A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another cool U-Tube Video to share

I wrote an article for California Progress Report a few days ago about how important it is for progressives who are in-the-know about the issues to reach out to their friends and family who are not.

I've probably spent all my friend-emailing karma so I won't send this out to everybody on my email list -- so now I am asking YOU, dear reader of A Progressive Alamadan, to send this out to all your California friends and family, especially those who aren't into political things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=bX8JvlqBRa4

While you're at it, send out this URL too! 89's "Stop the Pounding" which I featured earlier.


California will thank you for doing it!

Those wacky slate-stoppers....

... are at it again!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Guest Post by Joseph Holmes: Some of the 1A-1E's deserve our support

Joseph Holmes (not an Alameda resident, alas) offers a different perspective on some of the "Rebuild California" (1A-1E) state measures that have me seriously reconsidering my blanket "no" suggestion on the whole batch of them....

Dan: I like almost all your recommendations. Consider Prop 84 and a couple of the other bond issues. Bonds for special projects are fine, sure, but basically that means long-term investments that will be paying dividends for several decades to come.

I just finished reading an article about how Cal Berkeley is falling apart from deferred maintenance. Cal is way behind in its need for seismic rebuilding and maintenance and its headed toward losing its leadership position as a few of our best people are being taken away by much better funder institutions.

A bond measure to cover perennially underfunded critical education facilities needs (many seismic) is entirely appropriate.

The same goes for a major overhaul of the antiquated and totally inadequate levee system which protects large portions of Sacramento and the entire suite of delta islands. We will be complete fools not to fix these levees in time to prevent flooding disasters from earthquakes, storms, and rising sea levels. It's New Orleans all over again. Should the people of Louisianna not have approved bond measures, if they could have, to rebuild their levees? What better long-term investment could there be for them? Our flood liability is just as great as theirs, people have said over and over again. I know it's true, having studied water as a resource a lot (while at Cal, and later). If the levees fail because of a major earthquake in the far East Bay, the freshwater intakes for the entire California Aquaduct and for Contra Costa County will become fouled with brackish water, and a disaster of biblical proportions will ensue.

So I'm not sure about the other three bonds, but 1D (educational facilities) and 1E (levees) deserve our strong support. Besides, if we don't do this, the taxes will mostly likely not be raised to cover the needs. And money should be discounted into the future. By the time we'll be done paying down the extra 100% that equals the interest on the bonds, inflation will have reduced the value of that money a lot, and those benefitting from the improvements will be paying for them all along. 1C is a very inexpensive one, that I'll also vote for to help out homeless people, battered women, and vets in need of housing. I hate to see new houses being built anywhere, but still... 1A and 1B are no's for me. Very expensive and to heck with more freeways! As much as I hate traffic, I hate to see the vast malignancy which is the human undertaking grow unfettered across the landscapes of California.

We do need higher state income taxes, especially at the top end. But can we get it before the state's infrastructure crumbles and we loose hundreds of billions in damages and lost prosperity?

I would also make Yes on 87 a stronger priority. This $4 Billion shot in the arm for bio fuels and other renewable energy is one of many absolutely vital steps for our survival. The climate situation is way worse than it seems. If we don't do this now, our descendants will perish. It's as simple as that. So says the latest science. Read about it in my latest news article. Not one of the arguments against it is worth a damn. A $40 Billion/year profit can buy a whole lot of bullshit. Chevron-Texaco, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell are the ones behind it. On the other side, we have... almost everybody. And even so, half the voters of California are stupid enough to be fooled by the ads. It's going to be a tough battle.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Let's Rebuild California" flyer has misleading democratic endorsements

OK, this has me upset. We just received two big flyers from "Let's Rebuild California". The first of them appears to be Alameda-specific Democratic voter recommendations.

However, it is not the endorsements of the City of Alameda Democratic Club. I thought that maybe they got their endorsement list from the Alameda County Dems, but this flyer's list of local endorsements (Johnson, Matarrese, Tam, Jensen, Ortiz) matches neither group's! (I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to how.)

