Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Your Vote Counts

Okay, the election is less than a week away. Probably many of you have voted already by using the absentee ballot. This is now a convenient option. I remember the time when you had to give a valid reason for using the absentee ballot. Well, my first opportunity to vote in an election was 1972. I voted absentee. My reason? I was in the Marine Corps stationed in Vietnam.

On election night, those of us living in the western states are subjected to all of the early returns which primarily address the votes tallied for the presidential race. Early predictions, based upon the percentage of votes received and the response from voters exiting the voting booth, often cause many of us out west to throw up our hands in disgust, saying, “Why bother to vote?” CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX have all predicted the likely winner.

Good question. If we already know the probable winner of the presidential race, why not stay home? Answer: Because there are a lot more issues at stake than the presidential election alone. It’s true that the presidential race receives all the attention. But many states are voting for the election, or reelection, of governors, senators, representatives and many local officials. There are also judges voted into office at the lower levels. I will admit that I did not take the election of judges very seriously when I first voted thirty-two years ago. But after seeing how judges have successfully changed law, often going counter to the wishes of the people, I’m much more conscientious in my choices for judgeships now.

In addition, there are many important ballot measures that each of us needs to be aware of in order to cast an informed, thoughtful vote. If we do not take an interest in these measures, those who may have a different view on the matter will determine its outcome. Your voice needs to be heard.

There are sixteen state measures on this year’s ballot. You may not believe it’s that important to vote once the presidential election is determined, but all these ballot measures will yet be decided. These are measures that often determine how much more money is going to be taken from us as taxpayers to pay for new programs. Some of these are good measures, some are not. So take the time to sit down and do your own homework. The two major political parties have these measures listed on their state web sites. The Republican Party web site ( lists all sixteen ballot measures on their home page. The Democratic Party web site ( lists all the measures, though you will need to search for it under the link “Election 2004.” Then follow the “Candidates and Propositions” link. Then click on the link, “Statewide Propositions.”

Here’s a little test. Are you, for example, aware that the two parties are taking opposite positions on eight of the sixteen issues? That in itself should get your attention. What issues might those be, you ask?

  • First, Prop 61 is the Children’s Hospital Project. The Dems support it, and the GOP is opposed. Do you know why?
  • How about Prop 63 – a measure seeking to levy a 1% tax on those with income over $1 million to finance Mental Health Services. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 64 deals with Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition. Dems oppose – GOP support.
  • Prop 65 – Local Taxpayers & Public Safety Protection Act. Dems neutral – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 66 – Limitations on ‘Three Strikes’ Law. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 69 – DNA Samples. Dems oppose – GOP support.
  • Prop 71 – Stem Cell Research. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 72 – Health Care Coverage Requirements. Dems support – GOP oppose.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (a Democrat) is up for reelection. U.S. Representative Richard Pombo (a Republican), 11th District, is up for reelection. Plus, we have our own local elections to the Ripon City Council, and the Fire District.

Your vote counts!

Remember this. New Mexico’s five electoral votes went to Al Gore in 2000 by slightly more than 300 votes. That’s the size of a small neighborhood – and these five electoral votes are what may have determined the outcome.

So, be sure to vote this Tuesday, even if you think you know who won the presidency. It will affect all of us.

Voting is a privilege, and a right we have as citizens. And, it’s the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Why the Electoral College?

Just what is the Electoral College anyway?

Recently, my youngest daughter and I were out shopping, followed by a most enjoyable dinner together at Frankie, Johnnie, and Luigi’s Too in Dublin. Great pizza! But I digress. She’s been working two jobs and chipping away at completing her college education for several years now. As we were spending the evening together we got around to politics, so she asked me about the Electoral College.

Well, I attempted to launch into an erudite explanation that would dazzle her with my multi-degreed brilliance. It readily became apparent that I could not effectively put into words the function and purpose of the Electoral College. I vaguely remember studying this important function of our government, but that was about a hundred years ago! I found myself mumbling helplessly, hoping for some divine enlightenment in my failing attempt to explain this part of our election system.

I decided I needed to bone up on this topic. Thus, you will be the beneficiaries of my research.

