Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stark Pitches Stimulus Bill To Help Failing Economy


SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - Rep. Pete Stark advocated a stimulus bill for the ailing U.S. economy Saturday in San Leandro that would put more money into the hands of people willing to immediately spend it.

A stimulus package that it “timely, targeted and temporary” will pushed through Congress within the next two months, according to Stark..

Last week, President Bush unveiled a $145 billion that illustrated his desire to avoid a prolonged recession during an election year that could further erode the Republican’s power in the legislative and executive branches come November.

Bush’s plan differs from previous ones that sought to make tax cuts for the richest Americans permanent, by focusing on one-time rebates for individuals and allowing businesses to quickly write-off certain expenses.

The bill that Stark is supporting includes extending unemployment insurance, bolstering programs for food stamps and possibly sending a check similar to what Bush attempted in 2001 to quickly inject money into the economy.

Stark, who is chairman of the Ways and Means Health subcommittee, admits his plan is one of many in Congress.

“There’s 535 members and 535 plans,” said Stark, “We hope we can narrow it down to one plan in the next month or so and proceed.”

Stark cited the opinion of many economists who believe the path out of this recession, whether the economy is in the midst of one or whether it’s impending, is through an immediate infusion of consumer spending.

To do that, he says one way is extend unemployment insurance to an extra 26 week and increase the amount of food stamps low-income families receive.

“They will spend that money. They will spend it for rent. They will spend it on clothes for their kids. They will spend it for food and that gets into the economy quicker,” said Stark.

The other idea would be simply sending a check directly to the people in the range of $200-$500 through the tax code, but Stark disagrees with that method.

“The problem I see with that is a lot of low-income people don’t file taxes, so they won’t get a refund,” said Stark.

Instead, by sending checks to those on the lowest end of Social Security payouts the benefits will be available to more people who need it most, according to Stark.

Any plan that is debated before Congress will likely need bipartisan support.

The combination of lame duck president already willing to reignite the economy and vulnerable Republicans in an election year means they may be in the mood to deal with Democrats.

One compromise could be allowing small business owners who invest in equipment to increase the amount of the tax dollars that are deferred over five years, said Stark.

The quickly expanding subprime mortgage problem, that in some ways, triggered the current recession fears, continues to grow as institutions like Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other overseas banks report record losses and increases the fears of many Bay Area borrowers who received the shaky loans.

A former banker, himself, Stark says that “much depends on banks doing the right thing.”

Banks will save money by not foreclosing and letting borrowers maintain their own homes, instead of allowing a bad asset hurt their bottom line, said Stark.

“If you’re looking for work and you’re paying your taxes and insurance; stay in the house and we’ll add the missed payments to your mortgage. When you get a job, we’ll reset it,” said Stark.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mayor Santos Still Believes Crime Is Down In San Leandro


When San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos asked a crowd of concerned citizens Tuesday night how many had been the victims of crime more than a majority raised their hand. “How many with two? How many with five or more? Anybody with more than 10?” The show of hands dwindled with each set until only the mayor’s hand was left.

“I’ve been there. I know the feeling. It’s no fun to be victimized. I lost thousands of dollars because of it,” said Mayor Santos.

San Leandro has been up in arms ever since an FBI report recently ranked the city as the ninth most dangerous city in the country and the infighting has centered on a distinct disconnect between what the mayor and police chief say are facts showing a drop in crime and what the public sees as a general demise of their quality of life.

“The perception is that everything is out of control, but the facts say the contrary,” Santos said.

While the FBI report contained data obtained solely from the city’s police department, the most recent date only goes back to 2005.

“We’ve all heard it. This town isn’t what it was 10 or 15 years ago. That’s true, because it isn’t. Ten or 15 years ago, the crime rate was about 25 percent higher,” Police Chief Dale S. Attarian said during Monday’s city council meeting.

In the last two years violent crime has dropped, according to Sgt. Attarian.

But doubts have been raised over the accuracy of the statistics the police are reporting to the FBI.

In a working session of the city council Monday night, Chief Attarian admitted that the computer system used to compile the crime statistics has given the department problems and is “not user-friendly”. The system was adopted in 2004.

Despite the figures that the mayor and police department give many in the city don’t buy the rosy state of affairs and have been uncommonly vociferous in the anger to the mayor’s stance that the furor is over a false perception of reality.

“This is the crux of the problem. We have elders. We have children. It’s not helping to give us statistics,” said Davis Street resident, Wafaa Aborashed.

