Two Ways of Looking at Gerrymandering – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“Even though Doug Jones won a famous statewide victory in last month’s Alabama Senate race, he actually lost — less famously — to Roy Moore in six of the state’s seven congressional districts. That’s right: He carried only the heavily black Seventh Congressional District, into which the Alabama Legislature has jammed almost a third of the state’s African-American population while making sure that the rest of the districts remain safely white and Republican.

That’s gerrymandering in the raw. Something equally raw, although less overtly racial, happened in Maryland back in 2011, when the overwhelmingly Democratic State Legislature decided that one Republican out of Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation was one Republican too many. The 2010 census required the state to shrink the majority-Republican Sixth District by 10,000 people in order to restore one-person, one-vote equality among the districts. Seeing its opportunity for some major new line-drawing, the Legislature conducted a population transfer. It moved 66,417 Republican voters out of the district while moving into it 24,460 Democratic voters from safely Democratic adjoining districts, a swing of more than 90,000 votes. And guess what? The 20-year Republican incumbent, Roscoe Bartlett, lost the 2012 election to the Democratic candidate, John Delaney, who has won re-election ever since.”

Yes. Here is the top comment I endorsed:

Brad

is a trusted commenter San Diego County, California 5 hours ago

Every time I read about the problem of gerrymandering and how districts are drawn to favor one party or another I keep thinking about conversations with Europeans about how they deal with gerrymandering.

One approach is not to have small electoral districts but rather have multiple seats open in a single state. A parliamentary style election in which party has a list of candidates allows proportional representation. If 40% of voters vote for a Republican, 35% for a Democrat, 15% for Libertarians and 10% for the Greens, those percentages determine the allocation of seats.

Alternatively is to have non-partisan “boundary commissions” as they are called in Great Britain. A similar approach is used in California and Arizona.

Gerrymandering – combined with corporate funding of candidates – has corroded American political system.

 

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What We’re in Danger of Losing – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“Support for the environment has deep bipartisan roots, going back to the 1970s, when the architecture of today’s environmental regulation was created by such measures as the Clean Air and Water Acts and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, all signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Public support remains strong and growing. A Gallup Poll this spring found that 71 percent favor alternative energy sources, rather than continuing to develop fossil fuel resources. But President Trump, in love with coal and the country’s dwindling population of miners, has placed in charge of his environmental program a man who has spent his adult life committed to the destruction of environment-friendly policies and who is running the Environmental Protection Agency by secrecy and fear. What are they thinking?”

Thank you Linda Greenhouse.

Here is a comment I particularly liked.

soxared, 04-07-13

Crete, Illinois 5 hours ago

The gerrymandered state legislatures and Congress, the brainstorm of the Koch Bottles (who bankroll ALEC), are the breeding ground(s) for “what are they thinking?” The clear answer is “nothing.”

One of the great evils of 21st Century American life is the 2010 Citizens United decision which, Ms. Greenhouse, you know well. What the uncapping of spending on political campaigns and the shielding of donors did was to cast not a veil but heavy, thick drapes across the divide between public inspection and private interests in the outcome of political races. And with Neil Gorsuch illegally installed as Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the SCOTUS, the Right’s steady march towards an oligarchy based on wealth and racial animosity progresses without any impediment, none certainly from the president and the Congress as we now have them.

Few too many Americans took fright when Donald Trump announced for the presidency. Right up until the late night of November 8, 2016, many (including those who stayed home or voted for third party candidates) believed that an imminent destruction of sensible national priorities was to be our portion, an enduring hangover.

Not only Roe v. Wade; voter suppression commissions; the quiet rollback of regulations designed to protect Americans from the predations of commerce and industry; the would-be imposition of citizenship tests based on religious persuasion. Donald Trump’s down escalator is a steep, lurching, dizzying ride. There’s no bottom in sight.

The Empty Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was just plain embarrassing, and not only for the nominee. But let’s begin with him, skipping over his Republican enablers, who had nothing to do but lob softball questions and praise his answers. If Judge Gorsuch wasn’t the least forthcoming Supreme Court nominee ever to appear at a confirmation hearing, it’s hard to imagine one who could be less forthcoming while still breathing. More interesting and less predictable answers could have come from Siri on an iPhone.

The previous contender for the title of least forthcoming was Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 and whom Judge Gorsuch would replace. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and confirmed unanimously, then-Judge Scalia wouldn’t even tell the Judiciary Committee whether he supported Marbury v. Madison, the landmark 1803 decision in which the court under Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle that federal courts can invalidate unconstitutional statutes.”

