Monthly Archives: November 2005

Ed Schultz Is A Clown

Most of us on the left recognize that El Rushbo is basically an actor. So is O’Reilly, Hannity, et al. Most of them don’t live or act in the ways they claim are correct. Rush is a pillhead; O’Reilly likes “falafel” on women. They merely ride the ratings wave of being right-wing talking heads. And they atune their schtick to a certain audience.

Ed Schultz is just the same on the left. He is a blowhard, talking-point repeating, dipshit. He has carefully picked his positions so as to appear like a real American and not a North Dakota version of Amy Goodman, but he doesn’t really believe it, it’s just his schtick. This is obvious because when he’s challenged by a point beyond his ken, he can only yell, hang up, and repeat his talking point.

Randi Rhodes at least sends you to some links. Al Franken will hedge a little, but he’s willing to listen. Ed, on the other hand, I think he’s just a guy who couldn’t find a niche in right-wing radio and so he’s trying to catch the early more open field on the left.

Just take for example his position on immigration. He wants the “illegals” out. A caller tried to explain to him that the economy would collapse without them. He simply retorted that Americans would do the jobs if they were paid enough. Exactly. If they were paid enough, then PRICES would go up, and Weimar-like hyperinflation would result, and the wages those folks earned would be as worthless as before. Oh, and we can do this, apparently, without destablizing Mexico.

Ed Schultz: Lettuce should cost $10 a head and we should like it.

I’m not suggesting we should continue to exploit workers because it would hurt the economy not to. I’m just suggesting that such a huge problem isn’t something that stupid talking points is a solution to.

He’s an idiot.

NHL: What I Got Wrong

Everything. Sigh.

I appear to be wrong about most of the teams, especially Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and the Rangers. The Rangers are riding Jagr, Detroit is not dominant, but is keeping it together, and Anaheim has surrendered.

Based on current standings for the President’s Trophy, here’s my error rate compared to pre-season rankings:

(1) Philadelphia (15) -14 -14
(2) Ottawa (2) 0-14**
(3) Edmonton (13) 10-24
(4) Vancouver (5) 1-25**
(5) Anaheim (20) 15-40
(6) Calgary (11) 5-45*
(7) Pittsburgh (25) 18-63
(8) New Jersey (19) 11-74
(9) San Jose (24) 15-89
(10) Boston (23) 13-102
(11) Toronto (10) 1-103**
(12) Atlanta (22) 10-113
(13) Tampa Bay (16) 3-116*
(14) LA (4) 10-126
(15) St. Louis (30)15 -141
(16) Montreal (6) 10-151
(17) Chicago (26)* 9-160
(18) Dallas (7) 11-171
(19) Colorado (14) 5-176*
(20) Detroit (1) 19-196
(21) Minnesota (21) 0-196**
(22) Nashville (9)13 -209
(23) Florida (28) 5-214*
(24) Columbus (29) 5-219*
(25) Buffalo (12) 13-232
(26) Islanders (18) 8-240*
(27) Carolina (8) 19-259
(28) Phoenix (17) 9-270
(29) Rangers (3) 26-296
(3o) Washington (27) 3-299*

** +/-1 place * +/- 9 places

So, I’m off by roughly 10 places in the standings on average, terrible.

NHL: What I Got Right

I didn’t make as many structural predictions about the new year as DJS, but I certainly made a lot of predictions about teams.

The Trapezoid: Martin Brodeur is already lobbying to have it removed, and there is a lot of popularity to having it removed. The only changes that are making any difference are the calling of penalties and the 2-line pass. Everything else is meaningless.

Ottawa: You might not remember, but they were widely poo-pooed before the pre-season (especially before the Heatley trade). I put them in the final four, and they are looking strong.

Vancouver: They weren’t picked in a lot of other final fours, but I was in consensus with them being strong.

Tampa Bay: I had them in the middle of the pack, not the top. That’s where they are.

Colorado: Just an average team these days.

Toronto: Good but not elite

Minnesota: Average

I put 6–just 6–teams in the right place so far.

I will say this: there are fewer dominant teams. Detroit is at the top of the standings, but has been on a terrible run of late; they simply aren’t as much better as they used to be. Ottawa has been terrifying, and they are the closest to dominating. Anything can happen on any night. Even Washington can blow you away if Ovechkin gets loose.

Hockey Predictions Revisited

Prediction One: Goaltending is so good that even with the new rules good goalies will dominate and the 80’s style 7-5 games are gone.

