California adopts automatic voter registration

Instead of an opt-in provision at the DMV, eligible Californians will now have to opt out of being registered to vote if they wish to remain unregistered, thanks to a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed today, which is set to take effect ahead of the 2016 presidential primary. It was enacted in response to extremely low 2014 turnout in the state — well below 50%.

Los Angeles Times:

“The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens,” [Secretary of State Alex] Padilla said Saturday. “Citizens should not be required to opt in to their fundamental right to vote. We do not have to opt in to other rights, such as free speech or due process.”

 
In general, this seems to me like a good idea. I do wonder how well it will work in practice if a lot of people move around (even just to a neighboring precinct) without updating their license and voter registration.

I also wonder how many people who weren’t registered before will now take the opportunity to turn out, but perhaps the campaigns will be able to target Never-Voteds more effectively by mail, phone, and canvassing now that there will be a database identifying them.

This legislation could also prove important for unexpected reasons given an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning redistricting by number of residents versus by number of voters (or other alternative metrics).

California will also be increasing options for early voting ballot dropoffs and vote-by-mail, also in an effort to increase turnout.

Arsenal For Democracy’s radio show debated automatic voter registration in the first segment of Episode 131 from June 2015.

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The (former) waters of Saudi Arabia

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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Some mind-blowing statistics from “What California can learn from Saudi Arabia’s water mystery”:

Beginning in the late 1970s, Saudi landowners were given free rein to pump the aquifers so that they could transform the desert into irrigated fields. Saudi Arabia soon became one of the world’s premier wheat exporters.

By the 1990s, farmers were pumping an average of 5 trillion gallons a year. At that rate, it would take just 25 years to completely drain Lake Erie.
[…]
Now the water is nearly gone. Most of that underground water came from ancient aquifers that are deeply buried and don’t naturally refill for tens of thousands of years.

 
Definitely read the rest, especially if you aren’t familiar with how broken U.S. water resource policies are.

Some CA schools approaching 9 in 10 unvaccinated rates

From an op-ed by Robert Gammon in East Bay Express:

End the Vaccine Exemption

As the measles outbreak in California continues to spread — the number of reported cases reached 73 on Monday — it’s becoming increasingly clear that the state should end its so-called “personal belief” exemption for childhood vaccines. Currently, California is one of about twenty states in the nation in which parents can use the personal belief waiver. Most states only permit medical or religious exemptions for childhood vaccines.

For the measles vaccine to be effective for everyone, about 92 percent of the population needs to be have been fully vaccinated. But because of the personal belief waiver and the anti-vaccination movement, many communities in California fall well short of the 92 percent threshold. As a result, the measles, once thought to have been eradicated, has come roaring back to life.

But the anti-vax crowd shouldn’t have the right to endanger the health of the rest of us. The movement, which fears a link between childhood vaccines and autism, gained traction during the Aughts, following the revelation that the federal government had ordered the removal of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal from vaccines. Thimerosal had been used widely since the 1930s, and a study in the late 1990s claimed to have uncovered a link between the preservative and the rise of autism nationwide. That study has since been widely discredited. Moreover, thimerosal is no longer used in vaccines for children six and under (except for some flu vaccines).

As such, there is no longer a basis for the personal belief exemption in California. New York City doesn’t have it, and only 0.2 percent of public school students there have been exempted from vaccines, according to the Los Angeles Times. In California, wealthy parents who send their kids to private schools appear to be especially prone to using the exemption. For example, according to the LA Times, at the Berkeley Rose private school, the parents of 87 percent of kindergarteners in 2013 used it.

That’s not only dangerous, it’s disturbingly anti-science. Measles is a serious disease with serious consequences. And vaccines work — if they’re widely used. California, in other words, should stop pandering to the anti-vax crowd.

 
EIGHTY SEVEN PERCENT exempted from vaccines. In one school.

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In case you missed it…
Arsenal For Democracy – Dispatches from the end of the empire:

Apparently our ancestors crossed the harsh Great American Desert in search of a better life so their descendents a century and a half later could go to a children’s amusement park in Orange County and still contract the same damn diseases because somebody’s parents in the year Two Thousand Fifteen of Our Lord have the same understanding of infection transmission as any given covered wagon driver.

Dispatches from the end of the empire

Apparently our ancestors crossed the harsh Great American Desert in search of a better life so their descendents a century and a half later could go to a children’s amusement park in Orange County and still contract the same damn diseases because somebody’s parents in the year Two Thousand Fifteen of Our Lord have the same understanding of infection transmission as any given covered wagon driver.

“People Not Vaccinated for Measles Urged to Avoid Disneyland”

People who haven’t been vaccinated against measles, including children too young to be immunized, should avoid Disneyland after new infections were linked to the theme park, California public health officials said Wednesday.

So far, 70 people in five U.S. states and Mexico have contracted measles in an outbreak that was traced to Disney parks in December and has since spread into the community. The vast majority of infections — 62 — occurred in California, and the tally is expected to rise.

Health officials uncovered new measles cases linked to visits to Disney parks in January after the incubation period of the original outbreak.

Since measles is highly contagious, people who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine are susceptible and should avoid visiting Disney “for the time being,” said state epidemiologist Gil Chavez.

 
We’re now reaching a particularly decadent phase of our decline where people are reintroducing eradicated disease outbreaks to America solely by voluntarily refusing to make use of widely available, decades-old, very basic medical science solutions.

It’s one thing if your civilization is wiped out by a disease you had no way to resist. It’s another if you’re too arrogant to vaccinate your children against easily preventable 19th century diseases and thus endangered everyone else.

America, F@#$ Yeah. We’re number one.

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California environment laws now include more Native input

A law signed last week in California has finally amended existing environmental laws to establish a pathway for more direct and cohesive input from Native American communities when they are concerned that land-use approvals for development might negatively affect heritage and sacred sites. Crown City News:

“This is an important step toward aligning California’s environmental laws with the values that are often espoused about respecting tribal heritage and history, not only for this generation, but for future generations of all Californians,” said Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. “We deeply appreciate Assemblymember Gatto for his leadership, and the legislature’s support.”
[…]
California is struggling to preserve the last remnants of its Native American past. Recently, thieves stole carvings from an unprotected sacred site on the Volcanic Tableland, north of Bishop, and developers have sought to place everything from dumps, to housing developments, to granite mines, near or on top of ancient sacred sites.

“If we don’t do something, future generations will wonder what happened to California’s pre-Columbian heritage,” said Gatto.
[…]
Currently, tribes are not treated as coherent sovereign entities under CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act], but instead as mere members of the public, even if wishing to express a unified opinion about a site which has been a unique part of the tribe’s heritage for thousands of years.

 
With this oversight finally rectified, it’s expected that other long-sought reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act will now be passable, because new measures to “streamline” the law won’t risk the unintended side effect of making it even easier to roll over Native concerns.

The Americanos’ Day (Or: In Defense of ‘Cinco De Mayo’)

Battle-of-Puebla-1862Ah, Cinco de Mayo. The annual day where snooty Americans get to tell other Americans (who are really just trying to drink in peace while wearing face paint in the Mexican national colors) that “actually” Cinco de Mayo “isn’t a real Mexican holiday” and “has no importance or significance” — and then even snootier Americans (like me!) get to tell the first group that the Second French Empire’s defeat in the Battle of Puebla was strategically important to the preservation of the Union during the U.S. Civil War, by preventing Napoleon III from invading to help the Confederacy.

To this day, even though the holiday is not widely celebrated in Mexico (because it was not very important within Mexico as a whole in the long run, since the French won the war anyway at least briefly), it’s important to acknowledge what makes it so unusual in the United States:

1) It’s a rare day where Mexican culture and heritage is openly celebrated in a country that includes the territory that used to be of about half of Mexico. These areas make up parts or all of ten U.S. states now. And the country at large is home to millions of people of Mexican descent. They deserve more than a day. Don’t take this one away!

2) The holiday’s U.S. roots began in the State of California when news of the 1862 victory in Puebla, Mexico reached the Mexican miners in California. Both the United States and Mexico were being torn apart by war at the time. The anniversary of the battle has been celebrated every year since 1863 in California. (1863!) When people say “it’s not a real Mexican holiday,” that minimizes the fact that it’s essentially always been a celebration of Californian Mexican-Americans.

Thus, it’s a great way to celebrate Mexico’s culture and close historical ties to the United States — something that has tragically been forgotten amid the push for bigger border fences and a rising tide of anti-Mexican xenophobia.

And even though Puebla is a southern Mexican state, it is a convenient reason to celebrate the cross-border regional culture of northern Mexico and Alta California/Nuevo Mexico, or the U.S. Southwest.

Mexico has long had many of the same sectional differences that plague(d) the United States. The gross Anglo-American Slaveholders Revolt in Tejas that led to the creation of an independent Texas is a dark mark. But beyond them, a lot of actual (non-U.S.) northern Mexicans wanted out from the rest of the country. Most got it, via the Mexican Cession (though that probably wasn’t what most residents had in mind), but a few states were left behind. They remained close with the United States — often more so than with central Mexico. Until big migration restrictions were put into place, there was a lot of economic activity back and forth in both directions between the American Southwest and northern Mexico, even well into the twentieth century.

U.S. history has long been closely intertwined with Mexican history, both for good and ill. It’s pretty great that a century and a half later, a lot of Americans (including non-Mexicans) take at least one day to acknowledge (however casually, in some cases) that almost a third of the U.S. mainland by area used to be half of another country and that Mexican-Americans still part of both our history and present.

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And if nothing else, I just want to reiterate that the “insignificant” battle kept the French intervention force distracted in Mexico long enough for the U.S. Army to regain the momentum and win the Civil War before the Confederates could persuade any European governments to help them.

Here’s to Jerry Brown! (On to Term 4.)

jerry-brownJerry Brown, who served his first two four-year terms as governor of California from 1975 to 1983, just after the Reagan governorship, was elected to a third, non-consecutive term in the 2010 elections.

Although Brown was regarded as a bit erratic and pie-in-the-sky the first time around (and in his three failed presidential bids), he proved himself to be a dependable and strong leader in Sacramento over the past three years.

Since Jerry Brown is the oldest governor in the state’s history and sixteen years would be a lot of governing, it wasn’t totally clear initially whether the Democrat would be seeking re-election to a fourth term. But he quickly began amassing enough money to make it obvious he would — and to deter most potential rivals from challenging him. Gov. Brown just announced today that he would be running in the open/top-two primary for governor.

So far he’s got pretty minor challengers from the Republicans. They have “interesting” perspectives, according to what the New York Times has been reporting so far.

First, there’s Neel Kashkari, who orchestrated the TARP bank bailouts while at the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008. He has reportedly raised a cool million — to Brown’s SEVENTEEN million dollars. Here was his insightful critique of the governor: “Californians can’t afford another four years of Governor Brown’s failed leadership.”

Yes, let’s recap that “failed leadership”:

The state had a deficit of more than $25 billion when he took office in 2011 and now has a surplus. The governor has also been working to persuade his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature to stock away money for a rainy-day fund.

 
Next in line is East L.A.’s State State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, with about $500,000 raised, who helpfully explained that if nominated against Brown, it would be a “showdown between socialism and freedom.”

Again, we’re talking about Third-Term Brown who last month delivered a state budget with a $4.2 BILLION projected surplus, even after proposing an 8.5% spending increase, a $1.6 billion rainy day fund, and $11 billion to pay back outstanding debts and liabilities. So yeah. Basically socialism. Nailed it. No fiscal responsibility anywhere to be found!
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