The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

December 23, 2010
Before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' there was Oliver Sipple, U.S. Marine

A generation before "Don't ask, Don't tell" entered our lexicon, there were military men like Oliver "Billy" Sipple, who simply hid.

Sipple, the focus of this column, was the former U.S. Marine who may have saved President Gerald Ford by grabbing would be assassin, Sarah Jane Moore, outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

A moment by moment diary of how Ford spent that day, Sept. 22, 1975, makes no mention of Sipple. Moore, who was released from prison in 2008, was not named.

However, you can see several other familiar names, including Dianne Feinstein, who a few years later played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the assassination of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Here is a link to the Ford diary of that day.

Sipple died on about Jan. 19, 1989. At the time, I worked as a reporter in San Francisco and spent several days piecing together his final days, writing this article. A month later, Ford sent a touching letter that was placed in a frame on the wall at one of Sipple's favorite bars, as told in this article.

Wayne Friday was an investigator for the San Francisco District attorney who discovered that Sipple, his friend, had died alone in his apartment in January 1989.

I reached him the other day to talk about Sipple and the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell' policy which barred openly homosexual men and women from serving in the military.

"He was more embarrassed about a gay Marine than anything. In those days, you weren't allowed in if you were gay," Friday said.

Friday thinks about Sipple every time he drives south of San Francisco past Golden Gate National Cemetery where Sipple is buried.

December 3, 2010
Dan Lungren's assignment places him at center of reform debate

Rep. Dan Lungren is ascending to the chairmanship of the House Administration Committee, incoming Speaker John Boehner announced today.

That may not seem like the biggest assignment in the new Congress. But the administration committee claims jurisdiction over campaign finance law.

That places Lungren in the middle of the ever-more fierce debate over federal campaign finance legislation, and likely in conflict with many of the most vocal advocates of campaign finance restrictions.

As The Bee reported in this editorial, Lungren, R-Gold River, claims to be an advocate of full campaign finance disclosure. He is ambivalent about whether the century-old prohibition on corporations giving directly to candidates should be lifted.

But Lungren, whose district includes parts of Sacramento, Elk Grove and stretches east to the Sierra, opposes caps on direct donations to candidates, a stand that places him in conflict with advocates of strict campaign finance regulation.

In November, Lungren fended off the well-financed campaign of Democrat Ami Bera, with the help of heavy spending by an organization that is the brainchild of Karl Rove, as reported in this column.

In 2012, Lungren almost surely will face another challenge, perhaps including from the right depending on how the boundaries of the congressional districts are redrawn by the new citizens' commission on redistricting. He certainly will face another Democratic challenge. As Democrats push the issue of campaign finance disclosure, Lungren's stand is sure to be fodder for his next campaign.

December 1, 2010
Here's your chance to roast the Governator

A bunch of Capitol insiders, wannabe insiders and media types are massing tonight at the Convention Center to acknowledge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's time in office.

There will be tributes, skits and some laughs. History will determine how well Schwarzenegger performed as governor. But despite all the deficits, ballot measure fights and vetoes, the Austrian Oak certainly provided some entertainment.

As our movie star-bodybuilder governor prepares to vacate the corner office, we're offering you, our readers, a chance to praise, pan and otherwise roast his seven years in office.

We are looking for humorous, offbeat and personal items, written in a lively style in about 150 words. If you're an aspiring Rex Babin, feel free to lampoon him in a cartoon. We will publish some of your offerings in the coming days.

Please send your items to

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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