Politics Before National Security

Senator Jon Kyl should be ashamed of himself.

Back in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, negotiated a nuclear nonproliferation treaty known as “Trust But Verify.” This treaty called for both nations to reduce the amount of nuclear warheads they had. It also allowed both superpowers to “verify” that warheads were, in fact, being reduced through inspections. Not only did this help avoid a nuclear holocaust but it also drastically reduced the amount of nuclear weapons in the world.

Unfortunately, inspections are no longer taking place (the treaty expired on December 5, 2009). Now, the United States has no way of knowing whether or not Russia is providing terrorists with nuclear arms.

Last year, before the treaty expired, Republicans and Democrats alike were very concerned. Senator Kyl had this to say last November (2009)

The U.S. will lose a significant source of information that has allowed it to have confidence in its ability to understand Russian strategic nuclear forces.

Another treaty was made and nearly signed earlier this year…until it was slapped down in the Senate by Republicans. Really.

This is one of the reasons why partisans and wing-nuts don’t belong in Washington. They get obsessed with doing the opposite of whatever their perceived mortal enemy does so they can be re-elected. They are willing to put our nation’s security on the line for their jobs.

If President Obama likes PB&J sandwiches and The Beatles, Senator Kyl and those like him cannot stand PB&J and The Beatles. If the President kisses a baby, they refuse to kiss babies. If the President is close to reviving a nuclear nonproliferation treaty for the sake of global and national security, Senator Kyl and his friends team up to jeopardize it. Disgraceful.

 

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The Proposition Must Be Abolished

The proposition (aka “ballot initiative”) is a horrible way to make law. California has been afflicted with it since the early 20th century, when it was introduced with the Progressive Movement. Since then, the state has become a fractured, unworkable, special-interest-driven disaster. If enough signatures are gathered – and millions of dollars raised to spread propaganda – a proposition is placed on the ballot where it is approved or rejected by voters.

Propositions strike at the heart of what a republic is: smart government. After all, California is modeled after the federal system: It has three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – and a bicameral legislature, made up of the lower-house Assembly and the upper-house Senate. Under this system, the idea is balance of power. The people elect lawmakers to the legislature who in turn make laws. Those laws are then approved, rejected (vetoed), or enforced by the Executive and checked by the Judiciary to determine if the laws are constitutional. Lawmakers are [supposed to be] intelligent and educated individuals who reason with each other and make compromises; through this, we get wise government. If we the people are unhappy with their performance, we can either elect someone else during the next election or recall (impeach on the national level) them. The proposition completely bypasses this checks-and-balances system.

There have been many terrible propositions in California over the century. Some of the worst are Propositions 8, 13 and 140.

Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, banned same-sex marriage. Earlier that year, the California Supreme Court struck down the previous ban on same-sex marriage – Proposition 22 (2000) – and said that homosexual couples had the legal right to wed. Opponents of the decision claimed that the court’s decision would lead to societal breakdown and with nearly $40 million and backing from the Mormon Church and conservative groups, Prop 8 was added to the constitution. This is a classic example of what Thomas Jefferson called “Tyranny of the majority,” where the majority (voters) took away the rights of a minority (same-sex couples). Whether one approves of same-sex relationships or not is not the point; a minority had its rights denied simply because the majority said so.

Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, put a limit on the amount of property taxes levied on property owners. At first glance, it sounds like an excellent idea; limit the government’s ability to increase taxes on property. However, after Prop 13, local governments – whose main source of revenue had been property taxes – had to find other ways to generate revenue once money was severely reduced. Thanks to Prop 13, the state is now responsible for supporting local budgets and schools while local governments are left scavenging for funding from sales taxes and fees. Voters were angry at the government for raising taxes and rather than research where their communities get funding, they passed a proposition that essentially crippled them.

Proposition 140, passed by voters in 1990, put term limits on politicians into place. It sounds good in theory: limit assemblypersons to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms. Arguments for Prop 140 included claims that it would eliminate professional politicians, make the legislature more diverse and break special interest networks. Now, we have bitter, partisan lawmakers who don’t work together to make law in a reasoned manner. These days, legislators are too busy trying to bring their own agenda to Sacramento or running their campaigns for their next term or next position. Prior to 1990, it took a couple terms for an assemblyperson or senator to truly understand and grasp their office and its responsibilities. Now, by the time they know what they’re actually doing, they are term-limited out of office. California is complex and experience and reason are desperately needed.

