Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California Ballot Endorsements November 2010

State of California
November Election, 2010

Governor: Jerry Brown Discussion: The state is a mess; it needs Jerry Brown to come fix it. Meg Whitman's a rich idiot, and the other alternatives are jokes.
Lt. Governor: James "Jimi" Castillo Discussion: This is pretty much a joke job with a good salary anyways. Let's just be honest about that fact, and use this opportunity to elect a Green Party member to statewide office. The other candidates are former politicians just looking for a good way to continue collecting a salary for doing nothing. Let's elect somebody who might actually shake things up a little.
U.S. Senator: Barbara Boxer: This is not the time to replace Boxer. She's not perfect, but she'll do for now.
Attorney General: Kamala Harris Discussion: Yeah, as AG of SF she's been a little soft on crime, and the streets of SF are still the streets of SF. For this statewide office, she seems like a thinking, open-minded human being who may at least give some serious thought to the important policy issues of the day. You can't say the same for the other candidates.
Treasurer: Bill Lockyer

Statewide Measures:
Measure 19: Legalizes Marijuana. Discussion: I probably don't need to say much, but I will. This needs to be done for two very good reasons: One, it will undercut the funding for foreign mafias that currently profit by trafficking marijuana into our country, and thus have definite foreign policy benefits; and Two, it will undercut the funding for domestic drug gangs that currently profit by trafficking marijuana within our cities and within the country, and thus have definite domestic policy benefits. Estimated Financial Impact: The state's going to bring in a ton of cash from this. Recommended Vote: Yes

Measure 20: Redistricting. Discussion: Takes the carving of the pork out of the wolf's hands. Recommended Vote: Yes

Measure 21: VLF for State Parks. Discussion: Seems like a rather poor use of funds collected from vehicle license fees, and if the state parks were to all "close" tomorrow, as long as they didn't begin actually clear-cutting them, at least they would be preserved for future generations. Recommended Vote: No

Measure 22: Prevents State from Stealing Money from Other Jurisdictions. Discussion: I was horrified when I heard that the State of California could do this to begin with. F*ing fix it already. Recommended Vote: Yes

Measure 23: Suspend AB 32 until hell freezes over. Discussion: Funded by oil companies to protect profits and advance the Conservative cause. Go tell them where to stick it. Recommended Vote: No

Measure 24: Remove some business tax exemptions. Discussion: There's probably a good reason for some of these exemptions, if you ask the right lobbyist. But, the state is really, really, really broke. It needs cash, and it shouldn't have to steal it to get it. This is a logical way to raise revenue without raising taxes. Recommended Vote: Yes

Measure 25: Allows the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority vote (currently, 2/3 is needed). Discussion: This is a democracy, which is majority rule, not minority rule. Requiring a super-majority vote on an issue is effectively creating minority rule. That strikes me as wrong. This measure will go a long way to fixing politics in this broken state. Recommended Vote: Yes

Measure 26: Requires 2/3 vote to enact or raise fees. Discussion: See above, about minority rule = bad. Recommended Vote: No

Measure 27: Opposite of Measure 20, Redistricting. Unlock the coop, leave a trail of blood to the forest, and put up a god-damn neon sign saying "The chickens are sleeping, come and eat them Mr. Fox". Recommended Vote: No

Alameda County

Measure F: Vehicle License Fee for Bicycles, Transit & Urban Greening. F*ing yeah! Right on. This is a great use of VLF moneys. Appropriate use of funds, given the revenue source. Recommended Vote: Yes

BART Director, District 4: Robert Raburn

Mayor, Oakland:
1) Rebecca Kaplan
2) Joe Tuman
Discussion: Rebecca gets it, and would hopefully be a good mayor. Joe at least supports the Oakland Streetcar proposal, which is better than nothing. Stop voting after two, your first two votes will still be counted under the ranked-choice system (You may rank UP TO three choices).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oregon Ballot Endorsements 2010

State of Oregon


United States Senator: Ron Wyden

Representatives in Congress:
1st District: David Wu
2nd District: Joyce Segers
3rd District: Earl Blumenauer

4th District: Peter DeFazio

5th District: 

Kurt Schrader

6th District: Just kidding, Oregon only has 5 districts.

Governor: John Kitzhaber
Treasurer: Ted Wheeler

Oregon Metro Council President: Bob Stacey Discussion: Bob will show decisive leadership on important policy issues, and that's still what metro (and Oregon) need.
Measure 70 through 72 were referred to the people by the Legislature, and thus already represent the result of a well-reasoned consensus that has been reached by our elected body of citizen representatives in Oregon.

Measure 70:
Amends Constitution: Expands availability of home ownership loans for Oregon veterans through Oregon War Veterans' Fund. Estimated Financial Impact: None. Discussion: This seems to be mostly a clean-up bill to rationalize what seems to be a slightly irrational set of rules governing this program. Recommended Vote: Yes.

Measure 71: Amends Constitution: Requires legislature to meet annually; limits length of legislative sessions; provides exceptions. Estimated Financial Impact: Not estimated to exceed $100,000. Discussion: You know, this sounds like an interesting experiment, and I'm all for interesting experiments taking place in Oregon, if there's not pre-known to be a predictable adverse impact. Know what I'm sayin'? Recommended Vote: Yes.

Measure 72: Amends Constitution: Authorizes exception to $50,000 state borrowing limit for state's real and personal property projects. Estimated Financial Impact: This should provide for lower financing costs to the state to acquire debt. Discussion: The state says it needs more tools in its financial toolchest. It's going through hard times. This seems like a really good idea. Recommended Vote: Yes.


Measures 73 through 76 were referred to the ballot through citizen initiative petition.

Measure 73: Requires increased minimum sentences for certain repeated sex crimes, incarceration for repeated driving under influence. Estimated Financial Impact: $18.1 million to $29.1 million per year after it fully takes effect after its fourth year of impact, lesser until then. Discussion: While this seems like a good law-and-order measure, in these hard financial times, I'd like to see it come with some financing attached to help pay for itself. I don't see that. Without more evidence that this is the best solution available for the problem at hand, I don't see the compelling cost-benefit analysis that says this is the best use of the state's limited funding. Recommended Vote: No.

Measure 74: Establishes medical marijuana supply system and assistance and research programs; allows limited selling of marijuana. Estimated Financial Impact: Up to $20 million in revenue to the state in the first year alone. Discussion: Some time has passed since Oregon legalized medical marijuana, and in that time, experience has shown that additional regulation could improve the situation. This measure is therefore an evolutionary step forward from the present situation in Oregon. Recommended Vote: Yes.

Measure 75: Authorizes Multnomah County casino; casino to contribute monthly revenue percentage to state for specified purposes. Estimated Financial Impact: Yeah, allows for opening a casino. I think it might bring in some cash. Maybe a few dozen million per year or so in taxes, something along those lines, once a casino begins operations... Discussion: I think there are much better-thought-out options to raise cash for the state, including some of the other measures on this ballot. We don't need to stoop this low yet. Recommended Vote: No.

Measure 76: Amends Constitution: continues lottery funding for parks, beaches, wildlife habitat, watershed protection beyond 2014; modifies funding process. Estimated Financial Impact: None,  unless you happen to be another state program competing annual for lottery funding since this is a renewal measure, these funds are already currently obligated to this purposes. Discussion: This is micro-managing the Legislature. As good-intentioned as this sounds, I believe the Legislature actually might already have a process to work this out, which is what we did elect them to do. Since this is a renewal measure, this is just a matter of reinforcing our already-good judgement to use some lottery funds to help support the parks. Recommended Vote: Yes.

People's Republic of Multnomah County:
Measures 26-109, 26-110, 26-111, 26-112, 26-113, 26-114, 26-118: Yes

City of Portland:
Measure 26-108: Yes
Measure 26-117: No

Measure 26-119: Yes Discussion: begrudgingly, since this is effectively the renewal of the bond funding that was used to construct Westside Light Rail, and I don't see this current expenditure as rising to that level of vision-achievement.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I was on the radio this morning for Vision California

The link to the radio program is here:

I think my section starts at about 16:40.... Dan Leavitt (Deputy Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority) and I were interviewed by host Jeffrey Callison about the recent Vision California data release, which has generated some press coverage already. We discuss some fun facts from the data release, as well as why the project is happening, why High Speed Rail is funding it and how confident we are in the results.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rebuilding the Streets of North Oakland

So, I was invited to write an op-ed piece for the Oakland North blog, discussing pedestrian and bicycle safety in North Oakland following the wave of incidents in recent weeks.

