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Obama returns to Bay Area on May 8

President Obama will return to the Bay Area on Thursday, May 8 for a pair of high-priced events to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

Tickets for a reception at the Palo Alto home of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer start at $1,000 for individual guests, while $5,000 buys a place in the photo line; $7,500 buys access and photos for two; $10,000 buys co-chair status; and $32,400 buys all that plus membership in the DNC Presidential Partners Program.

Mayer hosted Obama for a DNC fundraiser in October 2010, when she was still an executive at Google.

“We need the resources to put Democrats in office to move our country forward,” says the invitation to this upcoming event. “Since we do not take money from special interests, corporate lobbyists, and political action committees, we rely on dedicated Democrats like you. Please join us for a reception to support this important work.”

Obama also is expected to do a roundtable with about 20 tech executives that same day somewhere in Silicon Valley, with seats going for the $32,400 maximum contribution. It’s not yet known whether he’ll do any official events while he’s here, or whether he’ll be staying overnight.

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 12 Comments »

Don’t like the poll results? Too bad.

Whenever we do a poll story, I’m a bit amazed at the vitriol and ignorance in some of the comments.

That holds true for my story in Tuesday’s editions about a Field Poll showing President Obama’s relative popularity in California, and Jessica Calefati’s story in Wednesday’s editions about how Gov. Jerry Brown is trouncing his challengers. Let me clear up a few misconceptions (or intentional misstatements):

1.) IT’S NOT OUR POLL

In the comments on Jessica’s story, RobThom wrote “The lib media loves polls, because you can get a poll to say anything you want.”

Except the “lib media” didn’t conduct the poll. Bay Area News Group doesn’t do its own polls on these issues, and we generally only write stories about California polls conducted by nonpartisan organizations of the highest reputation, such as Field Research, the Public Policy Institute of California and occasionally the University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times. We receive the same poll results as every other media outlet – even Fox News!

Lest you think the poll questions were biased, the Obama question was “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?” And here’s how the gubernatorial election question was phrased:

The upcoming June statewide election will be an open primary. This means that candidates from all parties – Democrats, Republicans and others – will be listed together on one ballot and voters can chose to vote for a candidate from any party or affiliation. I am going to read the names of some of the likely candidates for Governor in the June open primary election and please tell me who you would be your first choice if the election were being held today. Suppose the candidates were (CANDIDATES READ IN RANDOM ORDER) Who would be your first choice for Governor? (REPEAT IF NECESSARY)

2.) IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THE POLL DIDN’T CALL YOU

In the comments on my story, Tamara Lynn wrote, “They didn’t poll me…. In my generalized poll while speaking with friends, family and social media.. Obummer isn’t favored at all! Once again the merc printing only what it wants.. Stupid is as stupid does.”

Tamara apparently doesn’t know what a poll is – the only poll that surveys every registered voter is called an election. Field surveyed 1,000 Californians randomly selected from the state’s voter rolls. At last count, California had 17,660,257 registered voters, so Tamara had a 1-in-17,660 chance of getting called. Even with Field polling on Obama’s approval rating about four times a year, I’d advise her not to hold her breath. And of course her friends, family and social media say otherwise – that’s a self-selecting community of like-minded individuals, not a random poll.

3.) JUST BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE DOESN’T MAKE IT WRONG

In the comments on my story, Real American Ranger wrote, “Who ever wrote this article is obviously on crack. The experiment with putting a community organizer with zero real world experience in the white house has failed miserably.”

We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. The fact is, Barack Obama and Jerry Brown are riding high in California, borne by a minority-heavy voting population that skews significantly toward Democrats. There certainly are people who dislike Obama and Brown, but they are outnumbered. The polls show it, the elections show it – it walks and talks like a duck, yet a few vocal critics insist it’s a goose.

Try to remember, folks: Neither these nonpartisan polls nor this news organization are here to confirm your personal worldview. If you want that, I’m sure there’s a cable news channel that will make you very happy.

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Barack Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Obama presidency, polls | 4 Comments »

Oakland FoodCorps member will visit White House

A FoodCorps member helping Oakland public school students learn about healthy food will join First Lady Michelle Obama to help plant the sixth consecutive White House Kitchen Garden.

