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Archive for January, 2007

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

eshoo.jpgNo Net taxes: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, today introduced the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2007, seeking to permanently extend the moratorium on Internet access taxes and duplicative and discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce. The bill has 34 original cosponsors — 14 Democrats and 20 Republicans — including Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Michael Honda, D-San Jose; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. Congress first instituted a temporary moratorium in 1998 to encourage online commerce’s growth, and extended it in 2004 for three years, but it’ll expire in November. “Passage of this legislation will ensure, once and for all, that the growth of Internet access and e-commerce will not be hampered by unwarranted taxation,” Eshoo, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said in her news release.

george-miller.jpgMiddle-class plight: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, convened a hearing today to hear from workers and economic experts about challenges facing the middle class. “While the business pages across America report that profits and productivity are up for many corporations, we know that’s only half of the economic story,” he said. “The other half is the story of how middle-class Americans are struggling to make ends meet. I hear from workers who were laid off from a good-paying manufacturing job and wound up in a new job that pays far less than did the one they lost. I hear from workers whose company just dumped their pension plan, forcing them to scramble to find other ways to get by in retirement. I hear from workers whose basic expenses — for housing, food, education, transportation, and health care — keep going up, even while their paychecks stay about the same size.” Read the testimony from Yale University Professor Jacob Hacker; Rutgers University Center for Women and Work director Eileen Appelbaum; and Center for Economic Progress economist Christian Weller. The archived Webcast is here.

lee.jpgStay out of Iran: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, hosted a forum of experts today to discuss current U.S. policy toward Iran: potential implications of preemptive war there; non-military alternatives to addressing Iran’s nuclear ambitions; and engaging Iran in efforts to strengthen regional stability by ending Iraq’s civil war. She announced the introduction of her Iran Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 2007, which would pledge the U.S. “not to enter into a preemptive war against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, and then only in accordance with international law and constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional authorization.” It also would block funding for “any covert action for the purpose of causing regime change in Iran or to carry out any military action against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, in accordance with international law.” And it declares both that no previous act of Congress authorizes military force against Iran, and that there should be no preconditions to engaging Iran in diplomatic dialogue.

Posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, George Miller, Iran, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Oaklander, others arrested protesting Hillary in DC

rae-abileah.jpgOakland activist Rae Abileah, 24, was one of six women arrested Tuesday morning at the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, during a CODEPINK protest urging the presidential aspirant to stop supporting funding for the war in Iraq.

The group, dressed in their organization’s signature pink slips, held banners with slogans such as, “Hillary: Be a Woman for Peace” and “It takes an Invasion to Raze a Village,” and eventually entered Clinton’s office to weave a web of pink yarn and ribbons symbolizing Clinton’s web of lies, their news release said. Clinton wasn’t in her office Tuesday.

The other five arrestees were Heather Box, 25, of San Francisco; Leslie Angeline, 50, of San Francisco; Sandee Scott, 52, of Monterey; Sonia Silbert, 26, of Washington, D.C.; and Samantha Miller, 21, of Los Angeles. They face disorderly conduct charges.

CODEPINK cofounders Medea Benjamin of San Francisco and Jodie Evans of Venice, Calif., later Tuesday were detained by Capitol Police after interrupting a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing for John Deputy Secretary of State nominee John Negroponte; they’d stood up and spoke out in objection to Negroponte’s alleged tolerance of Honduran death squads during his term as the U.S. Ambassador to that Central American nation from 1981 to 1985.

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: General, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Brentwood man designed Highway 4 web site

Chuck Handwork, the erstwhile Web guru of Brentwood, says he designed the site advertised on signs posted around Pittsburg area that I wrote about in today’s paper.

In bright, red letters, they slap three environmental groups as “radicals” and ask folks to visit www.widenhwy4.com and fill out a survey.

The signs have been installed on land owned by the family of homebuilder Albert Seeno, although no one from the his firm returned my phone calls.

Handwork also declined to name his client, saying his customer requested privacy.

He also couldn’t release the results of the three-question survey, which makes no effort to disguise its sponsor’s point of view, although he said they were “just what we expected.”

Handwork is bemused by efforts to disable and hack into the site. Handwork says the activity logs show folks trying to break in and presumably crash the page or overwhelm it with votes.

“You can only vote once,” Handwork says. “And if someone does manage to get in, I’m backing up the results every 20 minutes.”

Handwork, owner of Virtual Handwork Designs, has developed quite a conservative clientele in recent months, designing Web pages for Assembly candidate and Antioch City Councilman Arne Simonsen, former Congressman Richard Pombo and local GOP leader Tom Del Beccaro.

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

We’ll start posting a weekly nugget o’ fun featuring our illustrious governor because — well, because we can, and we figure there’s enough video of him out there to last a lifetime. First up, from 1977:

Thank god Gray Davis never tried this.

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Sacramento | 7 Comments »

Not-so-hard targets

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote Friday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that “the communities that surround existing plants need to be confident that the NRC, as the regulator charged with nuclear safety, did all it could to ensure that plants defend against current security threats. In particular, communities should be assured that the plants are prepared to defend against large attacking forces and commercial aircraft.”

Failing to address these issues, Boxer wrote, would be at odds with the intent of Congress in passing the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Well, it seems the commissioners will have some serious explaining to do when they next appear before Boxer’s committee: They voted Monday against requiring existing nuclear power plants to be protected against attacks by airplanes, or against more than a small number of ground attackers.

This, despite the 9/11 Commission finding that the plotters had considered targeting nuclear reactors, and the common knowledge that a successful terrorist attack on a nuclear plant could cause a devastating radioactive release.