Clearly wrong on this one. Scoring is up about 23%; the pansifying of league by obliterating physical play has made for a lot of lay ups, so to speak.

Prediction Two: Goalies will win most of the shoot outs.

Correct.

Prediction Three: Goalies will still be the key.

Mostly wrong. The goalie will always be paramount in hockey, but the Between Lockouts Era was the age of the defensemen. Stevens, Konstantinov, Pronger, Foote, and even Carney and similar players dominated, especially in the playoffs. With the new rules we have entered the era of the forward. The Horridacanes are the same collection of Once Wases and Never Has Beens they always were, but the presence of the excellent Eric Staal has now made them a force to be reckoned with.

Potential Spoiler: Nashville Predators

Correct, just three regulation losses thus far.

The Fall of the Wings and Avs:

Mostly incorrect. Wings started hot and both teams have respectable records; Avs are not as feared as they once were.

The Decline of the ‘Ning Dynasty.

Correct! Injuries, no back up goalies to play against, no teams taking a night off to rest for golf in Florida. It’s tough when everything isn’t perfect. Their record is respectable and they play in a weak division, but an 8-2 loss to a good but not great Devils squad is ugly – and you can’t blame adjusting to the new rules at this point. Tampa was, by far, the weakest Champion of the Between Lock Outs Era. Captain Dave Andreychuck is playing with less hunger than a spawning salmon.

Fade Out of Some Stars:

Correct. Thought it would be Hasek. Instead it was the Golden Brat Hull and ol’ “Anadromous” Dave Andreychuk. Honorable mention to Stevie “Why?” in Detroit.

The Devils Will Be In The Hunt:

Tentatively Correct. This team has struggled much more than I thought, but any team would minus two Hall of Fame defensemen and one All Star forward. Moreover, the venal trapezoid rule was directed strictly at Brodeur and, by extension, them, which is both the ultimate compliment and insult. Still, the squad is starting to round into shape. Assuming Elias works his way back into the player he was in 2003-4 from his post-Communist sojourning Hepatitis, he could dominate in this Era of the Forward. With Mogilny clearing the cobwebs, Kozlov trying and the emergence of Gionta the Devils could suddenly have a formidable offense. Losing McGillis (for Ference) and Langdon (for Pihlman) in the process of regaining Elias may be addition by subtraction.

Coaching Deadpool

(1) Mike Keenan – 12 losses might be partly the fault of the players who came here to play golf, but my guess is that they’ve tuned out this loon. The problem with this guy is that he gets tuned out by vets but can’t coach young players. Time to put him out to pasture on the CBC so Don Cherry can retire.

(2) Ed Olcyzk – When everything goes right, this team is dangerous. If they had championship coaching, even without a real goalie, they would be something to fear in this league.

(3) Mike Kitchen – The Blues shouldn’t be this bad.

(4) Trent Yawney – Chicago is still suffering from overexpectations and underdelivery.

(5) Mike Sullivan – The owner has been on this team’s nuts, and they’re in last place.

BONUS PICK: Tortorella.

Just for the record, I think Wayne is doing good enough not to step down. A normal person might still be on the list, but Wayne will really have to stink things up to stay on the list–and he was at first. I still think Carlisle is a problem, but with the Fedorov trade it shows that this team is not in go for it mode, so he’s got some slack; plus, he and Burke go back a ways.

Accountability in Canada

Not that you would ever hear it in the news of the neighboring country, the most culturally equaivalent country, with a very long border, but there has been great tumult in Canadian politics recently.

The Republican-trained conservatives have begun a smear war against the Liberal Government, not implying, but directly stating that their party amounted to an organized crime ring. This stems from the former PMs kick-back scandal, and the Gomery commission has exonerated Paul Martin, the current PM.

But, wait. The Liberals control the government, and have control of the Commons and the Senate (including an actual, non-coalition majority in the Senate). So, how, exactly did they get investigated? You mean Canadian politicians get held accountable even if their party is in power?

The Vote of Non-Confidence has been tabled by the Conservatives. I haven’t done enough reading to find out why this is. But, the motion could not have succeeded unless the left-wing NDP voted no confidence. I don’t know enough to say, but it seems like this would have been another example of a left-wing party betraying the center-left party to the advantage of the right-wing party. The issue was over National Health Care. Did the NDP leader think that forcing elections at a time of peril for the Liberal party would have imrpoved things? Yikes.

