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Bill Maher’s California Elegy

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Posted on May 24, 2009
Bill Maher

The “Real Time” host laments the ballot initiative, which, he says, has made his home state ungovernable: “This is why America’s founders wanted a representative democracy, because they knew if you gave the average guy the chance, he’d vote for a fantasy world with no taxes, free beer and vagina trees.”

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By Folktruther, May 26, 2009 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

Interesting sites, Anarcissie.  I was amazed to find internation coopertivve organs citing that a hundred million people worldwide are working in cooperatives.  I don’t know what this means in detail powerwise, but socialists have not paid much attention to it so far. they have usually defined socialism in non-market terms, but one wonders if this is essential.

The next wave of world power will be Asian state capitalism.  But while this is increasing, it may be possible to develop a new form of cooperative power that can challenge it in the middle or late part of the century.  And in selected places before then, like the US as Western power degenerates.  If the population can develop power independant of the ruling class, we can prevent the total peversion of the Internet the way capitalism extended the print media.

But for this to happen, cooperatives would have to cooperate and form an integrated world system capable of challenging state capitalism of Asia as well as the neoliberal and welfare capitalism of the West.  And this can only be done if cooperatives set up their own truth and media system that challenges that of capitalism.  A big historical effort, amalgamiting elements of the socialist and anarchistic traditions.  But it may be under way historically.

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By truedigger3, May 26, 2009 at 1:33 am Link to this comment

Abumubarak wrote:
“I firmly believe we pay TOO MUCH TAXES.”


I beg to disagree, compared to the rest of the “developed countries”, the amount of taxes
compared to the National income, is the lowest in the
But the problem is that the taxes in US are not progressive but regressive and the rich has many loopholes that allow them to escape paying their fair share.
Also, the money is not spent wisely and a lot of
it is spent on unnecessary weapon systems and foreign bases.
Shame of you to complain about foreign aid. It is a
small drop in a large bucket and the US gets its money back tens of folds. Most of the foreign aid is nothing but indirect subsidies to US corporations especially weapon manufacturers which the recipient are obliged to spend the aid money on or else!!
The only exception is Israel, which gets its aid in
cash without any strings attached to the way it chooses to spend the money.??!!

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By Anarcissie, May 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

Marx may have approved of co-ops.  I’ve noticed that Marxist regimes have often permitted private ownership of the means of production if it was held by individuals or by co-ops.  These would be socialist, if socialism is defined as the means of production owned or operated by the workers—a definition I haven’t found in Marx, Lenin or Trotsky, but it may be there.  In the minds of these people, ending the alienation of the worker from the means and fruits of production was extremely important (or so I’ve been told), and co-ops do that.

As for the Internet, the corps and the governments have been trying to control it, but so far I think only China has had much success in that endeavor.  It was many years before ruling classes figured out how to control the printing press, and the Net is even more polymorphous and fluid.  So there is a certain space and a certain amount of time in which interesting things may develop.

Check this out:

And this related site:

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By Folktruther, May 25, 2009 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

I can’t believe, Anarcissie, that a barbaric power system like the US, the way it is heading, would allow the Internet to remain a good tool for the population.  They will censor it to protect Freedom and Democarcy. Or censor it more, since they now do.

But, on the other hand, if there is an integrated world wide cooperative mmovent, it can exert pressure to contain this censorship.  It may be that the cooperative movment is the only way workers can exert independant power, now that capitalism is destroying the union movement.

Marxists have ignored the cooperative movement but a Cambridge economist wrote a paper saying that marx approved of it.  things like this influence people, including, I’m ashamed to say, myself.

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By AbuMubarak, May 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

JB, the “anti tax Republican party”? In all honesty, I firmly believe we pay TOO MUCH TAXES.  And I am not talking about $500 or $1,000 per year.  To sum it up in a nutshell, I believe until the country gives us 90% transparency, via the internet. We should not pay one more dime. If I was to guess and I mean a complete guess, I would say we pay 90% too much in taxes.

Because with the fuel tax, the road tax, the telephone tax, toll roads, etc (I believe we pay to the tune of 200 various taxes per year), our government is only going broke because of mis-spending.  There was an investigator of Dept of Defense not accounting for 50% of its money.  Paul Brenner losing $8 billion dollars.  Untold amounts in foreign aid, national debt, etc.

