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Archive for July, 2008

Clinton set to speak in SF; Obama headed to Bay Area

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will speak Thursday morning in person while presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama will speak live via satellite to nearly 6,000 delegates and activists expected to attend the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) convention at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Expect considerable press coverage, including that of my Oakland Tribune colleague Josh Richman. He’ll be there in person; no satellite feed for Josh!

While Obama won’t show up in person on Thursday, he’s scheduled to arrive in San Francisco for a fund-raiser on Aug. 17.

Obama will attend a cocktail reception and a dinner at either the Masonic Hall or the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Per the invitation, the event will set you back $2,300 per person for the cocktail party and $14,250 per person for the dinner.

If you’re feeling flush and want to go, send an email to the event co-chair Jeremiah Hallisey (he’s an Alamo guy) at

Addition at 2:28 p.m.: A reader asked about the origins of the numbers, $2,300 and $14,250. The invite says: “For those who have not exceeded the allowable contribution to the Obama campaign, you can contribute up to $2,300 for the primary, $2,300 for the general election and $28,500 to the Obama Victory Fund.”

The $14,250 figure is exactly half that of the maximum contribution allowed to the Obama Victory Fund but you’ll note that it is well in excess of the individual limits. It’s permissible because the Obama Victory Fund is a joint fund formed with other entities and they are allowed to combine the limits. McCain has a similar fund with a contribution cap of $70,000. has a good story on the subject here.

Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

McCain-Obama to star in comic books

The two presumed presidential nominees, John McCain and Barack Obama, will star in their own comic books, according to an Associated Press story today.

But the books aren’t going to ha-ha comic books or packed with super-heroes fighting villains for world domination or even the Electoral College. IDW Publishing says they will be illustrated, word-balloon stories of the two men’s lives.

Gee, is that what we’ve come to in American democracy? Is the only way we can get people to pay attention about the future Leader of the Free World is to draw pictures and word balloons?

Heck, with the way my eyesight is deteriorating in my advancing years, I’m definitely going to check these books out. I always did like Superman comics although I suspect we may need Wonder Woman to really clean up the mess.

Here are the first few graphs of the story:

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—It’s a year of superheroes in Hollywood, with the big-budget epics of Batman, Iron Man and the Hulk, but a big-budget production out of Washington, D.C., is carving a niche in the animation trend. Presumptive nominees John McCain and Barack Obama will star this fall in their own comic books put out by IDW Publishing, a San Diego-based publisher better known for telling the stories of robots (“The Transformers”) and vampires (“30 Days of Night”).

Don’t expect Captain America-versus-Superman hijinks or super-villains threatening the electoral process. Trading sound bites for word balloons, the books purport to tell McCain and Obama’s life stories, independently researched and illustrated by a veteran team of writers and artists.

Source of comic book cover: I uploaded this funny comic book cover at this site:

Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

Capt. Kirk will save us!

We can rest easy and forget about the horrors awaiting us from the impacts of global warming. Captain Kirk is declaring war on the geo-disaster-in-the-making and as we all know, he has defeated far worse out there in the universe.

The Sierra Club announces this morning it will team up with actor William Shatner, of the famed Star Trek series (one of my favorite shows of all time, I confess), to fight global warming.

I feel better already. Really.

Read more for the full press release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Under: Environment | No Comments »

Bill to help exonerees shrunk by budget crunch

Money is being stripped out of a bill aimed at doing right by those wrongfully convicted of crimes in California, even as this year’s legislative clock ticks down.

AB 2937, authored by Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, has until Aug. 7 to make it through this session, and the Assembly passed it on a 64-2 vote back in May, but the state Senate Appropriations Committee voted 14-0 on July 7 to place the bill in its suspense file — a holding place for bills carrying a price tag of $150,000 or more.

That’s because the bill would’ve raised the compensation paid to exonerees. Under current law, a claimant would be awarded $100 per day of prison confinement, or $36,500 per year; it’s the same amount for people who sat on death row. This bill would have increased the prison-confinement amount to $50,000 per year, or about $137 per day; for those who were on death row, it would have increased the pay to $100,000 per year, or about $274 per day.

From the Senate Appropriations Committee summary:

“The average annual claim paid from the General Fund is $671,380 for the years 2002-2006. The Legislature did not approve a claim of $74,600 for David Jones in 2007. This bill would provide for a 37% increase of the amount paid per day of prison confinement. Thus, the state would expect to pay about $250,000 more each year in claims. Since none of the claims in recent history has involved a death row inmate, there would be significant, but unknown costs. If a person had been on death row for 20 years, he or she could claim approximately $2,000,200 under this provision.

“In addition, this bill would extend the timeframe in which a person may file a claim from 6 months to 2 years after his or her exoneration date. This could lead to additional claims filed.”

Now former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which made the recommendations on which this bill is based, says raising the compensation is basically off the table for this year “simply because of the budget situation.”

“We’re trying to do whatever possible to limit the costs so they can get it out,” he told me this afternoon. “We’re not getting even close to 100 percent of what we’d like, but it’s a start.”

The Commission in February issued a report recommending remedies for wrongful conviction, and the stripped-down bill still includes some of those suggestions, Van de Kamp said. For example, it would amend state law so that people who were coerced into giving false confessions aren’t excluded from compensation; it would require that exonerated people’s criminal records automatically be sealed; and it would require counties to offer exonerated people or those released due to reversal of their convictions the same community re-entry services provided to parolees.

Van de Kamp said Solorio’s office and supporters including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California are working closely with Appropriations Committee staffers to get the bill out of the suspense file; one legislative staffer told me today he’s “unable” to gauge the chances of success.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, General | No Comments »

Ex-spokesman for Arnold finds Cuil reception

Upstart search engine Cuil — pronounced “cool” — launched to generally lousy reviews yesterday:

  • CNN Money/Fortune: “So far, the site has been sporadically unavailable because of the high volume of searches.”
  • Time magazine: “(E)ven when it was working, the results were fair, at best.”
  • Garett Rogers, blogging at ZDNet: “I can tell you that I’m not impressed with the results, and I certainly won’t be telling my friends to make the switch.”
  • The Guardian: “As one commentator on the technology website TechCrunch put it yesterday: ‘If this wasn’t started by some ex-Googlers, nobody would give a hoot.’ “
  • Yeesh. Tough crowd. But, why am I writing about this on a political blog, you might ask?

    Because as you’ll see from the article at ChannelWeb — ” ‘Cuil works about as well as if I typed random URLs into the browser. Absolutely useless!’ ” — the company’s vice president of communications is Vince Sollitto, a former chief deputy press secretary to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    These Cuil reviews make you wonder whether Sollitto wishes he could be fielding questions about the $15 billion state budget deficit or the governor’s unpopular plan to cut state workers salaries to minimum wage. Probably not, though — even a stumbling startup probably pays more than government service. Or journalism.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

    Huffington proposes ‘Poll of Poll of Polls’

    I loved this snarky Arianna Huffington post today about polling and all the media hype about whether or not Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama enjoyed a bounce from his trip to Europe:

    “Maybe what we need is a Huffington Post Poll of Polls of Polls, which will have a margin of error of +/- pi divided by Schrödinger’s cat.”

    Postscript: No, I have no idea what a Schrodinger’s cat is, but Wikipedia says this: “Schrödinger’s cat, often described as a paradox, is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics being applied to everyday objects, by considering the example of a cat that may be either alive or dead, according to an earlier random event.”

    Okay. I got it. Sure.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
    Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

    Schwarzenegger video of the week

    This week – as “The Dark Knight,” having made a record-shattering $300 million in two weeks, stalks “Titanic” for the all-time box office record – let’s recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s contribution to the Batman canon, as Mr. Freeze in 1997’s “Batman and Robin:”

    Sure, I know, this was meant to be campy. But Heath Ledger he ain’t.

    Previous SVOTWs: July 22, July 8, July 1, June 24, June 17, June 10, June 3, May 27, May 20, May 13, May 6, April 29, April 22, April 15, April 8, April 1, March 25, March 18, March 11, March 4, February 26, February 19, February 12, February 5, January 29, January 22, January 15, January 8, January 1, December 25, December 18, December 11, December 4, November 27, November 20, November 13, November 6, October 30, October 23, October 16, October 9, October 2, September 25, September 18, September 11, September 4, August 28, August 21, August 7, July 31, July 24, July 17, July 10, July 3, June 26, June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

    Inside McCain’s San Francisco fundraiser

    I’m sitting in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, having just covered a fundraiser for John McCain here. My story has been filed and should appear on the Web site soon, but space constraints prevent me from including much detail in the story. Not so on the blog!

