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Palintology

Didn’t have time to post this Insider item here on Friday. Since it previewed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s appearance Sunday at a GOP fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, we’ll run it in a shorter, modified form with some additional comments thrown in.

First, a couple things we noticed from MediaNews (and San Jose Mercury News) reporter Mary Ann Ostrom’s account of the event.

According to Ostrom, Siebel Systems founder Tom Siebel introduced Palin to the crowd by saying, in part, “Sarah Palin carries the flag of outrage … for each of us who cries out, ‘We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.’”

Whuh? What are Tom and these people he’s referring to mad about? The last eight years of leadership under President George W. Bush? The Congress that’s been led by a Republican majority for six out of the past eight years? (And effectively filibustered by a Republican minority the past two years, on those occasions when Congressional Democrats weren’t kowtowing to the president’s demands.)

Tom and Sarah’s being mad about the status quo in Washington makes about as much sense as John McCain’s declaring that Obama is “angry,” when McCain lately has looked like he’s about to pop at the seams.

Palin reportedly got a good laugh during the fundraiser with a line about Tina Fey, who’s been parodying her recently on “Saturday Night Live,” saying she’s giving Tina Fey good “job security.”

Except not really, because Tina Fey has been playing her on “SNL,” a show for which she no longer works. In a broad sense, you could argue that Fey’s crushing portrayals of Palin have elevated her already brilliant career to new heights. But it’s not like she was scuffling. She’s won a slew of Emmys and Golden Globes for her new show, “30 Rock,” though TV ratings remain low. It’s a minor point, but we can’t resist the urge not to give Palin credit for anything.

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Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Burlingame, Joe Biden, John McCain, Political Campaigns, Sarah Palin | No Comments »

A coup for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

[This post, which has been slightly altered, was originally published Sept. 20.]

We’ve given San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks a rough time over the past year and a half, what with the Las Vegas brothel debacle and all, but the county’s law enforcement team took a big step toward redemption last month with the capture of Josue Raul “Ojitos” Orozco in Texas.

Orozco escaped from the county’s brand-spanking-new Youth Services Center on Feb. 14 and was thought at various points to have absconded to the Central Valley, Mexico or planet Saturn.

To be honest, we thought this dude was gone. Whether “Ojitos” was sipping mojitos in Central America or holed up in a shack in Modesto, the Insider didn’t have much confidence we’d ever hear from him again.

But a tip led sheriff’s investigators to contact law enforcement officials in San Antonio, who brought the 18-year-old reputed gang member and homicide suspect into custody.

Turns out this isn't where Orozco was hiding.

(Turns out this isn't where Orozco was hiding.)

Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Lunny declined to elaborate on the nature of the tip because of concerns about retaliation.

“We’re talking about someone that shot and killed someone else and it didn’t apparently bother him at all,” Lunny said. “I don’t want that to happen to someone else.”

Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, San Mateo County, Sheriff's Office | 1 Comment »

More local reaction to Gov. Sarah Palin (expanded Web version)

Here’s a longer, more in-depth version of Saturday’s print version of the Insider.

For those who follow politics closely, it feels like a long, long time has passed since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage Aug. 29 as Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

After several days of negative media attention, the storm dissipated last Wednesday when she gave a sharp, snarky and smoothly delivered speech that electrified the party faithful at the Republican National Convention, dispelling some doubts about her addition to the ticket.

The long-term effects of her entry into the race remain unclear. Will the shine of her speech fade as voters learn more about her history in Alaska, from Troopergate to tax hikes? Will McCain’s fourth-quarter substitution of family values for national security boost or destroy his chance for an upset? (The answer so far is: boost.)

Local Republican Greg Conlon, who is running for a House seat against Jackie Speier, was inside St. Paul, Minn.’s Xcel Energy Center Sept. 3 when Wasilla Mooseburger breathed life into what had been a low-wattage convention. It was “spontaneous combustion when Palin hit the floor,” Conlon recalled on Friday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Greg Conlon, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Boxer reacts to Palin’s speech

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., speaking Wednesday in Hayward and rocking a longer-than-usual haircut.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., speaking Wednesday in Hayward and rocking a longer-than-usual haircut.

Sen. Barbara Boxer has released a statement panning Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s speech last night. (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a more favorable response.) Here ’tis:

“Last night, Sarah Palin proved that she can throw a punch — one packed with sarcasm to divert attention from her lack of experience.

