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Grant Park, Ventura, Oct 2012

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Berning Illusions: Why Sanders Can’t Concede to the Clinton Democrats

The Democratic party has become the Corporate party, but we still might help change that.—Progressive Dreams

3 Ways the Media Has Failed Our Democracy in Covering the Election

It's not just Fox News — mainstream news organizations have betrayed the public's trust this election season.—Alternet

Patently Absurd Logic on Budget Deficits and Debt

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Poverty is fueled by policy

"The failure of wages to grow for the vast majority is the leading reason why progress in reducing poverty has stalled over the last three-and-a-half decades." —Economic Policy Institute

Your net worth has tanked. Thank a Republican

Their "Get Obama at any cost" tactics have made our economic position far worse—AFL-CIO

Americans know squat about military spending

Americans are consistently misinformed about the amount we spend on the military--and many don't like the truth when they hear it.—Alternet

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California November 2012 Ballot Propositions

Here we are again at another historic crossroads, with the fate of California and quite possibly the world in our hands, but it sure beats letting someone else decide for us.

California was the first state in the union to grant ourselves an initiatiave process whereby citizens can enact legislation without going through the legislature. Since then, about half of the united states have caught on to the idea, but ours is still the most powerful, and while right wing pundits decry and ridicule California's government, calling it fundamentally broken, most Californiains would prefer to make our own mistakes than live with the consequences of someone elses.

We present for you here, Novotopia's independent guide to California's November 2012 propositions, with links to the official voter guide, text of the legislation, official budget analysis, funding information, opinion articles and more.

Please use it wisely.

Proposition 30 - Temporary Taxes to Fund Education and local Safety

The biggest initiative question on the ballot this election is the 30 vs 38 vs No New Taxes question. Republicans generally and Tea Partiers definitely oppose all new taxes, and that is precisely why the state is so deep in debt.

Remember: the quicker we pay off our debts, the less they cost in the long run.

Democrats and independents will be choosing whether to protect education from further cuts or pay off the debt more directly while spreading the tax around a little more. Only one of these two initiatives can win, because both 30 and 38 contain language specifying that if both pass, only the one receiving the most votes will prevail.

Prop 30Prop 38

Increases income taxes for seven years, on a sliding scale by 1% for those with annual earnings over $250,000 to 3% for earnings over $500,000.

Increases income taxes for twelve years, on sliding scale by .4% for those with annual earnings over $7,316 to 2.2% for individuals earning over $2.5 million.

Increases sales and use tax by cent for four years.

No sales tax increase.

  • Allocates these tax revenues with 89% to K12 schools and 11% to community colleges.
  • Bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are to be spent.
  • Directs other state funds back to the counties to help pay for the prison system realignment that began earlier this year.
  • During first four years, allocates 60% of the added revenue to K12 schools, 30% to repaying state debt, and 10% to early childhood programs. Thereafter, allocates 85% of revenues to K12 schools, 15% to early childhood programs.
  • Provides K12 funds on school-specific, per-pupil basis, subject to local control, audits, and public input.
  • Prohibits state from directing new funds.

Raises about $6 billion annually for four years.

Raises roughly $10billion annually in initial years, tending to grow over time for the 12 year duration of the tax.

Novotopia's take on this question is that another round of teacher lay-offs will only increase unemployment and put more pressure on pension systems while increasing class sizes and reducing our state's economic strength. If education is really all we have left to cut, then we've cut our government as much as we can without causing bigger problems and it's time to stop. Cutting fat is one thing, cutting education is more like cutting our wrists.

We gave Arnold Schwarzenegger seven years to root out waste in government and all he gave us was accounting tricks, more debt and a tattered school system. The promised jobs and investment never materialized because the thesis was fundamentally flawed.

Cutting taxes doesn't spur the economy, it chokes it. Tax cuts lead to budget cuts, which mean lay-offs, which means unemployment, which means less revenue for the state leading to more lay-offs (unless we stop them).

No New Taxes is a childish and self defeating stance. If you believe in government, funding it is the only responsible choice. We have the debt, we're obligated to pay it off. If you don't believe in government, then you are an anarchist and should probably be on some NSA watch list.

We at Novotopia urge you to vote "yes" on both propositions 30 and 38 because California absolutely must pass some sort of education funding and only one of these two measures can prevail.

Also, in 2010 we passed Proposition 26 which made it pretty much impossible for the legislature to pass taxes without our consent. So if we don't approve a funding plan in this election, there will be no new funding until the next election, pretty much guaranteeing more state borrowing.

To the many people out there who feel it's not their job to educate other people's kids, we submit the following:

  1. If you have a public school education, then you have a personal obligation to pay back society by helping to educate the next generation.
  2. If you want there to be English speaking doctors around when you're too old to speak or hear well, you need to vote for education.
  3. For every dollar we save by reducing education, we pay a greater price in increased need for police and prisons and the cascade of social costs associated with crime. Idle hands are the devil's play ground and the best way to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble is by keeping an eye on them in an educational setting.

