Remember all that U.S.-Russia buddy-buddy stuff that was going on last week as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the Bay Area – rubbing elbows with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Silicon Valley and San Francisco – and Washington, D.C., where he split an order of fries with President Barack Obama?
Not so fast.
The U.S. Department of Justice just announced the arrests yesterday of 10 people who either allegedly were long-term, “deep-cover” secret agents for Russia or allegedly were involved with that intelligence ring.
Four couples and two individuals were arrested at their homes or other sites in Montclair, N.J.; Yonkers, N.Y.; New York City; Boston; and Arlington, Va. One defendant named in the two complaints remains at large.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney General, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Nine of the 11 named defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
GOP opponent Meg Whitman’s camp immediately sent out this response:
“Governor Brown’s ideology of more taxes, more spending, and more regulations is the real enemy of middle-class Californians. Jerry Brown Incorporated is a political conglomerate of unions and special interests determined to defend Sacramento’s status quo and launch misleading attack ads against Meg. Jerry Brown Inc. is learning that voters know Meg Whitman is the only chance for middle-class Californians to get meaningful tax relief, accountability in Sacramento and the jobs our state desperately needs. Meg’s plan eliminates the start-up tax for middle-class entrepreneurs and the capital gains tax for smaller investors, and it provides a new tax credit for middle-class homebuyers. What is Jerry Brown offering? Nothing.”
“The Senate has lost a giant and America has lost a real fighter for our working families.
“Robert Byrd’s eloquence during his amazing tenure in the Senate will forever be a testament to his deep reverence for the Constitution and the importance of preserving the American dream, which he lived.
“I will always be grateful for Senator Byrd’s strong support for California – especially when our state was suffering through natural disasters – as well as his deep conviction to bring our troops home from Iraq.”
“This is a very sad day. Robert C. Byrd was one of the true legends of United States political history and his passing is an enormous loss. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his two daughters, Mona Fatemi and Marjorie Moore; to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and to the people of West Virginia.
“Senator Byrd represented the State of West Virginia in the United States Senate for 51 years, and also served six years in the House of Representatives. He very much loved the Senate, and was its longest serving member. His scholarly insights on the Senate’s history, customs and sometimes intricate rules were second to none. And he was a staunch defender of the prerogatives of the three equal branches of government. Senator Byrd, like the nation he represented, changed and evolved over the nine decades of his lifetime.
“Senator Byrd was well-known for his booming, fiery speeches on the floor of the Senate, but he was also a sensitive man who cherished his friends and colleagues, especially the late Ted Kennedy. He was also fond of classical history and poetry, and frequently interspersed his remarks with passages of ancient political philosophers or poetic verse.
“I shall perhaps remember Senator Byrd best for his ardent devotion to and consummate knowledge of the Constitution of the United States. I also had the privilege of serving with him on the Senate Appropriations Committee for many years.
“This nation owes Senator Byrd a great debt of gratitude for his tremendous service. I know that I will very much miss his indomitable spirit, insightful guidance, and intense commitment to the Senate.”
“We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities, and approximately 56 percent of the public, in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana,” State NAACP President Alice Huffman said in a news release. “There is a strong racial component that must be considered when we investigate how the marijuana laws are applied to people of color.”
The Drug Policy Alliance will join the NAACP and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition at tomorrow’s news conference to release a report, “Targeting Blacks for Marijuana,” based on marijuana possession arrests of African Americans in California’s 25 largest counties. The alliance says the report shows African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites – at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites – even though the U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.
“We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to our young people of color,” Huffman said. “Justice is the quality of being just and fair and these laws have been neither just nor fair.”
“We, at the California NAACP advocate that what’s just is justice for us. Under the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ It is our mission to eradicate injustice and continue the fight for civil rights and social justice wherever and whenever we can.”
I was on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California” on Friday night to discuss last week’s special primary election in the 15th State Senate District, where Democrat John Laird and Republican Sam Blakeslee were vying – and will vie again in an Aug. 17 special general election – to replace Abel Maldonado, now the lieutenant governor. Other news panel topics included Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Bay Area, November’s ballot measures and Oakland’s impending police layoffs.
November’s ballot got a lot more crowded today as Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced three more weighty ballot measures have qualified to be put to voters:
An initiative to repeal recent legislation that would let businesses carry back losses, share tax credits and use a sales-based income calculation to lower taxable income – what the measure’s proponents say are corporate tax loopholes costing the state $2.5 billion per year. Opponents call it a “jobs tax” that will cripple the state’s already-damaged economy.
An initiative to increase the legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for state levies and charges, and impose an additional requirement for voters to approve local levies and charges. The measure, put forth by California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allen Zaremberg and supported by anti-tax groups, would mean a “potentially major decrease in state and local revenues and spending, depending upon future actions of the Legislature, local governing bodies, and local voters,” according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office and state Finance Department as summarized by the state Attorney General’s office.
An initiative to change the legislative vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority – in general, beloved by Democrats and reviled by Republicans.
UPDATE @ 10:02 P.M.: Make it an even 10; the folks at the Secretary of State’s office, burning the after-hours oil, tonight announced that yet another initiative has qualified for November’s ballot. This one would eliminate the state commission on redistricting (created by Proposition 11 of 2008) and put authority for redistricting back in the hands of the Legislature.
