politics & philosophy Archives

Letter to the proponents of San Francisco proposition E 2015

I received email promoting prop E and sent the following letter in response:


Mr. [David] Lee,

I have already voted against this proposition primarily because it does not provide any provision for managing the inflow of non-local comments. I don't mean people who live nearby because of our over-priced city and who are personally affected by the matters discussed, I mean the same kind of people in other states and even other countries who spend their time trolling the comments on SFGate.com. A lot of those folks are there because they don't like San Francisco values. They're burning time and attention to stir things up and slam the city and its people. It's bad enough in our newspaper discussions (and other SF-affiliated online comment spaces); we don't need it in our government. Have you already forgotten the out-of-state involvement in Prop 8?
Further, the idea of scheduling specific times for comment will hinder the ability to work through many items at public meetings. I've attended lots of local government meetings and many times have attended at the last moment because I was able to get there unexpectedly. I'm not alone in that. There's no predicting how many people will want to comment on an issue. There's no predicting how many people who came will decide to comment or not comment based on the statements of the primary parties involved. Scheduling specific times will produce unnecessary constraint in number of speakers (or, one hopes, an overflow into the next scheduled slot so that no local voices are unheard). Also at these meetings there's often a postponement of an item, for example when an interested party was unexpectedly not present at a recent Board of Appeals meeting I attended. Should the Board and all the attendees for the next matter on the agenda have had to sit silently for half an hour until a scheduled time came up? That's not efficient or a good use of anyone's time.
Yes, more livestreaming would be great. We need it.

Yes, methods for those who live, work, or study in SF to contribute to these meetings without attending in person would be good. But it needs to be done in a manner which doesn't clog the process with those who are not impacted by the matter at hand.

Yes, improved handling of the timing of high-interest agenda items would be great. But those running these meetings are already incentivized to make that happen and unfortunately the variability in matters to be covered—e.g. how long it will take to approve the minutes of the prior meeting, or to resolve other routine start-of-meeting matters, or to work through any given agenda item—means that a schedule is very problematic. You can't legitimately cut anything short to stay on track and you don't want dead time in order to stay on track; it's got to be flexible.
Proposition E did not address those major 'But's and needs to be re-worked in future to earn my yes vote.
I hope you will share my letter with your students so that they understand a defeat on this proposal is most definitely not because we don't want to hear their voices.
Technology is not the only part of improving a challenging civic function like this; it needs community management skills—just like any good online discussion space—and careful implementation and problem resolution planning before a mandate of methodology can be laid down.
Dinah Sanders

Posted on October 30, 2015 at 11:04 AM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

SF Election Slate November 2015 2015

San Franciscans! Here's all the election info. Note the voter info booklet and sample ballots under "Voter guides and sample ballot".

This time it's almost all really about housing. Very exciting to see so much potential progress on offer for us.


Mayor: Ed Lee
Not perfect, but overall a decent balancing act through some very odd times. 
Broke-Ass Stuart and some of the other candidates clearly love this city in all its messy complexity, but I doubt their ability to effectively manage an economy of San Francisco's size, let alone their ability to negotiate the minefield of the city's political power structures.


Sheriff: Vicki Hennessy
Hard to imagine a better candidate with a broader base of support. She did a great job as Interim Sheriff and has both a humane view of the role of the department and the essential support within it to make effective policy changes.


City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
And a standing ovation. We are so lucky to have him.


District Attorney: George Gascón
SF Treasurer: José Cisneros
Seem to be doing a good job.


For the local ballot measures below I've linked the proposition description to Public Press's overview.

Proposition A: Yes
Affordable Housing Bond
"It’s been two decades since city voters gave a housing bond the green light" Public Press points out and boy do we need to address affordable housing in this city. The special set-aside for helping teachers live here is particularly appealing. This is a sound investment in the city and we're in good economic shape to make it now.
Good broad base of support.
Oppositions statements are from the usual clump of anti-public-spending folks (Quentin Kopp and assorted libertarians) who seem to believe that someday a magic Reagan angel will rise up and make trickle-down economics actually work.


Proposition B: Yes
Paid Parental Leave for City Employees
A modest improvement to benefits for new parents who are city employees.
Once again, good broad base of support.
Opposition statements are only that same Terrance Faulkner dude who's opposing lots of things this time because why should non-ladies need to care for a new baby (insert eyeroll here) and Libertarians because why should non-young-single-white-guys get special treatment (insert world's smallest violin here).


Proposition C: Yes
Registering Lobbyists
Creates transparency about who's spending big money—$2,500 a month or more—to have other people lobby city government on their behalf.
Proposed by the SF Ethics Commission.
Opposition statement by Terrance Faulkner again, who seems to be missing the key fact that the non-profit exemption terminology in this proposition brings it in line with that for direct lobbying.


Proposition D: Yes
Mission Rock Waterfront Development
This is a well-crafted project worked out with years of community input, located on what is currently a parking lot in a former industrial area. It will create about 600 affordable housing units, which the city desperately needs, plus another approximately 900 market rate units. (40% affordable is an exceptionally good percentage.)
Broad base of support.
Opposed by the Sierra Club, whom I respect, but who I think are flat out wrong on this one. This is a city and some amount of growth is appropriate—and this is a great place to locate this development. It doesn't create a "wall on the waterfront" (like the ill-considered development north of the Ferry Building which the voters fortunately stopped in a past election); rather all buildings are at least 100 feet from the waterfront, and step down in height towards the water.


Proposition E: No
Requirements for Public Meetings
I support increasing public access to civic decision-making, but this throws the whole process in danger of being continually bogged down by non-locals submitting comments on issues which do not actually affect them. We don't need our public participation in government turning into something like the comments on YouTube or SFGate.
There are people I respect on both sides of this issue, but I come down to it not being well-crafted enough to avoid serious problems that could result in less rather than more local voices being heard in city decision making. Not ready for prime time; supporters should improve the proposition and try again later.
(Bonus trivia: this is one of those rare things on which Quentin Kopp and I are actually in agreement on which way to vote. It's expensive and counter-productive.)


Proposition F: Yes
Regulating Short-Term Rentals. For this one the City's summary is even clearer than Public Press'.
Okay, stay with me here. This is long, but it's because you're probably as in the dark on how it actually works as I was before spending a few hours going through it all.

This area of city law is all about keeping residential rentals from being lost to the market and only used for tourists.

It is essential in evaluating this proposition to compare the way it is now, under SF Ordinance No. 218-14 which took effect February 1st of this year, to the proposed changes. Many of the mailings and editorials about this proposition speak in such general terms they obscure the actual change this law would make.

"Current law requires hosts to register with the city, after which they are allowed to rent out entire homes for up to 90 days per year — unless they are staying on site, in which case they can rent out rooms year-round. But to date, only about 700 hosts have registered, implying that thousands of others are flying under the radar. City Hall currently has no way to find them." [source]

Note that hosts under current law must live in the residential unit which will be offered for rental (or partial rental) for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year. Non-resident hosts renting out their place(s) are, as I understand it, violating the requirements of the City’s Residential Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance (Administrative Code Chapter 41A) or the Planning Code, and that doesn't change with Proposition F.

So, the registry of hosts and the limited rental days per year for non-resident hosts already exist. Voting Yes on proposition F means you support changing the limit from 90 days to 75 days per year, and subjecting resident hosts to the same limit as non-resident hosts.

Currently there is no restriction on offering affordable housing (built with assistance from the city) or in-law units as short-term rentals; a Yes on proposition F means you support preventing those uses. (The in-law unit is a big factor in SF right now because in hopes of adding much needed housing the city has just created pathways to legitimize currently illegal in-law units; obviously if those units are eaten up with tourist rentals the whole aim of creating more residential housing is defeated.)

Currently no reporting is required from either the hosts or the services like AirBnB which facilitate short-term renting; a Yes on proposition F means both hosts and services are required to provide data to the city. That would expose the non-registered hosts, increasing city revenue and helping to offset the costs of the new Office of Short Term Rental Administration and Enforcement. (This agency was already created as part of the law which went into effect in February, so SF will be paying for it regardless of whichever way Prop F goes.) Proposition F also will allow fining companies such as AirBnB for listing unregistered hosts.

Proposition F adds notification to interested parties (such as neighbors) of registration of a unit for short-term rentals.

Currently, interested parties defined in detail (e.g. the neighbor) may sue the violator (i.e. the host). Proposition F will also allow them to sue the hosting service which promoted the violating rental. (I don't really buy this as a financial incentive to spy on neighbors; the hassle and expense of a lawsuit against a company with in-house legal counsel who handle this stuff all the time doesn't seem worth it except in extreme problem cases.)

My big takeaways on digging into this proposition:

  • It's currently a misdemeanor for a non-resident to rent out their place for short-term rentals (e.g. through VRBO, AirBnB, etc.) and Prop F doesn't change that.
  • The city currently doesn't have any way to penalize listing services for facilitating those short-term rentals because the city doesn't require any reporting from those services or from hosts. Prop F does change that, and when you realize they wouldn't be able to list unregistered hosts without risking fines from the city or lawsuits from neighbors of the unit it becomes a lot more clear why AirBnB has spent $8million trying to shoot this proposition down.
  • Prop F will drive non-registered hosts (which, importantly, includes all those who do not live in the rental unit most of the year) underground. This will probably have a dramatic negative impact on their ability to use their place(s) for short-term rentals. Whether that will result in more places coming back into the residential rental market remains to be seen, but I do think Prop F would slow the outflow of units from residential to short-term usage by cutting off that easy revenue stream.
  • Prop F will further limit the amount of short-term rentals available, not only through the reduction of the maximum for a unit from 90 to 75 days per year, but also through the minor hassle of registration with the city and reporting. (Though it's strongly in the listing services' best interest to make that reporting easy for their users so I doubt it will be a big issue.) With short-term rentals constrained, those wanting to earn money renting out part of their home will be incentivized to consider normal residential rentals instead, potentially adding more housing to the market.
  • Prop F makes it harder to use potential residential units for short-term rentals. It thus creates an incentive for those currently operating multiple units for this (illegal) purpose to transfer their business into legitimate small hotel activities.

