Thursday, November 1, 2012

Election time is coming soon.  In a few more weeks, I'll be able to turn on my radio without hearing election ads.  Sweet bliss...

For the most part, I think everyone knows which candidates they will vote for.  You like Obama, you like Romney, or you like neither and have to hold your nose when you vote.  Either way, you probably were decided on your choice months ago.  I know that I was.

The California propositions are a different story.  They are generally confusing, and often deliberately so.  Personally, I am not a fan of the proposition system in general -- a lot of bad laws seem to come from good intentions.  But that is another rant.

When the propositions come up, I like to look at the endorsements coming from different newspapers.  Each newspaper is at least a somewhat disinterested party, and it is the paper's business to understand the issues for each proposition.  This time, I thought that it would be fun to go about it a little more formally.

I went to Wikipedia and took the list of California's largest papers by circulation.  I then visited each paper's website and searched for their endorsements.  (I was not able to find the endorsements for the Orange County Register, Investor's Business Daily, or La Opinión).  The results are summarized below:
Proposition: 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Los Angeles Times YES no no no YES no YES no no YES YES
San Jose Mercury News YES YES no no YES YES YES no no YES YES
San Francisco Chronicle YES YES no no YES YES YES no no no YES
San Diego Union-Tribune no YES YES no - YES YES no no no YES
Sacramento Bee YES no no no YES no YES no no YES YES
The Press-Enterprise no no YES no no no YES no no YES YES
Fresno Bee YES YES no no no no YES no no YES YES
Los Angeles Daily News YES YES YES no YES YES YES no no no YES
Long Beach Press-Telegram YES YES YES no YES YES YES no no no YES

There is a surprising amount of consensus between the papers.  For almost half of the propositions, the choice was unanimous.  Here is the breakdown for different issues.

Unanimous for:
  • Prop 36: Revise 3 strikes law.
  • Prop 40: State senate redistricting.
Strong support:
  • Prop 30: Governor's tax increase.
  • Prop 31: Legislative reforms.
  • Prop 34: End death penalty.
  • Prop 32: Paycheck protection.
  • Prop 35: Human trafficking.
  • Prop 39: Out-of-state corporate tax.
Unanimous against:
  • Prop 33: Auto insurance.
  • Prop 37: GMO labeling.
  • Prop 38: Munger tax plan.

Prop 37 is particularly interesting.  Judging by the number of signs I see around town, it would seem to enjoy strong support among voters.  While there have been a number of seemingly disingenuous ads attacking it, the papers raise some fairly cogent arguments against the proposition.  Even the Santa Cruz Sentinel (not on the list) opposes it:
Citizens would be empowered to sue grocers they believe to be selling unlabeled GE foods, without needing to prove any damages. Clearly, this provision would create even more lawsuits. And who would this benefit? Lawyers. That's what happened after voters in 1986 approved Prop. 65, requiring disclosure of toxic chemicals. The result has been more than 16,000 legal actions. Some were warranted, others were aimed at forcing businesses to settle quickly rather than pay for court costs.
The initiative may be well intentioned, but it creates more problems than it solves. Vote no on Proposition 37.

The comments on the article are perhaps predictable:
  • "It just goes to show you the hands of the biggest corporations (Monsanto, Dupont, etc) reach far and wide."
  • "Who paid for this article to be published? Could it be the no on prop 37 group??"
  • "I guess when you don't have the truth on your side, your only option is to confuse people."
  • "Absolutely Irresponsible journalism."

Politics as usual. :-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why is there an app for that?

I've noticed a disturbing trend lately when I browse the internet with my iPhone or iPad.  It seems like every site that I visit wants me to download their custom iPhone/iPad app.  News sites seem particularly guilty of this quirk.

The main purpose for these apps seems to be storing data offline.  If you have a number of articles cached, you can go read them in your favorite wifi-free park.  Of course, many of these apps seem poorly designed.

Flipboard works quite well, which eliminates any valid reason for a news-related iPhone app that I can dream up.  Since it is now available on Android, it would seem to be much wiser for news sites to focus on creating a quality version of the site for mobile users, and leave the app development to Flipboard.

Also, why don't browsers allow for the same functionality that Flipboard provides?  If users want to be able to review content offline, shouldn't developers be given the tools to create that experience?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Free My Phone

Sprint is a distant third in the iPhone market.  In a somewhat desperate move, they have launched a series of ads about their unlimited data plans.


I still have unlimited data with AT&T.  I have not exactly been ecstatic about the service, but I have stayed with them.  Verizon seems to be more popular these days, but AT&T has marginally better coverage in the areas I care about.  More to the point, switching plans is a marginal pain, and I have never seen a reason to bother.

Is unlimited data worthwhile to me?  No.  I'd drop it in a heartbeat if a better offer came by.  So what would it take?


I paid for an expensive phone and I cannot take it with me we when I change networks.  That irritates me immensely.  Sprint, unlock my phone, and I'll switch to your network in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ethics of Piracy

I'm not especially interested in the strict legality of "piracy".  The information age has put the rights of artists and the rights of end users into conflict.  The courts and the legislatures of the world are working on sorting it all out.  Things will change, and a new balance will be established.  I have definite feelings about what the balance should be, but in the meantime, what is the path of the righteous?

I have watched movies and TV shows online for free.  When possible, I try legitimate channels.  I am a fan of Hulu and Netflix.  Some networks make their shows available online.  However, there are times that legitimate channels do not work.  Either the show is not available for free, or there are absurd restrictions.

While I was in France, I was not able to watch several shows online since I was not in the United States.  Why should that matter?  Why should the pilot of the Walking Dead only be available to me if I am in the United States?  Companies are free to make their content available to whomever they wish, though the restriction does seem odd.

I have DVDs in my collection with Chinese subtitles.  I have watched movies on YouTube that are almost certainly not authorized.  Where should I draw the line?

Entertainment companies have been vicious in protecting their cartel.  I have little love for them, and I have no ethical qualms about removing their restrictions for materials that I have purchased.  Nonetheless, my actions have not always been ethical.

Is it ethical to buy DVDs from China?  Is it ethical to watch YouTube videos of copyrighted material?  I believe that the answer is no.

Is it ethical to support a corrupt system that is taking away the rights of its users?  I am not totally sure.  For the time being, it seems the lesser of two evils.

Perhaps the best bet is to limit yourself to free material.  Libraries make a great deal available.  Video rentals are cheap.

We live in dangerous times.  We need to be vigilant for our rights, and respectful of the rights of others.  The convenience of the internet makes it easy to violate both.