Oct 17, 2017

Supreme Court's Aversion to Social Science Is Perverse

Gill v Whitford Gerrymandering—An Easy Case That Would Destroy Republican Rule

Earlier this month at oral argument of the likely precedent-setting Wisconsin gerrymandering case, Republican justices displayed an obtuse mind-set revealing an incapacity to consider social scientific findings in determining whether a statute is unconstitutional, (Gill v. Whitford, Cornell, - Gill v. Whitford, MortizLaw, - Gill v. Whitford, U.S. Supreme Court).

Writes Oliver Roeder this morning at Five-thirty-eight.com:

The Supreme Court does not compute. Or at least some of its members would rather not. The justices, the most powerful jurists in the land, seem to have a reluctance — even an allergy — to taking math and statistics seriously.

For decades, the court has struggled with quantitative evidence of all kinds in a wide variety of cases. Sometimes justices ignore this evidence. Sometimes they misinterpret it. And sometimes they cast it aside in order to hold on to more traditional legal arguments. (And, yes, sometimes they also listen to the numbers.) Yet the world itself is becoming more computationally driven, and some of those computations will need to be adjudicated before long. Some major artificial intelligence case will likely come across the court’s desk in the next decade, for example. By voicing an unwillingness to engage with data-driven empiricism, justices — and thus the court — are at risk of making decisions without fully grappling with the evidence.

This problem was on full display earlier this month, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case that will determine the future of partisan gerrymandering — and the contours of American democracy along with it. As my colleague Galen Druke has reported, the case hinges on math: Is there a way to measure a map’s partisan bias and to create a standard for when a gerrymandered map infringes on voters’ rights?

It's not that rightwing justices like Thomas, Gorsuch, Roberts and Alito cannot comprehend empirical investigation. It is that they do not care to when they are presented findings that point to a remedy helping disfavored segments of the population against whom these legal politicians have been appointed to work.

Without a United States Supreme Court ruling protecting Americans from the Republican Party's gerrymandering drawn after computer simulation after simulation to effectively take citizens out of the loop in democratic elections, Republican rule over citizens is all-but-guaranteed in the future.

In response to the early October oral argument of Gill v. Whitofrd, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, professor at the University of Chicago Law School specializing in election law, penned a column in Slate Magazine spelling out the criteria identifying an unconstitutional gerrymanders. (See also Stephanopoulos Explains the Research that Convinced SCOTUS to take the Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case.]

Writes Stephanopoulos:

As one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, I was able to attend Tuesday’s oral argument in Gill v. Whitford. At the argument, the justices probed, among other things, how the plaintiffs’ test for partisan gerrymandering would work, how reliable the social science is that underpins this test, and what the test’s implications would be for judicial involvement. Since the plaintiffs’ theory relies in part on my academic work, I’m in a good position to address these issues.

With respect to the test’s operation, Justice Gorsuch warned that a gerrymandering standard should not be like a 'steak rub.' That is, it should not be imprecise and opaque in its makeup: 'I like some turmeric, I like a few other little ingredients, but I’m not going to tell you how much of each.' In reality, the plaintiffs’ proposed test for adjudicating gerrymandering claims is more akin to a detailed recipe than a mystery stew. The test has four elements, and litigants would be required to go through them one by one, proceeding to the next phase only if they satisfied the previous criterion. These four elements are:
  1. Was the district plan enacted with the discriminatory intent of benefiting one party and handicapping another one? Maps drawn by a single party in full control of the state government often (but not always) have this motive.

  2. Has the plan exhibited (or is the plan forecast to exhibit) a historically large partisan asymmetry? A partisan asymmetry means a map does not treat the parties equally in terms of how their votes translate into seats. A map’s asymmetry can easily be calculated and then compared to historical data to determine if it’s unusually big.

  3. Is the plan’s partisan asymmetry durable? To find out, a range of plausible election results should be considered. A map’s asymmetry should be deemed persistent enough only if it would endure across this range of outcomes.

