Apocalypse NOW: CA Ballot Initiatives -- 2016

Welp, as if it were even possbile (sic) to make matters worse, the California ballot referendum process finally exposes itself for the true absurdity that is with the year's record 17 [ SEVENTEEN!] voter ballot initiatives.

I'm going take a few minutes to review each of these propositions, and offer my opinions thereof, but suffice to say that there's no greater example of our broken republic than an election that asks voters to decide on whether to ban plastic bags for the general public while requiring porn stars to wear them.


PROPOSITION 51:  This is a statewide school funding bond, to the tune of $9-billion.  The way I see it, there's never a bad time to generate more money for our schools, and the big benefit in this referendum is that it distributes money statewide based on the needs of particular districts.  A majority of school funding is generated by local property taxes. The problem there is that wealthier districts regularly generate more funds for their own schools. Prop 51 will help gear dollars to less-affluent districts that already struggle to find adequate funding to keep students active, interested and well educated.

PROPOSITION 52:  Prop 52 extends an existing program in which fees paid to the state by hospitals trigger "matching fund" contributions from the federal government to fund Medi-Cal services for the less fortunate (i.e the destitute, the indigent, the uninsured). Prop. 52 would also require a 2/3 vote of the electorate to end the program.

PROPOSITION 53: Proposition 53 requires statewide voter approval for any public infrastructure bond measure that exceeds $2-billion. The wrinkle here is that Prop 53 relates to "Revenue Bonds," as opposed to "general obligation" bonds. Revenue Bonds are those that require additional fees (such as toll roads or parking fees) or taxes. General Obligation bonds are those that are paid by the State from its general operating budget.  Prop 53 would take control away from voters in specific districts, municipalities and counties etc... but putting even local issues on the statewide ballot. Why should voters in San Jose be helping to decide spending priorities in San Diego?

PROPOSITION 54:  Proposition 54 would keep the State Legislature from passing any bill unless and until the full debate in the issue has been published on the Internet (text and video) for 72 hours.  This "holding period" will allow citizens to view deliberations, learn more about the issue under consideration and contact their legislators with their own opinions on the matter prior to any vote being cast.

PROPOSITION 55:  The so-called "millionaires' tax," Prop 55 will extend an existing income tax increase first passed in 2012.  The measure keeps in place current tax levels on individuals earning more than $250k and couples earning more than $500k. The existing plan, a true progressive income tax plan, generates as much as $9-billion per year.

PROPOSITION 56:  Prop. 56 would increase the state's cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack.  The current statewide cigarette tax is 87-cents per pack, which is in the lower half of tobacco taxes nationwide.  The increased tax is predicted to generate an additional $1-to-$1.4-billion in additional revenue, although the real benefit will come in health care savings as smokers decide the habit is not worth the cost and put down their cigarettes.  This is a tax the people would rather not collect.

PROPOSITION 57:  This measure will make it easier for "nonviolent felons" to earn time off based on good behavior, verifiable examples of rehabilitation and true efforts at advanced education. Additionally, Prop 57 takes the decision on whether to charge juvenile defendants as adults out of the hands of prosecutors and instead allows judges to make that ruling.

PROPOSITION 58: Prop 58 seeks to repeal 1998's unfortunate Prop 227, which required that all instruction in California schools be conducted only in English. Prop 58 would be community-based, seeking parental/citizen input into deciding how language programs are geared to a particular community.  The measure would still require that English proficiency be the primary goal of education, but would allow school districts to use dual-language immersion programs to reach students of different backgrounds.  In a state as ethnically-diverse as California, I see no reason why dual-immersion programs can't benefit English and Spanish-speaking children alike.

PROPOSITION 59:  Prop 59 simply encourages California's elected officials to work toward overturning the US Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, which for all intents and purposes ruled that political contributions are "free speech" and cannot be limited by law.  The Citizens United ruling has led to massive and unfettered spending by corporations and individuals with virtually unlimited assets, which can only drown out the voice of voters with more limited resources.

PROPOSITION 60:  As much as it pains me to even begin discussing this ridiculous proposition (after all, my mother is going to consult this post), I have to say if there was ever a ballot initiative that exposed the folly of the entire California system, this one is it. [It's only slightly more egregious than Prop 65, but we'll get to that later.]