And when you look at the state propositions, you can see that it isn't even related to the California Democratic Party's endorsements.

What irks me the most is how misleading this is. It looks like some sort of official, locally produced democratic ticket endorsement. It's not. They endorse NO on 89, when the City endorsement is YES and the state takes no position. They endorse a YES on 83 as the state party does; the City of Alameda Democrats smartly endorse a NO vote on that. I'd hate to think of how many people will take this to the polls and think that this is some sort of "official" endorsement. Let's hope that there are more thinking voters than party-following voters; as you can see, the state's positions differ from the local positions. That's healthy democracy. Misleading voters, however, is not.

But what this flyer really is, is all about Props 1A through 1E, which get a bit wet kiss of a YES. Five of them, actually. That's what this "Rebuilding California" is all about. And there are some of us, democrats or otherwise, who think that 1A thorugh 1E are not such a good deal after all.

The other big flyer from the same group promotes Beverly Johnson. I'm sure the "slaters" wll complain that this is some sort of soft-money scam as they tend to do, but in reality, I think it's actually another way that the 1A-1E people are trying to ride the wave of Johnson's popular support (sorry Pat, I mean Doug) and her endorsement by that democratic party entity that came up with the slate in the other mailer.

I really want to know if Johnson is really such a big proponent of measure 1A through 1E, or did this slate effectively put words in her mouth without her permission or knowledge. I'll post an update if I find anything out.

YouTube helps us get to the bottom of the issues

You have to see these amazing videos of Pat Bail that have been posted on Alameda Daily News. I was recently chatting with somebody about YouTube and how it's having a huge impact on the election. I think this is just amazing, that the Internet gives us access not just to text, but to videos, that before required big budgets for production and limited TV access for viewers. These videos of Bail were clearly produced on a shoestring from old tapes of a local public-access cable TV show, but they certainly are effective. I've been avoiding much criticism of her (letting others do that) due to lack of first-hand knowledge of what she is about. But now, after watching these videos, everybody will have the first-hand knowledge to make their decisions. Of course, there are some who think like her and will approve of what she says, but I think that most people will be astounded at how far her campaign literature and rhetoric differs from her true feelings.

So go watch these videos (4 of her, one of a slate-mate) and judge for yourself. And as one fellow activist did for me, pass it along via email to other Alameda voters. I've made a nice small link to copy and paste into your emails: http://tinyurl.com/yjbv8q

Here's my favorite piece of rancor:

Inspired by the YouTube political phenomenon, I found a few interesting videos I thought I'd share with you. Spread the word; knowledge is power!

Proposition 83: Why it won't work

Who's really behind Prop 85?

Prop 89: PBS excerpt "Votes for Sale"

Prop 89, "Stop the Pounding" (Already blogged)

Kids take on George Bush's Agenda for California (Props 85/90)

Debra Bowen (MY HERO!) for Secretary of State (5 short videos)

Arnold's Fantastic Flops (A bit long, but funny and chilling)

Angelides, a short speech, speaking about Environment

Our national policy of "stay the course"

ReBicycle BeRecycling! Party at APC

We spent a cool Sunday morning a few weeks ago volunteering at the community garden over at Alameda Point Collaborative (APC). This former softball field has been magically transformed into a thriving, beautiful, food-producing garden that gives people who have horrible access to shopping facilities a chance to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of us built elevated planter beds while others worked on an earthen, artistic bench sculpture that is becoming a community focal point.

I was so impressed with what I saw, I am looking forward to going out there again for the event I'm mentioning here, part of a bicycle recycling program that helps transform young people's lives. Let me just paste the press release here:

On November 4th 2006, the Alameda Point Collaborative will be holding a Block Party to celebrate the establishment of the Alameda Community Bike Shop. The Bike Shop is collecting used bicycles from shops, landfills and donations, and training youth how to fix and repair them. Once they complete the training and community service hours, participants get a bike, helmet and lock. Since its establishment last summer, the shop has already collected more than 200 bicycles and trained more than 40 youth.

From 11 am to 1:30 pm on November 4th at 650 W. Ranger Ave. the project will be providing repair and safety workshops, riding demonstrations, free food and refreshments, raffle prizes, and used bicycles for sale. All proceeds from the sale of bikes will be used to support the project.

The key staff for the project are APC residents Donna Williams and Kevin Jackson. Both are working in the project as part of an On the Job Training program provided by APC.

Funding for the bicycle recycle project has been provided by StopWaste.org – a partnership of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board. The Alameda Police Department has donated bicycle helmets for the project

Alameda Point Collaborative is a supportive housing program serving 500 formerly homeless families and individuals on the converted Naval Air Station. Residents are provided with the safety and stability of a place to live combined with life skills and job skills training, advocacy to connect with services, and emotional support all with the ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness and getting the support needed to be able to lead a stable, productive life.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prop 1B: Do we really want to encourage this sprawl?

I've already discussed Propositions 1A-1E briefly, but I wanted to mention something about 1B specifically. Jennifer Stanley of EBBC pointed out a list of Alameda County projects that would be eligible for funding if 1B passes. It's from a Yes-on-1B website, but when I look at this list, all I see is traffic, traffic, traffic. A few improvements might be nice, but most of this is about increasing freeway capacity, and by doing so, increase the use of the automobile, increase pollution, continue our dependence on foreign oil, and so forth.

  • I-880 High Street Interchange Improvements
  • I-880 Broadway-Jackson Interchange Improvements (Phase 1)
  • I-880 Construct Auxiliary Lane Between Hegenberger Road and 66th Avenue and Shift Merge Point of the Westbound Hegenberger Road to I-880 On-ramp
  • I-880 Jackson/Broadway Interchange
  • Widen I-238 between I-580 and I-880 from 4 lanes to 6 lanes, includes auxiliary lanes on I-880 south of I-238
  • I-880 Widen for HOV Lanes Northbound From Hacienda Over-crossing to 98th Ave and Southbound From 98th Ave. to Marina Bl.
  • I-580 Auxiliary Lane (Santa Rita to Airway)
  • I-680 Widen Freeway and Implement High Occupancy Toll Lane on the Sunol Grade, and of course
  • SR24 Caldecott Tunnel Fourth Bore

Please, don't let this monstrosity pass!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Alameda Free Library in 5 Minutes

Living in California, where cities have recently had to cut services to the minimum (thanks to Schwarzenegger's policies), I feel so lucky to be living in a city with a brand-new public library which will be opening in a couple of weeks. Thanks to some forward-thinking individuals who fought not once but twice against local reactionary forces to pass a bond measure to fund it, the opening of our new main library is one of the island's most anticipated events of the year.

Since my family and I have benefited and will continue to benefit from our city library, I thought this would be a nice way to show my appreciation to the citizens of Alameda for making this a reality.

Presenting... a time-lapse video of the construction!

The police station, across the street from the new library, was kind enough to place a webcam pointed at the construction. I started saving hourly snapshots (automatically, not manually as Harvey Keitel did in the movie "Smoke") back when construction began in April of 2005. Now that the library is all but complete (still missing a few finishing touches such as the promised bike racks), it's time to show the fruits of this project.

It came out pretty well, I think, especially the first half (since you can't see much going on once the walls went up!) Five minutes. Over 4000 frames. I removed most of the images in which the camera wasn't functioning, or when it was dark (during the winter months), or when the sun was shining right into the camera. Unfortunately, a spider decided to spin a web right over the lens, making the view slightly more interesting, so it's to her that I dedicate this production.

(MP4 H.264 format; will work if you have QuickTime 7 installed.) Sorry, but YouTube quality wasn't good enough!

