Rockin’ This Vote

Nation, no! Migden, no! Leno, yes!


On June 3, the people of Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco counties will select the Democratic Party nominee for State Senate, which is the same thing as electing a senator, since Bay Area Republicans are as rare as rattlesnakes. Many years ago, the Burton Brothers machine carved out our weirdly shaped senatorial district to protect the Burton brand of liberalism: promoting socially conscious and pro-labor legislation while wallowing in overpriced public works projects and practicing cronyism.

Our sitting senator, Carole Migden, was nurtured by the Burton machine, as was her opponent, San Francisco assemblyman Mark Leno. But the third candidate in this race, Joe Nation, as his campaign funding reports show, is a creature of the RAND Corporation, Chevron, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola Corp., the ultra-right-wing American Enterprise Institute and the health insurance industry. Locally, he is funded by Pflendler Ranches, Basin Street Properties and bankers with ties to Rohnert Park casino interests, such as Clem Carinalli.

Let me be clear: Migden must go. She was recently fined $350,000 for using campaign credit cards for hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, and concealing $1 million in donations. Migden’s malfeasance is not a mere technicality. Were she not a state legislator, she would stand accused of a white-collar crime.

On the other hand, I have observed Assemblyman Leno since Willie Brown appointed him to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1998. Frankly, he surprised me by quickly becoming his own man. I have learned to respect his integrity and the political savvy he has shown taking the lead on such vital issues as marriage equality and fiscal responsibility. Vote for him, not the corrupted, vainglorious Migden.

And under no circumstances should one cast a vote for Joe Nation. When Nation ran for Congress in 2006, I interviewed him at length. His “signature” issue, then and now, is opposing single-payer healthcare by proposing phony “universal” healthcare plans that are ploys concocted to derail genuine healthcare plans. Nation’s current Trojan horse healthcare plan is designed to primarily benefit the clusters of insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations and medical groups that are stuffing thousand dollar bills into his half-million dollar campaign purse.

In the Assembly, Nation has twice proposed legislation designed to kill genuine healthcare bills. His AB 1670, which failed in committee, would have ordered every person in California to buy a commercial health insurance policy with a deductible of up to $5,000. Those without coverage would have their tax refund seized—a disaster for poor people. After Nation’s bill was shot down, he resurrected it, with changes, as AB 1952.

In addition to forcing people to buy health insurance (without doing anything about the ever-inflating costs of medical care), the new bill proposed to fine people who do not obtain health insurance—at prices set by the insurance cartel—by fining them twice the cost of the average premium. The insurance industry, of course, adores compulsory premium paying, and Nation is their running dog.

Furthermore, this RAND Corporation&–employed candidate has reinvented himself as a “climate change advisor.” (RAND was responsible for designing the defoliation of Vietnam during the 1970s, and it currently profits off causing pain in Iraq.) Nation moonlights for an international consulting firm called Environ. That privately owned company counsels industrial corporations, Fortune 500 types, on how to protect corporate interests in a world increasingly hostile to degrading the environment by emitting greenhouse gases.

In a telephone interview, Allan Delorme, an owner of Environ, declined to name his client list or to say anything about Nation’s work for Environ, except that it is performed “as needed.” One of Environ’s specialties is negotiating the sale of corporate carbon pollution credits called “cap and trade.” Environ’s Nation calls for dealing with global warming by selling these carbon emissions credits.

His top legislative agenda, he says, will be enabling the sale of pollution credits from one polluting corporation to another polluting corporation. Say, for example, that ExxonMobile befouls the air in one state at 100 tons a day less than normal. It can sell a “right to pollute” to Dow Chemical so that Dow can pollute 100 tons a day more than normal—perpetuating global warming!

According to an article on carbon markets in the December 2007 Scientific American, responsible scientists and politicians (unlike Environ and Nation) are calling for an end to pollution credits. The best way to combat global warming, scientists say, is to tax corporations for emitting carbon: “[C]ap-and-trade systems hinder planning. Tax systems reduce opportunities for political favoritism and corruption.”

Enough said.


 A former ‘Bohemian’ columnist, Peter Byrne is currently at work on a book for Oxford University Press about famed physicist Hugh Everett III.

Open Mic is now a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write [ mailto:[email protected] ][email protected]

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