Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gender and Reinvestment

I finally got around to reading a recent (maybe not that recent anymore) issue of Newsweek covering the global status of women. I was heartened to see the many countries where women have been elected to the top executive office (so long as I ignored America's baffling absence in this category).  But what's been repeating in my mind since I read it? This passage:
Economies flourish when women are included, in no small part because women reinvest some 90 percent of their income into communities and family, compared with the less than 40 percent reinvested by men.
Is that because we love to shop?

No, I'm serious.  Maybe I'm falsely applying a western, American lens to that statement (well, I'm surely applying a western, American lens).  Historically, men were sole-breadwinners. Women tended to the domestic sphere. Men worried about investments. Women worried about groceries, clothes, and Christmas gifts.  My close male friends growing up worked hard to earn money to buy cars from their parents and were taught the value of the dollar. One peek at my finances will indicate that this lesson didn't really get imparted to me.  Women now make up a majority of undergraduate and graduate students and keep growing in numbers in health and education employment areas. While this seems tied to a rise in two-earner households, perhaps eventually, you'll see more woman-breadwinner households (like mine).  But guess what I don't do? Invest. In anything. The market, my 401k, nada.

I'm assuming a TON of data in making this argument and I'm not lifting a finger to see if any exists to support my theory.  But I know that I hear on NPR that flagging consumer confidence (ie: we aren't buying enough) is hampering our economic recovery.  And we aren't buying enough because all we did was spend the last 10-15 years buying stuff [we couldn't afford] and now we're slowing down a bit.

So, women reinvest their income into their communities and family. We shop more. We leave it in locally owned businesses, big box stores, and at school bake sales. That's great for the economy but what does it do for our own financial security?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Old, But Still Useful

Meant to post this, um, a long while ago. Still interesting, however.

The lesson here boils down to: don't put all your money into yard signs, especially when the yard in which the signs will be posted will only be visited by non-constituents.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Texas, Messed With

Dear Texas,

Shut up already. You are not better than California. Your budget is about to be as mangled as ours has been. You'd rather have your people be poorly paid, poorly educated, and uninsured than provide proper public services.

If I ever start a business, it will be in California. 


p.s. Someone forward this article to Megs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Borrowing from Bob Dole

Could failed California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman be taking a page from Bob Dole's post-candidacy handbook?  Signs point to yes: she'll be featured on local Sacramento television station KCRA this evening shopping at Costco. Star-Billionaires - they're just like us!

For those two young or just to busy to recall, failed presidential candidate Bob Dole emerged from the wreckage of that campaign to be a pretty damn likeable guy.  He's neither the first nor last candidate to be convinced to hide his personality and go hard-core in pursuit of higher office.  During the presidential campaign, Dole was stiff, unfunny - he was a cranky old man. After? He was the best Daily Show guest and eventual Daily Show correspondent ever. Yes, really. Yes, that Bob Dole.

So it's time for Meg to show she's a person.  It is remarkable: a wealthy person who still eats food and needs to leave the house to acquire it. Food and household supplies. Wow.  What's the end game on this too-little-too-late effort to play nice with the media and show nice to the public? Guess we'll have to wait to see.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can Maps Be 'Covertly-Partisan?'

John Eastman and Chuck Bell - two high-profile GOP-leaning election lawyers - wrote a Flash Report piece last Friday.  Here's the summary:
The Citizens Redistricting Commission process has gone seriously awry, hijacked by covert Democrat and leftist partisans who have violated open meeting, public records and conflict of interest laws, playing a “shell game” with draft district maps that likely will cement Democrat 2/3ds control of the State Legislature when finalized.  Proposition 11 provided a remedy – Republican commissioners can defeat the final district maps if three Republican commissioners simply vote no.  Then, redistricting can be conducted by the State Supreme Court which did an exemplary job in 1974 and 1991 in creating truly fair and impartially drawn districts.
They argue that the California Republic can only be saved from the devious, shadowy hands of Democratic cartographers by a GOP-led block of the vote to adopt the CRC's plans.  This GOP block would not signify the Commission's failure, rather, "it would be an acknowledgement that the gravitational pull of partisanship and leftwing ideology in the Redistricting Commission process can be resisted by partisan Commissioners voting to deadlock the Commission’s attempt to draw overtly- or covertly-partisan or ideological district plans, allowing the Supreme Court to perform its designated constitutional role."

So, to repeat, if one partisan set of commissioners blocks (bloc voting!) the insidious actions of another partisan set of commissioners, it is a win for non-partisans everywhere. Solid.

