Monday, December 27, 2010

Terry Cooke comments on Etopia News' coverage

Terry Cooke, Principal at China Seminars and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, talks about Etopia News and its efforts to inform the public about crucial renewable energy news, recorded from Philadelphia, PA, on December 27, 201

Terry Cooke on renewable energy in the U.S. and China, part 2

Terry Cooke, Principal at China Seminars and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, talks about renewable energy policy and practice in China and the U.S., recorded from Philadelphia, PA, on December 27, 2010

Terry Cooke on renewable energy in the U.S. and China, part 1

Terry Cooke, Principal at China Seminars and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, talks about renewable energy policy and practice in China and the U.S., recorded from Philadelphia, PA, on December 27, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

America’s Health Insurance Plans spokesperson comments on pre-existing conditions and the “individual mandate”

The recent decision by a Federal judge in Virginia declaring the “individual mandate” provision of the new health reform act unconstitutional makes it more likely that the question of that law’s constitutionality will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

While waiting for this development to unfold, Etopia News contacted the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and asked them about the insurability of persons with pre-existing conditions if the individual mandate were finally declared unconstitutional.

Robert Zirkelbach, their press secretary, promptly replied, providing a link to, and summary of, some background information on the subject, along with a statement, to be attributed to him, from the AHIP on this subject.

The background report, from Milliman, Inc., can be accessed here. Here’s the report’s summary:

“Guarantee issue requires insurers to sell an individual health insurance policy without regard to a person’s health. Community rating requires that all consumers pay the same or similar premiums without regard to age, gender or health status. According to the report, these initiatives have the potential to cause individuals to wait until they have health problems to buy insurance. This could cause premiums to increase for all policyholders, increasing the likelihood that lower-risk individuals leave the market, which could lead to further rate increases. If this continues, the pool or market could essentially collapse or shrink to include only the high-risk population.”

Here’s what Mr. Zirkelbach said, on behalf of AHIP:

“Throughout the health care reform debate there was broad agreement that enacting guarantee issue and community rating would cause significant disruption and skyrocketing costs unless all Americans have coverage. States that have implemented these laws without covering everyone have seen a rise in insurance premiums, a reduction of individual insurance enrollment and no significant decrease in the number of uninsured.”

We’ll need to wait for a while for a final resolution of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, but it appears clear already that if it is determined to be in violation of the Constitution, there will be some serious problems for the overall viability of the health care reform law and its implementation.

Karl Gerth on "As China Goes, So Goes the World," part 2

Karl Gerth, author of "As China Goes, So Goes the World," talks about the emergence and implications of a consumer-based economy and society in China, recorded from South Carolina on December 19, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Karl Gerth talks about "As China Goes, So Goes the World," part 2

Karl Gerth, author of "As China Goes, So Goes the World," talks about the emergence and significance of a consumer-based economy and society in China, recorded from South Carolina, December 19, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chuck DeVore on California's cap-and-trade regulations

former California Assemblymember and U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore explains his views on the recently-announced AB 32 cap-and-trade regulations, recorded on December 17, 2010

Karl Gerth on "As China Goes, So Goes the World," part 1

Karl Gerth, author of "As China Goes, So Goes the World," answers a few questions about his book before the Internet connection crashes. More soon. Recorded from South Carolina on December 18, 2010.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sandia Labs “will fully cooperate” with GAO recommendations on classified nuclear supercomputing upgrade

On December 9, 2010, U.S. Representatives Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, and Bart Stupak released a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifying serious weaknesses in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) plans for recovering and reconstituting the classified supercomputing system in the event of a disaster or other service disruptions.

According to their joint press release:

“NNSA’s classified supercomputing systems are critical to our nation’s modern nuclear weapon development and testing program,” said Rep. Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. “It is a matter of national security that NNSA be prepared to maintain the continuous operations of these supercomputers in the event of a disruption. I urge the agency to address the GAO’s recommendations and to implement effective and comprehensive contingency and disaster recovery plans at all three of its nuclear laboratories.”

Etopia News contacted the three national laboratories involved in nuclear research (Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos) for comment on the report’s recommendation. On December 17th, Sandia National Laboratories provided this statement:

“Sandia National Laboratories will fully cooperate with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on the recommendations in the Government Accountability Office report on information security. Because the report is addressed to the NNSA, we are referring further questions to them for their consideration.”

A Change in the Congressional Climate on Health Care, No Comment on Cancun

Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman, who has a few days left to enjoy that position, issued the following statement in response to the December 13, 2010, ruling on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate” provision of the Affordable Care Act by federal district judge Henry Hudson:

“There have been almost 20 cases filed challenging health reform. All the others that have come to judgment have been dismissed. We always knew that there was a chance that one or two judges would buck the clear legal consensus that the law is constitutional, just as some judges once ruled that Social Security was illegal.

“But one way or another, this question is clearly headed to the Supreme Court. When it gets there, I am confident that cooler heads will prevail and that the health reform law will be upheld in full.”

He also had something to say about the results in Cancun:

“The nations of the world have reached a balanced agreement to work to fight global climate change and promote clean energy. This is a good step forward, building on the Copenhagen Accord and setting the stage for further progress as nations take actions consistent with this agreement.”

Republican Representative Fred Upton, of the Sixth District in Michigan, will be replacing Representative Waxman in January as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Under the headline: “Top priority in the new Congress will be full repeal of the job-killing health care law,” here’s what he had to say about the decision declaring the “individual mandate” to be unconstitutional:

“Today, a U.S. District Court ratified what many Americans have known for the past year: the health care law is not only bad policy, it is unconstitutional as well. This decision strikes a blow for freedom and the enduring constitutional principles of our forefathers.

“When the health care law was being debated, Energy and Commerce Republicans warned that Obamacare represented an unprecedented intrusion by government into the lives of American citizens. At the time, we argued that the individual mandate violated Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution – the Commerce Clause – because it purported to regulate an individual’s ‘inactivity.’ If the government could compel individuals to engage in activities they wished to avoid – such as the purchase of health insurance – what restrictions could there possibly be on government’s power?

“That is why today’s decision striking down the individual mandate is so welcome. While the legal fights over the health care law are just beginning, our Committee will vigorously weigh in and assert our oversight authority to ensure that the federal government is returned to its properly limited role. Our top priority in the new Congress will be repealing the job-killing health care law.

“In the months ahead, we will be holding hearings on the unconstitutional aspects of the health care law and other critical health care challenges facing our nation. In the meantime, we urge the administration to cease and desist its efforts to implement the law and work with Congress on reforms that actually reduce costs for consumers in a free-market, constitutionally permissible manner.”

As this article was published on Friday, December 17th, Representative Upton’s press secretary had not been able to get back to Etopia News with a comment from his boss about the climate conference in Cancun.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CRC Commissioner Stan Forbes talks about its work

Stan Forbes, a "decline-to-state" member of California's Citizens Redistricting Commission, talks about that group's mission, activities, and plans, in an interview recorded from Sacramento, California, on December 15, 2010

CRC Commissioner Barabba talks about its work

Vincent Barabba, a Republican member of California's Citizens Redistricting Commission, talks about that group's mission, activities, and plans, in an interview recorded from Sacramento, California, on December 15, 2010

CRC Commissioner Dai talks about its work

Cynthia Dai, a Democratic member of California's Citizens Redistricting Commission, talks about that group's mission, activities, and plans, in an interview recorded from Sacramento, California, on December 15, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Call for Comments on Proposed CRC Slate

Margarita Fernandez, spokesperson for the California State Auditor's Office, calls on Californians to comment on the proposed slate of six additional members of the Citizens Redistricting Commission, recorded from Sacramento, California, on December 13, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Margarita Fernandez updates the Citizens Redistricting Commission story

Margarita Fernandez, spokesperson for the California State Auditor's Office, updates the status and process of the Citizens Redistricting Commission, which will now also set Congressional district boundaries, recorded from Sacramento on November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Michael Brady Makes the Case Against In-state Tuition for “Illegal Aliens”

Michael Brady, plaintiff’s attorney in the landmark case of Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, which seeks to overturn the provision in California state law granting in-state tuition rates to what he consistently called “illegal aliens,” spoke this afternoon with Etopia News, He explained his side of the case and said that he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the recent unfavorable judgment against his clients from the California Supreme Court.

Under the law, the plaintiffs in this case have 90 days from the November 15, 2010, date of the California Supreme Court’s ruling to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. Brady said that he will probably file that appeal “early in February.” He said “there’s a pretty good chance they’ll take it,” in part because it focuses on the currently hot topic of “federal pre-emption.”

Originally filed in December of 2005, in Yolo County, home of the University of California’s Davis campus, Martinez v. Regents of UC represents the objections of 42 plaintiffs from 19 different states to the fact that they must pay out-of-state tuition rates of more than $35,000 per year, while what Brady calls “illegal aliens” are only charged the much-lower in-state tuition of around $8,000. According to Brady, allowing illegal aliens this benefit costs the State of California $300 million annually.

Brady said that nobody he’s spoken to about this case can understand “how an American citizen can end up paying four times more than an illegal alien” to attend UC. The two major purposes of U.S. immigration law, he said, are to 1) discourage illegal aliens from coming to the U.S. and 2) discourage them from staying here. Granting in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, he says, clearly “rewards and encourages them to stay here” and thus undermines the basic intent of U.S. immigration law.

According to Brady, the U.S. Congress has said that California is free to offer in-state tuition to illegal aliens, but if it does so, it must also offer it to all U.S. citizens, including those resident outside of California. He said that the decision of the California Supreme Court, which relied for its judgment on a provision of California law saying that illegal aliens were eligible for in-state tuition on the basis of their attendance at California high schools, and not on the basis of their residence in the state, clearly flaunts the “will of Congress.”

He cited as precedent the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that universities are free to bar military recruiters from campus, but at the cost of losing all federal funding, saying that UC was similarly entitled to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens, but at the cost of having to extend that policy to all U.S. citizens, regardless of their residency. “You can go ahead,” he said, “but you’ll pay a price.”

The Regents of the University of California don’t want to pay that price, and the California Supreme Court has said they don’t have to. If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider this case, Mr. Brady will have another chance to argue why they should have to. This case, he said, “has national ramifications. Ten other states have similar laws.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jeffrey Miron on a sounder argument for marijuana legalization

Jeffrey Miron, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, discusses why California's marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 19, failed, and proposes a more straightforward argument in support of the drug's legalization

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bruce Lieberman on climate change and national security

freelance journalist Bruce Lieberman discusses what the U.S. military is doing to plan for a future full of major disruptions caused by climate change, recorded from San Diego, California, on November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

David Plouffe says that technological progess is "a little bit easier when you're not a democracy."

David Plouffe, campaign manager for President Obama in 2008 and, presumably, in 2012, addressed an audience brought together by the Center for Political Communications at the University of Delaware at 4:30 pm PST on November 10, 2010, as part of their National Agenda Series of talks on politics.

Talking about recent innovation in computer technology in China, where the world’s fastest supercomputer was recently unveiled, he said of such progress: “It’s a little bit easier when you’re not a democracy.”

Unsurprisingly, he sounded a lot like President Obama in tone and substance, speaking repeatedly of the need to find “common ground” between Republicans and Democrats. He admitted that the Republicans had a “good night” during the recent elections but said that they could have had a better one. He said it was hard to predict the political future.

Among other things, he said that voters were expressing their unhappiness and anxiety, but not voting for the Republican Party per se. He said the election was a cry for our leaders to get along and try solving problems. He pointed out that Republicans lost about two-thirds of the Latino vote and said that Republicans are divided into three different centers: the House, where they’re in control; the Senate, where they’re not; and, soon, presidential candidates.

President Obama, he said, “will reach out to try to find common ground where he will.” He cited as issues of importance the economy, debt and deficit, immigration reform, energy, and education. He urged leaders to work together, like adults. He said that working together would be good for the country.

