Sunday, September 24, 2017

The “Minimal Overlap” Solution to Gerrymandered Injustice

...Another generative idea that could not find a home in any media...

Gerrymandering has reached a point of such outrageous blatancy that it seems likely the US Supreme Court will have another look, soon. This NewYorker article dissects the problem, describing some new insights from logic and mathematics that might help the Court better to understand a foul practice that has warped and partly-stolen American democracy. A lot has changed since Justice Kennedy provided the deciding “we can’t see a way to do anything about it” vote, roughly a decade ago.

As I describe elsewhere, voters in many “blue states” have rebelled against their own Democratic politicians, ending gerrymandering via ballot measures.  Hence, with a few dismal exceptions - like Maryland and Illinois - this cheat has become ever-more associated with the Republican Party.

Ideally, solutions should come from negotiated legislation. When power abuse is generated by legislatures themselves, courts must step in. Hence, aware that losing this battle may end their lock on power, attorneys of the right argue that no alternative is intrinsically fair – including “impartial commissions.” Moreover courts are reluctant to interfere with state sovereignty.

Why did Justice Kennedy opt for the status quo, last time? Even in the face of blatant injustice, judges like to have two things:

* A simple, unambiguous metric that proves actionable harm. 

* At least one clean and simple remedy they can point to as an example.

The first requirement has been provided recently by an elegant standard of “voter efficiency.”  

But for the Court to articulate a workable remedy limiting gerrymandering, what’s needed is a fallback solution that is inarguably better than the present state of affairs - one that can be ordered if a state proves unable to devise a fair and impartial redistricting process on its own. To resolve Justice Kennedy’s dilemma, I will propose a solution so simple that it can be expressed in three sentences.

Here are those three sentences:


THE MINIMAL OVERLAP PLAN

1. With allowances for contorted state borders, like Maryland’s panhandle, the districts that are drawn for State Assembly, State Senate and Congress shall meet a basic compactness standard, not falling below a reasonably generous area-to-perimeter ratio limit set by the court.

2. On advice from a non-partisan and unbiased commission, the State Legislature may assign boundaries to the districts of the State Assembly however they see fit.

3. Once those State Assembly boundaries are set, the drawing of boundaries for State Senate and Congressional districts will be computer-generated with the core provision that they must have MINIMAL OVERLAP with each other and with the State Assembly districts, sharing as few voters as practically possible.

There you have it. Three sentences. I’ve offered this suggestion for a decade and I promise that (alas) you’ll find it nowhere else. But what does it mean?

It means that the State Legislature may, if they choose, ignore the ‘neutral commission’ and connive, jigger or gerrymander districts for one house — the State Assembly — limited by some basic rule of compactness. But provision #3 ensures that the districts for State Senate and Congress will be utterly different. The more carefully the legislature’s majority partisans gerry-rig one house, the less effective will be their efforts in the other two.

The chief aim of gerrymander-cheating — to achieve government dominance by the most rabid of hyper-partisans — will be devastated and then grow weaker, over time.

 ==  Illustrating the Minimal Overlap concept ==

For some reason, the notion of minimal overlap seems obvious to some people, while others find it difficult to grasp. So let’s try using illustrations.

Sentence/provision #1 takes care of the worst, egregious cases, illustrated in our first figure.
As Figure 1 shows, a large fraction of gerrymander travesties would be eliminated by a compactness rule, setting upper limits to perimeter-area ratios. This limit can be fairly generous, since the rest of the solution happens through minimal overlap.

In Figure 2 we present a strawman set of six State Assembly districts that are (for the sake of simplicity) highly compact.


Let’s assume that the state legislature has, under rule #2, but limited by the compactness rule #1, arranged these assembly districts to maximize gerrymander benefits for the majority party.

Now, in our third illustration, let’s overlay districts for State Senate. These are required – under the court-ordered remedy of MINIMAL OVERLAP to be computer-optimized so that each senate district shares as little territory and as few voters as possible with any one assembly district.

Assuming the compactness rule is enforced, and that Senate districts are truly drawn according to provision #3, then Minimal Overlap – also called “anti-nesting” -- means that the political character of the Senate will not be warped by gerrymandering. Citizens who were disenfranchised before will likely get attention and an effective vote, in at least one chamber.


The districts for Congress, presumably larger, will nevertheless be kept off-kilter from the gerried State Assembly districts. The party in power will thus only get to have one chamber warped by self-serving, partisan political cheating.

Moreover, even if this method has flaws, it is a clear limiting case that deprives the courts of any “we see no clear remedy” excuse. For all its faults, Minimal Overlap is palliative, equitable and enforceable. It also gives a nod to state sovereignty and legislature privilege, by allowing the legislature to continue complete, discretionary control over one chamber, while the other two are set by a neutral computer reacting to their assembly boundaries.

== Arguments against Minimal Overlap ==

One objection that opponents to such a solution will assert is that voters should be represented by “communities of interest.” For example, one of the commonly used excuses for gerrymandering is that contorted arrangements are necessary in order to ensure that minority populations get some representatives who are of their ethnic persuasion.

There are two, decisive answers:

(a) The “communities of interest” argument is served by having one of three chambers divided that way. So long as those communities of interest are firmly ensconced and represented in one chamber, there is no inherent need for duplication. This is an original merit of bicameral legislatures.

In fact, there are strong arguments in favor of voters facing different coalition needs, in different houses.  Why should their Assembly, State Senate and Congressional delegates be clones of each other?  Apportioned one way — say in the Assembly — the community of interest might map onto national political parties, or else be optimized for ethnic representation. But mapped orthogonally in another house, entirely different matters of community interest — based on geography, markets, or some other basis — might come to the fore. State Senators will discuss different priorities at their town hall meetings than Assembly members, to the benefit of political problem-solving.

Anyway, a state senator who must negotiate among multiple constituencies and interests will be a busier one, and possibly one who achieves a lot more to break down our divisions.

(b) This method is a fallback, intended to persuade the Supreme Court that gerrymandering can be solved intrinsically, in a simple fashion that is inherently more fair than the present, biased-partisan cheating. And what could be simpler than three sentences?

Under the Minimal Overlap method, voters who now feel completely disenfranchised in all ways and in all chambers will thereupon very likely see their position improved. They will gain a chance that at least one of their three representatives will be someone who heeds their concerns. That is an improvement and a palliation of harm, and one that is far from arbitrary.

Voters thus would be guaranteed some relief from a conspiratorial injustice, in a fashion that is simple to execute. States may opt for some other method to eliminate the injustice. Many already have. But this method provides a backstop ensuring that the worst, most pervasive effects of gerrymandering will end.

== Implications of Minimal Overlap ==

Notice one “judo” aspect of this approach — that it allows hyper-partisans to have their way - somewhat - for a while, in one house. This might lessen resistance to reform by the most fundamentally powerful entities in American political life, state assembly members. It also splits away the self-interest of State Senators, reducing their motivation for hyper-partisanship - which is a desirable outcome in its own right.  Why should Assembly members and Senators connive together? Vive la difference!

Moreover, as State Senate and Congressional delegations become more moderate and less partisan, they will then tend to pressure the State Assembly to damp down its own cheating and partisanship.

The Court should also be made aware of the effect that impartial redistricting has had in many blue states and a few purples. While California remains dominated by the Democratic Party, impartial redistricting and other reforms (e.g. non-party primaries) have resulted in less bitterness between parties, not more. Less acrimony. Even in districts that wind up heavily Democratic or Republican, voters who are members of the minority party now feel more listened-to than before.

Earlier I mentioned that Illinois and Maryland and few other Democrat-dominated holdouts still outrageously gerrymander. Former President Barack Obama and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have specifically targeted these states, arm-twisting state legislators to end gerrymandering. When those Democratic Party holdouts comply, this horrifically blatant cheat and crime will be seen as an odious offense perpetrated primarily by just one party against the citizens of this great nation.

Nevertheless, the best solution will come from the Supreme Court, whose past reluctance must be met with a web of logic that allows no escape or wriggle room for Justices Roberts, Alito and especially Kennedy, erasing their earlier excuses for inaction. Minimal Overlap can serve as a example of a backstop remedy that’s simple, fair, and undeniably better than the outrageous status quo.

======

                     Cross-posted on Medium. 

======


David Brin is a scientist, tech speaker/consultant, and author.  His novel about our survival in the near future is Existence.   A film by Kevin Costner was based on The Postman.  His 16 novels, including NY Times Bestsellers and Hugo Award winners, have been translated into more than twenty languages.   Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and the world wide web.

Dr. Brin serves on the external advisory board of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC). David appears frequently on shows such as Nova and The Universe and Life After People, speaking about science and future trends. He has keynoted scores of major events hosted by the likes of IBM, GE, Google and the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technologies.

