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Archive for December, 2013

The Blotter is going on holiday hiatus

And so another year draws to a close, dear readers – I hope it’s been as happy for all of you as has been for me.

I’ll be on vacation until Monday, Jan. 6, and so the blog will go mostly dormant until then – although it’s possible something will come up between now and then that I just can’t resist posting.

I will leave you with my favorite holiday-season song, and my best wishes for a merry Christmas and very happy new year. See you in 2014.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Candidate likens ‘Duck Dynasty’ guy to Rosa Parks

I’ve tried to avoid this “Duck Dynasty” thing – I mean, who can be surprised by a redneck saying something inherently redneck? – but one politician has pushed it beyond the pale.

ian-bayneIan Bayne – a Republican candidate who’s challenging Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., for Illinois’ 11th House Districtissued a statement today calling Phil Robertson “the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.”

“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” said Bayne. “What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”

Let us review.

In an interview with GQ, Robertson said:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

And, asked what he considers sinful:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

He also had this to say about African Americans:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Courageous?

Robertson probably was being honest about his religious views, and he has an absolute right to hold and voice those views – just as A&E has an absolute right to deny him a broadcast platform, and those who disagree with him have an absolute right to ostracize him for believing that all men are not created equal.

Our nation is not a theocracy; nobody’s religious belief gives them the right to hold themselves on a pedestal over others without being called on it. And pointing out someone’s intolerance isn’t itself intolerance, or persecution. If the camouflage hunting boot fits, wear it, Mr. Robertson.

But Bayne’s analogy reveals his own amazing ignorance.

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who believed in equality, and stood up for it (actually, remained sitting for it) with quiet dignity.

Phil Robertson is a reality TV star who deems some people better, holier, worth more than others because of who they do or don’t love, because he believes God wants that – the antithesis of equality. He also seems to believe that his narrow personal window on the Jim Crow South has some resemblance to the reality lived by millions of Africans Americans, which it demonstrably does not.

And Ian Bayne is either a blithering idiot or a shameless panderer.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Moore drops out of 15th Assembly District race

A prominent East Bay Democratic and LGBT activist has dropped out of the crowded race for the 15th Assembly District seat, leaving as many as six candidates still in the field.

peggy-moore-state-assembly-photo“Unfortunately the timing of this race has been difficult for my family,” Peggy Moore says in a statement posted on her website. “After a great deal of reflection, I have concluded that this is not the right time for me to campaign for elected office. This has been an incredibly tough decision, but it is the right decision for me and my family.

“One of the hardest things about this moment is the disappointment of my supporters, but I want you to know that your investment in me was not wasted. Thanks to your help, we have a network of thousands of supporters who are willing to stand up for progressive values and to work for a more representative government,” she wrote. “I have learned so much over these last few months, and I will continue to advocate for access to health care, for seniors, for LGBT people, for the working class. My passion for helping the people in my community has only grown stronger.”

Moore, 50, was the California political director of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Earlier, the Oklahoma native was a 2008 Obama campaign volunteer who became the Northern California field director for Organizing for America, the campaign’s community-organizing successor group. She also was an Oakland City Council candidate in 2005.

Moore – who got married in July – said Friday she decided not to run last month after concluding she could remain active and engaged in the community without holding elected office.

“We have some good candidates in the race,” she said, though she said she’s not ready to endorse any of her former rivals just yet. “Each candidate brings something different to the table, I like each of them for different reasons.”

Others who have stated an intention to run for the 15th District seat – from which Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out – are Elizabeth Echols of Oakland, former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Sam Kang of Emeryville, the general counsel for an economic justice advocacy group; Andy Katz of Berkeley, president of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s board; Richard Kinney, a San Pablo councilman; Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member; and Cecilia Valdez, a San Pablo councilwoman. Kinney is the lone Republican, all the rest are Democrats. As of June 30, Moore had trailed behind Echols, Kang, Katz and Thurmond in fundraising, while Kinney and Valdez had not yet reported any fundraising.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, Nancy Skinner | 2 Comments »

Leno to offer bill requiring cell ‘kill switches’

A Bay Area lawmaker will offer a bill requiring cell-phone manufacturers to include a “kill switch” that can remotely render a phone inoperable after it has been stolen.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is working on the legislation with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who has been crusading for kill switches for a while in order to combat a plague of cell-phone robberies and thefts. Leno said Thursday he intends to introduce the bill at the start of the 2014 legislative session next month.

