Monday, November 29, 2010

X-mas or Christmas? Who cares.

Fuck it! I just like the whole holiday season! I really don't care what it's called or if it's politically correct to acknowledge Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Ashura and everything else. Celebrate Festivus! Why not?

You know what I like about this time of year? It's all the pretty decorations. I like seeing green garland and bows wrapped around normally ugly street lamps. I like that stores and restaurants bring greenery into their businesses. I like plants. Having trees brought indoors, even fake ones, is really pleasant.

I can't help the fact that I was raised in a Christian home with typical Christian traditions. Therefore, I have warm fuzzy memories of holidays. There's just something inherently cheerful about this time of year. Now, do I appreciate nativity scenes going up on public property? No. I really don't. And I'm sure if I was raised in a Jewish household, the bombardment of Christmas upon my life would get a little annoying.

And you know what else? I don't think "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." I think that most societies have celebrated during this time of the year in some way or another. Maybe to brighten up the dark and cold winter months? To mark the shortest day of the year in some way? Or maybe to celebrate that they had enough food put away for the cold season. Of course, the simple fact that we are reaching the last month of the year is enough reason to celebrate. One big lead up to New Year's. It's fun. And I enjoy it.

I'm hoping that one of this site's followers will kindly remind me in the comments of where he read this, but I really liked what he told me the other day... [EDIT: "How to stop worrying and love Christmas" by Mitch Benn in the collection "An Atheists Guide to Christmas"] Why have a problem celebrating Christmas, a holiday with CHRIST in its name? Even as an atheist, why would that be an issue? It shouldn't be! The days of the week are all references to ancient gods and we don't acknowledge them. So why be perturbed by a holiday called Christmas?

Fabulous Ugly Sweater Party from 2005
For me, Christmas is a secular holiday that involves making inanimate objects look pretty, getting crafty, baking and cooking, giving gifts, and spending time with family and friends. And getting totally wasted on a variety of alcoholic beverages. That's important to us. This year, we will be putting up lights, a tree, and hopefully attend at least ONE ugly sweater party. That's what the holiday is all about.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Kuri Squash for my Thanksgiving Day soup!
I am up ridiculously late because I wanted to prep/cook a lot of vegetarian goodies before tomorrow morning.

This year, I am very grateful that my two older brothers are also atheists. Our sibling Thanksgiving has been a tradition for several years, and I appreciate not having that awkward moment of "grace." Mostly, I will be thankful that I have family close by whenever I need them, and they have been there for me many times. I am thankful that my baby niece is beautiful and happy and healthy and that modern science has made childbirth safer for all women. I am very lucky.

But, then again, I don't believe in luck. I like the term "blessings," but it doesn't really mean anything for me. I guess I could say that I just feel grateful for what I have.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Science? I sure am. And to live in a country where I'm at least not stoned to death for espousing my views. Thanks, America.

Eat up, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Feeding the "Homeless"

I did something kind of stupid yesterday. I fed a homeless guy.

Actually, he probably wasn't even homeless. He wore cheap dirty clothes, but he probably has a place to live. He was standing on the corner by my neighborhood Starbucks. As I passed he asked, "Could I have a dollar? I'm just trying to get something to eat." As someone who has occasionally given money to "beggars" and immediately regretted it, I instead offered to purchase him some food.

"If you prefer that, sure." OK, I said, and as he followed me he asked, "Is it OK if we go to Quizno's?" As that's where I was going myself, I said that was fine. After I ordered my sandwich, I told the lady to get the guy whatever he wanted. He then asked me if it was OK if he got a Combo. I was a little irritated that he was taking advantage of my generosity. But.... I had offered. And really, at this point, what was a couple more dollars? So I paid for his sandwich plus a drink and whatever else he got. He thanked me several times and I was relieved that he never said "God Bless You"...

