Ken’s California (and Los Angeles) Election Picks for November, 2012

Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree. –Thomas Jefferson

Due to the ominous amount of garbage information on the internet, Jefferson might have added “correctly” before “informed,” or maybe “factually.” Well, I’ll do my part.

Who the hell am I, and do you want to take my election advice? I am a liberal, an atheist, a skeptic, a fan of science, reason and compassion, and anti-teabagger. I try to help others and refrain from being a douche whenever possible.

I made my choices based on the official voter info guides from the state, candidate websites, and my own strong google-fu.

President: Barack Obama

When making my voting decisions, I like to come up with reasons to vote FOR someone, not just reasons to vote against their opponent. It’s easy for anyone to the left of David Duke to come up with reasons to vote against Romney. What’s the case FOR Obama? To me, the short answer is Obamacare. I can’t say I wouldn’t be alive without it (I benefit from a pre-existing condition insurance program that’s already kicked in,) but I’m much healthier and much more solvent than I would be without it. I’m also a big fan of ending pointless wars in faraway places (and I’m pragmatic enough to know we can’t just leave all at once in the middle of the night,) and I’m a big fan of renewable, non-dinosaur-based energy. Those are my reasons, off the top of my head. I could go on, but I want to concentrate on the more local parts of the ballot.

Proposition 30, Temporary Taxes to Fund Education: YES

I have a number of friends who are teachers. I also have a number of friends who are parents – some who’ve just had babies. Good schools are the cornerstone of a good future not just for my friends and their babies, but for everyone. We have to do everything we can to stem the slide into ignorance that seems to be happening all around us. Does Prop 30 solve the problem? No, but it’s going in the right direction. The problems we have are too big to be fixed by one ballot initiative, but we have to start somewhere.

Proposition 31, State Budget Process Changes: NO

This is a very complex proposition. You can tell because googling info for it produces tons of news articles with the word “complex” in the headline. But I see some things that smell teabaggish in it, things like, “If you’re going to spend more than $25 million on something, you have to offset that with cuts or taxes, or you just can’t do it.” In a perfect universe, that might be a good idea. We don’t live in a perfect universe.

The other thing I do when I’m confronted by such a proposition is to look at who’s supporting and opposing it. In this case the supporters are a few “small business” PAC’s, and someone named Nicolas Berggruen, who on the surface at least appears to be somewhat left-leaning. Opposing it are every civil and professional union in the state.

Ultimately, due to the teabaggish nature of some of it, and the union opposition, I’m going with “no.” (I would note that I don’t pretend that unions are somehow perfect and pristine, but at their heart, they are the anti-corporations, and we need those now more than ever.)

Proposition 32, Political Contributions: NO

This is a bald-faced attempt by Republicans to take (mostly) union money out of campaigns while leaving their own sources untouched. It’s the most cynical attempt at a proposition ever attempted by the Republicans. Until…

Proposition 33, Auto Insurance (A.K.A. “George’s Folly”): NO

George Joseph, the head of Mercury Insurance, created this proposition to increase his own profits. He’s spent $17 million of his own money on this, so he must expect Mercury to make at least that much from new fees and surcharges if this prop is passed. 33 and 32 are near-perfect examples of the problem with having a state ballot initiative system.

Proposition 34, Death Penalty Repeal: YES

Of course, I have the usual liberal reasons for wanting to eliminate the death penalty. For example, we see time and again DNA evidence proving people on death row innocent. And we are one of the last “first world” countries with a death penalty.

As an atheist, I have an extra reason: If there is no hell for these terrible people to go to, then the only punishment that will ever be meted out to them is here on Earth, in a tiny prison cell, where they must live for 40 years, quite possibly in fear every single day. Short of hell, what punishment could be worse than that? So, for an atheist, this prop is win/win: give the innocent a chance to go free, punish the guilty in a concrete, Earth-bound way.

Proposition 35, Human Trafficking Penalties: YES

This seems like a no-brainer – increasing penalties for human trafficking and child porn. Of course, any prop that seems cut-and-dry needs closer examination. And from what I can tell, it’s okay. And the opponents do not make a good case (“Oooh, it will cost the state more to prosecute sex traffickers!” I’m okay with that.)

Proposition 36, Three Strikes Penalty Modification: YES

This corrects a “gotcha” that was one of the main “no” arguments against the original three strikes ballot initiative: What if someone with two strikes makes a “minor” mistake? Does that really warrant a life term? Probably not. So this seems like a good idea to me.

