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MLB Opening Day on Campus: W&L’s Most Loved and Hated Pro Sports Teams—Round One

This is an unofficial account of the inaugural celebration of MLB’s Opening Day at Washington and Lee’s Ruscio Center for Global Learning (RCGL).

The Center for International Education (which is housed in the RCGL) hosted the celebration.  It was originally conceived as a means of introducing our international students to an important aspect of American culture that frequently is overlooked in higher education: sports.  Amidst the divisiveness of contemporary politics across the globe and across our campuses, the center organized the celebration to highlight the transcendence and global importance of sports.

The campus community was peppered with colors as folks wore hats and shirts of their favorite sports teams.  Banners of sports teams from around the world adorned the RCGL atrium’s railings.   Along with national flags of our current students, banners of the New Zealand All Blacks, Manchester United, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Chelsea added color inside and out on a beautiful spring day.  Passers-by also noted the presence of Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox colors…

As part of the celebration, the Center for International Education conducted an online poll of the W&L community to determine which teams are the most loved and reviled.  Mark Rush, Center Director, announced the results at 12:30 PM.  “Sports transcends political and national divisions,” Rush said.  Noting that “the ancient Greeks would stop wars so that soldiers could participate in the Olympic Games,” Rush said that the poll and the celebration added another element to the celebration of internationalization on campus.

Some 200 members of the W&L community participated in the poll.  Along with announcing the winners and losers, Rush also gave honorable mention to the most creative responses.  A couple of respondents listed several different teams that they hated.  One’s favorite team was “Any team but the Cowboys.”  Another loathed “the NFC East and Indianapolis.”

The New York Yankees were the most disliked team on campus.  They doubled the number of votes against the New England Patriots.  Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Boston Red Sox tied for the most loved teams.  The polling was diverse and covered sports teams from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America as well as North America.

The Center will conduct the poll again–and scores will be settled–in Spring, 2019.

 

Don’t be Fooled by the Gerrymandering Gimmick

This is another piece that I published on Whitford v. Gill, the gerrymandering case that the Supreme Court will hear this year.  It is available at the Huffington Post Website

Many in the media suggest that this case presents a great opportunity for the Court to end the gerrymandering problem once and for all.  This is due to the fact that the case is informed by a measure generated by my colleagues Nick Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee called the “Efficiency Gap.”  The measure is elegant and simple.  But the media are misusing it and miscasting the case.

So long as we have discriminatory campaign finance laws and we use the winner-take-all electoral system, our elections will always seem to be gerrymandered.  Incumbents will remain unbeatable, elections will be uncompetitive, districts will have bizarre shapes and voter turnout will be low.

There is a solution to this problem.  But, it does not lie in any formula.  We need to change our electoral system.  To do so is simple.

A Solution to Gerrymandering

I wrote this for my Huffington Post site here.

In short, I believe we have reached the point where it is clear that our current system of elections is arguably unconstitutional.  It would take a tremendous effort to take a successful constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court.  But, the Court itself has planted the seeds for such a challenge throughout its case law.

 

Beware the Gerrymandering Con Artists and Alchemists

I  published a commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision on 19 June to hear Gill v. Whitford (the  latest partisan gerrymandering case) at HuffPost here.

The Supreme  Court has lamented  that there seems to be no  clear formula for determining whether a redistricting plan constitutes a gerrymander.  So, consultants and lawyers are now suggesting that they have found the holy grail of formulae.

There is no such formula.  Worse than Macbeth’s “sound and fury…signifying nothing”, any such formula will be a quiet threat to democracy.  It will promote even more litigation that is paid for by…tax dollars.  Yet, elections will not improve.

We do need to stop the madness…

A First Step towards Gerrymandering Reform: Less Democracy is Better

I published this in The Hill here:  http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/333918-less-democracy-is-better-democracy-heres-why

I recommend that one solution to gerrymandering would be to lengthen legislative terms.  If our elected officials could spend less time campaigning and more time legislating, politics would improve and gerrymandering could be controlled.

The Cuba Rollback: Failing to learn from history.

This is my first post on the Huffington Post website here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5943fd0fe4b0d188d027fdc3

Blockades don’t work.  The president’s decision to roll back the previous administration’s policies will prove costly and counterproductive.  Those who do not learn from history…

More Redistricting Madness: Preliminary thoughts on the SCOTUS NC Decision

The media are split with regard to what the decision portends. Some key facts: NC’s population is 21% black. The state has 12 congressional districts. So, if it is geographically possible, the state needs to produce two congressional districts that give black voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.

This used to be simpler. Construct a district with enough black voters to comprise a majority of the voting population (and maybe a bit more to account for nonvoters) and you would have a majority-minority district. If the black voters acted as a block, they could elect a candidate of their choice. If you put too many black voters in a district, it would be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander that “packed” too many voters into the district. Too few, and it was a district that “cracked” voting power.

Over time, incumbents, lawyers and political consultants have looked to tweak this by asserting that, after a while, racial divisions might heal or melt away and, as a result, white voters might come around to support black candidates. If so, then it theoretically becomes unnecessary to create a “majority-minority” district. Under these “crossover” circumstances, a district with only 40 or 45% black voters might be able to elect a candidate of the black voters’ choice. If so, creating a district with 55% black voters would now be an unconstitutional “packing” gerrymander.

The NC redistricting case boiled down to whether or not it was necessary to create a majority or in influence district. Theoretically, if NC could create two solid influence districts, those extra black voters could be moved into another district where they could wield some solid influence.

Maybe. But, at the end of the day, NC needs to create TWO districts that can elect a candidate of black voters’ choice. So (and theoretically, this is good news), those extra black voters that we no longer need to create majority minority districts are simply “filler people” (as one scholar described long ago) that we use to make sure district populations are equal.

(I admit that the language sounds less than empathetic. But, these are the terms of the trade.)

Problem is, then, the case boiled down, metaphorically, to a dispute about whether those districts should be 47 or 45 or 51% black. At the end of the day, the extra voters would still be pushed into other districts where they would be minority voters. So, no matter what, NC had to create opportunities to elect two black-preferred candidates.

NC did just that. Yet, this case was litigated up to the Supreme Court where the justices sent it back…so that the lines could be redrawn and, no doubt, another round of litigation will take place. This is 2017. Place your bets: will this be resolved before the next census?

One can only imagine the amount of taxpayer dollars going towards this litigation—to fight over a percent or two when the districts must be created anyway. Litigants and consultants are making a lot of money to do essentially nothing to improve the fate of any voters. This is unethical.  We are expending tax dollars at the expense of the voters.  This is endless litigation. The stuff of Dickens’s BLEAK HOUSE.