Skip to content

Why I’m Over the Ice Bucket Challenge and You Should Be Too

By Dennis Raj

Just like the Harlem Shake meme that was hot for a second and then died faster than Michelle Bachman’s presidential bid, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge appears to have won the internet and is bordering dangerously on the saturation limit before we all get bored and move on. While it’s still fresh in most people’s minds, I want to share my frustrations from my perspective as a political hack.

For those not in the know, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a genius viral fundraising strategy that has raised over $22 million to date. The rules are simple; you record a video where you dump ice water on your head while calling out friends or family to complete the challenge within 24 hours. If you complete the challenge, i.e. get doused with ice water, you only donate $10 to ALS while you are on the hook for $100 if you decline the icy dip. Everyone has gotten on board, including Bill Gates, who probably spent more money just setting up a rig to dump ice water than most people actually donated.

Read more

Fiddling While Rome Burns

By Dennis Raj

The New Yorker featured perennial Congressional candidate Ro Khanna in an article titled “The Disruption Candidate.  Right.   Disruption – aka moving fast and breaking sh*t – is how we got the Patriot Act. 

Also this last line: The last page of ‘The Great Gatsby’—I forget the line, about looking at the dock and moving toward the future and all that. The Valley is the representation of what Fitzgerald was writing about, that sense of American promise and exceptionalism. It’s tinged with the same excesses, at times, as the Roaring Twenties, but there’s also a sense of pure Americana. And the challenge for representing this place is: How do you do so in a way that’s humble?”

Isn’t it funny that he mentions Gatsby and that he glosses over the “same excesses, at times, as the roaring twenties,” when income inequality is reaching the same levels as the pre-depression era?

Read more
jumping fishv2 copy

Back with a Galactic Vengence

By Bob Brownstein

The Whopper of the Week is back. I admit one reason I’ve returned to the Left Hook is that San Jose Inside’s interview with Mayor Chuck Reed provided such an irresistible target.

First, let’s check out the whoppers in the Mayor’s discussion of the City Council’s deadlock on the sales tax issue. Chuck and 5 Councilmembers including Republicans Constant and Khamis voted for a special tax.  Four relatively liberal Democrats voted for a General Tax.  What political dynamics, the Mayor was asked, explain the deadlock?

Read more

From the ‘What was he thinking?’ Department…

By The Left Hook

Political candidates can be so entertaining.  The latest example is Milpitas City Council Candidate Garry Barbadillo who prominently posted a photo on his website of himself posing with suspended State Senator Leland Yee.  Yee, you may remember, was arrested last spring on charges of political corruption and gun trafficking (automatic firearms and shoulder launched missiles), allegedly associated with an extremist group in the Philippines.   barbadillo

The Senator was forced to drop out of this year’s race for California Secretary of State, but by then, more than 200,000 people had already decided they were going to vote for him.  We wonder if Barbadillo was one of those voters.  Yee was suspended from the Senate, and the investigation into his case is ongoing.  We’re all for innocent until proven guilty, but you have to wonder why Barbadillo thought it was a good idea to associate himself with Yee.



Recent Articles


Inspiration of Quiet Heroes Lives On

By Steve Kline

This has been a terrible summer from the violence in the Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, to Ferguson, Missouri and murders here in San Jose.  Oh I understand each one is different and perhaps the gravity and complexity of the issues involved with each should not allow them to be lumped together. But with the onslaught of violence in our world today, perhaps no greater than any other time, the times cry out for reflection to honor quiet heroes. People whose lives touched many in an inspirational way that reflected the good, the decent, the human imperfections, and the stature of being a quiet hero for our troubled world. Read more »


Work and Worth

By Robert Reich

What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society.

Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?

On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year. Read more »

PaidSickLeave Graphic

Sick Leave: State Requirement Would Mean Healthier Communities

By Ben Field and Derecka Mehrens


AB 1522 passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee with unanimous approval.  The bill is now on the floor of the Senate.  Assemblymember Gonzalez anticipates a Senate floor vote on the bill next week or the following and if it is passed out, then it needs to come back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, in which the amendments (none of which are substantive) that were taken in the Senate are approved by the Assembly. This all has to take place before August 31. If we succeed, the bill then goes to the Governor and he has 30 days to sign it or veto it.  Stay tuned!

The waitress at your favorite breakfast spot comes down with the flu. She has two children to support and an income that barely allows her to meet expenses in Silicon Valley. Here is her choice: stay at work when she shouldn’t, handling food for hundreds of customers, or lose pay (and perhaps a job) by staying home to take care of herself.

