Lee says ‘radical right’ forced Rice to withdraw

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued this statement after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s decision to withdraw from consideration for U.S. Secretary of State was announced today:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I am profoundly disappointed that Ambassador Rice, such a well qualified woman of color, would be denied the opportunity to become our next Secretary of State due to the baseless and manufactured allegations of the radical right.

“I have known and worked closely with Ambassador Susan Rice for many years—on many global issues. From the genocide in Sudan to the ongoing violence in Syria, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and the global HIV/AIDS crisis. Ambassador Rice works each and every day to advance the highest ideals of our country and would have been an outstanding Secretary of State.”


SF seeks dismissal of nudists’ federal lawsuit

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion today seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s new ban on public nudity.

The city and county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ban – which provides exceptions for certain city-permitted events and for those under the age of five – at a climactic meeting Nov. 20, and affirmed it Dec. 4.

Opponents of the ban had sued even before the ordinance was passed, claiming it would violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments. The plaintiffs originally sought a temporary restraining order to stop the supervisors from passing the law, but U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen opted instead to consider the challenge instead as a petition for a preliminary injunction, once the ordinance was enacted.

“Public nudity bans are a longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation, and their constitutionality has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court,” Herrera said in a news release today.

“Ironically, the only novel legal theory plaintiffs put forward in this case is an equal protection claim that could actually undermine exceptions that allow nudity at permitted events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” he added. “The nudism advocates seem to have taken the position that if they can’t be naked everywhere, no one can be naked anywhere. Fortunately, the legal challenge is without a basis in the law, and we’re confident the court will dismiss.”


House passes ‘Do Not Pay List’ bill

Who says the House can’t agree on anything?

Though apparently not making progress on a solution to the “fiscal cliff,” the House voted 402-0 today to pass a bill that would cut down on wasteful spending in part by creating a government-wide “Do Not Pay List” to block improper payments before they go out and to stop payments to deceased individuals, such as for Social Security.

Mike Thompson “Taxpayers deserve to know that there money is being spent wisely and monitored closely,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, one of the bill’s original co-sponsors, said in a news release. “Every dollar counts. This bill will help us lower our debt by cutting down on billions in wasteful spending.”

H.R. 4053, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act (IPERIA), will better identify, prevent and recover payment error, waste, fraud and abuse within federal spending by making sure federal agencies have policies in place to prevent and recover improper payments.

The Government Accountability Office has reported that federal agencies logged an estimated $125.4 billion in improper payments in FY2010.

This legislation builds on a similar improper payments law passed last year, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010, which was part of the Blue Dogs’ Blueprint for Fiscal Reform – a 15-point plan to balance the budget and lay the groundwork for sound long-term fiscal policies.


Which local House members are targets in 2014?

With House elections only a month behind us, eyes are already turning toward the 2014 election’s landscape.

The fine folks at renowned political prognosticator Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” have tagged several Northern California House members as potentially vulnerable in 2014:

For Republicans, they might take fresh shots against Rep.-elects Scott Peters (D), Ami Bera (D) and Raul Ruiz (D), who all defeated Republican incumbents in razor-thin races. They may have some other opportunities across the state, particularly if some unsuccessful but promising 2012 challengers — Ricky Gill (against Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney) and Kim Vann (against Democratic Rep. John Garamendi), among others, decide to mount rematches.

The difficulty for Republican candidates in California, though, is that their statewide party is in rump status, akin to Democrats in Texas — and, unlike demographics in Texas (which might very slowly move in the Democrats’ direction), demographics in California provide little hope to resuscitate the California GOP.

The article also notes the potential for a fight in the 10th Congressional District, where Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, beat back a challenge this year from former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, a Democrat from Stockton. “Hernandez is openly considering a repeat run, although he might wait until 2016 — a clear indication that he understands the turnout problems Democrats have in midterm elections.”

Meanwhile, Rep.-elect Eric Swalwell – the Dublin Democrat who unseated 20-term Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, last month – today tells Roll Call exactly what we reported right after Election Day: that it’s never too soon to consider who’ll be coming at you two years hence.


