Monday, January 21, 2013

Electoral votes, gerrymandering and politics redux... what you can do

== Citizens can fight back without waiting for courts or politicians ==

Yes I am talking about you.  And you don't have to agitate or march or petition or write your Congress-critter.

Here's my one final point about gerrymandering and all of that. As I have said repeatedly, there is a way that citizens can rebel against the foul crime committed by both parties against our right to vote. Sure, try all the methods I described last time. Push for other blues states to follow California and Washington by going to neutral (and sane) districting.  Push ballot initiatives. Make a major issue out of the fact that all red states adamantly refuse to stop blatantly cheating. Take it to court... 

...but while all of that is simmering, there is something each of us can do, as individuals. A simple but effective measure.

Re-register to be a member of whatever party rules your district.

Think.  Except in a few blessed states where citizens rebelled, the politicians have rigged electoral maps so you're in district that's overwhelmingly either democratic or republican. This is why especially GOP office holders only care about primaries and their radical base, not the average citizen. But this scheme will fall apart if all the democrats in a republican-gerried district simply re-register as republicans!  (Or vice versa in Dem-gerried districts.)

cloutWhat will you lose?  Nothing. In fact, you may get a giggle out of shocking your friends with your official party ID!

It does not commit you to that party's agenda.  In merely allows you to vote in the only contest that matters, the primary.

And suddenly, you gain clout! You might make a difference between (say) two republicans, one of them a screeching dogma-harpy and the other a somewhat reasonable Goldwater-type who believes in science and pragmatism, along with a creative free market.  Even if you disagree with the latter candidate over a million matters, she or he is more likely to negotiate.  And possibly even listen to folks like you. Heck, if enough folks follow your lead and re-register, that might encourage the Goldwater types to step up.

This assertion was proved absolutely true when California switched to non-partisan elections, and suddenly two dems were fighting it out in liberal leaning districts. (Gerrymandering as it declines: Surprising results!) And lo... both dems suddenly discovered: "We got a lot of republicans here. If I talk to them, they might help me win." Suddenly, in lefty Santa Monica, long time conservatives who thought their vote would never count woke up to find candidates eager to shake their hands.

Seriously. This is the short term solution.  If the pols rig things so that one party owns a district, then join that party! All you will do is expand the power of your vote and undermine their vile scheme. You'll throw all the connivers' calculations into a cocked hat.  It's called jiu jitsu. We need to become good at it.

And now...

...I had allowed a fair number of political matters to pile up.  So let me follow that last posting with a potpourri of items.

== A sober assessment of 2030 ==

2030According to a new report, Global Trends 2030, prepared by the National Intelligence Council, comprising the 17 U.S. government intelligence agencies. "We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures."

Much of the 2030 report highlights potentially positive developments, anticipating a healthier, more educated and more prosperous global population and a trend toward greater democracy. The report also warns about resource conflicts, the danger of nuclear war and global political gridlock. But its writers have nevertheless faced some criticism for an overly "optimistic" perspective….

On the other hand, as I forecast a decade ago in a report to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency ( ), the intelligence community is coming awake to non-state and non-terrorist dangers.  "With more access to lethal and disruptive technologies, individuals who are experts in such areas as cybersystems might sell their services to the highest bidder." The emphasis on individual empowerment was not highlighted in earlier NIC reports. The geopolitical shift from West to East did get attention previously, but one author said in hindsight it could have been given greater emphasis.

Should no group of countries prove capable of that cooperative leadership, the world could suffer, according to one author of the report. "You probably don't want to live in [that world]."


Lest we forget: there's an America that hates the rising nerdish era. It isn't taxes but the growing influence of scientists and all manner of geeks, that is behind Culture War, as stoked by certain media chains. One surface manifestation? You've all heard of the petition drive by some mostly southern-red malcontents to secede from the union. Now now... the numbers are small and bearable.... Still, I would love to ask their neighbors for pictures of these folks just a few years back, waving U.S. flags with fevered patriotic gusto while shouting "Yew-Ess-Hay!"