His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.    (Website:  http://www.davidbrin.com/ )

References:
The Supreme Court case that could shift how Americans vote rests on a simple math equation, Lola Fadulu, Quartz. 2017       

FINAL NOTE: I tried taking this article every media outfit I could find. It's blatantly original and interesting and potentially of real value. When even the "good" outlets are rigidly exclusive, saving all slots for pals, nepotism and established old-farts, we are crippled as an imaginative, problem-solving society.

88 comments:

Paul SB said...

I like it, but there are a couple ways I can imagine hyper-partizans working around it. The most obvious would be for the gerrymandered Assembly to hack the computer that generates the other two districts. That would essentially be a police matter. The other possibility would be that the gerrymandered Assembly works to alter the balance of power between itself and the State Senate to give itself more legislative power. An example might be requiring a type of bill that needs a 2/3 vote to pass in the Senate needing only a simple majority in the Assembly. But these cheats are still less egregious than the current state of affairs.

Jumper said...

Why not dialog with Li, Duchin, etc. first? The press are not your starting point.

David Brin said...

i have indeed, written to Li, Duchin , etc, who proved to be dense, obdurate and uncomprehending.

In fact, my method has flaws. One form of gerrymandering is the city-hum and spoke method. Urban Austin is broken into several districts that then fan out to the countryside, to pick up enough red voters to overwhelm the blues in that wedge of Austin. Picture that fan of districts.

http://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/redrawing-america-gerrymandering-matters/

see http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2013/jul/17/elliott-naishtat/austin-legislator-calls-austin-largest-us-city-wit/

Minimal overlap could be satisfied by rotating the fan blades, leaving rural dominance in place. Compactness is essential.

Finn de Siecle said...

One problem with the "minimum overlap" principle: Seven states (including my own) use the same districts for both houses of their legislatures. The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't have the jurisdiction to change that. (Actually, I'm not sure it would have jurisdiction to do anything with state districts other than rule on whether or not their boundaries have the effect of violating their residents' U.S. constitutional rights, but that's a slightly different issue.)

I imagine minimum overlap is already present between state legislative and congressional districts simply because most states will have significantly more of the former than the latter.

Doug S. said...

What about states that don't have a separate state assembly and state senate?

LarryHart said...

@Doug S,

I was under the impression that only one such state exists--Nebraska.

LarryHart said...

Doesn't your entire post have the implicit premise that those in charge of how things work want to eliminate gerrymandering?

I mean, 33 states are now controlled by Republicans, and they don't want to give up their only means of assuring they stay in power. Likewise, the US congress and the Supreme Court. It's almost as if we've already surpassed a tipping point where the net result of gerrymandering has produced a government that favors keeping gerrymandering.

What good is a technical solution for eliminating a technique that the ruling class (and much of their base) doesn't want to eliminate?

Viking said...

Why hold the punches, why not go for real democracy, Swiss style, where the important issues are saved for a referendum, and let the representatives simmer about the dull stuff, but keep them out of the expensive and/or important stuff.

Stephen Peterson said...

There's one potential reason to abandon compactness, and the reason for at least some of the ridiculous-looking districts: they are themselves compensating for the obscene red-lining and other policies that split racial and ethnic minorities into politically-impotent enclaves. The district then gets gerrymandered to make a majority-minority district so they have some representation at all.

Of course that doesn't kill the overall plan, that's a pretty reasonable and data-supportable argument ("We'd like a waiver from the compactness requirement because of this historical data showing repression of minority groups...") that the real gerrymandering villains could never make.

donzelion said...

"The first requirement [actionable harm] has been provided recently by an elegant standard of “voter efficiency.”

I am not entirely convinced the failure to create an efficient system equates to an acrionable harm. Baker v Carr, the first in the line of cases finding a harm that might be redressed, has befuddled a fair number of scholars ever since it was handed down.

Gerrymandering to deprive Africa -Americans of an effective vote? Prohibited, based on the 14th + the Baker reasoning. Gerrymandering to deprive Democrats? Nothing in the Constitution requires 'fairness' in that sense.

"And what could be simpler than three sentences?"

Once applied to the real world, even one sentence - or even a few mathematic expressions - may beget a mind numbingly complex set of implications. Yet the mere reality of complexity does not absolve us of the imperative to try...

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish | (previous thread)

I didn't mean to imply we were literally northern Europeans. It's that that the 'us' they become still looks very northern European in it's nature even if the people don't. Yes... it HAS changed as we've assimilated immigrants. Assimilation goes both ways. However, it has mostly gone one direction except for those of us who live here in the borderlands with Mexico.

What I find beautifully ironic is how the Scots and Irish now count. My English grandmother was less than charitable when it came to Us vs Them boundaries. The irony is she thought it was a good idea for her daughter to marry an American and could neglect that is family was from Scotland. One of her daughter's daughters (my oldest sister) absolutely loved visiting Ireland and married a fellow whose family traces to Cuba through Florida. Heh. Families are very amusing at times.

@donzelion | The heartland doesn't include Colorado. Think about the Ohio River valley. Think about the wetter side of the Greater Mississippi River Basin. Once you cross the Mississippi out onto the prairie, you are too far west. A foreign army would have had trouble out there. As for native populations, they had a hard enough time with our civilians moving westward. They would have been no match.

As for the heartland's reliance on trade and external capital, you are making the mistake many economists make in assigning too much importance to capital as the engine of wealth creation. It isn't, but it does help. By itself, it is too small to explain the explosion that happened not just in our Midwest. It fails to explain much of wealth creation across the entire industrializing market. It is an effect... not a cause.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Yah. I think you were the person who convinced me to be skeptical of her reach back argument to pre-agricultural societies. Even our host is cautious of pushing some of his arguments back further than 6000 years. I suspect he could stretch to 8000 years, but there isn't much of a need. It's enough to say that leaving nomadic HG life behind was essentially the oddest and stupidest thing we ever did, but LOOK at what we've managed to do after we learned to stop living in our feces! 8)

If you think this thing looks like the spawn of satan, though, you obviously haven't read the first book. I don't have one with 'Identity' in the title, so I'm not sure which of the three you have. Virtues, Dignity, and Equality are the triplet.

As a returning-the-favor update, I'm through chapter five in Sapolsky's book and about the start the mysteries of the missing prefrontal cortex chapter. So far, I don't see how anyone reading what I've read could come away from the experience with anything less than amazement and optimism for the future. Sure. He points out lots of ways things go wrong, but he POINTS to them. When I was a young'n, we couldn't do that with any accuracy. We thought we knew, but it was a mass of handwaving. He makes the research sound like we are ACTUALLY learning how brains work. Dogmas are being slain. Really amazing!

Lots of times in those first chapters he traces neuron connections from this part of the brain to that part and then that other part over there. I'm tempted to hum along. Ankle bone connected to the... Leg bone. Leg bone connected to the... Thigh bone. Etc. And that little section describing LTP and the little neurotransmitter traveling backwards across the synapse? Heh. Information with which an engineer would know what to do. And that last paragraph of chapter 5? heh. Wouldn't that just make locumranch howl?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Ioan

"New Zealand First" really is "The Winston Party" -
Winston is a charismatic Maori who does what he thinks is right (no matter what anybody else thinks) - he has been in government with the Labour Party and with National

He has a bee in his bonnet about immigration - but in a lot of ways it's justified
Our biggest city - Auckland - has about 1/3rd of the whole country and is hitting all sorts of physical limits
We do need to get a handle on Auckland's growth - BUT 80% of immigrants get to Auckland and stay there
That alone is IMHO a bloody good reason to limit immigration until we have got it sorted

For most of the rest Winston is pretty much keep on the middle of the road -
He was against the stupid things that National did - like dropping the top tax rate and selling off the power companies

He annoys some people by saying that the Maori Seats are now a bad idea (I agree with him)

I would rather have a decent left wing party - but if we do have a National Government I like the idea of Winston having an input

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

A totally off-topic question: If Auckland has reached its population limit, where would you recommend an immigrant live in NZ? It's not likely I will ever have a chance to visit, much less immigrate, but I have always been curious. Napier is well known for its architecture, which would make it a nice place to visit, but more important would be job opportunities and the general friendliness of the locals. Small towns I have been to have always suffered from busy-body syndrome. Everyone wants to gossip about everyone else's private business, and if you give them no great sins to grab onto they will make them up. Are there places outside of Auckland you would recommend?

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

The book I was able to get from the library was "Bourgeois Dignity." I haven't made much progress since last report. I'm developing a tolerance for the only sleep meds that ever helped, so my brain is getting a little hazy again.

