About Us

Contact Us


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

I just want to be misunderstood.
Wanna be feared in my neighborhood.
Just wanna be a moody man.
Say things that nobody can understand.
I wanna be obscure & oblique.
Inscrutable & vague & so hard to pin down.
I wanna leave open mouths when I speak.
For people to cry when I put them down.
— Misunderstood Man, by Peter Townsend

I’m sure Townsend was writing about politicians when he penned the above. Or reporters. If there were ever two groups afraid of saying anything directly, these be the two. Shucking and jiving. Slipping and sliding. The two groups have lots in common. The higher they rise in their particular hierarchies, the less moral & ethical innards they possess. And the shorter their memories.

A case in point: I had a discussion with a supe Wednesday morning regarding Tuesday’s runoff election for city attorney. I was stoked. Not that I particularly trusted Herrera. Nor was it because I’d endorsed him over Lazarus (the best of that piece ended up on the editing room floor anyway).

Naw, it was because the biggest paper in town (the Chronicle) took another torpedo amidships vis-à-vis its credibility. I told the supe that I thought a big part of the reason that Herrera won was that the Chronicle endorsed his opponent and people just don’t trust the Chronicle. As evidence, I noted the horrible record of candidates & issues endorsed by the Chron over the past year. Supe disagreed, which I thought strange since the Chron hates him. Anyway, don’t look for any Big Phil Bronstein editorials headed: “Why nobody votes the way we tell them to anymore.”

The ever-tightening gyre

I’ve been out-or-work since August. The small savings are gone. I’m getting by on the kindness of friends, which is no way for an able-bodied adult male to live. While frustrating, it is also instructive. I got around to applying for unemployment compensation this week. We always think that just because we’re great at our job, someone will want to hire us. Not so.

The UI (unemployment insurance) isn’t for everyone either. I haven’t made over $125 a week in six years (that’s enough to live on if your living space & utilities are part of the package) and I doubt I paid enough to get anything back. Interestingly enough, the State Board of Equalization thinks I’ve done well enough over that period to not only send me tax bills for over $3,000 but also to contact my last part-time employer to attach my meager wages. It’s funny in a way. While Walter Shorenstein gets massive tax reductions from the city, the state gets me fired from the only work I can find. Anyway, for those of you about to join me in the breadline, it’s easier to get the ball rolling on state & city funds.

You can sign up for UI on-line now. You still have to fax or mail your form (5 pages) but you don’t have to go to a huge office and wait for hours to file. I faxed AND mailed my forms. The quicker I get that rejection, the quicker I can file for General Assistance. Now, that’s truly the bottom of the ego barrel.

It might be a lark if I weren’t truly busted. Sometimes you have to “bottom out” before you head back up. Living close to the edge of the economic abyss is part of the price you pay for pursuing your art.

Over the 40 years of my work life, I’ve drawn unemployment insurance two or three times and GA (General Assistance) twice. It took me less than a month to get off GA both times.

I hope it doesn’t get to that point. Food stamps. Soup lines. Bus tokens.

Humiliating stuff. While the rich get richer. The more time I have to spend fighting for basic survival, the less time I have to attack them. Sounds like an age-old tactic. It works in the short term but in the long run, it creates malcontents, radicals & finally revolutionaries.

It seems to take around 40 years for each cycle in the United States. The rich turn the screws on the poor tighter and tighter, grabbing more property and paying fewer taxes until the poor revolt. The masses of poor hit the streets with Molotov cocktails and stones. In the 60’s the streets of Detroit and Los Angeles looked like an Intifada was underway. Tanks rolled back crowds of thousands who stoned and firebombed in their rage.

Suddenly, the rich relented and created the “Great Society” under Lyndon Johnson. It had three key Ingredients. First, it provided more welfare and jobs. Second, it created huge construction programs to build more housing for the poor. Third, they started a war to give the angry (largely black) youths someone to shoot at other than them.

Forty years before the 60’s the poor also rioted. Tanks and troops repelled an army of poor estimated at over 100,000 in Washington D.C. The Republican Congress of the time handed out “bonus” checks to placate the poor.

It wasn’t enough. They were driven from office by an enraged electorate and only Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” saved the country from an outright revolution. That and, of course, a new war in a faraway place.

It’s been another 40 years. Again, the greed of the rich has concentrated wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer. They’ve grabbed most of the property. They’ve emptied massive pension funds and are moving to deplete Social Security itself. They never seem to learn. Or reach satiation. They’ve robbed entire nations of their natural resources and used their populations as slave labor. And they have a new, open-ended war created by their greed. The pot … she is a’boiling.

“Buddy, can you spare a dime?” — sobone@juno.com

h. brown