Wednesday, January 30, 2002

California primaries and more

A Guardian article compares the Bushes to the Kennedys: no fewer than 7 Bushes have now been arrested for booze or drugs.

Ari Fleischer says that to reveal what Enron said to Cheney would be a violation of the right to petition.

I forget yesterday to comment on something especially annoying in Bush rhetoric, including in the State of the Union speech: his constantly referring to the “civilized world.” This phrase should be arousing as much ire as “crusade” did early on, but for some reason isn’t. Anyone, when did Bush get to be civilized? He executes people and his knowledge of literature begins and ends with the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

And “axis of evil”? I don’t think Iran and Iraq will mind too much being called evil, but to be accused of working together?

Our allies the Afghans evidently tricked us into fighting their factional fights yet again last week, where US forces killed 17 of the wrong people. Oops.

OK, the voter pamphlet arrived today. I’ll make it easy for you: vote no.

First, everyone mentions terrorism, from that ridiculous statement on the inside cover by the Sec of State, who I believe just might be running for something this year, to the arguments on the props. Remember: if prop 41 fails, the terrorists win; also, if prop 41 passes, the terrorists win.

40 & 41 are bond measures and you know how I hate those. Regressive taxation is wrong, whatever the cause. Prop 40 is also huge, the largest ever, and includes things that don’t all belong in the same measure.

Incidentally, some of the No arguments are written by the scum of California politics, but you should vote no anyway.

41 is a bond measure for new voting equipment, not the sort of thing a bond measure usually pays for, but whatever. Note that it sets specifications only, meaning that counties pick their own equipment, meaning we’ll still have error rates that vary by district. The fact that the bond money will be paid out as matching funds makes that variance even greater, being dependent on what a district can afford.

42 requires gas taxes to be spent on transportation purposes.
Hypothecated taxes (dedicated taxes) are rarely a good idea, since the optimal tax and the optimal budget rarely coincide, but in this case it would also specify how the money is spent, setting priorities that may not make sense in years to come, and withdrawing money now going to the general budget to pay for transportation, which may not be the highest priority for a shrinking budget.

43 says that a voter who cast his vote legally should have their vote counted. That’s all it says, one sentence long. Which sounds good, and the idea of having that set forward as a principle to guide court cases, also good. But impossible. How do you require a ballot lost by the post office to be counted? Or one with a hanging chad or whatever? How do you count a ballot if you can’t determine intention? As an absolute, it becomes unworkable, and a magnet for many many lawsuits.

The one thing no one mentions re 43 is write-ins. I might vote for it if I thought it forced the registrars to count *all* votes, every Michael Mouse and Count Chocula (they currently only count votes given to certified write-in candidates), but the bit about casting vote according to the law probably stops that.

44 is on the ethics of chiropractors, and there’s a joke there I needn’t make, since we all thought it. It would de-license for a decade quacks, sorry chiropractors, guilty of insurance fraud, which may be ok, if a trifle too specific, but also outlaws the use of ambulance chasers, i.e., agents to secure business, which doesn’t seem like a problem. Also, stop bugging me with this shit.

45 would allow incumbents to get around term limits, one time only, by collecting signatures equal to 20% of those who voted for the office in the previous election. You know me, I oppose term limits strongly, but this is tinkering at best. It gives an advantage to politicians with money behind them, who would then owe favors in their lame duck term. At the level of principles, this may actually be worse than term limits themselves. To me, term limits are offensive because they take away the right of the voter to vote for whomever they want. To the authors of 45, term limits are offensive because they take away from politicians their right to be reelected (like the thing about not counting write-ins unless there is an official campaign, which treats the vote as something that belongs to the candidates, not to the voter). The system is not supposed to be for the benefit of the politicians but for that of the electors.

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