Could this be a future U.S. electoral map?

Climate Central shows a map of the United States showing projected economic impact from climate change by 2080-2099.  The focus of the report is on the potential for economic and devastating impact, especially to the poor.

But could there be an interesting political impact as well by 2080 or even much earlier?  Voters in states who see there could be tragic consequences from ignoring climate change — particularly voters in the southeast — may vote in large numbers for politicians who support policies to deal effectively with climate change.  It is hard to say what climate change positions major political parties in the U.S. will take in 2025, 2050, or 2075.  But looking at today’s politics, that might mean a shift towards more votes for one party over another in those states.

If one counts just the states with a fair amount of the browns or darker colors on the map at Climate Central, particularly noticing the southern half of the country, that’s about 280 electoral votes in a presidential election.  Maybe that didn’t count for enough in the 2016 election, but by 2020, 2024, and onward, politicians should take note.  Climate change could have considerable impact on our nation’s economy, but it might also have a powerful impact on politics as well.

Globe Earth clip art

The shell game?

Recently, President Trump suggested that his lawyers would provide a certificate stating that he has no business ties to Russia.  Now his lawyers have provided the letter, but one has to wonder if this is simply a shell [company] game.

As I understand it — NOTE: I am not an accountant, so I could be wrong — a person might not (or does not) include shell company income on their tax return.  The law firm also says “Trump’s last 10 years of tax returns do not reveal ‘any income of any type from Russian sources’ with some exceptions…”  What are the exceptions and how many are there?  Previous reports indicate that Trump did make income from the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant and $95 million from the sale of a home to a Russian billionaire.

You might ask, what shell companies are owned by President Trump?  Well, it’s not that easy to determine who owns a shell company or what shell companies they own.  But Huffington Post reported back in March 2017, “Two Trump [shell] Companies Discovered in Cyprus, Russian Off-Shore Banking Haven“.

Regarding the certificate or letter from Trump’s lawyers, it may be telling that the President’s lawyers “Morgan Lewis” claim on their own website that they were the “Russia Law Firm of the Year.”  Also, there was the Panama Papers report last year which discovered a $2 billion trail that “leads to Vladimir Putin.”  That had to do with shell companies too.

Who knows what, if any, shell game President Trump might be playing.  He and his administration seem to keep us all guessing as to what will happen next.  There are all kinds of shell games, like the one below.

MSSLB – High Performing Charter School suspensions

Many Suspended Students are Left Behind (MSSLB) from high performing charters schools, according to numerous newspaper articles.  Just search “‘high performing charter school’ suspensions” online, and you’ll see what I mean.  Here’s one such story from “The Atlantic”.  There is concern that at least some high performing charter schools are achieving better test scores because they have forced out lower achieving students through repeated suspensions.

In Florida, bill HB 5105 would spend $200 million to create “schools of hope” based on bringing into the state high performing charter school operators from across the country.  But do legislators understand how these schools go about becoming high performers?  If these schools are created here — or in your own state — what happens if students are forced out with repeated suspensions?  Do they go back to failing public schools that are operating with far less funds — for example, minus $200 million?

If charter schools are given this kind of public funding, then they must be required to display the same transparency and rules that public schools must follow.  Otherwise it is not a fair comparison and the term “high performing” just becomes another way of saying “unfair”.

A Gorsuch Plot

U.S. Supreme Court justices are usually on the court for a long time, especially as average lifespans have increased.  It is a top judge’s job to make difficult decisions based on the law of the land — the U.S. Constitution.

With the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court many, particularly Republicans in Congress and President Trump, seem to have already concluded that his decisions will follow a consistently conservative line — maybe even plotting higher on the graph than former or current Supreme Court justices (see Ideological Leanings… below).  But will a graph (plot) of his ideological leanings continue along a straight line or veer over time?

