Saturday, November 13, 2010

Miller Outperforms on Newly Counted Ballots, but not by enough to win

29316 left, and Murkowski needs to have 25084 (85.6%) unchallenged for her to be ahead of Joe Miller (by 1 vote) without relying on the challenged but counted ballots. She currently has
90.16% of the write-in votes as being cast for her without being challenged.

Relying on the challenged but counted ballots, Murkowski only needs 67.5% of the outstanding write-in ballots in order to win, and she has currently gotten 97.8% of the tallied write-in ballots for her with or without challenges.

In other words, the newly counted ballots (absentee and questioned ballots), while slightly better for Joe Miller than the previously counted ballots, did not even have him outperforming "write-in", much less outperforming by enough to give him a good shot at victory.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Strategy for Joe Miller: Which Lisa Murkowski Did Voters Mean?

Joe Miller, the bearded Tea Party wonder from Alaska (I don't mind the beard since I have one too, although his is lame) may be in a lot of trouble.

And he's tried so very hard and really pulled out the stops. He has the National REpublican Senatorial Committee spending for him.

Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an e-mail encouraging donors to assist Miller. The NRSC's main aim is to elect and re-elect Republicans, and until today it was unclear whether it would fully back Miller's post-election fight with Murkowksi, another Republican.

In his e-mail, the chairman of the NRSC, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, warned that both sides "are beginning to lawyer up and prepare for any possible legal fights. Joe needs your help to make sure he has enough money to make it a fair contest."
"We need to get Joe the resources he needs to win the vote count," he wrote. "Because we need Joe to join our fight against Barack Obama. Help ensure that this vote count is conducted fairly."

Notice that the Republican party's goals in the Senate are not to help get America back on track. It's not even to enact a conservative agenda. It's to "fight against Barack Obama."

He's also gotten Floyd Brown, the infamous person behind the infamous "Willie Horton" ad and the founder of Citizens United, to advise his campaign. By this he means make up "allege" voter fraud and intimidation without providing real examples, claiming conveniently that people are too afraid to come forward; perhaps they fear Willie Horton will come after them if they do.

He's got a truly desperate legal team, which has come up with a novel theory that misspellings of Lisa Murkowski's name are "protest votes" against Lisa Murkowski.

Prior to the election, people commented on radio stations and in the comment sections in blogs and newspaper stories that they would deliberately incorrectly write-in a variation of "Murkowski" as a protest. They did so knowing that Murkowski was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "spelling bee" campaign, replete with wrist bands, pencils and tattoos, all to educate the voters on proper spelling. Why was this done? Because even Murkowski had read the law and knew that it required proper spelling -- "No exceptions." So protest voters were trying to send a message to the candidate.

Unfortunately for ol' Joe, all of this may not be enough. The latest numbers don't look good.

The Division reports 89.78 percent of the write-ins are unchallenged for Murkowski, a number that's held steady during the count.

The Division of Elections overturned challenges by the Miller campaign on another 8 percent of the ballots and counted them for Murkowski. Miller hopes the courts will reverse that.

Just 1.52 percent of the 45,132 write-in ballots reviewed so far have been successfully challenged by Miller ballot observers.

There were, in total, 92,979 write-in votes, and 82,180 votes for Joe Miller. So there are 47,847 remaining write-in ballots to review.

Of the 45,132 reviewed so far, 40519 are unchallenged for Murkowski, so she needs only 41662 of the 47,847 remaining (87.07%) in order to be victorious even if all of the challenged ballots are thrown out. If she maintains the current rate, she'll have 83,476 votes, for a margin over Miller that even recounting wouldn't be likely to change.

So I'd urge Joe Miller's attorneys to take the next logical step. How can we be sure all of the votes for Lisa Murkowski were for the incumbent Senator Lisa Ann Murkowski?

From an excerpt of what I'm sure will be a forthcoming lawsuit:

They could well have meant Lisa Murkowski of Delwood, Kansas, who is the "Representative Conference Vice Chair at American Academy of Family Physicians" according to a White Pages search. Of course, this Ms. Murkowski is not eligible to be a Senator from Alaska, but that's okay. They were protest votes for that Lisa! I urge all write in votes that did not make it clear that they supported the specific Lisa Murkowski who is currently Senator to be thrown out because voter intent cannot be determined.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Women in the 112th Congress

First, a table of the number of women in the House and Senate at the beginning of each of the last few Congresses, broken down by political party.


(112th projected based on current totals in AK-Sen, AZ-8, IL-8, NY-25)

Yes, not since the 96th Congress (1979-1981) have we seen a Congress with less women in EITHER house of Congress than there were in the previous one.

What about this year? In the Senate, no women Senators retired; Democrat Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas lost her re-election race, while Republican Kelly Ayotte won the open Senate seat in New Hampshire being vacated by Judd Gregg. Two more Senate races with women remain undecided. Democrat Patty Murray leads Dino Rossi by about 28,000 votes in Washington (with over half a million remaining to be counted). In Alaska's Senate race, 40.95% of the votes were cast for write-in candidates compared to 34.34% being cast for Republican nominee and Tea Partier Joe Miller; if as expected, most of those write-in votes are valid write-in votes for Lisa Murkowski, she will be returning to the Senate, and there will once again be 17 female Senators, 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans.

In called House races, there will be 7 less Democratic females, 6 more Republican females.

Specifically, we are guaranteed to see the following women in the next Congress (unless something happens to prevent them from taking office):

Republican women are in red font, Democratic women are in blue font, non-white (Latino, Asian, black, Native American, etc) women are in bold, and newly elected female members are underlined.

States which are not guaranteed (based on current results) to have any female members of the House Representatives in the 112th Congress are omitted from the table.

Alabama2Martha Roby (AL-2), Terri Sewell (AL-7)
California19Doris Matsui (CA-5), Lynn Woolsey (CA-6), Nancy Pelosi (CA-8), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Jackie Speier (CA-12), Anna Eshoo (CA-14), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), Lois Capps (CA-23), Judy Chu (CA-32), Karen Bass (CA-33), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), Maxine Waters (CA-35), Jane Harman (CA-36), Laura Richardson (CA-37) Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Linda Sanchez (CA-39), Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Loretta Sanchez (CA-47), Susan Davis (CA-53)
Colorado1Diana DeGette (CO-1)
Connecticut1Rosa DeLauro (CT-3)
Florida6Corinne Brown (FL-3), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Frederica Wilson (FL-17), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL-20), Sandra Adams (FL-24)
Hawaii2Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Mazie Hirono (HI-2)
Illinois2Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Judy Biggert (IL-13)
Kansas1Lynn Jenkins (KS-2)
Maine1Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
Maryland1Donna Edwards (MD-4)
Massachusetts1Nikki Tsongas (MA-5)
Michigan1Candice Miller (MI-10)
Minnesota2Betty McCollum (MN-4), Michelle Bachmann (MN-6)
Missouri2Vicky Hartzler (MO-4), Jo Ann Emerson (MO-8)
Nevada1Shelley Berkley (NV-1)
New York7Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4), Yvette Clarke (NY-11), Nydia Velazquez (NY-12), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), Nita Lowey (NY-18), Nan Hayworth (NY-19), Louise Slaughter (NY-28)
North Carolina3Renee Ellmers (NC-2), Virginia Foxx (NC-5), Sue Myrick (NC-9)
Ohio4Jean Schmidt (OH-2), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Betty Sutton (OH-13)
Pennsylvania1Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
South Dakota1Kristi Noem (SD-AL)
Tennessee2Diane Black (TN-6), Marsha Blackburn (TN-7)
Texas3Kay Granger (TX-12), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
Washington2Jaime Herrera (WA-3), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (WA-5)
West Virginia1Shelley Moore Capito (WV-2)
Wisconsin2Tammy Baldwin (WI-2), Gwen Moore (WI-4)
Wyoming1Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL)

The following women who were in the 111th Congress at the beginning will not be in the 112th.

Virginia Brown Waite (R-FL) [retiring], Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) [lost re-election], Mary Fallin (R-OK) [ran for Governor], Debbie Halvorson (D-IL) [lost re-election], Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) [lost primary], Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) [lost re-election], Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) [lost re-election], Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) (lost re-election], Betsy Markey (D-CO) [lost re-election], Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) [lost re-election], Hilda Solis (D-CA) [became Secretary of Labor], Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) [became U.S. Senator from New York], Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) [became something or other in the Obama administration], Dina Titus (D-NV) [lost re-election], Diane Watson (D-CA) [retired], Stephanie Herseth (D-SD) [lost re-election]

In 3 races which have not been called, looking at the present totals, there will be one further less Democratic female (Melissa Bean) and one further more Republican female (Ann Buehrkle of New York)

i.e. Republican wave seems to have made this the first time in 30 years that an incoming House of Representatives has less women than the outgoing one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Preliminary Look at Control and Strategy for Congressional Redistricting: Who Controls the Process?

Public Mapping provides a nice table describing how the process works and who may or may not control it. I'm going to use their information and modify it here, noting how things went down in the 2000 redistricting and updating for the actual (not quite final) results from yesterday's election.

StateWho Controls?2000 (mid-decade) Control2010 Control
AlabamaState Gov'tDemocraticRepublican
Alaska1 seat
ArkansasState Gov'tDemocraticDemocratic
ColoradoState Gov'tSplitSplit
Delaware1 seat
FloridaState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
GeorgiaState Gov'tDemocraticRepublicanRepublican
IllinoisState Gov'tSplitDem
IndianaState Gov'tSplitRepublican
KansasState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
KentuckyState Gov'tSplitSplit
LouisianaState Gov'tSplitSplit
MarylandState Gov'tDemocraticDemocratic
MassachusettsState Gov'tDemocraticDemocratic
MichiganState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
MinnesotaState Gov'tSplitSplit or Rep
MississippiState Gov'tDemocraticSplit
MissouriState Gov'tDemocraticSplit
Montana1 seat
NebraskaState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
NevadaState Gov'tRepublicanSplit
New HampshireState Gov'tSplitSplit
New JerseyCommissionIndependent
New MexicoState Gov'tSplitSplit
New YorkState Gov'tSplitDem or split
North CarolinaState Gov'tDemocraticSplit
North Dakota1 seat
OhioState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
OklahomaState Gov'tSplitRepublican
OregonState Gov'tSplitTie/D leg, D gov?
PennsylvaniaState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
Rhode IslandState Gov'tDemocraticDemocratic
South CarolinaState Gov'tSplitRepublican
South Dakota1 seat
TennesseeState Gov'tSplitRepublican
TexasState Gov'tSplitRepublicanRepublican
UtahState Gov'tRepublicanRepublican
Vermont1 seat
VirginiaState Gov'tRepublicanSplit
West VirginiaState Gov'tDemocraticDemocratic
WisconsinState Gov'tSplitRepublican
Wyoming1 seat

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Props to Google for its Pro-Voting Agenda

Google Maps is saying when you go to it: "Find out where to vote and see candidates on your ballot," and it seems to work pretty well!

It found my polling place correctly, even though it had recently been moved to its current location. Good for Google and the Voting Information Project for geocoding precincts, even though those precincts will nearly all have to be redone after lines are redrawn when the 2010 Census data is processed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Larry Sabato's Predictions

Sabato predicts Republicans pick up a net of 55 House seats, which would end up actually giving them a larger majority in the 112th Congress than they have had since 1946 (234 seats versus a previous high of 232 in the 109th Congress).

Of the 58 seats (since the Dems are expected to pick up the overwhelmingly Democratic Louisiana 2nd now that a presumed felon is not on the ballot as well as the open Dem-leaning IL-10 and DE-AL) expected to go from Dem to Republican under Sabato's predictions, 38 are seats picked up in either 2006 or 2008, another 10 are old southern seats that Dems had managed to hang onto (in districts John Kerry and except for GA-2, Barack Obama did not win or even come very close in). Of the other 10:

2 were pickups in 2004 (CO-3 on election day, SD-AL in a special election); 5 are open (albeit not THAT heavily Republican; Obama won in 4 of them and Kerry even won in WI-7), as well as IL-17, ND-AL, PA-11

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Open Letter to Fayette Commissioner-Elect Steve Brown

The Census Bureau's American Community Survey's data for 2006-2008 (the most recent data for Fayette County) shows that 53.62% of Fayette workers do not work in Fayette county, not 40%.

I understand you want your citizens to be able to continue to free-ride on the back of my and other Atlantans lungs (unless you are planning to build a Simpsons Movie-like dome over Fayette to prevent anyone from leaving, leaving ARC won't keep emissions from Fayette vehicles in Atlanta from my lungs) and my and other Atlantans safety (I bicycle to work and traffic from drivers, including the not insignificant number from Fayette, makes it difficult to add more bicycle lanes; if a significant number of those drivers came in by commuter bus or rail) and lack of greenspace (the amount of land in Atlanta devoted to letting primarily out-of-city commuters park is unbelievable).

I suppose that's your job, assuming you ignore the fact that Fayette is absolutely metro Atlanta, not a place with "rural sensibilities." For that matter, much of Three Rivers is not "rural sensibilities" either

But at least be honest with your constituents when you make that case.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shame on Transportation Board Chair David Doss

The Atlanta streetcar aside, I was outraged by the gall of Surface Transportation Board Chair David Doss' claim that "he supports transit, too" in "Streetcar victorious" (Oct 20) while plugging the $1.4 billion managed lanes and its potential 34000 riders. Its predecessor agency, the Transportation Planning Board did a study on commuter rail, released in 2007, when building costs were, if anything, higher than today. It found that for $1.17 billion dollars, we could build ALL 7 proposed commuter rail lines (cutting off the Athens line at Tucker and the Macon line at Lovejoy, but keeping the full lines to Bremen, Canton, Gainesville, Madison and Senoia), run 12 trains on each line per day (6 in, 6 out) and get as many as 32400 riders per day. The Canton line via Marietta, in particular would have provided an option for a large number of drivers on the I-75/I-575 corridor. If this state had even a modicum of support for transit in its political leaders outside of the perimeter, we'd be in final design mode by now. As things stand, we haven't heard a peep out of GDOT about it since then.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I-75/I-575 Corridor Project: Elimination of Transit REDUCES Environmental Impact?

This state is nuts. Really. Georgia is absolutely nuts.

Because of a lack of leadership and the continued consequences of the racially-tinged failure of Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton (all of which now have large minority populations anyway so they didn't even "win" on keeping their counties lily-white) to join MARTA, rather than moving forward on something that would be really, really useful (commuter rail/MARTA extension to Cobb, Gwinnett, Alpharetta/Roswell), we're going to be building a streetcar that is no more than a 30 minute end-to-end walk and is very close to existing heavy rail MARTA lines. (I guess this doesn't explain why we didn't go for the BeltLine; I guess stupidity/anti-tax idiocy/Central Atlanta Progress and businesses not putting up sufficient cash for it).

Instead, we're going to go with, yet again, more highway lanes. Now, I guess two lanes each direction is a little low given the rampant sprawl growth in I-75/I-575 area, so it's not entirely bad.

Except for two thing. The worst part is here, in the project's Winter Newsletter

The Bus Rapid Transit system with supporting facilities
and the Truck Only Lanes are no longer included as part of the project. These
changes result in a reduced project footprint with reduced costs and less severe environmental impacts, while still addressing the original Purpose and Need for the project.

Yeah, elimination of transit will reduce environmental impact. Also, gay people cause earthquakes and the moon landing was filmed in Hollywood.

They're also, of course, basically doing what amounts to $350 million subsidy to a corporation that will be running these additions for a profit (via tolls); of course, the state won't get any of the toll money even though it's paying for a hefty chunk of the road. We could build quite a bit of commuter rail for that much, thereby massively decreasing congestion.

So depressing, Atlanta policy is.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who besides Yehuda Levin is in the Rabbinical Alliance of America?

This Levin guy is very embarrassing, acting like a Christian evangelical, and this time he's not just doing it on his own.

I mean, it was bad enough when he blamed the Haiti earthquake on gays in February like he was Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or something.

But at least that was not a major media thing. Now he's gone and made national news with the speech he wrote for Carl Paladino to give at his shul, with such nice media events as

“nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

“I don’t want [children] brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equal valid and successful option,”

Also, they didn't let women journalists into the shul because apparently Mea Shearim has come to America, and water was poured on women journalists waiting outside.

