Category Archives: Politics

Propositions on the ballot in California in November

I do this so you won’t have to!

This is my take on the various propositions on the California ballot on November 4th. While most of us are pretty sure of our vote for the Presidential candidate, these various measures are equally important and impact our lives in a more immediate and significant way. Do take the time to read up on them.
Here is a summary of my recommendations on the various propositions on the ballot in November.

Proposition 1 – Vote YES
Proposition 2 – Vote YES
Proposition 3 – Vote NO
Proposition 4 – Vote NO
Proposition 5 – Vote NO
Proposition 6 – Vote NO
Proposition 7 – Vote YES
Proposition 8 – Vote NO
Proposition 9 – Vote NO
Proposition 10-Vote NO
Proposition 11-Vote YES
Proposition 12-Vote YES

Proposition 1: Prop. 1 asks voters to approve the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. This would partially fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. ( Matching funds from the federal government is a possibility.)

The train would run between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Anaheim, California, designated as the southern terminus of the initial segment of the high-speed train system. Estimates are that the train system would be completed in 2030, and that it would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Voting YES would give the state the authority to sell bonds for the amount of 9.95 billion dollars and use the funds to begin construction of the high-speed rail system. The state is likely to ask voters for the remaining funds in later years.
Voting NO means the state cannot sell these bonds.

Opinion: The two main objections to this bill, to which the opposition has been quite half-hearted, seems to be as follows –
–         Given the current state of the economy, we shouldn’t be spending money on a rail system rather than education, health care etc. And anyway, what makes you think the California government is capable of handling a project like this?
–         Environmental concern over the fact that the path of the proposed system might take away some parks and refuges.
However, the taxpayers do not take a direct hit because the state is selling debt which will be picked up by lenders throughout the world. The taxpayer impact will be during the servicing of the loan.

Also, proponents argue that early adoption of a high-speed rail system means getting to be ahead in line to get the state’s share of matching funds from the federal government.
The project is also sure to generate thousands of jobs, a major positive given the current state of the economy. It is also good for the environment in the long run. Here is a good site to get more information about this project.

My recommendation: Vote YES.

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Proposition 2: Requires certain farm animals to be allowed, for the majority of every day, to fully extend their limbs or wings, lie down, stand up and turn around. Limited exceptions apply.

Voting YES would mean that beginning 2015, these laws would apply to pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens.

Voting NO would maintain the status quo.

Opinion: The opposition to this proposition is that Californian producers will not be able to comply and so our meat and eggs will start being imported from Mexico and therefore we have a higher likelihood of being sickened by salmonella. Ridiculous.

My recommendation: This is a no-brainer. Vote YES.

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Proposition 3: Authorizes $980,000,000 in bonds, to be repaid from state’s General Fund, to fund the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals.

Voting YES would allow the state to sell bonds for this amount.

Voting NO would maintain the status quo.

Opinion: The main opposition to this, as before, is that this more debt that California cannot afford and would impact the taxpayers when the loan principal and interest have to be repaid. Also, the way this proposition is worded, the money may go to any acute hospital so long as it treats children. There is an emotional argument to be made to support this bill. But there is some evidence that Prop 61, with the same goal, that was passed in 2004 to the tune of $750 million, still has to finish disbursing the entire amount. Given that, it seems unfair to taxpayers that they should have to take on another loan.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 4: The initiative would prohibit abortion for un-emancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Voting YES would put this law into the state constitution.

Voting NO would preserve the status quo.

Opinion: As the parent of a young girl, there is enormous temptation to say yes to a law that would force my child to let me know in case she needs to take the drastic step of having an abortion. But I found this excellent op-ed in the L.A. Times where the author took the trouble to read through the entire proposition and consulted with legal experts.  This is the conclusion she came to –

Here is my version of how an honest summary of Proposition 4 should read:

Proposition to Curtail Abortion for Teenage Girls:
* Do not allow minors to obtain abortions behind their parents’ backs.
* Create an undue burden on physicians, with miles of red tape and severe repercussions for a misstep in filing notifications, reports, etc.
* Make sure pregnant teens go through humiliation and exposure.
* Create a pretext for taking the matter of abortion to court.
* Add vague clauses regarding “court relief” and “coercion,” which could warrant further litigation.

