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Friday, May 28, 2010


"Democracy" update

I wrote about the upcoming elections back in March and the situation has only gotten worse since then. As the primary approaches (June 8), Gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have now respectively spent $68 million and $24 million of their own money in their attempts to buy the Governership of California (meanwhile, while Whitman and Poizner travel the state on private jets, the candidate I'm supporting, Carlos Alvarez, is spending $40 on a bus ticket to travel overnight tonight from Los Angeles to Phoenix for a national protest against the new Arizona immigration law).

But if the Governor's race is bad, at least it's a case where there is at least competition among the rich. Much worse is the distortion (to use a gross understatement) of democracy represented by ballot measures. Locally, the San Francisco 49'ers have now spent $3.6 million ($150 per voter!) to convince voters of nearby Santa Clara to build a new stadium for them, while the opposition has spent a whopping $20,000. I must have seen TV ads touting the new stadium and all its benefits to Santa Clara more than 50 times (I watch a lot of TV), and of course I've heard not a word on the other side.

Even worse is the grossly-misleading campaign being conducted by PG&E on behalf of Proposition 16, the proposition it calls (fraudulently, IMHO) in its ads the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act" (but which in actually is called no such thing), which requires a 2/3 vote before governments can create public power agencies. I have seen this ad (actually three or four different ads) hundreds of times by now, many times per day. PG&E has now spent $44 million financing this campaign, and, as far as I can tell, there hasn't been a penny spent in opposition.

And where is the media in this? Nowhere. The media which absolutely delights in pitting one talking head against another on practically any subject (Need a discussion of global warming? Find the one scientist in a hundred - or more likely a non-scientist - to argue the "other side" against a scientist who understands it. Pit a Democrat against a Republican. A prosecutor against a defense lawyer. On and on it goes, except on certain issues. Like war. Or, in this case, erecting a new stadium or making sure that private power companies like PG&E continue to have a near-monopoly on providing power. Not a single op-ed I've seen, not a single discussion on any news or discussion program, nada. Every single word I have heard on these two subjects, with the exception of one or two letters to the editor of the paper, has been in support of building the stadium and passing the 2/3 vote requirement.

Paraphrasing Gandhi on "Western civilization" - "Democracy? It's a good idea. We ought to try it some time."

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