Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween through Election Day

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Open Ballot

Here are my picks for this Tuesday's election (and condensed explanations of why for each).

President/VP: Obama/Biden (D)

Top ten reasons why they've got my enthusiastic vote:

1. We need change.
I don't need to spell out the many ways in which America is hurting. We're all watching the news, and we all feel it. We must change the course that we're on and McCain can't deliver the change we need. The old saying about you can't do the same thing and expect a different result comes to mind here-- McCain voted in support of Bush's policies over 90% of the time, so we can expect a virtual Bush twin if he's elected. To date, McCain has yet to spell out a single way in which he would differ from Bush's economic policies that have led us to this point.

2. Appropriate tax cuts, for 95% of working Americans.
This puts the money into the hands of "spenders" and stimulates our struggling economy. Consumers consume, businesses grow, we all benefit. As we've seen, trickle down economics (i.e. Reagan, Bush Sr., W.) doesn't work. Bottom up (i.e. Clinton) does.

3. Appropriate focus for the military: Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, not Iraq.
Like Obama, I have never thought the war in Iraq was a good idea-- from the lies about WMD and the urgency with which it began to the murkiness of where-we-are-today. I have always thought however that we did belong in pursuit of Bin Laden et. al. (because Al Qaeda actually killed 3,000 Americans). Aside from the principle of justifiability and the negative consequences of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war with which I disagree, this shift in military focus has obvious economic/spending benefits as well.

4. "New Politics" and Campaigning.
Obama's premise from day one has been that the "size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics". His campaign has been a reflection of that, often rising above the petty bickering and name-calling from the other side to refocus the voters on the issues that matter. He has built a grassroots movement that I am proud to be a part of. Although I couldn't drive to a battleground state or become an official organizer (which I would have loved to do), I did make phone calls to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida on behalf of the campaign. Obama's community organizer roots really show in the way in which this campaign has been structured and run-- it has been effective, efficient, and meaningful-- even inspiring. I am also excited by the smart use of technology in this campaign-- text messages, social networking at which enabled my calls to battlegrounds, and even just his basic website-- head and shoulders more informative and interactive than McCain's. Although this campaign has participated in the political spinning that is typical of modern politics and makes my eyes roll in disgust, a simple look at reveals that the McCain camp does it far more often, and far more egregiously (bigger stretches of the imagination, more damaging lies, more character assaults, more guilt-by-association...robocalls-- need I say more?).

5. Biden vs. Palin.
Wow, okay. This one's easy. I'm not going to give a detailed CV for each because Biden's would take me forever. The CV is only part of why Biden is a superior #2. For me, it's mostly because Biden can speak in clear, complete sentences, and Palin is not a thinker. When she was chosen as the GOP running mate, I was curious because I'd never heard of her. It was clear that her gender was a big part of the choice, an obvious appeal to disillusioned Hillary supporters, but when I learned more of her and she spoke more to the media (Gibson, Couric) I was pretty much horrified. I think McCain's "Country First" motto went out the window with this pick; he's clearly willing to put politics first and the nation at risk with Sarah Palin as VP. It also made me question McCain himself-- the man who so many admire for being principled and higher-minded. The Palin pick was a clear move to the right at a time when he should have been appealing to the center and reaching out to independents and centrists, where most Americans lie on the political spectrum. I know, I know-- she excited his base, but I think she also alienated (even scared) the rest of us, me included.

6. Joe Mensa vs. Joe Six Pack.
I think there's an ill-placed obsession with average in America and Sarah Palin is the symbolic hero of the "average" archetype. I am alarmed and concerned with this celebration of mediocrity and rejection/dismissal of the "elite" academic types. I think McCain's Joe the Plumber argument and Palin's constant colloquialisms are nauseating. I don't want the everyman President. I want the ridiculously smart, even-tempered, detail-orientation, contemplative and well-informed President. Give me someone better than myself. It's dangerous to imply that anyone could do these crucial jobs.

