Fuck the Electoral College

Recent Mistakes

With the depressing news that Trump is running again I reassured myself that he didn't win the popular vote last time and updated my page on the national popular vote interstate compact. We've inched ever so slightly closer to electing the President based on the will of the people but we're still not close enough. Based on 2021 Census population estimates a vote in Wyoming is worth four times as much as a vote in Texas. That should infuriate you regardless of your political persuasion. The President should be accountable to every state. Sign a petition, call your representatives, donate - do everything listed here - and don't let this happen again.

(Related: Liquid Democracy and united.vote; I'm with Him; Thinking about the UK referendum on AV)

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Why did San Francisco Redistrict the Pacific?

Map of San Francisco Board of Supervisor Districts including the Farallon Islands

I am enjoying this interactive map of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors Districts way too much, because it raises more questions that it answers.

List most (many? some?) San Franciscans I'm used to seeing the Supervisorial Districts on a land map of the city, maybe with a shout out to Treasure Island. In 2022 these districts were redrawn with some local drama - a few blocks moved from District 4 to District 7 and vice versa. But I saw no coverage whatsoever of the maritime impact of this process.

When you load the map you probably immediately notice the imperial reach of District 6, sweeping up to the Richmond Bridge and nudging aggressively against Oakland and Alameda. District 2 is brazen in its denial of any part of the Golden Gate to Marin County. But to appreciate the full scope you need to zoom out enough to see that District 4 encompasses the Farallon Islands and surrounding waters, making it the largest district by a pretty good margin. Although it probably also means that it contains more mice than people.

Why are the Farallon Islands in District 4? It looks like these should be a territory of District 7 (this is my district and I'm feeling envious as the Islands are straight out to sea from my house). Things get weird when you go back to the map of 2011 districts. Back then, District 4 had a tiny slice of water off of Ocean Beach, but District 1 extended north and south plugging the Golden Gate and abutting District 7's territorial waters. The Farallon Islands were still part of the city but not demarcated by the map.

So with all the drama around moving a few houses between Supervisors, how was there time for such a maritime land grab by District 4? How did District 1 lose its stranglehold on traffic into the Bay? Why was any of this changed at all? Some half hearted Googling produced no answers. If you know, please leave a comment and if I find out I'll report back.

(Related: Save Mount Davidson; San Francisco November 2016 Propositions; San Francisco November 2020 Ballot Measures)

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The BBC helpfully fails to explain the US political system

The BBC helpfully fails to explain the US political system

The BBC thinks we're in better shape going into the midterms than I thought:

"The Democrats currently control all three branches of government - but that could change after the US midterms"

Pretty sure the judiciary flipped a while back. Screen capture above as hopefully they will fix it.

(Related: Intelligence Squared Two-Party Debate; Episode Four; 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall)

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Change in Presidential Vote from 2000 to 2020 by US County

Change in Presidential Vote from 2000 to 2020 by US County

This animation shows how the presidential vote in each county changed from 2000 to 2020. Every step in the animation shows the lift from 2020 with counties that voted more Republican shaded red and Democrat blue.

The blue shift towards Obama and then the Red shift towards Trump make a lot of sense. I find it really interesting how little changes between Trump and Biden.

Note that the colors represent the change in share of the vote and not an absolute measure. A country that went from 70% Republican to 60% Republican would be shaded blue due to the shift towards the Democrat vote. The vote is interpolated linearly between elections and so when you're looking at 2016 to 2020 for instance the animation shifts each county towards the votes that they will cast in 2020. Like the electorate I ignore third parties.

Data is from Harvard Dataverse. The animation and any errors introduced in its fabrication are all me.

(Related: Liquid Democracy and united.vote; Republicans and Democrats: Too big to succeed; Thinking about the UK referendum on AV)

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California November 2022 Propositions

CA 2022

Only 7 statewide propositions this year! And most of them are easy. I feel like the teacher forgot to assign homework. I still need to fill out the ballot though so here is my traditional voter guide:

PROP 1: CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Yes. This only really makes a statement, but it's worth making given the fundamental corruption of a Supreme Court which is now just an emblem of the failure of the American political system to represent the people who live here.

PROP 26: ALLOWS IN-PERSON ROULETTE, DICE GAMES, SPORTS WAGERING ON TRIBAL LANDS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

No. I think Californians should be allowed to gamble more freely. I'd love to see something from the legislature though, not from gaming tribes or companies. I don't understand why we use sin based indulgences to fund tribes. Gambling should be legal across the board (which I'd favor) or not at all. So getting deeper into this immoral deal is a non starter for me.

