Procyon lotor

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Procyon lotor

GGB

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

GGB

Magic Mountain

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Magic Mountain

Bishops

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Not this kind of Bishop...

I’d love to not care what the Church of England thinks about allowing women to become Bishops. But sadly it’s the established church of England and we allow Bishops to sit in the House of Lords (which needs a complete overhaul, that that’s a different blog post).

The Government’s position on the vote is to be “disappointed”:

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister thought there should be women bishops and was disappointed at the result of the vote, but that it was “a matter for the Church to decide”.

Nick Clegg is disappointing. Which Book of Prayer to use is a matter for the Church to decide. Excluding women from the upper management of the official state religion when those managers also play a role in Government is a travesty.

Unless we’re going to allow Jedi in the legislature it’s time to kick the Bishops out of the Lords. It’s also past time to disestablish the Church of England and have proper separation of Church and State in the UK.

Bernal Chair

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bernal Chair

San Francisco 2012 Propositions

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

San Francisco 2012 Propositions

Following yesterday’s post on the California 2012 Propositions here’s a shorter post on how I’m planning to vote on the San Francisco (PDF) ballot initiatives:

A: City College Parcel Tax

Yes, happy to pay another $79 a year to support City College.

B: Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond

Yes, park improvements for a littler over $50 a year.

C: Housing Trust Fund

Yes, a modest amount of money to include affordable housing in a city that desperately needs it.

D: Consolidating Odd-Year Municipal Elections

Yes, because there are too many elections already.

E: Gross Receipts Tax

Yes, makes more sense than taxing payroll and doesn’t tax businesses until you’re over $1M in revenue (whereas the payroll tax hits pre-revenue startups).

F: Water and Environment Plan

No, this is a study on draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Which is just crazy. I might not support building it today but it makes no sense to look at getting rid of it now. Plus that water is really nice.

G: Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood

Yes, because a San Francisco policy will totally reverse hundreds of years of legal precedent. More seriously, corporations are not people and while a policy won’t reverse the malign influence of unlimited corporate spending on elections it doesn’t hurt to whine about it a little.

California 2012 Propositions

Updated on Thursday, December 26, 2019

My favorite proposition would be one to do away with propositions altogether. We need Legislative Service instead. But there is an election on Tuesday and a fresh slate of propositions for California and San Francisco that need to be decided. My thoughts on the statewide propositions are:

30: TEMPORARY TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION. GUARANTEED LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY FUNDING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Yes, grudgingly. I hate that Governor Brown has a knife to our throats on this one. If it passes then we get $6 billion of extra annual revenue, largely for education. If it fails then because the revenue is already in the budget we’re looking at further evisceration. The sales tax component is regressive, I prefer proposition 38’s more balanced income tax increases across the board. I actually like that the proposition 30 money hits the general fund – I hate measures that earmark money so specifically that there is no room for maneuver. So yes on 30 and no on 38.

The arguments against proposition 30 seem to be that it isn’t specifically earmarked (which I see as a plus) and that we shouldn’t be raising more money for education and public safety while also building out high speed rail. But as the 8th largest economy in the world California should be able to mange to improve public transport and education at the same time. Both are critical to long term growth and prosperity. There is also the argument that you can’t trust government with any money or decisions and that any problem can be handled by just reducing ‘waste’. I don’t really buy that and if you do you might be better off somewhere like Nevada.

31: STATE BUDGET. STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTION AMENDENT AND STATUTE.

No. ‘Local Action Plans’ would allow local government to circumvent state laws and this doesn’t seem like a great idea. Allowing the Governor to make budget cuts without the state legislature smells bad as well. Publishing bills in advance of a vote to help prevent pet projects and pork from being stuffed in sounds good, I wish it had been included as a separate proposition rather than lumped in here (in general Proposition 30 suffers from being too broad).

32: POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY PAYROLL DEDUCTION. CONTRIBUTIONS TO CANDIDATES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. It’s just a naked attempt to stiff unions and further increase the corporate money stranglehold on US politics.

33: AUTO INSURANCE COMPANIES. PRICES BASED ON DRIVER’S HISTORY OF INSURANCE COVERAGE. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. This allows insurance companies to offer a discount based on how long you’ve been insured with another company but also allows them to punish you for a lapse in coverage. If you choose to be without a car for more than a few months you can get a large increase in coverage. It doesn’t seem that the pros outweigh the cons here and the fact that the proposition is funded by the chairman of Mercury further tips me towards a no vote.

