Thursday, October 23, 2008

All Politics Are Local

The campaign fliers are arriving hot and heavy these days. The best of these is from Mark Ridley-Thomas, a candidate for county supervisor.

The flier at first appears to be an ad from Bernard Parks, the other candidate for county supervisor. Even as I read through it, I was still thinking it endorsed Bernard Parks. His name was prominently placed on the top. The picture was not the most flattering, but it said "Republicans for Parks". There was a RNC logo in the corner. "Closest Thing to a Republican," it said in large type. "Embraces Republican principles," it continued. A cropped picture of President Bush and Vice President Cheney peeking over a Parks sign appeared elsewhere.

In most of the places I've lived this would have gotten Bernard Parks elected to office. Not so much here. On the other side of the flier, it becomes apparent that this is an ad attacking the character of Mr. Parks. On the more cheerful side of the flier it tells us that Ridley-Thomas is endorsed by the Democratic Party. The picture is of Ridley-Thomas standing next to Barack Obama. It asks for my vote.


Now I'm confused. I was ready to vote for Bernard Parks. Then I remember that in my precinct during primary elections they reserve only 1 voting booth for the Republicans. That's the same number they give to the Libertarians. In my precinct the elephant logo in the corner is a mark of death.

It's a shame Mr. Ridley-Thomas spent all that money convincing me to vote for his opponent. Politics is indeed local, but it seems I'm not yet a local.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Democracy Run Amuck

I have it all arranged here with me. There's the 143 page California General Election Official Voter Information Guide, the 15 page supplemental California General Election Official Voter Information Guide, the 32 page City of Los Angeles Voter Information Pamphlet and last, but never least, the 48 page Official Sample Ballot and Voter Instructions.

Ah, so this is democracy.

I don't care for it.

We are supposed to live in a representative democracy. In theory, this form of government allows us to choose a couple people that we think share our values and our general ideology and then we trust them to take care of the details. In conducting this work for us that may not live up to our expectations and we vote them out of office. It's a nice system. It's nice because it doesn't require me to read over 200 pages of voter information.

California has a notoriously incompetent legislature backed by a weak governor. To make up for this, the good people of California and the legislature put everything up for public vote. I get the opportunity to be heard on 12 state initiatives, 3 county measures and 2 city issues. This includes 13.2 billion dollars in state bonds and 7 billion dollars in LA Unified School District bonds. I also get to voice my feelings on crating animals in industrial farming, parental notification for abortion, renewable energy, same-sex marriage, victim's rights, redistricting, mass transit, gang prevention, and low rent housing.

There's 63 pages of statutes with italics, strikethroughs and all the things that make lawyers get all giddy.

I say again, I don't like it.

The safest bet is to just vote NO across the board. With the exception of Proposition 11, that puts redistricting in the hands of a group of unelected registered voters plucked from anonymity (because the Assembly is too busy putting initiatives on the ballot), I will vote no on everything.

The weather's nice here. If the schools crumble, the kids can just sit outside with books on their laps.

Confined animals are cheap food. Parents that didn't know their kids were having sex shouldn't care if they know the same kids is having an abortion. If we let the gangs get big enough maybe they'll just wipe each other out.

I'm not going to use the 9 billion dollar high speed rail, nonviolent offenders can rehabilitate on their own dime, renewable energy should be market driven, the police can increase their funding by stopping more people speeding on the freeways and the California veterans can just be happy with the money the federal government gives them.

If I've left anything out, I apologize...I can't remember everything. Besides, I have to save some brain power for picking a president.

My ballot is six pages long because government has stopped functioning in California. It's the same thing in Washington, we just don't have federal initiatives, but give it time and who knows? Maybe we can all sit around the table staring at 4 thick pamphlets of point and counterpoint. Then we can all go to the voting booth and say yes to a bunch of things we cannot afford because we really don't have a clue what the budget looks like, we just know that a high speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco sounds cool.

Next year I'm going to push for my own ballot initiative. It will ask that for every public office on the ballot there be included, in addition to the candidates names, a choice of "No, thanks." If "No, thanks" gets the most votes, the seat remains unfilled. What law is passed by the people through proposition is made by the judges these days anyway. Why waste the money with a legislature?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

The Trouble with John McCain

For a long time, I've sought a handle to my thoughts about John McCain. Long have I supported him. Long have I watched in anticipation of his second run at the presidency. Then, on the eve of it, I doubt.