First, let’s ask the most important question. Is it the popular vote, or the Electoral College vote that elects the president? Answer: Both. Each state has an Electoral vote for each senator (every state has two senators). Then there’s an Electoral vote for every U.S. Representative (based upon state population census). Each major political party at its convention selects electors to match the number of senators and representatives. Whichever party garners the simple majority of the popular vote wins all of the Electoral votes for that state. (There are two exceptions: Maine and Nebraska). This is why, mathematically, a candidate could conceivably win the Electoral College vote, and lose the popular vote. Largely populated states, such as California and New York, could easily swing the number of popular votes in one candidate’s favor so that when you combine all the popular votes throughout the nation, the winner of the popular vote could lose the election – case in point – George W. Bush in 2000. In truth, the candidate for the Democratic Party, then Vice-President Al Gore, won the popular vote, and lost the election. The Republican candidate, then Governor George W. Bush, won the Electoral vote, and thus the election.

The founding fathers of this great nation understood the problems associated with a straight popular vote. The first danger is what we often experience in high school class elections – popularity. The most popular kids were elected to be president of the class, secretary, etc. A truly charismatic personality could come along and sway the electorate, winning overwhelmingly through popularity. This is even more telling today with the use of television. If a candidate is not photogenic, it will be an uphill battle.

The second danger is centered on shear numbers. The most populated areas of the country would determine who would be elected if it were only a popular vote. Though not a perfect system, the Electoral College does even the playing field somewhat so that smaller populated states (Wyoming, for example) still have their voice heard.

To emphasize the point, notice how much time the candidates are spending in what are called the “swing states.” These states are generally smaller in population, but since each Electoral vote counts, the candidates cannot afford to ignore them. These smaller states don’t have the clout in numbers, but they can be the tie breakers. They are players in the grand drama. This is why every vote actually does count. It’s not just some platitude we hear every four years during our national election. Again, consider the role Florida played in the 2000 election. Florida has 27 electoral votes. California has 55 – slightly more than twice as many. Yet Florida determined the winner. Truth be told, there were fewer votes separating the two candidates in New Mexico – the difference is that New Mexico didn’t have “hanging chads.”

My oldest daughter just phoned me informing me she had gone down to reregister to vote, since she moved about a month ago. She didn’t want to hear her dad get on her for failing to vote.

Remember: it’s a privilege. It’s also your responsibility as an American.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Red, White, and Pink?

A nation’s flag is intended to engender pride and respect, and to promote a sense of everything that’s right about a country and its values. Patriotism is an indefinable, intangible that is more felt, or known in the regions of the heart, than something reproducible.

Americans are arguably the biggest flag wavers in the entire world. In my travels across continents, I have seen the American flag fly from a variety of locations. Most notably, a sense of real excitement surges in the breast at the sight of the Stars & Stripes fluttering in the breeze proudly situated atop an American embassy. This was wonderfully portrayed in the movie, “Not Without My Daughter,” when the American woman, played by Sally Fields, and her on-screen daughter managed to escape from Iran. Their harrowing journey finally had them arriving in Turkey. As they wandered through the streets of this strange city, they suddenly glimpsed the fluttering of a large American flag behind a grove of trees. They had found the American Embassy!

Other notable moments when the flag has been proudly displayed are part of our American memory. Though most of us were not present for many of these events, our pride in our country gives us a feeling of actually having witnessed the event. How can we not feel the excitement of Francis Scott Key penning the words of the Star Spangled Banner while a prisoner on a British ship? We declare that inspired moment every time we sing our National Anthem. The whole song is about the flag still flying despite an awful barrage all night long. There she stood, tattered, torn, yet still flying proudly in defiance of her enemies.

Those of us who have served in the Marine Corps hold dear the magical moment when five Marines and one sailor raised the flag atop of Mount Suribachi on the blood-soaked island of Iwo Jima, February 1945. An excellent book to read on this event and the men who raised the flag is, “Flags of Our Fathers.”

Many of you will remember when American astronauts planted the American flag on the moon, July 1969, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to have a man on the moon within the decade. That was quite a feat, and was a welcome bit of news for us as Americans at that time, what with the Vietnam War, campus activism, inner-city race riots, free-love, drugs, and the list goes on. For a brief moment, at least, we could celebrate being Americans again.

