows that Berkeley's kids are showing up to school wasted at a rate the Daily Planet says is twice the state and national average.

According to the article, Superintendent Bill Huyett and school board directors expressed concern when this year's results were presented at a meeting in March. Last week, the district's manager of student welfare and attendance, Javier Mendieta, announced that the district would be pulling together a special group of parents, teachers, and city and district staff to develop a plan to address Berkeley's alcohol and drug use.

While no district wants its students blazed or blitzed on school grounds, and Huyett and the school board have wisely called for a plan that appears to be far from the draconian (and historically unsuccessful) DARE-style tactics many districts use, there's certainly weight to some school board members' concern that Berkeley's drug-tolerant atmosphere has something to with this. After all, in a city where weed is practically legal, and in a district characterized by a discipline style that could best be called laissez-faire (an anonymous Berkeley High alum tells the Express he smoked a joint during class with no one so much as batting an eye) are we really all that surprised?

- Ellen Cushing

A Must Read on Big-Box Stores

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 12:42 PM

This piece by Stacy Mitchell, author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses, is a must read. Mitchell details how big-box retailers do a lot more harm to our society and culture than just putting smaller retailers out of business. After reading this story, you'll never look at them the same way again.

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Obama Has It Both Ways on Gay Marriage

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 11:57 AM

President Obama declared last week that the federal law that bans gay marriage is "discriminatory." He also said: "It interferes with states' rights and it's time we overturned it." The president made the comments while announcing that the US government would grant benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The president's denunciation of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act was not surprising, considering he campaigned against it last year. But his description of it as "discriminatory," also happens to be the exact opposite of the argument made by his own justice department in a case challenging the anti-gay-marriage law.

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