Tag Archives: Jackie Speier

Californians and the Amash NSA Vote: 31-20-2

Vote fell along a much different axis than typical party line

by Brian Leubitz

The Amash amendment to the Defense Appropriations went down to defeat last week 205-217-12. The measure would have greatly reigned in the NSA, requiring the data to be only collected from people who are actually being investigated rather than pretty much everybody as it stands.  

Among the California delegation however, the vote total was 30-21-2 (if I counted correctly). You can find a table of the California delegation over the flip. At the time, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-SF/San Mateo) had this to say of the vote on Facebook:

Yesterday, I voted for Rep Justin Amash’s amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act to limit the NSA’s surveillance of Americans. The NSA’s collection of Verizon phone records and other such invasive actions cannot be taken lightly. We need to balance the needs of national security with the right to privacy.

Indeed, the bulk sweeps of metadata shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, as the Snowden leaks seem to keep spreading, we learn that the NSA isn’t confining themselves to the metadata. Check out this article about the NSA’s XKeyScore (H/t the Verge):

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.(The Guardian)

While the data is apparently not stored permanently, mostly because storing that amount of data would likely even sink the NSA. However, the NSA keeps anything they think would be remotely interesting and stores all of the metadata. That is a lot of information, enough to pretty much ensure that the internet is pretty much a world without privacy. Oh, sure you can use a VPN or something like that, but your data is pretty much out there at this point.

The question then remains as to what level we give up our privacy in the fight for security. It is an ages old question, but apparently the answer these days is tilting ever more towards security.

1 Aye Doug LaMalfa Republican
2 Aye Jared Huffman Democrat
3 Aye John Garamendi Democrat
4 Aye Tom McClintock Republican
5 No Mike Thompson Democrat
6 Aye Doris Matsui Democrat
7 No Ami Bera Democrat
8 No Paul Cook Republican
9 No Jerry McNerney Democrat
10 No Jeff Denham Republican
11 Aye George Miller Democrat
12 No Nancy Pelosi Democrat
13 Aye Barbara Lee Democrat
14 Aye Jackie Speier Democrat
15 Aye Eric Swalwell Democrat
16 No Jim Costa Democrat
17 Aye Michael “Mikeâ€ Honda Democrat
18 Aye Anna Eshoo Democrat
19 Aye Zoe Lofgren Democrat
20 Aye Sam Farr Democrat
21 No David Valadao Republican
22 No Devin Nunes Republican
23 No Kevin McCarthy Republican
24 Aye Lois Capps Democrat
25 No Howard “Buckâ€ McKeon Republican
26 No Julia Brownley Democrat
27 Aye Judy Chu Democrat
28 Aye Adam Schiff Democrat
29 Aye Tony Cárdenas Democrat
30 Aye Brad Sherman Democrat
31 Aye Gary Miller Republican
32 Aye Grace Napolitano Democrat
33 Aye Henry Waxman Democrat
34 Aye Xavier Becerra Democrat
35 Not Voting Gloria Negrete McLeod Democrat
36 No Raul Ruiz Democrat
37 Aye Karen Bass Democrat
38 Aye Linda Sánchez Democrat
39 No Edward “Edâ€ Royce Republican
40 Aye Lucille Roybal-Allard Democrat
41 Aye Mark Takano Democrat
42 No Ken Calvert Republican
43 Aye Maxine Waters Democrat
44 Aye Janice Hahn Democrat
45 Not Voting John Campbell III Republican
46 Aye Loretta Sanchez Democrat
47 Aye Alan Lowenthal Democrat
48 Aye Dana Rohrabacher Republican
49 No Darrell Issa Republican
50 No Duncan Hunter Republican
51 No Juan Vargas Democrat
52 No Scott Peters Democrat
53 No Susan Davis Democrat

Credit Cards are the Republican Health Care Model

Not in the borrowing sense, but in the way credit cards are issued.  If you look at all those credit card applications that you (used to) receive, you’ll notice they come from only two states: South Dakota and Delaware. That is because the federal guidelines allow banks to issue credit cards to customers in other states. So, states starting racing down to the bottom. The “winners” were DE and SD, and they won by eliminating their usury laws and allowing outrageous rates of interest that simply aren’t allowed in states like California.

