[Bad] TV Really Does Turn Your Brain to Mush

[from the July 20th on-line Washington Post.]

How trashy TV made children dumber and enabled a wave of populist leaders

Monitors at RAI television studios in Rome display Silvio Berlusconi’s message announcing his political debut on Jan. 26, 1994. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

By Andrew Van Dam.                             July 20

This is a story about how the lowest common denominator of popular media paved the way for the lowest common denominator of populist politics. And it’s got data.

It begins with the opening of Italy’s airwaves, long the dominion of the highly regarded public broadcaster RAI. In the 1980s, an aggressive and unabashedly unsophisticated channel called Mediaset elbowed its way into the market and spread across the country, buying up small local channels and countering RAI’s educational mission with a heavy dose of cartoons, sports, soap operas, movies and other light entertainment.

By 1990, 49 out of 50 Italians could watch Mediaset — half of the country had gained access in just five years. These unusual events allowed a team of Italian economists to compare towns that initially had Mediaset with otherwise equivalent towns that didn’t get reception until later, and thus calculate how a few extra years of lowbrow TV can shape a society’s politics.

The results are bleak. In the American Economic Review, Ruben Durante of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Paolo Pinotti of Bocconi University in Milan and Andrea Tesei of Queen Mary University of London analyze detailed broadcast-transmitter data to show that more exposure to Mediaset’s vapid programming was followed by an enduring boost in support for populist candidates peddling simple messages and easy answers.

You may think this relationship has an obvious explanation, presumably because you’re aware that Mediaset’s founder and controlling owner is noted populist politician and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But the researchers go to great lengths to prove this isn’t just a Berlusconi effect. For starters, the bump extends to his populist competitors, particularly the Five Star Movement. Founded on a comedian’s blog a decade ago, the anti-establishment movement became the biggest single party in Italy’s Parliament after last year’s election.

[The testy marriage at the center of Italy’s government]

Television’s role in populist success apparently lies in entertainment, not in political messaging. During the period when certain areas had greater Mediaset exposure than others, neither Mediaset nor Berlusconi had entered the political fray. The researchers digitized years of old newspaper television listings to show that Mediaset offered almost three times as many hours of movies and entertainment as RAI and avoided almost all news and educational programming.

Benjamin Olken, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who pioneered the broadcast-tower analysis used by the Italian team, said the research added to evidence that “TV that’s not explicitly about politics can have an effect on politics.”

In a 2009 analysis published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Olken analyzed differences in TV and radio signals in 606 villages on the Indonesian island of Java to show how greater access to broadcast media corresponded with lower civic participation and lower levels of trust.

In Italy, the economists also used critics’ reviews, as well as ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America, to show Mediaset’s programming was of lower quality and less suitable for a general audience.

They found that lowbrow television’s electoral effect came with a bump of almost 10 percentage points between the two groups that watched it most: those under age 10 and those 55 and older. As they aged, the two groups would both come to support populists, albeit for different reasons.

Young people who watched Mediaset during their formative years would, Durante said, grow up to be “less cognitively sophisticated and less civically minded” than their peers who had access only to public broadcasting and local stations during that period.

Durante describes it as a matter of opportunity cost: Every hour you spend watching TV is an hour you aren’t reading, playing outside or socializing with other kids. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but that may have long-term effects on what kind of person you will become.”

On a battery of psychological and cognitive tests administered to military conscripts, young men from areas with more Mediaset exposure were between 8 percent and 25 percent more likely to earn the lowest scores. On an international test conducted in 2012, Italian adults from places where they first would have been exposed to Mediaset under age 10 had math and reading scores that were significantly worse than those of their peers. They were also less civically minded and less politically active.

It’s not surprising, perhaps, that these men and women were attracted to Berlusconi and later the Five Star Movement, both of whom were more likely to use simple language in their speeches and platforms, the researchers show.

Trashy TV’s brain-numbing effects weren’t as pronounced for Italians exposed to Mediaset later in life ⁠ — researchers found their test scores were similar to their peers. Instead, their populist leanings were influenced by the news. By the time Mediaset offered regular news programming, in the early 90s, many older viewers had been hooked on the channel’s cheap entertainment and were much more likely to watch news offered by Mediaset than by other broadcasters.

