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Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Seattle Vote

Only motorcyclist can exhibit Extreme Caution!

Only motorcyclist can exhibit Extreme Caution!

I filled out my ballot for the city of Seattle and King county elections. I am not sure if it is Washington or just this county but it is all vote by mail. The only small problem I have with this is that the envelope to return the ballot is labeled with my name and address. I know that I had to sign the CA absentee ballot but I don’t remember if it had my name and address.

While I don’t feel the need for anonymity for this election it is not something that I want to give up. I know that they probably separate out the ballots from the envelopes using one for elections and another to keep track of voter fraud but it would be nice if there was another way to do it. Maybe do a double envelope, with the ballet sealed within the outer envelope that has the name and signature on it. That way they can be sorted without seeing who is voting for what.

As my first Washington election it is pretty simply, there were no long winded, poorly written propositions posed by a small group like in California. Though the county by county results of various propositions are always fun to view.

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Freedom of Speech

A Philadelphia newspaper archive.

A Philadelphia newspaper archive.

Where did I put that soapbox? Ah yes, here it is…

I hope it is not just me but I am finding the recent series of incidents at town hall meetings regarding health care rather dumb.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualm with people voicing their opposition to a current political issue directly to their politicians, I actually find that admirable. However I do find that drowning out what the politician or others are trying to say with meaningless chants and blather just dumb.

Part of freedom of speech is in allowing others to voice their opinions  even, especially, if you disagree with them.

I do appreciate the small irony in drowning out these town hall meetings with recitations of the pledge of allegiance. I wonder what they are actually pledging themselves too?

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all

— Noam Chomsky

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Some people blame the oil platforms for the tar on the beach when it is all natural seepage.

Some people blame the oil platforms for the tar on the beach when it is all natural seepage.

There are a handful of topics that really bother me when the government starts to consider them. Recently the California state legislation is considering taking away the autonomy of the University of California and placing it under direct control of the legislature.

Now this appears to me to be one very large bid idea. The University of California is one of the most respected and recognized university systems in the world, when I was talking with professors are other schools for graduate programs most if not all had been to UC Santa Barbara for some conference or another, ant this is just one of the campuses. I have gone through the California public school system from kindergarten through a BS in Physics and I can say that some parts definitely need improvement. However one of these is not the UC (I am looking at you standardized testing).

The Regents may make some decisions that I disagree with and some that I fully encourage, but by being autonomous they can make controversial decisions (such as operating Los Alamos National Laboratory). And as long as they remain autonomous they can keep making decisions, if they were run by a legislature that take months to agree on a budget then the Universities would have a larger budget problem.

I hope that these amendments to remove the UC autonomy do not pass and encourage everyone who lives in California to write to their assembly-person about the issue.

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Atheism

 

An Evil Pope?

An Evil Pope?

Until recently I was not sure that I was an atheist. I always thought to myself that I was agnostic, I did not believe in one god over another. Zeus was as plausible as Amon Ra, in my particular view they all hold they same probability. If one existed then they all should.

For Christmas I received a copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. When I started to read it I realized that the probability for any god was effectively zero so this and my previous assumption logically led to there being no gods. I was finally able to admit to myself that I am an atheist.

One point raised in the first part of the book was how it is hard for people to tell others that they are atheist. I read this before going to Christmas dinner with my family (small dinner only about twelve relatives) and most are Catholic or were raised Catholic (okay all but myself were raised Catholic). I thought about how hard it would be to tell them I am an atheist and especially how to bring it up. I don’t know if I ever will unless directly asked. 

However at school with friends it is quite easy to say I an atheist, I know that at least several of my friends are as well. Oddly the two philosophy majors I know well are both atheist, they tend to be quite vocal about it. Dawkins writes that being atheist in the current culture of America is like being Gay in the 50’s. I saw a very little bit of this with my family (they would be fine with it) but I do live in a fairly liberal area and go to school in one (the San Francisco Bay Area and UC Santa Barbara). I bet it will be harder if I go to graduate school in Montana, Wisconsin and maybe New Hampshire (though I don’t much about New Hampshire). 

I know it is commonly said that one should not discuss religion or politics but where is the fun in that?

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It is the small sign that matters.

It is the small sign that matters.

Locally one of the main endangered species is the California Tiger Salamander. Most of the time the thought of endangered species elicits pandas, polar bears or spotted owls. For me it is a small black salamander that does not know where it should live.

We are told that it only lives on the other side of the freeway from our house, yet I see it occasionally in our yard or even sitting under the garage door. I know that it has single handedly blocked several constructions projects over the last few years, which is odd since it seems to be doing just fine after the construction.

I was then surprised when at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences I saw this sign (not the Mass Extinction one) and finally found out what was threatening the poor tasty little salamanders.

Dinosaurs.

I always had a suspicion it was them, being the most endangered species of them all they attempt to take out others on the list so that only dinosaurs remain. Some may claim that they are in fact extinct, but as you cannot prove a negative they could very well just be extremely endangered. I believe that they thrive in Northern California on a diet of tiger salamanders and Sebastapol Meadow Foam.

I bet they are non-native as well.

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Sigh of Relief

 

If only my GRE will go as well as the presidential election.

If only my GRE will go as smoothly as the presidential election.

It is over. 

