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Joshua Rhys Taliesin O'Madadhain

California election 2005: penultimate words

Joshua Rhys Taliesin O'Madadhain

platypus

California election 2005: penultimate words

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platypus
In response to auros' detailed analysis of the ballot measures, I have some last-minute comments. You can assume that if I don't comment on something here, I more or less agree with auros's position.

For my own later reference, and for yours as well if you want to take a look, I will mention the CalVoter.org website, which has several useful resources. The most cogent of them at this point is a link (2nd from the bottom) to the CA Secretary of State's well-designed website which lets you find out who's contributed how much for and against each of the ballot measures. So if you're hurting for an opinion, go find a donor that you don't like and vote the other way. (Gotta like those ad hominem arguments.)



75: mixed feelings. I've certainly been a member of unions that have used my dues for political purposes that I disagreed with, plus I tend to prefer "opt in" rather than "opt out" in most cases. On the other hand, as a practical matter, I recognize the utility in having a force available to oppose Our Corporate Masters. On the other other hand, unions themselves have taken on more characteristics in common with corporations than I'm really comfortable with. Anyway...a few points of note:

  1. It's been my experience that if certain jobs require you to pay a fee to the applicable union (for negotiation services, I assume) whether you're a member or not. While the "no on 75" campaign website says that you can't be forced to contribute, I'm not sure what the import of that is, and what options non-union-members really have in practice to keep their contribution from being used for political purposes. (Yes, you could join the union to get a voice...which means that your contribution goes up. This makes me itch.)
  2. quoth auros: "A 10k-member union which wanted to make a $5k donation to a candidate would have to get permission for each 50-cent unit." I've read the ballot measure and I don't see a requirement that the union ask its members about each individual expenditure.
  3. The actual form strikes me as weird and impractical, in a few regards. When you fill it out you have to say, not what percentage of your dues can go to political purposes, but what amount. That is, there's no way to just say "use it all, if you want/need to". Nor is it clear what happens if you specify more than the actual amount of your dues: does that invalidate the authorization? And what happens if your paycheck varies from month to month (many do, I expect)?
  4. 5.9(f) seems like a hidden grenade that could be used to prevent increases in dues.
Overall, I think I'm going to say no on 75, but I do feel that there is something to be said for the basic idea that _any_ organization should have to ask its members (or shareholders!) for permission to use their money for political purposes.


77: One of auros' arguments against this is that it doesn't place rigorous restrictions on how boundaries can be drawn. While I like this idea, I'm not really convinced that this is practical. What are you going to do, require that each border have fractal dimension < 1.5 or something? :) At some point, I think that the correct answer is to try your best to come up with a process that should select for fair-minded individuals with no particular axes to grind--or at least that minimizes the probability that people can manipulate the selection process--and hope that they behave reasonably.

That said, I'm not sure what a good approval process for a given map looks like. The argument that you could have a screwy map that gets approved because the screwyness is limited to one region is cogent, but while in theory I like the idea that each individual should be able to approve the boundaries of the region they've been placed in (plus the adjacent ones) in practice this sounds like an organizational problem that the state would spend a lot of money on doing poorly.

Finally, the argument that we ("we" meaning people that don't want increased GOP representation in California and by extension the US Congress) should vote this down because it might help out the GOP in 2006 leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. David Brin has suggested that states whose redistrictings are likely to have complementary effects should arrange to "pair" their redistricting proposals; this strikes me as unrealistic, as does auros' suggestion that this should be a US Constitutional amendment. IMO, the mechanism for drawing districts does not belong in the US Constitution, so it's just as well in this case that the Constitution is hard to amend.
(Personally, I'm generally of the opinion that allocating representatives geographically in this way is fundamentally flawed (esp. because I live in RepublicanLand, aka Orange County), but that's another discussion.)

A brief perusal of the contributors toward the passage of this measure suggests that they are probably people who are hoping that it will push the state more Republican. Which is not what I'd prefer...but that's not a reason to vote against it. If the reform needs to happen, then I'm willing to fight those battles if necessary rather than maintain the status quo of untoppleable incumbents, which I think qualifies as a cancer eating at our country's bowels in a way that a slightly more Republican California is not.

I think I'm going for a tentative yes on 77. I may change my mind; if I do soon enough, I'll post an update here.


80: auros is inclined to "no" on this as well, partially on the strength of a friend's quoting of a couple of alternate energy advocates' opposition. Their arguments are convincing in spots...but I'm not sure that they've carefully read the new law, and I'm not totally sure that I agree with their conclusions: in particular, I don't see how the law would make it harder to go greener, and in fact it mandates a faster move in that direction than current law does.

