[Original posthere]

I know I don’t usually publish on Saturdays, but I wanted to get this out before people filled in their mail-in ballots. So:

Is Prop 31 Another Attack On Vaping?

Maximum Limelihood Estimator is concerned that Prop 31 (against flavored tobacco products) is meant to target vaping:

The flavored tobacco ban is mostly a ban on vaping; the vast majority of vape products are flavored, while most cigarettes aren’t.

About 40% of cigarettes are flavored, compared to about 85% of vape juice. A study suggests that a ban on flavored tobacco would increase cigarette consumption (by making cigarettes relatively more desirable than vaping). Limelihood writes that “The statistics [in the study] are great, which is honestly shocking to me, since it’s the first time I’ve said this about an experiment in . . . ever.”

There is also a study purporting to show that flavored cigarette bans do decrease smoking, but Limelihood says that:

…it’s got some big problems. The study there only compares tobacco sales in a single city (San Francisco) before and after a ban on menthol cigarettes. However, because there’s no comparison to other cities, it’s essentially worthless; tobacco sales throughout the US dropped at this time, and I don’t know how this compares.

He finishes:

It’s worth noting that the FDA is already planning to ban flavored cigarettes and cigars, so the law will probably only end up affecting vapes.

BRetty writes:

I am pretty sure that the focus on flavored vaping products is just a flag of convenience for the real goal of using the FDA to outlaw existing companies’ competitors.

I have done some work for a vaping company here in Los Angeles. My boss is personal friends with the owner(s) and we helped install the clean room for their packaging line.

Whatever you think of vaping, playing rope-a-dope with business owners whose whole investment can be wiped out by government caprice backed by lobbyists, is a really crappy thing. See also: california marijuana legalization.

People wonder why politics is so intense now: it’s because so much is at stake, the govt now is the biggest player in almost every facet of society and the economy.

And Nick writes:

Yeah I vape and the ban is annoying as hell. It doesn’t actually work at all, you just have to go to the head shop and talk to the guy for like 10 minutes until he pulls out the secret box under the counter where he has flavored vape juice. OH, and you can also still buy flavored nicotine free juice and unflavored nicotine solution and mix them, which is a pain in the ass. All in all, as always, prohibition is stupid and creates stupid work arounds which just make everything more annoying.

I am so angry that the health establishment is so focused on banning healthier alternatives to smoking that I constantly have to be on the lookout for their plots. On the other hand, I still am not sure whether the positive anti-smoking effect of banning cigarettes is enough to outweigh the negative effect on vaping.

I am changing my vote to ABSTAIN on this one, but I might be overly conservative and I would super-understand if other people voted NO.

F@&k The Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare West

Andrew Grossman does better detective work than I did and figures out what’s up with The Kidney One.

According to an LA Times report, the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare West has been trying to unionize workers at California dialysis companies. Either the workers haven’t been interested or the companies have successfully prevented this from happening. In order to retaliate, the SEIU-UHW has been sponsoring these ballot propositions to over-regulate California dialysis companies so overwhelmingly that they would have to close many of their clinics. This would be a disaster for dialysis patients and probably literally kill many of them, but apparently SEIU-UHW thinks that is acceptable collateral damage. According to the Times , SEIU-UHW doesn’t especially care if they win or lose, they just want to make the dialysis companies spend so much money fighting the propositions that they surrender and agree to give the unions what they want. This explains why they’ve put the same losing proposition on the ballot three election cycles in a row, and why they keep doing it even when every doctors’ group, nurses’ group, and patients’ group insists it would be disastrous for Californians with kidney disease.

I am really angry about this. If anyone knows a way to hurt the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare West, please let me know. If there’s some company I might be patronizing that works with them, and the competitor doesn’t work with them, please let me know so I can switch to the competitor. These people should be utterly ashamed of themselves and I hope there’s some way to make them cease to exist as an institution.

Why Newsom Doesn’t Have A Candidate Statement


I would guess that Newsom doesn’t have a candidate statement because they’re only allowed for people who accept campaign spending limits, see https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/candidate-statements. Which means he’s spending over $9.7 million on this election.

And Steven Buss:

Yep, Pycea is correct. See https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/candidate-statements for the rules, and https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2022-general/statewide-501-report.pdf for which candidates did or did not accept the spending limits. Newsom did not accept the spending limits.

