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Archive for June, 2007

SiCKo and Starko

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who chairs the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., yesterday welcomed Academy Award-winning documentary director Michael Moore to Capitol Hill for a briefing on the for-profit health care system and the tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans.

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“Forty-seven million people in America lack health coverage altogether,” Stark noted. “But — as ‘SiCKo’ so clearly emphasizes — it’s not only those without coverage who are at risk. Even those who have health insurance often find themselves without the coverage they thought they had when they need it most. That’s probably the most important message of Michael Moore’s new film — none of us are secure.”

Stark went on to say that as the world’s wealthiest nation, it’s “morally reprehensible” that the United States hasn’t accomplished what every other industrialized country has: universal health care. “The monied interests in health care — chiefly the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — have every reason to sustain the status quo. The insurance industry doesn’t turn a profit by providing the best health care money can buy. Insurance companies turn a profit by providing the fewest benefits possible — and by denying patients care. he pharmaceutical industry doesn’t generate returns for Wall Street by providing low cost medications. Drug companies make money by over-charging and over-prescribing America’s consumers.

The nation’s healthcare system won’t be overhauled by working with the special interests, Stark said, or by Congress acting in a vacuum; the American public must rise up and demand it, and “SiCKo” can help prod such a reaction.

Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Under: Pete Stark, U.S. House | No Comments »

DeSaulnier officially enters state senate race

Democratic Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier of Concord has formed a campaign finance committee for a run for the state senate in the seat held by incumbent Tom Torlakson of Antioch.

DeSaulnier’s move was widely expected.

Torlakson will term out in 2008 and announced plans to run for DeSaulnier’s Assembly seat, where the senator has one remaining term under term limits. (He only served two of the three allowed terms before he ran for the state senate.)

The two men are friends and allies, and DeSaulnier was never expected to block Torlakson’s election plans, which includes running for state superintendent of schools in 2010.

DeSaulnier’s only senate opponent so far is former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg, who termed out in 2006. (Canciamilla’s wife, Laura, ran for her husband’s seat but lost to DeSaulnier.)

This could prove to be a hotly contested and expensive race, the first competition in the Contra Costa senate seat since Torlakson beat Dick Rainey in a brutal campaign in 2000. At the time, it was one of the most expensive senate races in the state.

On the other hand, if voters bless in the February presidential primary a measure that loosens term limits, this whole gig is off. Torlakson says he’ll run for his old senate seat and DeSaulnier is back to the Assembly, if voters are willing.

As for Canciamilla, relaxed term limits would be bad news. He would find it far more difficult to run against Torlakson, an eight-year incumbent, than in an open seat.

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

House habeas restoration bill to drop tomorrow

House sources say Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., tomorrow will introduce a bill restoring the right of habeas corpus to foreign-born unlawful enemy combatants held by the federal government in the war on terror. Armed Services Committee member Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, has been saying for weeks that she’ll be an original co-sponsor of this bill.

Habeas corpus, for the Latin-challenged, essentially is the right to be brought to the court for a determination of whether one is imprisoned lawfully and whether one should be released. It dates back to the 12th Century, preceding its 1215 codification in the Magna Carta‘s section 39; our Constitution‘s Article I, Section 9, says it “shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” Yet under last year’s Military Commissions Act of 2006, non-citizens whom the government deems “unlawful enemy combatants” no longer have this right.

There had been rumors last month that the Armed Services Committee would attach a rider restoring habeas corpus to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008, H.R. 1585, which approves Pentagon spending for the next year. But no such rider materialized; Skelton’s staff said he felt so strongly about the issue that it deserved a bill of its very own.

A similar Senate bill was introduced in January by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; their committee reported it out favorably June 7. California’s Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are among that bill’s 22 co-sponsors.

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Under: Barbara Boxer, Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Tauscher, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | No Comments »

Tauscher seeks Maze-related transit $$$

tauscher3.jpgRep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, has introduced a “Commuter Emergency Relief Act” which would help the Bay Area recoup about $2.7 million in transit and traffic-information costs from the MacArthur Maze meltdown.

The bill she introduced yesterday would make all mass transportation services provided as a result of highway emergencies eligible for reimbursement by the federal government, and it’s retroactive to April 29, 2007 to cover the Bay Area’s freeway fracas. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has estimated that free transit services on April 30 and operation of the 511 system during the traffic crisis cost about $2.7 million. The Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief program already reimburses the state for repairs made to a damaged interstate highway.

“When there’s a catastrophe on a major artery, everyone is forced to switch gears and make changes that affect their daily lives,” Tauscher said in a news release. “In the case of the MacArthur Maze meltdown, thousands of commuters needed to find alternate routes to and from work, and in a record number of cases, that involved people getting out of their cars and onto mass transportation.”

Among the bill’s 16 original cosponsors are Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Tauscher sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to which her bill has been referred.

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Tom Lantos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Secretary Schwarzenegger?

Oh, don’t poo-poo it — it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Just as our governor and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg grace the cover of Time magazine as political “soul mates,” Bloomberg announced yesterday he’s leaving the Republican party, fueling talk that he’ll run for president as an independent.

