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Alameda County GOP infights over foreign policy

Expect fireworks at tonight’s Alameda County Republican Central Committee meeting, as there’s a debate and vote on a proposed resolution endorsing a non-interventionist foreign policy – which in the short term means pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The resolution was introduced by committeemen Jerry Salcido, Walter Stanley III and David LaTour – the county GOP’s chairman, vice chairman and assistant treasurer, respectively. All three are “Constitutional Republicans” aligned with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. The county GOP’s executive committee last week voted 4-1, with one absention, to approve the resolution and send it to the full committee’s monthly meeting for a 2/3 vote.

The Alameda County GOP has been torn by strife for well over a year now, with a lawsuit still pending over these and other Ron Paul supporters’ election to the committee.

The California Court of Appeal in September reinstated the case, in which committeeman Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland claims Stanley, of Livermore, and several other Constitutional Republicans were ineligible for election to the committee in June 2008 because they hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or because they’d belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

This resolution is likely to deepen the rift. Among its many “whereases” are that our foreign policy of the past century is deeply flawed and hasn’t served our national security interests; that “the terrorist threat is a predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous;” and that “torture, even if referred to as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ is self-destructive and produces no useful information and that contracting it out to a third world country or a corporation is just as evil.”

Incidentally, that’s not unlike the verbiage in a resolution approved last month by Berkeley City Council calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors for Afghanistan (or, for that matter, several other resolutions that council has approved in recent years).

Compare the county GOP’s proposed resolution also to an Afghanistan-withdrawal resolution approved Sunday by the California Democratic Party’s executive board.

And that’s not sitting well with GOP committee members other than the Constitutional Republicans.

“I’m certainly in knots about it,” Cummings said today. “I’m a retired Navy officer, and I’m shocked that while we have troops in the field, we would put together a document that is so disparaging of our policy in the war on terror. Some of the comments in it are beyond the pale.”

Read the full text of the resolution, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Alameda County, General, Iraq, Republican Party, Republican politics, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Report: Vets need consideration in drug cases

California is doing more than many states, yet perhaps not yet enough, to deal with veterans returning from war with disorders and injuries that lead to drug abuse, according to a national organization’s new policy brief.

The Drug Policy Alliance’s brief says as thousands of troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and other maladies, many could end up in trouble with the law, especially for nonviolent drug offenses. The brief says that in 2004, about 140,000 veterans were in state and federal prisons with tens of thousands more in county jails, many for crimes related to substance abuse.

The brief recommends that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense adopt overdose prevention programs and policies targeting veterans and service members who misuse alcohol and other drugs, or who take prescription medications, especially certain narcotic painkillers.

It also calls for veteran treatment programs to expand access to medication-assisted therapies like methadone and buprenorphine, which it says are the most effective means of treating opioid dependence. And state and federal governments should modify sentencing laws and improve court-ordered drug diversion programs in order to better treat — rather than lock up — veterans who commit nonviolent drug-related crimes, the brief says.

On that latter suggestion, California is making some headway, the report says:

A California law provides that veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance abuse or psychological problems as a result of their service in combat and who commit certain nonviolent offenses may be ordered into a local, state, federal or private nonprofit treatment program instead of jail or prison. The law, however, is not widely used; many defense attorneys are not even aware of its impact for their clients, and it does not automatically apply to veteran defendants. Furthermore, the law only applies to lesser, probation-eligible offenses, so many veterans do not make use of it, choosing standard probation instead.

And…

Legislation now in the California Assembly, Assembly Bill 674, would provide for diversion of psychologically wounded veterans to therapy instead of jail or prison, and would drop charges upon completion of therapy, for probation-eligible offenses. Drug testing results could only be used for treatment purposes, not as the basis of a new criminal charge. The defendant would not have to plead guilty and would emerge with no criminal record.

Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista, introduced AB 674 in February but asked in April that its Public Safety Committee hearing be cancelled. Salas will chair a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing this Thursday morning, Nov. 5, in San Diego on veterans’ courts and alternative sentencing.

“Increasing numbers of Iraq and Afghan War veterans are returning home with psychological injuries. Many of them are going untreated and, some are encountering problems with the law,” she said in her news release announcing the hearing. “Our country has a duty to our most troubled veterans. We must recognize that these veterans’ psychological injuries were sustained on our society’s behalf. We need to consider if their injuries should be taken into account in the administration of justice. Ensuring these young men and women receive the care they need will also enhance public safety in the long run.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Assembly, Iraq, Public safety | Comments Off

Obama and Lee on the public option, Afghanistan

President Barack Obama met yesterday afternoon at the White House with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, trying to allay their fears about the public option included in the newly revamped House health care reform bill. They’ve wanted a public plan with rates based on Medicare, but the new bill would let providers negotiated directly with the federal government.

Here’s what Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee had to say about the meeting:

“This is a truly historic time in our country. Today, we are closer to comprehensive health care reform than we have ever been in the past 70 years.

“I applaud our leadership for their efforts to unveil the current bill. While I have worked with my colleagues consistently to include a public option in this bill there is still work to do. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure that the final package has the strongest public option and health equity provisions possible.

“A public option is essential to ensuring coverage of as many uninsured Americans as possible, as well as cost containment provisions to limit increased premiums for the 85 percent of Americans who currently have health insurance.

“In our meeting with President Obama I emphasized the importance of having the public option remain in the final bill to come out of conference. Additionally, it is important to keep every existing health equity provision intact. The Office of Minority Health should receive the same prioritization that the Office of Women’s Health is set to receive, especially given the data on racial and ethnic health disparities.

“More than 70 percent of Americans support health care reform with a public option, therefore we have a moral obligation to provide them with the choice and accountability that a public plan would provide.”

Also, check out this Huffington Post interview with Lee about her bill, H.R. 3699, that would bar federal funding to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Barbara Lee: No more U.S. troops to Afghanistan

As Obama Administration officials mull the pros and cons of a increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has introduced H.R. 3699, which would prohibit funding for any such increase.

“History tells us that there will not be a military-first solution to the situation in Afghanistan, “she said in a news release. “Open-ended military intervention in Afghanistan is not in our national security interest and will only continue to give resonance to insurgent recruiters painting pictures of foreign occupation to a new generation.”

“I applaud the Administration’s decision to conduct a much-needed strategic review of our military presence in Afghanistan,” she continued. “As we consider the possibility of further entrenching United States Armed Forces by sending significantly more brave men and women in uniform into harm’s way, this legislation sends a clear message in opposition to this course of action.”

Among the bill’s 21 original cosponsors are Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Your voices on Capitol Hill, speaking

Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, urging the House today to adopt an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 that would call for the Defense Secretary to report to Congress by Dec. 31 a comprehensive exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan:

The amendment later failed on a 138-278 vote: Lee, Pete Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey voted for it; Ellen Tauscher and Jerry McNerney opposed it; and Zoe Lofgren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, spent some quality time today grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing:

Posted on Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

How they voted on the war supplemental

As I reported Monday, Bay Area House members were being pressed by anti-war progressives on one side and by President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the other about how to vote on the $106 billion supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House passed the bill late Tuesday on a 226-202 vote. Here’s how the Bay Area delegation voted:

No: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Yes: George Miller, D-Martinez; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco

The 32 Democrats voting against the bill did so mainly for anti-war reasons, while most of the 170 Republicans who opposed it did so because the bill included more than $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. The bill passed overwhelmingly last month, but changes in conference committee led to an intense battle to get it through again.

Here’s what Lee had to say about it:

“I cannot support any funding for Iraq that was not dedicated solely for the redeployment of our troops and military contractors. I am also unable to support the open ended military escalation in Afghanistan. We need a better balance between humanitarian and military spending in Afghanistan and we need an exit strategy. The supplemental appropriations bill does not reflect a fundamental shift in direction. Therefore, I cannot support it.”

And here’s what Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said:

“Our men and women in uniform deserve far, far better than to be treated like this. Republicans supported a troop funding bill last month, and we are prepared to do so once again. But this is a politically-motivated stunt that uses troop funding as bait for a global bailout that should be judged on its own merits in its own legislation. Let’s give our troops the resources they need for victory in a real troop funding bill free of a costly global bailout.”

Strange bedfellows indeed.

Some liberal bloggers are singling Miller out for heat, because he’s among Democrats who voted against the war funding last month “when their votes stood no chance of actually blocking the funding” but voted for it Tuesday, as AfterDowningStreet.org’s David Swanson put it. Swanson described this group as “the Hall of Shame. These Congress members voted No for show when it didn’t matter, and voted Yes to fund wars when it came to crunch time.”

Elsewhere, the Down With Tyranny blog called Miller “another progressive who let pressure get to him and has now jumped the fence and is voting for more war.”

Miller, a close political ally of Pelosi, explained his shifting vote to the Chronicle:

“I understand the deep frustrations regarding this bill; I’ve voiced them myself and have consistently voted against the war,” Miller said. “I don’t support the war in Iraq, and I want to bring it to a close. I registered my concern, but now it is time to give President Obama what he believes he needs to make progress. This bill is part of the price of cleaning up the mess of the failed policies from the previous administration.”

It’s worth noting that the progressive community was split on this: Although lots of left-leaning groups opposed the bill, some significant heavyweights – including the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for American Progress, Democracy for America, Moveon.org, Talking Points Memo, and True Majority – didn’t.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, Iraq, Iraq War, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

House members pressured on war funding vote

Several Bay Area House members are among targets of a progressive Democratic phone/fax/email lobbying blitz pressuring them to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan war supplemental spending bill, even as the Obama Administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to whip votes into line for it. From Democrats.com:

All 178 House Republicans plan to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/AfPak War Supplemental to protest $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. That means 39 Democratic opponents could defeat the bill. 34 Democrats on the right promised to vote no, so we only need 5 more.

On May 14, 51 Democrats voted no and 4 Democrats were absent. Most were Progressives who oppose the war funding, but a few were Bluedogs who want to cut unnecessary spending.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, already are on the list of lawmakers who’ve vowed to vote against the bill. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is on the “voted with us on May 14 and still with us as far as we know” list, but I guess they can move her onto the sure-thing list with Lee, Stark and Woolsey now, based on the statement she sent me a few minutes ago:

“I voted against the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental last month because I have serious problems with the current wars and do not believe that escalating the conflicts make America or the world safer.

“Increased military operations, with the inevitable civilian casualties, only inflame local resistance and increase the number and severity of violent attacks.

“While other items are included in the supplemental – many of which I support – this is, foremost, a vote for or against funding the wars. For that reason, I will again vote no when it comes to the floor.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were listed the same as Speier; I haven’t heard back from either of their offices yet.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, is listed among those who “voted with us on May 14 but now oppose us.” And Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is listed among the unknowns; his spokeswoman, Sarah Hersh, said McNerney “has received a similar number of calls, emails and faxes on this subject as compared to other major issues. Of those who have contacted his office, there’s about equal support and opposition. The Congressman looks forward to hearing from his constituents on this and other issues.”

Posted on Monday, June 15th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Iraq War, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Actors join Move America Forward’s ‘Troopathon’

Celebs continue gravitating to the June 25 “Troopathon” conceived by the Sacramento-based, grassroots conservative Move America Forward to send the largest-ever shipment of care packages to U.S. troops serving overseas.

The organization announced Monday that actors Kelsey Grammer and Gary Sinise have joined others including talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin; former Vice President Dick Cheney, actor Jon Voight, and columnist/blogger Michelle Malkin on the lineup for the “Honor Their Service” event.

Both Grammer and Sinise “have displayed a long history of support for our troops. They have been active with the USO throughout the years and their participation in our telethon is further example of what great patriots these two men are,” said Bay Area-based former talk radio host Melanie Morgan, chairwoman of Move America Forward and co-host of this event. “We are honored to have them on our Troopathon.”

The other co-host will be Andrew Breitbart of Breitbart.TV and the “Big Hollywood” blog. During the eight-hour internet, radio and television live broadcast from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, viewers will be encouraged to sponsor care packages for the troops as the guests and hosts discuss various topics related to supporting our troops. Last year’s Troopathon saw viewers donate more than $1.5 million for care packages for the troops.

Posted on Monday, June 8th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Iraq War | 2 Comments »

GOP backs Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan plan

House Republicans have introduced a pair of bills in support of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“President Obama has outlined a responsible strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he deserves support from Democrats and Republicans in Congress as our troops, intelligence professionals, diplomatic officials, and allies work to ensure security in the region,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Today, House Republicans are introducing legislation reflecting and authorizing the Commander-in-Chief’s plan. Importantly, this legislation does not include arbitrary congressionally-mandated benchmarks that tie the hands of our generals and diplomatic officials on the ground as they work to stabilize a part of the world that is vital to our national security. At the same time, it fully authorizes the funding levels requested by the President for each country, while requiring that he submit a specific implementation plan to measure progress and help ensure his strategy’s success.”

Boehner praised representatives Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.; John McHugh, R-N.Y.; Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.; and Peter King, R-N.Y. for shaping the bills. “We urge swift bipartisan passage of the measures to make certain those responsible for carrying out the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan have the resources they need to get the job done.”

Specifically, the bills would support the President’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that he outlined on March 27; authorize the money he wants for Afghanistan; authorize $1.5 billion a year in foreign assistance aid to Pakistan, as well as the President’s request for $700 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund; require the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan to implement his strategy for long-term security and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan “that includes measures of effectiveness;” and require the Administration, including the departments of Defense and State, to regularly brief and notify Congress on the implementation of the President’s strategy.

Meanwhile, some liberal Bay Area House members still aren’t convinced Obama’s on the right track.

(T)he administration’s supplemental request does not adequately reflect these diplomatic and humanitarian priorities — priorities that we believe are essential to success for U.S. security interests,” Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, recently wrote for the Politico. “In fact, 90 percent of the supplemental request would go toward funding ongoing and increased military operations. The remaining $7 billion would be divided between humanitarian, civil affairs, reconstruction and diplomatic efforts in the region.”

“The United States must reorient our national security policy in the region and maximize what the Obama administration has called our nation’s “smart power.” At the heart of this strategy must be a regional diplomatic surge that engages all of Afghanistan’s neighbors as full partners in aiding the Afghan people and strengthening its central government.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | No Comments »

Most local lawmakers oppose war spending bill

The House of Representatives this afternoon passed the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act – $96.7 billion in military spending, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, through Sept. 30 – on a 368-60 vote; the U.S. Senate continues working on its own version.

Most Bay Area House members, unsurprisingly, opposed it: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Voting for the bill were Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, while Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was absent.

I spoke a few minutes ago with McNerney, who said that as far as Iraq goes, he supports the additional funding so long as President Obama follows through with his timeline for drawing down troops there.

Afghanistan, McNerney said, is “a little bit more complicated, a little more difficult – I’m very concerned about what’s happening over there. … The president has a good team over there and I want to see him have an opportunity to carry out an acceptable outcome.”

More commentary, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »