With h brown
San Francisco's Court Jester dissects
8th Congressional District debate
November 2, 2006
Three honest and intelligent candidates for the
8th Congressional Distrct seat locked in an open and intense 90-minute
debate and discussion yesterday at the Luggage
I have to say that it was the most impressive such
event I've seen in a blue moon. And, I've seen a few.
Keefer (Green Party), Mike
DeNunzio (Republican Party) and Philip
Berg (Libertarian Party) square off in a respectable debate
that lasted 90 minutes at the Luggage Store. Incumbent Nancy Pelosi
was absent after declaring she is too
busy to debate.
Let me jump right into some questions the trio
As you know, the race is for San Francisco's representative
the U.S. Congress from California's 8th congressional district
(wholly in SF but excluding the Sunset). The incumbent, Nancy
Pelosi, refused to debate as she has for 18 years. The League
of Women Voters and virtually every single media outlet in town
other than Fog City Journal has supported Pelosi's refusal to
face her opponents.
Candidates appearing were Krissy Keefer of the Greens,
Mike DeNunzio of the Republican Party and Philip Berg for the
Libertarians. The moderator was Rose Aguilar.
Panelists included Debra Walker of the Democratic
Party (who apologized that Pelosi wasn't there but just kind of
shrugged when asked why), Howard Epstein of the Republican Party
(who once told me he prays I'll burn in Hell forever - it's nice
to be noticed). Howard is the Vice Chair of the local Republican
Party. Steve DeCourt was on the panel for the Libertarians and
Erika McDonald was there for the Green Party.
Panelists Howard Epstein, Erika McDonald, Steve DeCourt and Debra
Forgive me, participants, but I'm paraphrasing and
I'll try to be fair. And, ... these are snippets.
Phil Berg: "I think that drugs should be certified the way
your washing machine is certified.
No government agency should be involved. Kind of like an Underwriters'
Lab kind of
thing. Government regulation causes great harm. (the blind candidate
reflects, then continues)
I'm HIV positive. Years ago when my lover died, there were drugs
that could have
saved him but weren't licensed for distribution. (pauses and thinks
a bit more)
A couple of years later I got full blown AIDS and lost my eyesight.
Again, the drugs
were there but a governmental agency refused to allow me access
to them. If it
weren't for the slowness of the government bureaucracy, my lover
might still be
alive and I might be able to see."
Libertarain Party candidate Philip Berg
Krissy Keefer: (amazed by the honesty of Berg's revelations)
"I think I'm more frightened now by what legal drugs are
doing to some of the people I know. Drugs aren't just
a lower class problem. Prescription drugs do every bit as much
damage as illegal drugs. The big difference is that you don't
go to jail or prison if you can afford to get a prescription."
Green Party candidate Krissy Keefer
Mike DeNunzio: Took a hard line and I didn't jot down a defining
statement. He was sympathetic to Keefer and Berg's right to an
opinion but disagreed.
Republican Party candidate Mike DeNunzio
DeNunzio: (establishes immigrant roots) "We need to secure
the borders first. Did you
know that 25% of California's prison population is made up of
Keefer: "As far as I'm concerned, anyone who isn't a native
American, is an immigrant and that includes, I think, everyone
in this room. I think the borders should be open but that a waiting
period of 5 years or so should be required before applying for
Berg: "The borders should be open. Franklin Roosevelt closed
the borders to keep out European Jews. That's how many in my family
Keefer: "I oppose it. As a renter, I realize it will be
the death of rent control. As an environmentalist, I realize it
will be the end of laws to protect the environment. Economically,
it's a return to feudal times with property owners as lords of
their manors and us as vassals."
DeNunzio: Took Republican line (not surprising, he's head of
local party). He was in agreement that there were too many regulations
hindering unfettered development but echoed the state party in
believing this was too much, too fast.
Berg: Strongly favored 90. A victory for 90 in California would
be the biggest victory in history for the Libertarians.
Right to Choose
Berg: "I don't favor governmental interference in choices
anyone wants to make with their
own body. The government is doing this piece meal, state by state.
It costs more to do something that should be your natural right.
Now, with abortion banned in some states, patients have to pay
the added expenses of travel and lodging to reach a place place
where abortion is legal. What's next? Will an American woman have
to travel all the way to India to get an abortion? That will be
pretty expensive. I oppose the notification initiative."
DeNunzio: "This is a family decision and certainly if the
subject is a minor, the parents or guardians should have a say
in the matter. I support the notification initiative."
Keefer: "I have a 14 year old daughter and I hope I've raised
her with enough love and trust that she doesn't fear me and would
come to me if she were faced with such a choice. But, I know that
for many, many young women, the last people in the world they
want to know that they're pregnant, are their parents. Telling
them could put them in physical danger. I oppose the current notification
Keefer: "The earth does have warming and cooling cycles
but most scientists agree that our consumption of fossil fuels
has accelerated the warming phase of this cycle to such a degree
that if we don't institute some kinds of controls immediately
that a situation that has already produced the likes of Katrina
will bring more calamities. I'd propose that we take the lead
of Mexico where it is forbidden to drive your car more than 5
days a week. It might not seem like much, but the results have
been amazing and not just in the energy savings. Residents of
Mexico City can now see the mountains around the city for the
first time in 50 years."