There is a larger (640x480) version with more details and legible timestamps which you can download/view here (55 Megabytes!)

Don't forget the Library Gala happening October 28, just a week from this writing. Buy your tickets online or at Daisy's at 1347 Park Street (next to Tucker's) or Needle in a Haystack, 1533 Webster Street. See you there!

Fine print: I assume that the images from the webcam, becuase they come from a government agency, are in the public domain. This particular production is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution 2.5.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An interesting case against Justice McGuiness, on our ballot

I usually "punt" when I get to the part of the ballot with the judges. However, there's a website/blog set up that makes a compelling case to vote NO for McGuinness, in our district 1 which includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, Sonoma counties.

...Justice McGuiness wrote an equally discriminatory court decision denying same sex couples the right to marry. Justice McGuiness wrote that “By maintaining the traditional definition of marriage while simultaneously granting legal recognition and expanded rights to same-sex relationships, the Legislature has struck a careful balance to satisfy the diverse needs and desires of Californians.” In other words, Justice McGuiness resurrected the unconstitutional concept of “separate but equal” and uses that concept to discriminate against same sex couples.

On November 7th, if you live in the First District**, you have a rare opportunity to tell Justice McGuiness what you think of his recent decision. Justices stand for election only once every 12 years. I urge you to send a strong message to Justice McGuiness. The year is 2006, not 1896. We have learned our lesson that separate is never equal and our Constitution mandates that courts protect minorities from discrimination.

Vote No on Justice William McGuiness for the First District Court of Appeal. Show him that authoring discriminatory court decisions have consequences.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Big One: 89 deserves a fabulous YES

All 3 of you readers here are probably already aware that I'm a big "fan" of Proposition 89. While there are some really noxious propositions on the ballot, this one is so incredibly valuable, that if it passes, a lot of good will come out of it.

for sale to the highest bidderA previous post here talked about how big business is dropping millions on the ballot initiatives to have things there way. It's clear that when millions are spent on issues and candidates, ordinary people like you and me aren't particularly relevant. Shouldn't we aspire to have a system where big corporations can't just throw millions of dollars (chump change for them) to getting what they want?

Obviously one reform that is needed is for the ballot initiative process; unfortunately the Governator just vetoed a bill that would make signature-collectors be required to show signers where the money comes from. (This was Debra Bowen's bill, another reason why she needs to become our Secretary of State!)

But what we can do right now is pass Proposition 89, which will provide for clean money and public financing of elections. If our leaders are elected without big business pulling their strings, they are not as likely to spend their energy in jumping "how high" for their donors.

I've been following this issue for a while now, back when it was the little assembly bill that could. It has gone through a number of revisions to answer concerns from a number of parties, so it's very solid as it stands. A similar measure has worked very well in Arizona and Maine, where I've heard that elected officials across the political spectrum have expressed relief that they don't need to kowtow to special interests since that wasn't what put them into office!

But wait - do we really want to pay for this with our hard-earned tax dollars? Well, actually, we don't. The corporations get a 0.2 percent tax increase in the corporate tax rate to bring it on-par with the personal tax rate.

Naturally, the big-business-backed Republican party is all against this. The big corporations are all against this. Sadly, some groups such as certain unions and the teachers association are against it, even though other unions and the Nurses association are backing it. The state Democratic Party wouldn't take a position on it due to the conflict within the party, because, the way I see it, certain groups (even if they are liberal) are used to having their money count and their voice heard in the form of dollars. Take that away, and it changes.

What irks me is that groups that we would think would benefit immensely, such as unions and education, don't realize that if this passes, they will benefit in the long run. And they can still raise money and use it for advocacy of issues. Everybody would win.

89 would make California a better place. Please support it and tell your friends.

I leave you with a hilarious YouTube Video, courtesy of 89now.org and/or Clean Money Elections, which just about sums up this year's election. I love it how they've managed to tie in our fatigue with the campaigning....

AC Transit: What is a qualification?

If you ran a restaurant, would you hire somebody as a chef because he ate there?

If you were recruiting a new guitarist for your band, would you hire somebody whose big qualification was that she listened to your music?

If you were looking for somebody to run your transit agency, would it make a candidate qualified because he rode the bus?

Well, that seems to be one of Tony Daysog's biggest selling points about why you should elect him to be AC Transit director!

Tony is a really nice guy, and he really does ride the bus, but I don't think he's cut out for this job. I think he's running for this job because his term is running out on City Council; the race for state assembly didn't work out, and he's looking for a public office to fill.

His Opponent, Ortiz, has a long and varied background working on social justice issues. and seems much more qualified for the position. In fact, she has earned the endorsement of several Alameda organizations, such as Alameda Transit Advocates, our local bus rider advocacy group, even though she does not have the "home town" advantage.

In picking a leader, I'd rather choose somebody who has demonstrated leadership, not just participation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

86 and 87: Do you feel sorry for the corporations?

I'm lumping 86 and 87 together because they are both measures that the big companies — Big Tobacco and Big Oil — are dropping millions of dollars in the bucket to dissaude you from approving. Because doing so will weaken them just a bit.

Proposition 86 puts a hefty additional tax on cigarettes. It will keep hundreds of thousands of kids from getting started with smoking. The money raised will go into addiction treatment programs, and in the long run, save us billions in health care costs. It's endorsed by just about every health organization there is. Naturally, the tobacco companies have billboards and advertisements proclaiming htis an unfair tax. Unfair on them, of course. Boo Hoo.

Proposition 87 taxes the oil companies and will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Chief Environmental Executive Al Gore has even made an ad in support of it. And of course Big Oil is in a tizzy about it. Follow the money.

So it's obvious to me that 86 and 87 deserve a big resounding Yes at the polls.

Endorsements in sidebar

I haven't had a chance to put up full articles on all the races for which I have an opinion, but since some people have their absentee ballots and are just dying to hear my words of wisdom, I thought I'd put up a little cheat sheet in the sidebar of this website. Enjoy!

CONFIRMED: City Council Candidates Matarrese, Tam in Developer's Pockets

There have been accusations flying all over that certain candidates for Alameda City Council are in the pockets of developers. Well, I can now confirm that Frank Matarrese and Lena Tam are.

The developer who is supporting them?


Yes, it's time I come clean. Rather than being "outed" after the next campaign reporting cycle, I decided that I would do some damage control and confess now, so I can maintain my dignity.

Yes, I am a developer, and I support Tam and Matarrese for City Council. I have been a developer since approximately 1985, back when I was in college, when I first joined Apple's developer program. I have worked for many software companies since then, but I have always been a developer during that time. The company that I co-own is currently a member of the Apple Developer Connection. Of course, I have never been a part of Microsoft's developer program (video).

So there you have it. I'm a developer, and I support Frank and Lena in their race for city council. I'm not sure what I will do to take advantage of my status as a developer once they are elected and begin a pro-developer reign on the council. Perhaps I could have them pass a resolution requiring that the City purchase a copy of my software to put on all of their desktop PCs. Even if my software doesn't run on Wndows PCs! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Deceptive Bookends: 83 and 90

Today, I got a robo-call in favor of proposition 90, and a mailer against it, so chances are that you did too. I thought that I would use this as a launching point for my next post about the propositions. I thought that I would group the two "bookends" of the normally-numbered propositions, 83 and 90. Both are deceptive, but for different reasons.

So let's look at Proposition 90. This is one of these propositions that looks nice on the surface, protecting people from eminant domain. In fact, this is part of the California Democratic Party's platform (PDF):

[To promote sustainable communities, California Democrats will] Protect existing homeowners’ property rights by limiting eminent domain to reasonable public uses, and oppose the practice of using eminent domain to take private property without the consent of the owner and conveying it from one private person to another or to any corporation merely to increase its tax revenue

Sounds great! But Proposition 90 is really a trojan horse, or a wolf in sheep's clothing — take your pick of the metaphor.

