The difficulty of being a landlord in San Francisco

King of My Castle? Yeah, Right :

Then we rented to a man who began as a good neighbor, but who soon became a nuisance — and who eventually became destructive and dangerous. It started one night when the tenant forgot his keys and rang our doorbell at 2 a.m. until we let him in. Then it happened again and again and again.

One afternoon when he locked himself out, we weren’t home. But rather than contact a locksmith, he borrowed a ladder and a sledgehammer from a construction site next door, hopped the backyard fence and tried to smash his way into our building.

After he was discovered, midswing, he said that under San Francisco’s tenants’ rights laws, he was allowed to destroy our property, as long as he fixed it later.

That might sound crazy, but it is a widely held belief among renters here that laws are so tilted in favor of tenants (and against landlords) that renters can get away with any outrageous behavior. Indeed, in a city where 64 percent of residents are renters — and politicians court these voters — the rhetoric from some in City Hall and from tenants’ rights advocates is often vitriolic toward landlords.

This is why there are 10,600 rental units without tenants in San Francsico.

Why Republicans don’t brag about their alternative to Obamacare

Unlike Obamacare, what Republicans want really would change health care as we know it:

Republicans have wisely decided to attack Obamacare without committing themselves to an alternative because the alternative would be easy to attack. Ponnuru, for instance, suggests changing the tax code and stripping regulations to create “a market in which almost everyone would be able to purchase relatively cheap, renewable insurance policies that protected them from the risk of catastrophic health expenses.” Telling tens of millions of Americans they’ll lose their insurance that covers basic medical expenses and get bare-bones policies with thousands of dollars in deductibles is not a winning play.

The Obama administration’s close ties to the media

Media, administration deal with conflicts:

The list of prominent news people with close White House relations includes ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist. CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Further, White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.

That must lead to some interesting dinner table conversations.

There are 10 million fewer jobs than there should be

U.S. Is Still 10 Million Jobs Away From Normal:

To get a better idea of where the job market stands, consider a different question: What percentage of the civilian population aged 16 to 65 is employed, and how does that compare to the pre-crisis average? This measure covers everyone, including those who have given up on finding jobs and hence are not counted in the unemployment rate. It also attempts to correct for the effects of an aging population by focusing on one age range.

As of May, the 16-to-65 employment-to-population ratio stood at 67.5 percent. That’s up from 67.2 percent a year earlier, but still well below the average of 72.5 percent in the 10 years preceding the recession that began in January 2008.

In terms of jobs, as of May, the economy was 9.98 million short of the number needed to put the employment-to-population ratio back at its “normal” level of 72.5 percent. That’s better than a year ago, when the number was 10.50 million, but worse than in May 2009, when it stood at 8.93 million.

Think we can create 10 million jobs in the next five years? Keep dreaming. This is what a lost decade looks like.

New batteries put lithium-ion to shame, make electric cars far more practical

Nanomaterial Introduces Zinc-Air Batteries to the EV Party:

It seems both the commercial markets and the research community are coming to terms with the idea that the energy density (the amount of energy stored per unit volume) of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries will keep them from ever becoming a completely satisfactory solution to powering all-electric vehicles (EVs).

[…]

The hybrid nanomaterial was so good at this that in demonstrations the Stanford researchers were able to achieve an energy density of >700 Wh/kg with a prototype battery. To give you a sense of what that means, some have concluded that the Li-ion batteries—even with all the latest nanotech improvements—will be maxed out at around 400Wh/kg.

Zinc is also more plentiful than lithium in the earth’s crust (meaning zinc-air batteries should be cheaper) and unlike Li-ion, zinc-air cells doesn’t sometimes catch fire or explode.

Another win for electric vehicles.

The Representatives who voted against the Patriot Act, then got booted out of office

In light of the recent leaks regarding the NSA’s PRISM program and its seizure of Verizon phone records, this video at the Huffington Post has been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

The video portrays then-Senator Russ Feingold predicting in 2001 the extent to which the PATRIOT Act would authorize the federal government to snoop into people’s private lives. Feingold later lost his seat in the Senate in his 2010 race against Tea Party-favorite Ron Johnson – who voted in favor of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act in 2011. 

What makes the video so notable is that Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the act at the time (later reauthorizations received more resistance). This wasn’t the case in the House, where 66 Representatives voted ‘Nay’ in 2001.

