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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 »

Viewpoints on trying the 9/11 detainees

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that five alleged terrorists believed to have taken part in planning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be brought from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to New York City, where they’ll be tried in federal court.

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.

“These men are part of a global terrorist network dedicated to attacking America and civilization itself, and on that awful day nine years ago, they succeeded in killing nearly 3,000 men, women, and children. These terrorists were already being tried by military commissions, which were specifically designed to prosecute such heinous acts.

“This decision is further evidence that the White House is reverting to a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality – treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best. We need a real strategy for fighting and winning the war on America’s terrorist enemies that includes an effective, credible, and consistent plan for all terrorist detainees.”

From Iraq War veteran and chairman Jon Soltz:

“Finally, after years and years, those responsible for the worst terror attack on America will start to face American justice.

“Showing the world that we operate on a higher moral plane than fiefdoms, theocracies and dictatorships when it comes to justice will be a dagger in the heart of al Qaeda recruiting, as Guantanamo Bay has been one of the terror group’s most effective recruiting posters. That helps our troops, and protects America.

“Additionally, this will prove that Liz and Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and their cohorts have been engaging in pure politics. Contrary to what they’ve said, transferring detainees to the U.S. to face justice and punishment will be secure, safe, and strong, as it has been for nearly 200 other terrorists. Once that becomes evident, it will be clear that their only interest in opposing real justice was to take down President Obama — American security be damned.”

Read Holder’s remarks at this morning’s news conference in their entirety, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2009
Under: Civil liberties, General, War on Terror | 8 Comments »

Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff to jump ship?

(This post comes courtesy of Steve Harmon, our man in Sacramento…)

The administration is knocking down rumors that Susan Kennedy, the all-powerful and influential chief of staff for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is preparing to leave the administration for a job with Mercury Public Affairs to shepherd the water bond campaign.

“No,” said Aaron McLear, spokesman for Schwarzenegger. “It’s not happening.”

But sources say it makes sense that she would head to a political firm with close ties to Schwarzenegger. With Schwarzenegger heading into his final year, many of his cabinet members and staffers are likely to bail on him seeking stable employment.

With Finance Director Mike Genest having announced his departure last week, Kennedy is likely to stay on at least until the administration assembles the budget in January, sources said. At that point, one source said, she would take her water expertise to Mercury, which is expected to be a prominent player in the bond campaign – if not the main campaign committee for it. Mercury most recently ran Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure campaign on redistricting.

“I was told by a good source – a very senior person from inside the horseshoe – six, seven weeks ago that once she got water done, she’d go to Mercury to make some money off the campaign,” one source said, asking not to be identified.

Credited as a central figure in ushering the water deal through the Legislature, Kennedy would be a perfect addition to Mercury. Steve Schmidt, who ran the governor’s re-election campaign in 2006 is a partner, as is Adam Mendelsohn, ex-Schwarzenegger communications director and deputy chief of staff under Kennedy.

Fabian Nunez, the former Democratic Assembly Speaker, is also a partner, and would welcome another Democrat in the Republican-leaning firm. Kennedy previously served as deputy chief of staff for Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, Gray Davis, and was a central player in water politics then, too.

One source familiar with the dynamics of the water bond pooh-poohed the speculation, saying it may have grown out of a lunch meeting that Kennedy had with stakeholders discussing a potential water bond campaign.

“Coming out of that, someone got the wrong idea,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to talk.

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Schwarzenegger, water | 10 Comments »

John Yoo asks that torture lawsuit be dismissed

University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School Professor John Yoo – widely recognized as an architect of Bush Administration policies on torture and detainee rights – has filed a brief asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss a lawsuit filed by a former prisoner.

American citizen Jose Padilla claims Yoo, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 through 2003, provided the legal framework for the harsh treatment he received while held as a military prisoner for several years.

Padilla was arrested in 2002; authorities said he’d been involved in a plot to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb,” and held him as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement in a military brig in South Carolina, where he claims he was illegally mistreated. Though authorities eventually dropped the dirty-bomb claims and transferred him to civilian courts, Padilla was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy and providing material aid to terrorists; sentenced last year to 17 years and four months in federal prison, he’s now appealing that conviction while he also sues Yoo.