The kids in California schools today will become the doctors or the muggers of tomorrow. How many of each we produce will depend on you.

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At this point its a pretty safe bet that any Republicans or Tea Partiers who may have stumbled onto this page have stopped reading and are most likely on their way to Walmart to stock up on more ammunition. So thanks for sticking with us.

And don't worry, statistically gun owners are much more likely to hurt themselves or a family member than any actual threat.

Proposition 31 - State Budget. State and Local Government

Proposition 31 is a package of draconian reforms purported to reduce government spending by giving the governor and counties new powers to reduce spending and limiting the legislature's power to enact changes that increase spending. Some of the components seem worthy, such as requiring publication of all bills at least three days prior to a vote. However the total of proposed changes would result in some very dangerous anomalies in the balance of power and would allow one elected official to obstruct the efforts of the rest.

Like Proposition 26 in 2010, Proposition 31 is another cynical Tea Party attempt to "starve the beast (government)", and otherwise cripple it with radical, irrational and poorly written legislation. Please vote "no" on Proposition 31.

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Proposition 32 - Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction

Unions depend on member contributions to survive. Corporations don't. Unions exist to serve the needs and interests of it's members. Corporations serve the interests of the board, not the employees or the customer. Proposition 32 saying it will ban political contributions from corporations and unions equally is like saying we're going to equally remove penises from both men and women.

Proposition 32 is intended to kill unions precisely to diminish your power when you're up against the 1%. How will you ever have a chance of fighting any mega-entity without the power of a union behind you?

Don't do it. Don't let the 1% kill your watch dog. Vote "no" on 32. Don't put a noose around the neck of the people who ended child labor and brought you overtime benefits. Unions protect teachers, police, firemen and all kinds of working people. Corporations protect profits. It's not the same thing.

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Proposition 33 - Auto Insurance Prices Based on Driver's History of Insurance Coverage Initiative Statute

In 1988 California voters approved proposition 103 forcing insurers to set rates using only three main factors: driving experience; miles traveled per year; and safety record. Coverage history is specifically excluded. However under current California law, insurance companies can offer loyalty discounts, but only to existing customers. Proposition 33 would allow insurance companies to extend discounts to anyone who can prove they were continuously covered during the previous five years by any licensed company, and the measure provides allowances for certain situations:

  1. lapses due to active military service are excused
  2. lapses of up to 18 months because of lay-off or furlough are excused
  3. lapses of 90 days or less are excused
  4. children covered by their parents insurance would be credited for having insurance
  5. customers who were previously covered for less than five years would be eligible for a proportional discount for the time that they were covered.

Novotopia recommends a "yes" vote on 33 because we feel that people who have had continuous coverage for five years or more really are safer, more responsible drivers and they deserve a discount.

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Proposition 34 - Death Penalty. Initiative Statute

I've changed my vote to No after reading this opinion. I'm ready to go with the argument that it's the death penalty makes plea barganing work. But I'm not enthusiastic.

I think it makes more sense to teach kids what they need and keep them out of trouble in the first place than to impose ever harsher penalties after the fact. Give people jobs and put kids back in school and our money will be much better invested than trying punish people who grew up ignorant and made a terrible mistake.

Since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California has spent $4 billion dollars to execute 13 people. Each execution costs about $308 million, about twenty times the cost of a trial for life in prison without parole.

Proposition 34 will replace California's death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It requires inmates to work and pay restitution to the victims' compensation fund and would apply $100 million dollars of the savings from the lower court costs to solving more crimes.

Go ahead and vote No or Yes on 34. Either way, The real solution isn't in how we punish criminals, but how we raise our kids.

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Proposition 35 - Human Trafficking. Penalties Initiative Statute

Human trafficking is a serious and growing problem, but this law is a poor remedy. Proposition 35 expands the definition of human trafficking to include a wide net of situations that have nothing to do with human trafficking and imposes arbitrary regulations that reduce the power of the judiciary to respond appropriately to the details of a particular case. Novotopia urges you to vote "no" on 35. If you think you want to vote "yes", be sure to read the law over carefully first.

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Proposition 36 - Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties Initiative Statute

In 1994 California passed a "three strikes" law which requires a life sentence for any repeat offender convicted of a third crime. About 40 percent of California's three strikes offenders are serving life sentences for non-violent crimes. This is both costly and unfair. A 2010 state report puts the total cost of applying the law since 1994 at nearly $20 billion, or roughly $35,000 per prisoner.

Proposition 36 would revise the law to impose life sentence only for third strike felony convictions involving crimes designated as serious or violent, and would authorize re-sentencing for current non violent three strikes offenders who qualify, savings the state around $70 million annually, with even greater savings (up to $90 million) over the next couple of decades.

We urge you to vote "yes" on 36.

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Proposition 37 - Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling Initiative Statute

Contrary to what you may have heard, genetic modification of organisms is not pretty much the same thing as the selective breeding practiced by humans for more than a thousand years. It doesn't just accelerate and direct natural processes, it requires processes that were technologically impossible just fifty years ago.

