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Archive for September, 2006

Campaign advertising moves to cable

Capitol Weekly News has a fascinating article today about how campaigns are beginning to spend more money on cable television advertising.

Traditionally, television advertising has been used to reach broad audiences. But cable TV allows the campaign to target specific groups, such as those that watch Fox, sports or programming targeted specifically to women or minorities.

Check out the story at

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Christine Pelosi in Orinda tonight

I’m headed to Orinda tonight to hear Christine Pelosi’s assessment of the mid-term elections.

Pelosi is the daughter of House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and a Democratic and labor organizer.

Several members of the Bay Area’s Democratic congressional delegation say they can easily see the Democrats winning 12 of the 15 seats needed to take majority control of the House. It will be interesting to hear Pelosi’s take on the Democratic Party’s chances.

Pelosi is speaking to the Lamorinda Democratic Club at 7:30 p.m., at the Orinda Community Church, 10 Irwin Way. The cost is $5 for members and $10 for non-members. Students are free.

To follow Christine Pelosi’s work throughout the country, visit her blog at

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Nello Bianco, longtime former BART director dies

Longtime BART director Nello J. Bianco of Lafayette, died Sunday. He was 78 years old.

The colorful and often controversial Bianco retired from the BART board in 1994 after serving 25 years, citing health concerns and desire to spend more time with his family.

Appointed to BART in 1969, he would be elected five consecutive terms. No other BART director had served as long as Bianco.

“He was incredibly tenacious,” said retired BART public affairs chief Mike Healy. “And he always knew where the votes were. He was a very strong director.”

During Bianco’s tenure, he helped oversee the transit agency’s troubled start-up operations and survived rough labor negotiations.

He opposed charging for parking and led the charge for tougher spending rules on board members after some members abused travel and the use of staff cars.

Bianco is best remembered for his staunch support of the Pittsburg-Bay Point extension, and has called the line one of his proudest accomplishments. He was particularly concerned that extensions to the San Francisco Airport and elsewhere would strip the agency of the money it needed for Contra Costa lines.

“The Pittsburg extension was because of Nello, no question about it,” said friend and former BART Director Dan Richard of Walnut Creek. “It was also because of Nello that I was elected to BART. When I wanted to run, I went to him and he supported me.”

Born on May 29, 1928, in Weed, Bianco moved to Richmond with his family in 1938. A veteran of the Korean War, he and his wife owned and ran the popular Capri Delicatessen in Richmond and El Sobrante.

Bianco is survived by his wife of 53 years, Betty; a daughter, Connie; sons Robert and Gary; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral mass will be held Friday, 9:30 a.m., at Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill.

Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2006
Under: Obituaries | No Comments »

Dinner with the guv? Pull out the checkbook

For the mere cost of a compact car or a down payment on a house, you and your spouse could sit at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dinner table and have your picture taken with the Terminator himself.

It’s all part of the governor’s re-election fund-raiser sponsored by Home Builders Association of Northern California on Sept. 19 at the Round Hill Country Club in Alamo.

To sit at the governor’s table, it will cost $22,300 a couple or $11,150 a person, a figure that just so happens to match the state’s contribution limit.

If you can’t quite swing it, a $10,000 check will net you and your partner a photo but no chance to see if the governator chews with his mouth open.

Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Republicans read Playboy?

Playboy magazine commissioned a poll to address what it called a common misconception that the majority of its readers are liberal Democrats.

Really? People think only Democrats read Playboy? Who knew?

Playboy surveyed 1,000 people. Half were drawn from a nationally representative sample of adults age 21 and older, while the other half came from its subscriber rolls.

The odd premise aside, the magazine’s “Playboy Voter” feature in this month’s edition outlined the following conclusions from its survey:

— 79 percent of those surveyed voted in the 2004 presidential election, 15 percentage points higher than the national average.

— 36 percent of its readers are Republicans compared to 25 percent Democrat, 25 percent independent and 14 percent other parties.

— 72 percent of Playboy readers favor stem cell research compared with 61 percent of the non-reader group sampled.

— Half of Playboy’s readers oppose a ban on gay marriage, double the number in the non-reader group.

This is the first of a two-part look at voting patterns of Playboy readers. The second segment will appear in its November edition, according to a release from the magazine.

Normally, here’s where I would provide a link to the magazine story but in this case, the link provided in the press release sends you to a subscription sign-up site and a large picture of a naked woman.

So, I’ll leave it up to you to navigate to the full poll lest I run afoul of anyone’s moral sensibilities or trigger site-blocking software.

Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2006
Under: polls | No Comments »

Oakley man resumes fight against the devil

The letterhead of dozens of East Bay organizations may not be safe, after all.

The Oakley man of faith, Art Mijares, who failed to persuade federal officials to change the name of Mount Diablo has not given up on his quest.

He wants to appeal the federal Board on Geographic Names’ rejection of his name-change request last year. This time, he’s gone all the way to the White House.

