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Archive for October, 2008

Get Alameda County election results on your cell

Before long, election officials will beam results directly into implants embedded into our foreheads.

In the meantime, sign up for Alameda County’s email blast service of the results of a select group of races to your cell phone. Click here to sign up.

Races include Alameda County results for: President, Pleasanton Mayor, Berkeley Mayor, Oakland City Council at Large, Berkeley City Council District 4, San Leandro City Council District 2 and Measure V V.

If it works well, Registrar Dave Macdonald says he will expand the service in future elections.

For those who are counting, the score in the East Bay contest to possess the most high-tech election gadgets in the East Bay is:

Contra Costa County: 1

Alameda County: 2.

Both counties launched GIS-based mapping results in the last election but Alameda County is the first to send emails to your Blackberry.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, 2008 presidential election, Alameda County, Contra Costa County | No Comments »

The Barbara Boxer Building Blitz, Day 2

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., followed up her news conference Wednesday in San Francisco with a luncheon address to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today, hammering home a theme that America should build its way out of this recession.

“We can and we will move this great city forward,” she told the crowd of local politicos and businesspeople, noting she has an apartment just a few blocks away and comes to them “not only as your Senator but as your neighbor.”

She blasted President Bush for forcing Congress to strip out earmarks which included $300,000 for the city’s green-jobs initiative; $300,000 for the city’s “Grow Our Own” police recruiting initiative; $500,000 for the city’s police equipment and technology; $20 million to continue the Port of Oakland’s dredging project.

“There’s nothing in there that’s nefarious. They’re all legislative priorities that I’m very proud of,” she said, later adding “it isn’t pork when you’ve got a ship coming into Oakland’s port and it gets stuck — that’s beef.”

But as Democrats feel more and more optimistic about taking not only the White House but also a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, she said, “we could be on the verge of some changes here.”

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to trudge through recession, government should be looking to highway, water and other badly needed infrastructure projects to create jobs, she said, as well as to clean-energy “green jobs.”

“We worry about jobs going overseas, but you can’t put a solar panel on that house down the street from India — unless you have very long arms,” she quipped.

Chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over these sorts of projects, “is everything I’ve always dreamed about… and I can’t blow this opportunity,” she said, praising local leaders such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee and Green for All founder/president Van Jones for being “committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time.”

Boxer once again defended her vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, but once again said she would have preferred it if the government used its shareholder status with the bailed-out banks to take an active role in their lending policy. Any small business owners who are still having trouble regaining their lines of credit should call her office or Lee’s immediately, she invited.

Though she had referred to the presidential campaign somewhat obliquely during her remarks, she spoke more directly about it while taking questions from the audience. Asked what can be done to help the 37 million Americans living below the federal poverty line, Boxer told the audience to look at the candidates’ tax-break plans: with John McCain “it’s more of the same, we know that,” she said, while Barack Obama “says he’s going to give it to people who work.”

Also, she noted, “it took us 10 years — the biggest disgrace — to raise the minimum wage;” McCain has voted against such increases 19 times. “If he had his way, it would still be $3 – he has voted against it since then.”

She wrapped up the session by offering some rather fawning anecdotes about Obama, including how she herself hadn’t believed Dick Durbin — the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois — when he’d raved to her years ago what a marvelous Senator Obama would make. After seeing Obama in action in the Senate, she said, she was forced to admit to him that she’d initially doubted how good he would be, confessing “I was wrong — you’re better.”

And now, my confession. In my article yesterday, I wrote:

The crisis is all too real, Boxer noted: Almost 190,000 Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the first nine months of the year, atop about 85,000 in 2007. “We’re talking about probably the number of people who live in Delaware. We are talking about a massive displacement in our communities.”

Delaware’s estimated 2007 population was 863,904. But the problem is still massive, and she said it will only get worse if California’s unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, keeps rising.

Boxer had indeed said almost 275,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure from January 2007 through last month, but I’d missed the part where she said she was assuming several residents per home in making her Delaware analogy. Mea culpa, and thanks to the Senator for being kind when we discussed it today.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, John McCain, Oakland, Ron Dellums, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Obama leading in California by 22 points

San Jose Mercury News political reporter Mary Anne Ostrom reported today on Field Poll findings that Barack Obama leads John McCain by 22 percentage points.

That Obama is winning in California isn’t news, of course. But the potential margin of victory carries huge coattails implications for down-ticket Democrats such as Rep. Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton freshman seeking re-election in a conservative-leaning district.

Here are the few few graphs of the story:

Barack Obama is poised to win California by the largest margin of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, a new Field Poll released today finds.