PROP 27: ALLOWS ONLINE AND MOBILE SPORTS WAGERING OUTSIDE TRIBAL LANDS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

No. I'd be more inclined to back 27, but it makes the process of qualifying so expensive and complex that only existing giant companies would benefit. So it stinks of regulatory capture. Also, positioning this as a mechanism to solve homelessness is repulsive. Homelessness is a problem that we need to make more progress on. It probably makes sense to allow more gambling in the state. But that gambling is probably going to lead to more homelessness and the funds that might be provided to address it are a small drop in a very large bucket.

PROP 28: PROVIDES ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR ARTS AND MUSIC EDUCATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. We don't need more voter mandated spending levels that constrain our ability to manage the budget in the future.

PROP 29: REQUIRES ON-SITE LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL AT KIDNEY DIALYSIS CLINICS AND ESTABLISHES OTHER STATE REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. Same answer and rationale as 2020. Stop asking.

PROP 30: PROVIDES FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTION AND PREVENT WILDFIRES BY INCREASING TAX ON PERSONAL INCOME OVER $2 MILLION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

No. This will probably pass, and if so it will be the second time in two years that Lyft has been able to just buy favorable legislation. Last time it was less regulation so that it didn't have to provide benefits to its 'independent contractors' and now somehow it's more regulation so we can lower their costs.

PROP 31: REFERENDUM ON 2020 LAW THAT WOULD PROHIBIT THE RETAIL SALE OF CERTAIN FLAVORED TOBACCO PRODUCTS.

No. You can't vape mango nicotine to give up smoking at the same time as another fun addictive plant is seen as the future? I continue to believe that all drugs should be legal, taxed and regulated.

(Related: California November 2016 Propositions; California 2012 Propositions; California 2014 Propositions)

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San Francisco November 2022 Ballot Measures

SF 2022

My guide to all fourteen ballot measures for San Francisco in November 2022. Hot on the heels of 8 in June. My overriding principle here is to prevent the need for future ballot measures although I can't help myself from indulging in the occasional good idea.

A: Retiree Supplemental Cost of Living Adjustment; Retirement Board Contract with Executive Director

Yes. This is cheap and makes retirement benefits for city workers more fair and predictable.

B: Public Works Department and Commission, Sanitation and Streets Department and Commission

No. We just voted to create a department of sanitation and streets in 2020.

C: Homelessness Oversight Commission

Yes. More oversight for spending on homeless services.

D: Affordable Housing – Initiative Petition

Yes. Makes it easier to build new housing in San Francisco. Seems to cut a lot of unnecessary red tape to get projects moving faster.

E: Affordable Housing – Board of Supervisors

No. This competes with D to try and avoid losing too much control.

F: Library Preservation Fund

No. I'm not anti-library, but I am opposed to ballot measures that carve out specific funding and then will need another ballot measure if anything needs to change.

G: Student Success Fund – Grants to the San Francisco Unified School District

No. Another set aside that can't be undone without a future ballot measure.

H: City Elections in Even-Numbered Years

Yes. Increased voter turnout should lead to more representative local officials. I thought I voted for this already in 2012? Unfortunately this measure also has an adjustment to keep the number of signatures required for a new ballot measure constant. I'd love to see it get harder.

I: Vehicles on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway

No. Let's keep some car free space.

J: Recreational Use of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park

Yes. As above.

L: Sales Tax for Transportation Projects

Yes. Extends an existing sales tax for transportation.

M: Tax on Keeping Residential Units Vacant

No. Could discourage new housing from being built and as written does not apply equally to all housing.

N: Golden Gate Park Underground Parking Facility; Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority

Yes. I need to make decisions about a single parking garage? This would allow the city more control, and as I want to keep JFK car free it makes sense to optimize this parking resource for people who will have more difficulty getting to the museums as a result.

O: Additional Parcel Tax for City College

Yes. This is an important resource and we need to get it back on track.

(Related: San Francisco November 2020 Ballot Measures; San Francisco 2014 Ballot Measures; San Francisco 2012 Propositions)

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HBR on the Wrong Patent Reform

Patent Reform

The Harvard Business Review has a curious article this week by Paul R. Michel: Big Tech Has a Patent Violation Problem. The thrust of it is that we should not reform patent law to make it easier to invalidate patents because:

"If they succeed in weakening America’s intellectual property system, it could be devastating for thousands of small, innovative startups — with disastrous consequences for the economy as a whole."

Sounds bad, and attacking big tech is a great way to make you look like a populist. But as a small, innovative startup founder and worker I know that this is exactly the wrong way round. Google etc can easily afford to fend off patent litigation and deal with the consequences when a lawsuit occasionally breaks the wrong way. A fine after all is just a price. It's the startups that can't afford to fight off an infringement lawsuit, or pay to file a patent for every other line of code on the off chance that it could become a weapon one day.