Proposition 37, Genetically Engineered Food Labeling: NO

This is where I part company with my liberal brothers and sisters, and presenting my argument against this prop is but a whisper in a hurricane that will never be heard, but science trumps politics with me.

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. – World Health Organization

So from a scientific point of view, there’s no reason for this prop. On a more pragmatic level, there are two issues for me:

First, this is a state law, so companies will have to create different labels for the California market. If there was a reason to have such labeling (and there isn’t,) it should be done at the national level.

Second, remember Prop 65? You probably don’t, but you see its effect every day. One of its intentions was to force locations with toxic chemicals to put up warning signs. Unfortunately, you can find something that counts as a toxic chemical in almost any location. So every building in the state now has a sign that says, “WARNING: This area contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” They are everywhere. And the same thing will happen with this prop. Everything will need a label, and thus, none will be informative.

Proposition 38, Tax for Education Funding: NO

This is a strange bird, here. This is a sort of counter proposal to Prop 30, but this one is by Molly Munger, who has put $45 million of her own money into it. The state Dems are against it, and it feels like a bit of outside influence, what with one person spending more money than any of us will ever see… I’m thinking no.

Proposition 39, Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses: YES

This would close a loophole that multistate businesses have been using to pay less state tax in California. Basically, it means they’ll have to calculate their tax based on the percentage of their sales that originated in California. “Oh, but the big companies will stop doing business in California because they have to pay an extra million in taxes!” Hey, even when it’s bad, California’s economy is gigantic. And most companies don’t take “spite” into account when figuring out how to maximize the value of their stock. They’ll eat the extra crumb and smile.

Proposition 40, Redistricting Approval YES

I didn’t follow this whole saga, but apparently some Republicans put this on the ballot in order to get people to vote no on it, for some reason. But they’ve suspended their campaign. So vote yes and let’s be done with it.

United States Senator: Dianne Feinstein

I haven’t always agreed with her, but we need to keep the Senate blue, and even the Republicans acknowledge that she’s a lock.

United States House of Representatives, 28th District: Adam Schiff

The districts have all shifted due to redistricting, and Schiff is now my man. I think Hollywood used to belong to Berman. Schiff has some power and votes well left-of-center. In a perfect universe, if the Dems take back the House, he’ll be a very powerful member of the Appropriations Committee.

State Assembly, 50th District: Betsy Butler

This district has moved as well. Butler is considered very progressive and is endorsed by a number of LGBT organizations. In fact, Jeffrey Prang, Mayor of WEHO, was asked by the state Dems to bow out of the race to make sure Butler won. He did, and is now a major supporter of hers. It says something that he feels comfortable enough that his agenda will be represented by her that he’d drop out.

County District Attorney: Jackie Lacey

I voted for Danette E. Meyers in the primary, but I looked hard at Ms. Lacey. I’ll go with her. She grew up in L.A., and she understands that sometimes people only get the justice they can afford, not the justice they deserve, and she’d like to help fix that.

L.A. County Measure A, County Assessor Position: NO

This is an “advisory” measure, so it doesn’t even mean anything. A “yes” vote means we think it would be nice if the county assessor was appointed rather than elected. I don’t see the need to change that. Neither do the local Dems.

L.A. County Measure B, Porn Actors’ Health: YES

As a former purveyor of internet… “adult” entertainment, I can say that at this point in history, not that much is actually made in L.A. However, we should attempt to provide a safe working environment for these people who, let’s face it, have a… hard… job.

Also, the libertarians are against it, so I’m instinctively for it.

L.A. County Metro Measure J, Continuation of Sales Tax to Fund Transit: YES

We already pay this, and we sorely still need this money for things like Metro and potholes. This one is important. Due to some stupid prop from a few years ago, this needs to pass by 2/3rds! If you have no other reason to actually go vote, here it is. It’s a very local issue, and your one vote could make a big difference.

Mountains Recreation District Measure HH, Levy for Stuff: YES

This is a $24 / year tax on properties to fund fire prevention, safety patrols, maintain open spaces, etc., in the hills from the 405 eastward. No argument against was submitted.

And that is the end of my ballot. Your ballot may vary, and I hope you go out and find some info on your choices.

We don’t live in a swing state, that’s true. But look back up this page. There are 19 other issues facing us on Tuesday. Your vote matters. In fact, it’s the only thing that matters. All the Facebook shares, all the conversations with friends and co-workers, any money you might have donated… it all really comes down to this: Go in there and mark those little boxes. Otherwise, you can just shut up for the next year, because you willfully decided that your voice will not be heard.

Leave a Reply