Just don’t do it

Attack of the political robo-callers.

Robbie the Robot.

Robbie the Robot.

Last election season, Bites was a very popular voter. Jack Nicholson called because he wanted Bites to vote for Hillary Clinton. That was weird enough, but it was followed shortly thereafter by an equally kooky Robbie Waters, who in his pitch-perfect impersonation of a grumpy old drunk guy explained that he was darn fed up with something and so was supporting Kevin Johnson for mayor.

And when the election was over, just when Bites thought it was safe to eat dinner, there’s pre-recorded Dennis Kucinich begging for money to impeach still-president Bush.

Well, all that may be over by the time the fall elections roll around, thanks to the efforts of Shaun Dakin, and his D.C.-based organization, the National Political Do Not Contact Registry (www.stoppoliticalcalls.org).

“People are sick and tired of it. It’s phone spam,” Dakin told Bites.

It’s not that surprising campaigns do it, said Dakin, it only costs about a quarter-cent a call. But voters hate them, and Dakin said he’s gotten complaints from all over the country. He says he even got e-mails from Sacramentans complaining about the recorded messages used by the K.J. campaign.

There are do-not-call lists, of course, to protect you from telemarketers and salespeople. But both state and federal registries exempt political robo-calls, along with automated messages from public-safety agencies and from your kids’ schools.

But Dakin found out the California Public Utilities Commission codes actually ban robo-calls of all sorts, unless they are introduced by a live operator. Once Dakin’s group dug up the rules, political consultants started getting nervous. In fact, Kucinich suspended his robo-calls.

“Nobody really knew this existed. Nobody in the consumer and voter world knows about this,” Dakin explained.

Even the CPUC seems to have been caught off guard by the revelation. Agency spokespeople have said the law will be enforced, but honestly, they haven’t gotten all that many complaints.

Uh huh.

“We have thousands of members waiting for the phones to ring. And when they get those calls, they are going to be complaining,” Dakin promised.

Want to have your mind blown? U.S. junk mail accounts for 30 percent of all of the mail sent anywhere in the world. That’s 100 billion credit card offers, coupon fliers and catalogs, produced and mailed to addresses here in the United States, according to the conservation group ForestEthics. In fact, according to the U.S. Postal Service, more than 60 percent of all mail sent in the United States is unwanted advertising.

Will Craven is heading up ForestEthics’ “Do Not Mail” campaign. According to the group’s just-released study, titled “Climate Change Enclosed,” the production and distribution of all that junk mail is responsible for 52 million tons of greenhouse gases every year.

The study equates the global-warming impact of the junk-mail industry to the greenhouse-gas pollution from 2.4 million cars, idling 24-seven, for one year. (For more crazy comparisons, go to www.donotmail.org.)

“It’s obsolete and we don’t want it,” Craven told Bites. “You’d think we’d have it out of our system by now.” The group is trying to bring attention to legislation pending in several states that would allow consumers to opt out of receiving junk mail, and to create a national Do Not Mail registry. Bites should note, however, that the proposal would exempt unwanted political mail.

And the group has powerful enemies of course, namely the junk-mail lobby. In fact, the trade association Mail Moves America dismisses all the hand-wringing over junk mail with this thought-provoking analysis, cribbed from their Web site. “Direct mail is not trees, it is printed communication.”