    Contributors began gathering beneath the crystal chandeliers of the Gold Room — an ornate, French Provincial-styled ballroom — at around 6:30 p.m., then sipped California wines — Mountain View Vintners Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine — or other beverages and snacked on hor’s d’oeuvres including ahi tuna tartare, chicken sate skewers, bruschetta, crab cakes and local artisanal cheeses while mingling and awaiting the candidate. The crowd of about 250 — campaign staffers declined to say how many people attended the dinner and reception, or to estimate how much money was raised Monday evening — appeared mostly white or Asian, and diverse in age.

    McCain entered at 7:49 p.m. with California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who introduced the event’s chairman, Howard Leach, the former U.S. Ambassador to France. Leach introduced Cindy McCain, who said she recently returned from Rwanda on a trip with One, the anti-AIDS and poverty organization founded by U2 frontman Bono. She said it was a remarkable experience, witnessing reconcilation between Rwandan woman and those who’d brutalized them during the genocide of 1994. “I can honestly tell you I’m not that strong… I’ve never been so moved and I’ve never been so honored to be in the presence of woman as strong as that,” she said. She then explained that she was telling this story because she realized it reflected the strength and forgiveness her husband showed during and after his time as a Vietnam prisoner of war. “He is the true epitome of what is great about America and Americans: hope, honor, dignity and strength.”

    McCain began speaking at 7:57 p.m., thanking the crowd for coming and promising not to let them down but rather to “run a campaign you’re going to be proud of.” He also said he was glad to be back in “one of the most beautiful cities on earth.”

    He described himself as an underdog, said he loves that status and said he’s doing better at this point than he thought he would be doing. “I will compete and I will win in the state of California,” he said, then quipped after applause, “and following that I will take back to Arizona all the water that you’ve stolen from us.” He then praised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as “a great guy.”

    He said his campaign is “about reforming the way government does business,” noting Congress is at an all-time low 9-percent approval rating. “In our nation’s capital, we’re gridlocked and not working for the American people,” but he can and will reach across the aisle to get things done, he said.

    He said he was proud to have never sought or received any pork-barrel, earmark spending. Congress once earmarked $3 million to study bear DNA in Montana, he noted: “I don’t know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue” but “the American people are sick of it.”

    On energy, he said, we should pursue alternative energy sources but also beef up our nuclear energy industry — France gets 80 percent of its power from nuclear energy, he noted — and “I believe if the states approve we ought to drill offshore” as “a bridge to this independence from foreign oil.

    McCain spoke about a “transcendent challenge of radical Islamic extremists,” and asserted that “we have succeeded in Iraq… and we will come home with honor and we will not have to go back.”

    “There was a time when I said, ‘We’ve got to send more troops to Iraq because we’ve got to win there,’ and it wasn’t a popular thing to do… I said at that time I’d much rather lose a campaign than lose a war,” McCain said, then recounting how a New Hampshire woman last year had asked him to wear a bracelet with her slain soldier son’s name on it, and asked him to promise her son’s death wouldnt be in vain. “I take that very seriously. I want to be president becuase I believe I can inspire a generation of young Americans to serve a cause bigger than their own self-interests.”

    McCain said he believes he can follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, and is humbled to be receiving their party’s endorsement.

    He said he was tempted by an opportunity to be freed before his fellow POWs, but put his honor and country first and stayed. “I will always put my country first,” he said, concluding his remarks at 8:09 p.m.

    He then took several questions from the audience. One person asked whether he believes its appropriate for a presidential candidate to apologize for America’s mistakes while visiting overseas. McCain said he didn’t see Obama’s big speech, but would prefer to wait to give a speech in Berlin until he’s president. “I think America has made mistakes, I’m sure that throughout our history the United States of America has made some mistakes” but “the United States is unique in the history of the world in that we have sent our young Americans to shed their blood in all four corners of the earth, usually in defense of someone else’s freedom,” and he hopes the nation will remain what Ronald Reagan called the world’s “shining city on the hill.”

