Miscellaneous and Useless Information


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced a new citizenship test, which takes effect in a year. To pass, you are asked ten questions randomly picked from a list of 100, and you must answer 6 correctly. USCIS has posted the questions (PDF). Some organization should do a survey to see what percentage of Americans would pass the test. Would you pass? (I think anyone running for office should be required to pass.)

Today is Election Day in the U.S., and I’m reminded of a funny thing I saw on CNBC last Friday. Morning Call hosted two economists, one from the AFL-CIO labor union, and the other from the libertarian Cato Institute. Surprisingly, they both agreed that a Democratic majority in Congress would improve the economy.

The AFL-CIO economist said that Democrats would fight to increase the minimum wage (which studies have shown do not significantly increase unemployment) and would allow Bush’s tax cuts, which the country can’t afford, to expire. The Cato economist said that a Democratic Congress would split the government, introducing gridlock and preventing the government from enacting dumb policies. He pointed out that since World War II, government spending has grown the fastest when the same party controlled both the Congress and White House: LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.

So if you want to vote with your wallet, vote Democrat!

Bipartisanship is like virginity. Once lost, it’s never recovered.

Professor Bruce Cain of UC Berkeley, reacting to the challenge Governor Schwarzenegger faces, now that all eight propositions lost, including the four championed by him

Your vote probably will not change the outcome of an election. Only one congressional election and seven state legislative elections in the past 100 years have been decided by one vote — and if it’s that close, the courts are likely to get involved. So why do people vote? (Of course, if everyone thought this way, democracy would be doomed.) I vote out of a sense of “civic duty,” but is that enough to motivate most people? The Swiss provides a clue, and the answer may be surprising.

I don’t think many readers of this blog live in Cupertino, but Measures A, B, and C would have region-wide impact. These measures would set limits on building density, height, and setback from the street; only part of Vallco would be exempt. Any other exemptions would need a citywide vote, paid by the developer. Proponents want to preserve Cupertino’s suburban character, but these measures are way too extreme. Passing them would just continue ugly sprawl.

For example, the height restriction (36 feet maximum) means that the new library and Apple’s corporate headquarters would be in violation. The Senior Center and the new Peet’s Coffee/Panera Bread building would violate the setback restriction (35 feet minimum). These are not urban skyscrapers by any means. It’s not too often you find a Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club on the same side of an issue. They are both against Measures A, B, and C, as are virtually every elected official in Cupertino. I’m with them.

I think the special election called by California’s governor is a complete waste of money, but since we’re having it, we might as well vote on the propositions before us. Proposition 77, which takes the power to redraw voting districts out of the hands of the legislature and into a panel of retired judges, is the only proposition I am voting for. It’s not perfect — there’s no reason to redraw districts until the next census in 2010 — but it’s a lot better than what we have now. Here are a couple of examples.

Congressional District 11 has a grotesque shape over parts of four counties, covering such disparate cities as Moraga, Pleasanton, Morgan Hill, and Manteca. State Senate District 15 stretches from Saratoga 200 miles down to northern Santa Barbara County. If this isn’t blatant gerrymandering, I don’t know what is. I want to put an end to this #$&%@&, so I’m voting yes on Proposition 77.

All of the other propositions are either bad ideas or poorly thought out, so I’m voting no on everything else.

What’s Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton doing hanging out with Newt Gingrich, co-sponsoring bills with Rick Santorum and Bill Frist? Pundits say that she’s drifting to the center in preparation for a presidential candidacy. But Matt Bai argues in the New York Times that she is being true to her ideology, shaped by a Methodist upbringing in the suburbs of Chicago.

This is one of the more creative, if not bizarre, political financing schemes I’ve seen. Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced former president of Peru, says that Fuji-Cola will “quench the thirst of popular discontent.”

Here is the top story for The Onion on January 17, 2001: Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over’ (screenshot) They had no idea how true that would become.

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