Yoo’s lawyers moved to dismiss the case, saying that Padilla’s claims would force the courts to create a new legal right against government lawyers for legal advice given to the president, and that doing so “would not only constitute an unprecedented intrusion into the President’s authority in the areas of war-making, national security and foreign policy, it could jeopardize the ability of the President and other Executive Branch officials to obtain candid legal advice on constitutional matters of utmost national importance and sensitivity.”

But U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco in June refused to dismiss the case, and Yoo has appealed that ruling; he filed his opening brief late yesterday.

In it, Miguel Estrada, Yoo’s attorney, claims White overstepped his authority by creating “an implied constitutional damages remedy against Yoo for legal advice he allegedly gave to the President on matters of national security and foreign policy,” and that Yoo is entitled to qualified immunity – a protection for public officials who perform their official duties reasonably – because he wasn’t personally responsible for Padilla’s detention and treatment.

“Moreover, Padilla does not allege the violation of any clearly established rights. The law governing enemy combatants was and remains murky. To the extent enemy combatants possess any of the rights Padilla invokes—and, in most cases, it is clear they do not—those rights were not clearly established when Yoo worked in OLC,” Estrada wrote.

“This case also threatens to disrupt the political branches’ constitutional role
in war-making and foreign policy,” he wrote later in the brief. “If Executive Branch lawyers are threatened with personal liability should their legal analysis turn out to be incorrect, they will be reluctant to provide candid guidance on politically controversial issues.”

Padilla and his mother and co-plaintiff, Estella Lebron, must file an answering brief by Dec. 9, and Yoo has the option to file a reply within two weeks after that. The 9th Circuit appeals court has not yet set any oral argument date for this case.

Yoo has been the target of repeated protests and classroom disruptions at the Cal campus; the next protest is scheduled for Nov. 30.

Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, General, War on Terror | 4 Comments »

AMA: Marijuana has medical value

As proposed ballot measures and a legislative bill to allow recreational marijuana use advance here in California, medical marijuana advocates scored a big win today as the American Medical Association shifts to a friendlier stance.

The AMA’s House of Delegates voted to reverse its long-held position that marijuana be classified on the Controlled Substances Act’s Schedule I, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, no medical value and no safety for use under medical supervision; instead, it has adopted a report drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH) entitled, “Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes,” which affirms some therapeutic benefits and calls for further research.

The CSAPH report concluded that, “short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.” The AMA now recommends that “the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.”

The last AMA position, adopted 8 years ago, called for maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance.

“This shift, coming from what has historically been America’s most cautious and conservative major medical organization, is historic,” Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release. “Marijuana’s Schedule I status is not just scientifically untenable, given the wealth of recent data showing it to be both safe and effective for chronic pain and other conditions, but it’s been a major obstacle to needed research.”

The American College of Physicians issued a position paper last year calling for an “evidence-based review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance to determine whether it should be reclassified to a different schedule.

“The two largest physician groups in the U.S. have established medical marijuana as a health care issue that must be addressed,” Caren Woodson, government affairs director of the Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said in a news release. “Both organizations have underscored the need for change by placing patients above politics.”

The CSAPH report has not been officially released to the public, but an executive summary says it: “(1) provides a brief historical perspective on the use of cannabis as medicine; (2) examines the current federal and state-based legal envelope relevant to the medical use of cannabis; (3) provides a brief overview of our current understanding of the pharmacology and physiology of the endocannabinoid system; (4) reviews clinical trials on the relative safety and efficacy of smoked cannabis and botanical-based products; and (5) places this information in perspective with respect to the current drug regulatory framework.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Under: General, marijuana | Comments Off on AMA: Marijuana has medical value

Local ICE billboards focus on human trafficking

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has put up three Bay Area billboards – two in Oakland, one in San Francisco – as part of a 15-city outdoor advertising campaign to call attention to the evils of human trafficking.

The “Hidden in Plain Sight” campaign urges the public to take action if they encounter people who they believe are being sexually exploited or forced to work against their will. Other cities targeted by the campaign are Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., New Orleans, New York, St. Paul, Minn., San Antonio and Tampa, Fla.

“Most Americans are shocked to learn that in this day and age slavery still exists in this country, including here in the Bay Area,” Mark Wollman, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in San Francisco, said in a news release. “ICE is committed to giving trafficking victims the help they need to come forward so we can put an end to this reprehensible form of modern-day slavery. We are asking the public to help us recognize and identify these victims in our midst – domestic servants, sweat shop employees, sex workers and others lured here by the promise of prosperity, but then forced to work without the ability to leave their situation.”

