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What they’re saying about Keystone XL

Here’s a sampling of reactions to the Obama administration’s decision not to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline:

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The Obama Administration just made the wrong decision for our country and for the American people. But what is more troubling than the President’s opposition to the Keystone pipeline is his preference to slow walk tough decisions to death. The President’s approach to this process and his ultimate decision reveals a lack of leadership when facing tough issues. His continued political posturing when met with ideas he doesn’t agree reveals a lack of critical thinking and a mindless attachment to ideology above the common good.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“This morning, the President agreed with the recommendation of Secretary Kerry to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, ending a long debate in our country.

“After weighing the equities, it was decided that the pipeline would have offered too little benefit and caused far too much damage to our climate and our country. Three issues that were debated in Congress that argued against the pipeline were the lack of assurances that the oil would stay in America, the failure to close the loophole that allowed Keystone’s tar sands not to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and the absence of a requirement that this pipeline be built with American-sourced steel.

“Now, we must work together to achieve real energy independence and create good-paying jobs building energy and transportation infrastructure worthy of the 21st century. It is time for all of us to set aside our differences and make the robust, long-term investments in the modern roads, rails, bridges, broadband, and water systems that our country needs.”

“We must engage the public as we work in furtherance of policies that reduce the price at the pump for the consumer, truly create jobs in our country and address the challenges presented by the climate crisis.”

From Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla:

“President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge mistake, and is the latest reminder that this administration continues to prioritize the demands of radical environmentalists over America’s energy security. When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif:

“I want to thank the Obama Administration for protecting the health of the American people and the health of the planet by rejecting the ill-advised Keystone tar sands pipeline, which would have brought the filthiest oil known to humankind into our country in large amounts.”

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

Posted on Friday, November 6th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, energy, Environment, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

33 new White House interns from California

Thirty-three of the White House’s Fall 2015 interns hail from or have studied in California, including 20 with Bay Area ties.

The White House says its internships provide a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Communications, the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, the Office of the Staff Secretary, the Presidential Personnel Office, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the White House Counsel, and the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

The California interns include:

    Demi Char of San Francisco (Wesleyan University, Conn.)
    Chamroeunpaul Chhean of Long Beach (UCLA)
    Jessica Chitkuer of Fullerton (Loyola University, Chicago)
    Emily Collinson of Tustin (American University, D.C.)
    Wendy Gomez of Los Angeles (Dickinson College, Pa.)
    Joshua Gray of Simi Valley (California Lutheran University)
    Reyna Harvey of Riverside (UC Riverside)
    Logan Heley of Overland Park, Kan. (University of Southern California)
    Brian Huh of Foothill Ranch (University of Southern California)
    Jonathan Kim of Los Angeles (Duke University, N.C.)
    Cerin Lindgrensavage of Los Angeles (New York University)
    Dawn Rauch of Rutland, Vt. (UCLA)
    Janette Valenzo Venegas of Los Angeles (New York University)
    Cheryl Wilson of Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara)

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2015
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Best. POTUS pool reports. EVER.

While covering President Barack Obama’s San Francisco fundraiser Saturday, I had the pleasure of chatting with Gardiner Harris, White House correspondent for the New York Times. Later, as he covered the president’s Los Angeles fundraisers, he filed some of the funniest pool reports I’ve ever read.

Gardiner_HarrisFor the uninitiated, on any given day that the president travels, one member of the traveling White House press corps and one or two local reporters are designated as “pool” – which means those reporters, when covering events not open to the rest of the press, must file quick-and-dirty reports first to the White House for sharing with other outlets before they filing their own stories.

As someone who covers several presidential visits a year, I often feel like I know the basic stump speech by heart – so I have empathy for those reporters who must cover the president’s political events day after day, hearing the same basic speech over and over, yet still must consistently send out coverage. It can be a real grind, unless you have a good sense of humor.