You have so much fun yet to come in Sapolsky. I'm a little miffed that he stole my idea for a title for one of his chapters, though I think my version is better. I had the idea of riffing off of Lakoff's "Metaphors We Live By" as "Metaphors We Kill For" on the role religion plays in society. But my ego aside, there is a whole lot more joy to be had in the coming chapters. I am tempted to read the whole thing over again. As far as our faux rancher goes, he's unlikely to even glance at it. Willful ignorance is an easy trap to fall into, especially as we get older and our hair starts genetically bleaching or succumbing to gravity, there's a tendency to feel like we should already know everything and be schooling everyone else around us. No neuroplasticity for egomaniacs. Sapolsky talks fact in ways that make it hard to deny. And as usual, the facts don't entirely match anyone's politically-moulded preconceptions, though the mismatch seems to be more extreme on the side he claims for himself and all wisdom.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

Why hold the punches, why not go for real democracy, Swiss style, where the important issues are saved for a referendum, and let the representatives simmer about the dull stuff, but keep them out of the expensive and/or important stuff.


The pragmatic answer to your question, "Why not go for..." is because it would require changing the Constitntion, which, while doable, is not quick or easy to do.

Not to mention that, in the current political climate, changing the Constitution would result in something like:

Article 1: The United States of America is a white, Christian nation.
Article 2: The Second Amendment (without the annoying part about a well-trained militia)
Article 3: Abortion is illegal

And even if we could just magically jump to a system of direct democracy without disrputing the good parts, that doesn't address the issue of legitimate voters being purged from the rolls or voting machines producing hacked results.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: I am not sure your system would achieve its desired effects because of the mismatch in district sizes between the House, state senate, and state assembly. Compactness is desirable, a comprehensible single identity for the district is desirable, but most important is minimizing the distortion in representation. As flawed as it is, the efficiency gap captures that problem and effect more precisely than other methods I have seen.

I am guessing someone would have to run simulations of districts to even see if your idea had the merits you tout.

As for having an effective voice, why are you trying to speak through intermediaries at all? Hire a lawyer and write an amicus brief to SCOTUS itself! At the very least, filing a motion for leave would attract the lawyer teams' attention. Of course, it could also make you look like a nuisance...

@LarryHart: we cannot call any constitutional conferences or make amendments until the gerrymanding is solved. Otherwise we are allowing one side or the other the opportunity to cement their positions into the Constitution itself. (Yes, Democrats too. This country would explode if someone tried to put "the right to healthcare" into the Constitution, and rightly so.)

@Alfred: I think a lot of the anxiety always comes from the fact that as we assimilate more and more, the country becomes incrementally less Northern European in appearance and cultural behavior despite the overwhelming influence of our dominant history. What isn't seen by this panic behavior is that the result still recognizably holds the vast majority of the core values. If we wanted to stay purely Northern European, we shouldn't have left Europe. I rather think we have improved on that meme-set, in fact.

Also: "Heartland" in the sense you are meaning will include the tier of states immediately west of the Mississippi. The cutoff at about 98W where irrigation becomes a requirement for agriculture would be where you'd start having trouble feeding an army. Obviously an army marching on its stomach through Iowa would be just fine, but put that same army in South Dakota and it's in deep buffalo chips.

LarryHart said...

Ok, looking for humor wherever I can find it.

From today's www.electoral-vote.com (emphasis mine) :


Neither of the major political parties is popular, but the Republicans have hit an all-time low, with only 29% of Americans saying they approve of the party, while 62% have an unfavorable view of it. An astounding 1% have never even heard of it.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@LarryHart: we cannot call any constitutional conferences or make amendments until the gerrymanding is solved. Otherwise we are allowing one side or the other the opportunity to cement their positions into the Constitution itself.


By "we cannot", I assume you mean "we must not" or "it would be a very bad idea if we did". Because we are this close to having enough Republican-dominated states to call for a Constitutional Convention, and not all that far from having enough to ratify one.


(Yes, Democrats too. This country would explode if someone tried to put "the right to healthcare" into the Constitution, and rightly so.)


Your point is taken, but the danger from the parties is not symmetrical. Thanks to the implicit bias I have noted many times here--Republicans are legitimate leaders, while Democrats are uppity pretenders--there is zero chance of extreme liberal causes written into a new Consitution and ratified, even if those causes are popular. On the other hand, I am afraid that if eliminating "offensive" speech or establishing a White Christian Nation were put to the vote, the former would likely pass and the latter has a chance of being ratified by all 50 states. Even with vocal sentiment against, who would want to be seen as being against Christianity?

LarryHart said...

Geez, I have to revise my opinion upward for people and institutions I never thought I'd say nice things about:

John McCain
LaBron James
Tom Brady
The NFL in general
Ted Cruz (!)
Kim Jong Un

Zepp Jamieson said...

Anonymous LarryHart said...

Geez, I have to revise my opinion upward for people and institutions I never thought I'd say nice things about:

...and Roger Goodall.

Cats and Dogs, living together! Aiee!

Catfish N. Cod said...

@LarryHart: No, I mean cannot, though I should have been more elaborate: cannot and remain a stable country. Because it's not certain that all fifty states would even be willing to participate in a convention where thirty-four states blatantly sought to impose their will on the other sixteen (including several of the wealthiest and most populous states). The entire structure of the Constitution's ratification procedure was meant to ensure that couldn't happen.

Even if a sufficient illusion was maintained that the Convention would be fair, something fundamentally unacceptable to the minority states would almost inevitably be proposed -- since a Convention has never before occurred, everyone would assume this was their best chance ever and try to push the mechanism beyond its limits.

Whether before or during, the Convention would be condemned as illegitimate by one or more states. Delegations would likely be recalled and/or boycott. If the matter were pushed beyond that, and any of those articles were actually ratified, we would then have two competing versions of the Constitution... and civil war.

Even if the Convention reported out without being condemned, there would be massive efforts to flip one or more legislatures during the organization and process to forestall ratification. The counter to that move would be the Convention's decision not to put time limits on proposed amendments (as was routinely done in the twentieth century). The ratification process would then create a Shadow Constitution, a Sword of Damocles hanging over the original, poised any time the conditions (sufficient legislatural control) were met to destroy and replace it. And if it happened... perhaps not all-out war, but certainly civil conflict and chaos. The military would have to choose between the values it defended for a quarter-century and the values enshrined in the New Constitution, a document that might be very, very different from the original.

All of these scenarios would be massively destabilizing.

The Constitutional Convention exists as a last-ditch effort to prevent civil war in case the regular process of amendment is so dysfunctional that national collapse would be imminent anyway (as was the case in 1787). It is a conclave with close to the ancient power of a Roman Dictator: you are allowed to change anything you can get two-thirds of the states to agree to. Wielded without restraint, it would provoke civil war instead.

The enemies of the United States would absolutely adore to see it ravaged or destroyed by its own mechanisms. This does not surprise me. What does is the number of citizens -- some very wealthy, educated, and far more intelligent than "45" -- who would agree and willingly play pawns for such an endeavor.

David Brin said...

Viking, democracy is incremental. You’ll not get democratic reforms till the grip of the oligarchy-GOP on our electoral system is broken. Some (not all) democrats do want to make elections more honest. Ending gerrymandering is the most important 1st step because it can be done by courts,

Mr. Peterson, that racial method is used to take power AWAY from minorities. Anyway, with minimal overlap, you get three chances for local voters to be part of a community whose representatives listen. You clearly did not read the article.

Duncan, I am reminded of “Winston” from TIME BANDITS! Seriously he sounds like an interesting guy. Aotearoa!

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

I mean cannot, though I should have been more elaborate: cannot and remain a stable country. Because it's not certain that all fifty states would even be willing to participate in a convention where thirty-four states blatantly sought to impose their will on the other sixteen (including several of the wealthiest and most populous states). The entire structure of the Constitution's ratification procedure was meant to ensure that couldn't happen.


Well, your modified "cannot" and my "must not" are very close to being a distinction without a difference, as I meant something like "must not destroy the foundation of the country by...".

As of today, the ratification procedure to insure more general buy-in still holds, because the Republicans don't yet have 38 states for ratification. Too close for comfort, though.


Even if a sufficient illusion was maintained that the Convention would be fair, something fundamentally unacceptable to the minority states would almost inevitably be proposed -- since a Convention has never before occurred, everyone would assume this was their best chance ever and try to push the mechanism beyond its limits.


That is my concern as well--that various factions, while not happy with the overall direction of a Constitutional Convention, would see this as their best chance to get their pet issues enshrined in cement--and go along until it's too late.


The enemies of the United States would absolutely adore to see it ravaged or destroyed by its own mechanisms. This does not surprise me. What does is the number of citizens -- some very wealthy, educated, and far more intelligent than "45" -- who would agree and willingly play pawns for such an endeavor.


They're playing a dangerous game evoking The Simpsons' Krusty the Clown voting for Sideshow Bob:

"Well, he did try to frame me for armed robbery...but I'm itching for that upper-class tax cut!"