Just last month, a Walnut Creek woman was convicted on federal charges for having smuggling a Peruvian national into the United States and making her work as a live-in nanny and domestic servant, without pay. Mabelle de la Rosa Dann, 46, faces up to 75 years in federal prison; her sentencing is scheduled for January.

But ICE says identifying victims and their persecutors is tough, as victims often don’t speak English while traffickers often seize victims’ travel and identity documents and threaten their families back home. Although ICE estimates 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the sex trade or forced-labor situations around the world each year, ICE launched just 432 human trafficking investigations – 262 involving the sex trade, 170 involving forced labor – in fiscal 2008; in that same year, ICE’s human trafficking investigations led to 189 arrests, 126 indictments and 126 convictions.

That’s under federal law. Here in California, the Penal Code defines someone guilty of human trafficking as “(a)ny person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another” for purposes of prostitution, child pornography or extortion, “or to obtain forced labor or services” – the victim need not be an immigrant. Oakland’s problems with such trafficking are well-documented, and shocking.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed into law AB 17 by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, which boosts the financial penalties for those convicted of the human trafficking of minors and lets law enforcement seize their assets. Under this new law, half the money collected from such fines and seizures will go to community-based organizations helping underage victims of human trafficking.

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Under: Assembly, General, Oakland, Public safety, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Nehring, other GOP chairs discuss party’s future

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring is headed for New York City, where he’ll be holding a sort of summit meeting tomorrow with the GOP chairs from New York, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin to map out the party’s strategy for 2010.

To hear many tell it, they’re convening at the end of a great week for the GOP. New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent governor and Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee got their clocks cleaned, to be sure, but it sort of seems this merely proves the Democratic base won’t come out for what they see as crappy candidates.

Jon Corzine came into New Jersey’s governor’s office in 2006 under an ethical cloud and spent his entire term with low approval ratings after a showdown with fellow Democrats that resulted in a state government shutdown, an unpopular plan to lease out the state’s toll roads, budget cuts for state universities, nomination of a state Attorney General who soon had to resign in an ethics scandal, and more. His administration was a car wreck – literally. Polls going into the election showed massive voter disapproval of his job performance, while Republican Chris Christie – although not a great campaigner – fared better. Corzine discovered that money can’t buy you love.

In Virginia, younger and minority voters who flocked to the polls for Obama last year didn’t do so for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds; Democrats couldn’t turn out their base. But before that’s blamed on Obama, consider that although Obama endorsed and campaigned for Deeds, Deeds actually ran against much of Obama’s liberal agenda – against cap-and-trade, against a public health-care option, against the Employee Free Choice Act, against several issues important to Latinos. And exit polls showed 56 percent of Virginia voters said Obama wasn’t a factor in their vote, 24 percent said their vote was meant as a swipe against Obama and 17 percent said it was meant as a show of support for him – so only about one in four voters had an anti-Obama sentiment. (That number was even lower in New Jersey.)

Also, New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that pick their governors in the years right after presidential elections, and Virginia has picked governors from the party opposite the president’s since the Carter Administration.

Meanwhile, a Democrat won New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time since before the Civil War – which seems fitting, as it was a Republican Party civil war that made this win possible.

And that civil war isn’t just in one district in the far reaches of upstate New York; the California Court of Appeal just this morning sent back to Alameda County Superior Court a revived lawsuit over control of the county’s GOP committee.

This, I’ll bet, is what Nehring and his fellow chairs will most want to discuss tomorrow – how to move their party forward without the moderate-versus-conservative infighting and undercutting that threatens to tear it apart.

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Under: General, Republican Party, Republican politics | 2 Comments »

Report: Marijuana enforcement failing, biased

As Californians keep gathering petition signatures for marijuana legalization ballot measures and a state lawmaker rewrites his legalization bill, marijuana reform advocates today are touting a new report that finds no relationship between marijuana arrest and use rates – a sign that the “war on drugs” has failed as far as cannabis is concerned, they say.

In fact, the report by Jon Gettman, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, finds the current system of criminal penalties encourages uses to buy a little bit at a time, acting as a price support for the illegal market.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the report finds that although the rate of marijuana use is only about 25 percent higher for African-Americans than for whites, African-Americans are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.

“These figures paint a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax dollars while doing nothing but harm,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “Most Americans agree that marijuana prohibition doesn’t work, even if most politicians aren’t yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents.”