So here are some excerpts from Gardiner’s dispatches today, an insight into life on the road covering the leader of the free world. My personal favorite is at 6:39 p.m.:

2:01 p.m.: “Marine One touched down at 1:23 in the riding pen of Will Rogers State Park, a place named for the man who once said everything is funny as long as it’s happening to someone else. We are en route to a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”

2:05 p.m.: The pool is holding in the attic of a beautiful house in the Pacific Palisades while POTUS attends a Roundtable for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The committee has yet to inform us of the identity of our hosts, although we have just been told that [it’s] J.J. Abrams, director of the upcoming Star Wars movie. The attic has at least seven electronic keyboards, several acoustic and two electric guitars and what appears to be a high-end sound mixer. So the pool is jamming. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post is presently crooning Barry Manilow’s, ‘Mandy.’”

3:05 p.m.: “Obama left the fundraiser at the home of J.J. Abrams, the Star Wars director, at 3:04 PST. The crudités were terrestrial; the view to the Pacific was not. Homes here on San Remo Drive have high hedges, steel fences, gated driveways and pixy dust. Abrams’ low-key Cape Cod-style home had, your pooler is afraid to admit, an understated elegance. Plus the rubber mask of the creature from ‘Alien’ attached to the face was creepily cool. A Secret Service agent had to ask Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post several times – the last time somewhat forcefully – to put down the mic and leave the premises. Your pooler is now comforting Jaffe, recovering from his glimpse of how the other 0.01 percent lives.”

3:32 p.m.: “The motorcade drove all of four minutes before arriving at the next event, reminiscent of Steve Martin’s car journeys in ‘LA Story.’”

3:42 p.m.: “Pool arrived at a home that backs up to a canyon, with glorious views of scrub hills and ocean. The half-acre yard has a large white tent shading some 200 white chairs from a blazing sun. There is not a cloud in the cerulean sky. This is a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Pacific Palisades with about 200 supporters contributing up to $33,400 a person. Jamie Foxx will perform at the event. Mr. Foxx is on the grounds and posing for pictures with various guests at what appears to be an inner sanctum on the grounds.”

5:13 p.m.: “After about a 20-minute drive, motorcade arrived at 4:59 at the home of Michael Smith, a prominent interior designer who is married to the Spanish ambassador. The fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee has about 50 people who paid up to $33,400 a person to attend. Happiness research suggests that neither income nor large homes in beautiful locales with fabulous weather necessarily lead to happiness. Further, that experiences are often more valuable than possessions. Your Pooler is sure that no one at the fundraiser has ever laid down fully dressed in the king-sized bed in this guest room with two large photographers from major wire services and watched the Arkansas/Alabama game while POTUS spoke in the vast living room.”

5:57 p.m.: “In a large living room with 18-foot ceilings, windows that went almost floor-to-ceiling, a 10-foot floral display and several pieces of what appeared to be expensive art work, President Obama gave a stripped-down version of his stump speech prior to answering questions. Pool was ushered out before the questions. Mr. Obama’s light-hearted comments at the start of the speech had to do with his lack of a tie. He said that David Axelrod had instructed him during his first campaign to always wear a tie because ‘you don’t look old enough’ to be president. His gray hair now confirms that he is old enough not only to be president but to have been president, so he plans to wear fewer ties, he said. He then reviewed his administration’s successes in job creation, clean energy and other issues. ‘There’s almost no measure by which we’re not better off now than when I came into office,’ he said. But problems remain, most prominently the failure of wages and income to grow for ordinary Americans, he said. That has led to economic anxiety, he said. ‘And when people are anxious economically, the politics of fear oftentimes can override the politics of hope,’ he said. That anxiety can express itself in anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘in cheap jingoism and militarism and nationalism that’s not grounded in our national security interests. And it’s a dangerous path.’ He then complimented Democrats for making courageous votes and said he was not ‘intrinsically partisan,’ and he said he had sometimes been faulted by members of his own party for not being partisan enough. ‘But I will tell you at this moment in history, the choices are stark. And facts, evidence and values are on our side. And the other side has gone off the deep end. And what you’re witnessing in the House fight right now is that even deeply conservative folks are not considered ideologically pure enough and we would rather burn the House down than admit the possibility of democratic process that requires compromise.’ He said that voters must work hard. ‘If you let it pass, then you’ve got people in charge who don’t believe in climate change,’ he said. ‘So I feel as much urgency about this upcoming election as I’ve felt about any election, and I am not on the ballot.’ ‘I definitely need a Democratic successor because the alternatives we’ve got are not what I had in mind,’ he said.”

