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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.”

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 3 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 »

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 »

Gun-rights backers decry Leland Yee’s hypocrisy

Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.

“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.

Leland YeeYee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.

That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.

“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”

Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.

An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.

Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.

“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 49 Comments »

Ron Paul to speak in Hayward and San Francisco

So soon after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s Bay Area fundraising blitz and speech at Cal, the region will get a visit from the Paul who started it all.

Ron PaulFormer 12-term congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul will speak on “Liberty Defined: The Future of Freedom,” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the university theater at the California State University, East Bay campus in Hayward. Admission is free and it’s open to the public, but tickets will be required and are available on a first-come, first-served basis either online or by calling the Independent Institute at (510) 632-1366, ext. 105.

Paul will do a separate, private reception and book-signing at the campus after his speech; the $75 price includes a copy of one of his books.

Paul also is scheduled to address the Commonwealth Club of California at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 10, at the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets are available online or by calling the club at 415-597-6705. This event also will be followed by a book-signing.

“The father of U.S Presidential hopeful Rand Paul and former U.S Presidential candidate himself, Ron Paul, a former U.S. Congressman from Texas, will tell us why he believes that to believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome,” the club’s news release says.

“He says it is to trust in the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation. It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions. In fact, Paul calls liberty the seed of America,” the release continues. “He maintains the term “liberty” is so commonly used in our country that it has almost become a mere cliché. But do we know what it means? What it promises? How it factors into our daily lives? And most important, can we recognize tyranny when it is sold to us disguised as a form of liberty?”

Paul’s CSU-EB appearance is sponsored by the Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies – a free-market think tank at the university – and by the Independent Institute, a nonprofit nonpartisan libertarian group based in Oakland. No state funds will be used to host or pay Paul (nor will Peter be robbed).

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: Ron Paul | 2 Comments »

9th Circuit refuses to block SF gun controls

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s refusal to block San Francisco’s requirement that handguns be locked up when they’re not being carried, and the city’s ban on sale of hollow-point ammunition.

hollow-point ammoThe National Rifle Association, an organization of former police officers and several individuals sued in 2009. A federal judge in 2012 refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the rules’ enforcement; a three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed that ruling Tuesday.

The plantiffs had argued that there are times – such as when sleeping or bathing – that carrying a handgun is impractical, yet having to retrieve the weapon from a locked box or trigger lock could impair their right to self-defense. San Francisco argued that firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in the city, and having unlocked firearms in the home increases risk of gun-related injury, especially to children.

“San Francisco has drawn a reasonable inference that mandating that guns be kept locked when not being carried will increase public safety and reduce firearm casualties,” Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote.

And the hollow-point ammo ban “does not prevent the use of handguns or other weapons in self-defense,” the judge wrote. “The regulation in this case limits only the manner in which a person may exercise Second Amendment rights by making it more difficult to purchase certain types of ammunition.”

San Francisco’s evidence more than “fairly supports” its conclusion that hollow-point bullets are more lethal than other types of ammunition, Ikuta wrote.

The court recognizes the significance of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, “but we also recognize that the Second Amendment right, like the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, may be subjected to governmental restrictions which survive the appropriate level of scrutiny,” she wrote. “Because San Francisco’s regulations do not destroy the Second Amendment right, and survive intermediate scrutiny, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Jackson would not succeed on the merits of her claims.”

Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, issued a statement saying there’s “confusion and inconsistency” about what legal standards to use when evaluating Second Amendment challenges.

“This case provides a perfect vehicle for these important issues to be resolved, either by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court, and we will seek review immediately,” Michel said. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify that it meant what it said in its decisions from 2008 and 2010 — that the Second Amendment is not a second class constitutional right.”

The NRA more recently has sued to block enforcement of San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. A federal judge in February refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the ordinance’s enforcement, so it’s scheduled to take effect April 7.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 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 »

CA17: George Takei to raise money for Honda

Rep. Mike Honda is trying to take his campaign fundraising to warp speed with a reception next month featuring actor and internet sensation George Takei of “Star Trek” fame.

George TakeiThe March 20 reception in San Francisco – location known only to those who RSVP – seeks anywhere from $50 for basic entry to $1,000 for a host committee level or $2,600 for an “Oh Myyy! Giver,” a nod to Takei’s renowned catchphrase.

Honda, D-San Jose, could definitely use a boost – he was out-raised in every quarter of last year by his Democratic challenger, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont. Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, is also in the 17th Congressional District race.

The hosts include venture capitalist Andrew Rappaport and his wife, Deborah; Ted Fang, president and executive director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and AsianWeek; Yahoo! employee and Democratic activist Regina Wallace-Jones; i-Human Patients CEO Norm Wu; Palo Alto City Councilman Marc Berman; personal injury attorney Dale Minami; business attorney Quyen Ta; Four Freedoms Fund senior program officer Henry Der; Realtor Pam Rodgers; and UC-Hastings law professor Carol Izumi.

Takei, 76, might be as famous now for his social media presence and activism as for his iconic role as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series and related movies.

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Judge refuses to stop SF’s ammo magazine ban

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and so the law will take effect as planned on April 7.

The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden such magazines’ manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them. San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban that will require owners to get rid of them – turn them over to police, remove them from the city, or transfer them to a licensed firearms dealer – within 90 days, no matter when they were bought.

30-round magazineThe San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, backed and represented by the National Rifle Association, sued in November to prevent the new law from taking effect. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a 12-page ruling Wednesday that concluded immediate enforcement is in the public interest.

“In assessing the balance of equities, those rare occasions must be weighed against the more frequent and documented occasions when a mass murderer with a gun holding eleven or more rounds empties the magazine and slaughters innocents,” Alsup wrote. “One critical difference is that whereas the civilian defender rarely will exhaust the up-to-ten magazine, the mass murderer has every intention of firing every round possible and will exhaust the largest magazine available to him. On balance, more innocent lives will be saved by limiting the capacity of magazines than by allowing the previous regime of no limitation to continue.”

The judge also noted that 86 percent of mass shootings in the past 30 years involved at least one magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds, and more people are injured and killed per mass shooting with such magazines than without. “San Francisco’s interest in preventing another Sandy Hook tragedy constitutes a ‘critical public interest.’”

A spokesman for Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, said the plaintiffs will appeal Alsup’s ruling.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a statement applauding the decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has been very clear that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations, and that Second Amendment rights aren’t unlimited,” he said. “Unfortunately, the NRA is pushing a radical litigation strategy that goes far beyond what’s reasonable. I’m grateful to the district court for drawing that distinction in persuasive terms.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 4 Comments »

SF Sheriff wants to sign inmates up for insurance

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi wants authority to help county jail inmates submit applications for health insurance under the nation’s new law.

Mirkarimi proposes that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors pass an ordinance to designate his department for such work. It would be one of the first county jail systems in the nation so designated.

The sheriff said many inmates have mental health problems, addictions and other chronic health problems, yet have neither health insurance nor money to pay for medical care after they’re released. Coverage provided under the state’s newly expanded Medi-Cal program for the poor, or bought with a subsidy through the Covered California insurance exchange, would aid these inmates’ re-entry into the community and “have the potential to positively affect public health and recidivism,” his news release said.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: healthcare reform, Public safety, San Francisco politics | 2 Comments »