There apparently will be an election and a new parliament. What are the chances of a Liberal party ouster? Nil. But they stand to become an even more precarious minority.

But remember, this all came about because misconduct was exposed under the regime of the same party. This would never, ever happen in the current United States. Democrats are forced to implicity legitimize the Clinton impeachment in order to call for a “fair” analysis of Bush, DeLay, and Frist’s actions–and to call for their removal. Clinton got his cock sucked. So what? The United States was never better than under his leadership.

We have a lot to learn from Canada, who, by the way, is keeping more of the jobs that GM is cutting because GM’s problem is mostly american health care costs.

A Firm Position

For the first time in a long time, I’m going to be an impractical voter. At least in the primaries. It won’t be long now until the pre-primary season starts heating up. And there is no way I will vote in the primary for anyone who supported the Iraq war. Anyone who made such a bad decision isn’t ipso facto incapable of being our chief executive, and, equally as importantly, probably incapable of surviving the right-wing gauntlet in the general election. I hope to find someone to support that at the same time isn’t a far-left candidate. (i.e. no Kucinich). If Gore runs, I’m for him. But he’s not.

Clark
Warner (won’t say how he would have voted)
Feingold
Edwards
Hillary
Richardson (flip-flopped — uh oh)
Kerry
Biden
Bayh
Vilsack (DLC President, otherwise I’m not sure)

Twenty Games In It's Basketockey

First the caveats: Yes retirements and fraternal bonds have left my Devils a shell of their former self; yes the rules were by and large designed specifically to deter them; and yes it’s still far and away the best sport – but twenty games in Gary “NBA” Bettman is getting his wish. Hockey is turning into basketball.

Shootouts, tag-up off sides, two-minutes for shooting the puck into the seats, eliminating the red line, shrinking goalie equipment, and increased divisional play were all inspired changes. The crackdown on goalie puck handling, however, was vindictive and stupid. The ability of Brodeur, DiPietro and others was not Wilt Chamberlin dunking from the free throw line. Their puck handling was an expansion of the goalie’s roll based on athleticism and mostly skill. Legislating their talent out of the sport is like making it illegal for Wayne Gretzky, in his heyday, to operate behind the net because he is too darn good.

That said the real problem with the new state of affairs is the crackdown on general physical play. Yes, the clutching and grabbing had become too much, but the dearth of physicality has fleeced the sport of too much of its toughness, emotion and sensation. Forwards no longer fight through checks, instead defensemen get two-minutes for the equivalent of a hand check.

I’ve seen it a few times this season. A forward backing in on his defender, his back to the goal, forcing his way closer, waiting to spin and shoot.

I’ve seen it, a defensemen shooting the puck into the zone, one beat later his defender crunching him into the boards, elbows down, shoulder to shoulder and being penalized for interference. Interference?! That’s hockey! At least it used to be.

It was the physical play, the under-the-skin match ups that used to make hockey unique and should have been increased with additional divisional games. I recall a Devils/Flyers game from the late 90s where the Flyers, on the opening face off, had one of their fighters on the ice. The Devils changed lines and put ou their fighter Krystof Oliwa. The anticipation in the building was electric; a sensation that no other sport comes close to matching. The puck was dropped and just as the game began so did the fight.

That manner of emotion is not in the game any more.

True that fight was an exceptional case, but another fault of the new NHL is that goals are not as exciting as they used to be. One of the great things about hockey was watching a team, especially if they were the home team, be down a goal and tilt the ice and keep on coming close before finally breaking the goaltender and tying the game. For acquaintances that weren’t hockey fans I said that it was like watching a basketball team will it’s way back from a twenty point deficit and tie the game late in the fourth quarter. That used to happen several times a season for most teams. Now it’s as rare as the twnty point comeback is in basketball.

The NHL is being as transformed into a game of stars – something I always thought could never happen. The best team will probably still win, but the brightest highlights will get the attention and the emulation until the NHL becomes a sea of egos like the NBA is now.

The Same Intelligence?

This week’s most blantant lie coming from the Republicans is that the Congress and others (including Bill Clinton), all saw the same intelligence as the White House and concluded that “Saddam Hussein was a threat.”

First, it has already been documented in the Washington Post, among other places, that this claim simply isn’t true. But I can’t fault the White House for wanting to bring some of these people down with them. After all, a not minute faction of the Democratic party opposed the war, and the DLC Diet Republicans who killed the Dean campaign in 2004 supported it, even knowing that this bumbling administration would be the one to carry it out.

