Tag Archives: Constitutional Amendment

How to Stop “Yes on 8” Banner Ads on your Blog

The anti-gay bigots at “Yes on 8” (California’s initiative to eliminate marriage rights) have spent a ton of money on Google ads — and are targeting blogs and computers based out of California.  Progressive blogs who abhor Prop 8 have found “Yes on 8” ads pop up on their front page, because they have Google banner ads.  This has led many websites who use Google Ad Sense to get grief from their readers for supporting a homophobic agenda … even though they knew nothing about promoting “Yes on 8” ads.

Fortunately, there’s a way for blogs who use Google Ad Sense to filter out “Yes on 8.”  Here’s how …

(1) Login to your AdSense account.

(2) Click on ‘AdSense Setup’ tab.

(3) Click on ‘Competitive Ad Filter’ sub-tab.

(4) Enter url in this form: ‘www.protectmarriage.com’ in the box provided under ‘AdSense for Content Filters’

(5) Click on ‘Save Changes’

It may take a few hours for AdSense to start blocking the ads, but it works.

The “Yes on 8” campaign has spent a ton of money to get out their message, and I’m afraid it’s working.  Don’t let your website or blog become an unwillingly complicit in this effort.

Is all this Direct Democracy Really Worth It?

About 220 years ago, America’s “Founding Fathers” got together and wrote an interesting little document dubbed the “Constitution.” It is a flexible document that has allowed us to move from an agrarian economy with heavy usage of slave labor to the modern bustling nation that we see today. In case you failed to notice, the signs of democracy are all around these days. This great document, which despite the Bush Administration’s best efforts, has stood the test of time.  But notice what’s missing from the Constitution: Direct Democracy.

Heck, the Founders didn’t even want Senators to be directly elected, that didn’t come until the early 20th Century. But here in California we can thank the railroads and Hiram Johnson for installing Direct Democracy in some pseudo-Athenian experiment.  Johnson intended the ballot initiative to be a way the “little guy” to trump the moneyed interest (at the time, the railroads). The trouble is, it hasn’t worked. Ever. It has never been a very good means of the grassroots triumphing over anybody really.  It has now become a full-employment mechanism for political types (um, thanks Hiram) and a means of bypassing the traditional means of getting a law passed: the legislature.

In case you doubt the role of money in initiative politics, there’s this story in the Bee:

Despite a 2000 law meant to curb the size of checks California politicians could collect from deep-pocketed interest groups, many lawmakers are skirting those limits by soliciting funds for ballot accounts. In many cases, the money is arriving in increments of tens, and even hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

The ballot accounts are legal and can be created without a specific ballot measure in mind. Donations to them can be limitless. The only difference is that elected officials can’t spend the money directly on their own re-election campaigns. (SacBee 5/5/08)

Last week, the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) released a report on the initiative process that recommended some pretty substantial changes, but the question is out there, is the initiative system worth saving?  

CGS feels that it should be saved:

Californians cherish the initiative process and trust it three times more than they trust the legislature. They now turn almost instinctively to the initiative process to address almost any problem, without first seeking a legislative solution.

In a perfect or near-perfect system of representative democracy, ballot initiatives would be unnecessary. Elected officials would be closely attuned to the public’s needs and desires, voters would be well informed on the issues of the day and legislators would be open to arguments on their merits. Government would respond appropriately to public needs, temper rashness with deliberation and accommodate legitimate desires for change without the necessity of direct popular votes through ballot initiatives.

But today such a legislative system does not exist in California or in any other state- if it ever did. The financial demands of elected office force candidates and officeholders to raise ever-increasing sums of money from special interests, leaving them susceptible to pressure and influence. The desire of incumbents for reelection has made them reluctant to develop controversial new policy initiatives. The complexity of governmental issues, together with the need of many officials to shape or control the spin of media information, has left many voters without the ability to review critically the records of officeholders at election time.

See the problem with all this direct democracy is that voters don’t have legislative anaylyst’s available at their whim to determine how this will impact the state. They are left with only the ads that the campaigns run and perhaps a few editorials and club endorsements scattered about.  Few actually are able to spend the time to determine whether it is actually a good idea.  

And truthfully in a state of 37 million people, would it really matter if they took the time? Sure, only about 10 million people show up to vote even in a good turnout election, but the costs of the time to study the legislation for somebody making 1/10,000,000 of the decision on whether to enact the legislation are enormous. For

This is why, over the years, we left Athenian democracy behind in favor of representative democracy. It allows a few people to specialize in making decisions on what is good policy. People who have time and other resources to determine what’s in the best interests of the state.  Now, they don’t always do that because of other problems in the system. However, many of those problems could be ironed out with the overturning of Buckley v. Valeo and the complete implementation of clean money campaigns.

Now, if we were to keep the initiative system, CGS has some reasonable and desperately necessary reforms. They recommend legislative oversight, a $100K limit on donations to initiatives, more accessible voter information (YouTube voter pamphlets anyone?), and the expansion on the amount of time to circulate petitions.

These are all important reforms, but can we overcome the underlying failures of direct democracy? In other words, is the system really worth it?

As somebody who is facing the barrel of the gun of a ballot initiative, in the face of the anti-marriage initiative, I’m inclined to say no. However, that is not to say that the system is without redeeming value, it’s just the bad seems to outweigh the good.  

Community College Proposition

A proposal to increase funding for community colleges has qualified for the February ballot. Here is the title and summary:

  Establishes in state constitution a system of independent public community college districts and Board of Governors. Generally, requires minimum levels of state funding for school districts and community college districts to be calculated separately, using different criteria and separately appropriated. Allocates 10.46 percent of current Proposition 98 school funding maintenance factor to community colleges. Sets community college fees at $15/unit per semester; limits future fee increases. Provides formula for allocation by Legislature to community college districts that would not otherwise receive general fund revenues through community college apportionment. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Potential increases in state spending on K-14 education of about $135 million in 2007-08, $275 million in 2008-09, and $470 million in 2009-2010, with unknown impact annually thereafter. Annual loss of fee revenues to community colleges of about $71 million in 2007-08, with unknown impacts annually thereafter. (06-0030.)

I’m not sure where I stand on this. I have a big objection to ballot-box budgeting. It is that which has straitjacketed the legislature to the point where little of the budget is discretionary.

This further straitjackets and makes a smaller % of the budget discretionary.

At the same time, due to a decrease in K-12 school enrollment combined with Prop 98, community college funding will automatically take a dive. Community college funding should be based on community college enrollment, not K-12 enrollment. Plus, increasing community college funding would not automatically decrease K-12 funding anymore. I support pay as you go, but the legislature shouldn’t be told where to subsidize an increase in funding. So in a way, it increases straitjacketing but also decreases it

So this one is tough. What do you think?