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina was in San Francisco this morning, holding a news conference outside a vacant office building to illustrate what she said is the failure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus – and by extension, incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who voted for the law.
“As part of her Election Year rhetoric, Barbara Boxer has spent a lot of time touting the effectiveness of the economic ‘stimulus’ plan she championed. Meanwhile, more than 2.27 million Californians are out of work and unemployment has increased both statewide and here in San Francisco since the plan’s passage,” Fiorina said later Thursday in a news release. “The increasing amount of vacant office space in San Francisco is symptomatic of the jobs lost as a result of bad government policy championed by Barbara Boxer, and it underscores the economic stimulus plan’s abject failure to meet its stated goal: job creation.”
“I come from the real world, and I know that in the real world, economic growth starts with unleashing the talents and energies of California’s workers, small-business owners, innovators and entrepreneurs – not with bigger government,” she added. “It’s clear Barbara Boxer will not fight for policies that will stimulate real economic growth and private-sector job creation, and that’s why we must replace her this November.”
Boxer’s campaign responded by noting that ARRA brought San Francisco almost $625 million for 549 different projects, including 256 research grants totaling $117.8 million to the University of California San Francisco, credited with creating or retaining 568 jobs; $85.5 million for Muni transit infrastructure and maintenance, credited with creating or retaining 568 jobs; $17.9 million for the San Francisco Housing Authority to improve public housing, credited with creating or retaining 36 jobs; and $13.1 million for the San Francisco Unified School District to improve education for children with disabilities.
“Senator Barbara Boxer’s top priority is creating jobs and turning our economy around, and she has a specific plan to do this,” campaign spokeswoman Julie Wong said in an e-mail. “Her plan includes: creating thousands of clean energy jobs and making California the hub of the clean energy economy; ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas; cracking down on Wall Street speculation and instead lending to small businesses; investing in infrastructure and creating new jobs; and reducing the deficit.”
Fiorina has made earlier stops on her “statewide jobs tour” in San Diego, Clovis, Sacramento and Los Angeles; Boxer’s campaign has usually responded by pointing out the Recovery Act money that has flowed to those cities, and even sometimes to the very businesses hosting Fiorina’s events.
“What is needed in Afghanistan is a change of policy not just a change of commanders,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said in a news release. “The real message of the Rolling Stone article is that the Afghan war is an unwinnable mess. It is time to start withdrawing from Afghanistan not surging deeper into a futile conflict that is already the longest war in U.S. history.”
“The President is correct – this war is bigger than any one person. Our focus should be on our strategy to bring an end to this war,” said Lee, who you’ll recall was the lone vote in Congress against the 2001 resolution authorizing the Bush Administration’s use of force against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“Open-ended war in Afghanistan is not in our national security interest and continues to create enemies. We must fundamentally rethink our policy on Afghanistan and reorient our efforts to combat terrorism around the globe in a more effective and sustainable manner,” she said in a news release today. “We need to stop digging the hole and risking the lives of our brave young men and women. We need a clear exit strategy and a timeline to safely redeploy our troops from Afghanistan.”
UPDATE @ 10:50 A.M. MONDAY 6/28: A clarification – Lee issued her statement speaking for herself, not on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus she chairs.
The Commonwealth Club of California held a fascinating and sobering panel discussion last week on the future of higher education in California, featuring University of California President Mark Yudof, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, moderated by club President and CEO Gloria Duffy.
The club’s blurb for the event was as follows:
Has California’s beacon of educational hope burned out? 50 years ago, our state produced A Master Plan for Higher Education in California. This plan was to guide the state in successfully creating a public higher education system that was the envy of the world. But with budget crises, pay cuts, furlough days and more students than ever being denied acceptance into our UC, state and community college systems, what can we do to climb out of this dark hole and back to the top of the educational hierarchy? Join us for a unique discussion among all three top leaders of the state’s public higher education system.
Mark the date: June 23. Meg Whitman’s campaign goes negative against Jerry Brown with a minute-long statewide TV ad, titled “The Real Story.”
No surprise, of course, and actually, it’s pretty entertaining. It captures the Zeitgeist of the 70s with scratchy film reel graphics, photos of hippy protesters and peace symbols (likely taken from my Berkeley boyhood neighborhood). Images of national guard troops (or soldiers that look the part), a helicopter flying through smoke (giving the impression of Vietnam, though it’s, again, at best, suggestive), black and white and sepia-toned photos of Brown, a photo-shopped banner touting “$7 Billion New Taxes” behind Brown at a long-gone press conference, a photo of a homeless man laying in the streets of what could have been Toledo, Ohio, but gets attributed to Brown.
The tone is biting and foreshadows an ugly summer ahead, given all the archival material in the hands of Whitman’s $150 million media machine.
In response, California Working Families for Jerry Brown for 2010, put out a 30-second ad hitting Whitman for her ties to Goldman Sachs, called “Spinning.” The group said it would fill in the summer months with ready replies to Whitman’s attacks (as Brown sits on his $20 million campaign stash for the fall), and has delivered. It’s airing in TV markets through the state, though isn’t as comprehensive a buy as Whitman’s.