A new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that in San Jose, one in three jobs does not allow workers to earn sick leave benefits. Nationwide, that number is closer to 40 percent in the private sector, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. Read more »


Madison Nguyen Job Hunting in All the Wrong Places

By The Left Hook

Now that Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen is soon to be out of a job in San Jose City government, she’s looking around for her next gig.  After coming in  third in the race for San Jose Mayor, rumor has it that she’s eyeing the District 3 Board of Supervisors seat, which is currently held by Dave Cortese.  Never mind that she just endorsed council-mate Sam Liccardo for Mayor.  Madison’s best case scenario is that Sam loses, despite her endorsement.  Otherwise the supervisorial seat doesn’t open.  If this scenario unfolds, Madison has a problem though: she does not live in Dave Cortese’s supervisorial district.  Not only that, but she has little base of support in that part of the county.  Only 3% of Madison’s City Council District is in Cortese’s supervisorial district.  That’s not much of a base, especially since Madison’s election results in her council district are far from solid.



Earned Sick Leave an Ethical, Factual and Political No-Brainer

By Ben Spielberg

Some political debates have two equally valid sides.  More often than not, however, the evidence is significantly more one-sided than journalists and pundits suggest.  AB 1522, a bill that currently sits on the California Senate’s Committee on Appropriations on its Suspense File for consideration on August 14, is an example of legislation for which there is no ethical, intellectually honest opposition.  Three related lenses of policy analysis demonstrate why AB 1522’s change to allow California workers to earn up to three paid sick days deserves our support.

Read more »


City Council Seat? Let Me Write a Check For That

By The Left Hook

Now that campaign finance reports are out for the end of the Primary season, we can see just what kinds of games candidates are playing to make themselves look successful.

Take the case of San Jose City Council District One candidate Charles “Chappie” Jones.  Campaign reports show that Jones loaned his campaign $19,356 last spring.  At the time, his opponent Assemblymember Paul Fong had raised roughly $15,000 which was pretty close to Jones’s pre-loan amount of $16,000.  That extra $19K made it look like Chappie had raised more than he really did.  Read more »


Madison’s Coattails Are Not Just Short, They’re Non-Existent

By The Left Hook

Given that they share a conservative voting record on the City Council, Madison Nguyen’s endorsement of Sam Liccardo for Mayor comes as no surprise.  They are both to blame for the current public safety crisis and endorsing Dave Cortese would be a tacit admission that the city has crumbled under their leadership.

But if Liccardo is counting on Nguyen’s coattails consider this: The San Jose City Council District Seven race last spring had three Vietnamese-American candidates in a largely Vietnamese-American District.  Madison Nguyen, the incumbent in District 7, endorsed Buu Thai in that race.  Buu Thai came in dead last. By far.  Two other Vietnamese American candidates in that race who have been publicly critical of Madison Nguyen,  drew 31% (Tam Nguyen) and 26% (Van Le) of the vote.  Buu Thai only got 12%. Madison Nguyen’s endorsement isn’t worth much.


Special Public Safety Tax Proposal Designed To Fool Voters

By The Left Hook

UPDATE:  It looks like there will be NO public safety tax proposal on the November ballot, and NO general sales tax proposal.  The good guys on the council were able to thwart the sham of a “public safety” tax proposal and the Mayor and  his allies defeated the general sales tax plan which actually could have done some good.  Back to drawing board.

The San Jose City Council is poised to vote on a sales tax proposal under the guise that the revenue generated will be used to reduce skyrocketing crime. In reality, the tax increase has so many strings attached to it there is little likelihood the revenue will ever be collected. The scheme for a quarter-cent sales tax increase enables its supporters to claim they are doing something about the City’s out-of-control crime, when in fact a closer look at the proposal shows they are not.

Read more »


Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet for what’s going on in your community

By The Left Hook

Santa Clara County

Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants

Now that we’re out of July vacations, we have a lot more to talk about on Policy Watch. Let’s start with the most dramatic, controversial and needed:  Santa Clara County Supervisors developing a “host family” program to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied immigrant children.  Thousands of children have been streaming across the southern U.S. border fleeing violence and abject poverty in Central America and when they get here, what awaits them, in many cases, is a detention center and little of the nurturing and care these children need and deserve.  Santa Clara County Supervisors, under the request of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, pulled together a meeting of stakeholders in July and came up with the “host family” idea in which children would be evaluated and placed in homes primarily for support, housing, and daily care.  This model would not substitute for the required Federal processes.  It would merely provide a humane placement while those processes move forward. Read more »


McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions

By Steve Greenhouse

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.

Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of “joint employer,” making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations. Read more »


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: