Australian Election Preview

Australian politics has some similarity to the United States.  Seats in their House of Representatives are distributed by the population of the state (with each state guaranteed a certain number of seats).  The states have equal representation in their Senate (twelve senators each rather than two) and the election of senators are usually staggered (half from each state elected every three years).

This year, however, is an unusual election (scheduled for July 2).  The existence of staggered terms plus the voting system for the Senate creates the possibility that the party that controls the House will not control the Senate.  Unlike the U.S. which forces the parties to live with deadlock until the next regularly scheduled election, Australian law contains an out — the “double dissolution” election.  Normally, only the House of Representatives dissolves — either through expiration of the term or through the Prime Minister requesting an early election.  If the dissolution of the House occurs within the window for a half-Senate election (within the last year of a Senate term),  the House and half-Senate election occurs at the same time (but the new Senators do not take office — except for the Senators from the two territories — until the old term expires).


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Affirmative Action Survives — Barely

On Thursday, in a rather surprising turn of events, the Supreme Court upheld the admission policy of the University of Texas at Austin against a complaint that it unconstitutionally favored African-Americans.  This decision is surprising both because of the outcome, but also because of who wrote the opinion.

The basics of admission at UT is that the first cut of admissions comes from the “top 10%” program.  If you go to high school in Texas and finish in the top 10% of your school and want to go to UT, you are automatically accepted (actually due to the cap on the number of admissions under this program, it is now closer to a top 7% program).  This part of the admissions process fills about 75% of the slots.  If you are home schooled, or out-of-state, or finish outside the top ten percent (whether that is 4th out of a graduation class of 30 or 150th out of a graduating class of 160), you have to compete based on a combination of your academic index (your GPA plus SAT score) and your “personal achievement index” (a score based on the admission essay, extracurricular activities, demonstrated leadership, and other factors with race being one of the other factors).    Because race can impact the personal achievement factor, a white student who did not qualify under the top 10% program challenged her failure to make it under this second admissions process, claiming that it violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.


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We Need Nine — Immigration Edition

It has been four months since the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Over that four months, we have gotten some proof about how important a full Supreme Court is to a functioning court.  Today, we got more reminders.

In March, we learned that, in two cases heard before Justice Scalia’s death, the remaining eight justices were deadlocked 4-4, meaning that the decision of the lower court stood.  One of these two cases involved a First Amendment challenge to mandatory union dues for public employees.  The petitioners (the parties that lost in the lower court) in both cases have asked for rehearing, and the Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to grant rehearing.  Today, we learned that two more cases had ended in a 4-4 tie.  One of the two was a December case involving the jurisdiction of tribal court.  The other (and the first deadlocked case argued after Justice Scalia’s death) was United States v. Texas — the immigration policy case.  (Additionally, today saw a decision in the Affirmative Action case which I will discuss later this weekend.)


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Britain, Europe, and the Presidential Election

There is no constitutional mechanism for a federal referendum in the United States.  The federal government has only limited authority over elections, and that limited authority does not give the federal government the ability to put legislation to a national referendum.  That is not the case in other countries.  In recent years, the United Kingdom has put major constitutional issues to a referendum.  This Thursday will see the latest of these referendums in which the issue is whether the United Kingdom will stay in the European Union.


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Supreme Court — 2015-16 Term — Two Weeks to Go (Updated 6-20)

While the Supreme Court does not have a hard and fast rule on when it recesses for the summer, traditionally the Supreme Court tries to issue opinions in all the outstanding cases before July 4.  As a result, the last part of June typically sees the media remembering that we have a Supreme Court as major decisions pour out of the court in a flood during this time of year.  It’s not that the Justices intentionally save the major cases until the end, but rather that these cases are the ones that are most likely to go back and forth with drafts and counter-drafts until the deadline for resolving the cases hits.

This year, there are thirteen cases left to be decided.  The Supreme Court has actually been making decent progress over the past month — having gone to two opinion days per week two weeks ago and issuing eleven opinions over the past two weeks.  While the Supreme Court will not announce additional opinion days for this week until after issuing opinions on Monday, it is likely that there will be at least one more opinion day (and maybe two more opinion days) later this week.  Of the remaining thirteen cases, three or four of them have major political implications.


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GOP finally gets access to Quicken Loans arena for 2016 convention

The Cavs are gone:

“LeBron, good luck in the series,” Mr. Trump said the other day as he noted the predicament with a sense of resignation. “Of course, the longer it goes, the less time we have. But that’s O.K.”

Mr. Trump will have only four weeks to convert the sports arena into a red, white and blue-decked theater for his political ambitions. Usually, the Republican National Committee likes to allow campaigns six weeks to prepare, and at this point in 2012, Mitt Romney’s campaign had been in place in its arena for weeks. Republican officials, though, said they planned to move quickly.

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DCW 2016 Presidential Forecast

Welcome to the first edition of the Democratic Convention Watch 2016 Presidential Forecast. The forecast is based on a average of pundit and poll based forecasts. The map shows the consensus view, the table shows each forecast that is used. We will be adding other forecasts as they become available. The right hand column shows a running total of Electoral Votes. Find the state that crosses 270, and that’s the tipping point state. Right now, it’s currently Florida. The more things change…

Remember, these forecasts are lagging indicators They won’t reflect the latest state polls until the forecasts are updated, and the pundit-based polls are very slow to move. (Some had no movement throughout the 2012 election).

State   Cook FHQ NBC ABC WPost Rothenberg  
Update   5/25 6/16 5/6 6/8 5/23 5/19  
Clinton D 201 192 187 201 201 223  
Clinton-Lean DL 103 53 66 61 51 26  
Tossup T 43 119 94 85 95 98  
Trump-Lean RL 27 38 46 16 27 0  
Trump R 164 136 145 175 164 191  
Clinton D 304 245 253 262 252 249  
Trump R 191 174 191 191 191 191  
Avg. 298 310 302 296 296 295 293  
  240 228 237 242 243 243 245  
California 55 D D D D D D 55
DC 3 D D D D D D 58
Delaware 3 D D D D D D 61
Hawaii 4 D D D D D D 65
Illinois 20 D D D D D D 85
Maine 4 D D D D D D 89
Maryland 10 D D D D D D 99
Massachusetts 11 D D D D D D 110
Minnesota 10 D D D D D D 120
New York 29 D D D D D D 149
Rhode Island 4 D D D D D D 153
Vermont 3 D D D D D D 156
Washington 12 D D D D D D 168
Conn. 7 D DL D D D D 175
New Jersey 14 D D DL D D D 189
New Mexico 5 D DL D D D D 194
Oregon 7 D T D D D D 201
Michigan 16 DL DL DL DL DL D 217
Nevada 6 DL DL DL DL DL D 223
Pennsylvania 20 DL T DL DL DL DL 243
Wisconsin 10 DL D DL DL T T 253
Colorado 9 DL DL T DL DL T 262
Florida 29 DL T T T T T 291
Iowa 6 T T T T T DL 297
New Hampshire 4 T DL T T T T 301
Virginia 13 DL T T T T T 314
N. Carolina 15 T T T T T T 329
Ohio 18 T T T T T T 347
Arizona 11 RL T RL R RL R 358
Georgia 16 RL RL RL RL RL R 374
Kansas 6 R DL R R R R 380
Mississippi 6 R RL RL R R R 386
Missouri 10 R RL RL R R R 396
Montana 3 R R RL R R R 399
Utah 6 R RL R R R R 405
Alabama 9 R R R R R R 414
Alaska 3 R R R R R R 417
Arkansas 6 R R R R R R 423
Idaho 4 R R R R R R 427
Indiana 11 R R R R R R 438
Kentucky 8 R R R R R R 446
Louisiana 8 R R R R R R 454
N. Dakota 3 R R R R R R 457
Nebraska 5 R R R R R R 462
Oklahoma 7 R R R R R R 469
S. Carolina 9 R R R R R R 478
S. Dakota 3 R R R R R R 481
Tennessee 11 R R R R R R 492
Texas 38 R R R R R R 530
W. Virginia 5 R R R R R R 535
Wyoming 3 R R R R R R 538

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The Supreme Court and Puerto Rico — Part Two

As noted in Part One, the Supreme Court had two cases involving Puerto Rico this term.  The first, decided, last Thursday was the more philosophical of the two cases — focusing on Puerto Rico’s status under the Constitution.  The ink was barely dry on that opinion when the Supreme Court issued the second opinion — dealing with the more immediately practical question of how bankruptcy law applies to Puerto Rico’s debt.

As a general matter, the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact a “uniform” law governing bankruptcy — a process that allows private individuals, businesses, and even government to restructure (and in some cases partially reduce) their debts.  As the fact that it is one of the enumerated powers in the original text of the Constitution shows, bankruptcy is not a new concept and predates the United States.  The Bankruptcy Code (Title 11 of the United States Code) is divided into chapters with different chapters applying to different entities and the circumstances of that entity — one for businesses that just want to wind up their affairs, one for businesses that want to try to continue, one for private individuals, and one (which applies here) governing the debts of municipalities (Chapter 9).


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GOP convention preparations to finally start tomorrow after 2 week delay

We’ve discussed in the past the issues with holding a convention in an arena with a successful basketball team. Well, with the Cleveland Cavaliers getting the NBA finals to a 6th game, being held tonight in Cleveland, the RNC will not get the keys to the Quicken Loans Arena until tomorrow morning, leaving just 4 weeks to prepare the arena before the GOP convention starts on July 18. Of course, the RNC has known about this possibility ever since Cleveland made the bid, but it wasn’t until Monday night’s upset win by the Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 that the worst case scenario had come to past. (Actually 2nd worst – if the Cavs had had home-court advantage, the RNC might not have had access until Monday).

Basketball fans, of course, know that the Democrats faced no such concerns in Philadelphia.

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no_more_hate (2)This morning on the radio, they were asking for people to tweet whether the problem related to Orlando was whether there were too many guns, or not enough oversight on the mentally ill. How very, VERY, wrong a question.

The tragedy at Pulse has so many root causes, and so much blame to go around. I am struck by all the lives affected: the dead, the injured, their families, friends and co-workers, plus everyone who is LGBTQI. And I have questions. Many questions.

First, I have LGBTQI friends. I don’t think of them as L or G or B or T or Q or I — they are my friends. The people I share a meal with, dance with, go shopping with….just plain friends. I used to have a lot more gay male friends, sadly lost to what was then called GRID, before it was AIDS. I’ve watched the struggles over the years: the hiding before Stonewall, the discrimination, the beatings for having been born. The evangelicals say that we are all created in G-d’s image: how do they integrate their supposed love of G-d with their obvious hatred of those created in her image? Rumor has it that the shooter was “incensed” by seeing two men kissing. I don’t get it.

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