The Paper Skiff

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Abortion Blog

It is pretty easy to stand on a street corner with a huge sandwich-board covered in pictures of fetuses and just yell “abortion equals murder”. No need for discussion. No attempt at consensus. You aren’t converting anyone or influencing anything, rather you have chosen to just scream your view. Very effective.

Not long ago I had a discussion with a friend who asked me why being pro-life isn’t forcing my opinion on others. It is a good question and it is one I know a lot of true conservative leaning people consider because true conservatives refrain from forcing opinions on others. I told her that since life begins at conception, abortion is ending a life, and that is not OK. We have laws against ending the life of a human being already. She said she understood that, but why isn’t my belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder forcing my opinion on others.

Well, that is the argument in a nut shell, isn’t it?

Let’s start by talking about some terms. Murder is not a neutral term. It means to end life and implies malice. In most cases, abortion is not murder…it is homicide. Homicide is simply one human ending the life of another and does not imply any motive. It could be due to passion, hate, greed, an accident or a perfectly legal motive like self-defense. Certainly someone who defends their life by shooting someone is not a murderer, right? In the same way, people who have an abortion are not committing murder because they are not doing it with any malice. In the opinion of most they are simply having a medical procedure done to remove a cluster of cells.

Now to the meat of the argument. At what point does life become a life? What characteristic is acquired or plateau reached where there is no doubt that a life has been created? In human development the point of conception is that point. Sperm can never go back to being sperm and egg will never be an egg again. Conversely, no matter what, without bringing together both sperm and egg, there will never be life from only sperm or only an egg. Like baking a cake. You have some eggs, flour, and milk, but until you mix them, they will never be a cake. Once they are mixed, there is never a way to get the eggs, flour, or milk back out and from that point on it’s a cake. There is no other point in human development that is anywhere near as similar as conception. Once the baby is conceived, from that point on it is a life.
I’ve asked many pro-choice people the question….when does a life begin? Some of the answers:

1) At birth. I asked if it was OK with that person to abort a pregnancy in the 9th month. Not surprisingly, no answer back. I believe that he had some more thinking to do.

2) After the first trimester because that is when it takes the shape of a human. Well, this is along the lines of the current law, but I do not accept aesthetics as the definition of life. It is also a broad time frame, and not a single moment in time like conception. A lot of things can take the form of a human, but not be a life.

3) When the baby can feel. Nerves are developed pretty early, but again, this is too broad a time frame for my comfort. How can you possibly check this and get it right every single time? And what if the baby never develops the ability to feel because of some rare condition? Can we abort at age 40? Extreme, but I think the point is clear.

4) It is between the patient and doctor. No way. This is not an answer. One thing I learned growing up with a father who is a doctor and a mother who is a nurse is that the medical field is all over the map. I remember as a kid hearing about what quacks chiropractors were and how none of it was based on science, according to my parents. As an adult when I had back problems, my parents both suggested I look into finding a good chiropractor. Times change. I appreciate the medical field’s contributions to society, but in no way am I ready to leave this type of decision ambiguous and open to the opinions of every individual doctor practicing medicine today.

5) When there is a heartbeat. This is as close to an acceptable answer as I have heard. This one made me think. I still believe that the point of conception is a much stronger argument, but this answer at least showed the person thought it through.

The political party most concerned with making sure abortion is legal is, of course, the Democratic Party. According to their website they want to make sure abortions are “less necessary” and “more rare”. Abortions are not necessary at all or ever. While the Democratic Party looks up to see what the definition of “is” is, perhaps they can flip the pages a little and find the definition of “necessary”. As far as becoming “more rare”, if an abortion is simply a procedure a woman chooses to have, then why the need for them to become “more rare”? Why can’t women use it as a form of birth control if there is nothing wrong with it? Because there is something wrong with abortions. Most reasonable pro-choice people know this and most conservatives are not shocked to see the Democratic Party adopt hypocrisy as policy.