I did all this, and quite frankly, I felt like a bit of a chump afterward. Why did I buy this particular guy a sandwich? People ask me for change or a dollar every day and I usually pass them by. But this guy had a specific request for food. Other times, when I've made the offer to purchase food for someone, they backpedal and say they need the money for the bus or other random things. But this guy took me up. Maybe he was truly looking for money to buy food. But he wasn't starving. He was by no means skinny. Frankly, he was rather obese. But that doesn't mean he couldn't use the nutrients.

I've never been starving, but I've gone without eating because I couldn't afford to eat. I've had times where I almost passed out because I was trying to stretch my groceries by eating less. But when it's gotten truly desperate, I've been lucky to have people who could help. So I'm sympathetic. 

And yet, I still feel like I was a fool, like this guy took advantage of me. This isn't directly related to religion or the normal topics of this blog, but it still sort of feels like a moral-ish question. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Faith, Politics, and the 2010 Election (NPR)

NPR did a story today on the Brookings Institutes study on religion and its effect on the 2010 elections.

Do you think that Obama's religious views are similar to yours? Here's what the study said:
The survey found that 51 percent of Americans saw the president’s religious views as different from their own, including 16 percent who saw them as “somewhat” different and 35 percent who saw them as “very different.” Only 40 percent see the president’s religious beliefs as similar to their own, including only 12 percent who saw them as “very” similar.  This question sharply divides Americans along racial lines: 74 percent of African-Americans see the president’s religious views as similar to their own, compared with just 35 percent of white Americans.

We do not want to exaggerate the importance of these new religious divisions. Views on the nature of President Obama’s religious faith parallel political attitudes toward the president.  Voters who are hostile to him on political grounds are likely to distance themselves from his views on other matters, including religion.  In the PRRI survey, 94 percent of those who said Obama’s religious views were “very similar” to their own had a favorable view of the president.  Among respondents who said his religious views were “very different” from their own, 78 percent had an unfavorable view of him.
What does this even mean? I guess since Obama states that he is a Christian and believes in God, I would have to say that his views are "very different" from my own. But I have a generally favorable view of him. I just don't get it. If you're a theist, and you claim to be a Christian, I guess your views are pretty similar to people who make similar claims. I just don't get it all of this fuss over IMAGINARY CHARACTERS!!!!

Coincidentally, American Exceptionalism was also mentioned in the report. A shocking 6 in 10 people believe America is a chosen nation, singled-out by God for a special mission in the world. Wow. That's kind of scary. I mean... that's clearly embedded in our national psyche and that freaks me out. What is our mission? What is it that we are supposed to do out there? And are our current engagements even copacetic with that idea? Is a war in Afghanistan and Iraq conducive to a special mission in the world? If this is what a majority of Americans believe, how come we aren't doing more to make the world a better place???

What scares me is that a large part of these surveyed people might actually believe in Armageddon. Is that what our mission is really all about? Spooky.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post #2: National Exceptionalism and Religion

 Guest Post #2 from our friend Zach. Anyone who wants to submit ANYTHING is welcome! Videos, photos, cartoons... we want it!


The US really has one export that it has traded on for about the last 150 years that has driven it like no other.  Regardless of what we sell or what we make, the thing we have really been selling since we got to the Pacific is the idea that the United States of America is special.  We have pulled people here in droves, and still do today with the promise that somehow this country, this place, these people here are going to give them a better shot than they had back home.  I will get to the merits of the idea later but right now it's the manifestation of this idea that gives me pause. Every country believes it's special somehow and that's fine.  They wouldn't have developed themselves as a country if they didn't. Where this becomes dangerous is when it's God telling you you're special.  Right now in the world there are three perfect examples of the dangers of God picking one nation over another.

1: Iran.
Iran is considered the world's only theocracy (I don't know why the Vatican isn't considered one but whatever).  President Ahmadinejad is only the head of the government.  The head of state is the Ayatollah Khamenei is the actual leader of the country and NOTHING gets done without his say so.  He had to certify the last contentious elections and Ahmadinejad serves at his pleasure.  Under the theocracy, Iran has alienated the larger international community, taken steps to develop nukes, and oppressed the freedoms of its people and their rights to choose their own leaders.  All unilateral actions taken without regard to the larger world in which they reside because Allah is on their side. 

2: Israel. 
Israel is not technically a religious state.  However, any Jew who steps on their soil is immediately a citizen, and they are preparing legislation right now to force all non-Jews who want citizenship to sign a loyalty oath.  A Christian or Muslim or Atheist born and raised in Jerusalem could potentially lose their citizenship if they didn't sign.  The Jews like to refer to themselves as the chosen people and if that doesn't smack of divine exceptionalism, I really don't know what does.  It is evident even as far as Jews of OTHER nations are concerned:  ex.  I have a very close devout Jewish friend.  We often get into debates about Israel.  In the last one she said something that disturbed me to the point that I have spoken to her little since (to my own discredit).  Debating the flotilla and the "ground Zero Mosque,"  she accused me of anti-semitism and then said that she would "Support Israel whatever they did, because it was the [homeland]."  This girl loves the US and would never show it such blind deference nor should she nor anybody.  This type of support can only be engendered by God and is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.   

3: Speaking of Extremely Dangerous...The USA. 
Since Manifest Destiny there has been a sense that the US should be an empire.  We quail at calling it that but displacing entire native and colonizing populations in a land grab to take hold of an entire continent really reeks of such an attitude.  Our last president spoke openly of being "Chosen by God" to lead us through the trials we face and Reagan liked to refer to Russians as the "Evil Empire" indicating that we were inherently good.  Conservative with a simple and unexamined view of the Constitution, tend to have an equally simple and unexamined view of the Bible.  What they believe in is God's will and they believe in America. This perspective is dangerous because America doesn't have to do anything to BE exceptional aside from be the place where these people live and can vote Republican. We can claim to be against Torture and Nation building while doing THOSE EXACT THINGS, yet we are the USA and God says we are special.  We can act out of fear and protectionism and seal our borders and kick out all the illegal immigrants without exception (even if they were brought over the border as infants and have never known any other country but ours), but we are the land of opportunity: open the poor, the tired and the huddled masses, because we are the USA and God says we are special.  We can forget the poor and accept a prosperity gospel despite it being EXACTLY the OPPOSITE of what democracy, our country and CHRISTIANITY are founded on, because we are the USA and GOD says we are special.

I believe the US is special. We can provide opportunities. We can welcome all who love peace and we can say whatever we want.  But like it or not we are not alone in these things anymore. We are special because we a nation strong enough to be able to stand by our ideals.  We are powerful enough and brave enough to stand firm and say WE DON'T TORTURE in the face of fear stay fast to that. We are special because we have the power to say WE BELIEVE IN FREEDOM FOR ALL and fight to expand those freedoms at home and abroad. We are special because we have the wealth to say NO ONE SHOULD GO WITHOUT BASIC NEEDS.  And work to pull people out of degradation and poverty. We are special because we have the influence, the wealth, the strength and the avenues in place to lift not just other nations but our own towards ever greater heights.  But if we don't use those exceptional qualities, if we don't constantly strive to be better and less compromising for the good of all.  If we rely on some god to tell us that we're special.  We won't be anymore. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy OR Jesus and Money

Boo hoo. Your giant mega church just filed for bankruptcy. You avoided paying vendors to the point that they felt they had to sue you in order to get their money. Reverend Schuller has been at the head of the church since he founded it in a drive-in movie theater decades ago. He tried to pass on leadership to his son, but then removed him when there was some kind of family disagreement about the direction in which the church should head. Now, Schuller's daughter, Sheila, runs the church.
She said the bankruptcy declaration "is just one more chapter in the book that He is continuing to write -- and we know that God's plans are good -- we have no doubt His chapter will be good!"
Ha. Yeah. Chapter 11 in the Good Book. Schuller isn't the worst of the worst. He doesn't practice hate speech. He doesn't espouse a completely literal take on the Bible. On the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage, he generally dodges around it, saying that he thinks that male/female marriage is the ideal... blah, blah, blah.  But he believes in destiny and that God meant for him to carry His message and all that.  Most of their sermons are completely generic and carry a message about "YOU can do it, just trust in God and he'll take care of EVERYTHING" and phony self-esteem messages.