There are many more examples because the proposition itself is a flawed way to make laws. Instead of relying on intelligent lawmakers to design policy, anyone who’s registered to vote can simply make their own laws if they don’t agree with what the government is doing. With this, minority rights are threatened, local governments are crippled and politicians are more partisan than ever. This is why direct democracy is a horrible idea. The proposition must be abolished.

 

Jon Stewart Nailed It…

Comedian Jon Stewart is spot-on. This past weekend, at his Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington D.C., he criticized the media for exaggerating and polarizing Americans’ opinions. His message: We’re different and yet we still work together despite the reports.

“We live in hard times, not end times,” Stewart said. “We can have animus and not be enemies.”

Of course, partisans on both sides claimed he was an ill-informed commentator. Yes, people who have divided and polarized the country criticized a man for trying to unify the country into one people. Who’s the comedian again?

Most Americans know that our problems will not be solved overnight and that real change comes through working together.

“There will always be darkness and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land,” to which Stewart comically added, “Sometimes, it’s New Jersey.”

Despite the media’s portrayal of racists, homophobes, Marxists, and Stalinists, we work together “every damn day” and make this country work.

In fact, when we call each other names, like “bigot” and “Marxist,” we insult people we disagree with and completely miss true dialogue.

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” said Stewart.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was designed to literally restore sanity to political dialogue, not demonize or insult anyone of any particular ideology (unless, of course, your ideology thrives on division and strife).

Stewart said it perfectly:

We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here [in Washington] or on cable TV.”

 

 

My Two Cents on the 2010 California Ballot Propositions

I am not a fan of the ballot proposition but since I’m a voter I will take positions on them.

Prop 19 – “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” – NO

I oppose this but not for the obvious reason; it would create a regulatory fiasco with city governments able to set their own taxes and regulations. Marijuana needs to be decriminalized, not only because it’s a victimless crime with less adverse effects than alcohol and smoking but also because it would reduce the amount of time, energy and money that goes into prosecuting people with marijuana. Legalize it…but not this way.

Prop 20 – “California Congressional Redistricting Initiative” – NO

Back in 2008, Prop 11 established an independent commission (made up of people of different parties and loyalties) that would be responsible for carving out districts for the California Assembly and Senate. Now, supporters of Prop 20 want that commission to be responsible for carving out congressional districts as well. It sounds fair but I have major problems with it:

First: How much money will this commission cost? There is no set price tag.

Second: The commission would be selected by the legislature. So much for an “independent” commission.

Third: The commission would be unaccountable to the public. We would not be able to appeal or challenge newly drawn districts.

*This proposition also conflicts with Prop 27 (see Prop 27)

Prop 21 – “Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act” – YES

This would place an $18 license fee on most vehicle registrations (excludes vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act). 85% of the money raised by this surcharge would go toward maintaining California’s public parks and beaches, saving the state $130 million a year. Saving the state’s public recreational areas is worth the fee.

Prop 22 – “The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act” – NO

This proposition would prevent the state from tapping into the funds of local governments in California. It sounds great: Keep the state from robbing local government. However, even if the state is in a fiscal crisis (like the one we’re in now) and some cities have surpluses, Prop 22 would prevent the state from taking funds. This ties down the hands of a legislature that can only work with a fraction of the budget as it is.

Prop 23  – “Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006” – NO

As the title says, AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) would be suspended under Prop 23. This is a mistake. We need to continue cutting down carbon emissions to lessen the effects of global warming on our planet and to help make our air cleaner. The time for action is now. Our future depends on decisions like these.

Prop 24 – “Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks” – YES

This would prevent recent, governor-approved tax breaks from benefiting the top 2% of corporations in California, saving the state roughly $1.3 billion annually. This is simply another way for big business to evade taxes.

