Sunday, October 31, 2010

Signs of Sanity

"BREAKING: Comedy Central estimating the attendance at the #rallyforsanity to be somewhere between 1,500 and 4 billion." — Fake_Dispatch on Twitter.

I wish I could have been at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear yesterday, but I live all the way over in California. At least the best "protest" signs are on the internet. Oh, and of course, I was able to watch the rally on Comedy Central.

Which brings me to a rather cynical thought I need to get out of the way: it was sure nice of Viacom to allow this rally to happen. Come on, I doubt anybody is truly naive enough to believe that the rally was a grassroots phenomenon. It was not. And I'm sure that ultimately Viacom will benefit from this ratings boost.

But this doesn't negate the message. On the surface it was a mock debate of sanity vs. fear. However, the real message was largely a criticism of America's "
24-hour-politico-pundit-perpetual panic-conflictinator." Those are Jon Stewart's words not mine. And I doubt any team of Viacom executives were lurking in the room when this rather serious speech criticizing political and media establishments was conceived:

It's hard to believe that anybody can associate that message with a radical far-left agenda. And it's even stranger still that the far left cheers for such a staunchly moderate message.

However, I find it quite reassuring to know that Stewart and Colbert's mild-mannered crowd way outnumbered Beck's: an estimated 215,000 "restoring sanity" versus 87,000 "restoring honor" attendees.

These are "hard times, not end times." If we can all remember that, we'll be okay.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Do not let your mild disappointments with President Obama keep you from voting next week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prop on Pot

Here in California, ballot propositions grow like weeds. You may remember our infamous "stop the gays from marrying" prop from 2008. If you love something or hate something, you can try to legalize it, outlaw it, regulate it, or tax it with a proposition. Over 90 were filed with California election officials or proposed in the State Legislature for 2010. Nine will be on the November 2 ballot.

Of course, before I vote, I always do my homework. I study the pros and cons and try to read the actual bill if it's not too daunting. But the one proposition I'm already schooled in is Proposition 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.
Official summary:

Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired.

Summary of estimated fiscal impact:

Savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products.
The list of people and organizations endorsing prop 19 is quite diverse, and don't forget about the Facebook billionaire who donated $50,000 in support.

So, with so many voices agreeing with my own pro-legalization views, why do I still feel so anti-establishment? Because marijuana will still be illegal by federal law. And Attorney General Eric Holder doesn't want us to forget that:
We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.
I get it. Holder is committed to the enforcement of federal laws. And maybe some people will be impressed that the administration is preemptively acting tough and warning the liberal entrepreneurs to not get brazen when setting up shop. But if he thinks he's going to send in loads more DEA goons to pick up the slack in enforcement, well... I don't think sensational raids and photo-ops will impress anybody.

I'm voting yes on Prop 19. We'll see what happens. Simple possession of marijuana in California is now only a $100 infraction thanks to the governator, but we still need to take a bolder step. Maybe other states will follow? Maybe this ill-conceived war on drugs will finally end.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Buying a Clue

It's time for the Wheel of Fortune host to buy a clue. First let me say I had no idea Pat Sajak had added conservative blogging to his resume. But go read it if you dare. His latest idea is that public employees shouldn't be allowed to vote on the same things as everybody else:
I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great. Of course we all have a stake in one way or another in most elections, and many of us tend to vote in favor of our own interests. However, if, for example, a ballot initiative appears that might cap the benefits of a certain group of state workers, should those workers be able to vote on the matter?
Yes, Pat, because otherwise you wouldn't have a democracy. And of course, in a democracy, people very often, when given correct information, will vote in their own best interest. Voters have no duty to be impartial.

But let's follow Pat's modest proposal. Let's assume that only people who don't have "great stakes" in an issue can cast a vote. Only young, healthy people could vote on cuts to social security. Only shut-ins could vote on road repairs. Only childless people could vote on education initiatives. Only the unemployed could vote on income tax laws. And certainly nobody related to a politician would be allowed to vote in an election.

Also, we'll have to come up with quite a system of data mining and voter tracking to make sure people only vote on the issues that don't affect them.

Pat, your real problem is that you're a smug, privileged rich man who honestly believes that other smug, privileged rich men are the de-facto standard for freedom and rights. Everybody else is chattel and can be stripped of their rights if it protects your fortune. Buy a clue, Pat.

And while you're at it, get up and turn your own lousy letters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Libertarian Utopia

Apparently Tennessee is the Libertarian promised land. South Fulton firefighters stood by and watched an Orion County home burn down because the owners had not paid their $75 fire protection subscription fee. The homeowners offered to pay on the spot, but were refused. The family’s three dogs and a cat died.

Mayor David Crocker said, "if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck."

Or we're all out of luck. Because if one house is on fire, the whole neighborhood is at risk. Fires are tricky devils and don't check policies or town hall records before igniting home after home. People who don't pay or can't pay -- for whatever reason -- endanger themselves, their neighbors, and even the firefighters -- it's easier to put out one small house fire than a neighborhood ablaze.

Likewise for highly contagious diseases. We can't protect ourselves piecemeal. We have to protect the entire herd equally.

Call it socialism if you want, but socialized fire care is an idea whose time has come... or came, actually, in the 19th century. The U.S. had private fire companies back then, and that system didn't work for shit. Time was wasted summoning the correct company, or none at all, and fires would spread. The public demanded some kind of central command of fire companies. Of course, I don't think anybody screamed "socialism" back then. It was just good common sense that taxes in a civilized society should go towards services for the public.

But thanks to the teabaggers and Glenn Beck, these matters are now some kind of modern debate in which compassion and the common good are open to ridicule and mockery.

Monday, October 04, 2010