Thursday, October 30, 2008


My View about Prop. 11

In California Proposition 11 is about the process of redrawing election district lines after a decennial census. At present the task of redrawing these lines is given to the State Legislature. Proposition 11 would establish an independent commission to redraw the boundary lines for State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts. Boundaries of congressional districts would be drawn by the legislature.

In general, I think it is a good idea not to let incumbent office holders define the district boundaries in which they will compete for reelection. The present system of letting the legislature draw the boundary lines results in a set of safe districts. There are certain districts with big Republican majorities; others have big Democratic majorities. Most incumbents are reelected until they are termed out.

Our Governor is plagued with a legislature that seems unable to agree on a budget for the State. At least, it takes way too long to achieve an agreement. The result is a budget that satisfies the Republican desire to avoid increasing taxes, satisfies the Democratic desire to avoid eliminating or reducing the fiancial support of education and health care, covers the difference between revenue and expenses with a temporary loan, and postpones the basic problem of an unbalance between revenue and expenses for another year. The Governor's diagnosis is that members of both Parties take extreme ideological stands rather than show a desire to compromise in the interest of good government. His solution is to change the way legislative districts are drawn so that districts will be more competitive than they are at present. With more competitive districts, he argues, the successful candidates will be the ones that attract votes from members of both Parties and from non-partisan voters. That is, the successful candidates will be Democrats who have obtained some Republican and non-partisan votes and Republicans who have obtained some Democratic and non-partisan votes in their districts.

I agree with the Governor's diagnosis. Both Party representatives in the Legislature tend to be ideological rather than pragmatic. I don't think that changing the way districts are drawn will change that situation. The reason is that candidates for partisan office are selected at primary elections. The voters in primary elections are dedicated Party members. They are the ones who choose the candidates and they tend to choose candidates who are ideological rather than pragmatic. No matter how the district boundaries are drawn, the candidates selected in the primary elections will tend to be ideologues rather than pragmatists.

Anyway, that is my reason for voting NO on Proposition 11. I think it's the wrong cure for a serious problem.

In a subsequent post I will put forth some of my ideas and opinions about how the problem might be solved.

Labels: ,


Court Decisions and Democracy

I believe in democracy. I believe that the best government is, in the long run, one in which policies are decided by the people governed. Such a government is not ideal. We all know that the best government is provided by a benevolent despot. I don't know of any benevolent despots living today; in fact, in my whole lifetime of 85 years I never knew of any that were alive and active. There have been benevolent despots in the past, but past is past and all that.

What got me started on this meditation was the recollection of some remarks by members of the Supreme Court. Perhaps I should say, remarks or comments about then rather than by them. The comment was that certain justices believed not only in strict construction of the constitution (in fact, all of them believe in that) but in letting State legislatures or referendum elections settle certain questions, such as the right of a woman to an abortion, the right of a gay couple to marry, and the like. These are matters that, in the opinions of some of the justices and of many political theorists, should be decided by a democratic process rather than a court decree.

My meditation continued. I wondered what very important questions have, in the history of our country, been settled by peaceful, democratic processes. There was a very important question that was not, and could not have been settled in that matter. That is the matter of human slavery. If the southern states had been allowed to settle that matter by the democratic process available at the time, we would still in this year 2008 still have black people as slaves in most of the South. Other countries in the European-American community eliminated slavery by simple actions of their governing officials. In our country, the matter had to be settled by a war.

Now, I have to agree that denying a woman the right to terminate a pregnancy is less of an imposition on her than slavery. Denying a homosexual couple the right to marry is less of an imposition than slavery. I do not advocate going to war to establish these rights. At the same time, I do not believe that democracy is going to establish them, either. Perhaps I am wrong. We will see next week with the result of Proposition 8 here in California.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


About Proposition 8: Outlawing Gay Marriage

There's been a lot of hype in the advocacy of Proposition 8 here in California. Advocates assert, for example, that if gay marriage persists little children will be taught as early as kindergarten about same-sex married couples and how they live. Advocates assert that a child should have both a male father and a female mother; therefore, a homosexual couple shouldn't be allowed to adopt children. Traditionally, marriage has been entered into for the purpose of creating and raising children. Etc., etc., etc.

I think it's bunk. If marriage is for having children, what should we do about couples who choose not to have children? Should their marriages be dissolved? Are little children in kindergarten taught now about how heterosexual couples live? Etc., etc., etc.

The compelling motive behind Proposition 8 (IMHO) is the fear and hatred of homosexuality. Conservative Christians, conservative Jews, and conservative Muslims share this feeling. They believe that homosexuality, especially between two men, is a perversion, is disgusting and nasty, and is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. In ancient times (and also today, in places) men who were known or suspected of homosexual activity were executed, usually by stoning.