Ioan said...

Duncan,

I see. It seems that modern economies favor metro areas with over 3 million people. I inferred it from the Washington Post article

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/05/22/a-very-bad-sign-for-all-but-americas-biggest-cities/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_wonk

It seems to me that economic forces are pushing Auckland into being a 3-5 million person city. I have two questions

1. Why can't Auckland build upward?
2. Is it possible to create a second city? Australia has Melbourne, the US has LA. Canada has Montreal. The Dutch do a good job of splitting Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

donzelion said...

Alfred: In the 'all the world against the Union at once' scenario our host offered, Colorado is about as far as I could see a revived Mexican/French sphere of influence extending. They wouldn't need to hold territory; just orchestrate independence and block pro-American factions.

Given the state of 1865 technology, especially artillery and command'n'control, reasonably well-equipped defenders in a narrow theater had a significant advantage over attackers - which largely accounts for Lee's effectiveness versus Union armies. But in a wide theater (like the American West), lacking transport infrastructure, the fight would look quite different, more comparable with Eurasian struggles of that period, the two biggest of which were the slow Ottoman retreat and the slow Russian advance. Foreign intervention most likely would have steered things more toward an Ottoman precedent with lots of new states emerging.

matthew said...

Looking for any satisfaction from the SCOTUS on this matter ignores Kennedy's recent vote to dismiss the stay on Texas' racial gerrymander. The five Republicans on SCOTUS are not about to let the good of the nation overcome the power that their sponsors wield. The ability to racially gerrymander is at the heart of the effort to let the Republican minority continue to dominate over their more-numerous foes.

Unless Kennedy changes his mind in the next , we will experience civil war to undo the Republican cheating.

Your ideas are good, but there is no interest in making the system fair by the minority cheaters.

Brian Olson said...

@DavidBrin Area-Perimeter is the wrong compactness measure because it doesn't know anything about the distribution of people within the line on the map. An ideal area-perimiter district might be a circle but we should care if it has population at its center or off on one edge. I recommend compactness be measured by finding the population centers of the districts and then the average distance of each person to the center of their district.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/becoming-a-columnist-in-the-age-or-trump.html


I think we’re learning that the Constitution may, in fact, be a suicide pact. It’s a source of constant astonishment to me that the country has handed over the means to destroy civilization on this planet to an unhinged lunatic who lost the popular vote and was installed with the aid of a hostile foreign power. It’s such an epic institutional failure that it calls everything we thought we knew about this country’s stability into question.

David S said...

The current discussion about gerrymandering solutions don't appear to solve the problems of under-representation of minority parties and the spoiler/split-the-vote problem of 3rd party candidates. That is why I favor the single transferable vote.

We would either need to increase the number of seats and then send multiple people from each district. OR combine districts into larger districts and then send multiple people from the larger district.

Here is a short video the explains the process:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=125&v=l8XOZJkozfI

LarryHart said...

Jim Wright seems a bit pissed...

http://www.stonekettle.com/


...
But then these are the same drooling cross-eyed dipshits who think a billionaire New York real-estate developer who builds tacky casinos and swanky country clubs staffed by foreign workers, a Reality TV host whose shows are an hour-long fuck-fest of tits and ass and self-serving backstabbing narcissism portrayed by the personification of some backwoods West Virginia county fair demolition derby cheered on by drunken rednecks in cow shit spackled overalls, married to a string of vapid trophy wives, buoyed up incestuous nepotism, and surrounded by a scurrying host of toadies, sycophants, ass kissers, discredited fringe political hacks, cashiered generals, Wall Street crooks, war profiteers and foreign interests, a guy who has never shown the least charity or nobility or degree of compassion, a guy who daily craps in a golden toilet, yeah, that guy, is actually going to look out for their interests from his penthouse windows.
...

David Brin said...

Jim Wright is amazing

donzelion said...

re redistricting...

There's an awful lot to read in the briefs before concluding that our host's method is not one of those considered (start here: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/gill-v-whitford/ ... ). A few of those briefs tell some interesting tales though:

(1) The brief by the California Citizens Redistricting Commision & FairDistricts Now, Inc., submitted on September 5, 2017 - for an illustration of how the system already works in California (redistricting is supervised by a panel, with 14 members - 5 selected by the largest party, 5 by the next largest party, and 4 who can prove they are not from either party - who submit computer drafted plans to the public for analysis, comment, and public debate. Compactness, "one person, one vote," and preexisting community ties are the driving principles in California; partisan advantage (or incumbency) are legally prohibited considerations for the panel.

(2) The Oregon (& friends) and Texas (& friends) briefs take note of how computer generated maps can set up desired outcomes simply by shifting lines a few blocks. John McCain (in arguing to stop the gerrymander) notes how REDMAP helped manipulate the districts in 2010 (gaining +20 seats for Republicans; Dems did the same in Maryland and Illinois (gaining +2 seats).

(3) The "Political Geography" brief explores how hundreds of 'theoretically fair' maps (specifically excluding party vote data) would have resulted in 'unintentional gerrymanders' - but when the map produces outcomes significantly more gerrymandered than even the various maps outliers, it can be conclusively regarded as a partisan gerrymander to a statistical certainty.

HOWEVER, the key here ought to be 'transparency' - Wisconsin developed their maps in secret - and that alone should be enough to raise a red flag that the maps offered were intended to be unfairly partisan. Any specific measure of unfairness can be tested, and criticized, but unless the entire process is open, a less egregious instance of gerrymandering (only distorting a few of the seats, instead of the vast majority of them) would survive.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Ioan

As a city gets larger there are advantages - but also disadvantages
I believe that there is an optimum city size where you get most of the advantages but minimize the disadvantages

Somewhere about 1 million would be about right
I will have to do a bit more of an analysis

The fact that unrestrained economics drives larger is basically irrelevant - the same forces will drive wealth into fewer and fewer hands until we (society) restrain them

New Zealand is a really BAD place to start building huge cities!
Auckland is built on seven volcanoes - not extinct volcanoes just having a wee rest volcanoes
And anywhere in the country can (and will) be hit by earthquakes

As far as second cities is concerned we do have a lot of smaller cities, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton........

A big problem with having a city that is too large is that it draws the life out of the rest of the country - you can see that with the UK where London has sucked the life out of the rest of the country

Paul SB
I would recommend anywhere EXCEPT Auckland - When we did our exploratory tour in 2002 we decided that it was all good - BUT if we had to stay in Auckland we would not bother.

Auckland was just a big city - and we could do that in the UK

Finding a job is the big one - I was a world expert in diesel engine manufacture and test - and nobody makes diesel engines in New Zealand!
That meant that I learnt a ton of new things

IMHO South Island is a little friendlier - and only a little colder
Most Kiwi's think that down here in Southland we spend all of our time fending off icebergs and rabid penguins - but the weather is actually better most of the time

Frederick Ellrod said...

Might it be easier to start with a simple rule that any districts must meet some minimum mathematical standard of compactness, and be similar in (population) size? I'm not sure that would meet all the problems Donzelion raises, but it might be a way to get things moving.

LarryHart said...

With our nation's health care system in jeopardy (again) and the commander in chief about to get us into a nuclear war, I feel like I'm living out the opening chapters of "Watchmen".

I don't know if Ilithi Dragon is incommunicado these days, but I'm wondering if we've hit the point yet at which acknowledging the authority of Cheetolini to command the military is more of a threat than the chaos that would ensue otherwise.

LarryHart said...

Wow. If we thought Jim Wright was pissed, get a load of Keith Olbermann.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otQE0GK6L3Q


...
This was once only about these athletes, and Kapernick, and the KKK, and Nazis, and terrorists at Charlottesville--with whom Trump empathized--and those who carried the symbol of true disrespect to the American flag--the Confederate flag!
...

LarryHart said...

One more. Rex Hupke's column in the Chicago Tribune...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/huppke/ct-trump-nfl-protest-huppke-20170925-story.html


A United States president once made a wise and heartfelt statement, one we should all remember in the wake of Sunday's silent protests by hundreds of NFL players.

That president wrote: "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views."

The date was Jan. 22 of this year, the statement was made on Twitter, and the president was Donald J. Trump.

He was, apparently, lying.

...

It's about Trump forcefully condemning black NFL players engaged in peaceful protest while nearly bending over backward to keep from condemning the torch-wielding white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.

It's about an administration that calls for the firing of NFL players speaking their minds through their actions at work — actions that don't impact anyone else — while also putting forth an argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that a Christian baker who refuses to make a cake for a gay wedding is protected by the First Amendment.

So which is it? Is free speech a thing at work or not?
...

donzelion said...