    On California’s allowance of same-sex marriage: “I have to tell you my personal opinion is that I do not agree with that, but I believe states should make the decisions within the states as to what those issues should be.”

    Someone asked him how he would ensure nobody else suffers, as he did, the pain of torture, war and violence, either by staying in Iraq or by attacking Iran. “My position is that as President of the United States, I will declare we will never torture anyone in our custody.” He said a former high-ranking al Qaeda official now cooperating with U.S. troops told him the Abu Ghraib photos had been the terrorist group’s “greatest recruiting tool… So I don’t think torture works, number one, and number two it hurts us as far as winning the long-term ideological struggle.”

    Someone asked what his position would be if Israel feels mortally threatened. “I believe that we can still impose sufficient pressure and sanctions on the Iranians… They have a weak economy, I believe that with diplomatic trade and other tough sanctions on Iran, we can still change their behavior.” He then added, “If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it destabilizes the whole region… The United States of America can never ever allow a second Holocaust, and as President of the United States, I will not allow that to happen.”

    An African-American man said the Republican Party hasn’t given African-Americans a reason to rally to the GOP, and asked McCain how he would help minorities move their first-generation wealth to their children, and also about his stance on affirmative action. “I’ve never believed in and do not believe in quotas,” McCain replied. “I think we ought to do everything we can to provide Americans with an equal opportunity.” To that end, he said, “I believe the biggest civil rights issue of the 21st century is education… When we condemn Americans to a terrible education because of their income and their location, we have done a grave injustice… I want every American to have the same choice that Senator Obama and his wife had and that Cindy and I had, and that is to send their children to the schools of their choice” with a voucher system. “We will reform education in America,” he vowed, noting “education is on the upswing” in New Orleans, where rebuilding from Katrina led to a proliferation of charter schools.

    McCain said goodbye and left at 8:22 p.m.

    Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2008
    Under: Elections, General, John McCain | No Comments »

    Sierra Club launches pro-McNerney radio ad

    The environmental community is paying out some bucks to help Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton win re-election in November.

    The Sierra Club will run radio ads today through Friday in six congressional districts nationwide where Democrats are running in competitive races against Republican challengers, including that of McNerney.

    Environmental PACs spent millions in 2006 but they were chiefly motivated by an intense loathing of the incumbent, Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy. Some folks wondered whether the greenies would bother to come back.

    Titled “Rolling In It,” the 60-second ad encourages members of Congress to fight subsidies to “Big Oil” and comes just before major oil companies announce their profits starting with BP on Tuesday.

    McNerney is running against Republican challenger Dean Andal of Stockton, pictured on the right, a former Assemblyman and member of the state Board of Equalization.

    Read more for the full Sierra Club press release. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, congressional district 11, Environment | No Comments »

    Hillary’s back, neither gone nor forgotten

    Hillary Clinton will be making her first big Bay Area appearance since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination this Thursday morning, as she addresses the national convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. (Al Gore is speaking there Wednesday, but that’s completely closed to the press – what gives?)

    Later Thursday, she’ll be feted at a private “unity” fundraiser in Los Altos Hills, organized through Barack Obama‘s campaign and aimed at retiring her campaign debt; the requested contribution is $500. Former Menlo Park Mayor Gail Slocum had this to say in announcing the fundraiser on Obama’s blog:

    “I was originally an Edwards supporter/fundraiser, and I’m keeping the big picture strategy in mind here for electing Barack: The RNC and McCain have about a $40 million advantage over our side’s combined funds on hand as of the end of June. Without the strongest possible enthusiastic support from Hillary’s and all the candidates’ fundraising and organizing leaders over the next 3 1/2 months, we will not realistically be able to run a winning 50-state Presidential campaign (as well as widen Dem margins in Congress). I am also mindful that Hillary’s debt is owed to many small business people who provided campaign services. Finally, Hillary has kept her promise to support Barack and urge her supporters to do so too, and this is a concrete way to say thank you. We need unity now to win and show McCain that they can’t divide us this time.

    Plus, on a more personal level, I plan to bring our 9 year old daughter to meet Hillary and witness personally the remarkable leader who made women’s history this year and has already influenced our daughter’s perspectives greatly “Mommy, WHEN I’m President, I’ll…”).

    Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Elections, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards | No Comments »