Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meet the new board

Bruin Democrats elections were tonight, and here's your brand spankin' new board!

President: Jesse Melgar
External VP: Navid Pour-Ghasemi
Internal VP: Brandon Harrison
Treasurer: Anna Scudder
Fundraising: Chris Ah San
Events: Sonya Mehta
Issues: Flavia de la Fuente
Publicity: Sonja Weaver-Madsen
Social: Jessica Blatchley

A big round of thanks to all those that ran for office!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Darrell Issa: 9/11 "simply was an aircraft"

Didja guys hear what Republican Congressman Darrell Issa said two weeks ago? Probably not, the media quickly buried this story.

San Diego GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was under siege for suggesting the federal government had already done enough to help New York cope with "a fire" that "simply was an aircraft" hitting the World Trade Center.

"That is a pretty distorted view of things," said Frank Fraone, a Menlo Park, Calif., fire chief who led a 67-man crew at Ground Zero. "Whether they're a couple of planes or a couple of missiles, they still did the same damage."

"New York was attacked by Al Qaeda. It doesn't have to be attacked by Congress," added Long Island Rep. Pete King, a Republican.

"I'm really surprised by Darrell Issa," King added. "It showed such a cavalier dismissal of what happened to New York. It's wrong and inexcusable."

Lorie Van Aucken, who lost her husband, Kenneth, in the attacks, slammed Issa's "cruel and heartless" comments.

"It's really discouraging. People stepped up and did the right thing. They sacrificed themselves and now a lot of people are getting really horrible illnesses," she added.

Under pressure from all sides, the Golden State pol - who got rich selling car alarms after getting busted for car theft as a teen - pulled a partial U-turn. He issued a statement but cowered from the press.

"I continue to support federal assistance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," he said.

But he didn't retract his wacked-out rhetoric claiming the feds "just threw" buckets of cash at New York for an attack "that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it."

He went on: "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."

In his statement yesterday, Issa insisted he only "asked tough questions about the expenditures" during a hearing Tuesday on an aid bill for sick New Yorkers.

"He realized he stepped in it," said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), who was leading the hearing when Issa popped off.

"The sound I'm hearing is him slamming the brakes and going in reverse," crowed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn-Queens). Issa also belatedly admitted 9/11 was "an attack on America" in his statement.

It shouldn't have been that hard.

He took to the floor of Congress on Sept. 11, 2001, to argue passionately that America - not just New York - had been attacked, but conveniently forgot that during his Tuesday diatribe.

"It seems that with the passage of time, something happened along the way where the scope of the problem and the real extent of the problem has not drifted out to California," fumed Staten Island GOP Rep. Vito Fossella.

Health officials estimate it could cost $1 billion to care properly for the ailments that may emerge in the people who lived through the horror of Sept. 11 or breathed that toxic dust.

Interestingly enough, the same right-wing that went into histrionics over the "Betrayus" ad has been strangely silent on Issa's remarks. And so too is the traditional media. There's absolutely nothing on his despicable comments about this on CNN at all, neither on their website nor on the channel itself. Fox News ran the wire story about this on their website, but I haven't seen one mention of this on the actual channel itself. The only mention on MSNBC was from Keith Olbermann's show, where he gave Issa Worst Person in the World Hall of Fame honors.

Now for those who say Issa actually has a point in regards to federal vs. state funding, OK, but then, why did Issa in the same week he made those comments trumpet his list of $26.8 million worth of earmarks for San Diego? Sure, some look to be deserving projects, but why, given his opinions, should they be funded by the federal government?

As Steve Benen suggests, what if a Democrat had made those comments about denying first responders and victims' families federal funds? Even with the Obama-Clinton primary coverage, you can bet that piece of news would've been plastered on the front of every single cable news show for the next five days. But, if you're a Republican? Eh, gets buried. Maybe mentioned once. Never mentioned again. I mean, how many of you reading this right now even knew Issa had made such despicable comments at all?

FYI, Issa's Democratic opponent in November is UCLA grad and former Naval officer Robert Hamilton.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

CA-12: Jackie Speier goes to Congress

Former state senator Jackie Speier (D) easily won the special election on Tuesday to replace the late Tom Lantos (D) for the remainder of this current session of Congress. (There's another primary election on June 3rd to determine who will be each party's nominee for November, which Jackie should again win quite easily.) Speier had lost a close race in the Democratic primary to John Garamendi for Lt. Governor in 2006. Garamendi went on to beat UCLA grad Tom McClintock (now carpetbagging in CA-04 to replace the corrupt John Doolittle) in the general election.

But what's amazing about Speier is her life story. She survived the 1978 Jonestown massacre. If you wondered where the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" came from, it was from this, where over 900 cult members who followed Jim Jones from San Francisco to Guyana committed murder-suicide by drinking Flavor Aid laced with poison. (Yeah, it wasn't actually Kool-Aid, but the phrase stuck.)

This 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article tells part of the hell Speier had to endure.

There is a compartment in Jackie Speier's mind where she stores away the old memories of her fact-finding trip to the cult compound of Jonestown.

When it opens, all the agony comes rushing back: She is there on the oppressively humid jungle airstrip in her polka-dot sundress and platform shoes, a congressional aide with clipboard in hand, rushing anxious defectors onto a waiting plane. Then the ambush, as Jonestown's henchmen open fire.

She feels five bullets pierce her body, one blowing away a huge chunk of her thigh. She sees her boss and mentor, Rep. Leo Ryan, dead on the tarmac. She chills as flies and mosquitoes buzz around her wounds. She sips rum to deaden the searing pain. Left for dead with a handful of other wounded survivors throughout the night, she thinks of her parents back in the Bay Area and tape records them a farewell message.

On the cataclysmic night of Nov. 18, 1978, the Rev. Jim Jones dispatched the death squad to the airstrip and then led more than 900 of his flock -- most of them from the Bay Area and about a third of them children -- into a "white night" that became the worst mass murder/suicide in modern history.

Chilling. Here's the TIME magazine article from December 1978 if you want to learn more about that horrific story and how she survived. And if the people of San Francisco didn't suffer enough that month, just nine days after the massacre, ex-supervisor Dan White murdered San Fracisco mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Now-Senator Dianne Feinstein was the one who discovered Milk's body, and was later sworn in as mayor to replace Moscone.

Update: Wow, when Speier was sworn in on Thursday in Congress, Republicans actually started booing her when she spoke about Iraq in her first speech in front of Congress.

For a few feel-good moments Thursday, Jackie Speier basked in bipartisan warmth, sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Her family, supporters and schoolchildren cheered as she embraced her new colleagues.

Then, in her first speech in Congress, she spoke out about Iraq. Applause turned to boos and hoots on the Republican side of the aisle.

"When will we get out of Iraq?" was the most frequent question she heard, she told the House, while campaigning in the special election she won Tuesday to succeed the late Rep. Tom Lantos.

"The process to bring the troops home must begin immediately," she said, as several Republicans loudly booed and some Democrats cheered. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Vista Republican, bolted from his seat and left the floor.

The hoots grew in volume as Speier, a San Mateo Democrat, continued: "The president wants to stay the course and a man who wants to replace him suggests we could be in Iraq for 100 years" - a reference to Republican John McCain's assertion that U.S. forces could be in Iraq indefinitely if they are not taking casualties.

"But history will not judge us kindly if we sacrifice four generations of Americans because of the folly of one," she said to a mixture of cheers and boos.

"The House is not in order," shouted Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Speaker Nancy Pelosi banged her gavel. "Why are they booing my mother?" Speier's 13-year-old daughter, Stephanie, asked, according to a staffer.

Classy, those Republicans. I'll have more on Darrell Issa's latest scumbaggery in a future post.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A look at the California House races

February 5th is long gone, so let's turn our attention to the House races here in California. Unlike two years ago, which Kyle referred to as "a tidal wave sweeping the country... and crashing in California", this time we really have the opportunity to take out some of the most reactionary House Republicans and replace them with good progressive Democrats. Especially in Orange County, Bruin Dems living there really have a chance to make our voices heard, with real competitive races. You can take an active part this summer in helping out these campaigns. Volunteers are always welcome, and who knows, a job may await too.

So, here are the key California House races, with the biggest one ranked first, and so on. And yes, I admit, I cribbed a lot of the info from dday here.

