Wednesday, September 15, 2021

If you want to limit political gerrymandering, gerrymander the hell out of NY

Political gerrymandering is horrible. It undermines democracy and locks in leaders who can't really get elected in their community. I strongly favor doing everything we can to get rid of it.

And yet, I am totally for New York engaging in hyper-political gerrymandering in this session. Not just because that is what the Republicans are doing in states they control, so Democrats need to fight back somehow (although that is also true). The main reason is as part of a longer-term strategy to abolish political gerrymandering.

I'm convinced that politicians are going to find a way to game the system to entrench their party no matter what checks we put in place. The only real solution has to be imposed by the judiciary (like the PA Supreme Court's ruling that imposed a much fairer map in 2018). While some state supreme courts are willing to undermine political gerrymandering (like PA's did), most states under solid Republican control have judges who are similarly committed to maintaining GOP dominance. The only national solution to the problem has to come through the federal judiciary.

But the federal judiciary is so packed with Republican appointees, it also seems to be pretty hostile to the concept of any kind of correction to the electoral system that might undermine Republican's disproportionate advantage in the House of Representatives. That's especially true on the Supreme Court level, where 6 Justices have shown they have no hesitation rule against electoral reforms that seem to help Democrats, no matter what their merits. The only way that the likes of Roberts or Alito will ever agree to a rule to limit partisan gerrymandering is if the rule is perceived as hurting Democrats.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an attorney, she was famous for choosing her cases carefully to get to the precedent she wanted. A lot of the sex discrimination cases she brought were about discrimination against men. When she won relief for her male clients she got the Court to make neutral-sounding rules to govern sex discrimination cases in the future and those rules could later be used to protect women.

To get the current pro-GOP Supreme Court to do anything about partisan gerrymandering, you would need to bring a case where Democrats were advantaged by the gerrymandering map. As long as gerrymandering is viewed as something that just helps Republicans, the 6 conservative justices on the Court are going to find a way to make it constitutional. They won't see it as a problem until they think gerrymandering could threaten their party's interests too.

Example of bad vaccination stats

The woman profiled in this article is a good example of what I was saying here. Ms. Piccioni got a J&J shot last year. More recently she decided she needed a booster (even though no booster has been authorized) so she got both doses of Pfizer. Although the article doesn't mention it, that means she was probably counted as two different fully vaccinated people in the vaccination statistics. Because we don't know how many people there are like Ms. Piccioni, we don't really know what the real fully vaxxed rate is anywhere in the country.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Our vaccination records are bad

Almost three months ago, I noted that the gap between the "partially vaccinated" and "fully vaccinated" numbers in PA were not closing as fast as one would expect them to. For J&J recipients are "fully vaccinated" with the first shot, so no one who gets that shot is counted as "partially vaccinated." For Pfizer, the second dose is supposed to be administered three weeks after the first dose, and for Moderna, the second dose is supposed to be administered four weeks after the first dose. As I noted back in June, if people were following the schedule, one would expect the "partially vaccinated" percentage to be pretty close to the "fully vaccinated" percentage a month later. But that wasn't what happened. Among adults in Pennsylvania, 52.7% were partially vaccinated and 70% were fully vaccinated at the end of May 2021. At the end of June, the partially vaccinated number had moved only up to 54.2%, just a 1.5% increase not the 17.3% increase one would expect if everyone following the vaccination schedule. At that time, I wondered if a lot of people were bowing out after only one shot. I also wondered why there wasn't much coverage of that persistent gap.

It is now months later, and we still have not reached the 70% fully vaxxed rate I would have expected by late June.

At this point I no longer think there over a million1 Pennsylvanians skipping their second dose of the COVID vaccine. That's just too many people for the phenomenon not to be noticed. Instead I am now convinced that a significant number of people are getting their second dose at a different place from their first dose but forgetting to bring their vaccination card or forgetting to tell the provider they had already received a first shot. So they end up getting counted as "partially vaccinated" twice. Also there are probably people who decided to get themselves a booster (a third shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or a first shot of Pfizer or Moderna on top of J&J) to get extra protection even though the booster is not currently authorized for most people, which means they may lie to the pharmacist giving the shot and their third dose gets counted as a new "partially vaccinated" person.

In other words, the persistent gap between partial and fully is more of an artifact of our decentralized crappy medical record system in the U.S. In other countries with universal healthcare, if someone went to a pharmacy to get a shot they would be found in the national healthcare database, which would be able to accurately tell which dose it is. Here in the U.S., where the shots are free so you don't even need to report it to your insurance company, the injections people get often won't be recorded accurately.

That means that some portion of that 16.5% who is thought to be partially vaccinated but not fully vaccinated probably are fully vaccinated. It also means that some portion of the partially vaccinated number are really double counts of the fully vaccinated numbers, because they represent someone who was fully vaccinated who went to get an unauthorized booster.

