Geoff Geis


My ballot

Tomorrow, I will vote for a new governor and a United States Senator (I’ll also vote for a member of the House of Representatives, but that’s boring). I’ll also cast my vote on the statewide ballot propositions, despite my opposition to the proposition system itself. This is how I will vote in the most important races:

Governor: Jerry Brown. People have been “down on Brown” because he’s a cynical career politician. I’m excited about him, though! He’s had the job before, and his age means that he’s not going to try to use the governorship as a stepping stone for something greater. Maybe – just maybe – he can make important-but-unpopular decisions without fearing electoral backlash. I like his personal candor; perhaps he’s cynical, but he seems honestly cynical and very much “alive” as a personality. He reminds me of Joe Biden, my initial candidate for president in 2008.

When Brown was governor he spoke out against Proposition 13 – the law that says that all budgets and tax increases must be approved by 2/3 of the legislature or the electorate.  While it is unfortunately not within the governor’s power to repeal the proposition (although he can certainly advocate its repeal from his bully pulpit), Meg Whitman supports the proposition and has even attempted to use Brown’s stance against him. Proposition 13 is the single most destructive piece of legislation in California history, and it must be repealed for our state to have any chance for survival into the future.

Also, Meg Whitman seems grossly unqualified for the job.

Senator: Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been a leader in the Senate for years, and she’s part of a Democratic Party that needs to retain control of the Senate in order to counterbalance the wave of reactionaries that are predicted to conquer the House.

Also, Carly Fiorina seems grossly unqualified for the job.

Proposition 19: No. I support the legalization of marijuana, which should never have been illegal in the first place. I also support tax revenues for the state. Proposition 19, however, ought to be defeated.

The first reason that I can’t go with Proposition 19 is its defiance of federalism. I believe in secessionism – despite the Civil War, I think that states should be able to leave the Union if they feel that it no longer benefits them to be a part of it. I do not, however, support nullification. Our federal system is based upon a balance-of-power between national, state, and local governments – a hierarchy that was decided well before California chose to be a part of the United States. If a state believes that it is in its self-interest to be part of the federal system, then it must defer to federal law. Defiance of federal law by individual states weakens the efficacy of the entire system.

If California attempts to nullify federal law by popular vote with Proposition 19, it would create a bad precedent. If the federal government were to let such a law stand without challenge, then it would tacitly give the right to states around the country to amend federal laws whenever their whim directed them to do so. Texas, for example, could nullify the part of federal law that says that school children should not receive religious indoctrination in schools. Alabama could nullify laws that ensure the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies. Montana could repeal assault weapons bans, and Arizona could repeal federal anti-discrimination laws.

Large amounts of people in those states would agree with those policies, just like so many people in California want to legalize weed. The strength of the federal system may mean that California potheads should be cautious and keep their weed in the trunk while driving (which is pretty much the only time that anyone ever gets in trouble for pot in this state), but it also keeps stupid people in other places from doing terrible things that harm their citizens. Worthwhile trade? I think so.

Yet the passage of Prop 19 wouldn’t actually weaken the federal government — it would merely challenge it to act. The Obama Administration is well aware of the Constitutional ramifications of allowing Proposition 19 to go into effect, and Attorney General Eric Holder has already stated that the administration will fight it. There will be a federal injunction to delay the law’s inaction, and it will be backed up by DEA officers on the ground in California with license to arrest entrepreneurial citizens who are taking advantage of the new law. California will hardly become the Amsterdam-like wonderland that some people are anticipating. There’s a possibility, in fact, that things might actually become more difficult for pot smokers in the state as the federal government attacks growers and distributors.

Those negatives aside, there don’t seem to be tangible benefits that would come from Prop 19.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law last month that reduced marijuana possession to an infraction, not a misdemeanor. That move removes the argument that Prop 19 will save the state money in legal processing and incarceration fees, and it also plays against the argument that marijuana laws are used to facilitate racial profiling (I admit that it doesn’t completely solve that problem, but if police forces are racist they will find a way to profile people with or without marijuana prohibition).