This is my submission:

Please share it widely among folks who might be interested; feel free to forward it to lists and groupservs that might hit folks who live in North Oakland (or elsewhere) and care about this issues. I would like to continue to use the Oakland North site as a forum to begin a community dialogue about these issues, and see what might be made to happen as a result.

If you don't live in north Oakland and are reading this post, please tell me what you think right here on Underground Science!


Monday, May 03, 2010

My Ideal Cell Phone: Specs

OK, so a number of years back (in 2006), I put out specs for my ideal automobile, updated the post later in the year with a progress report... then gave up on the idea of anything happening soon, and settled for buying a 20-year-old diesel Mercedes wagon to run on biodiesel. Since then, Mercedes has announced plans for a new diesel-electric hybrid car at some point in the future, as has Volvo and others... and I followed up with specifications for the ideal plug-in biodiesel hybrid wagon... but I since announced that there are lots of poor options when it comes to new cars, and lots of great options when it comes to new bicycles...including the bakfiets, the station wagon of bicycles. You pretty much have to go to Europe to get a decent car right now with good gas mileage that is biodiesel-capable.

So, enough about transportation. I've tried to make a difference, and maybe I have, but these things take time.

Right now, I'd like to turn my attention to the cell phone. There have been a lot of advances in cell phone technology recently, and indeed, there seem to be a lot of decent phones on the market right now.

But.... BUT... my personal cell phone is now at least five years old. Verizon has been offering to give me a free new phone of my choice for at least the past three years, and I keep turning them down.


It's not that all new phones stink... it's just that none of them actually meet all of my specifications, and I keep hoping that the right phone will be released in the next two years, so I might as well wait for it. Besides, my current phone (an old Audiovox) works just fine, with decent battery life, good call quality and reception, and the ability to take photos and video, send and receive text, picture and video messages, and even do some rudimentary web surfing and gaming (i.e., tetris and chess).