Mijares believes evoking Satan’s name feeds the devil. He originally selected what he thought was local Native American name but it turned out to be unconnected to East Bay native tribes.

Here’s the text of his letter:

“Dear White House Staff,

I have had to climb the ladder of government in order to get some justice regarding the right to appeal a decision by a federal government board. Please refer to the attached letter to the Dept. of Interior that has gone unanswered. To this day, there has not been an investigation regarding the GNIS Boards decision regarding a name change to our mountain here in CA.

“Under the First Amendment of the Constitution, there is the right that states,
‘The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. It works with the right of assembly by allowing people to join together and seek change from the government.’

“I have attempted to request a review of the board’s decision making, fact finding and their own policies to no avail. I am asking The White House’s help in seeking a review from a body above the GNIS (Geographic Names Information System) that will take an honest look at what happened regarding our proposal.
I have so far been brushed off or stonewalled as though I am some sort of nut case. Please help me as I believe there is still justice in USA. I chose not to take legal action as I believe in using the chain of command is the right way to do things and is within the First Amendment.

“Please help me with a review and if you need further information, please contact me. Thank you and may God have mercy on America and our friends in Israel during this time of war with terrorism. I plan to continue praying for the USA, President Bush, Cabinet and keep working…

Til He comes,
Arthur Mijares

cc: Fay S. Iudicello-Director, Dept. of Interior, file”

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006
Under: David vs. Goliath news | No Comments »

National campaign cash tops $1 billion

With eight weeks still to go before the mid-term election, PoliticalMoneyLine reports today that campaign contributions to federal candidates, PACs, political parties and 527 committees has topped $1 billion.

Which state has the most generous donors?

Why, California, of course. The Golden State has long been the ATM of campaign finances.

Here’s what had to say:

“Donors giving in excess of $200 to any federal candidates, PACs, political parties and national Section 527 organizations have given $1,162,157,298 so far in the 2005-2006 election cycle. This covers donations from January 1, 2005 generally through June 30, 2006, although some committees have filed reports covering July and August.

“Donors with a California address made the state number one with $138.7 million donated. New York donors gave $124.7 million. Florida donors have given $73.3 million. Texas donors have given $72.8 million. Donors in the District of Columbia have given $59.3 million.

“Sixth in state rankings of donations is Virginia with $54.8 million. Pennsylvania donors have given $50.3 million. Illinois donors have given $47.2 million. New Jersey donors have given $41.4 million. Ohio donors have given $34 million.

“A complete listing is available in PoliticalMoneyLine’s Donor Geography database of all state totals, as well as breakdowns of how much donors with a certain state address have given to any House candidates, Senate candidates, Presidential candidates, PACs, party committees, and Section 527 committees. “

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006
Under: Election reform | No Comments »

Rep. George Miller urges teachers not to use 9/11 TV show in classroom

Calling the upcoming ABC television show about the events that led to 9/11 inaccurate, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, called on school teachers today to avoid the use of the program as an educational tool in their classrooms.

Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Workforce and Education Committee, also applauded Scholastic, Inc. for disassociating itself from the ABC program for similar reasons.

The statement carries political overtones at a time when President George Bush is traveling the country to talk about the importance of the Iraq War in the fight against terrorism on the home front.

Democrats, in contrast, hope voters will view the Iraq War as a failed GOP policy that has made the world less safe when they go to the polls in November. The Democrats need to win 15 seats in order to take majority control of the House of Representatives.

Here is Miller’s statement issued at 2:30 today:

“Since 2002, the Bush Administration and its congressional allies have repeatedly and misleadingly tried to link the U.S. war in Iraq to the war on terror. There is no such link. Iraq and Saddam Hussein did not attack us on September 11 – Al Qaeda did.

The war in Iraq is not a part of the nation’s efforts to combat terrorism – it is a distraction from those efforts.

“With so much at stake, it is essential that we separate fact from fiction.

“That is why I was so concerned when we learned about ABC’s fictional movie about 9/11 and educational materials related to the movie that might increase confusion about the war in Iraq and the war on terror and might give Americans misleading and inaccurate information about the
events that led up to the war and about the course the war is taking today.

“But I am very pleased to have learned this afternoon that Scholastic Inc. is disassociating itself from the ABC film because of problems with the film’s accuracy. Scholastic will instead produce a teaching guide that will focus on the 9/11 Commission report and on the difference between
documentaries and docudramas. I think that is very important.

“I had a conversation today with Scholastic’s chairman, Richard Robinson, in which he told me of the company’s planned changes to its teaching guide. I look forward to seeing the new guide and I appreciate Chairman Robinson’s attention to the importance of getting this story right. Scholastic is demonstrating that it takes its responsibilities to our society and our children
seriously. It shows that it values accuracy and fair-mindedness.

“As of now, the same cannot be said of ABC and its parent company, the Walt Disney Company.