What about if the life of the mother is in danger? Rep Ron Paul was asked this question by the hard hitting new hounds on The View. He answer was that he was a medical doctor and his specialty was OBGYN. He delivered over 5,000 babies and he never saw a situation where the life of the mother was in danger unless she had an abortion. I believe him. This reminds me of the saying “hard cases make bad law”.

This brings us to Roe vs. Wade. You cannot have an abortion discussion without bringing up Roe vs. Wade. This is the Supreme Court decision that allows abortions to be legal based on the “penumbras of privacy” throughout the Constitution. That’s right. Penumbras. The shadows cast by planets on to other planets. There isn’t much else to say about this decision when it comes to abortion. What is not said enough about this decision is that Roe vs. Wade was horrible. Not just because of what it did for abortion, but because of the consequences (intended or unintended) that came along with it. This decision gave the Supreme Court power it was not meant to have. Roe vs. Wade was the most blatant example of legislating from the bench ever. No matter where you stand on abortion, even if you are happy that this decision made abortions legal, no good comes from the Supreme Court’s ability to twist the Constitution and rule based on “penumbras”.

I do not to take my opinion and scream it in the face of someone who disagrees with every nuance of my opinion when it comes to abortion or any other subject because it will only make the other person dig their heels in. People who are militantly pro-choice will never change their mind. They have become too emotionally invested. If you are pro-life, stop looking at abortion as murder and treating pro-choice people as murders. Start influencing people to come to your conclusions based on logic and discussion rather than emotion and shouting. The majority of people who are pro-choice are on the fence and uncomfortable. They haven’t given the subject much serious thought. If you are one of those fence-sitters, give the subject more thought. Consider some of the more serious questions about abortion. Ask yourself, “When do I believe a life begins”.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Second Amendment

The only thing more frustrating to gun owners than an anti-gun politician is an ambivalent politician or one who is uneducated about the Second Amendment. On my commute home I heard a radio interview with Republican candidate for California governor Tom Campbell. I called in and asked his views on the Second Amendment; specifically when it comes to issuing concealed weapon permits and the ban on most semi-automatic weapons sometimes referred to as the “assault weapons ban” in California. His answer was convoluted and vague, but basically he is for letting counties limit concealed weapon permits at will and banning types of rifles based on their aesthetics. He said the Second Amendment includes the word “regulated” which, to him, means the state can limit your right to keep and bear firearms.
The radio station cut me off after my question so I went home and started an e-mail debate with Mr. Campbell. To his credit, it was one he participated in. But credit for participation is where his credit ends.

A couple of excerpts from Tom’s e-mail to me:

“The well regulated portion of the text means the state, which trains the militia, has the right to regulate it, and to regulate it well.”

“The state has the right to decide what it takes to make its militia functional and trained. But, the individual has the right to keep and bear arms. The two parts have to work together.”

“Do you agree with me that weapons capable of doing huge harm can be kept from individual ownership? (Tanks, bazookas, etc?)”

Here is a man who was a congressman, an attorney, and a college law professor, but has no understanding of the Second Amendment from a legal, historic, or linguistic perspective. Tanks and bazookas? When has this argument been about tanks and bazookas? I asked him about commonly owned long rifles. There is no gun rights group or Second Amendment group…in fact there is no group of any kind in this county who is fighting for the right to buy tanks and bazookas.

The Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This amendment codifies the right every human has to defend their self. This right stood before the Constitution and is a natural or God given right. As clearly stated as the Second Amendment is, it is a controversial string of 27 words.

The right to keep and bear arms is codified by the Constitution meaning it was made into code or in this case, specifically, law. The entire Bill of Rights is the story of the American War for Independence. The individual rights codified in the Bill of Rights were the rights being violated by the British that made the colonists secede. They felt they were doing the right thing as good Englishmen to preserve their inalienable rights.

