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I'm with Her

I'm with Her

This blog has never endorsed a presidential candidate before. This isn't due to hundreds of years of editorial balance, it's because I only became a US Citizen in 2010. I became rapidly disillusioned with Obama (I voted Green in 2012). I'd prefer to have seen a candidate further to the left this time. But it's clear that there is only one way to vote this November and Hillary will have my wholehearted support.

To my Republican friends: Hillary is not going to repeal the 2nd amendment (as much as I'd like to see this happen). She's a moderate and you'll hate some of what she does but America will still be standing in four or eight years and you'll get your chance again. In your heart of hearts you know that Trump would be a disaster for the country and the world. Concede this one graciously and ease off with the desperate hateful last ditch attempt to smear Hillary with a perverted reflection of your candidate's reality.

Democrats: Please vote. I know that a Trump victory is looking increasingly remote but it's really important that Hillary wins the popular vote as well as the electoral college. So no fooling around with Stein or Johnson even if you're in a safe state. Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Indiana and North Carolina, a flip in the Senate would be great as well. I'd love Hillary to both win and be able to get something done as well.


San Francisco November 2016 Propositions

San Francisco November 2016 Propositions

The voter guide for November 2016 reminds me of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. You've got propositions A, B and C, D, E and F, G, H and I, J, K and L, M, N and O, P, Q and R, S, T and U, V, W and X. Y is missing and so is the microscopic and invisible little proposition Z. We do get an RR for BART though.

Also missing is the Voom, the magic powder that makes all the mess go away. Really this slate of city propositions is the government failing to do it's job and punting to the voters. I'm tempted to send the Board of Supervisors a week of my work to handle while I struggle through theirs. Maybe the supervisors should be limited to whatever they feel the most important one is?

As much as I hate it I have to do the best job I can. This is shorter than my state guide because after slogging through that I'm losing my will to live. Here goes:

Proposition A: San Francisco Unified School District Bond Issue

Yes. Necessary funds to fix and build schools.

Proposition B: San Francisco Community College

Yes. We need to continue to resuscitate City College.

Proposition C: San Francisco Affordable Housing Bond Issue

Yes. Repurposes unspent seismic upgrade bonds to housing.

Proposition D: San Francisco Vacancy Appointments

No. This one is just weird - someone appointed to a vacant supervisor spot can’t then run for election? Makes no sense.

Proposition E: San Francisco City Responsibility for Street Trees and Sidewalks Amendment

No. Ring fences money for tree maintenance. This was shifted to property owners and should probably stay there. I’m also generally opposed to untouchable money in the city budget.

Proposition F: San Francisco Youth Voting in Local Elections

No. Students shouldn’t be voting for the school board.

Proposition G: San Francisco Police Oversight Amendment

Yes. SFPD clearly needs more supervision.

Proposition H: San Francisco Establishment of a Public Advocate Office Amendment

No. We don’t need to pay for someone to write reports. Seems like a recipe for pointless infighting. If we get fed up with the Mayor we can elect a new one.

Proposition I: San Francisco Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities Amendment

No. Should be funded by the city without needing any special ring fencing. I don’t want to be involved in setting the right level.

Proposition J: San Francisco Homeless Services and Transportation Funds Amendment

Yes. Spends the money from Prop K on transportation and homelessness.

Proposition K: San Francisco Sales Tax Increase

Yes. I don’t love it because it’s regressive but it’s a small increase for a couple of good causes (see K above).

Proposition L: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Governance Amendment

No. Leave the Mayor in charge of the MUNI board.

Proposition M: San Francisco Housing and Development Commission Establishment Amendment

No. Doesn’t need a new body of politicians.

Proposition N: San Francisco Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

No. Only citizens should get to vote.

Proposition O: San Francisco Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point

Yes. Allows more office space to be created in a much needed development project.

Proposition P: San Francisco Minimum Three-Proposal Requirement for Affordable Housing Projects on City Property

No. Makes it harder to get projects going. Most projects have multiple bidders already.

Proposition Q: San Francisco Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks

No. Focus on more shelter space instead. Speeding up the process of kicking people into non-existent services isn’t helping anyone.

Proposition R: San Francisco Neighborhood Crime Unit Creation

No. Not that I’m a fan of graffiti or other neighborhood blight but forcing SFPD to allocate offices to it full time means that more serious crime might not get the attention it needs.

Proposition S: San Francisco Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds

No. The money should continue to go to the general fund and not be locked down for a specific purpose.

Proposition T: San Francisco Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists

Yes. More constraints and time in the sunshine for lobbyists.

Proposition U: San Francisco Income Qualifications for Affordable Housing

No. Not enough to go around as it is so it doesn’t make sense to make it easier to apply for.

Proposition V: San Francisco Soda and Sugary Beverages Tax

No. Regressive and of dubious value. And I only just voted on this in 2014.

Proposition W: San Francisco Real Estate Transfer Tax

No. This tax is already higher than other bay area cities and the funds raised would be ring fenced.

Proposition X: San Francisco Replacement Space Requirement for Development Projects

No. Should be part of the regular planning process and not a proposition.

Measure RR: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District

Yes. BART desperately needs the upgrades.


California November 2016 Propositions

California November 2016 Propositions

Stopping Trump is the easy part. We have seventeen statewide propositions to decide this year (and 25 city and district measures in San Francisco). Here is my guide to the California propositions:

51 School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities. Initiative Statute.

Yes. This is around $1,125 per student to help fix up run down schools. Pretty modest impact on the state budget.