The other supposed benefit of Prop 19 is that it will bring tax revenues to the state. Yet the law doesn’t actually specify any statewide plan for taxation – rather, it leaves that to municipalities. Cities will be in competition with each other to attract new marijuana businesses, and one of the main bargaining chips they’ll have will be in the form of tax rates. If somehow Prop 19 survives federal challenges and actually legalizes weed, then cities that want pot farms and marijuana tourism will levy negligible taxes to attract them to town and the state will see little-to-nothing in terms of tax money.

Proposition 20: Yes. Gerrymandering is a real problem. Prop 20 is good for democracy in the state.

Proposition 21: Yes. I thought about this one a lot. As opponents of the proposition have said, it is a de facto new tax. In 2010, are our state parks really the top priority for a new tax? No, I can’t say that they are. What I can say, however, is that I would gladly pay $18 a year to get free admission to all of the state parks. And I can also say that these beautiful natural wildlife refuges ought to be insulated so that they don’t get destroyed by opportunists during this years-long budgetary crisis that is not likely to conclude soon.

Proposition 22: No. This bill would hamper the state’s ability to raise money in times of emergencies. The state is already so restricted when it comes to raising funds that it makes no sense to restrict it further. Sometimes I wonder if the people who write these propositions are actually hoping for California’s collapse.

Proposition 23: No. Prop 23 is probably the worst thing on the ballot this year. It is short-sighted, and it will benefit no one but predatory oil companies in other states that don’t want lose customers in California. “Going green” will require much hard work and structural change in this state, but suspending our efforts to do so for short-term economic gains will only damage our economy and our environment for the future.

Proposition 24: Yes. Over the last few years, the state legislature has passed some fairly ridiculous tax breaks that help big businesses to defray their costs in the state. This measure would repeal them. The LA Times editorial board said to vote against this one because initiatives aren’t the right way to change decisions by the legislature – their argument was that it was “micromanagement.” I agree with their argument, but I’m still voting yes. Why? I believe that the initiative system itself is micromanagement, and a dangerous bastardization of representative democracy. But it’s also the law of the land in California. Unfortunately, with both the initiative system and Proposition 13 in place and not looking like they’ll be gone anytime soon, the “wrong way” to make changes in our state is sometimes also the “only way.”

Proposition 25: Yes! I’m enthusiastically in favor of this proposition, which will end the super-majority needed to pass budgets in this state. This begins to peel away some of the restrictions from Prop 13, and it’s good progress even though it doesn’t go far enough (our government still won’t be able to raise taxes without a super-majority).

Proposition 26: No. This would require a super-majority for certain state and local fees that are now done the proper way, through a regular majority. Obviously I hate it.

Proposition 27: No. Oh, the proposition system sucks so hard! Prop 27 would undo Prop 20 if they were both to pass. What a great illustration of the stupidity inherent in our system.


Filed under: Human Interest, , , , , , ,

6 Responses

  1. Rich says:

    I didn’t read past 19, but I’m just gonna go Godwin’s Law off the bat:

    “National Socialism must claim the right to impose its principles on the whole German nation, without regard to what were hitherto the confines of federal states… The National Socialist doctrine is not handmaid to the political interests of the single federal states. One day it must become teacher to the whole German nation. It must determine the life of the whole people and shape that life anew. For this reason we must imperatively demand the right to overstep boundaries that have been traced by a political development which we repudiate.”

  2. D_B_T says:

    I’d be interested to read a post explaining your position against the initiative system and the reasoning behind what alternative, if any, you’d replace it with.

    • Geoff Geis says:

      I think that I explain myself pretty well in this post, from June:

      I would replace the propositional system with a standard legislature, with districts drawn by an independent council to reduce gerrymandering, and no “super-majorities” required for anything.

      • D_B_T says:

        Ah, yes you do. I mostly agree. I don’t know exactly how or what, but I definitely think their should be some formal method of groups of citizens to present suggestions to representatives which potentially have binding effects.