Prop 25 – “Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act” – YES

Currently, California is one of a few states that requires the approval of 2/3 of the legislature to pass a budget. As we’ve seen, this has been disastrous and cost the state billions of dollars (California has not passed a budget on time for 23 years). Prop 25 brings approval down to a simple majority (at least 51%).

Prop 26 – “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act” – NO

If you think that the budget is terrible now, wait until Prop 26 in implemented. This would reduce tax revenues for the state, reeking havoc on public services and programs.

Prop 27 – “Elimination of the Citizen Redistricting Commission” – YES

This initiative would eliminate the voter-approved Citizen Redistricting Commission (Prop 11 2008 – “Voters First Act”) and return redistricting power to the California Legislature.

What advantage does the legislature have over this commission? The Legislature answers to us; the Citizen Redistricting Commission (CRC) does not. If we disagree with the way a district is constructed, we can appeal and challenge it or vote our representatives out of office. We lose this with the CRC. We have no control over who is chosen for the commission; we do over the Legislature.

*If both Prop 20 and 27 pass, which ever has more votes becomes law.

Even though I’ll be voting on these initiatives, I’m still against propositions. One of the many reasons why California is in such a horrible condition is because the voters have become the law makers. California voters restrict the powers of the Legislature and then wonder why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

The beauty of a representative democracy (republic) is that it produces effective and just government. We elect professionals to govern in place of us. If our representatives are doing poorly, we have the power to vote them out or demand their resignations…or impeachments.

Pure democracy produces chaos, ignorance and inequality. Whether driven by fear, anger or prejudice, the general public can enact disastrous policies that destroy budgets or deny a minority population their rights. Plato was onto something…

Hopefully, California will lead the nation by abolishing the initiative process.

Until then, vote intelligently.

 

Michele Bachmann’s Crazy World

I didn’t really pay much attention to far-right Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann until I read some of the things she’s said.

Now, I’m sure she’s a nice person and I’m pretty certain she means well. But some of her outlandish statements cannot be ignored…so I decided to write a blog post on the more “memorable” ones.

This snippet explains her view – and denial – of global warming…

“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”

Okay, so she ignored the mountains of evidence from countless experts in their respected fields in the area of climate change. But wait…it gets better…

‎”I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

I should note that during the 1976 outbreak, Republican President Gerald Ford was in power.

Then, there’s her insistence that many Nobel Prize-h0lding scientists believe in Intelligent Design (aka “creationism”)…

‎”There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”

Since the overwhelming majority of scientists who hold Nobel Prizes are either not religious or atheists, I find it incredibly hard to believe that there are several who are creationists. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, Bachmann should have done her homework before citing imaginary statistics.

Another fumble-with-the-facts statement made by Bachmann…

‎”I don’t know where they’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”

Interesting: studies over the past half century have actually shown that of the three groups – rich, middle class, poor – it has been the rich who have been the best off. During good times and bad, the rich are able to survive better than any of us…although they may have to “sacrifice” a yacht.

And of course there’s Ms. Bachmann’s not-so-subtle homophobia. She’s made some rather insulting remarks about homosexuals over the years, essentially calling them mentally ill degenerates. But the following quote reveals how deep her paranoia is…

“…what a bizarre time we’re in…when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.”

So, in a society where an overwhelming majority of the population is heterosexual and portrayals of romance in the media are overwhelmingly heterosexual, Bachmann believes that treating all people equally under the eyes of the law will lead to judges telling us to try gay sex. Makes perfect sense…

As comical as this list of quotes is, it is also frightening. These wacky statements were not made by a town drunk, Glenn Beck or Tony Perkins but by a congresswoman. This woman is one of the few people running the country. My two cents: That should scare anyone.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

 

“The Political Compass” is an accurate guide

I’ve taken several political quizes before to see exactly where I fall on political, economic and social issues. Of all of them, Political Compass is the most accurate and interesting of all Internet political quizes.

I’ve changed quite a bit over the years. I’ve gone from far-right to centrist with a definitive libertarian streak (hence, my support for everyone’s equality, more regulation of the food and credit card industries and even the President).

Here’s where I fall politically (in clip art terms)

Micah's Politics