All posts by silence

Election day

(And in San Francisco, we have a coronation election for the Mayor! And please, please, please, if you know people in SF that haven’t voted yet, tell them to vote Yes on A, No on H. They could be two of the most important props in SF for quite some time. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

For a thousand local elections across California, today is election day.

School board, city councils, fire districts, water districts, and assorted local measures are on the ballot.

Where I am, we’ve got city council, school board, a hotel tax, and an advisory measure about building an emergency underground water storage tank under a local park. 

My precinct was quiet this morning.  I saw three poll workers, and no other voters when I dropped off my absentee ballot.  Almost as if nobody realizes that there is an election.

If your absentee ballot isn’t already in the mail, make sure you pay a visit to the polls.  People you disagree with will.

Slate mailers — pay for play on 87

(These slate mailers have deliberately deceptive names. There should be no place for that in a serious political debate. – promoted by SFBrianCL)

Each year, around election time, my mailbox fills up with “slate mailers” — glossy mailers endorsing a whole pile of candidates and propositions.  These mailers are sent by groups with names like “Democratic Voters Choice” or “Citizens for Good Government”

Unfortunately, their names often have little to do with their real purpose.  Instead of being sensible efforts to inform citizens, many slate mailers are actually extortion rackets — pay us, or we’ll endorse the other side.  By producing an ostensibly “Democratic” ballot slate, but with reversed endorsements on a few races, these mailers trick voters into casting votes they wouldn’t have done if fully informed.

Last year, the big buyer was PhRMA, trying to prevent Californians from passing a measure which would have cut drug prices and hurt their profits.  This year, it appears to be the “no on 87” crowd, who want prevent Californians from taxing oil to pay for a renewable energy investment.

To date, I count the No on 87 crowd as having made the following expenditures:

The only “yes” endorsement I found on a slate mailer was on the Cops Voter Guide — at the cost of $100,000.

Undoubtedly, there are other examples of pay-for-play endorsements in slate mailers going on out there.  All you need to do to find them is to go look, and pay close attention to who sent that mailer which appeared in your mailbox.


There appear to be several initiatives which started circulating petitions last week.

The first calls for turning Election day into a holiday.  I find the idea intriguing, but am unsure of what the actual effect on turnout would be.

The next three are all attempts to make life difficult for homosexuals.  They’re variants on prohibiting marriage and invalidating existing domestic partnerships.  I’m not sure if there’s a real signature gathering attempt associated with all of these — two of them sound like different versions of the same initiative.

Any thoughts about these particular measures?  Sightings of signature gatherers?  I’d love to hear.

The push for renewables

Although Prop. 80 may have failed, the CPUC is still pushing to move more of California’s electrical supply to renewables. There’s been a lot of discussion about wind and rooftop photovoltaics. What hasn’t been so widely discussed, but which is apparently in the works is a renewed push for industrial-sized solar plants:

Stirling Energy Systems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville

They’re talking about 500 megawatts at the first plant, and an additional 300-900 megawatts at a second.

The cost is estimated to be high for these first plants, and to then fall to:

less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour, which is about what it costs to make electricity at modern, gas-fired power plants at today’s fuel prices

It will be interesting to see where this goes, and whether we can fulfill a large fraction of peak demand without turning the entire desert into a mirror.

PhRMA: trying to buy both sides

A recent Kos diary alerted me to some rather suspicious mailers going out around San Diego:

The Handy Dandy “voter guide” had a vote Yes on Prop 78 and NO on Props 79 and 80.

Wait just a minute. I go back and check my email I received from the CA Democratic Party and, no, I wasn’t mistaken….the CA Democratic Party says NO on 78 and endorses 79 and 80.

Needless to say, this aroused my curiousity.

Upon learning that a group called “Democratic Voters Choice” had prepared the slate endorsement, I googled a bit, and soon learned that the flyer was one of two, each making the same endorsements, but targeted at SoCal residents of different parties:

In some versions of the piece, the brochure appears to be from the Democratic Party, although the fine print shows that the real backer is a group called “Democratic Voters Choice.”

Another version, targeted at Republicans, lists a group called “Citizens for Good Government” as the source.

Needless to say, a collection of bogus endorsements like this sent me off to Cal-Access, the state campaign contribution database. Each group has entries, and unsurprisingly, I found that on October 15, PhRMA paid each group a substantial sum for their endorsement. The records for Democratic Voters for Choice are on pages 3-4 of this electronic filing, and the records for Citizens for Good Government are on pages 7-8 of this electronic filing. Both groups list Kinde Durkee, the LA county Democratic party treasurer, as their contact, but the provided phone number ((213) 489-4792) belongs to David L. Gould company, and David L. Gould was listed as the contact for both groups during the 2001-2002 cycle. FWIW, David L. Gould is (was?) the president of the California Political Treasurers Association.

So look carefully at the flyers which show up on your doorstep. Look at who paid for them, and who funded that group, and who they really are.

Does Prop. 73 open ban on in-vitro fertilization

(The most dangerous part of Prop. 73? The definition of a fetus as an unborn child. Framing is key here. – promoted by SFBrianCL)

The OC register is running an article about whether Prop. 73 will alter the regulation of in-vitro fertilization:

Putting that language into the state Constitution could lay legal grounds for those wishing to ban stem-cell research and in-vitro fertilization, said Margaret Crosby, an attorney who helped get the state’s previous parental notification law thrown out. Because embryonic stem-cell research and in-vitro fertilization involve unused embryos, the practices could be vulnerable to the legal challenge that they are terminating human life, she said.

In particular, the text of Prop. 73 defines “abortion” as:

the use of any means to terminate the pregnancy of an unemancipated minor female known to be pregnant with knowledge that the termination with those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born. For purposes of this section, “abortion” shall not include the use of any contraceptive drug or device.

Anybody want to comment on whether this is a real risk, or some sort of straw man argument created by the OC register so that they don’t need to discuss issues about how much access to the courts minors who fear abuse at the hands of their parents really have?