Friday, October 24, 2014

Voter Guide 2014 - Partisan Offices

Please Vote! by Coaly Bunny is licensed CC BY 2.0
All right - this is the end of the Voter Guide 2014 series. You can catch up on the previous installments here:
Now it's time to tackle the partisan offices. When it comes to higher profile races, it's easy to face information overload. The Reno News & Review just released their Election Guide and their list of endorsements, plus the Libertarian Party of Nevada released their Voter Guide at the beginning of this week, the Reno Gazette-Journal has their list of endorsements out as well... point being, there's no shortage of material out there. My personal attitude is to do my own research as best I can and to trust those whom I know have more time and knowledge on their hands if necessary. Truth be told, though, most of you probably already have your mind made up on bigger races, anyway, so I'm going to start with the top of the ticket and work my way down to the races that are theoretically a little harder to sort out.

To make life a little easier for those that are curious about which party line I'm voting, Republicans will be red, Democrats will be blue, Libertarians will be purple, and everyone else will be green.

Representative in Congress
District 2

My vote: Kristen Spees

Let's make something clear - it really doesn't matter who I pick here because Mark Amodei is going to run away with this. It's not going to be close. His opponents are woefully underfunded and inexperienced or just a little too socially conservative for my taste. That said, I looked at the issues that Kristen Spees is running on and... she's not half bad. Don't take this the wrong way - if I thought she had a realistic shot at winning, I'd probably vote differently because she is woefully inexperienced, both politically and practically. She has an impressive background that I sincerely believe will pay off in another ten to twenty years or so, but, for now, she's all ingredients and no cake - honestly, if she were elected into Congress this year, I'm worried she'd be devoured whole.

I will note that I harbor no ill will toward Rep. Amodei. His reaction toward Cliven Bundy and the Bunkerville standoff was uncharacteristically mature compared to the rest of Nevada's congressional delegation, neither demonizing nor lionizing either side, and his voting record, though not great, isn't horrible, at least by congressional standards. If I thought this race would be close - meaning, within 10% either way - I'd probably vote for him. However, I think it's important to communicate that, just because he's been good this long, it doesn't mean he has a blank check.

Keep an eye on Kristen, though - I have the sneaking suspicion we'll be hearing from her again in the future.


My vote: Brian Sandoval

This isn't so much a vote for Sandoval as it is a vote against the other guys. Robert Goodman lost to "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES" in the primary, which gives you a pretty good idea how Democrats feel about him, and David VanDerBeek is, well... how do I put this... nuts.

I'm willing to vote for Kristen against Amodei because, in the highly unlikely event that she wins, I'm not going to regret my vote all that much. If I voted for any of the people running for Sandoval and they actually won, however... no. Just no. Not that it's going to happen, anyway, but still. No.

Lieutenant Governor

My vote: Mark Hutchison

Now things are starting to get a little interesting. The Libertarian Party of Nevada's position is to just vote for "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES", which is arguably not the worst way to go. The Reno Gazette-Journal tersely gives the nod to Mark Hutchison. The Reno News & Review, not surprisingly, chose Lucy Flores. As the RGJ points out, though, none of these candidates are particularly impressive. Though Lucy has a rather inspiring personal story of overcoming adversity and eventually rising to the challenge, her positions and voting record would make more sense if she was running for Congress in, say, Alameda County, than they do as a candidate for statewide office in a consistently purplish state. As for Mark, his campaign has been consistently in a "Prevent Defense" - campaigning "not to lose" by saying as little as humanly possible - since day one. Given his uneven voting record, that's not hugely surprising, but still, it's a little disappointing that this is arguably the most substantial intellectual contribution he's made in this race:

Even so, I'm going to vote somewhat strategically on this one. Whoever wins this race will have a commanding position to run for Governor in 2016, assuming Sandoval runs for the Senate. Given that, demographically speaking, we can expect Nevada to have a strongly Democratic legislature, keeping a Republican in the Governor's Mansion will help ensure a small measure of political anarchy, if nothing else. Anything that keeps our state government in check is generally a good thing in my book.

Oh, what about Mike Little? Well, by IAP standards, he's relatively sane, but that's sort of like having a relatively fast car compared to a stock VW Bug, a Geo Metro, and a cinder block. The closest I could find to his issues are the ones he mentions in his biography, which are certainly illuminating. If you want to issue a binding protest vote (remember - in Nevada, "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES" has the same effect as choosing not to vote at all; if it didn't, Sandoval would be in a two-way race with VanDerBeek), you could do worse, I suppose.

Secretary of State

My vote: Barbara Cegavske

The Libertarian Party Voter Guide recommends her. I talked to our State Chair about her and he confirmed that she was one of the candidates that the Party leadership was quite enthusiastic about supporting - in fact, in the Voter Guide, she's listed as one of the four "Featured Candidates". Considering how they interviewed people for months, talking directly on the phone with various candidates, while I sat behind a keyboard for a few hours, I'm going to go ahead and trust their judgment on this one.

If it helps, both the RGJ and the Reno News & Review endorsed Kate Marshall, which can't possibly be good.

State Treasurer

My vote: Kim Wallin

This is another one where I'm punting and trusting the LP Voter Guide. Both the RGJ and the RN&R endorsed her as well, which has to be good.

State Controller

My vote: Andrew Martin

He's the only CPA on the ballot, which is a pretty important qualification for the effective "Chief Financial Officer" of Nevada. Also, he has support in the LPNV's Voter Guide, the RGJ, and the RN&R, which, as we've established earlier, has to be good. Right?

(I actually know a couple of people that will be disappointed with this choice - they were pretty bullish on Knecht. I don't blame them; Knecht is a lot of fun to watch. However, I prefer my accountants boring and nondescript. Knecht would be fantastic in the State Legislature somewhere.)

Attorney General

My vote: Adam Laxalt

I'm not going to lie, I have some concerns about this one, but I had more than a few libertarians, both in and out of the LP, tell me that I really needed to give Adam a chance. When it comes to the higher profile races, unless you think you know something everyone else doesn't, you're sometimes better off outsourcing your choice to people you usually agree with and trust that have a little more time on their hands to dig into some of them, and all the people I trust are saying to vote for Adam Laxalt. So... I will trust them.

State Assembly District 25

My vote: Niklas Putnam

This, to be bluntly honest, is Pat Hickey's race to lose. However, even though I don't think Niklas really has a snowball's chance in Hades, I really like the issues he's running on. If he wins, and if he's true to his word, I think he would be a legitimately superior choice in the Assembly than Hickey.

I have no idea who he would caucus with, though. There's no way the GOP would let him anywhere near them if he unseated Hickey, and his agenda doesn't mesh with the Democrats in Nevada at all.

County Assessor

My vote: Michael Clark

In this case, I'm going for a "vote against the incumbent" strategy here. Also, this site is still a thing, and it looks like Washoe County's still trying desperately to fight it. A change in assessor might - just might - lead to a change in attitude.

One can hope.

County Clerk

My vote: Nancy Parent

I don't have strong opinions either way on this one, which is a pretty good sign the County Clerk, currently Nancy Parent, is doing her job. I'd try to apply the "vote against the incumbent" strategy here as well, except Bobee appears to be running a paper campaign - put another way, she doesn't have a campaign web site and didn't respond to the RGJ's Voter Guide questionnaire.

Public Administrator

My vote: Don Cavallo

Similar logic to the County Clerk race listed above. Chase didn't bother responding to the RGJ's questionnaire and the campaign web site listed by the Washoe Democratic Party leads to her hypnotherapy practice's web site. Meanwhile, Don's the current Public Administrator, so there's that.

County Recorder

My vote: Lawrence Burtness

Similar logic as the previous two races. Lawrence is the current County Recorder; meanwhile, Robert Townsend doesn't have a campaign site and didn't answer the RGJ questionnaire, nor does or did Don Cochran.

If you're not going to take your campaign seriously, don't expect me to.

County Treasurer

My vote: Tammi Davis

Not that I have a choice - she's the only person in the race.