The Democratic presidential candidate leads Republican rival John McCain by 22 percentage points — 55-33 — among likely voters in California. If that margin holds Tuesday, he would set a post-World War II record for a presidential victor in the state. Not even landslide victories in 1980 and 1984 by Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, came close.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, 2008 presidential election, Congress, congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Conservative group targets Rep. George Miller with ads

An Iowa-based conservative group called the American Future Fund has spent $200,000 on a television ad plus more on two mailers targeting Democratic Rep. George Miller of Martinez.

The mailers began arriving in mailboxes in Miller’s district Wednesday (including mine) and the ad starting airing yesterday, as well. (See link to YouTube below.)

What is the American Future Fund and why would they spend $200,000 in Miller’s heavily Democratic district? It seems like a strange place to dump this kind of money.

According to various news accounts, the American Future Fund is technically a 501c(4) charity run by several well-known Republican strategists. Its web site says it promotes conservative, free market principles. It has spent scads of money on ads around the country in recent months, primarily targeting Democratic senators such as Mark Udall of Colorado for his views on oil-drilling.

The anti-Miller effort appears to be part of a larger nationwide campaign by business interests to defeat a controversial labor-related measure called the Employee Free Choice Act.

Miller is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a key sponsor of the act. It passed the House in March 2007 but failed to win enough votes in the U.S. Senate to withstand a filibuster. Most expect this bill to resurface in the next Congress, especially if Democratic nominee Barack Obama wins the presidency next week.

While the Miller mailer focuses on $4.6 million in earmarks the congressman obtained for a local business, SecuriMetrics, that also contributed $16,090 to the legislator’s campaign committees, the TV ad says he supports the Employee Free Choice Act because he has accepted more than $1 million from labor unions.

The bill would add a second method by which employees could form a union. Under the current system, if 30 percent of the workforce petitions its employer for a union, the employer must hold an election and all the votes are taken in a secret ballot. The act states that if a majority of the workers sign a statement seeking a union, the union can be adopted and there is no secret ballot election.

Ironically, the American Future Fund accuses Miller of being in the pocket of corporate interests but no one knows where the fund gets its money.

A loophole in campaign finance law permits 501c(4) charities to spend money on “electioneering communications” without disclosing the names of the donors as long as political activity is not its major function.

Here’s the ad:

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, Congress, Contra Costa County | No Comments »

Boxer: Banks mustn’t hoard bailout bucks

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., fired a warning shot across the banking industry’s bow — and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s as well — while taking questions at her San Francisco news conference today.

She called for a crackdown on banks that are sitting on or misusing some of the money they got from the $700 billion public bailout of the finaincial industry; the bailout’s intent was to get credit flowing again, but that won’t happen if banks aren’t lending out the public money they just got.

U.S. taxpayers got preferred stock in these financial institutions, Boxer said, and she believes the investment eventually will come back. But she’s disappointed that the government didn’t use its investment to take voting positions in these institutions, and already there are reports that the money isn’t flowing as it should. Paulson must act, she said.

“There’s going to be this oversight, there’s going to be action if Paulson doesn’t do what he said he would do,” she said today, leaving the door open to further Congressional action. “What we giveth, we can taketh away.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Barbara Lee to host hip-hop GOTV event

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is planning a “Get Out the Vote Hip-Hop Rally” from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. tommorow — Thursday, Oct. 30 — on Laney College’s quad, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland. Her campaign’s news release says it’s a “collaborative effort between Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Generation Obama and Charles Johnson of the Town Business Network … to educate and excite youth and young adults in the 9th Congressional District about the historic presidential election.” DLabrie, Ise Lyfe, Young Moses and Kev Choice are scheduled to perform.

Posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Elections | No Comments »

Rules for polling place go up on big signs

No one can say he or she didn’t know the rules now. Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir has posted these two signs after a recent incident in which several women wore pro-Obama clothing or buttons and brought cameras into the downtown Martinez election office.

Oh, the sign should also say: “Keep your clothes on.”

One of the women also stripped off her Obama shirt when asked to remove the offending item. Please, don’t disrobe.

Posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election | No Comments »

Receiver swap didn’t speed prison health-care fix

Watching Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson frown yesterday as a California deputy attorney general explained why the governor and controller might risk being held in contempt of court rather than fork over $250 million already earmarked for prison health care, I wondered if he’s had second thoughts about having replaced original prison health-care receiver Bob Sillen with current receiver J. Clark Kelso this past January.