The biggest problem I have with the Crystal Cathedral and similar type churches is how much money they suck out from trusting citizens. That money could be put to soooooo many better uses. Instead, it constructed a multi-million dollar building out of glass.

It also is just plain silly. Take, for example, this interview the church had with an author about God and Money. Appropriate, I thought, given the church's financial troubles. Let me give you the highlights of the author's financial advice:
First, pray. Invite the Lord of the universe to be part of your financial life. Then secondly, review. Review what you had come in and go out that week [...] And then lastly, celebrate [...] celebrate when the Lord allows you to pay off that credit card. Celebrate together.

SSC:    How did you get into the finances found in God's word? I find that fascinating.
HD:     Well back in the early seventies, my business partner asked me to join him in a study of the bible to find out what it said about money. We didn't know. We had new families and a new business. So we spent a year and read through the entire bible and identified two thousand three hundred and fifty verses dealing with money.
SSC:    I had no idea there were that many bible verses on money.
HD:     It totally blew us away. Fifteen percent of everything that Jesus said had to do with money.
SSC:    Wow, so it must be important.
HD:     It is. And I think the real key for us is that Christ knew that from time to time all of us would have struggles over money. I believe He wanted to equip us to handle money wisely so that's why He gave us these principles that are so applicable today.
Then he basically says to not spend more than you have to on anything and put all surplus money towards paying off debt. Well, DUH. I don't think you need Jesus to tell you that. I also find it interesting that he left out verses like this:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"

-Matthew 19:23-24
"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" -Matthew 19:21
I'm just saying that it's almost impossible for a Christian to NOT be hypocritical. 

So, if the Crystal Cathedral didn't espouse the worst kind of Christian hate, can I still be pleasantly amused by their Chapter 11?

I just think that if you're going to be a church or pretend to be a prophet in the name of Jesus, you can't go around collecting and spending millions annually.  It's hypocrisy and a waste of money and time that could be devoted to something better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Honoring Post-Mortem Wishes of the Religious

When the last of your two parents dies, would you (as an atheist), acknowledge their wishes for a religious funeral ceremony? 

My mother asked me this the other day. She's an extremely devout Catholic who's very, very involved with her church. Apparently, the parish priest hosted a free class on Catholic funerals and told a story about a church member whose non-practicing children ignored her wishes for a Catholic funeral. My mom asked me, since both me and my two brothers are atheists, if we would respect their desire for a formal Catholic funeral. 

I said, yes, of course.

I didn't really think about it. I would assume that this is what they want. They have a lot of friends and there are other family members who would be mortified if a Catholic funeral did not happen. Now, since I don't believe in an afterlife, do I think it matters? No. Do I like the idea of giving money to the Catholic church and supporting them? No. But, I would be equally mortified if my parents forced a Catholic ceremony on ME, knowing that I don't believe in it. Again, I guess it doesn't matter since I don't think anything happens when we die. But I don't want that to be the last memory that the living have of me-- a completely wrong impression of who I was as a living person. Even though we're in our twenties, the life partner and I have discussed our last wishes with each other. We don't trust our parents to honor them.

What would you do in this situation? And if you don't believe in an afterlife, do you care what happens to your body when you die?

Avoiding Church With the Parents OR Religion at "Home"

I hope the decision isn't reversed!
One half of GOP is out of Los Angeles at the moment, and that half is me. Our most regular contributor. I'm in Iowa right now, feeling especially sad about the liberal Supreme Court justices getting booted out of a job. I just flipped through the local paper and saw a cute engagement photo for two men... I hope they still get to marry in the next year.

And speaking of weddings, that's why I was back in Iowa. One of my cousins was getting married! It was my kind of ceremony. One of their best friends became an officiant through the Universal Life Church (you can be atheist and register with them) and there was ZERO mention of a god or religion. It was short, sweet, and very personal. They had a focus on a eco-friendly reception, which was very cool.

The wedding was far enough away from where my parents live that they had a motel reserved for that evening. The next morning was Sunday. They were, of course, going to church. With my EXTREMELY religious grandmother. What was I going to do?

Relief came in the form of my cousin. Most of the younger crowd from the wedding planned to go out that evening for drinks, and I wanted to join in. My cousin offered to let me stay at her place and my parents agreed to pick me up from her apartment the following afternoon. THANK YOU! Win win. I got to hang out with my cousins a bit more and was saved from the awkwardness of Catholic mass.

My parents know that I am a non-believer. I don't think the word "atheist" has ever been uttered, but they know that I don't go to church and don't believe in many of its tenets. If I'm at home, they let me sleep in and don't harp about mass. Even at Christmas, and they've taken it considerably well. But if I were at a hotel that needed to be checked out of.... I would have been forced to go out of necessity unless I was stubborn enough to insist at being dropped off at a Starbucks. But that would have led to really uncomfortable discussions with my grandmother whose heart would be broken that I refuse to attend church.

Does this make me an atheistic coward or just a considerate person who doesn't want to crush the expectations of an 87 year old lady?

On another note: businesses close REALLY early on Sundays in Iowa. This is annoying. However, the cafe I tried to eat at gave me a free cup of coffee to go. That was nice. More on businesses and Sundays another day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back to Normal, Post Election

Election Day has come and gone and I was super psyched to walk down the street to our polling place, all prepared with my sample ballot filled out and at the ready for reference. Jerry Brown became our governor (again) and Barbara Boxer pulled through. Prop 19 died, surely to rise again. California now requires only a simple majority to pass the budget, but now a 2/3 vote is required for all fees and fines. But air pollution restrictions and standards remain progressive. Some of the saddest news for me was not that Republicans took control of the House (at least the Dems still have the Senate), but that Iowa citizens booted out 3 Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. What. A. Blow. Guess that proves that Iowa isn't quite as progressive as I'd like to think. *sigh*

The real sign that we're back to pre-election norms? This blog. We still have only two followers and our page views have returned to the normal 3 or 4 a day. Thank goodness. I don't know that I'm ready yet to have 300 to 500 views a day. But what that does demonstrate to me is that people are starved for information when it comes to certain issues. Like voting "yes" or "no" on judges! There was nothing else out there. What really surprised me was when another Blogger linked to OURS! This guy pretty much was doing what we were, posting the way that he and his girlfriend were going vote... but he referred to this site as a part of the "punditocracy." Not at all in a complimentary way, but me? A Pundit? A 24 year old, usually poor, white female living in an over-crowded and run-down apartment in Hollywood? Awesome. As a friend said, make me a sign and put it on my desk! Anyway, when I tackle issues like that in the future, I'm going to be even more thoroughly researched.

Now, however, I am happy to return to our usual atheist blog, protesting against infringements upon secularism, with a political slant. I don't think I'm ready for so much attention.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Last Chance before you vote!

Alright, get it all out now! I've been reading some of the comments from the judges post and while some are from conservatives thanking me for showing them how to vote opposite from me (which is fine, although there are way more conservative websites out there telling you how to vote), some are from people with very good points.

That's why I view this website as a forum, it's really tough to dig into every corner of every person on the ballot, and I value what others have to say.

One Anonymous commentator mentioned two judges that I gave a "NO" vote to that do have liberal endorsements. Mainly, Randy Hammock and Alan Schneider. After looking around, I can see that this reader probably subscribes to the L.A. Times. Both were endorsed by the paper.

After reading a little more, it looks like Schneider is significantly more qualified than Tom Griego.  He's endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans and will likely be a good judge.