They are the "summer soldiers" Thomas Paine wrote about. They are Jefferson Davis, who led the cadets at West point in swearing undying oaths to their nation "right or wrong," then scampered off in indignation when his "grievances" amounted to whining that his side lost an election for the first time in 30 years. Schoolyard whining whenever the other team gets its turn at-bat. I am not afraid.

A side note. The American Christian communities and seminaries weren't always so doctrinaire on abortion.

realityRevenge of the Reality-Based Community: This interesting commentary comes from Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan aid and Heritage fellow, now a contributor to the American Conservative. Other dissident conservatives such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan have joined Bartlett in condemning "epistemic closure" or the fact that today's American right is all about telling itself incantations and stories, with no remaining points of contact with science, pragmatism or reality-based thinking.  I have long predicted the rise of The Adults on the right -- the Buckley and Goldwater types -- finally angry enough to try taking back the conservative movement.

Ah but frankly, though I welcome Bartlett's migration toward the light... and admitting that President Obama is center-right by any rational view of things... I can't help feeling a bit cold.  His missive, while interesting,  comes across as self-referential and you must skim a dozen paragraphs listing his past conservative credentials before getting to the meat, including his concession that Paul Krugman has been right far more often than anyone else on the national scene.

== Will the next Bubble/Crash come from "stuff"? ==

Mark Anderson of the Strategic News Service warns: Because of staggering levels of excess inventory: Like a global tsunami, world markets are about to be hit with a supply of any-price goods in almost every category, from commodities to high-end electronics. Personal computers from champion Lenovo, today, are generating about .5% margins, with Dell and HP reeling. Lenovo doesn't care. Telecoms equipment is going for half price already, and likely will drop from there, via ZTE (whose profit fell 48.5% over the last half-year, and 85% YTY in the last quarter) and Huawei (with only a 22% drop).

Container ships that leased for over $100,000 a day on the world market four years ago, today – thanks to a huge over-buildout by China – are going for $2,000.  Watch out.  This could be the next big bruise.

== Puerto Rican Statehood? ==

Another statehood referendum forPuerto Rico ... and this one passed. Other votes failed in 1967, 1993, and 1998. Though in fact it seems that while the State initiative won the most votes... only 46 percent of people voted in favor of it. A number left it blank. Thus they may require a second ballot initiative asking just if they want to become the 51st State in the Union. Then congress must pass a bill.

I let others list reasons why Puerto Rico won't be the 51st state. My own is the simplest of all and has no implications having to do with ethnicity or language or poverty or any of that.

It is simple. What if they later change their minds? Seriously, we fought a civil war over that and we do not need the kettle re-opened. (Despite occasional fantasies of spinning off Charleston SC as a new Hong Kong. Ah, if only.)  I am perfectly fine with Puerto Rican statehood.  But I want the word "irrevocable" to be on the ballot and it has to pass by 75% or more! Decide your plan: then commit your grandchildren to stick with it.  Make that 80%+.

== Political Potpourri ==

Might open source methods do a far better job of running smooth U.S. elections, rather than the deeply suspect voting machine companies now contracted in so many states?

Articles and speculations by David Brin about Taxes, economics and markets... especially pertinent as the House and Senate start negotiating the Big Budget Deals.

Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.

For a variety of reasons, the best computer models suggest that - even if culture war ends and the dems and gops negotiate a sensible budget agreement, and many other good things happen -- the US unemployment rates will be stuck well above the Pre-Bush rates, for the foreseeable future.

Ah well.  Let's put politics aside for a while longer.


Ian said...

I can't find the Anderson article re. inventories but as far as shipping rates go: the most popular measure of shipping rates is the Baltic Dry Index (BDI).

The BDI has gone up almost 20% since the start of 2013 and is only down ca. 3% over the past year.

