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Redistricting and “Gerrymandering”: A Fight for the Soul of Democracy

2017-10-06

The Supreme Court held oral arguments the other day on a critically important gerrymandering case from Wisconsin.

The facts of this case are these: the Republican Party of Wisconsin, buoyed by a big election win and a temporary legislative majority, took over the redrawing of that state’s district lines in 2010 and applied a computer program to yield district lines that assured them maximum bias for their elections.  The following election, in 2012, gave the Republicans, with 48.6% of the vote statewide, 60 of the 99 representatives in the state Assembly.  In 2014, they garnered 63 seats with 52% of the vote (figures are from Time magazine’s website.)  Similar tactics have yielded a federal House that is majority Republican despite a minority of voters.

Someone sued, and the case has wound its way through the courts for five years, now finally appearing at the Supreme Court.  This case is the reason that it was so important to prevent Barack Obama from nominating a Supreme Court Justice when Antonin Scalia died.

If this case is decided in favor of the Republicans, it will have a distinct negative effect on Democratic representation.  The Republicans will have more time to persuade people of color to vote white before they become submerged by the inevitable demographic tide of non-white people and suffer the fate of California, the first minority white state.

(I’m telling you there’s going to be trouble!  Right here in River City!)

 

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Comment of the Day: Fascism Should be Called Corporatism

2017-10-06

Jim Vance

Taylor, TX 1 day ago

“Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
–Benito Mussolini. (from Encyclopedia Italiana, Giovanni Gentile, editor)

A statement that has never been more true than today with the current Administration as its primary evidence.

Fascism, authoritarianism, capitalism, democracy, socialism: all words that are poorly understood and induce strong emotional reactions.

Teaser: I have almost finished reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and I am hard at work on a point-by-point comparison of Adolf Hitler and Donald J. Trump.

     

    I Don’t Recommend That You Do Anything Illegal

    2017-10-05

    In particular, I absolutely do not advocate the assassination of Donald J. Trump (nor do I consider a package deal including Pence and Ryan any better.)   Nor should you emulate the tactics of one Stephen Paddock by massacring people at random.  WP_20170914_009

    [The previous sentence was included as a test to see how overburdened the Secret Service really is.]

    Comment of the Day: Sellout to Russia

    2017-10-05

    Kathy Lollock

    Santa Rosa, CA 16 hours ago

    Which seems ages ago, but was just a few months’ back, Comey predicted – in fact was certain – that the Russians will interfere with our 2018 elections if not stopped. So here we are..awaiting a Republican-led Congress to not only admit what we already know about the reality of Russian interference but also, more importantly, to do something to prevent it. Our nation has among the finest technical minds in the world to be able to use our own digital “missile” system, so to speak. But no direction or requests from either Congress or, not surprisingly, this administration. So the GOP moves at a turtle’s pace so as not to disclose the full truth of this past election. Trump lies and blocks and tries to deceive us, with the emphasis on “tries.” And the Democrats can only do so much, actually pretty much nothing. This is a disgrace. But what should we expect? The writing has been on the walls for the entire 8 years President Obama was in office. That is, that these Republican politicians will do anything, even sell our nation, to the highest bidder (in this case Putin) to hang onto power. But the joke is on them. They, too, will lose power when we become a puppet nation.

    zb

    Miami 9 hours ago

    To blame Twitter, Google, Facebook for this is a little like blaming jet engine manufacturers for a war. Sure the engine manufacturers have an interest in promoting sales but ultimately it is our leaders, politicians, and yes, the public at large that says how, when and if they are used.

    When it comes to Russian meddling it is less about exploitation of the media that is at the crux of the problem, and more about a population already well primed to believe any story that fed their pre-conceived positions. Russian meddling largely offered confirmation of what rightwing tending voters already believed or wanted to hear. Their audience was ready and more then willing to be duped.

    Favoring news that confirms ones preconception is a fairly common trait and there is blame that can be spread around for exploiting such tendencies, but it must be said that the Rightwing, helped by the likes of FOX, Breibert, Limbaugh, and many other similar outlets made it their mission to create an incendiary environment, which even the most reasonable of Republicans were happy to exploit and readily gave credibility to.

    The more Trump attacks legitimate news outlets with the “fake news” label, the more we know he is really talking about himself and much of the media on the right and the more he primes the population for Russian meddling. The more Republicans and rightwing media are silent on his incessant lying the more culpable they are in it.

    Birddog

    Oregon 3 hours ago

    To me the saddest thing about this new warning about the renewed attempts from the Russians to hack, infltrate and influence our political and electoral system is the fact that we have an Administration led by a fellow who flatly denies any possibility that the Russians are and have been actively engaged in a modern form of espionage or e-warfare with our country, and that he calls any reports, to the contrary , “Fake News”. To make it worse, the current occupant of the White House has convinced many of his followers here in the US (including many ex-military service men and people who may have children serving in the military) that these warnings are hyperbole at best, and assures them they are only politically motivated.

    So now, we have a situation facing the country that involves being aware that a foreign adversary has already infiltrated and disrupted our electoral process and, in fact, has plans in place to continue to do so, but that due to our own helplessness caused by political divisions and the unrepentant influence from our own nation’s highest offical and his Administration, we can look forward to more subterfuge, electronic warfare and widespread confusion in our governmental process for several years to come.

    uae

    DC 1 day ago

    The most important aspect of all of this is most of the time ignored:

    whether trump conspired with the Russians to corrupt and steal the election (let’s drop the lame wording already — ‘collusion’ — and call things for what they are) matters, but only so much.

    The key point is already clear, no more investigation needed (although it must absolutely go on) — Russia, America’s enemy, wanted trump to become president!
    Let’s be clear about what that means — they knew that trump would cause great damage to the US, and being the US’ enemy that’s what they wanted to happen.
    This is really all we need to know about trump’s fitness (and fundamental lack thereof) for this office.
    Unless you think that the Russians were mistaken in their assessment of the danger trump would pose to Russia’s enemy number one, the US? Or that the Russians are not the US’ enemy and actually mean well?

    Once you fully consider this point the issue of ‘collusion’ becomes, almost, secondary.
    The key point is this: trump was placed into the White House by the Russians with the goal of causing grave damage to the US. And we know that for a fact. And their plan is working out perfectly from their point of view.

       

      Comments of the Day: Don the Con’s Pathological Narcissism

      2017-10-05

      these comments appeared in response to a Paul Krugman column titled, “Trump’s Deadly Narcissism”

      Richard Luettgen

      is a trusted commenter New Jersey September 29, 2017

      Jefferson and Hamilton could have been characterized as “narcissists”, although their intellects likely shielded them from the worst consequences. Then again, one theory about the motivation for the duel with Burr that resulted in Hamilton’s death could have been a carelessness on Hamilton’s part occasioned by narcissistic over-confidence.

      Garfield was by all accounts a narcissist, although any threat to us was cut rather short by his assassination. LBJ was more transparently a narcissist than any other person who served as president before Trump. Even more than Bill Clinton, which is going some.

      By one way or another, we survived all of them. It’s likely we’ll survive Trump, as well.

      It’s entertaining that for so many years a majority of Americans disapproved of Barack Obama as president and Paul dismissed those polls with contempt. Now, of course, similar polls on Trump have taken on a miraculous legitimacy. Quelle surprise.

      Paul first admits that it’s hard to quantify the federal response to the very real humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, then criticizes it anyway, blaming Trump’s “narcissism”. He might at least await Monday’s column, when we’re likely to know a lot more about what’s being done; but that wouldn’t support a charge of narcissistic neglect today. Quelle ne fut pas ma surprise.

      Rima Regas

      is a trusted commenter Southern California September 29, 2017

      Richard,

      Trump lied to his voters. He still lies to them almost on an hourly basis on Twitter, telling them things like he has the votes to repeal Obamacare and the only reason the last repeal failed is because a senator is in the hospital. That’s a lie. As you know, no senator was in the hospital and the one senator who is very ill, John McCain, again voted no. The biggest lie, though, was Trump’s campaign promise to replace Obamacare with something cheaper and much better. That part was never crafted, either by the House, Senate, or that jet-setting Secretary of Health and (In)Human Services, Tom Price who, so far, has managed to spend a half million dollars on private jets and military airplanes but is only reimbursing the public $56,000. Three other cabinet members have been abusing public funds in this way, while unraveling America’s social contract.

      It isn’t just Trump that’s unfit, but an entire party that is beholden to Trump, the Kochs, Mercers, Adelson, and all the other oligarchs. Trump’s cabinet is highly representative of what the GOP now is and it is performing exactly those things it has always aimed to do.


      While Trump tweets away… Democracy is being undone
      https://www.rimaregas.com/2017/08/26/while-trump-tweets-away-democracys-…

      bb

      Washington DC September 29, 2017

      Richard,
      I am professionally qualified to tell you that narcissism is of different types, and that Trump’s narcissism is of such severity and of such a nature that it relies on active aggression and active denial of reality. In fact, it is psychotic in that it is driven by a grandiosity that will not be defeated, and that grandiosity denies reality, creates its own fantasy assertion of reality, and asserts and projects that, as he must always feel superordinate. This response is meant to be brief and in plain English. It is plainly observable that Trump does these things, and that his problems of thought and subsequent behavior are incomparable to any known predecessor.

