Forget about the state budget: Tomorrow will bring the true 2008 smackdown between Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis.
These titans of public policy will meet at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento for the “Great Sushi Roll-Off,” a cooking competition showcasing California rice. Using authentic ingredients, participants will be judged in such areas as the techniques used to create the rolls and how flavorful the judges find the finished products. The winner of the competition will receive the “Capitol Roller Award,” a plaque featuring a sword typical of those used by Japanese warriors to defend their honor. Republicans and Democrats will adjourn their weekly policy luncheons early to cheer on their leaders in the competition.
“Speaker Núñez is a formidable foe both in the Legislature and in the kitchen, but I have no doubt that my superior culinary skills will prevail when the judges decide the winner of the Great Sushi Roll Off,” Villines said in a news release issued Friday. “I am confident that Assembly Republicans will be bringing home the ‘Capitol Roller Award’ on Tuesday in the first of what will be many victories for us this year.”
Nunez responded with a haiku troika. No, really, he did:
Sushi challenge on
The public very happy
We aren’t naked chefs
Land locked Clovis man
Makes worst Republican Rice
Núñez sushi wins
Feral cats at Capitol
Reject Villines’ swill
That’s some serious smack-talk from some guys who’ll soon be smelling like seaweed and fish.
The Iraq Emergency Supplemental bill brokered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — which predicates nearly $100 billion in money for the war on a timetable for a 2008 pullout — was passed by the House today on a 218-212-1 vote. The “1″ was Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who voted “present” and explained he could neither fully support nor fully oppose the additional war spending in good conscience.
As expected, among the 14 Democrats who crossed the aisle to vote against the bill were Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Rep. Barbara Lee, D-0akland, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who felt the bill doesn’t pull our troops out of Iraq fast enough. On Thursday they’d struck a deal with Pelosi, delivering her about 10 votes from progressives who’d been undecided about what to do, in exchange for their own ability to stand on principle and oppose the bill.
It appears the margin they provided was crucial — in a 435-member House, 218 votes is the bare minimum needed for passage. The National Journal’s CongressDaily reported today that Lee, Woolsey and Out of Iraq Caucus Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, got a standing ovation in the Democratic caucus meeting before Friday’s vote, spurred by Pelosi’s praise of their actions.
But Lee and Woolsey — along with Out of Iraq Caucus chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles — agreed Thursday that while they still won’t vote for Pelosi’s plan, they’ll not stand in its way, either. They told some undecided caucus members it’s OK to support it, thus delivering Pelosi a crucial 10 votes or so.
“As someone who opposed this war from the beginning, I have voted against every single penny for this war as a matter of conscience, but I now find myself in the excruciating position of being asked to choose between voting for funding for the war or establishing timelines to end it,” Lee said in a news release. “I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war.”
While it may be a very political distinction that’s being made here — freeing caucus members to support something you yourself oppose — it’s also a sign that after wandering in the wilderness of a Republican majority for so many years, leading progressives like Lee and Woolsey do wield some clout in the 110th Congress.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave. in Oakland. Afterward, Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan will lead a march from there to City Hall for a 1 p.m. rally addressing how the cost of the war and resulting domestic budget cuts are linked to violence in Oakland.
FACTS is organizing a “Beyond Prison Day” next week to lobby lawmakers and the governor to change the sentencing law, now 13 years old. About 170 Southern California activists — mostly people with loved ones kept behind bars by the Three Strikes law — are scheduled to board buses next Tuesday night in Los Angeles, meeting hundreds more from Northern California to stage a rally on the State Capitol’s west steps at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
FACTS says more than 4,400 people are now serving life sentences after committing nonviolent third strikes such as shoplifting, drug use and so forth, contributing to California prisons’ massive overcrowding. They want the law changed so that only serious or violent crimes count as second and third strikes; so it’s inapplicable to crimes committed before its 1994 enactment; so that multiple counts during a single act aren’t considered multiple strikes; so convictions more than a decade old and juvenile crimes can’t count as strikes; and so burglary of unoccupied dwellings won’t count as a strike.
Some lawamkers credit the law, as is, with reining in crime in California; others aren’t so fond of the law, but fear being branded soft on crime. Whatever the reason, the Legislature consistently has balked at enacting any changes. And voters in November 2004 defeated Proposition 66 — which would’ve enacted most of the reforms FACTS wants — 53 percent to 47 percent.
UPDATE @ 1:20 P.M. THURSDAY:This event is sponsored not only by FACTS, it turns out, but by the 40 prison-reform organizations comprising the Coalition for Effective Public Safety. Buses will leave at 7 a.m. Wednesday from Oakland’s MacArthur BART station — contact Hamdiya Cooks at 510-410-1099 for info on that one — and from the Free at Last social services agency, 1796 Bay Road in East Palo Alto; the contact there is Dorsey Nunn, 415-516-9599. Rallies are scheduled at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the State Capitol’s west steps.