TV commercial volumes get turned down today

No, you’re not going deaf – a new law taking effect today turns down the volume on television commercials.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., held a news conference this morning on Capitol Hill to highlight the implementation today of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which requires broadcast, cable, satellite and other video providers to keep the volume of commercials at a level consistent with the rest of their programming.

“Earsplitting television ads have jolted and annoyed viewers for decades,” Eshoo, the law’s original author, said in a news release. “With this new law, loud TV commercials that make consumers run for the mute button or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past.”

National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith said broadcasters have taken the lead in addressing the issue’s technical challenges, and National Cable and Telecommunications Association President and CEO Michael Powell thanked Eshoo and Whitehouse “for enacting sensible legislation that will improve the consumer TV experience. Our industry will continue to work closely with the FCC and the entire TV ecosystem to prevent loud commercials from being a disruption.”

Loud commercials have been a top consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission for decades and were listed as such in 21 of the FCC’s 25 quarterly reports between 2002 and 2009. According to a 2009 Harris poll, almost 90 percent of TV viewers are bothered by high commercial volumes, prompting 41 percent of viewers to turn down the volume, 22 percent to mute the TV, and 17 percent to change the channel altogether. Before this law, the official FCC policy recommended that consumers mute commercials if they found them to be excessively strident.

President Obama signed Eshoo’s legislation into law in December 2010, and the FCC passed its final rules implementing the law in December 2011. An FCC consumer guide to the new provisions of the CALM Act can be found here.


Pelosi bids ‘adieu’ to Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, took a break from the rhetorical carpet-bombing of the fiscal cliff faceoff yesterday for a floor speech thanking the departing California Democrats, including two from the Bay Area – one who retired, and one who was unseated.

John Boehner“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for yielding, Mr. Miller. I know that we have a time limitation so I will begin by associating myself with the remarks of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo who spoke so beautifully and knowledgeably about our colleagues who are leaving, who are from California, who are leaving. I rise today to thank my colleagues, who are our friends, and our partners from the great state of California.

“The Members we honor in this special order – I’m just going to do this cause its way down low.

[Leader Pelosi Adjusts Podium Height]

“Recognize the, demonstrate the extraordinary diversity of our great Golden State. They hail from northern California and southern California, from the Bay Area, to the greater Los Angeles [area], to San Diego. They bring Californians’ wide range of interests, and aspirations to the floor of the House every day. Working side-by-side with the entire California delegation, their service, our service has strengthened the Golden State; the commitment of our departing Members has strengthened the Congress; their achievements have advanced the character of our country. Each of these Members has brought a unique voice to the table; yet each shares the same core values – a devotion to public service, a dedication to opportunity, a belief in the promise of America.

“Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey spent her career fighting to improve the education of our children, the economic security of their families, the protection of our workers, as well as our coastline, as Congresswoman Eshoo mentioned. With her departure, I won’t say retirement because she is not a retiring person, the Bay Area loses a powerful advocate in Congress and the nation loses a tireless progressive leader. It was, I think, Mr. Miller said ‘400 times that Lynn Woolsey came to the floor to speak against the war, our involvement in the war in Iraq.’ Thank you, Congresswoman Woolsey. So, it’s about the patriotism of this Congress and of the participation as patriots of our colleagues from California.

“Whether it’s the education of our children, whether it is the health of our people as demonstrated by Congressman Pete Stark. Why we all owe you Pete Stark, a great debt of gratitude. He has been a fixture in the fight to build and strengthen the pillars of health and economic security for the American people. From his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, to the House floor, he always remained a fierce fighter for Medicare and a passionate advocate for the Affordable Care Act because he believed that health care was a right for all Americans, not a privilege just for the few. His legacy will live long in a stronger support for the well-being of our seniors, our families, and our middle class. I hope it is a source of pride, I know it is to your family, that so many of your colleagues respect you so much and honor your leadership and service here.”

More, after the jump…
Continue Reading