So who is Paul R. Michel? HBR says:

"Paul R. Michel (Ret.) served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 1988 to his retirement in 2010, and as its chief judge from 2004 to 2010."

But fails to disclose that he's currently listed as a member of the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation and:

"Judge Michel also consults for law firms and their clients in intellectual property litigations, conducting moot courts, mock trials, case evaluations, editing briefs, advising on strategy and providing mediation and arbitration services."

Which doesn't mean that he shouldn't express his opinion in HBR but does color that opinion a little in my view. If nothing else the current system is an all you can eat buffet for IP lawyers.

HBR: please feel free to run this as a counter-argument, the best way to fix the patent system is to stop examining them altogether as I proposed nearly twelve years ago.

(Related: How to fix software patents; Carr is Wrong: Costolo is Wrong: Wikipedia’s SOPA Blackout is a Great Idea; You won't believe this one crazy trick that would fix the broken patent system)

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Google Trends for 'impeach supreme court justice' This Week

San Francisco June 2022 Ballot Measures

San Francisco June 2022 Ballot Measures

How I hate all the propositions. Here's the ITHCWY official (hastily scratched together and possibly idiotically wrong) voter's guide to the June 2022 batch:

A - MUNI Reliability and Street Safety Bond

Yes. I hate that the largest line item is bus yard upgrades rather than more frequent and reliable service but they make a good case for it - i.e. being able to repair broken equipment faster and not in a century old earthquake prone death trap of a building. Hopefully this is all true and they're not just installing hot tubs and keg fridges. But sure, MUNI, take my money.

B - Building Inspection Commission

Yes. Because it seems widely supported, not because I have a strong opinion here.

C - Recall Timelines and Vacancy Process

No. I hate recall elections (foreshadowing H below) but this is too restrictive. We shouldn't recall politicians for doing what they said they were going to do when we elected them. We should consider their performance when deciding if they deserve another term. But if they are egregiously bad it doesn't make sense to prevent the recall process for two full years, and I don't see any reason why an appointed successor shouldn't get a crack at the next election either.

D - Victims and Witness Rights

No. Creating a department for Victims is within the power of the city government. Doing this by ballot measure will mean they can't stop if it doesn't make sense or needs reform or turns out to be a bad idea.

E - Behested Payments

No. A majority vote of supervisors seems enough to modify the rules here.

F - Refuse Collection and Disposal

No. Replaces the City Controller with an appointed 'ratepayer representative' who is not really going to be able to represent all ratepayers. I think I'd rather stick with the Controller.

G - Public Health Emergency Leave

No. Sick leave should cover this and should be set at the state level. We don't need more businesses leaving San Francisco right now.

H - District Attorney

No. I don't think Boudin has done anything that rises to the level of recall, and he should be judged at the next election. He's unlucky enough to be holding the hat during a post-pandemic crime surge, but mostly it's a surge back to pre-pandemic levels. Murder is up, but is everywhere. I generally support locking fewer people up and a consequence of this is more unlocked up people. Hard to see how you can have this both ways. The fentanyl situation in the city is a tragedy. I don't think recalling Boudin fixes this. I think we need legalized, safe, tested drugs and treatment rather than criminalization.

(Related: San Francisco November 2020 Ballot Measures; California November 2020 Propositions; Legislative Service)

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I would do anything to reduce gun violence, but I won't do that (an open letter to Joe Manchin)

End the Filibuster, Joe

Dear Senator Manchin,

You are not my Senator, however despite the 'all men are created equal' concept your vote is more than 20 times more powerful than the Senators who do represent me. I therefore feel compelled to write and ask you to reconsider your position against ending the filibuster.

In The Hill this week you are quoted as saying:

"You all know where I stand; I’ll do anything I can."

But then, unfortunately:

"The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity. Total insanity."

I believe that you hold this position out of principle. I also know that you have previously worked (and failed) to strengthen background checks. We can't make any progress solving this problem without you. Please take an evidence based approach to the actual danger involved in allowing the Senate to legislate with a simple majority. Consider as a starting point the rest of the G-7.

Canada only requires a supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment. Those trucker protests got a little out of hand, but Canada is not insane.

France does not require a supermajority. It is not insane.

Germany does not require a supermajority. It is not insane.

Italy uses a supermajority for early rounds of presidential voting but otherwise not. Also not insane.

Japan needs a supermajority to amend their constitution. Again, not insane.

I'm not in love with the House of Lords, but the United Kingdom manages to pass laws without a supermajority and is not insane.

Our inability to control gun violence and our inability to allow the duly elected government to legislate are the same problem. Insanity is doing the same thing (in this case nothing) over and over again and expecting different results.

Thank you for your consideration.

(Related: Legislative Service; Intelligence Squared Two-Party Debate; Episode Four)

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