Coverage at stations tilted toward Berlusconi in the 1994 election, soon after scandals felled the conservative government and inspired the entrepreneur turned populist demagogue to throw his hat in the ring. Older TV watchers were glued to the news and swept up in the campaign.

[Yes, watching Fox does make you more conservative]

This result echoes a 2017 analysis in the same academic journal by a separate team that used variation in channel listings to calculate that Fox News gave Republicans a half-point boost in 2000, building up to a six-percentage-point advantage in 2008 compared with a baseline scenario in which the channel didn’t exist. They did not find a similar significant effect for MSNBC.

[What makes Fox News so powerful? Maybe its channel number.]

In Italy, it’s not that television made voters more conservative. Instead, Durante said, it seems to have made them more vulnerable to the anti-establishment stances favored by the country’s populist leaders of all persuasions.

In the ’90s and early 2000s, Berlusconi was “well positioned to benefit from the decline in cognitive skills and civic engagement,” they write, but by 2013, he was outflanked by the insurgent Five Star Movement, whose strong rhetoric won over the Mediaset-affected voters who had once broken for Berlusconi.

Posted in Civil Society, Futures, Information, Media, politics

Possible Need for a Tweak to “Pure” Capitalism

[Washington Post, page A15, July 25, 2019, < https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/24/private-equitys-role-retail-has-decimated-million-jobs-study-says/?utm_term=.6bc7148b27ac > Graphics at the website.]

Private equity’s role in retail has killed 1.3 million jobs, study says

Women and people of color have been disproportionately affected by closures at debt-saddled stores

[Photo caption: More than 33,000 Toys R Us workers lost their jobs when the company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated its stores. All told, more than 1.3 million U.S. workers have lost their jobs in the past decade because of private equity ownership in retail, data show. (Julio Cortez/AP)]

By Abha Bhattarai

She’s been looking for more than a year, but Giovanna De La Rosa has yet to find a job.

After 20 years with Toys R Us in San Diego, she was one of 33,000 workers laid off last summer when the company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated its stores. The retailer, which in 2017 had $11.5 billion in annual sales, had struggled to pay down billions of dollars in debt stemming from a 2005 leveraged buyout.

“It’s been really, really tough,” said De La Rosa, 39, who has a son with autism. “Losing my health insurance has been a big deal.”

More than 1.3 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past decade as a result of private equity ownership in retail, according to a report released Wednesday. That includes 600,000 retail workers, as well as 728,000 employees in related industries. Overall, the sector added more than 1 million jobs during that period.

[Read the report here < https://www.washingtonpost.com/context/report-on-private-equity-s-role-in-retail/3ca628da-aeb8-4509-898f-af46e6d0a196/?utm_term=.646fcac7decb >]

Women and people of color have been disproportionately affected by the layoffs as debt-ridden retailers closed thousands of stores, according to the report by six progressive nonprofit organizations and workers’ advocacy groups, including Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Popular Democracy.

Wall Street has become the new boss for an ever-growing number of workers across the country,” said Charles Khan, organizing director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a group of labor unions and community groups in New York that was involved in the study. “That’s meant layoffs, shrinking paychecks and benefits cuts for millions of people.”

Ten of the 14 largest retail bankruptcies since 2012 have been at private-equity-owned companies, such as Payless ShoeSource and Claire’s, according to the study.

More than 1 million of the nation’s 15.8 million retail workers continue to work for private-equity-backed companies, including Michael’s, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, according to the study.

[Elizabeth Warren, in detailed attack on private equity, unveils plan to stop ‘looting’ of U.S. companies]

Private equity firms and hedge funds have been aggressively buying up retailers since the mid-2000s, when a booming economy and low interest rates made leveraged buyouts particularly attractive. The firms pooled money — often from pension funds, wealthy investors and financial firms — and relied on large swaths of debt to acquire companies like Mervyn’s and Linens ‘n Things, with the goal of turning them around.