“Palin didn’t even attempt to make the case to the American people that she is ready to be Vice President or President, should that become necessary. Sarah Palin is a great candidate for the far right, but after examining her slim record in office, I cannot imagine mainstream Americans would support a Vice Presidential nominee with such extreme views.

“Palin would criminalize abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and does not believe insurance companies should cover birth control.

“Palin remains unconvinced that human activity is the cause of global warming, even though the world’s leading scientists unequivocally agree that it is.

“Palin has a one-dimensional answer to our energy crisis — the Exxon policy of giving more leases to Big Oil. She has no concern about our thriving coastal, tourism-based economy and no requirement that they drill in the millions of acres where they already hold undeveloped leases. Sarah Palin is a candidate who is extreme, not mainstream.

“In addition, Palin is under investigation by her state legislature for abusing her executive power and when she was mayor, she left the people of Wasilla in debt.

“The choice of Sarah Palin by John McCain shows a real lack of judgment.”

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge continues to try to do his best as America’s media “tone setter” to tilt the momentum of the campaign narrative back in McCain and Palin’s favor.

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Party, Political Campaigns | 4 Comments »

Local reaction to Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

A lot has happened since we spoke with Rep. Anna Eshoo and San Mateo County supervisor Rich Gordon last Friday about the announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s pick for the job of vice president.

There’s been a media storm about Palin’s credentials, McCain’s vetting process and the news that the governor’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Then the storm broke last night with Palin’s powerful, if rather snide, speech before the Republican National Convention, which sent a jolt of energy through the party and caused chants of “Drill, baby, drill!” (the Republicans sure have a sophisticated take on energy policy, don’t they?) to bounce off the walls of St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

Now a new media cycle begins, and the Democrats aren’t likely to underestimate Palin any longer. We’ll be getting a fresh perspective from local Democrats and Republicans in the next couple days. In the meantime, here, from Saturday’s print edition of the Insider, is what Eshoo and Gordon had to say when the pick was first made public

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was just as thunderstruck as many Americans by McCain’s choice of Palin.

Using words like “bizarre” and “startling,” Eshoo said McCain’s surprise pick showed that the GOP is a “panicked party” right now. It also reminded her of Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“He hit McCain squarely on temperament and choices,” said Eshoo, who is pictured below, “and you see today the baffling, baffling choice in terms of his judgment for the person who would be a heartbeat from the Oval Office.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo

Republicans swarmed cable news broadcasts last Friday, spinning the choice of Palin as a bold stroke that restores McCain’s faded maverick image, endears him to fundamentalist voters, appeals to women and blunts Obama’s power as a once-in-a-lifetime candidate.

But the McCain camp has yet to come up with a compelling argument for Palin in the key area of national security, an issue that’s been the center of gravity for his campaign. (The arguments that Palin is in charge of the Alaska National Guard, except when it’s deployed overseas, and that Alaska is close to Russia haven’t cut it.)

With the country facing, in McCain’s view, multiple international crises that threaten America’s existence, from Islamic terrorists to Iran and Russia’s recent muscle-flexing in Georgia, he now asks voters to accept the premise that a two-year governor in a sparsely populated state, someone whose knowledge of foreign affairs appears to be paper-thin, is ready to become commander in chief if McCain, 72, should fall ill.

“In plain English, I think it’s a disaster for them,” Eshoo said last week.

Gordon, who joined Eshoo in Denver last week as a member of the California delegation, said last Friday that Palin was “a strange pick.”

County Supervisor Rich Gordon hugs Rep. Anna Eshoo last month at his wedding shower.

“If he thinks that that pick is going to draw women who supported Hillary Clinton, I think he’s terribly wrong and made a huge mistake,” said Gordon, pictured above getting a hug from Eshoo at his wedding shower in July.

Women won’t just vote for someone because they’re female, he said. They’ll look at the issues, including Palin’s strong pro-life stance.

The Insider tried to reach several Republicans for their perspective on Friday, but we were unsuccessful.

Catherine Brinkman, a Republican who is running for state Assembly in District 19, did not get back to us.

Our attempt to reach Karen King, chair of the county Republican Party, was a window into the state of the local GOP. Although the headquarters lists a separate fax line, the main number for the party office gave off a fax signal every time we tried it Friday afternoon.