It should be noted that the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation funded the report, and that Gettman’s curriculum vitae indicates he’s more of a pro-cannabis activist than an independent, objective academic. That said, the data is what it is.

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Under: General, marijuana | 1 Comment »

Campaign finance update: Pot and Perata

S.K. Seymour LLC, the partnership that runs Oakstersdam University and its related “cannabusinesses,” last Tuesday gave $10,000 to Hope 2010, a ballot measure committee (formerly known as Leadership California) controlled by former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata. Perata in September publicly endorsed the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010,” the marijuana legalization ballot measure co-proposed by S.K. Seymour LLC partner and Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee. Hope 2010 is supporting the California Cancer Research Act, a proposed ballot measure that would raise the state’s tobacco tax to fund grants and loans for reaearch; to create, staff and equip California’s research facilities; and to boost efforts to reduce tobacco use. The measure is now awaiting preparation of its title and summary by the state Attorney General’s office; it looks like the campaign has a Web site being built but not yet ready for public viewing.

In other news, Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner, last week put another $701,260 into his “Voters First Act for Congress” ballot measure, bringing his total so far to $1,003,030. The measure would remove authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and would give that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries (as required by last year’s successful Proposition 11).

Pacific Gas & Electric on Friday put another $500,000 into its somewhat euphemistically named “Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote” committee, pushing a ballot measure which would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of their voters (rather than just a simple majority) before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved, or before providing electricity through a community choice program if any public funds or bonds are involved. Critics say PG&E is playing on populist themes in order to block local governments from abandoning the utility giant in favor of power contracts with smaller, greener energy producers – a movement that’s been gaining steam in recent years. The proponents have until Dec. 21 to gather the 694,354 signatures needed to place this on the ballot next year. This contribution brings PG&E’s stake as the committee’s sole donor to $3.5 million so far.

And Livermore optometrist Scott Kamena on Friday put $23,000 into his own Kamena for Assembly 2008 committee, which had indicated in its mid-year report having $60,749.39 in outstanding debts. Kamena ran in the June 2008 Republican primary for the 15th Assembly District, coming in fourth behind nominee Abram Wilson and candidates Robert Rao and Judy Lloyd.

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata, energy, General, marijuana, Oakland | 3 Comments »

Boxer: GOP boycott won’t stop climate-change bill

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is moving ahead with her cap-and-trade climate change bill despite Republican threats to boycott next Tuesday’s mark-up session.

“That won’t stop us. We’re going to use every tool at our disposal to get that done,” she said this afternoon during a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee Co. on Webster Street near Oakland’s Jack London Square, at which she was touting her efforts to support small businesses through the economic downturn. Asked to elucidate on “every tool at our disposal,” she replied, “We’ll use the rules of the committee.”

“We are going to sit down on Tuesday, we’re ready to go, we’re not canceling it,” she said “I’m still hoping the Republicans will come to the committee room and do their work.”

Boxer said she can’t imagine why anyone with a chance to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, combat climate change and create jobs all at the same time would boycott such an opportunity, going “absent without leave, AWOL” at a moment so vital to the nation’s interests. She urged the committee’s Republican members to “try to work with us, let’s try to get something done.”

Part of the small-business support scheme of which Boxer spoke today was affordable health care, which she said absolutely must contain a public option. U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., this week said he’ll refuse to caucus with Senate Democrats to break a filibuster on any health care reform legislation containing a public option.

Boxer in 2006 was among Senate Democrats who went to Connecticut to stump for Lieberman in the Democratic primary – angering many of her more liberal constituents, given his support of the Iraq war and other stances – though she later supported Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in that year’s general election. And Senate Democrats have been kind to Lieberman since, including letting him keep his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in hopes he would caucus with them on vital votes such as this.

Asked today what she thought of Lieberman’s health care stance, Boxer replied she “can’t answer for him, I just want to say that we have to get this (health care reform) done.”

“All of our colleagues will be making important decisions, but at the end of the day, we can do this with a majority, not a super-majority,” she said, making it clear she was speaking for herself and not for Senate Democratic leaders.

Democrats would need 60 votes for cloture to overcome a Republican filibuster and bring a health-care bill to the floor for a final vote, but there’s been talk that they might use a procedure called “budget reconciliation” to move the bill through with just 50 votes.

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, energy, Environment, General, Global warming, healthcare reform, Joe Lieberman, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »