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House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

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

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Honda’s bill would yank NFL team’s trademarks

Rep. Mike Honda is going long with a new bill to yank the Washington Redskins’ federal trademarks.

Honda’s “Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act” – say that five times fast! – would cancel any existing trademarks and prohibit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing any new ones that use the term “redskins” in reference to Native Americans. The bill formally declares that this is a disparaging term and so can’t be trademarked under the Lantham Act.

honda.jpg“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “Team names should not be offensive to anyone. Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”

Honda is jumping into an issue that’s still pending in the federal courts: The USPTO actually canceled the franchise’s trademark registration last summer, but the registration remains effective during the team’s appeal to a federal judge in Virginia.

Losing the protection would weaken the franchise’s defense against infringement and hamstring its ability to keep counterfeit merchandise out of the country, but it wouldn’t stop it from selling merchandise with its name and logo or from suing others who try to profit by doing so.

The bill’s 26 original co-sponsors – all Democrats – include Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said Honda and the bill’s co-sponsors “have chosen to stand on the right side of history by introducing legislation that would effectively eliminate the federal trademark protections of this racial epithet.”

Suzan Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, said the term “is a reminder of the vile practice of skinning Natïve people for ‘proof of Indian kill’ for payment of bounties issued by colonies and states. Even if it only meant the color of one’s skin, it would be the worst case of invidious discrimination committed in public in our time.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 16 Comments »

Bipartisan push for veterans medical marijuana bill

A bipartisan group of House members reintroduced a bill Tuesday to let Veterans Affairs doctors discuss and recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states that have medical marijuana laws.

Without such a bill, doctors at the VA – under federal authority – can’t discuss or recommend the drug. Federal law still bans all cultivation, sale, possession and use of marijuana for any purpose. A similar bill was introduced in late November, but came so late in the last Congress that it stood no chance of action.

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can be more damaging and harmful than injuries that are visible from the outside,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said in a news release. “And they can have a devastating effect on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded veterans access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana — not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Along with Blumenauer, the Veterans Equal Access Act’s original cosponsors are Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach; Walter Jones, R-N.C.;, Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Tom Reed, R-N.Y.; Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jared Polis, D-Colo.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) issued a directive in 2011 saying “VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in state marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals.” But the policy also forbids VA physicians from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to their patients.

“Veterans must be given the same rights and health care options that we give other Americans, especially where medical marijuana is concerned,” said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access.

Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Lofgren co-authors bill to update online privacy

A decades-old communications privacy law would be updated to better shield Internet users and wireless subscribers from overly broad government surveillance programs, under a bipartisan bill introduced Monday and coauthored by a Silicon Valley congresswoman.

The Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Ted Poe, R- Texas; and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., would modernize the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act by requiring government agencies to get a search warrant based on probable cause prior to intercepting or forcing disclosure of electronic communications or geolocation data.

The 1986 law – meant to set legal standards that law enforcement agencies must meet to access electronic communications – hasn’t kept up with technology, leaving modern user data with only weak, convoluted protection.

“Fourth Amendment protections don’t stop at the Internet, and Americans rightly expect Constitutional protections to extend to their online communications and location data,” Lofgren said in a news release. “Establishing a warrant standard for government access to cloud and geolocation provides Americans with the privacy protections they expect, and would enable service providers to build greater trust with their users and global trading partners.”

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act does not clearly require law enforcement to get a warrant to access Americans’ online communications – all it takes is a subpoena if the content is more than 180 days old.

ECPA also lacks any clear standards for law enforcement access to location information, such as tracking an individual’s cell phone location, leading to confusion in courts, compliance burdens for businesses, a competitive disadvantage with international businesses in countries with stronger laws against government access, and inadequate privacy for Americans.