Of these 66, the vast majority are still in office. A handful of that group have passed away or retired from public office, but most have stayed in office or gone on to become Senators or Governors for their respective states. Only eight have gone on to lose elections in the years since.

Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney was booted out of office twice. In 2002 she lost in the Democratic primaries after speaking in favor of Arab causes and claiming that President Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (her father making anti-Semitic remarks on television certainly didn’t do her any favors either). Despite being re-elected in 2004, McKinney lost in a 2006 primary election due to striking a Capitol Hill Police Officer earlier that year for stopping her and asking for identification.

Pro-Israel opposition also led to the defeat of Alabama’s Earl Hilliard in 2002. In 1997, Hilliard had made a trip to Libya and voted against a House resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombing. Four years later, he voted against a bill increasing military support to Israel and criminalizing Palestinian politicians. These factors led to national Jewish organizations backing Hilliard’s opponent, Artur Davis, who took up the issue, stating: “My opponent, Earl Hilliard, has not been a strong supporter of Israel. I have been a very strong supporter of Israel, and if I am elected, Israel will have a friend.”

Two of the Representatives who voted against the PATRIOT Act and lost primaries against popular Democrats due to redistricting. Michigan’s Lynn Rivers found herself running against John Dingell, who had also been a ‘Nay’ on the surveillance law. Dingell won the primary with an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote. Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich was forced to run against incumbent Marcy Kaptur (who had voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act) in 2012 due to his district being eliminated after the 2010 election cycle and lost by a whopping 24 points.

West Virginia’s Alan Mollohan lost his 2010 primary due to his district moving to the right. His opponent, Mike Oliverio, was a conservative Democrat who ran on a platform of aiming to reduce the national debt, being pro-life, and opposing gay marriage. Oliverio won 56% of the vote in the primary and then went on to lose the general election to Republican David McKinley.

Virginia’s Rick Boucher also fell victim to an Appalachian district moving to the right in 2010. Unchallenged by another Democrat in the primaries, he went on to face competition from Republican Morgan Griffith. Griffith brought down Boucher by tying him to President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, running ads with claims like “Obama loves Rick Boucher.” Griffith won the seat with 51.3% of the vote.

Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar faced Tea Party newcomer Chip Cravaack in 2010. Cravaack attacked Oberstar for voting in favor of health care reform, earmarking funding for local infrastructure products, and for voting in favor of cap and trade legislation. Cravaack’s victory was extremely close – 48% to 47%.

California’s Pete Stark faced a rather peculiar situation last year’s election. Under California’s new “nonpartisan blanket” primary system, anyone – regardless of party affiliation – can participate in the primary. The two candidates with the most votes go on to the general election. For Stark, this meant running against fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell. Stark had a higher percentage of the vote in the primary but lost the general election 53% to 47%.

Penny Arcade’s Gabe on wearing Google Glass

His coverage of using Glass is nice, but his two paragraphs on what it’s like to wear Glass out in public really stood out to me:

Other than that, the biggest problem I have with Glass is wearing it around. I’ve tried to wear it out in public a few times and it’s incredibly strange. At first I thought I was just embarrassed to be wearing this goofy computer on my head but this morning I realised it’s more than that. Our current office is on the second floor of a larger building with multiple tenants. Downstairs is a daycare and when I arrive in the morning for work I see a lot of parents dropping their kids off. As I was walking in today I heard the front door open and I quickly slid my Glass down off my head and slung it around my neck. A woman passed me by and I gave her a polite smile. As I got inside the building I moved the Glass back up to my head but I realised the reason I took it off was because I didn’t want to be rude.

I was not embarrassed or worried she would think I was a dork. I AM a dork! What I was worried about was being rude. I feel like walking around with a camera pointed at people even if it’s not recording is just not polite. It’s a very strange feeling that I’m only just now trying to get my head around. I think the technology is incredibly cool but I wonder if socially we are ready for Glass. I’m starting to think the Google Glass Explorer program might be less about testing hardware, and more about testing people.

Are Silicon Valley companies only making products for people in Silicon Valley?

I have some issues with this piece by Nick Bilton for The New York Times:

Belshe and Bill Lee were continually running late for meetings and texting each other: “I’ll be there in 5 mins!” So they created Twist, a 10-person start-up in the city’s South of Market neighborhood. The company’s first product is a smartphone app that helps you tell someone you’re late by showing your location on a map. Investors liked the idea enough to give Twist $6 million in venture financing last year.