While I did not delve into the proposition myself, I did take the time to read her long and detailed article and agreed with her conclusions. I do not want girls to be afraid of going to doctors on their own and seeking medical advice rather than rely on backdoor abortions. I do not want girls in situations where there has been abuse within the family to be coerced by parents into making one kind of decision. This particular proposition keeps coming up in ballots under various avatars and has always been defeated.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 5: Allocates $460,000,000 annually to improve and expand treatment programs for persons convicted of drug and other offenses. Limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.

Voting YES would mean less people would be imprisoned for minor drug offences and granted parole earlier if incarcerated. Possession if less than 28.5 grams of marijuana would have a lesser penalty than under current law.

Voting NO would keep the status quo.

Opinion: Even though the basic premise of the law sounds like it is letting recreational drug users get off with a slap on the wrist, it seems like the text of the law makes it possible for judges to let criminals off easy if the crime was a result of drug use. That, to me, is a significant difference. Also Proposition 5 expands on Proposition 36, passed in 2004, which has proved to be not particularly successful. Only 24 percent of people “completed treatment; 42.7 percent were re-arrested on a drug charge within 30 months. Overall, treatment-eligible offenders were more likely to be re-arrested for new drug, property and violent crimes than similar offenders in the pre-36 era, UCLA researchers found.” Proposition 5 also makes it easy for criminals to claim to the court that the crimes were the result of drug use and therefore be eligible for treatment programs instead of incarceration. Check out this editorial in the L. A. Times.

My recommendation: Vote NO

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Proposition 6: Requires minimum of $965,000,000 each year to be allocated from state General Fund for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, adult probation, jails and juvenile probation facilities. Some of this funding will increase in following years according to California Consumer Price Index. Makes approximately 30 revisions to California criminal law, many of which cover gang-related offenses.

Voting YES will increase spending on law enforcement as per the bill.

Voting NO will maintain the status quo.

Opinion: This is a huge funding initiative at a time when California is suffering a fiscal crisis. Two things stand out – the fact that the bill has a CPI index-linked increase built in and that the revisions to the criminal law make it possible for judges to sentence prisoners for even longer stays in prisons, driving up costs further. The money for this proposition would have to be diverted from other social programs.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 7: Requires utilities, including government-owned utilities, to generate 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2010, a standard currently applicable only to private electrical corporations. Raises requirement for utilities to 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025. Imposes penalties, subject to waiver, for noncompliance.

Voting YES would mean that all electricity providers in California, whether private or public, would have to produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

Voting NO would mean preserving the status quo.

Opinion: On the face of it, it seems eminently reasonable. So why have I been seeing so many No on 7 ads? Turns out the biggest opposition to this bill is from, you guessed it, utility companies who have put in big bucks to defeat this proposition.

This is a complex bill that can be looked at from two aspects –

Centralized production vs. distributed production of renewable energy – Does it make more sense for utility companies to be the vanguard for renewable energy production or should we look at localized use of solar panels on roofs which would eliminate future chokepoints of energy transmission?

Global impact vs. local impact – Putting the utility companies’ feet to the fire would force them to move to alternative sources of energy which is good on a global scale. Opponents argue that this proposition is not good for small business owners because it would forbid projects that generate less than 30 megawatts of power from inclusion in the utilities’ requirement. That is, if a small business owner put solar panels on his rooftop and sold the power to the utilities, they couldn’t count it towards their 20% goal; which in turn would make them less inclined to support such initiatives by giving rebates and leasing rooftops.

The proponents of Prop 7 argue that that objection only arises from a misinterpretation of the law. They are happy to go on record in court documents stating that the initiative’s authors and supporters have no intent to change current law on energy producers.

