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Archive for May, 2012

House OKs indefinite detentions, TBI treatment

The House today voted 182-238 against a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, expressing Congress’ view that no one detained on U.S. soil can be indefinitely detained and that every person deserves access to a lawyer and a fair judicial process.

All Bay Area members voted for the amendment except Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who didn’t vote.

“Last year, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, he laid out his concerns regarding provisions that would have allowed for indefinite detention of American citizens and required that certain individuals captured even on US soil be held in military custody,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said afterward.

“The Smith-Amash amendment would have addressed these concerns, righting a wrong that flies in the face of our commitment to protect the American people and have the proper balance between security and liberty,” she said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in the House failed to join the vast majority of Democrats in supporting this amendment to realign detention policy with the U.S. Constitution.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, had co-sponsored the amendment.

“The NDAA allows the Executive Branch the power to detain individuals indefinitely without giving them their day in court,” he said. “Not only does this subvert the core principles embedded in our Constitution, this policy prevents our judicial system from trying and punishing anyone who would harm Americans. Instead of allowing terrorists to hang in legal limbo, we must bring them to justice.”

Among other amendments, however, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, scored a win with his bipartisan effort to speed up new and innovative treatments to servicemembers and veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Our troops and veterans have earned the very best treatment and care that we can provide,” said Thompson. “But sometimes the best treatments aren’t available at military and veteran medical facilities. My amendment will make sure that our heroes who return from combat with TBI or PTSD have access to the highest quality care our nation has to offer.”

The amendment Thompson cosponsored with Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, creates a new five-year, $10 million pilot program to let military patients get treatment from health care facilities outside the VA that use cutting-edge, successful therapies for TBI and PTSD. Physicians and residential treatment centers can qualify for payment from the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs through a “pay-for-performance” plan, meaning they must prove a patient has had demonstrable improvement. The amendment also requires an annual report to Congress on the results of the program, as well as a report on plans to integrate successful methods into Defense and VA medical facilities.

Ultimately, the House passed the NDAA today on a 299-120 vote; the only Bay Area member to vote for it was Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Safeway exec’s joke falls flat for House members

Much of the Bay Area’s House delegation has asked top officials at Pleasanton-based supermarket giant Safeway for an apology after one of those officials told what the lawmakers say was a sexist joke about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The letters the lawmakers sent today to Safeway CEO Steve Burd and General Counsel Robert Gordon takes issue with something Gordon, 60, of Orinda, said at the company’s shareholder meeting Tuesday in Pleasanton:

“You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, ‘Nice pigs, sir.’ And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, ‘Excellent trade, sir.’”

(Thanks very much, he’ll be here all week, try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waiters.)

SO not funny, say the lawmakers.

“Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women,” they wrote to Burd. “Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.”

The letters were signed by George Miller, D-Martinez; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

I’m awaiting a response from Safeway, and will update this when it’s received.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: “Both letters will be responded to shortly,” Brian Dowling, Safeway’s Vice President of Public Affairs, e-mailed me about an hour ago; he did not clarify whether this will be the extent of the company’s comment today, so I must assume that it will be.

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Dowling clarifies that the company will respond directly to the lawmakers, and Gordon also will write directly to Pelosi and Clinton.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Ex-Marine to climb Mt. Whitney for Senate bid

Some have likened waging a campaign against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to scaling a mountain, but one of her 23 challengers this year has chosen to take that literally.

Donald KrampeDonald Krampe, a Republican from Murrieta, plans to climb Mt. Whitney – the lower 48’s highest summit – next week in order to call attention to his campaign.

And that’s no small feat for most people, much less for an 83-year-old like Krampe.

“The climb is on – I’m leaving here on the 22nd for Lone Pine and will start the climb on the 23rd,” Krampe said Friday, noting he’ll bear a banner noting his campaign website, the mountain’s elevation, and the slogan, “Don Krampe tops summit and stomps D. Feinstein’s TV blitz.”

“I’m just doing what I was taught in the Marine Corps,” said the veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars – thinking outside the box when faced with daunting odds. “I needed to do something to get some kind of name recognition because I don’t have the kind of money to throw into TV ads.”

For the sake of Bay Area voters – of whom he used to be one, while working for the Mt. Diablo YMCA and later for the U.S. Treasury in San Francisco – Krampe notes that Mt. Diablo rises 3,864 feet above sea level while Mt. Whitney’s latest measure is 14,505 feet. (However, the campsite from which he’ll make his ascent is at about 10,000 feet.)

Other numbers to consider: Only Krampe and one other Senate candidate are older than Feinstein, 78; the other is Atherton Republican Greg Conlon, 79.

“I have to tell you that’s one of the cleverest things I’ve ever seen,” admitted Bill Carrick, Feinstein’s campaign consultant. “If he’s in good enough shape to do it, that’s fabulous.”