But what is this Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud Harabbonim in transliterated Ashkenazi-pronounced Hebrew, or אגוד הרבנים in actual Hebrew)? Humorist Heshy Fried said it "sounds like the Kennedy Fried Chicken version of the RCA" (Rabbinical Council of America, affiliated with the Orthodox Union), and that he had not heard of it.

So I decided to do some Googling,

Their website claims 800+ rabbis but lists 3 (none of whom are Yehuda Levin).

They include Abraham B. Hecht, who had spoken approvingly about the possible assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres after the Oslo Accords; online archive articles refer to him as president of the organization as early as July 1980.

Hershel Kurzrock, rabbi at the Young Israel of Kensington, NY; nothing interesting about him on the Internet.

Gershon Tannenbaum, who apparently has been found guilty of Securities Fraud, and is/was rabbi at B'nai Israel of Linden Heights in Brooklyn.

Searching Google archives led to the following rabbis. Note that these rabbis may no longer be alive and may no longer be members. There is no point in linking because only scraps of the articles show up without paying for them.

From Kashrus Magazine

A long list, at the end of this newsletter, of member rabbis participating in their conference

Rabbi Noach Bernstein, Commission on a Moment of Silence
Rabbi Shaul Bick, Congregation Agudas Achim
Rabbi Mayer Birnhack
Rabbi Herbert W. Bomzer, listed as a member by the Forward (via Failed Messiah)
Rabbi Dov Brisman (then head of the beth din of Philadelphia), listed as a member in August 2003
Rabbi Michoel Chazan, Director of Chaplaincy Services at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center
Rabbi Samuel I Cohen, listed as a member in 1960
Rabbi Rafoel Yochanon Davis, IDT Beis Midrash
Rabbi Herman Eisner z"l
Rabbi Saul Eisner, Igud Executive Vice President
Rabbi Hanania Elbaz, Ahi Ezer Congregation
Rabbi Mosha Epstein, Rabbi of Agudas Achim in Bridgeport, CT
Rabbi Mallen Galinsky, listed as a member in 1966
Rabbi Bernard Goldenberg, listed as a member in 1950
Rabbi Leibish Goldstein, Tefila V'rina L'achynu Merusya
Rabbi Meyer Greenberg z"l, mentioned as having been president in the early 1960s in his 2008 obituary
Rabbi Avrohom M. Greenhut, Beth Israel Hospital
Rabbi Abraham Gross, mentioned as president in April 1970
Rabbi Meir Grunberg z"l, listed as a member in his 1993 obituary
Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt of Canada, listed as a member in 1956
Rabbi Philip Harris z"l, listed as a member in his 2006 obituary
Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht, Igud President
Rabbi Eli Hecht, listed as vice president in April 2001
Rabbi Sholom Hecht, Hecht’s Religious Articles
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht
Rabbi David Hollander, mentioned as president in September 1973.
Rabbi Shlomo Isaacson
Rabbi Nachum Josephy, listed as vice president in August 1993
Rabbi Michael Kakon, Ahavas Achim of West Orange
Rabbi Sholom B. Kalmanson (a Chabad rabbi)
Rabbi Pinchos Karr
Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Katz, Congregation Mishkan Avrohom D’Porgibisht
Rabbi Yechiel Kaufman
Rabbi Brian Kent
Rabbi Eliyahu Kirsch
Rabbi Sholom Klass z"l, listed as a member in his 2000 obituary
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Torah Editor of the Jewish Press
Rabbi Leibish Koenig
Rabbi Yehuda Korczak
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Igud Rosh Beth Din;
Rabbi Rachmiel Liberman
Rabbi Yitzchok Liebes is listed as head of beit din,
Rabbi Yaakov Neiman
Rabbi Avrohom Niyazov, Congregation L’maan Achai Bukhorim
Rabbi Dovid Niyazov
Rabbi Shlomo Chai Niyazov, Congregation L’maan Achai Bukhorim
Rabbi Ralph Pelcovitz, listed as president in July 1952
Rabbi Hershel Pollak, Semihyer Beis Midrash
Rabbi Yisroel Popack is implied to be a member as it says he was cleared of wrongdoing by them in an abuse case
Rabbi Abraham Poupko z"l, listed as having been a member in his 1964 obituary
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, from his bio
Rabbi Harry Rabinowitz
Rabbi Joseph Rosenbluth, Young Israel of Vanderveer Park;
Rabbi Joseph Salamon, Yeshiva Ohr Torah
Rabbi Dr. Zecharia Senter
Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, listed as a rabbi in Toronto and as a member in February 1985
Rabbi Shmaryahu Shulman, author of Meiresh B’Birah
Rabbi Yidel Stein, Congregation Tiferes Israel Brisk
Rabbi Aryeh Steinberg; Kashrus Supervision
Rabbi Peretz Steinberg
Rabbi Avrohom Stone, Congregation Adas Yeshurun of Flatbush
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, B’nai Israel of Linden Heights
Rabbi Yitzchok Tenenbaum
Rabbi Samuel Turk, mentioned as president in July 1958
Rabbi Dovid Wachholder, Kollel Emek Halacha
Rabbi Bernard Weinberger, mentioned as president in January 1969
Rabbi Moshe Y. Weiner, Kosher Information Center
Rabbi Luzer Weiss, NYS Kosher Law Enforcement.
Rabbi Marvin Zelkowitz

This is all I could find, but the Internet may well not be all-knowing when it comes to the Rabbinical Alliance of America

A July 2000 article from the New York Daily News noted in an article about Dr. Laura being attacked for support from Abraham Hecht, said the following:

The Rabbinical Alliance is the same group that told Congress in 1997 that it would boycott the Holocaust Museum because it included information about Hitler's homosexual victims.

Later in the article, Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel, who himself has been a tireless advocate for Jonathan Pollard, defended Dr. Laura by telling the Daily News that "I am sure Dr. Laura didn't know any of the other stories about the Rabbinical Alliance;" i.e. even Rabbi Lerner, not a "moderate" (whatever that may mean), thinks that the RAA is pretty extremist.

Is Don't Ask Don't Tell Finally Over?

Federal judge Virginia Phillips has issued an immediate injunction "'to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced' under the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy."

The judge, appointed by President Clinton, let out of committee by then Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch, and confirmed by voice vote on November 10, 1999, issued her ruling in response to a lawsuit filed, ironically, by the Log Cabin Republicans.

The Log Cabin Republicans, of course, are the very same Log Cabin Republicans who could not get even one Senator from their party to even allow the Senate to vote on repealing don't ask don't tell last month.

I guess "judicial activism" is okay for them, though.

Anyway, hopefully the Obama administration does not appeal the ruling (even though I think it is supposed to do so), and this ban is finally over with.

Friday, October 8, 2010

On Cook Political Report's Predictions of Democratic Losses

So Cook Political Report took a step they often don't take, and put a whole bunch of incumbent-held seats for leaning to the other party. Obviously, this being a heavily anti-party in power year (I won't call it a pro-Republican year because we have not seen polls showing that people are particularly thrilled with what the Republican party has to offer, even in comparison with the Democratic party has to offer; they're just pissed about the state of things in the country), and the Democrats being the party in power, the overwhelming majority of those seats (and any seats in play) are held by Democrats.

Specifically, the Cook Political Report currently ranks an unbelievable and depressing 90 seats currently held by Democrats as being Lean Democrat, Tossup, Lean Republican or Likely Republican. There are exactly 7 such Republican-held seats.

That being said, of the 90 seats now (or in the case of NY-29, vacant but having been held by a Dem) held by a Democrat and listed as lean Democrat, tossup, lean Republican, or likely Republican, just 8 do not fall into at least one of the following 2 categories (several fall into more than one, which is why the totals add up to more than 82)

  • 40 are: a seat that was a pickup for Democrats in one of the last 3 election cycles (21 between Election Day 2008 and today, 16 between Election Day 2006 and Election Day 2008, as well as CO-3 (Election Day 2004), and KY-6 and SD-AL (special elections in 2004)
  • 62 are: a seat that was carried by the Republican candidate for president in at least one of 2004 and 2008 (PA-12, John Murtha's old seat, was the only seat to go for both Kerry and McCain; likely, the latent racism in the district alluded to by the late Murtha played a part)

Of those 8, only MA-10 and RI-1 would not be considered marginally Democratic, and both of those are leaning Democratic and are open.