The computer industry is a special case since sales of desktops has been affected both by tablets and cheap laptops such as the Chromebooks.

So without having read the article, let's say I'm skeptical.

Ian said...

Compounding my skepticism, while there are no good indexes for "inventory" prices, there are indexes for commodity prices and they're usually pretty sensitive to demand fluctuations.

Commodity indexes are almost exactly flat over the past year and up strongly from six months ago.

Ian said...

There's also no evidence of an inventory problem in US capacity utilization data:

This data series tracks how much installed manufacturing capacity is actually being used. It's followed closely because a decline in demand usually flows through rapidly to lower output.

So, excuse me for monopolizing the comment section, but for the moment I remain skeptical.

David Brin said...

Interesting, Ian. Mark Anderson is the smartest tech/business pundit I know. SO maybe I misunderstood him.

Acacia H. said...

I abstract several economic journals. There is a low-level concern about inventory glut out there, Ian. I suspect it's low-level because people don't want to speak loudly lest they cause the avalanche. However, there is a method that the big electronics companies can survive: stop producing for a year and hole up, focusing on developing new products that force obsolescence on the glut of products.

The end result is that the glut of products will sell, and sell for cheap. But those companies willing to take a short-term loss will emerge with new product lines that will encourage people to buy THEIR new products afterward. And we may very well see poor people suddenly being able to upgrade their machines and the like. Hell, it could draw people off of Windows XP and the like because of all the cheap Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines out there. ;)

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...
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David Brin said...

Louisiana senator asks if ecoli evolve into a person

Acacia H. said...

I've been thinking of my story "Stalking the Wolf" and realized I should write it from a single point of view (that of the vigilante telepath/telekinetic Angel). However, considering her telepathy is sometimes diffuse (she can't easily block out other people), I was wondering how to depict when she's seeing through someone else's eyes with their memories. (It's a problem she suffers from to the point I've realized she's nuts. I'd not be surprised if sometimes she's not entirely sure which are her thoughts and which are thoughts she's picking up on.)

I figure the use of italics in dialogue with other characters would work in her picking up the thoughts they have while talking. But mental images and flashes? I'm not sure. Does anyone have any ideas on how to depict this and show it so it flows with the main story itself?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Robert, toying with point of view is one of the most delicious... and difficult... challenges. You might steep yourself in telepathy stories like Silverberg's DYING INSIDE. Good luck!

Catfish N. Cod said...

That is a Very Interesting Point, Robert. In fact, schizophrenics often feel that they ARE telepaths, and the voices in their head are coming from "somewhere else". In their case, it's part of a more general disconnect where they cannot tell the difference between signals from inside and signals from outside.

However, there should be evident methods to distinguish telepathy from schizophrenia. For instance, if telepathy is related to distance (and, assuming it works by electromagnetism and not quantum action- at- a- distance spookiness or outright unknown science or magic, it should be) then there is an easy test: voices that stay with you no matter where you go are in your head, while voices that depend on location are others'. Of course this might be more trouble in, say, an airplane.

For another thing, schizophrenics hear voices at a much higher rate than seeing visions, smelling, or tasting -- all are known to occur but the circuitry to make up stuff is far less prone to malfunction than the complex Broca-Wernicke circuit that we use to understand and generate speech. People are so good at making up words that accidentally speaking a thought out loud is considered semi-normal, whereas visions usually require pharmaceutical aid or intense biological stress (starvation/exhaustion state, etc.) and abnormal smells or tastes are immediately recognized as malfunctions. If your teep's connections are different from this pattern, she may be able to figure things out. Of course, she may not necessarily KNOW these facts..l.

Finally, no discussion of telepathy done right in fiction could be complete without mentioning Alfred Bester -- the author (DEMOLISHED MAN, etc.), and the character (from the TV show BABYLON 5, by Joe Stracyznski). There are even several episodes of the show that specifically deal with telepaths with mental illnesses. Good luck!

