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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.