This is one of these extremely complex issues that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around. There's a good analysis of it by an attorney with some juicy tidbits, though, that point out some serious flaws and discusses some terrible problems that have happened in Oregon, where a similar law has passed. I've heard the proposition called "A developer's wet dream." (I would hope that the "anti-development" folks in Alameda are on-board with opposing Proposition 90!)

Usually when I don't understand an issue, I see who is opposed and against an issue. The robo-call I got mentioned a few organizations I had never heard of, one along the lines of "for smaller government" which of course is Right-winger code-words for "reduced services but higher military budget". Needless to say, the Republican Party endorses this. So do a whole bunch of organizations I don't feel any love for. And opposed to 90? A huge list of public interest, environmental, business, labor, civil rights, and other organizations on various sides of the political spectrum, such as Sierra Club, California Chamber of Commerce to League of Women Voters, California Teachers Association (headed by Barbara Kerr, no not of Alameda), AFL-CIO, ACLU, California Nurses, etc. In other words, not fringe groups.

If you can't understand the details of this proposition, take a look at what the groups you know are saying. And chances are they are saying No on 90.

Now let's look at Proposition 83. This one is deceptive, but I don't know if it's on purpose. It's called "Jessica's Law" and it says it's about restrictions on convicted sex offenders. Hey, everybody wants to do right and keep track of those nasty people, and protect our children, right? Who would be against this?

In this case, it's a proposition that looks good on the surface but is full of unintended consequences; it will do more harm than good. Many victim's groups are against it; the The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault is against it, as is the California Coalition on Sexual Offending. Think about it — tightening the restrictions so much will cause convicted offenders to "slip through the fingers" of the system and go underground — in Iowa, the number of sex offenders gone unaccounted for has doubled since 2005.

Picture this: Offenders are restricted from areas near parks and schools, and forced to live elsewhere. I didn't find a map of the East Bay, but here's one of San Francisco (PDF) showing no nearly no place to live. So they'll be forced to live in rural areas (see this PDF of the delta area) where law enforcement is sparse.

A few other points: Residency restrictions like those proposed here don't make communities safer. GPS monitoring will not actually prevent any crimes from occurring. Children are far more at risk from abuse from adults they know than strangers.

So what can we do about this problem? Well, it turns out that two bills were recently signed into law that actually take care of a couple of the good part of Prop 83, so passing this proposition isn't needed to improve things. (Alas, I didn't get the bill numbers!)

There's a great set of resources about this proposition here.

So there you have it: No on the bookend propositions, 83 and 90.

A Winning Pair

I whipped up this possible window/yard sign promoting Debra Bowen (for Secretary of State) and Yes on Proposition 89 (which I'll be discussing later). The two concepts go so well together, so why not a little Yin/Yang? (Hopefully it's OK that Bowen is on the light side and 89 is on the dark side; it just worked out better graphically!)

Elect Debra Bowen - Yes on 89

Click on the image to download a PDF, suitable for printing multiples!

You ARE registered to vote, aren't you?

Are you absolutely sure? Have you gotten your sample ballot yet?

The phone number for the registrar of voters is (510) 272-6933.

To cast your vote on November 7th, you must postmark your voter registration form by October 23.

Perhaps you have some friends who are well meaning but haven't registered to vote?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Scoop Again! Alameda's TravelChoice announces 14% reduction in automotive trips

Dependence on driving is one of these issues that, like the weather, people talk about, but few do anything about. After we moved to Alameda in the nineties, we decided to do our part, founding BikeAlameda. I believe that it has certainly had some significant impact at the grassroots level, but I'm especially pleased to report on today's announcement by an innovative program called TravelChoice by the Transportation and Land Use Coalition (and headed by the esteemed John Knox White, who has guest-posted on this blog).

