Part of the Bay Area News Group

Most Bay Area House members oppose ISIS plan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jerry McNerney were the only greater Bay Area House members who voted Wednesday in favor of President Obama’s plan to beat back the Islamic State in part by training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The House voted 273-156 to add an amendment authorizing Obama’s plans to a short-term spending bill passed shortly after that will keep the federal government operating through mid-December. Voting yes were 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted no.

Nancy PelosiPelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t whip Democratic votes behind the scenes, but did make a floor speech in favor of the amendment in which she called the Islamic State’s brutality “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

“We wish that this action that we’re called upon to do today was not necessary,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is that, with the diplomatic, political and humanitarian foundation that the President has laid out, with the narrowness of the request that he is making to us – it is not pleasant; it is not easy; it is hard – but it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”

A McNerney spokesman didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment. (See update at bottom.)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure “an important, initial step forward” against a group that “represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”

But several Bay Area Democrats explained why they couldn’t vote for the plan.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said he supports “the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, support for local capacities on the ground, and expanded humanitarian assistance. Arming and training Syrians and Iraqis, and perhaps eventually supporting them with airstrikes, may push back ISIL’s gains. But it will not defeat extremism.”

“There is no lasting military solution to extremism. The only lasting solution is a political solution. One in which the rights and concerns of all religious and cultural groups are respected,” Honda said. “The US must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to encourage moderate Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria to move away from ISIL, and towards an alternative and inclusive future.”

“Simply arming the Syrian opposition groups comes with great risk,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said in a statement issued after the vote. “Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a debate and vote in Congress that specifically authorizes the use of force against ISIL, and the involvement of a broad, international coalition of Muslim and Western countries to diminish ISIL and degrade their organizational capabilities.”

“To defeat ISIL, I support U.S. led airstrikes and the building of a real, substantive coalition of regional allies who will stand up to defend their own countries and existence. I do not support putting substantial U.S. resources in, and betting the house on, unproven ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the course of U.S. military history, this proxy-war approach has had disastrous results and no evidence in this case has convinced me the result would be any different.”

“I agree with the President’s decision to remove the threat created by ISIS but the plan laid out by the White House is still too vague,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in his statement. “I could not support the amendment without clear answers to how that threat will be removed and exactly what the United States role will be. ISIS remains a roadblock in creating stability in the region and they must be stopped. However, I am fearful today’s vote does not bring us closer to our ultimate goal of peace.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, issued a statement saying the vote “was not, as some have argued, a choice between supporting the President’s plan and simply doing nothing about ISIL. To be clear, I share President Obama’s assessment of ISIL as a brutal terrorist organization, I support the goal of destroying them, and I believe there should be an American role in a broad, multinational response to ISIL.

“My ‘no’ vote today is because this plan for a new American-led war in Iraq and Syria is being advanced without a proper congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, and because I believe the strategic assumptions underlying the plan are deeply flawed,” Huffman said. “Frankly, we should know better than to provide arms and training to fighters we know very little about – and what we do know is troubling. We should know better than to take the lead in fighting and funding this war without a real multinational coalition where the countries most impacted by the ISIL threat carry their fair share of the risk and cost. And we should know better than to do all of this on the basis of wishful assumptions and rosy assurances that the conflict will not escalate out of control.”

UPDATE 5:24 P.M.: McNerney just emailed me a statement saying that “taking military action is the gravest responsibility of our government, and I take my role in helping decide our nation’s policy very seriously.

“I support the current plan to engage and ultimately destroy ISIL, but it won’t be successful unless we can enlist an alliance of nations within the region that are fully and demonstrably committed to true democratic inclusion and are willing to fight for their own freedom,” he said, including training potential allied military units off the battlefield and arming competent and reliable allies.

“Meanwhile, the President must demonstrate America’s commitment to the region by using very limited American air power in conjunction with local military units to help prevent additional ISIL territorial gains. I do not support the involvement of American ground troops beyond their training mission, or the excessive use of American air power. Both of these are not needed and would likely be counterproductive in the end,” McNerney continued. “While I supported this amendment, I also urged my colleagues to consider the long-term effects of authorizing force: to our soldiers, to the innocent civilians, and to sustained stability in the Middle East.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

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….
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Two from Bay Area picked as White House fellows

Five Californians, including two from the Bay Area, are among the 15 people who were announced Monday as the 2014-2015 class of White House Fellows.

The White House Fellows program – now in its 50th year – was created by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising leaders “first-hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”

Fellows take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs, and also participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C. The selection process is highly competitive, based on “a record of professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, and a proven commitment to public service,” the White House said. “Each Fellow must possess the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute meaningfully at senior levels in the federal government.”