1. CA-04: This will be a big race in the northeastern part of California. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown barely fell short against the ethics-plauged incumbent Republican John Doolittle in 2006, losing 49%-46%. Since then, in the wake of numerous investigations into his connections with Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes, Doolittle decided to retire, opening up his seat. This opened up the floodgates, and now there's a bitter GOP primary battle between former moderate Congressman Doug Ose, who represented CA-03, and the far-right Tom McClintock, who unsuccessfully ran for Governor in the 2003 recall election, and lost the Lt. Gov. race to John Garamendi in 2006. McClintock's a UCLA grad, sadly. He's already painting Ose as a "liberal", LOL. And in a show of hypocrisy, as McClintock sells himself as a fiscal conservative who opposes government spending, but has gotten over $300,000 in tax-free per diem money. In other words, he's basically a "welfare queen". And a carpetbagger too. He actually lives in Thousand Oaks, here in Southern California. It's one thing for Ose, whose district used to include part of what is now CA-04, but for someone 400 miles south of the district?

The NRCC may want to tread carefully in attacking Brown. In 2006, they did the obvious Peanuts reference, which didn't sit well with Charles Schulz's son, with lawyers getting involved for copyright infringement. Good grief! And Charlie Brown has gotten the endorsement of veterans groups like VoteVets. Brown is actually donating 5% of all his campaign contributions to help veterans and their families. Now, it's still a conservative district, with a Cook PVI of R+11 (meaning Bush got 11% more of the vote share here than he did nationally in the last two elections) and only 44.7% Democratic turnout on February 5th.

Here are two good clips of an interview with Brown from last week's state convention in San Jose, courtesy of the folks from Calitics.

2. CA-26: David Dreier's had enough of a free ride in this district. Businessman Russ Warner looks to be the guy who can unseat him. While you may think this is a hardcore Republican district, on February 5th, 50.2% of those who voted in this district voted in the Democratic primary. Remember, the GOP race at that time was still up in the air. And with Dreier somehow forgetting to report earnings on stock sales for the last couple years, it's no surprise he voted AGAINST stronger ethics rules in the House. And Dreier also took money from the sub-prime lender Countrywide, and then proceeded to vote against lending reforms. Typical.

I talked with both Russ and his son Greg, who served in Iraq for 17 months, at the convention in San Jose last week. These are good people. This is also a DCCC targeted seat, which means the national organization also finds Warner to be a strong candidate. Warner has raised over $500,000 for his campaign, the most ever raised by any opponent to Dreier since he first got elected in 1980. He said the DCCC announcement was a great Christmas gift, as they told him they were targeting the race two days before Christmas. Since then, when he's "dialing for dollars", the wallets have been opening up once he mentions the national party's interest in this race. Watch for this race as summer approaches, it will become a big deal. In the meantime, here's an excellent in-depth interview via Calitics of Russ Warner from last week's convention.

3. CA-46: Finally, someone may finally unseat the odious Dana Rohrabacher. This is a man who has close ties with the Taliban, claims global warming is due to dinosaur flatulence, told those opposed to torture that "I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences", called Blackwater CEO Erik Prince an "American hero" (he was a former staffer for Rohrabacher), and gave Jack Abramoff his first break in becoming one of the biggest and shadiest lobbyists on the Hill.

In other words, pure scumbag.

Oh, it affects who he has by his side too. You know how you can judge a man from the company he keeps? Well, his ex-aide Jeff Nielsen just pleaded guilty two weeks ago to molesting a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old boy. Ewww. Now Rohrabacher's lying his ass off trying to distance himself from Nielsen. Except he personally vouched for Nielsen's character when writing a letter of recommendation for Nielsen to get him into USC's law school. (You knew USC had to be involved, didn't you?)

So now, Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook is challenging him. And it looks like the Orange County GOP is taking this seriously, as they tried to bleed her dry by tying her up with frivolous lawsuits about being called "mayor" on the ballot. Fortunately, both the Orange County court and the California Superior Court ruled against them, and ordered the Treasurer of the California Republican Party Keith Carlson to pay all the costs that Cook otherwise would've had to pay! They wouldn't have gone to all this trouble if they didn't think Debbie Cook stood a real chance of beating Rohrabacher. The Democratic turnout here on February 5th was 47.2%. Here is a good interview with Cook from the convention last week, again courtesy of the good folks over at Calitics.