WI-7 is also an open seat, after having been held for 40 years by David Obey. Then there's WI-3 (leaning Dem), CA-20 (leaning Dem), IL-17, where Phil Hare is in his 2nd term, and PA-11, where Paul Kanjorski was showing major signs of weakness even in 2008 against popular anti-immigrant mayor Lou Barletta (he had to be weak because he significantly underperformed Barack Obama here, meaning a bunch of people voted Barletta & Obama).

That being said, things are no less depressing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Georgia Should Toll ALL of I-75/575 except for high occupancy vehicles

Make the tolls higher during rush hour (say, $1.00 during rush hour, 25 cents otherwise), and you can bet that would drastically reduce congestion at a teeny fraction of the price.

The feds rejected the idea of paying for Georgia to add a lane,
but adding another lane is silly, even though it's "relatively" small in terms of number of lanes.

Better it should add commuter rail on the median.

Monday, October 4, 2010

DeMint's Position on Unmarried Women and Gays Not New

Does nobody have a memory span that last 6 years? Does nobody have the ability to do a simple Google News archive search?

This was Jim DeMint's signature issue back in 2004 (okay, that's an exaggeration, but he had this exact same position).

WISTV, Oct 6, 2004

In a debate Sunday with Democrat Inez Tenenbaum DeMint said openly gay people should not be allowed to teach in the state's public schools.

DeMint defended that remark during an interview with the Aiken Standard on Tuesday and said he would feel the same way about single, pregnant women who lives with a boyfriend teaching a third grade child. He said teachers should be held to a higher moral standard.

Now, of course, in the above link it says he apologized-for the remark about single, pregnant women. Not, heaven forbid, about openly gay teachers.

Apparently, though, he's walked this one back.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Note to David A. Graham: You Just Joined Rick Sanchez

In your reporting on Sanchez's on-air rants about how Jews like Jon Stewart control the media, you did the same thing, though admittedly more subtly.

News personalities who make anti-semitic comments tend to fare poorly; just ask Helen Thomas, the Hearst columnist who was forced to retire days after saying that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine."

Nice. You make it seem like Helen Thomas got pushed out by the powerful Jews for daring to say Israel should leave the West Bank.

Now, Democracy Now, while unbiased, is hardly going to be accused of trying to make Helen Thomas look more anti-Semitic than she was, so I'll take the transcript of her remarks from there:

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: Yeah, and any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today. Any comments on Israel?

HELEN THOMAS: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

Now, far from a gotcha at this point, Rabbi Nesenoff gave her a chance to clarify (i.e. if she had in fact meant that Israel should leave the West Bank)

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: Ooh, any better comments than that?

UNIDENTIFIED: Helen is blunt.

Instead, she makes it clear that she was not merely using intemperate language to push an immediate end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Instead, she makes it clear that she favors some sort of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel to countries that were (Germany) responsible for the Holocaust and (Poland) the residence of 3,000,000 Holocaust victims, but are not "home" in any meaningful sense of the word to more than a tiny fraction of Israelis.

HELEN THOMAS: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, and it’s not Poland.

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: So where should they go? What should they do?

HELEN THOMAS: They could go home.

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: Where is their home?

HELEN THOMAS: Poland, Germany—

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: So the Jews—you’re saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?

HELEN THOMAS: —and America and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who have lived there for centuries? See?

RABBI DAVID NESENOFF: Now, are you familiar with the history of that region and what took place?

HELEN THOMAS: Very much. I’m of Arab background.


Now, of course, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics shows that only 79,600 (1.4%) of Israeli Jews have Poland or Germany (or Austria, included together with Germany) as home in the sense that they were born there. 2/3 of them are over 65 and are probably Holocaust survivors.

Even stretching to include as having a "home" there either being born there or having a father born there, 361,700 (6.4%) of Israelis are included.

On the other hand, there is the fact that 20.7% by this inflated standard had their home in the Arab world, but had to leave because they weren't wanted there either.

All that being said, 71.2% of Israelis have, as their home in the most direct sense, Israel, as this is where they were born.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Fund the Atlanta Streetcar, Obama Administration

I never thought I would ever be against an attempt to expand rail transit in the United States. As someone who is finally being forced to get a license so I can join Zipcar for the too-frequent occasions when Atlanta's transit doesn't cut it, I would normally be thrilled by it. But the Atlanta Streetcar seems like an unbelievably stupid idea.

Now, while heavy rail is better (for dense city areas), it's also much much more expensive, and I am generally quite supportive of light rail, and I am generally supportive even of modern streetcars.

However, even though I really, really hate to say anything to undermine A.J. Robinson and Central Atlanta Progress, I have to oppose the Atlanta streetcar.

This is not to say I am against adding passenger rail capacity that runs in the streets in denser areas of Atlanta. I differ with AJC's in-house 30-something right-winger Kyle Wingfield on that.

However, Mr. Wingfield made some good points, and unlike far too many right-wingers, spends probably more of his column bashing wasteful highway spending (on the other hand, Wingfield is terribly handicapped by his position against actual planning instead of letting developers run hog-wild with no regard for anything else like this country has for the last 60 years; he fails to realize that laying transit to encourage smart development is a good thing, and should visit Washington, DC and I'm told, Portland, if he doesn't believe me).

Tourists would be the biggest beneficiaries of the streetcar, which would run from the aquarium, alongside Centennial Olympic Park, through Fairlie-Poplar, and finally down Auburn Avenue to historic sites from the civil rights era.

Nothing against tourists, but Atlanta’s biggest congestion headaches come from commuting, not tourism, and generally are on highways, not downtown surface streets.

And never mind that MARTA already runs a subway line that comes within a couple of blocks of most of the major destinations, is canceling a little-used bus route that’s very similar to the proposed streetcar’s path, and discontinued a previous tourist trolley in the same area due to poor ridership.

The broader plan also calls for a trolley line along Peachtree Street, north to Brookhaven and south toward Fort McPherson. It’s central to an attempt to create Atlanta’s version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Actually, MARTA runs BOTH of its lines (well, technically there are four lines, but they split only at the ends, with the east-west line only having one green-line only station) in the area around the initial proposal for the streetcar.

Typical tourists would not use it either, as typical tourists will be willing to walk a mere 2-3 miles over the course of a day or two of seeing a city. Only fat/lazy/old and wheelchairless tourists would use it (this is why they canceled the non-rail tourist trolley, I assume).

Moreover, I cannot really see commuters using it. Businesses in downtown are basically all already close enough to MARTA that people are not going to waste time waiting for a streetcar because they can walk from the MARTA station and get there more quickly. Or rather, any businesses that are not close enough are also not close enough to be much shorter walking distances from the streetcar that would be necessary for people to transfer rather than just walking.

Of course, the really ugly thing about Downtown (and Midtown) as, for some reason, Mr. Robinson seems to miss is the unholy percentage of both of them devoted to parking lots.

I filled in all (or almost all; I may have missed a few so it may be worse) of the parking lots in downtown (north of I-20, west of I-75/I-85, east of the major rail line (leaving out the area between it and Northside, and south of Ivan Allen). Look (the embedding has so many lots it won't even show) here; it's absolutely unbelievable.

Note if I'd included the full downtown, with borders of I-20 on south, Piedmont on the east, Northside on the West, and North Avenue on the North, it would be just as bad, but Google Maps can't draw that many vector shapes.

Anyway, it's really really wasteful to have to have so much parking in the middle of town, where as many offices should ideally be located to minimize aggregate commutes while affording freedom of places to live.

That being said, the smartest thing to do to expand rail transit would be to browbeat/coerce (I can think of all sorts of unorthodox ways to do so) Gwinnett and Cobb into joining MARTA, and extending the Green Line north through rail corridors through Knight Park to Underwood Hills, then west across the Chattahoochee, following the rail corridor north through Vinings to Cumberland Mall, Symrna and then ending in downtown Marietta or cutting from there to the Interstate and heading to Kennesaw State.

Additionally, extending the Gold Line along the Buford Highway rail corridor northeast from Doraville through to Norcross and Duluth.