Plouffe said he thought that the Republicans would nominate a right-wing extremist for president in 2012, because that’s where the energy and thinking in that party is now. He said that the electorate in 2012 would be 50 to 60 million voters larger than in 2010, and that it would include more young people and more moderate independents and would be more diverse.

The most important dynamic in that election, he said, will be if people think we’re heading in the right direction.

He predicted increased electoral/political volatility even though people are hungry for more intra-party cooperation. If the leaders match the commitment of the voters, we’ll make a lot of progress, he said, predicting that then we’ll have “that wonderful future that our youngsters deserve and need.” We can’t just worry about the next election, he said, although he also said that in elections substance is rarely discussed.

He said he’d like to see 100 candidates like (Delaware Republican Senate nominee) Christine McDonnell, adding that there is not a wide audience for that kind of candidate outside of the Republican Party. There are Republicans in Congress who want to find common ground, he said, but the energy in the Republican Party is with Glenn Beck. For the good of the country we will try to find common ground, he said, but it looks like we’ll get more of Palin, O’Donnell and Rand Paul. Asked by an audience member how he’d modify the President’s 2012 campaign if the Republicans nominated a moderate, he replied that he didn’t think they would.

A spokesperson for the University said on Thursday morning that a video of this talk would soon be online here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Congressional supporters of backroom redistricting have nothing to say about their plan's defeat

While most of the U.S. was turning itself over to the tender mercies of the newly-resurgent Republican Party last Tuesday, Californians returned arch-liberal Senator Barbara Boxer to office and re-elected “insider’s knowledge, outsider’s mind” Jerry Brown governor. Also, while pundits were noting the advantage that Republican-controlled state legislatures will now have in terms of being able to gerrymander Congressional districts in states where they are in power, California voters voted, by passing Proposition 20, to expand the writ of the Citizens Redistricting Commission they set up in 2008 to set State Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization districts to include the very Congressional districts that will, in other states, be apportioned on the basis of partisan self-interest.

They also rejected Proposition 27, a blatant power-grab, funded predominantly by Democratic incumbent Congressmembers, to disband the Citizens Redistricting Commission entirely, and give authority to draw legislative districts, both state and federal, back to the hacks (State Assemblymen and Senators) who have done an almost-perfect job (with the help of highly-paid Democratic consultant Michael Berman) of ensuring that no incumbent Democrat or Republican elected will be defeated before his or her time, or that any general election race for these offices in California will be truly competitive.

This state of affairs contributes mightily to the now-endemic cynicism and hostility to politics and politicians that are doing so much to keep the state (and country) from seriously addressing the myriad problems it faces. Surprisingly, Californians voted for Proposition 20 and against Proposition 27 by margins of around 60-40, a decisive statement about how strongly they feel about having politicians pick their voters instead of letting the voters pick their electeds.

A table here shows that several incumbent Democratic California Congressmembers made contributions of $10,000 or more to the campaign to pass Proposition 27 and defeat Proposition 20. These include Congressmembers Lois Capps, Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Judy Chu.

Etopia News tried to contact each of these Representatives, as well as California State Senator Alex Padilla, who contributed several times to the Yes on 27/No on 20 campaign, to get their views on why their side lost and what the implications were of California voters decision to expand the power of, rather than disband, the Citizens Redistricting Commission established by Proposition 11 in 2008.

“Ashley,” in the press office of Rep. Lois Capps said she’d get a statement for this article, but hasn’t yet. Ben Bradford, in Rep. Eshoo’s office sent an e-mail saying:

“Thanks for the e-mail. I won’t be able to get anything from Rep. Eshoo until tomorrow at the earliest, and even then, I’m not sure she’ll be able to participate, but I’ll see what I can do and get back to you tomorrow.”

No word from him yet, nor from the offices of Pelosi, Schiff, Chu, or Padilla.

Professor Daniel Lowenstein, who was the official proponent of Proposition 27, didn’t return an e-mail asking for comment.

Nor, as of now, have statements been forthcoming from the Office of Representatives Eshoo or Capps.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dale Jones makes the case for Proposition 19

Dales Jones, spokesperson for "Yes on Proposition 19," explains, defends, and advocates for the passage of this initiative to legalize the possession and tax the sale of marijuana in California, recorded from Oakland, California, on October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Etopia News hosts a debate on Props. 20 & 27

Derek Cressman of Common Cause supports Prop. 20 and opposes Prop. 27 while Michael Wagaman of the California Democratic Party opposes Prop. 20 and supports Prop. 27 in a remotely-recorded video debate hosted by Etopia News, recorded on October 27, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Senator Sanders seeks to clarify the law on FITs

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced S. 3923, the “Let the States Innovate on Sustainable Energy Act of 2010,’’ in order to clarify certain provisions in existing law that might stand in the way of individual states implementing feed-in tariffs in their jurisdictions.

According to Senator Sanders, “At a time when we are working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs, we should be encouraging states and local governments to pursue innovative sustainable energy policies, not stifling their progress."

The bill borrows language from an already-passed provision, Section 102, of HR 2454, the big climate change bill approved by the House of Representatives but not considered by the Senate.

Senator Sanders, an independent senator who caucuses with the Democratic majority in the Senate, is supporting this clarifying language for two reasons, according to an aide. First, from a Vermont-centric perspective, because his state is implementing a 50MW feed-in tariff and he wants it clear that it is entitled to do so. Second, from a national perspective, the senator is a big supporter of renewable energy and he wants to help individual states move ahead in that area.

The bill exists now on a stand-alone basis, but the Senator mostly hopes to get it enacted as an amendment to other energy legislation that may be acted upon during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, in November and December, 2010. Failing that, he is likely to re-introduce it early in the new year in the new Congress, starting in the Energy Committee, of which he is currently a member.

His office has had preliminary discussions with Senator Bingaman’s office about including this provision in the pending RES (Renewable Electricity Standard) legislation sponsored by the New Mexico senator. It’s not likely, though, that that will happen since that bill’s sponsors seem determined to stick exactly to language already approved by the Senate Energy Committee and hence will not allow amendments to their proposed law.

