What they’re saying about Robert Byrd

U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Congress’ longest-serving member ever, died early this morning at age 92.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif:

Barbara Boxer“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.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“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.”

More, after the jump…
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NAACP signs onto marijuana legalization measure

The framing of this November’s marijuana legalization ballot measure as a civil rights issue continues: The California State Conference of the NAACP will hold a news conference tomorrow morning in Sacramento to announce its “unconditional support” for the Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative 2010.

Alice Huffman“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.”


SD15 special election on ‘TWINC’

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.


More initiatives approved for November ballot

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.

Add these to the Water Supply Act placed on the ballot by the Legislature, as well as the marijuana legalization initiative; the congressional redistricting initiative; the vehicle license surcharge for state parks initiative; the local revenue protection initiative; and the AB 32 rollback initiative, and we’ve now got nine propositions on November’s ballot – almost all of them with big implications for California’s future.

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.


Fiorina blasts Recovery Act, Boxer in SF

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.

Fiorina 6-17-10 in Sacramento (AP Photo)“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.


Doves say ditch the war, not just the general

The Bay Area Congressional delegation’s two biggest doves said today that President Barack Obama’s dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan (following the general’s and his aides’ critical remarks about the Administration in Rolling Stone) should be only the start.

“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.”‬‪

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she agreed with the President’s decision to relieve McChrystal of his command.

“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.