Too bad it wasn't done already. Atlanta has been majorly losing ground on mobility.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shocker: States with Loose Gun Laws Sell More Guns Used Criminally

Of course, the actual news story that brought me to this study, said something even more trite; that 10 states account for nearly half the guns bought and taken across state lines to commit a crime.

The reason this is particularly trite is, of course, that 10 states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina) account for more than half the population of the United States.

That being said, the actual study, done by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition has some slightly less obvious information in it.

Specifically, three of those states (Arizona, Indiana, Virginia) are not in the top 10, and Georgia, which is only the 9th largest state, has been the #1 offender in this category for the last four years.

Moreover, using the data provided, I ran a correlation test on the number of interstate criminal guns sold per 100,000 state residents with the score that state receives for its gun laws by the pro-gun control Brady Campaign.

The result was a -0.57 correlation, quite high.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins Co-Sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Yet they both voted today against cloture on money for our men and women overseas just to oppose the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

Jeff Merkley sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate; Barney Frank (unsurprisingly sponsored it in the House).

From the Congressional Record Summary:

- Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims.

Prohibits related retaliation.

Now, admittedly, this bill does exempt the US military, in addition to religious organizations (so Fred Phelps can still keep his group gay-free), so it's not technically hypocrisy.

In the House, incidentally, one of the few Republican co-sponsors was Michael Castle.
On the plus side, discrimination against witches was and is legal, so feel free to discriminate against Christine O'Donnell in the Delaware Senate race.

Nathan Deal Cannot Be Trusted on Passenger Rail

So according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal has come out in favor of the regional transportation tax

That being said, the actual quotes from Deal given are a bit less than absolute commitment to build, with what seem to me like caveats in warning about expenses.

“The question always is, what is the priority, and where do you spend your money first,” he said. “Whether it’s light rail, heavy rail, passenger rail, whatever you call it, it’s expensive because of capital expenditures.”

Any new rail operation would also likely require subsidies to keep it afloat “and that’s difficult to do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working toward it.”

Never mind that Nathan Deal has to my knowledge not spent time arguing that we need to eliminate all of those expenditures for automobile transportation. Other than the vehicles themselves (which for automobiles are owned by people, which makes it different entirely from public transportation), 100% of operating expenses for roads come from taxes. And for that matter, we've been subsidizing vehicles via years and years of favorable legislation to (at least American-made) automobile manufacturing plants, even those made by non-American companies; we've given sweetheart deals to Asian companies to build plants in the South, all of this well before the auto industry bailout and cash for clunkers.

And of course, operating expenses for automobile transportation are also subsidized. Streetlights on highways, for instance. That electricity isn't free. Neither are traffic police. I would also say we have subsidized the cost of gasoline over the years with what have amounted to sweetheart deals on drilling on federal land/in U.S. waters. And last but certainly not least, we have massively subsidized parking those automobiles. Using land for parking lots is a major, major cost, and yet in so many places, one can park for free, and in many others, parking costs are under "market rate" for parking lots in that area, for various reasons. Of course, private companies also subsidize parking in addition to the government doing so. Still, those companies charge everyone higher prices to compensate for the loss from the free parking.

So let's not pretend the need for the government to provide operating subsidies and essentially 100% capital expense is qualitatively different from what we do for personal automobiles.

At any rate, given his past record, Nathan Deal cannot in any way be trusted on this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

MSNBC's Senate Moderates: Should Bob Casey, Dick Lugar, Bob Corker Be Included?

So Chuck Todd is usually pretty brilliant, but I find his and the other NBC "First Read" people's views on "The Gang of Moderates" to be a little bit off.

Here’s one other point we want to make about the middle striking back: Note these senators who are all up in 2012: Snowe, Dick Lugar, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Bob Corker, Bob Casey, and Jim Webb. What do they all have in common? They’re all moderates, and all of them could face -- potentially -- tough primaries or general elections two years from now. Don’t be surprised if these folks try to work with each other to stay elected. It will be an interesting caucus to follow. This gang (of something or other) is going to make a comeback, and if they actually stick together they COULD, become a governing force. The Balkanization of the Senate appears to be inevitable.

This is not just because of the major unlikelihood of people from opposing parties trying to work with each other to stay elected.

It's also because, for instance, Bob Casey is not so much a "moderate", per se, as he is just a moderate or so on social policy and foreign policy. On economic policy, he's been scored by National Journal either among the most liberal Senators, or in the middle of the Democratic caucus.

Then, of course, there's the bewildering question of where in the world they got the idea that Bob Corker is a moderate. True, the National Journal ranked him as the 7th most moderate Republican in 2009 (he was ranked 21st most moderate Republican in 2007 and 22nd most moderate in 2008), but that just means that at most, he's more moderate than a majority if not most of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate today.

But that does not make him a moderate. It just makes today's Republican party unbelievably right-wing and uncompromising.

I mean, take a look at the 8 longest-serving Republicans (in other words, all of the Republicans who have been in the Senate since January 1987). There are three special cases, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and Richard Shelby, who was a Southern Democrat in January 1993.

The other five guys (yes, they are all male) are Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch, Thad Cochran, Chuck Grassley and Kit Bond.

Consider how the American Conservative Union and the Americans for Democratic Action rated their voting records during the 100th Congress (1987-1988). By averaging the ACU score and 100 minus the ADA score, we get a composite conservative score.

Of the 46 Republicans in the Senate at the time, Grassley, Cochran and Lugar ranked right in the middle, at 22nd most liberal, 23rd most liberal and 24th most liberal. Bond was slightly to the right, at 31st most liberal, and Hatch was solidly in the conservative wing, only 36th most liberal.

Incidentally, McCain was the 26th most liberal and McConnell was the 30th most liberal, while Ted Stevens ranked 13th most liberal, Pete Domenici 17th most liberal, and John Warner the 20th most liberal.

Now, looking at the 109th Congress, averaging the National Journal rankings, we have, out of the 49 Republicans, Lugar as 7th most liberal, Hatch as 13th most liberal, Cochran was 18th most liberal, Grassley 27th most liberal, Bond was 33rd most liberal,

Incidentally, Warner was 8th most liberal, Stevens was 11th most liberal, and Domenici was 14th most liberal.

Finally, in 2009 we have Richard Lugar as 2nd most liberal, Bond as 10th most, Hatch as 11th most, Cochran as 12th most, Grassley as 14th most liberal, out of the 40.

My point is that the reasonable conclusion is not that every one of these guys got more liberal, but that the rest of the party got more conservative. Hence, not really moderates.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christine O'Donnell Doesn't Like Witchcraft, Either

From an Op-Ed she wrote in the Washington Post, June 15, 1997 about her group hosting a booth at HFStival:

We pulled into parking lot No. 5 at RFK Stadium and began looking for our assigned spot. With colorful open-air tents and corporate banners draped on every fence, the area had been transformed into a carnival. Only instead of cotton candy and roller coasters, this carnival offered a celebration of death, in the guise of free condoms, "pro-choice" literature and glorification of the occult.

Not just evolution: More About Christine O'Donnell

She's also, for instance, a young Earther. In the same interview/"debate" with Miles O'Brien and an evolutionary biologist (Dr. Michael McKinney) on CNN on March 30, 1996, she makes that clear with some sort of weird rant about Mount Helens and hundreds of millions of years.

I agree with what the gentleman said about we need to teach DNA, and I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism, because genetics can be traced back to the obvious existence of a higher being - of God.

Now, he said that it's based on fact. I just want to point out a couple things. First of all, they use carbon dating, as an example, to prove that something was millions of years old. Well, we have the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and the carbon dating test that they used then would have to then prove that these were hundreds of millions of years younger, when what happened was they had the exact same results on the fossils and canyons that they did the tests on that were supposedly 100 millions of years old. And it's the kind of inconsistent tests like this that they're basing their 'facts' on.

Carbon-dating, as Dr. McKinney points out, is only useful up to about 50,000 years back; Carbon-14 has a half-life of about O'Donnell's belief of the age of the universe (assuming the literalist Christians do hold by the Jewish (according to most halachic authorities) symbolic count of 5771, so it makes sense, since only about 2^-8 is left after 50,000 years, and much more than that and our instruments aren't precise enough.

Then there's this gem:

Because you're getting out of a public arena. The public schools are a public arena and you can't present one view point as more accurate than another.