Also - this section heading strikes me as amusing: "Commission Process Was Hijacked by the Left & the Commission[.]"  The Commission was hijacked by . . . itself?

And: "The Commission’s selection process favored educated elites, mostly with left-wing backgrounds."  Well, shoot, if the right-leaning would-be commissioners weren't well-educated, how is that the left's fault?  Also, Eastman and Bell seem critical of the commissioner selection process having favored applicants with advanced educational backgrounds.  Said the two lawyers. With advanced educational backgrounds.  And will the GOP never tire of the party that advances the cause of less-education for all?  How do they say these things with a straight face?  This process is damn complicated. No matter how smart these people are, they still had to retain outside specialists (which defeats the entire point, but hey, whatever).  I don't want idiots creating my electoral maps. Sure, formal education and intelligence (or smarts) don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, but it's as useful a cue as is usually available.

And back to this notion of covert maps:
Commission’s Maps Are Unfair, Covertly-Partisan Gerrymanders
Were the objections to the Commission’s activities limited to process only, there would be an insufficient basis to urge Republican commissioners to take what may seem a drastic step – to block the Commission’s maps.  However, the Commission’s likely product, the maps, appears to be unfair and partisan.  Even Democrat redistricting effort Paul Mitchell has concluded that the Commission’s districting plans are likely to secure 2/3ds Democrat majorities in the State Senate and State Assembly.  Republican redistricting expert Dr. Tony Quinn agrees. The analysis that accompanied the Commission’s June 10th release of draft maps suggested that the commissioners had drawn districts likely to offer some competitive districts and no clear partisan tilt.  This promise has faded as the commissioners have continued to tinker with the draft maps, with each draft veering more in favor of Democrats
Dear Eastman & Bell: either it's covert or it's apparent to everyone. It can't be both. Here, let me fix that section header for you:
Commission’s Maps Are Unfair, Covertly-Partisan Gerrymanders

I suppose their bottom line is that Partisanship in defense of Partisanship is no vice.

But I'm still waiting for an explanation of how a map based on public data can take any sort of covert action.  If you can explain to me how that's possible, I'd love to hear it.

It's about transparency, stupid

Now that California's Citizen Redistricting Commission is thisclose to imposing a new political map on the state, charges of various forms of gerrymandering and threats of litigation and referendum are blooming like sunflowers along the 80.

Republicans will force a court remapping! Congressional African-Americans are pissed! San Pedro . . . still getting screwed but so accustomed to that now that no one showed up at commission meetings to complain.  But dammit! There will be blood! Or at least, there will be some very happy lawyers in about 2 week.

I pause in this regularly scheduled redistricting analysis to bring you the following message: do you need someone to blog, write, tweet, or post about redistricting? Public policy? Labor law? Law generally? Are you a legislative office in need of an experienced - and more importantly super fun - staffer?  Well look no further. You can retain this author for a reasonable rate. Available August 15. Because she got laid off. And the lay-off didn't have the decency to come when she could've devoted her full-time to CRC stuff. #blackflyinyourchardonnay, team. #deathrowpardontwominutestoolate.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled witty commentary.

Anyway, time to saddle-up, election lawyers of California!  The most qualified among you were excluded from the process, so now you get to take out all that bitterness-paired-with-extensive-experience on the very people who didn't hire you. This should be FUN to watch.

But more importantly, are the various pods of anger off the mark?  I think they are.  Take Cal Watchdog, a site that, well, you can figure it out from the title, can't you? They have a 4 part series on the scandalous conflicts of CRC commissioners.  Scandalous! And the punditry responds by reminding the public that Propositions 11/20 intention was to establish a commission comprised of members without significant partisan interests.  To which I ask: who is truly with out significant partisan interests? Also, would you want that person in charge of a process like this?

Since the start, I've argued that the public should value transparency instead of this faux non-partisanship that forces a person's leanings to take cover in euphemistic alternative interests. Ethnicity subs for one party, economics subs for another.  We needed a commission made up of people from each party and at the same time expected those people to be not really so party-ish after all. Can't have it both ways, California.

Instead, the easier method would've been to require all applicants to air their allegiances free from concern that doing so would disqualify them from the process. How many experienced, enthusiastic people were excluded from this process because they had participated in a partisan fashion in a process that, until now, was itself partisan?  It's nonsensical.  (If you think this theme sounds a lot like my argument against non-partisan judicial races,  you are correct.)