As the California primary drew near last summer, I hesitated. I started shopping for a new candidate. The old John McCain wasn't showing up. Something had changed. In the end, I voted for him and on Super Tuesday he didn't win the nomination, but he made it almost unreachable for anyone else.

Now, 22 days from the general election, I hesitate once more. I haven't been able to say just why. I haven't been able to get the handle on the ideas lurking below the surface. Then, today I read Esquire's endorsement of Barack Obama. Beginning the second section were these words:

"Obscured by Obama's dithering is the fact that his Republican counterpart is one of the first presidential candidates in history to run as a parody of himself. John McCain has decided on a cheap and dishonarable campaign. He has embraced the tactics with which he was slandered in 2000, and he has hired the people responsible for them. In so doing, he has become something of a mockery of everything he once purported to be."

That's it. Those are the words I was missing. I've been waiting for 18 months for the John McCain of 2000 to return. I kept thinking that once the nomination was done he'd stop bending to the will of "the base" of his party. When that didn't happen, I kept thinking that John would return at the convention. Then he nominated Sarah Palin and while the tactician in me thought it might have been a brilliant move, whatever passion I had left for John McCain evaporated.

He's not the same man he was. He is a mockery. He has sold his own soul to be the president and it pains me to watch. I liked his immigration plan. I liked his position on torture. I liked the Gang of 14. I didn't like campaign finance reform per se, but I liked the idea of fairness in elections.'s all gone. Lost in the murmur or "Rovian" advisers and focus group panelists. McCain is running the George W. Bush campaign while trying to be distinct and different from Bush. John, you can't have it both ways. You look like a fool trying.

If I wasn't staring at the idea of Nancy Pelosi having a rubber stamp in the Oval Office, I'd hesitate longer. When push comes to shove I'll do like I've done for the entirity of this presidential campaign and hope that once the ballots have been cast my old friend John McCain will come back.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

More of the same?

When have we ever elected a president based on his legislative record? Maybe before television...maybe before talk radio...maybe before the free press...

The vote for president is the vote for an ideal. It's why we are always so dissatisfied with our choices. Those clamoring around for Barack Obama want change so badly that they don't care if no one has told them what that change will be. If we get too specific then our presidential candidates drift further from what we want. The Obama campaign has also been cast in the theme of hope and most fitting that it should be. We have to hope that Obama's change is the right change for the country.

Of course, we have to hope that the change to John McCain would be the right change, too. It's hard to say. It's always hard to say.

How will the office change them? It has changed all the other occupants. There's a reason their hair always goes gray. The question isn't what these two men have said they'll do. It probably isn't even a matter of legistislation sponsored and voted. It has to do with each man's default setting. In the crucible of the Oval Office, as the ills of the world bore down upon them, what is the reaction of John McCain and Barack Obama?

I don't have that answer and am forced to guess. I won't vote for Barack Obama not because I don't trust what he says, not because I think he lacks the experience or judgment and not even because I disagree with him on key issues of our day. I can't vote for Barack Obama because I fear that Barack Obama's default setting is that the American people needn't take responsibility for themselves when the government could so handily take care of everything for us.

I work with the government everyday. Their inspectors work full-time in my plant under obligation to protect the food supply. Guess what? They don't. I read government legislation for a living and have to interpret and enforce it. Guess what? Congress doesn't have a clue. Look no further than COOL (Country of Origin Labeling). It took eight years to write, pass and implement. The week it went into effect, 31 senators wrote a letter to the USDA saying that the final rule the USDA developed wasn't what they had meant it to be at all. Eight years to write a law they didn't intend to write? God Bless America!

Barack Obama wants more of that. Barack Obama wants more regulation. Barack Obama wants more government control. I don't and so I don't want Barack Obama. Of course, if he's elected my job security goes up and I'll probably have to hire a half dozen more people so he might create jobs. And your bacon will cost $10 a pound, a burger at McDonald's will cost about the same. How long those new jobs will last at that price is hard to say?

