Monday, October 24, 2005

Special Elections, Lies, And Video Tape*

Ed's note: This post was orginally titled "I Buy My Boxers At K-Mart." The name had to be changed though, when an otherwise light-hearted poke at political ads took a turn for the serious when I discovered a new, lying television spot against Prop. 77.

Oh my god, Judge Wapner is urging us to vote no on 77. At the end of the commercial, they loop him saying "no on 77" so fast even Rainman's jaw would slacken in awe.

Wapner says judges like shouldn't make law unsupervised in back rooms.

Judge Wapner has been out of law school too long.

And voters who believe that unsupervised judicial decision making DOESN'T go on far, far from public sight should immediately - oh hell, I don't even know what they should do, but seriously, can we get and stay a tad real here?

I know, I know - It's asking too much.

Dear No on Prop. 77 people: ooh, you had to push it, didn't you. Now it's a draw on who has the dumber commercial. The Yes side narrowly - and I mean narrowly - beats you. But you both suck. And that's my highbrow analysis for today.

WAIT - NEVERMIND! The No Side has just moved ahead for airing the most DECEPTIVE and MISLEADING ad of the election season thus far (or at least the most deceptive and misleading one on a topic I've been following closely). It's also ballsy as all sh*t for calling 77 the "politicians' power grab." (by the way - as I'm watching the quicktime here, I'm seeing that idiotic old woman ad on TV. I'm being double teamed by advocacy organizations I don't even think I can keep straight, and I'm paying attention).

So a proposal that takes power FROM elected politicians is a power grab by . . . politicians?

But wait, the ad says it gives power to unelected judges. Are elected politicians good guys or bad guys, No on 77?

And guess what - though federal judges can toss their hats in the ring, saying that judges - period, with no exception - aren't elected by the people and aren't accountable to the people is a lie. A bald-faced lie. It is wrong. It is misleading and deceptive and you, No on 77 campaign, should be ashamed of yourselves.

We don't even need to reach your inexcusable race baiting.

Shame! Shame on you Californians for Fair Representation. I don't care who funds you or how much I should shut up on the direct attacks of the politics behind the propositions - this is inexcusable.

Thanks to the legally required fine print, there's the added irony that one of the funds paying for this ad is called the "Voter Education & Registration Fund." Voter Education? What are you teaching them?

I haven't seen this air on television yet, but even if it doesn't reach anyone's eyes via the tube, it is still shameful just existing and being available on-line.

Way to go, guys. Really well-played. The No side's tagline reads Don't play political games with the Constitution.

While we're at it, how about we not play fast and loose with the truth, either.

Update: Before I even had a chance to click Publish, the ad aired on television here in a slightly altered form. The visuals may be slightly different, but the narration is word-for-word what you'll find via the above link: just as shameful, but without the slightly clever Texas allusion.

Update 2: When I goof, I cop to it. A commenter below rightly called out my obvious mistake and highlighted yet another reason it is smart to institute a blogger curfew. Prop. 77 judges are retired judges. So no elections for them. I was wrong. However, in the grand tradition of legal opinions that waste your time for 20 pages just to say "but this argument doesn't hold up, nevermind, on to argument 2," I will punt to the next way in which the ad lies: prop. 77 requires voter approval.

Is that requirement still stupid? Yes. But it exists, dammit, so unless you'd rather swap true voter responsiveness for "Accoutability = vengence against judges," don't discount the black letter provisions.

My goof leads nicely back into the idea of judges as representatives, however. The racial overtones of the spot, as well as much commentary, focuses on the inability of old, white judges to represent a diverse state. Judges should represent the law, not any particular person or group of persons. Following that, judges themeselves shouldn't be "accountable," their decisions and plans, however, should be and, in fact, are.

Did I regain any ground with that chutes & ladders backtrack? I think you have to give me a bit of credit. I was wrong on one point, but the other legs still stand, and the problems with the add have more than just 2 or 3 legs. We're talking squid level here. Giant squid even. Of course, so does the proposition.

8 comments:

jbl said...

Does anyone have a non-Real Player version of this?

cd said...

it played as quicktime for me - you might want to select "play with" or save it an then play it through quicktime, etc.

jbl said...

Thanks, that was odd, Real Player is definitely not my default player.

First off, I'm voting No on Prop. 77.

Second, yeah, it's a stupid commercial, but most campaign commercials (especially if they're not for a candidate) are stupid.

Third, I think you're a little harsh on this one. You said, And guess what - though federal judges can toss their hats in the ring, saying that judges - period, with no exception - aren't elected by the people and aren't accountable to the people is a lie. A bald-faced lie. It is wrong. It is misleading and deceptive and you, No on 77 campaign, should be ashamed of yourselves.

Granted, California state judges are elected. But I'm not sure that's what the commercial was referring to. I think it might have been referring to the fact that the judges who sit as special masters are "hand-picked" by the politicians. In that sense, they're not elected, and they aren't accountable to the people. The proposition says that after the California Judicial Conference selects a pool of 24 retired judges, the special masters are then selected by legislative leaders to whittle the pool down to 12, and then each leader gets one strike taking the pool down to 8. Then three are chosen by lot by the Clerk of the Assembly. So in that sense, they're not elected by the people (and thereby, not accountable).

As for actual accountability, the special masters would, sort of, be accountable to the people. Each time districts are drawn, they'd have to be approved by the voters. In that sense, they are accountable.