All right - that's all of them. Every last race on my sample ballot has been considered and accounted for. If there are any races on your ballot that aren't on mine, I encourage you to do a little research. Some good resources include:

Good luck and happy voting, everyone!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Project Euler in CMD: Even Fibonacci numbers

Aloe polyphylla Schönland ex Pillans by brewbooks is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Before I go any further with this project, I just want to point out that I haven't taken a math class in over a decade and it's pretty rare, at least in my corner of IT, that I have to use anything more advanced than basic algebra. Consequently, I'm certain there are some pretty clever mathematical solutions to the Project Euler problems that I'm overlooking (the previous problem, for example, was just a sum of two arithmetic progressions, minus the arithmetic progression of when a number is a multiple of both 3 and 5), but I'm in this more for the scripting experience than I am for a refresher in mathematics.

That's not to say I mind having a refresher in mathematics, of course.

This brings me to my solution for this problem:
Each new term in the Fibonacci sequence is generated by adding the previous two terms. By starting with 1 and 2, the first 10 terms will be:

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, ...

By considering the terms in the Fibonacci sequence whose values do not exceed four million, find the sum of the even-valued terms.
Now, if you take a look, you'll notice that the even number in a Fibonacci sequence happens every three numbers, at least once you get past two - O, E, O, O, E, O, O, E, O, O, ... and so on. There's a very elementary reason for that - since at least one of the numbers being added into the sequence is guaranteed to be odd, the only way you're going to get an even number is if you add two odd numbers together; after that, you just end up adding an even number to an odd number, at which point you have another odd number.

Can I take advantage of this insight myself? Not on your life.

So, with that in mind, let's apply a little brute force to the problem:

SET _FibL=1
SET _FibR=2
SET _FibZ=0
SET _FibSum=0

IF %_FibL% GEQ 4000000 GOTO Finish

SET /A "_LMod2=_FibL%%2"
IF %_LMod2% EQU 0 SET /A "_FibSum=_FibSum+_FibL"
SET /A "_FibZ=_FibL+_FibR"
SET /A "_FibL=_FibR"
SET /A "_FibR=_FibZ"


ECHO Sum is %_FibSum%

So, there you have it - the answer, by the way, is 4,613,732.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Project Euler in CMD: Multiples of 3 and 5

cmd.exe by *n3wjack's world in pixels is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
One of the fun parts about working at a college is the intellectual cross-pollination that occurs here from time to time. Today, for example, our programming instructor came up to me and told me about Project Euler, which maintains a list of increasingly difficult mathematics/computer problems. Since this seemed like as good of time as any to brush up on my scripting skills and to show him the anachronistic horror that is Windows CMD Shell syntax, I thought it would be fun to start implementing them as batch scripts. Here's my solution for the easiest of the bunch - Problem 1:
If we list all the natural numbers below 10 that are multiples of 3 or 5, we get 3, 5, 6 and 9. The sum of these multiples is 23.

Find the sum of all the multiples of 3 or 5 below 1000.
My solution, which gives an answer of 233,168:

SET _Sum=0
FOR /L %%G IN (1,1,999) DO (CALL :ThreeByFive %%G)
ECHO %_Sum%
GOTO :eof

:: Our "function" - checks if a number is evenly divisible by 
:: 3, 5, or both, and adds the number if so.
 :: Keep most of our variables in local scope

 :: Check for divisibility.
 SET /A "_ModF=%1%%5"
 SET /A "_ModT=%1%%3"

 :: Now to perform some tests. Note the use of a 
 :: GOTO statement to skip a check if one passes.
 IF %_ModT% EQU 0 GOTO SumVal
 IF %_ModF% EQU 0 GOTO SumVal

 :: Failed all checks - end subroutine
 GOTO :eof

 :: Passed at least one of the checks - add the number!
 ENDLOCAL & SET /A "_Sum+=%1"
 GOTO :eof

For what it's worth, he found the syntax suitably horrifying, especially when I showed him the difference between how CMD handles variables with EnableDelayedExpansion on and with it off while I performed my initial bug and logic testing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Voter Guide 2014 - Non-Partisan Offices

voting day in a small town by liz west is licensed CC BY 2.0
Continuing backwards from the statewide questions and the citywide offices, it's now time for the state and county nonpartisan offices. Before I begin, I'll note that I'm not particularly strong or opinionated on the District Judges; consequently, I'll be relying heavily on my previous research during the primary, the RGJ's article on the District Court candidates, and other sources.