Sarah TingSarah Ting is one of six FoodCorps members taking part next Wednesday, April 2. Ting works with the Oakland Unified School District, where she teaches and collaborates with the Farm-to-School Supervisor on district level procurement for the National School Meal Program.

FoodCorps is part of the AmeriCorps Service Network. This nationwide program is dedicated to teaching children about healthy food, how it grows, and where it comes from, and ensuring they have access to these foods each and every day. Serving under the direction of state and community partners, FoodCorps members across the country dedicate a year of public service to help children grow up in healthy school food environments.

FoodCorps founders and students from Washington, D.C.’s Bancroft Elementary School and Harriet Tubman Elementary School, who have been active participants in the White House Kitchen Garden, also will take part in Wednesday’s event.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Obama to add Stornetta Lands to monument

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, a White House official said Saturday.

Stornetta mapCalifornia’s U.S. Senators and two congressmen have been pushing hard for this, and wrote to the president a year ago to urge his action. The White House said Obama will make the move as part of his State of the Union pledge to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

President Bill Clinton established the California Coastal National Monument in 2000 to protect the area’s scientifically valuable coastal resources, including geologic formations that offer unique habitats for breeding seabirds, marine mammals, and other native species.

Obama will be adding about 1,665 acres of federal lands located on California’s Mendocino County coast, just north of the Point Arena.

The area is an economic engine for the local community, driving tourism and offering outdoor recreation opportunities; a Bureau of Land Management report estimates that outdoor recreation on public lands in California contributed nearly $900 million to the economy in 2012. But it also will offer scientific opportunities for geologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists, as well as recreational opportunities.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein as well as Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, have championed adding this land to the monument, and offered legislation that would’ve done so.

“I am so pleased that President Obama is taking action to permanently protect this majestic piece of California’s coast for future generations to enjoy,” Boxer said in a statement issued Saturday. “Expanding this monument will not only help preserve this sensitive coastal area and protect marine life along the coast, it will also boost the tourism economy in Mendocino County, which supports 5,000 jobs.”

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell held a public listening session in November in Point Arena to hear from the community about its vision for conserving the lands; Jewell will return to the area Wednesday to celebrate the president’s action.

Posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Environment, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Fremont teen’s film featured at White House

A Fremont teen’s short film was featured today at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival.

Irvington High School sophomore Tiffany Lin’s film, “Discovery,” uses stop-action animation to show how technology can inspire and advance students.

Lin’s is among 16 films selected from more than 2,000 entries. Her film was placed in the “Young Visionaries” category; other categories are “Future Innovators,” “World of Tomorrow,” and “Building Bridges.”

The festival for K-12 students showcases the power of technology to boost learning and the Administration’s commitment to bringing America’s classrooms into the 21st century with high-speed internet and cutting-edge educational technology. The winners’ films were screened at the White House today, presented by Kal Penn, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and American Film Institute President and CEO Bob Gazzale. Conan O’Brien addressed the students by video.

President Obama is using the occasion to highlight progress on his ConnectED goal of transforming American education by connecting 99 percednt of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology within five years.

Obama also announced $400 million in new private sector commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students to help introduce creative learning materials to classrooms all across the country and help realize the promise of e-learning.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: education, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Feds ease banking restrictions for marijuana biz

The Obama administration issued new guidelines Friday that’ll make it easier for banks to work with marijuana-related businesses.

This had been a big problem for businesses in the 20 states – including California – plus the District of Columbia where medical use of marijuana is legal under state law, and particularly in Washington and Colorado, which have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Marijuana is generating millions of dollars in those states, but because it’s still banned by federal law, many banks and credit card issuers were loath to let such businesses open accounts. That left many marijuana businesses to do all their transactions in cash, and having so much cash around increases the risk of robbery and other violent crimes.

But on Friday, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in coordination with the Justice Department issued guidelines to clarify “how financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses” consistent with their Bank Secrecy Act obligations.

“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s director, said in a news release. “Our guidance provides financial institutions with clarity on what they must do if they are going to provide financial services to marijuana businesses and what reporting will assist law enforcement.”

Banks should check with state authorities whether the business is duly licensed and registered and review the information it provided to get that license; learn as much as possible about the business’ owners, products and customers; and monitor the business for any suspicious activity or news reports of legal problems, the memo advised.

