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Archive for November, 2008

Medical marijuana backers sue DMV

Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, sued the California Department of Motor Vehicles today on behalf of Rose Johnson, 53, of Atwater. The Merced County Superior Court lawsuit claims that despite Johnson’s clean driving record — not having caused an accident in 37 years of driving — the DMV refused to renew her license in July after finding she’s a medical-marijuana user and deeming that she had an “addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug” that renders her unable to safely operate a car.

“The only evidence introduced by the DMV to support this conclusion is the fact of Johnson’s medical marijuana use pursuant to state law,” the lawsuit says. “The DMV abused its discretion by suspending Johnson’s license on this basis.”

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford issued a statement this afternoon saying when California voters passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, “they never intended to authorize the DMV to strip medical marijuana patients of their drivers’ licenses. The DMV should not be in the business of revoking the licenses of drivers like Ms. Johnson simply because she is a medical marijuana patient.”

And ASA says this isn’t an isolated case: DMV has suspended or revoking licenses of medical-marijuana patients in other counties including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma.

Johnson’s case seems particularly ironic because Merced County, where she lives, last year instructed its sheriff’s deputies to respect state law and not cite medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine. Yet Johnson, never accused of driving while under the influence of marijuana or anything else, was denied her license renewal by a state agency for an activity allowed by state law.

And as I write this item, having just finished an article on the state Supreme Court’s impending review of Proposition 8, I’m wonder how much longer we’ll have to keep litigating and re-litigating the effects of a medical-marijuana initiative approved by voters 12 years ago. It seems California just can’t find a way to stop stepping on its own toes.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Under: General, marijuana | 3 Comments »

Need a pirate expert?

That’s a subject line you don’t read every day: “Pirate expert available.”

It showed up on a press release I received in my email today, where a PR firm offered me an interview with a person who has expertise in modern piracy in the wake of another ship takeover off the coast of Somali. I doubt this guy talks like pirate, though. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Under: Web Site of the Day | 4 Comments »

Politico: Pombo sighting

Check out Politic.com’s report on the whereabouts of former Rep. Richard Pombo.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Under: Congress | No Comments »

Wilson will run for Assembly again in 2010

Abram Wilson

Abram Wilson

Prepare for Act 2: San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson says he will run for the state Assembly again in 2010.

Wilson, the GOP nominee in District 15, lost on Nov. 4 to his Democratic opponent, Joan Buchanan, by 4 percentage points.

“Am I interested in running against in 2010?” Wilson said. “No. But will I? Yes. I believe I will run again in 2010. I ran to make a difference and when you are out there always trying to make a difference, you keep going.”

The 2008 election was among the most competitive Assembly contests in the state and most expect it will set spending records after all the financial reports have been calculated. Wilson and Buchanan, and their supporters, spent millions on mailers and TV ads.

Prior to Buchanan’s victory, it was the sole Republican-held partisan seat in the Bay Area.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Under: 2010 election, Assembly | 1 Comment »

Tauscher re-elected regional whip

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, was re-elected this afternoon to serve as the Northern California regional whip. She will serve as the liaison between House Democratic leaders and members of the Northern California congressional delegation.

“I am honored to have been re-elected by my colleagues to once again serve in this position,” Tauscher said in a prepared release.  “On November 4th, the American people sent a clear message for Congress to come together and solve problems.  I am eager to work with Speaker Pelosi and the new Obama administration to rebuild our economy, make healthcare more affordable, and move the United States to energy independence through innovation.”

Region 2 includes congressional districts 1-22 in Northern California and districts in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and American Samoa.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Congress | No Comments »

How California’s Senators voted on Lieberman

The U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus voted 42-13 today to let U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, despite his having been at odds with the caucus for years on Iraq and other matters, and despite his having repeatedly smack-talked President-elect Barack Obama while stumping for Republican presidential nominee John McCain this past year.