Thank you Linda Greenhouse. I especially liked your defense of Ruth Ginsberg, who did actally answer many questions.

Here is a comment I reluctantly agree with. I say reluctantly, because I watched most of the hearing, and liked Gorsuch. He was warm, appealing and impenetrable.

PaulB

Cincinnati, Ohio 4 hours ago

The only way to judge a nominee is by his/her lower court rulings. Stealth jurists such as David Souter are exceedingly rare; most judges are consistent in their decisions, and leave a law library filled with past cases that reveal their judicial philosophies. Gorsuch, on that evidence, is a staunch conservative who, if past is prologue, will do great damage to church-state separation, support the disgrace of campaign finance as free speech, and limit the options of women under the law.

It is the Republican Senate, not Gorsuch, that have brought the nation to this miserable juncture. Their refusal to even consider Merrick Garland will stand as precedent for many years as the quintessential example of the legislative branch’s usurpation of the judiciary.

Chasing Abortion Rights Across the State Line – by Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

“……Lloyd Gaines was a graduate of Lincoln University, Missouri’s state university for black students, who were excluded from the University of Missouri. He wanted to become a lawyer, but Lincoln University had no law school. He applied to the University of Missouri’s law school, for which his academic record qualified him, but his race did not. His application was rejected, and he was advised to apply for the scholarship that a state law made available to black students forced to leave the state in order to pursue their educational goals. In the language of the statute, university officials “shall have the authority to arrange for the attendance of negro residents of the state of Missouri at the university of any adjacent state to take any course or to study any subjects provided for at the state university of Missouri, and which are not taught at the Lincoln university, and to pay the reasonable tuition fees for such attendance.”

Mr. Gaines declined the offer. Represented by Charles Hamilton Houston, a pioneering lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P., he went to court. He lost in the Missouri Supreme Court, which noted that he could attend law school with full tuition paid and with only minor inconvenience at the state law schools of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa or Illinois, all of which accepted black students.

“We think that these matters are beside the point,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for the United States Supreme Court, overturning the state court’s ruling. “The basic consideration is not as to what sort of opportunities other states provide, or whether they are as good as those in Missouri, but as to what opportunities Missouri itself furnishes to white students and denies to Negroes solely upon the ground of color.” The chief justice went on to say that each state was “responsible for its own laws establishing the rights and duties of persons within its borders,” and that “it is an obligation the burden of which cannot be cast by one state upon another, and no state can be excused from performance by what another state may do or fail to do.” ”

…….. .

“The Gaines case is not well known today outside of Missouri, where the state university has a scholarship in his name and 10 years ago awarded him a posthumous honorary degree. But it has been rediscovered in the recent litigation over state restrictions on abortion. Two years ago, a federal district judge in Alabama, Myron Thompson, invoked the case in striking down the state’s requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Because most hospitals in Alabama refused to give admitting privileges to doctors who performed abortions, the requirement would have closed three of the state’s five abortion clinics. The state argued that women could go elsewhere. But “the state could identify no precedent for a court to consider conduct outside the political boundaries of a jurisdiction in order to justify the constitutionality of actions by that jurisdiction,” Judge Thompson wrote, citing the Gaines case.”

Source: Chasing Abortion Rights Across the State Line – The New York Times

The President, the Prosecutor, and the Wheel of Fortune, by Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

“So Bill Clinton appears well on his way back to the White House (albeit in a different capacity) while Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who pursued him and his sexual indiscretions all the way to his impeachment, is out of a job. Anyone who imagined such a reciprocal reversal of fortune belongs in a Hollywood writers’ room — although probably not even “The West Wing” would have offered up such a plot twist.

Mr. Starr resigned two weeks ago from his tenured position as a law professor at Baylor University. He had served the Baptist university as president for six years until May, when the trustees fired him for failing to respond adequately to, of all things, a sex scandal involving assaults and criminal behavior by members of the university’s super-lucrative Big 12 football team. Originally, Mr. Starr, a former federal judge and United States solicitor general, was going to stay on as chancellor. But he resigned from that position on June 1, saying that “the captain goes down with the ship.” Evidently, the original plan to retain his position on the law faculty proved untenable as well.”

Source: The President, the Prosecutor, and the Wheel of Fortune – The New York Times