Introduced by Senator Sanders on September 29th, the “Let the States Innovate on Sustainable Energy Act of 2010’’ already has a number of co-sponsors, including Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, his fellow Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

According to his aide, no organized opposition to the bill has yet appeared. Strong support for this legislation, he said, is coming from the FIT Coalition, the Clean Energy Group (based in Montpelier, Vermont), and VPIRG, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PHEVs and the Smart Grid discussed at UCLA conference

With the imminent launch of two new plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, just around the corner, sixty or so engineers and officials active in energy and transportation research, policy development, and commercialization gathered yesterday (September 28, 2010) in Boelter Hall at UCLA to talk about these innovative new cars, the “smart grid,” and the relationship between the two.

The “smart grid” is the next generation version of the energy-delivery network, which allows for two-way transfer of power and includes the means for granular communication and control of the energy flow process.

Organized under the auspices of the Wireless Internet for the Mobile Enterprise Consortium (WINMEC) by its Director, UCLA Professor Rajit Gadh, the event featured a keynote address by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Timothy Simon.

The main point made by the speakers was that there is a strong synergy between the deployment of PHEVs and the creation of a “smart grid” able to manage two-way energy and information flows over the power distribution network.

Many of the speakers highlighted the need for more customer education, in order to bring the public up-to-speed on the technological and economic aspects of the transition to a more widespread deployment of electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support them.

In his keynote presentation to the group, Commissioner Simon pointed out that 40% of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation and that the increased use of PHEVs could significantly reduce US importation and consumption of foreign oil, while delivering the equivalent of $0.75/gallon gasoline.

After his talk, Commissioner Simon also expressed his belief that Proposition 23, which would effectively shut down AB 32, the climate change law, would not be approved by California voters in this fall’s election. He also said that threats to privacy through the enhanced ability of the smart grid to monitor customers’ use patterns was no greater than that already enabled by everyday use of credit and debit cards to make gasoline purchases.

Peter Suterko, Fleet Manager at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), talked about the actual experience his agency has already had with using electric vehicles and pointed out that the annoying stop-and-go traffic so much in evidence in Los Angeles has a hidden benefit in that it’s ideally-suited to the regenerative braking technology found in hybrids.

Phil Gow of Coda Automotive of Santa Monica, California, talked about his company’s soon-to-be launched PHEV and the innovative marketing plans it has for their product, involving selling them from retail storefronts at malls.

Mike Gravely, Manager of the Energy Systems Research Office of the California Energy Commission, delivered the Lunch Keynote, entitled “How Providing Grid Services Can Improve the Cost Profile of Electric Vehicles.” He asserted that 25% of the electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. would be found in California in the coming years, meaning that California would adopt this technology at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the country.

He also mentioned a pilot program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)of 2009 and involving UCLA, USC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology, that would investigate what it would take to build out a smart grid in Los Angeles. He talked about California becoming recognized at the Smart Grid State, and discussed the synchrophasor technology that uses GPS and other advanced methods to monitor and control energy flow in the grid.

Mr. Gravely also referenced the provision of “grid ancillary services” through the “second use” of PHEV battery packs in home and commercial devices that could provide smart grids with the ability to use these systems to store green energy from wind turbines at night and then call upon their stored energy during times of peak demand, thereby eliminating the need to build additional facilities.

Conference organizer Rajit Gadh announced the creation of a UCLA SoCal Electric Vehicle-Smart Grid Consortium that will work with commercial partners to take advantage of the research and thought leadership being generated at the school through its ongoing programs and special conferences such as this one.

UCLA provided its usual range of tasty and nutritious food to sustain conference participants throughout the day and at the patio reception at the close of the event.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No "clarifying language" on federal pre-emption of feed-in tariff policies in RES

Supporters of feed-in tariffs had hoped that “clarifying language” taken from Section 102 of H.R. 2454 (Waxman-Markey) would be included in the stand-alone Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) bill introduced on Monday, September 20th, and supported by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and others. Such language, they believed, was required in order to resolve the question of federal pre-emption of states’ rights to implement feed-in tariffs specific to their own state, as provided for under PURPA (the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, passed in 1978 as part of the National Energy Act).

According to Bill Wicker, Communications Director for the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, these hopes have been dashed. Asked if such language was included in the new RES bill, Wicker wrote to Etopia News on September 21st that:

"Answer is 'no.'

"This 'clarifying language' was not part of the RES section of the omnibus energy bill, S. 1462. Since we made no substantive changes to that committee-reported legislation, 'clarifying language' is not part of the stand-alone RES bill introduced today, either."

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) thinks such language is essential for sound renewable energy policy going forward. On September 22nd, he told Etopia News:

“States should have the ability to develop incentive programs that will help get electricity generated from renewable technologies onto the grid; due to the current regulatory framework this is not possible. Language to address this has already passed the House, as Section 102 of H.R. 2454. We hope that the Senate will see the wisdom in this approach and agree to our language.”

Inquiries to the offices of RES co-sponsors Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Susan Collins (R-ME) about the possible inclusion, through the amendment process, of such “clarifying language” in the RES had not yet been answered as of today, Thursday, September 23rd.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slick spots vs. social networks

The basic premise of democratic theory is that collective decisions will be arrived at through a rational process of give-and-take, of discussion based on commonly-accepted facts and differing opinions generated by diverse interests and personal preferences. The antithesis of this democratic model is one of secret manipulation of public opinion by means of a flood of emotionally-based appeals, developed using the tools of marketing and advertisement and delivered ubiquitously with funding by powerful and anonymous sponsors.

It should be obvious to even the casual observer which model, in a post-Citizens United world, is ascendant. With virtually-unlimited budgets and bland front names (Citizens for Prosperity, American for the Future, Citizens United) corporations and billionaires can now work to elect their candidates and qualify and pass their initiatives with a free hand.

Simultaneous with the rise of this model of anonymous manipulation on a grand scale has been the emergence of social media as its antithesis. Just as Iranian dissidents confronted their country’s corrupt clerical oligarchy through street protests organized using Facebook and Twitter, Americans with non-corporate political agendas find themselves relying more and more on these same technologies in order to coordinate their own political efforts.

