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Archive for November, 2008

Headed out for ‘stay-cation’

Vorderbrueggen at the helm of a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay

Vorderbrueggen at the helm of a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay

It has been a long election season and I’m headed out for stay-cation, one of those vacations where you stay home and do all the stuff you haven’t done in a year like clean the closets and clear off the home office desk and go to the gym more often.

I am also eagerly awaiting the imminent birth of our third grandchild. Our daughter-in-law delivered our second grandbaby on Nov. 24. Our daughter is expected to deliver her first child any minute now and she wants us present for the birth.

And there’s Christmas presents to buy and those Christmas cards to write, too. I’ll have more than enough to keep me busy.

We will most likely find reason to sail, too. A day on the water is always better than a day off the water.

Yes, it is hard to leave the political desk on the eve of a new presidency and all the politics swirling around the appointments and the inauguration.

But the boss has ordered me out of the building as I have accrued the maximum number of vacation hours allowed and as such, I am a financial liability on the corporate books. In these uncertain employment times, one tries to be as cooperative as possible, if you know what I mean.

So, I will go.

But I won’t be far and you might still see me posting to this blog if political events warrant an interruption in my efforts to locate the surface of my home office desk. If I’m on the  Bay, don’t count on it, though.

Posted on Friday, November 28th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized, Vorderblog | No Comments »

Giving political thanks

I find myself thankful for many things today – particularly the people I love, the creature comforts and little delights of life, and the fact that I still have a job doing what I enjoy most.

But, seeing as how this is a political blog, I’ll share here a few other things for which I give thanks today.

I’m thankful that a record 130 million Americans voted this month, including a record 24 million or so people ages 18 to 29; I hope this is the start of an historic reversal of apathy, a dawning civic re-engagement at all levels of government.

I’m thankful that we change our government and settle our political differences with ballots and celebrations, not with guns and mourning.

I’m thankful to have lived a life thus far largely free of the shadow of discrimination; I hope everyone will be able to say this someday.

I’m thankful that democracy and technology have conspired to provide many of us with more ways to express our views to more of each other than ever before in human history. I think we can only benefit from the dialogue, so long as we keep open minds.

And I’m thankful that, even as the economy struggles and so many people try to figure out what to do next, we live in a nation so wealthy, so resourceful, so secure that we can discuss numbers like “$7 trillion” as we look for containment and fixes. In too many parts of the world, a crisis far worse than what our nation now experiences still would be the best day people ever had. We live in a land of plenty, and we can and will find our way through tough times.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers.

Posted on Thursday, November 27th, 2008
Under: General | No Comments »

Big Inauguration-Day event planned for Oakland

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is coordinating the planning for a big Inauguration Day bash, most likely at the Oracle Arena, so a large East Bay crowd can gather to watch Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

“We’re almost sure we’re going to have the contract for the arena that day,” Carson told me a few minutes ago, just hours after about 25 representatives from various faith congregations, community groups and local agencies had gathered for their first meeting to plan the event. “Everybody is saying, ‘What can I do to help?’”

They’re also planning a series of other community events in the 10 days leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, including an event Sunday, Jan. 11 at Oakland’s new Cathedral of Christ the Light near Lake Merritt, and another on Sunday, Jan. 18 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral on Telegraph Avenue. Other institutions have set tentative dates as well.

“We know that we are in the middle of… very volatile times in the community, and even with a new administration, it’s going to be difficult locally for us for years to come. This gives us an opportunity to find new friends, to recommit to communicating across those lines to see how we can leverage our resources and infrastructure to help people,” Carson said today. “Barack’s campaign on some level was kind of indicating we as a country need to do that.”

Tickets for Oracle Arena event – likely to start pretty darned early on Tuesday, Jan. 20, as the president is traditionally sworn in at noon, meaning 9 a.m. PST – might cost a nominal fee, if only to control their dissemination, Carson said; as many as 17,000 people might fit into the arena for such an event.

That’s all we know for now; I’ll provide more details as they become available.

Carson, like Rep. Barbara Lee and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, is a protégé and former aide to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums during Dellums’ Congressional tenure. Swanson and Dellums had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, while Lee and Carson backed Obama; all of them supported Obama in this month’s general election.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Under: Alameda County, Barack Obama, General, Oakland | No Comments »

Black Friday street theater in SF

Iraq Veterans Against the War intends to “occupy” San Francisco’s bustling Union Square this Friday, staging an “Operation First Casualty” to demonstrate “the brutal and unjust consequences of occupying a foreign country,” according to a press release.

IVAW members will round up “brave civilian volunteers” and arrest them “in the same style used in Iraq,” the release continues; they’ll be transported to Moscone Center — taking simulated deadly fire along the way — for interrogation, and after that they’ll move to United Nations Plaza where Food Not Bombs will be serving lunch to the homeless to highlight the plight of thousands of homeless vets.

“Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq, and the effects on returning soldiers,” IVAW spokesman Eddie Falcon says, as well as to urge the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; reparations for human and structural damage done to Iraq; a halt to “the corporate pillaging of Iraq;” and full benefits, adequate health care and other support for returning veterans.

The event is co-sponsored by Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, the International Socialist Organization, Food Not Bombs, Courage to Resist and Students Against War – SF State.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Under: General, Iraq | No Comments »

East Bay reps seek quick action in Delta protection projects

Four East Bay members of Congress urged California Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow to move quickly on several pilot projects that could help severely declining fish populations in the Delta.

Reps George Miller of Martinez, Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, Ellen Tauscher of Alamo and Mike Thompson of St. Helena signed a letter today recommending swift action — by summer 2009 — on the two-gate fish protection demonstration project near Franks Tract and positive barrier fish screens at Clifton Court Forebay. The projects are included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Strategic Growth Plan for the Delta.

“We recognize the experimental nature of the pilot projects but they appear to be innovative approaches to benefit the Delta ecosystem and improve water supply reliability for the 25 million Californians who rely on the Delta,” they wrote.

The four pledged to help expedite the federal permitting process and asked Snow to place the projects on the “fast track so we can see results this coming year when Delta operations, water supplies and fisheries will be critically impacted.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Under: Congress, Environment | 2 Comments »

Ex-Contra Costa manager takes Sacramento job

Former Contra Costa County manager Phil Batchelor givens new meaning to the word “retired.” He has been hired to run the trouble Sacramento library system, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Sacramento library board hires interim director

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 | Page 2B

The Sacramento Public Library’s governing board formally hired an interim director Monday, a move that will cost $139,930 in salary for the next seven months, plus a few bridge tolls.

A contract for Phil Batchelor, an experienced hand at turning around troubled public entities, was approved without comment by the board to allow Batchelor to take over the library system from Director Anne Marie Gold.

Gold, who announced her retirement in September, was under scrutiny for her management style and an overbilling scandal that resulted in felony charges against two former library workers and the wife of one of them. She will officially leave the post on Dec. 1.

She praised Batchelor at Monday’s meeting, saying she had been briefing him on the library system. “It has just been absolutely great to have him on board,” Gold said.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Happy Birthday, Sandre Swanson

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, will turn 60 this Friday, and how better to celebrate this momentous birthday than with… a fundraiser.

Yes, Swanson’s holding a black-tie cash bash Saturday night at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Oakland’s Jack London Square; it’s $100 a head, or from $1,000 to $3,900 for various levels of table sponsorship. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, for whom Swanson used to be chief of staff; Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles; and Assemblywoman and state Senator-elect Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be there.

The invitation bills the event — “Bring your dancing shoes!” — as a birthday and re-election victory celebration. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating re-election, but keep in mind that Swanson won this month with almost 88 percent of the vote to Republican Jim Faison‘s 12 percent — little wonder, considering his 16th Assembly District is registered about 65 percent Democrat to about 8 percent Republican. Neither did much strenuous campaigning, yet Swanson appears to have raised at least about $421,000 and spent at least about $395,000 in the 2007-08 election cycle.

The biggest single chunk of that spending went to… raising more money! His campaign spent $145,280.80 on fundraising events. Another $62,075 went to campaign consultants (the biggest chunk of which, $37,000, went to Carol Jones, who is both his district director and his campaign events director/staff contact.)

His campaign finance records also indicate where he likes to eat: 21 “meetings and appearances” tabs totalling $931.55 at the Angel Fish sushi restaurant near Swanson’s home on Alameda’s Bay Farm Island; 20 totalling $1,319.13 at P.F. Chang’s; 17 totalling $783.12 at Nellie’s Soul Food; 8 totalling $729.20 at Scott’s; eight totalling $525.45 at the Fat Lady near Oakland’s Jack London Square; six totalling $367.13 at McCormick and Schmick; 14 totalling $258.98 at the Buckhorn Restaurant; six totalling $852.17 at Kincaid’s in Jack London Square; one for $352.66 at Joe’s Seafood and Stone Crabs; five totalling $301.38 at Zocalo in Sacramento; six totalling $286.45 at Aioli Restaurant (not sure where this is); two totalling $275.61 at Oakland’s Le Cheval; eight totalling $273 at the Harbor View Restaurant, also on Bay Farm Island; three totalling $273 at Yoshi’s near Jack London Square; one at Sushi Roku for $130.60; one at Morton’s steakhouse for $180.26; and one at San Francisco’s Waterfront Restaurant for $116.57. If you’re counting, that’s 128 tabs totalling $7,956.26. Yum!

But he also gave $30,415 to the California Democratic Party, and $26,150 to other local Democratic campaigns and committees. And as we all know, throwing money to the party is an important way in which lawmakers build their clout.

