Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Vote No

(Updated with election results.)

I'm voting no on most initiatives this year. I've decided that the burden of proof is on the side of the initiative proponents and if they don't convince me, I'm voting no. The really sad thing about many of these initiatives is the large amount of money being spent on both sides misleading voters.

Here's the lineup in Washington:

NO on I-1098. I think income taxes are more progressive than sales taxes. I'd enthusastically vote for an initiative that abolished the sales tax and business and occupancy tax and replaced both with personal and corporate income taxes based on the federal income tax with very limited differences. But I-1098 makes our tax system more complicated not better. (Result: Failed)

NO on I-1100 and I-1105. Both of these initiatives privatize liquor sales in Washington. But they do this at an annual cost of $100 million. I'd support a revenue-neutral conversion to private liquor sales, not a giveaway to business. When a government uses eminent domain to take private property, it has to pay fair market value. Conversely, when government transfers property to private use, it should receive fair market value. You only need to look at the amount of money contributed by the proponents of these two initiatives to realize that they expect to make a lot of money from the private liquor business. (Result: Both failed)

NO on I-1082. The current workers compensation insurance system isn't broken and this initiative would transfer it to private business at a cost of $50 million per year. As with the privatizing the liquor business, we shouldn't be spending taxpayer money to enrich private insurance companies. And privatization needs guarantees that ensure that every worker and every business will be insured. (Result: Failed)

NO on I-1053. This requires that "legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval." We've seen the gridlock in the other Washington caused by a 60% supermajority on everything in the Senate. We don't need that here. (Result: Passed)

NO on I-1107. I support the sales tax exemption on food because it reduces the regressive nature of the tax as everyone needs to buy food. But restaurant food is not exempt and eliminating the exemption for candy and bottled water is reasonably along the same lines. Of course, if we replaced the sales tax with an income tax, this would be moot. The proponents of this have spent a lot of money misleading people about the law. They imply that the sales tax on candy also applies to granola and chili which is just not true. The truth is that this law closes a loophole that allows granola and chili manufacturers to claim the tax exemption that were intended for fruit and vegetable processors and meat packers. They also say the legislature picked a crazy definition of what's a candy bar, although that definition is from the Multistate Tax Compact(Result: Passed)

I am voting yes on one:

YES on Resolution 4220. I realize this is a knee-jerk reaction to a particular tragic case, but this is a rare case of getting the referendum right. This allows the courts to deny bail to dangerous individuals, subject to limits determined by the legislature. Hard to believe a referendum/initiative that gives power to the courts and the legislature rather than taking them away. (Result: Not surprisingly, passed overwhelmingly)

The results match my position with the exception of the anti-tax initiatives.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today, we are all Chileans

Another little math problem: thirty-three miners trapped in a mine in Chile. Thirty-three men are ferried to the surface through a specially built rescue capsule. How many men remain in the mine? (Answer)

Some people view the rescue as a miracle. To me, the miracle is the human kind and the kind that can restore our faith in humanity. After 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde famously wrote "Nous sommes tous Américains" ("We are all Americans"). In that same spirit, today people are writing "We are all Chileans."

Here's part of the human miracle: the rescue started with a rescuer, Manuel González, going down into the mine. All the miners have been rescued, but González and five other rescuers, Roberto Ríos, Patricio Robledo, Jorge Bustamante, Patricio Sepúlveda and Pedro Martinez, also went down into the mine and, as I write this, are waiting their turn to come back out. Scientists say that altruism is in our genes, but still it's amazing and reassuring to see it.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Security update for Bing toolbar?

Windows Update is offering an important "Update for Microsoft Silverlight (KB2416427)" and says it "improves security, reliability, accessibility support, startup performance, etc." There's a helpful link to find out more information which takes you to the cited KB2416427 article.

But the article merely says "This update fixes an incompatibility issue between Microsoft Silverlight 4 GDR 1 (4.0.50826.0) and earlier versions of the Bing Toolbar." I didn't even know there was a Bing Toolbar.

But, really, don't the people at Microsoft talk to each other? Is the KB article just woefully inadequate or is Windows Update lying? Either alternative still undermines confidence in Microsoft security updates.

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