The meaning of words changes over time. Sometimes those changes are small and sometimes those changes are significant. It is important to look at the time period and match the word used with the definition of that word during that time period. For example the word “awful” used to mean “deserving of awe” and the word “nice” used to be an insult only as far back as the 18th century. Etymology is at the heart of most controversy when it comes to the Second Amendment.

If you look back to the late 1700s when the Bill of Rights was written:
1) “well regulated” is a phrase that means trained or properly functioning. Clearly a defensive force can not properly function without arms. So we would call an unarmed defensive force not “well regulated”.
2) “Militia” – able bodied populous. I will spend a lot more time on this word later.
3) “State” – “A political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one government, whatever may be the form of the government.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
4) “right” – natural endowment
5) “keep and bear” – retain and carry or wear
6) “Arms” – weapon “A stand of arms consists of a musket, bayonet, cartridge-box and belt, with a sword. But for common soldiers a sword is not necessary.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
7) “infringed” – “To break; to violate; to transgress; to neglect to fulfill or obey; as, to infringe a law. To destroy or hinder; as, to infringe efficacy.”

If we take the meaning of each word at the time the words were written and string them together the Second Amendment would read more like this:
“Because the properly functioning ability for the population of all citizens to defend themselves is necessary for a free body of people united under one government, the natural endowment of the people to retain, carry, or wear weapons appropriate to the task and times, shall not be destroyed or hindered.”

Now that the meaning is more clear, who does this apply to? Let’s take a walk through legal history.

Supreme Court Cases:
U.S.A. vs. Miller – clarified that firearms designed for military use are protected by the Second Amendment. Military-style weapons are arms the militia would use. The exact quote is “ordinary military equipment.” This clearly shows that the Second Amendment was not about hunting and gun laws like “assault weapon bans” are totally unconstitutional.
Heller vs. D.C. – struck down the 30 year total handgun ban in Washington D.C. by affirming that the “right to keep and bear arms” is an individual right. This ruling did not clearly apply to the states because Washington D.C. is not a state.
McDonald vs. Chicago – will clarify that the Second Amendment is incorporated into the state level. But is this necessary? Take a look at the 10th Amendment.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The “right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is stated in the U.S. Constitution meaning that this inalienable right is protected against the state government as well. Now let’s look at the 14th Amendment. Section one says:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” and “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

Stringing this all together and following the logic of all these decisions, ownership of weapons to arm the militia (individual citizens) is protected by the United States Constitution and cannot be superseded by state law.

We have laws in place now that are unconstitutional. It takes years to get this declared in court much like Heller vs. D.C. The argument can no longer be centered on individuals having the right to have pistols and rifles, even military style pistols and rifles. The argument should be, is it still relevant? The rights listed in the Bill of Rights are inalienable rights give to us by God or nature. Rights cannot be taken away, but they can be infringed upon. Is our country in a place were we are comfortable letting the government infringe on this or any right? The only way to do this is to repeal the Second Amendment.

I do not believe we are ready to give up on this right and I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans agree. This being said, it is time to challenge the people who run for office on this issue. It is an issue of basic liberty and the survival of the democratic principles. Do not let the person you plan on voting for…from local dog catcher on up to president…be ambivalent about your rights. Press them. Make them accountable. Force them to reveal their understanding, or lack thereof, of each of the principles our founding fathers felt were so necessary to basic human freedom that they would not ratify the Constitution without them all included. This included the Second Amendment. As your view on the Second Amendment goes, so go your views on rights and liberties in general.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Healthcare and Health Insurance

"I look at this health care plan and I see nothing that is about health or about care. What I see is a bureaucratic nightmare, senator. Medicaid is broke, Medicare is broke, Social Security is broke and you want us to believe that a government that can't even run a cash for clunkers program is going to run one-seventh of our U.S. economy? No sir, no," she said.

This Pennsylvanian lady could not have been more right. Despite the claims you hear coming from the White House and congress, healthcare is not a right and neither is health insurance. Let’s talk about the difference. Healthcare is a private industry that provides medical assistance from doctors and nurses for injuries and illness. The quality of healthcare has to do with the competence of your doctor and the facility they work in or for. Health insurance is the service you pay in order to help mitigate cost when you need healthcare. Both healthcare and health insurance are private industries and should be treated as such. Democrats are trying hard to connect the two and make you believe that through legislation you will somehow end up with a smarter, more polite doctor who never misses a diagnosis.

I know with Health Management Organization (HMO) type plans the difference between health insurance and healthcare is almost indistinguishable, but there is a difference. The United States has some of the best healthcare in the world because we have technological advancements, highly trained staffs, and highly educated health care professionals. The idea Democrats have is to convince you that your doctors’ ability to do his job will somehow be improved by their proposed bill. Nothing in their health insurance bill will help improve your healthcare. Your doctor will have the same IQ and training whether or not this bill gets passed. Your experience while meeting with the doctors’ staff will be the same if this bill gets passed. Your healthcare will not change. Do not get confused on this point because it is a key point when trying to understand this issue.

Let’s talk about the definition of a “right”. A right is something that is inherent or natural to a person for doing nothing more than existing. Basic rights for humans are privileges or liberties that all humans are entitled to. Your freedom of speech, religion, press, to keep and bear arms are all examples of laws that help protect your human rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The involvement of government in rights is to protect them. Not provide for them. We have the right of free speech but, the government shouldn’t buy each citizen a soapbox on which to stand and talk. We have the right to defend ourselves which is protected by the “right to keep and bear arms”, but the government is not required to provide each citizen a rifle.

Driving a car, eating at a restaurant, having a lawyer draft a contract, owning a house, having a painter paint your house, or having a doctor set a broken bone are not human rights. These are services that you pay for. Medical professionals are workers who provide a service. They have sought education, they have funded educations, they have worked to become qualified and informed in order to provide the service of health care. Just like anyone, they deserve to be paid for their expertise just like a lawyer is paid to know the law and a mechanic is paid to understand how to fix a transmission. Any demand of them beyond this is wrong. We do not have a right to be provided for financially and in essence, this is what is going on…medical welfare. The attempt to make this into a “human right” is just politics. Even if we concede the argument that citizens have the “right” to health care rather than just to want for health care, in no way does this mean that government has to provide citizens with health insurance to pay for it. They would just need to protect it. Do not get confused on this point either because this too is a key point when trying to understand this issue.

It is tiring seeing the innovation spawned of capitalism taken by society’s leeches to be provided to anyone as if they deserve it for more than the reason than they can afford it. Capitalism in the medical world resulted in innovations like MRIs, laparoscopic surgery, medications, and heart transplants. Those were possible by funding the research in the hope of future profit or capitalism. It would be a saccharine-sweet world if people did this kind of research/development out of the goodness of their heart, but I do not perform my job for free and neither do they. That is the reality. The feeling by the Democrat Party is these types of developments are something everyone deserves.

Here is reality: there is no difference between the business aspect of a doctor and of a painter. They both are selling their service. Clearly people value their health more than the exterior color of their house and it is more complicated to practice medicine than it is to paint a house therefore the doctor gets paid more for the service he provides. Why are we treating these entrepreneurs….yes, I had the gall to point out that a doctor is an entrepreneur…as slaves to our nation because of the field they decided to pursue? Medical professionals spend their own money and their own time to be able to do what they do. As soon as they are done, we as a nation immediately make unreasonable demands from them like having to provide their service for below market prices. This happens in no other industry and should not happen in theirs.

