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Archive for December, 2007

Help Perata find a new car

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata must have done something to make Santa mad this year ’cause carjackers in Oakland pointed a gun at the legislator’s head and stole his state-issued, cherry red Dodge Charger with 22 inch rims. (Click here to see the Contra Costa Times story.)

Police found the Charger but now Perata says he needs a less visible car that won’t attract armed thieves. Good idea.

But Perata doesn’t have much time to car shop. He’s busy trying to figure out how to deal with a big state budget deficit and the governor is breathing down his neck on health care reform.

So, I, with a far less demanding schedule, went on-line car shopping for Don this morning and I found the perfect automobile: A 1972 Dodge Dart for $5,250.

It’s cheap (Think of the taxpayers, Don) and my dad gave me this exact model on my 18th birthday and nobody ever tried to steal it.

But I’m open to other ideas on Don’s next form of transportation. Perhaps Schwarzenegger has an extra Hummer he could spare. I mean, really, would someone carjack a Hummer? Probably not unless it’s biodiesel, gas prices being so high and all.

Do you have a suggestion on what Don should drive in 2008? Send it on over.

PHOTO NOTES: Top photo is of Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata at a 2007 press conference with Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger announcing the passage of a bill creating a new water transit authority. Photo appears at dist09.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=GALLERY&SEC={2BD6256C-7DD9-4A47-8C9A-A4F296187840}

Second photo is from azcarsantrucks.com, http://www.azcarsandtrucks.com/classicdodge.html

Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: California Legislature | 4 Comments »

Chevron conducts telephone poll

Chevron is reportedly polling Richmond residents on their attitudes about its expansion plans and the company’s fight with Contra Costa County over its property tax assessments.

An email to Assessor Gus Kramer from Richmond resident Don Gosney (I’ve pasted it below) outlines one Richmond resident’s take on the questions and the tone of the poll. It contains some interesting observations.

Here’s the email of Dec. 27 addressed to Assessor Gus Kramer:

Gus,

Earlier this evening I participated in a telephone poll about the state of affairs here in Richmond.

I know better than to ask the pollster who sponsored the poll but usually from the tone of the questions you can get an indication or two.  This one was very obviously paid for by Chevron.  I could tell because almost every question either made them look very good or made you look very bad.  Most of the time it did both at the same time.

Asking whether I strongly approved, somewhat approved, somewhat disapproved or strongly disapproved of various people and groups, she asked about Mayor Gayle McGlaughlin, the Richmond City Council (as a whole), the Richmond Firefighters Union, the Progressive Alliance and Assessor Gus Kramer.

She asked a barrage of questions asking for the level of support I had for the Assessor and again for Chevron after she posed several scenarios.  I’m going to be a little bit facetious here but I’m nor stretching things too far with this farcical scenario:  Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer is illegally trying to force Chevron to turn over the monetary award given to them when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

More in line with her scenarios she would state that Chevron was following the laws as passed by the legislature and the people of California and that Assessor Gus Kramer was illegally and in violation of the law (both phrases repeatedly emphasized) assessing Chevron property taxes based solely on the fact that they had made a meager profit and could afford to pay the additional taxes.  She also put the same scenario where Chevron should be required to pay because the community needs the money.  She suggested that since Chevron had been an integral part of our community for at least three years longer than the City of Richmond existed, that we would naturally embrace Chevron and take sides with our good neighbor over the lawbreaker from Martinez.

Many of the questions also had to do with my thoughts on Chevron’s planned expansion and whether I might be willing to tell my elected representatives of my thoughts on the matter.  It seems that we’ve all been misled—Chevron’s only reason for this expansion is they can meet the energy needs of the good people in Northern California.

The questions went on and on but the tone was the same.  Chevron=Good—Gus Kramer=Bad.

Even though she specifically wanted to know my name (with correct spelling) and my telephone number, I was assured that this was for statistical purposes only.  Of course, she also wanted to know whether I was a registered voter and what the chances were that I might be voting in the near future.  She also asked what the chances might be of my speaking to my elected representatives (like I could ever remain silent).