In her neighborhood, a cyclone fence that separated Davis West and East was continually cut to allow criminals access to the area.

According to Aborashed, she waited a month for the city to fix the fence. In the meantime, the surrounding area was vandalized and tagged in numerous areas. It wasn’t until she called Cal Trans that the fence was repaired. She now says that crime and graffiti has subsided.

In the Mulford Gardens neighborhood adjacent to the San Leandro Marina the quality of life issue has also been more prevalent than the occurrences of violent crime.

Members of that home owners association voted to close a private, but well used park on Aurora Avenue across from Garfield Elementary School after gangs activity, small drug packets and used condoms were found on a regular basis.

The HOA had replaced the park’s wooden accoutrements with new slides, swings and bench and also made it compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.

“Kids say ‘Man, that’s not fair’ and I say, ‘You want me to go to your parents house and mess up your family room’,” said Mulford Gardens HOA president, Bo Johansen.

Down Aurora and on its bisecting streets frequently have teenagers loitering on street corners and bus stops after school and early evening.

Johansen admits there’s no other place in that area for kids to go, but will open the park on occasion. He also indicated that crime as decreased in the area after the park’s closure.

On Tuesday night, what was supposed to be a small meeting between the mayor and presidents of local HOA’s turned into, based on your perspective, an illustration of democracy at work or an example of mob government.

As the mayor continued to offer statistics to the overflow crowd of about 100 at the San Leandro Main library, many shouted disapproval or stood and made impassioned pleas to their concerns.

“We’re not being listened to. The people are upset,” said Johansen, “He skirts around the issue. This is what he always does.”

In some ways the mayor has opened himself up to the criticism that he’s not interested in people’s plight by only offering numbers and recommending people first must be proactive in their safety.

Al Lozano has lived in San Leandro for 43 years and works as a security consultant, took offense to the numerous times the mayor appeared to be smiling when people described their concerns.

“Look at him there grinning. Some of his comments were rude and disrespectful,” said Lozano.

Said Santos, “I was hoping to show empathy by saying, here I know the feeling.”

He also reiterated that the city trying to find solutions, but the public also needs to help themselves, especially in response to the city’s most notorious crime, car larceny.

Santos advocated making sure car doors are locked and put in the garage.

“I want people to say to themselves, ‘What should I do’,” said Santos, “I can’t watch every car in the city.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Huckabee's Plays Both Sides of Immigration Fence


You can't be sure how credible a newspaper owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon can be, was reported in the Washington Times that Mike Huckabee would attempt to stop children of immigrants from automatically becoming U.S. citizens.

The notion is utter nonsense and can be looked at in two ways.

The story was unequivocably stated by a Huckabee loyalist, James Gilchrist, who is a founder of the Minutemen Project, which calls itself "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border" and characterized as correct by the Huckabee campaign. Huckabee has denied any plans to tinker with the Constitution.

What Huckabee is doing is spreading the meme, which only conservative, evangelical fundamentalist hear as a clear-minded proposal.

He's playing hide-and-go-seek with the truth. Which is it? Does he support such an amendment or not? At this point, it doesn't matter. Liberals and independents won't vote for him and whether he would actually run a test case up to the Supreme Court if he became president is not the point.

What it does to evangelical conservatives is say this guy is tough on immigration. By using a surrogate like Gilchrist he can stir up the right wing nutjobs profusely and still seem like the swell guy some in the media have begun to portray him as.

The other more troublesome angle is the case of history repeating itself. Many in the media are recycling the old 2000 George W. Bush bromide of "which guy would you rather have a beer with: Bush or Gore?"

In hindsight, it looks like neither and if anything you would share a bottled water with Gore.

Huckabee is creating this lovable, cool persona which is incongruent with any 50-something, Southern white man toting a tattered Bible ever created.

Sure, he plays the bass guitar and utters some rehearsed zingers, but he isn't cool and didn't we learn what happens to our government when we choose personality over competence?

Beyond the smile and jokes lies an agenda hostile to our Constitution, our civil rights and our national security.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama And The Beginning Of A Political Movement


Clearly, Obama's victory in Iowa upends all conventional thinking. He may be black, but this win had nothing to do with race. That's a good thing. The statistic that a black man won in state that 95 percent lilly white is potent, though because it says in a profound way that his presidency is highly possible and gives credence that his candidacy is far more than a man running for office, but bonifide movement.