This bill would:

  • Require the government to get a warrant to access wire or electronic communications content, or to intercept or force service providers to disclose geolocation data;
  • Preserve exceptions for emergency situations, foreign intelligence surveillance, individual consent, public information, and emergency assistance;
  • Prohibit service providers from disclosing a user’s geolocation information to the government in the absence of a warrant or exception;
  • Bar the use of unlawfully obtained geolocation information as evidence; and
  • Provide for administrative discipline and civil liability if geolocation information is unlawfully intercepted or disclosed.
  • Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015
    Under: U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

    Jackie Speier gets new military oversight role

    Rep. Jackie Speier, an outspoken critic of how the military handles sexual assaults, has been chosen as ranking member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

    Jackie Speier“The Department of Defense keeps us safe every day, but there has been a litany of projects exposing weaknesses in acquisition and procurement. I will use this position to root out waste, fraud, and inefficiency at the Pentagon, so that taxpayers can be sure they are getting the value they deserve for their money,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

    “From the ill-conceived Littoral Combat Ship, to excessive prices for spare parts, to wasteful practices with ammunition, I have worked eliminate unnecessary military programs,” she added. “We have to make smart investments to keep our nation and our troops safe, not race to spend the most and get the least in return. We also need to be sure our military secrets, like plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, cannot be stolen by hackers and foreign governments.”

    And last but most certainly not least, the appointment “will also be a powerful tool in our ongoing fight to protect whistleblowers and prevent sexual assault in the military,” she said. “I am eager to work with Chairman Thornberry and Chairwoman Hartzler on all of these issues.”

    Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
    Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Mike Honda endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

    The big U.S. Senate 2016 news du jour is that hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer won’t be in the race, but meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris – the only person to declare candidacy so far – continues rolling out endorsements.

    Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday joined his Bay Area peers Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in backing Harris to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

    “As a leader in protecting the privacy rights of consumers, preserving California’s environment, and fighting for women’s rights, Kamala is the best candidate to carry on the legacy of our great Senator Barbara Boxer,” Honda said in a news release. “Kamala and I share a deep passion for many of the issues important to California families, and I look forward to continuing our work together when Attorney General Harris becomes our newest Senator.”

    Harris said she and Honda “have enjoyed a long partnership on many important issues such as combating domestic violence, improving public safety, and protecting civil rights for all Americans. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

    Posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

    Ro Khanna has a new job & got engaged

    Former congressional candidate Ro Khanna has a new job, and is engaged to be married.

    Khanna, 38, has joined Smart Utility Systems – a company with offices in Irvine and in Noida, India – as vice president of strategic initiatives.

    Ro Khanna“I am excited about opening Smart Utility’s Silicon Valley office, and working on increasing awareness for an energy-efficiency software that will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption at peak hours,” Khanna said Wednesday.

    Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, last year mounted an insurgent Democratic campaign against seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District. After a costly and hard-fought race, Honda prevailed by 3.6 percentage points.

    Khanna also said his longtime girlfriend, Ritu Ahuja, is now his fiancée.

    As reported here last week, Khanna has been spending some time recently helping organize opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill, at the end of Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
    Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Eric Swalwell endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

    Rep. Eric Swalwell, the East Bay congressman who’d sent up a trial balloon last week about running for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016, instead endorsed California Attorney General Kamala Harris for that seat Wednesday.

    “From her days as a prosecutor in the Alameda County D.A.’s office through her time as California Attorney General, Kamala has been an innovative and effective leader on so many issues facing Californians — crime prevention, consumer protections, environmental preservation, and strengthening public education,” said Swalwell, D-Dublin, who also was an Alameda County prosecutor. “I look forward to campaigning alongside Kamala and working together on behalf of the next generation of Californians.”

    Swalwell, 34, who has just begun his second House term, will serve Harris’ campaign as chairman of Young Professionals outreach, spearheading young voter organizing and fundraising efforts. Harris said he’s “an incredibly hard-working and effective representative of his East Bay constituents in Congress, and I am grateful to have him by my side in this campaign.”

    Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, Kamala Harris, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    Barbara Lee named to voting task force

    Rep. Barbara Lee will be part of an 11-member House Democrat task force driving new efforts to increase voter participation, 50 years after the Voting Rights Act’s enactment and two years after the Supreme Court voided key provisions.

    Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Voting is our sacred right. Tragically, this right is under assault from voter ID laws, active voter suppression and corporate dark money,” said Lee, D-Oakland. “This task force is a renewed commitment to empowering voters to have their voices heard at every level of government and to have a impact on the policies that affect their daily lives. We will engage everyone, including young people; we will engage the future.”

    Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., on Wednesday announced members of the Democratic Outreach and Engagement Task Force, which Clyburn will chair.

    Pelosi said it will “work to reawaken our communities to the power of the vote to destroy injustice, create opportunity and sustain our democracy.” Clyburn said by using the Voting Rights Act’s anniversary as an example, “we hope to inspire Americans from all walks of life to become more engaged.”

    Besides Clyburn and Lee, the task force’s other members are Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.; André Carson, D-Ind.; Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.; Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
    Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    East Bay Dem wants to take on Tom McClintock

    A firebrand liberal from Walnut Creek says he intends to take on Gold Country conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, in 2016, but his goal of enlisting national aid seems a longshot at best.

    David Peterson made his pitch Monday night to the TriValley Democratic Club in Dublin, a good 60 or 70 miles from the nearest edge of McClintock’s 4th Congressional District.

    David Peterson“I intend to oust Tom McClintock, a Republican in a very Republican district – he’s bad for America and we can do this,” he said, adding he was seeking this club’s support “because you are exceptional. We’ve done this before. We ousted Richard Pombo… and we’ve held the district ever since.”

    A handbill he provided says he wants to “take the profit out of war profiteering,” “defund domestic spying,” “prevent Wall Street financial schemes,” “legalize whistleblowing of government crimes,” pursue women’s and LGBT equality, “fund rehabilitation and mental health services,” cut red tape for transitioning to green energy sources, and save Social Security and Medicare “from Republican pilfering and pocketing.”

    Peterson said Tuesday he worked with moderate Republican former Rep. Pete McCloskey, who challenged Pombo in the 2006 GOP primary before endorsing Democrat Jerry McNerney in that year’s general election.

    Peterson then tried to organize opposition to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who he deems a hawkish supporter of war profiteering. He said he switched from the Green Party to the GOP “because the Green Party was ineffective and nobody on the Democratic side would work hard to oust Ellen Tauscher.” When she left Congress to take a State Department post in 2009, he ran as a Republican in the special primary election to succeed her – partly to be a spoiler against Republican “Wall Street bankster” David Harmer but also “to get my message out as well,” he said.

    Peterson also has tried to organize opposition to Democratic House incumbents such as Pete Stark, whom he said wasn’t delivering on his progressive promises, and Jane Harman, who he also deems too hawkish. More recently, Peterson ran as a Democrat against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francsico, in 2012 and 2014, believing she needed to be pulled toward more progressive stances like avoiding military involvement in Syria and more actively supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    Peterson said Monday night that his goal is to spark a big voter registration drive to engage and mobilize Democrats in McClintock’s district, and get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target McClintock in 2016. He asked for the club’s support in phone banking, doing field work in the district, and contributions.

    It’s hard to see how the DCCC would want to get involved. The 4th Congressional District’s current voter registration is 44.4 percent Republican, 28.6 percent Democratic and 20.9 percent nonpartisan, so there’s an enormous registration mountain to climb. No Democrat ran there at all last year; independent Jeffrey Gerlach was eliminated in the top-two primary, leaving McClintock to duke it out with comparatively moderate fellow Republican Art Moore in November. McClintock won by 20 points.

    The DCCC usually focuses its resources in more winnable districts. McClintock’s district has a Democratic Performance Index – the average Democratic percentage over three similar past elections – of 39.4 and President Obama got only 40.6 percent of the vote there in 2012. That’s nowhere what the DCCC has deemed competitive recently:

  • CA-07, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 52%
  • CA-10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock: 47.3 DPI, Obama 2012: 51.8%
  • CA-21, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 55.7%
  • CA-25, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster: 43 DPI, Obama 2012 49.1%
  • CA-26, Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village: 50.5 DPI, Obama 2012 55.2%
  • CA-52, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego: 48.7 DPI, Obama 2012 53.3%
  • Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
    Under: U.S. House | 4 Comments »