Here’s what Alabama might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

Here’s what Alabama might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

Daily Kos

We’re taking a look at the impact of Republican gerrymanders on the 2016 congressional elections. Read why in our introductory post, and click here for the full series.

Alabama doesn’t often draw much attention over Republican gerrymandering, but many smaller states like it are a key part of how Republicans have such an unnatural edge in the House. Republicans gained control of the redistricting process in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they made sure that Alabama would continue electing six white Republicans by cramming as many Democrats as possible into the Voting Rights Act-protected heavily black 7th District. All six Republican-held seats remained so overwhelmingly red that Democrats have had utterly no chance in any of them since 2012.

Our nonpartisan proposal shown above (see here for a larger version) would undo the Republican gerrymander and create a second compact majority-minority district that would be near-certain to elect an additional black Democratic representative. Our map no longer combines Montgomery, the rural Black Belt, and Birmingham into a single seat. Instead, Montgomery and the Black Belt constitute the 2nd District, which is roughly 48 percent black and favored Clinton by 53-45. While that margin might seem competitive, this seat is so strongly polarized that Democrats would be heavily favored—indeed, five-term GOP Sen. Richard Shelby even lost it 53-47 despite winning re-election 64-36 statewide in 2016.

Consequently, our hypothetical 7th District would contain just Tuscaloosa and most of Birmingham. It has a narrow white plurality where enough white voters would consistently side with black voters to elect a black representative. Clinton won the seat by roughly 58-40, making it secure for black Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell. By undoing what is arguably an illegal racial gerrymander, Democrats would add one relatively secure seat, while black representation would double to a proportion that far more accurately reflects the more than one-quarter of Alabama that is African American.

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The Most District: Which district has the most unmarried women? Pennsylvania’s 2nd

The Most District: Which district has the most unmarried women? Pennsylvania’s 2nd

Daily Kos

If you stop and visualize Philadelphia, what first comes to mind might be some stereotypically masculine imagery: Rocky running up the steps of the art museum, burly guys tearing into cheesesteaks, Eagles fans booing Santa Claus. So it may come as something of a surprise to you that one thing Philadelphia—or more precisely, Pennsylvania’s 2nd congressional district, which takes up about half of the City of Brotherly Love—leads the way in is unmarried women.

That’s actually important, from a political standpoint: unmarried women are a key Democratic constituency. In 2016 exit polling actually found a larger “marriage gap” than the gender gap (Hillary Clinton won unmarried voters 55-44 while Donald Trump won married voters 52-37). And one striking item that I found while looking at 2016 election results at the county level and comparing them to demographic data is that the percentage of unmarried women in a county is in fact the strongest predictor of Democratic vote share, stronger even than race, education, or density; there’s a 0.72 correlation between Hillary Clinton’s percentage of the vote in 2016 and the percentage of the women in a county age 15 or older who have never married (compared with, say, an -0.59 correlation with a county’s white population percentage).

I’m hardly the first person to observe this; many social scientists have focused on the concept of the second demographic transition, which can be summarized as what happens to birth rates in advanced societies (i.e. they decline, to sub-replacement levels). This happens through delayed marriage and delayed childbirth, increased cohabitation without marriage and without children, and increased levels of women working; it’s associated with a lot of positive outcomes, including less poverty and longer life expectancies. It’s also strongly associated, at least when you compare different states, with voting Democratic. (If you look at the chart below, you can see just how strong the relationship is between how states voted in 2016 and a combined “demographic transition” number based on factors like unmarried-ness and birth rates.)

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A dedication: What I learned from my father’s pre-death ‘funeral’

A dedication: What I learned from my father’s pre-death ‘funeral’

Daily Kos

When readers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, opened their local newspaper’s obituary section on March 12, they discovered an entry for my father, Robert Eleveld, that began, “8/3/1936 – Not Yet.”

My father, pictured brandishing a bottle of red, beamed at them from a notice our family dubbed the “nobit.”

“Hel-‘LO’!” he wrote, emulating the rhythm of his signature salutation. “As I write this notice, I am still with you, although my doctors have informed me that this status will change in the near future.” Dad explained that he had decided to upend end-of-life norms and hold a “celebration” instead, even though some might consider it “a bit odd.”

