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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 »

Tom Steyer targets senate, gov races in 7 states

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer will focus his anti-climate-change political activism this year on races in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, he announced Thursday.

Tom SteyerSteyer said his NextGen Climate organization will support candidates who have the courage to tackle climate change as a key issue.

“The debate on climate change is settled: it is here, it is human-caused, and it is already having a devastating impact on our communities, but we need to accelerate the level of political support to address this critical issue before it’s too late,” he said in a news reelase. “This means making politicians feel the heat—in their campaign coffers and at the polls.”

The release said NextGen Climate will “use climate as a wedge issue, both to motivate voter turnout with the rising electorate and to demonstrate that being anti-science will hurt our opponents among persuadable voters.” That will include criticizing policy positions that benefit fossil fuels and candidates who take money from the oil and coal industries.

So NextGen Climate intends to be active in:

  • Colorado, where U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner – “a science denier – has taken hundreds of thousands in donations from fossil fuel companies while voting for their interests;”
  • Florida, where incumbent Gov, Rick Scott “is a climate denier and has decimated efforts to ‘preserve environmentally sensitive land;’”
  • Iowa, where U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst “has ‘not seen proven proof ‘ that climate change ‘is entirely man-made’ and former energy CEO Mark Jacobs is ‘not convinced that man-made causes are causing’ climate change;”
  • Maine, where incumbent Gov. Paul LePage “denies that climate change is a threat, rather saying it offers Maine ‘a lot of opportunities;’”
  • Michigan, where U.S. Senate candidate Terry Lynn Land “has the support of the Koch Brothers who are spending millions on her race and have threatened the state’s water and air quality with their dirty energy stockpiles;”
  • New Hampshire, where U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown “looks out for the Koch Brothers and his Big Oil buddies, taking their campaign dollars and voting to protect $24 billion in oil subsidies;” and
  • Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Corbett “favors powerful corporate energy executives over Pennsylvania families.”
  • “Climate change will not be solved by easy answers or quick fixes, but the path forward is simple,” said Steyer. “Our country must have the courage to solve our climate crisis for the sake of the next generation.”

    Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
    Under: Environment, Global warming, U.S. Senate | 2 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 »

    Obama to visit Walmart in Mt. View on Friday

    President Barack Obama will visit a Walmart store in Mountain View on Friday to talk about the importance of energy efficiency, a White House official said Tuesday.

    The president arrives in Silicon Valley Thursday to do two fundraisers benefiting the Democratic National Committee – one, an exclusive tech roundtable for 20 at the Los Altos home of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki – at $32,400 per head – and the other a bigger event at the Mountain View headquarters of Y Combinator, cohosted by company president Sam Altman and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, for which tickets cost from $1,000 to $32,400 per head.

    Further details on the Friday event in Mountain View will come soon, the White House said.

    I’ll be the pool reporter for Thursday’s and Friday’s events, so watch here for detailed accounts.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

    Lawmakers cheer tougher penalties for pot grows

    Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.

    The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don’t own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.

    This had been the aim of a bill introduced last summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

    “Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common,” Thompson said in a news release Monday. “These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”

    Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, “California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife,” he noted.

    Both he and Farr noted the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can’t be tolerated. “With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy,” Farr said.

    LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. “The Sentencing Commission’s recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation’s laws are held responsible.”

    Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 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 »

    Boxer supports Danville couple’s MICRA measure

    A ballot measure to raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence lawsuit awards has gained a high-profile supporter: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

    Bob and Carmen Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, submitted 840,000 signatures a week ago to qualify their measure for November’s ballot.

    Barbara Boxer“I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release issued Monday by the campaign supporting the mesaure.

    “I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies,” Boxer continued. “That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve.”

    The measure – supported by trial-lawyer groups – would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery, now fixed at $250,000, for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

    The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

    Medical organizations oppose the measure. “A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said last week in a news release. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

    Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
    Under: ballot measures, Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

    Rand Paul in Berkeley & SF next week

    Fresh from his second consecutive win in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul will be in the Bay Area next week to raise funds and speak to students about government surveillance’s intrusion on liberty.

    Rand PaulThe junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky has fundraising events on the morning of Tuesday, March 18 at the Olympic Club of San Francisco. First comes a roundtable breakfast hosted by cardiologist Dr. Michel Accad, 2012 congressional candidate Dr. Wayne Iverson of San Diego, and John Dennis, a Republican now posing his third consecutive challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; tickets for that cost from $500 to $2,500. Later the same morning, contributors will pay $500 each for a private meet-and-greet with Paul, hosted by Dennis and investor Robert Leppo.

    Then, on Wednesday March 19, Paul will address the Berkeley Forum – a nonpartisan, student-run group at UC-Berkeley – about domestic security, the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata, and the public debate regarding privacy and its Constitutional implications. The 3 p.m. event is free for Cal students and faculty, $15 for the general public; tickets are available online.

    Paul’s campaign strategy involves mobilizing young libertarian-leaning voters, much as President Obama did for young Democrats in 2008, and believes issues of privacy and civil liberties will help accomplish that.

    Posted on Thursday, March 13th, 2014
    Under: Rand Paul | 4 Comments »

    Video: DiFi rips CIA for violating law, constitution

    The CIA violated federal law and the constitution by searching congressional overseers’ computers, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday morning.

    Feinstein, D-Calif., delivered this scathing floor speech:

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    The Washington Post puts it in context.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
    Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 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 »