In practice, though, they routinely sold off real estate holdings, cut workers’ pay and benefits, and jettisoned jobs to turn a quick profit for investors, according to Heather Slavkin Corzo, a senior fellow at Americans for Financial Reform and the director of capital markets policy for the AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions.

“When a private equity firm steps in, it’s a classic case of ‘Heads I win, tails you lose,’” Corzo said. “They have a real short-term focus on extracting as much cash as possible, as quickly as possible.”

That often means selling off a company’s most valuable asset, its real estate, she said. Retail is a notoriously difficult industry, with intense competition and razor-thin profit margins. Owning their own buildings is one way for companies to shield themselves from economic uncertainty. For private equity firms, such holdings can translate into quick profits. But selling them forces retailers to rent out buildings they used to own.

The study comes a week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would stop private equity firms from gutting companies and loading them with debt. Her plan would require such firms to shoulder those liabilities themselves instead of foisting them onto their acquisitions.

“For far too long, Washington has looked the other way while private equity firms take over companies, load them with debt, strip them of their wealth, and walk away scot-free — leaving workers, consumers, and whole communities to pick up the pieces,” Warren said in a statement last week.

The industry, she and others contend, faces few regulations that others, including mutual funds and investments banks, do. When a private-equity-backed company files for bankruptcy, executives are typically rewarded over workers, pension funds and other creditors. As a result, 100,000 workers and retirees have missed out on $128 million in pensions because of bankruptcies from 2001 to 2014, according to data from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Industry groups say private equity firms make significant investments to help businesses grow, and that their returns help support pension funds for teachers, first responders and other government workers. They say such factors as increased competition and the shift to online shopping also have contributed to retail bankruptcies.

“This report is biased and is focused on a sector that experienced tremendous disruption over the past decade,” said Drew Maloney, president of the American Investment Council, which lobbies on behalf of the industry. “Private equity has a clear record of supporting millions of jobs across all sectors and investing in communities across America.”

But critics say large debt loads from leveraged buyouts make it difficult for otherwise profitable retailers to adapt to industry changes. When Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017, court documents showed that it had been paying $400 million a year toward its debt, often at the expense of profitability. The retailer’s three companies — Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Vornado Realty Trust — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[Analysts: Toys R Us might have survived if it did not have to deal with so much debt]

In November, Bain Capital and KKR set up a $20 million fund for laid-off Toys R Us employees. The retailer’s bankruptcy, the firms said, was caused by “an extraordinary set of circumstances,” including changes in the retail landscape and a push by creditors to liquidate operations. Although workers groups say the amount is less than the $75 million they were owed under the retailer’s severance policy, they say it could set a new precedent for future bankruptcies.

Private equity firms and hedge funds have made major investments in at least 80 retailers in the past decade, including household names such as Brookstone, David’s Bridal and Gymboree. All three companies have filed for bankruptcy in the past year.

When the hedge fund ESL Investments took over Sears in 2005, employees like Terry Leiker said the impact was nearly immediate: The company did away with workers’ 401(k) benefits and shifted to commission-based salaries. Leiker’s pay dropped from $13 an hour to nearly half of that, and there were repercussions if she didn’t get at least three customers to sign up for Sears credit cards each week. Full-time workers were replaced with part-timers, and there were changes in merchandise.

“Power tools weren’t made in the United States anymore,” said Leiker, who worked in Sears’s tools department for 18 years. “Clothing quality wasn’t what it used to be.”

Leiker, 65, was laid off in October, days before Sears filed for bankruptcy. She has applied for multiple retail jobs since — at Macy’s, JC Penney, Family Dollar — but has yet to find work.

In all, more than 260,000 Sears and Kmart workers have lost their jobs since ESL took over, according to Wednesday’s report, which is co-authored by Hedge Clippers, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project and United for Respect. Representatives for ESL Investments and Sears did not respond to requests for comment.

“It’s been horrible, absolutely horrible,” said Leiker, who is working with the advocacy group United for Respect. “We’re struggling. Most weeks we can either buy food or we can pay our bills. That shouldn’t be a choice anybody has to make.”

