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Boxer, DiFi urge Obama to act on Port Chicago 50

California’s U.S. senators asked President Barack Obama on Tuesday to take executive action to exonerate 50 African American sailors wrongly convicted of mutiny after the worst home-front disaster of World War II at the Port Chicago Naval Base in Concord.

“Port Chicago serves as a stark reminder of both the sacrifice of the brave service members who served there and of the painful legacy of a segregated military,” Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wrote in their letter to the president. “We urge you to take executive action to restore justice to these 50 sailors who signed up to serve our country in World War II but were instead victims of racism and unjust convictions.”

Port Chicago disaster aftermath (NPS photo)On July 17, 1944, a group of young African-American sailors was assigned to load bombs and ammunition onto naval ships at the segregated naval base at Port Chicago. Insufficient training and hectic loading schedules led to an explosion of nearly 5,000 tons of ammunition, killing 320 servicemembers including 202 African-American sailors who were loading the munitions.

After the blast, white officers who ran the base ordered African-American sailors immediately back to work loading munitions, but many refused, citing unsafe conditions. The Navy arrested hundreds on various charges, and 50 – known as the “Port Chicago 50” – were charged with mutiny. All were convicted.

Thurgood Marshall – later a U.S. Supreme Court justice – took up the case and, although Marshall was unable to have the convictions overturned, President Truman gave the 50 clemency after the war ended. A later review of the trial confirmed that race played a significant factor in the harsh sentences handed down, and in 1999, President Bill Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, one of the surviving members of the Port Chicago 50. But the records for the 49 other sailors remain unchanged.

That’s a “grave injustice,” the Senators wrote, and exonerating all 50 sailors “would demonstrate our commitment to a just and equal society for all Americans.”

President Obama in 2009 signed into law legislation introduced by Boxer, Feinstein and former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, to designate the Port Chicago Memorial site as part of the National Park Service.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter, after the jump…
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Donald Trump wins another Bay Area straw poll

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, despite a drop in his national poll numbers in recent weeks, has taken first place in another Bay Area straw poll.

The San Mateo County Republican Party polled 135 attendees at this past weekend’s Pacifica Fog Fest; respondents weren’t asked their party affiliation.

Trump topped the list with 29.6 percent, followed by Ben Carson at 20 percent; Carly Fiorina at 11.1 percent, Ted Cruz at 10.4 percent and Jeb Bush at 9.6 percent.

County GOP chairman Chuck McDougald noted this was the third street-festival poll the county GOP conducted this summer, and results have been “just as fluid as the national polls. It shows that this race is really just beginning. And, it’s interesting to note that the respondents in this poll overwhelmingly broke for the three perceived outsider candidates, just as they are in national polling.”

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Kevin McCarthy makes his case for Speaker

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised his Republican peers Monday that if they elect him speaker, their caucus “will have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people.”

Kevin McCarthy“But we will also have the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together,” McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, wrote in a memo seeking GOP members’ leadership votes – a reference to the fractious intramural politics that led to the resignation of current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Per my article Friday, McCarthy – in only his fifth term – would be the least-experienced Speaker in more than a century, yet that’s catnip to conservatives who want someone not fully co-opted by Beltway politics. He’s also popular with many Silicon Valley executives, with whom he has been cultivating ties since his Assembly tenure.

Here’s McCarthy’s memo in its entirety:

“Our conference has been through a lot together. We are a part of the largest Republican majority since 1928. We have made real progress towards shrinking an overgrown federal government and reforming our broken entitlement system. But our work is far from done. We can’t ignore the differences that exist, but we can and must heal the divisions in our conference with work, time, and trust. That is why I have decided to run for Speaker of the House and graciously ask for your support.

“You all know me. We’ve spent late nights on the House Floor together. I’ve visited your districts and met your families and constituents. More importantly, I have gotten to know your ideas, your goals, and your vision for our conference and our country.

“I am running to be your Speaker because I know that the People’s House works best when the leadership you elect listens to members and respects the legislative process entrusted to committees. In short, I am guided by something Ronald Reagan once said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

“But I am also sensitive to what is happening outside of the Beltway. I want us to be much closer to the people we represent, and I want them to once again feel like this is their government, they are in charge, and we are here to serve them.

“If elected Speaker, I promise you that we will have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people. But we will also have the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together.

“Over the past weekend, I reached out to every one of you to listen to your opinions and ask for your advice. I know that you ran for Congress to make a difference, to leave a better country for your kids and grandkids. There are challenges ahead, but unified we have an amazing opportunity to make lasting conservative change. And I know when we work together under the banner of freedom and opportunity there is little that is out of our reach.

“I look forward to fighting with you for our shared conservative principles.”

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Yeezy and Barry to bury the hatchet in SF?

President Obama is coming back to the Bay Area to raise money early next month, but that’s not the big story.

Tickets for the event range from $250 to $10,000, but that’s not the big story, either.

The big story is that Kanye West is rumored to be the musical guest at this Oct. 10 fundraiser at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater – perhaps marking a new warming in the often-troubled diplomatic relationship between Yeezy and B. Barry Bams.

The leader of the free world first jabbed at rap’s biggest ego back in 2009, after West famously commandeered Taylor Swift’s microphone during her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards.

The Commander-in-Chief repeated the same epithet in a 2012 interview with the Atlantic, in noting that he preferred Jay Z to Kanye.

“Although I like Kanye,” Obama continues, with an easy smile. “He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented.” He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.
“Even though you called him a jackass?,” I ask.