Speaking of other sources, the Libertarian Party of Nevada released their voting guide today. To the best of my knowledge, this is relatively unprecedented for the Libertarian Party of Nevada, and is reasonably thorough, especially in relation to Clark County races. It'll be exciting to see if this project can get some more legs underneath it in 2016. They did reach out to me to see if I could help; unfortunately, I wasn't (and am still not) in a position to put in the amount of time necessary to be meaningfully helpful. These blog posts are my way of making up for that while making it plain that, while I'm trying to be thoughtful, I haven't spent weeks interviewing each candidate individually to deliberate on this - which, by the way, the Libertarian Party of Nevada did. That's pretty impressive right there.

With that, let's get started.

Supreme Court Justice
Seat B

My vote: Kristina Pickering

She's running unopposed and "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES" isn't binding in Nevada. That she's running unopposed is either a sign that she's really good at her job, that nobody wants to be a Nevada Supreme Court Justice because of the workload involved, or some combination of both. Either way, I wish her well.

Supreme Court Justice
Seat D

My vote: Mark Gibbons

He's also running unopposed.

District Court Judge, Family Division
Department 5

My vote: Cynthia Lu

I'm cheating and plagiarizing myself. Cynthia Lu was who I voted for in the primary and she's still on the ballot, so I'll stick with it. The RGJ was also moderately fond of her as well; whether that helps or hurts her depends on your perspective. I'm adopting the "even a broken clock is right twice a day" school of thought on that.

District Court Judge
Department 6

My vote: Doug Rands

This is the one District Court race that I was following with some actual interest because some of the candidates were rather compelling. Though Jenny Hubach didn't make it past the primary, Doug Rands did, and I've actually met the guy. He knows his stuff - he'll be a good choice. Looking back, this is one race that I wish I did submit to the LPNV Voter Guide when I had the opportunity.

District Court Judge
Department 8

My vote: Keith J. Tierney

Here's what I said the last time I touched on this race:
Department 8 is currently occupied by Hon. Lidia Stiglich, who is seeking reelection. Running against her is Keith Tierney, who's been floating around the legal community for ages. Lidia, meanwhile, was appointed to her current position by Brian Sandoval. I know a lot of people would hold that against her, and I don't blame that instinct; however, I'm a libertarian, not a conservative, and I'd rather see judges supported by RINOs than died-in-the-wool law & order conservatives, so my first instinct is to go with Lidia on this one. I'd be lying if I said I had a strong opinion on this one, though.
Unfortunately, I wildly misread Keith's background and history. He served as the President of Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada - that's pretty liberal, and I like my judges liberal. The alternative leads to crowded prisons, broken families, and all sorts of nasty civil rights issues. In my opinion, we have plenty enough of those already.

It's just a shame he doesn't have a prayer. Too bad - he gets my vote anyway.

District Court Judge
Department 11

My vote: Ugh.

Here's what I said the last time I touched on this race:
Department 11 is currently occupied by Hon. Chuck Weller, who appears to have made some "friends" - nothing like having a couple people run against you to drive home some dissatisfaction. Chuck used to have a radio show on KKOH, which suggests some conservative leanings - make of that what you will. Caren Cafferata-Jenkins is clearly the liberal in the race, though not in the hands-off "liberaltarian" flavor that I prefer. Frankly, her bio suggests some old school progressivism in her background, which leaves me shaking my head.
So, to recap, our choices are a right-wing radio demagogue and an old-school liberal that recently resigned from the Nevada Commission on Ethics. This is the one race where, if "NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES" was an option, I'd pick it.

District Court Judge
Department 14

My vote: John Springgate

Honestly, if campaign finance filings are any indication, David Humke isn't trying very hard to win this one. He had a good run as County Commissioner - I think he'll enjoy retirement.


My vote: Chuck Allen

This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most important of the non-partisan races on the ballot this year, and Kuzanek has been going all out as of late to win this thing. I'm not joking - his signs are everywhere, and he's dropping some serious money into his campaign. After the primary, I wasn't sure how competitive this race would be; Chuck Allen came out of this with a 20% lead over Kuzanek, which seemed pretty commanding at the time. Now, though, I'm starting to get nervous, especially if the Sheriff's Office (Kuzanek's the second in command over there, remember) gets involved. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting the WCSO to directly interfere in this race, but I have the sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of detectives working under Kuzanek are not only voting for him, they're encouraging friends and family to do the same.

For a variety of reasons, I really hope Chuck pulls it back together at the end. He's not Cashell's choice, which is a pretty good incentive to vote for him right there, and he's good with the public. We need a Sheriff that can communicate with the public - this isn't the Wild West anymore, where the Sheriff was the top hired gun responsible for rounding up bad guys. Having someone in the position with some media savvy and a willingness to engage with the public at large is vital, and I just don't see that with Kuzanek.

Now if only Chuck can convert some of that savvy into campaign contributions and, ultimately, votes...


Next up, the rest of the ballot. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Voter Guide 2014 - Reno Offices

Voting by Ken Zirkel is licensed CC BY 2.0
Having previously touched on the three statewide questions, it's now time to look at the candidates. The higher ticket ones (Governor, Congress, etc.) are pretty well known and pretty well covered elsewhere; that's not to say I won't reveal who I'm going to vote for over the next couple of days, but the coverage of the local, down-ticket races in Reno is absolutely abysmal. So, I'm going to start at the back of my sample ballot and work my way up.

See a problem, solve a problem.

Reno Municipal Court Judge
Department 1

My vote: Drakulich, Gene S

Gene's the only person on the ballot for this position and "None of the above" isn't an option. I have nothing to add to this.

Reno City Attorney

My vote: Brett Kandt

Karl Hall is a longtime former Washoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney running on a his experience. Brett Kandt, meanwhile, is focused more on holding the city accountable, though, when interviewed by the RGJ, he also pushed harder on law and order. Considering how Karl's already collecting a county retirement pension and considering how Reno really needs a City Attorney that's willing to hold the City Council accountable, Brett looks like the better choice here.

Reno City Council
Ward 2

My vote: Naomi Duerr

I'm not going to lie, when reading Elisa Cafferata's web site, listening to her RGJ interview, and looking at her background, my first instinct is to avoid her, which is unfortunate because it's not because I'm particularly offended by her stances - she's just signaling she's in a different outgroup than I am. Elisa Cafferata is passionate about the budding tech startup scene here, along with "smart growth" and small business; in this respect, among several others, she has quite a bit in common with Hillary Schieve. In short, she's a textbook example of Slate Star Codex's Blue Tribe (I'm linking this twice because it's a really good article - go read it).

Unfortunately, I'm a Grey.

Looking past the signaling to Blue Tribe (Smart government! Support local arts! Build a community of neighborhoods! Other stuff white people like!), she's actually a pretty good example of an evolved liberal. Liberals (or Progressives, or whatever you wish to call them or be called) have a common goal - make the world a better place (yes, Conservatives, really), and the way they usually try to make the world a better place is by taking the newest model of organization and thought that's in vogue at the time and applying it to the world. The Founding Fathers were liberals - they wanted to apply Enlightenment-era philosophy to government, which were relatively new and untried at the time, and gave themselves a chance to do so. Later, old-school Socialists (or even Communists) wanted to apply the efficiency of the factory floor, a recent innovation at the time, to government - unfortunately, it turned out factories became efficient by being purposefully unpleasant. Then liberals attempted to use the large corporate boardroom as a model. Now they're trying to use the "think small" ethos of Silicon Valley, where you accomplish big things by getting small groups of people to voluntarily do various things, soliciting "buy in" the entire way.

Of all the models liberals have tried to make the world a better governed place in the past 225 years or so, this one is easily my favorite, at least since the Enlightenment. Unlike the more recent models that liberals have tried over the past 100 years, this model has some respect for the individual. That doesn't mean I'm especially enamored with it, though.

But I digress - let's talk about Elisa's opponent, Naomi Duerr. She's running on a platform of getting more conventions into town, sustainable growth, and connecting and collaborating. In short, she's running on a very similar platform to Elisa, only with a few shoutouts to Red Tribe (Construction! Conventions! Growth!) here and there. Her background, however, is a bit more Gray, having worked in Mackay School of Mines, the Desert Research Institute, and the Truckee River Flood Management Authority.

I'll be honest - I don't think it's going to matter all that much who wins this race since their positions are so similar, but that doesn't mean I don't have a preference; Naomi Duerr gets my vote in a close one.

Reno City Council
Ward 4

My vote: Bonnie Weber

My first thought when looking at Paul McKenzie's website was that he should have paid the little bit extra for his web developer to replace the default Joomla favicon with something else.

Yes, I know - I'm a nerd.

Past that, Paul is straight-up Red Tribe, and I don't mean that as code for "Republican"; my personal suspicion is he's an old-school blue collar Democrat, at least if his issues and supporters are any indication. He's part of a demographic that Republicans have been making serious inroads into over the past 30 years as liberals increasingly abandon the factory floor and boardroom model of progress and replace it with the considerably more white collar, technocratic, almost hipster (insert Snidley Whiplash sneer here) "think small" startup-inspired model being embraced these days. 

In other words, he's a dinosaur.

Bonnie Weber, meanwhile, served on the County Commission for years and is now looking for a new job. She's something of an institution, which I usually mean as a pejorative when I'm talking about politicians, but this time I only mean as half of a pejorative. In all seriousness, she's historically been a decent County Commissioner and has a reputation for being quiet and hardworking. There are some issues that give me pause - she's purposefully not interested in discussing issues and she moved into an apartment at the edge of town so she could run for City Council; even so, her voting record in the County Commission was considerably less objectionable than what Paul McKenzie's running on, so... all right. Bonnie it is.

Reno Mayor

My vote: Ugh.

Let me be clear - unless something truly amazing and incredible happens, Hillary Schieve is winning this. I'm not enthusiastic about it, but it is what it is. Pezonella's running as a cabbage or some other vegetable, which is another way of saying he's putting just enough effort into his campaign to convert nutrients into small amounts of energy and waste gases. Then again, I thought the same thing before the primary was over and he (or, more likely, Cashell) somehow pulled enough strings out of some unholy orifice to get second place - in fact, he wasn't that far behind Hillary, so his goose might not be cooked yet. 

This race really comes down to "old establishment" versus "new establishment". Neither vision of the city is one I'm particularly fond of, which is why I supported someone else, but, despite my efforts, my first choice isn't on my ballot. So, given a choice between the "old establishment", as hand-picked by Mayor Cashell and embodied by Ray Pezonella, and the "new establishment", as embodied by Hillary Schieve, champion of Midtown and the Technology and Innovation Council... well, at least tech lines my pockets. Right?


Well, I guess if I have to pick between a douche and a turd sandwich (and no, I'm not sure which one is which), I guess I'll go with Hillary or something. Then I'll buy some mouthwash and drink every. Last. Drop. At least that'll get the taste out of my mouth, right?


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Voter Guide 2014 - The Questions

VOTE by Theresa Thompson is licensed CC BY 2.0
I received my voting guide in the mail today, which reminded me that - ah, yes! - it's time to exercise my franchise. So, I put on my coat, put the leash on it, and gave a quick tug.

Nothing happened.

I gave another tug, a little more forceful this time. Still nothing. However, my franchise finally paid some attention to me, looking at me with tired eyes, as if to say, "How about warming me up a bit first, hmm? Maybe letting me stretch a bit first?" That's when I realized that I was about to exercise my franchise without properly preparing it for the ordeal ahead. So, I sat down, got to work, started massaging its enfeebled muscles, and began my own personal voter guide.

Today I'm going to cover the statewide questions in Nevada this year.

Statewide Question No. 1
Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to create a Court of Appeals that would decide appeals of District Court decisions in certain civil and criminal cases?

My vote: NO

This question has been on the ballot several times over the years, and, each time the voters have shot it down pretty resoundingly. So, why does it keep coming back? Good question - and there's a good answer. The Nevada Supreme Court is a busy, busy court. Last year alone, the Supreme Court heard 2,373 cases, or 339 cases per justice. That's almost one case per day, including weekends, being tried by each of the justices - or, at least, it would be if each judge was allowed to try cases individually. Instead, the Nevada Supreme Court uses two groups of three-justice panels to try most cases, with the Chief Justice filling in as needed and otherwise supervising the groups. This means that, in order to keep up with the current caseload, each panel must somehow try over 1,000 cases each year.

There's no way justice is being served at that rate.

The proposed solution in Question 1 is pretty straightforward - create a Court of Appeals to handle some of the caseload and add an additional layer between the District Court system and the Nevada Supreme Court. By itself, this actually isn't a bad idea - since appellate justices can handle cases individually, while higher courts traditionally handle cases as a body, a few individual appellate justices can clear out casework considerably more efficiently and effectively than an extra few Supreme Court justices. This also prevents the Supreme Court from having to unofficially create a court of appeals by hearing cases in small groups, only for each group to contradict each other and then have to rehear the case (or hear a similar case in the future) as a full group to sort it out. 

So what's the problem?

The biggest problem is that the proposed Court of Appeals is way too small. Assuming that the same number of cases are appealed as there are now, each justice would still have to somehow handle over 700 cases each per year. Given that kind of a caseload, there would be considerable pressure to simply push the cases out of their hair and into the Supreme Court as fast as humanly possible - or, worse yet, categorically reject appeals out of hand regardless of merit. The result would be a traditional Nevada solution - a well meaning, half baked, inadequate mess that makes a bad problem just that much worse. 

Eventually, if the political will is there, it's possible that the Legislature might expand the Court of Appeals - if Question 1 passes, that's certainly on the table. However, this is the Nevada Legislature we're talking about; the only time our august body exercises anything resembling "political will" is when a rich tycoon shows up and promises riches beyond the dreams of avarice, if only someone will zero out his tax bill. Consequently, we can be guaranteed to see a still-overloaded Nevada Supreme Court with a harried Court of Appeals running interference - the worst of both worlds.

Statewide Question No. 2
Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to remove the cap on the taxation of minerals and other requirements and restrictions relating to the taxation of mines, mining claims, and minerals and the distribution of money collected from such taxation?

My vote: YES

Before I go any further with this, I'd like to take a moment to outline my overall political philosophy. I generally lean heavily libertarian - not full Anarcho-Capitalist, for reasons I'll get into one of these days - with a twist of utilitarianism sprinkled in for good measure (as opposed to a Deontologically-minded Libertarian; again, I'll go into the difference some other time). What this means is that I'm generally against taxation and generally against the growth of government, but not exclusively so. For example, regarding Question 1, I'd be willing to technically grow the size of government if it meant we would have a faster, more effective justice system since I value an effective justice system without bottlenecks over a categorical opposition to the growth of government under any and all possible circumstances. Ideally, of course, I'd rather see a private solution to the problem - I have to imagine independent arbitration is pretty popular here - but, in the absence of that, I'd rather have an effective justice system than one that's doing its best imitation of India's oft-maligned court system

This brings me to Question #2. I'm not naive - I know why this measure is on the ballot. It's to enable the legislature to raise mining taxes. I'm against that. I know friends and family that would be directly affected by this measure. I've spent a considerable amount of time in rural Nevada and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. And yet... I'm going to vote "yes". Why?

The answer? Equality before the law.

Here's the thing - I value low taxes and less government, but I value fairness and equality before the law more. This is part of the reason why I wouldn't mind seeing a faster, more effective court system; as India and countless other examples throughout history have proven, a slow, underfunded mess of one is prone to corruption, specially carved out "fast lanes", and other distortions that are several orders of magnitude worse than the confiscatory effects of a slightly higher tax rate. It's also part of the reason why I'm going to vote in favor of this measure - simply put, I don't think it's right that the mining industry has a special tax arrangement carved into the Nevada Constitution. 

Mining's arrangement is particularly special indeed.

As outlined nicely by the Nevada Taxpayers Association, the Nevada Constitution sets a taxation cap of 5% of all net proceeds from a given mine. This is not only less than Nevada's current sales and use tax rate, which ranges from 6.85%-8.1%, depending on the county you live in, it's also the only industry-specific tax exemption listed in the Nevada Constitution. On top of that, most mining activity takes place in Nevada's expansive BLM-owned territory, which, being federal land, isn't taxed at anything approaching fair market value. 

The deontologically Libertarian answer here is to say, "Fine - let's set everyone else's taxes at 5% and be done with it." If that answer was on the ballot, I'd vote for it in a heartbeat. Since it's not, however, I'll go with the best option that's available to me. To quote Coyote Blog, who wrote about a similar example of politically connected cronyism:
I used to be OK with anything that reduced taxes for anyone, but now I have come to realize that discounting taxes for one preferred crony just raises taxes for the rest of us.
That's about where I am as well. It's time for the mining industry's special exemption to be written back out of the Nevada Constitution - honestly, it never should have been added in the first place.

Statewide Question No. 3
Shall the Nevada Revised Statutes be amended to create a 2% tax to be imposed on a margin of the gross revenue of entities doing business in Nevada whose total revenue for any taxable year exceeds $1 million, with the proceeds of the tax going to the State Distributive School Account to be apportioned among Nevada's school districts and charter schools?

My vote: NO

To give you an idea of how little trust people in Nevada have for our government, I talked to a couple of openly progressive individuals about this tax measure. One had an Obama sticker on the back of her Toyota in 2008. The other makes regular trips to the Bay Area and has political opinions that generally blend in nicely there. I asked them how they were going to vote on the measure.

Their answer: No.

Both gave near-identical reasons - they flat out don't trust the Nevada Legislature to let this money actually add to education's funding. They agree that something must be done, that our schools are woefully underfunded and that our education system needs some serious help, but they also agree that the Legislature is almost certainly guaranteed to simply cancel out any gains in education funding this measure might provide by pulling that money out of the General Fund and giving it to some other special interest somewhere.  They're concerned that, if this measure passes, the Legislature will take 2% out of the pockets of every business in Nevada and use it to build stadiums, provide targeted handouts to well-connected corporate interests, and a whole host of other frivolous things that have nothing to do with educating students and everything to do with lining the Legislature in yet another layer of graft and corruption. 

Why? Because the Nevada Legislature has done it before. See STAR Bonds

If this measure passes, it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that discounting taxes for one crony just raises taxes for the rest of us. If we really want to fix education by throwing more money at the problem (and, personally, I'm not sold about that fix but I'll concede the point for now), get rid of STAR bonds, get rid of the various special interest exceptions that dot Nevada's tax code, get everyone on a more or less even footing, and then let's talk. I personally bet that getting rid of all of the political carve-outs would get us to a close enough number in the General Fund where we can talk about funding education without pulling 2% out of every single receipt in the state. 

Now you know how I'm voting on the questions and why. Agree with me? Disagree with me? Tell me why in the comments below. Next up... candidates!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Windows 10 Enterprise in Hyper-V

It's October 1. Windows 10 Technical Preview is out. I'm an IT Manager. Guess what I'm doing today?

After downloading the ISO for Windows 10 Enterprise, I figured I'd try it in Hyper-V in Windows 8.1 first, just to get a feel for how it works. Since it's a newer version of Windows, I figured it'd work as a Generation 2 virtual machine. So, I followed the wizard - gave it a name...

Chose a generation...

Gave it a pile of RAM because, hey, why not...

Connected it to none of your business, thank you very much...

Created a default virtual disk...

Set it to install an operating system from my newly downloaded ISO...

And then tried to boot it, only to get this charming error message:

So, what happened? Well, it turns out the key is in how Microsoft builds their Windows installation ISOs and how Hyper-V's implementation points and laughs at them. For a lovely overview of the details, click here.

The solution? Well, there are a couple of options:
  • Create a Generation 1 VM and install the ISO on that. This is what I ultimately went with.
  • Edit the ISO to somehow overcome Hyper-V's EFI implementation.
Since my attempts at mounting the ISO so that I could edit it led to this wonderful message:

I decided I was better off hitting the "easy" button and going with the way that led to a working VM within this lifetime.