What has emerged, then, is a contest between slick and omnipresent 30-second television spots designed to appeal to visceral and emotive aspects of the human psyche and an electronically-mediated movement or set of movements calling for the pooling of individual action through social networks. Of course, both sides (to the extent that there are only two sides) are using both approaches, when they can afford to or as it suits their purposes.

What we have then, is a vast system of money, polling/focus groups, attitudes, linguistic and audio/video formulations, membership lists, and professional practitioners vying for access to, and the ability to modify the thoughts, feelings and actions of, all the individuals who together make up the body politic, using increasingly powerful and persuasive electronic media, both uni-directional and interactive.

One can only hope that the billionaires who control Facebook will remain willing to be traitors to the economic class to which they now belong, lest the playing field tip even more thoroughly in the direction of the 30-second tv spot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bruce Lieberman explains the pros and cons of Proposition 23

Bruce Lieberman, science and the environment journalist, explains the campaigns to pass, and to defeat, California Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's landmark climate change law, AB 32, recorded from San Diego, California, on September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Margarita Fernandez on California's Citizens Redistricting Commission

Margarita Fernandez, Chief of Public Affairs at the California State Auditor's Office, talks about the process that is creating a Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw the lines for State Senate, Assembly, Board of Equalization, and, possibly, Congressional, districts after the 2010 Census. Recorded from Sacramento, California, on September 8, 2010.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What “Yes on 20/No on 27” has to say about Congresswoman Chu’s statement of support for Proposition 27

Responding to Congresswoman Judy Chu’s recently-published statement in support of California Proposition 27, a spokesperson for the “Yes on 20/No on 27” campaign provided the following statement to Etopia News:

"If politicians like Congresswoman Chu have it their way, all the progress California has made to create fair election districts will be lost. Indeed, the politicians who drafted Prop. 27 not only want to eliminate the voter-approved Citizens Redistricting Commission, but they also strike provisions in the current law that would prohibit them from drawing districts that protect themselves, their friends and their political parties. With Prop. 27 Congressman Chu and her friends will protect incumbents, avoid accountability, and prevent challengers from running against them.

“The fact is, Proposition 27 is nothing but a vehicle for politicians to overturn voter will, take power away from voters, return to the days of backroom deals and avoid being held accountable for addressing the serious issues the state faces."

Why Congresswoman Judy Chu is supporting Proposition 27

According to a September 2, 2010, press release from the “Yes on 20/No on 27” campaign, “Congresswoman Judy Chu has contributed more than $600,000 in support of Prop 27.”

Here is a statement sent to Etopia News today from Congresswoman Chu’s office stating her reasons for supporting Proposition 27:

“I’m a strong supporter of Proposition 27, Financial Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), because it ensures a fairer redistricting process. Unlike Prop 20, which sets up a totally new redistricting commission, California’s voters can hold the people who determine our state’s redistricting accountable for their decisions. These decisions are simply too important to leave solely in the hands of three randomly selected, unelected accountants which would determine the membership of this commission. Commissions take power away from the people and their elected representatives, and gives it to faceless, non-accountable bureaucrats.

“Not only that, Prop 27 will also save CA taxpayers millions of dollars by cutting wasteful spending on unnecessary new bureaucracies, at a time when our state is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and cannot even pass a budget. Finally, Prop 27 puts in new rules to prevent cities and counties from being split and requires precise population equality for all districts. Unlike current law where there can be population variations by as much as 1,000,000 people, Proposition 27 mandates precise population equality for all districts. ‘One person, One vote’ should be the law in California!”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

California’s Tea Party Patriots likely to support Proposition 20 and oppose Proposition 27

Dawn Wildman, California State Co-Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, told Etopia News today that her fellow movement activists “like the idea of the Citizens Redistricting Commission(CRC).”

The CRC was created in 2008 by the passage of Proposition 11. It takes redistricting authority over State Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization districts away from the State Legislature and gives it to a panel of 14 individuals, to be selected by the California State Auditor's office, representative of the state's population.

She said that they were “annoyed” to be having to vote on Proposition 20, which expands the authority of the CRC to include Congressional redistricting, since they’ve just recently voted on essentially the same thing. Nevertheless, she says that opinion in her group is tending toward a “Yes” vote on Proposition 20 and a “No” vote on Proposition 27, which would abolish the CRC and return all redistricting authority to the State Legislature.

The Tea Party Patriots are currently engaged in a period of study and discussion of the various ballot initiatives, and are looking to determine what the group’s consensus positions on these measures ought to be. One hundred and eighty-six local Tea Party Patriot (TPP) groups are involved in this process, which will close on Tuesday, September 7th. Ms. Wildman said that the TPP would announce the results of this consultative process the next day, on Wednesday, September 8th.

She also said that the proposition of most interest to her group was Proposition 23, which would repeal AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. “We helped to get it on the ballot,” she said, and added that the TPP would be using “rallies, bumper stickers, and information distribution” to get it passed, including a rally in Sacramento on September 12th.

Also important to the TPP is Proposition 24, on which she said the building trend in the party was for a “No” vote, since that measure “repeals corporate tax breaks.”

One ballot initiative that doesn’t seem to have a strong TPP consensus either way is Proposition 19, which would allow the recreational use of marijuana while authorizing local jurisdictions to tax its sale.

While there is opposition to the measure among some TPP members, others, Ms. Wildman said, especially those who came of age in the 60s, “don’t consider pot a gateway drug,” and want it legally-available and heavily-taxed, perhaps as a way of reducing the need for other taxes. Still, she said, many in the party are worried that the passage of Proposition 19 would lead to the creation of another bureaucracy and more regulation, which is anathema to the Tea Party Patriots.

Despite their likely support for Proposition 20 and likely opposition to Proposition 27, she said, the TPP will “probably not” devote much energy to these measures, but will concentrate instead on securing the passage of Proposition 23, the anti-AB 32 measure.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How diverse is the current applicant pool for the Citizens Redistricting Commission?

