Bruce Brugmann

The back story of the celebrated Boys' Night Out at John's Grill

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By Bruce B. Brugmann (Scroll down for photo id and to see Ex- Marine Pete McCloskey jump the barricade and storm Martin's Beach) 

Boys' Night Out, a creation of press agent Lee Houskeeper, was held recently at John's Grill, home of Dashiell Hammett and the Maltese Falcon.   Houskeeper turned the falcon on its side, which meant that all of the news and gossip turned up by his newsworthy guests was privileged and could not be repeated to the outside world.

Nonetheless, the timing was perfect because the next day came the welcome news that a San Mateo Superior Court judge had ruled for the public and against a  billionaire coastal landowner to open up a valuable chunk of privately held San Mateo coastline. The Surfrider case was handled by  Attorneys Joe Cotchett and Pete McCloskey, both of whom were at the dinner.

Houskeeper, who does publicity work for Cotchett,  explained the back story to me after the dinner. He said that the Surfrider forces started "the public brouhaha" two years ago when the "Blackwater type security goons were arresting surfers who dared jump his locked Martin's Beach gate fence."  Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, had acquired the 53-acre parcel near Half Moon Bay in 2008. Houskeeper asked McCloskey, a Korean War veteran,  if he would risk arrest, jump the gate, and lead the surfers a half mile to "free" the beach. Read more »

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: His 1932 speech to the Commonwealth Club previewed the New Deal

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By Bruce B. Brugmann (with the full text of FDR's address) 

Ken Burns' documentary on the Roosevelts, broadcast last week by KQED,  was a stunning achievement and the best work Burns has done. It previewed key elements of the New Deal and provided historic context and relevance for the progressive politics of San Francisco and California. But it didn't mention a key local angle, FDR's famous speech to the Commonwealth Club on Sept. 21, 1932, in the heat of his winning campaign for president. 

I got on to the speech when Joseph J. Ellis, the noted historian, spoke to the club last year on his new book, "Revolutionary Summer, The birth of American independence." In his introduction, Ellis said that "in my view the most important political speech in the 20th century was delivered here by Franklin Roosevelt."

 The speech was written by Adolph Berle, a member of Roosevelt's "brain trust," and drew heavily on earlier progressive ideas, particularly  those of John Dewey, a leading progressive scholar who taught mainly  at Columbia University in New York. His speech is in the Commonwealth Club collection "Each a Mighty Voice," a beautiful hardcover book published by Heyday.  Here is his speech. b3

https://online.hillsdale.edu/document.doc?id=282

(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruce B. Brugmann, editor at large of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He was the editor and with his wife Jean Dibble the co-founder and co-publsher of the Guardian, 1966-2012.) Read more »

Citizen Agnos comes on strong for Proposition B in support of his Athenian oath

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By Bruce B. Brugmann  (with the complete  text of Art Agnos speech  to the  May 21 dinner of San Francisco Tomorrow)

When Art Agnos was sworn in as mayor in 1988, he used the Athenian Oath that was taken by young men reaching the age of majority in Athens 2000 years ago.  He shortened the oath (as many did) to say: “I promise…upon my honor…to leave my city better than I found it.”

For Agnos, a Greek steeped in Greek traditions, the oath was a serious matter. “At the heart of our vision,” Agnos said in his inaugural address, “ is a refusal to let San Francisco become an expensive enclave  that locks out the middle class, working families and the poor. At the center of our strategy is a belief in the basic right of people to decent jobs and housing.”  

Twenty-six years later, Citizen Agnos was working hard  in private life to leave his city better than he had found it. He led a citizens’ movement that stopped the monstrous 8 Washington project, knocked the Warriors off the piers, forced the Giants to lower their  highrise expectations,  and promoted Proposition  B that would stop  the Wall on the Waterfront and require a public vote on any increases  to current height limits on port property.

 And Agnos is having the time of his life doing all this, as he made clear in his remarks to San Francisco Tomorrow, the one organization in town that has been manning the barricades in every major Manhattanization battle all these years  on the waterfront and everywhere else.  He enjoys taking on Mayor Lee and “the high tech billionaire political network that wants to control city hall and fulfill their vision of who can live here and where.” And he must relish  the Chronicle’s C.W.Nevius and the paper’s editors and their self-immolating bouts of hysteria.   Read more »

"Monologos de la Vagina" An artistic and cultural triumph at the Brava theater in the Mission

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I had just settled into my seat Friday night at the  Brava Theater in the Mission to see  the opening night  production of “Monologos de la Vagina" and the San Francisco debut of Eliana Lopez as a performer and producer.

This would be an interesting evening, I mused, because the play is being performed in Spanish and I speak only a word or two of Spanish.  The play, known in English as the “Tne Vagina Monologs,” was written by Eve Ensler. It opened in 1994 for a five year run off Broadway and has been produced internationally in many variations. It became, as the New York Times put it, "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." .

 Art Agnos, the ex-mayor who is leading  the battle to stop the Manhattanization of the waterfront, was attending the performance  with his wife Sherry. He tapped me on the shoulder and said quietly, Bruce, they filed a lawsuit this afternoon to block our waterfront initiative. They, he explained,  were the developers, the Building Trades and Construction Union, and the San Francisco Giants.  We chatted for a few moments about the impact of the suit and what  must be done quickly to stop  it in court.

This was, I thought, a quintessential San Francisco moment. Read more »

Sue Hestor's 70th birthday party: "We Shall Overcome."