The latest line from Democrats is they don’t want universal health insurance; they just want a public option for health insurance. Well, except one of the most powerful and influential Democrats in congress, Barney Frank, who said in an interview that the public option will hopefully lead to universal healthcare. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the purpose of this debate. The public option will require people to pay premiums, but it will be cheap enough for the 50 million people (this number is not my claim) who are uninsured because they cannot afford it and it will not deny you based on a preexisting condition. The best part is that it will not require you to drop your current insurance.

The government that can hardly manage…well, much of anything…is going to take 50 million people who are too poor to afford insurance or too much of a risk for insurance companies to take on and give them the same quality of health insurance for cheaper? And they are funding this by taxing a very small percentage of financially successful Americans, collecting tiny premiums, mandating doctors prescribe cheaper pills, and by not having to market their product or make a profit? Does anyone believe this?

The way insurance works is to put everyone in a pool…low risk all the way to high risk…and everyone pays some money. The higher of a risk you are, the more you pay which is why your car insurance rates go up when you do something risky like get into a car accident. When something happens to one of the people in this pool, there are funds available to help that person. By adding more people you are spreading the risk around. If you do get into an accident and your rates go up, there is usually another company ready to take you as a customer because they have calculated that they can afford to bring in more risk to the pool.

This being the case, how can this group of “50 million people” who cannot afford premiums and/or are extremely high risk possibly be a part of a self sufficient program with no tax payer subsidies, run by a government that has a horrible record when it comes to efficiency? High risk people or people with a pre-existing condition cost more to insure simply because they use medical services more. Rates are set because that is how much insuring the customer costs. Imagine having a car insurance company where everyone is a bad driver. Think it would last on artificially low rates?

Here is my favorite part. The Democrats are trying to make people believe that insurance companies are evil and that is why we have this problem. Then they are pointing to the fact that former insurance company executives love the public option therefore it is credible! Are these the same guys who ran the evil insurance companies who caused this “problem” in the first place? Because it can’t be both ways, Democrats.

Ideologically, health insurance and healthcare are not rights. Pragmatically, the Democrats proposal won’t work because this is not going to be a “deficit neutral” plan and it will cost tax payers dearly. Deficits…like government spending has caused since 2002 with a very special emphasis on the enormous deficit created in 2009, have drained our country of any ability to fund a luxury project like this. The Democrats are grasping at straws and deceiving the general public. In the end the idea straps you and me with a huge bill trying to solve an undefined problem in an industry that is already in regulatory trouble from government interference for a group of people that may not exist.

I am not even going to get in to the evil right-wing conspiracy that the liberals claim is going on at town halls across America. Every time someone disagrees with a liberal, they take it personally and feel attacked. Silliness.

Push Back:
Why do you make this a partisan issue and blame the Democrats? Normally I don’t take the side of any party, but in this case it is overwhelmingly…almost exclusively a Democrat initiative at a national party level.

Why are you criticizing without offering a solution? Normally my blog is all about solutions, but there is no clearly defined problem. Democrats have not done a good enough job defining the specific problems and this makes it hard to address anything other than their proposal. Democrats generally have no defined what it is specifically they are trying to fix. The cost? The quality? The availability? And specifically what is wrong about each and to whom this problem applies is not being addressed. The game plan from the Democrats is to throw out a number like “50 million uninsured” and then tell some horror story about a surgery gone wrong or a diagnosis that was missed. They finish that off by making doctors and insurance companies seem evil wanting to make money on their hard work. In this case, their proposal is conceptually wrong so the only solution is to vote “no”.

Why don’t Republicans have a counter offer? Again, offer to what? What is the problem? I know there are many proposals that Republicans are behind to improve the market conditions so insurances companies can be more competitive resulting in better prices and services for you, the consumer. Some of these are tort reform, opening up health insurance from other states, and simple tax rebates or grants so people can afford private insurance. The funny thing is these proposals by Republican congressman are not supported by the “evil insurance companies”. So…what does that mean to you? Clearly they are approaching it from a business standpoint and not a “right”. The Republican plans want the medical professionals to be involved in this process rather than congress just acting like an angry mob and demanding doctors perform for us or else. Medical professionals deserve a fair wage. In business it is always smart to get government out of the way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Only Way to Fix Social Security….NOW!

The only way to truly fix Social Security is to return it to its roots. Run it the way it was originally intended. It is a safety net; not a crutch. It is an insurance policy; not a retirement plan.

In order to receive Social Security, you must qualify on the basis of need, similar to that of an insurance policy. Life insurance is not paid until death, fire insurance is not paid unless your house burns in a fire, and Social Security should not be paid unless you qualify. It is intended for people who are too old to work and do not have any other income, survivors of those who were the bread-winner in the family, or truly disabled people. In no way should this be used as a retirement plan. A system in which you put in money and that money is used to help others but you have the expectation of getting that same money back doesn’t make any sense.

Why should someone who is making $100,000 a year or is worth over $1,600,000 (outside of their residence) get a check from Social Security? They have the ability to live off of their income and/or they have enough assets to create an income that will provide for them. One thing to consider, if Social Security did not start giving money back once you hit a certain age…whether you are rich or poor…the amount you would have to pay in to Social Security would drop drastically. You could keep your money and invest it in whatever you want rather than being stuck with government bonds (which is what Social Security is basically invested in). Remember…this is your money.

This system could be accomplished by phasing it out based on income. Perhaps when you reach 62 and you make $50,000, you get half of a normal Social Security benefit. At $60,000 a year you get 40%, and soon. If you have no income, than a percentage of your net worth (outside of your primary residence) would be considered your income. A safe assumption is 3%.

For example:
I am 62 and it is time to dig in to Social Security. I own my own home and I am retired. I have no retirement or pension and I don’t have a single penny saved, but I do have two additional homes I am doing nothing with them. The two properties are worth a combined $2,000,000 and bring in $30,000 a year of rental income. It makes no sense that this person should get a full benefit check from Social Security even though they are only making $30,000 a year. They have enough assets to sell and generate enough income to provide a nice life in their golden years. Social Security would look at this person, see that they have a $2,000,000 in assets (outside of their primary residence), and determine that 3% of $2,000,000 is $60,000, so they would only get 40% of the normal Social Security benefit.

Push Back:

But I pay in to Social Security so I want my money back!
Premiums for life insurance do not get paid back to the customer. When you pay into a type of insurance, the premiums go towards regulating risk. Car insurance companies don’t return your premiums after you sell your car. I know there are certain life insurance products that accumulate a cash value, but that cash value is something you pay in addition to the premiums. The idea that everyone will get their money back from social security has to be done away with. Using this program as a retirement plan is a cause of the slow death of Social Security. As it is set up now, it is a Ponzi scheme. I do not mean it is like a Ponzi scheme or has some traits that are similar…it IS a Ponzi scheme. Running it like an insurance policy (think of it as “in case I am poor” insurance) will ensure it is at least run intelligently. Remember, the amount you pay into Social Security will go down significantly if it were run correctly. So it will either be poor insurance for Americans or poor assurance for Americans. You pick.

Why should we pay for Social Security at all?
Society with a safety net is a better society. Take my father as an example. He grew up dirt floor poor. His father ran a produce market and was a farmer, but he died when my father was young. Through a little extra help via Social Security, my father was able to become a doctor and serve in the Navy after he graduated high school two years early. He is a productive member of society and has now paid back 100 fold what was spent on him as a child through Social Security. I cannot imagine anyone begrudging a system that offers this type of help when run properly.

People have already started planning using the current system. Changing now is not fair!
Ok, calm down. Fixing this problem is as simple as picking a couple of dates. Everyone born after 1991 is 100% in the new system. If you are born after 1971 you are in the new system, but by only 50%. If you are born after 1951 it would be 25%. etc. These are arbitrary numbers and would have to be verified by an actuary, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prop 8: Taking Rights Away?

