Fred Williams

Court blesses city attorney's email practice

Dorian...please tell us the story of Gerry Braunn. It will be fascinating to find how he rose from reporter at the UT to deep-insider. With the decline of middle-class journalism careers, more and more we see former writers attempting what Gerry has seemingly perfected. I believe a lot of readers would like to learn how he managed this, and the results. He's not the first (John Kern) to move from reporting on city hall to being an operative, but he's probably one of the most under-reported insiders San Diego has today. Please, tell us Gerry Braunn's story... As to the emails...if you're an elected official, government employee, or just someone with an IQ above room temperature who uses a computer occasionally, you ought to already know that emails should always be written so they could be published on the front page of the paper without embarrassment...or don't write it. Goldsmith and spokesmouth Braun can try to wave this away as a non-story, but as a former legislator and judge he ought to promote public policy and even (gasp!) morality before lawerly evasions and equivocations. In the end, they were required to release the emails. Frankly, if it were only Goldsmith, this wouldn't be such an issue. But we all know this is a nationwide (worldwide) problem. Using multiple modes of communication to circumvent public disclosure is an affront to democracy, open government, and everything Goldsmith has sworn to uphold. His example emboldens members of the city council to use Facebook and other tools in circumventing open government. As a judge, former legislator, and now city attorney, Goldsmith cannot hide behind fine words in support of principles he does not follow himself...unless sued by a tenacious litigant, where he'll drag his heels and make years of excuses instead of doing the right thing in the first place and simply releasing the emails when they were requested. After all, as Goldsmith's law enforcement friends say, "if he's got nothing to hide..."
— November 5, 2015 2:01 a.m.

California imposes no-chew law for big leagues

Only want to repeat what I've said before...traditional chewing tobacco and Swedish Snus are very different products, not to be conflated. Chaw is fermented. Snus is not. Chaw is put directly into contact with your mouth. Snus is not. There is considerable research on the subject if you're interested in learning more, and the consensus seems to be that snus is not associated with oral, esophogeal, or gastric cancers. That doesn't mean Swedish snus is harmless...but compared with the alternatives, the choice is clear. Harm reduction is something that's often ignored in these discussions. A lot of people I know (especially my friends in Stockholm) use snus to reduce or stop smoking. While snus is not 100% safe (nothing is) it's well established that it's far less damaging to health than cigarettes. From the World Health Organization: "Sweden is the only country to have reached the WHO goal of reducing cigarette smoking to less than 20% of the adult population. Sweden has one of the most effective anti-smoking policies in Europe, measured by the significant reduction of the numbers of smokers. Snus has played an important role in achieving this goal, since 54% of the snus consumers are ex-smokers." So based on the evidence, it's clear that if you are a nicotine user, you'd be well-advised to replace cigarettes or chewing tobacco with snus. It's not harmless, but undoubtedly a lot less harmful. Additionally, since there's no spitting involved...for all you pro-baseball players, you can use snus and no one will be the wiser. So if you want to avoid this ban, just switch to snus.
— October 13, 2015 4:37 a.m.

Bitcoin ATM machine for Ocean Beach

Hi Twister and Don. I'm actually in Prague, Czech Republic. Sorry to have set off some abusive commenters heaping calumny on your innocent head, Don. Forgive them, for they know not of what they speak. To all those who jumped on Don: Please know that he's one of the best informed and most thoughtful writers on issues of economics. We're lucky to have such a man write for us. That doesn't mean that Don is always right. But unlike most thin-skinned so-called journalists, he's willing and able to admit when he's wrong, and he's eager to participate in discussions with commenters. I would never waste my time correcting most journalists...they'll just resent it. Don Bauder is different. He's great. I really admire him. So knock off the insults. Again, the bit chain is quite interesting. Don, like 99% of the world, doesn't understand all the mechanics behind it, and is wary of promoting it. This is a perfectly reasonable stance. The instances of fraud and theft and manipulation that have been reported, even if eliding the difficult bits of the story, cannot be ignored. Bit coin, like any new currency, is inherently risky. It's still a gamble. That's indisputable. I only corrected some technical aspects of Don's article. I agree wholeheartedly with Don's conclusions and recommendation to stay away unless you are willing to gamble. But again, this isn't due to the underlying's the current implementation that can be improved (and WILL improve). Articles like this are actually a sign of the interest the technology is generating. So when Don Bauder takes notice, even if he gets some of it wrong, you might take away the message that this will only get bigger, and hopefully much better. As for the political aspects...yes, there's a strong anti-government/libertarian following for alternative currencies. Again, this doesn't automatically make it suspect (or perfect) it's just the reality of the world we live in. You could have similarly criticized the 17th century development of stock markets as reactionary in the face of royal manipulations of currencies and contracts...and that also would have done nothing to stop its progression. Don, one other point I might make...the company with the bitcoin ATM is actually performing a vital service that could ameliorate your complaints. By acting as a counter-party to bit coin transactions, they actually reduce the risk of holding bit coins as a currency. Now you can exchange the bit coins for cash. That strengthens the long term security of the fledgling currency rather than weakening it. So I still urge you to read some more about the math behind bit coins, and consider its potentially disruptive nature. Having an ATM to trade bit coins for cash isn't an invitation for the unwary to be robbed. It's an expression of confidence and evidence of the real world value of this new way of storing value. best, Fred
— October 12, 2015 1:57 a.m.

Bitcoin ATM machine for Ocean Beach

Hi Don, I have to correct you, slightly. First, it's misleading to say there are counterfeit coins in a block chain. Bitcoin is simply a public ledger. Coins do not exist by themselves. The ledger is a collections of agreements that each address in the system owns some number of coins. The resources to counterfeit this would have to be enormous, and would be very quickly detected. Second, all systems that allow user account access, such as your online bank account, are hackable. That is not unique to bitcoin. Using public key cryptography, digital signatures, and cryptographic hashing, along with peer-to-peer networking and Merkle trees, the advantage of block chain technology is that everyone can trace every single transaction forever and there is no way that any of the data can ever be changed once it is committed into the record. The "chain" cannot be broken. This is not true of traditional banking databases. Additionally, from the macro-economic perspective, a currency independent of central bankers provides protection from governmental currency manipulation. A risk you didn't mention. Instead the rules for the expansion of any block chain dependent money supply are transparent. (Not the same as stable, which is why I own no bitcoins.) There's potential application of this technology into many fields beyond currency. Think of land registries and other kinds of ownership assertion currently under governmental monopoly. Because of their newness, novelty, and media-darling/devil status, the fledgling block chain based currencies are indeed highly risky...but not because of the underlying technology, which is based on better models than what we have in banks today. With the promise of greater transparency, drastically reduced transaction costs, and freedom from politically-based manipulation, there is potential for block chains (not just Bitcoin or digital currencies of the month) to be revolutionary in the creation, tracking, and maintenance of important records, including those for the notion of storing value as "money". Yes, your account can be compromised. As with all such systems. And I'll add extra emphasis on your important point that there's as of today no reliable recovery mechanism. You don't even mention some other risks. Yet Bitcoin, as the most prominent representative of an applied block chain, ought not be so blithely dismissed. Yes, it's today more a gambling mechanism than a mature currency. But a warning to beware, without mentioning the very interesting and compelling reasons this could be the future of transparent, but private, government independent record keeping for objects/stores of value...makes your brief post incomplete. best, Fred
— October 7, 2015 12:48 a.m.

Seaside Courier debuts in North County

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