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By Bruce B. Brugmann

Plus: Tim Redmond reports on Sue Hestor and her environmental legacy on his new local  website 48 Hills.org.  

How do you say happy birthday to a San Francisco icon like Sue Hestor?

Some 200 of her friends, allies, pro bono legal clients, political heavies, and fellow warriors against big developers and their pals in City Hall gathered Saturday at Delancey Street for a surprise party to celebrate Sue's 70th birthday.

When she arrived, she was obviously surprised to find a band playing "We shall overcome" and her friends standing, clapping, cheering, and singing  in admiration for a woman who has spent more than four decades as a citizen activist and attorney fighting for one good cause after another, usually at bad odds against the big guys, often for clients without pay. It was truly a historic moment in the history of San Francisco politics. 

I first knew Sue when she popped up as a feisty volunteer in the Alvin Duskin anti-high rise campaign of the the early 1970s. The Bay Guardian was doing an investigative book, "The Ultimate HIghrise," on the impact of highrises on the city. She pitched in on the project and was in the book's  staff photo, jauntily wearing her trademark straw hat, standing next to the hole in the ground for the Yerba Buena Center development. Read more »

Joe Bulgo: The neglected hero of Pearl Harbor

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By Bruce B. Brugmann

(B3 note: reprinted from last year and to be reprinted every year by me for reasons that will become apparent upon reading this story.)

This is the incredible story of the neglected hero of Pearl Harbor.

His name is Joe Bulgo and he lived across the street from our family for years on 14th Avenue in the West Portal area. I knew him as a neighbor, and our daughter and son played with his two daughters. His wife Val for decades has sold and still sells fine jewelry in a downtown department store. Daughter Linda played the star Snow White for years in Beach Blanket Babylon and now has her own show in Las Vegas. Daughter Dianne is the catering director at the St. Francis Hotel.  And our families shared a wonderful domestic helper, Rose Zelalich.

But neither our family nor any of his neighbors had any idea of his Pearl Harbor heroism until his daughter Linda gave me a copy of a story on Joe in the December issue of the 1990 Readers Digest. Read more »

Extra! Extra! Calling all Nebraska Cornhuskers!

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How to watch the Nebraska vs. Wyoming game at 5 p.m today on 403 cable and at the Final Final bar  in SF (Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013). Plus: Some inside Nebraska football.

Well, today, first game day at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, I got out my red Nebraska cap and my white sweat socks with a red trim and the former Jean Dibble got out her red Nebraska sweater.   

Today is the opening game of the season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and we planned to watch the game. We faithfully watched every game last year and we planned to do so again this year. Jean and I are both graduates of the University of Nebraska. I was editor for a semester in the spring of 1956  of the Daily Nebraskan (known affectionately in my day as the Rag) and we plan to return in October for a grand reunion of the Rag staffs through the years.  Our grandson Nicholas Perez of Santa Barbara is a sophomore mechanical engineering student and has season tickets. And so we became even more faithful fans.

Normally, the opening game is a breeze for the Cornhuskers, but the opening game of the 1955 season, when I was the sports editor of the Rag, was a classic Nebraska loss in a state where NU football losses aren’t tolerated. Nebraska played terribly and lost, 6-0, to the University of Hawaii at Memorial Stadium in a game so humiliating that the Cornhuskers never got closer than Hawaii’s 13-yard line.

Immediately, the Nebraska press and the sports writers across the state  erupted virtually in unison and started pounding on  Bill Glassford, the coach, and kept piling  on with increasing ferocity  for the rest of the season.   Read more »

Normon Solomon: Terminal

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Edward Snowden has provided, in my estimation and that of many others, a valuable journalistic and public service. And he has accomplished what he said he wanted to do: start a public debate on the NSA and its heretofore unknown amassing of our emails and phone messages, et al.  Here's how you can help him.

Read more »

Thunder from West Portal: Quentin Kopp savages the Warriors' Embarcadero Wall and its $220 million taxpayer subsidy

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(Scroll down to read Kopp's column from the Westside Observer)

When then State Sen. Quentin Kopp was appointed to the bench in San Mateo County, some of his fellow judges took him out to lunch.  “We hope you realize you have now given up your First Amendment rights,” he was told.

Judge Kopp did as he was told and kept silent for years on the bench on the many issues he felt strongly about and would have taken on in the public arena.   Today, however, he is retired, given up judicial restraint, and is back in action exercising his First Amendment rights with gusto. Operating from a desk in the office of Atty. Peter Bagatelos in West Portal, Kopp blasted the scavengers on behalf of an initiative aimed at upending the scavenger monopoly and controlling rates (he was right.) He has fired away at the RosePak/Willie Brown/Chinatown power structure on the Central Freeway.
He regularly blasts Mayor Lee for “compliancy” on big development, District Attorney for any number of misdemeanors and indiscretions, and former Sup. Sean Elsbernd for being Sean Elsbernd.

Now, in the current edition of the Westside Observer, Kopp has hit his stride with an acidic but well argued column titled appropriately, “The Art of Picking the Public Purse.”  Read more »

Bully for the ACLU! It went after the real lawbreakers

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Scroll down to read the ACLU complaint in the New York Times story

For me, the crucial question was not whether Edward J. Snowden broke the law but whether the U.S. government had broken the law in secretly setting up and secretly expanding what the American Civil Liberties Union called its “dragnet”collection of logs of domestic phone calls.

Read more »