So, without further ado... what would it take to get me to upgrade? Here's the list:
  • It needs to work on the Verizon network, native, with full support. I hate AT&T, having done business with them a number of times in the past and had to endure their monopolistic thinking and shoddy customer service. I won't do it again. I've been with Verizon since they used to be called AirTouch, and aside from their politics, I see no reason to leave (though, Working Assets/Credo Mobile might start looking more attractive if Verizon keeps supporting the Blue Dog Democrats)...
  • It needs to offer at least 120 gigabytes of on-board storage capacity, and preferably closer to 200 gigs -- or more. I'd like to just take all of my music and a lot of my movies, plus some of my photos, with me when I'm mobile. Why should I have to limit myself to a certain sub-set of my collection? The technology now exists and is quite cheap to just give it all to me when I'm on the go.
  • It should have a 4+ megapixel digital camera built it, with an actual physical zoom lens (3x minimum), a decent flash, and decent night-time photography capabilities (this is apparently mainly a software thing now). I'd love to have a physical viewfinder, but... I could live without it if one feature had to get cut. It should, in short, be a good digital camera... not the best, but it should certainly be competitive with the best compact digital cameras circa, say, 2004 or 2005...
  • It needs to plug in to a standard USB port for synching, but it should act as a standard external drive when plugged in, with no funny business with regards to copy protection, digital rights management, or any of that bullshit. Let me use it how I want to use it, that's why I'm paying money for it -- keep your corporate paws out of my private business.
  • It should be an excellent music player, with the ability to support noise-cancelling headphones, either corded or via bluetooth, and excellent sound reproduction, including transfer of frequencies from 10hz to 200khz, that is, just outside both edges of human hearing -- just in case I decide to plug it into something other than headphones that may have the ability to actually reproduce those frequencies.
  • It should be an excellent cell phone, with perfect call quality when service is good, the ability to operate either in digital or analog mode, the ability to switch modes on the fly without dropping a call in order to achieve top call quality, and the ability to operate on any network in the world that uses any technology currently in use by cell phones.
  • It should have decent battery life, that is, the ability to talk for a few hours, or listen to music for a few hours, and then be in standby for a few days, on a single charge. I don't have unrealistic expectations for this, and I'm certainly fine if I need to plug it in when I go to sleep every second, third or fourth night depending on how much I use it -- but at least out of the box, I shouldn't have to plug it in every night, and I certainly shouldn't need to plug it in more than once a day (unless I'm using it for like eight hours straight for battery-intensive operations).
  • It should be good at surfing the web, at least as good as the iPhone is currently, and be able to view some version of all standard web pages, not just the "mobile version."
  • I think it probably should also support Flash. It should be MY decision, not the decision of Steve Jobs, if I want to take the risk of running Flash. Maybe I should have to sign a disclaimer saying that I know I'm an idiot if I want to do this, but then, I should still be able to do it. Please, just let me be my own idiot when it comes to installing and running programs on my device that, technically, should be able to run on that device just fine.
  • It should be able to run a variety of other applications, within reason (i.e. I don't expect to be able to run a full-fledge GIS on it, but a slim version of Google Earth might be nice).
  • It should have the standard accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, GPS, and other functions that any modern iPhone or competitor now has, and the ability to use them.
  • It should be tough. Like Dvorak has suggested, "make the thing out of tungsten. Drop it, and it would break the floor. Tungsten has a great finish. People will ask, "wow, it's actually made from tungsten?"" Or, you know, find some other way to make it really tough, and hard to break... I don't care if it's tungsten, titanium, aluminum, or just stainless steel. I've dropped my current phone dozens of times, on a variety of surfaces. It's a flip-phone... that's one of the reasons I like the flip-phone design. The thing just takes it and keeps working, and it's made out of plastic. Give me a reason to pay $50 more for something that will last a long time (like a MacBook Pro laptop or a Mercedes), and I will.
  • Maybe it should have night-vision camera capabilities. That would be cool... or even just the ability to hold it up and see the night-vision view on the screen. OK, that's maybe just a cool idea for an app, I don't quite understand all the technology involved. That's not a requirement.
  • It should definitely have the ability to run a powerpoint show (via some dongle that, say, plugs into its USB or monitor out port and into a standard VGA cable) or even show movies via a projector or TV. After all, it will be able to hold dozens of movies on its massive HD, why not allow you to watch them on a full-size screen?
  • It should have an average-size screen. The screen on the iPhone is fine. In fact, the dimensions of the iPhone are about perfect. It could even be a little bit thicker, to accommodate more battery and more storage device (hard drive, flash drive, whatever works best). Not TOO much thicker, but a few more millimeters wouldn't be a deal-killer.
  • It should be tough. Did I say that already? If it gets dropped, I don't want anything breaking, including the screen. MAKE IT TOUGH. I'll pay extra. I need to make that clear. Also, just build it to last -- don't skimp on the components, go for the high-quality stuff. But, within reason. I'd pay $400 for such a device, maybe even $500 with a good warranty... but not much more... so, be really smart about the design and manufacturing...
OK, that's a pretty long list, so I'll quit while I'm ahead. I think you get the picture. Comments are open and welcome.


Monday, April 19, 2010

An Update from the Front Lines in the War on the Car

While you might think that it would be yours truly giving you an update in the War on the Car, I'm merely using this post to pass on a link to what could be seen as a rather humorous piece postulating an actual war between cars and people... except that it's not really imaginary, it's reality, and what the piece describes, is truth:

The war on The Car: An update

Still, a good read, and interesting to think of the currently-underway paradigm shift in terms of a military campaign...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Senator Jim Bunning: American Hero

I'd like to take this time to commend Senator Jim Bunning, an American Hero.

In this time of partisan strife, he has set fake morality arguments, theocracy, and corruption aside. His filibuster of a bill that would, among other things, extend unemployment benefits by adding to the federal deficit, is a pure example of the opposition party using the filibuster for its intended party: As a last-ditch means to prevent the majority party from doing something which may be of questionable reasoning, and force negotiations to come up with a more sensible solution.

Jim Bunning may be facing a tough re-election challenge, but that doesn't stop him from taking a potentially unpopular position with members of his own party (at least those in party leadership -- I wouldn't be surprised if the more fiscally-conservative members of his base weren't actually totally behind him, especially those who have jobs or are retired...).

If more members of his party would use their opposition status to lob correctly-reasoned attacks on efforts to violate the pay-go ethic that should rule during times of large budgetary deficits, and spend less of their time and effort making nonsensical arguments that only prove the depth of their corruption and beholdenness to moneyed interests (health insurance companies, the AMA, the military-industrial complex, the oil companies, etc.), this country would be in a LOT better place right now.

I again commend Senator Bunning for his patriotism and correct use of the filibuster as a parliamentary procedure. We should all tip our hats to his brave act of budgetary-hawk courage exhibitionism.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Portland Mayor: Bicycling -- that's how we roll.

I just came across this heartwarming article in which Mayor Adams makes a strong commitment to building out the citywide bicycle network in Portland, OR, at a cost of over $600 million.

“There’s been some chatter out there about cost, and that’s fine,” Adams said. “We’re Portland and we lead the nation in bicycling, because that’s how we roll.”

What a great quote, and what a great stand to take. If only we had more leadership willing to take a strong stance like this for bicycles, we could really make some progress on many, many issues -- climate change, obesity and traffic injuries, just to name a few...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Filibuster: An Open Letter to Vice President Joe Biden

Dear Vice President Biden,

I'm writing to you because the time for the mis-use of the filibuster tool in the United States Senates has to come to an end. This un-constitutional blockage is now turning into a defining element of policy-making in our nation -- and it can be stopped by you.

Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution expressly says that the vice president as the presiding officer of the Senate should cast the deciding vote when senators are “equally divided.” The procedural filibuster currently in use in the U.S. Senate does an end run around this constitutional requirement, which presumed that on the truly contested bills there would be ties.

With supermajority voting, the Senate is never “equally divided” on the big, contested issues of our day, so that it is a rogue senator, and not the vice president, who casts the deciding vote. The procedural filibuster effectively disenfranchises the vice president, eliminating as it does one of the office’s only two constitutional functions. Yet the founders very consciously intended for the vice president, as part of the checks and balances system, to play this tie-breaking role — that is why Federalist No. 68 so specifically argued against a sitting member of the Senate being the presiding officer in place of the vice president. But the bigger reason for the rule was to keep a minority from walking out and thereby blocking a majority vote.

In Federalist No. 75, Hamilton dismissed a supermajority rule for a quorum thus: “All provisions which require more than a majority of any body to its resolutions have a direct tendency to embarrass the operations of the government and an indirect one to subject the sense of the majority to that of the minority.” It would be illogical for the Constitution to preclude a supermajority rule with respect to a quorum while allowing it on an ad hoc and more convenient basis any time a minority wanted to block a vote. Yet that is essentially what Senate Rule 22 achieves on any bill that used to require a majority vote.

To stop the current unconstitutional abuse of the filibuster tool, the best currently-available option would be for the president of the Senate, the vice president himself -- that's you, buddy -- to issue an opinion from the chair that the filibuster is unconstitutional. Our first vice presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, felt a serious obligation to resolve the ties and tangles of an evenly divided Senate, and they would not have shrunk from such a challenge.

The founding fathers of our nation would have expected us to do something about this unconstitutional filibuster. In Federalist No. 75, Hamilton denounced the use of supermajority rule in these prophetic words: “The history of every political establishment in which this principle has prevailed is a history of impotence, perplexity and disorder.” That is a suitable epitaph for what has happened to the Senate.

Joe Biden, your moment has come. Do not shrink from your mission. It is up to you to stop the unconstitutional abuse of the filibuster tool and to fix the republic. This will be a bold step; do not be afraid to take it.

If your administration wants any hope of accomplishing the rest of its bold agenda, this is the first bold move that will be required, and we, the people, demand that you take it.

Sincerely yours,

Garlynn G. Woodsong

(With thanks to this op-ed piece in the Ny Times.)