“We thought there had to be something better than sending a text message,” Mr. Belshe said in a phone interview. “We were trying to tackle that problem of meeting up and making it easier.”

Is Twist a great idea, or are Mr. Belshe and Mr. Lee falling into a local propensity for creating a product for technophile friends rather than the public?

Bilton’s point is that this seems like it would only benefit techie types. But who wouldn’t benefit from an app that can tell that you’re running late and messages those you have an appointment with? Seems like the kind of thing that could curb texting and driving.

That’s not to say there aren’t still people thinking about big markets. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, which sells electric cars that can cost more than $100,000, said last week at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., that he hoped to offer a $30,000 version of the car in the next five years.

No, that’s not what Musk is proposing. He’s not going to bring the Model S to market for 33-50% of the current price. Tesla’s going to introduce a new model in 2015 that will compete with the likes of BMW’s 3-Series, which is a totally different market and price category.

But besides these minor gripes, my main issue with the article is that as a society, the general trend is everyone becoming more technologically savvy over time. Someone has to lead that push, and it might as well be the people making the technology.

Imagine if Nick’s argument had been applied to smartphones: “People don’t need apps and mobile Internet and video cameras in their phones. They just want to make phone calls.” Where would we be if Silicon Valley thought like that?

It turns out that immigration reform would be a huge boost for the economy

The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants:

Under the first scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship in 2013—U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion cumulatively over the 10 years between 2013 and 2022. What’s more, Americans would earn an additional $791 billion in personal income over the same time period—and the economy would create, on average, an additional 203,000 jobs per year. Within five years of the reform, unauthorized immigrants would be earning 25.1 percent more than they currently do and $659 billion more from 2013 to 2022. This means that they would also be contributing significantly more in federal, state, and local taxes. Over 10 years, that additional tax revenue would sum to $184 billion—$116 billion to the federal government and $68 billion to state and local governments.

Under the second scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status in 2013 and citizenship five years thereafter—the 10-year cumulative increase in U.S. GDP would be $1.1 trillion, and the annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $618 billion. On average over the 10 years, this immigration reform would create 159,000 jobs per year. Given the delay in acquiring citizenship relative to the first scenario, it would take 10 years instead of five for the incomes of the unauthorized to increase 25.1 percent. Over the 10-year period, they would earn $515 billion more and pay an additional $144 billion in taxes—$91 billion to the federal government and $53 billion to state and local governments.

Finally, under the third scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status starting in 2013 but are not eligible for citizenship within 10 years—the cumulative gain in U.S. GDP between 2013 and 2022 would still be a significant—but comparatively more modest—$832 billion. The annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $470 billion over the 10-year period, and the economy would add an average of 121,000 more jobs per year. The income of the unauthorized would be 15.1 percent higher within five years. Because of their increased earnings, undocumented immigrants would pay an additional $109 billion in taxes over the 10-year period—$69 billion to the federal government and $40 billion to state and local governments.

It’s like a stimulus package that reduces the deficit.

Nathan Schneider thinks that this NSA scandal will make people move to Linux

Nathan Schneider: Macs No More: After Edward Snowden, Time to Come to the Penguin:

The personal computer is political. The time for liberation has kind of come.

So what happens when you load up that new, quasi-user-friendly Linux flavor — maybe Mint or Ubuntu — onto some old machine you have lying around? At first, maybe, keep the Internet handy on your shiny Mac, because there might be glitches to look up. But chances are it’ll mostly work out of the box, and the rest can be figured out over time. Everything’s harder, but in a good way — like a digital fixie. It’s more fun if you do it with a friend.

What’s interesting is how different the glitches feel from how they felt on a corporate OS. When the thing crashes, as it might somewhat frequently, it’s less aggravating. One actually starts to get more philosophical about the glitches; we’re not quite there yet as a society, as a species. They’re the people’s glitches — the temporary byproduct of democratic and collaborative processes among autonomous geeks, pursuing their own obsessions and curiosities. You don’t have to yell at the screen because, in a lot of cases, you can just write to the people making the program, and someone with an amazing amount of time on their hands will write back long, detailed replies. Someday, with hard work and better self-organizing chops, the glitches will go away. Like veganism, the more people join in the easier it will be.

Look everyone! It’s finally the year of Linux on the desktop!

Right.

People don’t want to fiddle with their computers. They want to use them. We’re never, ever going to reach a point where people will want to switch to glitchy programs that will be better “someday.”