We now have President Elect Barack Obama.

Concern and worry over this part of the election is now fading away as worry and concern over local California propositions take over. All of the propositions I care about 1A, 4 and 8 are still too close to call and Measure M (for Sonoma-Marin county) has not been decided one way or another.

1A is for California high speed transit, 4 is parental notification of abortions, 8 is the gay marriage ban and M is for a smart commuter train through Sonoma and Marin counties. I really want a yes, no, no, yes. So far though it looks like yes, no, yes, maybe.

In any case I am glad to have taken part in election Barack Obama.

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I have always called these buckyballs, I don't think that is right.

I have always called these buckyballs, I don't think they are called that.

I watched the final of the presidential debates last night. I also sent in my absentee ballot (admittedly before the debate).

I also do not watch network television or really much television aside from Comedy Central (Daily Show is my best source of news). In a sense I am now outside the election season.

By proxy I have heard about the attack ads, the accusatory writings and the tiny niggling details that saturate the news networks. But I have not seen any of them.

There are also all of the automated callings, or the polls. I have missed out on the those as well since I only have a cell phone.

To top it off I live in a relatively uncontested state (some people don’t vote because of this, that makes me cringe).

I sort of feel left out.

Now I just want the election to be over.

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Does it look festooned?

Does it look festooned?

Many environmentally concern people do not want there to be offshore drilling (especially their offshore) because of the visibility of the oil platforms in the distance. Living in Santa Barbara I have to agree that offshore oil platforms, like the one above, are lit on the horizon like a festive christmas tree. They do tend to impinge on sweeping oceanic views of the horizon.

Locally at least the oil platforms are associated with the abundance of tar on and around the beaches. Go for a barefoot walk in the sand on a UCSB beach and you will end up with at least one patch of tar clinging to the sole of your foot. If the oil drilling is what caused this tar I would be completely against them. Except they don’t cause it. The tar seeps naturally out of the ground and floats its way to shore.

The tar and the oil platforms are caused by the same thing.

Those who cry foul at oil platforms on the horizon turn around at declaim those who object to wind farms being built out at sea. If you object to offshore wind farms for ascetic reasons you become an environmentally insensitive kitten juggler (an amusing if dangerous sport). Yet if you decry offshore drilling for the impinged upon horizon then you are for the environment.

I realize that there are real legitimate reasons to support and object both and I those arguments I can accept. But when the same argument is both embraced and vilified in both cases I have to laugh.

Dolphin powered turbines would be way more efficient.

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Flower debates are tough to watch.

Flower debates are tough to watch.

First I would like to say that I could not find a good source online to watch the vice presidential debates. The best and only one I found was through C-SPAN and it was a small, low quality Real Player streaming video. I was not so worried about the video quality but the audio was inaudible at times.

What I find frustrating about debates, I suppose it applies to politicians in general, is the lack of ability to directly answer the questions asked. With the vice presidential candidates it seemed to me that for the most part Joe Biden answered the question asked, while for several questions such as gay civil rights and McCain’s stock market regulation policies Sarah Palin avoided and diverted the question. To some extent every politicians alters the question asked slightly, but for these two particular ones I felt disappointed that they were not answered.

Then there is the one question that is never really answered: What is your weakest trait? The weakness is always a, well, stupid one. They might as well say, “My weakness is that I am was too awesome”. Of course they do not answer it, if I was in that situation I probably would not answer it. It would just be refreshing to have a candidate for once to give a real answer to this question.

Maybe they could do it quietly at the end so only a few people hear.

There is always the question after a debate of who “won”. This is always a hard question for me since I watch the debates already knowing who I will vote for, I watch just find out more about the other side. I know about the candidates I agree with, I want to know about the ones I do not so if they win I know what to expect. 

At least this debate did not have the running graph of audience reactions. That was just silly.

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Marijuana

 

Good Sage Advice

Good Sage Advice

I never understood why marijuana is illegal. Alcohol alters behavior and causes us to do stupid things, yet it is legal. Tobacco causes long term health effects including death, yet it is still legal. Coffee alters our state of mind and it addictive, yet it is legal. But marijuana? No can’t have that!

We should legalize marijuana in the same capacity that tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and all of our other non-drug drugs are legal. If we legalize it then we can, surprise, tax it. This tax money could then be used for the cost of enforcing whatever agency would then supervise the growing or selling of marijuana. Sort of the like the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Except with Marijuana somewhere in the name.

Most of the anti-marijuana ads that I have seen really highlight one or two things. The first is that smoking marijuana will cause you to forget about life and fall into a spiral of neglect and forgetfulness. This could also be TV, video games, bad relationships or any addiction. 

The second argument is the one where a stoned driver crashes into a tree, and dude, seriously, that tree totally jumped in front of him. Or if not a tree then a small innocent child whistling happily to themselves as they ride in front of the beat up, often brown, car filled with smoke.

Well, if we legalize it then we just make driving under the influence a crime. Maybe we could abbreviate that to something like DUI? 

Legalization of marijuana in all cases would also allow for a better development and acceptance of medical marijuana treatment.

I should also mention to prevent any ad hominem reactions I should say that while I do live in and near areas where medical marijuana is legal and that I also go to school in one of the top twenty pot schools in the country, that I personally do not smoke marijuana.

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