The most exciting development for his campaign and for American civics is that he delivered the youth and first-time caucus goers. It's a iffy proposition to count on the youth vote because it's so fickle and easily distracted by iPods, DVDs and MySpace, but Obama nearly double the number of participants in Iowa. A very exciting development and if he wins the Democratic nomination will prove deadly to the hopes of any Republican in the general election.

Unless Obama commits any unbelievable flub in the next four days in the Granite State, he will win New Hampshire and look very strong in South Carolina's primary which features a majority of black voters.

Romney Finishes Second Like Edwards Wasting Resources


Romney's final numbers in Iowa are not bad on the face of it. They only look ominous much like John Edwards's because so much time and, in Romney's case, money was spent for a distant second.

But, it was second and could look even better if he was somehow able to win the New Hampshire primary. He's in the running, but like Iowa he has candidate peaking at right time.

The Granite State loves tough-minded politicians like McCain, if Romney can't win a state bordering his own Massachusetts, the argument can be made that voters who presumably have been watching Romney for years in Boston know best and repudiated his candidacy.

The Politico website said Thompson would bail if he didn't win 15 percent. He didn't, but came close. He narrowly beat out McCain in Iowa and still has a strong third place standing in New Hampshire.

It still third with little outlook of moving up. If Thompson drops out, it could be argued that the rest of the field below him should do likewise. In any other race, his prospects are undeniably dim, but there isn't a candidate in the Republican field who can claim number one.

The big winner in Iowa could be McCain. Imagine the kid who doesn't study for the big test and still gets a B+. That's McCain in Iowa, who didn't even campaign there and spoke against the state beloved ethanol subsidies. He still finish with a strong 12 percent and on to New Hampshire.

McCain made the huge bet on the war and it's finally beginning to payoff. That coupled with the lack of a candidate with true conservative credentials, makes the Arizona senator, the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination.

Huck Wins, But Apathetic Feeling Still Lingers


With his win in the Iowa Republican caucus, his candidacy becomes the latest example of how hard it is to prognosticate presidential politics a year in advance.

When Huckabee announced his candidacy a year ago, I wrote why someone with no chance whatsoever would waste their time in running. What a difference a year makes.

What's interesting though, is that this rousing victory where he was outspent by Mitt Romney by the tune of 20-to-1, isn't translating well to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Sen. John McCain's suddenly rise there with its proud independent streak is becoming the story.

Republicans are just not excited about this field. Normally an underfunded, but successful campaign gets a quick infusion of cash when people see it can actually win. Few have that sense with Huckabee and see his overwhelming support by Iowa born-agains was the reason he won there.

He won't win in New Hampshire and even though evangelicals reside overwhelmingly in South Carolina, there's still a great deal of servicemen who are loyal to McCain.

The bottom line is that Huckabee's win again underscores the lack of any strength and excitement in the Republican party. A Huckabee nomination might leave an opening for a third party candidate like Mike Bloomberg entering the race by Fourth of July

Edwards Finishes Strong Second, But It's Just Not Enough


Finishing second in Iowa at first glance seems very encouraging. He beat out Sen. Hillary Clinton for second, but he also finish a distant second to Obama. Edwards garnered 30% of caucus goers which was about three or four percentage points less than a highly encouraging second. This is how far Edwards has come in the four years since a second place finish in Iowa probably buoyed his chance to be John Kerry's VP--not very far.

The big disappointment yesterday was not finishing so far off the pace, but that Edwards's union appeal was completely misrepresented. According to exit polling, the former senator from North Carolina was the third choice among Democrats.

Without a doubt, this fact is the death of Edwards's campaign. He made union involvement the linchpin of his populist campaign. The Edwards strategy was to parlay union-backing in Iowa and Nevada to start strong, but it's not happening. In hindsight, the writing could have been on the wall when one of the country's strongest union, SEIU, didn't endorse him across the board.

New Hampshire looks like a third place finish as does South Carolina. By the time, Nevada comes around, Obama's momentum will be huge over Hillary's comeback kids persona will have taken root.

Another fact that lends credence to the Obama movement was the poor performance of Gov. Bill Richardson, who reportedly instructed followers to back the Illinois senator if he wasn't viable at a precinct.

These second choice caucus goers apparently fled to Obama and might account for the pre-caucus three-way tie in Iowa.

Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Joe Biden, the graybeards of the campaign said farewell. It's notable that Sen. Biden, whom many mocked for his pubic kissing up to Sen. Clinton. Was he auditioning to be the future Secretary of State? Apparently not, since most of followers were instructed to choose Obama as their second choice.

Inevitability Is Gone, But Hillary Still Has Money To Burn


The horrific third place finish that the LFR predicted two months ago became very real yesterday even before Iowans moved in droves to caucus. When Clinton's campaign began lowering the bar so starkly and columnists began criticizing her hubris in even trying in Iowa.

To political junkies this loss was less than shocking and doesn't mean her bid to be the first female president is in the trash. But, to the other 300 million-plus Americans, the enevitability of her campaign took a a huge hit. Just like the candidate herself, the reaction will be polarizing. Either it confirms suspicions that the country is not ready for a woman in the White House or it will be a call to arms for women and allies of the Clinton dynasty.

Clinton's advantage is that her coffers can go deep into Super Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5 even if she doesn't win much. It also could give rise to her campaign using her husband's "Comeback Kid" moniker in either New Hampshire or South Carolina. Do not underestimate the Clinton's ability to spin anything.

Remember, Bill Clinton lost by eight points in the 1992 New Hampshire primary to Paul Tsongas and was still able to claim victory.

Her candidacy took a major hit, but she's the only candidate to could significantly take on water and still continue sailing. She's not done and, in the end, the inevitable turnover in her campaign will bring a more steady and cogent message.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Obama Will Leave Iowa With More Than Hope

This is how the LFR sees tonight's Iowa Caucus:

Sen. Barack Obama 37%
John Edwards 27%
Sen. Hillary Clinton 24%
Gov. Bill Richardson   6%
Sen. Joe Biden   5%
Rep. Dennis Kucinich  1%
Sen. Chris Dodd   0%

Mike Huckabee 36%
Mitt Romney 33%
Rep. Ron Paul 11%
Fred Thompson  9%
Sen. John McCain 7%
Rudy Giuliani  4%
Rep. Duncan Hunter  0%

Iowa Caucus Primer




Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Thompson Likely Gone After Iowa Caucus


The Freddy Thompson Experience looks to be on its last legs.

The Politico is reporting tonight that the Law & Order actor is likely to drop out of the Republican race for the White House if he doesn't garner at least 15 percent of the caucus goers tomorrow.

It's likely that with Sen. John McCain's suddenly rise in Iowa, that Thompson will be hard-pressed to reach that figure.

In a race when it's beneficial to peak just before the caucus, Thompson peaked about three months before he even announced his candidacy. It was downhill from there. 

After announcing, he rose from seclusion noticeably slimmer and gaunt and was criticized for handing out lame, nondescript answers in tandem with a ubiquitous tut-tut and head shake.

Also, The Politico is speculating that Thompson will endorse Sen. McCain, who is good friend. The effects of such a endorsement should be nominal for McCain since he wasn't actively campaigning in Iowa and Thompson's popularity casted nary a blip on the New Hampshire radar.

Hillary Asks For Iowans Vote And To Buy Proactive


The message has been the same for months. She's about change both in government and gender and a rebuke of all things President Bush. I, frankly, strained to here that message because of the excessively white-washed senator that give the impression that the former first lady is hawking face cleansers. These are the wrinkles the harsh key light is successfully concealing.

This ad is fairly effective in that conveys the populism that Edwards is predicating is campaign upon. When the Iowa man, Doug Bishop, begins to choke up, it's hard to not to do the same. Two problems, though. The least of which is wouldn't it be a bit creepy for a man to be telling a seven year old that he was fighting for dad's job. Aside from that, it's a bit of a gamble for the Edwards campaign to be featuring someone other than the candidate in its final campaign ad before tomorrow's caucus.

Dems Could Be Looking At A Virtual Tie In Iowa

SEN. CLINTON COULD BE LOOKING AT A CEILING OF 25 PERCENT columnist Walter Shapiro has been around Washington and political campaigns for decades, here's what he's seeing on the ground in Iowa:
At this point in 2004, just a few days before the caucuses, I had begun to pick up anecdotal evidence (from crowd size and interviews with likely caucus-goers) that Howard Dean was slipping and John Kerry and John Edwards were surging. But this time around, I have not seen or heard anything that prompts me to move away from the conventional wisdom that Obama, Clinton and Edwards are locked in a three-way tie.
Shapiro sees a dead heat in the Democratic Iowa caucus, but he also has uncovered some interesting nuggets.

