Are political primaries the will of the people?

With the current heated race between Obama and Clinton, the inner workings of the primaries are becoming more public and being talked about in the paper and on the news. Prior to this year, I personally had no idea how the primaries worked. So, if you vote in the primary, your candidate may or may not be your party’s candidate, even if he or she receives a majority of the popular vote. First off, the delegates (which is OK as it is supposed to be representative of the people) aren’t required to vote for the people that they represented. Second, there are “super delegates” that can vote for whoever they want. These super delegates are random people (some important, some ordinary). Third, “the party” can make deals and put up whoever it wants (“the party” being the important people in the party). Fourth, “the party” can make up its own rules on who can vote. For instance, the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries don’t count because they were held before “the party” wanted them held.

So, does your vote count? Got me. Yesterday when we were coming out of Target, someone registering voters said, “are you registered to vote?”. My flippant response was “unfortunately”. Why did I say that? I find it hard to believe in our political system when in this day and time, we can’t have a true democracy. How hard is it to get the total number of votes and elect someone? We could get this mess over with very quickly by letting each candidate lay out his or her plans and views, have a few rounds of questions submitted via the Internet, and then have people vote. We could do the entire election for a few million bucks and take the tens of millions spend on campaigning and help to finance the public debt or even attempting to balance the budget.

Proposed Tax Rebates send the wrong message

President Bush’s proposed tax rebates send the wrong message in my opinion to the American people. The rebates stop if you earn a certain amount of income which might be fine, but the purpose of the rebates is to get people to spend money. Americans already have a negative savings rate and this tax rebate (if it is to work as designed) sends the message that people who get it should spend the money instead of save it. Those who earn less money already have a hard time saving money; something should be done to encourage people to save and use credit wisely.

This poor plan didn’t seem to go over with Wall Street as it is doing too little to late. I think it is a complete waste of $185 billion dollars that our government doesn’t have anyway. While I don’t have a fix for this recession, getting those that can’t afford to spend more money to spend money by giving them a rebate is not helping anyone. This is completely politically motivated and unfortunately, those that fall for it and think that it is going to help, just don’t know any better.

While I’m not a fan of Mike Huckabee, his tax plan is interesting in that it taxes what you spend thereby (in a little way) encouraging people to save. We need more saving and less spending.

Politicians should be examples

As I was driving home from the airport, I was stopped at the light to turn on Pacific Highway when I see a minivan making a right turn. I looked at the license plate and saw that it was K6JVM; license plates like these are the call letters for an amateur radio license. While I know my own call sign, I don’t know too many other people’s call signs (I know Phil Karn’s, KA9Q as I worked with some of his code years ago and he got me interested in Linux), I happen to know that this call sign belongs to the city council member representing our district, Jim Madaffer. He was yapping on his cell phone making the turn with one hand while his other hand was on the phone.

I know that the hands free law doesn’t go into effect this summer for cell phones and that it is a state law, not one that he had anything to do with, but I think it would set a good example for our elected politicians to do the safe and responsible thing when it comes to driving while talking…use a handsfree device, if you MUST talk.

Illegal Immigration vs. Speeding

My views on illegal immigration keep shifting, but after a discussion I had yesterday, I think I have nailed down my position (at least for now). It is quite apparent that the US economy wouldn’t survive without undocumented (illegal) workers. How many of the former auto works would go out in the fields and do backbreaking work to pick crops? How many would do the low paying jobs just to survive? There are so many industries that undocumented workers take jobs that no one else wants. We should be grateful that they’re there to fill in the gaps.

We know that coming over the border illegally is a crime and working in our country without proper documentation is also a crime, but how bad a crime is it? People speed all the time; that’s a crime and if caught, people pay a fine (if they speed too fast, they might goto jail) and that’s the end of it. The comprehensive immigration reforms packages have proposed that people pay a fine and then they’re on their way to a legal status. What’s wrong with this? Some critics say that illegal immigrants commit crimes. A large majority of them don’t, so why punish everyone?

Let’s get realistic about immigration. Sending undocumented workers back is not an option. There must be a way that “we can all just get along”. I’m not saying reward those that commit a crime of coming here illegally, but make the punishment fit the crime; who is the crime hurting? If there are specific requirements, i.e. learn English, have no criminal history, have a job, etc., then what is the harm in accepting them into this country?

Flip-flopping is the sign of intelligence

Some candidates in the current presidential race (and prior races) have been accused of flip-flopping their positions on various topics. The media and other candidates make this out to be a bad thing.

We make lots of decisions every day; some good, some bad. We also take up positions on various topics all the time. All of our decisions and positions are based on the information available at the time of the decision. If we gain more information or the information turns out to be false, our decisions and positions may change. Anyone that periodically re-evaluates these is, to me, an intelligent person and if he/she changes a position or reverses a decision, it shows that he/she is unafraid to admit that the original decision or position may not have been correct.

While I don’t regret many decisions I’ve made nor do my positions on topics usually change, sometimes they do. If I were to run for political office, I might be called a flip-flopper and my reply would be “Thank you”!

(I don’t endorse ANY candidate and as a non-partisan voter who didn’t pick either the Democratic or American Independent parties primary ballot, I didn’t vote for any candidate in the primaries; yes, I already sent in my ballot.)

Scary presidential candidates

Lately the news (NBC Nightly News is what we watch) has been talking about the Republication candidates for president and has said that while Giuliani is the front runner, the conservative base has no clear candidate. They keep bringing Pat Buchanan in to say that conservative Christians have no clear candidate. Basically this means that no candidate has the same views on the 2 issues that appear to matter to them, abortion and gay marriage. Am I missing something or is that all they talk about? I find it ridiculous to vote for anyone just to vote along party lines or for 2 issues as there are so many issues affecting our country. While I’m not a Republican (nor am I a Democrat), Giuliani (and for that matter Schwarzenegger, though he can’t run for president), don’t really scare me because they seem to stand up for what they believe and don’t just do what their parties say they should do.

I have no idea how things will turn out next year, but I want a president that can think (we clearly don’t have that now), and one that isn’t a puppet for his or her party.

Made in China, the ultimate warning label

Yesterday I took Marley (our dog) to the vet because of some redness on his belly (yes, I realize we keep taking Marley to the vet, but he’s our first “child”). As I was talking to the vet, I mentioned we just bought him some Kingdom Pets chicken jerky treats at Costco. The vet said that they were made in China and he stopped giving his own dogs anything made in China. When I got home, I looked at the package and sure enough, it is made in China. Looks like the treats go back to Costco (luckily they take just about anything back; I just have to pull up the receipt from ReceiptWallet and print it). Looks like it is back to Trader Joe’s peanut butter treats (as long as they aren’t made in China).To top off my day with Chinese made products, I was grilling dinner and ran out of propane. Why is this a Chinese product issue? I had purchased an electronic gas gauge that shows me if my propane tank is full or needs refilling. As I was grilling, I ran out of gas despite the gauge saying that the tank was full. Yes, the gauge was made in China. That goes back to Costco, as well.

No wonder governments are so inefficient

I went to send a complaint to my local councilman and visited his Web site. He had a contact form, so I filled it out to complain that vegetation has become overgrown on a stretch of sidewalk that we use making it more difficult to walk our dog and push our son in his stroller. I hit the submit button multiple times using Safari and nothing happened. I went to Firefox, filled out the form and something happened. “Page Not Found”. Wow, that’s great. So I looked at the source and whoever worked on the page had uncommented the line for the testing server and commented out the line for the production server, thereby causing the form to goto a server that would appear to be only accessible internally.

So I sent email and got an auto-response. It was a pleasant auto-response that had a paragraph in it that disturbed me:

You have been automatically added to receive via email our eNewsletter
that keeps you up to date on issues in our community and the City. The
eNewsletter is sent once a month and contains information on things
going on.

That’s great. There was no unsubscribe link and I didn’t ask to be subscribed to a newsletter. Isn’t that in violation of the CAN-SPAM act? Or are government officials exempt? Or since I sent email, that automatically meant I agreed to receiving crap? I made the mistake of using my regular email address; damn. I would just block email from the city, but I receive email from CERT.

What’s better if you look at past newsletters, there is a link to update your preferences; it doesn’t work.

Thanks Mr. Councilman!

Military security?

At today’s marathon, the finish line was at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. As part of being on base, all bags were subject to search and weapons were not allowed. My dad forgot that he had his Swiss Army Knife in his pocket and had to go back to his car to drop it off; that’s fine, but the policy of “weapons” is not evenly applied. At the start line, runners could check gear in “gear check” bags; I had zip tied my bag closed and all bags were transported on UPS trucks to MCRD. While the bags were clear, it is quite easy to conceal stuff in the bags and they were never searched. So after I got my bag, I couldn’t open it and asked a vendor if he had a pair of scissors. He gladly said yes and cut the zip tie off my bag. Are scissors not a weapon? Furthermore, how many of the vendors had box cutters to open up their boxes? Most likely all of them.

It’s a good thing that nothing really exciting happens at MCRD. At friend of ours is a civilian contractor at MCRD and he said that they don’t have weapons or anything interesting on the base, except for the weapons that the military police carry (some had pistols, others had some type of automatic rifles).