I hope government classes document all this carefully: California is going further down the path of exemplifying why direct democracy is a bad idea. A lot of California laws get made by voter initiative, ostensibly enabling direct democracy and giving our elected officials a certain amount of redundancy. In reality, this means that instead of having to pay off politicians--a mercurial lot who have to maintain their image to the voters, and may even have scruples, to boot--special interests who want laws passed in their favor can just go with a media campaign, which gives much more reliable results, with no accountability to the backers of the initiative. In this sense the democratic republic model works much better, because the power is concentrated in a relatively small number of locations--the politicians themselves--who are bound by law to a certain level of transparency, and are fairly easy to scrutinize. The initiative-bypassing-legislators model leaves us with laws made by shadowy organizations with ambiguous names, quietly funded by business interests.
The latest thing is that we're having a recall vote for Governor Gray Davis. California exists in our own little world, and it's hard to track how the rest of the country sees us, but if NPR is any measure, the recall has a lot of nationwide attention. I think it's bullshit, myself: ever since I was little, one of the things I've liked about the US is our stability. This especially struck home one day when Russian then-President Boris Yeltsin, after conflict with legislators, simply dissolved the Duma, triggering new elections. In general we don't have that here: we elect somebody, they might suck, but elections roll around again and we can get rid of them. To remove somebody from office nine months after electing him is a cop-out, a failure of the electorate to take responsibility for its actions. No one is accusing him of any wrongdoing, any crime; there's an independently wealthy Republican legislator who wants the job and bankrolled a media campaign that has essentially repeated the phrases "Gray Davis" and "massive state deficit" over and over again until people seem to have linked them in their minds, much like the Bush administration chanting "Iraq" and "Al-Qaeda" together until people believed they had anything to do with each other. (They don't. If you don't believe me, try and find the link. There isn't one.)
I have a lot of compassion for humanity, but man. Sometimes it seems like such a waste, when you look at what we can be and compare it to what we are.
But hey, what else was I going to be doing?
I'm busy fending off worry and fear. There are essentially two ways to change yourself. First, you can work to change the way you think and feel, and that change will filter out to how you act. Second, you can change your behavior, and that change will filter inward to how you think and feel. I have to go with the second one. I think far too much to hope to discipline myself on the inside. But if I act like I'm not worried or afraid, the noise inside settles down and I become the way I act.