Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oakland Mayor's Race: Ron Dellums running; Rebecca Kaplan should not run

Oakand Mayor Ron Dellums 
In the 2010 Oakland Mayor's Race, this news: Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is running for reelection.

This blogger learned the news from a good friend who's been involved in Oakland political and nonprofit circles for over 3 decades. In the "funny who you see on the same plane flight" book, this person was on the same San Francisco to Chicago flight late Tuesday night. That's when the information that's been largely hidden from the public was shared.

"Dellums is going to give it a go and see what happens" the person said. Also Mayor Dellums had a fund-raiser over the weekend. The foundation for Ron Dellums' campaign for reelection as Mayor of Oakland has started.

While, as of this writing, I still don't think Dellums can win, the Mayor does have three things going for him. First, he's the incumbent and he's theoretically able to defend his record better than anyone else. Second, and perhaps this may be the first asset, he's the only African American candidate for Mayor of Oakland as of this writing. Third, reportedly some Oaklanders are looking at the other current choices for the Mayor's race - Councilmembers Jean Quan (District 4) and Rebecca Kaplan (At Large), Green Party candidate Don Macleay, and the legendary former State Senator Don Perata and are taking another look, a more positive one, at Mayor Dellums.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
In that field, I don't think Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan should run for mayor at this time. The reason is that Rebecca, from this view, is not the elected official she can be. The basic problem is Councilmember Kaplan does not hold herself in such a way that one can look and say "That person can and should be mayor."

Insiders I've talked to observe that the only thing she's known for is passing "Oakland Mai Tai Day." Moreover, personally, Councilmember Kaplan has been prone to not see the side of those who disagree with her.

This is not something personally seen in the past by this blogger; but it did become starkly obvious at an event at Ozumo's Restaurant. We were talking about the Oakland Parking issue, when I observed that it seems Oakland's trying to balance its budget on the backs of its poor.

Rather than disagree in a way I was used to, which is calmly and intelligently, the Councilmember yelled at me at the top of her lungs that I was wrong, and fired off several choice words.

I maintained calm and listened to her massive, unexpected rant. Rebecca Kaplan's best asset is her Chief of Staff Andre Jones. He's a reasoned, intelligent, excellent representative of her office. The fear in this space is that if Kaplan runs for Mayor of Oakland and wins, she will act in a way that's not fitting for the office.  In my case, Rebecca did not apologize to me and still has not as of this writing.

I've held back on this for some time because I really have supported and do like Rebecca. But being in the office - achieving the objective for which she's long struggled to obtain - has changed her. When Rebecca Kaplan the candidate needed this blogger's support, she never acted that way. And while some may get a childish kick out of this, it's a sad day when such behavior is rewarded in an elected official.  I don't mind being disliked, but being disrespected is uncalled for.

While others have stories, I'll not repeat them. This is written with the objective of causing Councilmember Kaplan to be a better Oakland elected official. A person who can not only want to be mayor, but have everyone say she should be mayor. I get that she has a powerful base in the Oakland LGBT community and the time has come for a person from the LGBT community to be mayor, but that does not mean Rebecca is ready to be mayor.

A good mayoral candidate listens to people and wants to represent all of Oakland, not just a part of it. Rebecca can be that person, but 2010 is not the right time as she needs to grow.

Here's hoping she does.

Blockshopper enabling stalkers with home owner information website, a place where one can go to obtain information on home sales, is enabling stalkers with its home owner information website.

A good friend  brought the site to this blogger's attention because when that person's name is searched on Google, their personal information on where they live comes up first.

The firm's service covers Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, South Florida, St. Louis, Washingon D.C., and several other cities.

It's scary.

But what's even worse is has a legion of people complaining about its practice of posting what it claims is public information on its website. has several pages devoted to's practice, and where the company claims that they have the right to do it. But what's more shocking is the St. Louis-based Blockshopper is not addressing the requests of those who complain that they don't want their information on the site.

What's more, Blockshopper's using its Twitter account to communicate housing transactions on its website. It's here: @blockshopper.

