ITHCWY: Robert Ellison's Blog

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.

Bredo

Bredo

If David Cameron really cares about the future of the UK he needs to call an election instead of handing the reins over to (presumably) Boris in a few months.

A party which campaigned on a platform of ignoring the referendum and sticking with the EU would have a legitimate mandate to do just that. Especially if they bring back the good Miliband.

I can't think of anything else that works.

California and San Francisco June 2016 Propositions

State

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. 

San Francisco

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.

(Previously)

California 2014 Propositions

California 2014 Propositions

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.

(previously)

San Francisco 2014 Ballot Measures

San Francisco 2014 Ballot Measures

My voting guide for the San Francisco 2014 ballot measures:

A: San Francisco Transportation and Road Improvement Bond

Yes: This borrows half a billion dollars to improve bike lanes, transit lanes, pedestrian crossings, etc. I walk, drive and bike around San Francisco as well as taking MUNI. We're killing too many people, especially pedestrians, and need to do a better job.

B: Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth

No: More money to MUNI from population growth instead of tax base growth. These seem like they should be related and if not fix the tax base not the funding formula.

C: Fund; Public Education Enrichment Fund; Children and Families Council; Rainy Day Reserve

Yes: Continues existing universal preschool for 4-year-olds and other kids programs.

D: Retiree Health Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency and Successor Agency Employees

Yes: This fixes a kink in benefits for a few city employees. Seems fair.

E: Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

No. I'm somewhat torn on this one. It probably would reduce sugar consumption but is that displaced spending going to broccoli? It's a regressive tax and I'd rather see more effort on education or making healthier alternatives more available and appealing.

F: Pier 70

Yes: Looks like a good development.

G: Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase

No. Covers way too many sales without many exemptions. Unfair to property owners.

H: Requiring Certain Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields To Be Kept As Grass With No Artificial Lighting

No: H and I are fight over installing artificial turf on the fields by the Beach Chalet. I've played soccer on gopher-ridden grass and it's lethal. I don't want to be responsible for twisted ankles so no on H and yes on I.

I: Renovation of Playgrounds, Walking Trails, and Athletic Fields

Yes. See H.

J: Minimum Wage Increase

Yes: It would be nice if more people who work in San Francisco could afford to live in San Francisco.

K: Affordable Housing

No: Not because it's a bad idea to add more affordable housing but it's a non-binding policy statement and doesn't actually seem to change anything.

L: Policy Regarding Transportation Priorities

No: This seeks to change policy to favor cars over other transit options. Nuts.

(previously)