Prop 60 is California's now notorious "Adult Films Condoms" initiative.  Pardon me for saying so, but this is one of the most ridiculous things I can ever think of putting to the voters. Aside from the fact that it affects an incredibly small minority of CA citizens, the measure would also create a state agency to "monitor" compliance (use your imagination on how that office would work) and it would also allow for private citizens to serve as whistle-blowers if they viewed films in which condoms were not used. [Quote: "I watched it twice, just to make sure."]

PROPOSITION 61:  This is a tough one.  I read the materials on this thing through and through and I'm still torn.  Prop 61 would prohibit the state from buying any prescription drugs (geared toward MediCal patients) at any price greater than that paid by the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs.  This sounds like a noble cause, yet the fear is the drug companies are so nefarious that they will simply stop offering the same drugs in CA or they will, even more insidiously, raise prices at the VA so they can raise them in California.  We are a huge state, and though we have enormous economic clout, we also present a huge target for shysters and gougers (of which Big Pharma is both).

Bernie Sanders, Governor Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome and a whole host of other liberal heavy hitters are all in favor of this proposition, I'm just not so sure it's going to work out the way everyone hopes it will.  I AM VOTING YES ON PROPOSITION 61 WITH MY FINGERS CROSSED.

PROPOSITION 62:  This one is easy, as I can rely on the argument I've been making my whole adult life (and probably for many years before that, as my family can proud attest):

"I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. If ever there exists the possibility of executing an innocent person, then the death penalty cannot stand.  In order that the innocent will not die, occasionally monsters must live."


PROPOSITION 63:  Yet another controversial cultural hot-button issue, Prop 63 seeks to impose certain legal requirements on people who buy ammunition for their firearms.  The proposed measure requires background checks of ammo buyers, prohibits possession of large capacity magazines and, perhaps most importantly, makes it a felony to steal any handgun. Current law absurdly limits the felony theft law to firearms valued at over $950. Who decided on that figure? Anything less is a misdemeanor.  While I will confess that I don't understand why "responsible gun owners" cannot see their way clear to agree on what I consider to be common sense gun laws (I don't want to take your guns away!), I have to encourage people to VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 63.

PROPOSITION 64:  What's the 420, bro?  It's simple, some people like pot more than wine, whiskey or beer.

PROPOSITION 65:  Believe it or not, this is the most egregious initiative ever placed on the California ballot.  Now, stay with me here, because this gets complicated.  You see, a group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance [APBA], which is a consortium of four plastic bag manufacturing companies -- none of which is located in California -- got this initiative on the ballot.  It purports to ban free plastic bags at CA retail outlets, and gear any fees generated by bagless customers who need to purchase a bag to "environmental causes."

Here's the catch:  The APBA also got Proposition 67 on the ballot. Prop 67 bans plastic bags as well, but under Prop 67 all the proceeds from any plastic bag purchases go back to the retailers, rather than to environmental groups.  The catch is, if Prop 65 gets more votes than Prop 67, then Prop 65 wins out and the plastic bag ban itself is basically null and void. How's that for a Catch-22?  Virtually every environmental group in the state of California is opposed to Prop 65 (which would ostensibly steer money into their own coffers), because they understand it's a poison pill that could kill the golden goose: which is fewer plastic bags released into the environment.  Strange, but true.

PROPOSITION 66:  Proposition 66 is the executioner's alternative to Prop. 62.


PROPOSITION 67:  Proposition 67 is the right plastic bag ban.  Sure, retailers will receive the proceeds from single-use bag purchases, but it also encourages them to support the measure and the practice of limiting the use of "disposable" plastic bag.

 Measure J is a local sales tax of 0.5% that will help fund local infrastructure projects.  The revenues will not be a part of the General Fund and will be specifically targeted to local transportation projects such as road repairs, public transportation projects and bicycle and pedestrian safety project.


The Wicked Tuna

Not sure the editors of this promo thought it all the way through...


Goes Around, Comes Around

How fantastically ironic is it that, after so many years of specious, delusional and provably false Republican accusations that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible for the presidency, one of their front-running candidates, who was actually born in a foreign county and held citizenship there until only very recently, is now being held to account under the same withering spotlight of unhinged Birtherism. #touché


Words to Live By

"Proudly straight-but-not-narrow for more than fifty years."


