Let's Fix This Country
elections

Will the Supreme Court Finally Rid Us of Gerrymandering?

It is certainly strange in this putatively representative democracy that a corrosive practice just the opposite has been allowed since almost the nation's birth. Gerrymandering — the mapping of electoral districts so as to all but guarantee outcomes — goes on and on. It dates from 1812.

In June or before, the Supreme Court is expected to have its say on whether a couple of states — Wisconsin and Maryland — have gone too far. The Court has several times in the past stepped in to halt mapping that is clearly race-based. It did so almost a year ago when it slammed North Carolina for packing blacks into
The original gerrymander, from the
Boston Gazette of 26 March 1812,
named after Governor Elbridge Gerry
for signing a bill that redistricted
Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic
party. It was thought to look
like a salamander.

two districts — "with almost surgical precision”, the court said — to remove their influence from neighboring areas. But the Court has never until now accepted cases where the gerrymandering has no racial component to justify the Court's involvement.

One reason for such diffidence is that the Constitution leaves it to the states to control "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections", although it could be argued that gerrymandering doesn't quite fit those parameters. But that doesn't mean the states are free to violate principles elsewhere in the Constitution, and cases have been brought that say gerrymandering treats voters unequally, afoul of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

One solution is to turn over the design of election maps to non-partisan commissions. California led the way in 2017. Other states — Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio — have taken measures with the same goal in mind, some planning for commissions for state legislatures, but not for Congress. But the great preponderance of states are free to go on subverting democracy with…

military

Trump Had Big Plans for the Navy. What’s Happened?

The moment Donald Trump took office, the U.S. Navy pressed him to keep his word. While campaigning, the future president had pledged to expand the fleet to the 355 front-line warships the Navy and its supporters had been urging for years to meet the new threats posed by Russia and China. The cutback after the end of
The USS Hopper, Active in affirming freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

the Cold War, when Reagan-era spending boasted a fleet of 594 ships, 15 of them carriers, had left the Navy with a mere 275 ships, a total inadequate to the demands placed on it to patrol the world's seas.

The Navy had at the ready its "Force Structure Assessment" that called for building out the fleet with more carriers, submarines, destroyers and amphibious assault ships. They declared their plan "executable". Their "2018 Navy Shipbuilding Plans" was already in the works. Implementation would be subject to Congressional budget allocations, of course, but a stronger military was Republican doctrine and the government — from White House to Capitol Hill — was now under Republican control.

True to plan, in mid-December, Congress passed and President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which made a 355-ship Navy national policy, to be achieved "as soon as practicable". To meet the global needs of combatant commanders the Navy assessment for 2018 called for 12 carriers, 104 large surface combatants, and 66 attack submarines.

Yankee go home

The Navy's concerns are justified. Both Russia and China chafe at the United States setting the rules of a world order and the effrontery of our navy…

elections

The Justices Could If They Weren’t Technology Ignorant

Justices of the Supreme Court considering two cases (see companion article) wish there were some standard by which overly partisan gerrymandering could be struck down. Rather than petitioning the Court to hear one after another electoral district dispute, a standard would inhibit the states from drafting violations in the first place, knowing what would be the outcome.

What is dismaying is that the answer is hiding in plain sight, an answer that would do away with gerrymandering and partisan bias altogether, a solution that, inexcusably, none of the justices or lawyers for either party of these disputes seem to know anything about.

The answer lies in politically blind apportionment. Why couldn't that same software, guilty of drawing grotesque monstrosities such as the Maryland district (pictured)
Blue marks the challenged
Democratic district, part of which
lies along Chesapeake Bay, in black.

before the court, be reworked to produce agnostic district maps across the country that pay no attention to political parties?

In fact, there's already software that does precisely that. It's now years ago that we — knowing software — claimed that the same population mapping software that creates gerrymandered abominations could be reconfigured to instead create districts that connect contiguous neighborhoods while, in the process, entirely ignoring the or racial contents or voting habits of the populations being assigned to…

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economy

Runaway Debt? Inflation? Tariffs? Where Is This Economy Headed?

The austerity of the last decade — remember the 16-day government shutdown over the debt ceiling, spending of almost a trillion dollars "sequestered" over 10 years, expenses needing to be matched by savings elsewhere? — has suddenly been turned on its head, the doctrines of the political parties flipped in parallel. Republicans, who have long argued for a balanced budget, have become the big spenders while the Democrats they have always accused of profligacy are now the deficit hawks.

In December, Republicans passed tax cuts that will cost $1.5 trillion across 10 years without a single Democratic vote. Shortly thereafter Trump signed a bipartisan deal that will boost spending another $300 billion over just two
years. And now he has signed a 2,400-page omnibus spending bill that will cost $1.3 trillion more. Where will all this lead?

comeuppance

On several occasions Donald Trump boasted of balancing the budget. “We can balance the budget very quickly …I think over a five-year period", he said to Sean Hannity of Fox News in January, 2016 and went on to tell The Washington Post that April that he would get rid of the national debt “over a period of eight years”. Once president, Trump put forth last July a 10-year budget for 2018 that…

den of thieves

China: We Create It, They Steal It »

Part of a series on how China robs us blind

Targeted Tariffs: In his second round of tariffs, President Trump seeks to penalize China for its theft of American intellectual property, which has been going on for more than a decade. It's difficult for us to look back on the feeble policy of the Obama years in which there were nothing but talks and phony broken promises. Here's what we wrote almost six years ago.
    

It has been called “the greatest transfer of wealth in history”. Gen. Keith Alexander of the National Security Agency was referring to the theft by China of American trade secrets and technology with which to jump start their own industries and use their cheap labor to beggar their American counterparts.

Most Americans are probably aware that China steals American software and movies and ships counterfeit knock-offs of designer clothing around the world. Probably less known is how much technology is being smuggled out of the United States by a China that uses dishonesty as policy and is untroubled by…

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