Mt. Whitney“Having done Mt. Whitney myself, I know it’s gorgeous, beautiful and very tough, particularly when you get up at the higher elevations, it’s very steep. I hope he has a good group of people going with him and they’re well-prepared.”

Krampe offered assurances that he’s in good shape and has had a pre-emptive medical checkup: “Everything is A-OK.”

Krampe said he’s running for the Senate because most people he talks to are fed up with Washington’s acrimony and special interests, and Feinstein isn’t doing enough to create jobs and grow the economy.

His website says he would seek federal funding for improvements to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach so they can process more freight, and develop a plan for local governments to host job fairs. He wants to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, and reallocate money from the war to domestic priorities such as highways, education and enforcement of laws against illegal immigration; on the latter issue, he says he favors a path to citizenship for those already here but opposes giving college grants to children of illegal immigrants.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: 2012 U.S. Senate election, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

President Obama endorses Pete Stark

Rep. Pete Stark‘s campaign today announced the endorsement of President Barack Obama.

“Congressman Pete Stark is a tireless champion for all of the 15th’s working families,” the president said in the news release. “We’ve worked hard these last three years to bring meaningful, positive change to our nation – fighting for good jobs, good schools and a health care system that works for all of our citizens. We have made great strides, but there is much more to do. That is why we need his dedicated efforts back in Congress to continue the fight with me. I need you to cast your vote for Congressman Stark in the June 5th Democratic Congressional Primary.”

“We cannot have a return to failed policies of the past, Congressman Stark has worked closely with me on crucial programs and policies that have made a real difference not only in California, but across America. We need his wisdom, experience and his steady, ‘get-things-done’ style now more than ever.”

Stark said he’s honored. “After a campaign focused on health care, working families and economic development, my first task back in Congress will be to work with the President and other members of Congress to get our economy back on the right track.”

Stark, 80, is challenged in the June 5 primary election by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, 31, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, and by conservative independent Chris Pareja, 40, a Hayward businessman. What might’ve been a cakewalk for Stark – a 20-term incumbent rumored to be seeking his last term, and dean of California’s delegation – instead grew ugly in recent weeks as Stark had to apologize for a series of unsubstantiated accusations he made against Swalwell.

“Pete Stark knows he is in trouble and now has to call on the President for support,” Swalwell said Friday. “The only endorsements I am interested in are from people who live and vote here.”

Pareja called the endorsement unsurprising.

“As mentioned in Pete’s release, they have worked together on health care, the economy and jobs. Unfortunately, all three of those initiatives have failed in the 15th District,” Pareja said. “Under this Stark/Obama partnership we have seen health care costs continue to rise and concerns that quality will slip. We can foresee the risk of diminishing health care access facing our senior citizens. We have seen more jobs lost. We have seen the California economy continue to weaken. … It’s time to have the citizens’ voices represented instead of backslapping and self-congratulation for failed policies.”

The newly drawn 15th Congressional District includes Hayward, Fremont, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore, Union City, and unincorporated areas including Castro Valley, Fairview and San Lorenzo.

President Obama will visit the Bay Area next Wednesday for campaign fundraisers in Palo Alto, Atherton and Redwood City.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Lawmakers urge faster Afghanistan withdrawal

Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.

The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”

The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”

The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.

Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Mike Taugher appointed to Fish & Game Dept.

We often report items here about Gov. Jerry Brown appointing Bay Area people to posts within state government, but this is the first time I can remember reporting the good news about one of our own. From the governor’s office today:

Mike Taugher, 49, of Benicia, has been appointed assistant deputy director of communications, education and outreach at the California Department of Fish and Game. Taugher has been a reporter for the Bay Area News Group and Contra Costa Times since 2000. He was an environmental reporter for the Albuquerque Journal from 1995 to 2000, a reporter for Greeley Tribune from 1992 to 1995 and a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza from 1989 to 1992. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $90,000. Taugher is registered decline-to-state.

Mike TaugherBut there’s a lot more to it than that. As our East Bay Metro Editor Kat Rowlands reminded our staff today, Mike was the Times’ lead reporter on the state’s energy crisis, eventually helping the paper win an award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for coverage of PG&E’s bankruptcy. In 2004, he covered the Kinder Morgan pipeline explosion in Walnut Creek, followed by great work on safety flaws in the underground pipeline networks.

In 2005 he began reporting on findings that showed an unprecedented environmental collapse in the Delta, an important habitat for numerous fish species including the endangered Delta smelt, as well as a key hub in California’s water delivery system; his six-part series won him first-place awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for both environmental reporting and investigative reporting. In fact, his stories on the Delta ecosystem, climate change, water supplies, salmon hatcheries and many other topics have won him a slew of other local, state and regional awards over the years.

Our loss is the state’s gain; best of luck, Mike, and don’t be a stranger.

