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Jesse Jackson on Silicon Valley’s ‘apartheid’

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is back in the valley.

The renowned civil rights leader told the Mercury News editorial board Thursday that his Rainbow PUSH Coalition plans to revitalize its Silicon Valley project and make its case to the region’s top tech firms that “we need to democratize the economy.”

Dai SuganoThe lack of minorities in Silicon Valley’s upper echelons is symptomatic of an economic apartheid that is less visible than the segregation of half a century ago but just as pernicious, he said.

“This valley is driving the industrial growth of America – in fact, it’s driving global growth,” Jackson said. But while people of color constitute a huge part of the marketplace for tech products and services, he said, they’re woefully underrepresented in the sector’s executive offices and boardrooms.

“To make America America, all of us must play,” he said. “This is not about diversity as much as it is about justice.”

It’s not a new theme. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition in 1999 bought stock in 50 Silicon Valley companies so it could have a say at annual shareholder meetings. Later that year, it announced the opening of an East Palo Alto office to highlight the disparity between Silicon Valley’s richest and poorest residents and advocate for more training and hiring of minorities and women at high-tech companies.

Jackson at the time ended up in an op-ed war with Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers, who contended the tech industry was a meritocracy offering equal access to anyone with the talent, education and ambition to succeed.

The public exchange got incredibly nasty. “Once, the civil rights movement was led by a great American who stirred the conscience of the nation,” Rodgers wrote at the time. “Today, its most visible spokesman is a hustler who exploits white shame for his own financial and political ends.”

Jackson on Thursday contended minorities still are being shut out of many of Silicon Valley’s opportunities. He scoffed at the idea that there aren’t enough minorities entering the industry with appropriate training: “It’s almost insulting to suggest they can’t be found.”

“We can’t go on this way,” he said, adding the coalition will reach out to the region’s leading employers and arrange meetings either individually or en masse. “We must begin to take these numbers back across the country to make people aware of who are partners and who are not.”

Reminded about his war of words with Rodgers, Jackson smiled and asked: “Is he still around?” Assured that he was, Jackson quipped that he wouldn’t mind meeting up with Rodgers — perhaps for a round of golf “one night.”

We would like to caddy.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

Politicians mourn folk legend Pete Seeger’s death

Some prominent politicians from the Bay Area and beyond are among the legions mourning the death of folk music legend and activist Pete Seeger.

From President Barack Obama:

Once called “America’s tuning fork,” Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song. But more importantly, he believed in the power of community – to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. Over the years, Pete used his voice – and his hammer – to strike blows for worker’s rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Pete’s family and all those who loved him.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, posted this on Facebook:

I join the world in mourning the loss, but also celebrating the life, of legendary folk musician and incomparable American, Pete Seeger. He sang for all of us, and he got us all singing, as you can see in this video.

Pete Seeger stood for equality, for children, for a clean environment, and for an end to war. May the memory and spirit of Pete Seeger live in all of us for years to come.

From the Facebook page of Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

I am saddened to hear of the passing of folk legend Pete Seeger. His songs and activism inspired generations to fight for justice and peace. It is hard to imagine the Civil Rights and anti-war movements without “We Shall Overcome,” “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” I will honor his legacy by continuing to fight for the rights of all Americans and for justice around the world.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., tweeted:

And former President Bill Clinton tweeted:

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Court won’t rehear challenge to foie gras ban

Attention California gastronomes: A federal appeals court refused Monday to re-hear a challenge to California’s law banning the force-feeding of fowl to produce foie gras, thus ending the case unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to weigh in.

foie grasFoie gras is the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened beyond normal growth, usually by force-feeding that’s considered cruel by animal advocates. California’s law – passed by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 – gave producers years to prepare for the force-feeding ban before it took effect in mid-2012.

A group of foie gras producers and a California restaurant group sued two days after the law took effect, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in August that upheld a lower court’s decision that the plaintiffs failed to raise any serious questions about their rights under the new law, and that the law was within the state’s authority to enact.