“Doing this brings me great joy,” he wrote, in the open invitation for the March 18 event the following weekend. “You are my friends, my colleagues, my family—the people I would absolutely love to share a roast beef sandwich, some shrimp and a beer with—on me!”

The idea for Dad’s pre-death send off first surfaced last Thanksgiving. He had never wished for a moment of mourning following his death. Well before he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in the spring of 2015, he would always say, “When I pass, don’t have a funeral. Just throw a party.” So as six of us sat around a table with Dad late last November absorbing the reality that he had all but exhausted his treatment options, we began to ponder when we might hold a posthumous cocktail party of sorts. That’s when my sister-in-law said, “What are we waiting for? Why don’t we have it while you’re still here?” Everyone around the table sort of lit up at the idea. And it stuck.

Of course, the question then was, when do you have such a party? At that moment, my father tired more easily than usual, but he was still quite mobile and mentally agile. No one wanted to wave the white flag of surrender a moment too soon. But on March 8, when his oncologist said he had four to six weeks to live, his partner of 24 years Michele McIsaac looked at Dad and said, “We can do this one of two ways—we can go out with a whimper or a bang.”

“Let’s go out with a bang!” he responded.

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Can we dump the ‘mistress’ from political scandals?

Can we dump the ‘mistress’ from political scandals?

Daily Kos

I hate covering political sex scandals. A lot of that is because they distract from serious issues more than the schadenfreude is worth even if you hate the politician involved, or that they help Republicans paint politics as dirty and tacky. But it’s also a word that almost inevitably gets heavy use: “mistress.”

We need a substitute for mistress.

a woman who has a continuing, extramarital sexual relationship with one man, especially a man who, in return for an exclusive and continuing liaison, provides her with financial support.

It reeks of historical romance novels and long-ago kings and it frankly doesn’t apply to most sex scandals today.

There is of course no parallel word for men. The idea of using “master”—the male counterpart of other definitions of mistress—is ludicrous.

And mistress doesn’t just say “extramarital affair,” it strongly implies financial support and a specific power relation. To be a mistress is to have no other professional identity, and no matter how much you support treating sex work as work, it’s not an accurate term when the woman in question has a non-sex job and identity as a professional at the same time as she is having an affair with a politician.

Consider the synonyms: Concubine, girlfriend, paramour, prostitute, roommate (really?), sweetheart, chatelaine, courtesan, doxy, inamorata—on down the line to fancy woman, kept woman, other woman, and shack job. Either, like girlfriend or sweetheart, they leave out the illicit or transactional implications of mistress; or, like chatelaine, they apply to a different meaning of mistress; or they are about sex work: concubine, prostitute, courtesan. That didn’t apply when Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was having an affair with a married member of his staff. It didn’t apply to Monica Lewinsky. The sex work aspect did apply to Ashley Dupre, the prostitute Eliot Spitzer was caught patronizing, but the other implications of mistress did not.

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Salt Lake Tribune editorial: ‘ICE crackdown is making all of us less safe’

Salt Lake Tribune editorial: ‘ICE crackdown is making all of us less safe’

Daily Kos

Undocumented immigrants are our friends, our coworkers, our classmates, our neighbors. They run and operate businesses that not only keep communities thriving, but have revitalized entire cities that were at one time facing economic decimation due to an aging population. Nearly 6 million U.S. citizen children—tomorrow’s leaders, professionals, doctors, teachers, and innovators—have at least one undocumented immigrant parent. “Immigrants, with their hopes and energies,” Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple’s Steve Jobs, wrote last year, “should be seen not as threats but as blessings.”

But threats is what Donald Trump has made undocumented immigrants out to be. The fact is that because Trump’s mass deportation force tears at the very nucleus of our nation—families and communities—it tears at us all, no matter our legal status. And as a new editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune states, Trump doesn’t just pose a threat to immigrant families, as many of us already know: he also poses a threat to our very way of life.

It’s how dictators operate.

Pick a relatively small, politically powerless group of people and portray them as objects of fear and derision. Then swoop in with the power of the state to arrest members of that disfavored group and reap the political benefits of protecting the state from the threat that you invented.