The liberal blogosphere is beside itself with rage — see here, here, here and here — generally calling Senate Democrats a bunch of wusses for failing to hold Lieberman to account for kicking sand in their collective face for the past few years. My favorite bit of bone-dry derision comes from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, offering this breaking news: “Lieberman expelled from Pilates class in Senate gym.”

But even though Obama himself reportedly supported Lieberman, it seems U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was among those voting against him today. “The resolution did not reflect Senator Boxer’s belief that Senator Lieberman should remain in the caucus but not retain his full Committee Chairmanship, and she voted accordingly,” Natalie Ravitz, Boxer’s communications director, told me today.

Boxer was among several Senators who had stumped for Lieberman in the 2006 primary – incurring some of her constituents’ wrath, since she’s been so staunchly against the war and Lieberman thought it was a good idea – but then supported Democrat Ned Lamont in the 2006 general election as Lieberman successful ran as an independent. I guess BaBo’s truly done with ol’ Joe now.

As for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., communications director Gil Duran noted “the vote was by secret ballot,” but pointed me to what DiFi told reporters after the vote.

“What we’re trying to do today is bring about reconciliation, not only within our caucus, but between Democrats and Republicans. We are trying to develop a more civil dialogue and hopefully get more done on behalf of the American people,” she said. “The jury’s out whether that’ll happen or not, but the resolution that was presented in the caucus did pass. Senator Lieberman will remain a member of the caucus and will retain his chairmanship. My hope is that he becomes a Democrat again.”

Make of that what you will, dear readers.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Lee and Woolsey push public investments: Representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who are finishing up their stint as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, were at the Library of Congress today for a conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future on New Deal-style public investments — from rebuilding our crumbling national infrastructure to pursuing alternative energy sources to lifelong education — that could bring long-term economic growth. In other Barbara Lee news, the Congressional Black Caucus will announce its new officers tomorrow, and we’re all but certain Lee will be the incoming chairwoman… stay tuned…

Tauscher remains regional whip: Democratic House members re-elected Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, as regional whip for Northern California, meaning she’ll remain the primary liaison between the House Democratic Leadership and her fellow members in the region. “On November 4th the American people sent a clear message for Congress to come together and solve problems,” she said. “I am eager to work with Speaker Pelosi and the new Obama administration to rebuild our economy, make healthcare more affordable, and move the United States to energy independence through innovation.” Her purview will include California’s Congressional Districts 1 through 22, as well as districts in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and American Samoa.

McNerney solicits holiday cards for troops: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is running his second annual “Holiday Cards for Our Troops” program, in which he’ll collect holiday cards for soldiers recovering from battle and stationed away from their families this holiday season, and then hand-deliver the cards to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; sailors and marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; and National Guard and Reserve soldiers at Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin. “Thoughtful words of encouragement and support from the great people of the 11th District can make a huge difference in boosting the morale of our brave troops who have so honorably served their country,” he said. Constituents should make or buy a holiday card, write a message of thanks inside to a service member, and then deliver the card in an unaddressed, unsealed envelope by Dec. 10 to one of McNerney’s district offices — at 5776 Stoneridge Mall Road, Suite 175 in Pleasanton or 2222 Grand Canal Blvd., Suite 7 in Stockton. He passed along more than 700 cards last year, and hopes to top that number this year. And if you have thoughts to share with McNerney on this or any other topic, go talk to him at his next “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet, noon to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Safeway supermarket at 11050 Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | No Comments »

Watching the dominoes fall

It’s never too early for a politician to think about the next office he or she will hold, and each one’s decision ripples through the political ecosystem. The start of a two-year electoral cycle is a time of great flux, ripe with possibilities as ambitious lifelong politicos decide how to structure the next round of musical chairs.

For example, you’ll recall San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris last week announced she’ll run for state Attorney General in 2010, but only if current Attorney General Jerry Brown runs for governor rather than a second term, a decision that could be influenced by whether U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein jumps into the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

So assuming Feinstein’s decision affects Brown’s, and Brown’s affects Harris, then whose does Harris’ affect? Word on the street is that it’s state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who might run for mayor of that fine city (rather than a second Senate term) if Harris doesn’t; current Mayor Gavin Newsom will be termed out (and is also exploring a 2010 gubernatorial run).

