Monthly Archives: February 2013

Guide to Coral Gables Candidates Forums (Updated)

…or is that Fora? Anyway, based on emails and comments to my earlier posting on the elections, here’s what I think I know about the schedule for candidate debates for the 2013 Coral Gables Commission and Mayoralty elections:

Ponce Business Association. To be held at Coral Gables Congregational Church. Doors open 6:45; debate starts at 7pm.

  • Thursday 3/7 Group 3 Commission seat
  • Thursday 3/14 Group 2 Commission seat
  • Thursday 3/21 Mayoral candidates

Latin Builders Association, 3/22 location TBD. Noon. Cancelled

Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. University of Miami, Bank United Fieldhouse Tuesday 3/26 6pm. All races. They say they are inviting questions to be sent to events@coralgableschamber.org.

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss the Group 3 debate on 3/7 because I’ll at an academic conference. If someone reading this — who is not affiliated with any of the campaigns — is planning to go and would like to volunteer to do a guest posting, please get in touch.

Meanwhile, my emails to candidates asking for issues statements has only borne partial fruit. Looks like I may need to follow up with actual phone calls….

Posted in Coral Gables | 2 Comments

Estate Planning for Your Digital Afterlife

Over the weekend I attended parts of a great symposium put on by the Miami Law Review on social media and the law.

The Law Review had drafted me to moderate a panel on “Will You Have a Digital Afterlife?” It was an interesting experience: the estate planning/probate version of privacy issues is a sort of funhouse mirror version of how I usually think about digital privacy: everything I recommend to people — e.g. strong passwords, strong encryption — can make digital probate more difficult.

The first complication is that we may not know with much certainty what the decedent wanted. Did he want the heirs to have full access to his encrypted hard drive? What if there’s a porn collection?

Second, how about the email account — it may have important information about what bills need to be paid, but it might also have a secret correspondence with far-out political groups or a mistress that the decedent might not have wanted the survivors to see. Online social media accounts have additional complexities as some providers take the view that the contract terminates with death and thus make no attempt to preserve, or may even flush, the contents. Others have contract terms of service that routinely deny access to surviving family members, if only because that blanket rule may make life easier for the provider.

Laws prohibiting various sorts of unauthorized access, written with the living in mind, add another level of complexity as innocent attempts by family members to find out about the credit card bill or the phone bill may amount — in formal terms at least — to criminal actions punishable (in theory) like the worst forms of hacking; computer intermediaries (and lawyers!) may justly be nervous about enabling such access without clear advance directives from the deceased.

The panelists — Christina L. Kunz, James Lamm, Michael J. Mcguire, and Damien A. Riehl — did an excellent job of introducing this complex area of law to an audience composed mostly of neophytes like me.

I came away from James Lamm’s talk, for example, persuaded that I should execute an ‘Authorization and Consent for Release of Electronically Stored Information’ and also add a codicil to my will that covers access to electronic material stored in the cloud or elsewhere.

James Lamm, by the way, blogs at Digital Passing.

[Note (2/21): edited to conform to a very polite copyright-related request from Mr. Lamm. You’ll have to wait for his article, or consult him, for more details.]

Posted in Law: Internet Law | 1 Comment

Loomio — Enabling Group Decision-Making

Micah L. Sifry, a canny observer of social organizing and the internet, writes a very positive article about Loomio in Can Social Software Change the World? Loomio Just Might.

A taste:

At its heart, Loomio does just two things. First, it makes it easy for anyone in a Loomio group to initiate a topic for conversation. And second, it makes it easy for any group member to offer a proposal up for a vote. You can vote yes, no, abstain, or block. The software puts the vote results into a pie-chart, so at any point in the conversation about a decision, members of the group can see what the group as a whole is thinking. That’s it. It’s also easy for a group member to form a sub-group, like a committee that works on a narrower topic area.

Group decision-making online is the vacuum in current software architectures. It’s exciting to see initiatives designed to fill this important gap.

Previously: Civilized Discourse Construction Kit.

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment

These People are Really Strange

FreedomWorks Made Video of Fake Giant Panda Having Sex With Fake Hillary Clinton.

A Fake Giant Panda?

Yes. Really.

An internal investigation of FreedomWorks—the prominent conservative advocacy group and super-PAC—has focused on president Matt Kibbe’s management of the organization, his use of its resources, and a controversial book deal he signed, according to former FreedomWorks officials who have met with the private lawyers conducting the probe. One potential topic for the inquiry is a promotional video produced last year under the supervision of Adam Brandon, executive vice president of the group and a Kibbe loyalist. The video included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulates performing oral sex on Hillary Clinton. [Author’s note: The previous sentence contains no typos.]

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze | Leave a comment

Coral Gables is Having an Election

In keeping with its unfortunate pattern of having elections when nobody else does1 the City of Coral Gables is having an election April 9, 2013, for three seats on the Commission (one of whom is the Mayor who has a shorter term than other Commissioners). The electorate is small, as is the City: out of a population of about 48,000 there were 29,355 registered voters in Coral Gables as of 6/25/12. Voter registration for the coming election closes March 9 (29 days prior to the election).

Having the election in April of an off year may increase the odds that participants are higher-information or more motivated voters, but it surely must cost more than adding a few lines to the November ballot. I’d also think it tends to depress turnout — which could I suppose be seen as a feature by insiders.

The candidates in Group I (Mayor, two year term) are Ralph Cabrera and incumbent James Cason. Cabrera is an incumbent Commissioner but is term-limited for running to retain his current seat. Cabrera’s challenges in this campaign will be making a positive case for himself as a better choice than Cason. Although I’m no great fan of Cason’s, I would imagine few voters could identify much they think he’s done wrong; of those things, how many would Cabrera have done differently? Just saying that we’re better off with a long-term resident — Cabrera’s opening line — isn’t going to cut it. Suggestions floating around that Cabrera is former Mayor Slesnick’s revenge candidate probably won’t help much either. On the other hand, if you are like me, you might be put off by Cason’s anti-city-worker vibe, which manifested itself in Cason’s masterminding unilateral cuts to the City’s police pensions. Then again, I imagine that many city voters may approve.

Candidates in Group II (Commissioner, four year term) are Marlin Holland Ebbert, Ross Hancock, and Vicente Carlos Lago. Lago has the most signs in my neighborhood, possibly because he’s moving into a house down the street in a few weeks. Ross Hancock is the guy who came from nowhere to get within 1% — 2000 votes — of unseating Erik Freisen, our appallingly bad and until then seemingly impregnable State Rep., in the November 2012 election.

Group III (Commissioner, four year term) has five candidates: Jackson Rip Holmes, Patricia A. Keon, P.J. Mitchell, Norman Anthony Newell, and Mary Martin Young. Jackson Rip Holmes is a convicted felon who ran in 2011 and got 100 votes.

I may be a motivated voter but, like almost everyone I know in Coral Gables, I don’t start out as as particularly well informed about most of the candidates in this election — other than maybe the incumbents and repeat candidates. So far the few mailers we have had to the house are the kind consultants suggest candidates use as a get-acquainted device: they are all biography and civic memberships, and have nice pictures of the candidates with multi-generational families. They tell me almost nothing that I for one want to know.

So, in an effort to find out what I want to know, I’ve written to each of the candidates to ask them what they think the biggest issues are and what they would do about them. I’ll report here with the answers if I get them.

(Anyone know when the candidates’ forums will be held?)


  1. If memory serves, candidate and now Commissioner Frank C. Quesada promised to try to fix that? []
Posted in Coral Gables | 4 Comments

Beat My Score

I got 50% on the Prof or Hobo? Quiz, a score that equals what I could have expected from guessing randomly. No doubt readers can do better.

Update: I do somewhat better, however, on arXiv vs. snarXiv in which one is asked to guess which are the real titles of physics papers. Not that this is easy.

Posted in Completely Different | 5 Comments

About that Stadium

Just about everything that is wrong with the discussion about the Miami Dolphins’ attempt to hold up the taxpayers of Miami-Dade county for a giant bit of corporate welfare is visible from the first sentence of Sunday’s Miami Herald story on the leadtrial balloon:

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to seek voter approval of tax dollars for Sun Life Stadium, with team executives dropping their objections to a referendum on the controversial plan, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The Dolphins have “agreed” to let voters be consulted directly! Get that? We can’t have a referendum unless they agree? It’s as if Miami-Dade were negotiating with another sovereignty — a county in Texas, or a country in South America. Next if we are lucky we will read that Dolphins have “agreed” to follow certain locals laws that they happen to approve of.

Sorry guys. Taxpayer-funded stadiums are just about always a bad idea. Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Owners game the system, pitting municipalities against each other, and abandoning cities that don’t subsidize them … and sometimes abandoning those that subsidize them if some other town makes a better taxpayer-subsidized offer.
  • The economics behind the supposed financial benefits is highly suspect: mostly they do not exist. See Dennis Coats & Brad Humphreys, The Stadium Gambit and Local Economic Development, 23:2 Regulation 15 (2000). In any case, there are many other capital improvements one could make with that kind of money that would show a much larger return. (The right question isn’t “will this show a benefit” but rather “compared to what”.)
  • In addition to the teams’ multi-millionaire (or billionaire) owners, the big winners are the corporations and .1%ers who get to use the skyboxes added to the stadium.
  • Ticket prices to the events are beyond the means of many of the very taxpayers who have to pay for the project.

In addition to those generic problems, this particular stadium upgrade, now, is a super-bad idea for these extra reasons:

  • To whatever limited extent the area will benefit from increased tourism revenue, Broward county will get about half the benefit — but the savvy authorities in Broward have said they won’t pay a penny (and there will be no referendum there, either!).
  • Super Bowl weekend will overlap the Boat Show, when hotels are sold out anyway. Not only will there be no extra benefit to the area in terms of occupancy but there will be chaos. I suppose there may also be price gouging, which might feel like a benefit to the hoteliers in the short run, but that just risks driving the Boat Show away in the long run.
  • Our elected officials can’t be trusted to negotiate a decent deal – or to ensure taxpayers benefit from any profits.

This proposal is worse than socialism: in Miami we socialize the (high) costs of stadiums, but privatize the benefits.

Here’s a modest proposal: How about, as a condition of any proposal that we pay for this turkey, we require that 15% of the tickets — including some of the good seats — be given away free by lottery (limited to local taxpayers) for every home game?

Posted in Econ & Money, Miami | 1 Comment