So, in the short term—say the next few years—if Prop F passes, I'm guessing we see some apartments return to the residential market, some additional spots for shared-housing residential rentals, and some new small hotels created. I think those "some"s add up to a significant number, so that's all good. We also see fewer short-term rentals available and that's a drag, but does put a nice ceiling on city-disrupting convention events like Dreamforce. Bottom line: unregulated hotel rooms, with all their issues and annoyances, decline in favor of registered short-term rentals with insurance etc, legitimate hotels, and residential rentals.


Proposition G: No
Proposition H: Yes
Defining ‘Clean’ or ‘Green’ Energy
SF has a plan for switching the city over to a greater percentage of sustainable energy sources. The intent under this CleanPowerSF is that compared with PG&E’s energy portfolio, CleanPowerSF will draw from more renewable sources without charging customers more than they currently pay.
Prop G attempted to define it one way (in PG&E's favor & less sustainably). Prop H uses the state's definition.
Prop G has been withdrawn by its original proposers (PG&E employees) in favor of Prop H, which has a broad base of support.
Guess who is opposed? Yes! Terrance Faulkner.


Proposition I: No
Mission District Housing Moratorium
Halts basically all construction in the Mission which isn't 100% affordable housing for 18 months. Which is to say, halts all construction in the Mission, even projects with exceptionally high percentages of affordable units. City Controller estimate in September is that it halts building of 750-800 units.
The arguments in favor falsely equate "luxury" with "under 100% affordable". Yes, we need more affordable housing, but this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, the Mission is undergoing massive change, but not for the first time and this proposition does not offer any solutions. The argument against is clear:
"What the proponents didn’t consider in their rush to the ballot is if we don’t create new homes at all income levels, the city’s problem of displacement will worsen. Thousands of people will still move to San Francisco, and if Prop I limits the supply of housing, they will bid up prices of existing homes, increasing displacement."


Proposition J: Yes
Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund
This fund to support local, 30+ year old businesses which are significant to the history or identity of their neighborhood and which are committed to retaining that legacy.
The fund is subject to future budget cycles so it is nicely suited to protecting old businesses in boom times without overdrawing the city in lean times.
Opposed by Quentin Kopp, the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party in their privileged belief that "If an enterprise is truly a “healthy” business...it will exist."
I'm siding with the true character of the city and with protecting it from short-term monied interests.


Proposition K: Yes
Using City Land for Affordable Housing
Streamlines the process for taking unutilized public lands within the city and turning them into affordable housing, prioritized toward the homeless.
Wish this had been done 10 years ago with the old freeway lots bounded by Octavia, Fell, Oak, and Laguna! We need housing for everyone, not chained off vacant lots.
Opposed by Quentin Kopp and the Republican Party. Supported by pretty much everybody else.

Posted on October 17, 2015 at 07:55 PM in politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

Buh-bye, Facebook. 2015

Last June I quit using Facebook both personally and professionally. I'd been feeling pretty queasy about their creepy terms of service switcheroos already, but pile on real name policy problems and ever-increasing revenue-generation interference with having your posts actually seen by your followers and I was pretty dubious already. But it seemed necessary. "You've got a brand! How can you not be on Facebook?!" So I held my nose and stuck with it, at least for my Discardia and Art of the Shim social media presence.

The turning point came when news broke that the Facebook app was going to start quietly recording background sound while you worked on a post. WTF?! Ostensibly to identify music or TV and include it in the post, but really? Facebook, do you think we don't know you're not going to sell that marketing info and let the NSA listen in? How dumb do you think we are? 

That was it. I posted an announcement with a link to a video explaining why everyone should be leaving Facebook and I deleted the apps from my devices. No more social media posts via Facebook.

You know what? It did absolutely no damage to my brand. It didn't affect my sales. It didn't reduce my reader interaction as an author/publisher. 

Turns out, Facebook needs us waaaaay more than we need Facebook. And we don't need it at all.


Over the past year I've been duplicating all the content from my Facebook accounts onto my own sites and today I finally made time to copy over the last of it. Time to permanently delete my account. Ahhhhh, how nice!

For posterity, and an illustration of just how much a professional account contains attempts from Facebook to get you to spend money to reach your own followers, here are screenshots of the page as it now appears. Amusingly, because the last thing I posted was the 'Delete Facebook' video, all the automatically mocked-up ads they want me to buy use that graphic.

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Facebook's constant clawing for additional personal information is very visible in my old personal account:

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Posted on October 3, 2015 at 04:38 PM in politics & philosophy, The Web, tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

The kids are not fiscally all right — and here’s a few more thoughts on why 2015

[A post I put up on Medium archived here in October 2015]


Ana Swanson’s Washington Post Wonk Blog piece, “The growing wealth gap that nobody is talking about: Young people have always been poor, but today’s young people are poorer than most”, ends in puzzlement. A few potential sources for the comparative poverty of Gen-X and Millennials in the United States are offered, but the concluding paragraphs seem out of place with the confident, data-driven statements cited before them.

Why should the lack of wealth among Gen-X and Millennials be such a surprise given their (or I could say ‘our’, in the case of Gen-X) role as the generations who were most encouraged to run up and continuously carry substantial credit card debt? (See, for example, trends charted here.)

These generations also walk away from college graduation with substantially more student loan debt (“Soaring College Tuitions.” The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2008, corrected chart 1; see also Friday’s piece “We’re Making Life Too Hard for Millennials” with its chart captioned ‘Tuition Races Upward, Debt Mounts’).

Beyond credit debt, though, our extending lifespans in the U.S. have to be important too. Based on my initial exploration of changing life expectancy (as described by the Social Security Administration in these sources 23) it appears that as you move forward from 1900 there is a later and later age of potential inheritance of wealth from older relations. (That potential is not evenly distributed, as, for example, an examination of African-American experiences* in home ownership and debt over the past century painfully reveals. When there is no family wealth accumulated, there is even less opportunity for any upward climb.)

The sources cited above support that, showing the increasing percentage of those who reached age 21 who then reached age 65. If you get old enough to likely become a parent, you also have an increasing likelihood of reaching retirement age. Those who are able to collect wealth are holding it longer.

Thus, to give specific examples based on the charts in these sources, someone born in 1895 (the parents of the Greatest Generation), who reached age 21 only had 60–71% odds of living until 1960. That 65 year old would then, on average, be unlikely to live past 1975. They would therefore be releasing their wealth into the next generation when their kids are 55–60 years old (assuming they had had their kids when around age 20–25). Put another way, 29–40% of the Greatest Generation would likely have inherited their parents’ remaining wealth by age 60.

Our boomer, born in 1955 (the parent of our Gen Xer), who reached age 21 has 79–88% odds of living until 2020, and then on average of not living past 2035–2040, releasing their wealth into the next generation when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 55–65 years old. Put that another way and only 12–21% of Gen Xers will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 55–65.

The parent of our Millennial, let’s say, is born in 1975, and having reached 21 has 82–90% odds of living until 2040, and then on average of not living past around 2060, when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 65–70 years old. Thus, only 10–18% of Millennials will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 65–70.

Over just nearly a century we’ve gone from a generation where 1 in 3 inherited by retirement age, to a generation where fewer than 1 in 5, perhaps as low as 1 in 10, will inherit by or soon after retirement age.

There is a cascading effect of extended lifespan which may be more important than inheritance, given that many will not inherit a meaningful amount of money even in the best scenario for their age and generation.

Increasingly, not only would a given generation not yet have inherited at their own retirement age, their parents are more likely to use up more of that potential inheritance supporting themselves living on well after retirement, or even to require financial assistance from them, further reducing potential wealth passed on to the children of that given generation.

There may be an offsetting influence of later parenthood (e.g., children more often had at 25–30 or even 30–35 years old) but I suspect that, at least until very recently, lifespan has been extending faster than parenthood has been trending later. The CDC data I found in a cursory search, (45), suggests that only within the last 10 years are we seeing average age of the mother pushing up to the 25–30 year old age range. That trend may be picking up speed, but so far I don’t have the impression it has overtaken the influence of extending lifespans in terms of average age of child at time of death of last surviving parent.

While past generations were motivated to build their wealth in order to create a better future for their children, now those parents are more likely to still be around enjoying that future, with the children needing to shift for themselves far longer. It becomes somewhat less clear what the younger generations’ motives would be to take on years of debt and hard work to build wealth for anyone but themselves. With less reliable relationships between debt and long-term wealth — as college degrees no longer are as sure a path to high income and as the mortgage crisis demonstrated the vulnerability of investing in a home — recent generations are finding it hard to determine their best method of avoiding destitution in old age.

Freedom to define your own path is a touchstone of Generation X, but that freedom is also for many simply a hard fact: there is, starting with that generation, decreasingly going to be a transfer of the prior generation’s progress.

Approaching that future, clear-eyed, amidst financial crisis and Great Recession, little wonder that Gen-X and Millennials aren’t looking particularly lucky. And little wonder that they’re exploring other ways of defining the good life.

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*Jinx McCombs sent me this comment by email: “For generations, African-Americans have been labeled as inherently inferior because they are plagued with poverty generation after generation. But when formal and informal cultural patterns minimize income and block the accumulation of wealth, and this continues generation after generation, only a few extraordinary individuals will be able to break through, and even they will remain at a disadvantage compared to those who inherit. Edward Baptist’s book ‘The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism’ makes this point clearly. It may be that a large group of Americans besides African-Americans are beginning to find themselves in that same trap of no-wealth-accumulation.”

Posted on August 2, 2015 at 04:40 PM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Election Slate November 2014 2014

As the influence of money in politics grows stronger, voting in every election grows more important, particularly whenever we have a chance to enact safeguards against that influence and to elect candidates committed to protecting individual rights against corporate power.

Fortunately for me, it's easy to vote in San Francisco. No one is actively working to reduce my participation through diminishing poll hours and locations as is occuring in some communities around the U.S. If anything, the election process here is becoming more convenient. The polling station in City Hall opens on weekdays 29 days before the election and on the two weekends prior to election day, Tuesday November 4th. Vote by mail (whether permanent or just for this election) is also available and those ballots should be out in the mail this week.

San Franciscans should particularly come out to vote Yes on Measure A which will provide vital funds for street and transit improvements.

Here are my recommendations for this election:

Governor: Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown
He's been doing a great job under challenging circumstances. I'm hopeful that he'll continue to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and care for the people of the state.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Definitely a reasonable choice to step in and keep Brown's work on track if he should become unavailable for some reason. His opponent, Ron Nehring, opposes the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage, as well as wanting to repeal the criminal justice realignment program which has been an excellent change for the state; we do not want Nehring a heartbeat away from leading California.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
His pledge to defend the principles of the Voting Rights Act is a particularly good sign.

Controller: Betty T. Yee
Her long experience with state financial matters, lately as a Board of Equalization member, will serve us well in this position.

Treasurer: John Chiang
With him termed out as Controller, I'm glad we have a closely related position for this tough, savvy, and fiscally dextrous public servant to move into.

Attorney General: Kamala D. Harris
Very solid work from her on the foreclosure crisis in particular; let's keep her on the job.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
He's done a great job protecting consumer interests without driving insurance companies out of the California market; not an easy balancing act. (More on him and the role of the insurance commissioner here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-insurance-commissioner-20140508-story.html )

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
She's far from perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17: David Chiu
I really did not like the made-up mud-slinging campaign Campos has run this year and it has completely soured my formerly good opinion of him. As I said in June, I'm sticking with Chiu as someone focused on achieving results. I'm hopeful that he will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judicial appointments: Yes to all, especially Goodwin Liu (pity that he was blocked from his appointment to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by a Republican filibuster).
More background on this section of the ballot and these justices here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-appellate-justices-20140921-story.html

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
As I noted in June, Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

Proposition 1 (California Water Bond): Yes
Great start to this LA Times endorsement, "Even in wet years, there will never be enough Sierra snowpack to give every interest group and every region in California enough inexpensive water to quench every thirst and satisfy every ambition. The state has a long way to go before it properly takes account of its water limits and updates the way it divvies up this crucial natural resource." http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-proposition-1-20141008-story.html

Proposition 2 (State Budget Stabilization): Yes
Restoring fiscal sense and stability.

Proposition 45 (Healthcare Insurance Rate Changes): Yes
When the biggest healthcare corporations spend a quarter of a million dollars fighting against something relating to rates, it's a damn good sign that they are worried their profits might be at stake. Make 'em justify any attempt to fleece us.

Proposition 46 (Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors): No
Actually mostly about raising the limit on the amount of medical malpractice lawsuit awards.

Proposition 47 (Criminal Sentencing Misdemeanors): Yes
Another good move to emphasize rehabilitation rather than expensive prison internment for low-risk offenders. Allows for felony sentencing still for violent offenders.

Proposition 48 (Indian Gaming): No
I'm a no on this one not because of any particular flaw with the proposition, but because I'm very dubious about the healthiness of adding yet more casinos. They seem to me to be a tax on those weak at assessing statistical probability. Not as bad as lotteries, but still biased toward getting their money from the poor and middle income rather than the rich or businesses.

SF Measure A (Transportation and Road Improvement Bond): YES!
The positive impact these funds will have is going to extend beyond their basic physical results of better streets and transit. Market Street, in particular, will be a dramatically better place to be. This one needs a 2/3rds vote, so make sure everyone you know gets to the polls to make it happen!

SF Measure B (Tying Muni Funding to Growth): Yes
We're building a lot more housing here and business is booming, so if we don't want that increased traffic to cripple our public transit we need to make sure transit funding grows with the city. (For entertainment purposes only, do check out the opposing arguments on this one in the Voter Information Pamphlet. Sorcerers!)

SF Measure C (Children's Fund Reauthorization): Yes
This renews a vital 3-part set of funds for child and youth services. Great programs, already proven to help the city, particularly those of lower and middle income families.

SF Measure D (Retiree Health Benefits): Yes
Do not mess with the retirement benefits of people who've worked hard for them. This is a no-brainer, bringing together less than 50 people's benefits from a dissolved agency under the larger city retirement umbrella.

SF Measure E (Soda Tax): Yes
Bringing a small portion of the externalities of these unhealthy beverages into their price and using that money to fund health, nutrition, and activity programs is a great idea. Again, follow the money; the big soda companies don't want to see this pass any more than the cigarette companies want to see taxes on cigarettes. Look at all the arguments against which were paid for by the American Beverage Association California PAC—all but one and that was funded by the Republican Party.

SF Measure F (Pier 70): Yes
If these developers worked with the nearby community enough to get a proposal so good even the Bay Guardian and the Sierra Club would endorse a big waterfront development, it's got to be fantastic. Supported by everybody, apparently, except that "Sorcerers!" dude from Measure B. (I didn't really know anything about this project before, but now I'm very excited about it. Yay for revitalizing that old industrial bay frontage!)

SF Measure G (Anti-Speculation Tax): Yes
Additional tax on sales of certain multi-unit residential properties if flipped within five years. Opposed largely by the Realtor and Property Management industries, naturally. Pay particular attention to the cases when this would not apply, on page 122 of the Voter Information Pamphlet, which deflate much of the scaremongering against this measure.

SF Measure H (Natural Grass Athletic Fields): No
Not an easy decision, particularly as regards probable loss of dark evening skies in the area surrounding and the potential impact of that on bird life, but with water a growing issue it seems flat out nuts to prohibit artificial turf fields.

SF Measure I (Renovation of Fields): No
Badly written measure which messes with existing review and appeal processes.

SF Measure J (Minimum Wage Increase): Yes
Increasing take-home pay at the lowest compensation levels will help the local economy and ease the pressure on working people in the Bay Area. Having a huge wealth gap is as bad locally as it is nationally. Even setting aside that principle, when a city is so expensive that low-compensation workers can't live there, the region suffers an economic loss in the form of time lost to commuting.

SF Measure K (Housing Policy Statement): Yes
This is a step in the right direction on improving housing affordability in this expensive city.

SF Measure (Pro-Car Policy Statement): NO!
Go live somewhere else if you don't want to live in a healthy city. San Francisco people are more important than cars.

Posted on October 8, 2014 at 08:33 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Election Slate June 2014 2014

Was hoping to get this up earlier but a combination of travel and headcold slowed me down. Fortunately it's all pretty straightforward this time.

Governor: Jerry Brown
This guy plays economic management on the hard setting and he still seems to be winning the game. Very interested to see what he can do with a few more years of turning things around.

Lietenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Seems to be doing just fine and working well with Brown.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Seems to have done a good job in the State Senate.

Controller: Betty Yee
A fair, capable administrator.

Treasurer: John Chiang
Another sound fiscal adminstrator from whose good work the state can continue to benefit.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris
She's doing a good job, let's keep her at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
Seems to be doing good work so far.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
She ain't perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
(his has been one of those campaigns where the larger pile of mailers with over-the-top photoshopped imagery indicates which side NOT to support. When this campaign season started I didn't see huge differences between David Chiu and David Campos, but the way Campos and his backers have conducted their campaign—with attack mailers, stretched truths, and sensationalism instead of a proven track record—makes it clear that they aren't the same kind of candidate at all. I'm sticking with someone focused on achieving results, through keeping his ass in his chair for Board of Supes meetings and compromising when necessary. I'm hopeful that Chiu will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
All three candidates look pretty good, frankly, but Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

State Proposition 41: Yes
This is a small price for housing people, better yet that it helps homeless veterans.

State Proposition 42: Yes
Public information access needs to be protected from budgetary excuses. Pleasingly, this also creates incentives for local government to streamline their processes to keep their costs down while still providing the required access.

City and County Proposition A: Yes.
This is earthquake country. We cannot rely on century-old infrastructure to protect us and allow us to recover quickly. Bonds are a way better investment than the massive expense of lost income we'd see with greater damage and delayed recovery after a major quake or big fires.

City and County Proposition B: No.
This is a bad, sneaky proposal and an attempt to create loopholes for developers. Elections are not the place to conduct planning and evaluate environmental impacts. Why would we want to push these decisions into an arena which favors big money over community wishes? We know what elections are going to bring; piles of often-sleazy mailers attempting to manipulate opinion. Election mailers don't build community. Participation in the planning process can. Besides, aren't we supposed to be those liberal citizens that believe government can be a force for good? We have a public participation process; let's use it.

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 04:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (1)

media I've enjoyed recently 2014

Advertising and Selling

- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)

- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)

- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)


- Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture (TEDtalks)

- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)

- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)


- Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools (TEDtalks)

- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)

- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)

- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)

Food and Drink

- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)

- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)

- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)

Health and Growth

- Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant (TEDtalks)

- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)

- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)

- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)

- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)

- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)

- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)

- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)

- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)

- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)

- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)

- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)

- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)

- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)

Nature and Sexuality

- Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (TEDtalks)

- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)

- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)

- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)

- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)

- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)

- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)

- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)

- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)

- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)

Politics and Philosophy

- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)

- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)

- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)

- David Puttnam: What happens when the media's priority is profit? (TEDtalks)

- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)

Technology and Physics

- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)

- Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore (TEDtalks)

- Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it... (TEDtalks)

- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)

- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)

- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)

- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)

- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)

- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)

- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

The MetaGrrrl Slatecard for November 2012 2012

Here's my voting plan, ready to be put into action this afternoon or tomorrow morning:

President: Barack Obama
No president will ever be perfect, and there are things he's done with which I disagree, but they are far outnumbered by the things he's done which I like and which I think make our country and the world stronger, healthier, and smarter.

Voting for Obama over other liberal candidates is very important to me as I believe a strong show of support for rational, fact-based governance will help to continue moving future elections in the direction of better lives for all Americans. We don't go from 0 to 60 in one election, folks. Eyes on the prize and let's move the center back to the center.

U.S. Senator: Dianne Feinstein
Holding my nose here after her position on PIPA, but she's an important force for achieving actual results in the Senate.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
No nose-holding here; Pelosi has been doing a good job.

State Senator: Mark Leno
Very pleased with his work.

State Assembly: Tom Ammiano

Board of Education: Garcia-Meza, Rodriguez, Norton, Haney.
Based on examination of their candidate statements and websites; good mix of administrative experience, realistic goals, and strong vision. Budget challenges favor those who have learned how to get their institutions through tough times, but good to bring in some fresh ideas too.

Community College Board: Leung, Berg, Ngo, Santos

BART Director: Tom Radulovich
Steady hand on the rudder; keep on keepin' on.


State Propositions:

30: YES!
Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding
This is the good, smart approach to maintaining our educational system and, thus, the future of the state.

31: NO
State Budget. State and Local Government
Adds needless bureaucracy and inflexibility to budgeting process and endangers environmental protections.

32: NO!
Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates
This is straight-up an effort to impede political participation by labor and other non-corporate voices.

33: NO
Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage
Follow the money here; insurance companies trying to use political process to create more ways to jack their pricing. Also, we voted against this in June 2010. Apparently we have to keep knocking them back in line.

34: YES!
Death Penalty
The death penalty should be repealed; it's not an effective deterrent, it's more expensive than life imprisonment, and it's morally wrong. Let's put that money to better use solving unsolved murders and rapes.

35: No?
Human Trafficking. Penalties
This seems like a fairly obvious Yes—I think human trafficking is bad—but people I respect find it shaky (and probably ineffective) as a legal matter. I'm leaning No at this point.

36: YES!
Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties
The 'strikes' right now are currently not required to be serious or violent crimes. This fixes the current problem of putting someone in prison for life for something as small as stealing.

37: NO
Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling
While I do believe that it's important to understand where your food comes from, there are too many things wrong with this proposition. It adds a huge burden on producers and grocers to obtain written statements about the origin of every ingredient or product they use or sell. Many basic foods are already GMO—for instance 85-95% of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S.—which would create a labeling cascade into any product containing some of these ingredients. Worst of all, enforcement is expected largely to occur through consumer lawsuits.
Even without all that weight on the No side of the scale, there is the further question of whether GMO foods actually represent a danger: "there is little if any evidence that changing a plant's or animal's genes through bioengineering, rather than through selective breeding, is dangerous to the people who consume it. In fact, some foods have been engineered specifically to remove allergens from the original version."*

38: NO
Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs
This is the bad state budget proposal, put on the ballot to interfere with Prop 30. Vote Yes on 30, No on 38.

39: YES
Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding
This closes a tax loophole and brings much needed revenue into a vital area for California's future (and continued good business environment). Has the potential to also create jobs in the state.

40: YES
Redistricting. State Senate Districts
A yes vote keeps what we currently have (created by the commission we voted in in 2008) instead of indulging in more gerrymandering.


San Francisco Measures:

City College Parcel Tax
I am a big fan of community colleges as a means of helping maintain opportunity for all citizens. Though it sounds like City College could be better managed, I don't think taking away funding is the right way to achieve those improvements.

Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond
Great parks and playgrounds transform neighborhoods. Spending money on them pays itself back and more in revitalization of communities and individuals. This also includes needed seismic safety improvements, which will help avoid costs (and perhaps lost lives) in a disaster.

Housing Trust Fund
Cities need a diverse range of housing; this makes affordable housing an ongoing priority.

Consolidating Odd-Year Municipal Elections
Let's save costs, save everyone's time, and increase turnout by bringing all these elections together.

Gross Receipts Tax
Let's not penalize job creation, let's fund from those who can best afford it.

F: NO!
Water and Environment Plan
My smart friend Jennifer Granick said it well: "$8M for a study that is step one is draining Hetch Hetchy, the marvelous source of our pristine drinking water, brought to the City by gravity, without need for (polluting) electricity or filtration." (See the rest of her slate card here.)

G: no vote
Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood
Jennifer had a good answer here: "The same theories that give us corporate personhood give us First Amendment rights for unions and NGOs. When you figure out how to parse that under our law, I’ll read your ballot measure. Until then, you are wasting trees."