Bloomberg has sky-high approval ratings in his city-state of 8 million people; stupendous, worldwide name recognition both through his political career and his business; and perhaps as much as $1 billion of his personal fortune to spend on a presidential campaign.

Schwarzenegger — whose approval ratings aren’t as high as Bloomberg’s, but still pretty good and far better than the state Legislature’s — remains one of the nation’s (and the world’s) most recognizable political figures, and so could be a campaign-trail powerhouse for his “soul mate.” And, note that Bloomberg made his announcement during a campaign-style swing through California, in which he appeared with Schwarzenegger.

And while that pesky Constitution prevents Schwarzenegger — who’s not a natural-born citizen — from running for president himself, there’s nothing to keep him from a Cabinet appointment. Secretary of… what?

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elections, General | 1 Comment »

Tauscher seeks federal cash for transit

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, introduced today a bill that would make the cost of providing free local transit rides during MacArthur Maze reconstruction eligible for federal dollars.

According to Tauscher’s press release on the subject, the “Commuter Emergency Relief Bill” would be retroactive to April 29, which would include the time during which the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission has estimated the state spent $2.7 million on transit relief. As most will recall, a semi-truck crashed and caught on fire in the maze, which melted a portion of the busy interchange.

Under the Federal Highway Administration’s current emergency relief program, California is eligible to be reimbursed only for repairs made to a damaged highway, the press release reads.

The costs associated with offering free transit services such as BART and AC Transit in the aftermath of an emergency are not eligible, except for ferry boat service.

“When there’s a catastrophe on a major artery, everyone is forced to switch gears and make changes that affect their daily lives,” Tauscher said. “In the case of the MacArthur Maze meltdown, thousands of commuters needed to find alternate routes to and from work, and in a record number of cases, that involved people getting out of their cars and onto mass transportation.

Co-sponsors on the bill inlcude a number of Bay Area lawmakers including Reps. Barbara Lee, Oakland, Jerry McNerney, Pleasanton; and George Miller of Martinez.

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

Barbara Lee is ‘Taking Back America.’

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, spoke yesterday at the Campaign for America’s Future‘s Take Back America 2007 conference in Washington, D.C., a massive, three-day, progressive gathering with a rather self-explanatory title. Lee spoke during a session on “Out of Iraq: What Comes Next?” Here’s the first part:

…and here’s the second part (yes, I know they look the same; trust me)…

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Under: Barbara Lee, Iraq, U.S. House | No Comments »

Rudy’s econ team is full of Californians.

The presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced its Economic Policy Advisory Board today, and it’s chock-a-block with Golden State talent.

The senior members of the board — meant to advise the Republican candidate “on economic policy aimed at restoring fiscal discipline and cutting wasteful Washington spending while keeping taxes low and making government more accountable to taxpayers” — are Bill Simon, Michael Boskin and Steve Forbes.

simon.jpgSimon, of course, is the Los Angeles businessman and financier who proved to be the only person less popular than incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis back in 2002, despite having had Giuliani — his former boss when they were federal prosecutors, and at the time riding high on post-9/11 popularity — come and campaign for him. Simon also now is the Giuliani campaign’s policy director.

boskin.jpgBoskin is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the T. M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford University, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1993, and also chaired the Commission on the Consumer Price Index. He’ll be Giuliani’s economic point man.

forbes.jpgAnd Forbes — a New Jerseyan, not a Californian, and Giuliani’s national campaign co-chairman — is President and CEO of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, as well as a frequent business commentator for Fox News Channel‘s “Forbes on Fox.” President Reagan in 1985 named Forbes chairman of the bi-partisan Board for International Broadcasting, where he directed the programming for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; President George H.W. Bush reappointed him, and so he served until 1993. In 1996 and 2000, he was Republican presidential candidate whose platform called for a flat income tax.

Also serving on the panel will be David Malpass, Chief Global Economist of Bear Stearns; Martin Anderson, the Keith and Jan Hurlbut Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Annelise Anderson, a Hoover Institution research fellow, a former associate director with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and a senior policy adviser to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Under: Elections, General, Rudy Giuliani | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

On a note related to Sunday’s post about Gov. Schwarzenegger and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the cover of Time, here’s the governor introducing Bloomberg at the mayor’s PlaNYC speech at the American Museum of Natural History back in April, on Earth Day. The mayor that day unveiled his plan to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and to improve the City’s infrastructure to accommodate 1 million more New Yorkers over the next quarter-century.

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…”

UPDATE @ 5:40 P.M. TUESDAY: D’OH! Bloomberg quits the GOP!!!

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

All this and fashion sense, too.

Didja see our governor on the cover of Time magazine this week? It’s a big story about how he and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are “soul mates” — self-made, rich success stories who got into politics late in life and seem to be having fun while making things happen.

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Whatever you think about the story, take a close look at Schwarzenegger’s sartorial splendor:

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Yowza, that’s one heck of an imposing belt buckle! Asked whether there’s a story behind it (no puns, please), press secretary Aaron McLear responded, “Not much to it — he likes it and wears it every once in a while.” Okaaaaay…

Posted on Sunday, June 17th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | 7 Comments »