Whenever I speak with a pollster or a tech rep over the phone I’m always curious where the call emanates from.  When I asked this young lady I asked specifically where she was calling from.  Her first response was that she was of Asian descent but their headquarters was in Orem, Utah. She didn’t say that she was actually calling from Utah but that the company’s headquarters was in Utah.  She did not sound Indian but she definitely sounded foreign.  I say this because she had great difficulty in pronouncing “Chevron” [One of her questions asked me to list the things I thought was wrong about Chevron.  Number four on my list was Chevron and when she asked me to elaborate one of the things I mentioned was that they outsourced their jobs to people from out of the State.  It seems that this is even so when it comes to their polling.]

What I got from this poll was that Chevron is trying to drum up support for their legal right to pay a lower property tax even when the lawless County Assessor ignores the law and doubles their tax rate.  It also sounded like they were going to try to discredit Mayor McGlaughlin and the Progressive Alliance.

I’m sure you’re aware that Chevron is none too fond of you right now and you’re probably also aware of this polling.  Just in case, though, I though I’d pass along my thoughts and recollections.

For the record, I’m for the expansion as long as Chevron meets certain reasonable conditions and I’m very supportive of our County Assessor and his efforts to make the refineries (all of them—in spite of what this pollster was claiming) pay property taxes that are based on reality.

Don Gosney

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

About FACE, forward MARCH!

Hat tip to brownsox over at Daily Kos

So Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, seeing rival John McCain slowly gain on him in New Hampshire (Romney’s back yard), is goin’ all Mike-Huckabee-with-a-shotgun on the Arizona Senator, per the AP via Yahoo news:

Romney fired away at McCain, repeatedly accusing the Arizona senator of failing “Reagan 101″ by voting twice against Bush administration tax cuts. Romney also said McCain’s past support for allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and work toward legal status amounted to amnesty.

But here’s the problem with that, from Romney’s 1994 U.S. Senate campaign…

“I was an independent during Reagan-Bush…I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”

Maybe this is some sort of post-modern, uber-conservatism on Romney’s part, involving conservation of candidates: Now we need only one candidate at a debate, for he can effectively debate himself!

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: Elections, John McCain, Mitt Romney | No Comments »

Check out new presidential issue web site

If you’re curious about which of the presidential candidates’ views most closely resembles those of your own, check out the new nonpartisan website Glassbooth.org.

Answer a series of online questions about your views on hot-button issues such as global warming, abortion, immigration, health care and the site will tell you which of the presidential hopefuls has similar positions.

I did it and I was surprised at the results. (And no, I’m not going to share my results!)

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: 2008 presidential primary | No Comments »

Sample ballot deadline approaches

To receive a sample ballot in the mail, voters must register on or by Jan. 7, according to the Contra Costa County Elections Department.

Pick up voter registration forms at city and county offices, Department of Motor Vehicles, libraries, fire stations, post offices and some schools and colleges. Registration forms must be postmarked by Jan. 7 or returned to the Election Department by 5 p.m. in order to trigger the mailing of a sample ballot.

The Election Department is located at 555 Escobar St. in Martinez and its hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Election officials will also send applications to vote by mail with the sample ballot. Voters who wish to vote by mail may fill out the application.

If voters wish to vote by mail prior to receiving their sample ballot, they must submit a letter to the Elections Office requesting that a ballot be mailed to them. Each voter must include the address at which he or she is registered and a signature. Ballots cannot be requested over the phone nor may voters request ballots for others including spouses or family members. Send written requests to the Elections Department, PO Box 271, Martinez, CA 94553 or fax to 925-335-7838.

Voters may also download a vote-by-mail application at the county’s web site, www.cocovote.us.

The final day to request a mail ballot is Jan. 29.

Voters who have registered as permanent mail voters will automatically receive their ballots in the mail starting the week of Jan. 7. If you wish to become a permanent mail voter, call the Elections Department at 925-335-7800 and request an application.

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: 2008 presidential primary | No Comments »

MTC extends on-line poll

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the nine-county organization that holds the purse strings on regional transit and highway money, wants to know what you think about Bay Area transportation, climate change, land use and other issues. To participate, log on through Jan. 18 to www.mtc.ca.gov/T2035.


Here’s what MTC has to say about its poll via a press release:

 

Every four years, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) updates its regional transportation plan, the region’s blueprint for spending federal, state and regional transportation dollars over the next 25 years. In order to hear your opinions on a variety of issues relating to the Transportation 2035 plan, MTC is hosting a Web survey through January 18.