So again, I followed the money. In this case it was pretty clear: the only entities that are opposing this measure in a big way are energy companies, plus a couple of other heavy-industry-type companies (cement, steel). Not one conservation-minded organization has put its money on opposing this.

So while I doubt this law is perfect, I'm inclined to give it a yes.



Comments and counterarguments actively solicited...
  • not much to say

    As far as I can tell, I actually ended up voting exactly as you did, and for more or less the same reasons. The amusing and somewhat satisfying part is that I didn't consult you or anyone else beforehand. Reading the analysis feels kinda like looking at the TA's posted solution sheet after turning in my problem set early.
    • Re: not much to say

      Well, it appears that they're all failing. I am annoyed at the 78 vs. 79 thing; I blame Big Pharma for successfully confusing the issue. *sigh* On the other hand, "all fail" is far better than "all pass", in this case.

      I actually can't remember how I ended up voting on the redistricting measure; I was still waffling on that as I filled out my absentee ballot to go drop off. (I plan to continue voting absentee until OC starts providing voter-verifiable paper ballots...which they are mandated to do next year, but I'll believe it when I see it.)

      I must admit I'm highly amused by my apparent ninja-political-fu, though. :)
  • Re: not much to say

    Yeah, "all fail" is definitely an acceptable outcome. In some ways, I'm happy to have people reject the entire concept of Arnie's Special Election.

    Re: 77, you say that it rankles to be partisan enough to say No simply because I don't want to hand any aid to the GOP. I did note other problems (I think the measure approaches redistricting reform from the completely wrong angle by changing who draws the lines rather than how they're drawn; I don't like the fact that a majority of the entire state can force a bad district map on a minority in one part; and I thought the referendum part of the measure was designed to be misleading, because the new map would go into effect regardless of the outcome -- the people would only get to vote on whether to run another round of redrawing the lines, in which case at the end of that round, yet another new map goes into effect, again without anyone's permission.) Leaving those parts aside, I think if you don't see that helping the GOP was enough reason to reject it, you're missing just how Orwellian they've become. The blue states cannot afford to unilaterally disarm, in the fight against theocratic fascism.

    Oh, and yes, the printers are scheduled to be available next spring. (Or at least, that's what they told us at poll-clerk training camp.) On the downside, this means they will no longer provide optical scan ballots at the polls. I plan on remaining registered as a permanent absentee voter. Aside from preferring to have my ballot both stored and counted in a medium I can verify, it's just convenient.
    • Re: not much to say

      77: I thought my comments made it clear that I didn't believe that partisanship was your only reason for rejecting 77 (in that I quoted you as giving one other specific reason, and mentioned others that you'd brought up); if I gave another impression, that certainly wasn't my intention. I definitely recognize that there are some structural issues with the proposal, and I must admit that I hadn't realized that if a redistricting measure is rejected by referendum that it will remain in force until another proposal is accepted. This is very bad in that it sounds like a good way to get gerrymandering passed via voter fatigue.

      In any case, however, I am uncomfortable with the implied statement: we think that the agenda of the Republicans is Bad, so we are going to maintain an artificially created situation in which our Republican neighbors' representation is proportionally less than it "should" be based on the fraction of the population that they represent. I happen to agree that generally speaking the Congressional Republicans have been doing terrible things. But a question worth asking is whether they would be doing the same terrible things if they really thought that there was a significant chance that it would get them dumped out of office. Regardless, though, I believe that if you want to maintain (or increase) California's D/R rep ratio, the ethical path is to make sure that Democrats are elected fairly, not to rig things so that the status quo is stable.

      As for ballots: I may continue to vote absentee, I haven't decided. I've been doing it on a per-election basis so far. Your point about the optical-scan ballots is well taken, though.
      • Re: not much to say

        It's not that I want to see my Republican neighbors under-represented. It's that I'm not willing to offer fair representation to Republicans in blue states at the same time as Democrats in red states are still under-represented.

        There's a saying about bringing a knife to a gun-fight. Passing Prop 77 would be like the Dems throwing their knife away on the way to the gun-fight.
        • Re: not much to say

          This way lies MADness. (That is, the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine.)

          It's not that I want to see my Republican neighbors under-represented. It's that I'm not willing to offer fair representation to Republicans in blue states at the same time as Democrats in red states are still under-represented.

          Well, the effect is the same.

          In all seriousness, do you think that addressing this via US Constitutional amendment--which, if I correctly understood your original post, is your preferred solution--is realistic?

          There's a saying about bringing a knife to a gun-fight. Passing Prop 77 would be like the Dems throwing their knife away on the way to the gun-fight.