Frederick Ellrod: "Might it be easier to start with a simple rule that any districts must meet some minimum mathematical standard of compactness,"

Not the worst start; it is one of the 'traditional' considerations for drawing district lines. Normally, 'compactness' gets modified based on natural barriers (rivers, streets); some of those, if followed for a little ways, result in pretty ugly and weird lines. A strict 'compactness' standard would need a number of exceptions; then you'd need a rule to measure whether the exceptions were being abused...

Even a very 'compact' division will advantage one side over another most of the time (see the 'Political Geographer's Brief' - inadvertent gerrymandering is highly likely with most of the 500 or so different maps their software generated, but none of the maps resulted in benefits as profound as what Wisconsin has experienced - hence, they assert a very high level of certainty that the maps were drawn for partisan purposes).

Solutions need to start with transparency (our host's OTHER big set of ideas) - get a suitable number of people, with suitable incentives to challenge one another and cry foul publicly if anyone cheats (it can't be merely representatives of one party or the other). Have them propose the maps early, have them publicly challenged and debated.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: The more he grabs the headlines, the less pressure on the troglodytes - and the easier time they'll have drawing lines on maps and making their buddies richer...

The healthcare bill, puts to lie every Republican who ever claimed to be 'fiscally prudent.' Every last one of them who has ever called for facts and study before legislating is now permanently a hypocrite if they still support Graham-Cassidy. They are praising Trump's tweets for letting them off the hook.

Milo Yiannopolous’ “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley turned into a 15 minute punchline -
proving (a) all the claims about liberal thought police blocking him were totally untrue, and (b) just about nobody wanted to go see him. He is fist pumping Trump in gratitude for the tweets.

Trump reissued his Muslim ban on Sunday. I suppose he felt a need to distract by tweeting about something unrelated. After all, god forbid that Americans decide to stand behind Muslims and prevent a discriminatory law from passing - their 'solidarity muscles' will be exhausted by the NFL/NBA, and there just isn't enough time left to galvanize much of a response to little matters like whether we actually stand by those principles in the Constitution our soldiers put their lives on the line for.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- Gerrymandering

While there are computer solutions the combination of constituency vote and party vote that we use here always made sense to me

At voting you vote for your Representative
Then you allocate your Party Vote

First Past Post for the Representative
But then the total party votes and representatives are added up and additional MPs are appointed from the party's "Lists" to ensure that a Party's voting weight in Parliament is equal to it's percentage of the voters

The main issue that we have is a 5% cut-off which many people (and me) feel is too high

A side effect is that Gerrymandering becomes moot

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I have always wondered why we in America feel the need to stick with arcane systems that are no longer necessary because we are no longer living with 18th Century technology. Gerrymandering has allowed about one third of the country to grind the other two thirds under legislation that promotes the interests of the über-rich over the interests of the nation itself. Why do we need districts at all, except that in the 18th Century we were limited by the collection, counting and transportation of ballots that could move at most at the pace of a horse and wagon. With the electronic technologies of today, I am sure a better system could be devised. But no one is talking about this because most people just slavishly do things the way they always have, and change borders on inconceivability here. Probably the Parliamentary system would not fly over here, though, because the parties themselves choose many of the representatives, which makes it more about issues and less about cults of personality. It should be obvious from our last presidential election that vain superficiality is more salient to a huge voting block here than actual policy. The idea that the Grope cares about and will work for anyone else in this nation besides the Grope is so obviously ludicrous it takes some pretty astounding stupidity to even propose, much less believe.

But Donzelion is absolutely right that while Grope is sucking up all the oxygen, the Repugnant Party is busy stealing more and more of the nation for their corporate cronies. It's all about glib superficiality. Whoever makes the most noise gets the attention, and once people have committed to foolish decisions they spend great energy twisting logic to justify them. Our faux rancher is a perfect example. His big stew is an exaggerated urban/rural conflict in which he sees liberals as evil urban monsters out to destroy his golden rural good old boys, so he supports urban conservatives whose policies suck money away from both urban and rural environment into their own personal coffers, robbing the nation all around. Yet he will perform amazing mental backflips to justify supporting the very people who are robbing his preferred tribe. And as I have said many times before, his rants are far, far from unique. Except for his focus on the urban/rural thing, he's pretty much standard issue American fascist, which describes about a third of the people.

Marino said...

Duncan:
"While there are computer solutions the combination of constituency vote and party vote that we use here always made sense to me" NZ, I suppose?

some mix of proportional and uninominal constituency system would work fine. I understand USians aren't accustomed to party lists and prefer having "their Congressperson", but note that all over Europe gerrymandering is just something you know from US news and/or comparate politics.

Paul SB: it's not an issue of technology. Vote with paper ballot and non-erasable pencil (no hanging chads) is cheaper and safer. Our silly populist party in Italy, the FiveStars, held an online vote to choose their candidate premier for the elections in 2018, and their server was hacked by a guy who showed that passwords weren't even encrypted and that he was able to insert fake donations and fake votes. Their system uses the same Movable Type platform used by Charles Stross in his blog, and he told me that database plugins were known to be attack channels. Aside that their server wasn't able to accept and tally 37,000 votes. Would you really trust voting with such machines, or with Diebold ones?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I have always wondered why we in America feel the need to stick with arcane systems that are no longer necessary because we are no longer living with 18th Century technology. Gerrymandering has allowed about one third of the country to grind the other two thirds under legislation that promotes the interests of the über-rich over the interests of the nation itself.


You just answered your own question.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

The more he grabs the headlines, the less pressure on the troglodytes - and the easier time they'll have drawing lines on maps and making their buddies richer...


I concur with everything you said in that post, but I'm not clear whether you're telling us (me) to not pay attention to Trump's outrages, or that we should pay attention to them.


The healthcare bill, puts to lie every Republican who ever claimed to be 'fiscally prudent.' Every last one of them who has ever called for facts and study before legislating is now permanently a hypocrite if they still support Graham-Cassidy.


They don't need Trump's tweets for that. Yes, Republican congressmen are all hypocrites, because they complain about Democrats using technicalities as if the technicalities are the problem, and then they use those same technicalities when they're in power. However, it doesn't hurt them politically because their voters are hypocrites in the same way.


Milo Yiannopolous’ “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley turned into a 15 minute punchline -
proving (a) all the claims about liberal thought police blocking him were totally untrue, and (b) just about nobody wanted to go see him. He is fist pumping Trump in gratitude for the tweets.


Complaints about universities enforcing political correctness and safe spaces are belied by Trump's calls for the NFL to enforce political correctness and safe spaces. Will that matter? Of course not, because "everyone knows" Republicans are for freedom and liberals are for the nandny state.

Why do they keep (metaphorically) voting to turn up the heat on the electric blanket when the problem is that they're already too warm?

LarryHart said...

Is it a feature or a bug that Trump's tweets don't even make internal sense?

Exhibit A: Trump tweets that Lisa Murkowski should vote for Graham-Cassidy because Alaskans overwhelmingly hate Obamacare. Meanwhile, the Senate leadership is attempting to bribe Murkowski by allowing Alaska to be exempt from the new law and keep Obamacare.

Exhibit B: I thought football was a Republican thing. Liberals are the ones who worry about brain injuries and dislike macho culture and that sort of thing. Football is a religion in Alabama and Texas. What political gain is there for right-wingers by ginning up anger against the NFL?

raito said...

LarryHart,

"On the other hand, I am afraid that if eliminating "offensive" speech or establishing a White Christian Nation were put to the vote, the former would likely pass and the latter has a chance of being ratified by all 50 states."

Much of the current talk around offensive speech reminds me uncomfortably of the Illinois Nazi incident in the very early 80's.

For those of you who don't remember, the American Nazi Party applied for a parade permit in Skokie Illinois, one of the more Jewish cities in the US. I was spending a fair bit of time there back then, so I got to hear a lot about it from all sides.

The younger Jewish people were aghast that they were going to be allowed to march, and raised a big stink about it. Which played into their hands handily, as the whole point was exposure.

The older Jewish people wanted to allow the parade for a couple reasons. First, if it had just happened quietly, there wouldn't have been any nationwide coverage of it. Second, they knew that if you want to be allowed to express your views, you have to let the other guy express his. Because one of the first thing you do (as many of them had experienced first hand) if you want to take over is to quash dissenting views. And once you make laws about limiting speech, they will be used against you in the future.

donzelion,

If I remember correctly (and having just looked it up, I do), not only were the maps drafted in secret, they were drafted in lawyer's offices in an attempt to keep everything from scrutiny by appealing to client privilege.

Re; voting systems

Hmm, since we're talking technological measures, I wonder how it would work if we eliminated geographical districts altogether. There's some number of representatives, and a race for each seat. A person can only run in one of the races. A voter can only vote in one race, but can vote in whichever the voter wishes. And no, you specifically don't have to declare ahead of time which race you're voting in.