Retail jobs tend to be among the country’s lowest-paying and most volatile. Roughly 1 in 4 retail workers lives below or near the federal poverty line, which is $25,750 for a family of four.

[Toys R Us workers are training Sears workers to fight for severance]

Ann Marie Reinhart had been with Toys R Us for 29 years when its bankruptcy and liquidation left her without a job.

She said she’d applied for more than 100 positions before she finally found work at Belk, a Charlotte-based department store chain that had been acquired four years ago by the private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

On Monday, Reinhart, who had just returned from a family vacation to Ocean City, learned that her job fulfilling online orders at a Durham, N.C., store was being eliminated as part of a broader effort to cut costs. She isn’t sure what she’ll do next.

“It’s been a nightmare, honestly,” said Reinhart, 60. “It’s like private-equity deja vu.”

Posted in Fun

Reasons People Think Government, including the Military, are IDIOTS

From the Washington Post, 10 July 2019 < https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/washington-state-sues-navy-over-expanded-flights-on-island/2019/07/09/bfcc156a-a289-11e9-a767-d7ab84aef3e9_story.html?utm_term=.5acbcebc8fbf >

How many admirals were busted back to midshipman for this stupid plan?
Oh, about zero.
How many admirals should have been busted back to midshipman for planning 100,000 takeoffs and landings per year for 30 years in an area with obvious impacts on human and natural ecosystems?
Each and every one.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Energy & Environment

Washington state sues Navy over expanded flights on island

[FILE PHOTO CAPTION – In this June 3, 2008, file photo, the Navy’s EA-18G Growler plane is seen in Oak Harbor, Wash., after it was unveiled in a ceremony at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Washington state sued the Navy on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, over its expansion of jet operations on Whidbey Island, saying officials failed to adequately consider the effect that additional noisy flights would have on people or wildlife. (Michael O’Leary/The Herald via AP, File) (Associated Press)]

By Gene Johnson | AP
July 9 at 6:06 PM

SEATTLE — Washington state sued the Navy on Tuesday over its expansion of jet operations on an island north of Seattle, saying officials failed to adequately consider the effect that additional noisy flights would have on people or wildlife.

“The Navy has an important job, and it’s critical that their pilots and crews have the opportunity to train,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”

The Navy’s public affairs office said it does not comment on litigation.

The Navy in March authorized the expansion of its Growler program by up to three dozen jets, adding to the 82 already based on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle.

The low-flying jets conduct electronic warfare to jam enemy communications and launch systems, and under the expansion plans crews would perform around 100,000 takeoffs and landings a year for the next three decades.

That, Ferguson said, could have serious effects on nearby residents. The state Health Department has outlined how exposure to noise levels similar to those at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island could disrupt children’s learning and cause sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease.

It could also disrupt the feeding and breeding of eagles and marbled murrelets, a type of seabird.

In the news release, Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp called on the federal government to strike a balance between national security and environmental preservation.

“Unregulated, unrestrained noise pollution from increased military training operations presents a clear threat to the health and solitude of our state’s fragile ecosystems, treaty protected resources and endangered species,” she said.

In its decision to approve the expansion plan, the Navy said the number of flights on the island would be comparable to those that occurred from the 1970s through the 1990s. It also said it would continue to invest in technologies to reduce engine and aircraft noise.

The state’s lawsuit alleges violations of the National Environmental Protection Act and the federal Administrative Procedure Act. Ferguson said he intended to add claims under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Parks Conservation Association said it supports the lawsuit, noting that the flights could also affect Ebey’s Landing, a historical preserve on Whidbey Island, and Olympic National Park. The association recently filed a lawsuit accusing the Navy of withholding information about noise pollution from the jets over Olympic National Park.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer wrote a letter in March to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, rebuffing its call for additional noise monitoring and tracking of the effect on tourism. He said the Navy had already performed noise monitoring and noted it was spending $876,000 to refurbish a home at Ebey Landing built in 1860.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in Fun

Caneel Bay Being Held for $70 Million Ransom

From the <http://newsofstjohn.com/2019/06/03/caneel-bay-leaseholder-wants-70-million-to-walk-away/>

Go to the website to see the pretty sensible 46 comments. . . .

