Showing posts from October, 2010

Politics: No on Prop 19

Do I think widespread pot smoking is good for society?


But the reality is that the medical marijuana law has resulted in almost de facto legalization.

Thus, from a governmental point of view, what is the proper regulation of the stuff?

Alcohol and tobacco are heavily regulated and taxed and proponents of prop 19 say that they want to see marijuana moved into the same category.

Did the drafters of Prop 19 do a good job?

I figured the newspaper that is most likely to support legalization of marijuana is the San Francisco Chronicle.

And guess what?

They came out against Prop 19. Excerpt:Even Californians who support the legalization of marijuana should be extremely wary of Proposition 19. This is a seriously flawed initiative with contradictions and complications that would invite legal chaos and, more than likely, fail to deliver its promised economic benefits.
Among the specific problems:

Workplace: A nondiscrimination clause would prevent employers from firing or disc…

Politics: No on Prop 23

Prop 23 is an effort to reverse AB32.

In brief, AB32 sets a target of lowering California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It is estimated that will require a 25% reduction.

As such, California will need to have more Green Energy.

Green energy is useful in that it reduces air pollution and lesses our dependance on foreign sources of energy. Thus, one can make the argument for Green Energy on those basis without resorting to "end-of-the-world as we know it" global warming scenarios.

Prop 23 tries to "soften" its tone by saying it would only suspend AB32 until unemployment reaches 5.5% for one year. Unfortunately, that level of unemployment has been rarely reached. The drafters of Prop 23 should have been more honest in calling for an outright appeal.

Are the goals of AB32 too ambitious?


As the application of AB32 gets underway, we will begin to see its impact both positive and negative. It is quite possible that the target date…

Politics: No on Prop 22

Prop 22 in the words of the Sacramento Bee tries to build a moat around local funding.

I have great sympathy for local governments tired of the California legislature raiding their funds to try to fix their budget messes but as is often the case, the measure over-reaches.

I like the part that protects transportation funding and allocations of property taxes. But not permitting state fuel taxes to help pay state transportation bonds? Protecting redevelopment agencies which are ripe for abuse?

The lefty Los Angeles Times and the righty Orange Country Register have also come out against Prop 22.

Politics: No on Prop 25

The budget situation in California is a mess.

Some say Prop 13 limits on property taxes are too strict. Others point to Prop 98 that requires education automatically getting the lion's share of budgetary dollars. Legislators complain about the 2/3 rule to pass taxes and the budget. Think tankers point to the wild fluctuations in revenue due to the capital gains/stock options taxation system. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Prop 25 calls for the end of the 2/3 rule for passing budgets and says it will dock legislator's pay for each day they miss the budget deadline. The Sacramento Bee calls it a partisan power play.

I think the "punishment" really has no teeth. The legislature could pass a "phony" budget to meet the deadline because there is a difference between passing a budget and enacting a budget (Governor signs it and Legislature appropriates money for it). So that part of the measure sounds good but probably is meaningless.

But what about the impact of the sim…

Politics: Yes on Prop 21

As a general rule, I don't like budgeting by ballot box.

But sometimes the Legislature just isn't doing its job.

The California State Parks are a treasure that needs support in order to preserve them for today and future generations.

Is adding a Vehicle License Fee of $18 the best way to fund California State Parks?

Probably not. But since the Legislature isn't getting the job done, this proposition does.

Yes on Prop 21.

Politics: No on Prop 24

The California Legislature made some changes in the business tax laws that lowered their taxes.

Prop 24 rescinds those changes.

California has gained a reputation for being business unfriendly and passing Prop 24 will further fuel that perception.

I'm recommending a NO on Prop 24.

Politics: No on Prop 26

What is a fee and what is a tax?

Generally, taxes are broad based (income, sales, property) and go to general revenue for services widely used (education, public safety, etc.). Fees are usually paid by a specific group and go to specific programs.

The lines do get blurred in some cases: the vehicle license fee for automobiles is pretty broad based and sounds more like a tax than a fee and there are some fees that wind up being used for things with wider benefit (i.e. environmental programs).

Legislatively, taxes can only be raised with a 2/3 vote while fees can be raised with a simple majority.

Prop 26 calls for some fees to be considered taxes and thus under the 2/3 vote rule for passage in the legislature.

There are situations where super-majorities make sense: you want broad consensus on a major policy issue.

I don't think fees crosses that threshold.

Politics: Is the LA Times/USC Poll On Target or an Outlier?

Polling .... sometimes they are right on and other times they miss.

