Sunday, October 23, 2005


Election Woes: Proposition 76

This is another of The Arnold’s proposed “reforms” that I oppose. Our Governor, together with all former living Governors, complain that the legislature is slow to act, can not pass the annual budget on time, and seems at times unable to balance expenditures with revenue.

The Governors are correct. The people of California, in their infinite wisdom (?) have hobbled the state legislature by imposing a 2/3 vote requirement to enacting taxes and passing the annual budget. This hobbling makes it difficult for the legislature to do its work. Recent experience shows that it can not pass a budget on schedule. The minority party holds out for concessions that would not even be considered if a simple majority voter were sufficient to pass the budget. A result is that many unnecessary programs are approved and some necessary ones are rejected to get enough members of the legislative houses to provide the required 2/3 vote. Some political scientists say that the state is ungovernable.

Proposition 76 does not do a damned thing to fix the problem. It simply empowers the Governor to bypass the legislature altogether whenever the anticipated revenue doesn’t match the estimate in the budget. Here is the official summary in the ballot pamphlet published by the California Secretary of State:

State Spending and School Funding Limits.
Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Note particularly the second bullet. In spite of the clear language that repeals the guaranteed funding of public education provided by Proposition 98, the Governor and his allies claim that the measure will increase the money available for education.

I am angry at Mr. Schwarzenegger. I had a small amount of hope that he would try to govern at least as a “centrist.” Shortly after he took office there was a ballot initiative that would have reduced the 2/3 voter requirement to 11/20, still a supermajority but closer to a simple majority of one-half the members plus one. He opposed it. At the same time he pushed initiatives to re-fund the state’s debt and to give him additional power to cut spending. Gradually it has become apparent to every Californian that Arnold Schwarzenegger is no centrist. He is a hard line conservative Republican, very much like Bush but without the Christian fundamentalist baggage. The state doesn’t take in enough revenue to fund all the services that the people of the state expect. He rejects the possibility of increasing the revenue. Instead, he proposes reducing the amount and quality of the services. Provide less money for schools. Provide less money for public health and safety.

The State of Colorado enacted a similar measure a few years ago. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, published on October 23, the conservative Governor of Colorado is now begging the people to repeal the budget cap. The cap requires the State to reduce funding for education and other services, even though the State is now taking in plenty of revenue to fund these services fully. The excess is mailed back to the taxpayers. It seems that the people of Colorado prefer tax refunds to good schools and universities.

Enough ranting. Read the ballot pamphlet. Go to the California Secretary of State website and read about proposition 76 yourself. I am too angry to go on.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Election Woes: Proposition 75

The intent of the proposition is to shut up the public employee unions who oppose our Governor’s skinflint policies. These unions, who represent teachers, fire fighters, and other important public employees, have been vocal opponents of some of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposals. Because of my belief that this proposition is an attempt to keep these unions out of the political dialog, I shall vote against it.

Before becoming Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a rich business man. He associated with other rich business men. He may have been a member of a labor union at one time, but recently he has regarded unions as nuisances and impediments to running an efficient, profitable business. It is hardly surprising that one of his favorite propositions is one that would shut public employee unions out of the political process.

Here’s the brief summary of Proposition 75 in the description of the proposition on the web site of the California Secretary of State:

This measure amends state statutes to require public employee unions to get annual, written consent from a government employee in order to charge and use that employee’s dues or fees for political purposes. This requirement would apply to both members and nonmembers of a union. The measure would also require unions to keep certain records, including copies of any consent forms.

I often decide to vote for or against a proposition by noting the names of the supporters or opponents. Supporters of this proposition include the following:

MILTON FRIEDMAN, Nobel Prize Winner
LEWIS UHLER, President, National Taxpayer Limitation Committee
ALLAN MANSOOR, Member of Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
JAMES GALLEY, Past Vice President AFSCME/AFL- CIO, Local 127
ARCHIE CAUGHELL, Member Service Employees International Union
PAMELA SMITH, Member California Teachers Association

Opponents include:

LOU PAULSON, President California Professional Firefighters
BARBARA KERR, President California Teachers Association
SANDRA MARQUES, RN, Local President United Nurses Associations of California
LIEUTENANT RON COTTINGHAM, President Peace Officer’s Research Association of California
MARY BERGAN, President California Federation of Teachers
DEBORAH BURGER, President California Nurses Association

The big name on the two lists is Milton Friedman. I have disagreed with him for the past forty years.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I am Paranoid about Harriet Miers

This is a confession of my mental state, not an assertion of fact about the lady. She appears to be on the way toward confirmation to the Supreme Court. My paranoia is triggered by the opposition of such conservative stalwarts as Senators Lott and Brownback.

