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Tuesday June 7, 2016 — California Primary Election
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United States

U.S. House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 24

Photo of John Uebersax

John Uebersax

Social Scientist/Biostatistician
2,188 votes (1.1%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Oppose US militarism and economic imperialism; develop a foreign policy of peace and friendship
  • Replace internal divisiveness and conflict with an ethos of unity and cooperation among all Americans
  • Replace reactive policy-making with efforts to pursue a positive vision for our future



Profession:Social Scientist, Biostatistician, Anti-war Writer
Senior Biostatistician, Experis (2015–current)
Adjunct Professor (Statistics), California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2013–2014)
Principal Statistician, Roche Diagnostics, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline (2000–2010)
Associate Professor of Public Health, Wake Forest Medical School (1991–1994)
Policy Scientist, RAND Corporation (1987–1990)


University of Texas at Austin Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Psychology, statistics (1983)
University of Southern California Bachelor of Arts (A. B.), Psychology, Religion, Philosophy (1975)

Community Activities

Director, Californians for Higher Education Reform (2010–current)

Questions & Answers

Questions from The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and California Counts, a public media collaboration. (4)

Should immigration laws be changed?  What changes would you support?  Please explain why.
Answer from John Uebersax:

Insufficient attention is being paid to what drives immigrants to the US from Mexico and Central America.  Many are fleeing drug-related violence and associated political upheaval.  Ending the disastrous and ill-conceived war on drugs that the US pursues in Latin America will help improve social conditions and support economic growth and job-creation there.  Further, we should invest in Latin American infrastructure and provide technical and other assistance.

The political climate in Washington, D.C. has been extremely partisan in recent years. In that kind of atmosphere, what would you do to get things done while in office?
Answer from John Uebersax:

US militarism is a huge lie that our elected officials are living.  In the climate of denial that is required to maintain a vast program of military imperialism,  officials lose their moral sense and are unable to cooperate to solve other problems.  By facing up to the injustice and great harms of US militarism and wars, our officials can regain their moral sense.  Then we will find that solving other issues is far simpler.

My working strenuously in Congress to oppose and reverse US militarism, and enlisting the aid of other members of Congress in this effort, would exert a positive effect that would help restore integrity to government, improving every facet of its operation. 


What, if anything, does the U.S. need to do in order to address national security and terrorism? Please explain your answer in detail.
Answer from John Uebersax:

The greatest threats to our national security are (1) internal divisiveness, rendering us easy prey for terrorist and other enemies, and (2) US military imperialism, including illegal drone strikes, which are creating more and more enemies.

Our first response should be to renew the sense of national unity.  Instead of framing every social problem in terms of conflict and division ('us vs. them'), we should make unity and common purpose the dominant conceptual frame.  This is something each American individually must help accomplish, but elected officials can a play a special role by a setting positive example.

Secondly, we must stop imposing our will on foreign nations with military interventions and covert regime0change operations.  Instead, we should embark on a conscious, steadfast campaign of peace and friendship.  To that end I propose a permanent program by which, every year, the US bestows on some country a generous cultural gift — for example, a library, museum, medical center, etc.  This action, easily done, and for comparatively little money, would change history. 

The Federal Government plays a part in California water allocation and use through a variety of laws.  What, if any, legislation would you support in an effort to handle water shortages caused by the current and any future drought?
Answer from John Uebersax:

1. Legislation to improve inter-state water management and planning.

2. Incentives to municipalities to invest in rainwater harvesting.

3. To combat global warming, encourage large reforestation efforts.

4. Agricultural reforms to restore aquifers.

Who gave money to this candidate?


More information about contributions

Source: MapLight analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

National Gifts: A Foreign Policy of Friendship


Proposes a program by which the US would annually donate to some foreign nation a generous cultural gift, like a museum, library, monument, medical center.  

THE OTHER day I visited with interest (and some dismay) the website for the United States foreign assistance programs.

It claims that our country is planning to devote $33.9 billion in fiscal year 2017 to help foreign countries.

Ignoring the $8.3 billion in military assistance, this still leaves a respectable $25.6 billion dedicated to economic and humanitarian assistance.

Or is it respectable?  Who today is so innocent as not to suspect that much of our so-called economic assistance is really a way of steering the economy, infrastructure and values of a foreign country to render it more exploitable?

It need not be so.  I propose to my fellow Americans an alternative.

The current US population is something over 300 million.  Were each person to contribute a mere 33 cents annually (parents paying the amount for infants and young children), we would easily raise $100 million.

Each year we could single out one amongst the family of nations, and bestow on this nation, as a gesture of pure friendship, some great gift purchased with it.

The first stipulation would be that there are no strings attached.   We seek nothing in return for the gift, except the benefit of the recipient and the honor of making it.

The second is that the gift must have nothing to do with economics or materialist values.  We would wish, rather, to give in the name of eternal friendship between the people of that country and our own.

The most suitable gifts, I suggest, would be libraries, museums, parks, gardens and monuments.  Perhaps there are others, but I personally would not like to see the list extended too far beyond these definite examples of non-material goods.