So if you’re going to Swanson’s birthday/re-election bash Saturday, feel certain your money is helping not only Swanson but lots of other Democrats. And campaign fundraisers and consultants. And restaurants.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Under: Assembly, campaign finance, General, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

This week, best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving from the guys at JibJab… unless you happen to be a turkey…

Looks like we’ve discovered something else Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sarah Palin have in common.

Previous SVOTWs: November 18, November 11, November 4, October 28, 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, November 25th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin | No Comments »

Will local House members oppose Bush pardons?

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., late last week introduced H.Res. 1531, urging President Bush not to pardon senior administration officials for whatever crimes the President might have authorized. The legislation resolves that:

(1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the granting of preemptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power;

(2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should not grant preemptive pardons to senior officials in his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties;

(3) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that James Madison was correct in his observation that `[i]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty’;

(4) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that a special investigative commission, or a Select Committee be tasked with investigating possible illegal activities by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush, including, if necessary, any abuse of the President’s pardon power; and

(5) the next Attorney General of the United States appoint an independent counsel to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute illegal acts by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush.

It’s a safe bet at least a few Bay Area House members will sign onto this as co-sponsors, though while most probably have no problem opposing pardons, some might balk at calling for an independent counsel to review the past eight years lest doing so conflict with the wishes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President-elect Barack Obama or both.

“We need to look at it (he just dropped it) but we are very interested,” Julie Nickson, Rep. Barbara Lee‘s chief of staff, told me today, noting lawmakers won’t be able to sign on until Congress meets again in December.

Similarly, a staffer for Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, tells me the Nadler resolution has been submitted for Stark’s review but he hasn’t signed off on it yet.

No word this afternoon from the offices of George Miller, Ellen Tauscher, Jerry McNerney, Jackie Speier and Lynn Woolsey.

There is some precedent for such pardons (not that this makes it right). You’ll recall that President George H.W. Bush — in his final, lame-duck days in the Oval Office after Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory — issued pardons to six Reagan Administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra affair, a scandal which had cast a pall over both Reagans’ and Bush’s presidencies. Of course, George W. Bush won’t have a friendly administration following his as Reagan did; if he wants pardons done, he’ll have to do them himself.

As an aside, one of those pardoned in the Iran-Contra affair was Elliott Abrams, whom President George W. Bush has named to several National Security Council posts including Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. So, perhaps Abrams could be the first person in U.S. history to receive pardons from father-and-son presidents! (Note: I’m not aware of any crimes Abrams has committed while serving the Bush Administration that would necessitate a pardon, unless you’re one of those who consider any participation in this Administration to be a crime.)

Anyway, if this president does issue last-minute pardons for members of his own Administration, does anyone care to guess who the recipients might be?

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »

Field & Stream hates Arnold Schwarzenegger

Field & Stream, “The World’s Leading Outdoor Magazine,” suggests Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger get a stocking full of coal for Christmas this year, listing him in the December-January issue as the biggest outdoor “villian” of the year:

Playing the rake is not new for Gov. Schwarzenegger, whose first turn as the Terminator saw him working to destroy the world instead of saving it. And the governor’s win will not come as any surprise to fishermen in the Golden State, where funding for salmon and steelhead restoration has been dramatically cut despite sharply declining populations for years. During the governor’s tenure, the chinook salmon fishery in California collapsed, and on May 1, 2008, commercial and recreational salmon fishing were both banned along the West Coast in California and much of Oregon.

But the governor has not limited his influence to fish and fishermen. He’s also signed a ban on .50 caliber rifles, and on his watch the percentage of licensed hunters in California has dropped below 1%.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, R&B singer Bobby Brown and CBS News Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles were also on the Villain list, considered lesser offenders.

Among the magazine’s heroes this year are U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who backed a Farm Bill measure that created grants for farmers and opened land to hunters; and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, lauded “for being the first true hunter to run for executive office since Teddy Roosevelt.”

UPDATE @ 3:48 P.M.:Now, wait just a darned minute, says Lisa Page of the governor’s press office, who says “the Governor has a strong record on sportsmen issues.”

In fact, we have $120 million in federal money that will go to salmon fisherman which the Governor fought hard for. The feds initially gave us $100 million (for all three states) and the Governor pushed hard to get the remaining $70 million (see the attached letter).

He also signed SB 562 by Senator Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), which appropriates approximately $5.3 million of the $45 million in Proposition 84 funds to begin coastal salmon and steelhead fishery restoration projects.

He also just signed the Klamath Agreement two weeks ago, which is the first step in what would be the largest dam removal project ever in history, that California, Oregon and our federal and private partners are undertaking to improve water quality, water supply and fish populations in the Klamath region.

Also, despite a very difficult budget year, the state’s parks have stayed open and he exempted the state’s fisheries from the state worker EO.

Take that, Field & Stream!

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »