4K timelapse of stars and the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe, California.
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.
50: Yes - makes it harder so suspend a legislator but provides a more impactful sanction when this does happen. I don't think legislators should be suspended unless the circumstances are extreme.
A: Yes - mostly hospital and fire station upgrades.
B: No - I like parks, but the city should decide how much to allocate to them. I generally don't like measures that carve out specific areas for funding.
C: I have no idea. Abstain. I don't have the time to untangle this one.
D: Yes, clearly more oversight of lethal force by SFPD is needed.
E: Yes, brings San Francisco sick leave in line with State rules.
AA: No, regressive per-parcel tax. Should be funded in a better way.
My quick voting guide for the California 2014 Propositions:
1: Water Bond. Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects.
Yes: Doesn't help with the current drought but might help with the next one.
2: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Yes: Should help even out funding by forcing the state to save excess capital gains revenue.
45: Healthcare Insurance. Rate Changes. Initiative Statute.
No. We have Covered California now. Not clear that this helps.
46: Drug and Alcohol Testing Of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute.
No. Too many issues in one confusing package.
47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.
Yes. Time to stop putting everyone in prison already,
48: Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum.
Yes. I'm not a casino fan in general and the whole compensation through casino monopolies mystifies me. But that's the system we have and this seems like it's a tribal casino on newly minted tribal land. I'm not likely to go there but I don't see a great reason to block it.
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.
No book reviews this month.
Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy http://t.co/Ri5HAqxH
Why your camera's GPS won't work in China (maybe) http://t.co/FQIFN8wI
Sigh, obvious, invalid, bullshit -- BBC News - Microsoft wins patent fight with Google's Motorola unit http://t.co/0PENWTCV
BBC News the secret links between Star Wars and Wales http://t.co/T8yEulCu (is there any tenuous link with Wales you won't publish?)
:) Hot weather to continue next week http://t.co/izAc2yA1
Not Skip's Tavern any more... http://t.co/dPx1NIj8
Reality rocks in San Francisco earthquake exhibit http://t.co/yo82B38b (Looking forward to this!)
BBC News - In pictures: Annular eclipse http://t.co/YA5F6or2 (Check out the Lemurs checking out the eclipse)
ITHCWY: Annular Eclipse at SFO: The only solar observatory outside the international terminal at SFO (some… http://t.co/ZqMXm8Ec
Beer was near, sadly earlier. http://t.co/2BeMAJZj
1906 earthquake refugee cottage at The Presidio. http://t.co/pof5LotA
ITHCWY: Gopher Snake: Bernal Heights Park http://t.co/OoHYDU0y
Turned out nice... http://t.co/G2pHtgbd
ITHCWY: Open Immigration: I'm increasingly in favor of opening up immigration. Partly it's a general sense that a… http://t.co/cBLQT2rI
ITHCWY: Snake rests on Toad: At the California Academy of Sciences. http://t.co/YTQh682A
New Golden Gate Visitor center - lots of tat, no food :( http://t.co/vXmZn099
President Obama: 'I Think Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able to Get Married'; http://t.co/CtC6k2A8 (shameful that it has taken this long)
Post Doyle Drive detour quite pleasant on the way home tonight. http://t.co/fSK8e4v9
ITHCWY: Bottled Water: A company called Evive launched this week to battle the evil of bottled water with reusable… http://t.co/5X9e3emO
ITHCWY: Pelicans http://t.co/0xoup7z5
APIs: A Strategy Guide by Dan Woods
Works as a good checklist of the various business, legal, technical, marketing and strategic considerations you should think of when launching an API. Not a huge amount of depth in any one area though.
Pharmacology by Christopher Herz
A tale of legal and illegal drugs in San Francisco from the perspective of Sarah, a transplant from the mid-west in town to make money to send back to her sick father and expose the evils of the pharmaceutical industry. Reads like Sarah sat down next to you in a cafe and poured out her entire life story before you even knew what hit you.