I knew the WMD story was a lie. I never believed the UN inspectors were covering for Saddam Hussein. It seemed quite obvious that if the agenda was really to get rid of WMD, and they really were there, and “we know exactly where [they] are” (Rumsfeld) was true, it would have been a lot easier to show that to be the case at the time, and going into Iraq with the military was the hard way to do it.

There was no possible intelligence that could have justified the invasion, short of some kind of ICBMs in Hussein’s possession. If we knew where the weapons were, that seems to be what cruise missiles are for. And even then, that appears to be the situation in North Korea, and all we do is talk. It was obvious that Bush was going to finish his Daddy’s job no matter what. And this, despite the fact that we had just been attacked by al qaeda, and we let them go.

So the Democrats who followed this guy are also to blame. That includes Hillary, Biden, John Kerry, and John Edwards. These are the same people responsible for destroying the only viable candidate who did speak out against the war, Howard Dean. Believe me, the Republicans were (incorrectly, too, I think) relishing the chance to take him on; they probably donated to his cause.

Now, a whole cohort of Dems are saying they were wrong: John Edwards, Jack Murtha, etc. Well, no shit. Welcome to the reality based community. I knew in 1999 that Bush would not be a competant commander in chief. What made me so special? It must have been my intelligence.

The Constitution May Not Have Protected Abortion In 1789, But It Does Now.

The federal Constitution was little more than an enactment of many aspects of English common law, which, at that point was centuries old. The unwritten laws of England predated the Norman conquest, and were already evolving a unique legal system at the time of the Magna Carta.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some important differences between the Common Law of the 1780s and the Constitution. Separation of powers is an important distinction, as are the federal system and the limited powers of the federal government. But the liberties and powers granted in the document reflect an improvement on the English system, not a rejection of it (in fact, earlier colonial laws were markedly unenglish, and only later evolved to become more English.)

And what makes the common law better than civil law? It’s living. It evolves, and not just overnight, but according to the dictates of ordered liberty. If the Constitution was based on that model, then the rights it grants operate similarly.

So, don’t play the Originalists game. They’re entire philosophy is unfounded on the Original intent of the Founders–a shocking irony. They clearly intended to avoid a code law, which every colony had grown out of well before the Revolution. They wanted a new common law, and they enacted it.

So, even if the liberties granted at the time of the Constitution didn’t include abortion (oops, it was legal then, and it was at common law before quickening), it does now, because our country’s views and traditions have grown very strongly over the past that the government has no business interfering in our reproductive decisions, and it’s no conincidence that these decisions began to be reflected in Constitutinoal jurisprudence during the Nazi era.

And one big mistake the founders made: I would love to have the Church of England as America’s official church. They are tolerant (for the most part), keep church and state separate, and absolutely deny the paper-thin scriputral basis of the so-called “rapture” and other evangelical psychoses.

Shorter Weintraub

Shorter Weintraub: Even though the whole election was a waste, direct democracy is still good because it was once used for leverage to get something done.

Normally Danny does a pretty good job making us wonder if he really does or doesn’t have a big Terminator poster above his bed, but this article is just sorry. Direct democracy has been as much of a disaster for California as it was for Athens, and Weintraub’s article simply doesn’t make any sense.

His thesis is that direct democracy is good because the insurance commissioner set his rate guidelines lower (no obligation for hte companies to follow) because of a bill passed in the Legislature as a result of an implicit threat to take it to the voters by Arnold. Hmm…

In other words, direct democracy really had nothing to do with it. It was just one of many avenues for a 66% approved governor to muscle a bill through an adverse legislature, i.e. the normal representative political process at work. And this guy is the blogger of record for California politics? Sheesh.

Analyzing the 11/8 Sweep

Last Tuesday’s Democratic sweep of major (and many secondary) races is proof positive of an erosion not of Bush’s popularity but of his popular perception. Bush has been a disaster since day one and I maintain that he has been the worst President in American history since 9/11/02 when he morphed the war on terrorism into the on Iraq. The facts, stats, data and anecdotes marking his misrule have always been visible for anyone willing to notice and this information has long been tied together into cogent, precise and readily available arguments against Bush’s actions.

The difference now is that the Katrina fiasco has laid waste to the representation of Bush as the steadfast leader against THEM. It is now okay for the SCLM to notice and report the absurd incompetence of the Bush regime.

The staged Q&A session that Bush held with select troops was no more ridiculous and fake than the Thanksgiving “surprise” photo-op – complete with paper Mache turkey – that he performed with the soldiers in Iraq in 2003. The coverage now, however, is critical; then, it was edifying.

With the SCLM finally doing a version of its job Bush’s popular support has shrunk to Conservatrons, Republicans by habit, and pugnacious pseudo-intellectuals like Colin Quinn who probably cannot bear to admit that they were duped. With his back to the wall Bush is trying to pick a divisive fight over pre-war intelligence, but people with a louder voice than Mother Jones or the Progressive will be leading the truth squad this time.

To get a sense of how the terrain has changed try watching the popularizer Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 again. What once seemed either subversive (in a good way) or treasonous now feels like the conventional wisdom.

Coaching Deadpool 11/14

(1) Ed Olcyzk – It’s not just Thibault. This team has no organization. It’s a mistake to think that just because a team doesn’t play a trap that it doesn’t have a “system.” This is also not a case of too many egoes, like the Lakers. This team is simply poorly run and too much talent is going to waste.

(2) Randy Carlisle – Why is this team losing? They are getting great goaltending, but no scoring. No scoring on a team with Fedorov, Sykora, Niedermayer, Selanne, and Ozolinsh? It’s almost as preposterous as Pittsburgh, but not quite.

(3) Mike Kitchen – This team sucks. Ack. The Blues have the worst record in the NHL, and mismanagement has decimated a team that won the President’s Tropy just 4 seasons ago.

(4) Wayne Gretzky – This team has climbed to .500, but mostly by facing a weak schedule. I still don’t see anything other than hype to justify Wayne’s coaching skills. No matter how many times Sam Rosen or Darren Pang repeats it, it doesn’t make it so.

(5) Trent Yawney – Chicago has improved slightly, but I still think they are perceived as underachievers (they’re about where I expected them to be, but I don’t fire coaches).

BONUS Pick: John Tortorella. The Tampa Buy Fluking are stinking up the league, and, based on Chicago’s performance, it’s not because Khabi’s gone. Has this team’s ego gotten to the point to where they tune out Torts?

Terminated.

California voters saw through the kind of political scheming that Arnold swore he was here to undo. It’s not that some of the ballot initiatives reflect poor ideas–it’s that they were vengeful.

Take for example the teacher tenure measure. My wife, mother, sister (as of right now), and mother-in-law are all teachers. If pressed, I think they would all agree that, tenure or not, they have better job protections that the vast majority of workers. Tenure is a wierd privilege that descends from the medieval academy, and may not be of any use anymore. Teachers, without tenure, still can only be fired for cause, and still have a union to represent them which 91% of Americans do not.

But they shouldn’t be asked to give it up for nothing. Teachers are underpaid, and, in California, increasingly under the gun to do more with less. Why not eliminate tenure in exchange for an across the board 33% pay hike? Use the market to bring in more good teachers and eliminate one more hurdle to getting rid of the bad ones.

But, again, not for nothing. And, what’s more, not out of political spite. Arnold reneged on one of his promises to the schools, and when teachers cried foul, he tried to take a shot at them. Petty.

The same could be said for the union dues intiative. It’s easy to see why some union members may not want their dues going for causes they don’t believe in. But the measure wasn’t about that (the union members could decide that in a union vote). It was about retaliation for their opposition to Arnold.

I’m also not sure how I feel about “parental notification” on abortions. It seems like parents have the right to control their children, but I understand the reasons why not. In this case, Prop 73 was simply a tactic to get the ultra-right churches to get out the vote in support of Arnold, and it’s part of a larger campaign to undermine Roe. It has nothing to do with sound policy.

Nearly $100,000,000.00 later, the state is the same place it was before, except that much poorer. That much money is easily enough to fund a number of entire school districts–wasted on political revenge.

If this isn’t proof positive that it’s time to end the ballot initiative process and hold the legislature accountable for their jobs, then nothing is.

Voting Does Matter, Indeed

I second the post below about the fact that voting matters. Saying it doesn’t is just Slate-style “attack the CW because we’re so much smarter” bullshit. It may not actually determine the outcome, but at some point things need to be finalized in a ceremonial way that indicates it seriousness, but that’s not the problem.