Great island story. Maybe they can get Jeffrey Eptstein to take over the lease and set up a (wink, wink) summer camp, ya think?

Caneel Bay Leaseholder Wants $70 Million to Walk Away
June 3, 2019 • 46 Comments
Caneel Bay, June 2, 2019 Caneel Bay, June 2, 2019

It’s been a bit since we updated you on the situation over at Caneel Bay. Here is the latest…

As you know, Caneel Bay suffered tremendous damage during the 2017 hurricanes. Virtually no cleanup happened for 18 months, and the property and front entrance remained an eyesore for those passing by. This past March, cleanup efforts began although they haven’t been extensive. Small sales have been happening on property in recent weeks where everything from Kid’s Club items to expensive wine glasses to potentially corked wine is up for grabs.

Gary Engle, of CBI Acquisitions, is the current leaseholder of Caneel Bay. His agreement with the National Park Service expires in 2023. In May 2018, he told a group of residents at a town meeting that he was only interested in operating Caneel Bay if he could get a 60-year extension on the Retained Use Agreement that he is currently operating under. (His current Retained Use Agreement allows Caneel to operate virtually tax-free. They also do not pay rent for the 170 acres it sits on.) In late 2017, USVI Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett introduced a Bill into Congress asking for a 60-year RUE extension, and it failed last year.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that Engle and CBI Acquisitions want out. And this little blogger could not be happier, and I’m pretty confident that several other St. John residents feel the same. But Engle’s demands are ridiculous.

According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, Engel is “demanding $70 million to prematurely ditch the resort’s stewardship agreement with the National Park Service, and protection from any environmental liability.” The newspaper cited Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett as the source of that information.

Engle received a substantial insurance payout after the hurricanes, and now he wants an additional $70 million to walk away. And what does St. John get? A destroyed resort? Please tell me where the logic is here.

I say we take that $70 million and require Engle to divvy it up between the hundreds of locals who are no longer working at Caneel because he refuses to rebuild.

Now let’s talk about the “environment liability” Engel referenced in his letter referenced above. This little blogger reported on that very thing back in October 2018 when writing about why lease negotiations have failed. Check it out:
News of St. John, October 7, 2018 News of St. John, October 7, 2018

I ditched my real reporter hat more than a decade ago, but this little blogger only prints facts. 🙂

The Virgin Islands Daily News could not obtain a copy of Engle’s letter. They did, however, print a statement from Engle himself:
Statement from Engel to the VI Daily News, June 2019 Statement from Engle to the VI Daily News, June 2019

Now please go back and reread that statement…

Engel attempted to get a 60-year RUE extension through Congress and failed. Now he is attempting to circumvent Congress and get a 60-year extension using the Department of the Interior. Not cool Engle, not cool.

And now Caneel is an “eco resort” as indicated in his statement? Well that’s the first I’ve ever heard that. Funny, there’s not one mention of it being an eco resort on its website either… A new tactic perhaps?

Regarding the comments about us “suffering” – we’re not. This island has been bustling. Restaurants are full. Vacation rentals are full. Our charter boats are full. Our beaches are full. We’re fine Engle. We don’t need you personally. We’d rather wait to have someone who actually cares about this island to renovate and operate Caneel Bay.

Posted in Fun

Gerry Mander

Ah yes gerrymandering. Only the R’s do this, right? See attached lest we forget the father of all modern gerrymandering. After the election de Lugo won in 1980 Phil Burton gave us room in his office to use during the interim to the swearing in. His big desk was covered – literally – with stacks and stacks of yellow foolscap pads – hundreds of them. Each page represented one city block and contained the names and voting record of every person. He fiddled with them for hours every day, his staff told me, to perfect the drawing of the lines. I believe they still stand in his district which is now Pelosi’s.

On May 14, 2019, at 12:47 PM, Bruce Potter wrote:

From the Washington Post, 14 May 2019, page A17, or — also copied at Pottersweal.com – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Opinions
My district was gerrymandered. The damage is easy to measure.

