Making Your Voice Heard

This essay — minus the two paragraphs in the middle that refer to this project — was one of the first essays submitted for publication to the San Jose Mercury News. It was not published.

Note that, when this was written, the entire concept of blogging — and its potential for bringing other voices to the public debate — did not exist. Clearly, blogging has had an effect on the way news is reported; I consider its potential to affect public policy still indeterminate. This is one experiment to test that potential.

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Reform of the Franking Privilege

In the fall of 1996 a friend of mine ran for congress as a Republican in a predominantly Democratic district. In addition to having to overcome the demographics, he was also fighting an entrenched incumbent and the disaster of Bob Dole’s lackluster presidential campaign. Predictably, he lost the election.

While working occasionally on the campaign I began to pay attention to some of the biases built into our electoral system. This essay describes one such bias, the franking privilege, and proposes an alternative.

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White Man

The general state of race-relations in America has recently been highlighted nationally by President Clinton’s “Dialogue on Race”, and in California by ballot propositions like 187 (limiting government benefits to illegal immigrants) and 209 (eliminating state-sponsored affirmative-action). The desire for an unemotional and realistic conversation on race — where we stand, where we are headed, and where we want to be — is noble and desirable. It seems, however, that our initial attempts have been thwarted as much by the terms of the conversation as by the subject itself: just as the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of historical discrimination were largely defined by its beneficiaries (to whom ‘race-relations’ were a closed issue), the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of the fight against discrimination — and, more generally, of our discussions about race — have been largely defined by those to whom ‘race-relations’ have historically meant ‘race-based oppression’ — to whom ‘race-relations’ were very much an open issue and a dominant factor of their lives. While this is understandable, and perhaps even just, it almost ensures that racial difference is viewed and debated as a chasm to be crossed — or into which to fall — rather than as a boundary to be transcended.

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The Good Fight

Why is LSI fighting so hard against this school when the risks, according to the environmental impact study, seem so small and the support so strong? Certainly there are better ways to spend what little public regard remains for corporate America than in opposing a popular and socially beneficial neighbor.

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Analysis of Complex Social and Political Policies

Create a panel of “real-world actors”, people who are/will be directly involved in the implementation of the laws — for instance, in the case of proposition 211, a panel of tort lawyers who file securities cases and of judges who sit on securities fraud cases — and let them describe what they would do in these hypothetical scenarios under existing and proposed law. Would they file a suit? Would they allow a case to go to trial? At what cost? Would they bring back a judgement for or against a particular party? Who would they hold liable and to what extent? How big a judgment would they award? Under what circumstances would they declare a case “frivolous”? What punishments would they impose, either for a finding of fraud or for a finding of frivolity?

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A Letter To Our Leaders During HillaryCare

I am writing to you as perhaps the last hope for sanity in the debate over health-care reform; despite my California address I am a native Granite Stater and my respect for both of you predates your current activities on behalf of the Concord Coalition. I, as most people, have become concerned about the direction in which the debate seems to be moving. Because of your commitment to weaning the American public, politicians, and government bureaucrats from the trap of entitlement programs I thought you might have a special interest in what becomes of this potentially gargantuan new entitlement program into which we seem to be plunging. It is my hope that your influence and straight talk may yet prevail over the politics dominating the discussion to date.

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