Social Justice Bucket List (et al.)

Confederate flags coming down across the South? Check.

Obamacare subsidies upheld? Check.

Gay marriage law of the land? Check.

Abstinence spokeswoman Bristol Palin knocked up again? Check.

It's been quite a week.

Shorter Antonin Scalia



Tweet of the Day: Gun Ban Idea


Another Bow to the Confederacy that Needs Fixing: US Bases Named for Enemy Generals

What do Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Camp Beauregard and more than half a dozen other US military bases have in common?  Believe it or not, all are named for Confederate generals, seditious soldiers who fought a bloody insurrection -- in support of the cause of slavery, no less -- against the very government that now manages the installations that bear their names. Make no mistake about it, these guys were the enemy, responsible for the deaths of thousands of Union soldiers.

While were in the business of coming to terms with our past by lowering flags and removing statutes, it's high time these generals' names be stricken from our military's mailing addresses as well.


The Only Civil War-era Flag You'll Ever Need

[Has 35-stars, including those of the 13 traitors.]

Sins of the Father Not Visited Upon This Son

In a most remarkable moment, South Carolina Republican State Senator Paul Thurmond addresses the legislature with a seven-minute speech that repudiates everything his father, the late, unrepentant segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond, ever stood for. This is a watershed moment in the political evolution of the South...


The Scene that No One Wanted to See

The Reverend Senator Clementa Pinkney's casket rolls past the Confederate flag that cannot be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.

A Sea Change Comes to America

Who knew? After all this time and after so much blood and so much suffering; after Columbine and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and Isla Vista and Fort Hood and Sandy Hook and countless other places that have been scarred forever; after so many “nine-year-old shoots four-year-old” tragedies; after so many husbands have shot their wives; after a sitting congresswoman was shot and gravely wounded; after presidents and senators and civic leaders have been taken down by gunfire; after so many sad and lonely people have taken their own lives, impulsively, in moments of profound despair, with guns. Who knew, after all of that, that what it would take for America to finally see the light was a deranged gunman shooting nine worshipers dead inside a 199-year-old South Carolina church?

Who knew that Charleston, South Carolina, would be the place, the incident that triggered a tidal wave of public sentiment aimed squarely at the real a real problem in this nation?  Who knew that upwards of 40,000 fatalities and countless injuries a year were not enough? Who knew that the deaths of babies and moms and 12-year-olds and grandmothers were not enough?  Who knew that a preposterous number of so-called “accidental shootings” every year were not enough?

None of that was enough, apparently, to compel America to change. But it’s finally come to this: the deaths of a state senator, the preacher at that 199-year-old South Carolina church, and eight of his parishioners, including an 87-year-old great-grandmother.  We now see that those nine lives were not lost in vain, because America has seen that she must change.  America recognizes that she needs to face up to her baser impulses and her shameful history and her tolerance of the intolerable. America has decided it’s time to act and to act boldly.

And so, remarkably, America has decided it is time to do something about this problem, the one civilized people just can’t understand, the one that marks a stain on our people, the one that allows fear and ignorance to ruin the lives of millions.

America has decided to take a serious look at gun control that the Confederate flag may not be an appropriate symbol for veneration.  America has decided that universal background checks will keep guns out of the wrong hands allowing the Confederate flag on license plates is wrong.  America has decided that semi-automatic weapons are best left to those who are qualified to use them t-shirts that feature the Confederate flag are in poor taste.  America has decided that licensing gun owners will help ensure responsible gun ownership flying the Confederate flag on government property is an insult to our nation’s history.

Who knew? America has really learned nothing from this most recent national tragedy. We still refuse to acknowledge that the real problem in our nation of 330-million is that guns are killing our people by the tens of thousands every year.  While I suppose it is admirable that we are addressing our strange historical acceptance of this blatantly racist symbol, the fact is the Confederate flag, abominable as it is, killed no one.


The Problem We All Live With

There was a time when we used to call this sort of thing "domestic terrorism."

A Reasonable Question

When isn't a murder a hate crime?

It requires a lot of hate to take a human life.