 

The online survey asks participants questions about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, housing, improving traffic congestion, and planning and transportation funding priorities in the region. Participants also may compare their personal answers with the results of a telephone poll of 1,800 Bay Area residents conducted by MTC. The survey is also available in Spanish and Chinese.

 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help create a shared vision for the region’s transportation network that will help protect the environment, preserve our quality of life and improve mobility over the next 25 years.

 

MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

`Close Tax Loopholes:’ Fighting Words

By Steve Geissinger, MediaNews Sacramento Bureau

They’re so politically sacred, there hasn’t even been a formal name for $50 billion annually in — TAX BREAKS. Now blandly dubbed “tax expenditures,” they total more than three times the current, persistent state deficit and nearly half the entire general-fund budget.

Half.

And ending tax breaks can be restated as hiking taxes — read as, “political death.” (Read sister paper Torrance Daily Breeze’s editorial.) But a nonpartisan government think tank says end some tax breaks to help fix the structural deficit. Some private experts agree.

A very unscientific reader poll in a sister paper, the Contra Costa Times, says — surprise! — 42 percent agree with closing loopholes. Reader comments and phone calls have been passionate on both sides of the issue. For a time, it was the most e-mailed story. Another sister paper, the Los Angeles Daily News posted the story on its Sausage Factory political web site for comments. The story can be read in sister paper San Jose Mercury News.

Former Democratic Treasurer Phil Angelides, running for governor in 2006 against no-tax-hikes Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the last one to make a big deal out of what liberals attack as tax loopholes and conservatives praise as economic incentives.

(By the way, whatever happened to Phil?)

When Angelides started talking about messing with tax breaks, Republicans warned they’d actually be tax hikes. Democrats dove for cover. But they “boldly” inserted language in the last budget telling independent, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Liz Hill to study the tax-free cards the state’s been handing out for decades to certain interests.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle respect her, though may not agree with her suggestions for political or other reasons. Her office runs sort of like a computer program that crunches numbers and considers policy from a human but apolitical standpoint.

Hill dutifully provided a summary of recently enacted tax expenditures. Most were small and related to disaster losses. She assessed fuel-production tax loopholes but chose the state’s largest tax breaks to thoroughly analyze – mortgage interest deduction from personal income taxes. (At the same time, the governor’s Finance Department was required to add up tax breaks, including those for corporations, since nobody had dared to keep track before. The department found $50 billion-plus a year, and growing.)

In her report, Hill said what made sense to her: Time to drop the mortgage interest deduction, since it does the poor and middle-class little good, or remake it into a credit that helps the needy. The fat federal mortgage interest deduction would still be there, after all.

From Schwarzenegger’s office to the Legislature, nobody’s said tax breaks are off the table. Independent government, tax and housing experts have agreed Hill’s idea has some merit.

But nobody in power has really said it’s on the table for discussion, either.

At the same time, though, the deficit-plagued state has mostly run out of sensible but painful cuts, borrowing options and fiscal gimmicks.

The awful reality: The state is locked into spending more than it gets in revenue.

Everybody says something has to be done.

Are tax loophole closures less painful than tax hikes?

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: General | 3 Comments »

Tauscher speaks out on Pakistan assassination

Ellen TauscherThe United States must take a “tough love” approach in Pakistan in the wake of today’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country’s candidate for prime minister who espoused secular democracy, said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, chairwoman of a House Armed Services Committee panel with oversight of strategic nuclear security.

Pakistan has been a key player in U.S. efforts to stabilize and reconstruct neighboring Afghanistan and its status as a nuclear power significantly heightens international concern that internal political upheaval could jeopardize security over its weapons arsenal.

“This is very, very bad,” Tauscher said from her Alamo home by telephone this morning. “This is a time for tough love. We must be significantly engaged with our allies to ensure that the vulnerability of the Pakistani people isn’t leveraged by others, whether they are outside terrorists or other people inside the country who don’t share the same goals of democracy and freedom.”

Tauscher she contacted Pentagon officials shortly after hearing of the assassination and sought repeated reassurance that the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has retained the “full care, custody and control of its nuclear weapons and that the people in charge of the program are apolitical and above reproach.”

But the congresswoman expressed deep concern about continued U.S. reliance on Musharraf in the fight against terrorism and the security of Pakistan’s nuclear complex.

She called Musharraf a U.S. ally born out of geographic convenience after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but who took power in a military coup and seeks to remain in power indefinitely.

