Alan Simpson unloads on Oakland protesters

Politico has the scoop today on an angry letter that former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson sent to the California Alliance for Retired Americans after that group protested outside his appearance at Oakland’s Paramount Theater in March.

Simpson and Erskine Bowles – who served former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff – were speaking together in Oakland because they had co-chaired President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The alliance, along with some unions and other groups, rallied to protest the commission’s final recommendations, which included raising Social Security’s early retirement age to 64 and the standard retirement age to 69; reducing benefits for the more affluent half of retirees; and raising the payroll tax that funds the program.

Simpson apparently was miffed about a flyer the protesters handed out, and sent them a letter.

Alan SimpsonYou use the faces of young people, who are the ones who are going to get gutted while you continue to push out your blather and drivel. My suggestion to you — an honest one — read the damn report. The Moment of Truth — 67 pages, and then tell me if we’re not doing the right thing with Social Security. What a wretched group of seniors you must be to use the faces of the very people that we are trying to save, while the “greedy geezers” like you use them as a tool and a front for your nefarious bunch of crap. You must feel some sense of shame for shoveling out this bulls**t.

California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith said today that Simpson “made no meaningful attempt to address the concerns of current and future retirees that his commission’s proposal would weaken Social Security and place benefits at risk.”

“Instead, Simpson chose to lower the level of discourse to insults that border on abusive language. This sort of response doesn’t move the debate on Social Security forward,” Smith said. “If anything, it’s a slap in the face to millions of workers who have legitimate concerns about how out of touch longtime DC insiders like Simpson are when it comes to protecting a program that’s essential to nearly every American.”


Protests near (Social Security) and far (AIPAC)

Members of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, labor unions and other organizations will rally outside Oakland’s Paramount Theater tonight during an appearance by the co-chairs of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, had proposed a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases that included raising Social Security’s early retirement age to 64 and the standard retirement age to 69; reducing benefits for the more affluent half of retirees; and raising the payroll tax that funds the program.

The commission’s final report, released in December 2010, failed to get the 14 votes (out of 18 members) needed for formally endorsement.

Tonight’s Paramount Theater event is part of a national speaking tour to promote the deficit reduction plan. But the groups protesting outside 7 to 8 p.m. note Social Security was on the commission’s chopping block even though it hasn’t contributed to the nation’s deficit; they want “a fair budget plan that doesn’t gut vital lifelines for seniors and the disabled.”

Elsewhere, five Bay Area activists traveled to Washington to help disrupt the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference as part of an Occupy AIPAC effort. Rick Sterling of Walnut Crrek, Hassan Fouda of Kensington, Barbara Briggs-Letson of Sebastopol, Michael Kochowiec of Walnut Creek and Rae Abileah of San Francisco were among those who infiltrated the conference to protest potential military action against Iran.

UPDATE @ 10:37 A.M.: Another protest is brewing at 5 p.m. today as Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to address a crowd at Temple Emanu-El on Lake Street in San Francisco (after an introduction by Gov. Jerry Brown). Organized by members of the International Jewish Anti Zionist Network and the Arab American Union Members Council, the protestors aim to call attention to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, its 1996 invasion of Lebanon and its treatment of Palestinians. “Apartheid is not a vision for a just future,” said organizer Toby Kramer. “Hosting Peres at a house of workshop desecrates our Jewish ethical tradition; it is an offense to all places of worship.”


Lawmakers: Cancel your Amazon.com account

A pair of East Bay lawmakers will join with a group of nonprofits and concerned citizens Monday to launch a campaign urging Californians to cancel their Amazon.com accounts until the retail giant backs off its ballot-measure effort to repeal an online sales tax.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who were instrumental in the tax legislation’s passage, will hold a news conference on the State Capitol’s north steps Monday morning with Nan Brasmer, president of the California Alliance for Retired Americans; Jessica Lehman, lead organizer with Community Resources for Independent Living; and a few dozen California seniors, families, people with disabilities and health and human services advocates.

They’ll be making a case that making Amazon collect sales tax from Californians’ online purchases would level the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar businesses, bringing the state $200 million per year in revenue that’s desperately needed to maintain vital public services.

After the news conference, participants will testify to the state Senate Appropriations Committee in support of additional measures needed to raise revenues.

Monday’s event, one of several planned statewide, is sponsored by the Health and Human Services Network of California, California Partnership, Health Access, California Immigrant Policy Center, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Parent Voices, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Community Resources for Independent Living and other groups.


Prop. 98 protest set for Saturday in Oakland

Opponents of Proposition 98 on this June’s ballot are gathering Bay Area seniors, renters and community activists to protest outside an apartment owners’ meeting this Saturday in Oakland.

The Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County — a nonprofit trade association representing more than 20,000 Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Albany, Emeryville, and Piedmont rental property owners — is holding a trade show and expo Saturday in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, at 4700 Lincoln Ave.

Protesters plan to blitz it at 11 a.m. From their news release:

Inside, apartment owners will be scheming to trick voters into passing the deceptive Proposition 98 which abolishes rent control and jeopardizes important renter protections. Even though Prop. 98 was written by landlords, for the sole financial benefit of landlords, the proponents of this measure are trying to trick voters into believing their initiative is all about eminent domain reform. Opponents of Prop. 98 will urge voters to read the fine print, warning voters “don’t be deceived.”
Sherlock Holmes will be roaming the crowd “investigating” the deceit and deception in Prop. 98. The group will also unveil a giant magnifying glass – a symbol to voters to “read the fine print” of Prop. 98 so voters are not deceived by the landlords’ scheme.

Among those speaking at the protest will be Tenants Together executive director Dean Preston, co-chair of the Coalition to Protect California Renters; Hayward activist Jim Forsyth on behalf of the California Alliance for Retired Americans; folks from Just Cause Oakland and the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League; elected officials; and others.

The protesters say landlords are using Proposition 98’s promise to reform eminent domain — government’s power to force owners to sell their private property either to government or to a third party for development as a public use — as a smokescreen to eliminate rent control; cut renter protections such as the fair return of deposits; stop future water projects; gut local land-use planning; and erode environmental protections. They claim Proposition 99 would accomplish real eminent-domain reform without the hidden agendas.