And now Utah and Mississippi are hoping that will be the same for health care, as the “big idea” that Republicans bring to the table is the idea of selling plans across state lines.  Carly Fiorina touted this idea at her launch as one of her central campaign themes. How will that work for health care? Well, California has requirements that protect the consumer and patient that other states don’t really have.  Mental health parity, where insurers are required to treat mental illness in the same manner as a physical illness, is one example. Jackie Speier fought this fight in California for 14 years, and today she is fighting it in Congress.

Healthcare overhaul bills in both the Senate and the House would open the door to insurers selling policies across state lines — which some lawmakers fear could allow health plans to take advantage of the lenient rules in some jurisdictions while avoiding tougher enforcement regimes in places like California.

“It would be a huge problem for California consumers,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), who helped craft insurance laws when she served in the state Senate. “California is leading the way in terms of consumer protection, and I don’t want to see that lost.” (LAT 11/16/09)

Yet at least some part of this idea is already in the bill that the House passed, and looks like it will appear in the Senate bill.  It isn’t as pure as the Republicans would like, as it includes a federal floor. Because, you know, the Republicans would like to be able to buy/sell insurance that covers only severed limbs, but won’t help you when you get cancer.

The funny thing about this “big idea” is that even the insurance companies think it is a terrible idea. It will encourage states to be more permissive to insurance companies and allow them ever greater liberties in what they cover. And health insurance companies, operating in competitive markets, will offer some form of the basement floor insurance plan.

Whereas some insurers want to be able to sell policies across state lines, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Assn. opposes the idea. It argues that such permission would result in inexpensive, watered-down policies. Establishing a minimum level of benefits at the federal level could mitigate that somewhat, said Kris Haltmeyer, Blue Cross Blue Shield policy director.

Still, he said, “I do worry that there will be a race to the bottom, but the bottom won’t be as low as it used to be.”(LAT 11/16/09)

As we just finished writing the credit card “bill of rights” we are now moving to use that same failed model for our health insurance? Apparently some of our national leaders need more convincing evidence than what is directly in front of their faces.

As an endnote to this story, I’ll simply describe the exciting packet I received from Kaiser yesterday. Despite not changing in their demographic or risk assessment model, nor changing anything in my individual plan, my monthly health insurance fees went up about 20% year over year. This just isn’t sustainable.

Congresswoman Speier’s Town Hall

(Also posted to Daily Kos)

More of a Town Field, actually.  

I planned to attend this a few days ago, and confirmed my attendance with MoveOn.  I planned on arriving between 8:15-8:30AM for a 9AM Town Hall in San Carlos.  This morning after showering, I saw I had received email from Move On, suggesting that people plan on arriving two hours early.  It was a little too late for me for that, but I hurried up and arrived 90 minutes early…  To find I was the first person to arrive.  So, I watched the set-up, etc, which was fairly boring.

I did learn that 80% of the San Carlos police department was at the park.  It was going to be very hot there, as we’re in the midst of a warm spell, and most of the audience area was in the sun.  It was already 80 degrees by 9AM.  I talked with a couple people attending, and was struck by the nature of CA-12, electing people directly effected by religious insanity:  Leo Ryan, killed in Jonestown, Tom Lantos, the only Congressman who also was in a Concentration Camp, and now Jackie Speier, who was an aid to Leo Ryan and was shot in Jonestown.

Congresswoman Speier arrived roughly on time, and the fun began.

It started with tributes to San Carlos, and some stuff about the Boy Scouts, and the pledge of allegiance.  I’ll admit that, as an atheist, and supporter of Gay Rights, I was uninterested, but this wasn’t why I was there.  I had a very specific question I wanted to ask.  (While waiting, I even spoke with Mike Larsen about the nature and format of questions, he was very agreeable.)  

The Congresswoman made a brief presentation, during which the disruptive elements started to make themselves apparent.  Jackie and her staff had the microphones, though, and while there were a few withering looks, and a few other comments from the crowd of “Let her talk” there wasn’t much other disruption.  This town hall went relatively well, so it isn’t one likely to make the national news.

Most of the time was spent with Q&A.  There were the normal issues with microphones, but the worst part of the sound system was the occasionally deafening roars of static and noise from the speaker near where I was sitting.  I was tempted to change my question to one asking about medical coverage for perforated ear drums for those near the speakers.  

There were the expected cheers for the single payer, and the public option, and there were those who supported the insurance industry profits.  I’d suspect the questions where about 50-50, and the audience by number was about 75-25, but by vocal was 60-40.  The most common issues were about how we could afford this, which the Congresswoman answered reasonably well.  (With my economics background, I would have been itching to explain economic multipliers and deficits as a percentage of GDP, and historical deficits.)  The two answers I personally liked the least were the ones where someone talked about where in the Constitution was the provision to provide the bailout, I’d have answered “Article 1 Section 8 Clause 3, To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.”  I also did not like her answer about the Hyde Amendment and health care, I am someone who believes the Hyde Amendment is bad policy.

The Congresswoman’s best answer, in my opinion, came after a teabagger’s recitation of incorrect statistics, when she said, “You (the questioner) are no longer listening,” let’s move on.

It is interesting to note that the disruption was almost entirely from a small subset of people on the side of the insurance industry.  They repeatedly interrupted the Congresswoman, as well as anyone who was attempting to ask pro-public option questions.  The most insulting one was when a woman started with “I am one of the Americans who doesn’t have insurance” and a teabagger interrupted with “You aren’t an American.”

I would have liked to ask one of them, as they are not willing to tolerate different opinions, which is the fundamental basis of American civil liberties, why do they hate America so much?

Alas, I was unable to ask my question, as time did not permit it.  For the record, my question would have been:

Given that recent BLS statistics show that San Mateo and San Francisco counties have had the largest job losses outside Detroit, and given that the CARS program has provided stimulus to the extent that it is plausible that our counties will move up to #1 in terms of jobs shed, and given that the newly unemployed are among those with the greatest financial difficulties, does it not make sense to extend the duration of COBRA benefits beyond 18 months at least until employment recovers, and will you also encourage Congress extending ARRRA COBRA premium reductions beyond nine months, and consider making those reductions a permanent part of the COBRA program?

I will be submitting this question to the Congresswoman on-line, and will report back any response.

Run, Jackie, Run!

I THINK IT’S APPARENT to most Democrats in California that after six years of a Republican actor as governor, it’s time to elect a qualified candidate from among our own ranks in 2010. But please forgive me if I’m underwhelmed by our choices right now.

The indefatigable Jerry Brown hasn’t even officially declared yet and has already raised seven times as much money as his nearest Democratic competitor, Gavin Newsom, a likeable but flawed candidate.

On the short list of alternates often mentioned is Jackie Speier, a dynamic freshman Congresswoman from San Mateo. So when I was recently invited to hear her speak at a luncheon hosted by the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, I happily accepted.

With a friendly nature, indomitable spirit and ambition to spare, the popular Speier spent 18 years in Sacramento in both the Assembly and the Senate and was elected with 75 percent of the vote last fall to the 12th Congressional District. She lost a primary contest for lieutenant governor in 2006 by a very narrow margin to John Garamendi.

Few in the mostly female audience disagreed with her assessment that we need more women in public office. “The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world,” Speier said, quoting Charles Malik, former president of the United Nations.

But while California has two female senators, currently only 17 percent of the U.S. House is female. And giving up her House seat to run for governor would be a “difficult” decision, she said.

But we urgently need someone who isn’t afraid to stand up to the special interests, Speier maintained. “I won’t support anyone who won’t take on the prison guards union.”

That’s a pretty fearless statement considering the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is one of the most powerful unions in the state and has funded many an independent expenditure attack on candidates who cross them.

But Speier is well known for her courage. While a young staffer to Congressman Leo Ryan in 1978, she was part of the delegation ambushed in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple. She was shot five times, left for dead and waited 22 hours for medical attention. Congressman Ryan and four others were murdered. The next day, more than 900 members of the cult committed suicide.

In 1994, Speier’s first husband died in a car crash while she was pregnant with their second child.

AND SO, IN COMPARISON, political obstacles seem far less formidable. She’s been a prolific legislator with more than 300 bills signed into law, many focusing on consumer protection issues and financial reform, and she chaired the state Senate committee investigating fraud in state government. On her first day in Congress, she delivered a gutsy but rousing speech against the Iraq war.

Speier recently held a town hall forum on health care in her district which was peaceful. “There is no point in pursuing health care reform without a public option,” she said. What would she do to fix California politics? Get rid of term limits (which give us a perpetual crop of rookies) or limit each legislator to 12 years, jettison the two-thirds vote needed to pass a budget and bring on open primaries (which will encourage moderates).

So perhaps instead of a fake action hero for governor, we’ve found a real one.

Go Jackie!