District 5 member of Board of Supervisors:
This election has gotten really ugly with infusions of money from non-local interests and just plain foul anti-local-candidate mailers. This is a position which should be supporting the interests of my neighborhood, so I am deeply suspicious of this influx of outside money.
First choice: Hope Johnson (real local energy, not someone trying to leapfrog to a higher position)
Second choice: Christina Olague (doing a fine job right now)
Third choice: Thea Selby (seems also be truly locally focused)



Want more background? Check out Kid Beyond's great notes on his slate (scroll down).

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 02:02 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Case Study of Republicans vs. Democrats on FEMA 2012

"The lesson here is simple. At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does."

- Kevin Drum in Mother Jones

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 02:28 PM in politics & philosophy, preparedness, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

All Out 2012

Glad to hear Ukraine's anti-gay Law 8711 has been shelved—but it may be back in Sept. Keep the pressure on. #equality

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 04:31 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not paying forward 2012

RT @BarackObama: FACT: In 2010 and 2011, Romney paid less than 15% in taxes on $42.5 million in income—much less than what many middle-class families pay.

Can't help but think of this:

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 12:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Soldier" speaks of "putting to death" 2012

RT @aral: Salvation Army [Australia] official: non-celibate LGBT people should be put to death. I know who I won’t be donating to ever.

And the Salvation Army Australia official statement, which appears to be, in essence, look at what we do and don't listen to what some our representatives say.

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 01:20 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Isn't it time to change the U.S. postal service? 2012

I'm shooting from the hip here, but think of what we could achieve if we repurposed it. Think of those 574,000 employees, many of whom have direct knowledge of each household in an area. What else could they be doing if they weren't spending all their time carting mostly junk mail to people's doors?

Suppose we start freeing up resources for more needed tasks by only delivering physical mail two or three times a week. Half or a third of the delivery effort could surely be done with two-thirds or half of the people and vehicles, probably fewer in urban areas.

Rather than cutting jobs—in a time when more jobs are needed—shift those jobs into roles with more of a social return. Peace Corps is another independent agency of the United States; what if we started to shift the USPS infrastructure toward support of economic and social good here in the U.S.? What if we made a concerted domestic investment in increasing productivity and self-reliance in our communities?

I would sure rather have that than the ability for some person to carry a piece of paper from my house to somebody else's house in a couple days for less than 50 cents (as cool as that is).


Posted on June 19, 2012 at 04:39 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

It's good to have an eloquent ally 2012

"you're afraid of that woman's voice & you don't think you can beat her intellectually without using a cheat code"

More background and commentary from Daniel Nye Griffiths at Forbes.


"I don’t know who these hateful people are, but they are not the gamers I know. They are not the men I know."


Let's keep focused on having the "what you did" argument with those who leave hateful comments, not the "what you are" argument.

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 04:46 PM in games, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yo, Hank. 2012

RT @harikunzru: So Church of England opposed to 'redefining marriage'? Wasn't it created to do just that? Looking at you, Henry VIII...

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mmm, taxes. 2012

RT @atduskgreg: “I liked crowdfunding better when it was called taxation.” — @anildash

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 05:01 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Argh. 2012

RT @ryanqnorth: Amazed these are books published today, and not 20 years ago. RT @chasingray: Dear @Scholastic you should be ashamed.

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 10:46 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

This doesn't seem a strong selling position 2012

RT @BarackObama: RT @BenLaBolt: VIDEO: He said it -- Mitt Romney promises to fire teachers, police officers, firemen.

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 10:31 PM in linky goodness, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

"We have to get over this, as an industry." 2012

RT @jessajune: Can't We Discuss This Like Adults? / Fantastic rational criticism of the recent game trailer furor.

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:47 AM in games, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drawing battle lines 2012

RT @BarackObama: Every GOP senator just voted against helping women get #EqualPay for equal work.

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 01:43 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Participate. 2012

Voted. It took 4 minutes. #noexcuses

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 11:49 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not too happy with Ukraine right now 2012

Anti #gay crackdown in Ukraine during #Euro2012. Tell Merkel to dump the cup.

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

A reminder of what we're up against 2012

RT @BarackObama: Republicans have promised to block the Paycheck Fairness Act today—a bill that would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Women of the U.S. (& men who believe in equality), it is time to punish Republicans at the polls. EVERY election matters this year. Vote.

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 08:26 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Watching Wisconsin today 2012

RT @mc_frontalot: Wisconsin! You will note that in 100% of cases, a 'union buster' is an amoral thug owned by the plutocrats. Recall Walker Tuesday!

RT @cshirky: Republican activists are lying to WI voters, saying if they voted FOR a recall, they don't need to vote IN the recall.

Isn't deliberately misleading a large number of voters about exercising their right to vote a crime? If not, why not?

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 11:31 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

little stuff matters 2012

Might have noticed before, but since @MituK's great post on "normal" the color of @Atul_Gawande's mic here is glaring.

(Great talk by Gawande, I should also note.)

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 05:31 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

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