Published Nov 2, 2008

OK, I’ve ensured that I’m registered to vote, and soon it will be time for all of us to get out there and get our democracy on. There’s a lot going on this year; it will be an exciting election night. If you’re looking for recommendations on how to vote, I’ve a few ideas for you here.


Obama-Biden. I liked McCain in 2000, and I even felt OK about him in the primaries this year. But, in the last few months, it’s become clear that he represents all that’s wrong with the Republican party and all that has been wrong over the last 8 years. In particular, three specific things bother me:

  • The recent discussion about race. When John Lewis talked about the poisonous atmosphere of the Republican campaign, and Jack Murtha freely admitted that there is racism in Western Pennsylvania — both true — then both were attacked by McCain. Instead of contributing to a positive and productive discussion of race, McCain vilified the concept that someone could be accused of racism. Race remains a problem in this country, and the GOP remains part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
  • The accusations of socialism. McCain has admitted that he doesn’t understand economics as well as he should have, and the attacks in the last week coming from McCain and Palin accusing Obama of having a socialist economic policy illustrate that statement perfectly. First of all, McCain was complicit in the bank bailout — as many have said, the partial nationalization of the banking system is certainly socialist. So at best we have the pot calling the kettle black. But, worse, McCain and Palin seem to fundamentally misunderstand how taxes — any taxes at all — work. All taxes modify the distribution of income, whether these are flat taxes or progressive or regressive income taxes. Money that would otherwise be spent in some way or another is taken away and spent by the government instead. The only question is how that income is redistributed — whose money is taken away to be spent by the government. That’s not socialism, that’s a difference of opinion, and calling it socialism cheapens the discussion and deceives Americans. Obama offers more tax cuts for more people — and seems to have a basic understanding of economics.
  • The choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. It’s not that I mind having a total MILF on TV regularly, it’s just that Palin exemplifies all of the things that were wrong with the W administration. She’s obviously totally uninformed about a wide variety of domestic and international issues, she’s prepared to use demeaning and demonizing language about her opponents in order to prevent discussion and progress (see “Socialism” above), she wants to focus on the culture wars, and she has a brief and weak record as an executive. I know she makes a lot of people feel like she’s one of them, and it’s very important that leaders appear to represent, and not look down on, the people they lead. But Palin seems to be a marginal at best candidate for Governor of most other states, much less President. Not only is she a bad candidate, she leaves one to wonder how McCain picked her. Did he feel that he had to shore up his base, a bizarre strategy when crossover voters are being stolen by his opponent? If so, can we count on him to spend all of his time making sure that Israel is our ally if we go to war with Iran? Or, alternatively, was he taken with Palin’s good looks and make the selection out of pure physical attraction? And is that more or less scary?


In my district, I’m voting Jane Harman. She’s to the right of most Democrats but has a solid record. I encourage you to vote Democrat for your Representative as well; while it’s never worth voting for someone unqualified, we need a change and we need movement on energy, the bailout, and health care, and the Democratic Party is most likely to give us that.

County Supervisor

Mark Ridley-Thomas. While there’s a great deal to recommend his opponent, Bernard Parks, it’s important to realize that Parks ultimately failed to bring the LAPD forward and was essentially drummed out of the job. Ridley-Thomas has a great record as a City Councilman and as our latest bugbear, a community organizer; he’s instituted innovative programs to revitalize South (formerly South-Central) Los Angeles and bring government closer to the citizens there. Let’s vote for record and vision here.

Proposition 1A — High-Speed Rail

Yes. High-speed rail between San Diego and San Francisco can be economical and environmentally-friendly while satisfying substantial consumer demand. What’s not to like there? It’s an expensive program but one that should pay for itself over time.

Proposition 2 — Minimum Cage Sizes for Commercial Egg-Laying Chickens

Yes. Mandating better conditions for chickens in the egg industry is a no-brainer from both a business and a moral perspective. First the moral: any bird deserves to be in a cage large enough to spread its wings. A smaller cage inhibits natural motion and is uncomfortable in just the way holding down your arms would be. The business rationale is no worse: all of Europe will require such regulations by 2012. If California farms are ready by that time, then our farmers and ranchers will be able to export a lot more. Sure, we’re not big exporters of eggs now, but it’s always good to look to the state’s future growth. We’re an agricultural powerhouse, and if we can expand the products we export, then that’s only for the good.

Proposition 3 — Children’s Hospital Bonds

No. I’m generally in favor of raising public money for public-private partnerships, but these aren’t partnerships. These hospitals are just getting public money to continue and expand their private operations. While they do need the money, that’s a feature of our broken healthcare system — government reimbursements for medical procedures just don’t cover capital maintenance and investment. This bond is just a band-aid for that problem, and we’re better off facing that problem (and may well if Obama is elected).

Proposition 4 — Parental Notification for Abortions

No. It’s frustrating that essentially this proposition seems to come up again and again, and get voted down every time. While I can understand the concern that some parents feel thinking that their daughters may be able to get abortions without their knowing, the fact is that we can never put ourselves in the place of every family. Since we don’t legislate the family interactions leading to the girl’s decision to tell her family or not, let;’s not legislate that decision either.