When we called the fax number, just for kicks, we got a voice message for a local photography business. And an e-mail to the address listed on the Web site was kicked back as undeliverable.

Greg Conlon, who is challenging Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, for a seat in Congress, was not able to respond to us in time for the print edition, but we got an e-mail from him Saturday.

“I believe it is great to have a young woman on the ticket who has to also be considered her own woman,” Conlon said of Palin, “because she won as a woman when (Alaska) was going through a Republican scandal, that she was not part of, and won as someone who was willing to take on the oil companies for the oil spill damages.”

Palin also “will make it difficult for the Hillary Clinton supporters to not vote for a women who is up to taking on the establishment and winning,” Conlon added.

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, Rich Gordon, San Mateo County | 2 Comments »

The Speier and Eshoo update

Before Jackie Speier learned about the handiness of the bicycle rickshaw, she wore out her feet Monday trekking from one event to the next in downtown Denver. She estimates she walked six miles that day, much of it in high heels. She was eventually forced to stop and buy a pair of flats to ease the pain.

John Kerry spoke at a delegates breakfast Wednesday morning and tore the roof off with a speech that was very much like the one he delivered later that day at the Pepsi Center. Speier said the speech reinforced her opinion that John McCain is an “extremist,” from foreign policy to abortion, and not a maverick.

At a lunch hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer later that day and put on by none another than local Democratic Party insider Joe Cotchett, California’s junior senator regaled the crowd with stories of her interactions with McCain when she first got to Washington in 1992.

Boxer recalled seeing flashes of McCain’s anger on more than one occasion, said Speier, who like Barack Obama himself Thursday night questioned whether McCain has the temperament to be a steady commander in chief.

“The question I would ask is, do we really want someone like that holding on to the red phone?” said Speier.

Speier wanted to see her fellow Democrats go on the offensive against McCain during the convention. Rep. Anna Eshoo had a different approach, warning that bashing McCain too aggressively could produce a backlash.

“By the time the TVs are off with the closing of the convention, (voters) need to be left with the impression that it was thoughtful,” Eshoo said. “This is not about (a) bumper sticker mentality. That’s what the Republicans like to do, but that’s not enough. It’s about the future of our country.”

Nevertheless, Eshoo predicted Wednesday, by the end of the convention, “The lines will have been drawn.”

We’re trying to check in with both Speier and Eshoo today to see if the final 24 hours of the convention lived up to their expectations.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Speier and Eshoo in Denver

[Update: We were snowed under Thursday. We'll have a full account from Speier and Eshoo, as well as San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, on Friday. Apologies for the delay.]

We talked Wednesday afternoon to both Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, who shared their thoughts on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s speech Tuesday night, among other subjects.

What else did they talk about? Speier mentioned some interesting remarks that Sen. Barbara Boxer made about John McCain, while Eshoo offered up a vision for a successful finish to the Democratic National Convention that keeps McCain bashing to a minimum.

Check back here Thursday morning for more on those subject and few others.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Tip of the Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

[This post was updated Tuesday. See below.]

Rep. Jackie Speier, who is now in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, paid a visit to the Times last week to provide an update on her first year in Washington.

Speier touched on several topics over the course of about 45 minutes, starting with the first federal bill she’s authored, an attempt to lower America’s oil consumption by setting a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban regions and 65 mph in rural areas.

The legislation has sparked a bit of an outcry, which is understandable, since Americans love their cars and love to drive fast. Great numbers of U.S. citizens enjoy watching automobiles drive in a circle for hours, and they’ll pay large sums and absorb near-fatal doses of sunlight to do it.

But Speier said she’s not deterred by the criticism.

“I’m not there to make friends,” she said. “I’m there to do the people’s work.”

Speier said reducing oil consumption is the sort of thing that’s missing right now from the national debate about energy, with Republicans screaming for offshore oil drilling that won’t yield its miniscule benefits for more than a decade and Democrats pushing for alternative-energy incentives.

Speier acknowledged that it’s unlikely H.R. 6458 will get a hearing during the September congressional session, meaning the bill may not get off the ground until next year.

In case you were wondering, all of Highway 101 from San Jose to San Francisco would be a 60 mph zone, according to federal guidelines for defining urban and rural areas.

Speier also offered her take on a subject that’s had many liberals on edge for weeks: Barack Obama’s recent inability or unwillingness to counter the relentless attacks from his Republican opponent’s newly dirty campaign.