It is interesting to note that since 1950, even most conservative justices have had more liberalized leanings (downward trajectory on the chart at bottom) later in their appointments.  Why is that?  Oliver Roeder theorizes on fivethirtyeight.com, a site well known for opinion poll analysis.

NEWWorthy would like to introduce one more possible reason: empathy.  The Fivethirtyeight list touches on similar issues, but they don’t mention empathy explicitly.  Perhaps it is because not everyone agrees upon the place for empathy in making Supreme Court decisions.  According to various articles, like this one in the Huffington Post, President Obama appeared to believe that empathy had a place in the Supreme Court.

Will Justice Gorsuch’s leanings plot follow a similar curve to other conservative justices?  I guess we’re going to find out.

 

Alternative Facts

We don’t know yet if “alternative facts” will be considered a new term or an old term by the end of 2017, but the term has already made the Urban Dictionary.  For now, we’ll consider it NEWWorthy until it isn’t.

As far as NEWWorthy is concerned, the term is worthy in that it points out that alternative facts — lies or falsehoods — should be placed where they belong: in an alternative universe.

Fake News feeds Post-Truth Politics

Now that Oxford Dictionary has named post-truth as word of the year for 2016, Politifact has followed up with “Fake News” as “Lie of the Year”.  Post-truth and fake news work hand in hand, as fake news is the fuel in post-truth politics.

NEWWorthy is not just a blog about what’s new.  It’s a blog about what’s new and worthy of your time.  Fake news and post-truths are rarely if ever NEWWorthy, except in this instance where Oxford and Politifact have pointed these terms out.

Speaking of post-truths and fake news, here’s an example from President Trump’s new pick, Monica Crowley for senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council.  She claimed in 2011 that “Man-Made Climate Change Science Is Totally Bogus.

Facebook will start putting warning labels on some news that has been deemed fake news by fact checkers such as Politifact and others.  http://money.cnn.com/2016/12/15/media/facebook-fake-news-warning-labels/index.html.

Will Wind and Solar be NEWWorthy in 2017?

According to an April 2016 article on Bloomberg.com, Solar and Wind are already making a significant impact on cost and usage of coal and gas.  There’s also reason to believe that this trend will not only continue, but also heat up.  Google recently announced it will be entirely on renewable energy by 2017.

New president Trump campaigned that he would bring the coal industry back to life.  But at what cost and for whose benefit?  The oil industry has urged Trump to support the building of the Dakota pipeline, in spite of continued protests in North Dakota.  If the Trump administration decides to allow the pipeline path as originally planned, what will be the cost and for whose benefit?

Solar Tracker clip art

Wind Turbine clip art

Post-Truth is OED’s international word of the year 2016

The Oxford English Dictionary declared post-truth the international word of the year for 2016.  Wonder what it means?  Look it up.  If more people looked things up that they didn’t understand, and read about them in detail, perhaps post-truth wouldn’t be the word of the year.

And, no, it’s not truth on a post.

truthonapost

Science emojis

The journal Nature recently discussed an Emojicon draft proposal to introduce more science emojis to the keyboard.  With any luck, in a year or so we’ll be seeing and using these new science-related emojis.

Anyone who’s ever taken Chemistry knows what a flask is.  Hopefully the new flask emoji will look like the one on the top (below).  Depending on our new President and his administration, as well as Congress, it’s too early to know how science research will fare over the next four years.  If things do not go well for science (and NASA, for that matter) research funding, however, the new flask emoji may look more like the one on the bottom.

flaskxflask

Electoral College versus Popular Vote

The Electoral College has been all over the news since Clinton won the popular vote and Trump won the electoral vote.  This is the second time since 2000 that one candidate won the popular vote while another won the electoral vote, so it’s possible that this will happen more often in the future.  If it happens more than twice in a century, that’s already NEWWorthy, and this century is just getting started.  Is this fair?

Take a look at the election results for those states where the difference in the number of votes for the candidates was 5% or less.  Let’s call those swing states.  I apologize if I missed any states where the difference was 5% or less.  This is meant to give you an idea of what happened in this election.