And then, who’ll run for Yee’s state Senate seat if he doesn’t? Ah, all the pretty ripples…

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Elections, Leland Yee | No Comments »

Woodward and Bernstein visit ‘Deep Throat’ and Walnut Creek

Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward

Carl Bernstein

Carl Bernstein

UPDATE 11/20/08: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat published a very nice story today about Woodward and Bernstein’s visit to see Mark Felt that includes a photo. Click here for the story.

UPDATE 11/21/08: Click here for my story today with more details of the visit and the observations of Alicia Shepard, author of “In the Shadow of Watergate.”

Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein visited their famous source — known for 33 years only as “Deep Throat” — in Santa Rosa a few days ago.

William Mark Felt Sr., a former deputy FBI director, is in his 90s now and showed signs of dementia during the visit but had moments of extreme clarity, Bernstein told a Walnut Creek audience Monday night.

The men spoke in a rare joint appearance Monday night at the Lesher Speaker Series in wide ranging discussion on everything from Watergate to media bias to the state of the newspaper industry to the Barack Obama presidency.

Woodward said meeting with Felt was like a family reunion.

But Bernstein had never met Felt before. It was like “coming full circle,” Bernstein said. He also said Deep Throat never really provided new information but confirmed details they received from multiple sources. He would often tell them whether they were on the right or wrong track.

The public learned of Deep Throat’s identity in a 2005 Vanity Fair magazine article.

In an interview with the Contra Costa Times prior to their Monday performance, Woodward and Bernstein described the release of Felt’s name as an anxious time.

They resisted talking about Felt.

They had, after all, protected their source’s name for more than three decades and vowed to keep the secret until Felt’s death or they were sufficiently assured of his desire to come forward.

“It was a very emotional day,” Woodward said.

I was thrilled — and nervous — to serve as the moderator for the Woodward-Bernstein appearance and it was an extraordinary experience. I also had the opportunity to listen to interviews the two men gave prior to their performance and watched them visit with East Bay high school journalism students. I’ve posted below a few short video clips of the interview and the student reception.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Political events | No Comments »

Send holiday card to U.S. troops

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, asks residents to make holiday cards for soldiers. Read on for the congressman’s press release:

MCNERNEY ANNOUNCES SECOND ANNUAL “HOLIDAY CARDS FOR OUR TROOPS” PROGRAM

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) is proud to announce his second annual “Holiday Cards for Our Troops” program, and encourages constituents to participate in honoring the service of our men and women in uniform.

Rep. McNerney will collect holiday cards for soldiers recovering from battle and stationed away from their families this holiday season.  He will then hand-deliver the cards to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C, sailors and marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, and to National Guard and Reserve soldiers at Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, CA.

“The holiday season can be a stressful time of year for the soldiers who serve our country, particularly for those who have returned from overseas with injuries,” Rep. McNerney said.  “Being away from friends, family and the comfort of tradition during the holidays is incredibly difficult.  Thoughtful words of encouragement and support from the great people of the 11th district can make a huge difference in boosting the morale of our brave troops who have so honorably served their country.”

Constituents are asked to make or purchase a holiday card, write a message of thanks inside to a service member, and then deliver the card to Rep. McNerney’s office in Stockton or Pleasanton by December 10.  The cards should remain unaddressed and envelopes unsealed.  The Congressman’s staff will then address and seal the envelopes and the Congressman will personally deliver them on behalf of the people of the 11th district of California.

Last year, the Congressman collected and delivered over 700 cards, some with incredibly touching and personal messages of thanks.  He hopes to top that number this year.

Stockton

2222 Grand Canal Blvd., Suite 7

Stockton, CA 95207

(209) 476-8552

Pleasanton

5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Suite 175

Pleasanton, CA 94588

(925) 737-0727

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: Congress, congressional district 11 | No Comments »