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: Environment, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Ong, like Perata, proves too hot to handle

My household yesterday received the latest of many, many mailers from the campaign of Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat. But this one was a little different, a little more… substantial…

Ong letterOng potholder
(click to enlarge)

Thanks, Mrs. Ong. I must say, this gave me a mild case of the warm-and-fuzzies – not because of the charming mother-daughter narrative, and not because I desperately needed a potholder. No, it was nostalgia, as I recalled one of my favorite political keepsakes:

Perata potholder

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Don Perata | 1 Comment »

Git up off yer duff and register to vote

This Monday, May 21, is the last day to register to vote in the June 5 primary election.

To be eligible to register, a person must be a U.S. Citizen; at least 18 years old on Election Day; not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; and not deemed by a court to be mentally incompetent to register and to vote. Also, registered voters must re-register whenever they have moved to a new address, changed their name, or want to change political party affiliation.

Voter registration cards are available at county elections offices (Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz); U.S. Post Offices; and the Department of Motor Vehicles, or online from the Secretary of State’s office. They must be signed and submitted in person or by mail; a mailed registration card postmarked Monday will satisfy the deadline.

There is one exception to the deadline: Under new state law, people who obtain their U.S. citizenship after today can register and vote right up until the polls close on June 5.

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 presidential election, 2012 primary election, 2012 State Senate election, 2012 U.S. Senate election, voter registration | 1 Comment »

Bay Area lawmakers vote against House VAWA bill

The House voted 222-205 today to pass H.R. 4970, the Republican version of a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which aims to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence.

No Bay Area members voted for the bill. Supporting it were 216 Republicans and six Democrats; opposing it were 182 Democrats and 23 Republicans. Most House Democrats had pushed for accepting the Senate’s bipartisan version of the bill, S.1925.

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been an essential tool in protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence, and it has always been bipartisan. The House Republicans’ version of VAWA unwinds the long-standing commitment to lifesaving assistance for the most vulnerable victims. It eliminates confidentiality protections for immigrant victims, imposes broad and imprecise mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders, lacks protections for LGBT victims, and limits resources for victims living in subsidized housing or on college campuses. In every case, this is unacceptable.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in a floor statement:

“The Senate bill prohibits discrimination against gay or transgender individuals in VAWA programs. It ensures that immigrant women can file domestic violence complaints without fear for their safety. It extends vital protections to Native American women by permitting non-Indian men who commit violent crimes against them on tribal land to be prosecuted through the tribal system. It also includes important improvements to better address the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault experienced by people in college and other educational settings.”

“In contrast, the House Republican VAWA bill leaves out all of these protections. It delivers the reprehensible message that women in the United States are not worthy of protection if they are gay, Indian, or non-citizens and it flat out fails to make other needed updates to the law.”

“Congress should not be in the business of choosing who is and is not deserving of safety. Every woman should have access to protective services if and when she needs it. The regressive policy in H.R. 4970 falls far short of this goal. I stand with President Obama and women’s advocates across our country in opposing this bill and I urge all my colleagues to vote against it.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“VAWA is a critical tool to ending domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. Unfortunately, instead of being serious about the federal reauthorization of VAWA, Republicans are attempting to roll back current law and weaken protections for women. I know from personal experience that domestic violence is not only physical, it is emotional. It is brutal, it is dehumanizing to the batterer and the battered, and without strong and enforceable criminal laws and services, it can shatter and destroy a life.”

“Our colleagues in the Senate recognize the need to modernize and expand protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. This is the bill that the House of Representatives should be consider – not H.R. 4970, which would pose a serious threat to the lives of victims. We cannot afford to play political games with women’s lives.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Buchanan appointed to chair state reorganization committee

Joan Buchanan

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, has been appointed chairwoman of a special committee that will examine Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive branch reorganization proposal.

Buchanan is more than capable of this task. But sheesh, what did she do to earn this thankless assignment? Hit  Speaker John Perez’ car in the state garage? (Just kidding. About the car.)

Here’s the news release her office just put out:

Assemblymember Joan Buchanan Appointed Chair of Special Committee on Governor’s Reorganization Plan

(Sacramento, CA)—Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) announced that Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has appointed her Chair of a new special committee that will assess the Governor’s Reorganization Plan No. 2, a plan that will reorganize several agencies and departments of the executive branch.

“The Governor has presented the Legislature with a broad proposal to streamline the administrative functions of the Executive Branch,” Buchanan stated. “I look forward to our discussions on how to make California state government as efficient, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the public as possible.”

Assemblymember Buchanan is currently the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, which has held a number of hearings in the past few months to evaluate some of Governor Brown’s other proposals to reorganize the executive branch. She is also the Chair of the Select Committee on Government Efficiency, Innovation, and Technology.

The committee membership will include members with diverse expertise in the areas the Governor has proposed to reorganize. Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) will serve as Vice Chair, with Assemblymembers Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), Isadore Hall (D-Los Angeles), Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills), Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) and Norma Torres (D-Chino) filling out the rest of the special committee’s membership.

Posted on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature | No Comments »