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Considering a trip to Washington

Belmont resident Leslie Williams, a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, heard about his invitation to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration just like the rest of us –- in the news.

Williams, 89, said he hasn’t received an actual invitation yet, but he’s not particularly worried. The federal government was able to track him down, after all, when the Airmen were invited to Washington in 2007 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

“That was a very significant part of my life, regardless of the circumstances,” Williams said last week, referring to the racism he and the other black pilots encountered.

The question right now is whether Williams will be able to make it to the Jan. 20 extravaganza. He’s still recovering from a fall he suffered while visiting his wife in the hospital.

At the moment, he’s not sure if it would be wise to go, given the massive crowds that are expected for the inauguration, not to mention the cold — and possibly icy — weather.

Williams said he’ll see how he feels next month. In the meantime, he’ll keep an eye out for any mail with a return address from the District of Columbia.

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Belmont, Democratic Party | No Comments »

Speier statement on auto bailout deal

Rep. Jackie Speier voted with the majority in the House on Wednesday and issued a statement about the deal:

“The American auto industry must clean up its act. Its decades-long obsession with gas-guzzling vehicles is over. The European Union has mandated that cars achieve fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon by 2015 and we need to make sure that the good jobs that will come from these fuel-efficient vehicles are also created here in America.

“It’s important to note that other industrialized countries are stepping up to support their automobile industries and we should do no less during this time of global financial upheaval. This is not just about the economy, it’s about national security.

“This bill is palatable only because it is a short-term bridge loan and taxpayers will have a preferred position for repayment. Longer-term support is predicated on an agreement by the car makers to restructure — or make progress towards restructuring — by March 31, 2009. The restructuring plans should demonstrate that the companies can do four things:

1) Survive and thrive against global competition
2) Meet the mandated 2020 mileage standard by 2015
3) Pay back taxpayers
4) Replace the leadership at GM and Chrysler

“Given new management, new goals and secure financing, I think the industry can thrive. But let us not underestimate the Herculean effort that must be made by everyone involved in the industry. Tonight is either a new dawn for the American auto industry or the twilight of its end. The choice will become apparent in the next three-and-a-half months. America stands ready to offer a hand up but not a hand out.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Democrats say: Put it to a vote!

The San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee has adopted a resolution urging the county to hold an open election to fill the seat of departing Supervisor Jerry Hill, who is off to Sacramento, rather than make an appointment.

“The person who is elected or appointed to fill Jerry Hill’s seat will likely remain on the (Board of Supervisors) until he or she is termed out in 2022,” committee member Nick Akers, author of the resolution, said in a statement.

“Our county’s at-large system for electing supervisors gives a strong advantage to incumbents,” Akers continued. “It has been nearly three decades since a supervisor running for re-election has been defeated. The people of San Mateo County should be given the opportunity to fill this open seat.”

Committee members voted “overwhelmingly” on Nov. 20 in favor of the resolution for an election. They’re looking to peg a special county election to an anticipated special statewide election in June 2009.

Not that the San Mateo County government has a reputation for being clubby and nontransparent — cough, cough — but the Insider agrees with local Democrats that holding an election to fill the seat of Assemblyman Hill, irrespective of the cost, would be the democratic thing to do.

Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Local Races, Aaron Kinney, Assembly, Board of Supervisors, Democratic Party, Elections Office, Gene Mullin, Jerry Hill, Political Campaigns, San Mateo County, Warren Slocum | No Comments »

Newsweek’s 1978 Jonestown issue

The Times, in preparation for Sunday’s story on the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, got ahold of a copy of the Dec. 4, 1978, issue of Newsweek magazine, which featured a 26-page special report on the calamity that unfolded that Nov. 18.

It was an impressive and comprehensive report, and we’ll get to it in a minute. But first we have to touch on the most remarkable thing about the issue: the advertising, which looks like was it produced on a different planet.

This single installment of Newsweek contained 23 separate full-page liquor ads, from Christian Brothers and Crown Royal to Seagram’s and Tanqueray.

One ad for Wolfschmidt vodka consists of a gauzy photo depicting a czar, his wife and an enormous dog at the foot of a marble staircase, with copy recalling an age when the czar was a “giant among men” who could “bend an iron bar on his bare knee” and had a “thirst for life like no man alive.”

(The ad reproduced above is not the same one we’re describing but it’s from the same series. Copy is the same, and the wolfman-like czar, lady and dog are the same, though the pose is different. Link to the site that uploaded the image here.)