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, holds a map displaying the wide disparity of Ohio congressional district office locations, with orange locations representing areas whose offices are found outside their own district’s bounds. A federal court ruled May 3 that Ohio’s congressional map is unconstitutional and ordered a new one be drawn for the 2020 elections. (John Minchillo/AP) By Marcy Kaptur
May 13 at 5:47 PM

[Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, represents Ohio’s 9th Congressional District in the House.]

When I was first elected to Congress in 1982, women weren’t allowed in the House gym, American Motors was still producing cars such as the Gremlin and the Pacer in my hometown of Toledo, and Ohio had just elected 10 Democrats to Congress.

That last number might not sound like a big deal, but the chance of that happening today borders on impossible.

In 1982, Ohio sent 21 representatives — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — to Congress from districts that were drawn to be competitive and compact. Voting patterns haven’t changed much since: In 2018, 2,245,403 Ohioans voted to send a Republican to Congress and 2,019,120 Ohioans voted to send a Democrat. That’s 52 percent to 47 percent. Yet only four Democrats were elected last fall, compared with 12 Republicans.

We all know the culprit: radical, partisan gerrymandering.

From January 1983 to December 2012, my district stayed largely the same — always centered around Toledo. But after the Republican victory in 2010, Republicans redrew the lines in their favor, to appalling effect. When GOP operatives emerged from a closed-door hotel conference room in 2011, they delivered one of the most politically gerrymandered congressional maps the country had ever seen. Democrats were packed into as few districts as possible, suppressing the value of hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cleveland’s Democratic representative, Dennis Kucinich, and I were gerrymandered into the same district — now known as the “Snake on the Lake” — and forced to run against each another. This long, skinny district stretches nearly 100 miles from Toledo to Cleveland, is less than a mile wide in some places and is contiguous only by Lake Erie.

And though Ohio lost two seats to reapportionment in that year, Republican representation increased from eight to 12, while our party’s share fell from 10 to four. It’s stayed there ever since.

The damage done by gerrymandering isn’t difficult to measure. It breeds partisan legislators, who in turn breed a partisan Congress. Gerrymandering has made virtually all House seats safer — including mine — and the members who hold those safe seats are often less responsive to communities and unwilling to compromise in Washington.

The bipartisan camaraderie that once existed in the House is now all but gone. Because members come from safer seats, they have less incentive to build meaningful relationships with those outside their own party, and so they make fewer friends and rarely have constructive debates.

The result is both the decay of our national discourse and the failure of our institutions to fulfill their most basic functions.

More fundamentally, the gerrymander dilutes the popular vote to protect incumbents. Instead of the voters picking their leaders, the leaders pick their voters.

But there is hope.

Two weeks ago, a panel of federal judges for the Southern District of Ohio struck down Ohio’s congressional district map as an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander — echoing similar rulings in four other states.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit wrote in her opinion that Ohio’s map is “so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined, ” and concluded “the map unconstitutionally burdens associational rights by making it more difficult for voters and certain organizations to advance their aims.”

Ohio was ordered to submit new legislative maps to the court by June 14. If it fails to enact a remedial plan, or enacts a plan that the court finds illegal, the court will appoint a special master to redraw the lines.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general has said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This presents the court with an opportunity to consider the will of the voters, to uphold fairness and to restore democracy in Ohio. And it is clear the public wants change: In 2018, Ohio voters approved bipartisan map-drawing by an overwhelming majority — 75 percent to 25 percent.

Given how close our elections have been over the past 30 years, my state should probably have eight Republicans and eight Democrats representing it in Washington.

In the meantime, gerrymandering contorts communities and makes too many lawmakers politically untouchable. Everyone, in Ohio and the nation, suffers when outcomes are preordained and engineered to the extremes. Restoring representative delegations to Congress must be the first step in restoring the public’s confidence in our government. Liberty and justice must be restored.

Posted in Governance

Gerry Mander

From the Washington Post, 14 May 2019, page A17, or <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/my-district-was-gerrymandered-the-damage-is-easy-to-measure/2019/05/13/199c61e8-75b8-11e9-b7ae-390de4259661_story.html?utm_term=.3379840b9614 > — also copied at Pottersweal.com – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Opinions

My district was gerrymandered.
The damage is easy to measure.