      The Politics of Compassion, Part III Continued

      2017-09-30

      Campaign Financing

      The current methods of financing have been described as a money race and a longing for public financing has been shown.  Unfortunately, public financing may be simply impossible in the current atmosphere.  Attention to our methods of financing has been rewarding in the past but spending more than your opponent doesn’t get you a win.  Campaigns target the candidate’s most charismatic side, if the candidate can excite a crowd.  If not, there is little that can be done.  Propaganda supporting the campaign platform is given mass distribution, and variations of the message should be numerous; seeing the same message over and over again is likely to make the observer tune out.

      Given that the legal rules that apply to campaign financing are the same for both parties, there is no ethical bar to Democrats creating PACs and other financing “tricks” (cheats.)  There are probably a significant number of extremely wealthy people who are interested in contributing to Democratic causes, possibly just as many as those who contribute to the other side.  Using their money is not illegal, nor under the current circumstances is it unethical.

      Selection of Candidates

      A nationwide search for a politician with charisma needs to be undertaken.  Without that, there is little help for the campaign.  In the 2016 presidential election, the Republican had all the charisma, even though he was a disgusting person; that charisma made the difference among rural white, uneducated voters whose votes have a disproportionate effect on the Electoral College.  There is a sad need for a John F. Kennedy-like figure who can make people feel loved and cared for.

      A Note on the Democratic Platform, “Reparations”, and Compassion

      While the word “reparations” is fraught with unpleasant meanings to those who feel that they would suffer from reparations, a better word would be “affirmative action.”  Since so many minority children have been deprived of adequate nutrition and adequate guidance as well as early education, applying affirmative action early in life would have the most effect.  Training of children to make them more competitive with their peers by compensatory schooling is the best way to create an affirmative solution to the problems of poverty and race.  Programs that give children money for doing well in school would go a long way towards improving the economy around the school as well as training children to believe that they can get ahead by applying themselves.  It will take time to raise up a class of better-prepared students to go to medical and graduate school, but that is the best way to solve the problem of under-representation of minority blacks and Hispanics in the professions.

      Nonetheless, the Democratic Party needs to become the party of compassion for everyone and help to all those who need it.  Only then will it deserve to win the elections.  Propaganda has painted the Democrats as elitist and uncaring about poor white people, as well as being hypocritical towards minorities; they are derided as playing “issue politics.”  This negative propaganda needs to be contradicted by showing compassion for all the people displaced by the destruction of manufacturing industries and coal mines, with intensive programs to rehabilitate and support people unemployed by factory closures.  These are the people who have been hurt by the changes in society over the last forty or fifty years.  They need reparations too.

       

      The Politics of Compassion: Short Version, Part III

      2017-09-30

      Note to the reader: I have been working on this idea for a long time and have posted it twice, this last June and August, As The Politics of Compassion, Parts I and II.  It is to save the Democratic Party and win the elections for a change, then get a supermajority in Congress.  I wanted to re-establish the Democrats, because they are the most likely to show compassion in the allocation of the resources at hand.  By compassion, I mean the Buddhist concept.

      To recapitulate for emphasis: the Democratic Party needs a platform, propaganda, and voter turnout.  These three legs of an election program are all critical to democratic success.

      Fight for our legal rights

      We will start by assuming an equal playing field but if the leadership of the Democratic Party learns that, for any reason, a level playing field is not available, special tactics must be introduced.  Should gerrymandering be present, or active attempts at voter suppression, these must be dealt with by lawyers expert in these fields.  When there are thugs beating up people in the street, physical force by protesters trained in street brawling should be enlisted.  If the paper ballot is being corrupted by computer malware then expert hackers should be employed.

      The Democratic Party Platform

      The first leg of the Party should be its platform.  This is most important because it is, after all, what we are fighting for.  The platform should be egalitarian, democratic, and oriented towards the human rights of the individual member of the Party (and indeed the rights of all people) , particularly when the member is discriminated against because of color or gender (or gender preference, for that matter.)  The platform should support strong central and state governments (local governments too) that collect taxes according to ability to pay up to, say, 50% of a high-earning individual’s income, but no more than half his income could be taxed away (a sop to those who fear the Roosevelt-Eisenhower days of 70% taxes.)  When pressed, the Party can point out that the vast majority of the democratically voting population stands to benefit by higher taxes on the 1%, and economic studies have shown the economy to be stimulated significantly by higher taxes when fairly collected.  In addition, we should say that the burden of taxes should fall on those with the greatest ability to pay.  Then sometimes the IRS has to be militarized.  No, just kidding.