Interesting, but the first book I tried was wrong: http://t.co/gUPyhpjM (The Interpreter in Look to Windward)
ITHCWY: Go-arounds: LEGO and Legislative Service: LEGO: I wrote in January about LEGO's misogynistic latest LEGO… http://t.co/s2PlMzGn
ITHCWY: Kindle: Figure out sorting!: I love my Kindle. Loved it since seeing the screen for the first time after… http://t.co/zimbDLpz
ITHCWY: Catfood: Cleat 1.10: I've just released an updated version of Cleat that supports geolocation and… http://t.co/SESV9VH7
4 of 5 stars to Pharmacology by Christopher Herz http://t.co/SgGZR4Lz
I still don't like the Oxford Comma, but... http://t.co/oJB50wGw
ITHCWY: Prophylactic: Absolutely no chance of scurvy tonight. http://t.co/RpX1z78M
Artist Captures Dog vs. Gopher Confrontation on Bernal Hill http://t.co/OlUgGHOG - It could be Rudy...
Shocking, but need to distinguish between standardized tests and shit standardized tests: Florida standardized... http://t.co/c8488XDw
Extraordinary: The real criminals in the Tarek Mehanna case http://t.co/GOqxgIJ2
They are deadly serious about not taking photos at @#spamalotsf http://t.co/5di7viuy
JSON Formatter & Validator: http://t.co/L220TCHf
ITHCWY: California Slender Salamander http://t.co/EvNlFOnS
ITHCWY: Even Shitier - Citibank Remortgage Scam: Citibank contacted us in December offering to remortgage our house… http://t.co/mxGi3j6K
ITHCWY: Baby Yellow Spiders: A chair in our garden has produced a bumper crop of baby Cross Orbweaver spiders. Very… http://t.co/0VBjSvPq
ITHCWY: Sod Searle And Sod His Sodding Room: Marcus du Sautoy, writing on BBC News, brings up Searle's Chinese Room… http://t.co/FmcVPbzC
ITHCWY: California, I can save you billions with a small and reasonably priced computer program...: California just… http://t.co/Ro96lk3J
Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” and since then we seem to have given up trying to find a better one. Twiddling with the mechanics of voting doesn’t count.
My idea: Legislative Service. This is modeled on Jury Service only instead of judging a person you’re asked to judge a proposed bill. In your typical bicameral system of government the Legislative Service would replace the upper house. The Senate in the US, The House of Lords in the UK.
In a US version 101 citizens would be randomly drafted for each bill. The pros and cons of the bill would be presented in an adversarial environment, much like a jury trial. The citizen legislators would then vote anonymously and either pass the bill or send it back to the House of Representatives. The President would retain the right to veto a bill.
Such a system would castrate the malign influence of money and lobbyists in the political system. It would also improve engagement as more citizens take part or talk to friends and family who have served.
You would still have professional legislators who would be responsible to their constituents. They’d just have a harder time adding pork and returning favors. Each bill would need to be palatable to a majority of average citizens.
People dodge jury service all the time. Wouldn’t you end up with a similar problem? I don’t think so. Legislative Jury would be far more prestigious.
Isn’t the average voter too stupid to understand complex legislation? You are the average voter. In any case, the adversarial system would give both sides a chance to both argue and explain. Expert witnesses could be called. Ballot measures that are voted on by the entire electorate suffer from this problem as money is spent to over-simplify and obfuscate. In Legislative Service you’re taking a representative sample of the electorate and giving them the time and help needed to make a serious judgment.
It’s unconstitutional! This would require a constitutional amendment.
What about knee-jerk legislation? Tyranny of the Majority? Hopefully this system would help to put a brake on hasty and ill-thought through bills. The President would retain veto power and the Supreme Court would be able to annul unconstitutional decisions and so sufficient checks and balances would remain in the system.
Of course getting rid of The Senate isn’t going to happen overnight. I can think of a couple of ways to start moving in the right direction.
Firstly, this plan is just as applicable at the state level. My state, California, is a mess and this proposal could help. There are rumblings about holding a constitutional convention and if this happens I want us to ditch ballot initiatives and replace the State Senate with Legislative Service.
Secondly, and more plausibly, what about setting up Legislative Service as a non-profit to look at each bill and vote on it but without the actual power of preventing bad bills from being enacted? A sort of non-partisan citizen think tank. If any of my billionaire readers are interested get in touch.
I’ve been mulling the idea of Legislative Service for quite some time, but especially following the atrocious reform of the British House of Lords in 1999 resulting in an upper house composed of appointed peers, a handful of hereditary peers and a few bishops. This threw the independent oversight baby out with the unelected toffs bathwater. Since 1999 I’ve lived in California and my revulsion for the US political climate keeps growing. Serious change is needed. I think Legislative Service is it.