52 Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

Yes. Ensures that California continues to get four billion dollars in Federal matching funds for Medicaid.

53 Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

No. I’d like to see fewer propositions on the ballot. This is asking for a referendum on every medium to large project. What a nightmare. I want to elect representatives to handle this for me and then vote them out if they seem to be making a mess of it.

54 Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

Yes. Would require advance notice of legislation and also preserve video of proceedings for twenty years. Might stop some bad bills from getting through and will certainly provide many hours of footage to the Daily Show.

55 Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Yes. I grudgingly supported Prop 30 back in 2012. I actually preferred Prop 38 back then which seemed more balanced across income brackets and I hated the regressive sales tax component. This extension keeps the tax on the wealthy while allowing the sales tax to expire.

56 Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

Yes. About time California taxed tobacco more. I’d rather see the funds raised be unrestricted but this is a good cause.

57 Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute

Yes. Stops throwing away the key on some prisoners who could be rehabilitated. Our prison population is ridiculous. Also makes it harder to send kids to adult court.

58 English Proficiency. Multilingual Education. Initiative Statute.

Yes. Makes it easier for schools to establish bilingual education programs.

59 Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections. Legislative Advisory Question.

Yes. Corporations are not people. This proposition will do close to nothing to reverse that Supreme Court decision but it doesn’t hurt to complain about it.

60 Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements. Initiative Statute.

Abstain. Don’t really know or care.

61 State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. Initiative Statute.

Yes. It’s a tough one because there is risk that VA pricing would increase and some drugs may not be available at the discounted rate. But if that happens the answer is going to be more draconian action against the drug makers not less. The current system where Medicare is banned from negotiating prices while bad actors send costs into the stratosphere has to end. Also, they’re spending $100M to defeat this which makes me inclined to see it as a great idea.

62 Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.

Yes. I disagree with the death penalty for a bunch of reasons. Primarily that the state should only use violence in life or death situations and should not have the power to kill in cold blood. The risk that we execute the wrong person is too high. Practically the cost and complexity is a waste of time. Life without the possibility of parole should be the ultimate sanction (and can be reversed in the event of a miscarriage of justice.

63 Firearms. Ammunition Sales. Initiative Statute.

Yes. The only thing that can stop a bad toddler with a gun is a good parent with no ammunition. More seriously this solidifies a ban on large capacity magazines and remove more guns from more bad guys. All for it.

64 Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute.

Yes. Make it legal and tax it already. I’d do the same for all drugs. See also #57. We could have more tax revenue and fewer people in jail.

65 Carry-Out Bags. Charges. Initiative Statute.

No, see #67.

66 Death Penalty. Procedures. Initiative Statute.

No, see #62.

67 Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags. Referendum.

Yes. Banning plastic bags has been a big success in San Francisco. Reusable bags are way more popular. This is an attempt by the disposable bag industry to fight back. Brace yourselves - other wasteful disposables must be next. Yes on 67 and no on 65.


News: New York Times responds to Donald Trump's lawsuit threat: bring it on



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Book reviews for September 2016

Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms by David S. Evans

Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms by David S. Evans


Given that matchmaker businesses include stock exchanges, newspapers and shopping malls the claim that the field of economics only 'discovered' them in 2000 is the most interesting fact in this book. It doesn't sound like it can possibly true and either casts serious doubt on the credibility of the authors or on the entire field (including the authors).

Looking past the amazing recent discovery of multi-sided platforms the book is very light on any actual theory beyond the trivial - for example pricing may include a subsidy to one side and platform ignition is hard. Really. There are some good anecdotal accounts of specific businesses and there is a small amount of insight to be gained here. Overall I'd say avoid though.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman



Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley



Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


Solid thriller based on the multiple universe interpretation of quantum physics.



Scott Adams

Scott Adams

Dilbert creator Scott Adams recently endorsed Donald Trump. I could take it if this was just our daisyworld politics in action. But it's a horrible post that boils down to money and rationalization.

"I don’t know the best way to defeat ISIS. Neither do you. I don’t know the best way to negotiate trade policies. Neither do you."

The first plank of the argument is that he can't make a call on most issues and so he's not qualified to weigh in. Welcome to democracy. The job is to make the best choice that you can with imperfect information. If you can't do that then do the rest of us a favor and abstain.

"You can argue whether an estate tax is fair or unfair, but fairness is an argument for idiots and children."

The second plank is that he might be less well off if the estate law changes.

So now the lack of an opinion on any other issue makes sense. If you had to think about ISIS or trade (or walls or Muslims or women) then maybe a dent in your income would have to move down a position or two or fifty. But if, aw shucks, you're just not smart enough to make those calls then it's a conveniently self-serving single issue election.

All of this is true even if raising the estate tax is a bad policy. But at the risk of coming across as a child or idiot maybe there's something in it:

"Between 1979 and 2007, paycheck income of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners exploded by over 256 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent of earners have seen little change in their average income, with just a 16.7 percent increase from 1979 to 2014."

I don't know the best estate tax policy. But Scott, neither do you.

Updated 2016-10-12 20:28:

So over the weekend he switched his endorsement to Gary Johnson. Maybe:

"You might enjoy my book because you’re not sure if I’m really endorsing Gary Johnson or just saying so to protect my brand."

Autumnal Equinox 2016

Autumnal Equinox 2016

It's Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring down south. Rendered in Catfood Earth (Windows, Android).

(Previously, Previously, Previously)


Butterfly at California Academy of Sciences

Butterfly at California Academy of Sciences


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