This is ridiculous. Folks, nobody is infringing on anyone’s rights. The law is not being applied unfairly here. If you are a man in California, gay or straight, you have the right to marry any woman you want to. If you are a man in California, gay or straight, you are not allowed to marry any man in California. Marriage is a religious institution between a man and a woman and by definition can only exist between a man and a woman. That is the definition of marriage. According to this definition, it is impossible for a man to be married to a man.

By pushing the “gay marriage” issue, I understand what the gay community is trying to do. They have been abused for years, and now they are trying the “Miracle on 34th Street” solution.

If you recall in the Miracle on 34th Street a man claiming to be Santa Clause was on trial. The case against him was based on Santa Clause not being real. When the defense attorney presented thousands of pieces of mail addressed to Santa Clause, the case was won. If the U.S. Post Office acknowledges and accepts Santa Clause, then he must be real. the gay community is attempting something very similar.

The difference here? You cannot legislate people or ideas into acceptance! California can legally have Prop 8. It is a state issue according to the 10th Amendment and it is not in conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

All that being said, I voted against Prop 8.

I voted against it because it gives the government in California even more power. Power it does not deserve and power I am not comfortable letting government wield. The government should keep its nose out of straight or gay marriage, frankly. Marriage is a religious institution and the government has no business involved in it aside from the last name change. Hospital visitation issues, property ownership, and estate issues can be determined with contracts, directives, trusts, powers of attorney, etc. Let churches decide what religious institution they will allow and for whom.

Liberals, you started this “war-in-the-courts” tactic years ago with ridiculous rulings like “Roe vs. Wade” and “Reynolds vs. Sims.” Those decisions pulled law out of thin air and started the “living document” idea about the constitution. A document that can mean anything is a meaningless document. Now conservatives are taking the liberals’ idea, running with it, and winning. I am here to say it is a bad idea for both sides. You destroy your own rights by forcing your opinion on others. Nobody even cares if it is good law anymore, just as long as they win the battle. It has become “Mutually Assured Destruction”, but with the law. Even if you win, you lose.

The precedent set by the approval of Prop 8 is that the government of California can now define marriage, and they can do it at the whim of the voters. What if 51% of the voters want to define marriage as between one man and another man or between one women and another woman? What would conservatives, Republicans, and straight couples use as an argument against that? It is a violation of the Constitution? The law gives the government too much intrusive power over individual rights? Not anymore.

“Oh no, Mike, that is a ridiculous scenario”, right? Well 10 years ago the thought of gay-marriage was considered a ridiculous scenario too. Nice forward thinking with this Prop 8 idea, folks. The worst part is that people fought tooth and nail to get to the polls and vote to set this precedent. Seems a little on the hypocritical side.

I know I just made everyone on my left as mad as I made everyone on my right, but geeze. This thing is chalk full of unintended consequences. It is narrow-minded thinking from both sides, and nobody seems to care if this is quality legislation. They only care if they win or lose. Republicans, this hypocrisy on government power led to your losses in recent elections. Democrats, this whiney attitude — we deserve everything, and everything is a civil right— is why it took you so long to win a meaningful election.

Gays, stop looking for the approval of the straights, and straights, leave the gays alone. Can we possibly be that involved with such a small percentage of our population? The only reason to be for Prop 8 would be your religious views. If you are religious, then let God (whichever one you believe in) figure it out. If you aren’t religious, and are still highly involved in this subject, then maybe it is time to find a church, mosque, temple, cathedral, or counselors couch. Your preoccupation would lead me to believe you might have some issues to work out.

It is not totally the fault of the people who voted for this law. By the time the law got on the ballot, there was little choice left. A line was drawn in the sand and you were forced to pick sides. It is almost entirely the fault of the people behind this proposition for drawing that line. They share that blame with the gay community in California for making Prop 8 backers feel their only option was to draw that line in the sand. If you voted for this law or supported it in the early stages, what was your reasoning? Thinking back on it, was that reasoning sound with your core beliefs about politics? If you voted for it, what were you thinking? Did you think a step or two down the road about any unintended consequences?