      One of the problems that low income taxes on the wealthy related to the poor cause is exaggeration of wealth inequality.  Low taxes enhance inequality.  High levels of inequality are associated with social unrest and civil rebellion and that is bad.  The point is that the very poorest members of society desperately need some sort of social safety net to protect them from becoming homeless, with nothing to lose, and liable to throw their lives away in some desperate, violent act of protest.  So taxes must, at least protect these members of society from their circumstances with a roof over their heads, a bed, a hot meal, and a job to go to.

      Central and peripheral governments

      These strong central governments will be oriented towards problems that affect the nation as a whole, particularly foreign affairs.  At the same time, the federal government must have departments that embody the concepts listed in the Preamble to the Constitution in order to implement attempts to manage those problems.  In addition, such things that already exist in some form such as a Department of Highways and Bridges should be included and should be oriented towards coordination of state efforts, supervision of the awarding of federal grant money, and so on.  Peripheral governments will be oriented towards infrastructure maintenance and development; local policing; housing the homeless; local emergency planning; fire and medical services; and other strictly local problems.  Sometimes it will be necessary to change our current government in fairly small ways, to add services for the homeless for example.

      One of the canards of the Republican Party has always been that we have too much government, it should be shrunk and simplified, it is taking aways our Rights, and so on.  Not to say that they are wrong, but we do have significantly less government than the European, or other civilized countries, with the exception that we seem to have many more men in prison than any other country.  As Democrats we should be disturbed by this and in favor of the rehabilitation of the criminal and the protection of his rights (but not at the expense of his fellow citizens.)  Drug treatment, humane confinement, parole, and the provision of jobs with living wages to ex-prisoners should be priorities of a Democratically-led penal system.

      A necessary component of government will be an active Inspector General in each and every major department of government.  Only regular and careful internal inspection can ensure that the departments are not wasteful of funds, do not show unfair preferences, and do not create an atmosphere of bribery or corruption.

      Current deficiencies in the system

      The Democratic Party has a platform but it is probably not well-known to voters.  Elections have been about the politician, not about his plans for his office.  Revision of the platform to make it simpler and clearer is important to the development of a plan for winning the election.  Most people don’t realize that they are voting for principles of human equality, fair play, and support for everyone.  They think that, in voting for Democrats, they are voting for “tax and spend” or rights for minorities with whom they are not connected– since the majority of voters are still white and privileged in some way.  White women seem to show distinct attitudes of privilege even though they are still restricted by lower wages than white men.  In the last election, 53% of white women voted for Don the Con.

      The platform must make it clear that the principles of fair taxation and the need for redistribution of a portion of the nation’s income– a portion that everyone can afford to contribute.  Currently, taxation takes away a larger proportion of the poor person’s income than of the wealthy person’s.  This is not fair.  Wealthy people should contribute their fair share towards the maintenance of the state: infrastructure, administration, and support of health, education, and food and housing.  The wealthy are disproportionately greater users of the resources needed by all people, for example, the air, which they use for their private jets to take them wherever they want to go.  In addition, the wealthy take up a larger proportion of the policeman’s time in guarding them and their houses.  So for them to say they don’t need the government is hypocritical.

      At the same time, the platform must support human equality and freedom.  The country has come a long way in a very short time.  Gay marriage has just been recognized as legal recently and not everyone agrees with the Supreme Court on this.  So human equality and human rights are things that still need to be fought for.

      Democratic propaganda

      Democratic propaganda is traditional but now needs to place an emphasis on new internet-based methods of targeting and the production of new, short items such as six-second videos that will fit on social media, photos with pithy sayings, publication of news that is unbiased and points out Republican-caused weaknesses in the economy and incidents of discrimination, and on and on.

      By “internet-based methods” I refer to the Republican use of Cambridge Analytica with Russian help to develop targeted lists of people who were sent specific types of advertising based on their profiles.  Perhaps I should use “alleged” in the previous sentence, but I don’t think so.

      Propaganda must be factual because there is no advantage in repeating obvious lies.  If only factual information is spread, the listeners will gradually come to trust the source better than the enemy’s source.

      Voter Turnout

      Turning out the voter is a critical part of the process– it cannot be ignored if winning is contemplated.  Using targeted voter lists to determine, and verify that every person has an opportunity to vote, local party organization should determine if they can provide necessary transportation.  It may be economical to hire a bus to take groups of people who are contacted beforehand and express a need for transportation (or else the local party member has determined that they probably have a need, see also the targeted voter lists.)  In fact, in some urban areas, it may be possible to hire a bus that will take almost anybody to the polls and provide propaganda on the bus.