The Jury Talks Back


PG&E monitored SmartMeter critics, called them insurgents and slackers

Filed under: California Politics — aunursa @ 4:34 pm

Remember the PG&E executive who was fired last month over a sockpuppet scandal?  William Devereaux, the former senior director of PG&E’s SmartMeter program, monitored online discussion groups and used a fake name in an attempt to join one of the groups that opposed SmartMeters.

Statements by PG&E and internal PG&E documents that were released to state regulators detail some troubling details…

  • Employees at various levels of the SmartMeter program were aware that Devereaux “was reviewing online conversations and, in at least one instance, took action based on that information,” according to PG&E spokesman David Eisenhaurer.
  • The utility company kept track of SmartMeter opposition in several Northern California communities.  Company employees sometimes referred to SmartMeter opponents — all of whom were PG&E customers — as “insurgents” or “slackers”.
  • PG&E sent one employee to monitor a SmartMeter demonstration in Rohnert Park in October.  The employee took photographs of protestors and wrote in an email, “This is fun no one said ‘espionage’ in the job description.”


Previously: PG&E executive resigns over sockpuppet scandal


Is redistricting commission stacked?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 11:34 am

One of the midterm’s silver linings for right-of-center Californians was not only that Democrat attack on the “Citizen’s Redistricting Commission” failed, but that the Commission’s powers were extended to include mapping Congressional seats.  The current gerrymander would be undone even though the legislature and governor were Democrats.  Since Jerry Brown signed off on the Burton gerrymander in 1980, he would likely do so again given the chance; good thing the Commission won’t allow it, we thought.

But the devil is in the details.  Today, the final 6 commissioners were named, subject to a final confirmation vote next week.  If confirmed, the 14 member commission will be composed of 4 Asians, 3 non-Hispanic whites, 3 Hispanic/Latino, 2 African Americans, 1 Pacific Islander and 1 Native American.   While this is supposed to “reflect the state’s diversity”, a panel that was in line with the California’s demographics would be 6 non-Hispanic whites, 5 Hispanics, 2 Asians and 1 African-American.  Apparently the phrase “reflect the state’s diversity” is currently interpreted to mean “disenfranchise the majority.”  [A digression: what happened to Prop 209?]

According to Wikipedia, non-Hispanic whites comprise 42.3% of the state’s population, and Hispanics are most of the rest at 36.6%.  Together the two groups are 79% of California’s inhabitants, yet the commission gives them only 43% of the votes.  Almost a gerrymander in itself.

Looking at profession also gives one pause.  Six of the 14 have histories as government employees and a seventh works for an antipoverty non-profit.  This group also includes 3 of the 4 “decline-to-state” members, which could result in ideological bias as well.

While there seem to be quite a few well-qualified people on the panel (the former Census Bureau chief seems a good choice), there seems to be little diversity in background — it seems entirely white-collar.  Maybe it has to be that way, but it is again a bias.

While I still hope that the commission can rise above its unrepresentative composition and produce a plan as fair as the court-ordered 1990 map, I’m less hopeful than I once was.  Worst case: they take the current map and tweak it for population changes, perpetuating the current gerrymander.

To comment on the final six candidates, you need to submit an “…email to by no later than 5 p.m. on December 14, 2010. The first eight commissioners will reconvene at 10:30 a.m. on December 15, 2010 and will be taking oral public comment at the public meeting before they take any action on the proposed slate.”


Wayne State University ends “Helen Thomas” award

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 2:26 pm

On Thursday, noted former White House journalist and anti-Semite Helen Thomas said, “Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. … We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.”

In response, Wayne State University ended the Helen Thomas Diversity Award, according to a university statement:  “As a public university, Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints.  However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”


Jury Duty

Filed under: Uncategorized — aphrael @ 7:41 am

I was talking in the hallway of the county courthouse, a few weeks ago when I began this diary, with a fellow potential juror. He was a talkative and excitable wiry older man in a baseball cap — a man who had moved here from Thailand and who extolled at length the flaws in the Thai legal system, where a single man’s decision can mean the difference between life and death. He told me how much better our system is, because many people have to look at a case together, and bring their own experiences and lives together, to think about the man and his fate. (He kept trying to talk about the case, and I kept trying to lead him back to safe topics).

I believe in the jury system, especially when compared to the alternatives. The state should not have the power to punish a man on its own whim, on the judgment of someone who draws his paycheck from the state. It’s not perfect; juries are flawed, because they consist of humans, and humans are flawed; but better the flaws of a dozen sitting in judgment than the flaws of one.

Jury duty is, in my mind, something of a sacred duty: an obligation we have to one another, to accept the call when issued, and to listen with open mind, and hear the evidence from both sides, and hold the prosecution to its duty. I have never tried, and never would try, to get out of jury duty; I get irritated at those who do. Sure, it’s an interruption, a diversion from your normal life; a pull away from what you want to do into what you have to do, paid poorly if at all. I understand that missing work can be a financial hardship, but absent a real hardship, I think trying to get out of jury duty is a betrayal of a fundamental duty of citizenship.

What I haven’t understood, at least not emotionally, is that service on some juries carries with it a cost beyond the cost of time and money involved; some cases inflict a psychic, emotional cost on the jurors hearing the case: that even listening to the evidence and trying to judge it honestly and dispassionately hurts, and strikes the jurors deep in their souls.

I was sworn in as an alternate juror on November 18 in the case of a man who was charged with fourteen counts of conducting molesting three minors under the age of 14 over a period of sixteen years.

Warning: explicit content. This post is not safe for work.

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