6:39 p.m. “Motorcade left the home of Michael Smith at 6:37 as the sun was setting and a warm amber glow settled over the exclusive Los Angeles enclave of Holmby Hills. The house POTUS left was valued at $12.5 million, was designed by Timothy Morgan Steele and is ‘not only a work of art but designed with the art connoisseur in mind,’ according to Zillow. The home is situated on a full acre plot. While such a home is certainly no guarantee of happiness, high incomes do tend to lead to greater expressions of satisfaction, research shows. Further, such obvious displays of wealth can lead to the development of envy in others, among the darkest of human emotions, according to some research. Envy occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other person lacked it, according to Wikipedia. Envy is a powerful predictor of unhappiness, research shows. Some cultures, such as that in the United States, discourage open expressions of envy. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post had recovered somewhat in the motorcade over to Holmby Hills but, your pooler is sorry to report, experienced something of a relapse during the unique and remarkable experience of sitting next to a sizable doggie bed while shoeless photogs lay prone and fully dressed in a giant bed watching the Arkansas/Alabama game as great wealth almost bubbled around them. Your pool managed to recover Mr. Jaffe’s wallet and cell phone, and he is now lying peacefully in a pool van with a cold compress on his forehead.”

7:03 p.m.: “Marine One touched down at LAX at precisely 7 pm, as the dying embers of a Los Angeles sunset faded over the nearby Pacific Ocean. We are headed for AF1.”

7:11 p.m.: “Headed to Miramar Air Force Base, where I had early Saturday morning swim workouts in childhood. Oh, and ‘Top Gun’ was filmed, less importantly.”

8:40 p.m. “Air Force one arrived at Miramar Air Force Base around 7:50 pm. And the pool squeezed into two vans instead of three. Ten guys, some with heavy equipment, jostled into one of the vans in the desert air, instantly overwhelming the vehicle’s air conditioning. The motorcade sped through darkened suburban sprawl and desert scrub on Miramar Road to the 805 (local dialect demands use of an article prior to interstate numbers). We soon joined the 5, exited at Del Mar Heights Road, passed the Pumpkin Patch play area, and sliced into the heart of the exclusiveness of Rancho Santa Fe. Sun overexposure can lead to nausea, fever, headache and dizziness. But so can existential dread. These conditions can be difficult to distinguish in the Southland and on pool duty. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post will need a differential diagnosis, but I suspect the labs will be equivocal. We arrived at the gated community at 8:25 pm alongside the sharpest looking crew of CHiPs I’ve ever seen. We have a lid.”

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

White House confirms upcoming Obama visit to SF

As previously reported here, the White House now confirms President Barack Obama will return to the Bay Area next week to raise money for his fellow Democrats.

“On Friday, the President will travel to the Seattle, WA area to attend an event for Senator Patty Murray and the Washington State Democratic Party and a DNC event. Later in the day, the President will travel to the San Francisco, CA area for a DNC event. The President will remain overnight in San Francisco,” a White House official said. “On Saturday, October 9, the President will attend a DNC event and travel to the Los Angeles area for DNC and DSCC events. Further details about the President’s travel to Washington and California will be made available in the coming days.”

No comment from the White House on the president’s potential “come to Yeezus” moment.

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

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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Posted on Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted on Saturday, September 26th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Bay Area doctor selected as White House Fellow

A Bay Area physician has been selected as one of 16 White House Fellows for 2015-16.

Teeb Al-SamarraiDr. Teeb Al-Samarrai of Oakland is a physician and epidemiologist who has served since October 2012 as deputy health officer and tuberculosis controller at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Her work has focused on immigrant and refugee health issues, particularly tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

The White House Fellows program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”

Fellows spend a year working as full-time, paid aides to senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. But they also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs, and take part in community service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C.

Al-Samarrai earlier was a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemic intelligence service officer stationed at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; in 2010, she participated in CDC’s emergency response to the Haiti earthquake. She completed her internal medicine residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she partnered with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services to establish a multidisciplinary, patient-centered refugee clinic.