Proposition 5 — More Rehab for Drug Offenders

Yes. A remarkable percentage of prisoners in California are in for drug offenses. Proposition 5 establishes a set of diversion programs tailored to different levels of offenses and gives judges the option — not the obligation, the option — to send offenders into these programs. Many convicts, like my friend Rick re-offend because of drug habits that prison has done nothing to break. If we can get them away from their addiction we may well be able to get them away from crime. That will save money in the long term — not just fewer prison beds needed, but fewer arrests following from fewer crimes causing fewer losses to individuals. Best of all, since the state may pay for diversion options, many more convicts will be able to attend these programs.

Proposition 6 — Local Law Enforcement Spending

No. This proposition mandates how much of the state budget should go to law enforcement. These kinds of mandates limit the state’s ability to allocate budget as needed; more than 2/3 of the state budget is covered in similar mandates. So long as we have an elected Assembly, let’s make them work and figure out the budget.

Proposition 7 — Renewable Energy

No. Unfortunately, this seems to be a poorly-written law that is filled with loopholes and gotchas, despite the otherwise-desirable topic.

Proposition 8 — Ban on Gay Marriage

No. Opponents of gay marriage (the proponents of this measure) argue that gay “domestic partner” couples have the same rights as married couples, but that’s simply not true — for a variety of Federal benefits, as well as for inheritance and other issues, domestic partnerships aren’t enough. I understand that a lot of religious institutions don’t want to marry gay couples, and fortunately they aren’t required to by any law and can’t be, according to the Constitution. I understand a lot of parents don’t feel like their kids should learn about marriage, but, hey, teaching about marriage isn’t required until High School, by which time kids should be able to handle the information.

Proposition 9 — Victims’ Rights

No. Is the justice system about punishment or, well, justice? The role of the justice system is to represent the people as a whole, not just victims of a crime. We need to do more than just punish criminals, because we’ve tried that and it hasn’t kept us from having the largest prison population in the world. Prop. 9 would even require California to violate a Federal court order requiring that parolees have access to public defenders for parole violations which, when you think about it, is pretty much just an obvious thing to give them.

Proposition 10 — Natural Gas

No. Let’s see — tax rebates for buying hybrid vehicles? Great, except there’s already so much demand for these cars that manufacturers can’t keep up, so these rebates won’t put even one more hybrid on the streets, they’ll just spend money. Natural Gas-powered vehicles get a nice tax rebate, except these can be just as dirty as traditional vehicles. I don’t hate the Pickens Plan but this is just a stupid give-away to ‘ol T. Boone.

Proposition 11 — Redistricting Commission

No. The existing redistricting policies are horrible ideas that create the partisan districts with safe seats that help polarize the body politic and prevent progress. But this commission is just a band-aid that will give us only moderately better districts. Districts should be computer-generated with input from a human commission and output verified by another human commission.

Proposition 12 — Cal-Vet Loan Program

Yes. The Cal-Vet program has been successful for decades, and has a history of paying for itself. This is a no-brainer.

Measure A — Anti-Gang Funding

No. This is a lot of funding for a new department that Mayor Villaraigosa set up about a year ago, which hasn’t yet got its house in order. Let’s wait to see if the new programs already in progress can be better than the old LA Bridges program that failed so badly.

Measure B — Affordable Housing for Families

Yes. This is a relatively small expenditure that makes the city eligible to get money from a much larger state program that we can’t access without passing this measure. Families in Southern California are increasingly being forced outwards, to cities an hour or more away from jobs, just because those cities are affordable. Measure B will help.

Measure J — Funding for New Classroom Technology for Community Colleges

Yes. LA Community Colleges have a stellar reputation for spending their money well and this is for an area that will be immediately visible to students. Best of all, these new bonds will replace old ones that have been paid off, so there will be no net increase in taxes.

Measure Q — Funding for LAUSD

No. Unlike the community colleges, LAUSD seems to have an endless ability to screw things up. Worse, these bonds just give LAUSD a chunk of cash — the school system doesn’t even have a plan to spend it all! That should be an obvious bad idea.

Measure R — County-wide Public Transit Spending

Yes. For years, LA County has spent money on buses — necessary, but not a long-term solution. We need more light rail and we especially need the subway extended to the Westside. Yes, this is selfish, because I want the subway to come to a spot near me. But we live in a county of commuters; let’s give everyone the chance to take cheaper, less environmentally-damaging transportation options.

That’s a long list, but I hope you’ll print this, take it to the booth with you, and vote the party line. Good luck Tuesday, and remember, vote early, vote often!


Despite her being considerably to my right, I quite like Jane Harman, or at least what I’ve seen of her. She comes across as being clearly smart, and thoughtful, which in the end matters at least as much as ideology. I don’t mind having a variety of values in the House, as long as folks can talk to each other and come to some agreement on how to deal with the monumental challenges we’re trying to solve. That’s why, in the end, I ended up feeling optimistic about Obama’s chance at being a truly great President.

Also: Did we actually vote the same way on all the props? Wow… It seems like most of my friends disagreed with me on at least one of 1A, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 11.

Oh, also, I think Jane Harman’s husband is a distant relative — something like a third cousin twice removed. :-)

I think we did! How funny — but good that, coming from somewhat different places, we came up with the same positions. I will allow that my votes on 2 and 5 were last-minute changes when I found out more information (can’t remember what for 5, and the fact that the EU was instituting the same rules for 2).

I’m baffled that people voted for 7… Edison employees, maybe?

Also, I couldn’t find a third-party candidate I could take seriously