After 9-11, the American flag was flying high and proud. We would see it on freeway overpasses; protruding from car windows on specially made plastic staffs to withstand the force of the wind; and flying from many homes in every neighborhood. My heart would swell with pride simply driving down the street. It is a time I will never forget.

But something has happened. Most of the flags no longer fly in front of homes. Those that are flying look run-down, tattered, and faded. Flags flown over businesses are typically torn, the white stripes have become a dingy gray, the blue field is purplish, and the red stripes are – pink!

The flag deserves to be treated with respect for it embodies the freedoms we share as citizens of the greatest country in the world.

I’ve done some checking. You can order an American flag on line for your home that will run you from $8.00 - $25.00. Flags flown over business establishments cost $150.00 - $180.00.

So, here’s my proposal. Write into your annual budget (for your business and /or family) the amount for a new flag to be purchased every year. This way you never have a disheveled flag. And keep this in mind: most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American Legion Hall and inquire about the availability of this service.

My friends, take a moment to look closely at the flag that flies from your home or place of business. What do you see?

Do the right thing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Choosing a President

I like driving cars with standard transmissions (That’s a “stick shift” for the automotive illiterates among you!). There’s something about going through the gears that is most satisfying, pushing the RPMs until you reach that top gear – then you’re cruisin’!

Presidential elections typically start out in the lower gears, finally reaching top gear, then cruising into the Home Stretch. That’s where we are right now. The first of the debates between the two candidates is over. We’re now just twenty-seven days from the election which will decide whether George W. Bush will continue as our president, or whether Senator John F. Kerry will be the new president. I can guarantee one thing – on Election Day the news pundits will still be saying, “It’s too close to call.”

I first became interested in presidential elections in 1960 when Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon were the candidates for their parties. Every election since, even the ones where a candidate would win decisively, the media would always say, “It’s too close to call.”

I often hear people say, “Gee, I don’t know yet which candidate I’ll vote for.” Let me tell you how I determine which of the candidates to vote for. It’s not very scientific. It’s not clever. It’s not even difficult to understand. Allow me to explain.

As a man, I believe the Bible gives instruction and guidance for life. Having committed my life to Christ, it is my pleasure to follow the Lord. My first responsibility is seeing to the safety and security of my family. This is uppermost in my thinking. Next, if my family is to be secure, I must see to it that my community is secure. For my community to be secure, my nation must be secure.
Should we be concerned about the economy, health care, Social Security, public education, adequate policing services, and the myriad of other national and state concerns? Yes, of course we should. But these issues become moot if we are not secure as a nation.

The war on terrorism is not going to end any time soon. Terrorists do not care about you at all. They are not satisfied with simply leaving you alone. Neville Chamberlain attempted this with Hitler’s Germany in the late 1930’s. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. These hateful extremists want to kill you and destroy everything you have and enjoy as a free people. To misunderstand this is to place yourself and everyone you care about at risk. No amount of reason, no attempts at placating these misguided fools, will be enough. If that could work, I’d be all for it.

Consider the nations that have been attacked by terrorists: The United States, France, Russia, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on. We have chosen to fight this war. Others have not. I’ll not soon forget the words spoken to me when I was visiting the bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Djibouti, Africa. He said he was so grateful because, “the United States is the only nation willing to take the responsibility for battling the terrorists.”

So, I ask myself which candidate has the best plan for protecting my country? That plan then becomes the basis for protecting my community. And ultimately, this plan is useful in protecting my family. This becomes the linchpin for everything else.

Let me remind you of a quote from President Bush when he addressed the nation in November of 2001. He said, “Terrorists have no home in any faith. Evil has no holy days.” You see, these murderous thugs can only control people through intimidation and fear. At some point the world community will push back – hard! There will be no support anywhere for these ideological zealots.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear boxing promoter, Don King, speaking with such erudition during an interview. He was quite a sight to behold, wearing a star-spangled shirt, and holding two American flags. I wrote down a comment he made which sums up our current situation. He succinctly said, “Terrorism anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.” He’s absolutely right.

This is why for me the decision on who I vote for is simple. I ask myself, “Who do I believe is going to do the best job of protecting our nation?”

It all comes back to my God-given responsibility to protect my family. So who am I voting for? Let’s just say the choice was easy, and I’ve made my decision.

How do you decide who to vote for?