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AG Eric Holder tells Missouri cops to back off a bit

This just in from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who met earlier today with President Obama to discuss the latest developments in Ferguson, Missouri:

Eric Holder“This morning, I met with President Obama to discuss the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Like the President, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of Michael Brown. While his death has understandably caused heartache within the community, it is clear that the scenes playing out in the streets of Ferguson over the last several nights cannot continue.

“For one thing, while the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, acts of violence by members of the public cannot be condoned. Looting and willful efforts to antagonize law enforcement officers who are genuinely trying to protect the public do nothing to remember the young man who has died. Such conduct is unacceptable and must be unequivocally condemned.

“By the same token, the law enforcement response to these demonstrations must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them. Those who peacefully gather to express sympathy for the family of Michael Brown must have their rights respected at all times. And journalists must not be harassed or prevented from covering a story that needs to be told.

“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message. At my direction, Department officials have conveyed these concerns to local authorities. Also at my direction, the Department is offering – through our COPS office and Office of Justice Programs – technical assistance to local authorities in order to help conduct crowd control and maintain public safety without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force. The local authorities in Missouri have accepted this offer of assistance as of this afternoon.

“Department officials from the Community Relations Service are also on the ground in Missouri to help convene law enforcement officials and civic and faith leaders to plot out steps to reduce tensions in the community. The latest such meeting was convened in Ferguson as recently as this morning. Over time, these conversations should consider the role that increased diversity in law enforcement can play in helping to build trust within communities.

“All the while, the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting incident itself continues, in parallel with the local investigation into state law violations. Our investigators from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting incident on Saturday. Our review will take time to conduct, but it will be thorough and fair.”

Posted on Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Under: Civil liberties, Obama presidency | 34 Comments »

Obama honors local author, singer at White House

A famed author from Oakland and a famed singer from San Francisco were among those honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama on Monday at the White House.

Author Maxine Hong Kingston, 73, of Oakland, was honored “for her contributions as a writer,” according to a statement read at the ceremony by a military aide. “Her novels and non-fiction have examined how the past influences our present, and her voice has strengthened our understanding of Asian American identity, helping shape our national conversation about culture, gender and race.”

And singer Linda Ronstadt, 68, of San Francisco, was honored “for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music. Drawing from a broad range of influences, Ms. Ronstadt defied expectations to conquer American radio waves and help pave the way for generations of women artists.”

The president told these and other honorees:

“Like most creative and brainy people, you did not cultivate your song for accolades or applause. If there were no medal for your work, I expect you’d still be out there designing buildings and making movies and digging through archives and asking tough questions in interviews.

“But we do honor you today — because your accomplishments have enriched our lives and reveal something about ourselves and about our country. And we can never take for granted the flash of insight that comes from watching a great documentary or reading a great memoir or novel, or seeing an extraordinary piece of architecture. We can’t forget the wonder we feel when we stand before an incredible work of art, or the world of memories we find unlocked with a simple movement or a single note.

“The moments you help create -– moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow -– they add texture to our lives. They are not incidental to the American experience; they are central to it — they are essential to it. So we not only congratulate you this afternoon, we thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement.”

Both the Bay Area honorees also got special shout-outs from the president. “I was mentioning to Maxine that when I was first writing my first book and trying to teach myself how to write, “The Woman Warrior” was one of the books I read. … I told Linda Ronstadt I had a little crush on her back in the day.”

http://youtu.be/vs2l5GY_k4E?t=14m

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 22 Comments »

Report from Obama’s Los Altos Hills fundraiser

My story will be posted soon to mercurynews.com, but here’s the entire pool report I just filed from President Obama’s remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus:

Press was shown into backyard of real estate mogul George Marcus’s sumptuous back yard at 11:53 a.m., where guests were gathered at tables under a tent next to the tennis court. Tickets for this event cost $10,000 per person, or $32,400 per couple with a VIP photo opportunity.

The president strode into the tent at 11:59 a.m. and was briefly introduced by Marcus. Remarks began at noon.

Obama said there are two reasons he’s here: the fine weather, and the connection he made with George and Judy Marcus’ infant granddaughter. “I may take her with me.” He lauded Marcus as someone who has lived the American dream, remembers it and wants to give back. He praised House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who was seated in the middle of the crowd, saying he needs her back as Speaker. He also recognized Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, as well as Democratic House candidates Michael Eggman (CA10) and Amanda Renteria (CA21).

Also spotted in the audience: Pelosi’s daughters Christina and Alexandra, and her son Paul Jr.

“One of my main functions here is to just say thank you” for all the support in years past, the president said.

“When we came into office, we were going through the worst economy since the Great Depression,” he said, but the record of the past five years is “some pretty remarkable progress” with the economy improved by almost every measure. Also, millions more Americans have health care, he noted, while high school dropouts have decreased and college enrollments have increased.

Silicon Valley represents the spirit of dynamism that typifies the American economy, he said, yet there’s still a lot of anxiety as profits have accrued almost only to those at the very top while the middle class “is stuck, they feel like they’re treading water.”

“It feels as if Washington doesn’t work” and ignores those in need, he said.

Investing in things like early childhood education will bring massive returns, Obama said, and 28 million would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage. Helping working families with child care would relieve a great burden, and ensuring equal pay for women who do equal work would help support families, he said.

“We have some big technical issues – what’s the next big energy breakthrough that’s going to help us fully contain the impacts of climate change,” he said, and economic issues, too.

“But if we just took some commonsense steps, this country would grow faster… and families would be better off,” he said.

The reason things aren’t working is that one party is interested only in proving that government doesn’t work, and saying no to these commonsense steps, Obama said.

“I hope that the reason you’re here today is that you want to get something done… We have to break this cycle of gridlock and cynicism,” he said – and both parties can and should work to advance the common good. “I’d love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition, but that’s not what we have right now.”

Democrats must overcome their “congenital defect” of not voting in midterm elections, he said, and get as fired up about November as they did about his own campaigns in 2008 and 2012. “I need partners, I need help.”

POTUS concluded his remarks at 12:13 and the press was ushered out before he began taking questions. He did acknowledge his admiration of one reporter’s fedora as the press departed; sadly, the aforementioned headgear was not worn by your pooler.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 11 Comments »

Net neutrality activists will target Obama event

Activists from more than a dozen liberal grassroots groups are planning a “Don’t Kill the Internet” protest in favor of net neutrality outside President Obama’s Democratic fundraiser Wednesday in Los Altos Hills.

US-IT-INTERNET-FCCThe rally, organized by MoveOn.org Political Action and Free Press, will urge Obama to defend the open internet from a proposal by his Federal Communications Commission appointee that activists say would divide the Internet into fast lanes for wealthy businesses and slow lanes for most everyone else.

They note that Obama since his first campaign “has promised to preserve the open internet that helped him get elected and that every American relies on to access information, start a new business, and compete on a level playing field.”

Obama arrives in the Bay Area on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday will attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus. Tickets cost $10,000 per person, or $32,000 per couple with a VIP photo opportunity.

Groups taking part in the net-neutrality rally – scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. at South San Antonio Road and West Edith Street in Los Altos – include MoveOn.org Political Action, Free Press, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Presente.org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, the Media Alliance, Code Pink, Daily Kos, SumOfUs, Progressives United, ACLU, and the Greenlining Institute. A similar rally is planned for another Democratic fundraiser Obama will attend later Wednesday in Los Angeles.

More than 1 million Americans have already submitted comments to the FCC on the need to preserve the open Internet, recently causing the FCC’s comment website to crash.

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 7 Comments »

Boehner prepares resolution to sue Obama

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday released a draft of a resolution he’ll introduce authorizing the House to sue President Obama over his 2013 decision to unilaterally delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement issued with the draft. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

The resolution reads as follows:

Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, that the Speaker may initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code, and to seek appropriate ancillary relief, including injunctive relief, regarding the failure of the President, the head of any department or agency, or any other officer or employee of the United States, to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of (including a failure to implement) any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision.

SEC. 2. The Speaker shall notify the House of Representatives of a decision to initiate or intervene in any civil action pursuant to this resolution.

SEC. 3. The Office of the General Counsel of the House of Representatives, at the direction of the Speaker shall represent the House in any civil action initiated, or in which the House intervenes, pursuant to this resolution and may employ the services of outside counsel and other experts for this purpose.

The House Rules Committee will consider the draft resolution next Wednesday, July 16.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement later Thursday:

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt.

“Time and again, House Republicans’ total abdication of responsibility has forced the President to act. They’ve wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail.

“This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction. Congress should be creating jobs, raising new ladders of opportunity, and focusing on the challenges facing hard working American families.”

Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, healthcare reform, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

President Obama returns to Bay Area on July 23

But… we’ve barely even had time to miss him! {sarcasm}

President Barack Obama will return to Silicon Valley for a July 23 fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets for the luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate developer and Democratic benefactor George Marcus start at $10,000 per person (including a photo opportunity and lunch) or $32,400 per couple (including a VIP photo opportunity and lunch).

Also scheduled to attend are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

Obama headlined two Democratic National Committee fundraisers May 8 in Los Altos and San Jose. Earlier, he was in the Bay Area for Democratic fundraisers in November 2013, June 2013, and April 2013.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 22 Comments »

EPA proposal on coal power plants creates hot air

Opinions and rhetoric were breaking largely among the usual party lines Monday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by nearly a third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president’s plan is nuts, there’s really no more succinct way to describe it. Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come. Americans are already paying more for everything and here he is condemning them to higher bills and lower incomes long after he leaves office.