Individuals of small means have no way to make Blockshopper stop. One has to be the size of a company like Jones Day, which successfully sued Blockshopper based on a technicality. This is the description of the firm on the case information webpage:

Founded in 2006, is a start-up local online real estate news service covering Chicago, South Florida, Las Vegas, and St. Louis. Its reporting staff is made up of ex-print journalists who collect public real estate sales data, then use information in the public domain (e.g. company web sites) to write news stories about recent transactions. BlockShopper currently produces upwards of 1,000 stories per month and has produced more than 8,000 since its founding, many of which appear in print newspapers as part of content-sharing partnerships with companies like Tribune. Three of those stories, all on BlockShopper's Chicago web site, reported the real estate transactions of partners and associates from Jones Day, the large international law firm.

Jones Day sued on Aug. 12, 2008 in federal court in Illinois. The complaint alleges that infringed and diluted the firm's service mark and violated state trademark and unfair competition laws by using the word "Jones Day" when referring to the real estate transactions of Jones Day attorneys, linking to its site and using lawyers’ photos from its site. The firm contends that these activities creates the false impression that Jones Day is affiliated with or sponsors

Jones Day was granted a temporary restraining order.

The problem is that while claims the information used is "public" it's not easily available via search without the company's website posting. So is for all practical purposes making public but not easily obtainable information truly public and easy to get from the perspective of ease of access.

This is a matter for the California Attorney General to wade into.

UPDATE: I received this note below from Blockhopper:

Hi Zennie-- Read your post this morning.

It includes two errors I'd like to call to your attention.

1- We weren't "successfully sued" by Jones Day. To the contrary, they
frivolously sued us and then begged us to let them drop the case after
suffering through several months of terrible publicity.

A renowned First Amendment lawyer took our case pro bono, and the
Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen, among other
pro-free speech groups, organized on our behalf against them.

Jones Day tried to bully us into treating its lawyers differently,
hiding their real estate sales information from the public. They
failed because we stood up to them.

2- Real estate transactions and owner/buyer/seller names are not
"quasi private" information.

They are public, collected and published by county governments for
purposes of guaranteeing title and (fairly) assessing taxes.

To be sure, hiding names of owners/buyers/sellers makes life easier
for mortgage fraudsters and politicians doling out favors, like the
Chicago Congressman caught paying $270 a year in property taxes on his
multi-million dollar home.

You obviously disagree, but we believe this information should be even
more public, not less. We understand there are trade-offs, but we
believe they are worth it.

Thanks for reading, glad to discuss further if you have any interest.


Stay tuned.

NY Times says Arthur Sulzberger Jr. took five percent pay cut in 2009

The New York Times' public relations office, taking issue with this blogger's post entitled "New York Times' Arthur Sulzberger Jr. takes huge raise; laid off staff", says Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman and Publisher of The New York Times Company since 1997, and Janet Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer of The New York Times Company, took a five percent pay cut in 2009 as did other staff members.

The NY Times PR department then kindly provided a copy of the NY Times 2010 Proxy Statement, which is linked to here so you can download a copy of it.

The NY Times Proxy Statement gives a bigger picture than what's reported, but it does not allow one, either Arthur Sulzberger Jr. or Janet Robinson, to paint a picture that they, like the rank-and-file non-executive staff, had their overall take home pay - salary and compensation - reduced. Indeed, the NY Times 2010 Proxy Statement paints an uglier picture.

A good, close read beyond this is recommended, but the basics are that in 2008 Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s total compensation was $2,331,599 and in 2009 it was $5,986,738; that's an almost doubled increase in one year. In 2008, Janet Robinson took home $4,753,314; in 2009 (end of year) it was $6,262,755. That's over $2 million more to her in one year.

Much has been written about the compensation given for meeting performance targets such as increased revenues and profit. But the problem with the overall set of compensation targets is that not one of them gives a monetary bonus for creative ways of maintenance of staff levels. For example, compensation is given for hiring minorities, but it says nothing about firing them. Thus setting up the possible existence of a last hired (for the minority bonus), first fired (for the cost cut bonus) structure.

That's nothing to brag about.

Mr. Sulzberger and Ms. Robinson should make a bold statement and pour their compensation - or some of it - back into the New York Times Company and rehire some of the people who were let go. It would win new friends and make new fans of the New York Times Company and of the publication.

Stay tuned.

The Obama health care reform bill: pass it now

As the U.S. House of Representatives lines up on the "up or down" vote on Health Care Reform, it's important to remind everyone of where we are today, and why it's important to pass this bill. There are not only an estimated 31 million without health insurance, but the number may very well have grown when the current and seemingly never ending wave of job losses is considered.

It's not a static number.