At a press conference today at the Alameda Marketplace, Mr. Knox White, along with other city and regional officials, presented the results of the pilot project in Alameda. The program resulted in a whopping 14% reduction — one in seven trips — in single-occupancy car trips. Due to the tailored, educational nature of the program, many participants in the program have shifted to more environmentally friendly methods like biking, walking, carpooling, and transit. Transit, in fact, showed a 34% increase in use among participants.

A very enthusiastic user of the program, Cynthia Winton-Henry, came up and shared her experience with the audience at the press conference. She's 51 years old, and had been thinking about biking to her job in downtown Oakland for a while, but never got started with it until the signed up for the program. The information that came with the program was much more than just a pamphlet, and gave her the information and motivation she needed to get started.

Incidentally, the owner of the Marketplace (which had been very helpful with the program, providing a number of incentive to participants) mentioned that more than 50 percent of the hundred or so people who work at the marketplace ride their bikes to work. Wow.

I hope to see the Travel Choice program continue and thrive!

Scoop! Alameda Democratic Club's Endorsements on the Propositions

Yes, you read it here first! Here are the endorsements from last night's Alameda Democratic Club meeting, where a great set of presentations and lively discussions helped the club reach its conclusions. Note that the 1A-1E measures were not discussed.

83 (sexual offenders): NO
84 (Water Bonds): YES
85 (Parental Notification): NO
86 (Cigarette tax): YES
87 (Oil Severance tax): YES
88 (Parcel tax): NO
89 (Clean money): YES
90 (Government acquisition): NO

I was pleased with the results; I would consider the club's endorsements to be more progressive I would have expected, certainly moreso than the California Democratic Party's recommendations.

I will be providing my analysis/opinions on most of these measures in the weeks to come on this blog; stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why I don't like the 1A-1B-1C-1D-1E propositions

California's Democratic and Republican parties are almost diametrically opposite in their positions on the ballot initiatives, but they are more or less unified in their support for the bond package initiatives, labeled 1A through 1E.

But I'm opposed to them, especially 1B for reasons I'll get into below.

The reason that I don't like this package, as much as I think that our state needs to beef up its transportation, education, and diaster-preparedness facilities, is that this is going about it the "borrow and spend" way, which will cost us double in the long run.

Californians are so afraid of paying taxes, even though it's the only place that the investments in our infrastructure can come from, that we seem willing just put off the cost until way down the road, even when it will end up costing us twice as much when you factor in the interest.

I am not against bond measures in general; a bond for some big project like an upgrade makes sense. But to essentially replace the function of taxing for everyday expenses like education and transportation, no thank you. Nobody likes a tax bill on their desk today, but I'd rather pay it now than pay double (or have my kids pay it) later.

So let's look at measure 1B, the transportation piece of the pie. This is mostly about building more highways - something we don't need with the climate crisis we are facing and the oil supply peaking. This is a big moneymaker for the automotive industry, and we as citizens lose. We should be expanding facilities for useable transit, biking, and walking ... not just increasing freeway capacity (which helps with congestion for the short term, but then fills up as more people use their cars to take advantage of the capacity!)

From what I understand, we in the Bay Area currently spend about 75% of transportation funds on transit, not highways. The proposed measure is a setback because it allocates 75% toward unsustainable freeway spending!

Are we building California, or building debt? I think we should say NO to these measures and instead find another way - even if that means (gasp!) paying for it in taxes.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My analysis of Sequoia's vulnerability assessment

[Adapted from a letter I sent to my county supervisor:]

I read through the Sequoia voting machine's vulnerability assessment I mentioned in the previous post.

I found that the report was very thorough in some aspects, but it was also extremely flawed.

1) My main problem with the report was that it was completely passive. From what I could determine, these security experts did not actually get their hands on any of these machines. They seemed to be basing their conclusions of product specifications and interviews along with checks of facilities. They did not actually test the machines and attempt to "hack" into them (similarly to how a group at Princeton did and as staff was directed to do. (Apparently The terms "hack test" and "hackability" were brought up 4 times in a 10-minute period in the discussion leading up to the June 8th vote, so it's clear what was supposed to be done.)

