ITHCWY: Robert Ellison's Blog

What do you get when you multiply six by nine? Brexit.

Brexit

“Good Morning,” said the Electorate at last.

“Er… good morning, O Electorate,” said Cameron nervously, “do you have… er, that is…”

“An answer for you?” interrupted the Electorate majestically. “Yes, I have.”

“There really is one?” breathed Cameron.

“There really is one,” confirmed the Electorate.

“To Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

“Yes, though I don’t think,” added the Electorate, that you’re going to like it.”

“Doesn’t matter!” said Cameron, “We must know it! Now!”

“All right,” said the Electorate, “The answer to Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Is…”

“Yes…!”

“Is…”

“Yes…!!!…”

“Brexit.”

“I’m going to get lynched, aren’t I?”

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the Electorate, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

“But it was Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” howled Cameron.

“Yes,” said the Electorate with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, “but what does that actually mean?”

“Well, you know, enjoy the benefits of the single market without being part of it, points based immigration here but still retire to Spain, restore the sovereignty of parliament without actually letting it vote…” said Cameron weakly.

“Exactly!” said the Electorate. “So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”

“Look, all right, all right,” said Cameron, “can you just please tell me the question?”

“Tricky.”

“But can you do it?”

“No, but I’ll tell you who can,” said the Electorate.

“Who? Tell me!”

“I speak of none but the referendum that is to come next,” intoned the Electorate, “A referendum whose merest subordinate clauses I am not worthy to comprehend. A referendum that will actually tell us what Brexit is. A referendum of such infinite and subtle complexity that understanding ATM modernization under Single Sky and the medical implications of leaving Euratom shall form part of its introductory reading material…”

(Apologies to Douglas Adams)

(Previously, Previously)

Resist Report

Resist Report

My February resolution was to do something to #Resist Trump every day. Here's the breakdown:

Calls to Congress: 77

Non-profits donated to: 15

Failing media subscriptions: 4

Protests attended: 2

Advocacy sites launched and promoted: 1

I'll ease off a bit and try something else in March. But the routine of doing something every day has been really helpful. I've gone from saying I really should do something to actually getting in the habit of actively resisting.

#Resist

February resolution: do something to resist Trump every day.

Today I renewed my membership with KQED (which I had shamefully allowed to lapse after moving house) and for the first time ever subscribed to the failing, fake news New York Times.

Out of interest the signup flow for a LastPass devotee with a reasonable password policy is:

"Please provide a password that is between 5 and 15 characters in length."

Fiddle with settings...

"Passwords can contain only letters, numbers, periods, underscores, and hyphens."

Fiddle with settings...

"We're sorry, but we're having a technical issue right now. If you continue to have problems, please call Customer Care at 855-698-8545."

So my NYT password is a bit retro and easy to guess. Maybe Trump is on to something with this one...

Updated 2017-02-03 00:10:

Today I called my Senators (Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris) to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Updated 2017-02-03 21:00:

Donated to the ACLU.

Then doubled it via donation matching at work. And tripled it via matchingdonations.us. Satisfying!

(Turns out to not be a tax deduction and not eligible for matching, so only doubled. But no regrets.)

Updated 2017-02-04 21:53:

#Resist

No Ban No Wall

Updated 2017-02-05 20:41:

Donated to IRC, doubled with work donation matching.

Updated 2017-02-06 23:38:

Donated to Planned Parenthood. Again, doubled via the magic of work matching.

Updated 2017-02-07 21:07:

Called Representatives Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, Steven Palazzo and Barry Loudermilk to ask them to withdraw HR 861, a bill that would terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Updated 2017-02-09 00:42:

Donated the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-09 15:52:

Contacted my Representative (Nancy Pelosi) to oppose HR634, the Electoral Assistance Commission Termination Act. Read more here.

Updated 2017-02-10 13:56:

Today's action is a little self serving, but they might just goad Trump into impeachment: purchased season 42 of Saturday Night Live.

Updated 2017-02-11 19:49:

Resist Trump - Now!

Resist Trump - Now! at Ocean Beach.

Updated 2017-02-12 23:55:

Donated to Let America Vote.

Updated 2017-02-13 21:14:

Donated to FairVote and doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-15 00:24:

Launched democracy.vision, an advocacy site for the National Popular Vote.

Updated 2017-02-15 21:13:

Via the magic of Fancy Hands called all the Republican members of the House Oversight Committee and asked them if they'd care to investigate  the circumstances leading to Michael Flynn having contact with Russia’s Ambassador and the Trump campaign’s alleged contact with Russia last year.

That's Representatives Jason Chaffetz, John Duncan, Darrell Issa, Jim Jordan, Mark Sanford, Justin Amash, Paul Gosar, Scott Desjarlais, Trey Gowdy, Blake Farenthold, Virginia Foxx, Thomas Massie, Mark Meadows, Ron Desantis, Dennis Ross, Mark Walker, Rod Blum, Jody Hice, Steve Russell, Glenn Grothman, William Hurd, Gary Palmer, James Comer and Paul Mitchell.

