Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What are we defending?

I found a good quote by a person with the Twitter handle of Indigenous and who displays Native art on the home page:
If the U.S. can’t afford to protect the environment, build bridges or teach children anymore, then what exactly is it defending with its military budget?

Sydette, a Twitter user, tweeted:
… oh my god y’all really think #metoo is just getting a backlash? … it’s gonna be all out WAR for YEARS. Are y’all really that new?

Several others echoed the sentiment that what women are experiencing is much more than a simple backlash. They also provide examples. In the discussion Twitter user Manoushka quotes Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale:

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.

A clash between views

Jessica Mason Pieklo, writing for Rewire, offers another review of the case of the bigoted baker before the Supremes last week. A few of her observations.

Noel Francisco argued the case for the nasty guy’s Department of Justice. He has ties to at least one extreme right think tank (though the group tried to hide the connection so Francisco would be seen as unbiased) and was probably well schooled.
Francisco insisted that under the Colorado law, a Black baker would be forced to create a cake for the Ku Klux Klan. This is a point the conservative justices jumped on, despite knowing that the KKK is not a protected class and therefore not subject to the same anti-discrimination protection as a same-sex couple.

Pieklo then focuses on Anthony Kennedy, who has been balancing the dignity of LGBT people with the dignity of religious people. In the same-sex marriage case Kennedy was on our side. In the Hobby Lobby case (in which the company was given permission to not provide contraceptive services for its employees) Kennedy was on their side. This baker case is a clash between Kennedy’s two views.

So Pieklo thinks Kennedy may not fully support our side. And whatever he decides his reasoning will be mushy.

Delighted with wrong prediction

I predicted yesterday that in the Alabama special Senate election scoundrel Roy Moore would win. I am delighted that my prediction was wrong. Democrat Doug Jones won by enough of a margin that there won’t be an automatic recount.

I said the GOP was cheating. Ari Berman, who wrote the book Give Us the Ballot; the Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, confirms it. He lists the ways the cheating was done in a tweet, so I’ll expand a bit.

Police at polling stations. This has an intimidation factor. Also in previous elections police have checked voters for outstanding warrants, a big deterrent.

Voters listed as inactive. This is likely a surprise to many regular voters.

Long lines at polls. That can be accomplished by not supplying enough voting machines (of course, plenty of machines in affluent areas) or being really slow when a machine stops working. People in long lines have a higher tendency to give up.

Voters told they have the wrong ID. Of course, people who don’t drive (likely can’t afford a car) don’t have a drivers license. In addition, after saying the driver's license is one of a few acceptable IDs, Alabama, claiming a budget crisis, closed DMV offices in counties where blacks make up more than 75% of the voters.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville says, yeah, there was some cheating. But that fraudulent Election Integrity Commission didn’t pull out all of its sinister dirty tricks yet because Roy Moore wasn’t worth exposing them before 2018. So stay vigilant.

I had lunch with my friend and debate partner today. And we debated. A bit. He thought the accusations of Roy Moore being a pedophile were unproveable, irrelevant, and a sideshow. The real issue, with very little mention in the media, is that Moore has no respect for the rule of law. The evidence is that Moore was twice removed from the Alabama Supremes for defying the national Supremes. That should have been what disqualified him from being a Senator.

While I agree with my friend I’m not so dismissive of Moore’s sexual assaults. I’ve concluded that how a politician treats women, LGBT people, and minorities is a good indication of the kinds of policies they will promote and whether I’ll agree with those policies. So, yes, Moore had no respect for the rule of law, which should disqualify him. And also Moore treats everyone but white Christian men like dirt and that also disqualifies him.

The political question is now which of those disqualifications will sway the most voters?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No surprise

On the way home from rehearsal this evening I heard in the 10:00 NPR news that in the Alabama special Senate election the race is too close to call with 70% of the vote counted. Even so, I’m going to make the disappointing prediction that the scoundrel (don’t have enough room for all the adjectives) Roy Moore will win. I make that prediction based on a little bit of evidence.

The GOP is cheating.

Come on now. Don’t act so surprised. Infuriated, yes. Surprised, no.

The details:

John Merrill is Secretary of State in Alabama. He was an election monitor in Russia and declared their election to be “free and fair.” It wasn’t. He said he would implement Russian tactics in Alabama.

I previously reported on voter suppression.

Today voters are being turned away because they have been declared “inactive” or told they have the wrong ID.

I would be delighted to wake up tomorrow and hear that my prediction is wrong.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The partisan outcome would never have been possible

As I’ve mentioned a few times now I’m part of the campaign to end gerrymandering in Michigan (the campaign website explaining gerrymandering is here). So I’m quite interested when I find links to articles on the issue. Especially one that can satisfy my inner geek.

Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at the University of Chicago, wrote an opinion column for The Inquirer of Philadelphia. Like Michigan, Pennsylvania is highly gerrymandered. Like Michigan the voters are about evenly balanced between Dems and GOP. Yet, the GOP sent 13 representatives to Congress while the Dems sent only 5.

Back in 2004 the Supremes heard a case about gerrymandering in PA. The justices said we don’t like gerrymandering but we don’t know how to measure it. Another case, based on the 2011 redistricting, is before the PA Supremes with a ruling expected by the end of the month.

Since the 2004 case political scientists got to work. Last year I’ve discussed one measure that came out of that work, called the efficiency gap. This news article mentions a couple more. It doesn’t describe them, though does link to the scholarly papers (as PDF) that were presented in court. I took a look at the one under the link “maps” written by Jowei Chen, Ph.D, an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan who has testified in several gerrymandering cases.

Chen used a computer simulation that randomly drew districts and compared the results with what the lawmakers drew. Chen lays the goals (which gives you an idea whether you want to read the rest of the paper).
By randomly drawing districting plans with a process designed to optimize on traditional districting criteria, the computer simulation process thus gives us a precise indication of the range of districting plans that plausibly and likely emerge when map-drawers are not motivated primarily by partisan goals. By comparing enacted plans against the range of simulated plans with respect to partisan measurements, I am able to determine the extent to which a map-drawer’s deviations from traditional districting criteria, such as geographical compactness and county splits, was motivated by partisan goals.
The traditional criteria for districts are: population equality (specified in the federal constitution), being contiguous, avoiding county splits, avoiding municipality splits, and geographic compactness.

Chen randomly created 500 maps using the traditional criteria. Then applied precinct voting data to each map and to the enacted map. Then he ran all his statistical measurements to the created maps and the enacted map. Finally, he drew some tables and charts.

For example, The random maps gave the GOP 7 to 10 districts, with 54% of the maps giving the GOP 9 out of 18 seats (what the overall vote tallies suggest they should get). None of the maps gave the GOP more than 10 seats. And yet the enacted map gave them 13. Chen supplied 3 more graphs of various measures. In all of them the random maps were all clustered over here and the enacted map was way over there. Chen wrote:
I thus conclude with overwhelmingly high statistical certainty that the enacted plan created a pro-Republican partisan outcome that would never have been possible under a districting process adhering to non-partisan traditional criteria.

Stephanopoulos tackles some of the arguments the GOP lawyers tried in court. In one of those arguments professor Wendy Tam Cho said that all those hundreds of simulated maps may not be representative of all possible lawful maps. Stephanopoulos says that’s true but irrelevant. All those maps do prove (1) there are hundreds of maps that are more fair, and (2) Pennsylvania geography (in which Dems tend to cluster in cities) didn’t cause the GOP to get the extra seats. The other GOP arguments are just as logically flawed.