Marie Lakin is a community activist and writes the Making Waves blog for the Ventura County Star

Thirteen CA Legislators Rewarded by Carrots, Not Sticks Initiative

A new initiative organized by Howie Klein, Jane Hamsher, fellow Calitician Dante Atkins and myself to verbally and financially reward Congressmembers who pledge to vote down any healthcare bill that does not include the public option is catching fire today.  The objective is to use carrots as well as sticks to achieve progressive goals.  As I said in the diary kicking off this intiative at DailyKos:

Human beings are psychologically predictable creatures, much like Pavlov’s famous canine.  We do respond well to punishment, but we respond just as well if not better to positive reinforcement.  Do nothing but beat a dog with a stick, and the dog is likelier to be aggressive than lovingly loyal.  Do nothing but scream at a child, and the child will eventually fail to respond to her abusive parent.  Senators and Representatives, no matter how elevated, are still just people: the rules of psychological conditioning still apply.  If all we can do is scream at people who don’t do what we want, eventually no one will listen to us at all.

Utilizing Jane Hamsher’s signatory list, Howie Klein set up an ActBlue page called They Took the Pledge.  Spurred on by Jane Hamsher’s post, my dkos diary, Dante’s dkos diary, and Howie Klein’s efforts at Blue America PAC, the online effort has raised over $60,000 since this morning, becoming ActBlue’s top fundraising page.  And the media has begun to take note, with stories on CBS Online, Politico, and The Plum Line.

On the list are 13 deserving CA Legislators who could use your dollars and/or words of encouragement:

Judy Chu (CA-32)

Sam Farr (CA-17)

Bob Filner (CA-51)

Mike Honda (CA-15)

Barbara Lee (CA-09)

Grace Napolitano (CA-38)

Laura Richardson (CA-37)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34)

Linda Sanchez (CA-39)

Jackie Speier (CA-12)

Maxine Waters (CA-35)

Diane Watson (CA-33)

Lynn Woolsey (CA-06)

If you have the resources, please consider donations to our excellent California legislators.  For those who can’t chip in, DFA has a thank you action item to thank our healthcare heroes.

With an approach that uses more carrots and less sticks, hopefully we can encourage others in California and across the country to join these brave progressive leaders.

Text the Vote with the CDP

Like many of you, I am increasingly worried about how an early call in the presidential race will affect turnout in California during the critical hours before the polls close. And I’m not encouraged by a giant No on 8 party starting at 6 PM and the email I received this morning that Jackie Speier’s election night party will start at 7:30 (polls don’t close until eight). When it comes to GOTV, volunteer all the way until the end, regardless of what went on in the east coast. That is why I love this new program by the California Democratic Party (from email):

Finally, think about all your friends and family in California who will share that joy with you. Is there a chance, even a small chance, that if they hadn’t voted by 6pm, people you know just might not vote at all? Maybe they’ll just be tired after a long day at work. Maybe they won’t be quite sure where to vote. Maybe they’ll see a long line at their polling place and figure “Obama’s gonna win California, so why bother?”

Help us make sure that your family and friends don’t give into temptation. Help us make sure your friends and family vote to defeat Propositions 4, 8 and 11 by sending them a quick text message.

Research shows that one of the easiest and most effective ways to get someone you know to vote on Election Day is to send a text message reminding them to vote. There is no better person to remind your friends and family to vote than you!

Use our free tool today to write an Election Day text message to your friends and family in California and we will send it to them for you on November 4th.


Take a minute and set it up today. And spread the word.

Monday Linky Thread

Prop 2, the factory farm measure, was the subject of a favorable op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Prop 2 would likely end the use of cages for hens in egg production. In very quick terms, it would require that the animal (e.g. chickens, pigs, and baby cows) could stand up and turn around in its cage.

• The lobbyists are gearing up to fight AB 583, Asm. Hancock’s (D-Berkeley) bill to make the 2014(?) Secretary of State race a publicly-funded clean campaign. AB 583 was originally intended to fund the 2010 governor’s race and some legislative races, but it was amended down.  Either way, lobbyists just aren’t thrilled about the increase of their fee from $25 to $700.

• A good story about Jackie Speier’s first few months in Congress.

• The SF Chronicle reads far, far too much into the VP selections of both candidates. Once again, I strongly disagree with former Lieberman for President strategist Garry South. The VP pick is a public executive decision and gives an indicator of who the candidate is, but a good pick can’t save a campaign. And a bad pick won’t kill it either. I refer you to Lloyd Bentsen v. Dan Quayle.