Here are the selectees’ bios, as presented by the White House:

Jacob DonnellyJacob E. Donnelly, San Francisco, CA, was a Senior Vice President at New Island Capital. He was responsible for private equity investments in companies that generate meaningful social, environmental, and community benefits alongside financial returns. Previously, Jacob was the Co-Founder of Farm Builders, a mission-driven company helping farmers replant tree crops in Liberia. He helped raise the seed capital, including fellowships from Echoing Green and the Rainer Arnhold Foundations, and launched Farm Builders following an internship in the Office of the President, H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. From 2005-2007, Jacob was the Co-Founder and Director of The Freedom Campaign, a non-profit grassroots effort to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Burma. He began his career as a management consultant and served on the Board of Directors of IDinsight, a non-profit organization that helps leaders in developing countries use evidence to improve their social impact. Jacob received his undergraduate degree from Babson College, where he earned the Roger Babson Award. He holds a Master in Public Administration/International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.

Jonathan DorseyJonathan M. Dorsey, Woodside, CA, is a social entrepreneur and recently served as Co-Founder and Director of the Impact Careers Initiative, an Aspen Institute program researching how to recruit talent to public-impact work. He also worked as an advisor to the Franklin Project, a bipartisan campaign for national service. Previously, Jonny co-founded and served as Executive Director of Global Health Corps, which places emerging global leaders with high-impact non-profits to build health systems around the world. Jonny was inspired to launch Global Health Corps by his experience co-founding and leading FACE AIDS, a nonprofit that mobilized students in the fight against AIDS. Jonny was named an Echoing Green Fellow, a Draper Richards Social Entrepreneur, and received the Next Generation Award from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Jonny also served on the Harvard College National Advisory Board for Public Service, the Riekes Center Board of Directors, and as a Trustee of Partners in Health. He is a graduate of Stanford University, where he received the Deans’ Award for Academic Achievement and was President of the student body. He received his M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business and M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Read about the other Californians selected as White House fellows, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

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 »

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 »

Obama, Hillary & Rand Paul visiting Bay Area

It’s a presidential (and would-be presidential) bonanza here in the Bay Area, with President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul all visiting in the next week.

Paul, the junior Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, arrives Thursday for a three-day jaunt. Among the highlights will be his keynote speech at Reboot 2014, a conference organized by LincolnLabs, a libertarian-leaning political tech group.

Politico says Paul is on the hunt for “two things Democrats usually expect to have locked up in the Golden State: rich technology donors and computer geeks game to leave their jobs to work on a White House campaign.”

President Obama arrives in San Francisco on Tuesday night from Seattle; he’ll stay overnight and then attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon – tickets start at $10,000 each – at the Los Altos home of real estate developer George Marcus. Obama will head for Los Angeles later Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, Clinton is scheduled to attend a community meeting 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.

This campaign is in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative between Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Locally, the effort is being championed by business and community organizations including the Bay Area Council, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland, and Kaiser Permanente.

Posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul | 2 Comments »

Mark Meuser launches Bay Area Republican PAC

What’s Mark Meuser up to?

Mark MeuserMeuser, you’ll recall, is the Walnut Creek civil litigation attorney who ran against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, in 2012 (a race DeSaulnier won, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent). More recently, he’s been donning Minuteman garb to deliver speeches on the nation’s Founding Fathers at meetings of local Republican groups.

Reports filed Friday with the Secretary of State’s office show Meuser, 39, this year created the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, which he funded with $10,500 of his own money. Most of that money already has been spent, including $7,000 on television ad production and $2,500 for print ads in the Antioch Herald. He also registered a BARepublican.com website, though it’s not active yet.

But Meuser is being a bit cryptic about what it’s all for.

“The PAC has not spent any money on behalf of any candidate,” he said in an email conversation Monday. “The PAC is preparing for this November’s election and the money it spent was in preparation for that.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 2 Comments »

Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, veterans | 1 Comment »

President Obama returns to Bay Area on July 23

But… we’ve barely even had time to miss him! {sarcasm}

President Barack Obama will return to Silicon Valley for a July 23 fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets for the luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate developer and Democratic benefactor George Marcus start at $10,000 per person (including a photo opportunity and lunch) or $32,400 per couple (including a VIP photo opportunity and lunch).

Also scheduled to attend are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

Obama headlined two Democratic National Committee fundraisers May 8 in Los Altos and San Jose. Earlier, he was in the Bay Area for Democratic fundraisers in November 2013, June 2013, and April 2013.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 22 Comments »

Longtime lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing

Longtime South Bay lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing, friends say.

Vasconcellos, 82, has been hospitalized at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, but will probably be moved to his Santa Clara condo Friday or Saturday at his request for end-of-life hospice care. Relatives reportedly are planning a farewell celebration in which he can participate.

vasconcellos tweet

Vasconcellos, a Democrat, served in the Assembly from 1967 to 1996 and in the state Senate from 1996 to 2004, making him the longest-serving legislator in California’s history. His long chairmanship of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee – later renamed the Appropriations Committee – made him one of Sacramento’s foremost budget wonks, but he also championed causes such as voting rights for teenagers, medical marijuana and self-esteem.

In 2002 he founded the Vasconcellos Legacy Project “to counter the cynicism that was poisoning our political discourse. The VLP was dedicated to the proposition that positive political change is possible, especially because we human beings are innately inclined toward the good.” The project’s “Politics of Trust” initiative seeks to replace society’s partisan, gridlocked, dysfunctional politics with a new model “based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision.”

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 1 Comment »