We are getting fleeced.

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By Anarcissie, May 25, 2009 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther—the Internet has greatly reduced the cost of publication.  I think its participants still have to work out issues of verification, relevance and focus, but there are possibilities that didn’t exist a few years ago.

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By PatrickHenry, May 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

Maher is the usual Israel first suck ass he always is and has been.

I guess you have to kiss the ring on HBO too as in all of Hollywood to be a player there, how sad.

I like his show but his blatent over pandering to the zionists debases many of his view points.

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By Folktruther, May 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

It’s not only, Anarcissie, that liberals are classic economic and political conservatives, but they lead the mainstream Left movement in the US, when most other capitalist polities have a socialist opposition, albeit usually a fake one. Liberalism, the Left ideology in the US, is conservative in most other states.

A suburban liberal can give lipservice to a few cultural issues, remain conservative economically, dispise the population, and lead the Dem party.  And most Americans are indoctrinated with a restricted and fragmented worldview can cannot think in a world historical perspective.  Politics is defined for them by the fake conflict between the Dems and Gops, when both espouse policies for the rich and powerful and against the population.

That is why a people’s truth system is more important than trying to reform the corrupt vote system.  But it is conceivable that a people’s media could be supported by a cooperative movement that could fund it, not only in the US but internationally.  But, it seems to me, that the cooperative movement must itself be reformed as well, since it has larely been coopted by a competive individualism.

You are convincing me that that is at least partially the way to go.  Unfortunately I don’t know much about economics and almost nothing about business.

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By hippie4ever, May 25, 2009 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment

“...if you gave the average guy the chance, he’d vote for a fantasy world with no taxes, free beer and vagina trees.”—Bill Mayer

Man, you say that like it’s a BAD thing! FYI, Bill, there’s lots of untaxed money in this state. It’s called the cannabis industry, and most is still imported by Mexican cartels. Revenues from legalised cannabis would help the state recover, as would modifying Prop 13 to exclude corporations and individuals whose net worth exceeds $3,000,000. There are better solutions than offered by our politicos in Sacramento, especially that tired old steroid case.

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By A.S.Miller, May 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To those who are questioning Bill Maher’s faith in democratic rule—e.g. from Anarcissie “Maher follows the traditional rightist argument against democracy…”, I say whoa!  You are missing his point here in a BIG way, and he does actually have a very important point.

Admittedly his jokes about vagina trees oversimplify the case to the point of opening him up to the kind of faux-populist critiques about being anti-democratic and the like, BUT…

Bill has finally stated the painfully obvious:
—> The initiative process is procedurally ridiculous, and its fruits are a disaster.

Remember Prop 13?  Has anyone bothered to connect the dots from that particular disaster straight to the pink slips our teachers are now receiving?  Our state’s budgetary process is held hostage by an intransigent 33% minority, thoroughly and legally enabled in their intransigence, for now and in perpetuity, because of that horror of a “voter revolt”.

His off-color jokes notwithstanding, Maher has, in my view, hit the nail on the head with his diagnosis of the spectacular dysfunction of California state governance.

There is simply no hope of producing rational governance through ballot measures, and there are very good reasons for this, both theoretical and practical, that anyone living and voting here in California can readily understand.

On the more theoretical side, one should ask what might make for a rational (and hopefully functional) budgetary process…

For such a radical outcome as rational budgeting to occur, one needs to accomplish two simple things in a clear and thoughtful manner:
(1)  assemble a list of priorities for the public good that the general public considers sufficiently important that state money should be spent to see them addressed, and
(2) assess what tax revenue can reasonably be collected so that the state may spend on (1).

Viewing priorities and sources of revenue as a coherent whole, and assessing aspects thereof rationally, is the only way to come up with effective budgets, and therefore the only path to governing sensibly.

Not only does the initiative process not do things this way, it stands the process on its head.  It makes a complete mockery of this very simple - and necessary - formula.

It inherently cherry picks issues:  we want this, we don’t want that… with no consideration for the larger picture, and how these various wants (that monied interests very frequently manage to place on the ballot) affect the state’s ability to address a full list of priorities in a coherent fashion, let alone the necessity to tax appropriately to address said priorities.

