Plastic Bags: Vote Yes on Prop 67, No on Prop 65

Plastic BagsIn the film, American Beauty, Wes Bentley’s character asks Thora Birch’s character, “You wanna see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed?” What we are shown is a plastic bag dancing in the wind amongst some leaves. It is played against a backdrop of melancholy piano music. I don’t remember what I thought or felt watching this for the first time, being that it was nearly two decades ago. But it was supposed to be very artsy-fartsy and evocative. I do, however, have some very strong feelings, now, when I see any single-use plastic bag swirling around outside in the wind. I feel sadness and disgust. Those bags are so bad for so many reasons.

On land, plastic, single-use bags are difficult to recycle. They frequently clog up recycling machines. If the bags end up in landfills, which is what happens to most of the 13 billion distributed each year in California, it takes about a thousand years for them to break down. When they do break down, gases from the petroleum products used to make them are released into the atmosphere. This means more carbon gases to accelerate global warming and subsequent climate change.

Plastic Bags Get Around

If people don’t keep an eye on their plastic bags, they can get into sewers and find their way to the ocean. In the Pacific, all kinds of plastics have formed the Earth’s largest dump know as the Pacific Garbage Patch. It has been collecting for quite a few decades, and its mass is six times that of surface zooplankton. Sea creatures, from jellyfish to whales, will confuse plastic for food and become sick and, sadly, often die because of it. These animals also commonly die of strangulations by plastic bags.

So reducing the use of plastics any way we can should be a no-brainer, and eliminating or greatly reducing single-use plastic bags is one way we can do that. Wee did just that with SB270. Now the plastics industry, under the guise of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has put forth two propositions on the California ballot, 65 and 67.

Propositions 65 and 67

The argument for prop 65 is that, since consumers are required to pay 10¢ for a sturdy, reusable bags, in case they don’t have their own, the profits made from the purchase of those bags should go to environmental groups. Superficially, prop 65 looks good, but it is misleading. The 10-cent price really only covers the cost of the bags, since they are of higher quality than the one-time use bags. There really would be no profits to give to the environmental groups. The plastics industry is trying to deflect focus away from the serious effects of plastic bags.

As for prop 67, it is asking us to make sure we still want to place a ban on most single-use plastic bags. It is an effort to veto SB270, which Governor Brown signed in 2014. The American Progressive Bag Alliance claims this law is poorly written, but what would you expect from the plastics industry, since SB270 threatens their profits. There are many details to cover, but if you want more information, a good resource is from Heal the Bay.

So, bottom line… I recommend a no vote on 65 and a yes vote on 67.

Frank’s California General Election Voter Guide

Vote: 8 November 2016The time has come for the general election. It’s tomorrow, in case you were wondering: 8 November 2016. And California, as usual, has too many ballot measures. The system really has gotten out of hand. Now any idiot millionaire can get anything at all on the ballot. And I find myself lost much of the time. We have, for example, a ballot measure to get rid of the death penalty because it is too expensive. And we have a ballot measure to make it easier for the state to kill people.

You might think, “Well, it’s California, so they’ll get rid of the death penalty!” And you’d be wrong. The people of California have shown themselves very keen on the death penalty. In fact, they threw out three California Supreme Court justices because they weren’t voting to kill people. And they were replaced — this is what it was really all about — with three pro-corporate justices. Ah, democracy in a nation of economic inequality!

People

But before I get to the ballot measures, let’s do the people. It isn’t too hard to guess where I come down.

President

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. I realize that I’m in a “safe” state so I can “vote my conscience.” But there are a couple of things: voting my conscience in a two party system is derp. More important, even if I factor in the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, I like Clinton the best. I think she might even be a great president. But she will certainly be a good one — especially given what she’ll be up against.

Senator

There are two Democrats running for Senate here: Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez. This is because of our stupid “top two” voting system. Even though I am a Democrat, I really believe there should be a Republican on the ballot. Harris is going to win. But Sanchez has a long history as a solid liberal legislator, so she’s my clear choice. But I’m fine with Harris.

House 5th District

I will vote for Mike Thompson. I’m not terribly keen on him, but I sure won’t vote for Republican Carlos Santamaria. Thompson got almost 66 percent of the vote in the primary, so he’s going to crush Santamaria.

State Assembly 2nd District

Our incumbent is Democrat Jim Wood. His seat is so safe, no Republicans even ran against him. Instead, he is running against Libertarian Ken Anton. Anton is a very typical libertarian. He tries to come off as caring about humanity with talk of believing in the goodness of people. But you know where he stands. He wants to defend Prop 13 because it protects “the most vulnerable citizens.” That’s a canard that conservatives have been pushing since the measure was put on the ballot.

Santa Rosa High School District

There are six people running for four seats. Both Caroline Bañuelos and Evelyn Anderson seem good but are less qualified for the job. Jenni Klose has been effective on the board. Laurie Fong has an enormous amount of experience as a teacher and administrator. Laura Gonzalez may be abrasive, but she’s very experienced — both as a teacher and as a board member. And Ed Sheffield is very well connected in the local Democratic Party and I think that’s helpful. But I think they are all good people.

Santa Rosa City Council

It’s the same situation as for the school board: six people up for four seats. Santa Rosa recently passed a rent control law. Three of the candidates support it: Julie Combs, Jack Tibbetts and Chris Rogers. The other three don’t: Ernesto Olivares, Don Taylor and Brandi Asker. I’m not terribly keen on rent control in a general sense. But in this place and this time, I think it is a good idea. So I’m voting for the first three and not for the second three. So I am giving up one of my votes.

Ballot Measures

There are way too many ballot measures.

Statewide Measures

We start with 17 statewide ballot measures:

51: School Bonds
Our schools are doing much better than they have in terms of funding. But I still think we need to do more. Yes.
52: MediCal Hospital Fee
This is a bureaucratic initiative. I feel like I shouldn’t be asked. But I don’t like all this short-term planning. Let’s make it permanent. Yes.
53: Bonds Require Voter Approval
Just what we need: a law to make the state even harder to govern. The idea here is clearly to stop the government from functioning. I’m sure the rich are all for it. But I would bet that it will pass. No, no, a thousand times no!
54: Publish Bills Online Before Voted On
This is another supposed “good government” bill that is likely to lead to bad government. At best, it won’t matter. And if that’s the best it will be, the vote is obvious. No.
55: Extend Taxes for Education and Healthcare
We raised a number of temporary taxes back in 2012 to get the state budget in order. This measure would extend the increase in taxes on incomes over $250,000 for 12 years. State taxes tend to be regressive. We need to do all we can to increase taxes on the rich — especially when it is for a good cause. Yes.
56: Cigarette Tax
I’m for doing everything we can to stop people smoking. But this is an extremely regressive tax. And it’s huge: $2 per pack. Given that it tends to be the poor who smoke, this is the wrong way to go about the issue. If they combined it with an increase of 5 percent income tax on incomes over $50,000, then maybe I’d be for it. But not this way. No.
57: Parole of Non-Violent Offenders
No one would be surprised here. Most of these prisoners are just people who like drugs that aren’t approved by the state. A thousand times: yes!
58: English Proficiency
This is another issue that I don’t think I should be asked about. But as best I can tell, this ballot measure would give teachers and schools more control. Yes.
59: Call for Citizen’s United Overturn
What a waste of time. No vote.
60: Adult Film Condom Requirement
I like the idea of this. Just the same, the adult film industry in California is distinctly larger than Hollywood. I don’t like the idea of the industry fleeing the state. I would be in favor of a nationwide ban — not only on production but on importation. I’m reluctant on this one though because lives are in the balance. No.
61: Prescription Drug Purchases
When I get three times as many “No” ads as “Yes” for a proposition, it’s pretty clear how to vote. This is a good bill. But the people against it make the same argument they always do: if you control costs, the pharmaceutical companies will just raise prices for other people. Really?! I didn’t know economics worked that way. I thought they were already maximizing profits. If they could sell their drugs for more, they would. Yes.
62: End Death Penalty
The death penalty is morally indefensible. Yes.
63: Background Check for Buying Bullets
You know the old saying: guns don’t kill people, bullets kill people. Yes.
64: Cannabis Legalization
I hate “medical marijuana.” It is so obviously a con. (That’s not to say that it doesn’t have medicinal value.) It should just be legalized. Yes.
65: Carryout Bags
I think that if people are forced to buy a bag, the money shouldn’t go to the store. Yes.
66: Death Penalty Procedures
This is the “It’s taking too long to kill people so let’s make it easier to kill innocent people” proposition. It’s just vile. And it will almost certain pass. No!
67: Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban
I’m not happy about who brought this law to us, but it is already the law in many localities (like Santa Rosa). So let’s just make it universal. Yes.

Local Ballot Measures

And if that wasn’t enough, there are six local ballot measures:

K: Open Spaces
This does reduce representational power. However, I’m not that keen on our supervisors. And this is about open spaces. Yes.
L: Country Tourist Tax
This increases the tourist tax by 33 percent of its current value — taking it up to 12 percent. Seems reasonable. Yes.
M: GMO Ban
I don’t like GMO products. It isn’t because of health. I believe they are safe. My problem is with the intellectual property aspects of them. We are moving toward a world where there will be rents on wild berries. Yes.
N: Keep Higher Sales Tax
Sales taxes are regressive. Let’s cut it back. Get the needed money elsewhere.
O: Increase Public Safety Spending
If the city provided me with details I might vote for it. But public safety includes a lot of stuff I’m in favor of and lot of stuff I’m not. This measure will win overwhelmingly, but not with my help. No.
Y: Increase Sales Tax for Public Libraries
It’s for the public library system. I wish we were funding some other way. But our library system is dying. And it is really important to the poor. Yes.

Geez, that was exhausting. Life in California.

Vote!

Google has provided this great tool that tells you most of what you will be voting on. You just enter your address. Use it!

And then vote tomorrow if you haven’t already!

So Why Did James Comey Write That Letter?

James ComeyTo the absolute surprise of no one, the James Comey FBI has come to the conclusion that there was nothing new on the email that was found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Most of the 650,000 email messages were duplicates and the ones that weren’t had no value whatsoever to any of the investigations — Clinton or Weiner. It was the very definition of a nothing-burger.

But what did happen was Clinton was smeared by the media for a week and a half. It went absolutely ballistic. Email! Email!

There are three important things about James Comey’s “update” letter. First, he had no reason to send it. Second, he knew the Republicans would leak it immediately. And third, doing so was a possible violation of the Hatch Act. The reason that the FBI keeps its trap shut on investigations like this one is because it is prejudicial. “Oh, this person is bad! Why else would the FBI investigate them?!”

So why did Comey write the letter? Was it to help Trump? No, actually.

So why did he do it? Two main theories have emerged and I think both have a lot of validity.

Reason One: Comey Was Protecting the FBI

Yale Record Doesn't Endorse ClintonFirst, there is a small subset of FBI agents who are friendly with the Trump campaign. Some of them have been investigating the Clintons on and off since the 1990s. They are suffering from the sunk cost fallacy. They’ve spent so much time investigating, they feel like they have to find something. All that work can’t be for nothing!

So you have people who are very unhappy that they haven’t nailed someone like Clinton. And they want to get them on anything even though there is nothing there.

Whenever the Clintons decide to run for office, they know there will be a deep investigations into literally everything they do. After all, this is a pair that faced a Congress doing 140 hours of sworn testimony into their Christmas Card mailing list. So they are super careful about everything they do. Yet the FBI agents in New York think if they just keep digging, they will catch the Clintons doing something that is illegal. It’s been almost 25 years and: zip!

In this theory, Comey was afraid that these agents would start leaking information and saying that the FBI was covering up for Clinton. So he wrote the letter to say, “We have information and we are looking into it.” That doesn’t explain why he wasn’t clearer that they knew nothing. But the impulse is at least understandable, even though the execution was horrible. That’s the best you can say about Comey.

Reason Two: Comey Was Worried About a Landslide Down-Ballot

The second reason is the fact that until the letter was released, the Republicans were facing a catastrophic wave election that probably would have destroyed their chances for years to come at the national level. James Comey isn’t overly partisan, but he is definitely partisan enough to want to keep the House in Republicans hands. That’s especially true since they have been promising to keep chasing after Clinton if she takes over the White House. What would they investigate her on? They don’t care. If she makes even one mistake (and she will, she is human) they will devote thousands of hours and millions of dollars to investigating everything about it.

Most likely, both of these things factored into Comey’s actions.

Media Culpability

What is enormously frustrating to me is that the media will just blindly go along with this. Which is why yesterday when SNL did their cold open, they pointed out the utter lack of caring over the enormous amount of horribleness that the Orange One indulges in.

Yesterday, Al Franken said that the Senate will be hauling Comey in front of them and demanding to know why he was willing to be so political with one candidate and not the other. The same New York FBI office chasing its tail about Clinton is the one that claimed that there is nothing to see in Trump’s Russian ties despite plenty of other reports contradicting them.

This is disgusting. This is terrifying. Regardless of what happened, this is the top United States law enforcement official tipping the scales for his own reasons. And it is unacceptable.

Good News

The good news is that I am not the only one angry and disgusted by this. There are a lot of outraged people.

It is why so many people are voting early and why the numbers have shot up to the point that Sunday there were 4,000 people in line to vote in Cincinnati. Saturday, hundreds if not thousands of people showed up at a marketplace in Nevada for the final day of early voting. Hell even laboring women are making sure they vote before they deliver.

To quote one of my top hashtags on Twitter, “Hey Comey #expectus asshole. And resign.