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California Dems respond to Obama’s ISIL speech

In a nutshell: Supportive, with a few sounding cautionary tones.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

“The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

“We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

“The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

“The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

“As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.”

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

“I fully support President Obama’s decision to utilize his authority to begin a counterterrorism effort against the terrorist army ISIL. I applaud him for recognizing the seriousness of the threat and for going on the offense against this threat.

“As the president said, the United States will lead a coalition of nations against ISIL to include Gulf states and other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world.

“Now that a strategy has been outlined, it is critical that Congress and the American people come together in solidarity to support the president and our armed forces. On such an important matter of national security, we must show ISIL we have the political will, the military might and the strength of a united country.

“In my 14 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen a terrorist organization with the brutality and capabilities of ISIL. The group already occupies large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and poses a direct threat to the entire Middle East. ISIL has also repeatedly expressed its intent to attack the United States, most recently during the beheadings of two American journalists.

“Anyone with a sense of humanity cannot be passive in the face of this organization. It has killed, tortured and kidnapped thousands, beheaded children, raped women, crucified those it considers apostates and aspires to commit widespread genocide.

“ISIL is pure evil, and the time has come to end its reign of terror.”

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

Barbara Boxer“Tonight, the President showed what a real leader is-a President who understands the threats we face and that America must not face those threats alone.

“ISIS is a threat to the world and that is why I am so proud that President Obama has put together a broad-based coalition so that civilized nations can work together to degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“President Obama recognizes that in order to do this, we must remember the tragic mistakes of the past and conduct this operation without American combat boots on the ground. Instead, we will rely on trained and vetted forces in the region that have the most at stake from the ISIS threat.

“ISIS has already murdered two innocent Americans and has vowed that there will be more American bloodshed. These terrorists have threatened our embassies across the globe and said that ‘every American citizen is a legitimate target.’ They have also threatened our allies and all those who disagree with their demented ideology.

“There is no way the international community can stand by in the face of the beheading, crucifixion, and stoning of innocent men, women, and children by a terrorist group that numbers in the tens of thousands and has the finances to continue their campaign of carnage until they are stopped.

“Congress must stand behind the President in this effort by acting swiftly to provide funds so that the vetted Syrian rebels can take the fight to ISIS in Syria.”

Lots more, after the jump….
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Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Feinstein calls for quake early-warning system

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued this statement Monday:

“With more than 100 injured and estimates of damage approaching $1 billion, the Napa earthquake reminds us how incredibly dangerous these temblors can be. There’s no doubt a major earthquake will hit California, the only questions are when and where.

“I believe an integrated earthquake early-warning system is essential to save lives and property. Two bills from the Senate Appropriations Committee move us toward that goal. The bill to fund the Department of the Interior includes $5 million to begin work on an early-warning system, while the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security urges FEMA to prioritize grant funds for such a system. These bills will advance this fall and I will continue to prioritize funding for this system.

“An earthquake early-warning system would provide crucial time to carry out lifesaving actions. A warning of even a handful of seconds would allow for emergency notifications to be sent; trains and traffic to be slowed or stopped; supplies of oil, gas and chemicals to be turned off; nuclear plants to be safeguarded; even elevators to be safely emptied.

“What we need is the political resolve to deploy such a system. Officials in Washington and along the West Coast should partner with the private sector to make an interoperable earthquake early-warning system a reality, and we should do so as soon as possible before a much larger earthquake strikes.”

California already has a demonstration early-warning system called the California Integrated Seismic Network, which did provide its test users in some parts of the Bay Area with up to about 10 seconds of warning before Sunday morning’s temblor hit.

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed into law SB 135 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, which requires the Office of Emergency Services to work with other agencies to expand this into a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. But the bill didn’t appropriate any of the $80 million it’s estimated such a system would cost; instead, it gave the OES until Jan. 1, 2016 to find funding for the project.

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Pols mourn Robin Williams

Politicians joined in the nation’s grief over the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, who was found dead in his Tiburon home Monday at age 63.