The figure of $100 million, or perhaps as much as twice that,  would suffice for a truly magnificent gift, yet at the same time is sufficiently restrained as to not seem crass.  By comparison, the new Library of Alexandria, Egypt cost $200 million, the Sifang Art Museum in Nanji, China, $279 million, and the MuCEM of Marseille, $260 million.

I have in mind one historical precedent for this, namely a library for the University of Leuven which the American people (independently of their government) donated to the people of Belgium following World War I.

To consider the premise from the reverse perspective, consider the affection which Americans retain to this day to their French cousins in gratitude for the gift of the Statue of Liberty.

An examination of current foreign aid recipients shows we now favor poor nations and generally ignore more prosperous countries like Japan and Canada.  But in friendship we should not make such distinctions.  If I may, I would like to nominate Japan, a great friend whom we take for granted, as the first recipient.

To merely begin this program would, besides the immediate result of honoring our old friends and making new ones, have the effect of changing history.  It would become immediately apparent to all how easy and, relatively speaking, inexpensive this is, and how much vastly superior it is as a foreign policy than war, competition and exploitation. It would signal nothing less than a turning point in human evolution.  Henceforth the advanced level of our technology and the vast power of collective capital would be matched by our wisdom and charity.

To speed the progress of so worthy an endeavor let some wealthy American — for example,Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg — take the first step by supplying, for one year only, some substantial fraction (but not to exceed 50%) of the total.   In return they would go down in history as one of the great benefactors of humanity.


Or let those whose reputations suffer from past errors or partisan connections demonstrate their patriotism and good will to all — a George Soros or the Koch Brothers — by taking the first step.  They will then be applauded by all for their magnanimity.

Drone Strikes: What Are the Moral Issues?


Outlines the various specific ways in which the present US drone strike program is immoral.

Ambiguities associated with drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen make it difficult for the public to understand the issues, and for activists to mount effective opposition.

Above all we must not let this confusion distract attention from the basic moral issues and harms.  Therefore, in the face of constant double-talk by government officials, we respond with the potent weapons of simplicity and clear presentation of issues.

To repeat what was said previously, drone strikes are of four kinds:  (1) targeted killings, (2) signature strikes, (3) overt combat actions, and (4) covert combat actions.  The moral issues listed below apply in different degrees to each type of drone strike.

The specific moral harms can be broadly aggregated into two groups, according to seriousness.  We shall name these the top tier and second tier moral issues, respectively.  After presenting the issues, some brief suggestions will be made for how the US might conduct drone strikes — if they are truly necessary — in a more just and moral way.

Top tier issues

  • Civilian deaths/casualties. Clearly the most important moral issue is that drone strikes, especially in Pakistan, have killed or injured many innocent civilians.  Serious consideration must also be  given to the gruesomeness of the injuries and manner of death, and the associated effects of this on survivors and relatives of those killed or injured.
  • Terrorization. Very plausible reports have circulated concerning the mass terrorization of civilians in the Tribal Regions of Pakistan because of drones.  In some areas, drones, often several at the same time, can be heard constantly, even at night.  Whenever a drone is present, nobody can be sure they will not be killed in the next instant.
  • Racism. The civilian-to-militant casualty ratio deemed acceptable by US government officials is evidently very high.  This suggests that the life of civilian Pakistani or Yemeni has comparatively little value in the eyes of the US government.  So high a level of ‘collateral damage’ would be not be accepted were these British, German or French citizens.
  • Disregard of religious customs and principles. Particularly questionable is the use of follow-up drone strikes, which attack people who come to rescue or remove bodies from the scene of an initial strike, and strikes directed against funerals of slain militants.  Civilized and decent people have always granted enemies the right to collect and bury the dead.  In any case, a funeral is a religious ceremony, and no moral people would attack another during a religious service. Moreover, the US has launched strikes during its own religious holidays, such as on Good Friday, and on January 1, both holy days for Christians.  It is also reported that drone missiles travel faster than the speed of sound, and therefore kill victims without any advance warning.  If so, this removes the possibility of praying or collecting oneself in the moments before death (however ‘unfashionable’ it may be these days to mention such an issue, it is nonetheless a significant one).
  • Secrecy. If the strikes were just and honorable, the US government would conduct them in a transparent way, explaining its procedures and admitting and making restitution for collateral damage.  But the strikes are cloaked in secrecy. The secrecy is, then, evidence that the strikes are immoral:  otherwise the US government would more readily admit them and disclose details.  Moreover, the secrecy is a moral harm itself:  it reduces government credibility, fosters ill-will between nations, and alienates the US government from its own citizens.
  • Effects on drone operators. It is wrong for any nation to induce its citizens to act as cold-blooded exterminators of other human beings.  This is utterly incompatible with human nature, and must be producing terrible psychological damage in drone operators.