“He is a jackass,” Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. “But he’s talented.”

Kanye responded in 2013, saying he didn’t particularly care and was moving on with his art and his life. But his wife, Kim Kardashian, fired back late last year in her interview with GQ.

“I don’t think it’s very appropriate for the president of the United States to be commenting really on pop culture,” says Kim when I bring up the president’s comments. Of course, her husband had previous beef with America’s commander-in-chief; Obama calling West a “jackass”, after he’d leapt on stage and interrupted Taylor Swift’s Moonman acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

“I mean, calling people ‘jackass’?” Kim makes a face as if she’s bitten into a soft, ripe peach and hit a piece of grit. “I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion – even him. I was just like, ‘Why is he even commenting on this?’ OK, sure, just the fact that the president of the United States even knows who I am, and is talking about whether his kids watch our show is pretty cool…” Kim laughs, but is defiant. “He can say whatever he wants. I’m not affected by it.”

Then, during a stream-of-consciousness lecture at Oxford University in March, Kanye claimed POTUS occasionally calls him up to chew the fat: “Obama calls the home phone, by the way.”

Days later, Obama told Jimmy Kimmel he has met Kanye only twice. “Look, I love his music. He’s incredibly creative. I don’t think I’ve got his home number.”

But Kanye soon doubled down on his claim to TMZ: “I love Obama. He called our house before. He knows that. Don’t try to pit us against each other.”

And of course, Kanye announced at last month’s Video Music Awards that he wants Obama’s job.

“If my grandfather was here right now he would not let me back down! I don’t know I’m fittin’ to lose after this,” he said. “It don’t matter though, cuz it ain’t about me. It’s about ideas, bro. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

So this Oct. 10 event in San Francisco is nothing less than a diplomatic summit of epic proportions, a touchstone moment in American politics and entertainment, a burying of the hatchet that could change the course of U.S. history. Perhaps… an early 2020 endorsement!?!

Or – Kanye will do a few songs, Obama will make off with some serious lucre for the Democratic National Committee, and we’ll all roll on.

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Barbara Lee meets with Raul Castro at U.N.

Rep. Barbara Lee met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

President Obama earlier this month nominated Lee, D-Oakland, as a Representative of the United States to the 70th U.N. General Assembly. She’s been a longtime supporter of normalized relations with Cuba.

“I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the renewed diplomatic relations between our two countries and to personally congratulate him on the historic steps taken toward normalizing relations with the United States,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work in Congress to lifting the travel ban and ending the failed trade embargo. President Obama has shown bold leadership by opening up relations with Cuba – it’s past time for Congress to act as well.”

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CA17: Notes from Ro Khanna’s endorsement event

As I reported this morning, Democratic candidate Ro Khanna collected endorsements Friday from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone in his second bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Khanna news conference 9-25-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference at the San Jose Public Library’s Berryessa branch, the three prominent local Democrats said they can no longer support the eight-term incumbent with an intelligent and independent candidate like Khanna waiting in the wings to represent the 17th Congressional District.

Stone said Friday he supported Honda’s first run for the county’s board of supervisors in 1990, and all through Honda’s elections to the Assembly and House, but remained neutral as Khanna mounted his first challenge last year “in hopes that this would be his (Honda’s) last campaign.”

“If he were here today, I would tell him what I told him on the phone five minutes ago, which is: ‘Mike, it’s time for you to retire,’” Stone said.

Rosen said Khanna embodies the excellence and diversity for which Silicon Valley is known, and Liccardo praised Khanna’s work on developing the manufacturing revitalization initiative that San Jose just rolled out.

Asked why they hadn’t supported Khanna last year, Liccardo said he was running for mayor at the time and didn’t want to meddle in other races while doing so; Rosen said he regretted not endorsing Khanna last year, a decision made for reasons “I’m not particularly proud of” but which he wouldn’t describe further.

None of them mentioned the pending House Ethics Committee investigation of Honda’s office and campaign. Asked about this after the news conference, Rosen said he had informed Honda of his decision to endorse Khanna before the Office of Congressional Ethics report became public early this month.

Khanna praised the three for backing him.

“Change is not something that happens without people in leadership at huge political risk standing up and saying ‘I get it, I want to bring about that change,’” Khanna said. “I wish there were more elected officials who had the courage of their convictions, who endorsed people based on who they thought would do the best job” rather than automatically supporting an incumbent.

From my story posted this morning and published in today’s print editions:

Last week, Khanna announced his endorsement by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Adam Alberti, spokesman for Honda’s campaign, told the Sacramento Bee at that time that “the congressman enjoys near universal support of the Democratic establishment” in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday, Alberti said this “is typical Ro Khanna, trying to make mountains out of molehills.”

“There are no surprises on this list of endorsers. The fact that Khanna is trying to show his Democratic support with this sparse list of endorsers demonstrates the weakness in his support among Democrats,” Alberti said. “To date, Mike Honda has not lost a single endorsement from last cycle. The reason is simple: Mike Honda is the only true Democrat in the race, and the conservative politics of his challenger do not match the progressive nature of the district.”

Liccardo and Stone have backed pension reforms and performance measures for public employees, putting them at odds with their party’s labor-union base.

Khanna spokesman Hari Sevugan replied: “If Mike Honda thinks the mayor of San Jose, the Santa Clara County assessor, the Santa Clara County district attorney and the president pro tempore of the Senate — each of whom remained neutral in 2014 — are insignificant Democrats, he’s not just dangerously out of touch with the desire for change these endorsements represent, but out of touch with the reality of his situation.”