It was Musharraf, she said, who pardoned Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb who turned around and sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and others. Pakistan’s failure to prosecute Khan precluded a full investigation and disclosure of the details of the massive security breach, Tauscher said.

“We cannot continually find ourselves associated by convenience with people like Musharraf,” Tauscher said. “He was someone we had chosen to embrace because of the geography (neighbor to Afghanistan) and he chose to embrace us, but to a certain extent, it was a relationship of convenience to expedite the recovery of Afghanistan.

“We have to make clear that Musharraf’s quest of limitless power is not in the best interests of the Pakistani people and that his means of doing it is degrading the stability of the country and the region.”

On a related item, those of you on-line with an interest in what’s happening in Pakistan may be interested in a story on the Poynter Institute website about how to find bloggers inside the country. (Poynter is an organization that provides professional training and assistance to journalists.) Most of the news accounts about the assassination and the reaction in the Pakistan is coming from outside the country because of restrictions on journalists, writes Poynter blogger Amy Gahran.

NOTE: Photo is of Rep. Ellen Tauscher as it appears on her web site at http://www.house.gov/tauscher/about.shtml

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Congress, International politics | No Comments »

Lynn Woolsey endorses Hillary Clinton

woolsey.jpgRep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, today announced her endorsement of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, for president; in doing so, she has disagreed with her fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who has cast her lot with U.S. Sen Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The eight-term congresswoman, in a news release, cited Clinton’s commitment to ending the war in Iraq as the top reason for her backing: “Hillary Clinton is the candidate with the strength and experience to bring about the change that California families need. I trust Hillary to end the war in Iraq, bring our troops home quickly and safely, and regain our nation’s standing around the world.”

Said Clinton: “I am honored to receive Lynn’s support. She has been a tireless fighter for working families and has led the effort to end the war in Iraq.”

Other local representatives supporting Clinton include Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater — notably, perhaps the three greater Bay Area Democrat considered most centrist, while “Woolsey” and “centrist” are hardly ever spoken in the same sentence. Meanwhile, Lee is the only California member of Congress on Obama’s endorsement list; that choice also set her apart from her political mentor, longtime Congressman and current Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who picked Clinton.

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Elections, Ellen Tauscher, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, Lynn Woolsey, Ron Dellums, Tom Lantos, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

What they’re saying about Bhutto

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated, and the news releases are flying…

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who has known Bhutto for many years and met with her a few months ago during her last visit to Washington before her return to Pakistan:

lantos.jpg“Today, the world has witnessed a tragedy in Pakistan. This was a cowardly attack by extremist elements. Madam Bhutto was a stalwart of moderation, a force for democratic values, and a personal friend. I express my sincere condolences to her family, to her many friends, and to the people of Pakistan for the loss of one of their daughters.

“This atrocious attack should compel the United States to renew our commitment to the people of Pakistan and to the voices of moderation. Although one of those voices has been prematurely silenced today, it is up to all of us to make sure that those who have perpetrated this hideous act are brought to justice, and that those who continue to spew the venomous, hate-filled rhetoric of extremism are vanquished.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

feinstein.jpg“I met Benazir Bhutto when she was Prime Minister and came to this country, and the women of the Senate organized a breakfast with her. She was a brave woman who had the courage to return to Pakistan in the face of death threats, and she survived a previous attack on her life just two months ago. My heart and thoughts go out to her family and to the people of Pakistan, and I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. This indeed is a very difficult and tragic moment. My hope and prayer is that the Pakistani people will pull together, and allow the country to proceed on its road to democracy.”

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.:

obama.jpg“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

romney.jpg“We are still learning the details of today’s tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

“At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today.”

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio:

kucinich.jpg“This is a very dangerous moment for the world. Prime Minister Bhutto represented the forces of reform and the hope for an end to repression in a troubled region, and her death is a major loss to those efforts.

“This terrible tragedy also underscores the need for the United States to adopt a new foreign policy toward the entire region because our current policy is all wrong. Our interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan has opened wide the doors of repression and violence. At this very moment, we should be working with leaders of the region to convene a meeting at the highest levels to begin a new effort towards stabilization and peace.

“The United States must take a new direction in Pakistan and throughout the region. I met her several times, both in Washington and New York. She was deeply and genuinely dedicated to Pakistan. This is a tragic loss.”

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Barack Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Dianne Feinstein, General, Mitt Romney, Tom Lantos, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »