Saturday, October 30, 2010


Political campaigns are frequently known for stretching, twisting, and mangling the truth, but a kernel of truth usually remains. Take, for example, the statement by Jerry Brown that he would not raise taxes without a vote of the people (a reasonable position, one that puts the voter in control). However, his opponent twisted that around to say Brown wants to ask voters for more tax increases. There is still truth in that, but the emphasis is altered. 

Outright lies are pretty uncommon. Yet two of this year's campaign ads have resorted to lies. Not twisted truths, but bona fide, genuine, actual lies. 

Take Proposition 24's opponents. They call Proposition 24 a "tax increase." That is a lie. 

Prop. 24 is a confusing offering. During the 2008 state budget process (and I use the term loosely), the legislature approved some tax breaks that primarily benefit a tiny percentage of large companies, many of which have their headquarters outside of California. Those tax breaks are not scheduled to take effect until 2011. They haven't happened yet. Prop 24 prevents these tax breaks from going into effect. This is not a tax increase, unless you believe that failure to subtract constitutes addition. 

Another lie is being told in campaign ads for Proposition 25. Prop. 25 affects the annual budget vote in the legislature, changing the requirement for a two-thirds (67%) super majority to a simple (50%+1) majority as it is in most other states. 

Prop 25 opponents are saying that it makes it easier for the legislature to raise taxes. This is a lie. Prop. 25 specifically states that a two-thirds majority will still be required to raise taxes - the same as it is now. Prop 25 opponents are apparently hoping you'll be too stupid to understand the difference between voting on the budget and voting on tax increases. 

So remember when you vote, that the opponents of Propositions 24 and 25 have not just been twisting the truth. They have been lying to you. Don't let them get away with it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes on 19

Before I go any further, let me state up front that I don't do drugs. I don't like to put anything in my body that may screw it up, so I don't smoke, drink alcohol, or otherwise ingest anything that isn't food. I don't even like legal drugs. My experience with prescription drugs has been mostly unfavorable, and I prefer to avoid even over the counter medications. I'm as squeaky clean as they come.

So when I advocate the legalization of marijuana, it is not for personal gain, nor do I take the subject lightly. I support Proposition 19 because it is painfully obvious that our decades-old war on drugs is not working. It never was working.

Yes, old Mary Jane is a seductive temptress. She is not good for you. Though relatively harmless in small quantities, she has the ability to make you dependent, impair your judgment, ruin your relationships, and wreak all sorts of havoc when used to excess. Of course, the exact same things can be said of alcoholic beverages, so if we are to be consistent as a society our laws regarding these two substances should be the same.

We could make alcohol illegal, but we tried that and we all know what happened. Organized crime became rampant, and people kept drinking, just not openly. And that's exactly what the situation is with marijuana. So why on Earth would we want to prolong this failed policy?

As a measure to legalize marijuana,
Prop. 19 takes a restrained approach. It limits personal possession to less than one ounce, limits growing space on private property to 25 square feet (a 5'x5' square), prohibits use by or sale to persons under 21, prohibits any public use, use in the presence of minors, and possession on school grounds. These rules are still much stricter than the rules for alcohol.

And, contrary to popular arguments,
Prop. 19 keeps in place all existing restrictions relating to driving while impaired. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) opposes Prop. 19 because they believe otherwise. They're wrong. Prop. 19 specifically states "This act is not intended to affect the application or enforcement of the following state laws relating to public health and safety or protection of children and others:...Section 23152 of the vehicle code (related to driving while under the influence);...or any law prohibiting use of controlled substance in the workplace or by specific persons whose jobs involve public safety."

Just so we're clear, Section 23152 of the vehicle code states: "It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle." This will not change under Prop. 19

A related argument against Prop. 19 is stated in the official California Voter Information Guide (page 17). It says "The California Police Chief's Association opposes Proposition 19 because proponents 'forgot' to include a standard for what constitutes 'driving under the influence.'" Well, guess what? There is no standard in existing California law, either. Prop. 19 maintains the status quo in that regard. Furthermore, there is nothing in Prop. 19 which prevents the legislature from enacting such a standard.

Finally, there's the pesky problem of federal law, which keeps marijuana illegal regardless of what we vote for in California. Prop. 19 will, however help save state taxpayers money by stopping the use of state law enforcement resources for a failed eradication effort. The money saved can be put to better use combating violent crime, such as the gang warfare in Salinas, which is largely the result of illegal drug trafficking - just as it was for alcohol during Prohibition.

I hold no illusions
that Prop. 19's proposal to allow taxation of marijuana sales will result in balanced budgets, nor do I expect that it will prevent marijuana abuse, as some of Prop. 19's supporters claim. But I do believe it will put a dent in organized crime, much as the repeal of Prohibition did, and that alone would be worth the price of admission. 

There is no question in my mind that marijuana laws need to be reformed. But to expect any action from Congress to change federal laws is a pipe dream. Congresscritters won't lift a finger to reform marijuana laws lest they be branded as "soft on crime." Reform of marijuana laws will have to start at - pardon the expression - the grassroots level. California can send a message loud and clear that we want something better than to continue with the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Judging by appearances

Late last night, well after midnight, I took my little telescope out front to look at Jupiter. I had the porch light turned off so as not to spoil my night vision.

While I was aiming the scope, a couple of noisy middle-aged Mexican guys walked by, speaking loud Spanish, and spitting a lot. It looked like they were walking home from work. I could see one guy was wearing a cowboy hat, but it was too dark to see their faces. Judging by their coarse manner, they didn't sound like people I'd want to meet on a dark night.

After they went past the neighbor's hedge I could no longer see them, but could still hear them. Their voices abruptly became hushed. I sensed they were talking about me and I grew worried. But it sounded as if they were still moving away, so I felt some relief.

Suddenly I looked up and saw the guy with the cowboy hat had returned and was staring at me in the dark. A little nervously, I said "Hello." He replied in a very friendly tone "Hello! Are you taking pictures?" I said, no, this was a telescope. He then said "My friend said there was somebody there, but I didn't believe him. I had to come back to look." Evidently, his friend thought I was creepy, since I appeared to be lurking in the shadows. Anyway, cowboy hat man then asked what I was looking at, and I told him Jupiter. He thought that was great and said goodbye and went on his way. I heard him speak to his friend in a cheerful tone and I gathered that he was telling him that I was harmless.

And to think I was worried about them.