34: DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Yes. I don’t care about the cost of the death penalty, or particularly in it’s effectiveness. I’m fundamentally opposed to the death penalty because I don’t think the state has any business taking life in cold blood. I also don’t think you can guarantee that you’re not executing someone who is innocent.

35: HUMAN TRAFFICKING. PENALTIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. Punishment for specific offenses shouldn’t be dictated by ballot initiative. Most of these crimes are Federal anyway and so any changes in CA law would have a minor impact (KQED reports 18 offenders in CA prison for trafficking). There is a provision expanding the definition of human trafficking to include copying child pornography… sounds great but you’ll probably end up doing 15 years hard time for backing up your teenager’s phone after they’ve been sexting.

36: THREE STRIKES LAW. REPEAT FELONY OFFENDERS. PENALTIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Yes. As the law currently stands you can get life in prison for drug possession. The US really needs to stop throwing everyone in jail. Judges should have the latitude to make the sentence fit the crime and not be automatically forced to throw away the key. This proposition makes three strikes a little more humane – I’d rather see it done away with altogether but it’s a step in the right direction.

37: GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS. LABELING. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Yes. Personally I don’t really care about eating GM food, but a lot of people care very deeply and it seems reasonable to provide this information. The main argument against is sinister special exemptions but these boil down to alcohol (not labeled the same way as food to start with) and animals that have been fed GM food but are not GM themselves.

38: TAX TO FUND EDUCATION AND EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. See 30, above.

39: TAX TREATMENT FOR MULTISTATE BUSINESSES. CLEAN ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY FUNDING. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. I’m not really sure which way of determining how to tax multi-state businesses is best. Allowing businesses to choose which method they use doesn’t seem the right way to go. If this proposition was just about changing the tax calculation I might be in favor, but unfortunately it also funnels around half of the additional revenue to a new outfit to spend on clean energy projects over five years. As the proposition is sponsored by one hedge fund manager you’ve got to believe that there is a hedge fund posed to benefit from the extra spending.

40: REDISTRICTING. STATE SENATE DISTRICTS. REFERENDUM.

Yes. Approves the outcome of the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The backers of the proposition have withdrawn support for it (Republicans trying to throw out the new districts), it’s only on the ballot because it can’t be removed – a yes vote in this case keeps things the same.

Reviews and Links for October 2012

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Skios by Michael Frayn

4/5

Perfectly well oiled comedy of errors.

 

The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10) by Iain M. Banks

3/5

Solid but somewhat routine Culture installment.

 

A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher, #17) by Lee Child

3/5

Solid Reacher installment.

 

Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson

4/5

Excellent collection of articles and a couple of short stories. Worth reading just for the Wired article on the technology and politics of submarine cables.

 

Links

Religion's Kayne West Tendencies

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

BBC News has a report today on a conference held by CERN to bring science and religion together around the origins of the universe. It has some choice quotes including:

"Science in isolation is great for producing stuff, but not so good for producing ideas"

From Andrew Pinsent, and from Canon Dr Gary Wilton that the likely discovery of the Higgs boson:

"raised lots of questions [about the origins of the Universe] that scientists alone can't answer ... They need to explore them with theologians and philosophers"

Let me get this straight.

  • The concept of atoms is first proposed by Demokritos in around 500 BC and realized by Dalton in 1808.
  • Subatomic particles are discovered in the late 19th century, followed by Rutherford's gold foil experiment in 1907 demonstrating that an atom is mostly empty space.
  • The Standard Model is built over decades including the proposal by Peter Higgs (and others) of the existence of the field and boson by which particles acquire mass.
  • An expensive and extensive search by Fermilab and CERN eventually seems to have discovered the Higgs Boson.

A few highlights.

And after hundreds of years of theoretical and experimental physics it's somehow time to turn this one over to the pros?

Another quote from the conference, this time from Prof John Lennox:

"When Hawking argues, in support of his theory of spontaneous creation, that it was only necessary for 'the blue touch paper' to be lit to 'set the universe going', the question must be: where did this blue touch paper come from? And who lit it, if not God?"

Science may never have all the answers. It may not even be possible. But it's the only way to keep pushing back the boundaries. All the theologians have to offer is that they've discovered God, just outside the current resolution of our understanding. Ad nauseam. Bugger off. 

Ordoñez Gun

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ordoñez Gun