7. Restoring our standing in the world.
British columnist Jonathan Freeland said it much better than I can, so I quote him here. In an opinion piece published by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, titled: ”The world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for.” He argues: “…Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama. The crowd of 200,000 that rallied to hear him in Berlin in July did so not only because of his charisma, but also because they know he, like the majority of the world’s population, opposed the Iraq war. McCain supported it, peddling the lie that Saddam was linked to 9/11. Non-Americans sense that Obama will not ride roughshod over the international system but will treat alliances and global institutions seriously: McCain wants to bypass the United Nations in favour of a US-friendly League of Democracies. McCain might talk a good game on climate change, but a repeated floor chant at the Republican convention was “Drill, baby, drill!”, as if the solution to global warming were not a radical rethink of the US’s entire energy system but more offshore oil rigs. If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. And I predict a deeply unpleasant shift.” I concur.

8. Historic Candidacy.
I am so excited to elect the first black President. I think it says so much about opportunity in America, about change, about possibility, about progress and the American Dream. If Obama is elected in 2 days, we can all feel proud that America has grown up so much since Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

9. Health Care, the Environment, Education... you know, Quality of Life stuff.
Besides the aforementioned Economic and Foreign Policy stuff I already described, Obama is right on the other issues as well. As Pres. Clinton recently said about Obama at a rally in Florida, he's got the right philosophy, the right policies, the ability to make informed decisions, and ability to execute real change. Here's the video of this great speech.

I'll take a Clinton endorsement over a Bush and Cheney endorsement anyday!

10. All of the above.
The fact that I can list all of these reasons and apply them to one candidate excites me. I am so happy that I'm not voting against McCain/Palin-- I have real, live reasons that I am voting for Obama/Biden. The sum of these parts is a new horizon for the country, and I'm ready to go there. Here's a recent "closing argument" speech from Obama. See if it turns you on.


Prop. 1A: YES
This proposition is supported by the local Democrats, the LA Times, the SF Chronicle, and the League of Women Voters. Here's a bit about it (source: League of Women Voters). This $9.95 billion bond act would partially fund a high-speed train project between Los Angeles/ Anaheim and San Francisco, and possible extensions to Sacramento and to San Diego, at a total project cost of $45 billion, including the additional segments. Federal grants and public-private partnerships would be needed to fund at least half of each segment. Proposition 1A would provide a transportation option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lessens the need to expand highways and airports. This revised proposition addresses concerns about cost and financial uncertainties by requiring a new business plan, peer review, and other accountability provisions, and it allows bond funds to be used for the other segments if there is no negative impact on the first phase. Read more about the proposition here.

Prop. 2: NO
Although I am excited that voters get to take a look at ways that we can improve conditions for the animals that we farm (specifically chickens here), I don't think this initiative is the best way to bring the change we need. According to a study put out by the University of California-Davis, if Prop 2 passes, it is likely that it would force the state's $300 million egg industry to move out of the state or out of business entirely. The LA Times and SF Chronicle both advocate a NO vote, along with most other CA newspapers' editorial boards. Read more about the proposition here.

Prop. 3: YES
I'm pretty much always going to support a children's hospital bond (or a school bond, for that matter) because I believe it's a worthy place to send my cash. The League of Women Voters give this succinct thumbs-up for Prop 3: Proposition 3 authorizes $980 million in bonds to fund children’s hospitals. These regional centers provide specialized care for children with serious illnesses or injuries without regard to a family’s ability to pay. They treat the majority of California’s low-income children. Eighty percent of the proceeds would go to eight nonprofit children’s hospitals and 20 percent to University of California children’s hospitals. Prop 3 will address escalating construction costs and improve health care access for children who are indigent, uninsured, underinsured or eligible for government health programs. This one is also supported by the local Democrats, the LA Times, and the Fresno Bee. Read more about it here.

