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Daily News – 12/28/12

North Carolina

Division Chief Demotes Self to Avoid Chopping Block
Nesbitt Reelected NC Senate Minority Leader
More Requests for Wilmington 10 Pardons

Nation

Government Can’t Send Sandy Aid to Dead People – we needed to spell that out?
Instagram Loses 1/4 of its Users due to Terms
NJ Police Officers Shot, Gunman Dead
15 Year Old Develops Inexpensive Test for Pancreatic Cancer
Senate Rejects FISA Reform – more warrantless wiretapping
Eight Elections to Watch in 2013

World

Ghana Election Results Challenged
China’s New Internet Law
India Rape Victim’s Condition Worsening

Opinion

Little Hope for Fiscal Cliff Resolution
Syria Opposition Leader Going It Alone
We’re Going Over. How Will We Land?
Politicians Play Blame Game
Why Women Don’t Like Powerful Women

Incentivizing Polarization

As I’m sure all of you are aware by now, Nate Silver runs an excellent blog for the New York Times over at FiveThirtyEight. Yesterday he posted a blog detailing the increased polarization in the country, and it struck me that this is a natural outcome of the way we allocate districts. The natural instinct for preserving power pushes our leaders to increase polarization and gridlock.

First, let’s start with a couple of assumptions:
– The members of each party believe that their party has the best ideas for the country
– There is a natural tendency to protect what’s yours

From these two assumptions it’s not a stretch to say that elected politicians will act to preserve their power and the power of their party. Let’s see how this plays out in our redistricting process.

First, Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers…” This sections was modified by the 14th Amendment, as the original counted slaves as 3/5 of a person. The updated wording counts all citizens “born and naturalized.” This section also includes a provision to ensure each state receives one representative, and calls for the “Enumeration” to be updated every ten years, hence the 10-year census.

Each Representative is elected based on the district in which he or she lives, with the number of districts being determined by the results of the census. Obviously the district lines will need to be redrawn on some regular interval, as some states will gain Representatives during a census, and others will lose them (in 2010, Texas gained 4 seats, while New York lost 2). The process of setting the boundaries for the districts is left up to the states, which each have their own rules.

In my home state of North Carolina, for example, the state is required to update the district lines after every census, and may not do so ago until the next census. North Carolina’s process is also subject to the Voting Rights Act, which means that careful consideration must be given to ensuring minority voters are given their due in the redistricting process. North Carolina’s Constitution is also somewhat unique in that it does not allow dividing counties during the redistricting process. However, due to the Voting Rights Act and other federal laws, this requirement has been disregarded, but a 2002 State Supreme Court decision has decreed that county division “must be minimized.” Many states do not have this requirement.

OK, so that tells us a little about the requirements of redistricting, what next? An important point to remember about the redistricting process is that it is, like everything else undertaken by the state legislature, a legislative process. This means that the plan, regardless of how it is developed, is subject to a vote. Remembering the assumptions from before, it is reasonable to assume that the controlling party will only approve a plan that at least preserves, and preferably increases, its power.

How is this done? There are a number of ways, but the proclaimed Republican strategy during the most recent round of redistricting was to give the Democrats super majorities in a few districts, and distribute Republican influence across the others, shoring up majorities along the way. The impact of such a move is fairly obvious: with majorities increased in all districts, there is no need to compromise. In fact, there is an increased need for standing your ground. With no serious threat of a challenge during the general election, the most direct challenge to a Representative’s power comes from a primary challenger who appeals more to the district’s base, as demonstrated by the rise of the Tea Party. Republicans have taken note of this result, and many formerly moderate members of the party have taken a hard right turn to keep their seats.

This strategy appears to be playing out on the national stage with the current fiscal cliff debates. John Boehner is up for reelection as Speaker of the House, which is still controlled by the Republicans. While the country would benefit from a fiscal cliff deal, Obama has made clear he will not accept Boehner’s terms. Obama obviously has nothing to lose from an electoral standpoint, as he is doen after this term regardless of what happens. Boehner, on the other hand, stands to lose his Speakership if he “caves” to Obama’s demands. And with such a large majority of Republican lawmakers taking Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, he has little to no wiggle room on Obama’s proposal for increased taxes. So the country suffers for one man.

The only way to correct this imbalance would be for the Republican party to punish Boehner for sending the country over the cliff. I’m not holding my breath on that one.

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Daily News – 12/27/12

North Carolina

GOP Redistricting Strategy Flipped NC, Other States
Rep. Gillespie Leaving House to Join DENR – after targeting it for defunding
Increased Concern Over Dairy Prices – due to farm bill uncertainty

Nation

US On Track to Catch Saudi Arabia in Oil Production
More Soldier Suicides Than Combat Deaths in 2012
Unemployment Claims Drop to Lowest Level in 5 Years
Congressional Leaders and Obama Meet on Fiscal Cliff – chances of a deal approaching zero
General Schwarzkopf Dies

World

US Evacuates Embassy in Central African Republic
Japan’s Economy Slumps to 2011 Lows
Abbas Threatens to Disband Palestinian Authority

Opinion

Capping Charitable Deductions Will Hurt Poor
Three Questions and Answers on Fiscal Cliff
On Living Armed

Daily News – 12/25/12

Sorry for taking a few days off, but I was spending a few days with family for Christmas. Should be able to be back up to speed now.

North Carolina

News Stations Could Go Black Jan. 1
McCrory for Armed Officers in Schools
Charlotte to Remake Eastland Mall as Film Studios

Nation

Tea Party Focuses on Fringe Issues
Newspaper Publishes Map of Gun Permit Holders
New Nuclaer Plant Runs Into Issues
Ron Paul Rips NRA For Plan to Arm School Officers
Lawmakers Play Fiscal Cliff Waiting Game

World

Russian Human Rights Groups Registered as ‘Foreign Agents
Syrian Spokesman Defects to US
Central African Rebels Advance on Major Town

Opinion

‘Cash Mobs’ Protest Chain Stores
Why Is Congress Protecting the Gun Industry?
Give Chuck Hagel a Chance
In Case You Forgot, Companies Are Not Your Friend

Damn good question

Ideas

Daniel Williams, a 16-year-old high school basketball star, was shot and badly injured while practicing outside of his home in Buffalo, N.Y. In October, a New York appeals court did something fairly remarkable. It let Williams proceed with a lawsuit against the maker and seller of the gun that that was used to shoot him.

Letting a lawsuit go forward may not sound like a big deal, but Congress enacted a law in 2005 — under heavy lobbying from the NRA and the gun industry — that gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from being sued. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shields the gun industry even when it makes guns that are unnecessarily dangerous and sells them recklessly.

(MORE:A Sportsman’s View: We Need a Moderate Alternative to the NRA)

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings, there have been widespread calls for…

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Daily News – 12/20/12

North Carolina

Suspicious UNC Classes Date Back to 1997
Charlotte Church Offers Cash for Guns
Teens Beat Homeless Man to Death

Nation

Speaker Boehner Pulls ‘Plan B’ Bill – lack of support
Newark Mayor Booker Interested in Senate Run
Gun Laws Have Difficult Time Stemming Violence
Some Businesses Facing Backlash Over Healthcare Stance
House Bill Authorizes $633B in Defense Spending

World

Most Corrupt Governments in the World
UN Approves Military Intervention in Mali
Former Rwandan Minister Guilty of Genocide

Opinion

Will Boehner Stay Speaker Through ‘Plane B’?
Boehner’s Selfishness
Florida Voting Issues Rick Scott’s Responsibility

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