Perhaps the confusion arises because the bill is not well written. But it is still an effort in the right direction.

The fact that utility companies are opposing this bill gives me pause. The fact that this bill specifically prohibits utility companies from passing on any fines from non-compliance to the customers makes me cheer.

My recommendation: Vote YES.

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Proposition 8:: Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Voting YES means amending the California Constitution to invalidate same-sex marriage.

Voting NO means preserving the status quo and allowing the marriage of same-sex couples in California.

Opinion: Gay marriage is one of those issues which are trotted out every single election year. I’ve always been suspicious that it is one of those mechanisms by which the party faithful (and no prizes for guessing which party) are motivated to show up at the polls. Ever since the California Supreme Court recognized gay marriage, the alarm and agitation is much more pronounced and real. It has been impossible to avoid the ads on television which allege that very little kids will be taught that marriage means “daddy marrying daddy” and “mommy marrying mommy” in school.

The irony is that because of the media blitz of the anti-gay-marriage crowd, my own little daughter is now exposed to this issue, which otherwise she absolutely would not have in school or home.

Is the allegation true?

Here are the facts –

There’s not one word in 8 about education. In fact, local school districts and parents—not the state—develop health education programs for their schools. No child can be taught anything about health and family issues against the will of their parents. California law prohibits it. I know this as a parent of 2 children in public schools. And nothing in state law requires the mention of marriage in kindergarten.

The ads are pure smear, which does more to put me off this proposition than anything else. By forcing their smears down my kids’ throats ( before I was ready to have a conversation with her at the appropriate time)by advertising in family-friendly TV programming, they have earned my disgust.

Voting yes on Proposition 8 takes a right away from another human being, a right that in no way diminishes the rights of fellow human beings or harms them in any way. Voting yes means children of existing gay families could lose the right to health care. Voting yes means existing gay families could lose the legal protections afforded married couples, including the right to visit their spouse in the hospital, the right to take over the legal affairs of their spouse if they become incapacitated, etc. Voting yes is a step backwards from the civilized notion of equality. To those who espouse “family values” I have this to say – by opposing gay marriage, you are preventing a whole section of society from entering into the same bond of commitment that you consider so important.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 9::Among other provisions, this requires notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole. Establishes victim safety as consideration in determining bail or release on parole.

Voting YES means crime victims would have additional rights.

Voting NO means preserving the status quo.

Opinion: The rights proposed in Prop 9 are already in the law. These would now be enshrined in the California constitution. In addition, the law would mean that prisoners could not, under any circumstances, be released before their sentence was over. Given the overcrowding in California’s prisons, this would further increase the burden on the state’s prison system. The rights demanded for victims in this bill can also be granted by the legislature without going to this level.
In a twist that can happen only in America, the proponent of this bill( and Prop 6.) is a man named Henry Nichols, who is facing drug and fraud charges in a stock-backdating scandal that could land him in prison.

My recommendation – Vote NO.

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Proposition 10: Provides $3.425 billion to help consumers and others purchase certain high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles, and to fund research into alternative fuel technology. Provides $1.25 billion for research, development and production of renewable energy technology, primarily solar energy with additional funding for other forms of renewable energy; incentives for purchasing solar and renewable energy technology.

Voting YES means the state could sell bonds for the amount of $5 billion for this purpose.

Voting NO preserves the status quo.

Opinion – T. Boone Pickens is the brains behind this bill. T. Boone Pickens, the oilman turned greenie is the driving force behind this bill which gives 58% of the money collected as rebates to hybrid and natural gas-using vehicles. T. Boone Pickens is also the primary investor in Clean Energy Fuels, a publicly traded company that spent $3 million to put Proposition 10 on the ballot. The company is the nation’s largest provider of natural gas for transportation. Many of the natural gas vehicles would fill up at its stations.
The conflict of interest in this bill makes me very uncomfortable. Also this seems to be a gambit to make taxpayers cough up some more money to give rebates to people driving fuel efficient cars. In this era of high gas prices, it seems like an unnecessary reward.

