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With h brown

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

San Francisco's Court Jester dissects
8th Congressional District debate


November 2, 2006

By h. Brown

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 Store Gallery.

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.

Krissy 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 pondered.

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 Walker.

Forgive me, participants, but I'm paraphrasing and I'll try to be fair. And, ... these are snippets.

Illegal Drugs

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 pauses and
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 illegal immigrants?"

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 citizenship."

Berg: "The borders should be open. Franklin Roosevelt closed the borders to keep out European Jews. That's how many in my family died."

Prop 90

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 initiative.

Global Warming

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."

Nuclear Threats

(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 for Iraq.

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 enjoyed.

DeNunzio to Starchild (candidate for County Supervisor in SF's D-8):

"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 h@ludd.net.


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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