Interesting. If she's serious and applies this idea across the board, this means that Christine O'Donnell supports teaching, among other things, the homosexual agenda, communism, masturbation, abortion and of course, the David Icke view of history.

But wait. She doesn't support those at all:

"Every single person on [the board] leans more to a mixed message of 'use a condom' than the message of 'exercise self-control and abstain from sex until you're married,' " said Christine O'Donnell, spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, a conservative family-advocacy group.

"We have the solution [to teen pregnancy]," Miss O'Donnell added. "We know if we all band together and tell these kids that it's OK to say 'no' - and not only is it OK, it is the best choice for them - we would see a great turnaround." (Washington Times, April 3, 1996)

More in subsequent posts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Go Back to 1990, Don Haddix

Seriously. The mayor of Peachtree City is for whatever reason too blind to see the absolutely crucial need for a unified, expanded rail transit system for Atlanta, ranting about his disapproval of the TSPLOST (Transportation Local Option Sales Tax) meeting today.

He claims he doesn't see anything in it for Fayette County (actually, the Georgia Department of Transportation has commissioned studies that would have a commuter rail line going from Peachtree City to Atlanta, although admittedly that wouldn't be the top priority of getting something to Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton). But anyway, that's not the worst part.

Additionally, I asked if any other solution than [mass] transit and new roads had been considered. The answer was no.

It is troubling that those who developed this plan almost all are either with transit groups or from the counties using transit already.

What are people going to do? Fly to work and jobs? Apparate? But somehow I tend to doubt this guy was going for the alternative of bicycling and walking to work, and frankly, he might just be one of those guys who burn Harry Potter books (or wait, the Koran is the in book to burn these days), so I doubt it's Apparating.

So what's left? Tell me, Mayor Haddix, what's left?

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Does Atlanta Compare on Public Transportation Use

Thought of a good idea for something to look up and write about today: how does Atlanta compare to other urban areas in terms of usage of public transportation and various other methods of commuting to work.

I am using urban areas (from the 2000 Census) because urban areas were defined by the Census Bureau in a fairly technical way.

Their reason for defining these urban areas were to avoid the imprecisions of using legally defined places in determining how many people live in an urban area. Using city limits obviously does not work (this makes, for instance, El Paso, Omaha, Fresno and Tucson seem larger than Miami).

The idea of metropolitan areas, which were created at least 60 years to try to address this problem, are better, but the use of legally defined places (counties) means that some rural areas in counties that qualify for being part of the metro area get counted.

The exact criteria used by the Census Bureau can be found in the Federal Register from March 15, 2002 and is quite technical and detailed (they tweaked things when empirical tests did not "look right"), but is probably about as good as it could be.

I am using data from the American Community Survey 2006-2008 3 year estimates (these are the most recent data available, and the 3 year combined estimates greatly reduce the error caused by low sample sizes).

Anyway, here is how Atlanta ranks among the 25 largest urban areas in the United States in terms of the transportation they use to get to work (using that form of transportation that takes them the longest distance):

Note that other means is anything not listed elsewhere on the table, but includes bicycles, motorcycles, taxicabs and everything that isn't in another category

Of the 25 urban areas, Atlanta ranks 10th in terms of percentage of workers who get to work by driving their car by themselves (76.1%). This, of course, is the least efficient and overall most expensive way to get to work, but it is unfortunately often most convenient. Those urban areas even worse in this category (i.e. a larger percentage get to work by driving their car by themselves) are, in order, Detroit (84.4%), St. Louis (81.8%), Cleveland (81.7%), Tampa (80.4%), Dallas-Fort Worth (79.6%), Miami (78.6%), San Jose (78.0%), Houston (77.5%) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (77.5%).

Atlanta's urban area ranked 15th in percentage using public transit (4.28%), ahead of Miami, San Jose, San Diego, St. Louis, Houston, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Riverside-San Bernardino, Detroit and Tampa.

Atlanta's worst categories are percentage of people walking to work (1.52%), which places it 24th, ahead of only Dallas-Fort Worth (1.36%), and percentage of people who bicycle to work (this is my category, incidentally), where it places dead last (.14%), just behind Dallas-Fort Worth (.15%), meaning it also places 24th in percentage of people getting to work on their own personal power (1.66%), one of just 5 of the top 25 urban areas where less than 2% of people get to work on their own power, along with Dallas (1.52%), Detroit (1.79%), Houston (1.87%) and St. Louis (1.84%).

In only 8 of the top 25 urban areas do more than 4% get to work on their own power; Boston (5.85%), New York (6.75%), Philadelphia (4.43%), Pittsburgh (4.46%), Portland (5.18%), San Francisco-Oakland (6.88%), Seattle (4.49%) and Washington (4.04%).

With the exception of Pittsburgh, these are also the top 8 urban areas in terms of least percentage of people driving to work alone. Chicago (probably due to the freezing winters) has only 3.64% of people getting to work on their own power, but their high use of transit ranks them 6th in this category; Pittsburgh's relatively lower rankings in carpooling (15th), public transit (9th), and working at home (24th) push it to 12th in least driving alone, behind the aforementioned 8, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Phoenix (with Phoenix's rate due to a rather high rate of carpooling)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Information on 2010 Georgia Ballot Measures

Update: On Monday, The Atlanta Journal Constitution finally bothered to provide clear explanations of the ballot measures, so I'll be analyzing them with those summaries in mind.

I just realized I had better look at the State of Georgia's 2010 ballot measures at some point before Election Day.

The state provides a pamphlet on the Georgia Secretary of State's website that tries to explain the 5 Constitutional amendments and 1 state-wide referendum on the ballot this November. I think the summaries are available on Election Day on the ballot, but I am not sure about this.

I myself don't really understand the ballot measures. The League of Women Voters is often helpful in providing clearer explanations of ballot measures, but their voter guide for Georgia in 2010 does not have any information on the ballot measures.

So, since they are all "legislative referral", meaning the voters have to approve (or disapprove) some bill passed by the legislature. I decided to check how the legislature voted on that bill and what members of the legislature said about them, to try to get an idea of whether or not I ought to support it. Here is what I found:

Question 1: Allows competitive contracts to
be enforced in Georgia courts

bill was sponsored by Democrat Kevin Levitas and Republicans Mike Coan, Butch Parrish, Joe Wilkinson, Richard Smith, and John Lunsford. The Conference Report was approved almost unanimously. Only 3 in the House voted NAY, Democrats Doug McKillip and Brian Thomas, and Republican Bobby Franklin. There were 0 NAY votes in the Senate.

In other words, this bill does not seem to have created much controversy in the legislature, which means it probably makes sense to go ahead and vote for it.

Update: This is apparently a bad bill for working people, and it seems that I trusted Georgia's Democrats more than I should have.

Labor attorneys oppose it

Well known Atlanta labor attorney Ed Buckley has a strong opinion of Amendment One:

"It's a damned lie."
Attorney Buckley disagrees, saying the amendment will "shackle" employees to their jobs.

"Shackle is an ugly word," 11Alive reporter Jeff Hullinger replied.

"That's what it is," Buckley said. "You can be forced to sign an agreement to keep your job than (sic) fired the next day and not be able to work."

The story goes on to say that ads supporting the Amendment are being funded by the Chamber of Commerce, which, except on public transportation (which the Chamber usually favors) is almost always an automatic reason to vote the other way.

It would provide courts with the ability to uphold the legal parts of an non-compete agreement with illegal clauses (non-compete agreements are agreements which some employers make employees sign that "seek to stop employees from moving to a business competitor or starting a competing business for a specific time period and in a specific geographic area.") In liberal terms, moving towards legalized slavery of the form similar to the old reserve clause in Major League Baseball (baseball players made far far less money, even adjusting for inflation, under the reserve clause)

In conservative terms, this lets judges re-write contracts you've signed (rather than just declare them either A) valid or B) null and void)

I will be voting no.

Question 2: Adds $10 tag fee on private
passenger vehicles to fund statewide trauma care expansion.

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Greg Goggans, Cecil Staton, Renee Unterman, and Don Thomas and by Democrats David Adelman and Valencia Seay.