        Of course, if a representative ignores constituents, they could simply not vote him in again. But I feel like the case for eliminating the proposition system can be applied almost exactly to electing representatives as well… in general, people simply aren’t informed enough to do that intelligently.

        To help remedy that, I support mandated public funding of candidates with equal debate and press time for each who has qualified for the ballot. The media would be legally required to provide balanced coverage of each candidate’s perspectives, as a part of their responsibility to society.

        Yeah, like that’ll ever happen…

        Ironically, the Green Party candidate for governor, Laura Wells, was arrested a few weeks back while trying to simply attend a debate between Whitman & Brown, which she had properly acquired a ticket for. Her court date was set for today, November 2nd. Clearly a big “fuck you” to third parties.

  3. Geoff Geis says:

    Yeah, I heard about Laura Wells and it seems pretty wrong… I wish that the debates were officially a part of the process, rather than an optional thing. Perhaps then the state could mandate inclusion of the 2 or 3 most visible third party candidates in at least one of the debates. obviously it’s important to let the truly viable candidates go face-to-face, but keeping outsiders from even speaking is counterproductive…

    Yeah, you’re right that citizens in general don’t do a good job electing people; even when they elect the right people, they seem to do it for the wrong reasons (“the magic obama man is going to give me hope and change!”). at least with the representative system, though, the people we elect have some time to read proposed laws and make considered decisions upon them — decisions that are often colored by the opinions of the foolish electorate but… well, at least it’s something…

    mmm. it’s easy to get disenchanted with the whole thing; listening to the tea partiers give acceptance speeches across the nation tonight was definitely deflationary…

    i don’t disagree, on principle, that citizens should be able to present suggestions with “binding effects.” suggestion boxes don’t do the trick… but our system doesn’t effectively do that. within it, propositions just become another game of who has the most cash and the most hyperbolic argument…

    I’d still get rid of the status quo, but i should qualify that with acknowledgment that pure representative democracy would be hardly perfect.

    i’ve wondered if it might make sense to split california into two or more new states, to give us more direct relationships with our statewide officials. not a fix-all, but perhaps a good start?

    • D_B_T says:

      There’s nothing wrong with one on one debates, but I think the label of “viable” as used today to refer to candidates is purely a result of our current election system. If certain election reforms were enacted, such as public financing, required air time, IRV, etc. (which I feel are much more fair and extremely important in getting various perspectives about the issues to be addressed, even if third parties still never win) then there would be more “viable” candidates running because the system wouldn’t be so frontloaded towards Dems & Reps from the beginning.

      As for at least having time to read proposed legislation, one might wish that were the case but historically it’s not been quite like that on tons of important matters. Which is why, for example, Ron Paul has sponsored a law called the “Sunlight Rule” which simply requires that pieces of legislation be introduced no later than 10 days before holding a vote, and amendments no later than 72 hours prior, merely to give legislators an opportunity to read what they’re voting on. Logical, yet for some reason not entirely popular….

      Splitting California is an interesting concept. I have never really thought about it in depth. It would be a massive undertaking to achieve in any case though, that’s for sure.

      In general I feel like we should be really focused on our super local representatives (city, county officials), and if we had a good relationship with them it would in some ways naturally transfer through them up to the further removed officials.

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This is Soft Sailors! We're a new band from Los Angeles. We don't have any upcoming shows scheduled, but you can hear us online:

Also, here are some solo songs I've uploaded recently to Soundcloud. I'm playing solo July 19th at the Pickle Factory at 647 Lamar Street in Los Angeles and September 1st at Los Globos in LA for a KCHUNG benefit.

In 2011, I released my first solo album, Princess. You can listen to it and download it on Bandcamp:

From 2005 until 2011, I was in the band Pizza! This is our album We Come From the Swamp:

From 2008-2010, I was in the band Big Whup. Here's one of our songs that I sang, called "Cover My Eyes:"

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