The Times states that both Randy Hammock and Mark Ameli are highly qualified, which they both seem to be. Hammock is endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats, while Mark Ameli is only endorsed by Democrats. But as the Times said, "In Office No. 28, voters are in luck because they have two good choices. Randy Hammock is a seemingly tireless lawyer who left his practice to serve the Los Angeles Juvenile Dependency Court as a referee. Mark K. Ameli is an experienced and accomplished civil litigator." If both are qualified, I'll stick with my original pick. But it's good to know that either one would do a good job if elected.

The other issue brought up is about John Noguez for County Assessor.  Anonymous stated that he is corrupt and has ties to the Bell city officials who awarded themselves giant salaries and were generally shady politicians. I found an article about it here. And even the Washington Times reported on it just a few days ago. Even though John Noguez has more endorsements, the L.A. Times has backed John Y. Wong... which is pretty much the only endorsement he has. I previously had a NO vote for Mr. Wong, but if the LA Times thinks he's qualified and the accusations against John Noguez are at all true, perhaps the Times is right that we need someone less political in the office of Assessor. This shouldn't even be an elected position!

So, to re-cap:



Again, I really appreciate the input from people, even if they choose to be anonymous or some choose to be rude or obnoxious. I just think it's important that people try to EDUCATE themselves and actually get out there and VOTE! It's hard to wade through the sea of misinformation and lack of information, so we all need to help each other.

Monday, November 1, 2010


This is what I wrote yesterday regarding Prop 24.

PROP 24: Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability initiative statute. 
During budget negotiations this past year, California created new tax laws that would allow businesses to save money. The debate is over whether this benefits small business or fat cat corporations. Does this save the state budget or drive business/jobs away from California? Eliminating those tax breaks would bring in $1.3 billion to the state which would most likely, in turn, go to our schools. That's a good thing. I'd also like to point out that MAJOR funding for the "No on 24" campaign has come from Viacom, Time Warner, and other big corporations. Obviously, they stand to benefit. However, almost all newspaper editorials have come out against Prop 24, as have a lot of genuine small business owners. This has already been in effect for two years, I guess a few more years can't hurt. NO on 24.

However, I'm still in debate over this Prop. A lot of very liberal organizations whom I normally agree with have come out in support of Prop 24. We're talking the ACLU, American Federation of Teachers, League of Women Voters, plus about a million Democratic and LGBT organizations. 

So what to do? I think I may just encourage this household to cancel each others' votes out on this one.

Electing Judges

This is one of the most time consuming tasks and confusing tasks for me as a voter. How do I figure out whether to vote "Yes" or "No" for all of these judges? To be honest, this year, I'm voting straight Democrat for all of the elected officials. I'm sure there are some independent candidates who are worthwhile, and I'm sure not ALL Republicans are complete social conservatives. If we weren't living in a political era of staunch partisanship,  I would at least consider other candidates. But right now, I'm voting Democrat 100%.

But judges don't have a political affiliation. So where do you start?  I begin with the American Bar Association. They are an independent association of lawyers and law students that provide accreditation to law schools and seek to help their profession and increase diversity and reduce bias in the courts. They tend to lean to the liberal side and back Roe v. Wade 100%. This year they also put out an official statement urging every state in the union to permit same-sex unions. Go ABA! The ABA also rates judges on levels of qualification.

I also refer to the League of Women Voters, which is basically non-partisan, but it gives a lot of good information on all of the judges on the ballot, including endorsements, which I find rather telling.

Finally, I use a crazy conservative site, Judge Voter Guide to let me know who to vote against. They are soooooo conservative that they disapprove of even the most moderate Republican judges. Basically, they hate all judges, but really do their research (however misguided it may be)!

Supreme Court Justice
Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye: Yes. Although she is a Republican, nominated by Gov. Schwarzenagger, and is religious, she has been rated as "exceptionally well qualified." The perception is that she's fairly moderate, and socially liberal. She comes from an immigrant family and grew up extremely poor. I'm a sucker for American Dream stories. I tend to find these types to be empathetic individuals. I think she'll be fine.

