Thursday, January 25, 2007

What I believe, an overview.

What I want is a government that's out of my bedroom and my body. I want drugs, public and broadcast nudity, consensual adult sodomy, sex toys and other victimless "crimes" to be legal, but I'm comfortable with some regulation of drugs and prostitution, and a pot tax can take a cue from the various taxes on alcohol.

I'd pardon people only in prison on drug-use and non-violent trafficking charges to get an immediate more than factor of two reduction in the federal prison population, eventually resulting in large reductions in spending on prisons, administration, and or own overseas efforts to reduce drug creation.

I would impose a life sentence without possibility of parole for anyone convicted twice of childhood sexual abuse.

I'm okay with the death penalty in theory, but practice and the excellent work of the Innocence Project has proven that in practice the failure rate is far too high.

I want a right to privacy, and I think it's hiding, unprovably, under the Ninth Amendment. Unprovably, that is, to anyone who hasn't read the history of that amendment, a presumption of individual liberty is a clear requirement of a strict reading of the Ninth and its history.

I want the right to a fair trial.

I believe in search warrants given by judges.

I believe in habeas corpus, unlike the Attorney General of the United States.

I'd impeach any federal judge, including those on the Supreme Court, who couldn't answer "If the Ninth Amendment wasn't supposed to do anything, why was it so important to the framers?" but who still supports the current USSC interpretation of that amendment.

I agree in most respects with the decision in Roe v. Wade.

I'm a believer in free trade and competition in general, and yet know that externalities and monopolies can bullocks a competitive system and make real regulation necessary (which leads me to be more interested in regulating pharmacies than pharma manufacturers). I think NAFTA was probably more of a good than a bad.

I'd legally mandate a limit to the markup pharmacies could charge anyone for pharmaceuticals, moreover, I'd require that their pricing be identical for all customers, there's no need for the uninsured to pay more.

I want a balanced budget almost every year and would support a well-thought out Constitutional amendment to enforce it but to give a reasonable escape clause. I'm not against lower taxes if we can do everything else within this constraint, but we have to pay down the debt and soon, interest rates are low now, and when they get high, the payments on that debt will get even more prohibitive, and they already take the place of money we could be spending on doing real good. Hurt now, win later.

I want strong but well-thought out environmental laws, I want a higher CAFE (corporate-average fuel economy) and a higher gas tax, national parks, and clean air—but I also know that MTBE was a big mistake and that ethanol takes more energy to produce and transport than it ends up generating in fuel. I think reduced gasoline consumption and incentives for insulating houses could make a small but real dent on our energy needs, as could nuclear energy based on something like but not precisely the French model. As scary as nuclear power is, and it is, the dangers of coal and oil are very real as well.

ANWR becomes a National Park.

I'd probably okay limits on asbestos liability for the fifty-year-old claims. People didn't always understand how bad asbestos was, good faith and reasonable effort is a defense against liability in my book, and the costs of that litigation continuing has and continues to produce real economic damage, year after year.

I'm okay with some gun registration and instant background and ID checks (instant would only work for previously registered owners, of course). But, I'm also happy for some guy in Texas to machine-gun his 50-year-old washing machine in his back yard, or dynamite tree trunks, so I'd eliminate the pointless swiss-cheese regulation of the assault-weapon ban.

Equal rights are an essential, a "can't wait for it" must--for gender identity, for sex, orientation, etc. I'd prefer to do away with legal marriage entirely and replace it with a more a la carte streamlined set of legal benefits, calling the whole shebang civil union, and make those arrangements blind to number and gender. It's fine with me if they confer no direct tax benefits, which would simplify quite a bit.

While I want a strong defense I'm also tired of paying the bills for Europe, Japan, Canada, Taiwan.... A combination of history and tariffs mean that US citizens subsidize their defense, food, and pharmaceuticals, I'd start addressing problem immediately by pulling many US forces out of Europe. It ain't just Europe of course, it's also Japan, it's also Taiwan, it's also Canada.

I'd allow drug reimportation, despite how much the effects that would have on phrama R&D worry me.

I'm tempted to think the Middle East is an insolvable puzzle of hatred, and I admit to no clue about what directly to do there in general.

While people talk about the contribution of things like tax rates to the fair or unfair distribution of income, it is my belief that differential respect for and investment in education is a primary cause of income disparity, and in particular, the lack of respect for and investment in education is a leading cause in poverty. This problem is in some ways more societal than political, but good investment in education is essential. I'm not convinced the current administrative structure for schools (local school boards, lots and lots of little school districts each partially separately funded by property tax revenue) produces a fair result in terms of the quality of education for poor children vs. rich children. I think that NCLB requirements for student testing are problematic, but do support the idea of trying to measure, even imperfectly, the results of education, paying top dollar for excellent teachers, and firing the ones who don't live up to standards.

I'm willing to believe that a good system of school vouchers might offer the right incentives to create good learning environments in some localities, and would work with and experiment with those ideas, if we can keep the dollars from teaching religions to children using public funds.

As someone who works helping women learn to defend themselves, I've seen first-hand the damage done to people I care about (women and men) by sexual, physical and emotional abuse. The epidemic of abuse must stop, the costs, even just the financial costs, are far larger than most people would imagine. For this reason, as part of our educational system we'll replace part of physical education with versions of the training done by Impact, teaching kids that their right to protect themselves matters, teaching them that their safety matters, teaching them how to defend themselves, how to avoid attacks, and most of all, teaching them that they do have some ability to take care of themselves.

Good sex education will be mandatory. Abstinence will be an option, safer sex will also be an option. Discussion of STDs will be graphic and pictorial.

Teaching the science of evolutionary history, including reasonable scientific debate, will be mandatory.

Tax subsidies for charitable organizations will be eliminated for any organization which uses funds for political lobbying for any purpose. This applies to property tax exemptions as well, which will be given to non-profits in all cases without regard to whether or not the organization is religious or not. There will be a three-year warning period for this change due to the size of its effects.

Programs on television will be rated for their level of organized, religious content, to help parents who wish to avoid having their children programmed by that corrupting influence.

Right now we have so much debt I can't completely support tax cuts, as much as I do believe that lower tax rates (although still progressive) have a real economic benefit. I'd look towards simplification of the tax code, including a 5-10-year phase-out and elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. The mortgage interest deduction "subsidizes the American dream of home ownership", but does enormous environmental damage in sprawling suburban masses (compare American to European cities to see my point), in long commutes, in traffic, in pollution, in the loss of open land. This sounds progressive (since rich people have houses), but as the deduction applies to landlords and such it's not so much progressive or regressive as just a tax increase.

I support the elimination of capital gains and dividend taxes, but only when we also make that change progressiveness and revenue-neutral by a balancing increase in the higher marginal tax rates for middle- and high-income earners. The reasoning for this is far too long to fit in this post.

I'd eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Either deductions make sense, or they don't. The practical reality of the alternative minimum tax is that tax law is so complex I've seen folks make mistakes that cost them most of their life savings because the law was too complex. Again, adjust regular tax deductions, credits, and rates to make this elimination revenue-neutral.

I will admit in my "out loud voice" that Social Security will fail as it currently exists, as it certainly will, and make plans for its failure that don't entirely screw people my age and younger. Raising the retirement age to 75 would be a good first step. I won't lie to you by calling "Social Security" a "trust fund" unless I have a deeply sarcastic tone of voice. I won't lie to you by hiding the upcoming costs it will present "off the books."

I'd phase out sugar subsidies, and (at least in part) many other forms of agricultural subsidy. Taxes on resources extracted by companies from public lands would be subject to a minimum tax of ten percent of the market value of the extracted resource. This includes water in Hetch Hetchy, timber, grazing rights, and more.

Bans and limitations of direct shipments of alcohol between states will be removed, the current patchwork of laws only serves to subsidize middlemen. For example, a winery in California can directly ship wine to adult consumers in Texas, but not in (say) Oklahoma. Oklahomans can get the wine, they just have to pay someone with a license to buy it for them. Fix this.

Old-growth redwood logging stops now.

I'd implement a national tax on water use above a certain reasonable baseline level, requiring the installation of water meters in places like Sacramento (where water is not metered, you're simply charged by the household.) Ditto agricultural water users, based on acres-planted.

I'd burn the INS down and start from scratch. It's an embarrassment.

I want fairer distribution of federal funds to states. California is getting hosed.

I want a system of proportional representations, and eliminate the representational bias in the Senate towards smaller states, either by a reformation of system, or by dividing the country up into eight-to-twelve roughly equally sized states. 201 representatives and 50-60 Senators would be fine, in the theory of "That government which governs least, governs best."

To combat gerrymandering, I'd specify a set of objective criteria for quantifying the "goodness" of a proposed set of districts, that set of criteria would then be cast in stone, and future redistrictings would be chosen by selecting the best proposed district scheme, from any source, given those criteria, as modern GIS systems make DIY-gerrymandering something you can accomplish on your home PC. Preserving existing districts would not be an allowed criteria, geographic convexity of districts and equal-population districts would be significant and positive criteria. I'm open to debate on the proper role of demographic homogeneity in districts.

Finally, bisexual, long-haired, blog-addicted nature photographers living in San Jose will be grossly oversubsidized.

What this is.


This is my political soapbox, and hopefully a place where facts can be brought to air to refine or even rebut my own political beliefs. I'm a self-described political "whacko", with a set of beliefs that tend to drive philosophical purists crazy, my politics are a combination of sweet pragmatism and idealism, spicy engineered solutions to the problems of society that honor a deep respect for the core needs of individual freedom and liberty, the tart importance of environmental protection, and salty goodness of rationality. As you'll see, these delightful flavors combine into a cocktail whose whole exceeds the sum of its parts.

In my next post, I'll pen an overview of these beliefs to give you a better sense of their flavor.