While traveling with the Edwards campaign, Shapiro found the former senator's base is solidly in his corner, largely due to his time and organization in Iowa.

Sen. Barack Obama's popularity is hinged upon students caucusing faithfully for him. This, if true, might make the seven-point lead in today's Des Moines Register as tenuous. Rarely, does the youth vote make for a successful campaign, but that's not to say Sen. Obama is candidate many have ever seen.

Sen. Hillary Clinton's much derided brigade of Golden Girls are also a problematic demographic not because of their likelihood of caucusing, but because of health and weather. Shapiro does make this interesting point on Sen. Clinton, her constituentcy is either with her or against her, therefore unlikely to gain any new support.

Of all the polling out there, the safest bet is Hillary reaching a ceiling of only 25 percent of the caucus goers making the possibility of her finishing a very disappointing third.

If this happens, it will a clear indictment of whom Iowans believe is the real candidate of change--Obama and Edwards.

Huck's Playing With House Money With Leno Appearance


As Mike Huckabee flies to Burbank to tape the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno you've got wonder is the former Arkansas governor counting his chickens before they're hatched in tomorrow's Iowa Caucus?

This is definitely a national play for the thus far successful, but still cash-strapped campaign to parlay a likely win in tomorrow's caucus to next week's New Hampshire primary and beyond. It might backfire and give Mitt Romney stronger than expected second-place finish.

It can't look good for the self-described underdog to be gallivanting to Hollywood while his opponents are still pressing the flesh in the frigid Iowa winter.

Instead of finishing off their dramatic upset in Iowa, the Huckabee campaign is inexplicably using the credit earned there for the next race. The question is whether Iowa Republicans who were not solidly in Huckabee's column and I believe his popularity in the state is a bit soft and unable to transfer to the rest of the country, will not shift to another candidate.

I believe Romney will gain some of those votes and finish three to four points off the pace. The big winner, though, may be Sen. John McCain.

The religion question is being overhyped on the conservative side of the ballot. There still isn't a true evangelical in the race, despite what Huckabee tells you and while some may be leery of Romney's Mormonism, they really see him as secular, at best. Those religious voters may scrap their beliefs and go with Sen. McCain, the champion of foreign policy and backer of the surge in Iraq.

Amazingly, a strong third-place finish in Iowa without the benefit of any organization and opinions heretical to most ethanol-loving Iowans, would be a major story tomorrow. It would affirm the belief that McCain sticks to his beliefs and possesses the intuition of policies two years down the road.

When it comes to the Iraq War, he's the anti-Obama. He's the only candidate who can say that he didn't change gears a year ago when his support for the war nearly destroyed his campaign. Now, the war ain't so bad and neither is McCain's bid for the Republican nomination.

Huckabee Defends Without A Wink And A Smile


Does Mike Huckabee think his faux ignorance is charming, somehow endearing in its innocence?

First he garnered guffaws from the press when he announced he was foregoing planned attack ads against Mitt Romney and then showed the ads that he wasn't going show, anyway. Then, he claimed without a bit of irony in his voice that it was because the press wouldn't believe such ads existed.

Yesterday, Huckabee said he was "absolutely" backing the striking Writer's Guild, but will cross the picket line, nonetheless to appear on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.

Later, he claimed erroneously, that the striking writers had made a deal with all of the late night programs. When he was corrected by reporters that only David Letterman's production company had secured a deal with the writers he said, "Oh", followed by "hmmm".

Was this another occasion where Huckabee's campaign has been sorely behind the news as when it was a day and a half behind the news that an NIE report said Iran was not actively producing nuclear weapons or is he plainly lying or spewing double talk about his support for labor.

How else could Huckabee answer a question about crossing the picket on a highly publicized strike and still appear to care about the working man? He can't truthfully and therefore he ducked the question with sound effects and quickly answered another question.

I believe Huckabee is not as unprepared as recent press accounts have made him out to be. That's not to say his candidacy is rooted in good policy, either. He feign ignorance on the Iran NIE account and the writer's strike questions because he can't answer them without rustling some feathers.

Many voters, I hope, will place their candidates attributes against the idealogy and personality of President Bush for guidance in how not to choose a president. If so, remember that Americans found a sly, smiling, personable double talker who glazed every issue over with Jesus in 2000 and the rest is history.