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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…
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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 VoteVets.org 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…
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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.

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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.

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.”

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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.