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Obama to speak next Friday at Stanford, in SF

President Barack Obama will be in the Bay Area next week to speak at a Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University – an event that was scheduled a month ago but seems particularly timely given this week’s news of a massive hacking fiasco that compromised the personal data of up to 80 million Anthem insurance customers.

The president will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday night, a White House official said on background. He’ll speak Friday at the summit, which aims “to help shape public and private sector efforts to protect American consumers and companies from growing threats to consumers and commercial networks.”

“The summit will bring together major stakeholders on cybersecurity and consumer financial protection issues – including senior leaders from the White House and across the federal government; CEOs from a wide range of industries including the financial services industry, technology and communications companies; computer security companies and the retail industry; as well as law enforcement officials, consumer advocates, technical experts, and students,” the White House official said.

President Obama after his remarks will host a roundtable discussion with business leaders. On Friday evening, he’ll speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the San Francisco home of venture capitalist Sandy Robinson; tickets cost $10,000 for dinner and a photo, $32,400 to co-chair the event. On Saturday, Obama will head for Palm Springs.

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

Obama’s AG nominee opposes pot legalization

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to become U.S. Attorney General, told senators at her confirmation hearing Wednesday that she opposes legalization of marijuana.

Questioned by U.S. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Lynch – currently the top federal prosecutor for part of New York City and all of Long Island – said she doesn’t agree with President Obama’s comments comparing marijuana to alcohol.

“I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion, neither of which I’m able to share,” she said. “But I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.”

The federal Controlled Substances Act deems marijuana to have no valid medical use and a high risk of addiction, and so bans its cultivation, sale, possession and use. Obama in early 2014 told the New Yorker that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in August 2013 told the governors of Washington and Colorado – states which had voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana, in conflict with federal law – that the Justice Department will let them implement their laws. At the same time, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo to U.S. attorneys across the country outlining priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws – including those in the 20 states including California that have legalized marijuana for medical use. California activists hope to put a recreational legalization measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Legalization opponents hailed Lynch’s testimony Wednesday.

“Loretta Lynch could have skirted the issue of legalization by simply repeating DOJ’s policy of select intervention, but she tackled it head on. We are breathing a sigh of relief,” said Kevin Sabet, who used to work in the White House drug czar’s office and now is president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “Ms. Lynch is a knowledgeable, experienced, justice-minded individual, and for her to come out so adamantly against legalization is extremely encouraging. It will give our efforts a shot in the arm. We look forward to working with her on these important matters if she is confirmed by the Senate.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, marijuana, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s line in the (tar) sand

The White House says President Barack Obama would veto legislation approving construction of the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, the AP reports.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“On a bipartisan basis, the American people overwhelmingly support building the Keystone XL pipeline. After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs. Fringe extremists in the president’s party are the only ones who oppose Keystone, but the president has chosen to side with them instead of the American people and the government’s own scientific evidence that this project is safe for the environment. This is simply another sign that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen to the American people or champion their priorities.”

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

Barbara Boxer“The President should only sign bills that are good for America, but the Keystone tar sands pipeline does nothing for our country and everything for Canada. In addition, reports show the pipeline project will increase the price of gas, while the tar sands flowing through the pipeline will result in pollution that causes serious illnesses like asthma and increases in carbon pollution – the main cause of climate change. It is a puzzle to me that after a deep recession, Republicans turn to legislation that according to the State Department will only create 35 permanent jobs. Instead, Republican leadership should immediately take up the highway bill which supports millions of jobs and will run out of funding in four short months.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, Global warming, John Boehner, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

Reactions to the CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

    More, after the jump…
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    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, John McCain, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 6 Comments »

    Barbara Lee blasts Obama’s Afghanistan expansion

    President Obama has re-broadened U.S. troops’ combat role in Afghanistan.

    The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by authorizing U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan’s security forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year, Reuters reports.

    Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to 9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the end of 2016. Under that plan, only a small contingent of 1,800 U.S. troops was limited to counter terrorism operations against remnants of al Qaeda. The new orders will also allow operations against the Taliban.

    Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)And Rep. Barbara Lee – a staunch critic of the U.S. war in Afghanistan ever since being the lone vote against authorizing military force days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks – is not amused.

    “After more than a decade of open-ended war, I am deeply troubled to see the Administration expanding the role of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Sunday. “Many military and foreign policy experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people.

    “Our brave servicemen and women have performed their mission with courage, valor and commitment in an impossible situation,” she said. “It is time to stop endless war and bring our servicemen and women home to their families.”

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
    Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Rep. Mike Honda schools Sen. Rand Paul

    U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Friday likened President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to President Franklin Roosevelt’s action to put Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who as a child was forced to live in such a camp, issued a statement Monday taking the presidential aspirant to task.

    honda.jpg“Rand Paul’s comments comparing President Obama’s executive order on Immigration with President Roosevelt’s executive order that imprisoned thousands of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II could not be more misguided. At best, he is confused. At worst, he is just wrong.

    “President Roosevelt’s action was based on racism, fear, hysteria, war, and the lack of real political leadership. He succumbed to political pressure to deny Constitutional protections to 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of who were US-born citizens.

    “President Obama, on the other hand, through his commitment to immigration reform and American values, is using his Executive Order to include, not exclude, people. He is working to keep intact immigrant families who play by the rules, not exclude undocumented parents and other DACA eligible individuals.

    “President Obama is showing true leadership by taking action when the Republican leadership of the House has failed to let Congress do so.

    “The incarceration of US citizens of Japanese origin, including me and my family, was a misuse of executive order. As someone who as victim of executive order 9066, I can say without hesitation that Roosevelt was wrong. It was a misuse of power. President Obama’s order is an appropriate use of executive order because Congress did not do its job.

    “Every President has the Constitutional right to use Executive Orders. What Senator Paul fails to say, recognize, or admit to, is the motive and outcome of the use of this power. President Obama is using this power correctly – President Roosevelt did not.”

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Rand Paul, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 15 Comments »

    Electeds react to Obama’s immigration speech

    Talking points

    From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

    “The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together; they don’t support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people’s elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works. Not long ago, President Obama said the unilateral action he just announced was ‘not an option’ and claimed he’d already ‘done everything that I can on my own.’ He said it would lead to a ‘surge in more illegal immigration.’ He said he was ‘not a king’ and ‘not the emperor’ and that he was ‘bound by the Constitution.’ He said an action like this would exceed his authority and be ‘difficult to justify legally.’ He may have changed his position, but that doesn’t change the Constitution.

    “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

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

    “Tonight, President Obama announced bold action to bring our broken immigration system into line with our values as a people and our needs as a nation. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will secure our borders, prioritize enforcement, and provide relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding families who may now have a happy Thanksgiving free from the fear of separation.

    “The President’s actions fall well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedent set by every president since Eisenhower. Even Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used this authority to refine our immigration system in service of the national interest.

    “Executive action is no substitute for legislation, and the President’s action does not absolve Congress of its own responsibility. Democrats will continue to demand action on bipartisan immigration legislation that will provide lasting certainty to immigrant families, and secure the billions of dollars in economic benefits Republicans’ inaction has denied our country.”

    From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

    “The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again. As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’ We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

    “Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

    “The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

    “While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.”

    From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    “The president tonight announced he will temporarily suspend deportation of some undocumented immigrants, allowing families to stay together and bringing workers out of the shadows. While I continue to believe the House should vote on the Senate bill to address this issue, I support the president’s decision to help millions of individuals who have lived in the United States for years.

    “This decision is not ‘amnesty,’ as some critics contend, nor will anyone receive citizenship or a green card. The president is offering temporary work authorization and halting deportations of certain immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years, including parents of U.S. citizens and individuals who arrived before age 16. The authority he is using has been employed by every president since Eisenhower, including 14 times during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

    “While the president’s executive action will provide much-needed relief for immigrant families, a permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. The Senate bill passed in June 2013 was painstakingly negotiated over many months and received 68 votes, including 14 Republicans. Unfortunately, House leadership has ignored this commonsense bill. I hope they reconsider.