DeNunzio: "The Kyoto agreement is unnecessary and ineffectual.
Over a quarter of the world's population is exempt and today's
weather conditions are the result of natural cyclical changes
in the world's atmosphere."
Berg: "You have to allow India and China to burn their coal
so that they can lift their people out of poverty."
(from DeNunzio to opponents)
DeNunzio framed a question as to what action (as president -
lots of laughter around this one - it was all in all, a good natured
forum) ... what action the others would take if they knew from
the heads of every intelligence service in the west that Iran
and North Korea had nucler weapons and intended to attack us.
He went to great lengths to praise the use of nuclear weapons
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, he felt while costing a couple
of hundred thousand lives, saved a million.
Keefer: "Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate. We had an enemy
with 25,000 nuclear weapons threatening to attacks us for almost
half a century. But, we negotiated with them and there was no
war and now they are our allies. Bush is wrong to refuse to negotiate
with North Korea and Iran. It is arrogant and it is dangerous."
Berg: "The concept of 'MAD' ('Mutually Assured Destruction')
is not pretty. But, as Krissy pointed out, it worked for decades.
There's no reason to attack anyone without negotiating with them."
The only real argument of the evening came from the panel conducting
the forum. Epstein asked a 5 minute question (it seemed like that)
about how there were 10,000 empty units in SF, held off the rental
market by owners who hate rent control. The numbers have never
been validated, but property owners have tossed out the number
for years. Epstein asked why the Green Party platform suggested
those units should be given to the homeless. It was not true and
Howard got it in the gutt, not from Keefer, but from local Green
Party spokesperson, Erika McDonald who was sitting next to him.
It got pretty funny for a bit there while the two of them argued
away (sans microphone, but we could hear a bit) while the audience
and candidates wondered when the debate would continue.
The three candidates respected and seemed to actually like one
another. This was their 4th or 5th such forum and they know each
other by now. This, although they couldn't be more different.
DeNunzio is a hard-core, lock-step Republican functionary. Berg
is an unapologetic advocate for the virtual destruction of government.
Keefer is a radical artist who wants to reform the government
into a kinder and gentler structure. Berg talked about destroying
rent control and the entire welfare system while Keefer favored
bringing back a New Deal style WPA (Works Projects Administration)
to insure full employment. DeNunzio clearly seemed to be calling
for nuclear attacks upon at least two countries we are not presently
at war with while Keefer called for an apology from Bush and reparations
The crusher here is the media and the arrogance and sense of
entitlement of the local Democratic Party. The real issues are
only discussed in the alternative press and the major power structure
is buying them up and shutting them down as fast as possible.
That said, there were a couple of more great lines that I particularly
DeNunzio to Starchild (candidate for County Supervisor in SF's
"Oh, be quiet, I'm not listening to you!"
Starchild maintains a smile after being told by DeNunzio,
"Oh, be quiet, I'm not listening to you."
In fairness to DeNunzio, Starchild had called out a question
from the audience. That's certainly heckling and I only approve
of such disruptive conduct at public meetings by myself and my
friends. The Republican Chair's response was notable only by it's
vehemence. DeNunzio clearly recognized Starchild, the Libertarian
hunk who temps as a bi-escort.
DeNunzio clearly has no patience or tolerance.
Berg to Epstein after Howard finished a 'question' that was more
a Republican position paper:
"If you torture data or people long enough they'll tell
you what you want to hear."
Keefer on candidates being ignored by local Dems and press:
"You can't really say that Republicans are shut out of the
process. You control the major media outlets, the Congress, the
courts and the presidency. You're not exactly outsiders."
One party rule is never good. Especially, if that party's viewpoint
is shared by those who control the vast majority of media access.
San Franciscans would have loved this debate. Few even knew it
happened and fewer still will read these details. That's a recipe
for disaster. It means that only one point of view is published
with a minor nuance here or there. Most voters are too busy to
dig past the most accessible print, tube, and now (dear God) online
publications to get to the truth. So, as Lenin said: "they
try to deduce the truth from comparing the lies."
One thing about San Francisco voters though. Sometimes they
go beyond surprising you and totally knock your socks off. I think
they're going to do this in this race for Congress next Tuesday.
Keefer clearly best represents the values of San Franciscans.
She's bright, passionate, open and fearless.
Pelosi hides behind ranks of the same millionaires who now sport
Bill Clinton as an ornament on their charm bracelet. They don't
want reform. They are part of the problem. The Republicans want
status quo and that's constant war, intolerance and restrictions
upon personal freedoms. Libertarians want to destroy Rent Control
and the environment be damned.
President Bill Clinton.
A good night all around.
h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of sfbulldog.com,
an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h
is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and
a hard-living satirical muckraker. Email
h at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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