Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oh, dear God...

China attempts The Fatal Conceit

You know, it must really be hard being the Chinese government right now. You go and tick off half the world through top-down command-and-control economic and military policy, have such a level of dereliction of human rights as a matter of course that Amnesty International contemplates regime change, have a cultural tradition that seems straight out of a Disney World exhibit, and yet somehow the international community puts you in charge of putting on one of the biggest shows in the world, the Summer Olympic Games.

And then the dark clouds roll in. What's a totalitarian state to do?

Of course -- Attempt to alter the weather!

With an army of civilian operators with particulate-matter-belching artillery, the Chinese government hopes to get the clouds to expend themselves before getting to Beijing, allowing the opening ceremonies to go off without a hitch. At least, that's the plan.

At this point, all it seems to be doing is proving the megalomania of the country's leaders.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A (State) Constitutional Poison Pill

This most recent application of rule by bureaucratic fiat is brought to you, once again, by the State of California and, more specifically, Attorney General Jerry Brown. Go figure.

After the California State Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal under the state's Constitution, opponents of gay marriage have put forth a petition to put Proposition 8 on the ballot, which would amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage. So far, so straightforward.

Enter Jerry Brown.

The Attorney General is responsible, in most states, for approving the language used on the ballot to describe various proposals that have been placed up for vote by petition. Jerry Brown, however, may have crossed boundaries (as well as wires) in coming up with his most recent plan.

If at first you don't like the proposal, apparently, change the ballot language.

The language for Proposition 8, as was suggested by petition circulators: "Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

As changed by Brown, it takes a bit more (er, a lot more) pointed of a turn: "Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to state and local governments."

Of course, the "eliminate right" part rankles some, although still is relatively accurate, even if the "right" was only created out of whole cloth recently on the part of the judiciary.

What bugs me, obviously, is the "Fiscal Impact" statement.

Last I checked, Jerry Brown was an absolute failure as a former Governor as well as a former Mayor of Oakland, yet he somehow ended up as the state AG (more than likely because he got the Democratic nomination; few Republicans win statewide office in CA). He is not an economist, or particularly well-versed in fiscal matters (as if the "former California Governor" thing wasn't a dead giveaway enough). Yet why would he sign off on a statement with ultimately no clear impact, just a handful of weasel words?

I have no problems with a state AG modifying ballot proposal language to more clearly illuminate the issues being addressed, but to inject personal opinion to it one way or another is unconscionable.

What I would like to see is, no more and no less, a word-for-word layout of the wording intended to be put in the state Constitution, and let the voters decide. I don't care about the logistics of it, or the amount of reading this may require; an informed voter is an informed voter. Obviously, I also do not have much faith in the state's Department of Finance, who draw up the impact statements. (This "unknown millions in costs" statement also appears in Proposal 2, an animal-rights-led farm reform proposal, Proposal 4, a bill to require parental notification for a minor's abortion, and Proposal 9, a victim's rights proposal requiring victim notification and opportunity for input in sentencing, probation, and/or parole hearings.)

Having one miserable wretch of a career politician substitute his own preferences for the task of accurately presenting a ballot initiative to the voters is not only unconscionable, but a dereliction of his duties as California Attorney General.