By Garen Yegparian
Just when you thought it was safe to walk past your neighborhood polling place–it’s back–another election–courtesy of The Governator–Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.
A state–California (for those hiding under a rock cowering in fear of elections) with serious budget problems is blowing a few dozen millions of dollars on an election–instead of waiting another seven months. You’ll appreciate the irony of this bit of ‘fiscal responsibility’ when you read my recommendation on Proposition 76.
It’s tempting to recommend voting ‘no’ on all the proposed ballot measures just because of the inanity of the whole process. But that would be unfair to the two good ones on the ballot–and? nowhere near as much fun.
If this were a fairy tale–it might start:
"Once upon a time–a state was run by an increasingly dysfunctional government. While governing was never easy–it was made ever more difficult by special interests who duped people into voting for ballot measures that sounded good–but in reality screwed over the people of the state. Then came along a seemingly gallant knight riding his bright–soon-to-be-converted-to-eco-friendly-fuel–hummer. He was The Governator. But in truth–he was an evil shape-shifting-right-winger who’d taken on the form of a rational human being married to the progeny of a politically reasonable clan. He soon started swinging his bloody battle axe–but it wrought so much havoc–that even the simpering fools in the legislature developed backbones and fought back. Soon–some of the long suffering people–the few belonging to organizations with strong enough shields to confound that evil axe–joined the fray. Now stymied by citizen action–The Governator resorted to the doomsday device favored by all masters of misdirection- the ballot measure."
And that’s as far as the story’s unfolded. Now we’re at a crossroads. The people of the State of California are on the verge of allowing the closest thing to a tyrannical–personality-based government since King George’s troops were hounded from Lexington and Concord all the way to Virginia and back out to England.
Proposition 73 – NO
This measure makes it a requirement that minors inform their parents before getting an abortion. It is a CONSTITUTIONAL amendment. While it seems reasonable on the surface–you realize it’s suspicious when you consider timing–size–and–as always–who supports/opposes it. Given the propositions that follow–and who is likely to vote for them–73 becomes obvious for what it really is–a means of mobilizing al-Qaeda–er–the Base (the same religious fanatics and other reactionaries who put the current crooks in the White House). With this grouping voting–the other wicked measures have a better chance to pass–particularly if the rational people stay home in disgust over this unnecessary election. This last issue is the gravest concern of the whole affair and applies to all the rest of the measures. Now consider this. Is the state constitution the right place for something like this? I’d understand a well considered–debated–hashed out law. But adding a section of over 3000 words to an article of the constitution that has a little over 4000 words in its other 31 sections is just plain absurd on the face of it.
Proposition 74 – NO
Tries to screw already underpaid teachers by extending from two to five the number of years it takes to get tenure. I understand there are some reasonable argumen’s for making it three years–but this is the same-old sledgehammer/fly tactic employed by right wing extremists out to circumvent the legislative process. It’s also an effort to weaken a segment of the working/middle class. Remember Rev. Neumann’s tale about how the Nazis came for Jews–gays–trade unionists–etc. and he didn’t speak up in each case until? when they came for him–there was no one left to defend him. Don’t let Arnie’s right-wing puppet masters succeed in their divide and conquer strategy.
Proposition 75 – NO
Tries to screw public employee unions by creating unfair restrictions on how they can spend members’ dues in the political realm. If this is such a big deal–why aren’t corporations similarly restricted from spending their shareholders’ money and assets? It’s just another power grab. See some of the points made under 73 and 74–they apply here as well. If you look in the official voter guide at those supporting this–and the other bad–propositions–they tend to be individuals. Conversely–those opposing them tend to be representing far more people that just themselves. It’s very telling and illuminating.
Proposition 76 – NO
This one is megalomania incarnate. Not only does it stifle the state’s growth (Colorado just overturned a similar ballot measure they had passed a few years ago because the state was about to tank)–but it also empowers one person–the governor–under certain circumstances to cut any area of expenditure at his/her pleasure in the name of "fiscal responsibility." Guess who this’ll hurt most? It’s a step in the direction of extremist Grover Norquist’s ultimate dream "to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." He and those supporting these measures despite their proven failure–as in Colorado–are probably aching to get out of public service and go hunker down with some militia-type-loonies in the forests of Idaho. I mean really–who else could be–and why–so anti-government?