6LJRMEDVYEI6TM7VKZZ634WRE4.jpg

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, holds a map displaying the wide disparity of Ohio congressional district office locations, with orange locations representing areas whose offices are found outside their own district’s bounds. A federal court ruled May 3 that Ohio’s congressional map is unconstitutional and ordered a new one be drawn for the 2020 elections. (John Minchillo/AP)

By Marcy Kaptur
May 13 at 5:47 PM

[Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, represents Ohio’s 9th Congressional District in the House.]

When I was first elected to Congress in 1982, women weren’t allowed in the House gym, American Motors was still producing cars such as the Gremlin and the Pacer in my hometown of Toledo, and Ohio had just elected 10 Democrats to Congress.

That last number might not sound like a big deal, but the chance of that happening today borders on impossible.

In 1982, Ohio sent 21 representatives — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — to Congress from districts that were drawn to be competitive and compact. Voting patterns haven’t changed much since: In 2018, 2,245,403 Ohioans voted to send a Republican to Congress and 2,019,120 Ohioans voted to send a Democrat. That’s 52 percent to 47 percent. Yet only four Democrats were elected last fall, compared with 12 Republicans.

We all know the culprit: radical, partisan gerrymandering.

From January 1983 to December 2012, my district stayed largely the same — always centered around Toledo. But after the Republican victory in 2010, Republicans redrew the lines in their favor, to appalling effect. When GOP operatives emerged from a closed-door hotel conference room in 2011, they delivered one of the most politically gerrymandered congressional maps the country had ever seen. Democrats were packed into as few districts as possible, suppressing the value of hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cleveland’s Democratic representative, Dennis Kucinich, and I were gerrymandered into the same district — now known as the “Snake on the Lake” — and forced to run against each another. This long, skinny district stretches nearly 100 miles from Toledo to Cleveland, is less than a mile wide in some places and is contiguous only by Lake Erie.

And though Ohio lost two seats to reapportionment in that year, Republican representation increased from eight to 12, while our party’s share fell from 10 to four. It’s stayed there ever since.

The damage done by gerrymandering isn’t difficult to measure. It breeds partisan legislators, who in turn breed a partisan Congress. Gerrymandering has made virtually all House seats safer — including mine — and the members who hold those safe seats are often less responsive to communities and unwilling to compromise in Washington.

The bipartisan camaraderie that once existed in the House is now all but gone. Because members come from safer seats, they have less incentive to build meaningful relationships with those outside their own party, and so they make fewer friends and rarely have constructive debates.

The result is both the decay of our national discourse and the failure of our institutions to fulfill their most basic functions.

More fundamentally, the gerrymander dilutes the popular vote to protect incumbents. Instead of the voters picking their leaders, the leaders pick their voters.

But there is hope.

Two weeks ago, a panel of federal judges for the Southern District of Ohio struck down Ohio’s congressional district map as an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander — echoing similar rulings in four other states.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit wrote in her opinion that Ohio’s map is “so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined, ” and concluded “the map unconstitutionally burdens associational rights by making it more difficult for voters and certain organizations to advance their aims.”

Ohio was ordered to submit new legislative maps to the court by June 14. If it fails to enact a remedial plan, or enacts a plan that the court finds illegal, the court will appoint a special master to redraw the lines.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general has said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This presents the court with an opportunity to consider the will of the voters, to uphold fairness and to restore democracy in Ohio. And it is clear the public wants change: In 2018, Ohio voters approved bipartisan map-drawing by an overwhelming majority — 75 percent to 25 percent.

Given how close our elections have been over the past 30 years, my state should probably have eight Republicans and eight Democrats representing it in Washington.

In the meantime, gerrymandering contorts communities and makes too many lawmakers politically untouchable. Everyone, in Ohio and the nation, suffers when outcomes are preordained and engineered to the extremes. Restoring representative delegations to Congress must be the first step in restoring the public’s confidence in our government. Liberty and justice must be restored.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Bruce Potter443-454-9044

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