My recommendation – Vote NO.

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Proposition 11: Changes authority for establishing Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries from elected representatives to 14 member commission.
Requires government auditors to select 60 registered voters from applicant pool. Permits legislative leaders to reduce pool, then the auditors pick eight commission members by lottery, and those commissioners pick six additional members for 14 total.

Voting YES means boundaries for state senate, assembly and board of equalization districts would be drawn up by a new commission made up of California registered voters.
Voting NO means preserving the status quo.

Opinion – Gerry-mandering, or drawing up electoral districts to suit particular constituencies and particular politicians is a pernicious fact of politics. In many states it is the Republicans who do it, in California, it is the Democrats. Making the process more open and reflective of the real situation on the ground would mean that moderates would have a better chance at winning some of the local races.

My recommendation – Vote YES.

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Proposition 12: This act provides for a bond issue of nine hundred million dollars ($900,000,000) to provide loans to California veterans to purchase farms and homes. Appropriates money from the state General Fund to pay off the bonds, if loan payments from participating veterans are insufficient for that purpose.
Voting YES means the state would be able to issue $900 million in bonds to provide for veterans’ farm and home purchases.
Voting NO means preserving the status quo.
Opinion – The state is responsible to pay back the bond loan but it in turn gives low-cost loans to veterans and previous such loans have had a history of being paid back in time. The state has never incurred a bad debt in such programs in the past.
My recommendation – Vote YES.

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Ravi Johal – candidate for Washington Hospital Board of Directors

UPDATE: Ravi Johal lost his bid to be on the Washington Hospital Board.

Ravi Johal has been living and working in Fremont as a traffic and criminal attorney with the firm of Leon J. Mezzetti Jr. After a small surgery and the birth of his son made him do the rounds of Washington Hospital in central Fremont, Ravi became aware of the many niggling issues patients and their families face in their interaction with the community hospital that serves the tri-city area. Like long hours in the emergency room; not knowing right at the start what the out-of-pocket expenses are likely to be; your insurance plan not being accepted. Having the time, energy and inclination, he decided to stand for one of the two openings coming up in the Board of Directors of Washington Hospital.

I spoke to him about his message, his mission and his plans for the hospital.

What are the responsibilities of the job?
RJ: There are 5members on the board of which two are being contested. Washington Hospital is a community hospital, funded by tax dollars. The board makes sure the hospital functions properly.

What would be your mission as a member of the board?
RJ: What I would be working towards is improved accessibility to the hospital, a broader acceptance plan for insurance, expanded hours, improve emergency room services. Today if you go to the hospital during off hours, you are sent by default to the emergency room where the wait may be really long. There is room for improvement here. Our population has continued to grow but the infrastructure has not kept pace with it.  I would also like to see more transparency on the board, clear estimates of your medical expenses when you or a member of your family is admitted. We also have to make sure we improve affordability. As a district hospital Washington Hospital has an obligation to the people it serves.
The other thing we can do is to try to engage people without medical coverage in basic preventive care. We can work with local pharmacies to keep costs down.

Why did you decide to contest this particular post?
RJ: I am passionate about health care and people’s right to have affordable health care. I had surgery, my wife had a baby and I was in and out of hospitals. Previously I have worked with local government and done pro bono work for the community.

Is this your first foray into politics?
RJ: It is. This is a non-partisan position.

Do you get any benefit from your affiliation to the Democratic party?
RJ:I get a lot of endorsements. (Ravi has received an impressive list of endorsements from local elected officials.)

I have heard of an email that’s been going around that has some unsavory things about you?
RJ: I wanted to run a clean campaign that focused on the issues. Friends of Washington Hospital, an organization set up by board members in Washington Hospital, have been distributing this mailer arguing that voters should be voting for the incumbents. I have dealt with the allegations on my website.

What has the previous board not been doing that you would do better?
RJ: My message is one of accountability, transparency, and making sure that hospital remains solvent while doing that.