The problem is, voting is an act that is in its essential form, more than just a decision about an issue or a candidacy. It is an expression of the raw power that the voters have to determine their lives. It’s the “active liberty” the Justice Breyer speaks of as being one of the two aims of our constitutional government, aside from limited government.

Failure to vote means our system will be chewed away into oblivion until only the negative liberty remains (assuming it is not snatched into an oligarchy of those who still vote first), which amounts to little more than a state of nature, which is no liberty at all.

I understand, especially on the day an election is called in my state for no other reason than to settle scores, that people are cynical about voting. But it matters less how people vote than that they do; if they don’t, what remains of our system is dead.

No Exit Polls? wtf?!

Mystery Pollster confirms that there are no exit polls today. The polls that were out had the props all trending towards no. Are people tired yet of doing the legislature’s job for it or are they just sick of Arnold (or both)?

Voting Blocs are Made of Voters so Voting Matters

The latest Freakonomics missive in the “New York Times Magazine” asserts that voting is pointless. Of tens of thousands of elections covered in the study cited in the article only one had been decided by a single vote, ergo voting is a waste of time and effort because your vote will not decided the race. To prove it the authors noted that voting levels had actually decreased in some parts of Norway after a vote by mail system was contrived. Evidently, the incentive to vote is to prove that you are a part of a civic tradition, not to decide elections.

The logic of the argument is sound, but it also pales when brought against horse sense.

It is voting blocs, not individual voters, who have tremendous stakes in their vote. Win or lose environmentalists, unions, teachers and public employees will vote for Democrats. Lazy mammoth industries, anti-abortion zealots, and gun nuts will generally vote for Republicans. None of these groups represents anything close to a majority of Americans, but it is the voters in these groups that continue to have their interests counted when laws are being made because they vote. Coalitions are comprised of voting blocs; the start stuff of voting blocs is voters. Voting matters.

Voting coalitions are not unlike a product’s demographics. A new soda will be concocted and packaged to appeal strongly enough to a group of people to get them to spend money on it. To an agonizing degree, a politician’s ideas will be expressed and packaged to appeal to a winning coalition of voters. If you don’t drink soda, or do not belong to a group that typically does, no manufacturer will make their soda for you. If you do not vote few politicians will try to express your ideas and issues. Purchasing a soda is to select the means of delivering caffeine, sugar and flavor to your body. Choosing a president is to decide issues of life, death and the future.

If voting didn’t matter why did the South labor so hard to stop blacks from doing it? Why were thousands disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 and 2004?

Freakonomics dude is interesting, but it is telling that he needs someone else to express his ideas for him. Being lost in the abstract netherworld of the market can yield insight, or nonsense.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Ballot Initiatives

What a wonderful turn of phrase this morning in the Sacramento Bee. Disraeli made the famous point about statistics, but here in California we have an even more expedient for political dilletantes in rut: the ballot initiative.

Before I understood much about politics or government, I was assailed by the California voter initiative commercials. Even at a very early age, I could never reconcile what I had learned about America with what I saw about California–weren’t we a representative Democracy?

Ballot initiatives are bad on many levels. They are not based on any sound theory of government. They are the root cause of many of the current problems in California on a practical level.

First, on the theoretical level. Since the time of Socrates, learned folks have mistrusted the idea of direct democracy. Aristotle believed pure democracies deteriorated into oligarchy. Our founding fathers were keenly aware of these deficiencies when they built us a representative democracy. They agreed that the ultimate repository of power should be in the people, but after John Locke, agreed that some powers had to be granted to the government in order to provide for a civil society; no less no more. The safest way to do this was to build institutions that encouraged participation in the government (i.e. Breyer’s “active liberty”) and at the same time encouraged the limitation of government. “Limited” government was an indigenous English legal concept. The common law allowed for no law repugnant to liberty, unless derived from a need by civil society. This was the common laws genius as opposed to the centralized Roman law, which always kept power in the elite. Our Constitution is very much an enactment of the theories of the common law. These concepts all took account of the tyrrany possible by the democratic majority. Our Constitution explicitly requires that each state have a “republican” form of government. Which Ben Franklin said they had created “if we could keep it.”

California has not kept it. Ballot initiatives undergo none of the representative sausage making that legislative bills do, and may even go so far as to amend the state constitution.

To read over ballot initiatives, you’d think California was a perilous place for workers and that local parents had no voice in their school boards. You’d think that there were a number of downright emergencies with respect to . In truth, the largest emergency in California is its government. California’s legislature and governors have become rank amateurs by ridiculous term limite and recalls, its legislature is hopelessly gerrymandered to ensure that each term amounts to little more than a war between unions and big business.

