Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Senator Yee agrees to take Smart Initiatives proposal "under advisement"

A staffer in the office of California State Senator Leland Yee, author of SB 397, which, since September 19, 2012, allows eligible Californians to register to vote online, today responded to my suggestion that the right of online signing be extended to initiative and other official petitions, thereby implementing what I call "Smart Initiatives."

In an e-mail entitled "Online Petition," the staffer wrote:

"We have not determined what our bill package will look like next year. Your requested proposal will be taken under advisement."

I replied with an e-mail of my own:

"Thanks for your note, and for taking my proposal for 'Smart Initiatives' under advisement.

"There would be many advantages to a system that allows Californians to sign initiative, referendum, recall, and in lieu petitions online, many of them similar to those of the system for allowing them to register to vote online that was implemented by Senator Yee’s SB 397.  These include ease of use for signers and reduced cost and effort for state and county election officials.

"You can read a short defense of Smart Initiatives that I wrote in 2000 at:


"You can read a lot more about Smart Initiatives at:


"Please feel free to contact me as you proceed to consider Smart Initiatives as part of next year’s bill package.  I’d be glad to discuss its advantages and how it might be implemented with you at your convenience.

"Now that the Secretary of State has implemented a system for transferring official voter signatures from DMV records to electronic versions of the voter registration form, most of the technical work needed to create Smart Initiatives has already been done.  Modifying this system to allow the use of these digitized signatures on initiative and other official petition forms would likely not even require as much work or expense as was already needed to develop and deploy  the new online voter registration system.

"Thanks again for your consideration of this important electoral reform proposal."


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Open Letter to Senator Yee asking about Smart Initiatives

September 22, 2012

Dear Senator Yee,

In 1999, I proposed, in the “California Internet Voting Initiative”, the creation of a system “for voter registration and voting by use of the Internet from the home, workplace, or any other location chosen by a person who is eligible to vote.” 

Your bill, SB 397, has, as of September 19, 2012, now implemented the first part of my 13-year-old proposal.
I wanted to thank you for creating and facilitating the passage of this legislation, which, as you know, allows for the transfer of a digital version of a citizen’s signature on file with the DMV in order to fulfill the requirement that their affidavit of registration contain a valid copy of that signature.

Around the same time I also proposed, in the “Smart Initiatives Initiative”, that official initiative, referendum, recall, and in lieu petitions ought be able to be legitimately signed using online digital technology.

I was wondering if you might now consider authoring a bill to implement this “Smart Initiatives” proposal as well, using the same principles and logic that justified the expansion of voter registration rights to include an online alternative.


Marc Strassman

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Pirate Hour grows its viewership with a widening range of guests

The Pirate Hour, a production of the California Pirate Party, hosted by Etopia News founder Marc Strassman, is growing in popularity even as it brings in a more diverse list of featured guests.

“The goal of the Pirate Hour is,” in the words of its web page, “to speak with intellectuals and public figures in a democratic open space to share ideas and information.”

Guests so far have included:

1.       David Bollier, activist of the commons
2.       Joe Mathews, protean journalist and commentator
3.       William Kelleher and Alan Dechert, Internet voting advocates
4.       Angela Keaton, libertarian stalwart
5.       Russell Dalton, political scientist and researcher of “apartisanship”
6.       Eric Maag, teachers’ union official

Judge James P. Gray, the Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate, is scheduled to appear as a guest on the show at its regular 9:00 pm PDT time slot on Thursday, September 27, 2012.

David Brin, scientist and science fiction writer, an expert on transparency, and, most recently, the author of EXISTENCE, is booked to appear sometime in October, 2012.

The Pirate Hour is produced online using the Google+ Hangouts On Air videoconferencing, broadcast, and recording system.  The shows are viewable live on YouTube and are archived there for later viewing.

The program features Q & A between the host and the guest, followed by questions from the virtual in-studio audience, and then free-form discussion of the issues raised by the guest and audience.

The program is being promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and the California Pirate Party web site. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sherman highlights Berman’s Iraq War support as key to Republican and Independent endorsements

Brad Sherman and Howard Berman both want to represent California’s new 30th Congressional District.  Sherman beat Berman by 10 points in the June primary, but they are facing-off again in November according to the new rules about “top 2” primaries.  They are both Democrats. 

The Democrats in the district may all have already made up their minds about whom to support, but that still leaves Republicans with a possible key role in determining who represents the overwhelmingly-Democratic district in Congress.

Two Republican Senators, John McCain and Lindsay Graham, and Independent Joseph Lieberman today endorsed Berman for the seat.  Here’s what Sherman’s office had to say in response:


“Senator's COS confirms endorsements are a result of Sherman questioning Berman's pro-Iraq War stance.

“Today the Howard Berman campaign released endorsements from Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Joseph Lieberman.

“The Sherman campaign spoke to the Chief of Staff of one of the Senators this morning and was told: ‘We have seen the mailers you sent out attacking Howard Berman on Iraq.  Iraq is very important to us.’ 

 “As the Almanac of American Politics explains: 

“Berman played a critical role in winning passage by a wide margin of the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002. He strongly supported military action in Iraq, and in September came out from behind the scenes and organized a group of Democrats who shared his views. They broke off from the negotiations between Republicans and John Spratt (a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Armed Services Committee) who ended up offering up an alternative to the administration’s resolution, and [Berman] talked directly to the Bush Administration. He didn’t seek the permission of Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, but Berman’s discussions led to Gephardt’s agreement with the administration on the terms of the resolution -- talks that undercut the demands of Spratt, Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden.
“’It seems odd that Berman wants to highlight his role in initiating the Iraq War fiasco,’ stated Sherman campaign consultant Parke Skelton.  ‘Berman was the key organizer in the House for the passage of the resolution and worked with the Bush Administration to undermine Democratic efforts to prevent or limit the scope of the war.  When Brad Sherman offered the Sherman Amendment in the Foreign Affairs Committee to prevent the war if Hussein allowed unfettered weapons inspections, Berman voted No.’

“Berman was one of the very last Democrats in Congress supporting the Iraq War, voting in lockstep with the Bush Administration until mid-2007.”

Will Republicans who supported the Iraq War now be more likely to support Berman on the basis of their shared support for that undertaking?  Or will anti-Iraq War Democrats be reminded of Berman's role in the instigation of that conflict, losing him more Democratic votes than he gains from like-minded Republicans?

The election is on November 6th.

Friday, September 7, 2012

David Brin talks about “EXISTENCE”

David Brin discusses themes and ideas from his new hard science-fiction novel, EXISTENCE, recorded remotely on September 7, 2012.