Ming W. Chin: Yes. This is a tough one because he was a part of the minority decision to vote against Same-Sex marriage, but he has also voted against parental consent for abortions. Again, voted "well qualified."

Carlos R. Moreno: YES! This is an easy one. Voted for Same-Sex Marriage, against parental consent... very liberal.

Court of Appeal 
Robert M. Mallano: YES
Victoria G. Chaney:  NO
Jeffrey W. Johnson:YES
Judith M. Ashmann: YES
Walter Croskey: YES
Steven Suzukawa: NO
Orville "Jack" Armstrong: NO

Paul H. Coffee: NO
Steven Z. Perren:

Laurie D. Zelon: YES

Frank Y. Jackson: NO
Tricia A Bigelow: NO
Elizabeth Annette Grimes: NO

Office No. 28
Mark K. Ameli: YES
Randy Hammock: NO

Office No. 117
Tom Griego: YES A user comment made me look more closely at this race, and it appears that
Alan Schneider: NO  Schneider is actually more qualified and is endorsed by both sides. See recent  post for more info!

Office No. 136
Amy D. Hogue: YES

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Larry Aceves: YES (Both seem to be decent choices, but I like Aceves emphasis on peer training for teachers and his endorsement from the LA TIMES)
Tom Torlakson: NO

County Assessor
John Y. Wong: NO Actually, after a comment from a reader, I looked into this race more closely.
John R. Noguez: YES (endorsed by Democrats)   Please see my more recent post for more info!

Whew. This was really difficult and time consuming. With most of the judges, I simply decided to vote against those who were endorsed by right wing conservatives. Personally, I don't think the electorate has any business voting for judges. I think they should be appointed and reviewed. They shouldn't have to think about getting re-elected, only about making sound and fair decisions. Leave politics to politicians.

P.S. The spacing throughout this post is kind of wonky... sorry about that. Blogger is funny sometimes. 

California Propositions 2010

This November 2nd, California will confuse and befuddle its electorate by putting before them the task of voting on numerous Propositions. While some people adore propositions because they believe in direct democracy, I abhor them because they bring us nightmares like Prop 8, ruin the state budget, and contradict existing laws. Anyone can get a Prop on the ballot if they have enough money to get enough signatures from harried customers outside of Trader Joe's.

So, in short, I don't like Propositions. It's also nearly impossible to tell sometimes if they're even good or bad. Sometimes they have good ideas, but bad execution, or have no allocated funds, and put California even further into debt. California politicians hide behind these Props, hoping that some rich citizens will put up the cash to get medical marijuana legalized or some other such legislation. Of course, dirty Republicans do the same... hoping that some rich citizens will put up the cash to ban same sex marriage. Propositions are generally bad news, but they're still up for a vote and intelligent votes matter, so here's my take on them.

Prop 19: Legalizes Marijuana in California
Awesome. Let's figure out the details later. Neither of us smoke, but we don't want our friends who do partake to be arrested for it. Let's tax the hell out of it, decriminalize it, regulate it, and keep folks out of jail. Done. Yes on 19.

Prop 20/27: Redistricting of Congressional Districts
Prop 20 essentially upholds Prop 11 from this summer's primaries that establishes a 14 person committee to redraw California districts. Consists of Democrats, Republicans, and individuals who aren't registered with either party. But I guess Prop 20 futzes around with what was already established in Prop 11. It's funded by a billionaire, Charles Munger, Jr., the son of a Wall Street tycoon.

The idea behind fussing with redistricting is that it would make districts more fair and less tailored to individual party preferences and would make each district more homogeneous. The idea is to reduce the gerrymandering of districts. It's very anti-incumbent. But my real question is how this 14 person committee is going to be held accountable. How do we know that it will be fair? Opponents to Prop 20 state that it contains Jim Crow type laws because it "mandates that all districts (including Assembly, Senate, and Congress) must be segregated by income level and mandates that all districts be segregated according to 'similar living standards' and that districts include only people 'with similar work opportunities." (that's straight from the rebuttal to the arguments for the prop, so it's hard to know if that's true?) The Sacramento Bee is the only newspaper to editorialize against the bill, and the League of Women Voters has also come out against it.

