Natural Experiment: Progressives Win

Political scientists and economists love natural experiments, the all-too-rare situation in which normal events set up a comparison between competing ideas. They can be pretty convincing because we can build a case using with real data, not just speculation about what ought to happen if the world adopts our wonderful ideas. Minnesota and Wisconsin are roughly comparable and took different directions in recent elections. Here are the results. You can guess that since I post it, progressives outperform the teaparty conservatives.

Unconstitutional? Tell us how

Today’s Supreme Court decision ruling Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional has some strange reasoning. I get that the conservatives on the court wanted to get rid of the VRA and then set about finding a way to do it.

But it strikes me as odd that the decision does not say what constitutional provision is violated by the law. Steve Benen at Maddowblog makes the same point.

But there’s more to the argument that this is a weak claim of unconstitutionality. The so-called conservatives speak fondly of original intent, as though that’s the only valid perspective to use in reading the constitution. Such a view says that the meaning of the constitution never changes. It is what it always has been. Yet today’s majority ruling allows that Section 4 may have been constitutional at one time, but conditions have changed and so it is not now consistent with the Constitution. How can that be, if the meaning is never-changing? Maybe the original intent isn’t so unchanging after all.

Second-rate military? Second to what?

Certain hawks, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, warn the US will be a “second-rate” military power as a result of the budget sequester. The sequester will cut about $43 billion from the defense budget, of about $741 billion. Wow, that would put the US at, let’s see, number 1 in military expenditures, still about a third of all military expenditures world-wide. and far larger than any other country. Second to what, Mr. Secretary?

It’s back

I was too optimistic. The Michigan state GOP convention overwhelmingly voted to allocate Michigan’s electoral vote by congressional district, instead of the winner-take-all system used in Michigan and all but two other states. The result of allocating by congressional district in the 2012 election would have been Romney taking a majority of the electoral votes despite losing the state by 9 points. That would happen because of he gerrymandered congressional districts that pack the majority Democrats into a few strangely shaped districts. More from the Detroit News

You’ve never seen lake effect snow like this

Huffington Post had this great satellite photo from today, showing both peninsulas of Michigan and surrounding states and provinces.


An arctic cold front crossed the lakes, which are visible on the north and west shores as dark lines. The moisture from the lakes forms clouds which then deposit snow when the northwest winds bring the clouds over land. The dense snow along the lake shores is clearly visible.

(NASA photo)


Serious Threat

Update: It looks like this election stealing scheme is dead. GOP leaders in four of the the six target states have cooled to the idea. Good news.

Right now, Maine and Nebraska are the only states that allocate electoral college votes by congressional district. The win-at-any-cost GOP is now proposing that several states that went to Obama in 2012, but are under Republican government, change their electoral college votes to congressional districts, rather than winner-take-all.

At first blush that sounds fair. But let’s consider the result. Because the congressional districts in these states are gerrymandered, packing as many democrats into as few districts as possible and spreading the Republican vote out to maintain slim majorities in the remaining districts, Republicans disproportionately carry the congressional elections. As many have pointed out, the GOP lost the vote for the house by over a million votes, yet won more seats, because of gerrymandering.

Extending that result to the presidential election would have dramatically reduced Obama’s electoral college vote, to a much too close 271-267, in spite of the much larger popular vote advantage.

The states where this proposal is being discussed include our own Michigan, with a Republican governor and legislature. This is the gang that brought us Right to Work for Less in spite of its great unpopularity. They don’t care what people want. It’s win at any cost.

Homemade toy train

I decided to make a toy for grandson Bryan’s Christmas gift. Collette is making some toys, too. For my first effort, I made a simple pull train out of wood.

Wooden train in bright colors. For a toddler

Simple wooden train for a toddler

This one is cut from white pine using a bandsaw. I cut the wheels with a hole saw. Sand everything, then paint with non-toxic paints. I used fluid acrylics from an art supply store. These are bright colors, selected to recognize his parents’ universities (U of Michigan and U of Tennessee). A non-toxic clear coat protects the finish.

It consists of a locomotive, tender, boxcar, hopper car and caboose.

Great idea

Jonathan Zaslof at Washington Monthly has a great idea. Sure, the GOP wants Obama to propose changes to entitlements? Yes. Go for it. Here’s how I envision the dialog.

POTUS: You’re right, Mr. Speaker. I should propose some reforms to Obamacare to reduce the deficit.

SOH: Thank you, Mr. President. I assure you reforms to Obamacare will receive serious consideration from us.

POTUS: Here’s what I propose. We amend Obamacare in a way that saves about $50 billion each year. You’d be with me on that, right? We need to include a public option. That would do it. Your move, John.


Great explanation, great video

From the NYTimes today – a really fascinating conversation and video on conducting music. “Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, demonstrates and discusses the role of a conductor.” The NYU Movement Lab details the conductor’s gestures and movement, while he discusses the role of the conductor.

Good blog

You might be interested in this post (or the blog) on Santorum (and others) and a new definition of religious freedom. My son Nate wrote it.