Dividing cake

What’s a system for fairly dividing— actually… What does “fair” even mean? If we’re dividing up cake, is fair equal size shares? …or shares proportional to each person’s daily caloric requirements? …or their average recent caloric deficit (so starving people get the cake)? And that’s just cake. What if you want to divide up something important, like say, geographically divide a State into voting districts?

In the first step, one party draws districts on the map. However, unlike regular redistricting, in which they draw the exact number of districts needed, our process requires the first party to draw twice that number of half- or sub-districts. Like full electoral districts, these half-districts must have equal populations and be physically contiguous. Many states also have requirements for district compactness, which would apply to this first stage of map drawing too. We also don’t allow “doughnut” districts – where one district is entirely surrounded by another district.

In the second step, the other party chooses how to pair neighboring half-districts into full-size districts.

Even if each party acts entirely in its own interest, attempting to maximize its own chances of winning the most districts, the fact that the process is split into these two stages holds each party’s ambitions somewhat in check.

~ Benjamin Schneer, Kevin DeLuca and Maxwell Palmer from, https://theconversation.com/how-politicians-can-draw-fairer-election-districts-the-same-way-parents-make-kids-fairly-split-a-piece-of-cake-222859


Like my examples for possible meanings of “fair” for dividing cake, there are many possibilities for what would be “fair” for voting district maps. To date, every solution has been to have some third party (a commission whose composition itself is contentious) draw the maps and then have judicial review (with the judges themselves also being contentious). The system laid out above is brilliant. One side draws up a map, and the other side chooses how to assemble the map into voting districts.



Any analysis of Haiti must state two facts. First, Haiti is the only country where slavery was defeated by a slave revolution. Second, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Now that I’ve stated these facts, I’d like to explore deeper. What do we know about Haiti’s poverty? How does this relate to its history? And why does it compare so unfavourably with the Dominican Republic?

~ Craig Palsson from, https://www.thefitzwilliam.com/p/hispaniolas-great-divergence


In recent years I’ve been trying to pay attention to when I’m geographical ignorant. (Tip: Check out Atlas Obscura.) Hispaniola has always interested me and I can recall—probably in junior high?—thinking, “wait wat? _Islands_ can be divided into multiple countries? How does that happen?” (Which of course makes no sense. People love to fight over things and draw borders.) Anyway. I’ve long known that Haiti and the Dominican Republic were neighbors, but I never took the time to dig into any history. The other day I spun off following a train of thought about the Vente de la Louisiane and it turns out that that story has it’s beginnings in Haiti.


Election hacking

Security is never something we actually want. Security is something we need in order to avoid what we don’t want. It’s also more abstract, concerned with hypothetical future possibilities. Of course it’s lower on the priorities list than fundraising and press coverage. They’re more tangible, and they’re more immediate.

~ Bruce Schneier from, https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/the_us_is_unpre.html


I think the only thing “protecting” us from someone successfully hacking an election, is the sheer number of polling places. You’ve voted, right? Sure, it’s a busy spot with maybe a dozen machines and hundreds of poeple… but there are thousands and thousands of polling places, and the voting machines are not networked. Yet.

Don’t misunderstand: This is security through obscrurity, is not actually security at all, and is a recipe for disaster.


Fighting authoritarianism: 20 lessons from the 20th century

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

~ Jaon Kottke from, http://kottke.org/16/11/fighting-authoritarianism-20-lessons-from-the-20th-century


The original of this is a Facebook post… I really wish people would stop doing that. Facebook is a terrible publishing platform. Anyway, above is a link to a web site that has permission to reproduce the entire thing.


Rooting for your country to fail is un-patriotic

But there’s a line between legitimate partisanship and lack of patriotism, and this is where it runs: After a decision is made, after it is upheld as constitutional, after America has decided to do something, you don’t root for your country to fail — and you certainly don’t take action to make your country fail.

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2013/12/09/rooting-for-your-country-to-fail-is-unpatriotic/



The tenth amendment

A central part of the American Right’s false Founding Narrative is that the Tenth Amendment trumps the Constitution’s creation of a powerful central government that possesses a mandate to do what’s necessary to provide for the country’s “general Welfare.” In Right-Wing World, the Tenth Amendment gives nearly all powers to the states.

~ Robert Parry from, https://consortiumnews.com/2014/11/04/the-rights-tenth-amendment-myth/




So how did the People vote (narrowly) for a Democratic Congress but get a Republican one instead? That’s certainly not what the Founders intended: The reason there are more House districts than Senate seats and all congressmen have to go back to the voters every two years is that the House is supposed to closely reflect the will of the People.

Why didn’t that work? Why didn’t the House come out with a slight edge for the Democrats, or something closer to a 50-50 split reflecting a close popular vote?

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2012/11/19/how-gerrymandering-painted-the-house-red/



Fish don’t know they are in water

If you know a little history, you might see some of this, and think that today’s culture battles are part of a tradition that goes back to FDR …

If you know a bit more history, you might see that this culture war stems from North Eastern progressive tradition dating back to the US Civil War.

The truth is that our culture war does date to the Civil War. Just not the US Civil War in 1861. It’s the English Civil War in 1640s I’m talking about.

~ Clark from, http://www.popehat.com/2014/10/10/strange-seeds-on-distant-shores/


What’s really wrong with Congress?

Everybody seems to agree that Congress doesn’t work.

If you’re liberal, you’re appalled that even something like universal background checks for gun purchases (90% public approval!) can’t pass. If you’re conservative, you’re horrified that nothing can be done about the mounting national debt or the projections for exponential growth in entitlement spending.

And even if you care not at all about parties or ideologies, it’s just embarrassing to watch our leaders create one artificial crisis after another. We’re the richest country on the planet, and yet we’re constantly threatening to shut down our government, default on our bonds, mint a trillion-dollar coin, or do some other weird thing that would shame the generalissimo of a banana republic.

Is this any way to run a super power?

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2013/04/29/whats-really-wrong-with-congress/



What if there is no spending problem?

Summing up: Liberals and conservatives agree that we have a long-term problem, but they argue about what kind of problem: a government spending problem or a healthcare cost problem.

Recently I ran into a potentially game-changing question: What if there is no problem? In other words, instead of being trapped in the dismal liberal/conservative argument about which apocalypse we’re headed towards, what if we’re actually not headed towards an apocalypse at all?

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2013/02/25/what-if-theres-no-spending-problem/



The republic of babel

But democracies need to be able to talk. I have to know more than just what you want to do or want me to do. I need to understand why you want what you want, and I need to be able to explain why I want something different. We have to be able to discuss the nuances of our hopes and fears and plans — what’s absolutely essential and what isn’t — so that we can cobble together a solution that we can all live with.

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2012/03/05/the-republic-of-babel/



Escalating bad faith

This is part of a pattern in which all sides are acting in bad faith, and have been for decades. (And it’s not the only example, as I’ll discuss next week. Signing statements are another.) It creates a vicious cycle in which each escalation challenges the other side to either accept a defeat that seems illegitimate or to escalate further. There seems to be no obvious place for this to stop.

~ Doug Muder from, http://weeklysift.com/2012/01/09/escalating-bad-faith-part-i-recess-appointments/



The U.S. Federal Reserve

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve, it is absolutely imperative that we get the American people to understand that the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. It is a system of money that was created by the bankers and that operates for the benefit of the bankers. The American people like to think that we have a “democratic system”, but there is nothing “democratic” about the Federal Reserve.

Michael Snyder from, http://www.redflagnews.com/headlines/25-fast-facts-about-the-federal-reserve-please-share-with-everyone-you-know