"Now the Cold War is over, and our excuse for this behavior is gone. We need a new and better vision. I'm exploring ways to define that vision. I would be satisfied with small but definite steps in a new direction, but what direction? Neither technology nor economics can answer questions of values. Is our path into the future to be defined by the literally mindless process of technological evolution and economic expansion or by a conscious adoption of guiding moral precepts? Progress is meaningless if we don't know where we're going. Unless we try to visualize what is beyond the horizon, we will always occupy the same shore." Rep. George E. Brown, Jr., D-CA, 1993
I met Jerry McNerney once, at an event in Stockton to protest the Pomboza Gut-the-ESA, featuring Pete McCloskey. McCloskey had not yet announced that he would run against Pombo. It was a press conference of serious environmentalists and a number of regional reporters. After their statements, the environmentalists marched to Pombo's office. It was a mild, polite environmental action. It was an awkward event for McNerney, but at least he was there. The awkwardness was in the fact that he was surrounded by the people who would eventually put him in office. For a political candidate who had been campaigning already for four years without the help of most of those luminaries, that is not an easy place to be.
The next year a helluva campaign took place in the 11th Congressional District. McCloskey, who stood against the Vietnam War in the New Hampshire primary in 1970 against his own party's incumbent president, did run against Pombo. His campaign's well-documented research about Pombo's relationship with Jack "The Singing Lobbyist" Abramoff, bloodied Pombo severely in the primary. National environmental groups finished him off in the general and McNerney became the congressman from the 11th.
Fifty-nine Democrats voted recently against a measure to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within nine months, supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, opposed by House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, D-MD. Predictably, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, one of Hoyer's special friends, voted against it. One of Hoyer's Maryland boys, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the new Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has apparently taken McNerney under an Oriole wing. Will the Maryland boys, with a little help from Cardoza, turn McNerney into McPomboza?
Bay Area Democrats report McNerney is a good man. That's good. McNerney also proved himself to be scrappy in two elections, losing the first against Pombo. But was he scrapping for principle or for office?
McNerney is meeting with San Joaquin County growers during this Farm Bill year. Well, that's important. They'll want less pesticide regulation, an end to the Endangered Species Act, more federal money, and imperial marketing plan that allows them to sell their fruits and vegetables anywhere with no fruits and vegetables to come to the US, easy, continued access to cheap undocumented farm labor, and their congressman to take a radical rightwing stance on private property rights -- for starters. But, if you don't know that, you have to listen. Pombo, now a lobbyist and big shot in the newest anti-ESA/private-property-rights fanatics coalition, and Cardoza do listen, most carefully.
McNerney says he wants more highways for San Joaquin County, where significant portions of the superb prime farmland are already paved over with highways. In other words, he wants more growth although he may think all he wants is less traffic congestion. How long will it be before he's calling for a new freeway through a canyon to Silicon Valley, like Pombo did?
Being a science type, we wonder how he stands on the Bio Safety Level-4 biowarfare lab UC-Bechtel-Etc./Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory want to put in just outside of Tracy. Tri-Valley CAREs, the Livermore-based environmental group that has been working for 30 years to make LLNL a responsible institution, reports today that they recently asked McNerney to oppose the project.
His position on this biowarfare lab will be the most important statement of McNerney's convictions his constituents will have. And to resist the forces of darkness on that one will take strong, clear conviction, unlike his excuses for voting against the McGovern bill. It will cost him money and the good opinion of the University of California, some powerful agribusiness organizations, the largest developers in Northern California, and a significant portion of LLNL workers in his district. It will show his constituents what kind of man he is.
This is what he says:
...We need to change the provision that guarantees homeland security funding for every state. This only leads to wasted spending on pet projects that have little to nothing to do with homeland security...
...Taking care of our environment is part of taking care of ourselves. Nothing is more important to our health than clean air and pure water. These are not problems we face in some distant future or far off place. San Joaquin County, right here in District 11, has some of the worst air pollution in the country. As a result, our people suffer rates of respiratory illnesses – asthma, emphysema, etc. – that are off the charts. Our District also faces serious water problems – ground water contamination and shortages in a number of high growth areas... -- Jerry McNerney for Congress, http://www.jerrymcnerney.org/issues
What will he do about the Bio Safety Level-4 proposal for Site 300 near Tracy? Does he have the fortitude to stand up against an awesome array of special interests? He's not going to get any support for a stand of conviction from either Cardoza or the Maryland boys.
If he came out against it, alongside the City of Tracy, and LLNL did not as a result make the short list for the facility, he would have done an enormous service to his district, regardless of what kind of hell Republicans bring him in 2008 and of how much money finance, insurance, real estate and military contractors put on the nose of a talking dog running against him.
In the vote on the McGovern bill to end the war, McNerney voted against the people that brought him to the party, which didn't include Cardoza or the boys from Maryland. McNerney voted against McCloskey and the environmentalists, who are not known for pro-war inclinations. He voted against his speaker and all the rest of the Bay Area members of Congress, including both California's senators.