Leafing through these ads, we realized: No wonder print journalism is in an advertising tailspin. All those politically correct do-gooders in Washington have restricted the rights of liquor companies to cater to Americans’ unslakeable thirst for booze.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Jonestown, Leo Ryan, San Mateo County, Tom Lantos | 3 Comments »

Eshoo looks ahead to Obama administration

Rep. Anna Eshoo plans to be right in the middle of an ambitious Democratic agenda when President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January.

Eshoo anticipates that, besides shoring up the faltering economy, Obama’s priorities are likely to include a health care plan, a “safe and honorable” withdrawal from Iraq, energy security and climate change.

Those last two items fall under the auspices of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which Eshoo joined in 1995.

“We will certainly have our hands full,” she said, “and I look forward to it.”

Eshoo said Obama’s victory on Election Day is still sinking in. She’s been struck, talking to young people, including her children and nieces and nephews, by how hopeful and enthusiastic they are about Obama and what he means for the future of the country.

The downer of the election for Eshoo, who is close friends with San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, was the success of Proposition 8. Gordon, who paid a visit to Eshoo’s home on Election Night, married his partner over the summer.

Eshoo said she was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome. She said she received several robocalls in favor of Prop. 8 before Election Day that were filled with “hysteria and misinformation.”

But Eshoo said that, while older voters may have been swayed by the “Yes on 8″ campaign, she’s optimistic that younger generations of Californians will eventually compel the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“I think down the road, as more and more younger voters come to voting age, that this, too, will change, because ‘No on 8′ was not the least bit menacing to young people,” she said.

Posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Menlo Park, Political Campaigns, Rich Gordon, San Mateo County | No Comments »

From the notebook: More local reactions to Obama win

Before Barack Obama’s election win recedes too far in the rearview mirror, here’s a couple bits of local reaction that didn’t make it into the paper.

In the photo above, Karen Cunningham, sporting a Barack Obama T-shirt, was captured celebrating the Democratic Party’s historic night at the victory party for Rep. Jackie Speier in Burlingame.

Meanwhile, Bill Stewart, 70, took in the election results at an NAACP-organized party at B Street Billiards in downtown San Mateo.

Stewart, a computer consultant and member of the Foster City Association of Black Residents, grew up in Memphis, Tenn., where he participated in sit-ins during the civil rights movement.

He moved to California following graduate school to work for the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Because of his race, he was not able to rent an apartment in Palo Alto.

On Tuesday night, Stewart said Obama’s victory struck him as “almost unbelievable.”

Stewart recalled living in the segregated South during college: “You were not allowed to try on clothes in certain stores … you couldn’t go to a lunch counter, buy a sandwich and sit down.”

“It’s a transition to a new day,” he said of the election. “What we need to do now is start working for economic parity for African-Americans.”

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Burlingame, Democratic Party, Foster City, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, San Mateo, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Eshoo on Ayers

One of the big questions in advance of tonight’s third and final presidential debate is whether John McCain will bring up William Ayers, the former member of the radical Weather Underground with whom Barack Obama has had intermittent contact during his political career.

McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have made a major issue of Ayers recently on the campaign trail, but McCain didn’t bring up the subject during the second debate, despite the urging of many Republicans.

Afterward, Obama and running mate Joe Biden subtly and then not-so-subtly taunted McCain for lacking the gumption to bring up the association to Obama’s face. McCain practically boiled with rage when Charles Gibson of ABC News repeated what Obama had said.

Now that McCain’s been provoked, will he talk about Ayers? Perhaps moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS, whose June interview with Wes Clark has made him a member of Talking Points Memo’s “Tire Swing” club, will bring it up on his own.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Joe Biden, John McCain, Political Campaigns, Republican Party | No Comments »

San Mateo County lawmakers stung by veto pen

Following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent “Conan the Barbarian” routine, when he vetoed more than one-third of the bills that landed on his desk, we thought it would be worthwhile to see how our local legislators made out amid the carnage.

Here are the tallies for San Mateo County’s five state legislators, provided by their offices:

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco
Status — Severely wounded

Ma, whose 12th District includes parts of the North County, including Colma and Daly City, had nine bills signed into law. Nine were vetoed.

Among her successes was a measure dubbed Bright Schools that’s designed in part to make it easier for schools to install solar panels. Among the vetoes? A bill that would have prohibited “the commercial display of human remains” — in shows like “Body Works,” which features skinless corpses in athletic poses — “without the documented informed consent from the deceased or next-of-kin.”

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Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Party, Fiona Ma, Gene Mullin, Ira Ruskin, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, San Mateo County | No Comments »

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 »