Monday, October 25, 2010

On California Elections/Voting (cont)

On to the elections; this part will be much shorter, since there is much less to say.

Perhaps the most important race is for the governor position, and surprisingly I sorta agree with the characterization made by Jerry Brown's campaign: it's a choice between more of the same [as Arnold], and something new and different. Only sorta, though, cause Jerry Brown was the governor before, so people know exactly what to expect from him (more taxing, more spending, more big government, etc.), and Meg Whitman is sorta untested in public office. However, in terms of big picture, the Brown campaign's characterization is largely accurate: I think Meg Whitman, like Arnold, would take office with a lot of good ideas, and spend the rest of her time there fighting with an intractable state Congress hell-bent on pandering to their union patrons, and basically accomplish nothing. On the other hand, Jerry Brown would pander to those same unions, which (in contrast to the last seven years of relative stability in California politics) would accelerate the decline of the state, both fiscally and otherwise.

No, I don't think Meg Whitman has particularly well-formed plans, but I don't think that matters. The mere fact that she's nominally a Republican ensures that our violently partisan state Congress will not even pay token attention to her proposals, which makes fleshing them out totally irrelevant. On the other hand, unlike Jerry Brown, she probably won't rubber-stamp most of the barrage of garbage regularly extruding from our legislature, and such serve as a check against their malfeasance, which is probably the best we can hope for at the state level (remember, this is the state that will send Pelosi back to Congress; expectations are set accordingly). So Meg Whitman is the clear reasonable choice for governor; let's just hope the anger with incumbent parties doesn't blind voters to common sense.

As for the Senate seat, that one's a bit more interesting. I personally can't see any compelling reason to support Boxer: she's a pompous, arrogant bitch who rubber-stamps the Democratic agenda without a second (or in this case, first) thought. On the other hand, it's not like Fiorina is a model of steadfast integrity either, having basically outsourced all of HP for fat bonuses as her claim-to-fame. Still, when in doubt, I'd have to go with supporting the person I don't know is horrible, so Fiorina it is, but only cause she wins the contest of "less bad" this time (which is not a great way to start a term representing anyone).

As for the other races, meh, who cares. Sure they are important; after all, we could (in theory) replace the entire hopeless corrupt and thoroughly reprehensible state legislature if people could be educated and motivated to defy their basic human greed for immediate gratification and handouts. But nobody's kidding anyone: California will have the same sad bunch of scum in its Congress as it had before, even if a few faces change. After all, we won't even get rid of Pelosi, and she's being disowned by her own party for being too left-wing wacko. As long as people can continue to deceive themselves about the consequences of their votes, and blame it on the other party, we the people will continue to just be abused.

And the beat goes on...

On California Elections/Voting

So I figure since this blog is at least part-time political, and I certainly have my share of political opinions, I should probably weigh in on my views on the various electoral races/issues for the state of California (where I reside: LA, in particular, for reference). My views will probably be familiar to regular readers, but perhaps there will be some surprises, and maybe it'll be of use to someone who's otherwise undecided.

I'll preface by saying I've noticed some trends, which will probably not come as a surprise to anyone. I'm generally for the same things which taxpayer organizations support; I'd guess this is because we both feel the same way about the government taking more of people's money. I'm generally against issues supported by the various public employee unions; this is partially because they usually want more money from taxpayers, but also because predominant unions like the SEIU are scum. Using these two principles, you could probably predict at least 90% of my views on issues, even though I don't use either as a basis for forming said views; that's just an observation.

Anyway, on to opinions.

Proposition 19
I'm for this, but not for the standard reasons. I'm a little ashamed to say that I've never smoked pot (not even in the Bill Clinton sense), and I wouldn't plan to even if it were legal. I don't really care if people smoke pot, though, since it less dangerous than alcohol. I support this proposition, though, because it will advance the conflict between states' rights and federal government control, and I strongly favor limiting federal government control. The federal government has no Constitutional mandate to police drug/medical activity, and it would be nice to see more states pushing back on their expansions of power. If this puts California in the forefront of the fight to take control of our lives back from the federal government, I'll deal with some extra pot smoke being around.

Proposition 20
I grudgingly support this. I dislike committees generally speaking, but in this case it's better than the alternative of rampant corruption and gerrymandering which is the clear alternative.

Proposition 21
Obviously I oppose this thinly-disguised attempt to raise taxes on people, so that the politicians in Sacramento can waste more money on crap. Seriously, anyone who thinks initiatives like this do any good whatsoever needs to have their head examined, or get educated, or something.

Proposition 22
This is the "stop the state from stealing money from people to paper over the massive deficits fueled by ridiculous out-of-control spending" initiative. What's not to like? I think this is a good idea, like most similar efforts to try to hold our political corruption and spending disintegration in check: it's an uphill battle in California, to be sure, but a noble effort. You'd think bill which essentially said "the state can't act illegally in this manner" would be unnecessary, but this is California...

Proposition 23
This is a pretty reasonable idea: don't enforce pollution control restrictions which hurt businesses until unemployment is under control, and people are working again. Of course, with the direction the state is going, this might be a permanent "suspension", but that's more the fault of the politicians who have systematically destroyed the business environment in the state. I'm in favor of this bill, if only as an incentive to fix the business situation, and counter-balance to the efforts to destroy it.

Proposition 24
It seems to me like a bad idea to tax businesses more and create tax uncertainty during a recession, but maybe that's just me. I guess if you want jobs, you should oppose this bill; if you feel there are just too many businesses and jobs (and too much tax revenue from each) in California, you should support this bill. You can guess which position I feel is more accurate.

Proposition 25
This is probably the worst of this year's crop of initiatives. The only thing standing between the politicians and utterly destroying the state even faster is the 2/3 rule for budgets, which forces the politicians to at least consider fiscal restraint. Removing this would be financial suicide. And as if that wasn't contemptible enough, the pushers added a totally unrelated populist provision to deny legislators their salaries and benefits while budgets are not passed (a provision which would be meaningless if the initiative passed, since they could rape the state with a simple majority, so we wouldn't have late budgets any more, we'd have unmitigated disasters delivered on-time), so they could campaign on the populist provision, and hope people were too stupid to pay attention to the other part. This is the worst kind of political deception, and I detest it, and its supporters. I encourage people to take a look at the donors list for supporting this proposition: these are the enemies of the people, the groups leading California to destruction.

Proposition 26
This is a solid bill: it closes a loophole which our state government has been exploiting, and will continue to exploit, to raise taxes without a 2/3 majority. It's sad that the voters need to close legal loopholes when the intent is so clear to begin with, but that's the depth of the corruption in California politics.

Proposition 27
Since I support Proposition 20, it's probably obvious that I oppose 27, the "let the politicians draw districts for maximum advantage, manipulation, and potential corruption" initiative. I don't know that there's much more to say: if you favor bribery, corruption, and less accountability for politicians, I guess you should support this, otherwise it's a clear 'no' vote.

Well, that's it for the propositions... I'll cover the elections later, where I'll express my opinions on which candidates are less bad for each position (in my opinion). Here's hoping we (the voters) don't mess the state up any worse than it already is this year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hawaii 5-0: A Gripe

Pardon me, I just want to rant about something...

It's pretty common for television shows to exaggerate what's technically possible, for dramatic effect. This is usually pretty obvious, and shows regularly stretch their portrayals of "cutting edge" technology, usually passing it off as "conceivably possible" with today's technology, if everything was aligned correctly and functioning optimally. We, as viewers, have come to accept this, with the implied assumption that the main characters are optimally utilizing all the available technology at the time, as impractical as that might be.

This, then, brings me to my gripe. On a recent episode of Hawaii 5-0, we have the typical cop-chase scenario: tracking the bad guy from point to point, calling up surveillance footage in real time, calling in vehicle identification, etc. At one point, one of the main characters even causes a spy satellite to be re-tasked to locate the fleeing suspect in real time; implausible, sure, but within the standard technology-use stretches common for television and movies. However, at another point, they had identified the suspect as being inside a late-model GM car (GM sponsors the show with taxpayer money, so product placement is predominant) with a hostage, and it takes them ten minutes to get a trace.

Now, as I presume most people are aware, all GM cars come with OnStar: you can't get one without it for at least the last few years. As everyone should be aware, OnStar comes with several built-in features, such as automatic tracking of the vehicle, remote management, and a built-in microphone which can be remotely activated and recorded from without any indication in the car. Moreover, all these things can be done by OnStar without any sort of court order or customer recourse (as they are a private company, and you agree to the EULA), as has already been demonstrated publicly.

So I have to ask: why, when they knew the suspect was in the car, did they not just call up OnStar, and have them remotely disable the engine, lock the doors, and engage the listening system to record the resulting incriminating conversation, all while sending the tracking information to the police immediately? This could be done in real-time, much less within the ten minute window stated to just get the vehicle location. In this case, the show had a blatant understatement of the government/police technical capabilities, which was very out-of-place given all the other high-tech stretches. It was very disconcerting, and made the rest of the premise almost laughable to me.

I guess my message to writers for TV/movies is: if you're going to stretch what's technically possible for dramatic effect, don't ignore the blindingly obvious when constructing your plot. If the bad guys are in a car with OnStar or similar remotely accessible listening and/or vehicle management system, and the good guys are the police (or have access to the system for whatever reason), catching them would be trivial: that's part of the point. Don't ask me to believe the good guys have all this high-tech magic, but are willfully ignorant of the features mandated in cars largely specifically for law enforcement and government surveillance: it makes your shows seem stupid and contrived.

That's my opinion, anyway.