Do you think you could manage to implement any of your ideas, given that you will be g 1 out of 5 members of the board?
RJ: That is the whole democratic process. You need to voice your opinion so that you represent the community, facilitate a change in the mechanism. One person obviously cannot do it by himself. But one person can make a change if he is active and create open dialogue and be able to work with other board members.

How is it going so far?
RJ: It is going very well. In a short period of time I have been able to speak to a lot of people. I got the endorsement of the California Nurses Association (I am the only candidate to get the endorsement). I met with nurses, listened to them and gave them my input. They play a critical and vital role in giving the patient the best possible care.
We have done a lot of walking..meeting people wherever I go. It is mostly word of mouth.

What about funding?
RJ: This is a tough economy. We ran a couple of kickoffs in the beginning. It takes $2675 to file with the registrar which I loaned that to my campaign. I have asked friends and family to help. Being a 3-city election it is much  harder to target because it costs a lot.

Do you have larger political ambition?
RJ: I do not. I just want to give back to the community. I have the time, energy and knowledge to do this job.

More information on Ravi Johal at

Other candidates for this post:

Evelyn Li

Patricia Danielson(Incumbent)

William F. Nicholson(Incumbent)

Article on debate between the candidates here at Tri-City Beat.

Obama vs. McCain – The Third Debate

I succumbed and watched this one..from start to finish. And was pleasantly surprised. This one, of the 200 or so “debates” so far, actually hewed closer to the ideal format in which the candidates would be free to ask each other questions and argue.

Bob Schieffer of CBS moderated the debate. Before the event, lefty bloggers raised some doubts about his sense of fairness, since he has been on record praising McCain to the heavens. But Bob Schieffer lived up to his stellar reputation as a journalist and directed the conversation wisely, mostly staying out of the debate and blending in with the wallpaper.

The early minutes of the debate were harrowing for me as an Obama supporter. McCain went aggressively on the attack, and the stupid CNN audience meter went too high for my comfort. “Why doesn’t Obama attack,” I vented in frustration, pacing around the room. The blood pressure went down as the debate progressed. Obama opted to stay above the fray the entire time, forbearing from pointing fingers at Senator McCain’s record even as the opportunities passed him by. Perhaps he was just running out the clock, given that he is leading his opponent in the polls by an average of 6-7 points. Or perhaps that is his natural temperament, calm and unflappable and unwilling to engage in mud-slinging.

As time went by and the debate settled down to familiar territory of talking points, it became obvious that the split screen display is horribly disadvantageous to Senator McCain, who rolled his eyes, sighed audibly ,grinned uncomfortably and managed to look like a jittery teenager when he was not talking.

My impression was that McCain won this debate, mainly because he went on the attack aggressively and happily delivered bare-faced lies without being challenged by his opponent. Imagine my surprise when every single snap poll after the debate gave the debate to Obama. Is the American electorate finally ready for a president who talks to them like an adult?

Oh, but we can’t forget Joe the plumber. Here is the video of the encounter that Senator Obama had with Joe Wurzelbacher. Basically Joe complains that Obama’s tax plan will hurt him, as he makes more than $250000, and Obama tries to reassure him.

Early in the debate, John MccCain completely adopted Joe as the poster child for the middle class(and in his multi-million dollar environment, it probably is!) and from then on Obama and McCain pretty much spent 20 minutes talking to Joe ( contacted later, Mr. Wurzelbacher thought the whole experience of being referenced in a debate was surreal !) I suspect that we’ll be hearing more about Joe than any substantive policy issues in the next couple of days.

Anyway, thank God the debates are over. McCain attempted to attack, Obama played defense. It is probably not going to be a game changer, but the Teevee talking heads will be glad to have something to chew over for a while.

UPDATE: Oh the appears Joe the plumber is not registered to vote( at least in Ohio) h/t Politico

UPDATE 2: Apparently he is registered..his name is just spelt wrong on the electoral rolls. Voter registration snafu…. in Ohio! Who woulda thunk?