2) I was perhaps most surprised at some of the security conclusions, notably on page v that lauds the "precinct equipment [that] does not have an underlying operating system that can be obtained in the public domain, inspective, analyzed, and vulnerability-exploting tools created, as is true with Windows, Linux, and most every standard operating system." This is called "security through obscurity", an extremely controversial technique because it allows for "inside job" security back doors and is susceptible to leaking of secrets. (See Wikipedia for more information.) Furthermore, I find it distressing that this statement also lumps Windows (a very insecure operating system, as the report itself admits, which also relies on security through obscurity) in with Linux, an operating system whose much, much stronger security is gained through intense public scrutiny. To have a security consultant promote "security through obscurity" is extremely questionable.

3) The possibility of sabotage before delivery was not questioned. If the vendor were motivated, it could sabotage the voting machines before they were delivered to the county. Because the consultants did not actually test the machines, there is no way to know if this is the case.

4) Sabotage by insiders was not questioned. The two-person security procedures described in the report are certainly an improvement over one person, but what if those two persons are in collaborating? Clearly the higher up the chain this happens, the worse the risk is. The attacks mentioned in the above point would be possible to some extent. I was surprised that this was not questioned in the report.

5) Here are a couple of possible attacks that might take place due to weaknesses listed above: The system's test mode run just before an election [see page 5, item "b)"] might be programmed to register just fine, but then in "election mode", it might skew the vote, as was shown in the Diebold video. Or, if the paper record of the ballot [section "e)" pages 5-6] goes into the secure physical chamber of the VVPAT without the voter being able to see that the vote on the paper actually matches their vote as cast, then even the paper trail could be flawed, and the recount could not happen. It was almost laughable that these scenarios were not addressed.

In conclusion, I believe that although the report did address a few issues and offer some improvements, the company did not do the job they were directed to do, and furthermore, they ignored several obvious scenarios that would have resulted in a rejection of the system. I almost suspect that somebody directed them behind the scenes to not "rock the boat" -- to come up with a report that looks impressive on the surface but not to go anywhere that could lead them to a negative conclusion.

I am a computer programmer, but I'm not a specialist at computer security. I have to know about these kinds of issues for my job, but I'm not an expert at security issues as this consultant purports to be -- but the fact that I was able to come up with several flaws that they completely ignored leads me to believe that the supervisors are not being given the whole truth.

I believe that this report should be rejected and that the registrar of voters should produce an authentic security test as the supervisors requested.

Whitewashed "security" report of Alameda voting machines

Here's a timely issue for this week. Apparently there is some sort of security testing of the electronic voting machines in Alameda county. But it's not really a security test -- no testing has been done, no attempts to break into the system, and only "outsider" attacks have been considered, not insider or vendor attacks!

The report apparently says "The Sequoia Electronic Voting System selected by Alameda County to conduct election operations is inherently secure." Sorry, but as a computer programmer, I don't think that such surface-level testing merits a declaration of this magnitude.

The staff was supposed to conduct "hack testing". But how can the board of supervisors actually prove that these systems are safe from hacking without actually trying to hack into them?

Our supervisor if Alice Lai-Bitker; here number is (510) 272-6693. (Other Alameda County districts can be determined from this map.

Readers, think about how important it is that the voting machines used in this county, which tends to vote very progressive, are actually safe from tampering!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

When a website doesn't archive its content....

It's time to set up a mirror of it!

Starting with yesterday's content of the Alameda Daily News, the world now has an archive of what was posted. From now on, we'll have a reference for the wisdom that has been imparted to the masses!

There's even an RSS feed for those of us who like to keep up with what's new on websites without manually checking every day!

(Lauren, you can keep posting those screenshots if you want but now you can link to it!)