Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fixing California's Initiative System

My home state of California has always tried to be on the forefront of law and politics, to be as progressive as possible. California was one of the first community property states (implemented to encourage more women to move to California), one of the first to reform its procedures for lawsuits (the Field Code, for you legal scholars), and one of the first to allow the citizenry to vote on legislation that created and drafted by other citizenry - the initiative system.

And from that system, there's been some good things like medicinal marijuana, and real clunkers like Prop. 8, which made same-sex marriage unconstitutional, and the latest disaster - an initiative that would allow Californians to shoot and kill gays on the spot. But on the more pedestrian level, the initiative system allows the corporations to pull a lot of crap. For instance, in San Diego, when the City of San Diego refused to allow a Wal-Mart to be built in an area, Wal-Mart threatened to force the City into an expensive special election by placing its hand-written initiative on the ballot. Currently, there's a petition out there that would reverse an earlier, 7-2 decision by the City of San Diego to build a residential/commercial development, put forward by the developer's competition in the area.

Part of what drives the problems in the initiative voting process is the fact that voter turnout varies - general elections of Presidents get high turnout (50% or more of registered voters), primaries have a lower turnout (around 20-40%), and special elections have even lower turnouts (some as low as 10%). But an initiative passed in any election, regardless of the votes it receives, becomes law. What's more, the legislature can't overturn the initiative, but instead has to work around it. Little wonder the whole process is broken.

So, I have a few ideas on how to fix what could be a good system.

1) QUORUM CALLS: In any legislative body, anywhere, before the body can vote on any piece of legislation, the body has to count the number of members present to determine if there is enough people to vote. If there is enough people, there's a quorum, and the vote progresses, if not, the vote stalls. But as I stated above, once an initiative makes it on the ballot, it gets voted on, regardless of turnout, and if it passes, it becomes law. 

So, here's how I would fix that. If the People of the State of California are sitting as a legislative body, then like any other legislative body, there has to be a quorum of votes before any initiative can pass. This would be counted on election day (obviously), and I would humbly suggest that the quorum for initiatives be 50% of registered voters.  So, for an initiative to pass in this system, not only would the initiative have to get the majority of people who vote to vote for the initiative, but when counting the total votes (everyone who votes for and against the initiative), at least half of registered voters must have voted on the initiative one way or the other.

If there was such a requirement, think about how this would work - virtually every special election initiative would be lose because of turnout. That threat by Wal-Mart, or for One Paseo would also go nowhere. And that's important because special elections cost extra money that cities and counties may not have. What's more, there would be a focus on getting people to vote for the ballot initiative either way. 

2) VARY THE THRESHOLDS: One other annoying feature of the initiative system is that it allows voters the alter the California Constitution by a simple majority. And in the case of Prop. 8, this meant taking away some fundamental rights (the right to marry) from a whole lot of people by a majority vote. This is also stupid. If the State Legislature wants to amend the California Constitution, it requires a 2/3rds vote. The voters of the State of California should be held to the same standard. So, I would would require that any constitutional amendment must 1) meet the quorum requirement from above; and 2) get at least a 2/3rds vote. By the way, we already do this in the case of tax increases. Why should fundamental rights be any different.

And ultimately, this requirement would encourage more initiatives to be passed as statutes, not as amendments - which is a fantastic thing because even well-meaning initiatives are poorly written or poorly thought out. But if an initiative is a statute, rather than an amendment, it can be modified, corrected, or even overturned by the State Legislature and Governor. And given that the California State Legislature is a functioning legislature (unlike, say, Congress), the ability to modify statutes is significant.

While my suggestions may be idiotic for a variety of reasons, something has to be done to fix the initiative system.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So You Wanna Beat Hillary Clinton, Huh?

In 2008 and 2012, my favorite posts to write were my "Rate the Contenda" blog posts, where I would make snarky and/or intelligent observations about candidates, such as when I said that Romney is naturally an asshole, but tries to hide it by being robotic (I still stand by the opinion), and I could write that blog post for the 2016 elections. Iowa, after all, is nine months away.

But let's face it, the 2016 election is going to be Hillary Clinton against some Republican dude. And if recent polls are to be believed, she's going to crush said Republican dude. And I will dance in glee over said election. 

With that said, if the GOP really wants to win in 2016, I am offering a few points, and hopefully, Secretary Clinton's people will read this and understand where her weak points are. So, without further ado, here is my first edition of, 


Let's begin:

1) Drop the Clinton Scandal Mongering: Hillary Clinton is sort of the opposite of George W. Bush - where Dubya got away with torture, lying the American people into war, having his VP shoot a dude in the face, imprisoning thousands of innocent people, more torture, trying to convince people that voting Democratic was treason, having his VP threaten to cancel elections, letting New Orleans drown, allowed corruption to take hold of the rebuilding process in New Orleans, and ignoring the CIA's repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden - Hillary gets shit on for a week about her emails. People are still steamed about it. The point being, that for whatever reason, every single bullshit thing thrown Hillary's way will stick. 

So, why not ride out the whole Clinton scandal of the week? Because like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, De Lazio, and a myriad of other fools, relying on scandals guarantees you 40% of the vote. Votes that you had to begin with as the dude running against HRC. Since 1992, who was the only guy to beat the Clintons? Barack Obama, and he ignored the bullshit scandal mongering.