PROP 27 basically negates Prop 11 from the primaries and keeps redistricting in the hands of the Legislature.

I'm going go with the Sacramento Bee on this one and vote NO on 20 and 27 to let Prop 11 do its job. Let's see if this committee can do a better and more fair job of drawing up districts. We'll see how that goes and then change it if necessary.

PROP 21: Establishes $18 annual vehicle license surcharge to help fund state parks and wildlife programs and grants surcharge vehicles free admission to all state parks.
Awesome. I'm willing to pay this because I'm a big animal/nature loving hippie and I always forget to purchase a parking pass ahead of time when I go to state parks. So, yeah. I'm willing to do that. Sorry if you aren't. YES on 21

PROP 22: Prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.
Um.... Boy, this sounds nice. It's mostly funded by the League of California Cities, but as the Sacramento Bee points out, in a year where city managers have awarded themselves with gigantic salaries and perpetrated massive fraud (as in Bell, CA), this doesn't sit very well with a lot of people. Transportation workers and libraries support Prop 22, while health and education workers worry that this will limit their own funds. I say that while the state is in financial crisis, let's not limit our ability to make ends meet. NO on 22

PROP 23: Suspends implementation of air pollution control law requiring major sources of emissions to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for full year. 
Um. FUCK NO. NO ON 23. Yeah, so let's just go back to polluting. I doubt that this will create more jobs and those jobs will simply be lost once this is repealed and these laws are enforced. Let's move forward and create jobs surrounding green and renewable energy and businesses. What a joke. NO NO NO NO NO on 23

PROP 24: Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability initiative statute. 
During budget negotiations this past year, California created new tax laws that would allow businesses to save money. The debate is over whether this benefits small business or fat cat corporations. Does this save the state budget or drive business/jobs away from California? Eliminating those tax breaks would bring in $1.3 billion to the state which would most likely, in turn, go to our schools. That's a good thing. I'd also like to point out that MAJOR funding for the "No on 24" campaign has come from Viacom, Time Warner, and other big corporations. Obviously, they stand to benefit. However, almost all newspaper editorials have come out against Prop 24, as have a lot of genuine small business owners. This has already been in effect for two years, I guess a few more years can't hurt. NO on 24.

PROP 25: Changes legislative vote requirement to pass budget and budget-related legislation from two-thirds to a simple majority. Retains 2/3 vote requirement for taxes.
Thank goodness. I've been hoping to see this on the ballot for awhile. Part of the reason that California can't get a budget passed on time is because the minority of Republicans in this state hold the budget hostage. It's infuriating. Just look at the supporters (Federation of Teachers, Professional Engineers, Nurses Association) versus the opponents (Chevron, Philip Morris, Anheuser-Busch, Shell Oil). It's kind of obvious who stands to benefit from giving Republicans more control than they've earned in this state. YES ON 25. YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!

PROP 26: Requires that certain state and local fees be approved by two-thirds vote. Fees include those that address adverse impacts on society or the environment caused by the fee-payer's business.
No. I think I made my opinion clear on 25. This kind of shit ruins our state every year. This would mean that before the State Legislature decides to levy fines on polluters, they need Republican approval. Republicans who are funded by companies like those who oppose Prop 25. Number one supporter of Prop 26? You guessed it, CHEVRON. I'm sure they'd love to stop paying fees for ruining the environment. NO ON 26!!!!!!!!!!!

PROP 27: see above PROP 20

Many thanks to Ballotpedia for being a valuable resource for info on the Propositions. Grab your "Official Sample Ballot" and fill in your choices ahead of time to avoid panic in the voting booth! Tomorrow, I will try to tackle the judges for our district! Yipes!