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Photograph by Dan Pulcrano

Bobble or Nothing: Arnie makes the ideal bobblehead subject because he possesses such a fine, large melon. It is captured here just before going into action—notice the sheer intensity of the impending bobble. Clearly a perfect voting guide!

Bobble the Vote

Having trouble figuring out how to vote in next Tuesday's election? Talk to the head.

By Peter Byrne

Surely you've seen the "Governator" and "Girlie Man" bobblehead dolls that were all the rage once Arnold Schwarzenegger took office. Pushed in one direction, the plastic head of Arnie bobbles up and down: "yes, yes, yes." Pushed the other way it bobbles "no, no no." Hours of novelty fun!

Or is it more than that? Because contemplating the bobbling head of the real Schwarzenegger is the fastest, most effective way of deciding how to vote in the Nov. 8 special election. When the man's head bobbles "yes" on the campaign trail, vote no. When it bobbles "no," vote yes.

Or, if you insist on torturing yourself, you can read the 78-page Official Voter Information Guide mailed to registered voters by the California Secretary of State. As a one time only public service, I did actually read the entire voter guide, which is equal parts paid political spin and bureaucratic turgidity.

Three of eight statewide initiatives propose to amend the constitution by, variously, undermining women's biological rights; increasing gubernatorial authority; and attempting to break the Democratic Party's lock on the legislative branch. This is not fair play. Constitutional standards of democracy are traditionally used to judge particular policies and laws, and the constitution should not be used as a clothesline for wet brain ideas that cannot survive scrutiny by the legislature or the judicial system.

Let's break it down:

Proposition 73: Whether or not parents should know that their minor child is having an abortion is not a weighty constitutional question. This constitutional amendment invalidates a law that was enacted in 1953 to protect children from abusive parents. Since pregnant children are often the victims of incest, there is a good reason for allowing them to decide whom to tell. This amendment is not about protecting children, anyway. It is about gradually sneaking an anti-abortion agenda into the constitution. Vote no.

Proposition 76: This constitutional amendment allows the executive branch to usurp the will of the people and the legislature. In the words of the legislative analyst, "[It] grants the governor substantial new authority to unilaterally reduce state spending." This includes spending related "to contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or entitlements." It seriously weakens Proposition 98, which mandates a certain level of educational spending each year. It allows the governor to slash spending on social welfare services, while leaving huge tax breaks in place for business corporations and wealthy families. It is a recipe for defunding environmental protection, health care for the poor, elder care and programs for disabled people. This constitutional amendment is a naked grab for power by an increasingly unpopular governor. Vote no.

Proposition 77: The governor has been touting his redistricting initiative—a constitutional amendment—as a way to "drive special interests out of Sacramento." In actuality, this is a ploy to use outdated census figures to regerrymander California in favor of the Republican Party, just in time for Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign in November 2006. Not that the current redistricting system is efficient, or even all that democratic, but the perpetual gerrymander is, under the status quo, periodically renegotiated by the people's representatives. Schwarzenegger wants to permanently turn a marginally democratic process over to the tender mercies of a club for retired judges. Spare us from absolutism, please. Vote no.

Schwarzenegger has put millions of dollars worth of corporate donations into television ads flogging two of his "signature" propositions. These are intended to harm organized labor. But such is the groundswell of support opposing the governor's unwarranted attacks on nurses, teachers, firefighters and cops, that the targeted public employee unions have raised $106 million (twice as much as Schwarzenegger) to oppose his entire agenda on Nov. 8. No wonder: the future of California is at stake.

Proposition 74: This initiative will lengthen the period of job probation for new teachers from two years to three years to "get rid of lemons." The proposition is a totally unjustified attack on underpaid public servants who stood up and criticized the governor's inability to govern. The anti-teacher proposition is sponsored by Schwarzenegger and George Schultz, a fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution in Palo Alto. The octogenarian Schultz is chairman of the governor's 16-member council of economic advisers, which is 50 percent Hoover fellows. This council of neoconservative ideologues advises Schwarzenegger on how to "drown big government in the bathtub" by burdening the social service budget with unsupportable debt and undermining it with tax cuts. This is not the agenda we want to be letting into the constitution through the back door. Vote no.

Proposition 75: The so-called "pay check protection" initiative aims to restrict the political activities of the very same public employee unions that are leading a populist movement to drive Schwarzenegger out of Sacramento. The governor wants to restrict the union's ability to use membership dues for political purposes. Of course, the governor doesn't object when his favorite corporate campaign donors freely use stockholder assets to pay for playing with his administration. Ironically, union members can already opt out of having their money used for political purposes. Stockholders can't. Where's that initiative? Vote no.

Propositions 78 and 79: The campaign for the phony drug subsidy initiative, Proposition 78, is funded by $80 million from the pharmaceutical industry. It is an awkward attempt to scuttle Proposition 79, which mandates that drug companies reasonably price their monopoly products. It provides a life raft for millions of Californians who are drowning in a sea of high medical costs. The choice between the two propositions is a no-brainer: Vote yes on 79; no on 78.

Proposition 80: Remember when Enron Corp., Reliant Energy and El Paso Corp. electronically picked $50 billion out the pockets of Californians during the Davis administration? Prop. 80, sponsored by real reformers at the Utility Reform Network, aims to curtail energy market gaming by enhancing the authority of the Public Utilities Commission. It throws cold water on several of the governor's ill-conceived energy projects, including his crazy plan to import dirty coal-generated electricity from Colorado. Let us not forget that Schwarzenegger has millions of dollars invested in energy trading concerns through his deals with Goldman Sachs. Vote yes.

The governor's administration is paralyzed by conflicts of interest and ineptitude. Instead of accepting an iota of responsibility for his failure to govern, he tries to shift blame onto the legislature. His public relations machine works overtime to divert attention from our real problems: excessive debt, government contracting waste, pollution, energy and medical costs, illiteracy, white collar crime, the anti-immigrant backlash and burgeoning corporate influence on government, to name but a few.

Nov. 8 is a referendum on the bobblehead. Vote accordingly.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the November 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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