Mark Leno“One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” he said in a news release. “We cannot continue to ignore our ability to utilize existing technology to stop cell phone thieves in their tracks. It is time to act on this serious public safety threat to our communities.”

Cell phone service providers are resisting such requirements, saying kill switches both could present opportunities for hacking and would create a huge customer-service burden.

The Federal Communications Commission reports cell phone thefts account for 30 to 40 percent of all robberies nationwide; more than half of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile device, and cell phone thefts in Los Angeles are up almost 12 percent in the last year. These crimes cost U.S. consumers more than $30 billion in 2012, even though technology already exists that can render stolen devices useless.

“I appreciate the efforts that many of the manufacturers are making, but the deadline we agreed upon is rapidly approaching and most do not have a technological solution in place,” Gascón said in Leno’s news release. “Californians continue to be victimized at an alarming rate, and this legislation will compel the industry to make the safety of their customers a priority.”

Posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Mark Leno | 1 Comment »

CA17: Ro Khanna signs up for Obamacare

South Bay congressional candidate Ro Khanna is using his own, positive experience with the Covered California health benefit exchange as a campaign asset.

Khanna, the former Obama administration official from Fremont who’s challenging Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th District, send an e-mail to supporters Wednesday saying he signed up for health insurance the night before.

“I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the website for being too slow or shutting down before they could finish. I had a good experience using Covered California — it didn’t take too long and I’m going to be paying less now than I was before,” he wrote. “Members of Congress sometimes forget what it is like for the rest of us because they are treated differently. As your Congressman, I promise that I will always think about you when I am making decisions – that is the sort of change that we need.”

The email included a link to this video:

In other CA-17 news, the Honda campaign was quick to use my Tuesday blog post about contributors to the campaigns in its own email to supporters – though it was used rather selectively.

An email from Honda campaign manager Doug Greven noted my report that Marc Leder and Peter Thiel – both prominent GOP donors – had contributed to Khanna’s campaign, as had Chamath Palihapitiya, who has donated to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign and said October’s government shutdown wasn’t a bad thing. The email’s subject line: “Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz & Ro Khanna.”

“What do some of the biggest backers of the Tea Party, and the host of the fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his infamous “47%” comment, have in common?” Greven wrote. “Probably a lot of things, but this one might surprise you: they are some of the biggest donors to Mike’s primary opponent. We need your help to fight back against the far-right conservatives trying to buy a Congressman to replace Mike.”

But Greven’s email didn’t note my point that California’s top-two primary system naturally means the anybody-but-Honda crowd will support whoever has the best chance of beating him, and given the district’s heavy Democratic and independent voter registration, that’s probably Khanna.

“This is what old-school politicians do — portray their opponent as a ‘friend of the devil’ to try to scare people into giving them money. It’s why our politics is so broken today,” replied Khanna spokesman Tyler Law. “He also fails to note that, during his career, he’s taken over a third of all his contributions from special-interest PACs, totaling millions of dollars. Ro has decided to forgo any contributions from PACs and federal lobbyists, because he believes that they have too much control over a Congress that consistently puts those special interests ahead of the interests of regular Americans.”

“Congressman Honda can choose to distort both Ro’s and his own fundraising practices in a desperate effort to raise money,” Law said. “But this kind of divisive, alarmist rhetoric doesn’t help solve our problems. It only exacerbates the dysfunction of our politics that has led to the least productive Congress in history and its record-low public standing.”

Posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

CA17: Examining a few Khanna & Honda donors

House candidates have until Jan. 31 to file their year-end campaign finance reports, and in the Bay Area, folks will be waiting with bated breath to see who has anted up for whom in the South Bay’s Democrat-on-Democrat battle for the 17th Congressional District.

So far, challenger Ro Khanna has enormously outraised incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. Khanna had a bit over $1.9 millon cash on hand with about $36,000 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30, while Honda had about $560,000 banked with $4,700 in outstanding debts.

And each side probably can find fault with some of the other side’s contributors.

Ro KhannaFor example, a few donors to Khanna’s campaign seem to be Republicans taking an “anybody-but-Honda” stance.

Marc Leder – the Florida hedge-fund executive who hosted the fundraiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” comment, and who gave Romney and affiliated groups more than half a million dollars – contributed $5,200 to Khanna’s campaign. Khanna isn’t the only Democrat to whom Leder has contributed – he has given to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Fla.,; and a few others – but his money skews heavily toward the GOP.

