Saturday, May 29, 2010

Voter-Nominated Primaries in California?

Here in California, where most of us agree that our state legislature is broken and it seems that our state government is on the brink of bankruptcy every few months or so, there are a number of hotly contested races underway for our June 8th primary election.  But amidst votes that will be cast for the nominees in each major party for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, the outcome of a vote on one specific initiative on the ballot has the potential of having a far more long-lasting impact on our state than any of the individual races for elective office.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Disappearing Middle

Last week's primary elections in some hotly contested campaigns for various House and Senate seats yielded results that were extremely important -- but not just for the obvious "who won and who lost" reports that filled up most political Web sites and cable news talk shows.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Making A Mark

What is art?  That's one of those great college study group questions, where everyone has an opinion and virtually none of them are the same.  The classical definition of art is typically the idea of using skill and imagination to create something that can be shared, while more modern conceptions of art seem to emphasize the importance of creating things that provoke reactions and engage audiences.  Whatever one's definition, I believe the highest form of artistic expression is when one uses creative skills to inspire other people, to lift them up, or to make a mark in the culture that points us to a better place.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wrestling with the Immigration Debate

The recently enacted anti-illegal immigration law in Arizona, which for the first time empowers law enforcement authorities to investigate an individual's citizenship status based on the "reasonable suspicion" standard, has been a lightning rod in the immigration debate.  For two weeks now, this law has attracted the support of a majority of Americans but triggered large-scale protests by vocal opponents in major cities nationwide.

It would be tempting to think of this intense debate as something unique to the travails of 21st century America, but the truth is that we have a long tradition in our public discourse of being conflicted as a people when it comes to how we manage immigration.  There may be no better metaphor for this conflict than to review the writings on this subject from the most brilliant American political thinker of all time, who just so happened to be the author of our founding document.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Two-Party System Under Pressure

The United States is one of the few Western democracies that has retained a two-party system for much of its history.  Sure, the names of the parties have changed from time to time and the political values espoused by the major parties are often unrecognizable from what they were generations ago, but the occasional flurries of interest in third parties have invariably crashed and burned.  We're witnessing another one of those periods of pressure on the two-party system now and one wonders if this time the results might be different.