Archives for February 2017

The National Guard Immigration Force is a Template for Narrative Creation on Both Sides


This morning AP broke the story that the Trump administration was considering using up to 100,000 National Guard troops to assist in border enforcement and the arrest of undocumented immigrants.

The reaction was what we’ve come to expect in the fast and furious three weeks of the Trump presidency. Fevered outrage, flabbergasted denials, and even a little applause, on the far right.

The White House quickly denied the report, saying the memo didn’t come from them, and they never considered it. “#FakeNews” was declared, but that’s not where stories like this die.

Now that it’s in the national consciousness as a Trump proposal, whether it actually is or not, people are going to be asked about it. And that’s just what the Huffington Post did this morning, asking governors of all 11 affected (but not actually affected) states to comment.

On Terror and Whistleblowers, Trump Doesn’t Undermine the Obama Legacy, He Fulfills It


Over the last few years terrorism and crime have been all over the news. You would be forgiven for assuming they are on the rise, but they’re not. After a large drop at the beginning of the decade, terrorist attacks around the world are about where they’ve been for the last 10 years. Despite a small uptick in murders, violent crime is still at record lows since the early 90s.

After the rash of police shootings since 2014 (both from and against), a meme emerged that rang true.

Reported hate crimes may be up slightly in some places, but overall crime is still extremely rare and lower than it has been in decades. We just see it more often, on the news, on Facebook, on YouTube. It’s not worse, it’s just more visible.

The same is true for President Trump’s actions compared to President Obama’s, on a few issues. Yes, Trump has already proven himself an incompetent, dangerous charlatan. But on a few things he’s just a more explicit version of Obama.

Another Study Shows Gerrymandering is Not Why Republicans Win


Every two years the House elections don’t go the way partisans think they should. Every two years partisans on the losing side place the blame on gerrymandering, the purposeful drawing of district lines to achieve a specific outcome. Every two years there is a new study showing that gerrymandering is not the problem. So here we go again.

Jowie Chen and David Cottrell, of University of Michigan and Dartmouth respectively, published a study (PDF) just before the election last year showing that gerrymandering has almost no effect on the overall makeup of the US House of Representatives. Previous studies have shown a significant or minor one, but Chen and Cottrell easily point out the flaws in most of those, especially in how they create a control group. This new study eliminates those inherent biases by using computer models to create a number of different nonpartisan district maps.

As a baseline, they used the 2008 election results at the precinct level.

We map the votes of these precincts to Florida’s 484,481 Census blocks according to population and then aggregate the votes into a set of 15,640 similarly-populated square polygons so as to produce a geographically-precise spatial grid of the state. These 15,640 “squares” of the grid are then used as the building blocks for the districting simulations.

The computer then chooses precincts at random to begin each district and adds more contiguous precincts until a district-size population is reached.

More Evidence the Destruction of the Death Star Was a War Crime


One of the most fascinating genres of pop culture commentary over the last few years is the Empire apologia from the Star Wars universe. This surprising cult of contrarianism postulates that the Jedi and the rebellion they support were actually the bad guys - the equivalent of religious fanatical terrorists causing mayhem for the Galactic Empire, which was just trying to ensure peace and order for its citizens.

Well, apart from the inhabited planet-destroying, I suppose. (But there’s even a defense of that.)

President Trump Thinks Government Stealing Your Stuff is a Power Worth Threatening Over


State senator Konni Burton didn’t wake up yesterday planning to be the target of a presidential threat, but she may have gotten one anyway. Given the president’s temperment I suppose it’s only a matter of time before he gets around to us all individually.

The Fort Worth Republican, who replaced Wendy Davis after her star-crossed gubernatorial campaign, recently introduced a bill in the Texas Senate to require a criminal conviction for civil asset forfeiture by state or local departments.

Civil asset forfeiture is the practice of law enforcement agents confiscating personal property during an investigation of a crime, sometimes just a traffic stop. In most jurisdictions the department in question is free to keep and/or sell that property for their own use or budget-padding needs. Proponents argue it eliminates property used in the commission of a crime, like a crack house or smuggling vehicles, but if no conviction is secured, then no criminal justification exists for the forfeiture.

It sounds like a heinous practice, so surely it must be rare, only used in extreme circumstances or against the most evil criminals, right? In fact, for just 2015, the total value of property seized by the feds ($5 billion) was more than victims nationwide lost from actual burglary ($3.5 billion). And that doesn’t even count state and local forfeiture, which would push the total much higher.

A Muslim Ban by Any Other Name


Please, literally any other name…

What would you call a law that prohibited the use of the seven most common hunting rifles and handguns for safety reasons but exempted knives? An honest person would call it a gun ban.

What would you call an order under Obamacare that banned seven different types of meat for health reasons but exempted tofu and fish? An honest person would call it a meat ban.

What would you call an order by China that prohibits visitors from the United States and six other majority Christian nations but specifically exempts non-Christians from those nations? An honest person would call it a Christian ban.

But if the President of the United States orders a 4-month halt on visas from seven majority Muslim nations but specifically exempts non-Muslims from those nations, everyone to the right of Lindsay Graham is apoplectic if you say it’s banning Muslims.

And that’s what it does. Period.

A Muslim ban does not have to ban all Muslims or even say the word “Muslim” to do so. The “assault weapons ban” signed by Bill Clinton exempted all guns owned before it was enacted and many new guns based on other criteria. We still call it an assault weapons ban.

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