In the recent SF Chronicle feature on him, he appeared to tout his expertise in science and his PhD in mathematics. Wunnerful. The late, great California Congressman, George E. Brown, Jr., D-Riverside, long-time chairman and ranking minority member of the House Science Committee, was also scientifically inclined. In fact, there are people who still regard Brown as one of the most intelligent congressmen we ever had. He was a wise man always asking important questions. Brown or his colleague McCloskey would be better models to pattern oneself after in Congress than the party hacks McNerney seems to be keeping company with now.
Dumping Pombo remains important. But a tough rightwing candidate in that district, like Dean Andal for example, could eat up this "good man" and spit him out on the side of the highway like used chewing tobacco. McNerney's problem is complex. How many votes does he need to sell to the Hoyer Bunch and the military contractors behind them to get the money to outspend Rove Republican boodle. It might come down to people working the streets, shopping centers and the Internet. How many grassroots progressive Democrats did he alienate by voting against the McGovern bill? If McNerney doesn't establish himself as a progressive, a man who will listen to all views, ask honest questions and give honest answers and vote on open, intelligible convictions, the not-so-good men will drag him down into their pit and eat him alive. Pombo left a legacy liberals deny. His convictions were clear and he acted on them. Some of them were illegal but that's another question. He's a strong act to follow. Regardless of whether you agreed with him, you knew where he stood.
Many people who worked for McNerney will be less inclined to do so if he begins to sound like a McPomboza.
Los Angeles Times
Senate Defeats Iraq Withdrawal Measure
by Noam Levey
WASHINGTON — The Senate today handily defeated a measure to effectively end most U.S. combat operations in Iraq by next April, but the 29 senators who voted for the amendment represented the highest number yet that have united behind a proposal to force President Bush to bring home American troops.
The plan by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not garner nearly enough votes to pass. Sixty-seven senators — 47 Republicans, and 20 Democrats — opposed the proposal.
Their amendment won the votes of 28 Democrats and one independent. But support for the Feingold-Reid measure — which followed a similar House vote last week — provided another indication of how public pressure to end the war has pushed congressional Democrats to embrace once politically taboo plans to challenge Bush’s management of the war.
“It is clear that change is in the air ,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the vote. “Our resolutions have not passed, but they will pass.”
Among the measure’s supporters were all four Democratic Senate leaders, as well as the four Democratic senators running for president: Delaware’s Joseph Biden, New York’s Hillary Rodham Clinton, Connecticut’s Christopher Dodd and Illinois’ Barack Obama.
California’s two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also backed the plan.
San Francisco Chronicle
Rookie in Congress touts science...Zachary Coile
McNerney -- who stunned the political world by defeating House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo in November -- is cutting a much quieter path through Congress than his cowboy-boot-wearing Republican predecessor from Tracy, who sought to use his clout to rewrite many of the nation's environmental laws...focusing on the little things: He's requesting highway money to ease traffic congestion back home from his seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee... holding regular "Congress at your corner" coffee klatches to get to know his constituents...formed an agriculture advisory panel to hear what fruit and vegetable growers in San Joaquin County want out of the forthcoming farm bill. But he's also keeping a wary eye on the active Republican effort to unseat him. Like other freshmen, he's raising money by the bushel and carefully calculating his votes. On Thursday, he was the only Bay Area member and one of just 59 Democrats to join with most Republicans in voting against a measure to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within nine months. Anti-war activists immediately assailed the vote. The influential liberal blog, Daily Kos, posted a statement venting their frustration: This "was a vote of conscious (sic) today, and McNerney failed that test. I think all those who walked those precincts, threw Jerry fundraisers and made calls on his behalf deserve an explanation for his vote today." The outcry was loud enough that McNerney penned a reply: "I want an end to the war in Iraq. But ending the war must be done in the most responsible way." He said he voted instead for a Democratic war funding bill calling for increased diplomacy, "which experts from across the political spectrum recognize is the only way to end the war responsibly." The vote shows the challenge for McNerney in trying to satisfy Bay Area liberals and online activists -- who were the backbone of his campaign -- while keeping a voting record in line with his slightly Republican-tilting district. (His neighbor and political ally, Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, also voted against the withdrawal bill.) A secret political memo by an aide to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- exposed by House Democrats -- shows that the White House picked McNerney as their No. 3 target among 20 top House races in 2008. "Karl Rove and the White House have him in their crosshairs -- there's no doubt about it," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.... Republicans may be underestimating how difficult it will be to unseat McNerney next year, Van Hollen said. "The most important thing a member can do is No. 1, establish a strong constituent outreach and relations effort at home -- and he's doing that -- and No. 2, to get to work on issues that are important to people in his district, and he's doing that," Van Hollen said. "He's making his mark on a range of issues." Since his election in November, McNerney has often been compared to the Jimmy Stewart character in the 1939 Frank Capra movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- an earnest but naive political neophyte who's suddenly thrust onto the Washington scene. In some ways, the description is apt. Pombo is now running a corporate-funded property rights group, Partnership for America. In an interview last week, he said he won't run again because "it's time to move on." Amy Walter, a nonpartisan analyst for the Cook Political Report, said the district is changing and becoming more suburban, but still tilts toward the GOP because most of the electorate is still in the more conservative San Joaquin County. "McNerney has a lot to prove in this next election -- that he was not simply a fluke,"..."The race in '06 was all about Pombo, but this race is going to be all about him."
Blowing Up The Buddhas [top]
How easily something that seemed solid, important, historic, if you will, can disappear. All it takes is one careless moment, and the painstaking work of many people over a long period of time can be wantonly destroyed — just like that.
I refer, of course, to Rep. Jerry McNerney's vote yesterday against ending the war in Iraq. He has his rationale; I don't buy it for a second. But let's put that aside for now.
What are the real repercussions that I see from McNerney's vote? Well, they're myriad, and they're not pretty, unless you're from the Rahm Emanuel/DLC (or Republican) school of politics.
A lot of us, myself and many of the readers of this blog, got involved in politics relatively recently, inspired by the people-powered movement of Howard Dean. We believed fervently that if we did the hard work to support our ideals, we could effect change in our country. And right up until yesterday, Jerry McNerney was the shining example of what we could accomplish as an organized political body. I think it's fair to say that for a lot of us, that dream ended yesterday afternoon, with Rep. McNerney's vote against bringing our troops home.
National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure
Scientific Community Mourns Passing of Rep. George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA)
Elder Statesman was Ranking Minority Member of the House Science Committee and a Long-time Advocate for Investment in Research
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On July 15, 1999, the scientific community lost a powerful voice in the Congress with the death of Representative George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA). Brown, who represented a district in Riverside, California, was a long-time champion of the sciences, former chair of the Science Committee, and a leader in the debate regarding appropriate funding levels for scientific research. He was also an advocate for better education in the sciences and technology, seeing these fields as integral to Americans' ability to succeed in the next millennium.
The Congressman died from an infection developed following heart valve replacement surgery in May. He was 79.
"Mr. Brown was more than a friend of science. In 34 years on the Committee on Science, he became a fount of wisdom about how science and technology was transforming our lives. As an advocate for space exploration and environmental protection, George Brown challenged scientists and policymakers alike to consider the unanticipated consequences that future generations would face. As a champion of basic research and science education, Mr. Brown reminded us that all citizens of all ages expected, and deserved, a return on government investments.
"In an interview earlier this year when asked to reflect on his career in public service, Brown said, 'What I've always wanted to do is help shape ideas about the emerging human culture.' He did that and so much more.
"All policy advisory bodies and students of government have lost a role modeland a colleague. The legacy of Congressman George Brown will light the way to a science and technology policy for the next millennium."
During his years in Congress, Rep. Brown was a force behind the establishment of OSTP, OTA, and EPA, advocated peaceful space exploration and international scientific collaboration, opposed earmarking of federal science funds, and promoted a host of environmental, energy, and technology issues. Although most prominently known in the science community for his work on S&T, Brown was an advocate of civil rights as far back as the 1930s, and opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He was a tireless champion of social equity and challenged the science establishment to consider how technology could diminish, rather than increase, the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Below is an excerpt from a 1993 speech he gave to the AAAS Science and Technology Colloquium:
"For the past fifty years, this nation has focused its resources on building weapons of inconceivable destructive power, and we have viewed the rest of the world as a chessboard designed to play out our own ideological struggle. We propped up governments that murdered nuns, priests, nurses, and children, and we provided high-technology weaponry to dictatorships. We destabilized governments that were democratically elected, in some instances to protect the profits of U.S. companies. We turned a blind eye while our tactical allies acquired the components necessary to build nuclear weapons, and we condoned authoritarian governments in the name of the free flow of oil. Our vision during the Cold War was cynical in the extreme. 'Mutual assured destruction' was a U.S. philosophy of international relations; the 'Peacekeeper' was a ballistic missile that carried nuclear warheads.
"Now the Cold War is over, and our excuse for this behavior is gone. We need a new and better vision. I'm exploring ways to define that vision. I would be satisfied with small but definite steps in a new direction, but what direction? Neither technology nor economics can answer questions of values. Is our path into the future to be defined by the literally mindless process of technological evolution and economic expansion or by a conscious adoption of guiding moral precepts? Progress is meaningless if we don't know where we're going. Unless we try to visualize what is beyond the horizon, we will always occupy the same shore."
Foreclosures rise...J.N. Sbranti
San Joaquin County had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last month, and Stanislaus and Merced counties weren't much better. One of every 131 homeowners in San Joaquin County were in default on their mortgages and being foreclosed this April, according to RealtyTrac's U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. One of every 180 homes faced foreclosure in Stanislaus County, and one of every 210 homes in Merced County.