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Archive for May, 2009

GOP backs Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan plan

House Republicans have introduced a pair of bills in support of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“President Obama has outlined a responsible strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he deserves support from Democrats and Republicans in Congress as our troops, intelligence professionals, diplomatic officials, and allies work to ensure security in the region,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Today, House Republicans are introducing legislation reflecting and authorizing the Commander-in-Chief’s plan. Importantly, this legislation does not include arbitrary congressionally-mandated benchmarks that tie the hands of our generals and diplomatic officials on the ground as they work to stabilize a part of the world that is vital to our national security. At the same time, it fully authorizes the funding levels requested by the President for each country, while requiring that he submit a specific implementation plan to measure progress and help ensure his strategy’s success.”

Boehner praised representatives Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.; John McHugh, R-N.Y.; Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.; and Peter King, R-N.Y. for shaping the bills. “We urge swift bipartisan passage of the measures to make certain those responsible for carrying out the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan have the resources they need to get the job done.”

Specifically, the bills would support the President’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that he outlined on March 27; authorize the money he wants for Afghanistan; authorize $1.5 billion a year in foreign assistance aid to Pakistan, as well as the President’s request for $700 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund; require the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan to implement his strategy for long-term security and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan “that includes measures of effectiveness;” and require the Administration, including the departments of Defense and State, to regularly brief and notify Congress on the implementation of the President’s strategy.

Meanwhile, some liberal Bay Area House members still aren’t convinced Obama’s on the right track.

(T)he administration’s supplemental request does not adequately reflect these diplomatic and humanitarian priorities — priorities that we believe are essential to success for U.S. security interests,” Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, recently wrote for the Politico. “In fact, 90 percent of the supplemental request would go toward funding ongoing and increased military operations. The remaining $7 billion would be divided between humanitarian, civil affairs, reconstruction and diplomatic efforts in the region.”

“The United States must reorient our national security policy in the region and maximize what the Obama administration has called our nation’s “smart power.” At the heart of this strategy must be a regional diplomatic surge that engages all of Afghanistan’s neighbors as full partners in aiding the Afghan people and strengthening its central government.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | No Comments »

Alameda County’s voter turnout looks looooooow

Guy Ashley, spokesman for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, said voter turnout for today’s special election looks rather bleak.

“The polling places have had very light traffic,” he said based on reports from the field, noting he had visited a few polling places in North Oakland and Berkeley earlier this afternoon and hadn’t found any with more than 100 votes cast. “I went to one in Berkeley, on the UC campus, that at 1 p.m. had had 13 voters.”

Remember, Alameda County has about 760,000 registered voters at about 405 polling places. Things probably will pick up somewhat after 5 p.m. when people are getting out of work, and Ashley reported they’ve got about 130,000 mail-in ballots already in hand. But those 130,000 ballots amount to a 17-percent turnout rate.

“We’ve been saying 30 percent all along, and I think that’s probably going to be on the high end,” Ashley said.

No major logistical snafus to report, at least. “The biggest issue is that we’ve consolidated precincts anticipating a low turnout on election day, so there are some folks who go to their old polling place and find it’s not functioning,” Ashley said, noting signs were posted to re-direct wayward voters to the correct polling sites.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Under: Alameda County, May 19 special election, May 2009 special election | 3 Comments »

Barbara Lee urges Congress to fast for Darfur

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health held a Capitol Hill news conference today urging all of Congress and others to join the “Darfur Fast for Life” campaign by fasting in solidarity with Darfur residents suffering at the hands of the Sudanese government.

“Almost 15 years ago in Rwanda, the international community turned a blind eye while a million civilians were hacked to death,” Lee said in a statement issued afterward. “Can we really say we have done any different in the case of Darfur, South Sudan, Abyei, and Nuba? We declared genocide in 2004, but we failed to act decisively to stop it. If we had acted then, we could have saved many innocent people. If we do the right thing now, we can save children from a certain death and end the suffering for millions.”

The campaign (though obviously not each individual’s own fast) will continue until Congress adjourns in August. Payne began a four-day, water-only fast May 10. Among those who’ve also fasted are Virgin Group founder and chairman Sir Richard Branson and actress Mia Farrow, the latter of whom was at Tuesday’s news conference.

Lee spokesman Ricci Graham said she’s starting her fast today, for a length yet to be determined.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

Why not air all the health-care reform options?