Of course, the real bottom of the lines here is that Republicans will waste now time co-opting other causes to help them challenge the 2/3ds majority Democrats have within their grasp.  (Should they be so worried? I'd argue no, but in grand CAGOP tradition, they will get worried about the wrong thing too late anyway) Except, well, the GOP can't count half the state among its members anymore. Why do they think they get half the Legislature?  No seriously, why? That wasn't a rhetorical question. Tony Quinn hasn't answered this yet. I'm still waiting.

The voters enacted, and the State Auditor upheld, an unrealistic standard when it aimed for a conflict-of-interest free commission.  This standard laid the groundwork for a thousand blog posts aimed at revealing telling information about Commissioners and calling into question the CRC's work. It didn't have to be that way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Changing Minds On Marriage Equality

So David Frum is no longer opposed to marriage equality.  His piece makes me think two things:

1.) I can't believe New damn York is going to get credit for leading on this issue over California.  We did it first, we just did it badly and it got undid. Sort of. So far. Also, somewhere, Gavin Newsom is making a small voodoo doll of Andrew Cuomo and muttering "leader on marriage equality? HE'S a leader on marriage equality?  2004, much, Cuomo? Please don't steal my White House."  I have this same sort of anger over a possible seriously-treated Michelle Bachmann presidential campaign.  Because if the GOP lands a woman in the White House before the Dems, so help me God . . . .

2.) Frum, noting the slowing trend of dissolving families, writes:

What's new and different in the past 20 years is the collapse of the Hispanic immigrant family. First-generation Latino immigrants maintain traditional families: conservative values, low divorce rates, high fertility and -- despite low incomes -- mothers surprisingly often at home with the children.

But the second-generation Latino family looks very different. In the new country, old norms collapse. Nearly half of all children born to Hispanic mothers are now born out of wedlock.

Whatever is driving this negative trend, it seems more than implausible to connect it to same-sex marriage. How would it even work that a 15-year-old girl in Van Nuys, California, becomes more likely to have a baby because two men in Des Moines, Iowa, can marry?
Which to me indicates something that should be apparent to everyone: we're our own enemy. "We" being dominant American culture.  It's not the gays. It's not the dirty immigrants. It's us.  There's something wrong with our mores or institutions or paradigms or whatever you'd like to call these decaying values - values embodied in public policy - that are to blame. 

When immigrant communities begin to assimilate - as all immigrant communities do, over time - and through that process they lose what we identify as positive attributes we should take note and look at our own problems, not seek to build walls that will only seal in what's wrong.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Five-Cent VRA Review

Whether anyone is getting worked by the CRC's lines, who is getting worked, how hard, and how it's being done is something that might end up in court and if so, will get there under a Voting Rights Act review. So what's this VRA business anyway?  Here's your nickel tour of the issue. (Warning, gross simplification of complex and consistently evolving area of law follows. Please correct my outright inaccuracies in the comments section.)

The United States Constitution, through the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, prohibits redistricting that intentionally dilutes the voting strength of minority groups.

Additionally, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act further prohibits plans that have the effect of diluting minority voting strength, whether or not the effect was intentional.

To establish a Section 2 violation, litigants must show that based on all the circumstances, the electoral process is not equally open to participation by the members of a minority group in that its members have fewer opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. 

Who Doesn't Love Some Prongs?

As with all great topics of common litigation, the Court has developed a three part test as a threshold for establishing a Section 2 violation, commonly referred to as the Gingles requirements after the case of the same name:

  1. The harmed group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single district.
  2. The minority group is politically cohesive.
  3. The majority votes sufficiently as a block to enable it usually to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate.
If a group can show it meets the above threshold factors, it still must demonstrate that based on a totality of the circumstances, the group possesses less relative opportunity to elect a representative of its choice.  Don't forget this last, umbrella test.  It can be more important and decisive than you might think.

How might a violation look?

Frequently, the first sign of some bad district mojo is a bad-looking district.  Ribbons of connective fiber, the skipping of populations, demonstrating a love of the zen by making a lot of yins and yangs on the map can give groups a reason to lawyer up. Of course, the courts have discussed these non-compact works of abstract art.

The courts' evolution on district shape goes roughly like this:
1.)    To look closely at it on behalf of any one group, you need to show us some numbers first.
2.)    But those numbers won’t necessarily prove anything.
3.)    Also, we no longer care if you were trying to discriminate or not, if you ended up discriminating, you’re toast.
4.)    And if the district looks a little wacky, that might be enough for us to look at it.
5.)    But don’t think drawing a perfectly circular or square district gets you off the constitutional hook.
6.)    And we didn’t mean there could never be a Rorschach-shaped district.