Change is not always such a great thing. I don't care for Obama's brand of change. And the voting public doesn't care one bit about the finer points of COOL or that Obama voted for it and McCain voted against it.

If we could change the voters, now that's the kind of change I'm looking for.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008


Barack Obama. Say the name Barack Obama and you are sure to elicit a wide variety of emotions. You will probably also get a few loud verbal responses. Some people think he's the next Christ, who will save our country, and deep down they believe that as President of the United States he will somehow save the world. Others will tell you that he is the Anti-Christ, come to lead the nation and, therefore, the world to Hell at a high rate of speed.
His avid, or rabid, supporters will say look at all the new people he is getting involved in politics. "Look at how excited those people are to take part in the democratic process."
I say, when the masses realize that they can, they will vote themselves money out of other people's pockets. This was one of the reasons the founding fathers were afraid to give the right to vote to anyone other than a land owner. Their reasoning was that land owners were the ones paying the taxes. They were concerned that people not paying taxes would vote to raise their taxes without it costing.
It appears that many of his voters are avid in his support, but aren't very intelligent on the issues, or what Barack's history and plans really are. They can tell you how bad McCain is and they'll tell you how big a joke Governor Palin is, but they couldn't tell you the last 5 pieces of legislation Barack sponsored or co-sponsored. That's like saying you are a Packers fan but not knowing who their coach is, or what town they play in.
This frightens me. This means that a group of know-nothings may elect the next President of the United States, and he may be the worst thing for the country, but they neither know or care because they are caught up in a Cause. They are out to "Change" the world. Well I "Hope" they get a clue soon. If you are going to vote, make sure you know what you are voting for.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain Pork

Now that the Financial Market/Mortgage Bailout has passed Congress, get out your bucket and start bailing. Because we have a lot of Pork that the American Taxpayer is going to need bailed out of.
The irony of the whole thing is that the Democrats have managed to pose this bailout in a way that appears like the Republicans added the pork to the bill before they would sign on. So the extra $110-150 Billion that was tacked on to the bill, to "get the Republicans in the House to vote for it," is 'Republican Pork.'
How sad that the Republicans fell for this. Instead, they should have made this whole thing about good legislation.
John McCain, The Watcher of all legislation should have been on top of this. He could have ridden this thing through to the end. If he would have stood up and said "NO" to the pork, and made the Parties and Houses hammer out good legislation, he could have made a big example of his leadership. Instead, he was pretty quiet about the whole ordeal. His face was shown at the meetings, but that was about it.
He suspended his campaign for this big bailout deal, but, in hindsight, what for? It's not like he really did anything. I am disheartened by Obama preaching change, but if you watch his actions, it's more of the same Partisan politics. I am also disheartened by McCain not sticking to what has made him Senate Maverick John McCain.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dear Brother...

My counterpart encouraged me to continue the streak and make some comments for the fourth straight day. In that spirit I turn to a debate between my brother-in-law and me. It started as a squabble about Sarah Palin and turned into a debate about the fundamental questions of government. (Basically, I like to be mean to him and I suspect he appreciates that I care enough to be mean to him.)

One of the questions I posed was, "Do you think that wealth should be redistributed?" The response: people should keep what they earn, but it's unfair that the super wealthy and the businesses make all the money, while the working class does all of the work. I'd say that he hit well the sentiment of most people I know. Of course, it wouldn't do me any good to agree with him and I don't.

I returned his email with the following response:

"Let me point out the inconsistency of saying we should all earn what we make and that's it, but then go on about the rich having it too easy. Does that make Bill Gates a bad man? Does that make Warren Buffett a bad man? Should we force them to take the money they made and give it to those that didn't make any money? Because I went to school and worked my way up in the company, should I have to pay more in taxes because I've worked to be more successful than those that work for me? The achievement of wealth is not a sin. The issue...the problem, if you will, is that poor people don't understand how money works. Businesses don't make money...shareholders make money (most of CEO compensation is stock). Owners make money. For instance, I own 10 shares of General Electric. The more money GE makes the more my quarterly dividend is. I get my 10 share percentage of the profits of GE. If everyone in America owned 10 shares of Chevron then we'd all be a bit richer and I can guarantee that we wouldn't be considering windfall taxes for oil companies. The position is always that the government owes us something. If not the government, then the rich owes us something. We scream to the treetops that it isn't fair that people have so much money, but what isn't fair is when those that do work hard and do earn money have to give it away to those that don't.

Wealth requires investment. It requires the investment of time. It requires the investment of effort. It requires the investment of money. And it requires patience. I won't be rich because I bought 10 shares of GE. I'll be rich because every three months GE sends me a check for $3.50 and I put that money in a savings account. When I have enough money in that savings account to buy more stock I'm interested in, I buy some. It pains me to watch the value of the stock roller coaster around, but as long as the companies make money, I get my dividend, I reinvest and I increase the cash flow of my own personal economy. I'll be rich because I own a bit of the wealth that everyone else thinks is unfair. Being envious of the rich is not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is taking away your neighbor's lottery winnings and keeping a part of it for yourself because you weren't willing to buy your own lottery ticket."

I suppose the thing I should have added is that wealth is redistributed at every level of the income ladder. My brother-in-law and sister are working like crazy to make a living and they are paying taxes. Down the street, one of their neighbors isn't, but is reaping the rewards of their taxes in the form of welfare and food stamps. In this case, someone with a job, even a job at minimum wage would be the rich one compared to the guy that has no job at all. The wealth is shuffled down the ladder. It hurts the super rich less, but that makes it no less fair.

It's not the inequality of wealth and income that matters. It's the inequality of education and the dead weight of ignorance that matters most.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This bailout thing has become a convoluted mess. The Treasury secretary seems to be playing partisan politics with this thing. Senator Obama, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid, appear to be doing what they can to make this a huge win for the Democrat party, while positioning it as a loss for the Republicans at the same time. Instead they appear to be making a bigger, more confusing mess.
Just so you don't think I am picking on the Democrats, I do think there is some effort by the Republicans in Congress to help make McCain look good on this. For instance McCain has been trying to meet and talk to all the leaders involved in both parties. The House Republicans are letting John McCain be the one credited with the idea of having an independent oversight of the running of the bailout plan, once passed. So it's not like only one party is trying to come out of this smelling pretty.
However, the Democrats are taking the lead on this, because they are the majority party in both houses. In my opinion, they are fouling the whole thing up. What are they doing? Well, besides messing around with insider information from the Treasury Secretary so Barack can try and corner in the Republicans, they are throwing so much in this bill that does not pertain to the purpose, just to get it passed, we are going to have all kinds of Pork that will add to the cost of this bill. Good or bad, it is pork.
What really frustrates me is that the bill that is being pushed now is not just about financing for the bailout. There are a few items that everyone hopes would make a difference. An increase in FDIC insurance is one. It makes sense that if people can get a guarantee on the money they put in the bank, they will put more money in the bank. More money in the banks means more money to lend. This should help get credit moving in the economy.
It also deals with tax breaks for purchasing solar panels. How does this pertain to a crisis due to bad/faulty mortgages? While it may be a good thing, I don’t think this should be part of the bill. I perceive this as pork.
There are a number of tax breaks that are meant to garner Republican votes in the house. If you are going to pass a tax break, for example postponing the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), then do so, but tacking it onto a relief bill for the economy seems like it is a bit out of line. While it is true that the more money that is in the economy the more jobs are maintained and created, this is more Pork.
It is hard to know for sure, but there are reports of emergency relief for the Midwest and South to help recover from recent storms. Again, this may be a great thing to spend my tax money on, but adding it to this bill so that it will get votes is called pork.
For a moment I was thinking of using a Mary Poppins analogy, ‘a spoon full of sugar’ and all, but it just doesn’t seem appropriate when we may be talking about Bad Medicine.
On Monday, the US House didn’t like the plan, with 40% of Democrats and over 60% of Republicans voting against it. This was very interesting, especially after the “leadership” said they had a compromise that would pass. It seems to me that the leadership was trying to force a plan on the American people. Instead, the people got on the phone and told their Representatives that they didn’t like it and their Representatives listened. This is the CHANGE I HOPE to see in Washington. Less bad government and more good legislation. Less partisan politics and more working together to do the right thing. We’ll see what the Senate does with this tonight.

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