In a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s post about how the supposedly moribund GOP still manages to shape the debate on certain issues, here’s Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the House floor last night talking about health-care reform:

You’ll notice she speaks of her own advocacy of a single-payer universal health care plan, but then she focuses in on ensuring whatever plan comes forth this year has a robust public insurance component so that every American is guaranteed accessible, quality health care. That’s in keeping with a statement issued jointly a few weeks ago by Lee’s CBC along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

The chairs of all those caucuses – Lee for the CBC; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., for the progressives; Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., for the Hispanic Caucus; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for the CAPAC – all are among the 75 cosponsors of H.R. 676, which would expand Medicare into a national, single-payer system covering all Americans.

But as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held hearings last week to lay groundwork for a health care reform plan, chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., invited nobody to talk about single-payer options. Protestors decrying this omission disrupted the hearings; more than a dozen were arrested.

“We’ve got to reform our system fairly quickly, and to be candid with you, very few members of the House and Senate advocate single-pay. The vast, vast majority do not,” Baucus told the Great Falls Tribune last week. “It tells me that if I go down that road, it’s not going to be successful — it’s not going to pass the Congress.”

So the votes might not be there right now, but how do we know they wouldn’t be there if all the options were aired, if Congress and the American public could consider a single-payer option side-by-side with other options? Perhaps it would still be a non-starter, perhaps not; if opponents are so sure it’s nonsense, why not follow Woodrow Wilson’s axiom that “nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.” Isn’t that what open debate is all about?

Republican leaders not only don’t want to hear about single-payer, they don’t even want to talk about any public component at all lest we end up with “socialized medicine” that they insist would be inferior to the patchwork of private insurance America has now.

And yet a recent CBS News/New York Times poll found Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago: 59 percent say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49 percent who say such insurance should cover all medical problems. Go figure.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Pressing the flesh and working the Web in CD10

There’s a bit of action today in the nascent race to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, in the 10th Congressional District, assuming she’s confirmed to the high-ranking State Department post to which she has been nominated.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is doing a double-header tonight just outside the district’s boundaries. First, wearing his California Commission for Economic Development chairman’s hat, he’s doing a Q-and-A “on future job growth in the area including renewable energy and science and technology employment” with the Tri-Valley Business Council, from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. in McNamara’s Restaurant, 7400 San Ramon Road in Dublin. It’s not a campaign event, but you can bet a fair number of attendees live or own businesses within the 10th District.

Then Garamendi will do a campaign event, talking with the Tri Valley Democratic Club about job development, education and health care “including the benefits shift many Lawrence Livermore Lab retirees are now facing;” that’s at 7:30 p.m. in the IBEW Hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin.

Also today, progressive grassroots Democrat Adriel Hampton of Dublin is launching a drive to “crowdsource” an anti-Drug War policy statement using the collaborative online writing tool MixedInk.

“As Congressman, I’m going to practice what I preach,” Hampton said in a news release. “The job of a representative is to listen to and lead huge groups of people, and that means using new technologies to harness the ideas of many. I’ve picked the Drug War an the issue for my first foray into collaborative policymaking because it has damaged families throughout this district and the whole nation.”

Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

GOP still manages to frame crucial debates

Lots of mainstream media outlets, liberal bloggers and others have been talking about the Republican Party’s decline as a viable political force as fewer and fewer people self-identify as Republicans, yet it sure looks as if the GOP has succeeded in framing several crucial debates in the past few weeks.

Rather than the nation moving forward with probes of whether the Bush Administration used torture to shore up a weak case for the war in Iraq, and whether those who authorized torture should be held accountable, the GOP has framed the debate as being about what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it.

Instead of focusing on President Obama’s promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror detainees – a move encouraged by human rights leaders, the international community and a fair number of U.S. military officials including Bush-appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates – the GOP (with a handful of Democrats) has framed the debate so that it’s about imbuing U.S. communities with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) fears that detainees brought stateside will somehow break out of a maximum-security prison to threaten your Main Street.

As debate begins this week on the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill – which advocates say would create new jobs, save consumers money, move the nation away from dependence on foreign oil and reduce global warming pollution – the GOP seeks to frame the debate as being about “a national energy tax on middle-class families and small businesses” despite evidence to the contrary.