“Broadcasters have a right in our society to produce the programs they wish for their viewers. And that is an important right. But it comes with an equally important responsibility. When powerful media companies blur the lines between news, education, and entertainment, and between fact and fiction, it hurts the way people come to think about and relate to and make
decisions about their communities and their country. This is particularly true for children and young adults.

“Disney and ABC have an obligation to be fair and responsible with all of their material, but particularly with the most pressing issue of our time. They should treat this topic with all the seriousness it deserves – nothing less. If they can’t produce a program that strives for accuracy and fairness and greater understanding, then they shouldn’t air it.

“But ABC apparently intends to go forward with its program and therefore it is important for teachers across the country to recognize that this is a fictional account and not a history lesson and that they should work with different, more credible material when teaching about the meaning and importance and history of 9/11 to their students.

“The fact is that the standard for what is acceptable in America’s classrooms is
different than for what is acceptable in America’s living rooms. And we depend on our teachers to defend that standard.”

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Under: Congress | 2 Comments »

Pombo asked to return Alaska oil company money

GOP Rep. Richard Pombo’s Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney has called on his opponent to return campaign contributions from Alaska oil company executives under federal investigation for alleged influence peddling in their firm’s home state legislature.

FBI agents, according to the Associated Press, raided the offices of several Alaskan state legislators last week in an investigation into the dealings between Veco Corp., its top executives and lawmakers.

A copy of one of the search warrants, the wire service said, links the probe to negotiations involving a recently signed Alaska oil production tax and natural gas pipeline contract.

The investigation has not been linked to Congress but McNerney said Pombo should return the money.

U.S. Senate GOP candidate Mike McGavick of Washington State returned $14,000, his campaign announced this week.

Veco Corp. executives had contributed $15,312 to Pombo and his political action committee between 2003 and April of this year, according to data provided by the Times’ campaign finance analysis service, Dwight Morris & Associates.

“I think all these questions underscore the need for stronger ethics rules in Congress, and reform of our campaign finance laws,” McNerney said in a release. “A first start in that effort would be for Congressman Pombo to return the money that he’s received from Veco.”

The League of Conservation Voters also called for Pombo to give back the cash.

“We just hope Rep. Pombo doesn’t get a sunburned palm from having it open so often,” said l President Gene Karpinski. “Here’s another … example of how he has abandoned the 11th District in California and become a puppet of Big Oil. As working families back home struggle with record high energy prices, Rep. Pombo sits in Washington allowing himself to be showered with more special interest cash than virtually every other member of Congress. “

Pombo returns all contributions from donors in serious trouble, said the congressman’s campaign manager Carl Fogliani. The lawmaker gave to charity contributions from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“We haven’t looked into the Veco case yet but we’ll be watching it,” Fogliani said.

Fogliani characterized McNerney’s request as yet another in a string of “attacks from a desperate candidate who is looking for any angle.”

Anti-Pombo forces have for months hammered the congressman for taking large contributions from oil and energy companies at the same time he pursues opening up more areas of the country to oil and gas drilling.

In this election cycle, oil and gas interests have been Pombo’s fifth-highest source of campaign money with contributions of $117,340 through Aug. 7, according to

Casinos and gambling topped the list, followed by real estate, political action committees and food processing.

Given Pombo’s ideology and his role as the chairman of the House Resources Committee, the source of his contributions is not unusual or unexpected.
Special interests on both sides of the political aisle commonly contribute to the candidates they hope will advance their agendas.

Veco Corp. executives have contributed $300,000 to mostly Republican members of congress and their political action committees since 2003.

But critics say special interest money has a lock on Congress at the public’s expense and they frequently point to Pombo as a prime example of the problem. They hope the public’s low opinion of Congress will translate into a defeat in November for Pombo and Republicans all over the country.

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11, election 2006 | No Comments »

Tribute to social justice activist Maya Miller

Over the Labor Day holiday, I returned to Nevada where I joined several hundred people who paid tribute to late philanthropist and social justice activist Maya Miller of Carson City.

Maya was a tireless and fearless advocate who contributed millions of dollars and thousands of hours to environmental, liberal and progressive causes. She was especially known for nurturing organizers and providing seed money for new groups. You’ll find her obituary at

I met Maya through her daughter, Kit, about 15 years ago when I started my journalism career at the Nevada Appeal in Carson City.

Maya, then in her mid-70s, had just returned from a trip to the Middle East as part of Madre, a group that drove trucks of food and medicine from Jordan into Baghdad in violation of a U.S. embargo. Maya wanted to help Baghdad’s women and children.

She let me write her story and I remain honored for the opportunity to know her and her family in years that would follow.

I have interviewed many incredible people in the past 15 years. But in every journalist’s career, a few individuals stand out in your mind.

Maya inspired me, although not necessarily because of any particular viewpoint or action.

She taught me that achieving meaningfulness in my life is neither constrained nor enhanced by my gender, geography or financial means but by my willingness to participate in my community and stand up for my convictions. Ignorance can be overcome but apathy is unacceptable.

Posted on Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »