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Archive for June, 2008

Pentagon torture lawyer now at Chevron

Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt, no fan of Chevron — whose refinery looms over the city of Richmond — on any given day, notes today in an e-mail to constituents that Chevron chief corporate counsel William J. Haynes II is a former Pentagon official who just took a beating from Congress this week for his role in approving the use of harsh interrogtation methods that some call torture.

A blogger at Think Progress described the scene that unfolded at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday as Haynes explained his role as general counsel to the Department of Defense in how detainees have been treated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. “As the lawyer, I was not the decision maker. I was the adviser,” he said. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, told Haynes that doesn’t cut it:

“You did a disservice to the soldiers of this nation. You empowered them to violate basic conditions which every soldier respects — the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention. … Don’t go around with this attitude of you’re protecting the integrity of the military. You degraded the integrity of the United States military.”

San Ramon-based Chevron doesn’t have a problem with Haynes’ history, per “Chevron spokesman Robertson says that while the company is ‘aware that there are peripheral issues surrounding Jim, they have not been a focus for us.’ “

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: Afghanistan, Civil liberties, Iraq, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Upcoming political events around the Bay

Go on, get off your duffs.

    George Lakoff, the UC-Berkeley political linguistics expert and co-founder of the Rockridge Institute, will speak on “The Political Mind” at noon today at the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. The talk will be about how “language can be used as a critical tool in progressive politics, describing how our brains work in relation to society, why language is so important, and how Democrats can use this knowledge to their advantage to win the November elections.” It’s free for club members, $15 for nonmembers, with tickets available on the Club’s Web site.
    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will hold another one of his constituent meet-and-greet “Congress at Your Corner” sessions from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, June 21, at the Grocery Outlet, 825 W 11th St. in Tracy.
    Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan — 2008’s Mack Daddy of political memoir authors — will speak to the Commonwealth Club at noon Tuesday, June 24 in the Terrace Room of the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. in San Francisco. “He will share his views on where he thinks the President and his top aides veered off course on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Washington’s bitter partisanship, and the last two contentious presidential campaigns. Reflecting on mistakes of the past, McClellan will look to the future and discuss the lessons Americans need to learn as they choose a new leader in the upcoming election,” the club says. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and are available on the club’s Web site.

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: General | No Comments »

$100 million spent, says state campaign watchdog

Special interests have poured nearly $100 million of independent expenditures into statewide campaigns races since voters adopted direct candidate contribution limits in 2001, reports the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

So-called independent expenditures have grown significantly as outside groups seek to influence the outcome of elections without worrying about those pesky contribution limits.

“The emergence of independent expenditures has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California’s campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections,” the FPPC report says.

The FPPC’s report, Independent Expenditures: The Giant Gorilla in Campaign Finance, also offers details into the Top 10 groups when it comes to spending money on statewide campaigns. The list included groups advocating for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. It also includes political action committees for the California Chamber of Commerce, California Peace Officers Association, Indian tribes and other labor organizations. (This lovely gorilla picture comes from

The $100 million does not, however, take into account the numerous independent expenditures in local races, which has become commonplace in East Bay contests and elsewhere in California has contribution limits have become more widely deployed.

Independent expenditures were made in the two Contra Costa County supervisor races, for example. Some candidates have even come to count on the influence of outside money even though they cannot, by law, coordinate or direct the expenditures of these groups.

Read more for the FPPC press release: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Under: campaign finance | 2 Comments »

Nejedly family lawsuit receives new hearing date

The next court date in a lawsuit challenging the disposition of the estate of the late Sen. John Nejedly has been set for Nov. 3 and in the meantime, the various parties have agreed to participate in mediation.

Nejedly’s eldest son, Contra Costa Community College Trustee John T. Nejedly, has accused his brother and sister, Contra Costa Central Sanitary District member Jim Nejedly and Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, of conspiring to turn his elderly father against him.

But according to court documents filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the late senator intentionally stripped John T. of a share of the estate, which consists largely of a home on 13 wooded acres in Walnut Creek, after their relationship soured under the pressure of his son’s marital problems, drug and alcohol abuse. The senator also sought to keep the Walnut Creek property intact rather than see it subdivided.

John A. Nejedly died at age 91 on Sept. 19, 2006.

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Andal involved in Delta College civil grand jury investigation

Congressional GOP candidate Dean Andal has gotten caught up in a story out of Tracy reported today by my Tri-Valley Herald colleague Mike Martinez.

According to Martinez’ story, the “San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and violated open government laws by discussing closed-session matters outside its meetings, charges a San Joaquin County civil grand jury report released Wednesday morning.” (Click here to read the grand jury report.)

The seven-page report found the board made decisions that have “caused serious problems” and that trustees were “ill-prepared” to handle the Measure L funds, a $250 million school bond approved by San Joaquin County voters in 2004.

Andal’s involvement came as a consultant to PCCP Mountain House, LLC, a group led by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos. The company was in discussions with San Joaquin Delta College to provide the college with $14 million for infrastructure as the landowner and the college developed their respective properties in Mountain House, a master-planned community near Tracy.

At a closed-session meeting held by the board on Feb. 9, 2006, Martinez wrote, “the college’s attorney and administrative team said a developer would be missing the deadline for delivery of letters of credit, resulting in a breach of contract. The board then discussed the possibility of returning to a deal.”

Martinez reports that the grand jury reported stated that the day after the “closed-session meeting (with Delta College board members), phone calls and a faxed letter indicated that one or more board members had relayed confidential information about the ‘breach of contract’ discussion to the developer and his consultant, Dean Andal, the Republican nominee for the 11th Congressional District seat in November.”

Andal was out of town and unavailable for comment, Martinez reported.