I was expecting and mostly got either a refusal to comment, or the party line that the Intelligence Committee should be the one to investigate. There were some more promising responses though.

Representative Rod Blum's office said "The Oversight Committee's priority is to investigate Michael Flynn. Since this is a fairly new occurrence in the last 48 hours, no statement has been released with details."

Representative Jody Hice's office said "A hearing will take place on the matter."

Representative Steve Russell's office said "It will be all over the news once it comes out."

This is my people talking to their people so third hand intel at best, but maybe something will happen.

Updated 2017-02-16 23:10:

Just donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And of course doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-17 21:08:

Called the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to oppose the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council.

Updated 2017-02-18 21:07:

Donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a good one as you can donate in honor of someone and have them mail a card. You might be able to guess where mine went. Also doubled via work matching.

Updated 2017-02-19 18:24:

Donated to the League of Women Voters.

Updated 2017-02-20 20:14:

Just donated to the Sierra Club.

Updated 2017-02-21 23:50:

Donated to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-22 22:59:

Donated to the International Refugee Assistance Project, doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-23 23:45:

Donated to Trans Lifeline (and yes, doubled).

Updated 2017-02-24 21:00:

Called Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, Lamar Smith, Steve Chabot, Darrell Issa, Steve King, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Ted Poe, Jason Chaffetz, Tom Marino, Trey Gordy, Raul Labrador, Blake Farenthold, Doug Collins, Ron Desantis, Andy Biggs, Mike Johnson, Ken Buck, John Radcliffe, Martha Roby and Matt Gaetz to ask them to support Jerrold Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry into President Trump’s potential ties to Russia. Which apparently they're going to try and bury on Tuesday.

That's every Republican serving on the House Judiciary Committee. Thanks again to Fancy Hands.

Updated 2017-02-26 19:30:

This one is for yesterday, because sometimes you just drink too much Tannat and then forget to resist for one night. Subscribed to The Washington Post.

Updated 2017-02-26 19:35:

Donated to Human Rights Campaign.

Updated 2017-02-27 23:58:

Donated to NORML.

Updated 2017-02-28 11:00:

End of February finale - one more push to actually investigate Trump's ties to Russia. Representative Darrell Issa actually came through on this so the list is one name shorter. Called Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, Lamar Smith, Steve Chabot, Steve King, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Ted Poe, Jason Chaffetz, Tom Marino, Trey Gordy, Raul Labrador, Blake Farenthold, Doug Collins, Ron Desantis, Andy Biggs, Mike Johnson, Ken Buck, John Radcliffe, Martha Roby and Matt Gaetz to ask them to follow Representative Darrell Issa's lead and appoint a special prosecutor.

I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news of Facebook

I seriously considered giving up Facebook as a New Year's resolution when it became clear that fake news was one of the many things that cost Hillary the election.

Not because of what other people might believe. The problem is me. I get my news primarily from the BBC and NPR. I cruise through RSS feeds and podcasts. I'm a savvy media consumer with a well honed bullshit filter. And then I fell for this:

I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news of Facebook

It just continued to show up in my Facebook feed reposted from various friends and it wormed its way in as something totally Trumpian and plausible and, well, truthy. Which it isn't. I felt like I'd got as far as filling in the wire transfer form before stopping to think that the Nigerian Prince probably didn't need my personal help with expatriating his fortune. I didn't share it or quote it thankfully but it's like that study where everyone thinks they are a better than average driver. I'm vulnerable to this shit.

I keep reading articles about being a better Facebook user and always checking that the site hosting a story is reputable and written by people who have a footprint outside the site and reverse-searching any images to see if they've been used out of context etc etc etc. Which is implausible if you have more than one friend and comes across as victim blaming.

The horrible danger is that if you don't fact check every stupid quote on image meme the power of repetition lodges them somewhere in your subconscious where they become that thing that you read somewhere. Which is OK if you only read quality news but deadly if you want to catch up on old friends quickly.

What I really want is the friend part without the democracy ending bullshit part.

I tried Diaspora and App.net but they make Google Plus look lively. Facebook, I would pay you for an ad-free, brand-free experience. Also a ban on text on images.

I've been trying to block all the fake news sites that show up in my feed but for some reason that option isn't always available. Also that's probably an impossible task unless Facebook decides to offer shared block lists. Which is probably against their best interest.

I wrote this post to talk myself out of not using Facebook but I don't think I've managed to convince myself yet...

(Meme image grabbed from CNN).

(*on*)

Recount

Recount

I'm on a donation spree. This time to the Jill Stein recount effort. I believe that this will change the outcome of the election as much as I believe that there are real questions about vaccines and autism. But this is clearly making Trump mad. And the madder he gets the sooner he is likely to get himself impeached. Why not help out?

National Popular Vote

National Popular Vote

I just donated to the National Popular Vote campaign. The idea is that if enough states pass enabling legislation they will all throw their electoral college votes behind the popular vote winner. Electoral college neatly short-circuited without any constitutional amendment needed. California is already signed up for this. You can check your state here.

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.

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."