Arizona: T 1,021,154; C 936,250; Colorado: T 1,137,455 C 1,212,209; Florida: T 4,605,515; C 4,485,745; Pennsylvania: T 2,912,941; C 2,844,705; Michigan: T 2,279,805; C 2,268,193; Wisconsin: T 1,409,467; C 1,382,210; Nevada: % 537,753 T 511,319; New Hampshire: T 345,789; C 348,521; Minnesota: T 1,322,891; C 1,366,676; Maine: T 334,838; C 354,873; North Carolina: T 2,339,603; C 2,162,074; Virginia; T 1,731,156; C 1,916,845

The totals are: Trump 19,978,367; Clinton 19,789,620.  That’s a difference of one half of one percent.  Trump and Clinton spent a large portion of $1 to $2 billion dollars for this tiny difference.  With so small a difference, how is it that Trump won the electoral vote by 290 to 232?

Due to the Electoral College, small population state votes are given more weight than large population state votes, so small state voters have some clout in the presidential election.  But how much weight is the correct weight to be fair?

Today, let’s take a look at a Wyoming vote versus a California vote.  Wyoming’s population is 586,107 (2015) and has 3 electoral votes.  That’s 195,369 persons per electoral vote.  Not all residents of Wyoming can vote, but nevertheless that is their representation per person in the election.  California’s population is 39,140,000 (2015) and has 55 electoral votes.  But if we divide 39,140,000 by 195,369, we get about 200 electoral votes.  What’s going on?

What is going on is 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 3 electors for D.C.  for a total of 538 electors.  The electoral votes are distributed similar to congressional representation.  That limits how many electoral votes California can get, no matter the size of the population.  So if a Californian moves to Wyoming to retire, their vote is suddenly worth almost 4 times more than it was in California.  If a computer engineering student in Wyoming decides they need to move to California for a good job, their vote is suddenly worth 4 times less than it was in Wyoming.  Is that fair?

What if California and New York decided to split into 32 different states?  Would voters get more voting power in those states?  Of course, Congress and the state legislators would never approve of this, but it points out how extreme solutions can be proposed to deal with the electoral college.  If the law of the land is not changed to let the popular vote decide the presidency, then we may see many more extreme solutions proposed if we see elections more often where the Electoral College winner doesn’t match the popular vote winner.  Already, some are proposing a California exit (Calexit).

Finally, because I’m a science fiction writer, I couldn’t resist.  What if aliens come to Earth and take 49 states to live in, but they feel sorry for the humans and leave 1 state for all the human U.S. population to live in.  Then the 2016 election is held.  Who wins, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

electoralvote_smallstateversusbigstate

 

 

 

NEWWorthy Politics

NEWWorthy is about what’s new and interesting.  In the past it’s been mostly about technology and science with a touch of entertainment, sports, weather, finance, and other issues.  It will continue to be mostly about tech and science.  But the political landscape has become so full of NEWWorthy news, we felt it was time to include a category for Politics.

As many would probably agree, no matter their party affiliation, this last year’s campaign was extremely uncomfortable to watch.  But now that it’s over and a president has been selected, many would also probably agree that it is in the best interest of our country to give the new administration a chance.

But that requires support from not only voters, but also the new administration.  For example, just as people in the U.S. are trying to deal with or sort out their feelings about the newly elected president Trump, we get this tweet from him: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

From Wikipedia, “Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.”  I hope President Trump remembers that when he takes office next year.

To be fair, he did follow up that tweet 9 hours later saying “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”

I will openly admit here that I did not vote for President Trump, but I hope only for the best for our country over the next four years.  In the meantime, I will comment on what’s NEWWorthy in politics.  In this particular case, President Trump set a new recent low for commentary from a person in his position as incoming president.  Perhaps he should give up his Twitter account.

newworthypoliticsandgov