That panel refused Monday to rehear the case, and no 9th Circuit judge has voted that the case be heard “en banc” by a larger, 11-judge panel.

The Humane Society reports more than a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Israel, either have banned force feeding for foie gras production or have interpreted it as illegal under existing anti-cruelty laws.

Posted on Monday, January 27th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Officials offer condolences on BART cop’s shooting

State and local officials are offering condolences to the family and colleagues of BART Police Sgt. Tom Smith Jr., who was fatally shot by another officer during a search of a suspect’s apartment Tuesday in Dublin.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Anne and I were saddened to learn of the death of veteran BART Sergeant Tom Smith, who bravely served his community for two decades. Sergeant Smith’s family, friends and colleagues are in our thoughts as we honor his service during this painful time.”

From California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“On behalf of the California Department of Justice, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Detective Sgt. Tom Smith. His sacrifice and service to the people of California will never be forgotten. The tragic loss of Detective Sgt. Smith reminds us of the danger our officers face everyday to keep our communities safe. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and with all the brave men and women of the BART Police Department.”

From San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón:

“Our deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to the family of BART Sgt. Tom Smith. He was a veteran officer who lost his life yesterday in the line of duty. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Click here for our latest story on the tragedy.

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Calif. firms to go on Pritzker’s 1st trade mission

Representatives from four California businesses will accompany U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on her first trade mission: a trip to Mexico in early February.

Penny PritzkerThey’ll be among 17 companies nationwide sending people as part of the delegation accompanying Pritzker – who was sworn in as Commerce Secretary in June – to Mexico City and Monterrey. The trip is focused on promoting U.S exports and business opportunities in key industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and health IT and medical devices.

Oracle, based in Redwood City; OSISoft LLC of San Leandro; Applied Science Inc. of Grass Valley; and Louroe Electronics of Van Nuys will send people on the trip.

“As the country’s chief commercial advocate, a key part of my job is to promote trade and investment and connect U.S. businesses with potential customers across the globe,” Pritkzer said in a news release. “Ninety-five percent of customers worldwide live outside U.S. borders, and that is why promoting exports is essential to economic growth and job creation. As part of our ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ we plan to carry out a robust schedule of trade missions all over the world.”

The Commerce Department notes Mexico is the United States’ second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner; 22 states depend on Mexico as the first or second destination for exports, and more than $1.25 billion in goods and services are traded between the United States and Mexico every day, supporting millions of jobs in both countries. Bilateral trade between the United States and Mexico was almost half a trillion dollars in 2012, and the United States exports more to Mexico than to all of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Blotter is going on holiday hiatus

And so another year draws to a close, dear readers – I hope it’s been as happy for all of you as has been for me.

I’ll be on vacation until Monday, Jan. 6, and so the blog will go mostly dormant until then – although it’s possible something will come up between now and then that I just can’t resist posting.

I will leave you with my favorite holiday-season song, and my best wishes for a merry Christmas and very happy new year. See you in 2014.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Candidate likens ‘Duck Dynasty’ guy to Rosa Parks

I’ve tried to avoid this “Duck Dynasty” thing – I mean, who can be surprised by a redneck saying something inherently redneck? – but one politician has pushed it beyond the pale.

ian-bayneIan Bayne – a Republican candidate who’s challenging Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., for Illinois’ 11th House Districtissued a statement today calling Phil Robertson “the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.”

“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” said Bayne. “What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”

Let us review.

In an interview with GQ, Robertson said:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

And, asked what he considers sinful:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

He also had this to say about African Americans:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Courageous?

Robertson probably was being honest about his religious views, and he has an absolute right to hold and voice those views – just as A&E has an absolute right to deny him a broadcast platform, and those who disagree with him have an absolute right to ostracize him for believing that all men are not created equal.

Our nation is not a theocracy; nobody’s religious belief gives them the right to hold themselves on a pedestal over others without being called on it. And pointing out someone’s intolerance isn’t itself intolerance, or persecution. If the camouflage hunting boot fits, wear it, Mr. Robertson.