  4. Is the plan’s partisan asymmetry unjustified? At this final step, the gold standard is to use a computer algorithm to simulate many maps that satisfy the state’s legitimate redistricting criteria. The challenged plan’s asymmetry is unjustified only if it exceeds that of most of the simulated maps.
Under this approach, there would be some easy cases, like the Wisconsin State Assembly plan at issue in Whitford. This plan’s authors admitted its pro-Republican intent. Its partisan asymmetry is worse than that of any map nationwide between 1972 and 2010. Its asymmetry would persist even if there was a massive Democratic wave. And its asymmetry is larger than that of any simulated assembly map. Conversely, it’s clear a plan would be upheld if it was designed through a bipartisan or nonpartisan process, if its asymmetry was historically small, if its asymmetry would disappear under slightly different electoral conditions, or if it was no more asymmetric than most simulated maps.
In playing dumb, social dominators like Gorsuch, Alito, Roberts and Thomas continue a sordid tradition in federal litigation of liberty claims the last 65 years. Unequal public schools? Public accommodation of ethnic minorities? Housing discrimination? Equality of law and processes? Voting? What? Do we litigate every public functioning and process if someone makes a liberty claim?

It may not seem like it at the moment, but Republican rule is imperiled as at any point in post-World War II history, and Gill v. Whitford is one of the last chances Republicans have to hang onto to power for 50 years against the will of the population.

One must hate the fact that Anthony Kennedy has become the pivotal vote again in this critical case for Americans when this man is mired in mediocrity.

Oct 16, 2017

Racine Dems Unhappy with Corporatist Neolibs' Direction

Chris Jansing at MSNBC interviewed five Democratic-leaning
voters in Racine, Wisconsin to take the pulse of a key state.
Madison, Wisconsin—After nearly leading the nation in turn-out for years and becoming a reliably blue state in presidential elections, Wisconsin changed in 2016 due to a combination of Republican-inflicted voter suppression and disgust with Hillary Clinton.

The change still has the national media wondering what's up in Wisconsin.

Chris Jansing at MSNBC interviewed five Democratic-leaning voters in Racine, Wisconsin in an effort to determine the pulse of the Democratic-progressive vote that still comprises a majority here.

The findings presented to Jansing in a wide-ranging interview suggest the Democratic Party is in trouble unless it becomes more progressive and begins to tell its donor base to shut it.

Said Terrance Warthen, co-chair of Our Wisconsin Revolution: "I don't know who the Democratic Party is. I just don't know who they are anymore."

Whoever the Democrats are, Warthen said, "You're going to have to give up the money and go back to the grassroots."

Video of Democratic Voters Unhappy Over Party's Direction is below:

Fitchburg, Wisconsin—Creating a Slush Fund in the Scott Walker Era

Fitchburg, Wisconsin is a freak show.
Corruption in Plain Sight in the Rats' Nest of Dane County Wisconsin

Fitchburg, Wisconsin—This isn't about the money; it's about making a "better way" to fund community non-profits, said Fitchburg ald. Tony Hartmann in an October email to Mal Contends.

It is about the money.

What Hartmann calls media "misinformation" about a proposed Common Council scheme to fund nonprofit groups draws laughter, anger and the start of a recall-the-Mayor initiative in this politically progressive community with the Republican-dominated City Hall, police department and elected municipal government.

With growing minority and young populations here, Fitchburg civil and elected officials have accelerated a Republican program to consolidate political power as this city becomes a flashpoint as Gov. Scott Walker kicks in 2018 reelection mode.

In Fitchburg, Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been defeated at
the ballot box. Above are the results for Fitchburg in the 2014
general election
. First column is the total votes, second column is
Dem. nominee Mary Burke's votes, and third column is Walker's.
Gov. Scott Walker, (R), made numerous public visits to Fitchburg since becoming governor in 2011. At the ballot box, though, Walker was clobbered here in the 2014 general and 2012 recall elections. In ald dist one, (one of four voting districts composed of 19 wards), Mary Burke defeated Scott Walker with 1,528 votes for Burke and 410 votes for Walker out of 1,966 votes cast for a 77 percent to 20 percent defeat of Walker in the 2014 general election. Since 2014, incidents of voter obstruction and harassment of voters by white poll workers and white Fitchburg City Clerk staff, Patti Anderson and Tracy Oldenburg, have increased in wards one-four, district one, as has been documented and stated publicly at municipal civic trials by former Fitchburg poll worker, ((2007-2016), Mal Contends).