Ian said...
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Ian said...

With a little luck, in a decade's time we'll no loner be griping about how space travel hasn't really advanced since Apollo.

"A new asteroid-mining company launches Tuesday with the goal of helping humanity expand across the solar system by tapping the vast riches of space rocks.

The new firm, called Deep Space Industries, Inc., announced Tuesday, Jan. 22, that it plans to launch a fleet of prospecting spacecraft in 2015, then begin harvesting metals and water from near-Earth asteroids within a decade or so. Such work could make it possible to build and refuel spacecraft far above our planet's surface, thus helping our species get a foothold in the final frontier."

Read more:

Tacitus said...

I for one am not sure what the big deal is regards registering in the "other" party's primary. Here in Wisconsin we have open primaries. The middle of the road folks just go back and forth, and the occasional partisan foray does occur.

Of course sometimes it is the malicious sort, an activity you sir have advocated at times. Cross over and vote for the absolute worst so the enemy gets drubbed.

While I am grousing a bit, the parade of GOP anecdotes is a bit beneath you too. Are there no D equivalents? Well...



Entrenched partisanship is a dangerous thing. Me, I am hoping that my fears for our nation's long term health are silly. I would love to be wrong.

But I think it will take hitting rock bottom to settle the point.

Hey, if fracked oil and Solyandra and Joe Biden task forces and the basic work ethic of Americans pulls us through, great!

But I fear a real recession, one so bad it can't be papered over, other than with high denomination Deutchmarks.

Then I guess there will be the cold consolation of real change. Nothing short of that will persuade either party as it is currently constituted, to do anything different.


toto said...

Gerrymandering is being used by Republicans in Republican-controlled states that reliably vote Democratic for President, to rig the presidential elections by having only their states change to awarding electoral votes by congressional district winner.

These moves should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, looks better and better.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions (including Illinois) with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

gregory byshenk said...

From the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog:


Supposedly Harvard Geneticist George Church, according to Der Spiegel magazine (and gazillions of other mainstream media outlets that translated the German piece including here), wants to clone a Neanderthal baby using an unholy combination of stem cell and genetics technologies.

The only problem is that Church has indicated that the German magazine and their reporter seem to have gotten the story all wrong, perhaps via problems with translation. In fact, Church says, he is not an advocate of Neanderthal cloning at all."

Maybe someone has been reading Existence...?

David Brin said...

"Of course sometimes it is the malicious sort, an activity you sir have advocated at times. Cross over and vote for the absolute worst so the enemy gets drubbed." Show me where and when I said that.

The politics of anecdote allow decent men like you to take shelter from the blatant insanity of contemporary conservatism by grousing "the other side is just as bad." Look, I sympathize with that plight. But it does not work. The scientists who have fled the GOP are not throwing up their hands and not voting, they are voting democratic.

So are members of every other knowledge caste, including police, teachers and your profession too.

Anecdotes about "Benghazi lies" and four deaths are used to balance Iraq-WMD lies that cost us thousands of lives and three trillion dollars. That disproporion is utterly typical, nowadays. In the weird world where the number of anecdotes can always be made to balance.

ACORN's cheat of a few dozen improper registration is a match for the US House of representatives staying in cheaters hands when a MILLION more people voted for the other side?

toto I dread any national popular vote based on plurality and not majority. The Australian Preferential Ballot ensures that the winner will have a majority of at least those who hated the other guy more.

Paul451 said...

NASA announces failure to find a planet capable of supporting NASA:,30990/

(Rarely for Onion, the piece is more than the the one-joke headline.)

David Brin said...

UPS Reports Troubling Drop In Residents Answering Doors In Lingerie,30597/

Hank Roberts said...

Winter 2013, Vol. 142, No. 1, Pages 40-58
Posted Online January 2, 2013.
© 2013 by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway
The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

David Brin said...