This is why the current administration’s move to arrest and deport more people who are in the United States without proper documentation, but who have committed no other crime, is so troubling and so counter to what America should stand for.

Whether by design or default, this is a policy of divide and conquer, one that re-enforces irrational fears of The Other among many citizens while pushing members of immigrant communities further into a parallel world where contact with all government services — including legitimate law enforcement — comes to be feared and shunned.

This does not make anyone safer. It makes us all less safe, less able to move freely and do our business without looking over our shoulder.

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Here’s what North Carolina might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

Here’s what North Carolina might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

Daily Kos

We’re taking a look at the impact of Republican gerrymanders on the 2016 congressional elections. Read why in our introductory post, and click here for the full series.

North Carolina’s Republican gerrymander is arguably the most aggressive one in the country, even after a 2016 court ruling forced Republicans to redraw their even crazier previous map for last year’s elections. What makes this gerrymander so extreme is how it takes a near-evenly divided state and deviously quarantines as many Democrats as possible into a mere three districts, then efficiently spreads out Republicans so that all 10 of their seats are relatively safe for Team Red yet don’t waste excess Republican voters who might have secured neighboring seats. Our nonpartisan proposal shown above (see here for a larger version) produces a far more equitable partisan outcome.

Our proposed map no longer combines the state capital of Raleigh with the two other biggest cities of the Triangle region into one Democratic vote sink, but it anchors its own safely Democratic 13th District that favored Clinton by 62-35, which would be unwinnable for Republican Rep. George Holding. It also adds another Clinton district by uniting the three core cities of the Piedmont Triad—Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point—into one compact urban 9th District instead of cracking them into three separate districts. Freedom Caucus GOP Rep. Ted Budd would have had no hope of winning this 61-37 Clinton seat, but instead it would likely favor a black Democrat, increasing the number of black representatives by one.

Reuniting Asheville in western North Carolina turns the 11th District from one that Trump carried 63-34 into a considerably smaller 57-40 margin. That Trump edge is still substantial, but the redrawn seat has a long history of voting more Democratic downballot—indeed, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper lost it just 51-46 last year. It’s almost identical to the district that Democratic ex-Rep. Heath Shuler won 54-46 even in the 2010 GOP wave. A popular moderate, Shuler almost certainly only retired in 2012 because of Republican gerrymandering, and there’s a strong chance he’d have been running in 2016 as an incumbent instead of GOP Rep. and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows.

Republicans skillfully cracked pockets of Democratic strength in Fayetteville and southeastern North Carolina, but our proposal unites Fayetteville into the 2nd District while 9th District GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger’s seat gets eliminated entirely. Trump won the 2nd just 52-45, but it saw several much closer races at the statewide level in 2016. Then-GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers likely still would have lost the primary to a more extreme Republican due to her unpopularity with GOP voters, making this an open seat where Democrats may have had a fighting chance.

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Black Lives Matter movement to be awarded the 2017 Sydney peace price

Black Lives Matter movement to be awarded the 2017 Sydney peace price

Daily Kos

While the Black Lives Matter movement continues to be met with a range of reactions in the United States, it is being honored internationally for its work and for the promotion of peace and justice. In November, it will be awarded the 2017 Sydney peace prize. The movement was founded in 2013 by three black women—Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza—after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. 

Western Australian Labor senator Pat Dodson, who was awarded the Sydney peace prize in 2008 for his advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, applauded the selection of Black Lives Matter as a movement that stood against “ignorance, hostility, discrimination, or racism”.

“This movement resonates around the globe and here in Australia, where we have become inured to the high incarceration rates and deaths in custody of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Dodson said. “It’s as if their lives do not matter.”

The Sydney peace prize honors a nominee whose work promotes human rights and nonviolence. Its past recipients include Dodson, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and former Irish president Mary Robinson. The award, which is given out by Australia’s Sydney University, has been offered since 1988. It is typically awarded to an individual peacemaker, making this the first time in the award’s history that the prize will be given to a movement or group.

Last year’s recipient, Naomi Klein, said Cullors, Garza and Tometi “embody the core principle of the Sydney peace prize: that there will never be peace without real justice”.

