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Great Bastion of Journalism…No More

By Brett Bymaster

The San Jose Mercury News has become a victim of its own ideological homogeneity. The San Jose Mercury news was once a great bastion of journalism.  Described in the 90′s as “a middle-of-the-road political cast slightly tilted to the Democratic side”, the paper more recently leans decidedly right.  Throughout the 80′s, 90′s and early 2000′s, the paper reigned as one of the best in the country.  It won two Pulitzers, first in 1986, again in 1995, and then it scored three Pulitzer finalists between 2001 and 2005.  But the awards stop there, as the paper slid from balanced journalism to become the de facto Chuck Reed / Sam Liccardo political campaign vehicle.  Reed took office in 2006, the year after the newspaper’s accolades ceased.

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Speaking Out for a Living Wage

By Khanh Weinberg

One by one, they lined up and waited for their turn at the microphone.   Santa Clara County is weighing what it can do to help lift the working class of Silicon Valley out of poverty wages and these people had come with their stories – backed with powerful statistics:

  • 30% of county residents fall below the self-sufficiency standard for basic costs of  living
  • 260,024 private-sector Silicon Valley jobs don’t provide earned sick leave

In voices raw, poignant, some at times thundering, the people of Santa Clara County publicly petitioned their government to pass a countywide living wage ordinance.

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The Rising American Electorate Wants Reproductive Justice

By Lupe Rodriguez

Pop quiz: What demographic  trait do millions of unmarried women, adults under 30 and people of color have in common? You might guess it’s their relative lack of power and influence. In fact it’s exactly the opposite – potentially.  This group, known as the Rising American Electorate (RAE), could prove to be the most powerful voting bloc in the country if the majority goes to the polls.

Consider the numbers:  The RAE has accounted for 81 percent of the growth in the U.S. population from 2000 – 2010 and a spectacular 95 percent between 2008 and 2010. The population of unmarried women and Latinos in the country has grown by 8 million over that decade.

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Tech’s Diversity Problem: More Than Meets the Eye

By The Left Hook

While tech workers reap high salaries and lavish benefits, the people who cook and serve their food, maintain their offices and provide workplace security often live in poverty – and for every tech job created, four service workers are needed to support it, creating a large and growing underclass of “invisible workers” in Silicon Valley.  The issue — and startling statistics on the racial and ethnic segregation of Silicon valley — was laid out in an analysis of the Valley workforce by Working Partnerships USA, a public policy and research institute based in San Jose.   Workers who share a campus with the tech elite,  are forced to live in poverty by the high cost of living in the region. Community leaders are alarmed by the disappearance of jobs that pay a living wage, and experts in the field of social science and workforce economics, speak to the startling evidence of Silicon Valley’s economic and occupational segregation.

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Recent Articles

Congressional Candidate Ro Khanna Interview

Ro Khanna is “right-of-center on tech and business issues”…And Who Am I to Disagree.

By GlenThePlumber

Last week when the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC announced their endorsement of Democratic candidate Ro Khanna, praising him as “right-of-center on tech and business issues”, it couldn’t have been a surprise to those watching the race for California’s 17th congressional district that Khanna would be “honored” by what most Democrats would see as an insult. Since taking the number two spot in the “top-two” primary election against the sitting Democratic Congressman and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Mike Honda, Khanna has gratefully accepted conservative endorsements that would have hampered him in the primary. Read more »


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

By The Left Hook

Santa Clara County

Living Wage Ordinance

Thursday, August 29,Supervisors will accept a report from the Office of the County Executive relating to the feasibility and recommended framework for a County living-wage Ordinance and a Worker-Friendly Employer Certification Program, including progress on the compilation of an inventory of current County contracts greater than $50,000 per vendor.   Read more »


The American Workplace: There’s No ‘I’ in Team, But There Are Two in ‘Machiavellian Hell Hole‘

By Alison Gallant

There’s been a very discernible shift in the American work environment since the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008.

That’s for those Americans who are actually working full-time jobs. Just to remind you, unemployment is still painfully high. Last week’s headlines boast the ‘hot streak’ of new jobs being added to the economy and  unemployment falling to 6.2%. But if you read further in these articles you find out that real unemployment is 12.2%.

‘Real unemployment’ is a figure used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that goes beyond counting only those filing unemployment claims. It also includes those who’ve given up looking for work and run out of unemployment insurance as well as those who want to be working full-time but can only find part-time work.  I reference the bleak labor force realities in America because I want to make a larger point about the realities of those working full-time: employers know it’s an ugly market out there, and a disturbingly large share of them are using that knowledge to abuse and exploit their full-timers. Read more »


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 »

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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.




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 »

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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 »


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