I'm not advocating for this, but I wonder where the big gotcha is in it. One plus is that without a geographical area, some lobbying will be less effective. The flipside is that the regular joe doesn't really have someone to complain to either.

raito said...

LarryHart,

Republican like football, but not football players. Do you think they like poor dark people who suddenly have a lot of money (from their point of view)?

LarryHart said...

@raito,

I understand his making Colin Kaepernick the bad guy. I'm not sure I understand his calling for a boycott of the NFL.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Much of the current talk around offensive speech reminds me uncomfortably of the Illinois Nazi incident in the very early 80's.


1977 actually (I also was there at the time, in next-door Evanston).

If you'll recall, the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers" was already able to riff on them.


LarryHart said...

raito:

I wonder how it would work if we eliminated geographical districts altogether. There's some number of representatives, and a race for each seat. A person can only run in one of the races. A voter can only vote in one race, but can vote in whichever the voter wishes. And no, you specifically don't have to declare ahead of time which race you're voting in.

I'm not advocating for this, but I wonder where the big gotcha is in it. One plus is that without a geographical area, some lobbying will be less effective. The flipside is that the regular joe doesn't really have someone to complain to either.


I think your last sentence sums up the downside of that suggestion. Theoretically, at least, representatives are supposed to have a constituency to represent. I like the idea that constituencies don't have to be geographical, but they have to be comprehensible.

LarryHart said...

Pardon the redundancy, but amid all this outrage over those who disrespect the flag and the country "so many people gave their lives for", where is the outrage over those who disrespect the country by celebrating the emblem of the Confederacy which seceded from America and killed many of those who gave their lives for America?

http://www.sportingnews.com/nascar/news/dale-earnhardt-jr-tweet-nascar-national-anthem-protests-donald-trump-childress/ocaje7aw2k0o1xqy3v9yxpmt0


Two NASCAR team owners — Richard Childress and Richard Petty — were quoted Sunday in the Associated Press condemning those who protest during the national anthem.

"It'll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus," said Childress, the man for whom Junior's late father, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, drove for 18 years. "Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America."

Added Petty, also a seven-time Cup Series champion: "Anybody that don't stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States."

Paul451 said...

Once again, I'm recording my love of the Doge of Venice system. Combined rounds of sortition and selection.

(In a modern variant, the first round of random draw could cover the entire population and resemble jury duty (only harder to get out of.))

--

Raito,
"I wonder how it would work if we eliminated geographical districts altogether. There's some number of representatives, and a race for each seat. A person can only run in one of the races. A voter can only vote in one race, but can vote in whichever the voter wishes. And no, you specifically don't have to declare ahead of time which race you're voting in."

So if you had three districts, and one controversial candidate in one district attracting all the oxygen in the race, and so the bulk of the population selected that district just to vote for/agin him, leaving the other two districts with a fraction of the vote?

(Not saying no, just saying that it would be weird.)

--

How about voter allocation? You vote for a representative, that person represents you and anyone else who allocates their vote to that person. Representatives don't get one rep/one vote in the legislature, they vote in proportion to their allocation. Hence no voter "loses" because their representative gets to assign their voters' votes, even if they only get a few percent of the population allocated to them.

[Someone suggested this in an earlier thread, along with the idea that you can change your allocation whenever you want, not just at "elections". Hence there probably wouldn't be "elections" as such. The re-allocation version pretty much eliminates voter secrecy, however.]

matthew said...

Trump is in favor of a boycott on the NFL because there was already a movement to boycott the NFL, coming from the far left. This way he gets to co-opt the movement and sow discord. This is the reason that Kraft, a close personal friend of Trump, denounced Trump's statements. Friendship in oligarchy is one thing, attacking Kraft's money machine is another. But from Trump's position, it's win-win. He gets to take credit for a far left boycott that was happening anyway.

LarryHart said...

matthew:

But from Trump's position, it's win-win. He gets to take credit for a far left boycott that was happening anyway.


Ok, that reasoning makes some sense. However, I think Trump is tone-deaf, and that what will actually happen is that the left and the NFL will become allies against Trump. After all, he thought the left would love him for firing James Comey, and look how well that turned out.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

How about voter allocation? You vote for a representative, that person represents you and anyone else who allocates their vote to that person. Representatives don't get one rep/one vote in the legislature, they vote in proportion to their allocation. Hence no voter "loses" because their representative gets to assign their voters' votes, even if they only get a few percent of the population allocated to them.


I think I like that idea a lot. The representative's constituents are those people who voted for him, and his incentive is to increase his voting clout by attracting more voters.

If I'm understanding right, I'd be able to vote for (say) Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to represent me, even though I live in Illinois. Or if I didn't think those easterners understand the heartland well enough, I could vote for Dick Durbin instead.


Someone suggested this in an earlier thread, along with the idea that you can change your allocation whenever you want, not just at "elections". Hence there probably wouldn't be "elections" as such.


So people could withhold their support for a representative about to vote for (or against) TrumpCare.

Or in a different scenario, the chambers vote on a bill first, and then the voters decide which reps to give their imprimatur to. So John McCain (say) votes one way and Dean Heller (say) votes the other way, but we don't know how much weight each of those representatives has until the voters have their say.


The re-allocation version pretty much eliminates voter secrecy, however.


There's always something, isn't there.

Then again, selfies and social media are pretty much eliminating voter secrecy these days.

Ioan said...

I will answer why the US can't just get rid of districts or move to a different voting system: It would take a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that.

donzelion said...

Duncan: "While there are computer solutions the combination of constituency vote and party vote that we use here always made sense to me"

Our Constitution just doesn't authorize that sort of a system (split votes, one for candidate, one for party). The Founders hoped the evils of 'factions' (and 'parties') could be avoided - rather than building that into the system, as you have, so that the effect is limited, we've hidden it, so that the effect is out of control.

Raito: "not only were the maps drafted in secret, they were drafted in lawyer's offices in an attempt to keep everything from scrutiny by appealing to client privilege."

Think I'd forgotten to mention that secrecy as I was calling for our group to focus on transparency, rather than methodology. "Who" - and "how" are more important than "what" and "where" - because computers can and will be used to cheat (indeed, they were used in 2010, followed with the claim Wisconsin is making now, "Ah, we did this with a computer! It doesn't pick sides, so this was 'fair'! Stop whining and live with it!"

We are stuck with district maps: thus the process for setting them needs to be open, public, and subject to scrutiny and public testing.

Paul451: If we eliminated geographical districts altogether, it would tweak how campaign finance operates - especially negative campaigning - to bring about the situation you describe. Indeed, that still happens on a micro-scale sometimes. We're locked into district-based voting for the 'traditional' reason that voters ought to have some minimal stake in their elected officials (they need to at least claim to reside in the district they vote from). I don't see that changing, BUT I could see changing how the lines are drawn, and by whom, so that at least everything is done publicly.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I concur with everything you said in that post, but I'm not clear whether you're telling us (me) to not pay attention to Trump's outrages, or that we should pay attention to them."

Maybe just 'less' attention? ;-) I can't tell you what to focus on. But I do think our children will look back at our attention spans and judge us harshly because we failed to focus on what mattered, and were so easily distracted by the distractors. I expect they'll respond to the siege upon their attention span by moralizing certain rules of thumb - the distractors are the 'enemies,' leading communities into error, wasting everyone's time.

Some people gotta hear something a few times before it sticks. Every second devoted to thinking about Trump's rant du jour is NOT spent assessing senators who say X then do Y. It's not spent thinking through maps, gerrymanders, health care, environment - stuff that really matters, which needs our communal thought. To the extent they can distract us to think about what they want us to think about, and not what we want to think about, they 'win.'

"Why do they keep (metaphorically) voting to turn up the heat on the electric blanket when the problem is that they're already too warm?"
Hot and sweaty people usually don't think clearly. And that's the Republican game: a pickpocket targets folks who are distracted - and the more angry we get, the more distractable we become.

matthew said...

Fox News reporting that Ryan Zinke conflating respect for the flag to respect to Trump.
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/09/26/zinke-one-third-interior-employees-not-loyal-to-trump-team.html

"Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday that almost one-third of career bureaucrats at his department are “not loyal to the flag,” and not in lockstep with him and President Trump.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, took over the 70,000-employee department in March, and has since been working to change the department’s regulatory culture to be more business-friendly.

“I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag,” Zinke said. “We do have good people, but the direction has to be clear and you’ve got to hold people accountable.”"


LarryHart said...

Ioan:

I will answer why the US can't just get rid of districts or move to a different voting system: It would take a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that.


Y'know, I was going to mention that myself, except that I don't believe it is true. I'm not finding anything in the US Constitution that mentions congressional districts.

The Constitution speaks of numbers of representatives allotted to states, but doesn't seem to mention districts at all. The word "district" only shows up in reference to the seat of the federal government, the District of Columbia.