4. CA-42: I'm taking a personal interest in this one, as I've known Democratic candidate Ron Shepston since he was "just" a regular ol' blogger. And he's challenging Gary Miller, who was deemed one of the most corrupt members of Congress by CREW.

Right now, Ron faces a primary challenge in Ed Chau, whose ex-communications director quit and was quite snippy about it. What's funny is that she claims Ron doesn't tell us enough about himself or his stances. Um... he's a blogger, and she doesn't know where he stands on issues? Has she ever read his stuff? Do career politicians talk about how we're in a Constitutional crisis now? Sheesh. Fine, you were backing the other guy. No need to rip on Ron unfairly there. It will still be an uphill battle for whichever Democrat; Dem turnout on February 5th was only 44%.

5. CA-50: This is Duke Cunningham's former seat, which he gave up to go to federal prison for bribery. Even with that huge scandal, Francine Busby couldn't pick up this seat for us in 2005 or 2006, and ex-Congressman and lobbyist Brian Bilbray won it. This time, we have San Diego prosecutor Nick Leibham running against Bilbray. You can read a good in-depth interview of him here. Clinical psychologist Cheryl Ede is also running, and there's talk that she's the more progressive of the two Democrats. But given the Republican tilt of this district (though Dem turnout on February 5th was 50.8%), Leibham may be the better bet. He does have the backing of the state party and unions like AFSCME.

6. CA-03: Dan Lundgren can't like the recent numbers coming out of his district, where 51.8% of those that voted on February 5th voted in the Democratic primary. Dr. Bill Durston, a Vietnam combat veteran, is challenging him. He also wrote a song, "War Is Not a Game".

7. CA-24: Democratic turnout on February 5th was actually 50.6%, which has us thinking this seat is more in play than the Republicans and incumbent Elton Gallegly would like to admit. 2006 challenger Jill Martinez is running again, as are AD-41 delegate Mary Pallant and blogger Marta Jorgensen. Bloggers actually seem to have gotten behind Pallant's candidacy. But this would still be a dark horse race. Nonetheless, something for Caitlin to get excited about here, her district finally matters!

8. CA-44: Ken Calvert has got some corruption issues too, and was also named as one of the most corrupt members of Congress by CREW. Teacher Bill Hedrick is challenging him. Two of Hedrick's sons are serving in Iraq. Dem turnout on February 5th here was 49.3%.

9. CA-52: Duncan Hunter retired to run for President (you may have missed it), and is trying to bequeath his seat to his son, Duncan Hunter, Jr. This is a strong military district. Hunter, Jr., is in the Marines, and even on the Democratic side, you had Green Beret Jim Hester running, who recently dropped out and endorsed Navy SEAL commander Mike Lumpkin. There's also Vickie Butcher running, but she's not military, and she's very progressive, which may not be to her advantage in a district such as this one. Dem turnout on February 5th was 47.2%.

10. CA-45: Mary Bono Mack (widow of Sonny Bono, now re-married) was handed this seat when Sonny was killed in a skiing accident. What's intriguing about this district was that Democratic turnout on February 5th was actually a surprising 51.3%. Blogs have mentioned Julie Bornstein as a good challenger, as she's held elected office in the past as an assemblymember, and has already been endorsed by both Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Still, Bono Mack hasn't done much to distinguish herself for special ignominy.

Oh, and in CA-11, after Jerry McNerney took out the most anti-environment member of Congress, Richard Pombo, in 2006, Republicans want this seat back, and they found a wealthy guy who can self-fund, Dean Andal. Though this district leans Republican, Dem turnout on February 5th was an eye-catching 53.7%. McNerney is only the 2nd member of Congress ever to have a Ph.D. in mathematics, and was a wind engineer, so the contrast between him and Pombo (and the Republican Party in general) on science and the environment couldn't be more stark. The DCCC will make sure McNerney successfully defends his seat.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bill Maher taping

For those going to next Friday's taping, they just announced the following guests.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
actor Jason Alexander
couter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke
atheist Richard Dawkins