On the Fitchburg Common Council, Hartmann, Ald Julia Arata-Fratta and Mayor Jason Gonzalez, (after amassing a wide coalition in his 2016-17 campaign), have thrown in with Republicans on the eight-member Council, and are eyeing money in the city's Community Development Grant Program, (CEDA), to be used as a slush fund [information describing the city's CEDA including how to apply, was posted on the city website Aug. 18, 2017 some five weeks before Mayor Jason Gonzales posted his proposed 2018 budget calling for the "removal" of $110,000 in non-profit funding, (The Capital Times)].

We want that money

"Fitchburg Alds. Julia Arata Fratta, Dan Carpenter and Dorothy Krause are sponsoring an amendment to the proposed 2017 budget that would remove club funding from the city budget and put it under the control of the Community Economic Development Authority, whose eight members would decide how to allocate it," notes The Capital Times in 2016.

Many Fitchburg residents are watching whether Arata Fratta-linked non-profits have become new applicants for the slush fund, if the budget proposal gets passed.
Meanwhile recall alders and mayor efforts continue as political observes gaming out scenarios fish around for mayoral candidates in a possible 2018 recall election, including perennial mayoral candidate Jay Allen, a supporter of several Republican Party congressional nominees, including John Sharpless, Dave Magnum and the far-right fringe candidate, Ron Greer

Oct 12, 2017

Judge: Wisconsin Republicans Ran Afoul of State Constitution in Attempted Industrial Water Grab

Clean Wisconsin v Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
(Dane County Case Number 2016 CV002817)

Legal and political body shot to Republican project to direct public water to polluting industries

Madison, Wisconsin — In a win for Wisconsin citizens and clean water, a Dane County Judge ruled the Wisconsin Constitution remains the law of the land with respect to protection of the public surface and groundwater.

The ruling by Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn contradicts a 2016 advisory opinion by the Republican Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel, who declared in a widely panned political statement the Wisconsin Constitution no longer protects public waters against private industrial claims of ownership.

Bailey-Rihn cited the Wisconsin Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine granting authority to the state Department of Natural Resources, (DNR), to protect the public's waters.

The ruling vacates eight DNR permits for corporate high capacity water wells.

"This Court is bound by nearly 120 years of precedent and a long rich history in the State of respecting the Wisconsin Constitution and its fundamental protection of the waters of the State for the enjoyment of all," Bailey-Rihn wrote in a decision issued Oct. 11, (Wisconsin State Journal).

The case is Clean Wisconsin Inc v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (Dane County Case Number 2016 CV002817). Nine separate cases ligating legal petitions filed by Clean Wisconsin on Oct. 28, 2016 were consolidated into one case on Dec. 13, 2016.

The ruling represents a set-back to a Wisconsin Republican game-plan in which the Republican Attorney General takes unprecedented action on behalf of private Republican donors, followed by action of the Republican-gerrymandered legislature and Republican-ruled state agencies that cite the opinion as justification for official action benefiting private Republican interests.

Echos of 2008 voter obstruction

In 2008 Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen tried to push through the courts a new constitutional requirement to vote: An exact match of a voters' names in databases of various government bureaucracies that is Van Hollen's perverse interpretation of a federal voting statute.

In October 2008, it was reported by WisPolitics that Reince Priebus (then Wisconsin GOP Chair) and Wisconsin McCain-Palin co-chair Van Hollen met before and at the 2008 National Republican Convention in St. Paul to discuss the voter obstruction effort which was employed by the Van Hollen-headed Wisconsin Department of Justice during the 2008 presidential campaign. Van Hollen later admitted his hyper-partisan lawsuit to obstruct the vote was brought in collusion with the Republican Party.

It took a judicial ruling to halt the Republicans' attempt to obstruct the vote; and it will take a judicial ruling to vacate Republican initiatives to disregard the Wisconsin Constitution as Republicans look to pollute and deplete Wisconsin waters.