Here's the relevant language in Article I, Section 2:

[Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned
among the several States which may be included within
this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which
shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of
free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term
of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fi fths of
all other Persons.]* The actual Enumeration shall be made
within three Years after the fi rst Meeting of the Congress
of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of
ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The
Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every
thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one
Representative...


and the 14th Amendment which supersedes part of that:


Representatives shall be apportioned among the several
States according to their respective numbers, counting the
whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians
not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for
the choice of electors for President and Vice President of
the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Execu-
tive and Judicial offi cers of a State, or the members of the
Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabit-
ants of such State, [being twenty-one years of age,]* and
citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except
for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of
representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion
which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the
whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in
such State.

LarryHart said...

matthew:

Fox News reporting that Ryan Zinke conflating respect for the flag to respect to Trump.


I would think the correlation between the two would be almost completely inverse.

David S said...

If you view the mixed member proportional representation video at
http://www.cgpgrey.com/politics-in-the-animal-kingdom/
It explains what I think Marino means by "some mix of proportional and uninominal constituency system would work fine."

I also like the single transferable vote video (on the same page) that explains ways to handle the excess votes for a candidate that "sucks all the oxygen" out of the election. Spoiler: once that candidate has enough vote to secure their position, you consider the next preferred candidate of the excess voters.


David S said...

If we stuck with districts, could we combine districts and then send multiple representatives from the larger combined district? If we did this and then used Single Transferable Vote (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=l8XOZJkozfI) and allowed people to rank their preferences, I think we'd get better representation.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

I can't tell you what to focus on. But I do think our children will look back at our attention spans and judge us harshly because we failed to focus on what mattered,


I have a hard time ignoring when Trump uses his aptly-named bully pulpit to incite some Americans to threaten other Americans. It might be a distraction, but it's a distraction we can't ignore, any more than you could ignore your house being on fire when you're supposed to be doing something else.

I've heard of a robbery technique in which a purse snatcher grabs a baby from a woman and tosses it high into the air, then runs off with her purse while she's more concerned with catching the baby. In a very clinical sense, you could argue that he wouldn't get away with it if the woman ignored the distraction. To what end, though?


and were so easily distracted by the distractors.


I'd like to think I can remember more than one thing.

My child judged me harshly yesterday because I yelled at the tv set when it showed Trump attacking NFL players as "son's of bitches". She was in a different room at the time, so all she heard was me shouting, "No, you're the son of a bitch, you asshole!" She thought I was saying that to the cat. After I reassured her that I only meant the chief executive of our country, all was cool. What a world we live in!

donzelion said...

David S, and others: The 'mixed member proportionality' system is not a new concept; many cities structured themselves with 'at large' representatives (whom everyone can vote for) and then 'district' representatives (whom only people at certain addresses could vote for). Historically, this has led to "a small group of insiders linked to developers/wealthy' running city government.

Anaheim was a good example: forced to change to 'districts' from 'at large' voting structures, the minority in Anaheim Hills, which selected 75% of the city council (while contributing less than 25% of the vote), routinely cut deals with businesses (esp. Disney) at the expense of the rest of the city. City council races tend to be low-turnout; a few thousand dollars in such a race can have a massive impact. Guess who has a few thousand dollars for city council races? Typically: developers who want a city rule set/changed for their benefit.

I am not saying that it can't be done, just that it can't be done secretively. We can experiment, but we must have public discussion of the experiments to critique the outcomes and determine if it worked (for all of us) or not. There is no system, nor will there ever be any system, that is immune to cheats - hence, transparency must be our first line of defense (and any system must be able to respond to cheats and bring their tactics into the open).

donzelion said...

Larry: "I have a hard time ignoring when Trump uses his aptly-named bully pulpit"
Abuses, more like it. Me too...I write judging my own proclivities more than yours; if I'm harsh, it's probably me feeling frustration with my own thought patterns.

"I've heard of a robbery technique in which a purse snatcher grabs a baby from a woman and tosses it high into the air,"
I'd call that an attempted murder technique, with robbery a second offense. Most prosecutors probably would as well (probably pleading it down to robbery, simply to get a conviction without a trial...).

"I'd like to think I can remember more than one thing."
You probably don't need any convincing. But we have audiences...when we join in defense of those perfectly able to defend themselves from a bully, we miss those who are not able to defend themselves.

I guess I'm mostly upset: ex-girlfriend (from almost 30 years ago) was on MSNBC after Trump blocked her on Twitter for trying to get his attention about people like her being treated for cancer who would probably be cut off by Trump(Don't)Care. That is NOT the fight Trump wants to fight, so instead, he changed the subject. That is how that asshole wins...again and again.

LarryHart said...

I don't believe it's over, but I do find this encouraging. What "McConnell says", though doesn't mean a pile of warm spit.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/us/politics/mcconnell-obamacare-repeal-graham-cassidy-trump.html


McConnell Says Republicans Are Giving Up on Health Bill

...
“We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said. “We are not going to be able to do that this week, but it still lies ahead of us, and we haven’t given up on that.”


Here's the most encouragin part:

Democrats responded by calling for the resumption of bipartisan negotiations to stabilize health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act. Republican leaders had squelched those talks as the latest repeal plan gained steam, hoping to present senators a single, take-it-or-leave-it decision on the legislation, written by Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“We hope we can move forward and improve health care, not engage in another battle to take it away from people, because they will fail once again if they try,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

LarryHart said...

Once again, from "Hamilton":


You don't have the votes!
Ha ha ha ha ha.
You don't have the votes!
It's gonna take congressional approval, and
You don't have the votes!

Such a blunder.
Sometimes it makes me wonder
Why I even bring the thunder.

Why he even brings the thunder.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"I've heard of a robbery technique in which a purse snatcher grabs a baby from a woman and tosses it high into the air,"
I'd call that an attempted murder technique, with robbery a second offense.


Ok, but you get the point, right? Ignoring the distraction might help prevent the robbery from working, but at a cost too high to pay. And the robbery is the reason he's doing it. It might count as attempted murder, but he has no interest in what happens to the baby. He "wins" or "loses" according to whether he gets away with the purse or not.


when we join in defense of those perfectly able to defend themselves from a bully, we miss those who are not able to defend themselves.


Wealthy and popular football players can defend themselves, sure. The un-armed black men being shot for whom they are protesting cannot.


ex-girlfriend (from almost 30 years ago) was on MSNBC after Trump blocked her on Twitter for trying to get his attention about people like her being treated for cancer who would probably be cut off by Trump(Don't)Care. That is NOT the fight Trump wants to fight, so instead, he changed the subject. That is how that asshole wins...again and again.


Health care has been my number one issue all year, even when everyone else is sick of it or wonders what the big deal is. I may be looking for work again soon, and I hate having to make the company's health plan the one and only factor.

That doesn't mean we let fascism slide, though.

If it's any consolation, the breaking news just now is that the asshole didn't win on health care. For the moment, the Senate Republicans have given up again. If Roy Moore beats Luther Strange in Alabama today, that will be a loss of a double-header for Trump and for McConnell. They can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Berial said...

If we name our newest Navy Ship the "Heart of Gold" do you think our older and much less entertaining version of Zaphod Beeblebrox would take the hint and run away with it?

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Ok, but you get the point, right?"
Yes, I do. My point was that we set up rules, and set people with strong incentives to follow those rules, to reduce the effect of distractions.

"Wealthy and popular football players can defend themselves, sure. The un-armed black men being shot for whom they are protesting cannot."
Colin Kaepernick deserves some credit for standing up on their behalf; the others are just standing up against a bully. Both have their place.

"Health care has been my number one issue all year, even when everyone else is sick of it or wonders what the big deal is. I may be looking for work again soon, and I hate having to make the company's health plan the one and only factor."
Ouch. Sorry to hear it.

"If it's any consolation, the breaking news just now is that the asshole didn't win on health care."
To be honest, on this round #3 (of 153...), I wonder if health care itself isn't just another distraction - say from immigration, or tax enforcement?

You can't fool all the people all the time, BUT you can distract majorities of the people most of the time, and then while they're distracted, steal their money (and toss their baby's into the air too).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Colin Kaepernick deserves some credit for standing up on their behalf; the others are just standing up against a bully. Both have their place.


I suppose this is my equivalent of "broken windows policing." If you let the bullies get away with it, they think they "won" and that they can continue upping the ante.


I wonder if health care itself isn't just another distraction - say from immigration, or tax enforcement?


Or is immigration just a distraction from the Supreme Court or something like that? Or is it just a distraction trying to guess what we're being distracted from? Turtles all the way down?

Or maybe you're giving Trump too much credit for playing 3-dimensional chess. Me, I think he's as shrewd as a bull in a china shop.