There’s a bit of speculation downthread about why Newsom is spending so much on this race when he will inevitably win. I’m more interested in speculation about why you can’t have a candidate statement on the ballot if you spend too much money.

My Oakland Ballot

Andrew Edstrom writes:

What about your local ballot? I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of all the candidates running for Oakland’s Mayor.

I didn’t have a lot of time to investigate Oakland measures this year, so I’m going to follow the suggested voting slate of the Valinor rationalist group house, who I trust and who mostly share my political opinions (h/t especially Clara Collier). This is:

Mayor: Loren Taylor [see below for ranked list]
House: Barbara Lee
State Assembly: Buffy Wicks
Judges: Yes to all
DA: [see below]
Transit: Alfred Twu
Measure D: Yes
Measure H: Yes
Measure Q: Yes
Measure R: Abstain in protest of it being dumb to care about this
Measure S: Yes
Measure T: No
Measure U: No
Measure V: Yes
Measure W: No
Measure X: Yes

We had some disagreements over DA. Terry Wiley is an experienced assistant DA with lots of endorsements. Pamela Price is a civil rights attorney with no DA experience; the rest of the police establishment hates her. We debated between a conservative perspective (where Wiley’s greater experience and support put him on top) and a liberal pespective (where DA offices tend to be centers of police corruption and cronyism, and bringing in an outsider with an adversarial relationship to the culture might be a good move). None of us have investigated this particular race very closely, and our decisions basically came down to whether we feel a narrative where we need to support the police to crack down on crime is more or less convincing than one where we need to investigate the police and root out their corruption. I sympathize with everyone on both sides - and one of our friends who is a local lawyer (though not in Oakland in particular) has heard some pretty horrifying stories about DA corruption. But I ended up going with Wiley.

Mayor is ranked choice voting. I went with:

1. Loren Taylor
2. Treva Reid
3. Greg Hodge
4. Sheng Thao
5. Alyssa Victory


I generally really like our current mayor, Libby Schaaf. She has generally had good ideas, prevented Oakland from becoming quite as bad as San Francisco, and a bunch of BLM protesters were harassing her in really awful ways for not defunding the police during the George Floyd protests but she stood firm and won my respect / good will. I also like SF mayor London Breed for being a YIMBY and being willing to call out some of the problems with her city. Both of them have endorsed Loren Taylor. Taylor is a biomedical engineer and businessman, which makes it seem like he’s smart and has some experience with the real world that will make him less than maximally socialist. The YIMBYS also endorse him. Generally seems like the best we’re going to get.

Taylor has entered into a vote transfer pact with Treva Reid , where both of them ask their supporters to vote for the other as second choice. The people in my house who watched the mayoral debate (not me!) said they really liked Treva, so I put her second.

Greg Hodge is a local community leader who raises money for good causes and does various inspirational things. He is involved in a lot of black community organizations, but somehow avoids sounding incredibly annoying and woke in a way that drives me away. He was the Lead Minister for the Wo’Se Community, which seems to be maybe some kind of ancient Egyptian polytheism + Christianity + pan-Africanist syncretism; it has a sort of refreshing old-school dignity to it. According to the Principia Discordia, the word “HODGE” represents the principle of Order, which I think Oakland needs more of right now.

The polls say this is a two way race between Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao. Both are way to the left by national standards, but by Oakland standards Taylor is more centrist and Thao further left. The house members who watched the mayoral debate were very impressed with Thao and called her smart and well-spoken. But she is apparently involved in a scandal where she (allegedly) tried to bully a subordinate in the city government into working for her campaign (illegal) and then fired him when he refused to comply.

Everyone else kind of blurs into an undifferentiated mass, but I picked Alyssa Victory as my fifth choice, for kabbalistic reasons.

Dishonorable mention goes to Peter Liu, who is in the news for making anti-Semitic threats after local synagogues refused to platform his campaign. Liu is also interesting for his claim that God contacted him at the Ziggurat of Ur and told him to bring peace to the Earth.

I think if you hate the Jews and get your divine messages at a ziggurat, you should at least consider that it’s not the Judeo-Christian God you’re talking to. Which raises the possibility that this mayoral election will end up as a competition between the gods of ancient Mesopotamia and the gods of ancient Egypt. Pretty good for a local race!

Other Interesting Comments

Would Prop 1 Permit Genetic Engineering?