The politician power grab thing is pretty funny though.

In the end, I'm not voting based on what I see in a commercial (though I concede many Californians will), I'm voting "No" because I believe that this isn't the best reform, and it's not even a step in the right direction. Proposition 77 creates the potential for new districts at every election (perhaps an extreme circumstance) and I think that is of greater detriment to California than continuing to have the Legislature draw the lines.

cd said...

You excuse the commercial too easily, jbl.

As I've mentioned before, my thesis dealt with issues of judicial elections, the VRA, and representation. California has the WORST of all systems: supposedly democratically elected judges who, because of appointments and generally voter-apathy/ignorace about judicial races, can go a whole career without ONCE appearing on a ballot.

You, albeit creatively, excuse the misleading statements about unelected/unaccountable judges as referring to their method of selection TO the redistricting panel.

Okay, but in that case, we should be concerned about unelected/unaccountable members of the judiciary committee of the California State Assembly making laws. They aren't ELECTED to the committee. Of course, they wer ELECTED to office and stand for re-election every 2 years, but nevermind that, we've got our microscopic lenses on now, let's not worry ourselves with reality.

If you wanted to argue that the practical realities of CA judicial elections is such that judges won't face the electorate, that would be a correct statement and a more reasonable meaning to apply to the commercial. Judges don't appear on the ballot because they are normally appointed mid-cycle and if no on runs against them, they just don't get their names printed on the ballot. It's a gawdawful system, to be sure.

But even if that's the practical reality - IT SHOULDN'T BE USED TO MISLEAD AN ALREADY ILL-INFORMED ELECTORATE ABOUT THE NATURE OF A)THIS PROPOSAL AND B) THE CALIFORNIA BENCH GENERALLY.

I take this issue very, very seriously. After 9 months and 40 pounds, how could I not.

I also take redistricting seriously, the democratic process seriously, and the holding of our own side to a standard as high if not higher than we hold the opposition.

It is, as I said in the post, possible that a slate of solely federal judges would be selected, in which case, the commercial's statements would be accurate. However, since it's just as likely a slate of state judges would be selected, it is A LIE to say they are not elected by the people. Or, perhaps, more the lie to imply they cannot be booted by the people, which is the real concern here.

So judges would be personally accountable via the ballot box (all it takes is a challenger, kids) AND the plans would be "accountable" as well.

Whether the commercial directly induces someone to vote against 77 is both the primary and secondary concern. Primary because they may be voting based on misinformation - they may be defrauded into opposing the measure based on fundamentally flawed information about California law. Secondary because the problem here is that someone made this commercial and many other someones approved it.

It's highly possible that those someones are friends and/or former coworkers of mine. That makes me sad.

Alls fair in love and campaigns, sure, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it or stay quiet about it.

There are PLENTY of legit reasons to oppose this measure - most of which could still be presented in equally goofy, eye-catching ways. Hell, even the crazy old lady spot, while pointless, doesn't misstate the law or the effect of the proposal.

I will forever maintain that this ad is inexcusable. The last thing the electorate ever needs is misinformation or yet another excuse to languish in ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I think you've misunderstood the commercial, causing you to find it misleading or dishonest where it is neither.

While California judges can be subject to election, once they are retired (which 77's judges must be) they are no longer subject to election. As such, the ad is correct that the judges aren't elected by the people (in fact, one or more of the judges could have been defeated in an election).

Neither are retired judges accountable to the voters. Whether voters like their plan or not, the judge will still be retired at the end of the day.

The judges on 77's panel cannot be booted by the people. As retired judges they don't stand for election and the ad makes quite clear it is referring to retired judges and retired judges only.

cd said...

Anon- fair point. Good point. And I'll admit my mistake on the retired judges angle.

However, the next issue is that the plans must be validated by voters at the next election. On that - the ads are still misleading.

And the race issues remain disconcerting as well.

CSE said...

The problem with the voter validation is that it is backwards. Once the new districts are submitted to the Secretary of State they go into effect immediately (ie. next primary election), not withstanding the umpteen legal challenges. Candidates will be chosen in the primary election based on the new districts. However, the voters do not vote on the districts until the next general election. Furthermore, Prop 77 states that even if the lines are rejected by the voters, officials elected to those districts will serve out their terms. That's well and good for the two year Assemblymembers, but what about the four year terms of Senators? Assuming that new districts are ok'd the next election cycle, you have a Senator representing a district that doesn't exist for two years.

I know that voter validation of redistricting polls well, but do you really want Butte County Joe Citizen voting on the validity of the district lines in LA county? In my opinion, Prop 77 takes the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians and puts it into the hands of political consultants. The judges can draw fair districts until the cows come home, but as long as they have to appear on a ballot, the political consultants will always have the last word.

cd said...

CSE - I think the voter approval provision is one of 77's stupider ones. It is, as you say, a faux method of giving the public "a say."

However, your statement that 77 takes redistricting out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of consultants ignores the fact that if redistricting remains in the legislature, it is already in the hands of consultants.

Consultants will be an important part of any redistricting process. Whether or not they are "political" consultant will vary depending on who makes the charge and when.

And, to really get down to it, redistricting is a political process (using "political" not as a shorthand for "evil, lying, deceitful bastards - as so many don't-call-me-political-politicos are wont to use).