Gavin Newsom is headed for Israel

newsom.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is headed to Israel this week as part of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation‘s business delegation, looking to drum up ties in high-tech, biotech and green technology.

Newsom is scheduled to take part in a full-day clean-tech showcase on Israel’s industrial approach to alternative energy and bio-fuels. He’ll be the first San Francisco Mayor to visit San Francisco’s city’s sister city, Haifa, and he’ll meet with Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav as well as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. He also expects to pay his respects at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, and at a memorial marking the site of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in Tel Aviv. And he’ll visit Umm el-Fahm, an Arab-Israeli town that is one of the sites for Echad – a Jewish Community Federation-funded program focused on early childhood education in the Arab-Israeli community.

And will this trip generate controversy? Hey, what do you think?

Barbara Lubin, head of the Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance, told KCBS radio it’s a cop-out for Newsom to go to Israel and not address its policies. ”People really don’t want to get into the real issues of Israel, because of course people don’t want to be called anti-Semitic. But it is really no more anti-Semitic to criticize the actions of Israel, than it is anti-American to criticize the actions of our government,” she said.

The planning committee which set up this trip is co-chaired by Cytokinetics Inc. President and CEO Robert Blum and Traiana Inc. Chairman Bobby Lent; joining them will almost 100 more senior-level executives and local Jewish philanthropists including Yitz Applbaum, economic advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the founder and general partner of Opus Capital. Also on the trip: Hillsborough City Councilman and JCF Vice President Thomas Kasten; Geolo Capital founder and JCF president John Pritzker; and Daniel Sokatch, the JCF’s incoming CEO and former executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.


Hagee’s non-apology

New to my inbox, an “official statement” e-mailed on behalf of the Rev. John Hagee, an evangelical pastor from whom Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain said he’s proud to have an endorsement.

hagee.jpg“As a believing Christian, I see the hand of God in everything that happens here on earth, both the blessings and the curses. But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise. No matter what the cause of the storm, my heart goes out to all who suffered in this terrible tragedy. There but for the grace of God go any one of us.”

This, of course, refers to Hagee’s contention that God punished New Orleans with the hurricane’s devestation, a claim I think he first made to National Public Radio’s Terry Gross back in September 2006. “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans,” he said. “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”

It’s a claim he repeated again this week. “What happened in New Orleans looked like the curse of God… In time, if New Orleans recovers and becomes the pristine city it can become, it may in time be called a blessing. But at this time it’s called a curse… It was a city that was planning a sinful conduct.”

MoveOn organized a protest of McCain’s appearance in New Orleans yesterday, and today Hagee offers this statement.

And what, exactly, does this mean? “Well, I don’t actually know what God was thinking, but I believe He believes being gay warrants divine retribution that ravages an entire region, kills more than 1,800 people, leaves thousands homeless, causes about $86 billion in damages… But hey, I feel for ya.

Seriously? Is McCain OK with this? (Yes, that would be the same McCain who yesterday blasted the Bush Administration’s “terrible and disgraceful” response to Katrina, yet won’t give a straight answer on why he voted against emergency funding for the region as well as against giving victims access to Medicaid and unemployment benefits.)

Where’s the “straight talk?”


GOP rolls out California fundraising chairs

The Republican National Committee‘s Victory 2008 campaign rolled out its list of finance chairs who’ll lead the effort to raise money to put John McCain in the White House and down-ticket GOP candidates into office across the nation.

“I look forward to working with each of the 2008 Victory Finance Chairs and communicating Senator McCain’s vision for the country,” Victory 2008 chairwoman Carly Fiorina said in the news release. “McCain has demonstrated to all of us that he has the judgment, character, and integrity to lead our nation and each of these state chairs will help echo that message.”

Here’s California’s contingent:

  • Honorary Chairman Jerry Perenchio
  • Co-Chairman George L. Argyros
  • Co-Chairman William E. Bloomfield
  • Co-Chairman Robert A. Day, Jr.
  • Co-Chairman Jeff Denham
  • Co-Chairman Ted Dutton
  • Co-Chairman Paul F. Folino
  • Co-Chairman John Hagestad
  • Co-Chairman John C. Harris
  • Co-Chairman Joe Harper
  • Co-Chairman John Heubusch
  • Co-Chairman John F. Hotchkis
  • Co-Chairman Gary Hunt
  • Co-Chairman William Jones
  • Co-Chairman Gerry Kamilos
  • Co-Chairman Howard H. Leach
  • Co-Chairman Howard Lester
  • Co-Chairman William H. Lyon
  • Co-Chairman Sean McAvoy
  • Co-Chairman Susan McCaw
  • Co-Chairman James McGovern
  • Co-Chairman Michael T. Moe
  • Co-Chairman Al Montna
  • Co-Chairman John Moran
  • Co-Chairman Peter Newman
  • Co-Chairman Gerry Parsky
  • Co-Chairman David S. Pottruck
  • Co-Chairman Richard Roeder
  • Co-Chairman J. Gary Shansby
  • Co-Chairman William E. Siart
  • Co-Chairman Harry Evans Sloan
  • Co-Chairman Alex G. Spanos
  • Co-Chairman Dean A. Spanos
  • Co-Chairman Marc I. Stern
  • Co-Chairmen Lisa and Greg Wendt
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    Behind the scenes: Candidate round-tables

    I spent all day Wednesday in Contra Costa Television’s Martinez studio moderating — yep, one right after the other — a series of six, half-hour taped candidate and issue round-tables.

    (CCTV staffers are busy finishing up the productions. As soon as they are finished, I’ll post airtime schedules and the on-line links to the debates for Assembly districts 14 and 15, county supervisor districts 3 and 5, and Propositions 98 and 99.)

    People ask me every time we tape these segments, “How can you keep all those candidates straight?”