    “The president’s decision is especially important for California. According to the White House, more than 150,000 of California’s agricultural workers will likely be eligible for deferred action and temporary work authorization. This will help ensure that our farms can continue to feed the country and the world.

    “I plan to re-introduce a bill similar to the agricultural worker provisions from the Senate bill as stand-alone legislation next year, which I believe will offer Congress a starting point for further action.”

    Lots more, after the jump…
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    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 Comments »

    Obama’s immigration speech: video & transcript

    Full transcript of remarks as prepared, after the jump…
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    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

    Dems urge Obama to act on immigration

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer added her voice Monday to the chorus of Democrats urging President Obama to move forward with immigration reform by executive action.

    Barbara Boxer“For 17 months, you have been very patient with House Republican leaders, encouraging them to either take up and pass the bipartisan Senate bill or work with you to craft a different bill,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in her letter to the president.

    “Mr. President, I don’t remember hearing one Republican in Congress complain when Republican presidents took executive action on immigration,” she continued. “I urge you to ignore the angry voices of the do-nothing crowd in Congress who have repeatedly blocked progress on immigration reform. If they really cared about fixing our broken immigration system, they would not be threatening to shut down the government or file wasteful lawsuits – they would just do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

    Last week, 117 House Democrats – including all Bay Area members except House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action.

    “As you have said, it is ultimately the job of Congress to reform our broken immigration system by enacting legislation,” the lawmakers wrote. “But by failing to do their job – and repeatedly interfering with your efforts to do your job – congressional Republicans threaten to take our immigration system hostage and preserve a status quo that everyone agrees is unacceptable. Their failure to act must not inhibit your commitment to governing.”

    “We will stand with you as you take bold and meaningful action, consistent with existing law and historical precedent, to protect American families, strengthen local communities and grow the economy,” they wrote.

    At House Democrats news conference Thursday, Pelosi urged the president to act as well. “I don’t think there’s any question that the President can act administratively, take executive action.”

    That same day, Rep. Jeff Denham – one of only three House Republicans to co-sponsor the House version of a bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate approved June 2013 – told Al Jazeera America that executive action is the wrong answer.

    “It is hard to pass legislation of any kind without being able to trust the Commander in Chief on whether he’s going to implement the will of Congress and ultimately the will of the American people,” said Denham, R-Turlock, adding immigration is a complex issue that will require a package of bills brought forth at the same time. “This is a long term-problem that we’ve got to fix in Congress.”

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, are mulling how best to stymie any executive action Obama might take, but without giving in to calls from their party’s conservative wing to return to the kind of brinksmanship that led to last year’s government shutdown.

    Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 14 Comments »

    Inside President Obama’s San Francisco fundraiser

    Here’s the complete pool report I’ve just filed via the White House for tonight’s Democratic National Convention fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, for which tickets went for from $500 to $32,400 each:

    Press pool was ushered into event room at 7:07 p.m., where well-heeled Democrats mixed and mingled with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

    President Obama entered the room at 7:15 p.m. to wild cheers, with a hearty “Hello, San Francisco!”

    Obama recognized the presence of Congresswoman Lee and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “No relation,” he quipped. He also thanked Maxwell for having performed, said the First Lady is a fan.

    “Obviously the news lately has been dominated by what’s taking place overseas, and a lot of the news has been scary to people, and rightfully so,” he said – ISIL, Ebola, Russian aggression in Ukraine. On each of these issues, amid efforts at international response, “at the center of it, leading it, is the United States” – not just because of our capacity, but because of our values.

    “That kind of leadership depends on us also showing leadership here at home,” he said, and over past six years we’ve made “real, genuine, documentable progress” at recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

    Much more, after the jump…
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    Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »