Money—it’s a crime

Money laundering: Remember when your mother told you to always wash your hands after touching those grimy dollar bills? She was reminding you that money’s inherently dirty. Bites can only imagine how filthy the hands of politicians get.

But there’s hope. Just before the window of opportunity banged shut on June 29, a new initiative squeezed in under the deadline. Voters will now get a chance to hose some of the muck out of politics by voting for clean-money elections in November. The California Nurses Association initiative, based on the popular clean-election laws in Maine and Arizona, could finally answer one of Bites’ burning questions: What could politicians accomplish if they didn’t have to start stumping for re-election the day they take office?

If voters approve clean-money elections, candidates will qualify to run by collecting a few hundred $5 donations from their constituents. They’ll also agree to campaign-spending limits and a bunch of other rules that mean they can’t accept private campaign donations. And then a .2-percent income tax on corporations will finance their election campaigns.

Even if the law passes, politicians don’t have to buy in. They can keep running their campaigns like normal, spending all their time trading promises for big money donations.

For once, California doesn’t have to be the testing ground. In Arizona and Maine, after only a few years, a majority of the candidates decided to campaign clean. You can even watch some of them talk about how clean elections invite women and minorities into the political process in this video clip narrated by Bill Moyers at

Big fish: You probably heard that Warren Buffet is washing his hands of about $30 billion, directing much of the filthy lucre he’s accumulated over a lifetime to do-gooder co-billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates. The Gateses remarked that Buffet possessed a “strong sense of justice.”

But last week, while Buffet was being lionized, members of the Karuk tribe in Northern California were sending out press releases reading, “Warren Buffet donates, Kills Klamath Salmon.”

The Karuk and other area tribes have been lobbying PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., to do the right thing and take out a series of aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that have all but destroyed tribal fisheries in the area.

“Until Mr. Buffet removes his dams, which are driving our fish to extinction, I will be forced to question his sense of justice,” wrote the vice-chairman of the Karuk tribe, Leaf Hilman.

Our own Sacramento Municipal Utility District, a couple of years back, decided it didn’t want electricity tainted by dead salmon and decimated tribal fisheries, and agreed to let go of some precious hydropower in Karuk territory on the nearby Trinity River. Seems like the lights are still on.

Outsourcing babies: MedSolution, a Vancouver-based company specializing in “medical tourism,” recently hit Bites up with an ad crowing, “Making a baby overseas can save Sacramento couples thousands!”

Thanks to MedSolution, you can now get hip replacement in India, have heart surgery in France, or—new on the menu—outsource your fertility problems to Turkey. All for thousands of dollars less than it would cost you back home.

“The perception is that Turkey is some sort of Middle Eastern wasteland. That we’re going to send you out to a tent somewhere,” said company spokesman John Knox. Not the case; in fact, Turkey is increasingly European in its outlook and standard of living.

An in-vitro fertilization procedure performed in Turkey will cost about $10,000 less than it does in the United States—and that includes airfare and a three-week stay in a five-star hotel.

Plus, in Turkey, you can get services that money simply can’t buy in the U S of A. Like the implantation of multiple fertilized eggs, a procedure forbidden by the Food and Drug Administration here but that “has been deemed safe in Turkey by Turkish medical professionals,” said Knox.

Bites had to ask just how far this outsourcing could go. “Surrogacy is one issue that we have not delved into,” Knox explained. “Same with organ donation. It can be a bit dodgy.”