The California Republican Party will ante up $2,000 per month toward the cost of a county party’s executive director — a full-timer who can spearhead voter registration, get-out-the-vote campaigns, volunteer efforts and so on — so long as that county matches that amount. But campaign finance reports show the Alameda County GOP had only about $11,600 in its account as of Dec. 31.
At the county central committee’s meeting Tuesday night at party headquarters in San Leandro, Luis Buhler — the state GOP’s Bay Area vice chair — announced he’d solicited help from John Dillon, CEO of Navis, an Oakland-based supply-chain software company: Dillon will give $24,000 over two years, or half the county’s cost.
Presenting the committee with Dillon’s first check for $12,000, Buhler said Dillon made the donation because he appreciates the county GOP’s importance in two key races for 2008: the campaign to retake the 11th Congressional District seat from freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and the campaign to keep the 15th Assembly District seat — now held by Guy Houston, D-San Ramon, who’s termed out next year — in Republican hands.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will hold public meetings Saturday with veterans and military families.
“I want to hear directly from veterans and military families about the kinds of issues they face in getting the help, treatment and benefits they deserve,” he said in a news release. “As we in Congress consider legislation affecting veterans and their loved ones, it’s important to me to actually talk to the people that would be affected.”
The first meeting will be from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Pleasanton Library, 400 Old Bernal Ave.; the second will be from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Cesar Chavez Central Library, 605 N. El Dorado St. in Stockton.
Oh, and check out his Web site; the redesign was rolled out this week.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, testified about her legislation, H.Con.Res. 46, which she introduced Jan. 29 to declare that it’s the policy of the United States not to establish permanent military bases in Iraq. She said such a declaration is important both to deprive insurgents of a key recruiting tactic, as well as to clear up confusion within the Bush Administration.
“When the President was asked last October who would make the decision staying in Iraq permanently, the President said it was the Iraqis who would make this decision,” she said in a news release afterward. “This is different from the answer that Secretary Gates made when he was asked the same question while testifying before the Senate. Secretary Gates seemed to think that we had final say on whether we were in Iraq permanently.”
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, testified about the “Change the Course in Iraq Act” she’d introduced March 9 to condition future funding for the Iraqi government on it meeting benchmarks laid out by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group; she said the bill compliments the Emergency Supplemental spending bill under consideration this week, but doesn’t compete with it.
“We carefully crafted this so that funding for protective equipment for our troops is not cut, and also to send a clear message to the Iraqi government that it is time for them to accept responsibility for governing,” she told the committee. “Our bill will force the Iraqi government to take on a greater role stabilizing Iraq, because we understand that no amount of American troops or humvees can bring about the political reconciliation necessary to end Iraq’s civil war.”
And Lantos himself today introduced the Iraq Reconstruction Improvement Act, which he told the committee is aimed at fixing a program “beset by gross corruption and massive American and Iraqi bureaucratic confusion. The Iraqi people, hoping that the fall of Saddam would bring peace and prosperity to their country, have instead been handed half-built hospitals, failed water projects, and a power grid that is more off than on.”
His bill, he said, would boost anti-corruption efforts; improve transparency and accountability for how taxpayer dollars are spent; provide technical assistance to Iraqi ministries to improve the administration of reconstruction programs, including programs providing basic services to the Iraqi people; address the plight of Iraqi refugees and those displaced within Iraq; and prevent further reconstruction debacles.
Many had wondered what was next for former state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who lost last year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor and then was termed out of office at year’s end. Now we have our answer: She’s among the four authors of “This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 ways to keep your head above water when life keeps dragging you down,” a “collection of stories, wisdom, and practical advice” in which “readers will meet four ordinary women who have faced extraordinary life challenges,” according to the book’s Web site.
Speier was gravely wounded in the 1978 assassination of her boss, Congressman Leo Ryan, by People’s Temple members near Jonestown, Guyana. Years later, Speier was serving in the Assembly when her husband, Dr. Steven Sierra, was killed in an automobile accident; she was pregnant with their second child at the time.
“A reporter once jokingly referred to our collection of misfortunate events as the female version of the book of Job, almost expecting a hoard of locusts ready to descend in our midst at any moment!” says an excerpt from the book. “Yet, we do not view our lives with sadness or remorse. We see them as gifts, filled with events that have helped us develop a razor-sharp sense of what counts and what simply doesn’t.”
The book’s Web site features blurbs from people including journalist Linda Ellerbee, author Amy Tan, actress Rita Moreno and political pundit Arianna Huffington, and says the four authors — Speier, Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley and Jan Yanehiro — are available to be booked for speaking engagements at corporate conferences, executive retreats and so forth.