Here is my suspicion: Bush and his Christian Conservative allies know that he can not expect to have an overtly conservative or reactionary candidate confirmed by the Senate and accepted by the American public. Trying to appoint another Scalia or Thomas would stir up more public opposition than Mr. Bush could stand, considering his low approval rating. Hence, in my conspiracy-prone thinking, he has nominated a “stealth” candidate. However, this time, unlike the time when the previous President Bush nominated David Souter, the candidate is masquerading as a “moderate” in the mold of her predecessor, Sandra Day O’Connor. Bush allies like Lott and Brownback are keeping up the pretense by publicly and noisily opposing the nomination of Ms Miers. Their opposition is supposed to persuade the rest of us that she is a “stealth” moderate.

Actually, she is a born-again Christian. She believes that George W. Bush is the smartest man alive. Once confirmed, she will be a reliable vote for anything that Mr. Bush wants to do. For a generation or more, she will also be a reliable vote for the agenda of the Conservative Christians. Down with equal rights for gays! Down with women’s reproductive choice! Down with coddling the atheists and agnostics and up with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer in schools and other public places! Down with doctor assisted suicide! Make all pregnant women give birth to their unwanted babies and make the dieing suffer in agony during their last days!

Such is my paranoia this morning.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Election Woes: Proposition 74

Teachers in California enjoy a probationary period of two years during which they can be dismissed easily. After two years they acquire tenure and dismissal requires a lengthy formal procedure. Proposition 74 would increase the probationary period from two to five years. California is one of a few States with probationary periods as short as two years. Only two States now have five-year probationary periods: Missouri and Indiana. Most States have three-year probationary periods, as did California at one time.

It’s a difficult call, but I’ve decided to vote NO on Proposition 74. I believe the five-year period was chosen to punish the teachers and their union for the static they’ve been giving The Arnold, our Governator about school funding. I don’t think five years is the result of a careful and objective study of the effects of probationary period on teaching quality. I would vote YES if someone could show me such a study that concluded that five years is best.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Election Woes: NO on 73

We Californians are facing an election next month that most of us don’t want and many of us plan to ignore. The election contains only propositions, eight of them, that most of us think could have been postponed until the next regularly scheduled election. Our Governor, The Arnold, The Governator, has decreed that the issues covered by these propositions must be settled now, immediately.

As a favor to my readers – yes, there are a few people who read this blog fairly regularly – I shall present my own views on each of the eight propositions in the next few days. I begin with Proposition 73. It’s called “Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.”

I am opposed to this proposition and will vote against it in the November special election.

The proposition requires that a physician notify the parents or guardian of a minor 48 hours before performing an abortion. The proposition does not require that the physician obtain the permission of the parents or guardian. The notification requirement applies to an “unemancipated” minor – one who is not married, not a member of the armed services, or under the age of 18 and not legally free of the influence of a parent or guardian. A previous law enacted by the Legislature required permission of the parent or guardian before a physician could terminate the pregnancy. That provision of law was never enforced and was struck down by the California Supreme Court in 1997.

The backers of the proposition hope that by making the law a part of the State Constitution the court will not be able to invalidate it. Previously, the law could be held to be inconsistent with the California Constitution requirement that laws apply equally and fairly to all. Since the previous law applied only to a class of women and not to all women, it could be held to be discriminatory. If a parental notification requirement is written into the State Constitution, only a federal court could invalidate it.

That’s a brief summary of my understanding of the legal strategy behind making this measure a constitutional amendment rather than a simple statute. There is also a political strategy behind including this proposition in the coming election. Since most of the public disapproves of the election, turn-out is likely to be unusually low, even for an off-year special election. Proposition 73 will attract Christian Conservatives, Angry White Men, and other elements of the hard-core right-wing supporters of the Republican Party. They will vote “yes” on Proposition 73 and on The Arnold’s favorite four, Propositions 74 – 77. They will vote “yes” on 78 and “no” on 79. I make no predictions on Proposition 80.

Finally, why do I oppose this proposition? Why do I even care whether it passes? I am past the age of 18 (long past!) and never have had any need of abortion services. Actually, who are the individuals affected by such a legal requirement? Daughters of functional families, with loving parents, will certainly go to their parents for help and advice regarding an unwanted pregnancy. A notification requirement won’t affect them. Women of age 18 or older won’t be affected. Married women won’t be affected. Women in the armed services won’t be affected. The individuals affected will be girls under the age of 18 from dysfunctional families: girls who fear their parents' wrath. The law would apply only to these unfortunate individuals. They live under a heavy burden as it is, and we as a society have no business making it even heavier.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


The Unchangeable Harriet Miers

Mr. Bush has just publicly stated one of the best reasons to reject Harriet Miers as an Associate Justice. He says that she will not change her opinions one bit in the next twenty-five years. In other words, the Senate is asked to confirm someone who is utterly set in her views, whatever they are, and will not change her mind one whit, regardless of the facts of the case before the court. I don't know about you, but if someone said that I would not change my mind at all during the next twenty-five years, I would punch him in the nose.

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