And instead of having a serious debate about whether California needs more tax revenue to support the schools, universities, health programs, public safety and prisons it needs and deserves, the GOP has framed the debate as being about where next to make bone-deep cuts.

Seems like the GOP is getting its message out just fine.

Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | No Comments »

Ex Oakland official nominated as U.S. Treasurer

President Barack Obama today nominated Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios, a former economic development official for Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro and Union City, to serve as U.S. Treasurer.

The Treasurer advises the Secretary of the Treasury on matters relating to coinage, currency and the production of other instruments by the federal government. The Treasurer’s signature, as well as the Treasury Secretary’s, must appear on paper money before it can become legal tender.

The Treasurer also serves as one of the Treasury Department’s principal advisors and spokespeople in the area of financial literacy and education. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Rios will be the third consecutive California Latina to hold the post, following Rosario Marin and Anna Escobedo Cabral.

Rios most recently has been Managing Director of Investments for MacFarlane Partners, a real estate investment management firm with more than $11 billion in assets under management. After working to mobilize the Latino vote in Virginia during last year’s presidential campaign, Rios took a leave of absence from MacFarlane Partners to serve as a member of the incoming Obama Administration’s Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team.

Before joining MacFarlane Partners, she was a principal with Red River Associates, a consulting firm specializing in providing development, project management and executive management services for municipalities.

And before that, Rios from 2001 through 2003 was Oakland’s Economic Development & Redevelopment director, managing a staff of nearly 100 tasked with facilitating business opportunities in the city and revitalizing its downtown and neighborhood corridors. She’d been hired by then City Manager Robert Bobb, and was fired by Mayor Jerry Brown after Bobb’s ouster.

Rios also has served as Director of Economic Development for Fremont; Development Specialist for San Leandro; manager of the Union City’s Redevelopment Agency. She still serves as a trustee of the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association and is a board member of the California Association of Local Economic Development and of Oakland’s Unity Council. Rios holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and romance languages and literature from Harvard University.

UPDATE @ 2:18 P.M.: “I’m so very pleased that my constituent Rosie Gumataotao Rios, who I enthusiastically supported, has been chosen to serve as our new U.S. Treasurer,” says Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, adding Rios “brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this position. …She will be a wonderful addition to the Department of Treasury.”

President Obama also Friday nominated Daniel M. Tangherlini as Assistant Treasury Secretary for Management and Chief Financial Officer; Tangherlini will also serve as the Chief Performance Officer of the Treasury.

“I am grateful to have these two distinguished individuals joining my administration at this critical time for our nation,” Obama said in a news release. “Under the leadership of Secretary Geithner, I am confident that they will serve the American people well as we work to right our economy and put our nation on a path to prosperity.”

UPDATE @ 3:13 P.M.: Former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb said Friday he served as one of Rios’ references and they “had several conversations as she was going through the vetting process.”

“I’m really happy for Rosie, this is phenomenal … a well-deserved appointment,” he said, adding that in her Oakland post she “stood her ground in the midst of some pretty controversial issues, but nobody could question her work ethic or her ethics.”

Unity Council CEO Gilda Gonzales said Friday she’s “ecstatic” about Rios’ nomination: “The president made an excellent choice, and I believe she will serve the president and the country in an honorable manner.”

Rios is finely attuned to “the challenges all of us face, from unemployment to foreclosure,” Gonzales said, carrying work experience that ties her to Wall Street as well as life experience that ties her to Main Street. “She’s one of us, that’s what’s very great about it.”

Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

Got plans for tomorrow?

Lots happening in the East Bay tomorrow, Saturday, May 16:

World Can’t Wait will protest the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School’s “complicity in torture” at 8 a.m. outside commencement ceremonies in the campus’ Greek Theater, and at 11 a.m. outside a reception in the law school’s Clark Kerr Courtyard along Bancroft Way between College and Piedmont avenues. Protesters will denounce John Yoo’s continued presence on Boalt Hall’s tenured faculty (though he’s currently on leave from UC, serving visiting professor of law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange). Yoo, as a Justice Department lawyer, authored memos that cleared the way for “enhanced interrogation techniques” believed by many to be illegal torture; critics want UC to fire him.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, in cooperation with St. Rose Hospital will host her 2nd Annual Women’s Health Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the San Leandro Public Library, 300 Estudillo Ave. Women of all ages are welcome to take part in free health screenings and get the latest information on living a healthy lifestyle; topics will include “Feeling Fabulous after 50 From Head to Toe,” “Weight Loss at Any Cost vs. Health at Any Size,” “Fitness at Home: Exercises You Can Do in the Comfort of Your Living Room,” and “Breast Cancer: Latest Statistics, Risks and Treatments.” More than 450 women have already confirmed their attendance; to RSVP, call Hayashi’s district office at 510-583-8818.