LAT/USC released a poll showing Brown ahead of Whitman and Boxer ahead of Fiorina and by fairly wide margins. The Los Angeles Times is a well known lefty paper so it will tend to trumpet this kind of news. But the question is simply this: is the poll "correct?"

Perhaps, however, when compared to other polls, the LAT/USC Boxer lead is much larger (8 points) than other polls out there (average 2.5 points as of 10/25, 1pm). Likewise, the Brown/Whitman race shows less of a Brown lead in other polls (6.2 average vs 13 as of 10/25, 1pm).

Thus, the LAT/USC poll (show 2-3 times larger margins than other polls) is either picking up a trend not detected up by other polls or it is flawed in some aspect of its design.

Clearly, Whitman and Fiorina always had an uphill battle to win in a deep blue Democrat state like California and in the end it might be too much to overcome but this LAT/USC poll might be an outlier …

Politics: Nov 2010 ballot - LA Times and Orange County Register endorsements

The LAT is a well known lefty paper. The OCR is a well know righty paper.

Here are their views on the ballots for this Nov...

YES: 20,25
NO: 19,21,22,23,24,26,27

YES: 20,23,26
NO: 21,22,24,25,27

They share in common views on props 20,21,22,24,27 which is 5 of 9!

All the items this year are initiatives and are probably poorly written or bad ideas or both such that the newspaper editorial boards at the LAT and OCR which live at both ends of the political spectrum have issued the same endorsement for 20 and against 21,22,24 and 27.

Politics: Yes on 20, No on 27

Figure is from the Official Voter Information Guide.

Prop 20 and 27 are about how California does redistricting which is something that has to be done after each census.

In Nov 2008, Californians passed Prop 11 (I supported prop 11) to set up the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Prop 20 extends their work to include drawing districts for House seats.

Prop 27 disbands the Citizens Redistricting Commission and returns that function to the State Legislature.

Suffice to say, since I supported prop 11, I don't want it reversed by supporting prop 27.

The liberal SF Chronicle says Yes on 20 and No on 27.

The conservative Orange County Register says Yes on 20 and No on 27.

They agree!

How often does that happen?

No brainer: Yes on 20 and No on 27.

Politics: 2010 November Cal Ballot Measures

Plan to blog through each proposition on the November 2010 California ballot.

But first, a round-up of the endorsements from the political parties.

Bold face marks where I agree with the respective party positions.
The Libertarians
Yes: 19, 22, 23, 26
No: 21, 25
Undeclared: 20, 24, 27

The Greens
Yes: 19, 21, 24, 25
No: 23, 26
Undeclared: 20, 22, 27

The Democrats
Yes: 21, 24, 25, 27
No: 20, 22, 23, 26
Undeclared: 19

The Republicans
Yes: 20, 23, 26
No: 19, 21, 24, 25, 27
Undeclared: 22

Rene's Recommendations:
19 NO
20 YES
21 YES
22 NO
23 NO
24 NO
25 NO
26 NO
27 NO

Religion: Who are the Metzger's and Ehrman's of Koranic Textual Scholarship?

Cool thing about being a blogger is that sometimes you post something that appears to have continuing interest. Around five years ago, I attended a lecture on Islam given by Jay Smith and I posted a summary and periodically someone will comment.

Some recent activity in the comments section and my recent reading of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and the 3rd Edition (borrowed from library) of Bruce Metzger's NT Text: Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (now in 4th edition) has caused me to do some googling about the topic of scholarship on textual criticism of the Koran.

Here are some items I found. I'll give the link and excerpt a few lines.

New York Times item from 2002.

Christoph Luxenberg, a scholar of ancient Semitic languages in Germany, argues that the Koran has been misread and mistranslated for centuries. His work, based on the earliest copies of the Koran, maintains that parts of Islam's holy book are derived from pre-existing Christian Aramaic texts tha…

Non-profit of the month: October 2010 - Friends of the LA Phil

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Went to the LA Phil on Friday night for the season opener. Gustavo Dudamel was quite the showman as he led the band with his characteristic high energy.

Of Dudamel's conducting, LAT's Swed said...Essentially what Dudamel did was invest each measure of Schumann’s symphony with a sense of swagger and hunger. He wanted every yearning phrase to yearn like it had never yearned before. He wanted big chords to imply some kind of untold meaning.

He was cocky on the podium with his conducting gestures. He jumped. He wiggled his hips. He could be hyperactive, and he could be still. He sometimes put his whole body into the desire for a certain expression; sometimes he needed only a finger.

Mainly, there was a sense that Dudamel was in love with every note in this score, and that he had the technique to show the orchestra and the audience why.

And there was Emanuel Ax in the first half of the show with white hair walking onto the stage with a Yoda-likes shu…