Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Memoriam

My thoughts and prayers are with Judge Willie Fletcher and his family following the sad news of Judge Betty Fletcher's passing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Prop Joe

I've been trying to avoid the inevitable...election season.  In elections past, I've either opened up a debate open thread or offered my thoughts on California propositions.  In this one, I'd like to do both.  Feel free to offer your pre-, post-, or then-existing debate thoughts.  As a reminder, today's the last day to register to vote in the November 6 election and you can do so here.

Final (Debate) Countdown

As a self-described degenerate gambler (I'm just kidding Dear Future Background Checker), here are my prop bets on tonight's debate (and the payoff odds).

1.  Obama wears blue tie.  (even money).

2.  Both candidates "work the ref."  (-1200 [which means very likely to happen]).

3.  Substantive discussion on the legality (or lack thereof) of continued and expanded drone strikes (or some other foreign policy issue not amenable to 3 second talking point).  (+10,000).

California Propositions

As a default, my rule is to vote no on any proposition.  For long time followers of California history and politics, it's a simple fact that the propositions are choking this state, in particular by removing the Legislature's discretion to cut / add spending.  

Prop 30 -- Yes.  Increase in sales tax and income tax for high earners to pay for the budget gap.  I benefited from much lower fees at both UCLA and Boalt.  More than happy to pay my higher share in taxes to help prevent further increases on students and others.  Also, I dislike Prop 38 because it suffers from the fatal flaw of other propositions that mandate how the money is to be spent.  That's a flaw, not a virtue. 

Prop 31 -- No.  Something about amending the constitution to change budget cycle and something about local governments blah blah blah.  I read the title and realized I'm not persuaded to vote yes.  So, gets a no by default.  This is again one of those instances where it sounds fine on paper to allow local governments to have spending discretion, but let's say the state allocates $50 million on contraceptives, and some crazy right wing director of health in say Barstow thinks this is the Devil's plan.  Why should the Legislature have to veto her actions just to make sure someone is spending the money as intended?  This is ridiculous and another one of those propositions that wrecks the system more than solving anything. 

Prop 32 -- No.  Basically your average "red state" anti-union political contributions bill.  Very strange that in certain states union political activism is evil, but corporate political activism is free speech / personhood. 

Prop 33 --  No.  This changes the law to allow auto insurers to base pricing decisions in part on history of insurance coverage.  For example, currently your rate is based on your age, driving history, type of vehicle, etc.  So if you've had insurance with any insurer, you get a discount, but the uninsured guy trying to buy insurance has to pay more.  And that is why I'm voting no.  I want MORE people to carry insurance.  I don't want to give them added incentive not to carry insurance.  Sure, I might be giving up a buck or two in some illusory discount, but I think that's a small price to pay. 

Prop 34 -- Yes.  Overturn the death penalty.  Amazing what we as Californians are willing to pay in bad economic times but this category of wasteful spending seems to survive.

Prop 35 -- No.  Increase penalty for human traffickers, etc.  I'm not pro human trafficking or anything, but this state has a terrible history of passing "tough on crime" propositions that result in absurdities.  Why is this necessary?  Is the pro-human trafficking lobby strongly opposed to increasing punishments through the Legislature? 

Prop 36 -- YES.  A resounding yes for this proposition that modifies California's ridiculous three strikes law after nearly two decades of failure.  For those too young to remember, in the early to mid 90s, a Petaluma girl named Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her home by a felon with multiple convictions.  This naturally led to all sorts of hysteria in the suburbs about felons walking among us, so California passed a law mandating a sentence of 20 years to life for anyone convicted of a third felony.  What could possibly go wrong?  A lot actually.  This finally modifies the law to require that the third felony be serious or violent, with certain exceptions.  Net savings?  $70 to $90 million annually.  Yes and yes. 

Prop 37 -- Undecided.  This is the proposition that would require labeling of genetically engineered ("GE") foods for the undecided.  I honestly still don't know which way I lean on this one.  Here is my thinking.  Con:  The proponents seem to be putting a lot of stock in junk science.  Even if the article is a bit of a hit job, we can all certainly agreed that there is certainly no consensus in the scientific community on the effects of genetically modified foods in the way that there is for tobacco.  Also, if someone is currently interested in buying non-GE food, they can shop at Whole Foods or whatever.  Why create an unnecessary panic?  Pro:  We're all capable of deciding how much sugar we should eat, but that's required to be on a food label.  Why not GE information?  Why can't we trust people to make their own decisions with information and as far as I can see this does not restrict the sale of GE foods. 

Prop 38 -- See above.

Prop 39 and 40 -- declining to comment.  This means you shouldn't ask, "Why can't you comment?" 

Opine away.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three's A Crowd?

If my FaceSpace newsfeed is any indication, many of my fellow Boalties have been following the election and, in particular, the debates, closely.  This morning, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, filed this complaint in federal court in D.C.  In short, it asks that the Commission on Presidential Debates be forced to include him in the upcoming debates.

In reviewing the complaint, a couple things became readily apparent to me:

1. I know very little about the laws surrounding political campaigns and the media.

2. The complaint alleges that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a 501(c)(3).  I'm a bit unclear on how that can be, as 501(c)(3) corporations are generally precluded from being involved in politics.

3. Gov. Johnson has a tough row to hoe arguing unilateral contract here, and with a debate coming up in four days, with just two court days in between, it would take a miracle for a court to even take a look at it.  Maybe a miracle in the form of an ex parte appearance.

4. It seems to me that it makes sense to add as many candidates as could mathematically become president (i.e., they are on a sufficient number of ballots to potentially gain the requisite electoral votes) to the debate.  Third party candidates are frequently written off as a nuisance to Democratic and Republican nominees, but isn't it hard for them to be anything more than that if they aren't permitted into the debate?

Ultimately, I don't think Gov. Johnson's complaint will get him very far, particularly this late in the debate schedule.  But it brings up two questions (at least for me):  1. Why do we exclude nominees who are on a sufficient number of ballots from the debates? and 2. Is the legal system the best mechanism to resolve this issue?

Friday, October 12, 2012


Oh boy.  I don't really even have words for this one.  I will say, as someone who has taken part in a tradition of going to Vegas every MLK weekend since 2L year, I think an annual pilgrimage can do wonders in maintaining ties among friends.  Or you can get caught in the moment, do something stupid/monstrous (I haven't yet judged which side this falls on), and essentially ruin the rest of your professional life. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Open Discussion Thread

Nothing new has cropped up in sometime, largely due to many of the regular contributors graduating from Boalt. I have no idea what peculiar things may or may not be happening at Boalt, but if there is anything specific that deserves a post, or you want somewhere to anonymously vent, feel free to post it in the comments!