Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Its Hard to be a Moderate

Because moderate arguments are harder to make.

I was in a lively debate the other day defending Obama's health care plan. And it takes some time for me to defend it because there's a lot to it and my reasons for supporting it (with its flaws) are a bit complicated. In this debate, my friend suggested that if I have to spend so much time defending something, maybe it's wrong? I also sent another person an article that went on for at least 5 pages defending Obama's two years as a president, and he told me he didn't read it because if you can't sum up your position more concisely, if you have to spend that long defending a position, then there may be something wrong with it.

Because the political forces at work are trying to pull you to one extreme or the other

I feel this in my own life a lot. On most issues, I can see good points on both sides and I usually try to find ways to merge these two issues into one. When trying to determine who to vote for, I prefer people who are rationale and reasonable and who seem to have a record of working through compromise with others of different viewpoints.

But its hard because for most people really active in politics, the whole thing becomes a game. Its us verses them, a battle between good and evil. So, right now I happen I find myself being pulled to the left on some issues for very rational reasons, but as I gravitate toward these news sources, its gets easier and easier to be pulled in.

In the end, I just want to believe that most people that run are really pretty outstanding people.

Because an extreme view is just more fun to be passionate about

Gay marriage is a classical example of this. If you're against gay marriage, you are really against it because gay marriage will destroy marriage as we know it. It will depopulate the earth. It will bring about the end of life as we know it. No matter that gays have committed suicide because of bullying inspired by over the top anti-gay rhetoric. No matter that the aids epidemic killed literally thousands through the 1980's who had no institution to support them or guide them toward healthy alternatives.

If you support gay marriage then you really support it. You believe churches who speak out against it are hateful and should lose their tax exempt status.

The moderate view is harder to defend. Of course, I'll say my view is the moderate one :-).

But the church I belong to is taking a complicated view of this complex issue. We have strong religious reasons for being against gay marriage as a religion, but we also have strong religious reasons for being inclusive, compassionate, and charitable toward all.

Bottom line, this issue is complicated and attempts to make it easy tend to be wrong.

Gay marriage is just one issue. I can make the same case for schools, the environment, abortion.

Jon Stewart says it all better than me:

Rally to Restore Sanity.

Loved these quotes:
"We live now in hard times not end times. We can have animous and not be enemies. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Debates Over the Weekend

I'm slowly making my way down my sample ballot. Hopefully by this weekend (post the JDRF walk this Saturday morning, I'll compose a post with a complete set of all my picks. I'm afraid all of the research on the judges will be last minute.

Well, this weekend I watched two debates:

Harry Mitchell verses David Schweikert (and Nick Coons).

Ok, I was already decided on this issue a loong time ago, but it was still fun to watch. Last week I did a little phone canvasing for Harry Mitchell and if I would have watched this debate I would have been better on the phone.

Harry Mitchell is a true moderate Democrat - someone who is used to representing more conservative districts than the party he belongs to. In the debate he emphasized the bills he wrote and received Republican co-signers (one co-signed by Ron Paul to freeze Congressman pay raises). He also emphasizes tax cuts - especially those on capital gains and the estate.

There's also an interesting (though superficial) debate on the health care bill in this debate. Although Schweikert makes some completely wrong points on the health care bill that Mitchell doesn't do near a good enough job refuting.

Moving on to a race I'm still undecided on - the important State Mine Inspector:

The candidates are Manuel Cruz verses the incumbent Joe Hart.

They both seem extremely experienced in mining. Joe Hart is the Republican who seems to be a little more oriented toward the interest of miners and the miner companies. He wants to act like more an advocate of mining and less a regulator. Although, I do believe he is sincerely trying to close and cover dead mines (he's covered I believe 200 since being in office), and I do believe he cares about safety. He just also cares about mining as an industry - and that comes out in this debate.

Manuel Cruz is the Democrat and he's the more environmentalist candidate - someone who wants to emphasize safety regulation and mining safety. He wants to be the regulator (although I'm sure he'll advocate as well). He was extremely critical of Joe Hart on a couple of key points - particularly Hart's slow rate of closing dead mines (Hart claims resource constraints).

So, largely, I suspect that both candidates will run the office in similar ways, I also suspect that each will emphasize certain aspects of the office a bit differently.

Comically, Obamacare came up in this debate (Hart accusing Cruz of using Obamacare-like financing as a way to push his mining agenda :-) ).

I think both candidates are qualified to run this office.

The Arizona Republic endorses Joe Hart, and someone inexplicably endorses David Schweikert.

I have to say I more or less agree with the AZ Republic here on both counts (I'm still voting for Harry Mitchell and I'm leaning toward a vote for Cruz). I think the next two years is going to be (for better of for worse) about debt reduction, and David Schweikert is probably more suitable for this particular task than Mitchell.

However, the thing that worries me is if Republicans take the House (which they probably will) will have a nightmarish scenario where House Republicans hold up all kinds of stuff (including Health care reform) through endless law suits and subpoenas. Diane Rehm goes into this on today's show.

I like Mitchell, a lot and am committed to vote for him, but I probably wouldn't be tooo sad if Schweitkert won (ok, a little sad)...

(Incidentally, Schweikert's the small business owner of a real estate investment firm which given the nature of our bubble and burst in Arizona is probably not a good thing).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I'm contemplating a Democratic Party Line Vote

Just to set this up by stating the obvious :-), all but one of the elections on the ballot are state elections (or below). The one exception is the seat for US Congress. State issues parallel national ones in many ways, but also there are some important differences between the two. Unless you're Sarah Palin, foreign policy views are pretty much irrelevant (ok, for Arizona, border issues with Mexico matters - but certainly not the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq).

This website gives a break down on how Arizona spends its money - largely on education and health care (as opposed to the federal government which breaks down mostly among defense, health care and social security).

So, education and healthcare are two of the big issues state politicians must tackle.

But consider Arizona is one of the lowest states in the country on per pupil education spending and that Arizona ranks 41st in the country in overall tax state and local tax burden felt by an individual.

Over the last decade or so Arizona politics has mirrored federal. We have relied on accounting gimmicks and an unsustainable housing bubble to fuel a growth in spending demands even as we cut state and local taxes. Anecdotally, we have a race to the bottom political mentality. One example is seen whenever a big business wants to move into the valley and each city offers sweetheart tax loopholes in an effort to get the business within their city limits.

The housing boom is over and will probably not return. Arizona can still be a growth state but we need to transform our politics to something sustainable. Furthermore, education is our future, we can't endure much more in the way of cuts if we really want Arizona to remain an attractive destination for families with kids. Additionally, if we ever want to to to create a Silicon Valley clone, or something like it, we need to improve our universities.

This all takes money (I'm all for education reform but until someone can show me how great schools can be created with no resources you can't tell we don't need money), so tax hikes have got to be a part of the equation in the balanced budget debates.

But the Republican party has demogogued themselves out of tax hikes largely. They talk about how we must learn to live in a more resource constrained environment.

Jane Brewer did get a 1% sales tax proposition on the ballot which passed overwhelmingly, but if it wasn't for 1070B, she probably would have lost in the primaries at least partially because of that tax increase. So, there are definitely reasonable, smart leaders in the Republican party, but they exist in a pretty toxic political environment right now.

More examples: I probably would vote for Ken Bennett for Secretary of State (he seems like a talented, pragmatic and experienced person) if these were different times. Tom Horne probably would make a good Attorney General. Jan Brewer (assuming she's healthy) has been a decent governor (at least in the second half of her term - she had a rough/slow start). I'm torn between Duce and Cherney for treasurer.

But, ideologically, the Republican party has been stifled by an ideology dominated by tax cutting dogma that usually makes no sense (I'm not against low taxes - but what are going to live without and is it worth it).

They want to turn every issue into a debate between the markets and socialism (including schools). The results have been and will continue to be a race to the bottom for most except the truly well off who will always get access to what they desire. There is a reason why we have a growing income gap in this country.

I definitely don't want socialism. I just want greater access to schools and health care for more people. Keep most everything else private. But education is our future. We need to invest in it.

So, yes, despite some of the tough choices, I'm probably going to go Democratic in this election. The stakes are too high and right now, I don't trust the Republicans.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quick Post on the Corporation Commission

Just partially listened to the debate on Channel 8:

Sadly, one of the candidates recently passed away and to tell you the truth, he didn't look too healthy in the debate...

I don't have a huge issue with the three remaining (ok four, the libertarian candidate seemed pretty good too).

I think right now I'm leaning toward Gary Pierce and David Bradley.

I actually don't see a lot of differences between Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns, but Pierce is the encumbent and seems to know the issues better in my mind.

Bradley has a stronger emphasis on renewable energy, Pierce's focus is on keeping utility rates low.

Remember, though, the Republican party is the only party in the world that doesn't believe global warming exists.

So, I do think we have to get to clean energy, I do want folks on the corporation commission who agree with that. I do think costs are another very important factor however, and it seems like David Bradley gets that balance.

But I'm not sure you can go wrong, ultimately, with any of the three.

Full Disclosure - Gary Pierce is from Yuma - and yes I knew him, and yes, he's my facebook friend :-).

The State Propositions

My general approach to propositions, when in doubt vote No.

I actually hate the trend we have in the state to put a lot of pretty technical and complex issues on the ballot. If this is the trend, then why do we have a legislative branch? Why not get rid of it and vote for laws by ballot measure exclusively?

Its tiring and ridiculous. Having said that, I did get talked into one yes vote, but my yes is very tentative, I could easily be talked into a no.