          I see what you're saying...but arguably showing up unarmed to a gunfight is the smartest thing you can do. A knife won't prevent you from getting shot (nor will a gun, for that matter). But if I show up unarmed, it indicates my willingness to try and address things in a way that doesn't actually involve people getting shot. (Doesn't mean I shouldn't wear armor, of course.)

          In any case, I think that your analogy is missing something. It's a bit more like a mutual hostage standoff: I have my (short-range) weapon of choice pointed at your friend, and you are doing the same with my friend. We can't hurt each other directly, but we can hurt each others' friends.

          The only way that you get out of this sort of situation (without risk of injury or death) is that someone has to make the decision to trust the other, at least a little bit. If I show up to the hostage trade unarmed, it shows my good faith, and makes it possible for you to trust that I won't try to cheat.

          I'm not saying that there's never a place for violence (allegorical or otherwise), but there are some prices that I won't pay to win...especially in a situation in which the fact that we're talking about "winning" means that the situation has been perverted. (If this country weren't so relentlessly bipartisan (that is, as opposed to multipartisan) then perhaps we might occasionally get some real discussions of issues. As it is, much as I despise what the Republican leadership has been doing, what the Democrats have mostly been doing for the last five years is (a) claiming that they'd do better if only they could, and (b) desperately trying to game things so that they'll get back in power....as opposed to offering a real, consistent alternative.)

          *sigh* I'd like to reiterate at this point that I think that you and I probably agree more than we disagree, and I do appreciate your original analysis. I'm also frustrated at the situation; hell, I volunteered for ElectionProtection in 2004 and I know there's a lot of nasty crap going on relating to elections. But I don't feel as though I can ethically deny my neighbors their voice, even if their family elsewhere is denying their neighbors--my family--theirs.
          • Re: not much to say

            I think the country will have to get pretty fed up before a federal Amendment becomes possible, but it's not impossible, and it's certainly more feasible than doing things one state at a time. Realistically, if a couple large blue states converted, the GOP would have little motivation to give up the lock on power it would then have. The same principle applies to dismantling the winner-take-all system for electoral votes. It'll happen all at once, or not at all.

            As for "nonviolent resistance" -- that only works if the people you're resisting have a certain level of decency, as when Gandhi resisted the British. Making a gesture of trust to the current batch of Republicans is stupid. Lying and cheating is their standard operating procedure. They lie even to their own allies. If the McCain type Republicans ever manage to rein in their colleagues, then maybe there will be something to talk about.

            As for multipartisanship, well, that calls for Approval, or a Condorcet-compliant ranked system such as Definite Majority Choice.
            • Re: not much to say

              Realistically, if a couple large blue states converted, the GOP would have little motivation to give up the lock on power it would then have.

              Part of the point of getting rid of gerrymandering is to make it less possible for anyone to _have_ a lock on power--or at least to make it less certain. Anyway, in all seriousness, how many California (for example) House seats would you expect to swing Republican?

              The same principle applies to dismantling the winner-take-all system for electoral votes. It'll happen all at once, or not at all.

              Which would be a more convincing analogy if Maine and Nebraska weren't already using proportional distribution. :) (Personally I'd be more in favor of shooting the Electoral College through the head, although it's possible there might be fixes I'd accept.)

              As for "nonviolent resistance" -- that only works if the people you're resisting have a certain level of decency, as when Gandhi resisted the British. Making a gesture of trust to the current batch of Republicans is stupid. Lying and cheating is their standard operating procedure. They lie even to their own allies.

              I think that applies to the current Republican _leadership_--much of which is in serious trouble at the moment--more than it does to the general run of Republican representatives.

              As for multipartisanship, well, that calls for Approval, or a Condorcet-compliant ranked system such as Definite Majority Choice.

              Oh, I know. I've been agitating for Approval or some Condorcet variant for years. Not sure that would totally fix the problem, though; part of the problem is that political parties themselves have taken on a definite role in the infrastructure of elections, rather than simply providing a means for delivering a coherent message. I think that massive campaign finance reform might, overall, be more helpful in that regard.
  • Re: not much to say

    BTW, did you see Amber Kerr's Bab5 post about 80? She's a grad student at the Berkeley Energy and Resources group, and she reported that one of her profs, who is a member of the board of TURN, the group that put 80 on the ballot, was himself voting No...
    • Re: not much to say

      I did. I even read most of it. :) I noted that there were a number of people whose articles were quoted that were in support of Prop 80; certainly there was neither a united voice against it nor for it, and (as I noted) I didn't see anyone other than energy/heavy industry that actually put money behind opposing it. (I don't believe that this is the only relevant measure of support, but I do attach some significance to it.)

      Anyway, it's moot now. We'll see how it turns out.
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