Prop. 4: NO
Proposition 4 represents the third time that California voters will have considered the issue of a parental notification/waiting period for abortion. The two previously unsuccessful initiatives were Proposition 85 (2006) and Proposition 73 (2005). Prop. 4 differs from 85 or 73 because it allows an adult relative of the minor seeking an abortion to be notified if the minor's parents are abusive. The LA Times encourages a "no" vote on 4, saying, "If this measure passes, some girls will seek out illegal abortions rather than notify their parents." The San Francisco Chronicle is also opposed, writing, "Family communication cannot be forged by government edict, and reckless teen behavior will not be deterred by merely making abortion more difficult." The League of Women Voters also rejects Prop. 4, arguing "Mandatory notification laws may sound good but, in the real world, they put the health and safety of teens in danger. A frightened, pregnant teen who can't go to her parents may choose an unsafe, illegal abortion, or even contemplate suicide, instead of seeking the counseling and safe medical care she needs. Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenagers’ lives, but good family communication can’t be imposed by government." Here's a good pdf article with lots of statistics and easy to read analysis, put out the University of California at San Francisco about this issue. Other opponents to Prop. 4 include the American Academy of Pediatrics, California District, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, California Academy of Family Physicians, California Family Health Council, California Nurses Association, California School Counselors Association, and the California Teachers Association-- all company I like to keep.

Prop. 5: NO
Here's a good explanation, courtesy of the Fresno Bee, "When you go to the polls on Nov. 4, remember that Proposition 5 would: a) Give people accused of crimes ranging from auto or identity theft to domestic violence a get-out-of-jail-free card simply by attributing their behavior to an addiction. These folks would go into diversion programs with little supervision and no serious consequences if they started using drugs or continued committing crimes. b) Reduce parole time for methamphetamine dealers and other drug-related felons to no more than six months. c) Shift responsibility and untold millions of dollars in costs from the state to counties, which already are releasing inmates early because of jail crowding. d) Give addicted defendants a pass on their first five violations of probation or treatment failures; judges wouldn't be able intervene in a truly effective way until the sixth violation. e) Even drug dealers would be offered diversion. It's no wonder there's a wide spectrum of leaders lining up against this proposal, beginning with 32 district attorneys and including police chiefs and prosecutors to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The California Judges Association, which usually is neutral on political issues, is speaking out against Proposition 5. One reason is that it would replace the successful Drug Courts with weakened rehab programs with meaningless sanctions." A no vote is encouraged by the CCPOA (Correctional Officer's Union), the LA Times, SF Chronicle, and most other CA newspapers as well. Five California governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger-R, Gray Davis-D, Pete Wilson-R, Jerry Brown-D, and George Deukmejian-R) came together on October 29 to announce their joint opposition to Proposition 5. Read more about prop. 5 here.

Prop. 6: NO
I think the League of Women Voters says it well, "This measure requires that nearly $1 billion annually in state general funds be used for designated local law enforcement and probation programs. This will mean an increase of $500 million a year for these programs and for operating prison and parole systems, and a $500 million capital outlay for prison facilities. The League opposes the further restriction on the ongoing use of general funds. Harmful policy changes in this initiative include prosecuting more 14-year-olds as adults and giving counties less flexibility in the use of drug and mental health funds for juveniles." Here's more good reading about this proposition.

Prop. 7: NO
Prop. 7 would require California utilities to procure half of their power from renewable resources by 2025. California utilities would increase their purchase of electricity generated from renewable resources by 2% annually to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements of 40% in 2020 and 50% in 2025. [Under current law, investor-owned utility companies must comply with an RPS of 20% by 2010.] The problem is that it is so poorly written that it could hurt the cause of renewable energy in the state. It is opposed by both the California Republican Party and the California Democratic Party. This proposition has many flaws, including the following: It excludes small renewable power plants from counting towards the new requirements. Today, nearly 60% of contracts under California’s renewable requirements are with these small providers. Excluding small providers will eliminate a major source of clean power and thousands of jobs. It could also result in higher electric rates - a $300 increase per household per year by eliminating competition from smaller renewable providers and creating a seller’s market that forces customers to pay 10% above market for renewable energy. Prop. 7 will slam the brakes on renewable energy development. It locks into law many flaws that are currently stifling renewable power development in California and creates new roadblocks to renewable development. Prop. 7 arbitrarily shifts authority over the renewables market from the California Public Utilities Commission to the California Energy Commission, which could lead to significant delays, added bureaucracy and costly lawsuits. And if these weren't reasons enough, here's the clincher: Prop. 7’s problems would be virtually impossible to fix. No changes can be made without another vote of the people or an unlikely 2/3 vote of the legislature.

Prop. 8: NO WAY!
I think I've written enough about this one. See below.

Prop. 9: NO
From the LA Times: "This is the centerpiece of a law-and-order campaign by billionaire businessman and engineer Henry T. Nicholas III and is called "Marsy's Law" in memory of his murdered sister. It qualified for the ballot on June 6 -- the day after indictments were unsealed against Nicholas for a variety of drug charges and for allegedly violating securities laws. Nicholas gave $4.8 million to the campaign but distanced himself after the charges against him were reported. Among other things, Proposition 9 would limit the number of chances for parole for many convicted criminals." This questionable Nicholas guy is the main (virtually only) supporter, while all major newspapers oppose the proposition, as well as California Teacher's Association. Here's a good, short article at the Fresno Bee about why to vote NO.

Prop. 10: NO
The League of Women Voters spells it out clearly, "The League favors the use of bonds to finance capital expenditures or the purchase of property for public purposes. The purposes of this bond are not an appropriate use for state-issued, bond-generated revenues." The Los Angeles Times editorialized against Prop. 10 on September 19, saying, "Spending bond money on something as intangible as privately owned vehicles is a terrible idea unless there is a clear public benefit." The SF Chronicle notes that prop 10 "funnels $5 billion in state bond money into subsidies for cleaner energy - namely natural gas, generating a windfall for its chief backer, oil magnate T. Boone Pickens." And The Fresno Bee says it best of all, "[Prop. 10 offers] an enticement ---nearly $3 billion in rebates -- to buy cars and trucks that use alternative energy. But there's a catch. This proposition would allocate the greatest proportion of those incentives to vehicles powered by natural gas. And where will the owners of these new vehicles get that gas? Well, that's where Pickens' speculation pays off -- he owns a natural gas company. There are other concerns. Along with short-changing buyers of electric or hybrid cars, it provides much higher incentives to businesses than to those buying passenger vehicles. And it has no provisions to keep people from getting rebates here, then driving to another state and selling the vehicle -- in effect negating any advantage."

Prop. 11: YES
"Proposition 11 would change the process that is undertaken once every ten years of setting (which sometimes means re-drawing) the geographic boundaries of the state's 120 legislative districts and four Board of Equalization districts. At present, the task of setting these boundaries falls to the state legislature itself. If Proposition 11 passes, that task would instead be given to a new, 14-member commission." (Source here.) The League of Women Voters says, "It is an inherent conflict of interest for legislators to draw their own districts to guarantee their reelection. Proposition 11 removes from the legislature the power to redraw district boundaries for the State Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization after each census. Instead, it provides for the appointment of a 14-member independent citizens commission to perform this process, establishes clear criteria for how the boundaries shall be drawn, and requires an open and transparent process with due notice, public hearings, and no communications outside of the hearings. This measure will hold politicians accountable and help stop the gridlock in Sacramento that keeps pressing issues from being addressed." I concur.

Prop. 12: YES
Supported by Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger and Senator Mark Wyland, R-Carlsbad, this proposition would help California's veterans achieve the American dream of homeownership. It would include Veterans who risked their lives in places like Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to be able to buy a home like more than 420,000 others who have bought a home with a CalVet loan. It would bolster our ailing housing market in CA, and since loans are repaid, along with all program costs, by the loan holders, there is no expense to the taxpayers. Cal Vet loans generate thousands of housing industry-related jobs resulting in millions of dollars in annual payrolls. Good for Vets, and good for our economy.

Boy this is a long post. Happy Voting!