Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Midweek Meanderings from the 'Net

A rare mid-Michigan sighting for early December: blue skies. The Curmudgeon is enthralled!

Some Republicans Refused to Take Anything from Obama, Even If It's Something They Want

When President Obama called for a major federal program to equip police officers with body cameras, you'd think that would be great news for the sponsor of Michigan bill doing just that within our Pleasant Peninsulas. After all, it would save the Michigan treasury millions of dollars.
But lame duck Rep. Tom McMillin 'don't want no stinking' federal money.'
"I don't think it's a proper role for the feds and there will likely be strings attached and perhaps privacy/database issues," McMillin told mLive. And, he probably was thinking, it comes attached to something Obama wants so it must be evil.
Body cameras are already being tested by officers in Detroit and Kalamazoo, as well as by the Michigan State Police. Backers say the cameras are a win-win: they will protect good cops from phony complaints, and protect citizens from bad cops (a video record of what happened in Ferguson Missouri would sure have been nice...). In tests elsewhere universal use of cameras has resulted in reductions in complaints of excessive force.

The Supreme Court and Gerrymandering

The Roberts court has, in the past, thrown up its hands and said there's nothing it can do about the form of election rigging commonly known as gerrymandering.
Named in honor of 19th century Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, the practice involves drawing boundaries for Congressional and legislatives districts that pre-determine which party will win the election. The combination of powerful computers and sophisticated data mining has taken what used to be a "black art" and turned it into a science.
Southeast Michigan's Congressional
districts are designed to jam as many
Democrats into as few districts as
possible, effectively diluting the
representation for Democrats.
As a result, Michigan is a Democratic-leaning state "represented" mostly be Republicans. In the 2014 election:
  • Democrats running for Congress in Michigan won the cumulative popular vote 49.2% to 47.5%, but Republicans were rewarded with 9 out of 14 seats in Congress.
  • Democrats running for the state House won the popular vote 51.1% to 47.7%, but Republicans won 63 seats and Democrats only 47. Even if you toss out heavily Democratic Wayne County, Republicans won two-thirds of the elections (60-30) with only 53% of the popular vote.
  • Republicans narrowly won in the vote for the state Senate (50.7% - 49.2%), but turned that into a whopping 72% victory margin; excluding Wayne County's votes, Republicans won 84% of the seats with just 54.5% of the vote.
Think Progress reports on a new study at Duke University of North Carolina's districting demonstrates that, despite the contentions of the U.S. Supreme Court, gerrymandering is blatantly partisan and can be avoided. 
In a 2004 case (Viet v. Jubelirer), Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, arguing that
federal courts should not get involved in partisan gerrymandering cases. The essence of Scalia’s argument is that courts are simply unable to come up with a legally manageable standard for determining which gerrymanders cross the line when they become impermissible. According to Scalia, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”
The Duke University study puts that contention to rest by creating multiple computer-generated maps, with near-perfect population equality and compactness, and that better represent the actual vote of the citizens of North Carolina.
If the Supreme Court wants to end gerrymandering ... and bring "representative" back into the phrase "representative government" ... the Duke University study gives it the opportunity.

Good News That's Important and Will Be Ignored by Most Media

There is too much yammering about the politics of Obamacare and too little about the real-world impact. No, it's not death panels/the demise of healthcare as we know it/rampant socialism: it's people getting healthy and staying healthy.
The latest, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is a report that the ACA-mandated emphasis on wellness in our healthcare system, something mandated by that evil socialist government takeover of healthcare, is bringing results: 1.3-million fewer patient harms, 50,000 lives saved and (for conservatives who mostly care only about money) $12-billion in health spending AVOIDED.
The reductions came over a three-year period, roughly coinciding with the initial launch of the Affordable Care Act which included both carrots and sticks to encourage greater emphasis on reducing hospital-acquired infections and conditions.
1.3-million fewer patients getting sick while in the hospital is a 17% reduction. That's a good thing. Which is why you won't be reading much about it in the MSM. Good news isn't really news.

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