Here’s what Henderson wrote in his Jan. 23, 2008 order replacing Sillen with Kelso:

While the current Receiver has successfully used his unique skills and bold, creative leadership style to investigate, confront, and break down many of the barriers that existed at the inception of the Receivership, the second phase of the Receivership demands a substantially different set of administrative skills and style of collaborative leadership. The Receivership must continue to maintain its independence as an arm of the federal courts established to take over state operations, but it also must work more closely at this stage with all stakeholders, including State officials, to ensure that the system developed and implemented by the Receivership can be transferred back to the State in a reasonable time frame. Such collaboration appears to be more important now than ever, given the current budget crisis faced by the State of California.

But by late this summer, Kelso had filed a motion asking Henderson to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Controller John Chiang in contempt of court for refusing to pay the bills for a plan to build seven facilities with 10,000 beds for chronically sick or mentally ill inmates by mid-2013, as well as to improve existing facilities at the state’s 33 prisons. Now, under an order Henderson issued yesterday afternoon, the state has until next Wednesday, Nov. 5, to hand over the $250 million already earmarked under AB 900, a $7.8 billion prison-expansion bill Schwarzenegger signed into law in May 2007. If the money isn’t made available to Kelso’s office by then, the parties must return to court Wednesday, Nov. 12 to argue whether Schwarzenegger and Chiang should be held in contempt of court.

It’s a genuine showdown — hardly the “collaboration” of which Henderson wrote in appointing Kelso, a Sacramento law professor with a reputation as a “fixer” capable of cleaning up government messes quickly and efficiently. Looks like Kelso’s softer touch didn’t pan out; maybe the steamrolling Sillen, with his extensive experience in big health-care system management, was what the situation really required after all.

On a related note, the following comment was attached to my article about yesterday’s hearing:

We have law abiding citizens that go without medical care…..but break the law, rape a baby, murder someone etc and you get the best care possible….what is wrong with these fatheads passing these ridiculous laws….lets protect the “good guys” for a stinkin change and pucish the lawbreakers

Sorry, no. Say what you will about so many Californians remaining uninsured or underinsured (I think it’s abhorrent), but that’s an entirely different, seperate issue from this prison health-care morass. The state was sued, and lost; it has admitted that prison health care in California is so bad that it qualifies as constitutionally impermissable cruel and unusual punishment. In many cases, the lack of adequate care — or any care at all — has turned a prison sentence into a de facto death penalty as inmates died from treatable illnesses or injuries. When we as a society lock people up, we as a society accept responsibility for providing them adequate medical care — not a gold-plated Cadillac health-care plan, just the constitutional minimum. And we’ve failed to do so.

Yet despite this admission, the state for years failed to take meaningful steps to fix the problem; only then was a receiver appointed. This current flap exists not because the state disputes the problem, but simply because the bill has finally come due after decades of neglect, and the state doesn’t want to pay it.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, John Chiang | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

This week, something serious and timely. I don’t know how much of it you can take, but here — in four parts — is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger engaged in a discussion of the economy with investor and world’s richest person Warren Buffet, moderated by MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, at The Women’s Conference 2008 last week in Long Beach.

Previous SVOTWs: October 21, October 14, October 7, September 30, September 23, September 16, September 9, September 2, August 26, August 19, August 12, August 5, July 29, 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, October 28th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Sarah Palin: Pallin’ around with a convicted felon?

Much has been made of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin saying in her stump speech that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was someone apt to “pal around with terrorists.”

I’m curious to see what she’ll say about today’s conviction of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaksa, on seven felony counts of making false statements on Senate financial documents about gifts he received from contractor Bill Allen, oil services company VECO Corp., and others.

After all, Palin from 2003 to 2005 was a director of “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service Inc.,” a “section 527″ independent political committee that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors and was aimed at serving as a political boot camp for Republican women in Alaska. And Palin and Stevens were expressing their mutual admiration as recently as July:

Does Palin believe Stevens, who until today has been in a tight race with Democratic challenger Mark Begich, should resign from office? If he beats Begich — which seems less likely as today’s news breaks, Stevens could stay in the Senate while appealing his convictions; such appeals would have to be exhausted before the ethics committee would move to expel him.

So, if a candidate’s associations — be they past or present, distant or quite familiar — are on the table in this election as Palin and John McCain have repeatedly insisted, how much of a maverick will Palin be today?

UPDATE @ 4:03 P.M.: Answer – not much. “I’m confident Senator Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska,” Palin said in a statement.

UPDATE @ 5:21 P.M.: Christopher Scott Simmonds, formerly of Oakland and now of Rancho Cordova, called in with the astute, ironic observation that Stevens remains eligible to vote in the Senate, yet as a convicted felon is no longer eligible to vote in this election Nov. 4. But Alaska’s early voting began a week ago; who’ll take the bet that he already cast his ballot?

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008
Under: Elections, Sarah Palin, Ted Stevens, U.S. Senate | No Comments »