I'm a bit torn on the union measure and on the affirmative action measure. I could be talked into a yes on either to tell you the truth.

Mostly, do, my no's are pretty firm.

The Propositions

Proposition My Vote Arizona Republic's Opinon
Brief Explanation
106: Healthcare Freedom Act for Arizona No No I strongly disagree with this - its a backdoor way to use the state constitution to weaken Obama's health care law. Federal law over-rules state law and it will waste our resources. By the way, we need mandates - everyone needs to pay for health care if we expect the guarantees we expect and demand.
Proposition 107: Arizona Civil Rights Initiative No Yes I'm soft on this one. Are we passed the need for affirmative action? I personally am not so sure.
109: Arizona Hunting and Fishing Amendment No No Making it a constitutional right to hunt and fish? Unnecessary.
110: Arizona State Trust Lands Yes Yes Seems reasonable to me.
111: Arizona Lieutenant Governor No Yes The idea is a good one, this law is poorly written - it will provide a barrier for independents to run
112: Arizona Signature Filing No Yes There are already too many initiatives on the ballot.
113: Arizona Save Our Secret Ballot No Yes I don't have a strong opinion on this (right now)..
203: Arizona Medical Marijuana Act No No This is just an excuse to make marijuana legal
301: Arizona Land Conservation Fund Transfer No No We can't balance the budget on the backs of our most precious resources. State lands need to be protected
302: Arizona First Things First Program Repeal No No And we can't balance the budget on the backs of our children.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Central Arizona Water Conservation District

Wow, today in The Arizona Republic on the front page, there is a rather disturbing article.

That basically the tea part coalition is charging into the Central Water Conservation board elections:

"Most of the tea-party-backed candidates lack experience in managing natural resources. They are campaigning almost solely on fiscal issues, arguing that the district needs to cut costs, rein in spending and reduce the property taxes levied in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties to support water deliveries in the CAP Canal."

This is incredibly disturbing on so many levels. I understand we want our government operating as efficiently as possible. But isn't it obvious that water management is a government responsibility? Clean, accessible water has to be managed responsibly especially in a desert. We can't play politics with these kind of positions.

In the words of Sharon Megdal:
"'Our board is a nonpartisan board,' said Sharon Megdal, a University of Arizona water researcher who represents Pima County on the board. 'We don't run with any party affiliation, and I think that's for a good reason. The issue of providing reliable water in a responsible manner is not a partisan issue.'"


So, here are some people NOT to vote for. These are people with no relevant experience who are running on a platform of narrow ideology:

    • Cynthia Moulton - a retired nurse

      John Rosado, a retired software engineer

      T.C. Bundy, a business consultant

      Raymond Johnson, an insurance broker

  • This is so disturbing to me.

    So, more importantly, who should you vote for:

    Well, the Arizona Republic has some recommendations.

    Here's some information on Jim Holway.

    I'm not sure who I'll vote for, but now I know who I won't be voting for.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Another Alternative to Graduate School

    Seth Godin wrote an alternative to graduate school a while back. I'm casually reading a book called "The Art of Non-Conformity and came across another less daunting alternative to graduate school in this book:

    Copied directly from the book, pages 118, 119:

    • Subscribe to the Economist and read every issue religiously.

    • Memorize the name of every country, world capital, and current president or prime minister in the world.

    • Buy a round-the-world ticket or use frequent flyer miles to travel to several major world regions, including somewhere in Africa and somewhere in Asia.

    • Read the basic texts of the major world religions: The Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and teachings of Buddha. Visit a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and a temple.

    • Subscribe to a language-learning podcast and listen to each 20-minute episode, five times a week, for the entire year. Attend a local language club once a week to practice

    • Loan money to an entrepreneur through and arrange to visit him or her while you're abroad on your big trip.

    • Acquire at least three new skills during your year. Suggestions: photography, skydiving, computer programming, martial arts. They key is not to become an expert in any of them, but to become functionally proficient.

    • Read at least 30 nonfiction books and 20 classic novels

    • Join a gym or heatlh club to keep fit during your rigorous independent studies.

    • Become comfortable with basic presentation and public speaking skills. Join your local Toastmasters club to get constructive, structured help that is beginner-friendly.

    • Start a blog, create a basic posting schedule, and stick with it for the entire year. You can get a free blog at One tip: don't try to write every day. Set a weekly or biweekly schedule for a while, and if you're still enjoying it after three months, pick up the pace.

    • Set your home page to Over the next year, every time you open your browser, you'll see a different, random wikipedia page. Read it.

    • Learn to write by listening to the Grammar Girl podcast on iTunes and buying Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

    • Instead of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, read The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs, a good summary

    You can spend one year on this for a total cost of $10,000 or less.

    Much less than a typical graduate school program and much more valuable.