Most parents have difficulty bringing themselves to talk to their children about heterosexual sex, about intercourse, about devices to avoid pregnancy or spreading venereal disease. It is even more difficult for parents to discuss homosexual sex with their children. In fact, they don't discuss it. Most of them pretend it doesn't exist; therefore, they don't have to talk about it.

If gay marriage is not outlawed, parents will eventually have to discuss homosexuality with their children - at least some of them will. Many parents must be horrified and disgusted and angry at the prospect of such conversations. Hence, the strong impulse to outlaw homosexuality, or at least remove it from public view. Let the homos have their fun, but let them keep it to themselves and be quiet about it.

Many years ago I would have shared such feelings as those I have just described. Then I started to meet homosexual people, principally men, and discovered that they were not disgusting monsters who wanted to prey on young boys. In fact, they were pleasant, normal people in all other respects. I would have no problem trusting one of them to baby-sit my children. They exhibited the complete range of male behavior, from one man who was rather quiet and even timid to another who was a real aggressive loud-mouth.

I have voted. I vote by mail and my ballot was mailed to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder more than a week ago. I voted against Proposition 8, largely because of the mendacious claims asserted by the supporters.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Military Leaders as Presidents

Conventional wisdom among the non-partisan voters is that Obama is a better person to deal with an economic crisis or depression, but McCain is a better person to deal with the threat of another attack by Al Qaeda or other terrorist organization. Why?

Well, for one thing, there was the Cold War and the Bomb. For years we were told that the President carried with him the doomsday box that would rain nuclear bombs on our big enemy (Russia) if that enemy started a sneak attack on us. We had memories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We had memories of the unimaginable destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wrought by rather small nuclear bombs. That is, they were rather small by later standards. We didn't want such destruction applied to any of our large cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, etc. We were afraid.

Thinking of all this led me to ask whether a successful general would really be a good and successful president. We've had examples of generals as presidents: Washington, the first Harrison, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower, to name a few. The most successful ones were Washington and Eisenhower. Harrison died after only a month in office and Taylor after two years. Grant served eight years. Although he was a successful general in the Civil War, he was rather a failure as a President. My history book contained information about the corruption and dishonesty of his appointees, about which he wasn't able to do much.

George Patton was a very successful general during World War II. We know about him from the movie of that name. He took chances and managed to surprise the enemy. He was a gambler and his gambles paid off. If they hadn't, he would not have become the hero that he was. Do we want a President who, like Patton, takes chances and attempts to surprise his enemy? Perhaps we do if the main business of government is waging war on Al Qaeda.

But that's not the main business of government. Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union. It does not have, so far at least, ICBM's that it can aim at us. We hope that it does not acquire any nuclear weapons capable of destroying New York or Washington. Preventing it from obtaining such weapons does not reqire a general as President. It requires a first-class intelligence operation that's able to infiltrate the organization and discover its capabilities and plans. The best way to combat and eventually destroy Al Qaeda is to enlist the cooperation of as many other nations as we can. We need the cooperation of Afghanistan, of Pakistan, of Russia, of China, of Uzbekistan, of every nation in Europe, and so on. We have seen the failure of an approach involving only our own military capability, plus some help from the British and token help from several other nations. A general as President, unless he is a Washington or an Eisenhower, is not likely to depend primarily on diplomacy rather than military force to assure national security.

I think by now I've made my point. John McCain is a good man and has many good and useful qualities and would make a better President than George Bush. But just being better than Bush isn't good enough. In my view, McCain's military experience counts for little in comparing him with Barack Obama. Neither man is really qualified and experienced enough to be a first-rate President. Either one would have to learn on the job, as all Presidents have had to. Since he is quite a bit younger, I believe that Obama would be a faster learner than McCain.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008



1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

These five important reasons are taken from MOVEON.ORG. I've put them on my blog just in case I have a few readers who don't receive e-mails from MOVEON. In addition to reading and understanding these five reasons, do as I do and volunteer to help elect Barack Obama and all the other good Democrats. Get the phone number of your local Democratic Campaign Headquarters from Information if it's not already in your phone book. Call and offer to help.

McCain's Temperament

John McCain says he reacts quickly to a situation. He makes decisions quickly and sometimes has to live with the results of a mistake. Along with quick reactions he is said to have a quick temper.

These qualities served him well when he was an airplane pilot during the Viet Nam War. Fighter pilots need quick reactions and need to make quick decisions without taking time to think about them. A pilot who thinks too long before deciding to do something different doesn't last long in a war. Mr. McCain would bring these characteristics with him to the Presidency if elected.

I don't know how fast Mr. Obama reacts to a situation. In the debates with Mr. McCain he seemed to be calm, thoughtful, and unflappable. These are desirable characteristics in a President. The characteristic of thinking carefully before acting can be fatal in a fighter pilot.

McCain advocates will argue that the United States exists in a dangerous world. The country need a President with quick reactions, especially if the country is attacked by another gang of terrorists. Quick and unrehearsed reaction to a terrorist attack can foil the attack and save lives. Quick and unrehearsed reaction to the news that Iran has put 500 additional uranium centrifuges into action can lead to an unnecessary and unsuccessful military incursion into that country. Quick reactions without much thought is a useful characteristic in some situations and a fatal one in others.

Why should quick Presidential action be essential in foiling a terrorist attack? The action should be taken by the police and the military people and should be automatic. It shouldn't require a decision by the President, any more that action to put out a fire in the capitol building should require such action. The failure to foil the terrorist attack of 9/11/01 was due in part to the administration's failure to take seriously intelligence reports about the possible use of airplanes as bombs to attack tall buildings. It was not a result of President Bush's dithering over whether to continue reading a story about "My Pet Goat" to a group of children.

On balance, I prefer to take my chances with a President who thinks carefully before acting and who doesn't have a hair-trigger temper or other response to a changed situation. I hope that Mr. Obama will be such a President.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 20, 2008


My Reasons for Voting for Obama

My conservative friend H challenged me to give him my reasons for voting for Obama rather than McCain. Here is what I wrote:

1. I dread the possibility of continuing the incompetence of the Bush administration in foreign policy. Bush's policies have produced a lot of bad feelings toward my country. Bush's administration blundered badly in Iraq. I will go into details some other time. I am convinced that McCain would listen to many of the same advisors that have given Bush such bad advice. With Barack, a Democrat, we would at least have a new set of people giving the President advice. I hope that their advice is better than the advice that George Bush got and acted on. In short, neither Obama nor McCain impresses me as an expert on foreign policy. Each one would have to rely on good advisors.

2. I dread the possibility of an ultra-conservative administration continuing to appoint federal judges according to the standards of the Bush administration. Just as in the case of foreign policy, a President would listen to advisors regarding such appointments. Again, McCain would keep many of Bush's advisors and would continue to cater to and placate the fundies regarding such things as stem cell research, women's right to choose, and the like in his choice of judicial appointments. Judges serve for life and some of the Bush appointees are pretty young. They will be influencing the interpretation of federal laws for decades.

3. Obama's economic policy, such as it is, makes more sense to me than McCain's. Neither man will willingly tell the public that taxes will have to be raised because we can not indefinitely continue to sell our bonds to China to cover the shortfall in tax revenue. McCain pretends that we can still REDUCE taxes still more. Obama indicates which segment of the population would have to be taxed more than at present. I think his position is more realistic than McCain's.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The Self-regulating Market - NOT!

Some economists are fond of the theory that a free market will be self-regulating. They cling to this theory in spite of evidence to the contrary. To me, the market operates in a manner similar to a control system with positive feedback. Such a system is unstable and causes the system under control to undergo violent swings.

The positive feedback in the market is the greed and panic of speculators. When the prices of shares are rising, the greedy buy to get in on the action. When share prices are falling, they sell and even sell short. Both of these actions destabilize the market and drive prices to a high extreme in one case and a low extreme in the other.

Even though the present Bush administration is populated with "free traders," the government has decided not to let the natural processes of the market play themselves out. This experiment was tried in 1929 with dire consequences. Not only did the great depression ensue, but the public lost confidence in the Republican Party for fifty years. So, unhappily, the administration is administering a dose of socialism into the banking industry in an effort to avoid a repetition of 1929.

Monday, October 13, 2008


McCain vs. Obama on Health Care

Neither candidate favors a single-payer system like the one in Canada. Obama does not rule it out, but instead advocates some mild tinkering with our existing system in which employers provide subsidized health insurance as a fringe benefit. McCain would tax the employer's contribution to the subsidy but would grant a tax credit of $2500 per person or $5000 per family to buy insurance.

On the face of it, McCain's proposal is terrible because it would, in the long run, encourage employers to drop health care as a benefit and would encourage employees to agree to the change. However, the result might be so bad that the public would then clamor for a universal system, such as "medicare for all" instead of just the elderly. By making things worse, McCain's program might hasten the day when the nation will finally adopt a real universal health care system in which, in Obama's words, health care is considered a right, not a responsibility or privilege.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?