All of this is thanks to the fact that even if legislators had to seriosuly run for reelection, they’d never have to touch any third rails or dangerous issues: punt it to the ballot initiative procedure! No recorded vote required. These initiatives are drafted in bedrooms and moved forward by fringe group money and fraudulent inducments to collect the necessary signatures. There is no committee procedure, no legislative give and take, and very little time spent by the average voter doing anything but listening to the commercials about the propositions.

One such proposition is the infamous and draconion inter-generational heist called Proposition 13. Enacted in a time of high inflation and never relaxed even after Volcker-qaida terrorized the Fed, Proposition 13 enacts a cap on property taxes so that my grandparents’ $750,000 house is taxed at about a $20,000 level, while my $500,000 house is taxed as if it was worth, well, $500,000 simply because I was born in 1977 and couldn’t buy a house earlier than 2005. This proposition has caused the housing market to skyrocket, because the property value portion of your mortgage payment goes up, and the tax escrow portion is low compared to other states. Therefore, our property values are even higher because the market can tolerate more. This has led to the disastrous sprawl as young buyers look for cheaper houses, and the ripping apart of families as the next generations are exiled to the exurbs.

Proposition 13 is only the most infamous. Other reckless ideas that would have never generated the monetary waste of a proposition campaign in the legislature include Proposition 187, the teachers-into-gestapo anti-immigrant fascism act; Proposition 215, the We’re Stupid Enough To Believe The Republicans Mean It About States’ Rights weed smoking act; Proposition 54(?), The Put A Sign That Every Object In The State Causes Cancer Act.

None of these addresses what polls have found to be the #1 issue to California voters: traffic. Some of them have caused it (Prop. 13), some have funded massive highway projects (Prop. 46?), but none of them have really done anything to get a the root of the problem (i.e. sprawl!). And if the Propositions don’t even cover it, you can forget about the Legislature doing it. Shucks, we might have to get Don Perata to cancel funding for some of the Italian marble and Picassos going into the new bay bridge and plug some potholes in Bishop or something!

It’s time for one last proposition: a repeal of the voter intiative system, including the recall. At the same time, we need a competitive legislature truly representative of California. Why not have the Assembly be proportional representation according to party vote, and have the senate be based on contiguous geographic areas?

At this point, it’s simply philosophical. Vote no on every proposition. Don’t let law be made by TV-ads and a busy public’s ten seconds spent reading the voter guide.

Be Careful With The Language

Eric Alterman. . . what to say? He’s a good researcher, but I get the feeling the guy is a total asshole.

His post today does something that I think a lot of us do, namely, equating Republicans with Conservatives. Normally, that’s fine. But if we want to get control of Congress back next year, we need to convince at least some of those people that their interests are more likely to be served in a Democratic administration.

In particular:

* Clinton is the only president in recent times to balance the budget.

* Clinton actually made everybody wealthier, not just the rich. But he made them richer too.

* Hillary Clinton has expressed her desire to make abortions rare.

The only things that a Democratic administration won’t do for the current Republican coalition are deny gay rights, entirely deregulate the economy, and advance the neoconservative foreign policy agenda.

“Conservative” is a word that a lot of people identify with that don’t mean that they are acolytes of Dobson, Delay, and Rumsfeld. To many, it just means that they are a spending hawk that believes in personal, rather than social justice (which doesn’t always mean being anti-abortion or anti-gay), and a stronger defense posture. Though I personally never identify as a “conservative,” I share many of these values.*

If your goals are low taxes/strong economy, social values, and a strong but realistic defense and diplomatic posture, Clinton was the best president in recent times. All of this has now been deemed “centrist” in the parlance of our times, but it really is the original program of conservatives. Hate-groups and Neo-conservatism are not.

So, in sum, it’s Republicans that are the problem, not “conservatives.”

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* In fact, I agree in a strong defense policy, am not a pacifist just because I think Iraq was the dumbest war in a long string of dumb wars; I believe in balanced budgets; I believe in tough criminal laws. Where I differ is that I strongly believe in the protections in our Constitution placed on criminal procedure, on separation of church and state, and civil rights. I also believe that responsibility must be personal, as well as social. And that the drug laws are a total farce.

Somehow, in today’s debate that makes me a rabid liberal. Who issues my birkenstocks?