From President Barack Obama:

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”

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

“I send the heartfelt condolences of my entire family to Robin Williams’ family as our entire country mourns the loss of this remarkable genius who made us smile, laugh uncontrollably or cry.

“His ability to connect with everyone was a rare gift indeed. We will always remember Robin and we must also rededicate ourselves to helping each other through the dark times.”

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

“Today, the world has lost a great genius and San Francisco has lost a loyal friend. The news of Robin Williams’ passing brought deep sadness to a universe that he had filled with laughter. Robin Williams was a brilliant comedian – one of the funniest of them all because he was one of the most brilliant of them all. The spontaneity of his humor always took us by surprise; the seriousness of his acting did not. I hope it is a comfort to his family that the world mourns their loss and are praying for them at this time.”

From San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee:

“San Francisco mourns the profound loss of Robin Williams who inspired us with his comedy and art. His legacy has had a deep and inspiring impact on our City and on our residents.

“His ties to San Francisco were deep, having found early success in our City’s comedy clubs with his popular stand-up routines and where he was destined to launch a successful career that included starring roles in classic television shows and big screen success including an Academy Award.

“Despite his success, he has never forgotten San Francisco. He was a philanthropist who gave generously, and he was a friend of the City.

“San Francisco is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Robin Williams who forever changed the world with laughter and joy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time of mourning.”

For my own part, I’ll just offer this clip – one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, “The Fisher King,” for which Williams was nominated for an Oscar. He doesn’t say a word in this scene. He didn’t need to.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Barbara Boxer moves to beef up U.S.-Israel ties

As strife continues in the Gaza Strip, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has introduced a beefed up version of her bill to strengthen U.S. economic and security ties with Israel.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on Tuesday introduced S.2673, the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, an updated version of a bill they first offered in March 2013. It’s co-sponsored by 77 Senators.

The bill would, among other things, spend $200 million more (to a new total of $1.8 billion) to stockpile U.S. weapons in Israel intended for use by U.S. forces in a crisis, but available to Israeli forces in emergencies.

It also requires the administration to take steps toward allowing Israel to be included in the top-tier category for license-free exports of certain U.S. technologies and products; authorizes the president to cooperate with Israel in policy areas including energy, water, homeland security, and alternative fuel technologies; and requires the president to study the feasibility of expanding U.S.-Israel cooperation on cyber security.

The bill encourages the administration to work with Israel to help the country gain entry into the Visa Waiver Program, which would make it easier for Israeli citizens to travel to the United States without first having to obtain a visa. And it requires the administration to provide more frequent and more detailed assessments on the status of Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

“While we work toward a just peace in the Middle East and an end to the tragedy of war, it is critical that we reaffirm our enduring commitment to Israel’s security and the historic ties between our two nations,” Boxer said in a news release.“This legislation sends a clear message that America’s bond with Israel remains unbreakable, and I am proud that it has the support of more than three-quarters of the Senate.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Israel, U.S. Senate | 4 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 | 14 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 »

Miller, Dems offer ‘Schedules That Work Act’

Rep. George Miller helped introduce a bill Tuesday that supporters say would give hourly workers greater scheduling flexibility and certainty, and stem some employers’ abusive scheduling practices.

George MillerMiller, D-Martinez, the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said H.R. 5159, the Schedules That Work Act, “is about protecting basic dignity: the dignity of work and the dignity of the individual.”

“Workers need scheduling predictability so they can arrange for child care, pick up kids from school, or take an elderly parent to the doctor,” he said. “The Schedules That Work Act ensures that employers and employees have mutual respect for time dedicated to the workplace.”

Miller introduced the bill with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; they were joined at a Capitol Hill news conference by representatives from the National Women’s Law Center and two hourly workers. The bill already has 27 co-sponsors, and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are introducing a companion bill.

The lawmakers say workers in some of the economy’s fastest-growing but lowest-paying industries — including the retail, food service, and janitorial work — face erratic and irregular work schedules, making it hard to earn a decent living while meeting family responsibilities.

This bill, they say, would protect all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule, and would create a balanced process for employers to consider requests. Workers making such requests due to caregiving duties, a health condition, education or training courses or a second job would have to be granted the schedule change unless the employer has a bona fide business reason for denying it.

The bill would require paying retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early. It also would provide that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance; though schedules may later be changed, one hour’s worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than 24 hours’ notice.

And the bill would require an extra hour of pay for workers who are scheduled to work split shifts, or non-consecutive shifts within a single day.

“Low-wage workers in America are too often being jerked around,” DeLauro said. “These women — and they are usually women — cannot plan ahead, or make arrangements to see that theirs kids and family are being taken care of. This bill would protect low-wage workers from abuse and help ensure they can look after their families. Congress needs to ensure that people putting in a hard day’s work get a fair day’s pay and the ability to care for their loved ones.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 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 »

Highlights from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook Q&A

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took part in a far-ranging Facebook Q&A on Monday while visiting the social media giant’s Menlo Park headquarters, giving answers on everything from holding Russia responsible for the shoot-down of a jetliner to letting dogs on the sofa.

Here are some of the highlights:

Melinda Arons, Los Angeles: Secretary Clinton: What is your response to President Obama sayin earlier today that Putin has “direct responsibility” for the downing of MH17, and what can we do to bring justice to the families? How can we realistically hold Putin accountable with anything other than sanctions?
HRC: I agree with the President’s comment today and we should do more to ensure a thorough investigation that not only respects those who were murdered in the attack on the plane, but also tries to find answers to who is responsible. In addition, we should work to bring our European allies together with us on tougher sanctions that would make it clear to Putin that there is a price to pay for this kind of behavior and we should encourage Europeans to start immediately to make sure they are less dependent on Russian energy so they are not intimidated. Finally, I would like to see more support given to the Ukrainians to guard their borders and to protect themselves.

Amit Choudhary, Jamshedpur (Tata Nagar), India: Please describe your book in one sentence.
HRC: Just as individuals face hard choices in their lives as I reference in my book, so do nations, and we need to face up to them and be willing to make them for the good of our citizens and the rest of the world.

Lauren Hill, Negaunee, Mich.: What is your favorite book?
HRC: The Brothers Karamazov.

Danny Foglia, Jamesburg, N.J.: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” ruling, limiting the amount of money corporations and outside influences can contribute to political campaigns?
HRC: I would consider supporting an amendment among these lines that would prevent the abuse of our political system by excessive amounts of money if there is no other way to deal with the Citizen’s United decision.

Sophie Evekink, New York, N.Y.: If you became president of the United States, what would be your first action item on the agenda?
HRC: Answering hypothetically… the next President should work to grow the economy, increase upward mobility, and decrease inequality.

Esteban Wood, Miami: What is your opinion on Guantanamo Bay. Are you in favor of closing it? Why do you think the current administration has not closed it yet?
HRC: I supported closing it and know how hard the President has tried to do that.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2014
Under: Hillary Clinton | 7 Comments »

Hillary Clinton to do live Facebook Q&A today

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host a live Facebook Q&A at 2:30 p.m. today, Monday, July 21, during her visit to the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

Those interested in taking part in the conversation can pose questions and follow along via the Facebook page for her memoir, “Hard Choices.”

As previously reported here, Clinton is scheduled to attend a community meeting Wednesday at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in North Oakland to mark the Bay Area launch of “Talking is Teaching/ Talk, Read, Sing,” a campaign to help parents understand the importance of talking, reading and singing to children every day from birth.

UPDATE @ 2:07 P.M.: Clinton will visit Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters today as well, and will speak to company employees at about 5:20 p.m. “about the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned during her time as America’s 67th Secretary of State,” according to the company’s blog. “We’ll explore how those experiences have shaped her views on human rights, domestic policy and other topics.”

The event will be streamed live from a Tweet pinned to the top of Clinton’s Twitter page.

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2014
Under: Hillary Clinton | No Comments »