Khanna also received $2,500 from billionaire PayPal cofounder, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a libertarian-leaning GOP funder who has given $2.6 million to the Endorse Liberty PAC and $2 million to Club for Growth Action in recent years.

And Khanna received $5,100 from Bay Area venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, whose only other contribution in recent years was $5,000 to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Palihapitiya made waves during October’s government shutdown by saying “stasis in the government is actually good for all of us. It means they can neither do anything semi-useful nor anything really stupid.”

Such contributions seem an inevitable result of California’s top-two primary system, in which all candidates from all parties compete and the top two vote-getters advance to November regardless of party. The 17th District’s voters are 44.4 percent Democrats, 31.5 percent independents and 18.8 percent Republicans, giving GOP candidates precious little chance of advancing, so any challenger to Honda – among the House’s most liberal members – is likely to get support from a wider political spectrum.

honda.jpgOn the other hand, Khanna has stuck by his pledge not to take any money from political action committees, while Honda has accepted at least $165,335 from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis. Labor has given Honda more PAC money than any other sector – $54,700 – but Democratic and social issue PACs, health sector PACs and communications/electronics sector PACs have anted up, too.

And Honda, unlike Khanna, accepts contributions from federally registered lobbyists. Among such contributions on Honda’s latest report: $500 from Micky Ibarra, whose firm’s clients have included various Latino organizations and the pharmaceutical industry’s trade group; $500 from Christopher Mitchell, a former Honda aide whose firm’s clients have included an electronics industry trade group and defense contractor General Dynamics; and $500 from Daron Watts, whose firm’s clients include several big pharmaceutical companies.

Posted on Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Obama to meet with tech executives Tuesday

President Obama will meet Tuesday with executives from leading tech companies – including some notable Bay Area names – to discuss progress made in addressing the glitches and breakdowns that plagued the HealthCare.gov website, a White House official said Monday.

In addition to talking about the botched rollout of the website – the portal connecting people seeking individual insurance policies under the nation’s new health care law – Obama and the tech executives will discuss how government can better deliver information technology “to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service,” the official said.

Also on the agenda: “national security and the economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures,” and ways that the Obama administration can partner with the tech sector “to grow the economy, create jobs and address issues around income inequality and social mobility.”

Here’s the list of tech executives expected at the meeting:

  • Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
  • Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
  • Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy
  • Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO, Netflix
  • Drew Houston, Founder & CEO, Dropbox
  • Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo!
  • Burke Norton, Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce
  • Mark Pincus, Founder, Chief Product Officer & Chairman, Zynga
  • Shervin Pishevar, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Sherpa Global
  • Brian Roberts, Chairman & CEO, Comcast
  • Erika Rottenberg, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, LinkedIn
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
  • Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft
  • Randall Stephenson, Chairman & CEO, AT&T
  • Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Under: Obama presidency, Technology in politics | 8 Comments »

    Bill Lockyer has a new private-sector job

    State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has joined the Orange County office of an international law firm, where he’ll practice law part-time until his term in office ends in January 2015.

    Lockyer 2012 (no background)“I’m excited to join Brown Rudnick,” Lockyer said in a news release issued by the firm. “I’m attracted by the firm’s reputation for excellence, its entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative culture, and I like the people. Brown Rudnick only recently established an office in California, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping my colleagues grow the firm’s presence here on the West Coast. I will continue to devote all of the considerable time and attention necessary to carry out my responsibilities as State Treasurer, as I have throughout my time in public service.”

    Lockyer, 72, of Hayward, announced in June that he would not run for state controller in 2014, ending a 46-year political career that began with a local Democratic committee and culminated with 16 years in statewide office. “It’s time to do something different,” he had said at the time. “Being controller has its unique challenges, but it’s not what I want to do next in my life. … It’s different but it’s still fiscal management, and I need a new challenge.”

    He also had said his troubled relationship with his wife, former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer – whose extramarital affair and drug addiction had put them in the headlines and their marriage temporarily on the rocks – didn’t influence his career decision.

    Lockyer will serve on the government law and strategies team at Brown Rudnick, which has about 200 attorneys in cities including Boston, New York, Washington, London and Dublin. Chairman and CEO Joseph Ryan said the firm is delighted to welcome Lockyer to a capacity “which will fully accommodate his duties as State Treasurer.”

