house lights

the credits rolled
with room still dark
some stood and gathered their things
it was time
everyone knew
cell phones chirped
whispers turned to voices
as they walked past him to the door
yet he sat
awaiting the surprise
the easter egg outtakes in the credits
that were still to come
the theater emptied around him
and still he hoped
he longed for the epilogue
the true ending
that would change the course of the story just told
and as the soundtrack faded to scratches
and then to a projector’s hum
the house lights came on
and reality set in
as did the silence
it was over
of course, he had known for some time
yet still he hoped
and still he waited
but ‘twas not to be
expectations dwindled
potential faded
the story ended
the moment passed

still he sat
until the usher asked
are you ok?
can’t you see it’s over?
and he replied
yes, but what if…?
just in case…
i’d rather know disappointment than regret

he smiled and stood
turned and left the theater
and without regret
he walked away
surprisingly satisfied
knowing in his heart
he gave the story every chance to change its ending
even though the story had been written long ago
and he’d seen that film before


(c) 2008 robert r. cargill

california’s constitution problem

is it just me, or is the entire california political system in dire need of a sweeping overhaul? let me get this straight: in california, it takes a 2/3 majority to pass a state budget (and address a financial crisis), but it only takes a simple majority to amend the california constitution? in my humble opinion, this is bass ackwards! california can pass an amendment to the state constitution that takes away the civil rights of its citizens with a simple majority, but can’t address a financial crisis because the state legislature requires a 2/3 majority to pass a budget?

compare california’s backwards system to the u.s. federal government, which requires a simple majority to pass a law, a budget, or a $700 billion dollar bailout, but mandates a 3/4 (that’s 75% to you humanities majors) ‘super’ or ‘special majority’ of ratifying states to amend the constitution. again, with all due respect to my own state’s government, we have it all backwards.

the problem lies with california’s penchant for amending the state constitution. for sake of comparison, the u.s. constitution has 27 amendments. twenty-seven! but by 1986, the california constitution had been amended more than 460 times! likewise, the u.s. constitution has 4,400 words, shorter than any major government’s constitution in the world. and yet by 1962, the california constitution contained over 75,000 words!! and while there have been several efforts to streamline california’s constitution, it is still possible to amend it with a simple majority.

there was a reason the founders of the united states required a three-fourths super majority to amend the constitution: to guard against tinkering. and tinkering is what we’ve recently done in california. proposition 8 took advantage of the simple ‘fifty percent plus one’ majority required to amend the california state constitution to limit the civil rights of a portion of its citizens. unlike the u.s. constitution, which reserved amendments for the granting of monumental protections and freedoms to its citizens like the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, equal protection under the law, california has actually voted to limit the civil rights of its citizens with the passage of prop 8. i can think of only one time where the federal government amended the constitution to limit the rights of the people: the 18th amendment and prohibition. and how did that turn out? it resulted in the 21st amendment and prohibition’s repeal.

the final problem leading to california’s political quagmire is the overuse of direct ballot initiatives. ballot measures bypass the entire system of ‘representative government’ that we’ve established throughout the u.s.  by opening ballot measures up directly to the public, we circumvent all three of the established branches of government – the executive, legislative, and judicial – and ask the public to vote on binding issues that supersede our own elected legislature. this places tremendous financial binds on california’s legislature, causing them to have to budget around the public’s latest prop de jour. likewise, ballot initiatives lead to increased (and unpopular) ‘legislation from the bench.’ bad ballot initiatives (and with enough signatures and money, you can get just about anything on a california ballot) cause the judiciary to step in and repeal many voter-approved ballot measures often because they are simply unconstitutional, or in the case of prop 8, counter to the purpose of the constitution, which is to limit government interference and protect and defend the rights of its citizens.

it is time for california to overhaul its political process. first, we are in dire need of a constitutional rewrite. simple is better. second, california should invert it’s majority requirements for the passage of state budgets (from 2/3 to a simple majority) and for constitutional amendments (from simple majority to 2/3 super majority). this will cut down on the use of the constitution to implement trendy proposals. finally, we need to find a way to cut down on the overuse of direct ballot initiatives, which only tie the hands of an already gridlocked state legislature. implementing these three simple reforms will go a long way towards fixing california’s problems.

robert. r. cargill, ph.d.

thus begins the ever-searching soul

there are four traits among those who sit before the sages:
a sponge, a funnel, a strainer, and a sifter
a sponge – because he sponges everything up
a funnel – because he takes in on one side and lets out on the other
a strainer – for he lets out the wine and retains the lees
and a sifter – for he lets out the flour and retains the finest flour

– mishnah avot 5:15


mine has been the life of a professional student
i have spent the better part of my thirty-five years learning
attempting to reconcile my experiences with what i have been taught
believing firmly that the one who claims to know, does not
and discovering that grace trumps arrogance
facts trump beliefs
and love defies all constants
i live life with forgiving eyes
a crooked smile
a heart of service
and an inquisitive mind
questioning everything
and observing, often in silence
studying the constant properties that govern our universe
and the fickle ones that govern our relationships
i have spent a lifetime learning
and this will not change

but now is the time
to synthesize what i have observed
and begin to comment publicly
with wit and perspicacity
irony and intensity
patience and professional responsibility
and an ever-inspired awe for all things around me

thus begins the blog of the ever-searching soul

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