Posts for October 2014

2014-10-21: Another haul post

I know I've been very quiet here lately. That's due to a variety of reasons, but mostly because settling in to a new job is taking nearly all of my attention and time. When that's combined with getting obsessed with watching the League of Legends world championships, it means no real time for writing things.

I've had lots of time for reading things, though, and have a lot of book reviews that I need to write. So, of course, I felt like buying more books.

Elizabeth Bear — One-Eyed Jack (sff)
Steven Brust — Hawk (sff)
Kenneth T. Jackson — Crabgrass Frontier (non-fiction)
Ann Leckie — Ancillary Sword (sff)
Scott Lynch — Republic of Thieves (sff)
Randall Munroe — What If? (non-fiction)
Sarah Tolmie — The Stone Boatmen (sff)
Jeffrey Toobin — The Oath (non-fiction)

I'm pretty excited about everything in this shipment, but particularly the new Vlad Taltos novel from Brust and the sequel to Ancillary Justice (probably the best novel that I've read so far this year). And of course there's What If?.

2014-10-26: California general election

Probably only of interest to California residents.

Time again for the general election voting. This is probably too late to be helpful for a lot of people voting permanent absentee, but may as well write this down anyway. (Hm, I apparently didn't do this in 2012.)

Propositions:

Proposition 1: YES. Now is one of the best times in history to borrow money for infrastructure improvements, and our water infrastructure in the state can certainly use it.

Proposition 2: YES. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this, since I hate passing complex legislation like this via proposition, but this already went through the legislature. It would be dumb for the federal government, which can more easily borrow money, but given how the finances of state governments work in the US, this sort of rainy day fund is probably prudent. This one seems reasonably well-designed, and the opposition is panic about a secondary effect on how school reserves are managed that can be changed with later legislative action and which is rather unconvincing.

Proposition 45: YES. I can't get very enthused about yet more bandaids on top of our completely broken health care system, but forcing insurance companies to justify rate increases results in some public pressure against profit-taking by insurance companies. Single payer is what we actually need, but this might be mildly helpful. Plus, the argument against is more incoherent nonsense. So, I'm voting yes, but I don't think it's important and I won't mind if it loses.

Proposition 46: NO. There are a lot of things that we should do about preventable medical errors, starting with funding our health care system properly, testing drugs properly, and investing in proper inspections and medical licensing investigations. Drug testing doctors is not among those things. This is a well-meaning but horrible idea pushed by a victim's advocacy group that won't do anything to improve our health care system. The fear-mongering of the opponents about malpractice lawsuits is a bit much, but there are essentially no positive benefits here.

Proposition 47: YES. Requires that misdemeanor crimes actually be misdemeanors, rather than giving prosecutors discretion to charge them as felonies if the person charged happens to be black-- er, I mean, if the prosecutor doesn't like them for some reason. Obviously a good idea on all fronts: stop over-charging crimes, stop giving prosecutors discretion to choose the impact of laws on particular people (since they rarely use it appropriately), and further try to decriminalize our completely worthless "war on drugs."

Proposition 48: YES. I'm opposed to the Indian gaming system in general, but this proposition appears to be a rather cynical attempt to block new casino development by tribes that already have casinos. My general feeling is that if we're going to have casinos, they should generally be legal; the bizarre system where each casino is subject to public approval seems designed to create political cronyism.

State offices:

I'm not going to comment on the partisan offices, since no one interesting survived the primaries. Across the board, it's basically the Democratic incumbants against various Republicans. The state Republican party in California is dominated by science denialists, Randian objectivists, and people who think the solution to all problems is ensuring rich people don't pay taxes, so it takes rather a lot to get me to vote for any of them. At the moment, the Democrats are doing a reasonably good job running the state, so while I'd vote for challengers from the left against several of them, given the boring candidate slate, I'm just voting Democrat down the line.

California has a system that requires voter approval for various state judicial offices. In general, I don't agree with voter approval for judges, since voters are rarely in a position to make reasonable choices about justices. Since there's a Democratic administration in power at the moment, these are probably the best judges that we're going to get (the few I've heard of are good choices), and I don't think the yes/no approval voting is useful anyway. So I'm voting to approve across the board.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson. I'm not a huge fan of Torlakson, but Tuck is a Harvard MBA who ran charter schools and then a school privatization initiative. Everyone always claims that they want to reduce bureaucracy and empower teachers, but Tuck has a past track record of trying to do so by taking public education private, something that I am passionately opposed to. So Torlakson it is.

Local measures:

Measure B: YES. Increases the local hotel tax and uses it for local infrastructure. I'm generally in favor of raising taxes, and the amount certainly won't be significant in the ridiculous Palo Alto hotel market. The arguments against feature one of my favorite stupid right-wing talking points: the tax is unfair because it isn't earmarked to benefit the people paying it.

Measure C: YES. Reasonable, small reform of the local utility tax, opposed by the Libertarian Party and "taxpayer associations" using an "all taxation is theft" argument. What's not to like?

Measure D: NO. Reduces the size of the city council for no clear reason. The stated reasons are saving money (not credible given how little money is involved) and making city meetings not take as long. I'm going to need something better than that to vote for this.

Local offices:

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #24: Matthew S. Harris. I'm making one exception for my normal rule against voting for former prosecutors for judges because the incumbant, Diane Ritchie, is apparently a train wreck. All it takes is a quick Google search to reveal multiple news stories about strange behavior, clear conflicts of interest, and other serious problems, including a rebuke by the local bar association. Even if not all of that information is true, judges should be above reproach, or at least farther above reproach than this.

Palo Alto City Council: I have an agenda here: I think housing density is about the best thing that the local community could support. Housing density enables better mass transit options, makes housing more affordable and brings more housing under possible rent control, and simply makes more sense given the cost of housing in the area. A lot of the city council members run on low-density or anti-growth platforms; I vote against those and for people who support development. And, of course, I'll filter out candidates who believe stupid things, like claiming a minimum wage is un-American (Seelam-Sea Reddy). The best seem to be Greg Scharff, A.C. Johnston, Nancy Shepherd, Cory Wolbach, and Wayne Douglass.

Palo Alto Unified School District: The Democratic party has endorsed four out of the five candidates, so it probably doesn't matter too much. Gina Dalma and Ken Dauber sound like the best of the candidates to me, so I will probably vote for them.

Santa Clara Valley Water District #7: I voted for Brian Schmidt last time, and I don't see a reason to change my mind. His opponent is a Silicon Valley millionaire who is spending a surprisingly large amount of money on this race and is involved with a business that sells software to water boards, which raises some eyebrows.

Last modified and spun 2017-04-30