On the somewhat more practical side of things, the initiative process is corrupt.  It was originally created to reign in a corrupt state legislature, but it has been co-opted by the same moneyed special interests as once owned the legislature.  Who, after all, has the financial resources to hire those signature collectors outside the grocery stores, and pay for the (often deceptive and dishonest) television ads to persuade the public to vote one way or another on this or that ballot measure?

I’ll give you a clue:  it’s not the poor, or even the middle class.

The kind of criticism of Maher I’m seeing here is the tired and simplistic “Oh, Maher’s actually an elitist in liberal clothing” type nonsense.

The fact, uncomfortable though it may be, is that Maher has actually pointed out the proverbial elephant in the living room.  Whether you like his humor or not, he happens to be perfectly on target here.

We in California have a constitutional crisis.  Our problems are - and I don’t use this word lightly - systemic.  Electing a new governor ain’t gonna bail us out of this one!

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By Russian Paul, May 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

He’s right about our worship of superheroes, wrong about blaming the voters. We voted no on all the props in the special election because they were convoluted, misleading, and wouldn’t have solved anything.

If Maher is so concerned about the welfare of his state, why hasn’t he mentioned the high-speed rail boondoggle that may end up costing us Californians over 50 billion before they even finish building it? The fact that they are still planning this amidst our current crisis is really astounding.

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By Keith B, May 25, 2009 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

However glib, Maher’s(and his writers, for all we know)comments about California sum up the cause of California’s political decline very well.  If you add term limits to the list of terrible ideas(tax cuts + mandated spending, 2/3 majority to pass tax/budget,etc) you’ve pretty much got the complete picture.  The initiative process HAS NOT worked out well for California. 
Thanks to Maher, et al, also for pointing out that Batman has a ‘big, stupid American car’.

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By Anarcissie, May 25, 2009 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

Under the rhetorical surface, many liberals and libertarians are actually conservatives in the classical sense.  They believe, among other things, that the people must be governed by an elite who are wiser and more virtuous than ordinary people.  They usually see themselves as part of this elite, or at least as its faithful servants.  The complaint was not that Bush, Cheney, Rice and so on were not elitists but that they weren’t elite enough. There are two fresh topics to this effect on Truthdig, and probably more are coming.

But when it comes to emptying the treasury, we observe it is the wealthy, superior elite, and not the common people, who did it, and are continuing to do it.

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By truedigger3, May 25, 2009 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Did Bill Maher, all of sudden, become a liberitarian.??!!
He is implying that a government is ineffective and
collective decision-making by referendums is ineffective. So, in his opinion, everyone should
run amock doing his own thing!!??.
Is he trying to say something serious or just trying
to be funny and what came out of his mouth is utter nonsense??!!

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By G.Anderson, May 25, 2009 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

When we’re letting all those criminals out of prison, let’s free the millions of dead beat dads, whose lives and families we’ve destroyed by raping them financially, so we could collect grant money from the feds.

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By Purple Girl, May 25, 2009 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

Who Wrote the 750 Billion dollar Check, Bill? Under Who’s watch did the Federal Reserve sneak in another couple Trillions on our Tab? Have you been smoking too much Weed or are you now drinking the same alzheimers producing Koolaid as the Right wingers?
But You Are correct Bill- no super hero can get US out of this Cluster- so pull your panty twist out of your ass and find a bucket of water to extinguish your hair. In the effort to detangle and disinfect the comtamination which has insideously infestated our nation over the last few decades- some shit is going to suck, there will be moments when we still have to pay a dime to dance with the Devil so the whole damn house of cards does not collapse.
It’s taken about 40 yrs to get in this shit hole- it’s gonna take more than 4 to get US out.So take a Pill or light up another fatty and chill.

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By JB Collicott, May 25, 2009 at 7:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree completely with Bill Mahrer on this one. Americans have bought into the anti tax Republican party as though taxes are something to hate.  Living in Oregon, a state that also has “ballot ammendments all the time, has the same problems as California.  People want government services, but don’t want to pay for them.  We also have lost our empathy and perhaps our soul as well. At this rate, I don’t want to imagine what this country will be in ten years, that is if there is an America.

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By Anarcissie, May 25, 2009 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

In short, Maher follows the traditional rightist argument against democracy, which usually insists that as soon as the people obtain any kind of power, they will empty the treasury and have orgies in the street.

With this sort of philosophy, it’s no wonder the Left is miniscule and its chief public figures are clowns.

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