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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.