But it does mean that the fully vaccinated number is probably an accurate floor of the number of fully vaccinated adults there are in the state. In other words, I think it is accurate to say that at least 66.8% of adult Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated as of today. We just will never know the real number of fully vaxxed and the partially vaxxed number is probably wrong.

1-The adult population of PA is 9.63 million. 16.5% (the difference between 83.3% and 66.8% in the Governor's Tweet) of that adult population is 1,59 million people.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

The California Recall Process is an Expensive Pointless Mess

 If the polls are right,1 Gavin Newsom will survive the recall vote later this month. But if the polls are wrong, and Newsom is recalled, then probably Larry Elder will become governor of California with about 20% of the vote. Elder, a rightwing crank, would lead one of the bluest state with only a slender minority of support. Which means the day after he wins the recall election, there will be an effort to recall Elder, and because he is so out of tune with the majority politics in that state and will never be able to muster 50% support, he is highly likely to lose such a vote.

So at best, Elder will be CA Governor for maybe a year, and the state will waste millions of dollars on multiple recall elections to install and then remove someone who never has a majority of support among Californians.

1-That may be a big if, polls have not been very right lately.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Bounties for everything

With the Supreme Court's okay of a state law awarding bounties for anyone getting or assisting an abortion, states across the land should consider their own bounty laws for anything they don't particularly like. Don't think enough people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, pass a law allowing anyone to sue the unvaccinated for $10,000 + legal fees and let ordinary citizens sue the unvaccinated into compliance!

Frustrated that the Court thinks the Second Amendment bars reasonable gun control? Make a law setting bounties on anyone who buys or owns a firearm! If enough randos get $10k judgments against the gun nuts, they'd eventually have to hock their gun collection just to pay off they legal judgments (and those sales will trigger another bounty!)

Tired of American militarism abroad? A state with an anti-militarism state government can set a bounty on anyone who works for a military contractor!

Sick of retailers ruining the autumn by making everything pumpkin spice? Set a bounty on those fuckers!

If state bounty laws are okay, even if the laws target things still technically recognized as constitutional rights, the sky is the limit! There are a lot of states out there and there are some crazy state legislatures. 

lots of stuff happened

I'm in California, on my first trip of any significant distance since 2019. I haven't been obsessing about the news as much as usual in the past week+ but holy shit have things happened. This is basically the opposite of what I experienced when I peeked at the news while backpacking through Uzbekistan in 2003.

Friday, August 27, 2021

It should be ISK

I realize people have died and this really isn't important at all, but I have become fascinated with the insistence of virtually all American commentators, from the media to the President, and even the former President, to call the Islamic State in Afghanistan "ISIS" even though that acronym stands for "the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria." The group calls itself the Islamic State on Khorosan (Khorosan is an old name for the part of historic Persia that extends into Central Asia). So people are starting to refer to the Afghan group as "ISIS-K", even though it still doesn't make total sense to include that second I and S which stands for Iraq and Syria. Consider this my lonely campaign to get everyone to start referring to the group in Afghanistan as "ISK" instead of "ISIS" or "ISIS-K."

I have no doubt my efforts will fail and ISK will never catch on.

Meanwhile, I got curious about how Arabs were dealing with the issue. As many Westerners have heard "Daesh" (داعش) is the Arabic acronym for ISIS, and like ISIS, "Daesh" stands for a phrase that identifies the location of the group ("دولة إسلامية في العراق و الشام" "The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/the Levant"). My Arabic is really rusty, but I was able to find and read this al-Jazeera article. In that article, at least, the group is just referred to as "the Islamic State" (دولة إسلامية). The word "Daesh"/"داعش" only appears once, when it quotes British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who probably used the word "Daesh" in his remarks. Even then, the Wallace's use of "Daesh" is followed by a parenthetical to clarify that me means the Islamic State. If you care the the full Wallace quote is this:
من الواضح أن التهديد سيزداد كلما اقترب موعد المغادرة… أثناء مغادرتنا، سترغب مجموعات معينة مثل داعش (تنظيم الدولة) في الادعاء بأنها طردت الولايات المتحدة أو المملكة المتحدة

Friday, August 20, 2021

The bell at the end was my favorite part


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Not Taliban 2.0, but maybe Taliban 1.1

I'm not terribly optimistic that we will see a new Taliban that respects human rights, respects women's rights, etc. But the fact that they are making these noises are a good sign. They are probably just saying this stuff (and in some places avoiding imposing extreme restrictions on women, although those moves seem inconsistent in different parts of the country) to make the foreign community (aka the foreign aide donor community) happy. That in itself is something. The old Taliban didn't try to placate the foreign community, they just did what they thought their extremist religious views required. If the new leadership is worried about what foreigners think enough to moderate their policies, that will represent a lever of influence for the international community that could make things a little better for people under their rule.

A Taliban that is responsive to the criticisms of the foreign community is still going to be awful, but it is better than a Taliban that isn't listening to anyone and won't make any changes if they are criticized by foreign governments or human rights organizations.