Even so, banks must file “suspicious activity reports” on any funds derived from marijuana, the memo says – but they can file special “limited” reports for businesses that are believed to be complying with state law.

Drug reform and marijuana legalization advocates are pleased.

“It appears that the Obama administration is trying to provide as much protection as possible for the marijuana industry, given the constraints of federal law,” Ethan Nadelmann, the Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director, said in a news release. “The assurances the administration have provided appear fairly substantial and will hopefully prove sufficient so that banks will feel safe doing business with the marijuana industry. I have to say I’m impressed by how the White House is trying to make this work, especially given the inability of Congress to do anything constructive in this area.”

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, said advocates have been pushing for such concessions for years, but it’s still a piecemeal approach.

“We will certainly be working with banks, credit unions, and credit card companies to ensure proper implementation of this federal guidance,” she said. “Removing the risks of operating as an ‘all-cash’ business cannot be overstated, but we will also continue to put pressure on the Obama Administration to wrap these types of discrete practices into a more comprehensive medical marijuana policy.”

Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014
Under: marijuana, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to reclassify marijuana

Eighteen House members, including six from the Bay Area, wrote to President Obama today urging him to use his authority to move marijuana off the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs.

Marijuana currently is listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a list for drugs deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision. The lawmakers’ letter says this “makes no sense” for marijuana, and calls on the president to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify the drug.

“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” the letter says. “Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”

The letter comes days after Obama told the New Yorker magazine that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that has brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Among those signing the letter were Reps. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton. The only Republican among the 18 signers was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

The Controlled Substances Act gives authority for rescheduling controlled substances to Congress, but it also grants executive branch authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Several rescheduling bills have gone nowhere in recent years.

“President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

California guests at White House state dinner

Several Californians will be among the many dozens of diplomats, dignitaries and guests at tonight’s White House state dinner for French President Francois Hollande:

    Director and producer J.J. Abrams of Pacific Palisades, and wife, Katie McGrath
    Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and her guest, Barbara Jordan
    NBA player Jason Collins of Los Angeles and his boyfriend, Brunson Green
    Democratic activist Shefali Duggal of San Francisco and her husband, Rajat Duggal
    Television producer Ken Ehrlich of Westlake Village and his wife, Harriet Ehrlich
    Former insurance executive and philanthropist John Goldman of Atherton and his wife, Marcia Goldman
    Qualcomm cofounder and former chairman Irwin Jacobs of La Jolla and his wife, Joan Jacobs
    Actress and producer Mindy Kaling of Universal City and her friend, Jocelyn Leavitt
    SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina of La Canada-Flintridge and his guest, Arcelia Rocio Saenz
    Oracle heiress and Democratic fundraiser Nicola Miner of San Francisco and her husband, novelist Robert Mailer Anderson
    PayPal cofounder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk of Los Angeles and his ex-wife, Talulah Musk
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and her daughter, Jacqueline Kenneally
    Philanthropist and Democratic fundraiser Azita Raji of Tiburon and her husband, Gary Syman
    philanthropist and retired teacher Liz Simons of Atherton and her husband, Medley Partners Managing Director Mark Heising
    Big Block managing director Kenneth Solomon of Pacific Palisades and his wife, Melissa Solomon

Posted on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

California wine to be served at White House

The White House has just issued its menu and program for tomorrow’s state dinner with French President Francois Hollande, and it features a North Bay winner.

Among the wines to be served at the dinner will be a 2011 “La Proportion Doree” (“The Golden Ratio”), a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes from Sonoma County produced by St. Helena-based Morlet Family Vineyards.

Per the vineyard’s website, co-owner Luc Morlet “represents the fourth generation of a French winemaking family” from Avenay-Val d’Or in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeastern France.

The dinner will be followed by a performance by R&B legend Mary J. Blige. See the whole menu, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 10th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Obama to visit Fresno next Friday about drought

This just in from the White House:

“On Friday, February 14, President Obama will travel to the Fresno, California area to discuss ongoing efforts to respond to the severe drought. Further details on the President’s trip to California will be available in the coming days.”

As reported here last week, President Obama promised Gov. Jerry Brown that he’s committed to providing the necessary federal support to state and local drought mitigation efforts. And as I reported Tuesday, the president is no fan of the water bill that Republicans pushed through the House this week as a drought solution.

Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency, water | 4 Comments »