Everyone clear?

The Pipeline

In college, my frequent criticisms of legislative term limits were met by reminders that my female, Mexican counterparts successfully winning office were doing so because term limits cleared out all the old, white dudes who were blocking my cohorts' entry.  And briefly, after the implementation of term limits, the legislature did see a spike in diversity and an increased number of women.

Except, it didn't last. Especially the women part.

Because after all the eligible lower-office holders were elected, they too were limited, and passed right on through both houses leaving them where. (Especially since [Dem] female bids for statewide office frequently seem thwarted by back-room agreements between old, white dudes on who gets what and when.)

We'd exhausted the pipeline - those typical paths by which people usually found their way into office were emptied quickly and we hadn't done any work to fill them up again.

This notion of paying attention to the pipeline and taking at least a 15-or-so year view on potential California legislative leadership seems to run throughout this Bee post on Interest Groups' salivating over the potential to "shake up" the legislative bench.

Seems there was a meeting of the American Association of Political Consultants (the mind reels) recently here in Sacramento and during this meeting, several leading interest group related consultants are already counting on new district lines and the jungle primary to present new opportunities to find leaders:
"I think after this election cycle you're going to see much, much more turnover in the Legislature, and it just gives us a great opportunity to have an impact, to start to try to look for candidates who are going to try to do things differently, to bring a new era in the Legislature and find people that can be partners," said Hegyi, a former legislative aide and Republican Assembly candidate.

Liz Snow, of the California Dental Association, echoed Hegyi's comments, saying interest groups are "tired of insignificant issues moving and being the focus and really tired by the lack of leadership on the part of average members."

"People are sick of playing it safe," she said. "It hasn't really gotten us anywhere."

Snow said those frustrations and the state's changing political landscape will mean that "increasingly being an incumbent doesn't guarantee you anything in terms of support for future elections." She later noted, however, that re-electing freshman Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will be one of her organization's top priorities in 2012 because of his work on health care issues.
 Of course, one group's insignificant issue is another group's . . . you know the drill.

And incumbency is STILL likely to be a pretty damned good indicator of electoral success after a brief adjustment period with new districts. 

But if I'm running a group bent on electing more of my kind or more people friendly to my kind (women, Mexicans, dentists, podiatrists, whatever), I'm going to spend that period of adjustment seeding lower, local offices to make sure I don't turn around in 6-12 years and find myself with no more friends.

Related: Here, give these gals some money.

Of Dems and Demos

Tony Quinn tosses an ethnicity-charged grenade into the redistricting discussion with a piece titled "How the Redistricting Commission Screwed Latinos."  Now, I like Tony Quinn. I've met him. We share some Rose Institute connections. But lately, I've disagreed with a lot of his thoughts about the California Redistricting Commission (though I agree with his ire over the possibly unfair disqualification of, um, half of my previous employers, I am not taking it quite as personally as he seems to be taking it all).

This latest piece starts with a quote from a NALEO redistricting official that reads, in part, "The lines drawn by the Commission gerrymander Los Angeles Latinos into a district with the millionaires of Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades. These lines would disenfranchise Latinos by denying them a fair voice in the democratic process."  Okay, first, not ALL Los Angeles Latinos are in that district. We're everywhere - we're far beyond the Pico-Union borders, right? 

Next, Quinn rhetorically asks whether the Arizona Legislature has snuck into California to draw the new lines Because AZ hates Latinos, right? I kind of think that's true - but the joke rings false to anyone who follows redistricting since AZ also uses an independent commission? Too fine a nerd point? Can't help it - this is as nerdy a topic as exists, so I think it's fair to call Quinn out on this.

I think what bothers me most in all of this is Quinn's lack of actual demographic references to back up his assertions. I assume he's looking at the data, so why not mention it?  No, that's not true, what bothers me most are lines like this one: "The incumbent in this area is Congresswoman Judy Chu, an Asian American, who took the former Latino seat held by Hilda Solis when she became Labor Secretary in 2009."  Asians are stealing Latino seats!  It's minority vs. minority in an ethnic/racial slugfest that can only be won by . . . nobody at all.

All of this seems to me like a set-up: if we make the Dems and Latinos fight themselves, may we can repack some minority districts and get, like, one more GOP seat? Maybe? How 'bout can we save David Dreier? No? Come-on, give us one....

I'd like to see Dems and Latinos (the Venn diagram of which is going to be, what, like 80% overlapping circles?) have a little closed door meeting and really hash this out and conclude that we're not going to take the bait on this.