Harmeet Dhillon – Candidate for State Assembly

UPDATE: Harmeet Dhillon lost her bid for State Assembly from California’s 13th district.

Harmeet Dhillon is one of a rare breed – a Republican in Democratic California. Arriving in the United States as a small child, Harmeet was educated in North Carolina and went on to Dartmouth College with an active participation in civil rights issues. She came into prominence when she questioned a music professor about an inappropriate level of political correctness (too much! according to her). An article about the same landed her an interview on 60 minutes.

In California, Harmeet continues to be active in civil rights legislation, providing legal services to political refugees, victims of domestic violence, and plaintiffs in civil rights litigation, including several First Amendment cases. She is also one of the up-and-coming members of the California Republican Party, being the Governor’s appointee to the party.

I spoke to her about her candidacy for the State Assembly from the 13th Assembly District of California, which includes many progressive, liberal, San Francisco neighborhoods.

You have been an active member of the Republican Party in California. What made you decide to run for office?
In every county we have a Republican committee that’s elected by the registered voters of each party. This committee determines party policy in each county. I was appointed to a vacancy in 2004. Then I was elected to the committee in June in this year.. The party then asked me to run for State Assembly.

As assemblyman, what would your responsibilities be?
The State Assembly is like House of Representatives for the state.  We have a bicameral legislature that is responsible for passing legislation, coming up with the budget etc.

How Republican leaning is your district?
HD: It’s virtually impossible for a Republican to win in my district. It is probably the most liberal district in the state. About 27% of the voters are registered as independent and I am focusing on them.

In that case, why would you run for office in this district?
HD: They are various reasons why you run. The first generation Indian Americans think the reason to run is to have power. I am doing it to educate the people and grow the party statewide. If I am able to increase the number of people voting Republican, I would consider my job done. I am also increasing my profile, increasing my chances of getting a  political appointment. It is a long term view. People who run for office can be arrogant. But they have never been involved in politics, never written op ed pieces. The way it works here , the party has to know you and the party has to back you. Otherwise you have no credibility.

Is party affiliation more important to the voters or the personality?
HD: That depends on your county. In San Francisco, the endorsement of the Democratic Party for ballot initiatives or school board matters a lot. Particularly in the non-partisan race, voters tend to be influenced by the recommendations of the Party.

What are the issues of concern to the voters in your particular district? Could you enumerate your positions on those?
HD: Environmentalism, the budget crisis in California, the economy. A lot of people are concerned about illegal immigration.
Education – We have a terrible system. The main culprit is the teachers’ unions. They grant teachers tenure after just 2 years. After that it is impossible to get rid of bad teachers, we cannot monitor performance. I advocate a full scale reform of the educational system. I support vouchers and more opportunities for home schooling. The state should allow a charter school program. People can go to vocational track. In North Carolina where I grew up, there was a boarding school for the gifted. That’s a great system where general schools deal with the average students and there are special schools for the bright kids. In California they tend to get lost.
Environment – I am a strong proponent of market based solutions. I think we are over reliant on fossil fuels. I am in favor of drilling as a long term solution. I would encourage car manufacturers to develop cars with better mileage. The way to do that is by judicious of tax credits for people and businesses and making it attractive for people to make that choice. In terms of protecting the environment, I am in favor of that. Conservation is a republican value.
Balancing the budget – I think the governor made one mistake in proposing the 3-year one cent sales tax increase. The budget process needs to be started earlier. The Governor should make it clear right now that he will not sign any legislation any bills  without a budget.
Crime – This is more of a local issue. It is somewhat related to the immigration issue. Certain cities like SF declare themselves sanctuary cities. This prevents police officers from informing the INS about criminals who are also illegal immigrants. This was horribly put to the test in the case of the Bologna family murders. The killer of the family members, who had previously been in trouble with the police, was allowed to roam free because there was no provision for the police to make sure he was deported.
Immigration – I believe illegal immigrants should get in line like the rest of us did.

Does the latest spell of bad economic news make it more difficult for you?
HD: I’m mot sure it will affect state races. San Francisco is a weird place. The majority of people are renters, so they don’t care about the housing market..they care about protecting rent control, which I am opposed to.

What is your opinion on the budget stalemate in California?
HD:I think the original budget was a terrible budget and I’m glad the Governor stood firm and asked for some changes. Spending now needs to be cut. There are lots of wasteful and inefficient government programs. One, as I mentioned before, is the sanctuary city policy that coddles young criminals. The city allocated 650000 for cultural adjustment training for these young criminals, I think that’s an outrageous abuse of taxpayer funding. There is room to cut teacher’s pensions. The teachers’ unions have negotiated for a lot of unnecessary money. One thing I recommend is that the city and state should not be subsidizing education for illegal aliens. California currently subsidizes education  at the UCs and state colleges for illegal aliens. The irony is that they cannot find work once they graduate.
I believe we should spend on infrastructure. I am in favor of the high speed rail initiative and in favor of green technology. But wasteful bureaucracy must go.

I understand that you an ardent supporter of John McCain? Do you agree with all his policies?
HD: I don’t agree with the policies of any politician a 100%. On abortion, I believe a  woman should have the right to choose in the first trimester. I think he is correct in that we should get out of Iraq with dignity. I trust him because he is a POW. I agree on his immigration policy where he advocates guest worker program( Senator McCain has said since that he would not vote for his own bill). I support a path to legalization.

Do you have a message for Indian-American voters?
HD:  Indian Americans pay more than their fair share of taxes, more that their fair share of the intellectual process, but we are not sophisticated consumers of politics. We don’t run for school boards, state assembly. I am the first person to stand for election with the backing of the party. And we‘ve been here for a 100 years. Nobody’s even trying. We need to be more sophisticated. We need to get out there in the community and give back. Volunteer, work in public service. Take jobs in the public interest.

Fremont School Board candidate – an interview with Lily Mei

By Vidya Pradhan

UPDATE: Lily Mei wins one of the three seats on the Fremont School Board. Congratulations, Lily Mei!

I met Lily Mei outside Forest Park Elementary School in Fremont as she handed out fliers proclaiming “Do the right thing!” She was supporting the teachers as they protested the proposed cuts in education in the upcoming California State budget and urged parents to call their representatives.

Lily Mei is standing for one of the 3 open seats on the FUSD School Board. This mother of two young kids in Fremont schools has served in many parent organizations in Fremont in roles ranging from room parent, math and music parent volunteer, vice-president of fund raising and membership as well as serving two years as the PTA President of her school. Today she serves as the Fremont Council PTA School Board Liaison, coordinating communication between the unit PTAs in Fremont and the Fremont School Board.

I spoke with her as we sat on a bench outside the school, with the background noises of children at play. Continue reading

Obama vs. McCain – Technology

An aide for Senator McCain inadvertently provided fodder for late night comedy when he pointed to his Blackberry and stated that the Senator was responsible for it. It is not an exaggeration to say that a gaffe along similar lines successfully smeared Al Gore 8 years ago( remember who invented the internet, anyone?) This time around, the blunder did not really capture national media attention, probably due to relative high-mindedness of the Democrats and the tendency of the media to give a pass to McCain's senior moments. Jokes apart, though, let's take a look at what the two candidate' views on and approach to technology, an issue that is of particular interest in Silicon Valley. Continue reading

Why being the President IS like running a corporation

By Vidya Pradhan

Carly Fiorina just went on record saying that none of the candidates was capable of running a corporation. In her words –

I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation. I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation. I don't think Joe Biden could. But it is not the same as being the president or vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company, so of course, to run a business, you have to have a lifetime of experience in business, but that's not what Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama or Joe Biden are doing. 

With friends like these…

Apart from the fact that McCain really needs to keep a better handle on his surrogates, I happen to think she is completely wrong, even from her own party's point of view, which is to advocate running the country exactly like a business.