But Bayne’s analogy reveals his own amazing ignorance.

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who believed in equality, and stood up for it (actually, remained sitting for it) with quiet dignity.

Phil Robertson is a reality TV star who deems some people better, holier, worth more than others because of who they do or don’t love, because he believes God wants that – the antithesis of equality. He also seems to believe that his narrow personal window on the Jim Crow South has some resemblance to the reality lived by millions of Africans Americans, which it demonstrably does not.

And Ian Bayne is either a blithering idiot or a shameless panderer.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

416d65726963612043616e20436f646520

Rep. Tony Cárdenas today introduced the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act of 2013.

facedown on keyboardNo, that’s not a typo (though if it were, it probably would have had to involve me passing out on my keyboard).

416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 is the hexadecimal code translation of “America Can Code” – Cárdenas’ bill would designate computer programming languages as “critical foreign languages,” providing incentives for state and local schools to teach more computer science beginning as early as kindergarten.

You know what I remember about kindergarten? Playing with wooden blocks. And snacks. But we live in a different world now, I guess.

“The very name of this law demonstrates that programming is simply another language,” said Cárdenas, D-Arleta. “Learning and communicating in a foreign language can have a tremendous impact on a student, both culturally and educationally. Computer programming creates a similar impact, while also providing a critical skill in today’s global economy.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, joined Cárdenas in introducing the bill as an original co-sponsor.

Computer programming jobs are growing at nearly twice the national average job growth rate, Cárdenas notes, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage in 2010 for computer programmers was $71,380, while the median annual wage for all workers was $33,840.

The nation will have an estimated 1.4 million computer programming jobs by 2020 with only 400,000 American computer science students to fill those jobs, he added. Nine out of 10 U.S. schools don’t even offer computer programming classes and in 36 states, computer coding classes don’t count towards high school STEM graduation requirements.

Along with redefining computer programming as a critical foreign language, the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act would create a competitive matching grant program for schools, particularly in low-income areas, to create new ways to teach computer science and engineering in cooperation with universities and non-profits.

“American students should continue to receive the understanding of other cultures that foreign language learning creates, but we should also be preparing American kids to compete in the world marketplace,” Cárdenas said. “Millions of jobs are being created in America, and all over the globe, requiring some level of coding knowledge. Let’s get American kids ready to compete for American jobs.”

UPDATE @ 6:01 P.M.: Some frighteningly adept people on Twitter have advised me that there is indeed a typo in Cárdenas’ coding; it actually would read as the “America Can Code ” Act – with an unnecessary space after the word “code.” If you drop the last two digits from the hexadecimal version (“20”), the space disappears.

My feeling is, better an extra space than a missing letter. Drop the last three digits (“520”), and you’ve got the “America Can Cod” Act – a fisheries bill, no doubt.

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Field Poll: Little love for counties’ secession plan

Ah, Jefferson – we hardly knew ye.

Only one in four California voters support Siskiyou and Modoc counties’ calls to secede from the state, and join with other California and Oregon counties to form a new, 51st state called Jefferson, the Field Poll finds; 59 percent disapprove.

The idea of designating these counties as a special territory technically still within the existing states also met with a chilly 27 percent approval and 58 percent disapproval.

Opposition to both proposals is bipartisan, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisans disapproving. The poll found slightly greater support for the proposals in inland counties and parts of Northern California outside the Bay Area and Central Valley, yet even in these areas, more disapprove than approve.

With secession requiring approval of both houses of the state Legislature as well as Congress, it surely seems the northern folk can kiss this dream goodbye.

Designating the counties as a special territory called “Jefferson Republic” wouldn’t require these legislative approvals, and could be granted if voters in the affected counties opt to do so. Petitions to that effect already are circulating up there.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,002 registered California voters from Nov. 14 through Dec. 5; the overall poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Pols react to the death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has died at age 95.

Here’s the speech he delivered at his inauguration as president of South Africa in 1994:

President Obama made a statement a short while ago:

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

“The world has lost a true hero for freedom and we should all carry out his vision of equality in our daily lives.”

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

“With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a leader who advanced the cause of equality and human rights, who overcame a history of oppression in South Africa to expand the reach of freedom worldwide. He led the campaign to defeat apartheid through non-violence, peace, and dialogue. He never allowed resentment to drive him away from the path of reconciliation. He emerged from prison to set free an entire nation; he shed the bonds of slave labor to reshape the fate of his people.

“Nelson Mandela once said that ‘courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.’ His life is the affirmation of this statement: a story of courage, a triumph over fear, a whole-hearted faith in the power, promise, and possibility of the human spirit. He inspired the world with his strength and perseverance, with his message of hope and his embrace of freedom. He left us a legacy of love and partnership.

“May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. May his story long remind us to always look forward with optimism to the future. May it be a comfort to his family, to his friends and loved ones, to the people of South Africa that so many mourn the loss of this extraordinary man and incredible leader at this sad time.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family, and the people of South Africa. His legacy will live on forever in how we live our lives and fight for freedom and justice in a multi-racial society. We must pause and remember Madiba in his greatness; he used his life not for himself, but for the good of his country and the good of the world, and his spirit will live on.

“Even throughout his 27 years of incarceration and brutal treatment, his spirit was never broken and this stands as a testament to the power of reconciliation. Not only is Nelson Mandela the father of the liberation movement in South Africa, but he also laid the framework for modern liberation movements throughout the world. With a dignified defiance, Nelson Mandela never compromised his political principles or the mission of the anti-apartheid movement, fighting the global AIDS pandemic, ending poverty and preserving human rights.

“During Mr. Mandela’s trip to the United States in 1990, it was a great honor to be a member of the host committee that welcomed him to my district of Oakland, California. One of my proudest moments as a member of Congress was when I led the effort to remove Mr. Mandela and the ANC from the U.S. Terrorist Watch list in time for his 90th birthday. I served as an official election observer for the 1994 South African elections when President Mandela was first elected, and it was a magnificent reminder that perhaps one day my own country would elect an African American president.

“Mr. Mandela exuded a larger-than-life presence and a humble spirit that was remarkable; he is my hero and an inspiration to us all. While this earth will miss the physical presence of Nelson Mandela, his indomitable nature, his gentle spirit, and overwhelming smile will remain with us all. My heart is heavy as we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of this great warrior.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Nelson Mandela fought heroically for freedom and a truly democratic society. His courageous life shows what’s possible when one acts on his convictions.”

From former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“I will never forget the time I spent with President Mandela.

“Even before I met him, he was one of my heroes. But during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in South Africa, I had the opportunity to stand with him in his former jail cell at Robben Island to light the torch, and his legend grew before my eyes.

“He told me about his struggles, his time in captivity, his persecution and oppression. Most people would have had nothing in their heart but revenge, but all President Mandela had was forgiveness. He is the definition of serving a cause greater than self. He single-handedly reunited his nation, because he had a vision of the future that should inspire all of us.

“President Mandela’s life is the closest thing we have to proof of God. I will never be able to thank him enough for his inspiration. Today, each of us should commit to do at least one small thing to improve the planet in his honor. Give back. Help someone. Change the world.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa.

From Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles:

“The world has lost one of the greatest crusaders for justice it has ever known. As we mourn his passing we must also remember the meaning of Nelson Mandela’s struggle and triumph. The fight for equality and justice must go on, here at home and around the world.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“Nelson Mandela was a brave and noble man who fought seemingly impossible odds in the fight for equality and justice, and his loss will be felt the whole world over. He inspired countless people around the world by insisting that all people were entitled to a voice in how their government works. His life stands as a reminder that our rights must be fought for, but also that they are attainable. By continuing to fight to include more people in our democracy, we honor his legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa.”

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

Posted on Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 11 Comments »