“This is an inspired, bold and urgent choice – and it’s exactly what our moment of overlapping global crises demands,” Klein said.

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Sometimes hiring discrimination is committed by a bigot—and sometimes it’s by standardized test

Sometimes hiring discrimination is committed by a bigot—and sometimes it’s by standardized test

Daily Kos

You might think that a standardized test would be a way to eliminate discrimination from job hiring—everyone gets the same questions, and everyone’s answers are graded in the same way. But you’d be wrong. In fact, some standardized tests used widely by employers looking to screen job-seekers can be instruments of discrimination, Will Evans reports. One test alone caused illegal discrimination against more than 1,000 people, according to the Labor Department:

At a California factory for Leprino Foods Co., the world’s largest producer of mozzarella cheese, WorkKeys put 253 Latino, black and Asian applicants at a disadvantage, the department found. Leprino Foods eventually agreed to pay $550,000 and hire 13 of the rejected job seekers.

At a chemical plant in Virginia, an auto parts factory in upstate New York and an engine plant in Alabama, the tests also illegally screened out minority applicants, according to Labor Department records. At a General Electric Lighting plant in Ohio and an aluminum factory near Spokane, Washington, WorkKeys unfairly hurt the chances of female applicants, officials found.

The tests didn’t adequately measure whether an applicant would be good at the job, violating civil rights protections, according to the government. The employers paid a settlement to unsuccessful applicants and scrapped the tests.

But other employers—including local and state governments in many places—continue to use tests that aren’t relevant to the jobs they’re hiring for, potentially screening out people who are qualified for the jobs they’re trying to get.

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The Most District: Which district has the most veterans? Florida’s 1st

The Most District: Which district has the most veterans? Florida’s 1st

Daily Kos

Daily Kos Elections’ “Most District” series flies over to Florida’s 1st congressional district for Memorial Day weekend: it’s the district that has the highest percentage of veterans. Eighteen percent of the civilian residents (18 years old or older) of this district, centered on Pensacola, are former service members.

You might think that veterans are pretty equally distributed around the country; for instance, they might go back to where they lived before they served, after they get out of the military. However, that’s not the case: a lot of veterans simply stay where they are once they’re discharged, so they’re disproportionately located around military bases anyway. The advantages of doing so are easy to understand; their friends and social networks are still there, and they retain some benefits, like using Tricare at VA hospitals and shopping at the deeply discounted PX, that are much easier to use if you stay near a base. And Florida’s 1st has not one but two large military facilities: the Naval Air Station Pensacola, which is the primary training center for naval aviators, and Eglin Air Force Base, a test and evaluation center.

On top of that, veterans tend to have better employment opportunities around bases. A lot of ex-military people proceed straight to working as a civilian employee of the military or for companies that contract with the military, so they wind up working on a base anyway. Even if they move to the private sector, in a field that’s related to skills they learned in the military, their professional networks are likely to keep them in a place that’s in close proximity to a military installation. For instance, following Florida’s 1st as the next most veteran-filled districts are Virginia’s 2nd in Virginia Beach, which has a large Navy presence (at 17 percent veterans) and Colorado’s 5th in Colorado Springs, which has a large Air Force presence (and 16.6 percent veterans).

The other place where you tend to find a lot of veterans is retirement destinations. After all, our nation’s veterans are disproportionately senior citizens. There aren’t a lot of World War II veterans left, but that was one of the largest mobilizations this country has ever seen. And even the youngest Vietnam era veterans have mostly reached retirement age now, as the Baby Boomers are in their 60s and 70s.

Florida, of course, is a prime retirement destination; if you separate out the top 10 congressional districts for highest median age or for highest percentage of senior citizens, most of them are found in Florida. The 1st, for instance, is 16.4 percent residents who are 65 or older, a higher percentage than the national average. (Also, Florida’s 11th congressional district, north of Tampa, has by far the highest percentage of seniors of any district in the nation: 33.8 percent of its population. It also has one of the highest rates of veterans—14.4 percent—even though there’s no military base there, only a vast array of planned retirement communities, most notably the sprawling hellscape of The Villages.)

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