Democracy is a great thing when they are in the majority. Let’s try coming to a consensus on legislation more often. Let’s try enacting laws that limit government and protect people. Let’s try working on laws that enhance life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rather than just trying to beat the other team. Heck, let’s try minding our own business and living under the laws of the Constitution for a while. That sounds like it might even work out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A True Bicameral System for California

The United States is a republic with democratically elected representatives. Having two senators from each state prevents large states from running over small states. Having representatives elected by population ensures that the large states are proportionately represented. This forces a consensus rather than a majority rules.

California has an assembly as well as a senate with districts determined by population. The only difference between a state senator and an assembly member is the length of the term. In 1968 a Supreme Court decision (Reynolds v. Sims ) stated “one person-one vote.” California changed the system because of this decision, but this was unnecessary if you compare the result to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Despite being a predominantly liberal state, California does not poll much different than the rest of the country if you take away LA and San Francisco. You just have to drive 15 minutes outside of any major city in California and you see leftover McCain/Palin lawn signs and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. The rural areas and some suburban areas in California are underrepresented in government and the “majority rule” result is preventing consensus. This is the root of a lot of our problems.

We live in a state where 51% will always be able to dictate to the other 49%. This system polarizes the populous and prevents compromise and debate. There is no need or incentive to hear opposing views or consider the needs of everyone. Every issue turns into a bloodbath and it is an all-or-nothing fight at the polls that will inevitably end up in the courts.

Solution? Amend the state constitution so there is one state senator per county. This would expand the senate to 58 state senators from 40 because there are 58 counties in California. Expand the assembly proportionally to 110 assembly members from the current 80 and have them drawn up by population (as is already done). The additional 30 assembly members will keep the assembly and senate proportionately the same and improve the ratio of constituent to representative. Despite the fact that California’s population has grown exponentially, we have kept the same amount of legislators. Every year your voice is further diluted.

This change back to the original design will force a consensus rather than a majority rule. For example, imagine a bill introduced that requires all water go to incorporated cities with a population of 50,000 or more first and then the rest get their water. In our current “majority rules” situation that bill would pass because most representatives are from or near large towns. If the state had 1 state senator per county, then this bill would make it through the assembly and stop in the senate because the amount of senators from rural counties would outnumber the senators from urban counties. The rural senators would raise concerns about farming and a compromise would be reached that fit everybody’s needs. Consensus.

Push Back:

1) What about the additional cost of government? Each member of the legislature is given $290,000 as a budget plus their pay is around $120,000 for a total of around $410,000 a year. An additional 30 in the assembly and 16 in the senate would be a total of 46 additional legislators. Because we are diluting them by 20 percent, it would make sense that their budget could drop by 20 percent. So the math would be: $410,000 x 46 – 20% = $15,088,000
California’s total amount of inlays to the government is between $85 and $100 BILLION. The additional cost is insignificant.

I realize our state is in and has been in a financial crisis for a while. Spending money is not the problem. The problem is spending money unwisely. Getting back to a true bicameral system and increasing representation to the people as the population grows is wise. It is a lack of consensus that helped bring us to this financial mess and positively changing our government’s fundamentals is a long over due first step.
If you break this down to dollars per person in California it would be an additional $2 per year per person. I would pay an extra $2 a year to set California back on a successful path.

2) Wouldn’t this increase the size of government? Increasing the amount of legislators is not increasing the size of government. The scope of government and the areas in which government is involved will not change. Increasing the amount of legislators technically decreases the size of government because it increases the voice of each citizen.

3) Wouldn’t this result in the over representation of rural areas? Again, the assembly will represent citizens according to population and the senate will represent each county. California’s counties are vastly different in population and culture making representation according to county a must.


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