(As Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote on Monday, “many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight.”)

It had been one bad news cycle after another for Obama during the month of August, at least until last week when John McCain forgot how many houses he and his wife own and cable TV news shows began obsessing about Obama’s choice for vice president.

But Speier said she’s confident that Obama will pull out of it. Obama is a quick study, she said, and he’s more aggressive in responding to political attacks than John Kerry was in 2004.

“The truth is the public loves a competition,” Speier said of the presidential race. “They want it to be close right now.”

(The Insider happens to agree with this assessment, but only if you substitute the word “media” for the word “public.”)

“They’re swiftboating” Obama, Speier said of the McCain campaign, which is now being run by political operatives who learned their trade at the hooves, er, feet, of Karl Rove.

The common perception in 2004 was that Kerry’s biggest strength was his military experience, which could protect him from Republican smears suggesting he hated America and despised the troops.

Obama’s biggest strength is his personal magnetism, which makes McCain look creaky and creepy by comparison, so the McCain team has launched its “celebrity” ads to turn Obama’s star power against him, Speier said.

“You take someone’s absolute strength and try to wrap it around their neck and choke them,” said Speier.

Speier said Obama needs to frame the election around the Supreme Court, since the next president will choose as many as two or three justices. The choices to replace the justices who are on the verge of retirement will have a major impact for “the rest of this century,” Speier said.

UPDATE:

A few other observations from the interview.

– Regarding an account we’d heard indicating that Speier has been surprised by the arduousness of her commute to and from Washington, Speier confirmed that, especially in the first months, the travel has been hard.

When Congress is in session, Speier typically flies to Washington first thing Monday morning and returns Friday on a late afternoon flight so she can spend the weekends with her family.

“My body doesn’t know what time zone it’s in anymore,” she said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Activism, Barack Obama, Jackie Speier | No Comments »

Fond memories of a pugilist

Pat Valentino and Ezzard Charles before their 1949 title bout

Pat Valentino and Ezzard Charles before their 1949 title bout

There’s nothing political about this, but it sounded like a good time.

Molloy’s Tavern in Colma held a memorial get-together last Sunday for San Francisco boxer Pat Valentino — a distant relative of silent film legend Rudolph Valentino — who died last month at the reported age of 88.

Tavern co-owner Blanid Molloy said the reason for the memorial is the bar’s celebration of boxing history and the fact that Valentino used to train in Colma. Valentino’s son Ken was on hand, in addition to a contingent of Teamsters (Valentino was a member) and fighters.

Valentino had a colorful history and a pretty good career as a heavyweight fighter. In a 2004 interview with the Oakland Tribune, Valentino recalled both a 1949 fight he lost to heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles at the Cow Palace and his regrets about his manager.

“I wish I had someone to advise me,” said Valentino, sounding more than a little like Marlon Brando in “Along the Waterfront.”

“I had to pick a manager who was a used-car salesman. He didn’t care about me,” Valentino continued. “When I got in the ring with Charles, my manager said to take it easy. I said, ‘Take it easy?’ He must have had money on Charles.”

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Colma | No Comments »

A local connection to Oaktown scandal

It turns out there’s a local angle to the case of Deborah Edgerly, the former administrator for the city of Oakland.

Edgerly (pictured below and to the right) was fired last month by Mayor Ron Dellums after she was suspected of tipping her nephew off to a gang investigation being conducted by Oakland police.

But that was just one of myriad improper things Edgerly is now accused of having done during her time at the top of Oakland’s bureaucratic pyramid. And many of those allegations are contained in a civil lawsuit filed against her by Millbrae’s finance director, LaRae Brown.

Brown served as Oakland’s controller until March 2007, when Edgerly fired her. In her suit, filed June 8 in Alameda County Superior Court, Brown said she was let go in retaliation after she uncovered all sorts unethical practices taking place on Edgerly’s watch.

Brown said she discovered in 2006 that the city’s payroll and accounting practices were completely out of whack and that Edgerly was overstating the city’s cash balance by $172 million.

But when she took her concerns to her supervisor, she was stonewalled, and Edgerly continued to provide misleading financial reports to the City Council, according to the suit, which surmises that Edgerly wanted to prevent the bad news from surfacing prior to her planned retirement in 2008.

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Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Corruption, Millbrae | No Comments »