Genetic modification of organisms is far more powerful than simple cloning, because prior to the invention of genetic modification the cloned and crossed bred organisms had to be of the same species or at least of the same family. With genetic modification they don't even need to be in the same kingdom. Manipulation of genetic material is not even limited to naturally occurring DNA sequences, scientists have the means to create genes that have never existed in any organism.

The first GMOs were created back in 1973, mice were first crossed with bacterium in 1974, and the first GMO foods were sold to consumers as early as 1994. Now, less than 20 years later, 88 percent of all corn and 94 percent of all soybeans produced in the U.S. are grown from GMO seeds.

Under existing state law, California agencies are not specifically required to regulate or review GMO foods. However, the Department of Public Health (DPH) is responsible for regulating the safety and labeling of most foods.

Proposition 37 is not asking for a ban, a new agency, or even new powers of regulation. It is asking for the tiniest baby-step towards accountability, that existing agencies should use existing powers to direct existing labels to include simple identification of GMOs, and a prohibition from identifying a product as natural if known to contain GMO ingredients.

You have the right to know what you're eating.

Just as nutrition labeling which has been so helpful in the management of many health issues, did not raise food prices, the claim that identifying GMOs would raise prices is simply unfounded. And the claim that GMOs are either perfectly safe or better for the consumer imply that manufacturers have nothing to loose and everything to gain by identifying foods which contain GMOs.

Proposition 37 is a scientifically sound, well written law designed to minimize costs and allow for special circumstances while providing consumers the information they need to make informed choices. Consumers have as much right to know if their food contains genetically modified organisms as they do to know if their food contains dog, pig or human meat.

We at Novotopia strongly urge everyone to vote "yes" on Proposition 37. However given the scientific background of the average voter, the complexity of the issues involved, voter distrust of regulation and of science, and the many millions of dollars that GMO invested corporations are spending to keep GMOs secret, chances are pretty slim that Proposition 37 will pass this year.

On the other hand, given the enormity of the risk GMOs pose and several other important legal issues regarding GMOs, such as the monopolization of worldwide crops and the consequences of copyrighted DNA, this certainly won't be the last time it comes up.

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Proposition 38 - Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute

Novotopia urges a "yes" vote on proposition 38.

The blue box on Page 14 of the voter guide summary says:

What Happens if Voters Approve Both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38?

State Constitution Specifies What Happens if Two Measures Conflict. If provisions of two measures approved on the same statewide ballot conflict, the Constitution specifies that the provisions of the measure receiving more yes votes prevail. Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 on this statewide ballot both increase personal income tax (PIT) rates and, as such, could be viewed as conflicting.

Measures State That Only One Set of Tax Increases Goes Into Effect. Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 both contain sections intended to clarify which provisions are to become effective if both measures pass:

If Proposition 30 Receives More Yes Votes. Proposition 30 contains a section indicating that its provisions would prevail in their entirety and none of the provisions of any other measure increasing PIT ratesin this case Proposition 38would go into effect.

If Proposition 38 Receives More Yes Votes. Proposition 38 contains a section indicating that its provisions would prevail and the tax rate provisions of any other measure affecting sales or PIT ratesin this case Proposition 30would not go into effect. Under this scenario, the spending reductions known as the trigger cuts would take effect as a result of Proposition 30s tax increases not going into effect.

See the discussion of Proposition 30 for more details.

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Proposition 39 - Energy Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses Initiative Statute

Proposition 39 will close a loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to pay less tax than California corporations and will remove the incentive for companies to move jobs out of our state. The loophole was introduced as part of a 2009 budget deal between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the legislature, and then the following year passage of Proposition 26 made it harder for the legislature pass tax increases which in turn made it easier for the Republicans to block closing this loophole which costs California taxpayers more than $1 billion per year in tax revenue and an unknown number of jobs.

Novotopia strongly urges you to vote "yes" on this Proposition 39.

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Proposition 40 - Redistricting.State Senate Districts Referendum

By far the silliest proposition on the ballot is proposition 40, a Republican temper tantrum over redistricting and over the fact that the redistricing system they were backing in 2010 didn't favor them more.

In 2010 two propositions, 20 and 27 offered voters two alternative methods of redistricting and voters gave the Republicans their way. But when the system was implemented the Republicans still didn't like how the new lines turned out and decided to put Proposition 40 on the ballot asking voters to approve the redistricing in the hope that it wouldn't pass and they would get another do-over by allowing the California Supreme Court to redraw the districts. This summer the court signaled that the do over wouldn't help the Republicans either so the party big wigs decided to drop it. But unfortunately they couldn't undo the fact that they had already placed the do over measure on the ballot so they changed their position again.

Although the creators of proposition 40 originally wanted you to vote "no", now they concede that spending another million dollars redrwaing the lines again doesn't make much sense. On this we can agree. Please vote "yes" on proposition 40, because although a "no" vote would be much funnier, "yes" is the responsible answer.

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