“In many ways, this national energy tax is actually worse than the scheme Americans rejected four years ago. While the president may have kept his promise to make prices ‘skyrocket,’ it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The House has already passed legislation to prevent these rules from taking effect without the approval of the people’s representatives. The question now is: will Senate Democrats listen to the American people and stop this disaster or will they back the president all the way?”

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

Nancy Pelosi“Climate change is one of the most pressing dangers facing us today. This accelerating crisis threatens our coasts, our crops and our communities – and its damaging and destabilizing effects are already being felt across our nation and around the world.

“The destructive effect of unrestrained carbon pollution is felt not only in rising temperatures and increased, more powerful natural disasters, but also in higher asthma rates in our children. We already restrict mercury and arsenic pollution – it’s time we did the same for toxic carbon pollution. These new standards will strengthen public health, create new jobs, spur innovation and lower electricity rates.

“Like the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, these actions by the Administration send a resounding message to the world that the United States is serious about dealing with climate change. The Clean Air Act is an appropriate, bipartisan approach to protect people from pollution, and today’s standards build on a foundation of decades of bipartisan laws, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President Bush.

“We have a moral obligation to act to preserve the beauty of God’s creation for future generations. With these flexible plans to cut carbon pollution, our nation is taking a bold and serious step towards securing a sustainable future for all of us.”

Lots more from familiar California and Bay Area figures, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, George Miller, Global warming, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Lee, Pelosi disagree on Obama’s Afghanistan plan

Bay Area House members differed Tuesday on President Obama’s announcement of plans to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of this year and completely end the U.S. military commitment by the end of 2016.

Obama said he will cut the current U.S. force of 32,000 troops to about 9,800 as the U.S. combat mission formally ends later this year; the remainder will stay there to focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts. The 9,800 will be halved and consolidated in Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, over 2015, and fewer than 1,000 will remain after 2016 to staff a security office in Kabul.

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

Nancy Pelosi“Today, President Obama announced a path forward to fulfill his core promise: to enhance the security of the American people, to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly, and to bring us closer to the day when all of our troops can come safely home.

“The course of action unveiled today moves our nation step-by-step to a conclusion of the long conflict in Afghanistan. This strategy will ensure our military maintains a strong enough presence to continue supporting counter-terrorism operations, train Afghan security forces, and build on the efforts to return responsibility for the safety of the Afghan people to Afghanistan’s leaders themselves.

“The longest war in American history is now coming to an end. We have reached this moment thanks to the bravery of our troops and the sacrifices they and their families have made over more than a decade of conflict. As these men and women prepare to return home, we express our unending gratitude for their service and rededicate ourselves to never lose focus on our common mission: to protect the security of all Americans, preserve freedom for all families, and promote peace worldwide.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I respectfully disagree with plans announced today to leave nearly 10,000 troops and an unknown number of contractors in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and to extend U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan until 2016.

“After thirteen years at war, it’s obvious that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and it is far past time to end the war and bring all of our troops home now.

“At the very least, Congress should debate and vote on this agreement that will keep our troops in Afghanistan for years to come and will cost billions more in spending. Enough is enough.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Inside Obama’s Silicon Valley visit

Our story has been updated periodically throughout the day and evening, but here’s an amalgamation of the pool reports I filed to the White House while traveling with the motorcade today:

Air Force 1 arrived at Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA at 4:11 PM Pacific. POTUS was greeted on the tarmac by NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden; Col. Steven Butow, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing; Mountain View Mayor Christopher Clark; and Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Griffith. POTUS then worked the rope line for a few minutes before the motorcade departed for Los Altos home of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, site of first Silicon Valley fundraiser.

Press couldn’t see or hear POTUS at any point during the stop at Wojcicki’s home. In the holding area, chicken wraps were spicy and talk quickly turned to the NFL draft. Motorcade departed at 6:15 p.m. en route to the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, site of the second, larger DNC fundraiser of the evening; tickets for this one cost from $1,000 to $32,400. Uneventful drive, some well-wishers and onlookers on local streets in Los Altos; small crowd including some protesters (anti-Walmart, Keystone XL, etc.) in Cesar Chavez Park facing the hotel. Arrived at hotel at 6:38 p.m.

At the Fairmont, about 250 guests mingled and sipped wine or beer until Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer took the stage at 7:48 p.m. to introduce President Obama. Obama arrived at the podium at 7:50 p.m. to cheers and applause.

“It is good to be back in San Jose,” he said, thanking the two co-hosts and acknowledging Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and DNC Finance Chair Henry Munoz.

“A lot of you worked on the campaign and on OFA,” he said, offering “a little update about where we are.”

“We came into office at a time when America was in dire straits and we have made enormous progress over the last five something years,” he said, citing the recovery of the auto industry, reduction of oil imports, college attendance up and high school dropouts down, and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. “But for all that we’ve done, for the war in Iraq that we’ve ended ad the war in Afghanistan that we’re bringing to an honorable close,” for progress on climate change, “we know that we’ve got more work to do.”

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

Posted on Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | No Comments »