2) Forget the Center - you know how Nixon said that during the primary you should run to the right, and then in the general you should run hard to your left? Yeah, that ain't gonna happen. Hillary Clinton is, like her husband, a Centrist. And yes, I capitalized Centrist on purpose. I don't mean that Clinton triangulates and ignores her values to be a centrist, I mean she's a to the core Centrist. Her most basic instincts will always pull her to the center. The one time she drifted leftward, you assholes hammered her down (the healthcare bill in 1993). Since then, she and Bill are hardcore moderates. And yes, that's a thing.

3) HRC's Biggest Weakness is Her Left Flank: I know you think that Clinton is the most liberal person ever, but that's because she's a woman, and so she must be a liberal. But as noted above, HRC is a Centrist to her core. As such, the Left of the Democratic Party like her, but we don't love her. We love Elizabeth Warren and Al Gore, we like Hillary. And that's where her weakness is - her left flank. If you, Republican dude, were to run to Hillary's left on some issue - legalization of pot, prison reform, open government, to name a few examples - it would resonate with a lot of voters. Remember Bush won in 2000 because Ralph Nader exploited the general discontent of the Democratic left with the Clintons.

4) Never, Ever, Ever, EVER Say ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY MISOGYNISTIC: Yes, there are a lot of women who don't like Hillary Clinton personally, and if you play your cards right, you might get most of those women to vote for you. But God help you, if you make this race about misogyny, all of those women (even the ones who hate Hillary) will vote for her, and you will lose. Right now, she's the best chance women have to elect a President in the near future, and they don't want to fuck that up, especially to elect a misogynistic douchebag.

5) Corollary to No. 4: If You Pick A Woman as VP, She Better Hold Her Weight: I can see the thought process of picking a woman as VP - you get a mild buzz, and you defuse a bit of HRC's swagger. Its not an awful idea. 50 years of anti-choice policies won't help you, but if you can keep women from voting for Hillary en masse, you might have a shot. If you go this route, DO NOT PICK A DITZ. This woman will be poked, prodded, and tested. If she isn't up to snuff, you will look like a misogynistic douchebag and will lose badly.

With all that said, good luck to you. You're gonna need it. Honestly, I think the only way Hillary Clinton loses this race is if she fucks it up badly. Really badly. 

Also, for the peeps of the Notorious HRC (and you're not reading this vulgar blog, but whatever) - seriously, watch your boss' left flank. Its vulnerable. Come out in favor of something lefty, like marijuana legalization or something. Otherwise, you could get Nadered. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sometimes, Even Conservatives Are Right (Or They Should Be)

Since last summer, we've seen a rash of police violence that many of us on the Left are troubled, if not outraged by. It seems that some police departments are practically at war with the African American communities they are supposed to serve. The recent report by the Department of Justice on the Ferguson Police Department is absolutely damning - the City of Ferguson has used its police force to gin up traffic fines and increase overall revenue for the City, and engaged in a policy of targeting African Americans, using excessive force, and then hiding behind their position of law enforcement to prevent any repercussions.

Beyond me being appalled, the one thing that gets me is that, by and large, the issues raised in the Ferguson PD story, or in Tamir Rice killing, is the seemingly lack of conservative outrage. If ever there was a reason for conservatives to be outraged, its what happened in Ferguson. The Ferguson Police Department was tasked with shaking down Ferguson residents for money. Court fines and fees represented a huge portion of the City of Ferguson's annual revenue. In many cases, the DOJ's report instructs that the reason for the fines and fees were simply bullshit.

In the Tamir Rice killing, a 12 year old boy was killed in the park by Cleveland PD because it was reported that he had a gun (it actually was a toy that shot plastic pellets). The Police didn't know that because, per the video evidence, they pulled up to the boy in a squad car, got out, and immediately started shooting. Now here's the sad kicker - OHIO IS AN OPEN CARRY STATE. Even if he had a gun on him (which he didn't), for all the Cleveland PD knew, he could have been legally permitted to carry such a weapon openly. In other words, as far as the Cleveland PD knew, the boy (remember, Tamir Rice was 12) HAD NOT COMMITTED ANY CRIME.

In each incident or incidents, its been us lefties protesting and raising a ruckus. But I have to wonder, where is the conservative outrage? In Ferguson, citizens are being shaken down for money. In Cleveland, a 12 year old was killed while allegedly exercising his Second Amendment rights.  The NRA should be all over the asses of the Cleveland PD. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush should be fighting over cameras to put out their statements before one another. Fox News should have sent Hannity out to Ferguson to lose his shit on national television. These incidents are, after all, the result of government overreach and tyranny.

But no.

That's because the victims of the Ferguson shakedown scheme and Tamir Rice are African American, and the perpetuators are all white. And if the most recent polling data shows us, African Americans are almost exclusively Democrats (with less than 10% of African Americans voting for the GOP). Latino and Asian Americans have been following suit for decades.

Now, keep in mind that I'm not saying that all conservatives are racists (though that is definitely a perception that many non-white voters have), but I am saying that race is screwing up our politics. There should be a national outcry from both the Left and the Right over Ferguson, the over reliance on flashbang grenades by police, by the deaths of unarmed young men and boys, and a combined dialogue. Conservatives should be on the air denouncing the liberal nanny state and government tyranny, because here, THEY ARE ACTUALLY RIGHT. This is a winning issue for y'all. But no.