“Rather than requiring measures to prevent a plane crash from damaging vulnerable parts of a nuclear plant, which would be the smartest course, the government is relying on post-crash measures and evacuation plans to attempt to ‘mitigate’ the public’s exposure to radiation,” said Michele Boyd, legislative director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “Fire prevention is always better than fire fighting. Nuclear terrorism prevention is far more prudent than trying to reduce radiation exposures after the fact.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: Barbara Boxer, General, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | No Comments »

Oakland reporter off the hook

Oakland freelance writer and radio journalist Sarah Olson is in the free and clear now that the U.S. government has agreed to drop two counts from its case against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who called the Iraq war illegal and refused to deploy.

Olson, 31, had faced a felony charge if she’d continued fighting a subpoena to testify in the case; she insists doing so would’ve gutted her credibility as a journalist.

Watada, whose court-martial is scheduled for Feb. 5, still faces up to four years behind bars if convicted of missing movement for his refusal to deploy last June and of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made at a Veterans for Peace Convention in Seattle.

The two conduct-unbecoming counts dropped Monday carried up to two years in prison, and stemmed from comments he’d made to Olson and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s Gregg Kakesako in June explaining why he refused to go to Iraq and why he was challenging the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war. In exchange, Watada’s attorney Eric Seitz agreed that the two subpoenaed reporters will not have to testify.

Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007
Under: General, Iraq | No Comments »

Money, that’s what they want

Some e-mails about the Tribune’s top story today: Civic bucks bigger than ever

Firstly I would like to find out how to obtain a 200K job in Oakland. Even with my college education I have been unable to obtain such pay in the Bay Area. Secondly I want you to take a hard look at my children, our future and have you tell them why our schools are in such a mess but we can find a way shell out +200K in salaries. I can guarantee you that there
are qualified people that will wait in line for 120K in pay to replace Deborah Edgerly and we would get 2 for the price of one.

–Markus

**********************************************************************

I cannot get my head around the compensation.

I had to translate it into a normal workweek. Using the figures you reported, and assuming these employees get time and a half for their overtime hours, it would still appear that the high paid fire inspector is on the job from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm seven days a week, 365 days a year! If this person only works 5 days a week, that is an 16 hour day – 52 weeks of the year!

How can this person possibly function at the level necessary to perform his/her job? I don’t care how much it saves the City in the short run by hiring fewer people.

–Sandra Turnbull

Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007
Under: General, Ignacio De La Fuente, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

Coast Guard admiral in Deepwater, then in SF

admiral-allen.jpgU.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen will testify tomorrow before the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee on the Deepwater program, a push to modernize and replace the Coast Guard’s aging ships and aircraft and improve command and control and logistics systems.

Four USCG cutters moored at Alameda already have been upgraded as part of the program, but Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general released a report Monday concluding that the multi-billion-dollar effort — run by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. — has design flaws that have led to spiraling maintenance costs and could reduce the “improved” ships’ longevity unless corrected. That is, the refurbished cutters might not be able to take 230 days a year at sea over a period of 30 years, as the contract required.

And as if that hearing might not be a tough enough crowd, Allen will hop a flight afterward and finish the day by speaking at 5:30 p.m. in the Marines Memorial Club, 609 Sutter St. in San Francisco. It’s part of the George P. Shultz Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Northern California; tickets cost $49 for members, $59 for nonmembers, $25 for active-duty military personnel.

Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007
Under: General | No Comments »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, introduced his first bill today: the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007, which will authorize $125 million in funding for projects to increase usable water supply by encouraging innovation in water reclamation, reuse, and conservation. With parts of California experiencing one of the driest Januaries ever and the impact on California’s water supply caused by rising global temperatures, this bill authorizes critical funds to develop alternative sources of clean drinking water, his news release said. The bill — of which the first original co-sponsor is Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo — is scheduled to be considered by House Transportation and Infrastructure‘s Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment on Wednesday. McNerney and Tauscher both sit on that subcommittee.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a forum at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Cannon House Office Building on “Iran: Engagement and Diplomacy, Alternatives to Preemption,” a reaction to what she says is the Bush Administration’s increased sabre-rattling toward that nation. The discussion of current U.S. policy towards Iran; the potential implications of preemptive war there; non-military alternatives to Iran’s nuclear ambitions; and engaging Iran in bolstering regional stability by ending Iraq’s civil war will be conducted by Ken Katzman, a Middle East policy expert from the Congressional Research Service; Georgetown University Security Studies Professor Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the CIA; retired U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner; and National Iranian-American Council President Trita Parsi.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo; and other members of a bipartisan Congressional delegation which visited Iraq and Afghanistan in recent days will discuss the trip in a news conference tomorrow in the Rayburn House Office Building.
  • UPDATE @ 3:20 p.m. — Crank up your C-SPAN: Barbara Lee will be wielding the House’s gavel as Speaker pro tempore from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PST tomorrow, surely striking fear into the hearts of conservatives far and wide.

    Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007
    Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, Iran, Iraq, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Lantos, U.S. House | No Comments »

    McNerney to introduce first bill

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will introduce his first bill this afternoon, a $125 million pot of cash for water conservation pilot projects.

    The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007 will authorize $125 million for pilot projects that increase usable water supply by encouraging innovation in water reclamation, reuse and conservation.

    “With parts of California experiencing one of the driest Januaries ever and the impact on California’s water supply caused by rising global temperatures, this bill authorizes critical funds to develop alternative sources of clean drinking water,” reads McNerney’s press release.

    After introduction, the bill has been scheduled for consideration by the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment on Jan. 31.

    Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007
    Under: Congress | No Comments »