Andal is the Republican nominee in Congressional District 11 and will face incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the Nov. 4 general election.

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Get your candidate stuff right here

There’s a presidential campaign underway, in case you hadn’t noticed, and expressing yourself politically is just a click and a credit card away.

Here are a few commercial and candidate paraphernalia advertisements I’ve received in my in-box in the past few weeks. offers a variety of bumper stickers, banners, yard signs and T-shirts, such as “NOBAMA 08” and “So, the Dixie Chicks Were Right After All.”

The will sweeten up your life with a sour grape flavored lollipop wrapped in the image of Hillary Clinton.

Buy a drink in your favorite candidate’s name at A six-pack of bottles featuring photos of Hillary Clinton, Obama or John McCain will set you back $14.99 plus shipping.

Get a few giggles with the “Laughing Hillary Pen” at

Of course, the candidates would prefer you buy stuff on their web sites, where the proceeds end up in their campaign accounts rather than those with purely capitalistic motives.

McCain is selling eco-friendly — in appropriately conservative colors and styles — polo shirts, coffee cups, hats and bags at

Obama is plugging car magnets, pens and plastic water bottles that sport his name, plus a button that says, “Women for Obama,” at

And yes, Clinton may be out of the running but she’s still selling her wares at

Consider buying a special print made just for her, a ruler with her name on it or a signature mouse pad.

Now, now, don’t dismiss the idea out of hand just because she lost. Making history isn’t cheap and Hillary has campaign debts to pay.

Aggravation of the day: Has anyone else noticed that when you go to the presidential candidates’ web sites, they make it really hard for you to reach the home page without signing up for alerts or making a donation?
It feels like on-line blackmail and it’s darned annoying.

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

California Democratic Party takes initiative positions

The California Democratic Party’s executive board met a few days ago and voted on its positions on the ballot measures on or appeared headed to the Nov. 4 general election ballot: (The Democratic Party sent out a corrected list today, which is reflected below.)

YES – Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.

YES – Treatment of Farm Animals. Statute.

YES – Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Statute.

NO – Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Constitutional Amendment.

YES – Nonviolent Offenders. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Statute. *

NO – Criminal Penalties and Laws. Public Safety Funding. Statute.

NO – Renewable Energy. Statute.

NO – Limit on Marriage. Constitutional Amendment.

NO – Criminal Justice System. Victims’ Rights. Parole. Constitutional Amendment and Statute. *

NEUTRAL – Bonds. Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy. Statute.
NO – Redistricting. Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

*NOTE: a press release sent yesterday incorrectly stated the CDP’s position on two propositions.  On the Criminal justice system, victims’ rights initiative, the correct position is NO.  And on the sentencing of violent offenders initiative, the correct position is YES.

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election, Democratic politics, Propositions, State politics | No Comments »

The ballot measure cash bonanza is ramping up

The big money already is flowing hot and heavy for and against this November’s ballot measures. Among some of the larger recent contributions:

    Colorado-based Focus on the Family last Thursday gave $250,000 to the campaign for the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign a week earlier had anted up $200,000 to oppose it.
    San Jose-based Planned Parenthood Mar Monte on Tuesday put $700,000 into the Campaign for Teen Safety, which will oppose the proposed constitutional amendment requiring parental notification for teen abortions.
    San Diego County-based Armstrong Farms Inc. laid a $50,221 egg last Friday for Californians for Sound Animal Agriculture, which was formed to oppose the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” an initiative that would prohibit confining farm animals in tiny spaces; a day earlier, New York-based Farm Sanctuary Inc. had given $50,000 to support that initiative.
    Arizona businessman Peter Sperling — number 317 on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans last year — on June 9 put another $1.2 million into Californians for Solar and Clean Energy, the committee that’s backing a measure to require all California utilities to produce more electricity from solar and clean energy resources: 20% by 2010, 40% by 2020, and 50% by 2025. That’s on top of $1.8 million he’d given the committee earlier.

To review, 11 propositions have qualified for the November ballot: a measure to reform legislative redistricting; a high-speed rail bond; a measure relating to the treatment of farm animals; a children’s hospital bond; a parental notification for abortion measure; a measure involving the sentencing of nonviolent offenders; a measure regarding increased criminal penalties and public safety funding; a measure creating renewable energy generation requirements for utilities; a measure that would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as “between a man and a woman;” a measure involving victims’ rights in the criminal justice system; and a bond measure for alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy. More may be on the way.

And a lot of campaign consultants are going to make a lot of money.

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Under: Elections, General | No Comments »

Contra Costa selects new county manager

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors has chosen a Minnesota county manager as its new top executive.

David Twa (pictured on right) will take over the duties of County Administrative Officer when John Cullen retires in the fall. The supervisors have been interviewing top candidates for the past month.

Given California’s deep financial troubles facing public agencies, one might ask why any normal person would want this job? But then again, Contra Costa is pretty nice place to live … and it doesn’t have winter, not like a real winter in Minnesota.

Photo downloaded from the Ramsey County web site.

Read more for the full county press release issued a few minutes ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Under: Contra Costa County, Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

Redistricting measure headed to ballot

Voters will have another crack at political boundary redistricting in the November general election.

The state has certified an initiative for the Nov. 4 election sponsored by California Common Cause and supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former state controller Steve Westly that would strip state legislators of the authority to draw their own district lines and turn it over to an independent commission.

It’s the 11th initiative approved for the upcoming general election ballot and another 21 are either in circulation or awaiting signature verification. (Shall we start a betting pool on how many pages the ballot statement will consume before we’re all done?)

Here’s the Secretary of State’s press release issued a few minutes ago: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, ballot measures, Election reform | No Comments »