She graduated as a Regents and Alumni Scholar from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience; she earned her Master of Science in neuroscience and her M.D. at Yale University.

Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2015
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Pool report from Obama’s DCCC fundraiser

Here’s the White House pool report I just filed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that President Obama headlined, hosted by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.

But first, the view from outside:

The view from Sea Cliff (photo by Josh Richman)

Between 50 and 100 of the Bay Area’s well-heeled mixed and mingled with drinks and snacks in a bright, skylit room while awaiting POTUS’ remarks. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (wearing a blue pantsuit and gold blouse with a Golden State Warriors button on her jacket lapel); Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; and DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the program, citing the Golden State Warriors’ championship win so soon after the championship San Francisco Giants were honored at the White House. She repeated the sentiments she had spoken to the U.S. Conference of Mayors a few hours earlier, noting that during Obama’s presidency, job growth has boomed, the deficit has shrunk, the stock market has soared, and 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage.

“You’ve come to a state that is in the lead on climate change,” she said, noting Steyer and Taylor have invested much to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Steyer thanked Pelosi for her service and leadership. Climate and energy is “part of the progressive agenda,” and many in the room care deeply about higher education, immigration reform, LGBT rights and more. But with climate change, Obama “hasn’t gotten nearly the support he deserves” given what the president has accomplished with regulations and international agreements. “It’s been under the most difficult political circumstances I’ve ever witnessed,” Steyer said, and perhaps the most difficult since 1860. Yet with all due respect to Warriors star Steph Curry, Obama is “still our go-to guy in a clutch,” Steyer said.

POTUS began speaking at 5:40 p.m.

“I think the Bay Area has been a little bit greedy with championships,” he said, noting at least the Blackhawks just had their victory parade, too.

But “it is actually really impressive to see what both organizations have done, and they do it the right way,” he said, offering his congratulations to Giants and Warriors alike. Obama noted Curry donates anti-malaria mosquito nets for each 3-point shot he makes.

POTUS thanked Steyer and Taylor on their civic engagement, as well as on good parenting; he’d just met their kids backstage. “I can’t thank them enough not just for supporting me but for supporting the issues that matter to everyone in this room.”

POTUS also thanked Pelosi for being “an extraordinary partner in Congress” who has made most of his administration’s accomplishments possible. And he thanked the members of Congress present at Friday’s event individually.

POTUS’ tone turned sober in addressing the Charleston massacre. “In addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families that have been affected” and amazement at their forgiving statements Friday to the shooter, “in addition to all those things I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often. These mass shootings do not happen in other advanced countries around the world – they are unique in their frequency to America.”

And that’s due to this nation’s easily availability of guns, too often without background checks, he said. “It’s not enough for us to express sympathy. We have to take action.”

His partners in Congress have helped him reduce unemployment, buoy the economy, stabilize the housing market, reduce the deficit, insure the uninsured, increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, doubled production of clean energy (and increased solar tenfold), improved fuel efficiency standards, and more.

“We’ve ended two wars,” he said, while protecting the American homeland and conduct operations against enemies while staying true to the Constitution and the law. LGBT rights have leapt forward. “I’m really proud of this record.”

“But the amount of work left undone is remarkable,” POTUS said, citing both challenges and opportunities to better the nation for future generation.

“First is the changing nature of the economy,” he said.

We’ve overperformed the world economically, yet haven’t addressed growing income inequality. “Until we tackle that, people aren’t going to feel better.”

That means investing in early-childhood education, investing in science and research, and adopting new trade policies that don’t shy away from the new world economy but “lean into it,” he said.

“The second thing I spend time thinking about is climate change,” he said, and if we don’t get that right, it barely matters what else we do.

Reading the latest climate science reports scare him, he said; by 2050, “well within our current children’s lifetime,” sea levels rise by two to four feet. Within the lifetimes of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, “it could be 10 feet, 16 feet. The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don’t get a handle on this are irreversible.”

“This is a matter of us taking some basic steps to increase efficiency and expand clean energy production and change our grid and develop new technologies, and it’s well within our reach,” he said. “There is something we can do.”

“If Japan is 20 percent more efficient in terms of its energy use… that’s existing technology and we can adapt it here,” he said.