Second tier issues

  • Issues of international law. The drone strikes, especially in Pakistan (where citizens consistently voice their disapproval), are illegal because they violate the sovereignty of other nations. Civilian drone operators are illegal combatants under international law.  Drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia constitute a form of undeclared war, which is illegal both under international and US law.
  • Issues of democratic principles. All available evidence suggests that most Pakistan drone strikes are what an earlier post termed covert combat actions: they are targeting ordinary militants, not high-level terrorists.  The evidence also suggests that this is done by covert collusion between the US government and conservative factions of the Pakistani government.  Both governments must issue deceptive statements to their respective citizenries to cover things up.  This removes the citizens from oversight and direction of their own lives. In the case of the US, it is also probable that defense contractor lobbying is instrumental in expanding the drone strike campaigns.
  • Arms escalation.  Eager use of drones and rapid development of more advanced systems by the US is setting the stage for an international drone arms race.  Especially disturbing is the current development of autonomous drones, which may attack and kill without human input.
  • Inhumane treatment of enemy militants.  We are required to show respect for enemies, and to always regard them as human beings; killing by remote control is antithetical to this principle.
  • Nonexpedience. The aggressive drone strike campaigns are also immoral because they harm US national security: the strikes produce more new enemies than they neutralize.  They also erode the moral foundations of American society and damage its reputation abroad.  By producing new enemies, and, consequently, potentially new wars, they threaten America’s economy.
  • Evasion of responsibility.  The drone strikes (and the global ‘war on terror’ generally), demonstrate a reluctance by the US to admit its own partial responsibility for creating global instability.  The attacks of 9/11 and on the USS Cole in Yemen were morally evil, to be sure.  Yet the US must honestly consider the extent to which it helped provoke the attacks by a long standing policy of crass imperialism.  The US has also been complicit with the illegal efforts of Israel to functionally annex the West Bank territories of Palestine.  These things do not justify the terrorist attacks on the US, but should be considered as mitigating factors in determining our response to the attacks.
  • Dishonorable warfare.  When soldiers engage under more or less equal terms, there is potentially a kind of honor associated with warfare.  When one party has an immense advantage, killing becomes mere slaughter, with no trace of honor.


If the US wishes to conduct drone strikes in a more moral manner, then particular attention should be given to the top tier moral issues.  The main requirement is to reduce civilian casualties to an absolute minimum.  This can most effectively be done by limiting the number of strikes, such as by restricting them only to targets who are genuinely direct and immediate threats to US domestic security.  In any case, the CIA and Department of Defense obviously monitor strikes closely, and have data on civilian casualties.  They should routinely report these data (consistent with the Geneva Conventions).  If a strike is deemed genuinely necessary, the US should be able to defend it openly in the court of public opinion.  The US should also issue public statements of regret for civilian casualties, and make restitution.

Why Recite the Pledge of Allegiance


Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a valuable means to restore and maintain a sense of national unity, bonds of affection, and common purpose.

Once during a political campaign I visited in the same week a conservative Tea Party group and a progressive Democratic caucus, and was struck by the fact that both began their meetings with an earnest recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Here are points to consider in favor of making this practice more common today.

1. It is a ceremony, and we need more ceremonies today.

2. Its main point is to publicly affirm ones allegiance to our republic.  The word republic comes from Latin (res publica) which simply means 'the public thing.'  The Pledge of Allegiance expresses ones personal commitment to a nation of people united in affection and purpose.

3. Our common purpose is an experiment in creating a 'land of the free', and, along with this, in forming and improving an effective and just government of the people, by the people, for the people.

4. The flag is merely a visible symbol of the invisible moral and spiritual bond which unites us as Americans.  It is the nature of love to draw together and unite.  The Pledge of Allegiance, then, is a statement of ones love of ones fellow citizens.  Love has nothing to do with boasting, swaggering, aggression, or conquest; it is mistaken to associate the flag with such things.

5. We affirm that we are indivisible.  This is an urgent message in the present times of bitter partisanship and internal strife.  The truth is that is our welfare and very survival depend on our unity, and on recognition that we are, in fact, an indivisible community.  Saying it aloud helps underscore this vital principle in our minds.

6. To recite the Pledge does not, per se, produce excessive nationalism or jingoism.  We have a moral duty to all human beings, in all nations. We strive together as a nation to support the global good.  Working with other Americans we may contribute to humanity better than we can individually.

7. We do not pledge allegiance to the government.  The government is merely an administrative organ of our nation, and serves the American people, to whom we bear our true allegiance. One of our essential duties as Americans is to remain vigilant against oppressive government.  One way governments oppress citizens is by dividing them against each other.  Our solidarity is our best defense against abusive government.

8. It goes without saying that nobody should be or feel coerced to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Neither should they be required to stand during its recitation.


9. To commence a candidates forum with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is especially apt: it helps produce a suitably dignified tone to proceedings and establishes a context of cooperation, mutual respect and trust; it reminds us of the urgent need for unity; it draws us closer to one another as we see that all present are motivated by genuine devotion to country and community. It serves to rededicate us in our common mission to form a more just and virtuous society; with this, our overriding goal, and the value of each individual towards its accomplishment, more clearly in view, we may then approach proceedings in a positive, generous, collegial spirit, and avoid a mere clamoring of opposing factions.

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