In an Etopia News article published yesterday (“Haim Saban's loan to Proposition 27 has been paid back”), Mr. Saban was quoted as saying that he had decided to switch his previous position of support for Proposition 11 to support for FAIR/Proposition 27 “because the state’s diverse population has not been adequately represented in the process of selecting members of an independent commission.”

Proposition 11, passed by California voters in 2008, transferred responsibility for redrawing the legislative and Board of Equalization district lines from the California State Legislature to the people in the form of a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. Proposition 27 on the November 2, 2010, ballot, would transfer that responsibility back to the State Legislature.

In an August 21, 2010 press release, the California State Auditor’s Applicant Review Panel, the body tasked with identifying 60 of the most qualified applicants for California’s first Citizens Redistricting Commission, announced that it “is holding public meetings to interview the 120 applicants remaining in the pool.”

According to this press release, “The Panel began the public meetings to interview the remaining applicants on Friday, August 6th. Interviews continue through Friday, September 10th….

“The 120 applicants consist of 40 registered Democrats, 40 registered Republicans, and 40 who are registered as decline-to-state or with another party. Of that applicant sub pool, 47 percent are women, 12 percent are African-American, 27 percent are Latino, 14 percent are Asian-American or Pacific Islander, 5 percent are American Indian and 37 percent are Caucasian.”

For additional information about the applicant pool members' race/ethnicity, gender, party affiliation, geographic location, and income, see the spreadsheet here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Haim Saban's loan to Proposition 27 has been paid back

Haim Saban is a remarkable entrepreneur and businessman with unprecedented influence in political affairs. According to a Saban spokesperson:

“While Mr. Saban supported the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 as a good idea, it hasn’t worked out as intended because the state’s diverse population has not been adequately represented in the process of selecting members of an independent commission. Accordingly, Mr. Saban does not support expanding the commission concept to Congressional redistricting and has agreed to make a loan to support the qualification of the FAIR ballot initiative.”

The “FAIR ballot initiative” (explained here in an Etopia News video interview with its Chief Proponent, UCLA Law School Professor Daniel Lowenstein) is now Proposition 27 on the November, 2010, California ballot.

As mentioned in the quote above and as reported in the Sacramento Bee on April 13, 2010, Mr. Saban loaned FAIR/Proposition 27 $2,000,000. In an August 31, 2010, e-mail to Etopia News, his spokesperson wrote, “To confirm, Mr. Saban provided a loan, which has now been fully paid back.”

Etopia News is waiting to hear back from the "Yes on 27" campaign in response to its question of the source of the money that paid back Mr. Saban’s loan.

Ted Ko at FIT Coalition updates the battle for a feed-in tariff

Ted Ko, Associate Director of the FIT Coalition, talks about PURPA, FERC, CPUC, and REESA, and about his group's efforts to implement a feed-in tariff policy in California and the US, recored August 31, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Derek Cressman at Common Cause on Props. 11, 20, and 27

Derek Cressman, Western State Regional Director of Common Cause, explains three ballot propositions, the already-passed Prop. 11 and the pending Propositions 20 and 27, which would impact the way California's legislative districts are determined, recorded from Sacramento, California, on August 24, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Joe Mathews and Mark Paul discuss "California Crackup"

co-authors Joe Mathews and Mark Paul talk about California's governmental gridlock and ways to solve it in this discussion of their "California Crackup: ; How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It," recorded remotely on August 20, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

David Irvine at UEG on the successful completion of the initiative circulation process

David Irvine, co-counsel of Utahns for Ethical Government, talks about the successful submission of sufficient voter signatures on an initiative petition for the enactment of a strong ethics-in-government law for the State of Utah, recorded on August 12, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

David Irvine updates the Utahns for Ethical Government initiative story

David Irvine, co-counsel for Utahns for Ethical Government, talks about the rationale behind his group's ballot initiative and its efforts to qualify it for the 2012 election, recorded from Utah on August 9, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Joe Mathews on the San Francisco Declaration on Direct Democracy

Joe Mathews, co-president of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, just concluded, sums up the event and discusses the consensus-derived "San Francisco Declaration on Direct Democracy," embodying agreed-upon best practices for modern direct democracy, recorded August 6, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fourth-generation psychic Linda Lauren talks about her presence in Second Life

a remote video interview with fourth-generation psychic Linda Lauren, talking about how she provides psychic services to people through their avatars in the virtual world of Second Life, recorded from West Orange, NJ, on August 4, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Technology and Direct Democracy: Obstacles and Opportunities

a video presentation made by Marc Strassman as part of "Panel 1: Do You Dream of Electronic Signatures?," during the August 2, 2010, EVENING PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM sponsored by Activate Direct ON The RISE OF DIGITAL DIRECT DEMOCRACY at the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy

Etopia News goes to the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, Day 3

Bruno Kaufmann, co--present of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, reviews the third day of the conference, including presentations by Joe Mathews, Bruno Kaufmann, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Grover Norquist, Andreas Gross, Jim Brulte and others, recorded from San Francisco, on August 2, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Etopia News goes to the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, Day 2

Bruno Kaufmann, co-president of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, talks about the latest news from the conference, recorded from San Francisco, California, on August 1, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Etopia News goes to the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, Day 1

Joe Mathews, co-president of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, talks about what's happening on Day 1 at the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy conference, recorded from San Francisco, California, on July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Smart Initiatives" come to Europe as European Union allows online signatures for its Citizens’ Initiatives

Online signing of official initiative petitions is not yet recognized as valid anywhere in the U.S., but the European Union, with its 500 million citizens, is about to provide for this as an integral part of its plan for European Citizens’ Initiatives, which will allow a minimum of one million signers distributed across “a significant” group of nations to propose legislation for their own self-governance. It hopes to have this system in place by the end of 2010.

Saying that this “new provision is a significant step forward in the democratic life of the Union,” the European Commission, writes, in its proposal to the European Council and the European Parliament for the establishment of regulations to govern the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI):

“Respondents have almost unanimously called citizens to be allowed to support initiatives online….Moreover, in light of the responses to the consultation, the proposal also provides for statements of support to be collected online. However, in order to ensure that statements of support collected online are as genuine as those collected in paper format and that the Member States can check them in similar fashion, the proposal requires that online collection systems should have adequate security features in place and that the Member States should certify the conformity of such systems with those security requirements, without prejudice to the responsibility of the organizers for the protection of personal data. Given the need to draw up detailed technical specifications in order to implement this provision, it is proposed that the Commission should lay down these specifications by means of implementing measures. Online collection should nevertheless be allowed from the outset.”

These ECI’s will need to be officially registered:

"Required information for registering a proposed citizens’ initiative
The following information shall be provided in order to register a proposed citizens’ initiative on the Commission's register:
1. The title of proposed citizens’ initiative in no more than 100 characters;
2. The subject-matter, in no more than 200 characters;
3. The description of the objectives of the proposal on which the Commission is invited
to act, in no more than 500 characters;
4. The legal base of the Treaties which would allow the Commission to act;
5. The full name, postal address and e-mail address of the organizer or, in the case of a
legal entity or organization, its legal representative;
7. All sources of funding and support for the proposed initiative at the time of
Organizers may provide more detailed information on the subject, objectives and background to the proposed citizens' initiative in an annex. They may also, if they wish, submit a draft legislative text."

The European Council has considered the regulations proposed by the European Commission, suggested some changes be made about decisions on the admissibility of proposed initiatives and forwarded its recommendations to the European Parliament. The European Parliament will meet on September 30th with representatives of the member states’ parliaments to discuss the various provisions of the regulations.

The Commission wants admissibility to be determined after 300,000 signatures have been collected; the Council after 100,000; and, a working paper of the Parliament suggests reducing that number to only 5,000. Furthermore, the Parliament’s working paper proposes giving authority over the admissibility question to an “Ad Hoc Wise Persons’ Panel” instead of the Commission itself, with appeals from this body’s decision then going to the Commission, and, above that, to the European Court of Justice.

Presumably, these are issues that will be resolved through the ordinary legislative process of the EU. Hopes are high that a final decision and acceptance of the regulations will occur before the end of 2010, so that the process of qualifying these initiatives can start at the beginning of 2011. It’s likely that provisions allowing online signature-gathering will be part of any final determination by the various EU bodies. Thus, by 2011, Europe will have adopted the proposal made ten years earlier by this reporter in his advocacy of "Smart Initiatives."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

David Irvine talks about online signing of Utahns for Ethical Government initiative petition

David Irvine, co-counsel for Utahns for Ethical Government, talks about Utah politics, his group's campaign to institute ethics reform for the legislature through the initiative process, and efforts to use the online gathering of eSignatures to qualify their initiative, recorded from Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Solar Real Estate Incentive--A Guest Column by Jeffrey H. Michel

Innovative energy technologies are essential for limiting import dependency. This fact is especially well understood by countries with dwindling fuel resources. Germany already derives 17% of its electricity from renewable energy generation. World leadership has been achieved by providing reliable financial returns to operators. The 3,800 megawatts of new photovoltaic generation realized in 2009 alone represents nearly twice the entire solar capacity (2,108 MW) installed in the United States.

Germany's success rests on a grid power feed-in law, called the Renewable Energy Sources Act, that recently entered its second decade of deployment. Utility companies are required to buy CO2-free electricity at premium rates from solar, wind, hydro, and biomass generation, successively lowering the use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases they emit.

U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee now wants to multiply Germany's achievement in this country. He is not only concerned about global warming and the security risks of foreign oil and gas. From his Congressional district on Washington's Puget Sound, he also ranks carbon dioxide emissions as “an absolute time bomb” irreversibly acidifying the world's oceans.

On July 26, Inslee introduced a “renewable energy jobs and security bill” into Congress modeled after German legislation. It would require electrical utilities to provide long-term incentive payments at uniform nationwide rates for renewable grid power. The contract time would be fixed at 20 years, just like in Germany. The rates can be lowered for future installations as technology costs decline. The investment payback for each type of renewable generation is graduated to provide a reasonable return, while preventing excess owner profits. The cost of feed-in payments is redistributed to all utility customers and readjusted in a biannual review process. All renewable generating installations up to 20 megawatts would qualify for the incentive program.

The bill's provisions are intended to place the United States “at the forefront of the global renewable energy revolution”. It nevertheless remains uncertain how many lawmakers may support Inslee's plan, unless near-term benefits emerge throughout the country.

A real estate agent in Glendale, Arizona, thinks she may have found one pathway to that objective. Jennifer Del Castillo is reorienting her business toward solar home sales. Renewable technologies don't only inject green jobs into the economy. They also enhance the value of existing real estate by capitalizing on the financial benefits of non-fossil energy.

Ms. Del Castillo recently sold a solar-retrofit home in only 35 days, while conventional offerings languish on Arizona’s depressed real estate market. The buyer paid the full asking price in cash to preclude adversary bidding. The 6.15 kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system had cut electricity costs for the previous owner by more than half. Assuming future utility rate increases of 5% annually, more than 66,000 dollars may be saved on power bills over the next 30 years. That's over a quarter of the total sales price of this three-bedroom home.

On two trips to Germany, Ms. Del Castillo has seen solar panels in every town. Over 21 thousand gigantic wind machines are implanted in the countryside. With twice as much annual sunshine as Northern Europe, however, Arizona would seem predestined to become the solar capital of the world. Yet without enduring payback guarantees, rooftop generation has remained too expensive for most homeowners.

That situation is now rapidly changing. The prices for solar equipment have fallen dramatically due to the exponential growth of manufacturing. Future carbon emissions taxes would tip the economic balance even more in favor of renewable generation and shorten equipment payback times.

In the view of Jennifer Del Castillo, anyone considering selling his home in the next few years should be installing solar panels now. Only then can actual electricity savings be documented to increase point-of-purchase value. A solar retrofit can easily raise a home’s asking price by 10 to 20 thousand dollars, while the sale may be closed in weeks instead of months.

The deepening relationship between solar energy and real estate is enhanced in the United States by frequent property turnover. Paul Gipe, who maintains a website on feed-in policies at, notes that the equity of a solar home is relatively unaffected by housing market conditions. The ongoing value instead rises in step with utility rate hikes and cumulative power bill savings.

The passage of Congressman Jay Inslee's renewable energy bill could create a resilient safety net for the real estate market. Solar rooftops, regional wind farms, and rural biomass plants would revive local economies and enhance their collective contribution to national energy security.

Jeffrey Michel can be reached at:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Indiana allows online voter registration but not online signature-gathering

Add Indiana to the list of states that allow people to use the Internet to register to vote, but don’t let them use it to sign official petitions.

Dale Simmons, co-general counsel in the Indiana Elections Division, today told Etopia News that the answer to the question of whether that state allows its citizens to affix signatures to petitions online through the use of DMV-based repositories of signatures or in any other way is “No.”

Indiana doesn’t have an initiative process in any case. Mr. Simmons did add that he had been asked about the online collection of signatures by someone in Indiana seeking to qualify for the ballot as a third-party candidate, a process that DOES require signatures, but said that he’d “never heard of it before.”

He also said that such a process of online signature collection was “not even considered” by the state legislature.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Update on the State-by-State Status of DOIPSS (DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing systems)

As previously reported by Etopia News, eight U.S. states now allow their resident citizens to register to vote, or to change their official party affiliation, online. They do this using DMV databases that contain digital versions of handwritten signatures that can serve as valid, officially-recognized substitutes for a new handwritten signature on a voter registration card.

Some Washington State residents have contacted that state’s Secretary of State’s office, asking if they might be able to use a similar system to sign official initiative petitions online.

On July 22nd, Don Hamilton, Director of Communications in the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, called using a similar, DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing system (DOIPSS) “an interesting idea, worthy of study.” Geoff Sugerman, media spokesperson in the Oregon Speaker’s office, said that the legislature there would soon be considering an overhaul of initiative rules, and that such an idea might be discussed there in the context of providing “a safe and secure system” for the collection of signatures on official petitions. In addition to accepting online voter registrations, Oregon now has a vote-by-mail only election system.

But three other states with DMV-assisted voter registration systems have told Etopia News that they have not extended, and will not be extending, these systems to allow for the online signing of official petitions.

Abbie Hodgson, Media Contact in the office of Kansas’ Secretary of State’s office, asked if the state allows registered voters to sign initiative petitions online using a system similar to the one they now use to allow online voter registration, said, “No, we do not. Petitions need to be signed in person.”

Arizona’s Matt Benson, Communications Director, in their Secretary of State’s office said, “You can’t sign initiative petitions online.”

Jacques Berry, Press Secretary for Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne explained that his state does not have an initiative process, but required handwritten signatures on recall petitions and for “in lieu” signatures used by candidates in place of filing fees. Asked if his office was considering expanding their online voter registration system to allow the use of a similar system for signing such documents, he said “We’re not planning to ask the legislature to do that.”

A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, Richard Coolidge, was less definitive in his comments about that state’s lack of a DOIPSS (DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing system), saying, “I haven’t heard that discussed yet….I haven’t given much thought to it.” He did say that, after three months in place, Colorado’s system for online voter registration had been used by over 10,000 people.

Calls to the remaining states that provide for online voter registration (Indiana and Utah) had not been returned by close-of-business Friday, July 23rd.

DOIPSS may not be sweeping the country, but several more press spokespersons in states with online voter registration, but not online petition signing, now know that such a concept exists, because someone asked them about it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rory Cox at Pacific Environment talks about July 12th Feed-in Tariff Summit

Rory Cox, California Program Director at Pacific Environment ( talks about what happened at the July 12th Feed-in Tariff Summit in San Francisco, recorded from San Francisco on July 23, 2010

Rory Cox at Pacific Environment talks about July 12th Feed-in Tariff Summit

Rory Cox, California Program Director at Pacific Environment ( talks about what happened at the July 12th Feed-in Tariff Summit in San Francisco, recorded from San Francisco on July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Proposal to allow online petition signing using DMV signatures gathers momentum

At around 5:00 pm, PDT, on Monday, August 2nd, at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, as part of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, your correspondent will deliver a “virtual presentation” entitled “Technology and Direct Democracy: Obstacles and Opportunities.” The presentation will be virtual because it will have been recorded in Los Angeles as a video file and then played to the assembled conventioneers present in the room.

Contained in that presentation is a modest proposal. Here’s the background for it:

Eight states now allow eligible citizens to register to vote online, by accessing DMV records and applying the digitized versions of signatures on file with them to voting registration sign-up. California has adopted such a program, pending the creation of a HAVA-compliant interactive statewide voter database.”

Here’s the proposal itself:

“One new opportunity that this presents is to allow citizens to use their DMV-stored signatures to digitally sign initiative and other official petitions, just as they are now allowed to use them to register to vote.”

This proposal hasn’t even been made public yet, but it nevertheless seems to be indicative of a trend.

Washington State allows online voter registration using DMV records. This reporter called the Washington State Secretary of State’s office and spoke to Carolyn Berger, Assistant to the Director of Elections, Nick Handy; and to Katie Blinn, Assistant Director of Elections, and asked them about the possibility of extending the right to register to vote online using DMV-acquired signatures to a right to sign initiative and other official petitions in the same way.

Both of them said that that wasn’t allowed under Washington State law. Ms. Blinn provided a link to the specific administrative rule that precludes it, saying, very clearly, that: "No initiative, referendum, or recall petition signatures may be filed electronically."

But they also volunteered the information that their office had already received some inquiries from Washington State residents who were calling to find out exactly the same thing that this reporter was calling about: whether, now that they could register to vote online, could they also sign initiative petitions online?

As these two election officials told Etopia News, that’s not possible now under Washington State law. But it looks like something’s in the air.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joe Mathews updates a preview of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy

Joe Mathews, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, talks about the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, scheduled for July 31st-August 4th in San Francisco, recorded from San Francisco, on July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Felix Kramer talks about electric cars

A remotely-recorded video interview with Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative, talking about the transition to electric-powered vehicles, recorded from Northern California, in August, 2008