Even if you are right, the health care distraction is an equivalent of throwing our babies into the air. Even if we know it's a distraction, we can't ignore it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | 'Bourgeois Dignity' is the second of three and in my opinion it is the hardest to read end to end. She lays out a skeletal argument for where she intends to go in book #3 and the collects a bunch of arguments that each lasts a few pages. Those many arguments repeat a lot of material because they focus on each of the pet ideas people have for why the world is richer today than ever before and then she tries to demolish them. I think she figured most readers will read a little of the front chapters and then skip to their pet idea. Given that, each of the later chapters reads as a small, mostly independent essay.

It was Empires! Nah. We've done lots of empires and they mostly made people at the top rich. Okay. If you live in the center of the empire, the average income was about 2x subsistence in the recent empires. However, each was rigged to discourage free markets, but not so badly that people starved... often.

It was Science! Nah. Maybe later in the 20th century, but not before industrialization when the Dutch started getting rich. Besides, why didn't it work for the Greeks? The Romans were excellent engineers. Why not them? Worse yet, most of what we think got invented in the West was likely found first in China. Why not them first?

That's the way most of the book reads. If you go through it from end to end like I did, it IS worth it, but mostly because you'll have those counter-arguments from many different angles. You'll see where her knowledge is soft and where it isn't. You'll see where it might matter and where it won't. You'll see why human capital arguments make no sense... until they suddenly do in the late 20th century. She didn't drive the point in that book, but something big happened back with the emergence of the Dutch empire and then another big thing happened with our Pax. World spanningly huge with our Pax.

You'll also get to see what she thinks of certain people. Scientists aren't the only people rough on each other. Her opinion of some of us is less than generous. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | Mexico with French backing wouldn't have been able to sustain independence movements on our western frontier for long. The truth is that the US doesn't really need the west including California to be the power house that it is. What we needed was to keep foreign power off the near frontier, hence our interest in buying Russia out in North America. If we could have done the same with France and England in the Caribbean, we would have done so.

Mexico/French meddling in Colorado would have led to us invading through Texas most likely. We would have taken Veracruz and kept it next time.


David did say it was us against them all, though, so I'll admit there is one alt.history scenario where I think we lose. It is terribly unlikely, though. You'd need the nations along the northern plains of Europe to unite under one flag or a moderately stable hegemony AND THEN GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER in their opposition to us. Heh. That's what the Stratfor people mean in our #5 objective. Prevent competitors from rising. That goal is sufficient to explain why we had to enter WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. We can't risk someone running the table over there. No one else is a sufficient threat anymore.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | There is no system, nor will there ever be any system, that is immune to cheats - hence, transparency must be our first line of defense (and any system must be able to respond to cheats and bring their tactics into the open).

Amen. 8)

I know a small developer who explained why he and some of his friends didn't do certain things. He had a friend who got to cool his heels in prison after the S&L debacle. They are all ingenious and motivated, but some of them think they are too slippery to catch. Turns out they aren't and their friends notice.

This is inline with was our host points out in his transparency book when he runs the numbers for how many crimes lead to actual prison terms. Not many. The biggest bang for our buck isn't tougher sentences, though. It is seeing more of these things happen well enough to have good evidence which dissuades in advance those who know they can be seen.

That developer is a decent guy and friendly enough. He knows when he is adding value to a community and when he isn't. I don't understand why he voted for Trump, but he lives here in California, so I've decided not to think about it too much. 8)

LarryHart said...

The anti-transparency administration.

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :


Whatever EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is doing, it's not protecting the environment. Beyond that, however, he's doing everything he can to keep his activities a mystery. He forbids note-taking at staff meetings, and is the only cabinet officer to have a round-the-clock security detail. Now comes news that he's going to spend $25,000 building a soundproof area in his office, so that there is no chance that he will be heard by eavesdroppers. The EPA already has a space like this, for when classified information is being discussed, but it's a conference room in the middle of the department's headquarters. The new space will be for the exclusive use of the Administrator.

Clearly, Pruitt wants as much secrecy as is possible, coupled with the smallest paper trail possible. If that is not a formula for shady behavior and corruption, we don't know what is. If there is any question on that point, one need only imagine what the response from Republicans would be if the headline was, "Hillary Clinton forbids note-taking at meetings, has soundproof office to maintain secrecy." Sean Hannity might literally have a coronary.

raito said...

LarryHart,

I should have looked up the actual decision, shouldn't I? It was a longish time ago.

donzelion.

Did it with a computer? In 10th grade, I had to write a computer poker game. Mine cheated in favor of the computer. No one noticed.

LarryHart said...

Jimmy Kimmel on health care:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jimmy-kimmel-celebrates-death-graham-cassidy-health-care-bill-1043548


...
The host then took on Trump's accusations that McCain is a flip-flopper and stated that McCain is still in favor of repealing and replacing Obamacare, just not with “a flaming bag of dog crap.”

Kimmel went on the discuss Trump's own hypocrisy. “The idea that Donald Trump would criticize anyone for changing his position is very rich. It’s definitely richer than he is,” he said. “Donald Trump has more flip-flops than a Jimmy Buffett concert.”

In response to the clips of McCain the president shared on social media, the Jimmy Kimmel Live team took it upon themselves to compile a number of clips in which Trump is seen saying things he would never admit to today. Some of these revelations include Trump admitting that he believes Hillary Clinton is a good woman, that he’s a Democrat, that he won’t have time to play golf once he becomes president and that he “would never lie.”
...

donzelion said...

Alfred: "The truth is that the US doesn't really need the west including California to be the power house that it is."

Hard to say. Industrialization and immigration operated as a feedback loop in America; the one would not have occurred so fast without the other. I don't know that one could properly separate the quantity of American power in the East from the lure of the West, seeing as many of the folks who made us so strong came here hoping to take land, but settling in territory where their labor and talent could be put to other uses as well.

"It is terribly unlikely, though."
Agreed. Our host was making a claim similar to one Lincoln had made in 1838,

"All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years." (The Lyceum Address)

Taken seriously: I disagree with the claim, but ultimately not with the assessment of the true threat to America (one posed by the viciousness of our own population, in 1865 and in 2017).

LarryHart said...

raito:

I should have looked up the actual decision, shouldn't I? It was a longish time ago.


1977 was like my favorite year ever--at least my favorite year before I was married. I remember a lot of specifics from that summer. I know the Nazi march in Skokie was a thing at that time because I was hand-drawing comic books about the kids at my neighborhood playground having super powers, and I had one of them (Hammerhead) run through the group of marching Nazis.

Not that I'd have expected you to remember that. :)

donzelion said...

Alfred: "The biggest bang for our buck isn't tougher sentences, though. It is seeing more of these things happen well enough to have good evidence which dissuades in advance those who know they can be seen."

In the topic at hand, gerrymandering, my fear is that simply using 'agreeable principles' (compactness, maintaining community ties, avoiding invidious discrimination against certain people based on protected classifications) - can never suffice given the sophistication of the tools available (you can tell whether and how someone will vote based on credit card records with pretty high certainty).

"I don't understand why he voted for Trump, but he lives here in California, so I've decided not to think about it too much."
I imagine your friend knows how quickly others might discern what he does and doesn't do, simply by analyzing precinct level returns. I wonder how many Republican insiders vote 100% party line year after year for that reason alone. Few resources are devoted to spying on the people who spy on this side of the process - it's far less interesting than ordinary gossip (except to someone seeking to exploit power for profit).

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jim Wright seems a bit pissed...

http://www.stonekettle.com/

Wow. Bartcop meets HL Mencken.

A.F. Rey said...

On a lighter note, somehow the latest xkcd comic reminds me of Sundiver (especially when you hold the cursor over the comic). :)

https://xkcd.com/1895/

LarryHart said...

@A.F. Rey and anyone else interested,

You want a webcomic that involves a "Sundiver"-like adventure?

http://www.quantumvibe.com/strip?page=66

Whet your appetite with that page, and then go back to the beginning...

http://www.quantumvibe.com/strip?page=1

Highly addictive!

David Brin said...

raito, blatantly the ideal representation system would be for any 700,000 Americans who share values and needs to simply pool together and vote (buy) their own, unique representative.If 200 representatives are selected that way, then the geographic districts would expand in size till they encompass 700,000 lazy citizens who did not bother to join an interest group. The remaining 235 would be contested in adversarial elections. If an advocacy constituency falls below 650,000 they must recruit more members or lose their representative.

LarryHart: “My Favorite Year" was a great flick!

I am in Denver attending the annual symposium of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program. (I'm on NIAC's advisory council.) The talks are fascinating, re potential breakthrough projects that are just barely this side of plausible. The 2017 NIAC Symposium is streaming LIVE via Livestream, and you can even ask questions:  www.livestream.com/viewnow/NIAC2017

David Brin said...

onward?

endgame said...

David, you don't have a clue...