In the Senate, the final version was opposed by Republicans Bill Heath and Jeff Chapman. In the House, it was opposed by 12 Republicans, Timothy Bearden, David Casas, Clay Cox, Matt Dollar, Bobby Franklin, Rich Golick, Michael Harden, Billy Horne, Roger Lane, Bobby Reese, Martin Scott, Daniel Stout and by 2 Democrats, Alan Powell and Rob Teilhet.

Again, a pretty overwhelming majority of both parties. I certainly intend to vote for it, though I suppose that isn't fair since at present, I am one of the rare Georgians who does not own a car (and will be trying to limit myself to no more than a Zipcar in the next few years), and so I won't immediately be subject to the fee.

Question 3: Allows the State to execute multiyear contracts for
long-term transportation projects

"Amendment 3 seeks to remove the state Transportation Department’s road projects from under the constitution, which requires the agency to fully fund projects before it enters into a contract. "

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Jeff Mullis, Chip Rogers, David Shafer, Tommie Williams and Judson Hill, and by Democrat Steve Thompson. 9 Republicans in the Senate, Balfour, Chapman, Cowsert, Goggans, Grant, Heath, Staton, Tolleson and Unterman voted NAY, as did 2 Republicans, Hatfield and Reese, in the House.

So a fair bit of opposition in the Senate by Republicans, but almost none in the House. At any rate, I'm voting for it. Georgia Republicans tend to be unable to think ahead for multiple years on the need for transportation, which (along with fear of blacks moving in; not that it worked for Clayton or for parts of Cobb for that matter) is why MARTA was limited to the 2 counties of Fulton and Dekalb only; although in those days the Republicans were Lester Maddox Democrats. As such, opposition by them does not faze me, but maybe it fazes others, I do not know.

Of course, on the other hand, GDOT has tended to be extremely hostile to public transportation, so it may not be a good idea to let them do something like this unless the constitution is also modified to remove the provisions limiting public transportation funding sources.

Question 4: Allows the State to execute multiyear contracts for
projects to improve energy efficiency and conservation.

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Chance, Rogers, Williams, Douglas and Staton, and by Democrat Steve Henson. 2 Republicans, Hatfield and Setzler, voted NAY in the House. There were 0 NAY votes in the Senate.

So pretty unanimous. Again, I'm voting for it.

Update: Someone thinks it's important enough to campaign for, and as such, news organizations are finally explaining it. It is indeed a good, smart, thing to do, as it will help the environment and in the long run, save Georgia money as well due to lower energy consumption, which is a win-win.

Taxpayers for Energy Efficiency announced Tuesday the launch of its $150,000 "Yes To Amendment 4" campaign, with a website and a page on the Facebook social-media networking site.

The amendment would change the constitution to permit certain multiyear contracts for the retrofitting of the state's 15,000 buildings.

Supporters say it will provide an economic stimulus while reducing energy consumption. And the work would be paid for with the energy savings rather than a new expense to the state's tight budget.

Question 5: Allows owners of industrial-zoned property to choose to remove the industrial designation from their property

The amendment would allow the owner of a property to remove it from an industrial area and allow it to be irrevocably annexed into a city, which would provide services.

The bill was sponsored by Democrats Bob Bryant, Mickey Stephens and Craig Gordon and by Republican Ron Stephens. It was opposed by 18 Republicans in the House, and by 2 Democrats in the Senate.

I figure I'll still vote for it.

Finally, the state-wide referendum (that is not a constitutional amendment)

Question A: Provides for inventory of
businesses to be exempt from
state property tax.

This I will have to look up some more; I'm leery about this.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dedicate Gwinnett I-85 HOT tolls to fund commuter rail

The inability of the Georgia Department of Transportation to think beyond the highway is mind-boggling.

Now, let me be clear. I am in no way against High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes as a way of raising revenue; a HOT lane is a special lane that is either open free of charge to people in high occupancy vehicles (in this case I believe 3 or more people); I believe these lanes usually have their special status only during peak hours of use.

Why am I not against it? First of all, it is a progressive use fee (tax, if you wish) in two different ways. First of all, in general, lower-earning workers are already far more likely to be carpooling to work. In Gwinnett, according to American Community Survey Estimates over 2006-2008, 18% of workers in the lower third or so of income ( less than $25000 a year) carpooled, while 12% of workers in the middle third of income and 7% of workers in the top third or so of income (more than $50000 a year) did.

Now, admittedly, while there is a major gap between percentage of workers in the lower third (68.1%) and middle third (81.9%) driving to work alone, the gap between the middle third and the upper third (82.8%) is small. This is largely due to the fact that only 79.2% of those making over $75000 drove to work alone. This is due to several factors, the largest being that those people are far more likely to work at home. Additionally, they are slightly more likely to (because they can more easily afford it) live close enough to work to walk or bicycle and may have the time to do so as well. Finally, the way public transportation is structured in Gwinnett County (quite little of it in-county, but with express buses to the big office towers in Atlanta) means that a little bit more of this group actually commutes by public transit than the public at large.

Second of all, it is a tax on unnecessary energy use (single-person commuting), which is good for the environment and for a sound energy policy. So yes, I have no issue with the tax, as it will be a tax primarily on the rich, and of course the state does need money it can get.

What is mind-boggling to me is the way Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) spokespeople answered the final question posed to them by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Q: Is this just another tax?

A: No, it’s optional, Barron said. Besides, with limited road funds, the state is running out of options, Rabun said. "Twenty years into the future traffic is going to be 50 percent more. We cannot put enough lanes out there to handle that traffic. What do you want me to do?"

This is a rather silly defense of the HOT lane. Making a HOV lane into a HOT lane is unlikely to take cars off the road, since carpooling's benefits were already increased by the existence of the HOV lane. It will move some cars to the HOT lane, and perhaps with the capacity they have, the increased carpooling from having the high occupancy lane and getting some rich people off of the rest of the road is the best private-vehicle way to reduce congestion.

But there are other options, and the Georgia Department of Transportation knows it. Look at this picture of proposed commuter rail lines that dates from July 2002.

How much has been done on this? Less than has been done on the BeltLine, for which MARTA still has not submitted anything to the Federal Transit Administration (but that is another story).

Seriously, though. Commuter rail today does not make sense only in New York, any more than any form of rail transit makes sense only in New York. 12 of the 16 metropolitan areas with over three million people have commuter rail (assuming the lines from California's Inland Empire to (largely) allow people to commute to Los Angeles counts), of which 7, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco have at least three lines to augment their good (well, Los Angeles does not really qualify as 'good', per se, but it is surprisingly extensive these days, and gets more trips on heavy and light rail combined than MARTA does, even though 15 years ago it only got about 1/3 the riders combined and even though the Atlanta area has grown much much faster in the intervening period).

In the South and West, Atlanta is one of the few large metropolitan areas to have done absolutely nothing to upgrade its rail transit system in the last 10 years, since the extensions to North Springs and Sandy Springs were finished (seeing as nothing "serious" has been done with plans, and seeing as the stripped-down Peachtree Streetcar seems like a tourist attraction more than something to really help transportation and will, I suspect, not get full funding).

Systems have seen and/or are in progress to see significant expansions in Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, Portland, San Jose, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Sacramento, Miami

and began and are expanding in Albuquerque, Seattle, Houston, Charlotte, Austin, Phoenix, Nashville, with Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News and Orlando to see openings soon.

This is not to say, of course, that we haven't seen extensions in some of the other metropolitan areas in that time period (New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and especially Minneapolis, which just started its system in the last 10 years, now has one light rail line, one commuter rail line, is in progress on an east-west line between Minneapolis and St. Paul and about to submit to the FTA on a southwestern line, and Pittsburgh is still in progress on its Bore to the Shore, which is not insignificant because it makes further extensions a lot cheaper).

The point is that Atlanta is missing the boat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Demands and Sayings of Lee The Discovery Channel Gunman

Mind you, I'm not at all sanguine about the planet being able to sustain much more if any human population growth (especially at Western standards of living), but this guy Lee nevertheless has a hilarious, hilarious manifesto and demands of Discovery which can be read here.

Note that he's not a straight-up crazy leftist; the "they terk er jobs" crowd would agree with parts.

Programs must be developed to find solutions to stopping ALL immigration pollution and the anchor baby filth that follows that.

Some of the best parts:

Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order.

Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.

Won't someone please think of the Froggies!