Sniffnoy writes:

Hm, Proposition 1 it seems to me goes much further than keeping abortion legal. Maybe you should vote YES on it to prevent California from, say, banning human genetic engineering. :)

To refresh your memory, the text of Prop 1 starts with:

The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.

It does seem true that, taking it literally as written, this does kind of seem like it would permit genetic engineering. This ties into a discussion elsewhere in the comments thread on originalism: Calion argues that I am wrong to call “judges should interpret the law not as its literal words but as what it must have meant given what people wanted at the time” an “originalist” argument. After further discussion, we agree that this is an obsolete subspecies of originalism called “original intent”, but that modern originalism is based on “original meaning”. Calion and other legal experts chimed in to say nobody believes in original intent anymore.

I am sort of skeptical of this. Read purely literally, it looks like maybe this should permit genetic engineering. But I suspect the judges tasked to interpret it won’t see things that way!

Probably YIMBYs Should Vote For Bonta

Andrew L writes:

If you support Newsom because he’s being YIMBY, I really think you should support Bonta because he is backing Newsom’s YIMBYism forcefully. I highly, highly doubt you’ll see that sort of cooperation from Hochman, and without it a lot of this falls apart.

Auros agrees:

Rob Bonta is the single most YIMBY person in the CA executive branch right now, for whatever that’s worth to you. He set up the CA AG office’s Housing Strike Force, and has used it to good effect.


He also entertainingly smacked down Woodside when they tried to declare themselves a “mountain lion sanctuary”. (To be fair, I think they would’ve lost that fight no matter what… But Bonta took them down with style.)


It’s a damn shame that Malia Cohen ended up as the Dem on the ballot instead of Ron Galperin, the LA Controller, who was running on an “abundance liberalism” type platform. He’s been harshly critical of how LA is wasting affordable housing funds, and his ideas of what they should be doing about it are good. (He just hasn’t had cooperation from the Mayor’s office or the city’s legislative branch.) He’d be a solid future candidate for Gov.


Fine, I switch my recommendation from ABSTAIN to BONTA, but if there is extra space on your ballot please also groan slightly while voting.

Attention Santa Clarans

Glenn on a Discord server I frequent writes:

Apparently our incumbent representative on the Santa Clara Valley Water District is the founder of match.com?? I feel like I have to vote against him because I’m still mad about OKCupid.

I agree with this. Anyone involved in that debacle needs to be defeated and humiliated for the rest of their lives, then spend the afterlife in an especially deep circle of Hell reserved for them and leaders of the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare West.

But in case that isn’t enough for you, said match.com founder - Gary Kremen - is also accused of “bullying” and “mistreating” workers and creating a “culture of fear” at the water district. He is additionally accused of sending unsolicited nude photos to employees and of “deceiving voters” in order to extend his term limits.

Rebecca Eisenberg is running against him; I urge Santa Clarans to support her.

Christiansen Good On Math

Daniel Filan writes:

NB: Lance Ray Christensen is also opposed to the California Math Framework which would make California math education totally suck. See, for example, this post [on Scott Aaronson’s blog] and links for why it sucks

One part of the Framework you might like is the assertion that people are better at math when neurons in different regions of the brain are more connected, so the math curriculum should draw connections to other subjects. Tony Thurmond does not seem troubled by any of this, and has been in charge while the Framework was being developed. So I consider this an additional reason to support Christensen.

Cohen Family History

The Genealogian writes:

Re Malia Cohen, I did a little digging. Her grandfather had the absolutely priceless name “Bishop Cohen” (https://casetext.com/case/cohen-v-cohen-in-re-estate-of-cohen). He was a longshoreman from Galveston. His own father was Frank Cohen, a farmer originally from Alabama. When he died in Galveston in 1939, his widow named his father as “Henry Cohen,” but wasn’t sure where he was born. We can find Henry in the 1880 Federal Census, a Coffeeville, Alabama laborer (probably in a sawmill).

Henry is listed as a “mulatto” born in Alabama in 1845, so it’s at least possible his father was a white slaveholder. You can find an online family tree connecting Henry to the family of Solomon Cohen, a prominent Jewish South Carolingian, but based on five minutes of review and several years of experience, there are serious problems with this family tree. But–great family to do a Y-DNA test on! If you get a common Jewish haplogroup or even the “Cohen modal haplotype,” you’ve got a compelling clue.

Thank you, Genealogian! We so rarely get clear answers to anything in politics, but I feel like my confusion on this race at least has been put to rest.