What’s on your mind?

Friday Evening Open Thread

A few tidbits:

• Pasadena-based IndyMac becomes the second-largest bank to fail in US history.  Smells like 1929.  But don’t worry, it’s all in your head.

• Calitics friend Jackie Speier is forwarding her first piece of legislation, to set a national speed limit at 60 mph in urban areas and 65 mph on rural highways.  Slowing down to 60 mph or less significantly improves fuel efficiency.  Then again, so does not driving – as SoCal’s newest transit riders are learning.  But this is a tiny fix that could have an immediate impact on reducing gasoline use.

• Hey look, it’s Dianne Feinstein promoting a Republican-supported water bond that would build more dams (it’s a compromise measure, because some of the money earmarked for dams could go to groundwater storage and other water projects)!  Telling that Dave Cogdill immediately endorsed it while Da Don was cool.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, had a tepid response, calling on the governor to first authorize $872 million in unspent water funds and reach agreement on a $15.2 billion budget shortfall before seeking a water bond in the Capitol.

“I am open to doing a water bond,” Perata said in a statement. “First, however, the state should spend the bond money voters approved in 2006, and then, we must pass a responsible budget that can pay for the debt service on a new bond.”

Use this as an open thread.

Ron Calderon: The Anti-Speier

Ignore the physical differences between Jackie Speier and Ronald Calderon, the jokes are too easy to make.  These two legislators are basically examples of where the California Democratic Party is coming from and where it is headed. Calderon is the past, Speier is the future.

Current Representative (and 20-year state legislator) Speier is a leader who stands up to corporations. The privacy bill that she passed is the toughest in the nation. And she passed that despite the fierce opposition of financial institutions that the bill regulated, save for the CEO of e-Loan.  Oh, and she pissed off the Republicans in the House. While the privacy bill is her hallmark legislation, she has a record that anybody would be proud of.

Calderon, on the other hand, is part of the “Mod Squad” intent on nuzzling up to the corporate trough. He is fond of the all money is good money philosophy, no matter how many strings are attached. And perhaps he knows something about which Rep. Speier speaks. In this session, he has been pushing SB1096, a bill to allow pharmacies to sell medical records to pharmaceutical marketers. The privacy implications are astounding, and unacceptable.


The legislation would allow pharmaceutical firms to send mailings directly to patients. Supporters of the proposal say the intent is to remind patients to take their medicine and order refills. But consumer privacy advocates are outraged.

“This bill would be a windfall for corporations seeking to track, buy and sell a patient’s private medical records,” said Zack Kaldveer, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of California. “This would represent a significant intrusion by pharmaceutical companies into the privacy of patients.

“By opening this Pandora’s box, consumers could wind up receiving mailings designed to look as if they came from the pharmacy yet conflict with what their pharmacist or doctor has recommended. Such a scenario would be a threat to their health.”

The California Medical Association opposes the legislation, contending that it could jeopardize patient safety and hurt doctor-patient relationships. The mailings are particularly problematic for patients with sensitive medical issues such as mental illnesses, says the association. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The bill originally failed by a vote of 17-17, with an interesting coalition of Republicans and Democrats opposing the bill. Eventually, Calderon was able to pass the bill out of the Senate last week by adding an opt-out provision. The final Senate vote was 21-16, with the Noes including progressives like Kuehl and Migden and conservatives like McClintock and Battin.

However, opt-out is not strong enough. Heck, even e-mail marketers for retail stores like the gap have the common courtesy to ask before they send us spam. The least California can do is require that pharmacies get affirmative opt-ins to this practice. The privacy of medical records is just too important to monkey around with opt-out rules.

But opt-out wouldn’t really work for the drug marketers, would it? The data would be too sporadic to have any great value.  This bill was essentially written by Adheris, the self-described leader in “prescription drug patient behavior modification.” In other words, they’re trying to sell more drugs. By the way, they don’t have such a great record on these issues:

A primary backer of the bill is Adheris Inc, a subsidiary of a drug marketing company that was sued several years ago under its former name for privacy violations. Adheris is involved in a pending class-action lawsuit in San Diego involving the same issues in the Calderon bill. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The California Senate made the mistake of letting this stinker slip through. The Assembly cannot do the same. Contact your Assemblymember and tell them to vote NO on SB 1096. I know I’ll be contacting mine.