To go over to a health care facility like Oakland's Highland Hospital's Emergency Room, or San Francisco General's or any similar place in many large American cities and see upwards of 200 people packed, standing-room only is heart-breaking. To see so many people turned away from badly needed health care is not a practice America should be known for, but it is.

Every time Health Care Reform is talked about, someone issues the words "government control" even when the public option's not in the bill. What that means is some people who want to be couch potato Conservatives don't want to pay attention to substance and are only comfortable with fluff. With anger. With maintenance of the status quo for reasons even they aren't sure of when pressed.

Some of the protesters against Health Care Reform are down right mean. Take this video of a crowd who jeered a man suffering from Parkinson's Disease on Tuesday:

When people say that America's educational system has declined, it's obvious from the behavior of the people in that video. They can't have a reasonable conversation because they don't study. Detail is lost on them.

For example, there's no evidence that the bill will be more costly for small business. In fact, if one reads the part of the information website that concerns small businesses, it provides tax credits to help small businesses afford health care, if they choose to provide it. Business taxes will not go up.

There are some Conservatives who don't want Health Care Reform to pass just because it's connected to President Obama and he's black. As pointed out by blogger Oliver Willis and Talking Points Memo, Rep David Scott (D-GA), received racist hate mail where President Obama was painted as The Joker and with a Swastika on his forehead:

Crazy behavior designed to scare people. But it's also a symbol of a time where America has two Worlds: educated and not. What's happening is those who aren't well-educated refuse to hear anyone else talk. There's an element of, yes, bitterness, here. But the end result is to only hurt themselves. Health Care Reform will help those who don't have health insurance, including many of those who protest against it.

The bottom line is the following Democratic House Members must fall in line and back Heath Care Reform: John Barrow (D- GA), John Adler (D - N.J.), Harry Teague (D-N.M.), John Tanner (D- TENN.), Brian Baird (D- WASH.) and Bart Gordon (D- TENN.). That would produce enough votes for passage of the bill.

Democrats must wake up an not side with those who refuse to educate themselves and represent hate and racism. That clouds the real issue, which is making our health care system better for all Americans.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Georgia. This blogger celebrated St. Patrick, called the champion of Irish Christianity and the symbol of Irish culture, in a bit of a different way. My Mother's husband and my stepfather Chester Yerger passed away on March 17th, 2005 of complications generated from the spread of prostate cancer. So, every year my Mom's done something to remember him by, generally traveling to some place they used to go to.

But this year, she elected to stay home, so I joined her so she would not be alone. I've spent most of this day in the air to be here. As I get older, spending as much quality time with my Mother, who's my only remaining direct family person - and I'm the only child - means a lot. The same year, 2005, that January, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. But thanks to early detection, radiation, and a then-new drug called Femara, she beat it and was declared cancer-free April 17th of 2005.

That same year, I lost my biological father, Zenophon Abraham,Sr., to prostate cancer, October 16th. That was a hard, life changing year.

So, today, I did finally wear my green today and so did my Mom. I'm glad she's here and I'm able to do that with her.

Chris Dodd's financial reform package is not the right step

Retiring Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has presented what's called a "sweeping financial regulatory reform bill" by The Huffington Post, that's designed to prevent future Wall Street bailouts from occurring. But Senator Dodd's bill, while pointing to America's displeasure with Wall Street, is not the tonic that will help the country.

What's forgotten in all of this well-needed rush to reform the financial industry, is that the weak economy created this mess. Simple logic dictates that having good, well-paying jobs in many sectors, not just a few, will allow American workers to pay their loans. The popular idea is that sub-prime mortgages caused the economic problem the Obama Administration is working to get Americans out of. But that's not the problem, poor new job production has been the issue challenging America for most of the first decade of the 21st Century.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February there were 1.2 million "discouraged workers" or people who could not find a job, and that was up 476,000 from a year earlier (2009). And that's one of a number of measures that show jobs are still the number one problem.

The best solution is one that the Obama Administration seems loath to adopt but right for its time: Economic Nationalism. The idea that domestic policies should cause the development of American-controlled production with the objective of increasing the jobs base. Economic Nationalism has been the basis for the growth of economies in Japan, Taiwan, China, and The European Union. The United States economy has been picked apart by worldwide economic nationalist policies.

The only way America will have a fighting chance to revive its economy is by replicating the economic policies and corporate strategies used against it for so many decades. Maintaining a healthly jobs-producing economy must be the first priority.