Here is what the CEO of a company( and by extension, the country) does –

  • Has a vision for where the company(the US) is going to be in the long term.
  • Insists on a policies that are beneficial to the company but also fall withing the regulatory framework of the land( in this case the constitution and the laws)
  • Makes sure the company does not go spiralling into debt but wisely manages its money.
  • Hires competent and qualified employees instead of cronies.
  • Keeps harmony among the many egos that typically inhabit a large corporation.
  • Is able to inspire employees to follow a common purpose and work towards a higher goal than their own self-interest.
  • Is able to negotiate mergers and acquisitions with diplomacy instead of a scorched earth policy.
  • Encourages transparency and accountability.
  • Has a succession plan in place in case something happens to him/her.
  • Looks after the shareholder interest.
  • Expects to be judged on performance.
  • At press conferences, answers the questions put to him/her instead of repeating talking points.
  • In times of market panic, keeps a cool head and leads the company to safe harbor.
  • Has a quick and appropriate response to crisis. Is able to make quick course corrections when conditions on the ground change.
  • As a member of a larger community, has a world view of how the company must respond, react and pro-act with respect to its place in the world.

I'm sure more such analogies will occur to readers. ( Send them in, I'll update with credit to your handle).
Unfortunately, since CEOs in the US have stopped acting like the above mentioned ideal, nobody quite recognizes what it is we should be looking for in a leader. Every time someone mentions the term "Executive experience" to justify a decision in the polling booth, I point them to George W. Bush, who surely has the most executive experience at this point. In case anyone didn't notice, his own party kept him out of its convention, treating him like a member of their family that they're ashamed of.

When you go in to vote, think. Which of the two candidates best embodies this ideal of the Chief Executive Officer of your country?

UPDATE: On Constitution day, I found this article that lays out what exactly the President does, according to the constitution of the USA.( formatted, but not reworded from that great document itself)

  • Shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States;
  • He may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and
  • He shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
  • He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and
  • He shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
  • The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;
  • He may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper;
  • He shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers;
  • He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and
  • Shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Amazing how well it ties up with the CEO's duties.

Obama vs. McCain – Education

By Vidya Pradhan


Investment in quality education and a vision for increasing the competitiveness of future American workers is a crucial long-term issue that often gets forgotten in the immediacy of political campaigning. (Though one education legislation has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A ridiculous and deceptive ad by the McCain campaign accused Obama of creating legislation to teach sex to kindergarteners. The facts? Obama supported, not sponsored, a bill whose purpose was primarily to make kids aware of the dangers of sexual predators.)


Here are the two candidates’ views on education. Continue reading

Obama vs. McCain – Economy(II)

This is the second article on the candidates’ positions on the economy. The first dealt with their taxation policies.

(UPDATE October 6th, 2008 : a graphic from the Economist –

The link to the entire article can be found here.)

It is hard to get a sense of which Presidential candidate is good for the economy from the campaign agendas – so much of it is pure pandering for the political season. However, here is an excerpt from an article in the International Herald Tribune that might surprise you –

“Simply put, the United States economy has grown faster, on average, under Democratic presidents than under Republicans.”

That said, here are the two candidates’ positions and plans for the economy. Continue reading

Fremont City Council candidate – Vinnie Bacon

In honor of the upcoming elections, WNI is starting a new category today called “All politics is local.” Given the hype and hoopla over the presidential election, it is easy to forget that there are lots of local elections also going to be determined on November 4th. And unlike the presidential election, your Californian vote will actually count for a lot in these races, which are decided often by margins of a few hundred votes.

UPDATE: Vinnie Bacon lost his bid to be on the Fremont City Council.

We’ll put out some of our recommendations closer to election day, but today we profile Vinnie Bacon, who is standing for Fremont City Council. Like another Democrat who is making waves on the national stage, Vinnie is banking on grassroots mobilization to make him better known at the local level. A member of the environment friendly Sierra Club and with experience in transportation planning, Vinnie is running on a platform of sensible urban development.

WNI spoke to Vinnie Bacon a few days ago. Continue reading