Proposition 77 – NO
Puts redistricting of the legislative seats in the hands of three retired judges–subject to approval by voters in statewide elections. So now–instead of having 120 biased individuals (80 Assemblymembers and 40 State Senators) fighting out the redistricting–we’re subject to the whims of three. Brilliant! Also–what happens if the voters do not pass the redistricting plan proposed by the panel? More time and money wasted–electoral instability propagated–and voter confidence weakened. Once again–just what the right-wing wants–conditions inducing people not to vote so their minority of voices can dominate. What’s more–this measure requires the first round of this new plan be implemented in time for the June 2006 primary! What a recipe for disaster–doing so in such a short period of time. All this is Texas–Tom Delay-style mid-census redistricting for presumed political gain. The whole point of redistricting has been to do it once a decade based on the results of the most recent census. Note again the right-wing skullduggery.
Proposition 78 – NO
One look at who supports this measure and its sources of advertising money tells it all. Those making money off inflated drug prices want this passed. It gives the illusion of having done something about the problem–without enacting anything with teeth. Who’re you gonna trust–the drug companies or public interest groups?
Proposition 79 – YES
One of only two good propositions this time around. It is the opposite of 78. It actually enacts enforceable discounts for medication. It allows the state to take advantage of its tremendous buying power and pass on the savings to us–the citizens. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in a market economy?
Proposition 80 – YES
The last one–finally–and also worth voting for. Even though it has some minor flaws–two aspects render it imperative. It re-regulates the electricity market–the absence of which contributed to the blackouts and fiscal raping of California five years ago. It also requires 20% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources (wind–solar–biomass–etc) by 2010. The kinks can be worked out of it by the legislature later.
Please vote on November 8.
Just when you thought it was over–I’m going to make another recommendation–for the December 6th special run-off in Orange County–CA. In what is otherwise legitimate and necessary–unlike the Governator spawned election–we have a very grotesque result. A special congressional election is being held to replace Rep. Chris Cox who has been appointed Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Unsurprisingly–a Republican led the pack of 17 contenders in the primary. He did not get the required 50%-plus-one to win outright. But astonishingly–founder of the vigilante Minutemen–Jim Gilchrist running on the American Independent Party ticket–came in second with 15%–ahead even of the Democrat. He is the type of person the right-wing of the country would like to see in power but can’t afford to shock people with just yet. I say have everyone–even Democrats–Greens–Peace and Freedom–Reform–etc–vote to place this wing-nut into office and lay bare what the future holds if people don’t wake up from their conservatism-corporatism induced stupor.
On a completely different note–I want to thank my old friend and roommate Raffy Arzouhaldjian for responding to my previous piece. It’s encouraging to know people are actually reading this stuff. Even more energizing is that someone took the trouble to reply–at great length (more than the original piece interestingly enough)–to a perceived problem in what I wrote.
He questions my linkage of Armenian reunification on our lands with the maintenance of Armenian identity in the diaspora–styling it pass idealism. I hasten to remind everyone that idealism is what set the stage for the better Armenian reality we enjoy today. And–idealism will drive progress in the future as well.
Frankly though–I was not addressing the matter Raffy correctly speaks to. Unless he believes that all or even a significant minority of the diaspora could repatriate and remain on the small segment of our homeland currently under Armenian control–then the issue of how to maintain Armenianness in the diaspora stands as a foremost concern.
To answer Raffy’s query–I do not believe that there will be a "better time" to repatriate–nor–quite simply–will there be a worse time–barring Genocide-scale events. Neither do I believe that a significant repatriation is presently viable–though the current rate is woefully inadequate. So to speak of remaining "we" is necessary–at least among those who consciously address Armenian issues i.e.–our communites’ leadership. Most people who remain in the diaspora are not doing so after conscious–Armenian-based consideration. Rather–they are simply living normally. It is NOT a conscious–adverse decision of NON-return.
To subtly bolster his contention–Raffy engages in a deft slight-of-hand by linking "redevelopment of the nation" (here I assume he means country or state) with repatriation. Now I must ask if you–my good friend–believe that engaging in the redevelopment of the two existing Armenian republics requires repatriation? What Raffy himself along with countless others are doing is exactly that through various NGO’s–investmen’s–and–most germanely to this discussion–diasporan political activity.