    “Over the last 45 years, Bill has distinguished himself as one of California’s most admired and trusted leaders,” Ryan said in the release. “He has proven himself to be an exceptional public servant and our employment agreement will ensure that he can continue to discharge his public responsibilities free from distractions, conflicts or time constraints while being associated with Brown Rudnick. Even though Bill will be able to devote only limited time to private practice over the next year, I am sure he will quickly become a highly valued adviser to our clients.”

    Ron Rus, head of Brown Rudnick’s Orange County office, added Lockyer’s knowledge and experience “will be of enormous importance to our clients working to develop and implement their business strategies in California and beyond.”


    UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.:
    Read my full story on this, including an interview with Lockyer and questions about possible conflicts.

    Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Under: Bill Lockyer | 6 Comments »

    President OKs more federal aid to Rim Fire areas

    Chalk up a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown: It looks as if his appeal to President Obama for more federal aid to parts of Tuolumne County that were devastated by the Rim Fire has borne fruit.

    The president today declared a major disaster exists in California and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area that was affected by the epic blaze from Aug. 17 through Oct. 24. This federal funding will be available to aid state and local governments and certain private nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of damaged facilities.

    Brown first sought such a declaration on Oct. 8, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied his request on Nov. 4, so the governor appealed on Dec. 3 with new damage estimates and details. It’s now estimated that the fire caused more than $54 million in damages.

    “This is welcome news for those impacted by this devastating wildfire, and I’m thankful for FEMA’s careful reconsideration of the Governor’s request,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said in a news release. “Even though the fire is out, the impacts to the local economy, environment and region haven’t gone away. We look forward to FEMA’s assistance in the important recovery work that has been underway since October.”

    Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013
    Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

    Lawmakers remember Newtown in varied ways

    Tomorrow marks one year since the Newtown school shooting massacre, and as the nation considers what has and hasn’t happened as a result, Bay Area lawmakers are observing the awful anniversary in various ways.

    Nancy PelosiHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will speak at a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America event Saturday morning at St. Vincent de Paul Church in San Francisco. She’ll be joined there by families of victims of gun violence.

    “It’s hard to believe that an entire year has passed since that horrific day – yet it’s even harder to believe that, despite so many promises of action, too many in Congress have advocated only inaction in the fight to prevent gun violence,” Pelosi said Friday. “In the wake this solemn anniversary, that must change. Indeed, our most lasting memorial to the victims of Newtown would be to enact a comprehensive agenda to prevent gun violence, starting with the bipartisan, King-Thompson legislation to expand background checks.”

    Rep. Mike Thompson – co-author of that background-check bill and Pelosi’s appointed point man on gun violence issues – joined congresswomen Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, in an “act of kindness” Friday to mark the anniversary.

    Mike ThompsonOfficials in Newtown have urged those who wish to honor the memory of the victims to engage in acts of kindness, and so the four House members helped prepare meals at Martha’s Table, a Washington, D.C, nonprofit that provides healthy meals and education rpograms to nearly 300 children, plus meals and groceries to hundreds of homeless and low-income people.

    Thompson, D-Napa, and H.R. 1565 co-author Pete King, R-N.Y., issued a statement Friday noting that in the year since Newtown “more than 10,000 people have been killed by someone using a gun and Congress has done nothing to reduce gun violence. That is unacceptable.

    “Congress needs to act, and we should start by passing our bipartisan background check bill so that criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill do not have easy access to guns,” the lawmakers wrote. “187 of our colleagues have co-authored this legislation and more have said they’d vote for it if the bill was brought to the floor. It’s time to get this bill passed and signed into law.”

    honda.jpgAnd Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, will speak Saturday at a gun buyback event at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose, organized by a coalition of South Bay civic organizations. People will be able to anonymously exchange handguns for up to $200 in gift cards; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel, City Councilman Xavier Campos, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Father Jon Pedigo of Our Lady of Guadalupe also are scheduled to speak.

    Honda on Friday called the buyback “a concrete step to get as many dangerous weapons off the streets at possible.”

    “It has been one year since the tragic events at Newtown, and we will always remember those who are no longer with us. It is important to not only protect young children, however, but all of our citizens, and I will continue to fight for real change to our gun laws,” Honda said Friday, saying he has worked to increase funding for background checks and tried to block efforts to make it harder for police to track criminals using illegal guns. “Reducing needless gun violence is one of the key moral causes of our time.”

    Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013
    Under: gun control, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 13 Comments »