A picture of James Jay Lee the Gunman:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mind-Boggling Letters to the Editor on the Mosque

I decided I was up for some punishment, so I'm reading through some of the mind-bogglingly silly letters to the editor people are writing about that mosque in New York.

I see no reason not to leave everyone's name intact; perhaps they have friends who will Google them and set them straight after seeing this; I can hope, at least.

Furthermore, the politicians are afraid not to support the Muslim community in this endeavor for fear of losing their votes. Wake up America! We don't need to be putting Muslim interests above all else for fear of being politically incorrect.

I certainly will not want to visit New York again if this mosque is allowed to be built.


Gayle Barker

Powell, TN

Shameful display

Let's see if I understand this correctly: Americans are supposed to be more tolerant and understanding of Muslims and their religion of Islam.

This is coming from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City who supports a mosque being built 250 yards from Ground Zero.

In my opinion, he should resign immediately. What an affront and shameful display of disloyalty to all the victims who died there in the name of Islam.

Shame on anyone who voted yes for this project.

How about some compassionate understanding from all Muslims who claim their religion does not promote violence?


Orange Park

Thanks for Enabling Anti-Semites, Pam Geller

I was Googling through the torrent of articles about that whole mosque controversy, and I found this article in a paper from Uganda, and I read this:

Nine years after the 9/11 bombing in the US, a proposed mosque and an Islamic centre near the spot where terrorists killed over 2,000 people has caused outrage among Jewish extremists. They claim such a project would lay waste to what amounts to a “graveyard”.

Among "Jewish extremists", I thought? Sure, there are a few Jews who are outraged, but I would guess 99% or more of the outraged are Christians. But this f***ing anti-Semite, blaming the Jews again.

Then I remembered. It's technically true. At least a Jewish extremist, Pam Geller, basically made this controversy happen.

Thanks, Pam.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Census Bureau Has Congressional Apportionment Widget!

Okay, it's just a countdown clock until the date (Dec 31, 2010) by which the Census Bureau must return official state and national population counts, which is kind of lame.

I think it would have been much more interesting and informative if it also had functionality to explain to the American people exactly how the system of apportionment works. It does not require that much math to understand how it works (if you know what a square root is, you have everything you need), although it does admittedly require a significant amount of math to understand what makes the system of apportionment "good."

Initially, each state is assigned 1 representative, to ensure that no matter what, every state (but not the residents of Washington D.C.!) gets at least 1 representative in the House of Representatives; additionally, in order to work without getting into division by zero, the method sort of requires this.

After each state has a seat, the rest of the seats are distributed one by one according to which state currently has the highest "priority" to receive an additional seat.

The priority for an additional seat is calculated as follows: Let P be the population of the state, n be the number of seats currently allocated to it. Then the priority is P/(SQRT(n)*SQRT(n+1))

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shabbat Dinner in Tzfat

After mincha/dancing Carlebachish Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv at the Ascent Institute, we got sent to the houses of local Chabad families for dinner; they made sure to segregate us by gender for this, though I'm not entirely sure why; I've never heard of a mechitza being required at the dinner table and certainly the wife in the family was sitting with everyone else at the table.

Ariel and Chana, both BT Chabad from the United States, hosted us. Chana was even mekareved by the Chabad Rabbi in Princeton; I learned this after she asked me "Where in Princeton?" when I said I was from there; rarely do I get asked that, as Princeton (or the Princetons, as it were) just isn't that big. Ariel (my guess is no more than 12 years into BT given how old he looked) is now the Rosh Yeshiva of a yeshiva in Tzfat serving other BTs.

When we reached their apartment, the two oldest kids, 5 and 4, were still awake. After one of them started misbehaving, saying he would turn on the lights, I made a wisecrack; "Oy vey, he's already going off the derech." Unsurprisingly, it did not go over too well.

In addition to three of us doing the Ascent seminar, there were also 4 yeshiva students there for dinner as well. Three of them were not particularly eccentric or noteworthy, but one, Shimon, was. He had spent a lot of time doing all the eastern religion stuff that apparently is not so uncommon for Jews who end up in Tzfat. He'd also been into the raw foods movement, and was an organic farmer in Maui, New Mexico, and elsewhere. He also wasn't dressed like a Chabad BT. For one, he had payos, and for another, he had techelet on his tzitzit. He also spent some of the dinner blabbering about this new electric coil that would give us free energy, after he heard I was (technically, at least) an engineer. He also mentioned how he thought the CIA did 9/11. I then brought up the various Jewish/Israel-related 9/11 conspiracies, particularly the "Jew call" to explain why he was being stupid. That also didn't go over so well.

Nevertheless, despite Ariel's dvar torah going into "animalkeit" vs. "yiddishkeit," and despite his going on and on and on about the "Holy Tanya" (Rabbi Yudi maybe mentioned the Tanya and the Alter Rebbe once, if that, in like 20 pizza/parshas I went to), and despite the major delay in the BTs figuring out which Kiddush to recite (it apparently being a Chabad custom for each person to do an individual Kiddush), I enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Went to a Ball Game Today with Chabad

Two things worthy of note.

1. The campus shaliach (at least to more inner circle types) is willing to I think admit the Haredi situation in Israel sometimes goes overboard. Case in point: last year on the Birthright trip run by Chabad, they had Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel; the women on the trip were singing (on their side of the Kotel), which led some people to throw water over the mechitza in protest.

The rabbi noted he'd had to mislead by saying it was a Shavuot tradition to throw water.

2. One guy brought Meir Kahane ימח שמו וזכרו 's book to the ballgame to read when he got bored. And he's seriously considering not coming back when he goes to Israel this summer (even though this is just his freshman year). Oy vavoy.

And yeah, certainly if people are going to say that about Rabbi Stephen Wise, I can say that about the guy responsible for both Jewish-oriented U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Avigdor Lieberman Continues to Sell Out to the Haredim

Residents of Israel's south have unfortunately been under siege from rockets from Gaza for years and years. A new hospital wing in Ashkelon was planned to be built to be rocket and missile proof, but human bones were found there.

Apparently, United Torah Judaism via (the handlers of) Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has decided that, despite what archaeologists say (that they are Christian or pagan bones) and despite pikuach nefesh, this 90 million NIS ($24 million) wing must be stopped.

Instead, according to MK Yaakov Litzman, they must spent an additional 100 million NIS, more than doubling the price and delaying construction of the facility by 18 months.

5 (or 16 including Shas) MKs apparently are enough to force this, thanks to the help of other coalition members.

An 11-10 cabinet vote approved this disgraceful change.

In opposition were most (perhaps all that voted) Labor ministers, as well as 6 Likud ministers (Yuli Edelstein, Yossi Peled, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Gideon Sa'ar, and Limor Livnat).

Lieberman cast the deciding vote in favor (and two of his fellow Beitenu members abstained; had they voted no, it would also have killed it).

So he's sold out completely on secularism (or even sanity), and has been the PA's best diplomat as foreign minister. How I hope his party goes down next election.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When will the PA Declare Avigdor Lieberman Honorary PA Foreign Minister?

Because he's really doing more for them than whoever their foreign minister is (apparently Riad Al-Malki; not someone we hear too much from, though his name does mildly ring a bell).

His latest advocacy on the Palestinian's behalf is with the very large and pretty important country of Brazil

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday boycotted Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's speech to Israel's Knesset to protest the visiting leader's refusal to lay a wreath at Mount Herzl.

Lieberman also boycotted a meeting between Lula and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming the Brazilian president slighted Israel by refusing the customary diplomatic visit to Mount Herzl and the gravesite of Zionist leader Theodore Herzl.
The Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Lieberman wanted to show the Brazilian leader that Israel takes seriously his dismissal of diplomatic protocols.

You should take it seriously. It is indeed scary that Israel's relations with Brazil are apparently so poor that Lula is skipping visiting Herzl's gravesite. Certainly it would be absolutely horrible if (under the worst case scenario) Brazil were to join the Castro/Chavez axis.

Israel exported 1.172 billion dollars worth of goods to Brazil in 2008, #8, under only (in order) the United States, the European Union, Hong Kong, India, Turkey (there's another country Lieberman and his party have been stupendous ambassadors regarding), the People's Republic of China, and the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland). So we are talking significant sums here.

But the way to take this problem seriously is not to do your frickin' best to worsen relations further and further!!!!!!!!!