    Hey, six segments in one day is nothing. My personal record is 22 round-tables in three days. We may break that figure this November depending on the numbers of contested local races. The Richmond City Council race alone had 14 candidates in 2006. (And no, they don’t teach you how to moderate candidate round-tables in journalism school. I inherited the job from my predecessor, Dan Borenstein.)

    You never quite know what’s going to happen when you sit down in front of the television cameras.

    Yesterday, Assembly District 14 candidate Phil Polakoff’s cell phone rang during the segment and then beeped again when the caller left him a voicemail. We forgave him because he’s a medical doctor, although for all we know, someone was telling him dry cleaning was ready for pick up.

    AD14 candidate Tony Thurmond was late for the taping, which earned him a verbal rebuke from candidate Nancy Skinner. “I had a family emergency,” Thurmond snapped back. Ooookay.

    We needed fur coats during a very chilly round-table between incumbent Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and her challenger, termed-out Assemblyman Guy Houston. He blasted her during his opening statements and the hostility between the two of them is obvious. Most of the angst is rooted in the fact that he encouraged Piepho, who worked in his Assembly office, to run for supervisor in 2004. In 2007, he tried to recruit her for his Assembly seat before he filed to run against her in the supervisor race.

    In the five-way race in supervisorial District 5 against incumbent Federal Glover, challenger Mary Rocha waited until her closing statement to whip out from her purse an expensive glossy color brochure produced by challenger, Erik Nunn, and complain about the money being spent in the race. (Note to self: Ban purses allowed on the set.)

    And in the Prop. 98 and 99 debate, we had a heck of time figuring out who was the proponent and opponent of what. You see, the proponent of Prop. 98 was also the opponent of Prop. 99, and the proponent of Prop. 99, well, you get the picture. Thank goodness, the two people who were debating the measures were patient and kind people.

    Tune in and watch. The segments aren’t long enough to give you a total picture of each candidates’ views on a broad range of subjects. But they do allow you to see the candidates in the same room at the same time.


    East Bay lawmaker seeks to hike veteran home loan cap

    Veteran homeowners struggling under the weight of rising sub-prime mortgage payments could see a rise in the federally back refinance loan cap in legislation that passed out of a Congressional committee this week.

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, authored an amendment to the Helping Our Veterans Keep Their Homes Act of 2008 that would hike the existing $144,000 loan cap to $729,750.

    The lower figure is virtually useless in Northern California, especially in the Bay Area where housing prices are among the highest in the nation.

    “I’ve heard from reservists who have been deployed multiple times, saw a big loss in pay and they get in trouble with their home loans,” McNerney said.

    The underlying bill revamps the Veterans Administration Home Loan Guaranty Service, which provides home loans to military personnel. The bill passed out of a subcommittee on Veterans Affairs on Wednesday and is headed to the full committee.

    McNerney said he sought in his amendment to include veterans who already own homes but have fallen victim to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It would allow them to refinance with VA-backed loans at more affordable interest rates.

    “We have heard complaints about the low, $144,00 figure in the past, but now, it’s a crisis,” McNerney said. “We had bipartisan support for the legislation in the sub-committee and I can’t imagine why anyone would oppose it.”

    Click here to read McNerney’s press release.


    Random thoughts on Pennsylvania’s primary

    senatorclinton.jpgWith only a few precincts outstanding at this hour, the Associated Press shows Hillary Clinton with 55 percent of Pennyslvania’s Democratic vote — it was a closed primary, no independents allowed — and Barack Obama with 45 percent; that’s 80 pledged delegates for Clinton, 66 for Obama, 12 more yet to be awarded.

    So, the new delegate totals seem to be:

  • Obama — 1,481 pledged + 233 superdelegates = 1,714 total
  • Clinton — 1,331 pledged + 258 superdelegates = 1,589 total
  • CNN asks whether Clinton’s Pennsylvania victory came soon enough to save her candidacy: “Clinton told supporters in her victory speech that ‘the tide has turned.’ It’s more like she’s slowed the wave of momentum that appeared ready to carry Obama to the party’s nomination.”

    The win certainly seemed to have given Clinton at least some degree of financial boost; Bloomberg reports her campaign claiming to have raised $2.5 million after the polls closed last night. In context, however, not much of that will be left after she pays her debts: Obama started the month with $42.5 million available while Clinton had about $8 million on hand but $10.3 million in unpaid bills.

    obama.jpgClinton’s campaign put out a bulletin today noting “more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate… Estimates vary slightly, but according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary has received 15,095,663 votes to Sen. Obama’s 14,973,720, a margin of more than 120,000 votes… This count includes certified vote totals in Florida and Michigan.” That would be the two states where Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign because they bucked the party’s rules by setting their primaries too early; Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. Even counting Florida but not Michigan, Obama’s still in the popular-vote lead.

    So now it’s on to the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Real Clear Politics’ averages of several polls shows Clinton with a slim lead in Indiana and Obama with a comfortable lead in North Carolina. Nationwide, it’s Obama by 10 percentage points. Watch for all those numbers to change somewhat as yesterday’s results sink in.

    And Time magazine says “the real winner of the Democratic race in Pennsylvania is John McCain. The most significant number coming out of Tuesday night wasn’t Clinton’s 10 point margin of victory, but 43. That’s the percentage of Clinton voters who say they would stay home or vote for McCain if Obama is the party’s nominee in November.” But that doesn’t account for the more than a quarter of Republican voters in yesterday’s election who voted against McCain, picking Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee instead. True, there wasn’t a lot of impetus for McCain supporters to flock to the polls yesterday because he’s already the presumptive nominee; still, when 27 percent of those who did show up vote against the guy, you’ve gotta wonder how many of those people will vote against him or just stay home in November.