A reproduction of the Clean Wisconsin, Inc. Oct 11 press release is below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wisconsin’s Waters Win in Clean Wisconsin High-Capacity Well Case
Court orders to vacate seven permits, remand one for consideration

MADISON, WI —In a critical ruling for Wisconsin’s waters, Dane County Circuit Court ordered the DNR to vacate, or invalidate, seven high-capacity well permits and remand one for consideration. Clean Wisconsin sued the DNR in October of 2016, after the agency issued a series of high-capacity well permits that disregarded its own scientific analysis of the impacts the wells would have on neighboring water bodies. The proposed wells would be located primarily in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin, where groundwater depletion is already a serious problem.

“Wisconsin’s Constitution directs DNR to protect our water for everyone in the state, not just for the benefit of the few,” said Katie Nekola, General Counsel for Clean Wisconsin. “Today’s decision recognizes that duty and requires DNR to vacate or remand these well permits.

“These huge wells pump millions of gallons of water every day, in an area of the state where streams are drying up and lake levels are falling,” said Nekola. “Water is not infinite; it’s DNR’s job to manage water withdrawals so that a few users don’t take more than their share, at the expense of private wells and public waters.”

DNR’s decision to issue the permits, which had been “on hold,” came after Attorney General Brad Schimel’s opinion that DNR did not have the authority to impose permit conditions on those wells. DNR often places conditions on permit approvals that help prevent environmental damage; however, after the AG’s opinion, it ceased doing so.

Oct 10, 2017

GOP-run Fitchburg, Wisconsin Looks to Zero-out Funds for Popular Community Non-Profits

Fitchburg, Wisconsin Republicans Become Objects of Disgust in Budget Spectacle

Fitchburg, Wisconsin — Elected in April 2017, first-term Mayor Jason Gonzalez did not run on a Republican platform to eliminate funding for community non-profits.

That's because local politicians here do not publicly oppose successful community initiatives anymore than national politicians want to go on record against Social Security and Medicare-Medicaid.

The only plausible way for local Republicans to cut all funding to popular nonprofit organizations here is: Cut all funding for nonprofit organizations and then deny this black-and-white budgetary commitment in Mayor Gonzalez' proposed 2018 budget, (Facebook).

Among Gonzalez and his diminishing political coalition black is white and $0.00 equals $110,000.

Gonzalez' proposed 2018 budget calls for the "removal" of $110,000 in non-profit funding from the 2018 budget, (The Capital Times).

Gonzalez and his campaign manager, Ald Tony Hartmann, say this proposed budgetary cut comes because they have found a "better way," (Hartmann's term), of funding the non-profits: By not funding the non-profits.

Only Fitchburg politicians holding the citizenry in contempt could axe popular non-profit funding by offering an equally contemptuous lie.

Reads p.22 in a the Mayor's Proposed 2018 Budget, (Facebook): "The $60,000 allocated to the private charitable partners was removed from the 2018 budget. The $50,000 in property tax funding for the CEDA, (Community and Economic Development Authority), community grant program was also removed."

Hartmann and Gonzalez' effort is underhanded and disingenuous, continuing a long hostility of white Fitchburg Republicans against its growing minority citizenry.

The budgetary cuts that Gonzales and Hartmann implausibly say are not cuts have caused community outrage as the political world in progressive Dane County viewing the scandal steps up to contribute to the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, one of the targeted-by-Fitchburg non-profits.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, (Madison), after hearing the news solicited over $3,000 in new funding for the Boys and Girls Club in the second congressional district. Taco Bell, the restaurant chain, has contributed $10,000. Other contributions are coming in to make up for the underhanded Fitchburg Mayor's budgetary scheme, (Facebook). (See Michael Johnson in Facebook for updates).

No municipal scandal in Dane County has ever caused the local congressional member, restaurant chains and community members to roll their eyes with such collective political disgust.

Ald. Tony Hartmann, Mayor Jason Gonzalez and Fitchburg Republicans have politically tied their future to this scheme and their credibility is in the offing.

A public hearing in Fitchburg, Wisconsin on the zeroing of funding for non-profits is tonight.