“If we know how we produce power is unsustainable, we have the tools or we will develop the tools” to replace that, he said.

“Imagine what we could do if Congress actually starting moving with us instead of moving against us,” he said, drawing murmurs of assent from the audience.

China was compelled to negotiate on climate change because we’re setting the example, he said.

POTUS says he tells his White House interns that we live in the most technologically advanced time in history, with lifestyles our predecessors couldn’t have imagined, he said. “What you can’t do is give into this notion that things can’t change, because they change all the time and they change remarkably.”

“We never make as much progress as we should… we’re always a little bit battered and bruised, we’re always a little frustrated, but we make it a little better,” he said. “And by making it better, we add our little bit to this journey towards progress and more justice and more equality and more empathy and more compassion. And then we leave some work for our amazing kids to do, because we wouldn’t want to solve all their problems.”

But we must tackle income inequality and climate change now, before they become insurmountable in the future, he said.

“If we’re going to make things better, you have to have a Congress that cares and is willing to do tough stuff,” he said, adding he and his allies in Congress don’t agree on everything – a jibe that drew laughter from the audience.

“Ultimately, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen,” he said. “I need you to feel the same sense of urgency.”

POTUS finished at 6:05 p.m.; press was ushered out as crowd applauded.

Motorcade departed site at 6:11 p.m. en route to Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco’s South of Market area.

Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

Obama honors San Francisco Giants at White House

Sure, everyone’s in a tizzy about Thursday night’s NBA Finals Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, but another Bay Area champion team was lauded in our nation’s capital earlier in the day.

President Barack Obama hosted and honored the World Champion San Francisco Giants at the White House on Thursday.

Read the president’s remarks, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

House passes bill on NSA phone records program

The House voted 338-88 Wednesday to pass a bill that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, the Washington Post reports.

Supporters say the USA Freedom Act would keep phone “metadata” out of government hands and make other changes to surveillance practices; some critics say that it goes too far, others that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The Senate still must take up the bill amending Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which without congressional action will expire June 1.

Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, voted against the bill Wednesday, while the rest of the Bay Area’s all-Democrat delegation supported it.

“Congress may have changed the name but the USA Freedom Act is just a watered-down version of the Patriot Act,” Farr said in a news release. “I commend the bipartisan effort to adhere to the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling and to develop more safeguards to protect our civil liberties. Unfortunately, this bill still contains too many provisions that threaten the privacy of American citizens.

“I cannot vote for a bill that does not protect the privacy rights enshrined in the 4th Amendment,” Farr added. “The risk of faulty information collection is not a risk I am willing to take with any American’s privacy. Upholding the Constitution is non-negotiable.”

But Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, issued a statement saying “our government has a responsibility to respect people’s civil liberties and protect our national security. This legislation does both.

“It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe,” Thompson said.

Records of phone numbers, call dates, times and durations would be kept by telecommunications companies under this bill, not by the government. Company employees could still search such records under a court order specifying a particular person, account or address, but not an entire phone or Internet company or a broad geographic region, such as a state, city or Zip code.

The bill has the rare combined support of House Republican leaders and President Obama.

“In order to stay secure in these dangerous times, we must have the tools to track terrorists and spies. But the American people have strong concerns about a big government watching over our phone calls, collecting our metadata, and possibly invading our privacy,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“So the House has looked at the facts on the ground and recalibrated our approach to keep America safe while protecting civil liberties,” he said. “The USA FREEDOM Act stops bulk data collection while still making sure those fighting terrorism have access to what they need so they can do their job and prevent future terror attacks. That’s what makes it a good, bipartisan bill.”

But in the wake of last week’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the NSA’s phone-records collection program as illegal, civil libertarians aren’t happy with this bill.

“Last week’s historic court decision makes clear that this bill must be strengthened to protect privacy rights,” Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, had said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Following the court’s ruling, the House should have amended the bill to prevent the government from amassing and keeping the information of innocent Americans. The Senate should not make the same mistake and instead remedy the bill’s many deficiencies, which have been criticized on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Letting Section 215 expire would be preferable to passing the current version of this bill, which fails to adequately protect Americans’ information from unwarranted government intrusion.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »