DiFi infidelity

Rethinking California’s favorite pol: Bites has always made it a point of pride not to pick on the underdog. So, now that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s polling numbers are suffering—at press time, his job-approval rating was down to 37 percent—it’s time to move on to a more worthy target. And who better than California’s most popular politician, Dianne Feinstein? Yes, DiFi’s 54-percent rating puts her miles ahead of any other politician in the state, which of course isn’t saying all that much. (Come to think of it, the way things are going, the Field Poll might want to run some fresh numbers on Gray Davis.)

“What’s wrong with Dianne?” you and a majority of Californians may ask. How about the fact that she was among a handful of Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) last week? Had Dianne and four of her DINO (Democrat In Name Only) pals stayed the course, this country would not be on a fast track to undercutting its own farming industry. (See “Rough trade,” SN&R News, March 31.) Too bad DiFi’s numbers won’t be following Arnold’s into the toilet anytime soon.

Fax off: Despite the fact that Bites prefers e-mail to get information—faxing is so 1995—the machine at the office is as jammed as anywhere else in America, where an incoming phone line gives senders a license to kill more trees than Paul Bunyan on a three-week meth bender.

While technology moves along at the speed of Moore’s law—doubling capacity every 18 months—government has fallen increasingly behind when it comes to regulating its impacts, perhaps by accident, perhaps not. So, state Senator Debra Bowen is hoping an anti-junk-fax bill she’s authored will offer some needed help for fax owners.

The Long Beach Democrat authored Senate Bill 833, which was approved in June by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on a 6-3 vote. Bowen says S.B. 833 takes the existing tight federal ban on junk faxing and copies it into the weaker state statute, giving Bites and other good Californians protection, even if Congress passes a bill to create a loophole in the federal law.

And that’s exactly what would happen with passage of a bill currently lurking in Congress courtesy of Senator Gordon Smith, R-Oregon. Misleadingly labeled the “Junk Fax Prevention Act,” Smith’s bill in reality would gut the federal junk-fax ban in favor of an opt-out option; junk faxers would include an “opt-out” number on the fax that people would have to call to ask each advertiser to stop faxing them.

In that case, Bites would be opting out by sending faxers Smith’s number, as well as publishing it here.

Meanwhile, back in the Golden State, critics such as the California Chamber of Commerce have labeled Bowen’s bill a “job killer,” but she says their arguments don’t “pass the straight-face test.”

“People are just fed up with being hassled and harassed by advertisers, regardless of whether it’s by phone, e-mail or fax, and they want to be left alone,” Bowen told Bites. “I’ve never had a single person come up to me and say, ‘Please, I beg of you, let me get more junk faxes.’”

Bowen isn’t promising her bill will shut down junk faxers should it become law, but she insists that giving Californians the choice of whether to receive junk faxes—as opposed to having to prove you don’t want them—is a clear-cut issue.

“Californians are very protective of their privacy; it’s why half the people in the state pay to have an unlisted phone number,” said Bowen. “I can’t say that passing this bill will eliminate junk faxes, but if we just stand by and watch Congress gut the federal law and legalize junk faxes, I guarantee people can expect even more fabulous offers for cell phones, Caribbean cruises and printer toner to come pouring out of their fax machines.”