United for Change, a “grassroots group of Obama volunteers inspired and empowered by the President,” will host a free foreclosure workshop from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Everett and Jones Barbeque, 126 Broadway near Oakland’s Jack London Square. The workshop will offer homeowners and tenants in foreclosed properties the education, tools and resources needed to help their individual situations; among those scheduled to speak are Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, and Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, as well as representatives from Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., the Oakland City Attorney’s Neighborhood Law Corps and Operation HOPE Inc.

Oakland-based TransForm – formerly the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, working “to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and beyond” – will hold its 12th Annual Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Laney College, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland. This year’s theme is “Windfall for All: Saving Our Economy, Pocketbooks, and Planet with World-Class Public Transportation and Walkable Communities;” it’s expected to bring together hundreds of local nonprofit and labor leaders, community activists, agency staffers, legislators, students, and policy practitioners seeking the tools, knowledge, inspiration, and connections needed to make change. Registration, available online or by calling 510-740-3150, costs $25 per person, or $15 for TransForm members.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host the 29th Annual “An Artistic Discovery 2009” Reception and Awards Ceremony from 12 noon to 2 p.m. in the Chiodo Art Development Studio, at 1933 Peralta St. in Oakland. It’s the annual Congressional art competition recognizing emerging high school artists throughout the country; students from the 9th Congressional District – including Albany, Ashland, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Emeryville, Fairview, Oakland and Piedmont – will compete, the winner will be flown to an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and the winner’s work will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year.

Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2009
Under: Calendar | No Comments »

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

What they’re saying about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bad-and-worse May budget revision proposals…

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“The message from the Governor’s May Revise is clear. California’s budget deficit continues to grow because of a National and International economic crisis that can be felt in every classroom, boardroom and unemployment office in the state. While Californians will have a chance to affect our budget deficit in next week’s election, it doesn’t change the fact that there are difficult choices ahead for this Legislature and the Governor. Regardless of what happens on May 19, on May 20 we will begin to respond to this fiscal challenge swiftly and responsibly, doing the best we can with the money we have.”

From Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles:

“The deep cuts included in both of Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals reflect the impact the extended national recession continues to have on California. We have consistently said that all issues must be on the table, so we will closely examine each and every one of the Governor’s proposals announced today. We understand the people of California don’t care about politics-as-usual when it comes to solving the budget, and we will reject any stunts or gimmicks that get in the way of serious solutions. Californians are frustrated and families who depend on services from the state –whether schools or firefighting or health care for children – are worried. We will work to solve the budget deficit in a way that protects a safety net for the most vulnerable among us, acknowledges the fact we need an educated workforce to keep our economy going, and respects the strains all Californians are facing in this economy.”

From you:

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What’s that? You have nothing to say about it? But the governor himself today challenged every Californian, “If you don’t like the cuts, sit down with a pen and pencil and figure out where the money is going to come from.”

Hey, it’s even easier than that: Go use Next 10’s nonpartisan “California Budget Challenge,” a free online educational tool that lets users try to balance California’s budget and see how their choices will affect the state five years into the future. Everyone should take a stab at it, in order to understand what’s really at stake here.

More feedback on the governor’s proposals, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Karen Bass, state budget, Tom Torlakson | 3 Comments »

Most local lawmakers oppose war spending bill

The House of Representatives this afternoon passed the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act – $96.7 billion in military spending, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, through Sept. 30 – on a 368-60 vote; the U.S. Senate continues working on its own version.

Most Bay Area House members, unsurprisingly, opposed it: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Voting for the bill were Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, while Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was absent.

I spoke a few minutes ago with McNerney, who said that as far as Iraq goes, he supports the additional funding so long as President Obama follows through with his timeline for drawing down troops there.

Afghanistan, McNerney said, is “a little bit more complicated, a little more difficult – I’m very concerned about what’s happening over there. … The president has a good team over there and I want to see him have an opportunity to carry out an acceptable outcome.”

More commentary, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »