Part of the Bay Area News Group

Boxer wants tougher federal toy-gun standards

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 at 5:01 pm in Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to take a page from California and enact new requirements that toy guns be marked so that they can’t be mistaken for real firearms.

This is a real handgun“The death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last month is just the most recent example of what can happen when a police officer mistakes a play weapon for a real firearm,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to commission Chairman Elliot Kaye on Wednesday. “The Commission plays a critical role in protecting the public from possible injury or death associated with toys.”

A police officer shot Rice to death Nov. 22, about two seconds after arriving in a park where the boy had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband. The orange safety tip that is supposed to identify the toy as fake might’ve been removed.

Boxer wants the commission to review the Imitation Firearm Safety Act – a new California law that will require all toy guns sold in the state to be painted a bright color – and adopt provisions of it to strengthen current national toy-gun standards.

California’s new law, inspired by 2013′s fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa, requires that pellet guns have not only the orange ring on the barrel as required by federal law, but also fluorescent color on the trigger guard and elsewhere.

“We don’t need another child’s death to remind us that we need to change the current laws regulating imitation firearms,” Boxer wrote. “Any modifications you can make to the existing toy gun standards that will help ensure that law enforcement officers are able to distinguish fake guns from real firearms are much appreciated.”

Critics of the California law have noted many real firearms (like the one pictured above) can have fluorescent-colored parts as well.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
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Your International Human Rights Day review

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 at 2:02 pm in campaign finance, Civil liberties, War on Terror

Hey, it’s International Human Rights Day!

The date was set by the United Nations in 1950 “to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

Nice! Let’s take a celebratory scan of some of today’s top stories!

“All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

Ah. Well, at least we can be sure ordinary people’s voices are heard by lawmakers come election time.

“The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders’ ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars,” the New York Times reports.

OK, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

“For the third time in four nights, mayhem defined a protest march from Berkeley to Oakland, as demonstrators took over a freeway, looted businesses and threw objects at police, authorities said,” our own Bay Area News Group reports. “The demonstrations were part of an ongoing national movement against police violence, spurred by grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Missouri and New York after the deaths of two unarmed black men.”

Yeeeesh. Well, at least there’s some progress elsewhere on protecting that most basic of human rights – life itself.

“The Ebola virus that has killed thousands in West Africa is still ‘running ahead’ of efforts to contain it, the head of the World Health Organization has said,” the BBC reports.

I give up.

I surrender

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‘Cromnibus’ includes medical marijuana protection

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 at 10:55 am in marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House

The final “cromnibus” federal spending bill that Congress will consider this week includes an amendment barring the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws – something a growing number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pursuing for more than a decade.

The House in May had voted 219-289 for such an amendment, co-authored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach – a sudden success 11 years after it was first offered.

When this “must-pass” spending bill – which would keep the government from shutting down when funding runs out Thursday night – was released Tuesday night, the amendment was included. Farr issued a statement Wednesday calling this “great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country.”

“The public has made it clear that they want common sense drug policies. The majority of states have passed reasonable medical marijuana laws but the federal government still lags behind. Our amendment prevents the unnecessary prosecution of patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people,” he said.

“We need to rethink how we treat medical marijuana in this country and today’s announcement is a big step in the right direction,” Farr added. “Patients can take comfort knowing they will have safe access to the medical care they need without fear of federal prosecution. And all of us can feel better knowing our federal dollars will be spent more wisely fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients.”

Bill Piper, the Drug Policy Alliance’s national affairs director, said Congress for the first time is truly letting states set their own medical marijuana polices. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”

The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Administration from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it.

The news wasn’t all good for marijuana advocates, however. The “cromnibus” also includes an amendment blocking Washington, D.C. from spending any federal or local funds to implement the marijuana-legalization initiative approved last month by 70 percent of voters.

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Reactions to the CIA torture report

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 at 11:09 am in Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, John McCain, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

    More, after the jump…
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    No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

    By Josh Richman
    Monday, December 8th, 2014 at 3:42 pm in Assembly, Nora Campos, Toni Atkins

    Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

    Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

    But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

    Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

    Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

    “It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

    Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

    Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

    “To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”

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    ‘Six Californias’ backer to co-produce reality show

    By Josh Richman
    Monday, December 8th, 2014 at 11:06 am in Uncategorized

    Coming soon from the producer of “Six Californias:” a reality show about Silicon Valley startups struggling for success.

    Tim DraperYes, Atherton venture capitalist Tim Draper’s Draper University of Heroes – the San Mateo school/ecosystem/incubator/ashram he founded in 2013 to nurture tech innovators – has partnered with Ugly Brother Studios to produce a show that will follow students as they build and launch a Silicon Valley startup.

    They’ve put out a casting call for “young entrepreneurs with brilliant business ideas who would like to enter the Spring Residential Program and be featured on the series! Selected students will be followed as they enter the hands-on curriculum of the program and apply their new knowledge, network and skills to their startup businesses.”

    If you want to be considered, send your name, age, contact information, a brief biography, a statement of why you’re a good candidate, and a current photo to bigideacasting@gmail.com.

    Yet this show about innovation might not be so innovative. Syfy has already announced a similar reality show – “The Bazillion Dollar Club” – will start airing in 2015.

    Draper, 56, was the proponent of “Six Californias,” a proposed punchline ballot measure to break the Golden State into six parts. But after he spent $5.2 million of his own money to gather signatures to put the measure on 2016’s ballot, the Secretary of State’s office in September found the measure had failed to qualify because too many of the signatures Draper submitted were invalid.

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    CA17: FEC reports reveal final spending frenzy

    By Josh Richman
    Saturday, December 6th, 2014 at 12:12 pm in 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House

    New Federal Election Commission reports shed new light on the frenzy of spending that occurred in the final weeks of the 17th Congressional District showdown between Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, which Khanna lost by 3.6 percentage points.

    Perhaps most illuminating is the report filed by Californians for Innovation, a super PAC formed by Khanna backers to raise and spend money independently in support of his campaign.

    Californians for Innovation reported raising $310,000 and spending $484,692 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $14,930 cash on hand and no debt at the end of that time. In all, the super PAC raised $790,000 and spent $805,070 this year to support Khanna.

    Notable donations during the final weeks included another $100,000 from Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, bringing his and his wife’s total contributions to $350,000 – far and away the super PAC’s biggest benefactors.

    The next-biggest contribution after mid-October was $70,000 from billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Portola Valley. Other notable contributions included $25,000 from Ashok Krishnamurthi, vice chairman and co-founder of San Jose’s Xsigo Systems; and $25,000 from Anil Godhwani, CEO and co-founder at Milpitas’ Habitera Inc. (bringing Godhwani’s total contributions to $45,000).

    And another $15,000 came in from San Francisco-based OO Investment LLC, bringing that shadowy entity’s total ante to $40,000. Corporate records reveal nothing about OO Investment’s partners or activities, and the lawyer designated as its agent has not answered repeated queries.

    The super PAC’s money paid for radio ads and mailers on Khanna’s behalf as his own campaign – once far more well-funded than Honda’s – ran dry in the contest’s final weeks.

    Khanna’s campaign raised $172,368 and spent $314,598 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $5,134 cash on hand but $114,415 in debts at the end of that period. Over the entire course of the campaign, Khanna raised $4,597,033 and spent $4,460,621.

    Honda’s campaign raised $317,663 and spent $710,226 from Oct. 16 through Nov. 24, leaving $27,732 cash on hand and no debt at the end of that period. Over the entire course of the campaign, Honda raised $3,244,647 and spent $3,202,356.

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    Stevie Wonder in Oakland: ‘Black Lives Matter’

    By Josh Richman
    Saturday, December 6th, 2014 at 11:23 am in Uncategorized

    The incomparable Stevie Wonder played the final regular date of his 11-city “Songs in the Key of Life” tour Friday night at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, and he was a powerhouse.

    After performing the landmark 1976 album in its entirety, he performed an encore of several more of his hits, playfully baiting the crowd between songs. But after playing the first few notes of “Living for the City,” from 1973’s Innervisions, he stopped abruptly and told the audience there’s been “some bullshit” going on in this country lately – two glaring failures to indict, clearly references to the “no true bill” decisions rendered by grand juries for the police officers who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and who killed Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.

    My colleague, Jane Tyska, captured most of the rest of his words on video:

    Note his comment that “right around here, there was a movie about it” – a reference to “Fruitvale Station,” which dramatized the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant at the hands of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle.

    He had made a similar statement Wednesday night in Seattle, though without leading the crowd in a chant before launching into the song.

    A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
    Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty
    His parents give him love and affection
    To keep him strong, movin’ in the right direction
    Living just enough, just enough for the city

    His father works some days for fourteen hours
    And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
    His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
    And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny
    Living just enough, just enough for the city

    His sister’s black but she is sure enough pretty
    Her skirt is short but, Lord, her legs are sturdy
    To walk to school she’s got to get up early
    Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
    Living just enough, just enough for the city

    Her brother’s smart, he’s got more sense than many
    His patience’s long but soon he won’t have any
    To find a job is like a haystack needle
    ‘Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people
    Living just enough, just enough for the city

    His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
    He spends his life walkin’ the streets of New York City
    He’s almost dead from breathin’ in air pollution
    He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution
    Living just enough, just enough for the city

    I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
    And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
    This place is cruel, nowhere could be much colder
    If we don’t change, the world will soon be over
    Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city

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    Denham, Valadao vote against GOP immigration bill

    By Josh Richman
    Thursday, December 4th, 2014 at 4:24 pm in David Valadao, Immigration, Jeff Denham, U.S. House

    The House voted 219-197 today to pass a bill seeking to rein in President Obama’s executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation – a purely symbolic move, as the bill is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would draw the president’s veto, anyway.

    Three Democrats crossed the aisle to join 216 Republicans in voting for the bill; seven Republicans crossed the aisle to join 190 Democrats in voting against it. All Bay Area members opposed it.

    Among the Republicans voting “nay” were Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, both of whom represent heavily agricultural Central Valley districts with large Latino populations. Both were among the three House Republicans who last year cosponsored their chamber’s version of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed with bipartisan support in June 2013.

    Neither Denham’s nor Valadao’s offices answered requests for comments on their votes today.

    Denham had issued a statement last month blasting the executive actions. “The President’s decision to bypass Congress and ignore the U.S. Constitution will only further erode trust and create greater obstacles to a lasting fix,” he said in the Nov. 20 statement. “Congress must be involved in fixing our broken system. His actions today deal a harsh blow to our efforts to establish real solutions.”

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    He’ll be back. Again. And again.

    By Josh Richman
    Thursday, December 4th, 2014 at 11:39 am in Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Ladies and gentlemen, the former governor of the great state of California: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Looks as if our fair state’s landmarks are well represented; I see the Griffith Observatory and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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